Newsflash

Nutcracker Market

Nutcracker MarketThe Houston Ballet will usher in the holiday season in grand style November 11-14 when it presents the 30th Annual Nutcracker Market, "Under the Big Top," at Reliant Center. Over 300 merchants will be on hand with unique offerings for the entire family — home and garden décor, gourmet foods, clothing and accessories, toys and novelties and more. All proceeds from the market benefit the Houston Ballet Foundation, Houston Ballet's Ben Stevenson Academy and its scholarships.

All Nutcracker Market special event tickets include repeat admission for all four days.

The Wells Fargo Preview Party will be held held on Wednesday, Nov. 10 from 7 to 10:30 p.m. Tickets start at $150 each; and the chairs are Lara Bell, Roseann Rogers and Kristi Schiller.

The Saks Fifth Avenue Fashion Show and Luncheon is slated for Thursday, Nov. 11 from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tickets start at $135 each, and the chairs are Leticia Loya and Randa Duncan Williams.

Macy's Fashion Show and Holiday Brunch will be held on Friday, Nov. 12 from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tickets start at $85, and the chairs are Philamena Baird and Hattie Parker-Ball.

Priority Shopping, with tickets priced at $35 each, is set for Thursday and Friday, Nov. 11-12 from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 13-14 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

In 2009, the Nutcracker Market welcomed over 85,000 shoppers and raised more than $2.5 million for the Houston Ballet. Merchant sales totaled $13.7 million. More than 500 volunteers staffed key positions throughout the market.

"The Nutcracker Market is the largest source of contributed and special event income for Houston Ballet's $18 million budget," said Houston Ballet Managing Director Cecil C. Conner. "Over the last few years, the market has contributed between 11 and 12 percent of Houston Ballet's annual budget. The growth of the Nutcracker Market has been vitally important to Houston Ballet's overall success. We are very fortunate that Houston Ballet Guild and our corporate volunteers are so passionately committed to this event, and contribute so freely of their time and talents."

To celebrate the Nutcracker Market's rich history, this year's chairman, Shawn Stephens, found inspiration in the exciting and fun-filled world of the circus.

"An anniversary of this magnitude calls for a great concept," she said. "I wanted a huge, fun, colorful theme for our 30th anniversary."

Stephens, a past Houston Ballet Guild president, seasoned market volunteer and trustee of the Houston Ballet Foundation, continued, "The market has so many moving parts and comes at such a busy, festive time of year, that a circus theme instantly came to mind. The circus concept is completely fresh and happy, and it suits a venue as large as Reliant Center. Both the designs from our professional decorator and the playful displays that our merchants create in their booths should make the market a sensory treat for our shoppers."

The Nutcracker Market has indeed earned its rightful place "Under the Big Top." It has evolved from the simple European-style holiday fair conceived in 1981 by ballet patron Preston Frazier as a fund-raising project for the Houston Ballet Guild into a holiday shopping extravaganza. Beginning in churches and hotels, the market quickly outgrew these venues, and made its debut at the George R. Brown Convention Center in 1988. Due to its continuous growth, the Nutcracker Market moved to Reliant Center in 2002.

This year's attendees will find a check-in near the ticket windows for strollers, carts, rolling bags and wagons, as they are not permitted inside the market. (Pets are not allowed either.) Free shuttles run throughout the parking areas, and pedi-cabs will transport shoppers to their cars.

For more information, call 713-535-3271 or visit This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Women on the Move

2010 Women On the Move

Texas Executive Women held its annual Women on the Move Luncheon Thursday, Oct. 14 at the InterContinental Hotel. During the big event, 10 top female business leaders were honored for their professional accomplishments, community service and life journey. The annual luncheon benefits the scholarship and mentoring programs of TEW.

This year’s honorees include: Beverly Denver, president and CEO of Distaff Publishing LLC and editor and publisher of Houston Woman Magazine; Irma Diaz-Gonzalez, owner of Employment & Training Centers, Inc.; Charleta Guillory, M.D., F.A.A.P., associate professor of pediatrics in neonatalogy at Baylor College of Medicine and associate director of Level II Nurseries and director of Neonatal-Perinatal Public Health Program at Texas Children’s Hospital; Winnell Herron, group vice president, Public Affairs & Diversity, H-E-B.; Clare Sullivan Jackson, president and CEO, The Sullivan Group.

