The Swiffer Cheat: A Weekend Project

The Swiffer Cheat: A Weekend Project

The Easiest Way to Make Your Own “Swiffer Cheat”

When the Swiffer first came out, I was dazzled by the commercials. They looked wonderful! They looked magical! I would tell anyone who would listen that I HAD to have a Swiffer.  I rhapsodized about it so much that my sister’s boyfriend gave me one for Christmas and I was beside myself with excitement.

I’m extremely prone to marketing. (And also a huge dork.)

The thing about the Swiffer, though, is although it’s a handy thing to have, it’s not some sort of miracle tool. Not the way I wanted it to be, anyway. I wanted it to be a light-weight, non-electric vacuum and mop combined, but… it just isn’t. You can’t replicate the results of a vacuum cleaner and a good old fashioned hands-and-knees floor scrubbing without actually doing all the work. However, I positively LOATHE vacuuming and washing the floors, which is a thing that needs to be done constantly at my house with a toddler, a dog, and an outdoorsy, renovation-doing husband, but I am also abhorrently lazy and will settle for a “lick and a promise” in between the days. It is for this reason that I will keep my little Swiffer on hand.

The Swiffer Cheat #1My original Swiffer was left behind when we moved back to the east coast …and it had broken a few times and been mended, in any case. I didn’t actually have any plans to replace it, but I was at the dollar store one day and realized you could buy them in pieces for a buck a part and Frankenstein them together. This, incidentally, is the first part of your Swiffer Cheat: buy the whole contraption for $2! You can go on from there, if you like, and buy the dollar store cloths for equally cheap, since the Swiffer brand cloths are jarringly expensive (a random google tells me that you can buy 16 Swiffer dry cloths online for $6.29, and 12 wet cloths for $7.99), but my tightfisted soul refuses to fork over that kind of cash for something that is going in the garbage after one or two uses. My original Swiffer collected dust in the closet, completely incorrectly, when I ran out of the initial cloth stash, and I went back to vacuuming and mopping irregularly and scowling at the dirty floors on the off days because I was cheap.

But then one day, when I was wearing a pair of microfiber socks and lamenting the dog hair magically and liberally scattered over the just cleaned floor once again, I realized my irritated stomping was adhering the offending hair to my socks. So I started to shuffle around. And I shuffled all over the house until I had “swept” up all the tumbleweeds (tumblefurs), and then changed my socks. Easier than sweeping! (Also kind of fun, if not dancing on the edge of insanity.) Did you know you can get those socks at the dollar store? And did you know that you can slip one OVER YOUR SWIFFER SWEEPER BASE?? It doesn’t fit like a glove, or anything, but it gets the job done. (Well, to the lick and promise standards, anyway.)Swiffer Cheat #2: Sock it Up

So, that’s Part Two of your Swiffer Cheat: cheap, reusable swiffer cloths, $1 for a pair of socks. Sorted. You can also wrap a normal cleaning rag around your Swiffer and tuck it into the little holes, just like you would a disposable cloth, but I don’t like how it rides over the floor. You get a lot of skipping and bumping which is completely annoying when you are trying to just whip up the mess. The microfibre is nice and zippy, so you can go ahead and dance around your kitchen with it. (Told you I was a dork.)

Swiffer Cheat #3: Spray and KnitWhen it comes to wet cleaning, however, I don’t like the microfiber as much. If I want to do a little spot cleaning where the dog/kid has dropped food, or where I find one of those random coffee/milk/beer splashes that have managed to be missed until they dried onto the floor, I still use my Frankenswiffer — I just also grab that spray bottle of All-Purpose Cleaner that I told you how to make on Monday — and a knitted cover. The knitted cloths are the best thing for this kind of job because if you use cotton yarn, like I always do (and like most of the patterns out there call for), you get a good scrubby texture that will absorb any excess moisture from the spray bottle.  The fitted shape of most of these patterns also means that you just tuck it around your Swiffer for a good fit and a smooth ride, like the socks. Then you just spray, then scrub. No bending down, no wringing out cloths, no mop and bucket. Chuck your knitted cover in the wash when you’re done.

