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December is filled with holiday cheer and if you haven’t caught it already there are still plenty of chances. There’s nothing like bundling up in your winter gear – not heavy winter gear in Houston – and going out on the town when the whole city has been turned into a mini Winter Wonderland. Houston has all sorts of events and activities to keep you busy and get you in the mood for the holiday season. Here are the top five that I recommend!

Photo courtesy of the Houston Zoo

Photo courtesy of the Houston Zoo

  • Zoo Lights: The Houston Zoo hosts Zoo Lights every holiday season where the entire zoo is decorated with cheerful Christmas lights. Check it out and enjoy the more than 2 million lights – tickets can be purchased at a discount online. This event is held nightly until January 4th.
Photo courtesy of the Houston Press

Photo courtesy of the Houston Press

  • The Nutcracker: Nothing can compare to dressing up for the night and experiencing The Nutcracker story as told by the Houston Ballet. The music is familiar and the dancing is enchanting. By the end you’ll be ready for some sugar plums! You can enjoy this ballet through December 28th.
Photo courtesy of the Houston Chronicle

Photo courtesy of the Houston Chronicle

  • Lights in the Heights: This special activity is only available one day a year. Lights in the Heights is scheduled along Highland and Omar streets in the Woodland Heights from 6-9 p.m. Saturday, December 13th. Walk the streets and enjoy the highly decorated homes, live bands, and carolers. Bring your own hot chocolate to make it a magical experience.
   Photo courtesy of the Houston Press

Photo courtesy of the Houston Press

  • Dickens on the Strand: This holiday festival, held annually in Galveston, brings the old-fashioned Victorian feel to the holiday season. This festival includes parades, six stages of entertainers, carolers, bagpipers, and a whole lot more. Street booths sell holiday food and drinks, crafts, clothing, jewelry, holiday decorations and gift items.
Photo courtesy of Moody Gardens

Photo courtesy of Moody Gardens

  • Festival of Lights: This holiday light extravaganza is held at Moody Gardens each year. More than one million light and sound displays will ensure that you get into the spirit! On Fridays, if you bring a non-perishable food item you will receive a two-for-one Festival admission. The food will be donated to the Galveston County and Houston Food Bank. This event goes on nightly through January 3rd.

Take advantage of these activities while you can; all within easy reach from our Camden communities. Get out there and get in the holiday spirit!

Holiday Events in Austin!

Do you live in the Austin area and looking for some fun activities to do during this holiday season?

I found this great website with a great list of the Top 26 Holiday Events in Austin & Central Texas.

Top 26 Austin Holiday Events.  Courtesy of: rwethereyetmom.com

Top 26 Austin Holiday Events.
Courtesy of: rwethereyetmom.com

Some of my All-Time Favorites:

Zilker Park Trail of Lights-

The Trail of Lights is one of the most anticipated events here in the Austin area. Zilker Park is laced with beautiful Christmas lights and displays. It is one of my favorite holiday traditions. This is a great event to go to with friends and family of all ages. My favorite part is the Holiday Tree at the end of the Trail of Lights. The Zilker Tree stands 155 feet tall and has a total of 3,309 lights.  The diameter is 120 feet.

To learn more about this awesome event, go to: austintrailoflights.org/

The entrance tunnel to the Zilker Park Trail of Lights. Courtesy of: photoblog.statesman.com

The entrance tunnel to the Zilker Park Trail of Lights.
Courtesy of: photoblog.statesman.com

Zilker Holiday tree that stands 155 feet tall. Courtesy of: examiner.com

Zilker Holiday tree that stands 155 feet tall.
Courtesy of: examiner.com

 

Evergreen Tree Farm (Elgin, Texas):

Every year on Black Friday, my family goes to Evergreen Tree Farm in Elgin (About 20 minutes Southeast of Austin). This is a small family run business and if you are looking for something other than a store bought Christmas tree, this is the place to go! They are very friendly there and you have the option to cut down your own tree on their land or they have some precut trees to choose from as well. They have fun family activities, such as, a hayride around the farm and feeding the various animals on their farm. Definitely worth a drive out there to check it out!

Evergreen Tree Farm in Elgin, Texas.  Courtesy of: www.evergreen-farms.com

Evergreen Tree Farm in Elgin, Texas.
Courtesy of: http://www.evergreen-farms.com

 

There are so many opportunities to sprinkle a little joy and merry into your lifestyle. Whether it is in the office or at home, let’s take the traditional and make it exceptional. It’s what we like to call here at Camden, #LivingExcellence.

