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!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

DIY Gravel Play Table

 On Sunday, the family headed to The Rebuilding Center, an awesome used building supply store located in Portland. We were in search of wood to build Finn a gravel table. And, for $4.80, we got what we needed to build the table, and we re-used some wood that was destined for a landfill.
Sunday afternoon Todd and Finn were hard at work putting the table together, and it has been a big hit with Finn. In the summer I plan to have it double as a water-play table by putting a shallow bin filled with water on top of the gravel.

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Monday, May 30, 2011

Cooking Dairy Free: An Update

A few weeks ago, I started a month-by-month plan to reduce my impact on this planet. For the month of May, I had decided to reduce my dairy and meat intake. Overall, I have been doing really well. I have only eaten meat about 3 times since my plan went into effect (but have had fish several times). I have also eaten minimal dairy for the past few weeks. I cut out cheese and milk completely, but have used small amounts of butter for cooking and have had a few yogurt smoothies. Oh yeah, and there was the one late night I was hungry and ate about half of Finn's leftover cheese breadstick before I mentally processed that it had cheese on it. Oops.
This huge dairy reduction initially had seemed to help my asthma quite significantly, but the past few days I have been met with a relapse (probably due to some seasonal allergies which have triggered my asthma). So, I now know that getting dairy out of my life will not completely solve my asthma problems, but I think it is helping. I am going to stick with a diet that is completely cheese and milk free for at least another couple of weeks. If my asthma is still bothering me, I will probably indulge in small amounts of cheese on occasion, but I want to avoid making cheese the focus of my meals.
This whole cheese-free-ness has really made me have to plan out meals ahead of time and to put more thought into how I am going to get the protein and calcium I need (and I have been eating much healthier mind you!). I have talked Todd into having at least a few vegan meals each week, which means that a) our food impact will be greatly reduced and b) I need to learn how to cook some good vegan dinners.
Which leads us to The Vegan Table and Veganomicon, 2 vegan cookbooks that I have just devoured. OK, well not literally, and I actually haven't even cooked anything from them yet, but I have gone through and photocopied a ton of yummy sounding recipes that I can't wait to try. So, I am hoping that this summer will bring me time to perfect a few of these dishes and get them into my repertoire.
Do you have any good dairy-free recipes? A favorite cookbook?

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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sweet Potato Pancakes

Now that I have greatly reduced my dairy intake, I have been looking for new dishes to prepare for my family. I never realized how much cheese I ate until I actually stopped eating it....
Anyways, I sort of threw these together last week with whatever we had around the house. They came out pretty good so I thought I would post the recipe here. My experiments don't always turn out that way however.....

What You Need:
  • 1 small potato, grated
  • 1 zucchini, grated
  • 1 sweet potato, grated
  • 1/2 cup corn (frozen works fine)
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 3 Tbl flour
  • 1 egg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • canola oil, for frying
What You Do:
  • Place grated veggies on a towel and try to pat most of the moisture out of them
  • Thoroughly mix all ingredients
  • Head canola oil in pan on medium heat
  • Once heated, place a heaping tablespoon of the batter into the oil and cook through, flipping sides halfway through.
  • Makes about 4-6 side servings
Do you ever experiment in the kitchen (cooking without a recipe)? Pin It Now!

Friday, May 27, 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, May 26, 2011

Learn An Herb: Dandelion

Dandelion? An herb you say? That's right. Even though mist people think of dandelions as horribly obnoxious weeds, they are also quite useful (and in fact, that is why they are here.... people brought dandelions with them to the US because they used them regularly... but their reproductive mechanism is very efficient and they have proliferated a little more than most people would like). However, that also means that you (yes, you!) have easy access to the powers of dandelions.
I personally have eaten dandelion greens only a few times, but after doing some research for this post, I think I will make them a regular part of my diet. Let's talk about the many ways in which dandelions are oh-so useful!
For one, dandelions are dynamic accumulators which means that they gather vitamins and nutrients from way deep in the soil (with that big ol' tapo root). That means they can accumulate nutrients from places that most plants can't reach, which makes them very high in vitamins and minerals (especially vitamins A and C, beta carotine, potassium, and copper). This means that you can either eat the dandelions (all parts of the plant are edible) and reap the benefits of all of those goodies, or, you can chop the dandelion off at the surface and place it back onto your yard or garden. As the dandelion decomposes, those nutrients will be released back into the soil and will become available for uptake by the plants nearby. I may or may not have taken dandelions from my neighbors yards and put them on my own garden....
Externally, dandelions can be used to fight bacteria and help heal wounds. They sap also can be used to remove corns and warts (I am so going to try this on my planter's wart! I will keep you posted) and can be used as post-bee sting pain relief.
Internally, the roots can be used as a liver detox and the plant can be used to support the kidneys, gallbladder and urinary tract. It has also been shown to help jaundice, gout, hypoglycemia, eczema, and acne (among other things). The flowers and greens of the dandelion can be eaten in salads, or stewed. A tea can be made with fresh or dried leaves, or a tincture could be made. As I mentioned, now that I know how good this things are for us, I do plan on including dandelion leaves in salads and teas throughout the summer!
A couple other random uses include placing dandelions in a bag with unripe fruit to help speed up the ripening process. Apparently a red dye can also be made from the roots. I haven't tried that yet but sounds like a good summer project!
Have you used dandelions? Eaten them? What did you think? Pin It Now!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Solution for a Serious Addiction