I was working on designing a Swiffer cover knitting pattern myself to post here this week, but alas our house was struck with a horrible epidemic and I wasn’t feeling the knitting (read: we all had colds and I got useless).  Fortunately, there are about a million and two free knitting patterns out there on the web which you can find by googling “knitted Swiffer cover”. My favorite pattern is Zoom by Erica Brembos. It’s really easy so any of you knitting newbies need not be afraid to give it a go. Lily Sugar ‘n Cream Yarn
is available in almost every dollar store and certainly at Michael’s, and you don’t need to pay more than $2 for a ball of it.  You can definitely knit it up in a weekend. And there you have Part Final of your Swiffer Cheat: knitted covers and a spray bottle!

So there it is, your Swiffer Cheat in three pretty simple steps and for less than $10! Still with me? Not bored to death yet?

Wow. It’s good to know I’m not alone in Dorkville.

Have you already created your own Swiffer cheat or floor cleaning shortcuts? We’d love to hear about it!

– Joc

Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner

Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner

How to make your own homemade all-purpose cleaner – and why you want to!

I’ve always been careful to avoid germs and unnecessary chemical exposure, but now that I have a toddler and a baby in utero, I’m downright paranoid about it.

When I used store-bought cleaners, this was kind of a vicious circle of worrying. I would slice up some raw chicken for supper and could practically see the salmonella parading around the counter, so I’d shoot it with all-purpose cleaner. Toby would pat his grinning reflection in the window with sticky fingers and the dog would helpfully lick it “clean”, so I’d grab a bottle of window cleaner and give it a swipe. I’d gotten rid of the germs, but then I’d potentially covered the counter where I prep food and the window that the dog –and probably the kid– lick in harmful chemicals.

Once upon a time, my solution to this conundrum was to buy a “green” cleaner from the grocery store. Sure, they were a little more expensive, but they were totally worth the extra price to breathe a little easier, right? Well… maybe not so much. Often these products are just “greenwashed“, or spun to appear more environmentally friendly than the alternative. The ingredient list will show you that most items are plant derived, but things like sodium lauryl sulfate or silicone antifoaming agents are still not wildly desirable. The bottom line is that I do believe them to be the lesser of two evils if you are buying a commercial cleaner, but I don’t even bother buying commercial cleaners anymore. Homemade is best!

But do homemade cleaners really get things clean?

Short answer? YES. Yes they do!

The main ingredient that I use — and most people use, for that matter — is vinegar. White vinegar is not only inexpensive but also a natural cleaning superhero: it disinfects, deodorizes and cuts grease, mainly by way of its acetic acid content (which is generally 5%).

Vinegar “crosses the cell membrane of bacteria then prompts a release of protons, which causes the cell to die”, hence its disinfecting power. Apparently, odor-causing molecules are made up of double bonds which are susceptible to being broken, and the acidity of vinegar will crack them open for you, which is a very small-scale explanation of how deodorizing works. This same acid content is what eats through grease.  Since you can also use it to season salads, I’d say vinegar is a nice, versatile thing to keep in your kitchen and clean it with.

 photo Infusedvinegar2_zps737554b7.jpg
Lemony infused vinegar goodness

Now, I know a lot of folks, my husband especially, will say, “But vinegar stinks!” When I first started making my own cleaners, I got a lot of black looks because of the vinegar-y pall that hung over me during cleaning sessions. But the good news is that when vinegar dries, the scent virtually disappears. Even better than that news is this tip: if you infuse your vinegar with lemon rinds, it smells lovely and lemony and like the cleaners you might be used to! All you have to do is stick a few lemon rinds in a jar, pour some white vinegar over them and let it sit for about two weeks, shaking the jar every now and again. If you just use a little at a time and keep adding more vinegar, this jar will last you for months and will get more lemony as time goes on. When the peels start to disintegrate (which hasn’t happened to me yet), chuck them and start fresh. Since I’ve started doing this, I have had zero complaints about vinegar smell and so… Yay! Success! Now you’ve got a germ killer that also smells nice.

