Food:

Moonshine and Cupcakes: the Perfect Summer Treat

There are moments on summer days — as the ceiling fan is blowing hot air around, you’ve got the screen door open, and you’re sweating in your porch chair with a pitcher of quick-melting ice water — when all of a sudden you get a craving for the Southern that can’t be cured with just a class of lemonade.

When it’s too hot to fry chicken, consider something a bit different to soothe your Southern appetite: moonshine and cupcakes. It probably sounds odd. Perhaps you are wondering where one acquires moonshine now that Prohibition is long over.

You may be concerned that supporting moonshine distillers means you’ll be arrested for skirting some liquor sales tax. But fret not: this is not a dangerous operation, but merely a new way to rethink an old summertime treat.

Moonshine and sweet tea cupcakes

Nothing is more innocent than a cupcake. Give these little delights a rebellious flair by adding moonshine to the batter … for a fruity, booze-y tinge and a little kick on those hot summer afternoons when there is nothing to do but relax and pray for rain to cool things off.

Start with ingredients for a typical vanilla cupcake batter, then include about one cup of milk and 10-12 bags of tea. The more tea bags you include, the stronger the tea flavor in your cupcakes.

Heat the milk in the microwave or over the stove until warm, but not boiling, and then allow the tea bags to steep in the milk for about five minutes; again, longer steeping time makes for a stronger flavor. Typically, black tea is used for cupcake recipes, but you can use any strong flavor — sweet and spicy Good Earth tea might be an interesting alternative for the holidays.

Mix in the rest of your cupcake ingredients (see recipes here), and then comes the kicker: replace some of your liquids with moonshine — any fruit flavor of your choice will do.

You can also chop up the fruit at the bottom of the bottle, or soak some fresh fruit in moonshine overnight, and then add them to the batter or the frosting. If you want to keep the kick, add the moonshine to the batter (the alcohol will bake off in the oven), then place one of these soaked fruits on the top of the cupcake after it has been frosted.

Make your own moonshine

If you really want to make these cupcakes fresh, consider making your own moonshine at home — it does add a bit of that rebellious feel — and you can make the proof as strong as you like. A number of moonshine recipes can be found online, or in distillery books, and you can make it at home the same way beer can be brewed, or wine fermented … in the basement or the garage.

Autos:

Understanding Variations in Auto Insurance

 

When it comes time to shop for a new auto insurance policy, buyers often find a huge variety of rates. This can be due to many factors, and while sometimes the cheapest auto insurance is also the best, other times it’s better to go for a more expensive rate and get the highest quality insurance.

How do you know? What’s behind the numbers? Here are a few things to watch for.

Surplus Lines Carriers

Insurers who “officially” offer policies inside most states have to file financial information with the state insurance commissioner. They are held to certain standards. They have to abide by specific state laws that govern their obligations to customers. State regulators largely control auto insurance rates; however, they have to follow the state’s financial guidelines.

Other companies are allowed to offer insurance inside the state on a “surplus lines” basis. In most cases, that means they provide insurance that is not adequately furnished by the regulated insurers, but there’s plenty of grey area. A surplus lines policy is often cheaper, but that may often be because it is less subject to regulation and of poorer quality.

On the other hand, some companies offer surplus lines policies for many years. They meet their obligations. They avoid regulation in order to keep their rates low. Discount insurance sellers often provide quality surplus lines policies that cost a lot less and have fewer fees.

Deductible Dodge Ball

When you buy an insurance policy, you’re essentially paying somebody else to take some of the risk for you. The greatest risk to your car is little stuff, like scratched paint or a chipped windshield. It isn’t big stuff, like getting totaled or striking a pedestrian. Insurance companies will offer really low rates while pushing high deductibles on their policyholders. You’re still covered against the big stuff, but you have to pay out of pocket for the little stuff.

Insurers have really smart people working the numbers for them. Statistically, you’re going to pay more money for nickel-and-dime repairs than you will forking out the extra cash for a policy with a lower deductible.

