August 21, 2014

Hello there!



I'm very excited that today is my day as a featured blogger over at the SITS Girls! For those of you who haven't heard of it, SITS Girls is an awesome community of women bloggers. They have forums, a fabulous Facebook page, and TONS of great articles and resources on their website. I have learned so much and met some really great bloggers too :)

Now that you're here, I want to say hello and introduce myself properly!


Hi there! I'm Moira :) 

I hope you get a chance to look around my little corner of the internet. You'll find yummy things to eat, great books, and the occasional musing on motherhood. 

My family and I just moved back to New England (Connecticut, to be precise) from Oklahoma so my posting schedule is a little off while I unpack boxes and get organized. I can't wait to share more pictures of our new house, and really get cooking in my new kitchen!

Usually you can find me posting on Monday, Wednesday and Friday on the blog. Sometimes these cuties even make an appearance!



I love to connect with readers and bloggers on social media too. You can find me here:

Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Pinterest
Goodreads
Google Plus

Thanks for stopping by! I hope to see you again soon :)

And a special thanks to my regular readers too-I'm so glad you're here! You make me smile every day!

August 19, 2014

Settling In

The Rose of Sharon tree in our new backyard

We made it! The boys and I are in the new house, our moving truck is en route, and school starts next week.

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind, and the next few look to be the same. I have to keep reminding myself that we are in survival mode. It's tough on all of us, grownups and children alike.

This is a time to savor the good moments and gloss over the bad. Time to cut myself some slack when all I want to do at the end of the day is have a glass of wine and a dish of ice cream and zone out to old Inspector Morse episodes on Hulu.

I'm wading back into my writing, and in the meantime I want to share some sneak peeks of the new house!


The fireplace and built-ins…soon to be repainted! 



One of my favorite details: a door knocker perfect for dog lovers!



My dream stove. I'm still catching myself staring at it randomly :) 



August 8, 2014

Secret Lives of the Tsars (book review)



Michael Farquhar is known for his rollicking histories of royalty at its most...well, let's just say its most human. His latest book, Secret Lives of the Tsars, tackles the history of the Romanov dynasty in Imperial Russia. He begins with Ivan V and Peter I in the 1680s, and proceeds ruler by ruler all the way to the family's doomed end during World War One.

I always enjoy Farquhar's books, and this one was no exception. While the writing style at first appears almost gossipy, there is strong history and research underneath. Extensive footnotes and bibliographies make this an excellent jumping off place for the history of the Russian rulers. Russian history is not of of the subjects I typically read about, though of course I was familiar with the brutal outcome of Nicholas II and Alexandra and their 5 children in the Bolshevik Revolution. Farquhar writes in the way you wish history textbooks were written.

Yes, there is a lot of sex, violence and general bad behavior. In between the lightly treated episodes of debauchery though, is an excellent overview of the struggles this dynasty went though to stay on the throne. Alexander III faced seven assassination attempts and could bend metal with his bare hands. Peter the Great raised a commoner to be his wife (Catherine I) who ruled after his death on her own. These are the kind of details that often get lost in a serious history, but those are the things that people respond to and remember.

There was far more to the end of the Romanov dynasty than just the Bolsheviks, and Farquhar covers the reign of Nicolas II in great detail. Sadly, his time on the throne had very few lighthearted moments, and despite knowing the details of the family's cruel fate, it was heart wrenching to read all the same. It was a tough to have to end the book in such a sad and emotional way, that I almost wished he could have rearranged the chapters.

The best history books are the ones that make you anxious to read more, and Farquhar never disappoints in that respect. I'm working my way through the bibliography as we speak.

An ARC of this title was provided through NetGalley for review, but all thoughts and opinions are my own. Some links are affiliate links. Thanks for supporting Hearth and Homefront!

August 6, 2014

How to Teach You Children Shakespeare (Book Review)


How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare by Ken Ludwig, a well known playwright and self-described Shakespeare fanatic, is part how-to guide and part homage to the Bard. The premise is one that has intrigued me since I first heard about the book. Ludwig maintains that memorization is key to understanding the plays and he lays out a method for doing this with your children, beginning with short lines and moving on to longer passages.

Ludwig maintains that by going line by line you (and your children) will be able to understand the plays far better than by simply reading them to yourself. Anyone who has seen one of Shakespeare's plays performed in a theater or movie knows that this when the play truly comes to life.

