Holiday Gift Guide: Stellar Stocking Stuffers

Originally published in Lavender Magazine, November 2019

Quality doesn’t have to cost hundreds of dollars. Here is a roundup of companies, including three based in Minnesota, who are making products anyone would love to receive this holiday season. And keep reading for some exclusive deals!

Wool Liner & Deerskin Choppers
Steller Handcrafted Goods

Minneapolis-based Steller Handcrafted Goods got its start eight years ago after owner Julie Steller purchased a pair of repurposed wool sweater mittens. She was determined to make another pair. Today, Steller’s team consists of 13 women who create mittens, hats, purses, coats and more using repurposed wool sweaters and leather clothing along with Nordic braid and vintage buttons.

These Wool Liner and Deerskin Choppers will help any Minnesotan get through a bitter winter. The outside layer is deerskin sourced from Minnesota and the inner layer is a high-quality repurposed wool sweater with polar fleece lining. The cuffs come up to your wrist, meaning that snow and ice won’t find their way in when you’re brushing snow off your car.

Exclusive deal: use promo code DEC2019 to get 10% off orders over $50 through December 31st, 2019.

Best Sellers Basket
Redhead Creamery

Redhead Creamery has been making cheese for just over five years on cheesemaker’s Alise Sjostrom’s parent dairy farm. She dreamed to be a part of her family’s business ever since she was 17 years old. They offer tours of the farm, located in Brooten, Minnesota, on Fridays and Saturdays.

Their Best Sellers Basket is sure to please. It includes Redhead’s Lucky Linda Clothbound Cheddar (named after Alise’s mom), Little Lucy Brie (named after Alise’s daughter), and a bag of Ridiculously Good Cheddar Cheese Curds.

This holiday season, give someone whiskey-flavored cheese! Redhead Creamery teams up with Panther Distillery, in nearby Osakis, to make the North Fork Whiskey Washed Munster, a limited-production cheese which uses Panther’s Minnesota 14 whiskey.

While you’re on their online store, I would definitely throw a jar of the Velvet Bees Honey Butter in your order. You can eat it with a spoon.

Exclusive deal: use promo code LAVENDER2019 to get 15% off all online orders through December 15th, 2019.

Magnetic Wood Bow Tie Box Set
photo credit: Lindsey Graham

I was introduced to Virginia-based SwitchWood a few years ago and immediately became obsessed with their bow ties. They are clip on, but what really blows everyone’s minds is that the wood pieces are magnetic, meaning you can switch out the grains with the fabric pieces to create different looks. It makes for a great conversation piece. These aren’t your ordinary bow ties.

I would recommend starting with a wood bow tie box set, which will get you one bow tie with two sets of grain, meaning you’ll have two different bow ties. In addition to bow ties, they make sunglasses, cuff links and more, all made of wood.

Exclusive deal: use promo code SWITCH to get 20% off everything on SwitchWood’s website through December 20th, 2019.

I Have a Big Heart On card
Bruno Press

Mary Bruno inherited her letterpress print shop from her father, who was an art professor at St. Cloud State University. He acquired old letterpress equipment in the late 80’s and early 90’s, which Mary is now putting to good use.

A self-proclaimed “professional cusser”, Bruno was placing swear words, along with edgy, irreverent sentiment, on cards before it was a thing. She’s been at it for nearly ten years.

Cards are the mainstay of Bruno Press, and there is a LGBT selection is available. They’re sold online and in the Twin Cities at Mitrebox Framing Studio, the Electric Fetus and the Minnesota Center for Book Arts.

In addition to cards, Bruno Press makes to-do lists, note cards, calendars, and coasters.

Exclusive deal: use promo code LAVENDER to get free shipping on all online orders through December 20th, 2019.

You will find the work from dozens of Minnesota makers at the following stores:

The Collective, Rockville

  • Open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays

Minnesota Makers, Robbinsdale

  • Open Tuesdays through Saturdays

Weathered Revivals, St. Joseph

  • Open Thursdays through Sundays



31 can’t miss events in Minnesota this July

Not much gets better than July in Minnesota! There’s plenty to do with long summer nights. Bonus: you don’t have to spend 20 minutes putting on a parka and scraping ice off your windshield!

I compiled a list of events happening around the state. Many are your suggestions! Is there one I forgot? Let me know! Fill out the form at the bottom of this page. Happy summer!

