I have a good friend.  She's someone I tell a lot of secrets to.  She's hilarious, creative, deep and complex and I love hearing about her life.  We don't talk often - maybe once a week or so - but I always look forward to it. Funny thing is, I've never met her.

You see, my friend Amelia is someone I met through an internet pen-palling site.  I signed up early in the year and immediately had many pen pals.  It was fun, but I rarely connected with them.  And, life gets in the way...people get busy and can't write and all of the sudden, months have gone by with no communication. 

People always see me as very outgoing, but I have few friends - well,  I actually have  a lot of friends, but not many with which I would let all my walls down. Part of it could be that I don't go out much, and prefer to hang out with Greg and Ella. 

But then, I found Amelia (or she found me). 

I tell her everything that's going on with me.  I tell her my real feelings about things and I listen to what's going on in her life. . . all in email.

I sort of think of her as my soul-sister. We both idolize Amelia Earhart, we are both bloggers (read her blog here), we both try to live life to the fullest, we love to cook,  we both take pictures....

So, this week I learned that she is reading Anna Karenina. I hadn't thought of it for years, but I read that book in college and loved it.  I love Russian history and stories in general.  She also emailed me that she was making borscht....Funny how I had a story about making a Russian dinner in my blog queue!

So, in honor of my friend, who is reading Anna Karenina and making borscht, here are my Russian dinner pictures.  The recipes actually came from another pen pal from Russia with whom I've lost touch.  I guess it's all meant to be.
Here's to friends, no matter how far they are in distance, they are always close at hand.
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.
Cooking Asian food has always scared me.  I always said it was the one kind of food that you just can't make at home.  It never tastes like real Asian food. 

Then, I discovered Thai food and was on a serious mission.

My bank account simply cannot handle going out for Thai food as often as I crave it.  So, I went to work.  I looked online, bought and borrowed cookbooks and even got the equipment for Christmas (thanks Greg!!). 

Over all, I think it was about three months of cooking a lot of Thai food.  It wasn't always great (just ask Greg and Ella) but overall, I would say I succeeded.

So, I had some friends over for a Thai dinner.
The menu:
Chicken Satay with Red Curry Peanut Sauce
Kao Pad (Fried Rice)
Pad Thai (Thai Noodles)
Thai Salad
Summer Rolls (Thanks Pete & Chera!)

I couldn't believe it - I did something I thought that I really could not do.

As I get older, I learn that I tend to accomplish things when I set goals that seem impossible. 

So.....what's next?
Here we go again...there are just so many aspects of giving gifts.  Here's another story for you...

I recently received this gift from my friend Candace:
Personal gifts - those picked out especially for you - touch your heart and inspire reflection.  This gift was no exception.  Candace purchased this scarf for me in Ecuador last summer.  Here's what I think about when I wear this scarf...

- My brave, adventurous friend and her spirit

- The story of young women in Ecuador who walk through the jungles to work and then go home to run their homes

- The hard work that went into weaving the scarf

- The beauty and intricacy of the pattern (barely visible in the picture)


- All the stories from Candace's trip.

This scarf is my small window into the world.  Candace travels all over the world - with a friend, one of her sons or by herself.  I just can't see myself doing that!  I'd love to venture out on such adventures, but I'm not brave enough...yet.  One thing that Candace has taught me is that through life, if you're true to yourself, you'll make the right things happen. 

So, as you can see, this scarf is much more than an accessory...it's inspiration.
**This post is for my friend Lu Ann, who went to "look"at a golden retriever puppy last night...as she says, no goes to look at a puppy and not take one home!! Congrats Lu Ann!**

Did you ever meet someone who simply changed your day? Greg and I recently went for a walk and met this guy:
I blamed the Hallmark movie for our recent puppy adoption ( and, by "blame" I mean it in the most endearing and positive way), but it was also due to this dog.  We have no idea what his name was, but I called him Darwin. 

Greg and I were taking a walk in early November in a small town (Lyons, Michigan) and we were just chatting about life, when this long-bodied, short-legged pup ran out to greet us.  He wanted to follow us but stopped in the road and watched us walk on. 

On the way back though, he ran up to us and as soon as Greg bent down, he jumped into his arms.  He was so kind and friendly and loving.  His energy was contagious.  I looked at Greg and could tell that he had the same reaction that I did: An unstoppable, eye-twinkling smile.

He wagged his whole body and looked up at us with sweet eyes.  Then...he was exhausted and laid down on the street. 

"Go home, Darwin" we told him...after all, we were right in front of his house.  We had to encourage him to get off of the road and he trotted back to the house.  He didn't follow us or bark or anything. 

His intentions were 100% genuine and sweet, and it made our day. It also REALLY made me want a dog.  It may have even swayed Greg a little.

Thanks little buddy!




I am so thankful.

I am thankful for people that encourage me to look at life differently.

I am thankful for people who accept me as I am.

I am thankful for the girl who calls me mom and the guy who calls me 'hon'.

I am thankful for my day job and I am thankful for my passions.

I am thankful for the ability to see beyond colors and other differences.

I am thankful for my sensitivity - it makes things hurt more but increases appreciation.

