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 

Continue reading “Students – Tips for improving your essay writing” »


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An exciting start to 2016 – I’ve been nominated for a UK Blog Award!

I had some fantastic news over the Christmas break. My blog, my simple little thrifty lifestyle blog, had been nominated for the UK Blog Awards 2016. I don’t know who put my blog forward for an award or even whether more than just one person popped my name into the ‘hat’ but to whoever did nominate me, thank you so much! It means that I’ve been added to the list of blogs for the public voting stage (which is now open!) and I’m in with a chance of getting through to the next stage. SO exiting and I’m so grateful that I have been nominated. What a great start to 2016!Cassiefairys free pieday friday recipe book blurb ebookSo now I’d love to share details of how to vote with you, just in case you wouldn’t mind stopping by the UK Blog Awards website and giving me a quick vote.
Go to my profile page on the UK Blog Awards site, where you can vote for me in the ‘Lifestyle’ category and for the ‘Most Innovative’ blog award. And as a thank you I’d love to send you a free PDF copy of my ‘Pieday Friday’ Ebook with lots of yummy recipes for dinner, dessert and snacks, so please leave me a comment below this blog post to let me know if you’ve voted! 😉

Vote for me now in the UK Blog Awards #UKBA16It’s especially exciting for me to have been nominated because I missed out on so many blog events last year due to 2015 being particularly tough on this side of the screen, so it’s a really great start to the new year and I’m so optimistic about what this year has in store for me and everyone I love. The chance to win a UK Blog Award would be the icing on the cake and I’m thrilled that someone even nominated me! Please do stop by my profile page and give me a vote, and let me know if you DO vote by leaving me a comment below and I’ll email you a free copy of my recipe Ebook as a thank you and send loads of virtual hugs too!Cassiefairys free pieday friday recipe book blurb ebook cookbookLove and hugs to everyone who reads my blog and supports my thrifty lifestyle, you guys are the best!


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Cherry chocolate cake recipe + my blog’s 4th birthday!

Today is Cassiefairy.com’s 4th birthday! I can’t believe I’ve had four whole years of happy blogging already and this little blog kick-started a whole new career as a writer for me so I couldn’t let the birthday pass unmarked. So I divided to push back my usual Pieday Friday cookery post by a day and I whipped up a cheeky cherry chocolate cake to celebrate.easy chocolate cherry cake baking recipe-7My blog anniversaries have passed me by in previous years and I’ve only ever celebrated my 1000th blog post with a cake before so I thought that this would be the perfect excuse to indulge in a cake just for me! I also wanted to try out a new recipe that I’ve been thinking about for a while. The starting point is a standard sponge recipe that I’ve added chocolate, cherry juice and amaretto syrup to in order to create a gooey cake that’s just a little lighter than a dense rich chocolate cake. It’s just as naughty and flavoursome though!  Continue reading “Cherry chocolate cake recipe + my blog’s 4th birthday!” »


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Why I started my blog & how I ended up in the Cosmo Blog Awards!

What happens when your dreams come true? I’m not sure, but I think that’s kind of how I’m feeling about being a finalist in the Cosmopolitan Blog Awards.

As a teenager I remember spending my pocket money on glittery Spectacular nail polish and Cosmopolitan magazine, and spending hours reading it from cover to cover. It’s amazing how much effort teenagers will put into reading when it’s not a school assignment, isn’t it?! I’ve grown up reading this publication for the last 17 years and (as it is so often described by countless women around the country), Cosmo was my bible.

Photos of the Cosmo Blog Awards article that I snapped on my phone back in the Spring when I was considering entering!

