Man About Menifee: This Turkey Dinner Took Some Patience

By David Baker

Well, another Thanksgiving is over at the Baker household and I am extremely thankful. Don't get me wrong. A holiday that encourages reflection and appreciation for all the blessings that we have is wonderful, but it can be a little stressful, too.

The day started out normally enough. I woke up, got showered and changed and started getting the house ready to receive our guests. At 10 a.m., I went to pick up our holiday dinner order from Stater Brothers. Yes, we cheated and let the grocery store handle the bulk of the preparation this year.

I brought the food back to the house and went outside to clean out the garage while Jennifer got ready to cook. My mission was clear: To retrieve and unearth as many Christmas decorations as possible. I got a pretty good start on it too, until one of the kids came out and told me there was a problem with the turkey.

You see, when the turkey comes it is pretty much cooked, but it still needs to be heated all the way through, and in order to do that, the turkey is essentially double bagged. The outer bag is just a cover and the inner bag that surrounds the turkey holds in the juices.

Jennifer had very carefully removed the outer bag but as she was doing it, all the juices spilled out. As it turned out, there was a small tear in the inner bag, but now with all the juices spilled out, we weren't sure how to proceed. We didn't want to end up with a dried-out turkey.

I called the Stater Brothers deli to see what my options were. They were courteous and invited me to bring the turkey back and exchange it for a new one. When I got back to the house, we very carefully opened the outer package again. In true Murphy's Law fashion, the inner bag on this turkey had also ruptured, but this time we anticipated i,t so no juices were lost.

I called Stater Brothers again and they suggested dumping the turkey, juice and all, into a roasting pan, covering it with tinfoil and baking according to the directions. This wouldn't have been a big deal, except we didn't have a roasting pan. So I went back out again and picked up a disposable roasting pan and some tinfoil and came back to the house.

We put our turkey in the oven, albeit an hour late, and began cooking. My in-laws came shortly thereafter and we all sat down to watch some holiday movies and enjoy some appetizers. We eventually ate the turkey, which was quite juicy and delicious, and enjoyed some pie for dessert.

Now with all my guests gone, I'm sitting here looking at this pile of Christmas decorations that will be going up in the next week. It genuinely feels like the holiday season has begun.

David Baker, our Man About Menifee, writes about his adventures in and around town every Friday in this space. You may leave comments for him here or email him at

Menifee Mom: Let's Not Rush Through Thanksgiving

By Karen Thomas

I read a comic last week depicting a family gathered around the dinner table at Thanksgiving. Immediately after expressing thanks for their blessings, the kids exclaimed, "OK, now let me tell you what I want for Christmas!"

This is an all too familiar scene at my house and I’m sure many others. One would think that having a holiday where we pause and express gratitude for all the many things we have would help lessen the "wants" at Christmastime. I have tried really hard to separate the two holidays, but it seems to get harder every year.

Part of the problem is the black Friday Christmas shopping madness so many of us experience. I have often gotten a good chunk of my shopping done the weekend after Thanksgiving, when sometimes great deals can be found. Because of that, I have caught myself asking my kids for their Christmas wishes during Thanksgiving. I always hate doing that because it does feel like I am taking away from the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday.

To make matters worse, this year Thanksgiving is just four weeks before Christmas, making moms feel an even bigger crunch to get the shopping done.

This year, retailers seem to be taking advantage of our vulnerability to sales and pressed timelines and have started the sales even earlier: During our Thanksgiving dinner! But, when there is a budget to keep and great deals to be had, it’s hard not to join in. I’ve definitely snagged some great deals online during Thanksgiving.

However, I wonder what effect this has on our kids. Does it even further erode our ability to pause and feel thankful for all that we have? Sure, some people have more than others, but for the most part we all have so much more than so many around the world. If we all could just take time to really remember and appreciate that, then perhaps even Christmas will have more meaning for our families.

So this year, I’ve really tried to avoid putting out the Christmas decorations early and push the wish lists too much. Yes, we’ve had some discussion about it (a mom has to plan!), but not as much as in the past. I’m sure I’ll still be online a bit hunting out bargains, but I refuse to hit the stores or let shopping consume me during this most important holiday.

Will it make a difference for my family? Maybe not, but at least my kids will know that Thanksgiving is important and not just a rest stop on our way to Christmas.

Karen Thomas is a stay at home mom of four daughters, has been on the PTA board at her kids' school for four years, and is a volunteer at her church, in addition to her activities as a volunteer soccer referee, a piano teacher, and a runner. Her column will appear here every Thursday. Comments are welcome.

Menifee Foodie: You Can't Beat the Food, Service at Filippi's

By Malissa Meeks

Thanksgiving is already here and Christmas is just around the corner. This is the busiest time of the year, but also my favorite time of year. I love getting together with family and friends, the decorating, cooking, shopping and all of the other things the holiday season brings.

Sometimes during this busy time, I really don’t have time to cook. On those nights, we love to go to Filippi’s Pizza Grotto. They are located at 27309 Jefferson Ave, Temecula. Their menu is very reasonably priced and the food is delicious.

Monday thru Thursday, they have a "Feast for Two", which is such a fabulous value. It easily feeds 4-5 people. The feast includes their fabulous bread, two large salads, two large slices of lasagna, two large servings of spaghetti and one pizza. The feast is for dine in only.

I have had a variety of items on their menu and they have always been delicious. Their lasagna is my favorite.

It is always a good choice to top your dinner off with a dish of Spumoni. The Spumoni at Filippi’s is top notch.

We have always had great service. The servers are very busy but seem to stay on top of things. The restaurant is clean and family friendly.

I give Filippi’s 5 spoons.