My husband is an addict. It has been going on for as long as I have known him, and is at this point, just a part of who he is. In fact, I never cared for his vice when I met him, but as time has gone on, I too have been known to splurge. Even Finn partakes regularly. Are we drug addicts? Gamblers? Nope. We are sparkling water junkies.
Phew, right? there could be much worse things to be addicted to. However, this sparkling (we call it "sparkly") water habit is not exactly kind to the planet. Each one of those bottles that the sparkly water is packaged in has been made from fossil fuels, has emitted greenhouse gasses during the transport, and is now a bottle that will get recycled, but will consume copious energy in the process. I have blogged several times on how horrible bottled water is for the planet, yet I found myself indulging in it somewhat regularly. OK, well we normally bought cans of sparkling water, not bottles, so it wasn't quite as bad, but still.... a lot of resources used unnecessarily.
We haven't been able to curb this addiction, but we have found a way to deal with it a bit more sustainably. For the holidays, my family got Todd his own sparkling water machine, a sodastream. And man, does this thing rock! It is a small machine that sits on your counter top. You fill up the included bottles with tap water, give it three pumps of the carbonation, and voila! You have sparkling water. No wasted containers, no transportation ramifications, and it is cheaper than buying sparkling water at the store! When the CO2 cartridges run out, you pay for new cartridges and someone comes to your home and exchanges them out for you. So not even the CO2 containers are wasted... they are refilled and used again.
And the water taste refreshingly delicious. And no, I am not getting paid by sodastream (although if anyone from the company happens to read this, a few free CO2 cartridges would be nice).
To read more about the sustainability of sodastream, go to: Pin It Now!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Yard-full Weekend

This past weekend was yard weekend 2011. Wonderfully productive and wonderfully exhausting. And actually still not quite finished yet....
If you have read any of my recent posts about the ducks, you may know that they did a bit of a number on our backyard turning into a mud pit. Fun for them, not so fun for us. So, this weekend we (OK, well mostly Todd but I did help!) moved 4 yards of pea gravel into the backyard and 2 yards of gravel into the fenced in dog portion of the front yard. We still have about 1 yard left to move, which will become a pathway past the side of the house which gets muddy and slippery when it rains. We are so happy with the new backyard, although I am not sure that the ducks are sold on it! We eventually plan to add some more plants, but need some time to figure out what the ducks wont eat and the best locations for the plants. Consider it a work in progress.....
The gravel piles in front of our house. 
This angle makes them look way smaller than they actually were.
The new backyard!
We also did a bunch of gardening this weekend. This was mostly my job as Todd hauled rocks. I planted our garden box in the backyard (shown below) with seeds: wildflowers, beets, carrots and lettuce (among the already growing potatoes, garlic and greens). Throughout  the front yard (top picture), I planted seeds of beets, carrots, pumpkins, zucchini, yellow squash, cucumber, winter squash (3 varieties), watermelon, bush beans, pole beans, corn, lettuce, and cilantro as well as starts of 4 types of tomatoes, 2 types of peppers, dill, and 2 types of basil....It doesn't look like much yet, as mostly everything was planted from seed, but big changes will be coming soon (hopefully!) Let's hope that the slugs don't eat everything like they did last year. And I also need to make sure that emerging seedlings don't get trampled by happy 3-year old feet!
I finished up the weekend by having a big sew marathon last night. I had a few things to make for my etsy shop, a few gifts I needed to send out, and of course, since Phoebe is in 3-6 month clothes now, I had to spruce up some of her wardrobe (see below)... I also squeezed in a quick pirate shirt for Finn.
And now I am exhausted, but need to muster the energy to finish moving that gravel!

