The Saturday Review: Wine and Cheese

downloadWhen I’m traveling in my car, I usually choose light cozy books in which I’m unlikely to be shocked by overt sex and graphic language, since one can hear my speakers outside of my car if I’m at an intersection or in a parking lot. That was one of the reasons I chose The Merlot Murders by Ellen Crosby; it looked interesting but also safe. I was also intrigued by the idea of a book based in Virginia’s wine country, rather than California or France. My choice did not disappoint; it’s an easy murder mystery with enough intrigue and surprise built into the plot to keep me guessing. The book is the first of a series about Lucie Montgomery and her family’s winery, and I was encouraged enough by the first book to go on to the second. The Chardonnay Charade was just what I expected — another cozy murder mystery with a little romantic spice built into the story. Thank goodness my library has the books so I don’t have to keep buying them; I just put holds on the other four titles and will enjoy spinning through them over the next few weeks.

Enough about wine. Let’s get to the cheese.

Heat-Wave-book-coverWe all love Castle, right? The sophisticated mix of crime, humor, and love is captivating in the television show.

Given that, I decided to read the spin-off book from the show, Heatwave by Richard Castle. I didn’t get very far. It reads like Kate Beckett treats Richard Castle in the first season and if this was what best-selling author Richard Castle was producing, I would be skeptical too. I can’t imagine that anyone would actually buy more than one of the fictional Richard Castle murder mysteries–they are just too cheesy, and not at all what I would expect that the intelligent and sensitive character of Richard Castle (played by hunky Nathan Fillion) would write. Not everyone agrees with me, so I encourage you to read other reviews if you are intrigued. I wasn’t interested enough to finish the book.

There you have it — wine and cheese for your weekend pleasure. For those of you who plan to watch the premiere of Season 7 on Monday, here’s a teaser interview with Nathan Fillion. So cute…

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Summer at the Seashore

For our last summer hurrah, many of you spend Labor Day weekend at the seashore. Here in the Midwest, we call it going to the lake house.

GotMyReservations Summer at the Seashore Tablescape

You might find a few shells on our inland shores, but for this tablescape, I used my son’s collection of shells that I found in the garage with some of his other treasures. He’s thirty-six years old; I think it’s time that I considered that collection mine to use! Continue reading

Fresh Corn Soup

Are you a Facebook recipe collector? I feel sometimes that all those recipes are like shiny bits of glitter and of course, the gorgeous photos are designed to attract my attention. This one for Fresh Corn Soup really caught my eye!

GotMyReservations Fresh Corn Soup

Continue reading

The Saturday Review: Two Portraits of Ernest Hemingway

I’ve been on a Hemingway journey for several years, enjoying The Paris WifeA Moveable Feast, The Sun Also Risesand Woody Allen’s film Midnight in Paris while armed with my own memories of Paris. Today’s review includes two recent reads about Ernest Hemingway and his world.

At the Hemingways: A Family Portrait

download (1)Originally published in 1962 after the suicide of her famous brother, Marcelline Hemingway Sanford shares stories of growing up with her brother and very family. With their primary residence in Oak Park, Illinois, and their summer home at Walloon Lake, Michigan, I found these local stories interesting just for their history. A newer edition was published in 1998 for the centennial of Hemingway’s birth, and includes correspondence between Ernest and his sister Marcelline. Hemingway’s experiences as a child and young man in Illinois and Michigan, as well as his time in Italy, Paris, and Spain are part of this treasure trove of Hemingway history. Marcelline Hemingway Sanford’s writing is clean and her narratives move along crisply, with wonderful characterization of the family members and friends who influenced Ernest Hemingway.

Hemingway and Gellhorn: The Untold Story of Two Writers, Espionage, War, and the Great Depression

Click into photo for source and interesting article.

Click into photo for source and interesting article.

For Hemingway fans, this look at the courtship and marriage to Martha Gellhorn brings a new light to the current offerings about Ernest Hemingway and his wives. In Martha Gellhorn, Hem seems to have met his match, and the details of their life together in Key West are very interesting, as well as the information about their political activities. The book suffers from a lack of editing and does not flow well all the time, but if one is interested in the story of Ernest Hemingway, this is a natural choice.

