Traverse Traveler Holiday Gift Guide 2013

Traverse Traveler Holiday Gift GuideI know it’s challenging to find the time to scour the stores hunting for the perfect gift. So each year I sneak out to our local retailers in search of eye catching items for someone special on your list. I hope these suggestions will get the holiday spirit flowing. Each item includes a price (or price range) and the northern Michigan store where it can be purchased. I encourage you to shop local and help boost the economy in our own backyard. (more…)

Downtown Traverse City Holiday Events

Downtown Traverse City Christmas imageCelebrate the Spirit of the Season in Downtown Traverse City

There’s nothing like strolling the streets of Downtown, popping in and out of shops while snowflakes drift to the ground. With Thanksgiving behind us you know that Christmas shopping is next. Downtown Traverse City wants to make sure you enjoy the holidays, so they’re getting ready to kick-off the season with the Arrival of Santa on December 2nd, followed by special shopping nights for the Ladies and the ever popular Men’s Night.

A recent study conducted by Think Local First of Grand Rapids showed that $73 out of $100 spent locally stayed in the community, compared to $43 out of $100 spent in a business that was not locally owned.

Here’s all the details you’ll need to throughly enjoy a local shopping experience in Downtown Traverse City.


Santa’s Arrival, Tree Lighting & Holiday Open House
Friday, December 2nd
Downtown’s seasonal magic lights up on the first Friday in December with the excitement of Santa’s Arrival.  Spend the evening with Santa and shopping throughout the unique shops in Downtown Traverse City. At 5 pm, shoppers will be serenaded with holiday music and can gather at the community trees at the corner of Cass and E. Front St. Attendees can join in a community sing-a-long of their favorite holiday carols accompanied by the Interlochen Arts Academy Chamber Choir.  The excitement continues with Santa’s arrival in bright red antique fire engine!  Santa will join the carols, receive the Key to the City from the Traverse City Mayor, Chris Bzdok and then light the tree at 6 pm, before spending the rest of the evening (6-8 p.m.) visiting with little ones at his holiday house at Cass and E. Front Street.  While Santa is in his house, Horse & Carriage Rides from Abraham Carriage Service will be available at an affordable price until 8 pm.
Bringing a little bit of the islands to the blustery winter in Downtown Traverse City, the Steel Drum Band "Uprizin" will be performing at the corner of Cass and E. Front from 6:15 – 9 pm. You won’t want to miss the amazing sounds that this troupe will bring to the north.

Ice on Display! Eight ice sculptures created by former World Champion and Traverse City resident Steven Berkshire will be on display throughout Front St. Park Place Hotel Chef, Marc Pritchard, will perform a live ice carving demonstration at the Jay Smith Walkway from 6 to 8 pm.

Live Reindeer will be located for little ones to enjoy in front of Red Ginger, while next door, the State Theatre will be offering FREE Holiday cartoons at 6:45 pm.
Share the spirit of the season with family and friends while merchants throughout the Downtown district host open houses and in-store specials.  Participating stores will have extended evening hours and offer store specials, free gift wrapping, food, refreshments and more!

Ladies’ Night
Thursday, December 8th
Downtown Traverse City will be hosting Ladies Night, Thursday, December 8th from 5 to 9 pm.   Visit participating stores for specials, refreshments, prize drawings, free gift wrapping and more! Caroling throughout the evening with the Sweet Adelines.

Men’s Night Downtown
Thursday, December 15th
Gentlemen, the evening is yours, finally!  Celebrate and shop with friends during Men’s Night Downtown on Thursday, December 15th.  The gents can enjoy hors d’oeuvres and specials at many restaurants and merchants will be offering in-store specials, gift wrapping and drawings. Caroling throughout the evening with the Sweet Adelines.

Downtown Holiday Lights
Downtown Traverse City shines during the holiday season due to Traverse City Light & Power.  A special thank you goes out to Traverse City Light & Power for making possible the purchase of over 133,000 new LED lights in 2008. Traverse City Light & Power begins installation of the lights in early November. The process of installing lights on over 300 trees in Downtown Traverse City takes about three weeks.

Shop Downtown and Win!
Spend $200 in Downtown Traverse City between December 1-10, 2011 and enter to win a $250 Downtown Shopping Spree. It’s easy to enter. Visit the Downtown Office no later than December 12, 2011, show your receipts totaling $200 in purchases between December 1-10, 2010 and enter to win. The drawing will take place on Tuesday, December 13, 2011.  And don’t forget to keep your dollars local this holiday shopping season, Downtown Gift Certificates Make the Perfect Gift!

