There are something like 300 unique vendors at Houston Ballet's annual Nutcracker Market, and there is one of you. Whether it's your first time braving the crowds for one of Houston's most iconic (and popular) holiday shopping events or you're a seasoned veteran, that's a lot of booths to ogle. We scoped out the vendors and found a handful of first-time sellers to scope out—competition for these spots is fierce, so you know these newbies offer something different and special. Consider this your Nutcracker Market cheat sheet.
1. Mi Casa Tamales Presents Christmas Morning, booth 1638
How a Tex-Mex restaurant in the Hill Country ventures into the world of Christmas pajamas is a bit of a mystery, but we can't complain. Yes, Christmas jammies are officially a thing, ever since a family of YouTube stars made a terrible-yet-adorable video about them. We must admit they look better in the inevitable Christmas morning Instagram than the old college t-shirt you usually sleep in, and the patterns at this booth are about as cute as the genre gets.
2. Fantastic World of Art by Russian Souvenirs, booth 1642
There are approximately a gazillion Santa figurines for sale inside NRG this weekend, but we're partial to the highly detailed but not quite cutesy versions at this shop. There's just something about the beautiful simplicity of Russian folk art pieces—many of them hand-carved from a single piece of wood— that harkens back to the Christmas traditions of yore. The nesting dolls, lacquered boxes and ornaments are worth noting, as well.
3. Mirta Tummino, booth 647
A Houstonian and a Nutcracker first-timer, Mirta Tummino's jewelry can be found at the Houston Museum of Natural Science and in the October issue of Houstonia—we just can't get enough of the painstakingly delicate way she wire-wraps gemstones to make beautiful, colorful pieces that still have that special handmade quality.
4. Bullseye Bow, booth 440
Just in time for the final Hunger Games movie to hit theaters, someone has invented an archery set that's both functional and safe for kids, replacing sharp arrow points with soft balls. Hey, even Katniss had to start somewhere.
5. The French Mix, booth 1534
Frankly, we love it when interior designers open their own shops, because they have an innate sense of the perfect little details that make a room, pieces that are also usually perfect for gifting. Louisiana's French Mix is no different, offering stylish aprons, candles, soaps, perfumes, plush toys and other home accessories that any nester or hostess will love.
6. Bird Dog Bay, booth 744
There's a narrow window in the world of neckwear between "boring" and "overly twee," and Chicago-based Bird Dog Bay navigates it expertly. The collection of bowties, neckties, socks and cufflinks have a fun, graphic quality, but the classic color combos keep them from looking too over-the-top.