5 Reasons you should go to the Australian Short Film Night

The Australian American Chamber of Commerce Houston (AACC) is hosting their annual Short Film Night.

My husband and I have been to a few of these nights and we just love it.   5 reasons why you should attend the short film night:

1. It’s at the beautiful 14 Pews.  The building is an old church and is now a small movie theatre that screens independent and short films.

2. There are lots of Australians there – you will either know lots of people there or meet some more!

3. There are going to be 7 short films curated by Susan Talbot, so there is bound to be a few films that you will like.  We love hearing the Australian accents in the films!

4. They are serving Australian Wine (and savory appetizers!)

5. Tickets are only $20 (for AACC members) or $30 (for non members).  Tickets can be purchased here.

It is on Friday, September 19, 2014 between 7.00pm and 10.00pm.

The hand selected films being shown are Still Life, Joey, A Cautionary Tail, The iMom, Gus, Sleight of Hand and Dave’s Dead.

-Emma

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New Store Alert – Big Blue Whale

I was so excited when I found out that a new toy store was arriving to my neighborhood in the Heights.

Big Blue Whale is an independent toy store located on the trendy 19th st in the Heights. Started by local resident Vanessa Woodhouse this store is for curious kids and those people who love them.

What I love about this toy store is the hand selected, high quality items on offer that cater towards a large group of ages (without a Barbie or Lego set in sight!).

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With 2 kids that seem to go to birthday parties every weekend, the Big Blue Whale has become my go-to store for presents due to their large selection of different and interesting toys.

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Brands the store stock include Hape toys, Schleich figurines, Mudpuppy, Eeboo, Playmobil plus much much more.  They also have a beautiful selection of classic and modern books for your kiddos and host a story time in store.

Another perk of shopping is that they gift-wrap your presents which is perfect for the mad-dash before a birthday party.

Check it out and let us know what you think!  Big Blue Whale is located at 237 W 19th St, Houston, TX 77008.

Where is your go-to toy store in Houston?

-Emma

 

 

 

 

 

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Prada in the desert

I finally made it to Marfa.

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For those of you who don’t know, Marfa is in West Texas in what many consider to be the middle of nowhere.  You drive 8.5 hours west on the I10 and it is located between the Davis Mountains and Big Bend National Park.

The distance and remoteness make this an intimidating drive in Texas.  But now that I have been, I can definitely recommend the visit.

Marfa used to be a railroad stop in the 1880s but is now a tourist destination with a major focus on minimalist art.

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Whilst this is a small town, there is plenty to do and see:

ACCOMMODATION

We stayed at the Thunderbird Hotel, an old hotel built in the 50s that has been recently remodeled but in keeping with the 50s stylings.

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Another fun option is El Cosmico.  They describe themselves as an 18 acre nomadic hotel and campground.  What makes this place so adventurous is their fun accommodation options.  You can stay in vintage trailers, safari and scout tents, Sioux-style tepees – and these all look glam!

For a fancier option, Hotel Paisano is right in the middle of town and has an old world charm to it.  Even if you don’t stay there, grab a drink in their beautiful courtyard in the evening – it is just stunning.

EATING AND DRINKING

Food Shark: This is a super popular food truck set up at the railway station.  The weekend we visited was the Marfa film festival so everything was busy, this had wait times of 40 minutes, and people were waiting!

Cochineal: Drive by and you will miss this one.  It is a small, discrete, trendy restaurant with a cute patio area.  The food is fresh and has a great wine and cocktail menu, this would be one of your trendier options in Marfa.

Padre’s:  This is a live music venue with casual eating and drinks.  It is an institution in Marfa complete with a dance floor and a great sound system.  The patio area is kid (and dog!) friendly.

Frama @ Tumbleweed:  Tumbleweed Laundry is a laundromat with a coffee shop and juice bar connected.  It was favored by all the hipsters and the coffee was great.

ACTIVITIES

Chinati Foundation: The Chinati Foundation is a contemporary art exhibition based on the ideas of its founder Donald Judd.  Their aim it to preserve and present permanent large scale installations.

What I loved here were the 15 untitled works in concrete that run along the border of Chinati’s property, they are breathtaking.

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Marfa Lights: This famous phenomenon is described as bright glowing balls floating above the ground in colors such as white, yellow, orange or red.  No one can explain these lights so they are often called the Marfa Ghost Lights. They have erected a viewing platform that was packed with people star gazing hoping for a glimpse of the lights.  I “think” I saw them, but it was an experience none the less!

Prada Marfa:  To be honest, it really isn’t in Marfa, it’s actually 1.4 miles northwest of Valentine Texas.  The permanent art installation is designed to resemble a Prada store complete with Prada products, the idea is that it will weather and be a part of the landscape.

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KIND OF CLOSE…..

Balmorhea State Park: The world’s largest spring -fed swimming pool is definitely an oasis in the middle of the desert.  You were swimming amongst fishes and turtles in a gorgeous pool.  It is a slight detour on the way back to Houston, but definitely worth it!

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Big Bend:  You may have read our article on some of the other national parks, but Big Bend is the largest and most remote national park in the US.  It is also the least visited. Their primary activities are hiking and backpacking trails.

Extra notes: Expats – bring your passport.  Marfa is in the very west of Texas and you could be asked to show your passport by border patrol.  I know a number of people who didn’t have theirs and had to wait over an hour for verification at border patrol.

Have any other readers been to Marfa?  What are your favorite spots?

– Emma

 

 

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Houston International Festival 2014 Showcases Australia

These commemorative posters can be purchased from the IFest store

These commemorative Australia posters can be purchased from the IFest store

Over the next two weekends, the annual Houston International Festival (IFest) will take over the downtown space around City Hall & Sam Houston Park.  It’s the 44th year of the festival that celebrates music, food, dance and culture from around the world – that these days contributes to Houston’s ever-growing multi-cultural, cosmopolitan feel.

Each year the festival chooses a country to showcase and this year it’s Australia!  Tens of thousands of people are expected to enjoy highlights of Aussie music, food, wine, history, art and culture, along with five stages of world and local music, global markets and international cuisine.  

The festival starts this weekend, April 26th & 27th and is on the weekend following May 3rd & 4th, from 11am – 8pm each day.  Highlights include:

The Chevron Living Museum ~ Showcases Australian culture, art, environment and sports with interactive displays for children including a Sydney Opera House exhibit, Australian Gold Rush exhibit, Aboriginal Australia, Australia in Music & Film, Arts & Culture and Great Barrier Reef & Nature display.  The Houston Lonestars Australian Football Club and Houston Shooting Stars Netball Club will be there 1pm-3pm demonstrating Australia’s much loved sports.

Coopers Down Under Pub & BHP Billiton Stage ~ A variety of Aussie artists and bands living in the US will be performing at different times on these two stages each day.  Highlights include popular singer/songwriter Rick Price, Aboriginal artist Cameron McCarthy, country singer and band Craig Morrison, and singer/songwriters Travis Caudle and Anne McCue. Check out the stage line-ups for times.

Celebrate Australia – Thurs May 1st 6pm-9pm ~ A Texas/Aussie BBQ cook-off with some of Houston’s best restaurant chefs including local Aussie chef, Jason Gould. 200 guests will enjoy various meat and seafood BBQ creations in front of City Hall.  Australian wines and live music will also be on hand.

The AACC Houston, Sister Cities(Perth) & TANZOT will also be in attendance with a variety of Aussie fun competitions, giveaways and photo ops with Kenny the Koala at 12, 3 & 6pm.  Jason Gould will be serving up sausage roll tastings Sat May 3rd 1.00-1.30pm.

All tickets can be purchased via the IFest website or on the day. Also check out the event map for how the festival will be laid out and entrance details.

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IFest takes place at City Hall’s downtown parks

Proceeds from the event benefit the foundation the year-round arts and education programs reaching up to 900,000 students in the Greater Houston area and beyond.

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ANZAC Day 2014 – Events in Houston

ANZAC day is a national day of remembrance commemorated on the 25th April.  It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War.

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We have done a couple of blog posts on ANZAC day including here and here and here so you have some more background on previous events.

There are currently 3 events in Houston commemorating the day of remembrance:

AACC ANZAC Day Dawn Service

  • Date: Friday April 25
  • Time: 6.10am for a prompt 6.20am start
  • Location: The USS Houston Memorial, 1000 Bagby St, Downtown Houston, 77002 (in the grounds of Sam Houston Park
  • Cost: Free
  • The event will be on rain or shine
  • RSVP: Through the AACC
  • More information: On the AACC website

Houston Lonestars ANZAC Day Event

  • Date: Saturday April 26
  • Time: 5-8pm
  • Location: Karbach Brewery,  2032 Karback St Houston 77092
  • Cost:$5 – $20
  • Information: They will show the AFL Day Footy Match (Collingwood v Essendon) Karbach beer on top, food trucks and have a 2 up competition
  • RSVP: Buy Tickets Online or at the door
  • Further Information: On the Lonestar’s Website
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TANZOT ANZAC Day Commemoration

  • Date: Sunday April 27
  • Time: 10.30am for an 11.00am start
  • Location: Bear Creek War Memorial, 3535 War Memorial Drive Houston, 77084
  • Cost: Free to all TANZOT and AACC members
  • Food: Includes a sausage sizzle, but please bring  your own (non alcoholic drinks)
  • RSVP: Please email Emma Peterson at tanzot@hotmail.com by April 13

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If you hear of any more ANZAC day events in Houston, please contact us in the comments section.

 

 

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Brenner’s Wine Fest

I am a fan of wine, food and beautiful Houston spring weather.  So the perfect way to spend an afternoon along the Bayou is heading to Brenner’s Wine Fest.

The annual event that ran last weekend has gained popularity over the years.  It showcases a number of award winning wineries with food from some of Houston’s famous chefs whilst you stroll around the beautiful gardens along the Bayou.

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Brenner’s must sell just the right amount of tickets. There is a fun energy but it didn’t result in huge crowds or long wait times for wines.

There was a $65 ticket fee that included unlimited wine and food between 3pm – 6pm.

Each winery offered usually a white and a red, with some offering a Rose or Sparkling instead.  The wines were great, and we ate some tasty filling appetizers such as quesadillas and kebabs as well as some cute and delicious deserts.

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The VIP’s were also treated to an exclusive performance by an aboriginal dance didgeridoo performance as well as an additional selection of wines.

Tips for attending the event:

  1. Get a taxi – for the obvious safety reason, but also the valet parking line is very long.
  2. Wear flats – it is quite hilly there and you will be trotting up and down the hills to the different wine vendors (we only saw a couple of stumbles!)
  3. Bring a picnic blanket – it was so nice to sit, drink and eat
  4. Buy your ticket early – tickets were $10 cheaper online than at the door

This is the first year that I went to Brenner’s Wine Fest – but I will definitely be adding it to my annual must go events.

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American Chicks to show off their Aussie Rules Kicks in Houston

USA-Freedom-logo_33America’s National Womens Australian Rules Football Team is descending on Houston, Texas this weekend for their IC2014 training camp.  A team of 52 players and staff will take part in player fitness programs over 2 days along with various group and break-out sessions with coaches and the Freedom leadership group.

The first women’s match of Australian Rules Football was played in the US in 2003 at Kansas City. The national USA Freedom team was later established in 2007.

USA Team Coach, Leigh Barnes is excited about the prospect of training in the warmer winter weather of Texas, whilst focusing the talented group on the upcoming 2014 AFL International Cup(IC14) in Melbourne, Australia this coming August.

‘This is an important training camp leading up to the International Championships. The camp promises to be another great step in our evolution towards expanding our horizons, molding our outlook and ambitions to get the best out of ourselves, and just to have plain old fashioned fun while playing footy and socializing with our great group, bring it on!’

After competing in the first international women’s competition in 2011, this year USA Freedom will take two squads to Melbourne to take on such countries as Canada, Ireland, PNG and Australia.

The training camp will be held at Cullen Park Soccer fields 3 & 4, Saturday Feb 22nd 9.00am until 5.00pm and Sunday Feb 23rd at 8.30am until noon.  All supporters and spectators welcome.

The Houston Lonestars Aussie Rules Football Club will be helping out over weekend. For more information please email info@houstonfooty.com.  For more details on USA Freedom check out https://usafl.com/freedom

Cullen Park: 19008 Saums Rd, Houston, TX, 77084

USA Freedom

USA Freedom

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Holiday Tipping 2013

We did a post last year based on tipping guidelines in the US and holiday tipping and it was so popular we thought we would update for 2013.

Below are some of the people that you tip at Christmas to thank them for services you regularly use over the year.  Most of these services rely on tips throughout the year and particular Christmas as they are not on large salaries.  It is nice to include any tip with a Thank You note and small Holiday gift also.

Cleaner/Housekeeper: One visit or week’s pay

Gardener: One visit or week’s pay

Regular Babysitter: One evening’s pay

Nanny: One week’s pay

Apartment Building Staff: $30 – $70 and more if they go above and beyond.  Ask long term residents if you are unsure.

Teacher or Day care service: $25-$100, Gift card or a personal gift if you know their hobbies or interests.  Often the group will pool money for the teacher for a larger gift item.

Personal Trainer: Cost of one session (if you have used them for over 6 months)

Hairdresser / Manicurist: The value of the tip for one service.

Dog Walker: One visit or week’s pay

Newspaper Delivery: $20

Trash Collector: $20

USPS Mail Delivery Person: Gift or gift card under $20 (it is policy not to accept cash)

If you do have a regular UPS or FedEx delivery person check with their company website on gifts accepted – generally no cash, but gifts under $25 are accepted.

If you are still not sure what is an appropriate tip, ask your neighbors or friends that use the same services in your area.

What has been your experience with Holiday tipping in the US and what else do you do to thank people for their services throughout the year?

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Aussie Rules USA Championship Football Returns to Texas

2013 Nationals Poster-facebook2The United States Australian Football League’s (USAFL) National Tournament returns to Austin this weekend, October 19-20.  The tournament is expected to attract more than 1,000 athletes from all over North America for the two-day event being held at Onion Creek Soccer Complex, south of downtown.  This is the second time the tournament has been held in Austin with the first in 2011 which proved very popular and successful with the players, supporters and Texas locals.

“We are truly excited to be the host city once again for this fantastic event”, said Matthew Payne, Executive Director for the Austin Sports Commission, “we had such an amazing experience with the league and their members back in 2011, so were thrilled when we the USAFL decided to return”.

Both men and women will compete throughout the weekend, with four men’s and one women’s division – 39 teams in total.  The Division One favorites are the New York Magpies and Calgary Kangaroos who both missed out on the division title last year after it was vacated when the Dallas Magpies were disqualified.

Baton Rouge Team Photo Apr2013

Houston Lonestars 2013

The up and coming Houston Lonestars will be playing for the first time up a division in Division Three with games scheduled for 12.00pm Saturday vs Kansas City; 5.00pm Saturday vs Portland and 10.00am Sunday vs San Diego.  If they make it through to the Div 3 Final, it will be at 2.00pm Sunday.  The Division One Final is at 4.00pm.   An awards ceremony will follow directly after the conclusion of the Division One Final at the grounds and will recognize top players and teams from across the weekend.

Nick Riewoldt

Saints Star Captain – Nick Riewoldt

The USAFL will welcome a number of special guests over the weekend from the Australian Football League (AFL).  Nick Riewoldt, Captain of the Saint Kilda Saints, a professional AFL team based in Melbourne, Australia, will be in attendance on Sunday to present awards to the tournament champions.  Nick is newly married to local Houstonian girl, Catherine Heard, so there is no doubt who he will be supporting this weekend!!

Additionally, three US Athletes who have all recently been drafted to professional AFL teams, will also be attending the event and interacting with participants.  These three players were all drafted to the AFL via two talent combines held in Los Angeles in 2012 and 2013.  Eric Wallace (2012), Patrick Mitchell and Jason Holmes (2013) have all been selected for their outstanding physical attributes as well as skills that the AFL hopes will make them stand out players at the top level in Australia.  This is becoming a popular right of passage for young American athletes, particularly from basketball origins.