Santa’s Hours
Santa will be visiting with little ones in his house at the corner of Cass and E. Front throughout the holiday season.
Friday: 12/2  6 – 8 pm
Fridays: 12/9, 12/16  5 – 8 pm
Saturdays: 12/3, 12/10, 12/17   11 am – 4 pm
Sundays: 12/4, 12/11, 12/18   1 – 4 pm
Extended hours:
            12/21 & 12/22: 3 – 7 pm
            12/23 & 12/24: Noon – 3 pm
Parking  – Free and Easy!
The price is right for downtown parking this holiday season. Parking is free at the Larry C. Hardy and Old Town Parking Decks after 5 pm, Monday through Friday and all day on Saturday and Sunday.
Downtown Holidays are hosted by the over 200 merchants, restaurants and businesses who are members of the Downtown Traverse City Association.  Please contact the Downtown Traverse City Association at 922-2050 or e-mail for further information.

By |2011-11-29T10:01:00+00:00November 29th, 2011|Events, Traverse City|0 Comments

10 Places I've Never Been: Two Fish Gallery

10 Places I've Never Been


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. Next on my list: Two Fish Gallery

Two Fish Gallery LelandTwo Fish Gallery entrance


One thing I’ve discovered while writing about 10 Places I’ve Never Been it’s that there are a lot more than ten! And coincidentally, many of them are places I have walked past dozens of times. Two Fish Gallery is one of those places.


I visit Leland quite often, walk along the wooden boardwalk, under the shade of that enormous tree, and explore Fishtown. But I hadn’t ventured into the store that lies in the shadow of that tree —until this summer.

Two Fish Gallery inside view


Two Fish Gallery is the type of shop visitors are searching for when they want to bring home a momento from their trip Up North. My first impression was that the buyers for this store go out of their way to find items that represent northern Michigan, and are a bit unique. It’s a challenge to choose artwork, gifts, cards and collectables that shoppers won’t see in the store around the corner. Owner Jennifer Collins has done a great job bringing something new into the retail mix.


To write a blog about a retail store means talking about the products they sell. So I’ve taking a ton of photos and thought I’d share some of the items that captured my attention. Let me be your guide on a virtual shopping tour through Two Fish Gallery.

Two Fish Gallery Bill Campbell potteryTwo Fish Gallery Bill Campbell pottery


When you walk in the door you can’t miss the large display of ceramics from artist Bill Campbell. He’s a Pennsylvania potter known for a very unique glazing technique. Two Fish Gallery has a great selection of his collectable yet functional art pottery in shades of blue, aqua, purple and brown.

Two Fish Gallery Solmate Socks


Another customer favorite are the Solmate Socks. AKA "The Sock Lady," this Vermont artist creates beautiful mismatched socks, which may be quite familiar as they’ve become collectable in their own right. The bright knits hang on the wall attached to a clothes line. Each pair of socks has a name which corresponds to the color-scheme. I love that she sells the kids socks in sets of 3, "A pair and a spare," and the Baby Sockinis are sold in sets of 5.

Two Fish Gallery wooden signs


All around the store, hanging near the ceiling, are these fabulous wooden signs painted with clever and humorous phrases. While this is certainly not the only store I’ve seen with wooden signs, I do love the choice of phrases Two Fish Gallery has selected. Some are clever, some tug at the heartstrings, and some just make you laugh out loud. The company Sawdust City offers thousands of options, so it’s up to the gallery owner to choose what she should sell. This gives you a glimpse into her personality and that of Two Fish Gallery’s customers.

Two Fish Gallery signsTwo Fish Gallery signs

The signs can also be customized. In store they carry several that talk about Leland, Fishing, Michigan and up north. But you can even have a one-of-a-kind sign made for your family, cottage or as a gift. My personal favorite: "Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will buy more fishing equipment than he can use in a lifetime." Sad, but true.

Two Fish Gallery jewelry

 Two Fish Gallery chart jewelry

Eventually my browsing lead me to the jewelry, as it often does. And there’s a lot of variety in the store to choose from. There are handmade crystal necklaces, bracelets and earrings made by a local artist, and friend of the Collins family, Suzanne Meyer. Her self-proclaimed "bead addiction" is a blessing for the rest of us who can appreciate the cherry-inspired necklaces, and simple braclets. I also liked the custom Chart Map jewelry which reveals a tiny section of a map under glass bubbles, strategically featuring the Leelanau Peninsula.

