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!

Friday, September 30, 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, September 29, 2011

Reducing My Plastic Consumption: An Update (And Some Hand Made Snack Bags to Boot!)

My goal this month for my year-long adventure was to reduce my plastic consumption, and in general, it went pretty well. Here were my specific goals:
  1.  Make my own cloth (ziploc) bags. I finally finished these bags about a week ago and have used them a few times. They are super cute (see photo above!) and great to carry as snack bags. However, now that I have them, I realize that plastic ziplocs are really handy for lots of things (like anything that needs to go into the freezer!)
  2.  Buy glass tupperwares. We donated most of our plastic tupperwares, saving some for travel and camping and bought glass storage containers to replace them.
  3. I will stop buying shampoo in shampoo bottles. Well, I actually didn't need to buy any shampoo or conditioner this month, however, I wanted to "comply" with my goals. So, I bought a bar of shampoo which I am going to give a try. It is locally made, and has no packaging, but it was pretty pricey (around $7). I was told they last awhile, but I am going to test it to see. I also figured out the system for bulk shampoo and conditioner at my local grocery and have been saving empty containers to use for the next time I need these items. It also made me start questioning other soaps, lotions, etc and I wonder if I can find bulk sources for these items as well.
  4. I will make sure to remember my muslin bags for produce and bulk items (or bring my already used plastic ones). OK, so I have been remembering my muslin bags and bringing already used plastic bags, but I realized I don't have enough large muslin bags, for things like greens and spinach. I ended up needing a plastic one last time, which was a sign that I need to make some large sized reusable ones.
  5. I will try to purchase less convenience food (like pre-made humus and salsa). I did make my own salsa this month, as we had fresh tomatoes, but in the winter I don't think it will make sense for me to do this since I would be buying non-local items to make it. Maybe I will buy salsa in glass jars. I also just didn't eat any humus this month because I didn't want to buy the plastic, but I really did want humus. I just haven't had time to make humus.. mostly because it is not part of my routine. I hope to get into a food preparation routine where I make large batched of things at certain times during the week....but I am still working up to it!
Additionally, we found a local facility that will take almost all of the plastics that our curbside recycling will not take, and have started saving things like plastic wrappers and other plastic containers to bring there. So, although we are still using these plastics, at least they are not going straight into the trash.

I feel like I have make a difference in how much plastic we consume, but we still consume huge amounts of it, even when trying not to. I am not ready to make my own yogurt, the vinegar I buy is bottled in plastic, toilet paper comes wrapped in it, and it is just everywhere. I keep wondering if my small reductions really make a difference in a world that is overrun by this stuff? I hope so.
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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Yarn Along

Joining in with Ginny at Small Things for this week's Yarn Along. In knitting news, I have made some more (but slow) progress on Phoebe's crossover top sweater from Debbie Bliss' Essential Baby. I have finished the back and one of the front panels and have started on the second. Then just the sleeves, the trim, and figuring out how to sew this thing together!!
I am almost finished with three different books: The Road, The One Straw Revolution and I Love Dirt. The Road is depressing and sad, yet I can't seem to stop reading it. I had nightmares a few nights ago after reading it right before bed though.... One Straw Revolution is wonderful. I am planning on doing a posted review of this one when I finish (which should be this week). I Love Dirt is a cute book about getting kids to interact more with nature. So far it is a bit too common sense for my family, but may be exactly what more out-of-touch (from nature) families may need.
What are you reading? What are you knitting? Pin It Now!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Homemade Salve

Last week, Finn and I made some homemade salve/lip balm that we will give away for the holidays and use throughout the winter. Salves are super easy and inexpensive if you have herbs growing in your garden!
A few weeks ago, we collected calendula, echinacea, dandelion, plantain, lemongrass, lemon balm and bee balm from our yard, put them in a jar, covered them with olive oil and let it sit in a window for a couple of weeks. Then we strained out the herbs and composted them. We took the infused oil and mixed it with an approximately equal amount of grated beeswax, and heated it on low over the stove. Once it was all melted, we added in some essential oils, and put it in containers to harden. That's it. Easy Peasy.
Have you made any salves?

