Category Archives: Traveling and Exploring

EMMA CHRISTINA: The Things I Carried

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  Ghent, NY  I  Thursday, 19 October 2017

The oval, cut-glass bowl on the top left came from Goodwill in Greenport, NY. The gorgeous cut-glass dish on the top right belonged to my father’s mother, my Grandma Emma Christina. She gave it to my mother, Carol, and now, finally, it’s been passed down to me!

The two pretty dishes on the bottom came from Deseret Industries, a thrift store in Utah. The rectangle tray, on the left, is pressed glass. The oval fanlight or sunburst on the right is cut glass.

When you’re traveling cross country by airplane, like I did earlier this month, you have to decide what to put in your carry-on luggage, and what to check.

Because, as we all know, sometimes the airlines lose your checked luggage. Sometimes it turns up hours or days later. But sometimes, it’s never found again. In December of 1995, my garment bag, containing all my favorite dresses, it disappeared into thin air and was never seen again. Thank goodness I learned this lesson early in life, and only with clothes!

So, when I was flying on this trip, I carried with me my white Herschel backpack, the one I got on a fantastic sale at Urban Outfitters, which used to be by my work in downtown Salt Lake City. I paid $20 for a bag which was $75 normally.

Can we talk about pockets? “Because you know how a bear feels about pockets!”

One of the things I loved about my new backpack was all the pockets, right down to a fleece-lined pouch in the very top, perfect for sunglasses and reading glasses, a fleece-lined laptop slot, and all kinds of other little zippered and tabbed pockets, plus a key clip. It’s lined with red-and-white stripes, a signature of the Herschel brand.

Anyhoo, on this trip, in my backpack, I carried:
-some old family photos
-my mother’s little dark-blue suede high school diploma
-two pieces of her wedding silverware. (The dinner knife was confiscated by TSA and I had to mail it to myself from the airport.)
-Black Beauty, my treasured Fujifilm X30 camera
-a bunch of camera cards
-a composition book (I use them to plan events.)
-my keys
-my wallet
-my journal
-an assortment of pencils, pens, and Sharpies
-some snacks
-October issues of Martha Stewart Living and Southern Living. I love me some fall magazines, I do!
-my Chromebook, which fell out of my carry-on tote and into an overhead bin, getting left behind. It had to be retrieved by a ramp attendant, panic!

But in a separate black Barnes & Noble book quote tote bag, I carried some other pieces I treasure too much to leave behind, and far too much to put in checked baggage. Three dishes: one of them pressed glass, two of them cut glass. I have a large collection of pretty, clear-glass dishes, picked up at thrift stores for 50 cents here, $1 there. (It’s all Cami’s fault! Her mother got me started on this hobby. But that’s an entirely separate blog.)

But these three are my absolute favorites, and I simply must have them on my table at Thanksgiving this year. My pickles and olives demand the best!

Last October, as I was moving to New York, I was determined to take two of these favorite, fancy-glass dishes, and placed them on the table for last-minute packing in a carry-on bag. But, after a rough all-nighter of closing out my apartment into storage and suitcases, then turning the place over to Thing 1 and his best friend, I was just too tired, too rushed, and too stressed to pack them.

They got left behind on the table, and I’ve missed them so.

This past trip west, earlier this month, I went to Thing 1’s apartment in Salt Lake City to drop off a bag of BLT fixins from our favorite sandwich shop in New York. (That’s a story for another day. Or another blog, as well. Or whatever.) I ransacked his cupboards until I found the two dishes.

They were coming with me this time.

Up at my parents’ house in northern Utah, two of The Rockets helped me pack at the end of my stay, before driving me, my father, and Thing 2 to my friend Tina’s house, to spend the night before flying back to New York. What good friends I have, truly. Anita took the task of wrapping the three dishes carefully in newspaper and plastic grocery bags.

Pretty sure she wanted the chance to admire them up close, since she likes antiques as much as I do!

I can’t wait to see them on the table this Thanksgiving, holding Cranberry-Orange Relish, dill pickles, sweet pickles, and black olives…

Welcome to Emma Christina @ My Copper Kitchen! New features will be available on an intermittent basis, whenever I inherit a cool dish owned by my paternal grandmother, Emma Christina. I will also feature newly acquired dishes from her era which I think she would have liked.

She, a lovely Swedish lady who died before I was born, she loved cooking and gathering her many children around her Craftsman table, with its four leaves.

