Cassiefairy – My Thrifty Life

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


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Book review: Urban Flowers + win a copy!

This week I’ve got my hands on the newly released gardening book ‘Urban Flowers’ by Carolyn Dunster. A very thrifty DIY-focussed book, it contains hundreds of ideas for making the most of your outdoor space, no matter how little garden you have. And the good news is that you can win a copy in my giveaway so read on to enter the competition below…In this book, Carolyn demonstrates how it is possible to turn even the smallest space into a blooming urban paradise with colourful flowers and a thriving habitat for wildlife too. So whether you’ve got a patch in the countryside or a balcony in the city, you’ll be sure to find a handy project in this book.
Urban Flowers helps to identify which plants will grow best in your garden and, the thing I found most interesting about the book, it provides planting ‘recipes’ to create colourful palettes of blooms all year round. I’ve always wondered how some gardens look great in every season and now I know how to do it for myself!

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Book review: The Thoughtful Gardener by Jinny Blom + Win a copy!

I’ve been reading about gardening this month, and it’s all down to the newly released book The Thoughtful Gardener. If you too have an empty garden (or an overgrown one, for that matter) this book is the perfect starting point to get you into the garden this spring. It’s packed full of inspirational ideas and plenty of photos of gardens in bloom that’ll get you wanting to plant up your patch. Read on to find out more about the book and author, and to enter my giveaway to WIN a copy of this beautiful new release, worth £35!Award-winning designer, and gardening columnist for The Times, Jinny Blom has carefully curated this gorgeous book to bring together design ideas from gardens all around the country. The Thoughtful Gardener not only provides plenty of inspiration with stunning photos, it also offers practical advice on how to make your own perfectly-designed garden at home.

Image by Andrew Montgomery / The Thoughtful Gardener by Jinny Blom

But that doesn’t mean a manicured lawn with topiary trees, a well-designed garden can be full of over-grown shrubs, blousey blooms and messy edges. That’s the lovely thing about this book; it makes gardening accessible to those of us who don’t have the time to trim the edges of our grass with scissors! Some of the gardens in this book have been growing wildly for years, but Jinny shows us how the original design allows for the plants to grow freely while still providing a surprisingly neat and calming space.

Image by Charlie Hopkinson / The Thoughtful Gardener by Jinny Blom

Read more and enter my giveaway to win a copy of The Thoughtful Gardener below..!

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How to create 2 (very different!) flower arrangements using gerberas

Today’s rather cheerful blog post comes to you courtesy of fabulous florist Paula Pryke OBE. I’ve asked this inspirational designer to share her tips for creating displays using colourful gerberas. I’ve found it difficult to work with gerberas in the past  because their stems sometimes go floppy but today Paula is sharing two easy step-by-step guides to create gorgeous displays using gerberas. Plus, you can win a copy of her newly launched book Floristy Now in my competition. I’ve got two copies to give away so read on to find out how you can enter this fun giveaway..!

These happy flowers come in an array of eye-catching and joyful colours. At one time you could only get the regular large size, but over the years some very passionate gerbera growers have produced smaller ones to suit hand-tied bouquets and now you can get many exclusive varieties. There is the double-flowered small Pomponi gerbera and the shaggy Pasta or Springs large-flowered varieties, which are the novelties at the moment. Gerberas have hairy stems and so they don’t like to be placed in deep water as the stems can become waterlogged and soggy. They are very susceptible to bacteria, and so they benefit from having scrupulously clean containers and a drop of chlorine bleach is a good idea. Flower food is also essential for these versatile flowers.How to create a structured gerbera display

Gerbera United are a Dutch company with the vision to breed and produce new and unique gerberas. Their Ambition specials feature spidery-looking gerberas – some were originally called Pasta and some Springs. For this I chose to use their Pink Springs, Orange Springs and the red Pasta Romana varieties. I adore the intense colour of gerberas and over 30 years they have appeared in many of my designs. Now I mostly include them in gift work and contract work, but their colour range makes them useful when flower supply is not so plentiful – they can make a huge impact in autumn and winter. In the main I am a black centre fan, and tend to specify varieties with black eyes.

