Effervescent Embers: How to Make Kombucha

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I decided to add a new category to Miseducated based on the wonderfully fulfilling and helpful work one of my best friends and I do together on an almost daily basis. Not only do we get together on weekdays to work (we both have jobs that rely on laptops, coffee and a strong WIFI connection) and encourage each other but we also do extra life-enhancing things like discussing hardships to find the positive hidden within, practicing yoga (she is an excellently encouraging yoga instructor so stay tuned for information about her business as the website is in the works) and connecting with our animals while incense swirls in the air and the music hums.

Lately we’ve began cooking together as we shared a home for a time and especially because Emma makes kombucha. I wasn’t even scared to try the drink because I was staying with her for a week and I figured I’d give it a shot. In one of my worst times I honestly felt good health-wise, which is not usually the case for me. I had been having a stomach ache and had been unable to eat much until I began drinking the drink and my stomach worries went away. I had issues with digestion and other women’s woes as well that seemed to clear up shockingly quick after enjoying kombucha daily. It wasn’t until later when I saw what went into this delicious vinegar soda I began to get skeptical. Extensive amounts of reading others experiences and recipes showed me that this is an ancient health elixir that has been made nearly everywhere and is only fairly new to our culture. So yes, I began to craft my own and we will teach you to do the same. All it takes is a SCOBY, tea (start with black or green) and sugar. Real sugar, not the chemical kind.

As always this is my experience, you are free to have your own and either dispose the taste or the entire idea behind the drink and that’s totally fine! I do not claim any magical healing benefits nor do I expect everyone to enjoy the taste. However I think trying new things is many times a good idea unless you have strong truth-based reservations about them.

So kombucha tastes nothing like tea or juice or regular soda or sugar. I figured I’d first throw that out there. To describe it at all, depending on what you add to it, it tastes like a carbonated vinegar. The carbonation and flavor depend on the amount of fermentation it does and what sort of juice you add after you bottle it. We have chosen to add mango lemonade but next time I believe I’ll try something new. I’ve heard of people adding ginger and that entices me.

Why kombucha though? Other than my own experience? Kombucha contains probiotics and multiple species of yeast and bacteria along with the organic acids, active enzymes, amino acids, and polyphenols produced by these microbes. The precise quantities vary between samples, but may contain: Acetic acid, Ethanol, Gluconic acid, Glucuronic acid, Glycerol, Lactic acid, Usnic acid and B-vitamins. It was also found that Kombucha contains about 1.51 mg/mL of vitamin C. The acidity of kombucha resists contamination by most airborne molds or bacterial spores. It was shown that Kombucha inhibits growth of harmful microorganisms such as E. coli, Sal. enteritidis, Sal. typhimurium, and Sh. Sonnei. As a result, kombucha is relatively easy to maintain as a culture outside of sterile conditions. – Wikipedia on Kombucha

EMBER’S KOMBUCHA

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Ingredients

  • 3.5 quarts water
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 12 bags green or black tea / 6 tbsp loose green or black tea
  • 2 cups starter tea from last batch of kombucha
  • 1 healthy SCOBY per fermentation jar
  • Optional: when time for bottling add 1 cup fruit juice to bottle

Equipment

  • saucepan
  • 1 gallon glass jar
  • jars or bottles: 8 16-oz mason jars or soda bottles (with lids)
  • funnel
  • strainer

emma and our kombucha

Instructions

1. Make a batch of sweet tea: Fill saucepan with approx 1-2 quarts of water and add the bags when boiling. Add sugar and allow tea to steep until water has cooled. Add ice if impatient.

2. Add tea to 1-gallon jar. If still warm add cold water and leave only around 15% of jar unfilled.

3. Gently add your SCOBY and 2 cups of previous batch (without juice) being careful not to use metal to touch the SCOBY — we used bamboo tongs. Cover the mouth of the jar with a coffee filter and secure with a rubber band or tape if necessary (my jar was an oblong shape).

