Jewelry & Gifts

Remembering Gwen Frostic

Let’s just wander here and there ~~
like leaves floating in the autumn air
and look at common little things ~~
stones on the beach ~~
flowers turning into berries…
From the winds we’ll catch a bit
of that wondrous feeling that comes ~
~~ not from seeing ~~
but from being part of nature…

~Gwen Frostic

Today is (thanks to Gov. William Milliken) Gwen Frostic Day in Michigan. Frostic was born in 1906 and passed away in 2001. We heartily encourage you to read the fascinating story of one of Michigan’s best known artists in from the Detroit Free Press (via

Seeking Michigan: From Signage to Santa

Seeking MichiganBy Mary Zimmeth, Archives of Michigan and courtesy Seeking Michigan and the Archives of Michigan. The goal of Seeking Michigan is simple: to connect you to the stories of this great state. Visit them regularly for a dynamic & evolving look at Michigan’s cultural heritage and see more stories from Seeking Michigan at Absolute Michigan.

25 Christmas Lane on a winter’s eve, circa 2010 (Photo courtesy of Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland)

My favorite holiday movie is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989). Clark Griswold, (Chevy Chase), our hero, has a plan for the traditional Griswold family Christmas that includes fifty thousand twinkling outdoor lights on the roof. When Clark drags his entire family out to see his masterpiece, the lights don’t work. The frustrating, yet entertaining, effort to fix the problem resonates with me (This includes Clark on the roof checking each individual bulb.). My favorite part comes when Clark prevails, the family is impressed, and he thanks his father for teaching him about exterior illumination.


Wallace Bronner (1927-2008) knew that exterior illumination is essential for the holidays. We are all familiar with his enormous enterprise: Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland, located on 25 Christmas Lane in Frankenmuth. Initially, this behemoth of holiday cheer started as a signage business. During the early forties, Wally worked as a sign painter and a clerk at the Hubinger Grocery Store, which was owned by his maternal relatives. Part of his job included designing window displays. In 1945, as Frankenmuth celebrated its centennial year, Bronner Display and Sign Advertising was in demand for painting signs and decorating store windows and parade floats. That year Wallace Bronner met Irene Ruth Pretzer, the woman he would marry on June 23, 1951 at St. Peter Lutheran Church in Hemlock, Michigan.

Signs designed by Wally Bronner for the city of Clare, 1951 (Photo courtesy of Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland.).

Irene was instrumental in helping Wally land a monthly window display contract with the Jennison Hardware Company of Bay City (c. 1947) (Irene had attended Bay City Junior College and boarded at the home of G.W. Cooke, president of the hardware company.). Bronner’s work for the hardware company resulted in a referral to the town of Clare, Michigan (1951). This first municipal holiday commission was to design decorative lamppost panels. After that job, Wally hired his friend Fred Bernthal to look for new clients in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Ontario.

Bronner also entered into contracts with General Plastics Corporation (Marion, Indiana) and Mold-Craft Corporation (Port Washington, Wisconsin). These companies provided street trims and ornaments, latex Santas, reindeers and nativity scenes. In 1952, Bronner staged two shows exhibiting outdoor Christmas decorations, one in the Frankenmuth Township Hall, the other at the St. Lorenz School gymnasium. Both were successful. However, both venues were temporary. Bronner decided to rent a more permanent building, a vacated one-room schoolhouse (formerly Frankenmuth School District Number 1). Thus, year round exhibit of Christmas decorations became possible! “At first the people of the community thought the idea to be rather unusual, but accepted it fully when Frankenmuth became known as the Christmas Town.” (Bronner’s 2005 Corporate History, page 35.)

“Thinking Big”

Wally Bronner with employees. (Photo taken in the 1960s. Photo is courtesy Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland)

Herman Bronner (Wally’s father) was a building contractor and stone mason. He convinced his son to “think big” by changing the plans for the first Bronner-owned building from two, L-shaped, rectangular buildings to one large, square building. The Bronner’s store at 121 East Tuscola (a lot adjoining Aunt Hattie’s grocery store) opened in 1954. It was divided into two sections, one space for the sign painting business, the other for Christmas decorations.

Wally was grateful for his dad’s vision and business acumen. The municipal clientele grew to include shopping centers and commercial interiors. As buyers selected decorations for their stores and churches, their wives requested home decorations. From 1954 to 1963, Bronner exhibited at the Saginaw County Fair, which, at the time, boasted numbers of three hundred thousand people. By 1960, the company was officially incorporated, and home decorations were added to the product line. In 1964, the first billboard advertising Bronners appeared on I-75, ten miles south of Exit 136 (Frankenmuth). Many travelling up North are familiar with that sign. Subsequent ones (more than sixty located in seven states) continue to extol the importance of holiday cheer and illumination.

Source material

Picturesque Story of Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, as related by Wally Bronner. Published by Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, 2005.

The History of Bronner’s Christmas Decorations by Doris A Paul. Published by the Frankenmuth Historical Museum, 1981.

