Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The House that Stole Christmas

So Lauren and Robert decided to throw an impromptu Christmas gathering on Saturday night. We headed over to their house in one of my favorite neighborhoods in Dallas. Lauren intrigued all of us by claiming the greatest Christmas display on Earth was two blocks from their house...and they were having a block party we could crash...and we could walk there. So we all bundled up and headed over.

This creepy guy was in a small dollhouse on the lawn...just an introduction to the show...

This is ONE house...

This bike was just hanging in the side yard...why? More lights.
Seriously, I think this is the house that stole Christmas...how were there ANY strands of lights available for anyone else to use?? There was not an inch of the house that was not covered in lights: some were hot glued to the house, they lined the grass, there were whole strands shoved in liquor bottles and lining the walkway. Santa was there, they even had a porta-potty that was decked out for the holidays, and there was an elf parade. It really was the greatest Christmas display on earth, for sure.

Merry Christmas, friends!!!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The In Between

So here's what I've been up to in between the last two entries, because again...it's been two and a half months!!

The Rangers went to the World Series!!!! This is actually a picture from my iPhone so don't judge by the quality of this picture; but I must say this was the coolest. day. of. my. life. Not only were we there when the Rangers WON the ALCS, but this was also the day we saw our baby's heartbeat and got our first sonogram. So cool!!

Lindsey had her bachelorette party in Seguin. Lauren and I headed down and met them in Gruene. I did manage to bring my camera, but the sad thing is, I mostly took scenery shots. Sorry Lindsey...I don't know what I was thinking. But Gruene, TX is beautiful, and everyone should put on their boots and head down there for some wine sippin' or some two steppin'. Whichever you prefer...

Lauren had her second senior night; this time with the Longhorns. She also made it to the FINAL FOUR!! So proud of you, Lauren!!

I had the honor of practicing my photography skills on the beautiful Savage family. These are Miss Ellie's cousins!! Doesn't the cuteness just run in the family?? It was a lot of fun to get out there and practice, even if Gaitley wasn't feeling the photog session the whole time. How sweet is this family??

Anyway, so that's the exciting stuff that you've missed...I'm feeling better, so the blog is back!! Maybe not everyday, but no more two month hiatuses...I promise!

My Excuse

So in case all of my "loyal readers" have been wondering where I have been...I have a good excuse. The last blog entry was from Molly and Brett's wedding weekend IN OCTOBER!!! Let's face it, that wedding was pretty awesome. But what was even MORE amazing than the wedding was that was also the week we found out about this:

Pretty much after that weekend, I fell off the face of the planet. During the first trimester, I felt fine during the day (thank God--can you imagine teaching 140 7th graders with morning sickness?), but as soon as I got home I felt terrible and exhausted. So the camera sort of went to the wayside. Even when we did do things (because let's face it, that was two and a half months ago...I did get out of the house a little), pregnancy brain swept in and I'd forget my camera or I fell back into the "embarrassment" of having the big, fancy camera out and in people's faces. But I'm BACK!! Because I mean seriously, folks, if there's going to be a little Dickson running around here, I better get used to having the big, fancy camera out and ready for all the cute, adorable things that kid is destined to do!!! Am I right???

So I apologize for the blog break...but I'll be better! And with Christmas here, and snowy weather right around the corner, and all of the exciting stuff that is sure to be heading our way, there WILL be pictures!!

By the way...Best picture on the blog??? Maybe. But maybe I'm also a little biased.

**Disclaimer: obviously, the above picture was not taken by me, but I figured everyone would be okay with a "guest photographer" this one time...

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Wedding Weekend Away

Last weekend Neal and I had a little mini vacation at Rough Creek Lodge for a wedding. I'm only including one picture from the wedding, because frankly, my pictures do NOT do it any justice. But believe me when I say that It. Was. Amazing. However, I did snap a few shots while milling about the resort.

Our "porch"...looking out over a little lake, with our own rocking chairs and hammock. The weather could not have been more beautiful, and this was a perfect spot for some R & R.

