July 31, 2014

Pizza Time with Teresa of Embracing the Spectrum

Please welcome Teresa of Embracing the Spectrum today! She writes beautifully on her blog about her family's journey with autism, a cause dear to my heart. You can find more from Teresa on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and Pinterest. Thank you so much for helping out while I'm in the midst of my move! 
When my three-year-old fervently suggested that I add pizza to the meal plan for the coming week, I couldn’t turn him down. We already had frozen pizza dough in the freezer, so his timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Besides, who doesn’t like pizza? I had the perfect easy pizza recipe in mind to feed my picky children and I guarantee you’ll love it, too.

Here’s what you need:
·         Frozen pizza dough (most boxes come with two, so you can either make two pizzas or save some for another day)
·         Oil oil
·         A jar of pizza sauce
·         Pepperoni
·         Italian sausage (I only used two links out of the package and froze the rest)
·         Half of a bell pepper
·         Half of a medium onion
·         2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese

You will need to thaw out the frozen pizza dough according to package directions. Make sure to pay attention to the directions, or that will come back to bite you later! You do not want to be trying to make pizza and have some half-frozen dough sitting there. Mine said to either put it in the fridge overnight or then thaw on the counter for an hour or to thaw on the counter for three hours. I opted for the fridge option due to previous mishaps with pizza dough forgetfulness.
While the dough thawed the rest of the way (covered and with olive oil drizzled on top of it to keep it moist), I cut up my onion and my Italian sausage. I like my onion diced, so I diced it. The Italian sausage was kept in chunky pieces.  I heated up about a tablespoon of olive oil in 12-inch skillet and then cooked the onions until they where translucent before adding the sausage.
Now, here’s the thing. My kids don’t really like bell peppers. But, while the sausage cooked, I diced the bell pepper. I like to dice them as small as I can. Why? First, I strongly believe that kids should eat veggies. Second, I do my best to hide the veggies in their food as much as I can, but if I can’t, I make it as hard as I can for them to pick it out. I figure they will somehow get some of the nutrition in them accidentally. Most of the time, it actually works!
So, once the meat and onions were finished and I got the bell peppers chopped up, the dough was ready (I had already set it out about half an hour before I started cooking). Advice: set the covered bowl of dough on the stove top between the burners to aid in thawing. Grease a cooking sheet or pizza pan and spread the dough out evenly, then put pizza, then add your pizza sauce. Sprinkle your toppings evenly over the pizza, and then add your cheese.
My pizza dough called for a 450 degree oven and baked for 20 minutes and it turned out just right. The cheese was browned perfectly on the top and the crust was the perfect crispiness. Make sure you let the pizza cool for a while before digging in, but trust me, they will love it! My boys even accidentally ate some green peppers because they gobbled it down so quickly.

July 30, 2014

Beach Reading with Stacey Loscalzo

Today's guest post is from my blogging buddy Stacey! I'm so excited that she is here to share some of her favorite summer reads, because she is always one of my go-to's for book recommendations. For more great posts from Stacey check out her blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest! Thanks so much for helping me out this week Stacey!

I am so thrilled to join you in at Moira’s great space as her family starts out on their new adventure. And I’m also super happy that her big move brings her closer to my part of the world. I really hope we get to meet in person.

I know if we do get a chance to meet, reading and books will be one of the very first things we discuss. Maybe right after her watermelon gin and tonic recipe which I am dying to try but anyway, I digress…

Moira and I are both huge readers so when I was thinking about ideas for blog posts, I thought it would be fun if I shared some of our family’s favorite summer reads thus far.

So here goes…

Favorite Beach Read: Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead. This spring I read and loved Shipstead’s Astonish Me so I was shocked that I hadn’t read her previous book. The two books felt really different to me but equally well written. Seating Arrangements takes place over the course of one wedding weekend and getting to know the family of the bride was tons of fun. This would be a perfect beach read.

Favorite Book I Can’t Believe I Didn’t Read Sooner: StillAlice by Lisa Genova. Still Alice is told from the perspective of Alice, a Harvard professor who is diagnosed with early on-set Alzheimer’s. Somehow the book is both funny and sad and it certainly made me nervous each time I forgot where I put my car keys.

