TBT: My first ever blog post about my father and France


See why I tell people I look just like him? Cause. I. Do.

I wrote this post in October, 2009, the first entry on my fledgling blogging site, Sentimental Journeys, and it seems amazing now that I was planning my first trip to France. Since then, we have been to France twice, and I long to visit again soon.

Because this post is mostly about my father, and yesterday would have been his 93rd birthday, it seems appropriate to bring it back into the light on Throwback Thursday.

Dad, we hope you are dancing and singing and gardening and cooking happily in heaven. Continue reading

A Revisit to My Advent Calendar Renovation

23 Days of Christmas! Today I hung our Advent calendar on the wall; it’s in a new place that doesn’t require climbing on furniture to hang the ornaments — an important consideration during the Christmas season of knee replacement recovery.

Got My Reservations 25 Days of Christmas 2013 Medium ButtonLet’s revisit last year’s post about fixing up my Advent calendar — with footnotes

One of the things that I wanted to do in retirement was to get out all my Christmas stuff and reorganize it. I also wanted to move it from its storage spot in the basement crawlspace to the garage (1) where I could access it on my timetable rather than waiting for Music Man to drag it out for me. I used to think that I had more stuff than most people, but recently several different friends posted photos on Facebook of their stacks of Christmas storage boxes. One friend said she brought 22 boxes from her storage unit, which took several trips in her car. I don’t feel so bad now. Apparently I’m not a Christmas hoarder, even if my basement says otherwise.

When I got out our Advent calendar this year, I took a quick photo with my phone of it hanging in my bathroom on the first day of December. In recent years, this seems to be the most convenient and obvious place for it, as I am reminded every morning to change the ornament on it. At my advanced age, I need every reminder I can get.

My sister-in-law made Advent calendars for family members many years ago — maybe as many as 30 years and I treasure her generous spirit and the family tradition honored by the calendar. I’ve been getting out that Advent calendar every year and doing the countdown with my kids, but I always wanted to change one little thing about it. It was designed to use very thin gold cording to hold the ornaments on the nails, but over the years they got tangled and it wasn’t easy to pop those little puppies off and on the nails.

So—- I decided to do a little project that I’ve been contemplating for “several” years, and by “several” I probably mean ten years.

I  felt that the calendar would work better with rings to replace the cords so that the ornaments dangle cleanly and are easy to take on and off. I’ve purchased those rings at least three times over the past few years, but never did the repairs. THIS YEAR, my first year of retirement, it was time to actually do this instead of talking about it.

Yet, things can never be easy, can they?

When I went to find my duffel bag full of jewelry findings and tools, it was nowhere to be seen. I had decided to use a split ring and needed my special split-ring pliers, so I ended up buying another tool. I think that’s probably my third set of those particular pliers, but who’s counting? Then while I was standing in line, I saw these beautiful red rings that would set off the red trim on the calendar. Just had to have them, so into the bag they went.

When I got home, I found that the little holes in the ornaments were too small for the red rings. I begged Music Man to pull out the drill for me and he also found a small piece of wood that I could drill against. I made each hole a little bigger, threaded the red ring through it, and then realized I didn’t need the split-ring pliers at all since I was putting the whole thing together with simple needle-nose pliers.

Am I boring you yet?

If you’re not a crafter, these stupid little details can’t be very interesting, but for those of us who are crafters, it’s important to know in advance what one needs to do the job. Obviously, I didn’t think this through very well.

The project turned out well, and although it can’t quite be termed a metamorphosis, I did finish a planned project. Now I think I need to decorate it some more — maybe a thin inner border of beads or something. I’ll have to see what’s on sale at the store. 🙂 (2)

Yet the story remains a continuing saga of stupid actions.

Somehow, I lost the chuck for the drill. (3) The one that is designed to fit perfectly into the handle. We’ve looked everywhere and cannot find it. I can sense Music Man’s annoyance under his helpful searching for the tool, but it’s just nowhere to be found.

