4 tv-free entertainment ideas for kiddos

This is an ongoing battle in the Moore household, but it's one we're actually really interested in and concerned about. The TV is a great and terrible thing. We love being able to veg out in the evening, and I'll admit that the TV kept me sane during Ryan's deployment last year. It was the only way I could foresee making dinner for the kiddos and not having eyes on them the whole time. We don't live in an open-concept home, so the TV kept my kids riveted for the 30 minutes I needed to make dinner - and it calmed them down after bath and before bed.

TV, however, is addicting. There are varying schools of thought on using the TV, and Ryan and I are extremely interested in making sure we make the best decisions for our little guys - no matter how hard those decisions might be for us. A couple months ago, we decided to get rid of DirecTV. We were spending nearly $200 a month to watch, primarily, kids' shows and the occasional football game. It didn't make sense. We have Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu, so we really do have all the access to shows we need. However, it's an ongoing debate in our household as to whether or not we should keep the TV.

When I was little, we were allowed to watch maybe an hour of TV a day in the evening. It was monitored closely by my parents, and I think we stuck to Mr. Rogers or Sesame Street, for the most part. These days, there are so many choices for kids. Spencer absolutely loves PJ Masks and Rescue Bots. I don't think these shows are bad, by any means, but I don't know that they should watch as much as they do. So, as we work towards potentially ditching the TV once and for all, here are four ways to entertain kiddos without the TV.

1 // Go outside. This is a no-brainer, folks. I know it. However, when you live in the frozen tundra of northern NY, it's a tricky one. Half the reason we spend so much time inside is that it's too dang cold to go outside. When the weather turns, however, we spend far less time in from of the TV. We did so much last summer. From visiting our local farm to going to the beach, the zoo, and beyond, we stayed busy. The busier you are, the less you'll want to veg out. Here's the best part about getting outside though...you don't need an elaborate activity! My kids are happy splashing in puddles, chasing bugs, and running themselves silly in the backyard. Just move.

2 // Stuck inside? Try an indoor snowball fight! I mentioned it before, but this is one of our absolute favorite Amazon purchases so far this year! It seems so silly, but both my boys love it, and it's an easy way to get them moving and entertained. Plus, it works their coordination and keeps them on-the-go. You can purchase your own Snowtime Anytime Indoor Snowball Fight here. Honestly, this is hours of endless fun, and you could probably make you're own if you're super craft. I'm just...not. :)

3 // Get crafty or musical My kids absolutely love arts and crafts. Whether it's playdough, coloring books, Magnatiles, or beyond, they're all in. I'm a touch OCD though, so the thought of markers on my walls (however washable they might be) are a tricky one for me, and playdough is awesome, but it can get stuck in everything. I'm working to relax my uptight approach to these things though, and let them be little - in contained areas. The dining room is a great place to do it. They'll happily sit in their boosters at the table for a couple hours if it's in the name of art. Another great idea is to get musical! Ryan plays the guitar, and the kids absolutely love sitting with Daddy, singing, and "helping" him play. It's too cute.

4 // Hands-on kitchen help. This is actually something I'm excited to get much better at, too! Spencer's almost 3.5 years old now, and he actually really wants to participate in the kitchen. There are great little stools available like this one that allows kiddos to reach the counter and "help" out. Additionally, you can look for little kids' cooking tools sets. They'll have their own mixers, bowls, etc (kid-friendly and unbreakable!) so they can help participate. I'm excited to get my boys - especially Spencer - in the kitchen helping me bake this year. Not ready to have them in the kitchen yet? Get their help with groceries! Spencer absolutely loves pushing his own cart and helping me shop. If your local grocery market doesn't have carts like these, you can buy one here.

