Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Pimento cheese and buckeyes: it must be Christmas!

I am such a Southern gal. For Christmas Eve dinner, I'm fixing fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, and homemade rolls.

If you're Southern, you "fix" food - you don't use any other verbs.

I made holiday batches of homemade pimento cheese (wonderful for grab-and-go sandwiches) and buckeyes (which are disappearing suspiciously quickly). Overnight cinnamon rolls will go into the fridge tomorrow night, just before we go to St. Luke's for the 11:00 pm Christmas Eve candlelight service.

Holidays mean food . . . comfortable, familiar, memory-evoking food.

Pimento Cheese
1 cup grated sharp cheddar
1 cup grated monterey jack
3 oz. cream cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup chopped roasted red peppers
salt and pepper to taste

Mix 'em up and chill overnight. Yum!

For Buckeyes, I use a recipe from All Recipes!

The Knitternall clan is ready to indulge in leisurely time together, so this blog will take a brief hiatus. I'll be back by New Year's Eve.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Tut, tut.

We went to the King Tut exhibit at the Atlanta Civic Center. Wonderful experience! Every single staffperson, from the ticket desk to the guards, was pleasant, professional, and helpful. We splurged on the Golden Tickets - tour, audio spiel (Hi, Harrison Ford!), and 3-D movie - and were very glad we did. I chuckled a bit as the exhibit dumped us, Disney-style, into an Egyptian shop (next door to the Cairo Cafe), and agreed with A and AG that an ankh would be the perfect souvenir of the visit.

We'd originally planned to use Marta to avoid traffic, but when I learned that the Civic Center Station isn't actually near the Civic Center, I decided that walking six blocks in 20-degree weather wasn't a great idea after all. So we drove.

Which lead to the after-experience of the exhibit. Downtown Atlanta traffic.


I was cut off mid-intersection at North Drive and Spring Street, so I made a quick right and headed toward Northside Drive. That proved to be providential. A hop onto I-75, a quick merge onto the perimeter, and we were home just 20 minutes later.

Astonishing. And not likely to be duplicated ever again.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

There's no place like home, there's no place like home . . .

Finals and midterms are over, T's home from his latest business trips, the Nature Center is ready for the weekend, the house is fairly clean, and we don't have to GO ANYWHERE!.

I love being at home.

My son shares my fondness for hunkering down and solitude. My daughter, on the other hand, is with her father, ready to go anywhere and do anything at any time. To satisfy everyone's yens, we'll balance fa-la-la-la-la outings with quiet, unstructured time at home throughout the holiday break. The kids and I are heading to the King Tut exhibit on Monday (T will be in Philly), various tweens and teens are coming over for sleepovers and hanging-out time, and we'll make a short visit to friends and family in North Carolina. T and I have a nice holiday from work coming up beginning on Christmas Eve. . . whoo-hoo!

Now I'm going to indulge in a fit of holiday baking and wrestle one more time with the deluge of fall leaves covering the ground.

It's lovely to be home.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

My life in the comic pages

If you read Zits, you are getting a daily slice of Knitternall family life.

It's finals week for both of the kids and their orderly (AG) and panicked (A) preparations are consuming every moment we're at home.

They can't wait until Friday.

Neither can I.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

We need a bigger tree

We just finished decorating the Christmas tree and I did some proactive organizing to ease the post-holiday clean-up.

We have WAY too many ornaments for a normal 7 1/2' tree (under $28 at Home Depot - a gorgeous Douglas fir!). And we love every one of them.


  • Two Chrismons a year, made by the women of St. Luke's Presbyterian Church. Nine years in the pew, 18 Chrismons so far, and each set unique.
  • A huge collection presented by T's mom through the years, first individual ones, then a family ornament. I just counted - we have more than two dozen. They're particularly precious because she has passed on and the collection will not grow.
  • A souvenir ornament from each place we visit. We have ornaments from Baltimore, New York City, Kiawah, Philadelphia, Boston, Salem NC, Disney World, Universal Studios . . . placing them on the tree brings back such happy memories.
  • An annual ornament for A and AG, commemorating something special about that year. A has 16 so far and AG has 11.
  • The most precious of all - ornaments made by the kids or featuring their baby, toddler, and preschool photos. The durability of fragile paper footprints and washable paint-thumbprints on baked cookie dough is amazing.
  • Ornament Exchange party treasures and white elephants - I remember each and every party. A favorite? A completely narcissistic "Garage Sale Santa" - the big guy has an armful of finds from garage sales. I bought it, placed it into the mix of the ornament exchange, and managed to win it back!
Since we simply don't have room for a kazillion treasured keepsakes, I suggested we place our favorites on the tree, then organized the others by giver and occasion. The Chrismons are going to be hung on ribbon draped between the family room and kitchen.

Excess often embarrasses me - I try very hard not to be an accumulator of things just for the sake of having them. This is an exception. Taking out the ornaments once a year is a nostalgic visit to happy times and an investment in future days when the kids are grown, we've passed on, but memories continue to connect us.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A grown-up arts and crafts party

I've spent many years supervising, inspiring, teaching, helping my children with arts and crafts projects . . . always trying very hard to let them express themselves without my direction. As they scribbled, glued recklessly, cut jaggedly, and put colors together that really have no business sharing the same medium, I've wanted to open that new box of crayons, smell the rich scent of fresh clay, and try the watercolors for myself.

So, I thought, why not have a grown-up arts and crafts party?

I invited some friends to join me at Dunwoody Nature Center for brunch and crafts. We made pomanders, filled glass balls with silk flower petals and tied organdy ribbons into bows around their stems. I collected a variety of natural materials from the park grounds and we made angels, snowmen, nests, and other treats out of prickly gumballs, pinecones, pieces of fallen bark, seed pods, evergreens, and more. We beaded icicles and whirligigs, wrapped wool roving around balls for felting later on, and generally had a marvelous time.

As each guest left with her creations in paper bags, we agreed that our time together had been relaxing, creative, and a nice diversion during the holidays.

Definitely doing this again next year!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Have yourself a DIY Christmas . . .

The Brits have been down this road before. They've made do, scraped by, and found contentment in the most basic needs met.

So when I saw this headline, "Britain rolls up its sleeves for a DYI Christmas," I felt a definite kinship with those savvy make-doers.

Homemade gifts and cooking gifts from scratch looks set to make a return this Christmas

Sales of raw ingredients including flour and mincemeat have surged while shops have seen a rise in demand for knitting yarn, craft kits and make-do-and-mend accessories ranging from plastic storage boxes to buttons.

The trend has been described as a rejection of ready-made or throwaway products, increasingly associated with unchecked consumerism, and a renewed emphasis on home and family life as less money is spent in pubs, restaurants and cinemas.

This isn't just about the economy - although that's surely a factor. It's about facing the realities of gimme gimme gimme, use it up, there's always more . . . right?


I'd better get back to my Christmas knitting queue. Can't let the British out-DIY us for the holidays!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Scooter the Wonder Dog

We found Scooter at the DeKalb County Animal Shelter. He was purportedly 12 weeks old, abandoned by a dumpster with his eleven litter mates, and destined to be about 25 pounds when fully grown. He came home with us, a floppy-eared, silly-grinned mess.

And grew to 45 pounds of stubborn, dense, submissive-peeing, training-challenged caninehood. Scooter makes Marley, the world' s most impossible dog, look downright reasonable.

