10 Places I’ve Never Been: Two Fish Gallery

August 26, 2011

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 www.twofishleland.com 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.

10 Places I’ve Never Been: Country Christmas

August 19, 2011

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 www.countrychristmastc.com. 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.

 

Sleeping Bear Dunes Voted America’s Most Beautiful Place

August 17, 2011

Sleeping Bear Dunes image

Today Good Morning America announced the winner of the Most Beautiful Place in America. Tens of thousands cast their vote to determine the winner:  Sleeping Bear Dunes!

Sleeping Bear Dunes views

As a native Michigander I can certainly see why Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore would be placed in the top 10. But it’s truly a testament to the passion of area residents and visitors who voted for this midwest treasure over some other fantastic locales.

Sleeping Bear Dunes image

The Sleeping Bear Dunes hold many treasures, and memories that go back as far as I can remember. Trips to the dune climb when I was a child, when they used to offer dune buggy rides. Endless runs up and down those hills left us scraping sand from our scalp days later. But one of my favorite places in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is South Manitou Island.

Manitou Island image

We’ve made a tradition of taking the kids out to South Manitou by boat and spending the day exploring the beach, climbing the lighthouse and crusing past the wreck of the Morazan. Looking out over the Manitou passage, and across to Glen Arbor and the face of the Sleeping Bear is a stunningly beautiful vista. And the reason so many of us are passionate about Michigan. The colors of the water may look like the Carribean, but the spirit is Pure Michigan.

Sleeping Bear Dunes Morazon image

I’m thrilled that our region is once again getting the national attention it deserves. We are so lucky to live in this amazing place. What more can I say:

I Love Michigan image

If you’d like to see a few more photographic reasons, check out our Sleeping Bear Dunes Photo Gallery.

10 Places I’ve Never Been: 22 Vines & Wines Cafe

August 11, 2011

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: 22 Vines & Wines Cafe & Market

 

22 Vines & Wines menu image

 22 Vines & Wines enterance

I arrived at 22 Vines & Wines Cafe & Market in the middle of lunch hour. All five of the booths were full and the owner, Rich Van Steenis was scurrying about filling water, taking orders and delivering hot food from the kitchen. Wouldn’t you know they were short staffed and Rich was the only waiter.

 

As I waited for a friend to join me I was able to scan the tables and soak up the amazing smells wafting from the little kitchen in back. A Thai chicken pizza was delivered to guests at the table across from me, carried in on a wooden plank. The smell was fantastic.

Hillside Plaza signage image

 

22 Vines & Wines Cafe & Market is located right on M-22 just south of Suttons Bay. In fact, it’s next door to another one of my 10 Places: Chateau de Leelanau. The Hilltop complex, which also houses Gallery 22 and the Leelanau Chamber, is owned by the Van Steenis family. They purchased the property, a former dairy farm, in 1977 and converted it to retail space for Rich’s mother. When she decided to retire in 2008 it was time for further renovations.

 

What once was a milking room, is now a 10-year dream come true for Rich’s wife Salve. But I’ll get to that later. First you need to see what Salve can do.

22 Vines & Wines menu image

 

My friend arrived promptly and we examined the menu with interest. I changed my mind a dozen times because everything sounded so good. The handmade thin-crust pizzas looked fabulous, but were too big for our appetites. Besides I hoped to try more than one dish. So we decided to share an appetizer of Thai rolls and each ordered tacos for lunch.

22 Vines & Wines Thai rolls

 

The chef recommended a split order of spring rolls and summer rolls. The spring rolls are made from ground round, cabbage, carrot and bean sprouts, rolled im a rice wrapper and lightly sauteed (not fried). The summer rolls are fresh and cool. Steamed shrimp and crisp veggies are rolled up with rice noodles in a rice wrapper and served cold. They provided two sauces for dipping—a spicy soy and spicy peanut. Both rolls were excellent…even though we paired them with the wrong sauces!

22 Vines & Wines shrimp tacos

 

For lunch I chose the shrimp tacos, since they were grilled. My friend opted for the fried fish tacos. And we were both happy with our decisions. They were served two to a plate, topped with lettuce, cheese, thai cream sauce and fresh salsa. I paired mine with a jasmine ice tea. Lunch was filling, but at the same time it felt light. Which, was a great way to finish a meal. Instead of feeling stuffed and regretful I was looking forward to a trip back. And I was dying to see more of Salve’s thai dishes. Lucky for me, there were a few more coming out of the kitchen.

22 Vines & Wines Tum Yum Soup

 

When I mentioned on Twitter that I was headed to 22 Vines & Wines Cafe I had some suggestions from followers, which included the Tum Yum Soup. Now that I’ve seen it, I know I’ll be trying that next time. This traditional Thai dish is one Salve modeled after the Bangkok street vendors who would make the soup on a cart while you wait. At 22 Vines & Wines Cafe they offer a seafood version with shrimp, scallops and mussels, a tofu version, or chicken, shown here. You can order it mild, medium or spicy.

22 Vines & Wines food image22 Vines & Wine food image

Here are a couple other dishes to inspire your taste buds. Bet you’re feeling hungry now.

