Thursday, July 31, 2014

Shade Seekers: The Gate Walk revisited

*This is a long post that contains a pictorial mapping of the Gate Walk in downtown Charleston, SC. The walk used to always end for us with an ice cream at Maggie Moos. Times change, and Maggie Moos no longer exists (all else has stood the test of time along the walk!) but Sweet Cece's frozen yogert and juice bar is a fantastic option on Market Street. Cool off and prepare for the walk back! Click here for Pluff Mud Kid's mapmywalk route from 2012. Pick a morning this month for a shady walk downtown... 

Fall... I love the gate walk this time of year. It's quiet - the tourists are few and the students are back to school. Pick a sunny day and try this version of the gate walk...

What is the gate walk? - In 1930, Clelia Peronneau McGowan was the president of the Charleston Garden Club. She traveled to Paris, France and was so inspired by the gorgeous little gardens dotted throughout the city, she returned to Charleston on a quest to recreate that feeling in her own city. The Garden Club posted the sign below, and the whole thing was off and running...

The gate walk is a wonderful walk through the middle of downtown Charleston with a mix of churches, flowers, history, architecture, graveyards, and of course the allure for children to seek out each new gate. It stretches across 3 blocks and is about a mile round trip.

1. Begin by parking in the public garage on Beaufain St. (walk out of the garage directly across from the lovely Leaf restaurant - and bear it in mind for lunch when you finish the walk!). Walk across to Archdale St. and wander up it to the churches of St. John's Lutheran and the Unitarian. (see below)

2. Wander through and explore the cemetery and enjoy the sundial and gorgeous flowers.

3. Walk through the gate and down the lush green alleyway toward King St. (below)

You may even spy a Citadel cadet as you wander along to the next gate.

4. Cross over King St. to the next gate. You will see The Charleston  Library Society on your left (below)...

and to your right, you will spot the horse hitching posts...

5. Follow the alleyway through the next gate to the patio area behind the Gibbes Museum of Art. This is a great spot for a place to run around or take a break. There are tables here and shady spots.

6. Look for this next gate and pass through it to walk along the side of the Gibbes. (below)

7. The Circular Congregational Church pops into view as you cross through another gate and across Meeting St.

8. This graveyard is chock full of Charleston's rich history and tons of funerary art. PMK tip- often, the gate at the back that joins into St. Phillip's Church cemetery is locked... don't panic! Exit through the side gate and stroll up Cumberland St. toward St. Philip's. You will walk past the Powder Magazine - do stop in if you have time, but we usually bypass that and save it for a separate excursion to dedicate enough time to the gate walk. (see below)

9. Turn right off Cumberland onto Church St. and enjoy the two cemeteries at St. Phillip's Church.

10. As you begin the return trip, wander back to Wholly Cow ice cream (formerly Maggie Moos) at 159 Church St. and grab a treat - you've earned it! (*No longer in operation- see the text above at the beginning of this revised post!)

The best part is counting the gates as you go along, so I won't spoil the fun by telling you how many there are! Do take water and snacks and a camera. There are lots of questions to ask along the way; like "what's the difference between a graveyard and a cemetery?" Every time we walk it, it is a new experience.

PMK tips- when my twins were babies, I did take a stroller and could fit it through all the gates, narrow paths and alleyways. It is a good idea even for toddlers because it seems like a long way for them when they turn to trek back.

Click here for Pluff Mud Kid's mapmywalk route from 2012!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

a photo and folly

I love the camaraderie of kids surfing. Captured here, two cousins catch the same wave and one shouts "good job!" while the other turns to give a thumbs up. Folly beach is a great place to surf, fish, and grab lunch -  more scenes from Folly through the eyes of kids...

Folly Beach Island map

McKelvin's Surf Shop

Taco Boy

Folly Beach Pier

Surfing the Washout

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Walk a mile: Botany Bay Collection

We drive along the shady path
in filtered light
We count the steps
to pass away the anticipation
we are told we can touch silver
when we explore this destination
filled with endless collections
shells upon shells
dust off the sand and smooth the surface
stretch high to place each one on a gate of palms
like points on a crown
left behind for a sandpiper king

Botany Bay -You Can't Take It With You by L.A. Sabine

 Botany Bay Plantation - a Heritage Preserve
1066 Botany Bay Rd.
Edisto, SC 29438
Admission: FREE
PMK tips: this is a wildlife preserve, no pets allowed.
The walk from the car park to the beach is 1/2 a mile so plan to take plenty of water and a stroller for little ones. The beach is only accessible by foot and is 2 miles long, stretching between Seabrook Island and Edisto Beach.
You must not remove any "treasures" from the beach. Also be mindful and observe the nesting turtles.
There is so much more to see on the property! 
Check in at the entrance - click here for complete driving tour directions and the map that is provided when you check in.