So now that you know why you want to clean with vinegar (and how to set it up to smell nicer), I will tell you my favorite all-purpose cleaner recipe. This is a recipe that I posted once in my old blog, but then I suggested using castile soap and I’ve since found out that because that type of soap is oil-based, it’s not recommended to mix vinegar and castile together. You can just use a environmentally friendly dish soap in its stead. I also used to add borax but although it is a fantastic alternative to bleach and other cleaners, it can be harmful if ingested and so I decided it was better to keep it out of the spray I tend to use in the kitchen. So here it is, my newly adjusted recipe for…

Lemony Vinegar Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner

 photo IMG_4359_zpsa03d59f2.jpg
You’ll need:

  • 1 L water
  • A squirt of dishwashing liquid (About a teaspoon or so. Go enviro-friendly if you can help it!)
  • 1/4 cup lemon-peel infused white vinegar
  • 10 drops of tea tree oil (Tea tree is another staple in my house used for a multitude of purposes. It contains compounds which make it antiseptic and antimicrobial and it also makes the cleaner smell more like… well, more like a cleaner.)
  • 10 drops of lemon essential oil (You can really use whatever kind of essential oil you want here. Lavender, sweet orange or rosemary are all good scents to combine with the lemon vinegar, if you ask me.)

All you have to do is mix the whole works up in a jug and pour it into a spray bottle. Or if you have a big enough spray bottle, pour all the ingredients in there and give it a shake. Spray onto any surface you want to clean and wipe it down with a damp cloth, just like you would with store-bought stuff.

This stuff does a great job anywhere in the kitchen. I spritz Toby’s little table (generally covered in a concoction of milk, peanut butter and play doh) and his plastic toys with it when they get grubby. I use it in the bathroom and it does a fantastic job on shower doors, sinks and toilets (you may need to give a dirty tub a scrub down with baking soda to get rid of the ring, first). I’ve even used it on windows and mirrors! I love how easy it is to make and how useful it is, and I love that if Toby gets a hold of it (and he has his ways), I don’t have to go into panic mode.

I feel like it’s important to note, however, that although this recipe is non-toxic, it still should not be consumed! The tea tree oil, essential oil and dish soap are quite diluted in this recipe, but they are not edible (I’m looking at you, brother-in-law who thinks natural = edible). While it’s safer to use around your kids than, say, Lysol, you should still keep it out of reach!

What kinds of homemade cleaners do you use? And do you have any other favorite uses for vinegar?

Be well!

-Joc

Teething Cookies Recipe

Teething Cookies Recipe

How to make your own wholesome teething cookies

Teething Cookies photo teethingcookies_zps9863e577.jpg

Well there isn’t a whole lot to say about this recipe.

I was looking for something I could make for Charlotte to gnaw on that would keep her busy. They had to be tasty and healthy.

Of all the recipes I tried this teething cookie has the most structural integrity. Others I made were too soft, too crumbly or too gummy (not the safest attributes). I suggest keeping these in an air-tight bag or container because I’ve discovered they become a bit hockey puck-like after being exposed to the air for a while. You may also find yourself following your baby around with a broom if you are particularly uptight about the neatness of you home; there will be crumbs on your floor.

You can substitute a lot of the ingredients to suit your needs. For example you would probably be fine using quinoa flour instead of wheat if you’d like it to be gluten free. These cookies are vegan as is. For the rice cereal you can use store bought if that’s what you have but I make my own by grinding brown rice in a coffee grinder and it works wonderfully.

Now let’s get baking!  photo 20140422_163700_zpsfnuhohh_edit_1398247552220_zpswc0bybue.jpg

Banana Teething Cookies

Makes approximately one dozen medium cookies. ~8 months+

What you need:

  • 1/2 Cup Rice Cereal (or ground brown rice, oats, quinoa, etc.)
  • 1/2 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1 Tbsp Coconut Oil, just melted or softened
  • 1 Small Mashed Banana or 1/2 Large Banana (Or other pureed fruit such as pumpkin) – about 1/2 Cup
  • 1-2 tsp Cinnamon (include nutmeg, ginger, ground cloves or pumpkin spice if you like)
  • 2-4 Tbsp Water (or juice)

What you do:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Mix everything a bowl starting with 2 Tbsp of water and adding a little more at a time until a dough is formed.
  4. Roll out onto lightly floured surface until about 1/4″ thick and cut out shapes with a cookie cutter or even just the top of a drinking glass.
  5. Place on lined cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes.
  6. Cool completely then store in an airtight container.

Have fun with this recipe and experiment with different spices and fruits or vegetables to keep it exciting!

