The Livingston Inn | Madison, Wisconsin Bed and Breakfast

Chamber Music for All

BDDS1Two of my favorite classical music events are starting up this month. First, in just one week, we are very excited to welcome the Silver Jubilee of Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society’s Chamber Music Festival. BDDS never disappoints and it’s sure to be spectacular for its 25th season. This chamber group’s festival runs three weekends in June starting on the 10th. BDDS rotates its concerts through Madison’s Overture Center, the Stoughton Opera House, and Taliesin’s Hillside Theater in Spring Green – each a unique and beautiful venue. Artistic Directors Stephanie Jutt and Jeffrey Sykes are wonderfully talented musicians who bring together an outstanding group of artists from all over the world. Together they create exquisite music all the while having a lot of fun!

BDDS4The week following Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society’s Silver Jubilee, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra begins Concerts on the Square on Wednesday, June 29, on the King Street corner of the Capitol Square. A rite of summer cherished by families, couples, friends, locals and visitors, Concerts on the Square features WCO musicians playing outdoors on one side of the beautiful Wisconsin State Capitol building. Patrons set their blankets around the Capitol lawn, bringing a picnic or purchasing dinner from vendors, and enjoy an evening of chamber music. It’s a perfect way to spend a summer evening in Madison. Concerts are every Wednesday with the final performance on August 3.

COTS1If you’re new to classical music or have just attended a concert here and there, chamber music is an ideal way to discover and enjoy classical music because its smaller size makes it more accessible to the listener. I spoke with Stephanie Jutt about a few tips for newcomers to chamber music and even those who seek to get even more out of the experience. She told me:

BDDS3• Remember the concert hall has become a refuge in our world driven by electronic devices. A classical music concert provides the ability to sit, become quiet, and simply listen. Enjoy that opportunity where you have no phone calls, emails or texts. BDDS intentionally selects very special and intimate venues that surround the listener with a smaller audience in a quiet, soothing place.

• Chamber music by design is particularly good at tapping into this quiet moment you create for yourself. Smaller than a symphonic orchestra, it’s more “human size” can move you on a very personal level. Chamber music can connect to your emotion at the moment and speaks to whether you are at your happiest or saddest. It’s as simple as sitting back, relaxing, and feeling what the music is telling you. That experience can be different each time you listen to a chamber orchestra, making it all the more inspiring.

BDDS2• BDDS is particularly good at engaging its audience and takes time throughout its music festival to talk to the concert-goers, helping them put the music into a context. Both Stephanie and Jeffrey have a wonderful sense of humor where they acknowledge everyone as an equal in the concert experience. None of what they do is fussy or stuck up – again, they make it very fun. So be sure to feel you’re among friends, even with the musicians coming from all over the world, as another way to relax and enjoy the music. They are glad you’re there.

Summer is a great time to get out the house and your routine, often to discover new things. I highly suggest you put chamber music on your list for this summer in Madison and enjoy all it has to offer. If it’s a new experience for you, we hope it leads to lifelong love for a wonderful genre of music.

Information and tickets for Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society:
Information on Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra Concerts on the Square: http://www.wcoconcerts.orgBDDS4-cellos



Now Eligible To Vote


To start, this blog has nothing to do with presidential politics. I’m sure many readers are thankful for that. Instead, there is an event that turns 18 years old this month – the age eligible to vote – and has embraced the democratic process for many years. A warm welcome to spring, the Wisconsin Film Festival (WFF) begins this week on Thursday and celebrates its 18th year bringing the joy of film to its fans.

There’s a lot of voting that happens at the festival. Some individuals have spent the last several months watching films and participating in the collaborative process to figure out the best films for this year’s audience. The jury reviewing Wisconsin’s Own – the category of film dedicated to our state’s filmmakers – have made their selection for the Golden Badger Award, akin to a WFF Oscar. The ceremony for the winners is held on opening night. Most importantly, this year’s cinephiles again have the opportunity to vote for their favorites as part of the Steep & Brew Audience Award. Categories for the award are narrative, documentary, and best rediscovery.

