Rabu, 30 Desember 2009

Coconut Macaroons & review of Tropical Traditions


My Simple GAPS-friendly, gluten free, dairy free, real whole food, 4-ingredient Macaroon Recipe:

6 egg white (save the yokes to add to scrambled eggs)
       (beat until stiff peaks form, I used the whisk attachment on my Kitchen Aid mixer)
Pinch of sea salt
2/3 cup honey (run your honey under some hot water if it has crystallized, it needs to be liquid)
       (add sea salt to the eggs. Slowly pour in honey as the beater is still going)
2-1/2 cups of shredded coconut, unsweetened (see below for a chance to win shredded coconut from Tropical Traditions!)
       (fold in the shredded coconut with a spatula until it's thoroughly mixed. Be gentle, you don't want to deflate the eggs)

Preheat oven to 250

I used a big cookie scoop to scoop onto the an greased (I used coconut oil of course) cookie sheet, but you could mound with a tablespoon also. I left about an inch between my cookies; they don't spread a whole lot.  Time will vary depending on how big your cookies are, these took about 50 minutes.  Allow to cool briefly on the cookie sheet, remove with a thin spatula and cool completely.  They will continue to harden and dry as they cool.

Enjoy! Our family, ahem, ate the entire batch in one day.
Nourishing Traditions has a macaroon recipe on page 532 as well, which isn't GAPS friendly but is just fine for non-GAPS-type people :) (More info on GAPS)

Tropical Traditions sent me a gallon bucket of their shredded coconut to review. I wanted to make GAPS-legal dairy free cookies, so macaroons were a good choice.  A gallon of shredded organic coconut for $15/gallon? I was going to buy some anyway, I don't think this deal can be beat!

The soft white finely shredded coconut.  I love that it comes in a snap-lid bucket too, the bucket is great for re-use after the coconut is used up, and it's easy to store in the pantry. High quality organic coconut, it's exactly what I expected to get from Tropical Traditions. As I've tried their products (coconut oil, coconut cream concentrate, and now shredded coconut), I've always been impressed by their high quality food, fair and ethical treatment of workers, and great customer service.

If you are a first time customer and use my referral code, #5682145, a free book about coconut oil will be included with your order (they credit my account with coconut oil when you use that as well, just so you know, I like this deal ~grin~).

To use the code, in the checkout screen when it asks where you heard of Tropical Traditions, choose 'referred by a friend' and then put in the #5682145. If you don't see the place to put in the #, don't worry, you can just email Tropical Traditions through their customer service page after you place your order and they'll be sure to hook you up with the free book.

Giveaway has closed, #36 won, I'll be emailing in a  minute

I'm signed up for the Tropical Traditions newsletter. I've never made Macaroons before, but I'm excited to try them (email removed for privacy)

You can still
Follow me on twitter
Be my fan on Facebook
Follow Tropical Traditions on Twitter

Giveaway ended on 1/6/10 and the number was picked by random.org on the 7th

Disclaimer: Tropical Traditions provided me with a free sample of this product to review, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose. Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a product giveaway in return for the free product.

My first batch of macaroons. A little dark, but still good.  The oven was at 300 for an hour for these.

Senin, 28 Desember 2009

Sprouted Pink Lentils (In Soup)

Organic pink lentils, sprouted, and added to soup. Great minds must think alike; the day after I picked up some of these pink lentils from the bulk section of our local health food store, a package came in the mail with the same lentils from my Mama, all the way from Andy's Produce in California. They are pretty, though, don't you think? Sprouted the same way I sprouted buckwheat, just rinsing a couple times a day in a mason jar with a screen for a lid.

I added them to soup, made with chicken broth, moist sea salt, and avocado added in the last few minutes of cooking.


Jumat, 25 Desember 2009

Cutting Apples to See the Star

Benefit to juicing: You can cut apples to show children the star without having to deal with cutting up funky apple slices.

Merry Christmas!

Selasa, 22 Desember 2009

Men & Women in Blue - "Friends not Foes"

Community Member Question:

Though we need police to serve as our protectors of our families and possessions, they are often disliked until the need arises and their services are needed. In most cases many residents do not associate with the police unless it is at a time that their service is needed and in doing their job, many residents take it personal when they do get their way. How does the city try to mend the relationship with the public and get them to realize they are there for the good of all and they themselves are family orientated and not pushing authority?

City Manager Response:

First, let me say that I disagree with your premise that police are disliked within the community. My experience shows me that police are highly respected in the community and that most people understand they are doing a difficult job for the benefit of the community and for the safety of individuals that live, work and play in Fontana.

Certainly there are some individuals that have had a bad experience with the police, but I believe that this is the minority of individuals and it often has occurred at a time where a situation has taken place where police need to go into harm’s way and take control of a bad situation to prevent it from escalating. This is what police are trained to do and the absence of such influence, some situations would likely move from bad to worse. I also realize that no one likes to get a traffic ticket. But we have laws on the books for the protection of others and it is the police’s job to enforce those laws.

With all of that said, fear of authority often comes from a lack of understanding. The City of Fontana Police Department has many programs that allow its police officers to get out into the community to “bridge” such gaps in understanding. These programs include:

Area Commander Program
This is a program where a Police Lieutenant has assigned responsibility for an area of the City and acts as Police Chief for that area. Between 30 and 40 community meetings are held each year in various areas throughout Fontana. Issues of concern are addressed at these meetings and the Area Commander has the authority to reach into the organization to bring whatever resources are necessary to address the issues.

Fontana Police Volunteer Program
Community members can share in the success of the Fontana Police Department by volunteering for a variety of tasks from office assignments to traffic control at a major traffic accident. The Police Department has a robust Volunteer Program that enhances the level of service the department provides the community.

FUSD Police Chief Program
In this program, a Police Lieutenant serves as Police Chief for the Fontana Unified School District (FUSD) Police Department. This allows two organizations to effectively work in cooperation with each other to address safety needs at various school sites.

School Resource Officer Program
This program places an officer at each middle school in all of the school districts that serve Fontana. This officer works with school children and can target at-risk youth for intervention.

