Cassiefairy – My Thrifty Life

Cassiefairy's thrifty little lifestyle blog – Saving money every day with DIY crafts, sewing projets, low-cost recipes & shppping tips

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DIY autumn decoration – patterned branch

Today I’m sharing another fantastic DIY project that I found in Decorate for a Party by Holly Becker and Leslie Shewring. This patterned branch would be a great photo backdrop for a party or could even be hung in your home to introduce a rustic feeling to the room. I love to decorate my living room for autumn with pumpkins and flowers, so I’d hang something like this above my sideboard, using autumnal colours and textured fabrics.decorate-for-a-party-p127-photography-by-holly-beckerThis project is also a great way to use up all those fabric offcuts that are too small and thin to use but that you just can’t throw can away! If you have a rummage through your sewing cupboard you’ll probably find all the scraps you need! Or you can buy some low-cost fabric odds-and-ends or ribbons from the haberdashery. It’s a really quick and simple project and all the step-by-step details are below. Plus, there’s a couple more ideas for using branches and fabric this autumn too, such as this fun den and cute packed lunches (below). Have fun making this autumnal decoration and let me know how you get on if you give it a try!decorate-for-a-party-p123-photography-by-holly-beckerThis branch can be made before your party to mark the party spot or later, during your party by inviting the children to help you, because it’s easy and fun. Or, for a party you’re hosting at home, you can make one to display over a buffet or even in another room of your home as additional decor.

YOU WILL NEED a straight branch, cotton fabrics in various prints, white linen (lightweight), pine cones, thin copper wire, scissors, string

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Pieday Friday – Chocolate gingerbread skeletons recipe for Halloween

A slightly different take on the classic festive gingerbread man, this cookie dough contains cocoa powder so it produces a dark, crisp biscuit. When cut out with a gingerbread cutter they’re the perfect shape for icing a skeleton design for Halloween. The darker colour biscuit emphasises the spooky shape and tastes even better than normal gingerbread thanks to all the chocolate in the recipe!diy-halloween-cookie-recipe-chocolate-gingerbread-men-skeletons-treat-dessert-pudding-12I think that these homemade biscuits would be great to give out to trick-or-treaters or could be the dessert for your spooky Halloween party. Here’s how to make the dough and bake the perfect chocolate gingerbread skeletons:diy-halloween-cookie-recipe-chocolate-gingerbread-men-skeletons-treat-dessert-pudding-11Ingredients for around 18 biscuits (depending on the size of your cutter): 300g plain flour, 50g cocoa powder, 1 tablespoon ground ginger, 120g butter, 120g brown sugar, 140g golden syrup, icing sugar for icing the skeleton 1: Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Mix flour, cocoa, ginger powder and butter together in a bowl. Either use your fingers to rub the butter into the flour, like a crumble recipe, or put into a food processor and pulse together until it forms a crumbly consistency. Drizzle in the golden syrup and continue pulsing the processor until it forms a dough, or mix with a knife if you’re doing it the manual 2: Divide the dough into quarters and place between two sheets of greaseproof paper. Roll out the dough then peel away the top layer of diy-halloween-cookie-recipe-chocolate-gingerbread-men-skeletons-treat-dessert-pudding-5diy-halloween-cookie-recipe-chocolate-gingerbread-men-skeletons-treat-dessert-pudding-6Step 3: Use a gingerbread man cutter to press shapes into the dough. Peel away the excess dough, leaving the gingerbread man shapes on the greaseproof

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A pile of poo and a goat – festive gifts that help others

I’m not even going to say the ‘C’ word yet but I know that many of you are already planning – and buying – your seasonal gifts. In fact, I’m heading out to the high street tomorrow to gather some stocking fillers myself so I know that (if you’re at all like me) you’re already making a shopping list. And possibly checking it twice. Which is why I wanted to jump in feet first today with an idea for what to get ‘the person who has everything’.

