Week 49: Ubuntu

BoydThere is a word in the African culture called Ubuntu. Literally translated into “human-ness”, it has come to mean “I am, because of you.” According to Boyd Varty, an environmental and literacy activist, it means people are not people without people. In other words, you affirm your humanity by recognizing the humanity of others.

In a more collective society, we realize from the inside that our own well-being is deeply tied to the well-being of others. Danger is shared; pain is shared; joy is shared; achievement is shared; houses are shared; food is shared. Ubuntu asks us to open our hearts and to share.

Growing up on a game reserve in South Africa gave Boyd a unique chance to observe the precarious balance between man and nature. It also gave him an opportunity to meet President Nelson Mandela when he was just nine years old.

THE LARGEST CLOUDS CHOIR

Back in Week 20, I introduced you to Zach Sobiech. Do you remember how he wrote and performed a song called “Clouds” before he passed away in May? On December 6, 2012 the radio station KS95 debuted Zach’s song during the KS95 for Kids Radiothon. One year later, 5,000 people gathered at the Mall of America in Minnesota to make the largest “Clouds” choir and remember Zach. (Warning: I was a soggy mess after watching this.)

I think this, and the work we do for Knit-a-square, are perfect examples of Ubuntu.

THE SQUARES – WEEK 49

My crochet hook was flying this week! I’ve entered “I think I can” mode so I can finish eleven blankets.

Week 49

The bonus squares…

Week 49 Bonus

Blue Stripes SquareSquare seven is the new stitch combo from last week but in stripes. I can’t resist this pattern. What should we call it?

Square Count: 343
Bonus Squares: 11
Blankets: 9
Hats: 9

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Week 48: Black Lieday

black-fridayBlack Friday, for those of you who don’t live in North America or watch the news, is the day after the U.S. Thanksgiving and was invented by retailers to mark the official beginning of the Christmas shopping season. This year, the department store Kmart opened their stores at 6 am on Thanksgiving Day and stayed open for 41 hours straight. This event, among others across the nation, prompted employees to finally take a stand.

Activists organized demonstrations at McDonalds, Walmart and other minimum wage companies to protest mistreatment of employees and the lack of a living wage. The Monday before Black Friday, a video was released on a new website called Worker Center Watch. Here’s the kicker: Worker Center Watch is led by Joseph Kefauver, the former president of public affairs for Walmart.

Corporations fear that the new wave of activism could have a multiplier effect that goes way beyond better pay and benefits for their workers.
~ Lee Fang, thenation.com

When the protests at fast food locations began back in July, McDonald’s released a video to their employees. It included the following cost breakdown of how the average person can afford to live on a minimum wage income. Minimum wage in the United States is $7.25, or about $15,000 a year for full-time work. Of note is the line that says “Income (2nd job)” and the line that states heating is $0. Also included is savings of $100 and monthly disposable income of $800. This was meant to illustrate that if you were careful with your money, you should have no problem living on minimum wage. The result was a PR nightmare that showed the world how truly greedy, unsympathetic and downright stupid the executives really are.

mcdonaldssamplemonthlybudget

Companies like Nike, Nordstrom and Walmart are now experimenting with how aggressive they can be with their employees, readying themselves to defeat labour unions. The retailers are also questioning why there are people working full-time minimum wage jobs when these positions are meant for people in school looking for part-time work. I don’t think it has to be one way or the other, mistreating people or dealing with a union. Walmart needs only look at their bottom line to realize that instead of an annual profit of $447 billion (I’m not making that number up), they can make a little less profit and pay their employees a little more per hour. Imagine the good press they’d receive by becoming the first company to treat their employees like people.

THE SQUARES – WEEK 48

I was lucky enough to receive some new yarn for my birthday so I used them in squares one, five, six and bonus square eight.

Week 48

Sc Together SquareI’m in love with a new stitch combo! Start with an odd number of stitches, then single crochet two together, chain one across, sc in last stitch. It makes a thick, warm and reversible square. I can imagine how cozy a whole blanket would be!

Square Count: 336
Bonus Squares: 8
Blankets: 9
Hats: 9

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Week 47: Hibernation

Have you ever felt like hibernating? Not just when the weather is bad or it turns cold and dark, but because the world feels like an unforgiving place? I found this cartoon and would like to follow the instructions.

bear

I apologize profusely for posting Week 47’s blog so late. I recently became unemployed. David’s back is not getting better. Those around me aren’t having a good time of things lately either. It’s all made me want to find a good cave, collect some wood, stock up on snacks and sleep until things get better.

