It's a pity that the tutorials that I studied didn't bother to mention that important fact.
Glad you got it sorted out
Using :hover is generally going to be the CSS way to fire off the Transition Events that are set on an element. Though it could be done with other pseudo states such as :active, :focus, or even :target. Whether or not they would be suitable triggers would depend on the situation I suppose.
Looks like I need to brush up on my terminology a little bit too.
I had said this -
... then when my cursor is not on :hover it transitions back to those default properties smoothly with the timing function and ease value.
Actually the timing-function is the property for the "ease" keyword values. You can also set your own number values (other than keywords) by using cubic-bezier.
When I had mentioned timing function there I had intended to say transition-duration which is where you set your speed. I was playing around with transitions about six months ago but just recently got involved with them again. It's all coming back to me now but I need to get caught up on it.