I swear I didn't plan this blog....I was looking through the pictures I've taken this year (believe me, you only see 1/50 of them!) and I found a theme.

Ella likes to make her food happy....here's an initial pizza:
And here are her smileys:
Here's the best part: it's contagious! I cracked these eggs the other day and when I looked down, whisk in hand, here's what I saw:
I just love how kids get us out of our 'adult heads' and back to appreciating small things....like smiley faces. 

Who couldn't use a smiley face now and again?
No posts until Friday! I'm traveling for work.

Thanks for visiting!
You might have read that Saturday was Ella's opening day for softball. 

It was quite a day.

Ella was so worried about it. On Friday night, we drew diagrams of a softball diamond and read "The Rules of Softball" chapter in her Daring Book for Girls - over, and over and over.

Saturday was filled with running around and getting things done.  Out of the blue she'd ask, "how many innings are there?" or "How do I know if I'm out?"

We got to the game and saw the coach.

"We're short a coach for the dugout," he said.

He was looking at me.  Why me? No, I can't do this. I just want to sit in the bleachers and be nervous like the other parents.

"I can do it." Wait - that was MY voice. What?

My head was saying "No" but inside I was so glad to do it.  With all of Ella's anxiety, I could actually be in the dugout with her.
It was actually fun.  I got the craziest questions from all the girls.  "What do real baseball players do in the dugout?"  I thought of the answers I might say to my girlfriends - inappropriate.  "Um...they chew sunflower seeds or bubble gum."

It was also rewarding. All the girls did great - no outs except one caught fly ball (all the girls bat once per inning and outs aren't counted).  It was great to high-five the kids as they came back to the dugout - including my little rookie, who hit the ball each time (no tee required) and got two outs while playing first base.
Saturday was opening day for Ella's softball league.  Of course I had my camera ready! She was a bit nervous - it was her first game and all - so she had a lot of energy.

Every time I took her picture, she was a total ham. I said, "Ella - just be normal!"  My mom was there and said, "ooohhh so, this is the blog behind the blog."

So...it was. If I don't surprise Ella by taking her picture, she really goes nuts in front of the camera.

I thought I'd take a day dedicated to my blog 'outtakes'....all taken on opening day.

This is the serious look...
This is her knowing that she tricked me into taking her serious picture...
Here's a classic...
I think she's practicing going cross-eyed in this one...
But then...the best part of the evening happened.  Greg was at a conference and was going to miss Ella's game. He left early to surprise her.

Now, this is a genuine happy look!
I have recently discovered international pen-palling.

I have met some truly wonderful people and have found some dear friends!

I'm currently corresponding with people from France, the UK, Kenya, Brazil, Czech Republic, Russia, Austria, Thailand and China.

I found them through an Internet Pen Pal site.
I have found that all of my pen-pal relationships are different and special in their own way.  Some only write every few weeks...some every few days. I have met some that are kindred spirits to me - we have so much in common! I have also met others that are completely different than me, but we learn a lot from each other.

I find it interesting that emotional bonds are created without even meeting each other.  Here are two examples....

I have a pen pal in Thailand that was explaining all of the recent events over there. I would read about the demonstrations and political issues and ask her opinion on things.  She explained many things to me.  Now, I hear that riots have escalated and I have not heard from her in about a month....I worry and hope for her safety.

I also have a pen friend in China. She is full of sunshine and joy. I love getting emails from her.  While she is much younger than I am, she has much insight. When I had not heard from her after the China earthquakes recently, I was very worried for her safety. Luckily, I did hear from her, and she is far from the earthquake.

My favorite thing about pen palling is finding that we all have some of the same concerns and issues no matter where we live.  I've also learned that we have our own very unique issues depending on where we live.  Learning about those things makes my life richer.

Meeting these people (nearly all women) has enriched my life more than I had expected.

It's so nice that we can meeting friends by emailing too. Pen-palling is alive and well, you just don't need to wait weeks for a letter to arrive. If someone is celebrating or struggling, you can talk about it that day!

So, if you're looking to expand your horizons...I would strongly recommend reaching out to some international pen pals.
Remember a few weeks ago when I cleaned my craft room? I found all sorts of unfinished projects.

Well, I actually completed one of those projects.  I'm not sure what got into me, but I did it.

I took all of those fabrics and just started cutting and sewing. I didn't have a pattern....I have learned that I just do better when I make my own pattern up. Actually, as I write this, I'm realizing that I have that problem in other areas of my life.  I've never done well living by other peoples' rules.

