Yesterday I posted this picture from KMPH FOX 26 on Facebook. It must have resonated with a few folks, because as of this morning, it already has over 23,000 Facebook views and shares! The reason it is so popular? People are frustrated with the way Facebook keeps changing their parameters of how we can post and view our own pages. My favorite is #6: “Let me see every post from pages I like. If they post too much, I’ll hide them myself.” Too often, I find myself searching through my friends’ profiles because Facebook has determined their posts are something I don’t want to see-but if I didn’t want to see them, I wouldn’t have them in my friends’ list, correct? WKMP Fox 26 A few days ago I was directed to a web video about Facebook by my son, who happens to work in marketing. His company had thought that the information in the video was important enough to share with his marketing team, and he deemed it important enough to share with me. We all know the frustrations of Facebook: they keep changing the game, especially for the small business owner who is just trying to gain exposure through social media. Previously, if I posted something on my Country Design Home timeline, it would be shared with my followers-all my followers. But then Facebook started selling “BOOST YOUR POST” advertising, where you could garner “likes” with a small investment ($5 and up), and they stopped sharing my posts for free. My paid posts would be shared with my friends, and their friends, and their friends-a pyramid scheme of sorts-the more you spent, the more exposure you received. My unpaid post would sit there and perhaps be shared with a mere fraction of my total followers, unless they shared it. So, I tried the Boost Your Post a couple of times at $5 each. The first time was fairly successful with a couple of hundred new “likes”, the second time I saw no appreciable difference in my likes. BUT, what I did notice was that the paid “likes” that I received through Facebook advertising were not from followers who liked country design, did not comment or engage in my page at all, and many had blank profile pages. This is a recent typical “new like”: Vu Tuan (the profile states this person is male)-is there any indication here that she/he would be the least bit interested in country design? I don’t know for sure because I cannot translate Vietnamese, but I am thinking not, since most of her/his likes are American TV shows and companies.

Facebook Vu Tuan

So, where on earth are these likes being generated from? Is Facebook committing advertising fraud or not? This is a You Tube video from Derek Muller of Veritasium, who normally writes about scientific research and phenomena, but he published this video about Facebook advertising fraud because he believed it is an important topic. And, with over 1.5 million views, I would guess that he is not alone. Veritasium Video Pic This video (along with several other sources I have read) explains that most of the paid “likes” are being generated from “click farms” in developing countries like India, Indonesia and Bangladesh. The circled bubbles in this graph are the “likes”  from developing countries from a paid Facebook advertising campaign he had created specifically to test his theory. Veristasium Facebook Engagement These workers are paid $1 per thousand clicks to essentially sit all day and click away at anything and everything, whether it is directly related to the paid Facebook ad page or not. In essence, they are not “liking” you or your page, they are merely clicking away to make a dollar. Now, according to Veritasium, it is against Facebook rules to purchase likes through web companies that provide clicks per dollars, and your account can be suspended for that. But, the video goes on to claim that despite that rule, Facebook itself engages click farms to sell their advertising packages. In another article on Search Engine Watch, Facebook Ad Fraud: How Can Advertisers Combat Paid Likes? the author, Jennifer Slegg goes on to explain some strategies and steps to take to avoid having your advertising dollars being wasted on spam Facebook accounts. And, on Wikimotive: Why The Facebook Fraud Video Is Not Completely Accurate, author Erin Ryan refutes some of Veritasium’s key points, while citing her own advertising clicks to dollars spent, which is, on average, much more successful than those from the video. She states: “I’m not stating that the results that Veritasium have calculated are false, but the results may have been skewed, as the video doesn’t fully explain the targeting process.” Which is really the key issue here. We are all attempting to engage followers who are interested in what we are doing, selling, saying or creating so we must TARGET that audience specifically. So, what’s a low-budget, low-follower Facebook user to do if you’re not interested or able to purchase their ad boosts? Well, you can abandon Facebook altogether, there are plenty of other social media vehicles that are useful for spreading your information. But, like it or not, Facebook is still a powerful social media tool, and many bloggers and websites use Facebook “like” numbers as a gauge of how popular you really are. (However, I am typically suspicious of Facebook profiles that have 100,000+ “likes” if their other social media does not support that inflated number.) So-a few options. You can grow your followers organically, meaning that you search out other pages similar to yours, like them, follow them, comment on their pages and hopefully gain a follower and a new Facebook friend. This takes time, patience and the ability to sift through hundreds of pages, but once you have established that base, then more of your posts will be seen by more people, and you will gain more followers who will then in turn, see more of your posts. Or, you can join one of the many, many contests and giveaways that circumvent the paid Facebook advertising altogether. BUT, you are still paying for advertising, only now its going to the originators of the contest-the “hosts”. You pay them, sometimes upwards of $50, for a chance to participate in a “click-fest” hosted through a third-party contest portal like Rafflecopter. In order to win the prize, readers must click and like the hosts’ Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc… pages. There can be as many as 40-50 clicks that are required in order to enter the contest, which can be tedious, but hey, its a chance to win some quick cash or gift cards! Over the holidays,I participated in a Facebook New Year’s Giveaway, where the first prize was $500. I paid my $40 to the hosts, and watched my “likes” grow by approximately 1500, which was great! Some dropped off and “unliked” me once the contest was over : ( but my new followers are primarily from the US, engaged in what I am posting and continue to follow my page on Facebook. But, in the end, I felt that I was merely buying “likes” to boost my Facebook numbers, and for me, that is not the answer to gaining true fans of my blog, which is what I am really trying to promote. So, for now, I am going to keep my advertising dollars and focus on my true purpose: blogging and DIY’ing-and hope that my readers will “like” me because (as Sally Fields once declared), you really “like” me!!! If you have any thoughts, ideas or suggestions on this interesting and timely topic, let me know! I would love to hear how all of you promote your blogs and gain followers. In the meantime, have a spring-is-almost-here Sunday, everyone! Susan

