Selasa, 05 Oktober 2010

Managing the City’s Debt

I have decided to use today’s blog to give a general overview regarding the management of the City of Fontana’s long-term debt. This is not intended to be a technical accounting discussion, but rather an overview regarding the long-term implications of the existing debt to the community.

At the risk of oversimplifying, two broad categories of debt will be discussed within this blog: Bonded Debt and Developer Debt.

Bonded Debt (about $600 million) is fully amortized debt, meaning that it will be completely paid off during the term of the bonds. This type of debt is similar to a house mortgage. Money is borrowed, an interest rate is assessed based upon market conditions and the strength of the credit and there is a schedule of payments that will completely pay off the debt over time, usually 30 years.

Most of the bonded debt is issued by the Fontana Redevelopment Agency (RDA) (about $400 million) or by Community Facilities Districts (CFD) (about $145 million). Debt issued by the RDA is repaid from property tax revenues collected by the RDA. These are not new taxes, higher taxes, or additional assessments; the funding for this debt comes from the basic property tax that all property owners pay.

CFD Debt is repaid from assessments made against property. This obligation can only be created through a vote of the property owners which often takes place during the construction of new developments. Individuals who buy into developments with bonded CFDs must be notified of the added assessments prior to purchasing the property. The current City Council’s policy regarding bonded CFDs is that they will not approve the creation of new CFDs unless there is a significant community benefit that can be identified. The existing CFD debt for Hunters Ridge and Walnut Village will be fully paid off in 2015. The Village of Heritage bonded CFD will be retired in 2017. When these bonds are fully paid, the collection of assessments from the property owners will also cease.

Both RDA and CFD bonded debt is typically issued to pay for the cost of construction of regional back-bone infrastructure. This infrastructure typically includes roads, sewer and storm drain construction. Another significant safeguard for such debt is that the debt is an obligation of the RDA and/or the CFD. It is not a debt of the city nor is it backed by the general fund. Should a default occur on such debt, the recourse of the bond holder is only against the assets of the RDA or CFD. Each RDA project area and CFD is a separate legal entity so the debt does not have recourse against other residents within the City of Fontana, even under a default.

All of the current RDA and CFD bonded debt obligations are in the black, meaning that there is sufficient revenue being generated within those districts to pay for both the principal and interest payments as they become due. When feasible, the RDA and CFD debt is refinanced to take advantage of lower interest rates. When such refinancing takes place, the term of the debt is not extended and any savings that results from the CFD refinancing is usually passed on to the property owners in the CFD district. Many property owners in the City who live in CFD districts have benefitted from such a restructured refinancing in the past.

A look at revenues and expenditures in the Fontana Redevelopment Agency shows annual revenues of about $100 million and total bonded debt service of $32 million. The surplus of revenues over expenditures in RDA is used for a variety of purposes including low-income housing (required by State law), pass-through financing to other entities such as the fire department and schools, and to pay for capital projects such as roads, sewers, storm drains, parks, libraries, economic development, and administration. Many of the new facilities and community improvements constructed over the past few years have, at least in part, been accomplished with contributions from the surplus of RDA revenues over debt service.

Developer Debt (about $200 million) was created to repay a developer for infrastructure they built in connection with the construction of the Southridge Village. In the 1980’s, a developer approached the City Council with a plan to construct a 10,000 unit housing development in South Fontana. As you might imagine, there was a great deal of infrastructure needed to support the proposed development. The City of Fontana did not have the money to build the needed infrastructure for the proposed development. As such, the developer proposed, and the city agreed to a plan that would require the developer to pay for all of the required infrastructure for the project and in exchange, the City would reimburse the developer over time for the cost of the infrastructure from the property tax revenue it received from the Southridge Development through its Redevelopment Area (Jurupa Project Area).

The unusual aspect of this agreement is that the millions of dollars invested by the developer of the Southridge Village accrues interest at a rate of 15 ½ % per year. Admittedly, while this seems to be an excessive interest rate in today’s market, I am told that this was a market based rate of interest at the time the transaction was negotiated, nearly 30 years ago.

Over time, the interest accrued has been adding to the debt since it has and will continue to grow much faster than the RDA’s ability to repay the debt. Therefore, on paper, this debt continues to grow significantly. For example, 15 ½ % on a debt of $200 million is $31 million. Regardless of the growth of the amount owed, however, the obligation to repay the developer does not change. The repayment is limited to the amount of property tax revenue taken in by the Jurupa Project Area of the Fontana Redevelopment Agency. When the Jurupa RDA Project Area goes away in the year 2033, the Fontana RDA will no longer collect taxes for this project and as such, will no longer have an obligation to pay on this debt.

At times there is discussion about the State Controller’s Report that lists Fontana with in excess of $2 billion of debt. This report calculates both principal and interest accrued over time. (For comparison purposes, this would be similar to an individual borrowing $300,000 to buy a house and then being told they owe $1 million when you add up the total of all payments being made over time.) The growth of the developer debt over time is primarily responsible for the numbers included in this report. Regardless of whether this developer debt grows to $2 billion or $20 billion, the obligation to pay on this debt remains unchanged. Categorizing this debt as a burden to future generations of Fontana residents is a misstatement of the facts generated from a lack of understanding of the nature of this debt.

Final Thoughts. The City of Fontana, like any City is focusing on the need to encourage economic development and to create jobs for the community. The basic building block for economic expansion is the construction of City infrastructure. The issuance of debt, when well managed, is a critical component to the completion of such infrastructure.

The City of Fontana’s debt is being well managed and represents a significant investment within our community. The City will continue to management its debt and has not nor will not create an environment that saddles the future residents with debt. This is the philosophy of this City Council and I am confident that it will continue to be the philosophy of future City Council’s as well.

If you would like additional information about the City’s debt structure or would like to examine the issues in more detail, please feel free to contact our Management Services Department at (909) 350-7671 to schedule an appointment. The financial records of Fontana are available to everyone and I am sure that staff would be happy to address whatever additional questions you may have.

Rabu, 22 September 2010

School Traffic

I received this question from a community member regarding traffic around schools.

Having attended community meetings throughout the city, a common problem is traffic around schools during drop off and pick up. What efforts does the city take to control the action of dangerous drivers at his peak times?

Historically, vehicle and pedestrian traffic around school zones is a challenge during the morning and afternoon peak hours. There are approximately 54 schools within the City’s limits. We have been very fortunate in recent years to work directly and closely with the school districts in the planning phases of the schools to accommodate as much traffic on site as practical.

The City of Fontana traffic engineering staff performs a site review of each school and implements a signing and striping plan which is consistent with the California Manual of Traffic Control Devices, specific to school zones. These zones use a variety of warning and regulatory signing as well as advance pavement markings for the motorist. As part of that review pedestrian traffic is also monitored to determine if adult school crossing guards and/or marked school crosswalks are needed. After implementation, our traffic enforcement unit patrols each school zone for compliance. This enforcement is rotational, based on resources. We also find it to be very helpful to meet with the school resource officers to discuss and coordinate specific sites on a monthly basis. This practice is particularly helpful with some of the older school sites which may have limited on-site access.