Scooter loves:
  • Food. He lives to eat. He gulps it quickly, terrified someone will take it from him. He'll eat beyond bursting because his stomach just never feels full enough.
  • Heat. Wherever there's heat - a furnace vent, the fireplace, the heat dish in the basement - Scooter will snooze happily for hours.
  • Chasing his rubber chicken. We have a nightly routine. I sit in the chair in my bedroom and lob the rubber chicken through the door and down the stairs. He gallops down the stairs, snatches it, slobbers drool all over it, and returns it for another toss. Bonus time: tug of war, with me holding the head and him pulling one of the legs.
  • Squirrels. His unattained goal in life is to catch a squirrel. Or a bird. Or the cat that roams lazily through the yard during his morning rounds.
  • The Bark Park at Brook Run. Say "bark park" and he begins warbling desperately, lunging for the door and dancing in happy abandon.
  • One four-letter word: WALK. Same reaction as the Bark Park.
Scooter hates:

  • Getting his nails trimmed. He was kicked out of Pets Are People, Too because he bit a tech twice. So now he's cared for by the Dunwoody Animal Hospital, which prudently tranqs him, then gasses him. His pedi costs twice as much as mine.
  • Rain. He'd rather hold his business than go in the damp grass, wet bushes, and anything beyond a light mist.
  • Snow. It's just not RIGHT. The second he feels it under his paws, he's slinking back indoors.
  • Fire alarms and thunderstorms. Both will send him to the corner of the family room, tucked behind T's recliner.
  • Slightly ajar doors. He just can't figure out how to nose them completely open, so barks desperately to be let through.
That's Scooter. He's a handful. And the last dog I'll ever own.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Home alone.

I can't remember the last time I was by myself for a weekend.

By. Myself.

The family went to North Carolina for the annual Nall Family Reunion; I had a special event at Dunwoody Nature Center to help coordinate, so couldn't go with them.

Did I knit? No. Did I read a great book? Nope. Did I watch a flurry of chick flicks? Nah.

I made a list. Ten must-do items to complete in two days. I slowly worked my way from chore to errand to freelance writing assignment. I ate when I was hungry, went to bed early, and awakened with a luxurious expanse of time still waiting for the next item on the list.

The house is decked for Christmas, the laundry is washed and folded, I've dusted and vacuumed the house, raked a mountain of leaves, turned the compost pile, prepped for Preschool Phonics Games Day and a craft party I'm hosting later in the week, picked up a few things for school lunches, and taken care of some holiday surprises.

Maybe my ideal weekend is labor-intensive. But I feel relaxed, peaceful, and ready to swing back into the every-day whirl.

This could become a new tradition before the holidays!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Let me in!

For all the years we've lived in Dunwoody, one local habit continues to drive me . . . happy. Mt. Vernon Road traffic is relentless, from 7 to after 9 in the morning and from 430 to well after 7 in the evening. One car follows another, without break or gap, flowing south towards the Perimeter area, I285, and Atlanta in the morning, then north towards Gwinnett County in the evening. Not only are Dunwoody townies heading to and from work, we're a cut-through for our neighbors to the north.

So leaving the neighborhood requires some planning and adjustment to the tide. During our house search, we decided we had to have a stoplight exit from our street to work with the traffic. Our experience in Greensboro, North Carolina had been that no one stops to let you in. Whether in the rural county or the heart of the city, drivers would step on the gas pedal to close a gap rather than let another car get in front of them or enter from a side street. And if you dared slowed down to let someone in, the drivers behind would lean on their horns and make unpleasant gestures at your audacity.

Not so in Dunwoody. Here, letting someone in is EXPECTED.

If I leave the neighborhood via Vernon Ridge and want to turn right into the tide, someone will slow down, flash their lights, and let me in. If I'm merging where Mt. Vernon Road narrows from five lanes to two just past the village, no problem. One car after another joins the flow as drivers make room. When I leave Dunwoody Nature Center with a left on Roberts Drive, even during Austin Elementary carpool time someone will stop, make a gap, and let me through.

There are exceptions. Every now and then someone will press on that gas pedal and close the gap. I always remind myself that it IS the exception, rather than the rule.

I love Dunwoody.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Knitting wishes for Christmas

Just a few weeks after our son was born, we celebrated our first Christmas as a family. It was quiet and modest, a peaceful time together that became the benchmark for all future Christmas celebrations. In church for Christmas Eve, at home for Christmas Day, and three gifts for each child . . . just as the magi honored the Newborn King.

Certainly there are gifts from family and friends and wonderful gatherings throughout the holidays, but Christmas Day was and is just us, a few well-chosen gifts, a stocking full of candy and trinkets, the scent of homemade cinnamon rolls and coffee drifting through the house, and hours lolling in our pajamas.

Those traditions continue today at the Knitternall house. We'll have dinner at home, drive around Dunwoody to see the Christmas lights, and be at St. Luke's for the candlelit Christmas Eve service at 11:00 pm. For breakfast, I'm baking a new cinnamon roll recipe - one by Alton Brown's that is absolutely perfect. I've made them twice, and they don't last long.

Our kids deliberate carefully as they prepare their wish lists. They ask only what they really, really want, with some gentle guidance from us. T and I, too, tend to be somewhat pragmatic about our wishes.

A has a few manga and Wii games that he'd enjoy on his list.

AG is into shoes, journals, and animals.

I'd like to have a fire pit. I have a perfect spot for it in the back yard.

T wants some new sneaks, something simple - not flashy. And ties are always welcome, especially those with his favorite shade of federal blue.

The economy is scary and this is not a good time to go overboard. But since we've always kept things simple and focused on the spirit of the holiday, our Christmas will be just as meaningful this year as it always has been.

I can't wait to savor those cinnamon rolls!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Dogs in the park.

On one hand, dogs need to run. People love their dogs. so people let their dogs run. It's like letting your kid do something that makes them so darned happy you just get all fuzzy inside.

On the other hand, people and dogs who don't know them aren't a great mix. The dogs bark crazily, jump and lunge at kids, take potty breaks wherever and whenever, and break the peace and calm of the day.

Dunwoody Park is a favorite walking spot for lots of people and dogs. Some leash their dogs (which they're supposed to); most let them run like crazy across the meadow and trails, into the creek, and up and down the hills.

I love dogs. I love their eager interest in every falling leaf and squirrel scent, happy disregard for wet and cold and mud, and lolling tongues. I love the way they run helter-skelter from tree trunk to fence rail. I love their crazed barking when they chase each other and every squirrel chattering at them from the safety of trees.

But I don't love the way they scare visitors who come upon them unexpectedly while enjoying a day in the park. Or the stuff I step in when I'm watering a native plant garden or picking up someone's coffee cup or juice box (we get a lot of those).

I have just one word for people and the dogs we all love: LEASH.


Monday, December 1, 2008

Is he really sixteen?

I get it.

Sandy, our neighbor in the Kirkwood neighborhood in Greensboro, North Carolina was already there. I'm sure she rolled her eyes oh-so-genteelly as I waxed and waned about my amazing, miraculous, never-to-be-paralled baby boy. Her child was in middle school and she'd been there, done that.

When we moved to Dunwoody, my son's first Sunday School teacher smiled kindly as I warned her about his separation anxiety and need to keep a treasured jeep in his hand at all times and to just send someone to me if he cried. Her child was in high school and she'd been there, done that.

Now he is turning sixteen.

There are babies blooming up and down our street here in Dunwoody. Pinks and blue announcements are bouncing from mailbox to yard, with wood storks and mylar balloons crowing the joyous news. Do I long for that cuddly bit of love? Actually, no. My two loves are right here, in my memory as sweet babies, scraped-knee and bruised-forehead toddlers, and "I can do that myself" first-graders. I can still hug them, kiss their foreheads, even get away with a little "baby boy" and "baby girl" at bedtime. They love the snuggles, thank goodness.

So now I smile kindly as the stroller brigade meanders up and down the street to show off the latest bit of love. I adore the babies and enjoy their pinched up faces. When they start crying, I bite my tongue as their mothers fretfully pick them up and worry.

My baby is turning 16. He's just moments away from leaving home and my ever-present care.

How did that happen?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Packing light

When the Knitternall clan travels, we pack lightly. I can get enough clothes, necessities, etc. for me and the kids into one mid-sized rolling suitcase (they carry THEIR necessities - game gear, books, journals, etc. in backpacks). T takes care of his own stuff in a handy-dandy multi-tasking bag he uses for business travel. So that's usually two suitcases and two backpacks.