  1. July and fireworks go hand in hand. Here are Minnesota cities with great 4th of July shows:
  2. Check out a good ol’ fashioned community festival:
  3. Sing with the Twin Cities Beer Choir. The concept is simple and quite fun. The group gathers as a brewery, bar or restaurant and hand out “hymnals” to attendees. The music are melodies you are familiar with, but the words are switched out to involve drinking beer. Many Twin Cities Beer Choir participants are alumni from those really good Minnesota Lutheran college choirs, so as a group, they sound quite good. It’s a very lighthearted time. Their July meetup takes place at Spring Cafe, located at the Como Lakeside Pavilion in Saint Paul. (July 3)
  4. The PGA Tour stops in Minnesota with the brand new 3M Open. The field has yet to be announced when this list was published, but Phil Mickelson has already announced he will play. Tournament play takes place July 4-7, but festivities go all week at the TPC Twin Cities in Blaine. (July 1-7)
  5. Head down to the Mississippi River in Northeast Minneapolis to watch a Twin Cities River Rats show. Every Thursday night, this ski team puts on a free show filled with stunts, jumps and pyramids all on the water. They do have a show on the 4th of July, which is followed by fireworks. They also have a bonus performance on Friday, July 5th. They’re super family-friendly. Bring a blanket! (July 4, 11, 18 and 25)
  6. Little Mekong is the Asian business and cultural district in Saint Paul. It runs along University Avenue between Mackubin and Galtier Streets. At the tail end of the 4th of July weekend, businesses in the area hold the Little Mekong Night Market, which is a huge street festival with really good food,  unique shopping and lots of entertainment. It’s inspired by the night markets you would find in southeast Asia. It runs from 5-10 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday. (July 6-7)
  7. The Minnesota Orchestra starts their annual Sommerfest concert series by performing the soundtrack to the Disney Pixar movie, “Coco.” Sommerfest 2019 has a Latin American theme, with concerts throughout the month of July. It should also mark the expected debut of the new Peavey Plaza, the public park space next to Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis. (July 6-7)
  8. If you can’t wait for the Minnesota State Fair to start, check out the Ramsey County Fair in Maplewood. Admission is free. (July 10-14)
  9. There’s no need to head west to catch a classic rodeo! The town of Hamel is just west of Plymouth and since 1981, has hosted a rodeo with barrel racing, steer wrestling and more. More impressive: the Hamel Rodeo is operated by 5 non-profit groups; the large event doesn’t have a single paid staff member. (July 11 – 14)
  10. Kacey Musgraves, Semisonic, Jason Mraz and Hanson headline the Basilica Block Party in Minneapolis. The two-night outdoor concert first started in 1995 to raise money for the Basilica of St. Mary. (July 12-13)
  11. A spot featuring one of the best meat raffles in the Minnesota is hosting a parking lot fish fry. Stop by Bull’s Horn in south Minneapolis on July 13 for a fishing tournament, music, drinks, and of course, fried fish.
  12. Celebrate French independence, Bastille Day, on either side of the Mississippi River. In Minneapolis, Barbette hosts its annual block party from 2-9 pm. In Saint Paul, Alliance Francaise and Meritage host an outdoor family-friendly celebration outside of Landmark Center from 12-6 pm. (July 14)
    • Lurcat 2
      Cafe Lurcat in Minneapolis is one of more than 50 restaurants participating in MplsSt.Paul Magazine’s Restaurant Week July 14-19.
  13. Enjoy $10-25 lunches and $15-35 dinners at some great Twin Cities restaurants during MplsSt.Paul Magazine’s Restaurant Week. Over 50 spots are participating. My personal favorites include 4 Bells, Cafe Lurcat, Corner Table, FireLake Grill House and Cocktail Bar, The Freehouse, Holman’s Table and Lela. (July 14-19)
  14. The Minneapolis Movies in the Park series continues all month with free films shown at parks across the city. Stop by the Nicollet Island Pavilion on Monday, July 15 for “Free Solo,” a National Geographic documentary following Alex Honnold as he attempts to climb El Capitan at Yosemite National Park without any ropes. I recently saw it and it’s riveting.
  15. Once a month, The Spring Street Tavern in Northeast Minneapolis hosts Pundamonium, a pun slam competition. Those who think they are punny are welcome to show off their skills. Participants are selected first come, first serve. The five judges are pre-selected members of the audience. (July 17)
  16. Italian restaurant, Pazzaluna hosts its annual Wheels of Italy street party in downtown Saint Paul on Thursday, July 18. Stop by to see some of the finest street cars along with live music. The car show is free to attend.
  17. Twin Cities Summer Jam at Canterbury Park in Shakopee features three days of big names in music: Tim McGraw, Aerosmith, Pitbull, REO Speedwagon, Soul Asylum, and others. (July 18 – 20)
  18. People from around the Twin Cities will make their way to the Rondo neighborhood of Saint Paul for the Rondo Days Festival and Parade on Saturday, July 20. The parade begins at 10 am with the festival running from 12-7 pm.
  19. Enjoy Celtic music, Highland dance and a bag pipe band competition during the Minnesota Scottish Fair & Highland Games at Central Park in Eagan. (July 19-20)
  20. Minnesota Monthly hosts its Fine Spirits Classic inside Orchestra Hall. Sample cocktails from the best mixologists in the state. (July 24)
  21. Competitive eater Joey Chestnut will be at The Great Midwest Rib Fest at Mystic Lake Casino Hotel in Prior Lake. His mission: to eat more than 13.76 pounds of pork meat in 12 minutes. The three day festival is free to attend and also includes performances by Gretchen Wilson and Sugar Ray. (July 25-27)
  22. The iconic Porky’s drive-in diner in Saint Paul has a new home in Hastings. It’s a part of the Little Log House Pioneer Village, a collection of historic buildings which are restored to make it feel like you are stepping back in time. The village is open to the public one weekend a year. Stop by the last full weekend of July for the Little Log House Antique Power Show, which allows you to walk through the Village. This year, they welcome artifacts from the Cottage View Drive-In in Cottage Grove. (July 26-28)
  23. The British choral group, Libera, is astonishing. Boys range in age from seven to 16 and members are from schools throughout London. They tour internationally and are visiting Saint Paul once again. I had the privilege of hearing them the last time they were in Minnesota and I just wanted to melt in my seat. The venue is ideal, too: the gorgeous Cathedral of Saint Paul. (July 26)
  24. Fitness studio Alchemy 365 is taking over the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and will offer a free class as part of the Minneapolis Aquatennial festivities. All fitness levels all welcome, just bring your own yoga mat. Check in begins at 5 pm with the class starting at 6:00. (July 26)
  25. Watch (or walk in) a parade of dogs in northeast Minneapolis. The gathering point is right on the shores of the Mississippi at St. Anthony Main. (July 26)
  26. Say ‘ooh, ahh’ at one of the largest fireworks displays in the country. The Minneapolis Aquatennial fireworks display start promptly at 10 p.m. on Saturday, July 27. The best viewpoint is near the Guthrie Theater.
  27. The Loring Park Art Festival in Minneapolis features 140 juried artists in a beautiful setting. (July 27-28)
    water taxi.png
  28. Avoid downtown Minneapolis traffic by taking a water taxi! That’s right, the Minneapolis Water Taxi is a solar powered boat and is currently privately operated, meaning that you can book it for your group of friends for an intimate ride down the Mississippi River. The Water Taxi can fit two to six people and does private events for up to one hour. It goes from 10 am to 10 pm.
  29. Rent a Lime or Spin scooter for a ride. They’re very simple to use and their max speeds only get to 15 MPH, so it’s hard to lose control. Pro tip: find someone who has already rented the scooters to refer you before you download the app. That way, you both get a free credit!
  30. Be in control of how much beer you want to sample. Stop by the new First Draft Taproom & Kitchen near Target Field in Minneapolis. They have over 50 beers, wines, ciders and kombucha on tap. You get to control how much you would like. If you’re curious, the average pour is about 5 ounces.
  31. Make sure you dine al fresco. Watch my Twin Cities Live segment featuring the 5 best restaurant, brewery and winery patios in Minnesota!Also on Give Me the Mike: Best places to play bingo in Minnesota