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Houston Lonestars Captain – American Matt Stevens in action

The Subiaco Football Club, from Perth in Western Australia are also visiting the US and will be attending the tournament, but not competing.  The Club will be running a coaches clinic Friday and assisting at the event throughout the weekend.  The team is being supported by Tourism Western Australia who, in 2014, will be celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the cities of Perth and Houston long standing Sister City relationship.  As well as the visit by Subiaco, the Honorable Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi from Perth Australia plans to visit Texas for the anniversary celebration.

For more information on this weekend’s event, please visit http://usafl.com/nationals/2013.

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Texas Renaissance Festival 2013

My lords and my ladies, be prepared to step back in time when you make the trip to Magnolia to see the Renaissance Festival.

The Texas Renaissance Festival is one of the countries largest Renaissance Fairs and is located 1 hour north of Houston.  It runs on weekends for 8 weeks, this year the dates are 12 October through to the 1 December 9am to 8pm.

Tickets are available to purchase at the gate for $26 for adults and $13 for children 5-12 (children 4 and under are free).  We purchased our tickets online for a slight discount.

Once you walk in you are taken back to the 16th century with a myriad of ye olde style activities with a fair like atmosphere.

All staff are dressed in theme, and many patrons also arrive in costume – it is lots of fun!

We love this family friendly festival and always have the best time, there are a number of stages and arenas that have free performances on.  We saw a fun version of Shakespeare, belly dancers and singers.

There are themed weekends, with the remaining themes being:

October 19th and 20th – 1001 Dreams

October 26th and 27th – All Hallows Eve

November 2nd and 3rd  – Pirate Adventure

November 9th and 10th – Roman Bachanal

November 16th and 17th – Barbarian Invasion

November 23rd and 24th – Highland Fling

November 29th, 30th and December 1st – Celtic Christmas

In 2011 we went to the “Highland Fling”.  The main arena held Highland Games including Caber Toss, Stone Put and a Hammer Throw.

Once you were inside the grounds, most activities were free.  Although there were a number of ye olde style rides an additional small cost.

Food, alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages are available for purchase at the festival.

The Texas Renaissance Festival is a must go to event that is suitable for all ages.

http://www.texrenfest.com/

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2013 AFL Grand Final Parties in Texas

2013 AFL GF logoIt’s that time of year when Aussies in the US confuse their American friends and colleagues by shouting at the TV, laptop, Iphone or anything they can get their hands on to watch their beloved team in the Australian Rules Football Finals(Playoffs).  They forget about any new found allegiances to US sporting codes and teams, as their old and true sporting rivalries and emotions rise to the surface for the game that’s in their blood.

Premiership cupThe AFL Grand Final is a playoff between the top two teams that have made it through 3 weekends of finals to decide the champion in the Aussie ‘Superbowl’ on the last Saturday in September.  As Aussies commonly find themselves in all parts of the world, AFL Grand Final parties can be found going on in most countries and cities – whatever time of day it is.  Attending an AFL Grand Final Party with your fellow expats, travelers and curious locals has become a September tradition.  There are even dedicated webpages that collate overseas Grand Final parties to make the search easier.  Two of the main sites are:

2013 Official AFL Grand Final Overseas Party Finder

Australian Football Association of North America Party Finder

This year’s AFL Grand Final will be between the Hawthorn Hawks vs Fremantle Dockers.  The game is on this Friday 27th September 11.30pm US CST – however most parties start a bit earlier to get the beer and fun flowing!!

In Texas, three of the USAFL’s clubs are hosting GF parties in their cities:

Grand Final Poster_Final_2013HOUSTON Hosted by the Houston Lonestars 

Where: The Phoenix on Westheimer(previously the Firkin & Phoenix), 1915 Westheimer Rd, Montrose.

When: Friday Sept 27th 7.30pm-3.00am

Details: $20 pre-paid ticket entry($25 on night).  Ticket includes entry to venue with 6 Huge Projection Screens, 11 LCDs, a Commemorative 2013 Lonestars Pint Glass, $5 Boags & Coopers, $5 Margaritas, Aussie Menu, Sausage Rolls, Lamingtons, Handball Comp, Raffles & Door Prizes on night.  Indoor & Outdoor VIP tables available for 10.  Kids and Families all welcome!   Dress in your team colours!!!  Prizes will be given for best dressed supporter/footballer.

For more information and pre-paid tickets go to www.houstonfooty.com or Eventbee. Email info@houstonfooty.com

Austin GF Party

AUSTIN Hosted by the Austin Crows 

Where: Hyatt Regency, 208 Barton Springs Rd, Downtown.

When: Friday Sept 27th 9.00pm-3.00am

Details: $20 entry includes appetizers and game shown on the Hyatt Conference Room Projection Screen. Cash bar – Aussie and import beer and wine at discounted prices. Raffles and games throughout the night.  No age restrictions.

For more info email info@austinfooty.com

DALLAS Hosted by the Dallas Magpies 

Where: The Londoner, 2909 Thomas Ave, Uptown.

When: Friday Sept 27th 9.30pm-3.00am

Details: Come watch the AFL Grand Final with The Dallas Magpies.  $5 Ketel One shot/drink specials, and look for an appearance by the Ketel One girls too!  Over 21 only.

Email brenn.miller@gmail.com for more information.

Let us know what your plans are to watch the 2013 Granny?

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Booker-Lowe Gallery of Aboriginal Art – The Show Must Go On!

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The old show business comment, “He stole the show,” took on new meaning at Booker-Lowe Gallery, when the seventeen Australian Aboriginal paintings for the long-scheduled “Desert Dreamings” exhibition, disappeared from the front porch of the gallery, where they were left by a postal employee despite the gallery being closed that day.

“We were devastated,” said gallery owner Nana Booker, “but fortunately, the artists co-operative at Yuendumu in Australia’s central desert, agreed that ‘the show must go on’, and are working hard to rush us a new collection of paintings.  We know the artists’ work well, but don’t yet have images of the new paintings, so the show will be a bit of a surprise for everyone!”

“Desert  Dreamings:  Paintings by Aboriginal Artists of Yuendumu” will open with an Australian wine reception, 5:30-7:30 pm, Thursday, 26 September, at the gallery located in the convenient Rice Military neighborhood at 4623 Feagan Street, Houston.  Desert Dreamings will run through to Thursday, 14 November.

TUTSDuring the reception, representatives from Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS) will conduct a drawing for two free tickets to the Broadway musical, “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” depicting the outrageous and fun adventures of three friends (female impersonators) traveling through Australia’s outback to a gig in the central desert town of Alice Springs.  “Priscilla” will open Sunday, 29 September, and run through Saturday, 12 October, at the Hobby Center. More information and tickets can be found via the TUTS website.

According to Booker, who also serves as Australia’s Honorary Consul for Texas,                     “ ‘Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’ is an iconic Australian film, and has been recreated as an adult-theme musical.  Priscilla features Tony Award-winning costumes, terrific and memorable songs, and a great message about friendship.  When we heard ‘Priscilla’ was coming to Houston, we decided the timing was perfect for a new exhibition of colorful Australian desert art by our friends at Yuendumu.”

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Booker-Lowe Gallery of Aboriginal Art in Rice Military, Houston

Booker-Lowe is the longest-running Australian Aboriginal art gallery in the Americas, and stocks hundreds of paintings, carvings and works on paper ranging in price from under $300. to more than $30,000.

The gallery, located at 4623 Feagan Street, Houston, is open 11 am – 5 pm, and by appointment.  For more information, contact Booker-Lowe at 713.880.1541, or via email at art@bookerlowegallery.com.

The gallery’s website, www.bookerlowegallery.com, will carry more information about “Desert Dreamings,” and images of the new paintings as soon as they are available…and if you see any Aboriginal art on your thrift store visits, let them know — it might be their stolen artwork!

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Aussie Music Set To Rock H-town

Hailer Concert Delay!  Due to a visa delay, Hailer aren’t going to make it to the show in Houston on Sept 4th. The good news is that the visas have finally come through, and the boys are on their way, so this date will be rescheduled, date TBA.

Houston is fast becoming an essential stop for Aussie music artists trying to win over the lucrative US market and audiences.  The last 6 months have seen several up and coming down-under bands selling out concerts at Fitzgerald’s(Heights)and locking in future return dates at bigger venues.  This is great news for their fans in Houston, especially expat Aussies here keen to support homegrown talent and missing great Aussie live music.

Hailer

Hailer – Sept 4th @ Dan Electro’s

The next few months see an exciting mix of Aussie talent visiting H-town, kicking off with Sydney retro-influenced indie rockers Hailer next Wednesday Sep 4th  at Dan Electro’s.  Presented by the AACC’s ‘Down Under Sounds’, the band is on an extensive US tour promoting their new album ‘Another Way’, which has received great support from college radio. The album debuted at #15 on the CMJ weekly adds charts, which was an amazing result for an unknown self released band and record.

The venue, Dan Electro’s is a Houston Heights music club with great sound, tropical beer garden and cool vibe.  The night will kick off at 8pm and also feature two local Texas bands – Megabig and Darwin’s Finches.   Plenty of free parking is available. You can see all details & register your attendance via the Facebook event page.

Other Aussie Bands on their way to Houston include:

Gold Fields – Fitzgerald’s, Mon Sept 16 ~ Dance/pop group of 5 young guys from Ballarat. Finding Houston saw them at SXSW this year where they blew the roof off at the Aussie BBQ.

Chet Faker – Fitzgerald’s, Wed Sept 18 ~ Nick Murphy(real name) from Melbourne has gained notoriety with his electronica/house music with and internet version of Blackstreet’s ‘No Diggity’. Also had a successful SXSW appearance.

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Empire of the Sun – Sept 20 @ Warehouse Live

Empire of the Sun – Warehouse Live, Fri Sept 20 ~ Sydney electronic-glam-pop duo who have had great success in the US with their 2008 debut album ‘Walking on a Dream’. Their new album ‘Ice on the Dune’ was released this summer.

The Greencards – Dosey Doe, Sat Sept 28 ~ Austin formed Bluegrass band that features Aussies Kym Warner and Carol Young. 

Tommy Emmanuel -Dosey Doe, Thur Oct 3 ~ Tommy is an Aussie treasure with his world renowned guitar skills.

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Atlas Genius – Oct 22 @ House of Blues

Atlas Genius – House Of Blues, Tue Oct 22 ~ The alternative rock duo from Adelaide sold out their April show at Fitzgerald’s and are sure to do the same at the bigger HOB venue as ‘Ones to Watch’.  Their hit song ‘Trojans’ peaked 4 weeks at #1 on Sirius XM’s Alt-Nation lin 2012 and they have been touring with the Imagine Dragons this year in the US.

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2 Year Anniversary Update – Houston’s Best Coffee

When we started this blog our first post was finding the best coffee in Houston.  2 years on, there have been so many more coffee shops open up, so I thought that we would refresh the below post with some new additions.

When I first moved to Houston I was in search of a decent coffee.

In Australia, there was a great coffee culture and you didn’t have to travel too far for a delicious flat white.

I admit, I was sounding like a coffee snob when I moved here.  Too milky, not hot enough, no flavour.

Below are some of the best coffees that I have found here (not a Starbucks in sight).

Antidote Coffee

Antidote Coffee is located in a small strip shop off Studewood in the urban historic suburb of the Heights.  It has counter service and you can purchase a small snack.  The cafe is predominately filled with people on their laptops but has a very casual feel.

Catalina Coffee

This coffee shop is where people who love coffee go and is located on Washington Ave.

Catalina is often voted Houston’s best coffee shop, and I can see why.  The coffees are flavoursome, inexpensive and the service is great.  The also sell coffee beans.

What my husband likes here is that they will make you up a flat white (and they know what it actually is).

Dirk’s Coffee

I really like this coffee shop, and it continually does well with reviewers and has a great vibe.  It has been around for years and has a retro diner feel.

Positioned on Montrose Ave, this no frills coffee shop attracts people from many surrounding suburbs.

Dirk’s Coffee 4005 Montrose Blvd

Boomtown Coffee

Boomtown Coffee is now one of my husband and my favorite coffee shops in Houston. You can read further about it in our review here.

It is located on the famous 19th St in the Heights and has developed quite a neighborhood following.  The coffee is fresh, flavorsome and delicious.  They also have a great range of cookies and pastries that I cannot pass up.

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Southside Espresso

Southside Espresso opened in a small location just off Westheimer behind Uchi.  The coffee here is also a great flavour and has been a welcomed addition to the Montrose.

The decor has a modern, industrial feel but is small and cozy.  I bought my daughter here once and with the stroller I felt like I was taking up the whole cafe!

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Revival Market

Revival Market is a fresh food retail shop that offers local food and has a cute coffee shop. The coffee shop is so popular with Heights residents and many Finding Houston readers.

What I love most about Revival Market is the coffee tastes great, and you can also so a quick shop of great local produce whilst you are there.

Greenway Coffee

Greenway Coffee is located in the food court at Greenway Plaza – so it is not exactly easy or convenient to get to unless you work at Greenway Plaza!

However, their coffee is one of the best in Houston.  My husband says it is the best coffee in Houston.

You will notice that many coffee shops use the Greenway Coffee beans, but nothing beats the actual coffee that you get at Greenway Plaza.

Where is your favorite coffee shop in Houston?

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Children’s Museum

As a mother with 2 children in Houston, I am always looking for something that is inexpensive and fun to take the kids.

We have been a regular at the Children’s Museum since we moved 3 and a half years ago due to it’s locations close to downtown, low admission fee and it’s a great way to beat the heat!

Tip: We had a free family pass from participating in the Houston Library’s FLIP Kits so it made it a very inexpensive trip!

The Children’s Museum is known to be busy on the weekends.  We went on Sunday as it opened at 12noon and got parking easily with no lines or craziness in the museum.

As I have a 1 year old and 4 year old, my husband and I had to split up with the kids.

The Tot spot is a great area catering for babies through to 3 year olds (older children cannot enter the Tot Spot unless they are under 35 months).  It was my daughter’s first visit to the Children’s Museum and she had the best time.

I took my oldest to the rest of the Museum and did not even go to all the areas.  Below is a quick run-down on the areas that my son seemed to enjoy:

Invention Convention: Here you can build legos, build rockets and launch them

Kidtropolis: This is a mini city within the Children’s Museum.  My son got a bank card which he could bank pay checks, use to buy groceries and a meal at the diner.

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How Does it Work: Lots of activities in this area such as telephone, kids lift and a car.

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Matter Factory: In here the kids put lab coats and build atoms and molecules,  try different test on matter.

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Newton Know How: This is where we spent the most time as there was lots of activities and experiments using golf balls and seeing how far/fast they would go.

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Power Play: This is like an indoor playground downstairs with lots of different areas.

The Children’s Museum is an amazing museum in Houston and a must visit attraction if you have kids.

What are your kids favorite spots in the Children’s Museum?

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Old Town Spring

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Old Town Spring is an old town with 150 shops located only 30 minutes from downtown Houston off the 45.

This little town has a really cute Toy Store that my kids got lost in called Why Not Toys.

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For all of your cute Texas gifts there were plenty in The Texas Store.

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Whilst I was looking in the cute antique and craft stores my husband found the Dugout, a shop with plenty of sporting promotional items.

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Make sure you stop and get some genuine Texas food at the Loose Caboose, an actual red caboose serving your favorite BBQ.

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There are plenty of spots for a beer or wine.

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We purchased a number of gourmet foods at the Amish Barn.

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A great but busy time to visit is with the Texas Crawfish Music Festival.

The festival is one of the longest running in Houston and hosts lots of local, regional and national music entertainment.  There will be local artists as well as plenty of Southern Louisiana Crawfish.

Old Town Spring is a must visit when you have guests in town, being only 30 minutes away, there is no reason you can’t make it a quick visit!

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Houston in 3 Days by Emma

We are starting a series of recommendations for how to see Houston in 3 Days.  This is where we will be asking a variety of people where they take their visitors to in Houston.

There is so much to see and do in Houston and everyone has their different favorite hot spots to showcase everything that Houston has to offer.

Day 1 –

Start the day out having some fresh Breakfast Tacos at Chilosos.  They continually get votes for the best tacos in Houston and will only set you back a few dollars per taco.

