Cassiefairy – My Thrifty Life

Cassiefairy's thrifty little lifestyle blog – DIY crafts, sewing, food & fashion – what more does a girl need?

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Pieday Friday Recipe – Microwave meringues & dark chocolate cookies

I’ve read a few recipes and even seen a few videos on making microwave meringues and, after watching Nadiya win the Great British Bake Off with microwave marshmallow royal icing, I decided that a short-cut is never a bad thing, and wanted to give microwave meringues it a try. Plus, it’s my bestie’s birthday today and she loves meringues, so what better excuse than to bake her favourites as a birthday treat!pieday friday baking recipe microwave meringues chocolate cookies-13 pieday friday baking recipe microwave meringues chocolate cookies-8I wanted to let you know how I got on with my experiment because I’m sure you’re equally intrigued as I was about whether this method actually works or not. Well, things didn’t work out quite as I had imagined but it certainly was an easy to way cook up a quick meringue in a hurry. I used a recipe from the BBC Good Food website and here’s how I got on…pieday friday baking recipe microwave meringues chocolate cookies pieday friday baking recipe microwave meringues chocolate cookies-2 Firstly, the whisking process was a little faster than with normal meringues because you don’t need to whisk in the sugar as you go. Instead, the recipe tells you to ‘lightly beat the egg white’, which is quite a quick process – my egg seemed to be was lightly whisked within a minute. The next step is a sift loads of icing sugar into the egg white; we’re talking 300g icing sugar to 1 egg white, so that part took a long time.pieday friday baking recipe microwave meringues chocolate cookies-3pieday friday baking recipe microwave meringues chocolate cookies-4 The next step is to roll the meringue ‘dough’ into balls and microwave on a piece of kitchen towel for 1 and a half minutes. I didn’t take any photos of my meringue balls because I got carried away with the excitement of seeing whether it worked and shoved them straight in the microwave.

I watched as the first batch started to rise up and took them out after the recommended time, but they quickly fell flat as they cooled and stuck to the kitchen paper. When they were cool I tried to peel them off the paper, and they all seemed to be stuck or, when they did come off, they snapped in half. I wasn’t too worried because they didn’t really look like meringues at all so I wasn’t going to use them anyway. pieday friday baking recipe microwave meringues chocolate cookies-6 pieday friday baking recipe microwave meringues chocolate cookies-5

I tried again with a second batch, leaving them to cook a little longer and the same thing happened. They looked really promising in the microwave – all big and puffy – but they fell flat as I got them out. I decided to change plate (I’d been using a microwavable plastic plate until now) for a ceramic one, and lined it with greaseproof paper rather than kitchen paper. I popped the next three balls into the microwave and hoped for the best.

Thankfully, this method was much more successful and the meringues were double the size of the first two batches while cooking and when I took them out they didn’t flatten. Hurrah! I tried again with the last lot of meringue and decided to leave these in a little longer than the one and half minutes, hoping that they would rise up even bigger.pieday friday baking recipe microwave meringues chocolate cookies-7 pieday friday baking recipe microwave meringues chocolate cookies-8 Unfortunately, the smell of burnt sugar started wafting out of the microwave pretty soon after the minute and a half was up and one of the biggest meringues had been singed on the inside. So definitely stick to the timing in the recipe – it’s there for a reason!