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Writer’s Note: I am excited to share that my little French Lavender Table Transformation was featured as an Editor’s Pick on BlogHer!! To view that post, click here:

As featured on BlogHer
As featured on BlogHer

Now, onto the transformation! With some pieces of old furniture, I choose the style and color of the makeover according to my needs. Some pieces tell me what they need to be. This little table needed to be the center of attention in a lovely lavender French boudoir.

French Lavender Side Table Completed PMWe purchased it at auction and I could have chosen to paint it red or black or green, but Behr Lavender Lily seemed to be just the perfect, soft color for this delicate little beauty. Here is the how-I-did-it:

1. Cleaned and lightly sanded the entire piece. It was pretty dusty and dirty and topless-must have been a long, crazy trip from Paris!

French Lavender Side Table Before2. The base coat of paint was quite adhered and sturdy other than a few chipped edges, so I just sanded them, added a primer for the top and simply painted over it. Look at the sculpted details here!

French Lavender Table Before

French Lavender Table Behr Lily Lavender First CoatFirst 2 coats, Behr Lily Lavender.

French Lavender Table Behr Lily LavenderSo soft and pretty!

French Lavender Side Table Behr Lily Lavender Sample Pot3. Added a glaze of Behr Ridge View paint mixed with Martha Stewart Glaze Effects to highlight all of the exquisite detail on the legs, drawer and back.

French Lavender Table Martha Stewart Glaze EffectsI mixed it together in a 4 to1 ratio (glaze to paint) then painted it on (working in small sections because it dries pretty quickly),

French Lavender Side Table Paint on Glazethen wiped it off, leaving the glaze where I wanted it to remain as a highlight.

French Lavender Side Table Drawer Detail GlazedAllowed the piece to dry.

French Lavender Table Detail Glazed4. In the past, I have used waxed paper for my transfers, but this time I tried freezer paper instead.

French Lavender Table Freezer Paper for Graphics TransferThe freezer paper is a little heavier and easier to work with than the waxed paper. There are two sides, a matte side and a shiny “plastic-coated” side.

