Friday, June 28, 2013

summer solstice and the chapel st. girl

Last Friday, June 21st, marked the 2013 Summer Solstice. When I was a child, I remember reading a rather disturbing picture book about the summer solstice celebration at Stonehenge and, though I've visited Stonehenge numerous times and found it to be a very peaceful place free of garland - clad hippies, it has remained lodged in my mind as a mystical yearly occurrence that makes me wince when I spy it looming on the calendar. Blocking it from my mind, my boys and I stopped downtown on the the morning of the appointed day at the Chapel St. Fountain Park. We were greeted by a beautiful young girl with a mountain of red hair piled high on her head and tied with a ribbon, a long flowing scarf wrapped around her like a skirt, and notebooks spread out across the park bench where she sat that showed diagrams of the summer solstice with trailing, hand-sketched sunflowers. "Happy Summer Solstice, friends!", she proclaimed. After my initial shock died away and she won me over with her joy of life, sweet nature, and stunning resemblance to Scarlett Johanssson, some of what she said about her thoughts on summer solstice actually didn't sound quite so odd. I had to admire her self confidence and conviction, and as I walked away I thanked her for altering my life-long misconceptions regarding this ancient tradition ( though I have to admit the one incongruous piece of her otherwise perfect summer solstice costume was her vintage Chanel wrap-around scarf which sort of spoiled the overall effect). What do you think of the celebration of summer solstice? Read this and decide for yourself...huffington post on 2013 summer solstice at stonehenge

click here for more information on Charleston's Chapel St. Park

Thursday, June 27, 2013

got hydrangeas?

It just wouldn't be summer without these beautiful hydrangeas. Mine are this soft shade of blue...

We spied these luscious pink ones in McClellanville...

Pluff Mud Kids Nanna's are brilliant purple. Why so many different colors? click here for a lesson to read with your kids about how hydrangeas react to their environment. If your kids are into science, they're gonna love this.

Then make your own posy like Pluff Mud Kid Nanna always does. I love the way she lines the inside of the vase with the big green leaves!
click here to learn more about hydrangeas

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Charles Pinckney's backyard

I have to confess, I needed a mommy moment the other day. I had 20 minutes and sought to put myself in time-out. One thing I absolutely love about living in Charleston is that we are surrounded on all sides with history and beautiful backyards to wander in. I grabbed a coffee and my camera and took a breather and a stroll through Charles Pinckney's summery yard (this site is located in Mt. Pleasant off Long Point Rd. across from Boone Hall Plantation - see below for directions)...

This is what drew me in, and it got even better when I wandered down here...

I wasn't after history, just a quiet moment of peace, but you can't help but to soak in the details of this man and his property. Imagine this house and land before the town of Mt. Pleasant grew around it...

I recommend this site as a great place to picnic and wander with your family as well as a quiet retreat. 

Hours: 9am-5pm daily
Covered shelter and picnic tables, restrooms
click here for directions
click here for more information

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Riverbanks Zoo - (Part III) - the garden

They call it the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden for good reason.  If  you exit the zoo grounds and make your way across the bridge above the Saluda River, you will discover the botanical gardens. Such a great surprise, and what a way to add to the value of your admissions ticket. Stop a while on the bridge to watch the boaters on the river...

At the end of the bridge, you will reach this sign. A shuttle will pick you up here and drop you at the entrance to the garden...

Here's just a glimpse of the beautiful garden...

(see posts Part I and II on the Riverbanks Zoo)
click here for the link to Riverbanks Zoo and Garden

Sunday, June 23, 2013

little shark, big view, super moon

One of my favorite journeys by boat is a summer evening tool along the intracoastal waterway to Morgan Creek Grill (located next to the Isle of Palms marina). You never know who you'll see there, case in point this baby shark.

We ran into a friend at dinner, and we both agreed that this view is the draw for us...

The breeze is heavenly, there's often a band, and it's a child friendly place...

click here for a look at the menu and directions to Morgan Creek Grill

This is one of my favorite summer reads with kids and you can find a copy at the aquarium next time you're there...

Friday, June 21, 2013

Riverbanks Zoo - (Part II) climb like a monkey

"The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it."
-Moliere - playwright and actor

Observe the monkeys, and then make like one and climb, climb, climb! Grab lunch first at the yummy Kenya Cafe...

Then hit the 4 story rope challenge called the Sky-High Safari. You must be at least 48" tall to climb without a parent and you will need to wear tennis shoes...

We spent ages on this and my kids and their friends absolutely loved it. You have to be brave to get to the top...

Come on Mamas, if I can do it, you can too! ( nerve wracking, but I loved it!) This is bound to make you feel like a kid again.  Moms can wear sandals if they have a secure ankle strap.