1. PERSONALIZE YOUR HOLIDAY WREATH.

Take the holidays by the horns and make it your own with a personalized wreath. Are you a wine connoisseur? Then collect those wine corks and upcycle them into a holiday wreath you would be proud to put your name on. Maybe you’re more of a “Buy the local evergreen wreath at Trader Joe’s” kind of person and then taking it home and adding more fabulous? Monogrammed wreaths are the epitome of personalized and could be embellished with colorful ribbon or those leftover ornaments you have no room for on the tree.

Elevate your holiday with this idea.

Upgrade your wreath by personalizing it. Grab some holiday inspiration from Pinterest users at http://bit.ly/PersonalizedWreaths

2. WHEN IN SAN DIEGO…

Christmas in San Diego is just as big of a tourist attraction as the warm weather and endless coastline of beaches. Balboa Park, referred by historians as the Central Park of the West, hosts December Nights which opens its museums to the public free of charge the first Friday and Saturday of the month. But, if you aren’t really into the crowds, then take the family around town using San Diego County’s Map of Christmas Lights. It’s a great show of neighborhood spirit that you’d expect to find in a small town.

San Diego County's Map of Lights

You’re in San Diego, so play tourist! Download the map directly from “San Diego Family Magazine” by clicking on the logo.

3. AVOID THE MADNESS, HIRE A CLEANING SERVICE

Admit it, you dread the cleanup after playing host to a large family gathering. The afterparty isn’t quite as sweet as your festive holiday preparations that are now lying all over the floor or marinating in the dishwasher. Suggested by our very own marketing guru as a way to upgrade your holiday, “Why not do the opposite this year?” Instead of cleaning up yourself, give yourself a break. Hire a maid or cleaning service for a couple of hours to do the dirty work. How much does it cost to hire a maid or cleaning service in San Diego? It varies, according to AngiesList.com between $25 to $35 per hour or per square foot.

How to upgrade your holiday: Hire a cleaning service

Give yourself a break this year and hire someone to do the post-holiday cleaning for you.

4. SIMMER SOME PEPPERMINT FOR HOMEMADE POTPURRI.

Nothing says it’s the holidays like a scent-filled apartment. Whether it is peppermint or cinnamon, you really can’t go wrong. Before the family comes over for the holidays, greet them by simmering some water and throwing in sticks of cinnamon, a candy cane, or dropping in some almond or vanilla extracts. You can leave it simmering in a pot of water (recommended for the one below) or add extracts to freshly ground coffee. This is my favorite from snappyliving.com:

Homemade Cilantro Mint Potpurri

Fill the entire room with a homemade holiday scent. It’s so ridiculously easy, you’ll try all of the scents for each season!

Turning the traditional into something new and exciting is always a challenge. So how are you planning to upgrade your holidays this year? Tweet them to me @HelloWenaLee or leave your thoughts here. I’d love to hear from you.

If the festive music on the radio, twinkling lights on neighborhood rooftops and elbowing shoppers in the mall haven’t gotten you in the Christmas spirit, then the Annual Water Street Winter Fest celebration in Downtown Henderson will!

Water Street Winter Fest

These two cuties are having a blast in the Parade! Photo courtesy of http://www.hendersonlive.com

This free event will be today, Thursday, December 11th through Saturday December 13th at the Henderson Convention Center and Events Plaza. Camden residents near Downtown Henderson in Las Vegas, Nevada who are looking for something fun this weekend need to check out this holly jolly affair!

This year’s theme, It’s a Fairy Tale Christmas, promises to put us all in good cheer with fun activities for all ages! Tour a gingerbread neighborhood when you view the petite houses on display. Journey through an enchanting forest to see the beautifully decorated trees in the Festival of Trees. Plus, visit with Santa Claus and enjoy the magic of the light parade in the evening! For a full schedule of events click here.

Toys for Tots

Donate to the Toys for Tots foundation! Photo courtesy of http://www.toysfortots.org

Camden loves any event that gives back, so if you wish to spread Christmas cheer to a child in need, bring an unwrapped toy to donate in the Toys for Tots drop off location in the Convention Center. Have a merry time at the Water Street Winter Fest and write back with your comments and pictures!

Keeping the Heat In

As you clearly know by now, winter is rapidly approaching, or already here depending on where you live. When the temperature drops, all too often our energy bills spike due to heating and energy costs. As it gets colder outside, we spend more time inside which, in turn, only drives up our utility bills more. Luckily, there are some easy ways to gear up your apartment for winter while also saving some money.

