Winter Beauty

Since this year we have the winter that keeps on giving (I actually say that genuinely since I absolutely love winter!), I figured I would share some photos I’ve taken along the cold, snowy way. Make sure to click on the photos to see the slideshows!

During the snowfall it may be overcast, but the beauty is nonetheless apparent:

The day after the snow falls is often a spectacular day – crisp blue sky, golden sunshine and a breathtaking world of glistening diamonds:

And finally a little bit of sunset snow:

Here’s a little extra for a fun comparison:

Since we just got a fresh snowfall again yesterday and we also have some pretty impressive ice formations, there will probably be more snow and ice photos in the near future, so stay tuned…

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Joyeux Noel

Growing up I was lucky to spend my first Christmases in winter wonderlands, surrounded by grandparents and cousins. They were magical and perfect in every way. When we started moving around there wasn’t always snow and extended family couldn’t always join us but it was still a magical time. No matter where we were we always celebrated with the same joy and love as those first snow-filled Christmases.

My parents did an amazing job and passed on a love and appreciation for Christmas that we will always have. The most important thing they passed on is that Christmas is a time to be with loved ones. They taught us that as long as you’re together it doesn’t matter where you are in the world. Today we’re heading off to join my family for Christmas – to talk, laugh and make new memories together. I hope that this Christmas you are surrounded by loved ones, wherever you may be.

 

Merry Christmas! Joyeux Noel! Buon Natale! Feliz Navidad!

(Please share in any other languages you may know!)

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Downhill Adventures: Present

These first two months of the year have passed by in a whirlwind. We’re almost in March and I haven’t even realized that February had time to come and go. I’m 2 weeks away from turning 28 and I can’t believe I’ve already spent a year at 27. I hadn’t been skiing in at least 6 years, my husband had never skied in his life, and suddenly, on a whim, we went skiing in January. And since then, he’s been itching to go again – unfortunately weather and other factors have made that impossible so far, but hopefully we’ll go again soon!

In the meantime, here are a few words and photos about our first time skiing together (and just overall first time on the slopes for my husband!).

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As I mentioned in my earlier post about skiing, I ski, I don’t snowboard. I went from normal skis to snow blades, but it is still skiing. I have never tried snowboarding. Maybe someday I will, but I’m not so sure. There’s just something about having both of my feet stuck on one board that just worries me. Oddly enough, however, what scares me about snowboarding is what reassured my husband: he preferred the idea of having his 2 feet on one board and thought it was disconcerting to have them on 2 separate ones. I was very amused by our complete opposite views on that and also impressed that he was brave enough to try it out. He just threw himself right into his snowboarding lesson, and thank goodness he did. He loved every second of it. He even surprised his instructor by picking everything up so quickly, really being at ease on the snowboard and hardly falling throughout our hours of snow fun.

While he continued his lesson, I took a lesson of my own. Sure, I had skied nearly every year for most of my life, but it had been at least 6 years since the last time I was on the slopes, and this was a totally new place for me. Having an instructor for the first hour turned out to be really great as it let me find my ski groove again, get some helpful tips on my form and relax my nerves too. I was definitely nervous after so many years without skiing, but it was a wonderful feeling to ski again. It was freeing and invigorating. It was so much fun to go down a few slopes with my husband and to share those feelings with him. It was great to watch him snowboard and see him be so natural at it. Watching the exhilarating joy he felt coming down the slopes reminded me of what I loved about skiing, and what I had missed these past years.

What I love most about skiing is the feeling of freedom when you’re gliding down the slopes. It’s that peacefulness of forgetting everyone around you, just hearing the sounds of the snow crunching under your blades, the sun warming your face and sparkling on the snow crystals. It’s also the sense of accomplishment at the end of a day of skiing; the gratifying feel of tired muscles after a hard day of play. The accompanying serenity of a day of fresh air and the peaceful happiness it provides. It’s an indescribable feeling, and it’s beautiful.

And I know my husband felt it too that day.

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The Little Clownfish That Wreaked Havoc

Well, this post was originally going to be about my latest skiing adventures, but nature decided to throw a few snowflakes our way this past weekend, so the skiing entry will have to wait just a little longer.

So, with the help of my lovely new camera, let me introduce you to today’s topic:

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About a week ago, the weather channel turned on to high alert as it warned us about the winter wrath making its way through the states, heading towards the unsuspecting Northeast. Ok, unsuspecting may not be the right word, since we heard about this storm every second for at least a week before it hit, but I figure I’m allowed some poetic license here. So while state officials scrambled to get enough snow plows, salt and crews ready to prevent disaster, and the power companies attempted to avoid a riot by fanning out their crews to potential outage zones, I remained baffled by the name choice for this storm: Nemo. When I hear the name Nemo, I think of a little clownfish who was the star of a Disney/Pixar film. A clownfish. Not a shark, not a whale, not even a barracuda. Doesn’t quite seem like the most appropriate name for a seemingly apocalyptic snow storm, but maybe that’s just me.