The hiccup is my knitting and reading bag. This never gets checked in with the luggage. It doesn't reach the back of the van for road trips. It stays with me on buses and subways, in limos and taxis - always within reach. My bag has to be carefully chosen to accommodate several works in progress, 3 to 4 books, some light reading (aka knitting magazines and the latest Real Simple or Southern Living), my camera, chargers for cell phone and camera, emergency meds for A, plus gum, mints, headache remedies, and hand lotion.

I have to confess. My knitting/reading bag is often bigger than our suitcase.

While it takes me less than an hour to pack the clothes, I plan for the knitting bag for DAYS ahead. Which WIPs are best for small quarters? How far along am I and will I have enough yarn to finish? How complicated is the pattern? Will I like the books enough to be fully absorbed during the take-offs and landings that are my own personal Fear Factor? The considerations are never-ending.

When I finally do head out the door, it isn't without a last fretful look back. What did I forget? Do I have enough stitch markers? What if I drop a stitch? What if I hate the WIP and don't have ANYTHING ELSE TO DO? I don't worry about the luggage - there's almost always a Target nearby to fill in the gaps.

'Tis the season to be visiting family and friends. My shopping is finished. I've planned out meals and picked up some nice hostess gifts.

Now the stress really begins. What will go in my knitting bag? Maybe I should take a page from the people knitting in REALLY stressful situations. Like Baghdad.

I really do need to keep things in perspective.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thankful knitting

I have weird ideas about relaxation. I love cooking and cleaning, preparing for a gathering whether small or large. It's a joy to be at home, with no have-to's on the immediate horizon and nothing more ambitious than a hike tomorrow with my son and his birthday next week.  A toss of the compost pile, a few loads of laundry so everyone sleeps on clean sheets, and life is good.


I cooked most of last evening - a cheesecake and brownie pie, sweet potato crumble and frozen fruit salad, plus brining the turkey. This morning was roasting and mashing time. The Knitternall clan sat down for lunch around 1, sharing thanks and enjoying this quiet holiday together.

Dishes cleaned, I pulled out an assortment of oddball yarns in creams, grays, and blacks. Now I'm knitting a prayer shawl, my own Thanksgiving for all the blessings God has given us. 

The Comfort Shawl is aptly named.  Knit one, yarn over, knit across to center marker; yarn over before and after, knit across to end of row, yarn over, knit one. The shawl grows peacefully across the needles, flowing onto my lap, inviting caresses of prayer and reflection. Someday it'll wrap the shoulders of someone who needs a hug, and I'll send one their way even if I'm not with them.

Happy Thanksgiving. 

Monday, November 24, 2008


We had 1,000 luminarias last night for Cocoa & Candles. The energetic and fearless Dunwoody High School Key Club opened white paper bags and popped in a cup or so of sand on Friday, then returned at 5:30 to add a tea light, spread them along trails, wetlands boardwalk, and the lane, around the meadow and fairytale playhouse, and through the treehouse, then light them with our  handy-dandy stick lighters. 

It was lovely

This morning dawned gray and raining. One thousand luminarias wilted on the ground. So I started picking them up. An hour or so later, one of my compadres arrived and joined me. Then one of our amazing volunteers showed up. He'd already put in a ton of hours over the weekend stringing lights, decorating the outdoor fireplace, and supervising the roaring fire as marshmallows roasted. 

So we worked.

That's 1,000 squats. Crouch down, pick up wet bag, pull out tealight, dump sand on ground, toss bag and tealight into garbage bag. Continue. 

After awhile, it felt meditative. Just us, a long line of luminarias, rain dripping through the woods, and a woodpecker high up on a lofty limb to provide a working beat. 

The luminarias are gone now. They'll be back next year. And I'll enjoy the beauty of candlelit trails despite the labor that precedes and follows.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Howdy, neighbor

Just a few of the reasons I love being in Dunwoody for the holidays . . .

1.  Light Up Dunwoody and Cocoa & Candles. The Knitternall family can walk the three short blocks between our house and the farmhouse, enjoy the jostling, smiling, familiar crowd, and shiver in the shift from sunset to darkness before hitting the luminaria-lit trails at the Nature Center with warm cocoa in hand.

2. My darling little Preschool Phonics friends starting to wear Christmas dresses and shirts, with bows in mussed up hair, lick-lipped chap marks making perfect circles around their mouths, and hands shooting up into the air to tell me everything and anything going on in their families (I promise I believe only half what I hear).

3.  The rare quiet of very little traffic on Mt. Vernon Road on Thanksgiving and Christmas Days.

4. Red Velvet Cake from Wright Gourmet, Moravian Sugar Cookies from the Fresh Market (a taste from Winston-Salem that we'd otherwise miss), a smoked turkey from Olde Hickory House, and peppermint cocoa from Starbcks.

5.  Redfield's Christmas Eve gala, with hundreds of cars meandering through street after street of magical Christmas lights displayed by neighbors competing for bragging rights in a variety of categories (Knitternall Family Favorite: the Kids' Choice!). Plus, we always have to see the gi-normous display at the estate in the heart of Dunwoody Club Forest.

6.  The huge Great Dane who walks his owner through my neighborhood with genteel dignity, foot-long stuffed bone pillow grasped firmly in his slobbery mouth and a happy gleam in his eye as he ambles along. 

7.  The local Griswold house in Wyntercreek.

8.  The 11:00 Christmas Eve service at St. Luke's,  with its carols, communion, chrismons, and candlelit lullaby.

9. Running into friends and familiar faces in the aisles of Kroger and Publix  as I make yet another run for that one ingredient I thought was on my list but completely forgot and the gingerbread/stuffing/fudge/buckeyes/hard sauce etc. MUST BE MADE.

10. Holiday dinner leftovers. Yummmmm.

I love the holidays!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Finding a pattern in the chaos

I want to knit a simple cardigan, one with a crew neck, raglan sleeves, lightly ribbed waist and understated texture. I want it to fit well, not billow, and hit my waist line with some simple shaping. I want thicker than the paper-thin weights currently jamming the store racks, but not the bulky of over-achiever cables and chunky yarns. I want to trust that the pattern will result in something I can actually wear.  I'm feeling a preppy, 1980's collegiate kind of vibe.  In the cacophany of over-the-top designs currently filling the pages of my favorite design magazines and websites, such a simple design is nowhere to be found. So I'm going to visit Cast-On Cottage in Roswell this weekend to see what I can find. 

I look forward to the search, but even more to the knitting I hope to enjoy.



Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Dunwoody's temporary City Hall will be in Sandy Springs. At first, I didn't like the idea very much, no matter how practical and cost effective the decision was. But now it's gelled a bit and I'm glad our first City Council is so frugal.
In the past two weeks, I've heard several instances of parents not taking responsibility for their own inattention/oversight/ignorance and threatening lawsuits against whomever. For Pete's sake. It makes it hard for those of us volunteering and trying to make things happen to even try in the first place.
Light Up Dunwoody has a trolley! It's going to travel from the Shoppes at Dunwoody to the Farmhouse to Dunwoody Nature Center for Cocoa & Candles and back again. Fun!
Fast Nall School Night Dinner: boiled a bag of tortellini, heated up some Hunt's Traditional Spaghetti Sauce and mixed in a dozen frozen meatballs. Mixed together, topped with mozzarella, and tossed in oven. Baking 30 minutes while A's Algebra tutor works with him, and dinner will be ready.
John Heneghen and Pattie Baker are two of my favorite Dunwoody bloggers. One keeps us in the loop with the City of Dunwoody birth pains and the other keeps us looking ahead to a sustainable life in this wonderful town. My favorite website? Dunwoody Nature Center, of course!
Dr. Christopher Price, senior minister of St. Luke's Presbyterian Church for nearly two decades, preached his last sermon this past Sunday. I was fairly dry-eyed until he paid tribute to T for his service as Clerk of Session through two epochal changes to the church. Tears flowed, friends patted me on the back, and the kids stared wide-eyed because I never lose it.
T and I had breakfast Saturday morning at Olde Hickory House. Over plates of not-so-healthy but yummy Southern fare, we discussed holiday plans and caught a few adult moments together. Meanwhile, a young fellow commanded and demanded his parents' undivided attention in the booth behind me. "Wow," T said. "I don't think those parents said one word to each other." Oh, we remember those days!
There's this amazing new wine/beer/liquor place called Total Wine in the Perimeter. They bestowed a much-appreciated $2,000 donation to Dunwoody Nature Center in celebration of their grand opening. I will most definitely be shopping there for the holidays!
As Delta Airlines and Northwest Airlines merge, the hiccups are just beginning. For example, T travels EXTENSIVELY, mostly on Delta. He had a day trip today. The "new" airline is adopting Northwest's policies on priority seating for frequent flyers, which is a horribly inept system. T spent way too much time trying to move out of the middle seat, a process that would have taken five minutes on the computer before the merger. Favorite bit of stupidity in the process: the new system says you can't change a seat until 24 hours before the flight. But in a day trip, the return trip can't be changed until you're in the city of departure. Come on.
I love the Dunwoody Library. I love it in spite of its quirks, due largely to the fact that it's funded and managed by the chronically dysfunctional DeKalb County. I love the staff and their obvious passion for all things library-ish. I love the fact that I can reserve books at home and then pick them up whenever. What I don't love is their disdain for knitting books. Come on . . . when are you going to add Mason-Dixon Knitting's sequel and Nicky Epstein's latest?
I'm on Ravelry! To date, more than 150 people have favorited or queued Sox Shawl, Trimiters, and Knitting Tote.
The Sunday Night Knitting Circle is going strong, though only a handful of us come each week. It's peaceful in the St. Luke's library and we have a marvelous time with our WIPs, chats, and confiding moments. This past Sunday we used my swift and ball winder to turn a mass of donated yarn into center-pull balls. Fun!
One of my favorite breaks is to take a walk with Scooter the Wonder Dog in the late night darkness of Dunwoody Village. The lights are glowing, traffic is light, and the crisp air smells faintly of the hardwood fires wafting from Olde Hickory House throughout the day. Peaceful, comforting, and familiar, it's a marvelous transition from busy day to quiet sleep.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A giving week

I've had a lot of fun this week!

It's been a giving week, filled with memory-making and calendar-stuffing dates.

I've chaperoned a team of 6th grade brainiacs from Peachtree Middle School during their Quiz Bowl tournament at the Westminster Schools (a surreal place, by any definition), escorted my son to a Mock Trial practice at the Georgia State School of Law (cool), worked feverishly on piecing together 42+ 8" squares for a prayer blanket due for presentation this weekend (whew), consulted on the new church website design (yay!), prepped for the Square Foot Gardening classes at Dunwoody Nature Center (fun), and knitted a few more inches of a gift for one of the kids' teachers.  Add teaching my darling Preschool Phonics friends, working at the Nature Center, and the regular cycle of household chores, and I'm feeling a tad bit breathless.

I'd been thinking about things too much, focusing energy on worries about the economy, family health, finishing a few projects . . . much better to DO something. Service keeps my focus outward, so worries about the here and now flow deeper underground and don't consume energy and attitude. 

I feel much better now. 

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Carrying too much at one time.

It's not just me.

The Armful . . . by Robert Frost

For every parcel I stoop down to seize
I lose some other off my arms and knees,
And the whole pile is slipping, bottles, buns,
Extremes too hard to comprehend at once,
Yet nothing I should care to leave behind.
With all I have to hold with hand and mind
And heart, if need be, I will do my best.
To keep their building balanced at my breast.
I crouch down to prevent them as they fall;

Then sit down in the middle of them all.
I had to drop the armful in the road
And try to stack them in a better load.

To all my fellow bearers of too-fractious loads, who would rather lurch painfully from point A to point B than make multiple trips, who have dropped bags of groceries and loads of folded laundry because there was just-one-too-many-to-carry, who have taken twice as long to transfer a load because bits kept falling off: we're perfectly normal.

To those who laugh at us, suggest practical alternatives, and roll your eyes: grab that pair of socks that just fell off the top of the load and shut up.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Now what.

The various elections ended as I thought they would, and now we all wait to see what happens next. Some people are giddy at the prospect of a sea-change in America's culture and daily life. Others are fearful of the same thing.

Once the celebrities go back to their surreality, the thrill of making history is past, and talking heads have chewed the election results to tatters, Americans will get down to the business of life as usual, though perhaps not quite as usual as it might have been.

I hope that . . .

  • the new president will be a role model for choosing education and service over self-indulgence and defeatism.
  • the new president won't follow through on his idea to put citizen soldiers into the communities to police their fellow people (that really smacks of an oppressive regime, doesn't it?).
  • the new president will surround himself with many voices and many philosophies, choosing pragmatism over ideology.
  • the economy recovers far more quickly than the last depression (yeah, we're in one).
  • the world thinks better of us than they have in a long time.
  • we think better of us than we have in a long time.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Have I mentioned that I hate being sick?

It borders on the ludicrous. 

  • I have broken an ankle, hobbled on it for two days because I had too many appointments, then finally driven myself to a clinic for an x-ray. 
  • I have caught a cold, which turned into bronchitis, which escalated into a full-blown upper respiratory bacterial infection, and finally, fussily driven myself to the only urgent care place open on a Sunday morning and in our network to get two mega-shots of antibiotics.
  • I have ignored the early signs of shingles to the point where the rash spread into one eye and put  me on the verge of vision loss.
So I'm stubborn. The older I get, the less I'm willing to accept pains, creaks, injuries, etc. because I have TOO MUCH TO DO. I don't have TIME to be sick, hurt, out of action. So I will it away. I tackle physically demanding chores and walk those ten-mile hikes with my Eagle-bound Scout.  I lift tables and gigantic boxes full of who-knows-what and turn over mattresses and reorganize storage. And if something hurts, I just take a Motrin and keep on moving.

Most times, willpower works. Sometimes it doesn't. Right now, it isn't going so well.

On the other hands, if one of my kids sniffles, I'm at the pediatrician's office in no time flat, checking for strep, etc. With a kid living with Crohn's and the other under my vigilant eye for signs of its sister autoimmune afflection, rheumatoid arthritis, I don't underplay a thing.

Gotta love self-denial. So far so good! Or not.

Monday, November 3, 2008

No strings attached.

As I drove by Dunwoody Nature Center this afternoon (I left work early to take AG for a strep test), I saw one of our volunteers using his own leaf blower to clear the entry. This same volunteer has painted, installed a new light fixture, built much-needed shelves, and re-organized special event storage. 

I am so grateful to the volunteers who come singly, in families, and in groups to Dunwoody Park. Their motivations are quite diverse: some do it because their companies are committed to volunteer service. Many do it for the love of the outdoors and a desire to preserve this little oasis in our urbanized community. Schools bring children for hands-on environmental education. A few teens and adults come to us for community service hours required by schools and institutions. They mulch trails, pull out overachiever invasive plants, organize special events like our silent auction and wine-tasting parties, wash comforters and towels, pick up trash,  tend to the bees, and make the park a magical place for our visitors.

When I explained to the kids my political philosophy during the cacophany of rhetoric they can't tune out, one example I gave was volunteering. If someone is hungry and I give them a meal, should I then have the authority to tell them how to eat, when to eat, and what to eat? If I take care of the trails in a public park should I also have the authority to say who can walk those trails and when? I shouldn't. No one should. But that's one of the debates going on in our country - those who want the government to take care of everything and those who want people to take care of each other because it's the right thing to do.

If someone is hungry and can't afford food to eat, I want to do more than just give them a meal.  I want to feed them AND help them learn how to get the next meal - and leave it up to them what they choose to eat. If someone is homeless, I want to do more than shelter them.  I want to give them a safe place to sleep AND the tools they need to take care of themselves - as well as the freedom to live where and how they wish. Independence and self-reliance are the truest freedoms we have. 

