Retirement……..Part 2

Well, it’s happy days in the Cobbe household, my lovely OH has retired after thirty nine years of being a ‘Postie’. No more early starts and no more having to go to bed early……..we are now going to bed after the ten o’clock news, like real grown-ups! It is lovely to be able to plan days out, and even nicer, to be able to get up and go just when we feel like it. We have already had a lovely trip to Cambridge to see our son and daughter-in-law, on what was a beautiful sunny day. As some of you will know, I retired four years ago but went back to teaching for just two days a week, however, I am now going to give up my college work so I only have ten more teaching days before I too am fully retired. I have high hopes that this complete change of lifestyle is going to be wonderful for us, I am very lucky to be married to my best friend (corny as that may sound) and I just know life is going to be good to us.

Well, what else has been happening? On the sewing front, I made this little cushion for a colleague who has just moved house. Suzanne is very much a cat person so I thought the design was apt. I downloaded the machine embroidery design from www.urbanthreads.com which is one of my favourite machine embroidery sites.

check meowt On the home front, we are ‘camping’ with a makeshift kitchen set up in the snug/computer room….the builders are arriving tomorrow, to rip out the kitchen ready for a new one to be fitted. We have spent the last couple of days emptying cupboard a storing the contents in just about every other room in the house. The cooker was disconnected yesterday, so it was fish and chips last night and  takeaway tonight ….then for the next fortnight it’s salads and microwave meals! The kitchen is going to be lovely when it’s finished and if anybody  has any tips on how to treat/clean granite work surfaces, they will be much appreciated. kitchen 2kitchen 3

These are the designer’s computer impressions of the kitchen, the cabinet fronts are quite a bit lighter than shown here, more a champagne colour and the granite is a lovely rich coffee colour. Exciting times.

As the weather was so beautiful today, and to reward ourselves for two days of hard work, we decided to go for a walk in Windsor Great Park. The Valley Gardens were at their best, the azaleas and rhododendrons were glorious and we caught the tale end of the bluebells in the Punchbowl.  I had my camera with me so here are a few of the pictures that I took; P1000191P1000206azaelias I think you’ll agree, Mother Nature dressed in her best!

So, till next time, when hopefully, I will be able to show you photographs of the new kitchen, have fun and enjoy the lovely May sunshine.

Jenny xx

Back to Basics, Your Essential Guide to Make Do and Mend

I realise it is a long time since I have posted anything on my web site, and I can only apologise for ‘life’ getting in the way.

Well I’m back and raring to go….the main  reason for this is that I have been given the opportunity to write a review of a great new digital book that is on general sale,  from 21st April. This inspirational book has been collated and produced by Jen Gale who, in 2012-2013, had a year of Buying Nothing New, and writing a blog about the ups and downs of the year. I was an avid follower of the blog and full of admiration for Jen and her family. The book is called Back to Basics, Your Essential Guide To Make Do and Mend.

The book has contributions from the likes of Lauren Guthrie (my favourite contestant on the first series of The Great British Sewing Bee), Ginny Farquhar, Caoline Hannam, Becky Striepe and many other talented craft and upcycling people.

book cover

This very clever book leads you through many areas of recycling and up-cycling, from making your own cleaning products to mending punctures, re-using yarn from unpicked garments to painting furniture. One of my particular favourites is to save your used teabags to clean your windows with….I’ve tried it and it works! No more expensive window cleaning products for me.

A chapter that really drew my attention was chapter 14; UPCYCLE IT by Lynn Haughton, in which Lynn tells how the Boxing Day Tsunami was the inspiration for her venture into upcycling. It brings a lump to the throat, at the same time, making one realise how important recycling is.

Tsunami_edited-2

My next project is to re-cover an antique chair that I have been given, so I am reading (and re-reading) notes from chapter 16; RE-COVER IT by Becky Striepe.

recovering chair

If you’ve ever wanted to have a go at recycling, then I would thoroughly recommend this digital book, it is  truly inspirational read, with many projects that are all explained in detail. it is difficult to choose what to do first!

