Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Guess what?

Today's my birthday!

I have to brag on my husband for a moment. He's just too good to me. My darling husband woke me up with wonderful homemade muffins and a tall, cold smoothie, my bible, and a reading book, all arranged artfully on a tray so I didn't even have to get up. I didn't even know he knew how to cook muffins or make smoothies... yet they were **perfect**. We decided together back at his birthday that we wouldn't buy presents this year (we spent more than enough at Christmas), a request that he honored. Instead, he crafted a poem which he read to me while I was enjoying my breakfast. We're going to find a frame for it and hang it by my computer.

22 has been the best year of my life... so far. It's the first full year I spent married to my husband; the year I graduated college; the year of my first (hopefully!) international mission trip; the year of so many other wondeful things that I can't find a way to summarize them nicely. I can't wait to see what's in store for 23!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Multitude Monday #4

holy experience

I've noticed something interesting over the past four weeks of searching for my blessings Tuesday-Sunday so they are ready to write on Monday. Every week, they're easier to find; easier to see. It's like I'm training my heart to be more grateful. Who doesn't want that!? So... my next 10 blessings. At this rate, it'll take 2 years to get to my 1000. I suppose at some point I should pick up the pace...

26) Other's confidence in my own abilities, even when I doubt

27) God-given opportunities to use my spiritual gifts

28) Little children waving palm branches

29) A schedule (I've finally implemented a "chore chart" for myself... and my husband noticed! He thanked me profusely when he didn't have to ask me to get around to the laundry... lol. One of these days I'll get this housewife thing learned)

30) Having all the ingredients on hand for a much craved chocolate cake

31) Long walks in the park

32) Little children showing their personality in ways we never expected (Dear Alexander started school! And he's making progress! He's even learned how to move his own wheelchair on his own, to a part of the room he himself chooses!)

33) Breaking ground on my garden

34) A soul-sister to pray with

35) Pool noodles. They make excellent weapons. :)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Cranberry Muffins

I posted in my last Multitude Monday about the cranberry muffins I made the other night. There was a great sale on citrus fruit the last time I went shopping, so I stocked up on oranges. There were so many, I wanted to find a way to use them up other than just eating them. I also had 3 bags of cranberries in my freezer left over from a wonderful sale at Christmas time. So, I decided to experiment, and made these yummy, tasty muffins! I started with the basic muffin mix from my regular cook book, then added on to make it mine.

Cranberry-Orange Muffins
  • 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour

  • 1/2 cup sugar (or a little more... these were very tangy)

  • 2 tsp baking powder

  • 1/4 tsp salt

  • A generous sprinkle of ground flax seed (optional; I add this to almost everything)

  • 1 beaten egg

  • 3/4 cup milk

  • 1/4 cup cooking oil

  • The juice of one navel orange

  • The pulp from one navel orange, in small chunks

  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups of roughly chopped fresh/frozen cranberries (adjust according to what you have or prefer)

Combine all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Make sure to stir well to get well mixed. Combine all the wet ingredients (egg, milk, oil, orange juice). Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just moistened. Fold in the fruit. Bake in a 400* oven for at LEAST 20 minutes or until golden brown and toothpick comes out clean. These have more moisture than the basic muffin mix so expect them to take 5-10 minutes longer than your regular muffins.

I think this recipe would also be wonderful with some chopped walnuts or pecans in it... but I didn't have any when I was mixing!

Please let me know if you try these, how they turn out. I'm especially interested to hear if you modify them to fit your own tastes! I love hearing ideas to incorporate into my own kitchen.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Multitude Monday #3

holy experience

I'm a day late; forgive me, please! My computer died and left me without... it wasn't until late evening that I had everything resolved. Today will also have pictures of several of my blessings!

16) Hours of laughter with so many of our friends

17) Quilt shows

18) God's provision in times of need

19) Cranberry-Orange muffins

20) The still-small voice that whispers, "You ARE good enough..."

21) My first sunburn of 2010

22) Flowers from my husband

23) A dear sister-in-law who recently became a Christian!

24) A calling upon my heart

25) Little green shoots of mint just coming up... there's so much hope!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Lentil Casserole

We have a joke at our house that is too funny. I have to pass it on. The joke is Lentil Casserole.

Now, the food itself is no joke. I found the recipe in a 1960's cookbook I got at an auction last summer. Lentils and other veggies baked in the oven, covered with cheddar cheese, served with fresh rolls... all around yum. I put it on our menu regularly -- at least 2x a month, if not more.

