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Breathing Space

I don’t know about you, but I find that the beginning of April to be the breathing time. That has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? Winter is sleepy and deep and quiet, while the Equinox is a bit turbulent – all that pulling into balance – its a cross between a menopausal woman and a bad hair day. well it is in my world. Which is a worry. 

But April, ah, that new unfolding time, the breathing time. you lovely month (yeah, I know, short memory, it snowed this time last year) – the month when I think “oh yes baby, the sunshine is here, the blossoms are around the corner, dust down your shorts, we are nearly there”. I take full responsibility if my premature enthusiasm tempts that pesky fate into sending us blizzards next week.

Enough talk of weather, enough I say. Let me talk stitching. Oh let me…..well, you see. It goes like this. When you are feeling completely overwhelmed with emails, and parcels of pink knitting, and your hormones, and housework, and illness and life – well, here’s what you do. You make sure you discover a new obsession, in this case English piecing, and spend literally hours peering through your spectacles like some crazy cat lady, at the tiniest stitches on little wee pieces of fabric. It’s a winner.

You can lose literally days of work, to this timeless art; meanwhile the little work pixies take pity on you, hop up onto your laptop and take over the management of your to-do list, like those cute little elves who made shoes at night. Only this lot are a highly trained crack team of admin specialists, and they have sorted your life out in a nano second. O.K, I’m getting a bit weird. It’s all that April fresh air.

Truly though, stitching is the very best. And my friend Cindy knows her way around fabric, let me tell you. She is responsible for me haring down this quilty road when I have so, so much else to do. You Queen of Badness. Those of you who are local, check out this fabric shop to end all others.

And seriously, going slowly, making tiny stitches in a way our grandmothers would’ve done, quietly, slowly by hand, is my way of breathing out, slowing down, getting out of my busy head. It’s got to be good.

Breathing space means that you slow down, and suddenly take a look at the moments you find yourself in. You may be surprised to find that your little boys turn very big, that celebrations with a houseful of teenagers and other family is actually quite enjoyable. (note to self: even the most incompetent adolescent can be taught to knit when the pressure is on – don’t let them fool you for one minute into thinking that those little pinkies can only work iPhones, oh no sireee)

Lucky girl that I am, I am about to journey to both of my oceans – first the ocean of the west, and then all the way across the land by train, to my ocean of the east. I am feeling very lucky that my work can travel with me, and my needles and thread, and camera. I am set. I have dear and lovely friends to see at both ends too, salty air to walk in, and pebbles to collect. I love you April, there is much to breathe in.

With apologies for the ridiculous number of photos this week, here are some outtakes, incase you are tempted to think this is all a bit Mary Poppins……





April 4, 2014   2 Comments

Time, loss and change

Oh hello! Did you think I had been eaten by gnomes? or my pets? or that Scotty had finally beamed me up and beyond to the blue yonder? Disturbing thought.

No, here I am, all is well, sort of. But this New Year time through January and February has been more intense than I ever remember it being. I’ve had to resort to tidying the odd cuboard to calm my nerves on occasion. This is what I found in the latest poke around a dark drawer – last year’s intention list – ha, ha, let’s see how I did….

Hmmmmm, not bad on balance, but slightly disconcerting that I marked myself on my own list…at least it wasn’t in red pen.

The hardest part about January was losing someone I loved.

I have always considered myself to have come from a world of women, to have been surrounded by women – mothers, godmothers, girlfriends and daughters. They nurture me, hold me, inspire me, they are my life.

And yet I have been blessed to have had the most wonderful men in my life too – father, uncle, godfather, partners and sons, who, now I look closely, have been interesting, thoughtful, and funny and who have also gently shaped who I have become.

To have lost one of these men suddenly seven years ago was heartbreaking. To be losing another, in slow motion, even more so. But to have been given this time with them, in the first place is surely the best treasure that I have been gifted.

