Tag Archives: winter

Finding the Beauty

It snowed this entire week — except for maybe Tuesday! By Friday morning, it was snowing again, and I just couldn’t take it — that little bit of added stress on top of everything else was putting me over the edge! If I could have just went back to bed and got up when the sun came out around 10 am, I would have been much more relaxed! To make matters worse, the morning show guys on my radio were joking that we were getting another 3″ on Friday night. I am now officially over the cold, the gray, the sludge, the slop, the ice, the filth and the salt of this winter!!! 

By the time I got home from work, I decided I needed to readjust my attitude on winter, because we still have at least a month to go, including a trip to Ellicottville, NY next weekend! And for me, the next month at work will be packed full of travel and all kinds of new business initiatives — there just was no room for any added stress. Not to mention my CT scan is due and my doctor’s appointment is coming up — all things that typically add to my stress, even when I pretend otherwise — just know they’re looming puts me on edge!

So I told Tom I wanted to go out and find some beauty in this winter. I know it exists as I daydream of a crackling fireplace in a cabin in the woods, while a thick blanket of snow falls outside — having no place to go and nothing to do. Or thinking of pure peacefulness with only the sound of a stream running through a lush green forest after a fresh snowfall. That’s what we needed to find — it’s what I love about winter.

As luck would have it, we got another two inches of snow on Friday night and woke up to a fresh coating on Saturday. We decided to head out to McConnells Mill State Park to practice what we learned in our digital photography class. The class wrapped up this past Thursday, and we were anxious to start practicing the theory. And surely there we could find some unspoiled beauty with McConnells Mill’s covered bridge, running stream and waterfall. Now, believe it or not, neither of us have ever been to McConnells Mill, even though it’s located just 30 minutes north of where we live. We figured this might be the perfect place to actually see the beauty in this relentless winter!

Now, if any of you know my husband, Tom well, you know that he never heads out anywhere without enough gas in the car. As we passed a little two-pump gas station in Harlansburg, he thought maybe he should have stopped — he only had a quarter of a tank of gas. We continued on, and as we got into the park, the roads were snow covered by a few inches. I was following a map on an App I had downloaded, and when we came to a fork in the road, I told him to go right. That way took us to the covered bridge, and we would have to hike to the waterfall. He made the right turn, and there we were facing a very steep slope over the hillside without any guardrails — and we couldn’t even begin to the see how far down it went. But we didn’t have a choice, there was no way to turn around at this point.

McConnells MillAs we crawled over the hillside, I snapped a couple of photos through the windshield with my iPhone. It got really steep, and I was nervous, telling Tom we should have taken my SUV. Tom agreed, but neither of us knew we would encounter these kinds of slopes! I had no idea how far down it went and was really worried about coming out the other side. Tom stopped in the middle and sighed — he was mumbling something about he wished he would have stopped for gas. We decided to get out of the park and get gas so Tom could relax. If we could make it out.

McConnells MillAs we reach the bottom and started climbing up the other side of the slope, Tom was getting worried that the roads were very snow covered on this side — he hoped it didn’t get much steeper. We came up to a Jeep that had stopped in the middle of the hill between two large rocks — rocks the size of small homes. He was really sweating now that we were going to get stuck on the hill. But we didn’t! This view took my breath away — it was amazing. We made it out of the park ten minutes later, and went back to Rt. 19 where Tom found the nearest gas station and bathroom!

We went back again, knowing we could make it in and out now, and actually parked at the covered bridge. Parking was tight as there were quite a few other people had the same idea as we did. It wasn’t as peaceful as we had hoped — I actually couldn’t believe how many people were out there. I tread through some deep snow banks and took some pictures of the stream. I thought it may actually have a lot of ice, but there was none. There was no where to set up the tripod, so we called it a day.

Yes, we found some gorgeous views and the snow was pretty. But I realized that it wasn’t so much about finding the scenic snowscapes, but finding the peace that came with it. For me, finding the beauty this winter means I need find some time to slow down and unwind.

Here I’ve been looking for some reprieve from this winter, realizing it’s peace I’m seeking, and God has been talking to me all week — in the novena that I’ve been praying to St. Francis of Assisi — who is the perfect example of peace. It’s not finding the beauty with my eyes, but finding the beauty within my heart.

Always B E L I E V E .

A Bright Spot: Aperture or ISO?

Everyone is groaning about the weather. This has been one of the worst winters on record — and we’re expecting more snow tonight. This past week, we got 7-8″ of snow in one night with some freezing rain. And to top that off, I caught strep throat from a coworker. Luckily I had an extra Z-pak and started antibiotics right away. Blah.

But there was a bright spot. Tom and I started our introduction to digital photography course at the college on Thursday. We had bought a new digital camera at Christmas, and had researched cameras for some time before selecting the Nikon D7100 based on reports and reviews. I loved that Nikon had an entire support community behind it.

