State-by-State Home Improvement

Travel Blog  •  Jenna Schnuer  •  01.22.09 | 11:56 AM ET

At the Treasures & Trash Barn, Searsport, Maine. Photo by Jenna Schnuer.

Yeah, there are a few things here and there from places far, far away but, looking around my apartment, I realized that most of my art/knickknacks/stuff was hauled home in my carry-on, checked baggage or the trunk of a rental car from a trip to one of the 50. OK, I shipped the bear lamp home. This is some of it ...

Factory-second Fiesta disc pitcher. Bear-shaped lamp carved by a chainsaw artist and shipped home from the Anchorage Saturday Market. Four fur-trimmed tiny dolls (which are nowhere as creepy or, even, as doll-like as that sounds). Promotional clock made from a buzzsaw blade (and purchased on a hot Alabama day along the route of the World’s Longest Yardsale). Lunchbox with a horse painted on the side. Yarn. More yarn. Yarn made from dog hair (also not as creepy as it sounds). Paintings by a Michigan artist who usually creates carvings. Pottery made in Tennessee. Pottery made in Kentucky. A box of prescription slips written in the 1950s in Gadsden, Alabama. A wooden figurine of a door-to-door salesman (and purchased at a Chicagoland swap meet). Six tiny boxes made in India but purchased in my favorite store in all of Nashville. Four handmade flint marbles. An Ulu knife. A bought-in-Anchorage but made-in-China plane model that looks like the float plane I flew to my first fly-fishing experience. A cherry wood bowl. Vintage (no, just old) bluebird-shaped salt-and-pepper shakers (one with the, I think, original cork plug). A used lobster buoy from Deer Isle, Maine (need to return there soon). A mermaid-shaped hook to hang the lobster buoy. Six old glass soda bottles. One old glass milk bottle. A 1940s laundry cart (retired from laundry, now it holds books). A wooden bottle carved out of Hawaiian driftwood. A basket woven from Hawaiian grasses. A gourd-turned-flour scoop. Some magnets. A Rock City spoon rest. Bear bells.

If I had any sort of singing voice, I’d try to set it all to R.E.M.‘s It’s the End of the World as We Know It and post some audio. (It’s the end of good taste as you know it?) Lucky for you, I won’t pretend I do. And, no, I’m not as crazy or tacky as my stuff makes me sound. Somehow, it all works. Or so my friends tell me.

So, what have you hauled home from our 50?

Jenna Schnuer

Freelancer Jenna Schnuer writes about travel, food, culture, books, and life's quirky bits (and bites) for publications including American Way, National Geographic Traveler, Southern Living, and many others. She also co-writes Flyover America, a site filled with quieter stories from around the U.S. Send Jenna an email or, if you're so inclined, follow her on Twitter.

9 Comments for State-by-State Home Improvement

Eva Holland 01.22.09 | 1:37 PM ET

Hmm. In my travels stateside I’ve mostly limited myself to fridge magnets (the more hilarious the better), CDs, books and t-shirts. I have a great magnet/recipe card for fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches (the King’s fave!) from Graceland. A faux-vintage Coney Island t-shirt. The obligatory Hwy 61/crossroads magnet from Clarksdale. Nothing as fabulous-sounding as your collection!

I think my most cherished souvenir of all time might be “Nodding Nessie” - a fuzzy, electric green Loch Ness Monster bobble head doll from Inverness. If/when I ever get a car, you can bet I’ll be peeling the covers off the sticky pads on her little feet, and letting her ride shotgun.

Jenna Schnuer 01.22.09 | 1:46 PM ET

Ah, Coney Island. Wonderful Coney Island. And that Nodding Nessie does indeed sound like a wondrous thing. And Graceland has some marvelous magnets, eh? I bought one there of a young very handsome Elvis that’s in a metal framey looking thing—it’s an oddly elegant refrigerator magnet (especially considering it’s of the King.) Yes, I have a crush on a man in a refrigerator magnet and that man is Elvis.

One of my favorite trip-generated tchotchkes was a pair of salt and pepper shakers in the shape of Old Faithful. My stupid ex broke them (nice going stupid ex) so I definitely need to go back to Yellowstone and rebuy them. I love them (and Yellowstone) that much.

Sophia Dembling 01.23.09 | 1:42 AM ET

My Liberace refrigerator magnet is one of my prized possessions. Also my <a >Weeki-Wachee Springs</a> mermaid snow globe.

Nancy Knowlton 01.23.09 | 7:53 AM ET

Sorry, lobster buoys belong to lobstermen. It is illegal to have them in your possession. Have you checked on the plight of the Maine lobster fishermen lately?

Jenna Schnuer 01.23.09 | 9:59 AM ET

Don’t worry Nancy—I didn’t swipe it (or buy it through some back alley buoy market). I bought it at an on the up and up shop. Local fishermen sell their old wooden buoys to the shop when they’re done with them. There’s nothing illegal about it. Actually, I’m pretty sure there’s a fishermen somewhere having a good giggle over people wanting to buy his used buoys for decoration.

Michael Yessis 01.23.09 | 1:42 PM ET

I could probably add another verse to the song.

What do I love most from my haul, though? My aloha shirt sticky notes. I bought a dozen or so pads, and I use them every day.

Jenna Schnuer 01.25.09 | 9:01 PM ET

It’s really too bad that you’ll have to go back to Hawaii to restock the sticky note supply when you run out, eh?

Michael Yessis 01.26.09 | 11:44 AM ET

Such a burden, I know.

AO 02.24.09 | 3:56 PM ET

While I feel I haven’t traveled nearly as far and wide as I would like, I have some treasures.  Usually, the more unique and junky, the more I treasure them, but not in every case.  I have many items that were purchased in my one-time home base of Stowe, Vermont: a great framed pen and ink of Stowe Village with oddly placed ski lifts hovering above Main Street (which of course, you cannot see from Main Street); numerous wooden knickknacks from Stowe Mercantile; numerous well loved pint glasses from bars and breweries around Vermont.  But our collection of ‘travel pick ups’ are usually wall art - two over stretched oil paintings purchased on the beach in Antigua during a stop on our snorkel tour; reclaimed tin ceiling tiles from a iron shop in Spring, Texas; twig place mats from another junk store in Texas which hang as wall decorations; and an authentic Venetian sun mask that my husband HAD to have and we must have looked for in about 28 mask shoppes in Venice.  But, most of the things we’ve admired and acquired on our travels have been given to others as gifts.  Something I sometimes regret but always love doing.  I have learned that if we are to insist on buying others items from our travels that we must first buy ourselves a memento.

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