Sunday, March 28, 2010


Friday was finally Fran's funeral. It was a truly wonderful experience despite the reason we were all there. I had the honorable task of leading the funeral as a few months before her passing, Fran asked if I would be the one to get up in front of all her loved ones and lead the ceremony. It truly was a difficult thing to do, to get up in front of everyone and not break down. I was choked up a few times, but I held it together and really do think I did Fran proud. Hell, more people came up to me and told me what a wonderful job I did than who came to me when I performed my sister's wedding! It felt good to have THAT many compliments. One person even came up to me and told me that I was absolutely the right choice for doing it! Truly an honor.

After the funeral, we went back to the house and shared memories with family and friends, but like many funeral, turned into drinking by the end of the night. 9 shots later, this is all I could think of for picture of the day!

March 26th, 2010 - Day 302

Now that this is all over, I really feel we can move on now. Jessica and I really haven't had any alone time or just time to sit back and relax for a couple of months now. We haven't had a real chance to enjoy quality time with our friends for some time. Her mom is staying with us all week from the bay area, so it won't be this week either, but the return to normalcy is at least on the horizon. It is much needed.

Saturday was a day without much inspiration for photography, but I sure didn't forget to get a shot in.

March 27th, 2010 - Day 303

I know I just took pictures of bees the other day, but they were out today and it is just so much fun to shoot them. And boy, there were a TON of them today. And it looks like they have been BUSY - just look at the pollen on this guy's feet!

March 28th, 2010 - Day 304

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


A little bit of a pinkish theme for the last two days.

Yesterday, Leia got a new stuffy to play with. Well truthfully, we call it a bunny. All stuffed animals are bunnies. What does she always do when she gets a new bunny? She takes the eyes out!

March 23rd, 2010 - Day 299

Today I went to my friends' house as they have a cactus that has been ready to bloom for a while. Today, the biggest flower finally opened up!

March 24th, 2010 - Day 300






Monday, March 22, 2010

So what happens next in the story?

As you may remember, last week, I posted my continuation of the blogger collaborative effort story. I tagged my buddy, Rich, and he went ahead and continued the story right away. I love the direction he went! He didn't know who to tag, so I told him I would tag someone for him. As I don't know who has gone and how many times, I will go ahead and tag Tara. Tara, you are up. And by the way, check out how Rich continued out story here!

Yesterday's and today's pictures:

What Lies Beneath?

March 21st, 2010 - Day 297

El Sol

March 22nd, 2010 - Day 298

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Busy as a Bee

I am amazed the bee let me get this close to him. As it was, I couldn't use a tripod because the bee wouldn't stay in one place for very long at all and I would have never had enough time to get set up. So, this is hand held and I am fairly pleased with the fact I don't have too much blur.

March 20th, 2010 - Day 296



Saturday, March 20, 2010


Sorry that is has been nearly a week since I have posted. It has been quite a life changing week. Not entirely unexpected by any means, but a definite change nonetheless. I'll start off with a couple of fairly normal picture of the day selections...

First of all, BOY, are we enjoying our spa. We are more relaxed when we go to bed and aches and pains seem to go away that much quicker! It is easily one of the best purchases we have made in a long time...

March 15th, 2010 - Day 291

Tuesday, we had friends over for a barbecue (and spa time, of course!). We had gone to the Farmer's Market on the previous Saturday and wanted to barbecue the pineapple we bought. Barbecuing the pineapple lead us to the decision to make shish kabobs. So behold, the almight shish kabob!

March 16th, 2010 - Day 292

Wednesday though, the celebrations ended. On Wednesday, Fran, Jessica's stepmother, finally lost her courageous battle with cancer. This obviously wasn't unexpected and we knew this day would come, but that did not make it any easier. In fact, even knowing that this was better for her in the end as she lingered the last few weeks, living the life she had told us she absolutely did not want to have at the end, it did not make things any easier. Thankfully, when the time finally came, it seemed to be very peaceful. I am also thankful that when she did pass away, I, as well as many loved ones were in the room, hopefully easing her way in the next life with the love that was in the room. I will miss her so much.