Safety Precautions: Teething cookies should get soggy and crumble a bit so your child can eat them however your child should be supervised while eating these and be in an upright position. She should be able to “chew” these with her gums and have tried all the ingredients before. You should also stick to a large round shape like a circle or heart as opposed to something like a star or gingerbread man that is more likely to break off into chunks.

Did your wee one enjoy these cookies? Do you have a recipe you and your baby love? Let us know!

-Tracy

T-Shirt Cowl: A Weekend Project

T-Shirt Cowl: A Weekend Project

How To Make Your Very Own T-Shirt Cowl — Quick & Easy!

The other day, as I was browsing Facebook in my flannel pj’s and a wicked bed head, I flipped past a picture of Gwyneth Paltrow walking with her kids. I’m not a particular fan of hers, necessarily, but the picture stuck with me because she was working that sort of rocker style I love. (I like to pretend it’s my style… though if I’m being straight with you, my style these days is more or less comfy pants and slippers with a shirt that’s not too dirty.) I have a thing for scarves and cowls (especially with leather-style jackets and skinny jeans) and in my head she was wearing a super-cool, kinda grungy t-shirt cowl in dark grey, and I wanted it. And it looked easy enough to make.

I went shopping that day and as I was poking around in a second hand shop, I found the perfect t-shirt: it was dark grey and made of a really nice quality and stretchy material. I paid $3.10 for it and happily went on my way to Walmart where I found… t-shirt cowls. But they were $9, and just as good as anything I could make by hand, so I left them there with the satisfied feeling of having won a round. When I got home, I pulled up the picture of GP and her kids so I could figure out how to make what I wanted and discovered something.

Gwyneth is not wearing a t-shirt cowl in the photo.

But I’ll still credit her with the inspiration.

My finished t-shirt cowl really is quite a bit different: it’s a darker grey, of course, but it’s also much less bulky. At first I was disappointed by this fact, but after wearing it out and about today, I decided I like it the way it is. It’s perfect for the late spring we’re having, in that it’s not too warm so you can wear it inside without roasting to death, but it still keeps any rogue chills away from your neck. Another bonus is that it’s really, really easy to do. If we had a difficulty rating at Little Boozy Homemakers, this project would be on the easiest end of it (although I have no idea how that would work… Maybe “I give it three margaritas!” As in,”It’s so easy you could have three margaritas and STILL manage it!”).

All kidding aside, I am a very primitive seamstress and I think it turned out pretty cool. So it’s super easy.

But anyway, enough rambling. I’ll tell you how I made…

The T-Shirt Cowl

T-shirt Cowl

You’ll need:

  • A large t-shirt – the bigger the t-shirt the better, especially if you want to have a bulkier cowl. You pick the color, the fabric, whether or not it has logos or writing… all up to you and the end result you want to have.
  • Scissors
  • A needle and thread in a color that coordinates with the t-shirt

How to do it:

Step 1: Start by cutting the top off of your t-shirt, just under the armpits, so you are left with a big tube of fabric. (The cut off piece will look like a very indecent halter top. Throw that part away or use it for cleaning. Or you could try and make your husband try it on which is hilarious if he actually does.) You could just stop here and wrap that big fabric tube around your neck, but that would probably end up looking and feeling more like a a very tight turtle neck… so maybe move on to step two.

**I don’t have a picture of this step because I went about achieving this large tube of fabric in an overly complicated manner. Hopefully the imagery of  an indecent halter top will tell you exactly what I mean.

Step 2: Cut the fabric tube up one side, making sure you cut the original seam completely off of the shirt. Now you’ll have a long, wide rectangle of fabric with one of the original side seams bisecting it.

T-Shirt Cowl Step 2

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t stress too much about your scissor cuts here, by the way. Though the long edges of this cowl won’t be hemmed, they kind of roll into it and are not really noticeable. You do want to make sure you use the sharpest scissors you have, however. It’s meant to look rough but not shredded, after all.

Step 3:  At this point, you can decide if you want to cut off the bottom hem of the shirt. I didn’t. Again, the hem won’t be noticeable and since it’s less work to leave it on… I say go ahead and leave it on.

