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!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Radical Homemakers: A Review

Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture by Shannon Hayes was a great read recommended by my friend Heidi. The book examines today's society and discusses how so many of us work our butts off to make money to buy the things that society (and corporations) tell us that we need. The book then asks us to look at what we are spending our money on and questioning how necessary all of that 'stuff' actually is.
One great example is to look at 2-income families. Sending the second parent off to work often results in a need to pay for a second car to get to work, childcare during the work day, work clothes to go to work in, and then a lot more convenience purchases (like lunches and dinners out) because both parents are so tired from working all of the time. When you subtract all of those expenses, how much extra money is actually going into the bank? For some families, it is probably a good chunk, but for most of us, we may not even be breaking even.
However, there is so much pressure from society to live up to certain ideals... driving nice cars, having lots of clothes, buying things for our home.... that it is hard for many Americans to imagine NOT having the cash flow to make those purchases. Radical Homemakers takes a look at many families and individuals who ARE making it work without succumbing to the standards of society. These people have decided to take a step back; to give up some (or most) of their monetary income to instead be able to provide for themselves. So instead of going to work to make money to buy food, they skip the middle-man and instead just grow the food themselves.
I think a lot of what this book talked about is what I aspire to do (and I think many of you likely have similar aspirations): to be able to be more self sufficient. Not completely self-sufficient, but the more skills that I have under my belt, the more I can take care of myself and my family and the less I have to fork out to our economic system to have done for me. Things like growing some of my own food, making some of my own clothes, being able to cook a healthy meal for my family... living a simpler life that is less focused on accumulating stuff and more focused on spending time nourishing myself and those that I care about.
I think for most of us, having a zero-income household and providing everything for ourselves is not a realistic possibility. Our society has just taken us too far away from that point and our culture drives us to be consumers. But, I think it is possible to take baby-steps towards this lifestyle. Going from a 2-income family to a 1-income family may leave us with less money to spend on clothes and entertainment, but it is likely we would have more time to spend with our families and our families would be happier and healthier as a result.
I aspire to accumulate the skills to be more self sufficient and I hope that some day (in the not too far off future) my husband and I can afford to buy a big plot of land not too far from the city that would allow us to produce much more of our own food. I do my best to fix and make what we need or to buy used before buying new, I make things from scratch when I can, and I try to reduce my consumerism whenever possible. However, I am part of a 2-income family and I LIKE my job. I will admit that as an instructor at a community college I do only work part time, with a lot of that work being done at home, which leaves me most of my week to spend with my kid as a stay at home mama. And it's true... once I pay my bus fare for commuting, for day care while I am gone... I don't bring home a whole lot (aside from health insurance for myself). But, I enjoy it. I feel like I am making a difference in the world. And, it helps me keep my sanity (by getting a couple of brief breaks from my son each week).  And my husband like his job as well. I know there are times when it drives him crazy, but I know that overall it is a positive force in his life.
So maybe the true solution isn't about dropping your entire life and not working, but finding a balance between the two. Is there a way for families in our society to still work, but not work as much? To spend that extra time doing things for themselves that they used to pay someone to do for them? To relinquish the extra cash and extra consumerism and to try and work with what they already have? I know that if more people lived like this, our Earth would certainly be a happier place. Americans would likely be healthier.  And probably happier as well.
So, this book is definitely worth a read. It got me thinking a lot about the little changes that could make a difference. I don't think Todd and I are quitting our jobs and moving to a tent in the National Forest (not yet anyways), but I think we are on the path to being more self sufficient. What can you learn to do for yourself? Pin It Now!

Friday, February 25, 2011

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 
photo by my hubby Todd
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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Snow Day!