Apples and Bananas

Insurance is a financial tool, so the cost of a policy is always based on how much money is at risk. Generally, lowering the cost of a policy means lowering the amount of money at risk, which some insurers try to do with some pretty intricate cloak-and-dagger methods. That can include things like requiring you to use approved shops (even when they don’t do good work) or applying conditions to the policy that get them out of paying for certain damages.

The declarations page of a policy generally includes all the pertinent information. Get the declarations page for all the policies you’re shopping and make sure that you’re comparing apples to apples.

Some insurance discounters do a good job of making sure the policies available through them are of high quality. Others, however, aren’t nearly so scrupulous. Be sure to check the credibility of the source you’re shopping, especially if you’re using an anonymous online brokerage.

Around The Web

last update: April 27, 2015

Devices:

The Subtler Details of Technology

There is very little in our lives that technology does not affect or touch. Some may argue that it reaches every facet. After all, with just one device, the smartphone, we are able to research restaurants and movies on the go, find a hiking trail, or get directions.

The technology at our fingertips is astounding; it’s even more so because its capabilities and integration into daily life are now mundane, quotidian as daily life. But go beyond the smartphone, the tablet, and the GPS. It’s easy to see the when technology plays a role in electronic devices.

Instead, let’s explore the less ordinary and obvious ways technology is used in the world around us.

1. Money

Money is exchanged, traded, and deposited electronically today. Very rarely is cash used for monetary transactions anymore. The Internet is global and has made the global marketplace an easy place to conduct business. Thanks to technology, we are able to book travel, purchase clothing, buy a book, or order a dress — all from the comfort of home.

Recently, banks have made mobile applications and online banking even easier. In the event you actually receive a paper check, there’s no need to drive to the bank. Deposit it right there. Paying bills in one fell swoop takes mere minutes. No need to balance a checkbook anymore, on-demand access to bank accounts lets people check their balances on the fly.

The speed and ease of use when we call up our funds and spend money is astounding. Need cash? Technology powers ATMs. No cash? Technology makes the use of credit and debit cards possible.

2. Driving

Today’s vehicles are more brain than muscle. The technology that brings the driver and passengers voice-activated GPS, phone, texting, and the like is still just the tip of the iceberg.

Cars today have incredibly sophisticated computer systems that dramatically improve fuel economy, safety, and the driving experience. From engine to tires, automobiles are getting smarter.

For example, run-flat tires include an external structure that gives a driver an additional 50 miles to drive to a gas station or repair shop to fix a flat tire. No more driving on rims and no more getting stuck on the side of a busy freeway, risking life and limb to change a flat.

Many parents give major kudos to technology for making kids safer with rear-view cameras and entertaining them with “in-flight” videos and games. More efficient vehicles give us the chance to hand over a less-damaged environment to our kids when they are older.

3. Beauty products

The beauty industry is constantly innovating — investing in and developing technologies that will improve the way we look and feel. The more science uncovers the how and why of aging, the more tools we have to fight the good fight against wrinkles, hair loss, and visible skin damage.

Ultrasound and laser therapies are proving to be highly effective methods of producing collagen and treating skin damage. While new to the market and relatively high in cost, the results are said by many to be worth the cost.

Technology has also left its mark on the hair industry. Advancements have created hair accessories, wigs, and pieces that cannot be distinguished from natural hair. On top of looking real and providing the style and look that suits the moment, they are now designed to withstand high winds, ventilate to prevent overheating, and give no evidence of being faux.

The implications and uses of technology surround us. It goes into the products we use (big and small), the way we pay for those products, and the methods we use to research those products.

Apps:

6 Excellent Money Management Apps

“There’s an app for that.” The phrase that Apple sparked with its revolutionary iPhone, iPad, iPod, etc., has taken the world by storm. Developers are working hard to bring an dizzying array of apps to the marketplace.

Games and other media entertainment are just the tip of the iceberg. Today, apps are used to promote weight loss, book travel, and manage finances — among other things. Managing finances through apps? Absolutely.

Developers have created apps that give both high-level and detailed insight into personal finances, in a way that is user-friendly, informative, and easy. Instead of tackling a user’s personal finances by one credit card, loan, or savings account at a time, the following apps gather them under a single umbrella to make managing money all the easier.