Saying goodbye to someone has made me take a long, hard look at this thing we call time. It is so hard to measure, and yet that is what I am trying to do. Suddenly, it is more precious almost than the breath in my body, and I really don’t know how much of it I have, for my own life, or for any of the other precious people in my world, and there are many. How can it be that life is so very long, and hard sometimes, and then it is over, in the smallest moment, with that final breath?

In the middle of the saddest time of this last 6 weeks, I was able to get away for a few days. I sat in a roundhouse with my sisters, and passed on my blessing for strong endings and brave new beginnings. It went into a cauldron tended by a beautiful woman land guardian, along with the spells, prayers and wishes of nineteen other women. It was stirred in, mixed together with ocean totems and we have each taken a jar of it home. Mine is sitting here expectantly, waiting. In a way, I guess that is what I am doing. Sitting, waiting, for what, I do not know. But there is a space growing, so we will see.

In the meantime, there is plenty of work and organising to be done with Wool Against Weapons – 25 weeks left! And I am counting all the small blessings that are keeping me going in this winter time of change……

the best rice pudding in the world – you clever girl, for nailing the ultimate recipe and sharing it with me –

……a funny beast to share it with, he makes me smile (when I am not wanting to kill him for his bad deeds)

….sharing the best and maddest time with gorgeous women, preparing food together and laughing A LOT…

….the gentle smell of Suzi’s beeswax melting slowly in my kitchen, to make balm and honey…

…..finally seeing two years worth of ocean treasure collected up and ready to make into totems by my ocean sister…

….and because Imbolc’s light has quietly crept in to this winter grey, the making of Brigids crosses and the wonderfulness and pale green of spring bulbs – the sweetest blessing. May we all slowly unfurl ourselves, mend and stretch in to this new time….

February 10, 2014   5 Comments

Balm for Beginners (Clippers for the clueless)

One thing you should never do, my friends, if you are a middle aged woman and you suspect that you may soon be menopausal, you should never, EVER be tempted to tritty trot like a ‘my little pony’ down to Argos and buy yourself hair clippers. Should you inadvertantly do this, don’t then get those clippers out in a 10 minute window before teatime and without reading the instructions, go for broke, set it to zero and have a go Joe…..

No sireeee. Because your children will laugh themselves into a stupor and declare that you are now balder than Grandpa on one patch near your left eyebrow. And if that wasn’t shaming enough, you keep on going the next day, trying to even it up, and pretending that hair clippers isn’t the female equivalent to men buying a zoomy zoom motorbike at 50.

Right. Enough of sad things, lets get on with something completely different. Witchy balm. I thought we might have ourselves a little tutorial…you up for that? Then lets begin (bearing in mind I never measure anything, and am a little left of insane right now)

The simple truth about making balm is that it is really just melting together oils and beeswax and then letting them solidify in containers. Getting the proportions right is fun to trial and error (not a lot can go wrong, it’s much like making jam – keep testing for thickness and set). You will need – oil (olive oil, or sweet almond, or sunflower, you know, something oily) and you will need beeswax (order online from Neals Yard or pick some up locally at a farmers market).

What would be really super whizzy to add to that, for extra silkiness in the balm, is coconut oil, shea butter and cocoa butter. These you can buy online, and the very best company in my mind is Shea Butter Cottage – who are a small scale, ethical, fairly traded company run by a woman from Ghana called Akua Wood. She rocks by the way.

Find yourself a double pan boiler – what are those things called? My brain can’t find the right word – those pans that you melt chocolate in – bain marie? – well, nab one of those, or failing that, put a pyrex glass bowl over a saucepan of boiling water. Keep the water at a rolling simmer, and then pop in your oil, followed by your beeswax and whatever ever else you are adding. Let it all melt together while you enjoy the gorgeous honey smell of beeswax filling your kitchen. Have some clean jars to hand, and a small jug.

When the beeswax has melted into the oils, it’s time to test it out with a wooden spoon dipped in the mixture. If it sets nicely on the spoon and your finger – soft but not runny, moveable and not waxy, then you are done. (if not, fiddle with the proportions a bit more). This is the time to add any essential oils your little heart might desire. Go for it. (I love a company called Baldwins who do mail order oils, herbs, jars etc)  Then, pour the mixture in to the jug and carefully into your waiting jars. Leave to set.

