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The Runt of the Litter

Girlfriend, Sister, Labrador Retrievers, Raising a Puppy, Why To Pick the Runt Of The Litter

It has been an interesting week - and speaking for myself I am eternally grateful for the approaching end of the 24/7 coverage of the royals.  The royal wedding, the queen, Lady Diana, the giant crazy hats, Billy and Kate and the wedding gown.  Sheesh.  For gosh sakes they've been flatmates for years.  It's about time that fella made an honest woman of her.

Over the years my pal Braumeister and I have discussed this nonsense of the royal family at length and our conclusion is that we kicked King George and his family out of this country more than 200 years ago for good reason. 

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Renovations nearly complete at former Drew's building in Wauwatosa

Wauwatosa, Retail

The redevelopment of Wauwatosa's former Drew's Variety Store building, 7503-7509 Harwood Ave., is nearly complete.

Renovations at the 8,400-square-foot building, which has been largely vacant for three years since Drew's closed, will be completed by early June, according to its owner, Sustainable Properties Inc. The work includes new energy-efficient windows, and a boardwalk with outdoor seating.

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Realities of Texting and Driving

Auto, Safety, Driving

Do you think it is okay to look at your phone for 4 to 6 seconds so that you can read or type even a portion of a text message? Do you think it would be okay to close your eyes and continue to drive for 4 to 6 seconds? They both have the same effect, your eyes are off the road and we all know what can happen on the road in the literal blink of an eye.

Please take the time to watch this powerful video documentary prepared by AT&T. 

Maybe in time for the next election. . .

Voter ID, Wisconsin, Jennifer Lopez, Death of Bin Laden

My younger daughter does not have a driver's license. Why is the subject of various family legends. But if you asked me, I'd say it was because the kids split the cost of driver's education with me, and it wasn't a high enough priority for Liz. She's careful with her money.

But that's another story. A week before her 21st birthday and in preparation for the time-honored Wisconsin rite of passage, the first legal drink, she decided to get a bona fide Wisconsin ID card. And there the tale begins.

The first battle for a nondriver who lives on a college campus is getting to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Those of us who've been driving forever have sampled the locations and know which ones to avoid. But the vehicle-less aren't choosers in this world. A nondriver is stuck with the site closest to the bus line--in my daughter's case, the last one most of us would choose if we had to renew our licenses or take a test.

Accordingly, Liz waited a long time in a less than pleasant environment to show the clerk the identification she had brought: birth certificate, student ID, passport, and checkbook with her address.

Seems more than adequate? Does to me. But there's a Catch 22. In order to get an official state ID, some of the staff believe you need to have an official state ID. After a long debate, a supervisor finally agreed to accept her identification verification.

In 10 days or so, she might get the ID. Barring any further glitches. Not in time for the birthday--maybe in time for the next election.

Right now, there's a bill in the state legislature to require photo IDs for voting. Those who oppose it agree with Rep. Kelda Roys of Madison, who says that voter fraud is rare and that the bill "disenfranchises the poor, elderly, minorities, and students."

Liz's experience refutes the claims that it's no bother to get an ID. In fact, it's a significant undertaking.

As far as I know, the Constitution assures Liz the right to vote. It does not say she has the right to vote--as long as she has a driver's license.  Contrary to the claims of people like supporter Alberta Darling, this law effectively puts a damper on those would-be voters.

Meanwhile, I'll hope that if Liz decided to celebrate her birthday the way many do, with a drink in a bar with friends, she found one that accepted her passport and birth certificate.

It would have been a lot easier to get a fake ID. Perhaps the enterprising will begin selling them to the other disenfranchisees. I can't say I'd blame them for trying. But I do blame the legislators who pretend that this bill is not designed to keep people from voting legitimately. That will certainly be its effect.

Do You Compost?

composting, hot composting, passive composting, vermicomposting, worm composting, International Compost Awareness Week

If your answer is yes, you have my permission to skip reading this blog post.

