The Beauty Around Us

Showcases Portraiture, Scenic & Nature Photography and Feaures a Photo Journal Blog

Posts from the ‘USA’ category

Presidents Day Weekend Winter Festival

This weekend is the Presidents Day Weekend Winter Festival in Mayville, NY. The highlight of the festival, at least for Bob and me, is the castle made of ice blocks. The first winter festival held in Mayville was in February 1987.  Bob and I attended this year’s festival on Saturday.  As in past years the festival was held on the grounds of Lakeside Park, located on the shores of Chautauqua Lake.

We parked in a lot off Valley Street ($5.00 donation to park) and walked across NYS Route 394 to the ice castle.  We didn’t stop at the ice castle.  We walked past the gazebo to the park building, located at the opposite end of the park.  During our walk we ran into a friend, Pete F., and his wife, Linda.  We said hi to Pete, who then introduced us to Linda.  The four of us chatted for a short time, before continuing our separate ways.

We walked into the park building and looked around.  Inside the park building we found restrooms and a few vendors.  We noticed tables where tickets were being sold for a scavenger hunt and for the beer and wine tent.  Leaving the park building, we walked out on the ice-covered Chautauqua Lake.

Linda on ice-covered lake

While on the lake, it was announced a few times that anyone on the ice were on it at their own risk. I read in a local newspaper article that the ice on Chautauqua Lake a few weeks ago was approximately 12- to 18-inches thick and had melted down to a mere 6 inches. There was a square cut into the ice that would be the location of the polar bear plunge later in the day.

Linda on ice-covered lake near opening in ice

Everyone was warned to stay 50 feet away from that opening in the ice.


We stopped at each vendor tent on our way back to the ice castle.  There were food tents, a beer and wine tent, a wood carver, at least one game of chance, and a vendor tent. 

A bar made out of the ice blocks in the beer and wine tent

Chain saw carver

Some of the prizes in Ball in Bowl game

There were horse-drawn carriage rides available too.

It didn’t take long to make our way back to the ice castle.

Bob took this picture of me in front of the ice castle.

It was 12:30 pm, when we made it back to the ice castle.  I wanted to stay for the polar bear plunge, but the plunge wouldn’t happen until 2:00 pm.  It was cold.  We weren’t hungry, and there wasn’t anything going on at the festival that would hold our attention for 1 1/2 hours.  So, we left for home soon after returning to the ice castle. I guess we should have timed our arrival closer to the time of the polar bear plunge.  Oh, and fireworks would be set off later in the evening.  We didn’t see the fireworks either.


The End to Cabin Fever

As it was for much of the United States, we experienced cold weather and bitter wind chills at the end of January.  On the morning of February 2nd Pennsylvania’s legendary groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, saw his shadow, which means that Spring is right around the corner.  I hope that Phil is correct in his prediction.  Regardless of whether he is right or wrong, Spring will be here on March 20th.  Here, in Northwestern Pennsylvania, the weather forecast this past Saturday for the next several days makes it look like Spring is on our doorstep.

Spring is knocking on our door!


We went for a drive late Sunday morning into the early afternoon. 

A portion of our drive was along the eastern side of the Allegheny Reservoir.  Our first stop was at Big Bend Recreation Area, located just below Kinzua Dam, where we looked for eagles.  We didn’t see any.  

We continued our drive on Pennsylvania Route 59 to Pennsylvania Route 321 past Sugar Bay on the Allegheny Reservoir.  We stopped here.

Sugar Bay on the Allegheny Reservoir

The “My Two Cents” Snowman at Sugar Bay

Bob built the snowman, while I was taking pictures of the bay.

Continuing our drive on Pennsylvania Route 321 we came to a T-intersection.  We turned left onto Pennsylvania Route 346.  At he New York state line Pennsylvania Route 346 becomes New York State Route 280.  We followed Route 280 to Allegany State Park.  

We drove through Allegany State Park, making only one photo stop.  We drove over a bridge and had gotten a few hundred feet further along the road, when I said to Bob “We have to turn around!  I saw something that I want to photograph!”.  Bob turned around.

