Sunday, February 27, 2011

Greetings from Washington DC!

Yes, that's right! What am I doing here you ask? Well work sent me on a 7 day business trip to our nation's capitol since I'm on our East Coast team at work (and have been for a year now) So I finally get to see where all these places are that I'm always telling people about over the phone!

It's actually been a crazy month for us (although when is it NOT crazy at the Alston household?) I got a new position at work which means I'm moving from my 3.5 year post in guest services to a sales position, which is going well so far! But it has also meant training my replacement in our GSR team and being trained myself in the art of selling apartments over the phone that I've never even seen before. All that training has made me very very very busy and when I get home I either have school, or I'm too tired to do anything else and I take naps.

Well and then they told me last Tuesday that they wanted to send me to D.C. this coming week and so BAM I naturally got the worst cold I've had in YEARS. It knocked me out really good. Wednesday I stayed home from work, Thursday I managed to go into the office, but was miserable and then Friday I went in late because I just couldn't make it at 5:30am. Every day right after work I would come home and crash in bed and sleep all the way through to the next morning. I was also on non-stop cold medicine. So I didn't really have a lot of time to plan for my trip and/or tell many people about it.

Jon was amazingly supportive and took care of me all week and helped me pack, even though he didn't come on the trip with me. He's awesome like that. But I really miss him :( Bearded face and all.

Photo by Gabby Uppal - NOT in Washington DC

So now I'm in D.C. I had a 5 hour flight today and am feeling a lot better (although I don't sound it). One of my ears took 4 hours to pop after landing so that was awesome. Work also rented me a car for the week. I have a cute new silver Ford Focus that says I'm from Massachusetts. Pretty fun :) It makes me think of Annie on Community when they go out to a bar for Troy's birthday and she gets a fake ID which makes her feel like she has to act like the person on the ID right down to the Texan accent. HAHA. Does anyone else know what I'm talking about?

Well, so far I don't have any pictures from D.C. to show you, but I will soon. I really wish I had been able to come at the end of March during the cherry blossom festival. I've always loved cherry blossom trees anyway and the fact that DC has a million of them that all bloom at once in the Spring is rad! Maybe someday...

Well I've got a full week of work ahead of me, and now that I'm here I can actually try to plan some fun things to do! I at least got to see the Pentagon, the Capitol building, the top dome of the Jefferson Memorial, and the Washington Memorial tonight... From afar as we drove past, but still pretty cool :) Go America!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Cooking with Jon & Steph - Nancy's Lasagna

Last week we had That Humes Family over for dinner. I made my mom's lasagna. (Her name is Nancy for those who didn't know.) It was one of my favorites growing up and it's pretty much the only thing I can make well (Jon is usually the cook in our family). It's simple, although it has quite a few steps, and I love it. So this post is going to be all about how I single handedly created a beautifully Italian dinner for 4 by myself!



1 lb hamburger
2  8oz cans tomato sauce
3  14 to 16oz cans stewed tomatoes, pureed
1 tsp parsley
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
3 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste

You will also need:
9 lasagna noodles
1.5 cups grated parmesan cheese
16oz grated mozzerella cheese
16oz ricotta cheese

(I have learned from experience that it is best to grate all this cheese before starting ANY other prep since it takes a while to grate a whole pound of mozzerella and 1.5 cups of hard block parmesean.)

Brown hamburger, drain...

Puree the tomatoes, add tomatoes, tomato sauce, spices and sugar...

Simmer on low heat 1/2 to 1 hour (aka 45 minutes-ish)

At this time you will want to preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Cook noodles according to package directions (aka boil in hot water like regular pasta. add olive oil so that they don't stick together)

While this is all cooking, work on making a salad for dinner. Mix your own dressing and try to avoid this:

Salvage whatever dressing is left and make more. Put in fridge until dinner is ready...

IN THE MEANIME you can finish up the lasagna -

Exceptions are made for pictures being taken when you run low on time and quickly put together the lasagna to make it in time for dinner :)

Drain and rinse the noodles you just boiled in cold water. They need to be cool to the touch.

Use a large 9x13 baking dish. Cover the bottom with 1/2 cup sauce. Place noodles on top, side by side (3), top with 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup sauce, spread around, 1/3 of mozzerella, 1/2 of ricotta cheese (dot on as you would butter) and 1/2 cup of sauce. Repeat again. End with a layer of noodles (3), then the remaining sauce and parmesan cheese. Add remaining mozzerella on top. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes (until cheese on top starts to turn golden brown).

