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!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Our August Garden

Considering that August is nearly over, I am a little late in my August garden post. This year I was a bit too busy during August to give it the love and attention it deserved, and so it is not thriving as much as it should be. That said, it is still providing for us and it is magnificent habitat for all sorts of creatures. In fact, it is an (almost) daily ritual of mine to sit in the garden and watch the bees hard at work... I think this is probably pretty evident in my photos too....
Despite the fact that our garden is not providing copious amounts of food, we are still harvesting on a daily basis. We have heirloom tomatoes (plenty for eating and sharing, just not enough to can), herbs like dill, parsley and basil, kale, blackberries, grapes that are just turning red, and beets. After not producing for most of August, our hot pepper and zucchini plants are now starting on a second round.. and for that, I cannot wait! We also have about an armload of winter squash that should be ready in the next couple of weeks.
I have a lot of work to get our fall garden all put in the ground, and I hope to find some time after the kiddos start school.

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Friday, August 29, 2014

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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Wednesday, August 27, 2014


Today I celebrate my 37th trip around the sun! 37!!  In some ways, 37 seems really old.... and when I think back to everything I have done in those 37 years, it is pretty amazing. But really, 37 is just the beginning. I am just really starting to understand (and accept) who I am and what I need.
Some days I feel like I am not yet where I should be in life: I have a job, but I am not sure if it will be my "career", our house is really in need of some love (and a second bathroom), and we have a pretty good chunk of debt and zero savings for the kids' college or our retirement. When I was younger, say 20, I thought that 37 was old. I was certain that by the time I was 37, I would have a great career, a perfect house and savings for retirement... but now that I am older, I realize that life doesn't work that easily. Things are expensive and life comes with hard choices.
But, in the long run, it is not the money, the possessions, and the accomplishments that really matter. Of course, doing great things and being comfortable in life are important, but the ride you take along the way is what really matters. Maybe I only work part-time, but I get to spend most of my days with my two amazing kiddos. Plus, I get summers off and I am able to go exploring and go on adventures. Maybe we don't have a big house or lots of money to spend, but we have what we need and we have enough to have fun.
So today, at 37, I am grateful for where I am in life. Even if I am not quite where I expected I would be, the place where I am is good. Life, especially with kids in tow, is an adventure, and although I am not sure where we are headed, I know I am enjoying the ride.

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Ahhh, Life.

I haven't found much time for this space lately.... I feel like I am behind on life, and need to catch up on the must-dos before I allow myself time for extraneous things, like blogging, no matter how much fun they are.

Finn starts first grade in one week, so the back to school preparations are beginning. New shoes and a lunchbox, finding out who his teacher will be. And he starts playing soccer this week, with his dad as the head coach--exciting times to come.
I start back teaching in 4 weeks. I am frantically trying to cram in snippets of work whenever possible, but it feels like I haven't made much headway. Instead I have been working in the garden, trying to get things planted for fall, and removing wallpaper and prepping our house for me to paint it. Finally. After wanting to paint the inside for years, I am actually going to do it. These dirty walls need some love, and I know that a few days worth of hard work will make me immensely happy in the long run.
I have been going to the chiropractor and acupuncture for some rehab. I got rear ended a couple of weeks ago, and the bump was just enough to make an old back injury flare up. And treatments feel great, but can be difficult to schedule because of the kiddos, and I have also started to feel frustrated.... frustrated that I am not better, and frustrated that a small car accident could set me back so much. I guess my body is just feeling older than it actually is, and I don't feel as strong as I used to be. Somehow I need to make the time to get my body back and feel stronger, and I can't quite figure out where that "extra" time is going to come from.
On the lighter side, we in Portland, are living up the end of summer. Days have been warm and sunny but nights are cooling down and reminding us that fall is on its way. We have been going to parties and gatherings almost every day, and it is so nice to spend time with this community, who, in the absence of family members nearby, has become a sort of surrogate family.
Sunday morning the kids and I hopped on our bikes and rode for Sunday Parkways. The city closes down several of the streets and thousands of folks hope on their bikes to take advantage. The loop was 6.4 miles and I was expecting to go a mile or two before Finn needed to turn around. But, my little man did the entire loop, with no complaining. In the photo above he is taking a shot of granola for a quick energy boost. Anyways, I am so proud of that guy. I just reminded myself that I need to go give him a hug and tell him how awesome he is.
This week someone is having a birthday (me!) and then the family is off for a quick trip to Colorado before school starts.... So, time for me to sign off and to try and get a bit of work done.... Pin It Now!