It is funny how when I started this picture of the day project last May, it was meant as just a way to practice my skills. When I look back at the project years from now, certain pictures will remind me of the year, as if it was less of a picture project and more of a photographic journal. I'll be able to look back and see the joy of baby news, the heartbreak of another miscarriage, the beginnings of happy marriages, and now the death of someone we all loved so much. The undertaking of this picture of a day project is more of a blessing than I ever imagined.

A little over an hour after Fran's passing, my sister and I were in the front yard and I got the idea to photograph some dandelions. Funny how what equates to a pesky weed, really set the mood for the day. Somehow, the blowing away of a dandelion seemed relevant and appropriate for the mood.

March 17th, 2010 - Day 293

And because I don't want to get too symbolic, here are two more pictures of dandelions I took that afternoon.



The next morning, we were back at the house so I could drop off Jessica and she could go with her dad to make the funeral arrangements. When we got there and got out the car, the first thing I saw was a Rainbow. Again, it seemed appropriate for the mood. Rainbows have always seemed like signs of hope and beginnings for me and seeing one at that moment seemed to fit nicely.

March 18th, 2010 - Day 294

Yesterday, Friday, we went to a funeral for Jessica's great aunt, because one death in the family to deal with apparently wasn't enough. She passed away suddenly a couple of weeks ago, the victim of someone else's careless driving. With everything going on with Fran, the sudden death of Aunt Phyllis really made me think of death and how we go. Fran, fought a brave battle with cancer, but suffered for a year and a half. On the other hand, she got to say her goodbyes. We got to say OUR goodbyes. Aunt Phyllis, presumabley never suffered. At least we would like to think that. But she never got to say her goodbyes. She didn't know it was coming and we were left with the, one minute she was here and the next she wasn't. Which is better? I can't say that I have the answer to that.

The flowers were beautiful at the funeral home, the flower below being no exception. I love how this picture came out. The framing of it seems to scream, "Look at me!" as the flower tries to hog the frame.

March 19th, 2010 - Day 295

Not really sure how to end a long winded post like this. I wish I could say that with Fran's passing, we can now move on. A few days later, it is no easier. Perhaps the funeral next Friday will be the first step.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Story Continuation...

As most of my fellow bloggers know, we are doing a writing project amongst all us bloggers. It started with BHW writing a paragraph, and then she tagged Alien, who followed with a second paragraph, and so on, and so on. This time, I was tagged to write the next paragraph in the story. One paragraph each.  So, as it is Monday, here is what I came up with. What follows is the story so far and the final paragraph will be my contribution...

The sun was edging on the horizon, peaking through silver slits of clouds. She sat there watching, waiting for the end of days. On this day she had wished for a fresh new start. Oblivious to what was really happening to her. She couldn’t shake that feeling of being watched. She didn’t know who or why, but she felt it.

She looked over her shoulder, but saw nobody there. The feeling stayed with her as she got up and start to walk back toward the house. A rustling in the bushes caught her attention as she nervously peered in, squinting to see who or what was there. A squirrel ran out and toward the large oak tree. She jumped, but knew that wasn’t what made the noise. She looked in again and said in a low-pitched squeak, ‘Hello?’

There was no reply. She didn’t really think she’d get one, but it was worth a shot. The only way to really know what was back there, was to suck it up and take a second, better look. This time, she carefully separated the branches to be able to see better in the back of the bushes. At first it just looked like a large rock, but then she saw the two thin arms, bent and reaching up to cover his head. It was a young boy, curled up in the fetal position, and trying to make himself disappear.

During such strange times, she expected to wake up and realize she was just dreaming. At this moment, however, she realized this was all too real. Her head started to get tight, her heart hammered threateningly. She couldn’t run away from this scene, not with a child lying helplessly at her feet. She carefully knelt down, took the wool scarf from around her neck and quickly wrapped up the child, sheltering him from the cold, bitter wind that had suddenly whipped through the trees. She cradled and comforted the boy in her arms and stood up. Just inches behind where she stood, a thick branch snapped.