To find out more about this terrific book go to Jen’s web site www.makedoandmend-able.co.uk  The book is excellent value at just £8.

Until next time, enjoy the sunshine and keep on making do and mending.

Jenny xx

 

Just a quick post….

Where has the past week gone? It’s flown by and it’s been one of those weeks where I don’t seem to have achieved very much. I have caught up with the mundane things, ironing, housework etc. I’ve also been tidying up in the spare bedroom as we intend to move in there in a couple of weeks while I decorate our bedroom. We’re going for  complete makeover, new carpet, curtains, furnishings, so a busy time ahead………watch this space.

I did complete one little sewing project; I had seen this delightful little Origami fabric pouch on a sewing forum and tried to work out how it was made.  I had cracked it while ironing a nice square napkin (it relieved the boredom of ironing for five minutes while I tried several ways of folding the napkin to achieve the  shape of the pouch LOL) however,  Dina, AKA Bossymamma, posted the instructions on her blog recently so I decided to have a go with some nice fabric. Here is my finished project;

Useful pouch.

Useful pouch.

View showing another pocket

View showing another pocket

The closed pouch

The closed pouch

 

This little pouch would be ideal for jewellery when travelling, or make-up, or a useful holder for sewing bits and bobs. It has five pockets in all, made by the way the fabric is folded. Dina’s tutorial was really easy to follow. Here is the link to the blog; www.bossymamma.blogspot.com

Well, that’s about it for now, take care and I know I’ve said it before but, if you see someone without a smile…give them one of yours.

Jenny xx

 

 

 

 

I Believe in Angels………..

How could I not? You see, I have my very own angel, Natalie. She was taken from us at the young age of seven, but I don’t write this looking for sympathy or to make you sad but, in some small way, to pay tribute to a little girl who, although she never walked or talked in her short life, gave so much love and made me the person I am today. Anyone who follows my Pinterest boards, will see I am a collector of Angel quotes and there is also a board just for Natalie. Having said this, I also have a board dedicated to the loves of my life, which has some lovely quotes inspired by my darling OH and my dear son, Colin.

Natalie was a beautiful child, with the curliest dark hair. She endured all sorts of problems and was often in hospital, but somewhere along the way, she gave me the strength to cope. It was very hard to let her go, but, thankfully I had a very supportive network of family and friends and I know in my heart that Natalie was able to be free from the restraints of her wheelchair and run around just as  other children did. Well my little girl would be forty years old now, I do wonder often, who she would  be, what career path would she have chosen, would she have had children of her own if she had not been born with such cruel and crippling disabilities. These things were not to be, but I know I held an angel and that she is looking down on me now with the same love that was in her heart all those years ago.

As we celebrate Easter, my thoughts are with another mum, who lost her son last week. He was one of my special needs students. At nineteen, he had been confined to a wheelchair by a degenerative illness for most of his life, unlike Natalie, he was able to talk and communicated with the most amazing sense of humour. He was such a lovely person, never complaining, always smiling. Sadly he was hospitalised with pneumonia several weeks ago and never recovered. This young man will be sorely missed in college and we will a say our last goodbyes at his funeral, but I am confident that he is now free of his wheelchair and, as the song from ‘Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour  Dreamcoat’ says, ‘There’s one more angel in heaven, one more star in the sky’. RIP Connor.

If, like me, you believe in angels, Lorna Byrne’s book, Angels in My Hair, is a wonderful read and on April 24th, she has a new book out, Love From Heaven. This is going to be a ‘must read’ for me. I shall curl up on the sofa and enjoy it, knowing my angel is sending me love from heaven on a daily basis.

 

My Natalie xx

My Natalie xx

Wishing you all a very happy Easter.

Jenny xxx

My Apologies……..