Favorite Young Adult Book: The Disreputable History ofFrankie Landau-Banks. By E. Lockhart. When I finished and really, really liked We Were Liars, also by E. Lockhart, my favorite bookseller told me I really had to read her earlier work, about a strong female protagonist who questions all that is happening at her boarding school. Much like Seating Arrangements and Astonish Me, Lockhart’s two books felt quite different but were both well worth the read.

Favorite Re-Read: The Giver by Lois Lowry. I have been trying to get my eleven-year to read The Giver for a long time now. She kept refusing because she was ‘creeped out’ by the old man on the cover. When I saw a book with a ‘movie tie in’ cover, despite my general dis-like for these covers, I bought it. And I am so, so glad I did. My daughter read the book in a day and we have had amazing conversations about the dystopian tale ever since.

Favorite Read Aloud: The Doll Family by Ann Martin. My youngest is devouring all sorts of early chapter books including current favorite series such as The Critter Club, Stella Batts and Heidi Hecklebeck. During our read aloud time though (my favorite time of the day!), we are reading The Doll Family, a story about what our dolls are really doing when we are asleep. It is a fun summer read that has led us to wonder exactly what might be happening in our own house during the wee hours of the night.

Despite the fact that there are teetering piles of books all over our house, I am always looking for new titles to add to my to be read list. Please come visit my blog at www.staceyloscalzo.com or leave a comment here to let me know what I should read next.

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July 28, 2014

Summer Reading with Farrah from Reflective Mama

Please welcome today's guest poster, Farrah from Reflective Mama, a fellow boy mom and bookworm! Check her out on her blog, Facebook, twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest! Thanks so much for posting while I'm in the midst of moving, Farrah!

Hello! I am excited to share this post on Hearth and Homefront. Every time I visit Moira’s blog, I feel like she is welcoming me into her home (and serving something delicious). When I learned that she would be very busy moving across the country at the end of July, I was thrilled for the opportunity to contribute a post.

My cooking skills are unfortunately not quite up to par, but I do share Moira’s love of books. I can also relate to the horrors of having them all boxed away from my own move last year. Even in our new house, there not enough room for any more books on our shelves, so the library has become one of my favorite friends.

For this post, I decided to take a page from Hearth and Homefront and share my summer reading roundup. Here are the books I’ve loved reading in the last month:

Teen fiction is my guilty pleasure. My husband teases that he can always find me in the young adult section of a bookstore. The characters, romances, and stories always whisk me away. I loved reading the Fallen series by Lauren Kate last fall, so I was excited to get my hands on her newest novel, Teardrop.

At first the book wasn’t living up to my Fallen expectations because the it felt a little predictable. After a few quick twists and turns the story pulled me in, and I soon couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. I’m not even sure how to write about it without giving anything away, but if you enjoy the teen/fantasy/romance genre, give Teardrop and Lauren Kate a try. However, you may want to wait until more books are available, because I keep thinking about the ending and can’t wait for the sequel to be released.

I first learned about The Promise of a Pencil by Adam Braun from Sophia Bush on Instagram. Yes, I love teen TV shows as much as I love teen fiction (RIP One Tree Hill). However, an even bigger passion of mine is pursuing social justice and promoting social entrepreneurship. The Promise of a Pencil told the story of how Adam found his passion for building schools and supporting education in developing countries. He founded Pencils of Promise, an organization and movement that has built over 200 schools on three different continents. Yet it all started when Adam gave one child a single pencil while he was studying abroad on Semester at Sea. It was a remarkable story about the importance of relationships, perseverance, and following your dreams.

I first learned about Ketchup is a Vegetable: And Other Lies Moms Tell Themselves from the Dollars and Roses podcast. The author, Robin O’Bryant, knew that she wanted to write a book, so she started a blog to develop a following and gain some writer cred. She has a hysterical take on everyday life and all of it’s absurdities, especially when you’re a mother. Ketchup is a Vegetable is a collection of crazy tales from giving birth to raising her three wonderful daughters. Heartwarming and honest, this book was an excellent bedtime read to relax after a hectic day.

On Deck: Next I want to read be Queenmaker: A Novel of King David’s Queen by India Edghill. It is a work of Biblical historical fiction based on the story of King David and his wife, Michal. I have wanted to read it for years, which is how long it’s been on my shelf. A library due date always creates a sense of urgency to finish a book, yet when I actually buy a book it tends to sit around and collect dust. Inspired by Moira’s February Reading Roundup when she read books that she already owned, I want to finally finish Queenmaker and move it to my Read shelf on Goodreads.