Brad Redford, a native of Frankenmuth visited Bronner’s last year and has a pretty funny video in his show Redford’s Rundown. However, we’re going to have to go with this awesome music video of Wally Bronner (Christmas Always) by Michigan rockers The Hard Lessons. A little tip: click that link and subscribe to their email list to download their entire new album Arms Forest AND stay tuned at the end of the video for the B-side of this song, O Holy Night!

The Daily Michigan: Fashionably green jewelry from Cangles

Earth Day is just around the corner, and today on The Daily Michigan we have some truly unique jewelry made right here in Michigan by Cangles.

Cangles began after the owners observed how once-thriving neighborhoods that were their home were now home to poverty and littered with refuse. Conversation spawned the idea of creating bangles from recycled cans and (after a few years of perfecting the process) Cangles Fashionably Green jewelry was born. All made by hand with a high level of quality and finish, this fashionable and truly green jewelry benefits projects including the Food Bank Council of Michigan, the Wounded Warrior Project and Cass River Pet Friendz.

Our winner will receive a Vernors Custom Eco Cuff bracelet, necklace pendant and a pair of earrings, all sporting the distinctive Vernors gnome – a Michigan original! Please enjoy the video below about their Save the Earth jewelry.

Click here to sign up (and to learn how you can win)

The Daily Michigan: Halo Warming Lamp from Orchard Harvest

Today on The Daily Michigan we’re giving away a Candle Warming Lamp and 10oz Candle from Orchard Harvest.

This multi-function Candle Warmer and Lamp is designed to keep your beverage warm, warm your fragrance oils and release the fragrance from your wickless candles. The candle warmer and lamp is designed to be used in areas where you want to enjoy the fragrance without an open flame. It includes a high-quality, UL approved, 35 watt Halogen bulb and a 10oz all natural wax candle with a fresh linen fragrance.

Head over to Orchard Harvest for many more natural and soy wax candles and find them on Facebook as well.

Click here to sign up (and to learn how you can win)

The Daily Michigan: Print from Neil Weaver Photography

Today on The Daily Michigan we have a 12×18 inch fine art print from Neil Weaver Photography. printed on professional luster paper, mounted with an arctic white mat, hand-signed and put in a protective clear plastic sleeve

The winner may choose from any photo from his website or his Facebook page. There are hundreds to choose from – definitely have a look! Neil is a Sault Ste. Marie native who travels throughout Michigan with his camera to showcase our state’s natural beauty.

Click here to sign up

  • Larner Creations Bath & Body
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    The Daily Michigan: Bath & Body Gift Certificate from Larner Creations

The Daily Michigan: Bath & Body Gift Certificate from Larner Creations

Today’s item on The Daily Michigan is a $50 Gift Certificate to Larner Creations.

Larner Creations is based in Monroe and makes natural and organic bath & body products including organic soaps, lip balms, creams, lotions, oils, bath salts, milk baths, body sprays and other products for your feet, face, and home. They make their products to order right here in Michigan to help you live naturally and do not use chemicals in any of their products.

They know that Michigan is rebounding from hard financial times support buying local and appreciate it when folks consider local sources too! You can order on-line at their website or find them at farmers Markets and craft or vendor shows in Michigan.

Click here to sign up

  • Michigan Keychain Holder
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    The Daily Michigan: Michigan Keychain Holder by Michigan in Metal

The Daily Michigan: Michigan Keychain Holder by Michigan in Metal

Today on The Daily Michigan we’re giving you a chance to win a Michigan key or leash holder through Michigan in Metal.

Michigan In Metal is proudly based in Michigan and specializes in creating all kinds of beautiful metal art and metal products including switchplates, art clocks, wind chimes, wine glass holders, picture frames and house numbers. Scott’s love for the great state of Michigan has inspired him to make a line of “Michigan themed” metal art, but he also does all kinds of custom work. If you don’t see what you’re looking for on his website, feel free to ask him if it can be done!

Click here to sign up (and to learn how you can win)

Celebrate Valentine’s Day the Michigan Way

Here’s a whole ton of Valentine’s Day ideas. YOU probably have some other ideas – share them in the comments or right here or on our Facebook!

Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart. - Confucius by Church of One
Wheresoever you go,
go with all your heart. – Confucius
by Church of One

Next Tuesday, February 14th is Valentine’s Day – a day for lovers, sweethearts, paramours … and chocoholics. Like it, love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day is an annual tradition that will see over one billion valentines will be given out worldwide, 85% of those by women. However you choose to celebrate the holiday, consider making it a little more special with something from Michigan.

There’s plenty of delicious Valentine’s Day recipes from Pure Michigan at The Food Network also offers up some culinary advice for Valentine’s Day complete with a full Valentine’s menu. Lansing’s WLNS CBS channel 6 website has a complete Valentine Day section on their website where you can learn all kinds of useful information including (who knew?) that chocolate is an aphrodisiac. The folks at the Grand Rapids Press and have some tips for Valentine’s Day cooking with kids.

We have to remind you that February is National Cherry Month and cherries make a great and healthy way to bring the distinctive Valentine red into your celebrations. An affordable and tasty non-alcoholic beverage are cherry sparklers made with Michigan cherry juice and sparkling water.

