We're ready to do some haulin' now that we've got our own pickup truck. Glenn acquired a 2008 Ford F-150 this month from his brother, whose company sold it for a bargain basement price as they close up shop. It was a deal we couldn't pass up. Photo by Roni.

Time to get truckin'

November 29, 2018: There’s a new pickup truck sitting in our driveway these days, and while it isn’t exactly brand new from the factory, the 2008 Ford F-150 is certainly new to us and will undoubtedly be getting a workout in the years to come. It wasn’t something we planned on, but sometimes life happens and you roll with it.

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From pumpkin to jack o'lantern in under 50 minutes. That's about how long it took Glenn on Halloween to find inspiration for this year's carving — Jack Skellington of "The Nightmare Before Christmas" fame. Photo by Glenn.


As a side benefit to using a template to carve the jack o'lantern, Glenn gets a pretty cool Halloween mask. Or perhaps not. Photo by Roni.


Roni's costume is a little more conventional, and a lot less tacky. She's a witch, of course, displaying her cauldron roiling with spiders. Come onto our porch, if you dare. Photo by Glenn.


Night has arrived, but not the trick-or-treaters. Have we made our display too terrifying for the tender young innocents to come a-calling? Photo by Glenn.


We made the wood parts for this cat decoration years ago and then promptly lost them. This year they turned up in a forgotten box of Halloween decorations. It was fun to put the cat pumpkin back in service. Photo by Glenn.


We pass the time waiting for trick-or-treaters by making Halloween-themed dishes for our dinner. Roni always has fun with her "werewolf in the waldorf" salad. Photo by Glenn.


Perhaps this is why the trick-or-treaters took so long to visit us. They all got sidetracked by this awesome display halfway up the block. We were eager to see it ourselves, so took turns visiting the owners in between passing out treats. Photo by Glenn.


Just one scene from our neighbor's amazing display. It creator moved to our neighborhood about seven years ago and once had more props, but he couldn't bring them all in the move and has been slowly upgrading the presentation over the years. Here a couple of skeletons lead a fire-breathing dragon over a bed of hot coals. Photo by Glenn.


We took in "Bohemian Rhapsody" during a rare night at the movies on Saturday, Nov. 10. Even Ben joined us. We all agreed that it was the most fun we'd had at the movies in a long time. Highly recommended.


A late dinner at Mel's Diner in Brentwood followed our night at the movie. Ben and Roni decided it was past dinner hour and moved on to breakfast. Photo by Glenn.


The never-ending kitchen project continued in November as we finally got through with installing the sink counters. Here you can see the Rondec edging temporarily taped to the cement backer board. The counters to the rear and left of the sink are laid out with paper templates resembling the tiles that will be placed there. We'd planned to move the sink again before the final mortaring, but we were worried about damaging it if we kept that up, so we left it in place. Photo by Glenn.


Glenn lays granite tiles on the sink counter, inserting spacers to preserve the grout lines. A bed of fresh mortar is already groomed and waiting on the window sill. Photo by Roni.


The tile laying is done! We even finished the edge pieces along the Rondec. Now we just have to let it cure so we can add the grout. Photo by Glenn.


Grout added. We went with a dark gray to help it blend with the dark blue pearl tiles. Although it dried lighter than we expected, we still like it. We're just waiting for the grout to cure a little before we wash off the haze. Photo by Glenn.


Seeing how pretty everything looked installed, grouted and polished, it was a painful moment having to carve a hole for the sink faucet. But if we ever hoped to have a working sink again, it was a necessary evil. The jig we bought for the task made it easy, and the hole is pefectly centered behind the sink basin. Photo by Glenn.


The new faucet is installed and appears to be working. We have a working sink again for the first time in more than a month. Photo by Glenn.


We'll be seeing this a lot from now on — Roni rubbing down the farmhouse sink and drying it. Despite what the name might imply, stainless steel is anything but. We are forever cleaning off handprints and hard water stains, but so far we love the huge sink basin. Photo by Glenn.


