Sunday, October 4, 2009


Update: I have the best husband ever :-) Saturday, he surprised me with my brand friggin' new Nikon D90!!!

I am in love with this camera. Nevertheless, I have a lot to learn and it's not easy. This thing has more buttons and functions than a small plane!

Updates business wise: I've gotten the DBA and website domain for Ashley Nichols Photography. I will immediately begin to shoot portraits to build my portfolio before I begin charging. I will be specializing in babies, children, families and senior portraits. If you know any of the above, please contact me about a portfolio shoot. The session itself will be free and all you will pay for are the pictures to be printed. Again, during the shoot you will have to be patient with me as I am still figuring things out.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Lots of thinking being done...

So yes, I have been doing a lot of thinking lately. I know, I know...try not to hurt myself, ha ha :-) I've been thinking about my life in general, what I want it to be and what I want to do with it. I love baking. Do I really want to keep doing it and spend all of my time in a kitchen? I've invested a lot of time into this hobby of mine and even convinced myself I wanted to go to school and then open my own little pastry shop. Not for cakes, but for actual pastries and pies. This would be great and in some ways I still want to do this. But in the back of my mind something kept nagging at me.
There's something I was passionate about before I started baking and before I even headed off to college. Something I started to love when my dad used to take me to work and let me watch him develop film in the darkroom. I love photography. I used to play around with it a lot and even took a class in high school and dreamed of running my own photography business. I considered it as a major in college at one point but was afraid that if I started into it seriously, that I might be bad at it. I think that's why I never really let myself get serious about it at all. What if I'm bad at something I've always loved? What if I spend the money, get a degree, buy the camera and equipment and then nobody likes my pictures or my style of photography? After a long talk with one of the girls that I worked at the bakery with one day, I decided I would stop being so scared and try it again.

I'm ready! I found a "Continuing Education" certificate program at UTA in digital photography that starts next spring. Eight classes, 1 per every 5 weeks and only 1 night a week. Not bad, right? What about the camera, you ask? I found the perfect one. However, it's $1300! I know it's a business investment...but if you don't have the funds, how can you invest? I have to come up with this money by the end of the year. Shouldn't be too hard, but I know I can do it :-) I figure once I get the camera I can start building a portfolio as I'm taking my classes and even before then. Doing free photo shoots for a while should do it. I've even started to think of names for my business. Haven't really come up with anything good though... Any ideas?

I know a lot of people are thinking, " just another phase that she's going through". I completely understand people's reasons for thinking that. I went through several majors in college and have decided my future several times. However, no matter what I decide to do, it always comes full circle back to photography.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Our Trip!

Ok, so I know I haven't posted in a while but it's with good reason.

Our trip to Paris was AMAZING!!!!! I couldn't ask for a better birthday present :-) Besides the long flight and the aching feet, it was perfect.

On the first day, we got there around 3pm. Checked into the hotel and passed out for a couple of hours. We woke up and the only thing I was interested in doing that night was walking to the Eiffel Tower. I have been obsessed with this city as long as I can remember and I've always wanted to see the tower in person. We got changed, put our "comfortable" shoes on and got to walking. An hour later we finally got there and! This monument is way bigger and more beautiful than I ever imagined. Nothing can prepare you for the size of it. We didn't go up to the top that night because it was crowded and the lines were quite long. Instead we grabbed a couple of sandwiches, pastries and drinks and sat on a bench nearby and watched it twinkle in the dark. By the time we got back to the hotel, my feet were in some serious pain. Who knew that my "comfortable" walking shoes that I bought specifically for this trip, wouldn't make it? This pain was a bad sign for the rest of the trip, but there was no way I was going to let it put a damper on my experience. This is one of the pictures we took that night:

On the second day, we woke up early and headed across the street (did I mention that our hotel was ACROSS THE STREET from the LOUVRE!!!!) and got our Museum Passes. These museum passes let you into as many museums as you want for 2 straight days for a mere 32e. That a serious bargain. So all of Friday we spent hitting up some major museums. First we went to Notre Dame. This place is gorgeous. I've always loved gothic architecture and this was no let down. Once again, the size and beauty of it dumbfounded Blake and I and we couldn't seem to take enough pictures! We walked around on the inside and I couldn't soak in enough of the history. Most of the people looked like me in that we were all walking around dragging our jaws on the floor. We didn't get to go into the bell tower because neither of us were willing to wait in the line that wrapped around the little island that it was on. We did however, walk around said little island and take in the older Paris. We also went into the Conciergerie, the prison that Marie Antoinette was held before being beheaded. After this we went back to the room to nurse my feet and catch our breath. Once we were back out, we walked through the Jardin de Tuilleries and took in the beauty of all of the statues, ponds and gardens. We eventually wound up at the Orangerie Museum which houses one set of Monet's Water Lillies, some Matisse, Picasso, Renoir and others. After this museum we got some lunch at a little cafe (of course we sat outside and people watched) and then headed to the Louvre. First we went to the main entrance to see the famous glass pyramid and take in the AMAZING architecture of the building itself. Then we made our way to the underground and less known entrance to get in without a line. I was very excited about this museum because it houses some of the most famous works of art of all time. As we made our way through we realized the beauty of the inside of the building. So incredibly detailed, yet it didn't take away from the art itself. I was thrilled to finally find the Mona Lisa. Of course with the pool of tourists around it, it was difficult to get to but it was beautiful. I already knew it would be small, and it was, but not as small as I had heard. The size of some of the surrounding paintings made it seem smaller than it was. Next we found the Venus de Milo. Another crowd of tourists here, but not as large. This is quite a large statue and when up close you can see the detail in the sculpting. The only thing left that I truly wanted to see was the Winged Victory statue. I had heard of it before and seen a few pictures, but once again, nothing prepares you for the size or beauty. This was it for our day and we stopped and got dinner and headed back to the hotel. Here's a picture from our day:

On day three (My Birthday!!!) we got up early once again to go hit the rest of the museums on the schedule. Now let me point out now that Blake was less than excited because by now he is "museumed out". We get to the Orsay Museum right before it opens so that we won't be in there when it's so crowded. The Orsay Museum used to be an old train station that was later converted into this museum so it has a very interesting layout. This museum is full of Monet, Manet, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Degas and so many more. At first glance it didn't seem very big but as you went through it seemed like it went on forever. I really enjoyed this museum. Next we headed to the Rodin Museum where Blake and I finally got to see the "Thinker" statue and I got to see the Gates of Hell and a few other statues I was looking forward to seeing. The gardens were beautiful, but the inside was minus air conditioning so we didn't stay inside long. We had a nice lunch of omelettes at a little cafe right outside of the museum and then had our first try at the Metro. I had been quite intimidated and scared to try this ever since we arrived, but my feet were killing me and there was no way I could walk all the way to the Arc de Triomphe without my feet quitting on me. After being so scared that I would mess something up and we would get lost, we got to our stop with no troubles at all. Even with a transfer in the middle, it was way easier than we thought it would be. This is how the Metro became my best friend. How come we don't have one of these in DFW?!?! When we made it to the Arc we were once again struck with the size and beauty of it. I quickly filled Blake in on a little bit of the history of it as we crossed under the street in a small tunnel to get to the Arc itself. It was a bit crowded at the bottom, but there was no line to climb the MANY MANY stairs to get to the top. Oh.My.Gosh! I've never climbed so many stairs at one time and I believe my legs just about quit when I neared the top of the stairs. By the time we got up there, Blake was having to all but pull me up to the top. There is even a very long cushioned bench at the top where several people were having to sit and catch their breath. Once I was all caught up, I realized we had to climb another 40 steps to reach the VERY top. Once we were up there though, it was breathtaking. All of Paris comes and forms this star around the Arc. We took our pictures and headed down. We then headed down the Champs Elysees and looked at all of the high-end shops and found the Metro back to the hotel so that we could take a little break before we ventured out for the evening. After much deliberation about what I wanted to do for my birthday evening, I decided that I wanted to go back to the Arc de Triomphe so that I could see the entire city all at once lit up at night. We had dinner at a cafe on the Champs Elysees where my view from our table was the Arc de Triomphe itself. We finally made our way over right as the Arc was lighting up and as I reached the bottom of the stairs for the second time and looked up that dreaded staircase...I changed my mind. I couldn't do it, not again. Blake, however, was determined and pushed me up. I was not disappointed when I reached the top for the second time. This view was even more breathtaking than the one before! We were then just about to head down when we realized that everybody was being evacuated about an hour before it was supposed to shut down. They had everyone heading down just one staircase (made for a slow descent) and on our way down we noticed to police officers in padded uniforms heading up against traffic! This got our attention and when we reached the bottom, there were police cars and military vehicles surrounding the Arc. Hmmm... never did find out what happened. We finally made it back to our room, peeled our shoes off and ate the Tiramisu that we had purchased at a little grocery store down the street for desert. We had also learned that if you go to the little grocery stores, you can pay just 7e for an 8-pack of coca-cola, a 6 pack of water and a 2-pack of Tiramisu. WAY cheaper than the 8e single coca-cola in the mini-bar, at any cafe or anywhere else for that matter. Here is one picture from day 3, my dinner view:On day four, we got up rather early again and headed for a street that I had heard about before and had really wanted to visit. Rue Cler. This is an old street that still has the "open-air market" on Saturday and Sunday mornings. There's not even any car or vespas on this street. When we got there, it was amazing. Bakeries had their pastries out, there were carts of veggies and meats. It was a short street, but it was nice to see what a lot of Paris used to be like and that some of it continues to be like. After that, we headed to the Marmatton Museum. This is a museum that houses the majority of Monet's paintings. On the way, we went through a beautiful park that had a Marionette stand, some old playground furniture and many people sitting on the lawns having picnics. Once we got to the museum we strolled through some of the other works and finally made it down to the basement area where Monet's works were kept. They were beautiful. They had his palette and then walls and walls of his paintings. Monet has been one of my favorite artists for a long time and it was nice to finally see the original works. For the rest of the day we kind of took it easy as a lot of places are closed on Sundays there. For the evening, one thing I had really been wanting to do was take a boat tour along the River Seine at night. What a perfect way to see the city lit up. But first, we headed to another island that was near the pickup spot for the boat. Here we saw several local people putting on shows on the street and another beautiful side of Paris. Once again, the streets were narrow, the buildings tall and the atmosphere was great. Here we got some amazing gelato and headed for the boat. The boat was nice and we sat on the open-topped upper deck. We couldn't understand anything the tour guide was saying but we didn't need to. This was my chance to see all of the bridges close up. All of their bridges are different and were built with such incredible detail. It was a little difficult to get some good pictures because we were moving, but we both really enjoyed this nice and relaxing ride around the city. Here's a pic from day 4, the Pont Alexandre bridge:Day 5, Monday. We're exhausted. BUT! We get up extra early to go to the very thing I was looking forward to the most for the entire trip. We get on the metro and head for Trocaderro. We head up off of the metro and walk around the corner and there it is. The very best view of the Eiffel Tower. Wow. We then make our way down this garden area and get in line an hour before it opens because there is going to be a huge crowd later. We are finally going up to the top! When it finally opened we had to go through security, purchase our tickets and then we were on the elevator. We were the very first group to go up so there was no crowd at all. This made my experience even more perfect! (Those that don't know, I have a small freak-out when crowds are too big and I have no escape route) The view from the top was amazing! I know that this word is used a lot in this blog entry, but get over it. There's not many other words to describe this place. While at the top, we grab coffee and pastries and just look. We take several pictures and Blake tells me it's time to leave. After a little protest and some begging to stay and live at the top, I finally agree to head back down. We took our time getting back and then went and did some souvenir shopping. By the time we got back to the room, we were past exhausted and I was getting a little crabby so I was told to take a nap. When I woke up a little more refreshed, we went and walked around a little bit more to say goodbye. I would truly miss this city and can't wait to go back. For dinner we had....McDonald's. Yes...I know, we're in Paris and we had friggin' McDonald's. In our defense, we were too tired to deal with a cafe and we had a lot of packing to do before our shuttle came to pick us up at 4am. We stayed up and were ready when the shuttle driver arrived for our incredibly long journey back home. Here is a pic from our last day in Paris, us on top of the Eiffel Tower:
This trip was more than I ever expected. I have dreamed of going here as long as I can remember and Paris is more than I ever thought it would be. Here are a few things we learned while in Paris:
1) Pedestrians almost always have the right of way...if the street is clear go! Don't hesitate or people will look at you like you're crazy
2) Some places in Paris have a distinct sewage smell. While disgusting, it did not deter us or keep us from hanging around to gawk at architecture.
3) Coca-Cola is the only soft drink you will find here. By the time we got back we were desperate for Dr. Pepper. While this may be sad for some people, most that I know would completely understand.
4) Can we say "Sticker shock"! The US $ is so weak right now. Since we had a good grasp on the exchange rate, it made it hard to spend money sometimes. We quickly found that getting some things at the grocery store was WAY cheaper than buying it elsewhere.
5) Take plenty of band-aids if you weren't willing to shell out the big bucks for the truly good walking shoes. I went through an entire box and needed more by the end of the trip. My feet will never be the same.
6) Nobody will smile at you. While they will speak English to you and deal with you very efficiently, don't expect a smile. Ever. We actually looked forward to the hospitality of home.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