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Monday, May 23, 2011

A Few Forgotten Crafts...

While I was waiting for Phoebe's arrival, I ended up doing some serious nesting in the form of making things. Between the craziness of a new baby and dealing with a toddler, a few projects were forgotten (at least in terms of blog posts). Well, more than a few actually, but a couple that I did want to share here. And since this was a crazy busy weekend and I haven't prepped anything else to blog about, I figured today was as good a day as ever.
The first was Phoebe's baby blanket. I made a little quilt for Finn before he was born, as well as both of my sister's children, my cousin's baby, and also some of my friend's children. I think of it as a rite of passage for new babies welcomed into our family. Anyways, here is the one I made for Phoebe a few weeks before she arrived.
This is the baby bonnet from More Last Minute Knitted Gifts. Super cute. And a super silly face to go with it! I used a washable cashmere-cotton blend that is super soft and so this was enjoyable to knit. The only downside is the sizing..... it is a one-size fits all and Phoebe has a pretty large head for her age and it is still a bit too big. I think this is more for a 6-12 month old head and not for a newborn which was what I was envisioning. I hope it still fits her next fall when the weather cools down again!
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Friday, May 20, 2011

This Moment...

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. This week, quite a bit late as blogger has not been working all morning!  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, May 19, 2011

Quintessential Quinoa Salad

Now that I have cut most  dairy out of my life (at least temporarily), I have been having to come up with some new recipes for me and my family. So far I do miss the dairy, but my asthma has seemed to improve a little bit, and this whole no-cheese thing has motivated me to branch out from my normal eating routine. In fact, I just checked two vegan cookbooks out of the library today... maybe there will be some winners in there!
Tuesday night's dinner was baked salmon, collard greens, and a delicious quinoa salad that I adapted from a couscous salad recipe that I found online. It was super easy and turned out fabulous (even the husband was impressed). I am definitely going to make this again.. it will be a great one to bring to summer barbecues and picnics. Plus quinoa is high protein and oh-so good for you!

What You Need:
  • 1.5 cups raw red quinoa
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1/2 small red cabbage (about 1.5 cups), grated
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup brown rice vinegar
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • black pepper to taste
What You Do:
  • Cook quinoa. In a bowl, mix together onions, pepper, carrot, cabbage and parsley. When quinoa has finished cooking, add it to the vegetables and mix together.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients for the dressing. Pour over salad and mix thoroughly.
  • Enjoy either warm or cold! Yum!
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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Yarn Along

Joining in with Ginny at Small Things for this week's yarn along.
This week I am still reading  both Gulliver's Travels and The Lacuna, both which are pretty slow moving. I don't have much time for reading these days, so it may take me awhile to get through these bad boys. I have also started to read (OK, more like browse-through) a book by a colleague of mine. James Davis is a outstanding naturalist who leads many-a-field trip for my classes. So it only makes sense that I am reading his book The Northwest Nature Guide, which gives great tips on what to see and do in the outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.
For my knitting, I am working on a second hat for Japan (check out the button on my sidebar for more info or to join in!). This hat is not pictured. What is shown is the Stella Pixie Hat that I have started for Phoebe. The pattern can be found in Vintage Baby Knits. This puppy is on size 3 needles, and since warmer weather will probably mean less time for knitting, this one may take me awhile... but I am trying to chip away a bit at it every night before I go to bed. I will keep you posted.
What are you knitting? Pin It Now!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I Am Thankful For...

Weather warm enough to dry clothes outside..

Flowers that signify that spring is here....

Tiny feet flailing in the air...

New life emerging from our garden....