If your answer is no, I'd like to make a special appeal to you: consider engaging in the simple, delightful process of turning organic "waste" into the resource it really is. This is International Compost Awareness Week, and in honor of the event, I'd like to challenge you to make a bold move to cease throwing kitchen scraps into the trash and instead give composting a try. In doing so you'll discover for yourself how magical (and how easy!) the act of composting can be.
Composting is magical because it takes garbage and turns it into a useable product – compost, also known as "humus." Humus is a crucial but often lacking component of healthy soil. Adding compost to the earth reduces the need for commercial soil amendments, as well as manufactured chemical fertilizers that can run off our properties and into the rivers and lakes, polluting our water supply. Compost adds nutrients and micronutrients to depleted soil, helps soils retain moisture, and reduces erosion. This allows us to grow healthier plants, from vegetables and fruits to native flowers and even grass. It can act as mulch and side dressing and can be used to make "compost tea." Compost can be purchased, of course, but it is virtually free, after start-up expenses, once you begin converting your own kitchen waste into this natural resource.
And composting really IS easy. There are three main ways to compost -- choose your favorite. The bottom line is that anything you do to return resources to the soil, rather than send them to the landfill, is an important contribution to environmental sustainability. 
The first method of composting I'm going to discuss is probably the most well-known. Hot composting is a technique whereby your aim is to "cook" your vegetable-based waste. Food scraps heat and thus break down faster into compost. Contrary to popular opinion, a pile doesn't necessarily heat because of the sun or summer temperatures. It heats when beneficial composting bacteria go to work inside a pile, heating it to degrees upwards of 160 F. This pasteurizes the pile and creates high quality compost quickly – the total turn-around time is about three months when a pile properly heats. 
While this is a fantastic composting method, it can be tricky to get a pile to heat. Heating requires a carbon to nitrogen ratio of 30:1 in the waste. Carbon rich materials include things like dead leaves and hay. Nitrogen rich materials include fresh-cut grass, vegetable scraps, or manure. Many say a good rule of thumb is to mix two parts carbon-rich "brown" materials with one part nitrogen-rich "green" materials. In order to heat, the pile also needs to be adequately moist (about as wet as a wrung-out sponge) and it needs to good oxygen flow – aeration is encouraged through regular turning of the pile. 
Sounds fun, doesn't it? 
Um….sort of? I know I don't have time to do all these things. I would, of course, LOVE to see my big ol' pile out back get so hot it steams, but I know accomplishing this is no small task.
An alternative is what is called "passive" or "cool" composting. This is the outdoor composting method of choice for those who are extremely busy – or just plain lazy. I think I may have one foot in each of those categories, which is why this method works so well for me. The main difference between hot and passive composting is the amount of work that goes into it – and the amount of time it takes to create usable compost. For my pile, I simply dump waste into the bin. I try to layer the types of waste I add – for example, if I dump in nitrogen-rich veggie and fruit scraps I will cover them with carbon-rich dead leaves. I do this to help the carbon-nitrogen balance and to cover any offensive-smelling waste that might attract flies. Occasionally I will also turn the pile, although I admit I don't do it often enough to call it "hot" composting.
Interestingly, right now my pile is so big that it seems to be heating, despite my laziness. If it heats, it will compost faster. Otherwise, the compost from a passive pile is typically ready in six to twelve months. I usually harvest compost in late spring, just as I'm preparing my vegetable beds. 
One caution: if you choose passive composting, avoid adding weed seeds to your pile. Though most weed seeds will be destroyed by heating, without the heat the seeds may survive the composting process and end up sprouting in your gardens.
The third method is worm composting, AKA vermicomposting. I've written about in the past on this blog and I own a small vermicomposting supply business; I encourage you to peruse those resources if you want to learn more. Vermicomposting is my favorite composting method, simply because it's fast, can be done indoors year-round, and produces a superior compost that plants love. Worm composting creates finished compost in approximately two to four months.
With all three methods, avoid adding meat, fish, poultry, dairy, and other animal products, as these wastes create offensive odors and can attract pests. Also avoid adding heavily processed and salty foods, charcoal briquettes and ashes, and dog and cat feces. Paper products are OK – throw those coffee filters and paper towels in with your fruit and vegetable waste. They'll break down quickly in a compost bin of any kind.
As for composting systems, you can invest in an expensive commercial compost bin, and if you want to do this, more power to you. Just make sure you read as many user ratings as possible before spending money so you have an idea of what to expect. Of course, you do not have to buy an expensive commercial bin to compost. There are plenty of plans for bins, ranging from a simple cylinder made of chicken wire to more complex wooden systems. You can also use concrete blocks to build bins. The Wisconsin DNR has a nice site with composting resources, including info on types of home composting bins. Check it out. 
My passive bin is made from scrap wood and chicken wire, which allows for decent air flow around the pile. Wooden slats in the front slide up and out when the time comes to remove the compost. The two sides allow me to focus on adding waste to one side at a time; when the first side is ready, I remove any unfinished materials and place them in the other side, then begin adding new waste to the second side.
If you are unable to compost yourself, you may be able to find a neighbor to help you. I use my large bin to help neighbors compost. I also feed neighbors' waste to the thousands of red wiggler worms that eat garbage in my basement. 
If you can't find a neighbor to help you compost, locate a community composting collective, like the Milwaukee Community Compost Network. Or, start a collective yourself. 
If you have a big composting bin and not enough waste to fill it, you might consider offering to compost for your neighbors. You can also try to compost for local restaurants and grocers. There are many possibilities for composting. By working together, every community can turn their garbage into gardens!