Malissa Meeks is a mother of seven who knows her way around the kitchen. By her estimate, she has prepared more than 42,000 meals over the years. She also knows what she likes in a good restaurant. Her column appears here every Tuesday. Leave comments here or email them to

Menifee Plugged In: Closing of The Vault Signals End of an Era

By Neil Kristjansson

Last week, news came out that The Vault, a music venue in Temecula, is set to close by December. Serving no alcoholic beverages but catering to audiences of all ages, it struggled to keep up a high amount of traffic to fund itself.

I’ve been there a few times, and I can honestly say that it was a great venue.

Not every band I’d seen was my type, or fit into my taste, but the venue itself made a huge difference here in our little area of Southwestern Riverside County. Local talent could come out of their bedrooms and their garages and pursue the dream they’d always wanted. Even just a group of people who want to have some fun. Either way, people could play there; that’s all that really mattered.

From local talent to big names, plenty of different groups came through. From punk to party, it was always fun.

I remember my first time being there. A friend of mine had approached me, asking if I wanted to go and see his band play at The Vault. I bought a ticket and showed up. Up until that point, the only concerts I’d ever been to had been in arenas or amphitheaters, so I had no idea what a smaller place like this would be like. But I wasn’t disappointed.

In a room that size, there’s something more intense, more personal, than what you would normally experience at a bigger venue. Whether it’s a band you like, don’t like, or don’t really care for, the motion and vibration of that moment is enough to make you say "screw it" and have a good time.

Nobody cares if you’re throwing yourself around or just standing in the back. That’s the beauty of what The Vault gave to our little spot of California.

Thankfully, as we wave goodbye to this chapter of the local music scene, another is already planned. The Vault’s promoter, Ivan McClain, is currently looking for investors to open up an even larger venue early next year. Whatever happens, I support the venture.

So what’s going to happen with The Vault in its last week? Zebrahead performed on Nov. 22, a free-to-attend show titled "The Death of the Vault" is scheduled this Friday, Nov. 29, and lastly the latest installment of Band Wars will take place this Saturday, Nov. 30.

"The Death of the Vault" will feature several different artists who supported and attended the venue over the years. This includes The Maxies, Defunked, The Infamous They, Illnoise, Indica Roots, and Expulsion. It’s the last chance any of us will have to be there, and I’m not passing it up.

Neil Kristjansson's "Menifee Plugged In" column appears each Monday. He writes about two things of interest to most of the younger generation -- music and electronic gaming. He welcomes your comments here or though email at

Man About Menifee: Rain Makes Safe Driving a Priority

By David Baker

I remember my first car. It was a teal 1993 Ford Escort four-door sedan. It had a five-speed manual transmission, four cylinders, and got around 27 or 28 miles to gallon on average.

I think a lot of people could probably tell you a lot about their first car because it represents a lot of other firsts as well. A whole wide world of possibilities seems to present itself.

I can remember the first time I picked a girl up for a date. I remember the first time I stayed out all night with my friends. I remember the first time I helped somebody move -- which would be way easier with the truck, by the way.

Of course there were more than a few firsts I would rather forget. I remember my first speeding ticket. I remember the first time I had to pay for a significant car repair. And I remember my first automobile accident.

It was around this time of year, raining like it is now, and I had my drivers license for a little over six months. I was driving past the local movie theater. I thought I saw somebody I recognized, so I turned my head just for second, and yes, it was a girl. I turned my head back forward and there was a small Toyota pickup truck stopped, presumably to make a left turn. I slammed on the brakes but due to the recent rains, my car hydroplaned and continued right into the back of the Toyota.

I remember being in a slight state of panic. I remember calling my folks and exchanging information with the other driver. Most of all, I remember feeling disappointed.

We've reached that time of year when Menifee, like most of Southern California, is experiencing its first significant rainstorm. Drivers should use my story as a learning experience.

You see when we drive, our cars secrete various oils and petroleum products that soak into the semipermeable asphalt of our roads. When the first serious rains hit, the oils float to the top of the water and that makes our roads extra slick. Already, there have been multiple serious vehicle collisions on our roads over the past couple of days.

When I took Alexandra to school on Thursday, I saw the tail end of yet another one at the corner of Newport and Murrieta roads. I wasn't able to gather all the details, but the picture spoke volumes. Two police officers were watching a car get loaded up onto a tow truck and the front end of the car was smashed. Whatever the car had hit had already pulled away and there were flares directing traffic around this car.

When you join other drivers on the road this week, leave some extra stopping distance. Make sure your windshield wipers are in proper condition, your tire treads are good, and you turn on your headlights -- not so you can see in the rain, but so others can see you better. Above all, be safe and enjoy your holiday.

David Baker, our Man About Menifee, writes about his adventures in and around town every Friday in this space. You may leave comments for him here or email him at

Menifee Mom: Sometimes, it's Best Not to See Big Picture

By Karen Thomas

Last weekend I had the opportunity to participate in the Vail Lake Ragnar Trail Relay race. These races are often summed up with the words "Run. Eat. Camp. Sleep? Repeat."

We ran gnarly hills, in the dark, with little or no sleep. Not only was it a unique and fun experience to share with friends, but it also brought moments that caused me to pause and think.

Unlike most races, the Ragnar Trail Relay had lots of opportunities to mingle with fellow racers. In a normal race you show up, line up to start, run the race, and go home. You might exchange a few words in passing with other runners, but that's about it.

In this race, we were all camping out together in a huge field. Only one person per team was out running at a time, which meant everyone else had lots of down time. Last weekend was quite chilly and damp, so a lot of people hung out at the bonfire.

As I sat by the fire, waiting my turn to run, I talked to other runners and observed the conversations around me. We compared which loops we had run, shared our experiences, and gave tips. People talked about their kids and shared humorous stories. I heard one man say, "Becoming a dad is the best thing that ever happened to me."

