— whollyKao

01-whollyKao_workingInGold It’s been a while since I’ve shared any jewelry projects. In August, I made this ring. I had gotten the stone from the class I took at Penland School of Crafts (I’ll talk about that class in a future post!), and wanted to make my grandma something. I’ve made her earrings in the past, so I decided to spring for a ring – in 18k gold. I had only worked in gold a couple times before, so this was going to be an adventure for me.

Let me tell you – the price for the materials for this ring made my eyes pop. Buying gold is no joke: you pay market value for it. So that made me pretty nervous when I was soldering. I mean, what if I melted the damn thing to a puddle?

02-whollyKao_workingInGoldTurns out gold is a lot more resilient than I thought. I’m used to working with silver, where the solder flows once you’ve heated the metal enough. Gold doesn’t work that way. You have to hold the flame over one spot before the solder melts. And it’ll only melt in that one spot. So then you have to move your flame over a couple millimeters and do it again.

It’s also a lot harder to set a stone in gold than in silver. Silver is soft, so you can push the bezel metal over the stone to hold it in place. For gold, you have to use an actual hammer and chisel to do the same. I learned that the hard way. And if you’re not careful, you could crack your stone with a badly placed hammer blow.

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As you can see, I didn’t end up melting my gold into an ingot. And I didn’t crack my stone with all the hammering, either. This was a really good learning experience for me, and I ended up with a pretty nice-looking ring. And my grandma liked it, which is a definite plus!

Will I work with gold again? You bet! Now…who wants to fund my next project? :)

01-whollyKao-jamJarFavor Last month, my friends Thuy and Andrew tied the knot. They had a couples shower back in June, and I volunteered to make the party favors. We wanted something that was edible, but something that the gluten-free bride could enjoy. So I decided to make jam.

It was my first time making jam by myself. And boy, did I have a lot to learn. I botched up my first batch (the fruit-to-liquid ratio was off), and learned the hard way that the rubber seals for mason jars are one-time-use only. I think I ran to the store 3x in a day because I kept messing things up. Needless to say, after a couple attempts, I ended up with 36 pretty spiffy-looking jars.

I covered the lids with pieces of fabric (they were cut to circles), and then designed a tag to go with them. I used a flag-shaped paper punch to get the little banner shape.

I’m pretty happy with how they turned out. And now that I’ve got some jam making experience under my belt, I’d be open to making some more…but just in smaller quantities next time!

Hi, happy summer! I have officially been ‘doing my own thing’ (i.e. the jewelry thing) for more than 6 months now, and boy has time flown. About two months ago, my friend Thuy and I decided to try making our own kombucha. Four batches later, I’m hooked.

The process is pretty easy, and I love how much money I save by making my own. I also like that you can get as creative as you want with the flavors. So far, the best kind I’ve made was Jasmine Green Tea + Mango Lemonade. And in the Texas summer, a cold fruity kombucha is quite refreshing to drink!

When we made our first batch, both Thuy and I were skeeved out by the kombucha Mother (aka the scoby). The Mother is the bacteria culture that ferments the tea into kombucha. For anyone who hasn’t seen one before, it looks like some sort of solid bacterial growth (and smells sour too!) 02-whollyKao_kombucha The cool thing about the Mother is that you can keep using it to make more. You can also cut it into pieces and share them with your friends that want to make their own. It’s like the gift that keeps giving!

If you’re into kombucha, I strongly urge you to try making your own. If anyone has any additional tips they’d like to share (or any favorite flavor combinations), please let me know!
*If you’re brewing this for the first time (and you don’t have access to a Mother, I’d recommend buying a kit. The one Thuy and I used was from Oregon Kombucha)

Kombucha Tea Recipe (using an existing scoby)
-1 gallon water
-1 cup white sugar
-12 tea bags
-1 cup old kombucha + the Mother

Brewing the tea
1) Boil 1 gallon of water. Once water has boiled, steep the tea bags (green tea steeps for approx 3 minutes, black tea needs 4), then remove and discard the tea bags.

2) Add the sugar, and then stir with a rubber or wooden spoon. Let sit for 2-3 hours until tea cools to room temperature.

3) Once cooled, pour the tea into a large plastic or glass pitcher, and add the 1 cup old kombucha + the Mother. Cover the top with a cheesecloth and a rubber band, then store in a cooler. Do not use a sealed lid on your container – you want the tea to breathe while it ferments. (You can also store it in a warm pantry – the key is to just put it in a warm place where it will be undisturbed for 1-2 weeks.) 04

4) Wait 1-2 weeks, making sure to air out the cooler once or twice a day. After a week, start tasting your kombucha to see if it’s ready to be bottled. (And yes, it’s kind of weird to dip a spoon into the kombucha and have it come in contact with the Mother. You’ll get over it.)

You’ll know it has fermented enough when the carbonation and taste of the tea are to your liking. If it tastes flat, let it sit for another day or two. If it’s carbonated enough, move on to bottling the kombucha.

Bottling the Kombucha
You’ll need:
-glass jars or bottles (preferrably with plastic screw lids); I hear you can also use plastic screw top bottles
-fruit juice or lemonade
-tupperware to store old Kombucha + Mother

1) Set aside the Mother + 1 cup of old kombucha in the tupperware.

2) Fill 7-8 jars with juice/lemonade (I fill them each 20% full with juice), then pour enough kombucha into each jar to fill it almost to the top. Cap tightly.

3) Store the kombucha in the pantry (room temp) for one full week. This helps make the kombucha super carbonated. Technically, you don’t have to wait a week, but I like mine super spritzy, which is why I let it sit that long.) After a week, you’re free to refrigerate the kombucha. Keep in mind that refrigeration stops the fermenting process.

4) To make more kombucha, just follow steps 1-4 above (for Brewing the Tea), using new tea bags and the old kombucha and the Mother that you just put aside.

*If you need to store the 1 cup kombucha + Mother in between batches, just put the cheesecloth on top of the tupperware (no lid), and store that in the pantry for a couple days. It WILL start to smell really vinegary if you leave it for too long.

Some things to keep in mind:
*Kombucha reacts with metal, so avoid using metal tongs/spoons when you are brewing your tea or handling the Mother

*The longer you let your kombucha ferment, the more vinegary it will taste. We left our first batch for 2 weeks and it was almost undrinkable because it was so vinegary. I’d recommend tasting it after 7 days and if it’s not ready then, taste it each day after until you are satisfied with the carbonation.

*The optimum temperature to grow kombucha is 80 degrees. If your temperature is cooler than that, it just means the fermentation process will take longer (2 weeks total). For me in the Texas summer, it’s been taking about 7 days to ferment.