Monthly Archives: December 2009

A decade of starfish

silver bracelet from Hawaii

Heather bought this bracelet a gift shop near Waikiki Beach in 2004.

This silver bracelet with starfish charms is no ordinary piece of jewelry to its owner Heather Gooch, co-owner of Gooch & Gooch. Not only is it a fond memento of her trip to Hawaii in 2004, it also became a source of comfort on her flight home.

“I’ve always been a nervous flier,” she says. “When I saw there were ten starfish, I realized it was the same as a decade of beads on a rosary. I could say the rosary discreetly on my way home on the plane without freaking out other passengers.”

Purchased at a gift shop near Oahu’s famous Waikiki Beach, the bracelet’s charms are inlaid with mother of pearl.

“I wanted something nice,” Heather remembers. “This was a once in a lifetime trip and I wanted something nice to remember it by. I still wear it six years later. If there’s an important meeting that I have to go to, you might find it on my wrist. Truth be told, I see it as my good luck charm.”

Cost: approximately $12

Can’t get to Hawaii? Here are a few starfish bracelets you can order online:

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Filed under For Her, Hawaii, Jewelry, Oceana, United States

Help for handicrafts in the Holy Land

Each Christmas, Christian pilgrims make their way to Bethlehem to visit the Church of the Nativity, believed to mark the spot where Jesus Christ was born. Due to its location in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, travel has been rendered more difficult, especially since 2001, and souvenir shops in the Old City are hurting, according to recent news reports.

“Tourism has picked up lately,” Shibly Kando, owner of Kando Store in the West Bank, told the Detroit Free Press. “We can say that it’s a little better than before, but still if we compare with how it was before 2001, it’s still not 10 percent of that yet.”

Kando’s store feature antiques, jewelry and gifts made in the West Bank, such as nativity scenes carved out of olive wood — one of the most popular purchases.

Nearly 1.5 million people visited Bethlehem in 2008, and the number could reach two million this year, according to the Palestinian Tourism Ministry. However, the majority of visitors come on a half-day tour from Jerusalem, leaving little time for shopping in Bethlehem and leaving West Bank vendors out of the economic equation. As reported by Global Post, Palestinian Tourism Minister Khouloud Daibes says “seventy percent of all tourists to Bethlehem return to hotels in Israel, while Palestinians receive a mere five percent of total revenues from those visiting both Israel and the West Bank.”

fair-trade products from Bethlehem

In the village of Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem, Raja Bannoura and his family hand carve nativities from pruned olive tree branches. This fair-traded product retails for $24 at

There are organizations trying to change things around. The Fair Trade Development Center at Bethlehem University has called for the establishment of “fair trade in tourism” movement to promote a different picture of Palestine and its people as an attractive and friendly tourism destination and to promote Palestinian goods produced under fair-trade principles. And Catholic Relief Services, the official humanitarian agency of the U.S. Catholic Community, has supported artisans and farmers in the Holy Land. Last year, it awarded $18,000 to the Holy Land Handicraft Cooperative Society for market development efforts.

The message is clear: Bethlehem is worth the effort to visit, but if you can’t there, then Bethlehem will come to you via fair-traded products.

According to the non-profit organization SERRV International, “fair trade is growing in Palestine, and farmers and carvers understand its benefits.”

“It’s very clear with fair trade that we get a fair wage,” wood carver Naji Abu Farha told SERRV. “We get work … and we always receive an advance and prompt payment…. We get the price we ask for. We get good orders.”

Until stability returns to the region, fair trade may be the best way for handicraft suppliers and vendors in the West Bank to survive.

So, after the holidays, when you’re stocking up on Christmas décor that’s 50 or 60 percent off at Walmart, consider making a special purchase that will have an impact in Bethlehem instead. It gets to the heart of the reason we celebrate Christmas in the first place.

Better yet, book your trip to the Holy Land and send us a souvenir (purchased in Bethlehem’s Old City) from your visit.

In the meantime, happy holidays from the Souvenir Museum.

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Filed under Bethlehem, Home Furnishings, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Replica, Uncategorized

The Sumo Wrestling Radish

Sumo Wrestling RadishBecause the Taiwanese name for radish, “caitao,” sounds like the word for “good luck,” radishes have long represented luck at temples, elections and ribbon-cutting ceremonies.

