Making bagels a recipe for happiness

A lifelong love of baking, a summer working in the camp kitchen and connecting all of those life skills with developing positive mental health strategies. 

Tori’s guest blog this week is an excerpt from her descriptive essay about the joys and benefits of making bagels from scratch.


When I first tasted a bagel I was genuinely confused as to how people enjoy consuming them. It tastes like a stale piece of bread topped with some expired, whole milk. Their value to this earth and to cultures doesn’t make much sense. They’re not particularly high in vitamins, they taste like cardboard, and are difficult to make. Okay, maybe I judged them too harshly too fast. I let my opinion of one bad bagel escalate into a future of bagel negativity. Once I finally allowed myself to coexist neutrally with the bagel, my perspective changed. Approaching bagels from a different angle made all the difference. The satisfaction of kneading dough, testing herbs, and creating life from scratch lured me in. Watching the dry yeast bubble in excitement while preparing a collection of herbs and flavours makes me feel at home. I can feel the anticipation building up by the time the dough just barely starts to form together. Getting to knead it and let all of my energy out from throughout the week is like my version of a “runners high.” Its relieving nature helps me to expel excess anger and emotion. I think that it’s probably best that I let it out on the dough, rather than on something or someone else. It’s also not like a bad anger, it’s more of an energized one. One that drives self motivation rather than self discipline. By the time I take the bagels out of the oven and bite into their crisp, golden exterior, all of that built up emotion dissipates. I feel calm, refreshed, and relaxed. There is nothing more satisfying than making a bagel, completely from scratch. 

While in the kneading step of the bagel making process, I enjoy experimenting using flavors and herbs. Of course topping a bagel with everything seasoning, or cheese smells amazing by itself, but incorporating herbs takes it to a whole different level. Just for the aromatic aspect, my favourite go-to flavor combination is rosemary and garlic. Not the rosemary you get at the grocery store dried, and not the minced garlic you find in a jar, but the fresh sprigs and full cloves found organically in nature. My favourite part about seasoning breads and focaccias is the trip to my fresh herb garden. Living in Maine does mean that all my herbs are indoors, but I still like to imagine them prospering in their natural biome. Also, the word ‘trip’ might be a bit too generous of a noun. It’s more of a change of rooms carrying my harvesting tools. As I approach my herb collection, I get reminded of all the culinary flavour possibilities that I have yet to develop. Gently peeling individual sprigs off of the base of my plant, its aromatic nature fills my senses with joy. It’s also very joy provoking knowing that harvesting my herbs only encourages new, more quantiful growth. I continue plucking off rosemary sprigs, usually way more than I need, just so I can let my nose take up all of the aroma it possibly can. Then, I scurry over to my other herbs, chopping them carefully with my herb scissors. Another flavour combination I enjoy is chive and herbed goat cheese. I get great satisfaction using my multi-blade scissors to efficiently cut up my chives, without bruising them. 

The feeling of engaging all my senses is so grounding for me. To be able to focus on one sensory stimulation at a time helps me connect with the here and now. It soothes all of the tension being built up in my mind. Somehow, the whole process of not only making bagels, but eating them too, is reassuring to my brain.It helps me feel more satisfied when everything is not completely perfect or equivalent. Having a blob of sticky flour and water turn into an insanely smooth, pliable edible delight  is beyond fascinating. It confuses me how a combination of ingredients, heat, and time can evolve into something so different. Well I guess that’s the science and practiced patience of baking. A learning experience that turns the ordinary into something magnificent and unique while adding a touch of personalization.  


By Tori B-J aged 16


Now is the Time

Thank a mentor before it is too late. The other day I was thinking about my 5th grade teacher and how, through his teaching, I was inspired to delve into creative writing, love math and grow curious about science. I think about him frequently. I searched for him online and found out I was too late; he had passed away in 2016.

Like school and other child development experiences, the camp experience transforms lives by increasing self-esteem, connecting face to face with people, building skills in activities and generating meaningful friendships with peers and adults. If you are lucky, you come across someone who influenced you in a way that has lasted throughout your life.