I dreamed of one day being a journalist, having my work published and my articles being read by girls like me. And now, thanks to all the votes that my lovely friends, family and super-kind Cassiefairy.com readers submitted for me, my Cosmopolitan heroes are actually reading MY work! And I just can’t quite believe it. It’s actually unreal. Surreal. And if I think about it too much, it gives me a total writers block and I can’t finish my…

Over the years I’ve found countless reasons to continue working on my blog and to try to make writing my full-time job, but there was only one reason why I started the blog: I wanted to get better at writing. Just like an artist draws in their sketchbook and as a photographer snaps photos every day, I wanted this to be a place where I could practice writing and try to get better at it. I had no real concept that people could read my writing and I was kind of doing it just for me. It was my online sketchbook of ideas, photos and articles, and I’m still using it in pretty-much the same away. Practice makes perfect, after all. And I’m sure I’ll get there one day 😉

What happened when I heard I’d been shortlisted!

So after exercising my writing muscle almost daily on the blog, I started to get a little better (well, it couldn’t get much worse! – don’t just take my word for it – my early articles are all there in the blog archives for all to see, eek!), and readers started to keep coming back for more. And I’m so pleased that you did because it spurred me on, and every kind comment lifted my heart. I’m definitely still learning from every post I write and I still cringe at articles that I published only last year. And my photos still leave a lot to be desired (today’s are phone photos, sorry about the quality). Of course, I’m my own worst critic and despite a few articles that make me smile, I’m still not sure I’m doing it 100% right, but who can ever really claim that anyway?! Most importantly, I’ve been writing every day (or sometimes twice a day when I’m feeling particularly motivated!) and it’s really become my passion. The blog is as much a part of me and I am of it, so I can’t imagine my life without it. What on earth would I do with my time if I couldn’t write?! Writing for a magazine is my big dream and I don’t know if I’ll ever get there, but hey, I’m SO enjoying the journey!

Actually, writing that last sentence has just made me realised that perhaps I already AM a published magazine writer? Albeit on my own blog. But the point is that there are many fabulous ladies out there who actually ARE reading my articles every day and seem to be enjoying my work. It’s thanks to them that I’ve even got a place at the Blog Awards and that I have this opportunity for Cosmopolitan to check out my writing. I am forever in your debt and if you ever need anything from me, just ask and I will be happy to help you out. And please keep coming back to see me and carry on telling me what you think of my writing, because your feedback is what’s most important to me.


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Pieday Friday – My 1000th blog post celebration cake!

I did it! I’m not talking about making a cake (although for me that is a massive achievement in itself) but I’m talking about making it to 1000 blog posts! And you’re reading it right now! It’s great so far, huh?

1000th blog post celebration cake for Cassiefairy

I feel like I should really put a lot of effort into writing a witty, engaging, sometimes emotional post to really commemorate the occasion. But to be honest, after 1000 blog posts, I’m rather tired! Never tired of writing, oh no! But it’s made me realise just how many hours of work and how many days I’ve spent in front of this laptop screen over the last 3 years. Phew, I need a holiday! A couple of years ago, I remember taking part in the National Blog Posting Month ‘NaBloPoMo’ challenge to write an blog post each day for a month. I got through those 30 days and really rather enjoyed the challenge, so I just carried on with daily posting. You’d think that I would run out of things to say, but I haven’t yet had writers block and I think that the regular practice has actually made me a better writer in general. At least, I hope so!

You may remember couple of months ago that I celebrated my 3 year anniversary with a big chocolate chip celebration cake? Well, to be completely honest with you, that cake wasn’t the tastiest. Probably because I didn’t quite follow the recipe that I shared: I was a bit low on eggs and I’d read that you could replace an egg with apple sauce in cake recipes, so I did. And it did not taste good. So rather than celebrating by stuffing my face with cake, I actually put it out for the birds. And even they left it. There can’t be any rats in my garden because it stayed untouched overnight and ended up in the bin. Or, worse still, there might be rats but my cake was SO bad that even the rats wouldn’t eat it…  Anyway, if you follow the ‘actual’ recipe on the blog and don’t substitute apple sauce for eggs, you’ll get a lovely cake. It was only me that was disappointed with the outcome and I couldn’t celebrate ‘properly’ the big 3 years milestone.

