Friday, February 28, 2014

Atalaya - a love story

In the coming weeks I plan to share some fresh ideas for Spring Break options in South Carolina that kids will love.  Spring Break adventure #1 - Atalaya at Huntington Beach State Park...

If you've never been to Atalaya, this is one destination that's perfect for roaming with kids - wide open spaces and nothing to break! Just over an hour (80 miles) from Charleston in Murrells Inlet, SC, Atalaya is a huge value add in gaining a new perspective and deeper appreciation for our home by the sea.

Atalaya is located within the grounds of Huntington Beach State Park on land that was gifted to us by the late Mr. and Mrs. Archer Huntington along with the enormous property we know and love called Brookgreen Gardens. Archer Huntington, jilted by his first wife, met and married Anna Hyatt late in life when he was fifty-four. Huntington was the heir of a railroad magnate and used his vast fortune in part to create museum spaces so the mass public could enjoy the art and culture he and his wife thrived on. Huntington sought to create a winter home in the south where he and Anna (a renowned sculptor most known for El Cid in New York and the fighting stallions sculpture at Brookgreen Gardens in SC to name a few of her incredible works) could create art and poetry far from the buzz of the city. The couple made many trips from New York to SC in a glorified Greyhound bus to speck out these parcels of land and slowly carve out the grounds we enjoy today. A home by the sea and an "escape from New York" were exactly what the Huntingtons envisioned when they designed and built their South Carolina getaway they called Atalaya ( a Spanish term for "watch tower" ).

Archer Huntington probably didn't care much about what you or I would think of the dwelling as it was built with a purpose beyond the aesthetic appeal. To Huntington, Atalaya represented a fortress. When Huntington was young, his family lost a home in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire that resulted in Huntington's life long fear of fire and so he aimed to design a structure that was both fire and hurricane protected. Atalaya was also designed for lighting the right areas for sculpting. The home also housed a menagerie of animals so that Anna could further study their form and anatomy to create more realistic sculpture. To you and I, Atalaya is certainly austere and bland on the outside, but walk through to the inner courtyard and you will be enchanted by Huntington's nod to his love of Spanish culture and his vision for creating a very unique space from basic brick and mortar.  

The Huntington's were happy here which perhaps contributes to the fact that Archer lived into his eighties and Anna was nearly one hundred. They were doing something right. I love the fact that their generosity touched everything they did...

(source: a plaque from the wall of Atalaya)

The following poem written by Archer Huntington for Anna Huntington can be seen on the wall in the garden at his beloved Brookgreen Gardens...

The man had a way with words, didn't he? His poetic expression of his undying love for his wife is not the only thing that won my heart. He loved and wrote poetry with devotion and a brave certainly in his writing. He so loved his wife that he gave her numerous homes and plantation grounds to inspire her sculpture and art (Atalaya is but one). He gave away land and money to enhance the communities he dwelled in and lastly, he shunned self-promotion and valued his privacy above all else (he never gave an interview in his lifetime). There was also the added bonus that he wasn't exactly hard on the eyes, kept his financial affairs in apple pie order, and had a keen intellect. With Archer Huntington there was much to admire.

Allow yourself at least an hour here to wander the rooms of Atalaya and get a sense of what the Huntington's were all about. I wish I had discovered Atalaya before I got to know Brookgreen Gardens as it really reflects the hearts and minds of the people who gave us these beautiful spaces.

*You could spend the night at Atalaya March 29th-30th, 2014 at the Atalaya Sleepover!

Huntington Beach State Park
16148 Ocean HWY
Murrells Inlet, SC 29576
click here for a great map and description of the site
*no pets allowed
There is a $2 admission fee to Atalaya (children 5 and under free) in addition to the park entry fee: $5 adult, $3.25 senior, $3 age 6-15, free 5 and younger. 

sources:, Archer Huntington and the Hispanic Society: A Centennial Celebration by James F. Cooper, The Remarkable Huntingtons: Chronicle of a Marriage by Mary Mitchell and Albert Goodrich, The Torch Bearers by A.M. Huntington, A Flight of Birds by A.M. Huntington, and thanks to Brookgreen Gardens and Atalaya  

Thursday, February 27, 2014

catch the leprechaun!

