Prayers Needed

Please be praying for my mama. She is going in the hospital for some tests tomorrow and into a nursing/rehab home next week for physical therapy on her back. Her back has been so bad that lately she is having trouble moving and walking.  Her back started bothering her in October.  Several tests and X-rays were run, but they didn't show anything.  The pain continued to worsen, and when her doctor prescribed pain pills, her appetite vanished, and she was nauseated and vomiting.  She also had some raised spots come up on her body, including on her breast that was lanced earlier last year (It was not malignant or anything).  As such, she lost a lot of weight and is very weak.  So now that she is on pain medication that aren't causing her to be sick, her muscles have become too weak and the pain is still there, so she is having mobility problems.  She started PT a few weeks ago, but has been so weak (and with some of the winter weather and the holidays), she's missed some appointments.  She had some scans and an MRI, but her doctor still has not provided the results (and it has been a week and a half ago since the MRI!  I'm ticked about that!).  She was supposed to go to a surgeon on Wednesday to have those spots checked, but she could not drive.  This should be a temporary move (less than 100 days) until she can build up her strength, but she has never had much patience with herself when sick, and I am worried sick about her.  My mama lives with my brother four hours away, so I cannot just pop over every day to check on her.  I covet your prayers at this time.  Thanks.

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"Manchester, a city that thinks tables are for dancing on"

Remember how I went to Great Britain last summer?  And how I never posted about it?  Well, I've really been missing those green hills and lovely isle lately, so I decided to post about it every once in a while.  :)

We had quite the day of traveling.  It went smoothly until we got to Philly, and then the proverbial poo hit the fan with our plane getting delayed ten and fifteen minutes at a time.  We finally boarded after no dinner and freezing in the airport--and then I got sick on the plane.  This is the second time I've done this traveling overseas, so I have determined my body just can't handle eating so close to when I'm supposed to be sleeping, and yet I'm flying during my sleep time.  Make sense?  Likely not, but here is a cute photo of us from that first morning before flying out of NWA, May 29!

When we arrived in Manchester, we checked into our room over the Oxnoble pub!  It was marvelous!  Then we had lunch downstairs and went to get our phones ready to use at the Arndale Shopping Centre.  We had tickets to go see Iron and Wine at the Opera House that night, and it was a FABULOUS show.  Easily, one of the best concerts I've ever attended, and I loved that everyone sat in their seats and patiently watched.  (I hate how everyone stands up but doesn't dance in the States.  What's the point of that?)

On May 31, we went for lunch at Piccadilly Gardens, explored the Art Gallery, had dinner at a Greek restaurant in The Printsworks, and enjoyed live music and drinks at The Bay Horse in the northern district:

The next morning, we checked out and headed to the train station for the blessed Lake District!

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Menu Monday: P is for Poached Pears

One of the easiest recipes I like to make as a complement to a breakfast dish or as a dessert is poached fruit.  Usually, I do apples during the fall, and I believe I've done peaches several times, and occasionally, I do pears.  Pears are my least favorite, and I tend to combine them with apples when I can, or if not, I add lots of sweetener and spices.  However, Zach got some Royal Riviera pears from Harry & David's, and they were delicious.

But we ended up with too many for us to each, so I've been trying to use them up.  I made a pear cobbler, but I also made some poached pears.

1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
spices to taste
fresh fruit, peeled and sliced

-Combine sugar and water in a  saucepan and bring to a boil.
-Add spices.  (I usually go for a cinnamon stick and dashes of nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and ginger.
-Add fruit (around 2 to 4 cups--or what is equal to 2-4 apples) and reduce heat.  Simmer for about 10 minutes until tender.  Be sure not to overcook!

You can also replace some or all of the water with wine for a richer taste.  I just have to be careful with how much alcohol I consume, so I tend to use water these days.  You can also add other fruit juices and citrus zest and dried fruits for more varied flavor.  This is the foundation recipe that I tweak for my needs (as you can see above with the different types of fruit I use).  Sometimes, we eat this as a side, but usually, we will spoon it over waffles, French toast, pancakes, or pound cake.

Bon app├ętit!

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Chicago, Days 4 and 5

We have had an 80-degree jump in temperature here:  from -20 at the beginning of the week to being in the upper 60s today.  That's Arkansas for ya.

I'm going to finish up posting about our New Year's trip, so I can get started on fun stuff from this year!  Not that we had a particularly fun weekend--we were both feeling kinda poorly, and I spent the weekend cleaning up and cleaning out.  Feels good to be productive, but the headache I have right now does not...

On our last day in Chicago (and the last day of the year!), we all woke up feeling badly. Beverly ended up staying behind, but the rest of us made it out to the Museum of Science and Industry later in the morning.

This is my FAVORITE museum of the Chicago ones we have visited, on this trip and in the past. I spent most of my time, though limited, looking at their Christmas around the World display (a tree each for more than 50 countries).  I LOVE this kind of stuff.  I spent so much time studying them, that I had to leave to meet Zach to ride in a flight simulator.  And I came back for more photos before the three of us watched an IMAX film on Space Junk!

