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Alternative Holiday Getaways

With the recession biting its teeth into the ever shrinking family budget, more and more people are looking at alternatives to get away during Easter and the summer months to come. With petrol rises hiking up the price of even the budget airlines, the idea of a holiday in the UK is becoming more and more popular. However, even a weekend break in a hotel can quickly bite into saving, so what other alternatives are there? Here are three alternative suggestions.

Camping.

Despite the unpredictability of the British weather, camping continues to grow as a real alternative to bed and breakfast. Of course there is the expense of a tent and camping equipment within the initial outlay to take into consideration, but once these items have been bought then the first whiff of a warm weekend and you and your family will be ready to go. To ensure your camping adventure is a positive one consider these Six top tips.

  • Decide what kind of camping experience you are after. Camp sites can range from the extremely organized with power points for camper/caravans, shop, showers and toilets, right to the other end where the only amenity is a water standpipe.
  • Do buy an inflatable mattress, the choice of self inflating (thin but less time-consuming, or manual inflating (bulky but home from home comfy) is down to personal choice. This is particularly important if your camp site is a scrap of land.
  • Save money on sleeping bags and take your pillows and duvet instead.
  • If possible set your tent under some shade, like a tree. Tents (especially family sized) can get very hot, particularly if one of your brood needs an afternoon rest.
  • Most camping shops and a few of the larger supermarkets stock portable gas cookers. A must have investment, along with a kettle large enough to make a brew for everyone in the morning
  • Think ahead with your meals and be prepared. For a weekend trip away throw together a pot of spaghetti bolognaise and serve with chunks of bread. The last thing anyone wants to be doing is slaving over a stove during their holiday break.

Yogurt rooms http://www.yoghurtrooms.com/

The Yogurt Room is camp site with a difference. Deer Wood Yurt, ten minutes drive from the town of East Grinstaed can make you feel as if you are much further away from all the hustle and bustle of city life, but still close enough should you wish to visit the local pubs or restaurants.

What makes this camp site so special is the unique yurt accommodation. These circular tents, are both extremely roomy, high ceilings with central wood burning fires making them an ideal getter away for all seasons.

There are three yurts, two accommodating six people and one accommodating eight, all available to higher, for a minimum of two night,.

Each yurt is surrounded by woodland, with room for additional pitching of tents. The larger yurt is set in a beautiful Orchid, with enough room for 80 tents making it an ideal setting for a wedding or large celebration. It should also be noted that a each yurt has enough space in-between to ensure privacy for each party.

Each Yurt is also supplied with cooking equipment, bedding, blankets and pillows making the getaway all the less stressful. And a large wash area with hot showers makes staying at the yogurt room complete

Prices do vary depending on what time of year you are going. A weekend break in high season will cost £200. For two nights, but when that is divided between 6 people, at just over £16. Per person per night.

For big events, the Yogurt Rooms also have a catering van on offer serving extremely good vegetarian/vegan cooked breakfasts, lunch and evening meals.

Holiday House Swap.

Holiday home exchange is nothing new, but for many families it is proving to be a very cheap way of getting away from it all but still having many of the home comforts.

The first thing many people worry about is letting their home out to complete strangers, but as you in turn are staying in their home, all worries that your home will be treated with respect should be put aside. There are a numbers of companies offering a home swap service, with the advice being shop around and see which company you like the best. Each company will have different pricing policies, depending on the range of houses that are on offer.

So, how does home swap work? After finding a home swap company you like, you are then offered a one to three-year contract. For example, HomeLink (a higher price agency) offer a one year contact for £115. For this they will set up a page for you on their site, where you can upload up to twenty photos displaying the best aspects of your home, with your homepage translated into sixteen different languages. You in turn then have access to their large database of home swaps all around the world.

Five top tips on Home Swapping.

