Our editors and writers share their top picks for home, garden, life, travel, and food. Check out a vintage-chic dried centerpiece, new under-the desk elliptical, Chicago-based granola alternative and more.

By Midwest Living editors
February 22, 2021
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Home + Garden

Credit: Jacob Fox

1. ENDURING BEAUTY Fresh, we'll always love ya. But, for a vintage-chic display that will last all season, try this dried centerpiece. Start with a mix of leafy sprays, twigs, seed pods and artificial moss sourced from your yard or crafts stores. If you like, spray-paint elements or add a faux butterfly, bird or eggs. Line the interior of a terra-cotta dish with small-scale chicken wire and secure with a hot-glue gun. Arrange floral elements starting with the moss, then the tall, leafy items. Carefully place the dish in a terrarium and zhuzh with long tweezers. It's fiddly—but once it's done, it's safe under glass! See a short video of how to make this arrangement.

The Growing Candle
| Credit: Jacob Fox

2. BURN, BABY, BURN Waste not, enjoy more. That's the idea behind The Growing Candle, made by Hyggelight in Toledo, Ohio. It's made of clean- and long-burning soy, and its ceramic vessel can be reused as a stylish planter after the flames have been snuffed. (Surprise: The labels contain plantable wildflower seeds!) Is it just us, or do scents like mint and eucalyptus smell extra harmonious when there's an earth-friendly component? From $30. thegrowingcandle.com

Fiskhars Hori Hori
| Credit: Courtesy of Fiskars

3. LOOKING SHARP Our new favorite sidekick, Fiskars' 7-inch Hori Hori Garden Tool has smooth and serrated sides for slicing open soil bags and hacking down fistfuls of withered stems, plus a forked tip for yanking up stubborn weeds. $29. fiskars.com

Colorful Paint Splatter Tea Towel
| Credit: Jacob Fox

4. TEA TIME This Colorful Paint Splatter Tea Towel is just $15. beanandthesprout.etsy.com "Like a mini masterpiece for the kitchen, this tea towel delivers a bright splash of color. — From Allison Vancura, Content Editor

Life

Margaret Jankowski of The Sewing Machine Project
| Credit: Claire Ogunsola/Clear & Quiet

5. GOOD NEIGHBORS: A STITCH IN TIME SAVES … In 2005, Margaret Jankowski read about a Southeast Asian village devastated by a tsunami, and a woman there who'd lost the sewing machine she used as a means for supporting her family. Inspired, Jankowski wondered how she could get machines gathering dust in closets to those who could really use them. In the years since, her nonprofit, The Sewing Machine Project, has donated more than 3,200 machines locally and internationally. She also hosts sewing classes and free mending drop-ins for those in need in the Madison, Wisconsin, area. "It's a vehicle for creating and repairing. It is a means to earning an income," she says. "A sewing machine can literally change a life." thesewingmachineproject.org

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

Cubii under-desk elliptical
| Credit: Courtesy of Cubii

6. DESK WORK (OUT) I'll admit I was a little skeptical when I first heard of Cubii, an under-desk elliptical designed in Chicago. But then I learned how the elderly and post-op patients are using it to get mobile again— from their couches! Now, working from home makes Cubii even more appealing. Join 30-minute workouts on Facebook Live or take it for a spin as you email. From $249. cubii.comFrom Kelsey Ogletree, MWL Writer

7. HAPPY READING Wisconsin author Amy E. Reichert is all about stories that end well. And who couldn't use that right now? Her latest (out in April), The Kindred Spirits Supper Club, follows Sabrina Monroe as she moves back to the Dells to confront ghosts, fall in love and make a difference (Berkley Publishing, $16).

Travel

Memorial to Survivors of Sexual Violence
| Credit: Sarah Super

8. A SPACE TO HEAL A survivor herself, Sarah Super has experienced the lingering feelings of powerlessness and betrayal that come from sexual violence. Working with the city of Minneapolis to open the nation's first permanent Memorial to Survivors of Sexual Violence, she aimed to create a place of support for other survivors and to spur her own healing. "The thousands of people who supported its creation helped rebuild my sense of trust by validating my suffering, and helped me feel worthy of healing and justice," Super says.

Featuring mosaics by St. Paul artist Lori Greene, the memorial has a circular layout with benches for talking, and it sits in popular Boom Island Park, in view of the skyline and the Mississippi River. "We wanted the Memorial to be in a prominent place in the city, not tucked away in a neighborhood park," Super explains. "We also wanted a spot where you have the privacy needed to have a vulnerable conversation but that felt open and visible enough to feel safe."

Credit: Illustrator: Erin Keeffer

9. HOME (BOX) OFFICE Have you binged everything? Mix up your watch list (and support the Midwest arts, too): April 7–20, the Cleveland International Film Festival will go virtual. Tune in for hundreds of films, filmmaker chats and podcasts. Also in April (dates TBD), the Sound of Silent Film Festival will be live-streamed from Chicago on YouTube. May 13–20, the Wisconsin Film Festival will be primarily online, with at least 50 screenings, including local films.

North Shore, Minnesota
| Credit: Ken Harmon/@kenharmonbwca

10. @KENHARMONBWCA I can't get enough of Lake Superior—or photographer Ken Harmon's feed. His shots capture the mesmerizing drama of the weather and topography in northern Minnesota. The sunsets. The pines. The rocky shores. The starry skies. And always beckoning, the water. — From Ginger Crichton, Senior Editor

Food

Lopaus Point frozen waffles
| Credit: Jacob Fox

11. WAFFLE AROUND Crisp outside, moist inside and sweetened with organic fruit, Lopaus Point frozen waffles barely need syrup and are a great toast-and-go breakfast. Stacie Skinner first created the gluten-, dairy- and soy-free recipe for her son, then sold the waffles at Ohio farmers markets—and now they're available online and in stores. They come in four flavors, including original Banana Flax and Chocolate Chip. $10 for six at select Whole Foods. lopauspoint.com

Why should happy hour have all the fun? Take the grazing board to the brunch table with a waffle smorgasbord. You can make it healthy (as we did), with fresh and dried fruit, cottage cheese, nut butter, honey, toasted coconut, and cocoa nibs. Or, you know, there's always whipped cream and rainbow sprinkles.

Lil Bucks
| Credit: Jacob Fox

12. CRUNCH TIME For a healthy alternative to the sugary granola on your yogurt or smoothie bowl, try Chicago-based Lil Bucks. They're sprouted buckwheat seeds—earthy, crunchy, gluten-free, and rich in protein, fiber and magnesium. We especially dig the Cinnamon and Cacao flavors, and also the brand's Clusterbucks snack line. From $7 for 6 ounces. lovelilbucks.com

Microplane zester
| Credit: Illustration by Erin Keeffer

13. ROOT CAUSE I almost never peel ginger. There, I said it. Here's the trick: Wash whole fresh ginger root, then freeze in a baggie. (It grates better frozen.) When cooking, use a Microplane zester (you do need that really good fine blade) to shave a pile of frosty ginger. Skin and all. It's so fine, no one will notice. Plus, no waste! — From Hannah Agran, Executive Editor