Monday, 5 October 2015

Crochet me Crazy: 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day

My sister never had any interest in crochet or knitting when we were growing up, so image my surprise when one day she started churning out masses of crochet squares and then eventually, entire blankets! Turns out it was all for "67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day". At the time I had not been resident in South Africa for early nine years so I had no real idea about what the real driver was or who the beneficiaries were.

67 Blankets all started when Zelda la Grange, who was Personal Assistant to the late former President Nelson Mandela, approached philanthropist Carolyn Steyn in December 2013 with the challenge of making 67 knitted or crochet blankets for Mandela Day on 18 July the following year. Carolyn soon realised that this was no mean feat and reached out to friends, family and the S.A. Facebook community to ask for their help reach their ultimate goal of creating 67 blankets. No monetary donations and no blankets were to be bought; just blankets created with their own two hands for people throughout the Rainbow Nation that were in need of warmth and care.

The response received was immense, with hundreds of people answering her call and pledging to make blankets. Earning themselves the title of "KnitWits for Madiba”, these generous individuals spread not only across South Africa bu far and wide across the world in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Cyprus, London, the US and India, had started something short of miraculous.

On April 21, 2015, to mark 21 years of democracy in South Africa, 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day smashed the Guinness World Record for the "The Largest Crochet Blanket in the World" measuring 3,377 square meters at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, South Africa.  Something very amazing to see!

I started my 67 Blankets journey earlier this year and am now an Ambassador in Hertfordshire, creating squares, sewing them to make blankets and taking delivery of squares and completed blankets made my other Knit Wits.  Donations of yarn, hooks and needles are also very welcome and graciously received. 

The people that will benefit are U.K. based charities and hospices. Requests from charities and hospices for baby and single bed blankets are extremely welcome and once approved by 67 Blankets in South Africa, blankets will be sent out from the U.K. as soon as they are received from the Knit Wit community.

If you are an individual, school, craft group, corporate foundation (the list is endless!) and would like to get involved, please do contact me through Twitter or the 67 Blankets U.K. Facebook group for more information on where to send your completed articles and donations to.  Join the UK Facebook page for more information on events and Knit Wit gatherings, to see what people have created, donated and received.

These are the dimensions for the many squares and blankets needed:

• squares - 20cm x 20cm
• single bed blankets - 140cm x 180cm)
cot blankets - 90cm x 110cm

Stitch by stitch we pledge to keep thousands upon thousands of people less fortunate than ourselves warmer over the cold winter months, in the name of Nelson Mandela.

Love Ally xx

Wonderful sites to follow:

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

I mentally replied...

To be honest, technology has actually become a bit of a shit.  Where are the days of learning your best friend's telephone number off by heart, communication by letters and post it notes and actually speaking to someone in person if you had a gripe with them?

I  now e-mail, text, Whatsapp, Facebook message, Viber, Skype people.  The latter is the only form (I'm beyond finding out and caring if Viber can) have actual human emotion in them, because the poor individuals on other side of the call can actually get to see your real life mug.  I do of course speak to people (yes, face-to-face).  I'm not a bloody robot.

I remember days gone by where I would write detailed and heart felt letters to friends about the very exciting and riveting (bloody boring and mundane by modern terms) weekend that I'd had and wax lyrically about some or another nonsense that was important to a 16 year old girl at that time in the 90's.  I can only image what that would be like now.  In a feeble attempt in my 30 somethings, I think it would look something like this...

"awesum wknd!  Wht u get u2?  U r my bestie 4eva!"

Really?  Okay, so that is a bit crap, but you get the gist of it.  Where is the feeling, where is the heart?  Where is the tone?  How the heck do I interpret that?  So, if we had a huge fight on the weekend but the flat text that you just send me with absolutely no acknowledgement of the English language says something along that the lines that you are okay, is it really okay? Good luck in your future love, as a cashier...

One of my biggest faults of late is 'mentally replying'.  How that works is, one person sends me a Whatsapp, Facebook, Text/SMS message, e-mail and because I read even faster than I speak or type, I reply just as fast.  Mentally.  Yes, in my mind.  I replied to you without feeling and in my brain I composed a whole response that I would like to say to you but in my new generation laziness I just don't reply.  I know that I can reply to you later.  No immediate response actually needed.

I would rather speak to you in person because then I can say the exact same thing in one or two words or a million words (if I was feeling that way inclined) to you over the phone or face to face instead of me sending a few words over some blank surface for all meanings and sub text to be taken out of complete context.  

