My Dad and I Checked Out a Corvette Motor for My Chevy Nova

This year in New York with my dad is to make up for many lost years, and create some memorable experiences. As I’ve blogged about before, one planned experience is restoring this 1969 Chevy Nova to its former glory. It needs a makeover not only on the outside, but also the inside, as my dad bought it without a motor or transmission! While winter stubbornly refuses to leave the north east, preventing any progress with the body, we took a trip last week to check out a Corvette motor.

Corvette Motor | Project NovaCorvette Motor — Tuned Port What?

The Corvette motor is part of a sad tale that involves a guy crashing his beloved 1990 convertible, now a heap of steal and fiberglass sitting in a garage. My dad suggested we look at the wreckage to see if we could buy the whole thing at a good price. Then we could use the motor and transmission and sell the bits and pieces to offset the final cost of the motor.

My dad explained that this particular Corvette motor is a tuned port motor and was state of the art in its day. That’s about all I understand about the thing. You might think that I’ve been here in New York for six months, so some of my dad’s knowledge should have rubbed off by now. You would be mistaken. Just now, I tried to do some google research about the motor, as I am apt to do. There were pages and pages of information about tuned port motors, but none of the words made sense. It was blah blah blah aggressive camshaft profile blah blah blah. In fact, I thought it was a tune port motor (which sounds more like a ride at Disneyland) until google helpfully corrected the search results.

Corvette Motor

Unfortunately, it was a big strike out! In his mind’s eye, the seller views this car as the gem it once was rather than a decrepit ruin. This clouded his asking price to $4,500, about $1,000 more than it is worth. I couldn’t get good photos of the rest of the car because of the lighting, but items such as the interior and soft top are in a deteriorated condition that would not allow us to sell them. While we left empty handed without the Corvette motor, it was a fun day with my dad.

And, the search continues . . .


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 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.


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., 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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WARNING: You Might Like This Smoothie So Much You Give Yourself Brain Freeze

At least that is what happens to me every time I drink this smoothie!

Sometimes, and this is not very often, I don’t feel like coffee in the morning. Instead, I crave the yummy deliciousness of this banana smoothie flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. I use whole milk vanilla yogurt, which makes it filling enough for breakfast.

Smoothie Recipe | Ingredients

Before I moved to New York, I made this smoothie at work for the girls in my office, and I wish they were here right now to drink this with me! I once foolishly called this a “winter” smoothie because of the warming spices. Of course, this was before moving to the frigid north east. When the temperatures are in the negatives, no amount of warming spices will counteract the ice in this drink, so I’ve been smoothie-free all winter until this week when the temperature managed to climb all the way to 45 degrees. I’m regretably turning into one of those people who says it’s warm out just because it isn’t cold enough to freeze to death.

Enough about the weather, let’s get to the smoothie making!

Banana Smoothie Recipie


  • 2 cups vanilla yogurt (Stonyfield and Mountain High are my favorite not-too-sweet brands of vanilla yogurt)
  • 2 bananas
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 8-10 ice cubes

Throw everything into a blender and blend until thoroughly combined. Serves two.

Of course, I always think things taste better when enjoyed in something vintage, in this case a Federal Amoeba glass. It’s almost too pretty to drink… maybe I should put it on display instead!

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Curtains Make Everything Better!

I love curtains! They can transform a room by adding texture and color while softening the hard angles of windows. And curtains are the ultimate DIY project because they are fast and simple to make! Best of all, buying fabric and making your own allows you to create a custom look at a much better price than going retail for pre-made curtains.

Oodles of Fabric Options!

There have got to be a least ten billion different fabric options on this planet, but if you aren’t a lucky duck living in Los Angeles or New York with literally blocks and blocks of garment district fabric shops, it can be depressing shopping the limited selection at places like Joann’s. Luckily, we live in the 21st century, which means we can shop online! Two of my absolute favorite online fabric shops are and Tonic Living. You can purchase swatches inexpensively to be sure of your choice, which makes it foolproof ordering fabric online.

I love for their enormous selection and typically lower prices, plus lots of sale and clearance options that are not hideously ugly. Be sure to check out their Deal of the Day. Here are some fabulous fabrics at under $10 per yard that would make smashing curtains.
Curtains | Swatches1. Premier Prints – Sticks, Citrus Yellow $8.98/yard 2. Modern Meadow – Herringbone, Pond $7.82/yard 3. Premier Prints – Aruba, Grey $8.98/yard 4. Michael Miller – Technicolor Leaf, Candy Pink $9.20/yard

Tonic Living tends to be more expensive, but their selection is perfectly curated with vintage inspired prints you often can’t find elsewhere. I would love to make curtains with all of these prints, but I am especially dying to do something with that Dwell Studio print.

Curtains | Swatches1. Robert Allen – Cats Cradle, Sunshine $21.95/yard 2. Chelsea, Kelp $13.95/yard 3. Willow, Storm $11.95/yard 4. Dwell Studio – Futura, Dandelion $20.95/yard

I pretty much obsessed over every possible fabric option 87 times until I finally settled on this beauty, Klee in Jade by Richloom. Turquoise is one of my favorite colors and I loved this bright and graphic print. And at only $6.29 a yard at, I could guiltlessly order the 7 yards needed to create my curtains. This color is sold-out now, but they have the same print in Baltic Blue and Sandstone (a nice neutral).

