My apparatus: New tea brewing on the left, 2 different types of bottles I've collected for home-brews, and the 2-qt jar I use as a fermentation vessel, with the remainder of the finished kombucha waiting for the tea to come to room temp. The SCOBY is in the plastic lid in front, and there's the straw I use for sampling.

My apparatus: New tea brewing on the left, home-brew bottles, and the 2-qt jar I use as a fermentation vessel (with the remainder of the finished kombucha waiting for the tea to come to room temp). The SCOBY is in the plastic lid in front, and there’s the straw I use for sampling.

I’d been thinking of trying kombucha for a little while, but I didn’t know anyone who made it, so I would have had to actually leave the house to buy some, or else send away for a SCOBY, and I’m entirely too lazy/cheap for those options. Heh.

But then, at a friend’s Solstice party, I noticed a jar with a towel rubber-banded to the top. Hmm. Sure enough, kombucha! So she set me up. I’m still pretty new at the whole thing, but it tastes yummy and purportedly even has health benefits.

Here’s how I do it.

For a gallon of kombucha, you need:

a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast)

6 black tea bags (regular or decaf)*

a cup of white sugar**

and of course, a gallon of water.

Brew your sweet tea, let it cool, add the SCOBY, cover with a towel secured to the top, and wait. It’ll take about a week, but you can taste it to see how sweet or dry it is. When it tastes how you want, it’s done. Take the SCOBY out (along with 1/4 to 1/3 of the finished kombucha, for the next batch), pour the brew into whatever container you’ll store it in, and put it in the fridge. If you leave it on the counter, it’ll grow a new SCOBY, and continue to ferment. (And it’s REALLY WEIRD to feel a newly formed SCOBY in your mouth! Bleaahh!)

SCOBY close-up

SCOBY close-up

If your fermenting container is smaller than a gallon, just use proportionally smaller amounts. I use a 2-qt mason jar, but I’m on the lookout for a larger dispenser-type jar with a spigot on the bottom. SCOBYs don’t like metal, so use only glass, wood, or plastic to handle the SCOBY or what it will be in contact with. The SCOBY will add a layer on top for every new batch, so when it gets too thick, just peel off the bottom & toss it. Or give it to a friend! The SCOBY will take the shape of the top of whatever container you use. It may sink in a new batch of tea, but even if the old SCOBY stays at the bottom, the new one will form at the top.

To taste it as it ferments, stick a plastic drinking straw down the side, plug the top with your finger, and empty it into your mouth or a glass. I like mine fairly dry, some like it sweeter. It’ll taste more & more like vinegar as time passes, because the yeast takes the sugar, turns it to alcohol, and then the bacteria takes the alcohol and turns it to acetic acid, aka distilled vinegar.

The finished kombucha can be treated a number of different ways– it’s really good with fruit in it, or grated fresh ginger, or you can do a secondary ferment for more bubbles. If it’s still pretty sweet, just put it into a stoppered bottle for 24 hours on the counter, or if you let it get fairly dry add some sugar before stopping the bottle. The residual yeast will make the carbonation for you. Once it’s bubbly, refrigerate, or you could end up with broken glass all over your kitchen. Hasn’t happened to me yet, but I don’t doubt it could if I weren’t careful.

And enjoy!

*For a couple batches I added a lemon-ginger tea bag, but I couldn’t really taste the additional flavors once it was done fermenting. My friend also told me that it’s only black tea that has the right nutrients for the SCOBY– you can combine it with green tea, but there has to be black tea in there somewhere or the SCOBY will get too weak.

**White sugar is it for this stuff. Other sweeteners won’t work, apparently. I haven’t done any experiments yet to try out other kinds of sugar, though. Maybe someday.


Make Your Own Tote Based On A Plastic Shopping Bag

Plastic shopping bags are sure handy. If only I didn’t feel that twinge of guilt whenever I don’t stop the bagger and say, “Paper, if you don’t mind…” Or better yet, if I had the brains to remember to bring my own dang bags! But I do reuse mine as garbage bags, or to pack a lunch, or, or, or. But they rip pretty easily, and really, they aren’t the most attractive packaging on the planet. So why not make a cloth version? After all, I do have a huge stash of fabric spilling out everywhere a little fabric somewhere in my house. Flattened bag, cut in half and trimmed.

Cut the “welds” off the top of the handle and the bottom of the bag. Cut the whole bag in half down the middle, as shown, and trim the sides of the handle part. (In retrospect, I should have made the handles narrower by trimming that right-hand curve in a little. Sewing that narrow curve was kind of a pain.) This is your pattern. The cut will go on a fold, and you’ll make 2 pieces. Put the pattern on the wrong side of the fabric so you can use a pen to mark your cutting lines. image Once you have your 2 pieces, align them wrong sides together and sew a narrow (1/8″) seam.

