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! 

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

July 14, 2014

Watermelon Cucumber Smoothie

Happy Monday!

I'm over on Life with the Crust Cut Off today, writing about this fabulous summer smoothie! Who else has TONS of watermelon in the house right now?? This is awesome way to use some of it up. Check it out here!

July 11, 2014

Book Review: Prime Minister's Secret Agent

This is the fourth title in the Maggie Hope mystery series by Susan Elia MacNeal. I devoured the previous three books, and this one was no exception.

Prime Minister's Secret Agent finds Maggie teaching new recruits to the ranks of British spies at Arisaig House in Scotland. The estate becomes her refuge and a hiding place as she battles the physical and emotional injuries from her mission to Berlin.

Her former roommate Sarah arrives in Edinburgh with her dance company, and Maggie reluctantly leaves the safety of Arisaig to see the performance. As the curtain falls, one ballerina is murdered and two more, including Sarah, fall ill. Maggie must overcome her depression and race against the clock to save her friend, helped by MI-5 agent Mark Standish. What they uncover changes the way Maggie views the war, and highlights how dire the situation was for the British in 1941.

MacNeal skillfully interweaves the murder investigation with the diplomatic tensions in Washington DC and London as well as revelations about Maggie's mother. The intelligence communities on both sides of the Atlantic are gathering evidence of a possible Japanese threat to Hawaii, while the Ambassadors in DC are desperately trying to maintain peace. The plots all come together as December 7th nears.

Maggie's world expands and develops further in each book, and highlights part of World War II that isn't often seen. The technologies of code-breaking and espionage are fascinating, and the history lover in me is grateful for the suggested reading list at the end of the book.

I also particularly liked the contrast MacNeal shows between Edinburgh and London, both cities at war but with remarkably different day-to-day experiences. The difference is especially poignant after Maggie's experience in Berlin in the previous books. There is no glorification of war in this series. Instead you get a glimpse into the determination and humanity of the people fighting. These are not storybook heroes, but ordinary (if very intelligent) people put into extraordinary situations, doing their best to navigate the tricky morals of a world at war.

For those new to this series, begin with Mr. Churchill's Secretary, where Maggie changes her plans of a PhD in Mathematics to join the war effort in London as a typist at No. 10 Downing St. Following this book are Princess Elizabeth's Spy, and His Majesty's Hope. You can find Susan Elia MacNeal on Twitter and blogging at Jungle Red Writers.

I received a copy of The Prime Minister's Secret Agent for review through NetGalley. All opinions are my own. This review contains some affiliate links.

July 9, 2014

Watermelon Gin and Tonic

You know what book I'd love to read? The stories behind each of the classic cocktails. I know I'm probably in the minority, and most people would rather just know how they taste. (By the way, if this book doesn't exist, I'm writing it!)  I love to know the backstory of anything "old".
 One of my favorite discoveries during an internship in graduate school was processing a collection of documents from a prominent local family was finding the "secret" to their locally famous lemonade recipe. There were letters from guests begging for the recipe, handwritten notes, and finally a small article explaining the recipe's creation one afternoon in the butler's pantry. 

I suspect that the majority of recipes are simply experimentation, though. What person in history thought to combine flour, water and yeast…and then baked it? Genius. 

This recipe is straight experimentation. My standard summer cocktail is a gin and tonic. It's light and refreshing, and while I know that tonic water is sometimes an acquired taste, I happen to love it. 

We had dear friends over for a party on the 4th and decided to play around with the excess watermelon. I blended it until it was liquified, and then popped some in the freezer to chill, because somehow plain blended watermelon is even more exciting to my children than regular watermelon. Frozen watermelon is even better! 

When we had extra liquified watermelon the grownups decided to play with some cocktails. My favorite of all the experiments was this one. It's a basic G&T, but we exchanged some of the tonic for watermelon. Nothing earth-shattering, but it totally changes the flavor. Equally refreshing, but sweeter. Another good version? Swap the tonic for ginger ale. That version is much sweeter though. 

Watermelon Gin and Tonic
adapted from my G&T recipe here

2 oz gin
4 oz tonic water
1/2-3/4 cup blended watermelon (just like it sounds, blend watermelon until liquified and strain if the seeds bother you)
splash of lime

Stir ingredients together and serve over ice. 

July 7, 2014

Sounds of a Summer Road Trip


This weekend we took a last minute day trip to Palo Duro Canyon in Amarillo, TX, the second largest canyon in the United States. It's a 3 hour drive through wide open prairie, and as practice for our upcoming cross country move we left the DVD player at home. We are trying to figure out what else will entertain the boys in the car so we can rotate through a few different options to help keep things fresh. Happily, the books and DS/iPad time easily occupied them during the drive.

