Giving up caffeine

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Disclaimer: Yes yes, it’s the #1 blogger cliche, this is a blog about TEA! Hopefully I am offering a new-to-the-internet slant on it though, as this post is all about life after caffeine and how tea can still be just as exciting and exotic without the buzzy stuff.

Regular readers and fact finders may remember that last year I gave up caffeine. Prior to this I was a tea fiend, as you can see in this blind tea tasting post from the archives. I’ve now been 6 months caffeine-free and it has been an awful lot easier than I first expected. The main reason for this is that you can substitute pretty much all your standard coffee-ordering choices with Decaf. You can replace your daily brews (my daily tea consumption is 24 cups!) with rooibos or decaf, even sticking to your beloved brand (Yorkshire tea, obviously). But after 6 months, I’ve been starting to feel a bit stale. Something I absolutely LOVED when I was a caffeine-aholic was ordering unusual flavoured coffee beans; every weekend started with a cup of chocolate & raspberry or cookie crumble coffee. It’s hard enough finding nice decaf coffee, although Illy coffee do a lovely roast option, let alone anything with a jazzier flavour.

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Then I discovered Bluebird Tea Co! I initially started following them on twitter after my friend Steph posted about them and her revelation at the world of rooibos.  After a quick browse of their website, as well as falling a bit in love with their name, design and tone of voice, I noticed they had a caffeine free section. And it wasn’t just the dregs, this was a seriously BIG section! I had no idea there was so much un-caffeinated tea love to be had, and so Bluebird kindly sent me some samples of… well… all of it! Thanks Krisi and Mike for the very generous bundle. Nick & I spent the afternoon with our faithful friend Tea Sub plunging, stirring and boiling… and here are our thoughts on our favourite picks.

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(Thanks for naming a tea after me!)

Type: Rooibos – meaning you can have it without or with milk, which is definitely my preference.

Thoughts: As you might expect this is a sweet, flowery cuppa. The honey flavour works perfectly and makes for a really decadent brew with every mouthful feeling like a power-nap in a meadow.

Highlights: The tea blend even has little flowers in it, making it delicious AND pretty.

Best For: People who are trying to wean off having sugar in their tea. It might be too sweet for some (Nick for one) but it was my favourite tea of the day.

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Type: Rooibos

Thoughts: This might be one for those who aren’t keen on the quite specific rooibos flavour as I found this tastes more like a regular black tea. The Mint Choc flavour is subtle, with just hints of it rather than an overwhelming flavour. Nick wisely reckons this brew felt like a real indulgence, so could be a saintly alternative to a hot chocolate.

Highlights: The fact the tea shaped itself into a smiley face! I can’t promise this will happen every time…

Best For: An office worker who needs a trip to the seaside. This drink will have you imagining ice cream vans, pebbled beaches and splashy sea in no time.

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Type: Herbal (No milk here)

Thoughts: According to Bluebird, Dozy Girl is all anyone needs to send them off into the land of nod. Nick’s very scientific initial thoughts were “it smells like my nan’s house!”. Despite the eau de draw-liner, this is one seriously tasty tea. It packs more of a punch than a standard chamomile and felt instantly warming and comforting.

Highlights: It definitely does what it says on the tin, as I was yawning my way through the cup. Although this could also partially be down to the fact I had just sat through 119 minutes of mind-boggling Looper.

Best For: Bedtimes & emergencies.

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Type: Rooibos

Thoughts: Growing up next door to the rhubarb triangle means I have a real soft spot for this pink celery twin. The tea smells SO amazing that I could quite happily have spent hours with my snout stuck in the packet and would purchase it for this pleasure alone! Luckily (unlike a lot of herbal bagged tea) the smell matches the flavour. One gulpful and I was back in the newsagents in my childhood town watching Rhubarb & Custards being weighed & bagged ahead of a long car journey! It’s such a distinctive flavour and I’m so impressed and happy that Bluebird have captured it in tea-form.