French Lavender Side Table Transfer Reverse PrintedYou want to print the graphic (thanks, Graphics Fairy : ) on the shiny side, in reverse! In this case, I wanted to use a small graphic to decorate the center of the table top, so I would be able to place things on it without completely hiding the picture.

French Lavender Table Printing with Freezer Paper5. Once printed, allowed to dry for a short time. DO NOT TOUCH IT or it will smear. Lightly dampened the painted surface.

French Lavender Side Table Dampening with SpongeDO NOT OVER-DAMPEN

French Lavender Side Table Too Wetor the graphic will come out all smeary and then you have to wipe it off and repaint it and start over again. Ok, well, that happened to me. More than once. So DON’T DO THAT.

6. Gently and carefully placed the graphic straight down onto the surface, then affixed with painter’s tape to create a “hinge” at the top.

French Lavender Side Table Taping Design for TransferThis allows you to check your progress without moving the graphic around and messing up the picture. WARNING: you only get one shot at this. If you attempt to moved the transfer around once it has touched the painted surface, you will need to start over. Ok, well that happened to me too. More than once. So DON’T DO THAT.

7. Once the transfer had successfully landed on my piece, I used a blunt object to rub the surface using firm pressure. I used the back of a spoon but I have seen others using credit cards (I prefer to use those at HomeGoods).

French Lavender Table Transferring with Spoon RubThis takes a minute or so to complete the transfer. Just keep rubbing all over, and check periodically by lifting the corner and then placing back down in the exact same spot. Hence, the tape hinges. Removed the paper from the design once I was happy with the transfer. Allowed to dry.

French Lavender Side Table Transfer Completed8. Once the piece had dried, I applied a coat of Fidde’s Supreme Wax

French Lavender Side Table Top Waxto protect the entire piece and provide a nice, glowing finish. Wiped it on, buffed it off with a soft cloth.

French Lavender Side Table Buffing Wax9. Drilled the hole for the antique brass pull

French Lavender Side Table Drilling Knob Holeand Ooh-la-la!

French Lavender Side Table Completed PMMy new precious French Provincial side table is magnifique!? Oui? This technique is pretty fool-proof as long as you allow time to dry between steps and follow the transfer instructions. But, before you transform a piece, make sure you really look at it to decide what it needs to be. Have a Bon Mardi, everyone! Susan

 

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Well, so much for my 14 days of Valentine’s blog posts! Instead of feeling inspired, I am feeling tired and sick with a touch of the flu. Yech.

Crossed Out HeartSo, while I was laid out on the couch drinking tea with honey and lemon and watching a “Castle” marathon (and NOT blogging about Valentines), my family was busy sipping wine and painting at Clery’s Bar in Boston with The Next 26. (this pic just reminds me of finger painting in elementary school : )

Paint Night Paint Gallon JugsIf you are not familiar with The Next 26, they are a non-profit who has spent the past year in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings hosting 26 cultural and charitable events in hopes of keeping the Boston spirit alive until this year’s Marathon Monday.

The Next 26 Founders Chris Mathison & Nick Leydon
The Next 26 Founders Chris Mathison & Nick Leydon

To read more about them and join the fun-they still have more events to go-click their logo below.

The Next 26.

Don’t know about Paint Night?

Paint Night LogoWell, essentially you go to a restaurant or bar where they set up multiple easels side by side, and then provide wine to drink as you are painting (hmm, that seems rather counterproductive…)

Paint Night @ ClerysThere is an art teacher at the head of the class who provides step-by-step instructions to art students at all levels of expertise.

Art Instructor, paint night, cleary's bar, the next 26Everyone paints the same picture, in this case the Boston Skyline at dusk, but each one is unique. Loving The Next 26 blimp over Boston.

The Next 26, Paint Night, Clerys Bar,Coach came home with two paintings, of which he was quite proud. One was his,

paint night painting, the next 26the other, my daughter’s. Same subject, different styles. Do you have a favorite?