Our first real snow of the year (well, snow that stuck anyways!). Portland has totally shut down, even though the roads are clear, but it's a nice excuse to have a lazy day around the house. And maybe the snow will help to bring about labor......? please?
Until then, we will be tromping about in the half-inch of snow in our yard! Hooray! Pin It Now!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Frontline: The Vaccine War: A Review

Vaccines are a hotly debated subject, particularly where I live, in Portland, Oregon. There is a fine balance between the clear benefits of the vaccines in disease prevention and the potential risks of the vaccines for our children. After giving birth to our son, Todd and I spent a lot of time researching vaccinations... and it seemed like the more I learned, the more confused I was. If you don't vaccinate, and your child gets sick and dies from a preventable disease, then you spend the rest of your life feeling guilty. If you do vaccinate, and they have a terrible reaction, then you spend the rest of your life feeling guilty about that.... either way, it felt like we were playing Russian Roulette.
We eventually decided in favor of vaccination (for most vaccines), but on our own schedule. This means that we will never give 5 or 6 vaccines at a time, like is routinely done in doctor's offices around the country. Instead, we will get one shot at a time (sometimes this will include up to 3 vaccinations, however, as many vaccines are bundled and nearly impossible to get when separated). We also decided to delay some of our vaccinations a bit and chose to start them a little later in life when his immune system was a bit more built up. Now, this may not work for some families, especially those whose children go to a large daycare at a young age, but for us it has worked just fine. We have also opted out of some of the traditional vaccines... like getting a Hepatitis B vaccine (Hep B is a sexually transmitted disease) at birth. I can assure you that my son will not be having sex for many years still, and so I can worry about that one later. Same with chicken pox. Sure, you can die from chicken pox, but you could much more easily die from eating undercooked chicken. So, there are some risks that we have decided are not worth vaccinating against and others that we decided are.
I have read many articles and books about the subject, but I just watched a pretty good video that sums up some of the pros and cons in less than an hour. Frontline: The Vaccine War is currently available as an instant play on Netflix or you can watch it for free on the pbs website, and is a good place to start if you are beginning to research vaccinating your children. The Vaccine War is a somewhat unbiased video, and presents both sides of the debate. However, I got the feeling from the way that each side was presented that the producers were more on the pro-vaccine side, and at times those who were against vaccinations were portrayed as very shelfish or ignorant.
Anyways, here is a summary of some of the information from the film:
Since vaccinations have been around, our lifespan has increased by 30 years and lots of pain and suffering has been prevented form the management of 16 diseases that are now preventable via immunization. Vaccinations typically have minimal side effects, with most patients reporting swelling and tenderness as the worst of what happens.
On the other side of the coin are the folks who don't think vaccines are always the correct decision. When our children get sick, it isn't such a bad thing.. it builds their immunity and makes their bodies stronger. Some of the disease we vaccinate for, like chickenpox (as I mentioned above) or rotovirus are diseases that will make you sick, but very rarely (in our country) cause fatalities. Rotovirus is basically a really bad bout of diarrhea. In less developed countries where folks don't have medical access, this disease is a major killer. In the US, where we have medications and IV fluids, almost no one dies from this disease (even when they do contract it). So, is it really necessary to vaccinate for it?
There has also been an anecdotal connection between vaccinations and children having major personality changes, with a lot of hype about a link between vaccines and autism (yup, the Jenny McCarthy bandwagon). Several scientific studies were run looking at MMR vaccinations and rates of autism, as well as mercury exposure from the thimerosal preservative found in some vaccines and rates of autism. All of these studies found no correlation between MMR and autism or mercury exposure and autism. However, thousands of parents have reported that after a round of immunizations their child regressed (either mentally and/or physically) and was later diagnosed with autism, ADHD, or another disorder. So, do we believe these parents even though science tells us not to? Or is there maybe a correlation that we haven't yet found? Hopefully more research will be done, but as for now, nothing seems to be 100% conclusive.
The biggest problem that the pro-vaccine folks have with the no-vaccine folks is the idea of herd immunity... if enough of a population is vaccinated against a disease, it will eventually be eradicated because there won't be enough people for it to spread to. This is how we got rid of smallpox. However, when some communities (like Ashland, Oregon, San Diego, and here in Portland) have a relatively high percentage of folks either not vaccinating or under-vaccinating, than this herd effect could fall short. This could harm those who haven't been vaccinated-- which is not only the ones who aren't vaccinated by choice, but also those who aren't vaccinated due to weakened immune systems. So do parents chose based on the safety of their own child, or based on the best choice for their community as a whole even if it may not be the best choice for their child personally?
Vaccines are a confusing issue with a lot to be said on both sides, and when you are a new mom already trying to figure everything out, deciding on vaccinations may be the last thing on your to-do list. In most areas of the country, vaccinating your child may not even seem like a decision, as doctors normally just tell you what you are supposed to do instead of asking what you want. But you do have a choice if and how you vaccinate your child, and at least if you have made an informed choice, you will know that you haven't let the system dictate how you raise your child.
So, this film is a good starting point for vaccine research and beneficial to watch even if you have already decided how to vaccinate your child. If you are just starting to make decisions about vaccinations, you will likely find yourself reading several books and doing lots of internet research. I hope that I haven't offended anyone on either side of this argument.... as I said, this issue was horribly confusing for me to work out for my own family, and the decision we did come to took months (and honestly, I'm still not 100% sure that we decided correctly!). Pin It Now!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Little Bit Ironic.....

