Thursday, August 21, 2014



       1. to live                 2. to be full of life

Bandon, Oregon 2014

The "joie de vivre" is something that I want to embody in this blog and in my life. No self pressure, no deadlines, no reservations. Vivre Collective is meant to document those forgotten pleasures that make life joyful. My name is Jilla. I live in Minneapolis with my partner in life, Charlie. We enjoy cooking (he enjoys eating), traveling and taking in those moments of beauty in our world. Join me for this journey of growth and revelation!

MN Staghorn Sumac Lemonade and Kombucha!

Charlie has been thirsty for sumac tea ever since we discovered the possibility of a Minnesota grown lemonade. Great sweet and sour summer drink!

Here is how to identify:
Sumac is a beautiful plant. But one must be aware of that poisonous sumac does exist, once you learn how to easily differentiate between the edible and poisonous sumac you’re in for a summer-time treat!
Staghorn Sumac, which is not toxic to humans and is the best species for sumac lemonade, grows as a bush/tree like structure. The leafy stems are furry. Unlike poison sumac, the leaves have ridged edges. But, the easiest way to identify is to look for the staghorn’s unique flower/fruiting structure:

This structure is what you’ll use to make your tea! And handy for you, it isn’t found on any sumac except for the Staghorn, making identification a breeze
The fruits themselves, known as drupes, grow in clusters and are red, brown or magenta in color. Fruit is ready for picking mid-late summer. I have learned that the best way to know if the fruit is ready is by doing a quick taste with your tongue. Ripeness can vary between plants in the same area, or even between flowers of the same plant, so taste test each flower you pick! The fruit should taste a little sour and sweet comparable to pomegranate—not dull and chalky.
Poison Sumac can be identified by the smooth edges of the leaves. These leaves a generally shiny and stems are hairless. The fruit structure are very distinct, instead of staghorn structures the fruits grow in a grape-like structure.

Sumac Tea Kombucha
Items you’ll need

-Sumac Drupes (8 to 10 drupes)
-2 gallons of water Water
-Sugar (to taste)
-1 gallon of Kombucha tea*
-Bottles with sealed caps
Take the sumac drupes and soak in water. Let soak until the water turns a deep red color. Strain out the big drupes. Filter out the liquid with cheesecloth to gather all the extra drupes . Once strained, sweeten to your taste with sugar. Now you have Staghorn lemonade which could be enjoyed as is!

To ferment combine with kombucha tea after the tea has completed its first fermentation (see link below). Bottle the mixture and allow for a second fermentation process–this takes about 2 days. After the two days, move the unopened bottles to the frig. This slows fermentation to prevent the intensity of gas pressure from further building inside the bottles. Your sumac tea is now ready to enjoy!

*To make your own basic kombucha tea, please review here!

** WARNING: Always consult an expert or identification book written by an expert when eating wild plants. Do not eat any wild edible plant unless you are 

100% certain of its identification

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Homemade Bug Spray that works!

After our trip to the Superior Hiking Trail, Charlie and I decided to take a stab at making our own bug spray! And guess what?! IT WORKS!

Homemade Bug Spray

-Castor oil with peppermint oil in it ( you could even replace this with castor soap with peppermint)
- couple drops of Cedarwood essential oil (which the Native Americans supposedly used),
- couple drops of  Geranium oil
- couple drops of Citronella oil
- couple drops of  Eucalyptus oil
-water to fill the spray bottle up

Mix in a small portable spray bottle and get yourself outside! :)

We are not medically trained doctors so please always consult a physician first before using any new essential oils. Oils can have different effect on people especially if you are pregnant, breast-feed or under the age of 5 years old.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Spirituality of Food

 Food is one of the things that can connect us to our ancestors—we can’t know them personally, but through these grains we can taste the same food, and in the history there is power that you can feel when you taste it. 
 Amado Ramirez of Itanoni restaurant in Oaxaca

A vacation that is only the costs a tank of gas: Northshore, MN Superior Hiking Trail near Finland, MN

This past weekend we trail-blazed to  Northshore, Minnesota for some bouldering, camping and hiking on the National Superior Hiking Trail! Here are some lovely photos to inspire yall to get outdoors. 


Wolf Lake



This is a hidden gem! It is located in the heart of Duluth, Minnesota. 

Bouldering near Section 13 on the Superior Hiking Trail

Spots to boulder along the Northshore:

We had three major stops along our hiking route.

#1: Duluth, MN has great inner city bouldering options. To find out all the spots, consult this book Peter's Guide to Duluth Bouldering (found at TrailFitters, in the Fitgers complex, Duluth). We couldn't do the classic problems at the site because it had just rained so we had to get creative and make up problems

#2: Follow the trail from Finland to Wolf Ridge Center. Along this section of the Superior Hiking trail, we found some great spots. 

