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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More than chocolate eggs – Easter gifts ideas + win £40 of jewellery!

With Easter fast approaching, my thoughts have turned to chocolate eggs and rabbit-shaped iced biscuits. I love making marshmallow ‘nests’ with my niece and nephew, and an Easter cheesecake is a must in our household. But this year, I thought I’d consider some Easter gifts that are more than just edible treats. I’d love to receive something that costs the same as a chocolate egg but that will last me all year instead so I’ve shared my ideas in this blog post. PLUS you could win £40 to spend on anything you like at JewelleryBox.co.uk. Considering that they’ve got a fantastic under £5 section, you should be able to stock up on a few beautiful things for yourself too!

image by Popcorn & Glitter

This year I’m saying ‘no thanks’ to the chocolate (okay, maybe a handful of mini-eggs, but that’s it…) and yes please to some alternative gifts. In particular, I quite fancy getting some new jewellery this year. It doesn’t have to be Easter-themed (although the selection of fun Easter bunny earrings start at £4.95) and I’d be happy with any of these cool stacker rings or ‘love’ bangles.


One of my favourite pieces on the site is this honeycomb design. It’s available as a necklace, bracelet or earrings in 9ct gold, sterling silver or rose gold. It feels really spring-like without being OTT on the rabbits and flowers. Although I’m not a huge wearer of jewellery, I do like to wear the occasional special piece and I love the rose gold pieces I discovered. At least know where I want my birthday present to come from anyway!

I’ve also been looking on Etsy for some non-food related gifts for the little ones (and us bigger crafty folk too!). This Easter bunny kit looks like great fun for a start. It contains everything you’d need to make an adorable little soft rabbit – wouldn’t that be fun to make over Easter? It’ll keep the kids entertained for a little while at least! I also LOVE this cross-stitch kit for older kids, aunts and grandmas alike. It’s a skill I wish I could do, and I’d love to give this colourful spring sewing project a go.

Or if you fancy baking an Easter gift for your friends and family, why not try out some of my recipes? Cupcakes, meringues and iced biscuits all make lovely presents when presented in lovely wrapping. You could make fresh blueberry and lemon muffins in cute paper cases to hand out to the little ones. My dark chocolate meringue cookies look lovely when packaged in greaseproof paper and tied with a pretty ribbon. At the very least, you could make a batch of these recipes to share as part of your Easter Sunday dinner.And now, on to the part you’ve been waiting for – the giveaway. I’ve chatted to the wonderful people at JewelleryBox.co.uk and they are delighted to provide a prize for Cassiefairy.com readers. One lucky winner will be given £40 credit to spend on ANY jewellery they like! The giveaway runs until the end of Easter Monday so you could win a lovely Easter gift for yourself. There are plenty of ways to enter via the Rafflecopter widget below so enter now- good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway open to UK residents only, competition runs from 7th April 2017 – 17th April 2017, winner will be chosen at random from all entries via Rafflecopter and contacted via email. The winner will need to provide a UK delivery address to receive their prize.


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Tuesday Shoes – Springtime pumps with a sporty sole + WIN any pair of Strive footwear!

My spring essentials are pumps. I’ve lived in my tan brogue boots and my hiking trainers all winter but now that the weather is warming up and the clocks have gone forward I’m confident that it’s time to switch over to springtime shoes. So that’s what I’m talking about in today’s Tuesday Shoesday blog post, plus I’m giving you the opportunity to win ANY pair shoes from StriveFootwear.com in my giveaway so read on to find out how to enter this fab giveaway..!Now it’s not yet time for summer sandals, but my usual boots are too heavy for this transitional season; what I really need is a pair of pumps. I usually live in flats throughout the spring and summer, so over the past few years I’ve got through countless pairs. You know the type; cheap, flimsy and prone to holes! Okay, I haven’t spent much money on these budget shoes (thank goodness, because I’m getting through the like a packet of biscuits) but ideally I’d like a pair to last me a season and save me the effort of taking regular trips to the shops.After wearing Strive trainers in my day-to-day life, I concluded that the brand might be the solution for my spring/summer pumps too. I knew they make comfy sandals but I hadn’t ever investigated their shoe collection. Thankfully, the brand didn’t disappoint and I managed to find a pair of Hampton flats in the new season collection.

