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!

Thursday, September 30, 2010


Last night my family had a chance to go and watch the swifts! In Portland, going to watch the swifts means heading to NW Portland, to Chapman school, where during the month of September, migrating swifts use the chimney there as a roosting place. Every night at sunset, the swifts gather and make their way into the safety of the chimney.
It is an amazing sight, watching hundreds of tiny birds dance around one another, circle the chimney and then eventually funnel their way inside. My photo does not do any justice to what this actually looks like, but you can use your imagination!
Last night's display was especially interesting, as we had a chance to see a real-life predator-prey interaction. There were two falcons waiting alongside the top of the chimney, hungrily awaiting an evening meal. They each caught a couple of swifts, which was slightly heartbreaking, but exciting nonetheless. Can't beat the ringside seat wildlife viewing smack in the middle of a city! Pin It Now!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

One Thing, One Month

My too-short summer break ended last week, and as of last Wednesday I was back in teacher mode. The beginning of a new term is always filled with much anticipation (and a wee bit of anxiety), but I am always hopeful of how I may change my students lives, and how they may change mine, over the course of the term.
Today I offered up an extra credit project to my class. It's the same project I offer every time I teach this particular class, and I always get a huge kick out of the results. In order to earn the extra credit, I ask students to significantly change something in their lives through the course of the term that will reduce the footprint they leave on this earth.
I have had a whole host of projects over the past couple of years, but some of the more common ones are reducing meat consumption, driving less, taking shorter showers, reducing use of plastics and, well, I think you get the picture. The projects vary depending on the current lifestyle of each student, with some taking more baby steps than others. I ask the students to keep a journal of their trials and tribulations (times when they may fail or cave in) and how they are feeling about their project. Not all are 100% successful, but everyone who participates develops a much greater awareness of the positive impact they can make through their actions. Many of my students decide to keep their lower-impact lifestyles even after the term ends (and that, really, is my secret goal!)
So, I would like to invite you all to participate in a project to reduce your impact on this earth for the month of October. Personally, I am going to pledge to not buy anything new during the month of October (exceptions are food and toilet paper and craft materials, like fabric and yarn, so that I can still make handmade goods). I do already try to buy used as much as possible, but I do find myself grabbing a last-minute toddler birthday present that I didn't have time to make or another needed household good more times than I would like. Buying nothing new makes me have to plan ahead for what I need and therefore buy only what I do need. Honestly, for this challenge, I really wanted to cut out all processed foods that were packaged in plastics (like crackers, sliced bread, corn ships, etc.) out of my diet for a month, but I am afraid that the tiredness and hungriness of being pregnant will push me to failure. However, I would like to challenge myself to that after the new baby is born and life settles down again. So, for now, I will 'settle' for buying nothing new and finding EVERYTHING I need either second-hand or making it myself! What can YOU do for a month to reduce your impact? If you want to participate, leave a comment with what you can do! One thing, one month! Pin It Now!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pears Galore!

I bought 20 pounds of locally grown pears a few days ago, and have been trying to use them up before they all go bad. Here are some of the things we have made:

Pear sauce! Super easy to make.... peel and core the pears and cut them into chunks (or if your family will eat the skins, don't peel them!). Add a little bit of lemon juice and some cinnamon and simmer until tender. I didn't add any extra sugar and this came out plenty sweet enough for me! I like my pear sauce chunky, so once the pears were tender, I just used a potato masher to mash it up. I used a hot water bath to process them.
I was actually really surprised at how many pears it took to make only 4 quarts of sauce.... I think we will go through this must faster than I thought!!

I also made some pear butter. All the recipes for this call for lots of added sugar, but I didn't use any (and I still think it taste delicious!). I used about 8 pounds of pears (peeled and cored), a few tablespoons of vanilla and about a tsp or so of cloves. I pureed it all until smooth in a food processor and then cooked it on high in a crock pot for most of the day (until it is pretty thick). I also canned this using a hot water bath. Once this cooked down I only filled 6 4-ounce jars, so next time I will probably make a much bigger batch (I think this will make a great xmas present!)

