Monday, November 29, 2010

5 Best Christmas Albums

The time has come.

The time for non-stop Christmas music and movies.

I've been trying - successfully - to hold myself back from dabbling in the Christmas spirit until Thanksgiving had it's rightful day to shine, and now that day is over, my friends. O.V.E.R.

Onward to the snow-covered, jingle-belled climes of Yuletide, I say.

And so I celebrate the official beginning of Christmas season (by my own pronouncement, which is official enough for me), with a countdown of my favorite holiday albums of all, well, in my short life anyway.

5. A Charlie Brown Christmas
The classic TV special has a great soundtrack that offers, not so much sing-along entertainment, but rather nice background music to your decorating, cookie baking, or gift wrapping lazy December Saturdays. I sometimes put this on when I'm making those stupid cut-out know the ones I mean...the delicious sugary, buttery, frosted confections that are great to eat but a real pain in the behind to make. The time goes a bit more quickly and cheerfully once I find myself dancing to Linus's piano jams whilst rolling out yet another round of dough.

4. Dave Barnes - Very Merry Christmas
In real life I'm a big fan of Dave Barnes, and was oh, so pleasantly surprised to see he had a new Christmas album out when I was shopping in the CD store for my favorite sister's St. Nick present (hint, hint).

File this under, "How did I not know this?!?!" and "Tart-y to the Party"

Regardless of how long it took me to discover the wonders of this album, I appreciate its perfect blend of traditional favorites like the Bing Crosby classic (you know how I love Bing) "I'll Be Home for Christmas" with new favorites like "Very Merry Christmas," "I Pray on Christmas," and "Family Tree." Barnes does it up right with just the right amount of soul, pop, and jazzy pep.

3. Amy Grant - A Christmas Album
You may disagree with me on this one, but A Christmas Album is my favorite Amy Grant Christmas album. It's my favorite, not only because I fondly remember my mom playing it nonstop during holiday baking and decorating, but also because of the classic early 90's styling of the cover art. I'm sorry Amy, but I always thought you were so much older than you really were because of this picture alone. The 80's holdover hair? The mom jeans? The overdone dark eye makeup? It's one of my favorite memories of Christmas.

Again, I'm sorry Amy. I really do love your music!

2. Barlow Girl - Home for Christmas
I. Flippin. Love. This. Album.

I can't say it enough. I dig Barlow Girl on any given day, but when Christmas rolls around, this album is usually on my nonstop driving playlist - at least since it debuted in 2008. I have to be careful to only play it when I'm driving after dusk because I'm so busy singing along that I can hide how stupid I look under the cover of winter's early sunset darkness.

I also have to be careful to not listen to it when I'm running because sometimes I forget that I'm public...and that I shouldn't sing along out loud.

1. Ultimate White Christmas
No list of Christmas albums would be complete without Bing. Oh, Bing.

I think I was born in the wrong decade, because add in Jimmy Stewart and you've got my two favorite Hollywood actors.

Personally, my Christmas season does not officially start until I watch White Christmas.

God help the studio that tries to remake this classic, because I will not be held responsible for my actions.

The movie's soundtrack can be found in a variety of releases, but this one is my favorite for two reasons.

1. It includes my namesake musical number (or so I tell myself), Mandy, and
2. It's the closest you'll come to a soundtrack for the movie (Clooney and Crosby were contracted to two different labels, and so an official soundtrack was never, contractually, possible).

The songs by Rosemary Clooney were recorded separately under her label, and so this is more of a compilation...thus making the tracks sound a bit muffled at times due to differences in mastering and production.

Blame the studios.

I do.

Until some sort of digital remastering magic happens, this is the best album to give you your White Christmas favorites.

Of course, you can always set your tape player up close to your TV and hit "record" while you watch the movie. Anyone remember doing that when making mix tapes from the radio's Top 40?

Are your favorites missing from the list? Continue the list of Best Christmas albums by leaving a comment!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Holiday Giving Cause (& Event)

Do you buy holiday cards in packs of 12, 14, 16, or 18 and continually have a number of odd an odd number of friends and family?

