I shopped the Nutcracker Market, and made it out alive.

16 Nov

I’m moving into a new house next year, and I’ve been trying to save money for travel next year anyway, so I can’t spend a ton of money for the holidays.  I’ve mentioned this before: I LOVE picking out Christmas presents.  I know plenty of women like me; there’s a thrill when you find the perfect gift, especially if you don’t have to spend a lot of money on it.  I love wrapping something up that I know will make someone happy, especially if it took some amount of cleverness or insight on my part.

Of course buying something expensive (like a flatscreen tv or a Playstation) is guaranteed to make someone happy, and so that doesn’t count.  An extravagant present can’t replace the warm satisfaction of thinking about, seeking out, and getting a good deal on the right gift.  This year, I will be buying presents for my parents, my sister (who I drew in the sibling/significant other gift exchange), my boyfriend, the white elephant and ornament exchange at work, and then a few small things for my friends.  I had one of those moments this weekend when I stumbled across a present I know my friend will love.

My mother and I attended the Nutcracker Market at Reliant Stadium.  Normally, my mother and I are the world’s least enthusiastic leisure shoppers, preferring to employ the “surgical strike” technique: go to a particular store to get the one thing needed, locate and purchase said item, and leave.  Spare very few glances for the other merchandise.  The Nutcracker Market is not a surgical strike maneuver.  They discourage you from leaving by charging a fee to park, an entrance fee (which benefits the Houston Ballet, so that’s a plus), and creating a rabbit’s warren of booths from which it can be daunting to extricate oneself.  It is in this labyrinth my mother and I willing consigned ourselves to wander, along with thousands of other women, a few harassed-looking men and children, and several hundred metric tons of cheesy merchandise.

Our friends have a booth every year, so we went to support them and also to burn a few calories walking the miles of aisles.  There are about 5 categories of goods for sale: Christmas decorations, clothing, gourmet foods, decorative arts, and crap covered in animal print and hot pink feathers.  Stressed out sales clerks, often the relatives and children of the proprietor, attempt to keep standing upright amongst the pressing crowds of browsing women.  Exclamations of surprise and declarations of love rise up above the buzzing of women’s voices and the local high school choir’s caroling.

Despite pawing through approximately 1,397 items, I only found the aforementioned item that I liked for a friend (the perfect gift!  I wish I could show you, but she might actually read this!) and a simple gold necklace for myself.  I did see some good craft ideas, but nothing I would want to pay someone else for.  We got caught up in the moment and almost bought some Christmas morning pajamas (a Hurst family tradition), but the woman working the booth took out her stress and frustration on me by snapping at me when I picked up a package.  She apologized right away, but it was so startling that we just put down the things we’d picked out and walked away.  I hope her chosen career path isn’t in sales, as she was struggling pretty early in the game to hold on to her composure.

After about 3 hours, when we’d covered nearly every booth, we left and went straight to Target, where we employed our “surgical strike” technique to end the day of shopping on a satisfying note.  I took a few pictures to try to capture the madness.

Nutcracker Market 2009

The theme this year was something about dogs, hence the giant centerpieces filled with dog bones. Was the theme "Dog Eats Dog Shopping Experience"?

Nutcracker Market 2009

Full body fake tattoos. No, really. Sorry the picture's so unfocused; I kept getting run over by slowly moving, bag laden browsers.

Nutcracker Market 2009

This made me sad - the vendor's accessories featured on the cover of LIFE from 20+ years ago, now featured in a booth at a craft market. Also funny, because his stuff is still pretty eighties-looking. And not in a good way. Notice the howling coyote hammered silver earrings?

Nutcracker Market 2009

Nutcracker Market 2009

Out of control. (For a 3 day market!)

Here are some of the ideas I liked for crafts:

Nutcracker Market 2009

Cute gift for kids of both genders, and super easy. Buy a box with a sliding lid from a craft store, and spray chalkboard paint on it. Decorate and personalize. I thought these were a little plain; I would paint the whole thing and maybe add a more interesting handle...

Nutcracker Market 2009

I loved these - and I think they would be easy and cheap to make. That could be a fun project to actually do with your kids, even down to picking out the fabric. Plus, you can make it a smaller size that can easily be stored in a closet when not in use.

Despite my snarky comments, we DID have fun (especially making fun of people – I tell you, we are just not nice.)  I’m looking forward to my next holiday market, which represents a much different (and more to my tastes) set of goods.  The Winter Holiday Art Market (WHAM) at Winter Street Studios will feature tons of local artists and craftsmen selling homemade, local paintings, sculpture, jewelry, accessories, clothing, and soaps.  I’ll be bartending with Andrew on Saturday night, so I hope everyone reading will come if they can!  It’s free, and there will be lots to see and do (and drink).  Click on the picture below to go to the website.



3 Responses to “I shopped the Nutcracker Market, and made it out alive.”

  1. Molly November 16, 2009 at 2:13 pm #

    What do mean, Playstations don’t count?

  2. Maureen Hurst aka Mom November 16, 2009 at 11:48 pm #

    I had so much fun at the Nutcracker Market with you! Next year I want to go 2 days so I can actually take everything in that I see. Thank you for going with me!

  3. Courtney November 17, 2009 at 1:06 am #

    Okay, okay, Playstations count if your husband has been wanting one forever, and you have convinced him that they are too expensive, and then you totally surprise him with one Christmas morning. But only then 🙂

    And Mom, if you seriously want to go for two days (!) I’m going to bring my Rascal.

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