Here's where the joke comes in: I never, EVER get around to actually making it. "Lentil Casserole" is a code word in the Preston household for, "I don't feel like cooking tonight, let's go out." This is not planned! I promise! It just happens that way... every time.

Lentil Casserole was scheduled for Wednesday night. We had cheese pizza. In response, I declared we were having it Thursday night. We ate Thai (mmm... tofu bume...). We did finally eat it for lunch today because I was so disappointed with us. And you know what? It was wonderful.

Just like it always is.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Multitude Monday #2

holy experience

I love listing blessings. My mind keeps turning towards them throughout the week -- "What can I thank Christ for today?" I'm grateful for the opportunity to list them here:

6) Unexpected visits from long-missed friends

7) Late night conversations about faith, spirits, and the fate of the world
(These two very much go together. Shaune's friend Charlie was in the area on spring break from college and graced us with his presence. He is such an encouragement!)

8) A fully stocked fridge

9) Long conversations with my mom

10) "Mental Health Days" filled with the music of a long-set-aside viola (Shaune is a brilliant musician. I'm so blessed to have a music-filled house)

11) A box becoming ever more filled with teddies (We have 8 so far. We're shipping it to Mother Bear when we have 10)

12) Library Cards!

13) Family-in-law who have accepted me as one of their own

14) Green grass outside my window

15) A Father who sacrificed the status quo to reach out to both of his lost sons (see Luke 15)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Brown Linen Dress

I won't tell you how long ago I started this dress... but it is finally finished! Things kept going wrong, so I set it aside for several months until I wasn't angry at it anymore. I'm sure you understand!

I wanted a dress that was practical and simple. A dress that could become a wardrobe staple to replace the many jeans and slacks that I'm hoping to retire. I wanted it to be plain enough to dress up with jewelry, jackets, and sashes, while having a little bit of interest in itself in case I ever wanted to wear it alone.

I bought this pattern several years ago and have made it up once. It is simple, well fitting, and flattering to my shape:

Simplicity 4531
I found the brown linen on sale at Joann's last summer on sale. I thought it was pure linen, but I found out otherwise when I was first ironing it. Maybe that's why it was so cheap :). It is fully lined with boring brown cotton, which gives the tea-length skirt a nice swing.
I love how the neckline is high enough that I can wear the dress with or without something underneath it. I've worn it four times in the past week because it is so versatile! I will definitely be using this pattern again and highly recommend it to anyone else looking for a simple, classic jumper or dress.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Multitude Monday #1

holy experience

I'm starting something new today. A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a blog full of beautiful pictures and heartfelt prayers. And I was inspired. Every week, the blog Holy Experience hosts something called Multitude Monday where people can post a list of their blessings. The goal is to get 1000 blessings -- a constant reminder of what God is doing, big things and little things, day by day by day through this life. It's called the "Gratitude Community." I can't wait to see where this takes me.

So... here is a slow start to my counting 1000 blessings over the next few months:

1) Life itself
2) Salvation
3) My loving husband
4) Our comfortable home
5) A full refrigerator

Maybe you'll want to start counting, too? The Gratitude Community.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Our "Tight Knit" Family

This is my 100th post! 100 posts ago, I had no idea what I wanted to do, but I thought a blog might be a fun way to connect with people who share my interests and world-view -- a hard thing to find in the real world where I live. You've all become a huge blessing to me as you skim my rambling thoughts. So in honor of post #100, I'd like to summarize (in no particular order):

**takes a deep breath**

Sewed a lot of clothes, trained as a volunteer at New Salem, student taught, graduated from college, hubby ran the Chicago Marathon, we went to Liberia in Africa, sponsored a Liberian child, cooked a lot of yummy food, finally mastered baking bread, went on a spontaneous trip to Florida, learned phonics, moved, gardened on my balcony, tried to write essays about faith, AND even shared som sorrows.

I'm stilly "humbly beginning" this whole homemaking journey. I'm not sure what comes next but I am certain it will be interesting!

But the real reason I wanted to post today: I want to introduce you to our new family. No... we're not pregnant. Not yet. But our house is becoming packed full of little ones: Little knit teddy bears!