4. Ferment for 7 to 10 Days: Keep the jar in a cabinet by it’s lonesome. Store at room temperature, out of direct sunlight and safe from being shaken or moved. Ferment for 7 to 10 days, checking it periodically to make sure the SCOBY is fermenting the tea and not succumbing to mold or ailments. (I like to check it and take a sniff to make sure it smells like vinegar and not anything rotten.)

You will notice the SCOBY may position itself anywhere around the bottle but usually a new SCOBY baby will form towards the top of the jar (in the liquid). You will also see brown strings settling on the bottom and around the SCOBY. These are signs of good fermentation. Feel free after 7 days to taste the kombucha with a teaspoon. If the tartness and sweetness are to your taste feel free to bottle, if not let it ferment up to 14 days (you can do a second ferment for 3 days in the bottles flavors added if you so decide).

5. Remove the SCOBY and prepare another saucepan with the tea recipe listed above. Without using metal transfer the SCOBY to a clean plate and remove extra layers if it has gotten too thick.

6. Now that you have your jar filled with only the kombucha, get out the stranger and funnel so you can pour it into the bottles/jars you prepared. Feel free to add fruit, fruit juices, flavors such as ginger, etc. We’ll add a feature on more kombucha uses and flavors in the future!

7. After the kombucha is bottle, store it at room-temperature out of direct sunlight and allow 1 to 3 days for the kombucha to carbonate and ferment further with the flavor you have added. Keep in mind that if you’re not familiar with the ingredients and time needed for carbonation the bottles could explore or pop open so keep checking and burping them everyday. After ready place them in the refrigerator to stop the fermentation and store for up to a month.

8. Use your tea, water and SCOBY to make another batch of kombucha as outlined above ready to continue the cycle.

* Too many extra SCOBYs? Put them in a jar filled with kombucha and feed them a cup of sugar every 2 weeks while waiting in the fridge. You can also donate them to a friend and teach them how to make kombucha OR you can start making multiple batches at once and experiment with flavors.

20 percent juice

Also view this recipe and how it relates to a yoga lifestyle at Emma’s ashtanga, fire and growth blog The Buddhi Blog and check out if your scoby has gone bad and other similar questions at Holistic Squid.

Tea Talk With ‘Maqaroon’ Maven Joanna

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Joanna is a Miseducated Eyecandy Girl through and through! Not only is she obviously adorable but she is a talented and successful business woman who owns and runs her own company filled with cuteness called Maqaroon. She creates jewelry, accessories and art inspired by Japanese fashion and unisex-friendly kawaii. She even blogs on her website and features female bloggers (most recently myself, so honored beyond belief) she feels drawn too in her super sweet, kawaii colorful and unique style of illustration. I am very happy to get a chance to chat with her and to share a bit of her world with all of you.

When did you start focusing on art and design as a hobby or passion and why?
I first discovered manga style when I was 8. I was in a tiny stationery shop in Beijing and found a Sailor Moon card showing all the characters wearing evening gowns. I thought it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen and became obsessed with wanting to draw like that! I was a very geeky teenager and loved video games, animes and RPGs so drawing fanart fit perfectly into that scene.

When and why did you decide to take it online?
I became very involved in the online manga community (Deviantart, Animexx, Livejournal) during high school because it was a great place to post work, get feedback and stay motivated. During university I learned enough to create a portfolio website and several years after that, after working as a web-designer, I finally had enough experience to design and set up my own online shop.

What is most challenging about starting a business on and offline?
The hardest offline part was finding the right third party contacts who help your business work. These include web developers, event organisers, couriers, photographers, printers, bloggers, financial/tax advisers and countless suppliers in Europe and Asia. Each one involves a financial gamble and you only know if that pays off after you receive the product or service. I invested (or wasted) a lot of money in the process but unfortunately there’s no way around the process as each business is unique and you need to try out everything to find what works for you.