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Highlights: The fact it gave us the amazing Roobard & Custard theme tune in our head for the whole time we were drinking it. Which somehow then led Nick onto making me do different gun noises (which I was terrible at) and him introducing me to Girls Making Gun Sounds. Great brew drinking entertainment!

Best For: Nostalgics, romantics or as something to sweeten every day.

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Type: Fruit (No milk here either)

Thoughts: This tea treat is basically a piña colada! To the point that it tastes creamy, despite having no dairy anywhere near it. It’s definitely stepped up the game of fruit tea and I’ll never look at a tired ole bag of lemon & ginger in the same way, as this has so many levels of flavours. We were both mmming our way through this mug.

Highlights: It tastes like a cocktail, that you can legitimately drink in the work place. That’s kind of unbeatable.

Best For: Pretending to be Don Draper.

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Inspired by the beautiful nature of the tea, we spent the rest of today lazing in a patch of long grass on the heath and admiring the buttercups. I still have more tea to try so if you have enjoyed this most scientific of posts, there may well be a sequel with mixes such as Cococabana Cooler, Raspberry Beret and Strawberry Lemonade still to try. In the meantime I’d highly recommend you seek out some Bluebird of your own, especially if like me you are attempting a decaf life, as I feel really inspired by my tea drinking future. Soon I’ll have enough variety to make every SINGLE one of my 24 daily cups a different flavour…

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Back in January I blogged about my resolutions for 2013. Since we are now hurtling into March I thought I’d revist them and reveal how much I’m winning (um, or failing) at them.

01. Read 51 books: Having a holiday always ramps up my reading and Morocco was no different. I devoured 6 books in one week and that included The Innocents by Francesca Segal  which will be very hard pushed to be defeated as my book of the year; a bold statement for February! I also rediscovered a favourite author; Erin Kelly. I read The Poison Tree  (recently made into an… okay… ITV drama) a few years ago now. It was my pre-kindle days and it was a beast of a book that I eventually had to ditch on a hotel bookcase in Massachusetts as I couldn’t fit it back into my suitcase, but I hope someone else went on to really enjoy it too. I didn’t realise Erin Kelly had released any other books so when I idly typed her name into Amazon, suddenly I had The Sick Rose & The Burning Air to read and I did; back to back. Her writing style is so poetic and she creates a real underlaying sense of foreboding, definitely an author if you like a prickle in the back of your neck and a page turner that keeps you awake into the night until you’ve finished. I’ve now hit a total brick wall though, I’ve been so busy since I returned that I haven’t read a single book. I have started The Blind Man’s Garden and whilst it’s receiving massive critical acclaim, I just cannot get into it. This is probably more to do with my work-drained state of brain, than the quality of the book. I also have a novel from one of my favourite authors Instructions for a Heatwave – Maggie O’Farrell awaiting me, so I might just stick Nadeem Aslam on the back burner until I finish that. I am about to embark on an 11 hour flight… so maybe I’ll have time for both?

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Talking of reading.. last week the devastating happened. My kindle died! It’s been heading that way for ages; constantly freezing and crashing and randomly deleting everything. It had lasted 3 years (ish) and been fixed once, so I thought that was fair enough given it’s something I use everyday and don’t exactly look after. SO I took the plunge and bought a replacement Amazon Paperwhite. I ummed and ahhed but when I worked it out at cost per use, I think I’ll soon be getting my moneys worth and I don’t think my creaky back could bear to go back to a life of carrying anything heavier. Transferring all my books was so easy, and I am already so impressed with all the new features compared to my prehistoric (!) keypad kindle.

