Craft, Health

I almost titled this post “Making Kombucha is Gross.” Because it is. So look away now if you don’t want to see giant moldy looking hocky pucks of bacteria! Or to be precise, the SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast).

I’m a big drinker of kombucha, and it’s not a cheap habit, coming in at about 3.50 per 16 oz bottle. The fermentation is supposed to be good for your gut, but really I just like the fizzy tangy flavor. It’s funky. I knew that I should take the next step into brewing my own, but I just couldn’t get myself to do the research in order to get what I needed.

Thankfully there are kombucha starter kits. I asked Ryan’s parents for one for my birthday, and lo and behold! I had no more excuses.

What’s this?
Just what I wanted! Bacteria and yeast!

How to Brew

Making kombucha is pretty easy. It’s also a lot more flexible than I’d imagined. Here’s basically how it works, when making a gallon:

  1. Make some sweet tea. Boil 4 cups water, add 3 tablespoons of tea (not herbal), add 1 cup sugar. Pour into your brewing container.
  2. Add 8 cups of cold water to the sweet tea.
  3. Wait for the mixture to cool to between 68 – 86 degrees.
  4. Check that the PH level is within range – 4.5 and below.
  5. Add the SCOBY to the mixture along with some starter tea (included with the SCOBY on purchase).
  6. Cover the brewing container with a filter on top, either cloth or a coffee filter. This keeps the tea clean of debris and allows the carbon dioxide to exit the container. Leave it somewhere warm and dark. I didn’t have a great spot, so I chose the top of my fridge, and added some towels to keep the jar from getting too cold.
  7. After 7 days, use a pipette to slip beneath the SCOBY culture and grab some of the tea. Taste it. If it’s too sweet, let it go for longer. If it’s too tart, add sugar in the second fermentation process, and brew for less days next time. You can ferment for up to a month, I think.
  8. Remove the SCOBY, putting it aside with about a cup or two of the tea to use as a starter for the next batch.
  9. Pour out your tea and drink it as is, or go on to second fermentation.
  10. Second fermentation: add sugar of some sort (sugar or mashed up berries or juice) to the tea, stir. Bottle the tea into individual bottles. Leave out to ferment several more days. The culture in the tea will keep eating the sugar, and create carbon dioxide, creating that nice fizzzzzz. Move to the fridge.
  11. Make more tea with your SCOBY and starter tea or put it away until later.


I’ve just finished up my fourth batch of kombucha. Here are the results so far…

Brew #1

My first batch turned out really awesome, probably because I followed my kit’s instructions by the book. I used the Ceylon tea that was included in my kit, letting it sit for 13 days while I was vacationing in Budapest. Then I second fermented by adding defrosted frozen berries. I didn’t have individual bottles, so I used an airtight pitcher. The taste was really nice. One thing that I didn’t realize… Each time you brew kombucha, a new SCOBY grows on top, and grows to fill the container. Every time. At this point I had a double layer SCOBY.

Brew #2

The second batch I brewed with David’s Tea Red Velvet Cake black tea. This tea is special because it includes chocolate chips and sprinkles that melt into the tea and make it creamy and sweet. It’s a ridiculous dessert tea. I threw in my double layered SCOBY, fermenting for 24 days, then second fermented in individual bottles with just sugar. It turned out okay, but tasted a bit artificial due to the tea. Wouldn’t do this again.

Here’s a closeup of my brew jar for batch #2. The temperature reads as 64, which is about 10 degrees lower than it ought to be, and slows down the fermentation.

In this picture you can see that there are 2 layers of SCOBY.

I decided to cut the SCOBY into 2 separate pieces for batches 3 &4. Here is a picture of that SCOBY pulled out onto the chopping block.

The perfectly circular brown puck is my original SCOBY. The white is everything that has grown during my brews. The brown strands are yeast.

Ta da! And then there were two!

Brews 3 & 4

The third and fourth batches were brewed simultaneously, fermenting for 9 days.

