Thursday, July 31, 2008

Paradise Found

This unplanned blog has come to be due to my current obsession with looking at real-estate combined with my decidedly blockheaded opinion of maps- that opinion being that I don't need one. Fortunately for my children, this accidental adventure turned out to be a good one- one that we will go on again, for sure. You see, usually in the world of suburban living one must make choices. You can choose to live in a convenient location or you can choose to live in a beautiful location. You can have a huge-gantical lot OR you can be right around the corner from Ann Taylor Loft. You can't have both....or can you? In addition to my all my other flaws, I am definitely interested in having my cake and also eating it. I mean, who doesn't like cake? So for all you cake lovers out there, I present Via Norte, Temecula, CA a windy, hilly street with gorgeous views:
And beautiful homes with enormous yards you can really do something in. And by "something" I mean, like, ride horses. And by "enormous" I mean minimum half an acre....for the po' folk of that neighborhood:

On this street (and and any of its little, tiny side streets/driveways) you will find all sorts of houses: traditional, spanish style, adobe, ranch, colonial, a house that looks like it moved here from Plano, TX, a glorified lean-to....the list goes on and on. What you will not find is congestion or zero lot lines. And most importantly for this modified city girl, you can be at Trader Joe's in 8 minutes flat. BOOYAH!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Earthquake Prone

So yesterday's quake was another reminder that we live in a "seismically active" area. In case you didn't know, Temecula sits ON TOP OF the Elsinore Fault. A relatively "quiet" fault, yes, but still estimated to be capable of a magnitude 7.5 quake--8 times bigger than the Northridge quake. Along with wildfires, black widows, and cosmetic surgery, quakes are just one of those things that lends Southern California living it's enviable je ne sais quois.

I was sitting on my bed talking to a friend when I felt the rolling begin. I said "Oh my god I have to go," dropped the phone, and ran into the living room where the children were playing. In front of three heavy bookshelves and beneath the swinging ceiling fan.

They looked at me quizzically.

"Didn't you feel that?" I asked.

"I did."

So it was one out of three.

I was rattled; the thing with earthquakes--well, one of the many--is that when one starts, you really don't know whether it's going to last mere seconds or stretch on for minutes, whether it's going to be a little let-off-some-steam rumble or a massive seismic "adjustment" on the scale of the current housing market slide. You also don't know whether the quake you just felt was the main attraction or just a "foreshock."

I moved the kids to a safer spot on the floor. And then I logged on to one of my favorite SoCal resources, the Southern California Earthquake Data Center. Within seconds, I knew the magnitude (5.4), epicenter (near Chino Hills) and that the USGS (US Geological Survey--which boasts another great earthquake info site) estimated that was the main shock, with aftershocks predicted to follow.

Given the results of yesterday's quake--not much damage--it's easy (though I never would have imagined it) to become a little blase about our seismic future here. Here are some things to keep in mind:

The perceived "significance" of a given quake has to do with several factors, including
  • magnitude
  • hypocentral depth
  • epicentral location

The deadly magnitude 6.7 Northdridge quake of 1994 was only the 7th largest quake in recent California history, but the urban epicenter meant toppled overpasses, collapsed buildings, and 60 fatalities. In contrast, the 7.3 mgnitude Landers quake two years earlier had over 5 times greater shaking amplitude and released approximately 15 times more energy, but was much less destructive--resulting in only 3 fatalities.

It's also worth remembering that we are the lucky beneficiaries of improved building codes--even yesterday's "moderate" magnitude 5.4 quake would've caused extensive damage to poorly built structures like those in much of the undeveloped world.

Last year the USGS released a special report predicting the likelihood of a large quake (6.5 or greater) throughout California over the next 30 years. In summary: Buckle up.

The Earthquake Country Aliance has developed the ShakeOut Scenario, which focuses on the eventual "gigantic" (approximately 7.8) quake along the Southern San Andreas, and has planned a week of Earth Quake Preparedness activities for this November.

To understand how significant that quake could be, let's look at the 1857 Fort Tejon magnitude 7.9 quake. The following description of that quake comes from the SCEDC:

"As a result of the shaking, the current of the Kern River was turned upstream, and water ran four feet deep over its banks. The waters of Tulare Lake were thrown upon its shores, stranding fish miles from the original lake bed. The waters of the Mokelumne River were thrown upon its banks, reportedly leaving the bed dry in places. The Los Angeles River was reportedly flung out of its bed, too. Cracks appeared in the ground near San Bernadino and in the San Gabriel Valley. Some of the artesian wells in Santa Clara Valley ceased to flow, and others increased in output. New springs were formed near Santa Barbara and San Fernando. Ridges (moletracks) several meters wide and over a meter high were formed in several places. In Ventura, the mission sustained considerable damage, and part of the church tower collapsed. At Fort Tejon, where shaking was greatest, damage was severe. All around southern and central California, the strong shaking caused by the 1857 shock was reported to have lasted for at least one minute, possibly two or three!"