Spending and saving habits can be calculated, providing the analytics to make smart money choices and modify counterproductive ones. Instead of sifting through the many available apps out there, here is a “best of” list to narrow down the field.

1. Pageonce Money & Bills

This is the creme de la creme: get a comprehensive financial overview with this app. By connecting bills, credit cards, bank accounts, cellphone minutes, loans, and even travel reward programs, everything money-related in life comes under a single app that boasts bank-level security. On top of valuable insight, Pageonce is making bill payment available at a nominal cost.

2. iAllowance

Kids today are 100% digital. Ditch the 20th-century chore chart for this kid-centric app. Parents act as the bank and the kids are the customers. The latter earn money (or stars) through allowance and performance of chores. When they want to withdraw from the account, parents hand over the cash and note the debit in the iAllowance record.

3. Mint

Getting control of one’s finances usually starts with the basics of budgeting. With this free app, you can get a full picture of finances and create budgets. The latter is pre-populated and determined by spending levels. There is also a cash vs. credit feature that gives a little extra insight into what the total credit card balance is compared to the available cash to pay it off.

4. Expensify

Anyone who has traveled for business holds onto receipts like they are cash. The result? A lot of small bits of paper to sort through when it comes time to submit an expense report. This app simplifies that process beautifully. Snap photos of receipts, link a credit card, and magically find the info transferred to the expense report.

5. PayPal Mobile

Gone are the days where “I don’t carry cash” is an acceptable excuse for not pitching in. With the PayPal app, money can be transferred at no charge. With the payee’s cell phone number or e-mail, payments are made quickly and securely. The recipient receives an alert when the money is transferred and is able to collect the funds through his or her PayPal account. Like the eliminating all those paper receipts, your pockets become lighter with this app: no more IOUs!

6. Chase Mobile

Chase has led the way in integrating technology with money management. Mobile check deposits are available through a number of financial institutions, but Chase is considered the gold standard of remote deposit. Paired with easy bill payment and customizable alerts, Chase has made it a no-brainer to keep tabs on finances.

Different consumers have different needs. A single 20-something is less likely to need iAllowance than Mint to juggle a budget. These apps are affordable — many of them are free — and a no-brainer for anyone who is need of basic finance management or even close oversight of money.

Lifestyle:

How Cable Television Is Handling the Internet Revolution

As Internet connection speeds have steadily improved, and as Internet video has emerged as a viable entertainment medium, technology and entertainment observers have written thousands of pages about the impending death of the Cable Television industry. What is the industry itself doing to prepare for that change? Surprisingly little, and here’s why.

Continue reading How Cable Television Is Handling the Internet Revolution

  • Follow TechVert

Autos:

Top 5 Automotive Sound Systems

Sound System

If you’re like me, buying a car is only the first step in owning a car.  While the salesman is ranting on about this feature and that benefit (I know, I know, it’s his job) I’m looking around planning the custom work I’m going to do.  There are rims and window tinting, and of course a good sealant (see http://www.cenano.net/automotive-application/ for my favorite).  But  what’s the first and most important change that I – and many, many others like me – will make when we drive our new ride off the lot?

Continue reading Top 5 Automotive Sound Systems

Autos:

Beauty in Tech: The 2014 Chevy Corvette Stingray

2014 Chevrolet Corvette C7 Stingray

It’s pretty rare for a sports car to bring mainstream excitement the way that the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette C7 Stingray has brought to the automotive world this year. As Digital Trends puts it, it’s “The ‘Vette Chevy should have built a decade ago.”

Continue reading Beauty in Tech: The 2014 Chevy Corvette Stingray

Lifestyle:

3 Analog Accessories That are Necessary in the Digital Era

Cell Phone Gloves

In an age dominated by touch screens, handheld all-in-one devices that can do everything from locate a restaurant, make a reservation, call a cab to take you there, and provide suggestions on what to wear while inviting an elite group of friends to come and join you, an age where the cellular phone is actually the digital phone, there are still those items that make everyone’s inner Luddite breathe a little sigh of relief, objects that still hold some resemblance to familiar objects of our past, even if they serve a new purpose in the digital age.

Continue reading 3 Analog Accessories That are Necessary in the Digital Era

More on TechVert