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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The ergonomics of working from home

If you’re a full-time freelancer like me, or someone who works just one day a week out of their home office, this is the blog post for you. That’s because I’m sharing some research I’ve done about the ergonomics of setting up a home workspace and I’m sure that it’ll help you enjoy working from home even more than you already do!

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If you’ve been making do with sitting at the kitchen table to do your work, or balancing your laptop on the arm of the sofa, or (like us bloggers occasionally admit) never even leave your bed, you won’t need me to tell you that it’s not the best way to work. You’ll ready know it yourself thanks to the numb bum, crick-in-the-neck and sore back you get at the end of the working day.

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Why don’t you have problems like this when you’re working at the office? Because most businesses have ergonomically designed desks and chairs, perfectly set up desks and monitors at just the right height. They need to provide a healthy working environment for their workers, and don’t want to have staff absences because a dodgy office chair caused spine problems for their employees.

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So the solution to having a more comfortable working environment at home is to replicate ‘the office’. I know it might seem dull (and you’ve only just got away from that bloomin’ office!) but you’re going to have to set up a proper desk, get a great office chair and stop working on that laptop. This guide below explains the best way to arrange your desk to make it ergonomically correct. And, most importantly, you’re going to have actually USE your newly arranged desk to do your work. No matter how tempting the sofa looks!

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DIY Neon sign for parties & weddings

I’ve made my first ever neon sign. It’s going to take pride of place in my office in a few months time but I couldn’t wait for all the decorating to be done before showing you the project. It took just a couple of hours, a can of bright pink spray paint and a length of EL wire to create this unique sign. So simple, but really effective. The full step-by-step guide to making the neon sign can be found in my blog post for Make It Yours. It may look complicated, but it’s actually a really simple process that involves some easy drilling and a spot of hot-gluing. I got my EL wire from Ebay, but it’s also available on Amazon and in craft stores. It came with a battery pack and the glowing neon is powered by a couple of AA batteries. The wire has three settings – flash, quick flash and steady on. And if you’re not a fan of pink don’t worry, it also comes in blue, purple, green, red and yellow, so your sign could be any – or all – of the above colours.In fact, I think it’s such a simple enough process that I could happily knock up a sign like this for any occasion. How about a ‘just married’ sign for weddings, a ‘Ho Ho Ho’ for Christmas, a huge glowing ‘2018’ for New Year’s Eve or a ‘#girlboss’ sign for your office? If you can think up a phrase, you can make it in neon! The sign I made works great as a candy station for a wedding, anniversary party, hen do, birthday party or even for the upcoming Valentine’s day. Give it a try – I bet you’ll impress yourself with your neon-sign-making skills!

I’m kind of addicted to this technique now – I want to make all kinds of signs in neon and I can already imagine my Halloween decor! But this isn’t the only DIY guide I’ve shared on the Make It Yours website – check out my profile and have a look at my other projects including snowy window decorations, a festive chair, how to distress furniture and a vintage bike makeover. There’s plenty more coming over the next few months so keep an eye on the website for more easy, thrifty and colourful projects during the Spring.


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Norman Foster’s Willis Building in Ipswich – 1970s architecture & interiors

Today’s blog post is rather photo-heavy, but I wanted to share some snaps I took while touring Norman Foster’s famous Willis Building. My husband and I went into Ipswich as part of the Heritage Open Weekend and visited half-a-dozen or so historical buildings that are not usually open to the public. Among them was the derelict art deco style Broomhill lido (currently campaigning to be renovated and reopened) and Freston Tower overlooking the Orwell river.willis-building-norman-foster 20150529-willis-building-40y-anniv-02448Only when I got home did I realise that I hadn’t taken any photos outside the building, so here’s a photo of the Willis Building from the Huffington Post and a stunning long-exposure image by photographer Claudia Gannon of the building lit in red lights to celebrate the Ruby anniversary of the building.

Up on the roof and inside the lobby

The most exciting place for me was the Willis Building. I studied architecture and spatial design in college and the utopian movement was my specialism. I’d been bursting to see inside the iconic Willis Building ever since but, as it’s a fully functioning office building, there was no way to get inside. So when I heard that it was opening its shiny glass doors for two days over the Heritage Open Weekend, I charged up my camera and headed along.

