Winter Got you Down? Things to do in Madison to Cheer You Up!

Lakeshore Path in Madison, WisconsinWell, the snow has been really intense this year and as several of my friends have pointed out — it’s been a long winter. Yes, we probably were due for one and with all this cold and wintry weather, the upside is that it has to be great for the farmers. I’m very much looking forward to farmer’s market this year. With snow on the ground, though, it’s really easy to get the winter blahs. I’ve been pretty crabby lately, and I know from reading other people’s blogs it’s pretty much been afflicting everyone. So whether or not you have seasonal affective disorder may be a diagnosis left up to the doctors, but we all could use a bit of cheer when we’re cooped up inside.

Here’s my top 5 list of things to do in Madison to “think spring” and cheer up:

Spice and More Spice

Whether it’s true or not, spicy foods like Thai and Cajun are great mood lifters for me. I love the colors and pungency of Asian food. There are some good chain restaurants like Sai Bai Thai, but I’m pretty adventurous and love the spices and quality I can get from Penzey’s Spices. One of my favorite recipes to make this time of year is Venison Jambalaya. I also make a mean White Chicken Chili and Cashew Chicken.

Venison Jambalaya Recipe

(1) Venison Sausage Ring
(1) Pack Chicken
(1) Red Pepper
(1) Sm. Purple Onion
(1) Diced Garlic
(1) Box Zatarain’s Jambalaya Mix

Boil the venison in an infusion of red wine, water, and garlic. Then, cut the venison into thin medallions and grill with chicken pieces. Drain. Chop pepper and onion into chunks, grill for a few minutes in olive oil. Add ingredients and follow the instructions on the box of Zatarain’s Jambalaya mix — enjoy! For a more traditional version, you can add grilled shrimp but in all honesty, the flavor of this and texture is a lot better without.

Work Out

Like everyone else on the planet, we’ve all made a New Year’s Resolution to get back in shape. No time like the present and for me, since I have a few appearances coming up this year, I’d like to not look like I’m sitting on my butt all day writing — even though that’s usually what I’m doing. There are quite a few places to work out around town from The Princeton Club to the YMCA of Dane County, and I have to admit that some of the workout classes are really great for socializing and just seeing people out there. I like Power Yoga, a lot. Which is traditional yoga with weights. You hardly feel like you’re in a weight class but by the end you feel like you’ve accomplished something grand! I’m also falling in love with the Zumba latin dance class.

Gardens, Plants & Flowers

Flower BouquetWhat better way to “think spring” than to visit Olbrich Gardens? Between the sweet-smelling flowers and green grass, this place really is a mood lifter for me. I’m also strongly considering hydroponics; have you visited Brew & Grow lately? The other thing I like to do is buy flowers for other people, there are a few local shops around here that are pretty great and the grocery stores like Copps and Woodman’s. I’ve also had excellent, excellent customer service experiences by buying online through FTD flowers.

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

My two favorite coffee houses are Victor Allen’s Cafe. The wi-fi is just great at both places and if you sit there all day they don’t get snippity. The food is better at Cool Beans; and the atmosphere (i.e. wide open sunlit areas) is much different at Victor Allen’s, but they both have something to offer me. I’ve been switching to decaf tea (well, today anyway) because it’s so easy to drink coffee this time of year. The problem with that? Before you know it, you’re dehydrated and feeling all kinds of “yuck.” Switching to water can be tough when it gets cold, but there are decaf teas out there; I recommend the peppermint tea at Cool Beans and for something a little different, Victor Allen’s has a nice Blueberry tea that is very fragrant.

Color your World with Arts & Music

Okay, if you’re like me all this white stuff has got you going crazy about this time. White, white and more white can make any creative person go insane. So why not go a little crazy yourself and add some color to your world. From crafty classes at Michael’s to art classes through The Union, there’s a ton of different ways you can create art and play around with colors for pretty inexpensively. If you are an art appreciator, have you been to the Madison Art Museum lately?

Bands, plays and music performances are another great and fun thing to do. There’s quite a few “live” bands and concerts coming up; you can check out The Isthmus or Maximum Ink to see the latest bands.

So there you have it, add a bit of sun when the world is so white…



Monica Valentinelli is a writer, editor, and game developer. Her portfolio includes stories, games, comics, essays, and pop culture books.

In addition to her own worlds, she has worked on a number of different properties including Firefly, Vampire: the Masquerade, Shadowrun, Hunter: the Vigil, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, and Robert E. Howard’s Conan.

Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore and game store near you.

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