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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Household DIY – How to install laminate flooring

I’ve recently laid laminate flooring in two rooms of my home and I can honestly say that it was a really easy process. I thought it would take days to install but we were finished within a couple of hours. As long as you have the right equipment – a saw, knee pads and a laminate flooring installation kit (including packers) you can easily lay this type of flooring yourself. Here’s how to do it, step-by-step:Clear away any existing carpet, tiles or pieces of old underlay. Give the room a sweep to make sure you’ve cleared all the debris from the surface, and vacuum the floor to pick up the smaller pieces of dust. If you’re laying the laminate onto a concrete floor you’ll need to start with a damp-proof membrane before adding a layer of underlay.If you’re starting with a wooden floor, you can go straight to laying the underlay. There are plenty of options for underlay out there; foil-coated sheets that insulate the floor, rolls of foam to cushion the laminate or fibre boards – which is the option I went for.This simply evens out the floor so that the laminate flooring will look perfectly flat when fitted. It also adds an extra layer of insulation and, if you’re using it on an upstairs room, it can add a little sound-proofing so you don’t feel like you’re walking about inside a drum, and causing a lot of noise in the rooms below!

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Getting the best from your DSLR camera

In terms of making an investment in technology for the long-term, Digital SLR cameras are definitely the way to go. They are able to capture moments for you in ways that your smartphone simply can’t. And (even though there are upgrades available) if you have a decent camera then you can stick with it for life.

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A new camera can generate hobbies, careers and even a lifestyle choice for you. Where you point your camera can be a massive reflection to others of the life that you are currently leading. Here’s how to get ahead and make a good use of your new toy – or how to blow the dust of a DSLR that you haven’t thought of picking up in ages…

Join a photography club

There are so many photography clubs around, you simply have to look online for the one which is most local to you. Here you will be able to listen to talks and show your photography to like-minded people. You will be set challenges each week under a theme, and each week you can present your interpretation of said theme to the other members. The theme could be a place, a person, or something abstract – the sky’s the limit and it’s an amazingly creative way to get your cogs whirring with your camera.

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Get tips from the experts

Going to a seminar or a talk on cameras, or even enrolling on a course to learn more about them will certainly pique your interest. There’s so much more to photography just pressing down a button and hoping for a good shot; the angles, settings and lenses that you uses are all crucial components to getting a great photo. Once you know the basics and how to put them into practice, you’ll be a lot more confident.

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The ergonomics of working from home

If you’re a full-time freelancer like me, or someone who works just one day a week out of their home office, this is the blog post for you. That’s because I’m sharing some research I’ve done about the ergonomics of setting up a home workspace and I’m sure that it’ll help you enjoy working from home even more than you already do!

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If you’ve been making do with sitting at the kitchen table to do your work, or balancing your laptop on the arm of the sofa, or (like us bloggers occasionally admit) never even leave your bed, you won’t need me to tell you that it’s not the best way to work. You’ll ready know it yourself thanks to the numb bum, crick-in-the-neck and sore back you get at the end of the working day.

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Why don’t you have problems like this when you’re working at the office? Because most businesses have ergonomically designed desks and chairs, perfectly set up desks and monitors at just the right height. They need to provide a healthy working environment for their workers, and don’t want to have staff absences because a dodgy office chair caused spine problems for their employees.

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So the solution to having a more comfortable working environment at home is to replicate ‘the office’. I know it might seem dull (and you’ve only just got away from that bloomin’ office!) but you’re going to have to set up a proper desk, get a great office chair and stop working on that laptop. This guide below explains the best way to arrange your desk to make it ergonomically correct. And, most importantly, you’re going to have actually USE your newly arranged desk to do your work. No matter how tempting the sofa looks!

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AMAZING news – my blog won the award for Best Homes & Interiors Blog 2017

I’m SO excited to tell you the wonderful news that my thrifty little lifestyle blog has just been announced as the winner of the Best Homes and Interiors Blogger Award 2017!! I still can’t really believe it and I’m grinning like the cheshire cat right now!The news has just been shared by the award sponsor Tile Trader and it’s already made the headlines on the East Anglian Daily Times website – here’s a screen shot and link to the article if you’d like to have a read.Thank you all for voting for my blog in the competition, I really appreciate you taking the time to support me and it’s all for a fantastic cause – the prize is a donation of £200 to a homelessness charity in the winner’s local area. I’m delighted to be able to use my little blog to boost the funds of a brand new support service in Suffolk “The Bus Shelter”.