#3: Highway off Section #13. Old rocks have been blow'in up for the highway--leaving perfect little sections to test out your skills.

What is your favorite spot to boulder in MN?

Trip total cost: under $95 for 2 people for 4 days

Price breakdown:
Hotel: $0--camping outdoors
Transportation: $75 for 150 miles up to the Northshore
Food: under $20, to restock on meals to make over the fire

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

MN Stinging Nettle: How to dry and make into tea

It is one of the most common "weeds" around, the Stinging Nettle, and we are going to drink it!

Here's a little fun fact about this plant. Stinging nettle has been used throughout history used as medicine and even as a food source for its fiber properties. Said to be brewed for kidney ailments by the Romans!

How to identify: It has a ribbed and hollow stem. Can grow between 2-4 feet tall. Leaves are rough and have coarse teeth. Leaves are pointed at the tip. The leaves each connected to a petiole and are opposite of each other. Use a cloth to touch the plant since it is known to cause an itch. If you dont--this could happen: . Dont wont- you can eat this just fine and not have that reaction in your throat.

example of pointed leaf and teeth

Making tea:
1. After the plant is harvested, dry it in a warm, dry place. We used a coat hanger with pins to dry it in our basement. This process should only take a couple days

2. Boil water
3. Brew for 2-3 minutes
4. Enjoy!
Store leftovers in an airtight  container and enjoy throughout the winter!

** WARNING: Always consult an expert or identification book written by an expert when eating wild plants. Do not eat any wild edible plant unless you are 

100% certain of its identification

Friday, July 18, 2014

New logo

Hi everyone!

We received our new logo today! Thanks to my talented comic artist friend, Maxeem Konrardy! Please check more of his amazing work here:

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A watermelon cake that will be the talk of any picnic!

A couple of grandma's were talking at work about a special cake they had made. OF COURSE, I had to listen in.  Here is what I came up with! It is just a darling cake!

At first I was hesitant to cover something as delicious as watermelon in even more delicious goodness of cool whip but the end result is fantastic. Everyone at our gathering said that it added just that "extra" bit of something to an already wonderful summer treat! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

This recipe is a keeper!


1 seedless watermelons
1 package of strawberries
1 package of blueberries
2 kiwis
1 package of cool whip
1 package of sliced almonds
3 tbsp honey
1tbsp olive oil
1. Cut the watermelon on both ends so you have just the middle flat section

2. Cut around the white section of the rind so you only have a circular fleshy watermelon base
3. Pat the watermelon dry until the outside of the fruit no longer feels wet to your touch  
4. Cut your watermelon base into the amount of slices desired (This will help the toppings to stay on better when serving)

5. On a skillet, heat up the olive oil. Add the almonds and "fry" until golden brown. Add the honey into the skillet and let the honey melt. Make sure to stir until fully combined. Once incorporated remove from heat and let cool. 
6. Spread the cool whip on the watermelon. Make sure to add enough "frosting" to not let the watermelon color peak through.
7. Careful place the almonds on the sides of the cake to create a nice border.
8. Add the fruit on top and enjoy!

Can stay at room temperature for about 2 hours! Place in fridge if it is a hot summer day to avoid melting!


Thanks to for some exact measurements 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

How to cook with MN Common Burdock: Burdock Stir Fry recipe

This is one of my favorite foraging goodies thus far! Not only is it so plentiful throughout Minnesota, the taste is very similar to celery--making it easy to add to your soups, salads or stir fry! 

  1. Identify: There are several kinds of burdock in Minnesota. Common Burdock and Great Burdock. Common Burdock is the most prevalent but both are edible. We decided to be a little lazy this weekend and  to cook with Common Burdock. It can easily be identified by, ironically, looking for its dead foliage.  The burrs will appear in bunches while on the Great Burdock, the burrs are each connected individually by different stems. See below:
Common Burdock                                                    Great Burdock
Great Burdock: each burr connected separately to stems
Common Burdock: example of burr bunch

         2. Prepare Common Burdock for cooking
Petioles on main stalk
a. Cut the main stalk at the base of the plant.  Cut away most the petioles (the stems that come off to a leaf) until you reach the midway point of the stalk.

Preparing the petioles:

1. Remove leaves

Preparing the main stalk :

                       3. After all is the stalks have been peeled and cut, make sure to rinse them to remove any the bitter taste of the stalks. 

4. Cooking with burdock:

Cook your stalks with pieces of bacon and carrots. The fat of the bacon helps to mellow the bitter flavors of the burdock. Add your favorite stir fry items and enjoy!

