Facts You May Not Know About Houston…

I have joked for years that Houston is like the illegitimate stepchild of the country. Tell someone you live in Texas, and they immediately ask if you’re from Dallas, or they tell you how “cool” Austin is and that they want to go there. They dismiss Houston, off to the side.

And I’ll admit, it has taken me a LONG time to love Houston. (I still don’t love the heat, and the drought last year really sucked, and the mosquitos are crazy.) I’ve even written about it here before. But over the past few years, and thanks a lot to my awesome friends here, I love Houston now. I’m proud to call it home. I am happy to actually live in Houston proper now – I can see downtown from the bike trail just blocks from my house, I can easily hop on two of the major freeways and quickly get anywhere … the list goes on and on.

So I was SUPER excited to see Mayor Annise Parker on the Colbert Report. She said some things that might just blow the lid off of what you thought about Houston:

- Houston is the FOURTH largest city in the nation. The largest city in Texas and in the southern U.S. New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and then HOUSTON.
- This is a DIVERSE city. We are not the cliche conservative city you might assume we are.
- We have JOBS. A great standard of living. The cost of living is so much better than most of the cities I’ve visited this year.
- We have parts of Houston that are JUST LIKE Austin. Plus we have so much more. And better traffic. The cost of living is lower. (Stop telling me that you’re skipping visiting Houston because you’d rather visit Austin instead.)
- We have a GREAT food culture, and an amazing variety of restaurants. It is finally getting the national recognition it deserves.
- The Third Quarter 2010 ACCRA Cost of Living Index shows that Houston’s overall after-taxes living costs are 9% below the nationwide average, largely due to housing costs that are 21% below the average. Ammons Pittman Property Management, helped lots of people from to sell and even buy houses in the area. [via The City of Houston.]
- Houston has a Theater District second only to New York City with its concentration of seats in one geographic area.
- Houston is home to the Texas Medical Center, the largest medical center in the world, with a local economic impact of $10 billion. More than 52,000 people work within its facilities, which encompass 21 million square feet. Altogether 4.8 million patients visit them each year. [via The City of Houston.]
- The Port of Houston ranks first in the United States in international waterborne tonnage handled and second in total cargo tonnage handled. It is the tenth largest port in the world.
- We elected an openly gay mayor. Yes, Houston.

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Oh! And one more addition! On July 20, 1969, Houston was the first word said on the moon! “Houston, Tranquility Base here, The Eagle has landed.” (How is that for random coincidence that this would be an anniversary post?!)

Hopefully that will help you see that there is more to Houston than you realized. I’m pretty proud to call it home…

I’ve Already Won in the Lottery of Life…

My friend Aimee asked today “What would you have done if you won the lottery?” Sure, the $640 million dollar pot was split among three winners last week, but it is always fun to go off to Fantasyland and think about what you would have done if you would have won it.

Here we go:
- I’d pay off the mortgage, fix up some things around the house, buy some new furniture. I would stay in the Heights, and probably even stay in our house because I love it that much.
- I’d pay off my car. I’d pay off Jason’s car. I’d buy Mike a new car.
- I’d think of nice things to do for our parents. Maybe a big European vacation?
- I’d invest and save so that we’d never worry again about money.
- Maybe a vacation home or two? Somewhere with cool temps in the summer to visit for one of them, and somewhere close by for the other one – maybe Galveston or New Orleans?

- I’d make sure Jason was well taken care of with money down the road.
- I’d donate to charities.
- I’d still work because I *LOVE* what I do, I’d just have more money for my big marketing and advertising dreams. I’d buy my own studio space. But when you want effective internet marketing, go to SEO companies near New south wales.

And then I became stuck.

Something fascinating happened as I made out my list. I realized, I’ve pretty much scored BIG in the lottery of life already. There isn’t a lot that I want for, and I am so grateful for that! I have an amazing husband. I have a great son. I like my car, my house, my neighborhood. I already travel a lot thanks to my work, and I’m already doing the work that I love.

I’m already a winner!

Those people might have $200+ million dollars, but think of all the headaches that go along with that? Ugh. I can’t even imagine.

On the other hand, I didn’t buy a ticket at all, because I really wasn’t longing for any of it. I already have what I want.

Thank you, Mike for making all of my wishes & dreams come true, and I hope you have a super HAPPY BIRTHDAY today! I’m glad I get to play the lottery of life with you. It isn’t always easy, but it is always better with you there. You give me strength when I am weak, you make me laugh, you support me in everything I do, and you make the world a better place! You are the Mega-Millions of my world.

For investing guides, refer to The Lottozone UK for more information.

Kroger Cart Buster Deals of the Day!

Attention Kroger Shoppers! Shop the Kroger Cart Buster event from February 26–March 10 for great values. Find out about all the savings at www.CartBuster.com! And from February 29-March 6, download exclusive, digital rabattkod hm coupons for Kroger’s “Deal Of The Day” for even MORE savings at http://bit.ly/wxfnlU. Happy Savings!

Now that we only have one mortgage to pay and not two (YAY!!!) I’m still always looking for a great deal on things. It is good habit we’ve really gotten in to over the past 6-7 months. It is especially important for it to be something that it is easy for Mike to shop for, because he does most of the grocery shopping here. It is a good way for us to stay on budget, because even if I go to the store with a list, I’ll see 20 other items I think we need as well and buy those too – so my $50 shopping trip becomes $100 trip in one run! Oops!