THE SQUARES – WEEK 47

I haven’t been feeling very creative lately (surprise, surprise) so I’ve got a couple of Plain Janes in this week’s batch of squares. I winged it with the geometrics on square three.

Week 47

Bobble SquareSquare five is made with the funky bobble yarn I’ve used before. It’s hard to work with on it’s own but I love the look of it.

I’ll try to be a little more upbeat next week!

Square Count: 329
Bonus Squares: 7
Blankets: 9
Hats: 9

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Week 46: Partitions Divide Countries, Not Friendships

Google released a new three-minute advertisement last week, focusing not only on the ease and power of Google searching but also drawing attention to very important historical events between India and Pakistan. In the span of only two days it reached nearly 1.5 million views and is currently at well over five million.

In 1947, the British Indian Empire, including Bengal and the Punjab province, was partitioned into East Pakistan and West Bengal (India), and East Bengal and Punjab (West Pakistan). Tearing the Empire apart geographically was only part of the problem. Of the Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims who were in the minority in any given area, they were forced to flee as refugees or be killed, leading to the uprooting of millions.

One of the cities mentioned in the ad, Lahore, was at the centre of the problem because the Boundary Commission wasn’t sure where to place it and the city of Amritsar. The Commission decided to give Lahore to Pakistan, whilst Amritsar became part of India.

THE SQUARES – WEEK 46

I can’t believe we’re in the home stretch! And not only that, but the alphabet blanket is done! Square four finishes this work of art with the bottom right corner. Square seven is a Magic Knot special. Square eight is a Flag Stitch bonus square. Again this week, all the squares (with the exception of square four) were made with donated yarn.

Week 46

Fuzzy SquareSquare three has the softest, fuzziest yarn in the middle. I’ve had fun playing with it!

Square Count: 322
Bonus Squares: 6
Blankets: 9
Hats: 9

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Week 45: Heart-to-Heart

Taylor-blowing-kiss1Todd and Tara Storch’s daughter, Taylor, passed away in a Colorado ski accident when she was 13 years old. Her parents selflessly donated Taylor’s organs, giving the gift of life to a 49-year-old husband and father in Colorado (pancreas and one kidney), a 33-year-old man in Colorado (the other kidney), a 39-year-old mother of two in Arizona (heart), and two people in other parts of the country who received her corneas and liver.

Through the Internet, Todd and Tara were able to track down the woman who received Taylor’s heart, Patricia Winters. I’ve never seen the hosts on Good Morning America speechless.

The Storch family has created the Taylor’s Gift Foundation, with a mission to increase official organ donor registries, provide financial assistance and emotional support to those touched by organ donation, provide affordable lodging for pre-transplant and post-transplant patients and their families, and awarding Taylor’s Gift scholarships.

Outliveyourself

Taylor’s Gift strives to increase organ donation through its mission to Regift Life, Renew Health and Restore Families.  Taylor’s life and her passing have already inspired thousands of people from around the world to become organ donors themselves. Taylor was able to give the gift of life to a few and in turn, impacting many who will need it in the future.

I’m registered as an organ donor with the Province of Ontario. Obviously, it’s a very personal choice, but I figure if I’m not going to be using them, someone else should.

THE SQUARES – WEEK 45

Milestone alert… blanket number nine is complete! I created a flower pattern from the circle-in-a-square for squares four and five. Square six is made with donated yarn. The top and bottom of the square is the fuzziest and softest yarn I’ve ever worked with. I also made two bonus squares with double-strand sports-weight yarns.

Week 45

Poppy Square

Square eight is a poppy for our veterans and Remembrance Day.

Square Count: 315
Bonus Squares: 5
Blankets: 9!
Hats: 9

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Week 44: Cleaning Up My Act

Happy November, y’all! David had back surgery last Friday and it went well, with the exception of some inflammation and a wee trip to the ER on Sunday. He’s turned the corner now and is on the mend, with good days and bad days. In any case, I’m off work this week and I’m taking the opportunity to clean in a way I don’t usually have time for. Oh, I sweep the floors, wipe the counters, spot clean as I go… but nothing beats moving items off the counter and giving everything a good wipe down. Here are a few of my favourite cleaning tips that make life a little easier.

tile-grout-close-upGrout Cleaner
One of my Facebook friends posted this recipe and after trying it, I was really impressed. I like it because it uses all-natural ingredients and works like a charm. I halved the recipe because I don’t have a large area of tile to clean. It even cleaned off the hairspray accumulation from my bathroom floor.

