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?