Cassiefairy's thrifty lifestyle blog

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


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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!


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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


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How does your garden grow? Finished veggie patch

I now declare this veggie patch… open! It’s planted up with runner beans, peas, squash, cucumber, tomatoes, peppers, chillis, lettuce and herbs, plus a gooseberry bush and blackberry plant in the side border and fruit trees in the corner of the garden. At the moment it looks really neat and tidy – the way I’d like it to stay, but I’m sure it won’t be long before the place starts looking like a disused allotment. I’m already finding it difficult keeping the herbs alive – I’m pretty sure that I killed off that basil and coriander and it wasn’t anything to do with the fact that I’d planted a supermarket ‘living herbs’ pot in the garden. Oh well! I’ve sprinkled some basil seeds where the plant once lived and I’m hoping for the best…

Everything seems to be taking ages to grow. I know it’s not the fastest process, growing plants, but I expected the runner beans to at least have started trailing themselves up the canes by now! I keep wrapping their little tendrils around the canes to encourage them! The things that are growing well are the tomato plants in the greenhouse. They have already needed additional support from canes and I’ve remembered to water them (most of the time!) so they are growing upwards and outwards rather well. We’ve just added a couple of lines of peas that we bought from a plant seller at the car boot sale but they’ve just started flowering in pretty colours and looking suspiciously like sweat peas, oops!

Even though I might not be the best at growing plants just yet, I’m sure you’ll agree that the garden has come a long way from its bare grass beginnings (see my first garden blog post here). The new veggie patch has really added some interest to the garden and the patio has added some much-needed outdoor living space for summer!

 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 on 29th August – thank you SO much!


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My ‘new’ vintage dress ~ the repairs

It’s taken a little longer than I’d hoped, but my vintage dress is finally fixed!

My retro tortoiseshell cat’s eye sunglasses are from Sunglass Junkie and shoes from New Look

It was mostly down to my laziness over the summer holidays that delayed the repairs but I spent an evening at my sewing machine this week and cracked on with it. My second excuse for the delay is that there was actually more to do to the dress than I’d initially thought. I knew that the sides needed to be repaired – both were split under the arms – but the length and the front of the dress were an altogether more difficult project that I’d imagined. Here are my photos of the ‘easy’ repair, when I ran a simple straight stitch up the sides of the dress and along the arms to rejoin the split seams:

The front of the dress was slightly harder to manage: I didn’t like how the fabric rolled over at the front and no amount of pressing would make it lie flat, so I thought that a little bit of understitching would solve the problem. Unfortunately, the fabric continued to roll outwards even after I’d understitched it, so I tried to re-hem the edge altogether. Again, the fabric rolled out and looked untidy, so I decided that there was only one thing for it: stitch the wrap front to the internal vest so that it became one piece. Thankfully, this worked and now the wrap front lies flat and looks tidy!

Changing the length of the dress was really rather straightforward, once I’d got my head around it! I liked the pattern along the existing hem and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to made a nice job of taking it up and re-hemming the skirt. So I decided to take it up at the waistband instead. I bravely (or stupidly?!) chopped the skirt off the dress at the waistband and shortened the top of the skirt by 3 inches all round. I then pinned the skirt inside the top section, with right sides together, and stitched all the way around the skirt to reattach it.

Thankfully the elasticated waistband helped to ease the skirt into the top and it is now a knee-length dress on me and looks much nicer! Here’s a photo of before the chop and the length afterwards:

So my bargain buy at the Americana Day might have taken me a bit of time and a lot of head-scratching to repair, but now that it’s finished I m delighted! I’m sure I will get a lot of use out of this dress, and because of the dark colour, I think it will be a year-round outfit so I look forward to wearing it with tights and boots this winter too!

 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!


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How does your garden grow? My greenhouse

Last week, I mentioned that we’d finished off the raised beds for the veggie patch and were in the process of completing the gravel path. The side border hadn’t been finished off so I today wanted to share some photos of the side raised bed ‘before and after’ and let you know that I’ve finally planted some herbs in the massive herb planter beside the patio!

I’m also excited to tell you that we’re at the stage of putting up a greenhouse. We bought this greenhouse second-hand from a neighbour and we able to take out the glass and simply carry it into our garden – the aluminium frame was that light. I decided to wash all the panes of glass before they went back into the frame. Everything was going really well, and the glass was coming up nice and sparkling clean, until I lost concentration for a moment and managed to slice my thumb on the glass – ouch! I took a long tea break before carrying on with the cleaning and we put the greenhouse back together again. All in all, the whole process took about 3 hours.

 

We decided to put the greenhouse straight onto the ground and put a couple of slabs in the middle so that we had somewhere to stand inside the greenhouse.  We dug up the grass and added new compost to the soil before planting a few varieties of tomato – it’s a start anyway! In one of the raised beds we planted courgettes and squash in each of the corners, which we had bought from the car boot sale for 75p each plant.  The herbs also came from the carboot sale and we’re just buying a few at a time whenever we see them. We already had a pot of spearmint and some chives, but the rest of the herbs are ‘new’ to us from the market or carboot sale for £1.50 or less including thyme, rosemary, oregano and tarragon. We haven’t been able to find sage anywhere so we have taken a cutting of sage from our parents’ garden and hopefully we’ll be able to grow a plant from this!

As you can see from the photos, we’ve (almost!) finished the gravel path and we’ve spread wood chippings either side of the greenhouse to make the whole area look neat and hopefully the weed-resistant membrane beneath will keep the weeds at bay for now! More updates to come next week…