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Then take a drive to San Jacinto Monument.  This monument is such an important landmark in Texas history and gives visitors an excellent overview on the history of this state.

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In the afternoon, visit a big sporting event.  In Houston, nothing is more famous and loved than their sport.  With a different sporting event played year round, there is nearly always something on whilst your visitor is in town.

  • Baseball – Houston Astros play at Minute Maid Park, April – September.
  • Basketball – Houston Rockets play at Toyota Center, late October through to May or June.
  • NFL – Houston Texans play at Reliant Stadium, September through to the playoffs in January.

There are also great college games open to the public through the University of Houston. My out of town guests always love to see this side of the US culture.

Then head to Dinner at the Goode Company for some Texas BBQ and Pecan Pie followed by some two stepping and country bands at Armadillo Palace.

Goode Co. BBQ

Day 2 –

Travel and Leisure Magazine calls Houston the Best Burger City, so take your guests for some lunch at the best burgers in Houston, the Hubcap Grill.  Their buns are home made, the patties are freshly made each day and are never frozen, their fries are home made and fried twice and all ingredients are cut fresh on the day.

One of my favorite things about Houston is their dive bars and ice houses so we always take our guests.  In the afternoon head to West Alabama Ice House for cheap drinks and a fun atmosphere.

Houston Theater district is a must for any out of town guest.  The district spans 17 blocks in downtown with 12,948 theater seats, making it the second largest theater district in the US.  There is something for everyone here so see a show, head to the ballet or visit the opera.

Before or after the show head to the cozy, well reviewed restaurant Oxheart on Nance St. They have beautiful food using Houston’s best ingredients.

Day 3 –

Head to Houston’s Museum district.  There are 19 museums so there is something for everyone’s taste.  Have a look at the Sam Houston Monument then take a stroll around Hermann Park, take a pedal boat ride in the lake then visit a free show at Miller Outdoor theater.

Finally grab some Tex Mex and Margaritas at El Tempo Cantina or the Original Ninfa’s followed by seeing a live band at Fitzgerald’s.

Where do you take guests when they visit Houston?  Is it more off the beaten track or do you prefer the main shopping and tourist attractions?

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4th July events in Houston

The 4th of July holiday celebrates the independence of the United States of America.  In Houston there are a number of events and a lot of them are free!

Freedom Over Texas

  • Event:   Freedom Over Texas
  • Location: Allen Parkway
  • What: 100,000 people attend each year for the stalls, family sporting areas, activities and concerts including Sheryl Crow and Martina McBride followed fireworks
  • Time: 4pm – 10pm
  • Cost: Tickets are $8 and children under 5 are free.

Friendswood

  • Event:   4th July event
  • Location: Friendswood Drive, Stevenson Park, Centennial Park
  • What: entertainment, food, rides, live entertainment and fireworks
  • Time: 10am through until the fireworks at 9.20pm

Woodlands

  • Event:  Red Hot and Blue Festival
  • Location: Town Green Park and Waterway Square
  • What: fireworks, face-painting, live music, games
  • Time: 6pm-10pm

Star Spangled Salute

  • Event: Houston’s Symphony’s annual Star Spangled Salute
  • Location: Miller Outdoor Theatre
  • What: Patriotic music from the Houston Symphony joined by American Idol finalists Will Makar and LaKisha Jones and followed by a fireworks display.
  • Time: 8.30pm – 10.30pm

Pearland Celebration of Freedom

  • Event: Celebration of Freedom
  • Location: Pearland High School Football Stadium
  • What: Concert and fireworks
  • Time: 6pm with fireworks at 9pm
  • Cost: Free

Katy

  • Event: Katy Freedom Celebration
  • Location: Katy Mills Mall
  • What: Fireworks
  • Time: at dark (approximately 9.00pm)
  • Cost: Free

Cinco Ranch

  • Event: Big Backyard BBQ
  • Location: LaCenerra at Cinco Ranch
  • What: Live music, family fun, food and fireworks display
  • Time: 5.30pm – 9.45pm

Sugar Land

 

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Hollering and Swallering in Nashville Tennessee

Nashville Tennessee is a 12 hour drive or a 2 hour flight from Houston and is in the heart of the South.

The Country Music Festival (CMA Fest) is perfect time of year to visit the home of honky-tonks and country music.

This year the Country Music Festival ran June 6 through to June 9 in the Downtown area with evening concerts at LP Field.

CMA Fest is a music festival with past, current and new country artists perform on a variety of stages and venues around Nashville.  The city is bustling with people who have travelled from all over the world to visit the country music capital of the world.

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Arranging to go to the CMA Fest might seem overwhelming, but with some organised planning you can enjoy this amazing city in its element.

Flights: Both Southwest Airlines and United fly to Nashville directly and if you book early enough you should be able to fly from Houston for about $350 return.

Hotels: This is where you get ripped off.  Usually Nashville is a pretty inexpensive city to find a hotel.  But during the festival $150 rooms go for $450+.  CMA Fest is in downtown with the final concert at LP Field which is located across the bridge from downtown.  We chose to stay at the Ramada Hotel at LP Field as the concerts finished around midnight so we could just cross the carpark at the end of the concert.  This worked well for us, but I think the best located hotel for CMA Fest was the Hilton in Downtown Nashville as it was amongst all the daily activities.  Many of the large hotels have accomodation and ticket packages so contact the hotels for the best deals.

Tickets:  At the time of posting, the 2014 CMA Fest has tickets available.  If you can, I would purchase these directly from ticketmaster so that you don’t overpay for your tickets through re-sellers.  Tickets cost from $162 – $385 for a 4 day pass for LP Field.  The 4 day pass allows you access to the picture row where you can line-up for a a picture in the front of the front row of the concerts at Riverfront and LP Field.  We sat in section D on the field at LP Field and I wouldn’t want to sit too much further back.  But they do have 2 big screens on either side if you end up sitting in the nose bleeds.

All of the other concerts (Riverfront Stage, Roadhouse Stage, Performance Park, Bridgestone Arena Stage, Tailgate Party (plus more!) are all free and are standing or sitting room.

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Tips for the event: 

  1. Download the CMA Fest application from iTunes as you can put your own schedule together, it has a map, lineup of activities and bands and any news from the event.
  2. Drinks lots of water & sunscreen
  3. Bring festival type attire, pretty much the entire event is outdoors so you have to face the elements.  The weather changed from blazing hot to raining throughout the day!

There are many other activities to do in Nashville so if you have time in your schedule, I would add a couple more days to your visit so that you can experience Nashville to it’s fullest.

The Grand Ole Opry is Nashville’s number 1 attraction.  It is a small music venue filled with history.  They run beautiful tours of the Opry, and if you have the time I would recommend seeing an concert in their intimate setting.

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Those readers who having been watching the Television show Nashville will know the famous small music venue called the Bluebird Cafe.  This is known as a songwriters performance space where the “heroes behind the hits” perform. Many artists such as Garth Brooks were discovered at the Bluebird.  The venue is really small so you need to book tickets ahead of time, as there is only a limited number of bar seats and the venue has become even more popular since featuring on the TV show.

The Jack Daniel’s Distillery located in Lynchburg TN an hour and a half from Downtown Nashville.  This runs tours daily and provides a great excuse to get out of the Nashville to see a smaller town in Tennessee.

Tooties Orchid Lounge is a world famous bar located on Broadway behind the Ryman Theatre.  It is a bar that has been around since the 196o so is rich with history and an icon in Nashville.  It is packed when you walk as the band plays immediately next to the door and you can then walk through to a second bar and band upstairs.  This is a must visit honky tonk in Nashville!

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Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is a huge collection of Country Music Memorabilia with costumes, instruments, awards, videos from all eras of Country Music. With your 4 day pass to CMA Fest they give you a discount on tickets.

Food:  Most of the food along Broadway and 2nd is targeted towards the tourist set, if you head a little out of the area you will find some great dining options.

Most of the restaurant’s and bars during CMA Fest are really busy.  So we tried out the gorgeous Margot Cafe and Bar located in East Nashville with French and Italian influences.  Their menu changes daily and uses local and fresh produce.

Another famous restaurant is Monell’s serving southern food family style.

I think that Nashville is an iconic city in the US that many expats would enjoy visiting.  So pack your cowboy boots, grab your guitar and holler!

We would love to hear our reader’s recommendations on their favorite hot-spots in Nashville.

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America’s North-West Foodie Heaven – Portland & Seattle

Seattle & Mt.Rainier

Seattle & Mt.Rainier

The north-west area of the US is similar to the north-east in terms of its beautiful landscapes, jaw-dropping National Parks, outdoor adventures and relaxed, earthy vibe.  Both regions also offer visitors reason to plan a trip around their food & drink passions – the north-east has amazing seafood, dominated by the plentiful and delicious Maine lobster; the north-west is renowned for its excellent fresh food markets, artisanal coffee culture, refined red & white wines and as the epicentre of the US craft beer market.

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Pike Place Market – Seattle

Although the north-west’s scenery has been the main drawcard for travelers over the years, two of its biggest cities have become increasingly popular as foodie destinations where people can indulge in their favorite gastronomic delights.  Combining the two cities in the same trip is easy as they are only 2 hrs from each other and there is much to see and do in-between too.

PORTLAND, OREGON

Famous for having the most microbreweries of any city in the world, love of the outdoors and nature, liberal political views and the TV series ‘Portlandia’ that pokes fun and its hippie, alternative vibe.  It’s quite the un-American city.

Foodie Must Do’s:

  • Full Sail Brewery

    Full Sail Brewery

    Beer – Very Good Beer! Of course it’s all about quality craft beer and the many microbreweries that have become the social heartbeat of the city. The best way to get around to them and enjoy more than one of the tasty brews is to book on a Brewery Bus Tour.  They include about 4-5 brewery stops and a tasting run through of the brew menus, which are heavily populated by tasty IPA’s.  There are too many to get through but some of our favorites include: Hopworks Urban Brewery, The Commons, Lucky Lab, Bridgeport and Full Sail.

  • Tasty n Sons

    Tasty n Sons

    Breakfast – Finding Houston friends Emma & Charlie were recently in the area and recommend waking up with one of the best breakfasts they’ve had in the US at Tasty n Sons.

  • Portland Farmer’s Market – Open 8.30am -2pm Saturdays. (Mid-March through late-December) at Portland State University. Up to 500 stalls from local farmers and producers.
  • Coffee – Stumptown Coffee Roasters @ 128 SW 3rd Ave, Downtown. Also have four other locations including the flagship store @ 4525 SE Division St and are now in Seattle and NYC.
  • Portland with Mt.Hood

    Portland & Mt.Hood

    Voodoo Doughnuts @ 22 SW 3rd Ave are a Portland icon producing some crazy flavors and toppings.

  • Sample any food imaginable via some of the best Food Carts in the country.
  • Enjoy dinner and great views at Portland City Grill @ 111 SW 5th Ave.

Foodie Stay:

Get Out of Town:

  • Columbia River Gorge

    Columbia River Gorge

    Willamette Valley – Famous Pinot country about 45 mins drive from Portland around the town of Dundee.  Dundee Bistro is a great stop for lunch and to taste Ponzi wines. Other notable wineries include: Domaine Drouhin, Domaine Serene and the tiny but beautiful cellar White Rose.  Generally, most wineries need advance bookings.

  • Columbia River Gorge – 1 hour out of Portland with beautiful scenery to enjoy a gourmet picnic, towering waterfalls and hikes.
  • Mt Hood – Skiing in winter or hiking in summer, Mt.Hood is Portland’s adventure playground. Stay at the historic and famous Timberline Lodge from the movie ‘The Shining’.

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON

Dungeness crabs @ Pikes Place Market

Dungeness crabs @ Pikes Place Market

Best known as one of the rainiest cities in the US, Seattle and the surrounding area is headquarters to some of the wealthiest and trendiest corporations in the world including Amazon, Starbucks, Nordstrom, Expedia, Google, Microsoft and Costco.  That all makes it an expensive city to live but its lifestyle riches make it a great city to visit. It has  become a foodie mecca thanks to the fabulous Pike Place Market, love of cafe and coffee culture and access to wonderful fresh seafood, including the famous Dungeness crab.

Foodie Must Do’s:

  • Fish Throwing @ Pike Place Market

    Fish Throwing @ Pike Place Market

    Pike Place Market – This is where most people will start their Seattle foodie experience and probably find themselves coming back to again and again to enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes that take place daily at this famous market.  The best way to enjoy some the best food stalls, learn some history and taste yummy samples along the way is a food tour. We recommend Savor Seattle Food Tours. It is very popular so you’ll need to book a time via their website.

  • Starbucks Pike Place Market

    Starbucks Pike Place Market

    Coffee – Yes, it is the home of Starbucks and you can go and check out the original premises at Pike Place Market(or is it??… the original was actually located at 2000 Western Ave). But what this coffee powerhouse prompted was an influx of excellent artisan coffee houses that cater to serious and indie coffee aficionado’s tastes.  Some of our favorites in this very competitive market were: Victrola(Capitol Hill location), Bauhaus(Capitol Hill) and Caffe D’arte(near Pike Place Market).

  • Melrose Market

    Melrose Market

    Capitol Hill Area  – Just a short stroll up the hill from Pike Place Market you will note the cool cafes and eclectic feel of the area.  Savour Seattle Food Tours does a great ‘Hip on the Hill’ tour taking in some great coffee, cafes and bites along the way. Melrose Market is a  gourmet food market  in an old warehouse building with a small number of outlets selling tasty sandwiches, cheeses, meats and more.  At the back of the market is a great restuarant called Sifka and Spruce where you sit at one long communal table and watch the chefs prepare your meal.

  • Essex Bar

    Essex Bar

    Ballard Area  – A short cab ride away from downtown but worth the trip to enjoy some of Seattle’s best restaurants.  Emma & Charlie’s favorites here were: The Walrus and the Carpenter for the BEST oysters in town including Treasure Cove oysters which have only been 6 hrs out of the water! It’s a tiny place with up to a 2 hour wait at times so get there early and enjoy a drink at nearby Bitteroot if you get thirsty waiting on a table. Delancey is great for traditional Italian thin crust pizza with simple but delicious toppings. Essex Bar which is attached to Delancey for great music and cocktails.

Other Seattle Must Do’s:

  • Space Needle

    Space Needle

    Jump on a Tour of Seattle – because it’s hilly and spread around the many waterways, Seattle is not easy to navigate on your own. We recommend a 90 min ‘Qwik’ Tour with entertaining tour guide Charles.  Many famous and infamous residents call(ed) Seattle home including Bill Gates, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Ted Bundy and Bruce Lee. The tour includes the homes and history of these notable celebs along with the HQ’s of its famous corporations, the ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ boathouse, Grey’s Anatomy hospital and the chance to take photos with amazing views over the city from Kerry Park.

  • Sailing the Bay or taking a Washington State Ferry – weather permitting, this is a relaxing way to see Seattle from the water. Take the ferry to one of Seattle’s beaches for the day.
  • Seaplane – a great way to view Seattle and surrounding area from above. Take in   views of Mt.Rainier, Olympic NP, the San Juan Islands and nearby Canada.
  • Space Needle – very touristy but on a clear day you can see forever. We would suggest booking a time ahead online to avoid long lines.  There is a restaurant at the top.

Foodie Stay:  Inn at the Market – wake up each morning with the sights and smells of the market right on your doorstep.

Get Out of Town:

  • Mt.Rainier

    Mt.Rainier

    Mt Rainier & Olympic National Parks –  As per our America’s National Park Beauties write-up last year, the north-west has some of the most beautiful natural landscapes in the US.  But the weather gods need to be on your side!   On a clear day, Mt. Rainier towers over Seattle and appears to be at every angle you look.  If it’s a clear day get in the car early and make the 1 hr drive to get even closer and you will be mesmerized how beautiful this 14,411ft stratovolcano is.  The town of Paradise sits at 5,400ft and is as far as you can go unless you are game for the guided overnight hike to the top(not an easy hike!). There is a beautiful lodge to stay at and a large visitors centre from which you can grab a map and do some smaller hikes on your own around the area.  In winter you should check the Mt.Rainier NP website for road closures and park opening details.  In summer the wildflowers are particularly beautiful and there is lots of camping, hiking, wildlife and waterfalls in the area.