Monday, July 28, 2014

midnight in the garden and events for kids

Jump the rusted chain link fence on the way home from Dunleavy's Pub and you find there is just barely enough moonlight for summer beach blooms...

the week ahead:

  • Get stocked up for school -SC tax free weekend is here!
  • click here to check out the outdoor movies and music at Kiawah's Freshfields Village
  • Liverpool FC vs AC Milan soccer at Bank of America stadium in Charlotte, NC! - Saturday August 2, 2014 at 6:30pm. click here for tickets
  • The Terrace Theater goes old school this Wednesday July 30th at 11am with Chaplin movies for kids
  • The SC Aquarium kicks off Shark Week on July 31st.
  • An all white garden lights up at night

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Make It Monday - frugal bubbles

Bubbles are a cheap and cheerful form of entertainment for kids of all ages - let your older children mix up this easy concoction for little siblings and friends all summer long. Makes a great gift or party favor!


  • 1 cup dishwashing liquid
  • 1 gallon water
  • 50 drops of glycerin
Mix together and pour into interesting jars - we bought ours at Hobby Lobby and their glycerin is a bargain at $3.99 (it lasts forever). Make your own wands by twisting thin wire and attaching a paper clip (we chose stars). Add glitter (optional). Hours of tipping and pouring, mixing and blowing fun!

Friday, July 25, 2014

around town...

Quick links for the weekend and week ahead... courtesy "the intern"!
She's special to this site, and special to me... welcome to Pluff Mud Kids, my tech  savvy girl! 


road trip conversation

For the past ten years, whenever we take a road trip our twins always drift off to sleep at the same time; heads bobbing to rest on identical sides like mirror visions of one another. It's a twin thing I guess and one of my favorite anticipations of a lengthy car ride. It still makes my heart skip a beat.

Recently, we decided to punch a hole through this pre-planned stay-at-home summer. Customarily we plan a big, long summer trip but this summer it has been a pleasant change to hang around town just taking little day trips. Now it's time to take a little journey. But where to go? The conversation went something like this...

PMK Daddy: "What are your top picks for a summer getaway this year?"

PMK twin one: "It has to have hiking, mountains, BEARS, a lake, a swimming pool, a hot tub, BEARS, camping..."

PMK twin two: "It has to have BEARS, mountains, a pool table, good food, a swimming pool, BEARS, camping, zip lines..."

PMK dog Winston: "BEARS, hiking, afternoon tea..."

PMK Mama: " No bears, no extreme sports, NO DOG- we are not taking the dog, no cooking, no cleaning, no bears, no camping, oh, and no cooking, just to be clear..." 

Off we go- more on the final destination pick at a later date in a new series on Travel with kids. I'll still be posting some fresh (pre written) ideas in the week ahead. Hope you are enjoying your summer and finding time for travels and breaks too!

Top 5 list of PMK readers' getaways this summer:
  1. Washington DC - check out the Spy Museum. We loved it!
  2. California - La Jolla has a kids surf camp.
  3. NYC - Did you know there's a secret whispering gallery in Grand Central Station?!
  4. Disney - Overwhelmed at the thought of booking a trip to Disney? Contact Leslie at locally owned Moments of Magic Travel.
  5. A cruise - one reader recommends Rosewood Tucker's Point in Bermuda right out of Charleston.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Book picks for teens/by teens - Part II

In Part II of our look at what tweens and teens are reading these days, I talked with a few boys this time to get their suggestions for great summer reads. In Part I of these book picks, the girls decidedly leaned to the "end of the world as we know it" side of things. All of their picks were in the realm of dystopian genrethat complete post linked here.

