It's that time of year....Christmas tree shopping at Jimmy Carter's (no relation) farm.  I love this place!

We discovered Jimmy Carter's farm last year when our friend Candace brought us there.  We had been going to a place closer to home only to find that they were SPRAY PAINTING the Christmas trees. 

Christmas trees should not be spray painted.

It was a gorgeous Autumn day to be tree shopping and Mojo had the time of his life! Acres upon acres of trees...
It took a few trips back to the woods, but finally we found our tree and tagged it. It's a beauty!
It was such a good day, we let Ella use the 'good' camera (which is really nice, because Greg and I have so few pictures of us together).
And, Candace found her tree too.  She has to pick out the trees no one else wants...I think it's cute, even if it has a 3 foot trunk!
Only four more weeks until we get to go back to Jimmy Carter's farm and bring our little tree home!
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!
Our favorite place to be on the 4th of July is a small town on Lake Huron - just north of where I was born. In fact, it's one of my favorite places in the world.  Greg and Ella and I headed up there together for the 4th and had a great time.

Ella looked patriotic in her new red chef's hat (she opened her birthday presents early from her grandpa - my dad)!
The parade was fun - it circled around a historical (but still working) lighthouse (the main picture for this blog was taken at the top of that lighthouse).  The parade had lots of kids with bikes, old cars, fire trucks and big dudes on little cars.
Then, there were games! Bean bag toss...
Ring toss...
And the money pit...all of which Ella perfected.
After a few hours of garage-saling (why is it more fun in other towns?) we ventured out to one of the private beaches  and prepared ourselves for the fireworks. It was nice to see my dad relax with a smile on his face!
It was beautiful!
Finally! Dark enough to get started wth fireworks! 
Such a great pressure, no crowds, beautiful weather and scenery and hanging with my dad.  A perfect 4th indeed.

These things are addicting. They are also sugar overload!

Start with butter and marshmallows. With these two ingredients, you know it's gonna be good.
Add chow mein noodles. Yep, you heard (read) me right.
Divide them up into 12 equal parts in cupcake tins.
Press them down with a spoon - these are gonna be nests, you know! Once this step is done, throw them in the fridge for an hour or so.
Find some green food coloring. We generally use gel coloring, so we just dip a chopstick into it.
And, mix it into some coconut.  You don't need much. Less is more. (I love that saying)
Now, it's Ella's favorite part! Fill the nests with coconut, eggs (jelly beans or M&M eggs) and peeps.
Too cute to eat? No way, that only applies to live animals.

Happy Easter!

**note-no post tomorrow!**
We love Easter around here.  There are a few things we do every year.  One of them is that we dye Easter Eggs.

This year, we did it a little early, because I wrote some ehow articles on it (check out some of my ehow articles on one of my other pages to the left).  We decided to dye eggs in new and different (for us) ways this year.

We started by blowing out the contents of all the eggs so they would be hollow.

First, we went all natural.....blueberries, oranges and coffee...
These may be my favorite eggs ever.  They were beautiful - very light and naturally speckled.  They took forever and were messy, but so worth it.
From natural to toxic! I know, it's disturbing, but we tried the nail polish method.
You simply add one drop to a container of water, dip an egg into it, add another drop, dip the egg and repeat until you are satisfied.
Ok, so it may be toxic, but this method produced the most unique eggs.  You could really go nuts with this technique! Ella and I are pretty protective of our nail polish collection, so we only grabbed a few colors.  It only takes a drop though, so we'll be doing this one again.
Lastly, we made homemade dye - a first for us.  I can't believe we ever bought those cheesy kits now! To do this, you just need water, vinegar, oil and food coloring. EASY.
These were more like traditional Easter Eggs. Pretty in their right.
We had fun doing these! I wonder exactly how many ways there are to decorate  Easter Eggs....countless I'm sure. 

Tomorrow I'll share another one of our Easter traditions!
Dear Easter Bunny,

In case you read my blog, I need to tell you that I have a very concerned little girl on my hands.

She's 7 1/2.  She's getting to that know the age I'm talking about. She's very worried about Easter.