I also made some pear leather. This was my first time making leather and I was pleasantly surprised by how yummy it turned out. I only wish I had made more!! For pear leather, I used 4 pears (peeled and cored), and pureed them with a little cinnamon and ginger. Then you line a cookie sheet with plastic wrap, and spread the pureed mixture evenly over the tray. Now the problem is the drying.... I dried this on low (about 170) in the oven for a few hours, then it spent a day in the sun (in a box covered with plastic wrap to keep out critters), and then it still needed a few more hours in the oven again. So, it took a really, really long time to dry my one sheet of fruit leather. If I had more cookie trays, I could do 4 at a time, and that would be a little more manageable. However, I think I am adding a food dehydrator to my xmas wish-list.... I have heard it only takes about 6 hours in a dehydrator, and since this came out so fantastic, I know I will want to make more next year. A solar oven may be an option as well, however, I have never tried it! Pin It Now!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Melted Crayon Leaves

The changing of the seasons is always a great inspiration to start new crafts... especially the change into fall. With chilly mornings and colorful leaves, I have been in the kitchen much more than normal and have been itching to do lots of autumn crafts.
I saw the cutest tutorial for wax paper leaves on a blog I follow, V and Co., and just had to try it for myself! My pictures do not do this craft justice, so check out the tutorial (link below) to see much better pictures of these leaves. Finn and I did this together, and although most of it was not safe for an almost 3 year old (hot irons and scissors), he still watched me with intensity.
You can find the tutorial here. I will worn you that the wax bled through the towels I put over and under my wax paper, so use towels that you don't need and if you have a super fancy iron, I probably wouldn't use it for this project!
Have fun!! Pin It Now!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Flock & Fiber 2010

Today I got to escape from the craziness of home life and head with a friend to the Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival. There was yarn and roving beyond my imagination, handmade wool crafts, and wooly animals galore. It was so nice to browse the local fibers (especially without a toddler trying to grab everything) and imagine all of the projects that those fibers could be turned into!

I came home with a full bag of roving..... probably enough to last me for several years unless I actual get on all of those felting projects that I have been talking about!! Pin It Now!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Hikes & Apples: Our Day in Hood River

Today the entire family (dogs included!) headed out to Hood River for a hike with spectacular views of Mt. Hood followed by a trip to an orchard for some apple picking. The apple picking was so fun that we accidentally picked more than we needed..... I think I will be making a whole lot of applesauce tomorrow evening!

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Genetically Engineered Salmon Anyone?

The FDA is trying to approve the first genetically modified fish created for human consumption. Not only is this a sketchy idea because we have no real idea what eating this type of food might do to us long-term (there have not been adequate studies), but is these modified fish escape and mix with native salmon populations, it would be a huge threat to their survival.
Check out the following articles about the GE fish and labeling and take action now! Pin It Now!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday Explorations

Today Finn and I took the dogs to the river so our new pup Moshi could enjoy her first romp in the sand and the water. On the way home we stopped at a local farm so Finn could explore the flowers, the animals, and of course, the tractors! We also picked up 20 pounds of local pears, so stay tuned for some pear recipes in the near future!!

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This Moment...

A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.
Inspired by Soule Mama

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Autumn Pumpkin Bread

With the feeling of fall in the air, I just couldn't resist the urge to make pumpkin bread this afternoon. This is a recipe handed down from my grandmother (and slightly altered by me!). This bread is just delicious straight out of the oven!

What You Need:
  • 1 cup whole-grain spelt flour
  • 1/2 cup white flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup pumpkin (canned or fresh)
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/4 tsp nutmeg
What You Do:
  • Preheat oven to 350 and grease bread pan
  • Mix wet and dry ingredients separately
  • Mix wet and dry ingredients together
  • Pour into prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes. You will know when it is done when a knife stuck into the center comes out clean.
  • Remove from pan and let cool on a cooling rack just until its safe to touch. Then enjoy!
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Happy Autumn!

