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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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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Why a new bedroom deserves a new mattress

There’s one thing that people tend to overlook when they’re remodelling their home but it’s also one of the most important pieces of kit in the house. Sure, you want a lovely power-shower plumbed in and brand new flooring fitted. Yes, you’ve had a new oven professionally installed and you’re carpets are freshly laid. But when the time comes to move into your newly renovated home, you’re probably going to take all your old furniture with you (and so you should!) but that might include your old mattress and that’s where I come in.I’m currently doing up my new house and one of the items on my ‘must-get’ list was a new mattress. Alongside a list of tiles, radiators and a new kitchen sink was a mattress. It may seem odd to you that I’ve prioritised this ‘luxury’ item when I still have plumbing to do and new doors to install but honestly my bed is SO important to me that it easily made the list.A bad night’s sleep ruins the following day for me and considering that I spend 8 hours of my day in it, I want it to be comfortable. I often struggle when staying away from home; a night in a hotel might be fun for most people but the mattresses tend to be hit and miss. It’s the same with pillows. My dodgy whiplash neck can be easily upset by sleeping on the wrong type of pillow. And I’m no fun to be around when I haven’t slept well…

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My upcycled picture frame breakfast tray project is in Reloved Magazine!

I’m delighted to share with you some pics of my latest project in Reloved magazine. This month I made a breakfast-in-bed tray as a romantic treat for Valentine’s Day. What do you think??I upcycled an old picture frame and turned it into a breakfast tray by removing the glass, and decoupaging old book pages (a falling-apart copy of Jane Eyre and a Marilyn Monroe biography, if you’re interested!) onto the back-board. It’s a similar effect to the book-page feature wall I created in my bedroom – if you missed that blog post you can check it out here.I added a couple of decorative handles (taken off some old drawers that used to be in my mum’s kitchen!) and gave the whole tray a protective coat of sealing varnish.

The full step-by-step guide to making the picture frame tray for yourself can be found in Issue 39 of Reloved magazine, and if you’re quick you can still pick it up in the shops this week. The next issue comes out on 23rd Feb, so you’ve not got long to grab a copy!Here’s some photos of the magazine itself – I’m always SO thrilled to be featured in print and see my projects shared with so many thrifty readers. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to seeing my name on the page as ‘the designer’ – eeee!

My one-cup teapot set is from The Caravan Trail – lovely bright colours for Spring!

The next of Reloved (Issue 40) is out this week and contains lots of lovely Spring and Easter-themed upcycling projects so be sure to check that out too!


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Tuesday Shoesday – Our his ‘n’ hers walking shoes & a ramble around the castle on the hill

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! Hubby and I celebrated a day early because it was a really sunny day yesterday and we wanted to take advantage of the lovely weather and go for a walk. So we bundled up with our coats, scarves and gloves (it might have been sunny, but it was still a little nippy!) and headed out into the Suffolk countryside for a walk.We planned our walk around Framlingham Castle – Ed Sheeran’s ‘castle on the hill’ – so that we could take some photos of the stunning landmark in the winter sunshine. I’d been inspired to enjoy a low-cost day out after reading an article full of ideas for Valentine’s Day on a budget, so a walk (with a packed lunch!) was just the ticket. With it being half term (and a ‘Knights and Princesses’ event taking place inside the castle) it was a busy spot for a Monday morning, but all the other walkers we met were in good spirits. What I didn’t bargain for was just how muddy the paths around the picturesque mere would be. At least it gave us a chance to test out our new walking shoes – this terrain certainly put them through their paces. If my feet could stay comfortable and dry in this environment, then I’m pretty sure that the shoes will stand up to anything we throw at them in the future.

When my husband suggested walking around the castle moat, I was hesitant. I wasn’t planning on going for a paddle! He insisted that it was a ‘dry moat’ (well, I’ve never heard of a dry moat before, have you?!) so we climbed down the stairs and fair enough, it was pretty dry… as far as moats go.Interestingly enough, there were some lovely views from the moat looking up at the walls of the castle. It feels really imposing from below and the blue sky set off the stone castle walls beautifully. Even looking back into the sunshine created some really impressive silhouettes of the ancient walls.

