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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British-inspired designs for the home

With talk of another royal baby on the way, I’ve come over all patriotic. Just like the Olympics and the Diamond Jubiliee before it, this has made me realise how great it is to be living in Britain! We are a multi-cultural nation with so many traditions, wonderful tourism in bustling cities yet secluded country towns, surrounded by stunning coastline with the breath-taking countryside views to boot. We’re a nation of animal lovers, enthusiastic queuers, our own monarchy and The Beatles. It’s safe to say we’re very spoilt on these little isles!

We all know I love a bit of decorating, especially when it involves crafting my own or sourcing amazing British products, so how can you embrace Britain in your home? Here are my ideas for a home the celebrates the UK in every way:

Look closer to home

Instead of immediately popping to IKEA (or other major home furnishing retailers that have been lucky enough not to be mentioned), do a little research and see what’s on offer closer to home. There are so many small to medium businesses out there that are British based AND source all their materials in the UK too. For example, I came across Jonny’s Sister. Based in the West Country, not only do they create vintage style home furnishings but you can get them personalised too. These make amazing gifts for loved ones (especially if you’re struggling finding something for Imagenewlyweds) and let’s not forget treating yourself too!personalised cannisters from jonnyssister

Image source Jonny’s Sister

Whether it’s your own biscuit tin to deter the partner and kids from your favourite snack or letter cushions to decorate an otherwise bland living room, personalised accessories will make your home feel even more cosy, and you’ll get the satisfaction of knowing that the items in your home are made here in the UK.

Pick up mementos wherever you go

A day at the beach is the perfect opportunity for some quirky home improvements. We have all seen my trick with the pebbles. Well, these can be added anywhere and everywhere, and are especially handy if you’re super organised like me! Pebbles and shells are simple yet effective decorations and give that rustic UK seaside look, but you can also go bold with buckets and spades to keep your herbs or bathroom toiletries in. The icing on the cake at the British seaside is coming across a great piece of driftwood; the possibilities are endless. Cleaned, varnished and painted with lettering the driftwood will look great as rustic signage. If you’re lucky enough to find a huge flat piece this could make a brilliant side table (if you wish to take on a little project) and smaller pieces could be cleaned and varnished for use as a centrepiece or a dinner party sharing tray.

Apollo Blinds Elegance Twilight - driftwood

 Image source

Red, white and blue

This can look a little overbearing when it comes to decorating a whole room but taking inspiration from our flag is a great starting point if you’re having a tough time knowing where to start. For example, white or cream walls (and rooms in general) can have spots of red and blue for a stylish finish. This could be just through the accessories such cushions, table decorations or you can take it one step further with striped blinds made in the UK such as these below to really add a splash of colour to the space.

Image source #ApolloTwilight

The kitchen is the perfectly place to really go for it when it comes inserting colour. Usually a room you tend to keep simple due to the clutter, as long as you’re organised, this could make a great impact! For example, the pots and pans can be a mixture of the same cherry red and cobalt blue with red and blue kettle, microwave and other accessories. Furthermore, what about mosaic tiling? Red and blue tiling across the back of your kitchen makes a strong statement and means you can keep the rest of the room fairly simple; thriftiness to the max!

Take inspiration from the seasons

We have such definable seasons in the UK, so this makes a great starting point for new decorating. Revamping your existing decor can be cost-effective and if you have kept each of your rooms as a basic template (cream walls and neutral furnishings), then adding those seasonal extras will be simple. We’re going into autumn and this is the best month to experiment with colour! Think nature with deep mahogany, reds, oranges and yellows for your accessories. You could bring the outdoors in again with conkers, pinecones and can even make a college from those gorgeous vibrant leaves you see scattering the pavements. I have a few squashes growing in the garden that I plan to use in a sideboard display this weekend. Anything to make my home feel cosy as the chilly nights drew nearer!

