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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Book review: Urban Flowers + win a copy!

This week I’ve got my hands on the newly released gardening book ‘Urban Flowers’ by Carolyn Dunster. A very thrifty DIY-focussed book, it contains hundreds of ideas for making the most of your outdoor space, no matter how little garden you have. And the good news is that you can win a copy in my giveaway so read on to enter the competition below…In this book, Carolyn demonstrates how it is possible to turn even the smallest space into a blooming urban paradise with colourful flowers and a thriving habitat for wildlife too. So whether you’ve got a patch in the countryside or a balcony in the city, you’ll be sure to find a handy project in this book.
Urban Flowers helps to identify which plants will grow best in your garden and, the thing I found most interesting about the book, it provides planting ‘recipes’ to create colourful palettes of blooms all year round. I’ve always wondered how some gardens look great in every season and now I know how to do it for myself!

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Book review: The Thoughtful Gardener by Jinny Blom + Win a copy!

I’ve been reading about gardening this month, and it’s all down to the newly released book The Thoughtful Gardener. If you too have an empty garden (or an overgrown one, for that matter) this book is the perfect starting point to get you into the garden this spring. It’s packed full of inspirational ideas and plenty of photos of gardens in bloom that’ll get you wanting to plant up your patch. Read on to find out more about the book and author, and to enter my giveaway to WIN a copy of this beautiful new release, worth £35!Award-winning designer, and gardening columnist for The Times, Jinny Blom has carefully curated this gorgeous book to bring together design ideas from gardens all around the country. The Thoughtful Gardener not only provides plenty of inspiration with stunning photos, it also offers practical advice on how to make your own perfectly-designed garden at home.

Image by Andrew Montgomery / The Thoughtful Gardener by Jinny Blom

But that doesn’t mean a manicured lawn with topiary trees, a well-designed garden can be full of over-grown shrubs, blousey blooms and messy edges. That’s the lovely thing about this book; it makes gardening accessible to those of us who don’t have the time to trim the edges of our grass with scissors! Some of the gardens in this book have been growing wildly for years, but Jinny shows us how the original design allows for the plants to grow freely while still providing a surprisingly neat and calming space.

Image by Charlie Hopkinson / The Thoughtful Gardener by Jinny Blom

Read more and enter my giveaway to win a copy of The Thoughtful Gardener below..!

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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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Pieday Friday – Sweet Potato Pasta with Alfredo Sauce 

Today’s recipe is from the newly released book ‘Eat With Intention’ by Cassandra Bodzak. This is not just a recipe book,but it’s also a practical course in quieting your mind, fueling your body, loving yourself, and changing your life for the better. Alongside the recipes there’s reminders to take care of yourself, and little meditation suggestions for everyday calm. This sweet potato pasta dish is just one example of the healthy yet fulfilling recipes in the book, and it’s quickly becoming one of my go-to recipe books for dinner (and puddings too!). But don’t just take my word for it – you can win a copy of the book for yourself! Scroll down to enter the giveaway below.sweet-potato-pastaSometimes we get so fixed on an idea of something that we close ourselves off from the infinite amount of possibilities for how it could manifest in our lives. I encourage you to think about something you deeply desire right now and strip it down to its basic core, releasing all of its trappings. When we are clear about what we truly desire, we open the door to unexpected opportunities and keep our eyes open for them along the way. Expand your options and expect miracles. Talk about an unexpected way to get your cravings met! If you have been craving the warm, filling, creamy decadence of fettuccine Alfredo without the dairy and gluten, then this is the recipe for you.

Feeling It Meditation

Sit in easy pose with your hands over your heart, eyes closed, breathing in through your nose and out your mouth. Allow yourself to fill up from your heart radiating outward with the feelings of your desire fulfilled. Release any specific images that may come up and return to your heart and tune in to the feeling that is enveloping you around having what you truly desire. Sit in this feeling for the next 3 minutes. When time is up, take a deep breath in and silently say to yourself, “I release my attachment to what it looks like and I welcome in unexpected ways for it to manifest.” Exhale and relax.

Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients: 15-ounce (425 g) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed,15-ounce (425 g) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed, ½ cup (120 ml) unsweetened almond milk, 7 tablespoons (105 g) nutritional yeast, 3 tablespoons (45 ml) extra-virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons (30 g) Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon (14 g) vegan butter, 1 tablespoon (15 ml) garlic powder, 1 tablespoon (15 ml) salt, plus extra to taste, ½ teaspoon ground turmeric, 2 tablespoons (30 ml) extra-virgin olive oil, 2 sweet potatoes, skinned and spiralized, Chopped walnuts, to garnish, Chopped parsley, to garnish

  1. To make the sauce, combine all the sauce ingredients in a food processor and pulse until thick and creamy. Season with salt to taste.
  1. Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan and sauté the sweet potato “noodles” for
    5 minutes, until softened. Add the sauce to the saucepan and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until heated through. Garnish with the walnuts and parsley, and serve. (Alternatively, heat the sauce in a separate saucepan and ladle it over a plate of noodles.)

9781631062360Recipe and images extracted from Eat with Intention by Cassandra Bodzak, photography by Evi Abeler. Published by Race Point Publishing (£14.99). More information on the book can be found here.

And if you would like to win a copy of “Eat with Intention” please enter via the Rafflecopter widget below. There are plenty of ways you can earn entries into this giveaway, so best of luck!

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Giveaway open to UK residents only. Giveaway runs from 18th -30th November 2016. One winner will be chosen at random after this date and contacted via email.


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House of Plants book review

Today marks the release of a fantastic book for all you plant lovers out there. House of Plants by Caro Langton & Rose Ray has just landed on bookshelves all around the country and you can be one of the first people to get your hands on a copy – yes, I’m hosting a giveaway to WIN a brand new copy of this fantastic book for yourself, read on to find out how you can enter below!

As someone who is constantly pinning photos of lovely loft apartments with glorious displays of tropical plants and succulents, I can’t help but adore this book. The photography by Erika Raxworthy is gorgeous – totally Pinworthy, I’m sure you’ll agree. And the practical advice and plantcare tips make even me (who has killed every plant she’s ever owned!) believe that I could have a botanical paradise in my own home. Today I’m sharing an extract from the book about pruning plants and caring for cacti – I hope it helps!

PRUNING & CARE (Cacti & Other Succulents)

It’s always wise to handle a cacti or succulent with care, no matter how harmless or hardy they may look. You may do damage to them, and equally the most innocent-looking species can cause skin irritation and pricks. Waxy-leaved succulents, including certain species of echevaria, can be bruised if their leaves are handled. Cacti with very fine bristles such as the Opuntia or ‘Prickly Pear’ easily shed their spines and penetrate skin. When removing a spiky cactus from its pot, you may need a pair of thick gloves to protect your hands. Alternatively, scrunch up a few sheets of newspaper until thick enough to wrap around the spines without piercing your skin.

PRUNING

Cacti generally need little in the way of pruning, except after they have finished blooming. At this time, the dried flowers can be gently removed. Leafy succulents tend to shed their leaves quite regularly, and any older, withered leaves or flowers can simply be plucked off to improve the look of the plant. When pruning a leafy succulent, remember that any healthy stems or leaf cuttings removed by accident can be easily propagated rather than thrown away.

CLEANING

Inevitably, your indoor plants will gradually pick up dust on their surface, which can inhibit their growth. In the case of a particularly prickly cactus, you may see little bits of loose soil caught up in its spines when you get it home. There are two ways to best clean different succulents. For prickly desert cacti, the best method is to use a soft paintbrush to stroke away any dirt or dust. For forest cacti or other spineless succulents, you can gently clean them with a damp cloth or sponge, taking particular care with more delicate leaves and stems.

FEEDING

When grown indoors, succulents are likely to mature slowly, and therefore require little fertilisation to survive. However, if you would like to encourage a succulent to thrive and flower, we recommend using a diluted house plant fertiliser regularly from early spring to late summer, and never during winter months when it is in its rest period. Specific instructions for how often to feed different species can be found on each plant focus page in our ‘House of Plants’ chapter.

This advice section was extracted from House of Plants by Caro Langton & Rose Ray, photography by Erika Raxworthy, published by Frances Lincoln (£20). You can find the book online here. But here’s the great news – you can WIN a copy of this lovely book for yourself. You’ll be sent a brand new copy of this newly published book direct from the publishers so what are you waiting for? Enter via the Rafflecopter widget below to be in with a chance of winning this gorgeous book.