We are always available and welcome resident input if you see something particular or out of the ordinary around a specific school. Please contact our traffic engineering section at (909) 350-6600.

Kamis, 12 Agustus 2010

LMD and CFD Rates

LMD and CFD Rates:

At the Southridge meeting a resident was complaining about his CFD.

I at times thought that the fees on landscaping and lighting for the parts of the community are quite costly. (The exception being the middle of town that pay none of the district fees). My question is can you perhaps share an example of the cost break down how these revenues are dispersed?

Community Facilities Districts (CFD), Landscape Maintenance Districts (LMD’s) and Landscape Lighting Maintenance Districts (LLMD’s) are put in place as a way to collect revenue to pay for city services associated with development. These revenues are collected through an assessment that is added to the County’s yearly property tax bills issued to property owners. That revenue is then used to pay for services such as park and landscape maintenance services and street lighting within the established boundaries of that particular neighborhood. CFD #1, or Southridge as it is known to most people, is unique in that this yearly assessment also pays for Police and Fire services. The breakdown of the yearly assessment is as follows:

46% - Park and Landscape maintenance services and utility costs
30% - Police services
18% - Fire services
6% - Administrative fees and cost allocation.

The assessment for services mentioned above will occur yearly for as long as the CFD, LMD or LLMD is in place. Some CFD’s may also have an additional assessment in place to pay off infrastructure bond debt incurred by the developer that built the neighborhood. This bond debt assessment goes away once the bonds have been paid off, which is usually after 30 years.

At their July 28th regular meeting, Fontana’s City Council recently approved the levying of these assessments for the 2010/2011 fiscal year. What is notable about this action is that the assessments for this fiscal year do not include any increases. The Council’s direction to City staff has always been to keep the costs for services in our CFD, LMD and LLMD areas low and as stable as possible. One of the ways this has been accomplished is through the restructuring of the City’s landscape maintenance contracts.

Ten years ago the City had 6 contractors performing park and landscape related maintenance services throughout the City. These contractors were all working under separate contracts and specifications. In 2004 the City’s Public Works Department combined the maintenance specifications for these services into one contract with three distinct service areas. This new contract was put out to bid and resulted in lower costs to the City due to decreased operational costs for the contractors. The contract also became easier for staff to manage due to only having to oversee 3 contractors rather then 6. In 2009 another change was made to include all irrigation system repair charges in the yearly contract price rather then billable as an extra charge as they previously had been. This again resulted in lower costs overall.
Some costs, such as the price of the water and electricity that are used in these areas, will always be difficult to control. Under direction of the City Council, staff will continue to look for innovative ways to keep our CFD, LMD and LLMD fees as low as possible for our residents.

Rabu, 07 Juli 2010

Easy Omega 3s- Fish Jerky

Fish jerky! A slab of wild tuna, marinated with lemon juice, salt, pepper, and dill for 24 hours.  Dried on high 8 hours- fish jerky! Freeze for about an hour before slicing for easy slicing.  I think the drying makes it taste less fishy. I don't mind the taste of fish, but sometimes it's nice to have it toned down a bit.
Marinated in a Ziplock... not the most eco friendly choice, but it's easy.

Beef Jerky!
Dried Pears- yum

Senin, 28 Juni 2010

Commonly Asked Questions - Southwest Industrial Park Specific Plan

The City of Fontana has undertaken a process to update the Southwest Industrial Park Specific Plan. This planning area, generally located south of the 10 Freeway and North of Jurupa, needs to be updated to reflect current development issues in the area. A number of community meetings have been held to discuss the planned update.

Additionally, the City of Fontana is looking into the possibility of annexing a county area called the Almond Avenue Annexation Area. This proposed area is generally bordered by the 10 Freeway to the north, Mulberry Avenue to the west, and Almond Avenue to the east.

Following is a list of common questions and answers that have been addressed with the community.

Question No. 1: Why is the City updating the Southwest Industrial Park (SWIP) Specific Plan?
Answer: The SWIP Specific Plan was adopted in 1982 and does not reflect the goals of the City Council for this industrial area.

Question No. 2: How does the SWIP Specific Plan update benefit me as a property owner?
Answer: The new Specific Plan should attract new businesses that will improve the roads and sidewalks in the area.

Question No. 3: My business was approved in the County. Can I keep this business?
Answer: All legally approved businesses once annexed to the City may continue unless the use is abandoned.

Question No. 4: My neighbor’s property has code violations. Can the City help me?
Answer: Yes. The Code Compliance Division will investigate any complaint. Complaints can be filed anonymously, but if you leave your name and number, we can keep you informed of the status. All information is confidential.

Question No. 5: How can I get information about the new SWIP Specific Plan?
Answer: Information on the Specific Plan can be found on line at the following link:
Or, you may contact the SWIP Team as follows:

Craig Bruorton, Principal Planner, at
Dina Lomeli, Planning Technician, at
Shawnika E. Johnson, Assistant Planner, at
Cecilia López- Henderson, Annexation Program Coordinator, at

Question No. 6: Why didn’t the Specific Plan extend east of Citrus Avenue?
Answer: A public policy by the City Council has been discussed and the City Council has decided that the area east of Citrus Avenue is residentially zoned land and should not be in an industrial specific plan.

Question No. 7: Have there been any meetings about the SWIP Specific Plan update?
Answer: Yes. Staff has had several meetings about the environmental impacts and informational meetings concerning the proposed land use concept and permitted uses. All property owners were notified of each meeting.

Question No. 8: Who can I contact to stay updated about the SWIP Specific Plan update, including meetings?
Answer: The City has established a hotline to take your questions. The hotline number is (909) 422-3408. All questions on the hotline are answered by staff.

Question No. 9: What does “annexation” mean?
Answer: Annexation means that your neighborhood would be placed in the City’s limits, and your service provider for land use services, sheriff protection and other services that the County provides would change. If annexed, these services will come from the City.

Question No. 10: Will my taxes increase following annexation?
Answer: No. Property owners in the City pay the same rate of property taxes that property owners pay in the County area. You will see no increase in your property taxes after annexation.

Question No. 11: Will I be able to vote on annexation?
Answer: If an election is necessary, all registered voters in the annexation area will be eligible to vote. The election results will determine whether the area becomes part of the City.

Question No. 12: Who can I contact for more information about the proposed Almond Avenue Annexation?
Answer: An annexation hotline is available to take your questions. The hotline number is (909) 422-3405. All questions on the hotline are answered by staff. Or, you can contact Cecilia López- Henderson, Annexation Program Coordinator, at . Information on the benefits of annexation can be found online at

Rabu, 23 Juni 2010

New! Traditional Food and Health Textbook

I was so excited to hear about Kristin's Traditional Food Textbook when it first came out, what a great idea! Well, I've now read it (all 203 pages) and it's fantastic!  I learned tons of new things, especially about enzymes, liver health, and the whole A1 A2 cow's milk issue.

