Autumnal Frolicking: Apple Picking and Apple Baking

This past weekend, a few of my coworkers and I decided to drive out to a farm a little ways out of town for an autumnal treat: apple picking. Sadly, it’s the very end of the season, so pickings were slim (or rather, split and attacked by birds), but it was still a lovely outing. We were treated to stunning views of the countryside in an area where the mountains start to roll a bit and the weather was sunny and yet crisp.

We arrived at the farm in the late morning to a bustling scene of fall fun. A few children and a few more dogs joined in as we gathered our peck bags and headed up the hill. The best apples were at the very top of the hill, so we were able to kill two birds with one stone and take in the views as well. After a little time scouring the trees for apples that were ripe but not overripe, we adjourned to the bins of harvested apples at the ends of the rows of trees to fill out our bags. As I knew most of my apples would be used for baking, I erred on the side of taking a few of the greener apples from the trees. And Fiancé had joined us as well, making it easier to get some of the higher-up apples.


In addition to gathering apples, we also bonded socially, which is something I’ve lacked with my new coworkers, even after being almost a year into my new job. We carried our apples back down the hill and paid for them, along with some cider. After that, we took ourselves to a nearby town for a sandwich lunch and dessert at an adorable bakery. And then home again to consider our spoils.


Back home, I found myself tired and busy, so I had limited time to bake this weekend. But I found myself awake on Sunday morning with a desire for something baked and no desire to go out. So I had Fiancé grate some apples and set to work baking a batch of Apple Pecan Muffins.


Now, I always grate the apples in my apple muffins because I don’t like biting into big chunks of cooked apple and I find it gives them a nice apple flavor and a moist texture. You can feel free to dice them if you like, though you may need to add a bit more liquid to make up for the juices that won’t release.


I added pecans to my muffins, as well as more spices than just cinnamon. I have a love-hate relationship with cinnamon. Fiancé likes to quote The Hangover and call me a tiger whenever the subject of cinnamon comes up, which is cute, sort of. But I find that the oft-neglected other fall spices add an almost savory-spice to the mixture. It’s a rather old-fashioned flavor and brings to mind spiced mixtures from the Middle Ages, at least to me.


Finally, if you can find the If You Care muffin liners, try them. They are the only muffin liners I’ve found that the muffins truly release from, no spraying needed. They’re probably easier to find at a hippie natural foods store, which happens to be where I do most of my shopping, but they’re so worth it if you hate having a quarter of your muffin stick to the paper.


Apple Pecan Muffins
(makes 12 muffins)


The Dry:

2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup quick-cooking steel-cut oats
1/2 cup or so of pecans, chopped
1/3 cup of dark brown sugar
1 Tbsp. of baking powder
2 tsp. of ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. of ground ginger
1/2 tsp. of ground allspice
A pinch of salt

The Wet:

1/2 stick of salted butter, melted
2 eggs
1 cup of fresh sweet apple cider
1-2 apples, grated (I used one large and one small)

The Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F (200 C) and line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners. Spray the liners if you are not confident they will not stick. Or use my favorite liners.
  2. Whisk together the dry ingredients, making sure to break up any clumps of brown sugar.
  3. In a large measuring cup or a small bowl, whisk together the melted butter, 1/2 a cup of the cider, and the eggs. Really whisk it together to form an emulsion between the cider and butter.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, along with the grated apple, and mix gently. If the batter is a little dry, add the rest of the cider until it’s a good consistency. Make sure you moisten all the little pockets of flour.
  5. Spoon into the muffin papers. Your cups will be rather full. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until quite brown and springy. Cool as long as you can bear it in the pan and then eat, slathered in butter, preferably alongside a cup of tea or a mug of hot cider.

On Acting One’s Age

I posted on Friday about looking one’s age and about how I don’t, apparently, though I think I do and I think I’d really rather look my age than not have it show how much life I’ve lived. I thought I’d do a companion piece in a similar vein about acting one’s age.

First of all, what does that even mean, acting your age? When I was a kid, my dad would say “Act your age, not your shoe size,” which I suppose meant that I was being particularly immature. And I suppose that’s a bit of it. I mean, we all have a pretty clear idea of what a child should act like as opposed to an adult. But it’s all rather vague and imprecise.

I mean, when you’re a teenager, where does that leave you? I suppose if one really wanted to act like a teenager, one would affect a rebellious and surly attitude (I don’t mock; I was a moderately surly teenager myself).