I want to make it clear - I have a lot to learn here, myself, but it's really important to me that my kids are busy and hands-on. As they get older, these things become more and more crucial, especially as we start considering sports and stuff for when we move to Washington

What are your thoughts on TV in the home? Do you have a TV, or do you watch a lot? What are some of your favorite ways to entertain your kids without using a TV?

breakfast with the bunny

Happy almost-end-of-March, my friends! Can you believe we're here already...and can you believe it's (supposedly) spring?! I know I can't. It hasn't really felt like spring here yet at Fort Drum. We've yet to see 40 degrees, and the days have still been downright bitter cold. I'm ready for warmth though, so let's bring on April, right? 

This past weekend, I finally felt mobile enough post knee surgery to get out for a little bit, so we decided to get tickets for Breakfast with the Bunny at Thompson Park Zoo. I've mentioned a few of our visits there before, but this was the first time we visited one of their holiday functions. I knew I'd be pushing it since I'm still on crutches, but I've been eager to get out, and I've told Ryan how much more fun life is when we get out and do stuff - and he agrees! So, off we went.

We originally bought tickets for their 8:30 AM breakfast, and I was dreading it, so when they opened up another time at 11:30 AM, we jumped to switch our tickets. The event was simple and fun. The zoo's resident Harlequin rabbit played the role of the Easter Bunny this year, and they had a buffet breakfast of eggs, sausage, pancakes, and berries. The boys loved it, and Ryan and I nibbled a bit, too. I loved that it was kind of a pick-your-own-adventure kind of buffet. They didn't set a really strict schedule, and they allowed families and kids to see the bunny and eat at their leisure.

The Easter egg hunt started just before noon, and I really wish there'd been less snow for this part! They scattered about 100 eggs around the playground and open field area, but both were still covered under a thick blanket of fairly icy snow. Luckily, the eggs just sat on top and didn't stick, but I had one heck of a time following my boys on crutches through the snow.

Both Spencer and Porter had a blast! Porter was pretty clueless, and Spencer cared less about the actual eggs and more about what was inside them. Smart boy - they had candy and prizes, and the boys made out like bandits!

I've mentioned a few times that there aren't a ton of things to do around Fort Drum, but the activities definitely pick up as the temperatures do. That means that spring and summer are eventful and fun, and I'm glad we'll be able to enjoy the prettier side of the season here before we move to Washington. 

For those who are in the area, Thompson Park Zoo routinely has events like these for the holidays, and their annual zoo membership is $60 - all of which goes directly to the indigenous animals it houses. This event wasn't too pricey. Tickets for adults were $18, and the boys were free. All the money went to hosting the event, so I felt good about it - plus it raises awareness for the zoo, which is a staple in the community. If you're stationed at Fort Drum, this one of the best things to do with your kiddos!

I'm linking up today with B Loved Boston for Weekending.

5 ways to make deployment or tdy fly by

Ryan was gone for 9 of the 12 months last year, which is hard by any stretch of the imagination. Add two little ones who were, at the time, under 3 and under a year, and it's even harder. The crazy thing is that we're coming up on another separation in the next month or so. No, he's not deploying again, thankfully, but he will be TDY for 6 weeks. That's another 6 weeks without daddy, and it's another 6 weeks that we have to count the days and wait for his return. 

I was so blindsided by how hard a deployment would be last year. Look, I knew it would be hard, but I literally had no idea. Especially during the cold winter months, I really struggled. Little by little though, we found a pattern, and we made it work. Heck, we actually had fun! So, as we approach another 6 weeks without our soldier, I wanted to offer up 5 foolproof ways to make any deployment or TDY go by faster.

1 // Stay busy. This is, perhaps, by far the most important of all the tips I can offer up. The worst thing that you can do during a deployment or TDY is to sit on your butt and just wait. Separations are hard. They're a thousand times harder though if you simply sit and wait for hours to tick by. We worked hard to always have something to do. Now, I've mentioned a few times that Fort Drum's events are slim pickin'. However, there is always something to do...you just have to find it. I scoured local events on Facebook, and I checked out the MWR on post to see what was coming up. Step outside of your comfort zone, and just get out there. You'll thank me later! 

