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On The Menu....

....for tonight was a healthy, scrumptious, vegetarian, fiber-rich meal made from scratch with homegrown ingredients.

That's right. I not only cooked a complete meal tonight (it's been awhile), but I made it healthy and it tasted good.
(Well, at least Jesse gave it 2 thumbs up. And the girls didn't cry & scream, they actually ate it, so I consider that a positive critique as well)

I used my mom's spaghetti recipe....which is different than any sauce I've ever tasted, so everytime I cook it, it reminds me of home. The only problem with it is that it has to simmer for a good 6 hours+. So I used my good old slow-cooker, and simmered that baby all day long (my mom's recipe says "the longer you simmer, the better it tastes"). I bought whole wheat, whole grain our noodles weren't overloaded w/ carbs and were actually good for us.

And mixed in with our romaine/spinach salads, along with the sprinkling of feta cheese, croutons, and vinegrette dressing, were these guys:

tomatoes from my very own garden. How cool is that? I feel Amish.....or even with goods that I grew in my own backyard. :o)
But since nobody's perfect, I did have to cook some of this to go along with it:

Obviously, you can't serve spaghetti without the garlic bread.

Mariah: "Mama, I like when you make stuff"

This weekend I worked on a project for the girls for the 4th of July.

First I searched through the local thirft shops and found these 3 shirts for a total of less than $6:

And then I turned them into these:

I do realize the "USA" is crooked....but it's fused and stitched, so there's no going back now. Maybe whoever wears it can just tilt their body to the left for the day. :o)
Here's a picture of all 3, with the 4th of July bell necklaces I got for them to wear:

The pins on the shoulder of each one are hair clips that I made to match:

Since I was on a roll w/ the hair clips, I made 2 more for Janae (Gary & Courtney's niece) and Franny (Graham & Leslie's daughter) because they were both over at Courtney's house as I was making them:

These were so fun and easy to make....and I didn't use any patterns or anything, I just made it up as I went along. The best invention in the world (in my opinion --- at the current moment) is Heat-N-Bond fusible webbing. You can do anything with that stuff and then you just stitch over it. I love it. And it's so cheap! Like $2 a yard, sometimes less if it's on sale. Love love love it! I can't wait to see the girls in their new "recycled" shirt on the 4th, I'm hoping they look cuter when my sweet babes are modeling them. :O)

ta dah!

This is gonna be a long one....

But it's packed w/ cuteness so it should be worth it. :o)

First off, as if the girls didn't have enough activites in their schedules, we've added soccer! Arissa & Mallory started 2 weeks ago, and Mariah starts next week (because until now her Girl Scout meeting conflicted w/ the practice time). They love it! Arissa comes home and her face is so red it looks like she's majorly sunburnt! There's several boys on her team and she gives them a run for their money.

Mallory prefers to socialize, but she has fun too:

Last Sunday the girls performed at the Del Mar Fair!

I thought this was Arissa when I uploaded it, but then I realized it's not :o)

But this is:

And then Wednesday was the end-of-year Drill Team Banquet. Last year, it was a potluck (boo). This year, it was at Souplantation (yea!!)!

In my habit of procrastinating, I had to rush and make thank u gifts at the last minute.

For the parents that drove Arissa around during the year, and helped her backstage when I was busy w/ Mallory & Mariah, we took this:

Wrapped it up and made it this:

For one of the older girls who helped Arissa learn routines during the year, we made this:

They're my go-to quick-and-easy gift to make...flower pens.

And then, the piece de resistance....

Jesse worked all night on it, hence this on our kitchen table:

he slept on the floor by the computer so that every 30 minutes during the night he could stick another dvd in our burner so we could end up with these:

DVDs of a little movie/montage that Jesse & I put together (I uploaded it, see the end of the post)

The front:

The back:

And then....forgive me if I'm over-excited about this. But I worked on this next one for over a month. I've had it done since the beginning of the year, saving it for this occasion.

This was the Howard Family gift to Sherry, the dance instructor:

I took this:

And turned it



A knitted Sherry's Gotta Dance Drill Team doll.

I used the photo as a guide and tried to replicate every detail (and there were a LOT of details)....

from the neck bow...

to the purple heart-shaped earrings & jacket buttons....

to the required "high pony tail" and "curled" hair (I had to find a crimped yarn to mimic the curls)....

to the identical hair fluffy....

to (and this is my favorite part) the logo on the back of the jackets:

("Gotta Dance")

Isn't she cute???

She was quite the hit at the banquet! I was so happy everyone loved her so much....and also a little embarrassed because I don't like attention being drawn to me.