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Giveaway open to UK residents only and runs from 5th November – 16th November 2016. Winner will be contacted via email and will need to provide a delivery address to receive the prize. Best of luck!


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DIY autumn decoration – patterned branch

Today I’m sharing another fantastic DIY project that I found in Decorate for a Party by Holly Becker and Leslie Shewring. This patterned branch would be a great photo backdrop for a party or could even be hung in your home to introduce a rustic feeling to the room. I love to decorate my living room for autumn with pumpkins and flowers, so I’d hang something like this above my sideboard, using autumnal colours and textured fabrics.decorate-for-a-party-p127-photography-by-holly-beckerThis project is also a great way to use up all those fabric offcuts that are too small and thin to use but that you just can’t throw can away! If you have a rummage through your sewing cupboard you’ll probably find all the scraps you need! Or you can buy some low-cost fabric odds-and-ends or ribbons from the haberdashery. It’s a really quick and simple project and all the step-by-step details are below. Plus, there’s a couple more ideas for using branches and fabric this autumn too, such as this fun den and cute packed lunches (below). Have fun making this autumnal decoration and let me know how you get on if you give it a try!decorate-for-a-party-p123-photography-by-holly-beckerThis branch can be made before your party to mark the party spot or later, during your party by inviting the children to help you, because it’s easy and fun. Or, for a party you’re hosting at home, you can make one to display over a buffet or even in another room of your home as additional decor.

YOU WILL NEED a straight branch, cotton fabrics in various prints, white linen (lightweight), pine cones, thin copper wire, scissors, string

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Book Review + Interview – Upcycling by Max McMurdo

I can’t believe that it’s been a whole week since this book launched and I’m only now telling you about it. I’ve had my eyes on it for weeks and have been eagerly awaiting it’s release. Teaser tweets and Instagram posts by Max have got my excitement for this book bubbling up to a dangerous level. Combine that with my already OTT love of thriftiness and DIYing, and you’ve got one giddy girl on your hands. So you can imagine how quickly I tore open the packaging of my book delivery last weekend.gumtreebus-max-mcmurdoThankfully, it book itself didn’t disappoint. I knew it would full of Max’s trademark industrial projects and thrifty flips, but I didn’t realise just how comprehensive it would be. This isn’t just a ‘look at this pretty room’ design book. Oh no. It’s full of practical advice and step-by-step, photo-by-photo tutorials. It’s so detailed that even I feel confident about removing a drum from an old washing machine and turning it into an illuminated side table.max-mcmurdo-upcycling-diy-book-review-2With techniques for measuring and cutting, drilling and sanding, wiring and finishing, Max teaches you all the DIY skills you need to know in order to complete the projects in the book. If you want to know what a nylock nut is, Max’ll tell you. I thought I was alright at a bit of DIY. Good, even. But it turns out that there’s so much more I can learn. Thank goodness I’ve got this book to teach me the tricks of the trade. They don’t call me thrifty for nothin’ and if I’m going to upcycle, I’m darn well going to learn how to do it properly (and safely!).

Just before the book launched last week I had the opportunity to ask the author some probing questions so that I could share his answers with you today:max-mcmurdo-upcycling-diy-book-review Continue reading “Book Review + Interview – Upcycling by Max McMurdo” »


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Pieday Friday – Build Your Own Smoothie recipe book review

If you’ve been reading my little blog for a while you might have noticed how much I love smoothies and milkshakes. I’ve whisked up a few healthy of my own recipes over the years, including my fruity oat smoothie and my energy boosting breakfast smoothie. I’ve also shared my ultimate caramel doughnut freakshake recipe, but that’s more of a weekend treat than an everyday shake 😉 So you can imagine how excited I was to find a recipe book dedicated to my favourite drink! I grabbed a copy of Make Your Own Smoothie by Michelle Keogh and started to investigate…pieday-friday-recipe-book-review-make-your-own-smoothie-cookbook-milkshake

It may sound like a rather boring plus-point, but this recipe book is spiral bound. I really prefer this type of binding for all recipe books, as it makes it much easier to keep your place when working on a recipe. That said, it’s a particularly important feature of this book as it allows you to mix and match the ingredients to create over 60,000 smoothie combinations. Much like those funny head-body-legs books you read as a child, you simply flip over the pages to find the ideal combination of base ingredients, liquid and ‘boost’ toppings.pieday-friday-recipe-book-review-make-your-own-smoothie-cookbook-milkshake-2With that in mind, this is probably the only smoothie recipe book you’ll ever need. I defy you to find an ingredient that isn’t already somewhere in this recipe book so you’ll be sure to find the right taste and texture to suit you. Don’t like coconut? No problem! Can’t function without freeze dried fruit? It’s all in there. There are gluten-free, low-fat, vegan and dairy-free options, so you can make any flavour of smoothie into something that suits your own diet.