Perhaps it’s in my missing jewelry duffel bag and I’m being punished by my Elf on the Shelf. (4)


(1) Although we got a lot done this year in the garage clean-out job, my Christmas stuff is unlikely to go the garage just yet. Insert sad face here.

(2) Maybe I’ll trim it up and maybe I won’t. It’s hard to go to the craft store when I’m not allowed to drive yet.

(3) The chuck for the drill was still missing when I used it somewhat recently. But I think it’s found again.

(4) The duffel bag is definitely found, but still has a cute red necklace in it that I really should finish putting together sooner than later so that I can wear it for Christmas events. And I cannot bring myself to buy an Elf on the Shelf.

I hope that you will follow along on our journey as Music Man and I prepare for Christmas in the Empty Nest. We’re glad you decided to visit with us today!

Got my bags, got my reservations,
Spent each dime I could afford.
Like a child in wild anticipation,
I long to hear that, “All aboard!”

Music and lyrics by Bud Green, Les Brown and Ben Homer (1944)

Enhanced by Zemanta

The Countdown Begins with Worship and Music

Advent is the time of preparation for Christmas; Christians are told in scripture to prepare for the coming of Christ. In the Empty Nest, Advent will also be a time of preparation for a glorious celebration with family and friends during the Christmas holidays. There are many traditions of Christmas that we celebrate which are connected to our religious beliefs, but there are also many things we will do over the next twenty-five days that are all about our secular celebrations.

25 Days of Christmas 2013 Intro

I’m okay with both the sacred and the secularity of Christmas, and that’s what I’m going to be sharing with you during my 25 Days of Christmas 2013 countdown. We are an Empty Nest where the birds will all come home for the holidays for the first time. I talked about my hopes for grace and patience here.

GotMyReservations-Advent WreathAs in life, some days are glorious and awe-inspiring and others are just full of work. I’m going to talk about both types of activities throughout the series. I hope that you will follow along as we clean and decorate, go to church, perform in and attend concerts, go out to dinner, and prepare meals in our home — the normal events in life that lead us closer and closer to Christmas.

Today we celebrated the first Sunday in Advent at church, and watched as two young families lit the first candle of Advent. We remembered the first time our little family participated in a similar service, and our four-year-old daughter read the prayer. It was enough to make the Empty Nest cry to think about that day.

This afternoon we enjoyed a brass concert with many different styles of carols and songs offered by five different brass groups. One of the people in the audience asked if we actually used the pipe organ in our sanctuary, and I assured her that we certainly did — along with our praise band, our folk service, our big band Sunday, our youth services, and our newest additions, masterworks Sunday, which featured strings, choir with pipe organ, and brass quintet. We are an equal opportunity musical church. 🙂 Here’s a beautiful rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus with pipe organ and brass quintet to get you in the mood for Christmas!

I’m ready to get ready for Christmas; will you join me?

Got my bags, got my reservations,
Spent each dime I could afford.
Like a child in wild anticipation,
I long to hear that, “All aboard!”

Music and lyrics by Bud Green, Les Brown and Ben Homer (1944)

Enhanced by Zemanta

Christmas Is Coming and I’m Not Going to Let My Goose Get Cooked

Last night I went to a merchandise party at a friend’s house. It was good to get out of my rehab clothes, put on a pair of skinny-ish jeans and visit with my friends. While I was only able to have about an ounce of wine, it was my first glass since before the surgery, and I enjoyed that as well. I finished up the evening with Pellegrino and lime — yes, I was a very good girl! My friend had a lot of funny cocktail napkins, but I just had to take a photo of this one, with proof of my non-drinking in the photo, of course.

GotMyReservations Cocktail Napkin Thinking about this napkin made me realize that for the first time in many years, I am going to have what I’ve always dreamed of — a house full of family and friends around my table for Christmas.

And we may need alcohol to get through it all.