* see yesterday's post Riverbanks Zoo Part I for all the links to the zoo
click here for details on interactive zoo events

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Riverbanks Zoo - (Part I) the zoo

It had been a while since we visited the zoo in Columbia, SC and I was astounded at how much has been added to the property; so much that I have to split this up into several posts to cover all that's there. This zoo is impressive for so many reasons and I love the lushly landscaped grounds and lively animal habitats. The zoo is designed to flow easily for little legs to walk and enjoy and it is a fantastic way to spend a day. Make sure to allow at least 3 to 4 hours and go soon before it gets too hot!

There is so much to learn here. Make the trip more educational by googling some animals with your kids before you go (or pick a favorite animal to focus on). The signs and information provided here are really thorough and that makes for a great summer lesson.

Look at the map of the zoo before you go to get the lay off the land so you can decide which areas to concentrate on... we lingered here with the baboons for a while because they were hilarious; so much so that it was hard to walk away. We also love the penguin and bird watching building and it provides a cool oasis from the heat.

I had a bone to pick with this guy. When my boys were the tender age of 2, this fella nonchalantly lumbered over to the observation glass and slammed his giant palm flat against it in front of my twins faces. They literally jumped air-born with arms flailing and landed on the ground in a heap bawling their eyes out! He is aloof and pretends to be completely ignoring you as you gawk at his monstrous body, but it's all a ploy to draw you in closer. ( We love him still - so fascinating).

Riverbanks Zoo and Garden
500 wildlife Pkwy, Columbia SC
Hours: 9am-5pm daily (summer weekends extended til 6pm)
For admission details, directions and more click here
pmk tips- pack a cooler of water. WEAR TENNIS SHOES so you can participate in all the climbing options (see tomorrow's post) EdVenture children's museum is virtually right around the corner, so if you can stay over-night (check the website linked above for accommodation), make one long day of it or a 2 day trip to see both. I also recommend a membership to the zoo because it's a great value given that there are over 100 reciprocal zoos to visit including the Greenville zoo. The other zoos offer either free or discounted (50% off) admission.
click here for membership info and complete reciprocal list
*Check out the special night at the zoo coming up on July 12th! members night series

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Pluff Mud Kids Cook - organic strawberry jam

Set aside a couple of hours for the process of making jam. This simple recipe is all organic (without pectin) and kids can have fun helping make it - they take a lot of pride in the action of picking the berries themselves and then filling up the jam jars. Allow 2 hours to wash, dry, stem and hull the berries and then make the jam.
Step 1: Buy bags of sugar, lemons, and butter ahead of time. Buy jam jars (we found these larger blue ones in Target as well as the cool oval shaped one pictured at the end of the post) and sterilize them in the dish washer. When your jam is cooking, put the jars in a low heat oven to warm them to add the hot jam to...

Step 2: Pick 2 pounds of strawberries. They are ripe and juicy at Boone Hall Farms at the moment in the back field where the corn grows in the fall.

Herd up as many pickers as you can find - many hands really do make light work! We had 5 in the field on this day and it was quick and easy.

Fill 2 of these buckets and you have enough for 2 batches of jam to store or give as gifts.

Weigh 2 pounds of washed, dried (I usually lay them out on paper towel in the sun to dry out any excess water), stemmed berries and add them to a stock pot with 2 lbs of sugar on a high heat. Stir constantly for 15 minutes at a rolling boil, adding 2 Tbls fresh lemon juice, and a pat of butter (1/2 oz) as the butter helps to discourage froth from forming on the surface. Do check the jam after 10 minutes by placing a sample on a plate and dragging your finger through it to check for setting. The jam should stay separated if it's ready. Ladle into warm jars and don't seal the lids completely. As the jam cools, the lid seals and you will hear a 'pop'. (fill to 1/2 inch of the rim). Tighten lid. Obviously, most of this hot work is for an adult only, but children can help by prepping the berries and observing the process as well as making labels for the jars. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Charleston Currents feature - June 2013

Interactive summer adventures abound in our backyardBy LEIGH SABINE, contributing editor
Special to Charleston Currents

