Tag Archives: Madison Stroll

Madison Stroll: Favorite View

Happy Monday! I hope you had a rejuvinating weekend! Ours was a good mix of work, relaxation, exercise and socializing.

Yesterday morning we went on a (very) early bike ride. We haven’t done this in a long time and it was so nice to bike while the temperatures were still “low” (as low as they can get in this heat wave) and there were hardly any people out.

Remember Monona Terrace? Can you detect it?

The bike path is right on the lake shore (did you know Madison was one of the most bike friendly cities in the nation?) and offers the most beautiful views of Lake Monona and the city.

A ride around the lake takes approx. 30-60 min (depending on your speed and energy level) and is one of my favorites. Much of the time, there are close views of the lake, but you also go through beautiful neighborhoods (the “big-house-on-the-water” kind).

Wishing you a wonderful week!

P.S. From here on out Madison Stroll is going to be a bi-weekly feature. This change is going to add a more variety to the blog and also make it a little more manageable for me, as I’m focusing on my next career steps. I hope you’ve enjoyed it so far – if you have any suggestions always let me know. Have a great week!

Madison Stroll: Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery

Happy Monday, everyone! We’ve returned from a wonderful trip to Lake Superior and I can’t wait to share some photos and stories with you later this week!

On Saturday I joined a free guided tour at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery (WID), probably the most sustainable and modern facility Madison has to offer. Ever since the WID opened its doors in December of 2010, I’ve been meaning to pay a visit and I’m so glad I finally did!

As “a visionary public-private partnership that has taken shape as an innovative building housing two world-class research institutes and a public space for campus and community members to gather and celebrate science”, the WID’s focus is just as much on collaboration as it is on science. The entire building (even the winding stair case) was designed with collaboration in mind.

Sustainability at its best: the trees draw rainwater from the ground.

The geothermally heated building consists of three areas: 1) the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, which is part of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 2) The private, non-profit Morgridge Institute for Research, an interdiscplinary biomedical research organization that offers plenty of educational programs. 3) The Town Center, a beautifully designed indoor public area, with quiet niches to work and relax in.

I arrived at the discovery center an hour before the tour started and settled into Aldo’s Cafe to catch up on some of the blog posts I missed last week. The interior is modern and minimalist, the coffee delicious! The cafe is named after Aldo Leopold, one of the pioneers in sustainability, who had a huge influence – not only in Wisconsin, but nationwide. You can even read some of his diary entries (projected on a screen), while you’re waiting for your coffee order.

Our tour began at one of the Media Walls, a wall with ultra-high-definition screens that respond to movement and reveal a new image as you move along. Below you can see a video of my little demonstration (it’s not the greatest quality, but I hope you’ll get the idea).

Media Wall (Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery) from Lisa on Vimeo.

The WID offers a monthly Saturday Science for kids, which I highly recommend. This month’s topic was “Science of the Gross”. The event taught all about “smelly, slimy, creepy & ugly stuff”, and included (but was certainly not limited to) the dissection of a cow’s eye (for ages 10 and up), answers from scientists to questions like “Why is pee yellow and awesome?”, “How do hearts, lungs & brains feel?” and “Why and what do owls vomit?” It was fun walking around the Town Center and seeing those little scientists explore slime, worms, bugs, bats, stinky cheese and other disgusting things. As you can imagine they were having a blast! The next “Saturday Science” is coming up on August 4th (from 10-noon) and the topic is “Physics on Breakdancing”.  In fact, I want to go!

There is way more to explore than I can possibly fit into one blog post, but here are four of my favorite Town Center features:

1) 3D Printer (Rapid Prototyping)

The 3D printer can print anything from little whistles to organs. Yes. Organs! They’re not functionial (not yet), but scientists are currently working on making them so, so that people who are in need of an organ transplant have easier access.

An example of a 3D print.

Prints are made by taking a 3D computer file and slicing the model into layers. The printer uses polymer to set down successive layers of those 2-dimensional slices. The prototypes don’t require any assembly and can include movable and functional parts. I’m still blown away!

