Weekly Photo Challenge: Fun

Kyle esses Cupwatermarked

When I tell people I spent my vacation at a NASCAR race, they look at me funny. I know what they’re thinking—why spend your time off watching cars driving around in circles? Here’s why. Half of it is watching these impressive automobiles fly around the track at high rates of speed. The other half is stopping those cars  with my camera.

WPC: Fun!

Weather Redemption

I call last year’s Six Hours at the Glen The One With All the Rain. Because it rained all weekend, creating lake-size ponds and making for some very wet racing. It looked something like this:

Photo by Jen Thompson

Photo by Jen Thompson

Photo by Jen Thompson

Photo by Jen Thompson

For as bad as last year’s weather was, this year’s weather was, well, perfect—blue skies, fluffy clouds, comfortable temperatures, and a nice breeze off the lake. I call this year’s race The Reward for Last Year. What a difference a year makes:

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Photo by Jen Thompson

JT WGI selects27

Photo by Jen Thompson

For more photos from this year’s Six Hours at the Glen (and other fast car photos), check us out at Four Wheels and an Engine.

The Thrill of Victory! And the Agony of Defeat.

“The thrill of victory! And the agony of defeat.”

These are the famous words that Jim McKay uttered at the beginning of every episode of Wide World of Sports. I can still picture the ski jumper crashing at the end of the ramp and tumbling to the ground. (Never seen it before? I’ll give you a second to Google it.)

This phrase has probably become one of the greatest sports clichés. But there really are no other words to describe what happened at the end of this year’s 24 Hours of LeMans.

The thrill of victory! Porsche scores its 18th overall victory at LeMans. Neel Jani, Marc Lieb, and Romain Dumas take the top step of the podium.

The agony of defeat. Toyota loses its lead to the Porsche with only minutes to go in the 24-hour endurance race when its LMP1 loses power.

The thrill of victory! The Porsche team members cheer and hug as their car takes the lead. Hand out the victory t-shirts!

The agony of defeat. The looks on the Toyota team members’ faces vary from shock to utter sadness. And of course, there are tears.

So if anyone ever decides to revive Wide World of Sports, I’d recommend footage from the last five minutes of this year’s 24 Hours of LeMans. It sums it all up perfectly.


Pardon My Racing Withdrawal

Please pardon me. It’s been a rough morning because I woke up with racing withdrawal. Maybe you know what I’m talking about—after a perfect day full of race cars, I want more, but there are none. Racing withdrawal usually affects me after a long weekend at the racetrack. But the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend is a special day of racing. So even though I sat in front of my television all day and didn’t catch a whiff of race fuel or feel the rumble of an engine, I am seriously missing  my race cars this morning.

It was quite the day yesterday.

First, the narrow streets of Monaco. And the heartbreak for Daniel Ricciardo as he showed up for his pit stop but his tires didn’t. (And the strange sight of Lewis Hamilton sharing his victory champagne with Justin Bieber.)

Next, the spectacle of the Indianapolis 500. And the celebration of history. And James Hinchcliffe leading the field to green one year after his horrific accident. And the surprise win for American rookie Alexander Rossi.

Last, the test of endurance at Charlotte. And Martin Truex Jr.’s absolutely dominating performance. And his absolutely emotional Victory Lane celebration with his girlfriend, Sherry Pollex.

And now, nothing.

The only consolation? I’ll be at a racetrack soon. Thirty-two days, to be exact. But who’s counting?



Max Verstappen and the Joy of History

Matt and I had every reason to be disappointed with the outcome of Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix. Matt’s driver—Lewis Hamilton—didn’t even make it to Turn 4 (I have my opinion on what happened, but I know that yours may differ). My driver—Daniel Ricciardo—had the lead early but ended up one spot shy of the podium, thanks to team strategy.

Despite all that, I couldn’t help but smile at the end of the race. I am a sucker for history, and Max Verstappen made some Sunday when he became the youngest driver to win an F1 race at 18 years, 277 days. At that age, I was probably trying to decide between a grilled cheese or chicken patty sandwich at the dining hall, scraping together quarters to do laundry, and dreading my 8:15 a.m. class.

Not only did Verstappen set the record, he shattered Sebastian Vettel’s record by more than two years. Throw in the fact that Verstappen is the son of a former F1 driver (and race winner), and that’s my kind of history-making day.

I’m also a sucker for first-time winners. There is nothing like the look of joy (and relief) on a driver’s face the first time he or she has that first taste of victory. After seeing Max’s joy on the podium, I wanted more. So that might explain why I was screaming at the television later that afternoon, trying to will Kyle Larson or Chase Elliott to their first Sprint Cup victory .

Book Review: Wedding Girl by Stacey Ballis

wedding girlEvery time I finish a book by Stacey Ballis, I want to do two things: cook something amazing (and then eat it, of course) and finally book that ticket to visit Chicago. That feeling continues with her new book, Wedding Girl.