02. Learn to surf: Done & done!

03. Visit 3 countries (not including Europe) and 10 new cities: I can now tick off Africa & Agadir, so I’m down to 2 countries and 9 new cities. Tomorrow I wake up bright and sprightly and spend just over a fortnight working in America; one week in LA and one week in NY. I know, I am a very VERY lucky girl. I’m super excited about the travel (I get to go in the posh bit of the plane!) and the lush hotels, that I would never be able to afford on a holiday budget. However, I am less excited about the 30+ presentations and 15 important meetings that I need to battle with jetlag and an undecipherable accent. It’s the biggest thing I’ve ever done in my career and I have a lot to prove, so right now I am a nervous butterfly-y bundle of jitters. I’m still planning plenty of sight seeing in both places though and have the benefit of visiting both before, so I won’t be a total newbie. My cousin also lives in LA and he has promised to show me 4 things: a place where cocktails are served in tankards, a place that sells burritos as big as a cat, the creepy house from Mulholland Drive and the Museum of Jurassic Technology. I think this epic list really does prove how well he knows me.

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04. Climb Snowdon: I already know this is not going to happen as my climbing buddy had a change of heart about his mountain mission. I need a new number 4. Maybe it can just be to go climbing indoors, as last year I tried climbing outdoors and would like to compare.

05. QUIT caffeine: Totally DONE and I will never go back! I can’t believe the headaches, nausea, tiredness I had trying to quit the evil substance that I didn’t realise I was heavily addicted to. Now my life is just packed with roobois, decaf Yorkshire Tea and herbal tea. I do miss everything about coffee; making a plunger on the weekend, trying out the best coffee shops in London and using it to get through that crummy 4-6pm work day slump… but I couldn’t put myself through quitting again and I know that to avoid future surgery and make my treatment work the best possible, I have to remain squeaky clean & caffeine free.

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06. Finish knitting my scarf: I haven’t even looked at my knitting all year. To be honest I did so much of it when I was sick, that I think I associate it with a bit of a rubbish bedroom prison period and am now enjoying being out & about and not sitting still. However, I’m going to visit my 93 year old gran over Easter so will definitely be packing it in my bags and getting back into it, as she is the ultimate knitting guru.

07. Brush up my Spanish: I have now completed 8 weeks of Spanish classes and am really enjoying hablar Español. I didn’t realise that committing to an extra 2 hours working once a week and 2 hours homework would take it’s toll, but it’s worth it. After a long day I’d expect it to be more of a struggle but I’ve really bonded with my teacher and class, and as it’s something totally different to my job; it’s amazing the second wind I get. I can really notice my improvement, and so just signed up for another 10 weeks. My class puts me to shame; I am one of two British people, the rest are from all around the world – China, Russia, Cyprus, France and Italy, so they are all learning their THIRD language in their second language! Bizarrely; I started watching the incredible Community at the same time as enrolling and I can relate to it even more; as it tracks a random group of people joining a Spanish class at community college. Luckily my teacher is way more sane than Señor Chang, but it’s always interesting to get a random group of people forced to spend time together regularly and watch the dynamics! Last week I actually got asked to el cine (in Spanish!) by one of the guys in my class despite the fact I incessantly talk about my pareja estable guapo. I think I should have guessed he was heading that way, when in an exercise where he was meant to be describing me as his favourite sister, he said I was hot. It was really awkward but luckily he is leaving the country so hopefully he’ll soon move onto asking other (actually single) chicas out and I can go back to successfully evading male attention other than that of my one true nuevo.

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In the first class we had to do an exercise where we thought of a famous person at random, and both Ming-Ling (Chinese student) and I picked Sofia Coppola… which was very weird of all the people in the world to choose from? The class advertised that they use the most modern technology, but that turns out to be an audio CD which doesn’t work on my laptop! So I had to buy a £9.99 CD Walkman especially for Spanish time, which brings back a lot of nostalgic 90s memories to when this was the ultimate in cutting edge music gear. Despite the fact I am paying for the course and doing it for myself, it’s ridiculous the lengths I go to in avoiding homework! Procrastination still definitely applies, and suddenly that pile of ironing that’s sat unloved/unworn for months or hoovering around the edge of my bedroom becomes really appealing. On the whole though, Spanish is a wonderful language to learn.To try and improve my skills I’m going to start watching films in Spanish. I also have become really creepy; in London there are so many Spanish speaking tourists so I’ve taken to lurking near anyone I hear speaking Spanish and trying to pick up parts of their conversations.

