Kombucha Vinegar with Berries and Herbs
March 7, 2014, 12:58 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized


We went out of town for a weekend, and that week I never did get around to decanting a batch of kombucha.  So the crock went for 2 weeks without fresh tea and got pretty strong. When I tested the pH, it was 2.9, so I figured everything was normal and went about my business of adding fruit puree. I really should have tasted it. A day or two later I poured myself a big glass of berry kombucha and got an equally big surprise. Major acid burn. The stuff is vinegar.

What good is berry vinegar? Sounds like salad dressing to me. So let’s stew it a little while longer with fresh herbs. We’ll see what happens.

Second Batch of Double Ferment Kombucha
January 31, 2014, 3:00 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized


Really really really delicious stuff. Hitting all the right pH markers, yet not at all as vinegary tasting as store bought kombucha. I looked at the use-by date on a bottle of GT’s today and it was good til June of this year. That’s a long time for the stuff to continue aging! Might explain the strong taste of commercial kombucha – given transport and shelf time, it’s probably pretty mature by the time you get it. I decanted a bottle today that was 2.5 pH, and it was still milder than GT’s. It will be part of the third round of experiments, flavored with lemon juice, Hibiscus flower, a scant bit of sugar to help it carbonate, and finished with chia seeds. Swoon.

Kombucha: First Round of Second Fermentation
January 27, 2014, 1:25 pm
Filed under: in the kitchen | Tags:


We’re experimenting with varying levels of fruit puree to kombucha. This is about 14 hours after setting up the second ferment.  The additive consists of Costco’s frozen organic berry mix pureed with some water and strained, +/- 100ml of puree per bottle.  Bottle on the right is carbonating right up. The other two to lesser degrees. Fourth bottle, not in picture, is a GT Classic tinted bottle that we keep stealing from, nevermind waiting, because the stuff is so dang tasty (read: sweet) after you add the berries. We’re measuring pH with a handheld meter calibrated with a 4.01 buffer solution.  Currently reading 3.7, online camps are mixed to whether kombucha belongs in the 2.5-4.0 range or 2.5-3.5 range. I feel pretty safe where I’m at, but we’re going to let one bottle go to the end of today, and the rest go into tomorrow, and see if the pH lowers noticably. It’s also fair to note the kombucha was three and change when we added the fruit. I don’t think I’d like it at 2.5…too tart for me.

Growing a SCOBY from Store-Bought Kombucha
January 24, 2014, 4:39 pm
Filed under: in the kitchen


Here we have the first week result from attempting to grow a SCOBY from GT’s Classic unflavored commercial kombucha. The word classic on the label reputedly means that the bottle contains the pre-reformulation recipe and can therefore grow a healthy mother. From what I’ve seen online, most blogs note that it will take weeks to grow a SCOBY from scratch and that it will be much weaker than one you can get from a friend or online. This one seems to growing pretty fast to me, especially considering it’s winter and I’ve got lousy insulation. I plan to also get a SCOBY via trade on Craigslist. We’ll do some side by side testings for taste, pH, and whatever else I can think of.

Berber Whisky
June 2, 2013, 1:40 pm
Filed under: in the kitchen


Occasions you might drink complimentary Berber Whisky:

  • Visiting any local family (know your saha from your besaha)
  • Each and every time you check in to a new riad or kasbah
  • If there’s a whiff a business transaction might occur

Why you might drink complimentary Berber Whisky:

  • To be a gracious guest
  • It might be accompanied by delicious coconut cookies
  • Half the sand between Ouarzazote and Rissani is in your mouth
  • The optimist in you is holding out that maybe this time you will be able to finish the glass

How to make authentic Berber Whisky:

Put twice the amount of inexpensive Chinese green tea (of any variety) than you need per person in a heavy cast metal teapot with no thermal breaks between pot and handle.  Top off the rest of the pot cavity with washed, loosely packed fresh mint leaves.  Fill teapot with boiling water. Steep way overlong for green tea, to insure end result will be eye-crossingly bitter. Reach for the teapot handle and acquire a second-degree burn. Grope around the tea set until you find the I-really-can’t-take-that-back-to-the-US handle cover and put it on the handle.  Again reach for the teapot, fill one tea glass with tea. Return that tea to the tea pot. Put a cube or three of sugar in the bottom of each tea glass. Pour tea slowly into each glass, starting from close to the glass and then pulling the tea pot up and up and up such that the tea froths in the glass. Froth = easier to pick out flies or dirt with the tip of your finger.

