Cassiefairy's thrifty lifestyle blog

Cassiefairy's thrifty little lifestyle blog – DIY crafts, sewing, food & fashion – what more does a girl need??


Leave a comment

The Great Blogger Bake Off ~ Apple Crumble two ways

The theme for this week’s Great Blogger Bake Off was (as always) inspired by The Great British Bake Off, and I’m pleased to tell you that it is one of my favourite things to make; desserts!

I went for a stroll this weekend and picked some blackberries that have ripened particularly early this year. There was a good handful that were already ready to be picked but not enough for my yearly jam-making session, so I decided to make the most of this early crop by adding them to one of my favourite puds of all-time – apple crumble.

I actually made two crumbles this week; one apple and blackberry and one apple with cinnamon and sultanas. It was such a simple recipe that I didn’t even follow a recipe to make this dessert, I went more on how the crumble topping looked rather than by measurements. Here’s a photo of my approximate meaasurements which were about 2 tablespoons of butter (or margarine), 4 tablespoons of flour and 2 tablespoons of sugar, which makes the topping for a crumble for approx. 2/3 people in my deep oval dish.

Similarly, with the apples I just filled the dish with peeled, sliced apples until it looked like there were enough in there for the base, threw in a handful of blackberries with a couple of tablespoons of caster sugar. In the second crumble I added a sprinkling of cinnamon and a few sultanas along with the apples and sugar. I then added the crumble topping and sprinkled each top with sugar (brown or white, either is fine!) and a bit more cinnamon on the sultana crumble. I always feel like Meg Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle when I peel apples because she peels a whole massive apple in one long curly strip and I try to recreate that!

apple cinnamon and sultana recipe for the great blogger bake off-10

apple cinnamon and sultana recipe for the great blogger bake off-9

The crumbles took approx. 30 minutes in the oven at 180 degrees and I enjoyed them with a scoop of ice cream, although when I watch tonight’s Great British Bake Off, I’ll probably add a blob of extra thick cream to the cinnamon apple crumble instead!

 I still can’t believe that Cassiefairy.com has made it onto the Cosmo Blog Awards 2014 shortlist for Best Lifestyle Blog! It would mean the world to me if you would vote for my blog before voting closes THIS WEEK on 29th August – thank you SO much!


Leave a comment

Weirdest place to sleep

Are you one of those people who can sleep anywhere? Where’s the weirdest place you’ve fallen asleep? Do you enjoy a good daytime nap? I have many pals who can nap sitting up, can grab some zzzs on a bus and who have even fallen asleep into their lunch (during our late-night student days). I’ve never really been one of those people. I’d like to nap while I’m on public transport and enjoy the benefits of not having to drive, but I worry that I will miss my stop and end up in Scotland! Even a sleep-deprived me would soldier on and not nap – I was more likely to cry from being over-tired than put my head down for forty winks during the day. But recently things have started to change…

cats can sleep anywhere - wheres the weirdest place you can sleep

Whether it’s due to getting a little older or having a more active lifestyle something is tiring me out. I don’t know what it is but one thing’s for sure; I’ve started to nod off in cars. I get a happy sleepy feeling when it’s warm and cosy – when someone else is driving, of course! I never really fall asleep though, because I like to keep a look out for traffic or hazards even when I’m not the driver. Even so, I’ve started to realise how my cats feel when they simply can’t stay awake any longer, their eyelids get heavy and their breathing slows down. It can be quite funny watching my cats fighting the urge to fall asleep and it’s the same with babies too. How nice it must be to just be able to sleep anytime, anywhere!

cats can sleep anywhere - wheres the weirdest place you can sleep-2

I’ve just heard about a competition by Carpetright to win a £700 bed or a luxury glamping holiday with the family which you can enter by sharing photos of your friends or family sleeping in the strangest of places. Just tweet @Carpetright, tag Carpetright in a Facebook status or use @Carpetrightuk in your Instagram captions along with the hashtag #WeirdestPlaceToSleep. I’m pretty sure that no one will be posting photos of a sleepy me; unless my husband snaps a photo during the night – but I’m not sure that ‘in bed’ is a particularly strange place to snooze! Even so, I’m going to be making hot chocolate for all my friends and offering family a blanket to snuggle under when then come to visit in the hope of taking a sneaky photo to enter the competition – of course I would share the prize with them if I were to win, it’s only fair!

cats can sleep anywhere - wheres the weirdest place youve slept

Let me know if you can sleep in an unusual place and I look forward to seeing your photos for the competition! The competition closes on 3rd September 2014 so get your entries in now!