I was struck how so many people, from different walks of life, could come together and camp peaceably with each other and even enjoy good conversation. It is amazing how one common thread, a love of running, can unite people. Outside of the race venue we may have never spoken, but in that moment we weren't really strangers or competitors, but friends who were in this crazy adventure together.

The craziest thing about this race was running on trails in the dark. We all wore headlamps, but really those only gave you a view of what was right in front of you; it was like running with tunnel vision. Once the sun came up, I looked out at the course and couldn't believe that I had just run all those trails. It looked so different at night.

Part of me was disappointed I didn't get to see the views from the tops of the hills or have the complete picture of my course as I was running it. However, the more I've thought about it, the more I realize that maybe not seeing the whole picture sometimes is a good thing.

One of the loops, the "green loop," had one hill that required you to be part mountain goat to climb. Some people scaled it on hands and knees; most at least touched their hands down at times to keep balanced. Because I could only see what was right in front of me, it didn't seem scary or overwhelming. I just took it a few feet at a time and kept moving forward.

But now I wonder, if I had seen the grand scale of it and how high on the mountain I was, would I have been so confident as I climbed? For all I know, the trails could have been close to a cliff. However, my limited field of vision forced me to focus on the path in front of me and did not allow me to get distracted by my surroundings or overwhelmed by what was still to come.

Have you ever had a mountain you had to climb, literally or figuratively, and thought you'd never get past it? Or, have you trudged through a difficult time in life not realizing just how hard it was until after it was over and you looked back on your experience?

It can be nice to see what's ahead, but I think that sometimes it's also nice to have blinders on, so to speak, and only see the path that is right in front of you. Sometimes difficult things are best taken in small pieces. And then, when it's over, you can look back in awe at what you've accomplished.

However, I think the guy who got sprayed by a skunk might disagree: It would have been nice to see that coming.

Karen Thomas is a stay at home mom of four daughters, has been on the PTA board at her kids' school for four years, and is a volunteer at her church, in addition to her activities as a volunteer soccer referee, a piano teacher, and a runner. Her column will appear here every Thursday. Comments are welcome.

Menifee Foodie: Planning Your Turkey Dinner is the Key

By Malissa Meeks

As the main Thanksgiving cook at my house for over 30 years, I have often thought that the best part of Thanksgiving is that it’s over. I get very excited to plan our Thanksgiving Dinner, but by the time it’s served, I am totally exhausted. I actually have rarely eaten the entire meal.

Our family has gotten really large and I love to put on an impressive meal. A few years ago, I decided that I was losing sight of what this day should be about and not enjoying being with family and friends as much as I should. I would feel like hibernating for days after Thanksgiving was over. That being said, I decided that I needed to find ways to make this process simpler.

Here are a few things that I have done that really have helped make holiday meals more enjoyable for me.

1. Plan your table ahead of time. You can choose your centerpiece, dishes, serving dishes, linens, everything weeks ahead of time. Set your table three days before the big day.

2. Get out all of the serving dishes a couple of days before Thanksgiving. Put a sticky note saying what goes inside of each serving dish on the dish. Put the serving utensil in the dish also. I always have so many helpers in the kitchen. Doing this makes it so much easier to get the dinner on the table. If you have room, set up a folding table to put your serving dishes on.

3. Do as much cutting and chopping ahead of time as possible. Celery, onion, grating cheese, cutting some fruits, chopping nuts, etc. These are things that can be done in advance. Put them in Ziploc bags and mark on each bag what dish that item is to be used in.

4. I always make the day before Thanksgiving my baking day. It’s a fun time to invite my daughters to come and bake with me. I prepare all of the desserts and put together dips or any casseroles that I can on that prep day. Casseroles can be made days ahead of time. I just put them in a Ziploc bag and bake them on the big day. (Can you tell I love Ziploc bags?)

5. Assign out as many dishes as you can. Most guests really enjoy helping out by bringing a side dish. It is a fun thing to ask them to bring a favorite traditional dish from their family that your family may not be familiar with.

6. Write out a schedule for the big day. This will help you with the flow of things. I know exactly what time I need to start cooking the turkey, making the rolls, baking casseroles, etc.

7. If you have one oven, you really need to pace yourself. Actually, I do not even cook my turkey in an oven. Years ago, I invested $40 in a roaster oven. I can set that in any room and bake my turkey. This gives you more room to work with in your kitchen and frees up your oven. The turkey also seems to cook a little faster in the roaster oven.

Hopefully, these tips will make it so that the thing you are most grateful for is not that Thanksgiving is over!

Malissa Meeks is a mother of seven who knows her way around the kitchen. By her estimate, she has prepared more than 42,000 meals over the years. She also knows what she likes in a good restaurant. Her column appears here every Tuesday. Leave comments here or email them to

Menifee Plugged In: Playstation 4 Hits the Mark

By Neil Kristjansson

Last Friday, Nov. 15 marked the release of Playstation 4. The next generation of gaming has arrived, and boy is it pretty.

For eight years, the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 have controlled the market. While Nintendo’s Wii sat on the sidelines, appealing to a more general crowd, Sony and Microsoft pushed towards a more “dedicated” approach to gaming. And so, after so long, it’s time for the new.

With a different design and different technological specs, it’s better than ever. Graphically speaking, it’s nothing but pure eye candy. Oh man, oh man, I cannot emphasize that enough. People have a tendency to say that graphics aren’t a big deal when it comes to games. That gameplay is all that matters. Which, to some extent, is true. Gameplay is what makes a game a game. But gameplay can only change so much over time. It is composed of ideas and algorithms that mostly stay the same.