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Where to find bedding in mid-century colours

Hurrah! We finally have some new bedding for our new bedroom. After weeks spent stripping off wallpaper, days painting layers and layers of while emulsion to cover up bright peach walls, and even more hours spent laying beautiful laminate flooring, I think it was about time that we got a little reward for all our hard work. And what do you want when you’ve just turned a room into a perfect white cube? Colour, that’s what! Looking back over my last few home blog posts, I think you can tell the direction in which I’m heading with my interior decor. In fact, it’s no secret that I love mid-century modern design – I’ve had teak furniture and geometric patterns in my home for years. But this time, I’m taking the OTT garishness down a touch. I’m pairing simple white walls with natural textures, so that my mid-century design pieces really stand out and take centre stage. The bedroom is no exception. Where we previously had an eye-catching DIY feature wall made from the pages of old books, I’ve now decided that the bed itself should be the feature in the room. I’ve bought a sleek Hygena bed from Argos (which will take another month to arrive) and it’s undeniably mid-century in design. So I already had this in mind when it came to choosing some new bedding.

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Tuesday Shoesday – 100 years of Converse All-Stars

Did you know that 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the famous Converse All-Star high-top trainers? I didn’t either until I started Googling “Converse” when I was looking for a gift for my husband. A quick search not only brought up a whole host of classic designs to choose from but also a whole lot of history about the brand itself. I’m such a geek when it comes to gaining knowledge about the things I buy so I delved deeper to find out more. Read on to find out what I discovered about Converse…Let’s take it back to the very beginning; The Converse Rubber Shoe Company (to give the brand it’s full, original title) opened its doors back in 1908 in the US, making all kinds of athletic shoes before specialising in tennis shoes in 1915. This early success led the company to develop new styles of sports shoes with rubber soles… I think you know where I’m going with this! It was in 1917 that the Converse All-Star Basketball shoes were introduced. And when basketball player Chuck Taylor put his name behind the brand in 1920, the high-top style really started to take off. It was no longer just a shoe for playing sports in. Oh no.
Over the years the iconic design has become the footwear of choice for off-duty fashionistas and is the ultimate in casual cool. Fans started customising their All-Stars to make them their own and the style was reproduced in countless new fabrics, patterns and colours. Nowadays you can even have your own design made just for you by Converse using the customizer tool on their website.

Enter my £50 giveaway below…

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Finding low-cost flooring for my bedroom

When I started decorating my bedroom, I knew I wanted to create a tranquil space. I’ve always dreamed of an entirely white room – even when I was a teenager I wanted to create a minimalist room for myself, although you can imagine how un-minimal a teenage girl’s single room is in reality! This project is therefore the culmination of that dream. White, white and more white. That’s what I wanted. Yes the ceilings, the walls, the doors and even the floor.But where was I going to find white flooring that was also practical? I considered carpet, but seeing as I’m a big tea-drinker and a huge tea-spiller I thought that probably wouldn’t be the most sensible option. But I wanted a cosiness in the room so that the all-white box didn’t feel clinical.

After a lot of pinning and researching bedroom designs online, I decided that lovely whitewashed wood grain would do the job. Rooms with wooden floors rarely look clinical as the natural pattern adds a bit of interest to the floor. But as a thrifty gal, I didn’t want to splash the cash on a real-wood floor.

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Valentine’s gifts & an idea for a romantic evening at home

With Valentine’s Day coming up next week on the 14th February, I thought I would share some ideas with you for an inexpensive night in with your other half.If you want to avoid the crowds in busy restaurants and don’t fancy filling your home with heart-shaped mugs and pink teddy bears, this could be the solution to both your Valentine’s gifts and evening celebration. Read on to find out more and to enter my Valentine’s giveaway to win a fabulous prize bundle from Dartington Crystal and Bolsius candles. I’m talking about an at-home wine tasting. Or beer tasting. Or simply a mocktail evening, if that’s what you fancy. Pop on some music, light some candles and start sipping! The candles create a relaxed atmosphere and will transform your living room or kitchen into a cosy, intimate space for conversation to flow. Spending time together is the nicest thing about Valentine’s Day, so take this opportunity to have a good old catch-up without the distraction of the TV or internet. Of course, this type of evening in would be lovely whatever the occasion, whether it’s a birthday, your wedding anniversary or just a Friday night. Drinks-wise, you could treat yourselves to a bottle of wine, or go for the mini-bottles (like my tiny Prosecco bottle – just the right amount for two!) if you want to cut costs. This will also help to minimise wastage if you can’t drink a whole bottle on a school night..! Continue reading “Valentine’s gifts & an idea for a romantic evening at home” »