I have a camp counselor like this in my life. Although we aren’t in touch often, the learning experience from the summers of 1974-1975 lives with me in my daily life. That summer I started training for Junior Maine Guide and
she was my counselor: coach, guide and teacher. In the 15th summer of life, I was saved from my own insolent teenage personality. I was physically and mentally challenged. I thrived on the JMG program (solo canoeing, axe work, fire building, cooking, and shelter building) and had to stay focused to learn those skills. I lived in the present. Our JMG group canoed for five days on the St. Croix river – we read rapids and then “shot” the rapids – mostly successfully excepting a flipped canoe that wrapped around a rock. We went to testing camp and had to exhibit our skills through written and physical tests. We lived on our own without adults checking to see we were doing things right. What a learning experience. It was exhilarating and a great diversion from my self-proclaimed boring life.

Little did I know how much those two summers at Camp Runoia and the enduring patience and guidance of a camp counselor would stay with me. Those summers helped shaped who I am today.  I owe this to a person who believed in me through thick and thin and even in my less gracious moments. This week we had lunch together and I had the chance to thank her for who she was for me 44 years ago. Although it wasn’t for my benefit, it felt good.

Who influenced you in your life? Now is the time to reflect on who meant something to you through camp or school and reach out to your mentor to thank her or him.

First Days at Camp Runoia

Every staff member here at Camp Runoia woke up buzzing with excitement for opening day. After finishing touches were put on cabins and everyone changed into their uniforms, you could feel the magic in the air as the first campers filtered down into their cabins. The little bit of rain we had in no way put a damper on the exhilaration of arriving at camp. 

After some time getting to know their cabin-mates and counselors, everyone gathered into the Dining Hall for our first meal of our 113th summer (spaghetti, of course). After everyone was nice and full, junior and senior ends split up for evening program, and let me tell you, the cheering and roaring laughter coming from the Lodge and the Den carried throughout all of camp. Then, after some bedtime milk and crackers, everyone got cozy in their cabins and rested up for the big day we all have ahead of us. 

Today  will be our orientation so that our new campers can get to know everything available to them at Camp Runoia, and returners can have a refresher about procedures and schedules. 

It is a Fine Maine Day, and everyone is ready to start getting into a routine. 

Tomorrow will mark the beginning of our first block of programming, where campers will have a schedule of their activities and get to go about their day participating in programs that they get to choose themselves. From waterskiing to basketweaving to swimming lessons, every last kiddo will fall into a groove and camp will begin to feel like their second home. 


We are so pleased and ecstatic to have full shacks again, and thankful that girls love coming back to Runoia summer after summer. Here’s to making this the best one yet! 



By Nina Budeiri



To the Runoia Gals: An Open from Your Teary-Eyed Counselor

You Wonderful and Spectacular Ladies,

I never imagined how beautiful a shooting star could be when you’re sitting next to someone who has never seen one. I never knew how wonderfully exhausting a game of Gaga with a group of 8-year-olds could be (or how often they would beat me!). I never realized that it was possible to sing so much and so loudly that it would take eight weeks for my voice to return to normal, or laugh so hard that my stomach would ache for hours. When I packed my bags for my first summer at camp, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

When I came to you for that first summer, I considered myself pretty well cooked. I had it in mind that I, as the adult, was there to provide a life-altering, fun, and unforgettable experience for you. While that was and has always remained my primary goal, I now see that you amazing young ladies, with whom I was lucky enough to spend three unforgettable summers, have had a far greater impact on me than I could ever have imagined.

When you become a camp counselor you hear all about how much your campers will learn from you, for better or for worse. But what you don’t hear as often is how much you will learn from you.

