The Livingston Inn | Madison, Wisconsin Bed and Breakfast

Summer Time Fun

Last week I really enjoyed a supplement to our weekly newspaper, The Isthmus, called “Summer Times”.  It reminded me of all the wonderful things Madison has to offer this time of year.  Certainly we have our time-honored events like Concerts on the Square, Opera in the Park, Art Fair on the Square, and Paddle and Portage.  But The Isthmus supplement was well done because it also featured things to do and see that are less familiar, either because they typically attract a smaller crowd or perhaps still have not been discovered by most residents and visitors.  Of those, the following are ones I would recommend checking out for summer 2015:

index1.    Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA) Rooftop Cinema. The Isthmus dedicates a whole section to outdoor movie watching.  This has been a summer tradition in our family for years, and we love it.  While there are options around town for drive-ins and outdoor venues featuring major films, MMoCA makes it extra special with avant-garde short films, including a Canadian precursor to sketches from one of my favorite TV shows, Kids in the Hall.  MMoCA shows the films on top of the Overture Center on State Street, adding to the appeal of this film-watching experience.   Movies screenings are Friday nights in June and on August 21.

2.    Music Theatre of Madison (MTM) at The Brink Lounge.  For a small city, Madison has an impressive number of theater groups.  MTM has earned an excellent reputation among vocal performers and will perform a show called Miscast 6.0.  This one-night only cabaret on July 31 features performers encouraged to bring to life songs from their favorite musicals, whether the performers are right for the part or not.  The result is entertaining mismatches that demonstrate vocal skills in funny and sometimes moving performances.  A further bonus is Miscast 6.0 will be held at one of my favorite music venues – The Brink Lounge, a casual yet elegant space just blocks from the Capitol Square and The Livingston Inn.


juneteenthmadison3.    Juneteenth.  One Madison tradition that has endured over the years is the annual Juneteenth celebration.  In its 15th year, the 2015 event features a parade at 4pm on June 19th at Brittingham Park followed by a celebration on June 20th from noon to 6pm at Olin Park.  From music to movies, literature to language, fashion to finance, Black America has a predominant influence on mainstream American culture.  Juneteenth is an ideal way to celebrate African-American heritage and emancipation as part of our urban community.

Radicals4.    Madison Radicals.  Have you heard about our ultimate disc (Frisbee) team?  They’re having another stellar year, leading the standings in the Midwest division.  Best of all, they play at Breese Stevens field, a beautifully restored old ballpark just blocks from The Livingston Inn.  The Radicals attract a nice-sized group of dedicated fans, and we sometimes enjoy an evening on our front porch just listening to the roar of the crowd when there’s a goal or spectacular play.  Remaining home games are 6/20, 7/12, and 7/17.

5.    Shake the Lake.  For many years our renowned summer fireworks event, Rhythm and Booms, attracted big crowds and was the fireworks show to see around town.  Unfortunately, lack of funding got the best of it.  Shake the Lake hopes to re-vive our fireworks tradition in Madison.  Set on Lake Monona and John Nolen Drive, the evening fun includes live bands plus performances from the UW Marching Band and our superb Mad City Rollin’ Dolls roller derby.  The event also offers fun for kids, a rooftop party on Monona Terrace, and a collaborative BBQ platter featuring our top restaurants through the Madison Area Chef’s Network.  Join the fun on June 27 starting at 5pm, fireworks at 10pm.

There are many other wonderful events, games, festivals, and fairs related to music, theater, sports, art, and so much more this summer in Madison.  It’s sure to be a time for great memories.  If you happen to be staying with us in the coming months, be sure to ask what’s going on around town.  We would be happy to tell you how you might work one or two extra special opportunities into your visit to Madison.

Happy Summer!


In Celebration of Black History Month

For a small city, there’s so much yet for me to learn about Madison.

Three years ago, we set up residence on this side of town at The Livingston Inn, having spent many years on the near west side.  Several neighborhoods in Madison are ideal for walkers – interesting houses, small businesses, beautiful gardens – and the one around our B&B is no different.  On one of my first walks around here, I saw a sign posted on a street corner, something like you’d see on a historic tour.  I approached it to read: Here was Madison’s first African-American neighborhood.