Fontana Police Explorers
Community members as young as 14½ years of age can join the Fontana Police Department’s Explorer Post. This allows them to work side-by-side with a patrol officer. Explorers enjoy working in the police station and in the field at special events

Faith Based Community Meetings
This is a regular meeting between the Fontana Chief of Police and faith based organizations in Fontana to meet, discuss and address issues of common interest.

Breakfast with the Chief
The Chief of Police, in partnership with the Fontana Chamber of Commerce, meets quarterly with the business community to discuss issues that directly impact them.

Community Assistance Program
This is a program undertaken as a partnership between the Police Department and Water of Life Church to bring resources together to address families and community needs within Fontana. The Community Assistance Program (CAP) coordinates resources from around the County and makes them available to individuals needing assistance.

Shop with a Cop and Fontana Santas
These are programs that provide gifts during the holidays to families needing support throughout the Community.

These are but a few of the programs we have around town to begin putting a face on public safety. We also provide Children’s Safety Fairs, Red Ribbon Breakfasts, Teen Fests, Volunteer Programs, Emergency Preparedness, Explorers and many other events and activities designed to encourage community participation in public safety programs.

We are blessed in Fontana to have a very committed and professional Police Department. The men and women who work in public safety are always available to assist Fontana residents. Next time you see an officer, take the opportunity to say thanks for a job well done.

Coconut Oil Gift

Only a like-minded friend would appreciate this gift- a wrapped jar of Tropical Traditions Gold Label coconut oil. How about you? I know just about 5 years ago I would have been totally puzzled if someone gave this to me. Now I'd be thrilled! I love 'ingredient' gifts! :)

If you're ordering through Tropical Traditions and use my referral code: #5682145  you get a free book and I get a credit to my account.  And a big thank you to everyone who has already!


Senin, 21 Desember 2009

Olive Oil Mayonnaise

We won't talk about how much nice oil has become nice-oil-with-egg-in-it with my attempts to make mayonnaise. I've attempted it maybe 12 times, and made it successfully three. The first was with canola oil (uck), the second was with grapeseed oil and was bright green but otherwise fine, and this third success was exactly what I was going for- olive oil mayonnaise that looks normal. Just wanted to share. Made in my food processor, with one egg and one cup of olive oil. I'm going to hold off doing any sort of authorative speaking until I'm getting consistently good results, so this is just to share my triumph with you!

Communication Makes the World Go Round

Community Member Question:

Most people think that government doesn't listen to what they have to say or at least it was my experiences from other cities. In attending various Community meetings, Council meetings and Planning meetings I have been extremely surprised the City of Fontana has heard my requests and were open to making changes.

I had web changes made by giving information and the location to verify, a speed limit sign posted in a location where there were monitoring speeders, asked for locking shopping cart at one of the local store at the planning commission meeting, when they were discussing the building requirements, and they posted the importance of the visibility for verified response on the city statement and on you tube video (KFONTV) smart kids.

The hardest thing was to get a bus stop moved out of the thorough fare of Citrus and moved to a new turn out cove out of traffic’s way. That was because that is not directly under the cities control, but eventually was moved. How is it that the City of Fontana so open to suggestions and most cities seem to have their own agenda?

City Manager Response:

Thank you for the question. The answer is very simple. Fontana listens to the concerns of its citizens because the Mayor and City Council have made it a priority. The Mayor and City Council view the success of this Community as a partnership between its citizens, its businesses and its government. We can only be successful as a Community if all elements of the Community can be equally successful.

Tax Rate - Same or Higher?

Community Member Question:

Redevelopment plays many parts in a community, the design for job creation, increase in property values of existing structures, low income housing opportunities and much more. Property taxes on land and structure increase as they get new buyers, after redevelopment makes them more desirable to "purchase and once resold". How does the property tax increase due to improved value increase serve the community?

City Manager Response:

I’m sure you understand this, but to make sure there is no confusion, the tax rate for property does not increase when land is improved or resold. The tax rate remains the same, but it is applied to the value of the property which may have increased due to development or redevelopment of the property. The benefit to Fontana from such an increase varies depending on if the property is in a Redevelopment Project or not.

If the property being resold is not in a redevelopment area, the City receives 3.6 cents for every dollar in taxes paid by the property owner. This benefit is extremely low because the state has permanently “stolen” most of the property tax revenues that are normally used to pay for city services. For example, if a property owner that was paying $1,000 per year in taxes now pays $2,000 dollars a year, the City would see an additional $36 benefit.

If the property is in a Redevelopment Project Area, the increase in taxes paid would on average, result in a 70% benefit to the Redevelopment Agency. So in the same example listed above, the Redevelopment agency would see a return of an additional $700. The catch for the Redevelopment agency is that the monies received cannot be used to pay for government services.

The money can be used to pay down debt associated with capital projects such as the construction of streets, sewers, storm drains, etc. This, in part, is why we say that RDA is so critical to economic development. It is the investment of these RDA monies in various projects that allow for new private investment to take place in the community. It is this private investment that then pays a return in the form of increased sales taxes that can be used for paying for government services.

Kamis, 17 Desember 2009

Real Food Reading

Some generous family members gave me money for the holidays. That means books (and knitting needles) to me. Here's a peek into my future Amazon boxes ;)

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
Health and Nutrition Secrets
Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health (Vintage)
The Gerson Therapy: The Proven Nutritional Program for Cancer and Other Illnesses
Real Food for Mother and Baby: The Fertility Diet, Eating for Two, and Baby's First Foods
and finally I got around to getting the shower filter, so that'll be in the box too

Look interesting? I love fiction too, but I force myself not to read it often since I get sucked in, my dishes and laundry pile up, and I remain in my PJs way too long.

More: Recommended Real Food Reading

Senin, 14 Desember 2009

Community Participation is Vital

Community Member Question:

In every city there are issues with gangs and crime. How does Fontana address this issue and what role should the residents play to counter its expansion?

City Manager Response:

The Fontana Police Department has officers trained specifically in the identification and apprehension of illegal street gang members. Once the department is aware of a street gang, they work closely with the San Bernardino County District Attorney to have the court certify the gang and its members as an illegal street gang. Once this process is completed, the gang member receives significant punishment enhancements for the most recent criminal activity.

