Facebook Friend Activity... Needs Some Work

Facebook rolled out Timeline for Pages today (read all about the changes on the Atomicdust blog) and one of the new features is 'Friend Activity' on the right hand side. It shows how many of your friends like that page, and ideally, who's been interacting with the page - liking posts, commenting or sharing stories and updates.

But it looks like it also shows just general mentions of the brand on Facebook - even if the user doesn't explicitly tag or link to the page. 

In fact, flipping through some of the pages that have switched to the new look, the first five I looked at all had mentions from my friends featured.... and none of them tagged or linked to the page. In some cases, it was a complete misunderstanding! They weren't even talking about that particular brand in their update! And some were pretty old updates - one dated back to July 2011!

Here are some examples (Sorry to my friends I'm calling out..):
From the Today Show. This 'activity' doesn't even mention the show, just the word 'today.' And it's from July 28, 2011!

I'm sure people will have their own privacy issues with this, but I'm thinking more from a marketing viewpoint. Some of these had nothing to do with the brand pages they appeared on, but it doesn't seem like the brand has any control over what appears there or would even know what was showing up. I'd say this feature needs some work. 


Pinterest Problems (1st Edition)

I love Pinterest. I have a gazillion pins and a board for almost everything. But I have many many problems with the Pinterest boom that's happening. In fact, I've got a post coming on the Atomicdust blog on the subject. I've been holding back pointing and laughing at brands that are doing it wrong, but this.... I just couldn't help.
My problem with this Facebook post....

1. Bakers Shoes is not every brand. They are a fashion brand. Big surprise. A fashion brand is doing well on a social site that's main demo is young adult females and one of the most popular categories is apparel. Seriously folks. Just because style bloggers and recipe websites are generating a ton of traffic from Pinterest, it doesn't mean you can (or should try to).

2.  "Without even doing anything..."Wow, thanks a lot Bakers. Make my job look easy, why don't ya?! Even if they don't have a Pinterest account (I couldn't find a branded one, but I didn't search that much...), they still have content that's in one of Pinterest's top categories - Women's Apparel - and they've got a website that's {a} filled with images that people want to share and {b} built for ecommerce. It's not as simple as just signing up for Pinterest. It's not as simple as just having images and adding a 'Pin It' button to your site (does Bakers have one of those? I'm too lazy to look.). It's not as simple as 'not doing anything.'

WARNING: I'm sure this is first of many Pinterest rants I'll go on. Be prepared.


Resolved (for Lent)

Ah, Lent. I'm sure there are a lot of people out there that loathe this time of year - giving stuff up, no meat on Fridays - but I love it. It means fish fries, of course, and it gives me a chance to restart New Year's resolutions. This year, I'm going to....

Drink water. I'm going to have one glass of water every morning before my coffee and at least two more glasses after that. Thank goodness for Atomicdust pint glasses.
And only drink one coffee a day.
Organize my closest(s). Yep. That's closets, plural. I'd like to clean 'em up and get myself down to one.
Spend two hours a week cleaning my house. Right now, I'm spending about zero.... so any progress would be beneficial.
Exercise. That means finding a whole bunch of workouts I can do in the evenings watching TV and renewing that gym membership for the mornings.
Only one lunch out per week. Watch out Healthy Choice, I'm stockin' up!
Wear heels out. A girl can/should get gussied up once in a while.
Clean out my car. I found a floppy disc in my trunk. Nuff' said.
No online shopping.
Go into work early at least once a week. I just feel so much more organized when I've already got my emails checked and to do list made by 9am.
Read a book.


Unintentional Patriotism

Have had this outfit stuck in my head for a while now. Put it on this morning. Then remembered it was Presidents Day.

Red jeans, blue stripes and blue nails. How appropriate.

red jeans from Target. striped tank by Whitney Eve. cardigan from New York & Company. boots by Steve Madden. polish is Mesmerized by Essie. 


