A blog by Maddie Brady

Recent Posts

21 Things I Learned My First Year in Madison

21 Things I Learned My First Year in Madison

I can’t believe it! It’s been a whole year since I moved to Madison! I feel so incredibly different than I did a year ago. I’ve started my career, I’ve made a life for myself in a city where I didn’t know anyone, I’ve experienced […]

What’s on Your Human Reading List?

What’s on Your Human Reading List?

A few weeks ago, my mom and I went to the Art Institute of Chicago for a little field trip. We dropped into Cauleen Smith’s exhibit Human_3.0 Reading List while we were there and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. In the exhibit, Smith offers a […]

My Game Plan for Surviving the Autumn Blues

My Game Plan for Surviving the Autumn Blues

It happened all at once, didn’t it? Suddenly it’s that time of year when the days are shorter and the nights are dark and quiet. Even living in the heart of Madison the mood is starting to shift – kids wrapped up in sweatshirts instead of cruising in tank tops, coming in early and staying in often. I love the bittersweet feel of fall and it’s relief from the exhausting summer heat, but I also get the fear around this time of year, too. I’m dreading those long winter nights and my skin is already craving Vitamin D.

In case you haven’t noticed by now, I’m the kind of person who likes to have a plan, especially when it comes to self care. So, I’ve decided to strategize my fight against the autumn blues and share some ways I’ll be embracing the season and focusing on the positive this fall.

Lean Into the Season

There are actually so many fun fall things to do, but I think I get so hung up on the fact that it isn’t summer anymore that I automatically rule them out. This year I want to get my head out of my ass and go out and do things! Here’s an abridged list of fall activities previously neglected over the years, but will hopefully be making a comeback:

  • Apple picking – Classic!
  • Pumpkin carving – We actually hosted a pumpkin carving competition at my house in high school once and it was hilarious – but alas haven’t touched a pumpkin since.
  • Making mulled wine – I got into this last year in Ireland because it was always so dreary and it’s so delicious and easy. Perfect for Thanksgiving or any other weekend when you’re laying around drinking all day.
  • Haunted house/hayride/literally anything Halloween related – Confession: I hate Halloween. I don’t know what it is about the holiday, but I’ve avoided it for years. I think I’ve dressed up like twice since I was 18? I’m not committing to dressing up for the actual day, but I will go out of my comfort zone and do something spooky.
  • Tailgating – Anyone who knows me well is probably laughing at this one because I don’t sports. I like hockey and that’s about it. Football has always mystified me. But what’s not to like about day drinking with your friends, right? It’s not like I can avoid it living in Madison, anyhow. You know what they say: if you can beat them, drink with them.
  • Baking – What’s cozier than a hot oven and a tray full of fresh chocolate chip cookies or a crispy pumpkin pie? Probably only the womb.


Get Outside (Even When It’s Cold)

Working a 9-5 job during the winter means you don’t get a lot of exposure to the sun, especially when you’re in a windowless office like I am. So, this year I’ve set a goal of getting myself outside and into some sunshine at least once a day, even if it’s for 5 minutes. I’d really like to get in the habit of taking a walk at lunch time every day – it’s just so nice to get my eyes off a computer screen for a few minutes – and I think getting outdoors will help keep me sane.

On the weekends, too, I’d like to do a better job at not only hibernating in my apartment with Netflix and red wine. Although this is totally necessary sometimes, I’d like to go for walks along the lake, keep up my running a bit, and maybe even go for a hike in one of the nearby state parks if I’m feeling ambitious. If I can get myself outdoors more often in the fall, hopefully I can fend off cabin fever longer in the winter. Stay tuned.

Take Up Old Hobbies

Nothing feels better than doing something you’re good at. As part of my journey back into my creative life, I signed up for an Improvisational Dance class through the Continued Studies program here at UW – Madison. This may seem random, but I actually did a lot of movement and dance improvisation and composition in college. My theater major was very physical theater focused and I had the equivalent of a dance minor by the time I graduated so this is very much my element.

