April 15, 2014

Reading Roundup (April 2014 edition)

The books I packed in my carry-on...before I found a fantastic bookstore in O'Hare Airport.
You don't want to see the after!

I spent the last week back in New England, visiting family and searching for the perfect house to move to this summer. It was my first time spending more than one night away from both my boys and the first time in ages that I traveled by myself. Despite a busy schedule while I was there I tore through the books I brought with me and ended up buying a few (ok more than a few!) while I was there. I never could resist the siren call of a real bookstore!

The best thing I did? I let myself be guided entirely by what reading I was in the mood for. I didn't try to squeeze in book club reading, or library books that were due soon. I just read whatever appealed to me most at that moment and it was delicious. There were a few nights I stayed up way too late because I was thisclose to finishing my book and I was very grateful for books I couldn't put down during turbulence on my flights. As a nervous flyer (which is ridiculous considering my husband is a pilot) I had to laugh when the first blog post I saw when I got home was this post about airplane reading from Modern Mrs. Darcy!


Circle of Quiet by Madeline L'Engle

Ruminations and stories based on the years L'Engle and her lived in a Connecticut farmhouse. I borrowed this from the library, read a chapter and returned it right away because I knew this was a book I needed to own. I skimmed a few sections but other parts felt like she was talking right to me. This is one to savor.




The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley

This may be my new favorite Kearsley novel. You know about my love for all books archaeological, and this one is set on a dig in Scotland searching for a lost Roman legion. I wanted to re-read it almost immediately. It has the perfect balance of intrigue and happy ever after. I've enjoyed all of her books so far, but this is the one I'm still thinking about weeks after reading it.



The Splendor Falls by Susanna Kearsley

Since I couldn't actually re-read The Shadowy Horses right away, I did the next best thing and read another Kearsley novel. This one is set in Chinon, France and weaves together a modern love story and a mystery involving two Isabelles, one a medieval queen and one living in Nazi occupied France. I love how the setting of her novels are almost characters themselves and now I'm dying to learn more about the town of Chinon.



Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

This is the sequel to Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, a young adult novel that uses vintage photographs to tell part of the story. The children journey to London to save Miss Peregrine and the plot thickens and gets darker. This felt like a middle of a trilogy book to me, as if it's main purpose was to set up the next book but it was still enjoyable. If you read the first, you'll like this one. This is not a series you can jump into and catch up easily  though, so make sure you read them in order.


Princess Elizabeth's Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal

This is another second in a series, this time following mathematician Maggie Hope through wartime Britain as she attempts to become a secret agent. She is assigned to protect Princess Elizabeth (the future queen) at Windsor Castle in the midst of the Battle of Britain. These remind me a bit of the Maisie Dobbs series in that the main character isn't always likable but the mystery is well written and fast paced. If you enjoy historical mysteries this is well worth checking out.

What did you read this month? If you want some more inspiration, check out the Twitterature linkup today on Modern Mrs. Darcy!

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support! 

April 14, 2014

Life with the Crust Cut Off



I have some big news today!  I'm now a contributor over at the fabulous blog Life with the Crust Cut Off. I'll be posting a new recipe over there once a month.

My first post is up today-my favorite ginger cookies. I'd love for you to check it out!


April 11, 2014

Vonage Box Giveaway!



A few months ago I reviewed the Vonage Box, which has been a great tool to keep in touch with family and friends while we're living far from home!

For those of you who aren't familiar with Vonage it is an internet phone service. You attach the Vonage Box to your modem or router, plug your phone cord into it as well and you're all set. It makes and receives calls just like like a landline phone service but it uses your high speed internet connection instead of a phone line.

Extra bonus for us military folks (or others who are far from home or regular travelers)?You can pick a number that is "local" to where you live OR where your family lives. When you move or travel, bring it with you and you keep that local number. Even overseas! So if your family is in New York and you move to Germany…you still have a local New York number. Just like when you were living stateside.

Today one of you gets to win a Vonage Box and a year of Vonage service! Just use the rafflecopter giveway tool below and you'll be entered to win. 

***Contest will close on April 17th***

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Want to up your chances? These other military bloggers are also hosting the same giveaway so check them out too! (You can enter at all the open contests, but you can only win once!)

