2020 Knitting & Pets

It is pretty amazing how much knitting can get done when you don’t leave the house for three and a half months. Working from home for a few months gave me a lot of time back (2.5 hours per day for the most part) that I used for knitting mostly. Not all, but most. So … in 2020 I managed to knit (and to count is is started and finished in 2020):

  • 28 pairs of socks (love knitting socks and will probably forever have a pair on the needles)
  • 1 shawl (do not mind knitting shawls, but I don’t wear them so this is not a repeat knit for me)
  • 1 cardigan (very useful in Florida since everything is air-conditioned)
  • 1 hoodie
  • 1 pull over sweater (limited use case in Florida)
  • 1 tank top
  • 2 short sleeve tops (very large use case in Florida, expect more of these to be done up this year)
  • 1 hat (do not like knitting these)
  • 1 baby blanket

For this year I’d like to complete 4 long-sleeved sweaters (cardigan or pull over, both will count) and 12 pairs of socks. I know I will knit a few short sleeve tops also, but the main goal will be the 4 long sleeve sweaters and 12 pairs of socks.

This year also gave me the opportunity to try a bunch of different independent dyers. I have a full time job and wanted to support small businesses as much as possible, so trying different yarns gave me both really interesting yarn to work with, and the benefit of supporting small businesses (most of whom are women owned and operated). My top three (the three that I have bought from more than once) are:

  • Cat Nappin Indie Yarn: Darlene has great yarn in (of course) some really cool cat themed colors. The Calico Kitty is currently my favorite, but there are several that are just as pretty. The yarn knits up well and blends with other yarns I have hanging around.
  • The Catt Lady: Andrea is a new dyer and she does amazing yarns. Her sense of color is amazing and I find myself going back to her yarns again and again. Smaller selection, but really amazing.
  • Lolodidit: Lauren is the dyer behind this yarn and she has a large selection and tons of interesting bases. I love the Downton Abbey yarn club and the soft squishy goodness I get every month. If I need a specific color or color combination for a project, this is the dyer I know will have it.

As for the pets – they are all still here. Tigger had a few issues this year, but I just kept saying 202 could not have him. He’s on meds and has some really good days, and some really not good days, but on the whole he is good. Arthas is wonderful and happy and is trying to play with the cats a bit. This does not always go over well, but at least he isn’t afraid of them. The girls are still playful kittens at 3.5 years old. They literally play every single day and use the house and furniture as their playground. Almost nothing is safe from them.

Welcome 2021

I’m still here. By here I mean alive, well, and still in Florida. Like a lot of people this year got away from me. The new job (same place, just a promotion to admin and what is officially a district leadership position) is great and has a lot to learn. That is the main reason I went silent for a good few months – every bit of brain power I had went to work and when I got home, I just needed to shut my brain off. So not too much reading, no writing, no experiments – just furry creatures, easy meals, and knitting.

This is not to say I didn’t enjoy my wine – I did. I just didn’t have the (I hate this term but it is appropriate) bandwidth to think about it, take notes (or pictures apparently) and write anything up. However, I can categorize the wine we drank into three categories:

Everyday wine (always under $20 a bottle, often under $10):

  • Trader Joe’s Vinho Verde. This lovely, refreshing, light alcohol and cheap wine was pretty perfect after 10-12 hour days in August and September. Close second here is the Gruner Veltliner. So darn good.
  • Sticking with whites for a moment, the Chinen Blanc I picked up was also lovely. I liked this more than Bob did but it had great herbal notes while still being smooth, crisp and easy to drink.
  • On the red front, I have to admit, Botabox Zinfandel and Black Box Pinot Noir are pretty good every day wines. They are not super complex and I have little desire for more than a glass or so, but for a not bad and pretty good with food, they will more than do.

Good wine that I don’t need an occasion to drink ($20-$30 range):

  • Bedrock Old Vine Zinfandel ($19 a bottle). This is my favorite go to wine. It is a wine I like so much I order it by the case when it comes out each year and then regret not getting more.
  • Desire Lines Cole Ranch Riesling. Again, this is one I order by the case since I can only get it once a year, but it is so incredible good I never regret it.
  • Mutt Lynch – almost anything by this winery is good for regular drinking. The Zinfandel and Pinot Noir are interesting and easy to drink and the Merlot is just perfect for those days. The Rosie Rose is a great summer sipper and none of the wines are so expensive that I feel guilty for drinking them on a regular basis.