I haven’t been in a studio in years, though, so I decided to jump back in and take this class. Although I’m still warming up to the new surroundings and dance partners, it feels great to be back in my body again. I forget how freeing it feels and how easy it is for me to get in the improvisational zone. I think reawakening old skills will be a refreshing addition to my fall workout schedule and remind me that new beginnings can happen at any time of year.

Hygge the Shit Out of My Apartment

You’ve probably seen the hygge sensation sweep the hipster internet over the last couple of years – the Danish obsession with getting cozy. The whole premise is that winter doesn’t seem so bad when you find a way to revel in the comforts of the indoors. And that’s what I’m gonna do. I’m talking candles, tea, fuzzy socks, furry blankets, and old jazz music- it’s gonna be hyyge nation, bitches! To be fair, Denmark is probably hygge nation but I’ll take a close second.

I loved adding little touches to apartment for summer – light summer linens, fresh farmer’s market flowers, a continuous supply of vodka lemonade – so I think doing the same for winter will be sweet. It’s amazing what a Target run for candles and a fresh pair of flannel sheets can do for a girl. I’d also like to grab a few extra cozy sweaters and a new pair of shearling slippers for those frosty mornings. Feeling warm and fuzzy inside already.

The biggest part of hyggeing (?) for me, though, is definitely food. I love baking during the winter. There’s nothing better than a big glass of red wine, an old movie on TV, and a batch of cookies in the oven. It’s so heartwarming and lovely. I’ve also gotten into soup and stew making over the last two years. I made this stew, which is still one of my favorites, on a whim in Dublin and it quickly became my favorite meal to make. It felt great to have a hot, thick stew at the end of cold, wet day. I don’t have a crockpot yet, but this may be the year I take the plunge. Recipe suggestion welcome.

Make Plans And Keep Them

We’ve all been there: it’s 7pm on a winter night. You’ve made plans to meet up with a friend, but you just warmed up in your apartment after a long day so you cancel. Whenever I see a meme about the revelry of cancelled plans it’s like looking in a mirror. Although I know this will be inevitable sometimes, I want to push myself to go out more, even when it’s obnoxiously cold. Or better yet, invite friends to come to me – I’ve been threatening to start a book club for the better part of a year now so maybe the time is now.

It’s easy to feel isolated in the winter time. Madison is amazing in the summer because you can leave the house and there’s a million things going on, but in the winter it’s a ghost town. Everyone goes into hibernation and it’s tough to feel social. This will most likely be the hardest part of my plan, but I’d like to do better at initiating plans and following through with them, even if I’m not in the mood at first. More often than not I end up having a great time and I’m glad that I got out of the house, which in the winter is an accomplishment in and of itself.

Are you looking forward to winter? Or are we in the same boat dreading fall? If you have any favorite fall activities, especially in the Madison area, definitely let me know! Give me fewer and fewer excuses to stay in and be a total bum this fall, please.

Also, if you’re feeling hopeless or lonely with fall starting always feel free to reach out to those around you – send me a message, make plans with friend or family member, or call an organization that can help you through a tough time. It’s so important to take care of yourself in the winter months.

Sending love, friends!

Some Great Local Organizations to Donate to Right Now

Some Great Local Organizations to Donate to Right Now

With everything going on over the last couple of weeks – Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the earthquake in Mexico City, another hurricane in Puerto Rico – I wanted to share a few organizations bringing some much needed good to the world. One of my goals […]

Weekend Vibes // The Week of September 15

Weekend Vibes // The Week of September 15

Hey guys, hope you’ve had a good week! I’ve been in a bit of a funk the last few days and left a lot of stuff around the house undone so I’ll be channeling my inner domestic goddess this weekend. I’m hoping to get outside […]

Two Wardrobe Staples I’m Really Excited About Right Now

Two Wardrobe Staples I’m Really Excited About Right Now

Last weekend I was in a treat yo self kind of mood so I bought myself a smoked salmon sandwich and a La Croix and went shopping. For me, shopping is an event: I love going to the stores, people watching, trying things on, listening to the music they play, feeling all the fabrics, buying little things I don’t need, etc.

