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 post shared 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.

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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.

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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.

On Major Life Events, Planning, and Falling Down the Rabbit Hole

As those of you who follow me on Instagram know, I have a bit of a reason for not blogging for a month.

Boyfriend is no longer Boyfriend. Instead, he is Fiancé. He asked me to marry him just before our vacation at the beginning of August. So I have spent the last month, yes, in Montreal for a week, but also in a flurry of preparation. Since we have just booked our venue, I hope I can calm down and devote mental energy to other things.

Just don’t bet on it.

In the meantime, here is the ring, in case you missed in on Instagram:

Because Fiancé knows me very well, he found a simple, vintage ring from the early 20th century in rosy gold with two moonstones, in a setting called “Toi et Moi,” or “You and Me.” It’s simple, lovely, and just a bit old-fashioned, while also seeming very different from many engagement rings I see so often.

So that’s what I’ve been doing for the last month. While I still have plenty of planning yet to do, hopefully, I find some time to update this space a bit more regularly.