What's the buzz in the OnMilwaukee.com offices this week? Depends who you ask. Some of us are recommending books on Wisconsin, others a Web site offering great deals and still others great new music from Nick Cave.
And that's just the start.
"Wisconsin's Own: Twenty Remarkable Homes" (Wisconsin Historical Society Press) -- If you order this book -- written by M. Caren Connolly and Louis Wasserman with photography by Zane Williams -- via the Internet, expect a weighty package on your doorstep after a week or so. This hefty coffee table book celebrates some of the most amazing private homes in Wisconsin -- even though some, like Villa Terrace in Milwaukee -- are no longer residences. Packed with equally remarkable photography, architectural drawings, historical photos, floor plans and interesting essays on each place, this book, which fits quite nicely under a Christmas tree or in a Hanukkah or Kwanzaa gift bag, will delight history buffs, architecture fans and home and garden enthusiasts. The Octagon House in Watertown is here, so is Villa Louis in Prairie du Chien. Ten Chimneys is in here and so are The Pabst Mansion, Wingspread and Brooks Stevens House. There are others, too, but you don't want me to give it all away, do you? The book can be yours for $45. -- Bobby Tanzilo
Meritline.com -- If you're a tech junkie or gadget geek, you probably have all kinds of bookmarks for Web sites offering great deals on cameras, televisions and computers. But, sometimes you need something slightly more insignificant like a charging cable, USB hub or some other minuscule accessory that costs way too much in the store. If you want to save some serious money -- and don't mind waiting about a week -- you'll love Meritline, where you can find just about any accessory or perephial you need for pennies on the dollar. I picked up a couple iPhone/iPod cables, a seven-port powered USB hub and a replacement power adapter for my netbook for a whopping total of $8 with free shipping. Give it a shot. -- Andrew Wagner
Popcorn made with grapeseed oil -- Grapeseed oil has a higher smoke point than many oils, so it's great for deep-frying and popping popcorn. It's also clean and light tasting. So, try it the next time you're making popcorn at home. -- Jeff Sherman
"Grinderman 2" -- Nick Cave has dabbled in writing outside of the realm of music for better ("The Proposition") or for worse ("And the Ass Saw the Angel"), but it could be argued that his best storytelling exists withing his often dramatic and deeply passionate songs, whether it was for the Birthday Party, Bad Seeds or as a member of Grinderman. The latter band released its second album this month, revealing a sensible follow-up to its 2007 debut; that is to say, more songs about desperation, regret and wild, fantastic delusion touched with dark, sometimes morose, humor. Simply, it's classic Cave and fans of his won't be disappointed. -- Julie Lawrence
Fusion ProSeries Thermal Facial Scrub -- For the longest time, I was pretty no-nonsense when it came to washing my face and shaving. Soap, shaving cream, razor, done. That's all well and good, but lured into a better razor by a freebie from Gilette (the Fusion ProGlide), and after reading a complimentary review in Esquire (which I usually trust), I tried out this thermal facial scrub. Apparently, it has some magical heating properties that activate with water and soften your beard. I can't say I've noticed that, but I have noticed a closer shave and a cleaner, softer face. And, after scraping a razor over my face for, I dunno, 20 years, that's something I can appreciate. A 3.3-ounce tube of the scrub is about $8 and is available all over the place. -- Andy Tarnoff
Shakes and malts at Beans and Barley -- When you think Beans and Barley, 1901 E. North Ave., you don't first think ice cream. But, the East Side staple recently added shakes and malts featuring Sassy Cow Creamery ice cream. Good stuff and even better when blended into a shake with strawberries or bananas. Vanilla and chocolate, of course, are also available. -- JS