Is there something I missed? Please let me know!


The 5 best meat raffles in Minnesota

In Minnesota, meat raffles are a way of life.

It’s a simple concept — think of it as ‘bingo for people with short attention spans.’

For a $1, you purchase a ticket. The ticket has a number on it. Then there’s a big wheel. If they land on your number, you win meat. Maybe chops. Maybe bacon. Maybe filet.

Now, that’s where the similarities between various meat raffles end. Not all of them are created equal. So I went on a search for the best meat raffles around Minnesota and presented my findings on KSTP’s Twin Cities Live.

Crystal VFW Post 494, Crystal

  • Fridays at 4:00 p.m. and Saturdays at 2:00 p.m.
  • $1 per ticket, each ticket has four numbers
  • Meat from Hackenmueller’s in Robbinsdale and Fedor’s in Mounds View
  • $5 raffles will have a $110 grand prize
  • Also includes electronic races

Rosetown American Legion, Roseville

  • Sundays at 3:00 p.m.
  • $1 per ticket
  • Meat from Angus Meat Market in Maplewood
  • Each winner receives $25 worth of meat, you can also select at $25 gift card

The Narrows Saloon, Navarre

  • Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. and Sundays at 10:30 a.m.
  • $1 per ticket
  • They will come to your table to sell tickets
  • Meat from Jubilee in Mound

Bull’s Horn Food and Drink, Minneapolis

  • Mondays at 6:00 p.m.
  • $1 per ticket
  • Supports Minneapolis Youth Hockey
  • Meat from Everett’s Meats in Minneapolis

Vegas Lounge, Minneapolis

  • Thursdays at 6:00 p.m.
  • Karaoke 7 nights at week too!

Check out my other roundups of what’s ‘Worth the Trip’

Three outdoor events in the Twin Cities July 8 and 9 (and they’re family-friendly)

800-WHTWI joined Lindsey Brown on KSTP-TV to highlight three outdoor events happening this weekend, July 8 and 9, 2017. Watch the video here and get more information by clicking the links below. Have a great weekend!