  • Invest in new bedding and towels, this simple touch will make a huge difference to your guests.
  • There is no need to load the fridge and freezer up, but do ensure you have the basic to make a cup of tea for when your weary travelers arrive.
  • Put together a folder of local places to visit and where the nearest shops are.
  • Check out the local pub and restaurant for yourself. You may have walked past these amenities for years, but never been in. By doing so you can give a positive review, or make suggestions for places to eat a little further afield.
  • Everyone will big up the best aspects of their home, but there is no point saying your home has original Georgian features, if all it is a ceiling rose from B&Q. Such fibbing will only be flagged up by your visitors review.

So there you have it, three alternative suggestions for a break away, without tearing too much into your budget.

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Mother, Mummy, Mum. Happy Mother’s Day

0 to 60 (quid). Ten Top Things to do for your mum on Mother’s Day.

1.    Make her an origami heart. Be creative; use a colourful paper bag, a piece of old music sheet, a sheet from a magazine. Once the paper is folded, the end result can look really great, once you get the hang of making this easy to learn paper fold then you could make a whole collection of hearts to show your mum how much you love her.

Cost £0.00

2.    Take your mum around one of Brighton’s most iconic buildings, The Royal Pavilion. This Mother’s Day the tour guides are dressed to impress in authentic costumes from the Regency era, giving you and your mum and insight into the bygone year

Cost £4.90 (for Brighton & Hove residents)

3.    Put together a collection of books. With a little forward thinking, you can put together a set of books that you know your mum would love. There are some fantastic second-hand book shops including Amnesty international bookshop and Oxfam bookshop with hundreds of titles. Use your imagination, buy a bundle and wrap it up with some nice ribbon and pop one of those origami hearts (point 1) on the top and you’ll have a truly original gift and be helping some really good causes to boot!

Cost £10.00

4.    Chocolate, for most mums, is always going to be a welcome present, but don’t just grab a box while doing your weekly shop, get yourself down to the Brighton Lanes where shops like, the outrageous choccywoccydoodah, or the more traditional chocolate Hotel are on hand with a range of traditional and not so traditional chocolate range for every budget, but for this day, push the boat out and get your mum something really special.

Cost £20.00

5.    Mother’s day and flowers is all very nice, but think outside the box and buy her a Bonsai plant. These miniature trees are not as difficult to look after as you may think, they are also an excellent talking point for when your mum’s friendscome over giving you added brownie points.

Cost £30.00+

6.    Mother’s Day experience on the Brighton Wheel. Give your mum a chance to see Brighton as she never has before with the Brighton Wheel she’ll have the best panoramic views of the city. For under the £40.00 mark you and your mum can jump the queue, make use of the VIP lounge. The entrance fee also includes a glass of Moët and a small box of luxury chocolates.

Cost £35.00

7.    Champagne will plant you firmly in your mum’s good book for the rest of the year. There may be those who frown at such an idea, but this is all the more reason to get a very special bottle of fizz for your mum as it’s something that she would least expect, particularly if you go for a chilled bottle of Veuve clicquot Rose ice Dress to really show how you want to spoil your mum.

Cost £46.95

8.    For a very special afternoon to remember then it has to be a trip to The Grand for afternoon tea where a selection of cakes, scones, cream cakes and a selection of teas or for a very special treat add Champagne to the menu  for your mum to feel she is treated like a queen for the day. There are two sittings and it is extremely advisable to book well in advance to avoid disappointment. £50.00+

9.    Push the boat out and allow your mum to truly relax with one of the many luxurious treatments at Brighton’s premier health spa, The Treatment Rooms. The Treatment room offer gift vouchers so your mum can decided for herself which treatment she would like to indulged in, or you could choose one for her, why not buy the wonderful Lava shell Massage where mind and body are brought back into perfect balance.

Cost £62.00

Remember, whatever you do for your mum on mother’s day she going to love you no matter what you give her. Just remember the date this year Mother’s day is on the 18th March 2012, Don’t Forget!

