How to Identify a Good Champagne

If you’re preparing to purchase champagne for a meal or special event, you might be wondering how to make sure you’re getting a good bottle. Luckily, there are many criteria that make good champagne stand apart from the rest.

By choosing a reputable brand, you’ll maximize your chance of selecting a high-quality champagne. A good vendor is also important. You can help your chances even more by reading champagne reviews online and in wine enthusiast publications.

Here is a list of things to look for and questions to ask yourself when you’re purchasing champagne.

Start with the Marque

A ‘marque’ is a house that produces champagne. This is also known as the brand.

In the world of champagne, famous brands are usually famous for a reason: they produce great champagne! However, since everyone’s taste is different, you might need to sample champagnes from several marques before you find the one you like best.


Some of the most reputable champagne makers include Bollinger, Charles Heidsieck, Krug, Moet et Chandon, G.H. Mumm, Joseph Perrier, Ruinart, Taittinger, Veuve, and Cliquot.

Champagne or Sparkling Wine?

True Champagne comes from the Champagne region of France. Any other region of the world produces sparkling wine (or “champagne” with a little c). For the purposes of this section, “Champagne” refers only to the real thing.

Champagne is produced in a special way that sets it apart from sparkling wines. It’s actually a law in France that real Champagne must be made according to the traditional “method champenoise” – the Champagne method.

This is a labor-intensive process. Instead of carrying out the second fermentation in a vat, the Champagne is placed into small bottles and allowed to ferment there. This fermentation is what creates the spectacularly tiny, active bubbles associated with true Champagne.

Choose a Good Source

You can purchase champagne at liquor stores, supermarkets, specialty shops, and online. The choice is up to you, and each has its pros and cons.

Supermarkets are affordable, and shopping online is convenient. However, it’s unlikely that you can sample the goods beforehand. It’s also unlikely that you’ll encounter an expert who can answer your questions at one of these outlets.

Specialty shops might have employees who can give you advice about the best champagne. Just beware if they try to get you to purchase the most expensive brand. It’s not necessarily the best for your budget, or your taste.

Vintage or Non-Vintage?

Vintage champagne is limited-release champagne produced during a certain harvest year. Weather conditions or other factors made that year remarkably good, so the champagne maker created a limited quantity of vintage champagne from that year.

There are a couple of important differences between vintage and non-vintage champagne. First, the taste. Vintage champagnes typically have more character and a more unique flavor due to the factors that affected the harvest. As the vintage champagne ages, the taste takes on different characteristics. Read more…

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Top 5 extraordinary gifts

So you have that someone special you really need to wow with a gift? Well here are a few suggestions of gifts and experiences that will really sweep them off their feet. Or is it may be that you want to treat yourself? You got the promotion you have worked hard for and you feel like you deserve a treat. It may even be the birth of a friend’s child and you want your gift to stand out against the rest of the presents. But where to start looking for that extra special gift? How do you get it without it costing huge amounts? Here are a few ideas that will get the ball rolling.

The Best 5 Gifts Around

air ballooning

Take them on a new experience by purchasing once in a lifetime trips. What about air ballooning to dizzying heights over a beautiful city for the adventure hungry? What about having a day at a racetrack to test the latest sports car at their fastest for the speed-freak? Or you can take your relationship to extremes with a sky diving course and jump out of a plane! You will have to have a lot of faith with the person jumping with you!

jewelry gift

Give them the gift of jewelry that will last forever and make the prefect impression. Just think about something you have always wanted to say to them and have it inscribed onto a piece of jewelry to make it truly unique and special.

spa weekend

Take them on a spa weekend – Treat that someone special to a wonderful weekend away! It may be the right moment you have been waiting for it pop the question. And you can also save money by using vouchers.

Buy them that pet they have always wanted, it could bring the family closer together with a puppy or start a relationship with a cute kitten to play with.

Or do something truly special and adopt an animal in another country! See way you don’t have the hassle or the cost of looking after the animal but you get updates of how the animal is doing just imagine telling your friends you have a pet Panda!

7 Terrible Pick Up Lines You Should Ignore

If there’s one area that seems to confuse both men and women, it has to be dating. It seems that we have an entire industry devoted to teaching us how to date better, but it all boils down to one thing: meeting people. Of course, by that token, it also involves knowing what to say. That’s the hard part. Indeed, a lot of people really don’t know what they really want to say, and that means that there can be problems when you’re trying to get closer to someone that you really like.