OK, has anyone else ever gone out to eat and had their child's water come in one of these plastic cups (see above)? This cup is cute and since it has a lid and a straw, it is practical, and Finn loves them because he can take them home with him. Well, here is my problem..... The restaurant, which is washing and reusing the rest of their dishes is now giving my child a disposable cup. I understand they may want to serve him in something spill-proof and non-breakable, but couldn't they invest in plastic cups with lids that THEY could wash and reuse? Now I get stuck with this flimsy plastic cup that I don't really want to wash and reuse because I have no idea what harmful chemicals may be leaching from it into my son's body. But, I feel guilty NOT reusing it, and simply throwing it away, so I try to reuse it for awhile for things like water for painting.... but we don't need it, and I get annoyed that it is cluttering up the house, and eventually it goes into the recycling.
And the worst part about these things is that they all seem to have these environmental messages on them (again, see above). I mean, I guess a message about being good to the earth is better than one about buying more stuff you don't need, but I just find it a little bit ironic that my 3 year old is served water in a disposable plastic cup (which requires fossil fuels to make and transport and is meant to be thrown away) and the message on that cup is to be good to our Earth. Hmmmm..... I just don't get it.
OK, thanks for letting me vent. Pin It Now!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Last Child in the Woods: A Review

Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children form Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv is an important book for today's families and teachers. The author makes some great points about how important nature is to children, and how today's children just aren't getting enough of nature. Instead, our children have replaced nature with video games and tv, and many youngsters no longer have a clue about what lies beyond their front door.
When I was a child, I would spend hours in the woods beyond my house or the empty lots next to my friends houses. There were no cell phones, and our parents didn't know exactly where we were.... just that we were somewhere in the neighborhood and would (hopefully) be back before dark. And, Louv argues, for most of today's children, they don't have that luxury. Many children don't have woods beyond their homes anymore because they have since been filled up with more and more development. And those who do aren't always allowed the freedom to roam through those spaces as the world isn't (or at least isn't deemed to be) as safe anymore. In Portland, where I am raising my son, we don't have any woods next door for him to roam in, and if we did, I certainly might be leery of just letting him go explore, so I can see already that nature for him will be different than it was for me.
Our family does make a point of doing a lot of hiking and camping (things I didn't do much of as a child) as well as spending time in our garden and wandering our neighborhood. Louv makes the point that "nature" doesn't have to be a never-ending stretch of wilderness.. it just has to be a non man-made place that kids can explore and watch change. And I think that we can manage that within our city life. I think that everyone, everywhere can manage that.
The end of the book has some great stories about people who are trying to bring children back to the land. Wilderness outings as a type of behavioral reform, adventure parks for young children, and communities that are more focused around introducing their children to nature. Louv makes some great points that if we don't save some space now for our children to play unstructured in, they will never have that bond with nature, and will not pass that bond on to their children... so, in essence, our connection with nature, this deep tie that has been there through the ages, could be lost within a generation.
Sadly, it took me ages to get through this book. Well, just to get through the first half. It's not that it isn't well-written, it is. And, I agreed with most of what he was saying.... and I think that is what the problem was. I already understood his point, and felt the same way, so I didn't need to be convinced. The latter part of the book was full of new (to me) information and ideas, so I was able to breeze through the end. However, despite this being a long read for me, I think this is a book that should be read by families everywhere, by school administrators everywhere, and by everyone that has, works with, or influences children. We need to give our children a chance to get to know the natural world in which they live, allow them to become connected to it, discover a love for it, and pass that love down to their children. It's the only fighting chance we have at stopping ourselves from destroying this planet on which we live. So get your children outside. Let them explore, imagine and notice that world that surrounds them. Maybe you will learn a little something as well.... I know I always do. Pin It Now!