The ‘Green Mile’ corridor and first floor office

Having studied the building in the past, I kind of knew what to expect, but I wasn’t prepared for the scale of the building. Blimey, it’s big inside! With space for 1,300 workers I guess it has to be. And it’s exceptionally colourful too. Visitors are greeted with grass green floors and sunshine yellow walls – replicating a sunny day in utopia. Or the colours of Ipswich’s rival football club. I like to think that Norman Foster was creating an indoor/outdoor office design rather than just goading the locals!

Escalators to the top floor and (just for scale) here’s me popping out half way along the ‘Green Mile’

The colours are including in the building’s Grade I listing so cannot be changed, but why would you want to? The fun colours put a big smile on my face as soon as I walked in. Oddly enough, it’s not overpowering to have such a brightly coloured interior. The usual office furniture, dark vertical blinds and shimmering metal ceilings calm things down somewhat. Would I replicate the interior décor at home? Probably not. But it has certainly reignited my love of all things yellow and I will include more bright accent colours next time I decorate.

On top of the Willis Building and the view of Ipswich town centre

The most exciting part of the tour for me was stepping out onto the roof garden. I’d heard all kinds of rumours about the roof garden (including a kind of half-truth that there was a swimming pool up there for employees to use) when I studied the building as a teen but it still didn’t prepare me for the vastness of the roof garden. There’s space for hundreds of office workers to enjoy a picnic lunch up there. It’s enclosed by a neat hedge (more green) and outside the hedge there’s a track which runs around the exterior of the oddly-shaped curved building. By the way, the glass building was designed in such a curvy shape in order to maximise the use of the whole plot of land available for the build.

The manicured roof garden and the track that runs around the building beyond the hedge

I guessed that the track was used for cleaning the windows (perhaps hanging a platform over the edge?) but I couldn’t be sure. We decided to walk around the perimeter and take some photos of the Ipswich skyline while we were there. In fact, if this wasn’t a rail-track it would make a perfectly good running track for jogging workers at break time, though I can’t be sure that Norman Foster had that utopian ideal in his mind when he designed it.norman-foster-utopian-black-glass-willis-building-ipswich-suffolk-yellow-and-green-interior-office-70s-1970s-9norman-foster-utopian-black-glass-willis-building-ipswich-suffolk-yellow-and-green-interior-office-70s-1970s-3 norman-foster-utopian-black-glass-willis-building-ipswich-suffolk-yellow-and-green-interior-office-70s-1970s-15

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Tuesday Shoesday – Comfort shoes for a more active life

Whenever September rolls around I get that ‘new-term’ feeling. Even though I’m no longer a student, when you add up all the years that I have been studying in one way or another (yes, I’m even counting primary school), we’re looking at upwards of 20 years in education. So it’s no wonder that I still see September as the start of a new chapter – and still use an academic diary! I see it as a time to kick off some resolutions. In fact, it’s probably a better time of year to make resolutions than January, as you’ve got the end of the year as a marker for quantifying your goals. Whether it’s learning a new language (yes, I’m trying to learn Spanish this year), getting fitter, changing your working habits or improving your savings, I think that September is a great time to start.health-active-sports-shoes-walking-running-cycling-trainers-5So, why am I talking about new goals on a Tuesday Shoesday? Surely this blog post is about shoes, right? Right! But my new shoes are linked to my new-term resolutions, and here are the reasons why: I took a bit of time off over the summer and it was only when I got back into the swing of full-time work that I realised just how bad my back and neck is. I went for physiotherapy earlier this year to correct a neck problem (caused by a historical whiplash injury over 10 years ago) and I thought everything was getting better. Over the summer, I barely noticed anything wrong with my neck and all those headaches were gone. However, as soon as I got back to my desk it became obvious what the problem was – my working environment. All the aches and pains came rushing back and it was difficult to get through a full day of work. So here’s my solution, and how it links to the shoes:health-active-sports-shoes-walking-running-cycling-trainers-7I’m now a standing worker. I realised that sitting down all day was causing a lot of problems; heavy legs, pins and needles, bad back and strained neck. No matter how ergonomic my desk set-up was, I needed to get up off my bum and work standing up. So I gave it a go by moving my computer onto a higher work surface for a couple of days to see how I got on. It worked miracles. No problems at all. Apart from one small thing; my feet ached. My cheap flat pumps were clearly NOT made for standing all day! It reminded me of working in hospitality jobs when I was running around all day and really needed a foot massage at the end of the day. So one problem solved ended up causing another problem, but there was something I could do about that…health-active-sports-shoes-walking-running-cycling-trainers-12

If you need new sports clothing I think that Fabletics (designed by Kate Hudson) can’t be beaten for style and performance.