So this time, I’m doing it right and leaving nothing to chance – it’s a normal Victoria sponge cake with yummy buttercream icing and loads of jam. What can possibly go wrong? I have all the right ingredients this time, so fingers crossed it’ll taste nice. Here’s the recipe for my 1000th blog post celebration cake:celebration victoria sponge cake decorating with buttercream icing tutorial

Ingredients: 200g caster sugar, 200g softened butter, 4 eggs, 200g self-raising flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 2 tbsp milk

Heat oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Grease two 20cm sandwich tins and line with greaseproof paper. Whisk all the cake ingredients together until you have a smooth, soft batter. Pour into the two tins and bake for 20 minutes until golden and the ‘cocktail stick test’ comes out clean & non-sticky. Allow to cool before spreading with buttercream (cream icing sugar with butter and a drop of vanilla essence) and jam in the middle, stacking up and covering with more buttercream and loads of pretty sprinkles. I think this cake looks like an exploding firework! I just hope it tastes as good as it looks 😉

Rainbow sprinkles birthday cake recipe

Now I have a lovely cake to munch on today as I celebrate my 1000th blog post and give myself a cheeky pat on the back for my Highly Commended Award in Retail and Fashion at the UK National Blog Awards last week (still can’t believe it!). All in all, I’m having a pretty good year in terms of blogging and I intend to keep up the hard work for the foreseeable future  – or for as long as you want to carry on reading my ramblings, at least!


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Building your own personal brand – what does the world need to know?

Good news on a rather cloudy Thursday – we have finally arrived at the third segment on the subject of personal branding and I’m sharing the last set of questions in order to determine your personal brand purpose. I am so surprised by the great reaction I’ve had from bloggers, job-hunters, brands, tweeters and friends on the articles I’ve been writing over the past couple of weeks on the subject of personal branding. It seems like everyone can get something out of answering the questions I’ve been posting to answer ‘What am I good at?‘ and ‘What am I passionate about?’. Whether we have a shop, blog or are writing a CV, it’s been a good starting point for us to really think about what makes us special and what we want to do in life.

We’ve previously chatted about the course that I was studying, the ‘Secret Power of Brands’, and at the very least I was hoping that I’d be able to share a little more about myself and my life with you all by answering the personal branding questions ‘in public’. In truth, I probably wouldn’t have got round to answering the questions at all if it had been left up to me to do it on my own, but going through them for the benefit of us all has forced me to consider each answer carefully and has actually resulted in me having a little bit of a rethink about my work. Have you been answering the questions too? What conclusions have you made so far? Here are the last set of questions which aim to answer the question ‘What does the world need to know?’.

personal brand purpose UEA

Sorry for the blurry image, it’s one of the slides from the UEA Secret Power of Brands course.

Identify issues or themes affecting your industry or line of work My greatest problem within my industry is the level of competition. I don’t mean competitiveness, although undoubtedly this does go on, but I just choose to ignore it because (other than during music quizzes) I’m not at all competitive. I mean the sheer volume of other people doing the same things that I am doing; writing and blogging. First of all, the global nature of blogging means that I have a whole world of amazing blogs to compete with and could not possibly find out every single one of my blog ‘competitors’ because there are millions… And even in my subject sector (what exactly is that? thrift? fashion? DIY? lifestyle? food?) there are just too many for me to even research. In terms of writing, when I am aiming for national publications, I’m competing with all the other talented journalists in the country who all want to land a great article job or regular column for a digital publication. No doubt we all have our own specialisms and writing styles but again it’s a tough industry to break into and maintain a career in due, in part, to the vast numbers of ‘competition’.

What’s currently broken? I think that there is a proliferation of digital publications and blogs who are not generating new content but are simply reposting other people’s ideas and content, writing lists and relying on images and less on writing or being creative. Some websites are specialists at this and I am happy to read them and even use them as a resource but when there are so many amazing writers out there, it seems a shame that publishers want to commission shorter written articles and more of these ‘top 5 of such and such..’ posts.

