Wine for your Weekend: QuarantWINE(s) #2

Shout out to my sister-in-law who text messaged me this week for wine recommendations before she sent my brother-in-law to the liquor store to stock up before the shelter in place order went into effect! They are sheltering the right way!

This week in Minnesota, like many places in the world, things escalated in the pandemic, with our very own shelter in place order going into effect tonight at 11:59 until April 10th. Schools, bars, and restaurants will continue to be closed for everything but takeout/delivery until May 4th. And thus, the self isolation and social distancing continues.

Consequently, I think the liquor business is booming in the time of the quarantine. I’ve read numerous articles about bars in states that have relaxed their liquor laws to allow bars to deliver booze as part of “food delivery.” Some restaurants have gone to selling “cocktail kits” with all the mixer ingredients, to which you add a shot from your own liquor cabinet. And wine, well I get almost daily email reminders from some of my favorite wineries reminding me that they will ship wine right to my door.

I recently pointed out to Josh that if we wouldn’t have had drinks with dinner every night pre-shelter in place, we probably shouldn’t do it during shelter in place.

He agreed…as we both sipped our wine!

But back to my sister-in-law. She texted looking for “white” and “sweeter” wines, which tend to get a little lost in my recommendations that tend to lean towards full bodied reds. So this week, I’m getting a couple excellent whites back to the top of the list for those of you who prefer something on that end of the spectrum!

Bree Riesling

First up is Bree Riesling which looks more like a bottle of liquor than a bottle of wine. Light and crisp flavors of green apple and lime dominate the palette, though the wine is not particularly tart or acidic. It’s sweet, but not overly sweet, and is very refreshing when well chilled. I’d say it’s a great patio wine, and if you’re in a location warm enough for patio sitting, you should definitely get the fresh air! It’s good for your mental health, and it’s COVID-19 free!

One of the wine makers recommended pairings is actually Asian food, and if you’re brave enough to venture out for take out, you can probably still pick up Chinese somewhere around town. At $11, the price is right to stock up a few bottles for the long haul.

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Next up, another Riesling, Clear Night Riesling.  From the same region as Bree Riesling, Clear Night featured many of the same fruit notes, and is again balanced by a slight crispness that is neither too sweet nor too dry, though of the two, this one is slightly sweeter than the Bree. This may be the “juicy notes of pear” referred to in the official tasting notes.

Take out options aside, food pairings, at this points, are whatever you have in your social distancing stock. The grocery stores have plenty of food, but their not fun places to be right now. We went yesterday for produce and coffee, and I just wanted to yell at everyone “SIX FEET APART PEOPLE!” Not everyone understands personal space! Fortunately, this wine is very versatile, so dig through that cupboard, make yourself a responsibly self isolated meal, and enjoy!


Week 48 – Racing to beat the end of the World!

There was a moment this week, when this whole COVID-19 thing flipped a switch in my brain from “This is kind of interesting. I wonder how this is going to go down!” to “OH SHIT! This is bad. This is going to ruin everything!”

And once I got through processing how many people could get sick, and how many people could die, and what the rest of the school year might look like, and how many AirBnb cancellations we were going to have, I looked at Josh poised to say that pesky little ten word phrase that I’ve rationed so carefully through this project. But he cut me off: Kate! You can’t say that a PANDEMIC is the reason you never wanted to build a house! You can’t even say that a pandemic was on your radar screen.

That’s fair! It was not.

Will it slow us down again…maybe. Mother Nature ran out of weather delays after 2019, so why not throw in a global health crisis?

So after losing my head for a moment, I switched into my hyper-vigilant planner mode and announced that we needed to go to Home Depot immediately to buy all our paint so that if we got quarantined we could still move between houses to make progress!

This new found urgency also insured that I couldn’t and wouldn’t deliberate endlessly over color choices, as we were on the clock…and didn’t know how much time that clock had on it!

So armed with the 20 paint chips I’ve collected in the past 9 months, off to Home Depot we went, where I promptly picked 5 new paint chips from the rack and designed the color scheme of the house. (Ok…promptly in a generous adverb…but it could have taken much longer had I not been paranoid social distancing and all that!)