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Hygge and Lagom – Living the Scandinavian way this winter

Hoo-gah. Honestly, that’s how you pronounce it. Lagom is slightly a tougher one… lar-gohm. If you’re already over hygge, then maybe lagom is for you. With the new year in full swing, the Scandinavian concept of ‘everything in moderation’ may be better suited to you (especially if you’re making changes to your lifestyle and diet) than the full-on snuggle-up-and-get-cosy-during-deepest-darkest-winter concept of hygge. Lagom means ‘just the right amount’ and is a slightly more matter-of-fact approach to living a more balanced and thriftier lifestyle. As a very thrifty gal, it’s no wonder I’ve become intrigued by this concept, is it?The eagle-eyed of you may have spotted that I received a book relating to this topic for Christmas. Yes, I finally own a copy of the famous Hygge book by Meik Wiking. You know, the one that instagrammers seem to be posting photos of daily during the autumn and winter. The Danish art of hygge doesn’t necessarily have a certain look or design philosophy, it’s more about the feeling and atmosphere that a room gives you. It’s about appreciating the small things in life and about the times you have felt at your happiest. Recreating that vibe throughout your home is hygge, pure and simple. Lagom is very different and there are four ways to embrace lagom this year; eating with the seasons, reducing your environmental impact, stressing less, and enjoying things in moderation. So you can see that this Swedish concept is more about lifestyle as a whole, rather than focusing on creating a feeling of cosiness in the home like hygge. It’s about having just the right amount of food, achieving the ideal work/life balance and doing your bit for the environment. Sounds like a set of new year’s resolutions, doesn’t it? I already feel like it’s more serious concept than the warm-and-fluffy idea of hygge, but maybe that’s just my natural reaction resolutions in general. What a rebel.In contrast, home interior specialists Baytree Interiors have come up with the four elements needed to create the perfect winter sanctuary with the Danish concept of hygge. These are: textures, small spaces, natural colours and low lighting. Firstly, rustic materials such as wood and leather work well to create hygge-esque textures especially when combined with cable knits, faux fur and fluffy rugs. Secondly, larger rooms will benefit from being divided up, to make a series of cosy spaces. Thirdly and neutral colour scheme using brown, gray and cream will give a sense of bringing nature indoors. And finally, lighting is the most important element in any Hygge home and it’s the easiest way to create a warm and inviting atmosphere. Lamps and candles create soothing pools of light around the home, and the Danes are said to light more candles than any other country in Europe!I can see how the two ideas can work hand-in-hand. For example, if you’re practicing the lagom idea of stressing less, you’ll be wanting to create a lovely hygge environment in which to relax in. Food and drink can be hygge too (I’d call it comfort food…) and the lagom idea of having everything in moderation means that you really can enjoy that hot chocolate with squishy marshmallows without feeling guilty, because you’re just having one mugful. And of course, switching off the electricity to sit by hygge candlelight, couldn’t be more lagom in terms of reducing your environmental impact, could it?These two Scandinavian concepts aren’t in competition with each other, but they have both become really popular this winter and it seems like a good idea to learn a thing or two about lifestyle from the happiest nations in the world, doesn’t it? I can’t wait to introduce some of these concepts into my own home and life in 2017 and try to embrace a happier, cosier and more relaxed approach to life. So if you find me tucked up under a blanket that I’ve knitted myself rather than doing any work, that’ll be the reason why! Let me know if you’re inspired by these Scandinavian ideals or if you’ve been adding a touch of hygge to your home this winter by leaving me a comment below 🙂


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Books, books, books – What I got for Christmas & first impressions

I guess I was quite adamant when I said I only wanted books for Christmas, huh? Because that’s what I got – and piles of ’em! So you can imagine how thrilled I am to start the new year with a stack of books to read and plenty of reviews to bring you throughout 2017. I’m just about to finish reading Dave Gorman Versus The Rest of The World so I’m excited to dive straight into these new books. Here’s what I received and my first impressions:book review 2016 2017 books tim peake amy schumer caitlin moran gretchen rubin-3Caitlin Moran – Moranifesto

I’ve read most of Moran’s books and this one has been on my wishlist since it was published in March 2016. I didn’t buy it straight away though because I find hardbacks more cumbersome to read and I was waiting for the paperback version to come out. How long would I have to wait? While I was browsing a book store in Ely in November I found this signed first edition and pointed it out to hubby. Thankfully he took the hint and managed to snaffle it for me without me knowing! Can’t wait to get started on this one.book review 2016 2017 books tim peake amy schumer caitlin moran gretchen rubin-9Tim Peake – Hello, is this planet Earth?

