Mama Gone Green is a blog dedicated to raising happy children and reducing our impact on the Earth. My name is Taryn and I am the mother of 2 young kids and an environmental studies instructor at a community college in Portland, Oregon. Please join me as I journey through life as a mama, teacher, knitter, photographer, gardener, and environmentalist!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Where Does Formaldehyde Hide?

One of my students gave a presentation on formaldehyde last term, and I haven't been able to get it out of the back of my head since. We have all heard of formaldehyde-- it's the chemical we use to preserve frogs for dissection biology class and the chemical we use to embalm our loved ones after they die. But did you know it's also in, well,... just about everything?? Formaldehyde preserves against bacteria, so humans have found all sorts of uses for this substances including: cosmetics and personal hygiene products, vaccines, clothes, plastics, pill coatings that promote maximum absorption, building materials, flooring, furniture, car components, inks, and just about every other place you could think of.
So, what's the big deal? Formaldehyde can cause several short term effects including burning sensations, coughing, weezing, skin irritation, and nausea. For those who have long term exposure to this chemical (with the list above that seems like just about all of us!), the EPA has classified formaldehyde as a probably carcinogen.
So, what can you do? First off, stop sleeping on the stuff. Any fabrics that are permanent-press or wrinkle-free contain formaldehyde. This means that almost all bed sheets contain formaldehyde, giving you 7-9 hours of exposure each and every night. To avoid formaldehyde-ridden sheets, stick to cotton flannel or jersey-knit; these fabrics are not treated with formaldehyde-laden resin as they are meant to be soft and not 'crisp' (to read more about this check out Green Housekeeping by Ellen Sandbeck). Also look for personal care products and building products that are labeled formaldeyde-free. Lastly, when you are in the market for new furniture, try to look for solid wood pieces or used furniture. Used furniture (older than 10 years) will have off-gassed a good portion of the formaldehyde it contains, and will be less toxic to your health. Pin It Now!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Roots Shoots Buckets & Boots: A Review

This is a great little book that has many ideas for different children's gardens... from a pizza garden, to a sunflower house, to growing plants in old boots. Along the way, the author, Sharon Lovejoy, gives some great tips and activities to encourage exploration in the garden.. and lots of it involves eating things, finding bugs and getting dirty.... things that most of our children just love. And, for you novice gardeners, there is a section in the back that explains some basic gardening tips so that you and your children can learn together! Thumbs up for this one! Pin It Now!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Lentil Burgers

This is a recipe that I modified from one I found at It is super easy and DEEE-licious! It has become a new regular on our dinner menu.

What You Need:
  • 1 cup dried french green lentils
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 2 pieces of whole grain bread, toasted well (or use store-bought bread crumbs)
  • 2 eggs
  • cumin
  • olive oil (for the pan)
  • condiments, toppings, buns or bread to serve on
What You Do:
  • Cook lentils (making sure that you do not overcook)
  • While lentils are cooking, chop and saute the 1/2 onion in a skillet heated with olive oil. Cook onions until they are tender and starting to caramelize. Add cumin (to your taste) and continue to cook for 2 more minutes while stirring continuously. Turn off heat.
  • Put your 2 pieces of toast in a plastic bag and use a rolling pin to turn your bread into crumbs. If the bread is not toasted well-enough to make crumbs, then toast some more!
  • When lentils are finished cooking, strain well. Put in a bowl and add the 2 eggs. Mash up your mixture really well (a potato masher works well)... if it is not mashed up well, the burgers won't stick together.
  • Add onions and breadcrumbs to the mixture and combine well.
  • Cook in a saute pan lightly coated with olive oil, flipping once, until each side turns a golden brown.
  • Serve with home-made fries and enjoy!
  • Makes 3 medium-size patties.
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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Let the Farmers Market Begin!

Yesterday was our first chance of the spring to make it to the Portland Farmer's Market. Hooray for local farmers and local food! Pin It Now!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Quick Tip: Time to Bulk Up!