Friday, February 18, 2011

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 
PS- 9 more days until my due date. Hoping to share a "this moment" of the new one soon!
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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Upcycled Baby Pants

I love to make things for Finn, and have found that I have been knitting and sewing up a storm for the little girl I am waiting on. And, as you all know, this blog's true focus is about ways to live and raise your children more sustainably. When I make handmade gifts for my friends and family, I am reducing my impact as that item does not come with packaging, it hasn't gone through a corporate middle-man, isn't being transported to China and back, and I have a better sense of the resources that went into that gift. But, I will admit that my gifts still do have an environmental impact.. I try to use organic fabrics and natural yarns when I can afford it, but I do buy new non-organic fabric and acrylic yarn on a regular basis, neither of which are particularly good for our earth. And I do feel somewhat guilty about this (trust me), but try to mentally justify it by all of the resources that I have saved by crafting the item myself.
That said, I have felt more of a push lately to craft with things that were headed for the garbage or the Goodwill donation box. I have a whole stack of old clothes that are stained, full of holes, or just don't fit any longer... and instead of getting rid of these, I try to give them a second life. My husband hates the fact that we have a pile of old clothes in the garage, but he hasn't left me yet!
So, I made my belly-baby a couple of pairs of up-cycled comfy pants, made from the sleeves of some of my old sweatshirts that were destined for Goodwill. They literally took about 15 minutes a piece, and are pretty darn cute. Note that I did not do the embroidery, that was part of the sleeves (that would have taken me a bit more than 15 minutes!).
Check out my previous post for making baby pants for more specific instructions on how to make your own. But, they are easy enough for even a novice sewer and these didn't cost me a dime! Recently I have also made some cloth diapers from old shirts (another post on that soon!) and have some more up-cycled projects in the works.
Do you create from waste?
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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Yarn Along...

This is the first time that I have participated in Wednesday's yarn along. I was motivated to participate this week because I have been knitting like a maniac lately. Between baby gifts for friends, stuff for my new etsy shop, and items for my baby on the way, I have been busy! My current project for baby is a wool soaker diaper cover. This pattern is probably the hardest I have every followed, and it's on small needles, so it is taking me a while. But, I love that I am learning and I am excited to try it out when she arrives!
I also checked out a few knitting books from the library: 100 Knitting Projects, More Last-Minute Knitted Gifts, and Vintage Baby Knits. They all have some great projects (the soakers I am making are in the 100 Knitting Projects book), and my to-knit list has grown tremendously. I am hoping to tackle a baby sweater soon. Pin It Now!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Homesteading: A Review