Do you like to give back during the holiday season?

Would you like to spend some quality time with yours truly?

Then let me introduce my latest Holiday Giving Cause (& Event):

The Red Cross 2010 Holiday Mail for Heroes.

The Holiday Mail for Heroes is a program, which, for the small price of postage you can send as many cards as your generous heart desires to American service members and their families. You can send them individually or a bunch in a large box or envelope.

Take a look at how this simple act of sending cheeful snail mail can bring joy and motivation to veterans during their convalescence:

This is where your odd (number of) friends and family come in.

I'm going to assume that you have a smattering of holiday cards left over from years of sending well wishes to your friends and family.

I'm also going to assume those cards have been burning a hole in your stationery box/drawer (I assume you have a stationery box/drawer).

Next, I'm going to assume that you'd love to have a way to make those unused holiday cards bring joy to those in need of cheer this holiday season.

Lastly, I'm going to assume you'd love the opportunity to spend some quality time with me writing lovely notes on those holiday cards over a glass of wine and/or beer.

If all these assumptions are correct, then please join me for a happy hour and holiday card writing extravaganza (more people get excited and want to come if you call it an extravaganza, yes?).


When: Monday, December 6, 5:00 - 7:00 PM

Where: Maxie's Southern Comfort

Maxie's isn't officially hosting us; I'm just treating this event like an informal happy hour of friends coming together to hang out and accomplish something awesome. If I get a large response I'll let them know to expect us. RSVP here.

Bring a stack of holiday cards and a pen, or heck, bring some construction paper and stickers and make your own. I'll take care of the postage.

If you can't make the event, but would like to take part in the cause, you can send your own holiday cards. They must be postmarked by December 10, 2010.

Send them here:

Holiday Mail for Heroes
PO Box 5456
Capitol Heights, MD

Pitney Bowles collects and sorts them, while Red Cross workers will deliver them all over the world and in our communities.

Know that warm fuzzy feeling you get when you finally get a piece of mail in the mailbox that's handwritten, personal, and clearly not junk or bills? While it seems like a small thing, it's really an easy, inexpensive way to make someone's day this holiday season...someone who has sacrificed so much on our behalf.

Hope to see you there!

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Play-by-Play of Lunch at @EateryonFarwell

As you know from my previous post, I enjoyed a free lunch at Eatery on Farwell yesterday. I had never been there before, shame on me, and, of course, I don’t have a Smartphone so was unable to provide a Tweetathon during the momentous event.

Here’s the play by play as I remember it:

For your typical written in long-form write-up, see my review on Yelp! - 1st to review, baby!

1:04 PM Pull up to Eatery on Farwell and demonstrate a perfectly turned out parallel park. You’re welcome, traffic behind me on Farwell, for the excellent driver’s ed demo.

1:07 PM Enter Eatery on Farwell and speak to pleasurable host, slipping it in that I’m their version of the Miss America First Runner Up

1:10 PM Seated near window for maximum people watching entertainment

1:11 PM Sadly, and with great regret, decline the Bloody Mary. Must save drinking for off hours. Diet coke it is.

1:15 PM Why does fountain soda taste so much better than canned soda?

1:16 PM *sip* Ahhhhh…..

1:20 PM Peruse menu. Salads, brunch, should I do brinner? Sandwic…..huh? Avocado aioli?!??!

1:23 PM Order “The Farwell” (BLT with jalapeno bacon, smoked turkey, tomato, lettuce, and, yep, avocado aioli)

1:27 PM Side? I get a side? Veggie chips, yes please

1:29 PM Get out “Single Diner Props,” and write article for work as I wait for food

1:36 PM Geez, that was fast! I only got to third paragraph, and now must eat whilst I’m on a literary roll.

1:38 PM Take first bite

1:38 PM (and 2 seconds) Holy crap….

1:39 PM Mmm….spice….

Back to writing…
1:40 PM Nope, that second quote should go after (grabs chip) the first para….

1:40 PM (and 15 seconds) Woah, don’t you just love extra crunchy chips?

1:48 PM Choices, choices, choices…lick the avocado off my fingers or go for the second half of my sandwich?

1:48 PM (and 20 seconds) How the heck am I gonna eat the second half of my sandwich?

1:48 PM
(and 25 seconds) I’m no quitter

1:55 PM Uncle!

Needless to say I highly recommend The Farwell and, by extension, the Eatery on Farwell. They offer unique twists and flavor combinations on your tried and true pub fare – surely a crowd pleaser for even the most “meat and potatoes” Wisconsinite. Try ‘em yourselves…

Eatery on Farwell
2014 N. Farwell Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53212

I hear their Bloodies are tremendous, and absolutely must get back there in the next week or so to try ‘em (think they’ll splash a little Rehorst Gin on top for me?). Hit me up if you wanna join me for a taste test of their Happy Hour…

Monday – Friday, 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM
$5 Rehorst Mixers
$3 Lakefront
$2 Miller, Schlitz, PBR

Yes, I memorized their Happy Hour menu. Bite me.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

What Has Social Media Done for You Lately? #FTW

You might've asked yourself this question in the past few weeks, but I sure haven't.

As the holiday season approaches it's easy for us to swing one of two ways - either we give, give, give in an epic display of good karma, or we anxiously await the orgy of greed that is Christmas gift opening (or, the eight crazy nights you get for Hanukkah, my Jewish readers).

Both ends of the spectrum are greatly enhanced by social media, and a quick rundown of what social media has done for me lately will show that it truly is a place for giving as well as receiving.

Repeal of Prohibition = free Bison Blonde - so it's not "lately" in the true sense of the word, but approximately 18 months ago, for the celebration of the Repeal of Prohibition, Buffalo Water paraded a keg of Bison Blonde to Just Arts and tapped it for all eager celebration participants. My friends and I became those celebration participants when we heard about the free beer via Twitter. Oh, the lovely Twitter with it's free beer promoting ways.

Free lunch at Eatery on Farwell - Last week I entered a retweet contest to win free lunch at Eatery on Farwell. I didn't win, but I sure did appreciate their booze porn. This week they DM-ed me that their winner was unable to accept the prize. I now do so in his or her stead. See, Miss America's First Runner Up? Sometiems it does happen.


Free lunch at Transfer Pizzeria - I'm pretty great at winning any contest that requires a "first person to respond" challenge (as opposed to a "we'll pick a name out of a hat"...I never win those). That's how I got free lunch at Transfer Pizzeria yesterday. To be fair, I first heard about the contest at the Spreenkler meetup, which I heard about through Twitter, but the contest took place on Facebook so it's a Facebook win.

Free tickets to Waiting for Superman via OnMilwaukee - I was sad to have missed this film at the Milwaukee Film Festival, and so I jumped at the chance to win two free passes to a screening via a "be the first to comment" Facebook challenge. Challenge accepted. Tickets won.

Free tickets to Burlesque via Wisconsin Gazette - Again, this should be prefaced that I clicked a link to the Wisconsin Gazette via Twitter and that's how I originally landed upon this contest. However, it took place via, yes really, email. So I won free tickets to see Burlesque (and I really want to see it, it's Cher and Christina Aguilera for goodness' sake), but I was emailed the free pass yesterday afternoon. At 3:59 PM. The show was at 7 PM. I didn't have email access after 3:30 PM. Social media giveaway #Fail.

Check back for a recap of "What Has Social Media Done for You Lately?" Causes and Benefits style, to learn more about the "Giving" side of the social media spectrum.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thank you, Veterans.

Happy #VeteransDay to all of those who have served our country. The following video snippet says it so poignantly:

I'll be tweeting special shoutouts to each and every veteran I know, so follow me @MsQuarter for your tribute in 140 characters or less.

For those of you who want to take a more active role in thanking our veterans, The Red Cross just announced their 2010 Holiday Mail for Heroes kickoff.

For the small price of postage you can send as many cards as your generous heart desires to American service members and their families. You can send them individually or a bunch in a large box or envelope.

They must be postmarked by December 10, 2010.

Send them here:

Holiday Mail for Heroes
PO Box 5456
Capitol Heights, MD

Pitney Bowles collects and sorts them, while Red Cross workers will deliver them all over the world and in our communities.

Know that warm fuzzy feeling you get when you finally get a piece of mail in the mailbox that's handwritten, personal, and clearly not junk or bills? While it seems like a small thing, it's really an easy, inexpensive way to make someone's day this holiday season...someone who has sacrificed so much on our behalf.

Thank you, Veterans (and current service members and families!) for putting your life on hold while I live mine in freedom.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

I'm Sorry, @RussFeingold...

Dear Former Senator Feingold,

I'm sorry about what happened on Tuesday, though my condolences are not just for you, but also for Wisconsin. We lost a great public servant this week, and I can only hope more people come to realize this.

I'm sorry that Ron Johnson called you a career politician. That must've been the worst sort of insult to you. I think Senator-elect Johnson was referring to the "good ol' boys" club-like atmosphere in Washington that the rest of this country despises. I presume he was referring to politicians who use their power to get things like $50 million for an indoor rainforest (Note: this happens on both sides of the aisle, and, yes, needs to be reigned in). I can't believe he was referring to a politician who happens to be a 3-term incumbent, yet who's record, time and again, shows in favor of citizen rights.

Most of all I'm sorry that so many people judged you solely on how many years you've been in Washington served Wisconsin, and not the actual record of what you've done for this state and this country - often against your own party, or, at the very least, against those good ol' boys.

I'm not sorry that you have that oh-so-horrible "D" behind your name, but I am sorry that it was used against you. If there's one thing you've done in your time in D.C. it's to work on behalf of your constituents, and NOT to just always be blindly in favor with your party.

I thank you for your service. I didn't know a lot about you before this election, but as I learned more and dug deeper than those 30-second TV ads, I was more than pleasantly surprised.

It speaks volumes that every major newspaper in this state endorsed you, even if they also endorsed Scott Walker.

It speaks volumes that you were the only politician to vote against The Patriot Act - going against a dangerous political trend to be the only Senator to have our backs.

It speaks volumes that you often proposed ammendments to legislation even though you knew they wouldn't have a chance - merely because you understood how important it is to at least have the argument on record.

It speaks volumes that you went against your own party to vote against TARP - the bank bailouts, which is only one example of how you were the original "Maverick," never kowtowing to your party line.

And it speaks volumes that not just you, but your entire staff (led by your inspiration, I presume), where diligent in upholding Nancy Pelosi's Ethics Pledge, even when some of your peers - on both sides of aisle - were not.

This brings me to my last apology. I'm sorry, mostly for this state, that all of the above, quite frankly, didn't get spoken in such volume during your campaign. Please run again in the future. But next time, please make sure the people of Wisconsin know all that you've done for us.

Monday, November 1, 2010

November 1 = #NaNoWriMo

Oh Crap. I completely forgot that today begins National Novel Writing Month.

"What is #NaNoWriMo," you ask?

Go ahead; I'll wait.

Well, I'm glad you asked. #NaNoWriMo is for anyone who's wanted to write a novel, those who have a juicy tell-all they need to get down on paper, and those who may one day decide they might want to think about writing a book.

Learn more here.

I'm doing it. A few of my friends are doing it. And a ton of local Milwaukee peeps are doing it.

Basically, you commit to writing every day in November - this is to get you in the habit of writing.

Your task is to write. Not edit. Leave that for December...or January...or 2015.

Your goal is to write a 50,000 word novel by midnight November 30. Read more about the rules here (i.e. don't just write one word over and over and over, but try to write a complete novel).

I encourage you to try it out. It might be a fun way to finally get a start on that autobiography/tell-all you've been meaning to write about your childhood as a middle-class white kid with semi-imagined angst and the drove of like-minded teens you went to high school with.

If you need more encouragement, Milwaukee Writer's Workshop is hosting an event TONIGHT at the Wauwatosa Public Library. The workshop will cover the publishing world, and steps you'll need to take if you want to turn this 50,000 word "work of art" into an actual, marketable piece of literary something or other.

Mayhap I'll see you there?