So now you will fold the long rectangle in half, lengthwise, and cut down the fold line to make two long, narrower rectangles.
T-Shirt Cowl Step 3

Step 4: Put the two pieces of fabric together, right sides facing in, and pin the short edges. To make this an infinity cowl like mine, you will pin both ends of the rectangle together. You could also choose to pin one end and leave the other end open to make a scarf, if that tickles your fancy.
T-Shirt Cowl Step 4

Step 5: Sew your pinned edges together. I used blanket stitching to sew mine, and because I did, it turned out that my seams matched the original seam of the t-shirt rather nicely. It was totally a happy accident, though… my sewing skills are far too rudimentary for me to have planned such a thing. Whip stitching would work well here too. And of course if you have a sewing machine, go ahead and use that!

T-Shirt Cowl Step 5
I never said it was a GOOD seam…

**Please do note that if you use the blanket stitch tutorial I’ve linked, when you begin the seam you will go through BOTH pieces of fabric, not just one. Hiding the knot inside (as she does in the video) would be placing it on the right side of the cowl in this particular project.

Once you’ve sewn your seams, then you are done! Drape the cowl around your neck a few times and feel like Gwyneth Paltrow!

…Or like me, I suppose, since she’s not actually wearing a t-shirt cowl.

Do you have any improvements on my very basic methods? Have you made a t-shirt cowl before? As always, we’d love to see your successes and you can post any shots right on our Facebook page!

– Joc

Homemade Natural Shampoo: Simple Yet Effective

Homemade Natural Shampoo: Simple Yet Effective

 

How to make your own simple and natural shampoo

homemade shampooI so wanted to be on the wash-your-hair-with-baking-soda train. I really, really did.

I gave it my honest-to-god best effort. The results were wonderful at first but after a few weeks, my scalp was itchier than it had ever been, partnered with a light dusting of snow that sprinkled from my head whenever I scratched. ‘Twas not pleasant.

That being said, I was much too proud to turn around and go back to shampoo, so I set out to find a better solution. My goal was to find something that acted like real shampoo, with the benefits of baking soda scalp-scrubbing (minus the desert-do) but was also moisturizing and yummy-smelling… and natural. Also, as with anything else I make at home, I hate when recipes have all kinds of hard-to-find or expensive ingredients (and they get bonus points if I don’t even have to go buy anything). My research did not disappoint. Thanks, once again, to the always helpful Crunchy Betty and a few other recipes, I came up with something that I’m newly in love with.

This hair-wash suds like a shampoo, is free of toxins, smells delicious, moisturizes AND it brought my curls back to their old bouncy, shiny selves. Yeehaw!Single portion shampoo

The one problem with this recipe is that it is perishable. It lasts about a week at room temperature or longer in the fridge. But don’t fret! There are a couple solutions to this problem. The first is to make it “to serve” each time you wash your hair (which only needs to be about 1-3 times a week). The other, the method I chose, is to make a larger batch and freeze it in individual portions (think ice cube trays or mini muffin pans). You can take out one portion and let it thaw in the fridge overnight the day before you plan to wash your hair. It sounds annoying but it only takes a beensy bit of planning ahead to accomplish.

Why it works:

Castile soap has a PH level of about 8.9 (neutral is 7) but that’s OK.  It won’t harm your skin and it needs to be slightly more alkaline to have a cleansing effect. You can wash your hair with plain castile if you like but this can be a little drying,  I find,  and doesn’t give you many suds. Mixing the castile soap with coconut milk adds moisturizers  and helps create a lather (and therefore a better wash) because coconut contains a natural surfactant.  Surfactant molecules pull the oils off of a surface, suspend them within bubbles of water, and remove them with the water.  How neat is that?! Chemically derived surfactants in commercial cleansers strip your skin of natural oils and being exposed to them in cleaning products can cause eye and lung irritation, increase cell division rates, and they can accumulate in your liver and other organs. If that isn’t enough of a reason to make your own shampoo (and other cleaning products), I don’t know what is!

Alright. Chemistry lesson done.

Now because I don’t like recipes to be too complicated, I’ll give you the bones of this one and you can customize to your heart’s content. Are you ready to finally be let in on the magic that is chemical-free homemade shampoo? Fantastic! Here she be…

What You Need To Make Your Homemade Shampoo:

Homemade Shampoo

  • 3 TBSP Liquid Castile Soap (Dr. Bronner’s is a great brand)
  • 1/2 Cup Coconut Milk (Canned is fine but homemade would be amazing)
  • That’s it!

