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Traverse Traveler Holiday Gift Guide 2012

Traverse Traveler Holiday Gift Guide 2012

Writing a Holiday Gift Guide has become a tradition. I realize scouring the stores in search of the perfect gift isn’t for everyone. So I try to help out this time of year and do a little hunting on your behalf. Secretly I’m also trying to show some support for our local retailers who work so hard to find unique items that rival that of chain stores and online giants. Why buy big box, when you can buy local and boost the economy in our own backyard.

This year I’ve divided my shopping list into the following categories. I hope you’ll find something that’s just right for a friend or loved one.

Goodies for Foodies

All Geeked Out

Girlfriend Gifts

Wine About It

Hostess with the Mostest

For the Kiddos


Goodies for Foodies

Traverse Traveler Gift Guide 2012 Sleeping Bear Raw HoneySleeping Bear Farms Raw Honey | MI Farm Market $12.99
One of my absolute favorite food discoveries this year is this raw honey from Sleeping Bear Farms in Beulah, Michigan. This is natural, uncooked, unfiltered honey. It’s a little cloudy and granular but all the better for it. And it’s full of health benefits from the enzymes, pollen and floral essences the bees leave behind. One of my secret weapons against a cold is a teaspoon of this honey the moment I feel a sore throat coming on. Honey has antibacterial qualities. And who doesn’t love an excuse to eat a spoonful of goodness!


Traverse Traveler Gift Guide 2012 Cranberry Cherry SauceCranberry Cherry Sauce | The Cherry Stop $7.00
We love our cherry products in Northern Michigan. But sometimes it’s hard to find something new for the cherry lover in the family. Here’s one I discovered on a recent trip to the Cherry Stop. Instead of the traditional cranberry sauce with your turkey this year why not liven it up with cranberry cherry sauce. No need for a recipe, the folks at The Cherry Stop have mixed up a batch with just the right blend.


Traverse Traveler Gift Guide 2012 Fustinis MinisCookbook Samplers | Fustini’s $49.00
Anyone who has seen my kitchen counter knows how much I love Fustini’s. And I’ve given their oil & vinegar combinations as gifts in the past. So what’s new this year? They have a brand new cookbook, “How Fustini’s Do Fustini’s,” a compilation of recipes from Fustini’s employees and customers. And for the holidays they’ve paired it with 4 mini bottles of oils & vinegars in flavor combos that work with the book. Choose from 4 sampler packages and try something new this season.


Traverse Traveler Gift Guide 2012 Gallery Fifty tongsHandmade Wooden Tongs | Gallery 50 $15.00 and $19.00
Why not have a little fine art in the kitchen? Stop by Gallery 50 in The Village Mercato and choose from a selection of handmade wooden tongs. Constructed from beautiful materials like zebrawood and rosewood, and available in large or small sizes, these handmade tongs are as stylish as they are functional. Great gift idea for men and women, for the chef or the casual cook.


Traverse Traveler Gift Guide 2012 Sleeping Bear Farms mustardSleeping Bear Farms Pepper Honey Mustard | MI Farm Market $4.99
Mustard is probably my favorite condiment, next to homemade salsa. So it’s nice to find a fun new alternative to the store bought standbys. This Pepper Honey Mustard has a great kick from real chili peppers. And of course it includes some Sleeping Bear Farms star thistle honey. Great for spreading on sandwiches, as a dip for pretzels or as a glaze on fish or meats headed for the grill.


All Geeked Out

Traverse Traveler Gift Guide 2012 Rocker iPhone caseRocker iPhone Case | The Pod Drop $19.00
Cases for the iPhone 5 are somewhat hard to find since they’re still new on the market. But The Pod Drop has you covered. Stop by their location in Campus Plaza next to Jimmy Johns and check out the line of Rocker cases. The silicone skin pairs with a hard body case (sold separately), and comes in dozens of colors and patterns, which make these cases completely customizable. And at $8.99 for the skin, and $9.99 for the cover, they’re priced right for stocking stuffers too.


Traverse Traveler Gift Guide 2012 Nest knit glovesSmartphone Gloves | Nest $27.00
As you can imagine, I’m on my iPhone all the time, especially when I’m out and about town. Now that winter is here I’m constantly removing my gloves so I can answer a call, scroll through messages on Twitter or snap a photo on Instagram. I’ve tried other versions of smartphone gloves with little luck…and they weren’t very cute either. That’s why I love these knit gloves I found at Nest. Cute and functional.


Traverse Traveler Gift Guide 2012 FRUITstand FRUITstand | CityMac $10.00
Here’s a cool local product for the tech geek. FRUITstand is a simple plastic-coated stand to hold a variety of eDevices, or iDevices if you prefer. It’s small, lightweight, and best of all it’s made by a Traverse City company, PDM Industries. I discovered the FRUITstand on a recent trip into CityMac. They’re available in a variety of fresh colors. Whether you’re looking for a landing spot for your Kindle, or a charging station for you iPhone or iPad, this little stand will do the trick. And at that price if you take it on vacation and forget it you won’t sweat the replacement cost. Now if you forget your device…that’s another story.


Traverse Traveler Gift Guide 2012 Paper RobotsPiperoid Paper Pipe Robots | Cool Stuff Express $15.95
For the kid, or the kid at heart, there’s a big trend in paper art and origami. These cool creations are made from printed and punched paper pipes that are folded into crazy robots. Does your cubicle need a little comic entertainment? If you thought origami was too girly, this might change your mind.


Traverse Traveler Gift Guide 2012 Q-Man magnetsMini Q-Man & Q-Ant Magnets | Cool Stuff Express $3.97 — $6.95
Trying to find something for that hard-to-buy-for teen in your family? Guys, gals and geeks will love these bendable, flexible, colorful magnet men and giant ants. The powerful magnets stick to each other or metal surfaces allowing for connectable, collectable fun. They’re also strong enough to support 14 sheets of paper! Hang ’em in a locker, file cabinet or on the fridge. Image courtesy of Cool Stuff Express


Girlfriend Gifts

Traverse Traveler Gift Guide 2012 Becky Thatcher Designs necklaceStarry Night Necklace | Becky Thatcher Designs starting at $275.00
I love a classic necklace that can dress up an outfit, or be worn with a casual sweater and jeans. That’s what drew me to this beautiful jewelry from Becky Thatcher Designs in Traverse City. Made from black spinel and freshwater pearls in a variety of shades from white to gray this necklace would be a lovely addition to anyone’s jewelry collection. And the matching earrings start at $65. Perfect.


Traverse Traveler Gift Guide 2012 Return of Sexy eyeshadowReturn of Sexy Eyeshadow Collection | Venus $48.00
Ladies who love a little drama will be drawn to this wet/dry eyeshadow collection from Too Faced. There are three color collections, 15 shadows full of sparkle and dimension, a waterproof black liner and eyeshadow insurance (a primer for your eyelids). That’s bringin’ sexy back.


Traverse Traveler Gift Guide 2012 Book of the MonthSurprise Book of the Month | Brilliant Books $66.00 – $295.00
This is a brilliant idea from Brilliant Books. If you have a literary fan who is always searching for a new read, consider giving them a new title every month. Each subscription is unique because the book selections are based on the reader’s preferences in genre, author, likes and dislikes. You can give a year of hardcover books ($295) or paperback ($185) or choose 6-month or 4-month options for as little as $66. In the six years since they started the program they’ve only had three books come back for exchange — and two were because the recipient already read and loved the selection.


Traverse Traveler Gift Guide 2012 felted hatsFelted Wool Hats by Hatty Matty | Lilies of the Alley $24.95 — $64.95
A handmade hat is a statement of style. And in northern Michigan it’s practically a necessity. I love these beautiful hats from Hatty Matty, aka Cindy Hardy the owner of Lilies of the Alley. These felted wool hats come in all sorts of styles and colors. And there are sizes for kids as well as adults with a range in prices for each. In case you’ve never been, Lilies of the Alley is tucked in the alley behind Brew and Brilliant Books in downtown Traverse City.


Traverse Traveler Gift Guide 2012 Butter lips and tipsLips & Tips | Venus $25.00
This cute combo comes from the folks at Butter, a London brand know for their fashion-forward colors. The nail polish and lip gloss from Butter is vegan-friendly, making this a great gift for the animal lover too. Venus carries a full line of Butter nail polish selections, but I especially loved some of their holiday line which is full of sparkle for the glam affect. Every girlfriend needs a little glitter, right?


Wine About It

Traverse Traveler Gift Guide 2012 Gallery 50 corkscrew2-in-1 Corkscrew & Bottle Stopper | Gallery 50 $35.00
Need a classy gift for your boss? Are you going to a holiday party and looking for something for the hostess who has everything? Choose from a selection of hand-turned wooden bottle stoppers. Twist the handle and you’ll revel the corkscrew hidden inside. I’m loving the green ones, made from box elder wood.


Traverse Traveler Gift Guide 2012 wine stackerStack wine bottle storage | Cool Stuff Express $9.95
This clever little black silicone wine bottle is the secret to storing your wine in a stack on the counter just like you’re supposed to… horizontally. Simply separate the bottle into two halves and position on either side of your wine bottles along a shelf or counter. The silicone grips to smooth surfaces and acts like bookends for your wine. Image courtesy of Cool Stuff Express


Traverse Traveler Gift Guide 2012 cork purseCork Purses | Gallery 50 $45.00 – $78.00
I am crazy for corks. In fact, I’ve created a whole Pinterest board dedicated to cork crafts. But I have yet to see another cork craft like this. Artist Jean Ackerman from Kingsley, Michigan is creating cork purses, many of which are decorated with corks from Michigan wineries. If you’re looking for a unique gift for a Michigan wine lover I think we’ve got you covered.


Traverse Traveler Gift Guide 2012 wine canteensSport Wine Canteen | Black Star Farms $26.50
Backpackers and beach goers will love this new canteen available in Rouge (red) and Blanc (green). If you’ve ever wanted to bring a bottle of wine to the park, on the boat or on a picnic, but worried about the glass bottle this is the perfect solution. These eco-friendly metal containers will fit a full bottle of wine! Take your vino to go, and no one will know. Comes in a variety of colors. Available at TASTES of Black Star Farms in The Village.


Traverse Traveler Gift Guide 2012 Forty-Five North RoseRosé of Cabernet Franc | Forty-Five North Vineyard & Winery $26.00
With hundreds of Michigan wines to choose from, it’s tough to narrow it down to one. So this is one of many that make up my list of favorites. The Rosé of Cabernet Franc from Forty-Five North is a great choice for holiday gifting because it suits so many palattes. I drink mosty whites, and lean toward the sweet, but this wine I love. My husband loves a good red, and he too was drawn to this rosé. Notes from the winemaker alude to big aromas of cherry and raspberry, a creamy mouth feel and noticeable tannins. This wine is great to give as well as receive. Image courtesy of Forty-Five North


Hostess with the Mostest

Traverse Traveler Gift Guide 2012 soy votive candleSoy Votive Candles | Red Ostrich $6.95
Looking for the hot seller this season? Search no further than these little beauties from Red Ostrich. Forget the tequila, pick up a double shot of soy. Soy candles that is. They carry 25 scents including the popular orange vanilla, black pepper and holiday spice. These tiny 2 oz. candles are an eco-friendly gift that everyone can enjoy. They burn clean and smell wonderful and are Made in the USA. Image courtesy of Red Ostrich


Traverse Traveler Gift Guide 2012 Paper Blanks journalsPaper Blanks | Premier Floral $17.00 – $29.00
It’s so much nicer to keep a journal when the process of holding and opening it are a pleasure. This collection of lined and unlined journals from Paper Blanks are really beautiful. I love the texture of the covers, and they have a lovely metal latch closure that harkens back to locked diaries and forbidden secrets. With traditional patterns these designs would also be suitable for man who loves to write or draw, or for use as a cottage guest book.


Traverse Traveler Gift Guide 2012 turtle dove soapsTurtle Doves Soaps | Venus $32.00
Your friends will feel so special when presented with this pretty package dressed in silver moire. Open it up and discover two turtle doves made of silky soap scented with tulip and hyacinth, resting in a porcelain bowl. It’s elegant enough for your mother-in-law to put next to the towels in the guest bath or thoughtful enough for your dearest friend.


Traverse Traveler Gift Guide 2012 dog pillowDog Pillows | Premier Floral $25.00
If your friend is a dog lover they’ll fall for these colorful and cozy pillows inspired by their four-legged friends. The moment I saw the Boston Tea Terrier I thought of my best friend who grew up with the bug-eyed little cuties. There are several designs to choose from including Eager Beagle and Black Lab Summer Cottages.


Traverse Traveler Gift Guide 2012 twig pencilsTwig Pencils | Gallery 50 $7.50 or $9.50
If your host is a letter writer, or they love the lodge look, these pencils will be a handy addition to their desk. If not, they’ll look great in a cup next to the phone at the cottage. Either way, these fat twig pencils, available in traditional or colored varieties, make a great hostess gift or stocking stuffer for the kids. Need to get to the point? Simply carve with a knife to sharpen the tip.


For the Kiddos

Traverse Traveler Gift Guide 2012 magnetic boardMagnetic Boards | Sweet Pea $14.95 / $22.95
Room decor is tough when the kids interests change every year. So why not keep it flexible and give them a magnetic board that looks great and can be decorated with the recipient in mind. These scalloped-edged metal squares are available in 12″ x 12″ or 18″ x 18″ sizes in several colors. This company sells a huge variety of magnet designs to completely customize the board. From alphabet letters to animals to holidays and more.


Traverse Traveler Gift Guide 2012 Gamago PhoneyGamaGo Phoney | Cool Stuff Express $4.95
The latest trend coming from Japan are these cute little animals to decorate your tween’s phone. They plug into the headphone jack, which means they’ll fit nearly any style smartphone, tablet or MP3 player. “A friend for your phone,” they say. Kids will love to collect these little plastic pets and customize their tech gadgets.


Traverse Traveler Gift Guide 2012 kids booksChildren’s Books | Brilliant Books $15.99 – $16.99
I stopped in to Brilliant Books to get a few recommendations for new titles the kids might like. Extra Yarn, The Cloud Spinner and This is Not My Hat would be great books for children 4-9 years old. They have colorful illustrations and stories that help children appreciate the value of Things. For more recommendations visit Brilliant Books and ask for Heather or Jack.