IMG_0462[1]I have to admit I had heard about the recognition of this neighborhood, but I had no idea it was just four blocks from our new home.  It has intrigued me to learn more, and I found a helpful, accessible resource on the Cap Times’ website called Together Apart.  The site is home to an effort to shine “a bright light on disparities between whites and African-Americans in Madison.”

Among the articles on important social issues such as the achievement gap, incarceration, and unemployment, the site also presents an interactive timeline of black history in Madison.  I found as Wisconsin became a state in 1848, black families started moving to Madison as free individuals seeking opportunity and a new life.  William H. Noland and his family become the first permanent black residents of Madison in 1850, and among several jobs, Mr. Noland clerked for a prominent attorney.

IMG_0473[1]By 1910, the census indicated the black population totaled 69 or .4% of the population, and ten years later, it doubled to 143 or .6% of the population.  This is the same period when the neighborhood near The Livingston Inn started building an African-American community (present day pictured here).  One hundred years later, the non-Hispanic black population in Madison has risen in the latest census to 16,507 or 7.1% of the population.

I strongly encourage you to explore the Together Apart website.  Besides the census information, there is a wealth of stories ranging from challenges like discrimination and racism to accomplishments such as civil rights victories, the building of James C. Wright middle school, and Madison’s first black poet laureate.  I spent a couple of hours reading all of the articles and learning so much more about important people and events in our city’s history.

If you visit our B&B, we hope you will stroll down to the corner of Blount and Dayton Streets and read about Madison’s first African-American neighborhood.  The corner itself has a couple of other historic sites that make the short trip worthwhile.  The area must have been booming at the time the black population settled here.  You’ll find the city’s horse barn built 1910-1914, the city market built in 1909, and Badger State Shoe Factory built in 1910.  Below are photos of the structures today along with their historic significance.



On behalf of our entire family, we hope you have found important ways to recognize and celebrate Black History Month this year and for many years to come.  Our communities are only vibrant when we take the time to see things from a different experience, whether through race or other special human conditions, and value and respect their place in our history.

Love is in the Air

After years of raising kids and taking family vacations, Peggy and I recently were able to get away and celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary.  We spent some time on the west coast, and the weather, attractions, restaurants, and accommodations were wonderful.  Despite all that, though, the time away heightened our appreciation of Madison.  It’s not a sense of superiority, but more an awareness of all this small city in the Upper Midwest can offer both residents and visitors.

So, in celebration of Valentine’s Day, we’re presenting the many things we love about Madison.

Madison Winter Tenney ParkThe Change of Seasons.  While we had sunny, warm weather in the high 60s on our vacation, we discovered we would miss the change of seasons in Madison if we lived in a warmer climate.  While winter is often the most cursed season here, it is also a very special time when there is a quiet and calm beauty walking around our city during and after a snowfall.  And even when it gets really cold, there’s a warmth to visiting our neighborhood outdoor skating rinks in the evening, such a Tenney Park, and joining with the skaters and hockey players for a little exercise and fun.  Besides winter, we also enjoy the hope and rejuvenation of spring, the fun provided by our lakes and parks in summer, and the color and romance of fall.

Madison Opera in the Park2The Performing Arts.  When compared to larger cities, Madison has an impressive assortment of performing arts venues and performance groups.  We have ballet, opera, orchestras, and many theater and music groups.  This leads to opportunities year-round and for all interests, including several events that are free.  Annually, patrons can enjoy Opera in the Park, Concerts on the Square, Live on King Street, concerts at Olbrich Gardens, or dancing at the Monona Terrace.  We’ve seen live theater ranging from Shakespeare at a neighborhood park to Broadway shows at the Overture Center.  As we overheard one busy afternoon this winter at The Overture Center, “the arts are alive in Madison.”

Madison RestaurantsThe Restaurants.  A commonly heard fact is that Madison tops lists of the most restaurants per capita. Whether that claim can be proved, we are very impressed by the growing number of top-notch restaurants just around The Livingston Inn.  We are very proud of our city when guests check-in and the talk turns to restaurants.  There are so many options just within walking distance and all with a commitment to a unique and memorable dining experience.