Two Fish Gallery Staxx rings


But, the artsy designer in me was drawn to the case of Staxx jewelry, a company I wasn’t familiar with until Jennifer explained. Staxx is a collectable line of customizable rings which are built by you. Two Fish Gallery has a big selection to choose from, so Jennifer hauled it all out for me.

Two Fish Gallery Staxx ringsTwo Fish Gallery Staxx rings


You start with a stainless steel ring with a post on top, choose your layers from colorful disks of glass, metal and molded shapes, then cap it with a topper. Each ring is as unique as the designer. The combinations are endless. So, as you can imagine, I stood there playing for quite a while before deciding on the ring I wanted. The price is determined by what you’ve selected, with layers ranging from $2-$10. Rings usually end up in the $30-$50 range.


While we played with the rings I had a chance to ask Jennifer how she ended up with a retail business in Leland. As it turns out she’s an Engineer by trade, who grew up in Iowa where the closest thing to a lake was man-made. But when her husband retired and moved here from Chicago in 1997 they decide to buy an existing business, Americana Collection. The only problem was, they didn’t know much about antiques. So in 2009 they decided to change the name of the store to Two Fish Gallery, and the inventory began to reflect a style which suited them and the town of Leland.

Two Fish Gallery signsTwo Fish Gallery halloweenTwo Fish Gallery Curly Girl

"We really try hard to find unique things. And we love to make people laugh." So Jennifer has filled the store with collections like Curly Girl, seasonal gifts from Woof & Poof and greeting card lines that will have customers standing there reading out loud to their friends, and laughing all the way to the register. Even the garden art is whimsical and unexpected.

Two Fish Gallery my purchase


As for me, I knew once I saw the rings that I had my purchase. It probably took 30-minutes of playing to make it. But that’s another nice thing about Jennifer and the staff at Two Fish Gallery…she didn’t mind playing right along with me!

Two Fish Gallery LelandLeland cottonwood tree


You can find Two Fish Gallery under the shade of a champion cottonwood tree, overlooking beautiful Fishtown. For those with a GPS, that’s 104 West River Street, Leland, Michigan 49654. They are open year-round, and feature seasonal gifts especially for Christmas. Call 231.256.9350 for more details or to place a special order. You can find them online at and Find them on Facebook here. As with all my 10 Places locations, they are also listed under Shop in the Traverse Traveler iPhone app — our free mobile guide to the Traverse Area. Download on iTunes here.



Today is the last day to nominate a business for my 10th stop on the 10 Places I’ve Never Been series. So visit us on the  Traverse Traveler Facebook page. I’ll be choosing my last place from your suggestions!


And stay tuned next week, as I plan to explore the next stop on my 10 Places I’ve Never Been tour:  The Cherry Hut.

By |2011-08-26T11:13:50+00:00August 26th, 2011|Leelanau, Place's I've Never Been|0 Comments

10 Places I've Never Been: Country Christmas

10 Places I've Never Been image

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. Next on my list: Country Christmas

 Country Christmas exterior image


This is another one of those places that every local has driven past at one time or another. Located on the uphill side of highway M-72 as you’re headed out of Traverse City towards Empire is Country Christmas. This cozy cottage-like place, painted red with green gingerbread trim is the perfect spot for a crafty couple like Bill and Lee Smith.

Country Christmas interior view 


It was Tuesday when I walked in, completely unannounced and was met with a smile by Tracy Smith. Standing behind a desk, and in front of a beautiful antique hotel key box, was his father, Bill. I was immediately impressed when the first question they had for me was, "Have you been in to visit us before, or is this your first time?"


I introduced myself and explained the concept for the 10 Places I’ve Never Been article series. With a nod of recognition, they quickly responded, "You’re going to want to talk to Lee." Around the corner she came.

 Country Christmas interior image


The story of Country Christmas always goes back to Lee, and her love of homemade holiday crafts. For years Lee sold her creative Christmas decorations at arts and crafts fairs. She recycled and repurposed every piece of material, paper or holiday-themed gift that she came across. Pipe-cleaners, old spools, candy boxes, corks, cards, bits of fabric and ribbon all became materials for Lee’s creations. She saw potential in everything, and nothing was wasted.


In 1983 the antique store on these grounds came up for sale, just as their dreams of living on the bay were dashed by the housing market. A move to the country was in store, and their house suddenly sold to make it possible. That’s when Lee, Bill and their three sons went into the Holiday business.

