Cassiefairy's thrifty lifestyle blog

Cassiefairy's thrifty little lifestyle blog – DIY crafts, sewing, food & fashion – what more does a girl need??


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Exercise for the mind – dreaming about my ideal home

Do you sometimes find your mind wandering off to a place far away where it settles down on a comfy sofa to take in the stunning coastal view from your seafront property? When I’m daydreaming about my dream home, that’s exactly where my brain takes me and sometimes I can even do a tour of my imaginary home in my mind without ever leaving my desk. Hours of fun, huh? Well I’ve decided that my dream home shouldn’t be confined to my mind any longer and that sharing it on the blog will reinforce what I’d like to achieve in life. So, as a little exercise in projection and ambition, I’m going to research the realities of my dream home to give me a firm focus for the future and maybe you can do the same too!

I’m not saying that I’m unhappy with where I live at the moment – it’s in an idyllic village, on a peaceful road and is well-located (we have a train station nearby and an A road linking to all the big towns nearby) but it’s a small house and is unlikely to grow much bigger over time! This is precisely why I needed to renovate a vintage caravan to create my workshop and office space and we’re currently working on the garden to turn it into another outside room. I’m sure that I wouldn’t need to expand into the garden in my dream home because in my mind it’s already big enough inside!

coastal seaside house inspiration moodboard

Perfect seaside homes via Pinterest

I watch regularly Escape To The County on BBC (mostly when the lovely Alistair Appleton is on!) and have no trouble choosing which of the half-a-million pound houses I’d like to live in, but realistically I wouldn’t be able to afford a mortgage on a stately pile or sprawling modern luxury pad! So I’m researching where I’d like to live, what it would look like and how much this would cost me. And I’m starting with location: it needs to be near the coast, preferably with a sea-view, but more realistically it would be in-land but no further than half an hours drive from the sea. I think I prefer this kind of coastal location because as a child I lived more centrally in the country and holidays were always at the seaside so I associate the coast with happy times and relaxation. I know I wouldn’t be on a lifelong holiday if I lived in a seaside town (and I know I’d probably get naffed off with summer tourists!) but I feel sure that I’d spend more time outdoors and live a slightly slower pace of life.

So that’s the location sorted, so what about the house itself? I’d love a barn conversion. In fact, any kind of home which features large open-plan spaces and vaulted ceilings. It’s the sense of space that I’d like to achieve which, after living in bungalows for most of my life, would be a luxury. I do like the Georgian features of pretty doll’s-house-esque town houses; high ceilings, picture rails, tall windows and shutters etc, but I think a large home with these kind of period features would be way beyond my price range. I used a mortgage calculator on the Principality Building Society website and was surprised that I would be able to get a decent mortgage that I could actually afford to pay back but it wouldn’t stretch to my Georgian mansion on the seafront so I’m going for a small barn that I’d like to be able to convert myself.

I’m in no hurry to move, so my dream would be to buy an old farm building with planning permission and turn it into the home of my dreams over the course of a few years. It would have a big brick fireplace, woodburning stove or an Aga with back-boiler and solar panels on the roof because I’d like to be self-sufficient in terms of electricity and heating, as well as having a large enough garden plot grown our own veggies and be self-sufficient in the traditional sense too – although how much digging I’d actually do is anyone’s guess! I’d love to have a sun-trap walled garden that the cats would enjoy lounging in, with a hammock and alfresco dining area, then a ‘secret’ kitchen garden beyond that.

dream home barn conversion inspiration moodboard

My dream home inspiration moodboard on Pinterest

The interior of the house would look just like all the perfectly-staged houses in Country Living magazine and I’d throw in a few of our favourite mid-century pieces of furniture to make it more like the kind of home we would live in. Of course the most important thing in any house is space for a Christmas tree, so the ceiling would need to be open to the eaves so that I can fit in a massive spruce and loads of fairy lights!

This little exercise has been fun (especially hunting out images in Pinterest!) and I hope you’ll give it a go too. It’s really helped me to visualise what I’d like my future home to be and I’m interested to discover that my dreams are fairly realistic and quite possibly achievable n a few years time, which has given me something to strive towards. Can you envisage your own dream home? What would you choose and why? Let me know if you make up your own dream home blog post and I’ll share your links!