Graphics, on the other hand, have changed so much in just the past 10 years. We used to see heads in the shape of flat diamonds, textures that looked like colorized white noise. Now? It’s borderline real. For example, seeing images from Metal Gear Solid V makes me think, how much further can we go? I grew up with the progression of visual technology and even I’m astounded at how far it’s come.

Going back to speaking of gameplay, the Playstation 4 has a new line of titles that don’t quite blow my mind. Typically, games that come with the release of a new console – the first lineup – are never the best. However, that’s probably due to the fact that most of them happen to be sequels of the previous generation. Oh well. In time, they’ll come to prove themselves.

In time, everything will be absolutely amazing. As for now? One of the launch titles is this cute adventure called “Knack”. It’s essentially trying to emulate the Pixar quality of being cute and cartoony. But it doesn’t quite add up to being an astonishingly great title, as it’s short and typical. At least it’s cute and pretty.

As for my major, major, MAJOR gripe: The Playstation 4 is NOT backwards compatible. I HATE THAT. It’s a marketing scheme by game companies to make more money. It’s absolute crap. What backwards compatibility is, is the ability to play (for instance) a Playstation 2 game on a Playstation 4. In order for that to work, you’d have to repurchase the title on the Playstation Store and download/install it to the system.

It’s an absolute waste of money if you actually have the game already. In a perfect world, all consoles would be backwards compatible. But, in my opinion, the best approach to this would be the ability to at least read the disc and provide a free download to the system. Or a discount at least. It’s so stupid.

As for everything else? It’s great. Fantastic. Sony did a great job with the Playstation 4. It’s improved its social features tremendously. You can stream your gameplay from your console. You can use Facebook from your console. And with the new Share button right in the middle of the controller, it’s literally as easy with the click of a button.

The next generation has arrived. And it’s only going to get better from here. I can only hope you’re as excited as I am.

Neil Kristjansson's "Menifee Plugged In" column appears each Monday. He writes about two things of interest to most of the younger generation -- music and electronic gaming. He welcomes your comments here or though email at

Man About Menifee: Cub Scouts Make Food Drive a Success

By David Baker

I was walking my dogs the other day and I started contemplating the similarities and differences between the canine species and the human species. We're both pack animals hardwired to respond well within a structured family unit. We'll both protect our families if we have to. And some of us really like to get our belly rubbed.

Certainly there's a world of difference between us, though. Arguably one of the biggest differences separating humans from the animal kingdom is the concept of altruism. Of course for my kids it's not always the easiest concept to grasp, but I do my best to teach to them anyway.

Some people will tell you that altruism, or caring for those who are having a hard time caring for themselves, comes from a religious aspect. Others would say it's purely logical, a highly effective way to propagate the species. Whatever your position, most people would agree that it is a good thing.

This past weekend, the Cub Scouts of Pack 374 showed off their altruism and collected food for the Menifee Valley Community Cupboard in front of Ralph's Grocery on Antelope Road. The effort was part of a nationwide program called Scouting for Food.

Denise Boring, a den leader with the Pack, was also the Scouting for Food chairperson this year.

"We did over 1,100 pounds of food last year, so I figured we'd set the bar a little higher with a goal of 1,500 pounds," she said.

In true form, Jeremiah was out there assisting in helping on Saturday afternoon immediately following the Menifee Veterans Day 5K run.

As shoppers entered the store, the boys would hand out fliers explaining the kind of food they were looking for. Many people participated. Some people gave a few canned goods while others donated entire shopping carts full of food. The true spirit of the holiday season was in the air.

After all the food was collected and weighed, the Pack pulled in a whopping 2,228 pounds of food. Not only did the Pack double its contribution from last year, but it topped the contributions of every other pack in the district. Of course the purpose of this exercise was not to compete with anyone except to say that the boys did their best to make it better than they did last year.

It is still nice to show the boys something huge and tangible that came from their efforts. And a pat on the back doesn't hur,t either. I’m a proud father; it’s my right.

At Tuesday's scout meeting, the boys posed for a photograph with the Menifee Valley Community Cupboard banner, showing their enthusiasm for the cause. What causes do you support this time of year? Comment below and let us know.

David Baker, our Man About Menifee, writes about his adventures in and around town every Friday in this space. You may leave comments for him here or email him at

Menifee Mom: Remember the Good You See in Your Kids

By Karen Thomas

Watching someone else evaluate your kid is an interesting experience. As parents, we naturally want to defend our kid and stand up for them when someone else may be putting them down. But when your kid is trying out for a soccer team, all you can do is stand there and watch it happen.

This past week, two of my girls decided to try out for a team with AYSO. Many of their friends have chosen to join club teams, but frankly I much prefer the cost and convenience of a Menifee AYSO team! So, really, this is their one shot at joining a competitive team each year.

I've actually already had two girls on these competitive teams for the past two years, so the tryout routine isn't new to our family.

I have to say, though, that with my younger daughter joining the ranks, the experience has been different. My other girls were a bit older for their first evaluation and, having not had anyone else in the family play on the team, they felt less pressure. This younger daughter has been watching her sisters play competitive soccer for two years and she has entered this wanting to make the team very badly.

So this week it was her turn to try out.

The first day of tryouts, I could feel a bit of the tension in the air. My daughter played well from the start, but I could sense she was nervous. The fire wasn't there yet. I kept thinking, "Come on girl ... show them what you've got!" But soon, parents started asking who that short-haired blonde girl was, because, "She's good!" I proudly answered, "That's my daughter!"

It wasn't long before I saw the fire lit under her and she really brought her game. But you know they've been evaluating from the start and you wonder if it's enough.

Every time she did something good, I would look to the evaluators and wonder, "Did they see that?" You know they are looking for so many details and at so many kids. You just don't know how they see your kid in the mix of all that!

