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Rundown Town...

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

No, not run downtown. I'll be doing that again next year at the Yonge Street 10k mind you. No, rundown town. Amazing the difference that sentence can make depending on where you place the space. :D I'm feeling exhausted today, and most days this past month, in every way possible. Emotionally, physically, spiritually - you name it, and that part of me wants to curl under a warm blanket and sleep. I'm amazed actually that I don't find myself emotionally eating or slacking in my exercise these days, although choosing pizza for dinner last night was definitely a comfort food kind of decision. :) It's not that my smile is missing, or that I can't feel light-hearted at any given moment, just more that I would love to be watching episodes of West Wing on Netflix, drinking diet Dr. Pepper, and eating peanut butter M&Ms. No responsibilities. No need to engage mentally or emotionally in any single thing. If work wasn't so busy, I'd definitely take a personal day off and do just that... though then I'd have thoughts of laundry... cleaning... cooking dinner for everyone when they would get home from work, school, daycare... so even then I'd feel some guilt at just sitting and doing nothing... hmmm, lol, that desire went south pretty quickly! :D It's just one of those days. They're peppered throughout the years of anyone's life, and I'm no different of course, but I felt like blogging might help vent some of it out.

Physically speaking, I'm feeling pretty great these days. I've been running consistently for awhile now, and I feel like any softness that had crept onto my bones in the months letting my knee heal has been burned away. My tummy is looking lean and tighter (which is sort of my visual way of assessing how I'm doing weight-wise), and my quads are starting to bulk up again with the running I've been doing - which I like. I've been running more than I've been strength training though, so I'm not seeing the overall muscular growth that I thought would define this year's journey into my health, but it's not that important to me on a daily basis - which is why I'm letting it slide I'm sure. I ran a total of 22 kilometers this past week and did my "interval-like" training with dodgeball, so it's clear that my body is doing wonderfully these days. I'm taking my multi-vitamin daily again, and I'm also taking cod liver oil pills as there's good evidence supporting their effectiveness for strengthening tendons and joints. My diet is mostly a choose my own adventure, which I like and dislike, but it's definitely something that I'm waiting for a spark to get my butt back into tracking properly. Especially from a training standpoint. I need to know what I'm eating again so that my body has all it needs to succeed. Running long distance removes the need to worry about quantity, to a reasonable degree, but I need to be thinking about the quality in a big way.

Anyways :) Just checking in mostly, venting about where I'm at, and looking forward to waking up one morning soon having shaken off this rust. It'll happen, I'm sure, just need to take deep breaths and keep my chin up... and so I shall. :)

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

KIKKI-G 11/15/2014 10:29PM

    Like alot others have mentioned here, I feel fall hits me the worst too. The time change can be great as it makes it easier to get up earlier but I have also been feeling like I'm exhausted in more ways than one. Its pretty amazing you have some consistency with running!! I'm jealous as I also need something consistent to make me feel good but working on it as now my schedule is clear from school.

Keep killing it & chin up!

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JILLYBEAN25 10/15/2014 9:34PM

    WORD, homie! Rundown is like the story of my life these days, too. We should start a club or something.

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JADED_CHICK19 10/15/2014 9:44AM

    Glad to hear from you! I know how you are feeling as I have been feeling the same way...unfortunately for me i have turned to the emotional eating and it has gotten me in a not so great place but that's ok because I've turned it around this week. I think it's the weather change..I love fall but it always takes a ton out of me emotionally. Sounds like your running is going great and I'm so happy for you on that front! :)

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LEWILL1982 10/15/2014 9:29AM

    Just a thought, but how are your sleep patterns? You might need to get a little bit more sleep if you're running again. I saw a graph yesterday (not gonna lie, didn't read the article attached) that illustrated for each mile that you exercise per week, you need to add 1 minute per mile per day into your sleep schedule to give your body the recovery it needs. Example, if you run 30 miles in a week, then you'll need to fit in an extra 30 minutes of sleep each day.

I'm feeling very run down this week. I need more sleep and I know it, it's time to listen to the body - it knows! Hope you feel better.

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TIME-4-TINA 10/15/2014 7:34AM

    Maybe it's the change in weather, but I have been feeling the same way. On Friday I worked for one hour and felt horrible. Weak, nauseous, exhausted. I told my boss I had to go home that I wasn't feeling well. I went home and slept for 4 hrs! And then I felt fine. My exercise routine has been strained cause I'm so tired lately. I've also had no appetite. (I guess that's a good thing) Feeling extremely tired today as well. I definitely think this is mental exhaustion on my part. Anyway, like I said maybe it's the weather. Just think, if we still feel this way by the end of the month we can be zombies for Halloween. no makeup necessary.