The focus of the book is to show that eating real whole traditionally prepared foods should be our focus, rather than the 'nutritionism' which is popular today.  "Nutritionism" is what we see all over mainstream media- quick little quips like, "Fiber prevents cancer" or "Vitamin D prevents heart attacks".  Fiber isn't a food. Fiber is in food, and is found in foods that have many other healthful properties.  We can't expect to isolate fiber from it's source and have it provide the same benefits as fiber found in conjunction with all the other goodies in fruits, whole grains, veggies, etc.

The individual chapters go into the 'why' this works the way it does, dispelling nutrition myths along the way.

Chapter 1 – Food, Not Nutrients

An introduction to whole foods & nutritionism

Chapter 2 – What Traditional Food Cultures Can Teach Us

An introduction to traditional food cultures and the work of Dr. Weston A. Price

Chapter 3 – Healthy Fats & Oils

Discussing fats, essential fatty acids, saturated fat myths & healthy choices.

Chapter 4 – Healthy Meat, Seafood, & Dairy

Discussing protein, essential amino acids, the effects of industrialized food production on the healthfulness of meats, seafood, & dairy & how to make healthy food choices.

Chapter 5 – Healthy Vegetables & Fruits

Discussing carbohydrates, dietary fiber, what affects the nutrient-density of plants, & how to make healthy choices.

Chapter 6 – Living Foods & Superfoods

Discussing vitamins, minerals, enzymes & health.

Chapter 7 – Grains & Legumes

Discussing whole vs. refined grains, & traditional grain and legume preparation methods.

Chapter8 – Bone Broths

The benefits of bone broths & how to prepare them.

Chapter 9 – Sweeteners

Discussing natural sweeteners.

Chapter 10 – The Keys To Health

Discussing what “health” is, examining key organs to health, including the liver, gut, adrenals, and thyroid.

Chapter 11 – Real Food For Real Life

The virtue of Real Food, how to transition to eating Real Food, eating Real Food on a budget.

A great way to make sure you've covered all the real nutrition basics both for yourself and for your children, homeschooled or not! I know I talk to my kids all the time about food, health, and nutrition, but a good comprehensive book is always welcome to fill in any gaps that I might have missed.  And I love that it's in real book format. Ebooks are fun, but there's just something about holding a real book in your hands to make it feel valuable  You can order online here.

Ordering through me helps support this site! Thanks!

Selasa, 22 Juni 2010

City Manager 10/11 Budget Transmittal to the City Council

Each year the City Council considers a budget that allocates resources toward the accomplishments of community goals. On June 14, 2010, the City Council approved the budget for 2010/2011, which starts in July 2010. Following is my transmittal letter for the proposed budget, which outlines a number of policy opportunities and challenges.

I am pleased to present for your review and consideration the Fiscal Year 2010/2011 Proposed Operating Budget for the City of Fontana, the Fontana Redevelopment Agency, the Fontana Housing Authority, the Fontana Community Foundation, and the Fontana Fire Protection District. This budget has been developed with the guidance provided by the Mayor and City Council to provide the highest level of service to the residents and business community of Fontana.

The State continues the struggle to close their increasing budget deficit. The Governor’s Proposed Budget released in January of this year identified a FY 2010-11 budget gap of $19.9 billion, more than one-fifth of the State’s General Fund. The Governor’s May Revise shows a budget deficit of $19.1 billion, comprised of a current year shortfall of $7.7 billion, a budget year shortfall of $10.2 billion, and a modest reserve of $1.2 billion. The January budget proposed $18.5 billion of budget solutions, nearly half of which will not materialize due to delays in adoption, less than expected federal funding, and determination that some are not feasible. To close the current gap of $19.1 billion, the Governor is proposing $12.4 billion in spending cuts, $3.4 billion in Federal funding, and $3.3 billion in other measures. No new taxes are proposed and scheduled business tax cuts are not repealed. No additional shifts or borrowing from local governments are proposed. The Governor stated he will not sign a budget unless it includes budget, tax and pension reform. Be prepared for a prolonged budget stalemate which will leave the State in financial limbo all summer.

General Fund Budget

The proposed budget was developed using conservative yet realistic revenue projections. It reflects declines in the estimates of many of the City’s major General Fund revenue sources from the amounts adopted for FY 2009-10, but is very similar to the adjusted FY 2009-10 estimated revenue amounts when one-time adjustments are eliminated. The only major recurring revenue source reduced from the adjusted FY 2009-10 estimates is Property Tax In Lieu of VLF which has been reduced by $350,000 to reflect an estimated decrease of 2.5% in city-wide assessed valuations.

The Fiscal Year 2010-11 Operating Budget projects an overall General Fund revenue reduction of 3.5% from the FY 2009-10 adopted budget, and 1.24% from the current year adjusted budget. The recommended General Fund expenditure budget reflects a reduction of 2.87% from the FY 2009-10 adopted budget, and 0.94% reduction from the current year adjusted budget.

In anticipation of a slow economic recovery, a number of cost-saving measures adopted by the City Council during the current fiscal year will be carried forward into the new year. These measures include the elimination of vacant positions, early retirements and across-the-board departmental expenditure reductions. Additional reduction measures included in the FY 2010-11 Operating Budget include:

■ Elimination of cost of living adjustments (COLAs) as employee bargaining groups voted to forego or defer such increases, or extend their current contracts without increases;
■ Reduction of annual leave cash out estimates to reflect historical use; and
■ Reduction of workers compensation funding to the self insurance fund to more closely match historical expenditures.

In order to maintain $5 million of funding of annual pavement rehabilitation costs which are so critical to the community, the budget includes funding of $1.3 million from the General Fund and proposes the continued shift of another $4.0 million to other funds including Solid Waste Mitigation, Gas Tax (Proposition 42 replacement funds), and Community Development Block Grant (CDBG).

Due to the prudent fiscal policy direction of the Mayor and City Council, the City of Fontana is positioned to endure the current economic conditions better than most. The FY 2010-11 Operating Budget maintains critical public safety services, quality of life services including recreational programs and graffiti removal, and the 15% contingency reserve.

City-Wide Budget

Revenues for all entities city-wide have been estimated at $270.9 million, with expenditures projected at $264.8 million.
Other General Funds include City Technology, Facilities Maintenance, Self Insurance and Retiree Medical Benefits and are funded primarily through operating transfers from the General Fund. They are maintained separately for accounting purposes only and are reported as part of the General Fund in the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). The reduction in revenues reflects the $1 million reduction in Workers Compensation funding to the Self Insurance Fund (General Fund reduction measure) to more closely match historical expenditures. Higher expenditures in the current year adjusted budget are due to one-time claim payments from the Self Insurance Fund.

