The Virus Diaries: Routines and Self Care


(Make sure to read to the end for a discount code to try my latest morning tea!)

It has been a while since I’ve shared a Virus Diaries update, but since we just passed the six-month mark of isolating at home, I thought it was time. Today, I’m going to be talking a bit about some routines I’ve started to try to break up the day and take moments for self-care. In the before times, I woke up around 5:30 or 6 to have time to myself and make sure I got my shower before my spouse and toddler woke up. I had a pretty solid morning routine, along with an hour-long commute, to help me set my mental tone of the day. But with the complete upheaval of my routines due to isolating, I’ve found myself less and less inclined to stick to my routines.

A friend on Facebook posted a Twitter thread from someone who has experiencing working on long-term disaster response projects about how the six-month mark of a response is one of the walls that you tend to hit. I know I’m feeling that. I haven’t been terribly coy about my mental health issues in the past, but the last month has been particularly difficult, as it’s becoming apparent that I might need a medication adjustment. As such, I’ve found myself dealing with slightly worse depression. This does not make me want to stick to a routine, even though sticking to a routine is one of the things that I know will make me feel better.

Well, one of the things I’ve been trying to do is to come up with a micro-routine. I’ve talked about this idea when I’ve talked about skin care — this is basically an emotional version of my “minimum acceptable routine” for my skin care. For me, that means having something to mark the morning and something to mark the evening. And of course, being who I am, this is going to involve tea.

Gone are the days when I started my mornings with a long gongfucha session with some yancha, but I can make a cup of herbal tea. So I was tickled when Mircea and Ana from Health from Europe contacted me about trying some more of their herbal teas and the collection they sent me included their Sunrise and Sunset teas. While both are herbals and contain no caffeine, the Sunrise tea contains some more invigorating herbs, like wild mint, rosemary, and nettle, while the Sunset tea is practically the same blend I like to make for myself in the evenings: lemon balm, lavender, and chamomile.

I was surprised by the complexity and uniqueness of the Sunrise tea. The flavor and aroma are savory, brisk, and yet also slightly sweet. The wild mint in the blend lends it this beautiful light herbal sweetness, while the nettle and rosemary give it a savory quality that I love first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. I make a cup of it as they recommend using slightly under boiling water. It takes just a few minutes and I have a cup of something to sit and sip for as long as I get until my toddler wakes up and my day starts in earnest. It’s not a half an hour of yoga and a long gongfu session, but it’s something.

Then, in the evening, while Elliot gets his bath and I’m working on my evening skin care, I can make a cup of the Sunset tea. The blend is intensely familiar to me, and each flavor is perfectly balanced, so that it doesn’t taste like one herb with an afterthought of the other flavors. It’s soothing and calming. I brew my tea in a covered mug to keep it warm while I put Elliot to bed, and then I can sit in the dark and sip my tea while reading a book to wind down before going to sleep.

Perhaps my favorite thing about the herbal teas from Health from Transylvania is that they are not cut-and-sifted herbs. These look like whole herbs, plucked from the garden, and dried without crumbling, before being packaged and sent off. They look like the (very few) herbs I forage from my yard and dry myself. They look like real plants. While I love my bulk cut-and-sifted herbs, there is an extra element of connection to the plants that I feel when I use these teas. I can identify the specific part of the blend as I put the leaf into an infuser or teapot, and that adds to the experience. Needless to say, the quality is amazing and the flavor, too.

If you are interested in trying teas from Health from Europe, I have a code, JENN15, that will get you 15% off your first order and will give me a small commission to support my work here and on other platforms. Let me know if you try these amazing teas! They also sell jams, which I’ve also tried and enjoy, so be sure to check those out.

NB: These teas were sent to me free of charge for me to feature, and my discount code, JENN15, earns me a commission if you make a purchase with it. All thoughts are my own. If you are interested in collaborating with me, please see my contact and collaboration information.

