The Livingston Inn | Madison, Wisconsin Bed and Breakfast

Madison, Naturally

View More: http://pauliusmusteikis.pass.us/livingstoninndinner06142013

Back garden at The Livingston Inn

It’s that time of year when summer is at its fullest. There are plenty of warm days where everyone is outside taking in the lakes, parks, events, concerts, and festivals. It seems every day, and well into the evening, downtown Madison is buzzing with people walking around, finding fun things to do and dining out at so many fantastic restaurants.

Coinciding with all this activity, it’s also the time of year in Madison when the plants, gardens, and trees seem to be at their peak. A neighbor calls this the “full riot of summer” where every plant and flower has shot up, has bloomed, is blooming, needs trimming, or is getting ready to grow more heading into fall. Walking around neighborhoods, parks, or through Olbrich Botanical or Allen Centennial Gardens, there is so much beauty in all the varieties of flowers and plants enjoying the summer.

At this time of year, though, I also often think about what Madison looked like before humans tamed it. What did it look like before trees were planted along streets, grass was seeded, and all types of plants and flowers, not necessarily native to the area, adorned the many manicured flowerbeds and gardens? Thankfully, there is a place right in our city to find that answer. The UW-Madison Arboretum sits on 1,200 acres on the near west side of Madison, and it’s a place where you can see firsthand what Madison may have looked like before an influx of settlers changes its landscape a couple hundred years ago. The Arboretum is a beautiful setting with an ecological restoration of the Upper Midwest prairie along with some traditional horticultural arrangements of labeled plants in garden-like displays.

About_hist_CCC-prairie-planting-1935-348x232

Civilian Conservation Corps restoring farmland to prairie

Several well-known figures in Madison’s history had a hand in the making of the Arboretum, including John Nolen, Michael Olbrich, and Aldo Leopold. It’s important to understand the Arboretum is not on acreage untouched for hundreds of years. Instead, as first proposed by Nolen in 1911, it was the vision of early residents to take farmland in Madison and restore an historic ecological community. It was Olbrich who convinced the UW Board of Regents to aid in the land purchase of the first 246 acres acquired in 1932, growing to 500 acres two years later. Following the land purchase, the Depression-era Civilian Conversation Corps provided the supply of workers who turned the farmland into a prairie restoration.

Unknown

Aerial view of UW-Madison Arboretum and Visitor Center

Through additional gifts and purchases, the UW-Madison Arboretum has grown to its present 1,200 acres and features an abundance of hiking trails as well as options for bikes, cars, skis, and snowshoes. The trails and roadways will take you through areas restored as if you were in Madison hundreds of years ago. An outing to the Arboretum may involve encountering wild turkeys, turtles and other wildlife, or in addition to the hiking trails, touring three of the gardens where you can discover an impressive variety of woody plants, Viburnum, arborvitae, and other native plants. There’s also an outstanding Visitor Center and plenty of volunteer and educational opportunities.

140922_juniper-knoll_1586SD_web-348x232Today the Arboretum is undoubtedly the gem of Madison. While we love our lakes, plentiful parks, and neighborhood communities, the Arboretum, while large in size, quietly holds its place among us. Many days most residents likely forget it’s there, some not noticing it even when going around its edges on Madison streets and highways. But when we need a refuge from the busy and growing city around us, it’s always waiting there for us, allowing us to take a peaceful walk through it and marvel at the beauty and simplicity of a natural ecosystem.

imagesYou can bike in the Arboretum and on Sundays drive through it from one side to the other, but the best way to enjoy the Arb is on foot. The website has an easy-to-read map noting parking lots for trailheads. An ideal first trip would be to drive to the Visitor Center and make time to hike through at least a couple of the gardens and then venture out onto one of the many hiking trails. If you like to ski or snowshoe, take note of areas you’d like to return to when winter comes to our area (note: some trails are for hiking only).

With summer in full bloom, I strongly encourage you to put a trip to the Arboretum on the top of your list. While the excitement of summertime in the city is all around us right now, including beautiful flowers and plants, the Arboretum is a perfect respite to take a few steps back in time and picture the natural beauty of our area. It’s an opportunity to enjoy it now and enjoy as it always was.