Traverse Traveler Gift Guide 2012 kids candyCrazy Candy | Cool Stuff Express prices vary
Kids always love what’s gooey, gross and flavored in unexpected ways. Cool Stuff Express on Union Street in Traverse City has a huge collection of all of the above. Some of this year’s most popular trends include anything with mustaches or bacon, tongue tattoos, flavored lipbalm and mints. And for the boys and girls who were less than cheery this holiday season: the classic gummy candy coal.


Traverse Traveler Gift Guide 2012 Elf on the ShelfElf on the Shelf | Toy Harbor $31.00
If you’re looking for a fun and engaging activity book to share with your children or grandchildren during the holiday season pick up an Elf on the Shelf. The book comes with an elf (boy or girl elf options now available) and a story book explaining how Santa sends scout elves out each Christmas to report on chilldren’s behavior. Once opened the children can name and register the elf at elfonashelf.com. Thanks to Christmas magic the elf travels each night to see Santa, and reappears in your home in a different location. My kids love finding out what our elf, Scuttle, has been up to while we were sleeping.



I hope you’ve enjoyed my collection of Holiday shopping ideas. You can find all of these items in northern Michigan stores, and many are available on their respective websites as well. Please spend some of your time and money this season supporting our local economy. Your gifts will be more unique, and your money will stay in the community.


Happy Holidays from Traverse Traveler!

Shop Local Michigan Holiday Gift Guide

Every year I scour the region for new ideas for the holiday gift giving season. This year’s theme is: Shop Local. We’re lucky to be surrounded by local retailers who work hard to fill their stores, galleries and pantries with unique finds from Michigan and across the nation. Let’s keep our neighbors in business and see what they have to offer before we fill our online carts and pull out the VISA.

Now I’ll hop off my soapbox and share this year’s categories:

Smitten with the Mitten

From Barrel to Glass

Handmade & Heartfelt

Foodie Finds

Host with the Most

Fun & Festive

Holiday Gift Guide 11 Mitten image

Smitten with the Mitten

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but this year seems to be the year of the Mitten. Michigan themed companies, gifts and accessories are everywhere! And for us proud Michiganders that’s a great thing. Here are a few suggestions for the Michigan loyalist in your family.

Michigan Mittens | Benjamin Twiggs

Everyone in Michigan knows we show our hometown by holding up our trusty hand map. When the weather turns cold you can hold your hand high and as their slogan says, “Always wear a map on your hands.” Available locally at Benjamin Twiggs. Michigan mittens are made in Clarkston, Michigan.

Michigan Ice Cube Trays | High Five Threads

I discovered these on Facebook, and was glad to see a local company carrying them. What a simple and clever way to share your love of the state. Two trays per package. And the yoopers in your family will be glad to see the design includes the upper and lower peninsula. Jell-O shots anyone? Available at High Five Threads in the Village mercato.

baabaazuzu Mittens

When a Michigan-based company makes mittens from recycled wool we can’t help but be smitten. Baabaazuzu, a Lake Leelanau company designs and creates unique wearables and ships them all around the world. Lucky for us they are available locally as well. Find their mittens in Traverse City at Cali’s and Golden Shoes and in Suttons Bay at The Painted Bird. You can also order online at baabaazuzu.com.

Michigan Soap | Michigan’s Gifts & Treasures

Handmade by The Sudsy Mitten Soap Co. in scents like Maple Syrup, Lake Effect and Michigan Honey, these little gems are the perfect stocking stuffer for the mitten lover in your house. Available at Michigan’s Gifts & Treasures in Interlochen.

Keep it Fresh Tee | High Five Threads

It wouldn’t be a Michigan themed gift list without one of the creative designs from High Five Threads in the Village in Traverse City. They pride themselves on Made in MI merchandise, designing several of their own T-shirt lines including the Keep it Fresh Tee. A portion of the proceeds go toward protecting the great lakes.

 Holiday Gift Guide 11 Spirits

From Barrel to Glass

Spirit of Pear | Black Star Farms

Looking for an impressive gift for the wine lover in your family? How about the Spirit of Pear from Black Star Farms featuring a real pear in the bottle. Everyone will ask, how’d they do that! You can tell them while wine starts in the vineyard, the bottle starts in the orchard. Available at all three Black Star Farms tasting room locations.

Redneck Wine Glass | Michigan’s Gifts & Treasures

Not every wine drinker boasts the sophistication of an oenophile. If your friend’s taste runs toward the box rather than the bottle — or if they just appreciate a clever gift — how about the redneck wine glass. It’s hard to get snooty when you’re drinking from a Ball jar. Especially when it’s sporting a hot pink boa. Available at Michigan’s Gifts & Treasures in Interlochen.

Corn Whiskey | Grand Traverse Distillery

The latest creation from our favorite local distiller, Grand Traverse Distillery, is their corn whiskey. Made from Northern Michigan corn, locally grown, and distilled into a fine spirit in Traverse City, this clear whiskey is unlike anything you’ve tasted. And it’s only available from the Distillery, so stop by and pick up a bottle.

Leelanau Brillante | Bel Lago Vineyard & Winery

Every holiday wine list needs a bubbly. So here’s my pick for the year, Leelanau Brillante from Bel Lago. Bursting with flavors of tropical fruit and peach, and made from Cayuga, Seyval and Vignoles — one of my favorite varietals— this is a great wine to give, or to save. Drink it while trimming the tree, wrapping presents, making cookies…

 Holiday Gift Guide 11 Handmade

Handmade & Heartfelt

Letter Necklaces | Gallery Fifty

Gallery Fifty customers love these sterling silver pendants and charms. Available in upper or lower-case letters and sold with or without the ball-chain necklace, these simple stamped pieces make great gifts. Perfect for teens, a neighbor, and your BFF. Created by Pellston artist Hanni Yothers and available at Gallery Fifty in the Village mercato.

Unity Collection | Korner Gem

I just love these. Shaped from Michigan beach stones like Leland Blue, Petoskey, granite and chain corral, these necklaces are one of a kind. The beads are sold separately or in pairs, and available in large and small sizes, they can be combined to create beautiful necklaces. Very affordable on their own, or add gemstones and accessory pieces for a truly magnificent gift. Designed and crafted on site at Korner Gem in Traverse City.

Glass Fortune Cookies | Gallery Fifty

Hand-blown boroscilicate glass (known for it’s durability, like Pyrex) each fortune cookie reveals a special message for your friend or loved one. Sold in a tiny take-out container they’re an adorable way to share the love this holiday season. Buy them for girlfriends, teachers, or anyone who needs some good fortune. Designed by Nancy Nagel of Colorado, and sold locally at Gallery Fifty.

Stone Cairn Earrings | Becky Thatcher Designs

This summer I noticed an increasing number of balanced stone sculptures on the beaches of Northern Michigan. These stone “cairns” inspired the work of Becky Thatcher who creates earrings from Lake Michigan beach stones gathered near her gallery in Glen Arbor. What a nice idea for the beach comber in your circle of friends. Available from Becky Thacher Designs in Traverse City, Glen Arbor, Leland and Harbor Springs.

Pretty Stinkin’ Cute Skirts | Pretty Stinkin’ Green

Without exaggeration, I cannot wear one of my Pretty Stinkin’ Green skirts without being stopped on the street by strangers admiring it and asking where it came from. So I would be remiss not to include my friends Deb & Hannah who design these amazing skirts. They are available at Michigan’s Gifts & Treasures and on Etsy, or you can visit their Facebook page to see how to get a custom made skirt from our own T-shirts.

Holiday Gift Guide 11 Foodie

Foodie Finds

Flavor Trio Oil & Vinegar with Cookbook | Fustini’s Oils & Vinegars

This year I’m excited to share new products from Fustinis: flavor trio bottle and their brand new cookbook. Available in three flavor combos (bread & vegetable, salad dressing, desserts) this stacked bottle design is a great way to present these unique products. And the cookbook will make sure your gift comes with plenty of instructions for use. Available at Fustini’s in Traverse City, Petoskey, Ann Arbor or Holland and online.

Coco Mojo | Sweet Asylum

If you like to pack gift baskets with Michigan treats you’ll want to make a stop at Sweet Asylum in the Village Mercato and pick up some Coco Mojos. These crunchy almonds are coated with a unique blend of cacao (not cocoa), spices and a little sugar for sweetness. The cacao is organic so you know you are enjoying a healthy snack. Sold with or without dried cherries.

Specialty Salts | Suttons Bay Trading Co.

If you have a chef on your shopping list you know it can be challenging to come up with a kitchen accessory they don’t already have. So why not add something unusual to their arsenal of flavors. Suttons Bay Trading Co., a new spice shop in Suttons Bay, has many options. But I found myself drawn to the colorful salts from around the world. Himalayan Pink, Black Hawaiian, Red Hawaiian and Smoked Course Sea Salt were just a few of the options available in store and online.

Slabtown Coffee Caramel Corn

Beware, this stuff is addictive. I ran into the owner, a friend from years back, in Oleson’s grocery store this summer and was introduced to her new product. Who knew that coffee and caramel corn would be such a perfect combination. And it’s made right here in Traverse City, which I love. You can find it in local grocery stores like Oleson’s or specialty shops like Suttons Bay Trading Co.

 Holiday Gift Guide 11 Hostess

Host with the Most

Jeri Mateus Mitten Plate | At Home

I love the creative painted designs of local ceramic artist Jeri Mateus of Lime Lake. This little mitten dish is only about 4″ square, but imagine it piled with a stack of homemade cookies and wrapped in celephane. Just a little something for your boss, a teacher or the holiday party host. Available at the little store with the lime green awning: At Home in Suttons Bay.

Magnetic Note Holder | Gallery Fifty

No more searching through drawers for a pen and notebook. This simple gift idea puts a standard 3×5″ notebook right where you need it: on the fridge, in a locker, file cabinet or other metallic surface. Embellished with colorful glass beads and created by artist Cherie Haney of Ann Arbor, these magnetic holders include a notebook and are also sold as a set including a magnetic pen holder. Available at Gallery Fifty in the Village mercato.

Handmade Mug | Michigan’s Gifts & Treasures

Whether they prefer coffee or tea your gift recipient is sure to love a handmade ceramic mug from artist Anne Marie. Designed especially for Michigan’s Gifts & Treasures in Interlochen these mugs are handpainted and stamped with the word Michigan or Interlochen. Package that with some coffee from Bud’s or a gift card and you’re good to go.

Glass Business Card Holder | Gallery Fifty

Need a gift that’s professional? Maybe something for your boss or a colleague? How about a handblown glass business card holder from Gallery Fifty. They have a large stock of colors to suit any style. And they’re affordable too. Classy, elegant and functional. What more do you need?

Holiday Gift Guide 11 Festive

Festive, Fun & Fantastic

Santa Gourd | Michigan’s Gifts & Treasures

Designed by artist Deb Mazur these santa sculptures are painted, antiqued and embellished. Made from dried gourds and hand-painted clay. Each design is original and unique. Available at Michigan’s Gifts & Treasures in Interlochen.

Winter Sports Ornaments | Woodland Creek Furniture

On my adventures this summer I discovered Woodland Creek Furniture is a treasure trove of holiday ornaments for the up-north outdoor enthusiast. They have hunting, fishing, hiking, snow sports, bears and a bevy of woodland creatures all waiting to hang on your tree. Stop by their showroom on US 31 North in Traverse City.

Mulling Spices | Suttons Bay Trading Co.

There’s no better smell at Christmas than cinnamon and cloves simmering away blending a cherry wine into a warm holiday treat. I discovered Suttons Bay Trading Co. makes their mulling spices available in single servings or a 3 oz. package. It’s great with Michigan wine, or apple cider for the non-alcoholic version. Yum!

Keith Smith Handpainted Ornaments | Country Christmas

I couldn’t possibly have a holiday gift guide without mentioning Country Christmas now that I know what their store is like after my visit this summer. There are too many things to mention, so I picked one that really caught my eye — the hand-painted wood ornaments from Traverse City artist Keith Smith. There are many designs available, but when they’re handpainted you know they’re all unique. Just promise me you’ll stop by Country Christmas on M-72 for a visit this season.

Leland & Fishtown Ornaments | Two Fish Gallery

If you have friends and family who summer in this area I’m sure they’d love a momento from one of everyone’s favorite local destinations: Fishtown in Leland. The Two Fish Gallery sells many different ornaments by artist Nancy Deyoung representing Leland, Fishtown and Leelanau County. Stop by and tell Jennifer I said Hi.

That’s a wrap for my holiday gift guide this season. But let me leave you with one final wish.

Shop at Small Businesses,

Shop Local,

and if you can’t make it into a Northern Michigan storefront, Shop Local Online!

By |2019-12-19T15:28:42-05:00November 22nd, 2011|Benzie, Hometown Highlights, Leelanau, Traverse City|0 Comments

10 Northern Michigan Places I’ve Never Been

Places I've Never Been graphic

This summer I’m on a mission to explore uncharted territory in my own backyard, and improve Michigan’s economy one purchase at a time.

The strategy is simple. Visit 10 places I’ve never been before…just because, I’ve never been.


Close your eyes and think about this for a moment. Wait…that makes reading rather difficult. Scratch that.

Better yet imagine, if you will, your morning commute. If you’re lucky enough to call northern Michigan home that drive probably takes you through quaint shopping districts, or perhaps a bayside cruise past restaurants, marinas and resorts. When you live in a tourist town, like Traverse City, you’re surrounded by unique destinations. But just like those beautiful bay views, you seldom stop the car to appreciate them.

When I’m running displays for Mealtickets & Unusual Ideas my route takes me across Grand Traverse, Benzie and Leelanau county every month, canvassing the same highways area travelers flock to for a taste of Northern Michigan. Along these drives I pass dozens of storefronts I’ve never been in. And that got me thinking, why not? What is so difficult about taking 15 minutes out of my trip to satisfy my curiosity, and hopefully find something I like. That’s when I decided to pick 10 new places and pay them a visit.

What’s the big deal about choosing some place new?

