Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Developmental Duffle

"There's an app for that." One of the most used (or over-used?) catch phrases of this decade suggests that there is a high tech application for just about everything we do. You can pull up an app for running, tip calculating, and quick Spanish phrases, but is there an app for every child's developmental milestones? Every child needs tangible manipulatives as they work their way from one stage of development to the next. There's no app for that! 

Former school psychologist Olivia Daniel spent years developing a resource for parents that really works - the ultimate "busy bag" for gathering together materials that enhance your child's development. Her creation, Developmental Duffle , allows you to select a duffle bag filled with manipulatives specific to your child's age and stage. You can even build your own bag on the company's website to incorporate items you will use the most. This is a fantastic tool for children with special learning needs, families with multi-age children, and preschool settings. Pack a special Developmental Duffle for your next trip! The bright orange bag (pictured bellow with PMK friend Rose) is very appealing to children and easy to organize to tote your favorite learning games.  

Meet Ryder. This little ball of energy surprised me with his early grasp of the alphabet. This magnetic uppercase letter board held Ryder's attention for a long time. The board (link here) allows the child to trace the letters with a magnet that pulls balls to the surface while the flip side of the stylus erases the action. This is one of my favorite items on the Developmental Duffle menu and I think every preschool should stock loads of these.

Developmental Duffles are packed with fun, with items like the mask kit I mentioned on the blog last week. A great gift idea! 

*this post sponsored by Developmental Duffle, all opinions are my own. We love this company!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Make It Monday - The King of Bread

Today's post compiled  to the sounds of  The Time Being, Steve Kilby

My younger brother is a jack of all trades. He's one of those people who can do just about anything through sheer determination and teaching himself how. By practice and trial and error, he has perfected the art of homemade bread. It's all about technique; in the rising process and the kneading of the dough. He even makes his own yeast! Give him a decent beer and his creativity is off and running...

Use this amazing bread recipe and tutorial from Farmgirl Fare. Print it out and read through it several times before you have a go at it yourself!

PMK brother tips:

  • 2 lb bags of King Arthur flour are great for bread making
  • Consider buying a Danish dough hand whisk like this one.
  • "Shaggy dough" ( as pictured here ) refers to the consistency you seek when kneading bread dough.
  • "Autolyse" refers to the enzyme break down in the rising processes, as detailed in this great article.  
  • You can buy a giant measuring bowl (like the one pictured above) from a restaurant supply store like Berlins here in Charleston. 
The Danish dough hook and homemade yeast

With all the additives and preservatives in processed breads, I'm beginning to think I may just have to set aside some time each week to delve into learning this bread making technique! (there are now 25 hours in the day, right?!)

Many thanks to The King of Bread - love ya, bro!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Fall favorites for little ones

Here are our top three picks for pre-Halloween Fall reading for young children... accompanied by a new Fall favorite, Twinings Pumpkin Spice Chai tea. So good. 

Pumpkins by Ken Robbins is a stunning book of photography that depicts the lifespan of Halloween's beloved pumpkin. This book always finds it's way off our shelf every year - perfect for all ages.

Two long standing favorites with preschoolers, these books will make you want to drive north in search of colorful leaves!

Spice up your storytelling and "foster cooperative creativity" with these beautiful masks for story times just in time for Halloween. Thank you to the folks at Developmental Duffle ( a local company on Daniel Island ) for sending these over. We are excited to share more from this brilliant company here on the blog next week. In the meantime,check out their website to learn more about Developmental Duffle's unique concept. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Boo at the Zoo

*image source: telegraph.co.uk

Boo at the Zoo is coming to Riverbanks Zoo Columbia, SC October 17 - 30, 2014! (check the link for details. This event is followed up by the great Pumpkin Smash on November 8, 2014 (check the magazine link below for details and membership info).

check out the online member magazine here

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Shade Seekers: Peaceful Hampton Park

If the rain ever stops... One leafy, green patch of Charleston offers shade and beautiful spaces to exercise and play all year round. Located in the center of downtown Charleston, Hampton Park offers over 60 acres of maintained walking paths, a running and biking "track" that rings the park, benches in the shade of beautiful live oaks and many other species of trees, and a pond with a fountain centerpiece. Free from the worries of traffic, this is a boundless play space for children of all ages. 

