5 on Friday: Digital Scrapbooking

chewbacca lyla

Chewbacca Lyla


Happy Halloween! Here is granddaughter Lyla in her Chewbacca costume from last year. Not sure what costumes are in store for her and sister Wren, but I’m hoping Wren is Princess Leia with cinnamon buns on her tiny head.

As usual, I digress.

We’re here to talk about digital scrapbooking. Back in 2003 I was a scrapbooking nut and I have the evidence:  several scrapbooks in various stages of completion, plus scrapbooks gifts in other homes, plus a cabinet full of supplies upstairs in a spare bedroom.

Sound familiar?  If you are (were) into scrapbooking, then this describes you, too.

But I have not abandoned scrapbooking.  Now I just do it differently.  More convenient–ly, less mess-ily, more eas-… you get the idea.

I do it on my computer.  Digital-ly.

Here’s how it works:

1.   I use an online scrapbooking source called Designer Digitals http://www.designerdigitals.com/   There you will find all kinds of papers, titles, journalers and embellishments.    It’s a treasure trove of ideas, templates, and a busy community of scrappers to share with.   All on your computer.

You can also purchase scrapbooking software that contains templates, elements and instructions to build simple pages.  And some free photo management programs have a scrapbook feature, too.

2. You’ll need a copy of Photoshop Elements on your computer.  It is an extremely light version of Photoshop, designed for ordinary people, and costs about $50.  You will get your money’s worth out of it before Christmas, I swear.

3.  Designer Digitals has lots of tutorials on how to  scrap online, plus tips on how to use Photoshop Elements to scrap.bathtime-150x150

4.  Now the fun part. Start small with a single page.  Choose the picture you want to use and the embellishments.  Designer Digitals has many of its elements on sale.  Purchase, download, then save all your scrapping supplies to a folder in your computer.

5.  Start a project in Photoshop Elements and layer your choice, starting with the paper, then the picture, then the embellishments.  Don’t forget a title and journaling. You can do it all right there on the page.

Then print your 8.5 x 11 page on your color printer, using the  high quality settings.  If you’re scrapping 12 x 12, you can take the files on a flash drive to an office print store like Office Depot or Fed Ex Office to print the larger size.

Slip the page into an album and get started on the next one.

It’s addictive. I can’t stop.

Ciao, sweeties,


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Wednesday Wine Pairing and Start Small

star wars

When my kids were little and I told them it was time to tackle the clutter in their bedrooms, they were over whelmed with the task.

“Just start with one corner.  Do that one corner. That’s all.”

They could then sit down in that one corner and organize the Star Wars figures or the My Little Ponies or whatever it was.  When that was done, they could move to another corner, and so on until the room was clean.

I say the same thing to my clients when they are faced with the task of what to do with a lifetime of photos, slides, VHS tapes, old film, or stacks of videotapes from cameras long gone.

Don’t think about handling (scanning, transferring, digitizing) all of it at once. You’ll go nuts. And so will your bank account.

Just do one corner.  Pull out the VHS tapes that are the most important:  weddings, birthdays, babies.  Take those somewhere to have them put on DVD or another format that you can edit yourself in Windows Movie Maker or iMovie.  You can find those places online.  (Dallas Media Center is one of those places.)

Then when you see how easy it was and get to watch that video for the first time in years, you’ll be spurred on to tackle another stack of stuff.

Think small.

Kind of like Jeff and those perfect wines under $10.

Wine of the week: Faustino VII Tinto 2010

faustino viiWhen the Wine Curmudgeon started drinking wine, but before I started paying as much attention as I do now, a version of the Faustino was on store shelves. How old-fashioned, I thought, Roman numerals on a wine label.

Which is why I appreciate the Faustino VII ($8, purchased, 13%), and even a vintage as old as this one (of which there is still quite a bit on store shelves). It’s a Spanish red from the Rioja region, made with tempranillo, and about as old-fashioned a Rioja as you’ll find these days — from the Roman numerals to its traditional style, which is one reason why a 2010 $10 wine is still drinkable. The Spanish rarely make wines, even cheap ones, that go off in a year or two.