She gasped and instinctively clutched at the child more tightly. She froze, waiting. She could feel the boy trembling in her arms, his eyes still shut tightly against whatever was happening to him. Finally, when no other sounds disturbed the uneasy peace of the morning , she stepped quickly onto her porch and opened her front door awkwardly. She had been raised in a group home and had helped to care for many, many younger children over the years. Thinking back to what had been comforting, she settled herself in the old wooden rocker she'd found set out at someone's curb and began to rock slowly and steadily, humming almost under her breath to the small boy huddled miserably against her.

Humming turned to singing. Because she held him tightly and he seemed like a baby in her arms, instinctively she sang "Rock a bye baby, on the tree top, when the wind blows, the..." She stopped suddenly - common sense prevailed. The poor boy was too old for that song - and he didn't need to hear that "the cradle will fall." Neither did she. She started in again, slowly singing "you are my sunshine, my only sunshine..", falling into a reverie, taken away to arms that once held her. The boy slowly settled down. Even the wind was calmed by the singing of her song.

She allowed her rocking to slow and her song to turn to hum. Keeping in rhythm with the chair, she rose to her feet and carried the sleeping boy to the sofa. Head now cradled on the velveteen pillow, the boy sighed and rolled to his side, face passive in the soft light. She pulled a throw over him, and reached out to pick a twig from his hair. Her touch caused him to move his head back. Even in sleep, the boy was cautious. It was then that she noticed the key strung about his neck on a simple leather lace. Careful not to wake him, her fingers spider light, she lifted the key for a better look. It was small, delicate and possibly made of silver, an odd key with two shafts. She could not help but wonder what such a key would open and why it would be strung around this boy’s neck.

His clothes were tattered and well worn. She thought that he must have been out there all alone struggling to survive for all that time. Still she was curious as to why he was alone. He was one of the few lucky ones. Other's before him had tried in vain to escape. As she turned to the kitchen, she caught out of the corner of her eye this small box laying just under the table. It wasn't there before she thought. Or was it? Maybe the little boy had it in his few belongings? She bent down to retrieve it and as she did, in this strained and yet a quiet voice he says "don't touch it!" She turned back to the boy and he was sitting up. Unsure of his surroundings, he asks "where am I?" She says, "you're in my house". "How long have I been here?" She wasn't sure how to respond because she didn't know. "I think it has been a few days, maybe a week." "I found you just outside curled up in the bushes". "You are very lucky that I found you when I did", she tells him. "I'm not sure if you would've survived out there much longer". She was wanting to ask him about the key. But it was too soon. First, she would get some food and fresh water into him and another night's rest before inquiring about it.

She started to prepare the boy a bowl of her homemade oatmeal recipe, a recipe that had so lovingly been passed down from generation to generation in her family. It was actually the stuff of legends in this small town; a winner of many county fairs. She knew it would just warm the boy up, not just in body, but in spirit as well. She filled the bowl and walked towards the boy, but her smile quickly dissipated into a face of pure terror. She couldn’t quite make out what it was, but the boy was now on the floor, carving something into her floor. She tried to peek at the design, but he turned around swiftly and screamed at the top of his lungs, “You are the one they warned me about! They told me you would try to take my box!” An then her came towards her with his makeshift blade…

I am going to go away from the norm and tag my buddy, Rich, to write the next paragraph.  He needs a fire lit under him and this would be a good start ....

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Drugs are bad, M'Kay!

March 12th, 2010 - Day 288

I've fallen......and I can't get up! Don't worry, he is just flipping over!

March 13th, 2010 - Day 289

Damn, tiny carpet beetles! I got the bugger, though!

March 14th, 2010 - Day 290

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Spring is definitely in the air here in town with flowers blooming everywhere! First off, before I get to the last two days of the pictures of the day, I wanted to get to the alternate shots of the Nectarine tree flowers I took a couple of days ago. There were a few requests for how the others came out. Here are two of them...


For the next one, it is off center on purpose. I think it would be cool if in that blank space, I added like a word in fancy lettering or something like that; you know, so it looked like a poster. Kind of hard to describe what I am trying to say, but hopefully, it makes sense to you...


The Garage River. Currently going through a drought.

March 10th, 2010 - Day 286

The fruitless pear tree is in bloom in our front yard.