Optional ingredients (these are “and/or” options. You could add them all in but probably it would be better to pick and choose based on your particular hair type):

  • 10-15 drops Essential Oils (for extra scent)
  • 2 tsp melted Coconut Oil or Olive Oil (for extra shine)
  • 1 TBSP Aloe Gel (for a moisturizing boost)
  • 2 tsp Vegetable Glycerin (also good for moisturizing)
  • etc. etc. etc…

**For a single serving, just use 1 tsp castile with 1 TBSP Coconut Milk and whatever else you’d like to add for scents or moisturizers.

Method: Stir everything together gently (it will foam up if shaken) then pour into ice cube trays or mini muffin pans. Freeze until solid (a few hours) then transfer to a container or plastic bag and store in the freezer. Thaw a portion overnight in the fridge the day before needed. You’d probably be OK thawing at room temperature a few hours before your shower too. Lather into wet hair (concentrating on the roots) as you would with shampoo then rinse. No need to repeat.

Additionally, you can use a diluted Apple Cider Vinegar solution as a conditioner. (1 TBSP per 3 cups filtered water.) Rinse your hair with it (the ends being your focus this time) then rinse it out. I find this step necessary with my dry, frizzy curls but you don’t have to do it. Style as usual!homemade shampoo

I’m so excited to share this hair revolution with you. It has changed my life. I really won’t ever go back to washing my hair with regular shampoo. It’s totally unnecessary!

Note: There is a short transitional period with this kind of hair care. Your hair may be a bit greasy at first. I can’t tell you for how long as I had already gone “no ‘poo” when I started using this. I think it’s generally a couple weeks for most people. I promise you, it’s completely worth it.

 

Did this recipe change YOUR life? Are you loving washing your hair without the use of chemicals? Let us know how it worked for you or if you have your own natural method that you love to pieces!

-Tracy

 

Sources:

  1. http://lisa.drbronner.com/?p=25
  2. http://www.crunchybetty.com/time-to-play-whats-in-your-soap
  3. http://www.crunchybetty.com/not-ready-for-no-poo-try-sorta-poo-with-coconut-milk-and-castille
  4. http://wncgreenblogcollective.wordpress.com/2012/06/19/label-lessons-101-surfactants/
How to Reupholster a Computer Chair: A Weekend Project

How to Reupholster a Computer Chair: A Weekend Project

Reupholster a computer chair

Recovering an Old Computer Chair

I got this chair for $5 from a college student on Kijiji. It probably wasn’t even worth that much, but I wanted a computer chair to use at my sewing desk that didn’t have arms, was on wheels, and that raised up and down. I also wanted it to be cheap, so… done and done. I’ve been using it as I received it for the last year but I decided it’s time for something prettier.

This project shouldn’t take you the weekend. It won’t even take more than an hour. Mind you, I rushed it a little bit because Charlotte was having “one of those days” and demanded my attention for about 90% of it. Therefore, if you don’t have a teething, learning-to-walk, non-sleeping-10-month old, you should be able to pump out an even better version than mine in no time flat.

Since all computer chairs are not created equal, I will give you basic instructions on how to do this project and you can tweak where necessary to suit your specific type of chair.

What you need to reupholster a computer chair:

  • Fabric (preferably home decor quality)
  • Screw driver
  • Scissors
  • Needle and thread and/or…
  • Staple gun

First you will need to take your chair apart (just a little) in order to expose the fabric edges. I would assume some chairs may not come apart as easily as others, but on mine the plastic back popped off the back rest once I unscrewed it from the base, and there was no cover on the bottom — it also just needed to be unscrewed.

Reupholster a computer chair
Take your chair apart. Don’t be scared!

Once you have the chair back and seat removed and the guts exposed, lay each one on your fabric and cut around making sure you make it big enough to wrap up and over the edges.

Reupholstering a computer chair
Use your chair piece as a template. Cut bigger than you need to e
safe.

Pull your fabric tight around the piece you’re working on and attach however possible. In my case, I tucked the new fabric in under the existing upholstery on the back rest, then I hand sewed some rough stitches to hold it in place. For the seat, I stapled the new upholstery on with a staple gun. Depending on how stretchy your fabric is you may need to pleat it around the corners to make it smooth on the front. Play around with this until it is.