  • Be sure to visit the gazebo surrounded by a garden of roses.
  • Read this article about the statue dedicated to Denmark Vesey, a historical figure in Charleston with a controversial story. The statue is located near the gazebo and can make for an interesting part of a scavenger hunt.
  • Make time to find the bridge over the pond - kids love it!
  • Pluff Mud Kids highly recommend taking a picnic. There are endless perfect spots to have a snack in the shade here.

Click here for Charleston Parks Conservancy's map, details, and directions

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Travel: Horse Riding in the Great Smoky Mountains (Part III)

This blog project is very much a sideline, slow as molasses effort. Subject to the calamities of life and raising children, I work on it when and where I can, so the end result is this intermittent feed of info about the Smoky Mountains. It will likely take 5 or 6 posts to spoon feed all the info on Washington, DC, for example! Thank you for your patient reading - I hope we eventually hit on the cities that interest you most in terms of travel with kids!   

*image courtesy Smoky Mountain Riding Stables. They match you to your horse - so why does mine look like a forlorn donkey?

Despite the fact my particular horse was literally a pain in the bum and just about as difficult as he could possibly be, riding in the Smokies was one of the most enjoyable things we did as a family on our week of adventure in these stunning mountains. Smoky Mountain Riding Stables in Gatlinburg, Tennessee provide everything you need and the privacy of your own family tour. Children 5 years and older can ride their own horse with instruction and a guide. We highly recommend this professional company and their great group of guides.

With respect to full disclosure, the guide was hopping off here to check out the mother bear and cub in the woods and make sure the horses were ok (not kidding). I promise these guides know what they're doing (don't let the bears dissuade you)!

*image source: Smoky Mountain Riding Stables

Smoky Mountain Riding Stables
1720 E Pkwy, Gatlinburg, TN 37738
(865) 436-5634

*Linking with Part I and Part II in PMK series on the Great Smoky Mountains

Sunday, September 21, 2014

snapshot from the 43rd annual Scottish Highland Games, Charleston

Amid big kilts and little kilts of every clan's plaid, Boone Hall Plantation is always the perfect backdrop for the Charleston Scottish Highland Games. The rain held off and we sat back with a hot cup of Scottish tea alongside the marsh as a cool breeze carried across these historic fields. The constant hum of pipers and drummers buzzed all day as cabers were tossed and sheep were herded; all judged carefully for perfection. Long-established Cameron's British Foods always provides the most excellent fish and chips, authentic meat pies, scotch eggs, and Shepard's pies to round out a very relaxing day. Put it on your calendar for next year!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Never May the Fruit Be Plucked

Never, never may the fruit be plucked from the bough
And gathered into barrels.
He that would eat of love must eat it where it hangs.
Though the branches bend like reeds,
Though the ripe fruit splash in the grass or wrinkle on the tree,
He that would eat of love may bear away with him
Only what his belly can hold,
Nothing in the apron,
Nothing in the pockets.
Never, never may the fruit be gathered from the bough
And harvested in barrels.
The winter of love is a cellar of empty bins,
In an orchard soft with rot.
- Never May the Fruit Be Plucked by Edna St. Vincent Millay 

"Mama, is it weird that we read poetry sometimes?"

"Probably to some people. If we don't read it then it will be forgotten."

"Then there was no point in writing it in the first place."

"Exactly. Read whatever you want to read."

Banned Books Week  is next week. Check out this comprehensive list of banned books.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Nivens Apple Farm - highlights from the apple festival

Re-posting this look at last year's Apple Festival at Niven's Farm which will be held again this Saturday, September 20 from 10am to 6pm... it's a great weekend for picking apples!