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The happiest Mother’s Day card from Oxfam

Do you want to do something special for your mother this weekend? If you’re fed up with the usual shop displays of mugs, chocolates, picture frames and flowers, maybe you could try something doing different? And best of all, it helps out a charity! So what have I done for my mum this Mother’s Day? I’ve dedicated a square on the world’s biggest Mother’s Day card, thanks to Oxfam.

The card was made up of lots of little squares to be filled with dedications to mums. Once a message was added, the amazing Oxfam artist Lizzie Cullen brought that square to life with beautiful art. Oxfam say “The Happiest Mother’s Day Card was created at a live art event held in London Westfield Shopping Centre, where every time someone celebrated an amazing mum, the painting on our giant card grew and blossomed.”

oxfam mothers day card

Dedicating a square to your mother is free, but its nice to include a small donation to Oxfam’s Mother Appeal, helping improve the lives of mums in some of the world’s poorest communities. Plus every message helps Oxfam get one step closer to breaking the Guinness World Record for the most ever messages in a card! There are already over 4000 messages written on the card so it is certainly heading in the right direction! There are 4 days left of this live event so get your message to your mum onto the website quickly! Here’s the link to the Oxfam card website where you can see the card and read all the dedications, then add your own: http://happiestmothersdaycard.org/

Plus if you’d like to give to Oxfam’s Mother Appeal anyway, you can make a £3 SMS donation by texting MOTHER to 70013. Or if you’d rather, you can donate an amount of your choice via their online donation form.


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Tuesday Shoesday ~ Would you have shoe ‘art’ on your walls?

Just how much do you love shoes? You like wearing them, yes – but would you hang them on your wall? After seeing all the fabulous photographs of shoes that my lovely readers have sent in to me when I asked them to share the story of their favourite shoes (check out the post and get involved here!) I realised how much you all love your shoes and how nice the images look – they could almost be works of art. So would you want to see your favourite pair of shoes immortalised as an artwork and would you hang it on your wall for everyone to see? There are been plenty of examples of artists painting images of shoes throughout history and I’ve been researching my favourites to share with you today.

The first image that I stumbled upon was this 1887 Vincent Van Gogh painting titled “Three Pair of Shoes”. Who would have thought that a few pairs of battered old shoes would become a thing of beauty when captured in a Van Gogh painting? I really like this piece and it would be the perfect print to frame and decorate the walls of a country house conservatory or boot room.

Degas Van Gogh art painting of shoes

Origianl image sources via my Tuesday Shoesday Pinterest board

Degas famously captured ballet dancers in his work and there are numerous images of ballerinas tying their ballet shoes. This is a prettier way of displaying shoes on your walls and if you a fan of ballet anyway, a framed Degas print would be perfect. I could imagine it hanging in a bedroom or even in a little girl’s playroom, so cute!

I’ve also been thinking about the shoes we own and love and even though we might not wear our prettiest shoes often perhaps we could at least admire them by every day hanging an image of them on your wall? You can certainly take some lovely photographs of your shoes and get them printed by a printing service online to create your own poster art. Or maybe you could have your favourite pair of shoes immortalized as a work of art by one of the fabulous artists available to commission on Etsy? Better still – why not attempt to paint them yourselves? You can get hold of a canvas cheaply at shops such as The Works or The Range and can have a go at painting your own shoes – don’t worry if you go wrong at all, you can just call it an ‘abstract’ painting!

tuesday shoesday corkscrew

What do you think about shoes as works of art? Would you like to hang your shoes on your walls? And please let me know if you have a favourite pair of shoes that you’d like including in my next ‘Your Shoes’ blog post in April. I’ve already had a few submissions from lovely readers so please send me a photo of your favourite shoes and a sentence or two about why you like them – I’ll share them one Tuesday Shoesday and link back to your blog/website if you have one so send me your favourite shoes to cassie@cassiefairy.co.uk thanks!


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Light my fire & win solar lighters!

A few weeks ago I investigated the concept of solar cooking during one of my Pieday Friday cooking blog posts and I discussed how the sun’s power can be harnessed to achieve a solar-powered oven to barbeque meat, cook a casserole or even bake a cake! There are lots of different types of solar devices for cooking outdoors and most work like a BBQ; directing heat towards a central cooking rack. The solar ovens look like something from outer space with futuristic fins and reflectors channelling the sun’s rays into the middle, which can reach conventional oven temperatures and safely cook a meal for the entire family.

