Don’t Miss the Midlands’ Largest Drive Through Light Show!

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

For me, it just isn’t Christmas until I’ve seen Holiday Lights on the River at Saluda Shoals Park at least once. This year, I’ve already been twice, and I may end up there again. It’s
that delightful!

Holiday Lights On The River

With a million lights sparkling through more than 400 themes, there are a variety of displays, including the Dazzling Dancing Forest, the Twelve Days of Christmas, a Victorian Village, Old Man Winter and much more. My personal favorite is the holiday train, featuring a special car for naughty kids like me.

You can customize your Holiday Lights experience – stroll through the Winter Wonderland Walking Trail, enjoy the lights in the warmth of your car or bundle up and take a Winter Wonder Ride. This year, I did the November 23rd Sleigh Bell Stroll through the Park, which provided an up-close-and-personal look at each display, as well as fabulous photo ops!

Each evening features a variety of family-friendly activities, including a Red-Nose Express Hayride, the Saluda Shoals Choo-Choo Ride, and of course, visits with Santa!

Holiday Lights is open every evening from 6-10 p.m. now through December 31. If you haven’t been, make plans to visit this year. Or, if you’ve been in the past, it’s time to make Holiday Lights an annual tradition. You’ll love it!

#Popshakespeare

By: Shannon Boatwright

There is a new phenomenon taking place in which creative people are putting a Shakespearean twist on pop songs. It is awesome!! Even for those non-Shakespeare fans, it’s great fun. For those of us who are total lovers of Shakespeare and his vast works, this pop Shakespeare project is a fabulous treat! It all started with a trend called #15secondshakespeare in which actors videotape themselves reciting 15 seconds of lines from a popular song and performing it Shakespearean style. If you Google “15 seconds of Shakespeare” you’ll see a collection of different examples from famous actors.

One of the English teachers at my school shared the popular concept with me, with a note that said, “You have to do this with your students!” Well, she was right. What a fun project!

I personally thought 15 seconds was just not enough time to really pop it out Shakespeare style, so I changed the time limit to one minute or less. I decided to put my own twist on the fun and rename it #popshakespeare. I presented the concept to my honors students and gave them the opportunity to submit their videos. Because I only have 9 weeks of regular Drama classes and can only squeeze in a limited amount of lessons with my 7th and 8th graders, I actually had those students do the Pop Shakespeare experiment live in front of the class. Talk about interesting and fun – it was definitely entertaining! It was a great opportunity to sneak in a quick lesson on Shakespeare, and to introduce them to one of the greatest writers of all time and how cool his works can be! For now, I have my honors drama stars submitting their “popped out” Shakespeare pieces via video since I do not get my honors classes until the 2nd semester. I’m still getting video submissions and love seeing my students have so much fun with this project!

I’m sharing two of my fabulous 7th grade honors drama students’ #popshakespeare videos here. Keely and Tripp are both such talented young actors and I absolutely cannot wait to work with them next semester! Check out their videos and a couple of mine here, so you can get a taste of what this awesome l’il performance project is all about. 🙂

Keely’s “Sugar”

 

Tripp’s “Eye of the Tiger”

 

Mrs. Shannon’s “Ice Ice Baby”

 

Mrs. Shannon’s “Wrecking Ball”

 

For more videos, head over to the complete #popshakespeare YouTube Playlist.

If you’re so inspired and inclined, this #popshakespeare project makes for a really fun family activity! My daughter absolutely loved it. She kept saying, “Mama, you gotta do this song!”, requesting song after song that would be cool to “Shakespeare out.” Each popular song I “Shakespeared” was either her idea or my son’s. My girl did some of her own videos and she and I actually did some together. We even got my son and husband in on the fun! Several of my fellow teachers did their own videos too. A lot of fun is to be had when it comes to getting creative together! Smiles all around as you engage in performing a part of a popular song Shakespearean style! Who would’ve thought?!! 🙂

So if you happen to create your own #popshakespeare masterpiece, please do share it with me! Leave a comment below and let’s share. I’m thinking about creating a YouTube channel dedicated to #popshakespeare so we can all share our Shakespeare pop coolness.

“All the world’s a stage…”

– William Shakespeare, “As You Like It”

It’s Almost Fall

By: Chaunte McClure

It’s almost fall, y’all! You know, that time of year when the air is crisp, the mornings are foggy, leaves are colorful and utility bills are lower. Gah, I am looking forward to all of the Fallabove, but especially the decrease in my light bill. Can I get an amen?!

It was so refreshing to step outside the past two mornings to feel the cool air on my warm skin. Unfortunately, I didn’t spend much time savoring the fall-like temperatures, but I take pride in knowing that more mornings like those are ahead.

Spring and fall are my preferred seasons, although neither of them stick around long enough in South Carolina. Spring is a welcome change after 20 and 30 degree temps. Of course, I welcome fall after consistent 90 to 100 (plus) degree days along with the added humidity we have in Famously Hot Columbia.