What is the competition failing at? Possibly monetising their work. If bloggers and writers were being paid properly and regularly they would be able to dedicate more time to their work and the standard of their content would perhaps be better. I’m not saying that a half-an-hour post is any less important than something that has been researched and written over a week – I myself can really spurt something out quickly if I’m passionate and knowledgeable about the subject – I just want all writers to be given the means to be more creative in their work and needing to write a large volume of content quickly in order to pay the bills is never the best way to inspire creativity and new ideas.

How could your skills help? I think that my passion comes across in my writing – or at least I hope it does – and this will help my writing to stand out amongst all the other articles out there. I hope that I can create happy relationships with my readers – who I usually chat with as friends too! – and that they will come back to read my work wherever it is published. Therefore my writing will hopefully continue to land me more commissions and contracts so that I may dedicate more time to my ‘art’ and spend time researching, writing, photographing and creating engaging new content.

And that’s all for this section. I’ve actually not enjoyed answering these questions as much as the previous two segments and I think that’s because the questions have taken a negative stance, you know how much I hate to be a sour-puss. At least I have determined what I don’t want my work to become! Plus, I have found out that money is more important to me than I thought, something that I never thought I’d say – all of us artists, writers, crafters and creatives do what we do because we love it and would do it anyway even if we were not being paid – but I’ve found out that more paid work would enable me to spend more time on my work and perhaps better improve the quality of my research and writing – maybe! I don’t want to compete with ‘everyone in the world’ but I do want to carry on making an impact in my own corner of the world.

How have you found answering these questions? As difficult as I did? What results do you have for the ‘what does the world need to know’ segment? There is one final post on it’s way to analyse your ultimate brand purpose and how to work with this in the future so please check back soon to finish off this project with me 🙂


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Playing with sparklers on bonfire night

Although lots of fireworks displays took place over the weekend, today is finally bonfire night and hubby and I have decided to have traditional bonfire-fare of jacket potatoes and chilli for dinner, and build ourselves a little bonfire in the garden. I’ll try to take some photos to share with you all, but in the meantime, here are the photos that we took while playing around with sparklers over the weekend – the bottom one is supposed to be a beach, palm tree & the sun.

 cassiefairy bonfire night fireworks sparklers photography effect

Also, I didn’t realise how magical it would be to take my baby nephew to his first fireworks display. I was worried that he might be scared but, safely snuggled up in his daddy’s arms, he was mesmerised by the fireworks and didn’t even flinch at the bangs. I don’t think I watched much of the fireworks display myself, as I was too busy watching his little ‘face of wonder’. He always did like Christmas lights as a tiny baby, so I shouldn’t be surprised that he loves the fireworks too! 

Check out my previous bonfire night blog posts below:


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A beach hut inspired story by author Amanda Addison

One of the wonderful contributions to June’s Inspiration Challenge was the start of a story by writer Amanda Addison. You may remember that I shared an excerpt of the text in the Inspiration Challenge blog post which focused on projects inspired by beach huts and now I want to share the rest of the prose that Amanda submitted so that you can enjoy her writing for yourself.

Samantha hangs up her wetsuit. The wind’s getting up and whistles in through the gaps in the wooden walls. Impatient and still breathing heavily from her swim, she turns her head and drips water from her sandy coloured hair onto the patchwork, forcing her to grab the beach towel and rub her hair dry before she can begin. She moves the fabric around on the little white plastic table and tacks another section of the pale blue cotton – whose former life was a bed sheet – onto the patchwork.

She shivers, throws a fleece on over her jeans and tunic and gets up and lights the Primus stove. Whoever composed the motto a watched kettle never boils must have been making a brew whilst camping, or in a beach hut. She returns to the quilt and is a couple of stitches away from completing another panel when the kettle whistles and she starts.

