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Today I feel…..

I have a postcard on my bedroom wall that says: “Today I feel a bit normal”

Now clearly, this is far removed from what I actually feel. But it struck me recently as a rather sensible and splendid goal to have in mind, each day, you know – like something to aim for.

And while I am waiting for this ‘normal’ to float down gracefully into my world, like little pieces of stardust, then it is good to have certain things around me, to keep me going.

Like a lit stove on a rainy Sunday – the first of the season

And the furriest of all onesies, with small soft grey ears (people are kinder to you when you have little fluffy ears – did you know that?)

And fresh flowers from the allotment

A reminder that in one way or another, we all have tough times at some point or another, they pass, but in the meantime, kindness goes a long way. And where there can’t be kindness, boundaries keep you safe.

And best of all, sweet friends to invite you to candlelit breakfasts

And other sweet friends who send you lovely pieces of writing like this and the words: “I have sea foam in my veins, for I understand the language of waves”, which will make you breathe out deeply and start again.

October 13, 2013   2 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

A Stitchy Tale

A short stitchy story. You know how it goes. September comes around, the kids go back to school, you twiddle your thumbs for a couple of days, wondering what to do next, because clearly you do not have enough going on in your life. Then, ah ha! You have that lightbulb moment, sitting in the last of the summer sunshine, when you think, ‘well, it’s nearly Christmas, I had better crack on with some present making’. All in the name of actually avoiding knuckling down to some real, live, paid work, so your family doesn’t starve. Hurrah. Present Making it is. 

Next thing you know, you have persuaded your ex-husband to cut down his entire crop of lavender, although the scary man-tool strimmer was waved a little too close to your head for your liking, but hey presto, you have a tonne and a half of lavender to process before the sun leaves for another 8 months.

So you sit there weeping a little, feeling like what-was-her name when Rumplestiltskin said she had to spin an entire attic of straw into gold. Too big a task for one wee, mad girl. Never mind hey, because that is what Facebook is for – to send out a call for help. Which you do, and before long your garden is filled with lots of fab, mad girlies who spend an entire morning destalking your lavender and gossiping. Your ears nearly fall off their talk is so scandalous.

Well, this isn’t very stitchy yet, sorry. O.K, so lavender is deliciously procured, and made into lavender bags for Christmas, thus saving you a small fortune, funds instantly diverted into a better cause, namely books, chocolate and fun days out.  “And your 15 year old will be delighted with his lavender bag” a friend wryly points out. For shame. Don’t be telling me the truth now, lady.

Alright, spurred on by the success of the lavender mission, you will naturally feel that your stitching talent is boundless and that you really are rather foxy when it comes to needles and thread. Oh you foolish girl. Around the same time you will be mercilessly talked into making a rather wonderful pouch for a special carving, and being a textile goddess you will enthusiastically agree. Oh my god. Did Martha teach you nothing in your sewing classes 3 years ago? Did she really tell you that a tape measure is a complete waste of time, that pins are for wimps? I don’t think so, she would have you horsewhipped for the short cuts you figure you can take.

Even so, you forge on, and as well as the pouch, you attempt to make a quilted hot water bottle cover, all nice and witchy, and magical. Because you can. But maybe, you actually can’t, and by day 5 you are rifling through the bathroom cabinet for diazepam to take away some of your self inflicted pain. I promised you honesty my friends, one blog back – well here it is. This is me, praying, no begging my Husquarvana to have mercy on me. It is pitiful, no?

Well, I need to wrap up this sorry chapter….the pouch got made (I was thrilled to discover my hairy white jumper had moulted all over the black fabric) and the hot water bottle cover just about made it through too, after I had a strict chat with myself and dug out some pins, and even a tailors chalk. The tape measure never quite got used, but lessons were learned. Oh yes they were. Namely, I must remember that learning to sew is best done slow; that one lavender bag made does not make you Mama Soule, far from it. Lavender is more soothing than diazepam and better for you, and JAINE: GET ON WITH SOME PROPER WORK….with this is mind, I am heading off to my Cornish ocean, to build up my strength and take a little break. Back in a week……

September 19, 2013   3 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

Local is as Local Does

We live in a little corner of Stroud called Trinity. It is also known as the Museli belt, on account of the high proportion of hippies, artists, musicians, allotment diggers and dreamers that dwell here. It’s a fab little corner, on the north east side of the town, up a hill, bordering the edge of countryside known as the Heavens. And in what feels like the middle of Trinity, is party central – our Local. Otherwise called the Septic (although those shady days are long gone) or the Hat and Stick.