Friday, August 22, 2014

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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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Yarn Along

Joining with Ginny at Small Thing's for this week's Yarn Along.

I have finally found a bit of time to knit lately. Not much, but a bit. I finished a plain vest for a friend's new baby while we were on out road trip (see below). I found some sweet little wooden heart buttons and I love how it turned out. And, I am happy to note that I have made a little progress on my  sweater. I have finished one sleeve and have started the second, so I am in the home stretch now. Hopefully by next week, I will have a finished sweater...however, I tried it on after finishing the first sleeve and it is a bit tight- even though I knit it a size larger than I am-- so I am hoping a little bit of blocking will stretch things out.

I  just finished reading Delirium, the first in Lauren Oliver's trilogy. It was a good, quick read, which was exactly what I needed. It took me a while to really get sucked into the story, but now I am eager to read book #2.

What are you reading? What are you knitting?

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

We Heart Rocks

Ever since I was in my teens I have been a lover of rocks. I took some geology classes in college (heck, I even taught a few geology labs), but I never seemed to absorb the rock identification or rules of formation that I learned again and again. I did, however, maintain a love for rocks and I have always collected rocks from wherever I go. Sometimes I find agates or jasper or other more "worthwhile" rocks that many folks collect. But oftentimes I come home with pockets of river rocks that attracted me by their color, shape or texture.
And, apparently I have passed this behavior down to my children as well, which is awesome.. except for when they try to take rocks out of other people's yards.....
For Christmas, my family got a rock tumbler, and finally, this summer, we had gathered enough rocks to fill it and make the process worth it (it took almost 4 weeks from start to finish, so we decided it only made sense to do a large batch once or twice a year). Rock tumblers are like magic. Although some rocks are beautiful just the way they are (and sometimes that is what makes them so delightful), so many of them look amazing once polished. Our batch of rocks went from this:

To this:

Anyways, I have been trying to learn more about rocks, and how to identify them. I got a new guide book from a local writer and even managed to attend his talk at the bookstore. I still think I will be a non-discriminatory rock collector, picking up things of value or not, just because I find them interesting in some way, but hopefully I can become more knowledgeable about what I am finding.

The kids and I headed to Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks last week. It's the second time I have been there and I could spend hours staring at the thundereggs, gypsums, petrified wood, glow in the dark rocks, and other gorgeous specimens. But, as much as my kids enjoy finding rocks (and buying them from the gift shop!), their patience in staring at them is limited to about an hour. However, Finn was pretty darn interested in the rocks and the process of how they formed and were mined, and we found a whole bunch of great books to borrow from the library.

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Looking Forward

Summer time in Portland is wonderful. And hectic. When you live somewhere where rain is the norm 9 months out of the year, you have to soak up the sunny summer while you can. And we do.  Summer weekends start to get booked up in March. The calendar has plans scribbled all over it. And we are more social in the 3 months of summer than the whole rest of the year. It is super fun and it always seems to fly by.
But, it is tiring too.
And honestly, although I am not yet looking forward to going back to work in September, I am starting to feel ready for the transition to summer's end. My body is starting to crave more routine, and I am looking forward to a day when there is nothing on the calendar.
As much as I love to be spontaneous, deep down inside, I feel best when I have a rhythm.

So- here is to enjoying these last weeks of summer to the very fullest!