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Map Geek – Make it personal with romantic maps

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll already know what a geek I am when it comes to maps. Old, new and anything inbetween – maps are intriguing, enticing and informative. I’m the kind of person who wanders over to information maps on footpaths or in city centres and looks like a total tourist, but really I’m just interested in the map itself. Why is it here? What’s nearby? Any special information? Someone has taken the time to make that map and put it there, so surely there’s a reason that’s worth investigating. So it probably comes as no surprise that I also love to have maps in my own home too, and that’s where Mapify comes in. Read on to find out more about my Valentine’s map and how you can win your very own personalised map created just for you by Mapify in my giveaway – and there’s THREE prizes to be won!Thankfully, my husband is equally interested in maps, so when there’s an museum exhibit of old relief maps in the Lake District, or an exhibition of Max Gill’s famous street maps at The Lettering Arts Centre we are first in the queue to see it. I guess we’re well suited to each other, eh? So what better gift could I get for my husband this Valentine’s Day than a personalised map? Well, I’m pleased to say that it IS possible to create your own map of any location throughout the whole world, and have a fantastic quality print on your wall in a matter of days. Mapify is the serviceI used to make this special gift, and here’s how I did it.

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Pieday Friday – 3 healthy juice recipes

It’s all about the juicing this year. Or at least it is in my household because we’ve got a new juicer! As someone who has never tried combinations of juice before (seriously, orange juice is as adventurous as it got!) I’ve been really intrigued to start reading up on juicing and looking into recipes. There are SO many options out there; savoury juices, fruity juices, herby juices and even spicy juices. I wanted to make a healthy swap for my sometimes not-too-healthy shakes and smoothies, so I gave juicing a go for the very first time.I’ve read plenty of recipes where one or two of the ingredients were things that I’m not too keen on (like mango or parsley) so I decided to come up with my own combinations to test out my new juicer and to see whether or not I was going to enjoy fresh juice at all! Today’s Pieday Friday recipe post is the result of my experiments earlier this week and, if you’re a keen juicer yourself, I’m pretty sure that you’re going to like them.  The juicer I’m using is the Phillips Avance Collection Centrifugal Juicer, which is a pretty darn effective piece of equipment. When I started using it for the first time, I was rather surprised by how fast and easily it juiced the fruit and veg that I was putting through it. Sure, I guessed that soft grapes and pears would be easy to juice but who knew that so much moisture could come out of a carrot? Seriously, my carrots were pretty dry when they went in, but boy did they make a lot of juice! And, come to think of it, the pulp that came out was really dry too. I guess the machine got every drop out of the bunch.

So, here are the ingredients for each of the three juices I made last week. I went for a crowd-pleasing fresh fruity drink (the purple one), an exotic juice with tropical flavours (the yellow one) and a nutritious spicy savoury juice (the orange one – yes, the one with the carrots in). Of course, the instructions for each recipe is pretty-much “juice the ingredients” so I won’t bore you with that! Just know that it’s a good idea to remove rinds and skins from fruits like the pineapple, papaya, oranges and kiwi fruits.

One of my experiments that ended in disaster was juicing kiwis with their skins on. I read online that it was fine to eat the skins and while it may be possible to eat the skins, it’s not the nicest texture. So if you don’t want to drink a furry juice, I’d recommend taking off the skins before juicing!

Juice 1 – Cooked beetroot, apples, pears, white grapes.

Juice 2 – Pineapple, papaya, kiwi, oranges

Juice 3 – Carrots, celery, tomatoes, chilli

These juices make a pretty looking bunch, don’t they? I really enjoyed the purple beetroot-based juice and could drink that all day long. And the ‘bloody mary’ style veg juice was delicious too, in a savoury kind of way. I had a bit leftover that I heated up at lunchtime to try it as a soup. If you’re a fan of thin soups, this might be one for you. Tropical flavours aren’t really my thing, by my husband liked the exotic juice, so everyone’s happy with our new juicer!  Do you already make your own juice or will you be starting as part of a healthy habit swap this January? I know I’ll be trying to keep it up during the year so let me know your ideas for recipes or fruit ‘n’ veg combinations by leaving me a comment below or by tweeting me @Cassiefairy.