This project all started when we got back from Liberia and I cleaned out my craft closet. My yarn stash was more than a little overwhelming -- more than a full trash bag, which is a lot since I don't really work with yarn that often. I wanted to find a charity I could craft for to a) fill my time at home and b) not spend money. After several days of rejecting chemo caps and prayer shawls (a valuable service, but not my calling), I stumbled upon this:

They're so easy to knit up while I'm lost in Jane Austen movies most afternoons. I'm working on my fourth bear so far. Even Shaune's getting in on the fun! I love my husband so much for things just like this. He's so manly when he needs to be, but loves to curl up with me in the evenings to drink tea and knit. Of course, on those nights, he gets to choose the movie. ***sigh*** I just can't claim to be a fan of Conan the Barbarian. But isn't he cute?!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Education in Liberia

A student at J.V. Government School

Have you ever been at sea in a dense fog, when it seemed as if a tangible white darkness shut you in and the great ship, tense and anxious, groped her way toward the shore with plummet and sounding-line, and you waited with beating heart for something to happen? I was like that ship before my education began... Helen Keller (emphasis mine)

One of the places where I spent most of my time while in Liberia was at the John Wesley School. This K-12 academy is one of the best in Central Liberia -- if not all of Liberia. It is wholy run and supported by the church. The churches in Liberia (Catholic and Protestant) run more schools than the government. The Methodist Church alone runs more high schools (9-12 grades) than the government. And as many schools as there are, there simply are not enough.

I visited a few different schools while there. J.V. Government School is quite literally falling down -- there are not walls between many of the nine different classrooms. I can't even imagine how classes can be held in there. How the students would be able to focus and the teachers be able to teach. It felt hopeless just being there. I had a chance to speak with a member of Congress and he explained that the country desperately wants to reestablish education, but they have bigger fish to fry first. There are no roads to get to the schools. There are no jobs; therefore, no one to tax. Anyone familiar with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs may remember that feeling safe and physically cared for (i.e. having a roof and food to eat) comes before a student is able to learn. It comes before the government can provide education, too.

J.V. Government School, behind

I'm having trouble tracking down up-to-date statistics, but I'd like to pass on what I have found as well as what I heard while I was in the country. Right around half of the adult population is literate -- that means only one out of every two adults is able to read and write in English or their tribal language. Less than half of school-aged children actually attend a school. Kids are in and out of school all the time because they all charge tuition -- even the government schools. When the money is there, they are enrolled. No money, no school.

John Wesley is in a unique situation because of the amount of American support it receives. Most of the students at John Wesley are attending for free or are on a scholarship. The free students are attending at the personal expense of the principal and the D.S. of the church: two very Godly men who are stretched as far as their means will allow. Children traveled from huge distances and sleep in the classrooms at night so they can attend. The school has a huge emphasis on finding certified teachers to fill the classrooms.

6th grade at John Wesley

It is my prayer to spread the word about education in Liberia and give others a chance to literally change the world by educating a child. To get children off the streets and into classrooms. To give them books to read and food to eat and a hope for themselves and their families. So that they can break the cycle of poverty and help Liberia to heal.

Children selling dried fish in Weala

If you are interested in helping, please email me privately at sandjpreston08 @ live.com (no spaces). I have tons of details that are more appropriate for private communication than a public blog.

Monday, March 1, 2010

My Borrowed Child

As some of you may know, I have a little brother who is much younger than me. Matty just turned 10 this past week. My parents wanted to attend a conference at their church, so Shaune and I snatched up the chance to be pretend parents for the weekend.

Matthew arrived with his bag of books and his stack of video games on Saturday morning at about 11 and we settled into a hilarious series of events: a video game tournament, trying to toss our own pizza crusts, dressing up like Liberians for church, a Monopoly tournament, reading aloud together all three of us snuggled up on the couch...

It's hard being so much older than he is. On one hand, he's my little bro who I love to play with and run around and be silly with. On the other hand, I've been caring for him since the day he was born -- I was 13. It's a strange battle between the anything-goes babysitter mindset and the "you really should eat your vegetables" mom thoughts. I strive for a balance -- DingDongs are an acceptable breakfast, but only if paired with a banana and a glass of milk!

He just left; Mom came and picked him up so he can go start his ISATs tomorrow morning. And once again, the house is quiet and peaceful, but a little less playful too. I'm so joyful that he came to be with us, and yet again my heart is praying beyond words that we'll have our own little man to hang out with soon. I love that boy more than I can put words to. It was a wonderful weekend.