Midwest Living Holiday Gift Guide 2012 | Midwest Living

Midwest Living Holiday Gift Guide 2012

Our first-ever gift guide showcases presents that have a cool story, support a Midwest business or come out of your own kitchen.

Catstudio tumblers

Show your state pride with mix-and-match vintage-style frosted glasses. (The website has scores of other cool goodies; enter with caution.) $12.25 each. (800) 819-3367; catstudio.com


Cookie box

For a modern alternative to the classic cookie tin, tuck treats in white bakery boxes, available at crafts stores. We dolled ours up with a cheerful red ribbon and lined the inserts with coordinating paper.

Want to make these cookies? See our recipe for Vienna Almond Cutouts, then get tips here for making cool swirls. 



Sweet greeting

When you want to give more than a card, but less than a gift, slip a cookie or two in a plastic treat bag (available at crafts stores) with a solid-color piece of scrapbooking paper. Fold contrasting paper over the opening, punch two holes, then tie with ribbon.

Winter wonderland

Cross-country snowshoes Clarence Iverson began constructing snowshoes from Michigan white ash, rawhide and copper on the Upper Peninsula in 1956. Whether you hang them on the wall or wear them into the woods, they’ll last a lifetime—or several. From $227. (877) 452-6370; iversonssnowshoes.com

Good-for-you gift For a memorable and healthy gift, pack a pair of wool socks or cozy gloves in a bag with a Midwest hiking guide, then add a note inviting the recipient on the winter walk of their choice in the New Year. 

Duluth Trading Company bags

The women on our staff fell hard for these rugged travel purses. Durable and attractive, with zippers that slide like a dream, they’re an affordable sure thing for any on-the-go gal. From $30. (800) 505-8888; duluthtrading.com

Hiking guides

Several companies publish books about day hikes in and around Midwest cities. Priced around $18, they make great gifts, especially for someone who just moved to a new town. A few we like: Moon’s Take a Hike, Falcon Guides’ Best Hikes Near, Menasha Ridge Press’ 60 Hikes within 60 Miles and Wilderness Press’ Walking.  

Funkychunky Chip-Zel-Pop

That’s potato chips, pretzels and popcorn, clustered with thick chocolate and chewy caramel. The Minneapolis snack company’s signature treat is sweet, salty and oh-so-addictive. $22 for 20 ounces. (888) 473-8659; funkychunky.com 

Warm touches

Mojo Spa hats In addition to cosmetics, the Chicago company sells handmade accessories, including irresistibly flirty crocheted hats. Colors and styles may vary. $38. (773) 235-6656; mojospa.com or etsy.com/shop/mojospastyle 

LazyTcrochet button-up shawl Garrettsville, Ohio, fiber artist Tricia Hodson’s cozy crocheted wrap elicited oohs and ahhs when we walked it down the office hallway catwalk. Chunky round buttons and a great price seal the deal. $40. etsy.com/shop/lazytcrochet

Duluth Pack log carrier Made of durable canvas with attractive leather trim, the Minnesota-based company’s carrier easily rolls or folds for off-season storage. A great pick for anyone who loves a wood-burning fire.  (800) 777-4439; duluthpack.com

Baabaazuzu boot liners An unfortunate husband-dryer incident (we’ve all had ’em) inspired the Leelanau, Michigan, company’s passion for stylishly upcycling old sweaters. $40. (231) 256-7176; baabaazuzu.com  

Bemidji Woolen Mills mittens Trust a company that’s been working with wool for 92 years (and in Minnesota, no less) to keep your fingers warm. These ragg wool mittens and gloves have practical deerskin palms and soft pile lining. $29.50. (888) 751-5166; bemidjiwoolenmills.com


Start a new tradition

You hum along every year-—but have you ever eaten a chestnut roasted over an open fire? Midwest-grown chestnuts are readily available online starting in late fall, and Jacob Bromwell, a 193-year-old Cincinnati-founded company that crafts classic kitchen gear, sells this stove- and fire-safe roaster. You may only use it once a year, but when you do, you’ll know the holidays have arrived. Instructions and recipes included. $44.99. (800) 683-2626; jacobbromwell.com

Get personal

Four Midwest jewelry designers make the details of your life their business, printing birth dates, names and initials on sweetly simple pieces.

