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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Books, books, books – What I got for Christmas & first impressions

I guess I was quite adamant when I said I only wanted books for Christmas, huh? Because that’s what I got – and piles of ’em! So you can imagine how thrilled I am to start the new year with a stack of books to read and plenty of reviews to bring you throughout 2017. I’m just about to finish reading Dave Gorman Versus The Rest of The World so I’m excited to dive straight into these new books. Here’s what I received and my first impressions:book review 2016 2017 books tim peake amy schumer caitlin moran gretchen rubin-3Caitlin Moran – Moranifesto

I’ve read most of Moran’s books and this one has been on my wishlist since it was published in March 2016. I didn’t buy it straight away though because I find hardbacks more cumbersome to read and I was waiting for the paperback version to come out. How long would I have to wait? While I was browsing a book store in Ely in November I found this signed first edition and pointed it out to hubby. Thankfully he took the hint and managed to snaffle it for me without me knowing! Can’t wait to get started on this review 2016 2017 books tim peake amy schumer caitlin moran gretchen rubin-9Tim Peake – Hello, is this planet Earth?

As someone who followed Tim Peake’s mission religiously (and was giddy with excitement when I met him only a couple of days after he returned to the UK) you can imagine how excited I was to unwrap this book. It’s a chunky square book full of beautiful photographs taken by Tim during his time on the international space station. The cover is a shiny hardback (which I think looks a little bit cheap or unofficial) but when you open the pages, it’s full of stunning photos alongside Tim’s own words about the images and locations. I’d actually recommended this book to mum as a suitable present for my husband, but it was actually him who bought it for me. Good thing we didn’t all buy it for each other!book review 2016 2017 books tim peake amy schumer caitlin moran gretchen rubin-7

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No wifi for the weekend

When was the last time that you went offline? For me, it’s probably been years. Ever since I got my first smart phone I’ve not had a day away from the internet. Well, when you’re carrying a computer in your pocket at all times, and your job is based online, and your friends contact you via social media, how can you ever really get away from it? It used to be easy to take a break: on a Friday night you’d simply shut down your computer and relax for the weekend. There was no social media to tempt you to stay up late scrolling through posts, and no-one expected a reply to their emails until Monday morning. In fact, no-one really sent those Saturday evening emails, because they too had closed down their computer at the end of the working months of hard work, I knew I needed a break so hubby and I went away for a relaxing weekend away in Badger cottage in Sweffling. It’s a charming little barn that’s been converted into a super-cosy two bedroom holiday home in the beautiful Suffolk countryside. Arriving on Thursday evening, were delighted to find original beams and character galore, a deep reclaimed roll-top bath, and a big log fire. Everything we needed was right there at hand in the well-stocked kitchen, bathroom and living room. The stack of firewood and flickering woodburner let us know that we were in for a warm and cosy weekend. Candles in every room offered a calming sense of hygge and we felt completely at home the minute we stepped inside the time away from the internet was partially self-inflicted and partially down my GiffGaff phone not being able to get any signal. I wanted to make the most of my time away from home, of course I did, but I’d still brought along my iPad and phone in case I ‘needed’ to get online. After an inital ‘why isn’t it working?!’ frustration, I asked myself why I was even trying to get online anyway. I realised that just knowing that I could get online if I wanted to was a bit of a comfort blanket. And I also realised that I’m a grown-up and don’t need comfort blankets anymore! And if I could have logged on, it’s likely that I would have wasted the whole weekend scrolling through Instagram or saving things on Pinterest (I convince myself it’s okay to spend time doing this because it’s ‘research’). christmas-jumper-festive-mince-pie-fire-bath-hygge-reading-sewing-xmas-festive-wifi-2So thank goodness that I couldn’t find that 3G signal anywhere, and thank goodness that I didn’t go searching for a wifi hotspot. Because it turns out that I had the best few (internet-free) days ever… Continue reading “No wifi for the weekend” »


House of Plants book review

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

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

PRUNING & CARE (Cacti & Other Succulents)

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


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


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


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

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

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Pineapple Infused Vodka + DIY Cocktail Glass

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

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My favourite reads + ‘Swing Dance’ book review

