"We like camping better!" --Raymond Alexander Kukkee

view of the north shore Critter Pond, KOA Canandaigua NY [c] 2009 jcb

Product reviews: Grill Charms™, as seen on Shark Tank earlier this evening

Hot off the campfire

by Sarah Pendleton guest writer

[Editor's note - Sarah is a full-time freelance editor and writer]

Grill Charms™ on grilled chicken We are a family of meat lovers. The grill gets fired up every weekend, rain or shine. It can be a hundred and ten or twenty below - we have to get our fix! Steak, chicken, pork chops; every Saturday is a carnivore's dream. After ten years of marriage, I'm still getting used to it.

I grew up as the eldest of nine, and we were dirt poor. I could make a pound of hamburger serve the whole family for four meals straight, with creative use of spaghetti sauce, potatoes, rice and beans. I had never had a honest to God, home-grilled steak before I got married on my twenty fourth birthday to a real man: a hunting, fishing, red necked card-carrying member of the National Grill Masters Association. Let me tell you - it only took one juicy Porterhouse to have me firmly addicted.

Now, ten years and three kids later, we are firmly committed to keeping the cattle industry alive and well. Even our eighteen-month-old loves nothing more than sinking the twelve teeth he does have into a tiny portion of succulent rib-eye.

There's just one little problem.

I like garlic, and just a touch of pink in the middle. Hubby likes lemon pepper - and lots of it; and he doesn't freak about a little reddish juice on the plate. We both love Lee and Perrins. The kids don't share our passion for spice - yet - and theirs better be well done! When you have five steaks on the grill, it's kind of hard to keep track. You have to keep cutting them open, and trying to figure out which one is seasoned and which one isn't.

That's why I couldn't believe it when a friend turned me on to Grill Charms™ . These little suckers are perfect for helping hubby keep track of which steak belongs to who, and the kids love the concept of being able to personalize their own cut of meat. Grill Charms™ are made of stainless steel, look like dime-sized thumbtacks, and have serrated edges so they stay in the meat during grilling.

Grill Charms™ Charmed Life collection The designs on top of each one let you differentiate the meat. I have already picked out the Charmed Life collection, which features a sailboat, a dollar sign and a crown among other designs. I am aiming for the Spicy Collection next, so I can tell the kids' mild chicken piece or pork chop from my own tangy rub!

I'm going to have to get the Steak Collection for those times we have friends over that want to specify bloody or burnt, and I'm definitely picking up the Pink Collection for my aunt for Christmas. She's a breast cancer survivor, and her hubby also is a member of the Grill Masters Club. At under $20 per six-piece Grill Charms collection, I might have to grab a few more sets for stocking stuffers - hubby and I have a lot of meat loving friends!

Check it out folks - this is the new 'hot item' for the grilling carnivores in your life; and if you're like me, you won't be able to stop with just one set!

reprinted with a breaking update, 2009
copyright 2008 - all rights reserved, Sarah Pendleton for Just Camping Out


From our interview with Leslie Haywood, founder and president, Charmed Life Products LLC and inventor of Grill Charms™ :

Grill Charms™ product packagingI'm a grilling gadget gal from Charleston SC and I have invented the perfect gadget for those scrumptious dinners cooked in great outdoors.
...Sometimes it can be tough for the master chef to keep track of who wants their steak rare, who wants spicy, who wants mild, who's allergic to garlic - all while drinking that frosty cold beer, gazing at the stars, chatting with your buddies about the fish that got away, and try to keep the dog out of the munchies. Grill Charms™ make it all possible. They are the must have campfire gadget while enjoying your time in the wilderness or at the KOA. [~Jim]

UPDATE: Leslie appeared on ABC TV's new and exciting show Shark Tank, seeking a relatively small investment in her vision. She completely charmed the male investors -- they went from Sharks to pussycats.

Leslie had THREE OFFERS on the table, and had to agonize over which one was right for her business. Let's just say she did NOT walk away disappointed, as so many other presenters have in the past.

This is a great product, a classy lady, and made for riveting television. Best wishes to Leslie as she moves forward with Grill Charms™. ~Jim

Climbin' for a Cause: Dr. Dara Grieger's Summitday for Kilimanjaro

Why climb Mt. Kilimanjaro? Dr. Dara L. Grieger MD, transplant survivor explains:

As I approach the 15th anniversary of my transplant, I’ve decided to climb Mt Kilimanjaro in Feb 2010 to raise money and awareness for organ donation. I started the organization called Summit Day to bring together a team to climb for transplant related causes.

