Our writers and editors share their top picks for home, garden, travel, life and food.
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Home and Garden

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handling flowers on wooden table
Credit: Courtesy of Flowers for Dreams

Flowers by Mail

Stylish flower arrangements for you and transformative donations for local communities—a win-win. Flowers for Dreams, a floral shop in Detroit, Chicago and Milwaukee, contributes 25 percent of net profits to charities supporting social justice and mental health. Now they're bringing the shops to you, with DIY flower-arranging subscriptions. Receive a weekly, biweekly or monthly box of fresh blooms, plus how-to videos from their pros. The first shipment even includes clippers. $50 per delivery. 

Candace Mary Interiors

Designer Candace Griffin recently moved from Michigan to the Chicago area. Follow her at @candacemaryinteriors for inspiring sneak peeks of recent projects—including the ongoing renovation work at her own new home, plus occasional snaps of her dog, Dilla.

Colorful wall calendar
Credit: Courtesy of Poketo

Spectrum Wall Calendar

"Talk about big plans! I spotted this calendar at one of my fave Detroit stores, Post."—Dorothy Hernandez, MWL writer. $52. mutualadoration.com

Travel

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culture museum kansas city
Credit: David Remley

Making a Museum

The renovation of Corinthian Hall includes spaces for interactive programming, like a kitchen and a theater.

A city museum should represent its community—and that's not something static. In 2015, the Kansas City Museum in Missouri announced a plan for a thoughtful redesign that reflects the city's evolution. Highlights include a complete renovation of Corinthian Hall, built in 1910, as well as an oral history project that documents the stories of Kansas Citians through videos, documentaries and digital storytelling. After seven years and $22 million in renovations, the museum reopened in October as a showcase of the modern cultural hub.

chicago bean cloud gate art
Credit: Courtesy of Choose Chicago

Ask Bean

If The Bean (aka Cloud Gate) could talk, it would have a lot to say— that's the idea behind a fun new tool that turns the iconic Chicago sculpture into a trip planner. Type in questions about the Windy City at Explore with the Bean. Powered by an AI Chat Bot, the comically self-aware Bean will respond with tips for restaurants, events, hotels and tours, along with wise cracks about its name and how it would get around town if it left Millennium Park. Turns out, this Bean is reflective in more ways than one.

illustration doughnuts
Credit: Illustration by Grace Nelson

A Day for Doughnuts

New Orleans celebrates Fat Tuesday with Mardi Gras parades and king cakes. England, with crepes. Poland's answer: Pączki. These jam-filled doughnuts (pronounced punch-key) originated as a way to use up lard, sugar and eggs before Lent.

In areas of the Midwest with deep Polish roots, especially Michigan and Chicago, people line up at bakeries for freshly fried treats the morning of Pączki Day (March 1 this year). Near Detroit, the town of Hamtramck even hosts an annual festival the Saturday prior, with live music and a 5K run—to make room for all those sugar-dusted doughnuts.

"The taste: I love raspberry. The tradition: Mine is New Palace Bakery in Hamtramck. it's worth the wait in line!"—Kristin Bienert, Custom Media Editor.

Life

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Jacob Cramer Love for our Elders letter Love from Scotland
Credit: Courtesy of Love for Our Elders

Sincerely Yours

Even at age 13, Jacob Cramer recognized the power of kindness. After his grandfather died, the Cleveland teen began writing letters to older adults—a gesture that evolved into Love For Our Elders. Since launching the nonprofit in 2013, Cramer has facilitated more than a quarter- million letters, penned by some 60,000 individuals. And he's also established a holiday, National Letter to an Elder Day, on February 26. "It's really remarkable how willing and excited others are to help fight elder neglect and loneliness," says Cramer, now a college senior. His model is unique because it's personal. Rather than inviting generic greeting cards, his website highlights a few seniors (nominated by family or caretakers) each month with mini bios, so you know who you're writing to—their interests, their challenges, their name. The nominator receives and delivers the mail. This year, Cramer plans to publish a picture book and expand Love For Our Elders' local chapter program, but one-to-one letters remain at the heart ofhis mission: "A small gesture can have a big impact." 

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

Soul Sister Ceramics storefront old gas station
Credit: Courtesy of Soul Sister Ceramics

Soul Proprietor

In a tiny filling station in Courtland, Kansas, you'll find a big dream. At Soul Sister Ceramics, Shanna Lindberg sells jewelry made of Flint Hills clay, plus other goodies. Her on-site painting events and quick-selling stock have inspired other local entrepreneurs. "There is a huge 'rural by choice' movement happening in Courtland," says Lindberg, "and I'm thankful to be a part of that." Northern Kansas too far to drive? Check out Soul Sister's monthly jewelry subscription. 

Feed to Follow

Full of colorful flowers, food and animals, the cheerful Instagram feed of Minneapolis illustrator Asahi Nagata brightens my dreariest winter days. Born in Japan, Nagata says vintage children's books inspired her highly pigmented style.

Food

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What We Hunger For Book
Credit: Carson Downing

What We Hunger For

Edited by Korean-born adoptee Sun Yung Shin, this anthology of personal essays—each written by an immigrant or refugee who settled in the Midwest— explores how food can be a source of strength, pain, love, community and identity when you're living far from where you were born (Minnesota Historical Society Press, $19).

Blakes Seed Based snack bars
Credit: Carson Downing

Bar Routine

Blake's Seed Based, a Chicago biz that makes allergen-free snack bars, has expanded their rice crispy treat line to include chocolate and birthday cake flavors—I'm obsessed. They're sweet enough to satisfy afternoon sugar cravings, but the ingredient list is cleaner and more nutritious than my usual go-to cookies. In stores and online, from $18 for 18. 

double comfort hot sauces
Credit: Carson Downing

Hot Topic

Many businesses contribute a small cut of profits to charities. Double Comfort Foods gives away everything. Based in Columbus, Ohio, and inspired by Newman's Own, the socially conscious company sells a trio of Southern-style hot sauces, plus barbecue sauce and spicy rimming salt. All proceeds go to food pantries— 140,000 meals donated since 2014. From $8.