November is here and you know what that means. Not only is the countryside is looking particularly glorious with golden leaves and harvest fruits on the trees, but it also means that Christmas is on its way! Which you can probably guess from my festive blog posts last month is something I’m already particularly excited about. November is a great month; the days are bright and fresh, bonfire night is coming soon, and it the slightly cooler weather makes me want to snuggle up in the evenings with something good to read. That’s the reason I’ve compiled this blog post about my favourite publications and am launching a lovely giveaway to win a copy of the newly published ‘Swing Dance’ vintage culture book – so please read on!book magazine review landlust the simple things swing dance-3I was lucky enough to get my hands on the new issue of LandLust magazine at the weekend. If you’ve not yet heard about LandLust I’m not surprised; I hadn’t either when I first started researching the publication last month, but I’m so pleased that I’ve discovered it now. The magazine first launched in Germany 10 years ago and now has over a million readers there. Building on this success the magazine is about to launch in the UK magazine review landlust the simple things swing danceMuch like my regular favourite mag (which I’ll tell you a little more about in a minute!) this publication focuses on country life, cooking, crafts, gardening and much more. With thrifty articles on making homemade piping bags, low-cost Christmas decorations and DIY ‘scrap-wood’ shelf projects it’s no wonder that I’ve been intently pouring over every page since it arrived. It’s hitting the shops on 5th of November so be sure to pick one up or visit for more information on this new magazine review landlust the simple things swing dance-4I’ve been excited about checking out the newly published ‘Swing Dance’ book since it hit the shelves back in mid-September. Last week I finally got my hands on a copy and couldn’t wait to sit down with a cup of tea and enjoy browsing the vintage-inspired pages. Written by Scott Cupit, founder of the world’s largest swing dance school ‘Swing Patrol’, the book is an insight into the world of contemporary swing dance and, as you may have noticed from my various blog posts on the subject, this is something I am really keen on learning more magazine review landlust the simple things swing dance-7The book explores the most popular swing dance styles including the Charleston, Lindy Hop, Collegiate Shag and Balboa and offers a step-by-step guide to perfecting the dances. It also focuses on the associated vintage culture of each style including the music, hairstyles, fashion, make-up and history of each dance, so it’s not just about learning the steps!book magazine review landlust the simple things swing dance-5Seeing as its Tuesday Shoesday I couldn’t resist sharing some photos of the gorgeous vintage footwear page within the book. I’d love a pair of gold dancing shoes like these – they look so comfortable and glamorous! Both Hubby and I have a few pairs of brogues in our wardrobe and I love wearing them for dancing lindy hop; they make jumping and kicking so much easier than when I’m tottering around in heels!book magazine review landlust the simple things swing dance-6If you would like to win a copy of this gorgeous new book – great for anyone interested in vintage culture, fashion, beauty or dance – I have two to give away to my wonderful blog readers. Enter via the Rafflecopter widget at the bottom of this blog post for your chance to win a copy of this brand new magazine review landlust the simple things swing dance-2 Continue reading “My favourite reads + ‘Swing Dance’ book review” »

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Share your serenity – Reading

