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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Students – Tips for improving your essay writing

We’re only one month into the new year and I bet that you college students out there will already have a stack of assignments to catch up on. I remember that my university tutors all used to set their essays, reports and presentations within the first couple of weeks of term, so by now I would already be worrying about writing them. Would my research be strong enough and would my writing skills be good enough to get the debate across? After a lot of practice and many many years of being a student I finally worked out how to breeze through essays and assignments, so if you’re feeling concerned don’t worry – there are plenty of ways of improving your grammar, choice of words, structure, etc and here’s how:

Quick tips to improve your writing skills

All students have problems with  written assignments from time to time as they demand thorough research and take lots of time to pull together into a structure that reaches a decisive conclusion. But all that work isn’t in vain – developing your writing skills in this way is useful when you’re studying at a higher level in the future or even in your future job. Here are some tips that will make your life much easier:

  • Make sure that every paragraph has main idea
  • Pay attention to sentence length: short ones are used to emphasize ideas and longer sentences are used to explain, define, or illustrate
  • Key words and ideas should be placed at the beginning or end of the sentence
  • Use different types of sentences: simple, compound, and complex sentences
  • Dynamic verbs in active voice are important – don’t overuse the passive voice
  • Avoid using too many unnecessary words
  • When you’re reviewing your essay, read it aloud –  you will hear any grammar problems
  • Don’t be too lazy to proofread and edit your work before submitting it
  • Don’t be embarrassed to use a dictionary or synonyms 

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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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Tuesday Shoesday – Quality vs price in mens footwear

Just what IS the difference between a £25 pair of boots and a £250 pair? Can the higher priced pair really be that much better than the cheapy shoes? For some reason, there’s a big difference in this area between mens and womens shoes (proably something to do with the construction of ladies shoes) so today I’m focusing on menswear in this price v quality comparison. I’ve done my research and found out why some boots are worth so much more than others and that’s what I’d like to share with you this Tuesday Shoesday.It’s easy to say that the quality of the shoes is simply better in the higher priced pair but in what way specifically? I focused my research on Joseph Cheaney & Sons, who are Britain’s oldest boot and shoemakers. They produce handmade footwear for Boden, Shackleton Company and Herring to name just a few, and the price is definitely at the upper end of the scale. So let’s have a look at this producer and find out what goes into a pair of their boots.The first thing to note is that their footwear is still handmade. Okay, the product is made in a factory environment but it’s in Northampton, not China, and each stage of the process involves a real person handling the boots, not just a machine. In fact, each pair of boots goes through more than 200 hand-tooled processes and takes over eight weeks to ‘build’. When you hear the phrase ‘built to last’ this is probably what it means! Just to be clear, this isn’t a promotional blog post for Cheaney and Sons – although I’d be doing a good job if it was! – I’m just using them as an example of a traditional bootmaker that is still creating handmade items here in the UK and comparing them to the cheaper end of the footwear market.All I know for sure is that my husband’s shoes last years longer if they’re £100+ leather shoes from Clarks or Boden, or if they’re £300+ handmade boots from Shackleton. But when he wears supermarket or high street shoes, it’s barely a matter of months before they are worn through with holes that let in the rain, and have cracked, broken or flapping soles. So it must be the production method that make all the difference, right? That, and the quality of the materials too.So, back at Cheaney and Sons, the uppers are all made in genuine leather and the rubber soles are made by Goodyear. Yes, the tyre people. That probably explains why these soles don’t wear through like the cheap plastic versions in the budget fashion stores. If it’s good enough for a car, it’s probably okay for my husband’s feet! The soles of Clarks shoes also wear really well, and quite often the colour and condition of the shoes is what ‘gives up’ before the soles do. In fact, I made a video about giving my husband’s Clarks blue suede shoes a makeover with fabric dye, which goes to show that although the colour faded, the shoes were still absolutely fine to wear and could be brought back to life with just a little bit of effort (and some dye!)The same goes with real leather shoes – if you look after them and ‘feed’ them with polish, the leather will stay supple for many years. And the longevity of these higher-priced shoes is actually what makes them the ‘thrifty’ option. Okay, I know it doesn’t seem thrifty to splash out hundreds of pounds on a pair of boots, but if you’re sure that they are the style, colour and fit for you, they will probably last you a lifetime. And if they do, just imagine how low the cost-per-wear would be after just 10 years of wearing them! If you pulled on a pair of £300 boots every day it would be 0.08p per wear by the time the decade was over, and the boots would probably still be fine for at least another 10 years too.Still, as such a bargain hunter I really struggle to part with my cash all at once. It’s a difficult one to call, but when my husband can get through 4 pairs of £20 shoes in a year, yet his £100 Clarks shoes have survived 3 years without complaint, I think that the sums kind of add up in favour of the ‘investment’ footwear brands. Let me know if you have any experience of high prices vs bargain shoes and what you think is best by leaving me a comment below. And if you’re interested in watching my suede dying video – here it is:


