Imperial Dunes

Last weekend we went camping with Eric, Casey, & Jackson. Our destination was the Imperial Dunes of southern California. The dunes are just across the border from Yuma and spitting distance from the US-Mexico border.

The Buses brought along some ATV's which is how we toured around the sand. The dunes stretch 45 miles from the southern end of the Salton Sea in California to just over the Mexican border. They're about 6 miles wide and when you're within them, often all you can see is sand. They range from rolling little bumps to mammoth wave-like piles well over 100' high!

As we sped along these huge dunes like we had wings, I couldn't help wonder how different it might be to cross them on the back of a Camel.

Back at camp the dogs patrolled and Jackson hopped about his playpen. We grilled some delicious meals, relaxed, enjoyed the campfire, and amazing starry skies.

Thanksgiving Roadtrip!

Sarah and I had another great Thanksgiving with Eric and Casey in Phoenix.

I have to plead with Casey to let us make some of the food, and this year she said we should bring appetizers and dessert. The apps and Sarah's dessert were great, but my first attempt at baking a pumpkin pie was a bit of a flop. I'll do better next time! The rest of dinner was excellent. I was a big fan of the stuffing with chestnuts, great addition Casey!

Eric and Casey are great new parents and we took it upon ourselves to relieve them of a bit of Jackson-watching time. Armed with the camera and a few toys we shuffled around on the floor trying to snap a few photos and just enjoy Jackson's crawling speed. There were a few moments (with his parents encouragement) that the little guy was close to taking his first steps. I'm writing this post a week since and I bet he's taking little staggering steps right now!

We spent Thursday just relaxing, eating, and enjoying one another's company. On Friday we loaded up the cars and drove east to Saguaro Lake. Always few steps behind the 4 sniffing dogs we hiked a senic 3 mile loop that overlooked the lake and wound back to the parking lot.

After saying goodbye to Eric, Casey, and Jackson we drove north to Tonto Natural bridge. The bridge is an arched rock formation that was slowly carved by the brook winding through the canyon. Our original plan was to drive from Tonto to a campsite and spend Saturday rock climbing near Winslow, AZ. As we drove north, we discussed when we might find time to come back again for a trip further north to see the Grand Canyon. It only took a minute for us to realize that this was our best chance to get up there soon. A few hours later we had diverted our route and arrived in Flagstaff, where the temperature was dropping, and we found the ground blanketed in snow!

We cashed in some hotel points and found a dog friendly place. On Saturday we drove north and enjoyed a snow dusted trek along the south rim of the GC. Swinging back thru Flagstaff we found a hike into an old volcano and on Sunday we leisurely made our way back to Tucson.

We had a great trip and Holiday, I hope you did too!

Mt. Lemmon Overnight

Sarah, Burren, and I headed up Mt. Lemmon last Saturday to try out some of our new backpacking gear. It was our first official backpacking trip together. Other camping trips have been managed from the trunk of our car. This time we'd carry our gear in backpacks to a remote campsite, far from any other campers, woohoo!

Thank you for the birthday gift cards to REI!!! I used them to buy a blinking light for Burren's collar (she is otherwise invisible at night), chair conversions for our sleeping pads, and some small packable pillows. All added greatly to our comfort in the outdoors.

We found an excellent campsite on a high ridge with awesome views of the sunset and Tucson's twinkling lights at night. The ridge had the extra benefit of being heavily wooded which kept the wind to a minimum. At our elevation around 7,600 ft., we estimated how cold the air would become overnight. The overnight temperatures in Tucson were in the mid 40's during the week, so we guessed that Mt. Lemmon would be at least 10 degrees colder.

Well... that night my thermometer read 34 degrees, and that reading was inside the tent. Outside was in the high twenties. You Northeasterners are saying "that's not so bad!" Yeah, well, we've adjusted to the warm desert and it felt very cold as we watched the sun go down. We headed directly into our sleeping bags after sunset. The bags are rated to 20 degrees, and while we started out cold, those bags warmed right up.