So there you have it. The build up to the storm of the century (again, poetic license), the blizzard of the decade (this is almost accurate)…They got this one right. We definitely got some snow. Actually, that’s a gruesome understatement – we got A LOT of snow. So much snow that our apartment parking lot looks like the bottom of a ski slope. It’s been a workout so far. No need to go to the gym this week!

Enough words for now, let me leave you with some photos. I thought I would begin with a type of time lapse of the blizzard, and then I’ll post some of my favorite photos.

Nemo Time Lapse:

This is towards the beginning of the snowfall - probably a couple of hours in. Just barely a dusting, considering what followed.
This is towards the beginning of the snowfall – probably a couple of hours in. Just barely a dusting, considering what followed.
This is late at night - the blizzard was in full swing at this point, but would get even worse shortly after!
This is late at night – the blizzard was in full swing at this point, but would get even worse shortly after!
The following morning: the skies still seem to be threatening to dump more snow...
The following morning: the skies still seem to be threatening to dump more snow…
...But instead this happened a few hours later. The beauty of it was breathtaking.
…But instead this happened a few hours later. The beauty of it was breathtaking.
And a final one for the time lapse, as the sun slowly moved along...
And a final one for the time lapse, as the sun slowly moved along…

And now for some of my favorites:

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This photo deserves a little background story: this storm was the perfect opportunity for me to really play around with my new camera. I tried all sorts of settings (special setting for snow photos, for dusk photos…), and it was a huge learning experience for my manual focus. This is one of my favorites using the manual focus…And there were a lot, believe me. That’s what happens when you give me a DSLR with a pretty big memory card. I was having a blast!
Cars? What Cars?
Oh yes. This is our parking lot. This is why I said no need for the gym this week. The past 3 days we have worked out so much with hours of shoveling. Yes, shoveling – not snowblowing, not plowing, manual shoveling. I would say it took about 2.5 hours just to clear our car. And we didn’t stop after our car.  But truth be told, it’s been awesome!

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DSC_0190DSC_0199And a few evening shots to finish the day…

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Until next time...
Until next time…

I hope you enjoyed, and that all of you affected by the blizzard stayed safe and warm! Also, any feedback or comments on the photos are always welcome as I’ve just started using my DSLR and would definitely love to learn more!

Downhill Adventures: Past

When I was a kid, we went skiing as often as we could and we were all taught to ski as soon as possible. For a long time I wasn’t really a big fan of skiing. I felt awkward and stiff on my skis, I hated going to lessons (I liked it better when dad taught us), and my fingers and toes were always cold. Besides, where we often skied those first years there was more ice than snow, and I had some bad experiences. Even to this day whenever I hit a patch of ice I feel irrational panic and fear. I’m always afraid I’ll lose control and end up tumbling down the rest of the slope.

Over the years, my relationship with skiing changed and I found moments of pleasure. There were several things that played a role in that. First of all, we actually skied on real slopes of snow, not hills of ice – it’s amazing the difference proper powdery snow can make. Secondly, we moved to Europe – skiing in the Alps takes the experience to a whole new level. It’s breathtaking in a way too amazing to put in words. Third, and extremely important, the way skis were made changed. Skis used to be long and skinny, and were meant to be your height or taller. That’s a lot of ski to try controlling and maneuvering. When they modified them over time, they were curved, rounded – and meant to be shorter than you – and so much easier to maneuver. They were made to carve the snow, to make those turns in the snow. Ok, it doesn’t mean I was suddenly amazing or in love with skiing, but it certainly helped improve my opinion and experience of skiing.

But then something happened. I experienced a joy and a freedom I had never felt before when skiing. This changed my outlook on skiing forever. I tried snow blades. For those who don’t know what they are, they are simply shorter skis. As in, half the size of regular skis. And to me, they were pure bliss. My dad let my try his, and after one slope I was hooked. There was no going back. Less length to be hassled with, no poles (I hate ski poles – no idea why, I just do); pure freedom on the slopes like I had never felt before. I had so much more control and I was tearing down those slopes. I was confident, something I rarely was when skiing. More importantly and surprisingly, I was blissfully and completely happy.

Here’s the ironic part. We normally went skiing every year for a week, during the ski break in France. I used the snow blades for 1 or 2 years, and then my university schedule didn’t match up with my brother’s school vacation, and I haven’t been skiing in probably 6-7 years. I had finally found the joy in skiing and I hardly got to bask in it. I used to be the least excited about going skiing, and I didn’t really miss it in-between trips, but these past years I’ve definitely had moments when I missed that feeling of pure freedom as you fly down the slopes.

Although that now leads me to finish this post, it also allows me to introduce my next post, where I’ll share my most recent downhill adventure: first time skiing with my husband. Sure, I didn’t have my snow blades and it wasn’t the Alps, but it was a beautiful, fun and invigorating day. We definitely made a lot of wonderful memories – but more on that next time…

2013 is definitely off to a good start.

I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas…

Although this first snowfall occurred a few weeks ago, I haven’t had a chance to post the photos. The snow didn’t last long and it was pretty much gone 2 days later, but it was beautiful while it lasted. It’s especially magical right after it’s fallen, when it’s still pure and untouched. I love freshly fallen snow – there’s something so peaceful about it, and watching it snow always makes me feel like a little kid again.