Next Gen MilSpouse
Scattered Seashells
Army Tankers Wife
Caffienated Army Wife
More Ramblings of a Marine Wife
Organizing Military Mommy
Exploits of a Military Mama
A Miltary Story
Marrying the Army
Hicks Hiking
Cammo Style Love



April 7, 2014

10 Oklahoma Favorites


When we moved from California to Oklahoma two years ago we didn't have much notice. As a result we missed our opportunity to check out some of the sights we really wanted to see before we left, like Lake Tahoe, Alcatraz and Big Sur.

This time around we have enough notice that I'm putting together a list of favorite sights and trips we still need to take before we leave Oklahoma for good this summer.

Sam Nobel Museum- This is a natural history museum on OU's campus in Norman. There are dinosaurs galore, and everything is so kid friendly. Don't miss the elevator ride if you go!

Rattlesnake Roundup- This year will be our 3rd time at the Mangum Rattlesnake Derby, fondly referred to as the Rattlesnake Roundup. There's a few of these events around our area, but this one is huge and worth it for the people watching alone. You can get up close to the snakes, go on a field trip to learn about their habits and environments with the rattlesnake wranglers and even eat fried Rattlesnake if you want! (I just stick to funnel cakes, thank you very much!)

Remnants of the Dust Bowl- The Sod House Museum is built around the last surviving "soddy" built by an Oklahoma homesteader in 1894. These were the standard "house" built by settlers as they pulled up the sod in an attempt to farm the prairie. The Dust Bowl covered this area in the 30s and 40s and after the small dust storms we've had in the last 2 years of the current drought I'm fascinated (and horrified) at what the early settlers went through. The Ken Burns documentary is good, but the book The Worst Hard Times by Timothy Egan is much better. The picture at the top of this post is actually of the first line of trees built by the US government to try to create a wind break and stop the storms from gathering so much dust as they moved.

Pinkitzel Cupcakes- Friends took me to this adorable cupcake and candy shop a few months ago when we had a girls night in Oklahoma City but I haven't taken the boys back.

Oklahoma City Zoo- One of my favorite zoos that we have visited. It's huge, and no matter how many people are there it never feels crowded. The staff are fabulous too, and have happily chatted with my kids and answered lots (lots!) of their questions.

Science Museum- Conveniently right next to the zoo, this museum is all for children. It's another massive museum, so give yourself lots of time. There are airplanes, fish, experiments and a giant treehouse. It's fabulous.

One last family picture on the top of Mt. Scott-The tallest peak in the Wichita mountain range and the site of many a family selfie. On a clear day it really gives you an idea of just how vast the plains really are!

Meers- Once a thriving mining town, Meers is now known almost exclusively for the Meersburger, an enormous grass fed beef burger that is one of the best burgers out there. The barbeque and desserts are equally delicious and the building is an experience unto itself.

Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge-Right next to Meers and Mr. Scott outside of Lawton, OK is the wildlife refuge. Not only is the museum a great break for little kids to run around and explore when it's 110 outside (with great bathrooms to boot-always an important topic when you have preschoolers!) but where else could you drive around or hike and see herds of buffalo and long horn cattle...and even the occasional tarantula on migration?!

Lawton Philharmonic Orchestra- A little bit of culture out here goes a long way. I've been to a few concerts and they haven't disspointed once-this group of musicians wiped out all my stereotypes about an orchestra in the middle of nowhere. There's one more concert before we leave and I'm hoping we'll be able to catch it.


April 4, 2014

In which I turn thirty-something and can't pick a cake

How's that for a ridiculously long post title? Ha!

Next week I turn 34...which is the last year I think I can still say that I'm in my early thirties. Dead in the center of what Madeline L'Engle called the "tired thirties" in Circle of Quiet. Oh my, was she right. 

This has been a year of big, scary grownup decisions and finally starting to feel like we aren't just pretending to be adults.

Our upcoming move will be our 6th together. On the one hand the actual move is old news. Been there done that. On the other we're headed to a much different environment than our usual military move. We'll be the closest to "home" we've ever been but it's still an unfamiliar area.

We need to find the right town and the right school....AND then the right house. Yikes. Adding the schools in to our search criteria has made this about a thousand times more complicated, and I feel about a thousand times the pressure to get it right.

On the other hand, this move is giving me a fabulous birthday present. I'm in charge of house-hunting so I get to spend my birthday week driving around beautiful New England and seeing my family and friends.

Since I won't be baking this week for my birthday, I thought I might round up some of my favorite cakes that I've made to serve as a little birthday inspiration. Do I make an old favorite when I get back or something new?

