Tuesday, August 26, 2014

How Does My Garden Grow: 2014 Garden Update

In the early days of BfloGirlWorld, I previewed my garden ideas for 2014 – veggies, zinnias and my first theme garden, the Sci-Fi/Fantasy garden. Here’s a quick update on those topics and others.

Veggies – the vegetable gardens are booming! June provided lots of lettuce as well as strawberries, and July started the next round of harvesting: beans, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini and tomatoes – cherry and “full-sized.” Some Roma tomato seeds I got for free and planted in late May – not expecting much – are producing: there are lots of little Romas growing! I have more beans and lettuce planted in containers right now, as well as some radishes, which were the only thing I tried and was disappointed by.

Zinniasvery disappointing, thanks in great part to my bunnies L They’re starting to come around now, but not as plentiful as they were last year.

Jedi Free Spirit
The Sci-Fi/Fantasy garden – there was one plant I left out of my preview piece, mostly because I had given up on it. Guess what? It bloomed! I bought the Jedi Free Spirit daylily a few years ago – it was actually my first Star Wars plant. For the last two years, it grew foliage, but no flowers. I got discouraged, and wasn’t sure what to do with it. When it started growing this year, I did what any gardener would likely do – I talked to it. Told it how pretty it was, how it would be even prettier with a flower or two (yes, gardeners do that!). Thank you for listening Jedi Free Spirit! The rest of the garden is doing well too, especially the Dark Angel Star Wars dahlia – talk about a garden take-over! I’m already planning expansion for next year, even if it’s just to give everything more breathing room.

A welcome surprise – I have a corner on my front porch that is just made for shade containers, and I’ve got a shelf unit that makes it even better. This is what the corner looks like this year:

my shady corner
I loooooove this little corner of happiness! Some of the plants I used include Wizard Coral Sunrise Coleus, Fusion Peach Frost and Fusion Glow Yellow Exotic Impatiens, Kong Jr. Green Halo Coleus, Electric Lime Coleus, Million Kisses Honeymoon and Devotion Begonias, Vino Coleus, Superbells Grape Punch Calibrachoa, Aurora Coleus, Ragtime Petunia and Fuse-ables Coleus.

all photos: paulathompsonfreelance.com

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Sports Shorts – August 21, 2014

The era of Derek Jeter is coming to an end soon…going to Yankees games will never be the same without “the Captain.” I was blessed to see the “Core Four” play, and hopefully Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte will be recognized together in Monument Park.

Thanks Captain!
While Terry Pegula has yet to put a winning hockey team on the ice, he’s certainly bringing hockey to Buffalo in a big way. Harbor Center will host the 2015 and 2016 NHL Combine, and the First Niagara Center will once again host the USA Hockey Prospects Game in September – there are also rumors of will also be an Erie Otters game at the FNC this season - October 22.

I can’t wait for Harbor Center to open – I’m looking forward to checking out the new (716) restaurant and the Sabres-themed Tim Hortons!

Dear NFL – PLEASE give the Bills to Terry Pegula!!

For local auto racing fans, the fiasco at Lancaster…er, Elegant Builders Raceway Park is almost as bad as Bills ownership scenarios. Hopefully calmer heads will prevail and we can at least see the annual Tommy Druar-Tony Jankowiak Memorial 110 run where it should be – EBRP. Then we can look forward to 2015 and a new beginning! (Hey, maybe Terry Pegula has a few extra dollars… J)
****ETA - calmer heads have prevailed! The US Open is a go - read all about it here!

