Monday, December 01, 2008


"No one is as capable of gratitude as one who has emerged from the kingdom of night." (Elie Wiesel)

Need I say more? Happy belated Thanksgiving. We spent it with Ed's brother and sister-in-law and their 2-year-old in Kentucky. For more pix of that trip, see here.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Look, Ma, no cable needle!

"What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?" (George Eliot)

Remember this sweater that I started B.S. (before Sam)? It's the Dougie Dog Sweater from Lucinda Guy and has 37 cables across each row. I was seriously doubting my ability to ever finish it, not to mention finish it in time for its intended recipient (my godson Lincoln) to wear before he's too big for it.

Well, now there's at least a chance. I learned the nifty "cabling without a cable needle" technique from Grumperina, which I'm using on the front (I had already finished the back). It involves letting a stitch hang in midair (which would be more stitches with a larger cable), so I'm not sure I would use it for all cabling. But it works great for this pattern and really makes the cable row go much more quickly. Still, I've got quite a bit of the front to go, plus the two sleeves. And not a lot of time to knit.

Speaking of cables, I made this nice cabled baby hat, thinking it might fit Sam, but it is too small. I really like the pattern though. Maybe if I just rewrote it to have another repeat. Yea, in my spare time!Look at that drool. He's getting two more teeth. He's also going through a "must be held by Mama at all times" stage. We're happy that he's attaching, but it drives me a little nuts. That, combined with his sleep issues (very short naps and still not sleeping through the night) makes it pretty impossible for me to get anything done, never mind a sweater with 37 cables across each row!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

I was there!

"This victory alone is not the change we seek – it is only the chance for us to make that change." (President-elect Barack Obama, Nov. 4, 2008, Grant Park acceptance speech)

Just me and a quarter of a million other ecstatic Americans celebrating the election of the first non-white president in our country's history. What a party! I got there late (waited until I put Sam to sleep at my friend Kristin's, so didn't get there until 9:30ish. Ed was working the election returns.) The line for ticket-holders was about a mile long, but after it was announced that he won, they just moved all of us into the non-ticket area. So I wasn't able to see him (or meet up with my sister and her family), but I had a great view of the Jumbo-tron. And it was energizing just to be around so many happy people! Even the CTA was organized. I was really proud of my city.

And proud to have been part of making this happen. On Election Day, my sister and I made our third trip to Indiana during this campaign , knocking on 82 doors in a final GOTV attempt. (Some say Indiana is still too close to call, but others are saying it went for Obama, the first time Indiana went for a Democratic president since the 60s.) This is the first time I've gotten this involved in a campaign (donating and volunteering, although I also volunteered once on Obama's Senate campaign). I really am inspired by his integrity, his own personal story, and his concern for the least among us. In fact, it is my Catholic/Christian faith that led me to become a Democrat and to be so excited about Obama.

I was touched by McCain's speech (wish we'd seen more of that side of him during the campaign), though I can't think of anything nice to say about Palin, so I'll just keep my mouth shut. I hope that those who didn't support Obama will give him a chance. I think they will be pleasantly surprised by the job he will do as leader of this country. Lord knows we need a good one now.

Enough politics for now. Back to knitting and crafting soon.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


"In the right light, at the right time, everything is extraordinary." (Aaron Rose)

I'm having trouble loading photos into Blogger. It keeps rotating them. So I posted a few of them through Flickr and it's causing some bugs too. Anyway, I wanted to show the cleaning/babyproofing/purging we did after everyone left from Sam's birthday/baptism weekend. We got a nice soft and big (9 x 12) carpet remnant for our living room for under $300 (and it's wool).

Before we had my smaller (6 x 9) rug from India (see "Before" photo below), which I wanted to save from spit-up. We had already gotten rid of one table to make some open space for Sam to crawl around and had laid down an old carpet with a quilt (made by my Aunt Pat) on it. We moved that old carpet into our kitchin to protect Sam's head from the hard tile. It's ugly but it does the trick.

We also got rid of the coffee table (already a replacement to my Sticks one, which is in storage till the kids are older) and a Tiffany-style lamp that was broken. Also in the trip to Salvation Army went my husband's stereo, which took up half of our armoir, with a woofer that was about two feet cubed. All that empty space is now toy storage. We now have so much more room for Sam to play and for us to get on the floor with him. And the decluttered look helps my sanity!

Sam with his birthday balloon: Before (above) and after (below). Nice shots of Aunt Pat's quilt, too!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Falling leaves

"If I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns." (George Eliot)

Remember these from last year? This garland of fall leaves was made out of recycled felt with embroidered veins. If you'd like to make your own, I put together a kit with the felt, yarn and pattern (a Martha Stewart one no longer online) that's available in my etsy shop. I don't have tons of time to craft these days, but if you really wanted a already-made garland, I could make one for you. Just email me at spiritualknitter (at) gmail (dot) com.