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fuel: A Review

I watched this documentary after reading about it on a blog that I follow, Lady of the Arts. Honestly, I was surprised that I hadn't already seen it, or at least heard of it, as I tend to watch a lot of environmental documentaries, but pregnancy #2 has made me so tired that until the past week or so, watching a movie actually seemed like a chore.
Anyways, this is a great film that talks about the problem with our dependence on fossil fuels, and shows how we can realistically solve the problem by turning to biofuels. The filmmaker, Josh Tickell, has devoted his life to the campaign for biofuels, and has stuck with them through ups and downs.
Biofuels are fuels created from renewable sources, things like wood and plants that will grow back relatively quickly (as opposed to fossil fuels, oil, which takes millions and millions of years to form). Biofuels have sort of gotten a bad rap lately.... as food crops, such as corn, are converted from growing food for human or animal consumption and turned into a source of fuel, many have complained that these "ecofuels" are taking away from our food supply. This is partly so, although most of that overproduced corn would be used to make corn syrup anyways, which is simply horrible for us and doesn't need to be made. Point aside, using soy and corn as a fuel source does take away from our potential food growing capabilities, and in countries where food is not so plentiful, this could be a huge deal. Even aside from our food supply, growing corn takes so much fertilizer and pesticides (which are both petroleum based) that the total biofuel energy gained from turning corn into a fuel is basically zero. That's right, it takes almost as much petroleum energy to grow corn as the corn-fuel ends up replacing in the end. Pointless. So yes, biofuels do deserve to be criticized.... BUT, only when they are coming from corn or soy.
Biofuels can be derived from used cooking oil, which is awesome become folks are taking something out of the waste stream and reusing it for fuel. Plus, it is relatively easy to get locally. Problem is, there is just not enough used cooking oil out there to power the American fleet. I have the owners of a local Salem-based biofuels company, Sequential Biofuels, speak to my class every year, and they can't get enough used oil to meet the demand they have for biodiesel. Some other sources of biofuels include weed-ish plants that will grown without fertilizers or pesticides on marginal lands that couldn't be used for agriculture anyways. And the newest in the making is algae. I think that one is going to be a big hit in the future, so keep your eyes peeled.
Anyways, this is an interesting film that is definitely worth watching. I will be showing it to my class when I teach about energy and fuels again in a few terms. And, biofuels are just awesome. When I was in Eugene last weekend, we had a chance to get gas (regular unfortunately, as we don't drive a diesel) at the Sequential Biofuels filling station. This place had solar panels, a green roof, and the market was full of organic goodies. When I saw this place, it was just my dream for the future. All we need are some more people with a dream and determination and we will be well on our way! Pin It Now!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Nature Art

Over the past few days we have been noticing the first changes into autumn... cooler crisper mornings, and the changing of some of the leaves on the trees. These changes have made us more aware of our natural surroundings, and in doing so, were an inspiration to create some nature art!

Some painted river rocks that will brighten up our garden on the dreariest of days. We used acrylic paints so the paint wouldn't wash off in the rain, which also meant it wouldn't wash off of anything else that it got on. We were very, very careful doing this project.

The rocks have been fun decorations, useful paperweights, and fun to stack. We hope to make another round next spring to add to our garden.

This morning, we did some bark rubbings from trees on our street (inspired by My Big World of Wonder) and then talked about how they were different.

Finn also made a collage of treasures that he found on a morning walk. I think the objects really show that autumn is on its way! He wanted to include a roly-poly bug, but I have a rule that we can't collect anything alive or pick anything living.

