Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Celebrations!

The Alston Christmas was nothing short of eventful this year! Christmas eve started off as always with a combined Alston/Joyner MexItalian feast. The food was SO amazing. I feel like I say this every year, but there really is nothing better than ceasar salad and ravioli with spanish rice, beans and tamales. Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures of the food because we were too busy eating :) Jon also made a homemade butterscotch bread pudding for dessert. So delish!

 Beth and I played a flute duet of "What Child Is This?" to start off the Christmas program after we ate. Hopefully the video will load, in which case you can watch it here:

The children all dressed up and acted out the Nativity story as narrated by Allen Norton. It was so cute! Unfortunately we didn't get any pictures of that part.

Haley serenaded everyone with her recorder skills:

 And then the partying started!

Jake, Morgan and Jon Joyner sang a rad version of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" 

And Jon also led everyone in a rowdy group sing-a-long of Adam Sandler's Hannukah song

There ended up being about 40 of us there with parents, children and grandchildren all together.

After the music died down, Beth read The Night Before Christmas to all the kids. And who do you think showed up at the end??? SANTA! (Sadly, I didn't get pictures of this either. Santa was very camera shy this year.)

It was probably one of the best Christmas Eve's I can ever remember :) Good food, good friends, lots of laughs. The testimonies of the Savior and the spirit felt was so awesome, and it was just so great to look around and feel like everyone there was our family!

Christmas morning I woke up around 7. Jon had already been up and was ready to get a fire going. We opened stockings and made homemade apple cinnamon coffee cake before church :)

Margo couldn't wait to dig into her doggie cookies from Santa!

Jon LOVES his pomegranates!

Mint chocolate foil bells! I always loved getting these as a kid. You can tell that I just woke up, look at all the hair in my face! haha, I didn't even notice :) 

Margo got to open her present first. She has gotten pretty good at tearing up paper! 

It's a... It's a... 

Striped sock monkey! She loves this thing :) 

Daddy and Margo with her new toy!
(She really was not excited for this picture, she just wanted to play! haha)

Jon got a fantastic new striped orange and teal tie from me as well as an Epic Mealtime BACON STRIPS shirt from Margo. Ah, bacon.

Jon got me a fantastic new scarf! It's so cozy :) Handmade by a lady who sells her handknits through a small art gallery in Sacramento. Well done, Jon!

Christmas church services were AMAZING this year! I wish I'd gotten a picture of us in our church clothes, but I was too cold after church and changed right back into my pajamas! The primary children sang two songs as well as the ward choir singing and the congregation. It was a very music filled day - my favorite! We are blessed with so much musical talent in our ward. Brother Scott Seamons sang a solo arrangement of "O Holy Night" and it was absolutely stunning. I was so touched. That was probably my favorite part of the day! He and his wife gave brief talks also. It was so nice to have simple sacrament meeting services centered on our Savior. It really made Christmas a nice balance for me. Too often we forget on Christmas day to talk about what Christmas really is about. Having church made Christmas morning really humble.

We headed to my parent's house for breakfast with Margo after church.

Jon was very excited about getting new tires for the Explorer: 

Me with my new scarf:

My dad with Margo:
(literally 30 seconds before she threw up all over his leg.) 

My mom with her new Corningware baking dish! 

Michelle all dolled up for church: 

She made her own poinsetta hair clippies with supplies from my Beverly's :) So crafty.

Jon and I were thoroughly spoiled this year and I felt so blessed! My mom even got me this bracelet making loom :) I love that it's all pink and purple. It makes me feel like I'm 6 years old... basically how I feel all the time anyways. I made a lime green and purple friendship bracelet for my bestie, Breanna! Later in the day we got to visit with her and Ben. She got me a fantastic vinyl tile that says "I loved you too much to just be your friend, so God let me be your Sister" awww :)

Mom, me and Michelle by the Christmas tree:

In the afternoon we went to Jon's parent's house and opened presents with them and had dinner. The food was delicious! One of my favorite gifts was from Jon's mom. She had put together a family history book for all of us on Ancestry.com which has pictures, information and census records for the past 5 generations. Totally cool! My sister-in-law Jackee also got us a beautiful set of picture frames that have the temple and The Family Proclamation in them. I can't wait to hang them up!

Unfortunately we didn't get ANY pictures at Jon's parent's house. Jon's dad took so many I just figured I would bum some off of him, but he's a little slow with uploading them to Facebook. ha! ;) Ah well, it seems like I always miss some pictures during the holidays. At least the memories are there.

Also, I tried to be more crafty this Christmas with presents. I made a cookie jar for my in-law's dog Shasta (which I forgot to take pictures of...) and I also made these earrings for my grandma! They are angels (she loves angels!) At least I remembered to get a picture of these :)

I am so grateful for the wonderful Christmas we had this year and the time we were able to spend with family and friends. It was definitely one of the most touching Christmases I've had in a long time. As Beth would say, it was "tender". Thank you to everyone for making it awesome!