A snow and ice sculpture I found in one of the streams at Allegany State Park.

A snow and ice sculpture

Bob said the snow and ice sculpture resembled a porcupine.  I thought it resembled a peacock or turkey, with its feathers fanned out.  

From Allegany State Park we made our way back home.  We returned home around 2:00 pm.  I am glad that we went for a drive.  What a beautiful day it was with blue skies, brilliant sunshine and a high temperature of 52 degrees!  I could feel my cabin fever breaking, as the sunshine beamed down through the moon roof and especially when I stepped out into the pleasantly warm outdoor air. 

Presque Isle State Park Day Trip

We left home at 10:00 am on Saturday, January 26th, en route Erie.  I did not like traveling on either Follett Run Road or Preston Road, both of which were snow covered and hilly.  The road surface for the remainder of our drive to Erie was good.  We drove to the following destinations, while in Erie:  Presque Isle State Park. Cheddars Scratch Kitchen, Best Buy and Sam’s Club.

Arriving at Presque Isle State Park, we drove around the peninsula, making a few stops along the way. 

Soon after entering the park, we noticed the trees were coated with white snow.

The snow-covered trees along Peninsula Drive were gorgeous!

We saw the new emergency intake tower, which often is mistaken for a lighthouse, at the Waterworks area.  Bob and I have always referred to the tower as a lighthouse.  I told Bob that the lighthouse was in a different spot, when we first saw it.  Bob said no it wasn’t.  I said yes it is.  Well, I am right.  I have photographic and written proof!

This was the old Waterworks Lighthouse.

The old Waterworks Lighthouse was removed in late 2017.  It is believed that the emergency intake tower was installed in the early 1900s. The valve apparatus has not been operational for decades,

The newly restored and repainted lighthouse was installed in September 2018.  It is located to the left of the original lighthouse and quite a bit forward of the sign seen in the photograph displayed above.  It was installed on land, not on water.  Donations helped to pay for the $80,000 project, with $50,000 coming from the Dan and Sallie Shipley Charitable Fund.

This is the new Waterworks Lighthouse.

Jayme, one of Bob’s coworkers, told Bob that he would be ice fishing on either Misery Bay or Horseshoe Pond.  We planned to walk across the ice to where Jayme was fishing.  As it turned out, Jayme didn’t go to Presque Isle to ice fish, as he had heard that the ice wasn’t good.  There were some ice fishing huts both on Misery Bay and Horseshoe Pond.

Horseshoe Pond Houseboats and Ice Fishing Hut

This houseboat with a replica of the North Pier Lighthouse is my favorite of all the houseboats on Horseshoe Pond.

Panoramic Image of some of the houseboats on Horseshoe Pond and Ice Fishing Huts

Continuing around Presque Isle we stopped at the Waterworks area, located across Peninsula Drive from where we had stopped earlier to admire the new Waterworks Lighthouse.  We were on the lake side of the peninsula.

Lake Erie

Today was Snow Day at Presque Isle State Park.  At the event, organized by the Presque Isle Partnership, visitors could enjoy everything from dog sled and snow show demonstrations, to outdoor cooking and ice fishing.  Our interest in stopping at this event was to see a dog sled demonstration, which we did. 

Bob captured video of the dog sled demonstration, while I captured still images.  Bob’s video is short, only a little over a minute.  So please do click on the play button!



Dog Sled Demo at Presque Isle Snow Day event


Shortly before the dog sled demo we petted one of the Siberian Huskies, a beautiful girl named Meeka.  She was really soft!  Meeka was the lead dog in the dog sled demonstration that we watched.

From Presque Isle State Park we drove to Cheddars Scratch Kitchen, where we ate lunch.  Bob ordered from the “Lighter Side”.  The entree Bob chose was bourbon-glazed grilled salmon over seasoned rice, broccoli cheese casserole and a house salad.  I ordered from “Comfort Food”.  My entree was homemade chicken pot pie with a house salad.  We enjoyed both of our meals.

