Thank you to Jackie

A big thank you to Jackie Shears, "honorary member" of the Skills Exchange, for the excellent photos she took recently at John's birthday party. It was so good to have someone in charge of taking pictures, so we didn't have to wield a camera while organising everything and generally enjoying ourselves. And the photos are far more professional than we could have taken. Jackie has just the right approach, getting people organised when necessary, recording the important moments, but not being too intrusive. And for a few gems, that was excellent value - we've had some glowing comments from friends we've shared the pictures with.

Carol and John


Cookie Swap (recipes) and Allotment gardening group action

Hi Everyone

Both events yesterday were good fun and enjoyed the beautiful weather helping Flora in her allotment - a happy 2 hours!

So nice to catch up with everyone and see Karina after a long time : )

The cookie swap was definitely a hit (thanks Karina) and will be making all the tasty contributions.Thank you Martha & Stefan for being lovely hosts.

My recipe for Melting Moments (in the middle) is attached, measured in tea cups (converted from Canadian recipe) which made 12 complete biscuits.

Best wishes 


Melting Moments

½ cup icing sugar
2/3 cups cornflour
2 slightly heaped cups of plain flour
250g/8oz butter

Cream butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy
Add sifted flours and mix well
Roll into balls about 2/3 size of golf ball and place on slightly greased oven trays
Press each ball down lightly with a fork to make a small biscuit, then press down again with fork making a criss cross pattern
Bake in moderate oven 180C 375F for about 12 mins until pale golden brown
Cool on wire rack and join biscuits with lemon cream

Lemon Cream:
60g/2oz butter
2/3 cup icing sugar
Grated rind 1 lemon
3 teaspoons lemon juice

Beat butter until smooth, gradually add sifted icing sugar, beat until mixture light and creamy, beat in lemon juice & rind.

Thanks Karina for the lovely idea and Martha - for hosting the cookie swap, it was great to catch up with all.
As promised I am sharing the recipe for Armenian cookies. I added half a walnut in the filling, glad you all liked it.

Hi Skills Exchangers

Nice to hear all the exchange stories and meet-ups of late. Thank you to Olive for my marmalade and flapjacks - mmm very delicious and a fair gem swap for her tax return!

Am now on the search for a SE sewer! I am after a large peg bag as a gift...all the high street ones are tiny or really expensive - has anyone got the skills to make me one please? I can provide the wooden hanger for the inside and are not too fussy about the fabric - something bright is always good to keep the joy of pegging washing out alive!

Look forward to hearing from someone



Good Morning Everyone

I am really pleased to see that we have been having more activity lately within the Skills Exchange. Hopefully everyone is pleased with their help, lifts etc.. I am always surprised at how quickly requests are fulfilled and judging by responses, I think others feel the same.

 I would like to thank Anna who came round on wednesday with her very efficient carpet cleaner. I now have a carpet which now looks like new rather than needing taking to the tip. We also did the light grey carpet and upholstery in my Camper van which is looking very posh again. 
It took Anna  two hours to clean everything so 2 gems for her time cleaning and 1 gem for the carpet cleaner and cleaning product. Anna was happy to earn three gems and I was more delighted with the results.
I had noticed a carpet cleaner for hire on way way out of Asda but it would have meant the hassle of hiring it and no doubt 30 minutes of paperwork/deposits etc.. I would also have had to do it all myself and then take it back and be left with a very expensive bottle of cleaning fluid hardly used that I had needed to purchase.
Thank you Anna.

With Christmas coming up, perhaps those of us with lots of gems could find ways of spending them and spreading the good cheer.

Best Wishes


Hello All

I would also like to thank Oonagh on great alteration jobs for me

My thanks to Emma Waas who painted my back garden fence with me over the summer (including most of really awkward bits) which was hard work but always fun!

Best wishes


I'd like to thank Oonagh for doing fantastic alterations - to my beloved winter coat and to my daughters Prom dress 

And to Flora for business advice 
And to Olive for some fantastic jams 


Good Morning everyone

I would like to thank Liz for hosting a very successful coffee get together yesterday. There were several new faces there which is always great.  As usual we had a magnificent spread of cakes/biscuits etc. Liz can probably do coffee and cakes for the next week !!

I would also like to say a big thank you to Anna and Anne who came round yesterday and did a sterling job on my kitchen and windows. It also motivated me to do two hours as well (as many of you know, I will do anything to avoid housework).  I did cobwebs, hoovering and dusting. 

I am conscious that we do not share our gem stories as often as we should so if anyone has any other stories to share, please post them


I'd like to thank Oonagh for doing fantastic alterations - to my beloved winter coat and to my daughters Prom dress 

And to Flora for business advice 
And to Olive for some fantastic jams 

And ref Annas note below. It reminded me that I have a couple of requests 

1) I need a problem fixing with Hotmail on my MacBook Air ( won't send mail, think it just needs reinstalling) 

2) I have some pieces of jewellery fixing - a stone has come out of a ring and a necklace is broken 

Many thanks to anyone who can help 

Thank you - Good Stuff

I’d like to thank Simon Bramley for doing a sterling job on my old Dyson vacuum cleaner this week.
He fixed a few worn parts and replaced them with others salvaged from a cast-off appliance.

Also, in the past few months:
Jenny Winch for services to privet hedges. 
Oonagh for top quality alterations.
Andy Pepper for Mac Book clean up and Photoshopping
Rosie Kemp for fixing earrings and broken necklace.

Good stuff!
Anna G


Lettting those Gems shine

Dear All
It was a pleasure to have Liz M who needed some gems, to help me erect & concrete in some fence posts for a gem so that I can put up my allotment gate again after it blew down.
Liz said she had not realised how easy [& cheap] it was to do!
It was also nice to earn back the gem I gave her from Debbie Welch and join Cath Mears & Liz to help clear Debbie`s rasperry bed for the winter on her lovely allotment.
As you can see there are always plenty of ways to help each other & keep the gems flowing.
If you have only few gems & would like to earn some let people on the SE know by sending a general email.
Also for those of you who with lots of gems , Christmas is coming & is an ideal opportunity to get spending & create more gem journeys.
Best wishes to All.


Busy, busy at the Meakin household

Hi Skills Exchangers

It seems its not just the sun that has been shining - the Skills Exchange activity in our house has been as well - Martha borrowed the Baby Gate, Simon mended our toilet and Patrick has cut Villma's hedge.

On a slightly unrelated note... 
Due to unforeseen circumstances I have 3 tickets to the Sound of Music at the Theatre Royal in town on Thursday 22nd Sept 2016 at 7.30pm which I can't use. The tickets are good seats and cost £96 for 3.

Unfortunately the Theatre Royal won't refund them as the production isn't sold out yet, so whilst I am hedging my bets it does and I can resell them back to the Theatre I thought I would just ask my highly cultured Skills Exchanger friends!

Whilst I would love the full resale value for them, I would prefer they were not wasted, so if your are interested, please get in touch

All the best
Kate, Patrick & Mollie


My daughter's birthday party was a great success!!

I wanted to send BIG THANK YOU to  Maria,  Olive and Carol  for the fantastic and generous help that made it possible to cater of over 30 people!
Also a BIG THANK YOU to Kate for lending me a much needed safety gate.
I'm proud of being part of the Skills Exchange group! 
“Many hands make light work”


Hive of activity at David and Sarah's

Dear All

Hope you are all well. 

We have had a busy couple of weeks in the SE with Kathy & her daughter looking after our house rabbit Fuzzy for a week - he came back looking happy and very well cared for .

David has started to dig up the damson trees and has made one delivery , with more deliveries planned for Tuesday. If there is anybody left who would like one , David is also happy to plant it for you.

Today we have gifted some hellebores to Hannah who has already planted them and sent us a lovely picture of them in their new home.

I need to be earning some gems as we are now down to about 3 - so if anybody needs any jobs doing, or anything that I can do in an evening - eg ironing please let me know. 

We would like somebody please to be able to help and cut our hedges in the back garden ( they are not long ) it will need to be somebody please with their own electric hedgecutters. 

Really look forward to hearing from somebody soon re hedges ! 

Best wishes


Celebrating my 60th birthday

My sixtieth birthday - a big party in the garden - lots of friends I hadn't seen for ages - a husband working his socks off to make it all a brilliant success (which it was) ..... but a bit of stress about how to manage it all and have a fantastic time. Enter 2 Skills Exchangers to the rescue. For a few gems, we had Bridget as a "meeter and greeter" and general help in the kitchen, which definitely took the pressure off answering the door and replenishing the food. And Jackie, not strictly a SE-er but honorary, as wife of Mark, also a talented photographer, did a fantastic job taking pictures, discreetly at a distance for some candid shots, as well as some posed groups. It was so good to have such a brilliant record of the evening without having to step out of the action ourselves to take photos. 6 gems absolutely well spent!

Carol and John


Our book group

Dear All

The Skills Exchange Book Group is very active and we wanted to share with you a photograph taken at last night's meeting where we had the pleasure of a visiting local author - Paula Rawsthorne (shown seated in the photo).

We had read a collection of short stories by local authors, including Paula, and it was a real treat to be able to talk to her about her writing specifically and the more general creative process, and the thriving literary scene here in Nottingham.

As new members join Skills Exchange on a regular basis, it's probably worth reiterating how the Book Group works, in case anyone is interested in joining.  We meet approximately every 6 weeks and tend to read off a list - either one that is already determined (for example, The Booker Prize shortlist) or a list that we pull together ourselves (from various 'must read' features in the weekend newspapers, for example).  On top of that, we sometimes have 'if you have time' reads, which at the moment, are books written pre-20th century and/or originally written in a language other than English.

Whilst we aren't at all a very academic, serious group, we do try to focus our meetings on discussing the books (as well as social chat, of course!) and to encourage this - there is an expectation that people will have read the book that's being discussed, otherwise the Book Group can all too easily become just a social evening, which is lovely but not quite what we intended!  You're not barred from coming if you haven't read the book, but you don't get any wine.

So - if anyone has any questions about Book Group, please don't hesitate to get in touch with me.  We would be very pleased to see some new faces!

Best wishes


Spring has begun - gems are circulating again

Dear All
Just a note to say how wonderful it is to see the gems flowing.
Yesterday saw 7 lovely ladies & one junior member [Joseph W] arrived at my allotment and they all have my heartfelt thanks for
Transforming it from a weedy patch into lots of lovely beds begging to be planted! - Thanks to Gill, Maureen, Emma, Claire, Jenny etc.,
Picking  the last of my carrots - Joseph
Turning my untidy greenhouse into something to be proud of  - Thanks Marta!
Help add cladding to my peach/tomato/summerhouse, made by recycling the windows from my house with Dennis G`s & Cath M help over the winter,
so I will finally have somewhere to shady to sit out off the sweltering summer heat [ if we get any :-) ]
The sky was blue, the sun was out, spring has sprung & a very enjoyable afternoon it was - as in previous years.
11 gems now back in circulation & I hope we can keep the momentum going on the gem journey.
SE Rocks!
Best Wishes


Christmas cakes by Mary and Hallit

Hello everyone
Hope you are all well!

Only 10 sleeps till Christmas!

I still have some Christmas cakes going if any one wants to swap for a gem!

They are made using quality ingredients ( range eggs, unrefined sugar, organic flour, lots of alcohol, Nigella Lawson style!) for a gem each and £1.50 for a  4" cake, £2.50 for a 5" inch cake, £3.00 for a 6" cake ( the pennies are to help cover some of the cost of ingredients, decorations and packaging etc) Please note the sizing will be slightly larger than stated below once marzipaned and iced. Ive attached some photos from last year of  examples of what they may look like when ready (marzipaned, iced and decorated, cake board and packaged) (they will be different designs too.) They will be gift wrapped in clear cellophane, tied with ribbon and a hand made tag to state what the cake is (so would make a lovely gift).
Here is what I have left:

1@ 5"x 1.5"
1 @ 6x2"
1@ 4 x2"

Chocolate (using organic dark choc!) with Tia Maria:-
1@ 5x2"
1@ 4x1.5"

Gluten Free with Brandy:-
2 @ 5x2"
1@ 4x1.5"

Best wishes


Dennis has been spending his gems.