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Monday, September 26, 2011

Oregon Flock and Fiber

Saturday morning I got to spend an hour or so (kid-free) with a couple lady friends at the Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival. We saw many animals, beautiful fiber, beautiful knits and lots of spinning wheels. It reminded me how ready I am to move to a farm, have some animals, and spin my own fiber! Seeing as that is not happening anytime too soon, it did motivate me to get knitting!! Here are a few pictures from my adventure:

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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Garden Wonders

Our fall has been so out of sorts that even the plants are confused! The unseasonable heat we had last week resulted in our strawberries setting new fruit, our tomato plants putting out more flowers, and our borage sprouting from seeds it just finished setting a few weeks ago. Strange. However, the rain (and cooler temperatures) are back, so I don't expect to reap any bounties from this new growth. Oh well!

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Friday, September 23, 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, September 22, 2011

I Lost My Cool.....

Today was rough. Todd started his first trial this week and he has been pretty much non-existent for the past week or more trying to prepare for it. I have been in charge of the kids, with no breaks, but have also been completely responsible for making and cleaning up all meals, baths, getting 2 kids put to bed, as well as dealing with the animals and my other regular chores, like laundry, cleaning, etc. Not to mention preparing for my class that I will start teaching again next week. Man, I am whipped. I am basically going non-stop from 6 a.m. until about 9 p.m., when I finally get a few minutes to myself. And then I stay up way too late because I want to read, knit, watch movies, etc., and I don't get enough sleep. Rinse and Repeat. I have no idea how single parents do it. Seriously, hats off to you. You work hard.
So, I am not trying to make excuses, but I haven't had much down time lately, and today, I lost my cool. It was 3:30. Phoebe hadn't napped all day (she is 6 months old and 'should' have been on her second nap) and had been screaming for over an hour because she was tired but she refused to sleep and instead kept trying to play. She was a nightmare. Finn and I had decided to make ice cream (to drown out that baby cry, I suppose?), and long story short, he grabbed the cream from my hand, spilled it, and in the end, ruined our post-dinner treat (and man, was I looking forward to that.). Looking back now, it seems so petty, but after listening to a baby scream for 60 minutes, I was livid. Not that he spilled, but that he had grabbed it out of my hand and pushed me out of the way. Where did he learn to be so rude? Or,  actually, why hadn't I taught him NOT to be so rude? So, I freaked out. I yelled at Finn for his manners. I yelled to the air because Phoebe wouldn't just fall asleep. And then everyone was upset (including me) and I was overwhelmed with guilt. I apologized to both kids, but was still mad at myself for losing my cool.
Now my neighbors probably (once again) think I am crazy and I will be angry with myself all night for not being a more patient mama. I am trying, but sometimes my anger wins out. How can I get the patient side to take control?
Shortly after, we went on a walk. Phoebe fell asleep, I felt more of a sense of calm, and Finn seemed to have forgotten the whole incident. Next time, I will aim for the walk first. Maybe then the yelling can be avoided.
Oh well. All I can do is hope that they forgive me and try to do better next time. Pin It Now!

