Kids like water, right?

Kids love water.  I know they do.  I have never yet successfully watered my garden without also watering my children.  Setting up a sprinkler on the summer day is like rolling out the welcome mat.

watersprinklerbysakhorn38Or the slip-n-slide.

To my knowledge there are no more joyously welcomed words than “Who wants to go swimming?”

So taking the kids canoeing should be a slam-dunk, right?

Well….I don’t know.

See, we’re taking the kids on their first canoe camping trip this weekend.  It’s just a quick two night/three day paddle in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area–which is one of Minnesota’s hidden treasures.  We have loads of lakes, as everybody knows, but fewer people know that we’ve preserved a big ol’ chunk of them right up near Canada specifically for canoeing.

canoeistonlakebydr.josephvalkThe BWCA is one of the most gorgeous places on God’s green earth, & we’re about to introduce our kids to it via sweat equity.  Not because we’re nature nazis, but because that’s the only way to see it.  You literally can’t get into the BWCA unless you’re willing to put all your gear on your back, a canoe on your head & walk it in there.  And then put that canoe down, get in, & paddle it someplace.

And the BWCA?  Worth it.  No question.

Now I’ve taken kids into the wilderness before.  I’m not an amateur.  I know exactly what it takes to make a trip like this do-able for the younger set.  Well, for anybody, really.  Outdoor life is wonderful if you follow two simple rules:

Stay warm.

Eat well.

Staying warm isn’t easy when you (and your gear) spend the majority of every day a few inches above a chilly lake.  But it’s not complicated, either.  It’s very simple, actually.  STAY DRY.  I have impressed this upon my children, who are given to wild starts & unpremeditated actions.  We can easily end up swimming rather than paddling if things don’t go exactly as planned, at which point they will be cold.  And mommy will be unsympathetic, because what did I say about sitting DOWN IN THE CANOE?

Fireplacebyichaya Kiatying-AngsuleeEating well, however?  We’ve got that one nailed down.  We’re a little limited, of course, as we can only take what we can carry on this trip.  (As opposed to car camping, where you just load up the trunk & reach in whenever you want something.)  But with a little practice & some creativity, you can perform miracles over a campfire.  I can fill the kids’ bellies, no problem.

But we all know that eating is about more than just filling the belly.  Eating is about pleasure, & one of camping’s great pleasures?

The S’more.  Blessed, blessed s’more.  That holy trinity of chocolate, marshmallow & graham cracker.

If there’s one thing that’ll make a kid smile–no matter how wet, how miserable, how whiny–it’s a s’more.

Now my oldest likes to light her marshmallow on fire.  She enjoys waving it around, of course, but also really likes that crispity blackened outside paired with the untouched-and-still-sort-of-bouncy inside.  She mooshes it between graham crackers with a wedge of classic Hershey’s & she’s golden.

Quick_S_More_BitesMe?  I take my time.  I want my marshmallow perfectly browned until it’s warm & gooey all the way through.  I prefer a Hershey’s Symphony bar–the kind with the toffee bits, please–and a couple of classic graham crackers.

Mr. Sey takes his with dark chocolate, & the little one just eats the crackers.  She likes to toast marshmallows but prefers not to eat them.  (We don’t recall having dropped her on her head when she was a baby but clearly something happened there. We’re looking into it.)  I’m teaching her to toast mine, as it’s all about efficiency when you’re camping.

So I know you all have opinions about this.  What’s your perfect s’more?  Or, if you’re not a s’more girl (WHAT?), what IS your favorite over-the-camp-fire dessert?

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  • Jane says:

    Hello Susan,
    I’ve never been camping, so I never had a chance to make s’mores over a campfire. The only s’mores I’ve had came out of a microwave. We bought this Hershey’s s’mores kit at Costco and whenever we get a craving we pop the ingredients in the microwave for a few seconds.

    • Susan Sey says:

      Hi, Jane — God bless Costco, right? I love s’mores however I can get them, but there is just something about roasting a marshmallow over an open flame. I encourage you to give it a try, even if it’s only over the burner of your stove. Yum!
      That said, the microwave is one of the great miracles of modern life, isn’t it?

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Many people will say you are among the truly deprived, Jane, if you’ve never been camping, but I’m here to tell you that I married into a major camping family, and you are blessed. I hate camping with a passion. I know I should love the beautiful lakes, the outdoor flora and fauna, the delightful smell of manure, but my heart belongs to the city.