IMG_6603

‘Matty!’ gasps Sam. With one hand she pours water into the mug and with the other she rummages for her phone and keys in a text. He’d be proud of his mother’s skills, both holding the phone and texting with one hand. She clicks send, knowing full well she shouldn’t fuss her son, he’s almost an adult. He is an adult. She wonders what she’s doing sending him reminders to get to work on time. Is she being a hypocrite? She’s usually one of the first to join in the conversation about incapable teenagers, how young they all seemed these days. But like many parents she’s tried to make up for things. To make up for her own youth, her own incapable mother.

Sam sips her tea and can’t resist raiding her secret biscuit tin for a Tunnock’s marshmallow – her favourite. After all she’s earned it. Swimming in the North Sea in November should have burned up a few calories. Sam unwraps the silver and red packaging and lays it out flat wondering if she could stitch it into her patchwork. Unfortunately the metallic colours don’t complement the blues and pastels of the beach hut design. She tucks it into the side of her plastic ‘bags for life’. For another project.

She rummages around in the lucky dip and pulls out a square of blue and white twill and immediately remembers starting sixth form at the posh girls’ school. You had to buy the blue and white twill fabric and make your own skirt. The day before school started she still didn’t have a uniform. That night Dad came home with an old sewing machine he’d borrowed from someone at work and three yards of the herringbone weave from Palmers department store. They’d sat up to the early hours, Dad cutting out the fabric and Sam machining it together. It was always Dad who looked after me, she thinks. The twill is discarded, too heavy and frays too much.

inspiration challenge beach hut picture by katy ella betsy boo blog

She dips into the bag again. What she really needs is a section of yellow. She pulls out some old yellow leggings. She holds them against her. The egg yolk yellow clashes perfectly with her purple fleece. The leggings, like a piece of music or a long forgotten smell take her back to the early 1990s. Did she really wear yellow leggings with a black leotard? She’s back on a step board wearing yellow and black, flailing around to Madonna like a demented wasp? Times have changed. Nowadays everyone does Zumba.

Her hand runs across the yellow Lycra and begins to tremble. Why is her body letting her down, revealing feelings from the past that are best left in the past? Is the past always best bagged up and put away? She hadn’t worn those leggings since she went to Amsterdam – when she was Matty’s age.

All that is left of her Amsterdam days was in the diary, or so she’d thought. She gazes up at the wooden shelf and pulls some books forward to reveal her teenage diary. She can’t resist taking down the diary down from the shelf and slumping into the deck chair. She flicks through the faded pages, looking for his name, the street, the café they used to visit – all written in the strange language of from just across the North Sea.

It’s getting late, the nights are drawing in. In the twilight she copies the words, words which are heavy and full of her past, down on the back of a supermarket receipt. She’s about to put the diary back on the shelf, back in its usual hiding place behind an out of date Rough Guide to Amsterdam and last month’s book club novel, when she has a change of plan. Moreover, a change of heart. She pops the diary and the travel guide on top of her scrap bag, throws the quilt on top, shuts up the hut and sets off across the beach for home.

Copyright Amanda Addison

inspiration challenge beach hut watercolour painting by Andy Greenacre

Ooh I just want to read more! I hope this will turn into a book, because I’m already hooked and want to learn more about Samantha’s life! I’ll certainly be first in the queue to buy it if it grows into a new novel. Amanda is the author of one of my favorite books Laura’s Handmade Life and if you’ve not already read it, get yourself a copy – it’s the perfect summer read and I’ll certainly be re-reading my copy during the holidays! And make sure you check out Amanda’s website www.amandaaddison.com for information on her articles, craft projects and reviews.