I should’ve used a contrasting thread so you could see my rough stitches.

Now all you have to do is pop the back in place again (or reassemble your chair in whatever way yours will go) and screw it all back together!

reupholster a computer chair
Pop!

That wasn’t so hard, was it? It’s such an easy and quick way to make a room a little prettier. You can have so much fun with this project and use bright colored fabrics or use two different fabrics for the seat and the back. Be creative and see what you can come up with!

Reupholster a computer chair

If anything here is unclear just let us know and I’d love to see how you fixed your old chair!

-Tracy

Homemade Soda Pop: Lacto-Fermented Lemonade

Homemade Soda Pop: Lacto-Fermented Lemonade

How to make lacto-fermented pop at home

I don’t know what it is about spring, but it seems that I am consistently bitten by the culture bugs at this time of year. I like to romanticize that this yearly awakening means I’m in tune with Mother Nature and her quest to bring life into the world… but really I’m just thinking ahead to long, warm days sitting in the sun and sipping something bubbly. It started with making yogurt, moved on to cultivating water kefir (when I get more grains someday, that will be another post), and graduated to nurturing a ginger bug (which I used to make a killer ginger beer that had a mighty kick to it). I’ve also made fizzy drinks using plain old bread yeast before, but I haven’t yet tried lacto-fermenting a beverage using whey.

I am speaking a foreign tongue to some of you, I realize. It was all a bunch of weird words to me when I first got into culturing, too, but my interest in creating a good bowl of yogurt led to a lot of research which led to a lot of discoveries of the things you can easily get your hands on to start brewing in your kitchen. And there really are a whole lot of strange and wonderful things out there that people have been using for years. Kefir grains, kombucha scobys, ginger bugs, and brewing yeast are some that you have to look a little bit to dig up, but using whey to ferment a drink is as easy as buying a tub of yogurt from the grocery store.

Make your own lacto-fermented popYou know how sometimes you open a container of yogurt and there seems to be water sitting on top? That’s whey. You can stir it back into the yogurt or you can pour it off and save it. Whatever you do, DON’T throw it out (like I used to) — it’s a superfood! Have a look at what Livestrong says about the health benefits of whey, if you need extra convincing. To collect it for this recipe, you will take a strainer or colander of some kind, sit it over a bowl and line it with a coffee filter or cheesecloth, and pour in about a cup of yogurt. Let this whole business sit in the fridge for about a day and you will have made yogurt cheese and some whey. Save the whey for this recipe and mix the yogurt cheese with fruit, put it on waffles or bagels, or (my favorite) mix it with a tablespoon of icing sugar and a splash of vanilla and use it to ice pumpkin muffins or carrot cake.

So what is Lacto-Fermentation?

Lacto-fermentation (the short form of lactic acid fermentation) is the process by which Lactobacillus bacteria — the kind you find in yogurt but also on a lot of plant life and inside of our very own bodies — is fed some sugar, deprived of oxygen and kept warm, then given a bit of time to produce lactic acid, carbon dioxide and ethanol. Totally simple formula.

No, really, it is! The science can be a little intimidating at first but as long as your dishes are quite clean and your culture is kept at a nice warm temperature, it’s a piece of cake. Lovely, bacteria-laden cake.

Lacto-fermentation is not just about making drinks, of course. It has been used for a long, long time as a method of food preservation and those of you who love a good kimchi or sauerkraut will already be familiar with the tang of lactic acid. The lactic acid is what allows fermentation to be a successful means of preservation as it acts like a sort of security guard, killing off any pathogenic microorganisms that could try to invade your product. This little feature is also what makes lacto-fermentation fun to play with as you’re pretty safe, even if you’re a newbie. The general consensus is that if your final product smells putrid, don’t consume it. But I’m pretty sure common sense is common enough to prevent such a thing anyway.

Why bother making your own pop?

When I first got onto my kick of trying to make everything I could possibly come up with directions or a recipe for, I had people say to me, “You know, you can just go to the store and buy a bottle of pop [bar of soap/loaf of bread/etc.]! Hahaha!”

I already knew that.

