Nutcracker Market

Standard

The Nutcracker Market is one of Houston’s biggest shopping events, and it signals the start of the Christmas season. It is held at NRG Center, which is a part of the stadium grounds. I have wanted to go for the past three years, but admittedly it is too steep of an admission price for me. It is $20 to get in, with proceeds going towards the Houston Ballet.

This year, I planned it out to use the last bit of my birthday money to be able to go. My co-worker and friend Tricia came with me.

Tricia went to buy our tickets when a woman was handing out left over 4-day early bird passes for free! These are a $50 value, and are good for repeat admission for all four days of the market, and allow us to get in earlier than 10 a.m. general admission. We got there just after 9:30 a.m. We lucked out!

A good word to describe the Nutcracker Market is “overwhelming,” both in a good and bad way. Bad because there are so many people, and there are just times when the aisles back up with people not being able to move. (We were expecting this to be the case though.) It is overwhelming in a good way because there are hundreds of vendors. It is a great way to get your Christmas shopping done all in one place.

It’s also a good way to get into the Christmas spirit, if only for all of the Christmas displays alone. There were tons and tons of Christmas trees, all with people lining up by them to get their selfies.

There were mostly women at the event, and they all seemed to come in packs. A lot of them were wearing matching Christmas themed shirts, and wearing silly Christmas hats. I think this is a good strategy though, in case if you get lost from one another.

Because of the gifted tickets, after two and a half hours with Tricia, I was able to rest up for a few hours, and then go back for round two with Derek. It is worth it to go back a second time. I was able to see a lot that I missed the first time around.  Tricia then picked up the tickets from me and she was able to go back, too.

Some of the things that Derek and I bought include: a Christmas ornament that says “Merry Texmas Y’all,” a silver Texas charm that I can put on a chain, a bag of chocolate toffee (which is already gone) a new wallet for Derek, gumbo soup mix and a canvas Christmas scene painting with LED lights in it.

057

064

055

054

053

049

046

044

060

066

063

065

 

Advertisements

Crazy 4th of July

Standard

I was planning on writing a post about 4th of July, but this post is not at all what I was expecting to write about.

Our original plans included the Bellaire 4th of July parade in the morning. (Bellaire is a nice small-town community that is entirely surrounded by the city of Houston.) I was planning on taking a few photos of the parade and then putting them online for our newspapers. We were also going to check out the new H-E-B grocery store, and then just relax the rest of the day.

Let’s just say that rain changed a bunch of our plans.

It was forecasted to rain for most of the day, but Bellaire administration said that the parade would go on, basically rain or shine, unless if there was a downpour or lightning and thunder.

We left at 9 a.m. for the 9:30 parade. We were barely on the road for a minute when the downpour started. We found the start line of the parade, in a shopping plaza, and everyone was soaked. It looked as if they were trying to wait out the downpour and then the parade could start. We snapped a few pictures of everyone and the floats in the rain. At about 9:25, you guessed it, lightning and thunder started. So much for the parade.

We were right in front of a little coffee shop called the Dandelion Cafe. We ducked inside because it was still pouring. It ended up being a nice little place. We will probably put this coffee shop into our rotation. We always enjoy finding new places like this.

After being there for an hour, we headed to the new H-E-B Grocery that had just opened up in Bellaire. I wasn’t originally expecting to buy a lot of things, but we did most of our bi-weekly shopping there, because prices were good. The H-E-B was cool, because it was a two story building, with a cart specific escalator. I was amused by it, and embarrassed Derek when I took video and pictures. Also, the H-E-B had its own parking garage, and there were lights at the end of each space in the ceiling which indicated if the spaces were open or not. Red for occupied, green for vacant. How handy! This is what living in the future is like.

Unbeknownst to us while we did our shopping for an hour, it was still raining heavily all this time. We left the grocery store and we were driving through pretty deep water. It was splashing up over the sides of our tires up onto the windows. But then all of a sudden it got too deep, and the water was going up over our hood. It quickly got scary. Derek said, “We have to get off of this road, NOW.” Luckily we saw a parking lot that was higher ground, and a bunch of other cars were there too waiting out the storm like us.

So we sat. And we waited. And we sat some more. I was getting worried about all of the perishables that we had just bought! Eventually, after about an hour and a half, we saw that the waters had receded a bit, so we cautiously headed out. We went a few blocks and ended up at a Walmart near my work. We couldn’t go any further, towards home, because we saw there was more high water ahead.

Walmart was good though, because we were able to buy a bag of ice to keep the perishables cold, and wandering around Walmart was better than sitting in a car.

We finally were able to get home around 3 p.m., about four hours after we originally tried to get home. It was an exhausting morning!

I now understand why some drivers accidentally end up in high waters and have to abandon their cars. It comes out of nowhere. You think you are okay, and then suddenly there is more water. We never had to be outside during Hurricane Harvey, so this was a new scary experience, one that I hope to not repeat.

Parade rain3

Parade rain1

IMG_7091

IMG_7090

IMG_7093

IMG_7101

IMG_7097

 

Exploring Rice University

Standard

There are a ton of higher-ed schools around Houston. Rice University is just a stones throw away from us, right across the street from Hermann Park, which we frequent.