Three races till the Chase, one til the Countdown and two left in the IndyCar season – this is one of the best times to be a racing fan! One of NASCAR’s biggest stories is the number of drivers without a win yet this season – at the forefront, Matt Kenseth, who went from seven wins last year to winless in 2014. In the NHRA, John Force is once again a hot topic as he keeps going rounds and winning Wallys – the thought that this legend may be sidelined next year due to loss of sponsorship is unthinkable. The compacted IndyCar Series season has kept it in the sports page more regularly this season – last year, there were a few breaks of three or so weeks at a time, allowing fans to forget about the series.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Bowling Balls, Wrought Iron and Tree Houses: Buffalo-Style Garden Art

One of the coolest things about attending garden walks and tours during the National Garden Festival in the Buffalo-Niagara area is checking out the garden art: sculptures, metal art, pottery pieces, paintings, even things you wouldn’t expect in a garden. We even have a Buffalo-Style Garden Art Sale in the opening weeks of the Festival.

Here are a few of my favorite art pieces from this year’s National Garden Festival (I visited gardens involved in five garden walks this year):

Metal hummingbird – I loooooooved this piece when I saw it – so much so that I looked for it at the Glen Park Art Festival a few days later…now it’s mine!

Bowling ball totem pole – yep, a bunch of bowling balls topped with a bunch of pins…our gardeners are creative!

Colorful homes – even the homes are pieces of art! Vibrant colors like these can be seem throughout the area of Garden Walk Buffalo.

Fun signs – this one was at the home of Art of Gardening blogger Jim Charlier.

Tree houses – this tree house was awesome! The homeowners also had a number of cool garden art pieces, like ants made from golf balls and a peacock of colorful bottles.

all photos: paulathompsonfreelance.com

Monday, August 18, 2014

Design to Reality: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fontana Boathouse

Fontana Boathouse
The Western New York area has one of the largest “collections,” if you will, of Frank Lloyd Wright “art work”: his beautiful architecture. Most famous among these “pieces” are Buffalo’s Darwin Martin House and the Graycliffe Estate in Derby. The Buffalo area is also home to a few recent but archival Wright builds: the Blue Sky Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Cemetery, the Filling Station at the Pierce-Arrow Museum and a building I recently visited, the Fontana Boathouse.

The Fontana Boathouse, located at 1 Rotary Row, is a working boathouse that is managed and used by the West Side Rowing Club. Wright originally designed the boathouse for the University of Wisconsin crew team in 1905, giving them a building that blended form and function. That design, however, was not built until a few years ago in Buffalo.

upstairs window
In 2000, three friends discussed placing this boathouse design on the Niagara River, near the junction point with Lake Erie. After seven years, construction of the Fontana Boathouse was completed, and the Buffalo area had yet another Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece. In 2008, the boathouse was designated as a US National team development site by US Rowing.

Our docent, Olivia, was very knowledgeable about the boathouse, taking us through both the design components of the building and the background of how it went from design to reality.

In addition to being a working boathouse, the Fontana Boathouse is available for special events and tours, including the All Wright All Day tours presented by Forest Lawn and the Darwin Martin House. Find out more about the Fontana Boathouse here, and the more about the All Wright All Day tours here.

the view

upstairs meeting room

the working boathouse
all photos: paulathompsonfreelance.com

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Improv in the Kitchen: Summer Popsicles from Litehouse Foods

A couple of months ago, a wonderful representative from Litehouse Foods contacted me about some luscious-looking fruit and herb popsicles and offering me a sample of their products. In the heat of summer, popsicles sounded perfect!

I received this beautiful package (samples?!?!) with nine super-useful freeze-dried herbs. There was one problem: they arrived in the midst of three of the busiest weeks I had all summer!

Finally, this past weekend, I made a list of the few ingredients I needed to try a couple of the pops. At my first grocery stop…completely forgot about the list. Luckily, there was another grocery store in my travels that day, so I stopped there, list in hand. I’m not sure if I wasn’t looking in the right place, but I couldn’t find mango or pineapple juice (I would think it would be in the aisle labeled “juice”?).

That’s when you improvise: I found mango-pineapple juice blend!

To try the pops, I halved the recipe Litehouse Foods provided and created Mango-Pineapple-Strawberry Lemon Pops (this made two 3-oz. popsicles):
  • 1/6 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon Litehouse Instantly Fresh Lemon Grass
  • 3/4 Tablespoon blue agave nectar
  • 1 cup mango-pineapple juice blend (Ocean Spray Wave)
  • A few strawberry chunks

Mix water and lemon grass in a small saucepan; add agave nectar and simmer. Let the mixture reduce for 2-3 minutes, then set aside until it returns to room temperature.