One of the best parts of being a tourist is exploring uncharted territory. You never know what you’re going to discover. When you’re on vacation, especially in a place you’ve never been, every site you see, every food you taste, every door unopened is the beginning of a new adventure. If you look at your own community from the eyes of a visitor you’ll see a whole new world.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing shameful about having a favorite restaurant, or shopping at the same grocery store because it’s convenient. Every business needs ‘regulars,’ and that’s what the locals often are. But new customers are the key to business growth.


Did you know, in 2010 the Michigan tourism industry generated $17.2 billion— that’s a 14% increase from 2009. And, for the first time, out-of-state visitors spent more than Michigan residents on travel*.

Regions like Northern Michigan depend on those tourism dollars. And why do you think that is? Because we count on area visitors to do what we aren’t doing enough of: going out to eat, shopping at local stores and staying in area hotels. So I say, become a tourist in your hometown. And see what that does for Michigan’s economic recovery.
In honor of following my own advice I’m sharing my list of 10 New Places right here on the Mealtickets blog. Here’s a sneak peek at what’s in store:

Hodge Podge Lodge graphic1.  Hodge Podge Lodge
– After seeing their listing in the Traverse Traveler app, and walking past the store in downtown Beulah, I had to check it out. And I must say, I’m loving my new $10 shoes! Click here to read more…



Chateau de Leelanau graphic2.  Chateau de Leelanau – Located on M-22 near Suttons Bay, this winery has new owners and some great wines…I’ll be back this summer for their cherry sangria, I can tell you that. Click here to read more…




Korner Gem graphic3.  Korner Gem – I’ve been dying to explore this hidden treasure just off M-22 on the west side of Traverse City, and I’m so glad I did. I can’t wait to show off the new jewelry they’re making—from my own beach stones. Click here to read more…



Woodland Creek graphic4.  Woodland Creek Furniture – My friends from Virginia stop here every time they drive through Traverse City but I have never made a point to go in. Until now. It’s huge, and it’s amazing! Click here to read more…


Rock Shop graphic5.  The Rock Shop – If you’ve driven the corridor between Interlochen and Honor on US-31 you’ve passed it a million times. And so have I. But not this summer. I’m dying to find out how a place that sells rocks has been in business for so long! Click here to read more…



22 Vines and Wines graphic6.  22 Vines & Wines – I’ve heard nothing but good things about what’s coming from the kitchen in this tiny restaurant, with a Philippine chef, that lies along on the road to Suttons Bay. Click here to read more…



Country Christmas graphic7.  Country Christmas – Every local has passed this quaint cottage at 55 mph and yet I wonder how many have slowed down enough to read the sign. Looks like I’m gonna celebrate Christmas in July this year. Click here to read more…


Two Fish Gallery graphic8.  Two Fish Gallery – There’s a huge tree near the corner of River & Main Street in Leland as you look down the boardwalk toward Fishtown. It casts a shadow on this lovely gallery. But the treasures inside are worth a visit. Click here to read more…


The Cherry Hut graphic9. The Cherry Hut – Can you believe my husband graduated from Benzie Central, but he’s never been to this Beulah landmark? We’re going to check this one out together. Click here to read more…




Mystery graphic10. Mystery Visit – I think I’m going to see what our Facebook & Twitter fans suggest, and base my 10th stop on their recommendations. Click here to reveal the Mystery…


You can keep up with my discoveries here on Mealtickets.com, and make suggestions of your own on Facebook and Twitter. And, as an added bonus, I’m going to make sure these new places get listed on the Traverse Traveler iPhone app. That way you can check them out too!
Why don’t you join me? Become a tourist in your hometown with these three simple steps:

  • Get Ready: Take a moment and think about the places you drive past every week, but have never been in.
  • Get Set:  Pick ten, and make a list. The list is critical. There’s something about the simple act of writing it down that will help make you accountable.
  • Go:  You have 99 days of summer to explore your own backyard. Make it memorable.


Share your 10 Places with us!

We want to hear about the adventures in your hometown. I’ve set up a Discussion Board on the Traverse Traveler Facebook Page. I’d love to hear what you’ve discovered. Happy backyard travels everyone!


*Detroit Free Press | State Tourism Spending Soars

How to Enjoy a Spring Break Staycation Up North

hometown highlights spring break graphic

No travel plans for Spring Break this year? Chin up. We’ve got some great suggestions to help you enjoy a staycation in Traverse City. Here’s our 7 Ways for 7 Days: How to Enjoy Your Spring Break Staycation.


1. Spring Skiing

Spend a day on the slopes this spring break, it’s an unusual treat to have conditions this sweet. Our ‘six more weeks of winter’ should have been up by now, Mr. Goundhog. But for skiers the news couldn’t be better. A spring storm brought over 8 inches of fresh snow to the area, which is great news around Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville. Thanks to a cold winter their base is in great condition, and the fresh powder is icing on the cake. If you’re interested in cross-country skiing, or snowshoeing the TART trails are a great in town option.



2. Explore an Exhibit

When is the last time you took a trip to a local musuem? This is the last weekend to enjoy the Jim Hay exhibit and video art by Lee Nam Lee at the Dennos Museum Center. Museums are a great place to introduce your children to other cultures, so don’t be afraid to take them along. But if they really need to burn off some steam, The Great Lakes Children’s Museum is a perfect option. Or check out the Vintage Toys and Miniatures Show at The History Center (formerly Grand Traverse Heritage Center) in Traverse City.



3. Take a Foodie Tour

Wander the streets of Downtown Traverse City and create your own Tasting Tour. Discover imported meats and cheeses at Folgarelli’s, salsas, snacks and all things cherry at The Cherry Stop, and delicious sweets at Morsels. One of my favorite stops is Fustini’s Oils & Vinegars where you an create your own flavor combinations from their huge selection of balsamic vinegars and flavor infused olive oils. Who knew a peach balsamic and garlic oil would make a great match? Our area is rich with locally made products. Find a new favorite and spread the word. As for me, I’m dying to try Simply Cupcakes. Their flavors sound soooo good.



4. Hunt for Antique Treasures

I grew up spending weekends at auctions and wandering flea markets with my parents. No matter where we went there was always a unique treasure to be discovered. While “antiquing” may not be as popular as it was in the ’70s and early ’80s, shabby chic and bargain hunting never goes out of style. You could spend an afternoon browsing through the Cherryland Antique Mall on Garfield Road in Traverse City. Or if you’re in Benzonia, stop by the Emporium on M-115.



5. Wine Not Try Something New

Spring break shouldn’t just be for kids. Parents need a little time out too. With more than 20 wineries in the area there’s always a new taste waiting for you on our lovely peninsulas. Newer tasting rooms include Silver Leaf Vineyard & Winery on Leelanau Peninsula, and Northern Natural Wine Tasting in Benzonia. This time of year is a great time to catch the winemaker’s on site. They’re in between the harvest season, and the growing season, so they’re often available to chat or provide a tour. Also look for unusual specials and events at the wineries. Left Foot Charley is offering specials for Teachers and School Workers during spring break. Or how about checking out the upcoming Sushi School at 2 Lads Winery. So much fun, so little time.


6. Be Entertained

With half of the region’s population headed to warmer parts of the country you might think there’s nothing going on in Traverse City during spring break. But you’d be wrong. Old Town Playhouse has weekend showings of Fiddler on the Roof and Good On Paper for example. And don’t forget about Interlochen Center for the Arts. A handy bookmark to have on your desktop is this one for TREATickets.com. They are a local non-profit online ticketing resource specializing in arts and entertainment venues.


 7. Start a Spring Project

We’ve got a week home with the kids, why not start early on some of those spring projects. Here’s a few starters from my to-do list:

  • Clear out the clutter in the basement and donate items to Goodwill or the Women’s Resource Center. You don’t want to know how many old cell phones I have that could be put back in service for someone in need.
  • Brighten the living room with a fresh coat of paint. I found some inspiring Northern Michigan themed paint colors at Northwoods Hardware in Glen Arbor that would perk up any room.
  • Put away the last of the winter decorations (yes, I still have white lights and pine boughs on my porch from Christmas) and haul out the spring branches and Easter decorations.
  • Start sowing seeds for a summer herb garden. I get great ideas from the folks at Garden Goods in Traverse City. And this time of year you’ll have the first pick of the hottest new pots and tools.


Well there you have it. My 7 Ways for 7 Days. Now get out there and enjoy the beauty in our own backyard on your spring break staycation. And if you’ve got some great staycation ideas to share, let us know.


Post your suggestions on our Facebook page. Or send us a tweet at @TraverseTravelr.


By |2019-12-26T15:57:52-05:00March 24th, 2011|Day Trips, Hometown Highlights, Traverse City|0 Comments

Weekender Tips for Ice Fishing Michigan’s Inland Lakes

hometown highlights ice fishing

ice fishing for pikeIn northwestern Michigan, January means more than New Years resolutions, slippery roads, bitter winds, and high heating bills. It’s also the long awaited onset of ice fishing season for thousands of Great Lakes anglers left twiddling their thumbs since the salmon swam upstream last fall.

But ice fishing isn’t just a sport for the seasoned veteran. Visitors come from miles around to catch their limit on the frozen lakes. Here are a few tips from a local for the casual weekender who wants to give ice fishing a try —from advice on equipment, to safety and a fish finder for area lakes. These tips won’t guarantee a prosperous catch, but they’ll set you up for a fun, safe angling adventure on Michigan’s frozen playgrounds.


Licensed to Catch

The first thing every angler needs is a license. And the MDNR offers a few new options.

  • You can now buy an e-license online anytime at mdnr-elicense.com.
  • There are three licensing options: one-day license, season license and a new 72-hour all species license. The last option is great for the weekender as it’s available to residents and non-residents for $21 ($9 for resident seniors).
  • Fish for free on one of Michigan’s free fishing weekends. Mark you calendars for February 19-20, 2011 for this winter’s free weekend.

ice fishing equipmentEquipment

Here’s a list of the basic equipment and supplies you’d need for an afternoon out on the ice. And like most sports and hobbies, there are the necessities, and then there are thousands of variations, and upgrades that can expand the options, and empty your wallet. These are the nuts and bolts. You take it where you want to from here.

  • Valid Michigan fishing license, see above. Children under 17 can fish for free.
  • Ice Auger or spud, depending on the depth of the ice. More than four inches of ice and you’ll probably want an auger.
  • Sled to pull your gear, depending on how much you have
  • Portable shanty, foldable chair or bucket to sit on
  • Tip-ups or ice fishing rods
  • Bait: for tip-ups use minnows like golden shiners or blues. For rods use wax worms or artificial bait like jigs and spoons.

Tip: Don’t forget to keep the receipt from the bait shop if you buy live bait, like minnows. Live bait must be certified to prevent the spread of disease. DNRE officers may ask for proof of purchase.

ice fishing tip-upSafety Tips

  • Safe ice is thick ice. Four inches is recommended for safely fishing on Michigan’s inland lakes. If you’re heading out with a snowmobile or ATV, err on the side of caution and wait for 5″-6″ of ice.
  • Watch for holes, cracks and open ice. Freshly abandoned ice fishing holes are a quick way to twist an ankle or worse. Anglers often leave branches or markers in their abandoned ice holes as a warning, so keep your eyes open.
  • Bring emergency gear. Safety spikes are a great solution, and can be worn around the neck. They look like a short jump-rope with handles on the end, each equipped with a spike. If you fell in the ice you could use the picks to pull you out. A lifejacket and some rope are a good back-up plan.
  • Don’t fish alone. It’s not as much fun anyway, so bring a buddy.


Tip: If you’re unsure about the safety of lake ice, get some advice from the bait shop or a local. Many small inland lakes are not ideal for ice fishing because they’re spring fed. The way the ice forms can also determine whether it’s strong enough to support additional weight. So if you don’t see any tracks, or evidence of activity on the surface, don’t venture out, especially alone.

ice fishing for pikeFish Finder
There are dozen of lakes in northwestern Michigan that could be great for fishing. And certain species thrive in specific lakes. Here’s a short guide to some of the most popular species, and where you can find them.

  • If your fishing for pike check out Portage Lake in Onekema and Green Lake in Interlochen.
  • For smelt try Crystal Lake in Benzie county, and Green Lake
  • For perch Crystal Lake and Glen Lake near Glen Arbor
  • For walleye visit Long Lake in Traverse City, and Lake Leelanau on the Leelanau Peninsula.


Tip: Know your limit, and stay within it. The DNRE limits the catch on each species, and limits vary. Check out the MDNR website for all the details.

fisherman with pike

Contributing author James Wheeler is an experienced northern Michigan angler, currently waiting anxiously for first ice, and the opportunity to catch another 33″ pike from one of Michigan’s frozen lakes.

By |2019-12-26T16:17:50-05:00January 1st, 2011|Day Trips, Hometown Highlights|0 Comments

Last Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hometown Highlights holiday graphic
Last Minute Holiday Gift Guide 2010

When the holidays roll around it’s no surprise that I like to spend time searching for unique regional gifts to share with friends and relatives who appreciate the Traverse City area from afar. Since I’m often a last minute shopper I thought I’d share a few local finds that will make last minute shopping a breeze. From food & beverages, to books and fashion, there’s plenty of ways to suprise your loved ones with a gift from Northern Michigan.

This year I’ve broken the gift guide into the followiong categories:

  • Foodie Favs
  • For Him
  • For Her
  • Recycled
  • Kid Friendly
  • Hostess Gifts

So if you’re still shopping, let’s get started. I’ve listed the item and the store where I discovered it, when possible.


Foodie Favs

Northern Michigan is a great place to live if you need to pick up a last minute gift for a foodie. Here are a couple of items I discovered that make great gifts for the foodie on your list.