On the adult beverage front, a whopping 95% of wine drinkers agree that wine makes a perfect gift, and you can’t go wrong with a  Michigan wine or  Michigan beer! The folks at MyNorth offer a listing of Northern Michigan sparkling wines to set the tone for your celebration. While bubbles are big, beers can also be appreciated. Dianna at Promote Michigan has let us in on her Love Affair with Michigan Beer, which features all kinds of special and regular brews from Michigan’s brewmasters. You can stay awake Ann Arbor Brewing’s Espresso Love featuring coffee, cozy up to the Decadent Dark Chocolate Ale from Atwater Brewing or go a little lighter with Dragonmead’s Redwing Raspberry Wheat. This is a great feature so definitely check it out!

Ginny, You Are My Shining Star by docksidepress
Ginny, You Are My Shining Star by docksidepress

If you’re left scratching your head over what to buy him or her, check out the ‘Valentine’s Day Gift Giving Guide‘ from  Don’t forget the furry friends in your life either! You can be a homeless pets Valentine when WXYZ-TV 7 in Detroit hosts their Annual Valentine’s Day Telethon to support the Michigan Humane Society. Tune in or donate online with the Michigan Humane Society!

If that’s not enough and you really want to get your Valentine on, check out Absolute Michigan keyword Valentine for food & gift ideas.

For a little eye candy, you should check out the Valentine slideshow from the Absolute Michigan flickr pool!

We also have a large number of Michigan web sites to check out (though if we’re missing one, be sure to add a link to it).

Flowers & Florists - say it with flowers

Chocolate - there’s also candy companies

Candles - lighting the way for romance for thousands of years

Jewelry -silver & gold, platinum and bronze, pick your favorite.

Wow, you actually made it to the end of this post – don’t forget to buy yourself a little something for Valentines Day!

The Daily Michigan: Tropical Love Valentine’s Day Box

Our good friends at Grocer’s Daughter Chocolate in Empire are another of our featured partners for The Daily Michigan. Their chocolates are all-natural and contain many organic and other naturally grown ingredients, many grown in the garden on founder and proprieter Mimi Wheeler.

This year Mimi and her staff are introducing five brand new fruits in their Tropical Love Valentine’s Day Box. The flavors are Mango, Guava, Passion Fruit, Coconut and Blood Orange, and each vegan bonbon is made with a natural fruit puree, is deliciously enhanced by a dark chocolate shell and in a traditional red box! …and if the “vegan” scares you, it shouldn’t – that just means it has no animal products, which in chocolate is normally milk. You may be happy to learn that dark chocolate is particularly good for your heart … and for Valentine’s Day joy!

This item was won by Martha Maloney who writes: I am a native Michigander who hasn’t had a trip “home” in 3 years. Looking forward to a visit in August, 2012, to Petoskey, Cross Village and Mackinac Island. Absolute Michigan helps me dream and plan! These will be lovely to share with my husband and 3 boys, my favorite four Valentines, who all love their time in Michigan too!

Grocer’s Daughter is offering one of these, shipped to your door to one lucky person. If you’re not already registered, just let us know using the link below!

Click here to sign up

And if you don’t win, there will be another chance Monday … and Tuesday … and Wednesday … and you get the idea.

Absolute Michigan Giveaway: Traverse Gourmet

Absolute Michigan is committed to helping our readers get more out of Michigan. To that end, we are adding an exciting new program featuring regular giveaways of products and services from all kinds of Michigan businesses. It's free, fun and all you have to do to be eligible is to be on our email list - sign up using the form below!
If your business is interested in participating, you can get all the information right here.

Traverse Gourmet was started by Cile & Norm Plumstead who believe that northern Michigan has it all – seasons, people, and food that all work together to make the area a great place to visit, to live and (above all) to eat. Their goal is to present a variety of their favorite artisan foods from northern Michigan. As a 1% for the Planet member, Traverse Gourmet donates at least one percent of our sales to local environmental organizations.

Norm explains: “We’ve chosen our food artisans selectively – each one placing an emphasis on naturally produced, organic and fair trade products. In addition, all our gourmet food gifts come packaged in a reusable, recycled cotton tote, and, where possible, our partners use earth-friendly packaging.”

Their roster is impressive – locally grown ingredients melded with handmade, fair trade chocolates from Grocer’s Daughter Chocolate, coffee from Higher Grounds Trading Company (Michigan’s only organic and fair trade coffee roaster), jams & jellies from Food For Thought (the first and only fair trade preserve maker in the nation), organic nut butters from Naturally Nutty and many more.

The North Bar Beach Gift includes Food For Thought Organic Salsa Virtuoso™, Great Lakes Tortilla Chips, Grocer’s Daughter Pecan Thyme bar, Great Lakes Tea & Spice Basalmic Fish Rub, Naturally Nutty Organic Peanut Butter, Pleasanton Brick Oven Bakery Golden Wheat Bread … all in a Traverse Gourmet recycled cotton tote!

All you have to do to be eligible is have your email on our mailing list – sign up in the blue box at the top and stay tuned!!