Cassiefairy's thrifty lifestyle blog

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

Cosmopolitan Blog Awards 2014-2


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Why I started my blog & how I ended up in the Cosmo Blog Awards!

What happens when your dreams come true? I’m not sure, but I think that’s kind of how I’m feeling about being a finalist in the Cosmopolitan Blog Awards.

As a teenager I remember spending my pocket money on glittery Spectacular nail polish and Cosmopolitan magazine, and spending hours reading it from cover to cover. It’s amazing how much effort teenagers will put into reading when it’s not a school assignment, isn’t it?! I’ve grown up reading this publication for the last 17 years and (as it is so often described by countless women around the country), Cosmo was my bible.

Photos of the Cosmo Blog Awards article that I snapped on my phone back in the Spring when I was considering entering!

I dreamed of one day being a journalist, having my work published and my articles being read by girls like me. And now, thanks to all the votes that my lovely friends, family and super-kind Cassiefairy.com readers submitted for me, my Cosmopolitan heroes are actually reading MY work! And I just can’t quite believe it. It’s actually unreal. Surreal. And if I think about it too much, it gives me a total writers block and I can’t finish my…

Over the years I’ve found countless reasons to continue working on my blog and to try to make writing my full-time job, but there was only one reason why I started the blog: I wanted to get better at writing. Just like an artist draws in their sketchbook and as a photographer snaps photos every day, I wanted this to be a place where I could practice writing and try to get better at it. I had no real concept that people could read my writing and I was kind of doing it just for me. It was my online sketchbook of ideas, photos and articles, and I’m still using it in pretty-much the same away. Practice makes perfect, after all. And I’m sure I’ll get there one day ;)

What happened when I heard I’d been shortlisted!

So after exercising my writing muscle almost daily on the blog, I started to get a little better (well, it couldn’t get much worse! – don’t just take my word for it – my early articles are all there in the blog archives for all to see, eek!), and readers started to keep coming back for more. And I’m so pleased that you did because it spurred me on, and every kind comment lifted my heart. I’m definitely still learning from every post I write and I still cringe at articles that I published only last year. And my photos still leave a lot to be desired (today’s are phone photos, sorry about the quality). Of course, I’m my own worst critic and despite a few articles that make me smile, I’m still not sure I’m doing it 100% right, but who can ever really claim that anyway?! Most importantly, I’ve been writing every day (or sometimes twice a day when I’m feeling particularly motivated!) and it’s really become my passion. The blog is as much a part of me and I am of it, so I can’t imagine my life without it. What on earth would I do with my time if I couldn’t write?! Writing for a magazine is my big dream and I don’t know if I’ll ever get there, but hey, I’m SO enjoying the journey!

Actually, writing that last sentence has just made me realised that perhaps I already AM a published magazine writer? Albeit on my own blog. But the point is that there are many fabulous ladies out there who actually ARE reading my articles every day and seem to be enjoying my work. It’s thanks to them that I’ve even got a place at the Blog Awards and that I have this opportunity for Cosmopolitan to check out my writing. I am forever in your debt and if you ever need anything from me, just ask and I will be happy to help you out. And please keep coming back to see me and carry on telling me what you think of my writing, because your feedback is what’s most important to me.


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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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Could I be Cosmofairy? I need your help today!

Yikes, the nominations are almost over! There are only 2 days left to nominate for your favourite blogs in the Cosmopolitan Blog Awards 2014 and I would LOVE it if you could spare a minute to nominate my little blog in the Lifestyle Blog category! What do you think? Can you help me get nominated??

I’ll just leave the link to the Cosmo awards nomination here in case you fancy nominating ‘anyone’…

http://www.cosmopolitan.co.uk/blogs/cosmopolitan-blog-awards-2014/enter

If you DO click on the link, and happen to type in your email address, it would be great if you could also copy my URL http://cassiefairy.com into the nomination box and select the ‘Best Lifestyle Blog’ option..! In fact, it would be AMAZING!

Nominateme_2014

Please tweet me @Cassiefairy if you do nominate me so that I can thank you!! or leave me a comment below :)


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Cassiefairy in the press..!