Beautiful photo of the bus renovation project by Jane Gould, image from The Bus Shelter Facebook page

The charity is currently renovating a donated double-decker bus to turn it into a safe space for rough sleepers to stay. But ‘sleep is just the beginning’ (the charity’s motto) as the bus will also offer advice, cooking and washing facilities, and ongoing support. It’s a truly inspirational charity and the project is in progress right now so please get involved if you can – all donations really do make a difference and will help to get The Bus Shelter on the road sooner. You can read more and donate on their Facebook page here.

Thank you all once again for voting for my blog – it’s made a huge difference to a local charity as well as made me indescribably happy! I’m super excited  that I also receive a commemorative plaque for the award to put on the mantlepiece woo, can’t wait for that to arrive in the post – I’ll be sure to share a photo of it on Instagram @cassiefairy when it’s delivered. Thank you for continuing to support me and helping to put Suffolk blogs on the map in this national award competition 🙂


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Where to find bedding in mid-century colours

Hurrah! We finally have some new bedding for our new bedroom. After weeks spent stripping off wallpaper, days painting layers and layers of while emulsion to cover up bright peach walls, and even more hours spent laying beautiful laminate flooring, I think it was about time that we got a little reward for all our hard work. And what do you want when you’ve just turned a room into a perfect white cube? Colour, that’s what! Looking back over my last few home blog posts, I think you can tell the direction in which I’m heading with my interior decor. In fact, it’s no secret that I love mid-century modern design – I’ve had teak furniture and geometric patterns in my home for years. But this time, I’m taking the OTT garishness down a touch. I’m pairing simple white walls with natural textures, so that my mid-century design pieces really stand out and take centre stage. The bedroom is no exception. Where we previously had an eye-catching DIY feature wall made from the pages of old books, I’ve now decided that the bed itself should be the feature in the room. I’ve bought a sleek Hygena bed from Argos (which will take another month to arrive) and it’s undeniably mid-century in design. So I already had this in mind when it came to choosing some new bedding.

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Household DIY – How to strip woodchip wallpaper, the easy way!

Stripping wallpaper is a skill I’ve recently developed. Woodchip wallpaper in particular. It’s a difficult paper to shift and, unfortunately, it seems to be plastered all over ‘houses of a certain age’. I guess it was very fashionable at one point but nowadays it’s the number 1 thing that puts potential buyers off a house. And it’s bloomin’ hard to remove. Yes, I speak from experience here! Thankfully there are ways to make the process a little easier and here’s the steps I followed:1. Scoring the paper

Use the corner of a wallpaper scraper to score the wallpaper all over. Don’t press too hard, otherwise you’ll leave marks in the plaster. You can also use the flat edge of the wallpaper scraper to ‘skim’ over the woodchip surface. This knocks off some of the woodchip and allows more moisture to soak in.2. Soaking with wallpaper stripper

Sure you can use regular water to soak the surface of the wallpaper, but adding a splash of wallpaper stripper to your bucket ‘super-charges’ the water. I used a bottle of Everbuild wallpaper stripper and only needed 125ml in a gallon of water. That was plenty enough to soak all the walls of the living room. This means that I’ve got three quarters of the bottle left to do other rooms. Mix it into a bucket of water (following the instructions on the bottle) and use a large sponge to spread the foamy water over the wallpaper. Allow to soak in for 15 minutes – coincidentally the same length of time that it’ll take heat up your steamer.3. Steam the wallpaper

Fill the steamer with water and allow to heat up for 15 minutes. You don’t need an industrial or expensive steamer to do this job – the tool I’m using is the lowest priced steam I could find from FFX – the Earlex Steam Wallpaper Stripper. It gives me 70 minutes of steaming per fill, which is about the length of time it took to strip each wall. Hold the steamer to the wall and leave in place for about ten seconds. Move it onto the next section of the wall and hold in place while you scrap the first piece away.

