Monday, July 28, 2008
We fell in love with Wine Country Temecula the first time we drove through. We wanted acreage, but couldn’t find the right area—until our jaunt through the groves and vineyards.
It was 2003 and finding a home proved to be a race. Every time we wanted to make an offer, someone beat us to it. We finally purchased a house on the day that it was listed. It was so far out that there was no cable service. No high speed Internet. But, worse, no television! Satellite was out of the question for us. I knew that it was best for our family to leave the reception behind.
This was no small detail for me. Watching television was the best part of my childhood. How could I abandon it after so many (enjoyable) years?
My desire to move trumped my horror at giving up my addiction. Since I’d soon be forced to forgo my beloved set, my husband suggested that I stop cold turkey before we relocated. The thought alone sent me into uncontrollable shaking, sweating, and gnashing of teeth. The withdrawal symptoms caused a dizzying spin of flashbacks—Happy Days, Little House on the Prairie, Partridge Family, Brady Bunch. It was hard, but I successfully kicked the habit before we moved.
That doesn’t mean that it’s always easy. Sometimes, when I want to know what’s going on in the world, it would be easier to have a talking head tell me rather than read it myself. Or, when I hear about my old favorites like Survivor, American Idol, and CSI, I feel a slight longing to see them again.
However, between our daily routines, homeschooling, and running a business, we don’t have time for television. When we have an opportunity, our seven children enjoy watching DVD’s of old shows like Gunsmoke, The Waltons, Andy Griffith, and MacGyver.
Yet, when I’m in a hotel room, I grab the remote and dig right in. Unfortunately, the face of entertainment has changed so dramatically that I hardly recognize it. It’s not about diversion or information anymore. It’s about which network can be the most shocking. Unfortunately, I don’t enjoy most of what I’ve seen recently.
Choosing Wine Country over television was a decision I'll never regret.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
In 1996, we moved from the stadium area of San Diego to Sabre Springs, a north San Diego suburb near Poway. I started homeschooling that year. A friend of mine, who has never homeschooled, introduced me to a group in the Poway area. This started some of the best times in my life.
The women in this particular homeschooling group accepted me immediately, even though I didn't have a clue about anything: education, religion, politics, style, etc. They never preached to me, but just taught me by the examples that they lived on a daily basis. I was never judged, and no one ever gossiped about me when I wasn't around (I know this because I never heard a word of gossip from any of those women). Sometimes we would combine our activities with a group in Escondido. These women were of the same caliber as the ones in my area.
All of my children's friends were in this group, and no one ever felt excluded. Watching teenagers playing soccer with eight year olds--or even three-year-olds--was always entertaining. Everyone managed to have fun. Utopia it was not, but it was about as close as you can get. Happy, carefree, supportive, and united.
For the past several years, many of us have moved away. Most left for other states. It's sad, but that's how life is. You expect that what tied you together before will always be there. I'm blessed to be able to communicate and visit with our friends down south, who I still keep in close touch with today. It's not the same, but, as children grow and we age, we are all bound to change.
One of these dear friends, who relocated to another state, was in San Diego a couple of weeks ago. Unbeknownst to me, she wanted to re-create our group for one afternoon. She invited nine of her friends in that area, who met every week at a park in Poway.
After a very crazy morning, I packed up six of my kids and made the hour drive to this get together. When I arrived, it was as though nothing had changed. Yes, the kids were significantly older, and many weren't there because they were starting lives of their own. However, our circle of conversations, the children playing soccer in the field, and the dads who came by to say hello to old friends, was nostalgic to me. I felt as though I had taken a time machine back to 1998. The sense of peace and happiness at being able to recapture a few hours of bygone years was overwhelming.
Thanks to a friend, who has embraced the present, yet had a vision of the past, we all felt a bit more content that day. This makes me wonder how many opportunities I have missed in connecting with those who were once special to me, but have quietly vanished over the years. In some cases, I don't think that the Christmas card is enough. Maybe I should pick up the phone or find those e-mail addresses for a quick hello that may evolve into a rekindling of old friendships.
