Fashion is everywhere

Chez Larsson

Our Odd Purchases

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Ok, so I think it's time I address your questions and comments about the odd purchases we made while in New York. I do tend to buy my souvenirs at drugstores where I can get useful stuff and still think " I bought this in NYC". There were so many comments about the q-tips in particular and also on the candy and the cereal so here's the deal.

We do have cotton swabs here in Sweden and I'm sure that if I searched and tested another dozen or so boxes I'd find a brand that made them almost as well as the q-tips. But since I go to the US at least once a year and know q-tips are the best I might as well get a box while I'm there. They weigh next to nothing and I'm pleased every-time I grab one. Imagine being pleased 365 times a year!

As for candy, some of you offered recommendations and I'm all ears. BUT I've bought A LOT of candy in the past and we ended up not liking a lot of what I brought home so in the last few years I've just gotten the Lifesavers, Skittles and Trident gum because we love all those. And if you're wondering why we are picky candy eaters it's because some of the best candy and chocolate is Swedish :).

So the cereal. I buy it because it's fun and unusual for us Swedes. We don't have much of this very colorful breakfast stuff over here and I thinks it's a conscious decision from everyone over here that breakfast should be a healthy meal. Swedes in general eat really healthily at breakfast and donuts and other sweets are unheard of in the morning. There are Frosties, Honey Smacks and even Cocoa Pops in the stores but most parents are trying to keep those away from kids because of the high sugar content. So why do I buy them again? Purely for fun. One box of colorful cereal is not going to kill us, it's not like we're eating it every day of the year.

Oh, the 1974 Texas license plate ended up in Wille's room. We got it at one of the flea markets. I love how it reflects light on his wall.

What are your favorite purchases abroad? Do you stick to traditional souvenirs or do you shop the drugstore like I do?


  • bridget says:

    Funny you should ask! My sister is traveling to Sweden in a few weeks and I’m thinking of things she can bring back for me [since I’m very, very jealous of this trip!! :)]. What’s a quintessential Swedish item she should get me for a souvenir?

  • Fun purchases! I always look for antique keys and unique stones/rocks (especially if I’m visiting a coastal area). It’s true, Swedish chocolate is delicious! Although next time you’re in the states, look for a brand of chocolate called Green and Black’s. It’s lovely. I know they sell it in the UK too. Most of the mainstream chocolate in the US is pretty blah.
    @bridget: What about a Dala Horse? Very Swedish and cute too!
    Did you two end up eating at any quintessential NYC restaurants? Diners?

  • Mari says:

    I’m a first time poster (though a long time reader/lurker) 🙂
    Whenever we’re abroad I visit flea markets, art fairs, and antique stores (but rarely buy in latter, frankly). I MIGHT bring a drug store-ish souvenirs back home to give away to family (my sister collects magnets from countries she or I visit) and friends, but for our home I collect only old/unique/ooak things. I’m a bit of a snob, i know :)))

  • Ramona K says:

    I´ve been a secret reader for a long time……
    I much prefer to buy souvenirs in ordinary shops and places – unexpected things you wouldn´t have written on a list. One time in Portugal, I was in a café, hot and tired and really stumped for ideas for take-home presents. Suddenly I realised that the napkin holders on the tables were really cute, totally unique and furthermore the text was in Portuguese, of course. Felt as pleased as punch when I did a deal with the café owner and came away with an armful of these dispensers at a ridiculously low price. Sorry, no pics.

  • Leena says:

    I don’t seem to have any pattern in my souvenir shopping. The most traditional things I’ve brought is the matrushka doll from Russia, and from Amsterdam I brought the clogs. Couple years ago when I was in Winconsin and NY I bought a wisconsin shaped cookie cutter, which I thought was a bit odd and also the traditional I <3 NY t-shirt. I also brought home a big bag of pain killers, at that time in here it was not possible to buy large quantity of drugs at a time without a prescription.
    From Paris I've bought a plaster Notre Dame "beast". It stands now on my bookshelf. And from Estonia I always bring certain panty liners 🙂 they have a nice camomile sent. From Prague I nicked a paving stone, they were so cubic, that I had to take one.