 08. Write half of the secret-project: Still can’t talk about this. Shh.

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09. Blog more than 2013: I am enjoying blogging so much this year. I feel like I’m doing it for myself again and I think part of this is that I don’t collaborate with brands or have anyone else deciding on content except, well, me and what I fancy chatting about. The ravishing Rosie from A Rosie Outlook wrote a really interesting and refreshingly honest post on blogging being a hobby or a life sucker recently and ways to combat it, which really resonated with how I felt when I took a years break from blogging. Now I really look forward to settling down and tapping away but don’t care if 20 or 200 people read it really! One real confidence boost was that I got shortlisted for the Lomography Love Bloggers Awards, I didn’t make the winners list but it was exciting to be involved in the process and acknowledged. The winners list are all very much deserving too, well worth adding to your reader!

09. Alter my work/life balance: Hmm, this still definitely needs work! The incredible travel opportunity makes the long hours more worthwhile though and I am doing so much more in my spare time; football matches, gigs, parties, meals out, seeing friends, its both-end candle burning season.

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10. Be brave: I’ve had to do a few tough things this year, including some difficult medical conversations with my surgeon and some pretty grim tests and check-ups. So this is definitely a tick!

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11. Get back in music: Oh yes, after being sick to the back teeth of my itunes, I bought Spotify premium and instantly discovered some incredible gems like the Bon Iver Stems Project, new Tegan & Sara as well as a few trips down music memory lane. So far it definitely feels worth the monthly investment; but it seems easy enough to quit if for some reason I stop being so enamoured.

12. STOP saying “Oh my God”: I am worse than EVER. I sometimes have an Oh My Gosh variation but all in all it’s still bad vocabulary times.

13. Daily Records: I’ve filled out my Q&A book every day this year, even when I really don’t feel like it, it’s so short that it is manageable. I also have carried on taking a photograph every day, of which there are a few pepppered about in this post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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As you’ve probably gathered, I have never been so happy to kiss goodbye to a year as I was as 2012 ticked into 2013. I know resolutions divide opinion and of the blogs I read, it seems to be pretty evenly split by haters and hopers. Personally, I never reflect and mull (get it!) more than I do over the festive December period. I think it’s a combination of being around loved-ones and family, the kind messages scribbled into Christmas cards, spending time back in the house and town I grew up in… oh and the fact I am drunk at some point most days. This means that when December 31st comes around, I couldn’t be in a better position to really give myself a shake and think about what I want from the year ahead.

They are probably of way more interest to me than anyone else, but I feel if I put them out for the world-wide-world to see, then perhaps I’m more likely to achieve them.

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2013 New Years Resolutions

01. Read 51 books: In typical fashion, after basking in my 50-book reading challenge victory for about ten minutes, I decided it had to be upped to 51 for this year. So far, so good, and I am on book number two. I’m currently reading Invisible by Paul Auster which from the description I was desperately hoping for something similar to one of my absolute favourite books The Secret History by Donna Tartt. It doesn’t really bear any similarities other than being based in an American university but it is a very captivating read. I am only a quarter through but the fact that whilst reading it I was stood in the kitchen cooking my dinner and let the the pasta boil over for about three minutes whilst I got through a particularly tense bit says quite a lot.

02. Learn to surf: In February I’m finally taking the holiday I was meant to have in October but my cyst Vs body take over hijacked. Nick & I are spending a week in the depths of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, and amongst many activities (hikes, a bird sanctuary, haggling at souks, star gazing… oh and a few massages and dips in the pool of course!) we are going to spend the day learning to surf in the bath-water warm sea. I’m so excited to try something so entirely new, although not too hopeful at my ability since I am clumsy enough walking on two feet in flat shoes.

