December 23rd is Festivus, the holiday — “to celebrate the season without participating in its pressures and commercialization” — invented by Dan O’Keeff and popularized by a 1997 Seinfeld episode.

But did you know that Festivus Poles® are made in Milwaukee? And Festivus Poles have their own Facebook page?

In 2005, Governor Jim Doyle displayed a Festivus Pole in the family room of the Executive Mansion. Now, that six-foot “floor model” Festivus pole and stand made of an extruded aluminum alloy are part of the Wisconsin Historical Museum’s collection.

It’s probably too late to buy a Festivus Pole for this year’s celebration, but R &B Wagner, the company that manufactures them has some FREE Festivus greeting cards and invitations available as PDF downloads on its website.

If you want to learn more about this holiday, consult Daniel O’Keefe’s book, The Real Festivus. Or watch this YouTube video:

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RootsMagic-Essentials-Box
RootsMagic, Inc., a Utah-based software company, is offering free downloads of RootsMagic Essentials, desktop genealogy software based on their award-winning RootsMagic 4 system.

RootsMagic Essentials contains many core features found in its namesake that allow the public to easily start tracing their family trees. RootsMagic Essentials can directly import data from PAF, Family Tree Maker (through 2006), Family Origins, and Legacy Family Tree.

It can also read and write data using the popular GEDCOM format. Free online tutorials are available on the company’s website.

If you’d like to compare RootsMagic Essentials to its parent program, Roots Magic, which sells for $29.95, click here.

Use this link to download your free copy of RootsMagic Essentials.

Thanks to Genealogy Gems News for this tip.

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Lutefisk photo by Jonathunder

Lutefisk photo by Jonathunder


It’s lutefisk season in Wisconsin, and while we don’t know about any discounts, we decided to help you save time by tracking down the dates and locations of some of the traditional lutefisk dinners held each year at area Lutheran churches and Sons of Norway Lodges. Mike Miller, The Capital Times reporter who used to do a terrific job of compiling an annual listing of these events, has retired, alas.

Many people despise lutefisk, but love the traditions that surround these annual dinners. And anyone who’s even attended a lutefisk dinner knows there are always plenty of other delicious items on the menu, including meatballs, lefse, and traditional Norwegian pastries.

While Miller’s shoes are too big for us to fill, we are going to try to make Madison On the Cheap’s listings better and more comprehensive than it is right now as time goes by. If you know of a lutefisk dinner we’ve missed, let us know and we’ll add it to the list that you can find by clicking on the “Lutefisk Dinners” tab at the top of the page. If finding the tab is too much trouble, just click this link to go to the listings.

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Zombie Mask © Ray O'Bannon

Zombie Mask © Ray O'Bannon

Ray O’Bannon’s wonderfully creepy RavensBlight Toy Shop has all sorts of free “haunted” paper toys online for you to print out, construct and enjoy.

Here’s what O’Bannon has to say about his unusual paper craft collection:

“The toys include a hearse playset, coffin gift boxes (with occupants), a little cemetery, several unusual board games, a gloomy little haunted house, a rusty old-style robot, and quite a few other dark delights. So pick out some toys, print out the pattern pages, and with a few common supplies like scissors and glue you’re ready to create all these strange little curiosities. I hope you’ll enjoy them all.”

These “haunted” paper toys are great for Halloween and relatively cheap to make. All you need is Adobe Acrobat to download the PDF patterns, a printer, HEAVY card stock, some scissors, some Elmer’s glue sticks, and a bit of patience and attention to detail.

Izzy the Intern is always wary about telling children to use scissors and wants to be certain they do so only under parental supervision. O’Bannon seems to be in totally agreement. Here’s what he has to say on the subject:

“I’ve found Elmer’s Glue Sticks to be very useful in building these toys. Also, you can be extra fussy and carefully blacken the edges of the toy parts with a black marker to get rid of the occasional white edges here and there. When folding the parts, its critical to fold them as precisely on the lines as possible. And above all, never rush it! These toys won’t take very long for you to build, but working slowly and carefully is important. And a final word about using the scissors and X-acto knife…They are SHARP! They can HURT YOU! So always be carefull. Open bleeding lacerations = BAD! Happy little monster kids with new toys = GOOD!”

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Dunce“So did you receive my message?” he asked.

We haven’t received any messages from anyone using our CONTACT US form (see tab at top of this page). So we did a bit of testing and discovered that the e-mail address associated with the form was incorrect. We felt like dunces.

It’s fixed now. We apologize for any inconvenience. The form should be working now. You may also e-mail us directly at madisononthecheap@gmail.com. We use an e-mail masking program, so you won’t see the complete address. Just left click on the link to use it, or right click to copy the address.

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Wizard of Oz CoverYou’ve seen the movie, you’ve read Gregory Maguire’s “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West,” and maybe you’ve even seen the Broadway musical “Wicked,” but have you read the book that started it all?

First editions of L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” sell for thousands (and thousands) of dollars, but thanks to what Matt Raymond, the Library of Congress Director of Communications calls “some nifty page-turning technology,” you can easily read the book online. Even better, you can download and print your very own PDF copy of the scanned version of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”

We loved the “nifty page-turning technology,” but decided we didn’t want to spend all our time in front of the computer; so we downloaded a copy, too. That’s how we know that even with a high-speed connection the download may take a long time. The PDF is slightly larger than 18MG, so patience is required if you take this route.

[click to continue…]

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Chihuahua stencil for pumpkin carving by Diane Starkey

Chihuahua stencil for pumpkin carving by Diane Starkey

Halloween is on the way and Madison on the Cheap hopes to be able to tell you about lots of monstrously good deals.

Now that pumpkins are available, perhaps you should think about really doing some fancy carving this year. But before you buy stencils, take a look at the Better Homes & Gardens website, where the magazine is offering 36 printable pumpkin stencils for free. Among the stencils are more than a dozen that let you carve a pumpkin to resemble your favorite breed of dog. Choices include Chihuahuas, Beagles, Boxers, and Pugs.

We learned about this offer from Deb Stanley at Channel 7 News in Denver, and we’d like to share her insights about the offer:

“What’s the catch? You have to register for the Web site. The registration form comes up when you click on the stencil you want to print. Look carefully at all the checked and unchecked boxes, I didn’t want any of BHG’s newsletters, just the free stencils. Also, when the Web site offers you a free year of the magazine, read carefully. It’s actually offering you a free year, if you buy a year. I said no.”

The dog stencils are HERE. Stencils for more traditional themes, including bats, spiders, and witches, are HERE.

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Free Wisconsin cheese map

August 7, 2009

Wisconsin Cheese Map
Whether you’re a dedicated armchair traveler or a turophile who wants to tour all the cheese factories in Wisconsin, you really need to send for your very own copy of the “A Traveler’s Guide to America’s Dairyland” map, so that you, too, “can hit the road in search of everything cheesy.”

They’re giving it rave reviews on Chowhound and some folks in Minneapolis seem to think it’s fairly wonderful, too.

Sure, there are plenty of other things to do on the first Friday in August — such as try to snag one of those 250,000 free candy bar coupons Mars is giving out starting at 9 a.m. Eastern time — but it only takes a couple of minutes to visit the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board website and submit your request for a map.

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