  • Rattling On says: Lifesavers are Polos in the UK (where they come from) and if you wanted you could always send for them mail order. And the skittles!!

  • Kirsten says:

    My one must-have souvenir, no matter where I go, is a lapel pin. They’re easy to find just about anywhere, and very small so they are easy to bring home. After that, I’ll buy whatever hits me, so long as it’s not something I can easily buy at home.
    One of my favorite souvenirs was a lovely beaded candle holder from a department store in London. Also when my mom visited Sweden last year I made her get me some wood spreaders for butter, cheese, and jelly as I had misplaced mine when I moved.

  • Rebecca says:

    I’m the same as you – I always bring back odd little bits and pieces, but they mean a lot to me! Whenever I go to France I always buy some sachets of Vanilla Sugar. You can’t find it in England and it tastes so much better than Vanilla Extract for some reason.. 🙂

  • Petra from NL says:

    I like to get food and cleaning supplies we don’t have in the Netherlands;
    I got Mrs. Meyer’s on my previous trip to the States, but this time round I got Caldrea Essentials instead. In France they’ve got a very nice dishwashing liquid with thyme and basil. We usually load up on saladdressing as well. Definitely frowned upon by my mother in law who feels everyone should always make a dressing from scratch but some of the ready made ones are really nice and we like to have 2 different kinds open at a time so we can choose our favourite. And… not food or cleaning stuff but always nice: foreign magazines on home decor!

  • Maggie says:

    I don’t go for traditional souvinears. One of the things I’m still using from my trip to India over 5 years ago is these tiny packets of matches. The stems are wax instead of wood.

  • Helena says:

    Har letat efter receptet på era “kladdiga muffins”….har du det någonstans på sidan? De ser såååååå goda ut! 🙂

  • Pearl says:

    No surprise to me: when I visit Paris and London I buy “ridiculous” stuff like drugstore stuff and souvenir plates–things I love and that remind me of those cities when I return to DFW. And they’re easy to pack–bonus in these times of extra luggage charges!

  • Nina says:

    Starbucks city cups, Oral B toothbrushes and tumbler sheets. All in all the fun things you might stumble upon. But the brushes are definitely a favourite.

  • Jo says:

    I love how practical your souvenirs are. I tend to bring home something that really caught my attention but that I can either wear or use in the home. I have a pottery salad bowl and earrings from Greece and a scarf and perfume from Egypt.
    You have me fascinated now – I don’t eat cereal mysself, but what do people generally have for a healthy breakfast in Sweden?

  • anna n says:

    I usually buy bookmarks as souvenirs – they’re cheap, you can find them everywhere, they take up no room in the suitcase or at home and everytime I use them i’m reminded of the places I’ve visited. Some of my favourites are flyers or business cards I found for free.
    Some of my favourite “souvenirs” are actually things that I use in my home that has no relation what so ever with the place I bought them, for example a couple of Japanese breakfast bowls that I bought during our road trip in New England or the perfekt white tea bag holder that I bought in NY. No one else would know they’re souvenirs, but they bring back happy memories every time I use them.

  • Rebecca says:

    Oh, I am like you! I love to buy stuff in the drugstore (or the Carrefour) in France and bring it home. Every time I use it, I think “oh, I bought this in France! When I go to Japan, I love to check out their mini-markets for weird stuff. One time I brought home something that was like beef jerky (do you have this sort of thing in Sweden? Sticks of dried beef sold individually wrapped as a snack) but was actually a squid, sold in the snack section. I never tasted it, I’m not that brave. I also love to buy Japanese paper goods while I am there, even though I can pretty much get all of it here in NYC. One time I lugged home all this Japanese pottery, only to find the EXACT same stuff right down the street from me. So, I don’t do that anymore.
    Love the license plate!