Calling Burren into the tent with us was a bit tricky. She was racing around in the woods following every smell and noise. I finally had to get back outside, chase her down, and drag her in. For all of the unnecessary gear we had, I neglected to bring a blanket for Burren. I foolishly assumed that the dog would be warm enough in her own fur curled up between our bags. For a few hours she shifted back and forth between Sarah and me. One shift too many and I woke up and realized that Burren was shivering and shaking all over. Naturally, feeling guilty, I gave her some of my covers and she eventually warmed up and fell asleep.

Doggie sleeping bag for next time?

Fall Adventures In Tucson

Sorry we've been blog silent for a while here in Arizona. In the past month we got into the fall college football season attending both our first University of Arizona football game one weekend and then tailgating with buddies for the UA homecoming game another weekend. The tailgating experience was awesome, very similar to a Foxfield race, but a bit more family friendly :)

For anyone looking for deals on stuff you may or may not do/buy I highly recommend Groupon. Using a 2 for 1 Groupon, Sarah and I went on a horseback trail ride in the Catalina foothills. We had fun even though the ride was a bit too tame. I guess they're just not really keen to let a tourist try galloping their horses. The sunset as we rode back to the stable was spectacular!

We joined up with some of our Crossfit pals for a "Paleo" potluck one evening. The food was awesome, the silly feats of strength were entertaining, and Amanda's chickens were not nearly as fascinated with us as we were with them. I'm thinking we need to follow her lead and get into the egg business at the rate & price we're paying for healthy eggs these days.

We've hiked Madera Canyon a few times already but had yet to summit Mt. Wrightson. It turned out to be quite the trek. With ~4,500 feet of elevation gain from the parking lot, I stood on the 9,440 foot summit and had endless 360 degree views. The most remarkable feeling was the absolute stillness of the air on the tiny summit. I've never been at that elevation without constant wind. Interestingly, as soon as we began the descent the wind did pick up. We devoured our meager lunch and dreamt of dinner on our way back down the canyon. The 12 mile roundtrip hike took us about 6.5 hours and we slept very well that evening.

Finally, our Halloween costumes this year were last year's costumes pulled from the closet and dusted off a bit. Oh well, they served their purpose. We went to the costume contest at Hotel Congress in downtown Tucson with some of our neighbors. Our entourage consisted of Seinfeld's Kramer & Elaine, Hermione & Hedwig of Harry Potter lore, and Lara Croft & GI Joe. There were some great costumes, but sadly I shot very few photos. The contest winner was a dead ringer for Eddie Murphy in "Coming to America" and he had the impressions to boot.

That's all folks!

A Pennsylvania Wedding

Sarah and I were back on the East coast in September for my cousin, Mark & Laurie's, beautiful wedding. The ceremony was at an awesome resort tucked away in the Pocono Mountains. Of course the whole clan was there and I really enjoyed spending time with family that we don't see often enough. And, while a wedding is great for catching up, they are over in the blink of an eye, and it seems like there is always more catching up to do when it's time to go. That's life, we just gotta enjoy the time we've got right?!

It sure made me think about our upcoming wedding. How am I gonna remember it all? My plan is to recruit all of our guests to keep good memories to share with us as we forget things over the years :)

Here are some of those memories we'll keep for Mark & Laurie. Congrats you two!

Vegas Birthday!

This past weekend Paul took me to Las Vegas to celebrate the many things we have to celebrate, particularly my 25th birthday. We flew in Wednesday night (I had Thursday and Friday off work for Rosh Hashana) and went to a lounge on top of Mandalay Bay to take in a view of the whole city. Thursday we spent the morning walking down the strip, stopping in shops and casinos, and seeing lots of interesting buildings and people. We went back to our hotel, the MGM Grand, to enjoy the sun and the pool in the afternoon. That evening we got all dolled up and went to a fancy seafood place for dinner before walking to the Bellagio to see the fountain show and go to one of their night clubs. Friday was very similar to Thursday with the addition of a circue du soleil show and the subtraction of the nightclub. We also tried our hand at gambling a few times. While the tables were a little intimidating for me and the slot machines were a little too mundane, the computerized versions of blackjack were right up our alley. We actually finished the weekend up $2! On Saturday we drove to Lake Mead and rented a jetski. While timid at first, I slowly let myself get up to 50, 60 then 70 mph! We got to see the Hoover Dam from a very unique point of view and I got to experience driving Paul around. Overall it was a great trip!

