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Digging Out

Life In Tosa

Old neighborhoods have their charm for sure.

Our old 1921 Tosa bungalow is ideally situated.  Walking distance to the parkway, the Rotary Stage, three grocery stores and all sorts of pubs and restaurants.

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A Little Bit of Good News About a Lot of Snow

Snow insulation, Home Energy Efficiency

By now most of us are channeling our way through mountains of snow following snowmageddon (I’m taking a short break to warm my frozen hands after shoveling for two hours this morning). Building up so much snow against our bungalow caused me to return to a question I have every time we get dumped on like this by Mother Nature: do the heavy banks of snow against a house's foundation act as a kind of insulation, helping to retain heat? Or does the snow act more like ice in a cooler, chilling the house? 

I'm inclined to believe the snow insulates more than it chills. It's tough to find a very scientific answer to my question, but these two blog write-ups on the subject seem logical enough: "Using Snow to Insulate Your House" at and "It's cold! What difference does snow make?" from The conclusion is that snow does have an insulating quality, though I would suspect it's minimal -- foundation snow berms and a little roof top snow help, perhaps, but unless our homes are totally buried they're not insulated all that much. 
That said, I haven't found a source yet that says snow chills a house. So keep shoveling! There's nowhere else for this much snow to go anyway, other than against our homes. Hopefully it's helping to keep our houses a tiny bit more insulated so that when we return inside from shoveling, we're a little warmer.

A job well done -- again

Thanks for a job well done.

Once again, City of Wauwatosa employees got us through a difficult situation.  This time, it was the Blizzard of 2011. 

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Friday Morning Packers

Go - Pack

Are any of the rest of you getting all tingly like I am?

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St. Bernard's Pics of Pasta Event!

For the 12th consecutive year, Joe Bartolotta was in charge at the St. Bernard Griffey Center's kitchen for the Annual Spaghetti Dinner hosted by the Athletic Association.  A great time was had by all!

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No Gloating in Packer Nation

Go - Pack

Isn't it just grand to be a Packer fan?

Life is slowly returning to normal here in Packer Nation now that the Lombardi Trophy has returned to its rightful home in Titletown, USA. 

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Planned Parenthood and me

Planned Parenthood

Like a lot of women my age (that would be 60), I can remember a time when it was a lot easier to get pregnant than not.

Now things are different. But I wonder if young women like Lila Rose, avowed enemy of Planned Parenthood, have any idea what life would be like if you didn't have ready access to contraception.

I was about 20, maybe 21, when I made my first visit to Planned Parenthood. It seemed like having sex was inevitable, given the way the relationship was going, so my boyfriend and I made the trek from Madison on the Badger Bus. We were pretty sensible and responsible people.

Most people I knew were pretty cautious about sex. Our mothers had convinced us if a boy just waved "it" over us, we'd get pregnant. Nice girls didn't do it. Nice boys didn't even ask. Except when they did.

Still, a high school friend or two had disappeared to visit distant "aunts" and come back months later, a little quieter, a lot more subdued.

An affluent college friend had left the country to have an abortion. A less affluent friend went to Chicago.

And I went to Planned Parenthood in Milwaukee.

After filling out the paperwork we met with a counselor who asked when we were getting married.

"Married?" I asked, puzzled. "We don't have any plans like that." The woman frowned and left the room.

A few minutes later, an elegant older woman in a wool sheath dress called me into her office. "You can't get the Pill unless you are going to get married in the next few months," she said. "We can only give it to married or engaged women. So I suggest you get engaged fast."

I got the message. "We're getting married this summer." The nurse nodded, the stirrups were pulled out and the exam given, and I walked out the door with a pink plastic disk full of tiny pills.

Can it really have been like that? Yes, it was. This was a couple years before Roe v. Wade.

The boyfriend lasted through about four pink plastic disks. Then there wasn't any boyfriend or disks for awhile. The next time, I went to the kindly old Madison doctor everyone else went to. He didn't even bother with the exam. There was just a friendly chat and the writing of the prescription.

To have health care depend on telling a lie or finding a doctor whose mission of kindness made him forgo the requisite medical steps seems awfully odd these days. But not to those who are straining to turn back the clock.

Now it's my kids and their friends who turn to Planned Parenthood when they have nowhere else to go. I'm glad the organization is still there, and glad they aren't making kids tell lies to get care.