I’m told that sometimes, when Emma Christina felt bad and life was wearing her down, she would head to the Implement and put a nickel down on a dish. Kinda like me, her youngest granddaughter, heading to a thrift store and picking up something inexpensive to buoy my spirits, something special and beautiful, all for 50 cents…

“You know how a bear feels about pockets” is a line taken from the wonderful children’s book, A Pocket for Corduroy, written and illustrated by Don Freeman. I highly recommend it, and its predecessor, Corduroy, for all the children in your life.

The first book, Corduroy, was groundbreaking in that the main character, a little girl named Lisa, she and her mother are obviously not white, probably African American or Hispanic. They live in an apartment in the city, several flights up.

Considering the white-picket-fence, blond-haired, blue-eyed Dick and Jane books (used to teach children to read in the 1930s through 1970s), Corduroy is welcomingly inclusive of ethnic children who live in large cities.

Plus, Don Freeman’s artwork, scratchy black-and-white outlines, filled in with color, is truly delightful.

I love Herschel backpacks!

Read Finding 50: The Things I Carried, at:

Read more about Grandma Emma Christina at:
A Word About Windows

Learn how to make Cranberry-Orange Relish for Thanksgiving at:

The subtitle of this blog is a derivation of the book title, a modern-day classic, The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien.

FINDING 50: White Snow and Green River and Red Rocks

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  Salt Lake City, UT  I  Thursday, 18 August 2016

Once upon a time, on Christmas night, many years ago, we went to visit my husband’s family, an hour’s drive to the south, in a small town called Springville. His sister’s house was by a river, at the bottom of a little hill.

While we were there, it started to snow heavily, so much that after leaving we barely made it up the hill by his sister’s house, even though we were in our trusty and ancient Jeep. His brother and family, in a Mustang, they were having a hard time too, getting up that hill.

We drove slowly until we got on the freeway, and pointed north towards Salt Lake and home, and everything seemed okay as long as we were cautious. Until we hit Point of the Mountain, that is, a place where the mountain juts out towards the freeway, notorious for wind and poor winter-driving conditions.

Whiteout. It was snowing so hard right before the Point we couldn’t see the road or anything other than one car in front of us. I told my husband to follow the taillights of the car in front of us, and if they didn’t go off the road, we wouldn’t.

But I was absolutely terrified, and so was Thing 1. I turned around toward the backseat to look at him, reassure him, and his face was white with fear. Thing 2, thankfully, had fallen asleep. How do you reassure a child everything will be okay when you’re not sure of it yourself, as a parent? But we pressed on, ever so slowly.

But then, then, we reached a point where I-15 was closed and we were forced to exit. There were men, wearing coveralls, standing in the wicked, whirling snow at the exit, telling us the freeway was shut down. My brother-in-law, just a few minutes ahead of us, had miraculously made it through before they closed down.

We weren’t sure of an alternate route on the east side of the freeway to get home, since we were at the Point and it was mountainous. On the west side of the freeway, Redwood Road, that comforting road we’ve lived by now for 18 years, it would have gotten us there. If it wasn’t snowing so hard you couldn’t see to drive, that is.

So we creeped our way to a convenience store just off the freeway, parked, and looked at each other in fear. Thing 1 was so scared. And so was I. But my job as a mother, at this point, was to face my fear and tell him it would be okay, that there was food and water and a bathroom at the Maverik and we could stay there all night in the parking lot, if necessary, until the storm let up.

In a bit, we stumbled into the store, that haven of light and cheerful warmth against the storm. We tried calling a freeway hotline to find out how long it might be shut down, but couldn’t find out much. (We had cell phones, but this was the day before smartphones with weather apps.)

We got some drinks and snacks, and explained the situation to the store worker, and he told us there was a hotel close by, the Thanksgiving Point Marriott. So we crawled the Jeep slowly over there and checked in for the night, frustrated at being a half-hour from home but being stranded in the snow and having to pay for an expensive hotel.

We had no pajamas or change of clothes or toiletries, of course, but were so relieved to be in out of the storm, safe and sound. I bought some mini toiletries at the front desk, feeling like a tousled and tangled refugee, and we crashed into bed in our clothes, exhausted.

To add to my worry, I knew the next day I was scheduled to work at 6 am, retail-slave style. (You had Christmas Day off with your family, now get back to WORK and put out that clearance so we can lure in more shoppers and make the almighty dollar!) But we were still exhausted and there was no way I could make it, so I woke up early and called in.