Finding An Oasis In The Desert

Sarah and I found an awesome river canyon to the north of us that is remote and protected. In fact, there are no trails, foot travel is restricted to 50 people with permits, dogs & pack animals are not allowed, and due to these rules there is almost no trace of human presence there. We brought a cache of food, filled the camelpacks, and threw in our watershoes. Since there are no maintained trails the easiest way to traverse the canyon is mostly through the riverbed. Needless to say, your feet will be wet no matter which way you go. We crossed the creek countless times in the 7 mile round trip. While we did see a few other hikers, there was little else to suggest that we were not the first souls passing through. Living in the hot desert valley of Tucson I am always awed when we find these gems of greenery in the backcountry. Enjoy the photos!


Around & About

I have had a few work trips with scenic views in the past few months. I had some time on the way to the airport in both Colorado and Nevada to take a few photos and dip my feet in the local swimming holes. You'll see photos or video of Lake Tahoe and the Gunnison River.

Parker Canyon Lake

While sneaking out of the Tucson heat, Sarah, Burren, and I found ourselves relaxing at Parker Canyon Lake. Can you believe its actually cooler south of us? The lake is only about 10 miles from the Mexican border. Little Burren had a blast swimming and roaming around the trees and grass, a rarity for her in this desert.


Sarah said YES. I was pretty sure she would, but there's nothing so sweet as really knowing!

The place was Sarah's favorite beach in Falmouth, on Cape Cod. She had been going there since she was a kid, and when we started dating she brought me along on many occasions. It became a place that instantly evoked memories of relaxing together in the sun and rollerblading hand-in-hand. One year ago I said to myself, that when the time came, that would be where I would ask Sarah to marry me. When the time finally did come just a month ago, I asked her to take a stroll down the beach. When we ran out of beach I knelt down in the sand asked the question that I had been dreaming of asking for a long time. And the rest, as they say, is history.

The ring was my Grandmother's, and the stone in the ring was carried from Australia during WWII by my Grandpa. Pretty cool story. You can see a photo of the new setting that Sarah helped me pick out, it's a keeper.

Here are some of the photos from our travels. Our itinerary in a nutshell; TUS to NYC via air, NYC to BOS via bus, BOS to ROC via car, ROC to TUS via air, we should have found a train in there somewhere! I hope we were able to see everyone that is reading this, and I look forward to seeing those of you that we missed.

Here's a video for my Dad. Nice kayak sir!

Here is Molly, she can really long jump off our dock!

Drinking The Kool Aid?

I don't know if you know this, but Sarah and I really love our CrossFit gym. We talk about it constantly. To each other, and to most everyone we know. It helps that most of our friends here in Tucson are CrossFitters, and we're trying to convert the ones that aren't :)
Additionally, we have decided to try eating the Paleo/Primal diet.
Luckily we have YouTube to help explain stuff visually.



Mom's Visit

It was really wonderful to have my Mom visit last month. We had a fun and low-key weekend together in which Paul and I really got to show her some of our everyday lives. Saturday we went for hike up at the top of Mount Lemmon. The highlight of this was finding the lookout tower where a retired firefighter lives in a teeny "cabin" with windows on 3 sides watching for forest fires. The firefighter invited us into his home and chatted with us for about 15 minutes, offering us breakfast and sharing the answers to any questions we had.