In fact, I actually hate shopping online. (This is where I usually get a horrified reaction from people lol). I’m a brick and mortar kind of girl. I’ve just had so many bad experiences buying things online and then I never remember to return them. I bought a pair of over the knee boots last fall that legitimately went up to stomach. Like it was bad. I don’t trust myself with online shopping – this girl and I are kindred spirits.

Anyway, off my soap box and onto the shopping. I had a bit of success over the weekend and wanted to share what I got since I think they’ll both be wardrobe staples for the next few seasons. Nothing like a couple of great pieces to revitalize a closet.

The Jeans

One thing that was definitely on my list, though: jeans. I live in jeans and have been wearing through my favorite pairs over the last couple of months. Let’s just say that holes in the crotch are not the most professional look, even in a casual workplace (but at least I wear shoes, which is more than I can say for some people…). On my shopping expedition on State Street here in Madison I actually found a pair of jeans that I love from Urban Outfitters of all places.

I really like the shape of them: high waisted, ankle-length, with a little flare at the bottom. I can wear them to work with a sweater and my adidas sneakers or out to a bar with a lacy tank and boots. Lord knows I won’t buy jeans for another year so I’m glad I can make the most of them. Plus, they make my butt look good. 🙂

The Bag

My other purchase was a complete impulse buy. I never buy purses. Okay, not true: the last time I bought a purse I was a junior in college and it was $20 on Ebay. I still use a purse my mom bought me when I left for college (shoutout to that yellow marc jacobs bag that has truly seen it all). But when I saw this purse I knew I had to go for it. I actually picked it up and put it down twice in the store, left the store entirely, and then came back 10 minutes later and bought it. I can honestly say I tried to leave it behind.

It’s from a brand called Street Level (for the life of me I can’t find it online – another reason not to bother) and it was only $60. I love the idea of blush for fall – I think it will pair really well with fall colors like burnt orange and is a little unexpected since it’s often a spring color. What sold me on it, though, was the circle detailing. It makes it a little more unique than a regular satchel bag, but without being too over the top trendy (like the Chloe Nile bag that every blogger is carrying right now). It’s another really versatile piece, too, and since I’m averaging a purse every 4 years I’d say I’ll get some use out of it.

What’s on your wish list this fall?I’ve been watching all the New York Fashion Week coverage and am loving all the blush and plaid I’m seeing for Spring. Never too early, right? I also can’t believe how quickly the weather has changed here in Wisconsin. It was full on summer this time two weeks ago and now I’m breaking out the sweatshirts and wool socks to wear to bed.

As much as I’m already dreading the short days, I’m actually getting a little excited to cozy up in sweaters and layer on coats and scarves. Fall is especially awesome when you get those 3 days of the year when it makes sense to wear a mini skirt with a turtleneck. Ugh, transitional dressing is so fun and nonsensical. I love it. Happy autumn shopping, friends!

Book Review: Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

Book Review: Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

Like many of the books I read, my mom gave me the Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes on a trip home earlier this year. I had seen a few of Rhimes’ shows – I followed Scandal pretty closely in college until it got too […]

Five Ways I Made This a Self Care Summer

Five Ways I Made This a Self Care Summer

This summer I made a promise to myself to focus on me. The last year has been really tough: moving to a new city, starting a really technical job, living alone, meeting new friends, fully supporting myself financially for the first time. It’s been a […]

My Trip to Japan: Nara and Tokyo

My Trip to Japan: Nara and Tokyo

As much as I want to keep living vicariously through my photos of Japan, this is my last post! This was honestly the trip of a lifetime and it has been such a joy going back through my pictures and reading my journals from it. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned, but I was actually really nervous to go on this trip – this was the furthest I’d ever travelled on my own, my first trip to Asia, and only the second time I’d travelled alone in a country where I didn’t speak the language. But I knew it would be such an incredible experience and I was ecstatic to see my best friend from college, Betsy, after such a long time.

Anyway, enough exposition – today I’ll be sharing the last several days from my trip including a brief trip to Nara (home of the bowing deer) and our weekend in Tokyo. This may be the longest post I’ve ever put together – so make yourself a cup of coffee and buckle up!

