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  • The best things in life are Beautiful.
  • Sn…oh no. I’m not ready.

    November
    7
    2008

    first snow november 7 2008 quad cities il

    Do you see what I see? Snow. It’s been snowing today. I know, I know. It’s snowed up north, it’s snowed down south. It’s even snowed out east already. For us here in the Quad Cities, this is our first snow of the season. I think this officially marks the beginning of the winter season across the country.

    Snow, people.

    My schedule for the Christmas season is filling up rapidly, and I’ve spent the last few days working a bit on a photographer site design as well as moving my own site to another server (again).

    When I launched my site restructure recently, I did it on an entirely different server with a new host. Well, it didn’t take more than 3 weeks to find out that host did NOT provide the service that I’ve come to expect from Blogs About, and I found myself missing them and appreciating them more than ever. It’s amazing, as a site and web-based business owner, how your hosting provider becomes such an integral part of your every day life. If the service is poor, it effects everything you do. If you have a lopsided hosting package, you quickly find out how limited you are and how backhanded hosting companies can be in an effort to squeeze those extra dollars from their clients. I’m so glad to be back with BA and relieved to know that my business won’t be disrupted by a simple influx of traffic.

    Enough with the geek speak (but if you want to know more, just ask)!

    I pulled my back out last Sunday morning, so I decided that while I was in pain and couldn’t twist at the waist or breathe deeply, that it was a perfect day for rearranging my bedroom! I hung some room darkening window treatments and Catybug helped me rotate the bed onto another wall. Later in the evening, I took some Aleve and she gave me a nice massage, and my pain subsided by Monday evening.

    (You see how my week started.)

    Then, the election. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

    Leanne WildermuthSo, the last couple of days I’ve been restless and having nightmares. I’ve been trying (really hard!!!) to get my site moved over all while yawning and trying to keep my forehead off my desk.

    I decided yesterday that I needed a pick-me-up, so I went and got my hair cut. I spoiled myself a little bit with a color, too. Then I came home, dressed up my eyes a little bit and had Chickeymonkey snap a few pics of my new do.

    I’m finally happy with it – no more Princess Leah earmuff hair bob thing! It falls so nicely and the thickness that made me crazy has been greatly reduced.

    It’s the little things, isn’t it?

    This morning I felt like I had to pick my outfit based on my haircut. After talking with my BFF Paige (I love saying that) she said the same thing happened to her, so now I might need to go clothes shopping again. I couldn’t find a THING to wear that matched my hip new hairstyle! Of course I lie. I still have the sweater she bought me from Casual Corner back in 1986/87 when we bought matchy stuff in different colors to wear to school. And yes, I still wear it, too. (Paige, that’s where we got ’em. Casual Corner!!!) Like I need new clothes.

    haha.

    Yes, well, give me a day or two to get all this crazy girl stuff out of my head and maybe, perhaps, you’ll have me back in the blogosphere, friends. I’ve missed you. I really have. I owe several of you links and awards, I have not forgotten.

    I also need to update my blogroll, which is seriously outdated. Please let me know if you’re on it and if the link is good and/or if you’re not on it so I can get you on there.

    Me, I’m going to go throw a sweater on, turn up the furnace a couple of degrees, and get back to work!

    New! Improved! HUGE Changes! Look! See?

    October
    9
    2008

    For the past several weeks, I have poured nearly every moment of every day into a complete overhaul of intricateart.com. This is, after all, my bread n’ butter. I’d like to go over some of the changes for you and give you a quick run-down on the restructure of my site.

    First, the geek speak. I’ve been running my site using 3 different installations of WordPress. This has been completely counter-productive, as each one had it’s own design and separate administrative areas. Not to mention separate databases, separate feeds, and separate plugins. What you’re seeing now is everything merged into one database (one GInormous database) and one design. I’ve used custom queries and code to create different looks for each section (category) of my site.

