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2008 Blasted Church Syrah – a review

Over the course of the past couple weeks I have been training hard for a 10km race that I ran today. I have been running, eating healthy and have not had any alcohol since New Years. (16 days is a long time in my world to go without!) So after a solid performance in the driving rain today we decided to go out for a celebration dinner.  We decided on the Keg Steakhouse in Maple Ridge. On my way there I got it in my head that I was going to have a nice glass of red wine with dinner.

Now seeing that this is my first wine review I will begin by saying that I am by no means a sommelier. My descriptions will likely lack the sophistication and formality of most online reviews but I have worked in the restaurant industry for several years and I know a good wine when I taste one. So what I will share with you is my own personal rating out of 10 for drinkability and perhaps a few tips on pairings.

I made a quick decision to try a wine by Blasted Church. There bottles have always caught my eye in the liquor store thanks to their odd, artistic labels and creative names but I had yet to try them out. I decided to try something I wasn’t overly familiar with and went with the syrah. When it arrived the first deep inhale was music to my nose. Not just because of the rich cherry, vanilla and chocolaty aroma but because of the built up anticipation of a hard-earned reward.

I had ordered the seared ahi tuna with wasabi cucumber dressing as a starter and found the wine to smooth out the palette nicely after the creamy kick of the wasabi. Then for dinner I had a delicious, rare filet mignon as I always do when dining at the Keg and once again it was  paired up nicely. A nice full flavour with a hint of berry sweetness and no lingering after taste.

The description on the Blasted Church website has the following to say about the 2008 Syrah, “The 2008 Blasted Church Syrah is composed of fruit from five vineyards. The Syrah was harvested from Osoyoos, Skaha Bench and our own estate grown Blasted Church Vineyards Syrah. The Viognier portion was grown in Osoyoos. Lastly, the Cabernet Sauvignon was grown in Oliver. The Syrah at Blasted Church was the first to come off the vine; harvested during the cooler days of mid-October, followed by the Syrah and Viognier from Osoyoos . The Syrah (Skaha Bench) and Cabernet Sauvignon (Oliver) signaled the last day of picking on November 6th. The overall blend is 86/7/7 of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Viognier.”

This wine has two notable accomplishments to its name having been awarded a GOLD at the All Canadian Wine Championship as well as The Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in British Columbia Wines 2008

I give the 2008 Blasted Church Syrah a solid 8.5/10. A great rating for a wine under $30.

Filler – Best “Time Waster Game of 2010”

Every now and again someone sends along a “time waster” (simple addictive mind numbing game) that can quickly make a half hour of your life melt away. The coolest part of these types of games is really their simplicity in design but yet so many of them are challenging as hell. Most require quick thinking, quick reactions and a fair level of focus. The results are out for 2010 and the big winner is Filler. The first couple levels are easy but it quickly gets challenging. Fill up 2/3’s of the screen and avoid the bouncing balls. Come on, give it a try. Just make sure your schedule is clear for the next half hour!

If you are looking for something a bit more challenging that requires some real logic as the levels get harder, try Fantastic Contraption! This was my favourite time waster from 2009. I finished all the levels with some help from my kids!

Review Blue – Make $5 just by writing a review

I have become a big fan of reading reviews for everything online before I make a purchase. There are so many websites out there that you can share your opinion on. I use www.tripadvisor.com a lot when I travel for hotel reviews and to find good restaurants and activities in the destination I am headed to. I have written reviews for them in the past. I also use www.cnet.com for all the gadgets I am looking to buy and for anything else, a quick search on Google will always direct you to a forum where you can read reviews on everything from socks, to fitness equipment to cookware. Anyone can log in and share their thoughts. But you don’t often get paid for doing so.

www.reviewblue.com is a website that actually pays you to write reviews. All you need to do is open an account, fill in where you want your payments made and start reviewing. I have written 10 reviews so far and made $50! Simply keep your receipt from either a hotel overnight stay or a meal out at a restaurant where you at least had an entrée, write your review scan in your receipt and submit. Once you have 5 reviews they will deposit $25 into your account. The crazy part is that the review itself only needs to be “more than one sentence in length” You can only review a particular restaurant once unless it is the same brand but a different location.