Day Five – Onsen Day

After the last few days of walking and drinking, we decided to take it slow and head to the onsen for the day. An onsen is a traditional Japanese hot bath and there are hotels that specialize in having some sweet onsen facilities. We grabbed lunch at one of Betsy’s favorite local places in Otsu, where the owners were super sweet and we had the whole place to ourselves. It was humid and rainy and felt like the perfect day to hang out and relax.

I was a little nervous about going to the onsen because there’s a lot of etiquette to follow, but luckily I had Betsy to guide me. She got us through the paperwork and actually to the onsen itself, which I already couldn’t have done, and then walked me through when to take off my shoes, how to appropriately wash up before going into the pools, and what each of the pools were designed for. You go into the baths naked, in case you were wondering, so I advise doing this with people you’re already pretty comfortable with (luckily, Bryn Mawr prepared us pretty well for this whole thing lol).

There were a few different bath rooms we did throughout the day. The first room had one big hot bath with an indoor and outdoor portion. It’s essentially a big hot tub, but without the jets. The second room had a variety of pools with different healing properties. There were pools that helped with your skin or circulation, there was a walking pool that massaged your feet, and another with a slight electric current running through it (this was the craziest one!). The third bath (pictured at the top) had an incredible view of Lake Biwa and we had the entire place to ourselves. 🙌 Best place ever for having life chats with your bestie, I’d say.

Day Six – Nara and Betsy’s School

The next day, I struck out on my own again for Nara, a town south of Kyoto famed for it’s incredibly tame deer population. It takes a few trains and a bus to get there (so give yourself time), but you’ll know once you’ve made it. Deer are literally roaming the sidewalks like pedestrians. You can buy cookies to feed them, but even without food they come right up to you.

I’ve gotta say – the deer are cute, but also kind of awful. They follow you around, sort of pummel you with their antlers, and can bite if you’re not careful. I didn’t even bother buying cookies because I didn’t want them all over me. Still, I’m glad I went because it was sort of surreal being so close to animals like this and I got my #deerselfie.

After my dances with deer experience, I raced back to Otsu to spend the rest of the afternoon with Betsy’s students! I have to say, if you ever want to feel famous/special for doing absolutely nothing, be a 20-something white girl from Chicago in a small Japanese town. I got to meet Betsy’s English Club students and it was hands-down the best part of this entire trip. Her students were so sweet and it was awesome to see how amazing Betsy is at her job. She is totally on their level and is so present and joyful with them. I’ve never been good with kids and teaching makes me nervous, so it was incredible to see her at such ease with them.

The first part of class the kids asked me questions about Chicago, what I eat, what my hobbies are, and the question on every 16-year-old’s mind: do I have a boyfriend lol. Then they prepared short presentations for me in English about different parts of Japanese culture. I learned about Japanese festivals, local kinds of artwork, and traditional stories (like Hatsuyume: where it’s good luck if you dream about Mt. Fuji, a hawk, or an eggplant on the night of January 1 – drawing below). I got to keep their artwork and I seriously treasure them. Below are a few of my favorite drawings from that class and some Dos and Don’ts that another one of Betsy’s classes put together for me.

A drawing of Hatsuyume.

A picture of their fireworks, which really do include animated characters. Plus, a little person with a camera because I told them I do photography as a hobby. 😊

Some things not to do in Japan – eat too much wasabi lol and make loud sounds while drinking. Other donts included: tipping, talking too loudly at dinner or on trains, and putting sushi back that you’ve picked up at conveyor belt sushi restaurants.

Some dos: bowing to your boss, giving up your seat to older people and pregnant women on trains (there was a lot of train etiquette), and enjoying my trip! So cute!

Days Seven, Eight, and Nine – Tokyo

The next morning we headed out on the Shinkansen to spend the weekend in Tokyo! We found a good hotel last minute near a big train station and set off for a weekend of exploring. Honestly, the weekend was kind of a blur – we packed in so much in so little time – but here are some of the highlights.