Ancient Rome: Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum

Rick suggested that for our tour of Ancient Rome we start at Palatine Hill and make our way back down towards the Colosseum, so naturally, that's what we did. Well, after we got lost, that is...
We walked passed these umbrella pines about three times before we found the entrance to Palatine Hill, but I didn't mind. They are so beautiful!
Palatine Hill was the home of the Roman Imperial Palace (and the huts of Romulus, the founder of Rome), but now it mostly looks like a bunch of rocks. There aren't even very many signs indicating what you're looking at (thank god we had Rick!). This is Socorra, myself and Cara at the spot where the Roman Emperor sat. Yep, we are in the EXACT spot. Crazy, huh? We were trying to be royal - Socorra with a scepter, Cara with a crown, and me? I panicked at the last minute.
The view of Rome from Palatine Hill is gorgeous. (And a couple days later, we would get an even better view from the top of St. Peter's.) I love these views because of the contrast - the old Ancient ruins against the modern city. In the top picture, to the left you see the dome of St. Peter's in the distance. The white building to the right is the National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II. The whole time, I thought it was the Capitoline Museum... oops. We didn't go there, but it was gorgeous.
Stopping to read our Rick before going to the Forum. Seriously, I know you think I'm overdoing it... or that I'm getting paid to promote him or something, but I'm not. I just know we would have been screwed without this book.
The Arch of Titus' story is so interesting to me - The arch was built to commemorate the victory over Israel. You see, Rome didn't really care what your religion was, as long as you praised the Emperor as a God. No big deal for most civilizations - they just added him to their long list of deities. But Israel only had one god, and so they revolted. The Romans destroyed their temple (today's Wailing Wall), took them as slaves back to Rome and made them build this arch.
Basilica of Constantine. This was an epic hall of justice back in the day. The roof was another 55 feet higher than these arches. 
This road - Via Sacra - has many of the same basalt stones that were there 2,000 years ago; the same stones that Caesar walked on (!!!).
The temple of the Vestal Virgins is the most f-ed up thing in all of Rome. There's this temple on the Forum, with a torch in it. The Romans believed that they would hold power as long as that torch was lit, so rich families in Rome would offer up their daughters to serve as virgins and watch over the light. They served thirty-year terms, starting at age 10. After your time is up, you get a huge dowry and (most likely) a statue in your honor in the temple... if you stay a virgin. If you don't? You get a parade.... down to the crypt with a loaf of bread and a candle... TO DIE.
The Roman Forum doesn't look like much, does it? THIS is why having a tour guide or book is so important... Otherwise you're just looking at a bunch of rocks....
'But just think - Julius Caesar once leaned against these rocks.'

Click here for links to all my Rome and Morocco travels!


Welcome to Rome! Now, Let's Eat.

(Finally! My first Rome post! Eeeeeeee.) Okay - A couple of things to know right off the bat...

1. We stayed at this hostel - Alessandro Palace. The staff was friendly, they had free wifi, a bar with 5 euro bottles of wine for Happy Hour and a 3 euro breakfast in the morning. They also had pub crawls... if that's your thing. Word to the wise though: Read the toaster's directions before you almost light the place on fire. 

2. Don't go to Rome (or maybe anywhere) without a Rick Steve's guidebook. I'm not joking. We used it for everything - transportation, food selection, history of the city and each attraction we were at, where to get in line, buy tickets, which days to visit, what streets to walk down.... It was literally the best thing we could have packed. (Thanks Kristin and Chris!)

Three days in Rome meant time to see Palatine Hill, The Roman Forum, Colosseum, Pantheon, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's, even the Pope.... But it also meant lots of time for excessive eating and drinking. Yes! 
Our first lunch in Rome was at this wine bar called Cavour 313. This wine was picked out by our server - something local to the region, but I couldn't read the label enough to even know what kind of wine it was. It wasn't terribly expensive - maybe 12-16 euros? - but it was delicious.
Our first full day in Rome, we were feeling sluggish on our walk to the Pantheon (we had just finished touring Palatine Hill, the Roman Forum and the Colosseum) so we thought we'd stop for a coffee. Instead, we found this Irish Pub (I think it was called Scholar's Pub or something? There were American universities' jerseys on the walls). We went in with the intent to order a coffee and maybe a beer. We ended up ordering multiple beers, nachos, learning that Cara has hated U2 ever since they beat N*Sync for record of the year in 1999 and uttered this infamous phrase - 'You guys, do we have to go to the Pantheon?'
Of course, gelato! Kristin (and Rick!) both recommended Old Bridge by the Vatican for gelato and it did not disappoint. In fact, we went twice! The first time I had pistachio and chocolate (with actual bits of chocolate in it. OMG.), and then the next day, after a brutal climb to the top of St. Peter's, I had chocolate, banana and nutella. Holy moly. I said it then, and I'll say it again - I never jumped on the fro-yo bandwagon, but I could get on the gelato train!
Can we talk about how delicious this looks? Just for a second? Those tomatoes. That mozzarella. That arugula (or do you call it rocket?). We had this at the most amazing little restaurant Ciccia Bomba. They greeted us with glasses of sparkling wine! Then we ordered this little piece of heaven, asparagus and parmasean crostinis, pasta entrees and of course, red table wine. We stayed too long and probably drank too much. But it was worth it.
Yes, I went to McDonald's in Rome (we went there in Morocco, too. Just for the record). It was convenient. And delicious. And according to Cara, they had really great, cheap coffee. Also, they give you kiwi on a stick in your Happy Meal.
Coffee in Rome was way better than coffee in Morocco (sorry Cara!). Especially this cup from Sant'Eustachio Il Caffè. There was an article on the wall from the NY Times that said if you want good espresso, just buy a plane ticket to Rome and have the cab driver take you directly here.
My last dinner in Rome was pretty traditional - vegetable and rice soup (I was getting sick) and spaghetti. Classic, delicious, such a great way to end the trip.