The sink may be done, but the cabinet beneath it is our next project. Roni didn't want doors alone, so we built a drawer from scratch to make accessing cleaning supplies and such easier. The drawer base and sides are done here. All we need is the face. Photo by Glenn.


Roni gets her first look at the completed sink drawer. It has false doors attached to the drawer face, so at casual glance it appears just like the rest of the cabinet doors. Photo by Glenn.


The project is not done until it meets with the approval of the local building inspector — in this case, our cat Phyre. This drawer appears to be the perfect size for large felines. Photo by Glenn.


After 30 years, a new cutting board is definitely in order. We may eventually upgrade to something more solid, but for now a sheet of laminated pine will do the job. We just cut it to size, routed the edges, finished it with some mineral oil and fitted it with a handle to look like the drawers below it. This is not the finished board here, but it's close — and cheap. Photo by Glenn.


At long last we are moving on to the cabinets over the refrigerator. These will be pretty easy, as they are only receiving a 1-foot extension and no fancy lights or glasswork. The doors are off, we're ready to go. Photo by Glenn.


We're adding the center supports for the extension box on the refrigerator cabinets. Inspector Phyre has found his way into the construction site again. "Hmmm, do you have a permit for this?" Photo by Glenn.


We have added the face frame for the cabinet extension. It looks sort of funny here, but you won't even notice when the taller doors are added. The tiny slot at the top is enough space to hide away some holiday platters and dishes we rarely use but don't want to toss. We're packrats. Photo by Glenn.


A planned modification of one of our floor cabinets posed us with a problem: how to remove the center shelf that was permanently attached with nails driven from the outside. Our solution was to use the tire jack off Roni's old Toyota Corolla. We simply applied pressure until the particle board shelf popped free, then ground off the nails with a cutoff wheel. The cabinet needs to be completely open so we can hang pots and pans on a slideout hanger that has yet to be designed. The old Toyota is going to the scrapyard, so this was probably its last useful contribution to our family. Photo by Glenn.


Glenn's brother Sean does a quick go-over of our "new" Ford F-150 after delivering it to us on Nov. 15. The 2008 Ford was offered for sale by Sean's employer, and for the rock-bottom price of $2,500 we couldn't say no. Now where are we gonna park this thing? Photo by Glenn.


Sean and Roni go over the title transfer paperwork for the Ford. Roni has the most important paper that needs signing — the check. Photo by Glenn.


Papers signed, Sean transfers the key to the Ford's new owner. Glenn said this was the easiest auto purchase he's ever made, and he especially appreciated the no-pressure approach of his salesman. Photo by Roni.


The smoke's in our eyes, noses and lungs again as the devastating Camp Fire that destroyed the town of Paradise drifts across the Bay Area. Our air quality was in the low 200s — extremely unhealthy — for several days during the middle of the month. This is looking over our back fence on Nov. 10. Photo by Glenn.


This fella isn't much bothered by smoke or anything else. Our neighborhood tomcat Big Orange finds an observation post on our back fence, and very much appears not to want to have anything to do with us. Photo by Glenn.


"Hey, how come I don't get to go outside and hang out with the big cats? This isn't fair. I protest this extreme injustice!" Phoenix doesn't seem to remember his fear factor the last time he accidentally got outside and encountered the big cats. Photo by Glenn.


At last the first rain of the season arrived Nov. 21, washing our smoggy skies clear once again. This is looking at our back patio, where just a day earlier it was littered with weeks of construction debris and power tools related to our kitchen project. Photo by Glenn.


It's Thanksgiving morning, and we are preparing for breakfast with a pile of tools. This is what happens when you have a project that has gone on as long as the kitchen remodel, with no place to put things and not wanting to put them away because they are still needed for the project. We can't wait to get our living room and dining room back. Photo by Glenn.


