Friday, January 31, 2014

southern shapes in snow

"Snow provokes responses that reach right back to childhood."
-Andy Goldsworthy, British sculptor and photographer


Sometimes when they go to bed wishing for something, you wish even harder that it will come true. They wished and hoped and prayed for real snow and it snowed; soft and silent. Even if only just a little bit for a little while it was enough to coat the ground. The iced  magnolias and palm fronds cast see-through molds of their perfect southern shapes. Thank God for answered prayers and real snow.








Thursday, January 30, 2014

Divine Intervention: Palmetto Bluff


When my father passed away on a bleak day in December, my Mum needed a complete retreat from everything familiar after the funeral. She and I packed up our brokenhearted selves and sought a place that would meet the following criteria: close to home yet seemingly far, far away, tremendously private, full of Lowcountry fresh air, nature and history, and stuffed full of luxury and pampering. OK, I'll admit that we just wanted comfort and to be waited on hand and foot. Oh, and food. Really good food.

We found everything we were pining for at The Inn at Palmetto Bluff in Bluffton, SC. It is not a cure for grief, but it does offer solitude and comfort. It is also a perfect spot for a romantic getaway offering up a rare opportunity for complete privacy (you can dine in your cottage in front of the fire as we did). The resort is also a piece of heaven for families who love to be active outdoors. This seasonal special would be perfect for Valentines Day. Take a look and let me convince you it's worth the splurge...


The cottages are beautifully constructed and appointed with your own private porch and a eucalyptus steam shower. You are provided with a bike for tooling around the property and your own golf cart as well. There are lots of dining options and they'll even run your meal to you and lay it all out in your cottage. Best fresh fish I've had in a very long time.


You have access to all the experiences offered at the resort. One simple treat is to sit here in the evening sipping wine and making s'mores at the fire pit.


Ride your bike over and park at the spa. Enjoy the "Baths on the Bluff " and all the other spa options.


This gorgeous property preserves and protects nature while allowing you to get close and appreciate your surroundings. 20,000 acres is certainly an inspiring visionary preserve. 


The history here is a tender story. The Wilson's were a wealthy family from New York who split hairs over the use of this piece of property with the husband desiring a grand hunting ground and the wife envisioning a glorious mansion to entertain her friends. They began construction in 1910 (after originally buying the property in 1902) and realized a 72 room mansion that would have rivaled the Great Gatsby estate and dazzled guests with it's ballroom and stately columns. Sadly, the mansion burned to the ground in 1926 and these remains are left to linger in the moss.


Thank you, Palmetto Bluff for putting an unexpected smile on my Mum's sweet face (isn't she cute?). She has been my best friend for 45 years and I hope to eventually see her glow again.  

For more information and reservations visit the website here

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

the once (or maybe twice) in a childhood most excellent "snow" day in the south

Peg Dolls Winter Wonderland / diy cardboard toy templates / Mr Printables
(image source: mrprintables.com)

"What are we gonna do all day, mama?"

"A little bit of this, and a little bit of that."

Here are a few of our favorite things for a stay-at-home winter day:
  • the ever fabulous mrprintables for free cut outs and projects
  • Kiwi crates are insanely great boxed crafts that arrive on your doorstep full of joy and everything you need to create an age appropriate craft - check out this coupon
  • Thinking about getting garageband and learning how to use it because my friends tell me it's a very good thing. Perfect for a snow day.
  • learn to make a vimeo movie and document the big freeze
  • These fortune cookie valentines by Martha Stewart are cool! Now if I could just convince 10 year old boys this is cool...
  • Got Lego? Try this excellent app called brick collection for bright ideas using the Lego you already have at home. 
  • And finally... just make cookies! This is our all time favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe from Martha Stewart:
Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipes

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (about 12 ounces) semisweet and/or milk chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS

  1. STEP 1

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter with both sugars; beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low; add the salt, vanilla, and eggs. Beat until well mixed, about 1 minute. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

      IN THIS STEP:

       
  2. STEP 2

    Drop heaping tablespoon-size balls of dough about 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
  3. STEP 3

