Wednesday Wine Pairing: Lights Out

Last week, a nasty storm knocked out power to most of our neighborhood and thousands of people suffered through several days without  electricity.  Computers, phones, ipods, pads, tablets. . . dead.  Oh, the humanity.

TechMom was lucky enough to keep power and so was a beacon to our daughter, son-in-law and the two babies who spent two glorious (for me) nights with us.  We enjoyed our wine with pizza, formula and peanut butter and jelly.

Jeff did not fare as well.

Wine to drink when the power goes out, 2014 edition

three cheap wines

Who knew, after last December’s ice storm and four days without power, that the Wine Curmudgeon would get to do it again — and only nine months later? Ain’t electricity deregulation grand, TXU?

We lost power for 2 1/2 days at the beginning of October after 30 minutes of rain and high winds. The difference this time is that temperatures were in the 70s and 80s and not the 20s and 30s. Hence, when it was time to eat dinner, I felt like drinking wine (though I had to use ice cubes for the white instead of leaving it on the kitchen table to chill).

The wine, in fact, was one of the highlights of the blackout (along with the Dallas Public Library, where my branch — despite the outages and years of draconian budget cuts by the shysters who run the city — somehow had electricity and Internet service). Otherwise, the Wine Curmudgeon was even more cranky and irritable than normal; I’m tired of losing electricity the way the rest of the United States gets an annual vacation.

So what did I drink?

 Rene Barbier Mediterranean White NV ($4, purchased,  11.5%): My favorite cheap white wine was a godsend. When the power went off on Thursday afternoon, I screwed open a bottle, dropped in some ice, and tried to convince myself the lights would be back on that evening. The Spanish Barbier is made with the same grapes as cava and has many of the same flavors, though more lemon than apple. Very dry, very crisp, and always a terrific value.

 Cote Mas Blanc Mediterrannee 2012 ($10 for a 1-liter bottle, sample, 12.5%): This French white blend of grenache blanc, vermentino, chardonnay, and sauvignon blanc was almost $10 Hall of Fame quality. It really doesn’t need the chardonnay, which I assume was added to make it softer and more appealing to the mythical U.S. consumer who is supposed to need those things. Having said that, the first two grapes give it freshness and white fruit, and that’s really all it needs. Especially tasty with takeout from Cowboy Chicken, where they did yeoman duty dealing with the outage.

 Cote Mas Rouge Intense Mediterrannee 2012 ($10 for a 1-liter bottle,sample, 13.5%): This red, like the Cote Mas white, comes from Paul Mas, who knows a thing or two about quality cheap wine. Again, my only complaint is that there is merlot and syrah, neither of which does much except make the wine more chalky. Trust me — a red from southern France with grenache, carignan, and cinsault can be delicious without any help, as we have learned with this style of red blend in Texas. But the wine is still enjoyable, with lots of dark fruit and soft tannins.

Know what I was glad I didn’t have to drink? The $3 wines I tasted at the end of September. Talk about adding insult to injury.

Ciao, sweeties,
TechMom

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The Sound of Silence

soundsLeft to its own devices, your computer will whir, purr, cling, chime, ding and dong till the cows come home.  And yes, there’s a cowbell in there, too!  I hate all those ridiculous noises.  I don’t need an audible to tell me I clicked something.

But, there are two sets of sound in your computer.  The bells and whistles of Windows operating system.  And the audio that plays on iTunes or videos.  Lets get rid of the Windows noises, but keep the audio we want when we want it.

1. Right click in a clear place on your DESKTOP.

2. Click PERSONALIZE

3.  Click SOUNDS at the bottom of the screen

4.  A window will open that contains a lot of CHOICES for your background sounds. You can pick and choose the sounds you want to change.  You can also change the sounds themselves depending on the theme you choose.  Or you can

5.  In the field that says WINDOWS DEFAULT, click the arrow down to open a cascade menu.

6.  Scroll down and click  NO SOUNDS.

7.  Click OK.

And enjoy the lovely quiet.

Ciao, sweeties,
TechMom

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5 on Friday: Programs I Love

I do a lot of work every day on my computer.  And there are a few software programs that make my life a lot easier.  Here are 5 that I can’t live without:

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1.  AVG Free–We’ve mentioned this before. Absolutely free anti-virus software.  Just download and install. Renew it every year. Works like a champ.  http://free.avg.com/us-en/free-antivirus-download  (use the CNET download button.)