It’s run by the mad Mr. Rodda Thomas, and is right on the corner of our very sweet park on a hill, called the Daisy Bank, where the children play all summer long, and where we all congregate when the snow comes. This pub is the nerve centre of all that happens and is talked about here in our corner of Stroud; if its out there going on, then it is up for discussion at our Local.

How could you not love a pub with leopard skin walls and a faded photo of Elvis to greet you as you arrive? I love it’s huge wooden kitchen table, always with fresh flowers and a lit candelabra, where we gather to put the world to rights. I love its funny corner with the piano and horns on the wall. It has a blokey corner where big matches play out and are cried and yelled over. It has a corner where the knitters gather and clickety clack with busy needles.

It has casino nights, legal advice nights, ‘Up the Workers’ food nights, and Sunday roasts. A notice says ‘Well behaved owners welcome if accompanied by their dogs…children also welcome if accompanied by well behaved parents” (that’s us out then)

Best of all, it is the place to hang when the Fringe (Stroud’s music festival) comes to town. Rodda puts up a big marquee in the garden, and the festivities begin with a dog show the week before (I am sure I have told you about my prize winning beast – a first in the scruffiest dog category – so proud – until he bit the judge and we had to make a hasty exit….sigh)

There is music, dancing, local ales and a Country Fair where we all get a little crazy over our misshapen vegetables and allotment offerings. Not to mention the baking….and the sloe gin category that is the source of more than a little conspiracy. Lights twinkle, the bass is cranked up, the vintage crockery is dusted down, and it is all very local, very lovely.

Festivites are still going strong in October with a mean ‘Pickle Off’ – not for the faint hearted, this is chutney gone haywire my friends. Then there is Halloween when sugar hyped kids bash a pinata to death, hanging from the pub ceiling; all watched over by the king of Horns Road, Rodda the Insane.

Yeah, it’s a good place to be, our little local, even though I may not get up there as often as I could, despite it being only a 3 minute walk away. But I do think it’s pretty cool, with its baskets of strawberries growing over the front door, a place that takes on local kids (one of our daughters included) and its sure sense of who it is – a place of community, where our lives play out…local is as local does.

September 7, 2013   No Comments

NFS….Normal for Stroud

I’m home, I’m teenaged out…and I am due some normal time (please? someone point me in the right direction?). It feels good to be back in Stroud, and immersed in our green valleys again. It feels good to be doing what I usually do at home – knitting, working in the garden on my laptop, herding cats… you know, the sort of thing that I’ve come to expect in this circus we call everyday.

Over in these parts we even have our own facebook page called ‘Normal for Stroud’ and the disturbing thing is, it looks completely reasonable to my eyes. Sigh. It was no surprise to see that a photo of our pink scarf pitched up on it this week, randomly. O.K, in this last week of August, here is a little roundup of goings-on in my ‘Normal for Stroud’ life…..

First up, no sooner had I landed home, we were carted off to Treefest, sweet little local festival, with a healthy dose of axe and chainsaw tomfoolery for obsessive woody people. And why not. Whatever floats your boat. What was floating mine, big time, were the churros with cinnamon sugar and hot chocolate sauce. Here is concrete evidence that you can distract these woody people in a nano second with the right sort of carrot….ha ha ha…..

…not so focused on your woodturning now, are you, my little sawdusty friends…..

Back at the ranch there was plenty of time to dust down the old jazz classic ’78’s (and torment the dog with the promise of a biscuit on a turntable); mix up a jug of ‘Mushion Moules’ (a ridiculous and less sober interpretation of the better known Moscow Mule), and to round off the evening’s entertainment (after the fun of teasing the dog had waned) a little game of “tie a doughnut on a string and torment our blindfolded guests” – my how we laughed…..

Other noteworthy distractions have been: meeting a wizard with some rather interesting potions and resins; getting a little ‘makey’ with some blackberry and currant liqueur, stitching a couple of hops and lavender sleeping pillows; and rolling out an 80 meter piece of peace scarf down our road as you do, for a little pinky try out.