Now, you could try to make something up, or you could just talk from the heart.

Unfortunately, what a lot of people do is turn to cheesy pick up lines that really don’t work. This causes troubles. And humor. But mostly troubles.

Pick Up Lines

Speaking of cheesy pick up lines, we included 7 that really made us roll our eyes and laugh. Would you use these? Only if you wanted us to laugh at you. Go on, we could use something else to ridicule.

1. I’m Easy, How Are You?

We understand that this pickup line is supposed to be delivered in a cute way to make the other person laugh, but it ends up making you look absolutely foolish. This means that you really don’t want to use it.

Why? Well, in a nutshell, it makes it look like you’re available for a good time, and we don’t mean drinking hot chocolate and playing Monopoly. If you’re not ready for all of that, then you’re throwing mixed messages that’ll cause you to lose your target anyway.

2. Do You Have GPS On Your Phone?…

“…Because I keep getting lost in your eyes!”

It’s the natural punch line to a pick up line that just isn’t funny. It’s way too overplayed. There are too many that have heard it, and when you use pick up lines you look like you’re really trying too hard.

3. Hello I’m a Thief! …

“And I’ve come to steal your heart!”

My, what woman would be moved by this pickup line? We’re still not really sure.

4. I Think You Got Something In Your Eye…

“Oh wait, it’s just a sparkle.”

If we had a nickel for every time we heard a man say that, we would definitely be able to retire. It wouldn’t be as much fun as sending you crazy lists, but hey…we could retire. Just sayin’.

5. Do You Like Bananas or Blueberries

“…I just want to know so I know what type of pancakes to make you in the morning.”

This line assumes too much, which is why it fails so miserably. You look like a clown when you go out on a climb like this, because how do you really know that you’re going to get that person to meet back at your place, let alone stay the night?

6. If I Could Rearrange The Alphabet…

“…I would put U and I together.”

You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand what this one means. It’s about the most obvious pick up line. Maybe that’s why it fails so miserably. People want to make sure that you’re really thinking about them and being sincere, not just pulling out cheesy lines to throw around.

7. That’s a Nice Shirt….

“Can I talk you out of it?”

Unless you want to get slapped, you probably shouldn’t go with this. Even if you run into someone that is interesting in the same thing you are — you know what that “thing” is, we’re grownups here — you still need to approach them from a place of respect.

We know, we know — it sounds pretty darn ironic to try to tread lightly if you want sex and you figure the other person wants sex, but what if you’re wrong? If you’re too blunt, you might scare off the person that would have otherwise slept with you otherwise.

Overall, these cheesy pick up lines are pretty classic. Tell us — have you ever used a pick up line like these? Was one used on you? Did it work? No matter whether you’re new to pick up lines or you’ve pulled a few cheesy ones out of your pocket in dire situations, we really want to hear from you. Don’t hesitate to sound off in the comments!

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Arts and Crafts in the United Kingdom

I knew very little about the world of arts and crafts before I married my husband who is a basket maker. It was like entering a whole new world for me, having worked in banking and business world for many years.

We moved to West Kilbride, Scotland’s Craft Town, where I met many other manufacturers, musicians and artists trying to make a life of their own profession. I came to appreciate their work more, and realize how important it is for us to support the creators and artists and ensure their craft are not lost.

As a nation we have become so accustomed to being able to buy goods manufactured in the Far East or Eastern Europe where wages are considerably lower and therefore the prices are very low compared to our level of income. The problem is that when one sees the labor cost something in the UK, we’re totally shocked how expensive it is, and dismiss it as too costly.

I noticed that there are some quality items made by hand here in the United Kingdom. To stay in the area of goods manufactured by hand these days in the UK, you must be really passionate about what you do, because there is little money if the items they produce are really made with love. They are not exploited and are generally concerned about the materials they use. All these things manifest in their work – they can be subtle – but it makes a difference to the “feel” of the issue. It gives the element of attraction that goods manufactured mainly from the desire to make money do not.

We are in danger of losing many of our artists and craftspeople, because the money we have more than the aesthetic value than us. I have a theory that many disaffected young people of today could well be budding craftsmen and women, they simply do not know. The school is academically biased and if a teenager is not academic mind, then the school can fail them. They can go well if they come from an art craft-oriented family and enter that way, but there are few apprenticeships in craft industries these days, and many children are taken out after their artistic dreams – “because there is no money in it” or you need to “find a suitable job. And if we do not show them that we hand-value products UK, buying, they will never feel there is no value in it.