Maybe you should do the same.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
But what do you make of regular homeowners adding on and improving their homes now? I know the market will recover, but spending tons of money on a currently depreciating asset doesn't make sense to me unless you're sprucing it up to sell--especially if your cost basis is more than market value. It's not like the price of construction has dropped significantly out here. When we were asking for estimates for a garage conversion (that we never did), the quotes we received seemed to be just as expensive per square foot as it was two years ago.
Temecula has so many foreclosures now that it's mind boggling. Even in Whine Country. Yet, I've driven by homes with pools or other elaborate exterior landscaping being added. It's not too many, but today I saw the most ostentatious display.
On Avenida Lestonnac across the street from the only Catholic school in Temecula, a rather large construction project is taking place. The houses on this street are five years old or newer. This house was a beautiful, large Spanish-style estate, with a big separate guest house.
When I drove by a few weeks ago, it looked like they were tearing down the front portion of the home. I hadn't watched the progress before I saw it today. It appears that the homeowners are expanding the front of the house to extend about 30 feet wider and, maybe, 80-100 feet longer, almost to the guest house. Oh, and they're adding a second story to the bottom floor expansion. Here is one part of it:
Here is the other angle:
Those arches aren't all garages. The original separate guest house is behind the porta potty.
Here is the full add-on. I had to drive up another street in order to get the whole project in one shot. I'm sure that, by the time we were done, the residents had our license plate number and the cops are on the way to question us now.
Not only is it two stories of more room than I've had in all of the homes I've owned put together, but it has a catwalk on the second floor (why? I don't know--it just looks like a floating hallway) encased on both sides by glass. Wow! It almost looks like a gaudy hotel.
This project completely eclipses the portion of the original structure that's still standing. So we had to drive by it, turn right at the next street, drive up the little hill, and take a picture from the back to show you the rest of the house. It starts just beyond the white fence. You can see the construction directly behind the roof of the house from this angle. (I'm not sure, but that may be only the guest house.)
So, what parts of the economy are thriving right now? Hmmm. Maybe the owner works for an oil company. Why he took up residence in Temecula across the street from a school, I'll never know.
And, by the way, the house next door (not pictured in my shots) is for sale. Remember how we talked about why anyone would want to sell in this market (I can't find the post--perhaps it was all in my head). Well, maybe, just maybe, the neighbors are having financial problems. Is it Rich Guy's fault? Heck no. But, if I were Struggling Guy, I'd want to hightail it out of there before the Motel 6 opens next door.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
We owned two just like it, one on the same street. The floor plan is wonderful, but the lot is the size of a postage stamp--literally (Z lot--meaning that eves from this house and one next door over lap with each other). The one we bought on this street was our very first rental. We paid $187,000 in 2000, including the upgrades, and sold it in 2005 for $385,000. The other one had an even smaller lot, but we bought it for $193,000 in 2000 and sold it in 2005 for $405,000. The other one was harder to sell because it was still occupied by tenants whose lease was about to expire. Too bad we spent our profit on rotten apartments.
The one on this street rented for between $1,695 and $1,795 (private with slightly bigger lot) and the other one $100 less. It's in a tiny gated community with a pool and playground directly in the heart of town right between elementary and middle schools--both within walking distance. Taxes were a low 1.03% and the HOA was $109 at the time it sold. HOA fees pay for front yard (not much of one) maintenance.
If I could, I'd snap this up in a heartbeat. It's probably too late already, as most in the neighborhood are listed for mid to high $200's.
Check it out:
42090 Calabria DR, TEMECULA, 92591, CA
MLS #: H08090675
Year Built: 2000
House size: 1,985 sq. feet
Lot size: 3,484 sq. feet
Area: 209 - Temecula-North
Type: Single Family Residence / Detached
This great home located in the Sycamore Creek Gated Community, home shows light and bright, open floor plan, formal living room, formal dining room, kitchen with eating area, open to a large family room. All bedrooms on 2nd floor with an office area at the top of the stairs. Upstairs Laundry room, 2-car garage attached, long side driveway for extra parking. Located by the kids' park, guest parking, and community pool.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Concerned about the bank situation.
If you're reading the mainstream media or any of the blog sites that like to elicit panic, you know that any bank that has real estate loans on its books is in danger of failing. The more they have, the worse off they are. Many analysts believe that other banks will fall very soon on the heels of the IndyMac disaster.
