Monday, March 30, 2009

The Golden Ax

Troop 764, out of St. Luke's Presbyterian Church, WON THE GOLDEN AX COMPETITION at this year's Camporee at Bert Adam's Scout Reservation.

For the 4th year.

So they get to keep it.


(To win, the troop has one solid piece of wood and one match. They have to make a fire with flames high enough to burn through two suspended strings, then cook a pancake and eat it. Sounds simple? That wood has to be chopped, split, render kindling and sufficient logs to build the fire, sustained and tended to reach the proper heat for cooking - all after days and days of pouring rain.)

Troop 764 also won the campsite award thanks to excellent set-up and management by patrols (they got their gear unloaded, set up tents, and stowed gear under rainproof tarps during a lull between downpours).

We learned all this last evening, during a ceremony at St. Luke's for the troop's 72nd Eagle Scout.

Very cool.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Church-wide luncheon and Easter Egg hunting

The rain broke in time for St. Luke's annual Spring Luncheon and Easter Egg Hunt. With a potluck, you never know what you'll get - just that it's all GOOD. Some years we have an amazing array of salads to go with the fried chicken provided by the church. This year, our family cooks were in a sweet mood, so the dessert table was laden with fresh pies, cakes, cookies, cupcakes, an amazing chocolate-banana trifle, strawberry shortcake, and more. We prepared a coconut sheet cake and surrounded it with hot pink Peeps bunnies, a huge hit with the Easter Egg hunters (as well as a few parents who grinned sheepishly and popped a Peep). Presbyterians love any opportunity to share and enjoy food, so the turnout was wonderful.

We had much to celebrate: a successful Mission Miles fundraiser (5K, fun run, and tot trot) that reached our goal for Youth Group missions, plentiful rain after a lengthy drought, a sleepover and camping trip for the tween and teen, and even a mini-date for T and me, margaritas and chips at El Azteca.

Meanwhile, back at Bert Adams Scout Reservation, the guys were breaking down their campsite and working hard to win the Golden Ax award for an unprecedented 4th year in a row. Can't wait to see how that one turned out. It rained the entire weekend, they had to shelter from a few severe storm warnings, yet still they had a great time, according to A, now en route back home.

The cycle of Church events and services punctuates the year, keeping us all attuned to the intertwining patterns of spiritual and everyday life. Easter means the end of another winter, the transition to the calmer days of summer, and the moment-by-moment miracles of life and living. It's poignant to hear the Cherub Choir sing "All Things Bright And Beautiful" and gather baskets in hand for the hunt - just a few short years ago, our children were wriggling and singing while their eyes were poised on the prizes waiting in a few dozen plastic eggs. Now they're in a new, wonderful time of life and just as entranced with each discovery and experience.

It's Spring. In happiness and hardship, through warming sun and gusting storms, without interruption life blossoms once again.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Frugal doesn't mean cheap.

Every now and then, I like to wave the banner of "why spend it when you don't need to (or have it)?" My kids are firmly grounded on the Knitternall family credo: spend less, get more.

1. I love to read. I'm always trolling for the latest and best stories. I just can't afford to buy ALL the books I read each week. I empathize with the authors (they have to make a living). But the library is my best friend. I go online to the DeKalb County library website, reserve the titles I want to read - I'm often 100+ in the queue - and wait patiently until it's my turn. I just finished The Guernsey Potato Peel Pie Society book and it was lovely.

2. I love to knit. But I definitely can't buy every knitting book by favorite designers just for that single design. So I troll Ravelry to see if someone wants to sell a book they've loved and finished, explore the free patterns rampant on the internet, and work with a few designs of my own. The result is quite satisfying and affordable.

3. I love clothes and shoes. Yep, I do. My love is focused on perfect t's, stylish jeans, and really, really, REALLY comfortable outdoor shoes by Keen and Land's End and LL Bean. So I watch sales, consighment store shoe racks, and eBay. Scored in recent weeks : pristine royal blue Keen sandals at a thrift store in Greensboro, NC for $4.59, all-weather hiking books from the Lands' End store at Sears during their 75% off sale last season ($12.50), and Teva flip-flops for the pool, brand new for a measly $4 in a sale bin at Sports Authority. Lest you think I'm only about the sales, I just spent $90 on a pair of Merrell waterproof hiking boots for A because his feet are growing faster than his body and he's gotta have the good stuff for Scout hikes and camping trips.