Breakers (27)

Make the Switch to LED

With the shortest day of the year around the corner (December 21st) natural light is a hard commodity to come by. Each day gets darker earlier and when there is light outside, it’s often blocked by the murky gray clouds that seem to be omnipresent this time of year. Changing your regular light bulbs for LED lights is smart not only because they give off more light than their regular counterparts, but also since they use much less electricity and last longer. According to Earth Easy, when compared to incandescent bulbs you’ll only need 1 LED bulb to last as long as 42 incandescent bulbs and you’ll save over $250 for 50 kilowatt hours by switching to LED. If those figures don’t convince you, I’m not sure what will!

 

Reverse Your Ceiling Fans

You may be thinking “who uses ceiling fans in the winter?” but these fixtures can actually do a lot to help evenly distribute both hot and cool air in your home. Most models have a switch on them, usually located above the light and blades, that allows you to change the direction the blades turn. In the cool months, the blades should be running clockwise to send the warm air that rises to the ceiling back down and through the room. This one act alone can reduce your heating costs by about 10% according to Good Housekeeping.

 

Swap Your Drapes

A major culprit for letting hot air escape and cool air enter your home is the windows. While there isn’t much you can do to the window itself as a renter, you are left with the option of swapping your lighter curtains and drapes for thicker ones. There are plenty of home goods stores that sell ultra thick curtains, drapes, and other window treatments specially designed to keep the heat in for relatively low costs, especially when factored into what you’ll potentially save on gas or electricity. Just remember to swap them out for your thinner curtains in the spring!

 

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Trade Baths for Showers

As tempting as a long soak in the tub is this time of year, you’re doing yourself and your water bill a disservice. Depending on the flow of your shower head, taking a 10 minute shower generally uses less water than drawing a bath. If you use a low-flow shower head for your ten minute shower you’ll use 5 gallons less than a bath. If you don’t have a low-flow showerhead, switching to one will save you up to $145 a year on electricity alone, according to Energy Star. If you’re worried about sticking to under ten minutes, remember that soaking in steaming hot water for an extended period of time will only dry out your already parched winter skin further.

 

Get a Power Strip for your Appliances

Since almost all of us travel at one point or the other during the holidays it’s a smart idea to turn off and unplug all your appliances and electronics prior to leaving in order to prevent not only a potential fire, but to also save you some unnecessary charges on your electricity bill. It’s estimated that 15 percent of your energy consumption comes from unused electronics and devices so turn all of them off when you leave for work or go to bed, too!

 

While none of these tips are going to cure that bitter cold that comes with winter, they’re sure to make your apartment a lot more efficient and cost effective, a face that might just warm your spirits.

Author Bio:  Elizabeth Eckhart is a home improvement and energy efficiency blogger. She enjoys spreading her knowledge about keeping a green home, and can be followed on Twitter at @elizeckhart.

The holidays are upon us and it’s time to start buying those gifts. If you are as cash strapped as I am, than you must be looking at how to get the best bang for your buck in the present department. What’s cheaper and easier than making homemade gifts for your friends and family?

 

 

Photo courtesy of Origins.com

Photo courtesy of Origins.com

 

Body Scrub – What’s more luxurious than a body scrub? In the winter skin needs some extra care, treat your loved ones to a homemade body scrub and give them a spa treatment in the comfort of their own home!

 

 

Photo courtesy of dabbled.org

Photo courtesy of dabbled.org

 

 

 

Limoncello Liquor – Warm your loved ones during the winter months with a homemade blend of Limoncello. This lemon flavored Italian liqueur hits the spot with 100 proof vodka and the perfect blend of sweet and tart.

 

 

Photo courtesy of The Cottage Mama

Photo courtesy of The Cottage Mama

Coasters – No one wants cup rings on their coffee tables! Gift your family and friends with a personalized coaster to save their furniture and brighten their home.

 

 

 

Homemade gifts are a great way to show your family and friends that you care. What are some of your favorite homemade holiday gifts?

ABOUT THE AUTHORS: Sarah White, Michael Brooks, Gary Davis, and Lauren Perkins are all members of Camden’s Strategic Services Department. They represent Camden’s Information Technology, and Marketing groups.

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Halloween 2014 window at UB Image Credit: Undeniable Boutique

Walking down Grand Commons Avenue in Fairfax, Virginia you will see a variety of stores. And at the end of the street, you see the Giant “Camden” sign in the distance. Also above the shops, there are huge balconies looking out into the shopping of Fairfax Corner. At night the street is full of lights from the signs and strings of small lights cross back and forth to make you feel like you are in SoHo rather than in Northern Virginia. The store fronts all have amazing window displays, but none compare to the windows at Undeniable Boutique.

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