** WARNING: Always consult an expert or identification book written by an expert when eating wild plants. Do not eat any wild edible plant unless you are 100% certain of its identification

Friday, June 27, 2014

Homemade Kombucha

Charlie and I have been making our own kombucha for years! Being one of the more expensive items at a natural food store, learning how to make this fermented drink can help save you loads of money while helping detoxify your body and much more!

Steps to making your own basic kombucha tea!

1.  You will have to either order or find someone that can help you get a scoby. Our friend had a "mother" scoby that was ready to be split so we took a couple of the top layers to start our batch. You could also use this subreddit site to help you identify a mother near you:  The first time I saw a scoby--I screamed from how ugly and alien like it was. I, now, love the beautiful bacteria (and yeast).
We pealed away two layers from this mother 

We sealed it in a plastic baggy to transport 

2. You will need a clean jar to let your scoby ferment in. We like to use large glass jars that have a wide opening. This allows your scoby to have as much surface as possible in the mixture and this will help prevent mold.

3. Boil half a gallon of water.

4. Add 1/2 cup of plain sugar into the boiling water.

5. Let mixture cool and let 4 black tea bags seep.  Allow tea to seep until the mixture is a dark color. Once the mixture is cooled, add the scoby.

6. Allow the mixture to ferment for two weeks before enjoying! Make sure to cover the jar with a towel and rubberband

*For optimal results, occasionally swirl the scoby in the mixture to allow the top of the scoby soak in the mixture. This will help to prevent mold. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

?? Quiz: What homestead do you belong on??

What sort of homestead do YOU belong on? Take the quiz to find out instantly!

I have several friends that have started or worked on a homestead. This make my heart aches for the life that is more in sync with nature. Whatever place you are in your life, making a homestead work can be an option. Take this quiz to help you find out what kind of homestead works with your current lifestyle. 
The question is, what kind of homestead do you belong on? A permaculture hobby farm? An urban area with community gardens? Something in between? Take this quiz to find out!
*Thanks to
One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” - Virginia Woolf 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Quick trip road-trip to Iowa: Frank LLoyd Wright and intro to couchsurfing

We all have them. Those places that we are relatively interested in seeing but not enthralled enough to use our vacation time to visit. For us this time, Des Moines, Iowa was that place. Yes, although not outrightly tempting as a vacation spot, Iowa is actually a great candidate for a getaway trip.

Paging through our brochure booklets
I am a strong believer in maintaining a healthy diet of short and sweet trips. They help clear the mind and re-excite, giving you a little rush of fresh perspective. So Charlie and I decided to head 250 miles south to pay a visit to our neighbor Iowa. Taking 35W we stopped at the Minnesota and Iowa border to take a look at the Iowa Information Center. I recommend stopping at these centers in general to gather maps, brochures, and inside tips that often provide quick historical snapshots that add meaning to the sights you’ll experience. However this information center in particular is the best either of us have ever experienced. The staff was incredibly passionate to give us helpful suggestions, from the quirky and amazing matchstick museum, the free coffee to inspiring historical sites.

Crystal Sugar plant along route 65

For us, Mason City became the first destination :

Known for being the childhood home of Meredith Wilson, the playwright of the musical the Music Man. This musical’s characters are based on the citizens of this quaint town. Much of the attraction has to do with Music Man museum and walkway. You will find a library names in its honor and statues of character. We had a blast singing Seventy Six Trombones. Kind of a sad place that its only tourism is off this horrible musical so after 30 minutes of roaming its main attraction we decided to find our own.
*a one-trick pony town that’s worth the stop*

F.L Wright Prairie structure

Architecture buffs and enthusiasts will be happy to stumble upon two Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie structures, the Dr. G.C Stockman House and the Park Inn Hotel and City National Bank Buildings. Both buildings have been beautifully kept and you can even stay a night at the Park Inn Hotel. While at the Dr. G.C Stockman House, walk or drive along the river to view other early 1900 homes and daydream of days long ago. Pretending we were one of their guests (basically walk in and walk past the receptionist like you know where you are going), we were able to see all the rooms of this historic hotel.