Friday Morning Music

Alison Krauss, Union Station, Hot Women, Popular Culture, Friday Morning Music

More awesome guitar work.

And start your weekend with some sultry vocals from Alison Krauss...

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Speak up for Transit

mass transit, RTA, Transit NOW

With gas pump prices at an all-time high, you might think that even the most diehard road and car enthusiasts might back off of their anti-mass transit positions. But no, here is the latest news I received from Kerry Thomas of Transit Now:

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It's Off to the Races~ THIS DERBY DAY!!!

St. Bernard's 31st Spring Parish Auction at the Hart Park Muellner Building

The perfect spring event!  All are welcome!

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The Garden Chronicles

Gardening, Growing Your Own Vegetables, Homesteading, Gardening, Organic Gardening

Less than three weeks ago there was four inches of snow on the ground and it had been raining incessantly.  The month of April posted record amounts of precipitation on the the Door Peninsula.

 It has finally dried-out sufficiently to begin prepping the garden.

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Mom's the word

Mother's Day,

Mother's Day is about the mother you have, should you still have one, more than it is about the mother you are, should you be one. But maybe we should shift the emphasis.

Unless your mother was from the Mommie Dearest school of mental illness and depravity, chances are you are painting her in the light of near sainthood today. This is the day we pay homage to the best in our mothers, and with generosity forget about the rest. Since I no longer have a living mother, I've been ruminating about what it means to become a mother worthy of the real and ritual forgetting of the faults, heaping of the fond memories, putting aside of the wrongs done.

My mom was a wonderful woman, no doubt about it. Still, she had her quirks. Reverse snobbery was one. It came from protectiveness, but she was deeply distrusting of my friends who came from wealthy, highly educated families. She didn't want anybody to hurt or think they were better than her beloved cubs. I try to remember this when the Sarah Palins of the world sneer at the articulate and well-informed. Or when I fall into my own deep distrust of those who claim authority or superiority over me.

Mom was also a master of the freeze. She could go silent for weeks. Anyone who lives with a cold shoulderer knows how awful that can be.

Still, my own in-the-thick-of-it failings were much worse than Mom's. One bedroom door is tattered and warped from a crazy period when I couldn't handle stress, when I felt alone in the world, when I reacted with "wooden swearing:" the slamming of doors.

Since I am sometimes a little oblivious, the universe has taken to delivering messages in odd ways. Once a postcard fell from the sky into my hands. A house in the neighborhood had exploded, and I just happened to be walking by at the time. Today a book fell from the bookcase, knocking me ever so slightly upside the head.The title: How to Behave So Your Children Will, Too.

It was clear enough whose behavior is on the line here: Mom's. In this case, mine.

