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Posts Tagged ‘Madison’

  1. Our Latest Big Thing

    February 27, 2015 by admin

    farmhouse_1_mdWe have recently been thrown into a home search.  With our landlord unexpectedly selling the property where we live, we’ve been given notice to find a new place.  We’ve been renting for five years, so our first plan was to find another rental property.


    In a twist of life events that surprised this TR family, we are instead cautiously moving forward with exploring home ownership.  This is a nerve wracking experience as we are financially conservative and solidly working class.

    We have been renters for many years following some significant life events that left us financially devastated.  Our climb to recovery has been slow and steady.  We’ve been back on our feet for a few years now.  And when we examined the amount of money we throw away by renting (more than 1200 a month!), it seemed ludicrous not to try out home ownership.

    Obviously, we want to stay well within our means.  No palatial spread on acres of land is in our immediate future.  So how do we do it?  How do we find that perfectly sized, affordable home that is within our current school district?

    We began by reaching out to a mortgage lender to assure that we would indeed qualify for a home loan.  This involved a lot of gathering of documents and precise communication about our borrowing goal.  We then began investigating our market.

    There are a few critical pieces to our search of homes- and (do a google search for your county’s property assessment and tax information ).  These two sites give us a wealth of pertinent information about any property that piques our interest.

    As with any big project, we are keen to stay organized and focused to successfully find a new home.

    We print out properties that we want to pursue and keep them tabbed in a 3-ring binder.  We plan to utilize a rating system to determine which homes should be visited first.  We’ll make notes within the binder after our walk through of each property.  Our hope is that this will streamline our decision making and ease some of the stress involved in finding a suitable house.

    Stay tuned!

  2. Karate Kid

    January 18, 2015 by admin

    IMG_2723Our homeschool Phys. Ed. program recently moved up a notch when Bluey enrolled in karate at East Madison Karate (EMK).

    Bluey’s been asking about karate for some time now, but it took us a while to get our ducks in a row.  We had to do our research, make sure this was an activity we could afford, and decide whether it would fit into our ever more complicated family schedule.

    The delay between Bluey expressing an interest in karate and his class enrollment allowed us a chance to confirm his strong interest.  We didn’t want to sign him up and have him drop after one class.  This extra time also afforded us the opportunity to give Bluey a background in what the classes would be like and what sorts of things he would do there.

    So by the time we took him in for his first class, Bluey was raring to go!

    EMK offers a class for Kindergarten through 2nd graders.  We love that he gets to work along side kids his own age and some that are just a little bit older.  Kids and instructors are all super-friendly and helpful.  Bluey fits right in and is already bonding with his classmates!  Karate is a great experience for our youngest.

    We are hoping karate will also help Bluey:

    • Make new friends in the neighborhood.  As a homeschool family, we are always on the lookout for new ways for Bluey to meet people in his age group.
    • Get Physical.  Although Bluey is always on the move, we think the structured environment of karate will help him to build coordination and physical fitness in a different way than his usual routine.
    • Encourage self-control.  The focus to learn new skills, the quiet required as a show of respect, and the attention to detail to learn new skills during karate can only benefit Bluey in all areas of his development.
    • Gain Self-confidence.  Karate, like most martial arts, teaches self-defense and helps build confidence for our Bluey as he moves through his world.


    We are excited to watch Bluey make his way in this new world of martial arts.

  3. Walk Amongst The Flowers

    August 15, 2014 by admin

    Hidden in Verona is the Pope Farm Conservancy (PFC). There are 105 acres of land which is owned and maintained by the Town of Middleton.   You can enjoy IMG_7213numerous trails that are enhanced with informative signage. There are also picnic areas, parking lots, and at least one water fountain on the property. There is no charge for entering PFC.

    We visited during the peak of their annual sunflower bloom. The lower parking lot requires a rather steep hike along a stone fence (no climbing!) to reach the sunflowers.

    Tip: There is an upper lot if you aren’t up for the trek from below.

    Once you crest the hill, you are awarded with acres of bright yellow sunflowers and a 360 degree view of the IMG_7188surrounding land that is just breathtaking. Our Bluey broke into a gleeful run caused by the pure exhilaration of the natural beauty that surrounded him.

    Even though there were moderate crowds on the day we visited PFC, beyond an occasional friendly nod or greeting along the trail, we felt like we had the land to ourselves. We could hear the birds chattering and the corn stalks whispering.

    There is so much to enjoy at this conservancy beyond the sunflowers. If you are looking for a gorgeous spot to hike and enjoy communing with nature, you should definitely add PFC to your short list.


  4. Re-Exploring

    July 16, 2014 by admin

    IMG_6623We’ve been to our state capitol building many times, but hadn’t recently revisited when a particular weekend found us drawn to it.  We were glad to return.

    Rather than viewing a destination as an item on a ‘bucket list’ to be conquered and then crossed off, never to return- we prefer to think of the many destinations we visit as cards to be added to our deck.  This way, we can offer up enticing adventures to our little family.  “Remember when we went to so-and-so!  Wasn’t that awesome?  We should go back.”  Our kiddoes think in the same way, regularly asking us when we can go back to some of their favorites places.

