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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Travel aspirations for 2017 – Amsterdam

The trouble with Instagram is that it makes you want to travel. I can barely open the app without spotting photos of my friends flying to far-flung destinations, skiing down a picturesque mountainside or swimming in a turquoise blue sea. And it can’t just be me that’s seeing daily updates like this, can it? Okay, Instagram isn’t exactly a holiday brochure, but it pretty-much has the same effect on me. A photo of a glittering nighttime cityscape? It’s my blogging buddy enjoying a week away in New York. A steaming hot lagoon? That’s my friend’s new year’s trip to Iceland. And the northern lights? My brother’s mate lives in Finland. So forgive me for wanting to research exotic trips every time I try to put another photo of my sewing projects on Instagram (@Cassiefairy if you’re interested!).

Photo: Roetz Bikes

Photo: Roetz Bikes

Budget aside I’d love to visit all of these destinations, but home-buying tends to be an expensive business and I’d like to prioritise that this year. However, I’m sure that there are some nearer-to-home trips that I can take that will be just as Instagram-worthy as my friends’ holidays. So I’ve already been on the CitizenM website this morning, daydreaming of a trip to Amsterdam for 2017.

Photo: CitizenM

Photo: CitizenM

As the capital of the Netherlands, it’s a city that I’ve always wanted to visit but have never found a reason to go. My husband has been there recently, and really I should have gone on that work trip with him but I was too busy to take a break at the time. When he returned home with photos of canals and giant waffles I realised that I’d made a mistake. I vowed to go with him ‘next time’ and I’m already drawing up a list of places I want to visit while I’m there.

van-gogh-museum

Photo: Jan-Kees Steenman

I’ve been recently writing artist profiles so one of the first destinations on my ‘to do’ list is the Van Gogh Museum. I’ve read a lot about the artist and have recently been researching his work, but I’ve never seen his paintings ‘in real life’. When the Sunflowers exhibition was on at the National Gallery in London, the queue was a couple of hours long to see the exhibition, and tickets were rather expensive too. So hubby and I wandered around the gallery instead and, as we were passing a large door, it opened and we could see right into the Sunflowers exhibition. We weren’t more than a few feet away from the painting so technically I have seen it, but only for the few seconds that the door swung open and then closed again. Just that little taste of Van Gogh was enough to make me want to visit the museum in Amsterdam.

Photo: Jan-Kees Steenman

Photo: Jan-Kees Steenman

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No wifi for the weekend

When was the last time that you went offline? For me, it’s probably been years. Ever since I got my first smart phone I’ve not had a day away from the internet. Well, when you’re carrying a computer in your pocket at all times, and your job is based online, and your friends contact you via social media, how can you ever really get away from it? It used to be easy to take a break: on a Friday night you’d simply shut down your computer and relax for the weekend. There was no social media to tempt you to stay up late scrolling through posts, and no-one expected a reply to their emails until Monday morning. In fact, no-one really sent those Saturday evening emails, because they too had closed down their computer at the end of the working week.christmas-jumper-festive-mince-pie-fire-bath-hygge-reading-sewing-xmas-festive-wifi-1After months of hard work, I knew I needed a break so hubby and I went away for a relaxing weekend away in Badger cottage in Sweffling. It’s a charming little barn that’s been converted into a super-cosy two bedroom holiday home in the beautiful Suffolk countryside. Arriving on Thursday evening, were delighted to find original beams and character galore, a deep reclaimed roll-top bath, and a big log fire. Everything we needed was right there at hand in the well-stocked kitchen, bathroom and living room. The stack of firewood and flickering woodburner let us know that we were in for a warm and cosy weekend. Candles in every room offered a calming sense of hygge and we felt completely at home the minute we stepped inside the door.christmas-jumper-festive-mince-pie-fire-bath-hygge-reading-sewing-xmas-festive-wifi-3Taking time away from the internet was partially self-inflicted and partially down my GiffGaff phone not being able to get any signal. I wanted to make the most of my time away from home, of course I did, but I’d still brought along my iPad and phone in case I ‘needed’ to get online. After an inital ‘why isn’t it working?!’ frustration, I asked myself why I was even trying to get online anyway. I realised that just knowing that I could get online if I wanted to was a bit of a comfort blanket. And I also realised that I’m a grown-up and don’t need comfort blankets anymore! And if I could have logged on, it’s likely that I would have wasted the whole weekend scrolling through Instagram or saving things on Pinterest (I convince myself it’s okay to spend time doing this because it’s ‘research’). christmas-jumper-festive-mince-pie-fire-bath-hygge-reading-sewing-xmas-festive-wifi-2So thank goodness that I couldn’t find that 3G signal anywhere, and thank goodness that I didn’t go searching for a wifi hotspot. Because it turns out that I had the best few (internet-free) days ever… Continue reading “No wifi for the weekend” »