The Earthquake Country Alliance reports,

"In an earthquake of this size, the shaking will last for nearly two minutes. The strongest shaking will occur near the fault (in the projected earthquake, the Coachella Valley, Inland Empire and Antelope Valley). Pockets of strong shaking will form away from the fault where sediments trap the waves (in the projected earthquake, it would occur in the San Gabriel Valley and in East Los Angeles). An earthquake of this size will cause unprecedented damage to Southern California—greatly dwarfing the massive damage that occurred in Northridge’s 6.7-magnitude earthquake in 1994."

The Fort Tejon earthquake caused a surface rupture between 220 and 250 miles long, and had a maximum displacement of at least 30 feet. The SCEDC Notes, "Were the Fort Tejon shock to happen today, the damage would easily run into billions of dollars, and the loss of life would likely be substantial..."

Temeculans, like our neighbors throughout Southern California, can't prevent or avoid or ignore earthquakes. And we also can't afford to be unprepared.

Coming soon: Tips on earthquake preparedness and safety.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Claim Jumper is Better than you Remember

As a server, it's hard to get excited about a mom with kids sitting at one of your tables. I know. I was a server. It's not that servers don't like kids or don't want some of their own, or dislike their moms or moms in general. No, the problem is that too many moms get really picky, order crazy things that aren't on the menu, complain about a lot of things, let their kids behave like hooligans, leave a gigantic mess in/on/around their table and then....they don't tip. I know. I was a server. Obviously I'm not one of those moms, but if you were a server and I walked in with my three kids and no hubby to be seen, you wouldn't know that, and you'd probably be prepared for the worst. If Rose, the sweet, capable, efficient server that we had on Monday at Claim Jumper, was prepared for the worst, I couldn't tell. All I saw was smiles and competence. And really good eye make-up.
Here's Rose

A little backstory as to why we were livin' like high rollers and going to Claim Jumper on a random Monday afternoon: the library!!! Yep, last week's certificate-for-reading was a free kid's plate from Claim Jumper. I took the kiddos on a weekday for lunch so we would avoid any potential wait. There is usually a wait at that restaurant, and now I know why. First of all, the view:

Here is the view from our table (the Temecula Duck Pond!)

And the decor is also a lot of fun for kids (and heck, I guess grown-ups too ;) ). My girls especially loved all the different light fixtures above the booths. Here's the one we got:

Then things got really good, because they put down a special little plastic table cover just for the baby and Rose asked if we would like the complimentary baby plate. True story! Of course, being thrifty and having a baby, I said "Sure!". It wasn't fancy or overly beautiful, but it was totally, exactly what babies like to eat. I mean, except for the parsley of course, which I did away with speedy-quick. And, um, did I mention it was freeeeeeeee? Here it is:

The girls chose the baby back ribs (I know, I know, high rollers....) and each got to choose two sides. That meant steak fries, apple slices with caramel dipping sauce, macaroni and cheese and shoestring fries with lots of salt and pepper. They also have yummy drink choices for kids, including strawberry lemonade- sounds delicious to me! Oh, and the drink lids stay on very, very well. I know. I dropped one on the floor. Not a drop was spilled! As for me, I got the "smallest" thing on the lunch menu, and it was still ENORMOUS. No one's going hungry if you go there, I can promise you that.

Now, I know you don't have to live in Temecula to go to Claim Jumper, but no other Claim Jumper overlooks the Temecula Duck Pond and has Rose available to provide efficient, genuine service. Oh, and let's not forget the free kid's meals courtesy of The Temecula Public Library. Yet another fine summer day made possible by the fact that we live in this great town. You know, I really do heart Temecula.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Slide Looks Like This

I have nothing to add to Erica's fab post (below) about the City of Temecula Aquatics program, but I do want to toss out this photo of the ginormous slide in all its glory. Just another reason that you'll heart Temecula, too!