You’ve taught me many things in my three summers at Runoia, more than I could count and definitely more than I could ever share with you. But I would like to try to share some. You taught me about the curative nature of a hug from four children at once. You showed me how important it is to laugh and have fun every time the opportunity presents itself. You taught me how to “whip and nay nay,” wobble, dougie, and do all sorts of things that would make me hip and with it! You helped me realize how rewarding it can be to share my love of the water, which I discovered as a child, with others. You showed me every day that we are all at our most beautiful when we are being ourselves and when we are happy. I saw, first hand, the transformative power of a summer with friends in an environment that encourages growth and fosters an undeniable feeling of complete and utter happiness.

The past three summers have been the most indescribably amazing part of my life. I cannot thank you girls enough for all that you have shared with me, or your parents for helping you become the unbelievable and inspiring young women that you are. Runoia gals, I will carry the lessons you have taught me throughout my entire life, and will remember you always.

Thank you for helping me become who I am today and I hope that somewhere along the way, I may have helped you.

With love,

Your Teary-Eyed Counselor



A Note from A Camp Mom

I worked at Camp Runoia for three summers when I was in my late teens/early twenties, as the Head Sailing Instructor (in the late 1990s). I witnessed firsthand the magical moments these girls enjoy as they explore new opportunities, drive themselves toward mastering a particular skill, breathe deeply outside in nature, and establish a community of trust and camaraderie, making some friendships they will carry with them the rest of their lives.

Once I worked at Camp Runoia, I easily kindled the memories of camp for twenty years.  And when we had daughters, I could not wait for the day I could share Camp Runoia with them. Now, fast forward twenty years later. Our own daughter was old enough last year to participate in Harmony Land Camp, which for me was a dream come true. (I mean this most sincerely.)

Harmony Land Camp “HLC” is an ideal introduction to camp life for younger campers. The campers not only have the safety net of their own counselors and fellow HLC campers, but also the opportunity to engage with older children and returning campers during meals (especially the outdoor meals served picnic style two days a week), at the waterfront for swim class and recreational swims, and during the all-camp assembly each morning. For my daughter, being in HLC eliminated the sometimes overwhelming feeling of wondering which activity to try next, and also reduced any potential worry about whether or not she would have a “friend” in that activity. There’s more info on HLC here.

As the program continues and their comfort level increases, the girls are able to branch out a bit more, or hang back with the familiar, if that’s what they prefer. I know at least one HLC camper last year took swim lessons with campers who were much older, because her swimming ability exceeded that of her peers. The staff is very good about making sure each individual camper’s needs are being met.

Camp Runoia is an authentic sleep away camp experience. There is no air conditioning, the campers and counselors pick and eat wild blueberries from the bushes they found the prior summer, people greet each other with kind smiles, and while walking through camp you hear much laughter.

The directors have been running camp or participating in camp ALL OF THEIR LIVES — it is a family tradition now in the fifth generation. I knew Pam’s parents when I worked at camp in the late 1990s; they were lovely people, and at that time had sold the camp and operations to Pam. Pam and her daughter, Jai Kells continue the tradition. I also worked with Alex at Runoia 20 years ago — her level of expertise even then was considerable, and she keeps daily activities for everyone running smoothly as the logistics guru. They each balance the responsibilities of running camp with making sure everyone’s needs are being met or exceeded. The campers are happy, and the counselors are aware of the signs of homesickness and the best ways to address it. The lead counselor and director of Harmony Land Camp, Abbie Marone, is a teacher with a degree in early elementary education; it shows in all of her interactions with her campers. She treats each child with respect, includes everyone and, according to my daughter, is caring and funny.

My daughter was ecstatic when I asked if she wanted to go back to camp this summer. She is looking forward to archery, tubing, and sailing. She is also looking forward to seeing her friends and the counselors again. I know the end of the session will come and the campers and counselors get that feeling they are saying goodbye to family. There are definitely more tears shed the last day, than the first when the summer comes to a close.

Kara Garrod



Filling the Holiday with Less – Runoia Ideas

Ah! Those days of unplugged summer are 6 months behind or ahead of us as we are deep in the busy holiday season.

Merry. Joyful. Happy.

Sometime it’s hard to muster the thought!

