The lights at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts -- In mid-April, thanks to Chris Abele, the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts was transformed into art itself. Focus Lighting, Inc., a world-renowned lighting design firm, projects a mixture of colors onto the façade of the Marcus Center. Put simply, it's very cool. Drive or walk by some night and you'll notice it. More buildings Downtown should follow the Marcus Center's lead.
A generous lead grant from the Argosy Foundation along with contributions from Marcus Family Foundation, Northwestern Mutual Foundation, Greater Milwaukee Foundation, M&I Foundation, Time Warner Cable, Doolittle Charitable Trust, Badger Meter Foundation and Milwaukee RiverWalk District made the $1.1 million project possible without any public funding. Additionally, WE Energies provided the Marcus Center with a grant to retrofit less efficient interior lighting fixtures that resulted in enough energy savings to make the operation of the new exterior lighting "energy neutral" for the Center. --Jeff Sherman
Save change / cash it in -- Almost every "how to become a millionaire" list suggests you save your change, and I finally realized the potential here. After just a few years of saving coins with my boys, we filled our plastic Coke bottle bank, and today, decided to cash it in for a little extra spending money. Taking coins to the bank is the best deal, because they don't charge you for the service, but we took ours to the coin machine at Pick ‘N Save, because I knew the boys could help. It took us close to an hour to funnel all of our coins through the machine, and they loved dropping them into the sorter. They particularly liked when the machine rejected a coin by spitting it back into the coin return, whether it was a Canadian quarter, a Guatemalan centavo or a token from Chuck E. Cheese. The coin machine charged 8.9 percent, but I was still happy with our final total: $102.74. --Molly Snyder Edler
Dee's Wine Stop -- It opened just this year, but Dee's, 2327 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., is already become one of my favorite places to shop for wine. Inside a small, cozy storefront, owner Deanne Wecker has a savvy selection of reds and whites from all the major wine regions of the world -- Australia, France, Italy, California -- and even options from Wisconsin growers. The store is divided up by region, price, as well as by various sub-categories, such as "hippie wine," which translates to organic and vegan varieties. Wecker also sells beer by the bottle, and although there isn't an overwhelming selection, she's got a lot of good choices -- think Lakefront and Furthermore -- that you can mix and match in six-packs. Dee's recently expanded into the empty storefront immediately to the north and this has become the tasting room. Oh, and did I mention they deliver to the Bay View area? --Julie Lawrence
99rental.com -- I'm not so addicted to my laptop or iPod that I'll use them to watch movies at home. But if I'm traveling, nothing passes the time on the plane like watching TV shows or films from iTunes. It's not news anymore that iTunes rents movies, and most of them are $2.99 or $3.99. But like any good video store, iTunes has a "dollar bin," and 99rental.com keeps track of it. Through its site, RSS, e-mail, Twitter or Widget, you can track the 99-cent rentals available on iTunes. At press time, I see old films like "Robocop," "A Fish Called Wanda," "The Untouchables" and more. You know ... those movies you'd like to see, but only for about a buck. --Andy Tarnoff
The Pizzeria Piccola patio -- We already loved this Tosa pizzeria for being one of the few authentic Italian examples in town, with a wood-fired oven and pizzas that aren't buried in cheese and other toppings. But the dining room is small and can be frustrating when crowded. So, the spacious new patio two doors east is a godsend, at least when the weather is good since there's no roof and it's, well, outside. There are solid picnic benches and food is still delivered to the tables by runners. There is live music a few nights each week, creating a great vibe when the temperatures are right and the sun is shining and, especially, when the pizza is washed down with a Peroni. --Bobby Tanzilo
Le Coq Sportif Multisport Iguane shoe -- I love my new shoes. They're lightweight, extremely comfortable, stylish and innovative. Yes, innovative. They have these funky sock liners -- the DS2 drying sweat system. They basically absorb moisture with a "microporous absorbing membrane" that helps limit order and maximize comfort. I'm a sucker for these types of gimmicks, but this is one great shoe that's perfect for walking, driving or light sports. I bought the "blanc" color, but there are three styles in all. I got mine at Sweet Kicks, 1690 N. Franklin Pl. --J.S.
John Hiatt and the Ageless Beauties -- The notion of heading inside to hear music during Summerfest may seem like sacrilege, but Hiatt, who plays Friday night at The Pabst Theater, is one of a few artists who could make me consider staying indoors. His new CD, "Same Old Man," is filled with witty, well-crafted songs and he's touring with a full band. I've seen Hiatt several times and never felt cheated. This is going to be a great show. --Drew Olson