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I Googled "cute ski mask" and this is what I found. Nope, not gonna work for me.
I Googled "cute ski mask" and this is what I found. Nope, not gonna work for me.

Knitters, I need you

The subject of ski masks and why I’m not wearing one keeps coming up. It all began a week or so ago when temperatures first started to really get mean, and after walking just a few blocks to a coffee shop, my face was so frozen I looked like I got a bundle of botched Botox injections.

Since then, I remarked to a few dozen more people -- including Kramp and Alder during our Heat Index segment last week -- that I don’t understand why more Milwaukeeans, including myself, don’t wear ski masks in winter.

They make perfect sense for the frosty season and yet, I never see anyone wearing one who’s not a toddler, a snowmobiler, a superhero or a television robber or rapist. (Maybe real-life robbers and rapists wear ski masks, I do not know for certain because, luckily, I have never seen one in action.)

This is where you come in, knitters. Is there -- or could there be -- such a thing as a cute ski mask, or is this an oxymoron? Are they inherently creepy? Furthermore, can a person wear one without looking like they’re on the verge of  committing a felony? I really want to rock one, but I'm not sure I can really pull it off.

Damn, it’s cold out there, Milwaukee.

La Fuente on Blue Mound opened on Oct. 12, 2010.
La Fuente on Blue Mound opened on Oct. 12, 2010. (Photo: Royal Bonde-Griggs)
A three-dimensional matador mural nods to the El Matador restaurant formerly in the space.
A three-dimensional matador mural nods to the El Matador restaurant formerly in the space. (Photo: Royal Bonde-Griggs)
The fireplace is a cozy touch.
The fireplace is a cozy touch. (Photo: Royal Bonde-Griggs)

Is the new La Fuente adversely affecting the old?

This is a very un-scientific observation, but after recently visiting both La Fuente locations -- 635 S. 5th St. and the new one at 9155 W. Blue Mound Rd. -- I am left wondering if the Blue Mound locale is affecting business at the Walker's Point joint.

The last couple of times I visited the original La Fuente, there seems to have been fewer customers than usual, and last week, despite a heavy snowfall, the Blue Mound location was slammin’ busy. (The new La Fuente opened in October in the old El Matador space and has an identical menu to the Walker's Point La Fuente.)

Expansion can be a beautiful thing -- especially when it happens to a local business person like La Fuente owner Jose Zarate -- but I hope the new location doesn’t discourage Mexican food lovers from the western suburbs from visiting the Latin Quarter.

For the record: a roll of tape is a crappy Hanukkah present, on the first night or the last.
For the record: a roll of tape is a crappy Hanukkah present, on the first night or the last.

Hanukkah gift giving generates confusion

Velia Tarnoff -- wife of publisher Andy Tarnoff and a friend of mine -- recently posted a link on her Facebook page to a list of "Eight Questions Gentiles Love Asking About Hanukkah."

One of the questions on the list asks, "Do you really get a present every night, and if you do, is it just like socks?"

I am no expert in the Hebrew Arts, but because my father was Jewish -- making me what Andy Tarnoff and I refer to as Jew-ish -- I am still often the go-to girl for anything related to non-Christian holidays, the teachings of The Torah and even once, the spelling of the word "yarmulke."

That said, I particularly appreciated this list because an acquaintance -- in a bar, no less -- asked me about the rules of gift giving during Hanukkah. Before I could really answer, she proceeded to tell me that she had heard that Jews give small gifts on the first night "like a roll of tape" and a bigger and bigger gift every night, until the eighth and final night, when they get "something like a Wii."

Um, sure? This is possible -- well, except the roll of tape part, that’s a lame present for any of the December holidays -- but the truth is, not surprisingly, that every family has its own rules, usually not hard and fast, about giving presents at Hanukkah.

I particularly liked Velia’s comment, after I told her, via a Facebook  post, about my friend who thought the gifts had to gradually increase in value.

"Personally, I think (Hanukkah) gift-giving should have a certain rhythm. Start off big. Bring it down. Maybe spike in the middle. Bring it home on the last night. Kinda like a DJ," she wrote.

And it's the last night of Hanukkah, Milwaukee. Light 'em if you got 'em.

My dad at Leon's custard, summer of 2009.
My dad at Leon's custard, summer of 2009.

Dad loved Milwaukee

When I was about 8 or 9, my dad -- a professor of American history who passed away last week -- played for me a 1937 recording of reporter Herbert Morrison’s response to the Hindenburg zeppelin bursting into flames. Morrison’s description of flaming bodies and debris falling from the sky was gruesome and his response was highly emotional. I will never forget hearing this recording, although, as an adult and a parent, I often found it humorous that my dad thought this was an important -- and an appropriate -- sound recording to share with a kid. But really, I am so glad that he did.

My dad loved this recording because it was a dramatic piece of American history, but also because it was a moment of raw emotion and truth. For my dad -- a guy that was named "Most Sincere" by his high school class -- this kind of very-human reporting really meant something. And it did, later in life, for me, too.

Sincerity in writing is something I hold near and dear to my heart, but that’s not the only passion I inherited from my dad. I also got his deep love for Milwaukee.

My dad was born in Louisville, Ky., but he moved to Milwaukee in 1968 to attend graduate school at UWM. Within a few months, he declared Milwaukee his favorite city in the country and for the next 40-some years spent all of his free time attending local events and destinations like Summerfest (he went every year from the year it started in 1968), the Holiday Folk Fair and concerts of all kinds. He made frequent trips to libraries and museums -- often by bus -- and was a season ticket holder for the Milwaukee Brewers.

My dad told me that when I was born, he was extremely proud to have a child that was born in Milwaukee. During my entire childhood, he reinforced his Brew City adoration by reminding me of our strong public school system, reliable public transportation system, proximity to the greatest of the Great Lakes, the city's Socialist roots and the beauty of never-ending outdoor summertime activity. (Sa…