2 // Set goals. This one will look different for every person. For me, however, setting goals meant setting goals for races. I planned several big running races last year. I ran the NJ Half Marathon in May, the Lake Placid Half Marathon in June, the 18.12 Challenge in August, and then I ran the Chicago Marathon in October, about a month prior to Ryan's return. These were little milestones that helped the days tick by faster. And, I found that having something to train for really made me focus on something other than missing Ryan. It seems like a no-brainer, and it is, but it's hard to remember these things once you're thrown for a loop. Find your own passion, and set some real goals along the way.

3 // Focus on the good. This seems so obvious, but it's actually one of the hardest things for any military spouse (or any spouse for that matter) while their loved one is downrange. Ryan was in a combat zone last year, alternating between Iraq and Kuwait. That's scary. Add in the fact that I felt super alone with two little kids, and it was even harder. We faced a lot of challenges. Both boys were hospitalized. Danny was hit by a car just 6 days into the deployment. I worked hard to blog and journal every night. Consider writing a gratitude journal. Writing everything down will help you get it off your chest keep you sane. Don't settle for constant sadness and grief-filled statuses on social media. They're not bad every now and again to vent, but if that's all you have, it'll drag you down.

4 // Ask for help. I don't know about you, but one of my biggest flaws is the sin of pride. I absolutely hate asking for help. Logically, I know it doesn't imply weakness, but there's something so innately difficult about letting people in. I had to suck up my pride, accept the kind offers of friends, and ask for help when I needed it. Those people who choose to serve you and provide acts of kindness are doing so for a reason! Let them help you! Branch out! Make friends, and step outside of your comfort zone. It'll go a long way, and it'll make those days tick by.

5 // Cultivate friendships. This goes hand-in-hand with the last one. One of the best things you can do for yourself during a spouses' tour is to spend quality time with friends. While Ryan was downrange, my good friend, Mareike, and I got very close. She has two little girls, and I have two little boys. Both our husbands were overseas, and we'd been together at Fort Huachuca, too. We set a standing weekly dinner night on Sunday. It wasn't anything special. We rotated who cooked and who visited. It was something to look forward to each week. We enjoyed adult conversation and let the kiddos burn off steam. Her little family recently PCSd, but I know that's a friendship that will stand the test of time because we went through one of the hardest seasons of life together.

Everyone goes through deployments or TDYs differently, and there is no right or wrong way to deal with them. You can, however, make them go by faster - which makes life more fun and more enjoyable. What are some of your favorite tips/tricks to make time and distance fly by?

I'm linking up today with Momfessionals for Friday Favorites & Smidge of This for 5 on Friday.

healthy homemade chicken nuggets

tractor fork - constructive eating (available here)

There are very few things that my children actually love eating right now, and that makes cooking really difficult. Now, here's the thing. When Ryan and I had Spencer, we made a promise to one another. We would never make two separate meals. Meaning, basically, our children get what we get, and they either eat it or don't. That being said, I occasionally like to spoil my boys, as well, and I enjoy giving them what they want. Lately, that falls into two categories: chicken nuggets or macaroni and cheese.

Neither of those is particularly healthy. They love fast food chicken nuggets. I don't, however, love all the extra crap that's in them, and while having them as a treat is great every once in a while, I don't feel comfortable making it a common occurrence. So, I decided to give making them from scratch a try. I've tried a few times before, but I've noticed that chicken strips just don't give that soft, melt-in-your-mouth texture that the boys love so much. This time, I decided to try ground chicken instead, and what do you know?! The texture was perfect.

I'm not a chef, by any stretch of the imagination, and my food photography leaves more than a little to be desired. However, these were such a hit with my boys (Ryan included), that I had to share the recipe. For all intents and purposes, they're basically two ingredients plus spices. 

Here's what you need:

1 package of ground chicken
2 cups breadcrumbs/panko/crushed pork rinds (if you're keto)
Desired spices (mine are pictured)

My boys don't like heat, so I stuck to a few staples and used Aromat, which I buy on Amazon here, and Litehouse Guacamole seasonings. These two together offered a hint of a ranch taste without the kick my boys dislike. If I were just making them for me, I would've added some paprika or crushed red pepper, but you really can't go wrong.