I'm sure you know this, but every year, she leaves you carrots.  She was shocked last year when you left pieces of the carrots that led her right to her basket.  By the way, next time please make sure you close the door - we actually had a snow drift IN our dining room when we woke up. 

But, this isn't about the snow drift in my dining room (on my hardwood floors!!).  No, it's about Ella.

You see, we will not be at home on Easter morning. We will be up North in Presque Isle, where Ella's grandpa lives.  She is very concerned that you won't know this. 

She is going to leave you a map, but I thought I better put it here too....just in case.
So, if you could, please make sure you hop on up to Presque Isle this Easter.   It just might make me happier than her, but she'll never know it.

Ella's Mom
I am a researcher. I was curious what the season of Lent was all about, so I researched it.  It was fascinating. 

I found out that one of the philosophies of Lent is that when you give up something that you like, it creates an empty space in your life and to fill that space, you naturally reflect on what's really important.

I have always believed in the 'law' of opposites.  I wrote my longest college paper on it.  Basically, in order to see and appreciate the light, you need to experience darkness.
Buddhists also embrace self-denial to recognize and become one's true self.

I figured....a few philosophies/religions embrace it...there must be something to it.

I told Ella about what I learned. She thought it sounded pretty cool.  Immediately, she said, "I'm not going to eat meat during Lent."  I wanted to support her, so I told her I was 'in'. I also wanted to give up something that I really love - sweets.  I need dessert after every meal (even breakfast), so I knew it would be a challenge.

Well, so far, we made it from Ash Wednesday through Saturday.

We were very grateful that Lent doesn't include Sundays (it's only 40 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter - if you count the Sundays, it would be 46 days).

So... yesterday we had this for dinner:
Hawaiian Meatballs
And this for dessert!
Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars
Here's what I'm learning - and it's only been 4 days (Sunday not included) - we start again today. 

-It's hard to deny yourself things you like - WAY harder than I thought.
-Choosing to go without something you like makes you appreciate it so much more.
-You learn a lot about the choices you make and why you make them.
-It really does get you closer to the divine - however you define that for yourself.

So, maybe you're on this journey too...maybe not.  Spiritual or not, we can all learn things from each other.  I love experiences that exceed my expectations.  So far... this is one of them.
She had $4.  Flowers were $2 each.  She had enough for two flowers - for whom would she get them?

She debated all friend #1 or best friend #2 or one for each?  What a surprise when she gave one to me!
Every year, Ella's school sells flowers at lunch before Valentine's Day.  She was sad that she missed out last year.  This year, she asked for $4.  It came up every day last week.  She was perplexed.

On Friday, I stayed home from work - I was sick. She took her $4 to school that day, and when Greg dropped her off, she still couldn't decide.  In fact, he thought she'd come home with the money still in her backpack. 

For the first time ever, Greg and I picked Ella up from school together.  I hardly ever get to do it, since I work until 4 everyday.  I saw her walking with a flower and thought someone had given her one....Nope. It was for me.

Made my entire day!

She climbed up into the car, gave me the flower and asked, "Do you feel better Mom?"  I am a lucky woman. may be wondering where the other $2 was spent.  She also bought one for her teacher.  When we asked how many flowers the teacher received, Ella said, "Just one."

That's my girl.
Wow. The Christmas spirit was alive and well in our house this year. 

The energy was CRAZY.  Ella was energized more than she had ever been before. 

Before bed on the 24th, she set out her cookies and soy milk (thought Santa might appreciate the health benefits) and carrots for the reindeer.  She wrote a letter and placed it on the hearth (since she didn't get it done early enough to mail it to the North Pole).

Greg was tucking us in and she sat up, alarmed. "Dad! Don't forget to move the ottoman! It's right in front of the fireplace."

"Ok" Greg said.

"Don't forget Dad!" Ella reminded him again.

Then, morning came and Ella woke up at 6 am.  But, she decided to go back to sleep since it was still dark.

What? Seriously?

Finally...she woke up her visiting grandparents and came downstairs.

Ok, the enthusiasm came back!
Santa rocked at our house! Ella was thrilled and so were we.
She couldn't believe it. Santa knew exactly what she wanted and she didn't even get her letter out in time.

Maybe it was the soy milk?

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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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