And furry friends to keep you company when  you are feeling down....
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Monday, May 16, 2011

Repurposed Spool Holder

OK. So, this is one of those projects that took me way longer to finish than it should have. Life with a baby, I guess. Amazing how something so simple can take so, so long.
My sewing/crafting/work/storage area is a tiny desk that sits next to my bed (see picture below). I actually love that desk. It is an old beat-up desk that was in the first house I moved into during college (my first house after I moved out of the dorms). During the year that I lived there, I just fell in love with it. So much so that when it was time to move out, I bought another old desk from the goodwill to leave in its place and I brought it with me. What is so special about this desk you ask? Nothing really. Maybe it was the first piece of solid wood furniture that I had ever owned. Or maybe the fact that it held a history unknown to me, with its nicks and scratches. But whatever it is that made me unable to leave that desk behind is pretty serious. I have moved it to 8 houses and 3 states since I first acquired it. My husband thinks I am nuts. It doesn't match at all with the rest of our furniture (in color or style), yet I have repeatedly and firmly refused to give it up.
So how does this relate to a spool holder? Well, this lovely old desk of mine is quite small and the  storage is limited. I found the desk drawer (as well as  my sewing box) were overflowing with thread and ribbon, all of it unwinding and completely disorganized. And I decided it needed some organizational help. I have seen spool organizers before, but figured I could easily make one for free. And I did. Well,.. almost.
I got a piece of wood from Home Depot that was in the to-be-thrown-away pile (yet I still had to pay 30-cents or something for it). I gave it a coat of base paint and then (carefully) let Finn paint it with acrylic paints. After it dried (OK, much after... like 3 weeks) I measured out locations for the dowels to go and drilled some holes into the wood (but not all the way through). I had some dowels leftover from a project I did a few months ago, however, I didn't have enough of the correct size dowels and actually had to go buy some more. Then I cut the dowels down to the right length (long enough to hold about 3 spools of thread each), and using wood glue,  I secured the dowels into the holes. It was super easy, even for me who has almost zero woodworking skills. The whole project cost less than $2 and the block of wood was destined for the landfill. Plus it is a functional piece of art painted by one of the loves of my life.
As I said, this simple project has taken me forever. Weeks. Longer than a month, and actually close to 2 months. And, although it is finally finished, it still needs to be hung onto the side of my desk. Hopefully that will get done tomorrow, but at this rate it may be weeks still!
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Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Sunshine Saturday

Today the family made it out to the Columbia Gorge for a lovely wildflower hike in Washington state. We got lucky and had marvelous weather and fun was had by all. We saw loads of flowers, a variety of insects, and had a great view of Mt. Hood. I took plenty of photos of wilflowers, and I plan on making some new entries into my plant journal.
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Friday, May 13, 2011

This Moment...

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. This week, quite a bit late as blogger has not been working all morning!  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, May 12, 2011

Lanolizing Wool Diaper Covers

Before Phoebe arrived (in my super-duper nesting phase), I made her a couple of wool soakers. I finally got around to lanolizing them about a month ago. Lanolin is the component in wool that makes it really waterproof. When wool is processed, however, the lanolin is removed. So, if you want a hand-knit wool soaker to really be waterproof you need to add that lanolin back in. Lanolin can be found at any drugstore (usually either with the baby supplies or the women's-need section). The whole process was quick and easy to do. I found some very thorough (and rather entertaining) instructions here:

The diapers so far have seemed to work well. However, I must admit that these are usually my last go-to, and only get used when the diaper stack is low. I think that they just don't fit her quite right yet, and also I have found it hard to keep the insert in place while pulling it up over her bottom. The store-bought covers all have velcro-sides, making them much easier to get on and off. Maybe when there are less poops (like not every diaper change) these covers will work a bit better? I am now sort of wishing I made made them in a size medium instead of small, as they might be more practical for slightly older babies. Oh well.... they look cute nonetheless.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Yarn Along: Knit for Japan

I have been wanting to somehow help the victims of Japan's earthquake/tsunami. But with no disposable income, and no close connections in Japan, I hadn't figured out a way to be of much use. Then, voila! Last week's post at Yarn Along mentioned that people were knitting hats for Japan. I can do that!
Last night I started my first hat for Japan. I hope to make a couple to send over. The deadline for hat donations is July 15th. Can you help too?
To learn more, click on the button below (or on my sidebar). Thanks!