Anyway, sorry for the digression.....here's what I made from my craft room finds:
I love these Asian-inspired fabrics. They are beautiful and really fun to work with them.  To add more texture, I quilted a wave throughout the front.
This is the first project I've completed in months. I love starting things, but then I get bored.  If it's not something I can get done in a day, I'm usually not patient enough to do it.

It has inspired me to take another look at all my craft supplies and come up with another project!
Ella really wanted me to paint with her the other day. So, we pulled out our supplies...
And she picked out our subjects:
Stout really feels that his supervision is required at all of our activities...
This was Ella's masterpiece of the day:
I couldn't decide what my masterpiece was, so Ella said I should take a picture of all of them...
What fun to hang out with Ella and just paint fun stuff. I have no idea what to do with them now....they don't really fit in with our decor.  I guess that's part of the fun - creating with out practicality. It's a challenge for myself, that's for sure.  But, I found that it was actually more fun that way!  I actually made something that serves no practical use (except maybe a garage sale or Goodwill donation?).

No pressure. Just fun.
Ok, I'm going to admit it right now. I am a 'homemade' snob. I fight it - I really do. I try to use box mixes once in awhile and they do work ok (hence my Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes I wrote about earlier this week!) , but I just think things are better from scratch. 

A few months ago, I learned to make homemade tortillas on my FAVORITE BLOG Chickens in the Road.  Get the recipe HERE.

Of course I was skeptical...tortillas seem like SO much work!

But, I gave it a try, and they are SO easy and wonderful.  After making these, we just don't buy tortillas anymore.

Check out how easy these things are:

Three simple ingredients: flour, shortening and salt. You mix them together, let it sit and create small balls from the dough.
Roll them out...
Stack them between wax paper...
Get your cooking area ready - you just need a hot pan (cast iron is best) and tongs - no oil.
You throw each tortilla in the hot pan and let it sit for 15 seconds. Flip it and let the other side cook for 15 seconds.  Do it again and it's done.
See? They are SO easy!!

And, they are so delicious - much better than anything you'll find in the store.

They're great for anything - this time we used them for fajitas... (check out the Mexican Coke in the background - made with real cane sugar).
and quesadillas.
I know I'm a bit overkill on all things homemade - but tortillas are definitely one of those things that are just worth it.
I often talk about being a jack of all trades - master of none. This means I get into lots of things and then start something new before mastering them. It's ok, I'm used to it now.

I started doing some international pen-palling (more on that later!), but I met one person in the USA with whom I have so much in common that we decided to start writing each other.

We both love art.  She loves to paint.  I used to.... So, I thought I'd like to see my old paintings again.

This one is of Maya, our last dog.
This one is of Ella when she was two years old....chasing the Sea Gulls at Holland State Park.
This was a drawing of Ella I did during a 2004 Presidential debate.  I get SO nervous during those things...I just have to keep my hands busy.
And this one was inspired by a photograph in a magazine of a chocolate shop in Spain (at night).
Don't we all have something we used to love to do and just don't have the time for anymore? What would it feel like to do it again?

I think I'm gonna find out!
A few weeks ago, I had one heck of a craving. I needed Boston Cream Pie, and bad. 

The problem was, I wasn't feeling great and didn't want to spend the hours required to make it. Every recipe I looked at seemed so complicated. . . bake the sponge cake, make the pastry cream, then the ganache.

On a whim, I created a 'cheater' recipe for Boston Cream Pie cupcakes.  I have to say....they weren't too bad.  I simply made some Jiffy yellow cake from a box, made some french vanilla pudding and made some easy ganache with chocolate chips, heavy cream and a tiny bit of butter.

How cute are these!?!?
I just made the cupcakes and filled a pastry bag with some pudding.  I stuck the bag into the top of a cupcake (with a wide tip) and piped the pudding into the middle until the sides bulged.  EASY!!!

So, they were good, and they fed the fix.....temporarily.  But I wanted real Boston Cream Pie.  I stopped obsessing about it (this was my migraine week) but it didn't go away.

The next weekend I went to the mediation/yoga retreat and came home to the best guy and kid a gal could have....and the REAL Boston Cream Pie they made for me!!

It was wonderful!!!

How sweet are they?!?!?!

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    My name is Kristen Porter ~ I am a corporate attorney by day, and a writer/artist/renaissance-woman wanna-be by night. 

    This is my blog...my summary of life and attempt to capture small moments forever while appreciating their impermanence.  Those small moments are what make life so wonderful!

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