I’ve reviewed comfort shoes on my blog in the past and I discovered that, for heels, Hotter cannot be beaten. However, I’ve always struggled to find a decent pair of comfort shoes that are also a little more on the sporty side. Most flat comfort shoes are a little bit too ‘old lady’ for me (no offence) and I’ve shied away from them, preferring basic low-cost pumps when I want to wear flat shoes. I read some reviews about sports shoes and zumba shoes online (read the article at NicerShoes.com) and now I’ve finally found a pair of comfort shoes that I want to show off – they’re sporty, available in great colours and are SO comfortable it’s unreal.health-active-sports-shoes-walking-running-cycling-trainers-10health-active-sports-shoes-walking-running-cycling-trainers-2 health-active-sports-shoes-walking-running-cycling-trainers

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Garden rooms – why are they so popular?

After visiting the Ideal Home Show and Grand Designs Live back in the Spring, I found myself coveting a garden room. Why? Because the amazing designs of garden ‘pods’, chill out spaces, offices and outdoor rooms were the only things that really held my attention while I visited these design exhibition. Sure I came away with oodles of inspiration for interiors too, but the garden zones at each of these shows was where I was truly inspired. I popped into dozens of garden rooms during the day, I checked out the construction methods used and I could have practically lived in one special ‘temporary’ garden room. Yes, I was smitten and when I came home from the exhibitions I dug a little deeper to find out why gardens rooms are just SO appealing right now. Here’s what I found: Garden Room office ideas1. They are the ultimate home office space. And I work from home. So it’s no wonder I was so smitten with the garden rooms I saw at those exhibitions. They provided the perfect workspace; a quiet place, away from TV distractions and household chores, where I could work peacefully and uninterrupted. I could store everything I needed in one space, and my paperwork would no longer cover the living room. With electricity and wifi (and a kettle, perhaps!) I would have everything I needed to work efficiently all day long. Plus, my commute would be only about 20 paces away from my back door. Sounds ideal doesn’t it?Garden Rooms floor plan office inspiration2. Garden rooms have multiple uses. I read a news article about the popularity of garden rooms and it opened my eyes to all the uses that a space in the garden offers to the homeowner. Imagine having a cinema room of your own! You may not have space indoors to dedicate a whole room to screening your favourite films, but you CAN build a home cinema in the garden. Similarly, a chill out room, yoga studio, library or photography studio are all possible when you add another room to your garden.

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How to spot a future-proof house

When searching for a property, it’s important to consider the future. I’ve learnt this after viewing countless properties and each of them being just not quite right for us. Sure, plenty of the houses we’ve seen have been fine, more than fine, and would work perfectly well for us right now. But I don’t want this to be a ‘for now’ move, I want to find a home that I can grow into and stay in one place for the first time in years. After moving a whopping 11 times during our 15 years together, my husband and I want to stay put for once! We’d quite like to find a house that will work great for us right now, and still be a good investment in future years. So here’s what we’re considering when viewing properties – hope it helps:blogger writer home office inspiration

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Work proof

You know where you’re working right now, but things can certainly change in the future. You may be offered a position abroad, and would want to rent out your home while you’re working away. So is it rentable? Could it be a holiday home for a period of time? And if your role changes, or you become self-employed, is there space for you to be able to have an office and work from home? We are certainly looking for a house with an office space for me!family room home house buying inspiration ideas

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Family proof

If you can manage to get a slightly larger house than strictly necessary at this stage, it means you won’t need to move again in a hurry if your family grows in the future. It could be that you’re planning to have children in many, many years time but just having that option to fit in a growing family means that you won’t need to give up the home you love just to fit in the little ones. We’re looking at it from the point of view of having nieces and nephews to stay in the future, and living nearby to our family so that we can help out as they grow up. All of these factors should be considered as it may influence the type of house you buy and the location you choose.house buying future proof house dining room downstairs bedroom

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Retirement proof

Okay, I’m talking many, many years into the future now, but we may still be living in the house we buy when we retire. If so, that probably means we’ve been happy living in our home for all these years and wouldn’t want to move in the future. So how upsetting would it be to have to move out when mobility becomes as issue later in life? Sure you can install stairlifts for the home so that it’s still possible to go upstairs, but having the option to use a downstairs room as a bedroom can eliminate the need to move house when you’re less mobile in the future. So we’re keeping an eye out for houses with dining rooms or office spaces that could be a bedroom and, rather unusually, we think that a downstairs bathroom is a bonus!