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My “Take 10” interview in Reloved magazine

Hi all, how has your week been?  Today I thought I’d quickly shared my ‘Take 10’ interview about upcycling and thriftiness from Reloved magazine in case you didn’t get a chance to pick up a copy of Issue 38 last month. My project on restoring leather was also in the January issue, with the aim of bringing old furniture back to ‘good-as-new’ in the New Year. If you want to have a read of the step-by-step guide I’ve shared it on my blog so you can check out the photos and instructions for the leather restoration project herereloved-magazine-cassiefairy-feature-homemade-handmade-diy-project-restoring-leather-chair-issue-38-1reloved-magazine-cassiefairy-feature-homemade-handmade-diy-project-restoring-leather-chair-issue-38-2The good news is that I’ve got another project being published in the magazine soon so keep an eye out for Issue 39 of Reloved in the newsagents and online this week. Here’s the “Take 10” page in full so you can read my answers to the interview questions – SO excited to be featured!reloved-magazine-cassiefairy-feature-homemade-handmade-diy-project-restoring-leather-chair-issue-38-4-2 reloved-magazine-cassiefairy-feature-homemade-handmade-diy-project-restoring-leather-chair-issue-38-5


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Valentine’s gifts & an idea for a romantic evening at home

With Valentine’s Day coming up next week on the 14th February, I thought I would share some ideas with you for an inexpensive night in with your other half.If you want to avoid the crowds in busy restaurants and don’t fancy filling your home with heart-shaped mugs and pink teddy bears, this could be the solution to both your Valentine’s gifts and evening celebration. Read on to find out more and to enter my Valentine’s giveaway to win a fabulous prize bundle from Dartington Crystal and Bolsius candles. I’m talking about an at-home wine tasting. Or beer tasting. Or simply a mocktail evening, if that’s what you fancy. Pop on some music, light some candles and start sipping! The candles create a relaxed atmosphere and will transform your living room or kitchen into a cosy, intimate space for conversation to flow. Spending time together is the nicest thing about Valentine’s Day, so take this opportunity to have a good old catch-up without the distraction of the TV or internet. Of course, this type of evening in would be lovely whatever the occasion, whether it’s a birthday, your wedding anniversary or just a Friday night. Drinks-wise, you could treat yourselves to a bottle of wine, or go for the mini-bottles (like my tiny Prosecco bottle – just the right amount for two!) if you want to cut costs. This will also help to minimise wastage if you can’t drink a whole bottle on a school night..! Continue reading “Valentine’s gifts & an idea for a romantic evening at home” »


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Household goals – keeping my home neat & organised

Starting the new year with the intention of keeping my home clean and organised has been very motivating goal for 2017 so far. A jolly good tidy-up at the start of January really helped, as did finding a home for all the lovely gifts I received over Christmas. However, I’ve found that after just a few weeks of trying to keep up with all the mess, it has become difficult to do and I often ‘forget’ about it. Then I find that even more stuff has piled up on top of the original pile. Uhoh! The trouble is that I haven’t really got round to sorting out any specific strategies or routines for organising my stuff. I can’t fight it any more. I need new storage, and that’s all there is to it. There are a whole range of different products that I could buy, systems that I can put in place and even new routines that will help me to have an organised and tidy home, yet I’ve resisted so far. But not any longer – so today I’m sharing a few ideas on how to can introduce certain things to your home to help clear the clutter!

The Kitchen

I’ve found it’s best to focus on one room at a time, as different rooms will require different processes and organising strategies. That sounds so official, doesn’t it?! The kitchen is a great room to start with, as it can often be the one room that needs the most work when it comes to getting organised. My kitchen is one of the most used rooms within the home; not just for preparing and cooking meals, but dining, socialising and even working too. One of the best ways to start a kitchen de-clutter is to give your fridge and cupboards a deep clean. Throw away any items that are past their use-by date, wipe the surfaces clean and add some kind of sorting system. Having certain cupboards for specific foods or products will make your life much easier (eg, pans in the cupboard nearest the oven), as well as making the kitchen look much neater.Recycling is another task you can incorporate into your kitchen to keep your home organised. We go through so many plastic, glass and cardboard items every week, and having a recycling system in place will help you filter through these items neatly, whilst keeping the kitchen organised too. There’s nothing worse than a build-up of glass bottle on the side, waiting for that fortnightly trip to the tip!