  • Neda says:

    I´m not alone!!!! Let me see … from my last trip to Norway I bought “flatbrød”, chocolate (and i had just been in Belgium)but Daim is a MUST, stuff like that. I always buy stuff in drugstores, things that I think are funny or I had never seen before. I buy food, cat toys, clothes … and I always take a visit to Ikea to buy votives and food at the sweedish store, napkins, kids stuff and if I could I most likely would buy furniture as well.
    The good thing is that I remember my vacations on almost daily bases, since my souveniers are every where. And once in a while I buy ordinary souveniers too.

  • Bride of Cranky Old Geezer says:

    I totally understand these souvenirs. Me, I go for packaging – I just returned to the US from a month in France and among the things I brought back are a couple of little glass pots that held yogurt (yum) and that I will use to hold brushes. I also got some individually wrapped sugar cubes with little flowers on the wrapper, and some fleur de sel in a pretty container, and a bunch of museum tickets which were too pretty to throw away. I’m going to put them all in a little frame by my desk.
    I find that I can get most European products (wine, chocolate, cheese, soap – and everything that Ikea sells) close to home, but it’s these little daily things in their different containers that bring back happy memories.

  • Maureen says:

    I go to the grocery stores and look for unique cooking products. I then eat my souvenirs!

  • Karin says:

    This strikes a chord with me too, Benita! Whenever I am in England, I am always happiest shopping in Boots. I enjoy going to foreign grocery stores, and I love foreign cleaning products with attractive packaging and lovely scents.

  • Charlotta says:

    Är jag i Frankrike köper jag MonBlanc chokladkräm i konservburk. Som en slät chokladmousse. Underbar. Och så köper jag flingsalt i snajdiga förpackningar.

  • Kara E. says:

    I usually bring back some sort of (storable) food and post cards (of course, I do this one traveling across the US too).

  • Kari says:

    I always buy stuff from grocers and drugstore–the fun stuff is the things we use everyday, and the way they differ from place to place.

  • Christina says:

    I’m another grocery store/drugstore hunter. And magazines, I love ‘foreign’ paper. I don’t think it’s strange at all — I’d rather not have all the permanent clutter traditional souvenirs make and I too enjoy the 365 day little pleasures.

  • Michelle of Montreal says:

    I love going to grocery stores in foreign countries to see how different things are, from the types of apples to the variety of ready-to-eat foods available. I tend to buy weird sauces and condiments to take home. Chocolate bars and cookies too. That’s how I discovered stroopwafels in the Netherlands.

  • Pamela says:

    Everything in a foreign drugstore or grocery store always looks so much better. I would be happy to buy toothpaste as a souvenir. When I buying gifts, however, I just try to choose something local. Although, no one has ever objected to candy or chocolate. 🙂

  • Karen says:

    I usually buy one Christmas tree ornament each summer when we are away. It has to be representative of the place and NOT tacky.
    I haven’t been to Japan in ten years, but I used to go on a regular basis. Everything there was soooo expensive, but I had a great time shopping in the drug stores and home stores! Fun bargains on cool stuff you wouldn’t find in the States. I’m still using a lot of my purchases in my laundry room. I’ll be devastated when they wear out.
    We have all of our old license plates “decorating” the wall of our garage. Never thought of putting them up in my son’s room. Great idea! I, too, love the way they reflect the light!

  • Mia (Stockholm) says:

    Just arrived from Finland and in my bag I had three large boxes of crisp bread. They make the best bread! And on top various bags of licorice. They make the best licorice. 🙂

  • Goneril says:

    I’m with you on the drugstores! I would much rather have a souvenir I can incorporate into my daily life like toothpaste. Tyrkisk Peber salty liquorice and Zoéga’s Skånerost coffee for me yum.