Water in the Desert: Aquatics in Temecula

Seems like an oxymoron, but desert Temecula boasts an excellent aquatics program. Which is a good thing, because there are days where a swim in the pool is the only thing that will cool you off. Even if you are forced to do it with your sister:

The jewel of Temecula's aquatics is the Community Recreation Center (CRC) pool, located at Ronald Reagan Sports Park (Funny, when I moved here people thought I was heading to the land of liberals. Hah.). It's a 25-yard pool with 6 lanes ranging from 3.5 feet to 12 feet, ample seating, a friendly staff, locker rooms, restrooms, and showers. There's also a separate toddler pool (though judging by the temperature, I'm guessing it's 70% urine by volume on a busy day), a diving board:

and a thrilling waterslide:

There is lap swimming twice a day during the week (approximately between 5:30-8:30 a.m. and again from 11:15-12:45, but please double-check the hours (on page 36 of this brochure) before going because they vary somewhat with the season) and on Saturdays; a Masters swim program, shallow and deep water aerobics, and adult swim lessons.

There's also an excellent children's swim program offered every summer. Classes range from Parent-n-Me to Level 6 (Personal Water Safety/Fundamentals of Diving), with times throughout the day. Classes are $45/two-week session and take place at the CRC, Temecula Elementary School, and Chapparal High School .

Downside: The registration process is labyrinthine and tedious. If you are a Temecula resident, the only sane way to do it is to mark the dates for mail in registration on your calendar, and get your registration out in the mail *on the first day*.

FREE Public swim is from 12:30-3:30 on M-F and from 1-5 on weekends throughout the summer. It gets crowded, so come early or come late--crowds tend to peak around the middle of the sessions.

Best kept secret? There's also public swim during the same hours at Chapparal High School (corner of Winchester and Nicolas)... And it's typically much less crowded. The CHS pool doesn't have a waterslide or dive, but it does have a zero-depth water play area.

So slather on the sunblock and grab your suit--the water's fine.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

How Living in Temecula Saves You Money: Part 1

The Cosmetology Institute- A Paul Mitchell Partner School

It was really Erica who turned me on to this- kudos to her for doing it first and taking the risk of having a student cut her hair. What she, and subsequently I, was thankful to discover is that although they take FOREVER to cut your hair, they are meticulous, polite, pleasant, and most importantly to the title of this blog: cheap. And by "cheap" I mean really cheap. And by "really cheap" I mean super, duper totally cheap. As in (drumroll).......$10!!!!! Yep, as in one, single, crisp $10 bill. Of course, one should always leave a tip- the children are trying to put themselves through school here people!

my easy, chic, $10 haircut from the Paul Mitchell school

When I was there, there were folks from Murrieta, Hemet, Lake Elsinore, Fallbrook....and of course, Temecula. Those of us lucky enough to live here didn't spend $10 on gas just trying to save money on a cheap haircut, and so for that I've got to say: living in Temecula saves you money!

For your own smoking deal on a cute cut:

The Cosmetology Institute - A Paul Mitchell Partner School

27536 Ynez Road, Suite E-1

Temecula, CA 92591

phone: (951) 694-4323

Saturday, July 26, 2008

So Many Parks, So Little Time

No town can claim to be truly family friendly without an excellent selection of grafitti-free, well-manicured, properly maintained public parks. Temecula can most certainly make the claim, then- with over 30 fabulous public parks spanning hundreds (yes, plural) of acres, there's always a place for your brood to blow off some steam. In fact, I keep a picnic blanket, jump roaps and hula-hoops in my van at all times just in case they start acting like fools while we're out running errands. There's always a park just around the corner, waiting to show them a good time. Just click on the title of this post to be taken to a list and a map. Happy park hopping!

Pauba Ridge Park, 33405 Pauba Rd.
I like this park's layout- only one small entrance in and out, and a large fenced area to play. This means you don't have to stare at them the whole time to know they're safe. Plus, the view is gorgeous , the breeze is fab, the path is a perfect place to ride bikes, and the hill is great for rolling down. Located just east of Butterfield Stage Rd.

Temecula Duck Pond, 28250 Rancho California Rd.
I know, you'd never know what this is by looking at the name, but believe it or not, it's a pond....full of ducks ;-). It seems that kids never tire of feeding animals (at least the ones that aren't their pets) oldest is 7 and still enjoys tossing stale cheerios to the not-underfed ducks who are lucky enough to live here. Even though it's located at the intersection of two very busy streets, one can still manage to find a little peaceful-haven experience here. And did I mention that kids love to feed the ducks? Well, they do.

Ronald Reagan Sports Park, 42659 Margarita Rd.
This place is enormous. Boasting two sets of play equipment (the one for smaller kids is, mercifully, shaded from the sun), barbecues, picninc shelters, baseball diamonds, soccer fields, an amphitheater, well kept (relatively) public restrooms, a path that's perfect for stroller strolling and dog walking, a creek with fun wooden bridges for kids to cross....well, it's about as big as a 'small neighborhood park' can be. This is also the site of a bunch of community events, kids sports, and pick-up games of you-name-it. Convenient and beautiful.