Madison Accessibility3The Accessibility.  While we may not match some larger cities’ assortment of dining and things to do, we’re pretty close, and what certainly makes Madison more attractive is the ease of getting around.  Despite this funny way of moving through an isthmus and around some large lakes, it doesn’t take long to get from point A to B in this city.  Rush hour is usually over by 6pm, and even though things get a little crazy around UW games, it’s short-lived and infrequent.  We have to give special praise for our accessible city to the intrepid commuters, both by bike and bus, we see on the roads year-round.  They are definitely a significant contributor to fewer vehicles on our streets and highways.

Madison Wisconsin People3The People.  I distinctly remember two things when we moved to Madison many years ago.  First, how several neighbors came over when they saw the moving van and jumped right in to help out.  Second, how easily people struck up a conversation with me in our neighborhood and around the city.  To this day, Madisonians remain the most friendly and open-minded people I’ve met in any city.  Yes, they have lots of opinions and often steadfastly seek to do the right thing, but they will also engage you with an interest in your background and life experience.

While the preceding are the top things we love about Madison, we could go on with so much more – its farmer’s markets, political history, museums, galleries, and breweries as well as the recreational options on the lakes and bike trails.  It would be hard to know when to stop, but like a relationship, that’s what love is all about.  It’s what makes the person or place special at one point in time, yet knowing that as you grow and your life changes, your feelings won’t change because there is so much depth to the relationship.

We believe love is in the air in Madison because so many people we encounter daily have the same feeling.  So we wish Happy Valentine’s Day to our fine city!

Discover The Other Place With Forward Theater

The-Other-Place-Graphic-WebWhat do a yellow bikini and walking a mile in someone’s shoes have in common?  I don’t know, but I’m excited to find out next week.  The second play in Forward Theater’s 2014-15 season, The Other Place, debuts Thursday, January 15, and runs through February 1.  The play centers on Juliana Smithton, a drug-company scientist, and her movement between a career as a confident, professional woman and a fragile place at the core of what it means to be human.  The Other Place ran successfully both on  and off Broadway, and I am looking forward to experiencing it through the lens of our outstanding local theater company, Forward Theater.

I had the opportunity to catch up with Georgina McKee, a cast member on the Forward Theater Advisory Company, following a rehearsal last week.  Throughout our conversation, Georgina’s enthusiasm for this production was palpable and engaging.  The more we talked, the more I wanted to run down the next day and sneak a peek at a rehearsal. Georgina described the play as simple, intense, and wonderful.  She talked about the simple humanity to the story that makes it special, offering a deep connection that only live theater can convey.  Georgina has also written an excellent blog about the play posted on the Forward Theater website.  I strongly encourage you to read it.  You’ll soon gain a sense of all this play offers its audience.

The Other Place features a four-person cast with seasoned actors from American Players Theater, Four Seasons Theater, and Forward Theater’s own Advisory Company.  The stage is clean and crisp, allowing the protagonist to make the space wherever and whatever as the plot unfolds, and the designers for lights, sound, and costumes are among the best and most experienced in Madison.

In addition to a distinguished cast and crew, Forward Theater also offers something special through their talkbacks – the ability to stay after curtain call and talk to the actors and others about the play.  I’ve been given this opportunity with other theater productions over the years, and it’s a wonderful experience.  But for The Other Place, Forward Theater has taken this concept a step further.  They are also offering pre-show talks.  Highly recommended when I spoke to Georgina, the pre-show talks start 30 minutes before the play begins.  A member of the Advisory Company will talk about the production, its history, the playwright, and the design elements.  The Other Place runs at a fast pace — in other productions around 70 minutes — so the pre-show talks and talkbacks can easily be worked in the patron’s entire theater experience for this play.

Overture CenterThe Other Place will be at The Playhouse inside the Overture Center, January 15 to February 1, with evening performances Wednesday or Thursday through Saturday and matinees on Saturday and Sunday.  The Livingston Inn is also offering packages with tickets to the performance and an overnight stay starting at $79 per person.  For more information about the package, please call us at 608-238-6317.


With its interesting twists and intriguing story, we hope The Other Place will be among your many theater experiences this season in Madison.


Fair Trade Holiday Festival

IMG_5076Tired of all the news about Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and everything in between this holiday season?  If so, we highly recommend you re-vitalize your holiday shopping with Madison’s 18th annual Fair Trade Holiday Festival this Saturday, December 6, 2014, from 9-4, at the Monona Terrace Convention Center on Madison’s famous isthmus, located just a few blocks off the Capitol Square.