So, as you can imagine, I've been nervous~to put it lightly. Then I proceeded to get my husband worked up. While he waited to hear back from his contacts in the banking industry, I was begging him to go to our bank (one that should have been relatively safe) and withdraw all of our money. "What do we do with it once we take it out?" he asked. To which my researched and intelligent reply was, "I don't know." I thought that maybe we could put it all in a cashier's check, but then that has the potential of being worthless. I figured that he could hire a couple of armed guards, handcuff a suitcase to his wrist, and cash it all out. Then what? Which bank is safe?
My sister, the accountant, reviewed the 2008 first quarter financial records of four banks. Three of them did not look good. One of them was mine. She thought we should take our money out. But then what?
I spoke with my brother. He said that we should never worry if our accounts are FDIC insured and under $100K (haven't had to worry about that for the last year). He said he wouldn't even go near his bank if it failed. He'd just do business as usual. I think he puts way too much faith in the government. How do you perform transactions if your money is frozen for a number of days? FDIC had almost $53,000,000,000,000 in funds. The nations banks have over $4.4 trillion insured. You do the math. Not only that. FDIC just spent $7-8 billion bailing out IndyMac so far.
Work with me on this. Let's say I'm not so lucky as to have my bank fail next. That it fails, I don't know, let's say . . . tenth. And I'm at the end of the line. "Sorry, the previous customer just withdrew our last $100,000. There's no more left in the fund."
My husband spoke to both of his close contacts in the banking industry. They each told him, independently, that we should take no action. They told him that, if the FDIC runs out of money, we have a much bigger problem on our hands than trying to access our meager funds.
Now I'm worried that I'm not worrying about the right thing.
Monday, July 14, 2008
However, I do know what's going on in our business. Things are really hopping--even with my husband's two week vacation in June. We have fulfilled many orders and my husband has had appointments with very large potential customers. We have been reordering for many clients, and we have some P.O.'s being sent almost every week.
My husband has been considering phasing out some of our local souvenir items. These would be products that we developed in the earlier days before they were sold. They are the few items that we carry in inventory. The promotional products that we sell now are specially ordered and all items are sold before they're shipped, so we don't have to store anything or pay for it up front (except for the balance that's due from the customer).
Also, we are increasing our "minimums" on many products. Some of our smaller clients only order a few of something, like shirts embroidered with their logos. This is very time consuming and the profit is small. Now these clients will be told that the minimum they must order has been increased. If they want to follow through, that's great. If not, then it won't effect our bottom line. They will make the decision for themselves and we won't have turn them down. We enjoy working with them and hope that they will continue to do business with us.
As for our structure, we hired one son to develop our new web site after work. His full-time job is a web designer--go figure, he graduated with a liberal art's degree. My other son revamped the logo to our new business name by adding a very cool blurred background that matches the name. We're trying to incorporate it on to the web site, but there are some technical difficulties that I don't understand.
Once the web site is up and running, it will be so much easier to market our company. The site will be hooked in to a promotional products association that has access to thousands of products. Clients will be able to peruse these at their leisure. Since we don't want end users to stumble onto our site, parts of it have to be password protected.
It takes my husband many hours per month to keep our books in order, and, since he must balance to the penny (it's a good thing that the task doesn't fall to me!), it's very time consuming and takes his focus away from sales. There are other bookkeeping responsibilities that he needs to pass on, also.
He just informed me that our new system will work like this:
1) He'll take all orders and be the liaison with the client--I wont communicate with them at all. He's the face of the company--and a very handsome one at that (he reads my blog, so I was obligated to throw that in--Hi, Honey!).
2) The orders will come directly to me with the artwork. I'll place them with our suppliers and follow through until they are fulfilled on or before the deadline (again, that's why I am the "Order Fulfillment Department"). If I have any questions for the client, I will submit them to my husband and he will contact the customer. On it's face, this appears to be a needless step, and we have been eliminating it so far. However, this keeps my husband in the loop and, more importantly, doesn't make the client feel like they've been "handed off" and are no longer valuable just because we've made the sale.
3) All invoices will be paid by our accountant, my sister. If a purchase order doesn't match up with the invoice, she'll notice and call us. My husband doesn't have to spend his time inputting this information or making payments. She will also be paying all the bills for the company through our bank online. It's a perfect system of checks and balances for us at this point in time.