That and because I'm just lazy and I know that because the initial correspondence is coming from a source that is indirectly through a human entity, it can actually wait for a few minutes before I respond.

My whole gripe with this is that people are lazy.  I'm lazy too, so hands up to that.  People are too busy to be people and actually do things that people did not even ten years ago.  Writing a letter, leaving a note or picking up a phone is not archaic.  Neither is having respect for the basic foundations of the English language and taking one or two extra minutes to create an entire sentence in a language that all generations can actually decipher.

Clearly I am showing my age but you know what, at least I can remember a time when people actually spoke to each other and the other person knew exactly what they meant without mincing their words (says the woman, writing this in a blog post...).

Ally x

Monday, 7 September 2015

Keeping it together as an All-in-One Mum

Well, there is nothing quite like nearly a years' break from an actual blog post created by me in person.   Now that child 2 is nearly 13 months old and that I am more or less in tune with the lack of sleep and extra juggling of having another mini-me around the house, I think its time that I start writing again.

Over the past year I have learnt that trying to be an All-in-One Mum is actually bloody hard!  For those people who think I have it all together, I can tell you that I let the balls drop many a time.  Picking them up quickly and in some sort of crazed orderly fashion did help but it wasn't always doable at the time.  

When you have a child in reception, a new born, a full time job and a personality where you simply can't still for two seconds without having your hands busy and a mind that never shuts off, it is sometimes hard to get the balance right. 

The "hairs of no pigment" on the top of my head had started to increase in number and I decided that enough was enough.  I now make less lists and try not to think about the lists of lists of things that need to be put on lists that I have not done.  It's a waste of time.  I live more in the moment and relax with the things that are not a priority and when I do have the time available I stick to a strict routine so there is order in the chaos.  I also gave in and arranged for a cleaner to come in for a few hours a week because I wasn't able to just do it all and keep my sanity.  

A few things that I have added to my list of 'bits of random knowledge' gained over the past year are:

  1. NEVER put off to tomorrow, what you can do today.  EVER!  NEVER EVER!  It won't get done tomorrow.  Something else will happen.  If you don't do it now you will end up kicking yourself for the whole of the next day (and possibly the rest of that week).
  2. If your baby is restless and won't sleep and is waking up the rest of the household, co-sleeping is actually okay.  If it means that you get an extra few hours before you have to wake up, just do it. 
  3. If you co-sleep, they will sleep in their own cots (when they sleep through).   Well, child 2 does and we've reached a happy medium with fewer disturbed sleeps and bags under the eyes.
  4. Boys wriggle.  A lot.  A freaking hell of a lot!  Slap down those sticky tabs of their nappy so they are out of little hands reach AS SOON AS you undo it.  If you don't, the shit could quite literally hit the fan, or the wall as happened in my case. 
  5. Boys will find their rod and tackle and they will enjoy fiddling with them at every available opportunity.  They will yank and pull and stretch.  They will do it with pride and a huge smile on their face.  Telling a 13 month old that it will fall off if he pulls harder, only makes them laugh harder and yank with more enthusiasm.  Just let it go...
  6. If you bottle feed and can afford it, buy a Perfect Prep machine.  I have horrific eyesight (-8.5 in both eyes), and I can make a bottle with no mess, in under two minutes at 4:00 a.m. without my glasses on and it comes out at the correct measurement at the perfect temperature.  I do this in my half asleep daze, take the bottle to baby, wait for him to finish and then go back to bed. Five minutes, tops.

You can only be the best mum that you can be at that moment in time.  I like to think I do a good job (even when child 1 tells me otherwise) but I'm sure she will thank me later.  There is no point in thinking that you are doing a better job than anyone or a worse job for that matter, because as sure as dammit, there is someone out there that feels the exact same way as you!

I bid you all adieu as I finish my porridge oats that was meant to be for breakfast, at 12:30 p.m.

Ally x

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Guest Post: "I took him for a haircut..." by Caroline Saunders of The "Hood" Club

I'm a mum of two gorgeous little boys, 3 and 6 months - both pickles in their own right.

My husband and I moved to Australia about 18 months ago where we have been lucky enough to establish some good rootes and we are starting to feel settled. We are both originally from the South East of England, Kent but left in search of a more outdoor lifestyle which we have certainly found here.

My husband runs a tour business and I am writing a children's book whilst continuing my hobby of writing poems and parodies for adults. I'm hoping to maybe publish some of them in the future so "liking" my page may help me when selling myself to potential publishers or magazines if I ever take my poems down this route.