  • Olympic National Park

    Olympic National Park

    A day trip out to Olympic National Park is also a memorable trip, which is blessed with the natural wonders of Mt.Olympus ranges, beautiful lakes, hot springs, stunning coastline and ancient rainforests.IMG_6054

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Sunday Afternoons at the Houston Polo

With the beautiful weather here in Houston at the moment, why not head down to one of the last matches of the 2013 Spring Season at the Houston Polo Club.

The club, founded in 1928, hosts local and international polo matches and is open to the public on Sunday afternoons in Spring and Autumn.  Tucked away in the serene north-west corner of Memorial Park, this is a very family friendly event with people of all ages enjoying a lazy Sunday cheering on the ‘Sport of Kings’.IMG_1731

Games run for about 1.5 hrs and everyone seems to get a kick out of the traditional divot stomping at half-time.  Spectators wander all over the field(minus your Jimmy Choos ladies) stomping down the torn up turf.  When we went the club was serving champagne to help the stomping along and it was really social and fun!

There are only a few games left this Spring season, with a break for summer and a new season commencing in September.

  • Sunday May 26 at 5.00pm – Red Oak Cup
  • Sunday June 2 at 5.00pm and 6.00pm – Vaquero Cup
  • Sunday June 9 at 5.00pm and 6.00pm – Junior Polo Final/Andrews Kurth Cup

You are encouraged to check the website before the game to confirm times as the weather can effect it.  Tickets can be pre-purchased for as low at $20, with boxes(seat 6) going for $300.

The location can be a little tricky to find – heading north on the 610 before you reach the I-10, take the Memorial Drive exit and keep going up the feeder which turns into the gravel W Loop Service Road and soon takes you west round the bend to the Houston Polo entrance.  Try and get there well before the game starts as parking is allowed intermittently whilst the game is on.

The law prohibits bringing your own alcohol and food to the club but there are food and beverages available to purchase on site for spectators, including the Berryhill Baja Grill and a Champagne bar.

So put on your Sunday race day attire and enjoy a dignified afternoon in Houston with horses, champagne and polo in Memorial Park.

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Jus’ Mac

Some nights you just don’t feel like cooking and want comfort food.

The ultimate in comfort food in the US is Macaroni and Cheese.

Jus’ Mac is a Macaroni and Cheese establishment with 2 locations, the Heights and Sugar Land.  My local, the Heights is just around that corner and I have been meaning to try the restaurant since it opened.

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It is in a small, cute red building on Yale St, just south of the 610 loop.  This is an intimate sized restaurant with a small number of tables and chairs and a cute patio out the back.

In peak periods, parking is known to be difficult, but when we went early Sunday evening there was plenty of parking and tables.

Jus’ Mac mainly sells Macaroni and Cheese, but you can also order paninis and simple salads.

The Mac n Cheese orders come in 2 sizes, the personal (1/2 lb) and the regular (1lb) and you can choose the type of pasta that you would like.

My husband ordered the personal sized “Pit Master” which had brisket, colby cheese and BBQ sauce.  I had food envy, this was delicious!

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I ordered personal sized “Popeye” which has fresh spinach, onions, mushrooms and is topped with mozzarella and parmesan.  Delicious and hearty.

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Our nearly 4 year old ordered the “All American” in a personal size.  This is the Mac n Cheese that we are all be familiar with.

Our little 1 year old eats everything, and therefore ate a selection of everyones.  Next time I would get her one for herself as she could definitely demolish a personal serve.

This meal cost about $20 and left our cravings satisfied!  For lovers of Mac N Cheese, you have to try Jus’ Mac.

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Macaron by Patisse

A couple of weeks ago I received an email addressed to all my girlfriends raving about a new macaron shop that has just opened in the River Oaks shopping precinct on West-Gray.  The reply alls on this email confirmed that everyone wanted to check this place out.  Which girl doesn’t like Macarons??

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Sukaina Rajani has teamed up with her brother Mohammed Rajani to open Macaron by Patisse  on 2033 W Gray.  They stock 20 flavors daily in their beautiful French inspired shop front.

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Apparently, there are about 100-140 calories in the Macaron, so therefore I decided to indulge in 4 flavors.  Salted Caramel (my all time favorite flavor), lemon, apricot and strawberry white chocolate.  All of them were delicious!

They serve Nespresso coffee and free-trade organic loose-leaf teas which are the perfect accompaniment to your Macaron.

I have not stopped thinking about Macaron by Patisse and have had to stop in a couple of times since my visit and recommend others to do so!

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Houston Events 2013 – 2014

Get your diaries out, 2013 is a really busy year for events in Houston.  There is something for everyone.

April 20, 21, 27, 28 – Houston International Festival

April 12 – 21 – Worldfest International Film Festival

April 19-21 and 26-28 – Texas Crawfish Festival

April 20 – San Jacinto Day Festival and Battle Re-Enactment

May 4 – Houston Dragon Boat Festival

May 5 – Cinco de Mayo

May 9 – 11 – Art Car Parade

May 17-19 – Lego Kidfest

June 8 – Houston Beer Fest

June 29 – Pride Houston Festival and Parade

July 4 – Freedom over Texas

August 2-4, 6-11 – Houston Shakespeare Festival

August 2-4 – Houston International Jazz Festival

August (Date TBD) – White Linen Nights

September 27 – AFL Grand Final Party at Firkin

Weekends October 12 – December 1 – Texas Renaissance Festival

October 26-27 – Wings over Houston Air Show

October 31 -November 3 – International Quilters Convention

November 7-10 – Nutcracker Market

November 28 – HEB Thanksgiving Parade

November 28 – Uptown Tree Lighting Ceremony

December (Date TBD) – Lights in the Heights

December (Date TBD) – Texas Bowl

2014

January 19, 2014 – Chevron Houston Marathon

February (Date TBD) – Houston Rodeo World BBQ Championships

March (Date TBD) – Houston Livestock and Rodeo Show

March 31 – April 6 – Shell Houston Golf Open

March (Date TBD) – Bayou City Arts Festival at Memorial

March (Date TBD) – Houston BBQ Festival

April (Date TBD) – Houston Children’s Festival

April (Date TBD) – Men’s Clay Court Championship

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ANZAC Day 2013

Last year we did a post on TANZOT’s annual ANZAC day service that is a great family event.  Read more about it here.

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This year both AACC and TANZOT are each hosting a service to honor the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps who gave their lives in the service for their countries at Gallipoli during World War 1 and for all those who have lost their lives in wars since.

ANZAC Day Dawn Service

What: Dawn Service

Date: Thursday April 25

Time: 6.20am for a prompt 6.30am start.  The rising of the sun will take place at 6.44am at which time everyone will silently observe “The Last Post”.

Where: The World War II Memorial located in the Esplanade on Heights Boulevard at 11th Street.  Parking is available in the surrounding streets.

Cost: Free

Host: Australian American Chamber of Commerce – Houston

RSVP: Please register attendance with the AACC by Tuesday April 23.

ANZAC Service

What: Annual event with a service, followed by sausage sizzle.  BYO drinks and a chair to sit on and guests are more than welcome to bring their own floral tribute.

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Date: Sunday 28 April

Time: 10.30am for the start of the service at 11.00am

Location: Bear Creek War Memorial— 3535 War Memorial Drive Houston, Texas 77084

Cost: Free for all TANZOT and AACC members

Host: TANZOT

RSVP: Required ASAP via E-vite invitation for TANZOT members or contact Emma Peterson via tanzot@hotmail.com

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Upcoming Event: Houston Australian Sports Social @ Karbach Brewery

Footy Social Flyer EmailCome along to a great night out at the Houston Australian Sports Social Event at Karbach Brewery – next Saturday April 20, 7-10pm.

Hosted by the Houston Lonestars Australian Rules Football Club, Houston Shooting Stars Netball and Netball America, proceeds of the night will go towards continuing to grow Australian sporting teams in Houston and the US.

  • Featuring live acoustic music from Michael Johns (former American Idol finalist and now Solo Artist)
  • Beer tastings for 3 hrs from Houston’s most popular craft brewery Karbach Brewing
  • Boomerang Pies onsite with their tasty Aussie pies & sausage rolls
  • Raffles for some great Sporting & Aussie prizes
  • Karbach Brewery

    Karbach Brewery

    Also a night to honor the ANZACs on the 98th Anniversary of the landing in Gallipoli

TICKETS $25   (A portion of ticket proceeds will be donated to the ANZAC Day Appeal in Australia)

Michael Johns

Michael Johns

PURCHASE TICKETS ONLINE HERE!    Tickets can also be purchased via Houston Footy and Netball America.

Directions to Karbach Brewery

Get your tickets now to this fun night out with the your Aussie & Texas friends!

If you want to know more about Australian Rules Football in Houston and are interested in trying it, visit Houston Lonestars and come to a training session on Thursday nights from 6pm at Bendwood Park (just off I-10 near Memorial City) – new players welcome!

Netball America is dedicated to the development and growth of Netball in the USA. Netball America seeks to have Netball included in the core curriculum of schools in the US and promoting good health and confidence amongst youth and those with disabilities. The Houston Shooting Stars practice Tuesday nights at 7.30pm at the British School.  They also run junior clinics at various schools.

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Australian / American Dictionary

Many of you have moved here and realised that whilst we speak the same language as the Americans there are certain differences in the vernacular that have confused our US neighbors.

When we first moved here, I asked my husband to pick up bin liners from the grocery store.  It took him forever as the grocery store worker did not understand him.  He was first directed to the bean section thinking it was an accent issue.  After heavily describing what he needed, they were able to ascertain that he was after a trash bag.

Below is a small Australian to American Dictionary on some differences in the vernacular.  We would love all of our readers feedback on any more differences that they have come across.

FOOD

  • Biscuit – Cookie/Cracker
  • Capsicum – Bell Pepper
  • Castor Sugar – Extra Fine Granulated Sugar
  • Chips – French Fries
  • Fairy Floss – Cotton Candy
  • Ginger Ale – Root Beer
  • Jelly – Jello
  • Jam – Jelly or Jam
  • Lemonade – Sprite/7Up
  • Lemon Juice – Lemonade
  • Lolly – Candy
  • PawPaw – Papaya
  • Plain Flour – All Purpose Flour
  • Potato Crisps – Potato Chips
  • Rockmelon – Cantaloupe
  • Scone – Biscuit
  • Sultanas – Yellow Raisins
  • Tomato Sauce – Ketchup
  • Turnip – Rutabaga
  • Whole Meal Bread – Whole Wheat Bread

EATING OUT

  • Entree – Appetizer
  • Main Course – Entree
  • Serviette – Napkin

HOME

  • Bin – Trash Can
  • Bucket – Pail
  • Cutlery – Flatware
  • Footpath – Sidewalk
  • Letter Box – Mail Box
  • Tap – Faucet
  • Torch – Flashlight
  • Toilet – Restroom
  • Verandah – Porch/Deck

BABY

  • Cot – Crib
  • Dummy – Pacifier
  • Pusher – Stroller
  • Stroller – Umbrella Stroller
  • Nappy – Diaper
  • Port-a-cot – Pack’N’Play/Travel Crib

CLOTHING

  • G-String – Thong
  • Jocks/Undies – Underpants/Briefs
  • Knickers – Panties
  • Press Stud – Snaps
  • Singlet – Tank Top
  • Thongs – Flip/Flops
  • Trackpants – Sweat pants

DRIVING

  • Bonnet – Hood
  • Boot – Trunk
  • Bowser – Gas Pump
  • Windscreen – Windshield
  • Petrol – Gas
  • Ute – Pickup
  • Car Park – Parking Lot

OFFICE

  • Biro – Pen
  • Rubber – Eraser
  • Sticky Tape – Scotch Tape

SPORT

  • American Football – Football
  • Football – Aussie Rules
  • Hockey – Field Hockey
  • Ice Hockey – Hockey

Are there any other words and sayings that you have come across that doesn’t translate?  Please write in our comments for everyone’s information.

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Down Under Sounds 2013

DUS 2013Down Under Sounds 2013 will be on again in Houston tomorrow night showcasing some great Aussie bands before they head off to Austin to play at the the famous music festival South by Southwest (SXSW).

Representing a diverse cross-section of up-and-coming Australian talent, the line-up includes bands with international touring credentials, acts that have achieved significant success in their home market and above all, the live performance energy that is a hallmark of the Australian music scene.

This is a FREE event at the famous music venue The Continental Club in Midtown. First band will be on at 7.30pm.  No tickets necessary but if you’re on Facebook please rsvp via the Down Under Sounds event page.  For a feed beforehand or during the night pop in next door to the popular Tacos A Go-Go. Drinks at bar prices.

The Blackchords, Vaudeville Smash and Satellite Sky will also be on KPFT 90.1FM at 1pm Tuesday.

2013 DUS line-up:

Blackchords2Blackchords – From Melbourne, formed in 2005.  Since then, they have toured extensively in Australia and Europe.  Their music has been featured in movies and in prime-time TV in both Australia and the US, most recently in Cougartown.  About to release their second album “A Thin Line”.

Vaudeville SmashVaudeville Smash – From Melbourne Making their second Down Under Sounds appearance after being a big hit at DUS 2011.   Made a big impression at SXSW 2011, achieving “buzz band” status.  They’ve been playing to bigger and bigger crowds in Australia since then, including main stage at the St Kilda Festival and this year’s Moomba festival, which they played just before getting on the plane to head to the US.  Debut album out soon.

Satellite SkySatellite Sky – Continuing in the great tradition of siblings in rock bands (hopefully with less arguments than the Gallagher brothers), Pete on guitar and Kim on drums.  After travelling from Australia and making an impression at key music industry events like SXSW and CMJ, they took the plunge and relocated to Los Angeles and are now doing the hard yards on the road winning over fans one club at a time.  They’ve also been successful at getting their music into film and television including a huge spot in NBC’s Olympics advertising campaign.

The BeardsThe Beards – From Adelaide, formed in 2005.  In Australia, they’ve played The Big Day Out, the Falls Festival and the Woodford folk festival and played sellout national tours. They’ve also appeared on Triple J’s Hottest 100, and are massively popular on Youtube.  2013 is the year that they plan to take the beard revolution global, starting here in the US.

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Where to shop vintage for Westernwear

Last year Finding Houston described how to Get your Urban Cowboy On with the best country stores in Houston.  This year, I wanted to combine my 2 favorite pastimes in Houston.  Vintage clothes shopping and the Houston Rodeo.

As highlighted in the February issue of Vogue, Westernwear is back in a big way and we are so lucky in Houston to some of the best vintage clothes stores for all you cowboys and cowgirls.

So on my shopping expedition, I was looking for the must-haves: Cowboy boots, fringe vest, vintage western snap shirt with piping and pearled buttons and a belt.

My go-to street for vintage clothes stores in 19th St in the Heights.

Retropolis

I love this store. The store’s layout has a number of different consigners and therefore you do have to sift through.  I visited on the weekend to check on their rodeo offerings and it did not disappoint.

Some consigners had whole racks set up for the Houston Rodeo.

rodeorack

They had a large number of western belts with beautiful rodeo embellishments.

belt

LOADS of cowboy boots.  Love buying these vintage as they are already worn in!

boots

And who doesn’t need some chaps!

chaps

There were plenty of Western style shirts from the 70s, 80s and 90s.

westernshirt

Whilst at the time I couldn’t find a fringed vest, there were plenty of fringes leather jackets.

fringejackets

Nothing says Texas like some rhinestones.  There was lots of fun denim skirts, vests and jackets that would country up any outfit!

rinestoneskirt americanflagvest

Replay on 19th St

I prefer Replay on 19th st due to their merchandise being sorted by era and their helpful staff who know their product.  They make vintage shopping easy.  The owner of the store loves the vintage snap shirts and has lots of them.

It was here that I was able to find my fringe leather vest.

vestreplayvestreplay2

There were some great boot options.

bootsreplay

You would definitely find your Westernwear belt here.

beltsreplay

I just love the old belt buckles – so many to choose from.

beltbucklesreplay

I am a Heights girl, but the strip along Westheimer in Montrose has some great vintage clothing stores with some fun retro fringed cowboy jackets and funky snap shirts.