It is very important that the community work closely with the police department in identifying, not only gang activity, but also any suspicious activity. Police Chief Rod Jones continuously encourages the community to stay involved and stay informed by attending your local community meeting in your neighborhood. These community meetings cover everything from current crime statistics to upcoming community safety fairs.

You can make a difference in your neighborhood and your community by joining your Neighborhood Watch group. If your Neighborhood is interested in starting one if one doesn’t exist, contact the Fontana Police Department at (909)350-7710 for more information.

You can now file a report online anytime of the day by using Coplogic, an online citizen police reporting system at http://www.fontanapd.org/.

Standard American Diet to Real Food- What I did

I have always been health conscious, but following the 'healthy' diet seemed like a constant life of deprivation, which just wasn't very fun. I swam for exercise (at one point twice a day 5 days a week), and yet was always exhausted. Now that I've found real food that works with my body rather than just the calorie in/calorie out idea, I feel so much healthier!

I started slow. This is the order that I changed things. Nothing in here is very difficult, I promise. I walk for exercise, it's easy to do with my kiddos. I don't make it a chore, but something we look forward to. If we don't get out all week, no guilt trips! But because it makes us feel so good, we want to get out the next week.

Here are the steps I took to get where I am at the moment, and as I try to convey on my blog, I'm always learning and changing. I'd encourage you to do the same, start slow. I'll put boxes by them so you can print this out and stick it on your kitchen cork board and check things off if you'd like. Seeing it out on paper might inspire your family to take interest as well! I know my husband doesn't want to read nutritional books, but if he glances at something I'm reading on a blog he likes to learn more about it in snippets. Kids will surprise you with how much they're interested in health as well.

"Supposing is good, but finding out is better."
- Mark Twain in Eruption; Mark Twain's Autobiography

Vegan/Vegetarian: All those reasons why you've heard that the vegetarian lifestyle is healthier? Here are 49 Reasons to be a Vegetarian: A Rebuttal, at Nourished Kitchen. I think a lot of us who are interested in health fall into the vegetarian trap. It sounds really healthy on the surface, but I know that I never thrived on it. I would encourage you to be informed about vegetarianism, since it will help clarify why we eat what we eat.

Swimming: I swam for exercise, which really is a nice full body workout. I'm not sure that swimming in chemicals is healthy, though, so I don't think I'll encourage this with my children. Public pools are heavily chlorinated, so I take my kids swimming in lakes and slow-moving streams

Milk Allergy: One benefit of going vegan for a couple years was that when I reintroduced milk (cheese pizza at Round Table, I can still remember it) I broke out in hives immediately. That was a good sign that I was allergic to milk products. I had always had really bad seasonal allergies and chronic sinus infections before going vegan, and now that I know to avoid dairy, I don't. Until my teens, we had no idea that I had a diary allergy, since I had become somewhat used to it, so it just manifested in chronic conditions rather than acute (hives) ones. Have chronic infections, eczema, or other problems? An elimination diet might be worth trying.

Water Filter: I grew up on well water, so when we got married and moved to the city, we immediately got a filter to filter out chlorine. Like the milk allergy above, if you've been on city water for a while, you might not notice the chlorine in your drinking water, but I would highly recommend filtering it out anyway. We just use PUR FM-9500 Water Filtration System. I'd love a reverse osmosis one, but for now this is better than nothing.

Childbirth: I have a collection of childbirth and baby links up here. Once again, there's a lot more to it than you'll learn in mainstream childbirth education classes. Reading birth stories, statistics, and talking to a variety of birth professionals (doulas, midwives, and doctors) can help you to have a well-rounded perspective when it comes time to make decisions for your and your baby. We chose to homebirth, so I felt like it was my responsibility to learn all I could. Now I see that wherever you choose to birth, it really is a parent's responsibility to learn the pros and cons of everything, since not everything done by a birth attendant is automatically evidence based.

Switch to regular soda from diet: I was surprised at how hard this is, since caffeine is often blamed for soda addiction. I just wanted to get the artificial sweeteners out of my diet before conceiving, and it was hard, I'm guessing aspartame is addictive to some people. Much easier for me to drop soda all together (later down the list). When I stopped drinking diet soda, I was usually drinking 4 Diet Pepsi a day.

Vaccinations: Again, please be informed of the statistics associated with vaccines, both the benefits and risks. There are also ingredients in vaccines that many of us are not comfortable giving our children.

Butter: Kitchen Stewardship has a great overview of all the reasons why you need to stop buying margarine and start buying real butter at the store. No more tubs of Country Crock (yes, that was a regular in my fridge 4+ years ago). No need to jump ahead to buying local grass-fed organic butter. Just start with replacing those cubes and tubs with real cow-milk butter. Now we use more coconut oil, but when we were mostly eating butter as our fat we went through 16 lbs a month.

Buy Nourishing Traditions and just look through it. I bought it when I was pregnant with my daughter and I think it was a good 6 months before I made any significant changes to our diet. The excerpts in the side bars of the pages and the overview at the beginning of each chapter are nice places to start. Skip the recipes for fermented fish sauce and brains, we won't start there ~smile~. (more recommended reading here, but digest Nourishing Traditions for a while before building a whole library)

Get rid of Crisco: I had been holding onto Crisco for cookies (Betty Crocker's recipe) but I finally let that go and switched to butter. So do that now. If you're using it to fry, switch to coconut oil.

Bought a wheat grinder, started making whole wheat bread: I read some articles on the importance of freshly ground whole wheat flour, and was interested. I bought my grain mill used (I love buying things used). Now I'll occasionally use Wheat Montana's whole wheat flour, but I usually just buy a 5-pound bucket of their wheat berries. They're easier to store and don't go bad like already ground flour does. I'm okay with buying whole wheat flour already ground, though, since it's local and pretty fresh. I keep it in my freezer at home. I didn't know about soaked wheat bread (see below) yet. I like my electric mill, but I'd also like to get the hand crank mill from Nova Natural to use with the kids.

