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Knitting happiness

cover170x170Jillian and I were honored to chat with Lisa Cypers Kamen at Harvesting Happiness for the latest podcast! It was refreshing to talk to someone outside the knitting world and share our perspective on what we do every day.

You can hear us for the first half hour. Then an interview with Wool and the Gang follows afterwards.

Let us know what you think in the comments!

(You can also find it on iTunes…)

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Obsession Thursday — trying to prevent brain goopification

We’re all getting older. (Sorry to break it to you.) Some of us feel it more than others, and when you get near that menopause thing, it gets even worse. We know knitting helps keep us sharp, but there’s no reason to stop there. There are lots of apps that claim to help keep your brain sharp too. Both Jillian and I tried Lumosity for a while, and it was interesting, but it was really never fun. It was a chore. I believe we both cursed out the penguins more than once.

downloadA while ago, I did my usual surf around the app store and found Elevate. Another of those free-to-download apps that charge you if you want to do more than cursorily interact with them. I figured it couldn’t hurt to try. Seems Apple likes it — it was 2014’s app of the year. I guess I’m late to the party.

You get 3 games a day for free, and it’s actually FUN to watch your performance improve (or try to make that happen). I found myself wanting to play more than my 3 a day, more than once. So when I saw they had a bit of a sale on a while ago, I sprung for a whole year of pro access (get on their mailing list and you’ll catch a sale at some point). My biggest challenge are the games that involve listening/memory and some of the math-based ones. I am at their Expert level in all the spelling and reading games. Not surprising (you’d hope that an editor’d be good at the word stuff, right?). But even the stuff I’m good at is still a challenge. This is a very well crafted app.

Damn, I love this thing. Instead of turning my brain into a giant gummy bear with Candy Crush Soda INSANITY, now I can use a little down time to exercise my synapses and pump up my neurons. Available for iOS and Android. #noaffiliation

this is fun stuff.

this is fun stuff.

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Obsession Thursday: the iconic NYC black+white cookie

Thanks to elkie465 for the picture of what looks to have been a delicious specimen.

Thanks to elkie456 for the picture of what looks to have been a delicious specimen.

My sister looked at me like I was nuts for being excited to find a black+white cookie at Max’s Deli in Highland Park, Il. “It’s just a sugar cookie,” she said. “Why are you so excited?”

I used to think the same thing. A big cookie, iced half in black and half in white. What is all the fuss about?

People, it is not what you think. The black+white cookie is not just a New York City specialty, it’s magical.

First of all, when authentically made, that cookie is not a sugar cookie. Ha! It’s a beautifully firm-yet-soft lemony sponge. It’s more like cake than cookie, but it’s firm enough to hold itself together. It’s light but satisfying, sweet but not overly so. Then there’s the icing. It’s crisp and snaps when you break the cookie. It’s, I’ve since learned, made with water, not milk or butter or cream. The texture of that thick layer of brittle icing on top of that soft, tart cookie is what makes this a magical experience.

Who invented this cookie is not certain. This article from the New York Times, circa Seinfeld in first run (when Jerry urged us all to “Look to the cookie” when dealing with the complex issue of race) suggests that it’s more than 100 years old. (That same article offers a recipe. You’re welcome.)

My first b+w was purchased at an unremarkable Manhattan bodega, wrapped in plastic wrap. I bought two, just because one never knows if this will be the best thing ever. Besides, how bad could any cookie be?

I opened it on a bus to upstate NY and took a bite and was instantly mad at myself for not buying a dozen. They were wonderful.

Our own Kate Atherley and her husband, Norman, love these things too, so when I found black+white cookies at the kosher Sobey’s (a big Ontario grocery chain) in Thornhill two nights ago, I almost drove a box directly to them. But, as we all learned the next day upon delivery, they’re…okay. There’s a bit of a snap, and a hint of the lemon, but they’re not quite right. Flip over the box, and the reason was revealed: Made in New Jersey. 

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Obsession Thursday: Selling stuff the easy way!

Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 12.07.28 PMWhen I moved to my new neighborhood, I did something uncharacteristic. I turned to Facebook. What resources did it have for me?