  • Rachel says:

    I love visiting drugstores when we travel abroad, it’s nice to buy things we’ll actually use on a regular basis. MY other big travel indulgence is clothes.

  • jja says:

    “And if you’re wondering why we are picky candy eaters it’s because some of the best candy and chocolate is Swedish :).”
    So true. Or belgian. Or german Lindt. American sweets are always for me to sweet or – just sweet and no taste.
    “What are your favorite purchases abroad?”
    Spices, Music CDs and books. I hate clutter.

  • Mar in Vancouver says:

    I am a grocery store souvenir shopper also. My granddaughters especially love the different cereals and cookies. I have “decluttered” so many traditional souvenirs that I lugged home in the past that I usually only get ones that can be consumed now.

  • Emily says:

    I don’t think they are odd, just interesting. There’s a particular kind of sport sunscreen sold at Mercadona grocery store in Spain that’s better than any other kind I’ve tried. I came home with 4 bottles last time! I, too, love shopping at grocery stores and smaller, local stores for souvenirs. Flea markets and second hand stores are great, too. And I try to pick up some music and art whenever I take a big trip.

  • Denise says:

    I do the same thing you do. When go to Hong Kong from the States, I always try to stock up on Tempo tissues (super thick and they have menthol to help with stuffy noses) and Wrigley Airwaves gum (like an altoid and lemon/honey gum) which they don’t regularly sell in here. I also get requests to bring Tylenol and Doritos from my friends when I go over.

  • A Dalahorse is indeed the typical Swedish souvenir as Maureen pointed out below. Another typical thing is a cheese slicer such as this one They are super common over here in the Nordic countries but elswhere cheese is mostly cut with a knife apparently.

  • Neither Wille nor I are foodies and only eat dinner because otherwise we die :). On the first night we passed a TGIF and ate there. The second night we brought takeout from the Grand Central Terminal food court (just next door to the hotel) to our room and on the last night we ended up at Mc Donalds which neither of us like but it was easy, we were sweaty and hungry and and our way to the Empire State Building :). I would have loved a real diner and had looked some up but they weren’t where we were so, maybe next time.

  • That’s such a(n armful of) cool souvenir(s)!

  • I’ve had Polos but didn’t realise they were the same!

  • Ah, yes, the magazines are a must! 🙂

  • Nej, de ligger inte uppe, ska försöka övertala Wille attd dela med sig av receptet :).

  • A Swedish breakfast can be whole grain bread with butter and hard cheese, tea or coffee, a glass of OJ, filmjölk (sour milk) with unsweetened granola and half a grapefruit.
    Wille’s breakfast is chocolate milk, a bowl with fruit yoghurt, some fuet sausage slices, toast with peanut butter and a kiwi fruit or half a grape fruit.
    Martin’s breakfast is tea and two eggs.
    Mine is tea and two peanut butter toasts :).

  • Haha, I’ve done the same thing, lugged home stuff only to find it in the next store!

  • I used to buy sauses and condiments too only to find them back in our pantry unused a year later. I’ve learned what to get and what not to get, but I sure am attracted to the pretty of unusual packaging of foreign foods.

  • I loooove Japanese home stores. There are a few in Hong Kong and I always go mad in there for the unusual food containers and cleaning supplies :)!

  • Ah, those Airwaves are great! Super long lasting flavor!

  • Nancy says:

    I too love checking out grocery and hardware stores when we travel. It’s a great way to gain insights into the local culture. I will pick up things if they are useful and unusual rather than traditional souveniers that just add to the clutter. I tend to be brand loyal when it comes to consumable products, but if I find a product that I love, then I will certainly stock up. Like the time that I brought home five pots of the BEST maple butter from Quebec. Which reminds me, we are going there later this week and I should see if I can get more. If there is something that I have been wanting to purchase, sometimes I will wait until we are on vacation so that it becomes a souvenier of trip, like the hammock that I wanted to get to be used while camping and I ended up purchasing it from the woman who made it in Mexico.