The biggest online challenge is maintaining a constant presence on all your social media, including coming up with relevant, unique and interesting content for each platform and meaningfully interacting with other people. This is a full-time job for most companies, but if you’re doing everything alone then you have to fit it in around all other tasks! I have utmost respect for bloggers/vloggers who manage to post every few days as editing content is so much more time-consuming than anyone could imagine.

What would you tell an artist starting out marketing and selling their work online?
Start with as low quantities of each product as possible, then participate in craft fairs/pop-up markets where you sell a lot in a short space of time. Once you discover what people like to buy, go and design a batch of new things based on the bestselling product or theme. Then repeat with another event, and keep streamlining your products based on sales.

I have to emphasise participating in offline events because I found this was the best way to get a lot of feedback in the shortest space of time. When you first start out, online sales can be incredibly slow so it might take months if not years to get an idea of product popularity and you don’t want to wait that long! Once you know what sells, it will automatically drive your sales up both online and off.

Another good tip for any online shop is to choose light, flat products which are cheap to ship and not easily breakable. And always keep a very close eye on profit margins. I made an early mistake of offering keyrings and items with very small margins (e.g. 2-3 dollars). If I ended up miscalculating shipping by a tiny amount, or having to replace the parcel if it got lost then I would have negated that sale or even made a loss.

Lastly, don’t worry about comparing yourself with other brands or businesses. Just like how people make their lives look shinier on Facebook, a lot of brands may present a successful façade but that’s no reflection on how well they’re actually doing. Some companies simply buy fake Facebook and Twitter followers, others plough tons of loaned money into their start-up but are actually in debt. From talking to many people behind the scenes, I learned that many small businesses that are professionally represented at trade shows are still only being done part-time, and the owner(s) still rely on other sources of income.

So in short, don’t doubt yourself if it appears like everyone else is more successful. Even if you’re selling a few handmade items a month, you could still be making more profit than a shiny start-up with several employees that’s actually being funded by investors or a bank loan. The only thing to focus on is how your business is performing compared to itself, and work on steadily increasing sales. If it does become stuck, then try to change direction, products or audience until you discover what works.

What inspired your brand?
The original inspiration was my overwhelming love for Japanese street fashion. Ever since university, I’d been fascinated by street style and collected a huge amount of research through books, magazines, blogs and two trips to Tokyo. I wanted to create an illustrated resource for all those styles, both for myself and for others so people can see at a glance what the typical characteristics of each one are. This image is actually from the cover of a book pitch but I never heard back from the publisher, so I re-used many of the character designs!

The inspiration behind Maqaroon’s jewellery is a blend of Japanese “sweets deco” scene with classical European design. I live in Vienna, Austria which is a very traditional and baroque city. There are horse drawn carriages all over the streets and people take black tie ball season extremely seriously. There are also tiny boutiques everywhere selling amazingly delicate necklaces and bracelets made out of precious metal and diamonds.

So considering the two big influences in my life, I imagined Maqaroon to be a classy re-design of kawaii style. I wanted to create things that are very cute, but would still fit into an elegant wardrobe or upmarket occasion.

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Where do you find inspiration when you feel exhausted?
I really value spending time with my friends, family and boyfriend. I think when you’re in the presence of people you care about, your mind unblocks easily letting ideas and inspiration flow. I definitely believe in ‘leisure investment’ for creative people i.e. prioritising things which make you happy in order to produce higher quality of ideas/art, which in turn generates more sales. I also love yoga and find it’s an excellent way to reboot you mind & body when you’re stressed.

What is your favorite work to do these days?
I like simple hands-on work the most, which includes making jewellery, gluing boxes, packaging products. This is what I missed most when working as a freelance designer/illustrator because I’d spend 10 hours a day in front of the computer. I developed bad neck and shoulder pain as result so that was another reason I decided to change careers. Now I really relish evenings where I can just sit in front of the TV and make things with my hands, almost like back in school!