Assuring your host that this cheek-puckering, tongue-curling bitter brew is perfect, drink tea as slowly as possible, with the hope it will be time to leave before you reach the bottom of the glass.

*Everyone in Morocco is gracious and hospitable and you will drink the tea and like it.

**Photo taken at Kasbah Ennakhile in Nkob, where they were very nice to us and the jack-of-all-trades waiter/bellhop/busboy/unlocker-of-doors was very handsome.

Herb Steeped Vinegar and Ancho Chilis from the Garden
January 7, 2013, 11:57 am
Filed under: in the garden, in the kitchen


Labradorite Hoop Mod
December 18, 2012, 9:15 pm
Filed under: DIY, projects

Labradorite Hoop Mod

One year Anthropologie sold a pair of pearl earrings that I lusted after. I bookmarked them hoping they’d go on sale, but they sold out at full retail. Ever since, I’ve had a will-not-go-away itch to recreate them.

I love pearls, but I also love labradorite, and when I found a stretchy bracelet of labradorite chips, I bought it immediately with just this pair of earrings in mind.

It then took year(s) to find a gold hoop that was the right mix of clasp-type, gauge, quality, and price. I found the hoop this weekend on sale at Banana Republic.

Done and done.

Borage Blossom Ice Cubes
August 7, 2012, 10:01 am
Filed under: in the garden


I’m growing borage this year, decided entirely on whim after reading the back of the seed packet at the store. I didn’t know much about the plant, so there’s been a lot of reading up on how to use it. Borage flower ice cubes are a popular notion. Several sources note borage “gladdens the heart,” and why wouldn’t it? Who can look at pretty, true blue blossoms and not be gladdened.

Drying Oranges for Tea
June 30, 2012, 9:57 am
Filed under: in the kitchen


Almost all my favorite tea mixes (not to mention my very favorite beverage aid – mulling spice) contain dried orange chunks or peel in them. I’ve been contemplating crafting my own tea mixes for a while, and up until the last couple of months, I was certain I would simply be buying dried orange from Mountain Rose Herbs or a similar organic retailer. The thought of buying oranges retail and then going through the effort of drying them didn’t seem cost or labor effective. Sad to say, living where a lot of citrus is grown doesn’t seem to translate to savings at the register.

However, I’ve moved to a new neighborhood in the last year, and lucky lucky me, it seems like everyone has a citrus tree of one type or another in their yard. Even better, the neighborhood directly north of me hosts a Produce Exchange on Sunday afternoons. I’ll post more about that later, but suffice to say for now, it meant I could trade the lemons growing in my yard for oranges growing in other peoples’ yards.  In fact, the day I happened to attend, there were so many oranges up for grabs that it was more like a 6:1 trade than a 1:1 trade.

My kitchen crowded with free oranges, a gleeful me went to work figuring out how to dry them. Turns out it wasn’t hard at all. But what exactly did I want for my teas? The whole orange dried, or just the zest?  Wouldn’t the pith part of drying the whole orange make my teas bitter? An experiment was in order.

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Masala Chai
June 29, 2012, 9:01 am
Filed under: in the kitchen

Long time no see, dear blog. I have been enjoying life very much, and have lots to share. While I work on ramping up content, here’s a fun and fabulous video I’ve been enjoying the past few days. I tested the recipe this morning, and all I would add is half a teaspoon more sugar in your mug when you pour the tea.


How To Make Masala Chai from High Beam Media on Vimeo.

Sorbet Soda
July 3, 2009, 12:46 pm
Filed under: in the kitchen

sorbet soda

I found some of those infamous Meyer lemons at the Japantown farmer’s market and immediately juiced six of them to make strawberry lemon sorbet. Which was dang good in and of itself.

But the later use of it as a concentrate, mixed with sparking water to make soda, was in-cre-di-ble.

Start with this recipe. Prior to chilling, put mixture in your blender and add a large handful of strawberies – fresh or frozen. Proceed per usual.

Deserted Island Pan
March 6, 2009, 3:44 pm
Filed under: in the kitchen, shopping


My time in this big Victorian barn of an apartment has drawn to a close and I have, with the help of some dear friends, spent the last week packing. The packing of the kitchen has been an amusing thing – I wasn’t the one who packed it, and because I am still in residence for the next week and a half, several things I’d like to still have out to cook with are in the bottom of a taped up box somewhere.

But I managed to squirrel my way into the kitchen during the pot packing, and insisted that this pot stay free of bubble wrap and cardboard. I need something to cook my remaining meals with, and this just seemed like the right choice.

