Menifee Mom: A Mother Will Always Be in Demand

By Karen Thomas

It's interesting how when kids needs help, they almost always call for mom. When our babies first learn to talk, our hearts melt when they finally learn to say "Mama." But somehow, after years of hearing our kids yell, "Mom! Can you...," or "Mom! I need....," it somehow loses that special place in our heart.

I was away from home the other night attending a meeting, so my husband put the kids to bed. He often does this, but it isn't often that I'm away at night. I had gotten home a few minutes after he had left our youngest daughter's room when I heard her yell, "Dad!"

Most nights she calls out, having one last thing that she just has to tell us before she goes to sleep. However, she always calls for me by yelling, "Mom!" Rarely does she yell for Dad.

But this time, it's Dad she wants. I sneak by her room and peek into our other daughter's room, where my husband is. "Guess what! For once she is actually calling for you! You better go see what she needs," I tell him. I am smiling and really enjoying this moment.

With this bit of freedom, I decide to lay low and keep my arrival home unknown. I go in my own room and get myself ready for bed when my husband walks in with a big smile on his face, chuckling to himself.

"Well," he says, "I went into her room to see what she wants and she said, 'Dad, when Mom gets home will you tell her to come in here?' "

Classic. I can't help but laugh along with him. Yup, it seems a mom never truly gets away.

Still, I am working on breaking the cycle of the kids always turning to me for help. It's a pretty normal thing, always wanting mom. I guess it's a habit that comes because dads are usually away at work most of the day. But when they are sitting right next to Dad and still call for Mom to help, that's when I get irritated. To be fair, it irritates my husband, too.

I suppose that someday the requests will stop coming in and I'll find myself wishing my kids still needed me. Even though there are days when I think I'll scream if I hear someone call for Mom one more time, it is nice to be needed.

It's especially nice when you do announce that you're home and find that what the child wants is a hug and a kiss goodnight. For that, I'll answer the call for "Mom" anytime.

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 other Thursday. Comments are welcome.

Man About Menifee: Valentine's Day Lessons Learned

By David Baker

Like most men this time of year, my thoughts turn to the subject of love, romance, and of course that perfect gift. As I was driving around town this week, Isaw all the signs advertising various specials and promotions for the impending holiday, Saint Valentine's Day.

It occurred to me that there are probably quite a few men out there who have not celebrated as many Valentine's Days with their wives as I have with mine. I thought I'd share some of the things I've learned over the years:

1. The old saying that "It's the thought that counts" presumes that the gift will be thoughtful. Gift cards are great for acquaintances but don't show a lot of real imagination unless that gift card is part of a larger gift.

A friend of mine received a gift card from her boyfriend recently. When I heard that, I chuckled and thought to myself, 'Oh, what a foolish young man he is.' She must've sensed what I was thinking because she quickly told me that he had given her and her mother gift cards to their favorite salon. That's when I realized the real gift was a mother-daughter beauty day, not just a trip to the salon.

2. Even if she needs it, that is no guarantee it will go over well as a gift. One of my very first gift-giving experiences with my wife before we were married is also one that she reminds me of to this day. You see, she mentioned to me that she did not have an ironing board. Being the thoughtful 19-year-old I was, when I came across a cute little travel/apartment size ironing board, guess what I did? That ended about as well as you'd expect. Yet she married me anyway.

3. If she says "Don't get me anything," don't believe her. When we were trying to save money to move into our first place, I fell for that one. I didn't even get her a card.

4. For goodness sake, get a card. If you don't get her anything else, at least get her a card. And spend more than just five minutes picking out the right one. Make sure it's something that really reminds you of her. And a handwritten message inside is always a nice touch. Remember, if you tell someone you love how you feel, then speak from the heart, they might cry.

Whether your beloved's ideal date is a walk in the park, a dinner and a movie, or dancing till dawn, in the end she just wants to spend time with you. And if you're smart and avoid some of the land mines that those who have gone before you have stepped on, you may just get through this holiday unscathed.

What are your big plans this weekend? How will you be exploring Menifee? Log in and leave a comment below.

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

Menifee Foodie: Chocolate Fondue Makes a Valentines Treat

By Malissa Meeks

Valentines Day – the day of romantic love.

This is one of my favorite celebrations. Actually, as I write my columns, I am coming to realize that all of the holidays and celebrations are my favorites. Valentines Day is such a fun holiday.

I am sure we all remember the fun we had in elementary school, making our special giant envelopes where our fellow students would place that very special Valentine that they had chosen just for us. It was so much fun to go home and read them, see if a little treat had been placed in the envelope and compare ours to our friends and siblings. The best would be if there were homemade treats inside of a Valentine.

Then I became a mom. With seven kids, Valentines Day became such a busy time. Getting all of the kids Valentines for their classmates and making sure they were all addressed correctly and had a yummy treat inside was quite an ordeal. I figure that in my tenure as a mother, I have helped address approximately 1,200 Valentines.