It is very hard to stand by and know that this is their shot. They may have a bad day because of the mix of kids they had to scrimmage with or because they let nerves get the best of them. (Especially when they want it so badly.) You just want to send a subliminal message to the evaluators and say, "My kid is awesome ... if only you could come watch her in a game ... or talk to her coach ... you would see what a star she is!" or "Do you know how much this girl wants this?"

However, that's just not how it works. You've got to work with the system in place and hope that your child shines at all the right moments.

I think parents feel that way a lot with their kids, whether it's in sports or school or just in life. We see all these amazing things about them, but sometimes worry if their teachers or their peers are seeing it, too. We worry if they are being judged unfairly in a situation or if others are given an unfair advantage due to different circumstances.

In the end, all we can do is the best we can, given the hand we're dealt. If the outcome isn't what we want, like we don't make the soccer team, then we dust ourselves off and keep trying. You only lose if you quit trying.

Most of all, always let your kids hear from YOU the good you see in them, because they may not hear it anywhere else.

Karen Thomas is a stay at home mom of four daughters, has been on the PTA board at her kids' school for four years, and is a volunteer at her church, in addition to her activities as a volunteer soccer referee, a piano teacher, and a runner. Her column will appear here every Thursday. Comments are welcome.

Menifee Foodie: One of the Great Things to Do With Apples

By Malissa Meeks

When I was a little girl, there was only one way that I would eat apples. My grandpa Boppo would take out his pocketknife and peel an apple for me. He would cut it into small slices and we would enjoy this crisp, red apple together.

Boppo would tell me that I was the apple of his eye. As a small child, I really did not know what he meant and I remember looking deep into his eyes, trying to find that apple. Boppo is gone and what I have are memories of those precious moments spent with my Boppo. Apples have never tasted as good as when he would slice them up for me.

I am out of state right now and the other day I drove past a picture perfect red barn selling nothing but freshly picked apples. I could not resist stopping and picking up a bag of apples. They are delicious. I have had so much fun trying new recipes as well as making some old never-fail recipes with these apples. I made a delicious apple crisp with that fabulous oatmeal crumb topping. I fell in love with my new recipe choice.

I made Salted Carmel Apple Hand Pies. This crust is so amazingly delicious. It is flaky and light. This is the kind of treat you and your family will not be able to get enough of.

Salted Caramel Apple Hand Pies


2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
½ cup cold sour cream

2 cups small diced (peeled) apples
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup sugar
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
8 caramels rough chopped

Crust: Mix together all dry ingredients. Cut in butter until the mixture is crumbly. Add sour cream. Form a ball with the dough. I had to add a few drops of cold water to give the mixture more moisture. Handle crust as little as possible. The more your handle pie crust, the tougher the crust gets.

Filling: Put diced apples into bowl. Don’t cut them too small; you want to bite into them and not have mush. Mix lemon juice on apples. Add the remaining ingredients and toss until all apples are covered with the spices.

Roll out crust and cut into circles. I like them a little on the large side but still small enough to hold in your hand. You will need to cut 2 circles for each pie. I was able to get 12 pies total out of my crust.

Put bottom circles on baking pan. Spoon apple mixture on top, leaving enough room to put the top crust on and seal. Make sure each pie gets some caramels.

Put crust on top. Seal the edges by going around each pie with your fork prongs.

Make a slit in the top of each pie.

Make an egg wash by mixing together 1 beaten egg and 1 tablespoon water. Brush this on top of each pie.

Sprinkle the top of each pie with large flake sea salt. Don’t go overboard on this. If you don’t like the sea salt, you could use sugar.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Bake until golden brown.

This recipe is so tasty. I guarantee your family will love these little gems.


Malissa Meeks is a mother of seven who knows her way around the kitchen. By her estimate, she has prepared more than 42,000 meals over the years. She also knows what she likes in a good restaurant. Her column appears here every Tuesday. Leave comments here or email them to

Menifee Plugged In: Nine Inch Nails Rocks Staples Center

By Neil Kristjansson

Nine Inch Nails made their way to southern California Friday night, headlining a show at the Staples Center for their tour, Tension 2013.

The night started with post-rock band Explosions in the Sky (most famously known for their song "Your Hand In Mine", which they happened to play, and it was great). It blew me away; I’d never seen an opening act that put that much passion into, well, opening for another band.

Unfortunately, because of their role in the show, people felt it was OK to sit around, eating their food and drinking their beers, discussing the most trivial nonsense anybody could have heard. I mean, this guy behind me was yelling, over the music, to his friend about the long line at Hooters and how he didn’t want to wait around to get in.

Oh, it drove me nuts. Luckily, they quieted down toward the end of Explosions in the Sky’s set and I could finally enjoy the ambient sounds.

Afterwards, the lights re-dimmed and the faint bubbling of a poppy-sounding synthesizer stirred the crowd. Everyone was going wild. No more than 10 seconds later, the show had begun.

Nine Inch Nails began with the second single off their new record Hesitation Marks, “Copy of A”. The whole room was dancing, the lights were flashing, and the quality of everything was amazing. Besides being just a tour of concert after concert, Nine Inch Nails has decided to create quite the spectacle by turning the typical show into an absolutely stunning light display uniquely from song to song.

I’ve been to quite a few concerts and I can honestly say this was the best one I’d been to yet.
I’d gone in without much anticipation for hearing the songs I was hoping for. I understood that the Tension 2013 tour was more about promoting the new album with a dash of older hits. From my research, my favorite tracks off the new record had made themselves scarce, only appearing from time to time on separate occasions. But I was in for quite a treat.