The first day of autumn is just a week away and that not only means cooler weather, it’s also a sign of cool events like the South Carolina State Fair. It’s the place to go for family fun, bizarre foods, people watching and to hear the announcer say, “Meet your party at the rocket.”

Oh, and in case you haven’t heard (or seen), the rocket is standing taller. Now it’ll be easier for your son or daughter, who has to bear the embarrassment of hearing his or her name inserted before “. . . meet your mother at the rocket,” to find the iconic figure. The missile has been raised 12 feet higher, towering about 78 feet tall. The South Carolina State Fair is October 14-25. Experience it!

I’m also making plans to attend USC’s homecoming. Go Cocks! I’m excited about seeing the new alumni center and enjoying camaraderie with friends. Maybe I’ll luck up and get a picture with Cocky.

It’s been awhile, but one fall, I made a trip to the Upstate to Nivens Apple Farm where you can pick pumpkins and apples. They have a playground and pedal cars for the kids. Nivens also has hay rides, farm animals, and a corn maze. Get lost in the excitement of being on the farm. It’ll make for a fun day trip.

What fall activities do you enjoy?

Summer Fun Baskets

By: Leah Prescott

This year we are taking a true summer break, free from formal studies. I am sure this won’t always be the case as we sometimes have subjects to work on over the summer or some catch-up from days lost over the year. Still, while “book learning” is fun, nothing can take the place of carefree summer days filled with playing in the sprinkler and hunting worms. I’m looking forward to my kids wearing themselves out in the sunshine and teaching them some new board games when the South Carolina heat gets unbearable.

Summer fun basket

On the other hand, I want to do all I can to preserve the knowledge my 8-year-olds have gained over this school year and get those little thinking muscles primed for third grade. I’ve been thinking of ways to help encourage learning without major preparation or angst for any of the parties involved. Today I wanted to share one of these ideas with you. Whether you homeschool or not, this is a simple idea that is easily adapted to many ages. Perhaps it isn’t revolutionary, but it’s easy…and sometimes that’s better.

Summer fun basket

I was pretty proud of myself for cleaning out our entire library area by the end of the school year. I had to prepare for our annual book sale, so my arm was twisted into action. I took stock of our materials, filed away completed work for our records, sold some unneeded items, and tossed a lot. All the pencils found their way back to the pencil boxes and I discovered that we actually own one billion crayons, which surprised me since the perfect colors always seem to be eluding my little artists.

Summer fun basket

After the big cleanup, I set aside a large basket for each child and started filling them with “summer fun.” There are only two rules for the contents of the baskets: they must be fun and they must require little or no supervision. Here are some of the things I added to these baskets:

Summer fun basket

  1. Pencil box with basic supplies: glue stick, crayons, pencils, scissors, ruler
  2. Clipboard and legal pads (My children love clipboards. Any writing project is instantly twice as enticing if a clipboard can be utilized.)
  3. Flash master handheld game (electronic flash cards)
  4. Construction paper, stickers, and stencils
  5. “Fun” workbooks (We like the ones in the Target dollar spot.)
  6. Three Ring Binder with cardstock (My girls like to “scrap book” with magazine cuttings.)
  7. Play-Doh or silly putty

Those are the basics that I added to start out. It’s nice to continue to refresh the basket throughout the summer. A new paperback book, card game, or puzzle would be fun to add. Bead kits, rainbow looms or embroidery kits for older children are perfect. I’m looking for a paint-with-water coloring book for my preschooler.

Summer fun basket

This is also a nice place to stick those prizes from Chick-fil-a that would otherwise get lost at the bottom of your purse or the freebie stickers that come in the mail. Really, the options are endless and can be tailored to your child’s interests or needs.

The only “rule” I give the kids about these baskets is that they clean up after themselves. Summer is the time when I really try to crack down on housework and form better habits, and the whole family has to be on board. (If anyone has any tips for teaching my 3-year-old to clean up after himself, they will be humbly received.) Of course, if you have any ideas for easy summer learning, I’d love to hear them in the comments!

Grizzly Bears and River Otters

By: Leah Prescott

If you have visited Riverbanks Zoo recently, you have noticed lots of changes. Always a destination for locals and visitors alike, the zoo is currently in the midst of 36 million dollars of improvements and additions. Construction is underway for a spectacular new entrance, a vast children’s garden, and, eventually, an interactive sea lion habitat that my family is already anticipating.

Riverbanks Zoo

The kids and I were recently excited to visit Riverbanks Zoo to experience the opening of the Grizzly Ridge and Otter Runs. During the construction, Riverbanks grizzly bears Butch and Sundance were relocated to the Tulsa Zoo while their new bigger and better habitat was created. North American River Otters Divya, Savannah, and Sophia Grace joined them from their home at Miller Park Zoo and are now happily exploring Riverbanks Zoo.

Riverbanks Zoo Grizzly Bears

The new exhibits are amazing. The grizzly bears have always appealed to my children, but we have never seen them in such close proximity. The bears are very close to the glass and the height is perfect for kids and adults alike. The bears were clearly enjoying their new habitat and were both lounging in the sunshine when we visited.