Put all your ingredients in a bowl, but reserve 1/2 of the bread crumbs in a second dish. Mix the chicken, spice, and breadcrumb mixture thoroughly, then form them. Mine ended up looking like little tots, but they were tasty nonetheless! Once formed, roll them in the remaining breadcrumbs and arrange them evenly on your baking sheet.

Simply heat your oven to 375 degrees, then bake them for 15-18 minutes. This recipe made 16 good-sized nuggets, and I flipped them once halfway for a good, even brown on both sides.

My boys loved them with ketchup, but Ryan dipped them in ranch dressing, and that was my preferred topping, as well. The best part of this recipe? 4 good-sized nuggets are only 2 Weight Watchers Freestyle points, and they're filling, to boot!

Do you make chicken nuggets at home? I'd love to hear how you do it!

mpfl reconstruction: one week down

Welp. It's officially been one week since my MPFL reconstruction. It's been both a great and trying first week. On the one hand, I'm doing much better than I thought I would be at this point. On the other hand, however, I'm frustrated because there is still a lot that I can't do. My first post-op appointment is this Wednesday, and I'm hopeful that I'll be cleared to partially weight-bear.

Right now, I'm on crutches doing a partial "heel-touch." I won't lie. I've put some weight on this week, and though it definitely doesn't feel good, it doesn't feel awful either. I have four incisions. The one on the lateral side is the most painful. I have one directly over my kneecap where they placed the anchors for the ligament graft, and one just by my upper shin where they harvested a piece of my hamstring. There is also one tiny one where they inserted the drain and camera on the left side of my knee.

Tuesday was the worst day, and I think that was the last time I posted. My pain level was very high - around a 9 - most of the day. I could only manage it with the oxycodone I was prescribed. By Wednesday, however, I went from eight pills (the max) to five. Then on Thursday, I only took two at night to sleep more comfortably. I did that again on Friday and Saturday, and I'm officially free of the oxy now at one-week post-op! That was big for me. I'm not entirely comfortable taking opioids. Color me crazy, right?

But seriously, I've made a lot of progress. I can now shower by myself. It's still a bit of a task because I can't bend my knee yet. I have to maneuver myself into the tub sitting to be able to shower, then I have to exit, re-bandage, and put the brace back on - all while sitting and without bending. It's a process, but I'm getting there.

We didn't really do anything this weekend because I'm not that mobile. That's hard for the boys - especially when it's as cold as it has been here lately. We did manage to go on a quick Target run yesterday for necessities, and that was hilarious. I rode one of those motorized scooters, and the boys thought it was the coolest thing in the world. I did manage to get up and make the boys banana pancakes with sprinkles and whipped cream, so I guess I did something well!

Today, however, I'm back to work. I'm doing work fairly uncomfortably at my desk, though I'll probably switch to the couch soon since it's a lot more comfortable. I'm still applying to jobs and doing my best to keep things moving though, so that's a plus.

OH! And the best news...we found a house to rent in Washington! My mom came to visit last week to help while I recovered, and we were browsing the rental sites and came across an incredible house available the first week in June, which is the perfect timeframe for us. Needless to say, we jumped at it! We spoke with the owners this weekend, and we'll be signing our contract and placing our deposit this week, so we're very excited. It's about 1,000 square feet bigger than our current home, has four bedrooms and a dedicated office, so we're ready to do this.

Here's to a good week ahead, friends! Thanks so much for your kind words and positivity during this time of recovery and craziness.

I'm linking up today with B Loved Boston for Weekending.

mpfl reconstruction: day 2

Well, here we are, two days post-op. I'm feeling a little saner today. I was allowed to shower for the first time since Monday, so that was heaven. Obviously, I can't stand in the shower, but I could sit and let the hot water run over me, wash my hair, and feel a little more refreshed. My surgery was at 7:30 on Monday morning, and while I knew what I was getting myself into, I also didn't really...if that makes sense. 

