Photo of the month

LIVE AT THE SCENE OF A RAGING FIRE: Ben follows in his dad's footsteps as he partakes in the joys of audio tape. Roni rediscovered her old handheld cassette recorder while cleaning the closet, so we gave it to Ben who has put it to better use. Here he provides commentary during a family barbecue with all the panache of a radio news correspondent. Photo by Glenn.

September 2005

It has been a big few weeks for barbecues, beginning with a visit from Glenn's brother, Sean, on Aug. 27. Roni provided a pasta salad to go with a meal of grilled hotdogs and burgers. The empty chair in the foreground is waiting on the photographer. Photo by Glenn.

Inspired to try something different for the long Labor Day weekend, Roni went all Hawaiian on us. She prepared several island dishes, including this delicious cherry macadamia cake. Photo by Roni.

It has been a few months since we planted our first barrel gardens in the back yard, and we thought it would be worth showing how they have progressed. This is our dwarf orange tree. The alyssum surrounding the tree is benefiting from the cooler weather. Photo by Roni.

What you are witnessing is the final few brush strokes on the exterior trim, which more or less completed the house painting project on Sept. 11. Doesn't look too hard... Photo by Roni.

...Until you realize that it's a long way down from where Glenn is standing. A misstep and he probably would have made a slam dunk in that basketball hoop in the right half of the frame. Photo by Roni.

These are our grapes of wrath — as in the summer sun and inadequate water have exacted their wrath on our bumper crop. These aren't very good eating grapes anyhow, for they are filled with seeds. Photo by Glenn.

Raisins anyone? Sun dried right on the vine, you won't find any sweeter. Watch the pits! Photo by Glenn.

While we're on the subject of fruits of the vine, take a gander at Ben's "wild" pumpkin. Grown from seed planted two years ago, this gourd should be good to go by Halloween. Photo by Glenn.

This would be our third barbecue in three weeks. Thanks to a bag of Matchlight charcoal, much of the frustration of starting the fire has been eliminated. This blaze was kindled with a single match. Photo by Glenn.

Ben ponders a thought while taping the goings-on around the barbecue pit on Sept. 11. Silliness is the rule for most of his recordings. Photo by Glenn.

Let's check in on the barbecue. Looks like these chicken breasts are coming along nicely. Photo by Glenn.

That's kinda pretty now that all the trim is painted white. What's even prettier is that Glenn isn't standing on that rickety ladder. Photo by Glenn.

Looks like the chicken's done. The table's set inside. Time for dinner. See you next month. Photo by Glenn.

We always enjoy hearing from our visitors. We welcome your comments.

Watching paint dry

September 11, 2005

Autumn is in the air. There's nothing subtle about it, which is quite unusual for this time of year. Here on the Delta we like our Septembers hot, and they sometimes stay that way through mid-October. It used to be, when our family was involved with the Oakley Almond Festival, that you could count on temperatures in the 90s, which was always welcome news because it meant you'd sell a lot of Pepsi and beer which made up the bulk of the proceeds. That's a typical September, but not this year. We went through August in the grip of heatwaves that had us wondering if the cool air would ever return. Then all of a sudden we crashed into September and the temperature plunged into the mid-70s and 80s. That familiar fall nip has returned to the night air. In other years we'd call this Summerfall, but this feels more like Fall proper. Is it global warming or what?

Whatever it is, it has made for a much easier going of the house painting project we talked about last month. Cooler temperatures are a welcome thing when one must stand on ladders in the afternoon sun for extended periods. Glenn put the "finishing" touches on the trim this morning, conquering the summit of the chimney that has come to be known as Mount Everest. He did it not with the aid of his handy power sprayer, but with a decidedly low-tech method: a paintbrush strapped by masking tape to the end of a broomstick. We say "finished" because, while from a distance the job appears complete, there is still a ton of work that needs to be done beneath the eaves. Glenn had spent the better part of three weeks making the dark blue trim white, tackling it a few feet at a time mornings before work. He saved the tall ladder work and messy job of paint scraping for the weekends, which allowed more uninterrupted work time and no pressure to get showered in time to be somewhere.

Roni was relieved at the announcement that Mount Everest had received its final dusting of snow-white latex. It meant that Glenn would be on terra firma rather than conducting his balancing act on the upper rungs of our 22-foot aluminum extension ladder. High-wire circus performers are probably safer without a net. A second coat is in order for most of the trim and gutters. There are a few spots that will have to wait until perhaps this winter, including the pillar of the front porch, which is concealed behind a wisteria vine. The plant's leaves keep getting in the way of the paint roller, as do the ants that are rising like columns of smoke toward the attic.