So the last 6 meringues turned out pretty well and ended up looking like a proper meringue. The texture is crisp and dry, and they are very very sweet. I think the big ones will be great with whipped cream in the middle and dipped in chocolate, or with strawberries as a yummy pudding.pieday friday baking recipe microwave meringues chocolate cookies-9 pieday friday baking recipe microwave meringues chocolate cookies-10But what was I going to do with all the flat meringues? They tasted fine but just didn’t look all that great. I’m sure they would be ideal to crumble up into an Eaton mess and I remember the recipe for the ultimate dessert – a raspberry bomb – that my sister makes. This is simply crushed meringue, raspberry coulis and cream whipped together and frozen, and it is out of this world. So that’s an option for these microwave meringues too.pieday friday baking recipe microwave meringues chocolate cookies-11 pieday friday baking recipe microwave meringues chocolate cookies-16I decided that I’d make a batch of dark chocolate cookies and use the crushed meringues as a topping to sprinkle over the chocolate to sweeten it. I’d recently bought some 90% cocoa chocolate, thinking that I’d be able to eat it but I just couldn’t do it – it was TOO chocolatey, if there can be such a thing? So I wanted to use this chocolate but needed to sweeten it, so the ultra-sugary meringues would be the ideal accompaniment. pieday friday baking recipe microwave meringues chocolate cookies-17 pieday friday baking recipe microwave meringues chocolate cookies-15I whipped up a batch of chocolate cookies using a recipe online, again from the BBC Good Food website, but I left out the chocolate chips and drizzled the melted chocolate over the top of the cookies instead. I sprinkled with the crushed meringues and then drizzled a little more chocolate over the top for good measure. I sandwiched some of the better flat meringues between two cookies for a bigger dessert, which looks great but I suspect might be sugar overload!pieday friday baking recipe microwave meringues chocolate cookies-12 pieday friday baking recipe microwave meringues chocolate cookies-14I just tried one of the cookies and it is actually the nicest treat I’ve eaten in a long time, so I’m going to pop them in a cake tin, along with all the successful meringues sandwiched together with cream and drizzled with more chocolate, and take them round to my bestie’s house to celebrate!

Did you ever try to make microwave meringues yourself? If so, do you have any tips for the next time I make them? Or have you tried out any recipe and had to salvage it after it went wrong? I enjoy turning mistakes into yummy treats so this challenge was good fun for me, although of course I would have preferred to have more successful meringues in the first place! Let me know how you get on if you try out either recipe by leaving me a comment below or tweet me @Cassiefairy.


Tuesday Shoesday – Spooky Shoes + WIN a £50 voucher!

The spookiest month of the year is upon us. The stores are full of scary costumes and frightful decorations, so there’s no denying that Halloween is on its way. Until I became I student I never really celebrated Halloween but once I realised that this was the ultimate fancy dress night out, I’ve been a fan! I also think that the appetite for celebrating Halloween has grown over recent years; I certainly don’t remember trick-or-treating as a child but nowadays all the kids in the village are looking forward to the big night. So in honour of this seasonal event, today’s Tuesday Shoesday blog post is all about spooky footwear, but I couldn’t just share a few photos of some scary shoes, now could I? No! Today is special because YOU could win a £50 voucher to buy anything you like from Violet Vixen – shoes or otherwise – so read on and enter now!violet vixen funny bones shoesI admit that I’m a bit of a wimp, and even a plastic spider can make me go all jittery, so I like my Halloween celebrations to be classy rather than terrifying. Yes, it’s all pumpkins and candles rather than ghouls and slime for me! I don’t like to be scared by my own reflection either, so you won’t find me covered in fake blood with a ghostly-white complexion. I do, however, love a bit of tongue-in-cheek design combined with quality clothing and that’s where The Violet Vixen comes with skulls for halloween

I was browsing their website last month and started checking out the footwear category to get inspiration for this Tuesday Shoesday blog post.  Within minutes I was actually giggling at the cute and cheeky footwear designs available, in particular, these ‘funny bones’ shoes. I think that the design is great; a classy black ballet pump, boot or heel but with an x-ray-esque bone design on the side. I love this range SO much and think that it would be great for all year round, not just Halloween; surely you can imagine going on a night out wearing those gorgeous heels for any occasion too?!violet vixen corset and shoes

I also spotted that a made-to-order corset is available in the same ‘funny bone’ style and this looks like the ideal Halloween costume for me; not too scary but very cool. On further inspection, this website isn’t just for amazing shoes in unique designs; it’s also packed full of cute accessories, 50s style dresses in bright patterns, handbags and even menswear.  Whether you want bats, skulls, cherries or bows, there’s something for you right there. (And there’s a Halloween coupon code TREAT25 for you to get 25% off everything right now!)pin up girl shoes for halloweenBesides drooling over the skull shoes for Halloween, I was drawn to the stunning pin-up shoes in the Violet Vixen footwear collection. These are definitely shoes for all year round, and the polka dot patterns are adorable. I couldn’t help picking out in a pair of Mary Jane shoes in monochrome stripes for myself. The heel-to-sole ratio is just right for me, the strap ensures that I feel secure while walking in shoes of this height and the design is super-cute. I’m waiting for them to be delivered as we speak and I’ll be sure to show you a photo my new favourites when they arrive.