Do you craft your own jewelry and if so do you have a glimpse into your workspace or studio? How does the space work for you?
I design my jewellery on computer and then have the raw components (necklace/bracelet chains, earring bases) manufactured in gold-plated stainless steel. Then I make additional elements such as resin clay macaron shells by hand and assemble everything in my studio.

Unfortunately I have a really small apartment so I usually work on my dining table or coffee table and have to take out and clear up all the supplies before and after. This is also why I don’t have any workspace photos as it looks quite messy and uninspiring :P. Though I’m in the process of moving in with my boyfriend and will have a studio room just for myself so I’m really excited about that!

I’ll finally also have space for a larger computer and plan to start making videos and craft tutorials on my YouTube channel.

Do you use inspiration boards or have any to show?
Yep, I’ve been using WeHeartIt long before Pinterest came out so I still keep everything here!

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Favorites
Drink: Starbucks Iced Chai Soy Latte
Food: Japanese Chicken Katsu Curry
TV Show: Girls
Book: Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
Song: Everything by Michael Buble
3 words to describe yourself: Fun, Hyperactive, Artsy

What do you feel you communicate within your work?
I really want people to be happy when they look at it. I try to show all the creativity and happiness that still exists in the world through all the styles that young people choose to express themselves in. In addition, I believe strongly in diversity, tolerance and respect. This is why I decided to use animals instead of humans in Maqaroon, as it makes the issue of race and gender less contrived but still visibly present.

In terms of product and pricing, I’m a big believer in making good design accessible to many people. Graphic design is making things for the masses, whereas art is for the elite. Obviously having been a designer all these years, I don’t consider my work ‘artisanal’ or ‘special’ in any way and therefore don’t want to price it as such.
In this sense, I want Maqaroon to be a beautiful but fun and down-to-earth brand. If it were a person it’d be like that fabulously glam friend who you can always rely on as well! I didn’t want the brand to feel like an expensive, aloof and snobby girl who you sort of aspire to but feel you have to act slightly fake to be accepted in their clique.

Where do you plan to go next with your work/brand?
I plan to concentrate on jewellery and work on expanding the range to include delicate choker necklaces, bracelets and possibly rings. My dream would be to be stocked in stores that I love to shop at myself (like Topshop or ASOS). I’m also hoping to increase the non-sales side of the brand with a Youtube craft channel and more collaborations/portraits with bloggers!

Why does the “maqaroon” have a mustache?
Hehee this actually has an explanation behind it! I had two rules from the very start of the brand, which is that Maqaroon should not appear too childish and that it should lean towards being unisex. The risk with any kawaii brand is that it’s extremely easy to slide into using loads of pinks, creams, strawberries and flowers. I wanted Maqaroon to be cute but not over-the-top frilly and feminine.

So I decided on a neutral green as the main branding color, with virtually all backgrounds kept in white. When I was designing the logo I tried out loads of different facial expressions. I realised a typical kawaii mouth made it look too childish so I decided to use a moustache to show that the macaron is an adult male (this sentence is starting to sound a bit ridiculous XD). This again reinforces the unisex aspect, and not making it overtly girly.

maqaroon

Lastly, are you Miseducated and why?
Yes definitely. Miseducated is about non-conformity, creativity and inspiring readers to follow their dreams, express themselves and live their best life. Too many people lose sight of these values when chasing after superficial things or trying to live up to other people’s expectations.

Growing up, I was always eager to please and would try to do everything right at school. I believed that you need to get good grades, get a degree, get a good job and somehow life would reward you. I spent many years doing different jobs and even though the experience was really valuable, I felt slightly disillusioned. I was working crazy hours yet barely making enough money to cover my living costs.

As it happened, in 2010 I became very ill and took several months to recover. During that time I had a serious think about my priorities and my conclusion was that I wanted a career with unlimited creative freedom, lots of leisure time and the potential for a much higher income. So here I am, three years later and doing what I’ve always dreamed of. There’s still a long way to go but I’ve never felt happier and more fulfilled!

