Kombucha Chronicles: Something is Brewing

Now that you are all set with your very own home-grown scoby, it’s time to start brewing kombucha tea. This first step is to brew some regular sweet tea and then ferment it.

What you need

  • water
  • 1 gallon glass jar*, very clean
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 8 bags of black tea
  • 2 cups of mother-brewing liquid (or store-bought kombucha)
  • 1 scoby
  • a tea towel and elastic

*I bought this one from amazon.ca because it has a spigot at the bottom for easy pouring.

What you do

  1. Measure out a bit less than a gallon by filling your jar to about 80% with water. Pour the water in a large pot and bring to a boil.
  2. Stir in the sugar, then drop in the tea bags.
  3. After about 10 minutes (longer for stronger tea), remove the tea bags and allow the tea to completely cool.
  4. Sir in the kombucha liquid, then pour the whole thing into your jar.
  5. With a clean hand, slide in the scoby so she floats at the top of the jar (it’s okay if she tilts or sinks a little).
  6. Cover with a cloth and seal with the rubber band. Store in a cool dry place out of direct sunlight where it will not get jostled.
  7. Wait (watch how your little mother grows!) and start tasting your tea after 7 days. The tea will go from sweet to tart as it ferments, so find a balance that pleases you.
  8. Pour out your kombucha into a clean glass pitcher. Reserve 2 cups of the liquid to start your next batch
  9. With clean hands, remove the mother and park her on a clean plate. If she is getting very thick, you can remove a bottom layer.
  10. To start the next batch of kombucha, clean out your fermenting jar and go back to step 1.

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The next step in making your first batch of tea is to add flavouring. The good news is that this second fermentation only takes a few days.

What you need

  • seal-able glass or plastic vessels
  • flavouring*

*There are really no wrong answers here. Flavour the tea with whatever fruits and/or herbs you have on hand or fancy at the time. I had some pineapple in the fridge and some mint in the garden. It sounded like a good summertime combo. I’m calling it the piña komjito. TM

What you do

  1. Cut up the fruit very finely, something between a dice and a mince. The larger the surface area, the more yummy flavour will steep into the tea. 
  2. Add about 2 cups of flavouring to the gallon of tea and seal. 
  3. If using glass bottles or jars, it’s a good idea to contain them in a cooler or other bin. If too much carbonation happens too quickly, there is a chance the glass will shatter.
  4. Wait 1 to 3 days for the flavour to infuse.

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Only one more step to go! In a few days you will be drinking your delicious home made kombucha. The third and final step is to carbonate the tea.

What you need

  • seal-able glass or plastic drinking vessels
  • a strainer

What you do

  1. Strain your kombucha to separate it from the flavouring agents.
  2. Pour into bottles (these can be the same one you used for the second ferment -just washed out- or smaller serving sized containers) and seal.
  3. Again, if using glass, place in a cooler to contain possible explosions.
  4. Wait 1 to 3 days to build up carbonation.
  5. A baby scoby may form on the surface (just like when we made our own mother!). Just scoop out and discard.

third ferment

That’s it! The kombucha is ready to drink. Keep the bottles in the fridge (to stop further fermentation) and consume within a month.

pina komjito

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So far Liam and I are loving having our own almost-limitless source of kombucha; although we are restricting ourselves to half a bottle a day each. We haven’t been buying any from the store as ours is just as good, much less expensive, and (surprisingly) simple to make! For the next batch I will play around for a few different flavours so that we have some variety at home too.

I hope you enjoyed following along while I chronicled my kombucha journey. If you are not inspired to get your own symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast working for you at home, maybe you’re at least more likely to give a store-bough bottle a try. I guarantee your tummies and your taste buds will thank you. Happy brewing!

Gather No Moss

You know what they say about rolling stones … they sell their big suburban house and move to the city!

We are officially moving to Hintonburg, arguably the hippest neighborhood in Ottawa (I might be biased). The area is amazing; steps away from public transit, the river, a beach, and littered with great shops, restaurants, and craft breweries. The house itself is the perfect size for our nuclear two cat family, needs absolutely no outdoor maintenance, BUT -you’ll like this- is in needs more interior renovation than the house we just sold.