On Sunday morning we walked to the farmer's market to pick up our CSA share. Mom enjoyed seeing all the hustle and bustle of our Sunday morning market as well as what we get in our CSA. Since Mom was visiting, it wouldn't of been right to skip church so we looked up our UCC options online and found a very small, social justice oriented congregation with a progressive service and female minister. We all enjoyed it.

On Monday Mom got a taste of Crossfit. First she came to watch Paul and I workout. Mom saw us complete a workout called, "Grace," which is 30 power cleans (135 lbs for Paul and 65 lbs for me) for time. That made her nice and nervous for her own turn. Then she got to participate herself - spending a session with a trainer who designed a work out just for her. She had lots of fun and got a good idea of what Crossfit is all about. I'm proud of her for being so enthusiastic and really giving it a try.

Later, Mom came into school and got to meet my kids and see me in action. She spent lunch with us, learning names and trying to hear everyone as they talked over each other to get her attention. She got to read some books to the kids and walk with us to the pool for afternoon free swim, where there was more "look what I can do!"'s.

Paul and I loved having you here and can't wait for the next visit!

Up The Creek In Sedona

If anyone ever calls and offers you a free night stay and other assorted gifts for sitting through a timeshare pitch, go for it. The place we toured put us up in a nice, dog-friendly hotel and we had to endure a 90 min sales pitch, not bad...
It was a great excuse to head to Sedona for the weekend. From Tucson the drive was just shy of four hours and we left right from work on Friday evening.
Sedona is breathtaking. I'm lucky enough to have visited a few times prior, but for Sarah and Burren this was an initiation.
Friday evening the hotel we booked wasn't for dogs, so we had a bit of a time sneaking her about. Of course our goal was complete silence from the pup, but she seems to be in a bit of a rebellious phase these days. Our goal was soon shattered with a low WOOF! That was our cue, and from there we set out on a nice, longer-than-usual, evening walk. We headed into town early on Saturday morning and with only one additional WOOF after our walk on Friday, no one seemed the wiser.
Before we left Tucson I researched a few hikes that would allow us to trek along Oak Creek, the creator of this stunning canyon. Saturday was perfect, Burren followed her retrieving instincts right into the Creek. At first her wet leaps were accidental, but as the weekend wore on she grew a bit more courageous and determined to follow us through water over her head. Even so, we could tell she wasn't too sure that it was a good idea :)
Sarah and I relaxed and allowed the lush, peaceful scenery to work its magic. We found some great eateries in town, and refreshing pools within the deep walls of the Creek.
If you haven't been yet, make sure that Sedona is on your list to visit someday!

Siblings Visit

This Memorial Day weekend we were blessed to have my brother Jon, his wife, Nancy, and their daughter, Ruth come to stay with us! In addition, my sister, Elka, was here visiting her boyfriend, Craig, and preaching at the Tucson UU church. It was great weekend of family and fun!

Friday night Paul treated us to a delicious feast of grilled pork AND chicken. We also utilized some of our fresh/local/organic CSA ingredients in our grilled vegetables and salad.

Saturday morning we got up early (Nancy got up at 3am Tucson time with Miss Ruth who was still on East coast time) to go check out the Sonoran Desert Museum. We saw many local animals like javelinas, lizards, and mountain lions. Ruth enjoyed pushing her own stroller and getting plenty of grown up attention. After the outdoor museum we went to El Guero Canelo to enjoy some tasty Sonoran hot dogs (hot dog wrapped in bacon with beans, cheese and lots of condiments). In the afternoon, we all donned our bathing suits for relaxation in the pool. We went to dinner at El Charro, one of the oldest Mexican restaurants in Tucson.

On Sunday, Jon, Nancy, Ruth, Paul and I walked to our farmers market to pick up our CSA share and enjoy the morning. Next we all went to see Miss Elka Cartmell Ladd guest preach at the UU church here. She did a great job and had a large cheering section. Sunday afternoon we watched Ruth and Burren play for a while before heading to 4th Ave to walk around and check out the interesting shops. We enjoyed yummy salads at home and chatted into the evening.