Et voila! You are done. You are nearly an official witchety witch. You are most certainly a kitchen goddess. You now have balm to put on your skin, lips, sore knees, anything wooden that needs polishing. Grab some kitchen roll and wipe out the saucepan, and use it to rub into wooden chopping boards that have seen better days. Before you start panicking, I am going to list below some approximate measurements, and if you’re really on a herby, balm making roll, then I suggest you cast your eyes over Susanne Fischer-Rizzi’s book “Complete Earth Medicine Handbook” for inspiration and direction.

Making my own balm is one of my lovely, calming quiet rituals that I save for certain days. A bit like baking. It sets your world a little straighter. And you don’t need much – a little goes a long way. My children have grown up with it slapped on them to cure anything from ‘ouchies’ on knees, to stinging nettled legs, from sadness to homesickness. No matter what ails them, they know that my balm has their name on it. Now they are older and bigger and they’ve learned to duck when they see me coming for them, balm in hand. Good job I still have the loveliest of Goddaughters to smother in it, when her chin needed a little patching, after a wonky broomstick landing….”balm on” baby, it’s all good.

One cup of oils (I use olive oil, or sweet almond)
1 teaspoon of coconut oil
2 teaspoons of cocoa butter
1 teaspoon of shea butter
1 tablespoon of beeswax (this is hard to guess as its solid, but be bold, give a go)
20 drops of essential oil (I have to tell you that I often use double this amt. but then I am queen reckless)

September 27, 2013   2 Comments

People Patchwork

Hello lovelies. You’ve been very patient recently with all my protesty bits and pieces, and so very indulgent of my need to post a whole heap of nonsense about cake, wool, jaunts to the ocean, cocktails, blah blah blah. And here you still are. I think this Autumn I might need to do a couple of blogs about the scarier, messier, more dysfunctional corners of my world, lest you a) really do think I am Maria from the Sound of Music; b) want to put a fork through my eyeballs write me a very strong letter of complaint; c) make a pledge to never visit Stroud in case you run in to me. Fair enough amigos. I hear you. 

Until that time, I offer up, for your continued despair delight, a few small snaps of the batshit crazies that are always just a stone’s throw outside the shot. Some of these gorgeous people are the dearest of lovely friends and family, and some are just poor unfortunates who stumble unwittingly into my world and therefore plan of badness (aka my life). I celebrate them all, for the oddness and madness and joy they bring into my life.

Of course there are one or two snapshots missing. Like the one of my oldest friend Deb, who lives so far away. If she had been here this summer, you would be seeing a pic of us walking arm in arm on the beach, catching up on 20 years of delicious gossip. And the snapshot of my dad, who, if he had been alive, would be here with me making me howl at the funny stories he used to tell. Some pockets of our life are sometimes unbelievably sad.

But to balance out the gaps, there are always people, people, everywhere, anywhere, making me laugh, doing surprising and bloggable things. Thank you. Really, thank you.

I realise that there may be a couple of impending lawsuits, after the scandalous publishing of one of two of these pics. But September finds me reckless and restless…I remain unrepentantly wicked. This is Jaine Rose, September elf of the green valleys, signing off.

September 13, 2013   No Comments

Womadness

Oh Womad, you  mad festival of wonderfulness – how much do I love you? Truly. You have blue skies, and flags, and colour and the BEST music in the world – how do you it time after time?

You veer me off my track of virtue with stone baked pizza at midnight, lovely hemp and nettle wool to buy, and thinking I can jump on my daughter’s shoulders at a late night Sheelanagig concert and get away without breaking anything. You bad, naughty Womad.

Even when you rain for a wee bit you are amazing. Arrested Development in a storm – well, it only made it better. Mud – yeah bring it on you crazy beast. We were up for a party.

Now on the face of it, I’ll admit, taking seven teenagers wasn’t the smartest. You know from my previous breakdowns that they can so mess with your head.