Nivens Farm Apple Festival was... a 1/2 bushel of apples, Wilbur the pig, the bluegrass sounds of Grassfire, a breeze through an epic corn maze. Good old fashioned fun. 

Nivens Apple Farm
130 Orchard Dr.
Moore, SC
click here for Nivens Apple Farm

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Ecosse: should I stay or should I go now?

Should I stay or should I go now?
Should I stay or should I go now?
If I go there will be trouble
An' if I stay it will be double
- from "Should I stay or should I go?" by The Clash

*image source: pacificworld.com 

Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, formerly bonded as the United Kingdom's  "Home Countries", will undergo a major shake up today as Scotland votes on the issue of breaking free and securing their own independence. Curious to learn more about the Scottish culture? The 43rd annual Scottish Games and Highland Gathering is this weekend Saturday, September 20 from 9am to 5pm at Boone Hall Plantation offering a chance to sample traditional foods, hear authentic bagpipe bands, and witness the amazing border collies. A great way to spend an afternoon with kids!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Charleston Currents September 2014 Feature

It's fun to run and walk with the whole family
By LEIGH SABINE, contributing editor
Special to

SEPT. 15, 2014 -- Years ago when our twins were still in a jogger stroller, our family began participating in charitable running and walking events all around the Lowcountry. 

Columnist Leigh Sabine and her 10-year-old son Aiden are pictured at the finish line of the Isle of Palms Connector Run. Photo provided.
Over the years, we have progressed from strolling to jog/walking to actually slowly running 5K and 10K runs as a family. These events have come to mean so much more than just a means of exercising together. We have developed a sense of continuity through annual participation in our favorite events and created a sense of purpose in the work of training for events.

Walking, jogging, and running with young children are great ways to inspire a lifelong respect for exercise. The camaraderie of charitable 5K "fun runs" and walks can add other teachable moments to the activity in terms of community awareness, compassion, and goal setting. A child's self-esteem gets a boost from the accomplishment of preparing for and completing a group event as well. All of these factors combine to make going the distance over time a positive influence on a child's life.

So here is a list of some (and by no means all) of the charitable walks and runs the Lowcountry has to offer. Many of these events provide a separate course or distance just for young children and these are often held the day preceding the event. These kid-friendly special events are a great way to get your child starting on a path to running longer distances.

Crossbridge 5K/10K Pancake Run -- Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014, at 8 a.m. Event site: Laurel Hill Plantation, Mount Pleasant. Benefitting Crossbridge Family Ministries. PMK note: A gorgeous plantation venue.
Isle of Palms Connector Run and Walk for the Child ** -- Oct. 4, 2014, at 8 a.m. Event site: Isle of Palms Connector, Isle of Palms. Benefitting Lowcountry Children's Causes. PMK note: This is a great event for families with strollers.
Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure ** -- Oct. 18, 2014, at 8 a.m. Event site: Family Circle Stadium, Daniel Island. Benefitting breast cancer research. PMK note: This is a beautiful course through residential Daniel Island.
Turkey Day Run -- Nov. 27, 2014, at 9 a.m. Event site: downtown Charleston. Benefitting numerous area charities annually.
Reindeer Run -- Dec. 6, 2014. Event site: downtown Charleston. Benefitting MUSC Children's Hospital. PMK note: This one is really for the whole family and your dog too!
Kiawah Island Marathon and Half Marathon ** -- Dec. 13, 2014, at 8 a.m. Event site: Kiawah Island. Benefitting the Kiawah Conservancy. PMK note: This one's just for moms and dads, folks! A great event for children to come out and cheer their parents to the finish line.
Charleston Marathon Shrimp and Grits 5K ** -- Jan. 17, 2015, at 8 a.m. Event site: Park Circle, North Charleston. Benefitting Youth Endowment For The Arts. PMK note: This is an annual family favorite! Check the website for other youth-related activities at this event.
Catch The Leprechaun 5K ** -- March 12, 2015, at 6:30 p.m. Event site: Memorial Waterfront Park, Mt. Pleasant. Benefitting Pattison's Academy. PMK note: This is always a beautiful, family-friendly run along Patriot's Point.
Cooper River Bridge Run ** -- March 28, 2015, at 8 a.m. Event Site: Cooper River Bridge, Mt. Pleasant and downtown Charleston. Benefitting 16 local area charities. PMK note: Check the website for options for children running and walking.
Postpartum Support Charleston Mom's Run and Family Fun Day -- May 9, 2015. Event site: Blackbaud Stadium, Daniel Island. Benefitting Postpartum Support Charleston.
  • A note on registration fees: Set aside an annual budget and select events that mean the most to your family. Always register early to ensure you catch the lowest registration rate as most event fees go up as the event date approaches.
  • An exercise note: As with any exercise regimen, always check with your doctor and pediatrician to set appropriate goals. Wearing the right clothing and good quality running/walking shoes can make a huge difference in your child's comfort level. Make sure to check frequently that a child's shoes fit comfortably and change out running shoes as they wear out. Here is a link for information about testing the shelf life of your running shoes.
**Denotes events PluffMudKids have participated in. Check out run highlights in the "runs" archives at pluffmudkids.com.
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, September 14, 2014