Dr. Renu Khator, chancellor and president, University of Houston; Holly Montalbano, vice president of external affairs, ARAMARK; Gilda Ramirez, vice president of small business development, Port of Houston Authority; Y. Ping Sun, Rice University Representative and Of Counsel, YetterColeman LLP; and Peggy A. Whitson, Ph.D., chief astronaut, NASA, Johnson Space Center.

The honorees were among 20 finalists, who were each interviewed by the a selection committee composed of current TEW members and former Women on the Move honorees.

Margo Snider, former chief nurse of the Houston VA Medical Center who retired in 1999, has served as the chair of the annual Women on the Move program and event for the first time in 1993, when she was president of TEW. In 2002, she was asked to chair Women on the Move activities again. She agreed and has been responsible for its great success continuously since then.

Snider said, “The Women on the Move event is always exciting and inspiring. All classes bring unique stories, but the common thread is that all of the women [honored] have been mentored along the way. The bottom line is that no one does it alone, thus the importance of our responsibility to mentor.”

The first Women on the Move Luncheon was held in 1985. Since then, more than 250 women have been recognized.

TEW and its members are dedicated to supporting programs that recognize, develop and fund the advancement of women and girls in the community. Through its diverse membership, the organization works to inspire women and girls to achieve their goals and give back to the community.

Those wanting information about nominating someone next year, as a Woman on the Move for 2011, can find it online at www.tewhouston.org or by calling 713-473-3222.

Filthy Secrets

Every morning at about nine-o-clock, a little ray of sunshine comes through the window of my kitchen and ruins my life. It taunts me, mocks me and points a gleaming spotlight directly on my flaws, exposing them to the world.

I am not sure if that beam of light is a random act of nature or a call to action. All I know is that it shines right on what I thought was my relatively clean floor, clearly magnifying a shocking amount of dog hair, fuzz, crumbs and dirt.

Each time this truth is revealed, I grimace and run to the laundry room to grab the broom, mop and dustpan. As the shaft of light moves around the room, I follow it, frantically extracting the newly discovered filth.Some days, I wonder if my reaction to this exposure is healthy. Do a few crumbs really matter in the whole scheme of things? Is there something wrong with me because I want my floor to be clean? Am I anal-retentive? Do I have OCD?Over the years, philosophies on the importance of cleanliness have run the gamut. The best-known adage, “cleanliness is next to godliness,” has biblical roots, and similar proverbs about the spiritual benefits of being physically clean are found in both the Talmud and the Koran.

Now that Leprosy and The Plague are no longer worries, the maxims of modern society attach a negative stigma to cleanliness — as if it were a disease itself. Refrigerator magnets tell us, “Immaculate homes are run by dull women.” Paperweights and coffee cups suggest, “An untidy desk is a sign of genius.”

Somewhere in the 1980s, use of the Freudian term “anal retentive” became trendy, showing up in “you might be” lists and Saturday Night Live skits making fun of people who thrive on order and control. Similarly, the psychological label “obsessive-compulsive disorder” has become a part of pop culture; it is the primary feature in TV shows like Monk, Obsessed and The OCD Project.

During bunco last week, some wives and I chatted during a break in play.

“I hate dusting,” I said, and a few others agreed.

“How about stubble in the sink? Drives me crazy.”

“Hair on the bathroom floor is the worst,” another wife said, and we nodded.

The banter went on, covering issues such as the dehydrated peas and carrots under the fridge, dust on the fan blades, unmentionable substances behind the toilet seat and gloppy hairballs in the drains. We all agreed there is nothing more satisfying than putting the crevice tool on a Shop Vac and sucking it all up – the dust, the hair, the old candy wrappers under our teenage sons’ beds and the peanuts between the couch cushions. None of us was ashamed or embarrassed to admit it – we like our houses to be clean and tidy. 

That truth is illuminated every day by that pesky little ray of sunlight and, as long as the sun continues to shine, I will run and get my broom.


Lisa Smith Molinari is a free-lance writer and new contributor to Houston Woman Magazine. (http://www.themeatandpotatoesoflife.com)

Job Seeker Mistakes

Many people make significant job search mistakes and never even know about it.  These blunders are easy to make and can end up costing you thousands of dollars.  Listed below are the top 10 mistakes how to avoid them.