FEA_spr-l_wildflowers-grady_0844SD-528x320

 

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: http://www.bachdancinganddynamite.org
Information on Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra Concerts on the Square: http://www.wcoconcerts.orgBDDS4-cellos

COTS3

 

New Year’s Resolutions Solved

Every year we hear about how many people make a New Year’s resolution to lose weight and get fit. Just as I’m writing these opening sentences, two separate commercials have appeared on TV about weight loss programs. Yet, every year we hear about how many people don’t keep their resolutions. Despite the odds against us, human nature prevails and we keep up the tradition of resolutions, many with good intentions such as losing weight and exercising more. And even if a small fraction of people stick with a resolution, it’s certainly not a bad thing that a few more people have found their way to a healthier lifestyle.

With that in mind, I thought it would be fun and a source of encouragement to provide some ways residents and visitors in Madison can stay committed to a New Year’s resolution to get healthy and exercise more. My suggestions focus mostly on these darker and colder days of winter when the resolve to stay fit can sometimes be a challenge.

south_cherokee_ski_5Cross country skiing. Madison has a number of groomed trails at golf courses like Odana Hills and Yahara Hills. One of my personal favorites is Glenway Golf Course. This nine-hole course is tucked away in a near-westside neighborhood between a cemetery and the Southwest Bike Path. As you ski toward the back of the course, it’s very secluded with many beautiful old trees. Since it’s not groomed, be sure to be respectful of the golf course and only ski when conditions permit. Beyond the golf courses, I’d also recommend Pheasant Branch Conservancy in Middleton, another beautiful and secluded area in the midst of our city. If you need skis, rentals are available at Odana Hills or at our local sporting goods store, Fontana Sports.

Snowshoeing on the lakes. While this winter has been abnormal where ice hasn’t formed, Madison lakes are often a great option for snowshoeing. Similar to going out on a lake in the summer, the views of the city are stunning, and a day or evening snowshoeing in the winter is a very peaceful experience as well. Guests at The Livingston Inn can enjoy a fun snowshoeing excursion from our lake access across to the UW campus and the union. If you need snowshoes during a visit, Fontana Sports is again a great option.

yogaJoin a health club. Similar to those weight loss commercials, health clubs heavily solicit new members this time of year. So why not take advantage of some of the special offers and make it the year join a health club? Madison has so many options from the nationwide chains to large and small local clubs. Close to The Livingston Inn are two great local options: Capital Fitness and Pinnacle Health and Fitness. If you’re a guest here and have joined a health club at home, remember The Livingston Inn offers free health club access to Pinnacle Health so you can maintain your workout schedule during your visit.

Schedule yourself on a walking tour or two. When the weather doesn’t cooperate with winter sports, like skiing and snowshoeing, running and walking are good alternatives. Walking is a great exercise, and if you’d like it to be more interesting, add in something like an architectural walking tour. While the Madison Trust for Historic Preservation has guided tours in warmer weather, the City of Madison has a very nice list of tours you can do on your own like the Old Market Place, Tenney-Lapham, and Mansion Hill tours in our neighborhood.

Exercise your brain. A New Year’s resolution to get healthy should include body AND mind. No matter what your age, the benefits of exercising your brain, or intellect, go far for a long and healthy life. With that in mind, I would recommend regular trips to the Madison Public Library. Our downtown library was re-modeled just a few years ago, and it is such a fun place to visit. Just from its exterior, the building draws you in and makes it very inviting to spend an afternoon reading books and periodicals, perhaps bringing something home until your next library visit. If you’re staying at our B&B and want to incorporate a little physical exercise, the downtown library is an enjoyable 20-minute walk from our inn.Madison Public Library Central Branch

Eat and drink well, locally. Madison features several companies dedicated to nutritious food as part of a commitment to health and well-being. One of my favorites is nut butter offered by the local company, Yumbutter. Yumbutter’s nut butters are an organic superfood made from nuts and seeds offering an ideal source for proteins and antioxidants. Available in peanut, almond, and sunflower, they all taste great, too. If you’re looking for something healthy to drink, many Madison residents have discovered the benefits of kombucha. Kombucha is a fermented tea drink made with living cultures of bacteria and yeast. While that may not sound appealing at first, kombucha has a very nice flavor similar to iced teas. The drink’s history stretches back to East Asian cultures where it’s believed to cure many diseases and afflictions. Today, fans of kombucha drink it to improve digestion and provide antioxidants to the body. While science has yet to support these claims, I’ll take a bottle of kombucha over a soda or sugar-intense energy drink any day. Here in Madison, NessAlla has been a local producer of kombucha for years and knows what it’s doing to make an excellent, quality product. You can find it in most stores and several restaurants throughout Madison.nessalla