JUNE 17, 2013 -- Keeping young minds engaged in the summer months can be fun as well as enriching if you know where to look for interactive, outdoor challenges. 
I have found that short bursts of time earlier in the morning before the heat of the day sets in help to keep an adventure fresh and entertaining rather than a hardship tour. Listed below are three tried and true local activities that help engage the hearts, hands and minds of children of all ages as we navigate through these hazy Lowcountry days of summer. There's just something about a hunt for a place, landmark, or object that keeps children excited and "all in" as opposed to merely being along for the ride. 
  • Charleston Parks Conservancy Park Passport Contest. Now through the end of June, the CPC offers a park hunt challenge for families. This is your passport to finding six featured CPC parks in downtown Charleston. Simply visit each park and take a picture of yourself at a designated landmark to post on the CPC Facebook or Twitter page. Once you post all six parks, you are eligible to win a great prize pack chosen monthly through June. We discovered a new park this year that we never knew existed and have enjoyed seeing the many enhancements of these properties. Click here to familiarize yourself with the parks and landmarks before you go. Good luck and happy hunting! (Check Pluff Mud Kids blog for a glimpse at some of these parks.)
  • Chapel Street Park
    The Charleston Visitors Center Explorers Passport Club. Head to an area visitors center (check the link provided here for all locations) and register your child (0-18 years) to receive a cool passport that comes with a beach bucket and shovel. Carry the passports with you throughout the summer to visit area attractions for a passport stamp. Log in your visits via computer to earn points toward prizes you will receive in the mail. The featured locations are many and varied, so click here to review the complete list. We love the idea of scouting around the Charleston area to collect that all-important stamp while discovering a local hot spot! There is no expiration date, so take your time and enjoy this interactive learning program.
  • The annual Charleston County Library Summer Reading program. My Pluff Mud Kids have participated in this fabulous reading program for nearly a decade and it is always a summer hit that I highly recommend. Register your child at any area library and start logging your summer reading. This year, the goal is to complete 10 books to receive prizes (children may read alone or out loud with a parent or grandparent).To make your book lists more interactive, choose some local interest topics and then visit areas that build a connection with the theme. For example, read a book about the Hunley and then visit it or pick a favorite animal theme to read about and study and then pack a camera and venture to the Columbia zoo and let your child take photos of the animal in person. There is nothing like spending a day at the beach or the pool in the hot sun and then cuddling up in a cool room with a great book!
Incorporate all three of these programs and make it a power-packed summer of learning and deepen your family connection to your local surroundings. 
Writer Leigh Sabine of Mount Pleasant offers a monthly look at fun activities for Lowcountry kids. It's based on her great blog, PluffMudKids. Check it out.

Sunday, June 16, 2013


I love the name of our baseball team. I love that this gorgeous stadium sits right on the river and that you can take your dog to a game once a year. I love the way the evening game starts off hotter than heck and cools as the long shadows draw lines across the field by the seventh inning stretch. I love that this is an activity that the entire family can enjoy and the happy atmosphere speaks to that. I love the way my boys love Charlie. I love that Charlie can really do the Charleston. I love that the peanut man wears a basket hat on his bald head with pride. I love that you can sit behind Bill Murray and watch him kindly sign autographs and have his picture taken over and over while still keeping his eye on the ball. I love that you can wear a ball hat, flip flops, and no make-up to the game. I love that it always reminds me of watching my brothers play ball every summer and hearing my British mother shout like an all-American hoodlum at their games. I love that I don't really know all the rules but can still appreciate the game. I love that a ten year old boy can get Winnie the Pooh painted on his face and that no one bats an eye ( I love that the face painter charges two bucks more for a Red Sox logo than a Yankee logo). I love leaving in the dark, feeling tired, relaxed, and laughing all the way to the car.

Friday, June 14, 2013

OIB friend

We found this fella just across the SC border at Ocean Isle Beach

Thursday, June 13, 2013

black and blue crumble for Dad

* re-posting this recipe for Father's Day - it's a good one! Have a wonderful Father's Day weekend!

Ahhh summer berries. If you love 'em like we do, Boone Hall Upick has got 'em, ripe and ready to pick. Now is the perfect time to pick strawberries in the back field, blackberries and blueberries too. 

To make Dad a delicious blackberry/blueberry crumble for Father's Day, head over to the Upick and pick a pound of berries. You'll need to wear a hat, lots of sunscreen, and light colored t-shirts. I also recommend wearing old tennis shoes instead of flipflops because there are lots of fire ant mounds and, frankly, the muddy fields can wreck your summer pedicure. A perfect time to go is early (the Upick opens between 8:30-9:00am) and a cloudy day helps - this is hot work!

Dig in low to the ground to discover the ripe, giant blackberries...

Back home, teach your child to set the scale and wash and weigh the berries ( you don't have to be exact, but it's fun for them to begin to understand the scale)...

sprinkle and coat the berries with sugar and store them in the fridge to absorb the sugar. For the crumble topping, this recipe is quick, easy, and child-helper friendly. Cover the bottom of a 9 inch fluted ceramic dish or glass pie pan with the sugared berries. Mix together 8 oz plain flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 3 oz of butter, and 3 oz soft brown sugar. Press the crumble mixture down evenly on top of the berries and bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

Add cream or ice cream... bittersweet because, while it's so delicious, your efforts will be completely gone in moments!

Boone Hall Farm Upick
Hours - officially 9am-5:30pm, but they are tending to say 8:30am-6pm now that it is hot in the fields.
*enter the site off highway 17 where you see the tents - click here for directions. Free parking, no entry fee
Berries and produce all priced per lb. Baskets and buckets provided. Hand sanitizer and water station provided for washing up.
*pmk tip- if you want to pick all 3 berries, start with the strawberries and then move to the front field for the blackberries. Then leave your berries at the tent while you drive to the blueberries down the dirt path. The blueberries are the easiest and quickest to pick, so keep an eye on your total weight as it can quickly add up.