Renovation blog-posts for life!!! 

Okay maybe not. As much as we love DIY, we are going to let the professionals step in on this one. The changes we’d like to make are major and we wont even be living in the place while they are happening.

We are currently interviewing contractors and attempting to get things organised to start as soon as we take possession. Meanwhile, I’m having oodles of fun planning the new space; losing sleep over patterned tiles, aggressively pinning genius ways to store coffee makers, and perpetually on-line shopping for light fixtures.

Here’s what we’ve got so far:
Kitchen PlanThe kitchen is basically a gut-job. It photographs well, but trust me when I tell you that it’s all looking pretty warn. The refrigerator is too large and blocking access to a light switch, so I’d like to replace it with a counter-depth unit that is more size appropriate. At the same time, I want to upgrade the stove for a gas range and go with a hidden dishwasher for a streamlined look. The cabinets, counters, fixtures, and back-splash will also be new.

On the other side of the room, I’d like to remove the wall separating the kitchen from the dinning/living room (please oh please renovations gods, let this be possible) and create a “peninsula” counter with room for a few stools. I’d also like to add a pantry on the back wall, maybe with a small area for a built-in desk. Something like:

Dream Kitchen.jpg
check out my Pinterest for links!

All the work in the living room will be focused on the fireplace wall, which currently looks like:

living room plan

We want to bring some symmetry to it by either removing the recessed shelves, or evening them out with some custom cabinetry. Liam loves the wall-mounted TV so we will be keeping that feature, but the black tiles and blue paint has to go.

We’re toying with idea of adding hardwood to the stairs, re-finishing the floors, and installing pot lights in here too, but it will all depend on cost. My inner-DIY-self is already cringing at the expense.  This doesn’t look cheap:

fireplace wall.jpg
links on my Pinterest page

Thankfully, the master bedroom only needs a little face-lift;

bedroom plan

I can handle most of the work in here, including the immensely fun job of removing the wall paper (oh joy). With an electrician already in the house, we’d like to get him or her to move the wall sconces down a bit. All the baseboards and door casings will be replaced as well, and I will of course paint everything.

bathroom

The upstairs bathroom is another gut-job. I wont go into too many details because we aren’t even sure the “plan” is possible. The idea is to widen the space by shuffling some walls around and stealing square footage from an adjacent closet. If it is possible, we will be pulling off one heck of a transformation. Here’s an example of those patterned floor tiles I am obsessed with:

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Style at Home

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Exciting times!

 

 

Komboucha Chronicles: Magicking up a Mother

You don’t need a lot to make a batch of kombucha; all it takes is water, sugar, tea, and a Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. What, you don’t have symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast? Don’t worry, we’re going to grow one.

It’s called a SCOBY for short, but can also be known as the Mother or the Mushroom. It is not in anyway a mushroom but a colony of bacteria and yeast that live in harmony together, eating sugar and turning it into the acids, vitamins, and enzymes that make kombucha so tasty and healthy. A scoby looks like a nasty gewy pancake:

the mother.jpg
my home-grown 2 week old scoby

You can buy a scoby on the internet, beg one from a booch-brewing friend, or you can grow one at home from a bottle of store-bought kombucha, like me!

It’s like the “I’m gonna leave this at the back of the fridge” science experiment you always wanted to conduct as a kid but your mum would make you throw out just as your results were getting interesting. Oh, did you not attempt gross science experiments as a kid? Okay then, its like a magic trick.

What you need:

  • 1 bottle of store bought kombucha with a lot of sediment
    (you can drink the top 2/3s)  
  • water
  • organic black tea
  • white sugar
  • a mason jar, a dish cloth, a rubber band
  • a belief in magic or science (preferably both)

What you do: 

  • bring 1 cup of water to boil, remove from heat
  • add 2 tablespoons of white sugar, stir to dissolve
  • add 2 bags of organic black tea
  • remove tea bags after about 5 min
  • cool completely, pour into a clean glass jar
  • add kombucha  tea
  • cover with a cloth and seal with the rubber band
  • wait & watch as your scoby grows until 1/4 inch thick
    (between 1 and 2 weeks)

SCOBYAnd just like that, I have my very own kombucha Mother! This little scoby is going to make me a whole lot of delicious bubbly healthy goodness. All it will take is a bit more time, tea, and a plethora of microbial fermentation, oxidation, and cellulose synthesis reactions! … I mean *magic*.

mother, top and bottom

TIP: rinse your hands with distilled white vinegar when handling the Mother to keep her clean and healthy. You can rinse your jar with vinegar too.