My Summer in Review

Summer is winding down and tomorrow will be the first day of autumn. The past few days here have been warm, but I can already feel the fall chill in the morning air. I love it.
I had some big plans for the summer of 2011, and now that summer is ending, I decided to look back and see how my summer panned out....
  • Work on sewing from a pattern. Phoebe's bonnet, that I made a couple weeks ago, was my first time sewing from a pattern ever. And it was an easy pattern. I want to expand my pattern knowledge. I plan on starting with sewing an apron from a pattern. If it goes well, maybe I will start using patterns more often! This was a failure! I bough a few commercial patterns on sale this summer and couldn't even figure out where to start. However, I did sew a kimono top  for Phoebe from a mama-made (easy to understand) pattern AND I did sign myself up for a sewing class which includes learning to read a pattern. So, hopefully, I will accomplish this soon!
  • Paint the exterior of my house. This is sort of a big undertaking, especially with a new baby, but my house is small. Really small. So I think a weekend with a couple of friends will be enough time to finish the whole project, and it will look so much better! Now I just need to decide on a weekend (and a color!). Success! Well, sort of.... ha! We did manage to get our house painted, but there are a few funny stories that go along with it. Have a minute? So, first off, choosing a house color is way more difficult than I had ever imagined. I had some color ideas set in my head, but the color that you see on the paint sample is not what it is going to look like on your house. So, 4 different shades of green later, I though I had found the one.... until I painted the entire backside of the house and realized that in a huge swath, I hated the color. It belonged in Jamaica, or somewhere warm and tropical. So, back to the paint store I went, with all 7 gallons of my green paint. I begged the man to help, to make it better... and after much grumbling and complaining, he did make it better... but it still wasn't perfect. But, was I going to abandon 7 gallon of good-enough paint and spent a couple hundred more trying to get exactly what I wanted? I decided to just be happy that it wasn't going to be the Jamaica green that it had started with and even a non-perfect shade of green is way better than the boring dirty-gray color that it was. OK, so the next hurdle was that we have 2 young kids. I have no idea what I was thinking when I signed us up for this, but painting a house with 2 kids is no picnic. Basically, we could only paint when my husband and I were both home. One of use would paint, or sometimes both, but one person always had to be ready to deal with whatever kid issue arose, which was usually about every 3 to 7 minutes. So, we painted in pieces... an hour here, 15 minutes there,.. and even though our house is small, it took about 6 weeks to get it done. And, we had finished nearly everything, except for the 2 really tall parts on our roof that we could not reach with the ladder that we had. So, instead of borrowing ladders and dealing with heights, we decided to hire a painter that would have the equipment and the tools to get the job done easily. It was only about 4 hours of work, and we didn't want to pay and arm and a leg, so we hired a painter off of craigslist. To make a long story short, don't ever do that. A week later, after the painter repeatedly called in sick day after day, he decided to finish the job while we were out of town. He was furious that we were not home to pay us, and screamed at Todd for about 20 minutes over the phone. Upon return to our house, the job was horribly done, and Todd ended up having to borrow a ladder and repaint it all by himself. Thanks hubby. But hey, it's done. It's not exactly the color I wanted, but I know it will be awhile before I am ready to repaint my house again!
  • Learn to pickle! I learned how to can a few summers ago but have never tackled pickling yet.Still haven't done this, although I just got a great recipe and am hoping to get a few jars done while I can!
  • Choose a sweater pattern for Phoebe. Hopefully I will start knitting it as well, but I at least want to  have it decided on by the end of the summer.I am taking suggestions if anyone has some good one for me.... I did! I chose the crossover top by Debbie Bliss and have finished the back and have started one of the front panels. However, in choosing this pattern, I found like 8 more things I want to make her as well. Better knit fast!
  • Try to dye with dandelions.We tried! And it turned out horrible. Maybe you need to get spring dandelions? Or ones that grow in different soil? All these did was make the shirt look slightly off-white, like it was a bit dirty. Ugg.
  • Make homemade paper. I have actually done this before, a really long time ago, but would like to re-learn how to do it and maybe improve my skills. We did it! You can see the results here.
  • Keep a plant photo-journal of new plants I encounter on hikes. I did, although the not-so-great weather we had (in addition to all of the house painting) resulted in less hikes than I would have liked. But I did learn a few new plants this summer!
  • Restart my 365 project. 365 project is a photo project that allows you to post one photograph for each calender day. It is a real motivation to take lots of (great) photos each and every day and then to sit down and critique them and decide which is your best from that day.  I started this photo project last summer, but then once my pregnancy had me feeling awful, I wasn't up for continuing. So, I want to restart my project again this summer. Success! I have actually taken photos every day this summer and uploaded my 'best' one to my 365 project. Some days my photo isn't so fantastic, but at least I did it. Every. Day. Remembering to always have my camera has made me catch some moments that I otherwise wouldn't have, and, I suppose that the more time I spend with my camera the better I will get.
  • Perfect a loaf of (yeast) bread. Enjoy it with the glass of beer pictured above. OK, so I definitely did not perfect a loaf of bread yet, but I have been trying and have made much improvement. I have been using the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes A Day recipe and have had a lot of issues. First I had some bad yeast. After fixing that and still getting poor results I finally bought an oven thermometer, which is when we learned that our oven is off. Way off. Like by 50 to 150 degrees depending on what temperature you are trying to get it to. Which means that my bread that was supposed to be in at 450, was actually around 320. SO,.... I now set the temperature much higher to get close to the oven temp I need, but it is still not exact. However,  I think that this bread is about as perfect as it is going to get without buying a new oven.
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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cooking with Kale