It was really great being all together even if just for a few days. We cant wait to be all together again in August!

Wedding In Boston = Springbreak For Us!

One of my good friends from Hobart was married near Boston this past weekend. Dan & Nadia's wedding was gorgeous. Set in a pastoral New England town and blessed with perfect weather, the ceremony was a great escape with friends we miss. We used every moment of the weekend to catch up with our friends and Sarah's family. 3 days is never enough and we're looking forward to a longer return trip in August. Save me some chowda till then!

CrossFit SW Regionals

I don't know how, but somehow I made the team. The gym Sarah and I belong to, Crossfit Works, put together a team of trainers and members to compete in the Affiliate Cup of the 2010 CrossFit Games. This Regional competition would determine which individuals and teams will go on to compete in the Games.
Our region includes Arizona and Southern California. If you know 1 thing about CrossFit, know that SoCal is the birthplace of CrossFit and there are some powerhouses that come out of there.
The teams had to be 4-6 people and have at least 2 men and 2 women. Our team consisted of 4 of the CF Works trainers (Jenny, Kate, Andres, & Mateo) and 2 members (Summer and I). We didn't have a lot of time to train together, but we all were excited to go hard and have fun.
The event was held at UC Irvine, a palmtree covered campus in Orange County. There were more Crossfitters in that athletic complex than I've ever seen before and it was awesome!
We competed in 3 workouts. We had fun, held our own, and finished midway in the field of 80 teams there to compete. Not bad considering some of the teams have been competeing together for years!
Here are some photos of the weekend.

Trevor's Excellent Adventure Visit

My former college roomie, former post-college roomie, fraternity bro, beer-brewer, avid builder of all things, and good ol'buddy Trevor came out to visit. He even brought some home-brew beer with him. What a pal!
We had a blast hangin out. Burren loved him. She even left teeth marks as a sign of her affection (shes a puppy, its ok) How those healing by-the-way Tev?
Well first off, there is a massive rock promontory between Tucson and Phoenix. We had to climb that. Couple of hours, no problem. Here are some photos.

Next up we headed Southeast to the Dragoon Mts and Cochise Stronghold. The rocky outcrop served as the 15 year hide-out of Apache chief Cochise and his tribe. Today the area is a fantastic camping and rock climbing mecca. So thats what we did. Burren loved it too.

I never saw the Pauly Shore movie "Biodome", but now I've been to biodome, or in this case the Biosphere. Its run by the U of A for science experiments in climate change, agriculture, and terra farming. I think Trev and I agree that it is an engineering marvel.

When Sarah and I were planning our move to Tucson, Grandpa told me that there is a huge airplane graveyard here. Boy, is he right! There are over 4,000 planes in the "boneyard". Some are repurposed, some are dismantled and sold for parts or scrap metal. There are even more in the Pima Air & Space Museum that have been restored. For Trev and I, it was like meeting some of the characters from Top Gun.

Finger Rock is a familiar skyline feature of the Catalina Mts north of Tucson. The "finger" is around 6,500' in elevation and it's about an 8 mile roundtrip. We started at 3,000', and finished somewhere over 7,000'. It's a big steep climb that took our breath and gave us some great views.

The last outdoor adventure session of Trev's visit was an afternoon of sport climbing at hairpin turn.

Last but not least, we had fun taking Trevor out to some of Tucson's best Mexican eateries and more interesting watering holes! It was a great visit and I miss hanging out with my buddy. Till next time amigo!

Easter, Hiking & A Big Missile

My parents came to visit Sarah and I for Easter. We packed in a lot of fun. Here is the short version :)
We hiked in Sabino Canyon looking for geocaches, actually finding a cool recipe travel-bug!
We visited the Buses for Easter, the biggest Gillio/Bus family gathering in awhile, we really missed Phil & Kathleen & Grandpa & Grace!
We hiked halfway up Mt. Wrightson, around 1200' elevation gain!
We visited the last Titan Missile in existence, and Mom turned the key and pushed the button that could have started WWIII thus ending the world!
We saw Second City perform, and true to form we had front row seats and I was chosen to have a song performed about me!
And of course we had some wonderful meals! All of which I seem to have been too excited to eat because I didn't take any photos.
Thanks for coming to visit and the great times Mom & Dad. We love & miss you!