    Bake until cookies are golden around the edges, but still soft in the center, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool on baking sheet 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool completely. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week.
SOURCE
Holiday Cookies 2005, Special Issue 2005
(recipe and image marthastewart.com)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

covered bridge part I - jump little children


Remember when I told you about Joel Roberts Poinsett who gave us the poinsettia plant? I mentioned that there was a bridge named after him and so we had to go and find it. This was not what I expected after reading about the bridge because no words can really express how Gothic and dark and creepy this simple bridge really is. It's as if this beautiful intensely ornate bridge was dropped here right out of a fairy tale... it just doesn't belong here in our time and in such an otherwise ordinary space. Believed to be the oldest standing bridge in the state, this silent landmark proved to be the perfect enticement for little boys who love to leap. It made me wonder just who has leaped across the stream over and over again across the span of 190 years? 


For more information, check out these links:

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Make It Monday - Gluten Free Blueberry Muffins


Don't ya love it when a recipe turns out exactly as advertised? Thanks to King Authur Flour and their baking mixes you can take the guess work out of concocting your own gluten free flour. We tried their recipe for gluten free blueberry muffins and they are amazing...


Ok, we may have added a few extra blueberries as we are obsessed with them...


Wash the blueberries well and let them dry thoroughly. Be gentle when mixing so you don't crush them.


Let them get in there and have a go... they will be super excited knowing these will go in the next day's lunch.


Or have them ready when your kids get home and settle in to homework. Here's the recipe I came up with:

  • 1 1/2 cups King Authur Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Mix
  • 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp gluten free vanilla extract
  • 1 cup ( and a few more) blueberries, washed and dried
Method: Preheat oven to 425 F and put paper muffin cups in a 12 muffin tin. Stir the dry ingredients together and set aside. Whisk together the oil, eggs, water, honey, and vanilla. Combine the wet and dry ingredients and stir well and then gently add the blueberries. Fill the muffin cups almost full and bake for 15 minutes or until brown. Hope you love them as much as we do!

Friday, January 24, 2014

little peach, sore throat, and the marshmallow


Have you ever seen such a forlorn little face? This sweet little peach was down for the count recently with a sore throat recovering from a  tonsillectomy/ adenoidectomy so she had good reason to be glum. Lucky for her she had a great mom on the scene hovering with all manner of frozen treats and cuddles, and Peppa Pig.

What can you do for a more common sore throat? We recently battled strep throat which of course was cause for a trip to the doctor and some good old fashioned antibiotics, but if the sore throat is attached to a common cold you might reach for a natural remedy. I recently discovered the merits of marshmallow to sooth what ails you. Yes, that's right - marshmallow. The root of marshmallow contains mucilage that can help reduce irritation in the throat caused by inflammation. 

This remedy from the Wellness Mama blog takes it a step further with a recipe for a natural cough syrup containing marshmallow here. Love it. I trust this site for thorough research and great ideas on natural products.



This tea assortment contains Throat Coat tea which has 60mg of marshmallow root (you can also buy whole boxes of Throat Coat tea) or order the actual root for steeping here. (I wasn't able to find the root anywhere locally).

*if you are taking other medications, you should always check with your doctor/pediatrician for possible interactions when using natural remedies.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Charleston Marathon 5k highlights and your next 5k


Well, it took us three years but we did it. We ran the 5k (3.1 miles) portion of the Charleston Marathon this past weekend and we finally managed to run an entire 5k as a family without stopping to walk (our unified time was right around 30 minutes). Starting in the first grade three years ago, this event began for us with the 1 mile run/walk and has slowly, slowly turned into an activity the whole family can enjoy together. We were not alone. One man started the run with four young boys and we picked up one of his stragglers who was happy to join our crew at a more amiable pace. Another father bolted past us with a stroller, his baby girl, and twin speakers blasting techno beats that the baby seemed well accustomed to. As the famous Nike slogan goes, whatever works for you and your family "just do it!"  These events are always ultra happy and inspire a sense of community as well as pride in your individual accomplishment. My boys are always awed by the 70plus crowd who run with ease and they, in turn, are inspired to see little up and comers starting to make their own mark in the field of running.

