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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Amazing decor ideas for your thrifty wedding

Getting married should be the most exciting time of your life, but if you’re living on a fixed income or a strict budget, weddings can be stressful. The pressure of the trimmings of a wedding and the expectation that your wedding should be a big event can take its toll and make you feel like your wedding is unworthy. It’s a sad situation and the way around it is to simply not care! You and your husband-to-be need to choose wedding things based on what you want, rather than what people expect. Yes, weddings are a huge business but that doesn’t mean that it’s essential you buy into it.

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A beautiful wedding is made that way because of the care and thought that goes into it. Yes, there will be costs for the venue and the ceremony, and you can’t help those, but is there really any need for a ten-foot ice sculpture of swans? Probably not! Instead of pinching the pennies to make everything stretch, it’s time to get creative with the budget you have rather than the budget you wish you had. It’s also important to remember that a wedding on a budget does not mean one that looks cheap, in any sense of the word. There are some beautiful wedding ideas out there that are classy and elegant and have been pulled off inexpensively. With these thrifty decorating ideas, you can transform your venue into one that looks like it’s fit for a queen.

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Lighting. Wedding lighting, especially for outdoor weddings in venues such as Adlington Hall is going to be something you need to think about. For most larger venues, lighting and heating are included in their package prices, but if you can’t manage an outdoor wedding package like that, lighting will be down to you. As the evening draws in, the sun goes down so you need sufficient lighting for people to be able to continue their fun. Using white Christmas lights like these in place of huge, beaming lampposts is going to give your wedding an ethereal look. If you opt for the battery-operated lights, you can hang them from the ceiling, around pillars and around each table to give the whole room a magical look.

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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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Why I didn’t buy my dream home

You know when you have an idea of your perfect home in your mind – go on, picture yours now… You’d hope to one day be able to buy that house and move in with a perfect blush pink sofa and two fluffy cats, right? Or maybe that’s just me. But anyway, you know what style you like, the type of building you’d choose and the location you’d love. So why, when I was searching for a property to buy, didn’t I buy my dream house?

The dream cottage from House and Garden

It’s not as simple as ‘I couldn’t afford dolls-house-esque Georgian mansion I wanted”. I found plenty of beautiful homes within my budget (though I wanted to get a good deal, naturally – I’m a thrifty gal after all) but none of them quite came up to scratch. I wasn’t being picky – they we’re all homes that only two years ago I could never have dreamed of owning – but for a whole year, every house I viewed or came close to buying ended up not being ‘the one’. Here’s why:

It was too small. I quickly found out that the trouble with picturesque cottages is that they’re too small. I’ve stayed in SO many lovely holiday homes that are small but perfect-formed, so I thought that this was the style of house I wanted to buy. But when I started looking at them with the reality of actually living there, I realised it would be a struggle. The rooms in cottages are so cosy, but tiny. Even the windows were too small, meaning that most rooms were dark even in the midday sun – no good for a full-time blogger, eh?! I can’t even remember how many times my husband banged his head on the low beams! Sorry quaint holiday cottage, you’re not the house for me.

Beautiful home and garden by photographer Rachel Warne

The road was too close. A couple of the perfect cottages we looked at were just too close to the road. Some were main ‘A’ roads, while others were tiny village roads. Either way, the proximity of the road always seemed to cause a problem. It could be that there was no nearby parking, it was sometimes a noisy truck-route and in other places it was difficult to even get out of the driveway onto the main road. Sorry ‘excellent road links’ house, I won’t be parking in front of you.

It was listed. And even though this means the building is packed full of beautiful original features, gorgeous inglenook fireplaces and beamed ceilings, I didn’t want to take on this responsibility. As you know, I like to do a lot of DIY work myself and I couldn’t imagine being restricted by the listing requirements. The listings often covered things like the colour of the front door (that’s conservation areas for ya!), the style of windows (cold non-double glazed, for a start) and the roof tiles. Considering that I love to learn new skills and DIY as I go, it seemed unlikely that I’d want to stick to the listing restrictions and keep things exactly as they are. Sorry ancient house, you’re no home of mine.

The dream garden from Sequin Gardens

There was no garden. Okay, not true – they all had gardens. But the trouble was the tiny size of the garden. Or the overlooked nature of the garden. Or the neighbour who was sitting in their garden, which backed onto our kitchen window. Odd configurations of the plot was a big factor in the decision not to buy most of the houses we saw. Considering that we like to work in our garden and host gatherings around a BBQ it was important that we had a usable outdoor space. And even the most perfect ‘how does your garden grow’ plots were too small to put up a shed. Having space to build a workshop was one of our ‘essentials’ so that my artist husband and I can work together, so if there was no room for a sizable shed, we walked away. Sorry cottage garden, I won’t be mowing your lawn.