Photo credit: Oxfam GB

My answer is; nothing. I’m not being rude, but what I tend to find these days is that everyone gets whatever they want for themselves all year round, so they don’t really need anything in particular. On top of this, we’ve all got limited space in our homes. I know how sad it makes me to receive a big generous gift when I don’t have anywhere to put it. I’m not ungrateful, I love the present, but I have like, literally nowhere to keep it. I have to store so many things ‘for later’ because I just don’t have the room at the moment.

So my solution is a simple one; buy something for someone else instead. I’m talking about charity gifts and, as an Oxfam blogger, I wanted to share details of their festive packages in case you’re already looking for a secret santa present for someone who already has plenty of everything. There are lots of Oxfam charity gift ideas on the website (starting at just £5) but I’m just going to mention my top two today – a pile of poo and a goat.

Photo credit: Oxfam GB

Imagine giving someone a pile of poo for Christmas – it would be the talk of the office as a secret santa gift, wouldn’t it?! I love the tongue-in-cheek nature of the gift, but it’s a whole lot more helpful than the name makes out. The gift is a 100% natural mix of manure and organic fertilizer so that someone can grow their own vegetables and feed their family. It also includes training on how to plant crops so that they are more successful in growing food. This means that the family will have a more varied diet, their health will improve with regular meals and they can sell any excess produce to raise money for other things, such as sending their children to school. Amazing what a pile of poo can do, isn’t it?

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Cruelty-free eyebrows + the Little Book of Cruelty-Free

I’ve always had trouble finding products to suit my eyebrows, cruelty-free or otherwise. In fact, I’ve never found a match before. The thing is that my eyebrows are SO blonde that any of the products designed for blonde eyebrows tend to be too warm. Yes, orange eyebrows have been my destiny for many years and for that reason I’ve never used any products on my eyebrows before. So why would I start now?cruelty-free-eyebrow-cosmetics-products-makeup-review-animal-testing-mua-freedomcruelty-free-eyebrow-cosmetics-products-makeup-review-animal-testing-mua-freedom-12Well, the good news is that my cruelty-free journey has led me to some excellent budget make-up brands that I’d never tried before. And, interestingly enough, the eyebrow products they produce are considerably less orange than other blonde eyebrow products I’ve used in the past. I tried three different types of products before finding my ideal colour match so I thought I’d let you know how I got on with each of them.cruelty-free-eyebrow-cosmetics-products-makeup-review-animal-testing-mua-freedom-4Attempt number 1 was the MUA Brow Define brush-on brow colour. It’s like a mascara wand for eyebrows and I thought it could be a good two-in-one; taming hair and adding colour. It was exactly that, but for me it added a little bit too much colour. It picked up and coated the hairs rather than adding colour to my skin, so it looked much more natural than a pencil. But it was still a bit too dark for me. I can’t emphasise how very fair my eyebrow hairs are so it might be okay for you, and for blondes who want to go a little stronger on their eyebrows, it would be ideal. But as it was only £3 and I’d bought it on a 3-for-the-price-of-2 deal, I wasn’t worried about wasting money so I passed it on to my sister and moved on to this…cruelty-free-eyebrow-cosmetics-products-makeup-review-animal-testing-mua-freedom-3cruelty-free-eyebrow-cosmetics-products-makeup-review-animal-testing-mua-freedom-2The £1 MUA blonde eyebrow pencil. It’s much easier to control the pencil in terms of precision, so I could draw wispy lines to replicate hairs (so long as the pencil is super-sharp). Plus, there’s a brush on the end of the pencil to feather out the colour if needed. Still the tone of this blonde was too warm for my ashy pale eyebrows and made them a tiny bit darker than I would have liked. I suppose I’m still getting used to seeing my eyebrows after all these years so I felt it made me look a little surprised, although in reality it probably looked really natural. Even so, I wasn’t completely happy with the pencil so I tried a powder.cruelty-free-eyebrow-cosmetics-products-makeup-review-animal-testing-mua-freedom-5Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner! Continue reading “Cruelty-free eyebrows + the Little Book of Cruelty-Free” »