The book is broken down into very short chapters, each covering a passage from one of the plays. The first chapters cover short segments from A Midsummers Night's Dream, and the last few cover the Hamlet soliloquies, for example. It is by no means an exhaustive list of all the lines someone "should" learn, instead he takes his time with the plays that need it, and focuses on ones that will appeal to children or that are so well-known (ahem, Hamlet) that they must be covered well.

His methodology of speaking the lines out loud, and practicing them with your children, using provided "quotation pages" that are found in the book and on his website, is simple and surprisingly effective. I did the first few chapters with my boys and even my youngest kept up. My oldest (who is 6) was SO proud of himself, and weeks later will still come up to me and whisper "I know a place where the wild thyme blows, where the oxlips and the nodding violets grows". 

Better still was the fact that this exercise got my husband and I talking with the boys about our favorite lines, and next thing you know we were all yelling the St. Crispin's Day Speech from Henry V together with Kenneth Branagh. I remember my Dad sitting me down to watch that scene when it first aired on PBS, and I really hope my boys remember the power in those words too.

The tone throughout the book is conversational, and I felt like I was taking a really great seminar class in college. I learned so much just reading the book through, and I see the potential it has to be combined with viewings of the plays themselves, or other non-fiction books or series. Shakespeare Uncovered (also streaming free on Amazon Prime) would be such a good fit! There are excellent appendices and bibliographies that would make it a breeze to match the chapters with other material.

Ludwig paraphrases or translates each passage and then explains the back story of the play. This is the perfect starting point to Shakespeare for children and adults.

Towards the end of the book, Ludwig writes in bold, capital letters:

"Do not be daunted by its length or its seeming difficulty. If you take it a sentence at a time, it will become perfectly clear. The purpose of your work with your children is to demystify Shakespeare. Persevere!"

So encouraging and so true.

I was given a review copy of this book, courtesy of Blogging for Books, but all thoughts and opinions are my own. Some links contained within are affiliate links. Thanks for supporting Hearth and Homefront!

August 4, 2014

DIY Photo Ornaments from Happy Glampers


Our last guest post is from Laura of Happy Glampers. I am thrilled to have her here because she is one of my favorite people in the entire world, and civilization isn't as much fun when your best friend isn't there to enjoy the easy access to lattes and shopping next to you. Laura and her equally awesome husband write the blog Happy Glampers, about their adventures camping in an airstream with their girls. You can find them at their blog, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest

It is truly an honor to guest post on Hearth and Homefront.  We were stationed in Oklahoma with Moira and her family, and I’m so thankful for our time together, we all miss you already! Dust storms are more fun when you can call your friend and ask if the air is purple over at her house too.  Moira and I spent lots of time together messing around with crafts and our cameras over coffee or drinks (not dependent upon time of day), and here’s a little project that can bring these two hobbies together.

This year my grandmother celebrates her 90th birthday with a family reunion.  Now, my grandmother is pretty much the Minnesotan Martha Stewart--she’s a consummate creator and is always making some lovely craft.  I totally idolize her.  My grandmother has lived a very interesting life full of love and giving, and I knew I wanted to make something special for her using photos.  So after much thinking and a few failed attempts, I made photo ornaments that our family will present to her on a “tree of life” with our thoughts and memories written behind the photos. 



You could do this project with lots of different themes: a year in photos, memories of a trip or vacation, children’s Christmas presents, etc. 

Materials:
Photo paper
Photo printer
Cardstock or other heavy weight paper
Mod podge
Paint brush
Adhesive spray glue
Circle cutter
Hole punch
Ribbon


Method:

First, select photos that will look good in squares, and pay attention to the corners, 3anything there will be lost when you make the circles. 

Print square photos to desired circle diameter, I selected 3-inch circles.

Paint a layer of mod podge over the printed photos.  Watch your brush strokes and create a lovely texture over the photos.  Apply another coat(s) if desired (I applied two coats).

Once the mod podge is dry, spray the cardstock with spray glue and then fix the cardstock to your photo page. 

After the glue is dry, use your circle cutter to cut out the photos. 

Punch holes in the tops of the ornaments and string your ribbon through for hanging.

Thanks again, Moira, for hosting us!  Please feel free to visit our blog for more DIY projects and discussions on glamping and family travels. 


-Laura 

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

Directions:
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.


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