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Healthy Life Stylist: Question & Answer

Question

I eat a lot of fast food, smoke and drink alcohol. I’m interested in adopting a healthy lifestyle as I continue to age. What are the easiest and fastest ways to get started down my new healthy path?
Vivienne, California

Answer

I have good news and bad news for you, Vivienne. The good news is, the first step to adopting a healthier lifestyle is the desire to change, so you’ve got that covered. The bad news is, like most changes that are worthwhile, altering your life for the better rarely comes easy or fast. That being said, my advice for you is to take it one step at a time and give yourself credit for everything you accomplish.

First, drink more water. This sounds so simple, but you’d be amazed at how many health problems can be solved by adequate hydration. Water not only helps to keep your body functioning properly and decreases cravings, it also flushes out the toxins from all that fast food, cigarettes, and alcohol you’ve been consuming. Bonus: drinking a full glass first thing in the morning wakes your body up and helps you crave healthier options throughout the day.

Second, add more healthy foods into your diet: fresh [preferably organic] produce and lots and lots of leafy green vegetables. Spinach, broccoli, kale, and other greens purify the blood, reduce inflammation, and can help reduce cravings for sugar and alcohol when eaten regularly. The powerhouse nutrients in leafy greens will help your skin glow and their diuretic properties will reduce bloat. Bonus: Adding in healthy foods will eventually crowd out the unhealthy ones without making you feel deprived.

Third, pick one bad habit a week to change for the better. In my health coaching business, I work with my clients every other week for 6 months because the best way to change old habits is with patience, support, and time. Maybe your goal for this week is to drink more water, or perhaps you want to try to eat one new vegetable…whatever you decide to work on, stick with it and give yourself credit once you’ve achieved it. Bonus: Taking things one step at a time prevents you from feeling overwhelmed with life changing goals, but you’ll still be able to change your life.

And finally, find yourself an accountability buddy to help keep you on track. This can be a friend, a family member, or a hired professional [*ahem*], just make sure that it’s someone you can count on and trust. It’s your buddy’s job to make sure that you stay on track with your goals and to remind you of everything you’ve accomplished. Bonus: If someone in your life makes a good accountability buddy, they probably make a great friend.

Ask A Healthy Life Stylist

Just make sure you are clear about if you mind your question/answer being published on Miseducated and if you’d prefer to be anonymous. All questions will be answered by Michelle regardless so ask away!

For more information about Health, Happiness, & Hoola Hoops please visit Michelle‘s website!

Multi-tasking, Mindfulness and Moving On

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed yet in our increasingly fast-paced society that multi-tasking seems to be an un-sustainable idea. It seems like the obvious thing to do when you have a never-ending list of tasks to complete each day but instead of multi-tasking simply to speed through actions try focusing on one thing at a time and master your current activity. I do admit that I enjoy doing multi-tasking occasionally (I am a young mother afterall) — especially when I’m uninspired to write. Right now I’m attempting to write an article, editing a video, listing to fidget, eating pineapple and chatting with my best friend, Kimi. Not to mention my focus is rather off due to some very vivid and upsetting dreams. Not all of my dreams have been bad in this stressful time but they have all been very vivid, colorful and often lucid which has been a skill and gift I have worked towards mastering for many, many years. Mastering everything that you do throughout your day and night (even when sleeping!) is much more rewarding than just completing as many tasks as you can. It might not seem that way but after trying both for extended periods of time I’m sure you’ll find that you feel much more at ease by doing and focusing on one thing at a time.