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Create a lookbook to get the most out of your wardrobe this winter

Winter is the time for festivities and celebrations and is a great excuse to get dressed up in your sparkliest clothes. It’s also the time of the year when you’ve just splashed your pay cheque on presents for your nearest and dearest so are unlikely to want to spend much more on a new winter wardrobe. Read on to find out how you can save money on new clothing this season, as well as creating your own lookbook to make the most of your existing wardrobe.thrifty wardrobe makeover tip money saving inspiration hack-3Create your own lookbook
It’s easy to forget what clothes you already have in your wardrobe, especially if it’s been stuffed to bursting point for the past couple of years. So to avoid leaving pieces unworn for seasons why not create your own personal lookbook? It can be quite fun to make up outfits, and it’s got a certain Cher-from-Clueless-ness about it! For this, you’ll need to take snaps of each item in your wardrobe and categorize them into different types. You can even style up your summer dresses or a short sleeved shirt with a jacket, cardigan, blazer or tights for winter and get maximum use out of your favourite pieces. Unlike in the Clueless era, nowadays it’s possible to download apps which can help you create and organize your lookbook. Keeping photos of your clothes on your phone will also help you when you’re out shopping because you can double check whether or not you’ve already got a monochrome patterned shirt in your wardrobe at home and save on duplicates.crazy for christmas jumpers

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The easy way to move house

Moving house is a rather exhausting activity. Not only can it take days (or even weeks or months!) to sort through your possessions and pack up your boxes, but even when that’s taken care of you still have to deal with not knowing exactly where the things you need are and it feels like you’re camping in your own home. Even “moving day” itself can be a source of stress, involving constant worrying about the safety of your possessions while they’re on the road.

moving-house-luggage-suitcase-home-2You have all your life packed away in those boxes so you’ll need to know that the moving company you’re using is trustworthy and will take care of your things. Moving long distances can be particularly worrying, because you may be separated from your belongings for more than just one day. Of course, it depends where you’re relocating to, but a big move like this always going to be a worrying time. If you’re hiring professionals there are a number of moving services they offer to help ease the stress of moving and below are just a few: cat-moving-house-boxWhat services do movers provide?

Apart from the obvious transportation on moving day, professional relocation services can boost the overall speed of preparation. The services that will save you time as well as offer you peace of mind are:

  • Packing and unpacking. These procedures are time-consuming as it requires handling every item in your house. Moreover, some fragile, breakable or bulky items demand special handling along with specific packing materials. If you buy packing materials such as boxes, bubble wrap and tissue paper yourself, the cost of moving can soon add up! Leave this task to the professionals and you will be sure your possessions will be intact upon delivery; they’ll pack your items carefully, every fragile piece will be wrapped and padded to avoid damaging during the moving and they’ll even unwrap it all at the other end.moving-house-luggage-suitcase-home-1

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How to be happy (and cosy!) this winter

Winter is coming, and it’s time to think about ways to stay cosy and, more importantly, happy during the winter. With cold weather and long dark nights (and sometimes days) it’s no surprise that many of us start to feel a little down when December comes. But don’t worry – that seasonal slump can be overcome with a couple of simple solutions. Plus, you can stay warm in your home (without forking out on energy bills) with just a few easy adjustments.winter interior design - cosy autumn bedroom styling idea inspiration festive-3 Our grandparents used to say “just put on an extra layer” to stay warm in the winter. But there are many other practical things you can do that don’t cost much but that will make a difference to the size of your heating bill in the new year. There’s nothing worse than a surprise energy bill dropping onto your door mat! It’s time to get used to lowering the thermostat to a level that keeps everyone comfortable but doesn’t end up creating a sauna effect,. Here are some tips to help you make it through the winter in comfort and with a smile on your face.Orange Tweed Mill Blanket Knitted Wool Throw Tartan grey sofa retro dralon cushion 60s 70sPile on the blankets Nighttime means everyone’s in bed and pets have found their warm spots for the night, so you can turn the thermostat down a few degrees without anyone realising that it’s cooler in the house. Increasing the temperature warms the entire home, which is essentially wasting energy, as no one’s moving around at night to benefit from the warmth. It’s also a great excuse to snuggle up under layers of duvets and wooly blankets. Well, I’d much rather tuck myself under a cosy throw when I’m reading on the sofa in the evenings than turn up the heating – it just feels so ‘hygge’! Bring back hot water bottles too (or microwave heat pads) to warm your body all evening long. It’s much more efficient to heat a relatively small surface area than to raise the temperature of the whole building. cats can sleep anywhere - wheres the weirdest place you can sleep-2Combat SAD

