Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Elegant Builders Raceway Park – August 17th, 2013

The track formerly known as Lancaster Speedway and Dunn Tire Raceway Park hosted its big annual Modified event, the Tommy Druar-Tony Jankowiak Memorial 110, on Saturday, August 17th, and it had the potential to be part of a big weekend for Erick Rudolph, who won the $13,000-to-win Summernationals at Ransomville Speedway the night before.

Erick Rudolph

Some of the biggest names in Modified racing in the NY/PA area were at the track for this special event to honor the brothers-in-law who both lost their lives in Modified racing accidents, including Matt Hirschman, Rudolph, Chuck Hossfeld, Billy Putney and Andy Jankowiak, who was honoring his father and uncle that night.

Andy Jankowiak
The night didn’t end with a perfect weekend for Rudolph, but he was the runner-up – the win belonged to – who else? – Hirschman.

Matt Hirschman (60) leading Mike Feibelkorn Jr. (10) and Karl Hehr (59)

Monday, September 16, 2013

2013 travels: New York Wine and Culinary Center in Canandaigua

As part of my recent bus trip to Canandaigua, we visited the New York Wine and Culinary Center, located at 800 S. Main St.

The Center’s mission, according to its website, “is to educate, engage and excite our visitors by celebrating and showcasing New York’s finest in wine, food and agriculture. Whether you have 30 minutes or an entire day, The Center offers you an array of inviting experiences in a setting that proudly highlights the natural beauty, rich history and agricultural bounty of New York State. Through supportive partnerships with area farmers, winemakers, artisans and entrepreneurs, The New York State Wine & Culinary Center brings you the best of New York, all in one beautiful and scenic spot on the northern shore of Canandaigua Lake.”

We sat in on a class in the Educational Theatre, which had a very nice set-up for a cooking class. Unfortunately, I wasn’t a big fan of the entrée presented, but the salad wasn’t bad and the dessert was unbelievable (I do love peaches!)!

I do, however, intend to make a trip back to the NYWCC someday, because in looking over their class list, I’m very impressed: from apple pie baking workshops to bread baking to chocolate truffles and homemade pizza, there are actually too many reasons for me to want to go back – I wish it was closer, I’d be in some serious trouble!

Find the class list and more information on the NYWCC at

All photos: Paula Thompson Freelance

Saturday, September 14, 2013

2013 travels: Sweet Expressions in Canandaigua

My recent bus trip to Canandaigua included a side trip to Sweet Expressions, located at 169 S. Main St. in Canandaigua. To call this a candy store is an understatement – it’s confectionary bliss! Silky chocolates, bark of all kinds, truffles, sugar -free items and much more line the shelves. There is also a gourmet food section featuring foods from New York State and the Finger Lakes region, which Canandaigua is a part of.

One of the samples we received upon arrival was a piece of salted milk chocolate bark – I didn’t understand the whole salted chocolate movement until the moment I tasted this! Instead of using sea salt, they used a locally-produced coarse-grain salt – just downright delicious!

As a parting gift, we got this beautiful milk chocolate grape cluster – signifying the wine region – filled with chocolate cabernet wine sauce from Arbor Hill Winery, located at the southern end of Canandaigua Lake.

Check out Sweet Expressions online at

all photos: Paula Thompson Freelance

Monday, August 26, 2013

2013 travels: Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion

Sonnenberg Mansion from the Italian Garden
Mom and I took a bus trip to Canandaigua, NY (Finger Lakes region) on Thursday, August 22nd to check out, among other things, Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion. Built from 1885 to 1887, the mansion was the home of Frederick Ferris and Mary Clark Thompson – incidentally, my grandmother was also Mary Thompson, but not this one!

Inside the Mansion

There are many different gardens at Sonnenberg, with a Japanese Garden, a Sub-Rosa Garden, a Rose Garden and an Italian Garden among them. There is also a conservatory that reminded me of a smaller version of the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens.

Italian Garden from the Mansion

This reminds me of a Thomas Kinkade print

One problem with my visit – not nearly long enough to check out all the gardens! I guess I’ll just have to go back again next year on my own :)

The Mansion
Find out more about Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion at

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Ransomville Speedway – August 16th, 2013

Dad and I took our (almost) annual trip to Ransomville Speedway in Niagara County on Friday, August 16th for the SummerNationals, a $13,000-to-win 358-Modified race featuring some of the biggest names in dirt modified racing in the northeast: Danny and Alan Johnson, Brett “The Jet” Hearn, Erick Rudolph, Pete Bicknell and many more.