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ARUNNINGKAT 10/14/2014 7:29PM

    I kind of know how you feel. emoticon

It is truly remarkable though that you are staying on track no matter how crazy life gets or how overwhelmed you feel or how much you want to sit down to that Netflix and M & M binge. I am convinced that is where the true success lies - keeping going even in the crazy. After-all, how often do you have a nice neat little package of time that is open, and you feel the fire of inspiration? No, life is crazy most of the time.


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Ten Months...

Monday, October 06, 2014

First off, for those whom I cherish on this site, and those who've been like family the past year and a half, I'm sorry I've been MIA. It's not been due to shame of being off track or anything, not at all, I just find myself in a new season of my life where sparking doesn't find itself fitting into my daily schedule, unfortunately. Life is busy, kids are crazy, work demands it's pound of flesh, and days turn to weeks, which turn to months. I think it's clear to me now, as the twilight of my weight loss journey has given way into night, that the single biggest reason I was so successful, is because I made losing weight the number one priority in my life, and made every other aspect bend to it's eminence. For a period of time, all I did revolved around the single purpose of getting into shape and living a healthier life. As such, sparking was second nature, and now it's something that simply needs time carved out of a busy schedule to enjoy. It's bittersweet, because I miss so many of you and reading about your lives, but my life is mostly a good kind of busy, so that's a nice thing. :)

It dawned on me this past weekend, as I was thinking about my current health journey - and pondering how dramatically it's changed since I met my goal - that in two more months I'll have successfully completed one solid year of maintenance! It made me pause to reflect, as I hadn't been considering any of that, and have more just focused on making good decisions each day, and finding time to exercise. I've been running again since August, and my knee feels as strong, if not stronger, than it ever has. My eating habits are far from as dedicated as they were when I was in hardcore rockstar mode, but I'm making good decisions - not having seconds, watching portion sizes, limiting desserts - and I've held steady at 185 pounds without having to stress about it one bit. If I wasn't running, then I think I'd be in trouble mind you, so balance is essential. :) Still... two more months and I'm at a year of maintenance. It's almost as surreal to think of that as when I was almost at my goal weight. I haven't held steady at a weight ever in my life, and so it amazes me to think that I've managed to do so almost out of habit and not through any stress and measuring. The year I spent changing my habits and watching everything I ate have left a massive impact on me, and for that I feel almost grateful. I know that I did it for myself, but it was a different version of myself that did it, a past version, and so it's like I want to thank him, lol. :D I continue to be proud of myself, and manage to inspire myself when I'm feeling low, but my journey is simply a quieter one these days - which I think is why I'm quieter on Spark as well. Either way. I'm still here. I'm still at goal. I'm still running. and I'm still so thankful for every impact that my spark family has made in my life up until this point.

I just recently re-structured my running schedule, and am officially working my distance up again. I ran 11k on Friday, and as the weather has begun to turn cold again, I've felt the presence of my old self from last winter creeping through my veins. I'll be working my distance up slower than last year when I trained, and will just be at half marathon distance in time to run the same half I ran this past May. From there, if my body holds strong, I'll be pushing beyond the place where I've been before, and heading toward full marathon distance. That makes me excited about the future and what I might accomplish. Always remember, my lovely sparkers, regardless of where you are now in your journey, or where you've been, the future is yours to make into whatever your imagination and your desires demand... don't ever let anyone tell you differently, especially yourself.

My little man of boundless energy. A day spent boating is always enjoyable. :)

My two girls. :)

The kids were great on the boat, and I was able to chill at the front without a care in the world. Rare treat, lol. :D

My two beautiful and crazy kids, spent a good deal of our evenings on our deck in the backyard this past summer.

My baby girl and I. One of the many reasons I plan to never live a grossly unhealthy life ever again. A little unhealthy will always sneak in, lol, but damage limitation will always be a default for me now. :)

My little man at his fourth birthday party.

I ran in one of those color races this past month, set a personal best for 5k! Ran it in 25:45.

Me, this past month, holding steady at 185 like it ain't no thang, lol :)

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:


    Great job, my friend! Congratulations on a well-earned victory!!

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STRONGCOURAGE 10/16/2014 11:36AM

    So fabulous to read! wOw, almost a year of maintenance?! emoticon Sure resonated with me your thought of that one year of working hard on your health had/has a massive impact...SO true! Beautiful pics w/ your family. Keep enjoying the ride & journey you are on! emoticon emoticon

Comment edited on: 10/16/2014 11:36:52 AM

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13UST_IT 10/13/2014 12:08PM

    What great news that it feels like second nature and truly is a way of life now! Almost a year of maintenance is inspiring... hopefully I'll join you some day! Keep up the great work and enjoy your happy, healthy life to the fullest!

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STEELKICKIN 10/7/2014 8:18PM

    Taking care of yourself is the numero uno priority and if that means not sparking much then so be it! It is a LIFESTYLE, my friend, one to be LIVED, not written! :) But it is good to see you and hear you are doing well. And as always, cute munchkins!! Lovely family and lovely words from a lovely person.