Wrong sides together...

Wrong sides together…

...and right sides together, to hide the raw edges inside the seam.

…and right sides together, to hide the raw edges inside the seam.

Then flip things inside out, and sew a 1/4″ seam, to hide your raw edges.

Now fold the handles at the top, the way they are on your original plastic bag. Follow this alignment down to the bottom, and pin & stitch that puppy shut. Then bind it with some non-bias tape made from matching scraps, because it’s too early in the morning to realize I could have just turned the bottom up once, then folded it, and stitched it shut with no raw edges showing. Next time.


All lined up.


If you look close, to the left of the handle, you can see my learning curve with the cutting mat. I should have used scissors on the tight curves, because I gouged out little chunks with my rotary cutter. Oops. Good thing it’s reversible.







So, anyway, here’s how I did the binding on the bottom. Cut some strips, about 1.5 to 2″ wide. I had some selvedges to use, so I made them go on the ends, and joined a little middle section to make it long enough. When you’re joining binding like this, always do it on the diagonal, that way the chunkiness of the seam is spread out. I would have used bias tape, but I don’t want this to stretch, and there are no curves to make bias tape necessary.

image image image Stitch the binding tape to one side, close to the edge. (You can also see how I tried to tuck in the raw edges at the corner.) Next, wrap the tape around to the other side, and pin in place. Then tuck in the raw edge of the tape, starting at one end, and re-positioning the pins as you get to them. The 2 edges are off-set; this is on purpose. Then flip the bag over, and stitch along the line between the binding and the bag. imageThis is the finished seam from the other side.

On to the handles! Zigzag the raw edges, turn them under, and straight-stitch them down. image image image You can see in the third picture how the narrow curve is kind of wonky. That’s what I was talking about in the pattern-cutting pictures above. I was lazy, and didn’t use bias tape to finish the raw edges at the top. I justify it by believing it’s less bulky this way… but really I think tape would have made the bag look more finished. I would probably have had to make the curves more gradual, though.

image image Final stretch! Now sew the handles together at the top, right sides together, like the pic on the left. Then fold the seam allowance to one side and fold the handles in half, as they are on a plastic bag. Stitch across below the seam allowance, pivot, stitch up to the first seam line, and stitch back to the start. Now the handles are joined, and the seam allowance is nicely contained.

Here’s the finished product!

PS: Holly, recognize the cloth?? :^)

image image

Bathroom Stud Shelves– GO!

I’m putting shelves in my eety-beety bathroom. We did a remodel several years ago, and talked about doing this then, but we were SO READY to be done so we just walled it all in. Now that I have an almost-3- and almost-5-yr-old, it’s time for a construction project! o.O

The house was built in 1951, when drywall was first starting to be used. Back then, it was just a substitute for lath, with plaster still put over the top. You can see the horizontal lines on the back of the bedroom wall – the drywall is only about a foot & a half wide, and was installed horizontally. The bathroom walls are new, so they’re just regular drywall. The saw I used was a thin-bladed hand saw of some sort… Brian said, “Here, this one will work pretty well.” And so it did. 🙂

The hole.

The hole.

Top of the hole.

Top of the hole.

The hole is about 6 feet tall, and the space between the studs is about 16″ rather than the usual 14 or so.

Got a little close to the wiring, there...

Got a little close to the wiring, there…

I was glad I decided to stop cutting there. I didn’t remember that there was any wiring in this space, and when I cut across the bottom of the hole and removed the chunk of drywall, I realized how close I was to disaster! There’s only about an inch vertically between the bottom of the hole and the wire.

Needs some smoothing.

Needs some smoothing.

For reasons I don’t recall, we needed to shim the 2×4’s before we screwed down the drywall, so there are weird shim issues to deal with before I’ll be able to finish these edges. The lumber they used on this house was square, too, so these 2×4’s are actually 2″x4″. That, plus the shims, plus the drywall comes to a good 5 inches of depth there! I want to use the thinnest material possible to cover the studs and the drywall at the back. I’ll probably just glue it on. My plan is to use 2×6 or 1×6 boards cut to about 17″ long for the shelves. I’ll cut notches in their corners so they’ll slide between the studs, and they’ll stick out at the front & sides an inch or so. I’m borrowing a Kreg jig from some friends for attaching them to the studs. Once everything is sanded and installed, I’ll use some caulking to smooth out the corners, and paint everything white.

That’s IF everything goes like I think it should. We’ll see.