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Homemade upcycled gifts – How to make a memory bear using baby clothes

What do you get for your niece and nephew when you’re the coolest aunt in the world? Why, handmade teddy bears, of course! It’s a project that has been six months in the making and now the bears are finally wrapped up and flying across the sea to reach the little ones in Ireland in time for Christmas. Now, I’m not saying that it took me six months to actually sew the bears – the making part is quite a simple process (thanks to the new teddy bear pattern I used) – it was all the planning that went into the project that took some time and I’ll tell you why.homemade-handmade-sewing-project-teddy-bears-ted-amazing-craft-bear-pattern-diy-gift-project-16homemade-handmade-sewing-project-teddy-bears-ted-amazing-craft-bear-pattern-diy-gift-project-1I wanted to make a keepsake teddy bear for each child, so I wanted them to be personalised in some way. When I first opened up the pattern I could see that it would be easy to make the pattern pieces fit into items of my niece and nephew’s clothing. What better way to make a personalised gift, and to upcycle old clothing at the same time, than to reuse their baby clothes to make them a teddy bear? I asked their parents if they had any of their tiny outfits left, and luckily they did. I asked for non-stretchy items (which are easier to sew) and it wasn’t long before a bag of baby clothes arrived.homemade-handmade-sewing-project-teddy-bears-ted-amazing-craft-bear-pattern-diy-gift-project-17 homemade-handmade-sewing-project-teddy-bears-ted-amazing-craft-bear-pattern-diy-gift-project-3I got the newly launched Charlie teddy bear pattern from Amazing Craft and studied the instructions from front to back before getting started. There’s only a handful of pattern pieces and the construction seemed so much more straightforward than bear patterns I’ve used in the past. I was eager to get started and see just how the pattern worked. I’m pleased to report that this is the most simple-to-use set of instructions, and having fewer pattern pieces meant much less tacking, pinning and fiddling. I whizzed up the arms and legs in no time at all. The body is the only piece that has any darts in it, and even then there’s only two small darts so it’s really uncomplicated to construct. I guess the pattern does what it says on the cover – it truly is ‘bear making for beginners’ and it couldn’t be easier to follow. It’s available as printed instructions (which I got, at £6.99) or as a digital download to print at home for only £4.99.homemade-handmade-sewing-project-teddy-bears-ted-amazing-craft-bear-pattern-diy-gift-project-12homemade-handmade-sewing-project-teddy-bears-ted-amazing-craft-bear-pattern-diy-gift-project-2homemade-handmade-sewing-project-teddy-bears-ted-amazing-craft-bear-pattern-diy-gift-project-15 The little trousers were the perfect base to make the arms and legs of the teddies – the linen fabric wasn’t at all stretchy and I could make a feature out of the details on the trousers. I positioned the pattern pieces so that my niece’s bear would have the spotty trim from the trousers around the outside of the paws, and my nephew’s bear has tiny pockets on the legs. I could even reuse the lining of my nephew’s trousers to make a soft inner arm, and I added little monster designs from his tiny t-shirt to make contrasting paws and feet. I used a floral baby-grow to make the insides my of niece’s bear’s arms and even the bears’ ears have a patterned underside.homemade-handmade-sewing-project-teddy-bears-ted-amazing-craft-bear-pattern-diy-gift-project-14 homemade-handmade-sewing-project-teddy-bears-ted-amazing-craft-bear-pattern-diy-gift-project-19homemade-handmade-sewing-project-teddy-bears-ted-amazing-craft-bear-pattern-diy-gift-project-4I wanted the bears to be safe for the little ones to carry around, so I got some safety eyes and plastic safety joints from Amazing Craft. This means that the head, arms and legs are poseable and the eyes can’t be bitten off because they pop together and clamp into place. In fact, I couldn’t even get the joints apart again if I tried! My tip for using these is to get the position of the arms and legs right first time, because you won’t be able to take them off again if they’re in the wrong place, so double-check the position before pushing the joints together. Soaking the joints in hot water for a minute will make them a littler easier to pop together. The plastic joints are also safe to go in the washing machine, which is good news because we all know how mucky kid’s teddies get!homemade-handmade-sewing-project-teddy-bears-ted-amazing-craft-bear-pattern-diy-gift-project-7

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