March 11th, 2010 - Day 287

Tuesday, March 09, 2010


I've done soap bubbles, and now we have bubblegum bubbles! This was my favorite of the bunch!

March 9th, 2010 - Day 285

Since I took a bunch in high speed, I figured, why not make an animated gif of them all!

Gif Created on Make A Gif

I also took some candid photos of Jess during the shoot and thought they came out super cute!

Candid 1

Candid 2

candid 3

Candid 4

Monday, March 08, 2010

March 8th, 2010 - Day 284

Flowers on a Nectarine tree. I took some that were zoomed in even more, but they looked so pretty being able to see the whole flower.

Highs and Lows

Quick Fran update. Still status quo, still waiting, still torture of the unknown...

In fact, all this waiting became an inspiration for the photo of the day on Friday. Jess ran over on Friday (I was unable to go at that moment) to check on Fran as they thought the moment was near. While I awaited the electrician coming to our home, I also waited by the phone, something we have grown accustomed to lately...

March 5th, 2010 - Day 281

It turned out to be another false alarm, but we feel it is getting closer. Jess finally tore herself away to have a little fun Saturday night and some of the girls came over to play some board games with her while we played poker. She hadn't seen her good friends (wives and girlfriends of my poker buddies)in a few weeks and I know she missed them. Jessica's spirits were lifted!

March 6th, 2010 - Day 282

Nothing really new on the health front on Sunday. As Jess went back to work today, she wanted to spend her last minutes of vacation from her knee surgery in our new spa. So relaxing...

March 7th, 2010 - Day 283

Friday, March 05, 2010

Manuel on Movies #16 - Oscar Edtion

I have a lot of movies to catch up on as I haven't done this since November. As the Academy Awards are on Sunday, I am going to stick with the movies nominated for Best Picture and then do other miscellaneous movies next time. When the nominees were announced (NOW 10 MOVIES!), I had only see 2 of the nominated films. But, both of these, UP and Inglorious Basterds were movies I gave a 10 out of 10 rating to. So, how did the other movies stack up? Let's run down the rest...

The Blind Side - I don't get why this film is nominated. Sometimes an artsy film is nominated that I think is bad, but see why the Academy chose to nominate it. This film was pretty decent, but there was absolutely nothing special about it. It's just a simple sports biopic that I guess was kind of touching and entertaining, but nothing more. It gets a decent score from me just because it kept my entertainment, but an Oscar movie? NO. Hell, I gave Zombieland a 9.5 and that isn't an Oscar movie by any means. And I don't see why Sandra Bullock is getting such accolades for this. She didn't do anything special or out of the ordinary. As entertainment, this movie is ok, but it doesn't belong on this list by any means. 7 out of 10.

An Education - This was a pretty well-done film about a young girl trying to decide between pursuing college or pursuing the new life she just discovered with an older man. Carey Mulligan is outstanding in it and the supporting cast does an excellent job as well. It is also kind of nice that they fit it all into 90 minutes as this movie could have dragged, but they told the story they needed to without all the added fluff that bogs movies down at times. I don't think i would need to ever see this film again, but it wasn't bad. 7 out of 10

Up In the Air - This was a fantastic movie about a man whose job is traveling across the country and essentially firing people on behalf of companies. Along the way, he meets a couple of women who make him analyze his own life and look at the direction it is going. George Clooney is his usual excellent self and both women nominated for Best Supporting Actress do a really good job as well. It is a touching story and makes the viewer do a little soul searching at the same time. For a little bit, it seemed like it was the front runner to win and I wouldn't put it that high, but it is a very good film. 8 out of 10

Avatar - Beautiful. Of course I am talking about how the movie looked and sounded and not the actual story itself. This was a really outstanding film, but a lot of this has to do with just how beautiful the special effects in this film are. Visually, it was a masterpiece. Storywise though, it was good, but nothing unique as the story has been done countless times before in films like Dances with Wolves and Last Samurai. Now, from what I have heard recently, James Cameron wanted to make to make the film easy to follow and instead, let viewers concentrate on how beautiful everything looked, especially in 3D, but that doesn't make me say, "Well, in that case, the movie was perfect." It is a good story. It is a touching story. As a sci-fi film, it rocked and I will probably want to see it again and again on Blu Ray. But does that make it a Best Picture? Not really sure about that. One thing can be said, Cameron has definitely opened up the next generation of the movie viewing experience. 9 out of 10