Dunwoody Park is the beneficiary of hundreds of people who each year decide they should take care of it and preserve it for the future.  Then they step back and let the community enjoy the fruits of their labors, with no strings attached.

Thank you.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The pleasures of a free weekend

Most weekends are filled with must-do's in the Knitternall house. Homework, school projects, Quiz Bowl, church activities and retreats, freelance copywriting assignments, and never-ending chores make the time fly too quickly for respite. 

This weekend has been an unexpected exception. Such wealth of free time. So many options for fun!

Saturday I transplanted four shrubs, divided hostas, cut back some overachiever hollies and hydrangeas, turned the growing compost pile, and planted two dwarf gardenias. Today, after church, I'll focus on seaming 60+ squares for a huge prayer blanket. I have two DVD's ready to go and plan to enjoy myself completely.

  I've also been busy with Christmas knitting:  Rolled brim hats, Urchin berets, Maine Morning Mitts and a few felted handbags will fill the stockings of teachers and friends. 

Funny how I'm just as busy as usual, but because the work is my choice, it's so much more pleasurable.

 Now it's time for church. A beautiful day, the satisfaction of completed labors, and time with my family: bliss.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Food memories

I didn't get to spend a lot of time with my grandparents, but that time was certainly powerful. They lived a Southern farm life in the outskirts of Durham, keeping with them the patterns of childhood and adapting them to the city life they had to take on during the Depression. There was a large garden, much bigger than their little bungalow, to the side of the house on a sun-baked hill. My grandmother found local sources for molasses, fatback, lard, and other staples. They hunted wild game for food and, for a long time they had chickens, until a grocery store finally opened a mile down the road.

I was fascinated by their lifestyle. I, a child of the Air Force move-every-two-years life, couldn't imagine living in one place for years on end, let alone near the extended family that had settled in the Bethesda area of Durham. They were by no means the salt of the earth, however: it turns out the family  made more bad choices than good ones, with my grandmother deftly ignoring or denying the shenanigans of her progeny.

During the small bits of time I had with my grandmother, she taught me a lifetime of skills: how to make perfect buttermilk biscuits and pecan pie,  sew basic hems and repair tears and replace missing buttons, crochet, harvest beans and peas, and more. She filled a need I didn't understand to work with my hands and tend to home.

This morning the tweens are sleeping off the aftereffects of too much candy and long jogs from one street to the next. The teen is powersleeping his exhaustion away (nightly homework lasting until midnight takes a toll). Halloween started with a block party hosted by the Neels and ended with a quiet ramble down the street with AG and her friend. 

I decided it was a good morning for biscuits. So I took out my grandmother's wood bread bowl, mixed the ingredients, and the house is now filled with a luscious, buttermilky scent that fills me with contentment.


Buttermilk Biscuits
6 cups self-rising flour 
1/2 to 3/4 cups shortening 
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
Mix and knead until dough is slightly sticky. Powder hands with flour and shape dough into 2" diameter biscuits. (My grandmother never used a biscuit cutter - her biscuits were always rolled and flattened by hand.) 
Bake at 425 degrees for about 15-18 minutes. Check carefully - don't over-bake. The ideal color is a light golden brown.
Serve with butter, molasses, bacon, eggs, cheese - a buffet of yummy fillings.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween in Dunwoody

If you aren't heading home from work by 3, you'll need two hours to navigate the gridlock.

If you haven't bought at least 100 pieces of candy, you'll run out in the first hour.

If you need to traverse Mt. Vernon Road between Abernathy/Ashford-Dunwoody and Happy Hollow/Winter's Chapel Road . . . good luck. 

If your tween has a sleepover guest tonight, it's going to be a loooooonnnnngggg time  until bedtime.

If your teen has decided he's too old for trick-or-treating, he may regret his now too-cool and too-old status when little sis comes home with a bulging sack.

If you pay attention, you'll realize that you're saying "say 'thank you'" to your child and "thank you" for your child a kazillion times tonight.

If your child wants the maximum candy payload per street ratio, just about any neighborhood in Dunwoody will scratch that itch. So chances are, your child can range within a half-hour radius of your house and amass all the sweet goodness essential to the holiday.

Happy Halloween!


Sunday, October 26, 2008

AP World History Has Taken Over Our Lives

I have a  pragmatic appreciation of the correlation between effort and achievement. Increasingly complex and demanding homework through the high school years, then through college has always made perfect sense.  Advanced learning, whether academic, work-related, or craft, has always begun with a sense of climbing up a mountain, culminating in exhilaration at the summit.

Until my son took AP World History.

This isn't just his class. It's our entire family's commitment. Because poor A is chained to his homework load seven days a week, up to 4 hours a day. We can't travel on weekends. We can't enjoy a spontaneous diversion during the week.  There can be no must-see television or movies. We don't dare linger at church, and Youth Group is hit-or-miss, depending on how productive he's been during the afternoon. Scouts? Maybe he can join the Troop for the business portion of the meeting, but forget the fun stuff.  

There are charts to complete, vast sums of pages to read and outline, study guides to review, and unit tests to prepare for long in advance. This year-long course, once daily, is now every-other-day, shared with World Literature. So the students have half the time in class and double the homework to make up for it. Of course, there are also four other classes in his block to cover: World Literature, Algebra II, Latin II, and Nutrition. So that homework has to get squeezed in there somehow.

Bedtime is usually midnight and he has to be up again by 6:15 to get ready for the next school day.  

For A, knowing that AP World History is modeled after college classes is somewhat off-putting. "Mom, I don't think I can do college. This is just ONE class." 

It's hard to know the answers he needs and keep my lips zipped. I'll hear him muttering about Confucious and his motivation or Byzantine migration routes and have to will him to find the right answer. Eventually he does, but it's painfully slow.

Sigh.  Just eight months until the AP World History exam.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sustainable brainstorming

The amazing duo of Pattie (Sustainable Dunwoody blog maven) and Tracy (she of the chickens and triplets and urban homestead lifestyle) came to Dunwoody Nature Center to discuss Sustainability opportunities here in our newborn city. We're very excited - certainly Sustainability fits in with our mission of preserving and protecting Dunwoody Park and providing environmental education to the community. I loved brainstorming with them and Claire, our fearless leader, was very receptive to their ideas. Time will tell, but I hope to be a part of this engaging concept for Dunwoody.

It's a slippery slope to focus on the big picture/philosophical mode rather than the here-and-now reality of living pragmatically.  I appreciate the long-term benefits of growing our own food and reducing our dependency on imports and their tangential cost in terms of fossil fuels and quality, but I need to know HOW and WHAT to plant right now. I value the reduce-recycle-reuse concept but I need better recycling options than the paltry blue box DeKalb County offers (hello - Gwinnett County has gone to the mega-bin recycling/garbage cans with robo trucks picking each up every week).  I want to walk to more places, but I must have more time to do it in the midst of work, school, and social commitments. 

A Sustainable Dunwoody is a delightful and essential concept for our community. Let's make it a reality!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

It's kinda fuzzy

If you have one of those amazing memories filled with important things like the actual DAY you joined your church, graduated from college, met your husband . . . as well as your first telephone number, the address of the first place you lived after college, or dorm room number: wow.

I'm not that person.

Facts kind of float away from me as time passes, making room for the here and now. I can't remember the street we lived on (well, we lived on 13 different streets as we moved from air base to air base), the names of the neighbors in Kirkwood (our first house as newly marrieds) my children's preschool teachers' names (unless I check their scrapbooks). I forget names, volunteer jobs, the ways and means of fundraising campaigns I've led, and so many other details of my life.

It's not that I don't care. I have a dozen scrapbooks that prove otherwise. It's just that my brain is FULL.

There are so many details to tend to in the present that I've had to tuck away the past into some synaptic files that are gathering dust with each passing year. 