Semi-Special Wines (Over $30 but under $40) These are the wines I drink when I want something good, something I’m going to sip and contemplate. I might have one on a regular weekday, but not when I’m super tired because I want to really think about the wine in the glass:

  • MoniClaire Barnside Zinfandel. This is probably the wine I would drink if I could only ever drink one wine. Deep flavors, lots of red fruits with enough mineral notes that it’s interesting and not sweet.
  • Anything by Bedrock – white, red, pink … it’s going to be good. We have multiple red blends and several different single vineyard Zinfandels around and every one is fantastic, slightly different than the others and complex and interesting.
  • Longboard Vineyards Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. These are incredibly good wines that are worth spending the money on. Not cheap, but not super expensive, they are worth it. Lots of depth of flavor and a wine you can think about or just enjoy – which is really hard to do.

Special Occassion wines (more than $40 a bottle). Some wines we save and only drink when we have a real reason to open them. It might be a holiday, my promotion or a celebration of some kind, but there has to be a reason:

  • Under the Wire Sparking Wine. OMG good and better than any Champaign I’ve ever had. Vintaged single vineyard wines that are pretty perfect.
  • Bruliam Pinot Noir. There are very few wines that are $50 a bottle that I think are totally worth it, but this is one of them. I only have one or two in the house, and we will only open these with other people and when celebrating something.
  • Fort Ross Pinotage. We only had two of these from our California trip and I really wish we had more. We saved and then savored the last bottle and I really need to get another bottle or two.

Since this is getting long, I’ll do a separate post for the knitting (I knit a lot last year) and pet update. Happy New Year and here’s to hoping I can get back to a semi-regular posting.

Coffee Talk Socks

Sometimes you pick up yarn and you know immediately what you are going to knit with it. Pattern, size, etc – it is all there in your head as soon as you touch the yarn. The yarn I got from my knit-a-long was just that – as soon as I saw it I knew exactly which socks I was going to knit, and I decided I was knitting them just for me!

These are called Coffee Talk and it is apparently a pretty popular pattern. There is a texture front, a ribbed side, contrasting heel, toe and cuff that also has a fade at the toe. I do love how these look, but it will be a while before I knit another pair. the toe is all in purl stitches and between the two color yarns, the purl to decrease and the just general pain (literally in my wrist) of knitting that many purl stitches in a row, it was just too much for me. I love them and will wear them proudly, but maybe next time, I just do a regular toe.

Girly Girl Pinot Noir

  • Producer: Mutt Lynch Winery
  • Location: Sonoma, CA
  • Year: 2016
  • Price estimate: $45
  • Tasting notes: Garnet in color with some transparency at the edges. Very little on the nose. Underripe strawberry, bright cherry and a little bramble are the dominant flavors, but there is a dusky/darker element to the wine. Very plum on the finish – good length finish, but not the longest I’ve ever had.
  • Conclusions: Good wine, lots of depth. Needs some time to open to really shine, but it is good.
  • Notes: This came in our club shipment from Mutt Lynch this spring and I was intrigued. I mean, the label is fantastic, so of course I’m going to want to pop it open. It is good, but for me, I actually prefer the Miss Understood Pinot from the same producer. There are more riper fruit notes in that one that is my personal preference. I’m hoping a different bottle of this will have some of those flavors, but if not, it’s still a good wine.

I Want To Believe Socks

Val is one of my favorite people to knit socks for because she is always so excited by the socks. After Easter I ordered some yarn from a few different places (I now have an actual stash of sock yarn!) and from one I picked a mystery skein. This could be something that was a mistake when dying, a discontinued line, something new or just a random skein, but you don’t get to pick color or fiber etc when ordering. I like surprises with my yarn, so I went for it and I am SO glad I did.

As soon as I pulled this one out, I knew it was socks for Val. Blues and greens, some neon green even, and a really soft feel. I worked my way through the socks that were on my needles quickly and then cast these on. I went with a step above a plain sock and I think the pattern ended up working really well with the yarn.

Thankfully Val liked them as much as I hoped she would. The heel, a different construction for me, didn’t work as well as my regular heel, so that is good feedback for the next pair I make her (which is already planned and may involve sparkly yarn). But I am really happy with these.

California Blanc de Blanc

  • Producer: W. Donaldson
  • Location: Sonoma California
  • Year: 2017
  • Price estimate: $20 (Naked Wines)
  • Tasting notes: Straw colored in the glass with good bubbles. Notes of apple and yeast on the nose. Very fresh and clean tasting. Apple, pear, some yeast and a bit of cut grass. Not a long finish, but good.
  • Conclusions: Good wine and for the price, I don’t mind opening a bottle of bubbly on a random weekday. This isn’t a wine to really savor and contemplate, but it is a good drinking wine and it paired really well with the cheese we had one night. (It also paired well with Pad Thai).
  • Notes: This was one of the wines we got in our Naked Wines case, so it isn’t something you can pick up at the store. It was a tad sweet to drink on its own – for me, that is, I just prefer a really dry bubbly – but it did go really well with dinner and actually made some of the stronger cheese better.