The good news is that, in the end, I actually DID buy my dream home. I just didn’t know that this house was what I was looking for when I started my property search. It’s about twice the size of any other houses we saw and has a garden that we can grow into. We can park easily and the no-through road rarely sees any traffic. Other houses in the area have been altered and updated without any problems with planning and I love that I can DIY everything myself. Hi happy home, I think I’d like to move in.

The moral of my story is to keep an open mind when house-hunting. After countless viewings, I said to my husband “let’s just look at ANYTHING within our budget” even if it doesn’t seem right. The very next day a square 1950s house came onto the market and I booked a viewing with this new ethos in mind. I very nearly cancelled that appointment a few times because I was sure this house wasn’t the right one for us. But when we arrived at the quiet location and walked up the long garden into a house with more rooms than we knew what to do with, I was so pleased that we’d given it a chance.

Good luck with your house hunting guys!


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How to create 2 (very different!) flower arrangements using gerberas

Today’s rather cheerful blog post comes to you courtesy of fabulous florist Paula Pryke OBE. I’ve asked this inspirational designer to share her tips for creating displays using colourful gerberas. I’ve found it difficult to work with gerberas in the past  because their stems sometimes go floppy but today Paula is sharing two easy step-by-step guides to create gorgeous displays using gerberas. Plus, you can win a copy of her newly launched book Floristy Now in my competition. I’ve got two copies to give away so read on to find out how you can enter this fun giveaway..!

These happy flowers come in an array of eye-catching and joyful colours. At one time you could only get the regular large size, but over the years some very passionate gerbera growers have produced smaller ones to suit hand-tied bouquets and now you can get many exclusive varieties. There is the double-flowered small Pomponi gerbera and the shaggy Pasta or Springs large-flowered varieties, which are the novelties at the moment. Gerberas have hairy stems and so they don’t like to be placed in deep water as the stems can become waterlogged and soggy. They are very susceptible to bacteria, and so they benefit from having scrupulously clean containers and a drop of chlorine bleach is a good idea. Flower food is also essential for these versatile flowers.How to create a structured gerbera display

Gerbera United are a Dutch company with the vision to breed and produce new and unique gerberas. Their Ambition specials feature spidery-looking gerberas – some were originally called Pasta and some Springs. For this I chose to use their Pink Springs, Orange Springs and the red Pasta Romana varieties. I adore the intense colour of gerberas and over 30 years they have appeared in many of my designs. Now I mostly include them in gift work and contract work, but their colour range makes them useful when flower supply is not so plentiful – they can make a huge impact in autumn and winter. In the main I am a black centre fan, and tend to specify varieties with black eyes.

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Thrifty party decorations – DIY paper flowers

If you’re planning a party or simply want to jazz up the kids’ bedrooms, this is the DIY project for you! Paper flowers are easy to make and cost hardly anything, yet they are impressive decorations for any kind of party. You can make them in lots of different sizes and could tailor the colours to match your party theme; go orange and black for Halloween or bright rainbow hues to give a fiesta vibe to your summer BBQ. Gather a few together on a wall to create a backdrop for a wedding photobooth or hang as decorations over a birthday buffet table. Whatever you want to use them for, I guarantee that you won’t want to stop making them once you’ve started, so get your mates involved and even let the kids have ago at making plenty of paper flowers for your next event. Here’s how to make some impressive paper flowers:Decorate for A Party, p105, photography by Leslie ShewringThere are quite a few steps to these paper flowers, but they are well worth the time and once you have made a couple of them the process becomes faster. To make smaller versions just omit the inside yellow pieces and use fewer sheets, cut smaller, for the outer petals.

YOU WILL NEED assorted colours of tissue paper, fuzzy pipe cleaners, scissors

STEP ONE: Carefully stack approximately 12 sheets of tissue paper, lining up all the edges carefully. We decided to use 4 yellow for the centre, these are stacked on top, then 2 or 3 white and then 6 sheets of orange. Start to fold all sheets over at the same time in 5cm/2-inch folds. Now fold back the other way, and repeat accordion style until you have folded all the paper.

STEP TWO: Unfold all the paper carefully and take out the yellow paper that will be used for the centre of the flower. Fold the yellow paper back in pleats, then fold the folded paper in half. Trim off half of the unfolded ends.

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A spring cleaning surprise (& a cruelty-free gift!)