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Festive days out – Christmas at Blackthorpe Barn

This time last week I was preparing to attend the launch of Christmas at Blackthorpe Barn in Suffolk. It was my first Suffolk-based event as a blogger (not much seems to go on around here!) so you can imagine how chuffed I was to be invited to a blogger event that didn’t require travelling to London! I picked out my favourite snowflake jumper and pulled on my cosy suede boots and headed off to Rougham to attend the event, hosted by the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce.christmas-shopping-blackthorpe-barn-santas-grotto-festive-days-out-suffolk-19 christmas-shopping-blackthorpe-barn-santas-grotto-festive-days-out-suffolk-14 christmas-shopping-blackthorpe-barn-santas-grotto-festive-days-out-suffolk-21christmas-shopping-blackthorpe-barn-santas-grotto-festive-days-out-suffolk-8We were greeted with plenty of spectacular foliage and decorations in the entrance hall and the glass of champagne went down a treat! With canapés doing the rounds and plenty of lovely folk to chat to, I was in my element. But it was the impending opening of the Christmas barn that I was really excited about. I booked myself onto a tour of the ancient barn and Santa’s grotto as soon as I arrived!

As someone who has visited Blackthorpe Barn as part of the Christmas traditions for many years now, I was almost giddy with excitement to be at the opening event. The Mayor of Bury St Edmunds cut the ribbon to open the event and I’m proud to say that I was one of the first people into the Christmas barn this year. It was lovely to see the barn perfectly decorated without a bauble out of place. No doubt this will all change as customers start buying decorations but it was a delight to behold nonetheless.

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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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Tips for a day out at Ipswich Transport Museum

If you like buses, trams, motor bikes, old trucks and fire engines (or lawnmowers, for that matter) this is the museum for you. It’s packed full of vintage vehicles and, while it looks unassuming from the outside, it’s like a tardis inside. There are plenty of additional display that lead off from the main bus station hanger, and you can even see inside the workshops where restoration projects are ongoing. But it’s not just an interesting history exhibit – there are plenty of interactive displays too. With opportunities to hop aboard retro buses and trams, it’s simply fascinating for the little ones. Plus, they can even have a go on the fire engine! Here are some snaps from my visit to the transport museum and my tips for making a visit.day out ipwich transport museum school holiday trip-8 day out ipwich transport museum school holiday trip-12 day out ipwich transport museum school holiday trip-10day out ipwich transport museum school holiday trip-11Parking – While I didn’t spot a dedicated car park, there’s plenty of parking space available beside the industrial road which runs alongside the museum hangar. And there’s no charge to park.

Food and drink – The Sunbeam Tea Rooms offers food and drink at reasonable prices, or you could take a picnic to enjoy on the grassed area outside the front of the museum. We popped in and out of the museum all day long, so readmission is possible.

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My summer so far…

It’s only half way through the school holidays and I’ve already been having a wonderful summer break. I’ve been on a few day trips, I’ve visited a handful of places and got a few of my “to-do’s” done. If you’re wondering what I’ve been up to, here’s the goss…summer holiday sunset beach huts seaside-2I went to the seaside. During the very first weekend of the summer holidays I organised to go away from Friday – Monday. It isn’t a long drive from here to the Essex coast, but it was a very hot one! We arrived for our yearly family holiday at around 9am and headed straight to the beach hut. We pretty much spent the rest of the day on the beach, throwing a giant frisbee that I’d bought ‘for the kids’ and tucking into traditional fish ‘n’ chips. The heat dictated plenty of trips to the swimming pool and lots of breezy walks along the promenade to cool off. We enjoyed a game of bowling on Saturday evening, and the bowl ‘n’ burger deal on the pier is always a winner – the burgers are huge! Sunday was a chilled out beach day and on Monday we visited the nearest ‘big’ town for more arcade fun and a trip to the Sealife Centre. A wonderful weekend.

I visited a museum. Ipswich Transport Museum to be precise. I’d never been before, despite growing up in Suffolk from the age of ten. It was a real surprise to find so many interesting exhibits in an unassuming old bus hangar. I’ll share more photos in a ‘proper’ blog post about the museum soon and give you my tips for visiting during the school hols. Another lovely day out with the family that didn’t cost a fortune, bonus!