Ever since reading Crazy Sexy Diet, I have been diligent about getting more greens into my family's meals. Finn will actually eat a wide variety of vegetables, but he is not big into leafy greens, so in order to get him to eat more, I need to be a bit sneaky. Here is some of what we ate yesterday:
I found a recipe for kale and apple muffins and decided to give it a shot. I used about 1/2 the honey suggested in the recipe. They came out not quite sweet, and not quite savory, but I thought they were pretty good. Not nearly as sweet as the normal fruity muffins I regularly make and they tasted healthy (in a good way). Finn helped to prepare these (and saw the kale go in) and still ate 2 of them when they came out of the oven. I guess that means they passed the test!
For dinner, I made this vegetable hash, although I left out the mushrooms because I didn't have any and added parmesean cheese to the top. I thought it was pretty good, although Finn wasn't much of a fan. Honestly, I am more excited to cook up the leftovers with eggs in a scramble this morning than I was to eat it for dinner last night!

I am planning on slowly trying to change my family's taste buds to less sweet. We eat decently healthy, but do eat a lot of white breads and other starches, and I want to try and cut back on these (as I write this I am eating a piece of bread with a square of dark chocolate on top-- ha!). Anyways, I will be in search of more sneaky ways to get lots of veggies into Finn's food! Pin It Now!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Puzzle Bags

As part of my big purge that has been happening, I have also been doing a lot of organizing and re-organizing. Finn has a bunch of those cheapy puzzles.... you know, the kind you get at the grocery store for a few dollars? Well, he loves these puzzles, yet the boxes they come in are not sturdy and they take up a lot of room. I had had enough of finding places for puzzle boxes and dealing with boxes that were falling apart. Behold..... puzzle bags!
For each puzzle, I made a quick drawstring bag from leftover fabric from my stash. Inside each bag are the puzzle pieces (of course), as well as the picture of the finished puzzle (formerly known as the top of the box). Then, I also cut out the small picture on the side of the puzzle box and tied this onto the drawstring to prevent the ribbons from being pulled out of the bag. Finally, I tucked all of the puzzles into a box made for organizing photos that I had laying around, and our multi-shelf puzzle stash now takes up a fraction of it's previous real estate. Plus, Finn thinks they are super cool and has been doing puzzles non-stop!
 old puzzle storage....

new puzzle storage
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Monday, September 19, 2011

Tomatoes. Finally.....

Our summer this year has been, well, weird. We only had about 3 consistent weeks of warm temperatures and no rain. So, although we have been eating smaller tomatoes throughout the summer, our larger heirlooms are just not ripening. Ahhhhh. They are delicious.
One of my favorite uses for tomatoes is in fresh pico de gallo. It's great with chips, tacos, or as a magnificent accompaniment to rice and beans. Here is how I make mine:

* 2 large tomatoes, chopped
* 1-2 stalks green onion, chopped, or sub any other kind of onion
* juice from 1/2 lime
* 1 jalapeno, diced
* lots of cilantro ( but we love cilantro. a lot.)
* salt and pepper to taste

Mix everything together and enjoy. Having tomatoes on hand and not buying pre-made salsas has helped with this month's goal of reducing my plastic consumption. Fresh pico tastes amazing and only takes a few minutes to whip up.

Are you enjoying tomatoes from your garden? What are your favorite ways to use them?
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Friday, September 16, 2011

Five Years Ago Today...

....I married my best friend.
This morning, he asked me If I could believe it's already been 5 years. My response was to him was that it seems like even longer. Not because it has been bad in any way, but just because so much has happened in the last 5 years. We moved states and bought a house, we have had 2 children, we have lost 3 dogs to old age and added a new puppy to the mix, he took and passed the bar, he quit a job and started his own practice, I worked for the DEQ for a bit and then got my current job teaching at community college, we have made new friends, visited old friends, traveled to new places, explored our community, learned a little bit about a lot of different things and a lot about a few things.
We are very different people than we were 5 years ago. Sometimes my husband and I have seemed to grow apart a bit, but then we seem to grow back together again. Sort of like 2 trees intertwined that branch off on their own before twisting together again.
So, here is to our five years together, and to our lifetime of years together that we have to look forward to. I can only imagine what the next five years have in store!

