Eiffel Tower — Photo of the Day

GotMyReservations --Eiffel TowerI was able to snap this photo of the Eiffel Tower while we were on the open-air bus tour. Sometimes you just get lucky…

I’m linking up today with The Tablescaper for “Oh, The Places I’ve Been” and Budget Travelers Sandbox, so stop by and get some more inspiration for your travel bucket list!


Alycia Nichols, You Made My Day

I said it. I said “Uncle.”

I have spent my day in a funk after visiting my orthopedist and coming to a decision about my arthritic knee. He told me that I have to say “uncle” before he’ll consider doing knee replacement.


I’ve been suffering from what I call marching band knees for many years — my knees are shot from too many years of abuse and too many years of being overweight. I had arthroscopic knee surgery in 2002 and my doctor told me I’d be begging him for a knee replacement in five years. Well, it’s been eleven years, and I have been determined not to wimp out. Everyone said that it would become clear — that I would know when it was time for a knee replacement.

Sometimes life’s lemons are sweetened with sugar.

I still don’t know about the knee replacement, but I do know that I was in a bad place today. And then along came this wonderful post from my friend, Alycia Nichols of Tablescapes at Table Twenty- One.

Click into the photo to see Alycia’s amazing tablescape!

In February, when we were putting the final touches on our April 2013 trip to France, I posted about these cute placements I saw online. Then I dragged my traveling companions all over Paris trying to find these pink and green ones because my blogging buddy Alycia liked them. For those of you who don’t know Alycia, she is the kindest commenter out there in the blogging universe, and I wanted to thank her for her generosity with her time for other bloggers.

Click into the photo to see the full post.

What she created with a silly quartet of plastic placements is truly amazing and I am thankful once again for her thoughtfulness. Sometimes people outside of the blogging community don’t understand the sense of community and friendship that develops in the blog world among people who may never meet each other in person, and my friendship with Alycia is one of those connections that surpasses reason.

So, if a knee replacement will get me back to Paris, and London, and Rome, and Venice, and Florence, and Berlin, and Prague, and Istanbul, I’d better buck up and do it. My travel bucket list goes on and on… and Alycia and I need more stuff for our tablescaping stashes!

Please visit Alycia’s beautiful tribute to Paris. You won’t be disappointed.




Why I Always Take A Window Seat

It’s kind of a pain to sit in the window seat during an international flight.

There are pros and cons to having an aisle seat, the most important being that you don’t have to wake up your seatmate or crawl over someone to get up to use the necessary. The negative, of course, of the aisle seat is that one is constantly being bumped all night — by other passengers and by the well-meaning flight attendants.

The window seat, on the other hand, has a little more room. It also tends to be cold and unless you’ve got your pillow configuration just right, it can be difficult to actually sleep. And then there’s the noise of the engines…

But if I didn’t sit in the window seat during all these years of flying, I would have missed many beautiful sights. There’s something magical about looking out the window while landing and imagining the new place you are about to encounter. That was the case this year as I encountered Nice through the window of the airplane.

Aerial view of a neighborhood in Nice, France.

The perfectly manicured and planned neighborhood. The foothills coming practically up next to the water. The majestic mountains in the background. And to think I would have missed this if I had been sitting in the aisle seat.

Of course, I owe it all to my traveling partner of thirty-some years. He lets me have the window and I love him for it.


Sunset at JFK

Welcome back! Well, maybe you were already here, but I wasn’t.

We just returned from a two-week trip to France and I’ve been busy renegotiating life in the Windy City. Life does go on, doesn’t it, after one returns from a highly anticipated vacation?

I’ve been writing about our trip in detail on a vacation blog, France Frolic 2013, which is linked up in my sidebar. If you want all France, all the time, go there for the goods on our trip.

Meanwhile, over here on Got My Reservations, I’m going to be showcasing some photos from the trip that don’t really fit into the travelogue concept. This photo was taken with my point and shoot out the window as I saw our plane silhouetted against the fading sun.