If you’ve made a New Year’s resolution of some type related to your health, I want to be the first to say you can do it. Don’t let any naysayers tell you resolutions are meant to be broken. But if you need a little support, hopefully the list above will inspire you to discover fun, creative, and sustaining ways to make 2016 a great year for your health!

Farm-to-Table Abundance

farmersmarket2As we head toward next month where we celebrate harvest and are thankful for all that we have in our lives, we want to step back and recognize how far our communities have come with organic and sustainable farming. Without a doubt, the farm-to-table movement has grown tremendously nationwide, but we’re particularly proud of Madison’s accomplishments over the past decades.

To start, we must commend our iconic Dane County Farmers’ Market. Started in 1972, DCFM or “the Market” has undertaken ongoing positive steps to support local and organic farmers and producers, and today the Market is stronger than ever. Its flagship market day, Saturdays on the Capitol Square, continues to attract throngs of community members and visitors. It’s always the top attraction among our guests at The Livingston Inn, something they hear about whether coming from a neighboring state or halfway around the world. After an impressive forty years, you’ll find anything at the Market from the regulars at 6am zipping quickly to their normal vendors for items like honey and fresh produce to the leisurely mid-morning strollers sampling cheese bread while people watching on the counter-clockwise circuit.

561598817e394.imageThe phenomenon of the Market has led to its expansion as well as the growth of other farmers’ markets. DCFM successfully added a Wednesday market from 8:30am to 2:00pm a few years ago, attracting downtown workers on their lunch hours. Realizing a farmer’s market is more than fresh produce, the Market has also expanded into indoor winter markets at the Monona Terrace and the Madison Senior Center. Those markets can still feature the sought-after cheeses, breads, and tasty treats but then offer preserves and jarred products that extend the life of seasonal market products.

Beyond the Market, farmers and other vendors have enjoyed the opening of other markets stretching to all points of the compass across the isthmus and beyond. This list alone on the City of Madison’s website points to the incredible growth: http://www.cityofmadison.com/live-work/neighborhoods/farmers-markets. In addition, many of Madison’s local restaurants now purchase their ingredients and menu items from the many markets throughout town.

To add to our bounty of markets, we learned more exciting news this fall about our enthusiastic support of local farming. Starting up just a few weeks ago, Madison’s downtown will now also offer a Sunday Farmers’ Market. This market is open from 6am to 2pm on Pinckney and Mifflin Streets. The focus of the market is to provide healthy food to consumers from all income levels and to educate about food sources, nutrition, and preparation.

556e2116b1d6a.imageWhat’s wonderful and amazing about these markets is almost all of them are busy. The Hilldale market, on the west side, always draws a big crowd and continues to grow as well. Beyond that, no matter if it’s the Northside markets or those in Madison Southside neighborhoods, the stalls have a regular stream of patrons looking for fresh, local produce and other products for their weekly menu planning. In fact, some of those markets operate in food deserts – generally lower-income neighborhoods without a nearby grocery store – thereby offering a healthy and community-based source of food for the local residents. (Also notable is that DCFM accepts federal food assistance dollars and is the largest market in Wisconsin accepting them.)

The growth of farmers’ markets and their support of organic and sustainable farming has resulted in some positive “secondary” markets. In our next blog, we’ll feature the restaurants and a food delivery service that have helped local businesses succeed in their commitment to the farm-to-table movement.

561598804f689.image

Fall Fitness

We’re thrilled to welcome again the Ironman athletes for this weekend’s race in Madison. Every year we meet such an inspiring and impressive group of people. It reminds us of all that a person can accomplish through dedication and hard work.EnduraPix_7694_120909GLG1841245D-635x421

With Ironman and other fall race events upon us, we thought it would be fun to offer some local running courses and routes around The Livingston Inn. Our daughter has become an avid runner since we opened our B&B, and she suggest the following for guests or anyone in the neighborhood seeking some training or exercise.

