Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Put the "Giving" in Thanksgiving

Within the past week the Internet grapevine told me of a few worthy causes in need of Thanksgiving treats. The holiday is 4 weeks away, and now is the perfect time to start putting the "Giving" into Thanksgiving (then you'll have so much more to be thankful for, you see...rhyme unintentional).

I ask you to consider spending a few extra bucks when you do your weekly grocery shopping this week, and send a few provisions to those in need.

1. Hunger Task Force - Operation Marshmallow Man
I found this opportunity through a Twitter "pal" @BtotheD. Each year the Hunger Task Force in Milwaukee puts together 800 T-Day bins for families in need. Each bin holds all the fixings for a proper Thanksgiving meal, and they are in desperate need for bags of mini-marshmallows.

800 bags of mini-marshmallows to be exact.

(for the sweet can't have sweet potatoes without marshmallows, ask Oprah)

Last night at the grocery store I added a measly $8 to my bill for 4, 16oz bags. It may seem like a pittance, but those four bags now bring the total need down to 796. If only 200 people donate 4 bags each, we've got this challenge, well, in the bag.

Learn more about how to donate, where to drop off donations, and BtotheD here.

Yes, those delightful miniature puffs of sugar are needed, not for your marshmallow gun, nor for equally miniature s'mores, but for families in need so that they, too, can have a nice Thanksgiving dinner.

2. Agape - Operation Merci
I had a little trouble coming up with a catchy title for this mission, so lemme explain.

I know a guy.

He's a missionary in France.

He and his team are bringing a "taste" of the U.S. Thanksgiving tradition to the students they work with in Toulouse, France. Not only is this a Turkey Day celebration, but really it's more of a fellowship opportunity for everyone to spend some quality time together, cook together, be a family for a day, and learn a bit more about the United States.

Sounds cool, right?

The problem is that France doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving.

"You're kidding!" you say.

Go ahead.

No! I'm not kidding! And the next problem is then, of course, Aaron and his team cannot find all of the necessary T-Day accoutrement required for a successful celebration (like how I threw in that French word?).

If you like sending large packages across the oceans (and subsequently looking like a spy to postal workers), you can send any of the following items that they desperately need...for 75 people:

Thanksgiving-themed napkins and paper plates
Thanksgiving and/or Fall-themed decorations
Cranberry sauce
Cream of mushroom soup
French fried onions
- Methinks they're making green bean casserole. Please don't let the French go without a delicious green bean casserole! I assume they have French cut green beans available there. Get it?
Stuffing Mix
Cans of pumpkin

I'm putting a package together, and if you want to donate any of these items let me know and I can mail them out together. This could get quite expensive for me, so if you're super generous (you know you are!), you can mail them yourself and have the fun of sending a super secret international package. Leave a comment and I'll get you Aaron's mailing address.

Thanks for listening and have fun putting the "Giving" in Thanksgiving!

Vegetarian Chili

Last night, in honor of the last day of the beloved Westtown Farmer's Market, which, incidentally, was cancelled due to #MilwaukeeBlows2010, Staub Child and I enjoyed a Mommy 'N Me session making chili.

Chili makes a delightful meal for any frightfully cold day, and while Milwaukee isn't so frightfully cold, it is rather gusty, which, in this author's estimation, fulfills the necessary requirements for cooking up a pot and putting that new Staub Child to good use.

Yes, you just got a nice centerfold-esque pic of where the magic happens in my kitchen. Don't mind the prehistoric oven - it's my landlord's.

On the outside it just looks like Lil Stauby is taking a breather in his new home.

In actuality, that chili's been cooking for a good 45 minutes on low heat, getting more and more delicious the longer it's juices keep recycling - condensing on the inside of the lid, dripping down the picots, thus preserving all the delicious juices and flavors.

Savory doesn't even begin to cut it, kids.

I'm happy to report that Staub Child did Momma proud. Totally the best chili I've made to date.

Note: Head over to Cream City Cuisine for the recipe of this delicious Farmer's Market Chili!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Mon Petit Chou

It was a productive weekend in Quarter Century land. Carving pumpkins with the nephews always proves to be a fun time. Ironically, two little boys really dislike getting their hands dirty by digging out the pumpkin guts (or "Brraaaaainsssss" as their favorite aunt calls them), while a twenty-something favorite aunt enjoys the gore immensely.