They gave me a nerve block since they'd be playing around with the ligaments, as well as two IV drugs and general anesthesia. The surgery took about two to two and a half hours, but everything went well. I had a little nausea post-anesthesia and ended up throwing up twice, but other than that, I was just glad to be able to go home. My boys thought my barf bags were the best toy in the world. Spencer said, "Thank you, mommy! Thank you for my cat-in-the-hat surprise!" I couldn't stop laughing.

My nerve block wore off around 3 AM that night, and my pain went from about a 3 to a 9 in a matter of a half an hour. It was excruciating. They grafted a piece of my hamstring to reconstruct the MPFL, so that compounded the pain. I'm not a big fan of pain relief drugs, but this is no time to be a hero. I've been popping them like pez (okay, in moderation), to moderate the pain.

I took another two pain pills before bed, and I actually slept well last night, which was fantastic. I took another around 3 AM, and I finally got about 9 decent hours of sleep. That, plus my shower, has me feeling like a new woman. 

I was able to take the bandages and brace off only for the shower today, and I was able to see the leg. It looks gnarly. Good, all things considered - but still gnarly. My first post-op appointment will be next Wednesday, and I'm excited to hopefully start talking about starting PT sooner, rather than later!

I'm going to chronicle my recovery here, so I hope you'll all bear with me as I do! One thing I'd really hoped for prior to this surgery was a blog on which I could really read into their MPFL journey and recovery. There are a few, but I think it's an important resource for people, so I'm hopeful that maybe, just maybe, it'll help someone else.

If this post is loopy, it's because I'm a little drugged, but I'm hoping my next posts will make more sense. Happy Wednesday, friends!

brunch at the st. lawrence chateau

On Sunday, we knew it was my final day before surgery, so we decided to live it up. My mom came into town Saturday because, like the saint she is, she wants to help us prepare for what's to come. I'll be fairly immobile for the first week (at least) due to my knee surgery today. So, yesterday, we decided to brunch it up, yet again. Can you tell we really love brunch?! This time, we went to St. Lawrence Chateau out in Clayton. It's home to the distillery so we could smell the sweet libations once we got there. 

Brunch is served just inside the impressive stone mansion overlooking the St. Lawrence River. We were seated right by the bar (they must know us), and they were incredibly accommodating with the boys. It wasn't too busy. We'd reserved our seats the night before, but the bartender said they only start getting very busy after April when it starts to warm up.

I started with a delicious Bloody Mary, and Ryan kicked it off with a classic mimosa. Even the coffee was divine. I expected the food to take a while, but it was extremely quick, and our waitress was super attentive. Our glasses were never less than half full. They, thankfully, had plastic cups in stock for the boys, and they were pretty entertained with their Crayola dry erase coloring boards for the most part.

After a successful WW weigh-in on Saturday, I decided to indulge yesterday. I knew this week would be a crapshoot as to whether or not I wanted to eat. So, I opted for the Salmon Benny. Delicious, my friends, with the perfect fillet of salmon cooked to order. Their servings were generous, but not overly so, and the boys did just fine with a side of scrambled eggs and bacon each. We've found that buying them a whole meal is a waste because they eat like birds.

Everything was scrumptious, and for what we got, the bill was extremely fair. Most of all though, we got to try another great brunch place around this area. It's about 35-40 minutes from Fort Drum via Route 12, and I have to guess that it's incredible in the spring and summer months. There's an outdoor entertaining area with a pergola and lights, as well as a little walk and overlook over the river. It's in a wooded area, too, so it must be so verdant and stunning in the hot months.

This would've easily made my list of top places to eat around Fort Drum, so if you're looking for a delicious brunch, definitely try the St. Lawrence Chateau. They serve lunch, as well, Monday through Friday, in a addition to both a Saturday and Sunday brunch. But, as you know, I believe brunch is by far the best meal of the day.