Halfway into the set, I heard a familiar bass and chiming noise, indicating the intro to the track “Various Methods of Escape”. I lost it. I couldn’t believe my ears, but I had to. It was really happening. Just a few tracks down the list, I caught a drone I’d heard a million times before. “In Two” was about to begin, and by now I was about as excited as a kid in a candy store.

And even then, just in between those two songs were at least three more that I wasn’t expecting to catch. But I did. Up until this point, everything was absolutely perfect. Nothing was wrong, and nothing could get better than it already as. But I was wrong. So, so, so wrong.

It wasn’t until I heard my favorite song of all time that I knew this was a special night. You know, one of those nights where the right song comes on at the right time. When something’s going on and there’s just that one track that tugs at your heart string and lets you come back to feeling OK. Yeah, it was that kind of moment.

My favorite song, “A Warm Place”, came seemingly out of nowhere, like the calm of a storm. So peaceful, so serene, so happy, yet so melancholy. The moment had transcended beyond just the band I was listening to performing a song I liked. It was a break. A break from the intensity of the lights before it, the sounds before it, and even as much as the events of my week before it.

The importance of the song had gone beyond the usual listen, seeing as I was standing before the man who’d created it, hearing it being performed right in front of me. It was special.

Following my three-minute, teary-eyed “moment”, the band continued with the hits. The big names, you know, “Wish”, “The Hand That Feeds”, “Head Like a Hole”. The songs that would get the lazy, not-so-big fans back up and dancing. The only way to describe the room was just a giant, collective smile that wanted to scream along to the words that it knew. For songs that are so aligned with angst and anger, everybody was really happy to hear it.

And suddenly, a screen appeared with the band’s logo “NIN”. It appeared as if they’d walked off stage, but we all knew it wasn’t true. The encore was yet to come.

They returned to play a final six songs. Everybody was really surprised to hear the return of two lesser-known songs: "Even Deeper" off The Fragile and “In This Twilight” off Year Zero. The very last song, the traditional song for all Nine Inch Nails shows, the one song that a room full of heavy to casual fans would know, and would sing, began. The haunting sound of an acoustic guitar, and the even more-so haunting lines “I hurt myself today”, resonated through the room as the crowd chanted alongside Trent Reznor to his, arguably, most famous song, “Hurt”.

I can’t describe the emotions going through the room. The show was nearly two hours long, and it had come down to this moment. It was like catching the final episode to a television show you’d been following for a long time. You didn’t want it to end, but there was this level of acceptance that told you it had to.

The room was filled with this sense of sadness emanating from thousands of fans all singing the same words that seemed to bounce back and forth from person to person. You look to your left, somebody’s on the verge of tears; to your right, the same thing. It only intensified the emotions I’d felt, and everybody else around me.

“If I could start again, a million miles away, I would keep myself, I would find a way”. And boom. Dissonance, noise, a fading wail of a guitar, and a wave goodbye from the band. The show was over.

Frisson. A word used to describe that chill of excitement that runs down your spine when you listen to music. That’s all I can really say to describe it. All of it. I laughed, I cried, I danced – I did it all here. Hopefully, somewhere down the line, they will tour again. Or maybe another band will come along and surpass it. Who knows?

I can only say that I have never been so blown away by a group of musicians than I was Friday night.

Neil Kristjansson's "Menifee Plugged In" column appears each Monday. He writes about two things of interest to most of the younger generation -- music and electronic gaming. He welcomes your comments here or though email at

Man About Menifee: Hectic Week Can End in Fun Weekend

By David Baker

It's interesting how some weeks can be long, drawn-out and uneventful while others can be full of so much activity that I'm not really sure which end is up.

Tuesday night, my daughter stayed late for tutoring. My wife had a flat tire and was late picking her up, so she decided to walk home by herself without telling anybody. My wife made the trip to and from school without seeing her, went back to school to search, was moments away from calling the police before my daughter called her from the house to say she had arrived home. Needless to say, we had a long conversation about telling people where you're going to be.

Wednesday evening, my daughter tripped in her room and broke her pinky toe to the point where the toe was pointing outward at a 45 degree angle. She'll do anything to get out of cleaning her room. My wife spent eight hours with her at the emergency room just for them to x-ray it and tell her yes, it's indeed broken. Tape it up and give her some Ibuprofen.

This weekend, Jeremiah and the Cub Scouts of Pack 374 will also be very busy. First thing in the morning Saturday, the boys will be helping pass out water and snacks to the runners at the Menifee Veterans Day 5K run. We've done this every year for the last three years and the boys always enjoy themselves.

This year we're also going to do something new around town. We will be selling poppies for the local VFW post. I've seen these types of poppy sales before but never really stopped to ask what they represent. I always thought it was a simple fundraiser for the VFW.

What I didn't realize is that the poppies were actually made at least in part by unemployed veterans and the VFW actually paid these veterans living in a veterans home a certain amount per poppy made in order to give them some independent spending money.

Then on Saturday and Sunday, the boys will be "Scouting for Food". This is an annual food drive done nationwide by the Boy Scouts of America to benefit a designated local food bank or charity. In this case, the food will be donated to the Menifee Valley Food Cupboard. So if you're in the area of Ralph's grocery store on Antelope and Newport Road Saturday or Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and you are feeling the spirit of the season, please stop by and donate some food to the cause. Last year we were able to donate 1,100 pounds, which was more than any other unit in the entire district.

On Monday at the Murrieta Veterans Day parade, the Girl Scouts of Troop 40550 will be marching. Alexandra, of course will probably have to sit out if she can't find a way to do it in the wheelchair, but this will be the end of a fairly busy Veterans Day weekend.

What are your plans this weekend? Post below and share.

David Baker, our Man About Menifee, writes about his adventures in and around town every Friday in this space. You may leave comments for him here or email him at

Menifee Mom: What Works Best When Disciplining Teenagers?