I'm also making some felt leaf pins (like these but in a variety of shapes and colors) as gifts for my felt orders. Lots of other felty goodness for sale in my shop, too. And, as usual, if you have any special requests, I can probably fill them. My felt collection runneth over!

Speaking of all leaves, how cute is this guy playing in them? More pictures of Sam here.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Picnic in the park

"And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye." (Antoine De Saint-Exupery)

Look at that sweet boy! I'm making kissing noises at him. We had a nice picnic in the park with our friends Jon and Kristin and their son Lincoln on Saturday. We ate sandwiches from our favorite Vietnamese sandwich shop under a nice shady tree in the park next to our house. Kristin took a bunch of photos of Sam and me. Our camera is a little heavy with photos of Sam and his Daddy.

Actual knitting content! I started this sweater for little Lincoln earlier this summer and got about 2/3 through the back before we left for Vietnam. On the flight over, I almost finished the back. And since we've gotten Sam, I've done maybe 10 rows.

I love this pattern (Dougie Dog Sweater from Lucinda Guy) but those cables are a bitch! Just for the record, there are 37 of them (yes, THIRTY-SEVEN) on each row. And the whole front and sleeves are in this pattern too. (Also, I have to learn intarsia to do the pocket.) What was I thinking? I know what I was thinking: I don't have a child; let's do this really complicated sweater for my good friend's son. Now I worry I'll never finish it. And I won't let myself start anything new till I do. Wish me luck...

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Busy weekend

It's been a busy weekend here at the Schlumpf-Butler household. Sam continues to get used to his new surroundings. His schedule is getting more regular, but unfortunately it includes only very short naps (usually about a half hour). He is sleeping pretty well at night, although it can take a long time to get him down.

He attended his first birthday party--for our friend Lincoln, who turned 2, on Saturday morning. It was a great party, outdoors on a sunny day, with about 20 people. There were Bloody Mary's for the adults and an Elmo cake for the kids. Sam especially loved the balloons.

Sam has been eating solid food, too. In addition to the yogurt mixed with rice cereal, we also added sweet potatoes yesterday and he loved them. He likes to feed himself and puts the spoon in his mouth. I love messy kid-eating photos. Look at those hands!

On Sunday our friends John and Leigh Ann visited with their daughter Josephine, who is one month younger than Sam. Sam was even a bit taller than Jovie. She was wearing this adorable sweater I knit her when she was first born. She looks so girly-girl in it. I think Sam and Jo-Jo will be good friends.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Nanny gifts

"We must not only give what we have, we must give who we are." (Desire-Joseph Mercier)

For our adoption of Sam, we brought gifts for those who helped facilitate the procedure in Vietnam. Most important were the gifts for the 23 nannies who cared for our son the first 10 months of his life. I knew I wanted to do something handmade but wasn't sure what. So first I hand-painted the gift bags for their gifts. I stamped flowers and polka dots on them.

Then I made felt violet pins (The violet is the state flower of Illinois, which I meant to explain in a translated card, but never got around to that.) I used a purple felted sweater and cut out two petal pieces, embroidered them with lilac thread, then attached them with a yellow button. Finally I added the green leaves and a pin on the back. I know they probably have no idea what they are or that I made them, but it was important for me to include a piece of me in their gifts.

To see the entire gift bag, see this post on our adoption blog (which is where we're putting the cute Sam photos.)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

All baby, all the time

"While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about." (Angela Schwindt)

I got to do something very exciting today: I dressed my child with a sweater that I hand knit. I have knit so many baby gifts over the past four years for other people, and finally it's Sam's turn to wear something made with love by me! I can't remember if I posted this when I finished it or not. It's the chunky cardigan from Simple Knits for Cherished Babies, made out of Cotton-Ease in "Maize." I knit it this summer and it fits him perfectly, so hopefully he can wear it this fall.

He fell asleep in the car on the way home from church so I just put him down with it on. We went to St. Gert's for the baptism of some friends at the parish, Jim and Katie and their little boy Neil (who was not happy when that oil was put on his head!). I didn't take any pictures of them (oops) but took one of this Nigerian family who was also having their baby baptized. Aren't those headdresses cool?

It's pretty much all baby, all the time around here. It's been a week and already Sam may be over the jet lag. He's sleeping at night, anyway. (Knock on wood.) He's napping a lot today, which is new. He's had some stress from all the change and we've had to re-evaluate how many new people he should meet in this first weeks. I've been blogging about that at our adoption blog.