Murdicks Santa bag imageSanta Bags | Murdicks Fudge Shoppe

These cute drawstring bags come in several sizes. Forget the stockings and fill a santa bag. Stop by the Murdick’s Fudge Shop in Suttons Bay to stock up right in the store with their great selection of sweet treats and locally made foods. I’m partial to the carmel corn and peanut butter fudge, but that’s the beauty of this gift: you make it your own. $4.50 – $8.50


Great Lakes Potato Chips | Olesons Market

I am in love with these chips. They come in three flavors: BBQ, Salt & Vinegar and Regular, but in my mind there’s only one way to describe them. YUMMY. Great Lakes Potato Chips are produced locally, by the owners of another great local business, Pangea’s Pizza. I’m not sure how one goes from making fabulous creative pizzas to delicious potato chips, but frankly I don’t mind. The chips are available at local grocery chains like Olesons. 2 bags for $7.00


Cherry Stop cherry jamCherry Jam | The Cherry Stop

Cherry products are always a great gift. And I like the jam from The Cherry Stop for a couple of reasons. Number one, they make it in house, right there in the kitchen in Downtown Traverse City. Can’t beat that for freshness. And two, they’ve come up with a recipe that’s sweet enough, but is actually considered low in sugar by jam standards. So you can feel good about your gift. If you aren’t a fan of jam, I’m sure you’ll find something to love at The Cherry Stop.


what's new cupcake bookWhat’s New Cupcake book

If there’s a creative mom on your list, or perhaps a baker, this book is one of my favorites. I picked it up this fall before my son’s birthday party. I needed to make Darth Vader cupcakes and the ideas I pulled from this book helped me accomplish that monumental task. And when we were snowed in this past weekend I pulled it out and made snowmen cupcakes for a holiday Christmas party. The ideas are simple, and the ingredients aren’t hard to find. While it’s not a local author, you can support a local bookstore like Horizon Books by picking it up there. $16.95


Fustini's Sampler Pack imageOil & Vinegar Sampler Packs | Fustini’s Oils & Vinegars

Anyone who has been to my house notices the large collection of Fustini’s bottles on my kitchen counter. And they’re not just there for decoration. I’m a big fan of their flavor infused olive oils and balsamic vinegars. I use them for everything from cooking vegetables, to salad dressings, marinades and even desserts. A bottle or two of Fustini’s, and some pour spouts also makes a great hostess gift. But I’ve listed them with the foodie gifts because of their new Sampler Packs. They have 5 different combinations, each including four 6.8oz bottles; 2 balsamics, 2 oils. They’ve done the pairings, so you don’t have to. $47.95


History of MI wines bookHistory of Michigan Wine | Local Bookstores, Some Wineries

From the authors of From the Vine comes another great read about the History of Michigan Wines. Lorri Hathaway and Sharon Kegerreis share their research into the interesting stories of how the Michigan wine industry began, the impact of prohibition, and the development of this agricultural success story. It’s a quick read, full of fun facts for foodies and oenophiles.



For Him

Growler Collar Right Brain Brewery imageGrowler Collar | Right Brain Brewery, Left Foot Charley

The must have gift of the season for the beer lover in your household. The Growler Collar is the invention of Staton Lorenz, Mealtickets founder. It’s the solution to the tricky problem of getting your growlers clean and dry. When your growler is empty, rinse it with hot water, then spin a Growler Collar on the neck, turn it upside down and rest on the counter to dry. This simple disk keeps it elevated so air can get in and water can get out. Customized Growler Collars are available at Left Foot Charley and Right Brain Brewery. It makes a great stocking stuffer as it’s under $10!


Sh*t my Dad Says bookSh*t my Dad Says book | Brilliant Books and other local bookstores

Ok, this might seem like an odd gift, but if the recipient has a sense of humor and they don’t mind a little cursing…ok, a LOT of cursing, then this book is worth checking out. I picked it up in the store and randomly flipped to a page in the middle, as I always do when evaluating the writing of a new author. I laughed outloud to the point of embarrasment. And everytime I glance at it I still can’t help cracking up to the witty, and sometimes vulgar, advice given from one crass father to his son.


binoculars from EnerdyneAdlerblick “Eyes of an Eagle” Binoculars | Enerdyne

For the sports enthusiast or bird watcher, or the casual lakeshore viewer, there’s nothing better than a good pair of binoculars. And on a recent trip to Suttons Bay I discovered a fabulous pair on sale. These Adlerblick “Eyes of an Eagle” binoculars come in 7×50 or 10×50 magnifications. Binoculars this nice are rarely on sale, much less available at 25% off retail price. So if there’s a man on your list who could use an upgrade, these are the specs to get. $281-$295


For Her

Cherry themed walletsCherry wallet | The Cherry Stop

This is cherry country, but not everyone loves the delicious sweet fruit as much as we do. So if you’re looking for a TC themed gift for a girlfriend how about a wallet or change purse with cherries on it. These great Lavishy products are made vegan friendly, immitation leather. So you can feel good, and look good carrying them. Available in a range of styles and colors for passport covers, wallets, change purses and cosmetic pouches. $5.99 – $18.99


Marilyn Gum necklaces at Gallery FiftyGraphic Pendant necklaces | Gallery Fifty

I loved these the moment I saw them. Graphic is my middle name, but the variety is what make them such a great gift. These necklaces, by artist Marilyn Gum, come in dozens of designs. The pendant is colorful glass infused with color and imagery. And you get to choose your cord as well. Talk about a custom gift for the women on your list. It’s arty, it’s fun, and it’s affordable. Cords or ribbon are $5 and pendants are $16. Gallery Fifty is the perfect place to expand your jewelry collection. (Fordite…need I say more?). Love them!


Grand Traverse Distillery chocolate vodkaChocolate Vodka | Grand Traverse Distillery

Usually I’m touting local wines as the perfect Michigan gift, but this time it’s vodka’s turn. Grand Traverse Distillery has been turning heads with their True North vodkas in competitions around the world. And lucky us, their production facility is tucked away in an industrial park right here in Traverse City. And that’s the only place that I’ve found their newest concoction: chocolate vodka! Can you say Chocolate martini anyone? Happy hour time. If you’ve never been to the Distillery check out our map on the Attractions page and we’ll get you to the door.


lipstick imageLipstick | Venus

I’m a sucker for a new shade of lipstick. What girl isn’t always on the hunt for that perfect new shade. On Ladies Night I stopped by Venus and noticed these selections from Paul & Joe. A little sparkle, a little bit sheer, great for the holidays. Their shades are numbered instead of named, so make sure you pick up the right box. With New Years Eve on the holiday horizon there’s bound to be a girl who needs a little something new to ring in the New Year.



Pouchee purse insert imagePouchee | Venus

I’m loving the convenience of the purse insert they sell at Venus in Traverse City called Pouchee. If someone on your list has a purse for every outfit, they’ll love this idea. It’s a purse insert that acts as a wallet, but also holds everything else. Slip it in and out of whatever bag you’ve got. It will hold your cell phone, lipstick, checkbooks, tissues or whatever you like to tote around. One of the hottest gifts in the store this season.



Pretty Stinkin' Green scarfFlower Scarf | Pretty Stinkin’ Green

I can’t go anywhere, honestly, without someone coming up to me and complimenting my scarf from Pretty Stinkin’ Green. If you haven’t heard of these girls yet, you will. They’re making skirts, scarfs and bags from recycled clothing. You can have custom skirts made from your old college t-shirts or your favorite colors. But from the moment I saw them, I loved the flowered scarfs made of recycled wool and other soft, non-shedding fabrics. No two are alike, which makes them even better gifts. Check out their website as they aren’t available in too many local stores.


PriorLIFE Bags | Britten Banner

This is a great concept, from start to finish. Take a used banner that’s been hanging at a NASCAR race, or temporarily promoting an event somewhere in the US, and turn it into a functional piece of art, instead of trash. A few years ago Britten Banner launched this idea, and it’s been growing ever since. Now you can pick up laptop cases, tote bags, messenger bags and wallets under the PriorLIFE product line. Available online and in several downtown Traverse City stores. $13.00 – $35.00


Real Simple book869 New Uses For Old Things book | Brilliant Books or local bookstores

If there’s a junk junky in your family, or someone who appreciates a good tip for finding old things new again, this book is sure to inspire. By the authors of Real Simple magazine this book is filled with suggestions for new uses to household items. Did you know you can use aluminum foil to help get wrinkles out of delicate fabrics? Or that antacid tablets will help you clean a vase or ease a bug bite? Stop by your favorite book nook and take a look. $27.95



Kid Friendly

chem sets imagesChemistry Set | Enerdyne

I love Enerdyne for kids gifts in general because they have a great selection of educational gifts, crafty projects and gifts for the hard-to-buy-for children on your list. Sometimes you just don’t want to add another video game under the tree. These chemestry sets from Thames & Kosmos are great tools for getting kids excited about science. And they come in a range of age-appropriate options. $13 – $89


Harry Potter Film Wizardry book | Local Bookstores

Yes, I like to shop for books. They make a great gift for anyone on your list. Even kids. But this Harry Potter book is geared for the movie buff on your shopping list, kid or not. It’s a beautiful guide to the Harry Potter movie series, with details on scenes, characters and movie techniques that have all entranced us for years. $39.99


Dylans Candy BarSweet Treats | Dylan’s Candy Bar

There’s a new shop in town that specializes in candy. It’s Dylan’s Candy Bar and it’s at the Grand Traverse Resort. You can’t help but be drawn in by the colorful displays that span the walls and lure you in through the windows. I stopped by after the Traverse City Chamber Business Expo and picked up a few treats for myself, and for the kids. If you’re planning to make a gingerbread house this season and are looking for unique decorations, this is the place to go. Amazing.



Hostess Gifts

Black Star Farms holiday bubbly imageMini bottles of Bubbly | Black Star Farms

Sparkling wine is a great gift to bring along to a holiday party. Presented as a hostess gift it can be opened at the party, or saved for later. These split bottles of Black Star Farms Be Dazzled sparkling wine are wrapped with festive labels which means you don’t even need the gift wrap. Very eco-conscious I think, don’t you? Pick them up at all three of their tasting rooms. $8.50


wine candleabraWine bottle candleabra | Left Foot Charley

Holiday parties need ambiance. And what’s better than candles for setting the mood? On a trip to Left Foot Charley in The Village at Grand Traverse Commons I discovered this candleabra that sits atop an empty wine bottle. It holds 5 tea lights for a glowing presentation. Pair it with a nice bottle of riesling and you’re good to go. $16.00 (15% off all LFC merchandise through the end of December!)


Happy shopping everyone!

By |2019-12-26T16:24:03-05:00December 14th, 2010|Benzie, Hometown Highlights, Leelanau, Traverse City|0 Comments

50 Ways to Love Your Summer

Mealtickets hometown highlights graphic

Don’t waste a moment of your Up North summer


The 97 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day will fly by before we know it. So I decided to start early and make a list. A list of 50 ways to love my summer. These are some of my favorite ways to enjoy Traverse City and the surrounding area at it’s peak season.



1.  Get a barrel of popcorn drizzled in real butter, stretch out on a lawn chair and watch a drive-in movie at the Cherry Bowl in Honor.


2.  Enjoy a heaping scoop ice cream at Moomers, while watching the cows graze at sunset. Preferably Chocolate Cookie Monster in a chocolate dipped waffle cone to be exact. But Cherries Moobilee is good too.


3.  Attend a student performance at Interlochen Center for the Arts. Collage is a great way to see it all, but I love the high school musicals.


4.  Watch the marine traffic come and go while you sip a cocktail on the deck at Scott’s Harbor Grill. Cloaked in a cool breeze at sunset, or enjoying the sun on your shoulders at lunchtime, Scott’s deck is my favorite.


5.  Savor a simple homebaked snack. Pick-up a loaf of Pleasanton Bakery‘s parmesan olive bread and savor it in bite-sized pieces torn from the warm loaf. It’s great plain, but I like mine dipped in Fustini’s olive oils and balsamic vinegars.


6.  Wrap up the week with an evening at Friday Night Live in downtown Traverse City. Buy a balloon, enjoy live music, have your face painted. A perfect place to be a kid again…or bring one.


7.  Discover amazing artists as you tour a local art fair. I never miss the Frankfort art fair in August, but not just for the art. I’m in love with the chicken dinners they cook in the park. Best Chicken EVER!


8.  Visit a vineyard and sip the fruits of Old Mission or Leelanau peninsula on a wine tour. On Old Mission I like to start at 2 Lads Winery and work my way back. On Leelanau you better make two trips!


9.  Fill a basket with fresh picked fruit straight from the orchard. Stop at a U-Pick farm for a hands-on experience or pull up to a roadside stand and select from nature’s best.


10. Cast a line on the Boardman River for trout or reel in a Lake Michigan salmon on a charter fishing trip. Try Hammerhead in Frankfort or Outta Line in Traverse City.


11.  Walk the shores of Lake Michigan and search for petoskey stones and Leland blue stone.


12.  Hop on a boat or a jet ski and ride out to where the deep water lives, clear and blue green as far as the eyes can see…and dive in!


13. Eat your fill of fresh sweet corn. Nobody beats Hall’s farm on North Long Lake Road in Traverse City.


14. Ride the train at the old Clinch Park zoo. Let the whistle fill your ears as you absorb the smiles of young and old around you.


15. Visit a lighthouse for an historic trip back in time. Point Betsie near Frankfort is the most photographed, but I’m looking forward to a trip back to South Manitou Island. That is, if I can brave the spiral stairs again.


16.  Love fudge–watch it made, cooked in copper and turned on a cold marble slab, at Murdick’s Fudge Shoppe. Peanut butter, you’re calling my name.


17.  Take a behind-the-scenes tour. Whether you’re a foodie, a vodka lover or wine geek there’s a tour to be had if you ask. Learn Great Foods will organize one or stop in Grand Traverse Distillery or Bel Lago Winery and they’ll show you the sites.


18.  Spend a day at the beach wireless and free, with a book and your favorite beverage.


19.  Eat cherries everyday! OK, maybe not everyday, but come on this is cherry country people. Check out The Cherry Stop for dozens of ways to quench your cherry cravings.


20.  Make a day trip drive along M-22 from Elberta to Northport and back to Traverse City. Stop to eat, shop and take photos along the way.


21.  Grab an early bird dinner at The Manitou Restaurant. No skimping. Start with the skinny dippers and finish with blueberry raspberry pie.


22.  Watch the sunset sink below the horizon from a beach towel on the sand.


23.  Park and walk a mile to the beach for spectacular Fourth of July fireworks. Come early to dig a pit in the sand for reclined viewing, or bring a cozy chair.