Oh, but let me tell you the truth of it my friends with small children – here is how it goes. You ease up on the curfews (they might not see you as being overly generous in this department) – and by the end of day one they are nocturnal. (O.K, so they are feral too, but hey, WHATEVER).

This means in theory that really you don’t see them before lunchtime, when they flop around for a few hours whining for chocolate spread and more money. Then they skidaddle into the night again. Bye…….

Well, that is the theory. They also cover themselves in Bob the Builder stickers (attention seeking behaviour, best ignored). They try to bully their sweet father into wearing a Pink Panther onesy  in 93 degree heat (honestly dad, it’s what you need, trust us).

They grow purple plastic monster feet and play the ukelele relentlessly. They wear your Doc Martens for an impromptu morning yoga session. Did I say morning? My mistake. But its all good…I think.

Oh sure its a long weekend of serious partying, but it is also totally chilled out and gorgeous – folk music on stages hidden in trees, little shaded places with cushions and blankets to sit on, middle of the night chai cafes and twinkly gardens. So sweet.

And the colour, did I already mention the colour. Gush. It was one long blogging moment, my happy heart.

I can feel myself tipping over the edge and getting completely over excited in telling you about my weekend. So I had probably better stop there. It was fantastic, it was fab, and if the measure of a good festie is feet – then oh people – this was it.

August 2, 2013   No Comments

Calm before the Storm

Oh now, let me see….two grown-ups (really?) and seven teenagers, five tents, a festival. Woohoo, it’s nearly time to party…..

I am not quite on my starting blocks, although long to-do lists have been made. No, I am in the calm place, in the empty house, quiet time, before it all kicks off later today, when the kids of madness start to gather here at Stroudie central

These have been my calm, peaceful moments: 

Picking berries from the garden and dreaming up lovely things to do with them, including a cocktail called a Redcurrant shrub – with spices, and dark rum from the River Cottage Preserves recipe book- which will be ready by Christmas. Oh, and a chocolate mint and blackcurrant ice cream, yum

Finishing our family’s birthday bunting – honestly, I know I am sounding like a weird sort of Mary Poppins, but it’s all about an excess of hormones and work avoidance – stick with it baby

Enjoying having a lovely, clean bathroom all to myself…before it is occupied by said teenagers and their fights over the shower, wet towells, and outrageous smells

Treacherously ignoring pink wool, and enjoying crocheting my ocean ripple blanket, dreaming of what will be

Witnessing the making of three vegan meals to take camping, now ensconced in the freezer for the weekend, oh clever partner of mine

Loving a gentle time in a field with sweet hippies, campfires and teepees – a world away from the party we are about to be catapulted into….

Felting a badger for Ed the Pirate (see previous blog – I did meet a real live pirate, and he became a town mayor dressed as a badger, honest)

A feeling of deep gratitude for help unravelling and untangling wool

Altering some fabulously sparkly disco pants, like you do, ready to wear at Aldermaston peace camp the week after next – glamour is always where its at, when it comes to protest

So, a seemingly random week, and like I said, the calm before the storm of partying, late nights, pitta bread and chocolate spread breakfasts (yes, teenagers really do this) – which will contribute to one of  the maddest of weekends for sure. Have fun peoples….see you next week for a  festival post mortem…..

July 25, 2013   No Comments

Quiet Weekend

About a year ago I wrote about the Hurricane that is children passing through our lives. Thundering through, leaving a trail of chaos, madness, glory and life in their wake. And I do vaguely remember lamenting how quickly it all goes, even if it doesn’t appear to at the time. Well this is me. And I am tired. Not with a big capital T, but with a small sighing t that makes me want to lie on the ground and say to the clouds ‘ok, I’m all yours, beam me up Scotty’ (yes, Scotty does live up there in the clouds, I have it on good authority)

We have been parenting now for nearly two decades, and I thank the Universe for sending me this man to share it all with. But I also get it when he sits atop a cliff and silently says ‘wake me up when this teenage thing is all over honey’. Maybe those were my words. No matter.

