Ornaments from My Travels

Travel Christmas Ornaments by Natalie Parker

Oh my, I have lots of new travel ornaments to share with you this year!

We try and pick up an ornament for our tree during our travels.  It doesn’t have to be made as an ornament — many of the best ones we have are converted keychains.  Putting these up is my favorite part of decorating the tree.

The first two are from 2013 — we were on our trip during Christmas so it’s the first time they’ve gone on the tree.  The second four are from our big trip to Europe this fall.

The Ushuaia Penguin.  We didn’t make it to any of the gift shops on Antarctica (seriously, there are gift shops at some research stations) so this little penguin from Ushuaia was the next best thing.  So stinking cute.

Travel Christmas Ornaments by Natalie Parker

Pope Francis.  Pope Francis is Argentine and I could. not. wait. to see some Pope paraphernalia in Argentina.  This is a keychain that has a picture of the Vatican on the back.

Travel Christmas Ornaments by Natalie Parker

Coach from Buckingham Palace.  Yes, we already have an ornament from London and no, I generally don’t get a new one every time I revisit a city.  But we were in Buckingham Palace (the gift shop, but inside the palace walls).  I saw it, had to have it.  The end.

Travel Christmas Ornaments by Natalie Parker

Munich Beer Stein.  Another keychain, picked up at Oktoberfest.  I don’t feel like I need to describe the awesomeness of this one.

Travel Christmas Ornaments by Natalie Parker

Istanbul Eye.  We had a hard time finding something we liked in Istanbul.  This keychain has a bit of the city plus a charm to ward off the evil eye (frequently seen on our trip).

Travel Christmas Ornaments by Natalie Parker

Brussels Lace.  Brussels is very famous for its lace.  This ornament isn’t on the level of some of the amazing work we saw, but it was cute and reminds us of the trip, which is the entire point.

Travel Christmas Ornaments by Natalie Parker

Previously: 2011 – Camel from Egypt, 2012 – Great Wall from China & Double Decker from London, 2013 – Kangaroo from Australia.

2013 Travel Christmas Ornament

Kangaroo Ornament by Natalie Parker

Here’s this year’s travel memento for our Christmas tree!

To recap, we pick up an ornament to represent each of our travels.  I was in Australia twice this year, once for work and once for school.  We actually haven’t had our big vacation trip of 2013 yet.

Sometimes with these ornaments, I love a piece of local art.  Sometimes, it just feels right to go with straight up kitsch.  How could I say no to the kangaroo?

Earlier: 2011 – Camel from Egypt, 2012 – Great Wall from China & Double Decker from London.

This Year’s Travel Ornaments

2012 Travel Christmas Ornaments

We put our tree up recently and one of the most fun parts is taking out the new ornaments I’ve been saving from our trips this year!

We like having an ornament on our tree for each place we’ve traveled.  Last year it was a little camel from Egypt.

From London, we have this tiny little double-decker bus.  It’s only about an inch tall!

In China, we picked up this cool red and gold design.

They’re both keychains, in case you were wondering!  Christmas ornaments can get expensive, very large, or even difficult to find in some places.  Getting a keychain really opens the possibilities!  I remove the key ring part, add a hook and it’s done!

What about you?  Any special new ornaments or travel traditions from this year?

This Little Camel Came Home with Us

Camel bone Christmas ornament from Egypt

Meet the little camel.  He’s one of our newest Christmas ornaments.

Several months ago, I talked about our trip to the Middle East and our tradition of buying a piece of street art on big trips.  We also buy a Christmas ornament on all of our travels, dating back to 2005 when we picked up a New York ornament on the top of the Empire State Building.

The hunt for an ornament is always really fun.  Sometimes we don’t buy a traditional ornament.  On a trip to Philadelphia, we bought a keychain and turned it into an ornament because all the Christmas ornaments we saw were too big and bulky.

Our little camel is actually a figurine carved out of camel bone.  Camel bone figurines are a popular tourist purchase in Egypt.  The store we went to also had angels, stars and other traditional Christmas ornaments carved out of camel bone.

We had to have the camel, it was too cute to pass up.  Do you have any Christmas ornament traditions?

The World’s Oldest Paper

Roll of Papyrus

I now have a small supply of the world’s oldest paper:  papyrus.  Of course, the papyrus I have isn’t old itself but the method of making it originated five thousand years ago.

Buying painted papyrus is a must-do on any trip to Egypt.  Papyrus shops have walls covered with papyrus paintings and drawings at every size and price imaginable.  When we were planning our trip, I thought sure a painting would be nice but I really want some blank papyrus.

Once the husband and I picked out our papyrus painting in the shop, we went to pay for it.  I politely asked if they had any blank papyrus sheets I could buy.

They looked at me like I was nuts.  Why would any tourist want to buy blank papyrus?

