Tuesday, August 26, 2008

While We're At It...

Hello if you've linked here from a housing-type blog (Housing-Kaboom, etc.)!

Regular readers and friends, I hope you can stand one more post about the old Cliffrose house. We took a closer look at the photos in the new listing, and we noticed a few more things, so I figured we would write one post to tie everything together.

Those of you who know us probably know the story: we were renting this house in Sycamore Creek, which was a nice neighborhood when we moved in, but had turned into a desolate ghost-town by the time we left in 2008, due to the insane number of foreclosures and abandoned houses. We had been after our landlords since the day we moved in about repairs, but they never did anything. Later, we found out that they had stopped paying their mortgage and were skimming our rent payments. We then stopped paying them, and ended up dragging each other into court. We eventually settled with them for about six months of free rent. We got some great advice on how to handle the situation from a lawyer named Ken Carlson at CalTenantLaw.com.

Anyway, after we moved out, we found the "for sale" listing for the house and noticed that it said the house needed air conditioning, kitchen appliances, and cosmetic repair. We thought that was weird, since it certainly had all of that when we left. Just to see, I drove by the house a couple of weeks ago, and saw that the two air conditioning compressors in the backyard had been removed! So, obviously, our previous landlords were trying to get anything of value out of the house before the bank took it back.

Well, as of a couple of days ago, the house has gone back to the bank and is listed as an REO. The new photos are incredible! THEY TOOK EVERYTHING!! I have some photos to show you what I mean:

The most obvious example is the den, or whatever you would call the area off the kitchen. Here it is a few days after we moved in:

... and here it is now:

Notice anything (other than the furniture) gone? Drapes? Ceiling fan?? Plantation shutters??? They stripped it good!

A similar theme goes throughout the other rooms. There are actually very few meaningful pictures in the listing -- any prospective buyers are going to get a shock! The 'Great Room' had the same kind of curtains and shutters, but it's gone now. This is what it looked like when we moved in (I don't have a picture from this angle now, but it's obvious looking at the rest that it's all gone):

And, the kitchen actually had appliances in it, unlike now (old pic):

Of course, while we were there, we were fighting with the landlord's over the condition of the place, which they had promised to fix in 2006 -- things like broken wood flooring, floors that don't meet walls, shattered door jambs, and stuff like this, which is undoubtedly still there:

I guess the bottom line here is that these home-debtors really raped this house. Not that I have too much sympathy for banks right now, but if they have loaned money based on holding security, and before they take the security the debtor ruins, or takes, a good portion of the value of it for themselves, how is that not grand theft? It's more than $400 of theft, right? It seems like that would be illegal...

Well, it's their karma. They can deal with their own lives. We have moved on, and made ourselves happy, but it was just incredible to see this pop-up last night on HousingKaboom!

Another Cliffrose Update -- This is Too Good!

Ok, me again. I just saw the new listing for the Cliffrose dump house. Apparently, the house went REO in the last day or two. The bank has it listed for $20k more than our landlords did. And... (drum roll)... THEY TOOK EVERYTHING! Check out the listing and pictures on Redfin! They took the curtains, the plantation shutters, the ceiling fans, and probably more that I can't see, in ADDITION to the air conditioning compressors, etc. I wonder if the house still has plumbing of any kind? I hear pipes go for a lot at the recycling yards.

Scum. Trash. There is no other word for the landlords of that property. Well, maybe one other: Thieves. They must have plundered that place for $30,000 - $50,000 worth of fixtures. Incredible. I'm sure the bank is very pleased with what they got back.

Monday, August 25, 2008

We're Famous!!

Well, not us really, but the hell-house that we were renting for the couple of years is profiled today on Housing-Kaboom.com! Click here to see it.

It looks like it finally went back to the bank. This explains A LOT about why they tried to run us out of the house so fast. Since we left, the home-debtors (allegedly) dug out and sold the air conditioners, kitchen appliances, and just about everything of value, whether or not it was nailed down! They knew the bank was getting ready to take it, and wanted us out so they could loot the place! Slimeballs. Absolute slimeballs. Well, I certainly hope they are happy -- I know we are happy to be out of there!!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Friday Night at the Museum

Last night we went to the Children's Imagination Workshop in Old Town. Every Friday night they have a different special event and this one was called "Hot Starry Night." This particular event was very popular and they did a spectacular job putting the whole thing together.