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2.  Snag-It by TechSmith--This little gem takes a snapshot of your screen and then saves or emails or whatever-you-want-with it.  You can also edit, add effects, arrows, colors, etc. Very versatile, and hard-working.   http://www.techsmith.com/snagit.html

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3.  Acrobat Reader--Opening PDFs is an everyday thing and Acrobat Reader enables that to happen.  Additional features that Adobe Reader supports include comments, bookmarks, links, password-protected documents, zoom, and copying text.  But mostly it’s just for viewing PDFs. It’s free and should be on every computer.  http://www.appfindr.org/en/pdf-reader/

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4.  Windows Movie Maker–I know I’m in the business and I use really high-powered video editing software that costs, let me tell you. But, this little program does what God intended–takes videos and still pictures, puts them on a timeline with transitions and effects. Lets you add music and titles and put out a finished product that doesn’t rival Ken Burns, but will make your cousin Joey very happy.  You can put videos on YouTube or Facebook or websites or get them ready for DVDs, but you need DVD authoring software to make the actual DVD.  http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/Windows-Live/movie-maker

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5.  Carbonite–You know how much I preach about backing up your files.  Well, here is a painless way to do just that.  Carbonite is a cloud storage software that finds and automatically stores every single thing you tell it to (all my documents, pictures, downloads, and music.)  I do have to manually store video, but otherwise it is hands off for me.  You can also access your files from anywhere.  http://www.carbonite.com

So there you have it.  Five hard-working software programs that don’t cost an arm and a leg. There are a lot more, but hey it’s only FIVE on Friday.

Have a great weekend doing something fall-ish.

Ciao, sweeties,
TechMom

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Wednesday Wine Pairing: CDs and DVDs

Software DiscsHow many of you know the difference between a CD and a DVD?  How many use the terms interchangeably?  Don’t lie to me. For a lot of people, a disc is a disc is a disc.

But, that’s not really true. There is a difference.

The Compact Disc or CD is technically a digital optical disc data storage format.  A CD can be used to store and play sound recordings (music) or to save and access data (files, pictures or programs) from your computer.  You can play a music CD in your computer or CD player. You can save data to a CD and access it from any computer that has a disc drive.  A CD can hold up to 80 minutes of audio (music) or 700 MB (megabytes) of data or pictures.  For instance, if you have a 5 megapixel camera, a CD can hold 140 pictures.

The Digital Video Disc or DVD is also a digital optical disc data storage format.  DVD offers a higher storage capacity than a CD in the same size disc.  DVDs can be used to store and play video files (movies) or can be used to store and access data just like a CD, only more of it.  DVDs may be played in a DVD player or computer disc drive.  DVDs hold 4.7 gigs (gigabytes) of data. 

More and more now, CDs may be played in newer DVD players.   DVDs also come in the Blu-Ray format. These can be played in Blu-Ray DVD players, which will also play regular DVDs.

Every little primer deserves an appropriate libation.  Here’s Jeff with one for CDs and DVDs.

Wine of the week: Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc 2011

Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc This is not the current vintage of South Africa’s Mulderbosch chenin blanc ($12, purchased, 13.5%). In fact, it’s two vintages old; the current is the 2013. But it’s the best I could do in Dallas, where we view chenin blanc as the spawn of the devil and a wine to be ignored at all costs.

Nevertheless, it’s worth reviewing for three reasons: First, because it’s a quality white wine, as almost all Mulderbosch wines are. Second, because there is still a lot of it around, given the way South African wine is viewed by retailers and consumers in this country. Third, because the oh so haute wine bar where I bought it needs to be called out for selling a past vintage at suggested retail when the wine bar almost certainly bought it at a tremendous discount.

The Wine Curmudgeon is a big fan of Mulderbosch, which avoids many of the pitfalls — chasing trends, celebrity wine — that plague other South African producers. Its rose has been in and out of the $10 Hall of Fame (mostly because the price fluctuates), and the chenin is equally as impressive. If nothing else, that a three-year-old wine aged this well speaks volumes about the effort that went into making it.

The Mulderbosch is not fruity, like a California chenin, and it doesn’t have the slate finish that the best French chenins have. Rather, it’s a little rich and leans toward chardonnay, with subtle apple and pear fruit, qualities that almost certainly come from age. It also has an interesting spiciness, as well as a little oak. Given that oak is usually superfluous in this kind of wine, it’s quite well done and adds some heft.