Bought a natural crib mattress for my daughter. I did the same for my son when he moved to a crib for his naps (ahem, or when I thought he would. He is napping in our bed as I type this)

Stop buying corn dogs: Or other convenience food of choice ~smile~. Corn dogs were my personal favorite. Now I usually do quesodillas as fast I-forgot-to-figure-out-dinner food.

Switch to natural peanutbutter: I know it's different, but the natural stuff is good. Think of the hydrogenated peanut butter as more of a junk food, not something nourishing. I liked to spread the natural stuff on toast first, so it would melt a little bit.

Cut out food dye: I was intrigued by the book Why Your Child Is Hyperactive at this point in my 'real foods' journey. Reading it convinced me to not let any products containing food dye ever enter my child's mouth. We messed up a few times (marshmallows have blue dye in them, not being able to get dye-free medicine), but overall we've stuck to this. And it works well to keep junk out of the house, or at least out of little ones' mouths.

Detour: Baby food. As my little one was getting close to the 'eating stage' I did a cram session on this.

Soaked wheat bread: It isn't hard, I promise.

Good quality prenatal: I really wish I had figured out the value in a good quality foods-derived vitamin with my first pregnancy, but I didn't figure it out til my second.

Lactoferments: I was wary of these at first, but now I love them. I can feel that digestion is easier then I add some to each meal. We generally just add sauerkraut to everything, even hubby has it on his sandwich instead of lettuce.

Soaked nuts: Seriously easy, and it takes the bitter 'bite' out of them. You can use them to make honey nut brittle too- easy! and a real food!

Stop with sodas: We still drank rootbeer and coke after stopping with the diet verstions. Corn syrup, artificial flavoring, no thanks. Now we don't even like them any more.

Switch to real salt
: It's easy, I just didn't get my act together and buy a grinder until way down here on the list.

Humidifier with essential oils: I was surprised how this cheap and easy fix can prevent sickness and help prevent it as well.

Lots of shuffling with the budget: Every once in a while I have to really examine how I can juggle the money around to afford things like organic foods. Cutting out the junk helps a lot.

Watched the Future of Food: Hulu has it for free, I highly recommend watching it. I wasn't very informed about GMOs until I watched this, and it's a movie that both hubby and I enjoyed.

Diligent about avoiding GMOs: It seemed overwhelming at first, but now that I'd gotten most of the junk out of our diet and was eating mostly whole foods, I just made sure that all corn, soy, and canola were organic if they were in our food. As far as I know 'organic' still isn't genetically modified. Some slips in every once in a while for us adults (corn syrup!), but I'm usually able to be strict enough with the kids.

Homemade Lunch Meat: See, none of this stuff is too complicated. Put a chicken in the crock pot. Take the chicken out of the crock pot. Take meat off. There ya go ~smile~

Chicken stock makes really good soup: I used chicken stock in things like rice for a long time before I even bothered to make soup with chicken stock. It's really good! It's filling and satisfying, whereas soup made with water just doesn't really cut it for our family.

Homemade refried beans: Cans are lined with questionable material, and canned refried beans are either made with questionable ingredients (msg, 'natural flavors') or are super expensive. Making them in the crockpot makes them taste better and they're super cheap.

Brown Rice: Around this time I finally finished up the bulk package of white (jasmine) rice that I had, and I switched to brown. Our Costco had a bulk bag of organic brown for pennies a pound. I cook my brown rice a long time, a couple hours, and soak it the night before. It softens this way and isn't tough/dry.

organic beef: Finally I got my finances in line here to be able do this on a regular basis. If I try and cook regular beef, I can taste the chemicals in it now. Gross.

Tooth soap: I know, weird. But it works so well, you won't want to switch back.

Cut out corn syrup: There's nothing good in corn syrup. In addition to containing GMOs (in non organic) it's much more processed than sugar. Jam, fake syrup, and ketchup are some sources of corn syrup that were the last to leave my house. It still makes its way in every once in a while, but I'm generally not the one bringing it in ~grin~

Natural deodorant: This surprised me, it works better than any deodorant I've ever tried, natural or not.

Natural shampoo, conditioner
: Super easy. Most of the time I just use baking soda in my hair (I just rub about 1 tablespoon in dry hair before showering now) and I always do a vinegar rinse to condition. About once every few weeks I use Burt's Bees Shampoo, but still with the vinegar rinse. I've used an egg yolk as shampoo before too, but it's more of a hassle to do that. It works well though. If you're nervous about it, just try on a Saturday when you can wear a hat or you're not going out :)

Natural household cleaners: Baking soda to scrub, vinegar for everything else. Essential oil added to make it all smell nice. I got a steam mop that I love, I'll add a couple drops of lemon essential oil to the pad before I mop my floors. I know this is a ridiculous amount of money to pay for a mop, but with the steam I feel like I can sanitize the floor my kids play on without chemicals. I'll go around and squirt any spots with vinegar before mopping and it comes right up. I'm still working on this (Cascade in my dishwasher, Oxyclean on the clothes, somewhat natural laundry detergent that could be better)

Natural cosmetics: I'm not a big makeup wearer, so all this consists of is a natural mineral mascara, and Burt's Bees lip gloss. I tossed my conventional versions.

GAPS: Gut and Psychology Syndrome is a book about clearing up many chronic conditions (from eczema to allergies to autism to depression) through healing the gut. I find it fascinating, and it's worth looking into if you struggle with any chronic condition. I'm trying it mostly just as a gentle cleanse and for allergies. Sometimes people ask me about diets and cleanses, and this is what I would recommend. I think it would be beneficial, even if for a month. And I'd personally feel comfortable doing it even while pregnant or breastfeeding.

Buying Local: As I become more interested in real whole foods, I'm slowly finding local farmers to shop from. Most of them rely on word-of-mouth, so they're not super easy to find. We enjoy local honey and squash now, for a fraction of the supermarket price. I just was able to buy organic grass fed beef for a discount by going in on a share of a cow too.

Juicing: I consider juicing more of a supplement than a necessity. But in certain circumstances it's a good idea to look into.

Next up:

Learning more about herbal medicine: Stephanie of Keeper of the Home has a lot of posts about herbal medicine. I'm starting to use herbs for some things, but I still have a long way to go in this area.

