The Sunday Review: A Mixed Bag of Books

Book reviews — the good, bad, and the ugly. I like to tell people about the books I read, but I really don’t like to give away the story. I don’t read the spoilers that other reviewers post, and I don’t do it on my own reviews. I figure that if someone really wants to know the story before they read the book, they can find it somewhere else.

At the beginning of 2014, I changed around some of my feeds on Goodreads and started posting reviews in my sidebar. I was dedicated and posted reviews right after I finished a book. And then I got lazy again and got WAY behind on my reviews. So now I’m back, trying to get in the groove again. I like the discipline of keeping track of my reading. I’ve also found that when I link them up to Facebook through Goodreads, I get recommendations from other friends about new books. It’s a good thing. 🙂 Continue reading

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)

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National Wildlife Federation Catalog Walk

Welcome to Monday and Catalog Walk at Got My Reservations!

As tablescapers, we are dedicated to using inherited beauties from our grandmothers and rescuing cast-off lovelies from thrift stores. Sometimes, however, we can do a good thing for the universe while also creating a beautiful table.

Today I’ve featured tableware from the National Wildlife Federation‘s winter catalog. Click into the photo caption to connect to the online catalog.

“National Wildlife Federation’s mission is to inspire Americans to protect wildlife for our children’s future. National Wildlife Federation (NWF) works with over 4 million members, partners, and supporters to actively educate, inspire, and promote achievable solutions to everyday Americans in communities from coast-to-coast.Our conservation work focuses on three major areas that will have the biggest impact on the future of America’s wildlife:

1.  Confront global warming, the single most urgent threat to wildlife.
2.  Protect and restore wildlife habitat, to ensure a wildlife legacy for our children.
3.  Connect with nature by fostering profound and personal connections between people and nature.”

Let’s take a walk through the NWF’s 2013 Christmas catalog.

Grouped together or sprinkled throughout the tablescape, these jar candles are stunning for your Christmas decor. Oil candles are filled with faux berries and greenery, with clean-burning oil and fiberglass wick that does not need to be replaced. Glass is 40% recycled.

These birchbark votives add a woodland touch to a tablescape and are a good value at $19.99 for a set of three.

These beautiful embossed pine cone stoneware bowls could be used in a variety of places on the table, including as a vase for a centerpiece.

You can’t go wrong with April Cornell linens in any season.

The Holly Berry plaid napkin and napkin ring are the perfect counterpoint for the rest of the pieces.

In the tablescaping world, EVERYONE needs a set of Christmas dishes. These don’t scream Santa…

Are you ready for something new for your table? I hope that I have whetted your appetite for some natural elements in your home.


I’ve promoted National Wildlife Federation products here, but am not under any sponsorship connection with them.

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)






Travel Diary: Dotombori Sushi Bar

Nestled on a busy corner in downtown Des Plaines, Illinois, Dotombori Sushi Bar’s meek exterior does not match the very good food being served inside. With an average 4 out of 5 star review and a personal recommendation from my daughter, my friends and I decided to try out lunch at Dotombori.

We chose the lunch special, a good buy at $7.95, and ordered a couple of the rolls as well. The tempura vegetables were crisp and the rolls were well-seasoned and well-made. The only mistake was the deep-fried pork; I didn’t look carefully on the dinner menu to see what the different entrees were before I made my bento box choice. The pork was overdone and I only ate a small portion of it.

GotMyReservations - Dotombori Bento Box Ckicken Teriyaki

Bento Box Lunch Special includes Chicken Teriyaki, vegetable tempura, California roll, shrimp tempura, and fried rice

GotMyReservations - Dotombori Bento Box Pork Tonkatsu

Bento Box Lunch Special includes Pork Tonkatsu, Vegetable Tempura, California Roll, Shrimp Tempura, and steamed rice.

GotMyReservations - Dotombori Shrimp Crunch and California Rolls

Shrimp Crunch and California Rolls

GotMyReservations - Dotombori Spider Roll

Spider Roll — Soft Shell Crab and Avocado

We live in an area with good sushi bars just around lots of corners. Dotombori Sushi was a good choice for lunch, and if we went again, I would choose a different entree. My dining partners were happy with their meals and it was a good experience. I would encourage you to visit Dotombori if you are in Des Plaines. It can also be easily reached from the Des Plaines Metra station.

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)






The Sunday Review: A Summer in Europe

I wanted to like this book; I really did. It’s about traveling in Europe and learning who one really is. The author, Marilyn Brant, is local and knows people that I know. I’m likely to run into her someday and she’s an ex-teacher — all reasons that I should have liked this book better than I did.

Gwen is a thirty-year-old woman from Dubuque who has managed to become dull. She has a dull life and a dull boyfriend. She’s paralyzed by events from her past. She’s not a likely candidate for a romantic trip around Europe, yet she decides to go when offered a free trip with her aunt and her math-geek friends. Not surprisingly, she thaws out under the magic spell of Europe and frees herself from her past.

As I read this book, I kept thinking that it would make a better movie than it did a book. Brant’s imagery is luscious, and the quirky characters in the book would make a great ensemble movie like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I could see the two handsome brothers, Thoreau and Emerson, sparring with each other in a cathedral. I could see the romantic leads feeding each other pastries all over Europe. As another reviewer mentioned, Nia Vardolos could play this part — she did it before in My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Should you read it? Maybe, if you like travelogues. That’s why I gave it four stars. For the plot, it’s about a two and a half because of its clichéd plot line and because I think the characters are overwritten. There’s very little subtlety in any of them, and a lot of stereotyping of the secondary characters. Still, there’s Rome and Florence and Venice and Vienna and London and Paris, and they make up for a lot in this book.

Chicago Day 7: We Love Sports Rivalries

I’m linked up today and for the rest of the month in the 31 Days Challenge at The Nester. By clicking the tab at the top of the page, you can easily access all of the 31 Days in Chicago posts. If you’ve got a story to tell about your experiences in Chicago, I welcome guest posts. Join the fun by emailing me, or if you’re not ready to write, go to The Nester’s web site to follow some other stories this month.

If it’s Sunday, there must be football.

Sourced via Pinterest

Enjoy your day!