I used Trader Joe’s Winter Wakeup tea, which is a spicy black tea with ginger and cinnamon with the new baby SCOBY. Fourth batch was a half batch of Trader Joe’s Earl Grey tea, using the original SCOBY. The Winter Wakeup kombucha turned out very odd. To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of this tea normally. At this point I still had kombucha in the fridge, so I just called it a wash and threw a whole gallon of tea out! The Earl Grey was less of a disappointment. It tasted perfectly tangy with major Earl Grey undertones, so I skipped the second fermentation. My favorite combination so far!

Things have gotten a little crazy… Now I have 4 SCOBY. TBH I felt a bit overwhelmed, so I created a SCOBY hotel. I’m just going to let them sit there until I’ve drunk down my tea.

Money Saved?

So in the last month and a half, I made 3 1 gallon batches and 1 1/2 gallon batch. I threw out a gallon of tea. At 16 oz per bottle of kombucha, I made 20 bottles of kombucha. 20 bottles at $3.5 = $70! If I hadn’t have thrown out that gallon, it would have been 28 bottles, or $98. Not bad!

Not gonna lie, I still buy store bought kombucha from time to time. But I do really enjoy brewing my own, and I’m looking forward to trying to make a green tea kombucha.The only thing that I have yet to figure out is how to get that super burning fizzy carbonation in the bottle. I’ve heard it’s sometimes artificially added, but I want to second ferment for even longer, and see if I can replicate it.


It’s Running Season

After an unusual heat wave in the Bay Are, we’ve returned to our regularly scheduled fog and gray, just in time for fall.  Also, just in time for racing season, thank god.

Another year, another JP Morgan Corporate Challenge. While the race is a short distance (3.2 miles), and the whole thing goes by FAST, that doesn’t mean that it’s easy. If you’re competitive, you’re sprinting the entire way.

Last year around this time I was in tip top run shape, and was gearing up for a half-marathon. This time around was much more casual. I have been running for fun, and barely training for a 12K (coming up in a week…).


Run team run!

While the race is really just a corporate bonding event, there was also a greater international challenge being hosted at the same time. Basically JP Morgan flew in 2014 winners from around the world, and pit them against each other. They got to go first, and then it was the “fast” regular runners, then the rest of us regular office drones (walkers and runners). According to the race’s website, there were 10,000+ runners from 330 companies. !!!

Short fun runs are always the worst races to run. While they can have fun themes and cool schwag, you are also surrounded by people (and some children) who … hmm.. how to put this kindly… get in the way. You’ll be running behind someone, and suddenly they’ll just decide to start walking, right in the middle of the road!!  Also people dart on and off the courses, and there were quite a few small collisions. My coworker said he saw one guy trip into a barrel roll! Thankfully they keep medical staff on hand in case of emergency. Last year I saw someone being loaded into an ambulance at the finish line, but this year seemed pretty quiet.


Jeans, brah, rly?




Finish line. Ready to go home and eat nachos.

With all the different waves of runners,  we didn’t get to start running until 7:25 or so :/ . Even then we were walking a solid couple of minutes before things thinned out enough to “run.”  I made an 11 minute mile, which is about a minute slower than last year. For not actively training, however, I’ll take it.

I love the post race happy hour with my teammates, but given all the build up and waiting around, I’m not sure that I’d do this race again. I run the same distance on my morning runs down Valencia street, and it’s much less stressful.


My First Half Marathon

5 months, 60 training runs, and 9! pounds later…

It was finally time to head up to Portland and run the damn thing. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t even nervous. I was just ready to get it over with. Unfortunately Ryan had to drop out due to an emergency that took him to New York. I felt a bit guilty going ahead with my “fun” weekend without him, but sometimes life is like that.

Michelle and I had joked months earlier that we ought to use this trip as an opportunity to force each other to do the other’s favorite cult workout. For me, it was Bikram yoga. For her, Crossfit. Both patented exercise regimes, mind you. Both a bit misunderstood and militant. Both costing about $20 bucks a pop. Still cheaper than SoulCycle!