Oh, and I have been really behind on sending out Christmas cards this year, so if you haven't gotten yours yet, don't worry. It's probably just in the mail :)

Stay tuned for New Year's and our upcoming theme of 2012!

Sunday, December 11, 2011


I really couldn't come up with anything more interesting for the title of this post.
A lot has happened so far this December! Work is really picking up as Christmas is getting closer, and both Jon and I have finished our classes for this year. Granted, I was only taking one institute class, so Jon had it much harder than I did! Next semester will probably be the best ever. I am taking another institute class, as well as psychology, and Jon is taking one class - his last EVER!! He will be graduating with his master's degree, and unless he decides to start a PhD program in 2013, he will be done for good! Next stop: real life after college.
We have also been decorating and getting ready for Christmas. As always, it is coming up way too fast. We finally put the star on our tree today, and we had our ward Christmas party last night! I was also able to go to the bridal shower for one of my past YW yesterday (wow!) and Christmas cards are slowly but surely being put together. Check out our good looking family!!
And finally, but especially most important this month, was the passing of my dear friend Aly's 4 month old son on Monday, December 5, 2011. Aly and I were co-workers at my last job for 4 years, and when her first son Gabriel was born in July, we were all so elated for her! Gabriel lived a total of 19 weeks, being perfectly healthy as far as we knew. After a tragic accident that kept him on life support all last weekend, he peacefully passed away Monday afternoon, to the heartbreak of all friends and family.
Aly and her husband Patrick have asked that in memory of Gabriel, anyone interested can donate to INova Health System, which supports local community hospitals and child care in Virginia (where they live). I know that during Christmas, many of you may already have charities and places that you like to support. If not, this may be the perfect time to start! Either way, I felt like it was important to let you know that it is available. And also for Aly and Patrick to know that Gabriel will never be forgotten, even though his time on this Earth may have been brief. I am so thankful for our Heavenly Father's eternal plan of happiness and the blessing that we all have to know that Families can be together forever. I know that I am eternally grateful for mine.
Merry Christmas to all far and near who read our blog. We are so glad to have you in our lives!
Sincerely, Steph & Jon
INova Health System FoundationChild Life
c/o Jamie Gentille
3300 Gallows Road
Falls Church, VA 22042

Sunday, November 27, 2011

November Happenings

Life has been busy for the Alston's this month! At the beginning of November, Jon joined a co-ed indoor soccer league with our friends from the ward.

I am really terrible at sports I really didn't want to put everyone to shame with my mad skills, so I decided to sit out this season and support Jon from the sidelines :) One Saturday morning we went without our hot chocolate and cartoons to practice at a nearby park.

The day was amazing! Margo took advantage of the sunny grass and napped.

So much action! The whole group is super in shape and played for hours...... ha.

The team name is "Overrated" - if that gives you any indication of how long it's actually been since they all played.

Really they have been doing well so far. They won their first two games! Although this week they are up against The Ligers, who are actually supposed to be pretty good. I'm just glad to see Jon out there again :) And it's nice to have something to do on a Tuesday night.

This month I also got together with some past work friends to do some crafting in preparation for the Christmas season! Paper mache reindeer were calling our names.

Meet Mele, Teresa Collins (half finished), and Sophie...

Thanksgiving was also fantastic. We had two turkeys between my family and Jon's family. We ate WAY too much! We also forgot to take any pictures.

To top it all off we went with Jon's family up to the Little Bear Creek tree farm for our annual Christmas tree hunt yesterday!

Meet this year's tree - Tumnus:

It was really fun to have family in town visiting. My favorite part is eating chili and animal cookies after the trees have been chopped down!

December is only a few days away... what fun adventures will come next???

Saturday, November 19, 2011

6 Years of Being Rad

Friday (November 18) was mine and Jon's 6 year wedding anniversary!

Our plans for our anniversary changed many times over the past year. At first we wanted to go on a road trip down California's Coastal Hwy 1 starting up in Oregon and coming all the way down to below San Francisco. Then when I changed jobs and we realized we didn't have time or money to do that we thought about going to Tahoe for a day or two. Realizing that this would also cause us to want to buy a lot of things, we decided to stay home and go to a really fancy dinner instead :)

Enter: The Melting Pot. I had only been to this restaurant once before when we had desserts for my bachelorette party. So this was the first time that Jon and I had a REAL fondue dinner. It was basically 4 courses of awesome.

Spinach Artichoke cheese fondue with chips, breads, veggies and granny smith apples:

Jon had never tried apples and cheese before! So this was a great adventure for him. He loved it :) How did I survive a cheese fondue appetizer course, you ask? Lots and lots of lactaid pills. I risked it, and luckily everything turned out just fine :)

The second course was a salad. And let me just tell you... one thing some of you may or may not know about me: I. LOVE. wedge. salads. Like, I really really love them. I think they may be one of my most favorite foods in the world. I know it sounds silly, because it's really just a salad that you put together yourself. But for some reason I drool over them every time. I have never ever had a bad wedge salad, and if there is ever the option for one on the menu, I always go with the wedge!