This well-loved tradition hosts more than 50 vendors selling a wide array of fair trade products from around the world, such as jewelry, scarves, baskets, clothing, edibles, house wares, and so much more.

The eclectic as well as the socially conscious shopper will find gift-giving easy this holiday season upon visiting this unique event.  The Fair Trade Holiday Festival also appeals to those who like craft or art fairs or shoppers who wish to pick up a few or many unique but affordable gifts.  And it’s a nice alternative for anyone seeking to avoid the malls, long lines, busy parking lots, traffic, or making many stops.

The festival is also a good experience for shoppers on a budget, but one shouldn’t expect to ‘make a steal.’ The bottom line behind fair trade is, after all, the notion to fairly compensate the producers of goods, typically those from developing nations. The fair trade movement is, in fact, a social movement, which, according to Wikipedia, aims to help producers in developing countries achieve better trading conditions to promote sustainability.

Fair Trade Festival Photos

If all of the above isn’t incentive enough to shop at the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Convention Center this Saturday, check out the website of the host organization, Fair Trade Madison, at, and read “Gifts with a Story,” about how Fair Trade Gifts ‘build capacity and create opportunities for economically and socially marginalized producers.’ The stories will certainly inspire you to support fair trade not just during the holidays but all year long.

There is plenty of parking ($4) available at the Convention Center, as well as plenty of rack space, so shoppers may hang up their coats and start out ‘hands free.’ Don’t expect to stay that way, though. There is something here for everyone!


Turn On Johnson: Artisans Abound

Believe it or not, the Johnson Street re-construction in our neighborhood is nearly complete. The anticipated end date is mid-November. For those of us living in the area, it will be very welcome and somewhat hard to believe. We are excited about how the project will restore and improve one of our most important neighborhood streets.

I’ve written previously about the Turn on Johnson campaign – a community effort dedicated to the businesses affected by this major construction project. As we near the end of this undertaking, I’d like to write one more post about our neighborhood businesses.

A theme occurred to me a few weeks ago about some of our local businesses. They particularly excel at a certain skill. Call them craftspeople, masters of their trade, artisans. Our family has been fortunate to benefit from these individuals opening a shop in our neighborhood, and I’d like to feature some of them.

Wilke Chiropractic and Wellness, at 824 East Johnson, opened its door around the time construction on the street began. My wife and I met owner Steve Wilke soon after at a Tenney-Lapham Neighborhood Association function. When you meet Steve, he has the type of personality you’d like to see in a chiropractor – a calm and pleasant demeanor yet knowledgeable in his practice. About a month after I met Steve, I developed pain in my shoulder and neck that made it difficult to do many things. I called Steve and set up an appointment. Steve’s chiropractic method has no “popping” or “cracking” and instead focuses on neural pathways. It’s a very light touch method, and I was greatly impressed how it cured me of my issues. I highly recommend Steve to anyone, whether local or visiting, seeking chiropractic services.

Studio924Some other artisans in our neighborhood also serve mention based on our personal experience. Our local hair salon, Studio 924, has a friendly and talented team of stylists practicing their craft at 925 East Johnson. Our daughter recently made the big decision to cut her long hair to a shoulder-length style. As a 16-year old, she agonized over the decision, of course, but we made an appointment at Studio 924, re-assuring her they would do a great job. When she came back home, she walked in the door so excited and happy. The haircut was beautifully done, and we have one happy teenager as a result.

JohnsonPublicHouseIf there can be a beautifully done cup of coffee, the “artisans” at Johnson Public House do so on a daily basis. Certainly, baristas should be thought of as individuals skilled in a craft or trade, but the workers at Johnson Public House take it to another level. Each cup of coffee or espresso drink at JPH is brewed to order. The aromas and flavor are amazing, and we highly recommend stopping in whenever you are seeking a local coffee shop in our area (Cargo Coffee is an equally top notch place. See my 2/9/14 post.)