I found the best selection was at Leopard Lounge.

leopardloungeshirt leopardlounge

leopardloungeroseleopardloungeshirt2

There were lots of boots available here in a variety of sizes.

LLboots

There were also a couple of vests in both leather, suede and denim as well as some great belts.

LLvest LLbelts

Taxi Taxi located on 1657 Westheimer Rd is owned by the same people as Pavement and Leopard Lounge but has more casual clothes.

taxitaxi

I found some great leather fringe jackets..

taxifringe taxi

Not everyone can wear these, but you will see a number of people wearing the daisy dukes at the rodeo.

daisytaxi

I thought this was a really cute snap shirt.

taxisnap

Pavement located next to Leopard Lounge didn’t have any many rodeo options, but of course there were several snap shirts for the cowboys.

pavementsnap

And of course this leather jacket.

pavement

As we covered off last year, Texas Junk located on 215 Welch seems to have the largest range of vintage cowboy boots in Houston.  Note that they are only open on Fridays and Saturdays 11am-6pm and are very busy this time of year.

Stock up and wear your Westernwear through Spring!

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It’s Rodeo Time!

IMG_0615The Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo(HLSR) is one of my absolute favorite things about living Houston and one of the best run events I have been to in the world.

On my first visit here I was struggling to make a connection with the city I was about to move to and was lucky enough to be invited along to the Rodeo one night.  I had done a bit of research before arriving and discovered that this was no low-key event!

The HLSR is the largest Rodeo in the world, attracting over 2.5 million visitors a year and involving some 26,000 volunteers.  It runs everyday & night for 3 weeks and comprises real life cowboys & cowgirls competing in world class Rodeo events, swiftly followed by a world class concert where you can see anyone from KISS to Keith Urban perform in front of a 70,000+ crowd.

IMG_1974This was the taste of Texas and USA I was looking for and I hadn’t even found the famous Longhorns in the Livestock Center!!   I did however stumble upon The Hideout after things had finished up in the stadium and after ordering a jack n coke and watching the local cowboys two-step in a real life hoedown, you couldn’t wipe the smile from my face.  This is one fabulous event.

The 2013 HLSR kicks off this weekend and I am still planning my schedule but these days I especially love taking out of town visitors and seeing the smiles and the amazement on their faces of being in one of the world’s biggest metropolises where horses and cows are paraded through the city and cowboys are as impressive on the dancefloor as they are on a 2,700 lb bull.

HLSR 101:

DSC_8029What: The HLSR features championship rodeo action, livestock competitions, concerts, a carnival, pig racing, barbecue, International Wine Competition, shopping, sales and livestock auctions.  The HLSR was first organized in 1931 “for charitable, educational and scientific purposes to encourage and promote the breeding, raising and marketing of better livestock and farm products at public fairs and to promote and maintain research and educational functions within the livestock industry”.  To this day the majority of the proceeds go toward student education in the agriculture and livestock industry.

There are also many Rodeo lead up events from early February that have become very popular including the famous World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest.

When: Usually the first 3 weeks of March, in 2013 it runs Mon Feb 25th – Sun Mar 17th.  Grounds open weekdays at 9am, with the Rodeo on ion the stadium at 6.45pm and the concert approx. 8.30pm-9.45pm.  On weekends the grounds open at 9am, the Rodeo kicks off earlier at 3.45pm and the concert 5.30pm-6.45pm.

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ZZ Top in 2012

How: One day, three days or Everyday!! most people decide when to go based on the concert performer that night. Here is the 2013 Concert schedule.

The Livestock Show is best seen during the day when exhibitions and competitions are on.  Weekends are very popular with kids and families so try getting there a weekday if you can or get there early.

There is so much to see and do everyday and the Daily Schedule link makes planning your day easier.

Tickets:  You can buy individual tickets or season tickets via the official Rodeo Houston website, however many of the tickets are taken up by HLSR members or season ticket holders and are resold on ticket sites such as Stubhub for slightly inflated prices.  Tickets range from Lower, Middle and Upper Levels for the best value but if you want to get right amongst the dirt and action splash out on one of the Chute or Action seats right down the front.  See my preferred place to watch under Rodeo & Concert info.  Reliant Stadium seating map.

Transport: If you don’t have a seat that gets you into one of the private parking lots, there is plenty of public parking – if you’re happy to fight Houston traffic!  However, the light rail is a great option from Downtown or by leaving your car at Hermann Park or the Museum District. Taxis are also the way to go so you can enjoy a few drinks at the Champion Wine Garden and The Hideout after the Rodeo.

IMG_3456What Else!: The massive Carnival outside the stadium with every ride you can imagine runs late into the night and there is plenty of Southern style food and BBQ to keep you satisfied. The Champion Wine Garden is a great addition too to gear up before or unwind after the Rodeo action inside the stadium.  And have I mentioned The Hideout yet…?!       I love it and more on that below.

The Rodeo & Concert:

IMG_1986The main Rodeo events take place every evening in the huge Reliant Stadium. Be sure to be seated on time as once the first event kicks off they go through very quickly.  Events alternate at either end of the stadium.  At one end(south) is the Timed events including Tie-down roping, Team roping and Steer wrestling.  The other end (north) showcases the Rough Stock events such as Bareback riding, Saddle Bronc riding, Bull riding and Women’s Barrel racing.  This is my preferred end to view the action from, including seats up towards the center of the stadium where you get a better view of the concert. Rodeo 101 & Scoring Information.

Two of the most popular events on the night showcase the kids strutting their stuff.

IMG_2110Mutton Bustin’, is everyone’s favourite where 5 and 6-year-olds ride on top of a sheep for 8 seconds.  The reactions and interviews of the kids are priceless.  If your kid fancies themselves they can sign up outside in Kids Country where they run Mutton Bustin during the day.

IMG_2101The Calf Scramble is my favorite event featuring 14 calves and 28 students who must try to capture one of the calves, put a harness on it and bring it back into the “winners square” in order to claim the win.  This is as hard as it looks!

 

Livestock & Horse Show:

IMG_3521Located in Reliant Center, adjacent to the stadium, the world’s largest livestock show highlights world-class livestock and exhibitors in two show arenas.  Check out Champions Row in Reliant Center to see the best of the best – with all Grand and Reserve Grand Champions from the junior market shows on display.   Also look for the newborn livestock that are bred to delivered this time of year, get your picture taken atop of a Longhorn and get your Rodeo outfit sorted at one of the hundreds of shopping outlets. 2013 Livestock Schedule.

The Horse Show takes place at Reliant Arena, in the south east corner of the grounds.  It is one of the most prestigious horse shows in the world and holds many varying horse competitions over the 3 weeks.

The Hideout:

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The Hideout

The Hideout, located on the east side of the famous Reliant Astrodome has to be on your schedule after things finish up inside the stadium.  Look for the big white tent with live music pumping out of it from talented local Texan musicians.  This place is the real deal so order a drink and watch some amazing dancing and have a spin yourself.  It’s the best place to try it!  Open 6pm-12/1am. Admission included with your Rodeo ticket. Hideout 2013 Concert Schedule.

HLSR Lead Up Events:

Some of the other major events during the HLSR lead-up in February to consider getting to include:

IMG_0563World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest: Thursday Feb 21st – Saturday Feb 23rd  This is one event you have to experience whilst in Houston. The World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest, also known as “The Cookoff,” started in 1974 and for 3 days, 350 teams and 250,000 people cook, eat and sleep famous Texas BBQ. This is a series comp too with winners announced on the Saturday evening.  An invite into a cook-off tent is considered a “Hot Ticket,” as most are for members or by invitation only.  Whilst the event is open to the general public for $10, those that get there way into the tents are spoilt with unlimited world class BBQ food and an open bar.  So get your feelers out and try to get in a cook-off team tent – it is the biggest party you will ever go to!!!  

Go Texan Day: Friday Feb 22nd  The Friday before the Rodeo Parade is also known as “Go Texan Day,” where the business population of Houston is encouraged to dress in Western attire, such as jeans, cowboy boots and cowboy hats.

Salt Grass Trail Ride: Friday Feb 22nd Traditional trail rides, which start in different areas of Texas and end in Houston have been going since 1952.  The Trail Rides are a long tradition with the rodeo and gather at Memorial Park to camp for a rest and party before the big Annual Rodeo Parade through Downtown Houston the next day.  The longest ride comes from Hidalgo, Texas, some 386 miles away on the Mexico border and head off on Feb 3rd.  

IMG_1897Rodeo Parade: Saturday Feb 23rd The first Rodeo Parade was headed by Mounted Police and various dignitaries on the city, county, and state levels, who also rode horseback.  Decorative floats and thousands of men and women on horseback juxtapose Downtown’s skyscrapers and freeways, filling the streets with hoof beats and marching bands.  A must do event!  See the tips for best places to watch and times here.

ConocoPhillips Rodeo Run: Saturday Feb 23rd  Each year, the ConocoPhillips Rodeo Run helps kick off the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo with a 10K race and 5K fun run/walk, cowboy boots optional.  There are winner for best costumes. Check here for race times. 

So what’s your favourite thing about the Rodeo? Please add any tips on how to get the best out of Rodeo time in Houston below.


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Memorial Hot Spots

Continuing our neighborhood reviews is Memorial.  Many expats move to Memorial due to its proximity to the energy corridor, great school districts and the many restaurant and retail options.

Memorial is bounded on the south by Buffalo Bayou, on the north by the Katy Freeway (Interstate 10) on the east by the 610 Loop and on the west by Beltway 8.

Within Memorial is an area called the Memorial Villages including the cities of Bunker Hill Village, Hedwig Village, Spring Valley, Hillshire Village, Piney Point Village and Hunters Creek Village.  They are all independent cities that operate separately from Houston.

Former Memorial resident Bianca and Finding Houston reader did a run-down and review of Memorial’s hot spots.

When we moved to Houston, we wanted to live in an area similar to the location of our Australian residence, where we could easily walk to a variety of shops. This isn’t easy to find in Houston, but I was happy to discover Memorial offered this and is a lovely and friendly neighborhood.

Houses are neat, tidy, and inviting. There are no high fences marking the perimeter of each person’s property, the only fences visible start halfway down the side of each property and along the rear of the house. I like this ‘open’ style of neighborhood as people take pride in their garden, and dedicate a lot of time to produce well-manicured and beautiful gardens that feature vibrant green lawn, tall leafy trees and beautiful flowers.

Families with school-aged children predominately live in Memorial (due to the reputable schools in the area), but there is also a good representation of younger families and grandparents. All who live there are very friendly and eager to learn more about their new neighbors – particularly the ones with an accent!

There are three major shopping precincts; Memorial City Shopping Mall, Town and Country Village (TCV) and City Centre.

This article will focus on the latter two, which provide a clean, street side shopping environment. Both have a range of dining and shopping options, TCV is skewed towards your daily shopping needs whilst City Centre addresses the social aspect of your life.

CITY CENTRE

memorial

Casual Dining: Ruggles Green is all natural, hormone free, organic, preservative free food. Accepts the Go Local Houston card. Try the Chicken curry salad, and burgers

Beer: The Yard House has over 100 taps of imported, craft and specialty ales and lagers. Recommend their beer tasting plate, and from the kitchen try the chicken pie – it’s huge!

Wine Bar: The Tasting Room has a great wine selection and live music

Bistro: Flora and Muse is open for breakfast on the weekend, salsa music on Friday nights and jazz on Sundays, try their Pides (Turkish Pies),

Desserts: Sweet makes delicious cupcakes, and for those that don’t want to over indulge try the weekend special of 4 mini cupcakes for $12, also a great way to try several flavors.

Movie: Studio Movie Grill has movie and a meal, good combination if time poor and need to combine the two. Can purchase tickets and choose your seats

Market: City Center’s Saturday morning Farmers market is small, but worth supporting local growers. One stall sells free range organic chickens – the same chickens sold to Marcs restaurant.

Cooking: Sur la Table is a kitchenware store with designated restaurant size kitchen for cooking classes

Fitness: Three story Life Time Athletic (inclusive of rock climbing wall, swimming pools, indoor soccer pitch, basketball courts, and café) plus, LifeSpa and Salon

Shopping: City Center also offers some of your chain stores such as Anthropologie, JCrew, Urban Outfitters, Free People and Charming Charlies.

All of these restaurants and facilities, in addition to apartments and hotels, are located around an open-air grassed area which is great for meeting friends and for little ones to kick a ball.  This space is often used for family friendly events going on throughout the year.

memorial2

TOWN AND COUNTRY

Fine Dining: McCormick and Schmick has a good seafood menu

Casual: Prontos for their tasty and inexpensive pasta

Delivery: La Madeline has an easy and fast online ordering and pickup service

Burgers: Smash Burger for tasty juicy burgers and delicious fries

Desserts: Ooh la la Boutique Desert Bar for delicious gourmet deserts

Kitchenware: Williams and Sonoma have a great range of kitchenware aswell as offering cooking classes

Bookstore: Barnes and Noble has an extensive collection of books, magazines, etc inclusive of Starbucks and Story time for the young ones

Beauty: Beautique Day Spa

Shopping: Your favorite US brands Gap, Banana Republic, White House Black Market, Ulta Beauty, Nine West, Everything But Water

Kids Stores: Learning Centre for unique and educational toys, Stride Right, Carters, Gymboree, Cool Cuts 4 Kids

Walking distance from Town and Country is Bendwood Park, which features a playground, football oval, basketball court, and walking track. And those with children will be interested to learn that the adjacent local childcare center (the Zebra Zone, part of the Spring Branch School District Child Care Center) opens its playground (both open and undercover) to the public after 5pm on weekdays and all day on Saturday and Sunday.

What do other readers love about living in Memorial?

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Women’s Rugby 7’s touch down in Houston

Womens 7s USA 3It’s a massive challenge for sports popular outside the US to take on the powerhouses of the NFL, NBA & MLB for participants, supporters and media airtime in this country. However rugby in the US has slowly been building towards a member base of 98,000 and is particularly popular and played throughout most colleges.  This Friday 1st Feb and Saturday 2nd Feb, Houston and Texas rugby fans have the opportunity to welcome the best international women’s rugby teams with one the most exciting competitions in the game – Sevens Rugby.

Women’s Rugby is one of the world’s fastest growing team sports and the International Rugby Board and USA Rugby awarded Houston and the new BBVA Stadium a multi-year deal to host one of the International Rugby Women’s Sevens World Series events to prepare teams for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro – where rugby will debut as a new Olympic sport.

USA Women's Rugby Team

USA Women’s Rugby Team

The competition will mirror the men’s Sevens series, with each 12-team event featuring six core teams who will play across all four events and six teams who will be invited based on regional tournament rankings, reflecting the IRB’s strategic aim to mix the top teams in the world with the best up and coming teams from each of the six IRB Regional Associations.

The six core teams for the inaugural Series are Australia, Canada, England, the Netherlands, New Zealand and USA.  The six invited teams for this series are Brazil, South Africa, Russia, Japan, Argentina and Trinidad & Tobago.

cycle image Womens 7s Houston

Australian Women’s 7’s Rugby Team

After their win at the inaugural round in Dubai in December, New Zealand’s women head Pool A and face two other core sides in England and the Netherlands, as well as the debutants from Trinidad and Tobago.  Having reached the final in Dubai, South Africa start in Houston as second seeds. They line up in Pool B and face the daunting challenge of both North American heavyweights, hosts USA and Canada, as well as the improving Argentineans.  Pool C is headed by the fourth-ranked side in the Series standings after round one, Australia, who face Russia, Brazil and Japan.

BBVA Stadium Houston

BBVA Stadium Houston

Two-day passes for the tournament start at $15; individual tickets start at $10 and are available via www.axs.com and www.bbvaCompassStadium.com or at the BBVA ticket office on the day.

The event has partnered with the Houston Area Women’s Center and will donate $1.00 from each event ticket sold.