And now for the moment you’ve all been waiting for – details of how you can win a £50 voucher for The Violet! You are free to spend your £50 voucher on anything throughout the site – spooky shoes, custom-made corsets, pretty dresses or anything else you can find on their website! So browse the collection and enjoy a shopping spree on us!  Plus, The Violet Vixen will cover the delivery costs too so you won’t have to spend any of your voucher on postage – bonus! This giveaway is open to UK residents only and the winner will be picked at random once the competition closes. There are plenty of ways that you can earn entries into the prize draw so enter via the Rafflecopter below for your chance to WIN!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Autumn/Winter Menswear – Styling a tweed jacket three ways

With the Autumn/Winter season in full swing, I thought that today would be a good time to share a menswear styling post with you. As you know, I’m a rather thrifty girl and I like to come up with ways to style my clothing to create many different looks from just one special piece. I believe that there’s no such thing as separate summer and winter wardrobes and I’ve always found that just adding a few accessories or extra layers allows me to take an item of clothing throughout autumn, into winter and on into the new year, dressed up in a different way for spring/summer. So today I wanted to show you how this can work for a man’s wardrobe too, so that he can make the most out of the clothes he invests in and bring down that all-important ‘cost-per-wear’ price!menswear mens fashion styling a tweed jacket casual beach autumn winter menswear mens fashion styling a tweed jacket layered warm outdoor forest autumn winter-6 menswear mens fashion styling a tweed jacket smart autumn winter-8I’ve taken one key piece – a classic tweed jacket – and have come up with a few different looks for the autumn/winter season; from casual still-warm days, to a layered look for chilly November and on to a smart style for festive parties in December. If you’re a man reading this, welcome! I hope you’ll be able to get some ideas from this autumnal photo-shoot and that this post will help you get the most from your favourite items of clothing simply by styling them up with a few different items from your wardrobe. And if you’re a woman, this is for you too: a tweed jacket works in the same way for you too, so recreate similar looks for autumn with your own clothing. And if you’ve got a man in your life, you can use these ideas to show him how to dress up one piece to make it work for three very different occasions. For each style we’ve used a Heritage Tweed Jacket from Samuel Windsor in ‘Border Check’ and added a few extra items for each look.menswear mens fashion styling a tweed jacket casual beach autumn winter-9 menswear mens fashion styling a tweed jacket layered warm outdoor forest autumn winter-13 menswear mens fashion styling a tweed jacket smart autumn winter-6 Continue reading “Autumn/Winter Menswear – Styling a tweed jacket three ways” »

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Interior inspiration from real homes

It’s easy to swoon over the beautiful rooms in interior design magazines, dribble over perfectly styled images by designers on Instagram, and fall in love with professional decorating projects on Pinterest. However, recreating even the most simple interior design project can be difficult to achieve in your own home; you’ll have room layout challenges to deal with, be possibly working in smaller-sized rooms and even the light in your home will be different and make that gorgeous paint colour you’ve been coveting appear too dark for your space. So I’ve been checking out ‘real homes’ this week for my interior design inspiration and here’s what I’ve come up with…

loft-islay-installA bright and spacious loft-style room

This stunning work space has inspired me this week. This room resembles a loft-style gallery, with the white walls and clean lines, but it is actually an art supplies shop. Even through the room is relatively small, it feels much larger and that’s down to three factors; firstly, the bright white walls bounces light around the space; secondly, keeping furniture to a minimum maximises the floor space; and finally, laying the flooring on the diagonal gives the impression of a wider space. I’d love to recreate this look for an office or studio room as I love how much light comes into this small space and having lots of storage where ‘everything has its place’ keeps the room uncluttered and clean. This lack of mess and distractions, combined with the gorgeous artwork on the walls, makes this a work room where ideas can flow and inspiration can strike!Castello-Beach-Home

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How much does it cost to go “back-to-school”?