Stay true to you and spark your own wonderful way. :)

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AMBERNICHOLE3 10/7/2014 11:13AM

    So glad to see you back (even for a quick check in)! Looks like you are settling into your new lifestyle and new body, well done! Keep in touch ok?

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WEEPINGANGEL74 10/7/2014 8:11AM


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JILLYBEAN25 10/7/2014 1:39AM

    Amazing, good sir! Amazing! You are an inspiration!

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TIME-4-TINA 10/6/2014 7:23PM

    Great pics and great job maintaining! I too was MIA over the summer. Good kind of busy as well. I now have more time to be on here. Which is necessary for me because I'm not done losing yet. I look forward to the day when I can be where you are. Your kiddies are cuties. Just like you!

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KATSPARK06 10/6/2014 7:19PM

    Good job!

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IAMZBEE 10/6/2014 5:50PM

    You're doing an amazing job of setting a good example for your kids. Congrats on maintaining and being mindful. Those little moments are what it's all about. =)

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WIFE49 10/6/2014 3:49PM

    Glad to see you are so confident. Congrats on your maintenance.

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ARUNNINGKAT 10/6/2014 3:14PM

    Awwww.... it was so good to read a update from you! So glad that life and your health journey are going well for you! You inspire us all!

Love the photos! Your little family is quite simply, adorable!!

Comment edited on: 10/6/2014 5:19:19 PM

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HOLLYM48 10/6/2014 1:55PM

    Great job on holding steady! Way to go. Life does get busy and it is hard to keep it all on the front burner. Glad to hear that everything is going great and you are almost at 1 year. Keep up the great work and check in every once in a while to let us know how you are doing!

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LEWILL1982 10/6/2014 1:33PM

    You are amazing! Once maintenance becomes a lifestyle, it demands less focus and attention. Maybe not less, but a different focus and attention. You're right - your involvement reflects the place you're in at the moment. You have the tools, you've utilized the tools to take the weight off, you know where they are should you need them.

Keep us updated on the running and the half marathon training. Congratulations on maintenance!

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A Moment...

Monday, July 21, 2014

Today has been pretty much like any other day... and yet for some reason in the last hour I've found myself having quite the moment. It's as if my journey this past year has suddenly caught up with me, and I'm pretty emotional all of sudden. I can't believe how much has changed in my life since I first wrote here. I can't believe all of the experiences I've been fortunate to have as a result of having made and stuck to my lifestyle changes. All these memories that I would never have had if not for those changes. It's amazing. I almost wouldn't believe it all if it weren't for the fact that I'm living it right here and right now. Crazy.

True story: I bought a bunch of XL workout clothes when I first started this journey last June, and I still workout out in them. For one, I'm cheap and those clothes were expensive, lol, but also I love sliding them onto my much smaller and tauter body and reflecting on how far I've come. It's a great inspiration before heading out of the change room to get down to business. :)

My story from last year when I just started...
in case anyone wonders how it all started for me. What sticks out to me is a few sentences right near the end:

"I want my kids to grow by example, and I want to be active with them, and I want to be hot for my wife again (I know she loves me regardless, but she deserves the best that I can be). These three things run through my head everyday, and I won't give up on them. I won't give up on myself."

What amazes me, is that these three things are still the exact same reasons I refuse to give up. I refuse. Stubbornly so. :)

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

THEIS58 8/4/2014 2:19PM

    Love this. Thanks.

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JITZUROE 7/29/2014 10:45AM

    How GREAT is it when you can look back and see how you've not only reached your goals, but continue to grasp on tightly to those goals every single day!

Kudos to you. Very inspiring. And no doubt your family is thrilled with the choice you made a year ago. Now go out and play chase with your kids!!!

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TINAJANE76 7/25/2014 4:13PM

    So incredibly proud and inspired by how far you've come, Gregg. Keeping letting that light shine!

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STEELKICKIN 7/24/2014 10:15PM

    We all need a moment..."the" moment...that will define us. Thank you for sharing your moments with us. It is exciting to see your growth. It gives us inspiration for moments of our own.
emoticon emoticon

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MEXGAL1 7/22/2014 10:38AM

    You should be so proud of the example you are setting for your children.
I admire you so for doing so. Especially with all the obesity in the children in the states.
Have a great day

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KANOE10 7/22/2014 10:34AM

    You deserve to be emotional and to celebrate how far you have come. You have made so many lifestyle changes for your health. You are a wonderful role model for your children and a great husband. Well done. Thanks for sharing your success with us.
Your continued joy in the new you, inspires all of us.