Country Christmas spool angel imageCountry Christmas cork ornament image

Country Christmas driftwood santas imageCountry Christmas handmade ornament image

Upon taking a tour to learn more about their products, Bill really came to life. As he guided me through the three main rooms he was so proud to show off each of his wife’s creative designs. We saw angels made with spools and tulle, simple clusters of corks loved by wine-tasting tourists, Santas painted on driftwood and little boxes designed from bits and pieces she collects. Each ornament brought a smile to his eye and a nod towards Lee.

Country Christmas manger


But the store isn’t just filled with Lee’s handiwork. Over the years they’ve built relationships with artists all over the Midwest. In fact I began noticing red tags hanging on nearly half their merchandise — a sign that the piece is handcrafted and locally made. They were approached by one of the first Bronners employees who asked if the Smiths might like sell his handmade mangers. Since then Bill has begun decorating some with stones he finds along Lake Michigan.

Country Christmas santa ornamentsCountry Christmas bird ornament

Country Christmas antique tinsCountry Christmas chalkware image

They also have handcarved Santas, bells on leather straps from Ohio, and some very colorful handpainted ornaments from Traverse City artist Keith Smith. If handmade Christmas ornaments are what you’re shopping for, this is the place to go.


Another unique item Lee began to make and sell is called Chalkware. They started collecting antique tin folding chocolate molds. Lee fills the molds with a chalky plaster and when set, she paints the figurine. Each piece is handmade and unique.

Country Christmas Buyer's Choice carrolersCountry Christmas baby blocks 


There are many well-known collections available at Country Christmas. They carry Buyer’s Choice Carrolers, Santas, nativities, German glass ornaments and vintage pieces. Trees throughout the store show off collections of ornaments that will suit any holiday decor. I even found some lime green trees and modern fused glass pieces that fit the theme in my house.


If you’re looking for a personalized gift, you’ll love the solid cherry baby blocks which are laser-cut and personalized with your choice of designs on each side. With Lee’s steady hand she will paint a personal message or family name on nearly any item you wish.

Country Christmas Waldo-ClauseCountry Christmas Waldo-Clause


One of my favorite features is actually something the Smith’s started doing to keep children busy while shopping with their parents. Pasted on the front door before you even enter the store, is a sign announcing that Waldo-Clause is hiding inside. The children spend their time searching all the nooks and crannys of the shop looking for Waldo-Clause. Once he is discovered and reported the kids get to select a small prize. But perhaps the bigger reward is the priviledge of hiding Waldo-Clause for the next eager hunter.

Country Christmas purchase


After wandering the store, in search of my purchase, I was immediately drawn to some whimsical lime green trees I could use for display. I sheepishly admitted, the holiday I’m really addicted to is Halloween. Sure enough I found a couple candy corn glass ornaments that will look great with my Halloween decorations. So I had my purchase. Now all I needed was a photo of the happy couple who started this quaint little store on the side of the road.

Country Christmas owners


"I always told the kids, ‘Don’t buy me something, make me something’," said Lee. And it’s that philosophy that keeps her creating every day.


With our crafty backgrounds, and ability to see creative opportunities everywhere we look, I knew Lee and I were kindred spirits. It was my pleasure to meet such a sweet couple. And I’m sure I’ll be back to the Country Christmas store.

Country Christmas interiorCountry Christmas entry


Country Christmas is open from Memorial Day to Christmas Eve, Monday – Saturday from 10-5pm, and 7 days a week starting on October 1st. You can find them at 9005 M-72 West, Traverse City, Michigan 49684. To place a special order call 231.946.6294. Visit their website at As with all my 10 Places locations, I’ll be adding them to the Traverse Traveler iPhone app — our free mobile guide to the Traverse Area. Download on iTunes here.



If there’s a place in northern Michigan you’ve been dying to visit, but you’ve never made the time, you have one more week to tell me about it on the Traverse Traveler Facebook page. I’ll be choosing my last place from your suggestions!


And stay tuned, as I plan to explore the next stop on my 10 Places I’ve Never Been tour:  Two Fish Gallery.


By |2011-08-19T09:01:39+00:00August 19th, 2011|Place's I've Never Been, Traverse City|0 Comments

10 Places I've Never Been: Rock Shop

10 Places I've Never Been

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. Next on my list: Rock Shop

Rockshop street view image 


I know you’ve seen it. If you’ve driven along US 31 between Interlochen and Honor you’ve driven past it. The question is, have you ever been inside the C & M Rock Shop? I hadn’t until this week.


