Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Bit of a Moisture Situation

It doesn't rain very often 'round these parts, so things like "drainage" and "proper sloping" don't really occur to people much. As a result, this is what happened after a couple of days of not-even-Texas-style storms. I mean, if you can still walk upright and the umbrella still keeps you basically dry, it is just not that big of a deal.

Try telling that to our yard.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Peony Chinese- the restaurant, not the flower

This is a picture of some peonys, because I've never taken any photos at Peony Chinese Restaurant here in Temecula, and I always like a snazzy photo for my posts.

Peony's is in the Albertson's shopping center on Rancho California Rd. and combines the speed and ease of a fast food joint with the service and freshness of a sit-down restaurant. You order at the counter and take your number to your table, but then they serve you your drinks and condiments and bring your food to your table, offer refills, and basically take really good care of you. The ingredients are obviously fresh, and everything is made to bins of food under warming lights or anything gross like that.

Now, I saw a Yelp! (maybe it was some other review site, but you get the idea) review written by someone who must love MSG and pre-packaged, frozen ingredients (which was, incidentally, filled with spelling errors) who said that the problem with Peony is that it is run by Mexicans, and although "Mexicans are nice people" they "should not go into Chinese food business". That is about the lamest thing I've ever read. You know, because apparently, in their mind, your ethnic heritage dictates how good of a cook you are, and your ability to provide excellent customer service. Well, Nick A. of Murrieta, CA, not only do you have bad taste in Chinese food, you are also a turd. Is it okay to use the word "turd" in a restaurant review?

Anyway, it's not traditional Schezuan style. It really is a SoCal type of Chinese food, which most locals will love, including my hubby. If you are used to Texas Chinese food, it will not be what you expect, but it will still be delicious. It's more expensive than the food-in-a-bin joints (a la Panda Express or Mr. You's) and I definitely prefer it over Pick Up Sticks (call me crazy, but I like eating off of a real plate). Their lunch portions are enormous, which I would call their best value. Try the lunch curry chicken. OMG. Yum.

Peony Chinese Cuisine
30520 Rancho California Rd
Temecula, CA 92591
(909) 695-1878

Monday, January 11, 2010

Riley's Farm Fall Field Trip

As you may be able to tell, we're not really sticking with chronological these days. With so much to catch up on and not too much happening in January, I figured no one would mind. Now this is not so much a post about something to do in Temecula, but instead something you could easily go and do were you to, say, be a resident of Temecula. In the fall, our Brownie Girl Scout troop and another big girl Girl Scout troop crammed ourselves into a couple of large vehicles and scooted over to Riley's Farm located in Oak Glen, right near Yucaipa. If you peek at their site now, you won't see much about some of the things mentioned in this blog, because it's the wrong time of year (you can't press fresh apples into cider or choose pumpkins from a pumpkin patch in January....not even in Southern California!), but they've got other fun things scheduled that I'm sure everyone will still enjoy.

Our first hands-on learning opportunity was pressing freshly picked apples into cider using a real old timey cider press. It takes 100 apples to make one gallon of cider...didja know that?!?! Or that the difference between apple cider and apple juice is....hmmmm, perhaps I should let you research that one yourself ;)
Then it was off to a little history lesson about the western migration, covered wagons, log cabins, working hard, and doing without:

Now comes my favorite part: hay ride through the woods!

Followed by making our own candles:
(sorry about this lame photo. The gal is passing out long whicks with a tiny starter candle on the end, and the girls proceeded to dip them into the hot wax repeatedly to increase their size. Making a full-sized candle back in the day was a tedious process!)

After a much needed lunch break, it was time to select our very own pumpkins from the pumpkin patch. This is in contrast to most "pumpkin patches" in Temecula itself which have piles of pumpkins available, but none of them are in the spot that they actually grew. The Riley's farm pumpkin patch (it was called something else, but I can't remember now. I'm sure if you can them a ring, they could help you out!) was a patch. Of real pumpkins. Growing on their vines. It was so fun. And check out the gorgeous views!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Old Timey Time In Old Town Temecula

For Halloween, the bigger little people and one of their sweet friends decided to dress up as their American Girl dolls. Mom of the sweet friend had the fab idea for us to go to Old Town for a mini photo shoot before going trick-or-treating. Yay for wholesome, free fun!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Professor Pennypickle's Children's museum

Stop the presses! She's back!