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NUOVAELLE 7/22/2014 3:09AM

    You've come a long way and you have so many reasons to be emotional.
The things we do for the people we love! You showed your love for your family in action and you offered them the most precious gift: the best version of yourself!
Keep on being a great role model for them and an amazing inspiration for us!

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STRONGCOURAGE 7/21/2014 9:38PM

    Just so so awesome. Beaming smiles for the incredible journey you have pushed on through, forged through the fog and coming out shining stronger. The reasons you push on--beautiful! To believe in yourself, to believe in the ones you love...that is simply so precious. Continue to love on you, love on your family & shine who you are to the full! I went to bed last night thinking about what love is. Love is patient, kind, slow to anger...etc. I was just like that is exactly what I gotta (keep) giving me. We each do. To truly love ourselves is simply wonderful. It is then we realize we are of a value that can't be priced. We are of such immense value that its unable to be. To view ourselves, others with such love makes an impact greater than we could even imagine. emoticon emoticon

Comment edited on: 7/21/2014 9:40:29 PM

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MANDELOVICH 7/21/2014 7:54PM

    Excellent reasons Gregg and take all the moments you need!! It's an amazing transformation!!!!

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HOLLYM48 7/21/2014 6:20PM

    I applaud you for writing your story! Not always easy but until we see it in writing or see ourselves in pics, we just cant face what we have become. I think that so many of us have been on that up and down roller coaster. We do so well for a while, lose the weight, feel really good, look really good and then real life comes crashing in. Well, I have had enough and as 50 looms closer for me, I know that I do not want to do this again. Losing 45 lbs was hard and sometimes maintaining is hard, especially when we see all of the good food that smells and tastes so good but I will eat all of this in moderation and it will always fit within my calorie range, even on vacation because it is so important to me that this is a lifestyle that I will maintain for the rest of my life.
It is so awesome that your kids see you as a fit role model and my girls know that when we go on vacation, there will lots of walking. Usually more than 5 miles a day. Good for you and keep up the great work.
This site works for losing and for maintaining because of people like you that put into words what we think but may not have the ability to write!

Comment edited on: 7/21/2014 7:26:53 PM

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FITGIRL15 7/21/2014 6:14PM

    We all love you here in SparkVille, Gregg!
...And the fact that you are emotional and reflective about your journey is a HUGE reason why!!!

Your wife must be aweful proud of you! I know your kids are too young to know anything really about your weight loss journey, except I am positve that they can FEEL your new found energy and that you are likely a much more present and FUN father figure in their lives because of it! And that, no doubt, will pay off dividends... not for you, but for their future!

Keep leading by example and making your family (and Friends) so proud of you!!!! emoticon (Now I'm getting a little emotional! lol)

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    You're ridiculously inspiring. You have EVERY right to be emotional. You've come so far. So incredibly proud of you and excited to see what else you accomplish.

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Adventures in Camping (part two)...

Friday, July 18, 2014

When I was a kid, I loved going to the beach. I've so many pictures in my parents' old photo albums of me playing in the sand and goofing around in the water. A strange thing happens though as we remove ourselves further and further from the days when we were young... or maybe just in my case... but I can't recall when I last grabbed a shovel and played in the sand, built a sandcastle, or dug little canals connecting a dug-out pool back to the water that licks the shoreline. It's just hasn't been part of my beach experience for what seems like a lifetime. This changed fairly quickly when my three year old son and I found ourselves at the beach last week. Sure, I've played with him in summers past, where he'd stare all infant-like at the sand in his shovel before attempting to put it in his mouth, but a lot has changed in the brain of this young creature in the course of a year. When he hit the beach, his enthusiasm to build things in the sand and play with the water completely re-awakened that part of me too. As I expertly crafted a series of waterways in the sand, it reminded me of when my Dad used to do the same for my brother and I when we were kids - opening up a rare window into the mind-frame of what he must have been thinking in those moments. I'm guessing it's pretty clear by now through my writing that my brain rarely stops examining life and "the human experience". I find it all so fascinating really. Anyways... I did most of the building, while my son played the part of Godzilla and would gleefully destroy as much as he'd create. :D

My daughter getting in on the action.

My little guy being pretty stinking adorable... when he's not being a turd, of course. :D

Sand castles and waterways gave way constantly to my son's desire to play around in the lake. We've had him in swimming lessons at the YMCA for quite a long time, but rarely get to see the result of all those lessons. Well... let me tell you... wow! The pride in my son that I felt, watching him swim around with a pool noodle tied around under his chest... his little legs and arms moving and taking him all over the place without any fear of the water whatsoever... just wow. He even was holding his breath and dunking his head under the water, showing off his mad skills and bravery for me. He got the biggest kick out of racing me from the shore and into the water, turning around and then trying to run back out as quickly as possible. In addition to it being a blast for me as well, it's interesting from a health standpoint how my brain would constantly consider "this is also a great way for me to try and work off those delicious s'mores and half bottle of wine I'm likely to down later tonight". :D You know your health has become central to your life when those thoughts always find a way to creep into your daily conversations with yourself. :D

