Christmas Things That Are the Worst Already

Categories: Random Ephemera

Photos courtesy of Hequals2henry
Galleria Tree is one of the BEST things about Christmas! We need more of those.
The holidays are a delicate balance of excitement and weariness. On one hand it starts too early, but on the other who doesn't get excited when all of their holiday shopping is done by the first week of December? Then again, who doesn't get all rage-y when Christmas carols are playing at the grocery store before the Halloween candy displays are out?

So basically it was pretty hard to ignore a recent email from Target touting their LATEST AND GREATEST holiday gift idea yet--Target Holiday Gift Cards! Not just the one you pluck off the rack at the register and load with $25 for that last-minute "whoops I forgot" gift, but the newest, coolest way to shop for gift cards. Target now lets us choose from more than 40 gift card designs, including two "WOW!" gift cards "that use technology like lights, sounds, and motion." You know what that means? One lights up when you press the Target bullseye button; another has a PEZ dispenser.

You know what? Just give me the goddamned gift card. If I wanted to choose between 40 things, wouldn't I be buying this person an actual gift?

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10 Annoying People You Run Into Christmas Shopping in Houston

Categories: Random Ephemera

The holiday buying season has officially commenced, as anyone who had the misfortune to go to the mall as I did this past weekend can tell you. In the rush to celebrate the birth of Christ, the solstice, and some old Roman god with various expensive baubles and trinkets, I've noticed that there are several types of people in our city who make the season particularly prone to me needing a drink at the end of the day. Let's meet them.

10. The Leftists
I don't mean politically. I mean anyone who decides to do his or her shopping on Westheimer or Shepherd in Montrose who insists on turning into the shops with a left turn. Stop that. Stop it forever. Yes, technically it's not illegal to sit there for 15 minutes with your blinker working overtime waiting for a gap big enough to squeeze your car through into the parking lot of a vintage store, but doing so is clogging up the road like cholesterol. When you're shopping in Montrose, it's best to just pretend left turns don't exist and make your way around.

9. The Inuits
I get it. It's cold, and Houstonians have water for blood. We don't do cold, and there's nothing wrong with that because it means we're much smarter than people who live in the tundra. However, if you're going to insist on putting on every piece of clothing you own to stay warm, please spend a few moments in the safety of your own home learning to maneuver with your increased mass. I'd rather you knock over your Precious Moments figurines than bowl over my kid like a human beanbag chair.

8. The Truckless
If you've lived in Houston for any length of time, the odds are you've owned a pickup truck or been close to someone who has. Texas is the largest market for trucks in the country. You get used to the idea of there always being a truck available if you need one and it sort of skews your view of the size of purchased objects. Then Christmas rolls around and you forget that you don't own a truck or know anyone right off hand who does. Usually you realize this while trying to shove a mirror into a hatchback or a dollhouse into your trunk. These people are more to be pitied than to be annoyed at, though it's really aggravating to parking spot creep them and then watch them play a sad version of Tetris in their vehicle before they slink off back with the merchandise to inquire about delivery.

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Add These to Your Arsenal: The 10 Most Irritating Text Message Responses Ever

Sarah Marriage via Flickr

So, there is apparently a thing called "textiquette."

According to Urban Dictionary, "textiquette" is the proper behavior one should use when texting, i.e., responding promptly or the correct use of "lol."

Not quite grasping it? Need an example?

Brooke: God, why does it take so long for Taylor to text back?
Jackie: That's because she has really poor textiquette

Some of you may have already known this handy little term for rude text etiquette existed, and are probably, most likely, without a shadow of a doubt, under the age of 20.

The rest of us? Well, we try not to make up words.

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Thanksgiving Prep: Glamping Big Bend National Park

Camping and luxury are not mutually exclusive, and "glamping" is more than just a funny word--it's a legitimate travel craze. There are dozens and dozens of websites dedicated to glamping, or "glamour camping." The travel industry is capitalizing on the concept by offering people an alternative somewhere in between tent/car camping and a hotel stay. Rather than renting a hotel room, or driving around at dusk searching out an open campsite so you can pitch your own tent before dark falls, glampers can rent yurts, tents, trailers, and even treehouses to get a taste of the outdoors without sacrificing (much) comfort or convenience.

Of course, some of us still want to camp--really camp--in a tent, cook our own food over a fire (or, at least, a flash stove), and still more of us (read: ME) are doing it at Big Bend National Park for Thanksgiving. The combination of camping and holiday festivities begs for the addition of some GLAMOUR, so I touched base with my favorite female campers to get advice on how to glamp on a camp budget.

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The Best Free Indoor Playground in Houston Just Got Better

Categories: Random Ephemera

Photos by Jef With One F
When I had the chance to rank the best indoor playgrounds in Houston the set-up at the Memorial City Mall stood out the most. So when it was announced that the play area would be closed and dismantled to be replaced with a new one, it left me wondering whether they could live up to what they offered before. Luckily, they've done more than enough to ensure they remain the top free indoor playground in the city.

Frolic's Castle is a fairy-tale wonderland located near the Sears instead of the more central location previously used. It combines the best aspects of the other excellent mall playgrounds like Willowbrook and the Galleria with the perks that made the Memorial City area unique in the first place.

