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Posts Tagged ‘Madison’

Where to Celebrate an Anniversary in Madison WI

January 17th, 2014 by Pat Fischbeck

Bubbly and fireplaceAre you wondering where to celebrate an Anniversary in Madison, WI?  I have an idea for you.

Yes, by all means, do the traditional celebration dinner at your favorite special occasion restaurant in Madison Wisconsin (we will be happy to suggest one, if you don’t have a favorite).  Then bring the love of your life to The Speckled Hen Inn Bed and Breakfast for a special Anniversary Getaway evening.  Select one of the guest rooms with a king-sized bed dressed with soft fine linens, a romantic fireplace, and a relaxing jetted tub.  The intimate setting of the Inn allows you to experience a romantic escape without the required time and hassles of travel.  And you can actually celebrate on the date of your Anniversary rather than waiting for a weekend to get away.  The Inn is located just outside the city of Madison on 50 acres of woodlands, wetlands, and gardens surrounding the Inn.  Awake after a refreshing sleep to a magnificent breakfast expertly prepared just for the two of you featuring items from the Inns’ gardens and other local producers.  We will be happy to accommodate any special dietary needs.

Mention that you read this posting when you make your reservation and you will find a well chilled bottle of bubbly waiting in your room when you arrive for your special evening.  Flowers, chocolates, and other goodies are available upon request and for a minimal additional charge.  Just give us a call (608-244-9368) to discuss the ways that we can make your upcoming Anniversary Celebration truly unique and special.

Wisconsin Wildflowers at The Speckled Hen Inn

April 7th, 2013 by Pat Fischbeck

In spring the native Wisconsin wildflowers at the Speckled Hen Inn are amazing.  The property has a wide range of growing conditions from the hillside covered with oak, hickory and hackberry trees to the marshy grasslands that border the banks of Starkweather Creek.  Spring has finally arrived in Madison Wisconsin so the snow is slowly melting into the earth and soon we will be marveling at how quickly things seem to pop up.

Wildflowers at The Speckled Hen Inn in Madison WI

Bloodroot Blooming at The Speckled Hen Inn

One of the very first wildflowers we expect to see are the Bloodroots.  I’ll notice little clusters of white flowers on the hillside in the wooded areas.  If you break the stem on the flower, you will see where it gets it’s name.  The red-orange sap is quite bright.  There is a nice cluster of these that are really happy to be a part of one of the flower beds just outside my office window.  The soil must be pretty fertile there because these are always quite a bit larger than the ones up in the woods.  The flowers open fully on a sunny day and close at night or if it is really cloudy.  Sometimes I will notice tiny little black bees collecting the pollen from the flowers.  The length of time that the flowers last depends largely on the weather.  If it is cool, they will stick around for a couple of weeks.  The clusters of leaves last much longer.  But, eventually they just disappear into the overall carpet of green.

The next wildflowers we will notice come quickly.  Suddenly we will notice Spring Beauties, May Apples, Bell Wort, and Jack in the Pulpits popping up everywhere in the woods.

May Apple wildflowers at the Speckled hen Inn in Madison WI

Emerging May Apples at The Speckled Hen Inn

The May apples will look like little green thumbs poking up out of the ground when we first notice them and than before you know it you will notice and entire bed of little green umbrellas.  Under the umbrella there will be a single white flower that will develop  into the “apple”.  Large areas of the woodland floor are covered with patches of these plants.

Not all of our wildflowers are welcome even though they may be pretty.  We have to battle the invasion of garlic mustard and dame’s rocket just like most of our neighbors.  We try to encourage the native wildflowers to flourish and ban the non-native flowers that threaten to overtake the native guys.  It is a never ending battle although every year we hake a little progress.

The very first wildflowers we discovered on the property are the State Wildflower of Wisconsin.  Soon after we purchased the land we were exploring the areas along the un-named creek and found several clusters of wild violets.  We have, since that time, found them all over the property.  The seem to have a pretty good tolerance for a wide variety of growing conditions because we find them in the dry shade on our wooded hillside and also mixed with the wild sedges along the creeks.  They thrive in my rock garden.