As we race around trying to “get ‘er done” and “just survive” here are some ideas for getting more out of less. From child centered events that make the holiday season special to mindfulness exercises for children, organize and take a moment to have a merrier time. Also, let’s realize adults aren’t the only ones that get stressed. The mindfulness exercises and/or body scans for children are a great way to help children decompress and allow them to enjoy what they have rather than wishing for what they don’t have!

Among the many parenting blogs, has a decent list of holiday events from Channuka to Christmas. Go to and choose “By Area”. Not to stress you out, lol, but tree lightings are happening around the US in the next few days. For example, here’s Westchester area listings:

Before and after you plan your excursions, craft projects, secret gifting and more holiday fun, spend some time on the Mindful site at There are simple and fabulous ideas for winding down to get more enjoyment and civility (!) among siblings and in the family:

and specifically try a body scan:

So! Learn from Runoia’s #lifelongskills and be like a #runoiagal:

Relax, Plan and Enjoy

Warm wishes as the 31 days of December are upon us!



How the Runoia Pix Got Its Name

According to Runoia lore, as told by Joan “Baynie” Williams, may she rest in peace, the Runoia bathrooms got the name PIX on the train from Grand Central Station to Belgrade Depot.

The Belgrade Train Depot
The Belgrade Train Depot

Back in the day campers would arrive with their trunks at Grand Central for the train to camp. Both Runoia girls and Pine Island boys would voyage on said train. Of course the ride was chaperoned but there were plenty of shenanigans to go around, as you can only imagine.

Girls being girls and boys being boys back in the 1920s pretty much stayed with their own kind. The rueful glance, a random prank and other tit for tat ensued. The boys from Pine Island Camp wore their camp shirts that said PIC. After a few years of trips back and forth, Baynie and her gang decided the name for the Runoia bathrooms should be called the PIX (clever disguise) – as you can see an acronym not to far from the initials of that boys camp across the lake!

So, to this day, the Runoia bathroom is called the Pix.

We Call it the Pix!
We Call it the Pix!

I’ve noticed in the past decade that the word pix is falling from the vocab of the current campers and counselors. As many traditions go, it only remains a thing if people keep saying things like “I am going to the Pix” or “I have to go to the Pix” or “Will you come with me to the Pix?” or “Where’s the closest Pix” (Come on folks, I’m spoon feeding you here – let’s keep it going!). Runoia alumnae out there, you know you are horrified at the thought of Pix disappearing from the vocabulary, right? It’s our 110th summer and we will make an effort at bringing back this 90+ year tradition!

Maybe our next blog should be on how to resuscitate lost traditions!

New Pix at Fairy Ring
New Pix at Fairy Ring

Finding Harmony

Where do you find harmony? Where does your child find harmony?

Harmony in a Moment at Camp
Harmony in a Camp Moment

Is it in that first cup of coffee? Or is harmony found amid a car ride to school, where perhaps there are a few quiet moments to connect and communicate? Maybe it is in a sunrise or sunset, or the dinner table that occasionally finds everyone gathered around.

For me, finding harmony started with a mid-afternoon walk, a text and a podcast.

The text? A few words that came across my phone noting that my niece was heading to Iceland on a few week adventure.

The podcast? A short story of two folks who once used a roll of a dice to lead them, by chance, to explore new places during their week vacation.

A text, a podcast and that afternoon walk invited me to find harmony.  Those few moments inspired me to think differently about my upcoming summer.

Yes, it’s good in Cleveland, but where and what else should be explored? Where else can I grow, grow with others seeking the “harmony” in life?

Remembering a love of Maine from vacations of the past, a simple Google search of camps quickly led me to Runoia. Runoia, Native American for “harmony.”

A Special Runoia Waterfront Spot
A Special Runoia Waterfront Spot

Belgrade Lakes, archery, loons, stained glass, horses, family style dining, ceramics, campfires by the lake and plenty of traditions…Yes, this was sounding like harmony to me.

Beyond the age of a camper, this summer I will become part of the staff – the team – that will work together to create harmony among a camp filled with young ladies.