Anyways, considering how grueling the half would be, I’d given no thought to working out the DAY BEFORE AND THE DAY AFTER the run. In fact, I packed only one set of workout clothes. How wrong I was. I was going to be wearing those nasty Lululemons all weekend. The moment I hopped in Michelle’s car she asked me to look up a Bikram studio. Shit.

Anyways, we did end up doing Bikram. And a half. And Crossfit. And we survived. But this post is about the half, so let me get back to the point.

We woke up a little early because there was an hour drive to the run site. Oh, and I also wanted to get Burgerville for breakfast. Yum! Getting to Hood River was a little nerve wracking because Google Maps sucks. We ended up driving over a nondescript toll bridge, paying a dollar, and then paying another dollar to get back across once we realized our mistake had taken us to Washington!! We told the toll booth operator about our amateur mistake, but there was no sympathy for the two lost out-of-towners. She was a true toll bridge troll.

The instructions on the marathon website were utter trash, and we found ourselves in a long line of lost cars. The blind leading the blind, as there was no signage mentioning the race anywhere. A gas station attendant pointed us in the right direction, and we were on our way. Parking was a bit of a frustration, and we almost had an altercation with a self-important soccer mom and teenage volunteer who were being a bit unreasonable about our car. The difficulty of just getting to this stupid race was starting to become comical.

By the time we got to the disorganized start line, we were not excited. Michelle was a bit grumpy. Maybe she would have liked a bagel from the food tent, but it was too late for bagels.


But hey! There was a rainbow! That’s a good sign, right?



Rocking my commemorative pullover. Minor gripe: there were no free t-shirts at this $80 race >:(

Screenshot 2014-10-29 at 10.02.40 PM

I’d had some hesitations about this run because the course was pretty much ALL hills. But hey, I live in SF, so I “trained” for it.

For the first mile or so it rained. Then it was just a long wet slog up the hill. At one beautiful overlook I tried to take a photo while running, fell and skinned my knee.


Beautiful, right? Worth the bruises.

By mile 4 my mind drifted. I was slow. I was dying. Why was I doing this again? I focused on the cute dogs that raced by in the “dog half marathon.” Then I realized that the dogs were trotting the half marathon happily, and I was struggling. That was depressing.

Around Mile 6 things started to come together (aka my Gu chomps kicked in). I passed Michelle as she was returning and felt a good surge of energy. This was really happening! What to say? I kept running up and down the fucking hills. I spent time checking out my fellow runners and making up elaborate background stories for each of them.

Mile 9? I felt a little queasy. I tried to throw up.

Around Mile 10 I did throw up. It was awesome. Then I kept running. I made up for lost time by speeding down the 2 miles of hills.


Woo! Downhill!

The last mile was miserable. We did zigzags through the muddy parking lot to the grassy area where the finish line beckoned. I started to cry. It was very overwhelming to have come to the end of such a long and in my mind unattainable goal. I was so proud of my  body for hanging in there.

My time: 2:26! Faster than I’d estimated in training. And with hills too!

When I finished, I didn’t even want to get my rightfully earned free BURRITO AND BEER from the food tent. I was just empty.  We got the hell out of there with our ceramic tile Georgia O’Keefe medals. It was back to Portland, where we could pass out in peace.

So, that was that. What should my next fitness goal be? Please don’t say a full marathon.


Staving Off Death & Fat: AKA Gettin’ Fit or Why Did I Sign up for a Half Marathon?

Ever since I got another office job and seriously took up regular running (about a year ago), I’ve gained 5-10 pounds that will not budge (and no, it’s not muscle. I wish). Running makes you hungry. So hungry. I’ve tried a number of things over the past year to jump start the weight loss, and my current fitness routine sounds like something that the old me from a year ago would probably have mocked relentlessly.