Homesteading by Abigail R Gehring is a guide book of sorts that briefs the reader on a whole assortment of sustainable-living practices. And when I say a whole sort, I am serious..... this book covers how-to's on gardening, food preservation, keeping animals (like chickens and goats), construction of small structures, candle and soap making, herbal health, massage, basketweaving..... you name it. There is even a really cool section of alternative energy options and how to create your own.
So, my thoughts on this book are that it is a great introduction to living off the land and introduces the reader to a whole host of skills (all of which I wish I knew how to do, by the way). If you were proficient in all of the skills in this book, you would either be a pioneer or my idol. However, most of the skills in this book can't be learned from a written paragraph.... For example, there are a few sentences about how to spin wool. Spinning wool is a great skill to know. In fact, I have taken a class in wool spinning. And I still suck at it. It's hard. It takes practice and I'm not really sure how much a person can actually learn about spinning wool from the 4-step instructions listed in this book. The same goes for building your own solar panels, building a barn, or installing an ecoroof. These are all great goals and wonderful skills, but these types of skills can't be learned from a few sentences. One would need to read a book (or several) dedicated specifically to each particular subject, or learn from watching and helping someone else.
I do admit that this book is a nice introduction to all of these skills, but I feel like some of the more complex ones should be alluded to without giving a set of instructions that no one is going to use. I mean, if you are going to build your own wind turbine, are you really going to breeze through the 3 pages in this guide book and jump into it or are you going to get online, ask professionals, and search out more detailed information? I appreciate the fact that this book likely gets people thinking about things they might not have otherwise considered, and it makes big tasks (like building your own wind turbine) seem do-able. That said, maybe it would be better to say exactly that: explain wind energy and say that it is possible to build your own turbine to create energy for your home. Go to the library and read up on it. Next topic. However, for some of the more manageable tasks (like rolling your own beeswax candles, say) I think the 2 pages this book dedicates are just fine and dandy (and something that I would even like to try!).
So, in short, I think some of the topics in this book are covered in enough detail to actually be of use, but many of them are just simply too complex to be learned in a few pages. So, think of this book as an introduction of homesteading topics. As I was reading it, I was sort of imagining it as my to-learn list of things that I would love to do at some point in my life, and that was really inspiring. But, I never considered that this book would be the guide book to teach me these skills. So, the inspiration to raise and sheer angora goats- yes! The book I would turn to when I needed to actually put those skills into practice-- not a chance.
Take from it what you will. I think this book is worth a check out from your local library to see if any of the topics spark your interest... Or to use as a checklist on how to live more sustainably. Even though I won't be building my own wind turbine anytime soon, it's something I would consider if we ever had enough land to do so. Pin It Now!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

For Valentine's Day, I made Finn some fingerless mittens..... he had requested purple ones so that he could match mine (how sweet.....). So, I did make them purple, but with a gray stripe through the middle, as I was pretty low on purple yarn. He was pretty excited to try them on this morning!
Finn and I also made some heart shaped sugar cookies (Dad's favorite). Yum! 
Hope your day is filled with love!

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Friday, February 11, 2011

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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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Some Nesting Gifts for the Awaited Arrival...

OK, so maybe I have not been super busy scrubbing my house or putting together the nursery (since we only have 2 bedrooms, both of which are occupied..... which means that our new little bean will just be sleeping in our room until we figure out what to do with her!).. but I have been busy making a lot of stuff for this new little gal. I guess you could call this my version of nesting. Or maybe my version of not teaching this term and feeling like I need to stay busy!
Here is some of what I have put together for her over the past few weeks:

A heart embellished onesie... These are so easy to make! Just get some heat-bonding paper and make an iron-on patch with a piece of fabric. I then hand-stitched around the edges. You can machine-sew the edges also for a quicker project.

A hat and legwarmer set.. I love this yarn (even though I think it is a holiday edition!). I just sort of made up these patterns as I went. hopefully they fit her before it gets warm out!

Little baby gnome hate knitted from super soft merino wool:

A few new bibs...the instructions can be found in Bend the Rules Sewing, a great read for all of you sewers (like me) who don't ever seem to use a pattern....

And finally some felted booties (pattern from French Press Knits, which can be purchased online from ravelry)

I have a few more projects that I am putting the finishing touches on and I hope to soon start knitting a couple of wool diaper covers for my wee one. Otherwise, between the hand-me-downs and the baby gifts, we are all ready for this little one to arrive... well, stuff-wise anyways... mentally I am still in awe at the fact that soon (probably any day now) we will have expanded our family to 4!