Another thing about Rome.... This is how I imagined it looking:
But most of it didn't look like this. It was very much a city. These two pictures were taken as we walked off the main roads looking for food / getting lost. On my next trip to Italy (yes, it is happening. Someday.), I'm going to make sure I visit more small cities and the countryside so I can get more of this classic Italian architecture.

Click here for links to all my Rome and Morocco travels!


Valentine's Brinner

In the spirit of Valentine's Day, I thought I'd try to make that fancy 'egg in a basket' sandwich I posted yesterday (with the boy's help of course) for an extra special Valentine's Day Brinner. We also made bacon (duh) and hash browns, which he cut in the shape of hearts. Here's what we ended up with:
Not bad, eh? The sandwich was actually kind of easy - you're essentially making a grilled cheese sandwich.

 First, start with your sandwich fixings.... We went with just sharp cheddar, but you could use any kind of cheese, add ham, spinach, jam- whatever you think would be good with an egg. Remember though - you'll be cutting out the center, so I'd put those thicker toppings (like ham) more on the edges to make your life easier. Also, we used plain ol' sandwich bread, but if you did sourdough or something bigger it might be easier.

Assemble your sandwich, buttering the outsides of the bread. Place on the pan and start grilling.

Here's what is going to happen next.... When you are ready to flip, take the sandwich off the grill, cut out the heart sandwich (this will be easier if you have a cookie cutter!) and then place it back on the grill, flipping it so the uncooked side is down.

Then, you'll drop an egg into the center.

We just cracked ours and dumped it in there. However, it is probably easier if you follow these directions and separate the egg white and yolk into two bowls. When the time comes to pour in your egg, you can pour in just the amount of egg white you need, and then slip your yolk in too. If you just crack it like we did, you end up with way too much egg for the little heart cut-out.

You're aiming for a nice, runny, sunny-side-up egg. We ended up having to put the whole pan in the oven and had to reflip our sandwiches so our eggs were fully cooked. The original recipe noted that covering the pan would help the egg cook quicker and melt the cheese.

Once the egg is cooked (and your sandwich isn't burnt) - Voila! Valentine's Brinner!



Our final stop in Morocco. Essaouira.

Like Agadir, Essa is this great beach town on the Atlantic that really captures the culture clash in Morocco. Inside the medina, there's little cafes, shops and dangerous (and smelly) street construction.... but then the beaches are lined with swanky restaurants and all-inclusive resorts. On the beach, you can ride camels (which we did!)... or ATVs. It's the epitome of new meets old.
This view was all it took to fall in love with Essa. So beautiful.
The bright blue water, the white stone buildings. I didn't notice until now how different Essa looks from the rest of sand-colored Morocco.
This was our first lunch in Essa (and probably the only time we didn't eat mismins or crepes... oops). It was so good! Just a bunch of vegetables and a soup (maybe potato? or cauliflower?). I could maybe go vegetarian if all meals were like this.
I absolutely adored the bathroom in our hotel in Essa. It was this gorgeous tile from floor to ceiling, with a bronze-framed mirror and sink and this gorgeous dark-wood door. It also had a western toilet (!), toilet paper (!) and probably the most efficient shower we experienced in Morocco. It was one of those handheld shower heads and you just stood in there and took a shower. Then, swept the water down a drain with a squeegee. It worked great! But you had to be careful not to spray water all over your clothes, towel or the precious toilet paper.
Coffee in Morocco is served in one of these little glasses, and always with milk. Never black. And people load it up with sugar. Seriously. I saw someone fill half this cup up with sugar cubes.
This fishing area made for great photos... not so great smells. And watch out for seagull droppings!
One of the highlights of my trip! Our camel rides on the beach! This was an amazing experience and SO worth the 75D's we had to pay. Getting on/off the camel was scary, but the half hour ride on the beach was worth it.
Sangria! We were so psyched to see this on the menu for our last, and probably least authentic, meal in Morocco. We stopped in this place called 'Beach & Friends' for pizza, salads, club sandwiches and of course, this sangria. It was right on the beach, and some of the menu was in English. How could we resist?!