By Karen Thomas

Don't you wish that disciplining a teenager was as easy as putting them in time-out? I'm sure all parents of teens have longed to return to the days when the biggest challenge was figuring out how to get the kid to actually stay in time-out until the punishment was up!

Back then, my problem was usually that the phone would ring or another kid would demand my attention long enough that I'd discover that I had forgotten all about the time-out and the child had already moved on.

But now, my challenge is figuring out what kind of discipline will not only feel like enough of a punishment to make them not want to repeat the wrong, but that will also provide some kind of learning experience along the way.

Natural consequences are always the best. Like when they stay up too late and are tired the next day, or when things get lost in a messy room.

But how do you provide consequences for less tangible things, like disrespect?

We had just a situation last week. One child was certain that everyone else in the family was to blame for her problems, and was quite angry that we didn't see it that way too. It was classic failure to "own up" to her own mistakes and take responsibility for her actions.

We are constantly telling our kids that no one "makes" us act a certain way or respond in a certain way. We choose our behavior and we are held accountable for those choices, even if someone else might have prompted them. Our choices, ultimately, are ours alone.

So anyway, this child was getting a bit more vocal than we would like and nothing we said would put an end to it. What started out as a sibling issue turned into an argument between parent and child. So finally, my husband said, "OK then, because of the disrespectful way you have spoken to us, you will not be allowed to wear make-up tomorrow."

You would think that we had just threatened to drop a grenade in her bedroom. The entire attitude from this child changed like night to day. Suddenly she was tearful and apologetic and ready to talk about what was REALLY bothering her. (Considering that all she wears is mascara, I was shocked!)

Did it solve all problems instantly? No, but at least it did cause something positive to come out of the situation that could have just ended in an argument.

Discipline, I think, often isn't so much about the punishment as it is about sending the message that we are serious. It gets the child's attention and causes them to pause and think about their choices. In this case, it led to a long discussion between my husband and my daughter.

Though it took a lot longer to get to that point than a simple time-out used to take, I think they both felt they were heard. For me, that's a win-win. Although, since she still didn't get to wear make-up the next day, I'm sure she didn't see it that way. So I guess this time at least, we found an effective punishment after all!

Karen Thomas is a stay at home mom of four daughters, has been on the PTA board at her kids' school for four years, and is a volunteer at her church, in addition to her activities as a volunteer soccer referee, a piano teacher, and a runner. Her column will appear here every Thursday. Comments are welcome.

Observations, Tips and Questions About Life: Nov. 6

Featuring Bill Rhoads

Each week, Sun City resident Bill Rhoads shares with us some of his "tips about life." Bill keeps a written record of "tips" that come to mind and has a strong motivation to share them with others. His purpose in doing so is to stimulate his own thinking and to stir some ideas into the pot of life. He believes in God and the Golden Rule.

You know what really ticks me off?…

Try to keep an open, not a blank, mind.

You gotta at least put your feet on the path
Before God can move them.

If you have thoughts and/or responses to Bill's tips, leave a comment here or send emails with your feedback to

Menifee Foodie: Chinese Bistro Gets Mixed Reviews

By Malissa Meeks

I have a grandson who loves trains. We have had many train experiences together and they have been so much fun. We have taken the Metrolink to Union Station at Christmas and looked at the beautiful decorations at the train station. That little field trip took us across the street to Olivera Street for some fun shopping and a great lunch.

We have taken the Surfliner up to Paso Robles. For that trip, we got our own private train car and ate lunch in the dining car. That was so much fun for both of us. We have ridden the train at the park in Poway, and had many other train adventures.

When we moved out to this area, I saw a train that was a Chinese Restaurant. It's the Chinese Bistro, located at 28490 Highway 74 in the Romoland community of Menifee. I was so excited as I saw another possible train adventure for myself and R.J.

Recently, I decided to give this restaurant a try.

Eating at a restaurant is about the food, but also the surroundings. The outside of the train is well kept and really cute. The inside needs updating. I am sure it was really pretty when it opened 20 years ago, but they really need to update the inside.

The menu is quite large. They offer just about anything you would want to see at an Americanized Chinese restaurant.

We ordered a chicken, shrimp, vegetable dinner with fried rice.

The food was very eye appealing. The broccoli, squash and other vegetables were cooked to perfection. The color was brilliant and they had just the right amount of crunch.

The fried rice was very disappointing, in fact, I felt it was a little on the stale side. The fried rice did not have any vegetables mixed in with the rice. The flavor was not good at all.

The chicken and shrimp were very bland. I did not enjoy this part of the meal.

I feel like this restaurant has so much potential with the train car theme, but I was really not impressed with much once I walked through the front door.

Bottom line, I will not be going "chew chew" on this choo choo again.

I give this restaurant 2 spoons.

Malissa Meeks is a mother of seven who knows her way around the kitchen. By her estimate, she has prepared more than 42,000 meals over the years. She also knows what she likes in a good restaurant. Her column appears here every Tuesday. Leave comments here or email them to

Menifee Plugged In: Blockland, 'Game Where You Build Stuff'

By Neil Kristjansson

As a kid, LEGOs were the closest thing one could use to build cities, landscapes, or tiny spaceships. They were the sort of thing to find on the bookshelf of a childhood memory. Albeit, they were more than likely varying in color, never being able to make the whole ship green or the whole house blue. Pieces were hard to get and it was left to the imagination, really.

Fast forward about a decade and the Internet is the biggest thing in the world. From physical to digital, your memories always find a way of manifesting themselves through some sort of image or video. Some kind of spark to trigger a train of reminiscing.

Back in 2005, I had a much similar experience. One night, my friend had mentioned to me that he’d heard of a LEGO-like game from a television show and that I should check it out. So, with the Internet being the Internet, I went on to discover a game that would ultimately change my life.