After checking into our hotel, we searched the area for somewhere to grab lunch. We ended up at this little ramen place that was literally in an alley, but the line was out the door which seemed promising. When we finally got into the restaurant, everyone was crying and had a pile of used tissues next to their enormous bowl of ramen – this place was not fucking around. I’m not usually a fan of super spicy food, but it seemed like the thing to get so I ordered one of the milder options (note the crazy amount of chili peppers on the menu below). I was a teary, snotty mess but it was seriously delicious.

After lunch, we took the train to Harajuku for some shopping and to find a Purikura photo booth, sort of the original snapchat pretty filter on steroids (results below). As a fashion lover, I’ve always wanted to visit Harajuku and see the girls’ fun, over the top style. We went into so many cool shops and tried on some crazy pieces. It was also funny to see a lot of vintage American clothes on the racks – things like big 90’s t-shirts from Orlando and remade Levi’s jeans were all over the place and looked 100x cooler on the Japanese girls.

For dinner, we grabbed some Tonkatsu (deep fried breaded pork cutlets) and picked up a few Strong Zeros to drink before going out on the town. To be honest, we were pretty dead by this point in the week. I was still getting over the jet lag (14 hours is rough) and Betsy had worked and been hostess with the mostest to me all week. But it was Saturday night and our only night together in Tokyo and we were going to make the most of it, damn it! We straight up rallied and took one of the last trains of the night to Shibuya, where a lot of the clubs and nightlife is in Tokyo.

Our plan was to hit up a club called Womb (for obvious reasons), but since the trains stop pretty early we wanted to kill some time before walking over there. So we grabbed a few cans of beer from a convenient store and sat on the curb in busy downtown Shibuya for a few minutes just to hang out. And before we knew it, we were out at an Izakaya with a Japanese reporter and a diplomat to China getting ready to sing karaoke until 6 o’clock in the morning. We never made it to Womb and we had the best freaking night ever. If there was ever a case for rallying.

I was content to let the next day pass in the haze of my hangover, but Betsy made sure that I actually saw more of Tokyo than the inside of a bar and got us up for some sightseeing. We walked toward Tokyo tower, stopping at some shrines and parks along the way, and I was surprised at how many peaceful places we found in the one of the most crowded cities in the world. Here are few of my favorite shots from our adventures that day…

That night, Betsy had to head back home and I had to prepare for my 30 hours of travel ahead. It was a tough goodbye after such an amazing week and I know we were both really bummed not knowing when we’d see each other again. I tried to distract myself from the blues by stocking up on some last minute souvenirs and planning my route to the airport, but it felt so weird to be alone in Tokyo. The next morning, my giant suitcase and I took the cramped Tokyo morning commute to Narita and started the long trip back to Madison.

Looking back, I can’t believe I did all of this in a week. I was so nervous about this trip: that it would be so hard, that I would be worried the whole time and not have fun, that Betsy and I wouldn’t get along as well as we used to. But I jumped in and went anyway and, although things were tough and I did have to push myself at times, it was the best decision I’ve made in a long time. I learned that I can always rely on myself, that I have the best friends in the world (literally), and that people can be kind in even the smallest ways.

I’ll end on this last little story: when I was taking the train from Tokyo to Kyoto on my first day, I was absolutely drained. It was the last leg of my journey and I had found out that I’d gotten on the wrong train. It was going in the right direction thankfully, but would take even longer to get there. I was so frustrated that I cried and promptly fell asleep from exhaustion. When I woke up, sitting on my suitcase was a tiny note from the conductor giving me the time we would reach Kyoto and wishing me a nice trip. It was the sweetest, smallest gesture and it meant the world to me in that moment. And that’s what I’ll take away from Japan.

If you want to see more from my trip, check out my other posts from Japan: Fushimi Inari, the Miho Museum, and Heian Shrine and Kyoto.

A Few Snapshots from Colorado

A Few Snapshots from Colorado

Last week I was in Denver for work and got to tack on a weekend in Boulder to visit my dad and stepmom. I don’t travel a lot for work (unlike a lot of people) so it’s nice to be able to make an event […]