Special Revenue Funds account for specific revenues legally restricted to expenditures for particular purposes such as Gas Tax, Measure I, Asset Seizure funds, Grants, Landscape and Lighting Maintenance Districts and Maintenance Community Facilities Districts. Current year budgeted revenues and expenditures exceed the proposed amounts by $11.6 million and $11.2 million, respectively. Current year revenues include one-time allocations to Community Development Block Grant (CDGB) and other programs. The reduction in expenditures results from one-time projects from accumulated funds in the current year.
Debt Service Funds are used to accumulate resources for the payment of principal and interest on the 2003 Lease Revenue Bonds (Police Facility) and the 2007 Lease Revenue Bonds (Ventana Land Purchase). Both revenues and expenditures are approximately the same as the current year adjusted budget.

Capital Project Funds are used to account for the acquisition and construction of major capital facilities and are funded by various sources including development impact fees and community facilities district special assessment bond proceeds. The Capital Reinvestment Fund is funded by transfers from the General Fund. Activity in these funds varies significantly from year to year as resources are accumulated and then used to fund large capital projects. Revenues are projected to decrease by $11.2 million reflecting a reduction in development activity and one-time funding. Projected expenditures are less than the current year which includes one-time projects from funds accumulated over time.

The City’s only Internal Service Fund is used to accumulate costs related to fleet services which are allocated to the benefiting funds and departments through an internal service charge. The fund balance reflects amounts available for future fleet replacements. Revenues remain relatively flat, while expenditures have decreased primarily reflecting a reduction in replacement vehicle purchases as a cost saving measure.

Enterprise Funds account for the City’s business-type activities, operating and capital funds for sewer and water. In recent years, the Water Fund has been used to account for expenses related to the water rate case study. The sewer funds account for the billing and collection of sewer charges, and for the operations, maintenance and construction of the City’s sewer system. An increase in the IEUA pass-through rate increases both revenues and expenditures, with the increase to revenues offset by a decrease in one-time revenues.

The Fontana Redevelopment Agency utilizes tax increment received through the City’s five redevelopment project areas to fund infrastructure projects, to increase and improve the City’s supply of low and moderate income housing, and to pay debt service on outstanding tax allocation bonds. Tax increment revenues were projected at the same level as the current year.

The Agency was required to shift $33.5 million for FY 2009-10 to the Supplemental Educational Revenue Augmentation Fund (SERAF) after the California Redevelopment Association (CRA) received an adverse ruling on their lawsuit opposing the raid by the State. The Agency will be required to shift an additional $6.9 million for FY 2010-11. State-wide, the two-year shift is a devastating $2.05 billion. A November 2010 ballot measure, the Local Taxpayer, Public Safety and Transportation Protection Act of 2010, includes additional constitutional protections to prevent the state from making future redevelopment raids.

Because of the additional $6.9 million SERAF shift due in FY 2010-11, the uncertainty of a reduction in FY 2010-11 assessed valuations, and the $23 million owed to the Low/Mod Income Housing Fund for the current and previous raids, the Agency is effectively shut down for the next five years deferring projects such as the Duncan Canyon Interchange, the Downtown Façade Program Phase III, and possibly Fire Station 71. Assessed valuation growth and voter approval of the ballot measure in November 2010 would have a positive effect on this forecast.

The Fiscal Year 2010-11 budget includes funding for environmental work, design and property acquisition for Central Park and Sierra Avenue design (Sierra Corridor Project Area) and two Low and Moderate Income Housing projects, Juniper Family Housing Phase II and Toscana Apartments project.

The Fontana Fire Protection District was created effective July 1, 2008, to provide fire suppression, emergency medical, fire prevention and education services within the City limits and unincorporated area within the City’s sphere of influence. Revenues to the District include property taxes, fees and special assessments from a Community Facilities District and have been reduced from the current year adjusted amount to reflect continuing reductions in assessed valuations city-wide. Expenditures reflect a contractual agreement with the County of San Bernardino and City overhead costs.

The Housing Authority utilizes funding from the Fontana Redevelopment Agency’s Low and Moderate Income Housing Fund as well as Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grants to improve and develop quality neighborhoods and housing opportunities throughout the City. Revenue reductions reflect uncertainty regarding RDA funding due to State takeaways which results in expenditure reductions.

The Fontana Community Foundation was established for the purpose of aiding and assisting in the implementation, improvement and maintenance of public services that preserve and promote the health, welfare and education of local citizens. Current activity in this fund reflects library fundraising efforts.
Capital Improvement Program

The seven-year Capital Improvement Program (CIP) is a companion volume to this document. A planning tool, the CIP identifies the capital improvement needs in a manner that assures the most responsible and efficient use of resources. The proposed capital budget for Fiscal Year 2010-11 is $23.2 million which represents funding for new and ongoing projects. Again, any funding identified from Redevelopment sources will be revisited when the new assessed valuations are received from the County in early August. Some of the projects include:

■ Pavement rehabilitation – funds $5.3 million from various funds for street overlay and rehabilitation, and construction of new and replacement sidewalks, curbs and gutters

■ Pacific Electric Trail Segments 3B and 4 – funds $400,000 from AQMD and Landscape Improvement funds to be combined with the $2.345 million Federal Transportation Enhancement Grant for the last two segments of the Pacific Electric Trail from Almeria to Cherry

■ Central Park – funds $850,000 from Sierra Corridor Capital Project Fund for Environmental Impact Report (EIR), design and additional property acquisition

■ Foothill median from Sierra to Mango – funds $96,000 from Landscape Improvements funds to be combined with $858,000 Federal Highway Safety Improvement Program grant funding to install a raised median, including pavement rehabilitation and traffic signal modification

■ Miller Park Amphitheatre – funds $325,000 from CDBG for design

■ Sierra Avenue from Foothill to Baseline (design only) – funds $200,000 from Sierra Corridor Capital Project Fund for preparation of “shelf ready” plans for ultimate width allowing for three lanes of travel in each direction including storm drain system

■ Traffic signals – funds $1.5 million from Measure I for three new traffic signals at Merrill & Palmetto, San Bernardino & Juniper, and San Bernardino & Palmetto

■ Juniper Family Housing Phase II – funds $6.3 million from Low and Moderate Income Housing Fund for gap loan pursuant to Developer Disposition Agreement (DDA)

■ Toscano Apartments project – funds $4.9 million from Low and Moderate Income Housing Fund for gap loan for this 71-unit affordable family-oriented multi-family apartment community and learning center

City Council Priorities from Goal Setting Meeting

As a result of the January 8, 2010 goal setting meeting, the City Council identified a number of budget priorities. The following identifies each priority and its status:

Downtown Façade Phase III
With Phase III of the Downtown Façade Renovation Program, the City Council will complete a multi-phase, multi-year commitment to improving the aesthetic of the downtown business district. Construction is currently on hold as there is not sufficient funding in the Downtown Redevelopment Project Area.