  • Running several times per week (wait, why am I not skinny yet?)
  • Gymming (nothing new here)
  • Calorie counting (strangely addictive for an Excel addict)
  • Biking to work (a given)
  • Measuring calorie expenditure with a heart rate monitor and FitBit (Also addictive)
  • Cutting back on alcohol (0_0)
  • Strength training (LIFT HEAVY)
  • Yoga (it’s nice to do it again)
  • Zumba (Suburban mom joke- NO! FUN!)
  • Insanity (in small doses)
  • Organic Grass Fed Protein powder!

When I look back at this list, it makes me laugh. Together, it all looks a bit overwhelming and extreme, but it happened bit by bit, and it’s now just a part of my life. My weight has gone up and down throughout this process, but thankfully my fitness level continues to progress. In fact, about a month ago I hit a personal fitness milestone! I ran 7 miles on my weekend long run. And I didn’t even hurt the next day! INCONCEIVABLE! While I’ve run that distance before, that was years ago, and damn it hurt hard the day after. Something about hitting that milestone made me think, hey, maybe I could run a half marathon? And so I signed up for one to run with my friend Michelle. I cobbled together a personal training plan in Google Calendar, and currently I’m on Week 6 of a 20 Week training plan. I’ve got a couple of goals:

  1. Finish
  2. Don’t get hurt
  3. Lose these stubborn adult pounds.
  4. Get a decent photo at the half marathon. My photo at the Chinese New Year’s 5k was like a bigfoot spotting.

Six weeks in, 3 lbs & 2% bodyfat down and so far no injuries! So far so good. I highly doubt that I’ll be updating much with training news. I just wanted to share what I’ve been up to lately.

Fitness! Fat! Running away from death! Whoo!


Also, I don’t know how those fitness Instagrammers look all hot when they take workout selfies, but this is what I look like. Red faced, angry, drenched in sweat and my eyes are burning from melting sunscreen in my eyes! Why do I like running again?

Health, San Francisco

My First 5k


I forget when it was, maybe two months ago, when Ryan said he felt like running. I’d been running on and off at the gym, or mixing it into my weekly workout schedule here and there. But I never felt like a particularly accomplished runner. Nor did I really enjoy it, unless I was listening to Major Lazer or running while traveling (my favorite travel memories involve running for some reason).

Anyways, to be supportive I got the Ease into 5k iPhone app, which I thought sounded suspiciously like a knockoff of Couch to 5k (turns out it’s made by the same developers). It gets you going by mixing in running + walking. Some time passed, and I felt like I became a more consistent runner. Still, I didn’t feel the fire. So after a month of running I suggested that we do a race. We signed up for the Giants Race (benefiting Project Open Hand), which I picked because finishing the last leg in AT&T Stadium sounded awesome. Also, garlic fries! Lou Seal!

I thought about blogging about my 5k training, but to be honest I didn’t really do anything all that spectacular. Just ran 3-4 times a week, and did whatever the app told me to.

I wasn’t set to finish the app by the time of our race, so I felt nervous. But while we were in Santa Cruz (the week before the race), we stumbled onto the 10K Wharf to Wharf race. We ran with the 50,000+ crowd for about three miles and then broke off. I realized then that our 5k would be just fine.


As part of our swag bag they gave us cool shirts, but also these really scary bobbleheads.

I won’t bore you with the details of my race, but I will say that running in a mob of 8,000 men women children and strollers was a HOT MESS. I was walking/dodging strollers for the first half of the race at least. They had corrals for the different paces, but it wasn’t enforced at all (hello strollers and kids in the sub 7 minute mile section???).

All in all, it was fairly interesting. Look how happy I look crossing the finish line?



I was totally listening to Blurred Lines.



Yea, I’m kinda tempted to get the first one on a mug.


Afterwards we got beers and hung out.

Screen shot 2013-08-11 at 2.46.59 PM


And then the results came in later that day (33:05 minutes, 10:40 pace). I feel pretty good about finishing 1500th out of 8,000 people (even though that is hard for my brain to visualize). I think Ryan was 3 minutes faster, and 800th. Wild the difference a few minutes can make.

Toying around with the idea of doing a 10k, although I’m not really sure if I want to. Because that would take actual training. :p