I hope that some of these ideas have inspired you to bring elements of the UK into your home and I’d love to hear your ideas for decorating a new home – please leave me a comment below and we’ll chat again soon! :)

autumn colours and leather boots-6


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Tuesday Shoesday ~ Autumn swatch

Today seems to be the ideal time to start talking about autumn. There’s a bit of a chill in the air and over the weekend I spotted that the trees have started shedding their leaves. Have you noticed that the nights are already drawing in? I’m so easily affected by the weather and daylight that it makes me want to go to bed earlier each day! I’m sure it won’t be long until I put my heating on and start snuggling up under blankets on the sofa. In fact, we are only about a month away from the end of daylight saving – the clocks go back on the 26th October - and that’s when I really start feeling the cold from the impending winter. So before I start talking about Christmas again (!) it’s time to appreciate autumn for all it has to offer and I’ve come up with a list – a swatch – of textures, colours, feelings and activities that only autumn brings.autumn colours and leather boots-9

  • The vivid oranges of pumpkins and squashes. My mind conjures up an image of a traditional harvest festival with straw bales, and it is the colours of these bright fruits along with the strong greens of marrows and courgettes are that form the starting point for my autumn swatch.
  • The colours of autumn leaves as they turn trees into a flaming skyline. The dry crunchiness of leaves on the ground before the rain comes leads to the inevitable trip to the park to kick-up the leaves with my nephew while it’s still warm enough to play outside.
  • The rich brown leather of autumn boots, which are a staple part of any wardrobe at this time of year. It’s not yet knee-high snow-boot weather, but I certainly can’t get away with summer shoes or pumps either. A little extra warmth and protection is needed and soles with a good grip ensure that slippery wet leaves underfoot are not a problem. I love warm brown leather and enjoy buffing it to a conker-like shine.
  • And that conveniently brings us on to childhood; so many aspects of autumn remind me of childhood, such as conkers, new term school satchels and piles of leaves. This weekend I taught my nephew about sycamore seed ‘helicopters’ and he was mesmerised by them twirling to the ground. We’ve been collecting conkers and I’m thinking about trying to grow his first conker into a tree.
  • Rust – what an excellent representation of autumn colour. It describes all of the shades that autumn leaves progress through throughout the fall and it represents decay.

  • Woolly blankets, jumpers and tweed jackets are essential at this time of year. Just a thin extra layer helps to keep you warm and even though the itchy fabric irritates your skin, you don’t mind because you’re feel snuggly and cosy beneath the wool.
  • Plums, damsons, blackberries and sloes are ripe for the picking and this is the season of jam-making and preserving for me. These purple shades coordinate well with the browns and oranges of autumn, and at Halloween it seems to be the witches’ preferred shade, as fancy dress shops are packed with purple cloaks.
  • Burning sunsets of pink, red and gold are so bright and warm that you want to stay out in the fields until the sun goes down. The colours make the sky appear to be on fire, and the burning skies reflect all the fireplaces around the country that are being lit again for the first time this season.

Each of these autumnal elements reminds me of feeling warm but with a chilly nose, wearing gloves and sunglasses at the same time, and laughing with friends and family. This time of year brings the excitement of back-to-school (that I mentioned last week) and I love shopping for this seasons essentials, such as my ankle boots from Pavers which you may have spotted in the photos above. This rich chocolate shade is one of the top colour trends for A/W14 along with ox-blood and navy so I’m delighted to find an affordable – but most importantly, comfortable – ankle boot in this colourway.

Adding these boots to my autumn wardrobe means that I can go stomping through piles leaves and splashing in puddles without worrying about getting wet, cold or slipping over, because they have soles with excellent grip and are lined with a cosy faux-fur. Plus the buckles, straps and zips are key elements for this season’s footwear collections. I’m so pleased to have found a pair of boots that combine form with function; they are totally on-trend yet are completely practical with a cute low heel that doesn’t make you feel unsteady and are super comfortable – I can wear them all day, go for long walks and kick up the leaves yet my feet still feel fine when I slip them off at the end of the day.

I hope that my seasonal swatch list has made you feel a little more autumnal and please get in touch if you have anything that you’d like to add to it. Do you have an interesting memory about autumn from childhood or can you think of any particular colours or textures that always put you in mind of this season? Please leave me a comment below or tweet me @Cassiefairy – chat soon!

 


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Are these the most garish flowers ever?