You may have already done the big spring clean in your own home, but what about your relatives? In particular, I’m thinking about your grandparents, parents, uncles and great aunts who may be less able to give their own home a thorough clean this year. When I heard about the #RiseToTheChallenge campaign on social media it really made me think – why not give a little something back to our relatives by helping them out with a mini-makeover? I packed up my dusters and headed straight out this weekend to see what cleaning up I could do for my family.

I wanted my little clean-up to be a surprise so I headed to the shops on Saturday morning before heading to mums to surprise her in the afternoon. I headed to Savers, The Range, Poundland, Superdrug and Sainburys to stock up on plenty of cruelty-free cleaning products and bagged them up as a treat for my mum. She’d recently expressed an interest in my cruelty-free quest and wanted to make the switch over to non-animal-tested products herself. As I’ve mentioned before, chucking out all your old products and replacing them with a whole new cupboard of cruelty-free alternatives just isn’t feasible – it’s wasteful and costs a lot. It’s better to replace each product as it runs out and make the change gradually.

Well, I wanted to give mum a head start (I’m just so pleased she wanted to get involved) and I wanted to take on the #RiseToTheChallenge project and spruce-up her home. Rather than taking all my own cruelty-free household products over to mums (I’ll blog about all my favourite cruelty-free cleaning brands soon, so watch this space!) I decided to pick up a few bottles and give them to mum as a treat, along with a thorough clean-up of her living room. If you’re interested, here are the CF cleaning products I found: Astonish (all around £1 – £1.99), Sainsburys (from just 40p for bleach!), Cussons (£1 for a huge washing up liquid) and Original Source handwash from Poundland. Just goes to show that being kind to animals doesn’t have to cost more – in fact, I’m pretty sure everything I bought costs much less than the branded version.cruelty free cleaning products animal testing CFcruelty free cleaning products animal testing CF spring clean wood floor astonish

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4 Low-cost + fun days out for the school holidays

We’re mid-way through the summer term and that means one thing – a sunny half term break with nothing to do! This is one of my favourite holidays of the school year, because it’s warm enough to get outside and enjoy last days of Spring, yet it’s not the over-priced days of the summer holidays when you’re likely to burn to a crisp if you venture out into the midday sun. I’ve shared a few ideas for fun days out on my blog this year so here’s my round-up of things to do during the half term holiday.Suffolk coastal travel guide southwold pier attraction-17Suffolk coastal travel guide southwold pier attraction-91. Go to the coast and enjoy some cheesy fun at the great British seaside. Eat ice-cream while sitting in a deck chair, feed 2ps into arcade machines and enjoy fish ‘n’ chips on the pier. Read my review of Southwold Pier and check out my ideas for a day out with the kids at Blackpool too.schol holiday ideas for half term summer 2015 blackpool travel tripsouthwold pier attraction suffolk seaside travel guide-162. Stay indoors on rainy days at a museum. Check out photos of my recent visit to the National Railway Museum in York and my tips for surviving a visit to the museum during the school holidays! If you’re planning to visit a museum during the holidays I’d recommend checking the website before setting off as they often plan special workshops for children during the school holidays and it can be a free way to get your kids interested in the exhibition. I visited the new ‘Shaping The Body’ exhibit at York Castle Museum and blogged about it at Easter. It’s a really fun exhibition (I loved the Victorian Street!) and they even having a dressing-up area for children.national railway museum york half term school holiday trip ideas and tips-6 york castle museum shaping the body exhibition exhibit school holidays day out trip

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Free weekend activity – Wild flower walk

Can you guess what we’ve been up to recently from the title of this blog post? Last weekend my husband and I set off on a lovely weekend walk in the countryside, planning to find a bluebell wood which (having googled it) we knew was nearby. After a long period of cold wintry weather in April, the sun was finally out so we wanted to make the most of this lovely spring weekend and get outside. We pulled on our boots, packed up our gloves (just in case the wind picked up) and even took a snack with us to nibble on at lunchtime. We were ready to head out into the great outdoors, to breathe in the fresh air, get a bit of exercise after a week cooped up in the office, and drink in the glorious views. Little did we know that all – and I mean ALL – the spring flowers had finally come into bloom. day out wild flower walk spring day out wild flower walk spring-4 day out wild flower walk spring-2 Our amble through the countryside had quickly turned into a botany trip. Spotting different flowers as we strolled along the footpath became a competition between us, almost like ticking off the flowers in an ‘Eye Spy’ wildflower book. Luckily, we’d brought the camera with us in anticipation of getting some pretty shots in the bluebell woods, so we began taking photos of all the flowers we saw on the route. We had soon photographed more varieties of flower, blossom and ‘weed’ than we could count, and that was before we’d even found our way into the wood.day out wild flower walk spring-20 day out wild flower walk spring-29day out wild flower walk spring-28When we arrived at Reydon Wood the route had been marked out by the Suffolk Wildlife Trust as a dedicated ‘bluebell walk’ so we strolled through the first part of the wood, still gathering photos of other varieties of flower, and hoping to round a corner and see a swathe of bluebells. You won’t believe it, but as we wandered along the path, the clouds burst open and it started to hail! Luckily, the canopy of the woodland protected us from being pelted with hailstones but we could see it coming down against the sunny backdrop of fields. Could a hail storm produce a rainbow, we wondered? Would it be solid? Thankfully, it was just a quick shower of hail and soon the blue skies were filled with fluffy clouds and sunshine again.