03. Visit 3 countries (not including Europe) and 10 new cities: This sounds like a vast amount but with Africa already booked, then being fortunate enough to travel with my job (although it’s not like a holiday as I used to naively imagine work jet-setting would be. Oh no! Try 15 presentations in 14 days, with jet lag and a broad accent that not a single person understands thrown in) and a few other tricks up my sleeve… well lets just say I think I’ll be a different person come 2014 with a much broader view of the world and my place in it. I’m going to buy a big map and some coloured stickers and chart all the place I go. Note how I even manage to make something fun and spontaneous like travelling, organised and colour code-able.

04. Climb Snowdon: I’m also keen to make the most of the UK and see more of it this year. Part of this is a pact I have made with a good friend to join him on his conquering of Mount. Snowdon in Wales (his new years resolution is to climb a mountain in England, Scotland & Wales). I know it’s probably wrong that at the moment I’m most excited about what things I can bake for a picnic (!) but it will definitely feel like a real achievement.

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05. QUIT caffeine: Caffeine is pretty sinister. I highly recommend the you are not so smart blog on it. I never really thought I was addicted to caffeine, I just knew that I loved coffee in all it’s forms and also as a proud Yorkshire girl had an excuse to drink 20 cups of tea a day. I’m not kidding, I regularly had 2 or 3 cups on the go at my desk (the difference in shades of tea-brown was very aesthetically pleasing!) Then had my C-scare and all round month of medical misery, and I did everything I could afterwards to find out how to avoid a relapse. Part of this was seeing a nutritionist who believes that the key (in my case) is to keep everything in my body as balanced as possible, and part of this is avoiding spikes in blood sugar/adrenaline. And part of that? Quit caffeine. At the point I was given this I was having 3 coffees a day and yes, about 20-25 cups of tea.

Soooo… I didn’t go cold turkey obviously, but I started replacing tea for the wonder that is Rooibos (rank on it’s own, yet a taste sensation with milk). I also made the glorious discovery that my beloved Yorkshire Tea make a decaf version and are still are polite enough to use the lets make a proper brew tagline on it, even though I am from Yorkshire and definitely don’t think it’s a proper brew with non of the good (hmm, bad) stuff in it. 3 Months on and I now just have one coffee a week, as a treat on a Saturday! Cutting down was far more brutal and painful than I ever imagined. I got the absolute worst splitting headaches that no pain killer could touch. I swayed deliriously between napping on the bus and nights of sweaty insomnia. I know this is very un-PC but at one point I did say “If it’s this hard to come off coffee, how hard must it be to come off heroin?“. I just massively under-estimated that yes, I was addicted to coffee. In fact (and my bank balance could have told me this years ago) I was a heavy user. Anyway, this year I aim to cut out all caffeine entirely.

06. Finish knitting my scarf: For a decade my new years resolution was consistently to learn to knit. I have finally succeeded! So proud! I’m so nauseatingly twee that it was ridiculous that I couldn’t actually knit before. The other day I found myself knitting, drinking herbal tea, wearing a floral dress & listening to the Magnetic Fields. I actually out-tweed myself.  So I am well on the way with a neat maroon/navy striped scarf. I need to get a wriggle on and finish it in time to gift it next winter, and to finish the knit-your-own-owl (!) of dreams Craig bought me.

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07. Brush up my Spanish: I did Spanish GCSE and got a B. Nowadays I can still pronounce the funny j noise and I can say I’ve got a hangover. Then it all gets a bit fuzzy. In 2003 I backpacked in Spain and after a week of stuttering and stammering over my hola’s, me and my backpack buddy went to a Spanish rock club and drank aLOT of bodka and suddenly I was conversing with everyone in there about how many brothers/sisters they had and whether they preferred the beach or the forest. Important GCSE level questions  My friend couldn’t believe it and thought I had been lying the whole time about my level of Spanish ability… but it proves that with me it’s a confidence thing as much as a forgetful thing. So I signed up for a 10 week course (beginner level as I miserably failed the intermediate online test!) and am really looking forward to getting grips on another language again. And I got given a really beautiful handprinted notebook for Christmas that I can use for my homework. New stationary makes any project instantly exciting non?