In my head: You don’t understand.  I’m a paper crafter.  I love the painting, but I can’t be this close to special paper that I can’t get anywhere else without taking something home.  I have to have some.  What am I going to use it for?  Good question.  I have no idea.

They actually did ask what I was going to use it for as they tried to figure out how much to charge me for it.  I honestly have no idea.  I figure an idea will come to me eventually.  I got my papyrus and hopped out of the store pleased as punch.

What would you do with it?  I have a very large sheet and one small sheet.  It could be made into stationary.  I could use it in my scrapbook.  The surface is fairly fibrous because it’s made out of strips of the papyrus plant rather than pulp like most other papers.  As you may know, I can’t draw a straight line.  I would love to hear your ideas!

The Travel Tradition

Papyrus Drawing

Summer has finally reached my neck of the woods and I’m enjoying the blog posts everywhere about vacations near and far.

Since I’ve already taken my big trip for the year, I want to share one of my favorite travel traditions.

We always bring back a piece of art, usually inexpensive street art. We like having something on our wall that reminds us of where we’ve been and there’s usually a story around the hunt for the right piece.

In Paris, we bought from an artist on the right bank of the Seine near the Louvre.  We couldn’t agree on which drawing we wanted.  The artist thought we were trying to haggle and kept dropping the price while the husband and I continued our disagreement.  We ended up with two!

During this last trip in Cairo, we found ourselves in a giant papyrus shop pouring over stacks of drawings.  The drawing we loved was framed in a display.  The shopkeeper pulled out piles of drawings, thumbing through them, saying he had one exactly like it ready to go.  Each one he pulled out was just slightly different, the geese were a different color, the lotus flowers looked different, etc.  He finally pulled the one out of the display, wrapped it for us and we skipped out of the store.

Did I mention our place is tiny?  We may run out of walls.

Want to see more pictures of the papyrus shop and the drawings we bought in Paris?  Head over to my Facebook page to see a special photo album.  Don’t have a Facebook account?  You can still click the link and see the pictures!

Saving Travel Keepsakes

Still recovering from jet lag over here but I’m glad to be home. Thanks again to Jessika for keeping my blog alive!

We had an absolutely unforgettable trip. Naturally, when you have a two-week adventure, you are bound to pick up some keepsakes. How do I keep track of everything and not lose an important ticket stub along the way? I’m still traumatized that I lost my Price is Right pricetag name badge in college.

Yup, you guessed it: I have a system. I came up with this idea after the husband and I took our very first trip together.

Meet the Master Envelope


Take a large manila envelope with you on your next trip. They are really cheap and can be found in drugstores and office supply stores.

The Master Envelope has three very important functions.

One: Itineraries and Confirmations

Before the trip, I print out all of our transportation and lodging confirmations and put them in the envelope.

Yes, most of these things can be accessed online these days but you never know when you’ll need to produce a hard copy. I was thankful I did this when I found out that airports in the Middle East require a printed itinerary before they even let you inside to the ticket counter!

Print all confirmations/itineraries and put them in the envelope.

Two: Receipts

From hotels to lunches and shopping, we generate a surprising amount of receipts during our trips. We never know when we will need to refer to something. At the end of each day, all receipts get deposited into the envelope.

All receipts during the trip go in the envelope.

Three: Keepsakes

Most importantly, the envelope is the master repository for all of our keepsakes. At the end of the day, we both empty our pockets and I empty my purse. Every ticket stub, map, boarding pass or similar item is put in the envelope. This way we don’t drop something or let something get crumpled up in my purse.

I err on the side of over-inclusiveness and save purging for when I get home.

Organizing and Purging

Within a couple of days of getting home, I empty the envelope and organize it.

First, we take all the receipts and check them against our online accounts (for ATM and credit card transactions). This is especially important if you are traveling internationally.

Next, I take “big receipts” and file them away. These are things such as hotel our travel agency bills. Other receipts that I checked against our accounts online or were for cash purchases get shredded along with our confirmation pages that I printed at the beginning of the trip.

Finally, I go through our keepsakes and do some light purging. For example, I don’t need two copies of the Air France dinner menu. I’ll keep one and give my niece the other one. Maybe I won’t end up using it in my scrapbook, but I’ll keep it until I actually work on the layouts.

Left: stuff to keep. Right: stuff for the shredder.

I end up with a “keep” and “shred” pile. The “keep” pile goes back into the envelope and is labeled and saved for when it’s time to scrapbook.

Speaking of scrapbooking, what am I going to do with all of these ticket stubs? We quickly found out on our trip that all tourist sites in Egypt are centrally regulated and you get a neat ticket stub/keepsake from each site. I have two of each, it’s a HUGE stack!

These are going to make an interesting layout at some point.

I bet by now you want to see pictures. At least, I hope you want to see pictures. Stay tuned Thursday!