We've had ant woes a ton this summer, thanks in no small part to the July and August heat. We don't care what the exterminators might try to tell you that they can get rid of the bugs, there's simply no winning the war on ants. The little beasties just keep coming through any crack in the wall they can find. Some years are worse than others, and this one has been a doozy. Our savior is the cooler weather that will prevail starting in late October, which is about the time the colonies go into hibernation or whatever it is that ants tend to do all winter long until they emerge again in the spring to start the ritual anew.

It seems appropriate that we are composing this newsletter on Sept. 11 — the fourth anniversary of the terror attacks on our country — in that disasters seem to be on everyone's mind lately. We were deeply saddened, of course, by the recent devastation to New Orleans caused by Hurricane Katrina. It is hard now to believe that it was less than a year ago that we were sipping hurricanes in the French Quarter and riding the streetcar along St. Charles Avenue. So much of the area was left under water that it is hard to recognize some of the places we visited on our trip. On the one hand, we are feeling fortunate to have had the chance to see New Orleans the way it was, because it almost certainly will never be the same again after the city is reconstructed. On the other, it is hard not to feel a bit guilty that as tourists, we can watch the catastrophe from afar and turn off the TV when we feel like it; the folks who have to live through it all can't simply change the channel.

It is also eerie to think that all of this could have happened last year when Hurricane Ivan came to call. We sat glued to the Weather Channel in the days before our trip because we weren't sure if there would be a New Orleans to visit once the storm passed. As fate would have it, the storm veered east just before it made landfall, sparing the Crescent City more than some minor wind damage. But even then disaster experts were sounding the alarm, saying that if a major hurricane ever did make a direct hit on New Orleans it would have catastrophic consequences. They predicted exactly what we've all seen happen — multiple levees failing, leading to extensive flooding and hundreds if not thousands of lives lost. It's clear that local government officials underestimated the impact of Katrina on their city. Otherwise, why would you place 20,000 people inside the Superdome, which came close to being destroyed by the storm? It was an appalling lack of planning combined with a worst-case scenario that led to what happened in New Orleans. Hopefully some good will come of it in that other communities will review their own emergency plans and improve them.

OK, that's enough about natural disasters. Time to return to some more local ones, such as our recent spate of barbecues. Not that they were all disastrous in nature. In fact, we've had pretty darn good luck with cooking over the grill lately. It all started Aug. 27, when Glenn's brother came to visit for a night at the races in Antioch. We decided to cook up some hamburger patties and a package of hotdogs to make a quick dinner. Normally, Glenn doesn't do many barbecues because of the chore of getting the fire started and the fact that you wind up smelling like a forest fire when it's all done. But Roni picked up a bag of Matchlight charcoal from the store that made things much easier. Just as advertised, one match was all it took to start a roaring blaze, and in no time we had our meal prepared.

That barbecue experience was so positive that a week later we found ourselves back at it, this time in celebration of Labor Day. OK, so it was only Sunday and not the holiday proper, but that didn't stop us from cooking up some more hotdogs and a couple of sausages that Roni had lying around in the fridge. Afterward, we pulled out some chocolate bars, graham crackers and a bag of marshmallows and made s'mores in the dark, just like a regular campout. Sept. 11 saw us with our third cookout in as many weeks, this time more out of necessity than desire. We hadn't been to the store in several days and were down to a package of boneless chicken breasts for dinner. Looking for something more interesting to do with them than toss them in the oven, we decided to use the remainder of the charcoal briquettes and throw on some barbecue sauce to give 'em that nice smoked flavor. All agreed that the meal was a success, and now we're wondering if this will be the inspiration for a new trend in outdoor cooking for the Gehlkes. Inclement weather this fall will likely diminish any such resolve.

Ben has been having a blast with a handheld tape recorder that turned up recently while Mom was cleaning up some old boxes in the bedroom closet. We tossed in some fresh batteries and found a blank tape and let him go to it. He has been dutifully recording the family's activities and playing them back for us all to hear, so we're on our best behavior now not to make any promises that might be taped to come back and haunt us later! But most of Ben's taping is of the silly kind — making up stories and experimenting with funny voices, much as Dad used to do 30 years ago. Perhaps he'll find a way to turn it into a lucrative career as a voice-over guy in radio commercials.

Football season has resumed, and so too has the annual ritual of football picks between Glenn and his brother, Sean, and Ben. Ben is taking the game much more seriously this year, trying to pay closer attention to the teams and their records. He says that if he somehow beats the Gehlke Bros. at season's end, he wants a pack of Pokémon cards. Seems like a pretty reasonable request. But he'll have to step up his game if he hopes to win it all, because he's already down four games after one weekend. He's got a little bit of company from his dad, who is behind two games.

Hopefully you'll stay on your game until next month, when we'll have much more to share.

Glenn, Roni and Ben
This page was last updated on Thursday, October 13, 2005 at 00:48 hrs.

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