Tea and a Story: Hello and Welcome

Hello and welcome to Tea and a Story, a section of Tea Leaves and Tweed about stories and how they’re told from place to place and time to time. Fairy tales and mythology were early fascinations of mine and I’ve spent the last thirty years collecting stories from around the world. Here, I attempt to share the stories I love, share their connections among each other, and just generally share my love of these fantastical worlds that have endured for millennia. I hope you will come and sit with me, have a cup of tea, and listen to a story.

More to come later this month…

I Will Return, but Not Yet

I do have more things to say, I promise. I have topics lined up to write about for weeks to come. But right now, I’m still sorting through my feelings after last week’s Presidential election, and it will be a while before I’m operating at 100%. For now, I’m prioritizing writing my novel, as NaNoWriMo is only one month out of the year, but I try to keep this blog going year-round. But I will be back, with reviews and thoughts. See you all here again soon.

On Holiday Illness, plus Topics to Come

When I was a young child, I always fell ill on Christmas, usually while we were at my father’s family’s Christmas dinner celebration. It was a mixed blessing because I got to escape the clamor of a large Catholic family with many active boys and go have a lie-down in an empty room. But I was always really sick, often with something like strep throat, which had to wait until the doctor’s office opened again to be treated.

Since then, I’ve had a few Christmas colds, usually happening during years when I’d been rather overworked leading up to the holidays and finally had some time off the week between Christmas and New Year’s. This year, I had no such luck, but instead found myself having an unexpected holiday extension when I woke up with a low-grade fever and a raw throat yesterday. My throat had been feeling poorly for a couple of days, but I had thought I was getting better. Evidently I was wrong.

Today, I am back at work and feeling better, if not entirely well. And I will be previewing some posts to come:

  1. Of course I will want to post about my holidays. Our trip back from Boyfriend’s family’s house was almost an ethereal journey as the way was mostly bathed in thick, white fog. We did not indulge in quite so many radio plays this year, but instead largely were entertained by the second season of Serial. And of course, there were some fabulous gifts.
  2. I’ve been in rehearsals for a community theatre production of one of William Shakespeare’s best-known comedies, and I had almost forgotten how much I enjoy acting the Bard. This time, I’ve also got one of the standing best roles in most of his plays…
  3. Finally, while working on my vintage-inspired capsule wardrobe, I stumbled upon the site eShakti. Other bloggers have had mixed results with them, so I contacted them about a blogger sample. I honestly wasn’t expecting it before the middle of January, but it arrived yesterday. Once my health and the weather clear up, I’ll have to have a little photo shoot and share my thoughts.

So there are exciting things to come. Stay tuned and keep warm! I hope everyone had lovely holidays and are gliding into another wonderful new year.

A Very Bold Experiment

Despite having a very simple beauty routine compared to some, I sometimes wonder why I struggle a bit with acne while Boyfriend enjoys largely clear skin, despite the fact that he does absolutely nothing for it. A few weeks ago, I decided to change things in a rather large way.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve gone without any face or eye makeup at all and I wash my face only with water and a clean washcloth in the evening and water only in the mornings. It’s a lovely simple routine and I don’t have to worry if I occasionally forget to wash up at night because I’m not wearing makeup to clog things.

Going without products has taught me about my skin. I’ve realized that I actually have patches of dry skin when I put nothing on my skin. To avoid this, I use five drops of rosehip seed oil patted into my skin at night and Badger Balm rose-scented sunscreen during the day. It sinks in and prevents dryness without giving me greasy skin and it smells lovely.

Other than that, I wear my red lipstick. And that’s it.

Obviously, when I act, I still have to wear some makeup. As one show is in tech right now, I’ve been experimenting with using grapeseed oil followed by my homemade soap to remove the makeup. I think because I only wear makeup for a few hours at a time instead of all day, it doesn’t irritate my skin as much.

Perhaps I shall stick to this, or perhaps I shall need more come summer when the heat makes me sweat, but for now, I’m enjoying my simple routine.