4. I love outings with the family. But why pay full price when there are lovely bargains all around? For Spring Break, I paid just $15 a ticket for the Georgia Aquarium at a website John Heneghen kindly shared, we're hiking Stone Mountain ($8 parking pass and the outdoor parts of the park are all yours), and Helen, Georgia is just a couple of hours' drive and a kitschy day's worth of fun. Fun!

5. I love my haircut. Dunwoody salons often charge up to $100 to maintain your 'do, but I like Azima Salon. They let me stroll in without an appointment, clip and blow dry my hair for less than $35, and keep me within my "under 10 minutes" wash-dry-style maintenance rule.

6. I love dates with my husband. We've fallen into a weekly date habit at Olde Hickory House, sharing breakfast on Friday mornings after dropping off the kids at school and before we head to our respective jobs. We get some uninterrupted chat time, catch up and plan ahead, and revel in the couple-ness of the morning, all for less than $15 most weeks. We've been down the white-tablecloth-and-hovering-waitstaff route all around the world. Nothing compares to plates of simple breakfast staples and plenty of hot coffee in a to-go cup (him) and diet Coke (me).

Frugal doesn't mean cheap. It means valuing what you get.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Ninety thousand. Really?

I can't believe the Knitternall website has reached 265+ posts and 90,000+ hits. All these ramblings, knitting noshes, Southern slices-of-life, Dunwoody bits - are interesting enough to warrant visits, let alone repeat check-ins.

Thank you.

I'm working on a new pattern (for a sweater!) and will continue to share bits and pieces of life in Dunwoody, Georgia. It's a great place to live, raise a family, and explore new experiences.

Ya'll come back now, you hear?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Casting on Pasticcio

I took a lovely day off from everything and trolled knitting shops, explored thrift stores, and listened to AM 1690 (thanks, Steve!) as it wended its way from old-time country pining to Vivaldi to Ella singing the blues. I picked up several pattern books at Cast On Cottage, including one of Elizabeth Zimmerman's treasured tomes, found lots of yarn at Strings & Strands, and scored a superb 12x16 room-size oriental rug that had just come in, only to walk out with me ($40 bucks!!!!). I felt rested, relaxed, and ready for more busy times ahead.

Days like that don't come often.

One of my goals was to pick up yarn for a summer version of Pasticcio, a vest that has been a favorite for two years and never fails to get oohs and aahs. Now, I'm the furthest thing from fashionable, but that vest lets me pretend to be au courant when I feel the need.

There are plenty of varigated wools and blends out there (my first Pasticcio is knitted with Universal's classic worsted in a green and khaki striping colorway), but it's hard to find a good quality, worsted weight cotton that can carry this pattern. I scored at Strings & Strands: Plymouth Fantasy Naturale, in a lovely palette of rich pastels (darker than baby palettes, and light enough for summer). I'm casting on this weekend and expect the vest to be finished in just a couple of weeks - it's a really fast knit. I love the fact that it can be worn two ways: long, with a shawl color, or turned upside down and worn as a bolero.

Now it's time to play outside. The vegetable garden needs petting, I want to cut, seed, and fertilize the lawn, and the weather is just too beautiful to stay indoors. I love Saturdays!

Friday, March 20, 2009

What's the big deal about chickens in the back yard?

It is a big deal. Town by town, governments have legislated whether or not homeowners can have livestock in their yards. No cows in the front yard. No herds of goats chatting noisily over the backyard fence. No roosters crowing before sunrise. No pet pony happily clopping down the street with smallfry on board.

As is usual with omnibus legislation, one size does not fit all. Take chickens, for example. A family with 2 or 3 chickens in a coop behind a fence in the backyard can have plenty of fresh eggs. Add a vegetable garden, and you get self-sufficient sustainability at its best. Chickens make less noise than that barky lab protesting every human, cat, and squirrel walking past its domain and are just as clean as a well tended kennel. (And no, you don't need a rooster to get eggs.)