Mistake #1: Responding to Online Job Postings. In general, job postings and "want ads" produce little value. However, it is also a mistake to ignore them altogether. Some of the best chances for jobs from ads are in specialty trade publications and web sites of specific industries. Myers suggests spending no more than five percent of your valuable time on public job postings.

Mistake #2: Mailing Unsolicited Resumes. Unsolicited resumes are considered garbage, scrap paper and wasted effort. Secretaries kill them, HR managers file them away, and hiring decision-makers pitch them. Myers advocates abandoning this job search tactic completely.

Mistake #3: Looking Only for Job Openings. Searching for companies with “openings” is an obsolete job-hunting method. The best jobs are never “openings.” Rather, more than 40 percent of positions are created for the applicant, oftentimes at the interview. So, focus on opportunities.

Mistake #4: Ineffective Networking. Networking should be the primary focus of every job search. However, most people go about it the wrong way — by talking too much and asking for jobs. The best networkers are listeners rather than talkers, have a clear agenda and are not shy about asking for guidance. 

Mistake #5: Leaving Yourself Open to Many Kinds of Jobs. Another key to a successful job search is to focus on finding the RIGHT job — not just any job. Critical factors to consider include satisfaction, growth potential, location, cultural fit, great co-workers, a pleasing environment and competitive compensation.

Mistake #6:  Being Unplanned in Your Search. Most people spend more time planning a vacation than planning a job search. Myers suggests the following tips to conduct a proper job search: a well-thought out methodology, daily solitude and planning, space in the home dedicated to the search, and a system for accountability.  

Mistake #7:  Doing it Alone. You pay a mechanic to change your oil; an attorney to create an estate plan. Why would you not invest in professional help with your job search? Career coaches provide objective guidance, help you “think outside the box” and provide a proven system for job search success. 

Mistake #8: Letting Others Control Your Job Search. Of course, it is best to conduct your own research and target the right companies yourself. Remember: only you can sell yourself effectively and land a job.  However, a professional recruiter can serve an important role in your search. 

Mistake #9:  Not Preparing Well Enough for Job Interviews. When you boil it down, all job interviews are comprised of five basic elements: articulating your value, conveying your knowledge of the company, asking intelligent questions, negotiating compensation and following-up. Each has to be practiced in advance so you can “ace” the job interview. Winging it just won’t do!

Mistake #10:  Not Knowing Your Market Value. You must research and assess your value in the marketplace before you attend a single interview. Never disclose your salary requirements; always get the employer to name the salary or range first. The time to talk money is when the employer has made it clear you are his top candidate, and after he makes an offer. 

Ford R. Myers is president of           Career Potential, LLC. His firm helps clients take charge of their careers, create the work they love, and earn what they deserve! For other useful tips for achieving career success, go online and visit http://www.getthejobbook.com.

Proposition One

One thing is certain in Houston: when it rains, it pours. At the polls on November 2, that old adage will take on a special meaning as citizens face a decision to approve funding for drainage and infrastructure improvements, or to say “no” to what some critics say amounts to a “Rain Tax,” similar to the one defeated by petition in 2003.

According to Mayor Annise Parker’s detailed plan, released September 29, Proposition 1 on the ballot would create a “pay-as-you-go” fund, dedicated to improving and maintaining Houston’s streets and drainage system, with a calculated contribution from every commercial, residential and instituti- onal property holder. The fund –– along with developer impact fees, remittances from Metro and an 11.8-cent ad valorem property tax already dedicated to street and drainage projects –– would cover capital improvements, ongoing maintenance and compliance with Federal and State Water Quality Laws through 2032. 

The proposed drainage fee, based on square footage of total “hard areas” within a residential or commercial property, would be fixed for 10 years and require a two-thirds vote by City Council to raise the rate. For properties served by curb-and-gutter streets, the fee would be calculated at $.32 per square foot of total “hard areas,” defined as impervious paved surfaces and the concrete slab forming the footprint of a building. For properties along “open-ditch” streets, the fee would be calculated at $.26 per square foot. 

The plan details the example of a typical homeowner with a 5,000-square-foot lot encompassing a 1,900-square-foot house and garage. This homeowner would pay either $4.12 or $5.07 a month, depending on the type of drainage system within the neighborhood, or an estimated an annual fee of $49.44 or $60.84.