 I was  interested to read author Lois Lowry's  thoughts on the dystopian books she has long lead the charge with, such as The Giver. In this interview by Jade Chang for Good Reads, Lowry shares her concerns that the Hunger Games series plot is based on children killing other children. " Kids seem to be quite blasé about that, but it seems to indicate something deeply wrong with our culture," states Lowry. I was surprised to learn that Lowry shared my sentiment on this although I have heard other teens make similar comments as I've delved into researching why they love the books they love. As you can see in the photo above (taken at the wonderful teen section of the Main Library downtown) of the shelf full of the wildly popular book Divergent, kids seemingly can't get enough of these futuristic reads. 

Does anyone remember reading the short story The Lottery in school? It was assigned reading when I was in the 6th grade and I remember sitting frozen to the seat of my school desk in a state of complete terror after reading this tale. I had never before read anything so dark and I was quite sure the decision to read it in the classroom was a calculated move on the teacher's part as my mother would never have approved. I have never forgotten the story. Author Shirley Jackson, who wrote the tale in 1948, was way ahead of her time and it was controversially published in the New Yorker as an astounding and revelatory read. Along with such authors as Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov, their short stories of futuristic worlds struck a chord with readers like my younger brother and I who enjoyed trying to wrap our minds around a works of science fiction that seemed so frighteningly plausible.

The teen library at the Main Library downtown offers tweens and teens a treasure trove of the very latest books as well as a summer reading program (included in the link) complete with prizes and a cool t-shirt to encourage kids to devour books all summer long... 

Another personal favorite, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, is still in constant demand and is even on our school's current summer reading list...

First up for the fellas, one young man who prefers to remain anonymous, weighs in with some heavy hitting picks on this list of 10 best (he also listed The Hunger Games and Percy Jackson as other favorites). I trust his good judgement as he is an avid reader and that has served him well in the classroom. 

1] Charlie Bone By Jenny Nimmo
       This book follows the life of a boy named Charlie Bone who discovers that his mean grandmother and great aunts are working for his evil Headmaster, Dr. Bloor, and his equally wicked son, Manfred Bloor.  Charlie is endowed with the ability to hear the voices in pictures and sometimes talk to the people they encase.  There have been strange goings on lately in their town and it has to do with Charlie's ancestor, the Red King, who had many abilities that had been passed down from generation to generation.  His father went missing, and Charlie is the only one who has faith in him still being alive. (This book has a sequel, three-quel, quadru-quel, quintu-quel, hexa-quel, hepta-quel, and octa-quel(an 8 book series.)read them all, please.)

2] The Cane Chronicles By Rick Riordan (Series)

3] Crispin and the Cross of Lead By Avi

4] The Last Dragon Chronicles By Chris Delacey (Series)

5] I Funny By James Patterson

6] The Tale of Desperoux By Kate DiCamillo  

7] The Mysterious Benedict Society By Trenton Lee Stewart (Series)

8] CODE By Charles Petzold

9] The Trumpet Of the Swan By Lois Lowry

10] laveideM By Jennifer McFann

Next up, teen Caerwyn offers some fine picks including one you might find surprising for a thirteen year old...

    *photo by kylie sabine for

Caerwyn is currently immersed in Victor Hugo's classic Les Miserables and also sent this list of 5 favorites:

1. Rotten Ruin
2. Hunger Games Series
3. Watership Down
4. Underdogs
5. Divergent

Thank you for your help boys! I'm heading off now to gather up some of these interesting titles - I might just have to read them aloud to my boys so I can hear them too!

*this post dedicated to Mrs. Fredendall and Penny Guy who introduced "Junior Great Books" to a small group of kids who loved to read and to Mrs. Ginny Rothwell long before that.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Charleston Currents feature July 2014

Cool spots for kids that keep summer reading hot
By LEIGH SABINE, contributing editor
Special to Charleston Currents