As for me, it’s welcome to Reality 101 and I REALLY need to get to the gym!

The Sunday Review: The Greater Journey — Americans in Paris

After choosing this book for our Book Club, I had high expectations. David McCullough is a wonderful storyteller and has a knack for turning even the driest factoids into a compelling story. The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris is no exception to this writing style.

While listening to The Greater Journey in the car, I kept thinking back on the photos I took from the top of the Arc de Triomphe in 2010. Sometimes people skip going up into the Arc (an easy climb and short lines) and choose the Eiffel Tower instead, but I found the view from the top of the Arc to be breathtaking.

McCullough has chosen a representative group of Americans who went to Paris between 1830 and 1900, where their experiences helped to make them better statesmen, artists, musicians, and writers. He sets their very personal and sometimes mundane lives on the stage that was Paris in the 19th century, a turbulent and fascinating city.

As McCullough says in his author interview on youtube.com, Americans in Paris is a kind of guidebook to Paris and the history of Americans in the City of Light. It’s an accessible and intimate look at a different set of American roots.

The audiobook on The Greater Journey is voiced by Edward Herrman and is easy to listen to, but I also ended up buying a book as there were many photos and references I wanted to come back to. I’m struggling with whether to keep this one in my library or to pass it on to Paris-loving friends!



If you are interested in getting out of your reading chair and actually visiting the City of Light, please feel free to contact me to help you with your travel plans.

Dutch Cheese Soup

Is going on a cruise all about the food?

For those of you who enjoy traveling by cruising, you already know that a cruise offers cultural and scenic delights as well as some well-deserved rest and relaxation. When I went on my first cruise to the Caribbean, I wasn’t particularly impressed with much about the food the cruise had to offer. I can barely remember what we ate, but I very clearly remember that formal dinners were difficult while traveling with two young children — even if they were well-behaved.

Fast forward twenty years and we took another cruise — just the two of us this time.

Well, just the two of us, our close friends from college, and 146-ish other intrepid travelers. And this time isn’t wasn’t a “fun ship,” it was a Viking River Cruise from Paris to Normandy. All the issues with reserved seating vanished and we didn’t have to decide whether to wait in the bingo game or the casino with the kids while the people in the late seating finished dinner. We had close to three hours every night of wonderful food, fabulous wines, great conversation, and attentive service. Now that’s the way to travel.

It’s not surprising, then, that I went directly to the Viking River Cruises web site to find a satisfying soup recipe for Soup Week. I’ve linked up both the Viking River Cruises site and another blog, A Spoonful of Thyme, where I found the photo. If you are a cheese soup lover, you will love this fall favorite!

Dutch Cheese Soup

Yield: 4 Servings

Dutch Cheese Soup

Travel is wonderful when the food is wonderful. Originally published by Viking River Cruises, this is a yummy entry into your soup recipe book!

Don't forget that you need flameproof crocks to broil the cheese at the end.


  • A quarter cup vegetable oil
  • Two tablespoons butter
  • A half cup diced onions
  • One cup diced cauliflower
  • Two potatoes, cut into half-inch cubes
  • A half cup carrots, cut into half-inch cubes
  • Four cups chicken stock
  • Four ounces Canadian bacon, diced
  • Five ounces Gouda cheese, thinly sliced
  • Eight slices sourdough baguette
  • Salt & pepper to taste


Heat oil on medium-high heat in a 1.5-quart saucepan. Add onion and sauté until softened. Add cauliflower, carrots and potato; sauté for 5 minutes. Stir in chicken stock and bring to a boil. In a small skillet, heat the butter. Add the Canadian bacon and sauté until lightly browned. Add bacon to soup. Reduce heat to low and cover, simmering until vegetables are tender (about 15 minutes). Pour soup into four individual flameproof crocks or bowls. Top each portion with two bread slices and one-quarter of the cheese. Place under the broiler until cheese is bubbly. Serve immediately.