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Weekend Excursion

This weekend, my family took a little excursion to Crater Lake. This was a long-awaited excursion that we had been looking forward to for months (and I have been wanting to see Crater Lake for years!). Unfortunately, things didn't quite go as planned.....
First of all, the weather forecast was for cold and lots of rain. So, what we planned as a camping trip, was changed at the last minute to staying in a cheap motel in Eugene for 2 nights, with a day trip to Crater Lake in between. We had all really wanted to camp, but camping in the rain with 2 dogs and a toddler is not exactly at the top of my "sounds like a good time" list.
Todd was already going to be in Eugene, so Finn and I drove down to meet him on Friday. I will spare the details, but the start to my trip went something like this:
  • Was up all night Thursday because Moshi (the new puppy) was up every hour with diarrhea. Debated on if I should even make the trip on Friday, as traveling with a sick dog is no fun. Fecal results from the puppy's stool sample that I had dropped off Thursday morning were still not in.
  • Decide to pack up and get on the road. Stop at grocery store to get lunch for the road. Start driving to Eugene. Later realize that the sandwich I ordered has avocado (which I am deadly allergic to) and so I cannot eat and my soup is not the one I ordered... instead it's a blue-cheese soup, and since I am pregnant, that was a no-go too. So, my yummy lunch on the road turned into a disaster.
  • 9 miles from Eugene Moshi has diarrhea in the front seat of the car. Then she steps and sits in it. Then she has diarrhea again. Then she vomits. Poo and puke is sliding into the crevices of the car and all I can do is hold onto the dog so that she doesn't track it all over the car.
  • Get to hotel. Clean car and dog. Talk to vet and find out Moshi has giardia. Go wait at vet in Eugene for an hour so we can get her meds to help stop diarrhea.
  • Get to concert we had tickets for late, as the vet took longer than we hoped. Enjoy second half of first set. Then the monsoon-like rains begin. We made it a few songs into the second set before we were all soaked and Finn was begging to go back to the motel.
  • Wake up Saturday, eat breakfast, and start the drive to Crater Lake. Finn tells us he needs to poop, but since he is newly potty trained, will not go without his potty seat (which is still at motel). So, we put a diaper on him and keep driving.
  • Finn poops. A lot. Slightly resembles Moshi's bowel movement (this is way too much information, I know). Comes out sides and top of diaper. Use all wipes cleaning it up and we are still not sure we got it all.
  • Get undies and pants back on Finn and he decided he needs to pee outside the car before we get going. He misses and pees all over the only pair of pants we have with us. We put him back in the car seat naked from the waist down.
  • Get to Crater Lake. Put clean undies and Todd's socks on Finn instead of wet pants. So much fog and rain that we can barely even see the lake.
  • Drive around the whole lake and see practically nothing. Drive back to Eugene in the rain. Go to sleep at cheap motel . Wake up. Drive home.
So, essentially, this trip was a disaster, and not at all the trip to Crater Lake I had been envisioning for years. However, somehow, I think we all still managed to have a good time (mostly) despite the cards that were stacked against us. This just reminded me how important family is, and how sometimes, the worst of adventures are still wonderful and memorable solely because you are spending time with those you love.

Here are a few pictures from our trip... we didn't take many because we mostly just saw fog, but the glimpses we did get were beautiful. I hope to make it back again one day, with a less-adventurous adventure.

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Spelt-Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

I guess this pregnancy has made me food-obsessed or something, because my last 3 posts have all been about food! Anyways, today I experimented with my regular oatmeal cookie recipe and decided to switch the refined flour out for a whole grain version. I decided to use spelt flour (spelt is an ancient form of wheat), and they came out great! I thought I would share the recipe with you here:

What You Need:
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup whole-grain spelt flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional?)
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked whole oats
What You Do:
  • Preheat oven to 350
  • Beat butter and sugars until smooth. Add egg and vanilla.
  • Mix flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add to butter mixture.
  • Gently mix in oats and chocolate chips
  • Drop tablespoons of dough onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes.
These cookies are delicious, but the spelt flour does make them have a slightly different texture; more chewy than regular cookies. So, I found they were a little more difficult to get off of the cookie sheet without falling apart, but they sure do taste delicious! Plus the whole grains give them more fiber and protein, so you can feel a little less guilty enjoying them.
This recipe makes a fairly small batch... enough for a family. If you plan on sharing, I would double it! Pin It Now!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Good to the Grain: A Review

Whole grains are all the rage these days, and for good reason. Studies have shown that a diet rich in whole grains can help to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Whole grains have more protein and more fiber, and therefore take your body longer to break down. This means you don't get a rush of carbohydrates (basically sugars) like you do when you eat refined flours.
I try to eat whole grains as much as possible, but we all know that our taste buds often prefer refines grains, especially when we are dealing with treats and sweets. Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce is filled with recipes on how to turn whole grains into delicious (and more nutritious) breads, breakfasts and desserts.
I haven't yet tried any of the recipes from this book, but I photocopied quite a few before returning it back to the library (by the way.....I had to wait months to get this book from our public library.. apparently whole grains are no secret in Portland!). I will keep you posted as add some of these whole-grained baked goods to my repertoire! Pin It Now!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tasty Dahl Delight!

