The Livingston Inn | Madison, Wisconsin Bed and Breakfast

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!

It’s All a “Bout” Fun!

I’ve featured a lot of uncommon sports in our blog over the years such as our outstanding ultimate Frisbee team, the Madison Radicals, our fun-loving summer collegiate baseball team, the Madison Mallards, as well as activities such as hooping and slacklining in James Madison Park. Plus we’ve recognized some of our UW teams that don’t always make the headlines like our fabulous women’s volleyball and hockey teams. In keeping with this theme, there’s another unique sport becoming very popular in Madison and whose season is just getting underway.

1509-250The Mad Rollin’ Dolls start their first roller derby “bout” this Saturday, December 5. The team competes at the Alliant Energy Center and has been around since 2005. Each year, the buzz around the Mad Rollin’ Dolls builds as more people discover the excitement of roller derby. While most of us associate roller derby as a bunch of mean girls pushing each other around, there’s actually much more strategy, skill, and athleticism. Plus there’s still that element of fun and spectacle.

history6Roller derby has its roots in the 1930s where fans came to watch 12-hour endurance events but were drawn more to the excitement of skaters smashing into each other. The sport flourished up to the 1970s, when it faded away like disco, partly due to poor management, crazy production antics, and the economic recession. In 2003, roller derby made a comeback starting with the Texas Rollergirls. Today there are more than 600 leagues and 19,000 skaters worldwide. The sport held on to its kitschy fun where women are encouraged to be aggressive and gorgeous.

A “bout”, the term for a roller derby competition, consists of two 30-minute periods with episodes of play called jams. Jams usually last about two minutes during each period. Skaters form packs which require two positions: blockers and jammers. Points are scored by the jammer each time she legally passes an opponent. Skaters can block and target using just certain parts of their body. Much of the fun can come from knocking down an opponent but there are also penalties for knocking down or blocking illegally.

MRD_TCFOS_Website-1036Mad Rollin’ Dolls has two interleague teams plus four home teams and a recreational team. Experience ranges from the Dairyland Dolls interleague all-star team to the Mad Wreckin’ Dolls recreational team which welcomes even the beginner skater. Adding to the fun, players adopt crazy names like Gingah Snap, Kentucky Fried Carnage, and Sequin Destroyher.allie

Like some of the other athletic events we’ve featured, roller derby in Madison has two great things going for it: affordability and accessibility. In an era where professional and some college sports can bust an entertainment budget, tickets to a Mad Rollin’ Dolls bout cost only $10 in advance. And when you get your ticket, you’re among a crowd that’s close to the action, making the competition so much more engaging and enjoyable. Plus with names for the bouts like “New Year’s Bruise-o-lutions” and “Too Hoth to Handle” (Star Wars theme), you’re sure to have a great time.

misc2The Mad Rollin’ Dolls website has plenty of information including how to buy tickets and the season schedule. But there are only five home bouts this season, so don’t delay in planning for a very memorable evening. In keeping with its quirky ways, Mad Rollin’ Dolls says this about their sport: The future is clear – first the Olympics, then world domination! Seeing how much fun they’re having, I think the world would be a better place with more roller derby!

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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

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!

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!

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

Madison’s Got Talent

If hooping were an Olympic event, Madison would no doubt have several qualifying athletes, and I would bet we’d get a medal or two (check out this video).  The same would be possible with playing hackey sack, slacklining, or throwing a Frisbee.  I’d also have some competitor suggestions for actual Olympic events like volleyball and soccer.  Where would I find all these Olympic hopefuls?  Right down the street from The Livingston Inn at James Madison Park.

My son and I make a pretty regular visit to James Madison Park every late Friday afternoon.  We enjoy each other’s company as much as watching the variety of people.  The Olympic embellishment aside, we are always impressed by the talent of park-goers participating in all types of recreation.  Hula hoops (hooping) are a regular fixture.  One young woman can place one leg through the hula hoop, and in the blink of an eye and slight wiggle of her body, bring the hoop up her body and out through the opposite arm.  We don’t know how she does it, but it’s fun to watch.

We’ve also seen a guy who could probably keep a hackey sack in motion without it touching the ground for hours.  One time we saw him jump off the ground, place his foot behind one leg, and with the same foot, kick the hackey sack back in the air.  We’ve also seen incredible Frisbee tosses by humans and airborne catches by dogs.  And then there’s the volleyball, soccer, and football players – all of them very accomplished in their sport of choice.  Besides the Friday afternoons with my son, our entire family often goes to the park ourselves to practice volleyball serves, throw a baseball, or play our own version of the Super Bowl.

As a society, we often fret about the amount of time young people spend on computers, video games, and mobile phones.  For the crowd that gathers regularly at James Madison Park, I have no concerns.  It’s obvious they spend a lot of time perfecting, and enjoying, their sport or talent.  It makes me believe the art of leisure is not lost.  There’s a photo of William T. Leitch, the builder of The Livingston Inn, on the website of the Wisconsin State Historical Society.  In the photo, Mr. Leitch is sitting on the shore of Lake Mendota enjoying the company of an acquaintance.  It encourages me over a hundred years later that Madison residents still enjoy the unique setting of living on an isthmus, this piece of land wedged between two lakes.  At a park on the lake, they get outside, meet friends, and find something fun to do.  There’s no Olympic podium or stadium.  But there are a few nice park benches for spectators along with a culture that welcomes any athlete and any sport as part of another beautiful day on Lake Mendota.