Happy Hanukkah!

Inspired by the everyday happenings at the Tucson JCC, Paul and I decided to make a delicious Hanukkah dinner! I knew I wanted to make potato latkes after talking about them so much at school and then decided to make a whole dinner out of it. We made matzo ball soup, potato latkes with zucchini, brisket (from local grass fed beef, thanks to Paul), and jicama slaw! We also made a cranberry tart for dessert! Our meal was delicious. I taught Paul the story of Hanukkah during dinner. We didn't get a menorah this year (or a tree for that matter) since we'll both be away from Tucson for the holiday, but who knows what next year may bring! Happy Hanukkah everyone!

Gobble Gobble!

We spent Turkey Day weekend at Eric & Casey's. Casey's sister Gina, her husband Tim, and their son Luke, were visiting as well. We met them all at the wedding, but this was a great way to get to know them better. We had fun throwing tennis balls for the dogs, playing Mexican Train (a new domino game that I loved!), and building toy towers for 2 year old Luke to gleefully knock over.
Casey & Eric are great hosts and our dinner was fantastic! Everyone lent a hand and there was way too much food. But, leftovers are grrrrreat, and I made a turkey sandwich for breakfast (twice) :)
On Friday we went out for another trail ride on the quads. Check out the dust beards we had going this time!
Thanksgiving in Phoenix

Patagonia and Sonoita Trip

Last Saturday, Paul and I took a day trip down to Southern Arizona to take a hike in Patagonia Lake State Park and visit the Sonoita Creek Wineries. This spot was actually recommended to us by a few fellow Mt. Lemmon hikers that we chatted with when Paul's parents were here visiting. We looked up more info online and thought the hour and a half drive to a new hiking terrain with local wineries close by would make a nice Saturday trip. Our 5 plus mile hike was beautiful, relatively flat and covered many different landscapes - dessert/dry, a creek with cottonwood trees, and a forest with windy trees. The highlight was definitely sneaking up on a group of munching cows twice! Unfortunately our hike went too long for us to make it to the wineries in time but we still bought a local bottle at a general store and now have an excuse to go back!
Here are the photos.
Sonoita Creek

Mom & Dad Time

I am a lucky guy. I have a wonderful girlfriend who can handle hanging out with me pretty much all of the time. I am also really lucky to have some awesome friends and family to visit and add some extra personality to our two ring circus.
Having my parents visit us was a lot of fun. It had been awhile since the summer heat of the finger lakes when we waved goodbye in our Penske moving truck. I missed them.
Getting from Rochester to Tucson via airplane isn't as easy as one might hope. I appreciate this now as I look for flights home for Christmas. Mom & Dad opted to fly into Phoenix, its a bit easier.
Friday was a relaxing day. We went for a long walk along the river trail, got some groceries, planned our feast (its a Gillio tradition!), and sipped some drinks while soaking in the hot tub. On Saturday there was a bicycle street fair with tons of people selling new and used bikes in preparation for Tucson's big bicycle event "El Tour". Anyhow Sarah bought a new-to-her bike! Its a cool yellow & blue, we'll show you some time. After that search and bartering fun, we headed to the Sonoran Desert Museum. Don't miss the photos below! There were lots of cool animals, hawks flying just inches over our heads, and Sarah got to meet her fear incarnate in their beautiful mountain lions.
Guadalajara Grill is starting to recognize us. All of our visitors have been brought there, but who could blame us with salsa made fresh at your table, awesome chile verde, and BIG margaritas! We made sure to take some leftovers home. This time we didn't forget them in the car :)
What Gillio get together would be complete without a hike? Mt. Lemmon provides fantastic scenery, and on Sunday we even hiked a bit further than planned. We passed thru the bare lone poles of the 2003 forest fire around 8,200 ft. and then down to a cool creek bed that saved the trees on the opposing side from the flames.
For our final dinner Mom & Dad made some home-made gnocchi in a delicious red sauce with mushrooms, aspargus, & steak tips. MMMMmmmmm good! I love my parents cooking!!!
Saying good bye was sad to do, but I'm excited to see them again for Christmas. Thanks for visiting, love you guys!