My own preference for smoothies is something milk-based so that it feels more like a naughty shake rather than a healthy drink! Even so, there are SO many options for the liquid layer (including fruit juices, yoghurts, waters, teas, vegetable juices and proteins) that even a die-hard milkshake fan like me might actually start to be a little more adventurous with my smoothie ‘designs’.pieday-friday-recipe-book-review-make-your-own-smoothie-cookbook-milkshake-3But you don’t have to rummage through all the options before finding a suitable recipe – at the back of the book there’s a list of classic smoothie combos to try and some basic recipes to help you get started. And it’s not just healthy smoothies either… if you don’t believe me, just have a look at the cinnamon apple cookie shake I concocted above!

Let me know what your favourite smoothie ingredients are by leaving me a comment below and tweet me a photo of your weekend smoothie @Cassiefairy or tag me in your Instagram pics @Cassiefairy. Build Your Own Smoothie by Michelle Keogh is published by Quarto.


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Pineapple Infused Vodka + DIY Cocktail Glass

Summer is in full swing AND it’s the weekend, double wooo! To celebrate, I’m sharing a summery cocktail and spirit infusion and a quick DIY cocktail glass project. These have all been extracted from Mason Jar Nation by JoAnn Moser. This recipe wold be great for fruity summer cocktails or even for a birthday party so read on to find out how to make it…mason jar nation book reviewIn honour of moonshiners of old and new, here’s a less volatile preparation that doesn’t require a still: pineapple-infused vodka. Complete the concoction with a Mason jar cocktail glass and a summery drink recipe using your homemade hooch, and you’ll be good to go.

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An Amsterdam Affair book launch & interview with author Amanda Addison

I have some very exciting – and much anticipated – news to tell you today. The latest novel from award-winning writer Amanda Addison has finally landed on Kindles all around the country. An Amsterdam Affair was launched on Amazon on Thursday and I’ve been lucky enough to interview Amanda to find out her inspiration behind the novel and how she likes to work. Having thoroughly enjoyed reading her first novel Laura’s Handmade Life, I couldn’t wait to see what Amanda would come up with this time!addisonbeach-kindleSupported by the Arts Council, An Amsterdam Affair is a bitter-sweet family saga about searching for lost love and how families come undone and are re-made. At the heart of the story is a family secret. If you enjoyed the inter-generational themes of romance and second-chances in Last Tango in Halifax; or the artistic and seaside motifs in Notes for an Exhibition this may be the book for you. I’m sharing an extract from the novel below so have a read and see what you think! In the meantime, I’ll crack on with questioning Amanda about the inspiration behind her art, crafts and novel.

Whereabouts in the country are you based and how does the location inspire your art and writing?

I live in the countryside in South Norfolk, not so far from both the Norfolk and Suffolk coast. My favourite all-time place to be is beside the seaside. I’ve always had a real ‘call of the sea’ – my mother now lives a few minutes’ walk from the sea in Cornwall – so it must be in my blood. I love to paint and write about the sea – it’s a constantly changing subject and therefore one I never bore of! As an art student I made an artist’s book – entitled The Sea for my final show at Chelsea School of Art. It included paintings and poems and I covered it with blue silk. I’m a great admirer of the artist Maggie Hambling, who painted the sea every day for a year. Her shell sculpture, on the beach in Aldeburgh, is a key location for a romantic tryst in An Amsterdam Affair.

In many ways the settings in An Amsterdam Affair are almost characters in themselves, reflecting the main characters’ changing moods and emotions. Sam, one of the story’s narrators uses a beach hut as her studio. I write about East Anglian big skies, the sea, windswept beaches and flat landscapes both sides of the North Sea. Great Yarmouth, a town on the edge and Amsterdam, a city I lived in briefly many years ago, with its warren of streets, canals and cosmopolitan galleries.Addisonhut kindle2 small

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