Recycled / Reclaimed / Storm Water
Staff is developing an action plan that will explore opportunities to stabilize water rates and maximize the potential use of recycled water for direct re-use and recharge applications. Staff will work with all three water companies that serve the city to identify all water sources available and compare this to the City’s need for water at ultimate build out.

Expanding Redevelopment Areas along Valley Blvd
This project would determine the viability of either expanding an existing redevelopment area along the Valley Boulevard Corridor or creating a new one. Either strategy would ensure that more money is invested into the Corridor’s infrastructure to promote economic growth and long-term competitive viability in the region.

Animal Control Joint Powers Authority (JPA)
Fontana currently has a contract with the City of San Bernardino to provide sheltering services until July 2011. The police department is actively working with the City of San Bernardino and other neighboring cities to establish a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) to provide an animal shelter. In March of 2010 the City of San Bernardino retained a management firm for this purpose and members of the Fontana Police Department have already met with them. In addition to Fontana, the management firm will speak to several neighboring municipalities about the possibility of being a part of the JPA. Staff is confident that the City of Fontana will be a partner in a JPA for animal sheltering before July 2011.

Duncan Canyon Interchange
This I-15 interchange is necessary to accommodate the projected growth of residential, commercial and industrial traffic in north Fontana including the Arboretum Specific Plan and Corporate Corridor. The construction will create approximately 1,000 jobs, and the access off the freeway created by the interchange will stimulate development and therefore the economy. The project has an approved environmental document and is currently in the final design and right-of-way phase. It is anticipated that the project will be ready for construction by the end of calendar year 2010. Construction funding will probably not be available for at least five years due to the SERAF payments required by the State and the possible reduction in assessed valuations for FY 2010-11.

Pacific Electric Trail completion
The FY 2010-11 budget includes $400,000 from AQMD and Landscape Improvement funds as a portion of the match for $2.35 million Federal Transportation Enhancement Funds grant awarded by SANBAG in April 2010 to complete the last two segments of the Pacific Electric Trail. It is anticipated that another $1 million may be required to complete the project.

Compass Grant for Sierra/Valley
This proposal would seek grant funding from SCAG to study this important intersection for eventual re-use, rehabilitation and public and private reinvestment, to promote new economic development and a more attractive gateway to the community.

Chaffey College Phase IV
Chaffey College is planning to expand their current extension center into a full-service community college campus with most if not all of the classes offered at both the main Rancho Cucamonga Campus and the satellite Chino Campus. Economic Development is working with Chaffey to identify the required land and a potential funding source; will assist in identifying any potential off-site facilities such as Culinary Academy and Nursing Programs with Kaiser; and will assist in completing the required application for funding of the construction through the State of California.

Central Park
The Central Park project area is adjacent to the Pacific Electric Trail and Cypress Community Center in the core of the Community. The FY 2010-11 budget includes funding for the Environmental Impact Report (EIR), design and additional property acquisition.

Prototype Middle Schools
Staff plans to work with Fontana Unified School District to create a model middle school campus that offers after-school enrichment opportunities for not only students but also to benefit the community as a whole. Almeria Middle School has been selected for this project because a Boys and Girls Club already exists at the site.

Valley Boulevard Specific Plan
This project would create a Specific Plan for the Valley Boulevard Corridor to help the area update uses, modernize development standards, and transition newly annexed areas to City standards successfully to lay the groundwork for future development to build on the Corridor’s viability as a regional economic engine.

Even with the struggling economy and resulting budget constraints, the City of Fontana saw a number of significant events during this past year.

Significant Events of FY 2009-10

■ Hilton Gardens Inn grand opening
■ Fernandez Park grand opening
■ Shops at Sierra Lakes opened
■ Jurupa Avenue widening
■ New city website unveiled
■ KFON moved into a new studio
■ Fontana Community Senior Center grand opening
■ Automated agenda management system implemented
■ City-wide outreach efforts in support of the 2010 Census
■ Grand opening of Plaza at Sierra, Senior Housing Phase IV
■ Assumed enforcement and licensing aspect of animal control
■ License Plate Scanner system implemented on one police vehicle
■ Completed construction of Pacific Electric Trail Segment 3A from Tokay Avenue to Almeria Avenue
■ Established an emergency operations backup site for the City’s financial system in case of disaster
■ Rolled out the City Manager Blog posting 25 articles to improve communication with the community
■ Completed Downtown Façade Phase II, east side of Sierra Avenue from Valencia Avenue to Arrow Boulevard
■ Reverse 911 Broadcast calling system to notify citizens of an emergency situation in their neighborhoods implemented
■ Partnered with the Auto Club Speedway to host the July 4th Celebration with more than 15,000 people in attendance including 9,000 Fontana residents
■ Fontana Aquatics Center, in partnership with the Fontana Aquatics Club (Sea Horses), hosted its first ever US Regional Swim Meet with more than 500 swimmers and 2,500 spectators

While new funding for the coming year is limited due to budget constraints and the uncertainty of potential State actions, a number of projects that were funded in prior years will be completed in Fiscal Year 2010-11.

What to Look for in FY 2010-11

■ Cypress I-10 Overcrossing
■ Police Department building expansion (1)
■ City Hall parking lot reconstruction (1)
■ Fire Station 71 construction / renovation (1)
■ Pacific Electric Trail Segments 3b and 4
■ Pacific Electric Trail Segments 5b and 6
■ San Bernardino Avenue Phase I reconstruction
■ Auto Mall loop road
■ Ceres Way Apartments project groundbreaking
■ Paseo Verde Apartments groundbreaking
■ New traffic signals at:
o Merrill & Palmetto
o San Bernardino & Juniper
o San Bernardino & Palmetto

(1)These projects could be delayed depending on outcome of California Redevelopment Association (CRA) pending appeal against State SERAF shift.

Challenges Ahead

While the City of Fontana is positioned to ride out the current economic storm and take advantage of the slow recovery, a number of challenges remain on the horizon.

State Budget Deficit
First and foremost, fiscal problems at the State level continue to hang over the City like a dark cloud. Many funding opportunities must be evaluated as “what if?” scenarios because of the ever-present possibility that the State will once again attempt to solve their problems through the borrowing or taking of local funds. The question seems to be not if, but when and how much. As stated previously, the FY 2010-11 Operating Budget makes no provision for potential State takeaways.

Property Value Reassessments
Proposition 8 allows a temporary reduction in assessed valuation when a property suffers a decline in value. Additionally, for the first time since the enactment of Proposition 13, the annual Consumer Price Index (CPI) adjustment which provides the basis for changes in assessed valuations state-wide is negative. True economic recovery for the City of Fontana rests on strong and continuing growth of base values.