If you look for the color blocks with the pen scribbles in them, those are the ones we picked for various places. Working left to right: upstairs bedrooms, hallways/entryway/stairwell, living room, dining room, our bedroom and bathroom. The only paint we didn’t pick was the guest bathrooms so that we could wait to match to the tile.

Of course, the reason we’re really able to talk about paint at all is because while conditions out in the world rapidly deteriorated this week, conditions inside the house dramatically improved!

It’s amazing how different it feels in the house with the walls closed up! I LOVE it. And while some spaces seems smaller with clearly defined edges, others felt really open and gave us a really good sense of how things were all going to come together in there.

All things willing, the mud/tape crew will still be able to come this week to finish the drywall job, and then the project will be turned back over to us to begin all the finish work! Fortunately, we can “shelter in place” if need be between our two homes without exposing ourselves or anyone else to anything while we work!


Wine for your weekend: QuarantWINE #1

Well that escalated quickly!

Last weekend, we changed our travel plans after the show we were traveling to see was cancelled, but at the time it seemed a general inconvenience and out of (if you remember the phrase everyone was using just seven days ago!) an abundance of caution.

I can’t be the only one who felt like time both sped up and slowed down in equal parts this week!

A week later, no one is saying an “abundance of caution” anymore. It’s instead become if we do not do these common sense things than the whole state may need to shelter in place.

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There’s not currently a shelter in place order in Minnesota, but this week bars and restaurants were closed for everything but take out or delivery, and it seems likely that other “non-essential” businesses may be asked to follow suit shortly.

As bars were closing, a subsequent run on liquor stores took place. You thought people were stressed about not having enough toilet paper!? That’s nothing compared to people not having their drink of choice in the middle of self quarantine!

Not that I ever thought I’d compare these two things…but we always have more wine in our house than toilet paper. And being adequately supplied in both, seems like there’s not better time to just stay home, open a bottle of wine, and tune out the world for a while! So in the weeks ahead, I’ll be featuring some “QuarantWINES” for your beverage pleasure in the midst of these difficult times. Some are new, some are old favorites, all should be easily accessed and well stocked at your local liquor store when you need to go out for those “essential” errands.

First up… Klinker Brick Old Vine Zinfandel 

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I’m a self-proclaimed zinfandel lover, so invariably there’s always at least one zin around the house. However, I like Klinker Brick because it’s not quite the stereotypical, “jammy,” offering many expect.

Klinker Brick Zinfandel is a punch in the mouth, with 15.9% alcohol and sharp tannins that pierce through the first notes of anything that might be described as fruity, full-bodied, or jammy. Give the wine about 20 minutes, as after decanting, the complexity and depth of the wine really begin to open up, revealing a plush, smooth flavor much different from the first few sips.

The “Old Vines” used in Klinker Brick are over 80 years old, and the small yields from the well established vines are more concentrated in flavor and the characteristics of the wine growing region. That said, the potent nature of the wine will potentially over power many tradition meal pairings. It’s a good after dinner wine to stand alone on its own, or punch back with a square or strong dark chocolate.


A book for the moment

Every now and then, a book lands in my hands at precisely the right moment. Which is how it felt when Rebecca Solnit’s A Paradise Built in Hell became available at my local library just hours before they closed their doors to the public in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Subtitled: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster, this is a book for the moment!

The book is an investigation of a fleeting emotion, one that pours forth in moments of shared disaster and tragedy, and binds humanity together in away that day to day living simply cannot. This brief, purposeful “joy” is not something to be wished for, for to do so is to invite disaster, but rather something from which to draw courage, faith, and purpose in moments of crisis.

During these moments, Solnit writes, we see the best of society, we are united a common purpose. Everyday concerns and divides vanish. People rise to the occasion.

“What is this feeling that crops up during so many disasters?” Solnit asks. “An emotion graver than happiness but deeply positive,” worth studying because it provides “an extraordinary window into social desire and possibility.” Our response to disaster gives us nothing less than “a glimpse of who else we ourselves may be and what else our society could become.”

The book examines five catastrophes in depth: the 1906 earthquake in San Fransisco, the Halifax explosion in 1917, the Mexico City earthquake in 1985, 9/11, and Hurricane Katrina. It also considers the London Blitz, Chernobyl, among other social upheavals from which come extraordinary stories of community and connectedness. In each she finds common threads of altruism, generosity, and resilience, threads that she finds humanity missing in the times in between.