Pour mango-pineapple juice into a cup with a pour spout, then add syrup mixture and stir. Pour juice mixture into popsicle molds, leaving approximately 1/2-inch of space at top. Add fruit, then insert popsicle sticks or lids. Freeze for two to four hours or until frozen.

all photos: paulathompsonfreelance.com
Litehouse Food Instantly Fresh Herbs are unique – they’re freeze-dried, and you can use them just as you would fresh herbs. Among the samples I received: Lemon Grass, Ginger, Basil, Chives and Thyme. The only problem with them that I’ve come across so far: I haven’t been able to find them in any Amherst stores! The website does have a list of stores where you can find them in other states, and they are available on Amazon.com.

I found a few other recipes I’m eager to try on their website – look for those soon, now that my crazy summer is winding down!

Thank you Litehouse Foods for the recipes and the sample products – this recipe was inspired by a Litehouse Foods recipe.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Confessions of a Car Kid

In spite of my mother’s hopefulness and her dressing me in skirts every other day when I was in grade school, I was still something of a tomboy. I played with Barbie, but I also played with Tonka trucks in the sand box. My favorite gym classes were floor hockey games – square dancing? Not so much. On Saturday afternoons, I helped Dad load up his truck for the race track that night – on Sunday mornings, we unloaded. My favorite car as a kid? A metallic blue IROC Z – as well as my dad’s 1967 Mustang Shelby GT500 (I miss that car – and so does he!).

Like this one! (wikimedia commons: order_242)
Having been brought up around auto racing and cars in general, it was tough not to be a car kid. I remember my first foray into racing photography: one of the sponsors for Dad’s team wanted some photos taken in front of his parts store, which happened to be on a busy street with very little parking out front. So, we improvised: dad dropped the car off in front of the store in the median on a Sunday morning (early!) while I set up a ladder on the sidewalk so I could get more than just the side panels on the car. Somehow, we pulled it off – the photos were pretty cool too!

I’ve always loved going to car shows and the races, AM perusing of car dealerships before they open, Sundays in front of the TV watching NASCAR, Thursday Night Thunder on ESPN…

The kids (paulathompsonfreelance.com)
It’s carried on through my adult life. Dad’s now got two Mustangs that we take to car shows, and even if we leave the ponies at home we still walk around. I still love going to the races (with camera in hand!), and I still have favorite cars (2005 Mustang in Windveil Blue Metallic – any type! – and any Saturn Sky – I miss that car!). Add to that the fact that I now write about auto racing and get paid for it (it’s not full-time, but I’ve made back my college tuition doing it!)…

I guess being a car kid has paid off. Thanks Dad – and thanks Mom for putting up with us!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Thousands of Fans, Six Inductees and the Tomahawk Chop: The National Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