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G’Day USA Australia Week Houston 2013

Australia Day 26th Jan

Australia Day, next Saturday 26th January, commemorates the establishment of the first settlement at Port Jackson, now part of Sydney, in 1788.  It is our 4th July celebration and back home it means a day off work enjoying BBQ’s, cricket, Triple J radio top 100 and the beach with family and friends.  Overseas, it reminds us who are a long way from home, how lucky we are to be from such an amazing place and gives us an excuse to turn on the ‘occa’ for a day.  In the US, it is celebrated as part of the G’Day USA festival in seven of the US’s biggest cities, promoting all things great about Australian business and culture and providing events for Aussies to enjoy with each other and our new US mates.

Originally formed in LA 10 years ago, G’Day USA has brought together industry leaders and key influencers in government, business, tourism, academia and the arts to successfully cultivate and enhance the long term and deep Australia-United States relationship.   Besides LA, the 2013 G’Day USA 3-week program brings new business, education, entertainment, innovation, and tourism events to San Francisco, Dallas, Sacramento, New York, Washington DC, Chicago and Houston. Check out the calendar of events at Australia Week.

G’Day USA Australia Week Houston week starts tomorrow and comprises some fantastic events to celebrate our great country and being an Australian living in the US.   All events require you to register online via the AACC Australia Week website.  For events requiring payment, you can also pay online or call/email the AACC office.  Get in soon so you don’t miss out on a great week to be an Aussie in Houston!  

G’DAY USA AUSTRALIA WEEK HOUSTON EVENTS

Friday Jan 18th ~ Energy Conference @ Hilton Post Oak 8.00am-7.00pm

This all day conference is designed to provide a forum for oil and gas operators and industry experts from Australia and the United States to discuss their varying perspectives and lessons learned on development of oil and gas reserves in the U.S. and Australia. It includes keynote and session speakers in attendance from the Australian government and O&G corporate companies.  

Saturday Jan 19th ~ Australia Day Black Tie Gala @ Hilton Post Oak ~ 6.30pm

Andrew G

Andrew G

The highlight of the week is the Australia Day Black Tie Gala held this year at the Hilton Post Oak. Expecting over 500 people, the evening will feature an Australian gourmet dinner prepared by local Aussie award winning chef Jason Gould, the “Stars of Australia Awards”, Oz music and culture, and a silent auction and big auction with all proceeds benefitting the Texas

Charity Project Joy and Hope. 

James Blundell

James Blundell

Saturday Jan 26th ~ Australia Day Dinner @ Hofheinz House ~ 7.00pm

On Australia Day this year and at one of Houston’s finest catering venues, Jason Gould takes over the kitchen to present a four course fine wine dinner showcasing Australia through the ingredients, preparation, and presentation. Each culinary dish is paired with different wines from Australia, celebrating its diverse culture and rich palette.  This is now SOLD OUT.

Thurs Jan 24th- Sat Jan 26th ~ Food & Wine Promotion @ Specs Stores

From Thursday, January 24th through Saturday, January 26th, visit Spec’s stores all over the city of Houston to a “Taste of Australia” featuring fine wines from the Land Down Under. 

On Thursday, January 24th, at the Spec’s Midtown Location, join Spec’s Fine Wine Buyer, Bear Dalton at 6.30pm as he talks about what is going on with Australian wines and includes 9 wines. ‘Taste & Learn‘ event is free to AACC members but booking required via Macro Ammons at Specs Midtown.

Sunday Jan 27th ~ BBQ, Netball & Cricket Family Day @ Bear Creek Park (North off I-10) ~ 12pm-5.00pm

bbq2The 4th annual Family BBQ and Sports Day is a great day out for all the family to celebrate Australia Day.  Come with the kids to play/watch the Aussie cricket team try and wrestle back the prized trophy against the Poms.  Bring your chairs and rugs and enjoy meeting other Aussies in Houston whilst downing a beef sirloins, sausages, gourmet salads from Whole Foods Kirby and Coopers beer. There will be entertainment for the kids including a jumping castle, face painting and junior footy clinic.   Aussie tunes will be cranking throughout the day also. koala

BBQ food and beverages will be provided on the day but you must register and pay beforehand online!   You can also order Aussie iconic delights such as lamingtons, vanilla slice, wattleseed macaroons, Boomerang’s meat pies and sausage roll packs online to be picked up on the day.

cricketIf you would like to play in the Cricket or Netball matches for either side please register online also.

To find out more information on any of these events, check out the AACC Australia Week website for all details and to register for the events.netball

AACC Office:    Phone: 713-527-9688     Email: info@AACC-Houston.org

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Holiday Tipping 2012

Holiday TippingWe did a post last year based on tipping guidelines in the US and holiday tipping and it was so popular we thought we would update for 2012.

Below are some of the people that you tip at Christmas to thank them for services you regularly use over the year.  Most of these services rely on tips throughout the year and particular Christmas as they are not on large salaries.  It is nice to include any tip with a Thank You note and small Holiday gift also.

Cleaner/Housekeeper: One visit or week’s pay

Gardener: One visit or week’s pay

Regular Babysitter: One evening’s pay

Nanny: One week’s pay

Teacher or Day care service: $25-$100, Gift card or a personal gift if you know their hobbies or interests

Personal Trainer: Cost of one session (if you have used them for over 6 months)

Hairdresser / Manicurist: One visit’s pay or double your regular tip if you don’t go often

Dog Walker: One visit or week’s pay

Apartment Building Staff: $20-$100 depending on how much you use them

Newspaper Delivery: $20

Trash Collector: $20

USPS Mail Delivery Person: Gift or gift card under $20 (it is policy not to accept cash)

If you do have a regular UPS or FedEx delivery person check with their company website on gifts accepted – generally no cash but gifts under $25 are accepted.

If you are still not sure what is an appropriate tip, ask your neighbors or friends that use the same services in your area.

What has been your experience with Holiday tipping in the US and what else do you do to thank people for their services throughout the year?

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Montrose Hot Spots

Montrose is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Houston.  It is culturally diverse and houses a number of restaurants, cafe’s and bars.  Many expats that move here are drawn to its artsy, funky atmosphere.

Generally speaking, Montrose is enclosed by Allen Parkway to the north, Highway 59 on the south, Shepherd Drive on the west and Bagby Street on the east.

Diane and Aleks, some of our Finding Houston readers and Montrose residents gave us their recommendations on Montrose Top spots.

Fine Dining – Indika has taken Indian food to a whole new level.  It takes traditional Indian flavors and adds finesse to produce slow cooked lamb shank masala and pork chop vindaloo to name just two fantastic dishes.

Place to be seen – Brasserie 19 has its very own oyster bar which is visible in the restaurant if you want to watch your oysters being shucked.  Whether you are at a table, at the bar or sat on the outside patio the ambiance is buzzing and the food does not disappoint.

Italian – Poscol.  My favorite restaurant in Houston that doesn’t look much from the street but inside it is a cute, cozy restaurant and small bar serving Italian small plates and wines.

Brunch – Canopy offers a selection of weekend brunch options in a modern, light and airy environment.  It’s a step up from the usual breakfast fare so try the eggs benedict or quiche which are both fabulous with a morning mimosa!

Casual Dining – Barnaby’s Cafe is an all natural cafe.  They offer a selection of great salads and burgers. It’s very child friendly with an outside patio if you want to bring your dog.

BYOB – Just Dinner – a cute house which has been transformed into a cozy, bring your own Italian restaurant ($8 corkage).  The menu changes dependent on what the chef was able to purchase at the farmer’s market.  A local find…….look for the flag outside – signage is not immediately apparent.

Cafe – Epicure Cafe which has an extensive lunch menu of which the sandwiches shine but they also have AMAZING cakes so save room or take some home.

Coffee Shop – Dirks coffee shop has the best flavored coffee in Montrose – full of flavor but no bitterness.  It doesn’t have a huge selection of snacks but it’s worth the visit for the coffee alone.

Book Store – Domy specializing in contemporary art & American culture as well as other unique and interesting subjects.  The specialist bookstore also features art trunk shows periodically.

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Vintage Clothing – Taxi Taxi offers vintage and new (albeit probably seconds) clothing.  Take your old clothes to sell then shop for replacements.  Great if you just want to mooch around but be prepared as it is a big store so you may be there a while.

Bakery – La Guadalupana Bakery is a mexican bakery and restaurant on 2109 Dunlavy St.  Go for the empanadas alone or have a Mexican breakfast served by attentive staff.  Very authentic Mexican bakery items.

Surf Shop – Soundwaves is a large music, surf and skate shop, they also very good selection of thongs (flip flops).

Gifts – Space offers made in the USA gifts from a variety of artists and crafters but it’s also easy on the wallet.  Cute store with lots of unique and interesting gifts to browse among.

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Bar – The Hay Merchant has so many craft beers, the beer menu is longer than the food menu!  The beers are the star here but the chilli fries and gumbo are exceptional.  Sit outside if you can as indoors if it’s busy can be noisy!

Live Music – Numbers is a live music venue that has been around for 33 years.  When not showing live music they offer the largest video dance bar in the US with music and videos from different DJs.

British Pub – Rudyards Pub – beer, food, music and darts…….enough said.

Irish PubKenneally’s – Offers great beer and great pizza.

Sports Bar – Firkin and Phoenix offers sports fans the opportunity to watch the games of the day including Aussie Rules! All whilst eating the usual fare of beer and wings.

Dive Bar – Lolas has been a ‘go to’ dive bar for residents and visitors alike for longer than anyone can remember.  It’s an unmarked bar (no website either) but you will recognize it from its purple exterior.  The interior is basic so don’t expect too much and you won’t be disappointed.  The welcome is warm, the beer is cold and cheap and they don’t short change you on liquor measures.  They are served in plastic glasses – well it is a dive bar!!

Cocktail Bar –  Anvil cannot be passed up if you are a cocktail fan.  Their mixologists are more than happy to prepare something from scratch otherwise they have a full cocktail menu to choose from.  On the blackboard you will find a selection of local brews but don’t expect the usual brews so you might want to ask for a sample before you buy!

Supermarket – Whole Foods on Waugh is not your ordinary supermarket and the food alone is worth a visit.  However, here you can also buy a local beer, glass (or bottle) of wine to enjoy at the bar inside (which after 5pm or at the weekend is buzzing) or take it outside and enjoy it in the sunshine.  Lunch is also served if you fancy a slice of pizza or something from the sandwich deli.  Finally how about watching a movie outdoors or listen to some live music.  They have a full calendar of events online.

Tex Mex – Bocados– privately run little Tex Mex restaurant with a cozy and comfortable atmosphere.

What’s your favorite place in Montrose?

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American Football in Texas 2012

America’s favourite sporting pastime is for foreigners, sometimes a difficult one to support as much as their beloved football code back home.  The rules seem too technical and hard to follow, the game can go on and on for hours and why are there so many players(and whoever else) on the sidelines???  Once you grasp a few of the basic aspects of the game such as the ‘down & distance‘ rule, it does help you sound like you know what you’re talking about in a bar but you don’t need to know it all to enjoy the amazing entertainment and atmosphere of going to a live game and cheering on your newly adopted American football team. Go Texans!

Watching the Texans in action @ Reliant Stadium

American football has evolved over the last few centuries from the early forms of UK rugby.  The game was first played in the mid-1800’s between colleges in the North-east US and as new rules were developed, a cult following grew and collegiate football was born.  College football is still much loved and passionately followed by most Americans today with fierce rivalries such as Texas A&M vs Texas Longhorns and Ohio State vs Michigan.

Professional NFL football grew out of Ohio during the early 1900’s with the first official National Football League(NFC) game in 1920 at Dayton, Ohio. The American Football League(AFC) started in 1960 as a rival league and finally the two merged together in 1969 to establish the Super Bowl.  ‘Super Bowl Sunday’, usually the first Sunday in February, is the biggest day of sport on the American calendar and is one of the most watched TV sporting events in the world.

The Houston Texans are currently ranked 1st in the AFC South Division, the Texans also have the highest ranking in the overall AFC.  With 5 games left they are certainties to make the playoffs and are being talked up about contesting the Superbowl.  The 5 remaining regular season games include home games on the 16th Dec (Indianapolis Colts) & 23rd Dec (Minnesota Vikings) and a massive Monday night away game at New England that will really test the Texans leading up to the playoffs.  Their current success has been a long time coming for Houston football supporters since joining the NFL in 2002, after Houston’s much loved previous team, the Oilers, moved to Tennessee and became the Titans.

Touchdown Texans!

The Texans first post season objective is to win the AFC with likely playoff rivals to include the New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos, before facing the best in the NFC including the Atlanta Falcons, San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears and NY Giants.  The playoffs start in January consisting of knock-out games between the top teams in each of the 4 divisions in the 2 conferences to define NFC & AFC Divisional Champions. They then play off in the Super Bowl which in 2013 is at the New Orleans Superdome on February 3rd.

Although Houston have exceeded expectation so far this year, their usual southern rivals, the Dallas Cowboys (3rd AFC East) and New Orleans Saints (3rd NFC South) have struggled to perform consistently and will have a hard road to make playoffs.

Texas College Teams

Texas Longhorns @ Austin

Bolstered by fierce rivalries, college football is where the true American football passion lies.  There is nothing like going to a college game, especially when teams are playing one of their arch enemies.  The atmosphere at the tailgate before the game makes you feel like you are back at university and inside the huge stadiums, the marching bands and passionate supporters can literally shake the stands.  There is no alcohol served at college games so tailgating beforehand is huge.

All college teams are ranked(complicated) in one overall system called the BCS ranking and the top 2 teams go through to the final known as the BCS National Championship game, irrespective of their conference.  The remaining teams compete in ‘Bowl’ games according to their conference ranking and BCS league status.  This year, undefeated Notre Dame has cemented a position already in the BCS Championship and second spot is between Alabama & Georgia (who happen to play each other this Saturday for that chance).  A must watch game!

The College Bowl series starts soon as the post-season playoffs, consisting of 35 one-off final games between the 70 highest ranking teams across the entire College system.   Some of the biggest Bowl games coming up in Texas are:
1. Alamo Bowl – San Antonio – 29th Dec
2. Texas Bowl – Houston Reliant – 28th Dec
3. Cotton Bowl – Dallas Cowboy Stadium – 4th Jan

Entering LSU Tiger Stadium

In Texas, the rivalry between Texas A&M(College Station) and Texas Longhorns(Austin) is massive and getting to any one of their games is a must but one of my favorite games was over the border at Louisiana State University(LSU) in Baton Rouge, which has a beautiful campus, a tailgate party like no other and a real tiger as their mascot!  LSU(9th) and A&M(10th) will both have a strong presence in the College Bowl, however the Longhorns(23rd) have struggled this season and need a win against Kansas State this weekend to gain some momentum.

The plush home of LSU’s tiger mascot!

Tickets to all NFL & College games can be bought via their websites, Ticketmaster or resale ticket brokers such as Stubhub. You can also sometimes find a ticket outside the stadium. Prices range depending on the quality of teams playing and where you want to sit but the best seats are considered to be midway on the sidelines on the lowest level. Most of the newer, larger stadiums have many great viewpoints.

Tickets to the Superbowl can be obtained by entering the random drawing between 1 Feb-1 June the year pre-seeding the next Superbowl or will set you back approx. $2500 on Stubhub. If the Texans make it you may just consider it being in NOLA and all…a true ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity.

Tailgating off an F350 truck

Texan BBQ Tailgate

Tailgating is the party before the game and can best be compared to a super-sized Nursery carpark during Melbourne’s spring horse racing carnival.  The party kicks off  4 hours before the game and can be anything from a few snacks and drinks out the back of a truck to a massive RV or bus lot with amazing BBQ, traditional tailgate dishes and lots of beer.  Tailgate lots are purchased separately to your game ticket. The best experience if you’re new to American football and tailgating is to get invited to one and see how it is done.

Let’s hope 2012/13 is the year of the Houston Texans!

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Nutcracker Market 2012

The Christmas Spirit has commenced in Houston!

Houston Ballet’s Nutcracker Market is a Christmas extravaganza and has 325 vendors selling unique gift ideas such as gourmet food, toys, ornaments, accessories and decorations. The market benefits the Houston Ballet Foundation, its academy and scholarship programs.