“Me time.” It’s something that we all want more of but is the most scarce “time” of all. It usually comes after work, when all chores have been completed, and after ensuring that everyone we care for is okay too. Only then do we look around ourselves and realise that we’ve actually forgotten what “me time” is. I often wonder to myself; What do people do when everything else is done? I pick up my phone, scroll through, but every message has been replied to, every snapchat chatted and every Instagram liked. I open my computer and find that every email has been responded to, every article has been written and my Facebook friends haven’t shared anything new for the last five minutes. I close the laptop again and sigh. I must have finally reached “me time” and it feels inspiration share your serenity readingOdd, but good. No more lists to do, no more reply to make and no more chores. The house is clean, the family is fed and my “to do” list is in the bin. I love this time. Even though it’s rare, and I may have forgotten how to spend it, I know what I want to do. I want to read. My serenity comes from words. Whether through a great book, on an inspirational blog or in my favourite magazine, the process of reading calms me down, forces me to stop (have you ever tried reading while doing something else? It’s one of the few things that I can’t multi-task!) and usually involves a cup of tea inspiration - share serenity reading books catI am currently reading Stuffocation by James Wallman. It offers insights into ‘living more with less’ through case studies, economic research, cultural change and psychology and I’m in awe of the stories I’ve read in this thought-provoking book. Focussing less on possessions and more on experiences is a mantra that I’d love to live by and the ideas I’ve read in this book have already inspired me to make changes in my own life. Yes, reading itself gives me serenity, but the things I’ve read have also caused more serenity in my day-to-day life with only a few simple inspiration - share serenity reading magazines tea-2My magazine subscription has just dropped through my letterbox. My favourite journal cannot be beaten; The Simple Things is a monthly tome of relaxation and just living. With gorgeous photography and well choreographed words, every flick-through calms me down, whether I have 1 minute or 1 hour to spend on “me time”. Just turning the thick pages soothes my soul and I’m always delighted by the stunning image revealed on the coming page. Yes, it’s another inspirational article on wellness, appreciating the little things in life and enjoying every inspiration - share serenity reading magazines tea-3Tea is essential. Tea soothes and calms. It’s the perfect accompaniment to any book, magazine or Bloglovin’ browse. It means that I am sitting down and not moving from this spot until I’ve had a good read. Wisps of steam rising from the cup are an added bonus. Mine is milky with one sugar (or sweetener) so it’s a real treat. Yes, I have one by my side right now so I’m feeling pretty good right now. A sip in between pages is key to enjoying a long read, and a refill is the “me time” holy grail. Especially if someone else gets it for you so you don’t even have to move off the sofa. Yes, a good cup of tea can heal any problem and make every moment a little more inspiration - share serenity reading blogI’m not just a blog writer, I’m also an avid blog reader. I love checking for updates on my favourite blogs and discovering new inspirational writers via Twitter and Blogovin’. Some of my top blogs have been open tabs on my iPad for literally months so that I can flick them on at a moment’s notice and catch the latest article. I’m calmed by the gorgeous photos that bloggers seem to create so effortlessly and a well-written post can beat any book, hands down. I’m inspired by the real life of the writers I follow and am motivated by their endless enthusiasm and ideas. I wish I was them, and I love that I’m part of the blogging community and get to enjoy the kindness of sharing each day. This is definitely one of my ultimate serenity moments; reading stunning content created by inspirational people from around the globe. Amazing.share your serenity

I’d love you to share your own serenity too and let me know what brings you peace. I’m so interested to find out what you get up to during your “me time” and whether you too forget what you’re ‘supposed’ to do when you get a spare minute to yourself! I found this challenge on the Portmerion Village website and I hope that you too will feel inspired to #shareyourserenity through your own blog and tweet me the link @Cassiefairy so I can have a read. Thanks, chat to you soon.


Back to school and more dressing up!

Now that the little ones are all back to school and the new term in is full swing (with mock exams going on this week – good luck teens!) I’ve been adding the official term dates to the calendar and have spotted another important date for your diaries – World Book Day on March 6 2014.  I am very keen on the ideas of book week and world book day because as a child I was a keen reader and have continued to enjoy reading throughout my life so I’d like to think that these educational days are helping to encourage a lifetime of reading in the next generation. I really believe that reading helps children to develop an inquiring mind and sparks their imagination in a way that watching TV simply doesn’t. Surely children painting their own pictures of the story in their minds-eye from the clues that they are reading will  lead to a whole new generation of film-makers, artists, actors, writers and influence millions more to be creative and questioning throughout their education and onwards into their working life.

So often I’ve read a book and imagined a scene in a certain way, and am delighted when I watch the film version and see my thoughts come to life – for example, when I watched the recent Chronicles of Narnia films and saw the beavers’ home from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe I became quite emotional at seeing ‘in real life’ the scene that I’d conjured up in my mind so many times as a child – it brought back memories of childhood that, although completely imagined, were very real in my mind. I hope you understand what I mean… it’s hard to explain how a scene I’ve read about and imagined as a child could become as real a memory to recall as any other experience.

girls fancy dress for book week and world book day

Little girls book week fancy dress costumes

Anyway, I’m sure you can see how passionate I am about encouraging children to take up reading and I think that engaging them in any kind of reading activity – such as book week – will be very beneficial and encourage them to above all enjoy reading! World book day and book week always seem to creep up on parents and before you know it, it will be the night before book day and your child will be asking where their costume is – that’s right, you knew there was something you had to sort out! So I’ve been thinking ahead to the storybook costumes that your little ones can maybe wear this year and you’ll have everything organised well in advance! I love these cute costumes above – especially the little evacuee outfit and Mary Poppins – something a little bit different to the Hogwarts outfits that have been so popular over the past few years! Anyway, getting dressed up for book week and world book day will be fun for children and I really hope that many of them start to enjoy reading more as a result.