1 Comment

Tuesday Shoesday ~ Your Shoes: Blogstock 2014

As you may remember, I’ve written a series of Tuesday Shoesday blog posts about other peoples’ shoes in March and April, as well as a special post on the favourite shoes of the National Blog Award winners! Today’s post is all about the favourite shoes of my fellow happy campers that I met at Blogstock 2014 and I asked them the same question that I’ve asked all my other contributors:  What are your favourite shoes and why?

ReeRee Rockette of award-winning brand Rockalily ran a session on ‘The Power of Niche’ at Blogstock and kicked butt during the end-of-festival debate. We bonded over a cocktail-making session and I was delighted when she agreed to join in with this Tuesday Shoesday post. ReeRee sent me a photo of her trainers and told me all about why they are her favourites; “My favourite shoes are pretty shabby, but my Nike Air Maxs are definitely my favourite footwear. I have a chronic back problem, and wear heels very rarely, but for many years swore off trainers. Nikes no longer suited the person I wanted to be, but actually I’ve come to realise I’m still a Nike girl, and can happily mix and match styles; whatever makes me happy! I’m pretty thrifty, and I found these shoes, almost brand new in a charity shop for £4.50, which makes them even better! I’m a little sad I’ve let them get so sad looking, but perhaps it just means I’m due an upgrade!”

ree shoes

I met some lovely new pals at Blogstock and after sheltering from the rain and dancing the night away with Laura from Cherishing the Cherry Blossoms blog I knew we had become firm friends. She told me the story of how she came to own her favourite shoes after a trip to Eastern Asia; “Definitely my most whimsical pair of shoes, I bought these in Korea following months of deliberation, wondering whether they would be accepted outside of their Korean context. Lots of girls love them over there, particularly the hidden heel! I let my heart decide and made the purchase in an underground market in Busan (Korea’s second biggest city). It seems they’re pretty big over here too although my sister Lindsay reckons they’re ‘chavvy’. Despite this, and feeling a little bit like they should have ruled my wardrobe 10 years ago, I absolutely don’t regret the investment and wear them with pride.”SONY DSC

SONY DSC

Kirstine and I shared some Lonely Planet photobooth fun at Blogstock (and those photos will never be seen!) so I knew she’d be game for taking part in my Tuesday Shoesday blog post. Her new blog is Travel Before It’s Too Late and it’s already looking fantastic! Kirstine chose favourite Vivienne Westwood shoes and shared her reasons for choosing them;

“These are my current faves based on the following:
- they are bright yellow and perfect for wearing in the summer sunshine
- they are my first Vivienne Westwoods and made of rubber/ Jelly
- they look fab dressed down with skinny jeans or up with my favourite 50s style dress
- they are wedges therefore add those all important inches to my 5ft 2in self but are super comfy
- did I mention they are yellow…?”

Top travel writer Neil from Backpacks and Bunkbeds sent me photos of his custom-made shoes and told me the story of how he came to own them: “I’m not normally a shoe guy, more of a trainers person, but earlier this year I was lucky enough to venture out to Vietnam with my better half, and she pretty much insisted that I have some new shoes made.  I was skeptical about how they would come out, but like everything else I ordered in Hoi An (1 suit and 3 shirts), the finished shoes were near enough spot on.  Smart enough for work, but much more comfy than my usual footwear purchases from the high street, at £30 I consider my Vietnamese shoes a bargain and love them for it.”

After watching some of her YouTube videos, I was totally in awe of pro vlogger Ceara McEvoy who ran a session entitled ‘Join the Vlogosphere’ at Blogstock. I made sure that I joined the crush of bloggers packed into the tipi for her workshop and I learnt a lot during that hour. I’ve even tried out make my first video this week – only for family viewing so far – but at least I’m getting used to the editing software..! Ceara sent me a photo of her favourite Topshop shoes and the reasons why they are just right for her:

‘Every girl needs a comfortable pair of high-heel shoes,’ bleats my Mother, your girlfriends, the lady in the woman’s footwear department, your aunt with the shoe fetish. Although a commonly known and hard lived by phrase, I have to admit this concept was as foreign to me as a bear in a tea shop until I moved to London. You see where I’m from, the seaside shores of Cape Town, we drive everywhere! Without the need to walk from pillar to post, the concept of having a ‘comfortable pair of high heels’ is unnecessary. From skyscraper wedges to the latest Lady Gaga Jellyfish platforms – everything goes. But as soon as I moved to London I had to ditch my towering heels for something more sensible. A pair of shoes that could get me from Hackney central all the way to Baker street and then some without breaking an ankle. I was on the hunt for the ultimate pair of heels that ticked the boxes in terms of comfort, style, originality and let’s not forget.. elevation!  Now look, I ain’t no girly girl either, so don’t give me floral and bows. But after some scouting about, I found my match! And here they are. The perfect ‘Ceara’ heel – the Spice Girl inspired platforms. These babies were found in Topshop and are created by the oh so trendy Vagabond. I believe you can also purchase them online. They are a bit of a splurge at 90 quid a pop, but for me they tick the three boxes, so the last can go out the window. I’ve never looked back…

vlogger ceara mcevoys favourite shoes

After dancing the ‘running man’ with Naomi from personal travel blog Todd’s Travels at Blogstock, I decided to get in touch to see what her favourite shoes would be. Quite appropriately Naomi also chose a pair of Nikes as her top trainers; “Despite always loving high heels, my considerable lack of coordination hinders any chance of wearing them so my Nike Air Maxs have to be my favourite shoes: they make me look a lot more fashionable than I actually am (to be honest, I’m probably not cool enough for them!), they go with the majority of my wardrobe and they make me feel like I am walking on cushions, they are that comfortable. What more could you want?”

todds travels nike trainers

Thanks for sending in your contributions guys! I’ve learnt that comfort is important to these fabulous Blogstock-ers and I’ve never been more jealous of someone else’s footwear than I am of Neil’s hand-made leather shoes! If you too would like to tell me about your favourite ever pair of shoes please get in touch via email cassie@cassiefairy.co.uk with a snap of your shoes and sentence or two about why you like them and you’ll appear in next month’s ‘Your Shoes’ feature! :)

 I still cant believe that Cassiefairy.com has made it onto the Cosmo Blog Awards 2014 shortlist for Best Lifestyle Blog! It would mean the world to me if you would vote for my blog before voting closes this week (EEK!) on 29th August – thank you SO much!


1 Comment

My experience of becoming a self-hosted blog

Today I wanted to share my blog post on making the switch from WordPress.com to .org which was first published on The Fairy Blogmother blog, where you can find jargon-free advice, user-friendly tutorials and support with any aspect of WordPress.

Earlier this year, I became a self-hosted blog. I’d been a lifelong WordPress.com user and had run a number of websites and blogs through the platform but a couple of issues a few months ago led me to consider taking the plunge and moving over to a self-hosted WordPress.org installation.

I did a lot of research into the differences between the two versions and it seemed like moving to WordPress.org was the best way for me to make progress in my blogging career. I wanted to share my experiences with you in case you too are considering making the switch because I learnt a lot during the process and there may be things affected that you haven’t yet considered – I certainly got a few surprises along the way!

What did I start off with?

Well, I’d been using WordPress.com for just under 3 years, as a blogging tool to promote my own fancy dress shop business. I liked how user-friendly the dashboard was compared to other sites I’d used in the past and I felt like a complete internet-whizz using this software because I could do a lot of my own editing, formatting and site-building without needing outside help. I saw my blog grow in readership over the years and when I finished my Masters degree I had more time to dedicate to writing, so I started blogging every day. This quickly increased my readership and Cassiefairy.com became a very busy place indeed.

cassiefairy in the newspaper national blog awards 2014

Fifteen minutes of fame in the local paper

I soon discovered that blogs could be monetized through affiliate links, banner ads and hosted content but at the time using WordPress for any kind of advertising was completely prohibited. When I purchased my own Cassiefairy.com domain through WordPress.com this allowed me to start earning from WordAds. These are already on every WordPress.com blog (unless you’ve paid for a no-ads upgrade) so I thought I might as well use the adverts to earn a little money for myself but I found that I only made a few pounds per month through using WordAds and still couldn’t become an affiliate and earn commission that way like other bloggers did. I lived in fear that my blog might be taken away from me at any time if I put a link (I’m talking about just a straightforward unpaid natural link) into my posts in case WordPress.com ‘thought’ I was making a profit from it.