Blimey, these flowers are bright! How do they even make flowers in these colours? You can’t pull the wool over my eyes: I’m suspicious that they aren’t naturally bright blue and violet…

Hubby brought these flowers home for me recently and they really brightened up my day. By which I mean they made me laugh out loud. His reason for buying them were that ‘they looked so horrible and garish’ plus ‘they were reduced to 61p’. That makes them the perfect bunch of flowers in my opinion! Honestly, these photos don’t do justice to just how bright and lurid these flowers are.

I’m even more pleased that they matched the lilac and blue bobbly jumper I was wearing at the time, although they rather overshadowed my outfit! But how did these flowers get their colour? I’m pretty sure it’ll be some sort of dying through absorbing coloured water or something similar.

Anything as delightfully tacky as this is a good purchase in my opinion and they are still keeping me smiling – these crazily-coloured flowers have lasted for ages!

Photos of the Suffolk Coast - beach huts at Southwold


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Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside: beach inspiration for the whole house

Earlier this week I wrote about my ideas for a creating coastal bathroom and shared my moodboard of nautical and Scandinavian influences. Today I’m taking inspiration from beach houses and have been pinning the best images of coastal homes on my Pinterest boards. Beach houses are famous for being bright, cheery, and breezy inside, reflecting the seaside views outside. It’s the use of natural materials, fresh colours and beach textures that really capture the essence of a coastal home so if I can combine these elements within my own bathroom design, I should be able to replicate the feeling of being in a seaside property even though I live about 3 miles away from the coast!

coastal seaside house inspiration moodboard

Natural Materials

Beach homes tend to celebrate simplicity and many of the images I found on Pinterest included furniture crafted from natural materials such as bamboo, rattan, and unfinished wood. Interior designers tend to chose these textures due to the neutral tones of the raw materials and using roughly finished wood or seagrass for flooring (or even just a rug, such as in the bedroom above) can be more cost-effective. I intend to use rough sawn timber on my bathroom floor, sanded down and white-washed in order to give a beach-hut feeling underfoot.

White Walls

Rather than investing time and money on painting a room in colours that may quickly date and need repainting, I’ve found out that coastal homes often keep the walls white. This makes rooms appear larger and creates the airy feeling that beach houses are famous for. Downlighting can help create the illusion of a the bright light from a clear sky and this will reflect well off white or pale walls. I already have walls that are painted cream in the bathroom and I intend to keep them as they are for now and see what it looks like with the white-washed wood before making a decision on repainting the walls.

Out to Sea

The seemingly infinite view is a cherished characteristic of the coast and this is what I was hoping to achieve with my photowall in the bathroom. Along with artwork of seaviews, it is possible to emulate this visual effect by paying attention to the scale of chairs, tables and lamps throughout the house, drawing attention upwards and outwards rather than towards imposing furniture. Finding small chairs from retailers such as swiveluk.com, choosing simple sideboards and using short accessories such as vases and lamps will all ensure that visual attention isn’t away from outside views or your seascape artwork.

seaside design inspiration

image source 

Stonewashed

The ‘stonewashed’ effect is the ideal way to bring the beach into your home – imagine grey pebbles washed smooth by the ocean and you’ve got it! This can easily be incorporated into kitchens and living rooms with concrete and limestone, such as on tabletops, kitchen surfaces or fire surrounds. These stone textures will complement natural wood and earthy tone, but you don’t need to spend a fortune to get this look in your home. I’m considering pebble-esque stone accessories for my bathroom – soap dispenser, toothbrush holder etc – and these can be picked up from places like the Factory Shop for under £5.

Along with all of these design ideas, I’ve thought about another way that you can achieve the ‘beach house’ feeling within your home – simply by opening windows and letting the fresh air flood in! Of course, if it’s too cold to open the windows now that the weather is turning, perhaps use scented candles to bring a fresh smell into your home. Let me know what you think and whether you too will be following this trend. Have you already given your home a beach house makeover? If so, I would love to see the photos and possibly get more inspiration for my own home! Please get in touch cassie@casseiefairy.co.uk or tweet me @Cassiefairy.


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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!