Opening NightEach year the festival becomes more exciting to us as the organizers expand and come up with fabulous ways to make the event something for everyone, yet in Madison’s unique way. The 2016 festival expands to the east side with films shown at the historic Barrymore Theatre. Opening night will also feature Madison’s own disco cover band, VO5, playing at the Harmony Bar just down the road from the Barrymore. For families attending the festival, the “Big Screens, Little Folks” program returns with films geared toward children ages 5-11 (and a great option since Madison schools happen to be closed on Friday during the festival due to a professional development day).

In the spirit of the voting theme, and bringing back something we did a couple years ago, below are Peggy and my top selections for the festival. While there are many more fantastic films, we hope these will pique your interest to fully immerse yourself in a week of cinema here in Madison.


  1. ApostateThe Apostate. Set in Madrid, a young man tries to leave the Catholic Church and runs into some baffling obstacles. The film is a humorous examination of the contradictions among religion and agnosticism.
  2. The Club. Peggy is on a theme here. The Club is another film in Spanish, this one set in Chile, and with a storyline related to the Catholic Church. The narrative film, however, has a much more serious theme with its story about transgressions of modern-day priests.
  3. The Crow’s Egg. An engaging and warm move, The Crow’s Egg follows two young brothers growing up in an Indian slum and their dream to eat a slice of pizza B010_C003_0804BAfrom the newly opened pizza parlor. It’s a feel-good movie with an element of social conscience.
  4. Kill Me Please. Brazilian director and screenwriter, Anita Rocha da Silveira, offers a macabre tale about a wave of murders using the artistry of brightly colored cinematography combined with a “killer” soundtrack.
  5. The Love Witch. A witch seeks a lover using potions in this sexy and funny film. Reflecting the art of film in the late 60s and early 70s, the director photographs her movies on 35mm film and WFF will screen The Love Witch from a 35mm print.


  1. CosmosCosmos.  Cosmos is the much-anticipated first film in fifteen years from Polish filmmaker Andrzej Zulawski, who sadly died in February at the age of 75. Hailed by WFF as a “cinematic maelstrom”, the film follows two friends to a guesthouse in Portugal and chronicles a story full of omens, obsession, paranoia and jealousy.
  2. Louder Than Bombs. Featured at the Cannes Film Festival and a Best Film at the Stockholm Film Festival, Louder Than Bombs is a story about the revelations of a father and his two sons upon going through the departed mother’s work as a war photographer. The story masterly fragments time and reality using flashbacks, voiceovers, and dreams to understand the characters’ psyches.
  3. Mad About Madison. This WFF Shorts Program features selections from local filmmakers. Laugh at the Atwood Avenue turkeys, discover local preservation efforts, and take in a couple of perspectives on life at UW-Madison.
  4. Sing Street. Set in Ireland in 1985, Sing Street is a heroic tale of success and conflict when a 14-year old boy forms a band and becomes all the rage in the neighborood. Directed by John Carney, whose credits include Once and Begin Again, the film is a sure favorite for those who enjoy the nostalgia of 80s pop music.
  5. Under the SunUnder the Sun. This documentary filmed in North Korea reveals the unseen daily life of the country’s citizens. Directed by Russian filmmaker Vitaly Mansky, Under the Sun provides a rare glimpse into the homes, schools, and factories behind the Bamboo Curtain.

To read about these films and more, you can visit the WFF website at or pick up a paper film guide at many outlets around town. We hope to see you out and about during this year’s festival and to celebrate Wisconsin Film Festival’s 18th birthday. It’s sure to be a nice break from the ongoing news about the other votes we’re making in 2016!


Taste of Madison Top 10

4a18240c1edabb5fdfdefbdbe223eef9The Taste of Madison is upon us this weekend! Our restaurant culture in Madison is fabulous and what better way to celebrate it than by sampling food all weekend long.

Starting at 2pm on Saturday, restaurants, caterers, and other vendors will surround the Capitol Square for a fun two days of food, live music, and a festive finale to another beautiful Madison summer. To add to the fun, participants vote for their favorite food in a variety of categories with a chance to win a $100 gift certificate to a participating restaurant. The Taste of Madison supports local charities as well with volunteers working at over 26 4dd7b4d73a682b25735e8c200ec93507beverage stands.