I know that Spring is traditionally the season of new beginnings but I think that autumn holds some of the same magic too. Starting in September, specifically on the 23rd this year, autumn is the ideal time to start a new project or try out something new. There’s a sense of optimism in the air, everything is covered in a warm autumnal glow and with the Christmas holidays only a couple of months away everyone is looking forward. Perhaps that’s the reason why so many courses begin in the autumn term rather than January? Whether you’ve started a new adventure at university, signed up for a leisure learning evening class or have just begun a new academic year at school, it’s an exciting time and one that I look forward to every year.back to school new term autumn blog project-3I’m not always starting a new course (although, I’ve been a student on-and-off for 22 years if you count school!) but I still get rather excited at this time of year. It’s the ‘back to school’ adverts that make me reminisce about the excitement of a new school term and I can’t help wanting to study something. I might be in the minority – I know a lot of people who would rather never write an essay again – but I guess that’s the writer in me coming out. I love the idea of getting stuck into a new subject, starting a project or learning something new and even though I’ve not signed up for any courses this year, I am planning to take a couple of workshops.back to school new term autumn blog project-2Just seeing school supplies landing on the shelves of high street stores in August reels me in, and I inevitably start buying more stationary than I have all year. Why would I ever need a protractor kit? Okay, I don’t. But I kind of want one. I must have really enjoyed school as a child because just the sight of a pencil case makes me want to start a history project on ‘The Tudors’. I bought notebooks, a set of pens, new scissors and a circle cutter (below, I don’t know why?!) when I nipped out to buy a birthday card last month. Oops. But what about the people who do need it? The students. What were they buying this academic year?back to school new term autumn blog project-4

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My little vintage caravan – I’ve been featured in Caravan Magazine!

Did you know it’s World Smile Day today? I can’t think of a nicer event! It’s got me thinking about the things that make me smile and, aside from my family and friends of course, this includes my caravan, sunny days and beautiful flowers. So I’ve nipped out to my caravan to take some photos of my latest projects and to share the things that make me smile on World Smile Day.vintage retro caravan magazine diy carpet rug makeover project-11vintage retro caravan magazine diy carpet rug makeover project-10vintage retro caravan magazine diy carpet rug makeover project-22vintage retro caravan magazine diy carpet rug makeover project-16vintage retro caravan magazine diy carpet rug makeover project-25I also wanted to share the awesome news that my very own little vintage caravan has been featured in Caravan Magazine! A double-page spread, no less. Pretty cool, huh? I was lucky enough to be interviewed by Ben Hackney for the magazine earlier this year and couldn’t wait for the article to be published. It’s in the September issue of Caravan Magazine on page 44 (yes, I’ve memorised it!) and they’ve made the photos of my caravan look amazing – check out all those fabulous cut outs; I need a design team like that for my blog! vintage retro caravan magazine diy carpet rug makeover project-24vintage retro caravan magazine diy carpet rug makeover project-18vintage retro caravan magazine diy carpet rug makeover project-20vintage retro caravan magazine diy carpet rug makeover project-23It is such an honour to be featured in this wonderful UK publication and I am so pleased that people are interested to read about my caravan antics. I proudly showed off the article to my family and have even sent a copy to my nan and grandad! To say I’m rather delighted with the article is an understatement! While reading through, it got me thinking about all the other projects I’d love to do in my caravan so I started making a list of things I can work on this autumn, including a door makeover and adding more fairy lights (absolutely necessary for Christmas!).