It's almost that time again... Catch the Leprechaun 5k run on Thursday March 13th at 6:30pm in Mt. Pleasant at the Memorial Waterfront Park. This fun 5k run benefits Pattison's Academy. The course runs from the Park to Patriot's Point area and back - a nice, easy 3 mile run for the whole family!

click here for all the details!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

sound and foam

"But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home."
- Alfred Tennyson

Sullivan's Island evening run

*Did you miss the space station fly-over last night? You have more chances to see it in the Charleston sky! Thanks to reader R.W. for these great links...

these are days - live from a walking tour of downtown Charleston,SC

"These are days you'll remember. Never before and never since, I promise will the whole world be as warm as this."
- from These Are Days, Natalie Merchant

73 degrees is a gorgeous temperature to roam the streets of downtown Charleston on a history walking tour. These are days... days to savor this warm sun and breezy air. We are right on the cusp of the most spectacular days in the Lowcountry. What better time to wander downtown and learn a bit more about this place we call home. Many thanks to Tina Farrell for organizing the tour and to Sid Shingler for packing in a fine walk and a ton of information. Some quick highlights: Did you know the hymn 'Amazing Grace' by John Newton was inspired by a sermon heard in the Circular Congregational Church? Wander to White Point Gardens on the Battery and read about the pirates and cannons there. More to come on the blog in the coming weeks - downtown is a great spot to investigate with kids if you're in town for Spring Break.

I've lived in Charleston for more than 16 years and every time I take a tour of anywhere local it deepens my connection to this heavenly home. 


Monday, February 24, 2014

Extra! Extra! 7:40pm tonight

From the rooftop of the College of Charleston Observatory in downtown Charleston this past Friday night we learned that something special is happening tonight right over our heads. At 7:40pm you will see the Space Station transiting across the Charleston night sky for about 4 minutes before it disapears into cloud. Head outside and check it out!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Make It Monday- Meatloaf

"Onions, carrots, and celery are the basis of everything. If you have those 3 things, you're half way to anything."
- Pluff Mud Kids Nanna 

Meatloaf = no left overs. It's simple and easy and never, ever fails as a crowd-pleaser. Chop your ingredients very finely and you can hide all sorts of goodness inside that your little chickadees will never even realize or question.

Gather the ingredients listed below and start to teach your little ones to chop at a young age. I've also loved this little chopper for years ( Pluff Mud Kids Nanna gave it to me for making baby food)...


You really have to make meatloaf with your hands. After each ingredient is added, get in there and really mix them together with your hands...


  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 large carrot
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1/2 green pepper
  • 1 lb minced beef
  • 2 Tbls ketchup
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 3 slices of bread, crumbled
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Finely chop the first four ingredients. Put the minced beef in a large mixing bowl and gradually add all other ingredients, adding the beaten egg last. Shape the meatloaf and place it in a loaf tin and cook for 1 hour uncovered or until cooked through. (put 2 Tbls water in the bottom of the loaf tin to keep the bottom from sticking and to keep the meatloaf moist.) Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes before slicing.

Simple. Easy. Done!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Family Run: Race & Roast 2014 for East Cooper Land Trust

Race n Roast banner image

It's oyster roast season. What could be better than oysters and beer, an easy 5k trail fun run for the whole family, and a gorgeous Lowcountry day? The other thing I love about this event is that it raises awareness and funds to preserve the land we love through benefiting the East Cooper Land Trust. And one last thing... this is a great run as you pave your road to preparing for the Cooper River Bridge Run - every run you can put on the calendar from now until April helps to keep you on the fast track! Oh, and did I mention the massive oyster roast party at the finish line?

  Oysters, oysters...

What were we talking about again? Oh yeah, running. I was talking about running and this upcoming run is one you should not miss! 

Sunday, March 2nd 2014

12:30 until 4:00 pm

at Oakland Plantation

Want more upcoming fun 5k runs for the family? One of our favorites is coming in March. The 2014 Leprechaun 5k is March 13th more here.

* So much goodness for children on the blog next week including highlights from the planetarium, notes about Boy Scouts, the beautiful Atalaya, walking downtown, more on the Leprechaun run, and meatloaf for dinner!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Life and Art in Charleston 107- creative kids inspiring peers

"I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free."

Sometimes the best way to inspire children is to show them the creativity in the minds of their peers. We could not believe the ideas that grew from these simple assignments - draw a duck, make a birdhouse. The longer you linger and really look, the more you stand in awe of what can be created out of a few materials and a lot of imagination. On display now at the Main Library on Calhoun St. in downtown Charleston:

The 2014 SEWE Kids For Conservation Birdhouse Competition featuring art by 9th-12th graders in Berkeley and Charleston Counties: Here are some of our favorites...