We miss, for example, the surge of patriotism in the days following 9/11. We retell, in the years following the flooding in Houston, the stories of people searching with their own boats, the candlelight vigils, JJ Watt orchestrating millions of dollars in fundraising.

It can be difficult to process crisis in the midst of living it. In the last five days as “normalcy” has come to a grinding halt in many sectors of society, it’s the fear of the unknown that seems to linger from day to day rather than shared purpose or unexpected joy. We hear a lot more about running out of time, losing containment, needing supplies, and overwhelming our health care system, than we do about anything going right!

But Solnit’s book reminds us that in the weeks and years that follow these strange and uncertain days ahead, there will be stories of the triumph of the human spirit. Of the generosity simmering just beneath the surface. Of the ingenuity humming in the background. There will be heroes that emerge from the chaos. And even in a time that requires quarantines, isolation, and social distancing, we will somehow find ourselves closer and more united than we’ve been in sometime.

Take, for example, the viral videos of quarantined Italians singing together from their balconies. On a normal day, in a normal time, these displays may be cute and quaint and gather some attention, but then get lost in the next trend. Yet, in our current environment, it’s hard not to be deeply moved by the solidarity displayed.

We should not wish for tragedy, but in the face of it, neither should we shy away from the feelings it stirs in us to be better, do more, and overcome. The days ahead will be trying, and yet they will also define the people we become and the stories we will tell.

Take good care! Wash your hands. Be well.


Wine for your weekend: Tasting reds

Back in January, I wrote a two parts series on blind tasting whites. You can check out part 1 and 2 here and here.

This week and next I’ll be talking about tasting reds, starting with three classic wines: Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir. As a reminder, classic wines typify a style or region, meaning they are produced with seeming perfect consistency that the quality of the wine is standardized. Wine professionals, thus, often use classic wines for teaching about wine because the results can be replicated over and over and over.

When you taste classic wines, therefore, you can begin to memorize traits that will be consistent across all offerings in that varietal. That’s how sommeliers train for and pass blind tasting exams.

So let’s look at the profile of each.

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Zinfandels are most frequently described as “jammy” with a full mouth feel that’s heavy on berries and fruit forward. That said, it is not overtly sweet.

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Cabernet is the “steak wine,” full bodied with enough acidity and tannin to cut through rich dishes and/or red meat. It’s fruit profile is a bit sharper, and it also trends dry.

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Pinot Noir should be slightly less “intense” than the other two. Less full bodied, Pinot Noir is generally a “crowd pleasing” kind of wine because it’s well balanced. Also, it will likely have the lowest alcohol content of the three.

During our blind white tasting, four of us at the table went three for three picking the white varieties correctly. I anticipate the reds being slightly more difficult…though Zinfandel and Cabernet are frequently our preferred red wine picks. So hopefully we stand a chance!

Part two next week will feature the three wines we tasted along with our results! Stay tuned.

Wash your hands! Cheers!

Weeks 47- Every time we get setback it’s weeks not days :(

This week, I lost my mind a little bit!

And the was unfortunate because I really felt like I was doing better about being patient about taking things how they come and accepting that this was all taking a little more time than originally planned.

Maybe it was the constant stream of changing conditions re: COVID-19 and the fact that the whole world is a bit more on edge than usual that set me off. Or maybe it was the fact that our sheetrock, supposed to be in stock and delivered on March 6th, couldn’t be delivered until March 13th. And then when it was delivered, it was only part of the order.

That meant our sheetrock crew, who we had optimistically hoped could start Wednesday, now won’t start until probably this coming Monday.


I did express to Josh this week the frustration that has persisted this entire process is that when we lose time, it’s usually in weeks not days. Not…the sheetrock can’t be delivered Friday, so it will be here Monday, but…the sheetrock can’t be delivered Friday, so it will be here (in part) in another week.

Not…there are a few things to fix with your inspection, we’ll come back and check your repairs tomorrow, but…there’s an engineering flaw in your second story. It’s going to take two weeks to get that straightened out.

Not…we’re going to have a rainy day, but then it will clear up and we can get back to work, but…it’s going to rain for weeks, and then the sun might come out for half an afternoon!

