By Rick Coates
Each holiday season were all faced with the same dilemma: what to get
the person who seems to have everything or is just plain impossible to
Of course some of us are also looking for that wow factor; a
truly unique gift that is memorable, especially for those office
Christmas gift exchange parties.
Sure, some of you are looking for that perfect brown-nosing gift to
give this season. While others are looking to show their love to
someone special and no ordinary gift will do. Regardless of what you
are trying to accomplish this year, start first by looking around
Northern Michigan. The region is full of shops and local artisans
producing one of a kind items. Here are a few suggestions:
Northern Michigan Jigsaw Puzzles:
Ever wonder what to get that person who visits you every summer, or
the person who has a cottage up north? Why not one of the new jigsaw
puzzles from Lake Coast Living? This line of puzzles features the
photography of John L. Russell and the first in the series is a
513-piece Traverse City Summer Collage with the Blue Angels over West
Bay, an aerial shot of the TC harbor, cherries, a beach shot and a
Additional puzzles in the series include Fishtown, Old Mission
Peninsula, Mackinaw Summer Collage, Mackinac Bridge Collage and a
Mackinac Island Collage.
Lake Coast Living also offers puzzle mats in assorted colors. The mats
allow you to roll up either the puzzle or its incomplete version to
store for another day.
The puzzles are available via several retailers in the region. Check out
www.lakecoastliving.com or call them 231-633-8384 for more information.
Blend Your Own Whiskey
(Bourbon or Scotch)
Grand Traverse Distillery has been making award-winning vodka for the
past five years in Traverse City. Just recently their True North Vodka
was selected by Wine Enthusiast Magazine as one of the Top Six Vodkas
in the world. Earlier this year they released their new American
Whiskey Ole George.
Now, the Grand Traverse Distillery has introduced something new for
the whiskey, bourbon and scotch enthusiast. They are offering the
opportunity to blend your own whiskey, scotch or bourbon by
purchasing a barrel in one of four sizes: 2, 3, 5 or 10 liters.
These small custom whiskey barrels are hand-crafted from American
white oak and charred on the inside, just like the 53 gallon barrels
used by Grand Traverse Distillery for their new 100% rye whiskey.
Here is how the program works, simply choose a barrel size that will
work best for you or the person you are giving this as a gift to, for
example the 5-litre barrel will yield just over nine bottles (fifths)
of whiskey, depending on what proof you want the whiskey to be once it
Grand Traverse Distillery offers five different un-aged whiskey
distillations in terms of grains: corn, rye, wheat, malted barley, and
a peated malted barley. The distillery will help novices create their
recipe, so if you have a favorite brand -- such as Makers Mark bourbon
-- they will give you a recipe that is similar, along with
The blending process in distilled spirits is an art form. It takes
four to six months in the barrel (depending on barrel size) to have a
finished product. As is the case with a master distiller, you will
take samples to determine if the whiskey is ready to bottle or if it
needs more time in the barrel.
These barrels are conversation pieces as well. Remember, however,
that the whiskey is 125 proof while aging; so be sure to cut with
water or ice for a barrel sampling party.
This is a great gift for the spirits lover and is likely to be a gift
that will give back as the recipient will certainly give you a bottle
of the finished product. For details go to
www.grandtraversedistillery.com or call 231-947-8635. The distillery
is open Thursday through Saturday at 781 Industrial Circle, Suite 5 in
Traverse City off of Three Mile Road.
Celtic Shuttle & Tours
There are so many great places to visit around Northern Michigan, so
why not give a themed tour as a gift? For example, a Leelanau
Peninsula tour might include wineries, art galleries, restaurants and
the Sleeping Bear Dunes.
There are plenty of opportunities for themed tours in the region,
ranging from art galleries and antique stores to farm markets and
pubs. A great place to start is with Celtic John OBrien and his team
at Celtic Logistics Transport. They have organized several tours and
know the dos and donts.
This is a great gift for small businesses looking to do something
really different for their staffs. Instead of the traditional office
party or dinner why not organize a day trip together? For details:
celticshuttles.com or call them at 231-313-1760.
The Gift Of Local Art
This is one of the best-kept art scenes in the country. New York,
Chicago, San Francisco are the noted art communities in America, but
Northern Michigan is starting to gain some notoriety.
A couple of years ago, USA Today ranked the Top 10 Great Places For
Big City Art - Small Town Feel and Traverse City made the list. Art
critic and author John Villani wrote: Artists are leaving urban
centers and revitalizing small towns, like Traverse City, Michigan.
This waterfront community on the shores of Grand Traverse Bay boasts a
wonderful, high quality of life, anything there is possible as long as
Several artists whove made names for themselves in major gallery
districts around the country reside in Northern Michigan. Whether you
are looking for an original painting, metalwork, glass, or even
furniture, the region has an abundance of great artists whose work is
often available at a fraction of what youd pay in New York, Chicago
Just about every community in the North has an art district, colony,
or association; start your search there or just head to a downtown and
seek out a local gallery.
Consider a Charity Gift
At the end of the day most of us have more then we really need.
Consider limiting your gift exchanging with family, friends and
co-workers and agree to give to a charity instead.
Some companies (including Northern Express) have given up the
traditional office gift exchange in favor of taking on a charity or
family and helping them out this holiday season.
Another great idea for families is to have each member give up a gift
and use that money to buy gifts for another family in need.
Many agencies need help during this time of year, including those such
as the Father Fred Foundation, which helps out families in a variety
of ways especially with heating bills. Theres also the Goodwill Inn
and church groups which operate food pantries during an especially
Contact the Salvation Army and the Womens Resource Centers to find
out how to adopt a family. After all, doesnt it feel better to give
than to receive?