One hot Sunday in July, thousands of baseball fans converged on someplace akin to Paradise for lovers of America’s National Pastime. That place goes by one name: Cooperstown.
National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum on Induction Ceremony morning
The village of Cooperstown, New York is home to more than the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, but for the last weekend of July, there is nothing else. That weekend is Hall of Fame Weekend, and this year, six new members were inducted into the Hall.
Inside the Hall of Fame
D&F Travel offered a day trip to the hallowed grounds of baseball on Sunday, July 27th for the Induction Ceremony, with six inductees who were a who’s who of my era of baseball fandom: Tony LaRussa, Frank Thomas, Bobby Cox, Greg Maddox, Tom Glavine and Joe Torre. To say that Atlanta as a baseball city (LaRussa, Cox, Maddox, Glavine and Torre) and Georgia as a state (Thomas, who was born in Georgia and went to Auburn) were well represented is an understatement.
Atlanta fans doing the Chop
Tomahawk chops began well before the ceremony started, and continued through the first three inductees presented: Maddox, Cox and Glavine. Glavine, who was also drafted by the Los Angeles Kings, made reference to his two-sport past with tongue-in-cheek humor: having been drafted ahead of Hockey Hall of Famers Luc Robitaille and Brett Hull, he imagined that he would’ve been inducted into that Hall of Fame if he hadn’t chosen the baseball path.
Tom Glavine
LaRussa and an emotional Thomas came next, followed by the man I, as a Yankees fan, went there to see: Torre, the Yankees skipper for six AL pennants and four World Series titles; Torre was also a nine-time All-Star as a player for the Braves. Torre was cheered loudest when he told us we’d be back in a few years to see a couple more Yankees inductions, referring to future Hall of Famers Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter.
Joe Torre's plaque presentation
I also spent some time in the Hall of Fame Museum, but in all honesty, it’s not the place to visit on Induction Ceremony morning – it’s a huge monument to the game, but seemed sooooo small with thousands of people trying to make their way through it in a short time. I definitely need to go back!

all photos: paulathompsonfreelance.com

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Alpha-Buffalo: B is for Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra

The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, a Buffalo staple since 1935, is a nationally- and internationally-renowned orchestra that calls Kleinhans Music Hall home. The BPO, under the direction of Maestro JoAnne Falletta, presents over 100 shows each year, and in 2009, won their first two Grammy Awards.

The BPO's history dates back to 1934, when Cameron Baird, Frederick Slee, and Samuel Capan recruited Lajos Shuk, a European-trained conductor who was then cello virtuoso and director of the New York Civic Symphony, to lead a Buffalo-based orchestra. The first concerts were presented in the 1935-36 season, and efforts were put forth by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra Society to raised funds to maintain the orchestra through 1937, at which time support came from a WPA project.

Kleinhans Music Hall, designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989, has been the home of the BPO since 1940. The internationally-known concert hall was built thanks to a donation from the estates of Edward and Mary Seaton Kleinhans, and designed by the father-son team of Eliel and Eero Saarinen. The first BPO concert at the hall was the dedication concert on October 12th, 1940.

In 1945, Maestro Williams Steinberg presided over a new era for the orchestra, with the addition of many European musicians seeking a new life in the US. Under Steinberg, the BPO released its first commercial recording, Leningrad Symphony No. 7 by Shostakovich; several of their performances were also recorded and broadcast on the NBC radio network.

Following Steinberg's departure in 1952, Maestro Josef Krips, former Music Director for both the Vienna State Opera and the London Symphony, took over the podium, followed by Lukas Foss in 1963. Both maestros took the orchestra to new levels, with Krips bringing back BPO tours of the eastern US and Canada, and Foss bringing the group to Carnegie Hall and PBS.

Foss' successor, Michael Tilson Thomas, took over in 1971. The young maestro, just 24 when he accepted the position, led the BPO through two recordings and performances at Carnegie Hall, Boston's Symphony Hall, and Washington D.C.'s Kennedy Center. In 1979 Julius Rudel, maestro for the New York City Opera, took the podium over, followed by Russian maestro Semyon Bychkov, who led the BPO on their first-ever European tour.

Maestro Maximiano Valdes of Chili took over the podium in 1989, followed by current Music Director Falletta in 1998. Falletta, who holds an undergraduate degree from New York's Mannes School of Music and master's and doctorate degrees from The Juilliard School, was the first female music director named to a major orchestra in the US. Falletta has brought the BPO to an even higher level of excellence, which has included over a dozen recordings and the orchestra's first two Grammy Awards, for the 2008 recording John Corigliano: Mr. Tambourine Man: Seven Poems of Bob Dylan; Three Hallucinations. She has a reputation for featuring seldom-heard works and has guest conducted for many other symphonies around the world. Falletta is also Music Director for the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, and founded the JoAnne Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition, which takes place in Buffalo.