Although the kids slept wonderfully at night, their nap time was a different story altogether. It was mostly cute though, since they both remained quiet and didn't fuss, and in place of sleeping, they would babble and laugh with each other in the tent. We'd shush them, but what they couldn't see was the smiles on our faces as my wife and I enjoyed their little interactions. It's really the big reason we chose to have a second kid. We wanted our son to have the joy and experience of growing up with a brother or sister. Now that this dynamic is in place, my wife and I regularly high-five each other every month when her TOM arrives, lol. (The pill wreaked havoc on her, and we're not decided yet if it's time for me to have "the surgery", so the natural method is how we roll... tmi? ... hmm, probably, lol). Back to their naps though, it never proved to be a big deal that they didn't really have any - my son doesn't actually need them anymore, and my daughter was magically happy regardless except for one day.

Friday morning came quietly, and peacefully. The week had gone so much more easily then I had prepared myself for, and it amazed me how relaxing it all had been. Sure, the kids had their moments, and it's not like camping is without its dishes, chores, and disgusting outhouses... I am so NOT an outhouse kind of guy, lol. I would literally choose to dig a hole out in the woods instead of sitting in an outhouse... so gross. My son, on the other hand, marveled at this toilet that doesn't flush, lol! Kids... strange little creatures. :D It was such a great week though. My wife and I had done the resort thing a bunch of times before we had kids, and we always wondered how parents could have fun still while having to be tied down to their room at the kids' naptime and bedtime, and also keep them occupied during the day - but having camped, it's clear that it would just be a different kind of fun. So in addition to camping, we're now desperately saving up our pennies to hopefully go to a resort next year. That said, we're super excited about the future and all the camping trips we'll be able to do with the kids. It's a big continent, and there are so many places to see. Camping will totally be how we go about seeing as much of it as we can with the kiddos.

We were pretty sad to go home. :)

That's pretty much it. In closing, I shall grace you all with the absolute greatest method for making s'mores by a campfire. :D This comes after years of careful research and delicious trial-and-error, so I hope you're ready to be catapulted into a whole new world of s'more awesomeness. The first, and obviously the most essential things you'll need are the ingredients: any old box of graham crackers, a bag of nice big marshmallows, and either a Jersey Milk chocolate bar or a Dairy Milk chocolate bar... Dairy Milk makes a cookie dough chocolate bar that took top place last week, fyi. The next obvious requirement is a nice long stick to roast the marshmallow with, as well as a fire that has been allowed to burn down some and expose some incredibly hot coals - flames provide heat, but less control, and you're more likely to create a flaming gooey ball of death when roasting over them... a dangerous thing when drinking is also involved... I've got stories. :D The secret though to the perfect s'more is found in how one goes about melting the chocolate. For this... I give you... the Camp Cooker, aka "the ultimate s'more making device".

Taking a single graham cracker, you place it in the opened cooker, upon which you lay three squares (four if you're feeling exceptionally greedy) of chocolate. The final graham cracker lays perfectly squared on top, and you close the cooker. Holding it over the heat, close enough to get it hot inside, but far enough away to keep the graham cracker from burning, you do a minute or so and then flip the cooker over to get the other side... then another minute or so and back... with another minute or so before flipping one last time, and then another minute or so for good measure. Once opened, you should find two barely toasted graham crackers, with chocolate that still has some form, but is soft and melty to the touch, sandwiched between the crackers. Making the perfect s'more isn't a one-man show though, as while one person is working the chocolate, you'll have your expert marshmallow roaster doing up not one... but two big marshmallows over the coals. They'll have started shortly after you began working the cooker, and will have expertly heated the insides of the marshmallows ever so slowly, allowing the outsides to brown up without burning. Once the chocolate filled graham crackers have been flipped onto a plate, you'll remove the top cracker, and slide the marshmallows on top of the chocolate. Gently press the top cracker on top of the marshmallows, slowing squeezing out it's creamy insides, which will begin to bulge out the sides, give it a minute to cool slightly (helping to keep it's form better and making less of a mess on your hands), and proceed to eat the living daylights out of that beautiful piece of culinary artwork. :D You're welcome. Have a great weekend Sparkies!!! :D

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

HOLLYM48 7/25/2014 5:53PM

    Sounds like a great trip! I have many happy memories from camping when I was a kid but as an adult, I just can't do it anymore so we pick hotels or cabins and have a great time! Glad you guys are making memories and having so much fun!

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STRONGCOURAGE 7/19/2014 5:03PM

    Awesome pics! Such fun, happy & great family memories you guys have made!