“Hard areas” for each property would be calculated using Harris County Appraisal District data, Geographical Information System (GIS) data and other publicly available mapping systems, such as Google Earth. An online verification system and an appeals process through a neutral body would be implemented to resolve disputed calculations. The proposed plan (detailed on www.voteforprop1.com), has garnered the support of a number of neighborhood, civic and homeowners’ associations, and an endorsement from The Houston Chronicle, as well as Councilmembers Melissa Noriega and Stephen Costello and Harris County Constable Victor Trevino.

Opponents of Proposition 1 (www.stopprop1.com) point to a number of flaws, including the lack of exemptions for school districts, churches and charitable organizations. They claim the proposed “Rain Tax” would cost those organizations $520 per acre, or potentially $7,000 to $20,000 a year. “This is effectively a property tax –– except in name only,” said former Harris County Tax Assessor Paul Bettencourt. “And, unlike most property taxes where charities, schools, churches and even homeowners over 65 have an exemption, or at least, great protection, in this case they have none.”

“Proponents have been calling it a ‘lock box’ because all the money going into it will go for drainage. The problem is that it’s a lock box without a top because there is no limit to the fee they can charge,” he said. “This is the worst way to write a fee or a new tax. I think taxpayers should have some definition of what the maximum charge is. It’s as wide open a blank check as you can ask for.”

“The need for improved drainage will always be here in Houston, but this is a very flawed vehicle and a very expensive one,” he said. “What I strenuously object to is that a lot of this is already being handled in the property tax collections and now it’s going to be shifted to a fee, which means that no one is going to offer a discount on the property tax rate.” And City Hall has already raised water rates –– an 18 percent rate hike is already on the books, Bettencourt added.  “In a recession, why are we not cutting costs, instead of raising taxes?” he asked. “We’re going in the wrong direction.”

Bettencourt continued, “HISD and Spring Branch are Robin Hood school districts. If you tax them for x-number of millions of dollars, they can’t get the money from the state or any more from the taxpayer. They’re going to have to lay off teachers, at minimum. They have no choice. It really is preposterously bad public policy to be putting charities, churches and school districts into a tax like this.

”The plan’s exemptions are in compliance with the current state law, said Council Member Noriega who added that she would be in favor of considering other exemptions. Moreover, this is an opportunity for the City to fund improvements to the infrastructure with a “pay-as-you-go” plan,  instead of borrowing, she said. “It represents a step forward instead of doing nothing at all. 

“I don’t think that it’s perfect. I don’t think we’ve fleshed out all the details. I think if we have the money to address infrastructure — whether it’s enough money or not — we need to do what we say we’re going to do,” she said. “This may be the most important issue to come up in my time. Every time it rains, Houston is going under water, and every time someone pours a driveway or a patio, it gets worse.

“If mothers going to get their kids in the afternoons can’t get there because of the water, or folks can’t get to their offices, or if people can’t get in and out of our airports, then we can’t function as a city that makes people money and as a business center and international city,” she added. 

If Proposition 1 is approved by voters, the implementation ordinance would be presented to City Council in March 2011, and a database and website would follow in April and May, respectively. Fees will begin to be imposed in July 2011, and property owners would no longer be subject to individual assessments for street improvements. Undeveloped land would be exempt.

The mayor’s plan also includes a process for establishing which improvement projects would take priority. According to the plan, the current five-year Capital Improvements Plan would be used until a comprehensive street and drainage needs re-assessment could be completed. Needs assessments for street improvements would be based on a technical evaluation and the Pavement Condition Report. The needs assessment for drainage systems would also be based on a technical evaluation, as well as a Comprehensive Drainage Plan prepared in 1999, and a plan currently being updated by a Storm Water Enhanced Evaluation Tool (SWEET). Both needs assessments would be presented to City Council in July 2011. An oversight committee, consisting of parties with significant background in community development and infrastructure assess- ments, will be appointed. The plan stipulates that appointees may not be city employees nor drawn from contractors, engineers or firms participating in the street and drainage improvement programs. The City’s Small/Minority/Women/Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (SMWDBE) program will be enforced for selecting project contracts, and a “Hire Houston First” focus will be maintained. A mentoring program similar to that utilized during the Greater Houston Wastewater Program of the early 1990s and internships in partnership with local colleges will also be implemented.

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