Looking for some great upcoming runs to jog/run/walk/or push a stroller to? Here's a list of some local 5ks that we support and recommend. PMK tips: 1) Look at your calendar and pick runs attached to charities that you wish to support so you can pick one or two that won't break your budget. Running as a family can get costly when you add up the entrance fees, good running shoes, and the obligatory brunch following the event! 2) Check the registration dates as they stagger the payment hikes. 3) Look at the course map prior to the race so you are prepared for bridges and hills. 4) Locate the race packet pick up spot beforehand so you don't miss your pick up and locate the race start and plan time for parking prior to the race.

5ks you just might fall in love with:
  1. This Saturday, January 25th at 8:30am!  2014 Charlie Post Classic 15k/5k - This 5k winds it's way through Sullivan's Island and makes for a beautiful course. (*online registration closes tonight at midnight but you can still register in person at Fleet Feet Sports in Mt. Pleasant) click here for all the details courtesy Charleston Running Club.
  2. The MUSC Heart and Vascular Center Go Red Run Heart 5k Run and Walk- Saturday February 1st, 2014 -9am - Located at the Charleston Harbor Resort at Patriots Point. According to the American Heart Association " Heart disease and stroke are the #1 cause of death in South Carolina." A healthy lifestyle can help to wage a war to combat that statistic. This run is in support of Go Red for Women which "promotes awareness of heart disease as the #1 cause of death among women." (sources: MUSC and American Heart Association) click here for details
  3. Sunday March 2, 2014 5k run at Oakland Plantation 12:30-4:00pm - This trail run and oyster roast benefits East Cooper Land Trust and offers a fun family event complete with jump castle, face painting and other activities for kids. click here for more details and registration.
  4. Catch the Leprechaun on Thursday March 13th, 2014 at 6:30pm- Benefiting Pattison's Academy, this 5k starts at the Mt. Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park and works it's way over to Patriots Point and back. This run is lots of fun and finishes with a band and dinner and drinks. visit this site for more info. 

Pick a goal or two and local causes to support as you work your way toward longer runs. *As with any exercise, consult your family doctor and/or pediatrician to make a plan for your level of fitness. This Hal Higdon 5k plan can help you train safely.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Barton's Grand Opening


Bartons Toys has long been a favorite haunt of Pluff Mud Kids - a place we used to wander to when it was downtown on King St. Now Bartons has settled into a bright new space at 708 S. Shelmore in Mt. Pleasant  click here for directions and they're celebrating this Saturday, January 25th from 11am-5pm. There will be some cool toy demonstrations...


Stock up on unique art supplies (these finger printing sets are awesome)...


They're well stocked on the ever popular ugly dolls...


Local author Randy Bazemore will be on hand to sign his Putter Frog books too!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Charleston Currents feature - January 2014


Upstate getaways promise lots of family fun
By LEIGH SABINE, contributing editor
Special to Charleston Currents
JAN. 20, 2014 -- If you're looking to get away for a weekend with small children and want to avoid the cost and added strain of flying, look no further than the Upstate for an fun family adventure.
We're lucky to live in a state that has a little bit of everything; the marsh, the beaches, the mountains, the swamps. Recently as my family hiked in the mountains, my son said, "Are we really still in South Carolina?" as he was unaccustomed to the new terrain.
Exploring your state gives your children a deeper personal investment in the place they call home and provides a great way for very young children to learn that the world is in fact more diverse than their immediate neighborhood. Here are a few favorite destinations we have discovered in the upstate that are worth investigating:
  • Table Rock State Park: Located just north of Greenville on the border of North Carolina, this state park is stunning and a treat to camp in. The state park cabins allow you to stay just at the foot of great hiking and beautiful waterfalls. This is a great way to inspire small children to think big and learn to be proficient hikers. This blog post highlights the value of staying on the park premises. 
  • Lake Wateree State Park: This park has everything to entertain small children for a weekend in a beautiful setting. There are a few gentle walks, lakes to fish and a few playgrounds shaded in the pine trees. Located in Winnsboro, this lake is a short two-hour drive from Charleston. View highlights here.
  • Jones Gap State Park: Marietta, S.C., is home to this state park which is one of my favorites in a long line of state parks that lie on the border of North and South Carolina. Choose from one of many day hikes here that are appropriate for children of all ages. Waterfalls abound in this part of the state and are always a pleasing sight for small hikers to stumble upon. This is also a prime spot for trout of the Southern Appalachia. Details here.
  • Landsford Canals: Located on the Catawba River outside Rock Hill, this park is a great pick to add to your spring calendar. Witness the bloom of the famed spider lilies that scatter the river here in May and June and take an easy, flat two-mile hike along the canals.Highlights here.
  • Greenville Scavenger Hunt: Called "Mice on Main," this scavenger hunt for kids is delightful for grandparents as well. Wander along Main Street and discover the hidden places for these little mice sculptures, then head into Mast General Store to purchase your own bronze mouse as a memento of the adventure. For tips on the whereabouts of the various mice characters, see this post.
  • Biking Greenville: Did you know you can ride on a bike path that runs all the way from Greenville to Travelers Rest? While I don't recommend the entire long journey for little legs, this amazing trek is part of the Swamp Rabbit Trail. There are plenty of places to rent bikes and helmets in Greenville right off the trail but you are welcome to take your own bikes along, as we do. Be sure to pack a bike lock that wraps around all of your bikes and a tire pump as there are long stretches of trail that can be solitary. With small children, hug the trail right around the downtown area for short rides and check this list of places to stop and refuel.
Get out and see more of the state with one of these family adventures. For more information about safely transporting bikes on your trip, visit this link. Enjoy your trip and email Pluff Mud Kids at pluffmudkids@gmail.com if you'd like to share a favorite discovery!