Check out our photos!
Mom & Dad visit AZ

Sabino & los Muertos

Fall weather is awesome in Tucson. On Saturday, Sarah and I took a National Forest shuttle into Sabino Canyon and got off at the end of the road, about 4 miles in. From there we hiked uphill to a trail that follows the canyon just below the eastern ridge. The abundance of deciduous trees may lead one to think there's a river below, but the creek at the canyon's bottom isn't flowing above ground at this time of year. The views below from our trail at 3,500' were fantastic. Most of my photos don't illustrate that foliage, but rather that terrain around us in the higher, and drier zone with majestic Saguaro cactus.
Sabino Canyon
This evening we headed downtown to watch the Dia de los Muertos Procession. The procession is an adaptation of the traditional Mexican festivities to honor one's deceased relations on All Souls Day. It's held the week following Halloween here. Despite the skeletons, the event is a festive celebration with much dancing and music, akin to a Carnival parade.
Dia De Los Muertos

Cute Kid Quotes

Here is random assortment of adorable quotes from the past few weeks:

“You know what I learned? I learned that if you don’t wash your hands, you get sick. I learned that from Sid the Science Kid. He knows everything ‘cuz he’s the science kid.” ~ Tea

Annabelle to Miss Sydney whose hair was in many pigtails and bungs on Crazy Hair Day, “You look as beautiful as a rose.”

Me: "Rowa, what is something that you like a lot or are interested in that you want to learn more about this year?" Rowa: I wanna learn where everything is in the whole world!”

After taking a Spanish class that met for one hour, once a week for 6 weeks, Tyler counted his friends in Spanish, Tyler: “Uno, Does, Tres, Quatro!” Tea: “You know Spanish?” Tyler: “Ya, it was the last day Friday and now I know it.”

Me: “Wanna make a puppet?” Haley: “A boyfriend puppet?” Me: “What?” Haley: “Well, my girl puppet is lonely.”

While a few of us were looking at a globe together: With great distress, “Miss Sarah, Talya’s spinning the whole world!” – Logan A few minutes later, “Tyler took the Earth to the rug and now we can’t explore it!” - Logan

At the playground, I was taking a few kids to the bathroom and Sydney told me that Rowa had said that she needed to go so I told Rowa I was taking a group and to come with us. Rowa replied, “I don’t need to go anymore.” Me: “Are you sure?” Rowa: “Yea, it went back up as food.”

San Diego Halloween

This weekend we visited Sarah's sister, Elka, in San Diego. Everyone always talks about how nice it is in San Diego and I was really curious to see for myself if the city was worthy of that praise.
IT IS!!!
San Diego is a gorgeous place. We strolled a bit through Balboa Park, we rode the roller coaster at Mission Beach, dipped our feet in the cool Pacific waters, and experienced the stunning views in all directions.
On our way into town Sarah got ahold of her good friend Nate Ladd, from Tufts. So getting to hang out with him was an added surprise bonus. Thanks again for dinner buddy!
We dabbled in some Halloween festivities, we got to visit Elka's church, we had some killer brunches, and absolutely enjoyed our trip.
We're looking forward to visiting again, thanks Elka!

Belmont Park coaster

Click to view more photos!
San Diego Halloween

An October Ride

Hi friends. So... I built a motorcycle mount for the camera. Anyone wanna go for a ride?!

Quads & Buses

We visited my Aunt and Uncle this weekend in Phoenix. They have a place way out on the edge of the desert. Eric and Casey were there as well!
On Saturday Eric, Sarah, my Uncle and I rode out into the desert mountains on their quads. For those of you who haven't ridden before quads are mini 4-wheel-drive off-road bikes. They are also wicked fun! I didn't take enough photos since I didn't want the dust getting into my new camera. Trust me there was dust everywhere. When we got back I looked like I had a dust beard.
We followed Eric through some of his favorite trails; up steep hills, along dry river beds, twisting through cacti, between rock walls, and down boulder fields. Sarah was the only newbie rider among us, but she kept up with no problem. She charged up embankments that Eric claims a lot of people are too afraid to go up!
After soaking in the pool and relaxing that afternoon we had a wonderful home-cooked paella for dinner. There were a few rounds of Catch-phrase, always a favorite, and we ended the evening under the stars enjoying a fire.
It was a great weekend with family!