Even more exciting? We realized that with the boys occupied in the backseat with headphones, my husband and I could listen to whatever we wanted (within reason) on the radio. Parenthood is exciting stuff, sometimes, isn't it?

Over the years, we have relied on both non-fiction audiobooks and podcasts as a way to bridge our vast differences in musical tastes. We can always find science or history topics that will interest us both. We will also happily listen to the NPR news shows, but unfortunately we are running into stories that my 6 year old isn't ready to process. 

Call me overprotective, but I'd rather he didn't know the details of some of the horrors happening around the world lately.

Trailside selfie with my oldest. 

Instead, we choose podcasts that might occasionally make a joke or reference that we will need to explain (if they are even listening), but overall I'm not worried will add anxiety, especially when they are already dealing so well with so much change and stress this summer. 

Without further ado, here are my top five choices for podcasts right now. Several are downright nerdy, but you should expect that on this blog by now! After all, I'm the one in a panic about how to survive without all of my books for 6 weeks this summer.  These are all husband approved, by the way. Some day I will do a separate list for podcasts I love that are pure girl.

This weekly tongue in cheek current events quiz show hosted by Peter Sagal is the first thing I listen to on a road trip, a run or when I'm just cleaning my house. Like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, they mock everyone and when it's over you realize you've learned more about current events that you would from an hour browsing CNN. 

Hosted by Neil Degrasse Tyson of Cosmos fame, this podcast ranges over a real variety of science topics, despite his background in astrophysics. One of my favorites is an old Halloween episode, where he interviewed Mary Roach and several other authors about the science behind ghost hunting. Some debunked myths, others explained the history of the field, and one talked about how the machines used to "detect" were invented. This podcast never fails to be fascinating, and leads to good conversation starters while we're driving. Considering that we stopped to look at all the tarantulas crossing the road on the way home yesterday, you'll understand why this one is a big hit with the whole family.

     After we drove past the 5th migrating tarantula, we pulled over so the boys could take a closer look. Ben's main concern was that tarantulas might not have Christmas if they lived in the grass. 

A new(ish) podcast from Rita Meade, a librarian and Book Riot blogger, where she and a guest discuss reader questions. Everything from "how do I make more time to read" to "how do I handle book judgement" comes up. It's funny and the advice is generally solid and in true librarian form, no one judges what you read. 

Hosted by Alec Baldwin, there don't seem to be many recent episodes of this one. The back catalog is well worth listening to however, as Baldwin chats with celebrities from Brian Williams to Lena Dunham. He is remarkably adept at interviewing. He leads the guest through his questions, making it into a conversation between two friends, but it never seems forced or promotional. They are just telling stories to an audience and I love it. 

I never thought I would voluntarily listen to a sports podcast, but this one hosted by ESPN writer and Grantland founder, Bill Simmons is the exception. He chats with his buddies about whatever is going on currently in sports, but ties it into pop culture and life in LA that I'll even listen to it when my  husband isn't around. The episodes they do ranking the contestants in each season of The Bachelor or Bachelorette like players are ranked before a sports draft are some of my favorites. 

Do you have a favorite podcast? Please share in the comments! We have 3 days in the car to fill in just a few short weeks, so I'd love to stock up on some new recommendations. 

Also, if you're a blogger, I'm hoping to have some guest posts to help cover the blog while I move during the end of July to beginning of August. If you're interested, comment below or send me an email at hearthandhomefront (at) gmail (dot) com. Thanks!!

July 4, 2014

You packed how many boxes of books?!

Today I'm linking up with Jessica over at Quirky Bookworm for her #bookwormproblems linkup.

Our big move back to the east coast is somehow almost here, though I can't figure out where the time has gone. The boys and I have less than 3 weeks left in Oklahoma before we drive to Massachusetts to visit my family and finally end up in our new place in Connecticut in time for school to start in August. My husband will follow with our dogs and most of our stuff around Labor Day.

The problem?

I have to pack everything the boys and I will need to make it until school starts in one car, just in case the movers get delayed. (Military moves NEVER go as planned!)

I was doing pretty well with my lists of necessary items until I realized that meant 6 weeks without our books or regular access to a library. Uh-oh.

Last time we moved they packed 30 book boxes…our packers always love us, let me tell you ;) 

I've decided to look at the bright side and use this as a time to work my way through all the books languishing unread on my Kindle and bookshelves. Although there are a few old favorites that I can't bear to be without, and there is no time like a cross country move for comfort reading.

The picture at the top of this post is what I have put aside so far…not so bad until you multiply that times 3 to count all the books that the kids will want to bring. Let's not forget about the stash of books on my Kindle that I haven't read either.

Somehow I don't think we'll be able to narrow things down to just one box of books for all of us.

How many books can I justify moving with me and not on the moving truck? #bookwormproblems

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