The space is large, easily half as large as it was previously. More than that, it feels larger because it's not a moat-like set of ground around a central structure. It has the hideaways that kids love so much in the Galleria combined with the running space of the Willowbrook play area.

Where Frolic's Castle succeeds better is that great attention has been paid to the fairy-tale decorations. It's full of soft, climbable dragons, bears, troll bridges complete with troll, and even a sleeping giant that is rather unfortunately positioned so that children usually end up sitting on his face. There's even a witch's cauldron that seems to be a big hit for kids to climb into...I think Disney needs to tackle Hansel and Gretel soon.

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5 Famous Texas Ghosts

Categories: Random Ephemera

Halloween is upon us, and with it a chance to tell stories of ghosts and other inhabitants from beyond the veil. We've already looked at some of the best haunted locations that you could road trip to in the state. Today we take a brief glance at some of the most famous ghosts as well.

The Austin Tavern in Austin is home to a famous and very active specter known as Emily. Like many of the ghosts of Austin, she is rumored to have originated in the days of speakeasies and Prohibition, when times were loose and violence was commonplace.

Legend has it that Emily was a waitress at the bar during this period, and that she was killed in a bar fight that turned riotous. Now servers and patrons say that she pinches them, knocks over glasses, and just all and all creates a ruckus.

During some renovations a pair of ladies shoes were found under the floorboards. The shoes are now kept in a display case on the second floor, and people believe they must have belonged to Emily.

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Ghosts and Giraffes at Houston's Zoo Boo 2014

Categories: Random Ephemera

Photos by Lynda Rouner
The Houston Zoo's annual Zoo Boo is always a popular and packed affair. Part of it is because we usually hope that it will be one of the first weekends where you can visit the zoo when it isn't quite so bloody hot, and partly as an excuse for kids to get more than a single wearing out of their Halloween costumes.

This year the crowds were enormous. So much so that I actually parked at the Houston Museum of Natural Science parking garage and legged it to the zoo from there. By the by, if you're looking for a good day to visit the museum, Zoo Boo is it. There's no one there, even by the late afternoon.

As there is every year, there was plenty of trick or treating for kids at the various candy corners. In general the zoo gives out good stuff, too. Not like full-size Snickers bars or anything, but not dollar store fare, either. Considering the sheer number of kids who come through, it's a good haul, even if there did seem to be fewer candy corners this year than there were last year.

There was a pretty nice games section set up for kids. Throwing bean bags into a witch's cauldron or trying to knock down zombies with them. There were even kid-size high striker games. All of these were free to play, by the way, and all of them handed out little prizes regardless of whether you won. Considering how every big family event you seem to go to is packed with little booths draining you of a couple of dollars at a time, it was a nice touch.

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5 Best Texas Haunted Road Trip Destinations

Categories: Random Ephemera

There's nothing sweeter than the laughter of children... unless it's the middle of the night in an abandoned hospital and there are no children around you.
With Halloween upon us you might be interested in taking to the roads and visiting some of the many places in the Lone Star State famous for their ghost sightings. If you are, we're here to helpfully point out the five you absolutely should not miss.

Located just 2 ½ hours southwest of Houston is Yorktown. It's a quiet small place whose claims to fame include having one of the oldest oak trees in the state and being the birthplace of Harlon Block, one of the soldiers seen in the famous picture of the flag raising on Iwo Jima. It also contains one hell of a haunted abandoned hospital.

The Yorktown Memorial Hospital was built in 1950 and run by the Felician Sisters of the Roman Catholic Church until the late 1980s. Several violent and dangerous spirits are said to inhabit the building. On the second floor is rumored to be the ghost of a nun that chokes people, usually targeting men, especially if they have tattoos. Another specter is that of a knife-murderer in the basement who suddenly went berserk and stabbed a female counselor and a fellow patient. Aaron Goodwin of Ghost Adventures captured an EVP (Electronic voice phenomena, sounds and voices that appear on recordings but were not audible when the recordings were made) that said, "Get to the hallway. The killer is coming." when he visited the site.

The hospital is not open to the public, being private property, but guided tours and even haunted sleepovers are available if you contact the owners of the hospital ahead of time.

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Better Know Your Real Texas Vampires

Categories: Random Ephemera

Dracula Untold
So, there's a new Dracula movie coming out and Halloween is around the corner. Vampires are currently like the Rolling Stones in that they are ancient and trying desperately to stay relevant. Their heyday has passed in cinema and it couldn't come soon enough. Time to move onto weresloths or something like that.

However, just because vampires are going extinct on screen doesn't mean that they're going extinct everywhere. In fact, right here in Texas we have several types that you should definitely keep an eye out for...

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5 Creepy Things Lots of People Collect

Categories: Random Ephemera

Photo by the author
Old side show banners like this tend to be huge, and are very expensive.
There have always been folks who collected weird things. Of course, the idea of what is a "weird" thing to collect is completely subjective. To me, it's odd that lots of people collect modern super hero comic books, since they take up a ton of room and are printed in such enormous quantities that few ever seem to appreciate in value. But collectors of anything are a strange and dedicated breed, and trying to understand the appeal of many collectibles might be futile for a person looking in from the outside.

But there are some things that people collect which might seem unsavory to a majority of folks, not taken with the same collector bug. Things like:

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