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.

first ferment.jpg

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.

second ferment.jpg

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!

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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.

 

 

How to Lay a Pea Gravel Patio

The area to the right of our deck was a mess. Small, uneven, overgrown with weeds, rotting and generally unappealing. It housed the BBQ and the garden hose but provided no other purpose except looking ugly. As part of our Staycation Plans, the Mr. and I decide to replace this area with a much larger pea gravel patio.

gravel inspiration
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I took to the internet to familiarize myself with the Pros & Cons of a gravel patio. The look can be classic or modern; as elegant as an English garden or as laid-back as an ashram. The colours of the stones will vary according to your geographical location, meaning you will be using a local product that reflects your home. It is easy to install and maintain, but the biggest Pro has to be the low low cost. No other hardscaping material can compare to the price per square foot of pea gravel. Some Cons to keep in mind are that snow removal is next to impossible, it will need intermittent but consistent raking and cleaning, and there is a chance of stones spilling out onto to grass or other parts of the landscape. Although easy to walk on, the gravel has a lot of ‘give’, making it inappropriate for paths or areas you’d want to move a wheelbarrow or other equipment across. For our needs, it was the perfect option.

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We started by tearing up the brick patio stones and tearing down the rotten garden bed frames. We had to wrestle the stones from a swarm of fire ants, but we actually found a buyer for them on Kijiji! A little bit of cash in our pockets, but we’re mostly happy to be diverting waste from the landfill. Once the area was clear, we marked out the dimensions of the new patio and painstakingly removed all the grass using a flat edged shovel. This was a very labour intensive part of the project, requiring a lot of care that we only skimmed about 3 inches off the surface of the lawn. We are attempting to salvage the sod from this area to fill in where the shed used to be. Six weeks of consistent watering should do it, fingers crossed.

Patio progress

Even doing our very best to rip up the grass evenly, the dirt was far from level with low soft spots and rock-hard bumps all over the place. We rented a power sweeper from a home store which enabled Liam to power through the peeks and get us a nice flat surface for our base.

dirt progress

I laid landscape fabric over the whole area, being careful to overlap each strip. Follow your material directions, but I hammered in landscaping pegs every 3 feet or so. This should give us 3-5 maintenance-free years. Re-purposing wood beams from our now truncated side garden, we framed the patio so that the gravel stays neatly separated from the grass. To secure the beams we nailed in steel pegs right into the ground, first pre-drilling holes to prevent the wood from splitting.

gravel progressNow it was gravel time! I ordered 3 cubic yards of 3/8″ to 5/8″ Coloured Riverwash Stone (a.k.a. pea stone) from Greely Sand and Gravel, using their on-line calculator to estimate how much stone we would need. The result ended up being pretty much bang-on, we have a tiny bit extra.

this pile is just getting started!
would you look at this dump!

Liam lost count of how many trips he made with the wheelbarrow, it had to be at least 50. But after a back-bending day of shoveling 3 cubic yards of stone from one end of the house to the other, it was done. With a little bit of raking and smoothing, our pea gravel patio was complete.

fill progressThe last step of this project was to soak the stones with a sprinkler. They got all dusty during transfer and look chalky here, but the beautiful river-wash colours really came out with a bit of hosing off … except I’m saving those pictures for later.

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Even as an empty surface we like it and know it’s the right choice. The patio is now much more proportionate to the deck, and we no longer have dead space under the bay window. I cannot wait to finish our other backyard projects to show you how it all pulls together!

before and after patio

Basement Reveal

We’ve cleaned out the cobwebs, removed the wallpaper (and put some up!), ripped out the carpet, and made multiple trips to Ikea. We’ve painted, cut, screwed, scraped, stretched, hammered, and stapled … and now it’s done. An entire floor of our house has been renovated and it looks awesome!

BA pole
We mostly stuck to The Plan, but a few things changed along the way. The wood paneling ended up getting painted grey instead of white in order to tone down the blue which looked much bluer than anticipated. I actually love how it turned out … a bit of a twist on the traditional colour pairing. As always, the paint is from Dulux; Clear Sailing and Frost Grey.

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The floor was a great deal from Lowes; a Special Buy 12 mm click-laminate by Mohawk Floors that cost us 99¢ /sq foot. I originally wanted a much lighter grey-wash, but the hubby talked me into this more natural looking one with just an hint of grey. Given what we ended up painting the walls, I’m very happy I listened to him. The floor went down fairly easily, thanks to help from my mom & dad, and was a hugely rewarding 1 day DIY project.