Erick Rudolph

Danny Johnson

Brett Hearn
For some reason, we skipped last year (possibly looked like bad weather? Maybe…), so I was eager to get back to the local dirt track, and the racing did not disappoint. Erick Rudolph came away victorious, and had an almost-perfect weekend as he switched to asphalt Saturday night at Elegant Builders Raceway Park for the Druar-Jankowiak Memorial 110 for pavement mods – he finished second to Matt Hirschman.

Fireworks to kick off the action

Green flag!

All photos: Paula Thompson Freelance

Friday, August 16, 2013

2013 travels: Pocono Raceway – August 2nd and 3rd, 2013

My parents and I have been going to the second Pocono race since 2002, but for the past three years or so have only been going on Friday and Saturday to the track. Reason: for the first nine years we went, I think it rained on Sunday at least eight times. Rain delays, leaving for the track at 4:30 a.m. on Sunday morning to miss the traffic and sitting in the car sleeping got old, and my father and I both agreed we had the most fun on Friday and Saturday – particularly in the pits – so we dumped Sunday from the trip. I honestly don’t regret it one bit.

Chase Elliott
For the first three years of the Truck Series race, the trucks had their “garage” on pit road, while Cup and ARCA were in the actual garages – that led to some great photo and autograph opportunities with Truck Series drivers. This year, it was changed up – the trucks went into the garage and the ARCA teams were on pit road. This actually made sense since the ARCA race was on Friday and then they were done – the trucks didn’t race until Saturday. While I missed seeing the trucks up close, there was one benefit for my father – that meant Chase Elliott, who was competing in the ARCA race, was on pit road. Dad, long-time fan of Chase’s father “Awesome Bill,” was wearing his Bill Elliott t-shirt, so the stars were all aligned correctly – while Dad was never able to get Bill’s autograph in person, he got Chase’s on his Friday ticket, and early in his sure-to-be-long career.

Dave Blaney
Back in the pit/paddock area – what I like to refer to as “the Zoo” – I was waiting for Cup Series practice to start and watching the drivers get in their cars. Dave Blaney, who I’ve been a fan of for about 20 years (back in his World of Outlaws days), was hanging around after most of the cars went out, then walked out to sign a die-cast sprint car – for the man standing next to me! Since another fan stuck out something for Dave to autograph, and he happily obliged, I asked him to sign my Friday ticket – so Dad and I have “matching” autographed tickets!

Corey LaJoie (yellow car) wins at Pocono
The ARCA race didn’t go quite as planned – Chase didn’t win – but it was a great race, with Corey LaJoie getting his second ARCA win in just his third race.

Track-drying operations
Saturday morning was – go ahead, guess! – wet! Cup practice and Truck Series qualifying were cancelled, so efforts went into getting the track ready for the Truck Series race. Finally, the clouds parted, the sun came out, a light breeze fell on the track, and – only 30 minutes late – the Truck Series took to the track. Dad and I, in our matching Dave Blaney shirts (he threatened to change it back at the hotel when he saw I was wearing mine!) cheered rather loudly – as did many other fans – when Ryan Blaney took the checkered flag. I was also thrilled that we found a great spot in the stands last year for burnout pictures!

Ryan Blaney celebrates with his crew
So the big NASCAR trip of the year is over – the rest of the racing season will consist of 358 dirt mods, asphalt mods and the World of Outlaws…I’ll take it!

all photos: Paula Thompson Freelance

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Buffa-love 2013: Larkinville – July 20th, 2013

As part of the Menne Nursery garden tour I went on last month, we got to have lunch from the Filling Station at Larkin Square, most often referred to as “Larkinville.” The area is, according to its website, “a multi-purpose public space in the heart of Buffalo’s Larkin District that features various casual indoor and outdoor dining options, colorful happy furniture, retail market stalls, state-of-the-art lighting and sound, food trucks, public sculpture, free concerts and more.”

The clouds broke for the first time that day when we arrived at Larkinville for lunch, and it didn’t surprise me – Larkinville is all about color, happiness and fun. Lunch was a bag lunch – choices were a veggie wrap, ham and swiss on a pretzel roll (Yes please! Awesome pretzel roll!!) or turkey and gouda on a bun. Unfortunately, due to the weather that rolled through that morning, the event that would’ve made my day was cancelled – a classic car show :( Without that to occupy me, I ventured around and took a look at the awesome gardens, cool furniture and the even-cooler piano.

There’s lots to do at Larkinville, including Food Truck Tuesdays, concerts, the Marketplace at Larkin Square, plenty of food and drink and plenty of places to just sit and relax. Learn more about Larkinville, including its schedule for the rest of 2013, at

all photos: copyright Paula Thompson Freelance

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Buffa-love 2013: Luna and Kali at the Buffalo Zoo – July 24th, 2013

It’s been a few weeks since my first visit to the Buffalo Zoo in ages, but I’m still so glad that I went. The main purpose of my visit did not disappoint: our cute little polar bear cubs Luna and Kali.
Luna - copyright Paula Thompson Freelance

Lovely little Luna was born at the Zoo in November 2012, one of only three polar bears born in US zoos last year. She made her public debut in March 2013 and quickly became the darling of Buffalo. Kali was an orphaned cub from Alaska and brought to Buffalo because the Alaska Zoo didn’t have the room. The pair became quick pals and have personalities all their own.