Quads & Buses

Enjoy Your New Viewing Experience!

The camera Sarah gave me for my birthday arrived today! Video quality is much improved over the older cam, enjoy!

Out On The Town With The Needham Girls!

Taboo anyone?

If you ask these ladies to a game you're gonna get your butt kicked. They're wicked smart, and a lot of fun to hang out with. No wonder Sarah's been with them through thick and thin since high school.

Kara and Nicky arrived on Friday through determination and some lucky connections. We gave them a proper welcome with some homemade pizza and headed right out to explore the local bar scene. I can't really say we have any favorite spots yet, we've only been to half a dozen at most. At any rate, the girls loved the warm fall evening that Tucson is so generous with.
Saturday morning was a lazy stroll through downtown while checking out nicknacks in various hole-in-the-wall thrift shops. For the rest of the day we lounged by the pool, treated ourselves to some killer mexican grub, and partied with Nicky's cousin Josh.
Sunday was a heck of a day, from scaling cliffs on Mt. Lemmon, back to the pool, to our no-holds-barred game of Taboo :) Unfortunately, Alyssa's flight was delayed. So, when we finally picked her up at the airport that night she had missed our culinary ode to the grill. (That "Weber's Big Book of Grilling" rocks!)
Monday poured more sunshine and we toured a bit around U of A. In the process we found a new section of great outdoor dinner spots.

The days were fun, the evenings a riot. The views we shared were spectacular. The conversations were many and delightful. The worst part was saying farewell. Thanks for visiting us!

Click photo to view more
Needham Girls Visit

Our First Taste of Tucson Camping

This weekend Sarah and I were excited to try camping at high elevation on Mt. Lemmon. We found Rose Canyon at 7,000 ft. It's car-camping, but a good intro to staying overnight in the area. Rose Canyon boasts Mt. Lemmon's largest, perhaps only standing body of water, the picturesque Rose Canyon Lake. We spent a bit more than half of Saturday toprope climbing and then moved on to a relaxing hike around Rose Canyon Lake. That evening we treated ourselves to one of Sarah's favorite comfort foods, Franks & Beans, for dinner. Of course we had to mix it up a bit by switching out the Franks with White Hots, mmm yum!
The clouds obscured some of our stargazing, while the constant din of our neighboring campers slightly muddled the rest. But, from a comfy hammock under the trees, not much bothers you! I think next time we'll attempt to find a less traveled campground (if any exist). Perhaps if we own up to carrying our needs and foregoing a few luxuries, we'll decide to pack up and find a nice place in the forest. Aaah, next time!
Rose Canyon Camping

I Don't Feel More Than Two Weeks & A Day Over 30!

Seriously though, Are you supposed feel younger than you appear to everyone younger than you?
I had a great time for my birthday this year. True, I missed celebrating with my birthday brother Trev, but with traveling that week I was able to see good friends and family. Thank you to Susan & Peggy and all for making that a special Sunday. Thanks to everyone who called, and wrote, and texted, and even flew to congratulate me! I love hearing from every one of you!
The weekend following my (yes 30th) birthday, Sarah told me she had a surprise in store. On Friday I was all set to go out, thinking we were going to a show or dinner, when the doorbell rang. Our doorbell never rings! There's Sarah with a sheepish grin saying, "I wonder who could that be?" Lo and behold my brother Phillip and his girlfriend Kathleen are standing outside. They completely surprised me! (He had convinced me on the phone that the earliest visit they could make would be in the spring)
We had a great weekend. My cousin Eric and his wife Casey also drove down from Phoenix and we all enjoyed some great mexican cuisine. We lounged at the pool, played cards, and even had time to take a hike around Mt. Lemmon (I know, what Gillio event doesn't involve a hike, right?!)
Thanks for a great birthday to all! (And thanks for the cookies Mom!)
Paul's 30th

Hello Bean-town!

