Immersive Van Gogh art experiences, stylish picnic accessories and a new kind of succulent are among our editors' summer tips and and picks.

By Midwest Living editors
April 07, 2021
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Home + Garden

Kitchen Serving Caddy
All-In-One Serving Caddy
| Credit: CARSON DOWNING

1. SERVE IT UP Finally! A stylish way to carry everything (even glasses and dinner plates) out to the patio in just one trip. $15. walmart.com

Smart Water Detector
Smart water detector for indoor moisture and humidity
| Credit: MOEN

2. GO WITH THE FLOW One way to guard against costly water damage in your home from, say, a burst pipe: Enlist in an early warning system. The 3.5-inch Flo by Moen Smart Water Detector discretely monitors indoor moisture and humidity levels and notifies you via its app if it senses a change. From $50. moen.com

Mangave Aztec King
Mangave Aztec King
| Credit: Courtesy of Walters Gardens

3. A GENIUS IDEA A new kind of succulent? Sign me up. Hans Hansen of Walters Gardens in western Michigan has been breeding mangaves, a cool cross between an agave and a manfreda. These dramatic, drought-tolerant plants come in a range of purple and green hues and can be grown outdoors in summer, then brought indoors as a houseplant. waltersgardens.comFrom Teresa Woodard, Garden Editor

Window Bow Gardener Indianapolis
Credit: Courtesy of The Window Box Gardener

4. FEED TO FOLLOW: @WINDOWBOXGARDENER We love following these container pros for colorful ideas that get us out of our petunia rut. Mary Starnes and Gretchen Jacobs, owners of The Window Box Gardener in Indianapolis, are artists at work. They travel around Indy, composing billowy, bespoke arrangements that soften exterior lines, add privacy and boost curb appeal. Not into custom? Their sister biz, Porch Pots Direct, delivers pre-designed planters within the greater Indianapolis area. windowboxgardener.com

Life

Chicago River
Chicago River in Illinois
| Credit: BOB STEFKO
Doug McConnell
Credit: A Long Swim

5. GIVE BACK: JUST KEEP SWIMMING Doug McConnell lost his dad to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a fatal progressive neurodegenerative disease, in 2006. A few months later, his sister Ellen received the same diagnosis. "The feeling of powerlessness after hearing someone you love has been diagnosed with a disease for which there is no cure is just overwhelming," says McConnell, an investment banker and hobby marathon swimmer. Motivated to take action, the siblings launched A Long Swim in 2011 to raise money for research. They started with McConnell's own swims, including one across the English Channel, then added Chicago-area group events. Ellen passed in 2018, but her legacy remains: A Long Swim has raised more than $1 million. This fall, McConnell is planning a 2.4-mile group swim on the Chicago River. "Our goal is to raise money until we meet an ALS survivor," he says. "We're not going to stop swimming until we do." alongswim.org

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

Little Bay Boards Paddleboard
Credit: LITTLE BAY BOARDS

6. BOARD TALK I'm smitten with Little Bay Boards. Jason Thelen builds his hollow stand-up paddleboards from sustainably forested wood in Petoskey, Michigan. He can go as custom as you're willing to splurge—with intricate designs and tweaks for height, weight, ability or even passengers, such as a pup. From $1500. littlebayboards.comFrom Kylee Krizmanic, Editor in Chief

The Chicken Sisters by KJ Dell'Antonia
The Chicken Sisters novel
| Credit: CARSON DOWNING

7. BEST OF CLUCK KJ Dell'Antonia dives into family relationships, regrets and second chances—and oh yes, fried chicken—in her debut novel, The Chicken Sisters. The plot is inspired by a real-life chicken-shack feud in the author's native Kansas (G.P. Putnam's Sons, $16).

Travel

Van Gogh Starry Night
Credit: GRANDE EXPERIENCES

8. LET'S GOGH Take a walk through The Starry Night? Don't mind if we do.

The Lume at Newfields, Indianapolis Opening this summer, THE LUME Indianapolis transforms Vincent van Gogh's paintings into an immersive digital world using 150 state-of-the-art projectors. Colors swirl, birds take flight and music accompanies the images, transporting visitors into the Dutch artist's world. THE LUME is a new permanent attraction at Newfields, the campus that houses Indianapolis' art museum. At 30,000 square feet, it's the largest exhibit in the institution's history. Each year will bring new content to the space. This one, created by Australia's Grande Experiences, will be on display through Spring 2022. discovernewfields.org

Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit Entrancing images and motifs dance across the walls and floor of Chicago's historic Germania Club. Catch this show at its first U.S. location before it closes September 6. The show is also scheduled to open in Minneapolis on Aug. 2. vangoghchicago.com

Sable at Navy Pier Chicago
Sable Corner Guestroom
| Credit: SABLE AT NAVY PIER CHICAGO, CURIO COLLECTION BY HILTON.

9. PIER REVIEW Navy Pier's first hotel opened in March. Sable at Navy Pier Chicago features 223 guest rooms and top-tier pier views of the skyline and Lake Michigan. Part of Curio Collection by Hilton, the property has a Latin-inspired restaurant and the nation's largest rooftop bar, with firepits and an entertainment area. sablehotel.com

Kansas City Bridge
Credit: ERIN KEEFFER

10. BRIDGING THE GAP Why just cross a bridge when you can stay awhile? That's the thinking behind a Kansas City, Kansas, project that will turn a 1905 railroad bridge into a 700-foot-long hangout with pedestrian and bike trails, a food hall, and event space—all floating above the Kansas River—linking KCK to KCMO. Get progress updates via Rock Island Bridge's Facebook page. rockislandbridgeproject.org

Food

Garlic Scapes
Credit: BRIE PASSANO

11. IN SEASON: GREAT 'SCAPE A few years ago, the only people who knew about scapes were those who happened to grow garlic. Which is to say, hardly anyone. Now they're a farmers market darling and CSA box staple. Scapes are the curlicue flower stems that sprout from hardneck garlic in late spring. (A fleeting season adds to the allure.) Some people grind them into pesto, but that's pretty pungent. You can also chop them into stir-frys like a vegetable. Our fave? Grill them whole, seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper. Heat tames the scapes' garlicky bite, and they look gorgeous.

The easiest way to eat garlic scapes is with your fingers. Even better: Swipe them through mayo you've seasoned with lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Food Huggers
Credit: FOOD HUGGERS

12. PUT A LID ON IT A leftover onion half—the bane of every cook's existence. Enter Food Huggers. Designed to reduce food and plastic waste, these silicone discs snugly seal cut produce to extend its fridge life. They come in myriad colors and sizes (one is tiny enough to cap a banana), and the avocado hugger even has a dent for the pit. Assorted variety packs available, from $8. foodhuggers.com

Valentine Distilling Company’s White Blossom Vodka
Credit: Erin Keefer

13. JUST A SPRITZ I'm usually a brown spirits gal, but my brother turned me onto Valentine Distilling Company's White Blossom Vodka. It's made in Detroit, sweetened by Michigan sugar beets, and infused with grapefruit and elderflower. I love it in a summer spritzer—splashed into soda water over ice and garnished with a strip of grapefruit peel or sprig of basil. $30. valentinedistilling.comFrom Berit Thorkelson, MWL Writer