Through all of that confusion, my husband and I have always made Valentines Day a special day for us. In fact, when I came home tonight, there was a large basket on my dining room table, filled with chocolates, Martinellis and various other treats that had my name on it.

Some of our best Valentines Days have been the ones where we stay at home and create our own beautiful evening. A very fun and romantic dinner choice would be fondue. You can have both the main course and the dessert as fondue. It is just a fun thing to eat.

Here is a great recipe for Cheese Fondue:

1 tsp. minced garlic
1 cup dry white wine
1 tsp. lemon juice
2 cups Swiss cheese, shredded
2 cups Gruyere cheese, shredded
½ tsp. dry mustard
Pinch nutmeg

Simmer garlic, wine, and lemon juice in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add cheeses, and blend until melted. Add mustard and nutmeg.

Dip meats, assorted breads and veggies in the cheese.

Now for the good one: Chocolate Fondue!

8 oz. milk chocolate (either chips or broken into chips)
2 T. heavy cream
2 T. chunky peanut butter

Combine the chocolate and cream in a double boiler or the top bowl of your fondue set with boiling water in the bottom bowl.

Heat the chocolate in the pot over the boiling water until the chocolate is melting, stirring constantly. Once melted, add peanut butter and stir until blended.

Dip fresh strawberries, bananas, cheesecake, Rice Krispy Treats, marshmallows, pound cake, Oreos, cream puffs, etc.

So set a beautiful, romantic table, put on some good music and enjoy dinner with someone you love.

Happy Valentines Day!

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 other week. Leave comments here or email them to

Menifee Mom: 10 Reasons to Like Living in Menifee

By Karen Thomas

I was watching my "Facebook Movie" this week, along with those of many friends, and had a few realizations. Not only did it make me sentimental for the years gone by (it's amazing how a 60-second segment can make you cry!), but it made me realize how many good memories and friends we've made while living in Menifee.

I will admit, when we first moved to Menifee we weren't exactly in love with the area. While we liked the small town feel, we couldn't get over how, well, UGLY it was.

We've had a few opportunities to relocate over the years, but the downturn in the housing market made it difficult to move. As a result, we've stuck around a lot longer than we ever expected. What's really surprising to us, though, is that now we find that we really don't want to move that much after all. Menifee has become home.

The more I experience life, the more I realize that you can be happy anywhere you live. It really all depends on the attitude you bring to the experience. If it's cold and snowy, you put on your winter gear and enjoy it. (Or, you sit by the fire with some hot cocoa and a good book!)

If it is mild and sunny in the middle of winter, you head outside and appreciate the amazing weather we have been given and say, "I LOVE CALIFORNIA WINTERS!" (I did just that last weekend as I went mountain biking with some friends in a t-shirt and shorts.)

So while no place is perfect, I've come to appreciate a lot of great things about our hometown. I'd like to share my top 10 list, "Why I like Menifee."

1. Everything is close by: Whether it's a trip to the grocery store or taking the kids to school, I don't have to drive far. If I want a specialty store, I can take a quick cruise down to Temecula.

2. Parks and Recreation: I love that there are multiple playgrounds within walking distance. If you are looking for sports, there are a lot of programs available. There may not be everything, but there is certainly far more than enough to keep my family busy!

3. Small Town Events: From parades to community events in the park, you can attend these and be sure to find many familiar faces and just enough activity to make the day special.

4. Safety: While we are wise to be cautious, we do not have reason to fear taking a walk around town or our neighborhood.

5. Active People: Whenever I head out for a run, I am guaranteed to see many other people out walking, running, or riding bikes. The large group of cyclists that pass me and the moms pushing kids in strollers give me a sense of community.

6. Proximity to Mountains, Beaches, and Desert: In a short drive, you can either be hiking or skiing in the mountains, playing on the beach, or riding in the desert.

7. Mild Weather: It is still hard to get over a 70-degree Christmas day, but you really can't beat our weather. How awesome is it that we can enjoy outdoor sports in the middle of winter without bundling up? I've realized I prefer a couple hot summer months over a long winter. Besides, when it's hot, we can find a pool or head to the beach!

8. Good Food: I'm not referring to Menifee necessarily, but our general area. Of all places we've lived, we have found the best food here. Food from all parts of the world are easy to find and delicious. It isn't hard finding stores that sell specialty ingredients so we can cook a variety of food at home as well.

9. Big City Attractions: I love the amenities a big city has to offer, like museums, amusement parks, zoos, professional sports, and Broadway shows, but I don't want to live there. We are close enough to many big cities that we can take a day or half day trip to enjoy things there, and still come home to sleep in our own bed.

10. Friends: The longer you live somewhere, the deeper your roots go. We don't have family here, but we do have friends that have become like family. In a town with so many families and so many activities to enjoy, it's not hard to find people who share your interests.