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Reducing My Impact: A Year-Long Adventure. Month 1- Dairy and Meat

I know most resolutions begin with the new year, but lately I have been feeling the need to make some changes in my life. I am already, for the most part, a fairly responsible person when it comes to my environmental impact (or I at least try to be!). I try to make sustainable choices whenever possible, and I do fairly well, but I feel that I still have a long way to go. I still buy non-local packaged foods (especially now with a new baby), I still drive a car, and I still have trips to Target where I buy new plastic things that have probably been shipped from China. I know I am far from perfect, and while I don't ever expect to reach perfection, I think there is definitely some room for improvement.
So, I have decided, starting now, in May, I will change one area of my life each month in hopes that I can slightly reduce my family's impact on this Earth. I am hoping to make these changes a permanent part of my way of life, and not just for the month that they are initiated in. By changing one thing at a time, I feel like I will have a chance to become accustomed to that month's change before tackling another. That way, I will have a better chance of success. Here is my list of hopeful changes:

May - reduce dairy and meat
June- reduce our garbage
July- reduce our water usage
August- reduce the amount I drive
September- reduce the use of plastics in our home
October- choose local
November- decrease packaging
December- reduce our consumption of 'stuff'
January- volunteer for the environment
February- reduce consumption of processed foods
March- strive for environmental change
April- say no to to-go (containers)

These categories are all things that I am already aware of and that I already try to do... I just feel that for each one, I can make more of a change or at least more of a permanent change. I may modify these goals, and the order I tackle them in, depending on how my life proceeds over these next months. These categories are actually all pretty intertwined, and there is plenty of overlap, which means that change in one moth will likely affect the goals of other months.

So here we go, May, Month 1. I am going to reduce my consumption of meat and dairy. Meat and dairy use many more environmental resources than eating as a vegan. Essentially this is because that animal is acting as a middle-man for calories. The grain or vegetables that the animal eats are consumed by the animal, but then some of those calories are undigested and turn into poop, the majority of what is digested is used to maintain the animal, and only a small portion actually goes towards producing the meat or dairy that will be consumed by the human. That results in a serious loss of calories. That means that a lot more land and a lot more water are required for humans to eat meat or dairy than if humans were to eat the grain or vegetables directly. However, this doesn't mean that all vegans have a low environmental impact.. if the tofu you are eating destroyed rainforests in Brazil to be grown and then was processed and shipped all over the planet before it got to your table....well, that is not exactly sustainable. But, if I can reduce my meat and dairy while still maintaining my current eating habits, I will be able to reduce my overall impact.
But here is the rest of the scoop: I have been a vegetarian for most of the last 16 years, however, during both pregnancies and breastfeeding I have eaten some meat. I am allergic to nuts and try not to consume large quantities of soy, so during pregnancy I have always started to crave meat for the extra protein. I never eat beef (which is much more of a stress on the environment that poultry or pork) and I don't eat that much meat as it is. I am not quite ready to completely give up meat again, as if I am reducing my dairy, I think I will need the protein. However, I do want to limit my meat intake to only a couple times a week and I will make sure that my meat is sustainably raised.
In terms of reducing my dairy consumption, I have to be honest and tell you that this is not entirely just for the environmental impact. I have pretty severe asthma that has been exacerbated by pregnancy (and by living in Portland) and I have decided to try to cut out most dairy and see if that affects my asthma. So, yesterday, I started a 2-week trial period in which I will have no cheese, ice cream (boo!) or dairy-based milk, but I will still eat yogurt and small amounts of butter. If this seems to help my asthma improve, I will continue. If it doesn't affect my asthma, I will reincorporate cheese, milk and ice cream back into my diet, but in smaller amounts than I am currently eating. Since I can't eat nuts, have several grain sensitivities, don't eat much soy and don't regularly eat meat, cheese has been a main source of protein for many of my meals. To not have cheese be the main part of at least several meals each week, I am going to have to do a lot of research and planning. I will need to figure out plant-based sources of calcium and find some vegan-friendly recipes that are kid and husband friendly as well. Hmmmm. I am definitely taking suggestions if you have any to share!
Part of me hopes that reducing my dairy intake will improve my asthma, but the part of me that really loves cheese and ice cream sort of hopes it won't.... However, either way I plan on eating meat and dairy in smaller amounts and making the majority of my diet fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains. I am sure that once this change becomes incorporated as a way of life, it will be easy, but I am anticipating a transition period that will be pretty difficult. I do know that I will need to do a lot more forethought and planning into my meals and snacks! Pin It Now!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Gasland: A Review