OldTownCyclesI’ll end with two more amazing local shops. Old Town Cycles at 920 East Johnson, provides outstanding bike service and repair. With the many people who commute and run errands by bicycle in Madison, bike shops are a very welcome service, and Old Town Cycles does so with a low-key and honest style. And if you want to see craftsmanship at its finest, you must stop in Spruce Tree Music at 851 East Johnson. The shop might not look like much from the outside, but from the second you step inside, you enter a hum of knowledgeable workers interacting with customers from all over Madison regarding the sales and service of all types of stringed instruments. It’s worth a stop just to peruse the beautifully crafted harps, mandolins, guitars, dulcimers, and much more.SpruceTreeMusic

It has been a pleasure for me to learn and write about our local businesses during the Turn on Johnson campaign. It has given me an even better appreciation of the unique character of the neighborhood around The Livingston Inn. Both now and when the Johnson Street construction ends, please visit these impressive artisans as well as the shops, restaurants, and other services in our area. I guarantee you will you find something special about the experience and re-discover what a small local business community is all about.

Become Unhinged With Forward Theater

Last week, The Livingston Inn had the honor of hosting part of Feast Forward, an annual city-wide fundraiser benefiting Forward Theater Company. The theme for this year’s event was “Feed Me a Story”, aptly describing the excellent food and wonderful people who came together at our inn. “Feed Me a Story”, though, was inspired by Out of the Fire: Banned Books Monologue Festival coming up this season at Forward Theater. Feast Forward, therefore, was a celebration of “our freedom to consume stories of all sorts in delicious ways!”

dsc03429Among the dinner parties happening all over the city for this event, Forward Theater organized a party at The Livingston Inn featuring The Great Gatsby as the themed book. It’s hard to believe it’s been 90 years since the Roaring Twenties, but guests coming to the party looked the part, dressed in period attire expressing the decadence and freedom of this significant decade in American history. We were also thrilled to share our space with Dan Fox and Fox Heritage Farms, who provided food for the event. We have had an excellent partnership with Dan at previous Livingston Inn events, and his team did not disappoint again. The food was outstanding, adding all the more to this fun event.

dsc03402The evening wrapped up with all dinner party guests across Madison coming together at the Overture Center for a Vaudeville show. The fundraiser was certainly a success and it launches Forward Theater into its sixth season called “Unhinged”. The lineup of plays “features characters that tread a little too close to the edge – characters that are dangerously close to coming unhinged.” In our opinion, this is the essence of great drama, and Forward Theater embraces this with plays that range from mystery to family drama to comedy.

Forward Theater LogoThe Forward Theater season starts on November 6 and will continue through April. All Forward Theater plays are at The Playhouse in the Overture Center. The Playhouse is an excellent venue – intimate in its space tucked away in the Overture Center but still accessible and exciting as part of this downtown performing arts center.

One of the reasons we love Madison is that, although it gets dark and cold during the winter, the quality and range of theater and other performing arts is quite amazing this time of year. The Livingston Inn is pleased to offer packages for all plays during Forward Theater’s sixth season. Please check out the plays on the Forward Theater website and call us for more details about “unwinding” with a B&B stay after the thrill of becoming “unhinged” with outstanding theater in downtown Madison!

All photos courtesy of Stephanie Kluz.



It’s Not Easy Being Green

img_0137-2When my wife and I opened The Livingston Inn a little over three years ago, we knew we wanted to do it sustainably and use organic and natural products whenever possible. But it was hard to see what a “green” business might look like in the midst of bringing a 160-year-old home back to life. Certainly, we could say we would commit to sound environmental practices. But how would we take action on that commitment day-to-day?

By Madison’s standards, we live in a very old house, one that is also a designated city landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This means there are some limitations as to what we can do to the house in the spirit of environmentally-friendly practices. Most of that comes from an ongoing challenge with energy efficiency such as the inability to replace windows or add solar paneling. The energy efficiency component of eco-friendly is what we found daunting when making sure we could be a green business. From the beginning, though we have found little ways to work with this majestic home and strive toward improved energy efficiency. Our biggest gains have come from purchasing energy-saving appliances and mechanical systems and maintaining them so they operate cleanly and effectively. My wife and I believe even these changes are an important step in reducing our carbon footprint.