Get a shower filter: When we were in the country on well water I didn't think about it, but now that our water is chlorinated I really need to get it together and buy a shower filter. I'll just get one for the shower and then fill up the kids' bath with the shower. Or skin does let things through, so we're getting chlorine in our bloodstream every time we're in chlorinated water. I didn't even realize how cheap they were til I looked them up for this list here.

Finish replacing chemical products with natural ones (Cascade, Kirkland 'natural' laundry detergent, Oxyclean)

I know there's lots more I want to learn I'll add to the list as time goes on

(part of Works for Me Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday, and Fight Back Friday)

Jumat, 11 Desember 2009

"Simple Question - Complicated Answer"

Community Member Question:

When looking for a home in Fontana some areas paid about 1% on property tax and others paid an additional (LMD) Land maintenance district and yet others (CFD) Community Facility District fee. What are the differences in the property taxes costs?

City Manager Response:

Let me begin this response by first saying that the taxes and assessments paid by property owners on their homes vary significantly. It is very important, when purchasing a home, to take the time to understand these costs as they may have a significant impact on the long term cost of ownership. All taxes and assessments must be disclosed to the buyer of the property at the
time of purchase, but I find that not everyone takes to time they should in reading through the documents they sign. Taxes and assessments are created by votes of residents or property tax owners and are never optional payment items on the tax bill.

The only constant in property taxes is the basic property tax that everyone pays on their property. This is about 1.1% of the assessed value of the house at the time that it is purchased. Under the terms of proposition 13, this tax can only be raised by a maximum of 2% per year. So in an economy where prices are rising significantly, over time the taxes being paid on the property often have an effective rate well below 1.1% of the market value of the house. As a side note, the City of Fontana only receives 3.6 cents out of every dollar of property taxes paid by its residents. We used to receive a much higher percentage, but the State has taken that money away from the City during prior budget balancing schemes.

Some properties, in addition to the basic property tax may pay an assessment to a Landscape Maintenance District (LMD), Lighting, Landscape and Maintenance District (LLMD), or a Community Facilities District (CFD). It is also possible to have more than one assessment district that a property owner may be a part of. These districts are set up when the development is first approved by a vote of the land owners in the district.

These districts can be used to pay for the costs of the maintenance of common landscape/park areas, street lighting, graffiti abatement in the area, repair and replacement of facilities, etc. An assessment rate is created at the time the district is formed based upon the actual costs of the services being paid for divided by the number of properties sharing the costs in the area. In Fontana, these types of Districts typically cost between $200 to $800 a year. The maximum rate can be increased by 2% per year, but the City has a strong track record of keeping rates consistent in most of our service related districts. The rule of thumb is that rates may change for these districts about once every 7 years. There are a couple of maintenance districts in Fontana that are significantly more costly. These districts cost more because they have significant costs associated with fire suppression areas such as hillsides.

Another type of CFD is one that is created to pay for bonded indebtedness. This bonded indebtedness was created to build the necessary back-bone infrastructure of the community. When the district is created, bonds are issued and the proceeds are used to build roads, storm drain systems, sewers, and parks. These districts are commonly referred to as Mello/Roos Districts. Bonds issued by these districts can be in the ten of millions of dollars and are usually issued for a 30 year time period. Properties in the district are assessed an annual share of the debt service cost which shows up on your property tax bill each year. It is not uncommon for these districts to add nearly another 1% to the property tax bill. When the bonds are paid off, the assessment to the property owner also goes away.

Other common assessments to watch for on property tax bills are water bonds, school bonds, and park bonds. All of these bonds are typically based upon a percentage of the assessed value of the house and must be paid back over time. These bonds can be added to a property tax bill anytime that residents and/or property owners of a community vote to support such a bond measure.

As you can see, it is a complicated answer to a simple question. If you ever need additional information about the assessments or costs on your tax bill please feel free to contact the Finance Department here at City Hall and they would be happy to spend the time necessary to help you understand the specific conditions for your property.

Cranberry Oatmeal Muffins

Moving from my craft blog again, this was posted a couple years ago. I liked the picture so I can forgive the white flour. (grin)

I'm always happy to see cranberries in the stores again! We even have them up in our small town this year, no need to go all the way down to the city to get em.

My mama's recipe.

Cranberry Oatmeal Muffins
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup cranberries (I use half a package, whatever that is)
1/4 cup melted butter or oil
1 cup milk
1 egg

Combine wet ingredients, add in dry (making sure to mix the baking powder with flour to avoid the icky baking powder pockets) and add in cranberries last.
Bake at 425 degrees 15 to 20 minutes

I double it because these go fast, even though just hubby and I eat them. I also use the little paper cups... because I absolutely hate washing muffin tins.

A nourishing meal for a friend

Soaked wheat rolls (same as the bread, just made into rolls), chicken veggie soup, carrot ginger apple juice, crabapple jelly.

I love feeding friends who like and understand real food. I often forget how 'weird' we eat until we have people over for dinner and I'm scrambling to figure out what I can serve that's real food but isn't too 'weird'. I usually settle on burritos with homemade refried beans, brown rice, organic beef, veggies, and real cheese.

But in this case, my friend understands and appreciates the healthfullness of soaked wheat rolls, chicken soup made from homemade stock, jelly with local fruit, and the fresh pressed juice.

And she knows that I'm just using the jars as storage containers, it doesn't mean that the food is shelf-stable :o) Sometimes people visit and think that I can a lot of stuff. Nope, I don't can much, but I do use mason jars instead of plastic containers a lot!

Kamis, 10 Desember 2009

Benefits of using cloth menstrual pads

(moving this over here from my other blog as I clean up over there)

Why use cloth?
♥ Cloth is better for you (the chemicals used to make disposable pads have been linked to cancer and other reproductive harm, feel free to comment if you'd like to learn more).
♥ Cloth is better for the environment, nothing goes in landfills each month.
♥ Cloth is also more respectful of women; changing the mindset from a monthly cycle being something that is dirty and needs to be thrown away to the mindset of a monthly cycle is normal and something to be taken care of respectfully. In this same way cloth diapers are more respectful of babies.

