Archive of ‘Family’ category

A Day at the Rhinebeck Car Show & Swap Meet

With spring FINALLY arriving here in upstate New York, so do the flea markets. One super popular event is the Rhinebeck Car Show & Swap Meet. This car focused event includes a flea market with seemingly every single tool and car part you can imagine, as well as cars for sale and show. Rhinebeck is one of my dad’s favorite events and one we’ve been looking forward to attending together. The flea market part was fun to browse, but the best part was checking out the CARS!

Flea Market

Many people come to the Rhinebeck Car Show & Swap Meet to buy parts for their cars. To the untrained eye (like mine) it looks like lots of tables covered with rusty junk, but in fact there are many treasures here that can be used help restore cars to their original glory.

Rhinebeck Car Show & Swap Meet | Car PartsMore rusty looking junk!Rhinebeck Car Show & Swap Meet | more car parts

Enough of that, let’s get to the CARS!!

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The DNA Test That Changed Everything

Before sending my first father’s day cardpacking for my cross-country move, saying good-bye to friends, or making curtains for my New York apartment, I had a DNA test that changed everything. I tend to speak in hyperbole, describing people, events and things as absolutely the best, life changing, most amazing and absoltuely hysterical. What can I say? I get excited about EVERYTHING! However, the day the DNA test results confirmed that I had a dad was not a hyperbolic moment. It was an opportunity of a lifetime.

Many years before, my great-aunt adopted me and became my mom after my teenaged biological mother disappeared. My mom and my great-grandmother, the two old biddies, as they liked to call themselves, raised me. My mom never married, so I never had a father growing up. They created a wonderful childhood for me, so I did not feel I was missing out.

Here we are, me and the two old biddies in our late 70s glory. You might be interested to know that my grandma never gave up on her 70s polyester pantsuits. She rocked those for another decade and half.

DNA Test | Family PhotoSearching

After my mom died in 2006, I became curious about my origins and slowly began to explore my family history on Ancestry.com. No matter how far I could trace my family history on the maternal side, it drove me crazy that I could fill in only half of the story. Hoping to fill in the blanks, I tracked down my biological mother who I had not seen since I was three years old.

In May 2012, we met face to face. At the very end of our two day visit, she logged into Facebook and pulled up this man’s photo:

DNA Test | First Photo I Saw of My Dad

And told me he was my father. It felt like looking into a mirror, albeit an older one with more facial hair. That moment was exciting, scary, anxiety-inducing and overwhelming.

The bigger bombshell: He did not know that I existed!

It took a few months, but my biological mother confessed to my dad about me. Shocked and uncertain, he asked to see photos of me in an effort to explore the veracity of her claim. One surreal night, I shared childhood photos of myself on my biological mother’s Facebook page, while he simultaneously viewed them. In seven degrees of Kevin Bacon, I was just two degrees away from my biological father! What was he like? Was he kind? What did he think of all of this? Would he want to be part of my life? Would I want him to be part of my life?

The DNA Test

After this photo exploration, he asked for a DNA test before communicating directly. The arrangements were made, and I nervously drove to the clinic. I felt compelled to document the experience even though I was in a nondescript Glendale office, so I took some terrible photos of the inside and the notes about the appointment:

DNA Test | Inside the Location

I was ushered into an exam room, where they took a sample by swabbing the inside of my cheek. The sample, carefully packaged, was then shipped to the main lab where the testing is done. I was told to expect the results in about two weeks, which is remarkable considering DNA testing is only about 30 years old. However, it felt like an excruciating length of time to wait.

Waiting

A week later, my biological mother revealed that she was not 100% positive that my father was in fact my father. It was like time slowed down even further that last week. Ancestry.com, once again proved helpful, as I located his yearbook photo from 1977 on the site. I then anxiously bombarded friends with side-by-side comparison photos like this demanding to know if they thought we could be related:

DNA Test | Photo ComparisonDon’t you dare judge my bangs or the intense beading on my matching earrings and top combo, this was 1991!

The Call

Finally the day came, and I knew to expect a call from him with the news. That he wanted to be the one to give me the news, regardless of the outcome, had me hoping the test would be positive. At the moment the phone rang, I was sitting in the passenger seat with Cheria (from the awesome blog, Love Cheria) after a lunch break trip to our favorite thrift store. I answered the phone, and the first thing he said was, “Rachel, this is your dad.”

