You may not know this, but I keep pretty good tabs on my blog.  I track usage and all sorts of other data.  Don't worry, I can't tell exactly who is reading, but I can see locations and numbers.  One thing I can see is how people find my blog when they do Google searches.

So, you can imagine how THRILLED I was when someone found my blog by googling, "The Zen of bread baking"!!
I'm not sure how that search led to my blog, but it really makes me smile.  I don't think I've ever claimed that I have experienced Zen by baking bread.  I may not have written that, but it doesn't mean it didn't happen!

For me to experience Zen in any moment, it takes a lot of work.  I mean, it doesn't come naturally.  I have to seek out awareness and being present.  Heck, that is the goal of this entire blog - to capture these small moments in my life and make them stand still - in words anyway. 

By appreciating moments, you recognize their impermanence and value them even more.
The very thought of someone finding me with that search just makes me think there actually is an unseen order in the world.  I know it sounds dramatic, but doesn't it seem like sometimes the stars just match up for you? I've been questioning whether to continue my blog lately.  This gives me hope.

As for the bread baking, you know I love it. You know I do it all the time. I'm also searching for that Zen feeling all the time.

So, just the fact that someone googled that and found me is amazing.  Was it you? ;)
I have to admit that Halloween is my least favorite holiday, but I sure love the season.  I love that every year, we do the same things.

We get out the decorations...
We head out to our favorite pumpkin patch and Ella gets to ride in the wheelbarrow.
Ella gets attached to one pumpkin and stays there until we find her.
And then my artistic vision kicks in....I'm thinking witch's hat, aren't you?
A lovely afternoon in West Michigan with my two loves. Every year we have one of these days, and each one is the same, yet different.  As Ella gets older, her perspective changes and we value these days even more.
Happy Autumn everyone!
Whenever you put yourself out there, it's a little scary, and entering a contest is no exception.  I don't know why I feel the need to enter art competitions - I am a true amateur. But, I'm going to do it again.

The Holland Arts Council announced that it is holding a contest this year to design the Tulip Time 2011 poster. Well, I've worked with tulips before, I can do it again...

The problem is, tulips aren't in season.  So, I had to have them shipped from who-knows-where. They looked pretty sad when they arrived, but after a couple of days in water, they were just pretty.
Stout, of course, was supervising.
But Belle showed up too.
I worked for hours, trying to get my images right until I was burned out and left with remnants of tulips.
So, are you looking for the finished product? My submissions to the Tulip Time 2011 poster contest?  Well, I'll share them with you later, but just on the very brief chance that I do place in the competition, I can't really have it pre-published on this site.

I will give you a hint on the tab called "ArtStore" on my blog (upper left side of the page) and you'll get the idea.

Thanks for your continued support, encouragement and positive thoughts!
Whenever we get things packed for a weekend away or even a day-trip to the grandparents' house, there are a couple of items that always come with us.

Meet Cuddles & Sully:
Here's a better look or two at Cuddles:
Just around the time I was noticing that Ella didn't have one special stuffed animal (aka Stuffy), she found Cuddles.  At the time, she wanted to buy this stuffed kitty as a souvenier from Presque Isle on our first visit.  I knew she didn't need another stuffy (who does?) but I'm glad I said yes.  Cuddles is the one stuffy who goes everywhere with of at least 250 stuffies (she has 7 grandparents, you know).  She's the last thing Ella looks for at night and the first thing she grabs in the morning.

Well, there is one more thing....

I need to tell you about Sully.  This story is a little embarrassing.  Ella's blanket is named Sully, because it reminds her of the character in Monsters Inc.
But that's not the embarrassing part.

You see, we aren't big fans of a certain 'mega' store (after watching a few documentaries) and don't readily admit to shopping there.  One of the last times we were at this certain store (I think Ella was 3), she saw Sully on the clearance shelf.  It cost $6.88.  I don't know why I remember the price, I just do.  Anyway, I turned around and she had grabbed this blanket and was carrying it around the store. She was attached.

It was dirty.

It was from that store.

But, I bought it for her. Because she loved it.

And, she still does, so I'm glad. 

So, now it's all about where 'Cuds and Sully' are before bed, a roadtrip, a movie, etc.

Makes me think my grown-up 8 year old has a little girl inside her yet.
Yeah, I said it.

I'm not waivering.  Anyone who thinks of Michigan as only Detroit is uneducated.  And, they're missing out on an incredible place.

Sure, our economy stinks, but there's so much more to life than money.  We visited the norther lower peninsula last weekend and fell in love with it all over again.  This time, we went to Petoskey.