It turns out this game was called Blockland. Blockland: That game where you build stuff. Simple, right? The concept is simple. Place a brick, and expand. It was just like my early childhood all over again, but now I had the creativity of a few years past and the freedom of a digital recreation of LEGOs. It was great. My houses were the right colors, I could paint the roof a separate color than the walls below it. Anything I wanted to build, I could.

Eventually I discovered a modification (mod) for it. One of the major components of Blockland (early and present) is online play. It’s entirely multiplayer, unless you want to play single player. Anyway, so I find out this mod is filled with so many more players than the version I was on. Return To Blockland, they called it; RTB.

RTB was far more expansive than what I’d been used to. New additions I’d never seen, new blocks I’d never used before even in real life. Building was more complex, but also easier in a way. From stacking bricks to being able to morph and bend them to what I wanted, my previous freedoms had become limitations I wasn’t able to see.

Things were great. It was even better than before. And on top of all that, the community was bustling. Players were on at all hours of the day, all over the world. It was an online forum dedicated to everything I was interested in at the time. Essentially, Blockland/RTB had become the only game I would play.

Fast forward to 2007, and the news that Blockland was being developed into a retail game, available for $20, and it would be something completely new. A new design, new building, new everything. Reactions were mixed for a while, but ultimately this new incarnation of "that game where you build stuff" was a resounding success.

Blockland had gone from a simple copy of LEGO, in both concept and design, to something of its own. Of course, to keep the integrity of what it used to be, it kept the same basic structure and phrase. It was still like LEGO. The game’s idea was to build and build to your heart’s content. But it needed originality, so included were different game modes. Different items, weapons (for said game modes), and even vehicles.

Furthermore, the "wrench" tool had become the main source of altering bricks. Designing, say, a street lamp was easier than building the actual thing itself. With the wrench, for instance, you can whack a brick and set it to be a source light, emitting different colors, smoke trails, etc. Little details like that made buildings even more interesting. Effects really would make a difference.

The community would grow even more. Over 50,000 members, and it’s still growing. The forums that I used to know have grown even more and become mostly dedicated to creating mods, helping newer players, and showing off completed builds. And don’t even get me started on the modding community. Tons, and tons, and tons of add-ons are available for download through the re-imagined RTB mod. RTB is now the almost-necessary mod manager for Blockland, recommended by almost anybody playing. It’s handy and dandy and chock-full of everything from pointless soundbytes to game-changing bricks. Expansive is the best word to describe it.

So what this all boils down to is: If you like LEGOs, if you ever played with LEGOs, you’ll love Blockland. Take any other games you enjoy, from Call of Duty to Read Dead Redemption, Blockland has some way to emulate it. Blockland is one of the best games I’ve ever played and invested time into and anybody who’s interested should definitely check it out. A demo version is available on the website, and Blockland itself is only a cheap $20. If I rated on a scale, this one would be high. Go on and check it out.

Neil Kristjansson's "Menifee Plugged In" column appears each Monday. He writes about two things of interest to most of the younger generation -- music and electronic gaming. He welcomes your comments here or though email at

Man About Menifee: What Are the Guidelines for Halloween?

By David Baker

Last night was Joshuah's second Halloween. We've been working with him for about the last month, teaching him to say something which vaguely resembles "trick-or-treat". Finally last night, we got to put him to the test and he rose to the occasion.

He went around our cul-de-sac, down the street, and up the block before he got tired out. He filled his little McDonald's bucket and came home. When we got home, he helped me pass out candy to the trick-or-treaters. Throughout the night, I was surprised how many people fail to grasp the simple concept of Halloween etiquette.

The rules for Halloween can be broken up into two simple groups. The first is rules for people who want or do not want to receive trick-or-treaters. The second group is for trick-or-treaters.

If you expect for me to bring my children to your door on Halloween, you must do two things. First, your house must have a well-lit walkway and the porch light must be on. Conversely, if you do not expect me to ring your bell on Halloween night, you should turn off the lights and power down your decorations.

It never ceases to amaze me how many people have their houses darkened and very few decorations and wonder the next day why they got almost no trick-or-treaters. It's almost as amazing as people who have a very festively decorated house and bright lights, scowling at me, saying, "We have no candy, go away" and wondering why I rang their bell. If you are out of candy, simply turn out your porch light so people know.

The burden of Halloween doesn't just fall to the homeowners, however. Some of the responsibility must fall to the trick-or-treaters themselves.

If you come to my door, you should be wearing a costume. I will give more candy to children who have a more creative, cuter, or just all-around more amusing costume. I know for a fact that I'm not alone in this. Likewise, if you are old enough to shave, I expect to see some real effort on the costume. If you show up to my door wearing a T-shirt and jeans, you can reasonably expect me to heckle you, at least a little bit. In the true spirit of the season, I will give you candy, but it will not be the same amount and type of candy that I gave to that pretty little princess and that adorable little Spiderman.

I enjoy handing out candy at Halloween. For me, it's about as fun as it is for the kids who are doing the trick-or-treating. I like to see the different costumes. I like to see the creativity, so do not be surprised if I choose to comment on your costume or make observations. This is part of the fun of Halloween and in return I will give you candy. It seems like a pretty fair deal to me.

Next year, you can bet that I will be dressed up in a costume, taking my kids trick-or-treating, laughing and having fun, and passing out candy to all the ghosts, goblins, princesses and super heroes. I will still give the most candy to the best costumes. And I will be probably having as much fun as the children. After all, Halloween is a holiday full of magic that allows us all to feel like little kids.

David Baker, our Man About Menifee, writes about his adventures in and around town every Friday in this space. You may leave comments for him here or email him at