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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, September 15, 2011

The Big Purge

Over the past few weeks I have found myself itching to be free of "stuff" and have begun a major purge. Which is actually pretty funny b/c I did the same thing about 8 months ago, just a couple months before Phoebe was born. We loaded up the entire back of the subaru and hauled it off to goodwill. And now I have done the same again (3 times) and am still going. Where does all this stuff come from? I swear, I don't buy this much stuff. I literally don't have the time. I am a sucker for free boxes, however, But in reality, I think most of my "stuff" piles up because I don't like things to go to waste. I like to use them until they are unusable. Especially one-time use things, like plastic yogurt containers. I save them because I can't stand to recycle them after only using them once. But really, how much need does a person have for 20 yogurt containers? Also, when I get rid of clothes, I actually only giveaway about 2/3.. the other 1/3 is kept as fabric to use in my "to-be-upcycled" bin. OK,... bins (plural). My husband hates this, by the way, but has not divorced me yet. Anyways, I am making my way through the house, re-organizing, craigs-listing, and donating. If I am not using it, maybe someone else can. Each item I pass gets asked 3 questions: 1. Do I love you? 2. Do I need you? and 3. Do I use you? If the item doesn't pass at least one category (and hopefully at least 2), then it needs to go.
Purging always seems to make me feel free, like a burden was just taken off my shoulders. And honestly, stuff is a burden. You have to pay for it, store it, maintain it. I need enough stuff to maintain my lifestyle, but I don't need extra. Hooray for purging! I know that in a year from now, I will likely once again be overrun by stuff, but for now I am enjoying my new found freedom. I am enjoying living a slightly more simple life, and hope that I can continue to simplify even more. I have the urge to purge!
Have you purged lately?
This is our garage storage shelves post-purge. I know it still looks full, but man, I wish I had taken a before picture. We did good.....
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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Yarn Along

Joining in with Ginny at Small Things for this week's Yarn Along. This past week I have made some progress on Phoebe's sweater, which is the crossover top from Debbie Bliss' Essential Baby, however, with all of the traveling to and from Orcas Island, I had hoped to get a bit more done. I now am about 2/3 finished with the back piece.
I finished reading The Help on Monday night and have just started reading Simplicity Parenting. I am only about 15 pages in, but I already see good things coming from this book. I will share what I learned when I finish.
This is a strange week for me, only have one project on the needles and only reading one book (although I have a stack of a few more and I may have to dive into one before I finish Simplicity Parenting). Maybe this means I need some calm and organization to my life, which always seems to be filled with so much chaos.... Pin It Now!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Return from Orcas

We just got back from a lovely trip up to Orcas Island in the San Juans. We camped, hiked, picnicked, saw our friends get married, spent time with friends (both old and new), and were amazed by the beauty around us. The weather was fantastic, and although returning home is always nice, I think I could have stayed a bit longer....

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Monday, September 12, 2011

Crazy Sexy Diet: A Review

So, I am not one for diets or diet books. Ever. However, Crazy Sexy Diet by Kris Carr is not a book about how to loose weight, it is a book about how to eat so your body will be happier. Some people may loose weight during that process, but that is not what the vibe behind the book is about. Carr talks about how Americans eat a highly acidic diet, which causes all sorts of stresses on our bodies. She believes that switching to a more alkaline diet can help cure diabetes, cancer, bowel issues, and many of the other common illnesses that people are suffering from today. Carr started this new way of eating after she was diagnosed with cancer. Her cancer has not disappeared, however, it did stop progressing and she is leading a happy and healthy life.
So, her main points are to greatly reduce your consumption of animal products and gluten (or eat none at all), eat much less sugar, and eat many many many more vegetables. She also believes that the majority of your diet should be raw foods (like salads and juices). I enjoyed this book because Carr goes through each of the typical "vices" (sugar, caffeine, dairy, etc.) and explain why each takes its toll on our body. Her basic premise is one that we have heard over and over again (eat less processed crap and more fresh vegetables) but she actually explains the "why" in easy to understand scientific terms.
I enjoyed Carr because she is a realist, and knows that everyone is going to slip. She doesn't say "never eat sugar again", she just says don't make a habit of it and if you do, don't beat yourself up and move on. You don't need to cut anything out of your life completely, but just eat mainly veggies and you will do just fine. A good reminder, even if I am not going to give up my ice cream stash in the freezer.
The one thing that annoyed me about this book was that Carr apparently has plenty of money, a large home, and lots of time (aka no children). She talks about preparing all of these healthy foods (which is time consuming) but also adds that you need twice daily meditation for 30 minutes each time, yoga, an hour a day of exercise, 8 hours of sleep each night, regular massages, and baths every night. Ummm, sure. As soon as my kids are all in college I might have that much time if I also quit my job. She also suggests buying a trampoline and talks about how she works out on her exercise machine while watching tv. Sounds nice, yes. However, an eliptical would cost as much as our mortgage for a couple of months and it would take up about 1/4 of our home area. Not happening.
So, in general, I mostly loved this book and can't wait to try the 21-day cleanse that is included. I would recommend this read to anyone who is interest in their health, however, I also think that her "to-do" list for a healthy body is completely unrealistic for anyone who has kids or a regular job. But, as Carr says, whatever small changes one can make to their health will add up to big benefits in the long run. So, no, I am not going to get nightly baths or regular massages, but maybe the bath that I can squeeze in every few weeks will be really worth it. Pin It Now!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Seven Links Challenge (or A Walk Down Memory Lane)