With over 80 restaurants and caterers at this year’s event, with anything from tamales to RumChata cheesecake, there’s a lot to choose from. Reviving a tradition around here at The Livingston Inn, I’ve asked each family member to pick their top two restaurants that might help our readers narrow down their list.

Peggy’s Picks
Bonzo – menu: falafel, chicken skewer, beef skewer
Lombardino’s – menu: fried calamari, eggplant fries, butterscotch panna cotta

Dave’s Picks
Lao Laan-Xang – menu: crab rangoon, coconut shrimp, vegetable spring roll
Rare Steakhouse – menu: steak slider with horseradish cream, duckfat French fries with citrus aioli

Daniel’s Picks
Lombardino’s – menu: see above
Tipsy Cow – menu: truffle fries, beer battered cheese curds, PBR fish taco

Joanna’s Picks
Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream – menu: ice cream and root beer floats
b110a6e712f5717cdef2c463a9f8d3beSai Bai Thong – menu: pad thai, squash chicken curry, yum ta wai shrimp, pad chu chee catfish

Luke’s Picks
Taj India – menu: chicken tikka masala and rice, mixed veggie curry and rice, channa masala and rice, samosa
The Old Fashioned — menu: mac & cheese, beer battered cheese curds, Wisconsin ring bologna, spicy pickled egg, brandy old fashioned ice cream

Admission is free, and this year’s Taste of Madison features over 30 diverse music acts performing on three stages. The event ends on Sunday at 7pm, so you’ll still have plenty of time for that Labor Day barbeque on Monday.

We hope to see you out there at this weekend’s festivities!


Anniversary Gifts

Last week we marked our fourth anniversary at The Livingston Inn, also known on the National Register of Historic Places as the William T. Leitch House. On July 29, 2011, we opened our doors with excitement, and a little trepidation, for what would come. Looking back, I can say it’s pretty close to what we envisioned with a couple of small, but wise, adjustments along the way.

Nils Haugen Chair and Ottoman-Before

Nils Haugen Chair and Ottoman-Before

One wonderful gift that was finished and returned to the house in time for our fourth anniversary is a reupholstered chair and ottoman belonging to the third owner of the house, Nils Haugen. His great-granddaughter brought both items to us a few months after we moved in. It wasn’t until this year, though, that we had the opportunity to restore them as signature pieces of furniture at our B&B. The Nils Haugen chair and ottoman look right at home in front of the fireplace in the back parlor.


Nils Haugen Chair and Ottoman-After

Nils Haugen Chair and Ottoman-After

We can’t let an anniversary pass without thanking other previous owners for their gifts. This year, the owner prior to us stopped by with holiday decorations that used to adorn the lampposts and wrought-iron fence surrounding this historic home. We can’t wait to hang them this year and add to the beauty and majesty of The Livingston Inn during the holidays and winter months.

And of course we must also extended our warmest gratitude to the daughters of the fifth owners, Gordon and Dolly Harman, for all the photos, newspaper articles, note cards, plus the best stories they’ve shared on a regular basis. We very much look forward to another visit with these family members later this month.

Bible from original owner William T. Leitch, passed down from previous owners

Bible from original owner William T. Leitch, passed down from previous owners

To live in a house for four years is not long at all, and for a house this old, it could make the new owner feel a little disconnected from the home’s history. But these gifts from previous owners and descendants, plus the time we’ve spent with them, has given us an even more precious gift – the ability to reach both near and far back into the Leitch House’s past and feel like we’re part of a long and significant history in the City of Madison.

So, thank you guests, friends, neighbors, and family for helping us reach this small, but satisfying, anniversary! We hope our time here, too, will be long and fulfilling. Peggy and I work hard every day to ensure that happens. Because if we do, there’s so much to gain for anniversaries to come and for the story of this beautiful home in Madison.

Article by long-time Capital Newspapers writer, Doug Moe, about opening the inn - October 2, 2011.