Which brings me to this morning. We were gathered at church over a tasty luncheon sharing our beginnings as a get-to-know-you activity. Memories I thought were well out of mind came quickly to the forefront as we shared backstories about first impressions and why we finally chose to join St. Luke's. I was quite happy that details were right there when I needed them.

So I'm feeling better about hazy history. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Knitting in nature

It's amazing how many people drive down Roberts and have no idea Dunwoody Nature Center exists. We get a steady stream of first-time visitors, who've lived in Dunwoody years, entire lives, and never stepped foot in the park.

Their reaction is always one of pleasure - surprise that "all this" is here in Dunwoody, amazement that it's a public park, wonder at all the programs and events they never knew about.

I had just opened the main building this morning and heard a rustle behind me in the classroom. A small chipmunk had slipped in and was looking earnestly for an exit. I slid open the screen door and out he shot. Down in the meadow, a red fox trotted over boulders and through a thicket. The air is crisp, red and gold leaves are starting to drift down from the trees above, and there's nothing to hear but birds and squirrels chattering about the coming cold weather.

Dunwoody Park is a lovely respite. I am so blessed to call it my office.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Food memories

I wasn't raised in the South, but I was raised Southern. As my born-and-bred parents traveled the U. S. and Okinawa via the United States Air Force, they carried with them the traditions and values of down-home North Carolina.

It wasn't easy to find Southern staples in Kansas and Okinawa, but they managed. I remember upside down pineapple cake, fried chicken livers, big pots of black-eyed peas flavored with bacon drippings, potato salad, homemade ice cream - food was comfort in strange places.

Then we finally landed back in North Carolina and my own Southern experience began. In rural Goldsboro, North Carolina, right outside Seymour-Johnson Air Force Base, I discovered the amazing flavors of school cafeteria food. This wasn't the Sysco-delivered frozen fare my kids endure. It was fresh, from the farm, made from scratch by cafeteria ladies who'd been cooking for years and years.

I cleaned my tray every day.

I know the vegetables were amazing, and the fruit was never something in a syrup. I've never been able to recreate the homemade pizza and yeast rolls. What I really savor in my memory are the desserts.

  • Frothy marshmallowy white frosting on sheets of moist, dark chocolate cake.
  • Dense peanut butter bars covered with a thin super-sweet icing.
  • "Boiled cookies" mixing chocolate, oatmeal, and peanut butter for a no-cook dessert that was never plentiful enough.
  • Snickerdoodles as big as the palm of your hand.
The aroma of peanut butter bars is filling the Knitternall house and the kids are sniffing the air. I found the recipe in the AJC a while back and rediscovered that childhood flavor. I made a batch for the teachers and junior counselors during summer camp at Dunwoody Nature Center and have heard several ask if I'll make them again this summer (of course!).

I can't do a thing about the stock market, our investments, or the rising cost of everything we need. But I can bake.

Comfort food. Whether you're traveling far from home or the world around you is changing way too fast, comfort food can be a welcome respite.

Peanut Butter Bars

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2/3 cup peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Icing: combine 2 cups confectioners' sugar, 1/2 cup peanut butter and up to 1/2 cup evaporated milk to make a thin icing. Spread on bars right after baking.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 11x17 jelly roll pan. In a bowl, combine flour, oats, soda and salt. Set aside. With mixer, beat butter and both sugars until fluffy. Add eggs and mix well. Add peanut butter. Gradually mix dry ingredients. Scrape down sides often. Mix in vanilla. Spread in pan. Bake 18-22 minutes or until edges just begin to turn golden. Do not overbake. Cut into squares while still warm, then let cool completely.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Sometimes you just have to start over

Knitting is a metaphor for life.

  • If you knit something, and the yarn feels wrong, and keep on knitting, and discover you miscounted somewhere, and keep on knitting . . . stubbornness will not turn a series of mistakes into a right. You need to unravel, choose another yarn, and start over.
  • Sometimes people knit really ugly things. They love the scarf, shawl, hat, bag, etc. and bestow their gift to treasured family and friends. Think Aunt Bea and those horrible, nose-plugging, heartburn-inducing kerosene pickles. Wear the scarf, eat the pickles, and value the love behind the less-than-lovely results.
  • Many patterns look a lot better on paper than in reality. The same is true for candidates, laws, recipes, school curricula, franchises, mortgages, stocks, mutual funds, credit cards, and e-friends. Ask around and see what other people have said before you invest your time, talent, and money in a pretty picture.
  • If you don't take the time to knit a swatch, you shouldn't complain if your sweater ends up way too small (after spending weeks and weeks knitting it).  Trial runs and rough drafts almost always lead to something way better.
I just spent a week knitting a vest I really want, even though I knew at the outset that the yarn felt too rough, the sleeve design didn't work right, and the stitch count was inconsistent with the pattern. Finally, I took stock of what I was doing, and frogged the whole thing (rip it, rip it).  
I'm starting over. With a gauge swatch, the right yarn, a better understanding of the pattern, and more than a little humility. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Knitting in The Shack

It's a quick read. It comes with accolades from the pulpit, mainstream blogs, and friends. You already know the "punchline" long before you get to it. As well as the ending.

I read The Shack yesterday in carpool lines and during homework time. In the back of my mind was the personal situations of the people who had recommended it: I could understand its appeal to them.

Yet, to be honest, it didn't have the same emotional impact for me. Why? I think because of the very long and complex answers the Trinity gave Mack, the main character and representative for all of us who struggle with the "why's" of pain and fear. A few slaps against organized religion, some intellectual quotes from various theologians and writers, a careful sidestep from any specific denomination . . . The Shack tries very hard to build a personal connection with the Trinity without the strings attached by thousands of years of manmade traditions and rites. I had to re-read many paragraphs to "get the point" the author was trying to convey. And therein lies my lack of enthusiasm.

Faith isn't supposed to be complex. You can't really explain it. You can't define, quantify, qualify, or justify it. Faith just is. Sometimes it's deep. Sometimes it's tiptoeing across shifting sand. Always it's the real, indivisible connection between us and the Trinity. When I'm numb, it's there. When I'm tingly from a sense of rightness, it's there. When I'm hurt, it's there. When I'm furious at the unfairness of something, it's there. When I'm just not sure, it's there.

Faith is trust that God knows a whole lot more than we do and cares enough to make things right in the end. That when something awful happens - the death of a young mom by cancer or accident, the suicide of a grown child, the loss of a job or retirement fund, the devastation of adultery, the neverending fear of a chronic illness - God is with us, loving us, guiding us.

I don't mean to dismiss The Shack completely. It certainly creates healthy discussions about faith, trust, and self-determination. It's just not the panacea that enthusiasts have suggested.

God knows I'd like it to be. Who doesn't want the satisfying proof of a conversation with the Almighty?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Housewives get real

The cover story in the Living section of today's AJC presents a new television offering for our, ahem, entertainment. Real Housewives visits the purportedly "typical" Atlanta housewife, a species I have met, but do not enjoy. Self-important, narcissistic, over-the-top . . . there simply are not enough words to describe the featured cast.

How about a few REAL housewives?

Mary: career woman, leader in her church, willing to host any gathering in her home at a moment's notice, with her husband of many years raised two children who now have post-collegiate careers in mission and seminary studies.

Val: an extraordinarily creative woman who is fit, stylish, long married, close to her grown children, and still volunteering hours upon hours with the young children in her church.

Carol: caring wife, calm mother of a large brood that includes a grown child with lifelong medical challenges, imaginative preschool director, creative stylist of parties and interiors, and faithful friend.

Janna: runner, nurse, skilled at balancing high-demand career and the diverse needs of her family, volunteer at her children's schools, and on-call friend to her entire neighborhood.

Cathy: one-time child star and soap opera diva, now a seminarian, wife, mother, and friend. You should hear her sing!