When my daughter asked me if we could have British Christmas this year, it was shortly before my surgery and I agreed happily to host the party. British Christmas is a tradition that we have celebrated several years with friends who are originally from England, and some of the group currently live in England. When they come over for the holidays, they bring puddings and sauces and traditional English Christmas specialties. Being the Anglophile that I am, I have reveled in this opportunity to do Christmas English-style. We watch the Queen’s Christmas message on BBC and we open the crackers and wear silly paper crowns for the meal. It’s just heavenly for the little girl who grew up reading every book about English royalty that I could find in the library.  My caveat for doing the hosting this year was that the “kids” would have to chip in and do a lot of the work as both my English friend and I (the moms) will be post orthopedic rehab and not at our full hostessing potential.

Do I have it in me to let go and let someone else do Christmas in my house?

It turns out that my daughter’s British boyfriend is quite the chef – I already knew he was a foodie — and has opinions as to what should be served at this meal. And from there comes the rub. There’s the two young men from England who want to cook, and there’s the friend who will choose the wine. There’s the list of side dishes that are traditionally English and not what my family traditions dictate. I already ordered nuts and bridge mix from the church fundraiser, cheesecakes from the marching band fundraiser and there’s the annual gift of a bûche de Noël from another special friend. What is there for me to do?

Got My Reservations - Yule LogAnd that’s the silliest question ever, isn’t it?

My grown-up children are taking charge of the meal and putting most of it on the table. For once, I can be the sage on the side and sit with my knee propped up as needed. They can provide me with a list and we’ll do the shopping. I can plan a drop-dead tablescape and they can put it on the table for me. It’s every mother’s dream to see her children grow up and become adults who can do holidays themselves.

My son and his new bride will arrive the day AFTER Christmas, and of course, we will do it all again with a small open house to welcome them back to Chicago. I will need help with that as well. Another fun meal, and another chance to create a new tablescape. I can’t wait.

But I’m still a little wistful. I remember when my mom stopped having Thanksmas (our family’s Thanksgiving and Christmas rolled into one holiday), and we started having the party at my brother’s house. My mom seemed very old and fragile, but I doubt that she was even as old as I am now. I feel as though I’ve never had the chance to celebrate Christmas in my house as we have often traveled out west or to Ohio to have Christmas with family. My table here in Chicago has seen very few Christmas feasts — metaphorically, of course, as my table is brand new.

 I’m finally having Christmas at our house but I won’t be in control.

That’s even sillier than the last statement. Control is an illusion. Is one ever “in control” of anything?

So here’s my plan for the next four weeks. I’m going to decorate the heck out of this house, with the help of Music Man who seems to be eager to participate this year. I’m going to do a little redecorating and freshening up in the guest rooms — sleeping in one’s guest room post-surgery is a good way to find out the the ceiling fan hums way too loudly. Sorry about that, all the friends and family who’ve slept there before. I’m going to make lists and lists and lists, and encourage people to choose jobs from those lists.

I’m going to step back and let them do it. I promise, here in front of the world and everyone, that I WILL NOT let Christmas cook my goose this year.


Image Credit

I can do it. With grace and patience. Because I love them.



Travel Diary: A Travel Trip Through Memory Lane

As I was thinking about family this week, remembering that August 22 would have been my mother’s 83rd birthday, I decided to memorialize my parents by a trip through our travel memory lane. My father took all of the old slides with pictures of my brothers and me and converted them to photos. He gave us a photo scrapbook of all of these photos and they are a precious treasure trove that chronicles our growing up and our travels.

This is a personal journey that I’m making today, so if you’re not family or a really good friend, you may find you want to skip my grainy photolog. 🙂 Or maybe you have a similar set of photos in your closet that you’re willing to share …

GotMyReservations -- Mount Vernon Flower Garden

Flower Garden at Mount Vernon

Although there are lots of photos of me as a baby, it appears that we mostly stayed home or visited family in my early years. My father annotated the backs of the photos and he thought this first one was taken in about 1957 at Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home in Virginia. I turned five that summer and my brother was two. Since Dad was a teacher, we often took extended driving trips in the summer, dragging a variety of camping trailers behind us.