As to those who are dramatizing lies to entrap Planned Parenthood workers, let's hope those lies don't harm their souls, and let's hope they help the organization become more thoughtful, careful, and honest about the good work they do.

Do What Vince Lombardi Wouldn't Do

Personal, Packers

The other day, I did something that Vince Lombardi wouldn’t do. I had a colonoscopy. That’s right, the legendary coach, known for his inspirational speeches and coaching brilliance refused to have this routine exam. Vince Lombardi died far too young at the age of 57. I recently turned 50, which is why my doctor and I decided I should have a colonoscopy. I have no history of colon cancer in my family, nor have I had any concerns. I just knew it was time.

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Friday Morning Music

Hot Women, Popular Culture, Reader Contributions

A reader contribution and a walk down memory lane. 

Start your weekend with these sultry vocals...

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The Wonder of Worms

vermicomposting, composting

This weekend I'm giving a vermicomposting workshop to our neighborhood garden club. It's the first workshop I've ever done on the subject and I'm thrilled to be able to share my knowledge of this unique practice with others. In case you're unfamiliar, vermicomposting is a special way to return the nutrients in vegetable waste to the soil. It involves using earthworms, specifically "red wiggler" (Eisenia fetida) worms, to eat coffee grounds, apple cores, carrot peelings, and other waste. In the process, the worms turn this "garbage" into a rich natural fertilizer. 

My interest in vermicomposting began several years ago, when I began hearing that folks were keeping "pet worms" in boxes in their homes and using them to compost. I was fascinated by the idea of having a little composting factory right in my house. So one day I decided to give vermicomposting a try. I did some research and built my own bin using an 18-gallon plastic storage tote. I bought several containers of red wiggler worms from a local bait shop, dumped them into the bin atop moistened newspaper strips, and began my vermicomposting adventure.
Truth be told, my first couple of years experimenting with worms were rocky. All went well with my first bin until I started noticing tiny fungus gnats all over the place. Frustrated with the pests, I moved the bin outdoors, buried the too-moist, nitrogen-rich bin contents with with dry, carbon-rich materials, and left the bin alone for a spell – a very long spell. In fact, I left the bin outside all the way through the winter. When I returned to the bin in the spring, I had a container full of lovely compost, but no worms! It was then that I learned the hard lesson that worms cannot survive above ground outdoors during a Wisconsin winter.
Determined not to give up, that spring I started a new bin, this time with a bucket of worms from Growing Power in Milwaukee. As I started to get the hang of vermicomposting I soon added a second bin. Then a third. Then I started building bins for friends and family. I'm now at the point where I'm so into vermicomposting that I just launched a little side business called Gardens, not garbage! to help others establish their own worm bins. I also hope to continue to give workshops in the area. Vermicomposting is a fabulous way to reduce waste while creating an amazing organic fertilizer in the process. If you do it right it doesn't smell and works like magic. 
The best perk of vermicomposting, for a gardener like myself, is being able to use vermicompost to revive tired houseplants. I brewed up some "vermicompost tea" about a week ago using this method. Before using the tea to water and fertilizer my houseplants (everything from dracaena to dwarf pomegranates, figs, and coffee plants) I decided to try something I recently learned about in my Master Gardener class: I gave my houseplants a shower. I took all my houseplants and put them in my two bathtubs, then rinsed them with warm water, cleaning dust from their leaves (excessive dust can inhibit photosynthesis). After rinsing the leaves and soil thoroughly, I allowed the water to soak through the pots, washing away the build-up of salts that can occur in the average houseplant pot due to treated water. After their bath, I poured my brew of compost tea on the plants' leaves and into the pots. The compost tea serves the dual purpose of acting as a foliar rinse and a fertilizer. The beneficial microbes in the tea strengthen the plant, positioning it to better resist diseases and pests. The tea also adds nutrients to the pot, bringing dead soil back to life. 
My plants now look so healthy and shiny and new. Though the task of showering them was a bit painstaking, I don't imagine that the process will have to happen more than once or twice a year. Of course, I will probably repeat the compost tea every few weeks, because it's so beneficial. It doesn't take much vermicompost to make the tea – only about a quart per five gallons of water -- and it's fairly easy to make. The benefits are definitely worth the trouble if you want happy house plants!

What do women want for Valentine's Day?

Wouldn't it be great if there was one easy answer to that question?