7 cups water
1/2 cup baking soda
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup vinegar

Put in a spray bottle and spray your tile. Let it sit for two to three minutes. Scrub. Try not to be shocked by how well it works.

bakingsodaCleaning Burnt-On Food
We made mac and cheese a few weeks ago and some of the cheese sauce burnt to the bottom of my friend’s pot. I tried using my usual green scrubbie and copious amounts of elbow grease. It showed zero signs of coming off. On a whim, I added baking soda. The burnt food melted right off! It’s just abrasive enough to remove stubborn food but not too rough for your favourite stainless steel pots and pans. We tried it again at Thanksgiving and it worked great. I’m no stranger to the magic of baking soda but new uses keep coming up.

all-purpose-cleaner_originalGreen Works All-Purpose Cleaner
I don’t like to use chemicals when I clean, especially in the kitchen. I use a cream cleanser (and sometimes Borax) in the bathroom and Swiffer Wet Jet fluid to clean the floor. That’s it. A few weeks ago, I was at a Habitat for Humanity build and they gave us a swag bag filled with goodies. One of the items I carted home was a bottle of Clorox Green Works cleaner. I dismissively put it in the closet. I started to clean the kitchen this week and came across some stubborn grease. Why not try it, I thought. My kitchen has never been so shiny or easy to clean! Green Works is 98% naturally derived and safe for multiple surfaces. It was the added boost I’ve been looking for because soapy water just wasn’t cutting it.

THE SQUARES – WEEK 44

All the squares this week, except for square six, were made with the donated yarn I received last week. Square six is a “Z” for the alphabet blanket. One more square to go, a corner, and it will finally be finished! What do you think, should I: 1) join the squares and send as a complete blanket, or 2) send as squares along with a photo of them laid out?

Week 44

Orange SquareSquares four and five were made while I waited at the hospital for David. The funky orange yarn has little coloured threads and the bands of colour match.

Square Count: 308
Bonus Squares: 3
Blankets: 8
Hats: 9

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Week 43: KAS Update

It is more than high time for a Knit-a-square update! Here’s what this wonderful group of people have been up to over the past few months.

Gauteng_in_South_AfricaTHE GREAT JOURNEY TO EVATON
Evaton is an informal settlement in the Emfuleni region of Gauteng (see map at right), one of the nine provinces of South Africa. Although Gauteng is the smallest province, it is the most populous and includes the urban cities of  Johannesburg and Pretoria. Evaton was established in 1904 and was affected by violent unrest in 1984. KAS visited a Day Care Centre where 138 children, many from Zimbabwe, are cared for. This is a long journey of approximately 40 km (24 miles).

The children were very excited and lined up in neat rows for their warm tops and beanies, but all that changed when the toys came out! The children loved using their blankets to carry their “babies,” just as mothers do in South Africa.

Piggyback

PietermaritzburgKAS HELPS THE VICTIMS OF SHACK FIRES
A lack of land and housing, and a lack of access to electricity, water and emergency services contribute to an average of 10 shack fires per day. A devastating fire this past September destroyed around 100 shacks and left more than 350 people without homes and belongings. A delivery of five large boxes of  items coincided with this large shack fire near Pietermaritzburg.

Then days later, there was another huge shack fire in the Kya Sands Informal Settlement area in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg, close to the KAS office. KAS volunteers were able to fill the van with blankets, beanies, tops and second-hand clothing, as well as canned food, sugar, bread, jam, powdered milk, diapers, cereal and rice.

Shackfirecollage

StellenboschKAS HELPS CHILDREN OUTSIDE GAUTENG
The Lindelani Reformatory School has partnered with KAS to make a difference in the lives of children in and around the Stellenbosch area in the Western Cape. Elna Otter is an Occupational Therapist working for the Western Cape Government and has been receiving blanket packs from KAS. The squares are stitched into blankets by juvenile offenders between the ages of eight and 17. Under Elna’s guidance, the youngsters have chosen several outreach projects close to their hearts to benefit from the finished blankets, including projects for the elderly and those which benefit preschool children and babies.

DurbanThe Peace Agency in Durban is another organization, similar to Hotel Hope, that receives assistance from KAS. KAS has been able to send boxes of contributions to the Peace Agency who, in turn, have handed these out to the communities they serve. One of the projects the Agency runs is The Baby House, a place where babies are nurtured, loved and cared for as they await the arrival of their “forever parents.” Cathy and Justin Foxton set up The Baby House on their private property in June 2010. To date, they have cared for 20 babies, with 16 having been successfully adopted. Cathy and Justin have also been involved in the establishment of three other homes. This year, a “baby safe” will be installed on the property, allowing mothers to safely and anonymously leave their unwanted babies in the care of The Baby House.

