Photo of the month

We thought that we should try something a little different for this year's family Christmas portrait, so instead of posing with the tree indoors we decided to gather around our front yard light display. Roni worked her usual decorating magic to get all the lights in place. Glenn helped a bit with setting up the twirly tree. Lots more Christmas scenes in this month's newsletter. Photo by Glenn.


December 2003

Glenn risks life and limb to install the angel in its place of honor atop our tree. Photo by Roni.


Ben adds an ornament to the tree. Photo by Glenn.


Almost finished. Roni adds another ornament from our ever-growing collection. This is our fourth year with the artificial tree, so we almost have the decorating down to a science. Photo by Glenn.


Ben and his cousin Kristy pose for a portrait with Santa during the Oakley Chamber of Commerce's annual tree lighting event Dec. 6. Photo by Roni.


'Tis the season for siesta, fa la la la la, la la la yaaaawwwn. Photo by Glenn.


Introducing the new AOL 9.0 — now featuring hundreds of free hours of entertainment value when incorporated into one's front yard Christmas display. Roni does the only thing with these CDs better than adding them to the local landfill. Photo by Glenn.


Ben waits as Uncle Sean adds his new Tony Stewart holiday ornament to the inflatable tree at his San Jose apartment. Photo by Glenn.


Ben shares a nacho with Sean during lunch at the San Jose flea market. Photo by Glenn.


Try this one. Does it fit? Roni helps Ben try on his new jacket at the flea market. Photo by Glenn.


The three Gehlke Bros. Football prognosticators strike a Christmas pose. Want to know what was going through their minds at this moment? Photo by Roni.


Roni passes Santa's Toy Shop, one of the attractions at San Jose's Christmas in the Park. She just bought a fiber optic glow wand for Ben. Photo by Glenn.


Back at home, here is how the tree looks all decked out and surrounded by Roni's ceramic village. As you can see, the population has expanded over the years. Here's a larger view. Photo by Glenn.


Let's take a little tour of the village, otherwise known as Santaville. This is the local library, a place where Roni says she would spend more time if she could read the fine print. Photo by Glenn.


...Over the river and through the woods, we reach the cafe (behind the tree). A few small residences are located nearby. Look inviting? Unfortunately, the neighborhood calm is shattered several times each day by earthquakes. The town's contractors are experts at reconstruction, however, and quickly put things right. Photo by Glenn.


A closer look at some of the ornaments on our tree. Roni was very excited to put up these bubble lights for the first time this year. Photo by Glenn.


It is tough capturing light displays on film — celluloid or digital. But this does a fair job of portraying Roni's handiwork in our front yard. Photo by Glenn.


No shrub was left unlit. OK, maybe a few of them, but this one is representative of at least half the yard. Yeah, Roni! Photo by Glenn.


Thought we'd leave you with another version of this month's feature photo. Most of the night shots and light displays in this month's photo strip were taken on tripod using a self timer and shutter speeds up to 4 seconds, as was this one. Photo by Glenn.

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It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

December 21, 2003

Four days. That's how little time is left before Santa descends on our humble abode and bestows a new bounty of stuff upon us that we'll spend the next year trying to find room for. Well, isn't that the truth of it? It makes one appreciate all the more the old saying about good things coming in SMALL packages. That's the great thing about the electronic age. When you're into stuff like DVDs, CDs, video games and computer software, these things don't take up a lot of room and it is much easier to dispose of the empty boxes — as opposed to something like, say, living room furniture, a large-screen TV or a washing machine.

Not that there aren't some large appliances on the wish list this year. Roni's been eager for a new dishwasher to replace the one that came new with the house nearly 16 years ago. She also wants a new microwave; the one we have now says Montgomery Ward on the door, which might give you some idea as to its decrepit age. (15 years, but who's counting?) Glenn also has been hinting at a replacement for the refrigerator, which every day sounds a little more like a prop-engine plane revving up for launch from the runway. Perhaps it's just dust on the fan, a simple fix, or it could be something more terminal such as the compressor going south, which all the repair guides say is such a priceless component that you would sooner buy a new fridge than spend your life's savings on a replacement part.