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Pieday Friday – Bottomless Harvest Pie

After going foraging on a blackberry walk last weekend, today’s blog post is the result of that walk. I decided to combine the blackberries with apples (cooking apples are abundant in the garden at the moment) and make a bottomless pie. What does that mean? It means that I made a blind-baked pie base and it shrunk so much that I couldn’t use it! I therefore went for just a pie crust on top of the filling in a pie dish. Don’t worry, it tasted just as yummy and actually it’s a little bit of a healthier pudding, because there’s about half the amount of pastry!diy-recipe-baking-harvest-pie-cooking-apple-and-blackberry-pastry-dessert-pudding-7 diy-recipe-baking-harvest-pie-cooking-apple-and-blackberry-pastry-dessert-pudding-3Ingredients: 225g plain flour, 100g butter, 25g caster sugar, 2 tablespoons water, a pinch of salt, 100g sugar, a dash of amaretto, plus as many cooking apples as it takes to fill your pie dish and as many blackberries as you can gather!

The pastry: Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl and rub in the butter using your fingertips. Add the cold water and stir with a knife until it comes together into a stuff dough. Roll out on a floured surface to the thickness of a pound coin. By the way, my pretty rolling pin is from The Caravan Trail if you’re interested. I like to use it for pastry as it’s ceramic so stays cool – very important in pastry-making!diy-recipe-baking-harvest-pie-cooking-apple-and-blackberry-pastry-dessert-pudding diy-recipe-baking-harvest-pie-cooking-apple-and-blackberry-pastry-dessert-pudding-2The filling: Peel, core and slice enough apples to fill your pie dish. Put the apples in a pan over a medium heat and add 100g sugar to sweeten the tangy taste of the cooking apples and a splash of water (or a dash of amaretto if you like the flavour). Allow to cook down (keeping some chunky bits) and allow the apples to become a little mushy. Taste the apples and add more sugar if needed. diy-recipe-baking-harvest-pie-cooking-apple-and-blackberry-pastry-dessert-pudding-4 diy-recipe-baking-harvest-pie-cooking-apple-and-blackberry-pastry-dessert-pudding-5

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DIY thrifty Halloween decorations – flying paper bats garland

Need some low cost decorations for your Halloween party? Look no further! You can make this flying bats garland in a matter of minutes and use it to decorate your dinner table, to hang at your windows or cover your porch. Make as many garland strands as you like, make the thread as long as you like and add as many bats as you like!halloween-flying-paper-bat-garland-decoration-tutorial-step-by-step-thrifty-diy-project-8 halloween-flying-paper-bat-garland-decoration-tutorial-step-by-step-thrifty-diy-projectI made lots of strands of 3-5 bats to cover the wall above my sideboard this Halloween. This gives a staggered effect and allows the bats to float around freely. I think it looks spooky for Halloween but not too scary (so is more suitable for younger children’s parties) or sophisticated enough for grown-up Halloween gatherings.halloween-flying-paper-bat-garland-decoration-tutorial-step-by-step-thrifty-diy-project-9 halloween-flying-paper-bat-garland-decoration-tutorial-step-by-step-thrifty-diy-project-2halloween-flying-paper-bat-garland-decoration-tutorial-step-by-step-thrifty-diy-project-4I think that showing you how to make the bats ‘fly’ on the thread is better than trying to explain the steps, so check out my video to see how it’s done. You can see just how quick it is to make a garland of bats, so it’s easy to make a large quantity to cover your walls and windows this Halloween. After decorating my wall I’ve decided to keep my trick-or-treat snacks on the sideboard ready for Halloween – I just need to get a pumpkin and I’m ready!halloween-flying-paper-bat-garland-decoration-tutorial-step-by-step-thrifty-diy-project-5 halloween-flying-paper-bat-garland-decoration-tutorial-step-by-step-thrifty-diy-project-3Here’s the video on YouTube: diy-video-thrifty-halloween-decorations-flying-paper-bats-projectLet me know if you have a go at making these paper bats by leaving me comment below or tagging me in your Instagram photos. And please do get in touch if you have any questions about the steps – I hope the video helps to explain it okay 🙂 halloween-flying-paper-bat-garland-decoration-tutorial-step-by-step-thrifty-diy-project-7halloween-flying-paper-bat-garland-decoration-tutorial-step-by-step-thrifty-diy-project-6/a>