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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Economical Baby Guide: A Review

 The Eco-nomical Baby Guide by Joy Hatch and Rebecca Kelley is a quick read that helps soon-to-be parents to make more economical and more environmentally friendly choices while starting a family. These mama-authors are from Oregon, so I loved that this was a local read. I also appreciated the fact that both of these women have small children at home, so their writing is from (very) recent experience.
The layout of the book is very easy to use, the cover is adorable, and there is a lot of good advice in there. Lots of time went into making cost comparisons between eco-friendly methods and conventional methods, and there are great resources at the end of each chapter where more information can be found. However, this book is really geared towards the novice environmentalist... someone who currently doesn't think about living sustainably. For those of us who make a conscience effort in our daily lives to reduce our environmental impact, a lot of what they write about is a no-brainer....
The beginning of the book focuses on really only buying what your baby needs (instead of what the babies-r-us registry tells you what YOU need), which is actually great advice. I think many people get so wrapped up in the preparations for their new arrival, that the gear becomes a type of meditation, and the soon-to-be parents don't really think about the mass amounts of stuff they are accumulating. The book also focuses on buying as much used gear as possible... maybe questionable for car seats and cribs (they talk about the pros and cons of used in detail), but for everything else.... yes! Baby clothes.. yes! Your baby will spend most of their first few months nursing, pooping and barfing. The little clothes are really cute, but they are just going to stain them and grown out of them in the blink of an eye. Take whatever hand-me-downs you can and save the new clothes for special occasions. Bouncers, exersaucers, swings... these things are all great to have, but in actuality you only use them for a few months. Can you borrow from a friend? Buy used? We have lent out many of our baby items in between Finn and number #2.... our exersaucer, which we received as a gift, is currently being used by our 3rd set of friends after Finn used it. We will get it back when #2  is ready and then we plan to pass it along again. So that hunk of plastic can be used by a whole slew of babies, keeping more plastic from being purchased and keeping that plastic out of the landfill.
The book also encourages buying higher-end items when you do buy (if you can afford them). They make a great point that an item that is well made can be resold or passed down through many children, while your cheapo buys will likely fall apart within a short time. And obviously, if you can afford to buy organic mattresses and bedding and clothing, those choices are much healthier for baby and for the environment. Most of us can't afford to go organic in everything we do purchase, but it is worth considering if you can.
The book goes into detail discussing why cloth diapers are better for the environment (and your pocketbook!) than disposables,  and then gives a run down of different cloth diapering options and some basic how-to's. Great information for someone thinking about this for the first time. The book also talks about the benefits of breastfeeding and making homemade baby food (along with some basic recipes).The book concludes with some other tips and challenges, like finding greener daycare options, painting with low VOC paints, and using homemade cleaners (which are safer and cost much less).
As already mentioned, the tips found in the book are pretty basic, but in all actuality, I think that it where most of our society is currently at. And, for those of us who already do try and live more sustainably, it serves as a good reminder. The problem, as I see it, with these types of books, is that the majority of the people who would be inclined to come across and read this book are people who are probably already aware of a lot of what is discussed within the pages...This book has great, basic, information. Now it just needs to get into the right hands. Pin It Now!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Little Something For Me.....

I finally finished my last (belated) handmade holiday present back in January.... which by the way, was the second pair of lace-up arm warmers I made this year. The pattern is from Alterknits and they are soooo cute. Next year, I am definitely knitting up a pair for myself! Check them out below:

Anyways, after all of the rush of crafting for the holidays ended, I started making stuff for my baby-on-the-way (which will be posted soon, I promise). I felt like I was constantly making something for someone, but had not made myself anything in ages. So, I dropped what I was doing, and knit myself a pair of fingerless mittens.....which have come in very handy and are already well worn-in! I have been so happy with my gift to myself that I think I may have to do it more often!
So my point here is craft away! Make things for other and see them smile. But.... don't forget to make a little something for yourself while you're at it!

