Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Our Christmas Card to You

I didn't get around to sending out Christmas cards this year...I just let time get away from me...& pure laziness settled in:o)
So this year, I sent out an electronic Christmas card version.
A few weeks ago I won My Memories digital scrap-booking software. I have been playing around with it and I have really enjoyed it. There are some really great templates to choose from.
This is the one I chose for our card.

The original version had our names where the tree is. I just swung over to Picnik and added the tree...for privacy purpose, ya know:o)
So anyway, we hope that you all have a wonderful Christmas! Hoping to see you all back here next week after the BIG day, and I will share some of the gifts I made.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Dining Table Set Up

Saturday's Holiday Walk was a success. Everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves, and they were very kind in their remarks on our house.
Since we had so many coming through the house, I finally mustered up enough motivation to set the dining table. This is what I came up with.

We have a fun week ahead of us. Lots of gift and cookie making going on here. I won't be sharing any of the gifts until after Christmas though:o) 
Have a great Monday!

Google Apps highlights – 12/16/2011

(Cross posted from the Official Google Blog.)

This is part of a regular series of Google Apps updates that we post every couple of weeks. Look for the label “Google Apps highlights" and subscribe to the series. - Ed.

The elves got an early jump on the holidays this year by leaving us some surprises in Google Apps over the last few weeks. Sharing from Gmail got a whole lot easier, and Google Calendar can make better use of precious screen space. We also have 10 new Google Apps customer stories to share from the tens of thousands that have gone Google in recent weeks.

Gmail gets more social
Last week we sprinkled a touch of Google+ into Gmail, making it easier to connect and share with people from your inbox. You can add people to circles right from an email thread through Gmail’s people widget, share photo attachments with friends and family on Google+ without leaving Gmail, and view a filtered version of your inbox only showing messages from people in your circles. We also improved Gmail’s address book by incorporating contact information shared by your friends, family and colleagues in their Google+ profiles.

New features in the Gmail iOS app
Just yesterday we added several new improvements to the Gmail app for iOS 4+. Now you can set up a custom email signature for mobile messages, manage your vacation responder, and view nested labels from your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. We also added scribbles, a fun way to spice up messages by adding a quick hand-drawn sketch. You can create scribbles using a range of colors, brush sizes, lines, erasers and spray paints from your touchscreen device.

More free calls right from Gmail
Last year we introduced free domestic calling in Gmail within the U.S. and Canada, and we’re extending this free service for the whole year of 2012. We’re happy to help you keep in touch with those special people in your life, for free.

Hide morning and night hours in Calendar
If you don’t often have appointments early in the morning or late at night, a new trick in Google Calendar might be useful. Now you can hide morning and night hours, leaving more screen real estate for the times of day when most of your events take place. Give it a try in Calendar Labs.

Who’s gone Google?
Businesses and schools are switching to Google Apps in droves these days. From tiny startups to large enterprises and nonprofits to college campuses, we love hearing the inspiring stories that our customers share. Here’s a new batch of stories for your reading pleasure: TripIt, IPSEN, Ebby Halliday, Ticket River, VigLink, HeyZap, The Great Books Foundation, Utah K-12 schools, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and UC Santa Cruz. Welcome one and all!

For more details and the latest news, check out the Google Apps Blog, and keep an eye out for this series here after the holidays. We launched more than 150 improvements go Google Apps in 2011, and we have a ton more in store for 2012!

Friday, December 16, 2011

I decided to take a break from the crazy cleaning frenzy that I am in the middle of. We are on the Holiday house tour for our neighborhood tomorrow...YIKES!...and the house still needs lots of work.
I really wanted to share what I made yesterday with all of you.
I made these cookies to give as gifts. They are melted snowman cookies & they WERE delicious..."were" meaning there are NONE left:o)
The hubs took some to work and said they were a big hit. 
For instructions and recipes, visit Crazy Domestic for all the details.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Fun Video for Kids

For the past 3 years, my children have received a special email message from Santa.
It's a personalized video that directly addresses your child.

If you follow the link below the picture, you will be taken to the site where you can personalize your message.
Portable North Pole.
The message is the same for everyone, so I let each of my children watch it by themselves, so as not to spoil "the good news" for the other.
My kids absolutely love it, and they don't really remember seeing it from the year before. They do change things up from year to year, though. If you are into this sort of thing, definitely try it out. You will be amazed at how your child's face will light up.

Tips to increase your adsense

Many people build a website or blog with dreams of creating huge amounts of Adsense revenue.  These dreams generally finish after months of frantically driving visitors to their sites through marketing campaigns, only failing to convert visits into clicks.

This failure leads to frustration, and ultimately quitting.  There is no need to quit.  What you need to focus on is
how to build your Adsense banners to compliment your blog instead of insulting it.  There are some simple ways to increase the amount Adsense revenue you generate.