If I live to be as old as my parents, I've got nearly 30 years to get it right. Or at least more right. A few decades to deserve the title Mother and the flowers and brunches that go with it.

Thanks, Mom, for being flawed and wonderful, a whole person. For showing us how to love and how to keep growing for as long as we have in this beautiful, difficult, world. And for sending me messages now and then, in whatever ways they appear.

31st Parish Auction Pictures

All attendees (parish members and guests alike) had a great time at the "Off to the Races!" 31st St. Bernard Parish Auction.

Thank you to the 2011 Chairpersons: Melissa and Keith Pups for their tireless dedication...

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Here Comes The Sun

It's been a long, cold, lonely winter.

Less than a month left. That’s what I have to keep telling myself to get through the rest of this school year. I know that this time of year, pretty much everyone is excited for summer, but let me tell you a few of the reasons why I’m especially excited.

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Random Musings and Idle Chit Chat

Economics, Firearms, Governor Scott Walker, Governor Walker, Scott Walker Deer Manager, Scott Walker Deer Management, Koch Brothers, Walker and the Koch Brothers, Mayor Didier, Mayor Didier and the Koch Brothers, Americans for Prosperity, Odds and Ends, Random Musings and Idle Chit Chat, Raising a Puppy, The Day Job, Taxation

Just last week we celebrated an important anniversary in America's exploration of outer space.  On May 5th, 1961 - Alan Shepard was the first American in space. 

 NASA Photo

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Children of inspiration

In 2002, fellow Wauwatosa (East) High School alumni and I met with then-principal William Stroud to create what has become the school’s “Wall of Inspiration.”  We inducted our first group of distinguished alumni in 2003.  Since then, we’ve honored 27 alumni.

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Friday Morning Music

Madeleine Peyroux, Hot Women, Patsy Cline, Friday Morning Music

Start your weekend with an awesome cover of a classic Patsy Cline tune by Madeleine Peyroux.

No video just the tune...

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Wauwatosa Catholic School: Meet & Greet (& take a peek...) THIS WEDNESDAY

Wauwatosa Catholic School


Opening in the Fall of 2011! *K3 to 8th Grade*  Meet the Staff!  Learn about International Baccalaureate Program!  Meet Principal Julia D'Amato and faculty!

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Going First

Wauwatosa Catholic School, Kindergarten, K4, K3 &, leadership, Middle School, Open House, small class size

It's scary being the one who chooses to go first.  Be it the first one who hops on the latest rollercoaster, the first to say, "I'm sorry", or the first to say, "I love you."  Some would agree that being the first to taste this blogger's cooking would be the most scary of them all!

Wauwatosa Catholic School~opening in the fall of the 2011-2012 school year~ is going to be the first of its kind.  WCS is more excited than nervous to be a part of a community that is watching as we dive into uncharted waters for the Wauwatosa area.  We ask for your prayers and support as two families become one while we work together to fulfill our mission. 

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Outreach of All Kinds

As the weather (hopefully) gets warmer, human nature turns our attention to the great outdoors.  We get so few months of "nice" weather here in Wisconsin, we tend to get busy making all sorts of plans to enjoy it.  But hunger and the need for a helping hand are always present in and around our community-even when the weather is nice.

St. Bernard Parish happens to house the Wauwatosa Food Pantry.

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Celebrate~St. Bernard Parish's 100th Anniversary!

St. Bernard 100th Anniversary
Celebration Mass
Sunday June 5, 2011
10:00 am Liturgy and Mass
Archbishop Listecki presiding
Reception and Brunch to follow at 11:30 am
Griffey Center-Church Basement
Please RSVP to the parish office at 414-258-4320 or return yellow RSVP slip if you received one in the mail.

St. Bernard invites the community to celebrate at Mass with us!  If you have fond memories of St. Bernard Parish over the years, please share (post)!

If Only The Dead Could Talk

Family, Military History, Veterans, Memorial Day, WWII, Normandy Invasion, 9th Infantry Division, Guest Post

Today is Memorial Day.

The day we honor and remember those who have given the last full measure of devotion by sacrificing their lives in service to our country.

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