My question to you: What's your favorite park in Temecula?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Name That Lizard

Quick! What's that on the screen?

What are the dogs barking at in the rosebushes?

What's leaping off the rock at the Santa Rosa Plateau?

And for God's sake, what's running through the living room?

(OK, that last photo was not taken by me and not taken in my living room. It was taken (and is copyrighted to) Gary Nafis, who runs the fun, informative website

But that last lizard--a Skilton's skink--was my first real intro to herpetological life in Temecula.

It was January 2007, and we had just moved here from cold, snowy, and lizard-free CT. So the long wiggly snake-like thing with a bright blue posterior half running through my living room caught me, shall we say, off guard. It darted across the living room and under the couch. When I went to investigate (at that point I had no idea what it was, though "snake" was the top contender), it ran back across the room toward the patio door. But when I went to open the door to let it out, it veered away from me and scuttled under the desk.

Needless to say, I was perplexed.

So just when I had decided to simply leave the door open and walk away (remember the winter of 2007? It was cold. For Temecula.), it shot past me and found freedom by running *under the closed door*. Note to self: Replace weather-stripping.

A frantic Google search led me to, and I've turned to them ever since each time I find a new reptile in the backyard. The site is well-organized by type (snake, lizard, turtle, frog, salamander) and has loads of details and photos, which makes it a great site for kids. What a lovely lizard, Johnny, go look it up on

The kids think this sort of sleuthing is high forensic drama.

They helped me identify the foot-long San Diego Alligator Lizard in the rosebushes above. The little guy on the screen (sagebrush lizard?) was much less imposing at maybe 3 inches tip-to-tail. And I'm particularly proud of the mid-air shot of the sagebrush lizard (again, a guess, they're fast) because it was taken my 7 YO daughter.

Calherps is also great for snake ID--I was able to identify the California Kingsnake in my neighbor's backyard (and then convince her not to kill it by pointing out that it's a rattlesnake predator) and the California striped racer I saw on a jog.

Check out next time you find a desert reptile in your backyard. You just may learn something.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Aglow in the Park (or The Sun Doesn't Set Until, like, 8:30)

Like I said earlier, you would be hard pressed to find enough free time in your life to take advantage of all the summertime fun the City of Temecula offers. But how do you know what's worth your time, and what's just gonna make your kids crabby? Well, wait for me to do it first, of course! The other Friday evening, we decided to load everyone up and troop (it's actually just around the corner) to the Ronald Reagan Sports park for the 2nd annual Aglow in the Park, during which they (who? I don't really know...) light up several hot air baloons and the kids run around and say "ooooooh! look! mom! can I go in one? oooooh!". That part was super awesome.

In addition, they had a live band playing beforehand- a Beach Boys cover band that was super good and oh-so fun. Because, like, apparently the sun doesn't set until 8:30 pm, something I had not thought of, but which turned out okay. This part of the event was also really fun for the kids. They loved running in the grass with the music playing, doing cartwheels, getting ketchup all over themselves, insisting that they absolutely did not need to go potty, and engaging in general merriment. Oh, and don't forget the scavenger hunt and the dance-off! Had I known this part was going to be so fun, I would have gotten there earlier.

On to the Next-Year-We're-Gonna-Skip-its:
  • The movie they show in tandem with the glowing balloons. The screen is not big enough, the sound is all distorted, and did I mention that the sun doesn't go down until, like, 8:30? That's late in my world. And who really wants to watch "Surf's Up" anyway? I mean....for realz, people.
  • Buying the "cheap" food at the event so I don't have to make dinner. If by 'cheap' you mean in quality, then yes. If you mean price, then not so much. We ended up spending $34 (I know! WTF?!?!?) on hot dogs and coke. Next year, we'll pick up a pizza on the way there like half the other experienced folk did.

In conclusion: Get there early, bring your own food, dance and play, then high-tail it out of there the second they start cranking up that movie screen.