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Breathtaking Valentine’s Day gifts + save 33% on flowers!

When you’ve not got much time and Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, the quickest and easiest option is to shop for gifts online. But that doesn’t have to mean you’re not putting any thought or effort into choosing a treat for your favourite person. Oh no, there are plenty of simply gorgeous gifts online that you just can’t get anywhere else and I’d love to show you what I mean…rose bouquet flowers gift blossoming gift valentines present-2rose bouquet flowers gift blossoming gift valentines present-5First up, I wanted to show you some of the unique gifts available on Etsy. As each item is hand-crafted or vintage, you can be sure that your other-half won’t have come across the gift before and it will be a true surprise. Okay, sometimes items are handmade to order, which adds a little extra time to the ordering process and it might have to be a Valentine’s Day ‘promise’ rather than something they can unwrap on the day. But who wouldn’t want to be given a note that reads “I’ve bought you a handmade gold pendant”?! I personally love all the textile crafts you can find on Etsy and these are some of my favourite heart-motif goodies.knitted heart scarf

Grey and pink knitted scarf by Grace Cook Knitwear

knit heart gloves etsyHand-spun alpaca wool gloves by Spinning Spider Webb

I love love love Maria Allen jewellery and this is one of her gorgeous Valentine’s Day designs. My bestie gave me an amazing personalised locket from Maria Allen for my birthday a couple of years ago and it’s my most cherished piece of jewellery. I can almost guarantee that this would be a winning gift for Valentine’s Day so feel free to use this blog post to drop a huge hint to your hubby ladies!etsy valentines locket marie allen gold necklaceAnd of course, it wouldn’t be valentine’s day without a beautiful bouquet of roses! Listen up hubby! There’s still plenty of time to order a bouquet online at Blossoming Gifts (where I got these sugar-pink blooms from). Ordering flowers online don’t have to be an expensive venture either; these bouquets are stunning yet not over-priced, starting at just £11.99. You can also find potted roses, lilies and orchids that will live on beyond Valentine’s day, plus many bouquets comes with a free gift, such as a box of chocolates or teddy bear. Plus you can save 33% on selected bouquets by using the discount code “BGIFTS33”, bonus!rose bouquet flowers gift blossoming gift valentines present rose bouquet flowers gift blossoming gift valentines present-4I was very impressed when the bouquet was Continue reading “Breathtaking Valentine’s Day gifts + save 33% on flowers!” »


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My pretty festive table & DIY personalised Christmas crackers

Be warned: Now that it’s December 1st there is no stopping me. I’m going Christmas crazy and you’ll be lucky to find anything non-festive on my blog for the whole of the holiday season! So let’s start how we mean to go on; with a blog post about setting your table for Christmas dinner and making your own DIY crackers!personalised christmas crackers diy project-6 personalised christmas crackers diy project-13 personalised christmas crackers diy project-10Firstly, here’s my Christmas dinner table setting – what do you think? I’m actually rather pleased with how it turned out and I’d love to tell you how I decorated it. This table was set up for a festive dinner with friends last weekend (yes, we had roast turkey, chipolatas, honey-glazed parsnips – the lot!) so I wanted it to look suitably Christmassy to inject a little early festiveness to the proceedings. Here’s how I did it:personalised christmas crackers diy project-8 personalised christmas crackers diy project-9 personalised christmas crackers diy project-14 personalised christmas crackers diy project-12Firstly, I invested in some pretty felt placemats. I’ve seen these in lots of shops, at varying prices, but these are the lowest cost placemats I’ve found and they were from Poundland. I already had 4 round ones from last year, so I added another 4 circle snowflake placemats to my collection. The designs are slightly different this year but the change to the pattern is barely noticeable with a plate on top! I also got some rectangular place mats for the centre of the table so that hot dishes of yummy festive food could be placed on the table. By the way, the drinks coasters are personalised printed coasters that I made last month & shared on the blog – it’s an ice-breaker party game for guests around the table to guess the festive film quote!

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