That’s not to say I haven’t noticed their little enterprise on the side of the road. In fact, I’ve always wondered, "Does anybody shop there?" Turns out, more than a few people shop there. That’s why it’s been open for more than forty years!

Rock Shop image


When I walked in to the shop on Tuesday and asked for Bruce Mueller, the owner, I was met with some reservation. Why was I writting an article? Was it going to cost anything? But I assured them it was my own curiosity that put their Rock Shop on my list of 10 Places I’ve Never Been, and I’d be happy to share their story because I believe it just might interest some other folks out there who have passed by for years. With that, I was welcomed into Bruce & Shirley’s little slice of geologic capitalism.


Bruce Mueller lead an interesting life before he settled down to sell rocks. He was in the Korean War, where his actions and responsibilities were considered top secret. So secret he’s not even sure what they were. After the war he used the GI bill to get a college degree in geology, a subject that’s been of interest to him since the age of eight. He proceeded to get a masters degree and taught high school in Rockford, Illinois for 35 years.

Rock Shop cases imageRock Shop polished stones image


I could’t resist the obvious question: why a rock shop, on the side of the road in Northern Michigan? "I started this so I’d have something to do when I retired," said Bruce.


Bruce and Shirley found a 1904 barn that had collapsed because the roofline was so steep no one would go up to reshingle it. They worked with the basement structure, adding a simple roof to create the shop, even cut a doorway into the stone silo so it could be used as an office. In 1967 they opened the C & M Rock Shop for business. They sold $260 in rocks that year. "I’d rather not say how many we sell now," they smiled. But let’s just say Shirley’s family isn’t laughing at them any more.

Rock Shop meteorite imageRock Shop agate image


The Rock Shop sells polished and unpolished stones from around the world. There are several display cases showcasing fossils that date back before the age of dinosaurs. Trilobites, cephalopods, ammonites and even metorites line the shelves. You can sort through gemostones like peridot or Michigan greenstone, or pick up a beautifully polished Lake Superior agate.

Rockshop nautilus imageRockshop chain coral imageRockshop Michigan greenstone image


It may have been years since Bruce taught school, but he hasn’t lost his passion for geology or his desire to share his knowledge. We chatted for nearly an hour about the geologic origin of Michigan, the make-up of our local rockbed, and stories behind the fossils found throughout the store. He also shared many secrets of the popular Petoskey stone that beach combers search for with passion and nostalgia. It’s probably the Petoskey stone that has kept the Rock Shop in business for so many years.

Rock Shop Petoskey stones

Rock shop petoskey stones

Inside the Rock Shop there are Petoskey stones everywhere. A long table showcases polished stones of all sized. They sell some Petoskey stone jewelry as well. Outside shoppers can sort through piles of Petoskeys that have been dug up from the rockbed. These raw stones bear a much closer resemblance to the coral from which they were formed, since they excavated directly from the ground rather than tumbled in the waves which naturally smooth out their edges.

Rockshop Puddingstone image


Outside, visitors browse through the larger stones, including one of Bruce’s favorites: the Pudding Stone. This conglomerate rock is a mixture of several other stones held together by quartz. These stones would have formed over 2 billion years ago, transported here by glaciers.


With all the stones on site I wondered if Bruce was an avid rock hound or if he purchased the stones he sells. It turns out he’s willing to buy, if the timing is right. In fact, just that morning a man stopped by with 500 lbs. of Petoskeys—an unwanted inheritance from a lifelong collector. So Bruce bought them. "I especially try to buy from children," he added, paying $0.50 to $1.00 depending on the size and quality of the stone.

Rock shop Bruce Mueller


Bruce is a great story-teller, and seeks to share the unexpected or unique facts about his subject. Here’s one of his Did You Know stories, that I just had to share.

If you want to buy a gravestone that will last:

  • Choose a marble stone and it will last 100 years, but the effects of acid rain will destroy it;
  • Choose a granite headstone and water erosion will begin the degrade the inscription after 500 years;
  • But if you choose a Quartz headstone, in 7 billion years, when the sun expands into a red giant and vaporizes the earth you will STILL be able to read what it says on the tombstone…assuming there will be anyone left to read it!


I asked Bruce the question I was dying to have answered: how does a business that sells rocks stay in business for so long?

"We picked, by sheer accident, the right location," he answered. Simple as that.

Rockshop book image


Before I left I picked up a copy of one of Bruce’s books, The Complete Guide to Petoskey Stones, which he kindly autographed for me. After the third stop on my tour I discovered that Bruce is co-Author of the series of Rock Picker’s Guides with Kevin Gallagher of Korner Gem. It’s a small world.


Generations of families have been stopping by this tiny Rock Shop on the side of the road in Benzie County for nearly 45 years. If you haven’t made a point to pull the car over and check it out, I encourage you to do so. Especially if you have any young rock hounds in the backseat just itching to get their hands on a petoskey, or see some amazing fossils.


C & M Rock Shop is located along US 31 between Interlochen & Honor. 13236 Honor Hwy, Beulah, MI 49617 to be precise. They are open seasonally. For more information reach them by phone at 231.325.2309. They also own a jewelry showroom in Rockton, IL. Check out their website here: As with all my 10 Places locations, you can find them on the Traverse Traveler iPhone app — our free mobile guide to the Traverse Area. Download on iTunes here.


If there’s a place in northern Michigan you’ve been dying to visit, but you’ve never made the time, I’d like to hear about it. Join the conversation on the Traverse Traveler Facebook page, and let me know where you’re going.


And stay tuned, as I plan to explore the next stop on my 10 Places I’ve Never Been tour:  22 Vines & Wines.


By |2011-08-04T21:31:31+00:00August 4th, 2011|Benzie, Place's I've Never Been|0 Comments

10 Places I've Never Been: Korner Gem

10 Places I've Never Been

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. Next on my list: Korner Gem

Korner Gem sign image

Ever since I received an unusual Fordite necklace from my husband I’ve wanted to stop in and meet the jeweler at Korner Gem. But I’d never found the time or opportunity.


Then I began my mission to explore 10 Places I’ve Never Been. And I realized…we don’t find time, we make it.

Brewery Creek entrance imageBrewery Creek sign


Korner Gem is located in a small plaza called Brewery Creek, across from the marina on the West side of M-22 as you head towards Suttons Bay. The best way to spot the entrance is to look for the big blue building that looks like a lighthouse (but houses a Subway). With a giant blue diamond sign on the white building it’s easy to find once you know where it is. This is the type of place you’ll be sharing with family and friends once you’ve seen what’s inside.

As soon as I opened the door I was greeted by the owner/designer, Kevin Gauthier. Although we’d never met, the jewelers glasses perched atop his head were a dead giveaway. Before I explained my mission I spent a few minutes absorbing the surroundings.

Korner Gem interior view imageKorner Gem mosaic image


Most shoppers would go straight for the jewelry cases to see what treasures await just behind the glass. But I couldn’t help looking at my feet. Just inside the front door, and sprawling across the tile floor was a beautiful stone mosaic river. The cut stone slices shone with a high polish and flowed across the floor in a rainbow of colors. But the story behind it was even more beautiful.


Kevin has honed his skills in gemology and rock collecting for decades as of the oldest—albiet youngest—members of the Grand Traverse Rock & Mineral Club. He’s met many friends along the way, some of whom have passed on. The stones in his river were collected and purchased from fellow rock hounds and vendors, only two of whom had the chance to see his creation before passing. The river remains a beautiful tribute to a lifelong journery collecting precious fossils and friends.


There are over 600 slabs of stone in Kevin’s river, represending some 70 varieties of rock from across the world. Having designed and laid a tile mosaic in my own home I have a special appreciation for the time, toil and back pain associated with a project like this! It’s worth a trip just to see it.

Korner Gem necklace display

The first impression that struck me in Korner Gem was the atmosphere. Perhaps the stone river carried me away, but there’s something very relaxed and comfortable about this store. I think it’s the rocks. They’re everywhere. From agates and petoskeys, to fossils and geodes exploding with amethyst.


Then Kevin said something that explained what I was feeling, "The jewelry profession supports the rock habit."

Korner Gem amethyst geodeKorner Gem display


Indeed, Kevin has created a fabulous jewelry collection by focusing on what he loves: rock collecting. Since the age of nine when he floated along the waters of Lake Leelanau on a surfboard wearing a dive mask and scanning the shallows for stone, Kevin has had a rock habit. At fourteen he started is entrepreneurial adventure selling polished petoskey stones at the Holiday Inn gift shop. Years later, he’s turned that childhood pastime into a 12-year-old jewelry business. After two moves, Korner Gem has found a home in Brewery Creek.

Korner Gem charms in hand


His work ranges from elegant to whimsical. Display cases throughout the store showcase custom necklaces, pendants, rings and charms. But what strikes me the most is Korner Gem’s use of Michigan beach stones in creative settings that reflect the area. Petoskey stones, Leland blue and even Fordite (or Paint, as he calls it) have been fashioned into creative charms in familiar shapes.