DNA Test | Dad's First Facebook PostMy world changed in that moment. I gained the unconditional parental love that I lost when my mom died. And while there is a sadness for the many years we missed, that loss gifted us a focus to be intentional with the time we do have.

DNA Test | Me and My Dad Today

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How to Plan a Fly by the Seat of Your Pants Road Trip

In October I embarked on a cross country road trip with my dad. This Southern California girl was moving to Upstate New York (WAY upstate, Frances Houseman vacationing at Kellerman’s upstate) for a year to invest in a relationship with my dad, who I met in October 2012. In the weeks leading up to this adventure, we barely had a plan for the route. In reality, ‘barely had a plan’ is a generous exaggeration. There was a nebulous concept of Los Angeles to New York that never quite seemed to flesh itself out despite countless brainstorms in the months leading to departure day.

Road Trip | Route 66My typical approach to traveling involves purchasing at least two travel guides, then poring over them with color coded highlighting and matching post-it tabs. This compulsive planning instinct (e.g., my approach to packing) was nonexistent. I suppose I was distracted and focused on other aspects of the move (saying goodbye to friends, finding an apartment, sorting through ceramic roosters, booking a moving company, and packing) that I never quite got around to perhaps the most important piece: how I would get myself from here to there. What I discovered is that a little adventure and spontaneity allowed for a memorable, once in a lifetime opportunity to travel Route 66 with my dad.

Google to the Rescue

As the panic began to descend I fled to the warm embrace of Google, which rarely fails me. I stumbled upon the beyond helpful Road Trip USA and its detailed descriptions of a bunch of classic cross country travel routes (like the Oregon Trail, Appalachian Trail and Pacific Coast).

Route 66, among the options described, is a road trip by which I’ve always been fascinated. Growing up, my mom daydreamed about driving Route 66, and went so far as to get AAA TripTik maps created. I remember spending many hours with her, studying the maps and planning our pretend Route 66 journey. These memories, combined with Route 66’s rich history, seemed like a perfect inspiration for this journey with my dad. Route 66 wouldn’t get us all the way to New York, but would get us at least to St. Louis or Chicago. We were on to something… Route 66 it was!

Is There an App for That?

With just two days until departure, there was no time to browse through book stores, place an online order, or visit AAA for comprehensive travel information about Route 66. I needed something quick and easy!

Road Trip | Route 66 AppI hunted through the App Store and discovered Road Trip 66 and at just $0.99 it was perfect! The app covered all the roadside attractions, ghost towns, history, landmarks, restaurants, and hotels along the way. Plus it included turn by turn directions and maps, and allows you to bookmark sites of interest along the way. With the app downloaded, away we went!

Roadside Discoveries

With few concrete stops planned, we meandered across the country with the Route 66 app ensuring that we didn’t get too lost. We explored the country slowly, while stopping at anything that looked interesting. It was truly a fly by the seat of our pants road trip, and I can’t imagine having done it any other way. Here are some highlights of our roadside discoveries.

Roy’s Motel and Cafe

Roy’s, in the ghost town of Amboy, California, was a favorite stop for its perseverance and googie architecture. Opened in 1938, Roy’s typifies the steady decline experienced by the towns along Route 66 as they were bypassed by more developed highways. While you can get gas here, the cafe and motel are long closed. In 2005, the entire town of Amboy was bought by one guy who enthusiastically hopes to preserve this section of Route 66. This is no easy task. On the history page of Roy’s website, the lone 2006 accomplishment simply states, “Roy’s is selling bottled water again.” Despite its failed Kickstarter campaign, perhaps one day that sign will be restored to its 1959 glory!

Road Trip | RoysNeon Signs

Neon signs served as attention getters for businesses along along Route 66, particularly in California, Arizona and New Mexico. Some have fallen into disrepair while others have been lovingly restored. Check out some of the amazing neon signs along Route 66, some in better shape than others:

Road Trip | Route 66 Neon SignsCars of Route 66

While I was most fascinated by the midcentury neon, my dad knew every car on the trip and taught me all about the various cars we saw along the way. It was a great opportunity for us to share our passions.

Road Trip | Cars of Route 6

Map of Many Visitors

Map inside the Hackberry General Store, a Route 66 souvenir shop and convenience store, pinpointing the many places from which visitors travelled.