This is a version of a traditional dahl recipe that our family modified one night based on what we had around the house. It was a last minute thrown together meal, and I must say that it was delicious!

What You Need:
  • 2 cups dried red lentils
  • 1 Tbl olive oil
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 cup tomatoes, diced
  • 1 medium-large onion, diced
  • 1 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 Tbl. tumeric
  • 1 Tbl dried ginger
  • 1 jalapeno, diced (this can be left out or decreased for non-spice lovers)
What You Do:
  • Heat the olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add onion and sautee for about 10 minutes
  • While onions are cooking, add lentils and 4 cups water to a saucepan. Bring to a boil and then simmer until lentils are tender and water has been absorbed.
  • After onions become translucent, add tumeric and ginger and still for 1 minute. Add tomatoes, jalapeno, peas and coconut milk. Simmer.
  • Once lentils are ready, add to the onion mixture. Let simmer until all veggies are tender.
  • Best served over brown rice. This makes about 4-6 servings.
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Monday, September 13, 2010

Garden Disappointments

So this summer has been an awful year for gardening in Portland. We had rain all the way through June, which left slugs attacking EVERYTHING, and then the rest of summer just didn't have the hot and sunny days that it normally does. That can be bad for the spirit, but it is terrible for those of us who love to garden. Last summer I found myself spending hours in our garden, taking photographs, munching veggies, and embracing the power of soil. This year I have mostly been avoiding my yard, mainly because I have been so sad and disappointed with the turnout. Last year at this time we had 25 pumpkins, an abundance of butternut and spaghetti squash, more zucchini than you could shake a stick at, tomatoes coming out of our ears, and a whole host of other goodies. This year, not so much.
Well, yesterday I decided that I was sick of sulking, and I got out into the garden, took some photos, and decided to appreciate the (much smaller) bounty that we DO have this year. So maybe we only have a few measly zucchini and yellow squash, and maybe our heirloom tomatoes are slow to ripen, but we do have a bunch of cherry tomatoes (more than we can eat!), some potatoes on the way, and some peppers that are getting close to being ready. We also have some treats that we didn't have last year, like the world's smallest ears of corn (seriously, they are that tiny... my neighbor asked me if they were the kind you put in stir-fry and salad) and some Japanese eggplants. We also harvested some beets last night and roasted them for dinner. Yum!
So, even though our harvest was not nearly what I expected, at least we are producing some of our own food in our front yard. And, even though our yard doesnt look nearly as spectacular as last year (25 pumpkins look pretty awesome, let me tell you), it is still much nicer than a lawn of nothing but grass. And, although I have basically given up in the garden for this year, I am that much more motivated for spring and to have the plentiful garden that we had hoped for this year.
Wishing you all bountiful harvests this fall! Pin It Now!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

My Big World of Wonder: A Review

My Big World of Wonder: Activities for Learning About Nature and Using Natural Resources Wisely by Sheri Griffin is a book that is worth checking out... especially for those of you who are early childhood educators or homeschooling mamas/papas. This book is filled with activities divided up by season; activities range from simple activities like stories and discussion to more hands-on activities like nature walks, bug collecting, seed collection, tree rubbings and many more. Each activity comes with discussion questions to get the children thinking, as well as optional art projects based on the activity.
This book seems like it would be best for preschool age children in a school setting, however, there are many ideas from this book that I will likely use at home with Finn. Some of the ideas were a little bit on the iffy side (like making bacon to discuss where our food comes from.... how would that be using natural resources wisely?), but all in all there are some good ideas in here with some good questions to spark discussion. Pin It Now!

Friday, September 10, 2010

This Moment...

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.
Inspired by SouleMama:
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