As someone who followed Tim Peake’s mission religiously (and was giddy with excitement when I met him only a couple of days after he returned to the UK) you can imagine how excited I was to unwrap this book. It’s a chunky square book full of beautiful photographs taken by Tim during his time on the international space station. The cover is a shiny hardback (which I think looks a little bit cheap or unofficial) but when you open the pages, it’s full of stunning photos alongside Tim’s own words about the images and locations. I’d actually recommended this book to mum as a suitable present for my husband, but it was actually him who bought it for me. Good thing we didn’t all buy it for each other!book review 2016 2017 books tim peake amy schumer caitlin moran gretchen rubin-7

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Hack a garden border with just about anything

Today’s blog post is all about a book I got over Christmas – 101 Organic Gardening Hacks by Shawna Coronado. I’ve been dipping into it during my time off and it’s been a really inspirational read. I enjoyed it so much that I asked the publisher whether it would be possible to give a copy away to you and they were delighted to oblige. So there’s a Rafflecopter giveaway to win a copy of 101 Organic Gardening Hacks at the end of this blog post – be sure to enter today!p147-tiki-hut-shedThe book not only covers all the planting, pruning and growing tips you’d expect from the title, but it also offers practical advice on making the most of what you already have to turn your garden into an organic oasis. Who knew that there were so many easy ways to water plants? And it’s amazing what materials you can reuse to great effect in your landscaping. With thriftiness at the forefront of my mind at all times, it was wonderful to read a book that wasn’t recommending buying new materials or spending lots of money. In fact, I’d call this a money-saving advice book on gardening more than anything else, so you can see why I enjoyed reading it so much.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

To give you an idea of some of the projects in the book I’ve shared the images above, which include reusing old furniture to give your flowerbeds height and drama, and how to give your basic shed a makeover to turn it into a fun tiki hut! Below is an extract from the book itself about using collections of objects, waste products or natural materials to hack a garden border – read on to find out how!126a-hack-a-garden-border

Glass insulators border this garden bed and patio area, delineating the flagstone from the mulched soil edge.

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Pieday Friday – Sweet Potato Pasta with Alfredo Sauce 

Today’s recipe is from the newly released book ‘Eat With Intention’ by Cassandra Bodzak. This is not just a recipe book,but it’s also a practical course in quieting your mind, fueling your body, loving yourself, and changing your life for the better. Alongside the recipes there’s reminders to take care of yourself, and little meditation suggestions for everyday calm. This sweet potato pasta dish is just one example of the healthy yet fulfilling recipes in the book, and it’s quickly becoming one of my go-to recipe books for dinner (and puddings too!). But don’t just take my word for it – you can win a copy of the book for yourself! Scroll down to enter the giveaway below.sweet-potato-pastaSometimes we get so fixed on an idea of something that we close ourselves off from the infinite amount of possibilities for how it could manifest in our lives. I encourage you to think about something you deeply desire right now and strip it down to its basic core, releasing all of its trappings. When we are clear about what we truly desire, we open the door to unexpected opportunities and keep our eyes open for them along the way. Expand your options and expect miracles. Talk about an unexpected way to get your cravings met! If you have been craving the warm, filling, creamy decadence of fettuccine Alfredo without the dairy and gluten, then this is the recipe for you.

Feeling It Meditation

Sit in easy pose with your hands over your heart, eyes closed, breathing in through your nose and out your mouth. Allow yourself to fill up from your heart radiating outward with the feelings of your desire fulfilled. Release any specific images that may come up and return to your heart and tune in to the feeling that is enveloping you around having what you truly desire. Sit in this feeling for the next 3 minutes. When time is up, take a deep breath in and silently say to yourself, “I release my attachment to what it looks like and I welcome in unexpected ways for it to manifest.” Exhale and relax.

Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients: 15-ounce (425 g) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed,15-ounce (425 g) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed, ½ cup (120 ml) unsweetened almond milk, 7 tablespoons (105 g) nutritional yeast, 3 tablespoons (45 ml) extra-virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons (30 g) Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon (14 g) vegan butter, 1 tablespoon (15 ml) garlic powder, 1 tablespoon (15 ml) salt, plus extra to taste, ½ teaspoon ground turmeric, 2 tablespoons (30 ml) extra-virgin olive oil, 2 sweet potatoes, skinned and spiralized, Chopped walnuts, to garnish, Chopped parsley, to garnish

  1. To make the sauce, combine all the sauce ingredients in a food processor and pulse until thick and creamy. Season with salt to taste.
  1. Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan and sauté the sweet potato “noodles” for
    5 minutes, until softened. Add the sauce to the saucepan and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until heated through. Garnish with the walnuts and parsley, and serve. (Alternatively, heat the sauce in a separate saucepan and ladle it over a plate of noodles.)

9781631062360Recipe and images extracted from Eat with Intention by Cassandra Bodzak, photography by Evi Abeler. Published by Race Point Publishing (£14.99). More information on the book can be found here.

And if you would like to win a copy of “Eat with Intention” please enter via the Rafflecopter widget below. There are plenty of ways you can earn entries into this giveaway, so best of luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway open to UK residents only. Giveaway runs from 18th -30th November 2016. One winner will be chosen at random after this date and contacted via email.


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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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Book Review + Interview – Upcycling by Max McMurdo

I can’t believe that it’s been a whole week since this book launched and I’m only now telling you about it. I’ve had my eyes on it for weeks and have been eagerly awaiting it’s release. Teaser tweets and Instagram posts by Max have got my excitement for this book bubbling up to a dangerous level. Combine that with my already OTT love of thriftiness and DIYing, and you’ve got one giddy girl on your hands. So you can imagine how quickly I tore open the packaging of my book delivery last weekend.gumtreebus-max-mcmurdoThankfully, it book itself didn’t disappoint. I knew it would full of Max’s trademark industrial projects and thrifty flips, but I didn’t realise just how comprehensive it would be. This isn’t just a ‘look at this pretty room’ design book. Oh no. It’s full of practical advice and step-by-step, photo-by-photo tutorials. It’s so detailed that even I feel confident about removing a drum from an old washing machine and turning it into an illuminated side table.max-mcmurdo-upcycling-diy-book-review-2With techniques for measuring and cutting, drilling and sanding, wiring and finishing, Max teaches you all the DIY skills you need to know in order to complete the projects in the book. If you want to know what a nylock nut is, Max’ll tell you. I thought I was alright at a bit of DIY. Good, even. But it turns out that there’s so much more I can learn. Thank goodness I’ve got this book to teach me the tricks of the trade. They don’t call me thrifty for nothin’ and if I’m going to upcycle, I’m darn well going to learn how to do it properly (and safely!).

Just before the book launched last week I had the opportunity to ask the author some probing questions so that I could share his answers with you today:max-mcmurdo-upcycling-diy-book-review Continue reading “Book Review + Interview – Upcycling by Max McMurdo” »


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Pineapple Infused Vodka + DIY Cocktail Glass

Summer is in full swing AND it’s the weekend, double wooo! To celebrate, I’m sharing a summery cocktail and spirit infusion and a quick DIY cocktail glass project. These have all been extracted from Mason Jar Nation by JoAnn Moser. This recipe wold be great for fruity summer cocktails or even for a birthday party so read on to find out how to make it…mason jar nation book reviewIn honour of moonshiners of old and new, here’s a less volatile preparation that doesn’t require a still: pineapple-infused vodka. Complete the concoction with a Mason jar cocktail glass and a summery drink recipe using your homemade hooch, and you’ll be good to go.

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