Lisa Hopkins Design carved tree West Lafayette, Indiana, metalsmith Lisa Hopkins’ nostalgic tree design (far left in picture) scored big points with our staff. $64. lisahopkinsdesign.com

J Lynn Creations dog tag Chesterland, Ohio, artist Jacquie Lynn’s necklaces (second from left in picture) will suit new daddies—or grandpas! $44. etsy.com/shop/jlynncreations 

Amy Cornwell miniature monogram Noblesville, Indiana, artist Amy Cornwell’s simple gold monogram charm (second from right in picture) would appeal to any age, but we like it as a special gift for a young girl. $25.  amycornwell.com 

Jeneri Jewelry necklaces Naperville, Illinois, artist Jennifer Neri offers an array of pieces stamped with dates, names or Braille letters (far right and middle necklace in picture). From $48. (216) 870-6838; etsy.com/shop/jenerijewelry (December 2012 update: Artist is on vacation and will not take further orders until January.)


Pearl inspirations

The inspiration and source for Nadine Leo’s jewelry flows right outside her door. At the Mississippi River Pearl Company in Alma, Wisconsin, Nadine sells earrings, necklaces and rings she makes with Mississippi pearls. Prices vary, starting around $50. (Princess Diana and Queen Elizabeth have both worn her pieces.)

The endangered status of freshwater mussels adds to the mystique of Nadine’s work. Because invasive zebra mussels threaten the local kind’s population levels, harvesting is no longer permitted, so the number of pearls available is finite. But Nadine says she has enough to last her for years to come. (651) 301-1204; nadineleo.com

Michelle Brusegaard screen-print scarf

The Grand Forks, North Dakota, artist prints hipster-friendly earrings, stationery and colorful, soft-as-your-favorite-tee jersey scarves—as affordable as they are stylish. $25. etsy.com/shop/michellebrusegaard 

Veronica Riley Martens tagua necklace

Adorn yourself with lusciously hued necklaces made of slices of renewable tagua nuts from the Amazon rainforest. Bold, beautiful and “green.” What’s not to love? From $60. etsy.com/shop/veronicarileymartens 

Don’t forget the pooch!

Potter Kim Berger makes gorgeous bowls and tasty treats for lucky dogs and cats (and humans, too) at her East Troy, Wisconsin, studio. The brightly colored dishes come in several sizes (from $15) and are heavy enough to withstand a dog’s eager mealtime rush. She uses eggs from her chickens in the biscuits, which come in a cute paw-printed box ($14). Bowls and biscuits can be personalized for no extra charge. (262) 210-5846; etsy.com/shop/kboriginalsetc

Easy-fill ornaments

Nestle special “ingredients” inside ball ornaments for thoughtful, budget-friendly party favors or decorations. You can use wintry natural materials like we did, or let your imagination fly.

What you’ll need

Plastic ball ornaments (We found ours at Hobby Lobby for $1.49 each.)

Artificial snow


Pine tree clippings




Place items inside one ornament half. (Leave them loose, or secure with a dot of hot glue.) Top with the other half, string with ribbon, and presto, you’re done!


Artful home glass ornaments

Order exquisite, jewellike ornaments from all over North America at this beautiful online gallery based in Madison, Wisconsin. From $29. (877) 223-4600; artfulhome.com 

Tazza Glass candy canes

Mike Grau blows hundreds of glass ornaments every year at his studio in Medina, Ohio. Browse the huge array of balls and teardrops, or order several of these sparkly candy canes, available in a rainbow of sweet colors. $10. (440) 570-7172; tazzaglass.com

Le Papier studio ornament

A Chicago company puts silhouettes on ornaments (and many more items). Pick a standard form, or for $10, submit a photo. $34. (847) 922-6474; lepapierstudio.com 

Christmas countdown

Paper Source wreath kit Chicago-based Paper Source makes holiday crafting easy with a variety of wreath kits. Punch out, fold, and adhere petals and leaves to the included wreath form. Great for beginner crafters! $19.50. (888) 727-3711; paper-source.com

Do-it-yourself Advent calendar Give family and holiday guests a festive fireplace surprise. Pop pieces of candy, small toys or clues (to find larger gifts hidden in the house) in 24 tiny envelopes or muslin bags. Rubber-stamp numbers on circular labels to seal envelope flaps, or write numbers on bags with a marker. Hang envelopes or bags along the mantel with mini clothespins. Shop your local crafts store for similar supplies, or find pictured items at Paper Source. (888) 727-3711; paper-source.com

Page Russell stoneware vase “Gnaw marks” add fun texture to the matte white Bad Beaver Vase (pictured at left on mantel), one of many mod gifts we love at Chicago’s Unison. $78. (877) 492-7960; unisonhome.com 

Faribault Woolen Mill Co. Soho throw

Of all the wool throws we snuggled under, this was the softest. Made in Minnesota, it’s a timeless Christmas gift that will cozy up the back of your sofa for winters to come. $130. (507) 412-5510; faribaultmill.com


Red aglaonema

We love this festive, easy-care houseplant as a long-lasting alternative to poinsettias. Find it at Lowes, Home Depot and Walmart this December. Because it’s not a traditional gift plant, you may want to dress up the pot. Center pot on a square of felt (sized so that ends fold up to reach the pot’s rim). Bring up one corner; hot-glue felt to the rim of the pot. Bring up adjacent corner, folding under excess, and hot-glue. Repeat with remaining corners. Finish with a ribbon and tag.