City Neighborhood Course (easy): Tenney Neighborhood Loop

Head north on Gorham Street and turn left at Brearly after passing Christ Presbyterian Church on the lake. Proceed down Sherman Avenue and enjoy homes along Lake Mendota. Continue to Tenney Park and turn right into the parking lot along the Yahara River. Run along the river, onto the path going under Johnson Street and then turn right on Dayton Street. Continue on Dayton Street and enjoy the feel of our Tenney-Lapham neighborhood, passing homes and the school. You’ll finish your run by turning right on Blount, challenging yourself at the end taking the hill up to Gorham, and then a nice gradual downhill run back to Livingston and Gorham. Approximate distance: 2.5 milesClassic-Tenney-Park-bridge-2

City View Course (moderate): Capital City Bike Path/Monona Terrace/Olin Park

Head south on Livingston, crossing East Washington, and then turn right on the Capital City Bike Trail. Follow the bike trail toward downtown and the path will soon parallel Lake Monona. You’ll run under the striking Monona Terrace and continue along Lake Monona toward Olin Park. At Lakeside Street, do a U-turn so you can run back along the lake and view one on the most beautiful vistas of the Madison skyline and Lake Monona. When you come to the first light, cross Proudfit Street and proceed along Monona Bay and you’ll soon connect with the Southwest Bike Path. Turn right onto the bike path and when you reach West Washington, turn right again. Run up “West Wash” with another beautiful view of the Capitol along with the challenge of an uphill run. Run clockwise (left) around the Capitol Square and then proceed down Hamilton diagonally to Gorham. Turn right on Gorham and finish by returning to The Livingston Inn. Approximate distance: 5.25 milesCapital_City_State_Trail-001

People Watching (moderate): James Madison Park/State Street/Capitol Square

Head south on Gorham and turn into James Madison Park one house past The Livingston Inn. Run in the park along Lake Mendota, taking in the beach and park visitors. Follow the path up to Gilman (Gilman is one block north of Gorham). Take Gilman (a hill challenge) to Wisconsin Avenue, turn right, proceed one block and turn left on Langdon. Enjoy student life and the fraternity and sorority houses on Langdon and then the iconic Red Gym and Memorial Union. Turn left on Park and then your next left on to State Street. A pedestrian mall (albeit with bus traffic), run the length of State Street to the Capitol, again enjoying students and Madisonians of all types. Upon reaching the Capitol Square, run counter clockwise (right) and then proceed down Hamilton diagonally to Gorham. Turn right on Gorham and finish by returning to Livingston. Approximate distance: 3.3 milesfall-colors-of-madison-1

Nature Scenic (moderate to advanced): Lakeshore Path

Head south on Gorham running past James Madison Park. At the end of the park, turn right on Butler Street and then left on Gilman (a hill challenge). Take Gilman to Wisconsin Avenue, turn right, proceed one block and turn left on Langdon. Run on Langdon all the way to the UW Memorial Union. Pass the Union and turn right on Park Street and you’ll hook up with the Lakeshore Path. The Lakeshore Path is a beautiful route – both dirt and paved paths with fewer bikes – along Lake Mendota with views of some of the older UW campus buildings. Stay on the Lakeshore Path, passing the soccer fields and UW marching band field, until you reach the parking lot for Picnic Point. Take a U-turn here and return back to The Livingston Inn on the same route. Approximate distance: 7 miles

Late afternoon sunlight backlights people running along the Howard Temin Lakeshore Path at the University of Wisconsin-Madison during autumn on Oct. 13, 2010. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

Late afternoon sunlight backlights people running along the Howard Temin Lakeshore Path at the University of Wisconsin-Madison during autumn on Oct. 13, 2010. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

Nature Scenic (advanced): Lakeshore Path

Follow the same directions above except shortly after entering the Lakeshore Path turn left up the path going through Muir Woods and you’ll end up on Observatory Drive. Observatory Drive has amazing views of the lake and old UW buildings, including the observatory. Plus it has a number of hills for an extra challenge. When you reach Elm Street, turn right and you’ll connect with the Lakeshore Path. Turn left on the Lakeshore Path and when you arrive at the Picnic Point parking lot turn right. Run to the end of Picnic Point and then take a U-turn, coming back to the Lakeshore Path and then continue back on the same route to The Livingston Inn. Approximate distance: 9 miles

With the Ironman event kicking off the many fall festivities in Madison, we hope you find these suggested running routes helpful and motivating for your training and fitness goals. If you are staying with us, please let us know if we can explain anything further or help with a map.