Korner Gem charms image


First known for his signature design, the ‘Beachcomber’ —a flip-flop sandal crafted from beach stones and sterling silver—Korner Gem now creates several charm designs with a Michigan theme. From the mitten state (upper and lower peninsulas) to sailboats and lighthouses, shells, frogs and turtles, each design is crafted from sterling silver and local stones, and polished to a beautiful sheen. What a perfect souvenir from a trip Up North.

What’s even more exciting to a rock scavenger like myself…is Kevin’s interest in creating custom designs. I love the idea of bringing in stones I’ve picked up along the shore and having them made into a charm, a ring or even a beaded watch band. And Kevin is more than willing to create a custom shape for his customers. If you’re into birding, how about a chickadee? Or maybe a fish ring for the angler in your life.

Korner Gem stone beadsKorner Gem necklace 


Some of the most popular items at Korner Gem are the Michigan stone beads designed to fit today’s charm bracelets like Pandora, Camille and Troll. Imagine creating a memory bracelet from stones you collected along the shore at grandma’s cottage? Or how about a necklace featuring the petoskey that took all afternoon to discover? I’m always on the look-out for unique gifts and this is a great place to find them.

I’ve spent many hours searching for petoskey stones on the shores of Lake Michigan, and I happen to have a pretty good eye. So I brought some of my stones in with me to see what Kevin could do. After looking at the beads I fell in love with his idea for a four-sided bead featuring four different stones. He’ll use my Petoskey, a Leland Blue, a Favosite fossil (which I didn’t know that I had) and Fordite—because I’m a huge fan.

 Korner Gem rock collecting books

Kevin identified my stones in no time at all, which should come as no surprise since he’s written three books on the subject. Rock Picker’s Guides to Lake Michigan, Lake Superior and Lake Huron. What a great cottage coffee table read, or gift for a child who needs something to do at the beach besides chasing seagulls and fighting with their siblings.


Korner Gem iron ore samples

Kevin also took the time to share some rock facts with me. I asked about the creation of Leland Blue and Frankfort Green, since these are "misfits" found only in this region. He pulled out samples of iron ore and the glass-like by-product that formed in the smelting process. This "slag" was deposited in Lake Michigan from several processing operations in the late 1800s. The source of the color (blue vs. green) is debatable, but most likely determined by the process used at each location.

Korner Gem Kevin Gauthier imageKorner Gem lapis image

I also learned that rocks smell. Didn’t know that, did you? There’s something called a stink stone that smells like rotten eggs when you break it open. When grinding the stones for shaping and polishing some produce a pleasant smell, like turquoise. Petoskey stones have an oily smell, and the aroma from a ground piece of amber is like pine. The grinding process is a dusty one, but sometimes it too yields an interesting result. Lapis creates blue dust, where most stones are white.


Korner Gem my purchase imageKorner Gem book and stones image

Part of the magic at Korner Gem is the knowledge you receive when talking with Kevin and the staff. Their passion for jewelry making, and rock collecting is infectious. I left my stones there for a make-over, and picked up the Lake Michigan Rock Picker’s Guide to share with my kids. Hopefully our next trip to the beach will yield many more colorful memories to treasure.


In the back of the book there’s a line I just love, "We don’t own rocks, we only borrow them…so enjoy them while you are their keepers."


The next time you’re cruising through your hometown on auto-pilot, thinking about the grocery list and searching for the dry cleaning ticket you thought was stuck to the bottom of your cup holder, put that thought on hold. Look around you, at the OPEN signs on doorways your pass every day. Find one that calls to you and take a mini detour. I’d highly recommend a stop at Korner Gem, in Traverse City.


Korner Gem is located just off M-22 in Traverse City, on the West side of town. 13031 S. Fisherman Cove, Traverse City to be exact. For more information reach them by phone at 231.929.9175 or visit them online at They are not yet on Facebook, but you can find them on the Traverse Traveler iPhone app — our free mobile guide to the Traverse Area. Download on iTunes here.


If there’s a place in northern Michigan you’ve been dying to visit, but you’ve never made the time, I’d like to hear about it. Join the conversation on the Traverse Traveler Facebook page, and let me know where you’re going.


And stay tuned, as I plan to explore the next stop on my 10 Places I’ve Never Been tour:  Woodland Creek Furniture.