Wedding Girl tells the story of Sophie Bernstein, a top pastry chef with a runaway groom. Sophie moves in with her grandmother, starts working at the neighborhood bakery, and in the process becomes an online wedding planner.

Wedding Girl is full of wonderful characters and vivid descriptions of Sophie’s culinary creations and her beloved Chicago. This was such a fun, light-hearted read that I couldn’t put down. Put it on your list of beach reads for this summer.

I received access to galleys of this book through the First to Read Program.

Snakes in a Rest Area

This is our fourth year going to the Rolex 24 in Daytona. Every year we do the same thing: we fly into the west coast of Florida to visit for a couple days and then head up I-4 to Daytona. And every year we stop at the same rest area, which has this sign:


For those of you who live in Florida and other parts of the country, this may be a normal thing for you. For this Jersey girl, it’s not. Add to the mix that snakes are in my top five fears. Maybe even top two. You would think that would stop me from getting out of the car. Nope. I stop and take a picture of this sign every year.

One of the great things about traveling is that you get to see things you wouldn’t see at home. Like snakes in a rest area.

Snow Jam 2016

This blog post was supposed be about my monster truck appetizer before we headed out to Daytona for the Rolex 24. But a winter storm with the same name as a trio of pop-singing brothers had other ideas and dropped more than two feet of snow on the area. So instead of some awesome photos of Grave Digger, you get this photo of our cars buried under feet of snow:


Instead of the almost 1,500 horsepower that a monster truck generates, I give you the 8-horsepower beast that Matt used to clean our driveway. Here’s one from Saturday afternoon. I call it Man With Snowblower:


Or this one from Sunday morning:


But what will you get instead? A photo of the comb over on the front of our house:


Is Simon LeBon Right?

My first “real” concert ever was Duran Duran in the eighth grade. God bless my mother, who took my brother and I to the then-Brendan Byrne Arena to see Simon, Nick, John, Roger, and Andy. I adored Duran Duran. I had pictures of Simon and John in my locker, and all their songs were on whatever was the 1980s equivalent of “Repeat.”

Thirty years later, there’s Duran Duran on CBS Sunday Morning this past weekend promoting their new album, and I’m embarrassingly giddy as a schoolgirl again.

Discussing the less-than-favorable reviews that Duran Duran got at the height of their success, Simon LeBon said, “The more girls we got kind of following the band, the more [critics] hated us.”

Hey! Wait! I was one of those girls.

It got me to thinking. Is there really any truth to Simon LeBon’s statement?

Because if he’s right, that means I may not be giving the music of  Justin Bieber and One Direction a fair shake?.But that can’t be right.

And if he’s wrong, that means Duran Duran was the New Kids on the Block or Backstreet Boys of my time. That definitely can’t be it.

Rather than actually face the answer to this question, I’m going to hop back into my bubble of 80s nostalgia and pop in my Duran Duran Greatest Hits CD. And maybe I’ll go out buy  their new album, Paper Gods. Rolling Stone said that if the album was “a debut from some upstart band, the buzz would be insane.”

These guys just can’t catch a break, can they?


Four Things I Learned at Book Con

In honor of the release of Mindy Kaling’s new book, Why Not Me? today,  here’s a recap of my trip to see her at Book Con in New York this past May.

I’d never been to a “Con” before,  but that all changed this past May. My “Con” of choice? Book Con, which is an extension of Book Expo America and has exhibits from publishers big and small as well as panels from authors. Book Con was quite a learning experience. Here are four things I learned:

1) “Con” means standing in long lines for long periods of time. I spent most of my day on some sort of line: the line outside the Javits Center before the doors open, the line to get wristbands for the panels, the lines to get into the panels, the line to the ladies’ room (because there were more females than males there), the line to buy books, and the line to have a book signed. When I walked around on the show floor, I got onto lines and had no idea what was at the end of them. But all of the line waiting proved to be worth it. (Side note: I learned the hard way that line buddies are imperative because they can hold your place in the panel line while you get in the restroom line.)


Photo by Jen Thompson

2) Mindy Kaling has very rabid fans. I was just excited as everyone else on line to get inside to see Mindy and B.J. Novak (and in all honesty, to sit down because I had been on my feet for hours). I know there was much love for Mindy, but I wasn’t prepared for the rush when the doors opened. Everyone started running for the door. A few uncool people tried to jump the barriers. I ended up with a pretty good seat, and she proved yet again that I want to be her when I grow up (even though she’s about 10 years younger than me).

3) The future looks bright. A large percentage of the Book Con attendees were pre-teens and teens (and their parents) there to see John Green and Rainbow Rowell and so many other YA authors I’d never heard of. And they’d read all their books. Multiple times. That’s cool.

Nick and friends

Photo by Jen Thompson

4) Nick Offerman is awesome. He writes awesome books and was awesome enough to talk about them. And he brought his awesome friends (John Hodgman and Paul Rudd) with him. And he has an awesome laugh. And he sang awesome songs about his wife (who is also pretty awesome). And he was awesome enough to sign my book. It was awesome.