While in Boston for the week I was witness to one of the most stunning sunsets I've ever seen. Later that week, Trev demonstrated another awesome light display, a la grinding metal. Finally it's always a treat to catch up with good friends!
Boston Visit

Dad and Laurel's Wedding

Paul and I got to head up to Boston for a weekend in September (Paul's b-day weekend as a matter of fact) for my Dad's wedding. The service and reception were very classy and well put together. It was awesome to be able to see so many important people to us in one weekend. Here are some pictures from the wedding.
Ladd Wedding

Kids Say the Best Things

We sing Hamotzi, the Jewish blessing over bread, before snacks and lunch. This afternoon before we sang it, I said, "Let's thank God for this food and this wonderful day."
After singing Hamotzi, Colin said, "Miss Sarah, maybe God is at the door today," with an excited smile.
I smiled back saying, "I bet your right."

A few days ago, Kinleigh told me her Mom would be picking her up because her Dad was on call. I asked, "Is your Dad a doctor?"
"What kind?"
"I don't know."
After a few moments of silences, "He does crazy people."
"Oh, so maybe he is a psychiatrist? That's a hard word to remember."

Cribs - Southern Arizona

Hi everyone! I hope you get an idea of our place with this "MTV Cribs"-esque video. We still haven't quite got all our stuff on the walls, a few are rather bare, but we couldn't put off this video any longer. I hope everyone who used to watch "Cribs" will appreciate the fridge shot. I always thought that my fridge on Cribs would have way more food than those celebrities fridges, hmmm... Not so much.
I've realized a few things from trying to make a few videos so far. One is that I need a camera with better video quality, that and certainly better shooting, editing, and dialogue skills! Anyone out there making a lot of youtube videos with some bits of advice?

Happy Birthday to Me!

For my birthday weekend, Paul joined me at Bikram Yoga, made me a DELICIOUS home-made macaroni and cheese dinner with chocolate lava cake for dessert, watched girly TV with me, and got me a wicked awesome watch. The mac and cheese was sooo good I ate way too much. Paul is totally sick of Sex and the City now. And I can't stop looking at my sparkly new wrist-wear. Happy Birthday to me!

Mo good eats!

A few more samples from the kitchen. Sarah made aioli. A first for us both. It was heavenly on the swordfish below and another meal with roasted root veggies. As always if there's something here that catches your eye, we'd be happy to share the recipe (I use recipe loosely, we concoct much as we go :)Grilled swordfish with aioli. Served on white bean mash, with grilled veggies.
Sesame shrimp & tofu stir-fry with veggies. Served on wild rice & quinoa.
Grilled strip steak with sauteed garlic mushrooms. Also roasted root veggies with aioli, & sauteed pepper-butter cabbage.
Grilled chicken satay & roasted veggies. Citrus salad with pomegranate.
Shrimp & tortellini pesto with peas & bell pepper.
Home-made maki-sushi. Typical (cali roll) & not-so-typical (white hot & mustard: ROC roll?).

First Week of Pre-K

Well, I'm officially exhausted. After only three full days of being responsible for the care and growth of 22 four-year-olds I'm gaining a new appreciation for the word. My voice is especially tender from repetitions of "we use our words when we feel sad," "wow, what wonderful artwork," and "I see John is helping to clean up." Of course, there has also been plenty of "we do not hit in this class room," "boys and girls, please show me that you are listening," and "running through the classroom is not safe. We use walking feet." My repertoire of children's songs and attention getting games is quickly broadening (I study my Wee Sing book every night). While I am indeed drained and overwhelmed at times, I feel confident and satisfied that things are definitely going well. I understand that it will take some time for the both me and the class to get into the swing of things comfortably. It would be quite odd for so many four year olds to be consistently sharing, quiet and still. I really feel like things are going great so far. One thing is for sure, the kids are having fun and I am sleeping like a baby.

Cute quote from today:
After Tyra sang the ABC song, ending with the words, "Now I know my ABC's, next time won't you sing with me," Kinleigh looked at me indignantly, saying, "Hey! Those are my ABC's!"

Here are some pictures of my classroom, before the first day of school.

