Wednesday Wine Pairings & Give a Photo New Life

cindy shoots

Tech Mom shooting as always

I spend half my time at family events taking photos.  Yes, I’m THAT person.  In fact, I was nearly tarred and feathered at a recent baby shower because I didn’t have a camera glued to my hand. I ended up taking pictures with my phone the entire time.

I digress, as usual.

So, like you, I value pictures. But today, so many of our pictures are held prisoner on tiny cards in our cameras, in our phones or on our  computers,  and we can only see them there.

So this Christmas, release them.

Get some prized pictures printed and put them into a small album, a collection of lovely silver frames, or one of those collage frames we love to hate.   Enlarge one to 8 x 10  and frame it for a desk.  Make it even bigger and frame it for a statement piece on a wall.  (Our kids did this last Christmas and it’s a prized possession.)

Find out more about getting pictures out of your phone or camera and into your computer where they can be printed.  If you don’t have a printer, I suggest Walgreens or Shutterfly.

I’m off to buy some beautiful new frames.  Here’s Jeff to keep you company.

Winebits 361: Thanksgiving 2014 edition

Thanksgiving 2014Thanksgiving wine suggestions from around the Internet:

 Keeping it simple: From Real Simple, part of the Martha Stewart magazine empire, “affordable” wines for Thanksgiving. And who says we’re not making progress on the cheap wine front? The recommendations include so many wines that I’ve reviewed here that I think the author may have visited the blog once or twice. They include Gruet sparkling (though the article says it’s New Mexico, which hasn’t been true for years); the Pine Ridge chenin blanc blend (and can the 2015 $10 Hall of Fame be just seven weeks away?); and the Sicilian Planeta red. One caveat: This is a dated post, despite its high Google position, and some of the wines listed will be hard to find.

 Surprisingly simple: From Forbes, which offers mostly affordable wine, including too many that aren’t all that good. Still, one of the world’s great wine values, the $12 Acrobat pinot gris, is included. Equally as bizarre — the $10 Handcrafted chardonnay, about as simple as chardonnay from a Big Wine producer gets, is next to the $60 Sea Smoke, a 14.9 percent California monster with 16 months of oak and a critical darling. The only thing those two wines have in common is that they have grapes in them.

 Never simple: From Eric Asimov at the New York Times, whose annual Thanksgiving column, which I always enjoy, is not unlike the Passover Seder scene from “Annie Hall” — lots of arguing between people who mostly agree about they’re arguing about. His choices include a $14 white Loire from Fournier Pere et Fils, made with sauvignon blanc that I’d love to try. But I’ve never seen in a store and says it’s only available from east coast retailers. The rest, as delicious as they sound, seem to be as New York-centric as the Fournier.

I wish you all a delicious, peaceful and blessed Thanksgiving with friends and family.

Ciao, sweeties,



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Scanning Photos from Albums

photosNow that my children are grown, I want them to have the pictures of themselves from their childhood.  But what do we do with the ones that have two or three kids in them? And don’t they want pictures of each other and their parents and extended family members?  How do I divide these up? I’m stalled by indecision.

Plus, if you’re like me (and most of you are,) then you have a dozen or so mismatched photo albums jammed into cabinets or book shelves.  They are riddled with empty spaces where you had to remove a picture to give to the school for one thing or another, or the collage one kid made (that’s how I lost a wedding picture,) or took out to loan a family member for some project they were doing. Then there’s the box or drawer or bin or bucket with the tons of loose photos that either never made it into an album or never made it BACK in.

Yes, I looked there for the wedding pic, but no luck.

Also, the albums, because they are ancient, are falling apart now and the sticky stuff doesn’t stick so the pictures are falling out. IMG_0407

Let’s get rid of this mess, solve my inability to divide it all up,  and make some great gifts in the process.

We will use your printer/scanner/copier/fax or whatever combo you may have (as long as it has a scanner.)   We are going to scan these pictures and put them in folders in your computer.

I suggest taking the pictures out of the album, putting them in order and tucking them into sandwich or freezer bags.  Write on the outside of the bag with a Sharpee whatever you want the folder to be called in the computer, usually a span of years.

Now scan the pictures according to the instructions that came with your printer. You’ll want to use a setting of 300-600 dpi (dots per inch) to get good quality.  Make sure the scanned images are being saved to the folder you specified.

Here’s the best part:  keep the baggie of pictures, but THROW THE ALBUM AWAY!

When you are through with the albums, start scanning the pictures in the drawer, bucket or bin.  You will be able to save them into the correct folder for that year, reuniting them with their discs 250

In the next post, I’ll go into more detail about burning a disc so you can give everyone the pictures that will most meaningful for them, the perfect, customized gift.


Ciao, sweeties,



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5 on Friday: Family Slideshow Video

family discs 250

Family slideshow videos

This is the first year we have will granddaughter Wren with us for Christmas. And her sister Lyla turns three in December.  My mom turns 90 in April and we are anticipating a wedding for our daughter Erin in the spring also.

So many milestones, so many reasons to celebrate.  SO MANY VIDEOS!


But where do you start?  It seems overwhelming.

