Who Needs Ice? Grab Your Roller Skates!

Admittedly, I’m falling back on yet another nostalgic history article that was published two weeks ago in the Islander.  As family was in and we were on the road to Moab, I took a hiatus from my deadline and skipped last week.  I will be polishing another article on vintage buttons for tomorrow’s deadline.  Expect to see it as a blog down the road apiece.  In the meanwhile, here is the most recent article:

Who Needs Ice?  Grab Your Roller Skates!

If you know what this metal item is, then you were a child in the 1950s or earlier.

It’s a skate key and it helped you to attach your strap-on roller skates to your shoes and adjust them so they’d be tight enough not to slip off.   This allowed you to skate down a street as fast as you could and forget all your cares.  You could take wing!  Most kids wore their skate key on a necklace made from an old shoestring.  If you lost your skate key, it was a real tragedy.

In the days before computer games, kids actually played out-of-doors and roller skating was just one of the activities of a long-ago childhood.  It mostly appealed to girls–who would skate in dresses, risking scraped knees–but along with bike riding, skating supplied plenty of fresh-air exercise.

It seems like a silly, risky idea: strap wheels on your feet and try to move forward without falling.  How many scraped chins and knees, chipped teeth, and even broken wrists resulted from skating?  What crazy person thought of this?

Roller skating actually started out as something only adults could enjoy.  The first recorded skate invention was way back in 1760 by a Belgian, John Joseph Merlin, but his version never really caught on.  Fast-forward about 100 years to Massachusetts, when in 1963 James Plimpton reworked the concept and invented a “rocking” skate.  This improvement made it easier for skaters to negotiate turning corners.  The roller skating craze took off (yes, as the Civil war raged farther south in the US).  Deemed too dangerous for girls, by the 1880s skates were being mass-produced and boys soon were seen whizzing around on hard dirt roads.

By the early 1900s someone had put wooden wheels on boots and indoor roller rink skating was born.  Racing and roller derby teams soon followed and roller skating became a full-contact sport, but kids everywhere still strapped on their metal frames and wheels to enjoy roller skating with their friends.  By this time, paved streets made for a smoother ride and if you were lucky enough to live in a town that had slate sidewalks (as mine did) it was deliciously smooth sailing!

Mimicking ice skate blades, someone repositioned the two-front and two-back into a single row of single track wheels leading to roller hockey and in-line skating.  And roller skating was even briefly considered as a sport for the 2012 Summer Olympics now being held in London!

The Syracuse Museum has roller skates and the requisite key on display along with other low-tech childhood toys on display.  The museum has reopened after being closed in July, so visitors will be welcomed.  We’re air-conditioned and a visit is a nice way to pass some time on hot August days.  The Syracuse Museum and Cultural Center’s hours are Tuesday-Thursday from 2-5 pm and by appointment (801-825-3633) and is located on 1700 South (Antelope Drive) just before 2000 West, Syracuse, UT.

Published in: on August 28, 2012 at 6:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

Off-Roading in Moab

Nothing like the wind in your face, while bumping along in a Rubicon Jeep–flashy red–through the back country of Moab.

Off-roading in red rock butte country.

Visiting family and most of our gang drove southeast Monday a week ago for a 3-day jaunt in the red-rock canyon area near Moab, Utah.  It’s about a 5-6 hour trip and we drove through pretty chilly, rainy weather to arrive at our hotel finally in the sun.  A dip in the pool/hot tub put us all in the right frame of mind for the next day’s adventure.

We were braced for hot, hot, HOT weather, but our day off-roading was a balmy 78, highly unusual for the desert and cliffs surrounding Moab, where they once mined uranium!  We first visited the main road sights of Arches National Park: Balanced Rock;

Balanced rock.


Wolfe Ranch (a miserably primitive one-room log cabin–read shack–where people actually lived and raised cattle just 100 years ago), with its animal pictographs on a nearby cliff;

Delicate Arch up on the top of the rock.

and saw some of the arches visible from the main road.  Arches National Park has the largest number of natural erosion-made stone arches anywhere, about 2000.  Some can be seen from the park road, some are remote and must be accessed by rigorous hiking or trail bike.