It was a welcome invitation to Thanksgiving dinner that saved us from having to cook in our compromised kitchen. Glenn's mom shows off the apron she received from one of her charitable organizations. The dinner spread is starting to arrive on the island in her kitchen. Photo by Glenn.


It's chow time. Ben and Sean are first to make the rounds of the buffet line while Jenny prepares more food at the counter. Grandma is supervising the proceedings. Photo by Glenn.


Ahhh, a tasty home-cooked Thanksgiving Day feast waits to be consumed. Photo by Glenn.


There is a Thanksgiving tradition in our family where Grandpa Gehlke toasts the event with a glass of room-temperature beer. Because our dad couldn't be at the celebration this year as he is down in Hemet with our grandmother, Glenn did the honors in his stead. In case it isn't obvious, Glenn is not a beer drinker. Photo by Roni.


Ben wanted to contribute something to the Thanksgiving feast, so he made up a batch of cookies and packed them in a gift box that he decorated himself. They teach you how to make handprint turkeys in elementary school, proving yet again that a public school education has a lasting impact. Photo by Roni.


A close-up look at those tempting cookies from Mrs. Fields. Um, when is dessert? Photo by Roni.


We did the Thanksgiving double, spending Saturday the 24th with Roni's sister Jacki's family and her in-laws. They set up banquet tables inside the garage. Here our brother-in-law Kevin prepares to serve ice cream to the hungry gathering. Photo by Roni.


It seems like only yesterday our nephew Robert and neice Kristy were a couple of cute toddlers and Ben wasn't even a glimmer in our eyes. But it's been 30 years down the line to reach this fine Thanksgiving portrait of the two of our families. Moms and dads are a bit grayer, but our pride is undiminished.

Adding a truck to our vehicle stable was about the farthest thing from our minds before Oct. 30, the day Glenn received a text message from his brother Sean asking if we’d be interested in buying it. The truck belonged to the company Sean worked for and had been used mostly for field work. But the firm was in the process of shutting down its Bay Area operations and Sean was preparing to move to a new job come the middle of November, so as one of his last duties for his employer he had to find a new home for the Ford. The asking price: $3,000. This would require some careful consideration.

We’ve never thought of ourselves as a truck family, although we’d be lying if we said we never considered owning one. There was a time when Roni was staffing information booths for the Delta Science Center at area fairs and festivals that it would have been great to have a truck to haul all her gear, and then there were frequent runs to Oakland to collect large print jobs — newsletters and calendars that required us to rent U-Haul vehicles so we wouldn’t overload our passenger cars. Glenn often wished we had our own truck whenever he needed large sheets of plywood or drywall from Home Depot, because there is no way to fit a 4-by-8 sheet of anything in the back of a Toyota Corolla.

We briefly looked into pickups while we were shopping for Roni’s car back in 2014. We even test drove a fire-red Toyota Tacoma up into the hills east of Livermore, disappointing our salesman who eagerly tried to part us from $27,000 of our hard-earned cash. As much as we liked the versatility a truck could offer, we couldn’t justify the higher cost of the gas it would consume or the insurance it would require and the $6,000 premium in purchase price versus a smaller passenger car. Roni couldn’t see herself driving a truck every day around town, while Glenn didn’t like the idea of using it for his work commute. Ultimately practicality won out and Roni opted for her Corolla. Less than three years later Glenn left his job and there was no need for an extra vehicle at all, let alone a truck.

But when the price is right, even a skeptic eventually comes around. Sean had presented us with an offer that was too good to pass up, so after a couple of days to mull things over we texted him back and made an offer of $2,500. We had no idea if his company would accept our low bid; even higher-mileage vehicles from the same model year are going for around $9,000 or more online. But the company seemed more interested in closing out its operations than haggling over price, and with Sean negotiating on our behalf with his bosses we were able to close the deal at the price we wanted. Sean’s work paid for the smog certificate and we just needed to shell out an additional $434 for the sales tax and registration. The Ford was ours.