This twenty-something favorite aunt celebrated the death and dismemberment of the four pumpkin soldiers with a trip to Cook's Corner in Green Bay.

Really, the two activities are unrelated, but I have to have an entree to introduce you to the newest member of my family. Drumroll please...

I give you, Mon Petit Chou, or, Staub Child as I've come to lovingly refer to this ridiculously expensive, yet never overated, cast iron enameled cookware.

Isn't she pretty?

In the words of those in the know, "Le Creuset is for the masses; Staub is for those in the know."

"What's the difference?" you ask.

Go ahead. I'll wait.

Well, I'm glad you asked. You see, Staub browns better than Le Creuset. Not necessary for some recipes, sure, but definitely better for some.

Also, see those black bumps on the inside of the lid? Those little babies take all the juicy condensation that happens during cooking and drops it back down into your stew, chili, Coq au Vin, whathaveyou.

That's called Self-Basting, kids.

The interior of the Staub pot, unlike Le Creuset, also allows for seasoning over time like any great cast iron cookware. Ms. Q's gonna make some darn fine fried chicken in this little baby, let me tell you.

If you'd like to add a little Staub to your family, I'd suggest heading over to Cook's Corner in Green Bay. This $400 pot was half off and included the Baby 1/2 qt. Staubs you see in the picture.

Those little guys are gonna make a mean queso dip.

Have I peaked your envy yet? Are you ready to bring your taste buds over for dinner? Better yet, would you like a Staub Child of your own?

Lemme just say that, unlike a real kid, your Staub Child will not cost you a quarter of a million dollars by the time it turns 18. Also, if Staub Child is 18, or 20, or even 30 and is still living at home with its parents, I guarantee you'll view that as a success.

Note: The enameled cast iron pan in the back of the shot is not Staub, but still another great 50% Off find at Cook's Corner. Seriously, you should check 'em out.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


David Bowie said it best, "Time to face the strange."


But I suppose that doesn't really apply here. I'm just blindly trying to find an intro to talk about the updated look you see here at Quarter Century and, whaddya know, Ziggy Stardust came into my head.

Deal with it.

You may have noticed the updated look. I've been trying to find something I like for, oh, about a year now but I just haven't been that dedicated. I came across this theme over at, and really enjoyed the design but hated some of the specifics.

Specifically, it's titled the Happy Shopping theme and has some strangely exuberant, overly trendy gal on the front page and a strangely small space at the top for a blog title (where my profile is now pictured).

Not to worry, folks. I'm a bit handy at design.

I took a crack at personalizing some of the theme's finer points and am quite in love with the results.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

1st Annual Native American Film Festival by Native Punx

You may remember a post last month when I explored the Indian mascot debate.

Not only is the point relevant because of the Mukwonago situation, but also because today begins the 1st Annual Native American Film Festival in Wisconsin.

Native Punx, the organization behind the film festival, has a website detailing all of the information, but let me give you the short and sweet of it.

Marquette University
When: October 14 - 17, 2010
Why: Because it increases your knowledge through everyone's favorite medium: movies.

Okay, seriously though, if you can attend any of the events you should. See the Facebook page for exact films, times, and locations.

Tonight there are a series of shorts followed by a discussion on the Indian mascot issue. Saturday evening boasts a Q&A with Ada Deer, who will discuss her experiences in an Indian boarding school during the U.S. assimilation policy, after the screening of The Only Good Indian (is a dead one as the white settler lexicon of the 1800's goes).

It's a little known fact that Native Americans make good films, and it's an even lesser-known fact that they still aren't always treated with respect and equality in mainstream films - either in their representation or on set.

I could go on an on, but I won't bore you. If you have any questions feel free to contact me or leave a comment.

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Review: Waiting for Superman

I was lucky enough to catch a free screening of Waiting for Superman last night at the Oriental. The controversial documentary, which takes a closer look at the American public school system and its failures, opens on Friday at a theater near you.

This film also screened at the Milwaukee Film Festival to a sold out theater, which is why I missed it then. I heard from viewers that it takes an unfair stance against the public school system, highlights charter schools as the end all be all, and paints the teacher's unions as the main, evil obstacle to reform.

I found out that these were not only overly simplistic criticisms, but also not entirely true when taken in the context of the entire film.