Trillium wildflowers in bloom at The Speckled hen Inn in Madison WI

Trillium at The Speckled Hen Inn

 

Madison’s Top 10 Things to do in Fall and Winter

October 26th, 2012 by Pat Fischbeck

Yahara Channel in Winter

The Yahara River in Winter

Madison Wisconsin is a lovely place for a spring or summer getaway but don’t forget just how charming this city can be in the cooler, even frigidly cold, months of the year.  Here is a list of the top or first 10 things that the innkeepers at The Speckled Hen Inn recommend to their visiting guests.

1.   The Dane County Farmers Market  The largest producer-only farmers market in the nation is a year-round affair.  In mid-November the market moves indoors to the Monona Terrace Convention Center and then after Christmas you can visit the market at the Mifflin Street Senior Center.  You will be amazed at the bounty of the market while the gardens sleep.  The markets just before Christmas are a wonderful source of supplies for decorating, gift-giving and holiday feasts.

2.   Madison’s Restaurant Scene  Creative chefs, farm-fresh ingredients, and the quirky spirit of Madison combine to present a dazzling variety and abundance of really fine eateries.  Visit one of the tiny ethnic cafes on State Street or one of the big boys with stars after their name and you will be very well fed.  This is why we always ask guests what they want to eat before we start recommending restaurants.  Guests could starve to death before we get to the end of the list of Madison’s great places to eat.  A favorite dining scene for us is a window seat at a restaurant on the capitol square on a snowy evening.  It’s pure magic.

3.   University of Wisconsin Campus  UW keeps things lively in the winter seasons with their sports and cultural offerings.  Take in a basketball or hockey game, men’s and women’s for both.  The Hall of Fame in the Kohl’s center is worth a visit even if the team is on the road.  Recitals, concerts, and theater really get going in the winter months and Sunday afternoon at the Chazen Museum is a seasonal delight.  Stroll through the galleries while listening to the live music performed in the atrium.  That famous ice-cream is available all year round at Babcock Hall or the Memorial Union.

4. State Street  Madison’s well-known pedestrian mall that connects the capitol square with the UW campus is always a lively place to enjoy a cup of coffee, ethnic dining, or browsing the bookstores, boutiques and galleries.  During the holiday season it twinkles with thousands of white lights.  State Street Posters is one of our favorites and is the source of much of the art work in the Madison Lakes room at the Inn.

5.  University of Wisconsin Arboretum  1,200 acres of nature right in the center of the city provide residents and guests with ample space to walk off some of that fine dining.  The prairie and woodland areas and Lake Wingra attract abundant wildlife.  Occasional night-walks conducted by the naturalists on staff introduce participants to the wonders of nature that we seldom experience during our daylight encounters with the world.  Can you identify an owl by its hoot?

6.  Madison’s City and County Parks  Golf, picnics, and tennis give way to sledding, skating and skiing in the coldest months.  Most parks remain open in the winter and are a great spot for walking and admiring the city without the crowds of summer.  The lakeside parks are occasionally decorated with nature-made ice sculptures and the ice-fishing huts on the lakes themselves are, at the very least, a photo-op that proves how crazy those folks in Madison really can be.

7.   The Lakes  There are 5 of them here.  Two of the largest are right in the center of the city and we managed to just squeeze the downtown area between them and then spread the rest of the city around the perimeter of them.  What is more relaxing than watching the sunset across the water?  Hearty fishermen bobbing about in their boats under the sometimes stormy fall skies amaze us.  Ice boats flying across the frozen lakes are awesome.  Locals judge the ‘coldness’ of the day by the width of the open water under the Yahara River bridge on the Beltline Highway.  The waterfowl there are beautiful.

8.  A Wright Place  Frank Lloyd Wright spent much of his youth in Madison and designed a Convention Center that was the inspiration for the one that the city actually constructed years after his death.  Wright also designed the Unitarian Society Meeting House, which is open for tours, and several area homes.  A concert at the Unitarian Society Meeting House is a treat for the senses.