Cook garlic bread to go with the lasagna, toss your salad with the italian dressing you have made and set the table. (again pictures are missing but I promise it turned out awesome)

The lasagna finished baking RIGHT when the Humes family showed up, so we chowed down, and it wasn't until the end when we were putting the leftovers away that I realized I needed a final picture - so it's not beautiful but here it is!

mmmmmmmmmmmm :)

Happy Dinner Making!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The 8th Valentine

February 14, 2004: Jon and Steph (having known each other for about a month) went to see "50 First Dates". It was not their first date, but this might have been a better story if it was :) They both hated the movie. Luckily this shared opinion made their relationship stronger instead of tearing them apart, leading to many future (and more successful) Valentine's Day adventures...

-Flash forward 8 years-

February 14, 2011: Jon and Steph celebrate their 8th Valentine's day together:

The morning began with the alarm going off at 4am and Steph handing Jon a cute card and a bag of amazingly delicious caramel candies.

(A friend in our ward sells homemade caramels on Etsy. You should buy some. She ships out of state. Seriously. Caramel Cravings. You will not be disappointed.)

Steph headed to work for the day and when she got home, she found this:

Jon had hand-picked irises, tulips and carnations to put together the most beautiful vase of flowers for Steph! The card was hilarious. Stickman Striptease:

HAHAHA. The inside was really sweet. Jon writes well :)

Since Steph had class that night, Jon gave her time to practice for band and in the meantime he made her a surprise dinner of steak fajitas! (by the way, we do not have mice. This picture is actually post dinner which is why some of the food looks eaten...)

Jon said he wanted to make Steph her favorite food. It was the best meal ever. Homemade guacamole, homemade pico de gallo and spanish rice, grilled onions and bell peppers... Jon is a fantastic chef.

Steph went to class and was back home by 9:30pm. When she got home, there was Jon holding:

a homemade crepe with nutella and bananas for dessert! Steph was definitely spoiled.

Thank you Jon for making our 8th Valentine's day the best one yet! Even though we didn't actually get a picture of the two of us together, I know this day will always mean a lot to me.

We of course try to celebrate our love EVERY day, but it is fun every once in a while to really make it special. Who doesn't love an excuse for good food, flowers and happy times?

Happy Valentine's Day!!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Ministry of Angels

Just as promised, here is Jon's talk from 2 Sundays ago. A lot of his talk was filled with personal experiences that he shared as he went so he has bullet points that outline the subjects he wanted to share. I'll fill in a couple of them so that you get the idea :) Enjoy!

“. . . have miracles ceased because Christ hath ascended into heaven, and hath sat down on the right hand of God, to claim of the Father his rights of mercy which he hath upon the children of men?

“And because he hath done this . . . have miracles ceased? Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither have angels ceased to minister unto the children of men.

“For behold, they are subject unto him, to minister according to the word of his command, showing themselves unto them of strong faith and a firm mind in every form of godliness.”

- We don’t talk all that often about angels in the church, but they are everywhere throughout time:

o announcing Christ’s birth to the shepherds

o visiting every prophet in history

o brought Joseph Smith the Book of Mormon

- Angels are a major part of God’s plan

“From the beginning down through the dispensations, God has used angels as His emissaries in conveying love and concern for His children. Usually such beings are not seen. Sometimes they are. But seen or unseen they are always near. Sometimes their assignments are very grand and have significance for the whole world. Sometimes the messages are more private. Occasionally the angelic purpose is to warn. But most often it is to comfort, to provide some form of merciful attention, guidance in difficult times.”

- One of my deacons last week asked me how the Holy Ghost can be everywhere all at once: How can everyone feel his presence’s at the same time if he is only one spirit? I didn’t have an answer. Some things we’re just meant to know yet. We don’t need to know how the Holy Ghost does it, only that He can and does. But now I have an answer: Ministering Angels. When we need comfort, guidance, or are seeking answers to difficult questions, how does God take care of all 7 billion people in the world simultaneously? I think it’s Ministering Angels. And we have great need, especially in recent times, for these Heavenly messengers:

“In the course of life all of us spend time in . . . circumstances of sorrow or fear or discouragement. Our present day is filled with global distress over financial crises, energy problems, terrorist attacks, and natural calamities. These translate into individual and family concerns not only about homes in which to live and food available to eat but also about the ultimate safety and well-being of our children and the latter-day prophecies about our planet. More serious than these—and sometimes related to them—are matters of ethical, moral, and spiritual decay seen in populations large and small, at home and abroad. But I testify that angels are still sent to help us . . . such ministrations will be to the righteous until the end of time.”

