Saturday, June 29, 2013

Mustang (and More!) Show at Eastern Hills Mall – June 23rd, 2013

I love muscle cars…Camaros, Challengers and ESPECIALLY Mustangs – which is a good thing since Dad has two in his garage! On Sunday, June 23rd, the Eastern Hills Mall hosted the annual Mustang Show in its front lot – lots of beautiful Ponies, plus a few T-Birds, pick-up trucks and Galaxies thrown in for good measure.

All photos: copyright Paula Thompson Freelance (last photo retouched)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Hoosier Modified Tour at Elegant Builders Raceway Park – June 22nd, 2013

I love going out to see the Mighty Modifieds at the local tracks (even checked them out in New Hampshire a few seasons back!), and the first show of the season in the Buffalo-Niagara area was the Hoosier Modified Tour stop at Elegant Builders Raceway Park (a/k/a Dunn Tire Raceway Park, and always Lancaster Speedway) last Saturday. The show was originally scheduled for May, but the lovely weather we’ve been having pushed for a postponement.
As a prelude to the big show, my dad’s little 4-cylinder team, Team 49 Racing, took home its second checkered flag of the season thanks to Al Piasecki. (I’m being sarcastic when I say little – there are four cars on this “little” team!)

Matt Hirschman, last year’s Race of Champions Modified champ, wasn’t at the track due to a prior commitment, but there was plenty of other talent: Erick Rudolph, Mike Leaty, Chuck Hossfeld, Billy Putney and more.

 Rudolph took the checkered flag in the 100-lap event.

Erick Rudolph
All photos: copyright Paula Thompson Freelance

Buffa-love 2013: Our Lady of Victory Basilica – June 21st, 2013

Just down the street from the Botanical Gardens is Our Lady of Victory Basilica, located at 767 Ridge Rd. in Lackawanna. OLV, as it’s known in Buffalo, is the final resting place of the Venerable Nelson Baker, known as “Father Baker” throughout the community. Baker was born in Buffalo in 1842, served in the Civil War and ran a successful grain and feed business in the area before realizing his true calling: the priesthood. You can learn more about the life of Father Baker here.
The Basilica and gardens are mesmerizing, with surprising little touches, such as the next picture, throughout the grounds.
The OLV Basilica is open daily from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., while the OLV Gift Shop and Father Baker Museum are open Sundays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mondays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesdays 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Wednesdays through Fridays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (see website for holiday hours). For more information on OLV, visit

all photos: copyright Paula Thompson Freelance

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Celebration of Coleus and Color at the Botanical Gardens – June 21st, 2013

Not only do I love flowers and gardening, I really LUUUV the coleus – beautiful foliage in beautiful colors. The new exhibit at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens – Celebration of Coleus and Color – is therefore right up my alley! I love the unique patterns on coleus leaves, as well as the color combinations. They make great fillers and thrillers in container plantings, and they come in many different “styles” – small, medium, large and trailing, for example.
all photos: Paula Thompson Freelance
I can't wait to go back in a few weeks and see how this has progressed!


Color - orchid

More coleus

More color - in the rose garden at the Gardens

Monday, June 17, 2013

2013 National Garden Festival kicks off June 21st

There was a time when I had two favorite seasons: hockey and outdoor concert seasons. That changed with the introduction of the National Garden Festival, Buffalo-Niagara’s seven-week long garden party, which kicks off on Friday, June 21st throughout the area. For me, that season might just be more important than concerts (but not hockey!). This year’s festival features more than 1,000 gardens in 15 garden walks, seven motorcoach tours, a garden-art sale and a number of special events. 
The Buffalo-Style Garden Art Sale takes place Sunday, June 30th from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Parkside Lodge at Delaware Park, the same day as the Parkside Garden Tour. The sale will include more than 30 vendors as well as the Avenue of Plant Societies, where representatives will answer your gardening and plant questions.
Erie Basin Marina Trial Gardens - 2012
copyright Paula Thompson Freelance
One of my favorite parts of the Garden Festival is the variety of motorcoach tours. I don’t think I’ll be going on any this year, but I’ve done three in the past that have similar tours this year: the Southtowns Bouquet (with a trip to Smug Creek Gardens), Gardens and Architecture (which took us to the Erie Basin Marina Trial Gardens) and Flowering Suburbia (with gardens in the northtowns, like my hometown of Amherst). I highly recommend the motorcoach tours as part of your Garden Festival experience.
Smug Creek Gardens - 2011
copyright Paula Thompson Freelance
Garden walks and open gardens highlight the Garden Festival, with open gardens on Thursdays and Fridays leading into weekends full of garden walks. The garden walk schedule kicks off with the Lewiston Garden Fest on Saturday and Sunday, June 22nd and 23rd, and includes walks in Grand Island, Hamburg, Lockport, Amherst, Lancaster and more. There will be 85 open gardens to visit on Thursdays or Fridays for self-guided tours during the festival as well – more information on the open gardens can be found in the Garden Festival directory, which is available for purchase or download at the website listed below.
Flowering Suburbia (last year entitled The Outliers) - 2012
copyright Paula Thompson Freelance
Highlighting the garden walk schedule is Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest garden tour in the US, on Saturday and Sunday, July 27th and 28th. Garden Walk Buffalo will feature more than 380 gardens. The night before Garden Walk Buffalo, on Friday, July 26th, the first-ever “Evening of Wine and Roses” will take place from 5:15 to 9 p.m., a VIP tour of three gardens never to be included in Garden Walk Buffalo – learn more about the event at
For more information on the National Garden Festival, visit
Portions of this piece originally appeared on