    And bonus!  We don’t have to always have come up with a brand new destination to explore.

    During our return to the Capitol, we found new delights!  There were some things that we’d initially missed and a few that have been installed since our previous visits.   For example, there is now a glass-enclosed viewing platform at the top of the dome which allows you to look many stories down on the activities below.  It was pretty awesome.

    So while we are always researching new places to add to our repertoire,  we love having the ability to pull out an old card and revisit a place of previous fun.

  5. Madison Vegan Fest

    June 8, 2014 by admin

    IMG_6306We had a fun visit this past weekend to the Mad City Vegan Fest– an small scale trade show of vegan foods, vegan businesses, and vegan products that is held annually at the Goodman Community Center .

    As a vegetarian family, we have always been sympathetic to the vegan lifestyle, so we enjoy attending the festival and sampling the many vegan treats available while learning new tips and recipes.

    This year’s event was a particularly good time for us.  Our young Bluey was very excited and eager to try out new foods.  He eagerly filled up on free samples of everything from vegan cookies, vegan pizza, and vegan snacks.  We had a nice chat with the operators of a vegan food truck from Milwaukee.  We look forward to tracking down The Next Level Vegans when we need to find lunch in their town.

    Bluey was especially happy to try out the vegan candy and snacks he found in the main exhibition hall.  Comfort Candy gave out little nuggets of candy that Bluey adored.  Lucky for him that we met up with these candy makers the next day, and they generously gave us a small bag for Bluey.  Another snack that you might not realize isn’t vegan, or even vegetarian is marshmallows!  Bluey downed a few sample cups of Dandies before racing on to the next vendor.

    Seeing all these food options, and watching our youngest sample them with such vigor, has us reconsidering our stance on veganism.  Is it the right choice for us?  We’ve been leaning further and further in that direction lately.  It seems like a healthier diet that meshes even better with our thoughts on animal welfare and food safety than our decades of devoted vegetarianism.IMG_6303

    For now it will continue to be an ongoing home debate, as we consider if and how to bring this change into our family.  We eagerly await the next Madison Vegan Fest next June.  And we encourage you to explore vegan choices within your family.

  6. Picnic Point

    December 18, 2013 by admin

    IMG_0881Recently, we posted on the joy of a holiday walk in the midst of family-gathering chaos.  One of our favorite local destinations is Picnic Point in Madison, WI.

    A peninsula located along the Lake Mendota edge of the University of Wisconsin- Madison, this mile long stretch of land affords lovely views of the Capitol and is a great bird watching destination.

    Tip:  Be sure to smooch your sweetie while exploring Picnic Point, it is tradition!

    The walk is pretty level, so there should be no significant impediment to any age.  There are no restrooms.  Parking is plentiful and leashed dogs are allowed.

    Tip2: There are several fire rings on the Point.  Reserve one by contacting the Wisconsin Union!IMG_8515

    Remember that Babcock Hall is only about 1 mile from Picnic Point.  Ice cream is always a welcome treat after a hearty hike.

    Explore the outdoors, near and far!

  7. Hungry Kids

    November 15, 2013 by admin


    We worry about the hungry people in our community- especially the kids.  More than 16 million kids in America are food insecure.  For many of these children, school is the only place they’ll get a chance to eat.

    Whether a student is food insecure or not, it is well established that proper nutrition is part of the path to success in school.

    But not all schools are working effectively to ensure all kids are fed enough to be ready to learn.

    If you haven’t read Ms. Catherine Capellaro’s article on recent incidents in a Madison school cafeteria, we strongly encourage you to do so now!    A child is not only not given lunch, but that untouched lunch is then thrown in the trash.

    How on earth is it okay to have a policy that leaves a child hungry and tosses perfectly “good” food in a garbage pail?  What message does this send to the students of our schools, when employees would rather throw out edible food than allow a kid to eat?  It tells those kids that they are worth less than a plate of spaghetti.  Less than a hamburger.

    We strongly urge all of you to contact the Madison Metropolitan School District to protest this absurd policy that ranks throwing away perfectly good food above giving a kid the food they need to grow.  And we encourage you to check on your own school’s policy.  A quick Google search shows that this is happening across our Nation.

    Tip1:  contact information if you wish to protest locally –

    We further urge you into action on a national scale: it is time for this Nation to declare that young people are valuable.   No student in any school should go hungry because of some random policy, or because a form wasn’t properly signed, or because their parents weren’t able to add more money to their child’s account swiftly enough.

    Tip2:  Use this page to find the email, phone or postal contacts for elected officials at the state and national level –

    Young people don’t often know all the routes to gain access to food.  They rely on adults around them to steer them in the right direction, and to ensure that they are fed.