 

 

 

 

 

Kombucha Chronicles: Drinking the Fermented Tea

Our booch habit has been developing for a long time. My husband and I had our first taste at a yoga & meditation convention in Toronto over a year ago. We both enjoy a good hot yoga session now and then, but we aren’t subscribers to the holistic and spiritual aspects of the New Age lifestyle. Whatever, we had free tickets and it was something to do.

Feeling very uncomfortable with the crystals, chanting workshops, and no-touching “massages” on offer, we proceeded to eat our way through the convention, taking every free sample we could get our hands on. Hooray for food! -the great equalizer.

One sample presented was a tiny plastic cup of cold tea called Kombucha (pronounce: com-boo-cha). It was good. We politely chatted with the proprietor and learnt that it was made via a fermentation process vaguely similar to making hard cider, but that something about the microbes used meant that the resulting beverage was not alcoholic but actually full of incredible health benefits. This is when we smiled and slowly backed away.

Months later while grocery shopping, Liam spots a glass bottle near the register labelled kombucha. Feeling thirsty and slightly under the weather, my always-sticks-to-the-list-and-never-impulse-buys accountant husband actually grabs it, spends $3.99 on it, and brings it home.

We were hooked. It is delicious. It’s bubbly and not too sweet. Over time we try all the flavours and each find our favourite flavour. Sharing a bottle becomes our weekly shopping-trip treat. One week it’s on sale so we buy two bottles. It’s never on sale again but we keep buying two bottles. We start going to other stores just to find different brands and flavours of kombucha to try. After a while we notice that our digestive health has never been better, and if we skip a week things in our tummies start to go funny.

We keep saying that we have to cut back on the kombucha because it’s too expensive. But we don’t want to cut back! We want more kombucha. Maybe a small glass every morning, or a refreshing, restorative cup after a stressful day at work. We never want to drink pop again. We start inventing flavours we wish existed. We get excited when we meet anyone who has ever heard of it before and fly into high-pitched allocution about kombucha awesomeness to anyone who will listen. We are utterly and irrevocably in love. There is no going back.

insta
follow me on Instagram!

So here I am, the girl who rolled her eyes at the very idea of a pro-biotic elixir discovered by the Tsin dynasty and used for thousands of years, attempting to make the stuff in my kitchen. What choice do I have?

Thanks to the wonderful, cooperative, sharing nature of the New Age on-line community, the process for home-made kombucha is no secret. From all I’ve read out there it seems desperately simple and the scientist in me is incredibly excited to conduct this experiment.

So join me as I chronicle my journey from closed-minded consumer to liberated home-brew kombucha goddess. Namaste everyone.

Best Summer Appetiser {Endive Boats}

best summer appetiser

As invitations to summer BBQs start rolling in, I find myself turning to this go-to favourite to bring as the perfect appetiser / side dish / whatever.

It’s light, refreshing, and super easy to throw together.

What You Need
Boursin cheese (any flavour, but I like basil)
endives
pecans
honey

What You Do
Slicing off the root of an endive, start peeling away the leaves. You will need to keep slicing at the root-end to be able to gently remove each layer. I like to keep the leaves all about the same size, so I’ll only use the first few layers of four or five endives (and save the rest for salad).

The rest is pretty basic; spoon on the Boursin, top with a pecan, and drizzle with honey. Voila!

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There is so much yum going on with these. The spicy of the endive balanced with the creamy of the cheese, plus the earthy flavour of the herbs and the double-shot of sweetness from the pecan and honey. They are also pretty and easy to eat.