Which probably all came to a head this week because, let’s face it, if after the brutal winter, soaked spring, messy summer, and frigid fall of 2019, if the early part of 2020 turns out to be meteorologically ideal only to have COVID-19 somehow interfere with this whole thing…I’m really going to start to wonder what I ever did to karma and the universe to deserve this kind of treatment!

Nevertheless, as we waited for sheetrock, Josh worked on soundproofing between the floors and getting things organized so that when everything is here, we can hit the ground running on the next big step.

Also, with the entire interior of the house now sealed in plastic, and our masks still around from the insulating process, we definitely look like a quarantine site!

Wash your hands! Cheers!

Guilty pleasure post – My once a season thoughts on “The Bachelor”!

In Runaway Bride, as Richard Gere’s character is interviewing the four men that Julia Roberts’ character has left at the altar, he ends each conversation with the same question. “How does she like her eggs?” Each man answers the question the same way, “She likes __________, just like me!”

Later, after [spoiler alert] Julia Roberts’ character has left Richard Gene at the altar of wedding number five and she’s trying to find herself, there’s a scene where she makes every kind of eggs she can think of in an effort to discover this most simple truth about herself. Ultimately, she decides she like eggs benedict…(just like me!) 😆

Josh and I don’t watch many episodes of The Bachelor together, but in the one episode he did join me for this year, I wondered aloud how it was possible that Peter, this season’s bachelor, is somehow simultaneously every man I dated in my twenties wrapped up in one person.

He’s the guy who wants you to open up and talk about your feelings.

He’s the guy that would rather not talk about feelings and instead make out.

He’s the guy that is respectful about sex and boundaries.

He’s the guy that wants to be respectful, but would really just like to be having sex, even if it’s not with you, and thus destroys the relationship.

He’s the guy who is certain he wants to break up with you…until he isn’t.

He’s the guy that is certain he wants to be with you…until he isn’t.

He’s the guy that’s got a great, stable job.

He’s the guy that still lives with his parents.

He’s the guy that literally loves any woman who’s crying over him regardless of whether they are compatible in any other way.

He’s the man who likes a little bit of everything, meaning he likes a little bit of everything about every woman he’s ever met.

Peter is the first bachelor in as many seasons as I’ve watched who says he’s in love with three women (then two…but he started by telling three he was in love…) and I actually believe he is in love with three women. And that’s completely ludicrous given how different those three women are.

He can’t simultaneously believe that he can be super “sex positive” and want to “jive” with all his women in the fantasy suite AND believe that he will be able to hold up his end of the bargain in a super traditional, evangelical relationship.

He can’t simultaneously believe that communication is the most important thing in a relationship AND continue to perpetuate a relationship in which the woman repeatedly admits that they have zero communication skills.

He can’t simultaneously believe that if he trusts the process, everything will work out AND have come to terms with the fact that, at the beginning of his own season, he told the bachelorette who dumped him that he still had feelings for her, and would have given them a second chance instead of coming on his own season.

If he believes he’s really in love with three different women…as different as those women are…then I’m forced to believe that Peter doesn’t actually know how he likes his eggs…er…women.

Peter is Julia Roberts in Runaway Bride. And if the previews for his finale tonight are any indication, he might not be bolting from a wedding…but I think there are a few rose ceremonies, relationships, and foreign countries still in question!

Or maybe he knows how he likes his women, but doesn’t know how he loves them?

In an excellent exchange from another 1999 box office hit, 10 Things I Hate About You, Bianca and Chastity note:

There’s a difference between like and love. Because, I like my Skechers, but I love my Prada backpack.

But I love my Skechers.

That’s because you don’t have a Prada backpack.

Peter loves Madison, unless he’s with Hannah Ann…then he just likes Madison…because he certainly doesn’t love her enough not to sleep with other women. But then, when having to come face to face with Madison…he only likes Hannah Ann…because he doesn’t love her enough to avoid begging Madison to stay in front of her.

Since his two remaining women were three years old when both Runaway Bride and 10 Things I Hate About You were released, we can, perhaps, forgive them for not recognizing these classic movie tropes that Peter displays. But nonetheless, they should run from it. Because once the cameras stop rolling, Peter is bound to remember that he’s a certain type of man.