From Cheddars we drove to Best Buy.  In June 2017 I purchased a 10.5 in. 256 GB iPad Pro tablet.  At the time I was in a quandary.  Do I buy the 10.5 in. tablet or the bigger, more expensive 12.9 in. tablet.  I chose the 10.5 in. tablet because I thought the larger tablet would be too big for me.  In hindsight, I should have purchased the 12.9 in. tablet.  Well, today, I purchased a new 12.9 in. 256 GB iPad Pro tablet, along with a Smart Keyboard case and Apple Pencil.  The Smart Keyboard case was not in stock.  I am expecting delivery of the Smart Keyboard case by Tuesday, Jan. 29th.  The new Apple Pencil attaches magnetically to my iPad, a feature that I love.  So, I am a happy owner of a new iPad Pro tablet!  I plan to sell my 10.5 in. iPad Pro, along with its keyboard and pencil, as a package in the near future.

From Best Buy we drove to Sam’s Club, where we picked up a few groceries.  We renewed our Sam’s Club membership in December last year, after allowing the membership to lapse a few months prior when Sam’s Club closed in Jamestown, NY.  The Sam’s Club in Erie is farther for us to drive than it was for us to go to Sam’s Club in Jamestown.  After several months without a membership, we decided that we go to Erie often enough that a Sam’s Club membership would be worthwhile.  Besides I miss some of the foods and paper products that we would buy at Sam’s Club.  The reason for driving to Erie on Saturday was to go to Sam’s Club.

From Sam’s Club we made our way back home.  I didn’t believe snow was in Saturday’s forecast.  Well, it snowed the whole way back home!

Pennsylvania 2019 River of the Year

I read today that the Clarion River in northwestern Pennsylvania was voted the state’s 2019 River of the Year.

Here are a few photographs that I have taken over the past few years of the Clarion River.

Clarion River, August 2013

Clarion River, March 2014

Clarion River, April 2016

Clarion River, April 2016 on the First Day of Trout Season

Clarion River, April 2016. We enjoy riding the motorcycle on River Road.

Clarion River, May 2017 in Hallton, PA.

Corning NY to Warren PA

We got up around 5:30 am the morning of Sunday, January 13.  By 6:30 am we had both showered, gotten dressed and eaten breakfast.  Breakfast was instant oatmeal cups and a banana.  

Staying in an AirBnB, where we had an entire house to ourselves, meant that what we carried in from the car was spread throughout the house.  We went room by room gathering our stuff.  We left, en route Hamburg NY, at 7:45 am.   Hamburg was not in our weekend plans.  We planned to return to Corning Museum of Glass for a few hours and then begin our drive back home.  Instead we drove to a telephone repair shop in Hamburg.  Bob’s Google Pixel 2XL phone stopped charging the previous night.  The nearest authorized repair shop (both here in NY as well as from home) to have his phone fixed was in Hamburg.

We arrived at UBREAKIFIX shortly before 10:00 am.  We have a 2 hour wait before the shop opens!  Bob thought the shop opened at 10:00 am.  We ate a second, bigger breakfast at Tim Horton’s.  Then we went to nearby McKinley Mall to kill time.

We didn’t think McKinley Mall would allow us to kill much time, as we saw many “for lease” signs on store windows.  There are more open stores at the mall than we had thought, though, and we killed sufficient time.  We made a couple purchases too–Valentines Day gifts for our granddaughters and a gutter leaf scooper for Bob.  Bob has been using his hands to remove leaves in our gutters.  The scooper will be an improvement.

Bob walked into UBREAKIFIX at noon.  He walked back out less than 10 minutes later.  No charge!  The charging port needed to be cleaned.  Bob had cleaned it but not as well as UBREAKIFIX did.  The service technician used a machine to clean the phone.  The phone is fixed and didn’t cost anything!

Leaving Hamburg we followed NY State Route 5, along Lake Erie.  We stopped at Evangola State Park (Farnham NY) so that Bob could join an online training session for diabetes prevention.  The training session began at 1:00 pm.  I went for a walk to the lake shore and took a few pictures. 

Beach at Evangola State Park

I didn’t walk on the beach because of all the driftwood lying between me and the beach.  I didn’t want to risk stumbling and falling down.  Looking back, I may have been able to find a piece of driftwood that resembled a walking stick and used that to safely cross to the beach.

