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!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

What started it all...

Little by little one travels far -J.R.R Tolkien
Growing up in the suburbs (with no car at that :/ ), I would dream of the day I could travel the world and learn the secret of a happy life. Like so many millennials,  I have no clue what I want out of life or even what I want to accomplish today. But every day I seem to travel a little closer to want I want, desire, seek. To what sets my soul on fire.

Recent studies have suggested that American millennials value travel more than any other generation thus far. Last month I watched this statistic come alive. I was at home with my family and my mother was talking about a recent trip to Las Vegas. In passing I asked her about the vacation they would take the following year. She scoffed at the idea and the expense of another trip—even if they saved up for an entire year. All of a sudden, it clicked. MOST Americans only go on vacation ONCE A YEAR. My heart sank. I would hate that!!! HATE HATE HATE HATE it.

That conversation fueled me to start this blog:
Charlie, and I have sought out secrets to traveling thriftily without missing out on experiences that big bucks buy! Actually, we find that our experiences are usually more memorable than a tour company or hotel could provide. We are 24 and 23 years old and work full time, but we are able to justify working 40 hour a week in order to continue discovering this awesome planet. Charlie and I are sick of our friends and family stating "well your type of travels are great for when you are young… BUT now we have higher standards (which really equates to spending over $5,000 for a 5 day vacation to Florida)...". Do you realize that most of your life is spent working, at a job that you mostly likely do not like? Your job costs 8 hours every day, 40 hours a week, 160 hrs a month, almost 2000 hours a year, and over 190,000 hours every 10 years. On top of that you pile on the hours after work you spend recovering from how tired and drained you feel from not feeling accomplished... SO SUCK IT UP and travel with us.

Follow along on our amazing adventures and let your imagination become reality.  This blog is dedicated to helping everyone find ways to travel on a budget that is tight for both for money and time —and also to brag a little on our amazing adventures. If you prioritize travel, you can find the ways to make it happen.

Daily Inspirations

I received this little gem in a fortune cookie. It is now taped to my work cabinet to help me keep on track. Thank you, fortune cookie gods! 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Rhubarb Almond Streusel Bread


1 cup sugar
1/2 cup softened butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sliced rhubarb (preferably home grown)
1/3 cup plain yogurt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon firmly packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons chopped almonds
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Heat oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour a bread pan.

Combine sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and butter in bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Use both hands to help break apart lumps and gently combine the butter with all the ingredients. (Your hands help to make your closer to your food--dont be afraid of your energy.)  Add yogurt and eggs. Beat at low speed until mixed. Stir in rhubarb.

Reserve 1 1/2 cups batter.  Spread remaining batter into prepared pan. 
Combine all almond streusel ingredients in bowl;  spread evenly.

Spread reserved batter into pan; top with remaining almond streusel and spread evenly. 

Bake 65 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. The bread should have a beautiful brown top. 

*inspired by the Rhubarb Streusel Bread

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Words to inspire to

Don't let your situation define you.

Great article that helped me to retouch base with what was and still is important to me. I am so grateful for my education and all those that were along the journey with me! Thank you!

Although my story is not identical, I too struggled as a low-income student. Hard work, dedication and perseverance allowed me to attend the University of Minnesota that led to the opportunity to study in Paris, work for a famous chef, and met my Charlie!

 What are you grateful for?

Our first edible wild plant: MN Riverbank Grape and Jilla's Canned Wild Grape Leaves Recipe

Friday,  June 6, 2014

Charlie and I harvested our first edible wild plant today! He is way too pumped.

 The plant of the week was our very own Minnesota wild grape. Spring time means the grape leaves are tender, ready to harvest and to be prepared to later turn into stuffed grape leaves! Look in shady spots for the perfectly tender ones. The sun make the leaves form a rough skin that do not make them good candidates.

First, one must be able to distinguish whether or not the vine is an edible grape variety. Around the Twin Cities, these are the most commonly found:

Edible: Riverbank Grape  

NOT Edible: Moonseed Grape

NOT Edible: Virginia Creeper Grape

Jilla's Canned Wild Grape Leaves Recipe

Grocery bag of leaves will yield 2 medium sized canning jars. 

Step 1: Rinse your leaves twice to ensure all the dirty is gone 
Step 2: Prepare each jar with a juice of whole lemon and water. Fill to about 1/2 inch from the top of jar. For variety add ginger with whole pepper grounds or Thai Chili Pepper.
Step 3: Once leaves are clean, take 6 leaves, stack in order of size (smallest in the middle and build out) and roll into a bunch. Using twine, tie the roll gently.

Step 4: Boil two pots of water. Bring to a boil. Blanche leaves for one minute. Quickly place in ice water to cool the temperature of leaves. Place in jars. And place in second pot. Allow the jars to sit in boiling water for 20 minutes to set jars. Remove and allow to cool. Lids will "pop" once they are completely set. 

** 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

The Forager's Harvest

Tuesday,  June 10, 2014

This is our go to guide on Minnesota foraging. Here is just a snipet of the awesomeness this book contains. 

"In May I walk down to the stream near my house with a fishing pole, some bags, and a trowel. I dig up a few wild leeks, placing any earthworms that I encounter into a small jar. When satisfied with my take of either bait or vegetables, I drop my line into the clay-tinted rushing waters to entice a hungry brook trout from his undercut bank. Before I depart with a couple of fish, I stop to add a handful of ostrich fern fiddle heads to my bag. The warblers are singing, flitting among the treetops that are just beginning to don the fresh green of spring, and the spring peepers chirp from every pond or puddle. On the way home I encounter a black bear, feeding as I am on the bounty of the spring woods."

How much easier and how much more fun it is to harvest from God's garden than to toil in your own! 

~Samuel Thayer 2006, an excerpt from 'The Forager's Harvest'