Riverbanks Zoo Otters

We fell in love with the sea otters at the Georgia Aquarium last year, so we couldn’t wait to see the three river otter sisters at Riverbanks Zoo. Otters are just such cute little entertainers and really interact with the crowd. My three little ones loved the “rocks” you can stand on for the perfect view into the otter run. I finally had to drag our family away from the glass to visit the rest of the zoo. We will definitely be visiting the river otters again soon.

To read more about Riverbanks Zoo’s latest news, click here.

Celebrate Memorial Day

american flag

Memorial Day is the unofficial start to the summer. We’ve rounded up fun events so you can enjoy the holiday weekend with your family.

Iris Festival – Sumter’s Iris Festival is South Carolina’s oldest continuous festival, and has even been featured in “Southern Living.” The 3-day festival includes concerts, an arts and crafts show, a flower show, a quilt show, car shows, contests, and children’s activities.

Friday, May 22 – Sunday, May 24
822 W. Liberty St., Sumter, SC 29150
For more information, visit http://www.sumtersc.gov/iris-festival.aspx.

9th Annual Jailbreak 5K – Family fun for everyone! People of all ages and fitness levels are invited to participate in the 9th Annual Jailbreak 5K for a morning of fun and friendly competition. All proceeds go to support professional law enforcement services in Lexington County.

Saturday, May 23
8:00am – 12:00pm
521 Gibson Rd, Lexington, SC 29072
For more information, visit http://www.jailbreaklexington.com/jailbreak-5k.html

Palmetto State Chili Cookoff Calling all chili fans! Take a drive to Fountain Inn for the first annual Palmetto State Chili Cookoff. Sponsored by the International Chili Society, this event will bring together the best chili cooks from all over the country, as well as local cooks. The event will feature arts and crafts vendors, live entertainment, and fun activities for kids.

Saturday, May 23
102 Depot St. Fountain Inn, SC 29644
9:00am – 4:00pm
For more information, visit http://www.palmettostatechili.com.

Honoring the Heroes: A Memorial Day Concert – Join the Palmetto Concert Band as they celebrate and pay tribute to our veterans with a free, public concert.

Sunday, May 24
4:00pm
Koger Center for the Arts
1051 Greene Street Columbia, SC 29201
For more information, visit http://palmettoconcertband.com/performances.

Honor WWI & WWII Veterans  Pay tribute to Lower Richland-born Veterans of World Wars I & II at the Historic Barber House in Hopkins. This family-oriented event will feature a free buffet lunch, entertainment by Mike Stone Entertainment, the Gospel Redeemers and others, mule-drawn wagon rides and vendors.

Monday, May 25
1:00pm – 5:00pm
Historic Barber House
116 Barberville Loop Hopkins, SC 29061
For more information, visit http://wis.eviesays.com/event/1108144/invitation-to-spend-memorial-day-in-hopkin-sc-honoring-wwi-and-wwii-veteran?tid=3253735.

Age-Old Etiquette

By: Chaunte McClure

There are some things you should never say to a woman. Some men get it. Some women don’t. It’s the age-old social etiquette that you should have learned at least by early adulthood.

Never say anything about a woman’s weight. If you see her as too fat, too skinny, too thick, or too thin, keep your thoughts to yourself. Don’t remind her of what size she used to be if she’s a few pounds heavier. That could tip her emotional scale and she just might give you the skinny on where you can go.

If it looks like she’s pregnant, don’t comment until you’ve confirmed that she is expecting. Allow her to freely share that information. Just wait for her to say something about getting the nursery ready or being excited about her bundle of joy. Never assume that she is pregnant, even it she appears to be. An inappropriate comment could give birth to total embarrassment.

If a woman looks older than her actual age, just merely make that observation. Never say what age she looks to be.

guess how old

There’s a website that has taken on that task. This time you volunteer to either be disappointed or excited about the age how-old.net guesses you are. Yes, there’s a website that guesses your age. Microsoft created the site and introduced it at a developer conference last week.

guess how old

All you have to do is upload a photo, and voila, the site will tell you how old you look. Everyone likes for their ego to be stroked every now and then, so I confidently uploaded an image thinking it would say I was significantly younger. I guess that was wishful thinking on my part because the guesses were right in the ballpark. One of the guesses was put me over 40. (Eek!) I uploaded several photos because I was counting on a guess of 28, 29 or 30. Not so! Interestingly enough, I got a different age each time I uploaded an image. I have to give the site credit for being polite. It apologizes if it doesn’t quite get the age and gender right.

 

guess how old

Needless to say, the app isn’t highly accurate, but it was fun giving it a try after overhearing the Today Show co-hosts talking about it as I was getting ready for work. Poor Al Roker looks 84, according to the app. (I’m not laughing. Okay, I am.)

If you can handle a little humor, give it a try. Tell us what age it guessed for you.