Here's a more current version of the garden at Mount Vernon.

Here’s a more current version of the garden at Mount Vernon.

My dad’s side of the family was from Cincinnati and we used to go to visit relatives fairly frequently. A visit to the Cincinnati Zoo was a treat, and Dad could not resist taking a leggy photo of Mom. Since she’s not pregnant here, this is probably about 1957.

GotMyReservations -- Cincinnati Zoo

Next on the memory lane is me at John Bryan State Park in western Ohio. Dad says this photo was taken about 1958. We always used to go on a fall color trip every year.

GotMyReservations -- John Bryan State Park

We visited the Ross County Historical Society Museum, in Chillicothe, Ohio.

GotMyReservations -- Chillicothe Historical Museum

My grandparents lived near Kansas City, so we sometimes visited them there. We also must have made a visit to the Harry S. Truman Library in about 1958.These two photos appear to be taken from about the same spot, but the second (professional) one has a lot more polish and landscaping!

GotMyReservations -- Harry Truman Library

Every Easter Sunday, after church we would go to what we called Mrs. Aull’s Garden (apparently we weren’t the only people) and take photos in our fancy clothes. My youngest brother is about two here, so it’s probably 1961.

GotMyReservations -- Mrs. Aulls Garden

Those yellow blobs on the hill behind us are all daffodils!

The hillside of daffodils still exists, and can be seen here via these copyrighted photos. Aullwood Garden Metropark is still a beautiful place to visit in Englewood, Ohio.

With our little family of five complete and mobile, we began to travel further afield.

And I began to get into those awkward years.

GotMyReservations --Rocky Mountains

Rocky Mountain High

GotMyReservations -- Rocky Mountain Rocks

Occasionally my mom took a picture, but she didn’t seem to get the knack of focusing either.

In 1964, we went to the World’s Fair in New York. My husband, who had a traveling childhood similar to mine, remembers that they served $2.00 hamburgers and everyone thought that was highway robbery!


GotMyReservations -- Mount Vernon 2

We went back to Mount Vernon…

GotMyReservations --Monticell 2

… and to Monticello.


GotMyReservations -- Appalachian Mountains

I fell in love with the Appalachian Mountains all over again in 1967.

By the time I was sixteen, I had pretty much stopped traveling with my parents and was working during the summer to save money for college. The love of travel that they instilled in me never went away, however, and it’s a rare day that doesn’t find me dreaming about the next reservation to travel I’m going to make.

I’m linked up today to Wanderlust Wednesday at Time Travel PlansThe Tablescaper for “Oh, The Places I’ve Been”, Travel Photo Monday” at Travel Photo Discovery, and “Travel Photo Thursday” at Budget Travelers Sandbox, so stop by and get some more inspiration for your travel bucket list!

Got my bags, got my reservations,
Spent each dime I could afford. 
Like a child in wild anticipation, 
I long to hear that, “All aboard!”

Music and lyrics by Bud Green, Les Brown and Ben Homer (1944)

Writers Workshop: A Revisit to the “Grossest Family Recipe Ever”

Every family has its traditions. Apparently, one of mine is the grossest family recipe ever.

Originally published last year, talking about family food traditions was an important story to tell. With another year under our belts, Grandma’s Oyster Dressing is still part of my Thanksgiving tradition and it’s even more poignant when compared with others’ viewpoints of my favorite turkey day recipe. 

2012 has been a year of blessings. Our grown up kids are flourishing in their adult lives. Music Man and I are happily adjusting to my retirement and his more positive work environment. Our son is engaged to a beautiful woman whom we are eager to welcome into our family.  Libbie is now four, David is almost two, Jessie is expecting another family member in March, and I love being a great-aunt. Our band will grow and flourish and getting together at Thanksgiving is so very important to its health. Although it’s a pain in the neck to travel 600 miles, it’s worth it. We have a lot to be thankful for.