I am thankful for groups that build awareness, even though their messages are scary.

I am thankful for people who are willing to speak out and swim upstream.

I am thankful for the challenges in my life, as well as the blessings.

I am thankful for creativity, because it shows me a new world.

I am thankful for animals and those who work to protect them.

I am thankful for poetry, prose, fiction and nonfiction.

I am thankful for homemade bread.

I am simply thankful.
I get along with a lot of people, and I have many friends that I really cherish.  It seems, though, that I seldom make deep, close, lasting friendships. I can name a couple people from high school who were my best friends.  We still keep in touch, although it's seldom.

Moving around so much in the past 20 years hasn't helped. We've lived out near Seattle, Minneapolis and now in Michigan.

This last move was the hardest one for making friends.  When we moved here, Ella was only 6 months old.  When I wasn't working, I wanted to be at home.

Then, I met Meagan.

We met over the phone (at work) and immediately clicked. We completely understood each other.  When we met...we were inseparable. We hung out when we could and talked on the phone and emailed.  I had the girl time I needed.

But, while I had finally come home to Michigan, she was far from hers. I knew it was coming, but it was still a shock when she told me she was moving to California. It was sad, but I completely understood it, because it's the same way I felt when I lived in Minnesota.

We met at the Olive Garden to say goodbye, and Meagan gave me her African Violets, because she didn't want to move with them:
I was glad to take them for her, not thinking much of it.  We put them in the window right in front of the kitchen sink. 

They're now blooming (above) and they are beautiful.  Of course, every time I go to the Kitchen sink, I think of Meagan.  Even as I write this, the screen is turning blurry as I miss my friend. Of course we have email and facebook and instant messaging...but it's not girls' night out.

I'm so happy for her and we're both where we are meant to be, but there is definitely a void here. There is something reassuring about having her violets greet me each morning.  It keeps a part of her here all the time.

Miss you Meagan.
photo courtesy of www.publicdomainpictures.net
You're out there. You really are.

Sometimes I can't believe it when I look at my blog stats and I see that you're reading my words.

Blogging has added a new element to my life. In high school, I wanted to be a writer. My parents and certain teachers encouraged it. I wrote notebooks of poetry and prose.

But, I'm practical.

You can't make a real living writing - or you could but it would take years just to pay the rent. . . so, I pursued other practical things. Things I loved? No. Things that pay the bills? Yes.

I don't regret anything - my life is beautiful and every choice I've made so far has made it what it is...I'm just so glad I have found writing again.

And you...

I write these thoughts that pass through my head and think, "who would possibly care about this?" And I find my answer every day: You.

You have encouraged me and supported me and you have let me know when my posts touch you. . . Or, you haven't, and that's ok.

Just knowing that you're out there (even though I don't know who many of you are)  is all I need to keep writing, and I am SO grateful for you. If you only knew how much writing this blog has inspired me...to find beauty in small things, to appreciate the minute details of my life, to connect or re-connect with you.

So, Here's to YOU.  Thank you.
As a child, my brother and I would often alternate the role of reigning President of the Try Club.  If my memory serves me correctly (which is seriously in question these days), I think I was President far more often than he was.

Now, Ella is the President and proud of it, not to mention WAY more adventurous at eating than I ever was.  She tries everything...black bean burgers, pad thai and her new favorite: sushi.  She has named me Vice President, and I try to live up to that title.

We do try a lot of things, but there is one type of food I have never developed an appreciation for....Indian food.  I was mentioning this to two of my walking friends at work ~ Sue and Punam.  We decided that I just didn't really know how to eat it (or what to order) so Punam offered to give me a lesson.  This is where we went:
It was great.  I learned what to eat with what and how to use the bread.  I developed a whole new appreciation for the balance of spices and textures of Indian food...and learned it's not all about curry!

My history with Indian food is this:  It started about fifteen years ago when Greg and I tried an Indian restaurant in Bellingham, Washington (where I completed my undergraduate degree).  We craved it, we tried it and had enough for a year or two.  Then, a couple years later, the craving came again and we tried a new place in Minneapolis (where we were going to graduate school).  Same thing! We even tried the restaurant where Punam took me once!  I did say once.....

But, I think I can safely say that Punam has helped me break the pattern.  I will SO be back there.  As for Greg, well, he's glad I have some new lunch partners to go there to get it out of my system.  I bet I'll be able to get the President of the Try Club to go soon though!
The picture above is of Ella and my dear friend Candace.  We went to a pumpkin patch and then for cider and donuts at a local orchard recently.  It was a great Autumn day.

Afterward, I was reflecting on the day and my companions.  I have learned a lot from these two ladies.....especially:

1. Laughing at yourself is essential

2. Life is too short to worry about unimportant things

3. Even though Bambi is really sad, it's a great movie (that goes for Dumbo too)

4.  There's always room for dessert

5. Be happy where you are

6. Making loop loom potholders is really fun

7. You do the best you can, and if it's not good enough for others....it's their problem

8. Girls Rule

9.  Be present

10. Appreciate every moment of every day

Thank you ladies ~ you have so much in common and you are both so very important to me.

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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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