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SOUL2SHINE79 7/18/2014 5:40PM

    Looks like you all had a great time! What a beautiful lake...definitely creating some memories with your little ones! That sad pic is the best! Hahaha! I've never tried a smore in the "pudgy pie" maker..will have to try that next camp fire.. :)

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CLRWILLIAMS25 7/18/2014 2:21PM

    Love part 2 of your camping story! I'm also impressed you all went beach camping because kids get super sandy and therefore, so does everything :)

I'm one of 4 kids, so I totally understand wanting your kids to have a sibling. I feel like you learn so many things by not being numero uno constantly. Sharing, built in buddy, someone to play with when "I'm boooored..." starts to kick in first person to boss around (or be bossed by!), original partner in crime, etc. So cute you got to hear them having their sibling time!

I'll have to try out your s'more-making device! Another s'more mind-blowingly awesome addition- Reese's cups! nom nom nom emoticon

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Adventures in Camping (part one)...

Thursday, July 17, 2014

This one's for you, Mal. :D

Little known fact about me: I'm immune to the allergic-like reaction one gets from the saliva secreted by the all-hated mosquito... true story. It's not that I don't get bitten by them, I simply don't have any reaction whatsoever. A strange wonder for a boy who never camped a day in his life until I served as a counselor and, later in the summer, a section head for the boys aged 7 to 9. Up until that fateful summer - one with stories that could fill dozens of pages in the story of my life - I'd reacted as any normal person would to a mosquito bite... swelling, itching, cursing, wanting to scratch through straight to my bones if it would relieve the discomfort. That summer of 2000, this 19 year old version of myself realized halfway through that I wasn't reacting to their hated bites! At first I figured it was maybe because I was encrusted in a nice thick layer of dirt all the time (it was a boys' camp after all, lol - mind you the showers got AWFULLY busy every time the boys' camp staff and the girls' camp staff would join for an evening here and there) but truthfully, I was a bleached blond wind surfing instructor who spent a lot of time in the water teaching kids... so I was usually the cleanest guy in camp, lol. No, it just so happened to turn out that something had changed in my chemical makeup that summer, which has since rendered me immune to their bites. That's fourteen years of not having to deal with that awful business! Well. Clearly, the universe had decided that I was meant to spend my days in the great outdoors, and who was I to argue. By the end of that summer I'd begun a love affair with the great outdoors that still captivates me to this day. Nights spent sleeping under the stars. Canoe trips. Campfires. The breath-taking beauty of the sun rising over the lake, against a horizon hued by mist and fog. It's easy to see how Native Americans drew such intense spiritual connections with nature when you spend any considerable time beholding all of it's wonders.

I had camped a few times every summer since then until my wife and I had our first baby in 2010. He was such a handful as a baby, and so tough to get to sleep at night, that we just didn't have the will or desire to attempt camping with him. By the time he reached an age where he was super manageable (last summer), we had just had our second kid, and although she was SO much easier, my wife spent much of the summer at her parents' trailer-house up north while on Mat leave. I was focused on my weight loss journey at the time too, so we just simply did the cottage thing with family that summer (also a super fun thing to get to do now and then). Heading into this summer though, we really were craving the opportunity to get out there and camp again. Our oldest being almost four now, was primed and ready for his first camping experience, and we just thought it could be a great time. We chose to do luxury camping over hardcore camping though, as I think the kiddos are still a bit young to do something more primal like that. If there's one thing we know how to do brilliantly as well, it's luxury camping, lol. Over our years we've amassed a wide collection of camping gear as hand-me-downs or wedding gifts, and so we don't suffer for anything when we go. Our tent is a ten-man tent that friends have affectionately named "The Mansion", and we have a fold-up queen size bed frame and self-inflating mattress to go on top of it (the sleeping bags we have also can zip together to make one big queen sized sleeping bag). We've got two camping stoves and a camping grill, with a two way hose splitter that attaches to a propane tank. We've got tarps. We've got dishes, pots, pans, cutlery, knives, mallets, a hatchet, flashlights, a stove-top coffee percolator, a 5 gallon water container... we even have a fold-up Coleman Kitchen table with a little sink in it to wash your dishes, lol. We have everything you could imagine for wanting to make your camping experience as comfortable as possible. Luxury camping, it's good times. :D

We brainstormed how long we might want to camp, and felt that as a first time experience with the kids we should limit it to four nights. The thinking being that if it went horribly, then it was only a few nights to get through, and if it went wonderfully, then we'd be left wanting to get back out as soon as possible this year or next. The biggest concerns with kids is really A) will they sleep through the night without any fuss, and B) will they be entertained enough during the day to keep them out of trouble. The campground we chose to go to is a place called Sandbanks Provincial Park, and they have some of the most beautiful beach areas in all of Ontario. They also have these cool sand dunes that are naturally occurring, and provide some of the most luxurious feeling sand in which to play or even lay down upon. The water deepens very gradually as well, so it manages to stay quite warm (relatively speaking). Between going to the beach every day, going on some walks around the camp, and having brought some toys and art supplies for the kids to play with while we were prepping meals and what not, it all proved to be the perfect recipe for keeping the kids happy each day. Add to that the fact that they slept each night without issue, and we definitely found ourselves in the category of wanting to go back out camping as soon as possible.