Provocative, inspirational, genius: Robert Mapplethorpe 1946-1989

Robert Mapplethorpe was born on long island, received a B.F.A From Brooklyn were he was experimenting with varies types of art, but at this stage photography was not his primary passion. It was only later when he stated using a Polaroid instamatic, taking images of his friends and family that he would turn his attention to this art form and push the boundaries and become known for his more notorious photography. The very foundations of the art institutions would be rocked as Mapplethorpe presented work that for many was simply pornographic. But it was Mapplethorpe’s eye for light and shade that made the viewer see the artistic touch within these raw images that represented the underground sadomasochism New York club scene that Mapplethorpe so loved and from that he showed beauty within the darkness.

In his interviews he claimed not to want to shock, but by mixing images such as Louise Bougeois, renowned French-american artist and sculptor with a unfeasible large sex toy says he knew exactly how to play the media game, ensuring he quickly became established as someone to watch out for.

As his career continued, Mapplethorpe played with different styles and images, moving from the shock value of the S and M scene, to portraits of the famous, to flowers.It was even with this subject that he managed to bring erotica into the frame with their suggestive protruding pistol and feminine genital shaped curves. The way he captures their form is stunning, taking the way he uses his human subjects and applying that to the flowers, using isolation of the image, making the viewer take note of the light and shade, the shadows and shapes that are thrown up.

As beautiful as these well crafted images are, Mapplethorpe insisted that this type of work was done as a way of paying for projects, he was really interested in. He also added that the flower projects were the only type of his art that would be allowed in public galleries.

Had he lived, he would have smiled to see that his work that was once seen as too controversial would now be hailed as way before his time.  Like Artist before him, Mapplethorpe pushed the boundaries, making images in art and media move forward, which can only be a good thing. What I finally want to say about this man is no matter what your view on him you must have some admiration, no matter how small that he would make you stop and think about his work, be it showing you beauty in the image of celebrities, flowers or exploring extreme sexual images and near the end of his life taking hard to view images of himself finally losing the battle to AIDS which stole away a great artist of our time.

Brighton: A City to Visit, a Place to Call Home

From the moment Prince Regent drew up plans for his infamous weekend palace, The Royal Pavilion, and it’s surrounding gardenin the heart of Brighton, the city has gained itself a known as the place to go for a cheeky weekend away. However, since its promotion from a town to a city, its reputation as the place you must visit has lifted the city of Brighton above all other UK cities with many a tourists realising there is more to this little city then a stick of rock and a stroll along the prom. In fact a recent survey showed that a whopping 94% of Brighton residents live in a happy home, which reflects just what a great place Brighton is to live.

So what makes Brighton such a special place? For the people who live in Brighton and the vast amount of tourists alike, when it comes to shopping Brighton has the whole range covered. For the traditionalist, there’s Church Hill Square, and Western Road for a whole range of popular high street brands; but don’t be fooled into thinking that Brighton is just another identikit city, far from it. Just like the little islands that populate Venice, one just has to take a step to left or a jump to the right and suddenly you find yourself surrounded in a very different place. For example, there are Brighton’s famous lanes, a part of town that what many people regard as ‘the soul of the city’.

Here you will find narrow winding alleyways, with the old fisherman cottages turned into an array of outstanding quirky shops, selling everything from souvenir shops, military related paraphernalia, traditional and alternative jewellery to suit every taste. Mingled around are also a host of pubs and eateries for every occasions, from a quick bite and pint to something a little more special. Across the road there are even more to discover in the North Laine, where pop art, vintage clothes, and the alternative theatre, Komedia, merge into the legendary Kensington Gardens were everything and anything can be found; from herbal remedies, vintage clothes as well as a multitude of hidden gems under the roof of Snooper’s Paradise.

But perhaps the most important aspect of Brighton City has always been the way it welcomes everybody, regardless of race, creed, religion or sexual orientation. For those who come and visit Brighton they quickly realise there is something special going on 365 days a year covering all bases. From the Brighton festival, children’s parade, LGBT pride, traditional, alternative and street theatres, famous bands, up and coming bands and food fares galore. And unlike many a seaside town that closes when winter sets in, Brighton still has a few surprises. From the ‘ghost’ and ‘infamous murders’ walks, World Book Night, winter solstice Burning of the Clocks and there’s now even a Zombie March so even the undead don’t feel left out from this very special city we call Brighton.