 08. Write half of the secret-project: Well isn’t this annoying? It’s something I am sworn to secrecy until the future, so this is all I can say… for now!

09. Blog more than 2013: Given the fast and furious pace I am blogging at the moment I have probably already achieved this! You’re going to be sick of the sight of me. It feels really good to be writing for myself again, rather than just at work, and it seemed such a shame not to be using my little slice of the internet pie that actually costs me money every year. I’m not really hung-up on the fact it’s not a beauty blog, it’s not a fashion blog, it’s not a book blog etc etc. It’s a lifestyle blog. That covers all bases right!

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09. Alter my work/life balance: I graduated university, I moved to London and I became a rat race face and never looked up. I dread to actually think the hours I have worked in the last 5 years and getting ill made me realise that the body can only take a certain amount of burning the candle ferociously. So I have thrown myself back into my pilates, swimming and am being really strict not to book & doublebook every evening, night and weekend up with seeing people and going places and packing and unpacking and then tossing & turning all night having feverish work-dreams. Something definitely has to give, and I’m determined not to end up on the operating table again any time soon.

10. Be brave: I never associate myself with being brave, and it’s something I aspire to be and know I am really, but this year more than ever I will be putting myself in positions out of my comfort zone just to keep on growing into a big tough lion girl… woman.

11. Get back in music: I used to be surgically attached to my mix tapes, homemade CDs and always ahead of the curve with new bands. I am now SO sick of the same songs on my itunes and the fact that I ‘forgot’ to get the new Metric CD… who are one of my favourite bands?! Also that I didn’t even know about the Kings of Convenience side project? Poor show. Going to End of the Road festival  really whet my musical appetite again and since then I’ve enjoying some of the lesser-known acts I discovered. I’m currently listening to a lot of Alessi’s Ark, Tennis, Dead Man’s Bones, Foxes, Kimbra, Band of Skulls, Kurt Vile, First Aid Kit, John Grant, Django Django, Miracle Fortress and Tame Impala. It’s so nice not to be stuck on a permanent shuffle-shuffle-shuffle-same-old-stuff cycle.

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12. STOP saying “Oh my God”: Why do I say this? Why oh why. I have actually adapted it to Oh my gosh but that’s still very annoying. How do other people express surprise?? I hear myself saying Oh my godgosh in my shocked-voice and I must say it multiple times a day and I hate it. Can you please recommend other words? Or maybe I just need a shocked noise?

13. Daily Records (Thirteen resolutions for 2013!)Last year I took a photo every day and it was so useful for my sieve brain to remember events and orders of occurrences that usually drop out of my head as soon as they’ve happened. This year I am going to continue taking a photo a day as it’s a natural habit, but I’m also going to take a photo of my face everyday! I’m not really vain I promise, but as I head towards the big 3-0 (not til 2014, phew) I am really curious to track my outfits/hair style and well skin to see if I start to look older. I’m not going to put them anywhere public, just for my beady eyes. I’ve shared one below though, which perfectly illustrates my current no-make-up state and also the lions man hair that I couldn’t tame. The final record I am keeping is that I bought Lol & Craig this for Christmas. You get asked a question a day, and keep it for 5 years. Then another one arrived from Amazon randomly so I get to partake too. The questions are brilliant and go from the deep (Can people really change?) to the inane (What was the last restaurant you went to?) I never know what on earth to write in a diary, so the daily prompt is perfect.

& That’s it. Have you got a resolution? Have you seen any other good bloggers list theirs? I’ve seen a few but I’d love to see more. Roll on 2013, I have a really good feeling about you being sparkly and shiny and super.

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