22 Vines & Wines Market 22 Vines & Wines wine image

 

There’s more to 22 Vines & Wines Cafe…it’s the Market. So after lunch I did a little exploring. The restaurant lies on the corner at the front end of the building. When you walk in seating stretches along each side of the room in front of you, with a bar at the back. On the other side of the wall lies the Market. The cafe opened in the fall of 2010, but the market just opened this May. It appears to be a work in progress. But the focus is clearly on locally made products, including beer, wine and spirits, as well as the unique Asian food staples that they feature in the cafe.

22 Vines & Wines market22 Vines & Wines market

 

There’s an ice cream counter in the front of the market that sells Moomer’s ice cream, and in the back, near the kitchen you’ll find a small bakery display with truffles from Chocolate Exotica, and homemade cookies. The shelves are only partially filled but what I saw represented many of my favorite local food stuffs. Naturally Nutty nut butters and spreads, Stone House Bread, Sleeping Bear Farms honey and other Leelanau county products lined the shelves.

22 Vines & Wines owners

 

After my wandering I sat down with the owner to find out how they decided to open a Thai restaurant in Suttons Bay.

 

Rich and Salve Van Steenis met in her cafe in Manilla, Philippines while Rich was visiting the island on for a diving trip. Salve, who came from a family of rice farmers, broke away from the tradition to follow her dreams in the kitchen. She has been cooking for 25 years. It took 10 years to convince Rich to open a restaurant here. Since he retired in 2008, he decided it was time for Salve to have her wish. They’ve taken nine trips to Thailand, thus her passion for the flavors of that region.

22 Vines & Wines dining22 Vines & Wine dining

 

Since I am a strong supporter of Michigan wine, I had to ask about their name, and the connection they have to the Michigan wine region. The location of the property, along M-22, combined with the fact that they are surrounded by Leelanau county wineries, lead to a restaurant name that would attract a wine-tasting crowd. And yet, I discovered an anomaly. I was surprised, and a bit disappointed to discover that 22 Vines & Wines Cafe does not pour a house Michigan wine. In fact, it’s from California.

 

According to Rich they opted not to pour a house wine from Michigan because they didn’t want to take away from the tasting experiences at the wineries around them. "They represent their products really well. We don’t want to compete with that," he added. What they do offer, which may calm the Michigan wine fans out there, is a large selection of Michigan wines by the bottle at retail prices that match the wineries. You can purchase a bottle in the market next door, and for a $5 cork fee you can enjoy that wine with your dinner.

 

I did notice several local Michigan craft beers on tap, including Right Brain Brewery, North Peak and Bells. They have many others available in the market coolers as well as distilled spirits from Grand Traverse Distillery and Black Star Farms.

22 Vines & Wines chalkboard

 

At the end of the day I was really impressed with the dishes that came from Salve’s kitchen. They’ve created a restaurant that was supposed to appeal to a wine tasting crowd of tourists and instead impressed the locals so much they have many regulars who come several times a week. I know I’ll be back again to try that Tum Yum Soup…and maybe a coconut macaroon for dessert. They looked so tempting.

 

On your next trip wine tasting along the Leelanau Peninsula, think about stopping by 22 Vines & Wines Cafe & Market. You can find them at 5046 SW Bay Shore Drive, Suttons Bay. They offer dine in, or carry out so give them a call at 231.271.2221. And you can even check out their website at www.22-vines.com. 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, 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:  Country Christmas.

 

 

Simple Summer Pizza Recipe

August 8, 2011

Mealtickets summer pizza recipe image

My favorite summer lunchtime treat is a homemade personal pizza. With a few basic ingredients you can savor the fresh flavors of summer, and stay healthy too.

 

The best part is: it only takes 10 minutes.

Lunchtime Summer Pizza Recipe

1 whole wheat tortilla
handful of fresh baby spinach olive oil ( I use Fustini’s Persian LIme EVOO)
3-5 cherry or grape tomatoes

1/2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

slice of lunchmeat: ham or turkey

fresh basil leaves

sea salt & ground pepper

Summer pizza image

Step 1. Toss the spinach with a drizzle of olive oil. I love using the Fustini’s flavor-infused olive oils. Depending on your ingredients you can really change the flavor of the pizza just by replacing the oil.

 

Brush a little oil from the bowl onto the edges of the tortilla as well. It seems to help them brown instead of char.

 

Summer pizza image

Step 2. Top with tomatoes. If they’re small, cut them in half, if large, they can be quartered. Don’t have cherry or grape tomatoes? Thinly sliced romas or a fresh beefy tomato from the garden would be great. But you won’t need much. Sprinkle with a little salt and freshly ground pepper.

Summer pizza image

 

Step 3. Top with remaining ingredients. I like to put the mozzarella down first then add lunchmeat and basil, torn into small pieces. This is where you can get creative though. One of my favorite add-ons is leftover corn-off-the-cob. If you have goat cheese instead of mozzarella, no problem. If it’s white cheese, and it melts, it will probably taste great. Top it with a little sprinkle of salt and freshly ground pepper.

 

Summer pizza image

Step 4. Place on a baking sheet lined with foil. Turn on the broiler to high, but leave the rack in the middle of the oven. Cook for 5 minutes. Cooking times may vary depending on your oven, so keep an eye on it the first time you make one. I often bake two at a time, side by side on a sheet and it takes the same time.

Summer pizza image

Step 5. Cut in quarters, or roll it up and eat it like a wrap.

Voila! A perfect light summer lunch for all the homebound travelers out there. Enjoy!

Next Page »