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Ironing My Pillowcases

I received David Lebovitz’s lovely memoir, The Sweet Life in Paris, for my birthday. I’ve been wanting to read this book for years, and my son’s darling Curly Girlfriend gave it to me. I gave a little shriek of delight when I opened the Amazon package; I’ll admit it. I love Lebovitz’s blog — I’ve talked about it here and here and here! If you like the blog, you’ll also love the wry humor and great recipes in his book.

The book is a series of essays about an American learning how to live in Paris, and is full of juicy tidbits and advice. This one just hit home.

If anyone had told me ten years ago that I’d be standing over an ironing board, pressing the wrinkles out of pajamas and kitchen towels, I would have told them they were insane. What kind of idiot irons his pajamas, let alone kitchen towels?

Lebovitz goes on to describe his discovery of vintage French linen, which he bought by the armful whenever he saw it at tag sales and stockpiled it, thinking that he might never see such fine linen again. It turns out he was wrong, by the way; he says that fine linen is common in France and he didn’t need to become a bedsheet hoarder. 🙂

Then he realized that he had a problem laundering  those gorgeous high-thread-count cotton sheets and cases. 

I … realized that [the beautiful linens] would come out of my mini washing machine a wrinkly ball, looking like one of those Danish modern white paper lamps; a tight, wadded-up sphere of sharp pleats and folds. So unless you’re a masochist and enjoy waking up after a rough night with bruises and abrasions on your arms and legs — which I don’t — those sheets need to be starched, ironed, and pressed into submission.

David Lebovitz solved his problem by sending them to the laundry to be washed and ironed, because he doesn’t have a dryer in his apartment and sheets have to hang up to dry. If you’ve ever stayed in a Paris hotel room, you know that space is at a premium, and there’s no room in a Parisian apartment to hang sheets to dry.

Being a servantless American, I have a lovely large washer and dryer, and my beautiful high-thread-count linens come out of the dryer pretty well, if I catch them quickly enough after the dryer stops. But I’ve always hated wrinkly pillowcases. Now that I’m a stay-at-home-wife, I’ve started ironing my pillowcases and the top trim on the sheets.

Which leads me to some recent responses to a post I made about ironing pillowcases on my other blog, Retirement 365.

I am blessed to have friends and relatives who take trains, planes, and automobiles to come to visit us, and we’re thrilled to host them in our home. We recently had a visit from college friends and spent two wonderful days running around Chicago eating, taking photos, listening to music, and drinking good wine. My husband’s brother and his family travel every summer from the West Coast, spending a fortune to fly five family members to Chicago, so that we can all attend the family reunion together. And they’ve been doing this for thirty years, never missing a summer. It’s hard to even put in words how much this annual opportunity to reacquaint ourselves with our family means to me.

I think they are worth ironing my pillowcases for.

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My Week with Julia: Part One

I’ve always had this peculiar behavior; I like to read by theme or by sequence.

Every now and then I read through all my Cat Who books or my Dick Francis novels in chronological order. You’re probably already sick of hearing about my books about France, but too bad. I got a bunch more for my birthday. It’s my blog and I’ll write about France if I want to. 🙂

I watched Julie and Julia again the other day and decided it was time to do another theme party of books and movies.

First I decided to read Julie Powell’s follow-up memoir, Cleaving, to see if she still had the magic. I had heard that it wasn’t as good as Julie and Julia and that Powell had kind of disappeared into the literary wasteland of has-been authors. When I Googled her, the most recent hit is from 2009, and the last time she posted on her blog was in 2010. Ouch!

Julie and Eric on a good day in the kitchen.Image Credit

The complete title of the 2009 book pretty much tells its whole story: Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession. It truly is a story of obsession following the screaming success of Julie’s blog and Julie and Julia — of Julie’s tormented affair with “D”, of Eric’s philandering, and of how Julie found herself in her next new adventure, learning how to butcher meat. Published before the highly successful movie came out, Cleaving is an intimate story (maybe too intimate) of a woman trying to reinvent herself and build a future.