What are you reading this month?

Farrah Udell blogs at www.reflectivemama.com about the everyday adventures of being a mom and the great books she reads along the way. She loves baby giggles, coffee dates, school supplies, and social entrepreneurship. Farrah lives in Kansas City with her husband, son, and crazy pup, Sirius. Find her on Twitter @farrahudell.

July 26, 2014

Pizza Casserole: Ashley from Forgetful Momma

Today's guest post is by Ashley at Forgetful Momma. She is a blogger and web designer from Cananda and has three adorable little ones! If you like this post, you can find more from Ashley at her at her blog, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest. Thanks so much for being here Ashley! 

My family is crazy about pizza, me? I could take it or leave it at this point. Mainly leave the making it, but take the eating it. When we make pizzas we go all out, thick crust, a few inched of tops, lots of cheese. Everyone loves our pizzas. But what about when you want that pizza taste but not the work. You make Pizza Casserole, much less work, cheaper too.

Start by preheating your oven to 350.

Next cooking your ground beef with onion and garlic. So far so good?

Drain the fat off your ground beef, add a can of pizza sauce and let simmer for 5-10 minutes. While doing that cook your pasta, and shred some mozzarella cheese.

Spray a casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray, put your pasta in the bottom of the casserole dish. Mix egg and milk, and pour over the pasta. Top with beef, top with cheese and bake for 30 minutes.

Enjoy the deliciousness of pizza without rolling out the hard work of making it or the heavy feeling after eating it. This is a great spin on a classic.

Ashley Mullen can be found blogging at Forgetful Momma (http://forgetfulmomma.com) sharing more recipes like this, as well as fun activities and outings. As the mom of three aged five and under life is never boring and leads to a lot of sharing.

Pizza Casserole

1lb ground beef
1 medium onion – chopped
1 can of pizza sauce
1 cup of pasta
1 cup of mozzarella cheese
½ milk
1 egg, beaten

Start by preheating your oven to 350.
Cook the ground beef with onion and garlic. 
Drain the fat off your ground beef, add a can of pizza sauce and let simmer for 5-10 minutes. While doing that cook your pasta, and shred some mozzarella cheese.
Spray a casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray, put your pasta in the bottom of the casserole dish. Mix egg and milk, and pour over the pasta. Top with beef, top with cheese and bake for 30 minutes.

July 22, 2014

On The Road Again

As you read this we are beginning our epic road trip to the east coast. We're going to be visiting family and living out of suitcases for another 6 weeks or so until our household goods finally arrive in our new house in Connecticut.

Taking that into account, things will look a wee bit different around Hearth and Homefront until September. There will be guest posts from some fabulous bloggers for the next week or so, and then my posts will be leaning towards the bookish rather than the foodie until I have a kitchen again.

This move is overwhelming and so exciting, but really bittersweet. The friends we have made in this assignment are like no others…I don't really know what I'm going to do when it finally hits me that they aren't 5 minutes away anymore.

If you want,  you can follow along on our crazy road trip via Twitter or Instagram!

July 18, 2014

Staying Stylish in the Heat

This is our third summer in Oklahoma, and generally by this point in July we are stuck inside after 10 AM due to the oppressive heat, unless we are in the pool on base. Growing up I would have despaired at the thought of living somewhere that was regularly over 100 degrees, but after 12 years away from New England I have come a long way. Heck, today it's in the 80s and I'm wearing jeans! (And frankly, I really am a little cold. I have a feeling our first winter in Connecticut is going to be a rough one for me.)

This is by no means a fashion blog, but I have picked up a thing or two about staying stylish in the midst of a heatwave when your makeup will melt and the idea of wearing anything but a tank top is too much to bear.

Accessories are key. Add a statement something…necklace, earrings, bracelet, or my new go-to: bright nails!

A dear, dear friend of mine recently started selling Jamberry nails and asked if I would do a review on the blog. Since I hadn't gotten a chance to try them out yet, I jumped at the chance.