Joining the Circus?

Last Saturday Sarah and I spent our afternoon goofing around with a bunch of our fellow crossfitters. Our gym (Crossfit Works) rented a few hours of workout time at Gymnastics World in Tucson and we had a blast!

The skilled instructors led us through a long warm-up with stretching, tumbling, cartwheeling, jumping, and generally throwing ourselves around like 10 year olds :)
After the warm-up we were allowed to try any equipment we liked in the gym. Sarah headed right for the super-bouncy trampoline. She developed a mini workout of sorts and then moved on to some aerial stunts. Most of which (I apologize) were not captured on film. All of them were pretty sweet though!

I went swinging on the rings and then the bar. Below where I'm swinging there is a deep pit filled with foam cubes to absorb falls you take while attempting flips and whatnot. The fall into the pit was quite fun too!

Almost everyone spent some time learning the mechanics of hand springs, and while only two or so of our group actually landed any we all had a lot of laughs while trying!
The experience was a great rare treat. I think we were all sore in new places for the next few days:) Thank you to our coach Jenn for organizing the outing!

First Week With Our Puppy Girl Burren

Paul and I picked up Miss Burren from our breeder in Phoenix Saturday morning (after a nice visit to Paul's cousins, Eric, Casey and their two month old baby, Jackson). It was a morning filled with a baby and a puppy and I was not complaining. Burren was seven and a half weeks old when we got her. She is everything you'd imagine a puppy to be - soft, sweet, curious, sleepy, shy and floppy. She weighs about ten pounds and is around ten inches tall. We have devoted our weekend to her constant supervision and care. Quite the doting parents, we've focused on playing, eating, sleeping and of course - potty training. There have been only a few small tinkles inside and thankfully ALL poops outside (is that an overshare?)! Today we took Burren for a walk/carry on the bike path along our apartment and sat with her while we took in the sights of the farmers market down the road. There was a lot to see and take in so she was perfectly content sitting in our laps, watching the show. This afternoon we had fun playing tennis, just the two of us, while Burren napped in her crate. When she woke up we took her to the courts to run around off-leash and start to get the hang of chasing us around, which she is already quite good at! We are having so much fun so far and look forward to the joy and pride continuing to grow.

Sarah, Suz and Mel came to visit!

We just had a wonderful weekend spending time with some of my best friends, Melissa, Sarah and Suzanne. Suzanne was the first to arrive on Thursday afternoon. She rode over with Paul to pick me up from work. She got a sneak peak into my classroom and met some of my most charming and energetic munchkins. That evening we made a delicious pizza (mushrooms, peppers, onions, tomato and spicy ground turkey). After dinner Suz and I drove to pick up Sarah from the airport. We made it to bed around 12:30am without really waking Paul up. Friday morning Paul and I made breakfast. Afterwards us ladies went out for a long walk along the river path behind our apartment while Paul finished up some work. When he was done the four of us drove down to 4th Avenue for some window shopping, thrift store browsing, people watching, and outdoor patio noshing. We sat by the pool to read and sunbathe for a few before picking up Melissa on Friday evening. The 5 of us had a scrumptious tapas meal of lots of little plates including stuffed mushrooms, shrimp, chorizo, home-made cheese, and squash raviolis. We had a very fun evening out (back at 4th Ave) full of lots of dancing and lots of laughs. Saturday we enjoyed a relaxing and beautiful hike in Sabino Canyon before an afternoon of more sunning and pooling. We went to dinner at a fancy Mexican place and had another fun dance-filled night out. Sunday we had to say goodbye 'till next time. I love you girls.