    On to the design changes. I’ve made modifications to specific areas so that you’ll definitely know where you are as you move through my site and portfolio. Obviously the main page (screenshot above) stands alone. Three featured paintings, nice and big, direct you to my portfolio to browse through my work. Once you’re in my portfolio, here are the views:

    You might find it interesting to know that the art desk you’re looking at is, indeed, mine. I photographed it a few years ago and have finally had the opportunity to implement it into my design! I’m very excited about that!!

    The portfolio, viewed 9 thumbnails at a time, can be easily navigated using the wonderful PageNavi plugin by Lester Chan. You can further narrow down which area in the portfolio you’d like to view using the New! Improved! drop down menu, just mouseover the Portfolio, drop down to “Paintings” and you’ll see all of the category options. Once you’ve arrived at a portrait you’d like to see details on, just click the thumbnail and you’ll get the full sized image with details, and can view or leave comments on my projects as well.

    Each single post has even more options. You can send the project to a friend or post it on any of your favorite social networking sites, you can view related projects or entries that relate to that particular project, you can leave a comment and continue browsing or, better yet, go straight to ordering your own custom portrait!

    My Photography section is just a little different from my paintings, as I wanted to make a better distinction between my paintings and my photographs. Here, you’ll see my camera sitting atop the section instead of my workspace.

    Another interesting note – for this part of my design, I photographed my camera with my camera. Want to know how I did that? I used a white background, set it on a white cabinet, and held a full length mirror in front of it after setting the timer. I simply mirrored the image to create this graphic. Neat, huh?

    The single photos enlarge nicely and include navigation to browse directly within the category (my other portfolio categories work this way, as well). You have most of the same options here, to send the photo to a friend, share it on one of many social networking sites, the difference is here, instead of viewing similar photos, you can click right through to the photography prints in my shop to browse those prints available. Also, of course you can leave comments here as well. This is actually my old photoblog, merged into my old photography category – so there are both old and new photos here.

    Okay. Moving on! Some neat things I’ve included in my design include a Site Map and Archive that allows you to get specific with the feeds you’d like to subscribe to. Have a look:

    On this page, you’ll see all of my categories with their RSS button and feed URL. Now, my blog feed hasn’t changed if you’re subscribed to it directly, but now if you’re subscribed through Feedburner, the feed has been redirected to the main feed. If you want to be more specific about the areas you’re subscribed to, the Site Map is the place to do that. If you want to stay updated on everything I do, then my FeedBurner feed is the feed to grab.

    More stuff. Yes, there’s more stuff.

    The navigation menu is now super intuitive. Things that were not so easy to find before are SUPER easy to find now. Pricing, prints, contact, quote, and everything you could possibly want to know about me and my artwork. It’s all there.

    The blog, well, I kept some things from my old setup because I really liked that design. I just spiffied it up a little bit and added some really neat quotes up top to keep you on your toes. I cleaned up my “Bits n’ Blurbs” so they have their own look now, even when you view them all at once.

    I’ve also been quite a bit of dirty work to the e-commerce default stylesheet for my Shop.

    Using PayPal as my payment gateway, e-Commerce makes it really easy to set up shop. I’ve included Custom Portrait Packages, Original Paintings, Prints from Paintings, Photography Prints and also, new to my shop, I’ve added Gift Certificates. I’ll also be adding downloadable wallpapers and even prints to my Freebies page, so those will be up there shortly!

    Overall, there are things you may notice now that you never knew were here before. This was truly a labor of love and long overdue! I hope that you enjoy the changes and, as always, I’m totally open to suggestions and feedback to make things even better for you.

    Thank you ALL for being so patient with me during this transition!

    Poll : Website Navigation

    September
    10
    2008

    Dropdown menus. Good, bad or indifferent?

    View Results

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    Blog Improvement Poll

    September
    8
    2008

    Your participation in this poll will help me to elevate and highlight the topics that you favor. If there are additional topics not listed, please let me know in comments. I appreciate your feedback!!

