A Monona Tradition…

Before we even lived in Monona the Memorial Day Parade became part of our lives. As we waited for the closing on our home in Monona we would visit each weekend, filled with excited anticipation, to look at the house and drive through the town. Over the holiday weekend we stumbled upon the parade. As we watched we hoped Monona would become our new home. All these years later we still enjoy the parade on Memorial Day. Rain or shine it is a good time. Grab a chair Monday and enjoy the tradition as it rolls by.


Jake Anderson and his staff launched another pool season for the Monona Community Center today on a picture perfect afternoon. Like a nice fitting glove familiar lifeguards greeted patrons while keeping everyone safe. A few new snacks appeared on the menu in the concessions stand. Rumor has it that the slushies are better than ever this year. Don't waste any time checking out what is new and familiar. Look for special events as the summer gets into full swing.

My favorite place to get Chinese takeout

One day last summer I was sitting in the front yard working on a writing project on my netbook while my youngest daughter played in the yard.

A woman walked past, smiled, and handed my daughter a menu.

It was a menu for Taste of China on Monona Drive (next to Blockbuster).

I confess I had never noticed Taste of China before even though I’ve driven that stretch of Monona Drive hundreds of times.

I liked that the woman was willing to walk the streets of Monona and hand out menus. She didn’t make a sales pitch, didn’t have a flyer announcing a limited term offer… she just quietly handed out menus. So I ordered takeout from Taste of China that evening.

I’ve since ordered takeout from there many times. It’s now the only place I go for Chinese takeout.

It appears to be a family business (sometimes there are two adorable little boys there playing or using the laptop) and I see that same woman there cooking almost every time. They are hardworking and friendly so I keep going back. The food is decent too. Give them a call at 224-0017. They also deliver.

Library find of the week: Downtown Chic

A few weeks ago I discovered the TV show 9 by Design and checked out their book Downtown Chic from the library.

I love this book.

This book does more than just show you cool photos of interior and exterior design. It tells the story behind each project as well.

It also doesn’t hurt that they are one of the coolest families around. Robert and Cortney Novogratz live in New York City and buy run down properties nobody else would consider and renovate them and decorate them.

Oh, and they also have 7 kids.

The main theme of their show and book is that you can bring charm to any four walls and it doesn’t take money to do this – just some creativity.

They give tips for visiting flea markets and many of their finds were purchased at bargain prices.

Even though they live in these fancy houses until they sell them, they struggle with the economy just like the rest of us and get mightily stressed over money. That plus their down to earth demeanor makes it possible to watch the show without dying of jealousy.

They like doing unexpected things and this photo below shows one of my favorites… a glass garage door off the kitchen that opens up into a small courtyard:

Other unique ideas: not using concrete or tile near a pool. Just let grass surround the pool. They also installed an in-ground trampoline at the country house. Much safer and not an eyesore the way regular backyard trampolines are.

For someone like me, who lives in Monona – not exactly New York City – in a 1950s house that, while it may have its charms, would never be described as chic – their book is the encouragement I have needed.

Click here to check out the library page  for the book.

Click here to see a post by bloggers Tom and Lorenzo about 9 by Design. It was this post that made me check out the show.

Taking advantage of the free exercise equipment in Monona

I’m writing this blog post while exercising today.

You see, my preferred form of exercise is interval training.

Interval training requires that you do short, intense exercise intervals with a rest interval after each exercise interval.

The hills of Monona are perfect for interval training.

There’s a hill right outside my house that I started using for this purpose last week. Fortunately it’s not Baskerville hill.

The thing about interval training though is that it’s kind of embarrassing to do it in public.

I had a membership at the east side YMCA a few years ago during the winter because I wanted to figure out which type of exercise I like the best.

As it turns out I discovered interval training. But it’s kind of embarrassing to sprint at full speed for a minute on a treadmill and then stop and rest for a couple of minutes before the next sprint. Everyone else around me on the machines would run or walk continuously for 20-30 minutes or more.

So I felt weird and wondered if everyone in the room thought was a slacker or desperately out of shape. In reality I doubt they even noticed me because they were all plugged into their ear buds or looking at the TV.

Since then I’ve been hesitate to exercise in this way in public but this time only the neighbors can see me. They might wonder why I keep biking up and down the hill but so far they haven’t said anything. It’s probably not the strangest thing they’ve seen me do in the 11 years I’ve lived here.

Monona has a lot of hills. I see a lot of people taking advantage of them by going for bike rides, walks, etc. I’m all for using natural exercise equipment like this.

As for me, I’ll keep pedaling up and down the same hill five times a day in dorky fashion. I’m no fitness guru because the bike slightly too small for me (it belongs to one of my daughters) and I wear penny loafers because I don’t want to take the time to put on tennis shoes. I’m writing this post during one of this morning’s rest intervals. Gotta love a form of exercise that actually requires rest and lets you blog while doing so.

Favorite spots in Monona: The free magazine stash at the Monona Library

When describing the perks of Monona to a friend you probably mention the pool, the library, the Dream Park, the ice cream shop, Aldo Leopold Nature Center, the lake, etc.