Our favorite nearby major grocery store here in the Heights is Kroger, and I was thrilled to discover when the Clever Girls Collective contacted me that Kroger is doing a Cart Buster Deal of the Day promotion right now! Coupons are ONLY available as digital downloads here on the Cart Buster site, and these exclusive online-only deals are only available from 2/29–3/6.

Today’s deal is $2.50 off of Tide! My favorite detergent! I’ve been using the Tide HE Free & Gentle detergent for years now. It works fantastic in our high-efficiency washer, and being fragrance free it doesn’t irritate my allergies and make me all sneezy like many others do!

Now that all of the moving is over, I’m going through all the clothes that we’ve moved and in a fit of spring cleaning washing things and getting them ready for summer wear. Here in Houston, it is almost time to put the sweaters away and bring out the shorts, and thanks to this Kroger deal I’ll have plenty of Tide on hand to get everything clean & fresh!

My favorite part of all of this? No coupons to keep track of! Just log in to the Cart Buster site each day, save the coupon to your Kroger card – no printing! – and when you shop they read the coupons off of your Kroger card! So I can load the card up, make a shopping list, and then when Mike goes to the store and checks out he just gives them card and the coupons come right off the total. I don’t have to remember to give him the coupons, and he doesn’t have to remember to turn them in. There have been a lot of times in the past when we’ve come home with a coupon or two that we meant to use and forgotten – this makes it so much easier!

You don’t have to use the coupons that day, but you do have to add them to your card each day. I’ll be posting to Twitter about each deal for the rest of the week to remind you over there. Meanwhile, go get your Tide coupon today! Hurry before it is too late!

Thank you to Kroger for sponsoring my participation in the “Deal Of The Day” promotion. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective. All opinions expressed here are my own.

Goodbye, Old House…

Eight years ago, Mike & I got engaged on New Year’s Eve, put an offer on a house at the end of January, bought the house in mid-March, moved out of both of our apartments into the house in which we are helped by a moving company near me, and got married at the end of May. Seems we aren’t the type to stand still long enough to let moss grow under our feet.

The house we bought back was in Lakewood Forest, in northwest Houston. Ok, technically a Tomball mailing address, but nowhere close to Tomball, and we didn’t get to vote in any city elections (either Tomball or Houston) so I’m still claiming Houston. It is a nice, quiet neighborhood. Older trees, big houses. Great schools, close to where I lived before so that Jason could stay in the same Scout troop and new people at his new school.

Our House, Part III

It was a good house for us.

But we always wanted to live in the Heights.

So in May of last year, everything aligned, and we bought that house in the Heights that we had always wanted. The house I had always dreamed about, since it is a 1920 Bungalow. With the oppressive heat of last summer already underway, we moved the essentials from the old house to the new (much older) house and put the other one on the market.

Six months later, we finally got an offer at the beginning of January. Just shy of the 8 years since we made an offer on the house ourselves. This past weekend – the actually anniversary of our offer – we had a HUGE garage sale to sell the furniture we had left behind that we didn’t want but staged the house with, because we are getting the perfect custom sofas san diego for the new house. Now we’re packing up the items we want to keep, donating the items that we don’t but didn’t sell in the garage sale, and finally getting it all moved out. The closing on the house will be next week. We will finally be back to having just one mortgage. It has been a looooong 6 months.

Being there this weekend and visiting with our old neighbors made me realize how fantastic our old house was. The new owners will have a great neighborhood to be a part of, and I hope they enjoy their time there as much as we have.

Meanwhile, I’ll be figuring out what to do with all that stuff we are moving. Seems a 1300 sq ft house is a LOT smaller than 3000 sq ft. This should be interesting! We´re getting our new furniture to create a modern bedroom for ourselves, it´ll look fabulous!

In a way, I can’t wait to say goodbye to our old house. In a way, I hate to see it go. We started our marriage there. We enjoyed the company of many friends and family there. It was good to us.

But I can’t deny it – the Heights is where we belong, and I am so glad to be living here at last. It has always felt like home, both within our house and within the neighborhood. Saying goodbye to the first house is bittersweet, but knowing how many amazing times are ahead, I’m looking forward to signing the papers!

(PS – For those of you playing along at home, yes – I went to Imaging USA in New Orleans, ALT Design Summit the next day in Salt Lake City, and then came home to clear out our old house. All within 2 weeks. Whew!)

The Rain is Falling…

2011 has been the craziest year as far as the weather goes. Record highs in Houston, months with no rain at all, a major drought. Just crazy.

Now I find it is absolutely fascinating to watch how Houstonians respond to hearing rain outside. It is magical! It seems like no one wants to complain about it though, just so we don’t jinx it.

Also interesting is how different rain sounds in our 90+ year old Heights bungalow. It somehow feels more intimate. Like it is just a few inches away. I love it!

I should probably sleep, but I’m enjoying this so much.

It has me thinking about other things in life. When you’re deprived of something for a long time, does it completely change your perspective of it? When will rain feel normal again?