Now with the holiday season just around the corner, you might be worrying about the cost of Christmas 2013.

Whether it’s the presents, the food, the Christmas lights, or the tree, there are many expenses for homeowners this December, and this can be difficult in the current financial climate.

This article will help you make informed decisions about spending your money this year at Christmas time.

Buying a Cheap Christmas Tree

This is a difficult one, as you could buy an artificial tree that would last for many years, however it is often more expensive to buy right off the bat. But if you have the money, then this can be a great option for you.

The best value xmas tree is often the Nordman fir, which doesn’t drop its needles as much as the Norway spruce variety, due to its fleshier needles.

Good Value Xmas Lights

Icicles are often the best value lights, with multiple settings, and the hanging element giving them a lot more coverage outside, making for an impressive display.

For the tree, I would advise going for supabright cluster Christmas lights, these often give a much more even coverage, but are compact enough to fit nicely in with the tinsel and baubles.

Final Thoughts on Christmas Decorations and The family Meal

Turkeys are best bought later in the season, as many supermarkets reduce the price late on to get rid of excess! This gives you the perfect chance to save money.

Decorations are also on sale right after Christmas, so if you can, save for the next year by grabbing them in the sale in January!

Have a very happy Christmas this year, and remember to save those pennies for the summer!

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Maria’s Farm Country Kitchen

OK, peas and I, we go a long way back. We’ve had our good year (somewhere around 2003) and our bad years (too many to name). We’ve fought rabbits and mostly lost. We’ve tried trellising of all sorts, elaborate and …

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Maria’s Farm Country Kitchen

Thank goodness, the weather is FINALLY starting to turn around! Sunshine and warm days are here at last—which has just about everyone itching to get outside. Let’s celebrate the arrival of spring with a good old-fashioned picnic, shall we? To …

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Maria’s Farm Country Kitchen

By guest blogger Holly Walck, devoted Iyengar yoga student and teacher “Nobody likes me, everybody hates me; guess I’ll go eat worms. Long, thin, slimy ones; short, fat, juicy ones; itsy, bitsy, fuzzy, wuzzy worms.” The other night, as I …

By
Nigel Colborn

PUBLISHED:

12:37 EST, 6 April 2014

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UPDATED:

12:37 EST, 6 April 2014

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April is lawn-care month. If you want Wimbledon quality turf, you’ll need to spread fertiliser, kill weeds, zap the moss and rake out dead grass. But that’s time-consuming, expensive and not very eco-friendly. Better to take a more easygoing approach.All most of us need is an attractive green carpet — a lawn for living. The grass should be pleasant to lie on, durable enough to survive tricycle wheels or ball games, and able to recover from occasional barbecues.We may also want some lowermaintenance green space. Rough-cut grass is as valid as a smooth lawn for beauty as well as wildlife value. And having rough and smooth together makes for a fuller, more interesting garden.
It needn’t be turf wars: Take an easy-going approach to creating a wildly lovely lawn
Lawns, like flower borders, are communities of living plants. So if they receive the basic essentials — drainage, water, spring warmth and daylight — they’ll thrive.

LITTLE HELPERSIf your lawn isn’t too large, you can enhance drainage by spiking the ground with a fork. That helps to break the compacted crust and allows water to escape.But on all lawns, the best agents for drainage are earthworms. They’re your labour force, burrowing into the soil and creating tiny drainage channels. Worms also drag organic matter deep into the ground, improving soil health and distributing nutrients. So don’t begrudge those ugly casts that appear from time to time.Worms aside, grass can make gardens better for wildlife as well as more beautiful. A weed-free, uniform lawn can be pretty sterile — but if you border close-mown turf with areas of longer grass, that will provide further planting opportunities.And when you encourage flowers among the grasses, your garden becomes richer and more beautiful. This doesn’t mean abandoning the lawn to nature. Creating a contrast between closemown turf and longer grasses can be a design feature.Planting bulbs such as crocuses, narcissus and camassias will beautify rough grass. If you add cowslips and other broad-leaved plants, the season extends.MAKE HAYAt some stage, even rough grass must be mown to stop it turning to scrub. Do that in June, if you want to limit the meadow effect to spring. If you prefer a summer-long meadow, mow in September and rake away the hay.For tiny areas, the first big cut can be done with a strimmer. But you’ll need a more robust machine for a meadow. I use a petrolpowered Hayterette, though any workhorse mower will do.Fine lawns benefit from weekly mowing. If weeds worry you, apply selective herbicides or ‘weed and feed’ this month. Remember that when grass is healthy, weeds are less troublesome. And to increasing numbers of us, daisies and other turf flowers are pretty and bee-friendly.In small spaces, you don’t even need grass. Chamomile lawns are the romantic alternative but they don’t wear well.Wild thyme is much more durable and loves hot, dry spots. Thymus serpyllum is aromatic and pretty — no wonder Titania chose to lie on a bank of wild thyme in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The insects are put in tubes, delivered first class and feed on popcornIt is an alternative to pesticides when trying to get rid of pests Being sold by Sarah Raven, guest presenter on gardener’s WorldShe said it would lead to a decrease in the number of green flies and black flies in the gardenBy
Sophie Freeman