There's a guy in Roswell who has to go to court because the town code prohibits ALL livestock and some Pharisee complained because IT'S AGAINST THE RULES. The three chickens he hand feeds and tends to in a well built, modest coop are illegal. With yolk-yellow hat on head and fellow chicken coopers in tow, he headed to court, only to have his hearing postponed while the town council thinks things through. (For comic relief, former governor and presentday gadfly Roy Barnes is representing the guy.)

Decatur is a model for sustainability. Vegetable gardens abound, people can walk throughout the community, and there's even an upcoming "coop tour" hosted by the Oakhurst Community Garden for people interested in setting up their own fresh egg station in the back yard. There are few towns more urban than Decatur, tucked right alongside the city of Atlanta. But they're nurturing self-sufficiency and sustainability with equanimity.

I'd like the city of Dunwoody to clarify our own legislation, to specifically allow a few chickens in a fenced back yard (no roosters necessary).


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Night crazies

When we were first married, T and I had two cats: Macintosh, a black and white rowdy boy named for my very first computer, and August, a tortoiseshell cranky gal named for our wedding month. Loved those cats. They were loving and lovable, great friends, and always entertaining.

Particularly at bedtime.

Suddenly, one would tear across the room, lunging from sofa to floor, leaping over the dining table, scampering onto the kitchen counter, and back again, nails digging into the carpet with each speed burst. Soon, they'd intersect each other, ramping up the speed until they were black and brown blurs racing from one room to the next.


Soon after their nightly streak, the cats would saunter to their chosen sleep spots, lick paw and nether regions with complete aplomb, and settle down for the night.

Kids get the night crazies, too. Our youngest has never liked to go to bed without popping up at least three or four times to ask an important question, cuddle just five more minutes, or hit the facilities. She ratchets up before she settles down, a pattern that will likely continue throughout her life.

I've discovered knitters also get the night crazies. Casting on a complicated project after 9 PM is downright demented. I have to get the pattern established before I set it aside for the evening, which means frenzied knitting right past the time I really, really, REALLY need to go to sleep. But there's rarely time to knit until late at night, and I LOVE to knit.

Just one more race. One more question. One more row.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Happy Birthday, AG

Monday, the tween turns 12, ushering in her last year of tweendom. Despite dire warnings and anecdotes by legions of friends and family and "experts" to the contrary, the tween years have been as endearing as the toddler and primary periods. Yes, there are emotional tides, but overall, these years are more about discovery and awakening independence as well as every-night cuddles before bedtime and enlightening conversations driving to and from school.

Thank goodness AG and her friends still consider birthday parties a totally cool thing to do. She scripted her 12th event carefully: dinner at El Azteca in Dunwoody Village, the walk to Bruster's afterward substituted for a drive to Carvel due to the rain, lots of screaming and dancing in the rec room, up past midnight, and homemade waffles and fresh fruit for breakfast. Guys were present for the front end; several of the girls stayed afterward for a sleepover. The cast included many new friends from PCMS as our girl expands her social horizons.

Wonderful kids. So thoughtful and well mannered with me and so completely unhinged with each other. I heard them dancing to Thriller and strumming with Guitar Hero; when I did one of my frequent walk-throughs, they barely noticed me as they continued board games and chatting ad infinitum. Yes, the rec room is completely wrecked. Yes, they're all hoarse from the screaming. Yes, we're all very, very, very sleepy this morning.

Well worth it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Gotta laugh.

A cop passed a minivan driving erratically on the highway. He flashed his lights, turned on his siren, and still the driver kept moving. He drove up beside it and motioned to the driver to pull over. He saw what the problem was . . . she was knitting! He motioned again so she rolled down the window. He yelled, "Pull over!" She yelled back, "No, it's a cardigan!"

Why isn't knitting allowed on airplanes? They're afraid you'll knit an Afghan.

There was once a man and woman who had been married for more than 60 years. They had shared everything. They had talked about everything. Nothing was held back. Well, almost nothing. They had kept no secrets from each other except that the little old woman had a shoe box in the top of her closet that she had cautioned her husband never to open or ask her about.

For all of these years, he had never thought
about the box, but one day the little old woman got very sick and the doctor said she would not recover. In trying to sort out their affairs, the old man took down the shoebox and took it to his wife's bedside. She agreed that it was time that he should know what was in the box. When he opened it, he found two crocheted doilies and a stack of money totaling $250,000. Holy Moley! He asked her about the contents.