The Main Event:

Contrary to my previous, uneducated belief... all fondue is NOT cheese or chocolate. In fact, the main course is all raw meats that you cook via fondue at your table. The base is usually a broth of some sort and then spices and seasonings are added, creating a boiling tub of fantasticness to cook your meal in. Our course included sirloin steak, teriyaki steak, shrimp, sushi grade tuna, and chicken along with sides of veggies and potatoes. The amazing dipping sauces that you see above included a gorgonzola sauce, chive sauce, plum sauce, teriyaki sauce, spicy cocktail sauce (which was an interesting experience of simulated fire inhalation for me...) and some other sauce that I don't remember because it wasn't my favorite so I mostly avoided it haha.

This dinner ended up being in my top 5 of most favorite dinners of all time. It was so much fun and absolutely delicious! Every part of it was amazing, and it was even more fun to spend a real date night with Jon having good conversation and talking about the past year.
We ended with a dark chocolate flaming turtle dessert fondue (complete with pound cake, rice crispy treats, strawberries, bananas, brownies, cheesecake, oreo covered marshmallows, etc to dip with) and then went to a comedy show in Sac at Comedy Sportz! We've been a couple times since one of Jon's friends plays at the venue. It's pretty fun and it's all ages, so the improv is clean and family friendly.
Of course, Jon let Johnny (the ref for the night) know that it was our anniversary and told him that anything he could do to embarass me would be appreciated. Of course I was called on stage for one of the skits (having NO previous idea that this would be happening) and performed a gibberish opera with one of the teams. Jon wasn't able to find my camera fast enough to record it, but the venue did take a picture of me in costume with the players, so that should be posted on their FB page soon for any of you who would like to check it out.
Thank you, Jon, for making this anniversary an awesome one! I can't believe it's been 6 years already. Only infinity to go :)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Halloween Festivities

I know it's already November, but I would be remiss if I didn't post about our awesome Halloween! Jon and I have thrown a party the last few years, but this year was the best yet because we were able to combine forces with the Taylor's! (Another young childless couple in our ward) We had so much fun planning and decorating. Brandon and Tiani really went all out, and there was so much more we could do since they had a house!
For one thing, we got a HUGE pumpkin at the patch to put drinks in. (An idea I found on Pinterest). We also had glow bracelets "radioactive snake venom" bracelets waiting for people as they walked in the front door:
Everyone was asked to bring a Halloween food or dessert to share. We ended up with a LOT of cupcakes...
We also had some spooky candies around. Thanks to Jen Holtry for letting us borrow all your apothecary jars!
Crusted Newt Eyes (aka Reese's Pieces)
Fried Bat Tongues (aka Heath Bars)
Flattened Frog Pies (aka Reese's PB Cups)

Abominable Snow Monster Paws (aka York Peppermint Patties)
Dried Pirate Fingers (aka Kit Kats)
Candied Bullets (aka Whoppers)

Poisonous Worms (aka Gummy Worms)
Rotted Witches Teeth (aka Candy Corn)

Between all of us we came up with some super fun decorations. The Frankenstein paper lantern was from a display at my work :) Tiani cut out TONS of paper bats to put all over the walls, and she even made a seance table by burning the edges of old books and some of our blood drip candles from last year got some good use.

Tiani also had the idea of getting cream colored homespun yarn to hang from the ceiling. It made a cool effect around their house!

Outside we had the walkway lined with 8 carved pumpkins and the porch was turned into a haunted house with black lights and a fog machine!

Of course it was mandatory that everyone come in costume. I felt like everyone did really well this year! Unfortunately I didn't get pictures of everyone once we got caught up in the party festivities and games (sorry to our Mario, Princess Peach, CIA Agent and Terrorist, amongst others!) But I think this gives you a pretty good idea of everyone :)
Bay & Shawn as Wayne & Garth / Michelle and Dan went with a Medieval theme

Ron & Hermione / The Smarty Pants - haha

Brandon & Tiani aka Danny & Sandra Dee!

Jon and I were a Ballerina and Soldier. (To see the story our costumes were inspired from, check this out.) Michelle was Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Kevin was The Mad Hatter from Alice and Wonderland. I love that they were both from Tim Burton movies!

Waldo & Wenda / Indian Princess and Jack Sparrow

We of course had some super fun games, but since Jon and I were in charge of them, I didn't get many pictures. Everyone had a lot of fun playing Dance Step 2 and Ping Pong though!

Thanks to everyone who came and made our party a success! It was super fun staying up until 2am watching Hocus Pocus too :) Can't wait until next year!