From November 19, 2011

As we enter our weekend of Thanksgiving and gluttony, I would like to pause and give thanks for the many creatures that give up their lives for us at this time of year.


Insert. Silent. Pause. Here.

My little family band gets together with my brothers and their families on the day after Thanksgiving. We have been doing this since 1976; I have not prepared a Thanksgiving meal in my own home since then. Every year, we drive the 600 miles round trip to be with our family to celebrate both Thanksgiving and Christmas. This year we decided to forego our gift giving to each other and donate to Heifer International instead. We’ll still be giving gifts to the young ones, and it will be fun to see them open their presents. We also sing Christmas songs — we are THAT family that could make our own Trapp Family Singers — and I’m looking forward to hearing three-year-old Libbie sing her part in The Twelve Days of Christmas.

For me and some of my family, it just isn’t Thanksmas without oyster dressing. It’s unclear where our family recipe comes from, but my mother started making oyster dressing for our holiday gatherings a long time ago. In fact, I can’t remember when she didn’t make it. It was just always there.

My mom passed away in June, and as the eldest child, it has become my job to bring the oyster dressing. I’ve been making it for events here in our Chicagoland home for a while, but no one loves oyster dressing as well as my brothers and I do. My niece Jessica wrote about our family recipe on herVanderbilt Wife blog, calling our treasured oyster dressing our “grossest family recipe.” I beg to differ, but as she is allergic to clams, I wouldn’t want her to get sick on oysters. I do, however, want to share the recipe for what I consider to be the crowning glory of our holiday buffet table.

And just we’re clear about the popularity of oyster dressing, even the fabled Ree Drummond published a recipe for Oyster Dressing on her Pioneer Woman blog. I’m not alone in my love for this succulent awesomeness. Ree’s is a little different from ours; hers is more like traditional tossed bread-cube dressing. Grandma’s Oyster Dressing is more of a souffle-like scalloped oysters. It might be fun someday to make both recipes and see which one we like better!

Grandma's Oyster Dressing

Grandma's Oyster Dressing


  • Cooking spray
  • Four cans frozen or canned oysters (fresh would be fine, but not necessary)
  • Four ribs finely chopped celery
  • Four cans mushrooms
  • One box saltines crushed
  • one pound butter pats
  • About two cups of milk


First spray a 4.8 quart (15" x 10" x 2") rectangular casserole dish with cooking spray, and then add a layer of crushed crackers. Begin layering the ingredients -- oysters, celery, mushrooms, butter, and another layer of crackers. After each cracker layer add some milk and the juice from the mushrooms and oyster cans. You should have about four layers of crackers and three of “goodies.”

Cover it with foil so that it doesn’t dry out and take the foil off for the last 15 minutes so the top gets a little crusty. Bake at 350 degrees for at least an hour until the texture is puffy like a souffle. It is okay to prepare it in advance and let the liquids sink in.

A large Pyrex casserole dish will serve eight people comfortably as a side dish.



I’m linked up today to the Writing Workshop at Mama’s Losin’ It. It’s been a while since I’ve linked up because I’ve been converting my blog over to being self-hosted. If you have my old version on your blogroll (and I heartily thank you for your support), please change the link to gotmyreservations.com.

Happy Thanksgiving!





Writing Workshop: Lessons from Dad

I’m linking up to Mama Kat this week —

My prompt: Share a lesson you learned from your father.

On Friday, while visiting our son in Oakland, California, we also visited a salvage store. I had been struggling with this week’s prompt, since I’m also struggling with poor internet connections at the hotel, and wasn’t sure I could do my father justice this year. Then the visit to the salvage store made it all clear.

My father taught me to value the unlikely, to see the beauty in the ignored, to have the joy of creating something out of nothing.

Today I met another dad — one who would have loved being friends with my dad. It was hard for me to see all of his work, because it reminded me of my dad and how much I miss him. It was, however, a powerful reminder of how important it is to keep the memories of our loved ones alive through the legacies they leave behind.

Thanks to Grandpa Nick for the new memories I have of Father’s Day.