The Nutcracker Market is at the Reliant Center and runs from November 8 – 11.  Houston Randall’s stores sell tickets for $12 and admission at the door is $13.  There are a number of special events that run throughout the week.

Wells Fargo Preview Party
Tickets start at $175
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
7 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.
Chairmen: Katrina Arnim, Gabriela Dror, Caroline Kenney, Pattie Dale Tye, and Susan Vick

Saks Fifth Avenue Fashion Show and Luncheon
Tickets start at $135
Thursday, November 8, 2012
9 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Chairmen: Anne Carl, Kimberly DeLape, Kim Moody, and Alicia Smith

Four Day Pass
Tickets are $40
Thursday, November 8 and Friday, November 9
9 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Saturday, November 10 and Sunday, November 11
10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Macy’s Fashion Show and Holiday Brunch
Tickets start at $100
Friday, November 9, 2012
9 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Chairmen: Rosemary Schatzman and Michelle Smith

I love all things Christmas so thoroughly enjoy going to the Nutcracker market and buying up on the gourmet foods.

My husband (and many of my friends’ husbands) cannot think of anything worse than looking through stall after stall of Christmas themed merchandise.  And as you are not allowed to bring strollers to the event, I suggest leaving the kids and husband at home so you can take your time at this massive Christmas festivity.

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Texas Renaissance Festival 2012

My lords and my ladies, be prepared to step back in time when you make the trip to Magnolia to see the Renaissance Festival.

The Texas Renaissance Festival is one of the countries largest Renaissance Fairs and is located 1 hour north of Houston.  It runs on weekends for 8 weeks, this year the dates are 6 October through to the 25 November 9am to 8pm.

Tickets are available to purchase at the gate for $25 for adults and $12 for children 5-12 (children 4 and under are free).  We purchased our tickets online for a slight discount.

Once you walk in you are taken back to the 16th century with a myriad of ye olde style activities with a fair like atmosphere.

All staff are dressed in theme, and many patrons also arrive in costume – it is lots of fun!

We made it last year and had the best time, there are a number of stages and arenas that have free performances on.  We saw a fun version of Shakespeare, belly dancers and singers.

There are themed weekends, with the remaining themes being:

November 10 & 11 – Barbarian Invasion

November 17 & 18 – Highland Fling

November 23, 24 & 26 – Celtic Christmas

In 2011 we went to the “Highland Fling”.  The main arena held Highland Games including Caber Toss, Stone Put and a Hammer Throw.

Once you were inside the grounds, most activities were free.  Although there were a number of ye olde style rides an additional small cost.

Food, alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages are available for purchase at the festival.

The Texas Renaissance Festival is a must go to event that is suitable for all ages.

http://www.texrenfest.com/

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USAFL Championships 2012 – The Houston Lonestars Rundown

New Houston Lonestars Logo

2012 was a big year for the Houston Lonestars.  It was the first year they became a fully independent club, symbolised by a brand new logo bearing the famous red, white and blue colors and a Texas bull bounding through the infamous Lonestar.

The new image is the visible change, but more importantly the club has made progress both on the field and amongst its competing peers.  President Dan Holwerda has continued the gradual process over the past 4 years of building a consistent player base focusing on participation and skills development.  Over this period, the American National player numbers have increased and skill levels have improved impressively.  The club has also tapped into a growing expat community in Houston, attracting many Aussies & Irish to the club with experienced football backgrounds.

First win over Austin in July 2012 – a 10 goal win!

The regular season saw increasing player numbers and skill levels, reflected in team performance and results.  A commanding win over Baton Rouge Tigers to kick start the season was followed by a strong performance against the highly fancied Austin Crows team, with the Lonestars pushing them all the way going down by less than 5 goals. The early signs of improvement were reinforced a few weeks later when for the first time in the club’s history, the Lonestars defeated Austin comprehensively in Houston.  This was a highlight of the regular season for the young developing club.

Playing in torrential rain at Fort Lauderdale August 2012

The second half of the season continued the growth trend with another commanding victory over the Tigers before a group of 15 Lonestars travelled with family to Fort Lauderdale for a road trip game against the Squids in August.  Played in torrential rain, the game was highly competitive with the Lonestars going down by less than a goal against a very strong home side.  The regular season rounded out with a three-way meeting between the Lonestars, Baton Rouge Tigers and Atlanta Kookaburras in Baton Rouge.  The Lonestars had another strong win against the Tigers and fought hard against the talented Kookaburras, going down by a mere 3 goal margin after backing up straight after the previous game in extreme heat.

One of the major goals set for 2012 was for the club to establish itself as a competitive force in the USAFL and have a significant presence at the USAFL Nationals, which were held in October 2012 in Mason, Ohio.  Consistent improvement during 2012 gave the Lonestars confidence going into the 2012 Nationals with the team entered in Division 4 in its first ever USAFL Nationals as an independent team.

Houston Lonestars @ USAFL Championships 2012

On 13-14th October, a team of 25 players arrived in Mason decked out in the new club gear and made an instant impression at the welcome event on the Friday night with many peers commenting the jersey being the best in the league.  The Nationals involved 38 clubs from across the USA and Canada arranged in 4 Mens and 1 Women’s Division in a round-robin format over 2 days.  The main objective for the Lonestars was to make the Division 4 final held at 2pm on the Sunday.

The first Lonestars game on Saturday was against the combined Washington / Baltimore Eagles team.  The Lonestars dominated the game, showing they meant business winning by 12 goals. The performance was defined by aggression for the ball and good team awareness.  This was the team’s first opportunity to belt out the newly written team song “Lonestars Fight”, to the tune of the AFL’s Sydney Swans theme song.

Belting out the theme song after winning the first two games on Saturday

After a few hours break, the second game was against a Milwaukee / Dallas combined team.  Following on from game 1, the Lonestars dominated the game, surviving a player count on the field and all to run out strong winners by 100 points.  More encouragingly, this game saw some great break-out performances by several young American Nationals in the team.  Day 1 was deemed a huge success, but our toughest opposition would come the next morning.

Sunday morning came and brought with it gale force winds with tornado warnings for early in the evening.  This made for very difficult conditions for football, especially in the crucial knock-out game against Minnesota / Ohio Valley team who had also dominated on the first day.  The game was a tale of 2 halves as the wind had huge influence.  The Lonestars Kicked with the 6 goal breeze in the first half, winning the ball at ground level but failed to capitalize on the scoreboard.  At half time Lonetstars lead 4.4.28 to 1.0.6, but had not made the most their dominance.  The second half saw the Lonestars play a very defensive style of game as the wind picked up.  Minnesota / Ohio persisted and with the aid of very accurate kicking and some questionable umpiring, were able to nudge ahead in the dying minutes to run out winners by 4 points.  This demoralizing defeat spelled the end of the Lonestars Nationals for 2012, which the whole team took pretty hard.  The Lonestars stuck together to watch the Division 4 grand final between their conquerors and the Des Moines Roosters from Iowa, who ran out eventual victors in a tough contest.

A few beers to celebrate Lonestars first Nationals

Whilst the final result at Nationals 2012 did not quite live up to Lonestars aspirations, plenty of positives came out of the tournament including the USAFL voted best 2 players in Division 4 being Lonestars players, as well as seeing significant improvement in many new players at the club.

The Lonestars will go into 2013 having learnt some important lessons at 2012 Nationals and with confidence in its ability to consistently compete against more established teams during 2012.

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Rice Military / Washington Ave Hot Spots

Many expats live in the popular Rice Military area due to it’s proximity to Downtown and Washington Ave.  There are many young couples, singles and families who love to be close to the restaurants, cafes and bars.

It is predominately made up of townhouses and borders Washington Avenue to the north, Memorial Drive to the south and east and west boundaries of Shepherd Drive and Westcott St.

I asked a number of Finding Houston Rice Military/Washington Ave readers their recommendations for hot spots in the area.  A big thanks to Sarah, Nikki, and Toni for their suggestions!

Fine Dining – Brenners on the Bayou: Beautiful lodge style venue which has lovely lighting at night and great views during the day as it over looks gardens and the bayou.

Mid Range Dining – Benjy’s on Washington: For $19 Benjy’s does Sunday Supper where they serve 3 course meal “family style”.  Also popular is their happy hour with $6 delicious appetizers $5 great quality wine and cocktails and $2.50 beer served EVERY night 4-7.

Tex Mex – El Tiempo Cantina: This place has the best fajitas and more importantly they do amazing margaritas.  The sangria margarita is the best invention and I don’t let my guests leave Houston without trying it.  Next door to it is the El Tiempo Market, a lovely authentic Mexican corner shop that has everything you could think of including a little butcher and fruit and veg.

Pub – Canyon Creek Café: Good mix of outdoor (deck) and indoor dining.  Tasty pub food at a very reasonable price with a popular weekend breakfast menu.

Cafe – The Black Walnut: This has just opened and it is a great cafe to grab a quick bite.

Pizza – Coppa Ristorante: Great Pizza / mezze plates for a Friday night. They do take away pizza too.  They’re a bit pricey, but very yummy!

Tapas – Convivio Restaurant: Gorgeous Tapas Bar & Lounge

Southern Comfort – BRC: There is nothing healthy on the menu but it sure is tasty if you like home cooked southern food.

More Southern Comfort – Max’s Wine Dive: Groovy little place that buzzes and attracts all generations.  Their motto is, “Fried Chicken and Champagne?… Why the hell not?!”. They have a wonderful wine selection and all wines are available for retail sale.

Frozen Yogurt – Berripop Frozen Yogurt: Who doesn’t love frozen yogurt?!

Healthy Take-Out – Snap Kitchen: Fresh, healthy pre made food, great for the nights that you don’t feel like cooking.

Coffee Shop – Catalina Coffee Shop: Always seems to be voted the best coffee shop in Houston and we can see why.

Quirky Shopping – Wabash: This eclectic little shop is actually a feed store that sells animal supplies and animals (such as live quail) it also sells gardening supplies, nick nacks, gifts and has a tiny farmers market on the weekend.

Bike Shop – West end bike shop: Great bike shop with fantastic service that will please enthusiastic and casual riders.  They also hire bikes and have a little bike museum.

Gallery – Booker Lowe Gallery of Aboriginal Art: Beautiful gallery featuring contemporary aboriginal artists from Australia.

Vintage – Mid Century Modern: A favorite shop of mine to get mid century furniture and home accessories.

Bakery – Slow Dough Bread Co: Located on 1314 Roy Street an artisen baker who supplies to Anvil, Branchwater Tavern and Revival Market and many more.

Hairdresser – Mercer Salon: Small salon with friendly staff, easy to get a last minute appointment.  It is reminiscent of the salons back home as you don’t feel like you are part of a production line.

Dry Cleaner – Nifty Cleaners: Located on 5901 Washington Ave.

Park – Memorial: It is the biggest draw card to living in this area.  To get away from the hustle and bustel as well as the flatness of Houston, we love to walk or ride the mountain bike trails.

Bar – Kung Fu: Featuring a theme that’s part vintage arcade, part sports bar, and part late night dance party.  They are the perfect spot for a quiet happy hour drink during the week, or to be seen on a Friday or Saturday night.

Something differentThe Beer Can House: It is a place covered in beer cans – many believe a wonderful piece of artwork.  It is open to the public Wed – Fri mornings and Sat and Sun afternoons for a small fee.

What are your favorite places to go to in Rice Military?

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Houston Lonestars Aussie Footy Team takes on the best of the US

In the USA, with so much sport to choose from, Aussie rules seems to get a little lost but the United States Australian Football League (USAFL) has steadily grown thanks to the increasing number of antipodeans living in the US and the dedication and perseverance of the USAFL, AFL and Aussie footy teams popping up all around the country.  There are now close to 10,000 members which include Aussies, Americans, Poms, Kiwis, Irish, Canadians and anyone else that wants to pull on the boots.

The first ever USAFL game was played in 1996 between Louisville and Cincinnati at Louisville, Kentucky. The league was founded the following year in 1997 at the first National Championships were in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1997.  The league also works to foster womens and junior programs across the US and works closely with the Australian Football League (AFL) in developing these programs and finding American athletes that could potentially cross the pond and play in the big league.

The Houston Lonestars have been in the USAFL since 2010. They play 8-10 games a season against cities primarily in the southern US region such as Austin, Baton Rouge, Dallas, Fort Lauderdale, Atlanta & Jacksonville.  Initially formed in 2008 just to have a kick around and create a football social group for Aussies in Houston, the Lonestars are making some great progress in being competitive against some of the more established teams in the league.  This year will be their first time competing as a stand alone ‘Houston Lonestars’ team with a talented group of local Americans and expat Irish & Aussies(young & old).  Pearland’s Kevin Waden has been a stand out talent to emerge and recently was selected in the US National team – USA Revolution.  Kevin is also keen to try his hand in an Australia next year. If you’re keen to pull on the boots or join the social club see Houston Footy for more details.

~ The Official 2012 Houston AFL Grandfinal Party will be screened live Friday September 28th at the Firkin & Phoenix Pub on Westheimer Rd, Montrose. The game starts at 10.30pm but get there from 7.00pm onwards to mingle with fellow antipodeans (and curious Americans) for an Aussie BBQ from 7-9pm. There will be Aussie beer, wine, pies, sausage rolls to munch on after 9pm and through the night there will be raffles for meat trays, Aussie goodie baskets, Handball comp and lots more fun. All welcome!! VIP tables are available via Houston Footy for purchase for the best seats in the house – this ends up being a standing room only event!   Proceeds from the night will go towards helping the Houston Lonestars get to USAFL Nationals in Ohio this October.

~ The 16th Annual United States Australian Football League championships are taking place in Mason, Ohio 13th & 14th October.  It is the largest Australian Football tournament in the world.  There are up to 35 Teams and 1000 players from all over the States taking part in over 60 games in four Men’s divisions, one Women’s division and junior clinics. It will also include development programs and seminars. Some of the favorites to take out the Division 1 title include the New York Magpies, San Diego Lions, Denver Bulldogs and Calgary Kangaroos.  Next year’s National Championships will be held closer to home in Austin, Texas!

Houston Lonestars win over the Austin Crows July 2012

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Oktoberfest in Houston

Oktoberfest is the world’s largest festival held in Munich from September 22 through to Sunday October 7 2012.   Houston has a number of Oktoberfest events for you to enjoy (even some with the family!)

Astros Oktoberfest – The Astros are hosting the Phillies at 6.05pm and the Oktoberfest event will be open for all fans with a game ticket from 3.00pm – 6.30pm on the KBR Plaza.  The event is going to feature live music and beer tastings.

Oktoberfest Houston – This family friendly event on October 20 from 1pm will have food, live music and beer and is being held at the HCC South Loop Campus.  General admission (through the website) is $20 or $25 at the gate.

Saint Arnold Brewery Oktoberfest – The popular brewery will be hosting their annual Oktoberbest parties on Friday October 5 and Saturday October 6.  There will be live music, a commemorative mug, dinner and a pretzel for $49.

Shepherd Plaza Oktoberfest Pub Crawl – This will be held on Saturday September 22 in the Shepherd Plaza starting at the Mucky Duck at 1pm and finishing at the Stag’s Head.

Karbachtoberfest – Held at the brewery on October 6th from 12-4pm Karbach will be hosting their first annual Oktoberfest event.  The cost for a ticket to this event is $30 + fees.

You can of course go to Houston’s German themed pub called Bar Munich to get the full German experience.

What are you doing for Oktoberfest this year?

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Beating the Heat in Houston with Kids

So how is everyone feeling – hot???  The summers here in Houston are hot and humid, this summer is my third and I have to admit I am beginning to tolerate the weather.  With a number of new Australians that have moved over here recently we thought we could share what we do to keep cool in Houston with the kids.

The Museum District – The Houston Museum district is one of the best in the United States.  With 19 museums included in the district there are plenty of options for you with many of them free or with free time slots.  Our favorites are the Children’s Museum and the Museum of Natural Science.

Splash Pads – These are water areas at parks that spray water but have no water of any depth.  Most of these splash parks are free, some of our favorites are Discovery Green, Jaycee Splash Park and Ervan Chew Park.

Shopping Malls – Many of the shopping malls have great indoor play areas for the kids.  My son’s favorite is Memorial City Mall Castle, but we also enjoy the Galleria.  It also gives us an opportunity for some retail therapy afterwards!