Meanwhile, our neighbors watered our plants while we were gone and our little tomato plant is bearing fruit. There are seven cherry tomatoes on there right now, and Andy reports he ate a few while we were gone, too. I can't wait to have a real garden, but this is a moderate success for a deck garden. In addition, our many basil plants are doing well (indoors). I should make and freeze some pesto soon. When I'm not holding or playing with the baby!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Samuel Dieu

"Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see." (John W. Whitehead, The Stealing of America)

Introducing Samuel Dieu Schlumpf Butler. We are home from our two-week trip to Vietnam to adopt our son. It was an amazing trip, and now we're all trying to get over our jet-lag and help Sam get used to his new surroundings. It's all quite disruptive and scary for him, as you might imagine.

I'm sorry I forgot to remind Spiritual Knitter readers to follow our adoption blog while we were gone. But you can go here and start reading from Sept. 5 to catch up. Thanks for all your well wishes and prayers. We are a family now!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

It's curtains for you!

"Tell the timid to take heart; the Lord our God will come." (From the monastic liturgy)

So, if you had only six days to get ready for a 2-week international trip that also happened to include "childbirth," what would you do? Make curtains, right? That's what I did last week: painted our bedroom, made drapes for that room, and made curtains for the baby's room. Of course, these are things that have been on my to-do list all summer, but I just couldn't get myself to do them. I think there was a part of me that never really believed this would finally happen. Well, now it is!

We wanted some drapes to darken our bedroom (Samuel will probably sleep in there initially since he's not used to sleeping alone), but I didn't want to spend a bundle. I found this Pottery Barn duvet cover at a thrift and decided to cut it up and make curtains. We had a lot of windows to cover so I needed lots of fabric. It took more seams than I would have liked because I had to cut around a hole, but they turned out pretty nice and match the wall paint perfectly. That pretty much took me all day Saturday.

I also made these cute curtains from an Ikea shower curtain for the baby's room. They also match perfectly, and the shower curtain was only $20. They need to be lined so they'll be darker but I found some room-darkening curtains at Target on clearance for $6 that should work for lining. Because I'll have so much time to sew once Sam's home!

There were so many details to finish up this week, but we're coming down the home stretch now. I taught my last class last night and today we're packing everything up. Tomorrow by this time we'll be in the air on the way to Ho Chi Minh City! If you want to follow our adoption journey, we hope to post to our adoption blog if we can get past the firewall.

Friday, August 29, 2008


"America, we cannot turn back. Not with so much work to be done. Not with so many children to educate, and so many veterans to care for. Not with an economy to fix and cities to rebuild and farms to save. Not with so many families to protect and so many lives to mend. America, we cannot turn back. We cannot walk alone." (Barack Obama's acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, August 28, 2008)

Wow. What a speech. What an inspiration. I can't wait until this man is the leader of our country. I know I'm going to work to make that happen.

Speaking of politics, my politically named godson, Lincoln, was among those in Springfield for the rally where Obama announced Joe Biden as his running mate. There he is meeting Biden!

And there he is getting kissed by Michelle Obama!

If that wasn't exciting enough, we got some even more exciting news the next morning. Vietnam, here we come!!!!! Believe it or not, we leave in seven days. Sam, we're bringing you home so you can live the American promise Barack talked about. Finally.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

In Stitches

"And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye." (French author Antoine De Saint Exupery)

As we continue to wait (and wait and wait) for final approval to travel to Vietnam to get our son, I got a nice distraction last weekend at the Stitches Midwest fiber arts convention. My mom and her friends Marge and Carrie came into Schaumburg (a suburb of Chicago) for it and invited me to come along. This is becoming an annual tradition (photo of us last year here).

We spent most of Friday shopping at the marketplace then went to the fashion show. There was lots of wonderful yarn, patterns and other knitting stuff there, but what caught my eye was this tote bag at one of the booths. I immediately noticed that it was Vietnamese writing and loved the funkiness of how it's made out of the heavy plastic from fish bags. It's made by Lantern Moon, an organization that sells handcrafted items (including knitting needles) produced by an education and income-generation project in Vietnam. I fell in love with the bag, so of course my generous mom bought it for me! Thanks, Mom!

She also bought me this sock yarn, called Sockina, which creates a cool Fair Isle pattern automatically when you knit socks. It's a nice thick cotton in a pretty blue/green/brown color. Here's what the socks look like:

After the fashion show, we had dinner at California Pizza Kitchen, then stayed at the Holiday Inn in Schaumburg. It had so many pools (two lap pools, two jacuzzis and one big pool) but I was too pooped to swim. But it was a fun day, plus my mom taught me how to do duplicate stitch, so I can finish the watermelon hat I knit a few weeks ago. Thanks again, Mom, for a fun day together.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Thrifty wedding

"Come, walk on the water with me! I'm in the mood for impossible things!" (Macrina Wiederkehr)

Thrifters often like to brag about their "big score." Well, this one isn't mine, but it's worth sharing. My friend Delia, who got married earlier this month to Liam, bought her wedding dress at a thrift store. Isn't it gorgeous (and she looked stunning in it). It was a simple silk Vera Wang dress. The cost: $4.95.