9.   Wisconsin State Capitol  It’s simply a must see.  The architecture, the art, the history, or even the grandeur would be reason enough to go.  Tours are free and leave on the hour from the visitor info desk in the rotunda.  The tour guides have the keys to take you into the Supreme Court, The Legislative Chambers, and the Governor’s Conference Room but most importantly, they know all those fun little stories that bring the building to life.  Before the holidays local choral groups perform around the holiday tree in the rotunda.  The tree is lovely as it rises up three or more stories high and the acoustics of the performing musicians will give you goose bumps.

Overture Center in Madison WI

10.   Madison Civic Center  This is the Cesar Pelli designed home of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art and the Overture Center for the Performing Arts.  It seems like there is always something going on.  The museum has rotating and visiting nationally acclaimed exhibits (and a very nice gift shop).  The Overture Center hosts everything from Broadway Shows, The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, and opera to brown bag lunch performances.

The boys at The Speckled Hen Inn have a new toy.

March 9th, 2012 by Pat Fischbeck

Happy and Bob doing chores at the bed and breakfast

Can I drive next time?

The boys at The Speckled Hen Inn Bed and Breakfast in Madison, Wisconsin have a new toy to help out with the chores around the Inn.  The new UTV is great for getting the garbage cans to and from the curb.  The many trips to the stable to feed the sheep and chickens, collect the eggs, find the needed tool or pick a fresh tomato will be a little bit easier now and of course, Happy can go along for the ride.

The chore list at the Inn for the warm season ahead seems to get a bit longer every day.  One project always seems to spawn another.  We will be constructing a new greenhouse on the end of the stable by the garden and using those great passive solar water tubes that we picked up at the Habitat Re-Store.  If we have a greenhouse we can propagate pachasandra cuttings to use a ground cover when we re-design a part of the Japanese garden.  Another construction project is a garden ‘shed’ just outside the cutting garden to provide a focal point for the garden and to give a home to all the garden tools that seem to scatter about the property.  The design of this building is still in flux as we keep thinking of possible uses of just a little bit more storage space.  It seems that we never have enough storage space.  Of course, the garden surrounding the new shed will need to be expanded a bit for more flowers to use in the Inn and new raspberry beds and a grape arbor are on the planning list too.  The final (at least at this moment) building project for this summer is a garden house very similar to our gazebo.  We plan to locate this over by the pool and intend to use it as an outdoor sitting room.  It will be a great place to relax with a glass of wine at the end of the day or maybe even a spot to sneak away with a good book and a friendly dog.
  The ongoing project is the woodland restorations.  The UTV will really come in handy for getting into the woods without doing too much damage to the woodland floor.  The UTV is much lighter than our pick-up truck so we will not have to worry quite so much about compacting tree roots and trampeling wildflowers.  The bed in the back will be great for hauling out brush and cut firewood as well as for hauling in the tools that we will need to use.

Things To Do In Madison

March 1st, 2012 by Pat Fischbeck

Capitol Square in Madison Wisconsin

Wisconsin State Capitol Building

Folks who live in Madison, WI or who visited before know what a great city it is.  It seems like there is always something to do.  But visitors coming for the first time may not know what to do first so here is the list compiled by our staff at The Speckled Hen Inn.  There are the Top Ten Madison Experiences inside the city.  We will get to that long list of things to do, using Madison as a hub when you explore South Central Wisconsin, later.