Floatin in Salt

Last Saturday we drove up to Phoenix to visit my cousin Eric and his wife Casey. Our strenuous agenda for the day involved floating on inner-tubes down the Salt River. It's about 4 hours floating through refreshing waters with an occasional swift-water section (just enough splashing to cool you off). Since that's too long time to be in the sun without nourishment everyone brings coolers filled with goodies and jams them into an extra tube! When its 114 degrees anybody and everybody heads out to the river to chill. You can see below what a scene it can be. Sorry, we don't have a water-proof camera, so this is a random video from youtube that sums up the experience. It was a great time. We only got a bit burnt :) Afterward, we drove back to hang out with Eric, Casey & their 3 labradors in the pool. I know, I know, rough day! We had a great dinner out and headed back home to Tucson in the morning. It was a great relaxing weekend with family.

One Thing I Do Miss (besides people of course)

JOSEPH'S HUMMUS! The best hummus ever made, by far, is nowhere to be found in this lovely little city. Believe me. I've tried all brands, all flavors. Joseph's Original is the best. The best... and not here. After a little internet searching Paul found their website, which revealed the creamy concoction is produced in New Hampshire. Paul wrote the following email.

Hi Jody,
We recently moved form Boston to Tucson, AZ. After scouting out the local grocers we have yet to find our beloved Joseph's Hummus on the shelves. Could you let me know if Joseph's sells to any grocers or distributers in Tucson? My girlfriend is obsessed with your hummus and I must admit that I'm also quite partial. We have been trying other options, but nothing seems to compare. Please help!

Gotta love him.

Adventures with Humming Bird Watchers

Paul and I went to this cool farm that is a private home that became a big hummingbird hang-out. They have a bunch of feeders and anyone can go and check out the lovely birds and other animals at there place (they have a box out asking for donations). Paul and I know very little about names and categories of different hummingbirds but were lucky to be observing with several very knowledgeable folk who had traveled far, brought their professional quality cameras and hiking outfits, and told us a thing or two about the White-Eared Magnificent. Apparently we saw some rare ones!
This last one is a frog we saw. That's all I got.

A Bite To Eat

Sarah and I have been making good use of our nice, bright kitchen. It's fun to start filling your fridge and cupboards from empty. Plus, this has been an opportunity to reassess what foods we are eating. There is only 1 item in our apt that contains high-fructose corn syrup. It's a condiment that is hard to go without. Can you guess what it is?
Our local grocers give us a good selection of fresh produce, meat, and fish. So, we have been shopping the perimeter of the store, venturing into the middle isles as little as possible (where HFCS, high-sugar, & refined-carbohydrates live). Doing so is costlier. But we believe it's worth it!
The best part is having leftovers. I love leftovers, and thus far haven't needed to buy lunch! Enjoy the photos... I'm getting a snack :)

Grilled local zucchini & eggplant stuffed with herbed goat cheese and spinach. Served with grilled hot italian sausage, fresh tomato & avocado, & sweet-potato wild-rice.
Slow-cooked boneless pork ribs with asian-mustard barbeque. Served with fresh broccoli slaw & leftover sweet-potato wild-rice.
Grilled tangy lemon chicken. Served with leftover broccoli slaw & fresh pineapple, strawberry & yogurt.
Grilled salmon fillet with fresh pesto. Served with grilled zucchini & savory herbed quinoa.
Chicken fajita. Served on blue-corn tortilla, with home-made refried beans, sauteed yellow peppers, guacamole, yogurt, salsa, & cheddar-jack.
Stir-fried salmon & pineapple with fresh zucchini, green beans, yellow pepper & onion.

Touring the Facility

Visiting A Vast Void, aka: Colossal Cave

This past weekend Sarah was in charge of our destiny. She found some excellent places to visit. One of them is a natural cavern about 30 minutes south of Tucson. It's name, seen above, is fitting. It is big, but I might have reserved "colossal" for one of those cathedral size caves you see in National Geographic. It's been used by many people over the years, from ancient Hohokam Indians to excited bank robbers using it for a hide-out back in the 1880's.
The railings were installed in the 1930's during the "New Deal" by the CCC.
Sadly, many of the stalactites and stalagmites were broken off and taken as souvenirs by early visitors to the cave.
DEEP! but no where near as scary as caving in the Berks with Trev!