Wow, seriously....where does the time go? I'll tell you where it goes- it goes to writing and editing the PTA newsletter. It goes to doing freelance proofreading work. It goes to managing the facebook pages of some former/current employers. And taking care of 3 kids. And managing the hubby's business. And being pregnant (!). And sewing little patches onto 10 little Brownie Girl Scout vests. And every now and then doing a little sleeping. But only just a little. But that's enough of that, because what mom isn't insanely busy? No real mom, I tell ya what.

Anyhooooooo, I realized it had been almost a year since the last post on here and I said to myself I said "Self, you cannot let an entire year go by without a post. People are gonna think you've died. Or Temecula has imploded. Or something else weird." So, I'm back to chat about the totally adorable, super-fun Professor Pennypickle's Children's Museum ( in Old Town.

First of all, if you don't have a SmartCard (, get one. Among many, many other fab discounts, tickets to P.P.'s are buy-one-get-one-free. You don't even have to be a super-cheap-skate to like that discount!

Alright, after parking in the plentiful and FREE parking behind the museum, and entering the totally cute, old-timey building and being advised that you are allowed to...nay, expected to touch everything in the place, you can enter one of many, many fun rooms. This is the library:

....with this whacky whirly-gig chair that rotates as you spin some other whacky whirly-gig contraption.And then you can go into the fireplace of the library (true story) and enter a crazy, dark black-light-lit maze, which even the baby found fun and not scary. Or into this "kitchen":
...and do any number of fun, silly experiments.

And although the entire place was fun for my littlest dude, there was a special room just for the under-4 crowd, which the under-4 crowd found to be very entertaining:

And don't forget driving the potty! What little boy doesn't want to drive a potty? I mean it combines "driving" with "potty". A veritable dream come true, I say.
And the not-so-spooky cellar of recycling:
followed by the crazy musical-instrument room of crazy musical instruments:

and this guy, who wasn't that educational or fun for the kids, but who made this mama laugh:

and some kind of gear thing? That's educational? Probably?In all, we had a crazily super fun time. Everyone, from 2 to 92, will find something to love here, even if it's just the cheap tickets. Which it won't be, but could, I guess, if you don't love fun, but are a cheap-skate.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Restaurant Review: Essence of Thai

So this restaurant review will be sadly photo-less, because I got Essence of Thai soup as carry-out last week when I was too sick to do much more than phone ahead (also, I lack Dwija's preoccupation with--er, interest in, kitschy ethnic-restaurant decor). But the fact that I was even willing to do that should be testimony enough that Essence of Thai soups are worth the trip.

Essence of Thai is a little Thai restaurant tucked into the back of a plaza on 79 South (Temecula Parkway). I believe it's the plaza with the "El Pollo Loco" as its flagship. The restaurant in inconspicuous, and that's a shame, because it has some truly excellent food, and I am not easily impressed (just ask Dwija).

The menu offerings are fairly typical--if you've eaten in a Thai restaurant before, you'll see the familiar categories of appetizers, soups, salads, rice dishes, curry dishes, and noodle dishes. My husband has sampled various curries, including the red, green, and yellow. They're all good. If you're looking for a tasty safe bet, follow his lead and order a yellow chicken curry. They will make it as hot as you like.

The fresh spring rolls are light, the fried ones are crispy, the dipping sauces work well. If you're a noodle person (and I am), the Pad Thai is a safe bet, but I put my money on the Pad Siew. I love pad siew in general--big chewy rice noodles with a dark sweet soy sauce, egg, and broccoli--and I love theirs, too. Order it with extra vegetables if you want to temper the carbed-out feeling after eating a plate full of noodles--the broccoli is tender-crisp and bright green. Or branch out and go for the Rad Nah (then tell me how it is) or the Pad Kee Mao (yummy).

I could go to Essence of Thai and eat only these things and be perfectly happy, and I would keep going back. But the real draw is...the soup.