  • Marianne says:

    Like you I like to buy usefull stuff and be reminded of that place while I use or look at it. Sometimes it’s clothes, a fleamarket find, food, a book, or a magazine.
    I visited Sweden several time and I really aqcuired a taste for cloudberry’s. Fortunately cloudberry jam and other Swedish goodies can be bought at Ikea.

  • Vicki K says:

    Two of my favorite souvenirs are sterling silver charms and fabric. The first one is a bit kitschy but I love that they are small and can be kept all together in one place. I am going to buy fabric anyway, so it is fun to think “I got this shirt fabric in (fill-in-the-space)”.

  • riye says:

    We go to Japan to see my grandma and I like to shop the 100 yen and 300 yen stores, drug stores, and grocery stores. I love getting candy and snack food that I can’t get in the U.S. Lately I’ve been looking at housewares stores too. The Japanese products are usually sized for smaller homes so they’re perfect for my tiny apartment. I wish I could bring back some of the furniture and appliances.

  • Lori in OR says:

    How fun this is to read! I am getting some good ideas for my future travels.
    I always hit the local stores for “school supplies” for myself. You can rarely find exercise books in the stores here and I love to stock up. They make excellent journals, and I carry one in my purse as a to-do list in the front and a might-do/want/need list in the back. Besides that, I suppose I don’t have any pattern of souvenir shopping. I have Christmas ornaments from Ireland and Hungary; a lovely flea-market dirndl from Germany; a salad bowl from Italy; playing-card boxes from Poland (we love foreign cards, which have distinctly different face cards from one another); some lovely pottery from Portugal… all things that are used and well-loved. (OK, so the dirndl doesn’t currently fit, but I vow it will fit again!)

  • Martin says:

    I have a suggestion! If you are ever in Sweden try ”Kalles Kaviar”! I was host to a sailing crew from Seattle a few years ago and I taught them about Swedish cracker (Knäckebröd) and “Kalles”. They cleaned out a whole supermarket of “Kalles Kaviar” before leaving for the US! I think it’s available at IKEA (Which I hate!!!). But if you ever visit Sweden, try it!

  • Jen says:

    We do this kind of “souvenir” shopping as well. Always a grocery store. Since we live in a country that is not our own we are often looking to see if we can find things we miss from “home” (Cheerios, but not the ones in the UK, or Cheddar cheese, for example), but now the whole thing has evolved into something more than that! What’s great is now that we have kids we tend to stay in vacation apartments and actually need grocery items while we’re on vacation, so we can test stuff out and if we love it we stock up!
    Naturally it also means that travel binging continues for a few weeks after we get home. 😉

  • OutoftheBox says:

    I never thought to check out drug stores or grocery stores when travelling! I’m adding that to my travel list!

  • Grace says:

    Oh I love souvenirs that I can use (or eat). I scour groceries and drugstores for what may be ordinary and trivial but has a lot more meaning for me. I may buy shampoo or toothpaste from Hong Kong but the Chinese packaging will make me smile when I use them back home. I chanced upon an ordinary teeshirt with the Coca-Cola logo, except it was written in Thai! The mind recognizes it but it takes a moment to sink in… I love it! I have a Provencal tablecloth from a Paris that I use in the summers… These are the types of souvenirs that I buy:-)

  • Christine says:

    I do traditional souveniers. Some I have gotten rid of, some I have kept. I usually end up getting something I can display. In England, I got a Big Ben statue, and a little toy red double decker bus. I also have cheap posters of famous sites I frame. I also buy charms for my charm bracelet. In Paris, I got the Eiffel tower replica, postcards; Amsterdam: a clock. Mexico: charms, some cheap pottery, cheap posters, Italy: I got nothing. Everything was closed so only postcards. Hawaii we started to get glass art paperweights. Iceland I got Christmas ornaments, and a bowl. In Denmark, I got magnets and jewelry, plus books.
    The hardest part is agreeing with my husband on what we should get.