Learn more about the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, including their upcoming scheduled performances, at bpo.org

Monday, August 4, 2014

July 2014 in review

July is typically a busy month in Buffalo, mostly because we’re all trying to squeeze as much out of summer as possible! My busy July extended beyond Buffalo a few times – here’s what my crazy schedule looked like:
  • July 1st – Blue Rodeo and 54-40 at Artpark
    Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor of Blue Rodeo
  • July 4th – Fireworks at Transit Valley Country Club
  • July 5th – Race of Champions Modified Tour at Holland Speedway
    RoC Mods at Holland Speedway
  • July 10th – Cleveland’s Progressive Field for Indians v. Yankees with D&F Travel
  • July 12th – Amherst and Capen Garden Walks
  • July 18th – Firematic Tournament at Main-Transit Fire Department
  • July 19thMan Up Car and Bike Show at East Amherst Fire Department and Village of Williamsville Garden Walk
  • July 22nd – Know How Tours Buffalo bus tour to Fontana Boathouse, City Hall and Silo City
    Buffalo's grain silos
  • July 24th – Horizon Club Tours bus tour to selected gardens from Garden Walk Buffalo
  • July 25th – Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens
  • July 26th – Glen Park Art Festival
  • July 27th – Cooperstown, NY for the National Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony with D&F Travel
    National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown on
    Induction Sunday

And on July 31st I took off on my first bit of August fun – but more on that later…

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Life imitates blog: A visit to the Art of Gardening Garden

When you see something enough in the online world, you sometimes have trouble realizing it really exists in the real world. That’s what happened on the recent Heart of Garden Walk Buffalo bus tour from Horizon Club Tours with Sally Cunningham.

Jim Charlier, former president of Garden Walk Buffalo and blogger behind Art of Gardening, and his wife opened their yard and gardens to us just before Garden Walk Buffalo weekend, and suddenly everything I saw on his blog was real…

 …the succulent frame
…the garden art

It was all right there to see with my own eyes – and my own camera.

As always, I take waaaay too many ideas away from other people’s gardens, and this one was no exception. Some of my favorite things:

Coleus and hostas in pots – if only the rabbits and deer didn’t like both soooo much…
The “rock garden”…
…complete with a list of where the rocks came from
Coleus with sweet potato vines in hanging baskets – BIG hanging baskets!
I would like to thank the Charliers for opening their yard and garden to us and many other garden junkies throughout the National Garden Festival and Garden Walk Buffalo.

all photos: paulathompsonfreelance.com

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Alpha-Buffalo: F is for the Finger Lakes Region

New York State's Finger Lakes region features nearly a dozen lakes and some of the state's finest wineries, but there's more to the area than water and bountiful grape harvests. From fairs and festivals to a world-class auto racing facility, parks and recreation to museums and historical sites, the Finger Lakes offer learning experiences and fun for couples, families, girlfriend getaways, or just taking a day or two to get away from it all.

Agriculture - from vineyards and wineries to the Ithaca Farmer's Market, find some of the freshest products the region has to offer.

The arts - visit the Rochester Folk Art Guild, listen to area musicians, or check out the Sterling Renaissance Festival.

Historical sites - whether you're interested in aviation (Wings of Eagles Discovery Center), the history of the Undergrounds Railroad, or the Women's Rights National Historical Park, it can be found in the Finger Lakes.

Nature - visit Watkins Glen State Park, the Finger Lakes National Forest, Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, or one of the New York State Forests and Wildlife Management areas.

Outdoor fun - whether you enjoy a slow-paced round of golf or the speed of auto racing at Watkins Glen International, you'll find something for the whole family in the Finger Lakes.

Shopping - malls, antique shops, and winery gift shops can all be found here.

Libations - not only wineries, but also breweries and distilleries.

Get more information about the Finger Lakes at www.fingerlakes.org or www.fingerlakes.com and start planning your getaway today.

For a few more pieces from 2011 on the Finger Lakes, check out this collection from Examiner.com.

(Previously published on Examiner.com)