Our writers and editors share their top picks for home, garden, life, food and travel. Check out ceramic art tiles, the newly renovated home of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, delicious blueberry cereal bars and more.
Motawi Tileworks
Motawi Tileworks
| Credit: Marty Baldwin

Home + Garden

1. CROWNING JEWELS It only takes one of Motawi Tileworks' distinctly dapper creations to make a statement—as wall art, nestled on a bookshelf or mixed with solid tiles in a backsplash. (Although we'd love to splurge on an all-Motawi fireplace surround!) Before forming the Ann Arbor, Michigan, company in 1992, Nawal Motawi crafted ceramic art tiles in her garage to sell at the farmers market. (She's since upgraded to a 12,900-square-foot studio, with a large staff to help hand-glaze and kiln-fire each tile.) Many of her designs hearken to the Arts and Crafts Movement, with landscapes, wildlife and architectural motifs in rich, striking colors. And don't miss Motawi's whimsical collab with the estate of Ohio illustrator Charley Harper. From $30. motawi.com

Stihl Gas Handheld Blower
Stihl SH 86 C-E Gas Handheld Blower/Mulcher/Vac Tool
| Credit: Courtesy of Stihl

2. LEAF TERMINATOR Consider investing in the Stihl SH 86 C-E Gas Handheld Blower/Mulcher/Vac Tool, $290. acehardware.com "This shredder vac has been a game changer for capturing stray leaves from nooks and crannies on our steps and patio. — Kylee Krizmanic, Editor in Chief

Rattan Display Boxes
Rattan Display Boxes from Shine Design Home
| Credit: Marty Baldwin

3. WOVEN WONDER Shine Design Home in Fishers, Indiana, offers both interior design services and delightfully affordable homewares. Exhibits A and B: Rattan Display Boxes for stylishly corralling (and hiding) odds and ends. The smaller box measures roughly 12x6 inches; the larger 14x9. From $45. shinedesignhome.com


Minnesota Arts Programs
Instruments in the Cloud

4. GOOD NEIGHBORS: PERFECT HARMONY Frustrated by funding cuts to arts programs in Minnesota schools, a group of aspiring teachers, artists and musicians started the nonprofit Vega Productions in 2007, with a mission to increase access to quality music education. For years, the founders raised funds and collected instruments for kids around the state. In 2015, they launched Instruments in the Cloud, a website that helps people all over the U.S. find homes for neglected musical instruments gathering dust in attics and closets. Donors can search a list of 400 music programs around the country, filter needs by instrument and be guided through the process. This year, Instruments in the Cloud plans to facilitate at least 1,000 donations. "These are programs where student enthusiasm eclipses resources available," Executive Director Caitlin Marlotte says, "and I love that we're working to make it easy for people to support students, education and the arts in their community." instrumentsinthecloud.org

As part of our Good Neighbors program, highlighting unique Midwest nonprofits and individuals making our communities stronger, Midwest Living has donated $500 to Vega Productions.

Native Botanicals Healing Salve
Native Botanicals Healing Salve
| Credit: Marty Baldwin

5. POWER OF PLANTS I'm fascinated by Native Botanicals—healing products made by an Oglala Lakota couple from South Dakota's Badlands. Their salves, balms, mists, tinctures and smudge kits are all based on traditional pejuta (plant medicines). From $12. realnativebotanicals.com — Alicia Underlee Nelson, MWL Writer

6. MAIL CALL We love subscription boxes—and these are especially cool.

Golden Comfort Crate, Fargo, North Dakota Cheer up elderly loved ones with a quarterly box containing a game or activity, family photos, and snacks suited to dietary needs. $175 per year. goldencomfortcrate.com

Bronze Box, Milwaukee Get monthly shipments of assorted products from Black-owned businesses, many Wisconsin-based, such as Sherry's butter cookies and freshly roasted MKEing coffee. Or order one-off boxes, like a vegan collection. $35 per month. bronzeboxgifts.com


Green Edventures Outdoor Experiences for Women
Green Edventures
| Credit: Courtesy of Green Edventures

Wisconsin-based Green Edventures hosts group and solo women's travel experiences around the globe— and to the state's North Woods. 

7. SHE GROUNDS Like Girl Scouts for adults, women's-only outdoor experiences offer a safe, supportive space to explore nature, test physical limits and forge a sisterhood with new friends. Look for outfitters like Dirty Girl Adventures in Topeka, Kansas, which has a club for women, or checkout Becoming an Outdoors Woman in your state. It's a nationwide program with workshops in outdoor skills such as archery and kayaking.

Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra
Bradley Symphony Center

8. SOUND OF MUSIC For a cool $90 million, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra has a newly renovated home—a restored 1930s theater with an expanded stage and stunning two-story glass pavilion. Due to COVID-19, the Bradley Symphony Center (formerly the Warner Grand Theater) postponed its grand opening. The 2021–2022 season kicks off October 1. mso.org

Chicago's Hotel Lincoln
Sushi Suite 202, Hotel Lincoln
| Credit: Courtesy of Sushi by BOU

9. ROOM SERVICE At Chicago's Hotel Lincoln, Sushi Suite 202 is like a speakeasy in a hotel rooM—with fresh fish. Check into the lobby at your reserved time, then head upstairs and swipe a room key to enjoy a sleek 500-square-foot lounge, with assorted Japanese bar snacks, board games and a 17-course, hour-long chef's tasting meal at the six-seat bar. $155 per person, drinks extra; couples' packages available. sushibybou.com


Blueberry Cereal Bars
Blueberry Cereal Bars
| Credit: Jacob Fox

10. BLUEBERRY CEREAL BARS Line a 13×9-inch baking pan with foil, extending foil over edges. Grease with nonstick cooking spray. In a dry skillet, toast 3 cups regular rolled oats until golden; remove oats. Toast 1/2 cup chopped almonds or pecans in skillet. In a large saucepan, combine 1/2 cup almond butter, 1/3 cup butter, 1/3 cup packed brown sugar and 1/3 cup pure maple syrup. Bring to a boil over medium-high, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Off heat, stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Stir in oats and almonds, 1 cup crisp rice cereal, 2/3 cup dried blueberries, and 2 tablespoons chia seeds. Press firmly in prepared baking pan. Cover with wax paper, set another pan inside, and weigh down with cans of food. Chill until firm, 2 hours. Using foil, lift mixture from pan; cut into bars. Store in a single layer in an airtight container in refrigerator.

Boulevard Brewing Company
| Credit: Courtesy of Rufus Teague

11. SO SAUCY In Kansas City, Missouri, Rufus Teague crafts rubs and barbecue sauces. Boulevard Brewing Company is KC's biggest name in beer. Together, they make Can-O-Que, a line of beer-infused sauces that—wait for it—come in pop-top cans. Gimmick? Sure. But I'm sold. $14 for three. rufusteague.com — Hannah Agran, Executive Editor

Grist Cookbook
| Credit: Courtesy of Chronicle Books

12. ENCORE COOKBOOK Abra Berens—the Michigan chef who earned a James Beard nomination for her gorgeous tome of a vegetable cookbook, Ruffage—is back with an equally weighty and beautiful sequel. Grist explores grains, legumes and seeds in 300-plus recipes and variations (Chronicle, $35).