This is real wine — serve it with roasted and grilled chicken, or even main course salads. It deserves more attention and respect than it gets, and especially from a retailer who treats it as a cash cow and not as real wine.


 

Thanks, Jeff.

All this talk about cows and chickens has made me hungry. Time for dinner and a lovely bottle of Mulderbosch chenin blanc.

Ciao, sweeties,
TechMom

 

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5 on Friday: Port in a Storm

lightningYou may think that PORT in a storm refers to a lovely beverage you might sip while watching a lightning array from the snuggly comfort of your glassed in solarium.

You’d be right, of course, but not in this case.

Yesterday my neighborhood in Dallas suffered a SEVERE storm which has left 300,000 people without power.  We escaped that fate and had three generations of family in our house last night (which, in my mind, was sort of like heaven.) Tonight we may have four, but that remains to be seen.

So, in this case, PORT in a storm refers to your computer. I know it’s a stretch, but work with me, here.

Computers are particularly vulnerable to lightning and lost power.  Here are few ways to protect your hard work and your hardware.

1. Save often.  You should do this anyway because computers are unpredictable sometimes and can crash with no provocation.  But when storms are predicted, you must save in case of a brown out, surge or power loss.

2.  When storms begin (before you see the lightning, please) power off your electronics in the proper way–no hard stops using the power buttons.  Electrical surges can fry a computer.  A brown out or momentary loss can cause your computer to shut down hard.  Not good.

3.  Back up your work, your files, your programs, etc. using a cloud-based service like Carbonite, an external storage and software, or, at the very least, frequent manual saves to CDs, external hard drives, flash drives, or cloud-based sharing software like Dropbox or One Drive.

4.  When the coast is clear, power your computer back on and give it plenty of time to completely boot up–at least five minutes–before you begin clicking like a crazy person.

5.  If you don’t get it turned off fast enough and it shuts down during the storm, keep it off until the weather has passed, then power up and try to recover your lost files.  Saving often will help mitigate your loss.

Then, since you can’t work anyway, I’d opt for the aforementioned PORT on the PATIO.

Ciao, sweeties,
TechMom

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Throwback Thursday: Wednesday Wine Pairing

Well, it happened.  The days got away from me and I completely missed yesterday’s Wednesday Wine Pairing.  No excuse really, except that I have a cold and a deadline. Terrible combination.

So this morning, I’m like EPIC FAIL!  I thought about just letting it go and hoping you hadn’t noticed, but, hey, I’m TechMom!  I have a calendar and a commitment and I would not be able to hold my head up in a selfie if I didn’t try to make it up to you.

And since on Thursday, we can go back to a better day, like Wednesday, here’s Jeff!

Wine of the week: Pennywise Petite Sirah 2012

Pennywise Petite Sirah 2012The Wine Curmudgeon long ago accepted the fact that petite sirah didn’t taste like petite sirah, that it had been bastardized by Big Wine to taste like a darker fruit version of grocery store merlot on the cheap end and by high-end winemakers to taste like high-alcohol syrah or zinfandel.

So it is with great joy that I can report that the Pennywise ($12, sample, 13.5%), a California red wine, tastes like petite sirah. Really. And for only $12, which means it’s probably closer to $10 at many retailers.

Look for lots of plum, some herbal notes, quietly done fake oak, and even tannins and acidity to round everything out. The latter surprised me even more than the plum, since it seems to be the goal of most large producers to take tannins and acidity out of cheap red wine so as not to offend consumers (and that the wine suffers is just a minor inconvenience). How much did I like this wine? I’m recommending it even though the tasting notes say the finish includes “toasted cedar plank,” which is one of those descriptors that makes most of us reach for a beer.

This is a burger and weeknight pizza wine, in which the wine will do its job and make the food taste better. That’s a fine accomplishment for a $10 red wine. That it’s petite sirah is even better.

Thanks, Jeff, for the save.  I promise to be back tomorrow.

Ciao, sweeties
TechMom

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5 on Friday: What is . . .?

untitledTechnology has affected us in a number of amazing ways–and some not so amazing–but one thing is true–our language has been “enhanced” by technology. Wouldn’t you agree?