This isn’t Hall of Fame quality wine, but it’s not supposed to be. It’s Tuesday night takeout wine, orange beef, perhaps. It’s simple, but simple doesn’t mean stupid or insipid. Bodegas Faustino is a 150-year-old producer, and they’ve found a winemaking approach that works. And has worked. And keeps working.

Look for cherry fruit, Spanish-style acid, earthiness, and even what seemed to be a little oxidation — not unpleasant, but another sign of an old-fashioned Spanish wine. My guess is that the newer vintages, and there is a 2013, will taste about the same, minus the oxidation. That’s consistency to be appreciated.

And I appreciate Jeff for sharing his thoughts with us each week.

Ciao, sweeties,

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5 on Friday: Gift Ideas

SantaI know you hate those stores that rush the Christmas season, putting up the Santa displays before the Halloween candy is gone.  I am not one of those people. I swear.

But we are going to talk about Christmas gifts.  And we are going to talk about them NOW. And here’s why.

These gift ideas require work — and that means time, especially in today’s go-go-go world where time is at a premium. So, in order to get these gifts finished in time to put them in Santa’s sleigh for delivery on Christmas Eve, you better get started.

1. Create a Digital Scrapbook

2. Produce a Family Memory Slideshow

3. Transfer video to DVD

4. Retouch an old photo, enlarge, and frame

5. Scan photos from albums, save to disc or flash drive

So, make a plan and go ahead, open the cabinets, go into the attic, look under the bed and drag this stuff out.  Go through it, organize it, and either do it yourself if you have skills, bring it to someone like me, or watch this blog, because I’m going to tell you what to do over the next few weeks.

And we’ll add 5 more.

But first, let’s finish off that Halloween candy, shall we? Pass all the candy corn over here.

Ciao, sweeties,


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Wednesday Wine Pairing & A Look at Icons

Used to be, an icon was a thing, person or place that symbolized something strong, lasting, important. An icon of industry, an icon of virtue, an icon of military superiority, an icon of beauty.

Nowadays, an icon is a tiny cartoon symbol that sits on your virtual desktop and opens the door to programs, files and things on the Internet, a lot of which are not very iconic.

And while icons are useful little things,  all lined up like little soldiers ready to work for me, I hate that we’ve borrowed yet another word from real world and turned it on its head in computer world.

But, we must forge ahead, so here’s Jeff, an icon of knowledge about wines.

Wine of the week: Moulin de Gassac Guilhem 2013

Moulin de Gassia GuilhemThe Wine Curmudgeon is a sucker for wines made with less known grapes from less known parts of the world. That’s because the revolution in winemaking and grape growing technology over the past 20 years has allowed these regions to improve quality with grapes that aren’t in great demand. Hence, a much better chance of quality wine for less money.

The Guilhem ($12, purchased, 12.5%) is a case in point. It’s a white blend from a little known part of the Languedoc in southern France, and the Languedoc remains little known itself. The wine is made with grenache blanc, terret blanc, and sauvignon blanc. Those first two grapes are obscure even for wine geeks, and it’s not like this part of France is famous for sauvignon blanc, either.

The result is a Hall of Fame quality wine that is just €5 in France, and yet another example why so much of what we find on the Great Wall of Wine in the grocery store makes me crazy. The Guilhem bears some resemblance to a white Rhone blend, with white fruit aromas and some spiciness. But it’s not oily or heavy, instead featuring red apple crispness — almost juiciness — and just enough minerality to be noticeable. The bottle, chilled, was empty in a half hour, and I was irritated I hadn’t bought two of them.

In this, it’s the kind of wine that demonstrates the advantages of a quality, independent retailer. I bought it from Cody Upton, a long-time pal and one of the most knowledgeable wine people I know. Cody, who is working at Pogo’s in Dallas, asked me how much I wanted to spend — tongue firmly in cheek — and then walked right to this. Does customer service get any better than that?

TechMom also loves good customer service, a good wine and a curmudgeon to tell me about them. Thanks, Jeff!

Ciao, sweeties,

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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,

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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.


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,

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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,

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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,


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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,

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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

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