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S

EAN DELIVERED THE truck to us Nov. 15 and we signed off on the title transfer. The next thing we did was perform the driveway equivalent of musical chairs. For the past four years we have been a three-car family. Although we retired Roni’s 1998 Corolla when we bought her 2015 model, the old car has been a fixture in the middle of our driveway. We thought Ben would eventually drive it once he got his license, but instead he inherited Glenn’s 2001 Corolla while the ‘98 just sat around taking up space, its battery pilfered to keep the ‘01 car running.

We widened our driveway a year ago with the idea that the three-car situation was only temporary. Eventually Ben would leave home or Glenn wouldn’t need a car and we’d be back to two cars. We didn’t count on adding the truck. Now we needed a place to park it. Sean, Roni and Glenn pushed the ‘98 closer to the garage while Ben steered, then we pulled the tuck into the space usually inhabited by Ben’s Corolla. Ben had to park behind the truck, doing his best to keep the car off the sidewalk and far enough to the right-hand side of the driveway so Roni could get her car in and out.

This couldn’t last. We had planned to get rid of the ‘98 after the start of the new year, once Glenn’s car passed its biennial smog test and we transferred its title to Ben. But with the truck’s arrival we decided to hasten the process and donated the car to Autism Speaks. They provide a minimum $500 tax deduction or more if the vehicle sells above that. With its age and condition, we’ll be surprised if it goes for more. The towing company confirmed our appointment for Nov. 28, and around 10:30 a.m. that morning they came by with their auto hauler and put the car on the hook. They even got it to successfully start with the help of a jumper cable, so it was able to drive off our property with a little dignity. Roni hung on to the personalized license plates for posterity.

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O

N NOV. 17 we took the truck for its maiden voyage to Lowe’s. Not so much because we had to, but because we could. We needed some more lumber for our never-ending kitchen remodel project, and while carrying a few 8-foot sticks of 1x4s is certainly within the capabilities of the Corolla, it was nice to know we could load up the bed with our purchase and not have it squished between us in the front seat. Just for kicks, we decided to buy some 10-foot sections of door moulding we needed, mainly because they wouldn’t have fit easily in the car and would justify using the extra gas for the truck.

Despite its 10 years and almost 98,000 miles, the F-150 handles like a dream, its V8 engine generating more than enough power for our simple needs. It came to us as-is, and although Sean did give it a quick wash it still bears the scars of its years as a hard-working field vehicle — a few dents in the body, scrapes in the paint, a crack in the windshield. Mostly minor defects. We were lucky enough to inherit the tool chest bolted down to the bed behind the cab, but we aren’t sure yet whether we’ll keep it there or store it away in the garage. It obscures our view through the back window and consumes a chunk of space in the already short 5½-foot bed.

We don’t anticipate using the truck too often, but it is sure to come in handy when we get back to our garage cleanup sometime in the new year. Roni is already eyeing a few dump runs. Both of us want to reclaim some storage space in our small house, and now we have no good excuse to not do so.

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C

ARS HAVE BEEN on our mind a lot this month, as it is once again time to get Glenn’s old Corolla smogged. The check-engine light has been on for more than three years, and while we admit this isn’t a good thing, it has avoided the expense of having it fixed for a car that is already 18 years old. Through some coaxing, Glenn barely managed to get the car smogged two years ago, but this time around he has determined there is no avoiding the repairs. The trick is diagnosing the cause of the problem. Ben is pulling for him because he relies on the car to get him to and from work, and because he will inherit full title on the vehicle once it is registered for next year.

In an effort to troubleshoot the problem Glenn purchased a live scan tool called BlueDriver. It connects via bluetooth (hence its name) to an app on the iPhone and enables the user to see data from the car’s on-board computer system. You can drive with the program running and check such things as fuel trim and voltages of various sensors to see if they are reading correctly. The one thing we have discovered is that Glenn’s Corolla is using a lot more fuel than normal, which likely points to a vacuum leak in the engine or exhaust system.