Published:

19:54 EST, 4 April 2014

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Updated:

20:00 EST, 4 April 2014

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There can be few things more annoying for the keen gardener than greenflies munching away on your prized roses.But for those not keen on using chemical pesticides, one gardening expert has come up with a solution – delivering live ladybirds to your door.Sarah Raven, a guest presenter on Gardener’s World, has started selling the insects through her website, sarahraven.com

Tackling the problem: A ladybird feeds on greenfly, pests which feed at plants
The ladybirds are put into tubes where they live happily on a diet of popcorn or cereal while being delivered by first class post.Mrs Raven said: ‘Ladybirds are brilliant in the garden because they feed off green and black fly, as well as other insect pests who would otherwise be munching on your home-grown flowers and produce.

‘They are a chemical-free alternative to pesticides, so are great for the organic gardener. ‘They will get rid of pests without affecting your crops or being harmful to other wildlife.‘They are sent by first class post in their own little box which contains a packed lunch of popcorn or cereal to keep them happy.

Transport: The ladybirds are put into tubes where they live happily on a diet of popcorn or cereal while being delivered by first class post
‘On the day that they arrive they should be stored somewhere cool until the late evening when they can be released out into the garden.’ Once established, they should start breeding – and help solve your greenfly problems for years to come.Mrs Raven, who runs a gardening school at her farm in Sussex, said: ‘Releasing ladybirds should lead to a permanent decrease in the number of pests in your garden – each ladybird will eat about 500 aphids (greenfly) and will soon produce ladybird larvae which in turn also eat aphids.’The ladybirds will be available from May until August.

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Maria’s Farm Country Kitchen

Human fat cells, photo by Dr. Peeke by guest blogger Pam Peeke, MD, MPH, FACP, best-selling author and expert on health, fitness, and nutrition While a research scientist at the National Institutes of Health, I became known as the “fat doctor,” …

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Maria’s Farm Country Kitchen

The other day I was walking to work and decided to cut through Madison Square Park because there’s often something interesting going on there, like an art installation or a festival. It was a beautiful, sunny spring day. And yes, …

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By guest blogger Robyn Jasko, cofounder of Grow Indie Now that my son Ajax has reached 9 months, we’ve been having a lot of fun getting him to try new foods. When we first starting giving him baby food, we …

By
Sarah Gordon


Published:

04:44 EST, 1 April 2014


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Updated:

13:05 EST, 1 April 2014

The Mexican jungle is certainly not the first place you would look for art.

But one eccentric British millionaire decided the lush Sierra Madre hillside is the perfect setting for his selection of surreal sculptures.

The late Edward James, a wealthy arts patron, created the unusual Las Pozas park ‘as a joke to a future generation’ and filled it with quirky sculptures that look almost unfinished.

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Mystery: The gardens are buried deep in the jungle, with surreal sculptures emerging from the undergrowth along a network of different pathways

Mystery: The gardens are buried deep in the jungle, with surreal sculptures emerging from the undergrowth along a network of different pathways

Flight of fancy: British millionaire Edward James was an art patron and loved the idea of creating a surreal escape among the trees

Flight of fancy: British millionaire Edward James was an art patron and loved the idea of creating a surreal escape among the trees

Spiral staircases lead nowhere and ornate concrete structures look like undiscovered ruins from a past civilisation.

‘Mr. Edward wanted to bewilder,’ said Carlos Barbosa, a park guide.

Set on a 100-acre hillside where the Sierra Madre mountains meet the coastal plains of the northeast state of San Luis Potosi, the jungle has steadily encroached on the sculpture park.

But that didn’t bother James, who liked
to think that future archaeologists would discover his lost city and
wonder what kind of civilization had built it, Barbosa said.

The son of British aristocrats and
grandson of a Canadian timber baron, James first went to Mexico in 1944
at the invitation of psychiatrist Erich Fromm. He joined a salon of
intellectuals and artists at Cuernavaca, the resort city just southeast
of Mexico City.