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Family Road Trip

I love road trips. I love going places and exploring. I feel like I am often planning excursions, and dragging my family along with me.... but I know that they have fun.
On Sunday, we drove up to Mt. Rainier in Washington. Even though it is only a few hours away, we had never been, so I was so excited. The park is beautiful-- huge trees, wildflowers, glaciers... everything a girl needs. Unfortunately, it was super crowded, and one of the prettiest areas of the park, Paradise, where we had planned on doing a high meadow wildflower hike, was so crowded that after 30 minutes we still couldn't get a parking spot! So, we skipped Paradise-- great excuse to go back another time though.
We spent a night camping in the park and two full days exploring. We went on three (small) hikes, and found some solitude despite the crowds. It was gorgeous.
The last day of our road trip was spent in Seattle. Although we have been to Seattle quite a few times, we have always had friends living there, and we always did non-touristy adult things. This time was all about the family, and being tourists for a day. We saw the Fremont troll, went up in the space needle (which, by the way, made me feel quite dizzy!), visited the Chihuly museum of glass (which is amazing!), took a hike in Discovery Park, relaxed at Gasworks Park, and had dinner on the sound.
It was a perfect little getaway.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Decreasing my Expectations

Well, that title sounds depressing, doesn't it? But it's not meant to be negative, and in most ways I think it's even a positive. Here, let me explain.
I am a list maker, a go-getter. On days when I am productive and busy, I tend to feel happy. On days when I don't get much done, well, these are the days that I lean towards feeling sad/lonely/guilty/etc. So, what have I learned from this? My body has learned that to stay happy, I should be busy. I should take on projects, be productive, and meet my expectations. And these things are good. In moderation.
However, in reality, I often over-extend myself setting unrealistic goals of what I "should" accomplish in a day. Goals of cleaning my house, working out, baking, discovering, reading, sewing, knitting, blah, blah, blah.
All of these things are great and fine. But- I don't have time to do all of them every day. Or even every week. I have young kids that need their mama. Young kids that are only going to be young once. And the cleaning, baking, sewing, knitting, etc. can wait. At least sometimes. I am not planning on giving up any of my hobbies. (And unfortunately I don't think I can give up cleaning or laundry either). But, I can lower my expectations and be OK with less.
It's OK for my house to be messy sometimes. It's OK to take a few weeks off of knitting. It's OK if I only work out a few days a week. It's OK if I don't get everything crossed off my to-do list. In a few years, when my kids are older, and don't need me as much, I will have much more time for me.
So, for now, I am learning to lower my expectations of myself. To go easy on me and how much I commit myself to. But, I am not going to kid myself. I will still make a to-do list every day, however, I am working on making my lists shorter. I am trying to find time every day to not do anything except just be with the kids and involve myself in their play. I am trying to force myself to slow down, to breathe, and to relax.
How do you balance your needs and expectations with those of your family? Pin It Now!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Right Now...

* Finn is making decorations for his birthday party. His birthday is November 7th.

* I am feeling thankful for this wonderful place in which we live and that we are able to immerse ourselves in nature frequently.

* I can hear the soft running of my old dog's paws as he dreams during his afternoon nap.

* I am watching the hummingbirds and sparrows take turns at our feeders. There is something so soothing about sitting quietly and watching birds.

* I am pondering about my garden and what needs to be accomplished over the next week or so.

*I am trying to soak up these last few weeks of summer, not wanting it to end, yet, simultaneously also looking forward to autumn.

What are you doing right now?

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Saturday, August 9, 2014

In The Kitchen...

I have been busy in the kitchen as of late. We have had a hectic summer, with many days away from home, and so the intermittent, regular, food preservation that normally happens has been happening in fits and spurts. Here is what we have been up to recently:


Here is my pickle recipe, which tends to evolve each summer:

Fill canning jar full of pickles. Add peppercorns, mustard seeds, fresh dill, a wee bit of salt (1/2 tsp),  1-2 peeled garlic cloves, and a couple of grape leaves (to help them stay crispy). I usually add some red pepper flakes to a jar or two, as I like them spicy. I then boil some white vinegar, and pour into jars about 3/4 full. I fill the remaining 1/4 of the jar with filtered water. Put the lids on, shake, refrigerate, and wait a few days. I think your are supposed to eat them within about 4 weeks, but I don't have any confirmed information on that.

Plum Chutney. This year I decided not to can our chutney... I was only planning on making a half dozen small jars, and thought that freezing them would be easier. Plus, that way I was able to add a red pepper and an anaheim pepper to liven up the flavor. I used my old stand-by recipe, and added the pepper to the mix (I sauteed them initially with the onions). After cooking, I poured into jars, put the lids on, and let cool a bit. Then I just put then in our freezer to enjoy throughout the fall and winter. If you are going to make freezer chutney, make sure you leave space in your jar for the chutney to expand once it freezes-- you don't want any broken jars!