As you probably already know I’m keen on anything that can save energy and therefore save me money but I was sceptical about these devices until I watched the many YouTube videos and saw a sponge cake being cooked on a solar BBQ! There are entry-level pop-up cookers available (which would be good for camping!) which would be a cheaper way to try out solar cooking at home, but I’m starting even smaller and trying out a solar lighter to see how I get on with that!

bfly solar lighters

My B*Fly solar lighters from IDCook (see previous model here)

I got these B*Fly solar lighters and they are just like a mini-version of a solar cooker; they have two reflectors which direct sunlight into the centre point and anything in the middle of the lighter will be ignited by the heat. I tried out the lighter by stuffing the centre with some dry twigs and pointed it towards the evening sun. Even though the sun was already setting, the reflectors seemed to intensify the sun’s glare and it was easy to see where the hot point is – it was glowing! Within a few seconds the twigs were smouldering and caught on fire – pretty cool huh?! These lighters would be great for camping because you can use anything flammable that you have to hand; dry leaves, grass, newspaper, charcoal etc – they all burn well in one of these lighters. I watched a video online which shows all the types of materials being lit by the sun’s rays and it is pretty impressive – check it out here:

As you can see, it’s quite straight-forward to use one of these solar lighters and I’ve added one to my camping kit, one with the BBQ and one in the kitchen so I’ve always got one to hand for every eventuality! If you wish to see more cool videos have a look here too: http://www.youaresolar.com/

And the great news is that you can win a set of three solar lighters! I have three B*Fly lighters to give away to one lucky winner (colours may vary) so if you’d like to win 3 B*Fly solar lighters, simply RT my competition tweet here and follow @Cassiefairy and @IDCOOK. The winner will be picked at random from all the entries on Friday 28th March! Good luck!


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A sunny weekend – bargain hunting, art & digging

I had a rather outdoorsy Saturday planned for this weekend and thankfully the weather has stayed pretty good here. To kick-start the weekend hubby and I set out alarms for normal weekday times and dragged ourselves out of bed to go to the local carboot sale. I love rummaging for a bargain but my husband is much quicker at glancing over the stalls than I am. So inevitably I get left behind while he whizzes off to find lovely treasures, then we meet up for a cup of tea and he shows me all the bargains he has bought – usually nothing I’d ever choose but he only ever spends pence rather than pounds so he can’t get it too wrong! Our haul this weekend included some small half-pint pewter tankards, which we’ve taken a shine to since seeing lots appearing on the hooks of our local pub, so maybe I’ll get to have one engraved and have my very own tankard in the pub – however, I’ve heard that cider doesn’t mix well with the pewter so perhaps I’d better stick to having my half in a glass for now rather than going over the ‘the dark side’ and drinking ale from now on!

A normal feature of any sunny weekend is us going in search of an ice cream and stopping off for a country walk around the marshes. We like spotting artworks during our weekend jaunts and here are some snaps of the Henry Moore sculpture, entitled Large Interior Form which is located on the lawn outside Snape Maltings Concert Hall.

henry moore art at snape maltings

I also enjoy looking at the crumbling old malt buildings and we took been taking photos of the area for a few years, documenting their development – it’s interesting to see which buildings have been renovated and saved and which are continuing to crumble away.

The plan for the rest of the weekend was to head home to get on with our gardening work. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before but now that summer is approaching (and we can get out into the garden without getting rained on!) we have turned our attention to the garden and have drawn up some plans to make it into a little haven by the summer holidays. I’ll share more about our plans on the blog soon, but in the meantime I’ll just tell you that we’ll be spending the rest of the weekend shovelling wood-chippings and digging over the borders! I’ll share some photos of our progress with you soon and I’d love to hear what you’re getting up to this weekend so please leave me a comment below :)


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Finding the perfect dress for the National Blog Awards

Next month I am going to the National Blog Awards as a finalist! I am so excited to be attending the ‘Oscars of the blogging world’ and I can’t wait to catch up with my bestie Jenna who has also been shortlisted for her wedding blog Glitter Daze. Luckily, we aren’t competing against each other, as I am a finalist in the Retail and Fashion category so we can just enjoy a few drinks together, a lovely meal and enjoy all the glitz and glamour that the awards ceremony has to offer.