Turns out, lots. Neighborhood pages where any local occurrence is dissected and analyzed, complaints about dog poo and unshovelled sidewalks and noise. New businesses are celebrated; old ones mourned when they close. It’s fascinating.

And then there are the Buy and Sell pages. THOSE are my newest obsession. Neighbors offload the stuff they’ve bought to other neighbors, usually at ridiculously low prices, just to get them out the door. I’ve bought (both my air conditioners are less than a year old, and were less than $100 each) and sold (the old Knitty macbook pro just went out the door today). It’s better than eBay or Kijiji or Craigslist. If you have something good to sell, it will be GONE in a flash (my laptop sold in an hour) with no fees. The biggest problem? No-shows. It’s worth the risk.

I keep looking around the apartment to see what else I can sell.

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Welcome, Maryla & Chris!

If you read the blog regularly (and you should!), you may have noticed the first post from our newest Knitty staffer, Maryla Bianco. (How do you pronounce that? Mare-la, she tells us.)

marylaMaryla comes to us via an introduction from a trusted colleague and she’s just getting started with Knitty. Her official title is Assistant to the Editors (that’d be me, Jillian and Kate), and we’re easing her into this role, starting with the weekly WWW updates, every Wednesday on this here blog.

More about Maryla: Maryla comes to us after years in the white collar business world, and has accepted the mission to watch over and assist the editors of Knitty. She has an English degree, which she calls a B.A. in B.S.

She rules the roost of her testosterone-heavy home (a husband and three teenage sons), two terriers and two tabbies (all male).  When she’s not feeding teenagers, she’s knitting, spinning, bird watching, or singing ’70s music at the top of her lungs.

If you read the Editorial (and you should!) of our latest issue, you have already been introduced to our 2nd newest Knitty staffer, Christopher Gernon, our already beloved SysAdmin. Chris was not eased into his role. We asked him to plunge right in, as if he was leaping off the high board into an ice-cold pool. And he blew it out of the water. (OMG, Amy, enough with the stupid metaphors already.) The details are all in that Editorial linked above.
More about Christopher:  As System Administrator, Chris configures servers, manages databases, analyzes logs, researches new technologies, and generally makes sure the site stays up and running.
Chris lives in Rochester, NY, with his wife, kids, and way too many cats. He only discovered knitting in 2013, but immediately fell in love with it and has been trying to make up for lost time ever since. He is frequently known to spend evenings knitting and laughing at The Village Yarn and Fiber Shop.When he isn’t knitting, he enjoys reading, working on amateur electronics, playing videogames, and handing over large sums of money to The LEGO Group. He also collects books (mainly vintage science fiction), puzzles (mainly involving spatial manipulation), and board games (mainly European resource management games with 30-page rule books). He keeps thinking about looking into home brewing, but let’s face it, he already has more hobbies than anyone should.

 

Welcome Christopher and Maryla, would you? They’re a pair of awesome folks and we’re very lucky to have them!

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Obsession Thursday: Helping

Today’s blog comes to you from a rather famous guest. We are in awe of how she uses her influence for the powers of good, and we wanted to help. No one can say it better than she can, so take it away, Stephanie!


This morning I got up early – so early it was still dark, and I made coffee, and while it was brewing, I put on my biking stuff – including the incredibly flattering and esteem boosting spandex. Then I came downstairs again, and sat in the dawning light, eating peanut butter toast and waiting for the text from Jen that would tell me she was at the trailhead. When she got there, I went outside, got on my bike, and as I pushed off down the street to meet her, I marvelled that I was doing it.  I’m training for the Bike Rally again, and I have a secret to tell you.

verychipper 2015-05-13

Jen and I are seen here at the beginning of our ride this morning. 50km before work. What you can’t see is how cold we are. We were attempting supernatural chipperness as an antidote. It helps.