Vitruvian FarmsAn easier task when we opened was our commitment to organic and natural products. This was something we knew we could accomplish and would not waver from in our commitment to running an eco-friendly business. At the same time, it took some effort to find the right products and vendors who could deliver consistency and meet our standards for cleanliness and high-quality meals. Three years later I can tell you we are very pleased with our local suppliers and the products available in the Madison market. Organic eggs and dairy, locally grown produce, and very effective natural cleaning products are among our many successful discoveries. And we’ve found our guests appreciate the simplicity of things like perfume free, fair trade, and farm-to-table.

After all this effort to make sure we could do it right, we are proud to announce we earned this summer a Travel Green Wisconsin certification. The certification is a state-sanctioned program that recognizes and promotes green businesses across Wisconsin. We looked at applying previously but weren’t quite sure if we were ready (again, we struggled with the gap between saying you’re green and then actually doing it!). Finally this year we felt all the pieces were in place to make this commitment for the long term. My wife and I recognize we still have work to do but we are so pleased with this first step to become part of a community of eco-friendly businesses.

For us, it wasn’t easy to get here but well worth the effort. Our many thanks to community partners, suppliers, guests, and friends who helped us achieve this special recognition.

Livingston Inn Travel Green Wisconsin

Turn on Johnson: Shop Til You Drop

The Turn on Johnson website has a countdown.  It’s the number of days until the Johnson Street construction is finished.  As I write this blog, the countdown says 103 days.  I’m sure many of the neighbors, commuters, and area businesses will be grateful when that number approaches zero.

At the same time, our neighborhood campaign asking residents and visitors to “turn on” Johnson Street during construction and patronize our small business community entreats us not to be controlled by the future.  Instead, we should embrace the present.

With that in mind, I want to take the opportunity to tell you about some of the unique shops that will certainly make it worthwhile to visit our neighborhood around The Livingston Inn, whether now or anytime down the road.

fontaineFontaine.  Located at 811 East Johnson, Fontaine is hands down one of the best gift and interior design stores in all of Madison.  Just look at the window display in any season and you are certain to be impressed.  For anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, open houses, and any other special occasion, I guarantee you will find something unique, stylish, and beautiful.

The owner, Barry, has been in the location for seven years and has been in the business for over 12 years.  He describes Fontaine as “Madison’s go-to business for style and home interior luxury.  It’s like walking into a fantasy where there’s something for everyone.” Peggy and I couldn’t agree more.

If you drive to Fontaine, parking is easy.  Just take Paterson or Livingston one block south from Johnson and the lot is directly behind the building on Dayton Street.  And one more tip:  if you visit during Turn on Johnson, you should also plan to come back during the holiday season.  The decorations during that special time of year are simply amazing.

ionaIona.  The next door neighbor to Fontaine is a similarly stylish place.  Primarily featuring clothing and jewelry, Iona is welcoming and thoughtful.  Proprietor Pamela Wilson describes her store as “women’s contemporary designer fashion” and like Fontaine says there is something for everyone.  Iona opened in August 2013, so Peggy and I are very happy to welcome them for their first anniversary in the neighborhood.

Parking is similarly easy at Iona.  They share the same lot with Fontaine via Dayton Street. Also, Iona is very active on Facebook, so we recommend you “Like” their page for helpful updates on the latest fashion trends, promotions, and sales.

good-style-shopGood Style Shop.  Just a few doors down from Fontaine and Iona, shoppers will find Good Style Shop at 817 East Johnson.  Pete, the proprietor, provided some wonderful information about the store that I couldn’t do justice without simply quoting him:

“Good Style Shop began as a small vintage clothing buy-sell-exchange shop on the corner of East Wash and Hancock back in 2009. Since moving to this neighborhood in October 2012, we’ve grown into a flea-style vintage collective with a discriminating view of cool, accessible vintage clothing and LP records. In keeping with the original vision, we host art installations and the occasional live music performance to keep ties with current culture and bring in new customers. All our sellers relate clothing to a way of living — we know fashion to be a statement, a code, a head-to-toe proclamation of well-informed, personal style.

Many of our customers are returning neighbors, vintage clothing costumers, other resellers, and campus / style blog ingénues.

Our biggest trends stay tethered to runway and contemporary cycles, but don’t replicate them. A lot of items we sell serve to set off, or personalize someone’s seasonal purchases, but then again, some current trends replicate or borrow vintage silhouettes, styles, and materials. We love to bridge that gap.”