Feel free to ask any questions, either by comment- I'd be happy to answer :)

Rabu, 09 Desember 2009

Review: Farberware Potato Peeler

I broke the potato peeler that hubby brought into our marriage 6+ years ago with my vigorous squash and apple peeling as of late.

Walmart is the only place in this part of town that sells potato peelers, so that's where we headed. Since my husband tends to analyze every purchase, all the way down to a $3 potato peeler, I assured him that I would post his findings on my blog for the benefit of fruit and vegetable peelers everywhere.

I was going for a comfortable handle, he was evaluating for likelihood that it would survive at least 6 years of hard use. We settled on the Farberware Professional Stainless Steel Euro Swivel Peeler, with him leaning more toward one that looked like Jonas Original Potato Peeler, but it wasn't made in Sweden, and came in a two pack for $1.99.

Although he was sure the all-metal design of the classic peeler was surely needed to withstand vigorous peeling, we were pleasantly surprised at the ease of which we could peel even butternut squash with the new, sharp, swiveling blade. The drawback to the Farberware peeler is that the top part that can scoop out bruises and blemishes is made of plastic, and thus doesn't hold up. But keeping a paring knife near the peeling station is a small price to pay for a comfortable handle that's slip resistant and big enough to grasp easily.

This post has not been brought to you by anyone other than myself, in an attempt to humor my husband (who thinks my blog is humorous in and of itself)

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Are you using Swagbucks to search? I've been having good luck using this search engine a few times a day and putting the $ towards Amazon certificates. I use firefox, and I have the Swagbucks search in my dropdown menu. When I'm looking for something that doesn't take a lot of detailed searching (like coupon codes, or sites I frequently visit) I use swagbucks. If it takes more involved searching, like health issues, I switch back to Google. I think the max you can win a day is about 3, so after I've won 3 times I usually just switch back to Google. But if you win 3/day, it only takes a few extra seconds, and in 15 days you'd have enough swagbucks to redeem for an Amazon certificate of $5. Not big money, but worthwhile I think!

Senin, 07 Desember 2009

Frozen Bulk Cookie Dough

My mother-in-law gave me an enormous cookie scoop for Christmas one year, so 12 cookies is plenty for a week for one person (the kids and I aren't eating cookies right now). I make a large batch of cookies once a month or so, scoop and freeze on a cookie sheet, pop off, and then bake 12 at a time (how many my cookie sheet holds).

The recipe, roughly:

3 sticks butter (I still want to try this with coconut oil, at least part, and will next time)

1-1/2 cups sugar

Cream butter and sugar and add in

4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp sea salt

Mix well

Add in

3-4 cups flour (depending on if you like flat or cakey cookies

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

2 cups chocolate chips

I bake at 375, 15 minutes

Jumat, 04 Desember 2009

Special Events Support The Community

Community Member Question:

In a blog the Mayor was asked why the city is having some of the events it has with the budget being tight? The Mayor had replied that in the future it would be something that may have to be looked at. My question is, “With the budget being strained in this economy, why does the city have public events that use needed funds?”

City Manager Response:

Thank you for the question. You are correct that the economy has strained the City of Fontana budget and the Mayor and City Council have directed staff to look at ways at reducing expenditures. In light of this direction, the City has cut 40 full-time positions and reduced in excess of $1.5 million from its current operating budget, beyond those reductions in staffing costs. These cuts have been made across all areas of the City, including the budget for special events.

Each and every special event was carefully scrutinized in putting together this year’s operating budget. This included the elimination of some of the community-wide special events. Despite those reductions to balance the budget, the City has left money in the budget to continue some of the city-wide special events as a service to the community of Fontana. While various special events will continue to take place, such as the Festival of Winter and the Christmas Parade, they will be taking place at reduced costs. The budget for these two special events has been cut by approximately $90,000 this year.

The City of Fontana, even with a downturn in the economy, still has a General Fund budget of approximately $80 million. With this money, the City attempts to provide a balance of services to the community which includes public safety, parks maintenance, graffiti removal, recreation programs, road maintenance, children’s programming, library services, special events, etc. The key to having a successful community is to provide a “balanced” level of services for the entire community in addition to creating a “balanced” budget.

As a City, we have a commitment to providing quality services and programs, especially during these tough economic times. This includes recreation and entertainment that many families may have had to cut from their personal budgets due to the effects of the down economy. Special events are free or low cost to the community, providing families with opportunities to spend quality time together, outside of their homes.

The City cannot provide all services to all people. We depend on community groups as our partners to provide a variety of programs and services to meet the needs of the community. Special events are important because they also provide an opportunity for many of the local community groups to raise funding that supports their programming efforts within Fontana. The elimination of all special events would significantly impact these groups, which would result in a compounding loss for individuals in the community that make use of the programs and services provided by these groups.

The City keeps a very close eye on the economic conditions of the community and will continue to live within its means. It is our sincere hope that the economy will continue to improve and that we will be in a position to increase services in the future to meet the needs of our growing community.

The Benefits of Dressing in Natural Fiber Clothing

It took moving to Montana for me to discover the real benefits of natural fiber clothing. Sub-zero temperatures quickly fine-tuned my clothing standards, now I try to choose natural fibers, especially with what's next to the skin.

My children are dressed for the weather with cotton thermal long johns, wool sweaters, wool mittens, and hats/hood to cover their ears from the wind. If it's above 20 degrees and isn't too windy, we still go out for fresh air, we just bundle up first.

I love wool especially because it breathes but stays so warm. Superwash wool (my son is wearing superwash wool socks but you can't see them) can be machine washed. I usually wash it on cold and dry it flat. Layering wool seems to work the best, we wear a long sleeve shirt under, wool sweater over, and then if it's really cold, a coat over that.

Wool not only is a great insulator, but it's naturally antibacterial so it doesn't need to be washed as often. Wool wicks moisture away from the body, and as I learned when looking at wool for cloth diapers, wool can hold quite a bit of wetness without letting the moisture seep through to other clothing (think of walking in a drizzle- your wool sweater would get damp, but it holds the moisture and it doesn't soak the shirt underneath and make you cold). To top it off, wool is naturally flame resistant, making it a healthy choice for sleepwear and bedding.