 

Video courtesy Postandfly see more video here

Art lover: James inherited a fortune from his father and used the money to support the work of great surrealists, including Dali, Magritte, Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo

Art lover: James inherited a fortune from his father and used the money to support the work of great surrealists, including Dali, Magritte, Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo

Elaborate hoax: Carlos Barbosa, a park guide, said James 'wanted to bewilder' visitors with his unusual 100-acre estate

Elaborate hoax: Carlos Barbosa, a park guide, said James 'wanted to bewilder' visitors

Elaborate hoax: Carlos Barbosa, a park guide, said James ‘wanted to bewilder’ visitors with his unusual 100-acre estate

He inherited a fortune from his
father and used the money to support the work of great surrealists,
including Dali, Magritte, Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo.

‘I had seen videos and documents but I didn’t expect it to be so impressive,’ said Vida Arellano, a tourist from the northern state of Chihuahua. ‘Once you are here, you are enveloped by nature, the sculptures, the architecture … it transports you to a different mental state.’

Las Pozas means the pools and James spent 20 years of his life building the garden, but it was still only half-built by the time he died 30 years ago.

The original project, interestingly, had nothing to do with the garden’s ultimate design.

The Pools: Sculptures at the 100-acre Las Pozas gardens evoke the ruins of ancient Greece but are overrun by exotic plants

The Pools: Sculptures at the 100-acre Las Pozas gardens evoke the ruins of ancient Greece but are overrun by exotic plants

Practical joke: James loved the thought that future generations could happen upon the sculptures and think they belonged to an ancient culture

Practical joke: James loved the thought that future generations could happen upon the sculptures and think they belonged to an ancient culture

For years, James cultivated thousands of orchids on his land, but in 1962 a cold snap destroyed them, said Zaira Linan, the park’s assistant director. James then ordered workers to build cement flowers that weather couldn’t destroy, Linan said.

James’ imagination didn’t stop with the flowers. He began to design increasingly complex sculptures, often inspired by artistic philosophies he encountered in his travels. He would sketch his sculptures on postcards and mail them to Gastelum.

Barbosa remembered with amusement James’ many eccentricities, including the time he asked a cook to make a banquet for a menagerie of exotic animals he kept and loved like his children. 

In bloom: The land was originally used to grow orchids, but after a cold snap destroyed them James moved on to a altogether different idea

In bloom: The land was originally used to grow orchids, but after a cold snap destroyed them James moved on to a altogether different idea

Hidden delight: The gardens opened to the public in 1990 and now attract around 75,000 visitors a year

Hidden delight: The gardens opened to the public in 1990 and now attract around 75,000 visitors a year

Hidden delight: The gardens opened to the public in 1990 and now attract around 75,000 visitors a year to explore the hidden walkways

James ‘used to walk naked through the park and even though he was a millionaire, he often slept in a sleeping bag among the weeds,’ Barbosa said.

Walking through the labyrinthine paths overrun by the jungle is an adventure. With park guides’ help, visitors can access the most remote corners of the park, including a concrete bed shaped like a tree leaf where James used to meditate and prepare for death.

But James didn’t die in his precious park. He died in 1984 in San Remo, Italy, when a stroke put an end to his delirious project.

Since he didn’t leave any sketches for future sculptures, construction halted and the jungle began to take over, Linan said.

In 1990, the park opened to the public and now it draws 75,000 curious visitors each year.

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  • No longer must Mothering Sunday stems be perched in a bag of water
  • Chain has become first high street retailer to deliver water-free blooms
  • Bosses say it reduces carbon footprint – with 19 fewer lorries needed today

By
Valerie Elliott


Published:

20:00 EST, 29 March 2014


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Updated:

08:31 EST, 30 March 2014

For years, millions of women have woken up on Mothering Sunday to be presented with a bouquet by their children, with the stems tied precariously in a bag of water.

But no longer will they risk an untimely splash, as Marks & Spencer becomes the first High Street retailer to deliver flowers in a water-free, airtight container.

Some 160,000 blooms ordered to celebrate the event today will arrive in the new packaging.

Look, no water! Liquid-free flowers for Mothering Sunday have been introduced by Marks & Spencer

Look, no water! Liquid-free flowers for Mothering Sunday have been introduced by Marks & Spencer

The move is expected to save 50,000 litres of water this weekend, and almost 500,000 litres over the year.

The change is thanks to Modified Atmosphere Packaging, a method similar to vacuum-packing, which keeps flowers fresher for longer.

This method removes oxygen, so carbon dioxide levels rise, slowing the respiration of the blooms and ‘putting them to sleep’ in transit. But when unpacked, cut and put in water, the buds ‘wake up’.

The new packaging not only saves water, it reduces carbon footprint.

Such bouquets take up less space and M&S says it will need 19 fewer lorries to deliver Mother’s Day flowers this year.

The packaging is to be extended to all flowers sold in its stores as part of the company’s plan to become the world’s greenest retailer by 2015.

Water pain! For too long mothers have had to flinch and await and almighty splash as they unwrap flowers

Water pain! For too long mothers have had to flinch and await and almighty splash as they unwrap flowers

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