2) Cisco TelePresence

As part of the tour, we were granted a glimpse at one of the most sophisticated video conference systems. The three large screens create an identical semicircular table in the remote room, making it seem like everyone is in the same room. “When a person in the remote room speaks, he or she sounds as though they are in the room with the local participants.” In fact, our guide recalled a video conference, in which one of the participants in the remote room got up to shake hands with his colleague over here!

3) Entrepreneur’s Research Clinic Lobby

The Entrepreneur’s Research Clinic Lobby (ERC) is a place where current and future entrepreneurs can find great resources, talk to other like-minded people and receive expert advice.

The concept behind the ERC is brilliant. Anyone who wishes to start their own business can schedule an appointment with an advisor from Law and/or Business School to plan the first steps. The service is FREE!

This is where I ended up spending most of the day writing Madison Stroll. Obviously, it’s summer break, so I’m assuming it’s not always this empty, but on Saturday it served as a wonderful spot away from the crowds (I know the pictures make it seem like there were no crowds all day, but that’s because I waited, until they were gone.)

4. Water walls and Fibonacci chimes

The slate water walls are so very intriguing. They are equipped with LED lights that create colorful patterns (accompanied with chimes) once you step onto the little pad.

Chimes in the Fibonacci sequence create a stimulating, yet soothing atmosphere. The Fibonacci sequence is a mathematical ratio that can be found throughout nature.

Given that I’ve never been mathematically inclined, I’m going to refrain from attempting further explanation, but you can find more info here.

The Mesozoic Garden features plants dating to the dinosaur age – it’s such a relaxing and pretty space!

The Wisconsin Institutes of Research offer a wide variety of workshops, conferences and other educational programs. You can also rent their space for private events (such as wedding receptions). Their website is chock-full of great information.

Whether you live in or are visiting Madison, make sure to put this on your list of things to see – it’s a fascinating place for adults and children alike! I know I’ll be working there more often :)

Madison Stroll: Shout it from the Rooftops!

Today’s stroll takes us to two of my favorite vistas in Madison: the observation deck of the State Capitol, and the rooftop of Monona Terrace, Madison’s convention center. Both are within a five minute walking distance from each other and offer great views of the city!

From the observation deck you have views of both, Lake Mendota and Lake Monona. The lakes embrace the city (creating an isthmus) and are so very special, no matter the season. In the fall I’m taken with oak and maple auburn and yellow reflections off the water, in the winter I’m intrigued with ice-fishermen who camp out on the lakes’ thick layers of ice, in the spring it’s the thrill of (finally) seeing the winter ice melt, ushering in the summer…oh the summer! Lake breezes on hot days, live music by the water and water sports galore! I love being so close to water!

View from the Observation Deck State Capitol (clockwise, starting left): Grace Episcopal Church; view of State Street (pedestrian mall); glimpses of the Farmer’s Market, Monona Terrace & Lake Monona; view of lake Mendota

Madison has been my home away from home for more than seven years now, and there are certain things I will never take for granted. For instance, I’m absolutely in love with the deep blue sky–very unlike my hometown in Germany – and I find it especially stunning during the summer. And then there’s the Saturday Farmer’s Market, which is located around the Capitol (from mid April through mid November) and has become a regular destination for many. The blossoming flowers, fresh produce, and street musicians are a treat for all senses! (more of that soon!)

Of course the iconic Frank Lloyd Wright has had a monumental influence on Wisconsin’s architecture, and on Madison’s in particular. In 1938 he proposed his design for Monona Terrace, but it took until 1994 for the plan to be realized. After three years of construction, Monona Terrace finally opened in July of 1997.

Monona Terrace is definitely one of Madison’s must-sees. The architecture (both in- and outside) is amazing! With its beautiful lake view (and a cafe, too), the rooftop offers a great spot for relaxation within the city. A highlight in August: on Friday nights the rooftop turns into an open air dance floor with live bands.

I hope you enjoyed today’s stroll! By the time you read this, Dave and I will likely be hiking the trails of the North shore of Lake Superior. I want to unplug from the internet this week, so I’ve (hopefully) left my laptop at home, however, there are some posts lined up for you, while I’m gone.