Increase Adsense earnings

How to Increase Adsense Revenue

1. Primacy
Primacy is defined as the state of being first, or foremost.  People in general have a short attention span, but it gets even shorter when on the web.  It is important to have your Adsense banner near the top of the page.  If they have to scroll to see it, there is a good chance they will move on before even noticing the banner.  This can be hard to do and keep your website looking professional, but it is possible.  You may have to for go this step on some of your pages to keep the integrity of your site.

2. Blending
You should take your time to develop and manage Adsense banner that will blend into your website.  People are more apt to click on an advertisement if they don’t know it’s an ad.  If they are interested in the ad, they will click on the link provided without thinking twice.  This is also a good way to prevent your website from looking tacky.Colored advertisements are highly noticeable and will increase the bounce rate on your site.  It can ruin the look of your site and is an insult to the eyes.

3. Utilize Your Content
If you are able to wrap your content around the advertisements, it will greatly help to increase adsense revenue.  The advertisements will look like part of your text.  This will make it much more natural for readers to click on an ad.  They are already interested in what you have to say, and now they are being given an option to continue on that topic.  Increasing Adsense revenue is about providing your readers with good content, and a way to continue exploring that content.

4. Write Keyword Focused Content
The Google Adsense program runs off on content.  If you are unable to write specific enough content for Google to know what you are talking about, the ads may be untargeted.  This is because Google has to guess.  Keywords aren’t just for driving organic traffic, they are essential to obtaining relevant advertisements on your site.  Without relevance, your ads will lose meaning.

5. Create Multiple Banners

Different types of people will click on different types of ads.  One of the best ways to cater to everyone is to create banners with different styles.  You can experiment with each one and see which converts best.  There is nothing wrong with a little trial and error.

6. Make Use of Google Adsense Channels
It is important to know which pages are converting and which ones aren’t.  Google allows you to create up to 200 channels.  Why not utilize them all.  This way you can narrow down on your non-earning channels and optimize them through trial and error.  Use what Google has to offer.  They provide these tools because they want you to succeed.If you are making money, so are they.

7. Traffic
Finally, and obviously, you need to increase traffic.  The more traffic you have, the more Adsense revenue you will create.  It is as simple as that.  Unfortunately gaining that extra traffic is not so simple, but that is a topic for another post.

Increasing Adsense revenue is about perseverance and hard work.  You will need to put in the time and effort to try multiple different approaches before you can rest.  Learn from others.  If you are a fan of a successful blog, see how they did it. 

Where do they put their banners?  Emulate them because they are successful.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Ballard Knock Off-Corday Accordian Drying Rack

Happy Monday morning to you all! I trust that you all have almost wrapped things up with your Christmas shopping, and are completely relaxed and ready for the big holiday approaching...HA! Funny, right?:o)
Anyway, as promised, I am sharing my Ballard Designs knock off that has been hanging on my wall for months.
 There is NO tutorial on this. Sorry girls. 
I found this drying rack at a yard sale last summer for $5...not in it's current state, mind you. 
And I apologize that I do not have a before picture. 
It is made of pine and at one time was probably part of a home filled with country blues and pinks that we all loved so dearly....20 years ago.
When I saw the Accordian Drying rack from Ballard, I kept trying to figure out how in the world I could get the hubs to construct it for less. It just seemed like too much work, but I knew that I wouldn't be forking over the $199-$269 that they cost.
So I just resigned myself to the fact that I would never have one.

You can only imagine my excitement when I came across the drying rack for 5 bucks! We already had bead board and hooks on hand. 
I took the shelf apart and the hubs used his jig saw and cut bead board to fit the back of the shelf. I spray painted the whole thing, and then he added the hooks.

I am so glad that I found this piece and it has been perfect for air drying the kids clothes and a few of mine. 
 So for now, the laundry room is finished. Someday we plan to put up bead board on the walls...another project for another year:o)

Thanks for stopping by today!