Of course not, things are a mess out there.  Many words that used to mean one thing are now something else entirely.  Like mouse.  Who knew that would happen?

So I thought I’d compile a short list of words and symbols that have morphed in our collective vernacular during the last couple of decades.

1.  # – This used to be the pound sign, but is now the ubiquitous HASHTAG, a symbol that refers to an address on the social media site Twitter.

2.  @ –  This used to be the rarely used typewriter symbol for the word “at”.  It still means AT but now is used constantly in email addresses all over the world.

3.  Virus – This has always (and still is) the word for a number of infectious diseases.  That is pretty much what it means now in terms of your computer. When a virus (usually a malicious software program) is introduced into your computer, it causes strange issues to pop up which either slow or debilitate your computer. They must be removed by running other special software.  Some can be prevented with anti-virus software.    We’ll talk about this in another post.

4.  PIN – Used to be a pointy metal stick you stuck into things to hold them in place.  Now it’s a secret code you use to access your bank account or any number of other sites, programs or entities.  Stands for Personal Identification Number.

5. Tweet - Synonymous with CHIRP, this used to be the sound a bird makes.  Now it refers to a 140-letter (character) message you send over the social media site TWITTER. Twitter%20symbolTheir symbol is a bird, no doubt in reference to “a little bird told me,” since a lot of tweets are of the gossip variety.

There are dozens more and we’ll play with them another day.  And don’t feel bad if you use these words and symbols in all the wrong ways.  My mom (who doesn’t use a computer but is astonishingly hip) once said about a piece of news, “She should put that in her twitters.

Take that, Hashtag.

Ciao, sweeties,
TechMom

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Wednesday Wine Pairing & Moving Tip

IMG_0657Moving?  Nothing is more stressful as I recently experienced with my daughter’s family.

When you unpack you realize you’ve got a nest of cables and cords that used to be hooked somewhere to something–but what?  And where?  You make a valiant effort, but end up with one mysterious cable left over.  And no matter what button you push, you can’t make the Toy Story DVD play.   YIKES!

Here’s a little tip to make re-hooking your entertainment contraptions (and your post-move life) easier.

Grab a roll of masking tape, a black sharpie and a piece of paper.

Make a long list of alphabet letters down the side of the paper. If you have more than 26 cables, then you don’t need my help and should be working at Dallas Media Center.

Tear pieces of masking tape about 4″ long. IMG_0653

On both ends of the masking tape write the same single letter.  In other words, both ends have an A or B or C, etc.

BEFORE YOU UNPLUG A CABLE OR CORD, put one strip of labeled tape around each one so that the ends meet and stick together.

Beside that corresponding letter on the paper, write what device and where on that device the cord comes out of and what device and where on the other device it goes into.  In other words, “A — printer out to computer  in.”

Include words like video, HDMI, audio, and whatever else you can read on the device.  You can event add the little drawings on the device. For most things, there will be only one place on the device where that plug will fit. And if one end plugs into the wall, you can probably figure that out.

Then be sure to pack all the cables, the list you made, and all the remotes in one box, preferably by themselves, and label it CABLES AND REMOTES.

Then open a bottle of whatever Jeff is having and enjoy Toy Story with the grandkids for about the 40th time.

Wine of the week: Domaine du Tariquet Classic 2013

Domaine du Tariquet Classic 2013How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee, Tariquet ($10, purchased, 10.5%), to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.

I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light and I marvel at how refreshing this Gascon wine is when it has no right to be.

I love thee freely, as men strive for right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise, and wonder at the citrus flavors and at the tropical fruit (pineapple?) in this vintage.

I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith, trusting Tariquet every year to make something extraordinary from ordinary colombard and ugni blanc.

I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints and after I tasted too much grocery store wine, so depressing and so much alike. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death. Or at least until the next vintage.

With sincere apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her Sonnets from the Portuguese 43, with the hope she had a sense of humor and is not spinning in her grave, plotting revenge.


Oh, Jeff, waxing so poetic.

Ciao, sweeties,
TechMom

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5 on Friday: Photo Extensions

Many of you may serve on committees and are responsible for providing pictures to a printer.  YIKES!  What do you do now?  What are you supposed to send to the printer?They want a certain kind of file extension.  What the heck is that????