Investment Losses
The City currently owns Lehman Brothers Corporate Notes in its investment portfolio purchased at a total cost of $10,118,800. As a result of their bankruptcy filing, this security is currently trading at 23 cents on the dollar and has a market value of approximately $2.3 million. Current estimates for recovery through bankruptcy proceedings are from 20-40 cents on the dollar. Based on the estimated level of recovery, the loss to the City would be somewhere between $6 and $8 million. A group of cities and counties are attempting to acquire Federal bailout money to cover the losses. The City of Fontana has set aside $850,000 to cover a portion of the loss allocable to the General Fund. The FY 2010-11 Operating Budget does not include investment interest revenue projections in most funds in anticipation of the loss that will have to be recorded if efforts to recover the funds are unsuccessful.

Unfunded Liability
Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) Statement No. 45 requires public-sector employers to recognize the cost of post-employment benefits over the active service life of their employees rather than on a pay-as-you-go basis. GASB 45 does not require the City to fund this benefit, only to report the liability and the funding progress. The annual required contribution (ARC), an amount actuarially determined in accordance with the parameters of GASB 45, represents a level of funding that, if paid on an ongoing basis, is projected to cover normal cost each year and amortize any unfunded actuarial liabilities over a period not to exceed thirty years. The ARC for the City of Fontana is currently calculated to be $4.1 million per year. The FY 2010-11 Operating Budget includes funding of $3.25 million. The City has been steadily increasing the annual funding over the past several years and plans to achieve the $4.1 million annual funding by FY 2012-13.

California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS)
The City makes bi-weekly payments on behalf of its employees to be invested by CalPERS. When CalPERS investments do not achieve their targets, the payments made by cities are increased to achieve the target levels. Conversely, when investment earnings exceed target levels, the payments are reduced. Rates have remained stable for Fiscal Year 2010-11, and are projected to remain stable for FY 2011-12. However, recent investment losses sustained by CalPERS could cause an increase in employer rates although they are considering a number of approaches to mitigate some of the impact. Several years ago, the City Council approved a PERS Rate Stability Reserve to help smooth out rate spikes and $800,000 of that reserve has been used to balance the FY 2010-11 Operating Budget.

Animal Control
In 2007, the City entered into a three-year agreement with the City of San Bernardino for animal control services for $650,000 per year. In April of 2009, the City of San Bernardino notified the City of Fontana that, effective July 1, 2009, they would no longer be providing these services. A portion of the savings achieved through the early retirement incentive program was reprogrammed to fund Animal Control services to be provided by the City. The sheltering contract with the City of San Bernardino expires on June 30, 2011. The police department is actively working on a JPA with the City of San Bernardino and other neighboring cities to provide an animal shelter.

Capital Reinvestment Program
Since 1996/1997, the City Council has been investing a portion of the annual General Fund budget back into the community in the form of capital projects (streets, parks and facilities). While the actual annual investment has varied, the goal has been to reinvest 10% of the total General Fund budget back into the community. Due to budget constraints, the FY 2010-11 Operating Budget contains funding from the Economic Uncertainty Reserve of only $1.3 million or 1.8% of recurring expenditures, short of the City Council’s goal. To supplement that amount, $4.0 million from other funds have been allocated to this critical area.

Proposition 218
On November 5, 1996, the California electorate approved Proposition 218 affecting a change to the California State Constitution by making numerous changes to local government finance law. This measure impacts the generation and use of many fundamental revenue sources including fees, charges, assessments, and taxes. This proposition also changes the methods by which certain assessments and taxes are challenged by the electorate. The FY 2010-11 Operating Budget fully complies with the provisions of Proposition 218.

Services and Growth
The City of Fontana has experienced significant growth over the past several years. With this growth comes the need to service a growing community. The funding sources for these additional services are revenue growth and the Municipal Services Fiscal Impact Fee Program (MSFIF).

The Fiscal Year 2010-11 Operating Budget as proposed is fiscally balanced and continues to support services, maintenance, facilities and infrastructure. The budget is comprised of three separate volumes: Operating Budget Summary which provides a high-level overview of activities and programs; Operating Budget Detail which provides detail information at the object code level; and Seven-Year Capital Improvement Program (CIP) which presents the City’s comprehensive capital spending plan.

I am pleased to report that the City of Fontana has received distinguished budget awards from the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) and the California Society of Municipal Finance Officers (CSMFO) for its Fiscal Year 2009-10 Operating Budget for the seventeenth consecutive year. These awards are presented to cities whose budget documents meet program criteria as a policy document, operations guide, financial plan and communications device.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Mayor and City Council for their outstanding leadership and clear direction in building this budget document, as well as the staff members and community partners who have taken the time to participate in this very important process.

I would also like to thank the employee bargaining groups who all voted to either forgo or defer scheduled wage increases, or to extend expiring contracts without increases, in light of the economic challenges being faced by the City. This speaks to the caliber of employees that we are fortunate enough to have at the City of Fontana.

Respectfully submitted,

Kenneth R. Hunt
City Manager

Senin, 21 Juni 2010

Natural Cosmetics- Why I'm Wearing Makeup Again

This is me with makeup on ~ a rare sight since my first was born nearly 4 years ago.  But now I have natural makeup that I feel good about wearing, and I end up spending the minute and a half it takes to apply most days of the week.

Comparing me with vs without makeup you might not notice much of a difference (below is without- with my cute little guy!) but we do. The day I got my natural makeup in the mail, I tried it on right away and hubby walked in after work saying, "Wooooo, you look good!" - he noticed right away. Pretty impressive for this guy!

I felt like makeup wasn't something I was interested in spending time on for quite a while, and thus didn't wear it other than some mascara and colored lip gloss occasionally.  I knew that I never wanted to have wearing makeup be a requirement for me to be seen in public or photographed- I wanted to make sure I was comfortable with how I looked naturally and didn't want to have makeup be an unhealthy priority for me, displacing what really is important, even just for a few minutes.

As I'm working to trade out conventional items for healthier alternatives, I looked into organic makeup and ended up ordering from Actual Organics.  It isn't cheap, but it's healthy and that makes you feel so much better about wearing it.

It really only does take me a minute and a half to put on, and it makes me feel pretty all day, even if I'm just going to the grocery store or to the park with the kids. I have always known that I wanted to avoid becoming a ragged looking stay-at-home mom who stays in sweats all day (though all bets are off when I have a newborn), and spending a bit of time to put on makeup seems to extend out into how I care for my looks, and other areas as well.  I figure if I spent a minute putting makeup on, I can spend another minute cleaning out the car, making the bed (I'm awful at doing that usually), and setting the shoes all in a row rather than letting them gather in a pile by the front door. I'm not saying that buying this makeup will give you a clean house... I'm just noticing how putting a little effort into my appearance seems to start a good momentum for the day :)

I'm a wannabe minimalist, though I've succeeded in always keeping my makeup confined to this little makeup bag that I bought in high school.  Here's what I have:
From Actual Organics:
Foundation in Honey
Plum lip color with a brush
A cute little sampler of perfume- I don't remember what kind but I love it

Rose of Sharon Acres Lip Balm

And Burt's Bees
Face powder that I don't use because it makes me look silly.  I don't know why I keep it
Colored lip gloss

Do you wear makeup? How often? What kind? 