Gasland was recommended to me by a current student of mine, and last week I finally got around to watching it. Gasland is a documentary that shows the dark side of natural gas. Natural gas is often wrongly touted as a more environmentally-friendly fuel source because it is cleaner burning than oil or coal, and we have decent supplies within the United States (so therefore using natural gas doesn't involve terrorism, wars, or long-distance transport). Unfortunately though, that is not the whole story behind our use of natural gas..
Natural gas, even locally produced natural gas, is still a fossil fuel, meaning that it is a non-renewable source of energy. Once our supplies are gone, they are gone forever. And although it is cleaner-burner than the other fossil fuels, it is still playing a large role in global warming. And, as this film shows, the drilling of natural gas has some dirty, dirty side effects.
This film documents natural gas development and its effect on individuals in several rural areas. Essentially, these gas companies come onto privately owned land, destroy the land while installing wells, poison the drinking water with the numerous cancer-causing agents that are used for fracturing the rock, and ruin livelihoods in the process. The water becomes undrinkable (and in many cases is able to catch on fire due to the presence of natural gas in the water supply), harming human health and killing family pets and livestock. As all this is happening, the land becomes devalued and these landowners are essentially stuck living on their poisoned land as no one else wants to buy it (for obvious reasons). The natural gas companies refuse to take responsibility for the state of the water, or the health concerns associated with it, and many families are forced to buy and haul their own water for drinking, bathing, clothes washing, etc. Public policies (enacted under Bush junior) have made this all fine and dandy, and essentially these companies have no legal responsibility to pay for or amend those water and lands that they destroy.
This film was moving and heartbreaking, and very informative. I would recommend it to all. My one complaint is that the narrator talks in this weird, hushed voice the entire film, making it seem like some low-budget horror film. However, once you get past the voice, you get up close and personal with several families whose lives have been turned upside-down by these gas companies. It seems almost impossible that here, in the "land of the free and the home of the brave" we could allow corporate greed to destroy human lives to this extent. Pin It Now!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Day for Mothers....

Today I am feeling very lucky and wonderfully blessed. First, for my own mother, who is my best friend and who has always been there for me.. to listen, to support, and to provide. And second, for my two beautiful and extraordinary children, who make me appreciate life and show me what is truly important. Being a mother is the most important and rewarding job in the world.
Happy Mother's Day to all of you wonderful mamas out there!
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Friday, May 6, 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, May 5, 2011

Population Growth and the Future of Our Planet

As someone who teaches environmental science and who is supposed to be committed to all things sustainable, I know that I should be certain about not having any more children. Our planet is already over populated, resources are running low, and threats of global warming leave an uncertain future for our planet and its inhabitants. If we want the world population to stabilize (or hopefully even shrink a bit), people need to have fewer children. The "replacement level fertility rate" in the developed countries is 2.1. This means that if each woman has 2.1 children (1 to replace herself, 1 to replace her partner, and 0.1 to account for infant and childhood mortality), then our population will stay stable. If women have more than that, population will continue to grow.
So, I know that should not want any more children, but right now, as I hold my tiny 2 month old in my arms, I am just not ready to commit to that. I know I should be, but I'm not. I am leaning towards not have any more children (and my husband is really, really, really leaning towards no more children), but I just can't say that I am 100% sure that I never want to do this again. Never want to feel a baby kick me from the inside. Never want to see a teeny tiny new life that I created in the first moment that it enters the world. Never want to snuggle a nursing baby at my breast.
After I had Finn I knew that we were planning on having a second child. In some ways I didn't treasure his baby moments as much as I should have, but I was simply living in the moment and eager to watch him change and grow. I always knew that I would be going through this again with a second child. Since I have given birth to Phoebe, however, there have been many discussions about whether or not there will be any more children, and the answer seems to point to "not likely". This has made me treasure her newborn moments, but it has also made me very emotional. Its like I have a cloud hanging over my head and every moment with her is my last with a baby in this stage. It is certainly making me cherish this time, but I also feel like I can't miss a moment. Every time she reaches a new milestone, I am actually sad that she is growing up too fast and that these moments are passing much too quickly.
So, I have decided to try and stop thinking about this as being my final child. I want to leave it open ended, and that way, even if Phoebe is my last, at least I won't spend her baby-hood dwelling on. Or at least I will dwell on it less.
This week in class I am teaching about population growth and I will be the one explaining to my students that if world population continues to grow, it will likely be a bleak future for all of us on this planet. And I know that while I am in front of the class lecturing, I will secretly be feeling guilty that I already have 2 children and can't definitely commit to not having a third. Shouldn't I be an environmental crusader and be setting an example by only having one child? Or at least being done after 2? However, the number of people on the planet isn't exactly the whole story. How we live and the footprint that we leave is also a big part of the picture. I recently read an article in National Geographic entitled Population 7 Billion (definitely worth reading) that discusses this point exactly and inside I felt a teeny tiny sigh of relief. Hopefully we can teach our children how to live in closer harmony with our earth. How to use fewer resources, create less waste, live more simply and locally. Hopefully we will reach a point when we don't need to worry about population growth because we are no longer putting a strain on our planet. Maybe the numbers won't matter quite as much as they do today.
In the meantime, I am going to cherish my 2 children while secretly not completely ruling out an unlikely third. I am gong to teach my children to be good and gentle citizens of this planet who hopefully won't have as large of an impact as my generation has had. And I am going to continue to make lifestyle choices that will decrease my personal environmental impact (hopefully making up for some of the added impact of having children).
I hope I have not offended anyone with this post. The decision on how many children to have is a very individual one and I understand equally well why a woman would have zero children or why she would have 5. (That family on tv who has 20-some kids however, I completely don't get that.....). I think I just feel hypocritical being someone who lectures about sustainable populations while not necessarily being able to commit to not increasing the population... and these thoughts run through my mind a lot. It's sort of like if you were a marriage counselor who had been divorced a few times... I don't want my students to lose their faith in me and what I teach! Pin It Now!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Yarn Along