Kali - copyright Paula Thompson Freelance
The Buffalo Zoo is in the process of raising money for a new Arctic Edge exhibit that would showcase, among other animals, Luna and possibly Kali. If you are interested in helping keep our bears in Buffalo, visit the Buffalo Zoo Polar Pledge page.

Luna (foreground) and Kali - copyright Paula Thompson Freelance

Saturday, July 27, 2013

World of Outlaws Sprints at Rolling Wheels Raceway Park: July 23rd, 2013

The first trip of the season to Rolling Wheels Raceway Park in Elbridge, NY (outside Syracuse) was a comfortable one – for once, I wasn’t there when it was cold (like May or October usually is)! As usual, we got our parking spot in the VIP area, providing great shots of the A-Main with my new lens (which I LOOOOOOOOVE!), and took a few trips around the pits before the action got underway.
Sammy Swindell
This year was a little different, because Dad actually knew one of the teams competing – Cheektowaga native Todd Hoddick made his first start with the Outlaws, and his father Trey sat with my father and I during the time trials and heats. Todd finished 16th in his first match-up with the big guys!
Todd Hoddick
There were a few wrecks, including a scary one that saw Kerry Madsen’s sprint get stuffed under a guardrail, but nothing awful, which is always a plus in racing. Daryn Pittman won the race in the Kasey Kahne Racing No. 9.

Four wide!

Pittman takes the checkered flag
photos: Paula Thompson Freelance

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Menne Nursery garden tour – July 20th, 2013

I went on the Menne Nursery garden tour last year and really enjoyed it – especially because of the low cost compared to other garden tours – so signing up again was a no-brainer (find out what else I could’ve done here). This year’s tour officially visited six homes, but since two other nearby homes were open for the Ken-Ton Garden Walk, we ended up at eight homes with some very unique gardens, including a “green roof” garden, a different type of rooftop garden, some cool succulent ideas and – my dream – a “no-lawn” landscape! (I can dream can’t I?)

One of the great surprises of the trip was lunch at Larkinville in the city of Buffalo. Larkinville is a really cool outdoor space with awesome gardens and containers, colorful seating, a restaurant called the Filling Station and lots of other fun stuff – these couple pictures won’t do it justice, I’ll be doing a bigger post on this new Buffalo hot spot soon!

all photos: Paula Thompson Freelance

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

2013 National Garden Festival: Capen Garden Walk and Snyder-CleveHill Garden View, July 13th and 14th, 2013

It was a double garden walk weekend, as I visited the Capen Garden Walk on Saturday, July 13th and the Snyder-CleveHill Garden View on Sunday, July 14th. It was my first time visiting these neighborhoods for garden walks, but I did visit a couple of the gardens on the S-CH walk last year as part of a National Garden Festival bus trip – it was nice to see how these gardens have progressed.

Over the two days I hit around two dozen gardens – nowhere’s near all of them, as the Capen Garden Walk had over 60 and the S-CH walk had more than 25. It’s always interesting to see what people use for “container plantings” – everything from old metal toys to shells! And bikes – lots of bikes! Here are a few of my favorite ideas from these walks.

Capen Garden Walk

Capen Garden Walk

Capen Garden Walk

Snyder-CleveHill Garden View

Snyder-CleveHill Garden View

Snyder-CleveHill Garden View

Snyder-CleveHill Garden View
All photos: Paula Thompson Freelance

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Holland Speedway – RoC Modifieds: July 6th, 2013

I’m a little late getting these up thanks to a busy week of writing, but since the NASCAR Mods are getting ready to take the green flag at New Hampshire (and it’s on TV!), it seemed like the perfect time!
Staging on the frontstretch

Getting ready to start

The Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Tour hit Holland Speedway last weekend and, as usual, put on a great show. There was some controversy at the previous race which led to Chuck Hossfeld and Matt Hirschman being disqualified and put on probation, but it was a clean race until the end, when Andy Jankowiak and Patrick Emerling got together at the flag stand and caused some damage. There was a different kind of controversy following the race, as the driver who took the checkered flag didn’t pass inspection; that gave the win to…who else…Matt Hirschman!

My favorite Modified driver of all time, Tony Hirschman, now spotting for son Matt

Matt Hirschman (60) leads the pack
All photos: Paula Thompson Freelance