1)  Bosnia's tree
2)  USA's tree
3)  ornament from Portugal's tree, I believe
4)  Germany's tree
5)  kind of a cop-out, but as a royal watcher, I do appreciate this ornament on England's tree
6)  "Merry Christmas" ornament on 
7)  thistle on Scotland's tree
8)  Greece's tree
9)  Santa ornament from Slovakia's tree
10)  Italian nativity
11)  Swedish decorations
12)  ornament from Slovenia's tree
13)  Lebanon's tree
14)  ornament from Czech Republic's tree
15)  Disney tree in the center of it all
16)  presents from Mickey and friends

I also got to see Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives, and this is one of the highlights for me! It traced Disney's birth in Chicago to Kansas City, where he began as a cartoonist and began to dabble in live action-integrated films. Then he moved out west to begin his empire, not before he hit a few bumps along the way. He started with Laugh-O-Grams, Alice comedies, and Oswald the Rabbit before launching Mickey Mouse in "Steamboat Willie." His first feature-length film was a huge gamble called Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Folks didn't think children or adults would sit through a (color) animated film that long, but Walt proved them wrong! Then onto Bambi, Dumbo, Pinocchio, and Fantasia! This ushered in a golden age of animation with Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella.

While most film production companies feared that TV would hurt them, Disney was able to embrace television and began a working relationship, launching The Mickey Mouse Club, Zorro, and others, and he also began hosting the Disneyland show (what we know as The Wonderful World of Disney) in conjunction with the construction and opening of Disneyland.

This all lead into live-action films, including the popular Mary Poppins!  Y'all know how much I love Mary--I've gone as her twice for costumed-events!  I got to see her carpet bag, the storyboard, all of the costumes from the penguin dance, many of the other props, and "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!"

 This is London from the opening of the movie.  I would really love this print to hang in my house!

 I sense a Facebook cover photo... ;)

Next, the exhibit covered the opening of Disneyland, as the castle seen in Lego bricks here, as well as Disneyworld. Unfortunately, Walt passed away before Disneyworld opened, but his legacy continues with the theme parks and recent films and franchises, including Hocus Pocus, Enchanted, Pirates of the Caribbean, and others; and second golden age of animation with The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, and Aladdin. (These last pictures are maquettes, clay models of the characters. Disney used them with his earliest films, but they moved away from them...until the late 1980s. They help cartoonists draw more realistic motions and depth perspective of their characters.) 

The exhibit ended with an animation studio for kids (and adults) to learn how to draw and two displays of recent Disney investments (High School Musical and...something else). You can clearly see how much is treasured from recent days! *haha*

These last pictures are from their huge model train section, and I included it because I feel like encapsulates the spirit of this museum--trains, planes (spacecraft), expansion, and culture. I love MoSI!

Here are some photos on our way back to the hotel that made me thing of "My Favorite Things" ("snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes..."):

We went back to our hotel to freshen up before dinner. Zach and I rented About Time, which was a darling little film. I think maybe critics didn't find it as charming because it reminded them too much of The Time Traveler's Wife? Since Rachel McAdams was in both? But we really liked it.  I made sure to get some photos of our hotel during this down time and after dinner (with some from the next morning):
 I felt like Kevin McAllister!

 This is from the Historic Tower; we stayed in the newer one, so it was like discovering a whole new hotel!

 This was painted or placed or printed on every floor by the elevators.

 You could smell the gingerbread house!



sitting room

There were literally no places available for New Year's Eve except for the Michael Jordan Steakhouse in our hotel. So Zach got us reservations, and we enjoyed a pricy but delicious dinner. That Michael Jordan knows how to make steaks, sea scallops, and pork chops! For sides, we had three kinds of mashed potatoes (sweet potatoes, lobster, and colcannon), creamed kale, and caramelized Brussels sprouts. Because we had to wait for our food so long, they brought us bread, too. It's nice to have a fancy meal every once in a blue moon.

 the restaurant, view from the second floor while walking across the bridge over the first floor

my horrible attempt to get a picture of all four of us together

We ended the night in our room, gathered around the TV and drinking raspberry lambic and champagne and trying to find something on TV other than Miley Cyrus. We ended up watching the local countdown and a show on HLN about the top viral videos from each state, which included many a dance and cute animal. It was fun to watch the snow fall and then to see fireworks outside our hotel windows as well. I also participated in some kind of flashlight code with the kids staying across the way; they were flashing the flashlights on their cell phones out their windows at midnight, so I flashed mine back, and they waved and waved. It was exciting to be in a big city for NYE! Yet, quickly after midnight, Zach's parents retired to their room, we finished the champagne, and then we headed off to our first sleep of 2014! 2013 was tiring.

 first photo of 2014

 the neighbors who were flashing us

 You could see the fireworks reflected on the buildings!

remnants of NYE the next morning

And it was goodbye, Chicago!

We were able to spend one last morning in the Windy City, and I enjoyed this view by daylight. Then we packed up and took a taxi to the airport because we were running behind, were worried about holiday traffic, and were concerned about the worsening weather. We made it and got through security very quickly, and then we hung out in the Admirals Club lounge (American Airlines). Three of the four flights to XNA had been pushed back, but ours was showing on time.

And then we spent most of our first day and night of 2014 in the airport. There are only so many blogs you can read and free yogurt-covered pretzels you can eat to pass the time. But I think we made it out before the worst of it...

If you made it this far, you won the golden ticket!  ;)
Thanks for sticking through our trip to that "Toddlin' Town!"

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