At the end of the Rally last year, I was going to take a year off. Last year was… hard. I don’t know any other way to describe it. The rain, the overwhelming training schedule, my knees – they were really hurting. I think I have a grip on the problem now, but last year? The ends of the rides were all punctuated with ice packs. Also, the issue of the (*&%$%##ing squirrel EATING MY SEAT right before the rally, and having to ride the whole thing on a new one? I’d rather not discuss the impact on my nether-regions, and instead tell you that that year was… hard.  I had a very, very low night about mid-way through the rally, when I cried (by myself, like a grownup) and wondered why the hell I do this to myself, and thought that maybe I would have a break this year. That feeling was still there when we pulled into Montreal. It was amazing to have done it, I was so proud of everything, but I was done. Just… for a while. I imagined all the ways that I could still support this cause without involving my free time, summer vacation, weekends and crotch.  I hadn’t figured out how to tell anyone. Joe knew though, and he said everyone would understand. I thought he was right too.

Then, something happened. PWA was forced to cut some staff and services. The Bike Rally is the sustaining fundraiser for PWA, and we’d failed to sustain them, and the people who use them. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. In fact, the ridership raised more money per rider last year than ever before – there there were fewer riders though, compared to years past, and even though the fundraising efforts were heroic, it wasn’t enough.  This moved me more than I can tell you. This tangible evidence that the Rally is so fundamental, so immediate to the ability of PWA to help people… it just struck me that the choices that I made mattered, and they mattered that day, and something snapped.

I did three important things that day.  I decided to ride again. I decided to accept the position I was offered on the Steering Committee. (Without a word of a lie, I was going to turn it down.) And… I decided to do everything in my power to change the outcome for this year, to try as hard as I could to raise as much as I could.  So, I didn’t quit. I had sort of a bad feeling in my tummy, but I didn’t quit.

Those decisions have had, shall we say… “impact”.  I have the added responsibilities of Steering Committee. I help make decisions that shape the Rally, and make things possible. I go to a lot of meetings. I send a lot of emails, and once again, my summer is going to evaporate into a blur of training rides and Rally stuff, and I’ll probably be away when my new niece of nephew comes – and while I have some feelings about that,  I don’t regret my choice. I feel like it’s important, and I am so, so very lucky to have this time to give. (My arse disagrees, but we are in negotiations.)

rainagain 2015-05-13 (1)

Jen and I are seen here this morning, having lost a little of that chipperness as the rain started, and we became both wet and cold.

So, to make a long story even longer. This summer I will ride my bike more than 600 kilometres from Toronto to Montreal, in The Friends for Life Bike Rally.  This year, we have a little family team, as always.  Ken, long-time rider, blog starter, and the person who roped me into this in the first place. Pato, the most decent 23 year old man alive (he will very much appreciate me saying “man” instead of “boy”)  and Jen – mum, student, employee, wonderful riding partner,  and all four of us… knitters. (Well, in the interest of honesty I feel compelled to tell you that Pato *can* knit, but he doesn’t often. He’s 23. With maturity, will come reason.)  My daughters aren’t joining us this year, because they have work/school schedules that simply cannot allow for the 12 weekend/1 week off work commitments that are the Rally.  (It’s not small potatoes. It eats your vacation.) Look for their influence in other places. They’re still in it.

thatdamnhill 2015-05-13

Jen and I are seen here being handed our arses by a monster hill we couldn’t get up. If you live in Toronto, know that it was Pottery Road. It’s the beginning of training – we couldn’t make it all the way up. We’ll see how we do in a few weeks. It was brutal.

 

Once again, I’m asking for your help. Our commitment means nothing without you.  (I am stopping just short of calling you the wind beneath our wings, thank goodness, although that was a near thing. I deleted it.)  Once again, I’m going to try and raise a ton of money, and I have a private and deeply personal crazy-pants goal. To this end, I’m going to do some things the same way, and some things differently. What stays the same? Karmic Balancing gifts. Once a week (or so) between now and the rally, I’ll chose from amongst the people who’ve helped and redirect a knitterly (or spinnerly) gift from someone else who wants to help.*  What’s different? Who sends their name along.