Unless, of course, he doesn’t actually know what kind of man he is, which at this point seems possible.

And Having 30 different women show up and try to date you at the same time, is kind of like Julia Roberts sitting down in front of 30 plates of eggs and picking out a favorite. You might come away feeling like I LOVE eggs benedict, but scrambled and omelets are pretty good too. But if they’re all on the menu…then you’re picking the eggs benedict.

Who’s the eggs benedict Peter!?

Ultimately, tonight’s finale could come down to a “whoever’s left” situation, with one woman leaving and Peter’s hand being forced to decide if he chases after her or if he stays with the remaining lady. These aren’t spoilers, just speculation. If that’s the case, Peter should know in the moment the woman leaves what he wants to do. It’s like calling the coin flip in the air, the moment it falls you’ll know how you want it to land.

But really, if that’s what it comes down to, than both women should leave, and Peter should walk away too. Because you shouldn’t want a love that comes down to a coin toss, and you shouldn’t want a love that only works when one partner is a certain kind of way.

You should want the “eggs benedict!”

Or better yet…you should want the one who knows themselves enough to say, “I don’t really like eggs that much, could we go for pancakes instead!”


Wine for your Weekend – A Tale of Two Pinot Noirs

Last week, a wine loving friend sent us a text letting us know that Sam’s Club was running a clearance sale on wine with many bottles marked down 50%. As it was dress rehearsal week for the play I was directing, I could not immediately rush off to the liquor store, but I did manage to pop in Friday morning to scour what was left of the good deals.

As it happened, a lot had been picked over. In fact, the cashier said that earlier that morning two customers had come in and bought 12 cases each of clearance wines. Nothing to be done about that. But from what was left, I did manage to put together two cases worth of good finds.

In that mix, were two bottles of Estancia Pinot Noir, the last two left in the store. When I texted my friend back from the parking lot to thank him for the tip and share the deals I found, I immediately received the text back: “Was there any Estancia left?”

Just the two bottles that I was taking home with me. Another Pinot Noir had also caught my eye, MacMurray Pinot Noir. They were both great deals, and highly rated on my wine searcher app, plus a good wine sale is the best time to expand out of favorite varietals (we have plenty of Cabernet and Zinfandel on the shelf!) There were four bottles of the MacMurray left, so into my box they went. A half case of Pinot Noir…for when we’re feeling bold and different. 😂

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We opened the MacMurray first, and Josh’s first impression was: “Wow! This wine is DARK!” And it really was a striking first impression going from bottle to decanter. If some red wines are “ruby” or “garnet,” this was the deep burgundy, almost purple color, which is odd because Pinot Noirs are generally much lighter than other red wines.

I’d seen in a review that letting it breathe for 30 minutes was the best way to open up the fruit flavors, and admittedly, I didn’t have a glass until the next night so mine breathed a lot longer than that! It was, in fact, VERY fruit forward…more so than I would have expected from a Pinot Noir (until I tried the Estancia). Low on acidity and tannins, this wine was smooth and very easy to drink. An easy wine to convert someone over to Pinot Noir with!

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And as for the coveted Estancia, that bottle did not disappoint either. I also tried that one after a long time in the decanter, so it was also considerably more mellow than it probably would have been straight out of the bottle. Much lighter than the MacMurray, the color was more what I’d expected in a Pinot Noir. Like the MacMurray, however, I was again pleasantly surprised at how fruit forward the wine was.

Don’t get me wrong, the wines weren’t sweet, but they weren’t dry either. Instead, the finish and overall mouth feel were generally quite pleasant overall. Both were highly drinkable and were enjoyed both with food and alone.

Like many of the clearance wines we find, at less than $7 a bottle it’s hard to go wrong. These two Pinots in particular, however, were really satisfying buys.


Week 46 – A whole lot of everything

Once upon a time, we found an amazing deal on hardwood flooring. How good? Try 89 cents a square foot for 4 inch red oak planks. So yeah, pretty good!

We ordered it a little earlier than we needed it because we were worried about missing the good sale, so it didn’t bother us too much when it got hung up in the shipping process. The problem, it seemed, was that the pallets weighed 2150 lbs and, supposedly, the shipper could only lift 2000 lbs. So we weighted while additional arrangements were made.