A great way to start saving money and natural resources is to start shopping in the bulk bins of your local grocery. Now, I am not talking about stocking up at Costco, where many things are still individually wrapped but sold in huge quantities, but the actual bulk bins, where you buy exactly how much you need. Food sold in bulk is usually cheaper and there is no packaging that comes along with it. That means if you bring your own home-made bulk bags, you can get food at a much reduced environmental cost: Food packaging is made from natural resources, such as trees or petroleum. And, making all of that packaging takes lots of energy. Eventually, that packaging will be disposed of and will likely sit in a landfill for hundreds or more years. Yikes! It just makes sense to try to avoid any packaging that we don't really need.
I know that individually wrapped 'snack packs' can be a real convenience, especially if you have young ones, but it only takes a few minutes to break up a bag of bulk snacks into individual-size reusable containers. The money saved will make it worth it. Pin It Now!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day!

Today is the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day. Celebrate by paying your respects to this magical planet that we inhabit.
The photos above are a few from my trip to the Bay Area I took last weekend.
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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Green Housekeeping: A Review

I recently finished reading Green Housekeeping by Ellen Sandbeck. This book is packed with all sorts of facts and information on everything from safe and natural cleaning and stain removal to non-toxic eradication of garden pests. Throughout the book, the author discusses toxins that commonly arise in certain areas of the home (for example, did you know that the sheets that you sleep on every night likely contain formaldehyde!) and ways to avoid or minimize these toxins.
I think this book is a must-read for anyone who is concerned with the safety of their family, and anyone who is willing to choose more natural and non-toxic ways to live. This book is so packed with information that it would be great to always have on hand as a reference book. I borrowed this book from the library, and upon finishing it, decided to buy a used copy to keep at home. There is just that much good information in there. And don't worry-- I will share lots of this information with you in upcoming blogs! Pin It Now!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hooray for Imaginative Play

Playing dress-up and engaging in imaginative play is not only fun for your young child, but is also of developmental importance. Pretending to be someone they are not helps your child develop creativity and outside-the-box thinking, empathy for others, an increased self-esteem, and also helps with vocabulary development.
So, if you can, build a dress-up box for your child. You can find used dress-up items at resale shops, or get creative and make some of your own. Also, you likely have several items in your closet or garage that you rarely use that your child will find hours of fun with (see exhibit A above-- old ski goggles). It is great if you can place a large mirror somewhere near the dress-up box so that the children can see how they look. Pin It Now!

Saturday, April 17, 2010


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Friday, April 16, 2010

Tulips and Sunshine

I am thankful for the chance I had today to enjoy some sunshine and some spring tulips on a wonderful Friday in Portland. Pin It Now!

Make Your Own Produce Bags

I think that many of us have started to bring our own reusable shopping bags to the grocery store each week. But what about all of those plastics bags that we use to put our produce or bulk items in? In the past, I have tried to just not take bags for my produce unless absolutely necessary, which works, but can leave you with a wet, messy shopping bag and produce that wilts more quickly in the fridge. For bulk items, I try to bring items home in the bulk bags, rinse them out and put them back in the grocery bag so that I can re-use them again the following week. However, a few weeks ago I decided it was time to make some real reusable produce and bulk bags that I could use week and week again and reduce my use of plastics.
I made this set of 5 bags in about 20 minutes using some non-bleached muslin fabric that I already had in my fabric box. All I did was cut a piece of fabric twice as big as I wanted the bag to be, fold it in half and sew up 2 of the other sides leaving the top open. I then quickly sewed a 1/2 inch seem around the top of each bag and used a piece of hemp rope to thread through the seam and become a drawstring. Easy and much cheaper than the $4 a piece that these same bags are selling for at my local grocery. Pin It Now!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Felted Nesting Bowls

I finally finished this set of nesting bowls for my little man. The pattern for these bowls can be found here, and instructions for felting can be found here. They take quite a while to dry, so if making these for a gift, plan ahead! Pin It Now!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Ducks New Home

A little 'Smudge' in the face.

Finn on a duck chase with the new coop in the background.

Curious gals.

The gang leaving the coop for some yard exploration.

Backyard explorers.