This year I want it to be all about the Karma. We’re trying to change lives here, make things better for some people, and there’s so much more to that than money, so, here’s the thing. If you donate to anyone on our little team

Me

Ken

Pato

Jen

Then please send me an email letting me know you’ve done so. Make the subject line “I helped” and send it to stephanieATyarnharlotDOTca. (Note the .ca it’s a Canada thing.) Include your name, address, and whether or not you spin.  (For the love of all things woolly, please use the subject line. It makes your email go to a specific folder and you have no idea what a difference that makes to my sanity.) You don’t need to say what you gave, or include proof. I know you’ll do your best, whatever that is, and I know you wouldn’t lie.  What’s new? Not everyone has money to help with – so we’re taking all kinds of help.  If you can figure out some other way to do that, please send in your email. Maybe you can tell a friend. Maybe you can post about it to social media. Maybe you can contribute a gift. There’s lots and lots of ways to help, and if you can figure out a way? Send that email, letting me know you did.

Knitters, lets go big. Let’s fill up the world with amazing, and when everyone at PWA asks who these people are? Ken, Pato, Jen and I will smile and say what we always do. “They’re knitters. You have no idea what they’re made of.”

*If you want to contribute a gift, I’m trying to make it easier for myself this year. It’s a ton of work, and I don’t mind doing it, but I have a better shot at getting it all done if you do this: Take a picture of your gift. Email me with the subject line “Karmic Balancing” with the details, picture and a link, if you want me to use one. When one of the helpers is chosen for a gift, I’ll email you the address, and you can ship it right to them. (It’s not a bad idea to let me know if you have shipping restrictions. I’ll keep track.) Thank you!


Okay, Knitty readers. Can you help in some way? 

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Test is on NOW! (ETA: 7:40pm — test is over)

TEST TIME! Everyone + their budgie, please click the link below. The follow links around for a while within the site:

http://beta.knitty.com

Pretend it’s new-issue day!

Update at 7:07 pm: Please follow me here: http://twitter.com/knittydotcom — I’m posting updates as we have them. This is all good…the fact that it choked is just information. Our SysAdmin is going to tweak things so it won’t do that, but it may be a bit of a process to get there. Your help is appreciated!

Update at 7:40 pm: TEST IS NOW OVER! THANK YOU!

We learned a lot from the problems you all experienced, and so SysAdmin Chris will be doing some adjusting and tweaking and we’ll run another test shortly — probably this weekend.

Thank you for taking time out of your evening to help us make the new server everything we all want it to be! You’re all awesome!

#knittyservertest

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Obsession Thursday: A man.

No, this is not a dating post. In fact, it could be a genderless post entirely, but I thought that title might catch your eye.

This is Christopher. He knits. We love him already.

This is Christopher. He knits. We love him already.

Knitty has a new man. His name is Christopher, and he is going to rock our world. He’s our new System Administrator. He lives in Rochester, NY, with his wife and children and he is a knitter. And he’s come to make Knitty behave better, in a server sense.

He and I have been talking via email and Skype, working to move Knitty to a more suitable server. Not a more expensive one. It turns out we had something twice as expensive as we need, and it still let you all down on launch days. (You know how you have to wait your turn to get in to see a new issue? For hours? Days? That bugs me too.)

So in order to make sure the new server we’ve chosen will do what we want it to, we need your help. It’s easy. Tonight at 7pm eastern time (same time zone as New York City), we’re asking you to come back here and click on the big link that you’ll find on this page. That will take you to what looks like the existing Knitty site, but it’s actually the new server which has a clone of the site. We want as many of  you as possible to try to hit it at the same time to see if it can take the pressure. Click on the main link. Then click around. Look at pages, follow links within the magazine. We’re trying to get thousands and thousands of clicks all at the same time, like we would on a launch day. Click for a while, read some articles, look at patterns. The more pressure we can put on the server for this test, the better.

We won’t need bug reports. Christopher is awesome at looking at the logs to see what happens, and we’ll both be sitting by our computers, watching this whole thing go down. We will monitor any feedback you have on Twitter with the hashtag #knittyservertest. If you want to follow what’s happening from our perspective, I’m at @knittydotcom

We love you guys, and getting us to a server that can finally handle our traffic properly is the first step in being ready for the future. Please spread the word about the test and set an alarm…come back at 7pm tonight and click!

PS The link will be posted here on the Knittyblog, on Twitter and also on our Facebook page. Remember: Going to the existing Knitty site won’t help the test. Please use the special link which I’ll make big and huge and very noticeable.