Sunday, June 16, 2013

2013 Travels: Wilbur Chocolates in Lititz, PA

I thought the highlight of my bus trip to Pennsylvania was going to be the QVC Studio Park tour – and it was. But it was almost upstaged by a side trip to a little town called Lititz, and a big-old chocolate store called Wilbur Chocolates, located at 48 N. Broad St. in Lititz.

copyright Paula Thompson Freelance
Wilbur Chocolates, founded in 1865 as a general confectionery, narrowed their focus to chocolate in 1884 – and made an excellent choice. Located in Lititz, Pennsylvania since the 1930s, Wilbur Chocolates is known for their Wilbur Buds – a Kiss-like morsel that was introduced in 1894 as a new way to sell their chocolates.

The wall of candy confections
copyright Paula Thompson Freelance
Wilbur Chocolates’ Lititz shop is also home to the Candy Americana Museum, which opened in 1972. Displays include over 1,000 varieties of molds, tins and boxes, early candy machinery and other kitchen supplies, plus over 150 hand-painted European and Oriental antique porcelain chocolate pots. The Museum is also home to the modern candy kitchen, where handmade chocolates are made for purchase.
The Candy Museum
copyright Paula Thompson Freelance
So what did I buy? Chocolate, of course! I bought some wafers for Christmas candy-making (the price was very reasonable), a package of Wilbur Buds, some cinnamon chips for baking, a puzzle for Dad and Bud E. Bear (because he was adorable!). I will likely be trying out their shipping service in the near future.
Wilbur Chocolates is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed Sundays) – find out more about Wilbur Chocolates at and at
Portions of this piece originally appeared on

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

2013 Travels: QVC Studio Park in West Chester, Pennsylvania

In today’s age of electronic shopping, QVC is one of the biggest retailers in the country. Whether you watch it on television, shop online or through their many apps, QVC stands for Quality, Value and Convenience, and QVC’s Studio Park demonstrates all of the above. I have had a QVC habit problem addiction for countless years, and still remember my first purchase: the three-video-tape (yes, I said it!) set of the remastered Star Wars movies…prior to that, my mom had ordered some stuff from the NASCAR shows they used to have (I SOOOOO miss those!).
Me in Happy-land!
photo by Mom
Located in West Chester, Pennsylvania, QVC Studio Park opened in 1997 and features more than 58,000 square feet of studio space. The Studio Tour is offered five times a day (10:30 a.m., noon, 1 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.), seven days a week, and costs $7.50 for adults and $5 for kids ages 6 to 12 (children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult). The tour runs for approximately one hour, and you get to see lots of behind-the-scenes work and fun, all of which go into making QVC the brand it is today.

The big box entrance
copyright Paula Thompson Freelance
Although not guaranteed, you might catch a glimpse of one of QVC’s hosts or popular guests. On the tour I was on, we were extremely lucky to see hosts Leah Williams, Gabrielle Kerr and Shawn Killinger, designer Susan Graver and even got a wave from host David Venable.

The outdoor set at QVC Studio Park
copyright Paula Thompson Freelance
We then ventured down to the QVC Studio Store…I was the proverbial kid in a candy store! I somehow walked out with just one thing – a Steel by Design Heart Necklace (that I surprisingly didn’t have yet …), but since I was limited to what I could carry on the bus, I was OK with that. We also visited the QVC Outlet Store in Frazer, PA, and was saved by the bus again – they had a bunch of Temp-Tations on sale that could’ve been dangerous!
Learn more about the QVC Studio Tour here.
Parts of this post previously published on