Here’s what you do:

1.  Let’s say I want to make a video for my mom’s birthday.  She’s my subject so all my pictures will have her in them if at all possible.  I start to gather pictures.  I may have to enlist my brother and sisters to help.  Be sure to include all family members as equally as possible.  Yes, these things matter.

2.  Cull the pictures.  You will end up with duplicates and fuzzy ones and too many of one baby, etc.  Determine your final number by how long you want the show to be.  We make the pictures about 4 seconds long, so 15 per minute. In a 10 minute video (the optimum length) you’ll have 150 pictures. Put the pictures in the order you want. It might be chronological or by subject (for me it might be youth, marriage, children, friends and other family, grandchildren and great grands.)

3. Decide if you want titles to introduce sections.  Decide what music you want to use.

4.  Open Windows Movie Maker.  10-10-2014 4-23-51 PMThis is a free program for creating videos that should be on your computer or you can download it.  It’s a simple program.  You bring in the pictures and the music (from your iTunes.)   You can make the music stop and start when you want. You can add dissolves between the pictures and animate them to move as you like (zoom in or out or pan right or left.)  Add your titles or captions.  Save the project. It’s not elegant, but works very well for most occasions.

5.  Windows Movie Maker can export your project in a number of formats depending on what you want to do with your video: post on YouTube, edit in a different software, put on Dropbox, etc.  It will also export for a DVD, but don’t be fooled. You will not be able to make a DVD that can play in a DVD player unless you have additional DVD authoring software.   Nero and Roxio are two programs that are good for that.

Alice disc

The slideshow video we made for my mother-in-law, Alice. Don’t you love this sweet picture?

Then show your creation at the party and enjoy the tears and smiles it brings. It’s probably my favorite thing to do for my clients:  create precious memories they can share with the people they love. Priceless.

For a detailed version of this post, download Instructions for Family Video. 
For help with your family video, call me at 214-349-2349.

Ciao, sweeties,
Tech Mom


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Wednesday Wine Pairing: Transfer VHS to DVD

video media

VHS and other video formats

This is going to be a quickie cause taking old VHS tapes and putting them on DVD requires a special kind of machine you may have had at one time, but probably don’t anymore.

It’s a VHS/DVD player and recorder combo.  It actually plays the VHS tape and records it onto a blank DVD at the same time.   We have begun collecting them at Dallas Media Center because the only way to get them new is online.  You might also find a used one (suspect) on eBay or Amazon.

If you do find one or have one, read the directions because every machine is different.  I’ve had a number of clients tell me it didn’t work for them.  They’re a little tricky and the older the VHS, the trickier it gets.

If you do make the transfer,  don’t forget to FINALIZE THE DVD. It’s an extra step that makes it playable as a DVD on any DVD player or your computer. If you don’t finalize then the disc will only play in the machine in which you made it.

Too complicated?  Box them up and send them to me.   I have a stack of these machines just waiting for you.

Then you can sit back and enjoy a glass of something grape-ish with Jeff while I do all the work.


The Wine Curmudgeon’s most popular posts 2014

most popular postsThe most popular posts from the past 12 months are almost completely different from what they’ve always been. Stories that been top-ranked every year that they’ve been on the blog, like The six things you probably don’t know about wine and $10 pinot noirs, aren’t any more.

Chalk these changes up to the new website, which debuted last fall; Google’s ever-demanding search algorithms and how they penalize sites like this one (and more on that Thursday); and who knows what else. In some ways, I’m no closer to figuring out the Internet and how people get to the site than I was when I started seven years ago (though the fine fellows at Reap Marketing have done their best to help me, as has Cindy Causey at the Dallas Media Center).

What I do know is that the blog’s reason for being hasn’t changed. The most popular posts continue to reflect what I’m trying to do here — cheap wine reviews, wine education, and criticism and analysis of how the wine business works. The most popular posts from 2014, plus a few other notes, are after the jump:

The top 10 posts of 2014:

1. The 2014 $10 Hall of Fame. The current year’s Hall of Fame has been the top-viewed post every year but 2013, when it was fourth.

2. The 2013 Barefoot wine review, which was 66th last year. The 2014 review was 54th, probably because it didn’t run until July.

3. The 2013 Cupcake review, which was 287th last year. The 2014 review was 193, probably because it didn’t run until September.

4. The review of the departed and much missed Vina Decana tempranillo from Aldi. This is the best ranking for a first-year wine review in the blog’s history.

5. Big Wine tightened its grip on the U.S. market in 2013, with the top 30 brands accounting for 90 percent of all wine sold in the U.S. Yes, we do want to know who makes the wine that most of us drink, regardless of what the wine business wants us to know.

6. The wine reviews category. The new website, with easier navigation, is the reason for this. It’s the first time a category has been ranked in the top 10.

7. The $10 wine category. Again, easier website navigation makes all the difference.

8. The wine of the week category. Why didn’t I think of easier navigation seven years ago?

9. The 2013 $10 Hall of Fame. This was fourth last year.

10. Who has the best job in wine? This post’s popularity is an example of the mix I try to bring to the blog. It’s part media criticism, part education, and part humor. That it was so well read makes me think there’s a point to doing this.


We think Jeff does have the best job in wine and there’s a good reason for it! We love his blog and are better wine-lovers for it.  Thanks, Jeff.


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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   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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