It’s a proper red-carpet type event and I alternate between being very exciting and very scared because I’ve no idea what the dress code ‘dress to impress’ means – Is it an occasion for long evening dresses or short prom dresses? Will everyone else there be in floor-length gowns or will I look silly in a mini dress?? It’s not a problem for my husband, who will wear his lovely shirt and blazer combo and will look fantastic as always – just the right mix of smart without trying too hard – I don’t know how he does it! But for my outfit I have no idea and I’m sure that I’ll end up in photographs at the awards so I don’t want to look a mess, nor do I want to stick out by being overdressed. So this has kick-started a massive dress hunt and here’s my shortlist:

 victorias dress outfit ideas for national blog awards                     

Black lace a-line dress or red chiffon sweetheart dress

I picked out these cheap prom dresses from one of my favourite dress websites VictoriasDress.co.uk because I know that once I choose a shape of dress I can have it made in any colour for around the same price as an off-the-peg high street dress. At least I know that no one else will be wearing the same outfit as me if I have a dress custom-made! I love the red prom dress above but I think that the chiffon might be too girly for me for such a formal occasion, so I prefer the demure shape of the black a-line dress with lace detail but – in contrast – I’d like to have it in a bright colour. Choosing the colour from the rainbow of fabrics will be difficult but I think that a deep red or dusky pink would be nice with my skintone and warm up my complexion. As you might remember, I had a colour analysis done by Janelle from Confessions of a Fashion Stylist blog and the colours that suit me best are pinks, reds and lavenders so as I’m not a big fan of lilac I think I’ll follow her advice to select a rich red because I already wear a lot of burgundy and I know I’ll feel comfortable in it.

Either way, I need to make a decision on my outfit pretty soon and when payday comes I’ll be booking my train ticket to London for the biggest event of the blogging year and I can’t wait! Of course I will report back to you on my progress in the competition and let you know how I get on during the big night – watch this space!


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Pieday Friday ~ Broccoli & ham quiche

I don’t know why I’ve never made quiche before. My whole life I’ve been too scared to make quiche from scratch – maybe it’s the worry that the eggs won’t set or that the pastry will go soggy or that it’s a complicated process – whatever the reason, I’ve reached this ripe old age and 3 years of recipe posts without ever attempting to bake a quiche. Unbelievable really, considering that (as a savoury lover) one of my favourite baked treats is quiche and I can’t get enough of my family’s homemade quiches – tuna, veggie, cheese and ham – I love them all and could probably eat a whole full-size quiche to myself. Well, the fear has finally been conquered and I enjoyed my very first Cassie-made quiche meal this week… And it tasted gooooood!

pieday friday recipe for low fat broccoli and ham quiche

I went for a standard base of onion and cheese then added in slices of my favourite ham. Broccoli was on special offer at the market this week so we’d bought 6 heads without any plans of what to eat it with so I used up a whole head of florets in this quiche. Lots of recipes call for cream and crème fraiche etc but I stuck with a basic egg, milk and cheese mixture to get a slightly healthier filling. Here’s the recipe:

pieday friday recipe for baked broccoli ham and onion quiche

Make up a batch of pastry (see my recipe for pastry here) and line a pie or cake tin – preferably one with a removable base which will make it easier to get the quiche out when it is cooked. Cut the broccoli into small florets and steam for a few minutes to soften. Dice an onion and sautee in a little Fry Light until golden. Spread the onion over the uncooked pastry base, layer up slices of ham and add the softened broccoli florets. Whisk together 4 eggs with 1 & 1/2 cups milk and 100g lightest soft cheese. Add a little salt and pepper seasoning then pour into the pastry base. Grate a little mature cheddar on top if you like, but it’s just as good without! Bake in the oven at 175 degrees for 30 minutes or until the centre is set.

pieday friday recipe baked quiche

It was so much easier to make than I’d imagined in the past and I’ll certainly be making lots more quiche in the future. Enjoy chilled with a big salad or get stuck in while it’s still warm with baked beans (my favourite way to eat quiche)! Let me know if you have a go at making this recipe.

 

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