I was turning stuff down…

I found that I was turning down offers from media agencies and brands because of the restrictions in the WordPress.com terms and conditions and I knew I needed to make a change so that I could keep the blog running as my full-time job.  Interestingly enough, it was a link on my blog that forced me to make the switch earlier this year. I posted a link within one of my blog posts and through a friend I found out that once my blog post has been published the link had become an affiliate link for the benefit for WordPress.com. I couldn’t believe it! I wasn’t making any money as an affiliate but WordPress.com had been redirecting my links so that they could earn from my audience! The only way to avoid this was by buying a no-ads upgrade.  I later found out that the T&Cs had changed since I first signed up over 3 years ago and affiliate links were now permitted, but I was so incensed that WordPress.com had been skimming my links for their own gain that I decided it was finally time to move.

Company magazine style blogger awards 2013 cassiefairy mybluerinse

Making best friends at the Company Style Blogger Awards in 2013

I decided to transfer over

I was a little grumpy that I needed to pay WordPress.com in order to move through a ‘Guided Transfer’, but that was simply because I am so un-techy that I knew I wouldn’t be able install WordPress.org at my chosen self-hosting server and I was terrified that I would lose 3 years-worth of content, all my settings and blog design. So I paid for the Guided Transfer service and it was quite straightforward – they told me when the transfer would start so that I didn’t use my blog while it was being moved, and they emailed me again once the transfer had been completed. The Guided Transfer team were available for me to email with any questions over the coming 2 weeks, but each time I asked for assistance or why something unusual had happened, they did get back to me but without a real answer nor did they provide any further technical help. Their replies were along the lines of ‘this is probably what it is…’, ‘here’s is a link to a help page…’, ‘it looks okay from my end…’, ‘you’ll need to do that yourself…’, ‘see how you get on…’, ‘refer that question to your host…’ etc. So I felt both supported by them being available to ask my questions to, but completely on my own in terms of fixing problems myself at the same time.

1000th blog post celebration cake for Cassiefairy

A massive cake to celebrate my 1000th blog post back in May

Once I started using WordPress.org I was really happy that I’d made the move. Everything was the same in terms of blogging and using the dashboard, and I found that installing Plugins wasn’t as difficult or scary as I’d imagined. The only worrying thing is that WordPress.org doesn’t back up your posts so it’s a good idea to do so yourself and I’ve been very vigilant with keeping copies of my work. Touch wood, nothing has gone wrong with my self-hosted installation so far and I’ve found out there are many benefits of being self-hosted (along with a few cons!) so here’s what’s been good and bad about the move in my experience:

  • Why I chose DreamHost I chose DreamHost due to their promise of 100% uptime yet I’ve already had a total of about 6 minutes downtime this year, but it always seems to be in the middle of the night and I really can’t complain about the service the rest of the time. They have a very helpful support team who always answer any of my questions within hours.
  • What’s happened to my readers I was told by WordPress.com that I wouldn’t lose my readership as a result of the transfer but I later discovered that around a third of my readers were finding my blog through tags in the WordPress.com ‘Reader’, and now that I’m self-hosted my tags are no longer included in the Reader app so I can’t be found by new readers through a keyword search. My blog is still listed on the Reader for my existing followers to read, but they can’t comment through the Reader app anymore so I’ve found that the number of comments I’m getting has gone down too.
  • I can host competitions I can now use Rafflecopter for my blog competitions whereas the widget couldn’t be implemented on WordPress.com. This makes it much easier for me to run giveaways and keep track of entries. I can now work with brands who want to offer prizes to my audience and I’ve found that running giveaways brings in more readers. My follower stats have greatly increased thanks to including more entry options through Rafflecopter such as ‘Follow @Cassiefairy  on Twitter’ or ‘Like Cassiefairy’s Facebook page’ for competitions.
  • I can use adverts I can put any number of banners or adverts in my sidebars or blog posts. This was prohibited through WordPress.com but now I am free to advertise in this way if I want to. At the moment, I’m resisting adding a lot of banner adverts and only have a couple of sponsors with whom I have a long-standing relationship, but it’s good to have the freedom to be able to do this.
  • My domain is free I don’t need to pay WordPress.com for my domain name and mapping every year because it is now hosted for free at DreamHost for the lifetime of my hosting plan, so as long as I keep paying for hosting, it will be free forever.
  • Freedom with other domains I can also point other domains that I own towards my blog, such as tuesdayshoesday.co.uk and piedayfriday.co.uk to tie in with my regular blog features.
  • Much more server storage I don’t have any storage limits for files, photos, videos etc. With WordPress.com I was approaching the maximum storage limit and would have needed to buy the extra storage upgrade. In the past I’d been limiting my photo uploads to two images per post in order to save space but now I can post as many photos or videos as I like without worrying about storage space.
  • Plenty of support When I need to make my own technical changes, there are plenty of support forums and DIY tutorials for WordPress.org and I can get extra help through DreamHost. Even so, I am still worried that one little change would bring my whole website down and I wouldn’t be able to get it back again!
  • Affiliates are welcome I am free to add affiliate links and work with any brands or marketing agencies, but at the moment I’m still only sharing links to products I actually like, things that I have bought myself and products that I am mentioning in my blog posts anyway rather than creating articles with the intention of ‘selling’ products through affiliate links.
  • Personalised emails I can have any number of personalised email addresses – mine is now cassie@cassiefairy.co.uk – through DreamHost.
  • Installing plugins I’ve been able to add an Instagram plugin so that I can add a widget on my sidebar for my photos, which looks great. I could never get an Instagram widget on my WordPress.com site.
  • Additional revenue I can install content feeds such as ContentClick and make a few pence per click referral - this can only be used through WordPress.org and not Wordpress.com. This was working well but I found that it interfered with ‘something’ on my blog and occasionally the site wouldn’t load at all due to an error with ContentClick so I have removed it until I have the time to investigate it properly and so far nothing has gone wrong since I uninstalled the plugin.