DIY Peg bag sewing project + carrier bag dispenser

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DIY Neon sign for parties & weddings

I’ve made my first ever neon sign. It’s going to take pride of place in my office in a few months time but I couldn’t wait for all the decorating to be done before showing you the project. It took just a couple of hours, a can of bright pink spray paint and a length of EL wire to create this unique sign. So simple, but really effective. The full step-by-step guide to making the neon sign can be found in my blog post for Make It Yours. It may look complicated, but it’s actually a really simple process that involves some easy drilling and a spot of hot-gluing. I got my EL wire from Ebay, but it’s also available on Amazon and in craft stores. It came with a battery pack and the glowing neon is powered by a couple of AA batteries. The wire has three settings – flash, quick flash and steady on. And if you’re not a fan of pink don’t worry, it also comes in blue, purple, green, red and yellow, so your sign could be any – or all – of the above colours.In fact, I think it’s such a simple enough process that I could happily knock up a sign like this for any occasion. How about a ‘just married’ sign for weddings, a ‘Ho Ho Ho’ for Christmas, a huge glowing ‘2018’ for New Year’s Eve or a ‘#girlboss’ sign for your office? If you can think up a phrase, you can make it in neon! The sign I made works great as a candy station for a wedding, anniversary party, hen do, birthday party or even for the upcoming Valentine’s day. Give it a try – I bet you’ll impress yourself with your neon-sign-making skills!

I’m kind of addicted to this technique now – I want to make all kinds of signs in neon and I can already imagine my Halloween decor! But this isn’t the only DIY guide I’ve shared on the Make It Yours website – check out my profile and have a look at my other projects including snowy window decorations, a festive chair, how to distress furniture and a vintage bike makeover. There’s plenty more coming over the next few months so keep an eye on the website for more easy, thrifty and colourful projects during the Spring.


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Students – Tips for improving your essay writing

We’re only one month into the new year and I bet that you college students out there will already have a stack of assignments to catch up on. I remember that my university tutors all used to set their essays, reports and presentations within the first couple of weeks of term, so by now I would already be worrying about writing them. Would my research be strong enough and would my writing skills be good enough to get the debate across? After a lot of practice and many many years of being a student I finally worked out how to breeze through essays and assignments, so if you’re feeling concerned don’t worry – there are plenty of ways of improving your grammar, choice of words, structure, etc and here’s how:

Quick tips to improve your writing skills

All students have problems with  written assignments from time to time as they demand thorough research and take lots of time to pull together into a structure that reaches a decisive conclusion. But all that work isn’t in vain – developing your writing skills in this way is useful when you’re studying at a higher level in the future or even in your future job. Here are some tips that will make your life much easier:

  • Make sure that every paragraph has main idea
  • Pay attention to sentence length: short ones are used to emphasize ideas and longer sentences are used to explain, define, or illustrate
  • Key words and ideas should be placed at the beginning or end of the sentence
  • Use different types of sentences: simple, compound, and complex sentences
  • Dynamic verbs in active voice are important – don’t overuse the passive voice
  • Avoid using too many unnecessary words
  • When you’re reviewing your essay, read it aloud –  you will hear any grammar problems
  • Don’t be too lazy to proofread and edit your work before submitting it
  • Don’t be embarrassed to use a dictionary or synonyms 

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Plumbing problems + how to find the answers online

One of the things that worries me most about renovating a home is the plumbing. Even though we’ve fitted a DIY ‘beach hut’ style bathroom in the past, I’ve never before needed to move a bath or toilet into a new position. But with limited space in our bathroom and a very dodgy layout where the sink is halfway over the bath, it really does need rejigging!

Check out my last bathroom makeover with a coastal theme

Even though I know it’ll look great in the end, the plumbing side of things is really confusing to me. I can connect taps, seal wastes and clean out pipes, but when it comes to fitting showers and moving water supplies I have no clue! So when is it best to call in a professional? What jobs can I do myself? I don’t want to create a health and safety nightmare in my own bathroom! 

I gave my old sink a facelift with just some new taps

So I’ve been doing my research by reading blogs and watching plumbing videos on YouTube and it’s certainly been a good start to my journey from amateur to pro. Okay, I exaggerate, but at least what my research has done has cleared up what I can and can’t do myself! I read some research on DIY by Slater & Gordon Lawyers and it showed that only 5% of women would be prepared to take on plumbing projects compared with 25% of men. Now, I’m happy having a go at some plumbing but there’s no way I’m doing any soldering of copper pipes. I wouldn’t want to buy all the kit for a start, and I’m not sure I’d do it particularly well – I’m quite slapdash at the best of times! So any kind of heating or hot water work is definitely not my bag! But plumbing using plastic pipes seems to be straightforward enough and I can get an idea of how water systems run around a room. 

I’ve even replaced a bath before – with Cookie’s help, obviously!

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