Want to create a back-yard ice rink this winter? Gertens is offering a free workshop to help you get started. A local expert will outline the process and what tools and supplies you'll need to build and customize a rink and maintain it throughout the winter. The workshop will be offered twice, at noon Saturday and again at noon on Dec. 8 at Gertens, 5500 Blaine Av., Inver Grove Heights.

Midwest Home Show

Looking for home improvement ideas or resources? Nov. 18 is last call for the Midwest Home Show, a showcase of more than 200 remodelers, landscapers, designers and home-related retailers.

Highlights of this year's show include six garden areas (including outdoor kitchens and entertaining areas created by landscape designers), holiday-themed tabletop displays and a chance to win a closet makeover in the "ugly closet contest."

Hours are 11 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Minneapolis Convention Center, 1301 2nd Av. S., Mpls. Tickets are $8 at the door, or $4 online at www.midwesthomeshow.com; $4 for seniors; free for ages 17 and under, and free for military members and their families.

'Holiday House' at MOA

If the Mall of America is one of your shopping destinations this holiday season, there's something new to visit. HGTV is bringing its Holiday House, a lifesize gingerbread house, to the MOA for five weeks starting Black Friday.

The house, located in the rotunda, will offer shoppers a chance to attend free demonstrations, and meet network stars including David Bromstad, Genevieve Gorder, Carter Oosterhouse, Sabrina Soto and others.

HGTV also is bringing its Pop-Up Showroom, a 2,000-square-foot store on Level 1 highlighting the products in the HGTV Home Collection, from paint, flooring and furniture to lighting, accessories and plants.

The Holiday House and Pop-Up Showroom will be open through Jan. 1. Hours are 11 a.m.-8 p.m. (11 a.m.-6 p.m. on Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day).

For more information and appearance schedules for HGTV stars, visit www.mallofamerica.com.

Kitchens for old houses

If you love your older home -- but want to update its cramped, outdated kitchen, the Twin Cities Bungalow Club can help. Kitchen designer Lynne Stryker, owner of Spaces Into Places, will present "Small Space Kitchen Design for Older Homes," an illustrated talk on kitchen solutions for vintage houses.

She'll focus on fixes that stay within the original footprint, including designs and storage ideas that maximize space.

The talk will be offered at 1:30 p.m. Nov. 18 at Hillcrest Community Recreation Center, 1978 Ford Pkwy., St. Paul. The cost is $3 (free to club members). No reservations necessary.


Presidential homes

Step into the homes of the leaders of the free world in "Houses of the Presidents."

The book takes readers on a pictorial tour of 22 presidential homes, with quick looks at 15 more. The houses range from modest childhood homes to grand estates filled with the trappings of success.

The tour begins with George Washington's Mount Vernon, one of the most famous presidential abodes, and ends with a less familiar home, the one-story Texas ranch house where George H.W. Bush raised another president, George W. Bush.

Author Hugh Howard uses the houses as a device to relate the stories of the presidents and the forces that shaped them. He includes anecdotes that humanize the homes' powerful occupants, such as Benjamin Harrison donning a Santa suit to delight his grandchildren and Calvin Coolidge grieving over the death of his 16-year-old son.

Photos by Roger Straus III let us see how the presidents lived. He captures dining rooms, game rooms and other sites of happy gatherings, as well as slave cabins that remind us of the uglier realities of America's past.

"Houses of the Presidents" is published by Little, Brown and Co. and sells for $40 in hardcover.