The main aim however is just for people to be able to read my poems and laugh at life. Those with kids can laugh with us and those without can laugh at us. Because laughter really is contagious. Let's brighten up Facebook and the struggles of parenthood.

Join "The Hood Club" and smile today!

I took him for a haircut...

I like to think
I can cut my sons hair.
But my hubby informs me
I'm not quite there.

"Look I did layers.
Doesn't it look great?"
"It looks like a pudding bowl."
"Don't exaggerate!"

So I drove to the hairdresser
through stubborn gritted teeth.
My son was so scared
he shook like a leaf.

"This will be fun.
Let's cut your hair!"
My son looked straight at me
With a horrible glare.

The first hurdle was
getting him in that big chair.
How should I entice him
to sit nicely there..?

"Here's a lolly.
and a little iced bun."
Then she plunged at him with clippers
on a number one.

"Erm...Stop! What ya doing?
I asked for a trim."
The panic rose up me
and really set in.

"Just short at the side please
and still long on top."
Hair was now sticking
to my sons lollipop.

"Mum it tastes yuck!"
He let off a sneeze.
I tried to distract him
with my front door house keys.

His hands looked like yetties
from where the hair stuck
to his young sticky fingers
just my rotten luck.

So I pull out his iPad.
"Look, Ben and Holly"
That worked so much better
than a sticky old lolly.

A pang of guilt hit me
as his locks hit the floor.
An emotion unexpected.
One I couldn't ignore.

Was it an attachment
to my sons golden hair?
I'd made each one of those
and she didn't even care.

She kept on chopping
and I felt quite ill.
To my surprise
my son sat so still.

He marvelled at his reflection.
Proud of his new hair.
Beaming with joy
and hardly a care.

A success in the end
I rather suppose.
"That's 25 dollars please"
I stood there and froze.

25 dollars?
I think that's a lot...?
And he'll only get bed hair
when he wakes from his cot.

But I paid the money
and ran out the door.
Dreading the time
I would visit once more.

Copyright (c) Caroline Saunders

Loved this?  Read more on Facebook: The "Hood" Club

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Nappies, inspiration, epiphanies and random trains of though

It's rather bizarre where you can find inspiration and finally get out of that writing slump, one which I've been in for nearly 6 months!

On my way to the kitchen, plodding down the stairs in my aubergine M&S slippers (I'd wear them all day if I could plus my white robe), I had a half dressed baby in one arm, baby gros, jogging bottoms and towel covered in yellow, toxic and possibly glowing baby poo under the other.  A nappy sack with one of the most vile yellow nappy disasters known to man dangling from one of my free hands was the new accessory of the moment.

That's when it hit me! If I stock piled nappies that were quite of this ferocity then I could ship them to South Africa where they could use them, along with all the other rubbish generated, to produce an extremely potent methane gas to help generate electricity.  Shedding a load to shed the load shedding, so to speak.  That was my one and only 'wow' moment of thinking during the day so far.  Possibly the last?

Once I went through my pile of freshly washed baby clothes, I dressed my son in his cute baby gear.  He dribbled on it almost instantly.  That's what babies do to clean clothes.  My then biggest worry was what to feed him for lunch.  Could I be bothered to make something from scratch or would I take the easy route of feeding him from one of those Organic food pouches.  Someone had taken the time to create the recipe (not exactly rocket science) and put it all together and I had paid for it, so I went down the route of the pouch.

The telly then showed an advert for children in third world countries with no food, so as my son ate a few mouthfuls before deciding it was vile and by far the worst concoction known to man, instead of chucking it in the bin I ate it myself.  Waste not, want not right?  I'm actually not surprised why he didn't want to eat it to be honest, which basically set my first world problems straight as I decided that I would make instead of buy the food.  I'd done that for my daughter and she never had an issue when she was being weaned so why had I tried to invent the wheel?  I am now also compelled to give money to a charity in Africa to help fight starvation as a result of my disgusting and very apparent first world problem.

The nearly six month old dude is having his lunch time kip upstairs so instead of drivelling on, I am going to sit back, enjoy a HOT cup of coffee, fold the washing at my leisure, check up on e-mails,  make baby food and dinner for hubby, daughter and me, source a new energy company that isn't trying to rob me blind and then probably end up sorting out toys and bits that my children have grown out of and no longer need, and pass over to charity.  What ever happened to just doing nothing for two hours?  Oh yes, I had kids...

Ally x

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