Tuesday 15th December

Liz Mollatt, Flora and Meridee all went round last week to help Dennis with cleaning his house ready for Christmas. They also helped to tidy his garden and  greenhouse.
As a treat for his helpers, Dennis had asked if someone would make him a cake. Carol Williams made a delicious Lemon Drizzle cake which Flora and Meridee are enjoying with their morning coffee.
A great example of a group activity involving five Skills Exchangers.
If anyone has any other stories to share please let me know so I can share them with the group
Best Wishes


Cath's Christmas Door Decoration

Sunday  6th December
Good Evening Everyone
I have been given access to the Skills Exchange Blog so I need to practice. I thought I would start by showing you all the lovely Christmas wreath that Teresa Hopwood has made for me. It is multi purpose - Door Wreath or Table Decoration but today it is a door wreath. I am hoping that I am also going to be able to share a picture with you all. Oh dear technology is not my forte. Hey Presto. All I need to do now is remember how I did this. If anyone else has any Skills Exchange stories and pictures they would like to share then please send them me and I will hopefully be able to post them for everyone to see.
Best Wishes


Lisa's Meals are divine!

Over the Christmas holidays our family will be looking after the Stroger's  mini Zoo. As Lisa was running low on gems and I was running low on time, it was fantastic to be presented by an amazing lasagne which I then froze and took it  to my father in law over the christmas period. where 6 of us had a wonderful and tasty meal and a break from cooking.

Subsequently Lisa made me some authentic Indian meals too, which were delicious and we can thoroughly recommend a meal from the Stroger household!

Thank you Lisa!

Easier way to communicate with each other

After many years of struggling sending out group emails, we had some co operation with the now newly formed Cambridge Skills Exchange, where a new member suggested to use Google groups.
As I had not heard of these before, I looked into it and found that this indeed might be a great way forward.

Cath and I set to work to contact the whole group and took this opportunity to tidy up the administration at the same time.

After 7 years we had 130 members, but it turned out that on close examination only 80 were active and wanted to stay in the Exchange. So it is that we have started again with new energy and vigour.
We now communicate through the West Bridgford Google Group which should be easier and therefore more open to all.

Keeping fingers crossed that this is the case but have already seen an improvement over the last few days.



Some years ago during the arctic temperatures, a pipe burst and due to the fact that the stop cock was in an awkward place and very stiff, it was not possible to close it easily. All is well now but wanted to make sure that this scenario would not happen again. I phoned Simon the plumber who told me about this switch that could be put in instead of the stopcock tap, SureStop

Simon came and within the hour a new, easy to deal with switch was put in. For £36 and a gem I now have peace of mind. thank you Simon for the info as well as putting the gadget in for me.


Will there be another Christmas party this year?

After the Skills exchange Christmas party last year, Sally was inundated by requests for her delicious truffles.

People had a choice of a box of coffee, orange, champagne, cinnamon or a mixture there of.

Well, I did not have a look in Sally's kitchen but it must have been like a chocolate factory as at the end of the evening she came and dropped off her boxes with goodies for 6 of our friends. Beautifully packaged with care and love.

Thank you Sal for these lovely creations.

Will you be doing them again this year?


Cath's Curtains

Good Evening Everyone

I am absolutely delighted with the curtains and Roman Blind that Jane Rose has helped me to make. (The photo does not do the curtains justice but it was the best I could manage for an email  ) 

 I never expected to be able to make such a huge pair of lined curtains from fabric that I used to dream about. Jane has also taught me how to make curtains correctly which has been very useful.
Thank you for all your help Jane and I believe that you have already started spending your gems on a couple of pampering sessions. 


Why the Skills Exchange is such a success

I saw this brilliant Ted talk today by Margaret Heffernan, she explains so beautifully why the West Bridgford skills exchange is such a success.

Get yourself a cuppa, sit down for 20mins and let yourself be inspired by clicking HERE


List of great trades people

To my friends.

Can anyone recommend a company who specialise in front garden gates/fences? I think I need something custom made and I'd ideally like a local firm so would love to hear from you if you know of anyone suitable. 

Thanks to the recommendations from the skills exchangers, I've now got a good bank of people that I've now used for electrics, joinery, gardening, odd jobs and chimney sweeping. So, if you need a contact for any of these services, let me know!

Many Thanks
Helen W


Collision with Mike's wall set off a chain reaction of good will.