Article by long-time Capital Newspapers writer, Doug Moe, about opening the inn – October 2, 2011.

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!

New Year, Special Wishes

Business EventIt has been quite a year for us, and as we head into the last half of our second full year of business (we hosted our first guests two years ago in July), Peggy and I wanted to take some time to express our appreciation for your support and enthusiasm toward The Livingston Inn and everything we’ve managed to accomplish.  We couldn’t have done any of it without you, so THANK YOU!

img_2942Over the past eighteen months, the Livingston Inn has hosted elegant dinners, weddings, showers, book clubs, garden parties, backyard yoga and a long, fascinating list of guests.  We even had a movie shot here!  We look forward to even more events — we’d love to host you and your friends; The Livingston Inn is a unique, beautiful space, but it’s also relaxing and refreshing.  We’ve been told time and again how much our guests love to simply sit by the fire and chat, or curl up with a good book.  We understand.  We noticed the inviting energy as soon as we set foot in the home ourselves.  So let us know if we can help you plan and host an event in 2013.

I thought it would be fun to let you know about some of the ideas we’ve had for The Livingston Inn.  Some are things we’ve actually considered and are working on for the near future, and some are things we’d like to see happen, but don’t have the time to put in place right now.  But if you have connections or a fierce drive to bring them to life, let us hear from you!

Backyard YogaBackyard yoga – we had a wonderful start to this program in 2012, and look forward to continuing it when warm weather returns in the spring.  The yoga class begins in the front yard, and after class the participants partake in tea and sweet treats in the Conservatory. Contact us to be included when we start up again!

Valentine’s Dinner – Following up on our successful Century Dinner last February, we’ll be hosting a special “romantic Valentine’s Day” event in February with our pop-up dinner chef, Dan Fox of Fox Heritage Foods.  Contact us for more details!

Betty Lou Cruises – we’ve talked to the Betty Lou Cruise-line and both sides would love to instigate Livingston Inn packages; so far it hasn’t worked out because the lake is too low to stop at our dock, but we’re hoping for better luck in the future.

Mystery Dinners – some friends have brought up this wonderful idea, to be hosted in the inn.  The right stars haven’t aligned to bring it together yet, but we’re hopeful it will come to fruition in 2013 or soon after.

Afternoon Tea

High Tea – We really like the idea of serving a high tea at The Livingston Inn.  As far as we can tell, no one in Madison offers this engaging afternoon experience, a big hit over the past few years on the East and West coasts.  We’re working on it as a public event, and could even offer it privately for small groups sooner.

Etiquette classes – apparently etiquette classes are a rising business model.  Who knew?  Peggy is a fan of Downton Abbey, and every time the show comes on it reminds us of our own wonderful home.  Wouldn’t it be fun learning about social graces and communication skills in a Gothic mansion that harks back to the days when such things were crucial to success and a good reputation?

DSC_0087-1Gardening classes – Peggy is a wonderful gardener, and she and some of her gardening expert friends are considering some simple classes during the spring and summer months.

Mad City Women – Peggy’s had a few conversations with friends and acquaintances about putting together some sort of group for the remarkable women of Madison.  What a great idea! We haven’t had the time to invest in it, but this is one thing we’d love to see happen this year, and we’ve put some feelers in place to try to generate some interest and energy around it.  Contact us if you’d be interested in taking part in a group like this and we’ll work on putting it together.

If you think it would be fun and interesting to host things like book groups, family reunions, business meetings or retreats at our B&B, we would love to hear from you.  The Livingston Inn is a unique, elegant alternative and chances are we can make it easier and less stressful than hosting in your own home.

Here’s to a grand new year – and to making all of our wishes come true!

Front Garden Event

The Year in Photos 2012

Like many of you, we look back this time of year to reflect upon the events and experiences that filled our lives.  Here are some of the special photos that represent the wonderful memories among our family and guests at The Livingston Inn in 2012.

Despite a mild winter for 2011-12, our son took this photo at James Madison Park after a cold windy day blew waves onto the park.

Despite a mild winter for 2011-12, our son took this photo at James Madison Park after a cold windy day blew waves onto the park.

