By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Dec 14, 2006 at 5:29 AM
Welcome to another installment of "OMC Recommends," a periodic look at cool things that we like and think you should know about.

Use the Talkback feature to let us know what you think of our picks. If you'd like to add some of your own, e-mail them to

The annual Sleighriders concert and auction at Shank Hall - Everyone has their own way of getting into the holiday spirit. Some head to the mall the day after Thanksgiving. Others play Christmas music while baking cookies. Many watch “Miracle on 34th Street” or “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

For many in and around the Milwaukee music scene, the best way to “get in the mood” is to join the Sleighriders, an all-star collection of musicians who convene each year to raise money for the Safe Zone Community Arts Center.

The Sleighriders started playing annual benefit shows about 25 years ago (participants’ memories are understandably foggy on this) and, after a four-year hiatus, the tradition resumed in 2004 at the urging of Bad Boy front men Xeno and Steve Grimm.

Roughly two dozen musicians -- from Eddie Butts to Steve Cohen and all points between -- donate their time and join forces for a powerhouse jam band.

“We figured out at rehearsal last year that we had about 1,000 years of performing experience on the bill,” Xeno said. “Of course, 900 of that was (Sigmund) Snopek.”

The sets are loose, the energy, drinks and good vibrations flow freely and special guests and surprises are part of the fun. Last year, Cheap Trick drummer Bun E. Carlos joined the party and it’s not unusual to see a BoDean or a Femme on stage.

“These show are always a blast,” Grimm said. “It’s not often that you get a group of people like this in the same room, because most of them are out playing almost every night. It’s like a reunion, in a way. I know it’s fun for the performers and I think it’s fun for the audience, too.”

Doors open at 7 p.m. Monday at Shank Hall. Admission is $10, which goes to the safe Zone Community Arts Center, a co-operative that provides free musical instruments and instruction to about 40 students in the Washington Heights area. -- Drew Olson

Snapea Crisps – As a salt-and-grease junkie, I'm always looking for alternative snacks, especially vegetable based. I was disappointed by how little Snapea Crisps actually taste like snap peas –- which I love –- but I still have no problem downing half a bag in one sitting. They have less fat than chips, and my kids love them, too. Most impressive is that they taste fried, but are actually baked, and although they are less crunchy than fresh peas, they still offer a wonderful, delicate crunch of their own. Think healthy Cheetos in a lovely shade of green. -- Molly Snyder Edler

Roufus Kickboxing Gym – If you want a workout, let Duke Roufus push you around for an hour. Roufus, a world heavyweight Muay Thai kickboxing champion, trains you like a fighter -- even if you have no intention of setting a foot in the ring. This isn't a health club, this is an old-school gym. It looks like a gym, smells like a gym and sounds like a gym. And that is a good thing. One would almost expect Burgess Meredith to be barking out orders as you hit the heavy bag. -- Kevin Brandt

Villa Terrace -- I've always been a fan of this East Side landmark and museum (and wedding site), which was loosely based on a Northern Italian villa. The cascading acqua scala (or water stairs) is a direct copy, apparently. I've enjoyed the art exhibitions there, I've enjoyed the coffee and music during the Cafe Sopra Mare event, I've enjoyed the gardens and I've attended a wedding there.

But recently, I took my son there, too, and despite the cool (though luckily not cold) late autumn weather, he adored the gardens and the regal staircase connecting them to the villa. Inside the villa, he marveled at the huge fireplaces, the ornate ceilings and the children's art, which was on view at the time.

We did a quick romp through the short hedges in the cloister that had him giggling nearly out of control. So, just because Villa Terrace isn't on anyone's short list for cool places for kids, give it try. But remember that if your child is mobile, be considerate of the other patrons and of the safety of both junior and the artwork. -- Bobby Tanzilo

Pulled pork sandwiches from Sushi-a-Go-Go at Milwaukee Public Market -- It’s hard to pass up sushi, especially when it’s done as well as it is at this place. But, the Hawaiian pulled pork sandwich is simply outstanding. Try it once and go back for nigiri or a roll the next day. You won’t regret it. – D.O.

Beck's Light -- The Milwaukee beer lover in me doesn't like that I actually like Beck's Premier Light. But, cheers to variety. It's not a SABMiller product, of course, but I really enjoy the drinkability of the 64-calorie bottle. It's crisp, tastes like a European brew and goes well with food. Try it. -- Jeff Sherman

Conejito's tostadas
-- I love going to Conejito's for the paper-plate-piled-high-with-crunchy-tostadas experience. I think it's the crumbled Mexican cheese that I appreciate the most, but the price (around $3 for three) is unbeatable. - M.E.