A handmade product, produced by a British producer, brings so much to your home than fill his target. Try it and see what I mean.

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Are Outlets Really a Bargain?

Did you know that the sales figures for outlet malls are 90% higher today (per square foot) than the traditional mall? In hope to find their brand name items for bargain prices, many shoppers are flocking to outlet malls these days.

Outlet malls were originally a place for retailers to sell excess or damaged goods. As time went on however, desire for brand name apparel at outlet prices soon began to outstrip supply. The advent of the internet has made it easier for folks to keep up with the latest trends in all areas of the country and made demand even higher for high-quality, designer goods. With all this increasing demand, especially in our current economy, stores began manufacturing a separate brand for their outlet stores. Most goods sold at outlet stores today are new products that were never on the floor of a major brand store.

Outlet malls

While discounts can still be had for these outlet manufactured goods, the name tag does not necessarily equate quality any longer. Coach, a major player in the separately-manufactured items for the outlet mall, is a brand that with a simple Google search yields plenty complaints on the inferior quality of their outlet goods. I can speak from my own experience about clothing I purchased at the Banana Republic Factory Store—a super cute dress I fell in love with was fraying with one wear.

Why if the quality can be sub-par, do people still shop in droves at outlet malls? A lot of their customers don’t know the difference. Store outlets depend on their customer’s inability to be able to discern a difference between the Gap shirt at a store and the Gap Outlet shirt. If you try to return an outlet item to a traditional store, only then do you realize that your clothing item isn’t exactly the same as most traditional stores do not accept outlet returns. Banana Republic and the Gap, for instance, have three squares/diamonds on their clothing tags to differentiate it from their regular stores.

What further increases sales at outlet malls is their big discounts (50% Off Entire Store!) with high MSRPs convincing customers they’re getting steals. When you’re saving money according to a tag, you’re doing well! Plus, the far-out location only makes a person want to spend even more. Why pay a toll to cross the Lincoln Tunnel and drive an hour to the Woodbury Commons Premium Outlet in Central Valley, NY if you’re going to leave empty handed?

Fear not shopper, if you’re a fan of the outlet malls. This article isn’t here to speak of their evils, but to shed light on their less-than-honest practices. If you’re aware of the differences in outlet products and are buying the clothing based on your budget and not the supposed quality, shop away. Outlet malls will continue to be places to find clothing at affordable prices, especially if you catch store sales on already clearance items. Outlet malls can ensure you can buy gifts for all those on your holiday list without breaking the budget.

Readers: Are you a fan of the outlet mall? How often do you you go and what do you generally buy? Have you been disappointed or pleasantly surprised by your outlet finds?

London’s Best Food and Drink Events – June

2nd June

TOAST Festival @ Red Gallery

TOAST is a weekend-long celebration of food and ideas, bringing together chefs, restaurateurs, writers, entrepreneurs and producers to discuss and debate the big ideas behind what Londoners eat and drink. Taking place at Red Gallery in Shoreditch, this new food festival will feature debates on sustainability, entrepreneurship and the future of food writing, a food photography workshop, an urban foraging walk and a talk from Bompas & Parr talk on toasting. There’ll be food from Street Kitchen, a coffee bar from Dunnefrankowski, a pop-up cookbook shop from Daunt and an after-party bash at the brilliant Rotary Bar and Diner. We’ll toast to that.

9th June

Foodies Festival @ Clapham Common

It’s been running for eight years in various locations across the country but this year, the Foodies Festival comes to Clapham Common for the first time. Features include a Cake and Bake Theatre where the audience can join in with a live ‘bake-along’, a Chocolate Theatre to showcase the world of chocolate and confectionary with masterclasses and tastings, a BBQ arena, with hourly BBQ classes teaching you how to get the most from cooking outdoors, pop-up restaurant tents from Jamie Oliver’s Barbecoa and Randall & Aubin, a Street Food Avenue, World Food pagodas, a beach area serving cream teas, live music, a wine village and an open topped double decker bar bus. Here’s hoping it stays dry!