But gift lists aside, we have been doing our best to make this "the most wonderful time of the year," as the song insists it is. Roni, as always, has been the decorating diva. She started the day after Thanksgiving with the indoor decor, and singlehandedly has transformed our front yard into a lighted winter wonderland complete with plastic spiral trees, stars and giant candycanes. She also came up with a creative use for those annoying AOL CDs we get in the mail, tying ribbons through their centers and stringing them like ornaments from our plum tree. Just for added effect, we left a couple of ghosts from Halloween stuck in the uppermost branches. It is a sight to behold.

But our home pales in comparison to some of the displays around our neighborhood. Every year as part of the column she writes for the Brentwood News, Roni takes us on a tour of Oakley to look at others' outdoor decorations. This year's trek took place Dec. 15, when the three of us spent about two hours turning down every block that had lights on it. It is simply amazing what lengths people go to show their yuletide spirit. It seems that fewer homes this year are all gussied up for the occasion, but we still saw plenty of displays with dozens of painted plywood cutouts, huge inflatable Santas and snowmen, complete manger scenes, and lights covering every inch of available roof and wall space. At the rate Glenn goes, we'll still be putting up our lights come New Year's Day.

We've done a bit better with the Christmas tree. The Sunday after Thanksgiving Day saw us setting up our makeshift table in its traditional corner of the living room. Glenn spent the better part of the next day assembling our phony tree and choking its bottlebrush branches with twinkle light strings, realizing only when he was done that it could have used another thousand bulbs or so. Ben, with Mom's help, took great delight in the decorating chores.

Meanwhile, our cats Eevee and Ariel have rediscovered their favorite pastime of "exploring" the bottom branches. One recent morning we awoke to the sound of breaking glass ornaments and hurried into the living room to find Eevee two-thirds of the way up the trunk, hanging from one of the branches like a gray acrobat. The sprawling ceramic village that Roni constructed around the tree's base has been on high alert for the constant threat of feline incursions, which have ranged from kitties tromping through the town square in search of a quiet place to snooze to full-blown brawls in the middle of the ice rink. Seismic retrofitting may be required for some residents, as Eevee has discovered how to cause his own earthquakes by vigorously rubbing his paws on the table legs. Godzilla was never such a menace.

With so much going on this time of year it is difficult to make time for visits, but we did manage one with Glenn's brother Sean on Dec. 14. The three of us went down to San Jose where Ben and Roni got to see Sean's apartment for the first time and we all went to the city's sprawling flea market. We didn't buy much there, but we had great fun looking at the many booths, eating a lunch of Mexican food, and getting swept up in the wall-to-wall crowd. Later that evening, Sean took us on a tour of downtown San Jose where we visited the Christmas in the Park display. Even for a Sunday the place was packed. It was certainly fun to get a taste of how big cities celebrate the holiday when we have grown accustomed to the small-town activities of Oakley.

Aside from Christmas goings-on there isn't much news to share. Roni has been extra busy with her writing for the local newspapers this month, covering for a variety of people who have been on vacation. She also won election to another two-year term on the Oakley Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, which means that she will be able to finish the second year of her current term as board president. Ben has been enjoying his winter break from school, but is getting jittery as the days draw nearer to Dec. 25. He has been biding his time playing video games, watching cartoons, and introducing Dad to the Cartoon Network's Cartoon Orbit site on the Internet. If you want to check out our cZones (Cartoon Orbit parlance for a home page), you first have to register on the site (it's free) and then look us up by our member names: Ben's handle is Ray Van Lee1, Glenn's is Penelope Bubi Daniels. Don't ask why. Be forewarned: This site is highly addictive. Also, Glenn and Roni both conquered their NaNoWriMo noveling challenges before the Nov. 30 deadline, Glenn finishing with 50,416 words and Roni ending somewhere around 51,008. Now begins the difficult task of revisions.

This, of course, is our last newsletter for 2003. Looking back, it has been an eventful year filled with adventurous trips, memories and photos, many of which we have shared with you in these monthly missives. We look forward to visiting with you all again in 2004. Have a happy and safe New Year.

Glenn, Roni and Ben

P.S. — As an added bonus this month we are offering the 2003 Gehlke Family Home Page Photo Collage, featuring all 12 of this year's photos of the month. You can use this 800x600 image as wallpaper on your desktop. Simply click on the image above for the full-size version.

This page was last updated on Sunday, January 18, 2004 at 22:41 hrs.

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