"When we were to be married," she started, "my grandmother told me the secret of a happy marriage was to never argue. She told me that if I ever got angry with you, I should just keep quiet and crochet a doily." The old man was so moved, he had to fight back tears. Only two precious doilies were inside the box! She had only been angry with him two times in all those
years of living and loving. He almost burst with happiness. "Honey," he said, "that explains the doilies, but.... what about all this money? Where did it all come from?"

"Oh," she said, "that's the money I made from selling the doilies.

The knitted Elvis wig.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Knitting in the dirt.

Two funerals, a cotillion formal dance, and a weekend in the garden: it's been a rare week. I've been present at the closing of life and labored over seeds of change for our family. All in all, the emotional slope has soared high and low, culminating in a deep sense of rightness.

The tween and I built the square foot garden box on Saturday. We worked well together, her interest never waning as we drilled pilot holes, attached the frame, and mixed the "magic" ingredients: compost I've nurtured all winter, peat moss, and vermiculite.

Saturday evening we prepared dinner together: molasses and soy-sauce marinated chicken thighs, homemade potato salad, and baked beans. Dessert was s'mores with marshmallows roasted over our front yard fire pit. It was a luscious day: hard, physical work, a sense of accomplishment, and soul-filling food shared by the four of us under the darkening sky as birds "brit-brit-britted" above and stars peeked through the still-unleafed trees.

Knitting took a backseat to gardening, though I did make time for it Sunday evening while the teen and tween were wrapping bandages for African hospitals with their youth group. I had to frog the shoulders of the Piedmont Park Hoodie (horribly written directions by the designer that I will have to decode and rewrite so I can finish it). I also worked a few more rows of the latest prayer shawl, in my favorite St. Luke's blues.

Next weekend, we'll plant our spring vegetables: peas, romaine lettuce, red onions, red cabbage, and a few herbs.

I'm thankful for the splendid weekend and feel refreshed for the frenetic to-do's of the week ahead.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

To everything there is a season

To everything there is a season,
a time for every purpose under the sun.
A time to be born and a time to die;
a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
a time to kill and a time to heal ...
a time to weep and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn and a time to dance ...
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to lose and a time to seek;
a time to rend and a time to sew;
a time to keep silent and a time to speak;
a time to love and a time to hate;
a time for war and a time for peace.

ecclesiastes 3:1-8

At Dunwoody Nature Center, we live with the seasons, the ever evolving progression of growth and hibernation, discoveries and losses, miracles and paradoxes. Tomorrow, it will be time to say good-bye to a very dear friend, Bud Burt. He and his wife Donna have given graciously and generously through many, many years to the park, helping to ensure that generations of children discover the wonders of the outdoors and and Dunwoody has a special place to call our own. Bud was a thinker and a doer, bringing the same passion to crunching numbers as he did to the hundreds of roses he nurtured all around his home.

We're fortunate to have been the focus of so much of his energy and dedication. Now we are blessed to share the celebration of his life.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Bacon and eggs.

It's Sunday morning, the rain is pouring outside, and a promise of snow has the kids excitedly checking the windows every few minutes. "When will it start?" they ask. "I don't know. Sometime today." But, I caution, it's very likely to be just a sprinkling of snow, not the mega-snow-day event they long for.

Truth it, I'd love a mega-snow-day, too. Just not right now. I'm prepping for summer camp registration today and tomorrow throngs of parents will line up outside to register their children for fun in the sun this coming summer.

I'm not going to let work dampen the thrill of possible snow, so I'm indulging all of us in a short-order Sunday. That means scrambled eggs and veggie bacon for the tweens post-sleepover, eggs over easy and real bacon for T, and a toasted bagel and cream cheese for the teen. I've nibbled on some veggie bacon and enjoyed some scrambled eggs, a rare treat.

Bacon and eggs. The smell alone is comfort food at the most elemental level. It's childhood and motherhood all wrapped up in sizzling sounds, a favorite cast iron skillet, and the clink of silver against vintage china. It's a quiet moment at the beginning of the day and the week, the perfect time for silent prayers and reflections.

Good morning.