Dawn came, bright and blindingly white and blessedly clear and calm. And then Thing 1, now rested and relieved and excited about our new adventure, was up and about. He and I ate and ate and ate from the Continental breakfast buffet, happy to be safe and to unexpectedly have the day after Christmas off, together.

But then I found out something at the hotel, something I hadn’t ever realized before.

My children had never stayed at a hotel or motel.

But wait, of course they had. But no, Thing 1 insisted, he never had. And I thought, how is this POSSIBLE? Are our lives really so small and cramped that our children have reached this point and never stayed at a hotel?

And I thought and thought and thought, and realized he was right, they hadn’t. I was determined to make a change for my children, that we just had to start going on family vacations, whether or not we thought we could afford it.

The next spring, a wedding invitation arrived, for my husband’s son who lived near Grand Junction, Colorado. And I decided that even though as a boy he had been adopted into another family, when his mother married, we needed to go.

So I plotted and planned, planned and plotted, and decided we would combine the the wedding with a trip to the Delicate Arch, a place I had seen in photos, but had never seen in person, even though it was in the same state.

I wasn’t very good at internet searches at this point, but I found a place called the Robbers Roost in Green River, Utah, a little 50s style motel, exactly the kind of place I like. It was affordable, so I booked two nights there.

July came and I packed our clothes and a cooler full of food and off we went in the rusty Jeep. (I meant to type TRUSTY Jeep just now, but the typo of RUSTY is especially fitting, so I think I’ll leave it, ha!)

We headed south and then east, past Price, to Green River, to the Robbers Roost, with its spectacular neon sign and multicolored shag carpet in shades of emerald green and dark purple and turquoise. Yes, all of those colors existed at once in the same delightfully dreadful carpet.

Give me a funky retro motel over a boring beige and grey hotel any day.

We rested a bit and then went over to the Melon Vine grocery store and bought a few things, and I noticed on the community board there would be a Pioneer Day picnic in the park that night. So we went. There were people coming and going on foot or car or four-wheelers, the kids were playing well-organized games, everyone was so small-town friendly, and the food was absolutely delicious.

I’ve had plenty of potato salad in my time, but I’ve never tasted anything like Green River potato salad, with huge chunks of dill pickle. And the brownies! Each little square was frosted and had a walnut half on top. I wish to this day I had these recipes.

I felt like I’d fallen back in time, back to the 50s. In a good and glorious Green River way.

The town had no movie theatre. But wait, yes it did! Off the main drag, down a little street full of vacant and ancient and crumbling buildings, there was a gravelly, empty field full of old church pews, some red and some turquoise, with a white sheet hanging on the side of a cement-block building. They were showing a Western, right by the side of a railroad track, yes, they surely were.

The next morning, back at the Roost, I woke up early to go exploring. I discovered there were two sections of town, one with old motels, vacant and blighted, parking lots full of weeds and doors gaping open, some with chairs still outside. Then there was another area with new and boring chain hotels.

The old ones were fascinating, ghost town. The stories they could tell…

Later that day we went to the Delicate Arch. It was super hot and I had no hiking shoes and we didn’t have time to make it up close to the Arch before we had to leave, but it was okay. We saw it. The kids saw it with their own eyes and not just on a postcard or in a book of scenic Utah.

(When travelling, I always figure my first trip is a trial run, to figure out what I’d like to see again and how to do it better next time. Right? Don’tcha think?)

Later, we went back to the Robbers Roost and got changed into our nice clothes and drove to Colorado for the wedding. It was spectacular, in a green and peaceful back yard with panoramic views of hay bales and horse barns and flat-topped, reddish-brown mountains.

The bride wore a white dress trimmed with Tiffany blue and was blondely beautiful, with my husband’s son standing adoringly by. And their baby daughter, I held her and never wanted to let her go…


Green River, Utah:

Robbers Roost Motel:

Pioneer Day:

The Delicate Arch:

I first mentioned Green River, Utah in this post of 24 May 2015:

I first mentioned the Christmas whiteout and subsequent trip to Colorado and the Delicate Arch in this post of 4 July 2015:


Bridging East and West

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  Ghent, NY  I  Thursday, 7 July 2016


Saturday we flew like freebirds, from Salt Lake City to Albany International Airport in upstate New York, eastern side. At the get-go, before we even boarded the plane in SLC, I made a beeline to Auntie Anne’s for my soft pretzel, honey mustard and heaven. I was RICH and all was right in my vacationing world…

My sister Cheri picked us up: me, slightly queasy and majorly sleep deprived, Thing 1, not queasy and VERY sleep deprived, and Thing 2, also queasy and a bit sleep deprived. A cranky bunch were we.