Fruit Leather. Last year I made some plum-blackberry leather and it was super sour. But, we have a yellow plum tree and a blackberry bush with an abundance of fruit, so when the kids asked for fruit leather, I did the same combo. However, I tweaked it just a bit this year, and it is much better. I blanched a couple of bowls of plums, and when cool I removed the skins and pits. This is a super messy process, and I feel like I waste a lot of the plum, but it is necessary. Last year I left the skins on, which I think was a big factor in the extreme sour. Once you have your plum "meat", throw in a bunch of blackberries. The amounts are not really important in my mind... just use what you have. I then added maybe 3 tablespoons of honey and a little cinnamon. I pureed it all, and put it in the dehydrator for about a day at 325-degrees. It is still sour, but we are all happy with the results.

What has been happening in YOUR kitchen?
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Friday, August 8, 2014

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, August 7, 2014

The Sixth Extinction

The Sixth Extinction, by Elizabeth Kolbert, is an account of how the Earth's organisms have changed over time. The first half of the book touches on the first 5 mass extinctions (the most famous one being about 65 million years ago, when the dinosaurs were killed off). Kolbert discusses the likely reasons for each of the extinctions, and explains how the course of life becomes completely re-routed as some species die off and other survive to pass along their genes and evolve into new species. She also asks how different life on Earth might be if the extinctions had not happened. Would completely different life have evolved? Would humans still be here?

The second half of the book talks about more recent times- since humans have been on the planet. Humans, even in our earliest days, have had huge impacts on the planet. Our keen minds and our ability to craft tools has caused us to eliminate the majority of the large mammals in existence, most of them likely not on purpose. When our species first evolved, we even managed to kill of the Neanderthals (but not without breeding with them first!).

Current humans are having huge effects on the planet and its biodiversity. Climate change is acidifying the oceans and killing off coral. Our fragmentation of wild habitats, especially in the tropics, is killing off all sort of species, many that we haven't even discovered yet. Invasive species are out-competing endemic species. Pathogens and viruses, like the chytrid fungus and white-nose syndrome, are spreading and killing off entire species.

Most of our impact is unintentional. Most of us aren't trying to harm the planet or cause organisms to face extinction. But, like it or not, people change the world around us. Some of this is good change, and humans across the planet are working hard trying to save species from extinction. But most of our impact is negative. From pollution to resource use, climate change to poaching, humans seem to be the ultimate invasive species that has taken over our Earth.

I really enjoyed this book. Although I didn't whip through it like I had expected, I enjoyed reading each thoughtful chapter, and took time to reflect on what I had read. There are a lot of facts and a lot of science, but the chapters read more as an account of history and not like a textbook. It isn't a doomsday account, and really doesn't even talk all that much about global warming. It is more just a presentation of the evidence that surrounds us. Overall this gets a thumbs up and I think I am going to add this to my student's reading list for next term.

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Yarn Along

Joining with Ginny at Small Thing's for this week's Yarn Along.

I almost didn't play along with yarn along today because, well, I have not really been knitting. I have been busy-- all fun busy-- but super busy, and it has been oh-so-hot and honestly, I just can't bring myself to pick up my knitting needles. We are going on a road trip in a few days though, and I am hoping I will get some car knitting in! I have about 1/2 of one sleeve done on my sweater, which I have set aside to knit a little vest for a friend's new baby. I had better hurry before the baby is not so new anymore!

I  am currently reading Running with Scissors. It is hilarious, but in a very uncomfortable way... so much so that I almost feel guilt reading it. I heard they made a movie out of it, and I can't even imagine! Have you read it?

What are you reading? What are you knitting?

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Morning, Noon and Night

Morning, noon and night.... three little peeks into my day yesterday.
Joining in with Kim at Mothering with Mindfulness.

Morning: A Baking Experiment

Noon: Jackson Bottom Wetlands

 Night: Dinner on Swings at East Burn
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