I also watched Hemingway and Gellhorn, the DVD version of the book, starring Nicole Kidman and Clive Owen. It got universally mixed reviews, but my reaction is that if one did not read the book, the characterizations of Hem and Marty would seem over-the-top. I actually think that director Philip Kaufman got it more right than wrong, as the movie capsulizes years of a passionate relationship between the two artists that included a gamut of strong emotions. The movie has some love scenes that are designed for mature adults, and they seem a little graphic considering the target audience of this movie. Most of us know what people do in bed and it wasn’t necessary to show us on the big screen, unless one needs to be reassured that Nicole Kidman’s still got it. The war scenes are equally graphic, but no one seems to complain about them. Whoops — that’s my personal bias showing. I liked Nicole Kidman as the glamorous and gritty Gellhorn, but according to the many photos available of Hem, he was more charismatic than Clive Owen portrays him. If you read and liked the book, you would probably also enjoy the film.


Next up in my Hemingway journey:

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It’s that time of year — time for a little R&R and a focus on some personal goals.

One of my goals is to learn to use photo apps more effectively, and this photo demonstrates my first attempt at using my iPad to directly edit and watermark a photo.

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I’ll be doing a few book reviews and probably posting some new photos, but I need a little break from tablescaping and researching vintage finds. Stay with me — I’ll be back!

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Photostyling Using Vintage Finds

Vintage pieces are everywhere and are the perfect backdrop for interesting blogging and photostyling.

GotMyReservations Lucky Junk Display

This display was taken at Lucky Junk with my cell phone. Interesting blog photos are everywhere!

While I’m still learning about photography and photostyling, I’ve figured out a few pointers that might help people who are starting out in blogging. I’m not a professional photographer, but the difference between my old and new photos is noticeable.

GotMyReservations Vintage Finds Photos

Yes, I know this photo has a few hot spots from hard lighting, but it still makes the food look appetizing.

Start with a silver tray. These can be found everywhere if you are looking for them. Check resale shops, garage sales, and estate sales. They are rarely more than ten dollars and usually require a little silver polish. No big deal for the payback you get. Don’t worry if they have worn spots — no one cares.

GotMyReservations Vintage Finds Closeup

Vary the heights and textures of the pieces in your vignettes. I used three different vessels, including a vintage Haeger pottery urn, a curvy shrimp cocktail stemmed glass, and a faceted rimmed plate edged in gold. They don’t have to match to be beautiful together, and with the exception of the Haeger urn, they were all in my cupboard. I am proud to be associated with a local vintage store, Lucky Junk, and Janet graciously allows me to borrow items from the store to use in my photos.

GotMyReservations Vintage Finds Royal Haeger Urn

Think about what’s going to be in the foreground, the middle, and the background before you take the photo. Currently, food stylists on social media are using photos that tell a story; a photo of a pizza might also have a pile of grated cheese and a sprig of basil in the picture. Usually you will also see loose pieces in the frame that help to support the theme of the vignette. Your collectible linens can also help you create a mood, so think about the story your photograph tells. I chose to photograph my collection of somewhat elegant vessels on a summery plaid tablecloth to create a lighthearted feel to my fruit story. P.S. This is a “don’t” photo — read its caption.

GotMyReservations Vintage Finds Background

I should have draped the backs of my chairs to avoid the busyness of the background in this photo.

If you are using color in your photo, repeat similar hues throughout your styling. The red strawberries, red raspberries, and red plaid in the tablecloth play well together and demonstrate the power of threes. The deep purple of the blackberries provides contrast and I purposely left the green stems on the strawberries to give some definition to the pile of red in the Haeger urn. The colors of vintage items range from the very popular light shabby chic pieces to the retro colors of the 1950s and 1960s. Use color to your advantage in your photos.

GotMyReservations Vintage Finds Food Closeup

The crispness of this photo of soft shell crab tempura taken in relatively low light is awesome.