With one child at Uni, another one going in September, and two following quickly behind, we really are on the homeward run. This is a new terrain that we are finding ourselves in. Everything is shifting, and I like it. Do I? I might do. Or it might scare me. Or both. This is a tangle of feelings and decisions. Time for some time out and a think.

Have you noticed how I always run to the ocean? As landlocked as Stroud can be, we are near enough to zip off and quickly be in Cornwall, or Exmoor, or in the case of last weekend, the Gower, in Wales. And when these feelings come, its only the sea that will soothe me.

Imagine then, quietly opening the door to this gorgeous haven of tranquility. This is Jill and Steve’s Meadow Cottage, and should you need to run to it as we did, you can find it here. Not a farty hound or teenager in sight – look closely, no, I didn’t see moulding clothes or packed lunch boxes on the floor either. Yay. 

So what does a quiet, Beltane weekend need then? Apart from farmers market olives, something cold and preferably sparkly, and a whole heap of crocheting? Well, of course it needs funky cafes with delicious cake (and she’s off…), and gorgeous beaches with the micro-climate of a Sydney summer. Oh yes, the Gower has both.

But it also needs clear vision – a high place from which to stop, breathe, and look back at all that has been. Only then can we begin to wonder at what might be. I so often forget this amidst the madness and small details of everyday. Only then can you see that your babies are infact nearly grown up (and this is a shocker) – not mini versions of you, but their own real-people selves. So who does that make you, you start to question? You have been ‘muuuuuuum’ (yelled in an exasperated voice) for so long, you have quite forgotten.

I might well be knitting a 7 mile long pink peace scarf, but does this mother even have an identity without her babies?

Suddenly, being on this homeward run, children wise (and yes, many many friends have warned me that they don’t always behave obediently and leave at 18 for Uni, never to darken your door or raid your fridge again) – but being in this frame of mind, I am suddenly looking at my opening doors and wanting them now. To hell with three years, I have pink wellies and a nose ring. I’m ready. Even if my mother thinks I’m not quite old enough. Hmmmmm. A rock and a hard place spring to mind.

So while my heart is quietly breaking for all that I may lose, I nevertheless am willing to step on to a different pathway with trust and small steps. Time to throw away the map. And as I wrote on my white hallway recently, ‘getting lost will help you find yourself’

May 10, 2013   1 Comment

Sennen Slings

Ok its official, I have just had the best week ever. Remember I was last seen (a blog ago) hoofing off to Cornwall armed with the chocolateiest of chocolate muffins?

Ah well, it was to these lovelies that I sped, dear friends who need little persuading when it comes to the sampling of made up recipes of the cakey kind. Fickle, but true.

We had a complete blast….so much fun…..and it’s hard to know where to begin really. Wild ocean walks….

…delicious food, looking through old photos (in my top 10 of things I like doing)

….a wander around St Ives – my very favourite place ever

…crocheting, gossiping, plotting and, well, just having a great time.

I am not sure I was graceful when it was time for me to leave. Sawing off the toes on my clutch foot so I couldn’t drive home was a little dramatic. But David is a doctor, so I was quickly bandaged up and my cunning plan foiled. Hiding one of the tyres on my car was a waste of time too. Lisa has a particular talent for finding hidden things, and I was soon set on my way home…..sadness.

But I am jumping ahead. Before that there was plenty of time for messing about, which is precisely why my small potters wheel was on my check list. My plan was to once, just once, show off my expertise to said lovely friend, in the clay department. Silly me. This woman is amazing when it comes to making things (and any of our friends who have seen her carved bowls, spoons and beautiful weaving will agree with me). After a few crazy minutes of  wet clay flying around her studio and us laughing helplessly, she had the situation under control and was making the most perfect pot. Oh you fiend. Here is the photographic proof.

We had a completely fab day in my favourite Cornish town – St Ives – that I mentioned earlier. A beautiful meander around, all the while talking talking.