For me, harmony is about taking this time to join Runoia, to become part of a community, and to work towards a program that benefits all.

This summer, harmony will be about the sunsets, and the loons, a new stained glass project. Harmony will be about the first arrow a young lady shoots. Harmony will be about kayaks, and books being read aloud in a cabin as the moon rises. Harmony will be about Sunday evening programs by the lake, and trips to places never explored.

A Loon on Great Pond
A Loon on Great Pond

Harmony will be about opportunities to grow, and learn and explore. Together.

This summer, harmony will be about Runoia and I can’t wait.

What about you? Where and how will you find your harmony?

Written and submitted by Jeannie Fleming-Gifford, Camp Runoia Summer Assistant Director

Count Down to Runoia 2016!

The countdown to summer sleepaway camp is well underway as we just passed the 150 “days till camp” marker. While some campers are enjoying the count down, others are feeling a big nervous and maybe even somewhat anxious about overnight camp. This is perfectly normal!

Count down to Camp
Count down to Camp

What can you do to encourage your campers to be ready for camp? Here’s some tips from the experts:

Brooke Cheley-Klebe from Cheley Camps suggests “Get your camper involved in picking out gear for camp. If you buy hiking boots, go on a hike with them!”

Camp Owner and TED talk extraordinaire, Steve Baskin suggests reframe what three weeks away is about “wise parents provide their children with a different frame to look at camp. It is not “3 weeks away from mom and dad”, but is instead “a grand adventure full of fun and friends”.

Jen Bush writes for American Camp Association: “Learn details of the facilities. Will your child have to walk to the bathroom at night? Some kids, especially those from urban areas, are unaccustomed to total darkness, so it’s a good idea to practice using a flashlight. Will she be exposed to a lot of bugs and wildlife? Consider taking a family camping trip in advance to familiarize your child with the outdoor environment, nighttime sounds, and roughing it a bit.”

A great idea we heard from a parent is have your teenager take a mini-vacation from their phone or screen. Make it a positive experience where you go do something together or something she enjoys and explain that it’s about being present together. Not tying it “going away to camp” will be in their favor.

Other ideas:
• Look over the packing list together on, start browsing your closets and stores and gathering items together for camp.
• Practice sorting their dirty laundry from clean clothes, carrying their toiletries to the shower, brushing and braiding their hair, making their bed. Make a list of things they will be expected to do at camp on their own or with the support of a counselor or a friend and start practicing!
• Discuss what they will enjoy doing at camp, look over the camp activities, help explain how they can sign up for activities at the camp and who to turn to if they would like to change their schedule.
• Let them know how Runoia directors and adults are around all the time to help them at camp. Have them write an email to us about any concerns so we can address them. Reducing uncertainty and knowing adults will be there to help them really helps.

Let your camper know it is absolutely normal to be nervous about camp and let her know that everyone is nervous – even the campers returning to Runoia. Remind her we are great at helping campers adjust and get oriented at Camp Runoia and we want her to have the best time of her life!

You can do it!
You can do it!

American Sign Language at Sleepaway Camp

Word of the Day – American Sign Language Style!

Our Word of the Day is an event at camp that has become a tradition. This summer the WOD was brought to us by Izzy Snyder. She included ALS signs to every word and taught them to the whole camp. Izzy is studying to be an interpreter for the deaf and we learned signs in both sessions at Runoia.

At the end of this session, Keira, a 10 year old camper, wrote a story including some of the signs (the underlined words) we learned in second session at Camp Runoia:

Welcome to the Obscure Challenge.

Here your perseverance, laughter and experience will be staunch and most wanted. During this challenge you will trudge through vegetation. If you win you should feel bittersweet because much worse awaits you after winning. IF you lose you do not have to face what will come, so you should feel grateful. In the next part of the challenge, you will face a question that most people are not imaginative enough to figure out. IF you find the answer it means you have a lot of positivity and you will be flabbergasted by the winner. This is a competition (friendly) of the mind. The winner has a strong mind with tons of inner strength.

Keira, thanks for sharing your great story!