All I want for Christmas is a backyard roller coaster

I’ve traveled to theme parks all over the country. In my ongoing quest to experience new parks and conquer famous and infamous roller coasters, I’ve used numerous forms of transportation. At one time or another I’ve traveled by subway, car, train, monorail, bus, plane, and taxi cab. While traveling is part of the fun, having a roller coaster in my own backyard would be ideal. What roller coaster enthusiast wouldn’t want to look out of their window and see a beautiful vertical loop or majestic wooden coaster peak?

There would be a number of benefits besides getting a coaster fix whenever I needed one. Summer cookouts and parties would be amazing. Plus, there would be the possibility of charging people from the neighborhood and making a little money on the side.

There are a few coaster fans out there that have made my dream gift a reality. Two of the most prominent backyard roller coasters are a steel looping coaster called Blue Flash and a wooden coaster called Oklahoma Land Run.

John Ivers, the creator of Blue Flash, followed up with a sequel in the two-seater, known as Blue Too. It seems like over the years hundreds of others have tried making their own backyard roller coasters, but none appear to be as extensive as these three.

What do you travel for that you wish was in your backyard? Would you want a snow covered mountain, a rapid-filled river for rafting, a beautiful tropical beach, or something else?

SkyMall Monday: Slug Trap

This is the time of year when we all stop focusing on which sweatpants are most comfortable for when we’re watching TV and begin thinking about tending to our gardens. Am I right or am I right? From flowers to herbs to fruits and vegetables, it’s time for us all to thaw out our green thumbs. Those tomatoes aren’t going to grow upside down by themselves.

As we all look at our neglected patches of grass and soil, barren and ravaged from another long winter, we must develop solid plans for rejuvenation. In the past, SkyMall Monday taught you how to fend off one villain of the gardener with the Solar Powered Mole Repeller. Today, however, we direct our attention to an even more dastardly scourge of the backyard: slugs.

Slugs have wreaked havoc on human gardens since the dawn of time.* Don’t let their speed (or lack thereof) fool you. Slowly, methodically and with blatant disregard for all that we hold dear, slugs destroy gardens for no other reason than they just find destruction so erotically thrilling.** But how can one lowly gardener battle such an epic beast? For those of us who have tried to defeat slugs with traditional methods such as guerrilla warfare, trade embargoes and verbal abuse, we know that they are resilient. Thankfully, I’ve called in reinforcements. Leave it to SkyMall to finally figure out how to defeat our slug overlords. This week, we’re unleashing the Slug Trap.Slugs may be slow, but they are crafty. They lure you into a false sense of security and then strike when you least expect it. After a summer rain, you will often see slugs scattered around your yard seemingly overcome by the deluge. However, they are simply absorbing the Earth’s life force through the water.*** Strengthened and emboldened, the slugs unleash fire and brimstone on your flowers and crops. This is not only disheartening, it is life-threatening. For those of us New York City residents who rely on our gardens to sustain us through the long winter months, a slug attack in the summer can mean starvation for our elderly and children come winter.

Think that slugs can just be stepped on or ignored? Think that some salt will solve your problems? I bet you never had to stare a slug in the eye and wait until he blinked first. But, I’ll humor you (not that there is anything funny about slugs in your garden). Let’s take a look at the product description:

Slugs and snails can do a lot of damage in your garden, so use this charming slug trap to stop them in their tracks. No chemicals needed — simply bury the stem of the resin mushroom slug trap into the ground and add a few tablespoons of sugar water or your favorite beer to the tray inside. Instead of chewing on your plants, these destructive pests will be lured inside the slug trap where they’ll meet their end out of sight.

Beer is supposed to make you stronger, wittier and more attractive. The fact that beer kills slugs is proof that they are evil incarnate. And when evil incarnate is finally vanquished by beer and/or sugar water, it is best that they expire out of sight. Since slugs have no souls, their carcasses can turn humans to stone.****

Look, if you think you’re so smart, you can ignore the slug occupation and stand idly by as they destroy your garden, steal your wife and eat your children. But don’t come knocking on my slug shelter when your garden is overrun by those slimy angels of death. You’re on your own, buddy. I’m going to defend myself with the Slug Trap.

* Mike Barish does not employ a fact checker.
** Mike Barish has a wild imagination.
*** Mike Barish was never much of a biology expert.
**** Mike Barish may have dementia.

Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts HERE.

How to host a multi-cultural Labor Day barbecue

Labor Day is a quintessential American holiday. It’s a day to honor the workers, spend time with friends and family, and traditionally, to enjoy one last blow-out backyard barbecue before the cold weather sets in. Burgers, beers, and the all-American apple pie may be the staples, but since America is such a melting pot, why not honor that with a more international array of food and drink? Whether your ancestors arrived in America hundreds of years ago, or just within the last decade, showcase your heritage and the cultures of your closest friends by serving up some traditional cuisines from around the world. It doesn’t have to be a big hassle, you can make it as simple or complex as you like. Here are a few ideas for an international-themed Labor Day barbecue.

Host an International Happy Hour
Spicing up your drink offerings is the easiest way to add more international variety to your party. Nearly every country brews its own beer and, aside from the obvious Dos Equis from Mexico and Heineken from The Netherlands, it’s easy to find Pilsner Urquell (Czech Republic), Quilmes (Argentina) and even Tsingtao (China) beer at most local stores. Wine is an easy option too. We all know the major players like Italy and France, but Hungary, Chile, South Africa, Croatia, and many other countries also produce wine. If you plan on serving liquor, set up a signature drinks station. Allow guests to mix their own Brazilian Caipirinhas, Peruvian Pisco Sours, or Italian Spritzs.

Dress Up Your Burgers and Hot Dogs
If you wouldn’t dare not serve burgers at your barbecue, you can still fancy them up with some toppings that reflect international cuisines. Add guacamole or cotija cheese to Mexican burgers, Brie cheese and fried shallots for French flair, or Feta cheese and spinach on Greek lamb burgers. You can also swap hot dogs for meats from various regions – go with spicy Spanish chorizo, German bratwurst with sauerkraut or Turkish doner in pita with yogurt sauce. Kebabs also work well. Try pork glazed with Chinese hoisin, or chicken in an Indian tikka masala sauce, skewered with appropriate veggies. Apply the same rules to your side dishes. Share the workload with friends by asking them to bring dishes that represent their heritage to serve on the side.

Don’t Forget Dessert
Dessert is another area where it’s easy to get creative while still offering a delicious end to the meal. It’s also okay to “cheat” a bit here, and buy some of the ingredients pre-made from the grocery store. Bake (or buy) some Greek baklava, serve French crepes topped with ice cream, Italian tiramisu, or Mexican tres leches cake.

Obviously, these are just a few of the options available. Check websites like All Recipes, consult with family or friends, or make your favorite handed-down-through-generations recipe. And if you have a great recipe you’re willing to share, please post it in the comments.