I have been trying to earn gems since my little collision with Mike's wall last summer, so have enjoyed bringing Diane M, her husband and friends home from a couple of interesting vegetarian restaurants I would never have found out about if it weren't for that activity. 

Ben and I also enjoyed setting up a christening party earlier in the year with Anna G and another couple.
Non-gem related activity has included   Helping Mike with the latest edition of Totally Locally WBT with a couple of articles on local businesses Signature and No 8, In which I thoroughly enjoyed hearing the stories of their growth and development and talking to new businesses Country Interiors and Through the Looking Glass about their ideas. 

Anne TH also rescued me with her magic hands from knotty shoulders after a house move with a very welcome massage. Finally I thoroughly enjoyed Skills Exchange book club last week. After a few months' non attendance it was good to reconnect with such a warm group of lively minds and discuss how we want the book group to develop. New members always welcome!
Warm wishes,
Catherine x


Skills Exchange book group 4 1/2 years old

It's four and a half years since the Skills Exchange Book Group started, and in that time we've made some good friendships, agreed, disagreed, drunk wine and had some great laughs!

The group generally reads from a list - for example we're currently working our way through the 2014 Man Booker shortlist, and we've also compiled our own lists from Radio 4's A Good Read, and  a variety of other sources.  We intersperse these lists with books recommended by group members and, as a result, have read a huge variety - including poetry and autobiography, as well as novels, which remain our usual fodder.

I can't speak for the whole group, but for me highlights have included Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier - one of those stories you know by osmosis, but have you ever actually read the book?  It's wonderful.  Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey - the most amazing two character narrated yarn, full of vivid imagery and extraordinary stories.  Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie which taught me so much about Biafra which I grew up hearing about on the news, but to my shame, knew nothing about (the book is so, so much better than the film).  Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch which I finished, sobbing, on a plane home from Italy at least 2 years ago and still can't get out of my head!

The Book Group meets approximately every 6 weeks and we alternate hosting in our homes - there are usually about 6 of us.  We manage, I think, to strike a good balance between general chat and a focus on having a really good discussion about the book - in fact, members of the group who have belonged to other book groups have commented that we manage this very well.  We're not academic in our approach, but we do encourage everyone to do their best to finish the book because it makes for a much better quality discussion.

Please contact me on if you're interested in joining the Skills Exchange Book Group, or have any questions.


Group Gardening at Cath and Mike's

I would like to thank Flora, Dennis, Jenny, Bridget, Jan and Olive for all their hard work yesterday. We had a really successful afternoon and the weather was very kind to us. I cannot believe how much we managed to do in 2 hours. I had felt really outfaced by the amount of work ahead of me to get the garden tidied up and sorted out for spring. The composter has been emptied, all the plants are planted and the borders tidied up. Everything now feels a lot more manageable and I am looking forward to seeing the garden come alive during spring and through the summer. 

I know several of you out there have a sizeable amount of gems and can strongly recommend the group get togethers. I could not have done on my own in 14 hours what 7 of us achieved yesterday. Also it was really enjoyable and great to get everyone together. I am happy to help anyone organise a group activity and once more I am also looking to earn gems as I used 12 yesterday topaz my 6 helpers.

Once again thank you all very much for all your hard work.

Best Wishes


Spring is in the air

We had the first group gardening session of the year last Sunday. Trish, Jan and I went and helped Flora with some clearing away and weeding and I replaced some broken greenhouse glass. It rained earlier in the day but we managed to catch a dry couple of hours. The great thing about group sessions is that everyone motivates each other and you can really see a difference at the same time as having fun.
This Saturday Bridget, Jenny, Diane, Olive, Jan and Flora are all coming to help me with tidying up, emptying the composter and planting.

I would like to really get the gems flowing again. Things have been a bit dormant over the winter - However spring is just around the corner and everyones spirits are lifting with the glimmer of good weather. Crocuses, snowdrops and daffodils are all coming out and the birds seem a bit livelier too.

How about if we all think of a wish or something that we would like help with  and then see if we can get that wish off the ground with help from one of the many talented helpful people on the skills exchange. There is a whole host of skills on the shared document for ideas.