That's all for Morocco. I will leave with this gorgeous sunset from the ramparts in Essa. Enjoy!

Click here for links to all my Rome and Morocco travels!



We already hit Marrakesh and Agadir, and next it was on to a smaller city - Cara's village, Anezi.

(And so continues my vacation blog posts. Sorry it is taking so long... Goal is to be done with all of them before Mardi Gras!)

After a couple of (smushed) taxi rides, we made it to Cara's village. Of everything in Morocco, this is what I was most excited for. Cara's been living in Morocco for almost two years. I've heard about her life there, read about it and seen pictures - but this was my chance to see it first hand. I was psyched. This is what I travelled halfway across the world for!

And Anezi didn't disappoint.
As soon as we got there, we had a 'dress like Cara day.' I knew we were going up in to the mountain villages (little neighborhoods they call 'do-hoirs') which are way more traditional. Up until then, we had been in Moroccan cities surrounded by more modern, Arabic culture. Anezi is a Berber village in the mountains and is much more traditional. Cara always talked about how she wore long skirts to make the people in her town more comfortable. She wanted to fit in; show that she understood their culture and traditions. I wanted to do the same. I put on one of Cara's long skirts, t-shirts and cardigans.... and looked just like her! (Really, when showing these pictures to Joe when I got back, he said if he squinted he thought I was Cara!)
We went up into the mountains to see the water towers that Cara and her site mate helped fund and build. They bring running water to the villages so that the women don't have to walk down the hill to the well. They've spent months writing grants and proposals and organizing the whole operation. It's amazing what they accomplished!

And the view - breathtaking. I've been in the mountains before, but never like this. Like most of Morocco, pictures won't do it justice. And the women would just follow us around and speak in Talsheet (their language) to Cara. They said we were beautiful and loved our pale skin. Ha! They walked us around the stone buildings that make up their neighborhood - What a departure from the marina of Agadir where we watched the sunset the night before! Instead of yachts, new condos and Zara, we were surrounded by mountains and crumbling stone buildings.
Then we went to Cara's counterpart, Lahcen's house and had dinner with his family. Let me tell you something - you haven't truly lived until you've had a traditional Moroccan meal (or gone off-roading in the mountains in a 1970s Mercedes station wagon. Interesting experience to say the least.) We had coffee, Lahcen came around and washed our hands, then we ate more bread then you would think is humanly possible. I stopped to breathe and Lahcen's wife told me to keep going in Talsheet! Are you kidding?!  I have to breathe!

Then for dinner, we had tajines - A Moroccan slow-cooked meal with vegetables, prunes, lamb and egg. You don't use silverware; just use the bread to soak up all the juices first and then eat the rest with your right hand (right hand only. Your left hand is for... something else that may ruin your appetite). No plates, no napkins. Everyone eats out of the same bowl. And it was delicious! Except, I couldn't eat the lamb. They love the fatty part there... and I just couldn't bring myself to eat much of it.

Then we moved on to a giant fruit bowl to chose from for dessert and watched Awkward- yes, the MTV show-  on Lahcen's giant flat-screen television. Seriously. It was nicer than most people's TVs here in America. Lahcen sent us off with a bunch of 'sexy' blankets (they are just really soft) to off-road back down the mountain.... in the 1970s Mercedes station wagon... in the dark.
The next day, we hung out at Cara's all day. We did laundry, caught up on emails and took a long nap. And Cara cooked - pancakes, chickpea burgers - this girl is good! It was a nice relaxing day before we hopped on the bus for our last stop in Morocco - Essaouira.

Oh, and I must mention the bathroom situation here. Pretty much all of Morocco had modern toilets (albeit, no toilet paper). Cara has a hole in the floor. Seriously. You squat over it. Do your business. And then fill up a water bucket and flush it down. Cara and Claire are totally okay with this method. I, on the other hand could not get used to it. I had to take my pants all the way off because everytime I would have pee splatter all over my legs. (Seriously, you'd think years of tailgating and late night walks home in Columbia would have taught me better.)

Click here for links to all my Rome and Morocco travels!

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