Is this normal for Stroud? I don’t know, all I am beginning to realise is that it is normal for me. As regular as these green wooded hills that we walk, and as fab as the people that pitch up at a moment’s notice – whether it is to hold up meters of knitting or to protest another awful war in our struggling world. Happy normal weekends to y’all…

August 29, 2013   No Comments

By the Ocean (tinged with teenagers)

I have been so cunning this year about spending as much time as possible by the ocean…and here I am again…but karma is a sneaky beast and it is this trip that has had both a carrot and a stick. So yes, I have swam in my creek and loved my life. But I have also been frogmarched to the edge of my sanity with shoeless 15 year old boys and subjected to Thriftshop by Macklemore (google it my friends, and be warned, it’s not the sort of thrift shop you or I care to hang out in with our dreams of vintage…..) 

Hey ho, it is still time by the ocean…so let’s be positive. Gorgeous gorgeous. Hope your skies are blue too lovelies…..

August 18, 2013   No Comments

Reasons

I have been thinking about Peace. With a capital P. I have been trying not to be worthy, or self righteous, or so very dull. But the truth is, it’s been 68 years since human beings dropped atomic bombs on other human beings, causing devastation in the most brutal way imaginable. It changed our world forever. We are still making these bombs. What more is there to say? 

I want to acknowledge this pain of what we did, what we still do. I also want to hear peace in my own words, peace in my thoughts, peace in my body, peace with my pathway, peace with my pace. I really do. 

So, where to begin. Ah ha, at a Peace Camp. And why ever not. Okey dokey, sixteen reasons then, to upsticks from my lovely Stroudie life, and hoof over to an Atomic Weapons Factory, like you do, with little more than a few balls of wool and some sticky backed plastic. (we all know this to be a very big lie)….

Reason One: Because ModPlods are so very clever at hanging up colourful peace banners. Left a bit, right a bit….ah, that’s perfect!

 

Reason Two: Because its very lovely sitting on green grass knitting pink pieces of scarf with people you like alot

Reason Three: To learn new skills like making Japanese Peace Cranes out of coloured paper and then stringing them together on the fence – colour is where it’s at when it comes to the Ministry of Defence

Reason Four: Trident – can’t think of a whole lot it’s got going on that is positive. But a Peace Camp? What can give you more pleasure than subversive stitching…



Reason Five: You get to chalk around your dear friend making Hiroshima and Nagasaki shadow pictures onto military owned tarmac with kids chunky crayons, – now if that doesn’t feel naughty, then what does?

Reason Six: You get your own little ‘Get Out of Jail nearly Free’ card – should you be abducted by aliens or even more exciting, arrested

Reason Seven: Because (still wowed by the chunky chalks) graffiti is sooooooo much fun

Reason Eight: Because you get to hang out with mad French activists disguised as Breton pixies, and they will most certainly teach you jokes in their own language, protest songs, and if you are really lucky, lewd French drinking songs. Yay to that then.

Reaason Nine: Because you can decide on the spur of the moment to see what would happen if you block the main gate with several meters of pink scarf that brilliant people have knitted you.

Reason Ten: Because you get to conspire with super-smart people about how on earth you are going to pull off the mother of all insane 7 mile plans

Reason Eleven: Because you get to remember how precious and small and soft your new born baby was in your arms all those years ago, and wonder how frightened and desperate you would feel in those first moments if your world was devastated by a nuclear bomb

Reason Twelve: Because you will stand in the middle of Greenham Common and marvel at the power of nature to reclaim what was once an American base for Cruise Missiles. You will feel the presence of thousands of women around you, feel their courage in the face of so much conflict. It always seems impossible until it is done…..

Reason Thirteen: You will sit and wonder who is more wary and scared of who – us looking in on uniforms, guard dogs, machinery, war. Or them looking out at us with our rainbow colours, banners, chalk, singing, fasting.

Reason 14: Because insane, crazy out there things will just happen – like being chased by herds of wild ponies, galloping and snorting as you run for your life. Or singlehandedly holding a surprise skype conference with 80 French people and singing them the only french song you can remember from Primary school, to fill in the time.

Reason Fifteen: Because you will be in awe of the determination and ability of activists who can fast for 4 days, only drinking water, and still cheerfully go on huge long hikes between the bases.

And finally, Reason Sixteen: Because. Just because. There are some amazing people out there. Believe it. And even though they are a little crazy, and scarily unplanned and spontaneous, they are courageous and clever and we are a safer world because of them.

August 10, 2013   1 Comment

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