The first thing we did when we got there was a scavenger hunt. There was a list of things to find and questions to answer all over the museum about astronomy. We found hidden treasures in the black-lit maze, a solar system on the ceiling, constellations in the dining room, an experimental Black Hole in the kitchen, and "Beaker" (their little mascot) dressed in a space suit and floating in the "Lonnng Hallway."

Then, we went into the dining room to work on crafts. Kids and adults were putting together a circular star chart, colored planets, and played with electricity (some people got a little static shock - but that was on purpose and they wanted to).

After that we went into the music room. An astronomer put on a presentation about what we'll be able to see in the night sky and explained what and where all the different celestial bodies are.

When the museum closed at 7:30, we went up to the antique store on Fourth Street. This time, Ashley got involved in a hula hooping contest! She's getting better and better at it. This time she had the hula hoop going around her neck and then she tried getting two hula hoops going at the same time around her body. She actually had them going for a few seconds! Then, we danced together, she jumped around in a jumper with a bunch of other kids, and then "Dynamite Dave" made butterfly wings for her with balloons.

When it got dark, we went out to the back parking lot behind the museum. The astronomers had set up about a half dozen telescopes pointed at all different objects for us to experience. I took some pictures with my cell phone looking through the telescopes. Above is a picture of Jupiter with one of its bright moons. I actually saw four moons, but I couldn't get a picture of all of them. There's also a decent picture of our moon. If you look at the top of it, you can see its rays. Then, there's a picture of a binary star system where they are orbiting around each other. These looked better through the telescope than the picture above. What that picture shows is two orange dots. In reality, they were quite colorful, the top one is blue and the bottom one is yellow.

That was such an amazing night! We got to experience the wonders of heaven and earth together in one beautiful night in Old Town. We're looking forward to going there next Friday night to add more wonderful memories to our treasured collection.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Workout Journal - Week 6

Six weeks ago, I learned that we have a gym membership as one of the benefits of living at the Extended Stay. I decided then that I have an opportunity to get my body and my sanity back, and that I needed to do it now. I've been intimidated by "perfect" barbie dolls at the gym for way too long, so I finally got off my butt and took on a task that I both dreaded and anticipated at the same time. I did not want to go from an unhealthy person to a skinny person. I wanted, and needed, to go from an unfit person to a fit person instead, and there's a difference. "Skinny" is an image, "fit" is a state of well-being. To achieve the image of "skinny" would be self-defeating, and I don't need any more excuses for that! Becoming "fit" is the opposite, it is self-enhancing. I don't care that I'm not, nor can I ever be, a size 0. Who is? I do know that I can increase my cardiovascular endurance and muscle strength, and decrease my body fat. Heck, everyone can do that! Along with that, I want to achieve a fit body without going on a diet. Weight loss is not a product of deprived fad diets (which only makes your body fatter and weaker by lowering your metabolism), but a result of choosing foods (using plain-old common sense) and increasing movement. Physical fitness isn't about depriving yourself of food and dancing around in neon leotards like a Barbie with her life handed to her on a silver platter. That's just not reality. Being fit means having cardiovascular health, muscular strength and a healthy body fat percentage. That's honesty, not the BS that the media force feeds us everyday. I'm not interested in what the people who earn a commission in this industry have to say. I do want, however, to change the way that I look and feel because I have to live in my own skin everyday and being unfit is not something I want anymore. I know that I have a long way to go, but that's okay. This is a process that is literally one step at a time.

Ashley is Growing Up!

I just had to take a picture of Ashley this morning. She's been going through a growth spurt lately and, for some reason, I noticed this morning that she started to look different. Her face is changing, her personality is evolving more quickly now, and she's taking a bigger leap forward to being something more than a just a little girl. She's been surprising me lately, too, with how well she carries herself, her ever- increasing sense of humor, her viewpoint and perception of the world, her ability to see the value in almost every situation - good, bad, fun, boring, stress, happiness - her motivation to succeed and being a good sport whether she accomplishes her goals or not is inspiring, her understanding of the hard work that it takes to go the distance to make goals and dreams become a reality, her sincere appreciation for life and her gratitude that mommy & daddy decided to have a baby and that she was the one person that was born to us (she actually tells us this more often
than anyone would believe)! She's proud of her accomplishments, she is confident, and she's getting to be pretty outgoing. She loves to help people and encourages them to go for their dreams and to never give up. She wears her heart on her shirtsleeve and she's hypersensitive to other people's feelings, even when they try to hide them. She is like this angel who has come into this world to make everyone's life a little better. On August 19, she will have hit another milestone. She will be six years old. Our "little" girl is growing up and evolving everyday into a truly beautiful person.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Friday Night at the Children's Museum