Indoor Playgrounds – There are a number of different indoor playgrounds in Houston which are a great way for the kids to burn off some energy whilst we stay cool.  Wonderwild, Planet Wow, Stomping Grounds, Monkey Bizness, a Bunch of Fun are popular ones in the area.

Libraries – Houston Libraries have a number of different programs for children including baby / toddler story time, craft time and special events throughout the year.  Also look into your local Barnes and Noble store, most of them have story times for the kids.

Public Swimming Pools – I wish we all lived in West University so that we could use their pool, but for those that don’t there are a number of public swimming pools in the Houston area.

The Movies – With so many great kids movies out at the moment the cinema is a great way to beat the heat this summer.

Let us know what you do to keep cool over the summer here in Houston.

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Netball America – Helping America’s Youth Get Fit

 “How Netball and some Aussie expats are helping America’s youth…and National Security”

The popular international sport of Netball has been striving to gain the attention of the American sporting community for years, but perhaps has now found itself with a greater role led by a group of determined Aussie expats – helping America’s youth get fit and subsequently helping counteract a major threat to the United States national security – obesity.

Netball America was formed in 2007 by a group of sport loving Australians as a way to play the sport they loved and missed from home. “There was a group of us expats living in the US that were passionate about Netball because we all grew up playing it”, explains Sonya Ottaway, Co-Founder and President of Netball America.

Netball America showcased at the Staples Centre, LA during a WNBA game

Even though Netballs’ origins stem from the US some 30 years ago as the initial form of Basketball, most Americans have never heard of the sport. “Expats are the ones that have to grow the sport here and teach it.  But our goal is to get it in with Americans.  In a sport loving country like America, there’s got to be an opportunity for Netball”, Sonya says.

‘The Opportunity’ appears to be the positive effect Netball is having on America’s youth who have lost faith in mainstream US sports such as football, baseball and basketball due to the stress of their high contact and competitive nature.  “Popular American sports tend to promote individual prowess and success, whereby Netball demonstrates values of teamwork and inclusiveness in a non-contact environment, suitable for any sex, size, shape and sporting ability”, says Roslyn Day, VP of Education for Netball America.

Netball America recently signed a contract with the Miami Dade County education authority in Florida to start Netball programmes in the 350 elementary and high schools in the county. This year it also launched Netball programmes in more than 400 community sports centres run by the New York City Housing Authority.

Netball America President Sonya Ottaway(2nd right) and Dr.Jane Greenberg(2nd left) at the PCFSN President Challenge Program launch in May 2012

In perhaps the biggest indication of the success Netball America is having on America’s youth, Sonya and Netball America were recently invited to attend the President’s Council on Fitness, Sport & Nutrition’s ‘President’s Challenge Program’ by council member Dr. Jane Greenberg.  As a result, Netball America will be the first US sporting team to pilot the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA+).  The PALA Award helps encourage adults to take part in 30 mins and teens 60 mins of physical activity each day, 5 days a week for 6 weeks. The award is also in support of First Lady Michelle Obama’s, ‘Let’s Move’ initiative, aimed to increase the fitness of Americans, in particular teenagers.

It was at this meeting in Washington DC, Sonya also became aware of perhaps a bigger issue the American government was concerned about in relation to fitness – that obesity is one of America’s biggest threat to security right now. “Kids and their obesity is leading to diabetes and not living as long as their parents.  The US worry, who are we going to have to staff our security forces in the future? Currently 24% of new marines have to go to pre-boot camp”.

Dr.Greenberg confirms these concerns. “When you start having conversation about over 30% of youth being overweight; over 17% of youth being obese; that the present lifespan of today’s youth will not exceed their parents; that physical inactivity leads to greater chance of cardiovascular disease than smoking (American Heart Association) and that health care costs to treat factors related to obesity is in the trillions of dollars, the real question is how can you not promote health and fitness to America’s youth.”

This newly formed partnership will no doubt increase interest in Netball America too as the organisation continues to expand into new states and school programs. Said Dr. Greenberg, “I would like to do whatever I can to bring Netball forward as a sport option in the US.  “Netball is a great way that we can promote physical activity to help all Americans live healthier lives!”

» At the recent University World Championships in South Africa, Netball America President, Sonya Ottaway and the first ever USA Representative Netball team(World Rank 8th) was asked to visit and speak at Oprah Winfrey’s Leadership Academy for Girls. Read more about the trip in Netball America’s latest Newsletter.

» Netball America’s 2012 National Championships will be held in Las Vegas, November 9-11, open to women’s and mixed teams. To find out more Click here.

Houston Shooting Stars Netball Team

» Houston’s Netball Team the ‘Shooting Stars’ train and play regularly and are always looking for new recruits and are fielding 3 teams for the 2012 National Championships.

» If you are interested in getting Netball into a school, community or college in your area contact Netball America.

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Houston Restaurant Weeks

It’s that time of the year again when Houston’s best restaurants take part in Houston Restaurant Weeks to help raise money for the Houston Food Bank.  Running from August 1-31st, special menus are created including 2-3 course lunches for $20 and 3-4 course dinners for $35.   For every meal sold $3-$5 is donated to the Houston Food Bank – one of the biggest and most lauded food charities in the US.  Since its conception in 2003, Houston Restaurant Weeks has raised more than 1.7 million to help fight hunger in Houston.

For diners, it is a great opportunity to not only contribute to this great charity but sample the plethora of fantastic restaurants in this city for an affordable price.  It’s not uncommon to find yourself eating out for lunch & dinner a number of times each week to try and fit in your hit list.  Not all restaurants offer brunch & lunch and you can search via the Houston Restaurant Weeks website by brunch, lunch or dinner menus.  Reservations are required and the normal restaurant menus are available during the month still.

Some of our top recommendations for restaurants to try are:

♥ Brennan’s of Houston – Lunch & Dinner

♥ Masraff’s – Dinner only

♥ Mockingbird Bistro – Dinner only

♥ Feast – Dinner only

♥ Pappas Bros. Steakhouse – Dinner only

♥ Antica Osteria – Dinner only

♥ Churrasco’s – Lunch & Dinner

♥ Kata Robata – Dinner only

♥ Haven – Brunch, Lunch & Dinner

♥ Glass Wall – Dinner only

♥ Brasserie 19 – Dinner only

♥ Damian’s Cucina Italiana – Dinner only

♥ Sorrel Urban Bistro – Lunch & Dinner

Participating restaurants and menus can be viewed via Houston Restaurant Weeks.

Bookings can be made directly via the restaurant page on Houston Restaurant Weeks or through Open Table.

Bon Appetit!!

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White Linen Night in the Heights

For those who are regular readers of the blog, you will notice that I just love the Heights. And one of the many reasons I love the area is the 6th Annual White Linen Night event that is being held this Saturday August 4 from 6pm-10pm.

White Linen Nights started in New Orleans and occurs in their Warehouse Arts district where gallery owners open their doors and close the streets for a free family street party. People wear their white linen as historically it was how they dressed to survive the humid heat of New Orleans.

The eclectic nature of the Heights is the perfect area to re-create this event.  The White Linen Nights (WLN) theme for this year is Local Faces, Local Flavor, Local Fun and will showcase artists, musicians and local businesses in a free family event.

Organisers of the event, recommend 19th St as the place to be.  If you want to shop crowd free, it will be open 10am-6pm with the official festivities kicking off at 6pm.

The Fiesta Stage at 226 Recordings will feature local bands starting with Cavernous, The Tyburn Jig and Poor Pilate.  WLN headliner Runaway Sun will commence at 8:30pm. Local favorite Lords of Kool will play further down the street on the Jubilee stage from 7-10pm.

There will be a fashion show with fashions from 19th st retailers Jubilee, Replay on 19th, Langford Market, Casa Ramirez and many more.

Most of the businesses in the Heights get into WLN and offer drinks and canapes whilst you browse the stores, look at artwork and listen to bands.  The list of businesses being part of the celebration can be seen on the official website so that you can plan your visit.

http://theheightswhitelinennight.com/participants

White Oak is fast becoming the new, more casual Washington Ave with more pubs and restaurants opening every month.  It therefore provides another great area to visit on WLN.  Based on previous years, it tends to be a bit more adult focused due to number of pubs on the street.  There will be great entertainment such as Mercury chamber orchestra, Suchu Dance Company, Mildred’s Umbrella theatre company and Kiki’s Sordid Sideshow burlesque clown performance.

On Saturday I recommend taking the whole family dressed up in white to many of the local retailers and galleries and enjoy this fun, free event in Houston that is growing year on year.

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Take me out to the ball game

One activity we couldn’t wait to experience when moving to the US was taking the family to a baseball game.  Baseball is so ingrained in American culture, my 3 year old is already obsessed with the sport.

Houston has a long standing baseball team, the Astros.  Admittedly, when we first went to a baseball game here, we were underwhelmed as it was a long and slow moving game.  But after watching the World Series last year, viewing games alongside Americans and watching the movie Moneyball my husband and I got a new appreciation for this great game.

We always think that a baseball game is a fantastic activity to take visitors to when they are in town. The games are hosted at Minute Maid Park located in Downtown.  It is a great stadium with options for the roof to be opened or closed.

In 2012 the Astros chairman and CEO introduced many family friendly policies such as the option of bringing in your own bottle of water and snacks to the game.  With the low entry level ticket price of $10 (this includes hotdog, softdrink and chips) it means taking the family out is really inexpensive.

The baseball season finishes up in September with the finals going through to October so there is still plenty of time to get in a couple of games.

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West University/Rice Village Top Spots

Following on from our run down of the Heights Top Spots earlier this year, it’s time to delve into the neighborhood favorites of the leafy & picturesque, academic hub of West University and its nearby shopping and entertainment mecca, Rice Village.

Tree-lined Rice Village

This area of Houston is a great mix of families, couples and Rice Uni students in some of the prettiest tree lined streets I’ve ever seen.  The great thing about the West U, Rice Village, Southampton and Southside areas is that you can walk to the shops, bars and restaurants and leave your F150 at home!  It is also within easy access to the Downtown, Galleria and Montrose neighborhoods and about a 1o min drive to Reliant Stadium.

In the 2 years I have lived in Houston, it has become clear you certainly cannot judge a book by its cover and that some of the city’s most interesting and best places are hard to find, so in compiling this list I was surprised(or not!) to stumble across some amazing places I never knew existed in my own Houston ‘hood of West U.

Antica Osteria

Fine DiningAntica Osteria – Cozy, romantic, authentic Italian that locals flock to every night.  Café Rabelais – Could not feel further away from a strip mall location in Houston, when you step into this french bistro with perfectly french dishes.

Weekend BrunchBenjy’s in the Village – Decor is a little bit more stylish than Benjy’s on Washington with a similarly great menu and lively crowd.

Tiny’s No.5

Ladies Who LunchTiny’s No.5 – Sister restaurant of Tiny Boxwoods in just as spectacular setting with a more sophisticated feel for dinner and free transport home via a 6-seat electric car or bicycle if you live locally and walk down.

Tasty Sandwiches & SaladsLocal Foods – This creation of Benjy’s does fresh and healthy lunches and the elusive quality sandwiches and paninis. Black Walnut – A perennial fave which consistently produces tasty brekkies, lunch and dinners in a welcoming atmosphere.

Gingerman

Evening BeerGingerman – Beer connoisseurs love the selection on tap and the front beer-garden to chill on warm Houston evenings.

Evening WineSimone on Sunset – Wow, can’t believe I never knew this cute wine bar was right around the corner! Locals have definitely been keeping this one quiet!!

Second Hand BooksBrazos Bookstore – Houston’s best bookstore regularly has author appearances and events to keep every bookworm happy.

Sweet Paris Creperie & Cafe

Coffee FixCafe Salento – Friendly cafe doing great coffee,vino and lunch snacks at anytime of day.  Sweet Paris Creperie & Cafe – Delicious savory and sweet crepes paired with good parisian coffee in a stylish french setting.

Dress To ImpressChloe Dao – The Project Runway alumni showcases beautiful dresses and other popular labels. Abejas Boutique – The go-to for celeb fave labels and current trends.

Cocktails at Under The Volcano

Late Night BarUnder the Volcano – Cute, cool and laid-back Central American style bar with some of the best(& cheapest) cocktails in Houston. Hudson Lounge – Super swanky and modern bar serving first rate cocktails and yummy food.

Kids StuffRight Start – The goto for babies and kiddies needs,wants and gifts.

Music VenueThe Big Easy – Interesting decor, very interesting crowd…amazing Jazz and Blues.

A Great CurryShiva Restaurant – It’s hard to find good Indian food in Texas..but the tasty dishes here don’t lie and the entertaining manager is happy to order for you if you can’t decide!

Goode Co. BBQ

Texas BBQGoode Co. – Best brisket and BBQ atmosphere in Houston bar none.

Gifts & GoodiesThe British Isles – The stop for your fix of goodies from the UK and colonies.  Ten Thousand Villages – Special hand-made fair trade gifts from artisans in developing countries.

Custom StationeryPH Design – Paper nuts will love the one-off and custom stationery and paper designs.

What are some of your Neighborhood fave’s in H-town? Please don’t keep them a secret!! 

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Lucio’s BYOB

After some friends raved about Lucio’s restaurant in Midtown, I wondered why I hadn’t been there before.

This BYOB is a great restaurant where they are definitely not trying to be trendy.  When you walk in, there are pale coloured tiles on the floor, a small seating area and cafe-style chairs and tables.

Lucio’s does have a decent wine list, but in my opinion, the BYOB gives this restaurant a more casual vibe.  It is has a strong reputation amongst foodies who bring their favorite bottle of wine to try alongside the meals.

My husband and I went on a date night mid week and most of the tables were filled with a mixture of couples and small groups.  The service here was personable and friendly.

For appetizer I ordered the Beef Carpaccio with truffle oil and parmesan. This was delicious and light.  My husband ordered the fried calamari and he thoroughly enjoyed it.

For the main I ordered the Sesame Crusted Ahi Tuna.  This was amazing, my wasabi mashed potato and asparagus complimented the tuna perfectly.  There was nothing left on the plate!

My husband ordered the Dry-aged Ribeye with chimichurri, he said that it was very tasty and cooked just perfectly at medium.


Surprisingly the dessert menu was not very exciting.  However I got the fudge brownie and it was delicious.

I would highly recommend Lucio’s, it was a great choice for date night!

Lucio’s BYOB is located at 905 Taft St 77019.

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4th of July – Freedom Over Texas

The 4th of July holiday celebrates the independence of the United States of America.

Last year, for the first time, we decided to go to the Freedom Over Texas event held at the Allen Parkway.

The event went from late afternoon until 10pm and consisted of stalls, family sporting areas, jumping castles and several concerts.

There were 3 stages, and the main stage had the three headlining country music singers; Jack Ingram, Chris Young and Rodney Atkins followed by fireworks.

They estimate each year 100,000 people from Houston go to Freedom over Texas so has the atmosphere that you are after to celebrate 4th of July (but it also has the parking and traffic issues).

You can’t bring in food and drinks to the venue, so you have to buy tokens and purchase all food, drinks and ice-creams with these tokens.

We went down at 5pm, then looked around at all the stalls, then stood for the concert.  If you are heading down this year aim to get there a little earlier so that you can set up camper chairs in a position closer to the stage as it was quite hot standing there.

We saw the American National Anthem, folding of the flag, and saluting America’s troops.  All was perfect for the day and the crowd were really friendly and receptive.

I have come to love country music, so love watching the concerts.  Last year I thought Chris Young was the standout, he put on a great performance and sang all of his great hits.

After Rodney Atkins, (who was unfortunately cut short due to timing) the fireworks started and were amazing.  I took my 2 year old down and he just loved watching them.

When the fireworks were all over, we headed back to the car and got stuck in traffic for about 45 minutes when the usual trip home would be 15 minutes.

This year, they have some more great acts coming to Houston.  Both Billy Currington and Sara Evans.  I am sure that it will be another great event.

If you don’t have a BBQ to attend, head down to Freedom Over Texas and see how Americans celebrate their independence.

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