Norman Foster’s Willis Building in Ipswich – 1970s architecture & interiors

Today’s blog post is rather photo-heavy, but I wanted to share some snaps I took while touring Norman Foster’s famous Willis Building. My husband and I went into Ipswich as part of the Heritage Open Weekend and visited half-a-dozen or so historical buildings that are not usually open to the public. Among them was the derelict art deco style Broomhill lido (currently campaigning to be renovated and reopened) and Freston Tower overlooking the Orwell river.willis-building-norman-foster 20150529-willis-building-40y-anniv-02448Only when I got home did I realise that I hadn’t taken any photos outside the building, so here’s a photo of the Willis Building from the Huffington Post and a stunning long-exposure image by photographer Claudia Gannon of the building lit in red lights to celebrate the Ruby anniversary of the building.

Up on the roof and inside the lobby

The most exciting place for me was the Willis Building. I studied architecture and spatial design in college and the utopian movement was my specialism. I’d been bursting to see inside the iconic Willis Building ever since but, as it’s a fully functioning office building, there was no way to get inside. So when I heard that it was opening its shiny glass doors for two days over the Heritage Open Weekend, I charged up my camera and headed along.

The ‘Green Mile’ corridor and first floor office

Having studied the building in the past, I kind of knew what to expect, but I wasn’t prepared for the scale of the building. Blimey, it’s big inside! With space for 1,300 workers I guess it has to be. And it’s exceptionally colourful too. Visitors are greeted with grass green floors and sunshine yellow walls – replicating a sunny day in utopia. Or the colours of Ipswich’s rival football club. I like to think that Norman Foster was creating an indoor/outdoor office design rather than just goading the locals!

Escalators to the top floor and (just for scale) here’s me popping out half way along the ‘Green Mile’

The colours are including in the building’s Grade I listing so cannot be changed, but why would you want to? The fun colours put a big smile on my face as soon as I walked in. Oddly enough, it’s not overpowering to have such a brightly coloured interior. The usual office furniture, dark vertical blinds and shimmering metal ceilings calm things down somewhat. Would I replicate the interior décor at home? Probably not. But it has certainly reignited my love of all things yellow and I will include more bright accent colours next time I decorate.

On top of the Willis Building and the view of Ipswich town centre

The most exciting part of the tour for me was stepping out onto the roof garden. I’d heard all kinds of rumours about the roof garden (including a kind of half-truth that there was a swimming pool up there for employees to use) when I studied the building as a teen but it still didn’t prepare me for the vastness of the roof garden. There’s space for hundreds of office workers to enjoy a picnic lunch up there. It’s enclosed by a neat hedge (more green) and outside the hedge there’s a track which runs around the exterior of the oddly-shaped curved building. By the way, the glass building was designed in such a curvy shape in order to maximise the use of the whole plot of land available for the build.

The manicured roof garden and the track that runs around the building beyond the hedge

I guessed that the track was used for cleaning the windows (perhaps hanging a platform over the edge?) but I couldn’t be sure. We decided to walk around the perimeter and take some photos of the Ipswich skyline while we were there. In fact, if this wasn’t a rail-track it would make a perfectly good running track for jogging workers at break time, though I can’t be sure that Norman Foster had that utopian ideal in his mind when he designed it.norman-foster-utopian-black-glass-willis-building-ipswich-suffolk-yellow-and-green-interior-office-70s-1970s-9norman-foster-utopian-black-glass-willis-building-ipswich-suffolk-yellow-and-green-interior-office-70s-1970s-3 norman-foster-utopian-black-glass-willis-building-ipswich-suffolk-yellow-and-green-interior-office-70s-1970s-15

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