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Mid-Century Modern inspiration – George Nelson

I’ve finally found it. The finishing touch to my Mid-Century Modern living room. It’s been on my radar for years and I’ve lusted after similar designs for months. From past experience, I know that just waiting long enough and not rushing into a purchase will ultimately bring the item to me, rather than the other way around. And thankfully, without needing to search for hours on end, I’ve found the perfect retro clock online. And now that it’s hanging proudly on my wall I can breathe a sign of relief. So I want to share a little background information on the designer of my new clock and add to my knowledge of MCM designers at the same time.mid century modern interior design starburst clock-2mid century modern interior design starburst clock-4 mid century modern interior design starburst clock-3Modernist designer George Nelson was one of the founding fathers of American Modernism, along with Charles and Ray Eames, Vico Magistretti and co. As a passionate collector of all things Mid-Century and Googie, I’ve been researching Nelson for a while now and have been keeping my eyes open for a starburst-style clock for a couple of years. I think that this style of clock is the only option for a mid-century styled room and any other clocks that I’ve tried in my living room just look a bit wrong.

mid century modern interior design starburst clock-7 mid century modern interior design starburst clockmid century modern interior design starburst clock-5The clock was first made in 1949 and kick-started the American fascination with Modernism; the contemporary design was so far removed from the traditional clock shapes of the era and it injected colour into basic 40s interiors. Nelson was famed for turning everyday objects into surreal works of art and every modern household studied his book Tomorrow’s House, striving to be modern and forward-thinking.George-Nelson-designer

Modernist designer George Nelson

I was thrilled when I found this starburst clock from Vita Interiors. It’s a reproduction of George Nelson’s original design and is crafted to the highest standard, yet it’s brought up-to-date with the colourful spokes; which co-ordinates well with the green, blue and orange accent colours that I’ve included in my living room to break up the expanse of teak!

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Bloggers – Learning digital marketing IS important!

Ever wondered why some blog posts go viral, why some content is shared more than others and why you’re seeing the same things being pinned over and over again? Do you ever get just a little jealous that a fellow blogger’s article on ‘5 tips for a happy life’ is getting hundreds more hits than the similar post you wrote yourself a few months ago? There can be a lot of factors affecting the popularity of the posts, but only one thing affects the visibility of articles online and that’s SEO.blogger digital marketing and learning seo tips-2

It’s the difference between your blog post being presented to new readers on Google or being skipped over entirely by the search engines. You may have content that fits exactly what a reader is searching for, but if you’ve given the search engines no clues that your article is relevant, it still won’t show up your blog post. And with thousands and thousands of blog posts being published everyday, search engine optimising is extremely important in getting your wonderful content out to those readers.

As long as SEO remains a mystery – something technical and jargon-filled – bloggers and small businesses will continue to shy away from it. There are, of course, companies out there who will do your SEO for you but the kind of SEO agency that I could afford to work with to improve my SEO would probably make my situation worse by building poor-quality links and end up being penalised by Google. In fact, a recent survey of 1000 small businesses indicates that 15% of them have actually been negatively impacted by the service they received from their SEO provider so why risk paying someone to help with your SEO when you can learn all the techniques yourself.blogger digital marketing and learning seo tips

When you understand digital marketing and all the methods that the search engines use to rank your blog post or page, you can easily make small changes to your own content to make it fit in with the requirements of the search engines to help your content become more visible. And Simply changing your title tags will make a difference immediately, and you can see how it affects your  search engine result page (SERP) position within a day or two because your page will rise up in the ranks (or drop – don’t worry, it can be undone by putting the old tags back!) within 24-36 hours.

It might take time to implement all the changes you want to make, but once you know what you’re doing, you can make a few adjustments each time you sit down to work on your blog and over the course of a few months you’ll see a good increase in the level of traffic to your website. If you’re interested in learning digital marketing techniques, it’s a good idea to seek out private SEO tuition rather than joining a generic class, as you will be more likely to learn methods that are relevant for your particular type of business or blog. That way you can focus on learning the key aspects of SEO that you can action in everyday life, such as keyword density and internal linking, and not waste your valuable time on.