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Obsession Thursday: Peeping into someone else’s world, legally

Periscope. Voyeurism made legit.

Periscope. Voyeurism made legit.

Anyone who knows me knows I like shiny new toys, even if they’re virtual ones.

I heard about Periscope a few weeks ago and jumped on the bandwagon soon after. Unlike Vine, an app that lets you record 6-second videos that play on a loop (and are strangely mesmerizing), Periscope lets you see whatever the microcaster (rather than broadcaster) wants you to see. Their face or what they’re looking at. Someone tying their shoes? Baking bread. Or, like the guy I watched last week, shaving. Which was really fun, believe it or not. This is much better than an Instagram of my french toast, I promise. And if you’re lucky, you might catch the hypnotic stream from a guy in Japan who makes Edo Sudare — bamboo blinds (and other related things) as he works. I’m sure we’ll see more crafters using this platform soon.

As you microcast, everyone watching can hear you, but you can only read the messages viewers leave. Which can be scarce, or a crazy non-stop stream of chatter. The one-way audio makes sense…it would be aural cacophony otherwise! If you like what you’re watching, you tap the screen and leave a heart. Or a few hundred. And of course, like LIKEs, hearts are what the microcasters are after.

Yup, I’ve microcasted as well. (What a silly word, but it amuses me.) A few times, walking around craft environments like The Purple Purl or the City of Craft show. And a few times from my bed. Totally g-rated, I promise. While bedcasting™, I chatted with someone a few miles away from me, and a nice fellow in Buenos Aires.  These microcasts aren’t always saved for viewing later by anyone who wants to see…but they can be. So you have to catch the show while it’s happening.

It’s kind of addictive. Follow me under the username “knittydotcom”, should you be so inclined. And if you ever catch one of my microcasts, please do say hi! I’ve already met quite a few knitters through this silly thing!

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Obsession Thursday: Freaking out over 3D printing

I am, without question, an early adopter. But I’m also a skeptic. So I’m not the earliest adopter. I need to see how something makes sense to me before I want it. Twitter, Instagram, even the Internet. I knew about them for at least a year before I joined in.

3D printing is another of these amazing things that is just starting to make sense to me, and of course the gateway drug was bling.

I’d been following NervousSystem for years, but didn’t realize they’d come up with software that allowed you to design your own ring or bracelet.  If you’re like me, you’re lost in this brilliant toy already and have stopped reading. Just clicking on that last link allows for some mesmerizing time wasting.

Voro Ring No. 1

Voro Ring No. 1

But what if you want to wear something you’ve created? Do you trust your skills to make something wearable? I imagined making something so bulky I wouldn’t be able to close my fingers. So I went looking, and found Shapeways.

This is the Voro Ring No. 1 by 90grad@gmx.ch. Who clearly knows what she or he is doing. It’s a rendering of what it might look like in stainless steel, and it’s priced at a ridiculous $19. How could I not order it? It was an affordable gamble. Since I know what 3D printing looks like in plastic, I wanted to see how a metal object would come out.

They’re printing designs in stainless and even silver and gold. How is that EVEN POSSIBLE?

My in-the-flesh 3D-printed Voro Ring No 1.

My in-the-flesh 3D-printed Voro Ring No 1.

A few weeks later, my ring arrived at my doorstep. I am fascinated!

Yes, it’s a little yellower than I expected. But it’s solid and strong (I tried to crush it…it won’t crush). It’s rough and it’s super light. And it’s really comfortable to wear.

And it was spewed out of a printer. Does that not make your head explode?

Well, not exactly spewed. The printer emits a thin layer of metal powder in the shape of the design, and then a laser fuses it. Another layer of powder, and then the laser again. Eventually, the design is complete.

Here’s a video of the process, sort of. They’re not showing much. Is that on purpose? Dunno.

I wonder if it’s the bronze they infuse (like they show in the video) that’s made my ring slightly yellow. Dunno.

I do know that I love this thing and may have it plated in something shiny — otherwise, it looks like heavily tarnished sterling silver. Mostly, I’m just really impressed that this exists.

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