If you think you have a wool allergy, you might actually be allergic to the chemicals used in processing the wool in some clothing. In that case, you could try less processed undyed wool from a high-quality supplier and see how you do with that. Green Mountain Diapers has a some thoughts on this as well.

Sources for wool clothing:
Nova Natural has beautiful woolens for the whole family
Sierra Trading Post is where we found wool long johns for my outdoor-working hubby
TJ Maxx has nice thick socks with wool or alpaca in them. I love to wear these in the winter. They're cute too. I look for ones with the highest % of wool or other animal fiber, since those are the warmest.
Thrift stores are a great place to find wool sweaters.

I resorted to learning to knit because I wanted to dress my family in wool but couldn't keep up with the cost. The wool hoodie my son is wearing in the picture is made with Knitpicks yarn. The whole sweater cost me $6. The time factored in is considered, but knitting is a rewarding hobby for me, and something I can do while watching a movie with hubby, sitting on the floor while the kids play, or riding in the car.

For simple, soft, all cotton, durable clothing I love Hanna Andersson. Pricey, but it lasts a long time, both for the same child (my daughter is still wearing the same dress/leggings sets that she wore last year) and when passed down to siblings or friends. Our favorites are the two-piece thermal long johns/PJs (the two piece allows you to order big because of the tight-fitting PJ rule), pilot caps, wiggle pants for the little ones especially in cloth diapers, and the survivor jacket. Grandparents treat to these for holidays especially, which helps keep our toys from becoming overwhelming. We get a lot of basics at thrift stores, I just look for brand name clothes, and then fill in with stuff from Target, watching to make sure it's all 100% cotton.

Leather shoes: We like those little Robeez-style shoes for little ones, then once they need shoes with soles I buy one pair of laceup shoes in each size, of a good-quality brand. We like to keep things simple over here, so we limit choices of footwear ;) I like them to lace up because I feel like they get a better fit, and we like leather because it's not sweaty/stuffy like vinyl or plastic. I like plain plain plain, so I learned to sew the leather baby shoes in order to make exactly what I wanted, but for a fraction of the price.

Keeping the 'core' warm: I was advised when doing childcare that it's best to keep the children's trunk and head warm, that way they still can play freely but they are warm enough. We use vests a lot for this, and the kids and I like them. I find that if I'm wearing a vest, I can skip a heavy sweatshirt inside in the winter. The sleeves on my sweatshirt seem to always be dragging through things, so this saves on laundry as well :)

Avoiding Polyester: We prefer to avoid polyester clothing as much as possible. Both my kids' snow suits have polyester fleece in them, but other than that I don't think they have any polyester clothing. In addition to being made from petroleum and out gassing chemicals, in the case of a fire or too much heat polyester clothing will melt to the child. Not good. Both my kids as babies would also get rashes from any polyester (especially fleece) touching their skin.

What do you think? Do you have a favorite wool sweater, or insist on only 100% cotton t-shirts?


Dressing Children Simply


Natural bedding

Reclaimed Water and Future Plans

Community Member Question:

Knowing that Fontana Water Company is NOT a City Of Fontana identity, but a private service provider that has expressed opposition to the city starting a plan to use reclaimed water for the use of irrigation on the city parks and schools, has the city decided to follow through on this water conservation method and what is the estimated saving to the community on a yearly basis?

City Manager Response:

Thank you for the question regarding reclaimed water. The short answer is yes, the City has plans on making use of its reclaimed water resources by putting those irrigation sources to use throughout the City of Fontana. Typically the savings related to the use of reclaimed water is between 25% and 40% of the cost of normal drinking water. These savings are most often in the areas of landscape district areas, so the savings achieved through these efforts will ultimately be passed on to the rate payers in the districts and to the school district that are served with the water.

Two projects are being worked on currently. The first project is a partnership between the Inland Empire Utilities Agency, Cucamonga Valley Water District and the City of Fontana. When completed in 2010, this project will begin making use of reclaimed water to irrigate parks, medians, schools and landscape areas in and around the Village of Heritage. Construction of the backbone infrastructure system will be completed by the Inland Empire Utilities Agency. The Cucamonga Valley Water District (CVWD) will build the extension of this system into the Village of Heritage area and the City will provide a portion of its reclaimed water to CVWD for delivery.

The second of the two projects will cover the south part of Fontana. It is planned that this project and system will be developed by a partnership between the Inland Empire Utilities Agency (IEUA), Fontana Water and the City of Fontana. This project will serve landscape areas, schools, parks and medians in the Southridge area of Fontana.

The City has developed a conceptual plan for this system that has received support from both IEUA and Fontana Water and we are currently negotiating a service agreement/contract with Fontana Water. The plan is for IEUA to build the backbone infrastructure for this system and the City will build the water delivery system and then contract with Fontana Water for the delivery of the water. Once the service agreement/contract is finalized, the City plans on moving forward with the technical design and construction of the system immediately. It is our hope to be able to build this system with grant and state funding dollars.

The City has also developed a master plan for the development of a reclaimed water system to serve the entire community. The challenge for the larger system is getting water into storage areas at elevations that can supply the needs of Fontana.

Reclaimed water is a significant resource available for the community of Fontana and the Mayor and City Council plan on taking whatever steps necessary to take full advantage of this resource.

Kamis, 03 Desember 2009

"Throwing Rocks" vs "Fixing Windows"

A lesson we all learned growing up is that it is a lot easier to break something than it is to make something. I am sure we have all had the experience of either intentionally or unintentionally doing damage to something only to regret those actions later on, wishing we could take back that moment of frustration that we acted on.

Despite this common experience for all of us, I am continually amazed to see people so anxious to tear down the activities of local communities by “throwing rocks” from what they believe to be a place of safety. This can happen through the anonymity of the blogosphere, through uninformed letters to the editor, through newspapers articles that fail to do balanced reporting, and the like.

I have worked in local government for nearly a quarter of a century. During that time I have had the opportunity to have been part of a number of successes and failures. I have received both constructive and destructive criticism, and I have worked with people who have been either supportive or frustrated. I have learned a number of lessons over the years, some of which, I will comment on here.