Get involved in this month’s Inspiration Challenge and get crafty with the theme for July: Maneki Neko Lucky Cats

inspiration challenges for July maneki neko
Other Inspiration Challenge articles


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June’s Inspiration Challenge update ~ and the new theme for July

Last month we all worked hard on our pieces of art inspired by the theme of beach huts. I’ve enjoyed seeing all the progress tweets and couldn’t wait for all the contributions to come rolling into my inbox!

inspiration challenge for june beach huts

Founder of the Inspiration Challenge Lucy from Lucy Loves Ya blog sent in her sewing project; a fabulous beach bag for carrying bits n bobs – towel, suncream etc – to the seaside and I desperately want to copy this design for myself this summer! I especially love the bright colours and bobbly trim around the top!

inspiration challenge beach hut bag by Lucy Loves Ya blog

One of my favourite writers Amanda Addison,  author of the must-read novel Laura’s Handmade Life has very kindly contributed a wonderful piece of prose for the Inspiration Challenge, taking beach huts as the starting point for a new story:

Samantha hangs up her wetsuit. The wind’s getting up and whistles in through the gaps in the wooden walls. Impatient and still breathing heavily from her swim, she turns her head and drips water from her sandy coloured hair onto the patchwork, forcing her to grab the beach towel and rub her hair dry before she can begin. She moves the fabric around on the little white plastic table and tacks another section of the pale blue cotton – whose former life was a bed sheet – onto the patchwork.

She shivers, throws a fleece on over her jeans and tunic and gets up and lights the Primus stove. Whoever composed the motto a watched kettle never boils must have been making a brew whilst camping, or in a beach hut. She returns to the quilt and is a couple of stitches away from completing another panel when the kettle whistles and she starts.

‘Matty!’ gasps Sam. With one hand she pours water into the mug and with the other she rummages for her phone and keys in a text. He’d be proud of his mother’s skills, both holding the phone and texting with one hand. She clicks send, knowing full well she shouldn’t fuss her son, he’s almost an adult. He is an adult. She wonders what she’s doing sending him reminders to get to work on time. Is she being a hypocrite? She’s usually one of the first to join in the conversation about incapable teenagers, how young they all seemed these days. But like many parents she’s tried to make up for things. To make up for her own youth, her own incapable mother.

Copyright Amanda Addison. I can’t wait to read more and I will share the rest of Amanda’s story in another blog post soon, so watch this space!

Lovely Katy from Etsy shop Ella Betsy Boo has moved away from her upcycled book paper creations and has experimented with fabric to make the beach hut picture below. A great choice of fabrics and I really like the hand-written quote ‘Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside’, which reminds me of beach holidays as a child and the cheeky bird on the roof is a cute touch!

inspiration challenge beach hut picture by katy ella betsy boo blog

Artist Andy Greenacre painted this pretty watercolour of a striped beach hut in the sand dunes. He usually creates ink drawings and photographic artworks but Andy enjoyed trying out a different technique for this month’s Inspiration Challenge, using a delicate pencil outline and watercolour-wash which gives the painting a watery coastal feel. Check out his art blog at www.Andy-Greenacre.co.uk

inspiration challenge beach hut watercolour painting by Andy Greenacre

I spent a very enjoyable afternoon at my sewing machine and created this coastal scene cushion. I started by making a ‘picture’ with the beach hut shapes and used this Porto fabric from Abakhan for the lighthouse, before using my sewing machine to outline all of the shapes with white thread. I especially enjoyed making the sea with layers of patchwork fabric and sparkly ribbon trim. I backed the picture with fleece and popped in a squishy cushion 🙂

inspiration challenge for June beach hut cushion by cassiefairy using abakhan porto

I’ve been very impressed with all the pretty ‘makes’ that have resulted from last month’s Inspiration Challenge and I can’t wait to see what you all come up with next month with July’s theme: Maneki Neko.

inspiration challenges for July maneki neko

If you’re a long-term follower of my blog, you’ll know how much I love lucky cats and oriental design, so it’ll come as no surprise that I’ve chosen my collection of lucky animals above as the starting point for July’s Inspiration Challenge. Please join in, tweet me with your progress and send me your projects by email or twitter @CassiefairyTutu by the end of July 2013 – it’s just for fun and a good excuse to get creative over the summer holidays! Plus I’d love someone to send in a starting point suggestion for August too so please email Cassie@cassiefairy.co.uk with your ideas for next month’s Challenge. Happy making!

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