    What areas of my blog do you find most enjoyable and/or useful? (select three)

    • Health & Weight (2%, 1 Votes)
    • Designing, Web, Technical stuff (5%, 3 Votes)
    • Birdwatching & Nature (19%, 11 Votes)
    • Gardening & Green Thumbing (7%, 4 Votes)
    • Photography (27%, 16 Votes)
    • Parenting/Personal Stories (24%, 14 Votes)
    • Painting/Drawing (17%, 10 Votes)

    Total Voters: 59

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    WordPress Upgrade PSA

    April
    25
    2008

    WordPress 2.5.1 is out. You may now commence upgrading.

    (Dear God, please let my upgrade instructions still be accurate.)

    This is just the version I’ve been waiting for! :thumbsup:

    Have the Last Word.

    April
    12
    2008

    I’ve recently modified my message that displays after a guest leaves their first comment on my blog. I’ve received a few rude comments that leave me scratching my head, wondering how on earth you’d leave a snarky/rude/hurtful/hateful comment on the internet. I mean really, why wouldn’t you just click the little “X” in the top right corner of your browser window? Why do people find that being deliberately rude is such an impossible urge to ignore?

    A few months ago, after receiving a slanderous comment about one of my clients on my blog, I decided to moderate all first time commentors. Since then, I’ve felt an added level of security – those people won’t even get one second of air time on my blog. Those people? They suck.

    So here’s the message, revised:

    Your first comment has gone into moderation.

    I’ll release your comment very soon, if you’re a real person.
    (and you should also be KIND, and drama free.)
    (oh and funny would be GREAT. I love funny.)
    Please come again!
    :)

    Please note: If you’ve used every smiley I own just for fun, or said something rude, unkind or thoughtless that is going to serve no other purpose than to insult or hurt someone you don’t even know, I’ll save you the embarrassment and delete your comment before it ever hits the world wide web. I know you don’t want EVERYONE on the internet to know you don’t think before you hit that “submit” button!

    You can thank me later. ;)

    Now in WordPress, you can customize your own message in your themes comments.php file. Just look for this line of code:

    < ?php if ($comment->comment_approved == '0') : ?>

    Beneath it there should be some text that says “your comment is in moderation” or something plain. Spruce it up. Personalize it with your own message.

    Be sure that your text ends just above the < ?php endif; ?>.

    It doesn’t take too much effort to set your blog to moderate – go into your “discussion” options and set “author must have previously approved comment.” – and that’s it. Once you approve someone, you don’t have to do it again.

    And you, my friend, get to have the last word with that jerk that doesn’t know when to click the little “X”. Totally worth it.

    Got Spam in YOUR Templates?

    March
    8
    2008

    This is not the first time I’ve seen this – spammers somehow hack into WordPress template files and add in their junk, styling it inline so it’s not visible on your blog. Hidden junk mail, basically, in your theme. It happened to me over a year ago, but this particular incident was a refresher course as I found it in a client’s header file while upgrading and updating her theme. Please, please please – check your theme template files regularly. Particularly your header.php, those buggers like to get their links in there and set up negative margins before your content begins on the page.

    Here are a couple of screenshots – click to enlarge. You can see the menu_rll is the div id used to enclose the spam. In this case, they hacked into both the header.php as well as the main index.php.

    spammers.jpg
    Found in the header.php template

    spammers2.jpg
    Found in the index.php template
    It is helpful if you change your admin password somewhat regularly, other than that I can’t tell you exactly how they manage to get in there. I’ve had a pretty secure password for years (I rotate it out) and keep my file permissions secure as well, so I’ve never been able to get a straight answer about the “how does this happen”. It’s aggravating – as these types of links should be PAID for and you should not be spammed or hacked into displaying them without your knowledge. I have tried to pursue these sites before (none of these links are live, I will not give them any free linkage here) – they always play dumb that they had no idea the people they pay to manage their links were hacking sites.