Here's more from Dara's Summitday blog:

The Cause

What do surviving a major medical event (such as organ failure and transplant surgery) and climbing a mountain have in common?

Kili climb logo Summitday blog
Both require a powerful mental attitude! Survivors must look ahead and visualize themselves reaching the other side of the challenge. ... Hikers must possess a positive outlook to reach the summit of the mountain. Success begins with mental strength and endurance. Like undergoing a transplant, climbing also requires never giving up and never giving in, regardless of the odds.

I’ve partnered with LUX World Travel and Journeys of Inspiration to create a journey that will raise public awareness about the needs of people who are awaiting transplantation, and to encourage more people to become organ donors. I will also be helping transplant recipients locally in Rochester NY by raising funds for the B Thomas Golisano Hospitality House and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge. ...The purpose of Hospitality House/ Hope Lodge is to provide out of town organ transplant and cancer patients (and their caregivers) a place to stay while undergoing treatment in Rochester...

Journeys of Inspiration is a collaborative effort between Pak Paddle Ski and the American Cancer Society with a mission to create a community of people whose lives have been touched by cancer and love the outdoors...

If you think you are not in shape to climb Kilimanjaro, don’t let that hold you back. There is an abundance of training and support in the months leading to the climb. We depart February 13, 2010. If you can do a 10 mile hike, with moderate elevation change, you can definitely climb Kilimanjaro!

* * *
Want to help? Think you have what it takes to join Dara's daring adventure? Read more...


Now that's some serious camping out! What a great cause. And, really, if you aren't already an organ donor, what are you waiting for?

Our camping trip at the Dansville Balloon Fest - Up, Up, and Away they Go!

First one, then another, then three more and a dozen -- hot air balloons cleared the launch field and battled for suddenly-crowded air space at the Dansville Airport.

This montage of photographs details the lift-off of nearly 50 dazzling aircraft at Dansville's Festival of Balloons (NYSFB at Dansville). Final pictures, featuring the "special" entrants, will be published later this week.

burning some air to launch this balloonIt takes a big burn to get airborne. This balloonist blistered three large holes in his craft.

balloonists vie for airspaceThey bump, they push and shove. First one to get clear wins!

herringbone balloon, going upThis colorful herringbone-patterned balloon went straight up.

graph pattern and mixed colors hot air balloonLooks like some sort of financial chart. "Things are looking up!"

black diamonds and herringbone patterns on balloonsBlack diamonds are good, right? Background: herringbone gets some air.

beautiful mix of blue and white hot air balloonAn elegant balloon showing only blue and white finds the clouds, higher and higher.

two balloons nearly collide on lift-offThese two look like they're headed for a collision. It's just an illusion.

montage of three balloons heading skywardThree of the more exotic color patterns gain altitude and solitude.

great colors and one watchful eye for this balloon launchOne monstrous eye looks on as a crazy-quilt of colors soars overhead.

two pairs of balloonists over DansvilleTwo pairs of balloonists head heavenward. They soon joined the crowd, nearly out of sight.

hot air balloons fill the sky northwest of Dansville NYTop to bottom: more and more balloons sail to the northwest of Dansville, and toward the horizon.

In all, more than 40 hot air balloons filled the sky on a spectacular Sunday evening at Dansville. It was a beautiful Labor Day Weekend for ballooning. Final batch of exotic-design balloon pics soon.

All photos copyright 2009 - reprints available on request.

Upgraded NY State Parks Website - NY Outdoors Blog

camping in New York State
Posted: 26 Sep 2009 06:33 AM PDT

Check out the upgraded state parks website, with lots of new content about what visitors can expect to find at parks and historic sites, plus a great new trails section.

(from the Parks & Trails NY newsletter)

Shared via AddThis

Reprinted from New York Outdoors Blog.

Thanks to NY Outdoors for getting the word out.

Which do you prefer for camping trips -- state parks or private campground resorts? Which offers the better value?

Our camping trip at the Dansville Balloon Fest - Preparing to launch!