4. Scrape away the woodchip layer

Use the flat edge of a stripping knife to scrape away the top layer of woodchip. You’ll get a speckled effect on the wallpaper as the bigger chunks of woodchip come off. This allows more steam to get into the wallpaper and make it easier to strip away from the wall. Give the wallpaper a second steaming before moving onto the stripping…

5. Strip off the woodchip

Push the wallpaper stripper tool beneath the wallpaper and lift it away from the wall. If you come across a stubborn piece of wallpaper, give it another blast with the steamer before scraping. I used a Stanley Hobby Stripping Knife to ease the woodchip off the wall.

From this (woodchip walls that look perfectly normal at a distance)

To this (a room that now looks like it should be on Homes Under The Hammer!)

And really, that’s all there is to it! Sort of the same as stripping normal wallpaper, but with a couple of important extra steps – the stripping solution and the scraping effect. I’ve made a quick video (shared below and on my new YouTube channel) to show you the whole process, step-by-step so that you can see exactly how we did it.

If you’ve found this helpful please ‘like’ my video or follow my new Cassiefairy channel on YouTube for more DIY projects and thrifty solutions.


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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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Pieday Friday – Creamy corn soup recipe

I have to admit – this week’s Pieday Friday recipe isn’t my own. My friend Sophie, who has her own blog La Vie Sophie, shared this recipe back in 2015. It seemed almost too simple, but when I tried making it for myself I was amazed at just how easy it was to make a creamy corn soup that tasted great and contained no dairy at all. I’ve been making it ever since and now I just can’t keep it to myself anymore. So how did Sophie get the creaminess into the soup without adding dairy? It’s all down the three (yes, just three) ingredients in this recipe… Sweetcorn, stock and spaghetti. It’s the pasta that gives it the creaminess, that’s all there is to it. It’s healthy and tasty, and can be made with just a few ingredients that you probably already have at home. And if you pick up a pack of 25p spaghetti and a 40p tin of sweetcorn from the supermarket, this is a pretty low-cost lunch too! Of course, you could use fresh sweetcorn too – and you can experiment with veggie or chicken stock to vary the recipe a little – just give it a try and see what you prefer. If you’d like to make this meal for yourself here’s the link to the creamy corn soup recipe on Sophie’s blog, which gives you all the measurements, method and timings. And here are my pics of the process when I made this soup for lunch on Wednesday this week.

Sophie’s recipe calls for half of the soup to be blended and half to be left as it is. This gives you little noodles in the soup and less thick texture. But I’ve tried blending the whole pan of soup in the past and I really liked how creamy it turned out – plus, it soaked into the bread I was dipping into my bowl perfectly! I’m using the MX-ZX1800 Panasonic blender to whizz up my soup and it takes only seconds to blitz the whole batch of soup.

I used the pulse setting to start with, so that the sweetcorn and pasta would start to break down easily. When it started to look creamy, I turned up the blending function to whizz it into a really super-smooth texture. The thing is that I’m not actually much of a fan of tinned sweetcorn (love it fresh on the cob though!) so I like to make sure that all the sweetcorn kernels are completely blended before eating.

This blender can take hot or cold foods but some others can’t have hot liquids in them, so be sure to check and you might need to cook this in advance and let it cool down before you can blend it. Thankfully, the Panasonic blender is fine with hot liquids so I could cook, blend and dish up my lunch in a matter of minutes. When you’re as hungry as I am, speed is a bonus! Just a touch of salt and pepper is all that’s needed to finished off this dish – although I’ve found that a sprinkling of my favourite smoked paprika is a delicious addition too!

What do you think of Sophie’s recipe? Have you made any soups with pasta before? I hope you’ll have a look around Sophies blog and have a read of her fantastic posts and recipes. And I hope you enjoy your healthy yet creamy corn soup lunch!