Kimberly over at The Wyatt Zoo asked me to participate in the Seven Links Challenge. Seems like a good chance for me to reflect over my musings, so here it goes.

There are two rules to this challenge:

1. The blogger who is nominated must publish seven links of his/her own blog for the categories below (1 link per category).

2. The blogger then nominates five to seven bloggers to take part, and it (hopefully) goes on.
1. Most Beautiful Post - I guess it would be Phoebe's Birth Story. Actually, maybe that one grossed some people out, but for me, it was beautiful. This was a hard one though, because unless you count just posting beautiful photos, I tend to write about a lot of not-so-beautiful things (like environmental problems). Who thinks global warming is beautiful?

2. Most Popular Post - Hmmm. How do you calculate popularity of a post? Number of comments? If I go by comments, it would be the first time I posted a Yarn Along. But is that really the most popular? I guess the one that I got the most inspiring responses from was Phoebe's Birth Story. Am I allowed to use that one twice?

3.  Most Controversial Post - I think this would probably be Population Growth and the Future of our Planet , although I feel like a lot of what I write could be controversial to some. I am always preaching about how everything we do is destroying the planet, and I think people could definitely take that the wrong way.

4.  Most Helpful Post - Hmmm, another tricky one. I think most of my posts are intended to be helpful to someone somewhere. But, not everyone benefits from the same sort of help you see.... I think my Learn an Herb series has had the most people tell me that it has helped them. Does this count? Also, the post that was most helpful to me was Sometimes Being a Mama is Hard. I think just being able to vent my feelings was tremendously therapeutic.
5.  Most Surprising Successful Post - I think overall, my Yarn Along posts have gotten a lot of comments. I guess in one way that is not surprising as a lot of folks participate in yarn along.... however, seeing my same books and same projects week after week must get tiring for you readers!

6.  Post that Didn't Get the Attention it Deserved - Well, honestly, I don't expect any of my posts to get a lot of attention. One important post that I didn't get much response to is The Importance of Community. And I thought it was an important topic.

7. Post that I am Most Proud Of - I guess it would probably be Where does YOUR food come from?. This was actually my second post ever, but I think it is a pretty important one. And this is based on what I wrote, not the picture...

Now it's time to pick people to play along. This challenge takes a bit more time than just accepting an award (which is why I've put off playing for two weeks). So if you don't want to play, I completely understand. Still, it could be a way to highlight some old posts from before you had many followers, or to bring attention back to a post you were really proud of. I had fun taking a little trip down memory lane doing this one.
Some folks that I would love to invite to try this challenge are:
The Freedom Three, Peas and Carrots, A Measure of... , and any other bloggers out there who are ready to do some reminiscing.
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Friday, September 9, 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 
Ok, so I am cheating this week and including some words. We borrowed a friend's pick up truck this past weekend, which just happened to have a dump truck feature in the back (you could press a button and the back would tilt and raise). It wasn't as big as a construction dump truck, but Finn thought it was pretty awesome to get to press the button that made the back move....and I did too.... Pin It Now!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Get the Lead Out. Seriously.