If you need parking when going to Good Style Shop, I recommend Paterson.  There are always spaces on the 100 block, which is just a short two blocks around the corner.  The shop is also very active on Facebook, offering the latest on sales and styles.

upshiftUpShift.  Located at 836 East Johnson, UpShift advertises you can get a whole new wardrobe with their simple clothing exchange process: 1. Bring used items from your closet, 2. Pay $20 to cover all your shopping, and 3. Fill your bags to take home.

Their website provides additional details on this unique shopping concept and the store is active on Facebook as well.  I recommend the same parking advice as for Good Style Shop.


burniesBurnie’s Rock Shop.  At the corner of Johnson and Paterson, Burnie’s is an icon of the East Johnson business district.  Started in 1962 by Burnell “Burnie” Franke, the store features colored gemstones, minerals, fossils, meteorites, stone beads, decor items and natural gifts from the Earth.  Burnie’s also offers custom jewelry and repair work.  If you are seeking to buy something special for someone special, Burnie’s is the place to go.  Our family has found wonderful stones to symbolize birthdays and anniversaries.

My recommendation for parking is the same as for Good Style Shop and UpShift (see how easy this can be!), and like all of these other savvy shop owners, Burnie’s always has lots of excellent information on their Facebook page.

I hope this summary of our special little shopping district entices you to visit our neighborhood as part of the Turn on Johnson campaign.  If you find something special or wish to share your shopping experience, Peggy and I would love to hear from you!

Summer’s Not Over Yet, But…

I read an article last week about summertime things to do with the implication that the season is almost over. Maybe some people plan so much in their summers that it feels that way by the beginning of July. Nevertheless, I and other readers replied to the article with exclamations not to wish summer away, and that for some of us, the season is just starting.

With that in mind, though, every summer around this time I have to tell myself there are a couple of happenings here in Madison that if you wait too long, you’ll miss them. So, while I won’t proclaim summer is almost over, here are three things you might miss out on if you don’t plan for them soon.

concerts-on-the-squareConcerts on the Square. This wildly popular event has been a Wednesday evening tradition in downtown Madison for over 30 years. Featuring musicians from the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, Concerts on the Square offers free outdoor chamber music on the steps of our beautiful state Capitol. Concert goers bring a blanket and often a picnic dinner and sit on the Capitol lawn to enjoy a summer evening with beautiful music. The streets around the Capitol Square are closed, and as I’ve observed before, the vibe before, during, and after the concert is just amazing. It reminds me of those summer nights when I was a kid, hanging out with friends until the sun goes down late in the evening.

Whether you’re seeking to attend for the first time, or have joined the festivities in years past, the important thing to remember is that WCO only schedules concerts through the end of July. So be careful not to put it off too long or think you’ll see something in August. Get a date planned today!

madison-mallardsMadison Mallards. Madison’s collegiate summer baseball team has to be one of the most entertaining and fun activities around town. Whether watching the game or checking out the antics between innings, I have always enjoyed every minute of every game I’ve attended. Played at Warner Park on Madison’s northeast side, the Mallards offer a very accessible venue with plenty of great seats, always an entertaining announcer, and some equally amusing vendors selling their wares, including beef sticks (regulars will understand this reference…one of the team’s quirky traditions!).

Similar to Concerts on the Square, anyone interested in seeing the Mallards should be aware of their schedule. Because the team consists of college players, the season ends early so the students can return to school. The last home game this year is August 6, so get your tickets now to “Play Ball”!

madison-restaurant-weekRestaurant Week. Offered only in January and July, Restaurant Week allows food lovers to sample cuisine at many of Madison’s well-known independent restaurants. Organized by Madison Magazine, participating restaurants offer a special $25 prix-fixed menu with 3 courses and 3 options of each course. The summer Restaurant Week is July 20 to 25, and The Livingston Inn every year offers a $25 nightly room discount, essentially paying for one prix-fixed menu each night. So don’t let the opportunity pass you by this year for a memorable evening out on the town!

Madison is such an incredible place to spend a summer, and there are so many things to do and see all summer long, including sometimes simply sitting in a park and enjoying the lakes. There is still plenty of time to do all that you’ve planned, but if you intend on some outdoor chamber music, a ballgame, or sampling Madison’s food scene, get out your calendar and make your plans soon!