While shopping, we saw this:
There are no other states with endless freshwater shorelines.
I mean, have you ever seen a dog's face say, BLISS? Eyes closed, ears flapping in the wind.... 
He really appreciated this trip...
This was a view from our afternoon walk.
And where else can you find Cherry Peach Pumpkin Chili?
Anyone who complains about Michigan needs to simply open their eyes and look around.  Sure, we have some problem areas, but the beauty here is phenomenal.

I've said it before, but I'll always be a Michigan girl.
I'm travelling on business this week. Whenever I do, I spend a lot of time alone...with my thoughts. Being away from Ella makes me think a lot about life and parenting, and there are so many things that come to mind that I want - or need - her to know.  She might not understand these things right now, but perhaps when she reads this several years from now, she will.

I want her to know that:

-We just want her to be happy according to her own definition of happiness - no one else's (including ours).

-She has educated me on unconditional love without knowing it.

-Even though it occasionally breaks my heart, I want her to be honest with me.

-She is the funniest person I know.

-She creates her own destiny and is not a victim of circumstances.

-We will do anything humanly possible to support her dreams - even if we disagree with them.

-Her dad and I are deeply in love and will always be a rock for her.

-She will always be welcome in our home.

-Her growing indepedence is hard for me to accept but essential for her future.

-It doesn't matter if I like her friends or not.

-Everyone makes mistakes, and when she makes hers, we'll be right there if she wants us to be.

-She is nothing like I expected her to be, and that is the joy in watching her grow.

-We are very different from each other, and that's ok.

-I will do everything in my power (whether in my comfort zone or not) to maintain and deepen our relationship.

-We are so very blessed to have her.
When we brought Mojo into our home, we planned it so that we wouldn't have to leave him in a kennel while we were on vacation.  After all, Ella and I do so much travelling on our own while Greg builds his practice.  There are times, however, when we all have to leave town.  We always prefer to bring Mojo along, but it's so hard to find a place for him. 

Well, we found one, and it's just as lovely for us as it is for him.

Morning walks were bliss as we stepped outside and heard nothing but nature sounds.  No cars, no planes, no lawnmowers...

We found this meadow and Mojo just bounded through it with joy.
We found evidence of moms and babies that had been there before. But Mojo just wanted to run.
It's like he was experiencing total freedom. He wasn't worried about mailboxes or passing cars. . . just exploring.
And, when he wasn't conquering the wild woods, he was protecting the front porch....
Or the street below from the window seat in our room.
So, not only did we find a place that welcomes Mojo, it's in one of my favorite parts of Michigan. 

And, here's what I didn't tell you (yet!)....if you're visiting the Petoskey area, you must check out Grace Grange B&B.  It's a quaint log cabin miles from the city (but only 10 minutes away!) and is a working horse farm.  Horses and dogs are welcome!  And, kids too (not always the case at B&Bs).   Our hostess, Pamela, had such a kind, gentle spirit and was so welcoming.  And, her breakfasts were phenomenal.   Extremely reasonable and serene....we'll be back.  In fact, we're spending Thanksgiving up there!  The four of us, that is.

Please check out Grace Grange!  Click here for more information or email me!
Isn't it strange to look at yourself through someone else's lens? I mean this figuratively and literally.  I was going through some pictures from this summer and found this one of me taken by Greg:
I know it's small, but I like it that way.  I've never liked pictures of me.  It's larger up in the left corner and has become my new blog photo.

Now, I know that I will never be a Jane Goodall. I admire her deeply and envy her influence. I have so much respect for people who interact peacefully with animals and she's been an idol of mine since I was a kid.

But, for some reason, I consider this picture my Jane Goodall moment. 

There I am, in the wild jungles of northern Michigan taking photographs of flowers, weeds, bugs and bees.  I'm not communicating with gorillas or anything, but I'm totally immersed in my surroundings.

I didn't even know Greg was out there with a camera, but I remember the moment exactly.  I was taking pictures for the Friends of the Jordan photography contest, and the sun had just come out after hours behind the clouds.  The field I was in was buzzing like mad and insects were flying everywhere. 

Occasionally, Mojo would excitedly find me and then run off to find Greg and Ella.  In a matter of minutes, he'd be back around to me. Just making the rounds to make sure everyone was o.k..

I remember being overwhelmed at the beauty of the sun shining though the opening and flowing through the tall grass. 

Just my camera and that moment...alone.

But I wasn't alone, and I never really am. As lost as I get in projects, goals and other missions, my family is always close by.  Even when I don't see them.  Even when I don't hear them.  They're there.

So, that's my Jane Goodall moment - I'm not saving a species or anything, but I'm lost in nature while being surrounded by love.

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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 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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