The wind died down about 6 pm Sunday evening, and the balloonists raced to get their hot air rigs airborne.

Here's a sampling of the hectic prep-work at Dansville's Festival of Balloons (NYSFB at Dansville). More pics to come, later in the week.

hot air balloons warm up at Dansville Balloon Fest Sept 09Team USA takes the foreground. At least eight others warm up for launch.

multi-colored hot air balloons warm up at Dansville Balloon Fest Sept 09Primary colors crowd out the tulip balloon. The rest struggle to catch up.

fire it up - hot air balloons warm up at Dansville Balloon Fest Sept 09"Fire in the hole!" It takes a big burn and lots of helping hands to get these monsters aloft.

No less than 40 hot air balloons launched on a spectacular Sunday evening at Dansville. For once, the weather cooperated for the entire Labor Day Weekend. More pics soon.

All photos copyright 2009 - reprints available on request.

Our camping trip at the Dansville Balloon Fest - Preview

Hot air balloon launch at Dansville Sunday afternoon 9-6-09
In all, nearly 50 hot air balloons launched on Sunday, September 6 for the traditional Labor Day New York Festival of Balloons at Dansville, NY.

We camped for the weekend at nearby Skybrook Campground, and saw an earlier launch pass overhead on Saturday evening. Sunday, we attended the festival and took nearly 100 pictures. I'll return to share more with you later this week.

all photos copyright 2009 - reprints available by permission

Stay tuned for pictures of The Purple People Eater, Turtle-Turtle, Big Red Barn and much more.
from New York Outdoors Blog:

Thousand Islands’ parks close early despite pleas

Posted: 10 Sep 2009 06:36 AM PDT

By LORI SHULL, Watertown Daily Times, link to original post

Jo-Ellen Bero, and 150 other people, would like a month of camping time restored to Coles Creek, but it’s just not going to happen.

Boldt Castle near Alex Bay, the Thousand Islands

The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation announced this spring that the summer schedules of 15 parks in the Thousand Islands Region would be altered because of budget cuts in Albany. However, Ms. Bero and dozens of others decided to try to change the state’s mind about closing Coles Creek State Park a month early.

“I guess Gov. Paterson strikes again,” Ms. Bero said in an e-mail. “With the economy the way it is today and the price of gas, hotel rates, admission to theme parks and the overall loss of jobs here in the north country, camping was something people could still afford to do with their families.”

Coles Creek will close Saturday, despite the petition and phone calls to the office of state Parks Commissioner Carol Ash and the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, according to Mrs. Bero. Usually, it is open until Oct. 12. Jacques Cartier State Park, in Morristown, also is closing early, on Sept. 19.

Nine other parks around the region, which stretches from Lake Ontario north along the St. Lawrence River to Lake Champlain, closed Labor Day weekend. There are 30 parks in the region.

Despite the state’s decision to change the opening and closing times of many of its parks, some Coles Creek campers tried to get an exception for their habitual haunt.

“They’ve talked to everyone; I think they even got to the park commissioner,” said Loretta E. Castagnier, the bookkeeper at Coles Creek. “They’ve tried everything. Nothing seems to work. You can’t fight City Hall.”

Despite the efforts of north country residents and vacationers, the state did not make any modifications to the schedule.

“There have been expressions of disappointment,” said Eileen Larrabee, Albany spokeswoman for the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. She said there were about a dozen phone calls about Coles Creek. “We tried to minimize the impact to users. We understand there are fiscal realities that we have to meet.”

In looking at the climate for next year’s budget, there is no assurance that the same cuts may not be made again, said Kevin A. Kieff, regional director for the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

“It’s not our hope that it would become permanent, but we have to be realistic,” he said.

Coles Creek has been unusually busy so far this month, Mrs. Castagnier said. During the first week of September last year, the park had 883 campers. This year, there were 2,707 during that same week, according to the park’s records. Some of that increase may be due to a late Labor Day.

There are 25 campgrounds in the Adirondacks and the Catskills that will remain open until Oct. 11.

Reprinted from the New York Outdoors Blog.

For residents of NY state and the surrounding areas, New York Outdoors Blog is THE source for information about camping, bicycling, hiking, kayaking and all things related to the great outdoors. Not a subscriber? Sign up for email updates of NY Outdoors.