Arts / Fashion

The Insider’s Guide to Houston’s Nutcracker Market

10 New Don’t-Miss Gifts That Will Have You Winning the Holidays

BY // 11.09.16

Doors open on the wildly-successful Houston Ballet Nutcracker Market tonight with the festive preview party setting off the shopping extravaganza that continues through Sunday. In advance of the rush, we took a stroll down the holiday-infused aisles of Reliant Center looking for the new and unexpected among the offerings of the 280-plus merchants.

Actually, we took a golf cart ride through the maze of vendors with market chair Mary Alice Parmet as our driver and guide. We zoomed past the mammoth holiday decor displays of Paul Michael and were hoping to get an early case of Donne Di Domani’s insanely popular marinara sauce. (Alas, it didn’t happen.)

Following are top picks, selected by the Houston Ballet Guild, for what is new and not-to-be-missed at the market that runs through Sunday.

Teepees from Rattlesnake Crossing — Handmade, hand-painted 6-foot tall teepees (assembled in about 10 seconds), priced at $159, could be just the ticket for kiddos on your holiday list. Hand-painted Indian-style drums are the perfect accessory.

The drums in the Teepees from Rattlesnake Crossing.
The drums in the Teepees from Rattlesnake Crossing.

Angela West Designs — Exotic skins and leathers are combined with semi-precious stones, Swarovski crystals and metals in jewelry and accessories. It’s a fresh take on rustic/refined pieces. Our fave — the deerskin bags with fringe and tiny beading. Prices range from $100 to $300.

Loredana’s Italian Specialty Foods — You might remember from past years these folks and their marinated asiago and parmesan cheese in a rich blend of herbs and spices in an infused olive oil. After a three-year hiatus, they are back with their mouth-watering sauces including the to-die-for black truffle with white truffle oil. The marinades come in a variety of flavors — sun-dried tomato, porcini mushroom, jalapeno, heavy garlic, etc.

Susie O’s Handbags — You’re going to love the selection of handbags and totes in this curated collection of pieces from around the world. Check out the chic calf hair clutches ($99), bags from Trina Turk and Badgley Mischka as well as from Italy, Argentina, and Spain.

Puzzle Tracks — While these whimsical toys (battery-operated vehicles and put-together tracks) are aimed at 3- to 8-year-olds, we found them entertaining enough to pick up a few for grown-up friends as a playful diversion. (Think Candy Crush.) You can choose your vehicles from a train engine to race car to jet ski and more.

French Laundry Home — This North Carolina merchant has brought an alluring assortment of holiday-themed pillows and a selection of linens made from the firm’s mills. Yes, the same vintage-inspired linens that are sold at Neiman Marcus

Knotty Kid — The hand-knit and crocheted caps (some call them monsters, we call them cute) and costume gloves are sure to be a hit with the kiddos and doting grandparents. Costumes, the familiar stuffed sock monkeys and play tents are among the offerings.

Pinderella — Inspired by Pinterest boards, this collection of gifts includes everything from homemade bath bombs in the form of cupcakes to monogramed cups and corkcicles.

The Lipstick Ladies — You’ve seen those women whose lipstick stays on forever. And they say you have to order it. No more. The 18-hour Lipsticksense in score of colors is yours for the taking at this booth.

Paris Texas Apparel Co. — The Wirt Road retailer brings hundreds of San Cristobal guayaberas to the market. Seersucker, fine cotton, solids, checks — the assortment is vast.

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