Joining in with Ginny at Small Things today for yarn along (a bit late, yes..... last night was a rough one around here).
This week I am reading The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver. I LOVE LOVE LOVE Barbara Kingsolver, but I have been forewarned that this book is unlike her other works and is a bit harder to get through. I am only 15 pages in, but so far, I have to concur. I am normally sucked into her novels right away, and this one hasn't grabbed me yet. But I am going to give it some more time.... On the needles I am finishing up a birthday crown for my niece that I will hopefully felt today. Knitting and reading have been going slow lately. Very slow. The reason for this can be seen in the background!
Now I need to get out and enjoy this beautiful sunny morning we are having here today! Hooray! Pin It Now!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Mushroom Plastics!?! You Seriously Need to Watch This!

This is a great talk about using mycellium (the underground part of fungi) to create non-toxic, completely decomposable packaging that is made from waste! Awesome! If you haven't checked out yet, you really need to. It is basically like youtube, but designed for science geeks, like myself. Slightly addictive.
Styrofoam, which I was just complaining about a few weeks ago, is horrible for the planet and for its inhabitants (that's us, people). It clogs landfills, pollutes water, and is a carcinogen. Plus, it is made from non-renewable fossil fuels. Eben Bayer and his crew have figured out a way to inoculate crop wastes with mycellium in order to create a biodegradable styrofoam that will actually improve the soil when it is discarded. Seriously, why isn't this everywhere? People have such amazing and innovative ideas and I just can't figure out why this isn't already in the mainstream. This 9 minute talk is a must watch! Pin It Now!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Learn an Herb: Heal All

Last summer I started a "Learn an Herb" series (OK, and by series, I mean I got around to doing 2 posts. But that's sort of a series, right?). Anyways, now that new growth (and herbs) are springing up everywhere, I decided that it's time to continue on learning some herbs. I do use herbs medicinally, but not as often as I would like. I am hoping that these posts will get me recognizing more of the plants that grow around me and get me motivated to try out some herbs for new uses.
So, today's herb is Heal All (prunella vulgaris), also known by self heal and about a million other names. This plant is a member of the mint family (which you can tell by its square shaped stem), and at least where I live, it thrives and is actually sort of an invasive weed. However, the name "heal all" is not in jest.... this plant, at least anecdotally, seems to be able to cure (or at least help) just about any ailment in existence.
Heal all has antibacterial properties and can be used externally for cut, bites, scratches and burns. It can also be taken internally for illnesses that one would normally take antibiotics to cure. It has been used to treat fevers, diarrhea, sore throat and mouth, vaginal problems, liver and heart weakness, high blood pressure, conjunctivitis and a variety of stomach problems. It can help reduce swollen glands and tumors and cure mastitis. Its antiviral properties have shown great promise in the treatment of herpes, HIV, cancer and diabetes.
Wow. Sounds like a miracle drug, right? I'm not quite sure how strong its healing powers are, but it seems like if something isn't quite right, give heal all a try. The web-based research that I did suggested that this herb should be avoided while pregnant or breastfeeding (but it seems that it is only because no research has been done on its safety, not because it has dangerous known side effects). Bummer for me..... I was hoping to give it a whirl this summer.
Have you ever used heal all? Does it grow where you live? Pin It Now!