Followed by lunch with the very wonderful Cath, who soon set us to hard labour in the most shameful way, stacking the mother of all woodpiles in her sunshine vegetable garden. Actually, I loved it…I could’ve stayed forever.

And if a trip is going to be glorious, there of course has to be some badness in some way or another. Badness came in the form of David and a lethal 1920’s Savoy cocktail book. Oh my downfall.

Now, if you are going to fall from grace I suggest you do it properly. No sloppy half measures. And thus it was that we found ourselves dressing up for the occasion, in black tie, tails and vintage sequinned wear. How very splendid.

Singapore Slings he called them. Oh really? You naughty man. Sennen Slings is what they actually are – the badass big sisters of the former. Quite quite lethal.

Lisa and I quickly took charge of the next round of cocktail making. Oh yes, we had it all under control.

Do you know how utterly hilarious slippers seem whilst wearing tails, when youve had a couple of these bad babies???? Hilarious I tell you. OK, so you had to be there. And if you had you would have also witnessed an impressive piano recital, and a heroic beach rescue of the ‘bone’ kind. I will say no more. But it was so spectacular the evening has earned a place in my personal hall of infamy that swims around my less salubrious side of my nature.

So our tender heads and hearts just about recovered for a final beautiful walk to the Cape the next day, a wonderful and special place.

The ocean sparkled blue and the sun that we have all been waiting for all winter finally settled onto our upturned faces. Life is good.

Thank you sweet friends for my very lovely escape. I hope to see you again soon.

April 24, 2013   No Comments

By the Ocean

:: Blackthorn buds ::

:: Deserted beaches, tooooo raw and cold ::

:: Boardwalks through pine trees ::

:: Boat rigging and other harbour paraphanaelia ::

:: Hazel catkins and dusty yellows ::

:: Early morning creek walk ::

:: Sand dunes and sharp grasses ::

:: Fishing net blues & turquoises ::

:: Driftwood and leopard skin wellies (a wee break from pink, always good) ::

:: Seagulls reminding me I love being by the ocean ::

:: Time with family, how lucky are we ::

:: Looking for spoonbills and curlews in the freshes ::

:: The love of feathers ::

:: Sunset, sunrise at my favourite place in the world ::

:: Wells deli – a good place to be ::

:: Nearest harbour ::

:: Village shop ::

A few days away from our five valleys, and even though we were often numb with cold and huddled around the fire, it was enough to rest, and breathe out, to think and stretch. Dear ocean of the east, I do love you. 

 

 

 

April 10, 2013   No Comments

Week

:: Saturday ::

Stroud’s rag market…always so fab, rummaging around offcuts of hand dyed french linens, buttons, quilts, beads…such a good distraction on a difficult day

:: Sunday ::

An Equinox gathering on Kesty and Martin’s land – hot tea and some community theatre which made me laugh and cheered me up

:: Monday ::

Sewing together some pink pieces of scarf, and really loving the moving stories being sent to me along with them….there are some wonderful people out there

:: Tuesday ::

A Twitter tutorial – trying to get my middle aged brain around something really simple – slightly edgy when teenagers arent the most patient of teachers

:: Wednesday ::

A good old fashioned day at the seaside with Grandma and Grandpa – eating ice cream in a near blizzard – March – you’ve got to love springtime….

:: Thursday ::

A truly mad, crazy two hours with Pixie-Bee, the Hotpants and Saskia-pie – playing trains, stitching lavender bags, nappy changing, song singing, biscuit eating and other fun stuff

:: Friday ::

Back to big kids – a chocolate fudge birthday cake for my youngest teenager

:: Saturday ::

Stroud Farmers Market essential – olives from the Olive Ladies – seriously good, guaranteed happiness

My birthday boy – gotta love a 15 year old in a furry owl onesy

So this is my funny old week – week one of the school holidays – and still feeling like midwinter. Not an especially easy one, but there are pieces of loveliness and colour to be found if I look hard enough. And as always, my camera is around my neck, ready and waiting.

March 30, 2013   2 Comments