Road Trip | MapWigwam Village

Wigwam Village #6, built in 1937, is one of the many reasons I find Route 66 so fascinating. An embarrassing example of cultural appropriation, Wigwam Village is also a uniquely midcentury roadside attraction. While shaped like teepees, the architect liked the sound of the word wigwam better and built seven of them in Kentucky, Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Florida and California.

Road Trip | WigwamCadillac Ranch

Cadillac Ranch, one of the strangest sights along Route 66, consists of 10 Cadillacs that were buried in a cow pasture as an art installation in 1974. Each car has dozens of layers of bubbly thick paint, along with a stream of visitors bringing more spray paint to add to the graffiti. Unfortunately, people leave the paint cans strewn around the field.

Road Trip | Car with Spray PaintSt. Louis

St. Louis was our last Route 66 stop before heading east to avoid a Chicago snow storm. We were so busy checking out the scenery, I only managed to get one pic with my dad during the entire trip. Here we are below the St. Louis Gateway Arch. As a side note, If you are ever in St. Louis be sure to stop by The Future Antiques for a mind blowing selection of midcentury furniture and accessories.

Road Trip | St. Louis

Open Road

Despite so many fun road side attractions to check out, some of our favorite memories involved taking in the scenery of the open road.
Road Trip | Open Road

Happy road tripping!

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Change is Hard or What to Do If Your Coffee Shop Is Only Open 16 Hours a Week

Change is hard.

All while pondering, plotting and putting into action this cross country move, I knew making this change would not be easy. After all, I was moving from Los Angeles, a sprawling, insanely large metropolitan city where most of my friends reside, to a tiny (pop. <1,500), rural town in upstate New York to live near my dad who I met only a year ago.

My town is beautiful and quaint. There’s no traffic or wait times at restaurants. Typical city sounds, like helicopters, police sirens and honking cars, are non-existent. Nature is everywhere; trees, mountains and animals abound. I’ve seen deer, wild turkeys and rabbits without trying. The fall colors really are as amazing as they say. It takes approximately two minutes to get from one end of town to the other, so running errands in town is so easy. I laugh when people say they are going “downtown”.

A quiet fall morning before it got too cold to sit with the windows open:

Fall Colors

I have been able to see my dad just about every day since arriving in New York. And that is priceless after missing out on so many years. This experience feels like a luxury after spending the past year building a relationship with my dad via Skype and the occasional visit.  Moving here has made things possible that could never have worked via Skype, like my dad teaching me how to change the brake pads on my car or collaborating with him on how to refinish a piece of furniture.

Here we are in St. Louis while driving across country from Los Angeles to New York.

St. Louis

At the same time it can feel lonely and isolating here, especially when it’s cold and snowy. Now that winter has stolen the leaves from the trees, I miss the reliable palm trees of Southern California. The wind often howls and blows so hard that the three-story building I live in shakes, feeling like an earthquake. If there’s something I need that can’t be purchased at Rite Aid, the grocery store or the dollar store, it’s a 30 mile drive or longer. To visit friends I’ve known for what seems like forever, I can’t simply brave traffic on the 101, now I have to get on a plane. I am homesick for my friends at Camp Laurel and can’t believe I am about to miss my first camp in 10 years.

There have been ups and downs, but nothing could prepare me for a lack of lattes.

Coffee Nightmares

If you are a city dweller, you might scoff at the idea that there could be a lack of lattes available in my town. I present to you the following evidence from the one coffee shop in town:

CoffeShopHours

For those of you have not been able to do the math yet because you’re still stuck on the fact that Saturday and Sunday are not even listed, this coffee shop is open for a grand total of 16 hours per WEEK, with the vague possibility that you might get lucky at other times. I think most coffee shops in the city are open almost that long every single day. This simply would’t do. I had to figure out a way to support my latte addiction. I have a cheap espresso machine, but let’s just say the results are less than stellar.

As with packing and moving, this led to extensive research. It was a dark hole of endless googling and reading (such as this, this, and this) and successive scouring of reviews at amazon.com.

The Chosen Ones: Capresso Infinity and Bialetti Moka Express

The thing I’ve learned about good coffee is that it basically takes a trifecta of fabulous– you need good beans, a good grinder, along with a decent coffee machine. I’ll get to the beans, but I’ll start with the grinder and coffee maker.