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Furniture Feature Fridays

Saturday, December 10, 2011

My Home for the Holidays-Home Tour

I hope that you all are having a great day. I have finally gotten around to taking pictures of my Christmas decorations. About time, right?:o)
I have added a few new things, but most of the decorations are the same as last year. 
Here is our mantle. 
 The headboard above our mantle and the sheet music wreath are two of my favorite items in the whole house. Me loves them!;o)
The "Merry" pennant banner was made from painters  canvas, twine, stencils & black fabric paint. I have two more hanging in the house as well.
I added a few more paper wreath ornaments to the tree this year. They were left over from my craft booth. I was actually kind of glad I had so many left over. I love how they look on my tree.
I finally got our family pictures in some frames. I still have 6 more that need to be framed..ahh!
This picture is awful, but there is no natural light in this area during the winter months. Anyway, you get the general idea:o)
I got E a new tree this year. I noticed last year that none of his black ornaments could be seen on the dark green tree, so this year I opted for white, and I think it's perfect for his "Star Wars" themed tree.
 "Come to the Dark Side"
 He LOVES his tree, and it's helping us to slowly transition into a Star Wars bedroom. I have a few ideas for his room, but those will have to wait until after the new year.
We put a bigger tree in S.R.'s room this year. The ornaments are the same, so there isn't much to report about this one...other than it's super girly and has little Barbies all over, which she had a fit over:o)
 Did you notice Cinderella on the wall? I don't think I showed you all the "after" when I had her framed. She was an early Christmas present...I couldn't wait to get it on the wall.
Our dining room...I decided to have less fuss in here...more because I am just lazy now:o) Our neighborhood Holiday walk is next week, so the table will more than likely get a sprucing up before then.
I don't think I have shared this new piece with you all..or maybe I have..who knows! Anyway, this hall tree sits at the entrance of the office. It was given to me and I LOVE it. Accept when I smash my knee into it in the middle of the night..OUCH! The hubs has "run" into the same problem;o) 
I hung the kids special stockings on here. These particular stockings hold their letters to Santa...then Santa's elf comes to get the letters and hand delivers them to Santa.
The kids love this little tradition.
 And last but not least, the master bedroom tree. 
I found this tree on a Facebook yardsale page a few weeks back..9 feet and pre-lit for $80. The seller actually turned out to be one of my clients..ha!
I have one more tree upstairs, but it's nothing to write home about.
I hope that you all have enjoyed a glimpse into my home for the holidays. Maybe you found a little inspiration for your own home.
Have a great weekend!
I will have a Ballard Designs Knock Off to share with you all on Monday. See you then!

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A Christmas Tree Party

Thursday, December 8, 2011

New TalkBin improvements make it easier to connect with customers

Businesses interact with customers all the time, but it can be challenging to get honest and useful feedback that can help improve your business. TalkBin makes this easy by giving your customers a direct and convenient way to reach you via text message. No more clumsy comment cards and surveys; instead, customers can simply use their mobile phones to text you comments and feedback the same way they’d text a friend.

Today, we’re excited to announce three improvements that make it even easier to manage customer feedback.

1) Getting started tutorial

When you log in to TalkBin, you’ll be welcomed with a handy educational tutorial that explains all the most important features. This makes learning how to use TalkBin a cinch for you and your employees.

2) Updated dashboard

Based on your feedback, we updated the user interface with a fresh new design that helps you to manage all of your settings in one convenient place. For example, now your Account Settings are just one click away from Location and Billing Settings.

3) Custom sign builder

In-store signs are key to getting quality feedback from your customers. The new sign building feature help you make and print custom signs in just a few minutes.

To learn more about how TalkBin can help your business, check out these firsthand perspectives from Fraiche Yogurt and P. Terry’s Burger Stand.

Also, for the rest of the month, Google Small Business Blog readers can get TalkBin for just $5/month per location (discounted from the regular $25/month per location). Just enter promotion code BLOGSMB when you sign up at This offer expires December 31, 2011.

Posted by Qasar Younis, Product Manager, TalkBin

Monday, December 5, 2011

Pedal to find your dream home with Google Maps

(Cross-posted on the Lat Long Blog.)

The features available in Google Maps are equally functional and fun. You can tour distant cities with Street View or map out a trip with multiple destinations using Custom Maps. Not only is Google Maps a great tool for everyday personal use, but it’s can also be used as a practical business tool. Such is the case for Matt Kolb, owner of Pedal to Properties.

Matt is an avid cyclist and a realtor based in Boulder, Colorado. In 2006, Matt decided to blend his hobby and career by founding his own real estate agency called Pedal to Properties. His company is built on the idea that by touring homes via bicycle, one can get a better sense of the local community and determine if a particular property is the right fit.

When Matt meets with clients, he locates various properties on Google Maps and creates a biking route of the houses they’ll visit that day, using Bicycling Directions as a guide. Home buyers are encouraged to interact with the map, using Street View to check out a property and its surrounding neighborhood, and using nearby search to take a look at local schools and businesses. Through this process Matt is able to narrow down viable homes for a specific buyer, making the experience enjoyable and time-efficient.

If you have interesting stories about how you use biking directions, Street View, or other Google Maps features to enhance your business, comment on our Google+ Page with #mygmapstory

My Home for the Holidays-Cute Hand Towel

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend. We(mostly the hubs) have been busy out in the yard moving dirt, bushes and mulch. It is looking so good in our backyard. I can't wait to show you how it looks:o)

I found a really cute hand towel a few weeks ago made by Mud Pie. The price was really good, but I knew it was something that I could make. I couldn't find their version online, but mine is pretty similar.
 The towel was made from an old shower curtain I found at a thrift store back during the summer. I also had the ribbon on hand. I didn't have enough to alternate the colors evenly, but I think it still turned out pretty cute:o)
 I just cut 28 strips of ribbon at 3" long. (I think the width of the ribbon is 3/4".) I started at the bottom row with seven strips of ribbon folded in half and stitched them to the towel..the next row 6..and so on. 
Just a little side note...if you plan to make this towel, make sure you put your ribbon on at an angle to make the tree form...I made the mistake of putting it on straight up and down and it was totally wrong:o)
A quick and easy...and very festive hand towel for our half bath.

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