Jumat, 18 Juni 2010

Croissant Topped with Spinach, Parmesan, and Sundried Tomatoes

Simple summer food.  These are store bought croissants (I have made croissants before though!) but they are made with real butter.  Topped with sundried tomatoes that were packed in olive oil with herbs, spinach, and grated parmesan cheese then baked at 375 for 15 minutes, until the cheese melted and spinach wilted.  A quick dinner for when we'd rather be spending time outside, but it was so pretty that I wanted to take a picture.

And about my blog this summer:
I love to share what's going on in my kitchen, but I think as we're all outside more with the nice weather, family vacations, and summer activities I'm going to do shorter 'this is what we're eating' posts rather than long informational ones (like the ones about babies and childbirth, fluoride, liverroot canals, etc).  A season for everything, right? I'll continue to do giveaways because those are always fun, and over on Facebook (come 'like' my page!) I share articles that I come across that are interesting/important.  But for here, we'll be toning it down this summer, and ready to go a little more in depth learning and cooking in the fall.

Some topics I'm looking forward to covering after summertime:

  • Gut health and the importance of probiotics
  • Acne- is it really just little specks of dust in your pores getting infected?
  • How holistic medicine differs from mainstream medicine (ie it's not just using herbs rather than chemicals to treat problems- it treats the root of the issue)
  • Breastfeeding beyond the 12 month mark- benefits for baby, benefits for mommy
  • Houseplants- benefits and how to keep them alive
  • Cold-start gardening (first I want to make sure our garden works!)
  • Soaked wheat/sprouted flour muffins
  • Using stonewear (I have some coming, I doubt I'll be able to hold off talking about it til fall but we'll see)
  • Making a sourdough sponge

Anything in particular that you'd like to see here? Leave a comment below or email me cara faus at gmail dot com

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Kamis, 17 Juni 2010

Play Kitchen- Just Like Mommy!

Since we're in a bigger place now we finally have enough wall space for a play kitchen area!  The kids receive money for gifts from relatives, but in our last place we had so little room for toys and *stuff* that I saved most of it until they wanted/needed/could use something else. I bought Julianna's Kitchen and wanted to give you a little review. Down To Earth Toys is where I ordered from.  They are an at-home family business that sells wonderful natural toys! The colored rings are from there, the little enamelware cups, and they sell the dolls that I make as well.

About Down To Earth Toys' Julinna's Kitchen
So exciting to get such a big box from UPS!  We were outside when the UPS truck came, what fun.  We brought it inside and all set to work on putting it together. I know it's simpler to wait and do it without 'help' (my kids are 1-1/2 and 3-1/2) but it's so fun for the children to participate in  building, and it makes it even more fun when mom spends an hour 'playing' with their toy with them as it's put together.
The instructions for assembly were easy to follow, I used just a Phillips head screwdriver and a small hammer to get everything nestled in the grooves correctly.  We all took turns trying out the screwdriver ;)

I was a little nervous about the hinges, but it turns out that the hinges are really good quality and look like they will withstand opening and closing hundreds of times every day.  The shelf up top is so fun, it's really neat watching them play with something that was designed for their exact size; so often they're trying to reach up and work with adult-sized equipment.  You can see in the top picture in this post that we rearranged their furniture to have drawer/cabinets and a table top 'counter'.   

Playing with the kitchen just after assembly

The kids love it. I love providing them with a place to imitate what I'm doing.  This is set up right along the wall in our dining room, next to the kitchen.  I love to watch their play change as the seasons go- now they're into chopping fruit and veggies, as I'm cutting up fresh fruit often right now! This past winter they set up a 'stove' out of a box and did a lot of stirring and tasting soup.  

Plans for the play area
I'll be honest, I love playing with their little toys.  For their play area I'm going to attempt lazure painting the wall behind their play area here. We're renting, but I thought doing one wall would be neat, and our land lord is okay with it :) We'll see how it turns out! And I want to get them a rug to 'define' their play area a bit more from the dining room that it's a part of.  I love having them play just off the kitchen; they bring me their cooking to sample as I'm in the kitchen often.

What do your children think of all your kitchen work? 

More from Down To Earth Toys:
A special Made in the USA section
And Organic toys too!

More from me:

Rabu, 16 Juni 2010

How We Became Coffee Free!

I've wanted to give up coffee for, well, over 4 years now (since I got pregnant the first time) and it hasn't happened for longer than a few months at a time.  For my first pregnancy I made it through the first trimester without coffee, then in my second pregnancy it gave me the jitters so I stopped then too, only to start back up after my son was born.  But I've always felt that I wasn't awake in the morning until I'd had a cup or three, even after being off caffeine for a few weeks.

When I posted about my 'nap substitute' iced coffee Ann Marie had commented about DLPA, an amino acid supplement that helped her to stop the caffeine.  I was intrigued, but skeptical. I really depended on my coffee in the morning!  

I looked into amino acids as supplements, because I hadn't heard of those before.  I was concerned that they might just be doing the same thing as caffeine, but they seem to correct an imbalance within the body rather than force adrenaline out like caffeine does.  DLPA also has very few side effects for the dose I was going to try.  As I've talked about, I'm not a supplement person, I think it's too common in our society for us to ignore the roots of problem, and just try popping a bunch of pills to cure our problems.  But for some things, herbs, supplements, probiotics, etc have their place.

I decided that this was worth a try.  Some more information:

D, L-Phenylalanine (DLPA) is used by the brain to produce norepinephrine (our brains' version of adrenaline), a neurotransmitter depleted by stress, caffeine, nicotine, pollution, and some pharmacological and recreational drugs. Source

When you’re low on dopamine, you feel dull, unmotivated and tired. Nothing seems very interesting. When left to yourself you might sit in the same spot for hours. This can feel terrible! 

Fortunately, there’s a simple way to boost dopamine levels. The amino acids L-tyrosine and DL-phenylalanine (DLPA) are your body's natural dopamine precursors. When you take L-tyrosine and DLPA as supplements, your body converts them into dopamine, and your alertness and energy level get a boost.  Source

Caffeine gives us a temporary lift by sending norepinephrine into the blood stream.  Over time, healthy levels of norepinephrine are depleted by caffeine and other factors mentioned above ... if not replaced.   Phenylalanine does a great job replacing this major neurotransmitter. Source

DLPA looks like it also helps with chronic pain and depression, so it's not just for withdrawing from caffeine.