For great coffee, you need a burr grinder, which crushes the beans into a consistent grind, rather than a blade grinder that just mangles the beans into an inconsistent mess. With the blade grinder, your coffee will suffer. The blade grinder causes even more havoc on your coffee, as it produces excessive heat as you keep grinding away at the beans. Then you get burnt tasting coffee. Yuck. Burr grinders range in price from under $100 to the thousands of dollars. I went with an entry level burr grinder, the Capresso Infinity, mainly because I am not making true espresso (more on that in a minute), which requires a very fine grind that is impossible to get from a grinder that costs less than several hundred dollars.

Now for the coffee machine! I wanted something easy and relatively inexpensive, but that delivered nirvana in a cup. And good espresso machines are expensive, like thousands of dollars expensive.

I decided on the Bialetti Moka Express partly because it seemed unbreakable, which is a necessity in my kitchen where nothing is safe. It was designed in the 1930s, and I liked its sense of history. Its design is so classic that the original blueprints are on display at the Design Museum in London. The Bialetti is often referred to as a stovetop espresso maker, and while that isn’t quite accurate, it does produce very strong, espresso style coffee. It comes in different sizes, and I chose the 3-cup version which makes the equivalent of three shots.

It couldn’t be easier to use and at under $25, I could not possibly resist the Bialetti’s charm.

Bialetti_Collage

It’s so easy:

1. Fill the bottom until you reach the valve on the side.

2. Insert the filter

3. Fill filter with ground coffee.

4. Screw the top back on.

5. Heat on the stove top. Water from the bottom container is somehow magically pushed through the filter into the top container. Voila! You have coffee.

I use my cheap espresso maker to steam the milk to make fabulous lattes. When I’m lazy, I make an Americano by just adding hot water. I am ⅔ of the way to coffee heaven.

The problem now, of course, is that I lack access to great beans in my town. I could do the mail order thing, but it gets expensive with shipping. So, now I’m thinking of roasting my own beans, which you can do in a popcorn popper!

What do you think? Should I take the roasting road to further my search for coffee nirvana?

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Do You Need a Rooster?

Now, when I ask that question, I am not referring to a farm animal. Rather, I am wondering if you need a ceramic rooster with a piece missing from its comb (Me being a city girl, I had to use Google to figure out what that red thing is called) painted by my great grand mother in 1973? He’s a beauty, right?! I am begging someone to adopt him!

Do You Need a Rooster?

You have to understand, I’m in a perilous place. I have to move all of my belongings in about three weeks in my cross country move, and I can’t take everything. And it’s not like this rooster fellow is my only problem. I have MANY other hand painted ceramics that I inherited after my mom died. So, some things, like this ceramic rooster, have to go.

Now, you might be wondering, “How many hand painted ceramic pieces could you possibly have?!” Well, more than you would imagine. My great-grandmother was a prolific ceramic painter extraordinaire long before Color Me Mine was a thing.

The Keepers

Some of these ceramic masterpieces will stay with me, such as this nativity scene, which was carefully unwrapped every year and displayed by the Christmas tree:

IMG_9276

I love this nativity scene for so many reasons. It was on display every Christmas growing up, so it holds a lot of nostalgia. But it has a couple of irregularities that make it even more amazing. Inexplicably, my grandma painted four wise men and displayed them all each year. Her explanations never made much sense. I think she just got carried away with painting the wise men and their brightly colored outfits. There are also two baby Jesus options, with one looking like a creepy old man baby. Can you guess which one?

Two Baby Jesuses

On The Chopping Block

Getting back to the rooster and his many friends… Take a gander:

Do_You_Need_A_Rooster_Collage

I saved them because they were like priceless family heirlooms with their own unique memories. Still, I recognized their tacky elegance, so rather than display them (as if!), I stored them in the nether regions of my closets for many years, while never crossing the Carrie Bradshaw line of storing them in an oven. Now, as I evaluate them in the broad daylight of a cross country move, I realize anything that has remained so hidden cannot be nearly as valuable as I thought. I will let them go, so as to make the ones I do keep even more meaningful.

Would you keep any of the above ceramics? See one you like? I would happily gift it to you!! Each one is signed by the artist.

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