 

I am so sorry that I haven’t posted on here for such a long time, I have no excuse other that I fell out with my computer! The reason being that OH, very generously, bought me a super-duper new laptop in August and it has Windows 8 on it. I have found it so hard to get used to that I use my iPad instead when at all possible. My embroidery software still doesn’t work with Windows 8, although I have tried everything, I still get my dear old Sony Vaio out when I want to digitise embroidery designs.

Well, what has been happening in Cobbie’s little corner of the world since my last post? In September we celebrated my sister and brother-in-law’s diamond wedding with a wonderful family party in my niece’s garden. My lovely son and daughter-in-law came down from Cambridge for the weekend and we had great time. Pat and Alan were picked up from their home by a beautiful vintage Bentley, which was a complete surprise to them and had been arranged by their daughter Annie. I was privileged to make their cake, a three tier diamond shaped cake with a tier of fruit cake, a tier of carrot cake and a tier of lemon drizzle. Annie’s husband, Phil, did all the catering and the food was five star, the baked cheesecake was to die for!

The vintage car tat picked Pat and Alan up for thir party.

The vintage car that picked Pat and Alan up for thir party.

three tier diamond wedding cake.

Three tier diamond wedding cake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In October, OH and I took off for Las Vegas once again. We had a whale of a time and I managed to find even more fabric and quilting shops.

November came and went in the usual round of Christmas preparations, I did manage to make quite  a few of my Christmas gifts this year, which was very satisfying.

December had us celebrating again, this time my older sister’s eightieth birthday, and guess what, I completely forgot to take a photo of her birthday cake!  Oh well, it all got eaten so I guess it was OK. We had an early Christmas day in Cambridge with Colin and Allyson, then spent Christmas day proper with my darling niece Boo and all of her family. A dear friend of ours celebrated his 60th on Christmas day and his family arranged a surprise party for the Saturday after Christmas. Brian is a great Kyle fan and his daughter asked if I could make a cake shaped as Kyle’s butt in those famous hot pants?!!! This was the resulting cake,

Top tier of Brian' cake

Top tier of Brian’ cake

The bottom tier of the cake

The bottom tier of the cake

 

The two tiers together

The two tiers together

A parody of Marylyn Monroe's birthday greeting

A parody of Marylyn Monroe’s birthday greeting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also celebrated my great nephew’s thirtieth birthday the Sunday after Christmas, another cake made!

Daryl's thirtieth

Daryl’s thirtieth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The new year came in with one more cake to make, my lovely neighbour celebrated her seventieth birthday on New Years Eve. Got to say, I was pretty ‘caked out’ by then.

January and February passed by very quickly and, at the beginning of March we headed off to New York to celebrate our pearl wedding anniversary and my birthday. We had the most amazing time and enjoyed every minute of it, despite temperatures of -13 C, in fact the temperature never rose above zero for the whole week. On my birthday we made a visit to the 9/11 memorial gardens. this was the most moving experience, made more poignant by the fact that a white rose was placed by the names of victims who would have been celebrating their birthdays on that day. This is something that is done daily. There were eight people who would have shared my birthday.

One of the eight people who shared my birthday

One of the eight people who shared my birthday

 

Our hotel, just off of Time Square

Our hotel, just off of Time Square

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the way, our lovely Kate is doing the London Marathon next Sunday, she is raising money for a child bereavement charity, Winston’s Wish. If you would like to sponsor her, here is the link; http://www.justgiving.com/Kate-Jones88

Now Spring is upon us once more and the blossom is looking beautiful, I have been busy dressmaking, OH is getting the garden up to scratch (when he’s not tinkering with his motor bikes), and I feel truly blessed.

I promise I won’t disappear from the blogasphere again, I have (almost) mastered Windows 8!

Take care and enjoy the sunshine,

Jenny xx

How do you cost a cake?

Well,  after many years of making and decorating celebration cakes, I have the answer! I found an amazing excel programme through Twitter. I had been following a lovely fellow cake decorator and found she had developed this programme to assist in the pricing of cakes, it’s a Cake Calculator and is so easy to use, at £2.99 it’s a great investment.

The Cake Calculator is spreadsheet which enables you to input all your ingredients, how much they cost and in what quantity they are purchased. You then go through the cake recipe, putting in the actual amounts used and it calculates the cost of each item, before giving you the grand total. Boards, boxes, hourly rate etc, are all on there. It can be adapted to suit your own needs. How I wish I’d had something like this many years ago, it has always been every cake decorators nightmare, trying to work out prices to charge. Because you always want to be fair, it is so easy to under charge, but with the Cake Calculator, I’ll not be in that position again, and when somebody says, ‘How much?’ I can show them a complete breakdown of the costs, BRILLIANT!

For other cake decorators out there, here is the link www.cakecoachonline.com  I will definitely be recommending it to my cake decorating students at Pipedreams.

These are the sheets I used this week
These are the sheets I used this week

 

The cake I made this week was an eightieth birthday cake for my nephew’s mother-in-law. It had handmade sugar carnations and roses. I hope Audrey enjoys it.

Eightieth birthday cake
Eightieth birthday cake

 

I am now going to tell you about two wonderful, caring, young people………my great niece and goddaughter, Kate is doing the Windsor half marathon next month and she is doing it to raise money for a local charity, Berkshire East & South Bucks Women’s Aid. My great nephew Jamie is taking part in the London Bikeathon, (100 miles), also next month, and he is raising money for Leukemia and Lymphoma Research. We very proud of them both and if you feel you would like to support them they have ‘just giving pages’; www.justgiving.com/Kate-Jones01 and Jamies is here 

Well, there’s been nothing going on in the sewing room this week……..the cake sort of ‘took over’, but I will be in there next week getting some bunting made in readiness for my sister and brother-in-law’s diamond wedding celebrations!

Till next time, happy sewing, baking, crafting or whatever else you may be doing.

Jenny xxxxx

What’s in a name?

Did you have a childhood nickname? Do you still have a nickname? When I was at school, I was always called ‘Mousey’, not because I was timid or shy (no one could ever say that about me,), but because I was so small.  When I left school, my future F-I-L called me ‘Niffer’, the reason behind this was down to everyone else calling me Jen, to which he always added the the rest of my name, hence Niffer, This has stuck with one or two of the family to this day.  An old friend of ours called me ‘Titch’ back in the sixties and this again, is a name that has stayed with me, in fact, that’s the name I answer to in that particular circle of friends.

My darling OH called me by the affectionate name of ‘Cobbie’ when we were first married, That’s why Cobbie’s Corner seemed so appropriate for my blog.  Even my GP has a nickname for me, if ever I have need to visit his surgery, I am always greeted by ‘Hello little cobblers, what can I do for you today’ He has also been known to sing a rendition of ‘Jennifer Juniper’ whilst taking my blood pressure.

When my son was born, great debate was given to his name, especially to  the fact that we wanted something not easily shortened.  Colin was the chosen name, already nice and short, surely not able to be shortened? What do we all call him? Col, or CJ. I think his wife is the only person who calls him Colin.

My lovely niece, affectionately known as Boo by everyone, because her twin brother was unable to say Bridget when they first started talking, is in fact Bridget Jones. Yes, truly. This time last year Boo and I were preparing to go to Cyprus for Colin’s wedding. When we arrived and went to check in, as soon as Boo gave her name for the reservation, the young Cypriot looked at her in amazement and asked if she was THE Bridget Jones. He then told the other receptionist that he was dealing with someone famous. During our stay,  every time we went near the reception area, we were greeted by ‘hello Bridget  Jones, how are you today?’ It was another little thing that made our holiday so memorable.

Boo and myself with the hotel receptionist.

Boo and myself with the hotel receptionist.

 Place names are another thing that fascinate me. My dad was born in a little Irish village called Newtown Mount Kennedy, I swear it takes longer to say than it would have taken to drive through the village when he was a lad. Dun Loghaire is another of the places I like in Ireland, the spelling of which belies the pronunciation, which is  Dunleary.

One of my ‘cyber friends’ from the sewing forum, has just had a life changing holiday in Australia, meeting family that she didn’t know existed three months ago. It’s a wonderful heartwarming story and it’s on her blog, Bossy Mama. My reason for telling you this is because Dina has been blogging about the trip and it really makes for lovely reading, but also, in one of the most recent blogs, Dina has told of a place she visited called Cobbity. I instantly fell in love with the place, purely because of the name, I would love to be a Cobbe from Cobbity!

So what is in a name? I like to think that all of my names have been given to me with affection over the years, I’m sure there may be one or two that aren’t so, but the important people in our lives refer to us with their own pet names and I, for one, love all of them.

Until next time,

Bye from Mousey, Niffer, Titch, Cobbie and, of course, Jenny xxxxxxx

Too hot for chocolate?

I didn’t think I would ever utter the words ‘too hot for chocolate’, being a self confessed chocoholic, but when the weather changed bringing real summer heat, I must admit to saying this quite a few times in the first week of this glorious July. Why? I was teaching a class at Pipedreams on the 6th, the workshop was…….A chocolate cake, covered with ganache and chocolate cigarillos, topped with roses made from modelling chocolate. Well, we had three delightful ladies booked in for the day, all keen to learn how to work with chocolate. Frank had pre-cooked rich chocolate sponge cakes for us  and the first thing I did, was to dispel the fear of making ganache. This was always a laborious task as cream needed scalding, taking care not to boil it, then this is poured over good quality chocolate and stirred until the chocolate has melted. This seems fairly straight forward but if the cream is too hot, it isn’t possible to achieve a really good gloss on the ganache. Joy of joys, I experimented  with chocolate and cream a few days before the workshop, and produced beautiful ganache in the microwave! It was sooooo easy, and not a fluke as I repeated the process twice to make sure.

Well having demonstrated the making of ganache, using the microwave, we proceeded with the decorating of the cakes.  An hour into the class and already the temperature in the classroom was a bit on the warm side. The cakes were sliced and sandwiched together with the ganache frosting I had made the night before, then they were coated with the fresh, cooled ganache, giving a very rich, glossy finish. Once this was ‘tacky’ chocolate cigarillos were placed all round the edge…………I didn’t say this was a cake for the calorie conscious among you.

Having got this far, we started on our chocolate flowers, by this time we were all feeling the effects of the heat and handling modelling chocolate was not going to be easy.  The only way we could work successfully was to keep popping the flowers into the freezer every few minutes, to firm the chocolate up. My three lovely students all worked patiently and steadily, achieving some beautiful roses, rose leaves and cutter flowers, which, once finished, were ‘gilded’ with edible lustre dust. The flowers were placed on their cake and a ribbon tied around the cigarillos, producing a very pretty, if very fattening, chocolate cake.

My three lovely students and their finished cakes

My three lovely students and their finished cakes

My demonstration cake

My demonstration cake

 

At the end of the workshop, we had half an hour to spare so I showed the group an alternative top decoration for a chocolate cake. Using some of the cooled, whisked ganache, I roughly spread this over a cake board. Using pink marzipan, I then made some little pigs and placed these in the ‘mud’. It was a fun idea and one that children would love on a chocolate cake. Each of the ladies had time to make a couple of little pigs to take home.

Pigs in mud.

Pigs in mud.

 

So struggling in the heat was worth the effort and perhaps it wasn’t too hot for chocolate after all!

I hope you are all enjoying the glorious weather. Don’t forget your sunscreen!

Jenny xxxx

 

A Busy Month!