So when you go out for dinner tuck away the receipt after jotting down a couple of points from your experience. Then when you get 5, sit down and write them up. I did 5 reviews in an hour and got $25 for it. Not bad for sharing your opinion.

Money Management by Mint.com

I rarely ever read Time Magazine but one thing I stumbled upon that I did find interesting this year was their Top 50 Websites of 2010. I surfed through and found a few good ones. Like www.ted.com which is a huge database of guest speakers with amazing stories, theories, ideas and tonnes of other thought-provoking topics. It’s a great site to stop by when you feel the need to be inspired. As a real sports stat junkie, I also liked www.sports-reference.com. It has everything you ever wanted to know about your favourite Baseball, Football, Basketball, Hockey and Olympic stars and teams.

The one that really caught my eye and that I have been using ever since is www.mint.com. On their website they describe themselves as, “The best free way to manage your money” and from what I have seen over the short 3 months that I have been using it they are absolutely right. I have tried to use other offerings from Quicken and Microsoft Money in the past but the novelty always wore off because it was just too much work and my bank didn’t communicate with it well.  I am not going to go into detail about all of it’s great, super easy to navigate, functions but what I will share is a quick story about something that just happened.

I got an email from Mint a few minutes ago saying that I had “Unusual spending on Food & Groceries”. It knows this because I have a couple of months of data for it to refer to and because I have set a budget for Groceries that it monitors as the month goes on. I went to the computer and pulled up my account. When I clicked on “Food & Groceries” it showed me all the recent transactions and one of them stood out to me. There was a large transaction at Costco yesterday that I had no recollection of. (I have taught mint to recognize Costco as “groceries” unless I tell it otherwise) It also detailed it so that I knew it was a purchase made at Costco online with my American Express card. I grabbed the phone and was about to call American Express but wanted to confirm with the wife. I asked her about it while she was half asleep and she told me that she did a purchase for her work and we were being reimbursed. Whew! That was a close one.  Now this was just a false alarm but thanks to mint.com’s notifications I was able to do a quick investigation.

If you are not currently using something to manage your money, I highly recommend giving it a try! Watch the video below to learn more.


A Day to Remember

The title on this one might be  a little misleading. About a month ago I discovered a band that I just can’t seem to get enough of these days. Now granted, their style of music isn’t for everyone and as you will see over time, I am into a wide variety of musical genres. As an avid runner that requires high tempo music to stay at a good pace, bands like this find themselves in heavy rotation on my play list. What I enjoy most about A Day to Remember is their unique ability to blend the lines between heavy metal, punk and pop music, while writing catchy lyrics and making some humourous videos. My favourite song by them so far is Downfall of us All. Enjoy!

Loyalty vs. Price Point

I recently got into a discussion with a friend about the devaluation of loyalty by the modern-day consumer. We were both in the market for a new set of snow tires and me, being the resourceful computer savvy individual that I am, immediately went to the internet and started shopping around and comparing prices. I knew every tire seller within 20 miles of my house. I knew who charged what for installation, who had the ones I wanted in stock, who would fill my tires with air vs nitrogen and I knew who could get me in quickly. I spent a couple of the following evenings revisiting those sites while I waited to see if there were any sales and procrastinated about getting them later rather than sooner (always a foolish thing to do with snow tires!).

After explaining this to my friend, I asked him how his search was going. He replied, “Didn’t you notice them on my car? You parked right beside me.” I asked him how he got them so quickly. He just said, “It was easy, I just used the guy I always use. You see, I’m loyal to people because they take care of me, you’re not.” He didn’t mean it in a disrespectful way but I was admittedly a bit insulted at first. Then, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that he was right.

During my search I had checked a couple of times for tires for him and had found a couple good deals but hadn’t had the chance to pass them along. I asked him what he paid and it was a good 15% higher than the deals I had found.  When I told him this, he was unfazed because of the value he puts on returning to businesses where he knows the people and has built relationships over the years.

The bottom line is, he paid more and got them quickly and was happy with the process whereas I got a great deal on mine but had to wait to get them in, wait to get them put on and then had some complications at the garage that prolonged the process where all I got was a shrug of the shoulders and a “Sorry Buddy”. So who won here? If time is money then my friend won by a long shot but if you are like me and feel that saving money on a quality product is worth waiting for, then its a bit closer of a contest.