24.  Spend a day at the festival. Which one? Readers choice. There’s Cherry Festival, Film Festival, Jazz Festival and a Microbrew and Music Festival, you can’t go wrong.


25.  Climb the Sleeping Bear Dunes and run down as fast as your feet can carry you. If you’re not scraping sand from your scalp before bed then you didn’t have enough fun.


26.  Dine al fresco on a downtown street and people watch. Umbrella tables at Hanna are popular. If you prefer a water view check out Apache Trout Grill or Knot Just a Bar.


27.  Dance in the rain like nobody’s watching – preferably with a child. They’ll wonder what’s got into you.


28.  Photograph the everyday special places, people and things in your life. It’s not the parties and holidays that spark nostalgia but the details of summer memories past.


29.  Build a bonfire on the beach and make s’mores. Eat until your fingers are sticky, the chocolate is gone and only broken graham crackers remain.


30.  Play a sport on the lawn. Badmitten, croquet, bocce or new favorites like ring toss and bean bag games make fun family competitions a must-do for summer.


31.  Thump your paddle like Hiawatha on the floor of a Riverside canoe as you navigate the Platte River. When you make it to the mouth spend an hour playing in the current.


32.  Make par on a golf course. Mine will have to be mini golf at Pirates Cove, but if you’re up to the challenge of the real deal try Mistwood in Lake Ann. Or help celebrate 25 years at The Bear at the Grand Traverse Resort.


33. Spend a hot day at a cool pool. My kids love the outdoor waterpark at Crystal Mountain. Or you could ride a slide at Fun Country or Pirates Cove.


34. Try a new restaurant – either new to you or new to town. Check out Soul Hole in downtown Traverse City or Mission Table on Old Mission Peninsula.


35.  Shop the farmer’s markets, snack from your purchase as you move vendor to vendor in support of local agriculture.


36.  Drink riesling. OK, it’s my favorite and I suppose you could choose another wine. But before you decide, try a flight at Uncorked and I know you’ll walk away with one you like. Or just buy the t-shirt at Left Foot Charley and support the riesling movement in theory.


37.  Explore the old state hospital grounds inside the Grand Traverse Commons, also known as The Village. Sip wine at Tastes of Black Star Farms, Have an Underground Cheescake on a stick and end up at Stellas for dinner.


38.  Watch a movie at The State Theatre in Traverse City or The Garden in Frankfort. Restored classic theatres where the movies are great, and so are the prices.


39.  Eat a boom chunka cookie on the patio at Cherry Republic on a trip to Glen Arbor. Stop by Art’s Tavern for a delicious burger. Discover the beautiful jewelry at Becky Thatcher Designs. And for a real treat, dinner at Blu. The best fine dining around.


40.  Drink where the locals drink. Grab at pint at Right Brain Brewery among their mug-toting members. Perhaps something with an unusual ingredient like basil or wasabi.


41.  Walk the pier to the Frankfort lighthouse, preferably on a foggy evening when the light streams out in rays, or early morning when the anglers are casting and waiting for the bite to begin.


42.  Take a slow boat ride along the shore. Get a new perspective of the cottages along the lakeshore. Sailboat, paddleboat or pontoon, whatever works. No boat? How about a ride on the Tall Ship or the Nauticat in Traverse City or a Dunes Cruise in Frankfort.


43.  Walk and shop your way through Fishtown in Leland. Pick up some smoked whitefish at Carlsons Fish Market or a pretzel bread sandwich from the Village Cheese Shanty. And for dinner, don’t miss The Bluebird–with my favorite pea & peanut salad.


44.  Spend a rainy day at the bowling alley. Wilderness Crossings is the perfect place to entertain the kiddos when the sun is hiding. Bowling, glow golf, arcades and a restaurant for mom and dad.


45.  Swim in a river. Let the current pull you along as you try to keep you bottom off the bottom. Relax and drift as the water sweeps your cares away.


46.  Bike or walk a beautiful trail. Check out the TART trail in Traverse City or the Betsie Valley Trail that winds from Elberta all the way to Crystal Mountain.


47.  Vintage treasures are waiting. Shop for flea market finds or antiques. From the Cherryland Antique Mall and Red Dresser in Traverse City to the Emporium in Beulah, your shabby chic find awaits.


48.  Leave footprints in the sand. Take off your shoes and feel the grainy wet sand massage your toes with every step.


49.  Read a book on the beach. I look forward to the new Janet Evanovich novel every summer. Need a good local read? Try The Bookstore in Frankfort, Brilliant Books in Suttons Bay or Horizon Books in Traverse City.


50.  Take a nap. Lie in a hammock until you drift off with the breeze, stretch out on a beach towel or nod off in an adorondack chair. Rest and relax. It’s summer.

By |2019-12-30T10:14:50-05:00June 23rd, 2010|Hometown Highlights, Traverse City|0 Comments

Hometown Highlights: 2009 Holiday Gift Guide

Hometown Highlights holiday graphic
Hometown Guide for Holiday Gifts

When the holidays roll around it’s no surprise that I like to spend time searching for unique regional gifts to share with friends and relatives who appreciate the Traverse City area from afar. This year I’ve canvased the area, looking for fun and interesting items that won’t break the bank. From food & beverages, to art and fashion, there’s plenty of ways to suprise your loved ones with a gift from Northern Michigan.


Foodie Delights

Northern Michigan is home to dozens of fabulous food companies, too many to mention here. Instead I’ve picked a few of my personal favorites, and asked my customers and friends what they would recommend.

Cherry Stop gift basketCherry Gifts and Goodies

Looking for a quick and easy gift thats ready to ship? The Cherry Stop is one of my favorite shops because they have such a wide selection of cherry products and other northern Michigan favorites. Pick up a pre-packaged gift set, labeled with images of the bays, for as little as $12. Dried fruits, salsas, BBQ sauce, candies, you name it. Great for summer “lakies” who are missing their cabin this time of year.


Naturally Nutty sunflower butter imageNaturally Nutty Nut Butters

I was lucky enough to tour Naturally Nutty‘s production facility in Acme last fall and see how hand-crafted these nut butters really are. Since then my husband and I are hooked. My personal favorite is the Cinnamon Vanilla Sunflower butter. I can’t believe there’s no sugar added. They’re full of Omega-3 with flaxseed and hempseed, so there’s simply no guilt. A little pricy, but I think some things are worth it. Available at The Cherry Stop, and Olesons food stores, as well as online.


fustinis cinnamon pear vinegar graphicFustini’s Oil & Vinegar Holiday Packs

Jim and Lane are always coming up with amazing infusions for their balsamics and extra virgin olive oils. This holiday season create a custom holiday 4-pack or pick up one of their recommended combinations. My current favorites are the Sage & Mushroom EVOO and the Cinnamon Pear Balsamic vinegar.

Check out our recent post on Holiday Recipes for a suggestion on using the Cinnamon Pear.


For the Home


Judy Izard with maple cutting board photoMichigan Cutting Boards

Here’s a great idea for the Michigan foodie, a hardwood cutting board in the shape of our great state. Made in Petoskey from Michigan maple it’s a beautiful addition to gift baskets. Recommended by Peppercorn owner, Judy Izard. Available at Peppercorn in Downtown Traverse City.

Looking for a great hostess gift? How about a cutting board with some raclette by Leelanau Cheese Company. Pick up a wedge at local grocery stores or stop in at the winery at Black Star Farms in Suttons Bay, home to Leelanau Cheese makers John and Anne Hoyt.


santa decoration imageCeramic Home Decor

One of my new favorite shops is At Home in downtown Suttons Bay. I always find unique and beautiful home decor in their store. Top on my list are the whimsical ceramic creations by artist Geri Mateus, of Aida, MI. This summer I fell in love with her creative marshmellow skewers, long enough for the most inexperienced roaster to stay safe. The decorative handles are ceramic, colorful and include clever phrases like “Roast ’em and Toast ’em”. For the holidays she’s made santa and snowmen decorative stakes for brightening up that poinsettia plant. Or pick out a plaque or large ceramic star. So next time you’re in Suttons Bay, look north for the lime green awning and you’ll find yourself At Home.


peek-a-boo pillow imagePeek-A-Boo Pillows

You probably have a few children on your shopping list so I had to share a perennial favorite gift for the wee ones. Michigan Artists Gallery, also in downtown Suttons Bay, has a selection of clever Peek-A-Boo Pillows that make excellent baby and toddler gifts. Each design is handmade by a mother/daughter team. Patterns vary from ballerina princess, to the ever popular northwoods moose. Each pillow has a center flap with velcro enclosure that hides the stuffed animal inside. Large, medium and wee sizes available.



Girlfriends Gifts


miche bags imageMiche Bags

OK, these may not be exclusively local, but they are still HOT! Last spring I treated myself to a Miche Bag and have had a steady stream of compliments ever since. If you haven’t seen these purses there’s some explanation required. Start with one basic purse, black or brown, and then customize your look in seconds with different colorful wraps. The trick is…the covers are magnetic. And while they may not be made locally, you can still support a local business with a purchase. I picked mine up at Interquilten, a cute fabric store on M-137 in Interlochen. They have dozens of designs to choose from. And just like other collectables the cover designs are eventually “retired” so your purse is more unique.


tea cup and teas imageTea-riffic Cup and Great Lakes Teas

Teas are becoming ever more popular. Here’s my favorite combo for the tea-lover in your family. The Tea-riffic thermal tea cup is perfect for those who love loose tea and only brew a cup or two at a time. It includes a removable mesh canister for holding loose tea. And the thermal sides and tight sealing lid keep tea hot. Available in pink or clear, at Peppercorn in downtown Traverse City.

I also love the unique flavors of Great Lakes Tea and Spice teas. Their tiny shop is located in Glen Arbor, where you can smell and sample some of their teas. You can also pick them up in many local stores as well as by mail order or on their website.


handmade mittens at Gallery 50 imageBea’s Dog Walking Mittens

These mittens are not just beautiful and warm, but they’re recycled and just plain clever. Take an 80 year old woman in Frankfort, give her some old sweaters, scarves and such and she’ll turn them into one-of-a-kind mittens. Each pair is colorful and unique. And some of them have the added benefit of a pocket on top of the hand; perfect for hiding a few dog-bones and a baggie for those cold morning walks. So creative. Available at Gallery 50 in the mercado inside The Village at Grand Traverse Commons.



Guys, Gals or Geeks

massage gift certificate imageOne-Hour Massage

Massage is a great gift for anyone, but those of us Moms could especially use the treat. I discovered Susan Campeau massage and have found great relief for my recurring headaches. If you, or someone you know is suffering from chronic pain, or just needs to relieve tension from everyday life, I’d highly recommend a massage from Susan. Her combination of simple aromatherapy, a soothing location and theraputic massage is the perfect way to relax this holiday season. And a gift certificate is good all year long. Call Susan at 231.714.2879



mario batali signed cook booksAutographed Books

You may not get a chance to meet Mario Batali, but you could still have his autograph. Brilliant Books in Suttons Bay carries several of his cookbooks, many of which include the John Hancock of this local celebrity. Not into autographed cookbooks? Well as long as you’re there, check out the amazing selection of other local authors and Best Sellers as well. What I love about Brilliant Books is that if Peter can’t find what you need in the store, he’ll order it and ship it at no extra cost. You’ve got to love local ownership.

If you’re looking for something “out of this world” how about an autographed copy of Off the Planet, by US astronaut, and Suttons Bay resident, Jerry Linenger. Order a copy from Murdicks Fudge Shoppe and they’ll get it personalized for you. Now that’s a unique gift.


pirates cove ziplinPirates Cove Gift Certificates

Have kids that are hard to buy for? Teens and tweens that want nothing more than video games or clothes? Why not surprise them with gift certificates to Pirates Cove. From mini-golf, to waterslides and now the amazing zipline and ropes course there’s a reason for all the kids to get outside for some hands-on fun. Don’t get me wrong, Pirates Cove isn’t just for the kids. In fact, it could be a great place for a company retreat. Of course, you’ll have to wait ’till spring, but pick up your gift certificates for the holidays. Call 231.883.7374 for all the details.


from frank to betsie screensaver image‘Just Between Frank & Betsie’ Screensaver

If you know someone who loves the Frankfort area, or is a fan of Lighthouses, then this is the perfect gift. Jay Burt, a Benzie amateur photographer, has created a fantastic screensaver entitled “Just Between Frank & Betsie”. It includes over 135 photos taken throughout the year that showcase the beauty of the lakeshore from Frankfort to Point Betsie Lighthouse. You can pick up the CD at The Book Store in downtown Frankfort, or on Jay’s website, walksoftlyphotos.com.



For the Wine Lover

cork purse at Gallery 50Cork Purse

Ladies, let’s face it, we love purses. And many of us love wine. So why not a purse for the wine lover. These handmade cork purses are available in several sizes at Gallery 50 in The Village at Grand Traverse Commons. You’ll recognize corks from local wineries like Left Foot Charley, Willow, Black Star Farms and Boskydel, and other well known vintners as well. I’ve made wine cork wreaths, corkboards and I’ve even seen a bathroom wall covered in corks (check out Chateau Fontaine if you don’t believe me), but I’ve never seen a cork purse, before now.


Black Star Farms bubbly nouveau imageSparkling Wines for the Holidays

Drive, sprint or race to your nearest Black Star Farms tasting room and pick up the last of the 2009 Bubbly Nouveau before it’s gone. It reminds me of green apple with just the right sweetness and spritz to liven up the party.

If you arrive too late, fear not. There are other local sparklers that will leave your guests wanting more. Also check out 2 Lads Winery for their Sparkling Pinot Grigio. This will also sell out, so don’t wait for the ball to drop on this one either.


cherry wines from the Cherry Stop imageCherry Wine from the Cherry Stop

I asked Jamie, owner of The Cherry Stop, for her top picks for Cherry Wines. It was a tough call, and they all have their own merits, but Jamie’s top three include Chateau Fontaine, Bel Lago, and the Cherry Stop cherry wine produced by Peninsula Cellars. If you’ve never had cherry wine, you can give them all a try at the new wine bar in the back of the Cherry Stop called Uncorked. Compare several and decide for yourself. The Cherry Stop offers selections from all the local wineries so it’s a great one-stop local wine shop.