A file extension is the suffix of a file name that comes after the “dot.” For example, a file named “Lyla_birthday.jpg” has the file extension “.jpg.”

Among the different extensions:  JPG, GIF, PDF, BMP or PNG. Each of these types of photos does a different job, so it is important to know which one to use for which job.

So here’s a short (and extremely simplified) primer on photo extensions. 

JPG:  JPEG image stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group which developed the format. It compresses the information in the picture for use on the web, but maintains high quality and limitless color.  This is the most common and the default extension on most computers.  It can be used in virtually any situation.

GIF:  Graphical Interchange Format. GIFs are common format for Web graphics, but are limited to the number of colors they can display. GIF images can also be animated and saved as “animated GIFs,” which are often used to display ads on websites. They may also include transparent pixels, so GIFs can be layered over other images or text.

PDF:  Portable Document Format. Commonly used for e-mail attachments or for saving publications in a standard format for viewing on multiple computers; usually created with Adobe Acrobat or another PDF creation program. PDF files can be opened and viewed using the free Adobe Reader, which is available for most Web browsers. PDF files may contain text, images, forms, annotations, outlines, and other data. They preserve fonts and formatting electronically and appear the same on the screen as they will when printed on paper.  Commercial printers love PDFs and may ask for them when printing your job.

PNG:  Portable Network Graphic. Similar to GIF, but a PNG cannot be animated.  When you grab pictures off the web, they will often come in as PNG.  These will need to be SAVED AS JPG or PDF for use in some applications.

BMP: Bitmap Image File. Uncompressed image comprised of a rectangular grid of pixels which are little squares of color. All digital images are made up of pixels,   You may never use a BMP image EVER.

So, in your everyday world, you will use JPGs and PNGs in your computer. You will send and receive PDF documents as attachments in emails and to share and print.  Unless you’re working in graphics you will rarely use BMP or GIF.

As a final note, you will need a photo editing program to change one image extension to another.

So when you are tasked with printing the flyers for National Night Out, don’t despair!  Just remember that JPGs and PDFs go to the printer!

Ciao, sweeties,
TechMom

 

 

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Wednesday Wine Pairings and Memories

This week our daughter, Molly, and her husband, Beau, and two tiny daughters are moving, so I am helping them pack.  They have been living for the past three years in my mother’s home–our “family home” if you will.

So as we pack, we discover a mix of their new, techy, trendy stuff: the baby monitor, the hydraulic wine opener, the digital photo frame.  And I pack a gilt clock of my mom’s, brought back from Europe, decades-old children’s books, a gift from Beau’s mother to Lyla, and a closet full of Christmas decorations, left behind because they “belong” to the house.

Memories for me,  memories for my child, memories to be made for her children, all carefully wrapped in newspapers and packed into boxes, to start their new lives in a new home.

I love that high tech gadgets and antique books can co-exist under one roof. I’m glad my children appreciate their roots and celebrate them.

But they still love a cool, new “thing.”

They’re our kids, after all.

And now a word from someone who appreciates old roots, too.  Grape ones.

Wine of the week: Chateau Bonnet Rouge 2010

Chateau Bonnet rougeChateau Bonnet Rouge ($10, purchased, 14%) is the quintessential cheap red wine:

• It tastes of where it’s from, in this case the Bordeaux region of France. That means enough fruit to be recognizable (mostly red); some earthiness so that it doesn’t taste like it came from Argentina or Australia (almost mushroomy for this vintage); and tannins that make the wine taste better.

• Varietally correct, so that the merlot and cabernet sauvignon taste like merlot and cabernet sauvignon, and not some gerrymandered red wine where the residual sugar level was fixed before the wine was made.

• It doesn’t have any flaws or defects, and is consistent from vintage to vintage.

In this, it shows that simple wines can be enjoyable and that simple does not mean stupid or insulting. What more do wine drinkers need?

And if the Bonnet needs any more to recommend it, this was a four-year-old $10 wine. Too many four-year-old $10 wines don’t make it past 18 months before they oxidize or turn to vinegar.

Highly recommended (as are the Bonnet blanc and rose). The only catch is pricing. Some retailers, even for older, previous vintages like this, figure they can get $15 for it because it has a French label that says Bordeaux. It’s still a fine value for $15, but I hate to give those kinds of retailers my business.

Thanks, Jeff, for the rec.
Ciao, sweeties,
TechMom

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