Losing It: Week 9

Every time Friday rolls around, I just hang my head in shame. How could another week have gone by without losing any weight?

I always have an excuse; this week’s excuse was the death and funeral of my husband’s stepmother. We lost his mother eleven years ago, my father in June 2009, his father in September 2009, and now his stepmother. My mother remains, but she isn’t in very good health and could also go at any time. It’s been a really hard year for our family.

The thing is, we human beings use food to bring us together. Families in crisis gather around tables groaning under the weight of our comfort food. Normally, our lives are so busy that we pick up junk to fill our stomachs, but that junk food doesn’t fill our spirits. When something like a death in the family occurs, we stop cold. And out comes the food and drink along with the family memories and traditions.

This week I celebrated the life of a smart, witty, and generous woman who will be missed by her family and friends. With that celebration came a lot of food and abnormal patterns in my life.

I’m hoping that next week is “normal,” whatever that is. I need to create a new normal in my life that includes smaller portion sizes, fewer carbohydrates, and more meal planning. Keep sending good thoughts my way; I need them.

The Irony of the Lady at the Piano

Readers, beware! This post is one of those where I can’t help but teach some art and architecture history. If you really hate that stuff, just look at the pictures. I’ll understand and won’t fault you for it.

My conversation with my mother and my niece about the Impressionist copies that I grew up with prompted me to find out if the original of Lady at the Piano (1875) by Pierre Auguste Renoir was  in the Musée d’Orsay where I could visit it this summer.

I have been wanting to visit the Musée d’Orsay for at least twelve years, ever since my daughter came back from her Grandtravel trip to Paris and couldn’t stop talking about the museum’s glories.

It’s such a romantic old-world story. The museum sits in the center of Paris on the banks of the Seine, opposite the Tuileries Gardens, and was the site of royal promenades, a boat dock, cavalry barracks and the Palais d’Orsay, a government building that was burned down during the Paris Commune in 1871, along with the entire neighborhood. For thirty years, the ruins of the Palais d’Orsay served as reminders of the horrors of civil war.

The French government gave the land to the railroad company, and the Gare d’Orsay train station and a hotel were built on the site for the Universal Exposition of 1900. Designed in the Art Nouveau style, the Exposition celebrated the achievements of the past century and encouraged new development for the future. The Second Olympic Games were part of the Exposition, and both the Exposition and the Olympics were revolutionary in their inclusion of African American (Exposé nègre) contributions as well as being the first time female athletes participated in the Olympics.

Following the Exposition, the train station became unusable because its platforms were too short and it served a number of other functions. By 1975, the building was threatened with demolition, but it was given landmark designation and a new museum was to be installed in the train station, in which all of the arts from the second half of the 19th century would be represented. As a prime example of Art Nouveau architecture, the building itself could be seen as the first “work of art” in the Musee d’Orsay, which now displays collections of art from the period 1848 to 1914, including an impressive group of Impressionists. Ironically, it took many years for the now iconic Impressionists and Realists to be exhibited in state-sponsored museums. When the museum opened to the public in 1986, a carefully organized acquisitional plan had allowed the museum to gather art from other museums where it had been housed and to also buy and display art from private collectors. In its short history, the museum has been visited by well over 65 million art lovers.

And it doesn’t house the painting I was looking for.

So where is my lady at the piano? She’s right here in Chicago, at the Art Institute, and I don’t have to fly across the Atlantic Ocean to visit her. Isn’t it ironic?

This one’s for you, Mom

I grew up with a copy of this Renoir painting in our living room over the organ. It was a cheap copy but we loved it. I was in a friend’s house this week and saw their print of this painting and decided that I need one in my own house. It’s called Two Sisters (1881) and it is owned by the Art Institute of Chicago. I talked to my mother today, and although she is rarely lucid now, she clearly remembered the print and that my brother has it in his home. I think I will go visit it at the Art Institute this weekend in honor of my parents. Maybe I’ll buy a red hat, too.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...