That wraps it up for my 2009 Holiday Gift Guide. I hope you find what you’re looking for this holiday season. Happy shopping, and Happy Holidays!

The Village: Behind the Scenes Tour with Ray Minervini

hometown highlights The Village graphic

Hometown Highlights: The Village at Grand Traverse Commons

Building 50 The Village at Grand Traverse CommonsDid you know…the entire campus at the old Traverse City State Hospital, one million square feet of brick, wood and stone, was built from the ground up in less than 2 years? There’s 400,000 square feet of space in Building 50 alone! That’s an architectural feat that must have taken an army. And that’s just one of the amazing facts I learned from Ray Minervini, developer of The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, on my recent behind-the-scenes tour.


When I was in high school, here in Traverse City, the old State Hospital was shut down and abandoned. The grounds became a destination for vandals and daredevils who returned with stories of ghosts, eerie tunnels and mysterious bumps in the night. It was sad to see the such a huge piece of Traverse City history disappearing into the landscape as new developments surrounded it on all sides. Most of us just drove past the big stone pyramid on Division street and barely wondered about the towering structures that lie dormant behind the tall pines.

And then came Ray Minervini. He had a vision of a thriving community, reminiscent of European cities where people worked, ate, entertained and lived together in the presence of history. Now the site that was built in 1885 to house the mentally insane has begun a transformation into this vibrant hub of arts and culture just as Ray imagined.

Other than a few cups of coffee at Cuppa Joe, and special dinners at Stella, I hadn’t spent much time on the new Village campus until I met Bryan Ulbrich of Left Foot Charley when they became a Mealtickets client in 2007. He had begun transforming the old Laundry facility into the winery and tasting room for Left Foot Charley. The image that stands out in my mind was a 2′ heaping pile of faucet handles leftover from the mazes of underground plumbing they removed during reconstruction. It was this salvation of the old, amidst plans for something new, that piqued my curiousity.

Which brings me to my recent tour with Ray. Beaming at the success of the Traverse City Wine Festival this summer on the grounds in front of Building 50, I asked Ray Minervini if he would take me on a behind the scenes tour this fall. “We’ll work our way from the bottom, to the top,” he promised. I was determined to make sure he kept his word, and did he ever.


From the Bottom

Building 50 at The Village of Grand Traverse CommonsThe Village at Grand Traverse Commons is a 500 acre site located in the heart of Traverse City. That’s right, 500 acres, over 400 of which are parkland. Ray likes to call it, “Traverse City’s central park.” The former asylum campus occupies 60 acres. And Building 50, the central building with the red spires, is over 400,000 square feet. Ray and I began the tour at the bottom, in what’s called the Mercato of Building 50.


The Mercato in Building 50 at The VillageJust below ground level on the south side of Building 50 lies the Mercato. At one end is Stella, a fabulous Italian restaurant and one of the first tennants of The Village. I met Ray outside the elevators at the far end of the building. Just around the corner from Stella, as we entered the Mercato, I noticed there’s a small gallery exhibiting before & after images of the redeveloped spaces as well as artifacts discovered during renovation. It’s a great place to stop and appreciate all the work they’ve done so far.


The Mercato in Building 50 in The VillageThe Mercato is the main shopping venue at The Village, with everything from art and fashion to wine and gelato. The long hallway opens up on each side with arched open doorways leading into each space. Vendors goods extend out into the hallway which is lined with an ever changing exhibition of art. Unlocking a non-descript door in the Mercato Ray revealed a narrow steep staircase leading to the underground tunnel system.


I have to admit, I was a little leery of the “tunnels”. My great aunt worked in the asylum for a short time and one of her jobs was the transportation of patients in and out of the buildings by way of the tunnels. Her descriptions left me in no hurry to visit such a place. But times have changed, and so has The Village. So I ventured in.


tunnel under Building 50 in The VillageLit from beginning to end with only small blubs overhead was a long tunnel constructed in hand laid brick. The roof was arched and the floor bowed in the center. It felt like looking down the barrell a gun, only we were standing in it.

As we walked toward the mid-point of the tunnel Ray explained how they would have built the space by slowly moving a wooden arch form, laying bricks on top to create the dome, and then sliding the form a few feet forward to continue the tunnel.

Up ahead we could see a more recent addition to the roof, an iron covering, indicating we were directly underneath the parking area for the Mercato. As development continues Ray imagines taking advantage of unique spaces like this, perhaps for private wine cellars.

Upon returning to land level, back the way we came, we proceeded straight to the top.


To the Top

condo inside Building 50, The Villagecondo view inside Building 50, The VillageThe south wing of Building 50, where reconstruction is nearly complete, was originally the Men’s residences. The first and second floors now house offices including those of the developer, The Minervini Group. The third floor is largely residential, offering beautiful condos with open loft-style spaces. The renovation of these areas was often the most difficult as they had to meet the requirements of several agencies including the National Trust for Historic Building, State regulations and National Park Service guidelines. The respect for historic craftsmanship is evident in every detail, from the polished wooden floors to the top of the 13′ plaster walls. For a look inside, our next stop was Ray’s condo in the restored attic.


The attic space was not utilized as living or working space in the original design. But the Minervini Group decided it would make a great place for condos. And the view would be spectacular. The beauty of living inside the Village is this amazing juxtaposition of old and new. Butter yellow bricks and tell tale high ceilings remind you it’s The Village, but otherwise you might think it’s a loft in New York. Around the corner from the entrance an iron staircase spirals up to the small loft bedroom. But we we came to see lies higher yet.

view inside spire at The VillageLooking up from the stairway landing Ray pulled down a latch and released a small wooden ladder. After the trip into the tunnel I realized I was wearing the wrong shoes for this tour. Sneakers would have been the way to go. And at the sight of this ladder with 2 inch rungs I was going to have to be careful. Did I mention heights are not my favorite thing? So up we went. One at a time, up short ladders, holding pipes and wooden ledges, zigzagging our way up several small flights, until we reached another latch. The roof.

We made it to the top. At last we were inside one of the red spires that are synonymous with The Village. Even with the latched closed the space was small, probably 5 feet wide at most. But the view was amazing. This is what I came for. We could see the colors of autumn in every direction, and with clear blue skies it was easy to make out the view of west Grand Traverse Bay to the north, and the Great Wolf Lodge and East Junior High, to the south. Other than the top of the watertower, this is the highest view in The Village.



From South to North

brick wall at The Villagefaded bricks inside Building 50, The VillageAfter safely managing my way back down the ladder Ray offered to continue the tour on the North side of the building, so I could see the areas not yet restored. We wandered through the Mercato once again, past Sweet Asylum and “the best gelato this side of Italy,” according to my guide. If you’ve ever wondered what lies behind those heavy metal doors displaying Employees Only signs, this is where your tour begins.

The large central area in the middle of Building 50 is the Chapel. There are several huge spaces, one leading into the next, with towering brick walls brightened by natural light spilling in from 8′ windows. Here Ray invisions a grand restaurant. I love turning my camera to macro mode to capture the details and textures all around me. So many modern restaurants like Olive Garden try to recreate this atmosphere but it’s not the same. But here the history is real. Ray agreed, “When you look at it, it has the patina of age that you just can’t create.”


chapel inside The Villagechapel windows inside The VillageThrough more hallways and passages, in which I’d surely be lost without a guide, we ended up in the chapel itself. This will be the gathering space for the Commons. The perfect place for wedding receptions, dances, and a host of community events. Closing my eyes it’s easy to imagine music and laughter spilling from the windows, while the neighboring condo units are barely disturbed — thanks to solid brick walls 2 feet thick to buffer the sound. After seeing the transformation of Stella and Left Foot Charley, it’s not so difficult to picture how beautiful this too will be.

As we wandered through more twists and turns, along peeling lead paint and plaster walls I picked up a few more interesting facts. The State Hospital once housed over 3500 patients. The philosophy used to treat their mental health was that of Thomas Story Kirkbride. He believed the road to mental health was surrounded by beautiful architecture, immersed in nature and grounded with hard work.


north hall in Building 50, The Villagenorth hall in Building 50, The VillageWe made it to the long hallway of the women’s dormitory and I realized it looked familiar. In fact, the north and south wings of Building 50 are built in exact mirror image. But what’s really amazing is to realize these were built before computers, and laser levels, scaffolding and even electricity…and yet the length of the hallways in both buildings are a perfect match, down to the micrometer.


Speaking of electricity, here’s another fascinating tidbit I picked up on the tour. Did you know the State Hospital was the first state owned building with electricity? An on-site steam generator produced heat and electricity for the entire campus. In fact, they had electricity 20 years before the rest of Traverse City!


The Village, by the Numbers

Building 50 in The Village at Grand Traverse CommonsBack at street level we exited Building 50 into the parking lot to take in the perfect autumn day. As we looked across Cottageview Drive Ray explained more of the history of the other buildings on campus. Directly across from Building 50 is Pleasanton Bakery, formerly the firestation. I mentioned earlier that Left Foot Charley and Higher Grounds occupy the former laundry facility. And next door to them, along Red Drive, is Underground Cheesecake in the old potato peeling building. That’s right, the hospital needed an entire building just for removing potato skins. With 3500 patients, and countless staff I guess that makes sense. There was also a butcher and a slaughterhouse on-site, but not on my tour, thanks.


I’m not great with numbers, but I am amazed by some of the statistics associated with constructing Building 50, the main adminstration building. Forgive me for all the zeros, but you have to admit this is impressive.

  • 11,000,000 bricks, made locally in neighboring Grelickville
  • 1,800 windows, many of which are over 8′ tall
  • 400,000 sq.ft. in the main building alone.
  • With 1,000,000 sq.ft. of redevelopment space in the entire project, of which 250,000 sq.ft. are already complete, I asked Ray how he manages to tackle one of the largests historic redevelopment projects in the United States. “One little bite at a time,” he said, with a smile.


Ray Minervini inside Stella, The VillageWe ended our tour that day with a quick photo of the developer in one of his favorite spots, inside Stella. Before I left though, I had one last question for Ray. There are so many rumors about ghosts from the old asylum, so I wondered if Ray had seen anything unusual. “Not once,” he said, almost as surprised as I was to hear it. He did have a great story about Genevieve, the ghost at Bowers Harbor Inn…but that’s a tale for another time.


For more information about The Village visit their website at www.thevillagetc.com.



My Up-North Summer To-Do List

Every year summer seems to come and go in the blink of an eye. In an effort make sure I enjoy it I’ve learned a helpful trick. Start out the season with a summer “Must-Do” list. Mine is usually a combination of favorite activities and things I’ve always wanted to do but haven’t made time for. There’s something to be said for writng things down that makes you more apt to do it.

So I’ll share with you a few from my 2009 Summer Must-Do checklist:



Five Needles at Michigan Legacy Art Park1. Enjoy a Day at the Park – I’ve never been on a walk through the Michigan Legacy Art Park at Crystal Mountain Resort, so this is the year. I can’t wait to see the larger than life-size sculptures, like Five Fingers, scattered throughout the park.



2. Learn a New Trick – It’s important to keep learning. So this summer I thought I might take a watercolor class. There are great day classes or seminars at the Crystal Lake Arts Center. Or maybe I’ll try to improve my photography skills with the digital photography workshop at Interlochen. There’s something out there for everyone if you know where to look.



fresh michigan cherries3. Pick Fresh Fruit – When I was a kid we picked cherries, strawberries and raspberries to eat, freeze and make jam. I think my kids are ready to continue the tradition. My favorite was always picking cherries. But since that usually requires a ladder, perhaps we’ll go for blueberries this year. With all the U-pick farms in the area it shouldn’t be hard to decide.



4. A Quiet Day at the Beach – Sometimes the best activity is inactivity. Toes in the sand, book in hand, and all by myself. That sounds like a perfectly relaxing way to enjoy a sunny afternoon.



Cherry Bowl Drive-In Theatre popcorn5. Eat a Barrel of Popcorn – …on a lawn chair, in front of the car, at the Cherry Bowl Drive-In. I’ll try to share, but I’m not promising. With real melted butter poured on top of the fresh kernels, it’s hard to resist this movie-lover’s treat.



6. Sip and Savor – I’ve been looking forward to an evening sipping a glass of Riesling and one of the small plate appetizers at Left Foot Charley in The Village. Sitting outside watching visitors come and go – ahhh, this is the life.



dinner at LuLu's in Bellaire7. Try a New Restaurant – Summer is a great time to try new things. And since I love food, one of my favorite adventures is to discover a new restaurant. Whether it’s new to the area, or just new to me, it’s always a treat. Last summer we enjoyed Blu in Glen Arbor, and this winter LuLu’s in Bellaire. Who knows where this summer will lead.



8. Shop the Farmers Market – Almost every town in Northern Michigan has a farmer’s market. From the Sara Hardy market in Downtown Traverse City, to The Village, you can’t beat the fresh foods, handmade products and beautiful plants available each week.



Point Betsie Lighthouse image9. Climb the Lighthouse – I’ve been to the beach at Point Betsie Lighthouse dozens of times, but I’ve never been inside. This summer I want to climb to the top of the light and check out the view. It’s amazing that after 150 years, boats still depend on the light to guide them safely through the Manitou passage.



10. Experience a Silent Movie – I’ve seen movies at the drive-in, the State Theatre and even at the City Opera House, but I’ve yet to experience an authentic silent film at the Music House Museum. Watching Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin with live accompaniment on the Wurlitzer Theatre Organ is a truly unique opportunity.


Now that I’ve shared some of my Up North Michigan summer must-do list, what about you? Take a few minutes and compile your own list of new places to visit, favorite activiites to share, and adventures to experience. Already have a list? Join our discussion on Facebook and share your summer ideas! Let’s make this season a memorable one.

Hometown Highlights: Spartan Flag Company

hometown highlights Spartan Flag Company graphic

Hometown Highlights: Spartan Flag Company

Spartan Flag Company flag imageDid you know, the majority of the world’s golf flags are made in Northport, Michigan? I had no idea. That is, until I had the chance to get a tour of the Spartan Flag Company, in beautiful Northport, Michigan. It was there I came to see why the golf industry has grown to depend on the craftsmanship of this hometown family business.