We have always seen the buildings from the roads as we drove past, but never stepped foot on campus until last weekend.

Rice University is a prestigious, private university. Their mascot is the owl. If you look hard enough, you can find owls all over campus.

Their campus was so peaceful, covered with large oak trees and plenty of tables and chairs for relaxing. The architecture was impressive as well. I felt as if I were at an Ivy League school in the northeast, or as someone else put it, Hogwarts.

We also stopped at Rice Coffeehouse, their cafe inside the student union, for some cold drinks. We also saw a French cafe/restaurant on campus called Flo, might have to check that out another time.

Rice University

Rice University_3

Rice University_9

Rice University_7

Rice University_14

Rice University_19

Rice University_25

Rice University_27

Rice University_28

Rice University_31

Downtown underground tunnels

Standard

Did you know that Houston has underground tunnels connecting all of the major buildings downtown? We didn’t know until recently, when I came across it online.

If you ever think that downtown is a bit empty during lunch time, there is a reason for that. Everyone is just below you! I expect a lot of people use the tunnels for relief from the summer heat.

It is like a little city underneath the city with multiple entrance points. There are over six miles of tunnels. We entered through one of the towers; there was an escalator going down right in the main lobby.

The tunnels are a large maze of sorts, with lots of long twisting and turning hallways, but there are maps every so often so you know where you are.

The tunnels are a mixture of shops, restaurants and food courts. Derek commented that it almost had an airport terminal feel. Most of the shops were errand related, like dry cleaners, banks and pharmacies. A one stop shop for workers on their lunch break. In fact, Derek’s bank had an office down there, so we stopped in and we were able to get a card for me for his account. It was something we had been meaning to do.

We had really good Chinese food at Dumpling House in one of the food courts. It was cheap too, can’t beat that. Funny because the Chinese food restaurant back in Wellsboro is called Dumpling House too.

It was interesting to explore a whole new level of the city. We will probably venture down there again, because there were a lot of good looking places to eat.

IMG_5706

IMG_5707

IMG_5712

IMG_5709

IMG_5711

IMG_5713

IMG_5714

Book of Mormon

Standard

Last month Derek and I went to see The Book of Mormon. It was a show that has been on our radar for a while. When we first moved here, I kept seeing commercials for the show. I was able to buy tickets with money I had received for my birthday. That seems like ages ago!

The performance was at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. It was a really nice venue. Our seats were the front row for the top balcony. Nice to not have any heads in front of us!

I understand the show is not everyone’s cup of tea, but we thought the show was hilarious! I’m so glad we got the chance to go. In April, we’ve got tickets for Cirque du Soleil.

Also, I would like to mention: We decided to take the metro into downtown and walk to the Hobby Center to avoid parking costs. After getting on the metro, walking through all the buildings and then going to a Broadway award winning play, I had one of those, “Woah, we live here” moments!

Some photos at the Hobby Center:

IMG_5090

IMG_5091

IMG_5092

z

IMG_5093

 

IMG_5099

IMG_5094

Gingerbread House

Standard

I unexpectedly had Christmas Eve off, and I am so used to working that day at all my other jobs. With a free day ahead of me, I looked into Christmas type activities to do.

I found a large one-and-a-half story gingerbread house set up in the lobby of the Hilton Hotel.

Some facts about the house:

It took 75o hours to build. The builders used 500 pounds of gingerbread, 350 pounds of dark chocolate, 725 pounds of milk and white chocolate and 325 pounds of sugar!

The team really did a nice job with the details. We especially thought that being able to see inside the house was a nice touch.

Christmas Eve_10

Christmas Eve_12-3

Christmas Eve_1

Christmas Eve_3

Christmas Eve_11

 

The Galleria

Standard

The Galleria is an upscale shopping mall in Houston. Originally I had figured that I wouldn’t ever have a need to go inside. My wallet would cry just being in the vicinity!

But, when I was looking for things to do over Derek’s winter break, I saw that there was a huge Christmas tree in the middle of an ice skating rink (!!) in the Galleria. Well, if anything, it would be a good photo op.

However, the more that I looked into the Galleria, I realized that, while there are mostly high end shops, there are also plenty of stores for us poorer folks too!

We ended up going to familiar stores such as Hot Topic, Game Stop, Disney Store and Aeropostale. We also stopped at Nestle’s to get cookies to go (snickerdoodle), and a macaroon stand. I got mint chocolate and almond. Yum!

The mall is definitely huge. In fact, it is the largest mall in Texas! Although I must point out that the mall by my Grandma’s house in NJ is bigger! I guess not everything is bigger in Texas…

We kept getting lost trying to find our way to specific stores. Thank goodness for the directories! Funny, there was always a line to use them! At least we weren’t the only ones walking in circles.

I enjoyed coming here. I may come again during a day off when Derek is back in school just to kill a couple of hours and get some exercise.

IMG_5024

IMG_5022

IMG_5023

IMG_5025