The cause of the problem could be anything from a cracked hose to a bad fuel pump. To rule out some of the many possibilities, Glenn plans to hook the car up to a homemade smoke machine that can help ferret out any leaks. He’ll have to do this soon, however, because the registration is due in early January and if it needs to be sent somewhere for repairs then we’ll have to figure out how much is worth putting into it. In any case, this is likely the last time it will face a smog check. We are encouraging Ben to start saving for another car within the next two years.

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S

AVING IS SOMETHING that we have been trying to do when it comes to our own finances, and this month we discovered that we have incredible powers over the economy — we possess the ability to send the stock market down by merely putting our money into it.

Yes, just as we decided to finally invest a bit of the inheritance cash we’d been sitting on that was gathering dust in savings, thinking we’d buy the expected October dip in equities, it seems the rest of the world has decided the bull market is over and is continuing to pull its chips off the table. We apologize in advance to all the other holders of Apple stock, for two days after we bought into the company it announced that it would no longer report iPhone sales and expected a weaker Christmas season, and its shares have been on a roller coaster ride straight down since the first week of November. We’re down about 15 percent on our AAPL position as of this writing, but we bought in for the very long term so we’ll hope the market comes to its senses eventually.

Fortunately we’ve had better luck with AT&T and a closed-end fund we also purchased this past month, so those two holdings have offset much of the Apple agony. Glenn is focused on dividend investing and hopes to slowly build a portfolio to bring in some additional cash as we near our golden years. We’ve long held mutual funds in our retirement accounts, but this is the first time we’ve delved into individual stocks. It is also the first time in a few years that we’ve paid close attention to our portfolio, having left things mostly on autopilot while Glenn was still working. Now we are in the process of moving all our accounts to Vanguard so we can keep better tabs on them, including Glenn’s abandoned 401[k]. Who knows? Maybe one day we’ll actually figure out what we’re doing.

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O

UR NEVER-ENDING kitchen project is nearing the six-month mark, but for the first time we’re starting to see some light at the end of the home-improvement tunnel. We started off November on a productive note as we finally installed the blue pearl granite tiles on our sink and stove counters. We waited until after Halloween for this messy phase because preparations for trick-or-treaters distracted us from the project, and you don’t have time to be distracted when you’re playing with hydrated mortar.

Glenn had spent much of October “grading” the tiles we had purchased and making paper templates to see how they would fit together on the countertops. Given the problems we’d had with our tile orders and finding enough pieces that weren’t cracked, scratched, unevenly polished or otherwise damaged, Glenn made sure to save the best specimens for the most visible areas of the project — around the sink. After cutting everything on our tile saw and test-fitting the pieces, it was time to literally set it all in concrete.

The final step before tiling was to readjust the farmhouse sink basin to the correct height, which meant a bit more sawing and sanding of its cabinet. We had moved the heavy sink basin in and out of position so many times that it was getting scratched on its sides, and we feared eventually our luck would run out and something important would get damaged. Glenn had wanted to mortar the tiles without the sink in the way, but once he was satisfied with the adjustments he decided to leave it in place.

The tiles went down reasonably well. We’re amateur tile-setters, so there are a couple of rough spots we could have done better, but once the grout was added it helped disguise some of our mistakes. The most important goal was to keep the tiles at the correct height around the sink basin, and we accomplished that; the sink sits flush to the counter. We used a pewter-colored caulk that matches the color of our grout to fill in the gaps around the sink area, and once the wall tiles are installed we will also caulk at the seams between the walls and the countertops. We buffed off all the haze from the grout and then coated the tiles with granite sealer. They look pretty. For the trims along the counter edges we installed lengths of Rondec and finished them with blue pearl accent tiles. We did not do the counter next to our refrigerator yet because we still have cabinet work to do there and didn’t want to risk damaging the tiles after going to the work of placing them. Probably will get to that side in December.