It was a beautiful and meaningful ceremony and nice outdoor reception. Here are what we affectionately call "the men's auxiliary" of my long-time women's group. They are from left Mike (D'Arcy's husband), Tim (Staci's husband), Jeff (Karen's husband), Ed (Suzanne's boyfriend), Ed (my hubby) and Jason (Lourdes' husband). Handsome group of guys, huh?

A shot of Ed and me, since I know my mother-in-law will want to see one!

I just finished their wedding gift and delivered it today. I made a table runner out of this gold drapery fabric. I know it matches their dining room perfectly, because we both have the same color (Benjamin Moore Dorset Gold--which my sister also used) on our walls.

I also stitched some ginkgo leaves on some flour sack dish towels (a hand-embroidered dish towel or two is becoming my new wedding gift). Delia and Liam used the ginkgo leaf as a symbol for their wedding invites and programs because their first kiss was under a ginkgo tree. This quote was on their programs:

This leaf from a tree in the East,
Has been given to my garden.
It reveals a certain secret,
Which pleases me and thoughtful people.
Does it represent One living creature,
Which has divided itself?
Or are these Two, which have decided,
That they should be as One?
To reply to such a Question,
I found the right answer:
Do you notice in my songs and verses
That I am One and Two?
--Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Friday, August 15, 2008

White sox

"Let me light the lamp," says the star, "and never debate if it will help to remove the darkness." (Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore)

Not THOSE White Sox--I'm a Cubs fan! Here is the completed camping knitting: two itsy-bitsy baby socks and a little hat in white (left) and a slightly larger pair of cotton off-white baby socks.

I got the white fingering yarn at the thrift store, and although it felt wooly, I wasn't sure if it was wool, a blend, or just acrylic. My mom reminded me of the burn test: If you burn wool yarn, you end up with ash; if you burn acrylic, it's kind of melts. This melted.

This cotton is also a blend (70% cotton, 30% acrylic). Not sure where I got this yarn; I think someone gave it to me. I'm trying to knit my stash into gifts to have on hand. I can decorate these basic white and off-white baby things with pink ribbon or little dinosaur buttons or something as appropriate. More stash-busting to be shared soon.

And, yes, these pictures are taken on my Notre Dame beach towel, which I've been using a lot. I swam 18 laps yesterday and 20 today. Michael Phelps I'm not; I'm slow and steady. And you know what they say about that. I keep thinking of it as a metaphor for our adoption.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Chinese cherry pie

"A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song." (Chinese proverb)

Our friends John and Leigh Ann had people over to watch the opening ceremonies of the Olympics in China. We ordered--what else?--Chinese food, and I brought dessert. Ta-da! My first made-from-scratch (even the crust) cherry pie. The cherries, of course, are from our Door County camping trip. I will admit that I didn't pick them myself! I'm pretty proud of how pretty this turned out, with the lattice crust and all. And it tasted pretty yummy, too. I was happy to share it with friends at a party.

The opening ceremonies were awesome. A lot of people in the adoption community have mixed feelings about the Olympics. Some are so frustrated with the long wait for a baby from China and wish the Chinese government would spend more on their orphanages, rather than pyrotechnics to impress the world. Others were proud of the presentation of their future child's culture. I'm more of the latter.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Wilderness knitting

"You can't be brave if you've only had wonderful things happen to you." (Actress Mary Tyler Moore)

How's that for chutzpah--I brought white knitting on our camping trip to Door County! I just grabbed the most portable project already on my needles and it was a baby hat in white fingering yarn from my stash. Believe it or not, I kept it clean!

Ed and I have made a tradition of going camping at Newport State Park in Door County, Wisconsin every summer or early fall since the year before we got married (previous years here and here). So this was Camping Trip #4--and (as we've been saying almost every year) our last one without kids. It will be car camping after that. We hike in about two miles with our packs, although this year we weren't able to get our beloved Site #8 and instead had to settle for #9. (There were wild raspberries everywhere!) This was the first year that we arrived in time to set up our tent before dark. We even had time to spare!

Site #9 had better water access and we actually went swimming off our site (after walking down a fairly long path). We also swam at the public park swimming hole, where it was pretty mucky. But it was HOT this trip, and Site #9 is not as shady, so we had to move our chairs to the shady spot near the water (where I knit).

For a Schlumpf-Butler camping trip, this one was pretty uneventful: no rain, no visits from critters. Thunderstorms were forecast for all three days but we only saw rain on the drive up. I've learned that tissues stuck in my ears as earplugs help me sleep without imagining every very little twig snap to be a bear visiting our site. Attractive look, huh? (The headlamp is to read my book before bed. I finished River, Cross My Heart.) I know I've written this before, but I really hope this is our last camping trip without kids.