Once you’ve learned how to do your own digital marketing, you’ll be able to make sure that all new content is optimised, and can work back over previous posts to ensure that they reach new readers. Your blog traffic will increase and you’ll be the blogger whose content is everywhere!



My photos of the “Blood Moon” supermoon lunar eclipse

I only heard about the supermoon lunar eclipse when my brother mentioned it to me on Saturday night. I always seem to hear about these big celestial events just after they’ve happened so it was a real treat to be able to experience it for myself this time. I did my research yesterday and found out that the full lunar eclipse was due to take place just after 3am and would last for around an hour and ten minutes. As a supermoon lunar eclipse hasn’t occurred since 1982 and won’t take place again until 2033, I wasn’t going to miss it!autumn supermoon blood moon lunar eclipse 28 september 2015I therefore set my alarm to wake up at 4am while the eclipse was in full swing just have a look and head back to bed. But when we saw how big and bright the ‘supermoon’ was when the sun set, my husband set up the tripod and took a couple of shots of the moon. I was surprised how well the images came out and was determined to get just one photo of the blood super moon during the night. autumn supermoon blood moon lunar eclipse 28 september 2015-2Happily, I woke up naturally at 2:45am, which never happens to me – perhaps it was the celestial pull of the moon that woke me? – and we got up to check out the moon. It was a gorgeous crescent shape but at the base of the moon rather than the waxing or waning moon we’re used to seeing in the sky. The shadow was already a rusty red colour so we took some more photos before, disappointingly, the clouds came over and covered the moon entirely.autumn supermoon blood moon lunar eclipse 28 september 2015-3The supermoon occurs when the full moon is at it’s closest point in it’s elliptical orbit to our planet (perigee) and will look around 7% bigger than it normally does. Last night the whole garden was illuminated by the brightness of the moon in the clear sky, looking almost like daylight. The last time that a lunar eclipse could be viewed in it’s entirety from the UK was 2008 and won’t happen again until 2019 ( so this ‘blood moon’ coinciding with the supermoon is a rather special celestial event indeed! autumn supermoon blood moon lunar eclipse 28 september 2015-4I’m really chuffed that I got to see the moon be eclipsed by the Earth’s shadow and, thankfully, that the clouds moved away for long enough that we could get a couple of photos of the blood moon before it was engulfed in cloud-cover again. Did you see the Super Blood Moon last night? Did you manage to get any photos? I’d love to see them so please tweet me @Cassiefairy or tag me in your Instagram photos @Cassiefairy.

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My money-saving tips for students

It wasn’t too long ago that I was starting university. I packed up a car with all my worldly goods and moved myself to the other side of the country to start a new life 5 hours away from home. I remember those first few weeks when all I worried about was whether I could squeeze in drinks in the students’ union with my flatmates and a ‘skool disco’ party with my coursemates on the same night. And yes, I did manage it, in case you were wondering!budgeting money saving finance tips for university freshers students_One thing I didn’t manage all that well was my finances. I juggled my student loan with my part-time wages to make ends meet, and often ended up limping through to the end of term. The first year was a bit of a struggle as I came to terms with paying my own bills and budgeting to make my money last all year – but don’t worry Freshers – it all worked out fine in the end! So today I’m sharing my top tips for saving money as a student so that you can learn from my experiences. Hopefully this will leave you with more cash for nights out and important purchases (shoes or textbooks? What a dilemma!) and help your time at university go smoothly.budgeting money saving finance tips for university freshers students_-2Budget before your student loan arrives. Honestly, if you don’t work out how much you have available to spend per week to make your student loan last until the end of term, you will end up hungry in December! It might seem like a huge amount of money in your bank account at the start of term but it soon disappears if you’re not careful! I know it’s dull, but you just need to add up your bills (accommodation, mobile phone, TV license, broadband etc), subtract this from your loan payment and divide the rest between the number of weeks in the semester. This is the amount you can spend on food, clothing, course materials and nights out so try to stick to it. If it doesn’t look like it’s going to be enough then… Continue reading “My money-saving tips for students” »