This Valentines day weekend the two of us decided to make the four hour drive to Puerto Penasco, Mexico (Rocky Point as it's known in the states). To our good fortune, the two night stay didn't cost a dime. As a lease signing bonus our apartment complex hands out vouchers, not bad, huh? Crossing the border was a breeze, no Mexican official to be seen, just a gate going up and down to keep track of the count. Our hotel was right on the water with a cool pool and a huge hot tub, throw in the uber-comfy beach beds and we were quite relaxed. Having to drive there and back with only two nights we decided not to leave the hotel except for our meals. I have to say it was great! Between reading and taking the occasional cool-off dip we were content. Next time we'll explore the area. We did venture out a bit though. Finding a cab and working my rusty command of spanish was fun. Each evening we found places with good margaritas and tasty offerings.
While the landscape there was stark (ocean meets desert), the marine life was abundant. Each morning the many fishing vessels in town could be seen trolling for catch just off-shore. The tidal swing was an impressive 20 feet! It revealed a host of crustaceans and small fish, along with sea birds hunting their breakfast.
We resisted the MANY hawkers of junk while in line to cross back into the US. There is actually a sign that designates where the selling and panhandling may begin. Even the stray dogs play their part of trotting alongside looking for a bit of something to be thrown their way. All told the wait was around 20 minutes. Not long from what I've learned. At peak holidays the wait can be many hours.
All-in-all we're looking forward to another trip south of the border sometime. I guess we can resign our lease for motivation!
Puerto Penasco

Camelback Mountain

Sarah is one strong woman! Maybe Crossfit is pushing her to test her fitness not only in the gym but everyday in all our activities. Whatever the motivation, Sarah seconded for me as we climbed two pitches to the top of "The Praying Monk" on Camelback Mountain in Scottsdale. To "second" you follow the leader up the climb while belaying them, removing gear, and working as a team.
While we are both new to this, I have had more first-hand encounters with the sensation of soaring heights and open air that this climb offered us. In rock climbing, the term is "exposure". As in, "Man that climb was so exposed it felt like I was on the top of the Empire State building!"
Now the exposure on this climb wasn't off the charts, but this was the first time Sarah had to follow me up a pitch where I am out-of-sight, while cleaning our gear, and rooftops look tiny below us. Please don't take this as a reason to worry though! The entire time she was safely tied into our rope and constantly belayed by me.
I could see the determination in her eyes as she climbed the final section up into view. There was no quitting, and the satisfaction on her face when she reached the top was definite. I am so proud of her!
Take a look at our photos. In the first photo of the album we climbed the wall above Sarah's head and the boulder above that. To give you an idea of scale, the boulder is around 100 feet tall!
Camelback Mtn.

Some Recent Hikes

After the heavy rains in southern California and Arizona there was quite a nice white blanket on the surrounding mountains. No sooner than the snow appeared, the Arizona sun started melting it. Knowing that meltwater flow would be impressive in Sabino Canyon we headed over and played around by the absolutely frigid rushing brook. I played at making a boulder bridge but was defeated by the strong current. Sarah laughed at me and documented, see photos.
Sabino meltwater
This past weekend I was really eager to see the snow in person, and Sarah had some errands to run so I headed up Mt. Lemmon solo. I hiked a ridge that had always been in my sights, and traversed back down. I saw some cool brushfire trees and even a lone snowman!
Bear Canyon Ridge

Lucky Visit With The Montones

Recently I was assigned a project in Allentown, PA. Fortunately while I was there I was able to visit with both the Buses and Montones. We had some really great dinners and a lot of fun. It was a rare treat to catch up on life. Most of the time we get together is for holidays, so to have a normal few week nights was nice and relaxing. The Montone girls are growing up fast and I wish I could see them more, but we made the most of our time playing games, drawing, cruising around Wegmans, and even playing Mario Kart! Thanks for everything! I miss you all :)