All in all, it’s been a positive move for me. I am pleased with the freedom that comes with being self-hosted now that I don’t need to adhere to WordPress.com’s strict terms and conditions but I still worry occasionally that I will ‘break’ my website and not know how to fix it! My apprehension is getting better over time, as each change I successfully make surprises me and is always easier than I’d imagined. I hope it will continue to be a good solution for my future blogging and that I’ll continue to find more and more reasons to be self-hosted.

 I still can’t believe that Cassiefairy.com has made it onto the Cosmo Blog Awards 2014 shortlist for Best Lifestyle Blog! It would mean the world to me if you would vote for my blog before voting closes on 29th August – thank you SO much!


Leave a comment

Bathroom makeover ~ My seascape photowall

I’ve been talking about doing a bathroom makeover for a while now, and I’ve been very keen to include a tromploi-esque photowall in my design, but this week I have actually gone ahead and DONE IT! Yes, I have pasted my bathroom wall with a massive fly-poster of a photo that my husband took at the seaside earlier this summer. And it looks amazing!

After a lot of help from the design team at StressFreePrint - who got the measurements and dimensions of the image exactly right so that two horizontal posters could be joined to make one massive image – I received my poster by special delivery and set to work putting it up. It was definitely a two-person job, so my husband and I got out the wallpaper paste (we used an ultra-strong solvite paste which was around £2) and decided to paste the wall first, before pasting the back of the poster. Because my image was printed on fly-poster paper, it’s intended job is for pasting up advertisements (imagine a huge billboard and you’ve got it) so it was easy to paste and when we pressed it onto the wall, the paper was easy to smooth out, didn’t wrinkle and, in fact, had less trouble with bubbles than any other wallpaper that I’ve ever used!

We decided to overlap the poster at the join and there was a worrying moment while it was wet, because the paper was slightly see-through and I could easily see the image on the poster behind, leaving a darker blue stripe across the middle of the image. Thankfully, when the paste dried, the stripe disappeared and join couldn’t be seen at all, phew! We left it a couple of days to fully dry out before varnishing the poster with a layer of clear satin yacht varnish in order to make the photowall waterproof so that it would be suitable for use in a bathroom. This step probably wouldn’t be necessary if you were using a photowall in a living room, bedroom or office, but for moisture-prone rooms such as the bathroom or kitchen, I thought this was a good precaution. Now that I’ve got finally my photowall up, I definitely want to keep it looking nice for as long as possible.

Now I am simply head-over-heels for my photowall and I can’t get enough of being in my bathroom - baths take twice as long, and I am still surprised every time I go into the bathroom that the sea-view is there! I was worried that adding an image to the wall might make the small bathroom feel even smaller, but the opposite has happened. The room feels larger now, as you eye is drawn to the pier in the distance of the photograph, which gives the impression of added depth to the room.

create a custom made photo wall in your home-7

create a custom made photo wall in your home-8