BabyHouse

Thanks to the efforts of KAS contributors, a transport company and the generous donation of the KASvan, Knit-a-square has been able to assist organizations that are based many kilometres from Johannesburg, providing much needed help. KAS has shown those in need that people do care and life is worth living.

THE SQUARES – WEEK 43

This week’s squares started by me saying, “What if I did this?” to myself when I started a square. The result was a brand new pattern! David thinks the stitch looks like a waving flag, so I’ve called it the Flag Stitch. Square four uses a very dark blue, even though it looks black. Now I’m wishing I had used black – it would make a cute bumblebee pattern.

Week 43

Bobble SquareSquare eight is a bonus square. The mother of a good friend of mine generously donated a bag of yarn and it included this colourful bobble yarn. I’m so excited to have some new colours to work with!

Flag Stitch
Work with an odd number of stitches. For an 8″ square, I used 25 stitches and a 6.5 mm hook.
Row 1: Sc across. Ch 1, turn.
Row 2: Sc in first stitch, ch 1; sc, ch 1 across; sc in last stitch. Ch 1, turn.
Flag Stitch SquareRow 3: Sc in first stitch, dc in ch-1 space of the previous row; sc, dc in ch-1 space across; sc in last stitch. Ch 1, turn.
Repeat rows 2 and 3, changing colours as desired. If ending the square with row 2, substitute with row 1 (a row of sc) to finish it off.

Square Count: 301
Bonus Squares: 3
Blankets: 8
Hats: 9

Happy Halloween

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Week 42: A Heart of Gold

Robles-ThomasJessica Robles, the woman on the left, is a mother from Miami who was so desperate to feed her hungry children that she tried to steal $300 worth of groceries. The woman on the right is Miami-Dade County Police Officer Vicki Thomas who responded to the shoplifting call. She was about to arrest Jessica but after running her criminal history (and discovering the lack thereof) changed her mind and bought her $100 worth of groceries instead.

I made the decision to buy her some groceries because arresting her wasn’t going to solve the problem with her children being hungry.

Jessica has three children, ages 12, 5 and 2. Her boyfriend, who had lost his job, was receiving assistance but the aid stopped due to a paperwork issue. When asked why she tried to steal the food, she replied, “My children are hungry.”

So, with her own money, Officer Thomas bought Jessica’s family groceries with the promise that when she gets on her feet, she’ll help someone else out. But that’s not the end of the story.

When word spread about what happened, people donated another $700 for Jessica to spend at the grocery store. A local business owner then invited her for an interview and hired Jessica on the spot as a customer service rep.

There’s no words how grateful I am that you took your time and helped somebody out. Especially somebody like me.

This is a perfect example of what happens when people stop judging others and start lending a hand to their fellow humans.

THE SQUARES – WEEK 42

It’s a nice grouping of squares this week, if I do say so myself! Square one is a little bobble SC-TR combo. Square three is a corner for the alphabet blanket, along with the “Y” for square seven. Y? Because it’s almost done! Square four is a free Red Heart pattern called Sunrise Sunset. When I think back to the first time I tried this pattern, I really notice how much my crochet skills have improved. I couldn’t make it work, no matter how hard I tried.

Week 42

Sunflower SquareSquare five is a spur of the moment sunflower. I love the layered petals!

Square Count: 294
Bonus Squares: 2
Blankets: 8
Hats: 9

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Week 41: Simplicity

keep-calm-and-smell-the-rosesIt’s easy to get sucked into the drudgery, the everyday monotonous routine that makes you feel like a hamster on a wheel. Personally, I get to the point where I forget when I last took a deep breath and looked around. Sometimes I just sit and listen – it’s amazing what you can hear when you stop moving. I came across a list of six thought-provoking statements that will help make you feel better about life. How lucky we are to have simple lessons remind us that life is actually great, and if not great, then good or even okay. (Thanks to Vincent Nguyen at Tiny Buddha for the following diversion from the flag squares.)

WHAT MAKES LIFE BEAUTIFUL?

1. You can’t ever really be bored.
Sure, it’s easy for a kid to say it, but think about the vast world we live in. How much have we actually seen? Think of the limits to your imagination – endless.

2. You have the potential to make someone smile.
Have you ever smiled at a stranger? Have you been smiled at by a stranger? All of a sudden you make a connection. Some people believe they’re invisible. Prove them wrong.