In Need of an Answer

In a world where there seems no time to sit and contemplate the answer to life’s big, medium or small questions, Carol Bolt’s, The Book of Answers is an ideal companion for a quick fix problem solver. Taking the concept of the Magic Ball 8 to the next level, the popularity of this book and its wide appeal comes down to its simplistic but at the same time genius concept. Encased within the hardback cover, lay a host of possible answers to any ‘yes, no’ type question that may take your whim; ‘Will I receive a pay rise?’ ‘Does ‘XXX’ love me?’ Is purple really the new black?

Like all good fortune tellers, Bolt’s instruction on the back cover help add to the showmanship that is needed to build up the tension.

Hold the closed book in your hand; concentrate on your question; stroke the edge of the pages; sense the time is right; open the book and there will be your answer…

“It will create a stir.”, “Don’t be ridiculous.” “Of course.”

Carol Bolt’s, The Book of Answers, was first devised in 1998, where a 130 artist editions were printed. The following year Bolt’s book went into major publication, and has been in print ever since. From its humble beginnings, The Book of Answers has been translated into seventeen different languages, including Japanese, Italian, and Icelandic. There is even a version available to upload as an app for your i-phone.

For the majority of people who have the original Book of Answers in their possession, the book is simple a piece of fun. However, it has also been used as a useful tool for warm up exercises in team building and a way to gently break down barriers for people working with children. These and other examples go to show how a simple idea can be transformed into an interesting communication tool.

Bolt has gone on to release a further six book in this series, including Love’s Book of Answers, Soul’s Book of Answers and The Literary Book of Answers, where peals of wisdom are this time delivered from the likes of Shakespeare, “To thine own self be true,” Jane Austin, “Tread lightly” and Dickens, “Keep up appearances whatever you do,”

As well as her successful collection of ‘fortune telling’ books, Bolt is also an established artist whose work explores the world around her through words, humour and repetition. Having graduated from the University of Delaware with a Bachelor Degree in Fine Arts, in 1986, Bolt returned to education in 1994 where she gained a Master’s Degree for Fine Arts at the University of Washington. Since then she has won numerous awards for her artistic ventures, as well as exhibiting many of her works in Seattle were she now resides.

Gothic Literature: A Snap Shot

The 18th Century saw the birth of novel. There was already a readership for autobiographies, journals and memoirs; however, the novel brought a new style to the emerging middle classes. Daniel Defoe is credited as the founder of the English novel, with Robinson Crusoe (1719) and Moll Flanders (1722). Both novels were written with a sense of realism and human dilemma which proved extremely popular to his readership.

By the middle of the 18th Century, Horace Walpole: English art historian, man of letters, antiquarian and Whig politician was also keen fanatic of all things Gothic, and is acknowledged as the person who invented the Gothic novel, with his tomb, The Castle of Otranto (1764). In the first edition Walpole claimed the story was a translation based on a found manuscript dated from 1529. Once the Novel was received positively, Walpole would confess that the work was from his own imagination.

For the 21st Century reader,Walpole’s story lends themselves more to an episode of Scooby-doo, with his over the top characters and cliché plot devices. These include the family curse, a haunted castle, and of course, a maiden in distress. What is interesting to note are that many of the elements that Walpole created are reimagined in many modern-day Gothic novels. For example Stephen King’s The Shinning (1977) replaces the haunted house on the hill with an out of season hotel. The main protagonist, Jack Torrance, becomes possessed by the hotel’s curse, while his wife becomes a Twenty-First Century maiden in distress.

Although common now, it would take a few more years before the Gothic genre would truly be embraced by the reading public. In fact it would be another thirty years before the next celebrated Gothic tale would make any impact. This time the tale was penned by celebrated writer Ann Radcliffe and her equally over the top Gothic offering, The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794). Once again a young woman is holed up in a cumbering castle, this time her tormentor is her evil aunt and the aunt’s lover. Radcliffe already had a large female following among the upper-classes and the newly emerging middle-classes. It was these readers that would champion the gothic style, embracing the high (camp) drama, knowing that by the final page the hero and heroine would both live happily every after.