Once the sink counters were done we still had to hook up the new farmhouse sink. We had been without water for more than a month since tearing out the old double basin in mid-September. Glenn had already done all the prep work for the new single basin, rebuilding the drain trap and attaching our existing garbage disposal to it. The new sink does not include holes for faucets, so those have to be drilled into the countertop. Given all the work we’d done to install these troublesome tiles, the fewer holes the better. We planned to use our existing faucet, but Roni worried that it was too small for this gargantuan basin, so it was back to Home Depot to shop for a new faucet.

Just for the record, sink faucets are insanely expensive. The one we got is a $200 Glacier Bay model with a satin nickel finish that has a detachable spray head and conveniently needs just one hole to install. Roni liked it because it also has a sensor that turns on the water with a wave of the hand, and it shuts off automatically after three minutes so you can just leave the valve set to open and basically forget it. We bought a special abrasive wheel that you attach to a cordless drill and used it to bore a hole in the counter. The faucet installed quickly and seems to work like a champ.

The sensor feature proved its worth immediately. We have long agonized over how to keep our cats Phoenix and Phyre off the kitchen counters, as they love to look out the window at the neighborhood cats that wander through our yard. The first night of the new faucet, both cats were curious and came up to the counter to explore. Phyre was the bolder of the two and actually crawled into the sink to check it out. All went well until he triggered the sensor and got an unexpected shower. We’ve never seen him bolt out of the kitchen so fast! There have been a few more close encounters, but both cats seem to have at last gotten the message that the water will go on if they enter the “forbidden zone,” and so they have been avoiding it.

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H

AVING A WORKING sink again certainly makes the kitchen feel like… well, a kitchen. Roni has been able to do some cooking and the dishes are getting cleaned now that water has been restored to the dishwasher — no more eating off paper and plastic plates. Now we are looking forward to finishing off all the cabinetry.

Glenn shifted his focus from cutting tile back to building doors and drawer faces. He decided it was easiest to make them in assembly line fashion, so he spent several days just cutting boards and gluing and screwing frames together in his makeshift woodshop on the back patio. This phase went quickly not just because he is getting tired of the time it is taking to complete the project, but also because we knew rain was on the way and he would have to pack all his tools back into the garage for a while.

For the sink cabinet, Roni didn’t want to return to return to way it was with a couple of doors closing off the area. The sink has long been a cluttered collection of cleaning supplies and junk, all of which has to be moved aside to access the water shutoffs or if you heaven forbid need to find something hidden at the rear. We decided to solve the problem by converting the cabinet to a large pull-out drawer. We bought a pair of heavy-duty 20-inch tracks and then Glenn built a shelf with low sides from plywood. He attached a false front to the shelf so that upon casual glance it appears to be a couple of regular cabinet doors, but the whole thing slides out as one unit and is very convenient.

The smaller drawers were easy to retrofit. We pried apart the sides to remove the old faces, then constructed new faces from solid pine boards. We also updated the cutting board, which after more than 30 years was looking pretty ragged. The original one was made from three-quarter-inch plywood that had lost its outer layer to years of chopping and slicing. We looked for something more stylish, such as a hardwood butcher-block surface, but found them all to be either too thick or too expensive. So as a temporary solution we bought an unfinished, laminated pine plank from Lowe’s and cut it to fit our specs. Glenn rounded the edges with his router and seasoned the wood with a special mineral oil so it can be used for food preparation. It is beautiful and functional, and cost roughly $25 to make.

As the month ends we have turned our attention to the cabinets on the opposite side of the room above the refrigerator. Glenn is extending them by about a foot to level off with the top of the partition wall between our kitchen and living room. The top box is built, its face attached, and the whole thing primed and sanded in preparation for a final coat of paint and the doors that have already been constructed. Once this is done and the remaining countertop is tiled, we move on to tiling the backsplashes and adding shiplap to the remaining exposed walls. By Christmas, Santa may not recognize it.