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Personalised books for Christmas

It can be really hard buying books for people as gifts. After all, you never know just which books they already have. I love receiving books for Christmas (because they don’t take up much space in my tiny home & keep me happy all year!) but some years I have received the same book twice and have ended up swapping with friend and family who have also received duplicate books. And then when you do find the right book and give it to them, how do you make it really personal? Write an inscription? How do you make the whole thing totally them?


I’ve just heard about a series of “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books that you can thoroughly personalise for your friends and family. I loved reading Robert Holden’s “Success Intelligence” (read my review here) – and lots of my blog readers have recommended that I also to read his “Be Happy” book – and I think that these Chicken Soup books will be equally inspirational. Not only do you get to choose from five different story themes, as the title suggests these are stories meant to comfort and heal, but you can also personalise the book with your friend’s name on the cover, as the recipient. And it’s truly from you because your name is printed on the cover as the giver. You can even include an inscription inside the book, on the back cover and add a photo to the back. It takes about five minutes to make it a truly custom book and chances are, it’ll be something they’ll love forever. There’s a quick video on the link I’ve shared that shows you how to fill in all the info using a simple online tool, and the books are all created by Blurb, so you know the quality is going to be great. Get started here and make sure you use the 25% off code that I found: NOVEMBER25


It’s not often that I treat myself to a magazine…

In truth, I hardly ever get time to read them. I was given a copy of Company magazine before it was released when I attended the blogger awards at the end of May but I still haven’t got round to reading it yet. My friends and family pass on the magazines they have finished with, so I have an optimistic little pile of things to look at, but I can’t seem to sit still for long enough to have a proper read.

Cassiefairy lifestyle and craft blog review of Molly Makes issue 29

So this month I have decided to make a little more time for myself and have invested in issue twenty-nine of Mollie Makes. As I flicked through it in the shop, I was actually about to put it back on the magazine rack (for the reasons above, no offence to the magazine intended at all) when a page caught my eye. It was this tutorial for an American quilt and I have been collecting scraps of fabric to make this exact type of quilt all year, so that sold it to me and I handed over my cash there and then.

Cassiefairy lifestyle and craft blog review of Molly Makes issue 29 2013

I’m also pleased with the little giveaway project on the front of the magazine – something else that I will need to sit still and concentrate on this month! I’m suitably impressed that a needle and thread is even included in this little fishy keyring kit, so there really is no excuse for not doing it. I will let you know how I get on… and now I’ve promised that, I’ll actually have to do it!

So, tell me, what do like to read when you get a spare moment to yourself? Do you subscribe to any magazines? Any recommendations for me to try next month? Leave me a comment below or tweet me @CassiefairyTutu 😀

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Make your mark ~ DIY pom-pom bookmark tutorial

pom pom bookmarks what you will need - scissors card wool thread washi tape

Recently I’ve been reading a few books at once and have been finding it hard to keep track of where I am up to in each book. I used to have loads of bookmarks when I was a kid, but somehow, I’ve lost them all, and am now relying on folded corners, library receipts and clothes labels to mark my place in the books. Although I like having Geri Halliwell in a bikini peeking out of my current read, I feel like there must be a nicer way to keep track of where I’m up to, so I’ve decided to make some pretty pom-pom bookmarks and share the tutorial with you.

You’ll need: Any wool or thick threads to make your pom-poms, card, double-sided tape, scissors and anything pretty to decorate the card.

DIY craft tutorial ~ make a pom-pom bookmark from wool card and washi tape

  1. Wind the wool around your hand until you have a big, thick bunch of wool, then wrap the end around the middle and tie off, leaving a long piece at the end.
  2. Cut through the loops of wool and fluff it out into a pom-pom. Trim to a nice round shape!
  3. Cut the card into a thin rectangle, approximately the length of your book, and cut two pieces for each bookmark.
  4. Put double-sided tape on one side of the card, stick down the loose end of your wool so that the pom-pom sits at the top of the card, then add the second piece card on top to seal.
  5. Decorate your bookmark in any way that you like – I’ve used masking sticker strips from Wholeport and Washi tape, but you could use stamps to decorate it, cover with patterned paper or add an inspirational quote, such as Dr Seuss: “The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go…” or Walt Disney “There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island”.

DIY thrifty craft tutorial using knitting wool and card to make pom-pom bookmarks by Cassiefairy

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