My favorite soup in maybe all the world is the Thai soup called "Tom Kha"--It's a spicy broth with coconut milk, loads of flavor, and full of vegetables and (typically) chicken or shrimp. The best incarnation of this soup I ever had was at a little restaurant called "Star of Siam" in Soquel, California (if you're ever in Santa Cruz, be sure to stop by). Theirs was loaded with chunks of lemongrass, galangal (a relative of ginger) and kaffir lime leaves, and came in a heavenly vegetarian version with fresh tomatoes, two kinds of mushrooms, onions, and other veggies. I have spent the intervening ten years looking for a Tom Kha that compares. Essence of Thai's does.

It has the galangal, the lemongrass, and the lime leaves (be aware, when you're eating it, that these things are not edible per se--they are like bay leaves, simmered in the soup and then fished out, but not eaten). It has gently cooked chicken breast (I wouldn't mind seeing a vegetarian version), fresh straw mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, and fresh cilantro. It is delicious. Order it as spicy as you like, though you may want to use lots of adjectives in describing how spicy that is. I have had a "medium" that was incendiary and another that left me cold.

If you don't like coconut milk (inconceivable), go for the Tom Yum--a similar soup, but no coconut milk. My daughters adore the Tom Kha if I get it mild, but they also love the glass noodle and wonton soups.

If you've ever had mediocre wonton soup in a mediocre Chinese restaurant, just pretend this is called something else because it is an entirely different dish. The wontons are delicate little dumplings, and they come in a garlicky broth filled with slices of roast pork and baby bok choy. My girls fight over it (well, they fight over a lot of things, but c'mon, this is soup). The glass noodle soup is filled with tiny translucent glass noodles--great texture--ground chicken, scallions, and straw mushrooms in a very delicate chicken broth. Even the least adventurous eater will like it.

Essence of Thai will cure what ails you. They offer free delivery within a three mile radius, or dine in and enjoy the pleasant service. Prices are reasonable, and the soups are meal-sized.

Essence of Thai
Authentic Thai Cuisine
32475 Temecula Parkway (79 S), Suite G103-B
Phone: 951-506-7741
Fax: 951-506-7704
Open for lunch and dinner every day except Tuesdays, call ahead to verify hours.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Nutcracker: not what I imagined, but better than I expected

On a blessedly cool December evening, blogger mama took her 2 girls to meet their Brownie Girl Scout troop at the oh-so-adorable Temecula Community Theater to see their production of our holiday favorite, The Nutcracker.

What little girl doesn't love to dress up and meet her friends and stay up late on a school night?  No little girl I've ever met, I tell ya what!  Brownie troop 1520 was as adorable and well-behaved as ever, and they were especially excited because we got to sit in the very front two rows.  How's that for good luck?

The production was beautifully done, with ornate costumes, perfect timing on all the sound and light cues (from my time spent on stage during all my schoolin' years, I've come to appreciate the difficulty in making this sort of thing happen), and the dancers could actually dance.  It was downright lovely.  Now I must warn any purists out there that there has been some "finagling" with the story really makes more sense in this format, but it isn't the NYC-Ballet-and-all-other-major-company-in-the-whole-wide-world way to do it, so I can see how some might object.  The music is all there and all right and all the characters and the basic premise are the same, but the order was moved around a bit.  I can't explain it right, so you'll just have to go next year if you'd like to know what the heck I'm talking about.  Oh, and, um, during the party scene in the beginning when the guests are dancing with each do I say this without freaking you out?)....sing.  Yeah.  Okay, shake it off.

The music and dancing were so spectacular and the production so tight, that everyone in the audience, our crew included, was disappointed when intermission rolled around.  We were able to placate them by suggesting they practice their own dance moves in the courtyard outside the main auditorium, which they happily did and passed the 20 minutes with lots of hums and even more giggling.

After the show was over,  I enjoyed our walk back to the car through festively-lit Old Town Temecula.  Every lamppost, every building, every sign was covered in lights and greenery and cheer.  I took a bunch of photos and not one of them turned out, so you'll have to enjoy this one of a car.

When our evening came to a close, we were tired but happy.  No traffic, no icy roads- just good fun with good people in a great town.

For more info on this and other productions at the Temecula Community Theater:

42051 Main St.
Temecula, CA 92590