After attempting to live mindfully for quite a few months it almost seems as though I’m radiating the light of a thousand rainbows, a symphony of magical mermaid pheromones and rays of positivity. I’m attracting all of the opportunities I stopped chasing when I became very sick and not only that but I’ve found I have much more family and friends than I originally thought that are sweet, giving, honest and true to me. Losing contact with those you were once very close to is many times a sad affair but it’s always fun to reconnect and to catch up. I also got another friend into the musical world of Sound Cloud. What’s funny is I’ve always loved it but hadn’t logged in until he requested use of my quotes as lyrics. I have strong support to those living their dreams by working for what they want and not being afraid to ask. You know what you want to be/do? Be it! Do it! Remember you are the only one that can do it your way, you’re unique and no one else sees the world through your eyes.

One of the first things you will learn if attending therapy is the mindfullness skill (yet another article I started writing at least a year ago, heh) which basically means doing one thing at a time and doing it as well as you can. It reminds me of Buddhism because of the importance of mastering the spectacular as well as the mundane. In other words, if you’re going to do it, do it right. Cut the multi-tasking. Try focusing on the task at hand, put all of your effort into it and do your absolute best. Trust me, you wont be disappointed. You’ll feel great having given your all and also having achieved a goal no matter how small or gargantuan.

Speaking of multi-tasking, if I told you everything I was doing/going through at the present you’d be shocked I’m still kicking. Not only am I immersed in my work but I’ve had to move and change my entire life in relation to both my physical, spiritual and mental health. I’ve had to move, let go of the past and to still be able to allow myself to succeed while feeling an abundance of fear. I’m starting to think that I’m beginning to actually have things figured out in this life. I’ve stopped using everything mood-altering, alcohol, cigarettes, even the prescribed medications that used to help me to get out of bed in the morning and go to sleep at night. I feel more powerful, as though I’m playing an unbeatable hand in poker while sitting on a high pedestal with an attractive clan, drinking French carbonated pink lemonade from a straw and munching on lavender macarons. I sure do occasionally miss the complex flavors of wine and champagne and I do realized that it’s quite tough to let go of them. Still though, they could never compete with my obsession with tea, espresso and black coffee which are much more helpful to my health, work and writing obviously. Have you let go of any unhealthy habits recently? Have you taken on any healthier lifestyle traits? Have you noticed more clarity and stability in your health and life? It surely is an empowering thing to let go of unhealthy addictions. Keep going strong and keep becoming the person you are meant to be and you have my word I’ll continue to do the same.

Ask a Healthy Life Stylist and Coach


Greetings & Salutations, Miseducated!

As your new virtual healthy life stylist, I am thrilled to be your guide through the wonderland of wellness. In the coming months, I look forward to answering your most burning health & wellness questions, but first, allow me clear up a few common questions about what I do:

What is a Healthy Life Stylist?

A healthy life stylist is like a fashion stylist for the health world. Much like a fashion stylist would help you makeover your wardrobe [getting rid of the items that don’t flatter you & giving you new items that allow your inner goddess to sparkle], I help you makeover your life. From what to eat to feel your best to what steps to take to achieve your dreams, my job is about creating health for your whole being. Health and wellness aren’t just about eating vegetables; they’re about loving yourself, loving your job, developing healthy relationships, and cultivating a spiritual practice that makes you feel enlightened & at peace. I’m here to help with all these things and more.

What kind of questions do you answer?

Because I like to think of myself as a nutritionist, a life coach, and a therapist, all rolled into one, I can answer questions about any area you’re feeling less than fabulous about. I’m here to help you feel your best.

How can I learn more about your services?

If you’re in need of more than just a few questions answered or you want to receive an individualized lifestyle plan, consider signing up for my Health & Happiness in Half a Year program. You can check out the details & pricing for individual or group sessions on my website.

That’s it for now, darlings. <3 I look forward to answering your deepest health ponderings. xoxo, Michelle Shea Walker, H.C.

Just make sure you are clear about if you mind your question/answer being published on Miseducated and if you’d prefer to be anonymous. All questions will be answered by Michelle regardless so ask away!

Photo of Michelle by Aaron Ehinger Photography.