In this series of posts we’ll discuss our favorite little-known perks of Monona.

First I should mention the Secret Park. I can’t kick off a series like this without mentioning that.

Today I will talk about the free stashes of magazines in the Monona Library break room near the main entrance.

The library puts old back issues there but people from the community donate magazines as well. I’ve scored many current issues of interesting magazines. Several weeks ago I spent a rainy Saturday afternoon paging through a few magazines I picked up there and it was very pleasant.

If you subscribe to magazines, please consider dropping off your back issues there.

And thank you to those who have already shared back issues of your cool magazines with us.


My trashy past has come back to haunt me. When it did it fit the way that it always did–like a glove.

Recently I found myself doing something I have not done for a good while–digging through the trash. When our kids were young I would often be seen claiming something one of our neighbors had discarded. Our daughters recall the sting of humiliation as I stood at the curb dressed in a suit for church finding treasure. They were not teenagers then. If they had been with me when I went through the trash the other day they would disown me.

The culprit was a large pot for flowers. It caught my attention. Then there were some boxes that flowers might be put in. From there it just went on and on.

Back in the day I found things five days a week, as if it was a job. Since then I have spent as much time getting rid of the treasures I thought we had to have. Like most people we have come to have too many things. But we did enjoy them. Some are still cherished items in our home.

Most of our outdoor furniture was ‘found’ like this. A fresh coat of white paint made the wicker look new. One winter I found a broken blue basket. It is still a thrill to me to put a few red flowers into it each spring. All summer I watch the flowers grow past the broken part. By September it looks like something sold in a high -priced department store. But the enjoyment of watching the discarded trash turn into something new and exciting–priceless.

Monona Launches Garage Sale Season


Anita’s post regarding an Elvis Sighting in Madison reminded me of American Idols as one of mine appeared on television.

As I was going through my morning routine Friday Sting appeared on the TODAY SHOW. He was singing songs I recalled from college. I stopped to remember a brief meeting with him.

One college summer, long before I ever dreamt of living in Monona, friends of mine made a plan. We would all take the last day of work off of our various summer jobs to travel up to Wisconsin from Chicago to see THE POLICE in concert. Enroute we stopped at an Oasis that stretched across the highway. It was pretty empty. In line for food we saw the band–THE POLICE.

Because we were all in college we tried to play it cool. But one of our friends brought along her younger brother. He was in high school, very energetic. To our dismay he did not mind approaching the band in line for food. Grant asked for an autograph! This flew in the face of my attitude of never approaching public people. Dismay melted among our small college group as Sting stood with us signing a ticket stub for Grant.
“Are you going to this?” Sting asked Grant, regarding the concert we were on our way to that afternoon.
Grant nodded, responding with his usual amount of excitement.
“So am I!” Sting said as he handed Grant the autographed ticket stub.
For the rest of the night, the rest of his life I am sure, Grant prized that ticket stub. I have always cherished the memory also.

I do recall Elvis in a different way than Anita does because my mother was crazy about him when I was young. She still is. As a child I saw every single Elvis movie, so it seemed. Our mother would dance around to his music, first in our Chicago apartment where the Elvis films played on television then later in our various homes. For her sixtieth birthday party our mother had an Elvis/Fifties theme. I recall Elvis in his prime, and the red faces my brother and I had for our mother as she danced around to his music. We laughed at her and her ‘old’ music. Given to depression most her life our mother seems to have known little happiness. Those moments with Elvis were happy times for her.

Real American Idols: Elvis and Sting. The other morning when Sting appeared on television I almost started to dance around. Luckily I came to my senses so I did not have to see the red face of my teenage son who had a late morning at the high school as I enjoyed my ‘old’ music. But in my head I was dancing–to an Amercan Idol because every little thing he did was magic.

Elvis Was Here!

I never would have expected I’d be writing a post about Elvis today, but last week The Isthmus published a cool article about little-known spots in Madison.

I decided to visit each of the east side ones (and maybe some of the others) and write a post about each. And maybe follow that up with a series on little-known Monona spots too.

Yesterday I went to visit the “Elvis Presley Fight Scene” marker at the site on the northwest corner of Hwy 51 and East Washington.  It marks the spot where Elvis, who was wearing a powder blue jumpsuit, hopped out of a limousine on June 23, 1977 to stop a fight at a gas station. He assumed a karate stance and said, “I’ll take you on.”

Elvis Presley Fight Scene marker in Madison, WI

He was in town for a concert. His first concert in Madison was the previous fall. It’s interesting that it took him so long to give a concert here, and then he did two concerts in less than a year. Here’s a review of that June 1977 concert.

I’m not an Elvis fan – I was only 11 years old when died. Although I vividly recall feeling sad while hearing the news of his death on the radio, my childhood memories of him are as an overweight man in jumpsuits who was way past his prime. He seemed old, even though he was only 42 when he died… a year younger than I am now. Yikes.

Elvis’s last concert was in Indianapolis, just two days after this Madison concert. He died 50 days later. He was in shockingly poor health in his final months but it’s nice to know he still had a little bit of fight in him near the end.

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