What do you think is an important thing to consider when you’re buying a first home? Should you try to get everything you need in one house or do you think that moving again in the future is inevitable? Let me know your thoughts and house-buying tips by leaving me a comment below or tweeting me @Cassiefairy.


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Operation organise! The never-ending battle to keep my desk tidy

Whether you’re working in an office environment or you’ve got your own personal space at home, keeping your work area neat can sometimes be a tricky task. I know I struggle to keep that stack of paperwork under control! Throw in numerous cups of tea and lunch at my desk and things are starting to look pretty messy by the end of the day. As the saying goes, a tidy desk makes for a tidy mind, so if you’re keen to organise your workstation, you could take the following suggestions into consideration.coffee table styling for work tea and romantic evening-6Invest in savvy storage solutions

Unless you have access to suitable storage, it’s likely you’re going to struggle when it comes to keeping your workstation and office organised. From cupboards and filing cabinets to drawers and shelving, there are a whole host of convenient and useful furnishings that can bring order to your work area. To keep your immediate workstation tidy, you could invest in an office desk with inbuilt drawers or you could position a mobile pedestal underneath. It made a real difference to me when I made a desk out of a chest of drawers (see my desk DIY project) because I suddenly had somewhere to stash away everything that was making the top of my desk untidy. Having storage solutions like this within such close proximity to your workspace should make it easier for you to maintain an orderly and clear working environment.

Ditch the paper and go digital

If you find that your desk is often covered in piles of paperwork, or your shelves are looking rather precarious with massive box-files balanced on them, you could benefit from going digital. Instead of having physical copies of your documentation, you could choose to scan and store them on your computer. There are a wide variety of software and hardware options available which allow you to store files where you can access them easily; I invested in personal ‘cloud’ storage so all my files are on a hard-drive on the shelf and I can access them via wifi from any device. Ditching the paper to digitise is not only a good way to save space and reduce cluttering, but it’s great for the environment too.coffee table styling for work tea and romantic evening-8Create an effective filing system
While digitising your paperwork is an easy way to rid your workspace of unnecessary clutter, you’re likely to have some important documentation that you simply need to keep. For paper-based items that you can’t be without, you could create an effective filing system. Whether you choose to use a filing cabinet or a hard-backed folder, keeping them labelled is the key to having well-organised paperwork. Alphabetising or ordering your paperwork by importance could make it easier for you to refer to a particular piece of documentation quickly and easily.

Schedule tidying time into your routine
So that your office looks smart and neat at all times, you might benefit from scheduling some tidying time into your daily routine. When was the last time I cleaned my keyboard? I literally can’t remember, which is pretty gross. I’m going to finish writing this post and then clean it straight away! From wiping down your desk to organising your drawers, making the effort to clean, tidy and declutter every day will help you maintain a well-kept workspace. You could try doing this at the end of the day so you can enjoy a clear office every morning and start work with a fresh mind.coffee table styling for work tea and romantic evening-9Taking some of these tips on board could help you create and maintain a tidy and organised working environment. What do you think of these ideas? What do you do to keep yourself tidy and organised at work? I’d love to hear your tips so please leave me a comment below, and if you’ve found this post useful please share it with your friends by using the sharing buttons below or by pinning one of my photos onto your Pinterest boards. Thanks!