Being comfortable in winter isn’t just about warmth and saving money. If you or a family member suffers from seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, you can help deal with this troubling subset of depression through activities such as sitting near sunny windows, planning more outdoor time, and using light therapy. It’s easy to wake up in the dark, work indoors all day and then come home in the dark. In fact, I read that the average British worker will only see 52 minutes of daylight in a working week, so make the effort to get outside on your lunch break (no matter how cold it is!) to make sure you get the benefits of daylight while it’s there.autumn colours and leather boots-6Seal those windows

No matter how new or highly rated your windows are, you can expect a bit of air exchange. When you know you’re going to close the windows for the last time until spring, use a temporary caulking material to seal the sash. You’re closing off the small gap that never quite seals all the way and lets air in. The temporary caulk can be easily removed when you want to open up the window again, and it won’t ruin the material the windows are made from. If you have older windows, go over the existing caulk and look for crumbling and/or peeling caulk. Remove this caulk carefully, and then lay in a fresh, new bead and let it dry. You’re creating a new seal that won’t let air in under any circumstances.cats can sleep anywhere - wheres the weirdest place youve sleptEngage in zone heating

Zone heating is the act of heating one or two rooms and closing off unused rooms. If you find that you’re not going into some rooms very often, close them off by shutting the door and turning down the radiators. You do want to make sure the room gets some heat in order to keep it dry. The heating that would normally go into that room is diverted into rooms with turned on radiators, keeping them at a comfortable temperature. You can also use plug-in electric and oil heaters to keep a room warm while you’re using the space, but make sure to follow safety precautions at all times and unplug when you go to bed.Orange Tweed Mill Blanket Knitted Wool Throw Tartan greyYou don’t have to turn your home into a refrigerator to save money on heating costs this winter. These are just some of the ways to help you stay comfortable (and happy!) without having to go to extreme settings on your thermostat or getting a scary energy bill in the new year. Let me know your own tips for staying warm in the winter and tell me what you get up to in order to keep that smile on your face during even the darkest winter days – leave me a comment below to share your ideas or tweet me @cassiefairy to chat.


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Stay warm this winter – 5 tips to make your home cosy & lower your heating costs

Brr, it’s cold out there this morning! I’ve already loaded up the fireplace with coal and eaten a bowl of porridge to warm myself up. And we’re not even in winter yet! Ooh, it’s making me shiver just thinking about the chilly days to come. If you’re looking for ways to save money around your house, and keep yourself toasty warm over the coming months, a sensible idea is to take a look at your home’s energy use. Your central heating system (whether it’s oil, gas or electric) consumes a lot of energy to heat your home, but by following a few of these energy-saving tips, you can lower your bills. And with a bitterly cold winter on its way, now’s a great time to prepare your home in advance and reduce your usual heating costs so you don’t get a surprisingly high bill in the Spring.cosy-cat-warm-winter-autumnSeal leaks around doors & windows

Of course, if your home is double-glazed you should already be benefiting from a cosy seal around your windows. But if not, it’s essential to tackle this with some DIY solutions. The gaps around your doors and windows might look small, but they’re huge energy wasters. Adding weatherstripping (like a padded foam or fluffy strip that you can stick around all the edges) to your doors and windows is essential in keeping the cold out and the heat in. Tackle other possible heat-leaks too by spray an expanding-foam sealant around holes in walls created by plumbing work, and stick fitted insulation pads behind socket and light switch plates to save around 10 percent or more on your heating bills. You can also look for gaps along your skirting boards or around basement and attic hatches and plug these up too.cat-window-warm-winter-autumnUse a programmable thermostat

You can save up to 10 percent every year on heating and cooling costs simply by setting your thermostat temperature back between seven and 10 degrees Fahrenheit for eight hours a day. A programmable thermostat can do this automatically so you don’t even have to think about it. Consider the time you wake up, leave the house, come home, and go to bed. Set the ideal temperature for your home during the times that you’re actually at home and the thermostat will take care of the rest.warm-fireplace-idea-money-saving-tips-winter-autumn

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Money-saving tips for your autumn wardrobe

Finding the perfect style to suit your everyday life can be difficult, especially when you need to save money. Whether you work in an office, as a shop assistant or are a student most people like to put a little effort into their daily outfits, with an increasing amount of cash being handed over to get the latest trends. However, it is likely that a new £50 sweater is made in the same factory that produces a £10 version. This does make you wonder if it is truly worth it to splash the cash on an item with a label. So, just what are the thrifty tricks to create the ultimate look without breaking the bank?