The last day of June already, where did this month go? It has been very busy, not least because I have been working a lot of hours back at the college (from which I retired 2 years ago) helping out in what is the busiest time in the academic calender. I have been internally verifying work to go off to awarding bodies and doing some teaching as well. I would be lying if I said I hadn’t enjoyed being in the thick of it again, I love to get with my colleagues and have a good old chat and a laugh, and our students are  (mostly) a lovely bunch. Friday was the last day of term and we had a social morning, playing games, dancing and eating cake. One of the students took me under his wing to show me how to dance Gangham Style, what a shambles that was LOL. The students finished at midday and six of us staff went off to a local garden centre for a very nice lunch.

One of the activities I did with the POPs group this month, was making lavender bags, as mentioned in my previous post. Here is a picture of their finished bags.POPs lavender bags

They were very proud of their work. As a group, they also organised a coffee morning, at which the bags were sold and they had a raffle. The money raised, £102.50, was donated to McMillan nurses via World War C. I’d love to show you some pictures of the students but unfortunately I cant do that because of student confidentiality. Suffice to say they are a very happy bunch and enjoyed their fundraising.

I’ve also been busy in the sewing room, having decided to make all of my ‘thank you’ gifts for the girls at work. here is a little sample of what I have been making.

tea rugJulia's bag

A close up of the embroidery on Julia's bag

A close up of the embroidery on Julia’s bag

Denise's bag

Molly's cushion 2

I had  a great time making these and a few other gifts.

OH is on holiday for two weeks soon, we aren’t going away but plan to have some days out. We’ve booked a day trip to France, for a bit of retail therapy and a nice meal. We are also taking my lovely brother-in-law to Duxford Air museum on one of the days. The middle weekend we have a house guest………………

Our house guest for the weekend.

Our house guest for the weekend.

Jasper is coming to stay while my sister and brother-in-law go away for the weekend. We love having him to stay, we also look after my niece’s two dogs sometimes, both of which we love having too……….

Bob and Ted asleep on the sofa

Bob and Ted asleep on the sofa

Well, we are just about to book a holiday to the States, for September, so I’d better free up the computer!!!!

I hope you are all getting the wonderful weather we have had today, long may it last.

Until next time, thank you for reading my blog, stay safe,

Jenny xxxxx

UFOs

Because I have a few new projects in the pipeline, I have again been tackling my UFOs so that I can start the new ones with a clear conscience.  This is a Hex Etui that I started about this time last year for a June birthday……….well it’s only a year late. I just hope that after waiting this long, it is well received!

Hex etui, a UFO that is finished at last!

Hex etui, a UFO that is finished at last!

hex etui 2

Hex etui, closed

These are very useful little sewing boxes and this is the fifth one that I have made.

I also promised to show you the lavender pouches that I have been making so here they are;

Lavender pouch

Lavender pouch

and a second one!

and a second one!

These were both made using a piece of lace made in the hoop of my embroidery machine, this was then stitched over a piece of satin and net. The net and satin were left open at the top, to enable filling with the lavender and this opening was hand stitched to close. I was pleased with the results and am now seriously thinking of selling some of my work on Etsy. This is a site for crafters who want to sell their products, I must do a little bit more research.

I am  teaching at college again, a couple of days a week.  The little group I have been working with, have a unit to complete, ‘Planning an Enterprise Activity’.  After much discussion they have decided to hold a coffee morning and to make and sell lavender bags. Last Friday I took two of my sewing machines in to college, along with two big bags of fabric, ribbon, sewing tools and, of course, lavender. Well, what a day we had, the students worked so well together, all having a go at cutting out, machining, pressing, filling the little bags and finishing off with ribbons. These youngsters all have diverse learning difficulties, from Downs syndrome and hearing impairment to heart problems requiring oxygen. They were able to manage each ‘job’ with varying degrees of success, but all were very happy with their achievements. This week they have been doing literacy, numeracy and ICT exams, (at entry level) so Friday is going to be another fun day, making their lavender bags and winding down to their mid term break. Watch this space and I will post some pictures of their creations.

Have a great bank holiday weekend, if you are crafting, I’d love to know what you are doing.

Pop over to World War C if you get a chance, Maria has posted a new blog.

Jenny xxx