There are a ton of reasons for making your own pop, the smallest reason being that it’s fun (though I may have a different idea of “fun” than a lot of people do, I guess). Making it is definitely cheaper than buying it, and really, you shouldn’t buy pop anyway. It’s terrible for you. But the homemade stuff really isn’t that bad for you since you get to control the level of sugar (and most of it is consumed by the yeast or lactobacillus anyway), and lactic acid has the added bonus of helping you with your digestion, just like it does when you eat yogurt. If they made a tv commercial for this kind of pop, they would have those belly dancing squares in front of people’s bodies while they drank it, just like that popular yogurt’s ad… but that commercial is really annoying, so hopefully they wouldn’t. Either way, you catch my drift.

There are so many different recipes out there for homemade pop, and if you look around hard enough for the ingredients, you can make just about any flavour you like. This particular recipe is kind of like a fizzy lemonade with a bit of a creamy feel to it. It’s only slightly effervescent, so it doesn’t burn your nose like some store-bought pop will. I love it and so does my two year old. My husband is always my toughest critic in my homemade adventures, and he deemed it “alright”, but he still drinks Coke on a semi-regular basis, so I will take that as a pretty good assessment coming from him.

Anyway, I will now stop talking and give you the recipe for…

Lacto-Fermented Fizzy Lemonade

Homemade lacto-fermented pop

Begin by making the Base Soda (Essentially this will be your “starter” to make the pop fizzy):

  • 1/2 cup fruit juice (I used peach mango flavoured Five Alive, but go ahead and use whatever citrus based juice you want here)
  • 1/4 cup sugar (I used regular white sugar, but you could probably use something like Agave Nectar, Coconut Sugar, or organic/raw sugar. I’d stay away from brown sugar or molasses because of the strong flavors and don’t use honey as the antibacterial properties will throw the cultures off balance.)
  • 2 cups filtered, chlorine-free water (To make sure there is no chlorine which is important if you use city water, either let your water sit overnight on the counter in an open container or boil and cool it– the chlorine will evaporate in both cases. You can always use bottled water if you want, but I don’t usually see the point in paying for a bottle of water when it comes out of your tap already.)
  • 1/4 cup whey (previously gathered)

Heat the juice and sugar to a simmer and remove from heat. Add the filtered water and mix. When the temperature has reached about 100° (you’ll be able to stick your clean finger in and hold it there comfortably for a count of ten), stir in the whey. Pour this into a preferably sterilized quart mason jar and seal the lid. Put the jar in a warm spot and leave for 3 – 5 days, depending on the temperature (the warmer it is, the less time you’ll have to sit on it). Check the jar every day by loosening the lid and resealing; when the fermentation starts to work, you will hear a little ffsstjust like when you open a pop bottle. Give it another couple of days after this appearance of gas being released to let it work up well. (DO check the jar every day and release the carbon dioxide {in the brewing world, this is called burping but… ew} as there is a potential danger of the jar exploding. The chances of this are pretty small if your temperature isn’t crazy warm and since there is a lot of headspace in the mason jar at this point and, but it’s better to be safe than sorry, they say.)

Once the base soda is ready, you will move on to phase II. For this phase, you will need:

  • Your jar of base soda
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 cups filtered water

In a bowl or large measuring cup capable of holding at least 4 cups, mix the soda base, sugar, salt and lemon juice. Take two or three clean 1 L bottles with good, tight screw tops (old pop bottles are good for this and the glass grolsch style bottles are my favorite – I hoard them compulsively) and using a funnel, pour the mixture in evenly among them. Pour the 2 cups of water into the same bowl to save any dregs remaining and divide this water equally among the bottles. Seal them up and put them in a warm place for another 2 days or so, then chill it and drink it!

I know this seems like a lot of work for a litre and a half of pop. But there really is something kind of magical in the alchemy of it all that you might find as intriguing as I did, a little bit of kitchen witchery that might spark your interest in all things fermented or cultured. It would also be a great experiment to share with your kids — I know I would’ve loved this when I was one! I urge you to go forth and multiply… your cultures.

And enjoy! As usual, we would love to hear your success stories. What flavors did you try? 

– Joc

 

Sources:
Cultures for Health – What is Lacto-fermentation?
Recovering Vegetarian – Lacto-fermented Soda (No Kefir Grains)