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Abaca Pillows
March 5, 2009, 11:57 am
Filed under: shopping


These abaca pillows, made from a plant fiber grown in the Philippines, are $11.25, down from $45, as part of hip & zen’s closeout clearance.

I’ve long loved the abaca goods available on Bitters Co.’s textile page, but the prices were out of reach.  So here’s a starter purchase!

Seltzer Senorita
February 19, 2009, 5:18 pm
Filed under: green, shopping


I have long wanted a working seltzer bottle. I had to order three off eBay before I realized the vintage ones didn’t actually function. Oh, I love those wire wrapped Art Deco beauties! Oh, how they are pointless paperweights! Why did no one tell me it’s impossible to get the caps off them and refill them with water? That age has fused them into metallic and glass lumps?

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February 11, 2009, 12:29 pm
Filed under: architecture

I got news of the TVCC fire through Daily Dose of Architecture, but this came through from my school friend Elyse, who lives in Beijing. Thought it was worth sharing. Her full post is here.

CD Recycling
January 21, 2009, 7:31 pm
Filed under: green


This is more like a future reference note to myself, but why not share?

This webpage offers information about where you can send CDs, cases, and liner notes to be recycled (pick-up is available in New England). I don’t see why your liner notes can’t go in regular local recycling, but the info about CDs and cases is handy.  I personally am still hanging on to my music CDs, but I saw CDRs and CDRWs get trashed regularly in school and if I’d known about this, I would have organized the collection of them as a grassroots project.  As it is, I am going to keep it in mind for all the offices I work at in the future.

Stocking Up.
January 16, 2009, 8:00 am
Filed under: in the kitchen


The farmers markets are expensive around here in the winter. But the flea market on Berryessa has bags of peppers and potatoes and green beans measured out and tied up and selling for a dollar a bag. My lengthy, though unscientific, survey tells me there’s generally over a pound of produce in each bag (that’s three peppers for a dollar). It’s probably from Mexico. But man is it fresh. And cheap. And going in my freezer pronto.

The Hunt
January 15, 2009, 12:00 pm
Filed under: design


I’m somewhat obsessed with this fabric. The print is small enough that when you step back from it, it reads as a neutral, and in upholstery weight, it’s just really really great. I’d love to do the two barrel backed 60s club chairs I got off Craigslist in it. If only I could find it. Because considering where I took this picture, I don’t have high hopes for ever locating it again.

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Less Cut Into Little Pieces Is More
January 14, 2009, 7:29 pm
Filed under: in the kitchen, living mindfully

I remember reading a quote a long time ago about fried rice and stirfry style recipes developing as a way for poor families to make a single serving of meat serve a whole family – when the meat is chopped very small, everyone gets a few pieces in their bowl.

The sandwich above is more generous in its serving of meat, but the idea is the same. A 5 ounce steak looks tiny when placed on a plate in once piece. But if you slice it thinly and pile it on a slice of rustic bread, it doesn’t feel so small anymore. In fact, it feels quite indulgent.

Whether you’re trying to eat smaller portions or you’re long overdue a bit of steak on your tight budget, it’s a concept worth keeping in mind.

Stylin’ Hep Cat
December 6, 2008, 2:09 pm
Filed under: shopping

catbedLove these “mod” pet beds.

Too bad the covers aren’t removable for washing.

But still, happy things like this are available on Etsy for not-300-dollars.

Recycling Your Water Filters
December 5, 2008, 1:01 pm
Filed under: green


European Brita has been recycling water filters since 1992, but apparently the service has not been available in the United States. On one hand, “That sucks!” On the other, I’m kind of glad, because I would have felt stupid for every time I’ve put mine in the trash with a bummed out sigh if I was actually supposed to recycle the thing.

Good news as of January ’09, however!

I went to this morning to get a postage label for my Preserve toothbrush and what should I see but an announcement that Preserve is going to start accepting Brita Filters! Even better, you can drop your filter off at select Whole Foods and skip the shipping altogether. I have my fingers crossed that because I live in a wealthy part of tree-hugging California, my local Whole Foods will be one of the “select.”  Participating stores will also accept any #5 plastics. Check with your local recycling folks to see if that is a boon over your current program or not, though, as it makes no sense to divert your #5s if they’re already being properly recycled.

Now, shall we start a petition to get them to accept PUR filters too?

Repurposing: Sometimes I Think It’s My Purpose
November 12, 2008, 4:13 pm
Filed under: home | Tags: , ,


Did you know…that a Twinings tea tin is the absolute perfect height to hold Q-tips?