Beach at Evangola State Park

I did enjoy the view, though, looking down on the beach.

I stayed out until the bitter cold air blowing across the lake got to be too much for me.  Although it was a sunny day and the temperature was in the lower 20s, the windchill was much colder.

Bob broke off the connection to his training session after 30 minutes due to bad connectivity.  He will watch the video later.

Back on NY State Route 5 we stopped briefly at the Eagle Bay pullover, located just west of Silver Creek, where I took a couple short videos of the rolling waves.


Continuing on NY State Route 5 we stopped at Chadwick Bay.  We have seen eagles at Chadwick Bay.  We didn’t see any eagles that day.  I do have a couple icy pictures to share with you, though.

Ice-Encassed Bench at Chadwick Bay

This bench would be a very cold seat!

We turned south onto Central Avenue and drove through Fredonia NY.   We picked up Route 73 south and hopped onto Route 380 through Stockton NY.  We continued driving on Route 380 through Falconer to Route 62 and home. 

We returned home by 5:00 pm, after a fuel stop and going through a car wash.


Corning Museum of Glass

We spent the night of Saturday, January 12, in Corning NY.  The purpose of our trip was to visit Corning Museum of Glass. Corning is an approximate 3-hour drive from our home in Warren PA.  We could easily have driven to Corning, visited the museum, and driven back home all in one day.  Spending the night in Corning, though, made for a relaxing weekend.

We arrived at Corning Museum of Glass around 9:30 am.  For the next 3 hours we toured the museum.  This was the first time either Bob or I visited Corning Museum of Glass.  As described on its webpage, the museum “tells the story of a single material: glass … The story of glass is a story about art, history, culture, technology, science, craft and design … Nearly 50,000 objects representing more than 3,500 years of history are displayed in the galleries…”. It would be a daunting task to see and read about each glass object in the museum in a entire day’s visit, let alone a 3-hour visit.  We didn’t even try to see or photograph everything. 

Mosaic Portrait This portrait shows Elena of Montenegro, who was queen consort of King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy.

Stained Glass Window from Rochroane Castle

We did watch a 30-minute Hot Glass Demo, while at the museum.  The Hot Glass Demo was a live, narrated glassblowing demonstration.   A glassmaker took glowing gobs of molten glass on the end of a pipe and skillfully shaped them into a bowl.  A narrator talked through the process, and cameras inside the 2300°F furnace ensured that we didn’t miss a single step of the process.

Hot Glass Demo – Gathering a little glass out of furnace.

Hot Glass Demo – shaping and cooling glass

Hot Glass Demo – Glass goes back into the furnace.

Hot Glass Demo – Glassmaker goes back to the bench.

Hot Glass Demo – shaping and cooling glass

Hot Glass Demo – glass blowing

Hot Glass Demo – glass blowing

Hot Glass Demo – adding foot to bottom of glass

Hot Glass Demo – adding foot to bottom of glass

Hot Glass Demo – working on upper part of bowl

Hot Glass Demo – glass blowing.

After this step, the bowl was placed back in furnace and spun.

Hot Glass Demo – Bowl after spinning in furnace

Hot Glass Demo – Bowl after spinning in furnace

What an awesome demo!

We purchased our museum tickets online a few days prior to our travels.  Tickets may be purchased at the museum as well.  Tickets cost $20 for adults.  Kids and teens under the age of 17 are free.  Tickets are good for two consecutive days.

We left the Corning Museum of Glass at 12:30 pm and drove to Elmira NY, where we ate lunch at Old Country Buffet.  It had been a long time since we enjoyed a meal at Old Country Buffet.  The Erie restaurant closed its doors some time ago.

On our way to our night’s accommodation we stopped at Wegmans to pick up a few grocery items that we felt were needed for the rest of the day,  night and next morning.

From Wegmans we drove to our Airbnb accommodation.  It was a short drive, as Wegmans is only a mile away.  Check-in was 2:00 pm.  Our arrival was around 2:20 pm. 