This past weekend was an important one for our family, as the warmer, rain-free weather (yay!) allowed us to finish our duck coop and get our gang outside. I will say that I like ducks a whole lot more when they are not living in my bedroom! And I can tell that they are much happier as well!
We were very lucky to have found 2 free coops on craigslist, and then we (OK, Todd) attached them together so that the ducks have a safe coop to be closed in during nighttime, as well as a larger run. It was great to take these unwanted items off of other people hands and to not have to pay a thing for our ducks new home!
They are still small and vulnerable, so we have only been giving them free reign of the backyard when there is a human companion to keep an eye on them. But they have loved daily swims, runs through the grass, and foraging for dirt, bugs and everything else they try to put in their mouths.
We still have about 10 more weeks until the egg-laying begins, and we are pretty sure that at least one of our 3 is a male, but in the meantime we have some pretty great slug-predators and some awfully cute backyard friends. If only they weren't still scared of us.... Pin It Now!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Quick Tip: Choosing a Shower Curtain

When choosing a new shower curtain and liner, it is best to choose a fabric curtain made out of cotton or nylon. Your typical vinyl shower liners are extremely prone to mold and mildew and need to be replaced every year or so. A fabric liner, however, can be thrown in the washing machine and can be used for a long time. Also, vinyl shower curtains and liners are made out of vinyl, which is a type of plastic AND vinyl shower curtains off-gas some pretty nasty chemicals. So, fabric shower curtains are better for your health and the environment. Pin It Now!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Don't Trash Your Food!

According to, almost 1/3 of the food we buy ends up in the trash! Not only is it a shame to see this food go to waste because so many people across the globe go hungry each day, but also because eliminating this waste would have a carbon impact equivalent to taking 1/5 of the cars off of the road! Plus, wasted food = wasted money. Wouldn't you rather spend it on something besides garbage?
We are all guilty of wasting food (well, at least I know I am!) but by taking a few simple steps we can help to at least cut back on the amount of food we waste.
1. Plan meals out ahead of time. Make a weekly trip to the grocery store and buy only what you need for those meals (I know, this is very, very hard). Make sure to plan ahead for nights that you will be eating dinner out!
2. If food is starting to go bad before you can eat it, try and make a soup or a quick bread that you can freeze and use at a later time.
3. If you don't have the time to use your food before it will go bad, bring it to a neighbor or donate it to your local food bank, Produce is often in short supply at food banks.
4. Make sure to clean our your refrigerator often. If not, food will lurk in the back of those drawers and by the time you find it, it could be well past it's due date!
5. If all else fails and food has started to go bad, compost it! To find out more about composting, click here. Pin It Now!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Cheese-Filled Sweet Potato Muffins

What You Need:
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar (or substitute 2/3 cup agave nectar)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup sweet potato (peeled, boiled, and mashed)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup water
  • nutmeg, cinnamon, and any other spices that suit your fancy
  • 1 cup of cream cheese, mascarpone cheese, or a mixture of the 2
What You Do:
  • Preheat oven to 350
  • Prepare a muffin tin with olive oil spray or butter
  • Mix olive oil, eggs, water, sweet potato
  • Add agave or sugar
  • Mix in flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg
  • Blend ingredients well and pour into muffin tin
  • Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, or until done (you can insert a sharp knife into one of the muffins- if nothing sticks to the knife, the muffins are ready)
  • Remove muffins from tin and place on baking rack to cool
  • Once cool, scoop out a section from the top center of each muffin (see photo)
  • Eat what you have scooped out as your reward for baking
  • Whip up your cheese, adding cinnamon if you like. Fill each hole with your cheese selection. When I made these I used mascarpone, but wished that it had a sweeter, cheesier taste. Next time I think I will do a mascarpone-cream cheese combo.
  • Sprinkle cinnamon on top of each muffin and enjoy!
  • Makes 12 regular sized muffins.
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Wednesday, April 7, 2010! YouTube for the Science-Minded

I was introduced to by my students during my first semester of teaching at Portland Community College... and I couldn't believe I had never seen it before! This website is the you-tube for science geeks, and I have (sadly) spent countless Friday nights sucked into the talks. If you are interested in anything science, there is at least one talk for you on here! Some of my favorites are Janine Benyus and her biomimicry talk and David Gallo's underwater astonishments, but this website has so many talks that are worth watching! But, be forewarned: it will suck you in! Pin It Now!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Duck Update