Today is the day I'm going under the knife. As I write this, Ryan is getting ready to take me in for my MPFL reconstruction. Please think good vibes, friends! I'm nervous as all get out (it's my type-A personality coming out), and the thought of being reliant on others scares the heck out of me.) Yikes! Here we go...

the history of us: 5 of the best memories

I was bingeing on some of my favorite blogs the other day when I came across an amazing post by Rachel from The Random Writings of Rachel. I absolutely loved one of her post ideas, so I decided to do my own spin on it and take a look back at the history that is Ryan and I. We've been together for six years now (and married four), and it's been nothing but craziness, chaos, love, and laughter since the beginning. There's no real reason for this post except that I'm waxing nostalgic with all the craziness and adventure coming up I'm linking up today with Momfessionals for Friday Favorites and Smidge of This for 5 on Friday. Here are five of the most ridiculous memories and facts about our history together :)

1 // A little-known fact beyond our inner circle is that Ryan and I met online. What dating site, you ask? HA. It's an even littler-known dating site known as LDS Singles. It's this absolutely archaic Mormon version of Match.com, and I remember signing up for it about a year after I converted to the church. One of the first guys that messaged me on there sent me a dissertation about the wifely qualities he was looking for and remarked that I had multiple ear piercings, which wouldn't fly. He proceeded to tell me that if I was amenable to reducing it to one pair of earrings, he could see a future with me. So, yeah. I logged out, and I didn't log back in for a couple years. I forgot I had my account until I got a message in my Gmail that I had a message from someone with the username "RedDogRy." I had to see what gem had that ridiculous handle, so I somehow found my password, logged in, and read his moderately insulting/flirtatious email. So, I shot my own insulting email back, and we proceeded to hurl insults at each other until we switched to doing so via Gmail instead. Okay, I'll admit, the insults were only slightly insulting...they were sarcasm, in which I'm fluent. We talked for about two weeks online, then we spoke on the phone daily for three months before I finally flew to Arizona to meet this guy. Yikes. There was a 10% chance he was catfishing me and a 15% chance he was a serial killer. I liked the odds, so I gave it a go. 

This was our first picture together at a comedy club in Tucson.

2 // We dated for about 3 months then, while he was visiting me in the New Hampshire, I broke up with him. He flew home to Fort Huachuca, and most of my CrossFit friends were super happy about it. One of my best friends, Pete, however, told me I was making a mistake. Let's be honest. It was kind of a joke of a breakup. Within a week, we were talking again, and within a month, we were back together. #failbreakup...By October of 2013, we were seriously talking about marriage, but we knew that with the long-distance, we had to test actually being together for a long period of time. So, I flew out to Arizona and "lived" with him for three weeks. During that time, we went to Oktoberfest in Sierra Vista. Like the fail Mormons we were, we went and partook of many of the libations. I learned the hard way that I don't tolerate Jaegermeister well. While we waited for the cab to take us home, I moaned and cried on a pile of rocks by the bank parking lot. Then, once we got home, I forced myself to throw it all up before re-joining the crowd. Ryan says that's when he knew that, if that's me at my absolute worst, he could marry me. (Sidenote...the engagement took another month and a trip to Utah.)

3 // Shortly after we got married, Ryan and I took a cruise to Mexico. It was his first cruise, and since I work in cruising, I was an old pro at the time. We'd been married about 3 months at the time, and we were excited to live it up and enjoy our life as newlyweds while living in Arizona for the year. During the cruise, we had a lot of fun at a tequila distillery. They ran out of food, so they made it up to us by way of shots. It was a lot of fun. I did not, however, feel good after. I couldn't seem to bounce back. The seas were rocky, and the ship was rolling, but I've never gotten seasick before. I couldn't understand it. We stayed busy to keep my mind off my hormonal mood swings and angst. We held baby donkeys, went zip-lining, ate too much ice cream, and got scammed by a local into paying $10 to hold her iguana. It wasn't until we got to shore that the pregnancy test showed positive, and we discovered that the pill isn't always effective. Whoops.