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.  www.mmoca.org

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.  www.mtmadison.com

MTM

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.  www.juneteenthmadison.wordpress.com

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.  www.radicalsultimate.com

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.  www.shakethelake.org

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!

fireworks2

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!

13th Annual Art Walk

art-walk-1The Tenney-Lapham Neighborhood Association (TLNA) Art Walk is this Sunday, June 22, from 1 to 5pm.  The Art Walk assembles local artists who open up their homes as their personal gallery for patrons to view their work.  We have been extremely impressed with the beauty and quality of art each year when we go on the walk.  And it’s a great way for guests at The Livingston Inn as well as Madison residents to enjoy the neighborhood.

This year the Art Walk features a near record number of artists, up significantly over past years.  Organizers Sharon and Bill Redinger have told us many long-time neighborhood artists are participating in the walk for the first time.  They also said the variety of media and types of art should offer a broad appeal to art enthusiasts.

art-walk-2Art Walk participants can pick up a map and start the walk at the Redinger home and studio, located at 408 Washburn Place, just one block from our bed and breakfast, and then continue on to other homes.  Most of the homes are near each other, so walking is the ideal way to get around.  The Art Walk spans the entire Tenney-Lapham neighborhood, so a few stops might best be served by bicycle.

If you attend the Art Walk this year, please let us know what you thought of it, and if any particular artist or work inspired you.  And remember to “Turn on Johnson” during the walk to support businesses affected by the Johnson Street construction project.  You can stop for coffee, a cold drink, grab a bite to eat, or check out a shop or two.

Visit the TLNA website for more details.

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 Light of a Winter Solistice

Candles lit on the Winter Solistice

Candles lit on the Winter Solistice

There are so many things to love about this time of year, whether or not you celebrate any religious holidays.  Today is solstice, the shortest day of the year, and it seems pretty clear to me that no matter what your belief system – and even if you don’t have any at all, really – this time of year is about light.  Candles and Christmas lights offer a pretty sanctuary from what might otherwise be a dark, challenging time.  In Madison, it’s sometimes dark by four o’clock!  Grey, overcast days and short daylight hours can make it hard to face the morning — or the very early night.  Physically and symbolically, light offers hope in the darkness, and represents a reminder that the days get longer again, starting tomorrow.

Sometimes it seems as if nature and humanity have come together to offset the season of darkness with light.  I am reminded of the beauty and “lightness” of winter by the fifteen inches of snow we had yesterday. (Okay, so maybe the tree branches don’t think of all that snow as light.)  Snow reflects the moon and the stars, and gives an ambience to the landscape that offsets the darkness of winter.  It is beautiful, and creates a completely different world for us to watch and play in.  What a wonderful gift!

Tree lights at night in the back garden

Tree lights at night in the back garden

And then there are the holidays.  Christmas is filled with light, both candle and electric.  Hanukkah is, of course, the Festival of Lights; it ended on the 16th this year.  I was fascinated to find exactly how many winter and end-of-year festivals there are and have been through history. You can see the very long Wikipedia list here: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_winter_festivals)

And sometimes, Mother Nature gifts us with a snow day just when we need it, so we can explore and be inspired by both its joyful charm and its elegant allure.  Yesterday afternoon, I went down to nearby James Madison Park to take photos of some creative snowmen that neighbors had built. With the ominous dark clouds and high waves behind them on Lake Mendota, the snowmen made me happy. I couldn’t help but smile at each one, imagining what it was saying to me.

Snomwan 5

Snowman 1 Snowman 2 Snowman 3 Snowman 4

So yesterday at The Livingston Inn, as we dealt with over a foot of snow, we also took time to sit by the fire, enjoy the Christmas lights, and walk down to the lake, to admire the special, ethereal beauty of this time of year, when we take light wherever we can find it.

Enjoy!

The Livingston Inn - December 2012 Snowstorm

The Livingston Inn – December 2012 Snowstorm