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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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Homemade upcycled gifts – How to make a memory bear using baby clothes

What do you get for your niece and nephew when you’re the coolest aunt in the world? Why, handmade teddy bears, of course! It’s a project that has been six months in the making and now the bears are finally wrapped up and flying across the sea to reach the little ones in Ireland in time for Christmas. Now, I’m not saying that it took me six months to actually sew the bears – the making part is quite a simple process (thanks to the new teddy bear pattern I used) – it was all the planning that went into the project that took some time and I’ll tell you why.homemade-handmade-sewing-project-teddy-bears-ted-amazing-craft-bear-pattern-diy-gift-project-16homemade-handmade-sewing-project-teddy-bears-ted-amazing-craft-bear-pattern-diy-gift-project-1I wanted to make a keepsake teddy bear for each child, so I wanted them to be personalised in some way. When I first opened up the pattern I could see that it would be easy to make the pattern pieces fit into items of my niece and nephew’s clothing. What better way to make a personalised gift, and to upcycle old clothing at the same time, than to reuse their baby clothes to make them a teddy bear? I asked their parents if they had any of their tiny outfits left, and luckily they did. I asked for non-stretchy items (which are easier to sew) and it wasn’t long before a bag of baby clothes arrived.homemade-handmade-sewing-project-teddy-bears-ted-amazing-craft-bear-pattern-diy-gift-project-17 homemade-handmade-sewing-project-teddy-bears-ted-amazing-craft-bear-pattern-diy-gift-project-3I got the newly launched Charlie teddy bear pattern from Amazing Craft and studied the instructions from front to back before getting started. There’s only a handful of pattern pieces and the construction seemed so much more straightforward than bear patterns I’ve used in the past. I was eager to get started and see just how the pattern worked. I’m pleased to report that this is the most simple-to-use set of instructions, and having fewer pattern pieces meant much less tacking, pinning and fiddling. I whizzed up the arms and legs in no time at all. The body is the only piece that has any darts in it, and even then there’s only two small darts so it’s really uncomplicated to construct. I guess the pattern does what it says on the cover – it truly is ‘bear making for beginners’ and it couldn’t be easier to follow. It’s available as printed instructions (which I got, at £6.99) or as a digital download to print at home for only £4.99.homemade-handmade-sewing-project-teddy-bears-ted-amazing-craft-bear-pattern-diy-gift-project-12homemade-handmade-sewing-project-teddy-bears-ted-amazing-craft-bear-pattern-diy-gift-project-2homemade-handmade-sewing-project-teddy-bears-ted-amazing-craft-bear-pattern-diy-gift-project-15 The little trousers were the perfect base to make the arms and legs of the teddies – the linen fabric wasn’t at all stretchy and I could make a feature out of the details on the trousers. I positioned the pattern pieces so that my niece’s bear would have the spotty trim from the trousers around the outside of the paws, and my nephew’s bear has tiny pockets on the legs. I could even reuse the lining of my nephew’s trousers to make a soft inner arm, and I added little monster designs from his tiny t-shirt to make contrasting paws and feet. I used a floral baby-grow to make the insides my of niece’s bear’s arms and even the bears’ ears have a patterned underside.homemade-handmade-sewing-project-teddy-bears-ted-amazing-craft-bear-pattern-diy-gift-project-14 homemade-handmade-sewing-project-teddy-bears-ted-amazing-craft-bear-pattern-diy-gift-project-19homemade-handmade-sewing-project-teddy-bears-ted-amazing-craft-bear-pattern-diy-gift-project-4I wanted the bears to be safe for the little ones to carry around, so I got some safety eyes and plastic safety joints from Amazing Craft. This means that the head, arms and legs are poseable and the eyes can’t be bitten off because they pop together and clamp into place. In fact, I couldn’t even get the joints apart again if I tried! My tip for using these is to get the position of the arms and legs right first time, because you won’t be able to take them off again if they’re in the wrong place, so double-check the position before pushing the joints together. Soaking the joints in hot water for a minute will make them a littler easier to pop together. The plastic joints are also safe to go in the washing machine, which is good news because we all know how mucky kid’s teddies get!homemade-handmade-sewing-project-teddy-bears-ted-amazing-craft-bear-pattern-diy-gift-project-7

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