Guggenheim does show the major pitfalls to reform, showcases some of the worst public schools in the country, and highlights some of the best charter schools. Sure, it's a little biased. But I think the main point of the film is that the system is broken. What it was designed to do in the 1950's is no longer relevant to the reality of today's job market or what our country needs in educated workers in order to be globally competitive.

As my friend, an educator, stated after the film, if all this documentary does is raise awareness of the problem and all of the underlying, systemic issues that reform faces, then it was successful. (J - I paraphrased)

One of the most surprising things I learned was that American schools do employ - to some extent - the track system similar to that of European schools, and of which I'm not sure many of us were aware.

In Europe, students are tested throughout their time in school - much like the U.S. - and based upon the results of those tests are put on certain career tracks. For example, when I taught in Hungary, my students prepared for their Matura examinations. Their choice of university - and subsequent career - was based upon the marks they received. This was mainly because university is free in Hungary for any student who gets the marks to attend.

In the U.S. we would know this as Gifted & Talented programs - students who perform best on the tests are put into these higher-learning programs with a lower student-to-teacher ratio and higher expectations.

If it's one thing I know, kids will fulfill your expectations. This film proved that. Whether those expectations are high or low, and what they achieve according to those expectations, is up to us.

Students who do not perform well on the tests remain in their class, likely with a higher student-to-teacher ratio, or if they perform abysmally, are sent for remedial learning. What winds up happening is that students are broken into three groups: those who will become leaders (doctors, lawyers, CEOs), those who will become skilled professionals (accountants, managers, etc), and those who will become workers.

Sure, it doesn't apply to everyone and there is room to move beyond your track if you're an exceptional student, but as one mother in the film said, it's the difference between having a career and having a job.

I also found it interesting that the filmmakers suggest that it's not poor neighborhoods that develop poor schools, but vice versa. I think there's proof in this theory. Just look at some of the wonderful things happening in the neighborhoods of good schools in Milwaukee. Bruce Guadalupe Community School (and the United Community Center, by extension), for one.

Yes, our system is broken, but it's not the fault of just any one factor. Reform needs to happen, proven success from model programs needs to be adapted and scaled to make a larger impact, and adults need to be able to keep it about the kids. As Michelle Rhee, Chancellor of D.C. Public Schools - and controversial reformer - said, "it becomes about the adults," and that's when we hit the hardest roadblock to achievement.

What's interesting is that the Washington Post just reported that Michelle Rhee, Chancellor of D.C. Public Schools will announce her resignation later today, effective at the end of the month. I can't help but feel that with this film poised to make a major impact on the nation, possibly upcoming elections, and our overall thought process and awareness, that this is crappy timing.

Monday, October 11, 2010

@Muse in Milwaukee, A Short Review

This update is a few days overdue, but it's taken me that long to come down from the ocular and auditory high I received at Muse's Bradley Center show.

First, the opening act, Passion Pit, about which I only have the following to say (in the form of a conversation had during their set):

J: Wait, is their band name Passion Pit or Passion Fruit?
MsQ: Wait, I thought we were listening to MGMT...

Let's just hope Passion Pit doesn't pull a Stephenie Meyer and claim they've never heard of MGMT and, therefore, wouldn't count them as an influence.

Now, to Muse.

The show was, in a word, Epic. Yes, with a capital E.

Though the UK alternative rock band boasts 3 multi-talented members (seriously, no one should be allowed to be as talented as Matthew Bellamy), it is this author's opinion that the video for this arena tour should count as the fourth (not to mention the man-in-black/on-stage-roadie spotted adding to the mix).

Seriously, though, whatever they paid the concert stage designer and video director was not enough. Exhibit A:

I especially appreciated the effects for the show's opener of Uprising.

Ti molodyets, Comrade!

Not to mention the social commentary during United States of Eurasia. It was especially moving in light of the recent rash of news reports linking bullying - especially toward the LGBT community - to student suicides.

All in all, Muse put on a fantastic show, further proving my theory that the number of semi trucks (at least 2 dozen for this show) required to haul the set from venue to venue is in direct proportion to the awesomeness of said show.

Monday, October 4, 2010

#mff2 Part 3: Eastern Europe

It's no secret that I have a general interest in all things Eastern Europe.