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DIY mid-century modern desk makeover

In the summer I work in my caravan. I spend hours in that little tin box, writing, sewing and drinking tea. The birds are singing and a cool breeze is blowing through the open windows. I love every minute of it and I can’t wait for the start of ‘caravan season’. In the meantime – when it’s cold and wet outside like it is today – I find it hard to drag myself outside to my garden workshop. I prefer to stay close to the radiators and kettle indoors, so during the dark winter months I set myself up at the dining table and work my socks off from there.diy desk makeover project - mid-century modern-3The trouble with not having a dedicated work space is that I end up with mess everywhere and I can never just leave my work at the end of the day. It either needs to be tidied away because we’ll be using the table, or the mess stays where I leave it and brings down neatness of the whole room. Plus, because I can see my laptop sitting there, I tend to go back to check emails and do just a little bit more in the evening when I should be relaxing. So I decided, as part of my new years resolutions, that a dedicated workspace was in order and I set out to find myself a desk. diy furniture makeover project - desk and shelf Continue reading “DIY mid-century modern desk makeover” »


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My little vintage caravan – Sewing room storage

Over the past couple of weeks you may have spotted a few blog posts relating to my vintage caravan makeover project and, in particular, my attempt to finally turn my space into a proper craft workshop. I desperately needed somewhere to stash all my creative bits, bobs and books so in the new year I started searching for the ultimate storage solution. vintage caravan craft workshop - storage solution for sewing office-6 Until now all of my essential sewing gear, knitting kit and craft books have been stored in plastic tubs stacked up on top of each other, and boy was that annoying when you wanted to find something in a hurry. It was worse still when I knew exactly where the fabric I needed was stored, and it was at the bottom of a tub at the base of the stack, so everything had to be pulled out and strewn all over the caravan before I could get to it. Pretty much every project that I wanted to tackle began in this way, so I knew that I’d have half-hour’s worth of getting stuff out and putting it back away before I could even get started on sewing something. And that kind of puts you off doing it at all. Continue reading “My little vintage caravan – Sewing room storage” »


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Back to work… ouch!

This week I’ve had a problem. It started on Sunday and has carried on all week with little or no let up. I’ve had headaches as a result and even had to have mid-day a lie down at times. I’m taking about back pain and it is naffing me off. Just like the dodgy pun in the title of this blog post, it’s annoying. I know many people ensure bad backs for weeks at a time (many of my friends and family included) and this is really only a relatively recent problem for me, but it’s really frustrating to have to stop what I’m doing in order to sort out my problem.

I don’t like taking pills too often so I’ve been powering through and I know that you should keep moving when you have a dodgy back, but this pain has kind of frozen my neck. I think I’ve traced the root of the problem to my poor choices of working environment over the past couple of weeks. Instead of working in my caravan ‘office’ or sitting at my living room desk, I’ve been lazy and have actually been perching on the sofa to do my work. It’s the result of having a laptop with wifi that doesn’t need to be plugged in all the time, so I can literally work wherever I like, whereas in the past I’ve been chained to the desk with all kinds of wires going into my laptop, therefore keeping me in one place. I guess it can’t be good for me to be snuggled up on the sofa while working and my new-found poor posture results in one heck of a crick in the neck as I look down to see my computer screen. In turn, the neck pain has resulted in headaches at the base of my head – not good and almost debilitating.

correct working posture back app

As we speak I have one of those heated wheat-bags around my neck and I can’t carry on like this. I read this article to find out more about posture and have self-diagnosed that my bad back and neck probably is down to my working environment. Apparently even when working at a desk, the kinds of chairs that are often found in offices are probably contributing to bad backs all around the country – so imagine how bad my standard dining-chair and small table must be for me? What hope is there for my dodgy back and sore neck if I’m not even sitting in a supportive chair at an ergonomically design desk?? I do tend to slump a little and have to regularly correct my posture and really I probably need to raise up my computer to a better eye-level.

But it’s not just me who is suffering – according to the article, 80% of people are experiencing back pain in their lifetime and poor posture can be attributed to the increase in tablet computers and smartphones which have created a generation who are happy to be hunched over screens while they work, rest and play – which this article had dubbed the ‘iPosture’. I am guilty of this too as I reward myself for a good day’s work with a Pinterest session. Maybe I need to be sitting at a desk while doing this too? Who knew that the ‘convenience’ tablets would be causing us all to have bad backs and poor posture? I know what I need to do and honestly, I will start working on my desk again for starters. Plus I am now wishing for a posture-pleasing chair like the ones above, but in the meantime I will take more notice of my posture and correct myself if I begin to slump. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a quick improvement in my sore neck and back so that I can finally wave goodbye to these headaches. Let me know if you’ve had any trouble like this in the past or currently and what you’re doing to make it better – maybe I can give it a go too!

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Article and images used in collaboration with Back App.

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