St Pete – Miami – Key West

This past week we embarked on a great journey, truthfully my husband Chuck did all the work and I had all the fun.

As you saw from my previous posts Chuck participated in Smart Ride 14, a 165 mile bike ride from Miami to Key West raising funds for AIDS service organizations across Florida.

We set out driving from St Petersburg to Miami with registration at University of Miami. With my background in events I look at event production under a microscope and they did an awesome job.

Smart Ride 14 - University of Miami - Miami to Key West - AIDS Ride - Florida AIDS RideSmart Ride 14 - University of Miami - Miami to Key West - AIDS Ride - Florida -AIDS RideSmart Ride 14 - University of Miami - Registration - AIDS Ride - Florida AIDS Ride - Share a memory

There were people across campus directing us to bike storage for the next morning and then on to registration. They had lots of volunteers directing people across campus and they could not have been nicer. That evening after registration the opening ceremonies included a welcome and candlelight vigil.

Smart Ride - AIDS Ride - AIDS Ride Florida - university of Miami - candlelight vigil - Opening ceremonySmart Ride - AIDS Ride - AIDS Ride Florida - university of Miami - candlelight vigil - Opening ceremony

One of the featured speakers was a woman named Ruth Coker Burks

Ruth Coker Burks - AIDS Activist - Smart Ride - AIDS Ride Florida - Opening Ceremony -

Ruth Coker Burks (also known as the Cemetery Angel) is an activist and AIDS awareness advocate based in Arkansas. During the onslaught of the AIDS epidemic in the late 1980s, she gave up her career as a successful real estate agent to help AIDS patients that had no one to care for them. Because of prejudices, fears and the stigma surrounding the disease at the time, she was often the only one who would look after them until they eventually died. She most notably is recognized for burying them in her own family cemetery in Hot Springs, Arkansas. – Wikipedia

I was blown away by her kindness and then realized that not only did she ‘bury’ these guys in her family cemetery; but she BURIED these guys! She and a young daughter dug holes because no one else would.

We were up before the sun as riders headed out at sunrise. They provided breakfast for riders, and a local high school cheerleading squad and volunteers were there to cheer on the riders as they departed.

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The coolest thing about this ride was that EVERYTHING was donated, the riders pay for their hotel rooms the first night in Marathon and 100% of everything raised goes directly to organizations for services.

After I saw them off I chilled, found some Cuban coffee and went to a party store and got green and yellow pom-poms (Chuck’s team colors).

Cuban Coffee- Latin Cafe 2000 - Miami - Cafe con Leche

By that point riders had made their way through Miami and were arriving on route 1 heading south to Marathon, their overnight stop. Each pit stop, about every 15-20 miles was staffed with volunteers, snacks, sports drinks, water and there were cheerleaders and people directing them along the way.

Probably the most amazing group were the guys on motorcycles who helped direct traffic in places where the riders had to cross from one side of a road to another. They were truly awesome and I’m very thankful to them for keeping everyone safe.

The upper keys seemed to be pretty well cleaned up from hurricane Irma but there was still a lot of debris along the road ways and there were A LOT of flat tires. The Marathon area still had a ways  to go with cleanup, they were hit the hardest.

The first day they did 100 miles to Marathon, I traveled along the road waiving pom-poms out the window and cheering them on.  I stopped to do some writing and blogging for clients and also cheer riders as they arrived at pit stops.

As the hotel in Marathon was filled with riders and volunteers I drove straight through to Key West checked into our hotel and grabbed dinner.

The next morning, I headed over to the White Street Pier and the Key West AIDS memorial, the end of the ride. As everyone entered Key West they headed to a school where they had lunch and waited for all of the riders to arrive and then were lead through the streets by a police escort.

I got there really early and spent some time taking in the memorial, it’s a beautiful mix of poured concrete with a relief of what looks like the chain of islands that make up the keys and Zimbabwe marble inscribed with the names of 1,000 people who have died of AIDS and have shown a love of the Florida Keys by living, working or visiting there. It was pretty emotional and I’m glad I went early and spent some quiet time there.


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About 2:30 in the afternoon the volunteers all arrived a head of the riders, then you could see flashing lights and hear sirens as the riders approached. I followed the riders as they crossed the bridge and found Chuck and his team. Once everyone arrived they welcomed everyone, announced how much money they raised ( you’ll have to go to the Smart Ride website to find out).

