Smart Solutions: Use travel souvenirs, decor to lift your spirits

By Jeanine Matlow
Special to The Detroit News

When planning family vacations, many check the school calendar. Since non-essential travel is not recommended at this time, our spring break was spent at home for a change. This had me thinking that in addition to living in one of the nation’s hot spots for COVID-19, we happen to have visited a few others in recent years, such as Florida, Louisiana and New York.

As we continue to shelter in place, I’ve decided to take a trip down memory lane to reminisce about some of our travels and the souvenirs I have that pay tribute to other hard-hit areas struggling with the coronavirus.

When my daughter organized her room out of boredom during spring break, she found some colorful postcards from the trip we took to New York City a few years back. Perhaps I’ll gather a few from our past travels and display them on the fridge as a magnetic vision board for future excursions.

This tropical window art creates a room with a view when non-essential travel options are limited.

She also gave me a photo holder she no longer needs made by a friend of mine that can highlight one postcard at a time until frames become readily available again.

One city we visited for spring break two years in a row where there’s always so much to see and do is Chicago. I still have a menu from the legendary Ed Debevic’s diner which is set to reopen this year in a new location.

As anyone who has been there already knows, there is no place like New Orleans. From the music and the food to the architecture of the French Quarter, this location is truly one-of-a-kind. That’s why I had to buy the gold oversized Mardi Gras beads that embellish a classic bust in my living room. They capture the spirit of this lively locale that has gone from bustling to barren.

My daughter has been wearing her souvenir T-shirts from our recent visits to popular tourist destinations like Naples, Florida and Puerto Rico. It’s hard to believe we were on a cruise ship with around 6,000 passengers and crew at the end of December shortly before the industry came to a halt. A model ship given to us by a very special crew member makes me wonder what has happened to all those people who made our experience an absolute joy.

Our Canadian neighbors who are close in proximity but currently off limits to visit due to the current restrictions also come to mind. For instance, Toronto was one of my favorite places for people-watching when that was possible. In Stratford, another charming destination, I bought some notepads with a picture of Shakespeare and a “to do or not to do list” heading with a line down the middle of the page. This lightens my mood whenever I use it.

One recent organizing project led me to put some of my travel mementos in a box to be dealt with at a later date. Now, as I sift through these pieces, I am hoping to make travel plans to support places near and far as soon as we get the green light.

Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at