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Monday, February 7, 2011

Valentine's Day Preparations

Finn and I spent some time over the weekend making some decorations for Valentine's Day, as well as some homemade Valentines to send out to some friends and family. I did most of the cutting and the tying, while Finn did most of the gluing and design work. What a team!
I got Valentine-ish themed paper at JoAnn's for 25-cents per sheet and also used some construction paper and ribbon that we already had. So, I only spent about $2 total making the decorations and Valentines.. unless you count the 2 entire glue sticks that Finn used during the course of this project... oh well!
For decorations, we made fancy hearts to hang from our holiday tree, as well as hearts of different sizes to hang in front our of living room window.

 We also made fancy hearts to send out as Valentines and we made our own envelopes out of construction paper to fit the odd-sized cards we created! This was actually my first time making my own envelopes and it was so easy I can't wait to do it again!
To make your own envelopes:
-Place your valentine in the middle of a piece of construction or other paper. Fold the bottom up to meet the lower edge of the valentine. Do the same for the top edge. Now fold in both of the side edges.
- Remove your valentine. Unfold your paper and cut out the 4 small rectangles that are creased into each corner.
-Now fold up the bottom edge. Using double-sided tape or glue, glue the side folds to the bottom fold. Cut the top edge into a triangle shape. Insert your valentine and tape or glue the top flap down. Now your have an envelope!
Are you decorating or sending out Valentines this year? Pin It Now!

Friday, February 4, 2011

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 
Also... I am cheating a bit this week and posting 2 shots that are a series. If you could flip between the 2, you would actually see the motion happening, but just use your imagination!

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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Big Organics & Monsantos' Genetical Modified Alfalfa

Genetically Modified Foods (GMOs) have been a hotly debated item in recent times. For more basic info about them, check out some of my previous posts. The most recent news in the world of GMOs happened last week when the USDA announced that it would allow unlimited planting of the controversial genetically modified Roundup-Ready alfalfa that is marketed by Monsanto. As of right now, this battle is only dealing with the controversial Roundup-ready alfalfa, and not all of Monsanto's GMO seeds. However, the way that this particular crop is dealt with will likely set a precedent for other Monsanto crops that follow.
Most organic companies heavily oppose this decision, but the word on the street is that Whole Foods Market, Organic Valley and Stoneyfield Farms have decided that it is time to surrender to Monsanto and stop fighting the deregulation of the genetically engineered alfalfa. It is said that these companies are now trying to "coexist" with Monsanto and are now fighting for regulation of this crop instead of fighting for banning it all together. This organic consumers article discusses some of the possible reasons why these big organic companies might be selling out on their ideals, which includes (of course) money and campaign contributions, as well as the fact that many of Whole Foods non-organic products are already contaminated with GMOs.
As I read this article, I became a little suspicious that maybe this wasn't telling both sides of the story. I talked with some friends who work for Whole Foods, and their side of the story is that Whole Foods didn't "surrender" to Monsanto. Once they knew that the USDA was going to allow unlimited planting of the alfalfa, Whole Foods and the others switched from fighting against the alfalfa to fighting to regulating it. In other words, once they knew they had lost the battle, they chose the next best thing to fight for, which is regulation. So who do we believe?
I don't often shop at Whole Foods (I support our local organic grocery instead), and I know that their mass marketing of organic has been a double edged sword. On the one hand, it is great that more people now have access to organic foods and have more choices in what they are putting into their bodies. On the other hand, like Michael Pollan says, these "big organic" companies are also changing what we perceive as organic and using it as a marketing scheme instead. So while your milk may be called "organic", those cows being fed organic grains could still be factory farmed. Or those "organic" bananas may not be grown with pesticides, but may have unjust working conditions for those who grow them. Anyways, I guess my point is that while I don't necessarily believe that these companies just gave the green light for approval for Monsanto's alfalfa, maybe they didn't put up as big as a fight as they should have.... I hate that we can't seem to trust anyone anymore, whether it is the grocery chain we are buying our food from, the USDA who is supposed to exist to protect us, or the world's biggest seed company who is quietly trying to take over the world.
GMOs have not been adequately tested for long term effects on humans or the environment and they are particularly problematic because plants breed... this means that GMO crops can easily contaminate non-GMO crops.... which means that we may eventually contaminate all of our natural seed stock with genetically modified seed. Why is this bad? Well, it not only narrows down the gene pool and makes us more susceptible to food crises (think the potato famine here people...), but let's say we do find out 15 years down the road that these GMOs are causing health problems? If it has already spread through the seed gene pool, it will be too late for us to do anything about it.
So, did the big organic companies sell out? To be honest, I have no idea. I think the USDA (aka: OUR government) is the one who is the real sellout. In the meantime, I will continue to support locally grown organic food as much as possible and hope that I am doing enough to keep my family safe!
What are your thoughts on GMOs? How do you feel about big organic? Pin It Now!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Best Straws Ever