Make It Monday: muy caliente peppers, pepper jelly no muy picante

So my Spanish is probably all wrong, but you get the gist - we planted the wrong peppers! They were too hot to handle and I had to step back and ponder what in the world to do with bushels of crazy hot peppers. Problem solved when we came up with this great pepper jelly recipe. It really takes the heat out and "sets up" so nicely because apples are a great natural pectin to use as the basis for any jams or jellies - a great after school snack.  Sometimes sweet silver linings come from what can first appear to be a disaster! Such a yummy recipe and great on toast or with cream cheese too.

*this is a two day process, so it's a good weekend project...

Step 1:

  • 1 1/2 lb Granny Smith apples, chopped with skin on
  • 6 cups cold water
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3 hot chile peppers ( I also added 3 mild peppers from a friend)
  • small pat of butter
You will also need:
  • a mixing bowl, sieve, and large square of cheese cloth
  • jam jars
Step 2:
  • Put all the chopped apple in a large pot or preserving pan and boil in 6 cups of cold water. Simmer for 40 minutes on a low heat until the apples are cooked down and soft. Remove from the heat and mash with a potato masher.
  • Place a sieve over a mixing bowl and line it with cheese cloth (pictured below)
  • Spoon the apple into the sieve and allow the juices to drain through overnight.
  • Next day: You should have 4 to 6 cups of apple juice. Pour the juice into a large pot and add the sugar and lemon juice. Bring to a rapid boil and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add the pat of butter to reduce residue. 
  • Continue to boil and stir for 18 to 20 minutes - check for the setting point by placing a tsp full on a plate and drag your finger through it (it should separate on the plate).
  • Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Add your finely chopped chile flakes and stir them in well. Ladle into hot jam jars and sterilize (see tutorial below).
PMK tips:
  • When it's time to rapid boil the jam, send the kids out to play - they don't need to be anywhere near that big pot, no matter how tempting to help stir!
  • Mince the peppers as finely as humanly possible - better yet, use an electric chopper.
  • Don't rush the apple juice process - let it soak through overnight. This will ensure a crystal clear jelly!
  • Always sterilize your canning jars before using and here's a great tutorial on hot water bathing your filled jars. I promise it's not a difficult process!

Friday, September 12, 2014

the great ocean tank - by the numbers

      Sit for a dive show at the SC Aquarium and have a fact-packed 20 minutes of relaxation:
  1. The great ocean tank is 42 feet deep - not the largest, but the deepest in North America.
  2. There are 365,000 gallons of water in the great ocean tank.
  3. There are 750 animals in the tank. 13 of those are sharks.
  4. There is a time-out box for the loggerhead turtle to hang out and snack in while the sharks are feeding. For the protection of the turtle? No! So she doesn't steal the sharks food!
*facts compiled by Pluff Mud Kid twins, age 10 (thanks, guys!)

*view from the Aquarium upper terrace