This Friday we went to an event at the Children's Imagination Museum in Old Town for an event called "Pennypickles Roman Holiday." Here's the description: "The Professor loved his recent visit to Ancient Rome and so will you! Find out about inventions of the Roman Empire, like aqueducts. Swe how a volcano destroyed Pompeii, and make some cool centurion masks and shields." This description made the event sound like fun, but when we got there, we had more fun and did more activities than what we expected. In one of the rooms, there were stations set up for making various crafts and projects. In the music room, they had a station set up so you could try all the different foods that ancient Romans used to eat, a hopscotch with Roman numerals (the Romans invented hopscotch not as a game, but to train soldiers), a station to teach kids how to tell time and do math using Roman numerals, and much, much more. The people who set all this up at the museum must have spent a lot of time s
etting this up!

After that, we went back to the hotel to watch the Opening Ceremonies for the Bejing Olympics. It was amazing! Additionally, Derek found some footage today on the internet where it shows that NBC edited out an hour of the Opening Ceremonies, so we didn't get to see a big chunk of it here in the States. I don't the place he got it exactly, but it's out there.

Next Friday we are going back to the Children's Museum again. They are doing an event called "Hot Starry Nights." Here's the description: "The night sky will be the star during this exploration of constellations - there's a New Moon on this evening to add to the fun." They are also blocking off a couple of parking lots when it gets dark because an astronomer is going to be setting up two telescopes to look at constellations and planets - and he'll stay there as late as we want! Isn't that cool?

These Friday night events only cost $5.00 per person. It's a great deal! We are really fortunate to be living here and to be a part of this. I feel like, finally, we're having some fun in our lives!

Friday, August 08, 2008

Get it Together, People!!

Since I wrote the post below, I've been poking around teh Interweb and it seems that a lot of people think that the woman in BellaDonna is actually Stevie Nicks. She pops up at other cover bands performances and people start freaking out (OMG! It's her! IT'S HER!!1!11) Apparently, she doesn't discourage this, and it took a disabled veteran's request to talk to her to get her to admit that she isn't the real Stevie Nicks.

People: control yourselves. Stevie Nicks is not hanging around the Inland Empire playing at shopping malls. She is a mega-squillionaire, living on another planet, doing enough blow to fill a dumptruck. You can see her on TV, not at a Wal-Mart opening.

(I can't believe it -- someone is WRONG about something on the Internet! How can this be?!?)

Thursday, August 07, 2008


Ok -- this is my first post for a while. In the past, if my name was attached to a post it would probably contain a screed about politics or how anyone who still calls themselves a Republican should be tarred and feathered and run out of polite society. But, I have decided to lighten up! So, tonight's post will be a review of the free concert that we went to tonight: BellaDonna, live at the Ronald Reagan Sports Park in Temecula.

I should start by saying that this concert probably should have been billed differently. It was listed as "Belladonna: A Tribute to Stevie Nicks." Ok, fine. The band's website lists them as a tribute to Stevie Nicks & Fleetwood Mac, and I think there is a big distinction to be made there. (Confession time: I am a 41 year-old ex-punk rocker, but I have a soft spot for Stevie Nicks and (most of) Fleetwood Mac in general. How sick is that?!) We picked up a couple of boozes on the way to the show because, seriously, I need to be loaded to stay in a place named after Ronald Reagan! We also took dinner along and planned to make a picnic out of it, but we ran a little late, so that only partially panned out.