More on the Temecula Public Library

In addition to Dwija's excellent point about the Temecula Public Library being a good source of free food coupons for the kids, it's worth noting a few of their other services:

a.) Interlibrary Loan. Can't find the book you want? Not sure you want to spend the money to buy it? Queue it up at the library. Go to the website (or a terminal in the actual library) log in with your library card number and PIN, and search. Find the book you want, and place a hold. They'll call or email you when it's in.

b.) Foreign language learning. The library just debuted a new service, Auralog. Click on the "Auralog" button in the lower right hand corner of the web page when you log in, and it will walk you through creating a (separate) login and starting an online foreign language course. They offer Dutch, German, Spanish, French, Italian, and English. At a net price of FREE, it's way cheaper than Rosetta Stone or Berlitz.

c.) Downloadable audio books. Yes, really.

d.) Children's programs. Everything from cookie decorating to kiteflying to storytime. One caveat--at least at the Pauba Road location, these programs go FAST. Be prepared to get there early and wait in line to get an event pass. Yes, really. They are good programs, but best suited to those who are both punctual and have patient children.

e.) Online Renewal. This should, at least in theory, allow you to avoid late fees.

One thing the library does not offer: a forgiving damaged book policy. If your book gets damp, wrinkled, or discolored, be prepared to pay full market value. Both Dwija and I can vouch for this. As an added insult, you will be given the "option" of donating your just-paid-for book to the Friends of the Library so that they can sell it and make a few bucks at the used book store.

Oh, so let me add

e.) The Friends used bookstore. If you're a bibliophile (and why else would you be at the library?) check it out. The hours are not consistent with the library's hours, so you may want to call ahead, but it is definitely worth a stop. The fiction, cooking, and gardening sections are particularly impressive. Kids' books are always worth a look, and do not miss perusing the "vintage" books--all sorts of lovely weird old books can be had here. Bring a checkbook or cash. Ditto if you have to pay off a book or fine at the library itself.

One final note--the library seems to have excellent utilization. Which is good, in that it would be a shame to see and $18M public facility sit unused, but expect a crowded parking lot and lots of people. The facility itself is huge, so indoors it doesn't feel crowded.

So drop by, tell them Erica & Dwija sent you, and ask them to set the air conditioning at something above "glacial"--we're Temeculans, dammit, anything under 85 degrees in summer feels positively bracing and there are resources to conserve, people.

White Lime : actually sweeter

I really don't love feeling like I'm jumping on the next-cool-thing (hah! I said 'cool'!) bandwagon, but I've got to give credit where credit is due: White Lime (self serve) Frozen Yogurt rocks my socks. My kids were given certificates for one free cup each (see previous post) for their mastery of the english language, so we went even though we probably never would have. Kudos to whomever decided to give out those coupons, because now we're hooked.

When I first walked in, I couldn't help but feel like I was in some coffee bar/convenience store in Europe, the real kind that they don't show in movies, because they had techno-style club music playing at 11 a.m. for no good reason. Uh oh. And the decor...these weird egg chairs and psuedo-futuristic circular tables. Double uh oh. But then, joy of joys, the coupons were easy to redeem, and the flavors (only, like, 10- just right to avoid confusing the young folk) were yummy, and the toppings were excellent, and the chocolate syrup was real, and the price (if we were paying, which we weren't!)....well, only $0.39 per ounce. It's brilliant really: serve yourself as much as you want of whatever you want with as many toppings as you want, then they weigh your tub-o-yumminess and you pay only $0.39 per ounce. Perfect (except, can you turn down the music a smidge?).

For your own serving of deliciousness:

White Lime Frozen Yogurt
41493 Margarita Rd #106-B
Temecula, CA 92591
(951) 719-1422

Reading + Writing = Free Stuff

This is my first summer as a.....wait, first let's establish what we're gonna call me because I'm really not a Stay At Home mom. In fact, I spend very little time at home, especially during the school year. And if I am home, I'm not really "staying" very much. So, I'm gonna call me a Run Around Town mom- RAT for short. Alright, let's start over.

This is my first summer as a RAT and my first full summer living in Temecula. It's hard to even decide what to talk about first, because there aren't enough days in a week to do all the free stuff you could do around here- so I'll start with my favorite childhood haunt: The Library.

From the kids section with the ginormous purple tandem rocking chairs, to the outdoor reading courtyard (complete with fountain!), it really is a great place to foster an early love of reading. They also have neat self checkout stations that kids, naturally, are obsessed with. I think they'd check out other people's books if I'd let them. And, um, hello! You only have to read one (?!?) book a week in order to get the free-summer-coupons-for-kid-food-that-mom-refuses-to-spend-money-on. So far, my kids have scored Chick-fil-a, White Lime Frozen Yogurt (more on that later. Yum!), Rubios, and (unfortunately) Hometown Buffet certificates. Hooray for reading! Hooray for free stuff! Hooray for cheap entertainment and kids not climbing the walls (at least not my walls)!