4 // When we moved to Fort Drum, we had a crash course in adulting. Spencer was born 13 days before we moved, I was in the throes of postpartum depression, we were attempting to close on our new home, and our furniture was somewhere in America - courtesy of an Army moving company. We managed to close on our home after two failed attempts (our bank forgot the documents twice.) We had the closing from hell. I remember sitting with our realtor, lawyers, our bank rep, and a newborn, who wanted to nurse every hour...for the six hours we sat there. Eventually, though, we closed, got our keys officially (I say "officially" because our realtor snuck them to us earlier to stick the cats in the house), and moved into our empty home, which stayed devoid of furniture for the next 16 days. We slept on an air mattress and changed Spencer on the floor. We ate dinner in camp chairs. I remember posting that we'd look back and laugh. Thankfully, we really do.

5 // As I mentioned before, Ryan and I are Mormon. We're not the best Mormons, but we really do try, and we knew we wanted to raise our boys in a foundation of faith. Our first couple married years were very, very trying. We were lucky enough to have absolutely fantastic sister missionaries who supported us along the way, but it was hard. We had a lot of hurdles to overcome. We had meetings with our bishop, started tithing, worked to become worthy of the temple, and finally, finally got our temple recommends. We had two little boys by the time we were able to enter the Palmyra New York temple in December of 2016. It was a first for me. I'd never been in the temple - or any temple - for that matter. That was the day that my little family was sealed for time and all eternity. We're a work in progress, folks. Plain and simple, but that day remains precious to me.

It's fun looking back at all we've accomplished in our six years together thus far. I couldn't imagine life without Ryan, and the amount of laughter in our lives is probably the best thing ever. We're exhausted, happy, loved, and enjoying the chaos that is our lives. Cheers to all the adventures to come - including my knee surgery on Monday. Wish me luck! 

5 places to eat around fort drum

I'm sure I've mentioned it before, but Ryan and I are foodies. We love a good meal, and we absolutely love trying new places. Part of the reason we love military life is that it sends us all over the country (and, potentially, the world), so we get to try a lot of different restaurants and cuisines along the way. Now, I know I've lamented on more than one occasion that there's not too much to do around Fort Drum. That remains somewhat true, however, there are actually some really great places to eat around here if you're willing to step outside your comfort zone!

For those stationed at Fort Drum, it's not the worst place in the world. I promise. There are some great hidden gems, and I want to share the wealth with everyone. Here are five of our favorite places that we've discovered around the Fort Drum area to eat and (over)indulge. 

1 // Bombay Duck Pickle Cafe - Carthage, NY. Look beyond the name, my friends. I remember finding this place on Yelp and laughing because the name was so out there. It's a little nondescript building in old-town Carthage, NY that has some of the absolute best food I've ever eat - not kidding. The menu changes daily based on the chef's personal preferences, but they're known for their carrot and butternut squash soups. It's a bit on the pricier end of things, but well worth every penny. Oh, and there is literally one chef, one server, and four tables. If you're looking for a hole-in-the-wall place with scrumptious food, you absolutely need to try this one. Here's my review of our experience there.

2 // Tug Hill Vineyards - Lowville, NY. This place is about a 35-minute drive from Fort Drum, but it's a little more well-known around these parts. They have great berry picking during the summer months, and their Sunday brunch is absolutely to die for. Like many places around here, the brunch menu changes by week. They have three different seating times on Sunday, so it's best to call ahead and reserve a spot for your group since it fills up fast. And, if you like a good drink, their create-your-own Bloody Mary's are divine - as is their freshly-brewed coffee. This place is seasonal, so it's closed from (I believe) November through March, opening again in April. Here's my review of our experience.

3 // Tin Pan Galley - Sacketts Harbor, NY. While Ryan was deployed, my neighbor and I ran the 18.12 Challenge out in Sacketts Harbor, which is conveniently located right by this local hideaway. Tin Pan Galley is in an old stone building that features some of the best cuisine I've had while in northern NY. We tried out their brunch, which is also seasonal (like many places around here), and it was fantastic. The wait time here is long. It opens for brunch at 8 AM on Saturday and Sunday for the spring and summer months, and the wait time starts at nearly 30-45 minutes. Luckily, they have fast service, decent prices, and food that's worth waiting for. Always, always opt for the specials because you never know what they're going to have! Here's my review of our experience.