Anyway, the show started and, well, here was an eight-piece band fronted by a woman who is really trying hard to be Stevie Nicks. The thing is, she wasn't trying to be like Stevie Nicks, she was trying to be Stevie Nicks! Big difference. She came out dressed in a black gypsy-style dress, changed various shawls and tablecloths throughout the show, posed, tried to make her voice raspy, etc. At one point, I realized that the illusion was a little better without my glasses on, since I could almost pretend that there was a blurry Stevie up there, singing Rihannon, or Stand Back, or whatever. It was at that point that I felt bad for this band. This was, probably, as good as it gets for them: playing a free concert at a park in Temecula on a Thursday night, while the lead singer tries to play 'What Would Stevie Nicks Do?'. There will be no record contracts, no big sold-out shows, nothing major for them, because Stevie Nicks is still performing!! Maybe I'm just acting jaded, but if I can shell out the cash and see the real thing, that means that I am only willing to accept a note-for-note, move-for-move imitation for free! Elvis impersonators get work because Elvis is dead; Dred Zeppelin used to get work because they added something (reggae) to the Led Zeppelin songs. This was just a copy without the fame attached.

Then, about half-way through the show, something weird happened.

Wanna-be Stevie left the stage, and one of the back-up singers took the lead vocal and said she was going to do a Christine McVie song, and they played Say You Love Me. Hey -- there's a real band here, not just backup music for a Stevie Nicks clone. Then the other backup singer took the mic and sang... oh crap, I don't remember what she sang now, but she was entertaining and, in the middle of the song, switched places (mid-beat) with the drummer to take part in a five-minute drum solo! Now THAT was unexpected! When Wanna-be Stevie came back, she wasn't acting like Wanna-be Stevie anymore, she was now Michelle Tyler, singer, still dressed like Stevie Nicks, but acting like she had her own personality. To me, at least, the rest of the show was like watching a different band -- a better one, and a band that wasn't just trying to be a low-rent version of something else. Suddenly, they had their own presence, the lead guitarist got to take the Lindsay Buckingham role on Go Your Own Way, and it seemed like they were having a lot more fun! (I know I was!) Also, the crowd seemed more willing to get into it on the dance floor. I guess there is a lesson in there somewhere for everyone. I think it is: 'Don't take any wooden nickels.' Or maybe 'No one likes a tattletale.' Something like that.

All in all, it was a cute show. I thought they kind of loused up Gypsy (dammit!), and they didn't play any Lindsay solo stuff (like Trouble or Holiday Road), but they rocked a few songs towards the end (Edge of Seventeen & Don't Stop). Not perfect, and I would have changed a few things, but it was a nice Thursday night in the park.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Mobile Blogging

My Birthday

Tonight we celebrated my birthday by going to Family Night at the sports park here in Temecula. The theme was "Groovy '70's." We made disco balls with plastic balls wrapped in tin foil and decorated them with plastic jewels that we glued on. Then, we got to make some Shrinky Dinks. Derek and Ashley made me a birthday card with one of them and Ashley made another one that said "Ashley, Dad, Mom" and decorated it with colorful flowers and a rainbow. Isn't that sweet? Tears welled up in my eyes when they gave those to me. I'll keep them forever. Then we also went up on this stage and danced around to disco music and won some prizes. It was cute when the toddlers were up there. They had fun with their parents and other kids with the music. We also made a friendship bracelet and went outside and made tie-dye t-shirts. We've never made those before, so when we were handed rubber bands and a white t-shirts, we had no clue what to do with them. Fortunately, there was someone there to show us what to do and we made some interesting designs. After that, we came home, and I made myself an ice cream cone with Breyer's triple chocolate ice cream and topped it with miniature M&M's. Yum! So, it was a fun night with the family and I realized that turning 40 is pretty cool!

Having Fun

Friday night we went to the weekly event at the Children's Imagination Workshop in Old Town. They had demonstrations of how bicycles worked, displayed all kinds of bikes from BMX to high-end racing bikes used by Olympians and gave away raffle prizes. Again, we had so much fun! Ashley and I want take advantage of some of the bike trails around here to spend some mommy and me time together when I get my bike fixed. The other kids that were there, too, want to be involved with one of the kids bike clubs that ride around on the trails nearby. Isn't that cool?

After the museum closed, we walked back up Front Street to get Ashley a root beer float. She earned that and a trip to McDonald's Playland for getting six out of seven gold stars in a week for doing her homework.