With all the area has to offer, my family has never once been bored while living in Menifee! Our biggest challenge is finding the time to enjoy all the area has to offer. I still may not call Menifee beautiful, but I do call it home.

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 other Thursday. Comments are welcome.

Menifee Plugged In: There's a Sports Game for Everyone

By Neil Kristjansson

So, Super Bowl XLVIII was a bust, am I right? I love Seattle, but I love Peyton Manning. Good for the Seahawks, but you can’t help but feel bad for the Broncos. Oh well, maybe next year will be a good game. Anyway, this is my way of segueing into a discussion about sports games.

I’ve never really been much of a sports kind of guy. I mean, I like watching football, hockey and basketball, but I don’t invest enough time to draw any conclusions from it. No real favorite teams, no favorite players. None of that. But one thing that’s always kept me somewhat in touch are sports games. The only downside is my football roster hasn’t been updated since 2004.

See, sports games tend to get a bad rap from people who don’t play them because they see it as this sort of excuse for not going out and actually playing the game. It's similar to Rock Band or Guitar Hero – the lame accusations that people were sad and sorry for not playing real instruments. But who cares? They’re fun.

I’ve seen sports games used as simulations for how games might turn out, I’ve seen them played as people’s dream Super Bowls. Heck, I’ve even heard of people using them to live out their fantasy sports fantasies.

When people look at me, or people like me, they don’t really imagine a sports fan. But I can say that I do have some favorite sports games. Here’s a quick list of them:

5. Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec

Whether you think racing games are sports games or not, you have to admit that the Gran Turismo series is really fun. I don’t like NASCAR. Cars driving in circles isn’t my thing. What I do like is watching fast cars driving around a semi-complicated track. And Gran Turismo 3 introduced me to that.

I remember being 7 years old, watching my dad and his friend construct one of those simulation controller gizmos. You know, the ones where people actually use a steering wheel and gas pedal to control the game. It blew me away. Even without one, I loved driving around and so much as losing was still satisfying to me. This being my introduction to sports games, I was finally able to think something I’d never thought before. But I’ll get to that in a bit.

4. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2
I know this sounds even further away from your typical idea of what sports are, but the THPS series is embedded in just about everybody my age’s memory. I could go on for a long time about the impact these games had on my tiny mind, but I won’t. Just know: A lot of the 20-something skateboarders you see might not have cared about skating if it weren’t for this game. Great series.

3. Madden NFL 2004
I love this game so much. I still play it on occasion. Actually, last night I wanted to try and recreate the big game, hoping that maybe the Broncos would have a chance. But, considering I played the Broncos … well, that didn’t go well either. See, this game is hard. To me, anyway.

I’ve never been great at playing these kinds of games, let alone sports themselves. In the decade that I’ve had this game, I’ve probably played over 100 full games and only won one. This definitely gave me a closer-to-reality idea of how difficult playing professional football could be. Gotta give it to NFL players.

2. NHL Faceoff 2001
Oh man, this game is fun. Being from Canada, I have a natural affinity for hockey. Jokes aside, this one really got me into the NHL. Hip checks, fights, all that violent stuff that makes for a good game. Actually, now that I think about it, this is the only sport where I do have a favorite team. Go Jets! Or Senators, if you’re a younger me.

Just writing about this game is making me want to play it. Even though I’ve never played an actual game of hockey ever in my life, there’s something so great about playing this game on a nice cold day like today. The sound of the ice, the look of it, the sound of the skates scraping against it as they’re chasing the puck. Hockey. The great sport of the north. Love it.

1. NFL 2K2

My absolute favorite sports game of all time. I’m pretty sure I bought this close to when it came out because of my father. He was always a big football guy – even almost ending up in the CFL. This game is the only reason I ever played sports as a kid. Although baseball is considered the great American pastime, I believe football is far better.

The first time I popped this game in, I was so blown away by the look and feel of everything. Football was so intense, so fun. I had to have invested over 200 hours just into this game alone. Everything from creating my own football player to pitting my favorites against my rivals. Good times. Good times.

What these games gave me was something so simple, but so great. The idea that I, or anybody else, could participate in sports without being able to actually play was really something great. I mean, there are people who practice to get better, and there are people who couldn’t catch a ball to save their life. I’m the latter. But these games gave me the opportunity to catch a glimpse of how it felt to make a 20-yard pass, or drive 90 MPH left and right through a race track.

Some people love sports, and some people don’t. But I honestly think that everybody should buy and enjoy at least one sports game in their lifetime. Whether it’s football, basketball, or even billiards. To anybody who says they don’t like sports: You haven’t found the right one yet. There’s enough out there for anybody to connect with at least one. So get out there and give them a test run. Play Madden, play catch with some friends and have some fun.

Neil Kristjansson's "Menifee Plugged In" column appears here every other 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