But what does “acting your age” mean when you’re an adult? What does it mean to act like a 20-year-old vs. a 30-year-old? Or a 40-year-old? Does it keep going? Is there a standard of comportment throughout the decades?

I really think not. And this is what I consider when I think about acting my age. The single biggest thing that has happened with how I act as I’ve gotten older is my increase in confidence. I’ve heard older women talk about it all the time, how they wish they had the confidence that they have now when they were as young as they wish they looked. But really, part of it for me is accepting my looks, accepting compliments, and accepting that people who decide to react negatively to my appearance are probably not worth my time.

For me, acting my age is about asserting myself for myself and for others who aren’t as assertive. It’s being able to get noticed to be served at a bar, but to point out others near me who haven’t been noticed despite being their longer.

Most of all, acting my age has involved a certain development of personal style. I call this “acting my age” and not “looking my age” because the confidence that comes with getting older is how I’ve found the self-awareness to know what is really my preference, versus someone else telling me what’s chic, as well as the necessary stylish elan to carry it off and look creative and personal rather than just odd. Although a certain amount of odd does belong in my personal style.

So I suppose, in short, acting my age has meant coming into my own and as I get older, acting like myself.

On Looking One’s Age

Hello. I’m thirty-three, although apparently I don’t look it.

A couple of weeks ago, I showed up to a rehearsal and saw a friend I haven’t seen in a while. I was wearing my hair parted in the middle such that my ever-growing grey streak showed clearly. He happens to be quite a bit taller than I am, so he noticed and asked “Oh, are you going for an older look now?” I had to laugh because 1.) it was such a typically clueless comment from him, and 2.) I’ve had that grey streak for at least 10 years and it just shows in varying degrees depending on how I wear my hair.

But it got me thinking about aging and looking one’s age. When I was younger, I looked older. In fact, I never got carded for R-rated movies, and by the time I was in college, I was routinely mistaken for over 21. It’s a fun thing when you’re a young woman, to be thought to be an older, sophisticated woman. The young woman I knew as a teenager loved to pretend to be older than they were. Then, around the time I was graduating from college, I had an acquaintance give me the standard line about being surprised I was a college student and that I looked old. I coyly responded, “You know, I’m getting to the age where I’m not sure that’s a compliment anymore,” to which he responded hurriedly, “Twenty-five. You look twenty-five.”

From there, I went off to graduate school and paid little notice to my age, except occasionally to note that I was creeping closer to thirty all the while still in school. Occasionally I would be mistaken for an undergraduate on campus, but just as often I was mistaken for a new professor.

Then, I turned thirty.

When one turns twenty, it is exciting, almost. It’s not quite twenty-one. You feel like you’re getting there, but still, another year would be nice. One more year and you’ll be happy. But the years keep coming because that’s what time does. It moves. Constantly.

When one turns thirty, the fact that one is aging starts to hit home. I noticed aches and pains I didn’t have before. I would wake up creaky. I would feel “hungover” simply from staying up too late. Not to mention my alcohol tolerance started dropping. I felt my body becoming less resilient. I felt older. And when I looked in the mirror and then looked at the 18-year-old face on my old college ID, or the 25-year-old face on my graduate ID, I looked older, I thought. I was getting older.

I was also divorced, had finished three degrees, and had lost my father. I had lived a lot in those thirty years. I wore my age with a badge of honor.

And then, I started auditioning for theater roles again for the first time in almost ten years. When I was in college, I was the dark, severe, mature-looking woman. I was cast in roles that should rightly go to women in their late 30s at the youngest. So when I went to my first community theater audition, I started with roles for women in their 30s-40s. When I got into the audition room, I was asked why I wasn’t auditioning for the ingenue. It turns out, I still looked like a 20-something.

Since then, I get cast as characters in their 20s as often as characters that match my own age. Two years ago, I was cast as a 21-year-old (Personally, I thought I looked ludicrous in the role, particularly since a co-actor of mine was a pretty young woman who actually was 21 and the difference was stark, but the reviewers didn’t bat an eye). Now, I’m finally given more consideration for the more “mature” female roles (NB: women’s roles in theater are often either 20-year-olds or old women, with very little of interest in between).

I actually hope I am starting to look my age. I still get the compliments about how young I look, and I appreciate the thought. What I don’t appreciate is the idea that I want that as a compliment. I want to look my age. I don’t want to while away my life with a Dorian-Grey-esque false exterior while my life experiences are written somewhere hidden.