February brought a magical evening with the Century Dinner - eight courses with custom cocktails. Amazing!
February brought a magical evening with the Century Dinner – eight courses with custom cocktails. Amazing!

Spring came with a Norwegian get together of family and friends connected to Nils Haugen, the third owner of our house.

Spring came with a Norwegian get together of family and friends connected to Nils Haugen, the third owner of our house.

We welcome spring each year with the annual Wisconsin Film Festival. In 2012, The Entertainers film crew held a very fun and festive party at our B&B.

We welcome spring each year with the annual Wisconsin Film Festival. In 2012, The Entertainers film crew held a very fun and festive party at our B&B.

Our yellowwood tree bloomed this year, an event that happens once every four years.  Beautiful hanging over the wrought iron fence in the front garden.

Our yellowwood tree bloomed this year, an event that happens once every four years. Beautiful hanging over the wrought iron fence in the front garden.

May also graced us with the fragrance and beauty of the lilacs on Livingston Street. This photo was taken by Jacqui Harman, daughter of the Harman family who resided in our house for the latter half of the 20th century.

May also graced us with the fragrance and beauty of the lilacs on Livingston Street. This photo was taken by Jacqui Harman, daughter of the Harman family who resided in our house for the latter half of the 20th century.

Sunsets on our lakefront access didn't disappoint again. Here are a few of our favorites.

Sunsets on our lakefront access didn’t disappoint again. Here are a few of our favorites.

Like many of our other photos, our son takes most of the sunset ones.

Like many of our other photos, our son takes most of the sunset ones.

Many beautiful evenings this summer on the lake.

Many beautiful evenings this summer on the lake.

Fall colors are even more spectacular looking out from the cupola at the top of the house.

Fall colors are even more spectacular looking out from the cupola at the top of the house.

We love Halloween and this year was extra special with a wedding!

We love Halloween and this year was extra special with a wedding!

A special greeting at the front door this Halloween!

A special greeting at the front door this Halloween!

The beauty of Christmas seemed extra special this year.

The beauty of Christmas seemed extra special this year.

The Livingston Inn - December 2012 Snowstorm

The Livingston Inn – December 2012 Snowstorm

Our best wishes to everyone for a Happy New Year!

Our best wishes to everyone for a Happy New Year!

Christmas Traditions

Christmas tree in front parlor

Christmas tree in front parlor

At a recent party I attended, I found myself in a fascinating conversation about Christmas traditions and the emotional impact they have on us. An acquaintance told me how, when her mother recently died, the most important things to her and her sisters were their mother’s Christmas ornaments. Some of the ornaments had been in their family for generations, and many of them had special memories attached to them. The sisters were very careful to distribute them fairly, honoring as much as possible individual preferences, and any distinctive attachments each sister had to specific ornaments.  She told me this story with such reverence and it was clear that the emotional connection to the ornaments and to the experience of having to divide them mindfully, almost sacredly, was powerful.

Since that conversation, I’ve reflected on how compelling Christmas can be, and how the traditions and material things connected to the season become such a part of the celebration.  In our family, we have plenty of traditions and rituals for the holidays.  This is only our second Christmas at The Livingston Inn, and I sincerely hope we have the opportunity to create any number of special moments here.

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Last year, we adapted a tradition from the Harmans, who would place a full-size, lighted tree in each window of the home facing Gorham Street – seven in all.  That’s not completely practical in an inn, of course, so we modified it, and instead place a beautiful wreath in every window and door.  As I’ve mentioned, I always feel fortunate to live in such a beautiful space, but during the Christmas season, it is especially beautiful, and I feel particularly grateful.

We’re also thinking about the ornament idea, and a very sweet guest may have set us on the road to this kind of tradition when she generously gave us two dated, hand-decorated glass ornaments at a recent shower hosted at the inn.  We love them – aren’t they beautiful?

Christmas ornaments

So how about you?  Any special attachments to specific Christmas-related things, or any wonderful memories that come out with the decorations at this time of year?  We’d love to hear about them!

The Livingston Inn

The Livingston Inn