8th June

Hot Wings Challenge @ Lazy Bones
You might remember we took part in a hot wings challenge at the Blues Kitchen last year, all in the name of investigative journalism of course. For any wannabe Adam Richmans who missed it that time, you can have another go on 8th June at Lazy Bones in Farringdon, home of the chilli wing and chilli mojito. All you need to do is to finish a plate of 12 hot wings and a chilli mojito in under 15 minutes to get your meal for free. Sounds easy right?! The quickest to finish will then win free hot wings for a year. Whether they’ll actually want to eat any more hot wings after that is another matter.

11th June

Crawfish Boil  with the Basin Street Brawlers @ Blues Kitchen

June sees the return of the Blues Kitchen’s annual Crawfish Boil. For £20 a head, guests will be treated to an authentic southern crawfish dinner, where buckets of fresh crawfish will be cooked in creole spiced stock and served at communal tables. Just like they do it in Louisiana, there’ll be plenty of cold beer flowing, and a live music soundtrack provided by The Basin Street Brawlers ragtime orchestra. Wear something that’s machine washable and prepare to get messy…

25th June

School of Grub @ Paradise by Way of Kensal Green

Not much would force us to go back to school, but we might be prepared to try out the Paradise’s School of Grub. The West London gastropub launches a new summer event series this month, hosted by some of Britain’s best food producers, artisans and critics. Book in for a cheese dinner with Blur musician and farmer Alex James, a butchery course by The Ginger Pig, Paul Young’s chocolate master class, and oysters & cocktails with Mother Shuckers & Sipsmith. School term ends with a foodie quiz hosted by head mistress Kate Spicer.

22nd June

RibStock  @ Street Feast Merchant’s Yard

After selling out 500 tickets in under four minutes last year, Ribstock, the competition to crown the UK’s best rib chef and restaurant, returns in a much bigger space this month, with 700 tickets on sale. At £50 each, they ain’t cheap but that will get you 10 rib tastings, plus two beers, a killer festival sized cocktail and access to a big street party with live music and DJs.

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Developing Your Barefoot Running Technique

Many people are now beginning to understand and embrace the natural way to run. Running barefoot is the way people ran naturally before running shoes were developed, and many successful marathon runners from other countries have always run barefoot. Barefoot running is becoming very popular for a number of sound reasons.

Barefoot Running Technique

Going barefoot is a natural state of being. Babies learn how to walk best barefoot, and not wearing shoes helps their feet to develop in a more natural way. Pediatricians often instruct parents that babies only need shoes to protect their feet, and the same is true of adult runners.

When jogging became very popular in the 1970′s, running shoes were marketed as a way to increase running proficiency. Many experienced runners began to notice that wearing the shoes resulted in more injury to the ankles, knees and shins and began to forego wearing the heavy, padded running shoe and resort to a more natural barefoot running technique.


Studies performed in the 1980′s showed that even very pricy running shoes touting the benefits of pronation correction and cushioning resulted in more injury to the runner than less expensive shoes. In 2001, a study in Sports Science reported that a person who runs barefoot will have substantially lower levels of ankle and lower leg injuries.

Foot Strikes

How the foot hits the pavement when walking is referred to as the foot strike. The foot should land flat or come down on the back of the heel then roll through the sole of the foot and push off on the ball of the foot for the next step. That is the normal foot strike. When a person comes down on the back of the heel very heavily it can result in too much force upon striking the ground and slow the person down. If a person lands too hard on the middle of the foot or ball of the foot then stress is placed on the Achilles tendon, which is an injury that sprinters often suffer.

Tradition held that runners should come down on their heel first and then roll the foot to the toe. But proponents of barefoot running say that the proper barefoot running technique is for the middle of the foot to come down first, which cuts down on the collision force of coming down hard on the heel. Wearing a running shoe encourages the heel to hit the ground heavily and it slows the runner down. Alternatively, the barefoot running technique gives the runner more feel and control over where the foot hits the ground.

Sprinters usually land on the ball of their foot, but when running barefoot the impact is lessened so injury does not occur as often.

Minimalist Running Shoes

Runners wear shoes on their feet mainly to protect the foot and toes on hard and uneven surfaces. Also, shoes protect the foot from cuts and infections when stepping on rough surfaces. Many runners are resorting to a minimalist running shoe that provides protection, but does not change the natural way of running barefoot. One such shoe is the Vibram FiveFingers shoe. These shoes have no cushion in the heel and basically just provide a covering for the foot. They look different because each individual toe has its own slot in the shoe. This is supposed to strengthen the muscles in the foot. Read more…

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