Lead is a metal found commonly throughout the environment... it is found in pre-1978 paint, household dust, soil, plumbing, cosmetics, pottery, and all of those lovely "made in china" toys that we keep hearing about. Lead poses the highest risk for young children and pregnant ladies. Lead exposure is linked to lowered IQ and mental retardation, as well as kidney problems. Lead can also be stored in your bones and released throughout your life! Yuck.
So, how to reduce you and your family's lead exposure? Here are a few tips:
  • Run the water from your tap until it becomes noticeable colder (usually about 30 seconds) before drinking. Also this is contrary to my save-water preaching, it will reduce your chance of lead exposure.
  • Use cold water for cooking (never consume the hot water out of your tap as this is where the lead will lurk).
  • Boiling water will not remove lead. However, there are water filtration systems that will. We use the New Wave Enviro 10 Stage filter and love it.
  • Get your water tested for lead. Many cities, like Portland, will test it for free. Check to see if your city does.
  • Don't let your child eat paint, soil with paint chips, and use all painted toys with caution. Seriously, it is a scary lead-world out there. It's nearly impossible to keep up with all of the recalls, but try to avoid toys made it China and do some research (if you can find the time!)
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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Yarn Along

Joining in with Ginny at Small Things for this week's Yarn Along.
Hooray! I have finally finished Phoebe's baby shorts from Debbie Bliss' Essential Baby. They took way longer than they should have. They came out cute, however, I made the 6-9 month size, which is what Phoebe currently wears and they are huge. I mean, if she wasn't wearing a cloth diaper, you could fit two of her in there. I was a little disappointed that I was finishing them at the end of summer, but I honestly think they may still fit her next summer. Todd keeps joking that Finn could wear them. They aren't that big, but they are defnitely not 6-9 month size....
So, I have now finally cast-on for the first section of Phoebe's sweater! I am knitting the crossover top, also from Debbie Bliss' Essential Baby. This is my first time knitting a sweater, so I am a little bit nervous and a whole lot overwhelmed. The pressure is on to finish before she is too big for it!! We are headed on a road trip this weekend and I am hoping to make some progress then. Otherwise, these days I am too exhausted by the end of the day to do much knitting...
I am still reading The Help for my mama's book club am loving it. Wished I had more time the past week, but we have had a LOT going on. (Explanations for that it some later posts). I am about halfway through and hope to finish it up this week. I am also almost finished with The Crazy Sexy Diet by Kris Carr ... just one more chapter to go. I will do a write up of my thoughts in the near future.
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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Adventures in Sewing.....

One of my summer goals this year was to sew something from a pattern. You know, a "real" pattern.... the kind you buy at the fabric store. I had bought a few patterns earlier this summer when they were having a $0.99 sale, and so a couple of weeks ago, I sat down, opened one up and got ready to begin. Until I realized that I did not have the faintest clue how to read the pattern. It was written in some sort of secret sewing code that I apparently can not understand. Then I realized that unless I wanted to cut the pattern into pieces and mutilate it so that it could never be used again, I didn't even know how to get the pattern onto my fabric (rookie!). I eventually did some research and got that part figured out, but was still completely overwhelmed by how to approach this pattern business.
So what did I do? Did I stick it through and give it a try? Did I call a sewing-guru friend for help? Nope. I signed up for a sewing class through the community college that I teach at (so the class will be free for me). It starts at the end of the month, and I will patiently wait until someone can explain how these things work before I try and tackle it on my own.
In the meantime, I tried to prove to myself that I didn't really need a pattern anyways, and could totally whip up a cute dress for Miss P on my own, pattern-free. So, instead of sitting down with a pattern, I sat down with my imagination to stick it to those pattern writers.
And, I made a dress. It looks pretty cute, but doesn't exactly fit the way I had intended... it was supposed to be sleeveless, and instead has sort of capped sleeves. The armholes are also a bit too tight. But it fits. And I didn't have to stress out trying to de-code a pattern. Yet.
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Monday, September 5, 2011