I love the moment when I first arrive at the spot where I'm to camp. I love the thought process of eyeing up a plot of land and deciding how best to set things up given the trees, the type of terrain, and even the grading. I love laying every element out in my mind and then going about the work of executing it all. I love taking my time and just enjoying the process. Tarping is a particular specialty of mine. If you ever plan to camp in one spot for a length of time, you always have to consider the weather. To ignore the potential for rain is to find yourself having a very unpleasant time should the weather turn. If you live in a particularly arid environment, that's one thing, but here the weather guy proves to be a total dunce quite often, and we also had the forewarning of some severe weather a couple of days prior to heading on our trip. So covering the essential parts of your camping area with a tarp overhead is an absolute must. If you're camping out in the wilderness, then you can survey the best place to setup everything quite easily, but when you go to a Park, you get a site and you simply have to work with whatever mother nature provides you in that specific plot of land. Tarping can be difficult in that sense, as trees can be few and far apart, giving you nothing to tie off to and string everything up. They also don't tend to be the kind of trees you can just climb up and tie off your rope to whatever height or branch you desire. This is where a small rock, a bit bigger than your fist, becomes your salvation. Tying off your rope and wrapping it around said rock, provides you with a lovely weighted projectile that you can skillfully pitch over the higher tree limbs that you desire. You also need to consider drainage. You want your tarp to have a downward slope that drains off at one spot, onto ground that also has a slope away from your campground. Thus, the water pours off the tarp and doesn't pool in the grounds beneath you. Pitching a tent is a science as well, as your want to consider where your head will be while sleeping and what the slope of the ground is... sufficient to say, it's uncomfortable sleeping with your head at the bottom of a downward slope, lol. Clearing sticks and big rocks out from where the floor of your tent will cover is a smart idea as well, since bare feet don't appreciate waking up in the middle of the night for a bathroom break, only to step on a sharp stick left underneath the tent. Much cursing ensues. Much, much cursing. :D Anyways, it should be clear by the length I'm willing to detail these somewhat boring thought processes, that I love it all. :D

The first campfire of our trip was a really cool experience. My son has seen many campfires before in his three years of living, but he's never seen his old man build one. It's another one of my specialties, but it's also one of those things that EVERY guy ALWAYS wants to be in charge of building. Unless it's a life or death situation, I tend to be the kind of person who likes to let others have their fun, even if they stink at it, lol. :D Building a fire really isn't rocket science, and mostly comes down to needing dry dead wood, and some kindling that will catch first and help the larger pieces catch after. Ensuring space between the wood is a must as well, since fire hungers for oxygen, and if air can't flow through your stack of logs, then it simply won't burn that well. Anyways... lol, I continue to ramble about the minor details, sorry about that. :D It was fantastic to watch the awe in my son's face as the fire caught and grew into a large and steady flame. I sent him off to bring back a nice marshmallow roasting stick, and it was hilarious to watch him bring me small twigs and ask if they would work. Eventually, he brought me back a nice long and sturdy stick, and he watched in amazement as I pulled out my camping knife and went to work on it. Breaking and cutting off the random branches on the stick, I then whittled a nice clean point at the roasting end of the stick. It just blew me away how fantastic he thought all of these simple little things were. I'd never grown up seeing these things, so it wasn't as magical to me in my older years, but to him it was all just so marvelous.

The kids turned in so perfectly that first night (as they did every night following). Evan was so excited about sleeping in his new sleeping bag that he kept saying how sleepy he was as early as 4pm, lol. You could tell by his voice that he was only saying that because he knew that sleep meant he could go into his sleeping bag. I got him a bag with pictures of planes from the movie "Planes" on it, and again, it was all just so special and exciting to him. After they turned in for the night, my wife and I pulled out a bottle of wine and enjoyed a spectacular color show in the sky, courtesy of the setting sun and the stormy clouds that had been moving in and out of our region all day. The colors of orange in the sky were unlike any I've ever seen. Their depth, and their vividness, just incredible.