  • Helen says:


    Sounds like this is going to be lots of fun I have not done a lot of camping only with the Girl Guides years ago and tosting marshmellows is fun and yummy I really have no idea what s’mores is we don’t have them here in Oz so I will have to go by the picture and say I think I would love them LOL

    Have Fun

    • Susan Sey says:

      Helen, you’ve never had a Smore?? Oh my goodness, let me walk you through it! You take one toasted marshmallow — preferably toasted over an open flame — you take a graham cracker and you snap in half. You place a square of chocolate on one half of the graham cracker. Take your toasted marshmallow you put it on top of the chocolate, you plop the other half of the graham cracker on top and you eat it like a sandwich. And my goodness. Pure heaven

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Oh, no, Helen, you’ve got to learn how to make them. They rank up there — almost — with Tim Tams!

  • Amy Conley says:

    Ok, I’ll say it for you, WHAT!?
    I do not like s’ mores. I LOVE chocolate, I LOVE graham crackers and I LOVE burned crispy marshmallows. I juzt don’t want the three foods touching. Yep, I’m weird.

    • Susan Sey says:

      Oh, Amy, you are a woman after my eldest’s own heart! She does not care for her foods mixing, only makes an exception for s’mores. Even pizza. She eats the crust bare naked. Seriously. Just bread! So I don’t judge. Or I try not to. Every woman has her own private relationship with chocolate, right?

    • Jo Robertson says:

      LOL, Amy. Do you also eat your PB&J sandwiches with a dab of jelly, a dab of peanut butter and a bite of bread separately on the plate?

      Does anyone remember that old movie where the little boy wouldn’t eat any food that touched another food on his plate?

  • Shannon says:

    I was a s’more girl, gently thoroughly toast.

    But then in my 20s, they figured out that I was allergic to chocolate after lots of test (negative) and food avoidance. Milk, wheat, all the usual suspects.

    Cooking on a camp stove. Scrambled eggs with tomatoes and onion. Break the eggs, put them in a ziplock container. In separate container, chopped onion, chopped tomato. Start with butter and onions, add egg, and then top with tomatoes. Strange but it tastes so fresh.

  • Sounds like a gorgeous destination, Susan. I hope you all have a great time and stay dry.

    I’m not too picky about my s’mores, but I don’t like the marshmallows black. Now hot dogs over a fire, that’s a different story. Those should be lightly charred.

    • Susan Sey says:

      Trish, I am so totally with you on the hotdog situation! If they aren’t blackened, they are really done over the campfire, now are they? And I can’t abide a dissatisfying hotdog when I’m camping.

  • flchen1 says:

    Wow, Susan! We have yet to go camping with the kids–I don’t think DH and I are campers, and aren’t passing the love of the great outdoors to our offspring 😉 I’m OK with s’mores, but don’t love burnt food, so the marshmallow needs to be browned but not black 😉

  • Cassondra says:

    Susan, I would so love to see the Boundary Waters. But I’m also guessing that I’d have a hard time with staying warm up there. I cannot sleep if I”m cold at night, and it takes a surprising number of high-dollar layers tokeep me warm when the temps drop and I’m sleeping on the ground.

    As to the canoe….you are far, far braver than I am. I take dogs (big german shepherds and rotties) in canoes sometimes to do water search when we look for drowning victims, but they are actually quite focused, tend to stay in the front of the boat (occasionally diving out of it if they think the person is down there) and I’m prepared to get wet at that point. Kids in a canoe? If I’m carrying all the gear to keep us warm and dry?

    No. Way.

    Gosh, that’s not very moral-supportive, is it? *hangs head* But I’m afraid of kids in general, unless there are ropes involved, because then I can scare them into cooperating. “If you don’t listen and do what I say, you could fall and die.” They generally become instantly cooperative.

    I hope you have a lot of dry bags for the necessities. *grin*

    And as to the S’mores–I’ve never developed the love for those. I don’t know why. I love toasted marshmallows, and recently I’ve developed some odd cravings for straight-out-of-the-bag Jet-puffed goodness. (I think it’s the powdery stuff they put on the outside. I like the texture). But I don’t like candy with marshmallow in it. At. All.

    However, you can mark one vote down on your daughter’s column for the burned outside. I like it burned on about half the surface, with the rest of the surface light brown. *slurp* I can get it this way by catching it on fire at just the right time and blowing it out, maybe twice. PERFECT.

    Oh…put the S’mores makings in a dry bag for certain….yeah.

    I hope you have a fantastic adventure, and stay dry!

    • Susan Sey says:

      I think we are both exactly where we are supposed to be in life, Cassondra! Because I would rather take my kids in a canoe and risk getting wet than look for a drowning victim any old day. I’m just cowardly like that. But I totally agree with the twice burnt s’more. I love that particular iteration of the roasted marshmallow.