Neal and I headed out Saturday morning for a little bike ride around the property. There were some steep hills where I totally had to get off and walk the bike; this is on one of the many breaks...
We were surrounded by good friends all weekend, and I happened to snap a sweet moment between Ellen and T.J. during the cocktail hour.
This truly was one of the most unique and beautiful weddings I have ever been to. Congratulations, Brett and Molly!! We had an amazing time!!

I made the mistake of leaving my prime lens in the room for the wedding/reception, which is why I think the pictures didn't turn out so great. I really needed that low light capability.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


When we were in Panhandle last weekend, we got to play with some pretty sweet babes!! I love going to Panhandle and catching up with old friends, but it's so bizarre because there is always a new addition or a bigger babe...But I LOVE playing with my little friends!!

Sweet Annee!! She's perfect...she even feel asleep with Sarah holding her...that's bigtime!!

Strategizing with the boys!!

I love this freaking picture...so cool! Run Zach!!
Miss Marley, sweet Annee's big sis!

I love these two!! Best big brother around, that Clayton...

And here's my big kid, playing with the littles...and breaking stuff. Somehow, a miracle obviously, all three boys were unhurt when the trampoline busted. It was close, and Neal was definitely a little sore (but that may have also had to do with the enormous TV that almost fell on him that weekend), but everyone walked away unharmed!! Thank God!!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Home, Home on the Range

I love my family. The last time all three Atchleys were in Panhandle together was Thanksgiving of 2005--pre-Neal. Having my husband, brother, sister, and spouses under one roof? Priceless. And then of course there's Anne. And Meg. And the boys. And finally, I'm home. No matter how long it's been since I've been back or how far apart we all are...my heart is happy with my family. This weekend my heart was very happy!!

**Look at how none of the Wood boys can even look at the camera...how CUTE are they??? Meg we missed you and Linc in this shot...next time we get a REAL family picture!

I took a lot of pictures this weekend. I'm going to separate the posts out into themes. Tonight is the wide open spaces, the range, the Texas Panhandle.

Panhandle is so...open. Unless you've been there, I just can't explain it. When I go home everything is just...out there. The rolling plains, the bright sky, the history, everything is so...well, open.

Meet Justin Beiber's twin (the miniature horse version):
Genius. This was legit...only in Panhandle.

Look at that night sky. The clouds were like a quilt, loosely covering the beautiful moon.

I used the prime lens most of the time this weekend. It was more experimental than purposeful. I love the low light capabilities that the prime gives me; I love the bokeh effect (you'll see it more later...look for Annee); and I love having the choice and the flexibility of having two different lens. Get excited for some blog updates this week; they're coming!!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Prime Time

I'm so freaking excited! I've been coveting certain photography blogs, wishing I could get my pictures to turn out like KelliWendiJennaRee does (I do realize that raw talent and expensive equipment is probably behind most of it, but I like to think I can get some of the effect). After doing a little research, I found out what kind of camera lens is crucial in getting the "bokeh" effect (blurry background). And true to my cheap spending habits, I found a great deal. So with my birthday money, I went out and bought a new Prime lens for my camera. It's a Nikon 35mm f/1.8 lens. It's great in low light (yeah!) and is often used for portraits/closeups. There's no zoom feature; it's just what you see through the lens. I've only messed with it a little around the house but am SOOOO excited to have real subjects to try it out on. This weekend in Panhandle should provide a lot of good shots...and Ellie will be the perfect model too...and Jack...and Preston...and book club...heck...I can't wait to take it everywhere!!

Oh, and I got bangs!!

I took this one myself (can you tell? Ha!) at 1/100 shutter speed and f/2.8.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Hearts and Hammers

Saturday Neal and I woke up and headed out to Oak Cliff to volunteer with Hearts and Hammers. It's similar to Habitat for Humanity, except that this house is already built, occupied, and falling down again. Hearts and Hammers goes in and fixes it up to meet code (at least on the outside). Occupants are happy! City of Dallas is happy! Volunteers? They're tired...but happy to help!!

With the sun so high, I was able to keep the shutter speed up and aperture low. I also changed the white balance to full sun and turned the ISO up.