If you’re a golfer you may have heard of a company called Standard Golf. They supply over 75% of the world’s golf courses with quality nylon golf flags. And their exclusive manufacturer is the Spartan Flag Company, located at the tip of the Leelanau peninsula.
A small business, in a very small town, the Spartan Flag Company is a family operation dedicated to producing quality products. With only 10 employees, most of whom share the Kilcherman name, 18 sewing stations and countless bolts of colorful nylon, they create flags which last a lifetime. Casey Kilcherman, president of Spartan Flag Company, is a third-generation family owner. She purchased the business 5 years ago from her aunt in order to keep the company in the family. “I wanted to make sure my father and brothers would always have a home here at Spartan Flag,” said Casey.
Carnie Kilcherman imageMy tour guide for the day was Carnie Kilcherman. Like a proud mother she welcomed me to her home-away-from-home. And it’s no wonder she feels this way. Her daughter is the president, and her husband and three sons were working away behind the scenes.
The Spartan Flag Company is located in an unassuming building right in the entrance to the village of Northport. If you’ve followed M-22 to Northport, you’ve probably driven past without noticing. It’s here in Leelanau County that all of their flags are made. The room we first entered was longer and narrower than an average two-car garage, but filled with sewing stations, cutting tables, and boxes of flags in various stages of production. Carnie ushered me to a small station along the wall where she spent the morning working on black and gold checkered flags. I came to learn that every flag produced by Spartan Flag Company is machine-stitched in a process called applique. Pieces of fabric are cut to size and sewn onto a larger piece of fabric. Or, in the case of the checkered flag, several pieces are sewn together to create one large flag. This requires attention to detail and precision. And it’s the reason Spartan Flag Company flags will last a lifetime.
Spartan Flag Company imageMuch like other manufacturing facilities there were several jobs in progress, at various stages of design, and everyone was busy. We visited with her sons, who were packing boxes for shipping, and Carnie’s husband Dave who fills in wherever he’s needed. There were four sewing stations stitching with expert care, and speed that I couldn’t muster on my best day.
While there were many golf flags, ranging in colors and design, the Spartan Flag Company also creates banners, pennants and International Shipmasters’ Burgees (maritime flags). Their craftsmanship has been utilized by schools throughout the area to create marching band flags, school banners and seasonally to decorate light pole flags in the Village.
Spartan Flag Company imageOne thing I didn’t see on my tour was a computer system for creating templates or custom designs. That’s because they don’t have one. “All of our designs are drawn by hand,” explained Pino. When a customer brings in a family crest, or wants a custom banner, they work with an artist who translates their designs into flag templates using only a pencil, paper and practiced skill. That’s craftsmanship you don’t see everyday.
Here are a few more interesting facts I learned on my visit to the Spartan Flag Company:
  • The secret to the longevity of their sewn flags: new waxed thread. While it makes a mess of the machines, it produces a longer-lasting stitch
  • One of the most intricate banners was created for a wedding and covered with roses
  • Most notable golf flags were created for a special golf tournament with President Bill Clinton
  • Standard Golf holds a patent on the plastic part of the flag which attaches to the pole; one of the reasons they hold the corner on the golf flag market
  • At one time or another nearly every member of the Kilcherman family has worked for the flag company


Spartan Flag Company imageThe Spartan Flag Company has been sewing flags, pennants and banners since 1950. If you’re in the market for a new flag for the cottage, or perhaps a nautical flag for that new boat, give Casey a call. They are also a great resource for American flags. While not made in-house, they will guarantee that your American flag was made in the U.S.A. To contact the Spartan Flag Company call 231.386.5150 or visit the Spartan Flag Company website.

Hunting for Morel Mushrooms

Michigan morel mushroom hunt

The arrival of spring is full of excitement. The snow is finally gone, the trees begin to dress themselves in leafy green, and the woodland floor comes to life. But it’s the elusive morel mushroom that draws me in amonst the trees each spring for a long, and hopefully fruitful walk.

For as long as I have lived in Northern Michigan I’ve counted the days until that first morel mushroom hunt. When I was little, my brother and I would grugingly venture out into the woods wandering aimlessly until someone shouted, “found one!” and we all rushed over to remind ourselves of what we were looking for. Even a seasoned mushroomer needs that first glimpse to adjust the eyes. Gazing across a vast and rolling canvas of browns and greens of a hundred shades it feels a bit like finding that proverbial ‘needle in a haystack.’ But once you find the first one, it’s “game on!”


This year we took our kids for their first hunt. My brother and dad joined in the fun as well. Dressed in layers and carrying our onion sacks we headed off into the woods to see what we could discover.

I rarely leave the house without my camera; there’s just so much to capture in and around Traverse City. And the woodlands in spring are one of my favorite subjects. So, to be honest, it’s not just morels I’m hunting for.

single wild trilliumMichigan is rife with wildflowers, many of which bloom a for short period in the spring. What flower can resist the dappled sunlight of a leafless wood and an earthen floor of rich dense forest compost. Before we reached the first bend in the undergrowth leading us off the two-track I had already snapped several shots. Dutchmen’s Breeches, columbine and yellow trout lilies are common in the woods. But it’s the protected species like trillium and jack in the pulpit that are more exciting to find. Masses of trillium can be found carpeting the woods and seen from the road. But there’s something special about finding one lone white blossom against a decomposing tree. Nature’s beauty. (Check out our spring photo gallery for more wildflower photos)


fiddlehead fernEdible treats come in all shapes and sizes in the woods. Fiddlehead ferns, like this one, will soon expand to shade the leaf covered floor. But picked in this state they’re tender and fresh when sauteed. And then there’s the wild leek.

The smell of wild leeks, or ramps as they’re also known, is subtle in the early spring and grows more pungent as the morel season progresses. Their tall wide leaves grow in clusters and have been know to hide a black morel or two if you’re not looking close enough. In fact, our first morel of the day was found among them.


As I said before, that first morel is the hardest to find. We used to make bets on who could find The First, The Biggest and The Most mushrooms on a single outing. I can honestly say I don’t think I ever won the award for The Most, but I’ve had my share of First and Biggest awards.

elusive black morelUp here in the north woods we’re lucky to host all three types of morel mushrooms. The black, or French morel, the white or yellow morel, and the much less common grey morel. On this hunt we found all three. If you ask me the black morels are the hardest to find. With the shadows of decaying leaves, fallen trees and other debris they blend right it. My strategy is to get down at their level…well not quite that low…and scan a close area. My husband has the uncanny ability to spot a black morel at 20 yards! Either I need glasses or he has superpowers.


grey morel mushroomsThe most exciting find of the day was this huge cluster of grey morels. We often find them in groups of two or three, or locate several in close proximity, but this cluster was amazing.

There is a reason morels grow in groups or near each other. Did you know that morel mushrooms are the above-ground reproductive system for a huge underground fungus? The fungus lives among the roots of certain trees in a symbiotic relationship where each benefits from the other.


jack in the pulpit wildflowerI found some fabulous flora among the fungi on this trip. I love to look for the Jack-in-the-pulpits and maidenhair ferns, both beautiful examples of Michigan’s protected native species. I found both, and in abundance. So I was enjoying the walk, despite my less than stellar mushroom haul.

The kids had fun screaming at the top of their lungs and disrupting the peace for creatures near and far. But when a mushroom was found they came running to examine the scene and volunteer to pick it.


morel mushroom hunting


Half fun onion sacks in tow, we walked back to our cars after two and a half hours. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday in Northern Michigan.


Check out our Spring Photo Gallery for more images of Michigan wildflowers, morel mushrooms and other springtime firsts.

By |2020-01-06T15:15:45-05:00May 14th, 2009|Benzie, Hometown Highlights|0 Comments

Hometown Highlights: Michigan Maple Syrup

Hometown Highlights Michigan maple syrup graphic


From Sap to Syrup

The Making of a Michigan Specialty


I grew up in Suburbia. Our food came from the grocery store, not a garden. We prepared meals from fresh, canned or frozen foods like everyone else I knew. On weekends we’d enjoy a breakfast of pancakes, always topped with pure Michigan maple syrup. Never had I imagined the hours of labor involved in producing something as simple and pure as Michigan Maple syrup. And then I met my in-laws.

collecting sap from maple trees photoNestled in the woods on a few acres just outside of Honor is a modest home, surrounded by maples. A large garden lies dormant in front of the house, which from the road appears to be resting on a foundation of cord wood. The driveway slopes downhill and curves in front of the pole barn meeting the road and bisecting an old wooden split-rail fence. A weathered hand painted sign rests against the rails and offers Firewood For Sale. A much smaller sign, only posted when inventory is high, and only noticed by those in-the-know, markets pure maple syrup.

When I met my in-laws I began to truly appreciate the time, labor and patience involved in making one of nature’s most healthful products.

Michigan maple syrup is 100% natural, organic and fat-free. Producers are licensed by the state and are forbidden from including any additives including artificial colors or preservatives. There are around 500 commercial producers in Michigan, and over 2000 home operations, like that of my in-laws.

The season for producing maple syrup is sort, generally around 6-8 weeks, and weather dependent. When the temperatures at night drop below freezing, and rise to 40 degrees or higher during the day, the sap will flow. In Michigan that usually begins around late February or early March. Small producers, those collecting sap in buckets or bags, will tap trees based on the weather, whereas commercial ones will start and stop based on the calendar. The sap will only flow on days when the conditions are right.


maple sap drips from a spile photoTapping the Trees

In Michigan sugar and black maple trees are preferred sap makers, although any maple tree sap can be collected and converted to syrup. Holes are drilled in the trees and fitted with collecting spouts called spiles. Buckets or bags are then hung from the spiles to collect the sap. Commericial producers often use elaborate tubing collection systems equipped with vacuums which can increase the yield as much as 50%. A maple tree should be about 40 years old and 10 inches in diameter to be tapped. The number of taps per tree depends on it’s size, with as many as 4 per tree.

During the season an average tap will generate up to 10 gallons of sap; almost enough to make one quart of syrup.

Collecting the Sap

When I was a child I assumed that maple sap must be like other tree sap; thick, sticky, brown and gooey. Not so. The sap that runs from the tree is clear and made of about 98% water. The remaining 2-3% contains sugars and trace minerals including calcium, phosphorus, iron, sodium and potassium. The liquid is slightly sweet and completely pure. Freezing and thawing temperatures create pressure which forces the sap from the tree. Collection buckets are generally covered to keep out debris and rainwater. Maple syrup is made by boiling this sap to evaporate the water to concentrate the sugars.

maple sap collecting in a bucket photoIt takes 43 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of syrup. So 42 gallons of water must be evaporated.

From Sap to Syrup

It’s a good thing my father-in-law cut wood on the side because it can take more than a cord of hardwood to keep the fires going long enough to create a few gallons of syrup. They gather the sap, one heavy pail at a time, and transfer the liquid to a deep evaporation pan which rests atop a firebox. Smoke is routed away from the syrup with a stovepipe. Sap is continuously added as the water evaporates while foam and debris are carefully skimmed. It’s a labor intensive process, and must be carefully timed and attended to avoid boiling over or scorching. When the sugar concentration in the syrup reaches the desired consistency they finish it indoors on the stove.

Syrup boils at 219 degrees Fahrenheit, just above that of water. With a high sugar content the temperature rises quickly, and so does the potential for disaster. More than one stove has been destroyed in the split second between simmer and foaming over-boil. When the syrup reaches the desired temperature it is carefully filtered through clean wool to remove sugar sand and other solids. Stored syrup is packaged hot in tightly sealed air-tight containers.


Maple Syrup and Maple Products

Maple Syrup can be made into other sweet confections including maple cream, sugar and candy. For a fun treat with the kids try pouring it over fresh snow for nature’s own snow-cone. Aside from pancakes and waffles maple syrup is also great drizzled over grapefruit, granola or ice cream, incorporated in a marinade and in vinaigrettes.


Here are a few of my favorite local products made from Michigan Maple Syrup

Maple Walnut Biscotti, Way North Foods

Sirius Maple Dessert Wine, Black Star Farms

Cherry Maple Vinaigrette, Leelanau Country Inn

Maple Walnut Fudge, Murdick’s Fudge Shoppe


Fun Facts

  • The average maple syrup production in Michigan is roughly 90,000 gallons per year, ranking 6th in production nationwide
  • Maple syrup is one of the few agricultural products where demand exceeds supply
  • North America is the only producer of maple syrup since the climate in Europe isn’t favorable for producing sap
  • The production of pure maple syrup is the oldest agricultural endeavor in the U.S.
  • The economic impact of the Michigan Maple Syrup industry is estimated at $2.5 million annually


For more information on the Michigan Maple Syrup industry check out the following links:

Michigan Maple Syrup Association

Hobby Maple Syrup Production

Michigan Maple Syrup

By |2020-01-06T15:46:49-05:00March 8th, 2009|Check This Out, Hometown Highlights|0 Comments

Hometown Highlights: Holiday Gift Guide

Hometown Guide for Holiday Gifts

A resource of staff favorites for this holiday season


One of the reasons I love living in the Traverse area is being surrounded by unique and unusual restaurants, stores and locations. When guests come to town we always insist on dining at a local restaurant and taking them to some of our favorite shopping haunts. So when the holidays roll around it’s no surprise that I like to spend time searching for unique regional gifts to share with friends and relatives who appreciate the Traverse area from afar. This year I thought it would be fun to talk with our clients and see what their favorite gifts are this holiday season. Their input, along with my own and some suggestions from Staton, make up our Hometown Guide to Holiday Gifts.


Care for a Drink?

When it comes to wine everyone has their favorites, especially the winemakers. That’s part of the fun, but it’s also what makes wine such a tricky thing to give. My advice is to always consider the recipient, whether they prefer white or red, and if you’ve no guidelines at all, get a recommendation. And don’t worry, if you prefer your beverages from a tap we have some great ideas for you as well.

Black Star Farms Bubbly Nouveau imageCoryn – Black Star Farms, 2008 Bubbly Nouveau
This wine is reminiscent of a Riesling with subtle fruit flavors of apricot, apple, and melon… think Moscato d’Asti. The Bubbly Nouveau pairs well with seasonal dishes, appetizers, and spicy flavors. It will make a delicious addition to holiday menus and is meant to be drunk young.