I’m sure there are dozens of equally delicious variations (I’m thinking cream cheese + smoked salmon + dill, or goat cheese + pomegranate + black pepper, et cetera) so have fun and don’t stress about what to bring to your next BBQ. Just get out there and start enjoying summer!

Kitchen Excuses

I’m not sure what excuses can be made for how long it took our kitchen renovation to be done. We started last last November, like not the mostly recently passed November -the November before that, and didn’t finish up completely until only a few weeks ago.

It would have been one thing had we ripped it all out and started from scratch, moved around electrical and plumbing, or torn down a wall or two, but our plans were modest! Over a year to paint, change out the light fixtures, replace the counters and appliances, and lay a new floor right over the old one? Not cool lifestyle blogger, not cool.

before and after 2before and after 1

I mean it looks good, but a year and a half!?!

To be fair, there were unexpected delays. The counter top installation left huge scratches in my painted back splash adding a whole new project of covering it with adhesive tiles. My calculation was off on the tiles so I got half way through the job before realising I needed more, which then took a few weeks to come in.

I fell in love with a fabric and just HAD to have it made into Roman shades even though I had painstakingly cleaned every single panel on the old perfectly good blinds. We were also interrupted by projects like the Basement Makeover, sparked by water damage, and the Backyard Makeover, sparked by nice weather and a desire to be outside.

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Mainly though, we simply ran out of steam when all the big work was done and left things like “nail up the trim” and “touch up the paint” on the To-Do List month after month. It IS done however, and only now while putting this post together do I really see what a transformation it has been.

Green rotten counter tops are replaced with grey Wilson Laminate Soapstone purchased and installed by the Home Depot. We upgraded to a square edging so that it would look more like poured concrete. The sink and faucet are from our local Costco and were terrifically affordable buys. I like the black granite sink that is fathoms deeper than the old one, and the high arc faucet is both useful and aesthetically pleasing.

virtual-tour-208535-26The green linoleum floor got a quick coat of primer and then 12″x 24″ Allure vinyl tiles placed over it. I was very pleased with how well the floor project went; the peel-and-stick installation process was a breeze! The tiles being grout-able meant that the resulting floor looks almost like real tile, just much softer and forgiving. I can drop almost anything and it wont break. It is however easier to scratch, so be extremely careful moving heavy things across it (like refrigerators!). Also, don’t slop a bucket of water over it when washing. Water sitting in between the tiles will tend to discolour the grout. Just dry it a titch after washing, or use a steam mop.    virtual-tour-208535-28

To further justify the length of time this project took, I will note that although the changes were limited and easy to implement, the transformation is actually quite dramatic. These craft-like jobs (floor stickers, wall stickers, painting, a little simple wood-working) made a big difference in updating the aesthetic of the space. So a small job with a big impact can take a big-job amount of time … squared. Right?

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Time well spent I guess, a lot of time, but well spent.

 

 

The Ultimate Before & After {pre-sale!} Home Tour

We are moving! After almost 4 years in our first home together, we’ve decided that a big house in suburbia isn’t the lifestyle we want. We’re looking to downsize significantly and lead a lower-maintenance life. To do that, we need to sell (!) and for the last 18 months or so, all our efforts have been geared towards that goal. The hardwood floors, the bathroom makeovers, basement refinishing, all the painting and landscaping have been an endeavor to make our home more desirable.

As we were gathering the information needed to put our house on the market, I came across the original listing pictures from when we purchased. The changes we’ve made over the years are pretty remarkable and make for some very dramatic Before & Afters:

BA 1BA 2BA 4BA3BA iBA 5BA 6BA 7BA iiBA iiiBA 8BA 9BA 10BA 11BA 12BA 15BA 16BA 17BA 18BA ivBA 19BA 20BA 21BA 13

We have certainly come a long way! Hopefully our personal touch, not to mention the hours of hard work and no small amount of money, we’ve put into the place is appreciated by potential buyers. This is a great house, and has been a fantastic home to us, we’ve just fallen out of love with it and are ready to move on to a new chapter.

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Thanks to our Realtor Sandra Monsour
And our Designer Allison Ross
for helping us get our home looking so fabulous