And to that end, while I love skin care, I focus on the health of my skin, not its youth. I don’t color my hair to cover grey (and indeed, I haven’t colored my hair at all in years). And I dress to accentuate my personality, not to make myself look either older or younger. I strive to look my age in that I strive to look like I’ve lived the life I’ve lived.

On Becoming the Zen Master of Wedding Planning

So I’m planning a wedding. This is not known for being one of the most meditative and relaxing practices. And I’ve been married before, so I have that minefield to walk. As a result, I’ve found myself reading my share of wedding planning websites and message boards. And I’ve noticed that when I respond to threads with advice, my voice is starting to sound more and more like some Jedi-Zen-monk-bride. While I can be a very perfectionist person in my day-to-day life, I’m turning out to be a surprisingly chill bride.

The starting point of my wedding planning philosophy is pretty well summed up in this article. No matter what you do or how much you try to please everyone, someone will be offended and complain about your wedding. So rather than waste energy trying to dance around potential offense, I’ve decided not to care. I’m having the wedding I’m having. I try not to be mean-spirited or deliberately exclusive, but other than that, I’m going to do what I’m going to do.

And that means saying no to things. No, we’re not sending announcements to people who aren’t invited. No, we’re not having a small gift registry just in case someone really can’t bring themselves to show up empty handed. No. Just no.

What I’ve learned from all this is that it is a lot easier to plan a wedding as a self-actualized thirty-something woman than as a mid-twenties student. I’m a lot more confident about saying no to things that I don’t want (or legitimately make me uncomfortable). And the flip side is that I’m finding it easier to say yes to things even though they’re expensive and frivolous. We have the money for it, so I’m going to have my vintage venue and catered brunch with staff to help set up and serve. And flowers. I love flowers. And a photographer to take amazing professional photos at a fair price for his skill and training.

And you know what? This philosophy might look different to you. Staying true to your vision might mean letting your mother have more say because it’s more important to you that she feels intimately involved than to have exactly the decorations you dreamed of. Or it might mean something else entirely. It might involve a church. And that’s okay. The only thing that’s not okay is expecting the world to share and approve of and fund your vision. Also, being mean to people for the sake of being mean kind of sucks. But the are plenty of situations where wedding compromises might come off as mean on the surface. Forgive yourself, move on, and have the event that will make you deliriously happy.

Just remember that at the end of the day, the most important thing is the person you are marrying and the fact that you’re planning on spending the rest of your life together. Just because you have a vision doesn’t mean everything will go to plan. It will rain. Someone you don’t expect may show up. A flight may get canceled. The dress might not come in time. But ultimately, none of that really matters if you love each other. You could get married in a refrigerator box and as long as it’s legal, your wedding was a success.

So for someone who has trouble doing just this, I’m finding it easier to relax about the wedding, comparatively. And I hope any soon-to-be-brides can join in as we Zen our way to our wedding days — bugs, rain, and all!

On Helping Friends in their Time of Need

One of my favorite bloggers and all-around lovely person is Jessica Cangiano of Chronically Vintage. I’ve written about her before because she was a wonderful guide when I first got started blogging about vintage-inspired style. She also has an Etsy store with the most fabulous variety of vintage baubles that I love to browse. In fact, my favorite necklace, the one that gains me the most compliments when I wear it, came from her shop.

It was this weekend that I was browsing said baubles, toying with making a little purchase of a gift for myself. And then I saw a post on Instagram saying that Jessica and her husband Tony lost their house and all their possessions and likely their cat. It was devastating. I’m not a crier, but I found tears in my eyes as I read about this tragedy that struck them. I saw that a friend of theirs has started a crowdfunding page to help them get back on their feet and I naturally went on to donate. After all, I was just about to give Jess money by making a purchase, so why not use that money to help her now that her business has had this setback?

Here is a link to the site, if you would like to help out this pillar of the vintage blogging community and wonderful, friendly woman who has been a bright spot in my life over the last year or so. I hope you will consider it. And Jess, I wish so much love and luck in rebuilding after this.