The next day began with the typical and often obnoxious birds cawing away as they awoke to the sun around 5:30 in the morning. It's always the first morning that proves to be the worst, as it seems my ears and brain adjust to their calls, and I usually sleep through it all after that. The kids miraculously remained dead to the world through it all each morning! Breakfast that morning was the classic scrambled eggs and bacon - a staple for camping breakfasts. I began cooking it, but soon found myself severely swarmed by mosquitoes. It was bad. If I wasn't immune, I'd have been COVERED in bites for sure. The only time I've ever experienced more mosquitoes was once while hiking through the woods up near Sault Ste. Marie - they were so bad that one time that you literally couldn't open your mouth to breathe, or even open your eyes all the way without them clumsily flying in. We knew that some severe storms were being forecast to run through our region that day, but not until around 2:30pm, so we decided to hit the beach, and then run into town later that day to invest in a nice dining tent to protect us from both the impending rain, but also those damn mosquitoes. As we got back to camp, the skies looked something fierce. My wife took the kids and put them down for naps, while I took off my shirt and went about setting up our new fortress of solitude before the heavens opened up. The shirt came off simply as a precaution over my assumption that it would pour before I had a chance to finish setting up. My foresight proved to be correct, as not one minute passed before a biblical amount of rain poured from the heavens. The amazing thing though, was that it was so wonderfully hot outside, and with the kids all taken care of, I had absolutely zero cares in the world. I was wearing my swim shorts, and honestly felt like a kid again. I even stopped for a minute and just stood there with my arms out, letting the rain caress all the parts of my body. I had a moment. It was a good one. :) The tent went up nice and quickly after I set back to work, and my wife stayed under it's dry protection while I transferred chairs and gear into it's 15' x 14' space. The kids slept... the adults drank... and we enjoyed the serenity of the rain colliding against the world around us while we stayed dry. We also broke out our classic vacation game: Skip-Bo. It's a fantastic card game that was part of a wedding gift from a friend of ours. It's been with to Panama, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, France, Italy, Switzerland, and numerous campgrounds across Ontario. Playing it with some booze in your system is an absolute requirement. :) It continued to storm and pour up until 6:30pm that night, and the kids managed incredibly throughout it all.

The rest of the week was sunny and warm, and the beach was our best friend during the days. The nights revolved around a steady regiment of dinner, dishes, campfires, and relaxing over beer and s'mores once the kids were in bed. It's a good thing my wife and I enjoy each other's company as much as we do, lol, cause when you rid yourself of all other distractions, it was just us and that fire. :)

I'm going to finish this post in a second part tomorrow, cause I have to go now. Stay tuned!!!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

STRONGCOURAGE 7/19/2014 4:57PM

    Lol. Great part one--I just laughed (& agreed) about the weather man. I never realized Ontario held such a nice camp ground! Def gotta check it out one year. I've never tried luxury camping--but its sounds like the perfect blend of sweetness for a family! (not to say I wouldn't round up a bunch of friends and give it a go too!) I like how you enjoyed & immersed in your son's wonder (as an ECE, I can't say how wonderful it is when I see parents do this! It fosters the child's desire & joy for discovery in the world/life, when their primary caregiver/s joins in on the "awe-struck" ness of whatever they are fascinated with. emoticon ) So glad the kids slept well! And that you & your wife to had some pretty fun evenings...sunsets, wine & good old skip bo! (I love playing the one where you have 4 piles going...two going up, and two going down) Sounds like an incredible camping trip! :)

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MEXGAL1 7/18/2014 10:24AM

    I grew up camping. We started with a tent and graduated to a pop up camper on wheels. We camped all along the east coast. I have great memories of camping.
Loved you blog.
Have a great day and week end

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KANOE10 7/18/2014 9:02AM

    That was a wonderful camping experience. Enjoying the warm rain would be delightful. Thanks for all of the useful tips about camping. I did not grow up camping and learned a lot. You are giving your children wonderful experiences.


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SOUL2SHINE79 7/18/2014 1:32AM

    Sounds like you had a fun time! We still haven't ventured out with our little ones just yet...definitely in the near future. Love camping!

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SWEDE_SU 7/18/2014 12:15AM

    thank you for sharing - it felt like being there. your children are going to have some wonderful memories growing up!

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NEWLEAF16 7/17/2014 11:55PM

    Wow, feels like I was there! Loved hearing about your family's adventure!

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KIKKI-G 7/17/2014 11:08PM

    YAY I love sandbanks!!! I didn't get to make it camping this year but I just lived vicariously through you! Thanks!!

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STACYDM 7/17/2014 6:35PM

    Camping rocks. It's like being a kid again. Gonna check back in tomorrow to hear the rest.

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-POLEDANCEGIRL- 7/17/2014 6:11PM

    Oh my goodness!! HOW WONDERFUL!!! Taking the kids on adventures like this is so good for them. And family bonding... and hubby/wife bonding..... aaaaaahhhh, makes me happy just thinking about it. Isnt it amazing how when you don't have a care in the world the rain on your skin is so refreshing? Oh, and by the way, I am the camp fire controller. Every group we camp with knows that I am in charge. Ha ha.

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