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.

empire of the sun

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.

atlas genius

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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