BA bar 2The bar  was a point of contention for a while. We first painted the paneling grey just like the walls and Liam thought it looked good enough. I felt that it was awkwardly blending into the background and wanted to add tiles or stone veneer. We compromised on a wallpaper option from Bouclair. The irony of first taking down wallpaper from the walls to just put some up on the bar was not lost on us, but I’m happy in the end. Sure, we aren’t fooling anyone with stone wall paper, but the image of piled slate brings all the colours of the room together and the darkness of the stained “classic black” wood creates a grounding focal point to the space.

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We actually already had the bar stools, shelves, and glasses for this area, all hand-me-downs (like everything else we own). But it all looks so much better in a space that has been dressed up to match it! Who knows, we might even hang out down here now.

BA stairsNot wanting to deal with installing laminate flooring on the stairs, we lucked out that this Ikea runner was EXACTLY the same width as our staircase. Leaving the foam and tack strips from the old carpet, we stapled in the runners, making sure the connections happened under the stair nosing. The result is wall-to-wall carpeting in an indoor/outdoor material that should wear really well and didn’t break the bank.BA cab

We did end up going with the Ikea Borgsjo system; two shelf units with doors and one TV bench. It makes more sense to have a media center in the basement rather than a set of wardrobes, and gives me enough storage for extra kitcheny stuff.

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The fireplace was a great Costco grab. Not only does it look down right cool with its colour changing LED back-lights and crystal flames, but it also puts out a decent amount of heat in a chilly basement.

w fire place
ooooo, ahhhh

I accessorized the room as planned; with pictures from our trip to Cape Cod, and small objects we brought back from there. My favourites are the old glass fishing-net floats on the window; they are so pretty when they catch the light. The drift wood is actually from the lake at our cottage … I’ll keep my eyes out this summer for a second piece for the other unit. accesoroes

With two sitting rooms upstairs, we have no need to furnish the basement any more than it is. At least now its a welcoming part of the house, ready for use when needed. Maybe for at-home yoga sessions, a game room for hubby’s poker nights, a play room when the nieces & nephews visit, or just straight-up overflow room during parties.

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Although all the work we did down here was “easy” (wall paper removal, painting, laying floor, etc.), scale-wise it was by far the largest project we have yet tackled. It was a tremendous amount of work sacrificing many evenings and weekends, but we have a huge sense of accomplishment now that and entire floor of our house is completely done …which is good, because we still haven’t finished with the kitchen!

Kitchen Update: How We Turned an Ugly Awkward Space into a Wine Cabinet

Every kitchen has a story. Ours is that once upon a time, a very long time ago, it was a new kitchen. As time went on it got old, very old, and one day the previous owners decided to make it look new again. They installed new doors and laminated the fronts, which was great. Sort of. Great except that, because the cabinets were so old, none of the doors fit properly and the tiny cabinet above the microwave was so small that doors did not exist for it at all.

above-the-microwave

And so it was left open and awkward, a collecting spot for knick-knacks, dust and a healthy helping of grease.

dust collecting

Covering it up wasn’t an option, as we needed access to the microwave plug, and even after searching all the land, doors seriously did not exist. So the current owner (me) applied the age old adage that goes something like:

When life gives you lemons, or weird open cabinets, you make a wine shelf!

wine shelf!

It was a really easy project. The Mr. and I took some measurements, cut two planks of wood to length with 45° edges, slapped on some white paint, glued it all in place and voilà! a wine shelf was born.

diagram

I am floored every time I look at it … maybe because I’ve had too much wine, but. Shut up. I used to lay awake at night wondering what to do with the awkward ugly space above the microwave (a symptom of not enough wine), and now I’m actually happy it was there.  A wine shelf in the kitchen is a dream come true for this fairytale princess, and it really looks like an intentional built-in element of our kitchen.

diy wine shelf

It looks even better with wine in it.

wine

 

Can’t wait to show you how the rest of the room is coming along. Keep an eye on the Instagram feed to the right for sneak peeks!

How to Reupholster Dinning Chairs

Our dinning room redecorating is under way, and as the paint dries on the walls I am doing what I can to update the furniture as frugally as possible.

That means reupholstering our hand-me-down dinning chairs. I’m not in love with the cream finish, but they are in great shape all-around, and I was hoping re-covering  the seats would freshen them up. I found home decorating fabric for $7 / meter at Fabricland and bought 3 meters (more than enough for 6 seats). Here are the other tools I needed:

  • screwdriver
  • scissors
  • lint roller (optional)
  • staple gun with small staples or tacks
  • Scotch Gaurd

marterialsStep 1 Remove the seat by flipping the chair upside down and unscrewing the screws. This is how my chairs worked, yours may be different but are probably similar.

remove seat

Step 2 Cut the fabric to size by using the seat as a guide and leaving a 3-4 inch margin all around. You want to have enough fabric to pull up and under the the seat, but not so much that it becomes cumbersome to work with. Once you’ve made one square, use this piece as a template to cut enough fabric for each chair.