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T

HE RAINS HAVE finally arrived, and while that may not be good for continued work outdoors during the kitchen project, it is exactly what was needed to help cleanse our air of the smoke that has been a constant presence during much of the summer and now into fall. The source of the latest smog to pollute the Bay Area was the Camp Fire that destroyed most of the town of Paradise earlier this month. Before that, we never realized how many people we know have connections to that little community of 27,000 in the Sierra foothills.

The smoke from the fire drifted southwest and raised our pollution count to extremely unhealthy levels. Our Air Quality Index numbers were above 200 and 300 for days when they should be less than 50. People were advised to wear masks if not stay indoors entirely. Schools and a few businesses in our area closed on the worst days, including our bank branch and the Antioch AAA office on the date we had originally planned to register our truck.

The smoke just compounded any other breathing problems we might already have. Glenn says only half in jest that the dust he has inhaled while sawing and sanding in the kitchen has probably been much worse than the fires.

We’ve made it through Halloween and Thanksgiving and are now getting ready to embark on Christmas season, even though our house is far from being holiday-ready. The kitchen isn’t the problem; it’s the construction-related objects that have found their way into the living room, dining room and entryway. Roni periodically makes an attempt to straighten the clutter, but all that does is cause Glenn to lose the tools he needs for the project. So we’ve basically decided we just have to finish as soon as we can, and hopefully there will be an unoccupied patch of the house to raise the Christmas tree.

Despite the disarray, we still managed to have an enjoyable Halloween. Ben had to work, but Roni still made a few of her fun Halloween-themed dinner items, including “mummy dogs” (hot dogs wrapped in Pillsbury dough) and “werewolf in the waldorf” salad (a waldorf salad made to look like a werewolf with glowing red tomato eyes.) We had just enough time to pull some of our decorations out of the garage and throw a display together for the front porch. Glenn carved a Jack Skellington jack o’lantern in about half an hour as the sun went down. Then we waited for nearly an hour before the first trick-or-treaters arrived. It seemed like we would have an unusually light year for candy handouts, but the crowds rolled in toward mid-evening and we wound up being quite busy.

We managed to get out of cooking duty on Thanksgiving by taking up invitations to visit family. Normally this would not have been our year to spend the holiday with Glenn’s folks, but with his dad still down in Hemet indefinitely we thought his mom would enjoy the company. Roni made up some Hawaiian-style candied yams and Ben baked a batch of Mrs. Fields cookies to share. We were the first to arrive, for a change, when we got to Hayward. We were later joined by Glenn’s brother Sean and then sister Jennifer with Tom and the kids. Tom is still coming down from his recent defeat in the Hayward City Council election, but we’ve all congratulated him on his strong fourth-place finish out of eight candidates. During dinner we got to say hi to Dad and Grandma Sorenson via video chat, but it’s just not the same without everyone being around the table.

Two days later, we joined in on a post-Thanksgiving feast hosted by Roni’s sister Jacki and brother-in-law Kevin at their house in Antioch. It was a large gathering consisting mostly of folks from his side of the family — three sisters and their elderly parents, plus three spouses and a half-dozen kids. The oldest of those “kids,” our niece Kristy and nephew Robert, are now into their 30s and hitting their stride in the grown-up world. Robert brought his wife of nearly 18 months(!) Rebecca, and Kristy is still beaming over her recent raise and promotion to store manager at Walgreens.

Ben had the day off, so he came along with us even though he was a bit nervous having to socialize with a group of people he doesn’t know well. He has missed out on the past couple of family gatherings in Antioch because they conflicted with his work schedule, so it was great he got to visit with his cousins. Jacki and Kevin smartly set up a banquet table inside their garage, so there was plenty of room to spread out and enjoy the buffet-style meal and desserts.

That’s a wrap for November. Hope things don’t get too crazy during the busy Christmas shopping month ahead, but always remember the reason for the season.

 

Glenn, Roni and Ben