Starting to Sport Climb

Today Sarah and I drove to a canyon on lower Mt. Lemmon. We parked and hiked up the dry wash to a wall with a dozen or so sport climbing routes. Sport routes have anchors bolted into the rock from start to finish. These anchors are spaced a few body lengths apart. It's like Trad climbing without having to place your own protection. It's a great way to get to more and more routes once you've top-roped enough.
The leader starts up the pitch and clips in to each bolt as they go upward. At the top of the pitch the leader clips into the top anchors and is lowered or rappels back to the ground.
We climbed two routes, a 5.7 and a 5.8. They were both my first sport leads. The rock was awesome, very good texture, and great juggy holds! Perfect for a first lead! We played around with variations on both routes and had a great day.
Hairpin Turn

I'm Not The Only One Cooking!

Sarah has been busy in the kitchen as well. Here are a few of her creations that may have you drooling.

These crepes were inspired by our Stonewall Kitchen gift card.

On the sweet side she made banana & walnut with yogurt, as well as lemon curd with berries. As for savory we had steak, tomato & mozzarella with a fig & vidalia sauce.

Here is the master granola maker swift at work!

Look at that texture! mmmm...

Finally another sushi night complete with miso soup and inside out rolls with Masago (fish roe).

Any requests?

We've Been Making Food... Shocking? Not So Much!

First may I present Gravlax!

I am quite satisfied with the results of my first trial. With some cream cheese, capers, & red onion on a poppyseed bagel it was delicious!

Next is my second attempt at Mozzarella. It's a better "mozz" than the first attempt, but still needs refining...

Finally, the masterpiece! I have been yearning to make soft pretzels for a long time, and they turned out delicious.

Notice the golden brown color and salt crystal texture. Hungry?

But wait! It gets better! This may appeal to the Rochesterian readers more than others, but I'm sure most red-blooded Americans are down with the "Pretzel Dog". Why, you ask, would this appeal to those folks from Western NY? Because I made White-Hot Pretzel Dogs!!! They were YUMMY!

Yes, that is spicy brown mustard accompanying :)

Christmas in San Diego

Over the holidays I was able to meet Mom, Peggy and my sister, Elka, in San Diego! It was so great to spend some quality family time for the weekend. We mostly walked around outside (Mom and Peggy were loving being outside in the 70 degree weather) and checked out different restaurants in areas like Balboa Park, Elka's neighborhood, Hillcrest, bay area, and the Gaslamp District. On Monday, I flew back to Tucson with Mom and Peggy to meet Paul! It was great to have them get to see our apartment, the area in Tucson that we're in and the JCC. One morning Mom and Peggy came into my class to meet my kiddies and tell them the story of when God called Samuel (when he was a young child). The kids loved it - and so did Mom and Peggy. We also got to take Mom and Peggy to our favorite Mexican place for dinner, Guadalajara Grill, with the table-side salsa and mariachi band.

Christmas in Rochester

I was home in Rochester for a leisurely 10 days. It was almost shortened to 9 when our pilot announced that we couldn't quite land yet (we were already 10 min late) as a plane slid off the ice-covered runway just two planes ahead of us. He flew us back west to Buffalo to refuel and wait for the ground crew to pull the stuck plane from a snow bank. You gotta love winter in the Northeast! On board I was preparing myself for the transition to harsh cold while the guy sitting next to me (coming from Fairbanks, Alaska) was preparing for warmer weather :)
I had a lot of fun seeing my family and friends. We ate well, of course. We stayed warm, even while cheering the Bills on at Ralph Wilson, or getting out to take a hike. Even though I was home a whole 10 days, the time flew by. Did I mention that I also ate waaaay too many cookies?! I doubt I'm the only one who rationalizes that behavior with the logic "I better get while the getting is GOOD!"
Sitting here basking in the warmth of the Southwestern winter sun (I know! It's warm even in January!) I can't really say that I miss Northeastern winters too terribly much, but I do really miss all of you!
Christmas Time