It’s not socks!

2020 is the year of the sock for me. I knit my first pair over Winter Break in December and have become, I’ll fully admit, addicted to knitting socks. There is just something about the length of the project (about 2-3 weeks usually) that is long enough to feel like a project but short enough that I don’t get bored. There are enough milestones in each sock to give the sense of accomplishment along the way, and each pair only uses one skein of yarn so I can create lots of different socks.

But … there is more to knitting than socks (although maybe not so much this year). One of the groups I follow on line did a knit along for a shawl this year, and I decided, why not. I don’t really wear shawls, but figured it would be something different to knit and give me a chance to use some yarn from my stash. So . . . I knit a shawl. I’m still not sure where I’m going to wear it – possibly in the office – but it’s pretty and super soft.

Dakine Vineyard Merlot

  • Producer: Longboard Vineyard
  • Location: Sonoma, Ca (Russian River Valley)
  • Year: 2015
  • Price estimate: cannot remember for the life of me
  • Tasting notes: Garant in color and opaque in the glass. nose of black fruits and baking spices, with nutmeg coming through. Flavors of blackberry, current, really ripe raspberry and a little licorice. Long finish – some tootsie roll, black forest cake and lots of cherry on the end.
  • Conclusions: This is not your typical Merlot. It has the typical Merlot flavors, but turned up and deep. Every sip was slightly different and I was so happy with this wine.
  • Notes: I bought two bottles of this somewhere around 2017. The first bottle we drank shortly after buying, but it wasn’t to my taste. There were a lot of tannins and it just seemed harsh, so I put the bottle away with a note to not open it until 2020. Well … it’s 2020 and we decided to give it a go. The day we opened it, I was sad. It was harsh, hard to drink and had a ton of tannin and vine taste. It was fine with food, but not something I could sit and sip. We put it away for the night and tried again the next day. Holy cow was I glad we did. The transformation in the wine was amazing. It became everything we love about Merlot and had none (and I mean none) of the harshness, tannins or bramble flavors it had the day before. It was amazing and one of the best wines I’ve had all year. Now I’m sad that I don’t have any more of it, but I do have a bottle of Malbec from Longboard that I’m going to open the day before I want to drink it. Fingers crossed it just needs to open for a day to be as amazing.

Socks for Bob

After I got a few good pairs of socks down, Bob and I started talking about what kind of socks I should knit for him. He wanted something warm – really warm – and thick. Yes, we live in Florida, but as he put it, if he is going to wear socks, he wants warm socks. Okay, worsted weight or DK weight yarn it is, now for color and pattern. This took a little more time. We kept trying to go through yarn in my (every growing) stash of yarn, but nothing was coming up just right. So, after Easter when I was ordering some yarn for a specific pair of socks for me, I added a pretty grey/black/white DK weight yarn for Bob’s socks. the color is called Grey Tabby, so I liked it immediately.

I was really surprised at how fast these knit up. The patter was super simple and with the heavier weight yarn I managed to finish the pair in just under a week. It took the entire skein of yarn (larger feet = more yarn) but they came out really well and fit pretty much perfectly. Bob was happy with his new socks and has started planning for the next pair. I did mention I have a queue of about 7 pairs before his next pair, but we will get to another pair for him soon-ish.

2018 California Pinot Grigio

  • Producer: D.H. Elliott
  • Location: California
  • Year: 2018
  • Price estimate: $10-$13 (Naked Wines)
  • Tasting notes: Pale straw color. First impression was of chardonnay when tasting – smooth and creamy like a chardonnay, and the flavors of apple, pear, lemon curd and a touch of vanilla made this not your typical Pinot Grigio. A few herbal notes came mid-palate and there was some nice bramble and peach on the finish. Good flavor and interesting to drink.
  • Conclusions: When I opened this bottle I was not expecting this wine. I was thinking it would be either not much flavor at all (unfortunately like a lot of Pinot Grigio out there) or very citrus forward. It wasn’t. This was a really good, lots of good flavor Pinot Grigio. After being opened a day, more of the citrus came out, but the smooth texture was still there making this a wine I may very well pick up again.