    So folks, this might be news to you – but you might just find some spammy links in your template files. Go on and check, it only takes a minute. Look under presentation/theme editor and just scroll through your template files to make sure there’s nothing spammy going on with your website that you don’t know about. And also – if you’re not using the most current version of WordPress, It’s time to upgrade.. Eliminate any possible vulnerability.

    UPDATE: Another WP user discovered massive amounts of spam in his template, it actually affected his Google ads – the ad content started getting “spammy” and he couldn’t figure out why. Check out his experience here.

    Another update: I am also being told that when upgrading – it is HIGHLY advised to completely delete everything but the wp-config file and upload the fresh upgrade to ensure any files that were hacked are gone and avoid future vulnerabilities. For detailed and easy to follow upgrade instructions, see my post here.


    Also see: TechCrunch “WordPress Security Issues Lead To Mass Hacking. Is Your Blog Next?

    Holy Core2 Duo!

    February
    27
    2008

    My new hard drive arrived yesterday. I upgraded my 5 year old Inspiron as much as I could – and it was time to retire it. Now, sitting on my desk is a teenie-tiny VERY shiny new XPS 210. It took an afternoon of crawling around on the floor and getting sweaty and dusty – but I’m rearing to go today and excited to see how much faster I’ll be able to work now that I’m sporting Adobe Illustrator CS3, as well. Of course I’ll never ditch my old trusted companion, Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo – it’s been too good to me. adobe.jpg

    I attempted to switch my mail client to Thunderbird – and I really, really wanted to do that – but I have to fall into my trusty old rut and stick with Outlook Express. I know, I know. Pat me on the head all day long – I have thousands of precious pieces of mail that I was too afraid to lose. Some day, I’ll make that switch.

    Backing up my bookmarks and all that jazz was pretty easy, everything went relatively smoothly, I think! I started over from scratch last summer to try to salvage what was left of my old hard drive, so I’m familiar with this shaky ground. It’ll calm down in a few days.

    The really cool thing? Yesterday morning, I walked away and stared out my studio windows while I waited for a file to open. Today? All I did was blink. Now THAT computes. Thanks, Dell. Now I have no excuse to get up and refresh my coffee or hit the shower.

    This is not a paid advertisement. I just really, really like Dell. And the Dell Dude’s that surf the internet aren’t so bad, either.

    Reader Poll : Selecting Keywords

    February
    23
    2008

    Selecting the keywords for your site to bring your business to the top 20 search results in Google is a pretty big deal – and it can also be extremely difficult. You can analyze keywords all day long but you really don’t know what someone is going to “call something”, it’s like Googling for “pop” or “coke”. How do you choose which one is more popular over the other? Which one is used more often, and is a more “common” term?

    Being an artist – it’s even more challenging. How do people search for art? DO people search for art? Does anyone even think about having a custom pet portrait done, or is it a somewhat unique idea limited to a certain group of people? Then I’m left to wonder if people use fine art terminology, like realism, abstract, surreal, impressionism or pop art – or do they boil it down to layman’s terms, like painter, artist, pet art – or even further down to the specific painting or artist name that they search for?

    This brings me to my poll – how would you Google it? If you were looking for an artist to paint your pet, what would you type into that search box on Google? I’d love to get your feedback. You can select up to 3 answers, and of course comments are open so you can let me know if you’d use a term that I haven’t listed here. Your input and feedback is very much appreciated, and will help a lot of artists looking for this kind of input to get their portfolio’s online and noticed by the right people.

    View poll in the sidebar under “POLLS”

    Updated to add– While I totally appreciate that there are wonderful SEO companies and knowledgeable SEO experts who offer services to nail keywords, the purpose of my post was to get human input. Since artists, primarily, are not well off to pay for these kinds of services, they rely on the help, assistance and feedback from other artists and friends. :)

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