And like a little kid, I’m definitely dreaming of a white Christmas.

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Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend

The crisp, cold air stings my face and makes my eyes water, but I don’t mind. Even if I have moments when I long for spring and summer, I do love winter. The naked branches dance against the sky; they are nature’s work of art, as if they were painted or drawn with ink. The beautiful stillness and quiet when it snows is one of my favorite things of winter. Perhaps everyone is watching with wonder in their eyes, or perhaps the falling snow muffles any sound; whatever the reason, the silence is part of the beauty, part of the spectacle. Following the magic of those spectacular snowflakes floating to the ground is the sparkly winter wonderland of a world seemingly encrusted with glittering diamonds.

Does anything look cleaner or more pure than freshly fallen snow?

This is the first time in a very long time that I’m living in a place where snow is usual for the winter. The last time I lived in a city with a snowy winter I was a little girl, living in Wisconsin. When you’re a kid, you never think of the ‘nuisance’ parts of cold, snowy winters – clearing the cars and driveways, or the ice on the streets – you only think of the magical aspect of it. It’s all about the beautiful snowflakes falling from the sky, the sparkling white snow to play in, the snowmen and snow caves, eating the snow, sledding, snow angels and snowball fights…and delicious hot chocolate after all that exhilarating fun.

That’s how I remember my winters as a little girl. My sister and I would get so excited when the snowflakes began to fall. We couldn’t wait to get all bundled up and run outside, mouths open to catch the falling snow. We loved to catch the snowflakes on our gloves and admire their beautiful and unique shapes – after all, no two snowflakes are alike! We would drop in the snow and make snow angels; we would have snowball fights with mom and dad. One time, our neighbors helped us build a snow cave with a tunnel – that was awesome, trust me. One of my all time favorite things was to eat the snow. I could just sit down and happily eat it, for quite some time. Sure, it’s just water in one of its many forms, but it’s snow. Enough said. Something else I loved in the winter: seeing our husky appear out of nowhere in the white expanse. When my dad would call him, a head would suddenly pop out of the snow in some part of the yard. He would dig himself a hole to curl up in, then it would snow over him and he’d be completely covered. He loved the snow, but did refuse to pull our sled. Adamantly refused. If we ever put the sled rope around his neck, he would sit down and refuse to budge. We never minded – his reaction made us laugh. And he loved playing with us in the snow, as long as we weren’t trying to make him pull our sled! Besides, we would sled down the 2-3 steps of our back porch, and even if it wasn’t much of a slope, it was enough for us. Our back yard was a vision in white: a huge expanse of glittering, dazzling snow, like sparkling diamonds, and we loved it.

Snow also makes me think of our time in Montreal at Christmas, and all the time spent playing outside with our cousins. Back then you were sure to always have a very white Christmas, which meant we would be out in the snow as much as possible. We would build fortresses, we would throw snowballs, and we would sit and happily eat the snow when recovering our energy after a more strenuous activity. We would spend hours at a time outside, often only coming in when our moms came looking for us, convinced the snow had managed to get inside our gloves, socks, jackets (everywhere basically), and that we were most likely soaked through with freezing toes and fingers. They were generally correct, even if we would never admit it. Then we’d all trample home, usually leaving a trail of snow behind us, and continue our chatting and games over a wonderful cup of hot chocolate. The next day we would be ready for our fun again, basking in the glow of the sun and the brightness of the snow, glittering like precious gems. It was blissful and I will forever keep wonderful memories of those days.

Even as I’ve gotten older I’ve never lost the excitement and wonder I felt when I would see the snowflakes start falling. I’ll still play in the snow – just a couple of years ago, when we had an unexpected snowstorm in France, my brother, husband and I went outside with our current husky, and we had a blast. Our husky was so excited to be out in all that snow, he was running everywhere, so happy to be part of our games. We threw snowballs, we ate some snow, we made snow angels, and the guys were even brave enough (or crazy?) to let themselves fall face-first in the snow. I couldn’t bring myself to do it, but it was hilarious to watch! Snow has provided me with hours and hours of pure, blissful and heart-warming fun and I look forward to the many hours still waiting to be filled with wintry joy.

Snow will always bring a smile to my face and I can’t wait to play in it again – with my husband, my siblings, my cousins, and eventually, with my kids. That glittering gem of nature will always be this girl’s favorite type of diamond.

Good Thing Thanksgiving is Over…

I have the wonderful entertainment factor of having these wild turkeys strutting around through autumn and winter. We usually see them more in the autumn, but I guess our relatively mild winter has kept them around. Don’t be fooled by the snow on the ground – it melted almost as fast as it fell down.

I’ve been trying to capture these guys on camera for a while now and I finally got my chance a few days ago. Everytime I had my camera with me, they were nowhere to be found, and everytime I saw them, my camera was nowhere near me. But they couldn’t elude me forever, and here are some of the shots I took – hope you enjoy!