I'd be lying if I didn't admit to an ardent love of halusky, langos, and Soproni.

This is likely why I was drawn to the following two films during the Milwaukee Film Festival. The first deals with cooking, and I love me some of that, and the second is set in the midst of the Carpathian mountains and is presented partly in Hungarian. You know I especially appreciate that.

Cooking History
This film spans almost a century of war, and investigates what is was like for those soldiers who were commissioned to cook for their thousands of brethren on the battlefield. Through stalwart interviews sometimes presented tongue-in-cheek by the filmmakers, we get to hear war stories from those who fought a different sort of battle - feeding thousands of soldiers utilizing a cooking space sometimes the size of a postage stamp.

Each set of interviews is accompanied by a recipe that will feed the soldiers in question. A little known fact is that a pinch of salt makes most everything palatable.

Overall this film was at times funny, other times poignant, and always entertaining. A true storyteller's documentary.

My only comment is to remind the audience that even though you may buy your meat in cellophane-wrapped styrofoam trays, yes, the animals still had to be killed in the process. Even though you, as a consumer in America, are far removed from any food growing/harvesting/butchering process, it's far past the time you remember where it comes from. So stop harrumphing, covering your eyes, and gasping with outrage when you see that chicken's neck broke or that cow's vein cut open in the film. After all - a dirty secret you likely don't want to hear - animals are kept and killed far less humanely in our U.S. mass-produced food system than what you saw here.

Katalin Varga
I really wanted to like this film. During the screening I kept reminding myself how beautiful Hungarian and Romanian countrysides are as I closed my eyes and listened to them speak in those lovely, melodic native languages. I reminded myself that I was supposed to like this film and be its champion. I was transported back to my time in Hungary, convincing myself that I should like this film based on that tie alone.

But it didn't work.

Until the end.

To say I was highly disappointed with the cinematography would be an understatement. I think my 5-year-old Sony handycam could do a better job of capturing what were supposedly breathtaking views of the Carpathian mountains. We'll never know. The scenes ended up flat and sometimes just awkward depending on the camera angle.

The filmmakers also did that stupid shaky camera thing that, I think, filmmakers believe either a) makes things seem scarier, or b) makes things seem more "real," but really just gives the audience a headache and makes me, personally, not want to look at the screen.

But the story was awesome...unsettling...disturbing...heartbreaking...and loving.

And the end...

The end made all the rest of it so worth it.

On a somewhat mff2-related topic: I'm happy to report that I won a screening pass for two from to see Waiting for Superman next week. I was so disappointed to have missed this film at the festival - the 2010 Allan H. (Bud) & Suzanne L. Selig Audience Award winner. I'll have a little recap next week.

Friday, October 1, 2010

#mff2 Part 2 - A MUST SEE

I spent last night with the Milwaukee Film Festival in a double feature at North Shore. In my #mff2 Part 3 post I'll elaborate on the first film of the evening, Katalin Varga, but first I had to rush home and tell you about a MUST SEE film for Saturday.

Beware. This film is fantastic.

And I don't say that too often. In fact, that's what I'm loving about the film festival - finally not being burned. I can't tell you how many times in the past year I've gone to a mainstream film and been disappointed. So far, I haven't been disappointed by any films I've seen at the festival.

So, I repeat.






This 2008 Russian musical takes place in 1955 Moscow - the height of Communist power - where a subsect of Russian youth adopt Western pop culture, even under fear of ostracism, beatings, and arrest.

On the surface it's a love story, but at heart it's a tribute to a culture I'm not sure we Americans can fully comprehend.

Can you imagine living your life as you are right now, but with the constant fear that it will land you in jail, or worse? Would you have the courage to dress as you do, or more, say the things you do if it meant social and political ostracism, usually directly tied to the future well-being of you and your family?

But that's not entirely what makes this film so fabulous.

The cinematography is absolutely a feast for the eyes, and it does for 1955 Moscow what Mad Men does for 1960's New York.

Furthermore, the music is divine. You don't have to understand Russian to want to buy this soundtrack, play it ad nauseum, and sing along at the top of your lungs.





Saturday, October 2nd - 9:15 PM
Oriental Theater, Milwaukee
(You can see it right after The Milwaukee Show and right before The Best Damn F*#@ing Midnight Program Ever. Sh*t. to round out a truly spectacular Saturday night)