Lesson One: Throwing rocks is far less rewarding than fixing windows. Anyone can be a critic, but few people take the time and effort to step up and make a difference in their community. I remember a City Council candidate running for election several years ago that I will call “Betty”, not the candidates real name. Betty was set to be elected by the community and elected to use a “rock throwing” strategy throughout her campaign. I sat down with Betty at one point and suggested to her that she would be more successful if she could find things in the City to support and stand behind, in addition to wanting to make changes. Betty could not bring herself to do it; she only wanted to be a rock thrower. She continued to try to tear everything down, and in my opinion became viewed as standing for nothing. Betty lost the election by a large margin because she had no interest in “fixing windows." My advice is to not tell people what’s wrong unless you are equally willing to work at making the community better.

Lesson Two: Things are never as good or as bad as you think they are going to be. People often fall into the trap of thinking that one candidate, one vote, one change, or one program, etc. is going to forever define the future of an organization. I have found this to be untrue. Certainly there are both good and bad changes that take place. When good things happen, there is still the work needed to build on that item or it will not achieve its full potential. When bad things happen, there is still an opportunity to look for ways to turn failure into success for the common good of the community. You often see this played out in elections. People think “when my person gets in everything is going to change.” The truth is that issues are very complicated and there is seldom a one-size-fits-all kind of approach. Becoming entrenched in political rhetoric only makes solutions more difficult. We must all work together to get real improvements made. I suspect that both our State’s Governor and Country’s President would be the first to say, “amen” to that.

Lesson Three: Problems should be viewed as opportunities for new success. Set backs are a part of life. It is our reaction to those set backs that define the make-up of our character. I recall a time, several years ago, when I developed a strategy for a road funding/construction project that I believed was important to the community’s success. I took the item to the City Council for approval, thinking that I had worked out all the issues and expected to be received with praise and accolades. What I received instead was opposition and frustration. I could have taken the response and sulked about it and moved on to something else. Instead, I listened to the comments from the City Council, expanded the scope of the project, and repackaged the idea with a long-term city-wide strategy. When I resubmitted the idea to the City Council it was met with glowing support and became one of the lynch pins for success in Fontana. My advice to all is to look for the opportunities in everything that happens. You will be surprised by what is possible when you maintain a positive attitude.

Lesson Four: Give credit for success and take responsibility for mistakes. We have a simple management approach in the City of Fontana. It is each employee’s job to make their boss successful. It is my job to make the Mayor and City Council successful. It is the department head’s job to make me successful and it is the mid-manager’s job to make the department head successful. It is one of the truly amazing things to see. When you focus on giving the credit away, the organization flourishes and everyone wants to be part of the success.

So my advice is:

1. Support what you can and be willing to be a part of it.
2. Don’t be carried away with unrealistic expectations.
3. Accept new challenges as opportunities for success.
4. Let those around you accept credit for good work.

Rabu, 02 Desember 2009

Bulk Once A Month Cooking & Pizza Dough Recipe

There are a bunch of bloggers doing a once a month cooking day this week. I find that it works best to do mine Sunday afternoon while my toddler sleeps and my baby (who is hit and miss whether he'll nap without me laying down with him) plays with dad. And mine is more just plain bulk cooking rather than once a month, since I don't do enough to last all month of most things.

If you're on twitter, we're using the #oamc hashtag, there's a Facebook event, and Money Saving Mom and LifeAsAMom are hosting the whole thing.

I love bulk cooking because
a. it lessens the amount of Papa John's pizza we consume.
b. I don't have to do as many dishes and
c. it's easier to stick to my menu when I don't have to do much for dinner.

2 out of 3 lbs of meatballs that I rolled, mixed in sea salt, fresh ground pepper, and ginger before rolling.

When I'm prepping for a big day (or naptime) of cooking, I prioritize what takes longest or is most helpful (start that first) and what isn't (pumpkin seeds are nice, but aren't going to prevent the whole Papa John's pizza thing from happening)
Meatballs are our substitute for the kid-standard of chicken nuggets. If you're doing them not on GAPS, you can add bread crumbs or ground (dry) oats and an egg to stretch the meat. My kids like them because they're kid-sized and easy to chew.

Pizza dough: I can fit enough for 5 mediumish pizzas in my KitchenAid. Five a month works well for us.

Roughly: (I'm awful at measuring)
5 cups white flour
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 tsp sea salt
2-1/2 cups warmish water
2 tsp yeast

Dump in. Turn on mixer. Turn off after 10 minutes or so and allow to rise.

I roll it out with a rolling pin. It doesn't work right after you mix it, you have to let it rise a little first, then you can roll it. I got 5 good-sized pizzas out of it, and if I had mozzarella I would have made up the whole things, but I didn't, so I just have pre-rolled crust (freezer paper between) in the freezer on a cookie sheet so they freeze flat. These are for hubby since he's not on GAPS.
Buttercup squash and seeds. No water in the pan this time, I greased it with coconut oil to prevent sticking. Sea salt and coconut oil on the seeds; this squash had a ton of seeds!

I did a bunch of juice to clear out my fridge and so I could reduce the amounts of times I washed the juicer. Above is apple/orange, which I did first.

Then I threw out the fruit pulp and did veggies, saving the veggie pulp to put in my chicken stock (which worked really well, thanks for the idea!) I did 3 quarts, we drink about a quart a day.

And the dishes- this is the main reason why I like to cook a bunch at one time. It pretty much takes the same amount of dishes to make meatballs, whether you're making 1/2 a pound or 5 pounds, and the same for everything else. Now to heat up, I just use one pan and that's it.

Not a ton of food today, but a good head start for the week for me. I also do cookies 3 batches at a time (picture coming soon), scoop with a cookie scoop, flash freeze on a baking tray, pop off and put in ziplocks. I do the same thing with rolls for hubby's sandwiches (when I make those) and dinner rolls. I cook enough chicken to last all week at one time, then do all the chicken stock at once too.

So this is how bulk cooking works into my life right now (and I know that some families would eat this all in one setting!) with little ones who need mom. I don't have a problem cooking dinner with them underfoot, or even something like crabapple jelly, but I don't think it would work for our family to do all 30 dinners in one day.