  1. Take a tour of the Capitol.  Madison is the capital of Wisconsin and the building is truly a treasure.  Do take the tour because the wonderful guides know all those fun stories that bring life to the building and they also have the keys to all the locked doors that you will want to see behind.  Tours leave from the info desk in the rotunda every hour on the hour.  You will miss the school kiddies if you go late in the day.  Take the elevator to the 6th floor balcony for a bird’s eye view of Madison.  It is free, of course.
  2. Wander down State Street.  This is the pedestrian mall that connects the Capitol Square to the campus of the University of Wisconsin.  It’s a fantastic place for people watching and doing a bit of shopping.  Our favorite shops are the gift shop at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Little Luxuries, Tellus Mater, the Art Poster Shop and University Bookstore.  The little ethnic restaurants are wonderful too.
  3. Stroll through Olbrich gardens.  Our public gardens are nothing short of amazing for a city our size or for a city of any size.  There is a rose garden, a rock garden, herb garden and butterflies in the summer.  In the winter the structure of the gardens shine and provide a serene spot for a bit of exercise.  The indoor tropical dome will warm you to the core in the winter months.  Don’t miss the beautiful Thai Pavillion.  Everything but admission to the dome is free.
  4. You must have cheese.  Wisconsin is The dairy state so it would be unthinkable to not try our finest cheeses.  They are easy to find.  Fromagination on the Capitol Square is a great artisan cheese shop featuring many different Wisconsin cheeses.  Carr Valley cheese store in Middleton is goat, sheep, and cow’s milk cheese heaven.  Why, even most of our local grocery stores have a cheese counter devoted to just the WIsconsin cheeses.  Try, buy, and take some home with you.  You will be back for more.
  5. Visit the Memorial Union on the campus of the University of Wisconsin and have an ice cream cone for lunch.  The ice cream from the dairy at Babcock hall has a really high butter fat content that results in ice cream that is the smoothest and creamiest you will ever taste.  I think it is a meal all by itself.  Enjoy it on the Terrace overlooking the lake while listening to the musicians there and you have a memorable experience.
  6. Shop the Dane County Farmer’s Market.  It’s reported to be the largest true farmer’s market in the nation.  What is sold there has to be produced in Wisconsin and sold by the person who produced it  (let’s not quibble about tropical plants).  Every Saturday morning, rain or shine, year-round (check for location in the cold months) and again on Wednesday’s during the summer.  If fact, during the summer months there is a farmer’s market somewhere near Madison every single day of the week.  So, don’t despair if you can’t make it here on Saturday.
  7. Explore the Villas Zoo.  It is free, too.  Isn’t that amazing?  It is a great little zoo with much more than you would expect to find here.  Nice exhibits in great surroundings.  You can spend an hour or two here or the whole day.
  8. OK, this one will take a bit of advance planning.  Come go to a Concerts on the Square.  The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra plays on the steps of the Capitol building on Wednesday evenings for 6 weeks beginning the last week in June.  The music begins at 7:00 but guests start spreading their blankets on the capitol lawn around 3:00 for the largest picnic of summer.  This is the essence of summer in Madison.  Bring your own picnic or purchase a box supper from one of the vendors.
  9. UW-Madison Arboretum 11-03-2011 207Experience the UW Arboretum.  An Arboretum is a collection of plants rather than a garden and you will find a wide range of plant materials at the Arboretum.  The lilac collection in the Spring is amazing, a really fragrant experience.  The nature walks on a moonlit night in the winter are inspiring.  The natural diversity of grassy meadows, swamp, pine plantations, and the plant collections that the University has established combine to provide a great venue for biking , hiking, and exploration.
  10. Pedal your way around the city.  Madison is a very bike-friendly city.  A bike trail network connects all parts of the city.  Several local vendors provide bicycle rentals and not just some old clunkers either.  You can try out some of Trek’s latest developments at some rental places.  Just ask us for information.  City busses and Green Cabs have bike racks to help you out when the old legs are too tired to go another mile.  Many of the Wisconsin State Bicycle trails come very close to Madison too.

Madison WI Winter Festival this weekend

February 17th, 2010 by Pat Fischbeck

 

Madison WI will be celebrating winter at Madison Winter Fest this weekend on the capitol square in downtown Madison.  Events begin on Friday and continue through Sunday.  There are all kinds of things to get involved in as a participant or a spectator.  Watch ice carving and snow sculpting.  It is not the olympics but there will be running and racing and snowboarding and tubing and shoeing and xc skiing and just a grand winter fun time.  If you get chilled you can pop into the Wisconsin State Historical Society Museum on the Capitol Squate for a viewing of their Odd Wisconsin display.

The Speckled Hen Inn in Madison, WI lists February events in the area

February 3rd, 2010 by Pat Fischbeck

There are many events in Madison Wisconsin this February that you will just not want to miss. 