After my gardening extravaganza on Saturday 14th March, I will be needing to earn gems 
 so if anyone would like help with clearing rubbish to the tip, cleaning, decorating or even making a glass dish to put an easter gift on then please let me know. I also love getting involved in any group activity.
I know many of you still struggle with group emails so if you need any help, please contact me.
Thanks and Best Wishes


Pampering and letting those gems shine!

Good Afternoon Everyone and what a beautiful one it is.

I would like to thank Mike, Kathy,Corina and Olive who worked tirelessly last night and provided us all with some very welcome pampering. They certainly earned their 3 gems each.I would also like to thank everyone who came as without you lovely people none of this could happen

I hope everyone enjoyed the evening as much as I did.  I love having the get togethers and meeting up with everyone. As usual there was a lovely feast for everyone to share and Floras champagne certainly put a sparkle to the evening.

Best Wishes


Skills Exchange Summer Gathering - @the sun shone on the righteous again!

I would just like to thank everyone who came to the garden party yesterday. The sun shone on the righteous again and we all had a lovely afternoon. There was a great selection of stalls - Clothes, food, jewellery, glass, chocolates, cards, books and energy saving ideas. As usual everyone contributed very generously to the bring and share food and drink and we had a lovely spread.  Ten of us finished the day off with a very jolly and enjoyable wine tasting session which Flora organised. I am now more knowledgable and will be venturing a little further than 3 bottles for £10 at the end of the aisle.

I invited a few friends outside of the Skills Exchange who all said how lucky I was to be involved in such a friendly, industrious group with such lovely people and Bridgets friend must have thought the same as she has asked to join us and will be signing up.

I nearly forgot to thank Dennis and Marta for the loan of their gazebos. Fortunately we needed them to shade from the sun and not he rain.

Thank you once again to everyone for making it such an enjoyable event

Best wishes 


Group Gardening at Flora's allotment

A big thank you to all  who joined the gardening party at my new orchard allotment last Sunday.
In just one hour you all amazed me by weeding a large raised bed, fitting a door on my greenhouse and clearing half of the new plot!
Special thanks to baby Molly for overseeing the event & bringing her parents & Mike Mears on what was a lovely afternoon.
Also thanks to all the ladies for getting the gems flowing & Cath Mears for also helping to dismantle Oonagh's Greenhouse & bringing it to the orchard site where it will have a new life protecting my peaches.
The power & goodwill of the SE manifest.
Well done.
Kind regards
Flora M
The Wine Tasting Event on 6th July at 6pm after the SE Gathering is now fully booked.


Pamper party - treats all around

Last night I went along to Sherry's Pamper evening with Iranian meal. Sherry organised the event and welcomed us into her home.  Anne TH, Corina L and Sherry provided 2 x 30 minute treatments each followed by a veritable Iranian feast that Sherry had prepared. I had a massage from Anne which really helped  my shoulder and a lovely facial from Corina which left my skin feeling well nourished.

I think I can speak for everyone if I say Sherry is an outstanding cook and really put on a fantastic and varied spread of traditional Iranian food.

We all thoroughly enjoyed our treatments, had a lovely evening and left feeling very relaxed. I would like to thank Sherry for taking the time to organise the treatments and do the cooking.  It was also lovely last night as we had different mix of Skills exchangers and as usual, lots of talk and laughter.

Cath M


Hi Skills Exchangers

I would like to share my skills exchange weekend with you all.  

First of all, Oonagh came and took away my trampoline which i had been planning to get rid of but could not move it myself.  Oonagh and Steve came and dismantled it and took it away to assemble in their garden.  Hopefully their children will get as much pleasure from it as my daughter.  
I then helped Flora in her allotments for a couple of gems and thoroughly enjoyed myself and so did my dog Ruby.
I then went for a lovely dog walk with Averil, a neighbour whom i met through the skills exchange and who helps me out with dog and house sitting.
Cath is taking and collecting me and my friend when we go from East Midlands to Prague next weekend. Since the airport link bus stopped running, i rely on skills exchangers for my transport.
Finally, I have joined the 21st century and got Isi Dixons old iPhone which is a great improvement on my old one and saved Isi the hassle of advertising it for sale.  She also much preferred to sell it to a fellow skills exchanger.
It was a very gratifying weekend which would not have happened without the Skills Exchange.

Thank you everyone

Jan Day