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How a new dress can help you stay cool this summer

So I went away last weekend. I didn’t go far, just on our yearly jaunt to the Essex coast, but boy was it nice to be beside the seaside. The cool sea breeze was really needed after that heatwave the week before. Even stepping off the promenade and making my way inland caused instant overheating. Blimey it was hot! It was lovely to be on a UK break that actually felt like a trip abroad, and it meant that we could spend more time on the beach together as a family rather than sheltering from the rain in an arcade!hotsquash summer dress cool fabric ss16 outfitI think I’ve mentioned it before but I’m not great with the heat. My pale, freckly skin just doesn’t get on with the sun. On hot days you’ll find me slinking off into the beach hut to shelter from the sun and I’ll always choose to walk on the shadowy side of the street. SPF 50 is definitely my must-have beauty product at this time of year!hotsquash summer dress cool fabric polka dot outfit

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My photos from Latitude Festival 2016

Just wanted to share a quick blog post today with some of the photos I took at this year’s Latitude Festival.latitude festival 2016 summer fest suffolk_-12 latitude festival 2016 summer fest suffolk_-11 latitude festival 2016 summer fest suffolk_-2Some of my personal highlights included watching a breath-taking performance by festival novice Jane Horrocks in the Film & Music arena, and sitting in on the Standard Issue Magazine discussion in the Literature tent, where one of my favourite actresses Helen Monks was on the panel.

As you probably know, I only really go to Latitude festival for the comedy, art and theatre performances so it was great to watch some fantastic performers that I’ve never seen live before, including David O’Doherty (who had me screaming with laughter as soon as he started to play his tiny keyboard, and who I later bumped into and snapped a selfie!) and the MC for the comedy tent David Morgan. The Toy Story trilogy acted out by the Comedians Cinema Club was a surprisingly fun way to spend the afternoon.

Last year’s MC Nish Kumar performed again this year, and I chuckled my way through Mark Watson’s lunchtime set. We decided not to watch the standing-room-only performance by Bill Bailey and went to check out Jane Horrocks’ festival debut with the If You Kiss Me Kiss Me Band. Luckily we got there early and ended up with a front row spot as the tent quickly filled to bursting point. I’m certain that Jane’s performance will go down in Latitude history as one of the best festival music sets ever. What a legend. latitude festival 2016 summer fest suffolk_-16 latitude festival 2016 summer fest suffolk_-4 latitude festival 2016 summer fest suffolk_Food was great, the sun was out, I drank lots of milkshakes and brought home the traditional Latitude cup, so all in all it was a good year at the Suffolk-based festival.


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A romantic tour along the Amalfi coast

For romantic couples all over the world, the Amalfi coast has always been a favourite destination; not only because this region attracts the crème-de-la-creme of high society and offers a glamorous opportunity to mingle with the rich and famous (experience a chic and luxurious holiday even if you are on a budget!) but also due to its breathtaking natural scenery and cultural heritage. Today I’m pleased to bring you a fabulous guest post all about touring the Amalfi coast, and I hope it’ll inspire you to make some plans this summer, just like it has inspired me too!amalfi-coast-sunmaster-holidaysDesignated by UNESCO as “an outstanding example of a Mediterranean landscape, with exceptional cultural and scenic values,” it was added to the list of protected world heritage sites in 1997. The coast has had the privilege of being home to many famous artists, painters and writers over the centuries who found it to be a perfect place for inspiration during their travels. These include the likes of the 14th Century writer Giovanni Boccaccio, the famous 19th Century composer Richard Wagner, the 20th Century playwright Tennessee Williams and many movie celebrities.villa rufolo italy amalfi coast tour

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Why catching the bus is the thrifty travel option

Did you know that 4th-10th July is “Catch The Bus Week”? As a thrifty gal who likes to save money on travel this really interested me. Other than using park-and-ride services to travel into big cities like Cambridge and Norwich (which is a really thrifty way to park in cities like this, not to mention avoid sitting for hours in traffic!) I’ve not really been on a bus for quite a few years. But I remember it being a fun thing to set off on a trip by bus – especially when we were students – so ‘Catch The Bus Week’ (and the twitter hashtag #CTBW) really caught my attention and I wanted to investigate further.catch the bus weekWhen you consider the cost of owning a car (yes, those payments for insurance, car tax, MOTs and maintenance all add up!), combined with the fuel needed to make the trip, parking costs and the time it takes to sit in slow-moving traffic as busses zip past in the bus lane (time is money, my friend), I can’t believe that I hadn’t realised the thrifty nature of bus travel until now. It’s like having a pay-as-you-go vehicle, which totally makes sense to me – you only pay when you actually use it! And when I looked up bus fares this week I actually think that the price is less than I remember.biobusAnd I’ve not even mentioned the ecological benefits of only one vehicle travelling with numerous passengers. It would mean that roads are less congested, fewer emissions will be polluting the air in cities AND it rush hour will become a thing of the past. Okay, maybe I’m getting carried away here but travelling by bus is definitely something worth considering. I know that some regions have less-than-reliable bus services (we’re very rural here and catching a bus would be difficult) but there are lots of places you can easily travel by bus. Check out this interactive map to see some of the areas Stagecoach operate in.addenbrookes

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