This camera has an Auto mode — meaning we can just go out and take pretty nice pictures with it. But it also has a completely manual mode with all kinds of features that I couldn’t even begin to understand. I had two semesters of photography in college — and I loved that course. My parents bought me an old 1970-something Nikon camera from a used camera store in Beaver Falls for the class. It was completely manual with just a few basic functions — aperture (f/stops) and shutter speed. It had one basic lens and was a great camera that served its purpose. We used black and white film and developed it in the classroom — this was back in 1987 — long before digital cameras, and long before any good digital cameras. I knew that the theory from my college classes likely still pertained to my new DSLR camera, but like I said — there are tons of other features.

This three-hour course started with all the basic theory of aperture, shutter speed and ISO, and reviewed all the options within those three main functions of the camera. It was amazing how much came back to me from school. Poor Tom looked at me at one point, and I could see that he was having a hard time following. When I got up this morning, he was reading the manual and said to me, “Well, I got it all figured out!” I was like, “Oh yea, that’s great!” and he said, “Yea, I know how to charge the battery and turn on the camera.” He’ll figure it out when we get the chance to go out and shoot.

Watching Olympics

Watching the Olympics with Benny.

So tonight while Tom went to church, and I stayed curled up on chair with the cat, I flipped through our manual and tested myself on what we had learned in class. And then I snapped a photo with Instagram on my iPhone and immediately felt comfortable with that process.

Ah, I’m looking forward to brighter days — and hopefully by the time spring arrives, we’ll be taking amazing photos. And hopefully that day is not too far away.

Always B E L I E V E !

Cabin Fever

Well, this has been one of the coldest winters I can ever remember. And, while I love the change of seasons, including winter — the single digit temperatures is bone chilling. Mix it with just a little dusting of snow, and we’re talking about a stressful commute to work. Everyone I talked to today commented on how sick they are of winter. I’m tired of the nuisance snow that we get three days of the week.

We’ve been feeling a little winter cabin fever and haven’t done much since new years, so we decided to plan things to get us out of the house a bit. Tom and I are taking a digital photography class and an ancestry class through Butler County Community College. We bought a new digital camera that has all kinds of capabilities, including manual modes. We wanted to get something to take amazing photographs when we travel. And researching our family history has been something Tom and I love to do, but we’ve kind of done all we can on ancestry.com, so we’re looking forward to what else we can do to continue our quest!

We’re also going to the musical Mamma Mia in February for Valentines Day with Paula and Jerry, friends of ours. I love, love, love ABBA — and Mamma Mia — and can’t wait. Tom is a good sport and enjoys musicals too, even though his buddies have been jag gin him. If I can get him dancing in the aisles, you’ll all see a video on here! The following weekend, we have a long weekend trip planned to Ellicottville, NY. We’re hoping it warms up a bit so that we can go tubing at Holiday Valley. If it doesn’t, we’ll still go as long as there are no major snow storms predicted for our trip. We’ll go to the Brewing Company and maybe hit the casino up there. And of course, we’ll take our new camera!

Paint Monkey

Last night, Gert had planned an excursion to Paint Monkey — an art gallery where they give everyone the same picture to paint. It had been more than 20 years since I used acrylic paints — I felt like I was back in art school. It was such a good time — there were seven of us — and we had a lot of laughs. It was amazing to think we could paint a picture in just two hours. If I had another hour, I would have felt better about adding details and shadows! And how appropriate that we painted a beach scene on a night that was 7°! I painted teal water and bright orange flip flops, thinking of my favorite island in the Caribbean. It was truly a bright spot in this cold and gray month of January.

I hope that all of you are finding things to get you out of the house this winter. Or maybe you’re finding more comfort wrapped in a blanket in front of a crackling fireplace. Whatever you’re doing, stay warm, be happy and always believe!

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Mark 11:24

Last Blast

Heavy snow coated the trees and branches. It had fallen off by 10 am.

Heavy snow coated the trees and branches. It had fallen off by 10 am. My poor little bird feeder is buried.

Last night, we got one last blast of winter. Now, we didn’t have any “major snowstorms” this year, meaning anything over five or six inches at one time. So, I guess we’ve been very fortunate that way. Today’s snow was the worst by far. But it was absolutely breathtaking this morning! Heavy mounds of snow hung all over the trees. It was gorgeous.

Sid and Ben peeking through the screen door at the snow.

Sid and Ben peeking through the screen door at the snow (it’s hard to see Sid on the right).

Tom and I both worked from home. We were supposed to get 1-3″ in North Pittsburgh, but somehow we ended up with over 6″ — not at all what they predicted. By the time I got out with my camera, the snow was already melted off of the branches. My cats wanted to go outside and play. But then they wouldn’t go out when I opened the door. Scaredy cats!

I’m hopeful to say that this is the last blast of winter for our area! It’s March 6th and the 30-day trend show warming temperatures in the 40–50° zone. Sunday it’s supposed to be 60°! I’m not going to do the happy dance yet, but I’m already getting ready for some serious Spring shopping!!!!