- Many would say the heavens are closed and have been for centuries. God no longer speaks to us, no longer watches out for us. We are left to figure out life on our own with the little knowledge and guidance He has given us through the Prophets of old. Others perhaps would say that God never spoke at all. Or that He doesn’t exist because there is no proof that He does exist. Show me a sign and I will believe friends have told me. They want evidence. They want the scientific method. But even in science evidence does not come to someone just because they want it. You must seek after it. You must work to find it.

Mormon said to his son Moroni:

“Has the day of miracles ceased?

“Or have angels ceased to appear unto the children of men? Or has he withheld the power of the Holy Ghost from them? Or will he, so long as time shall last, or the earth shall stand, or there shall be one man upon the face thereof to be saved?

“Behold I say unto you, Nay; for . . . it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men. . . .

“For behold, they are subject unto [Christ], to minister according to the word of his command, showing themselves unto them of strong faith and a firm mind in every form of godliness.”

Elder Holland adds to this scripture: “. . . take heart, be filled with faith, and remember the Lord has said He “would fight [our] battles, [our] children’s battles, and [the battles of our] children’s children.” And what do we do to merit such a defense? We are to “search diligently, pray always, and be believing[. Then] all things shall work together for [our] good, if [we] walk uprightly and remember the covenant wherewith [we] have covenanted.” The latter days are not a time to fear and tremble. They are a time to be believing . . . .”

- I have never seen an angel. I’m sure most of you haven’t. I’ve also never seen the wind. Or gravity. Or radio waves. Or the molten iron core of the earth. Or the millions of other oddities science claims exists. But I believe they exist, because I can experience the wind on my face, the rain falling down to earth, the music that comes through my car radio. And I can feel God’s influence when I need to comforted. I receive answers to questions when ask sincerely. The influence of Ministering Angels’ is something to be experienced, but only when we put in our effort.

“God never leaves us alone, never leaves us unaided in the challenges that we face. “[N]or will he, so long as time shall last, or the earth shall stand, or there shall be one man [or woman or child] upon the face thereof to be saved.” On occasions, global or personal, we may feel we are distanced from God, shut out from heaven, lost, alone in dark and dreary places. Often enough that distress can be of our own making, but even then the Father of us all is watching and assisting.”

- Whenever I think of Heavenly Father watching over me, or helping me with something, I think of Him waving His hand over me and magically making whatever the problem was go away. It doesn’t work like that. Nothing does. And not all the problems we have in life can be fixed with the comforting influence of Angelic Messengers. Life is hard. Physically hard. Living in modern times is rough. But God does not leave us to wade through our trials alone. Elder Holland speaks of other “heavenly messengers” of a more tangible nature:

“. . . when we speak of those who are instruments in the hand of God, we are reminded that not all angels are from the other side of the veil. Some of them we walk with and talk with—here, now, every day. Some of them reside in our own neighborhoods. Some of them gave birth to us. Indeed heaven never seems closer than when we see the love of God manifested in the kindness and devotion of people so good and so pure that angelic is the only word that comes to mind.”

- We too are Ministering Angels to others. We have no idea what influence we can have on other people. A simple smile can have an immense impact on the day and life of another. Helping a classmate carry his or her books, or calling an old friend or brother or sister to see how they are doing. Are we taking the opportunities to be Ministering Angles?

- Being Ministering Angels:

o My parents are old (Over the weekend we were in Loomis and Steve and Chris had purchased a fireplace insert for their living room. They tend to take on a lot of projects around their home and yard that they can't quite handle, so Jon is there to step in and help them get things done. He is a ministering angel because he sees a need and fills it. We should take more opportunities to serve others.)

o Steph is a bad, bad driver (Steph ran off the road into a ditch recently and while she was waiting for the tow truck and police there were a few people who stopped to help, called the fire department for her and helped her when she needed it. Steph didn't even know these people and will probably never see them again. These small acts of kindness show that God is watching over us in the promptings he gives to others to help us even when it might seem small.)

“May we all believe more readily in, and have more gratitude for, the Lord’s promise . . . : “I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left . . . my Spirit shall be in your [heart], and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.” . . . may we all try to be a little more angelic ourselves—with a kind word, a strong arm, a declaration of faith. . . . Perhaps then we can be emissaries sent from God when someone needs it.”

(Jon ended by bearing his testimony of the gospel and the power of ministering angels.)