After a picnic lunch, we found one of the “roads” for 4-wheel rugged vehicles and headed off in that direction.  Son Isaac, our driver, was in his glory!  This experience was on his bucket list, as it was on mine.  We drove over dry creek beds, up and down rocky inclines, through soft sands, over dried mud areas that must be a mess when it rains.  All-in-all in was grand fun.  Cousins Luke and Ethan really loved the experience; we even found a stop with identified dinosaur tracks!  Our kidneys got a good shaking and we all remarked on what it must have been like to cross terrain like this in a covered wagon, with no cushioning springs.

Off-roading, looking down on a dry creek bed.

We departed for home on Wednesday, but not before visiting one of the scenic options en route: Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park.  We opted for Dead Horse Point.  The Grand Canyon has nothing on Utah, except for scale and scope.  The Colorado River has carved its way through the red sandstone here too, and it’s pretty spectacular.  Hence, Canyonlands rivals the Grand Canyon and Dead Horse Point mesa is awesome and sits adjacent to Canyonlands.

Dead Horse Point with the Colorado River.

Sadly, Dead Horse Point takes its name, if the story is true, from the incident where regional cowboys would use the mesa as a herding place for wild mustangs, as it had a narrow access point, easily blocked off with scrub brush.  The story goes that the cowboys selected the horses they wanted and never returned for the others.  (How could they forget them?)  The Colorado River was 2000 feet below, but inaccessible, so the horses died of thirst in the scorching heat.  There are no survivors, so the story is just a story.  Believe what you want.

Anyway, the vistas are amazing and breathtaking.  This part of Utah looks different from our neck of the woods!  And keep in mind, it gets cold here, too, and these folks get major blizzards!  I’d love to see it after a snowstorm.  The trip home went smoothly, but to and from, one drives for miles through the most God-forsaken arid landscape of no plants, bleached white mounds of earth that resemble cement piles, and parched stretches of ground you’ll ever see.  And then as you approach Moab, the landscape changes on a dime and you head into the cliffs of red rocks.  It’s stunning!

Published in: on August 23, 2012 at 5:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

Family Vacation Adventure

Okay, we just got back from 3 days in Moab, Utah and had a wonderful time.  It’s very different landscape down in southern Utah as it’s closer to canyon lands; the Colorado River; and further southwest, the Grand Canyon.  I took lots of photos and will share them when I create a retrospective for next week’s blog posting on our trip.  For now, as I don’t have much time, I’ll focus on how wonderful it’s been to have a visit from son, Isaac and grandson, Luke.

The 2 cousins have had lots of quality time together, negotiating the ins and outs of playing on computer games together, at the same time or in tandem on 2 screens.

Today, Isaac is fixing things around the house; it’s catnip to him!  So far, he’s conquered 2 door latches, air filters in my car and unhazing my car’s headlights.  Ahead lies adding a water-tight seal on the new kitchen faucet and putting the side net back on the wind storm-damaged trampoline.

I went food shopping today and he, Lara and the kids took a lunch break to visit Bob at work and then treat themselves to In-and-Out Burgers.

Tomorrow I think we’re heading to Snowbird, which is a winter ski resort, but in summer you can ride the ski gondola to the top of the mountain to enjoy the views.  Of course, it’s been hazy these last few days, so visibility is lousy.  I think there’s an Alpine slide there too, which is fun to ride down at break-neck speeds.

Saturday, we’re having a BBQ at friends who have a lovely backyard pool.  The kids (and adults!) will enjoy that.  They have a really super diving board, so we’ll finally be able to see Luke’s true diving skills.  We’re bringing Isaac’s famous BBQ pork ribs, so it should be good eating.  Shane and Terry make wicked good drinks of some sort that she serves in Mason jars.  A winner all the way around.
Sorry this post is so lame, but I promise I’ll have pictures next week, and since this actual post is late this week, the next one is only a few days away.



Published in: on August 12, 2012 at 10:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

Garden Update, Summer 2012

After a somewhat slow, concerning start, the garden finally exploded just after the July 4th holiday and is now producing like it should and we should have a bumper crop of tomatoes, once they ripen.

We bought our tomato and pepper plants as usual in late April from the nursery and waited until after Mother’s day to plant them as Utah is infamous for its late, surprise midnight spring frosts.  We watered and watched for all of June, wringing our hands over pathetic looking, spindly pale green tomato vines.  Then, come the second week of July, Mother Nature kicked in and we had more green in the garden than we were expecting.  Perhaps it was last winter’s compost pile….

