HOUSTON – Christmas, check. Easter, summer and spring…maybe not?
I've always had Christmas decorations in abundance in my house, but for some reason, Easter and the rest of the spring and summer holidays have always been stuffed away in a corner box – pastel remnants of hasty visits to CVS’s clearance section.
No Easter wreath for the front door. My 8-month-old’s Easter basket a hazy to-do on the list-of-oh-so-many-things-that-may-or-may-not-ever-happen-particularly-if-my-little-one-decides-to-spit-up-on-himself. I really need to get this mothering thing together for real next year. But I digress.
The Houston Ballet Nutcracker Market Spring Spectacular. My Friday assignment for photos and an article and social media coverage. Could I add purchasing these things to my list of work to-dos at the market? Maybe?
I’d never purchased anything at the Nutcracker Market because I wanted to avoid spending more cash through the holiday season, and I had a lot to do and just generally got overwhelmed by the enormity of the event. So many of everything. How would I know what to even focus on? Could I even set a budget?
As most people who have visited the market know, focusing is super-difficult at this event because everything is so beautiful. The glitter. The lights. The stunning displays. Would I still love whatever I bought after leaving the shimmering world of the market?
With all this on my mind, I waded into the Spring Spectacular. It was spectacular, but it wasn’t as overwhelming as the Christmas event. I went early and didn’t find the crowds as large as the Christmas event and there were fewer – but still high quality – booths to check out.
After covering the Nutcracker Christmas Market for 4 years, I discovered Friday how I'd learned to shop this thang by watching people make all the mistakes. Here are some tips to take on this year’s event. Also – be sure to read through for my rundown of purchases - mommy mission-accomplished! (I picked them up with my own hard-earned cash, by the way.)
1. Go with a list and a budget. Whether you want to spend $50 or $5,000, you will be tempted to purchase many, many things. Make a list and stick to it. My budget was $100. I broke it. Mostly because I never purchased anything at any of the markets I’d attended and rationalized the purchases. I am pleased with what I bought (and I only went over my budget by about $20) so I don’t feel too badly. But seriously, folks, things can get out of hand if you let yourself go…or imbibe too freely at those little drink carts and start whipping out the cards.
2. Walk the aisles, but don't do every booth. There is a lot of merchandise at this event. I completely write off the provided booth lists and maps because I’ve never heard of many of these shops and it’s hard to base a decision on a description in a brochure. The places where I made my purchases, I'd liked from afar. The style of the displays are what you're going to get when you move in closer. If you don't like the feel of a booth, you don't have to visit it. In fact, your feet will thank you by the end of your shopping extravaganza for not visiting every booth.
3. Talk to people about their purchases if you like something they have. People are having a good time at this event and want to share what they found.
After struggling to find a wreath I liked at a good price point, I saw two women about my age walking out with beautiful wreaths wrapped in plastic. I stopped them and asked where they got them. They pointed me toward a booth I’d passed. I thought it was only artificial flowers by the piece. The booth actually had extremely reasonably priced wreaths mixed in.
4. Shop by yourself or with a small group of close friends. You’ll save on parking. You’ll be less likely to make impulse buys. You’ll have a second opinion when you can’t make up your mind about whether to buy the green rabbit or the pink pig for your kid’s Easter basket.
What I purchased:
- Easter wreath at Shea’s Wildflowers . This lovely, $29 wreath will decorate my door for years, and it’s big enough to see from the road. That’s the point, right?
- Cute shirt from The Gift Solution . One of the things I love about the markets is you see clothing with interesting details you can’t find when you shop mainstream stores. The apparel at the markets is just a little more special. The shirt I purchased has peplum and tassel details that can elevate an outfit and be worn under cardigans or alone for the hot days in Houston ahead.
- Little Golden Books and a dinosaur shirt for my son’s Easter basket at Rockin AB . I could have spent a lot more at this dangerous, amazingly curated booth from this store out of McKinney, Texas. The Texas-centric and retro Golden Books were catnip for this new former librarian's aide mom, and the clothing for kids was adorable.