Curtains | Richloom Klee FabricGetting Started

I’ve sewn my fair share of projects over the years, but somehow have never tackled curtains. I checked out a couple of tutorials online to figure out my approach before diving in. I sort of winged it a little, while studying up on curtain tutorials from Design*Sponge (such a cute fabric choice!), House of Hepworths and my 1961 Better Homes and Gardens Sewing Book.

And then I went to town on these puppies! With only four straight seams to sew on each curtain, I had three of them completed in just one evening. Making your own curtains has to be one of the most efficient DIY projects you can find.

Curtains | Sewing CollageCurtain Hardware

To hang my newly finished curtains, I used simple tension rods that fit inside the window so I could show off the original 1890s moulding. Tension rods are a great solution for this type of window and they can be picked up very inexpensively. Since the tension rod is not on display, like with a regular curtain rod set-up, you don’t need to worry about how pretty the rod is. I picked up tension rods at Lowe’s for about $3.00 each. Since tension rods are not screwed in, just be sure your fabric is not too heavy and you don’t have people yanking on your curtains.

Before and After

I just love the pop of color and pattern added to my otherwise boring windows! The tension rod works even with the blinds in the window. Next I want to make some pretty tie-backs for the curtains!

Curtains | Before and AfterSubscribe!

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The Sad, Strange Salton Sea

It’s still terribly frigid here in New York, so I’d rather blog about my warm weather adventure at the Salton Sea this past December!

Salton Sea | Postcard: People at the BeachNow, you might be wondering where in the world is the Salton Sea?! It’s a long, desolate 50 mile drive from Palm Springs, and one of the strangest places on the planet.

Salton Sea | MapPlagues and Pleasures of the Salton Sea

My fascination with the Salton Sea began after watching the documentary PLAGUES AND PLEASURES OF THE SALTON SEA (narrated by John Waters!). The film documents the history of California’s largest lake, including its unlikely beginning, rise to become a recreation hot spot and its sad fall to post-apocalyptic nightmare. Enamored by the strangeness of this place, I just had to see it in person!

Check out the trailer and be sure to see the whole film!

The Glory Days of the Salton Sea

Salton Sea | Postcard: Glamour CapitalThe Salton Sea, once considered the “California Riviera” and the “miracle in the desert”,  was a vacation destination that rivaled Palm Springs in the 50s and 60s. Frequent visitors included Frank Sinatra, Desi Arnaz, President Eisenhower, Jerry Lewis, and the Beach Boys.

Salton Sea | Sinatra Lewis LombardoPhoto of Frank Sinatra, Jerry Lewis and Guy Lombardo via the Salton Sea Museum.

Just check out this promotional video for the North Shore Beach and Yacht Club, built in 1958. This place was swanky!

The Salton Sea had it all– recreation, boating, fishing, celebrity visitors, a hopping real estate market and a popular 18-hole golf course. Who wouldn’t want to take a trip to the Salton Sea?!

Disaster Strikes the Salton Sea

But within just a couple of decades, all of the glamour was gone, replaced by ruins:

Salton Sea | RuinsPhotos of the North Shore Beach and Yacht Club’s dilapidated remains via Flickr.

The Salton Sea was never supposed to be a lake in the first place. In 1905, some levees of the Colorado River broke during a botched attempt at diverting water for agricultural purposes, and the resulting flood waters created the Salton Sea.

Without a natural out-flow, water could leave only through evaporation. As evaporation occurred, the water became increasingly salinated and contaminated by fertilizer and pesticides from agricultural run-off. Sitting in the middle of the sweltering desert, these conditions caused the Salton Sea to start rotting and smelling. It literally became a hot mess!

To make matters worse, severe flooding destroyed beach front properties in the mid 1970s as a result of tropical storms and above average rainfall. The resort economy was devastated, as it had no other way to sustain itself without the throngs of vacationers. And so began the exodus from the Salton Sea, leaving behind a strange wasteland.

Here you can see the remnants of a beach front bait shop and the docks at the North Shore Beach.

Salton Sea | Bait ShopLost America has amazing shots of the bizarre devastation left behind, taken over the course of 15 years (and much better than my iPhone photos!).

From a distance the salty coast has a beauty to it that belies the stench that is almost unbearable even during my mild-December visit. I can’t imagine what it would smell like in 100+ temperatures. It’s no wonder tourism began to dry up.

Salton Sea | Salty Coast

On closer inspection, the beach is a strange mix of sand, salt and dead fish parts. The combination of high salt content and contaminants cause regular die-offs of fish and birds.

Salton Sea | Fish Parts

Despite the regular die-offs, the Salton Sea is still an important stop over for millions of migratory birds each year. What a strange combination of death and life that can be seen here.

Salton Sea | Migratory Bird

(There were thousands of birds there, but I only managed to get a sort-of-close-up photo of one bird!)

Salton Sea | ApocalypseI accidentally turned on this black and white filter while taking photos and it seems to accentuate the eerie quality of the Salton Sea.

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