Monthly Archives: November 2015

A Little Slice Of Sweden In My Basement: The Ikea Billy Bookcases Come To Fruition

The Billys are up! Yes, the same Ikea Billy bookcases that have been lurking in their little flat-pack boxes in my basement since 2013 when I insisted that we purchase them RIGHT NOW.

Ikea Billys have been manufactured continuously for 36 years, and for the last 20 years their price is apparently unchanged. Google “Ikea Billy reviews” and you will find people who have kept their Billys for many many years.

My Billys are clear birch. Yes, they are essentially particleboard but they are covered in a veneer of real wood. The components are substantial and sturdy. The fastening hardware is magical.

Billy units come in four sizes: tall units are 79.5″ by 31.5″ or 15.75″, shorter units are 41.5″ high by 31.5″ or 15.75″. All units are 11 inches deep. Extensions add 13″ to the height. Units can be mixed and matched to fit your space and create a custom look.

Billy Series

We begin: there is nothing like the fresh promise of Ikea parts when you first lay them out on the carpet…


Billy Bookcase Sides

It is also extremely important to employ your local burly-man, particularly one who loves a mallet.


Burly-Man with mallet



Initial Billy building: this is the quintessential 31.5″ Billy.


31.5″ Billy- The Flagship

We add the second bookcase, a 15.75″ Billy. The idea is to create a corner bookcase. We try a few different configurations:

The Ikea corner solution (they sell a corner bracket for this set up. I bought the brackets. I cannot find them in the garage.)


Ikea-Style Corner with 45 degree angle

And here is option two- a basic L-shaped book nook.


Corner with 90 degree angle

We choose option two, it seems to fit the small area better. Now do this 2 more times. Then build the extensions. 80 million pegs later…


Built Billys with extensions on top

It is done.


Billy area with desk (also Ikea) and lamp (also Ikea)

The Billys are fastened to the wall with included L-brackets. Ikea gives you screws and washers but not wall anchors. We used 1″ drywall anchors because that’s what we have. Obviously use the correct anchor for your wall.

We leveled the first unit on the far left, then fastened it to the wall. The next unit was leveled and placed flush with the first. The third unit was placed at a right angle and overlaps the second one slightly and the fourth is level and flush with the 3rd.


Billy Bookcase Sides, butted and slightly overlapped

The extensions are connected to the top of the bookcases with cam locks.


Extension on top of bookcase- cam locks visible on either side

The sides of the bookcases contain a cutaway in the back to fit easily over your baseboard trim (we thought we were going to have to remove the trim– yay!!).

You may have noticed in one of the earlier pictures that one of the bookcases covered up an outlet. We installed a low-profile flat plug extension cord and snaked it under the bookcase via the cutout channel.


Cut-out for baseboard trim, extension cord is routed through

Next project entails installing trim pieces around the edges (between the Billys and the walls) and on the top (between the Billys and the ceiling) to make them look like a built-in unit.






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Home Brew- Home Made Ginger Beverages: Ginger Beer, Part 2

Hello! Welcome to Part Two of my ginger beer experiment. If you missed Part 1 (preparation), click here.

I removed the bottle from the cabinet, opened the lid and poured myself a small glass to taste.


OMG. It’s completely repulsive. There is not nearly enough sugar or citrus or ginger in it and it tastes extremely alcoholic-y, even though I know it can’t be because it hasn’t fermented long enough. It resembles a $2 well vodka drink at the scuzziest bar in town (I would not know ANYTHING about where that might be.) And I think the bread yeast is what’s doing that. It’s definitely not what I was going for. That being said, I think twice the amount of ginger, sugar and citrus may have made it somewhat palatable (over ice, mixed with juice, holding my nose… maybe.) Maybe not.

I am on the fence about trying the yeast method again, so I think I’ll try the ginger ale soda method next and see if I can get a beverage that meets my needs.

So check back in for Part Three, Ginger Ale- soda style.

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Home Brew – Home Made Ginger Beverages: Ginger Beer, Part 1

I’m obsessed with ginger ale and ginger beer. Can’t get enough. I like the super gingery craft beer with the bite, I like the store brand ginger ale with it’s cloying sweetness. Ginger ale/beer is the perfect base for non-alcoholic beverages that are interesting.

So I decided to make my own. There are two ways to make ginger beer:

  • Yeast method: uses fresh ginger, fresh lemon juice, sugar, water and yeast. Place ingredients in a plastic bottle (two liter seems to be the preferred vessel) and allow the yeast to ferment the sugar and create carbonation. Takes about 2 days.
  • Starter method: this method is similar to brewing of kombucha, fermented black tea. You create a starter (a ginger bug) using ginger sugar and lemon, then “feed it” over the course of a few weeks, then mix your starter with more prepared ginger liquid which then ferments and creates carbonation.

Ginger Ale is an easier affair- it’s basically ginger soda and is made by mixing ginger syrup with carbonated water (ala Canada Dry).

I decided to try the yeast method first and make ginger beer. I am going to a dinner party on Saturday and I wanted to bring a little “somethin'” .

I am using Alton Brown’s (Food Network) recipe which is entiled Ginger Ale but is in fact Ginger Beer (because it’s fermented).


1 1/2 ounces finely grated fresh ginger
6 ounces sugar
7 1/2 cups filtered water
1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice


Place the ginger, sugar, and 1/2 cup of the water into a 2-quart saucepan and set over medium-high heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat, cover and allow to steep for 1 hour.

Pour the syrup through a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl, pressing down to get all of the juice out of the mixture. Chill quickly by placing over and ice bath and stirring or set in the refrigerator, uncovered, until at least room temperature, 68 to 72 degrees F.

Using a funnel, pour the syrup into a clean 2-liter plastic bottle and add the yeast, lemon juice and remaining 7 cups of water. Place the cap on the bottle, gently shake to combine and leave the bottle at room temperature for 48 hours. Open and check for desired amount of carbonation. It is important that once you achieve your desired amount of carbonation that you refrigerate the ginger ale. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, opening the bottle at least once a day to let out excess carbonation.

Okay. So the first thing I did is NOT READ THE INSTRUCTIONS CORRECTLY, even though I read them about 50 times. So of course I added the lemon to the syrup. Big woo.

I started grating the ginger with the fine side of my cheese grater which became very tedious almost immediately. So I chopped the rest of the ginger up and threw it in my mini food processer. I put it in a pan with my lemon juice (NO!!) sugar and some lemon zest (because I thought “Why not??”)


The mixture simmered accordingly as I washed out a two-liter bottle.


After the sugar dissolved I removed it from the heat. Then I went to Office Depot to buy ink. Then I went out for dinner. So by the time I returned my syrup was gooood and gingery. I strained the mixture using this:


And also this (although I think the cheesecloth may be overkill). But it was easy to squeeze all the liquid out.


Then added the syrup to the bottle. I used filtered water from my fridge for the remaining 7 cups and also poured it into the bottle (and more lemon juice).


Now it was time to add the yeast: I had an bit of an issue, however. The recipe calls for 1/8 tsp and the smallest measuring spoon I possess is 1/4. So I had to wing it. Many of the recipes you will find online call for brewer’s yeast or champagne yeast. Apparently, if baking yeast is used, the final product can taste..well, yeasty. I’ll be finding out how much of an issue that is.


Okay! So now it’s lurking in my bottom cupboard (too cold in the garage) and should be carbonated in about two days. I will return in two days with results!

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