But our Scarlet Samsungs, our suitcases, they arrived just fine. We scooped them up from by the baggage carousels and were on our way! On our green glorious way, directly to the Hudson River, and the Walkway Over the Hudson River in Poughkeepsie, where there were fireworks scheduled for that evening.


With one pit stop by the side of the road for Mountain Dew and grape soda and countless cherries and Doritos, and a resting place with a field of buttercups between us and the highway, we arrived in Poughtown well before dark. We drove around, wandering aimlessly, until we saw the Walkway. A former railroad bridge, it was converted into a pedestrian walkway.

I went there several times last summer, you know, discovering in real life what I had been introduced to by an old high school friend and had seen online many times, but hadn’t seen in person. Because, well, I was in Utah and IT was in New York. And oh, how I had longed to see the sunset in real life over the Hudson River, instead of just in photos on the Walkway’s Facebook page!

And there was one very important difference now, my kids were going to be with me instead of left behind in the boondocks of Grammy and Grampy’s summer home while I galliavanted and saw new things. I’d decided at the very beginning of the planning stages of the trip this was one of the very first and most important things for them to see, the Hudson River from the Walkway.

Thing 1 yucked and moaned a bit when he found out we were going straight from the airport the Walkway’s fireworks. (Teenagers!) Had I even ASKED him if he wanted to go straight from airport to an EVENT instead of just HOME to Grammy and Grampy’s? No, I surely had not. But it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, and I knew once he had seen the Walkway and the fireworks, there would be no more grumbling from the backseat.

Have I mentioned yet there were going to be fire-freaking-works over the Hudson River?! I couldn’t think of a more patriotic thing, save seeing them in Washington, DC, than to see them on this great and glorious River, which had played such a big role in the greatness of this nation, The United States of America.



The Walkway Over the Hudson. We arrived in Poughkeepsie and wandered around  town a bit until we found a place to park, quite close to the bridge. And then up, up, some stairs, onto the eternally long bridge approach and onto the Walkway!



We ogled the very cool Italian section of town from the bridge, all red brick and working class and white church with cross and all, with its view of the Walkway and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Mid-Hudson Bridge, which was lined with red, white, and blue lights. We hiked, carrying camp chairs and a blanket, until we were at a good spot on the bridge, not yet actually over the River, but a good spot nonetheless.

Thing 1 took off to explore on his own and I left Cheri and Thing 2 and went in search of:
1) the Portapotties, and
2) food, glorious food. There were three food trucks parked before the approach, and I was hungry. At Carole’s truck I purchased our hot dogs: two Chicago dogs for the adults, and two Boring dogs for the kids. The lady working the food truck was and not what I expected, in her 60s or 70s, wearing a printed, sleeveless house dress, with blondish-grey, tightly coifed and teased hair (the kind which emerged from hair salon blowdryers in the 60s) and called me an affectionate name in her wonderful upstate accent when I joked I flew all the way from Salt Lake, same-day, just to see her. After that I bought three of her cream sodas, too. Thing 1 (Teenager!) always takes care of his own drinks.

At the next truck over, Farmers and Chefs, I bought the most delicious rosemary-sage Freedom fries (insert snort here), liberally laced with coarse-grain salt and parmesan cheese sprinkles, and artichoke-heart bites, which tasted just like chicken parmesan.

Delish, Hudson River Valley food trucks.

So, about 915 or 930, the fireworks started up from a boat in the middle of the River. We stood up and pressed our faces to the chain link fence to see them in all their glory. They were spectacular.


On the way home, there was no grumbling from the backseat about going directly from the airport to Poughkeepsie, instead of going from the airport to Gram and Gramp’s house.

And I noticed Thing 1 took QUITE a few photos and videos from his fancy phablet he purchased with his first paycheck from the movie theatre…






The Hudson River:

The Walkway Over the Hudson River:

The Walkway’s Facebook page:
Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park
Posts amazing sunrise and sunset photos!