Charlie running through the halls :)
City National Bank that is connected to the hotel

Des Moines:
I was surprised at how Des Moines is mostly made up for strip mall architecture. Almost everything in built as one long corridor. They have several bus lines since Des Moines has 10 different colleges and Universities. This also brings with it more stores and bars geared towards a younger population. Overall, I felt like I was in a smaller St Paul downtown or just a very large suburb since the city is notorious of less of an center and more spaced out.  Plan your trip using this handy website:

The beautiful state capital of Iowa

Things to check out:
Iowa Capital: very beautiful and interesting historical architecture
Greater Des Moines Botantical Garden: CHAR write here since you’ve been there: tickets are $5 Adults
Pappajohn Sculpture Park: free and located in the center of downtown. Though it is not extensive, it is a fun place to enjoy the life size during the warmer months or for an interactive photoshoot.
East Village: this would be where the younger population hangs out. It has boutiques, bike shops and local shops. Equivalent to any large city’s uptown area. They also hold annual festivals such as Bike Nights, the World Food Festival and Holiday Promenade.
Gong Fu Tea: The owners travel throughout the world to hand-select the loose leaf teas found in this one-of-a-kind, Asian-inspired teahouse that features selections such as Silver Needle tea from China's Fujian province.
Fong’s Pizza:
Going to Des Moines? You have to go to Fong’s Pizza. This place is raved about in the Polk County area. They make handmade craft pizza with weird toppings such as Bacon Cheeseburger to Pinneapple Shrimp that are served as late as 3am on weekends.

Jilla’s Lessons Learned!

1) Make stops at those quirky places that make each place unique. Do not allow yourself to just space out while in transit, but instead embrace  the journey and be spontaneous.

2) Find a place to stay for FREE! Sites like couchsurfing allow for you to meet people while enjoying the luxury of a home-away from home 101:
Charlie and I wanted to reduce the cost of travels and so we tried out couchsurfing for the first time. Several of our friends and housemates had gone on long adventures while using couchsurfing so we decided to give it a go.
What is couchsurfing?
It is a website ( that allows for members to search for our members that will allow you to "surf" on couches by staying as a guest at a host's home, host travelers, or join an event. Couchsurfing is virtually in every city which allows for members to travel throughout the world. It is free to open up an account and to become a host. Members create an account that allows you to add a photos of yourself and your facility if you are a host, your interest, languages spoken and etc to personalize your profile. Accounts and members are verified on their profiles by personal references, personal vouching and an optional method of credit card verification, all of which is visible to all members.


-It is easy to travel throughout the world and find other couchsurfer hosts and travelers.
-Couchsurfing also set-ups meets for all the couchsurfers that want to meet other couchsurfers in certain cities. This allows for travelers to meet hosts and other travelers and socialize.
-CHEAP, CHEAP, CHEAP. I have never had to pay for a stay!
-Great for emergencies when a friend bails, tried of driving all night long, need a place to crash, or that hotel room turns out to be a not so good idea.
-Easy way to meet other people in the city you are traveling in. Hosts are open-minded and like having guests. They allow for an insider scoop on the places, its amenities and attractions.
-Most hosts are flexible about dates so if you decide to extend your trip or shorten it you can. Just be mindful that you should always communicate with your host for best results.
-Some cities are hard to book a location for. It all depends on how often a host checks their account for a request. I recommend contacting a host several days to weeks before your trip to insure a booking. BUT—I have read and heard from several members that they have had success posting on a cities wall for emergency hosts.
-You get what you pay for: Hosts do not have to feed you (though some day, extra perk J), types of sleeping situations vary from your own private room to sleeping on a couch but all hosts have to list what type of sleeping amenity they are willing to provide. They are not a hotel service so keep common courtesy rules-do not trash their house, you are a guest.
-One must be proactive in communication from initial  contact to establishing ground rules.

All in all, I loved my experience with my Iowian couchsurfers. They are empty nesters that are hippie urban farmers. I felt safe and comfortable from initial contact. They offered us our own private room, homegrown and made food, travel tips on Des Moines site seeing, called up a friend for us to talk about potential graduate schools and even were flexible on our ending our trip a little earlier than expected. If you are hesitating, I would suggest that you try couchsurfing in your own town/city. You will be able to experiment and still feel safe in your own area. Remember, use common sense when picking hosts. Your intuition does wonders.
Happy travels!
Trip total cost: under $120 for 2 people for 2 days

Price breakdown:
Hotel: $0
Transportation: $120 for gas
Food: $0 our couchsurfer feed us organic homegrown produce and meals

Couchsurfer bread: Pita Bread recipe

2 3/4 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 T kosher salt
1 1/2 T granulated yeast
1 T sugar
1/4 c olive oil
6 1/2 c unbleached flour (I have used 1c whole wheat flour, with good results)

Mix the first 4 ingredients in a 5qt container. When yeast proofs (about 10min.), stir in flour. Let rise covered in a warm place for two hours.
You may use immediately or keep in the frig for up to 10 days.

This makes great pizza, poke holes in the dough after you roll it out to avoid bubbles.

It makes great pita bread, roll dough into 4-5" circles about 1/4" thick, let rest 15 minutes. Bake until puffed, about 4-5 minutes at 450 degrees.

*The book is ARTISAN BREAD IN 5 MINUTES A DAY by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.

I love this book. IF you must only have one cookbook--THIS HAS TO BE IT!