-coke can octopus  

- tin can owl

-paint sample whale 

-sheet music piano

Also at the library, paintings and drawings by students from schools around the state featuring winning artists in the duck stamp competition ( some as young as five years old - amazing!)

Tune in next week for our favorite art classes and camps in the area.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Life and Art in Charleston 106: spontaneous art walk

This afternoon we decided to put homework on hold in favor of enjoying one of the most beautiful days the Lowcountry has offered up in some time. We heard about a contest for kids downtown this week and decided to take an afternoon art walk along Broad St. It all started with a stop at Spencer Art Gallery to participate in "Name the Gorilla" contest. From now till this Friday February 21st participants can suggest a name for this Rwandan Silverback Gorilla (and guess whether it's male or female) photographed by travel photographer Harv Greenberg...

The winner will receive a 20" x 30" photo print of the Gorilla. You can stop in and vote at the gallery located at 55 Broad St. or enter online at the photographer's link here.  Good luck kids!

Next, a pit stop to refuel at Normandy Farm Bakery on Broad St...

followed by a backwards walk along Rainbow Row (why? Because they're 10 year old boys!) 

Last stop, Hazel Parker Playground for the perfect ending to an afternoon downtown...

*Check back tomorrow for more art for kids downtown!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Four special events for families available for limited time only 
By LEIGH SABINE, contributing editor
Special to Charleston Currents

"There is nothing like returning to a place unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered."

-- Nelson Mandela
FEB. 17, 2014 -- In the coming months, you'll find special events all across the state for the whole family that are available for only a limited time. The purpose of Pluff Mud Kids blog is to capture and highlight some of these fantastic opportunities for kids to experience something big.
On the surface, many events that seem geared to adults can also be a perfect way to include your child in a teachable moment. The events listed here may only be offered for a limited time each year but your child will reap the benefits of learning something new by returning year after year.
Spoleto Festival USA and Piccolo Spoleto: Once a year in downtown Charleston, Spoleto fills the streets and venues throughout the end of May and early June. There are many Piccolo Spoleto offerings that give children a chance to observe other children perform as artists and musicians. These casual performances are a great way for little ones to approach the arts and come away inspired to perhaps play an instrument themselves.
I first attended a Spoleto ballet with my boys when they were 3 and every year since we have looked forward to studying the calendar of events that arrives in the mail. In this way, you and your child can pick one main event to attend that sounds exciting. Get dressed up and make it a memorable occasion each year.
Our pick this year? "A Simple Space - Gravity and Other Myths" is the American premiere of Australian acrobats that will be sure to please 10-year-old boys! Each year, my boys come away in silent awe of what the human body is capable of through the experience of dance, art, and music.
Artfields: Like Spoleto, Artfields in an offering of new and unique expressions of art, music, and beauty in common objects reinvented. Located in Lake City, Artfields is now in its second year and completely takes over this little town transforming into a huge open venue for the whole family to enjoy.
You will need to arrive early and allow an entire day to take in all the exhibits. Pluff Mud Kids visited twice last year and especially enjoyed actively voting on their favorite art, helping to spray paint a mural wall art installation open to the public, eating their way around town, and soaking in the quaintness of the town itself. Click here for last year's post highlights and information. 
Spider Lilies at Landsford Canal State Park: As you will see from last year's posted highlights (click here), the famed spider lilies that bloom here each year just outside Rock Hill are elusive and that makes the adventure all the more special.
There is a finite window of time to witness the incredible bloom of these perennial bulbs that cover the canals in this state park. You can even get out on the water for a closer perspective (detailed on the blog post). I recommend calling ahead to check on the river conditions and the state of the lilies in bloom as the time approaches to make your visit a success. This is also a great place to hike and picnic with an easy trail for young children.
The College of Charleston Observatory: There are only two opportunities left to peer through the telescopes provided during the College of Charleston Observatory's public open houses before the doors are closed at the Hollings Science Center for several years for renovation.
Volunteers are on hand to answer all the questions parents may otherwise have to Google later making this the perfect way to introduce your child to the amazing night sky. For an excellent description of what the open house is all about, click here.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

SEWE 2014 highlights: sit. stay. FLY!