The best news is that our sales have increased every month! We have the infrastructure now to accommodate many more customers. We want to make sure that our service is always top-notch and the clients are happy.
So increasing our client base is our number one goal.
Friday, July 11, 2008
I have had ants and spiders crawl up my arms and legs--or on my bed and in my nose. I woke up choking on a little spider once. We have bugs so small that they fit through the tiny squares in the window screens. Every month seems to bring it's own set of different species.
This is the year of the spiders. Lots and lots of spiders. Big spiders, little spiders. Most of all, this is the year of the Black Widow.
I started noticing them in the beginning of the month when my husband and oldest boys were in Rome (of course!). The webs are three dimensional, haphazard looking, and very, very sticky.
The first one I saw was suspended on a web off of a front porch slat. I was calling the dogs late at night and noticed it. I couldn't give it a hit it with my slipper because it would have just pushed it away. So, the brilliant person that I am when put on the spot, I ran inside and grabbed two fly swatters. The idea was to slam Ms. Widow between them. I'm not afraid of spiders like some people I know (there is a certain creepy factor, though), but I didn't want to risk a Black Widow flying down my shirt and biting me while I was the only adult here with the children.
As soon as one swatter touched the super sticky web, it shook the trap and scared the spider up under the porch rail. The next day, I took a stick and tried to scare it out, but I didn't find it. When my husband returned, I told him that, if he looked out the window at night, he'd see a Black Widow on the porch. Right on schedule, she came out and my husband introduced her to the bottom of his shoe.
Since then, I've spotted the very obvious web between the mailboxes, in several places in the garage, inside the backyard toy box, near the hoses, in the garden, between the trees, and just about everywhere--except inside the house. That's because every other type of spider is sharing our quarters. They're after the ants and other myriad of bugs.
I think my worst experience here with a spider was when I was entering my lav and I noticed that a large one was hanging on a web descending directly down to the toilet. If I had sat down a second earlier, it would have landed on my head! I killed it, but now I check for hanging attackers every time I visit my little
I know that one day, I just won't worry about it anymore. I don't know when, though, because I still check the toilet for snakes. You see, when I was about seven years old, the media reported extensively on a woman who found a snake in her toilet. It came up from the sewer. Police, fire, media, and helicopters were dispatched to her house. So I still look for them inside the bowl--just in case. It's been 36 years.
I wonder if I'll remember to check for spiders when I'm 79.
UPDATE #1: OK, you may not believe this, but, directly after writing the post above, I walked into my bedroom. I thought it might be nice, on such a beautiful evening, to open the window and get some cool air. When I pulled up the blinds, I found a spider suspended in front of the exterior of the glass, spinning a web. My children, who were playing outside at the time, were called over for this science class. The spider couldn't care less that we were making noise around it, as it seemed in a hurry to complete it's trap (it must have been dinner time). Very cool.
Here, see for yourselves:
UPDATE #2: Yesterday, my husband had to clean the exterior of the mailbox by wiping away the webs and spiders. Thinking it was safe, he pulled out the mail and started to scan for
Today, it was my turn to pick up the mail. I stopped the car and sent my son out (only because he loves to get the mail and not because I didn't want to stick my hand in the
When will the carnage end?
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
How difficult is it to sort, fold, and properly distribute the laundry? Evidently, in my household of nine, it's impossible.
I'm more than happy to wash several giant loads of laundry every other day. When it comes out of the dryer, it's stacked sky high on our couch. For a day and a half (longer on weekends), we're constantly shifting the clothes from one side to the other so we can make room to sit.
Before it's time to do laundry again, I have some of the boys fold. They don't fight with each other about who's doing the most work anymore. They grew tired of losing privileges. Now they debate because one likes to sort it before they fold, while the other firmly believes that it's more efficient to sort after. When they ask my opinion, my response is, "I don't care how you do it, just fold the laundry and put it away." It helps to add, "In a minute, I'm going to set the timer." That usually inspires them to miraculously compromise on the spot.
Distributing the newly folded laundry properly, however, is a concept that continues to elude them. How hard could it be to differentiate my older daughter's clothing from the baby's? One wears big pink clothes and the other small pink ones. Never fail, the baby's pile will include a shirt big enough to cover her knees.