His comments about my lack of loyalty continued to bother me because I never really thought of it that way. I looked a little closer at how and where I spend my money and came to the realization that I do still possess some loyalty. I visit the same coffee shop every week with my Dad, I buy my gas from the same place, I have taken my kids for haircuts to the same place for years and I visit a local restaurant enough that some of the waitresses know me and my kids and they greet us by name when we come in. I suppose where I really lack loyalty is with the big purchases.  Personally, I feel that using all of today’s resources available will always find me the best and cheapest deal. I’m all about saving money but won’t sacrifice quality on a big-ticket item. Are you like me or like my friend?

My opinion is that today more and more people are becoming money conscious to the point that they only visit certain retailers when there is a sale. They only want to buy something if they are getting a deal. Black Friday, Cyber-Monday and Boxing Week sales that are held over until mid-January are proof of this.

Come on…Live a Little! (longer?)

As I sit here typing this I consider the fact that the alarm beside my bed is already set to wake me in just 4.5 hours from now for another glorious day of grinding away to make that almighty dollar. I have always been a night owl due to the fact that I have worked shift work my whole life. I have also proven time and time again that I simply don’t require the 8 – 10 hours sleep a night that many other need to function.

Here is my theory on sleeping less. Medical society will tell you not in so many words that if you get a “good night’s sleep” of 8 – 9 hours then there is a better chance that you will live a longer life than those that only sleep 4-5 hours a night. But ya see here is the catch, you may have lived to an older age, but really how much are you living when you are asleep?

If I live to the age of 70 having averaged 5.5 hours of sleep a night and my lovely wife sleeps an average of 9 hours a night and lives to the age of 80 I still would have technically enjoyed more “awake hours” on this lovely planet of ours than she did. Really! I did the math 3.5hours/day X 365.25 days/year X 70 years divided by 365.25 days = 10.21 years! That being said I suppose there is that time when you are a kid and you sleep a lot more but then there are those times a a crazy teen that you pull those all-nighters to. Oh well its just a theory! Sweet dreams people.


Social Media 101

As a long time user of Facebook and Twitter I was quite excited today to meet with a company that specializes in social media and how it can impact your business. I thought I was already pretty well versed on the big two but, kind of like my brain, I quickly learned I was only using a small percentage of its potential. We spent time on how to build your facebook business page to appeal to a variety of people. We discussed the many add-on widgets available to create areas to share even more information such as foursquare, twitter feeds and blogs within the tabs of your profile. They recommended that we be active on our facebook page a minimum of 3 times a day. Whether you are uploading some new pictures, changing your status or promoting an upcoming event they insist that inactivity leads to lost followers just as much as excessive activity does. They also mentioned that the prime time for a business to reach their audience is in the morning and in the late afternoon. I think that may be a bit extreme but I plan to try and keep up with their recommendation.

We then moved on to twitter and the speaker keyed in on ways to increase your RTs (Retweets) and your @mentions to help build followers that are the people you wish to target.  They introduced us to http://search.twitter.com/ which allowed us to search our area using a hashtag like #vancouver and the word “photographer” and it will pull up all the tweets that include the word “photographer” and a #vancouver hashtag. Now if you were a photographer looking to network or find people that are looking for one you could go through and follow the people sending out the tweets in the hopes to make a connection. Another useful site they showed us was http://friendorfollow.com/ which allows you to see all the people that you follow but don’t follow you as well as people that follow you that you are not following. Now unless you are a top notch celebrity there is no good reason not follow the people following you provided they are a real person. While we were reviewing these topics he tweeted out that he was “talking social media with the folks @mywork”  and within two minutes he had a couple replies which had @mentions of us. One of which included some nice praise of our company from an industry professional (he has over 800 followers in our market). I promptly Retweeted it with a thank you and with in the next hour I had 11 more followers. Pretty cool watching it happen. It is indeed a powerful tool!

Finally they showed us some of there blogs and explained how the use of blogs incorporated with your websites help move you up the rankings on Google based on content of your blogs and the frequency of which they are posted.This then got me to thinking. Yes I will do it at work soon once the site is set up for it but in the meantime I should get my butt in gear and start blogging myself. Welcome to http://jimmyslims.com. As a novice blogger, all comments are appreciated!

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