  • I am all for useful and edible souvenirs. Buy whatever you want! I tend to look for odd stuff or useful stuff. I like to veer off the beaten path and am just as happy with a printed napkin from a store as I am a shell from a beach.
    That said, one of my students just came back from studying in Italy and she brought me a magnet. It’s lovely, actually, and I’ll think of her when I see it.

  • Marlena says:

    I’m glad you shared with us what you purchased. It was fun to read what others find interesting in America. When I travel I agree that drug stores are fun, but even more fun are grocery stores. When we were in Buenos Aires three years ago so many of my photos are from their groceries stores and the names on packaging and the colors used, too. I aim to purchase one piece of jewelry and/or bag for myself during each trip as a memorable token. Now whenever I wear x bracelet or y earrings, I remember where I was, ditto on the bags.

  • Kate says:

    I always seem to buy socks and underwear when I’m on holiday, for some reason. I prefer to spend money on experiences that I’ll remember, and little things that give me nice reminders. My socks from Melbourne get a smile from me at least once a week, but if I bought some expensive ornament I wouldn’t get nearly as much enjoyment out of it!

  • Lena says:

    Lindt is SWISS!!!!!
    Sorry, but as a Swiss Chocolate lover I just had to correct that.

  • Mearaid says:

    When going to visit my husband’s family in Germany (we live in Canada) we bring Shout ( and Doritos ( and when we come home we always bring Haaribo’s gummy bears (

  • Titti says:

    Haha! I always buy toothpaste as a souvenir when in France or the US! 🙂

  • Christina says:

    Isn’t that Trident Layers gum THE BEST?! I am in love with the strawberry/mint flavor.
    Shopping while traveling is so fun. I like to go to flea markets, and some of my best travel treasures are from NYC. Glad you had fun!

  • DT says:

    I don’t have much rhyme or reason to my souvenirs and I envy my sister who always buys a local music CD and local flavor cookbook. She has amassed quite a lovely collection of both over the years.

  • Nessa says:

    I’m a long-time reader(lurker), but I’ve never posted before. I love your home and all the projects you do. That license plate though. I just had to comment. I graduated from a Texas high school in 1974. So remember me, a loyal reader, every time you see that plate. Thank you so much, Benita, for all you have blogged. By the way, the way I talk about you and your blog, my husband thinks you must live nearby and I run into all the time in the neighborhood. I only wish that were so. Love to you and your wonderful family.

  • Patia says:

    I’m catching up on reading your blog. Wille might be interested to know that “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” came out in ’74.
    My favorite souvenirs on trips are jewelry and art. I keep my eyes out for a special bracelet, pendant or fun cheap hair clips. And if I go to a museum, I often will buy at least one print.
    When I had a mint collection on my desk at work, I would buy neat mint tins. (For example, from the Empire State Building.)

  • @BKLYNcontessa - Nicole says:

    Hi Benita! Quick question … how did you attach the license plate to the wall?! have some vintage ones and would like to do something similar!

  • I used the same cushioned adhesive recatangles as for the trash can on wheels last week. There are holes in the license plate though and you could probably hang them from two nails at the top.

  • D says:

    Pretty sure that colourful cereal is illegal to sell in Europe due to the food colouring (think they’re called e-numbers in Europe). Same as Kool Aid and the other nasty products still available in the Americas.

  • D says:

    polos aren’t the same as lifesavers! same shape, but the mint lifesavers are an artificial taste compared to the polos.

  • Karin says:

    My friends always make fun of me because I always buy (or order when my family goes to the US) zip lock bags, conditioner and string cheese when I am in the states. Yes, we have zip lock bags in Sweden now but they are SO expensive. And yes, we have conditioner here too but it’s not as good as the one for curly hair that I can get at any american drugstore. And string cheese – well, that’s just really really good.