Writing a new chapter for a well-loved piece of furniture is a slow and reverent process for Minneapolis-based upholsterer Nicole Crowder. Over the summer, she opened a studio space for her design consultations and upholstery business. In January, she'll launch a furniture collection at World Market, so you can enjoy her bold, eclectic style in even more ways.
Credit: Courtesy of Brian Powell/French Knot
Through her Lafayette, Indiana, company, French Knot, Lindsay Mason sells a wide assortment of expressive, sustainably made goods, including a collection of cozy, textural felted wool stockings, $55 each, handcrafted by women in Nepal.
With blooms that last more than two months, these mail-order orchids, $35 each, from Green Circle Growers in Ohio make great gifts. They come in pretty ceramic pots, grow up to 20 inches, and care is easy: Water with ice cubes once a week.
During Diwali, the Indian Festival of Lights, Chicago's already-vibrant Devon Avenue transforms into a colorful, twinkling corridor (November 2–6 this year). Take a stroll to soak up the atmosphere of sari shops and Indian markets, then dine at one of the many restaurants offering special holiday menus. Eating sweets is considered auspicious—try Kaju Katli or Ladoo at Sukhadia Sweets and Snacks.
Credit: Courtesy of Grant Gunderson
100 Slopes of a Lifetime
National Geographic's new 100 Slopes of a Lifetime book, $31 on Amazon, is like a bucket list of the world's ultimate ski slopes. Arranged by skill level, each page details a ski resort or backcountry locale and must-try trail to shred. Spots in both Michigan and Minnesota get nods.
You won't be haunted by the Ghost of Christmas Past this year. For the first time since 2010, the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis will debut a fresh take on A Christmas Carol, with new sets, costumes and sound design. The production is the world premiere of Chicago-based director Lavina Jadhwani's adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic. Watch as Ebenezer Scrooge learns an important lesson about opening his heart. "It's an evergreen reminder of our best selves, and that's why people of all ages flock to it," says the show's director, Joseph Haj. "Theater creates community, and A Christmas Carol is a shining example of how a story can bring us together." Catch it November 6–December 27.
Credit: Illustration: Grace Nelson
Trees for Troops
St. Louis-based Trees for Troops has shipped more than 260,000 Christmas trees to U.S. military families stationed around the world since 2005— a small token that brings tremendous joy to those who receive them. This year, the charity has created a list of farms and tree lots where you can donate a tree while shopping for your own. Or chip in financially via their website.
Credit: Derek Johnson
Feed to Follow
Derek Johnson started an Instagram for his pet duck, Ben Afquack, as a joke. Some 90,000 followers later, Ben has become a local celebrity, regularly recognized in public. (With that fabulous waddle and air of content curiosity, who coul miss him?) Whether he's snacking in the bath or exploring an ice castle, Ben's living his best life making people smile.
Credit: Jaime Kelter Davis
Scott Simpson, a skilled trades employer in Chicago, cofounded Revolution Workshop with a simple mindset: A hammer and nails can't solve every problem, but those basic tools can do a world of good. The nonprofit aims to reduce inequity by providing construction job training to people in marginalized communities, which in turn helps grow and diversify the city's pool of qualified workers. Since 2018, 185 people have completed the program, with 90 percent of graduates securing jobs locally. "Individuals who come to our training are from underserved, underinvested and disenfranchised communities that have truly been left behind," says Manny Rodriguez, executive director. "We provide these individuals with skills they'll have for a lifetime."
Holiday tip: Revolution Workshop sells wood furniture and products made by its graduates. Their cutting boards, plant stands and coasters support the cause and make great gifts.
As part of our Good Neighbors program, highlighting unique Midwest nonprofits and individuals making our communities stronger, Midwest Living has donated $500 to Revolution Workshop.
Some people excel at cake decorating. For the rest of us, Renée LaReau launched South Bend Baking Supply (named for her Indiana town). Just lay her wood stencils over a cake or pumpkin pie, and sift cocoa or powdered sugar to create lovely snowflakes, ferns, hearts and more. From $16.
Credit: Courtesy of Cask & Kettle
Spiked cider and coffee pods (with booze inside) for single-serve coffee makers. How handy! Cask & Kettle Hot Cocktails, $15, are from Battle Creek, Michigan, and available in five flavors.