When the flooring was eventually scheduled to be delivered, Josh learned that he’d have to unload the truck…in the middle of the workday…by hand! Fortunately we have some friends and family with flexible schedules who could come out and help.

And then the morning of the delivery, the truck driver called to ask if we could also have a forklift on site.

The short answer was no! With two hours notice in the middle of the workday, there would not be a forklift. And so the floor arrived, and bit by bit, the guys unloaded it into the garage.

And then, bit by bit, Josh moved it in the basement!

Why the basement? Well, one because the melting snow started leaking in under the garage door and we didn’t want it to get wet. And two, we’re about to get a whole lot of drywall, and it needs to be sorted into the rooms where the drywall crew will hang it. So the hardwood floors need to be out of the way.

Also out of the way, most of the insulating, as there remain just a few projects to finish up before the inspector can come back and approve us to move on to that next stage!

Smart watches are really smart…except when they’re really dumb!

I love my Apple Watch!

Josh got it for me as a Christmas gift a few years ago to replace my first generation FitBit. There was really no comparison between the tech and features offered between the two.

My little FitBit flashed lights at me every 2000 steps…and that was about it. It didn’t even tell me the time.

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The watch was highly desirable because it could track my activity, map my runs through GPS, prompt breathing activities, track heart rate, answer calls, text message, show me the news, work as a walkie talkie, etc. etc. etc.

Yes it’s true that FitBit now has some options that offer similar functionality. But at the time, my FitBit was one of only a few offerings they had, and the Apple Watch was a BIG upgrade!

When we were comparing options to purchase, there were some criticisms of the Apple Watch. Some questioned the accuracy of the heart rate monitor beyond certain thresholds. Some were bothered by the fact it didn’t offer more features for tracking women’s health specifically (think, period tracker!). Others thought the GPS was spotty. I can honestly say, none of these features (or lack there of) has radically impacted my experience with my watch.

There is, however, a MASSIVE flaw and missing feature that has bothered me on multiple occasions, and that is that it’s missing a “sick” or “rest” day feature.

For those of you who don’t know how the Apple Watch encourages fitness, let me explain.

Every week, Apple asks you to set a daily move goal. Then, every day, Apple tracks your progress towards that move goal, as well as your progress towards 30 minutes of exercise, and 12 hours of standing at least 1 minute. Throughout the day, the watch will remind you to get up and stand, put in some exercise time, or get moving towards your move goal. It keeps track of your progress each day awarding you badges for perfect days and keeping streaks of completed days and exercise. There are also special awards for working out on holidays, meeting monthly challenges, etc.

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My move goal is generally between 400-500, and on days that I, say, go for a 4-5 mile run, my move number is closer to 700-800. However, I won’t move it up to 700 because on days that I rest and just go about my normal activities, I’m much closer to 400…and I’m motivated to keep my streaks going.

Two weeks ago, however, I got a terrible virus and spent the whole weekend on the couch. Guess what…all my streaks ended. The Apple Watch even chastised me throughout the day on Saturday that “My move ring was normally further along,” and “A brisk 30 minute walk would close your exercise ring.” On Sunday, when I got up and put my watch on, it immediately told me, “Yesterday was your worst day this week. Do better today.”

I took my watch back off, and went and laid on the couch.

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Now, Apple has a pretty extensive Health app that integrates and improves a number of features that were initially criticized in the first iteration of the design. The latest models of the watch can monitor sound levels, send warnings for irregular heart rhythms and aFib, help women track their cycles, and provide connections to medical research studies. The have some really really smart technology.

Smart technology that is made infinitely dumber when its user gets sick.

The health and fitness aspects of the Apple Watch are a MAJOR selling point for the device, so even if Apple didn’t want to add a sick day feature, it should at least have a setting that accounts for rest days. Rest days are a key part of a healthy training routine. When I do my marathon training, there are days I quadruple my move goals. Then the next day I need to allow my body to recuperate. But why watch routinely prompts me with, “Yesterday you quadrupled your move goal. Get out and beat it today!”

Is it a massive first world problem to say that your smart watch doesn’t give you a break from its relentless tracking. I’m aware. But for what it is, and for as smart as it could be, there are some very dumb features that seem like they should be easy fixes.