This weekend our ducks got to have their first (indoor) swim! They are getting huge, and we are getting anxious to get them outside. They are very cute and very, very messy! Pin It Now!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Dirt! The Movie

Last Thursday, I was granted with an opportunity to go to a screening of the new movie Dirt! Since I spent a good portion of my Master's studying soil, I was pretty excited to go and check this film out. To top it off, I brought the family along, and my 2 year old was not only well behaved but was actually ecstatic to watch a movie about dirt. Yes! - a young scientist in the making.
The film was entertaining and truthful, sad and comic. It portrays how our current farming practices and use of GMOs are destroying our soil, how we have paved over our soils, compacted them, and how we have let them erode away. We have completely disconnected ourselves from one of the most crucial elements of our lives. Without soil there is no food, without soil there is no life.
Check out for more details or to find a screening near you! Pin It Now!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Finn's Easter Basket

4 felted eggs.. I got the idea from my friend Wintry, but there is a great tutorial at rhythm of the home

2 knitted sheep (again thanks for the idea and motivation dear Wintry!). This pattern came from Living Crafts Magazine. Mine aren't quite as cute as the magazine's version, but hey- I am still a knitter in training! I still need to turn them into marionettes, but that part didn't get done in time for this morning.

A pair of green yoga pants. I have already blogged about how to make these here!
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Happy Easter!

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Saturday, April 3, 2010

Adventures in Natural Egg Dying Take 2!

I spent this morning in my kitchen (aided by finn, of course!) in my second annual experiment to dye eggs using natural, plant-based dyes. And (drum-roll.......), I would say that it was a success! Or, at least an improvement from last year's experiment!
This year I used red cabbage, spinach (which was unsuccessful) and an onion skin-tumeric combo. For each dye color, I mixed my plant materials, 4 cups of water and 2 tbl. white vinegar. I brought it to a boil, then simmered it for an hour. After the water cooled back down, I put uncooked eggs into the water, brought it to a boil for 10 minutes and then let the eggs sit in the water for another hour after cooking to try and absorb as much color as possible.
The red cabbage eggs came out a beautiful bright blue (my favorites). The spinach did not work at all.. I think I needed A LOT more spinach to get a real green color, but I had already used quite a bit. So, the spinach eggs, after not turning green, were set into the red cabbage water for about an hour. They turned a white-blue combination that ended up pretty nice. The last round I used onion skins, but didn't have quite enough to give the eggs a vibrant color so I ended up adding about a tablespoon of tumeric before boiling. I think the combo worked out well!
Rhythm of the home has a nice little egg-dying tutorial here, if you want a more experienced opinion than my own! Pin It Now!

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Future of Food: Film Review

After watching this film for the 6th or 7th time, I have finally gotten a review posted up here! The film The Future of Food focuses on the genetic modification of foods, the impact that these foods have already had on our food system, and the implications these foods have for the future of our food system. This film is scary and horribly depressing, yet at the same time is a huge motivation to push people to get involved with trying to change the food system.... before it is too late. From the Canadian farmer who was sued (and lost) for having Monsanto's GMO soybean seed blow onto his land (unwanted), to the woman who suffered a severe allergic reaction from GMO corn in her enchiladas, this movie depicts all aspects of GMOs, including the political, th corporate and th ehealth issues. The movie does a great job of explaining the science nehind how genetic modification works, and delves into the political side as well.... from the fact that many of our FDA representatives are previous employees of Monsanto, to the fact that GMOs have been pushed through the food system with little to no regulation or testing. This film does have a doomsday type feel to it; however, the end of the movie does provide promise... like reminding us that the European Union has begun to label GMO foods in response to consumer demands, as well as giving some alternatives to falling in with the US food system (like buying organic and supporting CSAs). I have shown this film to several of my environmental studies classes, and in general this film provokes a huge response. I encourage all my students who are moved by this film and by this topic to write letters to their local, state and national representatives urging them to require labeling of these GMOs.... before it is too late! Pin It Now!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Dandelion Prints

Yesterday we made some dandelion prints. We picked dandelions from our neighbor's yard (hope they don't mind!!) and finn dipped them into paint and used them like a stamp to create designs on paper. I think it came out quite beautiful-- a tribute to spring! Pin It Now!