Accentuating accessories

Let us start with the basics. You only need a few items in your wardrobe to be able to create a variety of gorgeous looks. A white shirt, for example, can be styled from something plain to a head-turning top. The clue is to be creative with your accessories as they are a lot cheaper than clothes, so are ideal for being a thrifty fashionista. A leather belt and a chunky necklace go a long way with a white shirt to create a great multi-purpose look. It’s great as a working daytime look suit or could be made more casual with jeans and boots for a girls’ night out.styling-a-white-shirt-with-accessories

Styling a white shirt  with accessories (image by Idhren)

Selective shopping

Another factor to be considered on the journey to crafting a thrifty look is choosing where to shop. Charity shops and supermarket clothing isles can be a treasure trove of fashion goodness. You never know when you will find a bargain buy so keep on the lookout for when you’re getting your food shopping! I found a fantastic vintage section in my local charity shop and all of the items were priced at less-than high street prices. Plus the money goes to a good cause so that’s a great place to start when you’re looking for a few unique items to funk up your basics. Plenty of thrifty resale sites (such as Depop, Gumtree and Shpock) keep popping up on the web so browse these sites to find bargain fashion buys. cassiefairy article charity shop vintage and retro rail

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How to put aside a little extra cash for Christmas… starting now!

If you’re already thinking about Christmas, you’ll probably be wanting to find a few extra pennies for your festive shopping. When money is already tight it can be hard to imagine how you can save anything between now and Christmas but believe me when I say it can be done! And here’s how:budgeting money saving finance tips for university freshers students_-2Earlier this week I actually visited the Planner Wealth blog (yes, even thrifty bloggers like me need advice sometimes!)to find out some ideas for making even more savings than I usually do each month. I watched a really handy video with 5 helpful tips to show us where we can cut corners and save a little extra money here and there. I’ve embedded the video below so that you can watch it and make use of the advice for yourself.

I totally agree with the advice about saving money on food in this video. I’m such an advocate of cooking from scratch and making “tumble-down” meals with leftovers – have a look at my Pieday Friday category for 100s of thrifty recipes, all super easy to make and simple enough to be cooked with the kids too! A simple fuss-free savings idea is switching everything in your weekly shop over to ‘own brand’ versions.budgeting money saving finance tips for university freshers students_

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Book Review + Interview – Upcycling by Max McMurdo

I can’t believe that it’s been a whole week since this book launched and I’m only now telling you about it. I’ve had my eyes on it for weeks and have been eagerly awaiting it’s release. Teaser tweets and Instagram posts by Max have got my excitement for this book bubbling up to a dangerous level. Combine that with my already OTT love of thriftiness and DIYing, and you’ve got one giddy girl on your hands. So you can imagine how quickly I tore open the packaging of my book delivery last weekend.gumtreebus-max-mcmurdoThankfully, it book itself didn’t disappoint. I knew it would full of Max’s trademark industrial projects and thrifty flips, but I didn’t realise just how comprehensive it would be. This isn’t just a ‘look at this pretty room’ design book. Oh no. It’s full of practical advice and step-by-step, photo-by-photo tutorials. It’s so detailed that even I feel confident about removing a drum from an old washing machine and turning it into an illuminated side table.max-mcmurdo-upcycling-diy-book-review-2With techniques for measuring and cutting, drilling and sanding, wiring and finishing, Max teaches you all the DIY skills you need to know in order to complete the projects in the book. If you want to know what a nylock nut is, Max’ll tell you. I thought I was alright at a bit of DIY. Good, even. But it turns out that there’s so much more I can learn. Thank goodness I’ve got this book to teach me the tricks of the trade. They don’t call me thrifty for nothin’ and if I’m going to upcycle, I’m darn well going to learn how to do it properly (and safely!).

Just before the book launched last week I had the opportunity to ask the author some probing questions so that I could share his answers with you today:max-mcmurdo-upcycling-diy-book-review Continue reading “Book Review + Interview – Upcycling by Max McMurdo” »

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