Then, across the street on the corner of Fourth and Front Streets, there was a jumper for the kids, balloon animals being made, rockabilly music, and a hula hoop contest! Ashley and I nearly dropped the root beer float racing over there. Ashley couldn't wait to show us that she's getting the hang of hula hooping from her kids aerobics classes. I couldn't help it, either. I picked up a couple of hula hoops and pretended that I was a kid for awhile myself. It was so much fun! Derek video taped Ashley and I and said that he would post it on our blog. I said, "No way! OMG!!" I also won a prize for what I was doing. Can you believe that! I haven't picked up a hula hoop since I was 11 years old! Ashley is getting really good at it, too. She can keep it going for about five seconds now and she keeps trying and trying to keep the pace up! Go for it, Ashley! After that, we put our hula hoops down and danced until the DJ had to pack up the music. What fun!

After that, we headed back across the street to do some cheese tasting. They also had a live band over there playing bluegrass music. We hung out for awhile, the three of us waltzing in the best way we could to the slower music and dancing to the rhythm of the faster music, and then left when they packed up their instruments. Then, we went home. What a fun night!

I got a message this weekend from a friend of ours asking about Ashley's birthday. Isn't that sweet? How thoughtful! When I told Ashley that "anonymous" asked me about it, her face just lit up with this big toothless smile. I'll never forget that. For her birthday, either on or around August 19, she wants to go to the Promenade Mall to either make a doll or get a makeover at Libby Lu. Either one sounds like fun, but she hasn't decided yet.

Today is my birthday. We're going to the Monday Night Family Night at the park. They are having a "Groovy '70's" theme with '70's music and we're going to make Tye-die t-shirts. We're also going to bring a picnic dinner and eat outside at the picnic tables.

Right now, it's about 9:00 am. Ashley is still sleeping, so I've got to wake her up to go to the gym. I'll write more soon because, hopefully, because I will have figured out how to post from my mobile phone so can write updates more than once a week.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Moving Forward

Since my last post, things have been back to normal. I had a rough week and I needed to vent, so I wrote about my frustrations. Like what some of the important people in our lives did, a friend of ours, who Derek has known since the fifth grade, called after reading my last post and asked if everything was okay. That really touched me. It is such an amazing feeling when someone reaches out and asks if you're all right. It shows that they care and that you're important. Thank you for that phone call; you're important to us, too.

This week, I've been working out more. On the days the gym has kids aerobics, I take Ashley with me. On the other days I go by myself and spend two to three hours there in the morning. Lifting weights and sweating it out on the cardio machines makes all the difference. I have dance music on my headset, I really get into my workouts, and I escape into a world that I used to call torture, but now I call it Shangri La. This is the fifth week that I've been going to Gold's Gym since I found out that I get a free membership because we live in the Extended Stay. Week number six starts on Monday. I'm noticing some improvements and the trainers and instructors are there as my encouraging cheerleaders. I probably would have given up after day one if it weren't for them. You wouldn't know it by looking at me now, but, looking back, I used to be fit, I was a trainer, I was one of the cheerleaders. I have so much respect for the people who work at this gym; they are real professionals there. They are truly inspirational. I'd love to get back into the saddle again someday myself and help others that are starting back out on their path to having a healthy lifstyle.

What else has been happening this week? Derek took the van in for a smog check on Monday. It thankfully passed and we were able to register it. Mainly this week, though, we've been focusing on academic stuff with Ashley. Home schooling is harder than it looks, but I think we're getting into a rhythm. We've set up a schedule and posted it on the refridgerator, we've got a rewards system going, and we're moving in a forward direction. So, we're getting it together. Ashley is doing a book report on Flat Stanley, we're working more on basic math, money, telling time, fractions, phonics, penmanship, geography, astronomy, weather, and puzzles. Tonight we're taking her to the Children's Imagination Workshop in Old Town. They are doing an event on the Science of Bicycles and we'll also have a couple of hours to play at the museum, too.

Tomorrow, I'm taking Ashley to the gym for kids aerobics. She's making some friends there and she's loving the workouts. She said something I'll never forget. One day last week, she was running down the hallway from the laundry room and she stopped at the door to our room. Acting lik she's out of breath, she said, "Mom, I really need to work out! Are we going to the gym tomorrow?" I have never heard a kid her age say that before! How funny! I hope she keeps it up.