Pumpkin Carving Party Tray
October 28, 2008, 8:00 am
Filed under: in the kitchen

First, I’ve had this tray for ages and not had an excuse to use it. It’s a pearly gray with a hint of lavender and made from plywood. You can see the ply around the edge. I love it. So, tada! Here it is! (Humor me.)

Second, Saturday I put together a pumpkin carving party for thirty folks, on a budget. They’d all paid ten dollars to attend, and the pumpkins had eaten up half of that per person. After buying red wine for mulled wine, apple cider for mulled cider, hot chocolate, and sodas, I had a limited amount to work with for edibles. The treats had to be tasty and inexpensive, but, because I’m just like that, they had to look twice as fancy as they were. Personal standards will be the death of me, yet.

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Simplest Spinach Rolls In The Universe
October 27, 2008, 2:37 pm
Filed under: in the kitchen

I was at an Easter potluck barbecue when I first tried these. A guy in attendance had brought a huge, huge bowl of them – so huge we thought he was out of his mind.  Then we ate one. And the bowl was promptly emptied.

Thankfully, he was willing to tell us what was in them.  And even more thankfully, it was so simple that I still remembered the recipe last weekend when I decided to make them for a pumpkin carving party at my house.

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Zaha + Melissa
August 15, 2008, 9:01 am
Filed under: architecture, shopping

Zaha does injection molded plastic.

Zaha does injection molded plastic.

This just in, passed to me by a friend: Zaha Hadid teams with Melissa to create her own footwear. Full blurb at the AIA website.

Not sure I’m digging that coral/salmon, nor how they look without feet in them, but I’ll wait for more images before making a judgment call. (Who am I kidding – they cost $350 – my judgment is irrelevant!)

Also on Inhabitat, where the color is slightly less garish, but still no images of it being worn.

On Youtube, a video of a ‘making of’ a mockup.

(To their credit, several readers on other websites have pointed out the glaring non-sustainablity of making shoes in Brasil to be sold only in London.)

Sorrel Pesto w/Grilled Squash
August 13, 2008, 8:24 am
Filed under: in the kitchen

Not my recipe. But I can oh-so-vouch-for-it.

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August 12, 2008, 8:17 am
Filed under: home

Going through some life changes that have me at home during the days. I confess I ought to be more worried than I am, and part of the reason I’ve been feeling artificially insulated from the precariousness of unemployment (!) is that I’m enjoying staying at home shamefully well.  My place is beautiful in daylight, and I’m experiencing all sorts of little nuances of light and color and stillness I missed previously.

Morning Glory
August 11, 2008, 8:12 am
Filed under: in the garden

I started these from a freebie seed packet earlier in the year and transplanted them outside at roughly the same time as I planted the daylilies. They’re growing up the railing of the raised front porch (this pic is looking over the railing down at the ground) and I see them each time I leave in the morning. They are the most amazing blue.

Lovely, lovely.

Collard Greens (Southern Style)
August 8, 2008, 1:10 pm
Filed under: in the kitchen

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Happy Weekend
July 11, 2008, 7:55 am
Filed under: life in general

National landmarks
First you have to park. Then you have to pay. Then you have to stand around with a lot of other fat Americans and their stupid children and their mewling old folk. Do so.

I lived a childhood with parents who were too groovy to do those square tourist things (Gen X had not yet invented irony), and so I never knew just how important Mount Rushmore is. Or the mile-high statue of Crazy Horse carved into the other side of the hills. Or Devil’s Tower, in a hideous corner of Wyoming. Well, my son and I experienced those three magnificent places in 24 hours (with a stint at a Flintstones theme park along the way), and still had time to stop and burgle some doubtless-protected wildflowers for the water bottle in my lousy VW cupholder.

There’s a reason we protect certain places, a reason the Parks Service takes the trouble to put up bathrooms and water fountains and collect your toll: because these places are treasures, every one, and if you’re within an hour of one, you must really stop and see it. We’ve been to national parks up and down the Sierra Nevada; we’ve been to Niagara Falls. We’ve seen Arches in Utah, and Zion National Park. We’ve roamed the gilded halls of Breakers (the Vanderbilt family home) in Newport, R.I. We’ve been everywhere, man.

Plus, the Park Service could really use the dough.

-Rebecca Schoenkopf

My thoughts exactly. If there’s something amazing within a few hours drive of you, why not go see it this summer? The park service really could use the dough, and we all need to feel awe (and perspective!) every once in a while.