Two year later, Matthew Lewis would release his own Gothic tale, titled The Monk (1796). In comparison to what had come before, Lewis’ novel was more explicit in its subject matter, but as with all good Gothic tales, it made its mark. At the time, literary giant Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote that Lewis was, “the offspring of no common genius”

            Around this period a selection of artist abandoned the traditional landscapes and portraits for something darker. One of the most iconic paintings to embrace the Gothic elements came from Henry Fuseli and his 1782 painting, The Nightmare. The painting depicts a young woman draped provocatively on a bed. Sitting upon her stomach sits a ‘Mara’, an evil spirit that brings nightmares to those it visits.

These images of sexuality and horror are key to many Gothic tales, particularly in Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula, were ‘the other’ contaminates the innocent Mina and her friend Lucy. Interestingly, the character of Mina is less submissive, but it is the gallant male protagonists who once again save the day.

In the 21st Century the Gothic tradition is as popular as ever, with contemporary writers like Stephen King, Clive Barker and Anne Rice showing the dark side of the modern world, where the monsters no longer live far away in castles, but may just be in the house next-door.

Small Garden, Big Plants, No Problem

So, you have a small garden, this does not mean that you must have small plants and shrubs. In some cases having small low plants may only emphasise just how tiny the garden is. The key to creating an illusion of space is to invest in plants with some height. With many people experiencing a warmer climate, it is now possible to grow some more exotic plant. Bamboo for example not only brings height to your garden, but also creates excellent privacy as it can be grown similar to hedging. There are over 1000 types of bamboo in existence, but there are only two things you really need to know before you purchase this type of plant. For the small garden it is best to avoid the rhizomes of running bamboo. Although they make great hedging, their root system will quickly spread and take over. The root system is shallow, spreading across lawns, underneath patio and will quickly dominate water supplies, killing off others plants in the garden. A more friendly type of bamboo for the small garden is clumping bamboo. As the name suggests, this type of Bamboo grows in clumps with minimum spreading to other parts of the garden. This type of bamboo grows much slower then the running bamboo, but over time will spread in a controlled fashion. For those who wish to use containers, it is advised to either re-pot as the plant increases as the strong root system will eventually break the pot.

Banana plants are another popular plant that is relatively easy to grow and manage, and can bring a real feeling of the tropics to any garden. As with most plants, they can be bought over the internet, but also check for local specialist garden centres where you can see the plant up close and choose the size and maturity that is right for you.

Once planted, make sure you water and add fertilizer during the summer months. With the unset of autumn, it is of the utmost importance that the banana plant is wrapped up using a combination of straw and a quality garden fleece. Cut of the main leaves and wrap the plant including the crown to keep frost at bay. The banana leaves can be chopped up and dug into the surrounding soil allowing the plant to re-ingest the nutrients.

One final suggestion for tall plants in a small garden is a bay tree. When purchasing, look for bay trees labeled, Laurus nobilis, or Bay Laurel as the leaves from these tress can be used for cooking. Other strains may be poisonous. Bay trees can be planted straight in the ground, or in a container pot. For the smaller garden, it is important to keep the tree pruned back, other wise it can grow up to 60ft. But do not let that put you off. There are many positives for growing a bay tree, as mentioned there is the culinary use of the leaves, apart from pruning, bay tress are quite happy to be left alone. Are not too fussed about what soil they grow in, but will thrive better in well-drained soil. Their root system is shallow and can withstand times of drought, but do appreciate a good soaking from time to time.

Finally, with your plants chosen, now allow your imagination to flow free by establishing a theme for your garden. Although many garden centers offer a range of ornaments, for something truly original, have a hunt round car boot sales and reclaiming yards. gather together an anchor, some chunky drift wood and old rope and your ships away!

So, there you have it, three very different types of plants, that can bring height, shape and texture to a small garden, a little bit of imagination and the promise of some sunshine later on and you’ll have a small garden that is perfectly formed.