Sometimes new is better. You should use your closeup lens to create depth-of-field in your photo. Most point and shoot cameras these days have some sort of closeup setting, usually labeled food or flowers. In my photos, you can see how the edges of the photos start to get soft and unfocused. Obviously, if you have a real DSLR and a lens with a wide aperture, use it. I have a new Sony pocket camera that is designed to take closeups in low light. While its cost is similar to a full-size DSLR, it might be a worthwhile investment if you are going to try to make money with your photos. It’s pretty easy to take stunning photos, even while in a restaurant or store where your lighting is not perfect. There are lots of fabulous photos on the web that are taken with smart phones, as well. Check out available apps which can give you all kinds of effects and editing capabilities. I’m going to try out Evernote Food, which has a built-in “foodlight.” The camera that is in your purse is better than no camera at all!

GotMyReservations Vintage Finds Tea Cup

The camera was shooting toward a crowded tea table, but the shallow depth-of-field focuses your eye on the teacup.

I’m linking up today with Christine at Rustic and Refined and Dawn at We Call It Junkin’. Both of these bloggers have figured out how to successfully use vintage pieces in their tablescaping photography. I’d love to see your best photos, so post them in the comments or on the Got My Reservations social media pages.

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Pesto Presto

How does your basil grow this summer? Mine’s pretty much gone to seed and I’m not very good about watering it. Although I like to garden and I love the flowers and fresh produce, I don’t have much patience for the constant caretaking. I know, I’m a bad gardener.


Earlier this summer when it was raining every day, I took advantage of my basil bumper crop and whipped up a bunch of fresh basil pesto. Fast forward a month or so and it’s almost gone, but I had some kale that needed to be used. (Isn’t there always kale left over in the fridge?) I added more olive oil, four more cloves of garlic, some lime juice and the limpish kale and threw it all into the food processor. Voila! A new pesto was born.

GotMyReservations Pesto

I started making pestos of all sorts years ago when I first got Dorothy Rankin’s 1985 pesto recipe book, Pesto!: Cooking with Herb Pastes. I have bought and given away her little paperback so many times that I no longer have it in my cookbook collection. It was the perfect primer for learning to go beyond a basic basil, pine nut, and parmesan pesto. Pesto comes from the word pestare (to pound or crush) in Italian and is one of the easiest and quickest ways you can sauce meat, pasta, or vegetables.

I know -- it seems like a strange photo on the cover, but I promise you that the recipes are good.

I know — it seems like a strange photo on the cover, but I promise you that the recipes are good.

These days, we see pestos of all sorts being created on television cooking shows, but the basic elements are the same. I decided that I wanted to see if Rankin has gone beyond her original vision, so I ordered a copy of her newer edition, entitled Very Pesto!

Meantime, I’m channeling Ree Drummond who also posted today on Facebook about making basil pesto. Apparently she’s a better gardener than I am, because her basil plants are overflowing with leaves. Or maybe she has “people” to water her plants while she’s on vacation. One never knows.

I appreciate your support of my affiliate connection with Amazon and hope that you will click into my links if you decide to purchase a recipe book based on my recommendation. Please see my advertising disclosure for details.

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Silver in the Garden and on Your Table

Our Chicago suburb has a garden walk every summer as many towns do.

We saw some beautiful flowers…

GotMyReservations Good as Gold Hybrid Tea

Good as Gold Hybrid Tea Rose

…and sat on a lovely front porch in the shade while the garden clubbers handed out cool water and cookies. Continue reading

Roasted Beets with Lemon and Garlic

We had a half-naked lemon, left over from the bread-making frenzy on Friday night. She’s hiding her zesty side.

GotMyReservations Lemon and Depression Glass Juicer

We had some aging beets from the Farmers’ Market. Upon peeling, some of them turned out to have a little surprise of their own. Continue reading

Summer Green Tablescape

It all started with these cute plates from Tuesday morning. French script, a radish, and a stylized fleur de lis pattern had me hooked. At $2.99 each, they were a bargain I couldn’t pass up.GotMyReservations Summer Green Tablescape Intro

The textural elements just began to create themselves — the crocheted lace tablecloth in a muted beige, the play of the dark wicker placemats against the lighter colors, and the glorious greens of summer.  The trefoil bronze vase from Garden Ridge continued the French theme. Continue reading

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