Have a great week!


New Series: Madison Stroll

One of this weekend’s projects included a new series for joycreation, which I’m excited to introduce today: Madison Stroll! Every Monday I’ll be featuring some of my favorite spots in and around Madison. Not only will you get a glimpse into our lives, but hopefully I’ll be able to tempt you into a visit, also :)


Having lived here for more than seven years, I’ve often dismissed Madison as too small, dreaming of a bigger city with more diversity and cultural richness. However, I want to make the effort to view my current home through a different lens – less about what it lacks, and more about what is here.

The pictures below are taken from a little Sunday morning saunter – I hope you’ll enjoy this first part of “Madison Stroll”! (for a larger view, simply click on the image)

Yesterday’s destination: Olbrich Botanical Gardens. Our first meandering stop was Cafe Zoma, one of our favorite coffee shops here in Madison. In the summer their cozy backyard invites you to bring a book and enjoy one of their delicious smoothies. And sometimes, like yesterday, the neighboring store Absolutely Art will turn the backyard into a Re-Art Swap! Swap your old art supplies for new ones! Brilliant, right? The place was bustling.

clockwise (from left): art on the bike path, the back yard of Cafe Zoma and Absolutely Art, Free Little Library, Art Swap

The botanical gardens are about a 15 min. walk from Cafe Zoma. We continued on the bike path and were distracted several times: Dave spotted some cool posters at a yard sale, I found a plant we had never noticed before (Dave spontaneously named it a “stork plant” – quite appropriate, don’t you think?), and we came across other fun things, such as mosaic decorated lampposts and signs made by kids to use for their garden plot.

At Olbrich Gardens Dave made himself comfortable and read, while I continued my little photo journey. Update: Thanks to my friend J. the mystery has been solved: it’s a garlic plant! :)

left: solar panel flower by Olbrich, upper right: Dave catching up on WWI history, bottom right: me enjoying the flowers instead ;) 

Currently there is an impressive exhibit at Olbrich. Here, Dave is cozying up in one of the art pieces (they are for public use). Robert Anderson, a sculpture artist up in Door County uses an unusual technique to shape his sculptures: he inflates flat metal vessels with pressurized air or water. It takes about 45 lbs of pressure to inflate each vessel!

Just as I was headed for the Serenity Garden, loud chirping and flutter of wings interrupted my stroll and before I knew it, I could feel claws in my hair! When they said birds “may swoop close to your head” I didn’t expect them to actually land on my head! After a first moment of panic surprise, I ducked and “just” moved to another spot (haha!). I really tried to remain calm and unalarmed (see sign below), but it didn’t come easily. I kept a generous distance to trees after that :)

After leaving the set of Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” I visited one of my favorite spots in Olbrich’s Serenity Garden, the Thai Pavilion. It was built in Thailand, disassembled, shipped to the U.S., then continued its journey via rail to Chicago and finally was brought to Madison by truck. The nine artisans who originally built the pavilion traveled to Madison to reassemble it, and it took them three weeks! The story behind the pavilion is quite fascinating – you can read more about it here.

My little journey continued through the Event Garden and on to the Rose Tower, one of the garden’s most popular areas. It showcases a variety of roses and the scent is truly amazing!

The Rose Garden Tower, designed by Madison architect Ron Bowen, is a bit sentimental for me, because it reminds me so much of Europe. It also offers a wonderful view of the gardens.

I took a last look at the delightful Perennial Garden with its winding paths and little waterfalls which provided an appropriate Olbrich farewell. Oops, not yet. Heading back to Dave, I passed the Sunken Garden, a traditional English-style Garden with some amazing bronze sculptures by Madison Artist Rose Van Vranken. I briefly enjoyed the shade of the Meadow Garden and ended my little excursion back at the blue metal chair sculptures.

Olbrich Gardens offers a variety of workshops, including “Yoga In The Gardens”. I’ve never tried the class before, but I’m utterly tempted to do so! Can you imagine practicing yoga in the Serenity Garden? How amazing would that be! Soon…