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. (Photos by Leigh Sabine.)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Bike Greenville - 1,2,3


Next time you head to Greenville allow a little extra time for biking the Swamp Rabbit Trail. This former railway line was purchased by the Greenville County Council and converted to a paved public pathway that hugs the Reedy River and runs from the heart of Greenville to Travelers Rest, SC. Pick a piece of it to ride and study the map before you start to decide which part would best suit your family and riding abilities - I love this particular site with it's map options and answers frequently asked questions regarding a day on the trail and this one too for it's great printable map. To read more about the history of this visionary project click here (the process was not a simple one and it certainly took a lot of patience and community heart to bring the idea to fruition.) 

We have tested 3 ways to bike the trail over the years. 1) Take your own bike. Take a bike lock, a tire pump, and your map of the trail. If you have little riders, I recommend the downtown area around Reedy Falls for interest and places to stop and eat...



2) Rent a bike for the day from one of these cool bike kiosks provided by the Greenville Health System...


This system is easy to use - just follow the directions on the stand...


And option #3...


3) Rent a bike along the trail: check out bike the rabbit for details. There is a rental office (pictured above) next to the Swamp Rabbit Cafe and you can grab a great lunch there and sit outside at the picnic table area to keep your bike close at hand. Check out the tandem bikes with baby seats and three wheel bikes.

Hats off to Greenville, SC  for this innovative healthy lifestyle initiative.  

Friday, January 17, 2014

I remember 18


Grow the flowers that you love, sing the songs you've forgotten, climb your tree.
                        -anonymous                                      

I remember 18... vaguely. I remember feeling fragile yet invincible; bold and brazen, tentative and shy. I ran to New York but it did not work. I ran to England and it worked for a while. It takes a few years to figure out which way the wind blows sometimes. Today's post is dedicated to the first Pluff Mud Kid to take flight. My niece Lauren lands in New York today with a small bag and a big, brave smile to greet her new world. 18 and full of hope and passion and joy. God bless you, girl.

I remember 18. Do you? 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

hiking with kids 101

Our last big hike was in the upstate recently over the Christmas break. It was an uphill climb to a beautiful waterfall and it was a gorgeous, crisp, clear day with just one major problem; I couldn't keep up and practically flat-lined by the time we reached the bottom 5 hours later. Our fearless leader, my husband, is 50 but don't let that number fool you - he is fighting fit and bounced up and down the mountain like a rabbit with our tots in close company. Hence the need for me to work on my strength training this new year! At 10 years old our twins are already experienced hikers thanks to this family project The Walking Project. It all started when they were about 2 years old - long walks were a way to wear the little fellas out!