The book gets lots of bad reviews for its very specific telling of the inside picture of butchering and of Julie’s bad girl sex life. After getting over the structure which requires the reader to make pretty tenuous links between the cleaving of a marriage and the cleaving of an animal’s flesh and innards, I came to love Julie’s obsessions.

What we found endearing about Julie Powell in the movie Julie and Julia was that Amy Adams and Nora Ephron made Julie look kinda quirky and cute, but really, who chooses to cook her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year?  I don’t think Julia Child was right when she suspected Powell of trying to get publicity riding on Child’s name; Julie is just that obsessive, and it shows in Cleaving. And most of the time it’s just plain — all right, I’ll go there — verging on craziness.

On the other hand, Powell’s prose is just plain good. I found myself caring about how to create a crown roast and how to use a band saw correctly. If you’re a foodie, she may well hook you in as she did me. There’s a lot of visits to restaurants and food industry insider information and I just ate it up — figuratively, of course.

So do I think you should read Cleaving? Yes, if you are a foodie and loved Julie and Julia. It’s the flip side of a very interesting woman, with a little hot sauce thrown in.

And then there’s the other flip side — Nancy Verde Barr’s memoir entitled Backstage with Julia

This is a really fun book if you care about Julia Child and her impact on the cooking world. Even Barr’s use of her middle name is due to the sagacity of Julia Child; when she found out that Barr’s mother was Italian, she told Barr to use her full name to give her cooking more credence. And that’s just one little story that appears in this loving look back at a phenomenal woman.

Backstage with Julia is a set of fond memories packaged together in a book that cannot help but endear itself to you if you are a foodie. Nancy Barr served as Julia Child’s production assistant and travel companion from 1980 until Child’s death in 2004. When she got the chance to work with Child — already a culinary icon — someone told her to keep a diary. She didn’t, but apparently working with Julia Child has enough emotional impact to sear the memories in one’s brain.

What was fun about this book for me was the parallels to the Julie and Julia movie. Nora Ephron based much of her script for the Julia parts on Child’s memoir (with Alex Prud’homme), My Life in France. Although Backstage with Julia tells of Julia’s success in the United States and her media empire, there are many memories that Barr recounts via Child that are recognizable to the movie fan.

Julia’s love story with Paul Child also plays itself out here. In 1980, when Nancy Barr first began working with Julia Child, Paul Child had already begun to have the small strokes and memory issues that plagued his later years. It didn’t matter to Julia; Paul was an integral part of her success and he went everywhere with her.

The scene in Julie and Julia showing Paul and Julia in the bathtub for their annual Valentine message was real, and in Barr’s retelling of this story, the reader can feel the humor and the love shared.

Both of these books are about dreams — Powell’s with finding herself and Barr’s amazing chance to work with and become a close friend of Julia Child. They are also really interesting to read, if you are the person who will find fun in knowing more about three fascinating women — Powell, Barr, and la divine Child. I thought this quote from Powell’s book really summed up why I wanted to share these two books with you. It’s fun — you get me — and since you keep reading my blog, you must enjoy sharing with me.

You share things with the people who want you to share them. Who get it. Otherwise, where’s the fun?

You’ll have to excuse me now; I need to roast a chicken. Bon appetit!

Want more Jennie and Julia? Check out my previous posts about Julia Child here and here.

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Cheese, Glorious Cheese!

I’m on a brief hiatus while I enjoy my out-of-town company, but I just couldn’t resist sharing this wonderful post about the Roquefort region in France.

Our House in Provence is one of my favorite finds among the French bloggers I follow; Michel lives in the United States with his family and also owns a home in Provence. I love the travelogues that are presented and every story makes me more and more eager to experience Provence for myself!

People either love or hate “moldy” cheese; does this photo of aging Roquefort make you hungry? Or do you hate it?

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