Step 3 Iron out each piece of fabric for a neat crisp result. Worst step ever, I hate ironing.

cut and iron

Step 4 If the fabric of your seat is tatty, you should remove it and upholster directly over the foam. My seats where in such great shape that I was able to upholster right over it. I did give them a good one-over with the lint roller, just so dust and cat hair wouldn’t be trapped inside my dinning room for all eternity. Obviously this is optional.

Step 5 Lay the fabric upside down on your workspace, and centre the seat upside down on the fabric. Starting from the middle of the top edge, grab the fabric and pull in up and over the backside of the seat. Secure with a staple.  Next, do the same thing on the bottom edge; then one side and the other. Work in the counter-part manner along each edge of the seat until you get to the corners.

Make the fabric taunt over the cushion, but be careful of pulling too tight. If you depress the foam of the seat, you could end up with dimples everywhere you have a staple.

stapleStep 6 Remove excess material at the corners by cutting them horizontally. You should end up with triangular shreds of fabric. Tightly pull up and across and staple down the corner.

cut corners

Step 7 Trim and staple down any excess fabric from the underside of your seat, and snip away frayed edges. It may also be a good idea to staple a scrap pieces of fabric to the bottom. This way if you ever need a colour sample, or need to test an new cleaning product on the fabric, you will always have some handy.

all done

Step 8 Once all of your seat cushions are covered, it is time for a very important, and often overlooked step, Scotch Guarding! These chairs are going in the dinning room. You know, where people dine. Unfortunately, people don’t always dine so elegantly and spills do happen. You don’t want to have gone through all this work just to have your beautiful new modern fabric all nasty and stained by next Easter. Buy a can of fabric protector at the hardware store, lay out the seats on a drop cloth, and give them two good coats.

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Step 9 Reattach the seats to the chairs and enjoy!

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before and afterNot an overly dramatic difference, but the chairs certainly have more personality now; well worth the $30 and one afternoon spent. The new fabric is much more modern with its ikat-esque print, and the grey and blue colours will help tie in other elements being put into the dinning room. It also has a nice metallic sheen that doesn’t photograph well but I think will look great with the chrome accents of the new chandelier and curtain rod.

Basically I’m just really excited to see this room-makeover come together. Off to do a second coat of paint!

DIY Shower Curtain Art

When I started thinking about re-doing our entryway, I lusted over the idea of doing a wall mural like this:

mural
from muralsyourway.com

But even in our small room that would cost over $250; absolutely not in the very limited budget.  I was ready to give up on large birch trees in my foyer… until I saw this shower curtain:

birch curtain
from urbanoutfitters.com

Hummm, very similar. And at $25, it fit right into to budget. I got my shower curtain at a place in Ottawa called ZoneMaison, but this one’s identical. Anyway, I hatched a plan to turn this bathroom linen into a large piece of artwork for the would-be mural wall.

My plan:

art-plan

I decided to use 1×3 pine to build a frame slightly smaller than the curtain. That way I could stretch it over the frame for a neat wrap-around look. The curtain was pretty shear, so I knew if I didn’t have a lining the wood would show through. A relatively cheap canvas painting drop cloth would suffice for the base.

What You Need

Shower Curtain Art materials

  • wood
  • wood glue
  • staples
  • staple gun
  • canvas drop cloth
  • scissors
  • an iron
  • a shower curtain

What to Do

Step 1: Cut the wood according to the plan and lay them out. Lay something out underneath your work space to protect it from messy glue.

Shower Curtain Art 011

Step 2: Add a bit of wood glue on the joints and press.

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Step 3: Straddle the stapler across the joint and add two or three staples. Glue then staple each joint.

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Step 4: Flip and do the other side.

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Step 5: Lay the canvas drop-cloth under the frame and cut to size, leaving about 6 inches of overlap.

Shower Curtain Art 034Step 6: Start on a long side, pull the canvas up and over the frame, keeping in taught, and staple every 8 inches or so. Pull the canvas tight and staple the opposite side.

Shower Curtain Art 046Step 7: Fold over the top, neatly tucking in the corner like you are warping a present or making a bed.

Shower Curtain Art 052Step 8: And staple! Do each corner, then a couple along the top and bottom, make sure the canvas is nicely stretched out.

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Here is the base for our artwork:

Shower Curtain Art 054

Step 9: Iron your shower curtain to get the fold creases out of the fabric. This was the least fun part of the project. I hate ironing.

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Step 10: Repeat Steps 5 through 8 with the curtain; cut-stretch staple. /p>

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And here it is:

diy shower curtain

Not exactly the statement a whole wall mural would have made, but still a bold piece that adds drama to the room. There are so many cute shower curtains out their that could make great ‘art’. And at about $40 all in, it’s a trick that can fit  into anybody’s budget.