A Cocoon for Autumn

With the weather turning chillier and the nights getting colder, I’m finding myself gleefully returning to my beloved warm clothing, blankets, and shawls. I love being snuggled up under a blanket or shawl, or wearing a cozy sweater. In honor of the cooling weather, I thought I’d share one of my favorite ways to keep warm:

I call this my “house cocoon.” It came from Uniqlo and is ridiculously oversized, but so cozy, especially paired with fleece leggings and thick socks. When I come home on the weekend, I change into this and pretty much keep it as my uniform all weekend while I’m housebound. It’s long enough to come down to my knees, and the sleeves are a mid-length that’s perfect for lounging because I don’t have to worry about pushing them up before doing anything at the sink. I can make a snack, make some tea, or wash my hands without worrying about soggy cuffs. It’s not so heavy a material that I sweat, so I can even wear it to sleep. I may upgrade to something slightly heavier for the very depths of winter.

Of course with cool evenings come cool mornings, and my office is not the warmest space to begin with, I’m happy I was also able to find an “office cocoon:”

This sweater dress offers a nice balance of professionalism and coziness. I can wear it on my chilly autumn walks to work, and then sit in my office without resorting to wrapping up in a shawl. And with a pair of opaque tights and knee-high boots, it looks quite smart indeed. Fiance suggested wearing a belt to give more waist definition, but I like the clean minimalist line of it without the belt, and it avoids anything binding up around my waist on days when I’m feeling a little bloated. And somehow, the whole effect is stunningly simple and stylish, according to the compliments I got at the office.

So there is my homage to my favorite autumn fashion piece: the wearable cocoon. Go forth and be cozy!

On Black Tea and the Beginnings of Autumn

After quite a hot August and a September that refused to cool down for long, it seems we’ve finally seen the beginnings of autumnal weather. I was still glad for a weekend retreat to Fiancé’s parents’ house up north, but upon returning home, I found I now need a jacket in the morning and don’t arrive at home again drenched in sweat.

Keemun Mao Feng from Harney & Sons. #tea #blacktea

A photo posted by Elizabeth Tweed (@tealeavesandtweed) on

Now changing seasons means changes of all kinds. People change their wardrobe, perhaps even wearing different colors. I know I find myself less inclined to wear pastels, and more inclined to wear heathered knits. Some change their skin care, adding in more moisture and removing products that helped them deal with the sliminess that summer’s heat can bring.

But perhaps my favorite seasonal change is my change of tea. You see, in cooler weather, I prefer richer teas. While I drink all teas year-round, in the summer, I find myself drawn to light, refreshing green teas and lightly-oxidized oolongs. As the weather cools, I reach more for fuller-bodied teas, like more-oxidized oolongs, as well as black teas. While I have had my share of black tea cuppas over the summer, I tend to save them for days when I’m lying about the house, not doing much of anything, and enjoying the artificial coolness of air conditioning. On days when I’m out and about in the heat? No way.

In honor of the changing seasons, I decided to treat myself to a new tea-for-one set and a new sampler of black tea leaves. So far I’ve tried two of the teas and they’re lovely. Rich and malty and just a little astringent. Warming and comforting, like a cozy blanket in tea form. Perfect for autumn.

Happenings and Updates: A New Family Member

A lot has been going on over the last week or so. I’ve continued to plan our wedding, although there’s been a bit of a lull in that. I’ve also discovered a new-to-me television show and because it’s The Great British Bake-Off, that means I’ve also found myself inspired to bake more often. But the biggest news is that we have a new addition to our small family.


This is the TweedCat. That’s not her real name, obviously, but she’s a rescue and we plan on changing her rescue name anyway. Right now, we just call her “cat” most of the time, and she seems alright with that. She came home on Saturday and has settled in pretty completely.

Her likes include not sitting still, especially for photos, food, and cuddles. Her dislikes seem to include doors, stairs, and when we don’t let her into a room. She’s a very small cat and young enough that she bears being picked up and held with admirable patience, but will let you know when enough is becoming enough. And watching Fiance play with her is a joy. For not-a-cat-person, he really loves her.

So the next few weeks will involve a lot of settling in on all sides. I’m still learning how to cook with a cat constantly coming in and trying to investigate or steal the food. And I think she’s still trying to get used to having as much space as our house affords, but not being allowed to go outside.

Tea Tasting: Yushan Oolong from Beautiful Taiwan Tea Co.

As you may know, I have a particular liking of oolong tea, particularly when the weather starts to chill down in autumn or warm up in spring. After hearing that some of the best oolong tea comes from Taiwan, I’ve started ordering from Beautiful Taiwan Tea Co. They have a nice assortment of teas, with good prices, and their shipping is not terrible. Plus, they ship from the US, so things get here in a reasonable amount of time.