In the midst of everything else going on we have added another addition to our little petting zoo we call our house. Why you ask??? Why not!

Meet Olivia...

3 DAYS!!!!!

3 days until our trip to Paris!!! I am beyond excited. A little nervous about the layover in London...but excited. I've always done everything in my power to avoid layovers when flying. The one time I did one with Mom, the airline lost our luggage. That is exactly what I fear this time. I am so scared that we will get there and our luggage will not. I will just be paranoid the entire flight :-(

In other news... this past Monday Blake came up to me and said, "I think we should paint this wall... and redo this part of the floor". Why this sudden need for home improvement projects the week before our big trip? Because he was bored. That's right...he was bored. Three hours later we come home from shopping at Home Depot and I have a headache. Blake is no longer allowed in Home Depot unless I am there to moderate. One miter saw, 1 24' ladder, 6 gallons of paint, 4 boxes of flooring, 1 hand saw, 3 tubes of caulk, 40' of moulding and 1 week are the results...

Entryway window BEFORE
Entryway window AFTER (shade added)
Entryway BEFORE

Entryway AFTER (wood floors and red wall)

Staircase wall BEFORE

Staircase wall AFTER (red wall and white paint retouched)
Gameroom wall AFTER (red wall and white paint retouched)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Another Cake

Last year, Mom and I (Treasured Cakes) did a baby shower cake for a client. This year, the new mommy asked us to make the 1st birthday cake. We were very excited to do it! She told us it was an "Under the Sea" theme and that she wanted it carved into the shape of a "1". Not a problem :-) Mom and I let our imaginations go and came out with a cake that we both loved!

26 days and counting...

Until we leave for Paris, France!!! I have to admit, I'm getting pretty nervous. I know it's not necessary to speak the language there, but I know I need to at least know a little bit. I took 4 years of French in school and only remember bits and pieces. Hopefully that will get me by. If not, I've bought French for Dummies to help remind me a bit.

Another thing shaking my nerves is the actual traveling to get there. I've never been a huge fan of flying and I will be on a plane for 11 hrs to get there. I'm thinking there will be a bottle of NyQuil involved...

I really hope we get to do everything we want to do while we're there. We'll be there from Thursday afternoon to very early Tuesday morning. I know that sounds like a long time, but there is a TON of stuff I want to do and see while we're there.

Blake is the BEST for getting me my dream vacation for my 25th birthday! It's even better that we will actually be there ON my birthday so I will get to celebrate it near the Eiffel Tower :-)