The best part about Saturday was knowing that we were able to get out of the house and do some good. The wheelchair bound woman who lived there was inside while we were working on the house, and when I saw her through the back door she was so excited to show off her Hearts and Hammers t-shirt. I was so excited to show her that there are a lot of good people out in the world; people who are willing to give up their time and their energy to those who need it. Good work, KPMG...time well spent!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Best. Birthday. Ever.

I am blessed! It was confirmed this week that I have the best husband, the best family, and the best friends! By far, this was the BEST birthday! It all started the night before my birthday. It was a long day (Open House at school, ugh)...I came home to find a beautiful bouquet of flowers from my sweet husband. Maybe the prettiest bouquet ever. I may have a new favorite flower; sunflowers make any room seem brighter!!

I woke up the next morning to a hot breakfast (again, sweet sweet husband), had another bouquet delivered to school (live flowers at school? Makes a dull classroom come alive!!) from Anne and Rick, Bruce and Becky came in town, and we all headed to the Ballpark. To top it off...a Rangers win!! I managed to remember to break out the camera this time...I love the colors at the Ballpark. So festive!

How funny is this kid?? **I also just noticed the guy scarfing his hot dog down in the back...nice.
Then on Wednesday, my sweet friends took me out to our favorite wine bar for delicious pizza and wine, and even better company!! Heather got me a card with a vanilla cupcake flavor strip (think listerine strips). Very...um...interesting...

I am so thankful for the people in my life that help me appreciate everything that I have. I am also so thankful for the ability to capture these special moments so I can remember them forever!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Dallas Heart Walk

Saturday Neal and I woke up early after Game Night and headed downtown to participate in the Dallas Heart Walk benefiting the American Heart Association.

They had us routed through downtown Dallas which was really cool; much different than other 5k walks through neighborhoods and up by Northpark Mall. We started and ended at Victory Park and wound through all of the high rises. Like so many other great fundraisers, this one was packed! We managed to avoid the crowd and break up early, which is always nice. Since we were walking (not running), I decided to bring the big camera for some cool shots.





I've found one way to take pictures at a different angle and not seem like quite a creeper is to shoot from the hip. For most of these, I set the ISO at 200, had the shutter speed around 1/200 and the aperture as low as it would go (between 4.2 and 5.6). I've been combining the editing tools in iPhoto with Photobucket.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Game Night!!

Last night we hosted Ellen's birthday party at our house. And I must say, everybody brought their A-Game for Game Night. There was Cranium, Flip Cup, Catch Phrase, and a new favorite: Mr. Bacon's Big Adventure (no joke).

Betsy wowing her team with her mad acting skills...


Intense concentration and teamwork here...

Pretty girls, taking it all in...

This was a fiercely competitive Flip Cup game...Whitney and Missy started us off right, but Morgan and Neal were pretty impressive on the tail end.


Have YOU ever played Mr. Bacon's BIG Adventure? If we had played according to the rules, we all would have had a heart attack. In the Bologna Forest, you had to eat a hot dog wrapped in ham or something like that...there was also the Meatball Meadows, Wiener Wasteland, Hot Dog Hideout, Sausage Sea...Mmmmm...doesn't it just make you want to go out and eat some MEAT??

The inside pictures were taken with an ISO of 1600 and shutter speed between 1/15 and 1/100; the aperture stayed around f/5.6 all night. I used the flash outside and was pleased with the way they came out...

Monday, September 6, 2010

Hook 'em Horns!!

Lauren has stepped into a different color orange this year as a Texas Longhorn. After four years as a Cavalier, the burnt orange looks good!! Neal and I headed to Gregory Gym this weekend to cheer on Lauren and the Horns. Not only did they win, but I also got some action shots for the blog! Win-Win!

I used the sports mode to get the initial settings. That's one thing I love about my Nikon: I can use the automatic settings as a learning tool for the manual. The ISO was set to around 800 and the shutter speed was anywhere between 1/40-1/120. For the last shot, I slowed the shutter speed down and set the ISO lower as well.