Diane and Karen: friends for 25+ years, sharing the joys of mothering beautiful children, faithful marriages, longtime careers, quirks, happiness and deep pain, always there for each other.

Kitty: deeply faithful, taking an "it is what it is" approach to her husband's dementia and her own painful arthritis, yet still offering to knit squares for a prayer blanket because she's determined to contribute.
They're just a few of the "real housewives" I have the privilege to know, and each is far more entertaining than anything the television industry can toss into the digital mix.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Things to do when gas is not so much

At looooonnnnngggg last, the gas shortage has eased here in Atlanta. Dunwoody has gas, even the BP station, which has much more frequent outages than any other stations during normal times. Of course, it's way above four bucks a gallon, so it's a good news/bad news proposition.

Our Sunday School class discussion centered on the issue of simplicity, choosing what and who are important, passing on the unnecessary. Yes, we've grown technologically in the past 2,000+ years. We still haven't learned a thing. While Martha was cleaning up after feeding Jesus and his entourage (and in a mighty snit about having to do it all by herself), Mary was enjoying the visit. Guess who Jesus praised? Not the busy Martha.

So, despite the nerve-twisting and costly gas crisis, it did offer one silver lining: it forced us to slow down and think thrice about how and why we drove anywhere. Staying close to home was easy for us, because Dunwoody has all the basics right here in town. Groceries and a few things from the hardware store? Check - just three blocks from home. Pick up the kids after school? Check - a couple of miles away. Breakfast at Old Hickory House with T early Saturday morning? Easy. Church on Sunday? Right around the corner. Walking to the bank and post office, as well as work at Dunwoody Nature Center was a peaceful option. Our family is blessed by proximity.

And, because it was a slower week all around, I finished two prayer ministry projects (a shawl and a lapghan), cast on the Side-to-Side Garter Stitch Vest, and finished one Maine Morning Mitt. The compost pile for next spring's Square Foot Garden is coming along nicely, and I raked up a ton of acorns falling across the driveway and sideyard.


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The ectasy and the agony

Check out the Central Park Hoodie. AG couldn't wait to put it on. I customized it for her - knitted it in pink, sewed in a zipper (a first for me), and reveled in the luscious, meticulous knitting of every row and cable.

We wanted to soften the yarn a bit, so I soaked it in cold water. Okay, I washed it in cold water, ready to lay it out and block it.

That's right, fellow knitters. I washed it. And it promptly felted, oh so slightly. It's smaller now (it actually fits her better, but it won't for as long as I was hoping).

Unbelieveably bone-headed of me. So I am ecstatic with the results of my first major knitted sweater. And agonizing over the lightly felted results.


Friday, September 26, 2008

Yes, we got no gas

We here in Atlanta must be stoooopid. That seems to be the opinion of Governor Perdue and company.

Our state government keeps telling us the gas shortage is all in our minds. That we're the problem. That there's PLENTY of gas in the Atlanta metro, it's just not where we live.

Excuse me! A report just noted that only 10% of gas stations in the ginormous Atlanta metropolitan area have gas at any given time. I'm no statistician, but that just doesn't add up to PLENTY of gas.

There's NO gas in Dunwoody. Well, every now and then a tanker shows up, drops off a bit of regular at the Chevron, and moves on. A line promptly forms down Chamblee-Dunwoody Road, inches through, empties the tank, and bags go back on the handles.

(Curiously, the BP station at the intersection of Chamblee-Dunwoody and Mt. Vernon Roads runs out of gas all the time. I figure it must be the exotic blend the EPA requires Atlanta to sell, which is harder to produce.)

It must be a sign of our economically abysmal times: bags on gas station handles. Grocery bags, yellow made-for-the-purpose bags, leaf bags, you name it - gas station operators are very busy with the yes-we-have-it, no-we-don't hourly update for passing motorists.

I've cut even further back on travel, but our family has some must-do appointments: Remicade infusion for A today, a Quiz Bowl competition for AG tomorrow. Other than those, we'll stay close to home this weekend and hope there's available gas early next week when the mom-bus needs a refill.

This is not fun.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Knitting carpet

For more than 10 years, ever since we moved into this house, I've winced every time I passed through the family room. That's a lot of wincing since we spend 80% of our time together there. The cause of my unhappiness? Dark green carpet. While the rest of the house is carpeted and tiled in blissful beige, the family room was clad in darkness. That green carpet sucked all the light out of the windows. We didn't replace it initially because we planned to install hardwoods. Then came Crohn's Disease and a stuttering economy, and ten years passed.

The ugly carpet is finally gone.

One of my freelance clients, a family friend, decided to compensate me with a Visa gift card. I really did the work pro bono, but they insisted. So we decided to use the windfall on the family room carpet.  Hello, Empire! (Who else would do a single room without charging a huge surcharge? Believe me - I shopped around. Empire was quite reasonable and the installation crew amazingly adept and helpful.)

The kids noticed the light first. Then T was struck by how much roomier the space looks. I'm thrilled by the consistent palette throughout the first floor. Hurray!

It's a shallow thing, in this time of economic turmoil, to spend money on carpet for a single room. But the benefits to our family - light, most of all - are satisfying to the soul.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Knitting flashback

Well, for goodness sake. I was a post-college English teacher, then ad agency copywriter in the me-me-me 80's and dressed the part. Big shoulders, peplum waists, touseled hair, Rayban sunglasses, men's hats, long blazers over jeans, bows at my neck, and layers were the look, and I was all about looking good.

I just trolled Ravelry and discovered that Garn Studio is unveiling a NEW line of designer knitwear patterns.

Flashback time. They're totally 80's. And I think they're SUPER.
I loved the 80's. I loved the clothes, the Bmers, Miami Vice, Genesis, James Taylor, the stock market, and the ad business. It was narcissistic, fun, and freewheeling. I had a blast.
Now I'm older, entrenched in momhood, sub-urbanity, an on-the-brink disaster of an economy, and helping to support outdoor education in Dunwoody. My generation is less narcissistic, more cautious, and bridging the gap between want and need with greater wisdom.
It'll be fun to see if today's 20-somethings embrace our 80's look. It would be a decided improvement over the tight jeans, bared waists and cleavage, tissue thin tees of the past decade (that's the mom in me speaking).

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A perfectly Dunwoody day

Last evening, I sipped champagne and nibbled on fresh bread dipped in herbed olive oil with two wonderful friends.  Our gathering was impromptu, catalyzed by the death of a mom this week who leaves so much sadness in her wake.  We felt the need to celebrate life, and its inherent vulnerability. I left too soon, pulled home by my son's ever-encroaching homework load and chores that never end and so many things that take time and leave no time for the spirit.

Though I awakened this morning to a long list of to-do's, T and I nonetheless managed to walked over to Hickory House for our breakfast date. I'm so glad we did. It turned a busy day into a perfectly Dunwoody day.

Hickory House was packed, as always, and the usual mix of old, young, working, retired mingled over fluffy biscuits, wonderful country gravy, crispy bacon, and bowls of grits. We walked back in the cool fall breeze and enjoyed catching up with each other . . . the state of the financial market, the upcoming presidential election, the activities of our children, our work commitments, and more. We passed several people we knew, stopped mid-intersection to chat with a friend from church, and waved as friends honked from their passing cars. 

Now the guys are off to support a fellow Scout's Eagle project fundraiser (yum . . . cookout at the Sandy Springs fire station where he built a much-needed shed) and the girls are headed to the movies to meet three more of their group of friends (I'll be on premises to chaperone, but out of sight to give them the illusion of independence - they're still just 11!)

 It's Homecoming week at Dunwoody High School as well.  Lots of fun - dress-up days, a parade of homemade class floats, the election of the Homecoming Court, the big game today, and the Homecoming Dance tonight. 

Tonight, we'll grill steaks and enjoy this first sign of cooler days ahead (though, as Southerners, we well know that it's just as likely to be 90 degrees for Halloween). No sleepovers, no commitments - just some much-appreciated family time. I'll sew the zipper on the Central Park Hoodie, add a handle to the felted bag I made for an upcoming auction, and knit a few more rows on a prayer shawl. Bliss!