  •  This coming weekend, February 6, is the big outdoor hockey event at Camp Randall stadium on the University of Wisconsin campus.  Will it be the largest crowd ever to watch a college hockey game?  The Badger women play at 2:00PM and the Hockey Badger men play at 6:00.  You will have to go to see how they created a level ice hockey rink on a very crested football field.
  • On February 11 Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love will be speaking at the Overture Center.  Her presentation is a part of the Wisconsin Book Festival.
  • Get ready for spring at the Midwest Garden Expo at the Alliant Energy Center Exhibition Hall.  Just catching the aroma of fresh dirt when you enter the building gets me in the mood to start planning and planting.  The show is February 12-14.  A great thing to add to your Valentine’s weekend celebration.
  • On February 19-21 all of Madison will be having a grand old time at Madison Winter Festival.  Enjoy all of Madison’s favorite winter activities and see how fast cross country skiers can move.  It’s downtown on the beautiful Wisconsin Capitol Square.
  • February 27 we will offer guests at The Speckled Hen Inn an extreme contrast in recommended activities.  On Saturday afternoon head on over to Middleton to Capital Brewery for the celebration of the release of this year’s Blonde Doppelbock (that’s a beer, folks!).  You can even try to catch a smoked chub (that’s a fish, folks) tossed from the roof of the brewery.  Have a rowdy good time and then completely switch gears when nighttime comes and head for the UW Arboretum for their nightwalk.  Hear the crunch of your boots in the snow and then stand perfectly still and listen for the great horned owls or just stargaze. Ahhh.  What a day!

Another Concert on the Square season begins next week

June 17th, 2009 by Pat Fischbeck

It is that wonderful time of year in Madison.  Summer!  Time to celebrate with family and friends in ways that become a tradition.  A very special summertime tradition in Madison is the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra’s Concert on the Square series.  For 5 Wednesday evenings, starting June 24, the orchestra performs on the steps of the Wisconsin State Capitol building in front of a huge crowd of fun and music loving fans.  Concert goers arrive early, around 5:00PM or a bit later to spread their colorful blankets on the green capitol lawn. 

Reserve your space on the Capitol lawn.

Reserve your space on the Capitol lawn.

 The concert won’t begin until 7:00 so there is time to do a little shopping or just walking around the downtown area.  Some bring games or a good book to pass the time until the crowd has gathered, dined on the available box suppers or well packed picnic baskets, chatted with friends they haven’t seen for ages, and just basically soaked up the sights and sounds of a summer evening.  Then the concert begins.  The music tends toward the light classical.  You can hear it even if your blanket space is not right in front of the orchestra.  Little boys pretend to be the conductor.  Little girls twirl with bubble wands in their tiny hands.  Lovers hold hands.  Grandmas cuddle their grandbabies.  Stressed out workers kick off their high heels and loosen their ties. Those who know the music close their eyes and sway slightly with the melody.  Wine glasses are lifted and all is well in Madison.

Happy folks at the Concert on the Square

Happy folks at the Concert on the Square

 

Start Your Saturday in Madison Right

June 10th, 2009 by Pat Fischbeck

When my guests at The Speckled Hen Inn ask me what there is to do on Saturday morning in Madison, my automatic response is, “Go to the Farmers Market!”  The Dane County Farmers’ Market is the largest producer-only farmers’ market in the country.  All the items are produced locally by the vendor behind the table.  The market is back on the Capitol Square for the summer months and thousands of locals as well as and tourists and market lovers from far and near flock to the brightly colored vendor stands to fill their shopping baskets with the freshest fruits and veggies imaginable.  You will also find meats, baked goods, specialty food items like honey and pesto, and, of course, lots of Wisconsin cheese.

Honey and Plants at the Dane County Farmers' Market

Honey and Plants at the Dane County Farmers

If you have ever considered eating seasonally or locally, the farmers market is a great resource.  Vendors will often let you sample their products and are eager to share preparation instructions and sometimes even recipes with their customers.

One of the favorite breakfasts served at The Speckled Hen Inn is the Farmer’s Market Strata.  It contains sourdough bread, cream and mozarella cheeses, fresh eggs, basil pesto, tomatoes, and smoked ham or turkey.  All of the ingredients can be found at the farmer’s market.  Please help yourself to the recipe and share the bounty of Wisconsin with friends at breakfast or brunch some beautiful summer morning.

Farmers' Market Strata served at The Speckled Hen Inn

Farmers