Smart Ride - Key West - Key West AIDS Memorial - White Street Pier - Smart Ride VolunteersSmart Ride - Key West - Key West AIDS Memorial - White Street Pier - Chuck Hinchliffe

At the end they brought in the ‘Riderless Bike” a bike with a flag with an AIDS ribbon being carried by several riders representing all those lost to AIDS… it was really tough as both Chuck and I have lost so many friends.

Chuck has already committed to the next ride, which is actually later this year as this ride was pushed back from November 2017. You’ll see future posts talking about the ride and how you can sponsor Chuck!

Smart Ride - Key West - Key West AIDS Memorial - White Street Pier - Chuck Hinchliffe

Be sure to check out Chuck’s post, sharing his journey on his first Smart Ride! I couldn’t be more proud of of him!

I love you Chuck!


A Gift from the Heart

A number of you have heard about, and some even enjoyed, my ‘monster chocolate chip cookies’, however very few people know the story behind them.

Mark Kingsdorf - Wedding Ghost - Authentically Mark - blogger - wedding blogger - freelance writer - weddings

Some time back in the early ‘90’s, after moving from Washington, D.C. to beautiful downtown Kintnersville Pennsylvania, (a tiny little town located in Bucks County along the banks of the Delaware river) I was working as the chef at The Great American Grill.

I was offered the honor to be part of the team collecting and editing recipes for The Red Ribbon Cookbook, a fund raiser for F.A.C.T (Fighting AIDS Continuously Together) Bucks County.  This awesome organization raises much needed funds to help provide support to people in need, living with HIV and AIDS. I met some wonderful people and keep in touch with many of them to this day.

FACT Bucks County - The Red Ribbon Cook Book - AIDS Fundraiser - Monster Chocolate Chip Cookies - Mark Kingsdorf

While I’m excited to have several recipes included in the book; I’m most excited about the Monster Chocolate Chip cookie recipe included by my friend Gary Kisner. To this day it’s one of my favorite recipes.

If you’ve ever had one of these cookies, please know it’s a gift of love as the recipe, and the project and cookbook it came from mean the world to me.

At one of the toughest points in my life when I was feeling very lost I baked nearly 100 dozen cookies for Christmas as gifts for family and friends; mostly chocolate chip or variations of this cookie.

One of the things I found is that the cookie base is really versatile. Once you’ve incorporated everything but the chocolate chips and walnuts you can add just about anything you’d like. A friend brought us macadamia nuts from Hawaii and I made white chocolate macadamia nut cookies. I’ve added trail mix, chopped peanuts and peanut butter, oatmeal and raisins, I’ve even mixed in potato chips, pretzels and chocolate chips.

My late mother-in-law used to individually wrap each cookie and then place them in a freezer bag, freeze them and keep them to have throughout the year. (they defrost in the microwave in a few seconds).

So, this year; my Christmas gift to all of you is my favorite Monster Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe.

1 lb.       Lightly salted butter (melted)
1 1/2c.   Granulated sugar
1 1/2c.   Brownulated sugar (Domino sugar product, marketed as pourable sugar)
1 t.         Vanilla
4 ea.      Large eggs
1t.          Salt
1 t.         Baking soda
5 c.        All-purpose flour
24 oz.    Semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c.        Chopped walnuts

Combine melted butter, sugar, vanilla and mix well
Add eggs and mix until incorporated
Add baking soda, salt and flour and mix until flour in thoroughly incorporated
Mix in chocolate chips and nuts (or whatever ingredient(s) you want)

Scoop out cookie dough into about 2oz portions
Bake on a nonstick sheet pan at 375 degrees
Cookies bake in about 14-16 minutes


Mark Kingsdorf, Wedding Ghost, Blogger, Wedding Planner,


He’s BACK!!!!!!

OK, OK, so I took a vacation from blogging… I was really good about posting blogs after the first of the year about healthier eating and taking care of myself.

In May we put the house on the market, packed, sold the house, found a house in St. Petersburg Florida and moved. (Breathe).  I was at my in-law’s place in Leesburg while I finished up my position at the Mission Inn Resort, spending days off in St Pete with Chuck.

We explored St Pete, went on a cruise to Alaska with my siblings and unfortunately lost Chuck’s mother while we were away.  We returned home in time to batten down the hatches, just in time for Hurricane Irma.

While I was somewhat still working on healthier eating, the extra walking fizzled a bit. I held my weight but didn’t lose any more.  Blog posts were shortened to Facebook posts; as life got in the way.

As many of you have seen, I recently launched “Wedding Ghost” as a ghost blogging company for wedding professionals from across the country.