I can’t believe it but my little lifestyle blog has been featured in the local newspaper! They’ve shared news of my National Blog Award and the celebration of my 1000th blog post alongside a massive photo of my face – eek scary! I’m suddenly famous in my local area, with neighbours and friends calling me to let me know that I’m in the paper and sending me links to the article online. Here’s a snap of the piece in the newspaper:cassiefairy in the newspaper national blog awards 2014

15 minutes of fame, here I come! I’ve even been emailed by the BBC to ask for a local radio interview, yikes! As someone who is much more comfortable writing than talking I’m not sure about that..! Still, I’m so pleased that the local media are interested in my website and its recent achievements and it’s pretty amazing that they would spend time writing about me. And now I’m writing about them… ;)

I’ve you’ve just visited my website after looking at the article, welcome! Please hang around and have a look at my other bits n bobs: all my design posts, DIY tutorials, fashion reports and recipes can be found in the menus above and all of my articles are listed in my sidebar, with links to recent posts, specific categories & my entire archive! Get in touch via twitter @Cassiefairy or email me cassie@cassiefairy.co.uk I’d love to hear from you!

 


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Pieday Friday – My 1000th blog post celebration cake!

I did it! I’m not talking about making a cake (although for me that is a massive achievement in itself) but I’m talking about making it to 1000 blog posts! And you’re reading it right now! It’s great so far, huh?

1000th blog post celebration cake for Cassiefairy

I feel like I should really put a lot of effort into writing a witty, engaging, sometimes emotional post to really commemorate the occasion. But to be honest, after 1000 blog posts, I’m rather tired! Never tired of writing, oh no! But it’s made me realise just how many hours of work and how many days I’ve spent in front of this laptop screen over the last 3 years. Phew, I need a holiday! A couple of years ago, I remember taking part in the National Blog Posting Month ‘NaBloPoMo’ challenge to write an blog post each day for a month. I got through those 30 days and really rather enjoyed the challenge, so I just carried on with daily posting. You’d think that I would run out of things to say, but I haven’t yet had writers block and I think that the regular practice has actually made me a better writer in general. At least, I hope so!

You may remember couple of months ago that I celebrated my 3 year anniversary with a big chocolate chip celebration cake? Well, to be completely honest with you, that cake wasn’t the tastiest. Probably because I didn’t quite follow the recipe that I shared: I was a bit low on eggs and I’d read that you could replace an egg with apple sauce in cake recipes, so I did. And it did not taste good. So rather than celebrating by stuffing my face with cake, I actually put it out for the birds. And even they left it. There can’t be any rats in my garden because it stayed untouched overnight and ended up in the bin. Or, worse still, there might be rats but my cake was SO bad that even the rats wouldn’t eat it…  Anyway, if you follow the ‘actual’ recipe on the blog and don’t substitute apple sauce for eggs, you’ll get a lovely cake. It was only me that was disappointed with the outcome and I couldn’t celebrate ‘properly’ the big 3 years milestone.

So this time, I’m doing it right and leaving nothing to chance – it’s a normal Victoria sponge cake with yummy buttercream icing and loads of jam. What can possibly go wrong? I have all the right ingredients this time, so fingers crossed it’ll taste nice. Here’s the recipe for my 1000th blog post celebration cake:celebration victoria sponge cake decorating with buttercream icing tutorial

Ingredients: 200g caster sugar, 200g softened butter, 4 eggs, 200g self-raising flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 2 tbsp milk

Heat oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Grease two 20cm sandwich tins and line with greaseproof paper. Whisk all the cake ingredients together until you have a smooth, soft batter. Pour into the two tins and bake for 20 minutes until golden and the ‘cocktail stick test’ comes out clean & non-sticky. Allow to cool before spreading with buttercream (cream icing sugar with butter and a drop of vanilla essence) and jam in the middle, stacking up and covering with more buttercream and loads of pretty sprinkles. I think this cake looks like an exploding firework! I just hope it tastes as good as it looks ;)

Rainbow sprinkles birthday cake recipe

Now I have a lovely cake to munch on today as I celebrate my 1000th blog post and give myself a cheeky pat on the back for my Highly Commended Award in Retail and Fashion at the UK National Blog Awards last week (still can’t believe it!). All in all, I’m having a pretty good year in terms of blogging and I intend to keep up the hard work for the foreseeable future  – or for as long as you want to carry on reading my ramblings, at least!