 We drink a lot of smoothies at our house, and a 3-year old drinking a smoothie just seems to work best when there is a straw involved. However, I hated buying and using the plastic drinking straws... not only because they are probably leaching toxins into the smoothie, but also because they are, well, made from plastic. Plastics cause a whole lot of pollution in the production phase, they are made from fossil fuels (which are being depleted), and they don't decompose and end up killing wildlife. So, in short, we try to avoid as much plastic as possible, especially disposable plastic, like drinking straws.
But, I hadn't really found a great alternative to the disposable straws. We found some reusable plastic straws, but they were hard to clean and would get clogged. They were also soft enough to chew on, so they started to have a crinkled appearance... which only contributed to the hard-to-clean factor. I have seen glass drinking straws, and although that sounded great for me.... it didn't quite seem appropriate for a toddler. So when I read a post on a blog I follow, Toward Sustainability, about stainless steel drinking straws, I knew this was exactly what my family needed.
I found a set online and ordered them right away. They cost about $14 for a set of 4, so they weren't exactly cheap, but considering that I will have them forever and they won't clog and pollute a landfill, I'd say it's a fair price. We have been using them for a couple of weeks now and they are great! We haven't had any trouble cleaning them, they are super sturdy, and just look cool. I love 'em! Pin It Now!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

My New Little Etsy Shop.... Green Mama Deisgn!

So,... I have never been very good at taking it easy and I feel like I constantly need to have a project (or 40) to be working on. So, when I found out that I wouldn't be teaching this term because of my due date coming near the middle of the term, I knew that I would need to find some other things to occupy my time.
Not that being a full-time stay at home momma doesn't occupy my time. In fact, in my opinion, staying home with Finn is WAY harder than going to work, and I give a HUGE salute to all of those mommas out there who stay home full time with multiple kids and manage to home school them as well. Home schooling is still something that I am considering, but I honestly don't know if I could handle it.
I guess I feel like for me, I need something else to put energy into.... a job, a hobby... something to trademark me besides just 'Finn's mom'. So not teaching this term has been a mix of feelings. I am so happy to have more time to relax and less stress (and grading!) in my life for these past few weeks, but I have also really missed the interaction with the students and the feeling that I am doing something good for my community. I plan to be back for spring term (which starts at the end of March) to teach one class, so this break is a quick one, but it has made me realize how much I value my job and my time outside of the house.
So in the meantime, I have decided to make my contribution to the work world (and hopefully our bank account) by opening up an etsy shop. It has been something that has been in the back of my mind for months, but also something I could never really find the time to do (especially when I was trying to get all of my holiday gifts made). So now that I am on a brief hiatus for work, I managed to set up a shop, learn some new photo manipulation skills to get it looking spiffy, and make a few things to put in my shop.  So far I haven't sold anything, but it has allowed me to focus my energy and not feel like I am sitting around just waiting for the new bean  to arrive. I guess we'll see where it goes, but I am pretty excited about it for now! If you have a moment to check out my shop, just click on the picture of Finn above (or use the button on my sidebar). I would love any comments or suggestions that you have to make it better.. there are some very creative and talented crafters out there, so I have some great competition!
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