  • catslady says:

    My family never did any camping and my husband isn’t into it but I spent time with my two daughters at camp as a mother and also a leader and enjoyed all of it. Smores – I’ve only had the usual but I like that idea of dark chocolate!

  • Susan, will you adopt me? I’m house trained and I don’t eat much (well, not so sure about that last one). You’re always doing such fun things with your family, I feel like the little match girl, pressing her face against the window while the family inside has a lovely Christmas in the warm. Actually, not sure I WANT to go canoeing but you make that sound fun – and the place sounds glorious! 🙂

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Isn’t Susan amazing with her daughters, Anna? She can’t adopt you because she’s adopting me and all my children and grandchildren because their mommy/grammy doesn’t like doing these outdoorsy things.

      • Susan Sey says:

        I’ll take you all! There’s nothing I love more than taking friends into the woods! But, full disclosure? I have a friend who has completely introduced us to the boundary waters. Without her help I would never risk this. She is our training wheels. Everybody needs a friend like that, don’t you agree?

  • pjpuppymom says:

    Oh, that sounds like a wonderful trip! Well, aside from carrying the canoe into the wilderness. I’d be more than happy to have someone else do that for me. But I love canoeing. I grew up on a lake and spent a lot of time paddling all over it in our canoe.

    I made my first s’more over an open fire at Girl Scout camp when I was nine. It was love at first bite! There is just no better taste than over an open campfire. I like my s’mores the traditional way, with a toasted (not burned) marshmallow, graham crackers and Hershey’s chocolate. I haven’t been camping in years but friends have a fire pit in their back yard where we indulge our s’more love.

    Another open fire dessert I like is banana boats. Pull the center peel of a banana down – but not off. Using a plastic spoon, dig a shallow trench in the banana then fill with mini marshmallows and either chocolate chips or Hershey Bar squares. Replace scooped banana and peel, wrap in aluminum foil and place in the ashes of the campfire for a couple minutes, giving the stuffing time to melt. So freakin’ good!

  • Jo Robertson says:

    Delightful post, Susan. It’s always great to hear what antics the Sey family is up to. I’m like your eldest; I like my marshmallows blackened, and then I pull off the black part, eat it, and blackened the same marshmallow again — and again, until there’s nothing left.

    I’m not averse, however, to the whole s’more and have even learned how to make them with hershey kisses in the microwave. Still … there’s nothing like the open flame!

    • Susan Sey says:

      Jo, the microwave is a miracle from heaven, is it not? I understand you can also make chocolate cake in a coffee mug in the microwave. I have never tried it, but I have heard good things…

  • Becke says:


    I went to 6-week camp in Little Eagle, MN I believe and took my first overnight paddle. I was 13. Also learned to gunnel jump…? Not sure if I accurately spelled the term.

    We have s’mores every Tuesday night as a treat after my WW weigh in. They are perfect–for us.

    apply a thin layer of peanut butter to the graham crackers

    sprinkle w/ sliced almonds

    side 1 w/ 1/2 marshmallow
    side 2 w/ 2 squares of miniature dark chocolate bar

    run under the broiler until marshmallow is golden brown

    make the cracker sandwich and enjoy!


  • Susan, what a fun trip! I so wish I could go. Canoeing is something I’ve long been interested in learning.

    I had no idea you could do s’mores in any variety other than plain, but now that you mention it, it seems obvious. Coincidentally, I’ve been editing a scene wherein characters have s’mores.

    Anyway, I would go with your toffee, at least for one round, but would not abandon regular altogether.

    Am with your offspring in not loving marshmallows ordinarily. 🙂

    • Susan Sey says:

      Any time you want to visit the northland, Nancy, I’ll take you for a paddle. We have a couple of canoes hanging in the garage, just waiting for you!

  • Susan –

    I would LOVE to go canoeing/camping in north Minneasota. The picture you posted was beautiful. I was telling Jeanne how wonderful it was to drive to Maryland and see mountains on the horizon. In Ohio, you see flat. Not much else.

    I like s’mores. Never tried them with anything other than plain chocolate. The toffee bits and the dark chocolate sound worthy of experimentation.

    Another camping dessert I love is made with pie irons. You take two pieces of bread and butter them. Put them in the pie iron (it’s an iron square on two sticks that are side-by-side. You open up the iron to see two squares then put it together to make one – like a waffle iron that’s opened before the waffle cooks.) butter side down. Then put some pie filling (I like cherry) in the middle of one slice of bread. Put the iron together and put in the fire. After a short while, turn and heat up the other side. When done – you have a cherry pie which is surprisingly delicious.

    • Susan Sey says:

      Oooooh, pudgie pies! I understand they have different names regionally but we’ve always called them pudgie pies. I don’t have an iron for them but would love one. Oh the things I would fry!