Part of the allure of Wedding Ghost is the privacy; busy wedding professionals can have me write and post blogs for them, just as they would if they had the time and ability to drive their SEO.

Sometimes people who never read my blog at the the Philadelphia wedding planning company I founded,  The Queen of Heart Wedding Consultants, ask to see samples of my writing. But, I can’t (for privacy sake) send them to client’s blogs… so this blog is coming back with a wide range of topics, all Authentically Mark.

You’ll see some of St. Petersburg’s great murals, fun restaurants and breweries; sometimes it’ll be the beaches, our travels, my cooking or random quips.

The one thing to remember is that the writing will be authentically me… the same as when I blog for a client, it will reflect the uniqueness of their business, local market and their personality.

Thanks for coming along for this Authentically Mark ride.

Getting Over The Wall


So, New Year’s Eve I weighed in and pretty publicly shared my very overweight 262.5 pound body and how unhealthy I was feeling.

We (Chuck and I) both strapped on our Fit Bits, weighed in, set a number of steps and a goal weight. While our goal was to feel better, weight loss was an obvious side effect of cleaner eating.

We walked every night, worked to practically eliminate white flour, processed sugar and processed foods. We both reduced our diet soda intake and increased our water…

The weight fell off pretty quickly, it was noticeable and felt really good. We shared lower fat, healthier food options, talked about meal planning and weighed and measure all of our food and religiously logged everything in our Fit Bit App.

Somewhere in the last month, life got in the way; the slight obsession with hitting out step goal was replaced with “I’m within about 200 steps so I’m good”,  diligent measuring was replaced with “that looks like four ounces”.

Neither of us gained back the lost weight but we also didn’t lose any more; neither were closer to our goal weight and it has stayed there for about 3-4 weeks…


So tomorrow we climb over the wall, we are back measuring and weighing everything, water is logged, food added into our counter and we’re back to walking every evening, regardless of how close we are to our steps goal…

It’s back on track –






Last night, Chuck and I had fried chicken.

We’d both done 30 days of healthier eating. We’ve cut out all of the fast food, made great choices when we’ve eaten out with family and friends, added vegetarian meals, more lean meats, smaller portions and lots of veggies. Eating less and moving more.

Last night was a big splurge, we both said this would never work if we denied ourselves things we enjoyed. So we had fried chicken.

We both balanced that with our usual healthy options the rest of the day and an extra long walk last night.

Today is a new day, we enjoyed our splurge and are back on track – tonight I’m lightening up Thai Green Curry. Ground turkey, coconut water instead of coconut cream and lots of crunchy vegetables.

#EatingSplurge #ItsANewDay #HealthierEating #AuthenticallyMark

One Bad Hombre


In honor of all my hombres; today’s healthy twist is lightening up on Huevos Ranchero.

Heat 1/4 t. of vegetable oil in a non stick omelette pan on high, add 2 ounces diced peppers, onions and tomatoes (I bought them pre-diced in the supermarket), one ounce of Jimmy Dean Healthy Turkey Sausage Crumbles and 1/4 cup of pinto beans.

To that add 6 ounces egg whites and reduce the heat to medium as the eggs start to set up, move the edges so the liquid runs under the cooked eggs and sets up.

Season with cracked black pepper, sea salt and a little sprinkle of garlic powder.

Slide on to a plate and finish setting up for about 30 seconds in a microwave, top with 1 T of shredded 2% cheddar cheese and a dash of hot sauce.

All this Mexican inspired goodness is 260 calories, filled with protein, low in fat and also has some healthy carbs.

It’s good to be a bad hombre!

#HealthierEating #BadHombre #LightenUp

Home Cooking


Tonight we were in the mood for a “meat and potatoes”, home style meal.

So of course we lightened it up a bit –

The meatloaf is 4 ounces of lean ground turkey breast, 1 t. diced onion, 1 t. diced sweet peppers, 1/8 t. chopped garlic, ground black pepper and Creole Soul Seasoning. We baked them in muffin pans and drained off any excess fat. About 240 calories each.

The mashed potatoes are actually Green Giant Mashed Cauliflower with Olive Oil and Sea Salt. (heat and serve) About 80 calories in 1/2 cup.

Swanson Beef Gravy – 1/2 cup has 15 calories and I used just under a 1/2 cup.

Fresh steamed Green Beans – 50 calories

Tonight’s entire meal, a full plate is 625 calories!

#YUM #LightenUP #HealthierHomeCookin #AuthenticallyMark