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The Young Milwaukee Holiday Gala is about more than the delightful time I had with these girls.
The Young Milwaukee Holiday Gala is about more than the delightful time I had with these girls.

The gala that gives Milwaukee families in need a Christmas to remember

This Friday brings one of my favorite days of the year. It includes an amazing night filled with dresses, sparkly things, champagne, three floors of partying and hundreds of my closest friends.

This glitz-and-glamour-filled night is the Young Milwaukee Holiday Gala, which takes place this Friday at the Milwaukee Athletic Club. The event sells out in days, and it's one of the highlights of the holiday season. I've attended since the very first year, and each year I've gotten more and more of my friends to attend, as well. 

A great night, to be sure, but it means so much more than that fun-filled event.

More than a night of fun dancing on the dance floor, more than the four (OK, maybe six) glasses of champagne, more than the fun party props and pictures that may come out of it. Maybe I'm the only selfish one looking in the mirror today. But, maybe you are like me, and the unwrapped new gift you bring is an afterthought. 

It shouldn't be. That gift – actually it should be gifts – should be the most important thing about Friday night. You see, that gift gives a Milwaukee family in need the only Christmas they may have. That gift gives a little boy or girl a beacon of hope, a smile, or even just something to say is actually theirs. The thousands of gifts collected Friday night will provide a neighbor with something they may never forget. 

The Young Milwaukee Holiday Gala is put on by Young Milwaukee Charitable Organization – itself an amazing organization. It benefits the Journey House on the near South Side of Milwaukee. Established in 1969, Journey House is a community infrastructure that increases education, reduces unemployment and crime, strengthens families and revitalizes neighborhoods. It empowers families by working with our community to utilize a self-help philosophy.

You are going to help these families, as well. You are going to be a part of solutions instead of problems. Your gifts are going to give these same families a holiday the…

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The 2016 WE Energies Cookie Book is here!
The 2016 WE Energies Cookie Book is here!

Start a new family tradition with the 2016 WE Energies Cookie Book

For nearly 90 years, WE Energies has published its annual Cookie Book and it has been one of my family's holiday traditions for nearly as long. 

My grandfather worked for WE Energies for 40 years before retiring – and my father is closing in on his own 40 with the utility, at 36 years strong. My grandmother, mother, aunts and cousins – we've all made these recipes over the years. I can't say we've been making the delicious recipes since 1928, when the book launched, but we have not put these cherished books to waste. 

Handed down through the years.

It was the start of the holiday season when you finally got your copy, even if we were a bit spoiled with early access to the books (thank you, Grandpa.) Starting this Saturday at Miller Park, you can get your own copy of this year's book "Wisconsin Heritage Tradition."

The full list of where you can pick up these sought-after books is here

The 2016 Cookie Book includes 38 recipes, from Wisconsinites you know and love. Maybe you'd like to take a stab at Wayne Larrivee's favorite chocolate chip cookies, Bonnie Blair's killer brownies or John McGivern's jelly sandwich cookies. I know I do! 

Hopefully, you'll start your own tradition with the Cookie Book by getting a copy this year to make your holiday season a little brighter – and a little sweeter.

I will keep my current family tradition and bake up a few batches of this year's new recipes. 

Get your 2016 cookie book on Saturday at Miller Park from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., or download one

Happy holidays, Milwaukee. 

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Illuminate your weekend with a visit to China Lights at the Boerner Botanical Gardens.
Illuminate your weekend with a visit to China Lights at the Boerner Botanical Gardens.

3 tips for visiting China Lights at Boerner Botanical Gardens

Last weekend I, and seemingly half of Milwaukee headed to see the new China Lights exhibit at the Boerner Botanical Gardens. How could you not want to go after the amazing first look our Molly Snyder provided? 

Have you walked through #Chinalights at @friendsofboerner yet? #beautiful #lights #doit #milwaukee #mke

A video posted by OnMilwaukee (@onmilwaukee) on

It was a gorgeous twinkling night of lights – but a very, very crowded one. I wasn't the only who dealt with huge traffic back-ups, long ticket lines and crowded corners at the gardens. Many on social media talked about the hours they waited to get in with some noting that they never even got into the exhibit. 

But don't worry, Milwaukee – Milwaukee County Parks heard you loud and clear. 

I plan to go back this weekend to take my darling niece and nephew so, to properly prepare, I reached out to Ellen Hayward, president and CEO of Friends of Boerner Botanical Gardens, in hopes of learning a bit more about the changes being incorporated going forward. 

Here's a summary that should help make your visit that much more pleasurable:

1. Parking

Last weekend patrons were unable to park on the lawns due to heavy rain. This weekend the lawns should be open again. However, 92nd Street (the main entrance road) can be slow going. Enter the park off West Forest Home Avenue at Lilac Lane instead. If you're willing to walk a bit, there's street parking around there, too,

2. Take a shuttle

For this weekend, shuttles are now running every 30 minutes from Whitnall Park golf course and additional shuttles have been added. I would try and get to the parking lots here from south of the park. Take one! 

3. Pre-purchase your tickets

Ticket lines can be extremely long. To expedite the process you can order your tickets online (including from your phone) or at any ticket office for China Lights. See the full list of ticket buying locations here. Bobby Tanzilo did this wh…

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Cheers to rad women everywhere.
Cheers to rad women everywhere.

Rad Milwaukee Woman: OnMilwaukee's Molly Snyder

Welcome to a series introducing the women who were nominated by professionals and will be honored at "The Rad Women Celebration: Being Rad for Social Change." The event is hosted by the Women’s Fund of Greater Milwaukee and will take place on Thursday, Oct. 20 at the Italian Conference Center. The idea was inspired by the bestselling book "Rad American Women A to Z," by Kate Schatz, who is the keynote speaker at the event.  More information at womensfundmke.org.

Molly Snyder is a senior writer here at OnMilwaukee and has been a leader on the editorial team for the past 15 years.

She regaled you with her stories as The Pfister Narrator from 2013 to 2014 and is a Milwaukee Press Club award winner. You also may have seen her on-stage with Ex-Fabula as a Story Slam winner, on her tandem bicycle around Walker's Point or volunteering as a cat socializer at the Wisconsin Humane Society. 

OnMilwaukee: What is your personal "mission" with your work?

My mission is to write interesting and inspiring stories about Milwaukee and the people who live there. I am a lifelong writer and Milwaukeean who loves people. I particularly enjoy hearing and documenting their stories. On a deeper level, I want to elevate, inspire and connect people by exposing their talents to the masses via online media to strengthen the greatest city in the world.

How do you define success?

Success for me is doing what I love to do, every day, and somehow still paying the bills. Success for me is when someone writes to me or tells me in person that they liked a story I wrote about them or that it somehow impacted their life. Success for me is seeing my sons and other people in my life putting 110 percent into their work, studies and interests.

Who has taught you the most in your life?

Other writers have taught me so much through their words. There are too many to list, but one of my daily mantras, "just take it bird by bird," comes from a book called "Bird By Bird" by Anne Lamott. This phrase …

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