But women, like government employees, like business entrepreneurs, like teachers, like other human beings, are various. Some want one thing, some want another, and others will declare they want nothing but love.

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I Think I Love You

Justin Bieber, Music, Movie, Never Say Never

He’s kind of a guilty pleasure. I mean, if you are a teenage or preteen girl you pretty much can’t help loving Justin Bieber. I’m not sure if it is his looks or his music but he’s got a whole lot of the world on a string. His new movie, Never Say Never, came out yesterday and from what I’ve heard it’s pretty good, even if you are not one of the millions suffering from what has become known as “Bieber Fever.”

I think that the thing I like most about him is that he is real: he sounds good not only in recordings but also live, unlike so many singers today. For those of you who don’t know him or his story, he had been posting videos on YouTube for a few years and they became really popular. Later, he got signed by Usher and that’s when the real fame set in.

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Guess the Critters

Guess the critter

This denizen of the woods and his enthusiastic sidekick absolutely love winter.

It's pretty hard to beat a walk in the woods on a sunny day when the temperature is a positively tropical 11 degrees with fresh snow to track the various critters.

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If Only The Dead Could Talk

Dead People, History, Science

Regular readers know that I frequent graveyards.  There is much to be learned about the lives of the deceased by reading a headstone or two and doing a bit of research. 

And speaking with the departed.

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Bedtime story for the governor

Governor Walker

Once upon a time there was a pretty land, green in summer, white in winter, and green-and-gold all of the time in its heart.

As most places, and not just in fairy tales, there were times that felt pretty calm and good.

Just yesterday, most of the people were doing a little better than okay. They had jobs and time to go fishing now and then. They could eat the fish they caught, as long as they didn't do it too often. Their children kicked or tossed balls around and went to decent schools and grew up well, planning to do a little better than their parents.

But then things shifted. They always do, but we always forget. That's one of the magic spells cast on human beings, forgetting what we need to know until something or someone, usually an unlikely, even unpleasant Rumplestiltskinny source, comes along to lift the veil.

Then we smack our foreheads and say things like "Duh!" Or "Hey, that emperor really wasn't wearing any clothes," or "wait a minute: hope and change are good things."

But back to the shift. For reasons in their personal control, like spending too much for the wrong things, and for reasons out of their personal control, like population pressures and financial skullduggery, things got worse for a lot of people.

(They also got a lot better for a very few people, but that's not my story. I sort of wish it were, but if I say that someone will pop up and holler "class envy," which isn't really it. It's having-enough-not-to-worry-so-much envy.)

Anyway, the population, which used to have barbecues and baby showers together as they cheered for their kids or the Packers, began to divide.

One tribe was the Notax tribe. The other was the It'smorecomplicated tribe.

The Notaxes liked simple messages, like, well, No New Taxes. Or Open for Business. You can't blame them because really, it would be lovely if life were that simple.

The It'smorecomplicated tribe couldn't really pull together a nice slogan because, well, it is more complicated. But not that complicated. Personally, I think they let despair drive them down. But for whatever reason, they lost their story. And it's one of the stories that keeps our spirits alive.

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Friday Morning Music

Popular Culture, Hot Women

I have been remiss in not including this genre.  My bad.  I apologize.

Liven-up your start to the weekend with some cool jazz and Esperanza Spalding.

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Announcing Wauwatosa Catholic School's First Principal

A separate blog is in-the-works for Wauwatosa Catholic School: Serving the St. Pius X and St. Bernard Parish Communities... opening Fall of 2011... but in the meantime, both Fr. Bob Marsicek and Fr. Pete Drenzek wanted to share this news.

Wauwatosa Catholic

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Random Musings and Idle Chit Chat

Random Musings and Idle Chit Chat

It's time to re-boot the old blog brain.

Did any of you pay attention to this year's Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show?  If you did, you might have taken note that the most popular breed in the USA was again snubbed in the competition.

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Ash Wednesday

(Mr. William Strube stressed the importance of this time of year in this week's St. Bernard Gazette.)

From the Principal's Desk

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E-Mails Containing Malware Sent to Businesses Concerning Their Online Job Postings

Business Watch, Internet Safety, Scam, Security

This comes directly from the FBI Website.

Recent FBI analysis reveals that cyber criminals engaging in ACH/wire transfer fraud have targeted businesses by responding via e-mail to employment opportunities posted online. 

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