First, the squash went crazy next to the mint, we are getting loads of zucchini (Bob’s “favorite”) and bumpy skin, yellow crook-neck squash.  In fact, we’re now giving it away!

Squash and mint along the side of the house.

On the other side of the house, where there’s really no shade and not much grows next to the driveway, we tried planting miniature pumpkins.  Last year we pulled about 30 small hand-sized pumpkins off of one vine we tucked in a small spot near a fence.  This year, I planted about 15 young seedlings, thinking I’d be lucky if a third of them made it in the extreme heat.

The Finley pumpkin patch!

I only lost about three, so we’ll have hundreds of miniature pumpkins.  Ethan will be handing them out at school come Halloween!

Basil (foreground), green beans (along cement strip), peppers (next to house) and Charlie checking out the garden.

The green beans are producing well, but the bell peppers have been a disappointment.  They should be twice the size they are (they’re along the house, behind the beans).  We’ll have to figure out what will make them really produce.

Main garden

The main garden holds tomatoes, cucumbers, acorn squash, cantaloupe, lettuce, carrots, scallions, beets, and eggplant.  They have all grown so big, it’s challenging to walk among the plants to pick what’s ripe!

Besides the cantaloupe which is a new item this year, we are trying artichokes.  Holy cow!  Do those leaves grow big!  And we’re getting buds–several on each stalk!  This is quite exciting and should make for some good eating.

Artichoke bud

We had so much luck with creating our own compost that you can be sure we’re going to continue with all our “green” kitchen waste and scraps.  It should really enrich the garden further next summer.  So far, it’s been good eating and the garden will continue to produce until late October.  Yum!

Published in: on August 7, 2012 at 8:09 pm  Comments (2)  

The July-August Challenges of Foreign Guests

This blog posting is not only late this week, but may be short and more personal than most of mine.  I am finding that I have less time for myself this week as our family is coming down the homestretch of week three of hosting a visiting family from Taiwan.  As part of the Chinese language program at the elementary school, about a dozen older grade school-aged students and a few parents as chaperones arrived about 15 days ago and after a brief trip to Yellowstone National Park (which apparently was a disaster and less than fun for them on many levels) they settled in to pretty much a routine of class hours at school, Saturday activities (local sight-seeing trips), and Sunday as a day of rest.

It’s been a learning curve/culture shock on both sides.  Since I’m chief meal planner and cook, my life has revolved around food purchasing, prep, cooking, and storage.  I feel like I am cooking for an army as we have a mom and her two children staying with us.  The kids are good eaters, especially vegetables.  I have been cooking mountains of broccoli, squash, green beans, you name it each night.  Thank heavens we’re growing a lot of it!

Noise levels and privacy issues are also part of the experience.  The decibel levels produced by our visitors’ conversation leave one’s ears reverberating.  And we have learned to lock all bathroom and bedroom doors as often the entire family will be in unexpected areas that one would consider “private” or walk in without knocking.

The mom showed me how to make Chinese chicken and dried mushroom soup (to my mind, dried mushrooms reconstituted in water, then cooked in soup are like rubber balls) and Chinese pork and cabbage dumplings (really yummy!) and in return, I’ve been giving her cooking lessons, American style: homemade pizza, brownies, soft jam thumbprint cookies, and tomorrow it will be Italian bread.

I’m also becoming a mother confessor, hearing about the downsides of her physician husband (distant and disconnected from the kids: it is the Taiwanese way apparently), her mother-in-law who lives with them (not good), and her own struggles with depression.

The kids (9 & 11) have some learning disabilities, but can flip with ease from Chinese to fairly fluent English.  We all (Charlie the corgi included, as he’s a novelty and target for over-enthusiastic rough-housing) just have to hang in there until Monday when they fly out of Utah to spend the rest of the month with friends in San Francisco, plus a side trip to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon.

The visit has been fun at times, yet stress-filled for all parties.  The washing machine has been busy doing extra duty as have the bathrooms.  Cooking for the 4 of us will seem like a breeze now and I’ll certainly embrace a quiet house.

I keep thinking of Anne Frank, her family and the extra people who lived with them and all of them stuffed in an attic apartment and how tough that must have been.  At least we’re not in hiding from enemy soldiers….

Published in: on August 1, 2012 at 8:40 pm  Comments (3)