Stacey – Left Foot Charley, 2007 Red Drive
A medium bodied, smooth Cabernet Franc blend. The toasty, smokey nose and vanilla undertones reminds me of a warm campfire. It pairs great with alot of hearty meals like pot roast, pork tenderloin or even pasta bolognese. And its excellent in mulled wine as a winter warmer!

Peninsula Cellars Manigold wine imageTom – Peninsula Cellars, 2006 Manigold Gewurtztraminer
This single vineyard, limited production Gewurz has an intense floral bouquet complementing ripe grapefruit flavors, with a spicy finish

Cindy – Forty-Five North, 2007 Icebox Pinot Gris
Made from late harvest pinot gris grapes this is our answer to ice wine. Truly the whip cream of dessert.

Staton’s Favorites
Forty-Five North Peach-Apricot Mead, Left Foot Charley GerwurtztraminerPeninsula Cellars Detention and Black Star Farms Arcturos Late Harvest Riesling. Each of these is remarkable, distinctive with or without food and guaranteed to please the varied palates of seasonal guests…no danger of seeing partially-consumed pours at the end of an evening. And not to be forgotten, a growler of Distill My Heart Bourbon Stout from Right Brain Brewery.


For the Foodie

Edible gifts are some of my favorites. They are great to have on hand for hostess gifts or pull them together and make a truly thoughtful custom basket. Many area retailers even have packages assembled and ready to ship. We asked our clients for some of their favorites and of course I had to weigh in on this one.

Underground Cheesecake on a Stick imageKristen – The Village

Some of my favorites include a bottle of Red Drive Red from Left Foot Charleya bottle of Artisan Red from TASTES of Black Star FarmsGrocer’s Daughter Chocolates from Sweet Asylum, Karma Candy (chocolate covered espresso beans) from Higher GroundsCheesecake on a stick from The Underground Cheesecake Co.“Brownies to Live For” from The Silvertree Deligrissini bread sticks from Pleasanton Bakery
Ann – Learn Great Foods
Check out the FoodBooks for recipes, tips on buying from farmers, health benefits and more for each featured food. Newest editions include Fish, Bison, Herbs and Asparagus. Available now online.
Staff picks include the brand new Cherries Galore – Premium Pie Filling and Dessert Topping, one of a kind Black Cherry Wine or how about a gift basket assembled in a stainless steel cherry colander.
Brandy’s Picks
I love picking out oils and vinegars from Fustini’s – my current favorites are Meyer Lemon Olive Oil and Pomegranate Balsamic Vinegar. I’m also a recent addict of the parmesan olive bread from Pleasanton Bakery. And I’ve yet to stop in toThe Radish without leaving with one of their fresh baked goods. The granola nut bars with chocolate chips are fantastic.
Staton’s Favorites
Chocolate covered cherries from The Cherry Stop, a cup of warm sangria from Ciao Bella, and a flavor infusion of oil and vinegars from Fustini’s. There’s nothing better than a HOT bowl of soup, especially the Tomato Basil at The Radish.
Local Artisans
Like wine, art can be difficult to choose, especially for someone else. Here are a few suggestions, for all price ranges, that might make your shopping a little easier this holiday season. If all else fails, check out these great galleries and shops and see if they make wish lists.
glass vial necklace imageKristen – The Village
The glass vial necklace from Gallery 50 is a cool mix of silver, glass beads and medicine vials.  Also love the earring necklaces at Jeanette Veeder Designs made from vintage earrings and other fun bits and pieces…perfect for the girl who likes to do her own thing.
What about a collection of wild flowers or winter scene notecards? You can create your own combination of Gwen Frostic’s original block prints or choose one of the pre-packaged sets. There’s also a full line of rubber stamps for reproducing Gwen’s designs at home.
James Blanchard Fordite ringsBrandy’s Choice
Too many favorites to mention them all, but here’s a sample. Signature “folded design” rings from Becky Thatcher Designs, an A-line skirt in bold black & white from Haystacks…which is designed and sewn in Leelanau County, one of Kristen Jongen’s paintings from Art and Soul Gallery in Downtown Traverse City. And I love to tell people about the jewelry made from Fordite or Detroit agate. Pick up a ring at Gallery 50 from artist James Blanchard and get the whole story.
Staton’s Shopping Haunts
Belstone Gallery in Downtown Traverse City for jewelry and art glass, calendars and notecards from Gwen Frostics in Benzonia and we always find something we can’t live without from the artists at Michigan Artist’s Gallery in Sutton’s Bay.


Gift’s for the Guy or Gal with Everything

We all have them on our list. Friends or relatives that already have what they want, or aren’t too forthcoming with suggestions for what might be on their wish list. But fear not. I have a few ideas that you might not have considered. How about a day trip, now or when spring returns, so they can enjoy this great place we call home? Or what about the sportsman, or the patron of the arts? Here are some great suggestions so you can finish your shopping before New Year’s Day!

Coppelia ballet at Interlochen imageSteve – Interlochen Center for the Arts
My vote is for Coppélia. Based on a tale by E.T.A. Hoffman (who also inspired “The Nutcracker”), “Coppélia” is a magical masterpiece that introduced automatons, dolls and marionettes into the world of ballet. The comic storyline revolves around a mysterious (and faintly diabolical) toymaker, and a love triangle between a feisty village girl named Swanhilda, her fiancé Franz, and the toymaker’s amazingly lifelike clockwork doll. One of the few true comedy ballets, it’s an enchanting holiday treat for the entire family!

golf simulator imageDoug – Traverse City Golf Center
For the golfer on your list, how about a winter driving range membership or a golf lesson package from the Traverse City Golf Center? Or, for an afternoon of fun, play an hour of golf at Pebble Beach on one of two Golf Simulators located on-site.

Colleen – Downtown Traverse City Association
It may be unusual, but that’s what makes it a showstopper: The upside down tree from Holiday Traditions in Downtown Traverse City. Just what the festive decorator in your family would dream of.

Other Fun Ideas

  • Lifetime membership at Right Brain Brewery, complete with growler, mug and t-shirt
  • Culinary farm tour on Leelanau Peninsula this spring with Learn Great Foods. (Visit our photo gallery to see what fun Staton and I had this fall)
  • For the music lovers, how about an ornate music box from The Music House Museum.
  • Treat someone to an Ethnic Night dinner out at The Bluebird Restaurant in Leland
  • Explore the local waters with Traverse Tall Ship Company, for an evening sail then bunk in the cabins below deck on an overnight Bed & Breakfast sail. You’ll have to wait until May 1st, but gift certificates and reservations can be made today
  • A haircut from Robertsons…keeping the memory of Sandy Raymond, Staton’s barber for 24 years, alive.


I’d say that should give you a lot to shop for this holiday season. From Downtown Traverse City, to The Village and out into the smaller communities that make up Northern Michigan, there are countless unique buys this holiday season. My last suggestion is to always be on the lookout for a great find, a special reminder of why we love the Traverse Area. And remember that shopping local throughout the year supports the businesses and families that keep this region strong.


Happy Hunting!

New Travelog Series

Hometown Highlights Northern Michigan travelogJoin me as I drive, shop, eat and explore my way across the Traverse Area on a mission to fill my displays. Together we’ll be tourists in my hometown.


M-22 Corridor from Empire to Leland

My first travelog begins on M-22, the scenic highway that traces the contours of Leelanau county and beyond. The state highway is 114.5 miles long and crosses four counties. I highly recommend the entire trip, but like a cheesecake I prefer to enjoy it one piece at a time. I have several card display locations along the route in Glen Arbor and Leland. Today my focus was on Leland. It’s less than 30 miles between Empire and Leland, but I like to enjoy trip when I have the time. Slip in some shopping, lunch or a beach diversion, and it’s easily a 3 hour tour.

Just before I head into Empire, and not long after crossing from Benzie into Leelanau county, I come across my first stop. Grocer’s Daughter Chocolate sits right on M-22 along the curve. It’s modest building and signage may slip past you, so pay attention because you won’t want to miss it. Mimi Wheeler left her job as a social worker to produce fine natural chocolates made from organic ingredients, including the herbs from her garden. I can’t drive through Empire without indulging my chocolate fix with some of Mimi’s Chingers; dark chocolate covered candied ginger.

You won’t see much of the village of Empire unless you venture off M-22 into town. There is a wonderful beach, although rather stony for those with tender feet. The Robert H. Manning memorial lighthouse is a fun photo-op. It’s not a working light, more like a monument, but it’s still classified as a lighthouse. There are a few shops in town and along M-22, as well as some restaurants. One of our favorites is The Village Inn, or The V.I. as the locals call it. Today, however, I was just passing through.

M-22 leaves Empire and winds it’s way toward Glen Arbor. This time of year I’m always looking for the little farm stands along the side of the road selling fruits and vegetables from small wooden displays. Hand-painted signs introduce blueberries, cherries and fresh sweet corn just ahead. Many stands are on-your-honor with small glass jars for collecting payment.

One of my favorite stretches of highway is just past the narrows bridge which bisects the turquoise waters of Glen Lake. On the left stunning homes sit back from the road and gaze down their manicured lawns across the highway toward the crystal waters of Glen Lake. The road stretches forward and soon pulls away from the water as you head into Glen Arbor.


It was before lunchtime when I arrived in town so I pulled into Wildflowers to endulge my flower fancy. Whether you have a huge garden, a few window boxes, or just an appreciation for beautiful things, Wildflowers is a treat. Outside you can shop for perennials or wander through their shady gardens in the back. Inside their giftshop incorporates garden, gifts, jewelry, art and much more.

As much as I wanted to leave with a new limelight hydrangea for my front yard it would have to wait for another trip when there was more room in the car. Today the displays were my focus, and my trip to Leland. So it was back on the road for me.

Glen Arbor is a destination of it’s own, to which I dedicate a future trip. In fact I have several display locations in Glen Arbor including The Glen Arbor Lakeshore Inn, Glen Craft Marina & Resort, Le Bear Resort, Leelanau Vacation Rentals and The Maple Lane Resort. So I’ll be back soon to check in on them.


M-22 leaves Glen Arbor as it crosses the Crystal River. The landscape all around is lush and green this time of year. The stretch from Glen Arbor to Leland wanders past fields of wildflowers, weathered barns, hidden lakes and trails that tempt you with their unknown destinations. Trees of maple, beech, ash and cherry create the landscape throughout the trip. These are only a few of the sights that make up the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, the area’s largest park and greatest visitor attraction.

Today I left the National Lakeshore, passed county road 667 which leads to Maple City and back home to Lake Ann, and followed the road along Good Harbor Bay. The homes and foliage prevent most of the views of Lake Michigan but you could still hear the waves on a windy day. I drove past M-204, where I often turn to cross the Leelanau peninsula and on into Suttons Bay. Soon Lake Leelanau came into view on the right and I knew I was getting close. Which is good, because I could feel the rumblings of hunger and Leland has some great sights, and bites, to take in.


In the summer the streets of Leland are filled with people enjoying the port town and all it has to offer. Today was no exception. I entered town along Main Street and turned left at the gas station onto Cedar St and around the bend to the right where I’d land behind the Falling Waters Lodge. They enjoy a spectacular view of fishtown, the fishing village for which Leland is most know. Check out my gallery for a great photo of their unique vantage point.

After filling the display at the lodge I took a few moment to stroll down to the beach. If you’re looking for a quiet scenic view of the Leland harbor there’s a great path to the waters edge that starts behind the Falling Waters Lodge. From here you can walk the shore to the right towards the harbor. The stone pier extends it’s protective barrier from the crashing waves throughout the seasons. Today the waters were all but still. A mother and her children balanced along the top of the pier and a few fishermen cast their lines into the water.

With warm sand between my toes I headed back to the car and off to my next stop. My stomach still echoed but I had a few more trips to make before lunch. At the top of the hill on Pearl Street sits The Leland Lodge. They were busy today in the office, so it was a quick trip in and out to fill their display and head back down into the heart of town. As I pulled out under the canopy in front of the lodge I caught a glimpse of guests dining outdoors on their patio overlooking the sloping lawn. One of these days I’m going to stop here for an iced tea and a side of fabulous view.

I park in town after some circling and find a spot across from my last stop, The Bluebird Restaurant. Skip and Lynn Telgard have carried on a family tradition in Leland as third generation owners of The Bluebird. If you haven’t stopped in for their famous whitefish or renowned Sunday brunch, add it to your must-do list. I personally can’t pass up their pea & peanut salad, a highlight on the fresh salad bar, or the sugary cinnamon rolls that arrive at the table wrapped in linen and warmth. Today I’m delivering more cards for them to use in the restaurant. The hostess eagerly accepted the delivery. “Our servers hand them out with the check and the guests love them,” she said. I’m always happy to hear that.


So with my goals met for the afternoon I’m free to eat and enjoy some of Leland’s finest. My pick for lunch today is the Village Cheese Shanty. Located in the heart of fishtown on the docks is a tiny shack with amazing sandwiches. The line was nearly out the door, but they’re incredibly efficient. I chose the special of the day to make things easy and to try something new. I don’t think you can go wrong with their selections of fresh shaved meats and variety of cheeses, but you have to try the pretzel bread. The special of the day was capicola ham, lettuce, tomato, onion, fresh buffalo mozzarella and balsamic viniagrette dressing on pretzel bread. Yummy, and well worth the wait.

On my way back to the car I followed my nose to the sweet scents of Murdick’s Fudge Shoppe. It’s hard to resist their creamy blend that’s known across Northern Michigan as the best fudge around. So I selected a half slice of peanut butter to sample on the return trip.

Like Glen Arbor, there is much more to enjoy in Leland than I have time for on this trip. So I’ll be back soon. For now I’ll jump back on M-22 and continue the trip. I’ll introduce you to the rest of M-22 and the adventures to be found along the way in future travelog posts. Until then, check out Empire, Glen Arbor and Leland.


If you have a favorite spot along M-22 that you’d like to share, email me here and I’ll check it out. Thanks!


By |2020-01-09T11:24:51-05:00August 11th, 2008|Day Trips, Hometown Highlights, Leelanau|0 Comments