Here was her entrance into the world:

So that was that. My doll was a success....the food was delicious....oh yeah and Arissa won a bunch of awards. :o) Certificates, medals, pins, flowers, trophies, and gifts from all the other girls. A photo-keychain, a tote bag w/ a picture of the team on it, a shirt, cards, pictures from throughout the year, and more. She felt like quite the movie-star. :o)

the big day

For Arissa's actual birthday, we had cake and opened the gifts from her sisters and me & Jesse. Jesse bought her our gift about a month ago and could not WAIT for her to open it!

But first, the cake (which, I'm proud to report, I managed to NOT drop or destroy in any way!):

And here's a slideshow to best show the process of Arissa trying to open the gift we gave her. Jesse stayed up till 3am Tuesday night, wrapping this little tiny thing in like 6 different packages. It was so fun to watch Arissa start with a big old box, and then laugh hysterically as she kept ripping them open only to find more packages!

The final result, which was worth all the work, was an ipod. She, of course, freaked out and was SO happy. We had it all loaded with music already so she got right to work and put on the headphones and went into her own world. The next day she wore down the battery from listening to it all day! It plays video too, so we put a few episodes of Hannah Montana on there too. Later she said to me: "now all i need is a laptop. well, I guess a cell phone is next. Those aren't too expensive, right?" :o)

It was also hilarious to see my grandma's reaction to the gift...she watched and laughed w/ the rest of us as Arissa opened package after package, but then when she finally unwrapped the ipod, my Grandma didn't see what all the hoopla was about....she had no idea what it was or what it did. So we had to explain: "It plays MUSIC, Grandma..." :o)

Arissa Ronell Howard
June 17, 2000 10:02am

Happy 9th Birthday!

(don't know why the photo is cut off on the right...tried to fix it but failed)

arissa collage

Arissa is 9 years old today! I can't believe how big she is. Sometimes I look at her and I can still see the face of her newborn-self, and then sometimes I see a glimpse of her teenage/adult face. And most of the time, I just look at her and think how very very beautiful she is (and how much of a miracle that is, considering who her parents are! just kidding).

Everyone who knows Arissa is aware: she is one-of-a-kind. She really is....she's not a typical kid. She is so thoughtful and kind. When she gets angry, she doesn't yell or throw fits...she never really has. She loves to read and write; she is always thinking of other people. She has the best sense of humor of any kid I've ever met. She's genuinely interested in her family and her heritage and other people's lives. She has a knack for making other people feel good, and appreciated, and special, and loved.

When Arissa was born, everyone in my family told me repeatedly that although every baby is special and cherished, THIS was an extra special baby...sent to us at the same time as my Mom & Grandpa died, when my family's lives were all changing and would have otherwise been very sad. My Grandma told me so often how extra special this new baby was, that it almost scared me....ME being entrusted with something so special. And it turns out everyone was right! Arissa IS truly special and unique and all-together wonderful.

Tonight we're going to have a dinner of Arissa's choice, a small cake, and open gifts. I hope my sweet baby girl has a wonderful day. :o)

Graduation, Handmade Gifts, A Slumber Party....oh my!

Well Mallory is now officially a preschool graduate!

I wanted to make something for her teachers, and for Ms. Lynn, the principal. I wanted it to be kind of extra special, since Mallory is the last Howard girl to attend the school, and since we love it and the teachers so very very much. So I thought and thought about all the many things I could do and make....I thought and I thought until it was the day before and I still hadn't made anything. So finally I decided on this cause it's easy and fairly fast:

I had Mallory write down the words, and then I traced it onto the fabric, embroidered it, and sewed it all up:

And here's the proud graduate on her big night:
This is a picture of her in the slideshow that they presented during the ceremony:
Here's her & a cute little friend (she has so many friends!):
And the people who love her and came to watch:
Mallory did a lot of this the whole night:
Then Saturday was the BIG day, birthday party #3 of 3. Arissa's slumber party. There were 5 girls including Arissa, which was definitely manageable. We had a super fun time. Jesse and I switched houses w/ Nana for the night. We were able to go to sleep at 11, and woke up at 9:30....thank goodness for that! Apparently the girls went to bed around 1am, not too bad either.
Here's my preparations:
We played games:

Opened gifts:
Had a bonfire & toasted marshmellows:

Jesse got his to catch on fire, which the girls thought was hilarious:
Then we had smores:
We made a craft:
Each girl decorated 5 pieces of cardstock, then we put one of each of the 5 together in a book so each girl took home a little "scrapbook" with pictures and messages from each of the guests. (We had an extra book, which the girls decided to give to Sherry, their dance teacher)
And of course, the cupcakes:

All in all, it was a lovely party. And it made me realize 1) Arissa has the sweetest friends ever, and 2) It's amazing how much stuff I can get done when there arent unfinished projects in every square foot of the house, begging to be worked on. :o)

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