Fed Up! A Review

I recently finished watching Fed Up!, an hour-long movie about our food system and what is so wrong about it. This movie is a bit outdated (2002), but even so, it does a great job at summing up the history behind the Green Revolution and the start of genetically modified foods.
The Green Revolution was the introduction of high yielding dwarf varieties (of corn, wheat and other large commodities) all across the globe. The problem with these strains is that the rely heavily on irrigation and chemicals, both of which costs lots of money. So, the good ol' World Bank gave out lots of loan in the poor countries to get them started with these high yielding varieties. And although a lot more mouths are maybe being fed, a lot of bad things have happened as well. Water in these countries has been destroyed from the chemical pesticides and fertilizers that run into them, leading to health problems in the humans who drink the water. Diversity has been drastically decreased and countries now rely on crops that were not even in their original diets. Also, and maybe most importantly, the poorest farmers have now been thrown out of the system, as they do not have the ability to pay for irrigation and chemicals. In essence, the film states that really, this "revolution" was an antidote to social change... it was a way to prevent the people from thinking for themselves. I'm not sure I agree entirely with that, but I sure do think it was a good way for those chemical companies to get rich. Very, very rich.
The original pesticides that were developed for use on our food were simply modified forms of nerve gas used in WWII. Who ever thought that was OK? And all of these high yielding strains required pesticides to grow properly, along with heaps of fertilizers. More money for the chemical companies. Additionally, to "efficiently" grow these high-yielding varieties, farmers started to grow monocultures. this made farming easier and it seemed to be more productive. However, according to the film, large monocultures yield only $21 per acre per year, while  small, diverse farm yields over $1,000 per acre per year. How can this be, you ask? Why would farmers switch to monocultures and make so much less? The answer is subsidies! You can make $21 per acre on your corn harvest, but the government will pay you a subsidy to grow that corn so that you can still make a profit. But do we need that corn? That un-edible corn? No, of course not. But we will feed it to animals and make corn syrup out of it so that you can keep growing your monoculture and messing up the environment. Sound like a deal?
The film also talks quite a bit about genetically modified foods (GMOs). They touch on all the big issues like safety regulation and contamination, the fact that these foods have not been tested before hitting grocery store shelves, and that these foods are not labeled so there is no traceability.
This movie, even though out-dated, is worth a watch. I am going to show it to my class next term, because it does a great job in summing up the Green Revolution and GMOs in an hour, and it is entertaining to boot. Pin It Now!

Friday, September 2, 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, September 1, 2011

Reducing My Impact: A Year-Long Adventure. Month 5- Reducing Our Use of Plastic

For my year-long adventure I have been choosing one thing each month to focus on and have been trying to make changes that will reduce my impact on our Earth. August's challenge didn't go so well, so let's hope I can make up for it this month.....The month of September will be focused on changing my relationship with plastic. Plastic is important. It saves lives, it is durable, its use is convenient. But come on people! Plastic is everywhere! It is bad for our health, bad for the planet, clogging up landfills and oceans, and we are using our ever-depleting stores of fossil fuels to create the stuff. Enough already. Starting now, I am vowing to use less if it.And,.. this is not an easy challenge. Sometimes, in one of the classes I teach, I offer an extra credit challenge for people to go 1 week without purchasing ANY new plastic (yeah, even stuff wrapped in plastic). And, when I give this challenge, I often undertake it myself. It is hard, takes planning, and makes you look like a weirdo when in public.
I am not going to go plastic free, however, I am going to try and reduce what I do use. Here are my ideas:
  1.  Make my own cloth (ziploc) bags. I already do wash and reuse the plastic bags I have, but over time they deteriorate, and I end up buying a box every year or so. If I make my own, I will rarely have to use the plastic ones and they will last me a much longer time. Plus they will be way cuter.
  2.  Buy glass tupperwares (and/or more jars) and use this for food storage. I will give away most of my plastic ones, but will save a few for traveling and camping (when glass isn't such a great idea).
  3. I will stop buying shampoo in shampoo bottles. I will now search out a source for bulk shampoo or will buy bar shampoo
  4. I will make sure to remember my muslin bags for produce and bulk items (or bring my already used plastic ones).  I will not take new plastic produce or bulk bags! And, while I am at bag making, I will make more so there are always plenty to go around.
  5. I will try to purchase less convenience food (like pre-made humus and salsa) and suck it up and make my own. It's cheaper and healthier anyways.... Also, purchasing less convenience food in general that has plastic in the packaging. Like snack foods, crackers, etc. I shouldn't really be eating this stuff anyways, so maybe this will help me eat healthier.
I know this will be a challenge, but I think I have set reasonable goals for myself for this month (or at least I hope I have!)

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