Now I am a klutz with manicures. I almost never make it out of the salon without messing up the finish, and they never last for more than a day or two. That means that unless I'm getting one of those gel manicures, I stick with pedicures. I was curious to see if I could actually get the Jamberry nails on properly myself AND if they would stand up to their claims of lasting up to 2 weeks on your hands.

I watched the application video below and read all the extra FAQ's about putting the wraps on, but when it came down to it, applying them was WAY easier than I had expected it to be.


You start by cleaning the nail. I used the alcohol wipe included with my samples. Then you heat the wrap for a few seconds until it's flexible. My hair dryer was perfect for this.

Gently apply the wrap to your nail (avoiding getting any on your cuticle) and apply pressure to the wrap using the wooden cuticle stick or something like it, focusing on the top of your nail. Trim the excess off the end of the nail. Then alternate pressure and heat as you move from the top of the nail to the bottom pushing the wrap down. Once you reach the end of the nail, just file in a downward motion to remove any excess.

I used two wraps on each hand, and then painted the rest of my nails with a regular polish and topcoat so I could see how they compared. I made sure to do all the things that usually ruin my manicures-going to the pool, cooking and washing dishes, packing boxes, cleaning. Anything I could think of to mess it up.

The regular polish was so chipped by two days that it was driving me nuts. The wraps looked exactly the same as the day I put them on. I left them on for about a week, and then took them off to see how easy it would be to remove them.

A few seconds of heat from my hairdryer and they peeled right off. Super easy!

There are tons of colors and styles, ranging from crazy patterns to subtle french tips. They have a whole kids section that made me really wish I had a little girl to do this with. How fun would matching Mommy and Me nails be? (Ahh, the daydreams of a boy mom!)

Something else I loved? Several sets of wraps support charities, including one Autism Awareness wrap that donates to the Autism Society of America, a cause dear to our hearts.

If you want to know more, check out Jen's website and Facebook pages. She can answer any questions you have!

These were such a fun way to add a little "oomph" to my summer style! I can't wait to try some more.

I received a set of Jamberry samples to write this review, but all the opinions are my own! I would never share anything with you that I wouldn't purchase and use myself anyway. 

July 15, 2014

Halfway! (Twitterature July 2014 edition)

Since the last month or so has been crazy with our upcoming move (one week to go! eek!) I have been in straight comfort reading mode. That means I'm mostly re-reading favorite series or sticking to light and fluffy titles. You can see the full rundown of what I'm reading on Goodreads (and I love to connect with other readers there too!).

I thought it might be fun to round up my favorite books I've read so far in 2014, since we are now halfway through. I'm curious to see if these 5 end up on my best of 2014 list at the end of the year as well!

In no particular order, here are my favorites so far:

Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist
Heartbreaking at times, heartwarming at others. There is a reason this book was on so many "best of 2013" lists last year. It easily lived up to the hype, and made me wish I'd bought a hardcopy rather than the Kindle version so I could keep it in my kitchen for quick reference. If you are at all interested in foodie memoirs, don't wait any longer to read this one.

Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley
I devoured all of Susanna Kearsley's books this year, and this was my favorite of them. Archaeology, Scotland, a potential ghost and a charmingly eccentric scholar…it's almost like she wrote this book just for me! I even did one of my Book Club Bites posts on it!

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
I think I expected something highbrow and "literary" when I picked this up. Instead I found a well-written, fast paced story of 3 friends in 1930's New York whose lives are changed in one night. The city comes alive, and the character dynamics are fascinating. You won't be able to put this one down.

Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia Wrede
This is a YA novel, written in an epistolary style. It is set in an alternate regency England where magic exists as part of everyday life though it's less Harry Potter and more Jane Austen with potions. Two cousins, Cecelia and Kate, come of age and fall in love while trying to thwart an evil magician. The story behind the novel is just as much fun as the actual book.

Strong Poison by Dorothy Sayers
Lord Peter at his best, trying to save Harriet Vane from a murder charge, and falling in love along the way. Seeing the generally unflappable Lord Peter get ruffled as he tries to win Harriet was a pleasure to read, and the supporting cast of characters are always fun. Dorothy Sayers and Agatha Christie are not the queens of mystery for nothing, and I think this might be my favorite of the Lord Peter mysteries.

What was your favorite read of 2014 so far? As always, I'm linking up with Modern Mrs Darcy for Twitterature. Check it out for more great book recommendations! 

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