But one unexpected lovely thing is that they include a little sample of some delicious tea in each order. The first time, I got a “green oolong” and this time I got a rolled, lightly oxidized Yushan oolong to try. I brought it to the office to finish out the week and steeped it primarily in my gaiwan. Because it’s rolled, I was light-handed with the tea leaves and a 10-gram sample packet gave me two days of tea, about 8-10 steepings in gaiwan for each serving.

The first session, I decided to start cautiously and steeped it in 180-degree water for an initial minute and a half, and then one-minute steepings after that, until the last couple, when I noticed the flavor was going, so I increased the time by a bit. It’s a subtle and delicate tea, but still has plenty of oolong character and floralness. I actually detect a hint of cannabis in the scent of the leaves and the brewed tea, but not in an unpleasant way.

The second session, I decided to make the first steeping quite long, and then go to one-minute steepings. That seemed to open up the tea a bit more and offered a slight hint of honey sweetness, with more the floral/cannabis notes as well. And there was almost no bitterness to speak of, even with longer steeping times and a final steeping in 200-degree water.

Finally, I wanted to make a subjective note: I found that this tea made me feel slightly giddy and happy. I’d had a rather tough week and I found myself with almost a bounce in my step and a vigor to complete my lingering weekly tasks. I can’t necessarily guarantee it was the oolong, but I certainly noticed a difference from my mood earlier in the week, and the tea was the only new thing.

Please note: I was sent this as a free sample, but not in exchange for a review. In fact, I don’t think Beautiful Taiwan Tea Co. is even aware of my blog. I just like their tea.

How Playing Pokemon Go Led Me To Mordor

Hi! I’m Elizabeth, and I’m an adult woman that plays Pokemon. Or rather, I did play Pokemon, for a couple months at least. You see, when I returned from a business trip, I found that Boyfriend (oops, Fiancé) had discovered this new game that he thought we should try playing together. He plays a lot of computer and video games and has tried to get me interested in the past, but this one was different: this one makes you go outside. And I love going outside. I found it actually strengthened our relationship because we went on long walks together and then some of the time we spent lounging on the couch on our smartphones we were actually interacting and discussing the game.

Plus, I found a wild Pikachu on my walk to work and they’re adorable.

Now, I walk 3 miles to and from work every day and try to get in a little more besides that. But on days I work from home, or on weekends, I find it hard to get off the couch. Pokemon became a great motivator to walk on normally-sedentary days. I liked the fact that I was walking for a purpose, rather than just for the sake of walking. Walking with a goal in mind. It made me feel rather like an adventurer from one of the fantasy books I read. I couldn’t get where I needed to go other than by walking, so I walked all over the place.

And then Fiancé and I went to Montreal and we REALLY walked. Like, 10 miles a day. We fell out of the habit of playing Pokemon because we didn’t want to be distracted by our phones in an unfamiliar area, but we walked a lot. And it got me thinking about what I really liked about Pokemon Go: the idea of walking for a purpose.

That brought up a memory of a walking challenge I’d heard of a while ago called the Eowyn Challenge, where you log your daily walking and as it adds up, you set goals in terms of the landmarks in the journeys of the characters in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. So you can virtually follow Sam and Frodo’s journey to Mordor by showing how your daily mileage adds up. So rather than going back to trying to catch seven gajillion Magikarp near the lake near my house, I decided to log my daily miles in terms of a walk to Rivendell. And then Lothlorien. And onwards. I know that if I walk an average of 5 miles a day, it’ll get me to Rivendell in about three months, so that’s a good start, and it inspires me to add walks in, and plan longer walks to bump up my average mileage.

It also helps reinforce walking as a mode of transportation for me. When I’m in an unfamiliar city, I walk a lot more, simply because I don’t have a car, and I’m not familiar with the public transit. I’d rather walk a few miles than try to figure out the bus system sometimes. Especially when doing so involves testing my confidence in my French language skills. But in my own town, I default to driving or taking the train a little longer to walk a little less. Why do that? Why not try walking a couple miles to that lunch place I like on my work-from-home day? Why not walk to my favorite coffee shop when I have the time on the weekend? And along the way, I get to pretend I’m a Tolkeinian adventurer, albeit with less hirsute feet.