Now that's the kind of decision I like!

Do you have one favorite birthday cake or do you try something new every year?















March 31, 2014

What I'm into (March 2014)




This month has been nuts from start to finish in all aspects of life. We've had 85 degree days and we've had temps below freezing. The Air Force as a whole is undergoing mass personnel changes and there have been some big career decisions for our family to go along with it. That deserves it's own post, but the short version is that we'll be moving home to New England this summer! We don't know much more than that yet, but I'm headed east to do some house and school hunting in April and then our plans will really start coming together. It was a rough road to get to this point but I'm really happy with the outcome :)

Reading:

Comfort reading was the name of the game this month. I started out with a new book by a favorite author-City of Jasmine by Deanna Raybourn which combines my love of early archaeology with flying, a subject that, being married to a pilot, takes up far more of my brain power than I care to admit. After that I got on a Madeline L'Engle kick, starting with a Wrinkle in Time and The Wind in the Door and moving on to a Circle of Quiet, which is the first of her Crosswicks Journals. I'm almost done with this one, but I'm savoring the last few chapters rather than rushing through to the end.


Watching:

I'm racing through the back seasons of Veronica Mars so I can watch the movie. I LOVE that they released it on Amazon at the same time as in the movie theater, because we never make it out to see a movie before it leaves the theater.


Obviously, speaking of kids movies, we've been watching Frozen over and over. And over and over and over. I wasn't sure my boys would be into it because I had assumed it was a "princess" movie, but they are obsessed and I'm really happy to have a movie for them to watch with strong female leads and an ending I really support. Although, now every time I feed my big oaf-y shepherd mix carrots I think of Sven!

I also just started Cranford yesterday and I'm in love...though I don't think I could hate anything with Judi Dench in it.

Around the blog and the rest of the web:

Going DIY for our new Taco Tuesday routine.



Dark Chocolate Chip Scones for tea with a friend.

On Comfort Cooking.

Getting back in the habit of storytime from This Vintage Moment.

British Accents Explained from Two Nerdy History Girls.

This worked like a charm!



Crafting:

Legos, legos and more legos! My oldest turned 6 this month and not only did we throw a Lego party we have been building new sets almost non-stop. (And if I never have to draw another Lego face again I will be happy!)

I also saved up some of Kiwi Crates to do over spring break...thank goodness because we all got sick in turn so I was constantly trying to occupy one energetic kiddo while taking care of a tired and sick other kiddo. They were a lifesaver!

What have you been up to this month? Check out the linkup with Leigh Kramer for more great ideas :) 

This post contains some affiliate links. Thanks for supporting Hearth and Homefront!




March 24, 2014

Homemade Taco Seasoning



My husband and I had a conversation that went like this last week:

Me: Is it too soon to have tacos again?

Husband: No, the kids loved it. Besides we have Pizza Friday now, why not Taco Tuesday?

Me: True! Catchy name too.

5 year old: Moooom, you know you can't copy the Lego Movie for everything, right???


That's right. Husband and I are so tired we forgot that "Taco Tuesday" was a major component of The Lego Movie and that our children would immediately notice this. Nothing like a kindergartener to keep you honest, right?!

The good news is that our Taco Tuesdays are nowhere near as dramatic as the inspiration and we have two nights a week that the kids are eating with NO FUSSING. That is a parenting win right there. I should give my boys credit though that at 4 and 6 they are outgrowing much of the pickiness we had last year and we don't have to fight over food very much.

Initially I was being lazy and buying the taco seasoning kit. I've made a Mexican seasoning for various recipes before, but hadn't ever gotten around to making it in batches. Now that I'm not worried that the kids will reject the meal I decided to play around a little with the seasoning and try it myself. Crazy easy. Crazy good. 5 minutes to throw it together and I had all the spices already. Now, I toned down the cayenne pepper significantly because of the kid factor (I'm a spice wimp too), but if you want more heat just change the measurement from a pinch to a 1/4 teaspoon. Or you can do what my husband prefers, which is douse the taco in Sriracha.

Homemade Taco Seasoning:
adapted from All Recipes

Ingredients:
1 tbsp chili powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp oregano
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper (add more if you want more heat)

Mix all ingredients together. This makes about 1/4 cup, and I suggest adding about 2 1/2 tablespoons in place of a taco seasoning packet.
This can easily be doubled or tripled to keep with your spices.
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