We have a child who is obsessed with dogs... always has been. We surprised him on Saturday with a visit to SEWE dockdogs. Heralding "the only two tank Dockdogs event east of the Mississippi", this event showcases dogs of all breeds and skill level hurling themselves high in the air to compete for distance. Afterwards, we headed over to King St. to see the art exhibits at the Charleston Place Hotel and Marion Square was full of SEWE activities for kids too. If you missed it this year, mark your calendars for next year. A beautiful waterfront venue, lots to see and do, and kids are FREE. 

Check out this fella's sweet, worried face!

He made it! Thanks for a gorgeous day, DockDogs!

Friday, February 14, 2014

happy little Valentine's: notes from readers

I'm a sucker for anything homemade. Thanks to readers who sent in pictures of their kids hard at work! From Spirograph art to stickers and handwritten notes... 

 The boxes never change from one decade to the next - always fantastic and a looong process for little hands...

And finally, I loved this kit from Texas. Little Jonah chose to support The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and make a difference with his Valentine's cards. Very cool project.

Have a great Valentine weekend!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Valentine, Valentine: what's it really for?

To me, Valentine's Day should be left just as it was centuries ago - just a card or a little love note. I love the sentiment behind the original idea of sharing (openly or anonymously) a small gesture to let someone know you love them. Without the gifts and candy and flowers... just a note. It's a great way to show kids how important it is to take time out to cherish the ones we love. Take time to honor your dear friends...

Those people who stand on the sidelines and cheer on your life's endeavors. Friends like these two who came out on the coldest, wettest day to boat to a lonely little island and hike. What would we do without the love and commitment of our friends? Take a minute to honor fellow moms (and dads) who inspire you and keep you going with their friendship and kindness. Valentine's Day is for all kinds of love.

I have to take a rare moment to share a glimpse of the ghost of this blog. The ever-elusive, camera shy, true force behind the scenes - my Valentine. 20 years ago we arrived in Australia with just two big suitcases and a tent to our name. Years later we arrived here in Charleston with the same gear and little else save a big belief in us. He makes this blog and all our adventures possible with a hearty enthusiasm. He is the best of the best. All my love and many thanks!  

Drift Charleston
(t-shirt from Drift surf shop located in Mt. Pleasant at 1440 Ben Sawyer Blvd. I love this shop and you have to check out the jewelry made by the owner - beautiful)

Enjoy your Valentine's Day - be open to receiving and sending out love. Just love.

click here for more on the history of Valentine's Day

There's more for families to love in Charleston:

  • You can't go wrong with homemade heart shaped pizzas for a Valentine dinner or head to kid friendly  Monza for a seriously great pizza.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

puppy love in Charleston: SEWE 2014

Pluff Mud Kids dog Winston is taking over the blog today to highlight his favorite upcoming Charleston event: The Southeastern Wildlife Exposition featuring daily DockDog competitions all day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday this weekend. Winston's not the only fan - kids absolutely love the spectacle of this event. Located down at Brittlebank park on the waterfront, you and your kids will be amazed at how these dogs fly. Perhaps old faithful here could learn a thing or two... according to one commentator at the Westminster Dog Show, the Portuguese Water Dogs are a "manipulative" breed. A very diplomatic way of saying "once purchased, they will rule your life for the rest of their days". Some notable friends from Winston's pack...

Meet Gerry. That's Gerry with a "G". Recently found in a litter under a car on Folly Beach and lovingly rescued. He really hit the jackpot with two devoted owners. It was love at first sight the first time I met him. Next up, Josie the wonder dachshund. Not a great pick for this weekend's distance dock jumping, but she's absolute dachshund perfection in our book.

And the lovely Roxy who has put herself in a self-imposed time-out here after wolfing down some Valentine treats. Nice work, Roxy...

Don't own a dog? Come out to SEWE this weekend for your chance to enjoy all breeds of dog. You also have a chance to meet animal expert Jack Hanna ( pictured here with Pluff Mud Kids at the Columbus Zoo in Ohio a while back)...

You can purchase tickets to this weekend's events at any of the visitor centers listed here. Check out the link here for all ticketing prices and information. (Jack Hanna tickets are a separate $10 purchase and not included in general admission tickets). I highly recommend the Jack Hanna show as he is very engaging and has decades of knowledge and enthusiasm to share with kids regarding animals.  

*Thanks for the photo op, Mr. Hanna and to 3 great PMK readers for sharing their dogs with us!)