Thrift store treasures…souvenirs.

“ Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

This months thrift store treasures are all about those little gifts we pick up when we are visiting a new place. It’s summer time now and people everywhere are getting out and traveling more. Here in Arizona most people head over to the beaches either in California or Mexico. Usually we do ,but California is getting a bad reputation now with their rules and the borders are not a place to be right now during this pandemic.

Just a few hours away by car and we are swimming with the sharks. Well, not really swimming with the sharks but you know what I mean. It’s a little different now with Covid rules but all in all Arizona is open.

One of my favorite things to do while out traveling, is to visit second hand shops in other countries and states. They sale all kinds of touristy plastic mass produced items when you visit new areas, but I rather get items that are from artists from the areas I visit. Sometimes you can find these items at neighborhood yard sales, thrift shops, local art shows and farmers markets.

Glass chickens that I purchased in Venice Italy.

Years ago when I worked in a book store, I made sure to bring back something for all my co workers. On my first trip to Italy I would discover that in the stores there, you had to bring your own bags ,or buy their bags from the store. I liked it, thought it was really nice. They are starting to do that here in America now but they still give out free bags too.

Shops in Italy were so unusual to me. I was used to giant super stores here in America. I loved the little shops in Italy. Wish I would have taken more photos on my shopping adventures but the shop keepers did not want photos being taken of their products. Lots of people copy each other, even back then. This photo is from the 90’s.

That first trip to Italy, I ended up buying pretty fabric shopping bags that were 1 Lira, now I think that would count as 1 Euro . There was a really colorful print on the bag with Italian words and a beautiful Italian nature scene. I filled the bag with a variety of small Italian hard candies in all kinds of flavors and colors. I had bought the candies from an outdoor market. In Italy they had markets every day of the week in different towns throughout the regions. I also added a small hard back, pocket sized , Tuscan cookbook. In Florence I stopped off at a paper store and found some beautiful sunflower bookmarks to add to the bag as well.

Bought this in Florence. I can’t remember what I paid for this, not much though. I picked small items for myself to keep . Tried to keep the packaging and packing of stuff to a small amount for my trip back home to the states.

There were only 7 of us at the store. It was so much fun trying to figure out what I could bring back to friends, family and co workers. I wanted to share a little bit of the places I visited by bringing back a little piece from that place. I love shopping for little momentous for everyone, while keeping it within a budget of course. I was barely twenty back then and did not have a lot of money to spend. I have kept that frugal way with me all these years now. I am sure you all can tell, especially if you have been following me for awhile, I did not grow up with a lot of money. As a child there were years when my family struggled and we would live with Nana then or with other relatives until my father could get back on his feet again.

Last trip we took to Italy to visit family. My little girl was 18 months old. Poor thing was teething then. Our son wouldn’t be born until a few months later. It was a hard trip. The day we landed in New York before heading to Europe our president at the time was on all the television screens all over the air port. We were bombing Kosovo. The day we flew back to the states all the screens would once again be showing the same thing and it was Columbine. I remember looking at my husband and saying…” No more traveling for awhile, something weird and scary with all this, like a sign.” and two years later 911 happened.

Here in Arizona, I come across all kinds of fun gift items that are usually in art studios and museum shops. I always wonder to myself why anyone would get rid of these little pieces of art, donating them to the second hand shops. Or how they end up on yard sale tables.

Picked this up at a thrift store. My grandma had a doll like this in her china cabinet, it was larger and was weaving a beautiful rug.

I don’t know a lot about the pieces.

You can still find these hand made dolls, made by the native artists from the reservations, at road side shops and museums here in our state. My Nana used to buy me these little cloth dolls on all our road trips we took with the family. I would never play with them though because I thought they were too pretty and was afraid of ruining them.

Little items and works of art from my home state, made by hand…a little piece of Arizona.

Picked up all these hand woven baskets from a grab bag at the thrift store for $1.
This one is the size of a dime. Imagine weaving something this small.

A lot of these pieces are made from Native Americans here in my state.

Some of these tiny pieces I found in bowls at yard sales. They are usually .25 cents to .50 cents each. They cost around $30 and up in the stores.

The weirdest place I ever shopped for souvenirs was at someones house once. It was in Belize, Central America. I remember when the taxi came to pick up my husband and I at the hotel in the city. I was not used to taxi’s not being yellow or white like here in America and a regular car drove up to the hotel instead, this was way before Ubber.