Decoylab clocks

A Walt Disney forest’s worth of cute critters (owls, bunnies, deer and more) populate this line of whimsical wall clocks made in Kansas City, Missouri. Many are perfect for a baby’s nursery; the trendy bird designs make a stylish accent for any room. $84. decoylab.com or etsy.com/shop/decoylab

Death’s Door Spirits gin

This Middleton, Wisconsin, distillery takes its name from the dangerous water between the Door County peninsula and Washington Island. Ingredients include Washington Island juniper berries and wheat. $30 for 750 ml. (608) 831-1083; deathsdoorspirits.com

Try it in our Jolly Gin Fizz, an effervescent, gingery cocktail, sweetened with pomegranate juice and spiked with gin.

Sechler’s pickles

Skip the grocery store gherkins, and try these guys, made in St. Joe, Indiana, since 1921. Candied-orange-flavored spears taste the way clove-studded oranges smell: Perfect for Christmas! $16.95 for a four-jar gift box. (800) 332-5461; gourmetpickles.com

Pierrepont Hicks tie

Style doesn’t always start on the coasts. Since 2009, Minneapolis couple Mac and Katherine McMillan’s hip-yet-classic wool ties have been a fashion-blog staple. $120. pierreponthicks.com 

J.W. Hulme iPad sleeve

Based in Saint Paul, J.W. Hulme has crafted canvas and leather goods since 1905. (The company supplied Army tents during WWI.) Their iPad sleeves can be monogrammed and make great gifts for business travelers. $125. (800) 442-8212; jwhulmeco.com

The Henry Ford Wright Flyer

Indulge your inner 10-year-old boy—or an actual one on your list—with this 20-inch model from the Michigan museum’s gift shop. Bonus: It really flies (and, we’ve found, survives crash landings in soft grass). $55. (313) 982-6144; giftshop.thehenryford.org

Grandpa Shorter’s cheese knife

The beloved souvenir-and-more shop in Petoskey, Michigan, sells elegant knives with handles made of Petoskey stone, the speckled fossils found on area beaches. $53. (231) 347-2603; grandpashorters.com 

Daisygirl lotion and body butter

Made in Elk Horn, Iowa, the nongreasy formula leaves just enough scent to remind you (or your better half) that you’re wearing something special. Our pick: Pomegranate Grapefruit. From $5. (712) 249-5253; daisygirlbath.com 

DB Infusion bars

A confetti of spices, fruits, nuts and tea flavors these beautiful chocolate bars from Madison, Wisconsin. We love the No. 2, with curry powder, cinnamon, honey, orange zest, mango, coconut and almonds. $5.25 apiece, or $31.50 for a seven-bar gift set. (608) 233-1600; infusionchocolates.com

Salt Sisters vanilla infusion kit

Pour vodka over the beans, and in two months, you’ve got a giant bottle of vanilla extract. Made by a Goshen, Indiana, gourmet seasoning company, the kit and beans can be reused for another batch. $25.95. (574) 276-8871; saltsistersonline.com

Catstudio tumblers

Show your state pride with mix-and-match vintage-style frosted glasses. (The website has scores of other cool goodies; enter with caution.) $12.25 each. (800) 819-3367; catstudio.com


Amy Butler smartphone skin

The Granville, Ohio, designer’s signature bold floral patterns will make any phone stand out from the crowd. A great stocking stuffer, they are available to fit a variety of models. $15. (866) 380-8130; skinit.com

Giardino napkins

Cleveland Heights, Ohio, artist Pat Garmhausen hand-prints these luxurious linen napkins. Stash a set or two for last-minute hostess gifts. We’re equally smitten with her cheery dish towels and pillows. $40. etsy.com/shop/giardino

Visions of sugar rubs

Give the gift of relaxation with seasonally scented body scrubs. They softly exfoliate, leave skin nourished and are oh-so-easy to make.

What you’ll need

Granulated sugar

Olive oil

Cocoa (optional)

Essential oils (try peppermint, cinnamon or sweet orange)

Food coloring


Mix 1-1/2 cups of sugar with 1/3 cup of olive oil. For chocolate, add 2 tablespoons cocoa. Add 2 to 3 drops of desired essential oil and a few drops of food coloring for a festive hue. Spoon scrub into crafts store jars and tie on decorative labels. 

Add Your Comment