As you can see, it would take a quite a long time to reach our destination ( for example,"let's go from here to the bridge", or "to the park, round the lake, and home") but the idea was instilled early on that they could get anywhere on their own two feet and walking was fun and interesting. Fast forward 8 years and their eyes are already on the next big trek to the top of Table Rock (pictured in the background below) 


We now encouraged them to carry a light weight pack with "necessary" items which, for one of our boys, always includes a little friend...


Here are some tips for getting started at any age:

  • 10 great suggestions here. I like #6 about rotating your leader.
  • Tips on what to pack here. We love wool socks to keep your feet comfy and dry.
  • Love this article from the Hiking Dude blog about food to pack for a day hike and the explanation of calories burned. Even on short hikes or walks, it's nice for children to have a little surprise to keep their spirits lifted like favorite nuts, trail mix with a few M&Ms thrown in, or something new to try for the first time.
Good luck and happy hiking! Have a favorite hike to recommend? Email me @ pluffmudkids@gmail.com

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Colonial Lake cruise - Winter


According to Fitness magazine, "78% of Americans get the Sunday night blues (source: monster.com poll). Fight end-of-weekend anxiety by making Sunday a fun day - enlist a friend for brunch or a run in the park. Schedule something for midweek to; the transition back to work is easier when you have something to look forward to." 

Throw a scooter and a helmet in the car and make a date for some great free exercise at Colonial Lake downtown. You can jog or run while your kids cruise a lap around the lake. Repeat 10 times and you'll all sleep well (even on a Sunday night)!



Colonial Lake
Broad Street
Charleston, SC 29401
click here for directions
Other than a few park benches, there are no amenities
Free on street parking all around the lake- this makes it one of our favorite picks for a quick, free activity

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Pluff Mud Kids Cook - mini chicken pot pies

"As a child my family's menu consisted of two choices: take it or leave it."- Buddy Hackett

Remember this cookbook by Jessica Seinfeld (wife of Jerry Seinfeld) about sneaking veggies into everyday meals for kids? It's a great book and other books have since followed suit dishing up new and inventive ways to attract children to healthy foods. One of my twins used to eat sweet potato until his cheeks glowed orange and then suddenly "gave it up for lent" never to return to the delicious root vegetable, no matter how hard I try to disguise it. I've discovered that one good way to wrap veggies in a clever yummy package is to pop them in a mini pie that's just the right size for a little plate. Gets 'em every time...
Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food

It all starts with this amazing invention ( I bought one for my little brother who is a great pie chef and he in turn gave me one for Christmas). I love this mini pie set! The bottoms pop out of the tin so that each pie comes out clean.


 Now for the recipe...

For the pastry: *when working with pastry, keep everything as cold as possible (including the counter surface) and put the dough in the refrigerator until you are ready to roll it out (I take it out in pieces so that the pastry I'm not working with remains cold). Always flour your counter surface and the rolling pin.

  • 8 oz plain flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 oz butter (cut into squares)
  • 3 oz vegetable shortening
  • 4 Tbls cold water
  • 1 beaten egg for sealing and glazing when pies are prepared
Method: sift the flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut in the butter and shortening with two knives and then work with your fingers until fine crumbs have formed. Then make a well in the center and add water. Mix with a knife and then work to create a ball. Wrap the pastry in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes before using. Slightly different ingredients, but Gordon Ramsey has a great technique here.

For the filling:
  • cooked chicken pieces, shredded or cubed (we usually use leftovers from a roast chicken)
  • 1/4 cup peas
  • 1/4 cup corn
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  •  butter to saute vegetables
  • any other veggies you want to sneak in!
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 Tbls flour mixed with 2 Tbls cream (to thicken)
  • salt and pepper to taste
Method: Saute the celery, carrot, and onion in butter. Add chicken pieces and salt and pepper. Add stock and then flour with cream. Add peas and corn and simmer until thickened. Sometimes I make this the day before so it has time to settle and thicken. 

Now roll out the pastry and use the outer circle to cut the base...


Roll the base slightly larger to fit in the bottom of the pie tin...


Press the base into the tin and pinch the edges...



Now add the filling...


Next, flip the pastry mold and cut out the pie top...


Kids love seeing the pie come together. Glaze the top with beaten egg and bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown...


   Kids also love anything miniature and I think that's why these little pies are so irresistible.  You can use any of your favorite pie fillings and they will devour them! Enjoy...