I tried it first, and was able to quit coffee immediately without any withdrawal symptoms. I felt like I got better sleep, and woke up ready to go in the morning with more energy than usual, and a longer attention span than usual.  This was about 3 weeks ago now, and I've had half a mug of coffee a couple times, but haven't become addicted at all.  The DLPA itself doesn't seem to be habit forming, I skip most days now and only take it if I start to feel like I 'need' something to wake me up.

This past weekend I finally convinced my husband to try giving up caffeine with DLPA "for my blog" and he has been amazed at how his sleep quality has improved and that he has more energy too. He did go one day without coffee and had no headache or anything (we normally would have to have caffeine in the morning to avoid a headache) but after that one day he decided that he'll keep drinking coffee in the morning.  He has been taking the DLPA every other day or so, though, because he likes how it gives him more energy and better sleep. And it's not the nervous caffeine-induced kind of energy, it's the kind of energy you have after you had a great night's sleep and you're excited to do whatever needs to be done that day.  He wakes up at 5 or so, and is all productive before going to work- before he'd roll out of bed at the last possible minute and rush rush rush to get out the door at 6:30.

This is what we're taking- it's what they had available at our health food store (it's way cheaper on Amazon) Solar Ray DLPA

And Ann Marie's post about her experiences using DLPA to stop drinking coffee too.

I'm still amazed at how well this works, it's almost like it's too good to be true.  I can't seem to find any side effects recorded unless someone is taking about 20 x the dose I have been (I've been taking one 500 mg pill a day, not even every day).  I am still breastfeeding my toddler, and I'm comfortable taking this with him, though I most likely would avoid during pregnancy and while nursing a newborn, but I'd have to research more before deciding (as a default most supplements will say to avoid while pregnant or breastfeeding, though that's not always necessary).

Are you addicted to caffeine and want to stop?

Selasa, 15 Juni 2010

Cookin' Across America

The Local Cook is having a "Cookin' Across America" contest, to showcase different food from different states in the US. Isn't that fun? I entered my Wild Trout Dinner from earlier this year.  This week you can still enter the contest if you have a blog, or visit blogs if you don't, and then voting will open next week.  What a fun roundup of recipes!

Visit here

Senin, 14 Juni 2010

Donielle's Black Bean Brownies

I tried Donielle from Naturally Knocked Up's black bean brownies. Yummy guiltless chocolate, and they passed the kid and husband test as well :) The only substitutions I made were I didn't use bittersweet baking chocolate, but instead I increased the cocoa to 6 tablespoons and the butter to 1/2 a cup.

GAPS notes: Black beans and cocoa are technically GAPS illegal, but I think they're 'borderline advanced' foods and are okay for some.  Whipping cream is not GAPS legal at all, sorry.

Other notes: One pound of black beans, soaked and cooked, yields exactly 3 batches (6 cups). I did my first batch in an 8x8 glass pan, then the second and third together in a 9x13.  Less dishes, and a stockpile in the freezer- win win!  Great served with whipping cream (sweetened with honey, and melting because the brownie is still warm. yum.)

Jumat, 11 Juni 2010

I Love a Guacamole Burger

Wrapped in lettuce, eaten  justwith a fork, or in a bun- barbecued grass fed beef burger, topped with guacamole, cheese, and fresh veggies is summer to me!

Kamis, 10 Juni 2010

Excalibur 5-Tray Dehydrator: Review

I got a chance to try an Excalibur dehydrator after using my friend's garage sale dehydrator for the past few months.  Oh wow what a difference! I knew that Excalibur had a really good reputation, but I didn't realize how much more effecient it would be than an off-brand model.  The main reason I wanted one was because they were square and were a better use of space than a round one.

But besides being a more efficient use of space, the heater/fan is in the back, which means that all trays dry at the same time.  The front cover just lifts off, then the trays are easy to slide in and out, rather than the stacking kind that I had before.  They remove for cleaning or yogurt, which I just placed right on the bottom of the dehydrator (pictures below).  As Excalibur recommended, I left the sheets for making fruit leather on the bottom as a liner- and they just wipe off to clean!

This is a 5-tray model without the timer, and you can use as many or as few trays as you need.  I think it's a great size.  The trays are big- I was able to do 5 lbs of bison jerky on just three of them.  When I showed my husband the trays of beef that were drying he was impressed with the size, "You could fit an entire antelope in there!" (he means once it's been butchered, perhaps this hunting season I could show more of that whole process- with ample warning to skip the post if you don't want to see!)

I know my dehydrator is going to get a workout this summer, I'm looking forward to preserving fresh local foods for the coming winter.  We're moving soon, and our new place has an unfinished basement which is where the dehydrator will live during the summertime, and in the winter I bet we'll end up moving it into the living area again- it's nice to be able to reuse the heat it puts out.  

The book Preserve it Naturally is inspirational to look through too.  It gives directions for drying anything, and the pictures show you what to do.  Hubby skipped right to the meat section, and I was curious about making fruit leather (which really is easy!).  There was instructions for easy homemade cottage cheese in there too, which I'm going to try soon!

Some things I'm looking forward to using my dehydrator for:

  • Found a great deal on ripe produce? Stock up and dry it for future use! We just bought a bunch of strawberries, and while we could have eaten them all in one day, we dried some to save for the future (pictured below).
  • Spinach- I buy 3 lbs of spinach at once at Costco, and we don't always use it all before it starts to go bad, not to mention how much room it takes in the fridge.  I have been using about half, drying the other half to use later. (pictured)
  • Yogurt! So easy, stick it in and ignore it for 24 hours.
  • Jerky- a great snack for day trips out, or even back packing if we were doing that.  Save loads by doing your own, and only have the ingredients in it that you want.
  • Produce from the garden.  We just planted a bunch of tomato plants because store tomatoes don't even compare to home grown ones.  I'm especially excited about drying them to use this winter in soups.  
  • Cleaner snacks for the kids: I love giving my children fresh fruit as snacks, but dried fruit is so much easier for when I don't have the option of hosing them off washing their hands and changing their clothes.

And some pictures of the first few things I used my dehydrator for:

Here's my yogurt (goat) - I fit a gallon in, though I had room for even more! The 24-hour SCD yogurt is easy to keep at a consistent temperature, since the Excalibur has a thermostat.   
There are three different options for the tray- the wider one allows the most air through, this mesh one is great for little pieces so they don't go through, and then the solid sheet for fruit leather.

My yogurt, finished. I didn't have enough lids and doing 24 hour yogurt without a lid does evaporate quite a bit of moisture.

Banana chips- quickly turn on-sale ripe bananas into sweet treats! I bought 5 bunches of ripe bananas that were marked down for quick sale, sliced them up, and dehydrated on the dried fruit setting. I don't mind that they turn brown a little bit, I didn't soak them in anything to try to try to prevent it.  There are instructions in the Preserve It Naturally book that show you how you can soak your fruits in natural solutions to keep it from turning brown. 
Beef jerky! I've made bison jerky as well. I love that these dry evenly and in less than a day.

* Excalibur sent me this product to review. All opinions are my own!