The week has been filled with joy and sadness, too much work and not enough time, but today, it's a perfect day to be in Dunwoody.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Knitting kindness

"Back in the day," when T and I were earnest 20-something campaign workers, I was introduced rather abruptly to the more uncomfortable side of politics. As we distributed flyers, put up yard signs, talked to neighbors during block parties, attended rallies, and generally tried our best to support our candidate, we were often faced by someone who REALLY  didn't like our candidate/position/issue/volunteer work. T always handled the chewing out with aplomb, while I was a stammering mess. 

I've been invigorated by the campaigns for Dunwoody cityhood and, most recently, our first Mayor and City Council. Neighbors and friends have stepped forward to serve and done so as graciously as you could wish for. 

Now for the not-fun part.

The wonderful Wittenstein family has been gracious and positive, even when others have not been. 

I was just visiting John Heneghen's blog, posting my congrats for his win of an at-large seat, and saw one poster's virulent criticism of him, his wife, and his campaign. Oh, dear. JustMom really, really doesn't like John. 

That's the side of public service that I don't have thick enough skin to handle. I'm grateful for the people who are willing to serve and tough enough to handle the myriad opinions and issues they'll wrestle with as they shape this city of Dunwoody. 

A very dear friend whose husband served many years on the City Council of Greensboro, NC and Board of Commissioners of Guilford County (NC) learned very early in their marriage to smile politely, make very unequivocal remarks, and leave the politics to her  Semper Fi spouse. (No June Cleaver, my friend was and is smart enough to know that her husband was elected, not her, so her opinion was private and not subject to discussion.) It was never easy, but when you love someone who chooses public service, you learn to handle things.

Thanks, John. You had my vote, and will continue to have my support. And tell your wife not to read the blogs!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Knit-Along Cooperative


Want to learn to knit?

Coming back from a knitting hiatus?

Ready to talk a lot and have a couple of hours just for YOU?

Join the Knit-along Cooperative!  

When:  Sundays, 5:30 to 7:30 pm

Where:  Location - Library of St. Luke’s Presbyterian Church (upstairs, above Manhasset Street Entrance Lobby) in Dunwoody

A "knit-along" means that we will choose a project to knit together and enjoy the many splendid variations in execution. Some projects can be completed in a week. Others will take more time. (If you don't want to knit along, you can certainly have your own Work In Progress!)  As a "cooperative," we'll share techniques, ideas, resources, and help in a spirit of fellowship and fun

Project #1:  Mitered Square

Materials Needed:

Size 10 or 10 1/2 straight needles + 1 partial skein worsted weight yarn - solid, hand-dyed, striped, space-dyed, or heathered (if you want to play with color, choose 2-3 remnants of complementary colors)


Size 5 or 6 straight needles + 1 partial skein sock yarn


Saturday, September 13, 2008

I'm knitting as fast as I can

I did it again. I'm working furiously on the Central Park Hoodie (which is taking way longer thanks to an overbooked calendar) and I just agreed to make a prayer shawl for someone leaving our church AND something for a charity auction. Both are needed by the first of November.


I keep doing this. I take on freelance assignments when I'm really, really busy with work and volunteer jobs. I agree to sit on a committee when the meeting times conflict with carpool and afterschool tutors. I start a knitting circle that coincides with the once a month cotillion class because it's really the only open slot in my week. 

The real problem is that I want to do EVERYTHING I've committed to. I'm not feeling compelled at all. Somehow it all works, though not without considerable angst when the perfect storm of conflicting appointments crashes down on us all. I try to shoulder that impact, but I'm not always able to keep it away from the family. 

All of which makes me relate to Sarah Palin. 

I was just listening a reprise of Charlie Gibson's interview with Sarah Palin on NPR this morning. It's exasperating to hear so much attention given to a candidate's ability to balance work and family, to deal with the logistics of campaigning, governing, wifing, momming, and friending. Frankly, the patronizing is wearing very thin.  Media yackers like to say they're just asking the questions America wants. As if. Most women in America do the juggling act every day and understand that one can be effective when schedules and priorities run in tandem. 

Now it's time for the old boy network and eager beaver talking heads to figure it out.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Life is good. Thanks to everyone in a uniform.

Of course 9-11 makes us reflective. It should. I am immeasurably blessed to have my life intact post 9-11 because one person decided to put on a uniform. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine, Coast Guard, firefighter, police officer, paramedic . . . thank you for choosing to serve.

My father served in Korea and Vietnam. He doesn't talk about his service very much because it was so darned bad. There's a Bronze Star in a bureau and some paperwork locked away in a box. But he's proud, and I'm proud of him, and thankful he came home to us.

My friend's husband served in Iraq and came home safely. He lost colleagues and friends at the Pentagon.

My classmate's father was one of the Vietnam POW's who never made it home. 

Bad people who do bad things touch each of us. But thanks to good people who choose to do the right thing, we in America can live free.

I hope you appreciate just how good we have it.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Wish list for the new City of Dunwoody

Everyone is weighing in with the "what-if's" for our fledgling city. Practicalities are paramount and must be our primary focus in the first few years.

Meanwhile, there are some quality of life wishes I'd love to see woven into the fabric of our community.

  • A community garden (modeled after Oakhurst Community Garden in Decatur), located at the Chestnut Farm property. It's a cozy spot in the heart of town, has been largely ignored by the county which currently owns it. I know the Dunwoody Preservation Trust will take excellent care of the facility if the county deeds it to us, so maybe they'd entertain the idea of a working garden managed by volunteers.
  • A "gateway" feature at the intersection of Ashford-Dunwoody and Mt. Vernon Roads. How about a large, recycling fountain with its own well? (I take no credit for this great idea - the ever-imaginative Susan Mitchell suggested it!)
  • Ordinances supporting a "sustainable" Dunwoody, including solar power installations, home gardening, and small chicken coops as well as a recycling center where we can drop everything off right here in the community.
  • An effort to change the laws in Georgia so that we can create a Dunwoody School System, which would surely be far better than the abysmal management we currently endure by the DeKalb County School System.
  • A definitive sign ordinance that correlates all signage in the new city, requiring retail and business properties to follow strict guidelines no matter when they were first installed (no grandfathering).
  • An electronic interface with City Hall that allows citizens to email, make requests for services, and pay any  necessary fees through the internet. That means someone on staff is actively managing the website and making sure it's proactive.
I love Dunwoody. It's great to live here!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Knitting inside the square

Happy Sunday! Today will be filled with St. Luke's Presbyterian Church's first-ever Homecoming celebration, a potluck lunch, the start of a new Youth Group year this evening with our new Youth Minister, Phil Brown, and some quiet time in between to enjoy just being together.

I had a really good time yesterday morning. I took a Square-Foot Gardening class at the Oakhurst Community Garden in Decatur, with the comfy and knowledgeable team of Bob and Lyn Bernstein.  It was sunny, very hot, and we dodged red ants and bees the entire time . . . conditions that added a happy dose of nostalgia to the lesson. A group of students from nearby Agnes Scott College were volunteering, working hard with clearing invasives and past-their-prime growth and composting merrily in the heat. 

Midway through our class, the staff released the chickens from their coop. They strutted throughout the garden, observing us with some disdain and engorging themselves on the wealth of bugs and worms hopping among the vegetables.  Oakhurst is a charming bit of real-world practicality in the heart of Decatur, with its juxtaposition of urban sensibility and small-town values.

I can't wait to build our box this winter. The timing is perfect since I have plenty of time to prepare the ground and work on the compost bin.

The afternoon was busy as usual, but I did sneak in half an hour of knitting on the sleeves of the Central Park Hoodie for AG. I really want to finish that so I can start on a sweater coat for myself. It'll be a design-as-I-go proposition, but I have the basic structure in mind.

It's time for church.  What a splendid way to begin the week!