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Somehow this makes all my meals seem more royal.

I love that the French word for remember is “souvenir.” That’s exactly how I feel about the things we’ve bought in our travels.

After a lot of junk purchases, I’ve discovered a couple of basic ideas for buying souvenirs while we’re gone. That apron I’m wearing in that picture is one of my favorite purchases, and I think of Windsor Castle every time I put it on. Plus, it is super-useful and just a great apron.

After bringing home, and then tossing out, more junk than I’d like to admit, here’s what I think about souvenirs.

  • Create a collection. For many years, if we were somewhere where I could buy handmade pottery, I would buy a pitcher. Honestly, I had to stop because I just don’t need that many pitchers! Having too many things just sitting around is annoying to me. My husband insists–INSISTS–on a coffee cup from every single place we go. I finally had to get him to move his collection to his office at work. He is now legendary for this huge collection. I’m just glad I don’t have to use cabinet space for it!
  • Buy big. In Belize, I bought a beautiful wooden tray, small enough to fit in my carry-on bag. That’s the problem with it–it’s too small! On the other hand, on our last visit to Vermont I bought a large maple bread bowl. It was gorgeous but required my repacking our entire suitcase. It was so worthwhile! I love that bread bowl, look at it almost every day and have great memories of four summer vacations in a wonderful place.
  • Ship home. In Tuscany this summer we found a lovely pottery place that would ship home for a reasonable fee. Yes, I bought a pitcher–how could I resist? And several other pieces, including an olive oil bottle that I use for dish soap. Every time I reach for the soap I have a tiny bit of Greve-in-Chianti. We’ve also shipped some items home from Montana when we decided to create a little bit of the West in our basement.
  • Don’t forget edible. We’ve brought home wine, olive oil, cheese, maple syrup, corn meal…the hardest part is deciding to go ahead and enjoy it and not to save it too long.
  • Buy cheesy but useful. All these other items are great, but my very favorite thing to buy–dishcloths!! You can find them everywhere, and who doesn’t need a new one, or three? Every time I reach into my drawer for a clean towel, I hope for one of my vacation towels. It seems like a lot of these towels are maps, from the Paris Metro to Chianti to West London. It never fails to make me happy to use one of these. And my kids notice, too. Best of all, they are pretty easy to find, and cheap. I also buy other kitchen items, but kitchen towels are just the best. Treat yourself next time, and see if I’m not right!
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Several of the dish towels I’ve bought on vacation–one of my favorite things!

And for the kids, it is easy to drop a lot of money on junk before you even realize it. This is the kind of thing that makes me crazy! But here are just a couple of my thoughts about this:

  • Buy good shirts, rather than the cheapest. My kids wear sweatshirts for years. I started buying the good ones when we traveled, rather than buying a cheap one on vacation and then another Land’s End or L.L. Bean jacket. Same with good t-shirts–buy the cute one that will look good with an outfit.
  • Help your child start a collection. This might be a fun way to  cultivate an interest. My girls have silver charms from most of our destinations that they put on a charm bracelet. It is fun to decide on each trip what the best symbol from that destination might be.
  • Buy a little junk. Set a budget, but go ahead and let them get the craziest, ugliest, most ridiculous souvenirs they can find. And then be prepared for the agony when it breaks after you get home.

Souvenirs are one little way to keep some of your vacation joy present in your life. Don’t miss out on a fun way to remember your vacation in the midst of your daily routine. Have fun!