  8. Legos!

    November 11, 2013 by admin

    IMG_3271Madison College (MC) recently hosted a Lego league tournament for our area.  They had about 40 teams of elementary and middle school students participating in the exciting competition.

    Since we love Legos and new experiences, we decided to venture down to MC to see what this tournament had to offer.

    It was beyond obvious that MC was enthusiastic about hosting the event.  There were numerous friendly volunteers that greeted everyone as they entered.  Signs were placed throughout the building guiding crowds to various areas.  And everything seemed to be moving along basically on schedule.

    Unfortunately, there were some glaring issues that made this a very unfriendly event for spectators.  We stayed for about 45 minutes and then left, at the urging of our kids to “just go home.”

    TIP: Don’t ignore your kids when they tell you they are ‘done’ with an activity.  Sometimes things don’t quite go the way you planned.  Listen to your kids, think of a way to turn the day around, and head off in a new direction.

    The lighting was horrendous during the opening ceremony.  All overhead lights were out as the teams paraded in with their handmade signs.  It was so dark, you could barely make out the kids faces, let alone enjoy their handmade signage.

    There was nothing interactive offered to satisfy a curious, young spectator.  We envisioned an area that would perhaps pose a little Lego challenge for visitors to complete, with a tiny sticker or lollipop as an award for finishing.  Or some boxes of Legos left out for kids to tinker with and enjoy.

    In the pit areas, if one or two volunteers had been staged to engage visitors, and give information on what was happening and why, it would have made that experience much more fulfilling.

    We applaud MC for hosting this event and for their dedication to encouraging youth to pursue these types of endeavors.  We just hope that next year, they give a little more thought to the crowd that is watching.

  9. Kids in the Rotunda

    October 6, 2013 by admin

    IMG_2021Looking for a safe way to introduce your tyke to a live music concert or performance? If you live in Madison, Kids in the Rotunda might be just the thing for you!

    From September through April, the Overture Center sponsors a kid-oriented show that families can attend at no cost.  All you have to do is show up on a Saturday and you walk right in.  There’s no ticket to buy, no worries.  If your child can’t last for the whole concert, you can leave with no grumbles about money down the drain.   There are two shows during the day, so you can find one that fits in with the rest of your schedule.

    A few caveats: we recommend you do a little research on the artist you are going to see- fun can be a bit hit/miss.  They tend to book ‘kids’ acts, rather than just ‘kid-friendly.’  If you have a low tolerance for cloying productions, pick carefully.  But that said, there are some great acts on the schedule- like the Figureheads (who play every year!)  We love the Figureheads!

    Some of the shows are down-right scary.  We saw a circus performance that started with a clown coming on stage and crying a very convincing, loud, cry for what seemed like five minutes.  Our kids, and most kids in the audience freaked out because they never knew why he was crying, or what they could do to help him.

    So check the calendar to ensure that you end up at a really fun show, and you could give your kids a chance to say: “I went to a rock concert over the weekend!”IMG_2016

  10. Union Family

    September 22, 2013 by admin

    image_Terrace_chairs_clairemelin_01When our family moved to Madison, we met many new friends. When conversations turned to ‘what to do in Madison’, most of these friends recommended going to the UW Memorial Union (the Union). Guess what?  They were right!  The Union is a great place to visit!

    Situated on the shores of Lake Mendota, on the State Street end of the University of Wisconsin campus, the Memorial Union is a beautiful building with many things to do and see. We were initially hesitant to visit the Union, because it seemed like it was a student thing, a student place.  While many students congregate there, you will find you are not the only non-students enjoying all the Union has to offer.

    One of the things we like best is to go to the Union for lunch at der Ratheskeller.  Der Ratheskeller features a number of delicious sandwich and soup options, along with what may well be the Best french fries on the planet.  Meals are inexpensive and filling– we usually have leftover fries and such to bring home.  No one in our family complains when it is announced that we’ll be eating at the Union.  On Badger and Packer game days, you’ll see the game on a giant screen TV while you eat.  At night you can listen to open mikes, or local bands perform on the small indoor stage. IMG_0416

    After lunch, we like an ice cream or shake from the Daily Scoop.  The Scoop features UW’s famous Babcock Hall ice cream, and the Blue Moon shakes are a favorite of ours (but all the flavors are excellent.

    Apart from all the eating, do explore the building and grounds.  Upstairs, you’ll find student art galleries and study spaces, as well as offices of community/ campus organizations like the Hoofers.

    The Terrace is not to be missed.  With seating for hundreds (in the classic Union Terrace chairs!), the Terrace offers a beautiful place to eat, while people and bird watching on the lakeshore.  We’ve met friendly fisherman, charming foreign exchange students, and beautiful dogs and parrots on the Terrace.  Frequently, we like to dip a toe in the water and watch the ducks swim about.  During warm weather, the Terrace also features several additional places to please the palate- including the Brat Stand.  The Terrace concert series brings nationally known acts to play free of charge, so watch the calendar for a fun free show to attend!

    Don’t be scared off from the Union!  It shouldn’t be missed.IMG_0276