By |2011-07-21T09:40:10+00:00July 21st, 2011|Place's I've Never Been, Traverse City|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 |2010-12-14T10:44:08+00:00December 14th, 2010|Benzie, Hometown Highlights, Leelanau, Traverse City|0 Comments

Shop Your Community Day 11-13

Downtown Traverse City Merchants Give Back 15%

Downtown Traverse City will continue to give back to the community on Saturday, November 13, 2010 during Shop Your Community Day. For every purchase made at participating stores, 15% of the sale will be donated to the registered organization of the customer’s choice! It’s that easy to support your favorite non-profit, and get a jump start on holiday shopping. 
Downtown Traverse City has always put charitable donations high on the priority list. Donations including goods, services and sponsorship of events benefit the local community all year long.  According to the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies website, “A modest change in consumer behavior – a mere 10 percent shift in market share to independent businesses from chain stores – would result in 1,600 new jobs, $53 million in wages, and a $137 million economic impact to the area.” When making local purchases, the business keeps three times more dollars in our community, supports and strengthens local jobs and preserves and enhances our unique neighborhoods, parks and public services here in Traverse City. The “The health of our economy is based upon the support of local shops and businesses. Imagine if everyone chose to shop local for the holiday season, a truly tremendous impact would be made, “ says Brian Kluzak, DTCA President.
Support your favorite organization and your local economy on Saturday, November 13, 2010 just by shopping Downtown.  Look for the shopping bags with balloons to signify participating stores. Following is a list of participating Downtown merchants and non-profit organizations.
Shop Your Community Day is sponsored by the over 200 merchants, restaurants and businesses who are members of the Downtown Traverse City Association.  Please contact the Downtown Traverse City Association at 922-2050 or e-mail for further information.

By |2010-11-10T10:53:27+00:00November 10th, 2010|Events, 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,



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!

Welcome Fustini's Oils & Vinegars

 Fustinis Oils & Vinegars graphicUnique Downtown Tasting Shop Joins Mealtickets Family

If you’ve yet to wander down the streets of Downtown Traverse City and wonder what "Fustini’s" is all about, then now is the time to discover it. A hidden gem, located on E Front Street between Cass and Union, Fustini’s window always proudly displays their namesake, large stainless steel Fustini’s filled with imported Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar infusions.

So, what’s all the fuss about? Come in and try for yourself. Fustini’s offers free tasting’s for their imported oils and vinegars, allowing you to create a blend that suits your tastes or cooking preferences. Personally I can’t resist a fresh baguette drizzled with Meyer Lemon Olive Oil and the 18 Year Aged Balsamic Vinegar. But that’s the beauty of this place….to each his own.


With extra virgin olive oil flavors like Persian Lime and Tangerine, and Balsamics infused with Oregano or Pomegranate, the resulting mixtures are sure to liven up your meals. Their products are tasted and bottled on site and can be shipped directly from the store.


Next time you’re looking for a unique hostess gift, or a great way to jazz up a marinade or salad dressing, stop by Fustini’s Oils & Vinegars. You’ll find their cards in our hotel displays, or check out our Attractions page for details including a map for their downtown Traverse City location. For more information, or to order their products online, check out their website at

By |2009-01-27T14:35:29+00:00January 27th, 2009|Attractions, Mealtickets News, Traverse City|0 Comments

Shop Men's Night Downtown 12-18

Downtown Traverse City Features Men’s Night Shopping

Every year Downtown Traverse City hosts a special evening for all the men. The stores are open late and offer specials for all those last minute shoppers. With live entertainment, fashion shows, free hors d’oeuvres and drinks, who wouldn’t want to be there. I know my husband and his friends make it their annual tradition.

My advice to the ladies…make a wish list at Miner’s North, drop him off at Right Brain Brewery for a little pre-shopping libation, and don’t wait up! Guys, have fun tonight, and bring a designated driver.


For more information about events in Downtown Traverse City check out the Events calendar on their website.

By |2008-12-18T07:52:06+00:00December 18th, 2008|Events, Traverse City|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!

Fall Festival Sale Downtown TC

 Fall Festival Sale and Store Specials in Downtown Traverse City

Saturday, October 4th participating shops will feature store sales and specials to celebrate the Fall Festival.

Happy Apple Days will take place from October 4 – 11th. Customers of Downtown will be greeted with bushels of fresh local apples at participating stores. Take in Downtown Traverse City and enjoy an apple.

For more information on events and activities in Downtown Traverse City visit their website or call 231.922.2050.

By |2008-09-24T09:16:36+00:00September 24th, 2008|Check This Out, Traverse City|0 Comments