Paint Night, The Next 26And here is the Next 26 team showing off their creations. True works of art, no?

The Next 26, Paint Night, Clerys BarSo, sorry about the whole Valentine blog post thing. If you need some Valentine’s inspiration, check out my Pinterest “Be-Mine-Valentine” page. Everything from decadent chocolate desserts to print-from-home Valentines and home made decorations, like this cute Valentine Mantel by OneKriegerChick.

Mantel Styling by OneKriegerChickAnd, hopefully, I will be back on my feet shortly and able to join in the next Next 26 event!! Have an artful Wednesday, everyone! Susan

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One Valentine’s Day, many, many, many years ago, I received this little gold heart pendant from my father as a gift.

Vintage Gold Heart Pendant

Despite its age, I am certain that the only true value it holds is one of deep and loving sentiment. Sometimes the simplest gift can have the biggest impact on the recipient. Valentines don’t have to be costly and extravagant to have lasting meaning, as long as they are presented with love.

Some hearts of gold are simple and sweet

Pink Ombre Wedding Cake with Gold Heart Topper
Wedding Cake via The Wedding Chicks

some are bold

Gold Heart by MetallicPrints Etsy
Heart of Gold Sign by MetallicHearts Etsy

some are strong

Heart of Gold Ring Maverick Western Wear
Heart of Gold Ring by Margaret Sullivan

some are fiery

Heart of Gold Earrings Via Nordstrom
Heart of Gold Earrings Via Nordstroms

and some are lacy and light.

Lacy Gold Hearts via JewelMint
Lacy Gold Hearts via JewelMint

Some hearts of gold can be soft

Heart of Gold Gatsby Throw Pillow by Monika Strigel
Heart of Gold Gatsby Throw Pillow by Monika Strigel

and some just find the soft spot in our hearts.

Heart of Gold Paw Heart Chic Style
Heart of Gold Paw Heart from Chic Style

Some hearts of gold are beautiful rings

Heart of Gold HauteLook
Heart of Gold HauteLook

and some ring true.

Heart of Gold iPhone case from FieldTrip Etsy
Heart of Gold iPhone case via FieldTrip Etsy

Some hearts of gold map out a future together

Heart of Gold Map Lockets Victoria Camp Designs Etsy
Heart of Gold Map Lockets Victoria Camp for MapJewelry Etsy

And some, like my little gold heart, celebrate the past.

Heart of Gold Vintage Pin via PaganCellar Etsy
Heart of Gold Vintage Pin via PaganCellar Etsy

It really doesn’t matter what you choose for your Valentine, as long as it is presented from your heart of gold, and then it, too, will be treasured for a lifetime. Have a happy Valentine’s week, everyone! Susan

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OK, so this is post #8. I honestly don’t know how all you bloggers out there manage to post every day! All of the writing and photographing and editing and posting and social media-ing (I think that’s a word) and cooking and sewing and painting and antiquing and junking and dumpster-diving and organizing and cleaning with homemade organic products-how are you getting that all done and still living a normal, productive life?!

Blogging Activity Graphic Sign

I am trying to keep up, but feeling a bit more frazzled every day-just don’t know how to make this happen! That being said, for this blog post I was searching for a decadent chocolate recipe that you could make for your special someone for Valentine’s Day, when I remembered this one I had published from last year: Dark Chocolate Fudgy Sea Salt Caramel Cupcakes! So, in order to keep my blogging sanity and provide you with a scrumptious recipe, I am reblogging it. So, enjoy the blog, and the cupcakes. Have a sweet, sweet Sunday everyone! XOXOXOXO Susan

Cupcake Closeup

 “Life-Changing Cupcakes”

“This past weekend was another crazy whirlwind of activity featuring a trip to Cape Cod, a bridal shower and a birthday party-whew! We had planned the shower the prior weekend (in between coats of paint on the whale table) and had decided that cupcakes would be the featured dessert. So I found this amazing recipe on, where else, Pinterest from the blog Jan Can Cook (tons of great recipes! If you want to take a look, just click the link below : ) and we decided they would be perfect.