I've been given the boys' undergarments and they get mine (which, to clarify, look nothing like theirs). My husband doesn't fit into the size 10 shirts that show up on the bed, and his supposed dress socks are so small that they'd cut off his circulation. My older son finds size 7 pants in his stack and my teenager frequently asks the boys, "Where did you put my underwear?"
But recently, I discovered the strangest mix-up ever. With wet hands, I blindly reached into the cupboard under my kitchen sink, where I keep stacks of fresh towels. Instead of a white fluffy cloth, I pulled out a pair of my teenager's underwear! Bending to peer inside, I discovered his unmentionables piled over his socks on top of my otherwise clean towels. "I found them!" I shouted, stifling a chuckle.
Look for my column next month in both the Temecula and Murrieta editions.
Monday, July 7, 2008
Today, the property was lined with "Private Auction" signs along its frontage, and one giant sign on the corner. So, of course, I rushed home and looked it up.
Here is your chance to own your very own producing vineyard. I find it interesting that, in the "Harvest Information", it reports 2004-2005 "retail value" production of over $8,600,000, but there is no expense information of how much it costs to make all that wine.
By the way, the pictures on the auction site look nothing like the real property (surprise!). I guess that's why an inspection is always wise before forking over your 10% down after the 7% commission fees are tacked on to the sale price.
Oh, and, if you'd like some property out here, you may want to compare the cost of a "producing vineyard" with that of just plain land.
Friday, July 4, 2008
It is the Soldier, not the reporter
It is the Soldier, not the poet,
It is the Soldier, not the lawyer,
It is the Soldier, who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag,
By: Father Dennis Edward O’Brien, United States Marine Corps
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
I've told you about the possible roof damage to our rental in Texas due to earlier hail storms.
After my property manager said that he would have a roofer check it out, I never heard back from him. So I e-mailed him twice more. This was the response that I finally received:
I am sorry no one got back to you regarding your roofing request. K**** is no longer with our company and he did not leave this as an open item so no one was working on it. We will be glad to send out a roofer to look at the roof on 509 and will let you know of the findings.
(Signed by the owner of the company.)
Well, I'd say it's not the best news to wake up to. Today, the owner called my husband to say that the tenant was concerned about the damage (whatever!), so they sent out a roofing contractor and the entire roof must be replaced. OK, so that's even worse than losing your PM.
The investor who bought two homes on the same street from us had e-mailed me that his PM sent out a contractor who said that both roofs need to be replaced. The estimate on his roofs is $3,875 for each one.
Hold on one second! $3,875?! Now, that's a lot of money, but roofs in California go for a bit more than that--like $30,000. How could a roof on a 3,600 sf two-story home cost less than $4K to replace? Composition shingles aren't even that cheap. Maybe they just slap some tar down and throw rocks on top of the house or something.
Tomorrow, I get the pleasant task of filing a claim with our Texas insurance company. I have to coordinate a claims adjuster to visit the property with the someone from the PM's office.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
I hear that at least once a day from my friends. I guess it is long, but I haven't really noticed. The people who I know now have never seen me with hair too far below my shoulders, so the current length must be a shock to them.
My local friends all have great hair. I can't think of one who changes their style. They look good all the time and take great pains in getting their hair cut to look exactly the same as always. I think this keeps them looking young, no? Hair's the same, never age. Isn't that the adage?
Then there's me. In all my forty-something years, I still can't decide how to wear my hair. In general, when I'm pregnant or have a new baby, I don't want my hair in the way, so I'll cut it on the short side. Now that the baby isn't as much of a baby as she was before, and, the last time I checked, I wasn't pregnant, it seems easy to just let it grow. I do trim it myself every now and then when I feel that it could use a certain shape or when it doesn't cooperate during my two minute stylings. I think it's been a while.
I don't pay attention to the wavy/curly hair that reaches down to my mid-back until I walk out on a windy day (we have plenty of those out here). That's when I notice that I no longer can see because all the stuff in the back has flipped over to the front, and it's a bit of mass confusion. A sight to behold, I'm sure.
Maybe it's time for a little snip snip, but I think I'll wait until my hair is registered as a lethal weapon in the next wind storm.