But what’s the story with the radish in the sumo loincloth? Is it a cartoon imported from Japan?A good luck charm for wrestling matches? A Google search turned up nothing but a recently released Mandarin film called “Radish Warrior.”

This particular sumo-wrestling radish is intended to go on a car license plate, thus the nut and bolt on its backside.

The item was purchased on Jan. 19, 2009, in Taipei. It was a gift for a friend who likes personified fruits and vegetables.

Cost $80 TWD or $2.50 USD

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Filed under Car, Cartoon, Food and Beverage, Miscellaneous, Souvenir, Uncategorized

The Souvenir Museum launches Flickr group

Search for “tacky souvenir” on Flickr, and you’ll find something you’d never expect to see. That’s why the Souvenir Museum has launched a Flickr group, where Flickr users can add photos to the group pool and nominate their favorite finds.

If you have a Flickr account, join the Souvenir Museum group, and start nominating photos for the Kitschy Keepsake Contest (details will be forthcoming).

To add your own photo to the group, make sure to tag it “SouvenirMuseum,” then go out and nominate other wacky wonders. Instructions on the Flickr’s Souvenir Museum page includes code that can be pasted in the comments field of the photo you’re nominating. The message should appear like the example below.

We look forward to seeing you on Flickr!

This deserves to be in the Souvenir Museum!
Tag your photo with “SouvenirMuseum”

The place for travel keepsakes, both tacky and terrific.

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Filed under Uncategorized

Duomo Drama

Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi suffered a broken nose, two broken teeth and a cut lip after being attacked with a souvenir at a rally in Milan on Sunday, Dec. 13, 2009.

The weapon: a small plaster replica of the Milan Cathedral wielded by Massimo Tartaglia, who police say has a history of mental illness.

Milan Souvenir

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was struck in the face with a souvenir replica of the Milan Cathedral on December 13, 2009.

While the Souvenir Museum does not condone the use of souvenirs for the purpose of attacking heads of state, we have wondered how we might acquire the culprit’s cathedral to add to the museum collection. We will need a DNA test to confirm that the caked-on blood does, in fact, belong to Berlusconi.

In less than 24 hours after the attack, the souvenir has become an instant hit with tourists and residents and is reportedly selling out across Milan. If you can get one, the replica costs 12 euros.

If you’re in Milan and you’ve purchased one, send a photo of you and your trinket in front of the real cathedral to!

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Filed under Italy, Milan, Replica, Souvenir

Beer Flavored Green Tea

To be honest, I can’t say I’d try it. This can of tea was purchased in a convenience store in Taiwan in January 2009.


Filed under Asia, Eastern Asia, Food and Beverage, REGION, Shindian, Souvenir, Taiwan

Welcome to the Souvenir Museum

Welcome to the Souvenir Museum, the place for travel keepsakes, both tacky and terrific.

Do you have a travel keepsake that is begging for a new home, defies all explanation or is just plain kick ass? Then, let us know about it. It deserves a place in the Souvenir Museum, the place for travel keepsakes, both tacky and terrific.

Email a photo of your souvenir to the museum curator at, and include the following information.

1. WHAT IS IT? (Besides a description of the object itself, describe the motif and its background or significance to the place from which it comes. The more specific, the better.)

2. WHERE DID YOU GET IT? (Tell us if it was a gift from Aunt Jenny, or that you bought it at Kuma’s Souvenir Shop in downtown Lagos, Nigeria. The more specific the better.)

3. WHEN DID YOU GET IT? (Do you still have the receipt that says the exact day it was purchased, did you buy it at an antique mall second-hand or do you just remember that you got it on vacation in Hawaii circa 1963? The more specific, the better.)

4. WHAT WERE YOU THINKING? (This is your opportunity to justify the purpose behind the purchase. Were you swept up in the moment, did it sound like a good idea at the time, but when you got it home it just didn’t work with your decor?)

5. SOMETHING ABOUT YOU. (It could be a memory from the trip the souvenir pertains to, or something unique and interesting about yourself)

a. I am willing to donate the actual object to the museum or traveling exhibit.

b. I want to keep the object, but I’m willing to loan it to the museum for specific exhibits.

c. I prefer not to relinquish the item, the photo is good enough for me.

7. YOUR NAME. (You can choose to be anonymous if you prefer)

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Filed under Souvenir