I was a little nervous getting into someone’s car, even though they had a paper business sign on the dash board, it was still all so strange. I also got into a regular car in Tijuana Mexico once when my husband and I missed the bus back to the border crossing. I was pregnant with my first born then, but you couldn’t tell by looking at me because I was only about 4 months when I went to Mexico. I was still healing from bruising I got from a car accident I had been in and just wanted to go somewhere to get away and be by he seaside. Mexico was a fun distraction.

Tijuana had the coolest shops that had steps that led you down underground, it just kept going it seemed. It was a giant mall or market filled with all kinds of vendors selling anything you could think of. My husband and I spent a little too much time there because we missed our bus back to the border to get back home, They had tiny little dishes and colorful painted pieces everywhere.

I remember that taxi man from Mexico having kind eyes, and when I looked into his old vehicle, a vehicle that did not look like it was going to make it back to the border, I saw hanging from his rear view mirror a cross…so I got in.

I have been in several cars growing up that didn’t look like they would make it far, but it was that simple little wooden cross, that warmed my heart, along with his kind eyes that is. The taxi man from Mexico spoke about his family all the way back to the border. I loved hearing about what it was like living in Mexico.

After being dropped off, I would tell my husband, that sometimes in life we have friends for 5 minutes, they are the strangers we meet and greet with smiles and greetings , just like that taxi man, and sometimes we have friends for 5 years, or 5o years, and each one is very important.

Anyway, it would happen again in Belize, getting into a strangers vehicle who called himself a Taxi driver. This was before my husband and I had children. The man this time did not have a cross but he was safe, he felt safe to me, so I got in. I asked him to please take me somewhere local so I could pick up some last minute souvenirs for my family. He smiled and said “ I know just the place.” I said I wanted hand made local artists to buy from please, no plastic stuff. The real deal from local people I told him.

We would end up at someone’s house. They had turned one of their outside rooms that connected to their house into a shop. I believe it was the living room at one time. In the back someone was cooking breakfast in their kitchen. They had shelves all against the walls. The owner of the home, had the biggest smile on their face when I stepped into their home. All the shelves had little clay figurines and sculpted items. I picked up some tiny clay pigs. So cute. I wish I still had mine that I bought for me, but at the airport one would break and I would not have one to give to myself in the end.

A tiny carved mouse. I think this is carved from a stone called Aragonite.

So, if you are ever traveling and want to find inexpensive souvenirs to take home, just remember to check out those unique places like thrift shops, swap meets, art shows and yard sales.

The Native Americans believe rabbits represent gentleness, charm, and awareness of others. This little rabbit was given to me. It was priced at .25 cents. These carved animals run anywhere from $25- $100 depending on the size and artists.

Ask around, see where the locals shop for fun items.

A tiny clay pot that was included in that basket bag I bought for $1.

Have any of you bought some fun souvenirs while out vacationing? Even the silly gifts like T’shirts and giant pencils can be fun. Happy second hand shopping everyone. Stay safe out there.

Bought this colorful vintage necklace at a rummage sale. I can’t remember the cost though.

Another rummage sale purchase, this little vase was .50 cents.
Bought these at a German Christmas festival in Scottsdale Az. I got to speak to the artist who made these, always an extra bonus. They were $2 each.
A tiny wooden turtle that was in a thrift store grab bag.

7 Comments Add yours

  1. ourcrossings says:

    I love those hand-woven baskets, in Ireland, you have to pay big money for them at the stores and I haven’t seen any at our thrift shops. Maybe I’ll come across them one day. Loved seeing your photos from Italy. Thanks for sharing and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Aiva, the largest baskets are really expensive here as well. Some go as high as thousands of dollars in the museum shops. They are such beautiful works of art. Been so long since we have all been over to Europe, so beautiful over there. Hope you all are doing well and having a fun summer.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Betty says:

    I will definitely do this on future trips. Thanks for a fun post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re very welcomes. With everywhere you guys travel I bet you come across so many fun things too.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Michele Lee says:

    Your posts are so engaging and eclectic! 😄

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, that made me smile. What a nice thing to write.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Michele Lee says:

        My pleasure. 😊

        Liked by 1 person

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