3. You’ve gotten through so many moments where you thought it was going to be all over.
Did you ever think to yourself, if I don’t have this, I’ll be miserable forever? Well, forever is a long time and those feelings eventually fade. I believe the universe only gives you what you can handle. Time may not heal all wounds but it certainly makes them less painful.

4. You have the power to better yourself every day.
Acceptance of who you are is essential, learning to love yourself, faults and all. But that doesn’t mean you can’t become a better person. Work toward becoming your ideal self a little each day.

5. You from five years ago had nothing on present-you.
Would you recognize yourself from five years ago? Five years from now, you’ll look back and realize how much you’ve grown.

6. You have the potential to learn about anything.
Thanks to Google and YouTube, you can literally learn about ANYTHING. Learning keeps your brain active, makes you passionate about something, gives purpose. Think of the potential!

THE SQUARES – WEEK 41

Square two is the Sedge stitch. Square five is an “X” for the alphabet blanket – four squares to go! Square seven is from a free pattern that I can’t find online. I’ll post it soon.

Week 41

Popcorn Party SquareSquare four is called Popcorn Party Granny Square and was rather difficult. I think it would be suited to a thinner yarn.

Apologies for the less than perfect photography – I forgot the camera at my mom’s at Thanksgiving. Gobble, gobble!

Square Count: 287
Bonus Squares: 2
Blankets: 8
Hats: 9

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Week 40: Oh, Canada!

Take a trip with me to North America at the start of my fourth (and final) quarter of this Square-a-Day adventure! This week we’re covering my home base, Canada.

Canada MapA PROUD CANADIAN
Across the world Canadians are known as nice, friendly and humble people (but I may be biased). Canada consists of 10 provinces and three territories, of which I’ve visited six and lived in two. It is the second-largest country by area but has only 10% of the population of the United States, over 35 million people. The country has an extremely large number of lakes, estimated to be around three million, or 60% of the world’s lakes. Because Canada is such a large country you can see everything from mountains to prairies and forests to deserts. And our population is even more diverse; almost half of the population of Toronto, the largest city, were born outside Canada. We’re known for our exports including lumber, agriculture (wheat, beef, fish), energy (oil, gas) and actors. You’re welcome, Hollywood.

Canada has been inhabited by aboriginal people for millennia, from before 24,500 BC. These indigenous people were subjected to disease, war, violence, exploitation, massacres, displacement and disruption. The aboriginal population are known as the First Nations, but that does not include the Inuit and Métis.

European colonization began in the late 15th century when Italian seafarer John Cabot explored Canada’s Atlantic coast for England, although Norsemen settled briefly around 1000 AD in Newfoundland. In 1534, French explorer Jacques Cartier took possession of the St. Lawrence River territory in the name of King Francis I. French explorer Samuel de Champlain arrived in 1603, establishing the first permanent European settlements in Quebec. Fur traders and Catholic missionaries moved further west and south.

The 1783 Treaty of Paris recognized American independence and ceded territories south of the Great Lakes to the United States. Canada was heavily involved in the War of 1812 between the United States and Britain. Large-scale immigration from Britain and Ireland began in 1815; over 626,000 European immigrants landed at Canadian ports between 1825 and 1846. The Act of Union 1840 merged Upper Canada and Lower Canada into a united Province of Canada and the Confederation of Canada occurred on July 1, 1867 – Happy Birthday, Canada!

Canada has participated in both World Wars, the Gulf War, the Afghanistan and Iraq wars and countless North Atlantic Treaty Organization-led missions. On September 11, 2001, Canadians in the East Coast opened their hearts and homes for stranded airline passengers who had to be diverted from the U.S. airports.

Canada FlagThe flag of Canada features an 11-pointed, red maple leaf. The number of points has no significance; rather, it was chosen after wind tunnel tests showed it to be the least blurry design under high wind conditions. How very Canadian (read: practical). The maple leaf has been Canada’s symbol for nature and environment since the 18th century. In 1921, King George V proclaimed the official national colours of Canada as red, from Saint George’s Cross, and white, from the French royal emblem since King Charles VII. The flag made its first official appearance on February 15, 1965.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

THE SQUARES – WEEK 40

Milestone alert… blanket number eight is complete! Square two is a “W” for the alphabet blanket. Square three is Bargello crochet, Victorian Step.

Week 40

Colours SquareThe drought is over! I caved and bought four balls of Vanna’s Choice yarn, then proceeded to make square after square with different colour combinations.

Square Count: 280
Bonus Squares: 2
Blankets: 8
Hats: 9

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments