The warm weather this week had everyone thinking about spring, but we sometimes like to go against the grain in the editorial office. That's why one of our recommendations this week is a lush Christmas record by British artist Kate Rusby. We also recommend a provocative book about Starbucks, a helpful home remedy for the flu, some tasty organic yogurt and a new lunch spot on the East Side.
These are a few of our favorite things this week:
"Sweet Bells" by Kate Rusby (Pure Records) -- OK, so I'm late recommending the Yorkshire's folk diva's "Christmas record," which just arrived from the U.K. (It's her first in recent memory not released in the U.S.). I can't deny that songs like "Hark the Herald" and "Candlemas Eve" are holiday fare, but other tunes -- like "Here We Come A-Wassaliling," "Sweet Bells" (with some stellar brass) and "The Miner's Dream of Home" -- are not so obviously festive. And even the tracks that are Christmas-centric are so lovely that it need not be December to enjoy them. Rusby has one of those voice -- yes, she could sing me the phonebook if she'd like -- and the musicianship is impeccable and impeccably tasteful. If you don't Rusby's work, put aside your preconceived notions about folk music and give her a listen. --Bobby Tanzilo
"How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else," by Michael Gates Gill -- Looking for a light and entertaining read? This is it. It's far from the best book I've ever read, but once you get into it you do you feel some sympathy for the author and a connection with the characters. The real life plot is simple. Older white guy losses job, screws up his life of privilege and is "forced" to work at Starbucks. It's a bit of a Starbucks lovefest, but it's a good look into character, customer service and the value of work. --Jeff Sherman
iFlyz hands-free iPhone holder -- Flying got a lot less monotonous when iTunes started offering movie rentals for iPods and iPhones. Before the days when you could download movies onto your mobile device, you had to lug a laptop and a DVD, or gasp, bring a book to read. One of the downsides to watching a movie on a tiny screen, however, is having to hold your device for two straight hours. Enter iFlyz: it's a clamp and suction cup designed specifically to fit on an airplane tray table. It can be used in either the lowered or stowed and locked position, and the suction cup is attached to a bendable arm that lets you position your iPod perfectly for viewing. I tried it on a recent three-hour flight, and it worked flawlessly. For frequent fliers, this $30 utility is a must. --Andy Tarnoff
G2 for the flu -- The new lower-calorie Gatorade beverage line is a good way to combat the dehydration and generally crummy feeling accompanying various flu strains making their way around town. The flavors include orange, fruit punch, lemon-lime, strawberry kiwi, blueberry-pomegranate and grape (a personal favorite). G2 is a good beverage to have on hand when you're battling a hangover, too. --D.O.
Stonyfield Farm Pomegranate Berry organic yogurt -- Last year, Stonyfield Farm introduced its Pomegranate Berry. To say that the stuff is good is an understatement. It's rich, creamy, full of fruity flavor and made with milk and the company's exclusive blend of natural probiotic cultures. Try it. --J.S.
"The Very Best of Prestige Records" (Prestige) -- As one of the most storied and artistically successful jazz labels of all time celebrates its 60th birthday, Nick Phillips selects two CDs' worth of his favorites from the vast Prestige catalog. Luckily he's got great taste. Disc one has the likes of Monk, Miles, Coltrane, Red Garland, Kenny Burrell and Sonny Rollins. Disc two's got Kenny Dorham and Gene Ammons before jumping ahead to Dolphy, Oliver Nelson, Yusef Lateef and the the soul groovers like Shirley Scott, Richard "Groove" Holmes and Charles Earland. This is a great introduction to the treasures of Bob Weinstock's Prestige, but for the already-initiated, it's a great walk down memory lane. --B.T.
Surgical tubing as an exercise aid -- Believe it or not, pending endless hours in front of a computer screen is not conducive to excellent flexibility in the hamstrings, hips and quadriceps. Five or 10 minutes a day of simple stretching, with the aid of a length of surgical tubing -- available at any exercise or medical supply store -- can help negate the effects of Internet-fueled inactivity. --D.O.
Eating fresh at the new East Side Subway -- There's a new Subway just steps from the OnMilwaukee.com headquarters and, I must say (to borrow a slogan from another fast good giant) -- I'm loving it. Usually a loyal Cousins, Potbelly and Chocolate Factory man, I opt for the freshness of Subway when there's one within walking distance. I love the places, especially when they are new. They just seem cleaner and fresher than other fast food places. I love that I can see my food being prepared and now that Subway also will toast your bun, it's got my lunch money at least once per week. Check out the new East Side Subway at 2031 E. North Ave. --J.S.
The non-clothing deals at T.J. Maxx -- You know it's a good place to search for bargain shirts, blouses, activewear, etc. But, T.J. Maxx is also a good place to find deals on things like home furnishings and even small electronics. I needed a replacement phone charger for my car and was resigned to spending more than $20 on one until I saw what I needed for $7.99 at T.J. Maxx. While on hand, I upgraded the sock drawer and picked up a new sample-size bottle of pretty expensive cologne for less than $5. --D.O.