Cupcakes Jan Can Cook Blog

I mean, after all, who doesn’t love dark chocolate and caramel and buttercream and a pinch of sea salt?!? I followed her recipe (click the link above) with a couple of exceptions. For the cupcakes, I used Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge

Cupcakes Duncan Hines Mix

and I added a cup of Toll House mini semi-sweet bits

Cupcakes Nestles Morsels

into the batter before pouring it into the cupcake liners. For the caramel to put inside the cupcakes, I used good ol’ Hersheys ice cream topping-quicker and easier and oh, so gooey and yummy!

Cupcakes Hersheys Caramel Topping

Just warmed it up in the double boiler and then spooned it into the little cavities

Cupcakes Filling

we had scooped out of the centers.

Cupcakes Caramel Filled

(By the way, this bowl filled with little cone-shaped fudgy chocolate goodness are leftovers- and fabulous dipped in the warm caramel for a snack : )

Cupcakes Mini Bites

The Caramel Buttercream Frosting Recipe

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 Tblsp water

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

3/4 (1.5 sticks) cup salted butter, room temperature

2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar

Stir together granulated sugar and water in small saucepan until clear. Heat in small saucepan over med-high heat and cook for 5-7 minutes without stirring until liquid turns a light amber color- do not overcook- it will burn!!! Remove from heat, allow to cool for a bit and then slowly beat in the cream and vanilla with a spoon.  In a mixing bowl, beat the softened butter until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed and slowly add confectioners sugar until it is all incorporated and smooth. Turn off mixer and slowly drizzle in caramel mixture. Turn mixer to med-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Cool until ready to frost cakes.

(Normally I would insert a photo here, but we were having so much fun I forgot to take it! So I am just going to show you some pretty garden flowers : )

Cupcake Flowers

The buttercream frosting mixture was pretty soft, as it was hot and we were down the Cape, so there is a lot of moisture in the air. Once I piped it onto the cupcakes, we put them in the fridge to firm up. You don’t even need a piping bag- you can just scoop the frosting with a spoon and plop it on top- the more the better! In the recipe it says to pour the chocolate ganache on the frosted cupcakes, but we just dipped them right into the bowl and allowed them to drip a bit, then inverted them.

The Ganache Recipe:

9 ounces bittersweet chocolate-chopped. I used the 10 ounce bag of Ghiradelli Square chips-perfect for melting.

Cupcakes Ghiradelli Chocolate Chips

1 cup heavy cream. 1 Tblsp Dark Rum (Optional)

Melt in a pan over low heat and beat with wooden spoon til smooth. Allow to cool slightly before glazing cupcakes.

For the final touch, we snipped some mini-marshmallows (snatched from the S’Mores Popcorn Mix- recipe soon!) into flower shapes and popped them on top of the ganache. Cute! (we tried to figure out how to cut them into starfish, as the shower had a beachy theme, but that wasn’t happening…)

Cupcake Closeup

So the shower was moving along, and the cupcakes were just sitting there lonely and forgotten, next to the lemon water. I mean, it was a wine-tasting- who’s drinking lemon water?!?

Cupcakes in Tower

So my friend grabbed the tower and some napkins and started passing them around. Suddenly, the room was filled with “oohs and aahhs” as each person took their first scrumptious bite. The hostess declared that she would choose me for her Cupcake Wars team, but the sommelier’s comment was the best when she exclaimed: “These are life-changing cupcakes!”  Now I’m not certain if that is the case, but they were a big hit! Don’t be afraid to try these, even if you are a novice baker. Perfectly simple recipe. Perfectly delicious. Susan”

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Welcome To Country Design Home!

Inspired. Rustic. New Country Style...in the suburbs. Because you don't have to live on a farm to create a warm and inviting country-styled home. Follow my DIY junkin' journey as I give tips of the trades and inspired fresh country design ideas to create your own Country Design Home.
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