JULY 21, 2014 -- When a child leaves a grade level behind and summer commences, every parent hopes the child will somehow retain enough vital knowledge to enter the next grade level on a strong foothold.
Schools assign a summer reading list to encourage children to keep their minds as active as their bodies and we are fortunate to have a wonderful public library summer reading program that supports this aim.
For the last eight years, we at Pluff Mud Kids have been fans of the summer library reading initiative and have found other local venues that offer creative reading areas for children as well. By supporting these local booksellers we find bargain books and help with age appropriate selections thus keeping small businesses with inviting reading spaces alive and well in our community.
Browsing books allows children to discover for themselves what's popular with their peers as well as leafing through selections their parents or grandparents may have enjoyed as kids. Herewith, a list of bookshops and libraries we have grown particularly fond of with special consideration for children. After all, whether you cuddle up and read aloud to your child or they settle into a book on their own, reading is a wonderful retreat on a hot summer day! (All of the locations listed here are featured on in the archives under "Books" and/or "Library." Check out our reviews.)
These spaces all offer their own special twist on book nooks for kids of all ages:
  • Charleston County Library Summer Reading Program. This year, the program is titled "Fizz, Boom, Read" and is designed for children aged 11 and under. Sign up and log reading hours to receive prizes. (Your child is also entered for a chance to win a grand prize.) This program really helps motivate and inspire children to read a lot and be accountable for keeping track of their reading time over the summer months. The program runs through August 10 -- just in time for school to pick up and keep the ball rolling. Teens in grades 6 to 12 can get in on the action with this summer's "Spark a Reaction" reading program, which rewards prizes as well as a graphic T-shirt. This is a FREE program.
  • The Charleston Library Society and the Timrod Library. Both of these libraries are steeped in history and charm and are by membership only. The Charleston Library Society is located in downtown Charleston and the Timrod library is in Summerville. These private libraries offer unique, cozy reading areas for children with many titles that are no longer in print and are hard to find making this a sweet option for grandparents who enjoy summer reading with old favorites. Passing their enthusiasm on to emerging readers is an incredible tool in terms of inspiring avid reading habits.

  • NEWLY RENOVATED. Blue Bicycle Books recently completed an extensive renovation of its King Street space, which included updating a kids' reading room. The bookstore, which opened in 1995, has in the past housed a print shop, ophthalmologist's office and deli. Photo provided, by Lauren Sanchez Design.
    Blue Bicycle Books, 420 King St., Charleston. Owner and author Jonathan Sanchez has recently redesigned this bookshop to include a beautiful space just for young children (complete with teepee!) This creative bookshop features "used, rare, and local" books and you can always find something intriguing here for readers of all ages.
  • A Very Little Bookstore, 112 S. Main St., Summerville. This delightful bookshop is just for kids with a well chosen array of books that encourage reading at an early age. Little ones can sit and sample a book in a cozy space that's not quite as overwhelming as a big library or bookstore can be, making the selection process a little easier.
  • Indigo Books, 472 Freshfields Dr., Johns Island. This little bookshop is perfect for grabbing a beach read and has a fantastic section for children that offers activity books, chapter books, and unique picture books for children of all ages. There are also cards and wrapping paper here for one-stop shopping for gifts for children who love to read.
  • Mr. K's Used Books, 5070 International Blvd., North Charleston, as well as locations in four other cities including Greenville. If no one told you this was a used book store, you would never know it. This huge, immaculate, well-organized space specializes in gently used books, comics, DVDs, CDs, and much more all at low prices. Trade your used books in for new titles and keep the reading bug alive! We love the children's corner here and have had good luck in finding school summer reading list books at rock bottom prices. Allow plenty of time to have a lengthy look around.
All of these local bookshops and reading spaces are featured in stories on with more entries to come. Enjoy your summer reading!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Got treacle? More on Nanna's cakes...

"Take nothing on it's looks; take everything on evidence. There's no better rule."
-Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

It's difficult to stay thin and trim with a Nanna like ours. British to the bone, she comes from a long line of cake makers (her father was a "chef du cuisine" in the army in England).  You can't just look at her creations, you have to try them just to be sure they are what they appear to be. I can tell you one thing and that is that she has never, ever made anything from a box. Drop by Nanna's on any given day and you may find...

a "simple sponge cake" she serves with tea.

You never know what delight may be wrapped in a tea towel to keep it moist...

This treacle (a British term for molasses) cake was from an old recipe she rediscovered and it was outstanding. I mean, where do you even get treacle? She served it with tea and lashings of real butter, proving that nothing has changed since Miss Havisham's tea times with Pip when it comes to a proper tea. I suppose you could say "no, thank you", but forget about it - it's just too good! That's what a Nanna does best and we sure are lucky to have her. Long live the Queen... and Pluff Mud Kid Nanna!

click here for Jamie Oliver's amazing Queen Victoria Sponge cake recipe - we love this website!

 even better - Jamie Oliver's video on how to make a really basic sponge cake.

 Jamie Oliver's treacle cake recipe