4 // Chez Piggy - Kingston, ON. You'll need your passport for this one, but I promise you, it's worth it. Some of our favorite eateries around Fort Drum are actually in Canada. I mean, we live literally 30 minutes from the Canadian border, so it's really not that far. On average, it takes us about an hour to get to Kingston, which is just enough time to build up a healthy appetite. They serve an incredible Sunday brunch, but their normal day-to-day menu is fantastic, too. I recommend getting their fresh oysters on the half-shell, and opt for the olive platter as an appetizer. Also, if you love a good drink, try their Bloody Caesar. Here's my review of our experience.

5 // Smoke's Poutinerie - Kingston, ON. It's no secret that Ryan and I love poutine. His first real introduction to poutine was on our honeymoon in Quebec City, and he's been hooked since. For those unfamiliar with it, it's a Canadian classic of fresh fries, cheese curds, and gravy. Smoke's Poutinerie is a modern poutine joint that has several locations throughout Canada, but we visited the one in Kingston. Once again, you'll need your passport, but I promise it's worth it. The boys absolutely loved it, they serve over-generous portions, and we each ordered something different, which made it fun. I highly recommend trying the Hogtown Poutine if you're a meat-eater. Here's my review of our experience.

So, there you have it...five places you absolutely must eat if you're ever in or around the Fort Drum area. We've found a few others that are worth mentioning, as well, so here are our runners-up:

Maggie's on the River - classic American cuisine in downtown Watertown
Skewed Brewing - great Sunday brunch in downtown Watertown
Coleman's Corner - fun and friendly Irish fare and company in downtown Watertown

Are you guys adventurous when it comes to trying new food and restaurants, or do you like to stick with your old-faithfuls?

the joy of indoor snowball fights

It was another wintry weekend here in the North Country this past weekend. As much as we loved that taste of spring we had last week, we knew it wouldn't last. Ryan and I have been working to be more intentional about our time since he got home, which has led us to making a list of to-dos and hope-to-dos for the weekend. We do it on Friday night, and it's actually been a huge help. With our move coming up quickly, we know we're on borrowed time, so we jot down everything that has to be done, and we build fun into the mix, as well. It really helps keep us sane. 

We needed to do a few mundane things this weekend. I had my WW meeting at 9 on Saturday, I needed to pick up some fabric to make baby shower gifts, and we needed to pick up some boxes to start the moving process. We conquered all those tasks (plus church!!!), and we even had time for a trip to Target - because why not - and an indoor snowball fight.

bunny ears: target (available here)

My little men are doing so well learning to play with one another. It was rough-going there for a while. Boy mamas - is that normal? Now, however, Spencer likes to guide their play, Porter likes to antagonize, and they have a silly little dynamic going with all their activities. They really love sharing their Manatiles together, and it's so fun to watch them think and build things together. They also love to take their tubs together, and they really enjoyed riding together in the cart at Target.

It's the little things like this that make my mama heart smile. I knew we were in for a challenge having two little guys 18 months apart, but watching them find comfort and fun in each other is basically the best thing ever.

Also, in regards to this indoor snowball fight...it's probably the best $28 we've spent this winter. It's called Snowtime Anytime, and it comes with 40 "snow"balls. They're soft enough to chuck at one another, but they're firm enough that they fly well. PSA - dogs love them. The kit comes with 40 snowballs...we're down to 37.

snowtime anytime indoor snowball fight (sold out - similar available here)

Also, it's next to impossible to get pictures of these boys on-the-go, but I'll never stop trying. I've been solely sticking to my iPhone right now, but once we move, I'll get back to the DLSR. It's laziness, friends, pure and simple. 

I hope you all had wonderful weekends and have a great week ahead! This is my last week prior to surgery, which takes place next Monday, so I'm soaking up my last few days of mobility while I can. It's going to be an adventure!

I'm linking up today with B Loved Boston for Weekending