The Hurt Locker - This is an absolutely outstanding film about the US soldiers in the Middle East who are responsible for deactivating bombs. You know how tense you get in a film when someone has to deactivate a bomb or else? Well, you get the edge of the seat feeling for the whole movie! And what a great story too. I loved that is a war movie, but it really didn't have a clear cut beginning, middle, end plot. I don't think it was supposed to. This is about the daily lives of these soldiers so forcing a storyline out of it isn't really necessary and in fact, would take away from the grittiness of this film. Following them on the day by day activities almost gave it a documentary feel, as if we were following along with what these people really go through. Loved it! 9.5 out of 10

District 9 - Another sci-fi film nominated for Best Picture? Very cool. Surprisingly, I did not like this film as much as some other people. I thought it was ok, and I thought it was a pretty innovative story, but it wasn't quite as good as I expected or wanted it to be. It is an interesting concept - aliens are here, but treated as lower creatures and put in internment camps. You feel for them as you see how they are treated. I thought the special effects showing these aliens were great. But maybe one reason I didn't like it as much as I could have is I hated the main character. As first, he is a douche and then, without giving too much away, you are supposed to feel for him, but I just didn't see the person as a likable character. There were even parts I was actually bored. Oh well. 6 out of 10.

Precious - This is a simply outstanding film that gets my vote for this year's, "I am so glad I see all the nominees every year otherwise I would have never seen this film." The film takes a harsh look at an inner city high school age girl, with one child already and another on the way, who lives with her physically and verbally abusive mother. The performances are top notch and almost too tough to watch at times. It is amazing how a film so raw can be so sad, yet so moving and inspirational at the same time. This is a must see. 9.5 out of 10

A Serious Man - I LOVE the Cohen Brothers. Fargo, Raising Arizona, No County for Old Men, and countless others have all been favorites of mine. I looked forward to another fine film by them. I guess I will be waiting a little longer as this was honestly, one of the worst films I have ever seen. I was bored to death, I didn't care about the characters, and I could not wait for it to end. Where did you go wrong Cohen Brothers? This movie about a man who ends up having one bad thing after another happen to him sounds like it would be interesting. But I hated it. Correction, I HATED it. In fact, I am going to stop wasting time on it right now. 1 out of 10.

So, with all that out of the way, how do I rate the movies nominated for Best Picture? Well, like this...

10. A Serious Man
9. The Blind Side
8. An Education
7. District 9
6. Up in the Air
5. Avatar
4. Hurt Locker
3. Precious
2. Up
1. Inglorious Basterds

What do I THINK will win? Well, I think it is a toss up between Avatar and The Hurt Locker. I can't say I will throw a fit if either win, especially if it is Hurt Locker, but I like a few others more. We shall see...

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Think About Baseball, Swing All Night...

Jess and I went out and about today looking for something in particular that I need for a photo idea I have. When I struck out on what I was looking for, I decided to shoot this empty baseball field at a neighborhood park...

March 4th, 2010 - Day 280






Wednesday, March 03, 2010


We're still in the same situation as before. Jessica's stepmom is still hanging on, but went into a nursing home today for a 5 day break simply because the care that she was requiring was just taking too much of a toll. Last night was the first night Jessica got to sleep at home in 9 days. Worse yet, we can call it the first time in 9 days that Jess actually got to sleep the whole night. Fran's time is short (although we have been thinking that for a while), but the strength she has shown has been inspirational.

Now that Jessica is back home, I hope to get in some kind of normal routine again. The Oscars are on Sunday and I still have to do my Oscar preview post! I promise to work on that and have it up by Thursday or Friday sometime. Be sure to check it out sometime prior to Sunday!

And now on to the last 5 days of pictures...

February 27th, 2010 - Day 275

February 28th, 2010 - Day 276

Almost missed the pic of the day...
March 1st, 2010 - Day 277

Jessica resting after 9 days away
March 2nd, 2010 - Day 278

March 3rd, 2010 - Day 279