We spent rest of the afternoon and evening at “home”.  We watched TV and surfed the internet.  We stayed in for dinner as well, having eaten two meals out already.  Lunch at Old Country Buffet was very filling.  We chose to eat a light dinner — a bowl of soup.  

I went to bed at 9:00 pm.  Bob followed about 1 1/2 hours later.

We planned to make a return trip to Corning Museum of Glass the next morning.  Our plans, though, changed.  I will write about our change of plans in my next blog post.

Our First AirBnB Stay

With our Discover credit card, we automatically earn unlimited 1% cash back on all purchases.  5% cash back can be earned each quarter at different places (e.g. grocery stores, Amazon, fuel stations), when offer is activated.  There is a potential for earning a lot of reward points, with Discover’s cash back rewards program.  We cash in our reward points for gift cards.  For several years we used gift cards to partially fund our stays at Best Western hotels.  Best Western gift cards are no longer available from  Discover’s cash back rewards program.  A new offering is AirBnB gift cards, which we used to pay for our first AirBnB stay.

We spent the night of Saturday, January 12, in Corning NY in a 2-bedroom house.  Our “home away from home” was small, but comfortable. 

This AirBnB rental is located over a garage, nestled in woods.

We climbed up several steps to reach the entry door.  Bob entered the door code, opened the door and we walked inside.  The entry door opens to a very tiny foyer, with a coat closet opposite the door.  

The first room you enter from the foyer is a small living room. 

Living Room

The living room is comfortably furnished by an arm chair, flat screen TV on a stand, coffee table and sofa.  Our hosts (Luke and Natalie) provided blanket throws for each seat in the living room.  For our viewing pleasure DVDs, local TV and Netflix were provided.  We found a notebook on the coffee table in which Luke and Natalie welcomed us to their home.

Luke and Natalie’s note welcoming us to their home.

I responded to our hosts’ welcome note, before our departure.

Leaving the living room, you enter the center hall.  At one end of the hall is a huge linen closet.  Inside the linen closet I saw, among other objects, bedroom and bathroom linens, a few games and perhaps toys for children to play with.  A small bathroom is located at the other end of the hallway. 


Toilet paper, Kleenex, shampoo, conditioner, bath soap, and toothpaste were some of the products provided by our hosts.

Three other rooms are reached by way of the hallway: two bedrooms and the kitchen. 

Bedroom #1

Bedroom #2

Queen-sized beds predominate both bedrooms.  Our hosts provided bed linens, towels and wash cloths. The beds were very comfortable and provided for a good night’s sleep.


The kitchen contains all the essentials of cooking and dining to include cookware, dinnerware, utensils, stove, oven, microwave, toaster, Keurig coffeemaker, spices, Pam spray and so much more.  We found coffee pods and creamer, as well as bottled water available for our use.  We didn’t open it, but there was even a bottle of wine provided!  Cleanup was a breeze too.  Dish soap, sponge, paper towels and tea towels were provided.  We did very little cooking during our one-night stay.  We did heat up soup for dinner, had a light breakfast of instant oatmeal and a banana, and took advantage of the Keurig coffeemaker and microwave.  I would have no difficulty preparing a meal in this kitchen.

A door in the kitchen, by the table, enters the laundry room.  This room looks like it could have been a porch at one time.  A washer and dryer are located at one end of the room.  A laptop friendly table with printer, room for a laptop and two chairs is located on the opposite end.  There is a door in the laundry room that leads outside to a patio and to the spacious back yard, both of which would be very welcoming on Spring, Summer and Fall days.

All photographs, with the exception of the notebook, contained in this post are screenshots from the AirBnB listing.  Lucas gave me permission to use the photographs in this blog post.  The complete listing for this AirBnB rental may be seen by clicking here.

This AirBnB rental, which is located on a quiet street, is a very nice accommodation.  The rental cost was less than $30 more than the cost of a hotel room with two queen bed at Americas Best Value Inn, located in nearby Painted Post.  Our “home away from home” was much nicer than staying in a room in a hotel!  I highly recommend this AirBnB rental to individual travelers, couples, and families with two small children.

Thank you, Luke and Natalie, for sharing your home with us.  We hope to make a return visit!



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