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Photo courtesy of HGTV

Recently, I was in for my semi-annual teeth cleaning (Editor’s note: About time, Ken.) and nitrous oxide session when the dental hygienist leaned me back in the barber’s chair and asked if I’d like to watch the TV mounted on the ceiling.

I asked, “What channel do most people ask for?” She said, “HGTV by far, and that includes men and women.”

Okay, while you’re doing demo in my mouth, let me watch David and Hilary Love It or List It.

That was the first question I asked Joe Mazza, star of Home Inspector Joe, a new hit show on HGTV that follows Mazza conducting full cavity searches on houses for prospective buyers.

Mazza is a fast-talking, wise-cracking, tattooed-up, motorcycle-riding, hip New Yorker who searches high and low for hidden problems in a house. It’s fun entertainment watching him tear apart a house discovering structural flaws and safety issues. I’m sympathy sweating for the homeowner who’s praying, please don’t look in the attic.

Mazza will be the star attraction this weekend at the Houston Home + Garden Show at NRG Center. He will appear on the Fresh Ideas Stage at 6 pm Friday September 16 and 11 am and 2 pm Saturday, September 17. Mazza will offer tips and ideas how to make your house more attractive to potential buyers, plus demonstrate DIY tricks of his trade and conduct a live Q&A with the audience.

The Home + Garden Show runs through Sunday. Tickets are available online.

I caught up with Mazza in advance of his big appearance.

CultureMap: Before HGTV gave you a show and made you a TV star, you inspected homes and worked in construction for 20 years as just regular ol’ Joe Mazza. Did you have any idea how popular HGTV was?

Joe Mazza: It’s massive. It’s wild. Every office you go into, everyone I talk to says “it’s on my TV all the time.” Guys will tell me, “yeah, my wife is always watching it.” I’ll ask them, “and you don’t?” They’ll say, “well, yeah.” I’m super honored to be in the position I’m in now. It’s ridiculous, I can’t even explain it to you.

CM: HGTV must have a zillion shows pitched to them every year. How did Home Inspector Joe get their attention?

JM: They found me through Instagram, through social media. USA Today saw me in 2019 and said, “Hey, Joe, you want to do a video for us about first time home buyers? Whoa, that’s crazy, so I did it. The word got out. HGTV saw me. They contacted me and said there was an opportunity for me to possibly have my own show. Fast forward, here I am. It was all through social media. It was me being me, just doing home inspections. I have fun doing what I love and we go from there.

CM: There are thousands of professional home inspectors around the country. What was it about you that caught HGTV’s interest?

JM: My personality was a massive factor how I got the show. I watch all those videos about home inspection on social media and they’re very educational, but they’re very boring. You have to have fun with what you’re doing, even in bad moments. You can joke about things, say asbestos, but be very serious at the same time. It’s all about engaging your audience.

CM: Do people understand the role a home inspector plays in the home buying process? Who do you work for, the buyer or the seller?

JM: I work for the buyer 99 percent of the time. The real estate agent will refer me to the buyer or the buyer will hear about me through word of mouth. I work for the person who’s paying me and that’s typically the buyer. No one stands in my way, no one tells me how to do my job or what to put in my report.

CM: Are home sellers scared of you?

JM: Now they are, but not every one of them. I was at a house recently and the real estate agent and the seller were there. They saw me and went, “oh, crap.” To me that was flattering.

CM: How thorough is a home inspection?

JM: Certain things we can and can’t do. If a place is inaccessible, we don’t have to go in there. If we can’t get on a roof, we don’t have to struggle to get on the roof. What separates me from others, that roof that I can’t get on, I will find a way to get on it. You have to dig deep.

What keeps me out of trouble is, I make sure I’m on point 100 percent of the time. I inspect every house as if my wife and daughter are moving into it. If you go into an inspection with that mentality, you’re going to kick butt.

CM: How sneaky are homeowners at hiding flaws or potential deal breakers in their house?

JM: Very, very. I love it when they try, because I’m going to catch them. If I go through a basement and it’s freshly painted, that’s a red flag right there. “You just painted the basement. Why?” I start digging deeper, not just inside the basement, but outside to see what’s going on. A lot of problems in the basement start on the outside.

I’ll see if they put boxes or furniture in front of a moldy wall. They’ll say, “where else am I supposed to put the furniture?”

CM: What’s the most disgusting thing you’ve found during a home inspection?

JM: I had an inspection close to my house. I was in the crawl space and as I walking around the floor was crunching. I looked down and the floor was covered with teeth. There were thousands of teeth down there. It was gross and terrifying.

Was I going to find hundreds of bodies in the backyard? It turned out the guy was a tooth manufacturer and threw teeth in there a hundred years ago. No one warned me about that. The grossest thing, besides dead animals, people leave stuff out in the open — inappropriate personal stuff. I just keep working around it.

CM: Ever hired to inspect a house occupied by a hoarder?

JM: I’ve done a couple of houses where they were hoarders with wall-to-wall stuff. Usually I’ll just turn around and walk out. There’s nothing I can do.

I will tell the real estate agent that the house is a fire hazard and you’re putting people in jeopardy. If the house is just dirty, yeah, whatever, that’s fine. I’m okay if they have a lot of junk around. But a hoarder’s house, like on that TV show, that’s disgusting.

I had a house that had 15 cats and like 12 dogs. They didn’t clean anything ever. I walked in and the hit of ammonia slammed me to heaven. I got dizzy and started gagging. I went outside and the owner wanted to know what was wrong. She was scratching her arms. I told her, “for one, your arms are bleeding. Your animals are crapping and peeing all over your house. The house needs to be condemned.”

I told the buyer to get the hell away from this house.

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Joe Mazza appears at the Houston Home and Garden Show at 6 pm Friday September 16 and 11 am and 2 pm Saturday September 17 at NRG Park. Show runs through Sunday, September 18. For tickets, full schedule, and more information, visit the official site.

Photo by Ezume Images/Getty Images

Ken Hoffman hams it up with the greatest breakfast sandwich no one's heard of — outside New Jersey

he's on a roll

Over the course of my career as Houston’s leading discount restaurant critic, more than 1,000 fast food burger and pizza reviews, I never critiqued a sandwich that wasn’t available at every street corner drive-thru.

Let alone a sandwich that I had to assemble and cook in my professional test kitchen at home. But, here we are.

A friend visited New Jersey recently on vacation, came back and asked me, “Have you ever had a Taylor Ham breakfast sandwich? Everybody I met in New Jersey raved about them.”

Ever had one? I grew up in New Jersey — I practically lived on them.

But here we are … in Houston, where nobody knows about Taylor Ham breakfast sandwiches. In fact, once you escape the borders of New Jersey, Taylor Ham is pretty much unknown. Poor every other state.

The story behind the sandwich
Taylor Ham breakfast sandwiches are to New Jersey people what McMuffins are to the rest of the sadly deprived country. There’s just something about two slices of Taylor Ham, eggs, and cheese on a Kaiser roll that makes breakfast the most important meal of the day. (At least the most delicious.) It became the Official State Sandwich of New Jersey in 2016,

What is Taylor Ham? It’s processed pork flavored with spices, sweet-smoked and formed into a salami-style log, which Jersey people call a chub.
There’s an episode of MTV’s Jersey Shore where Snooki and The Situation get into an argument. Snooki calls it “Taylor Ham,” while The Situation says “Taylor Pork Roll.” It won’t remind you of Plato debating Socrates at the Lyceum in ancient Greece. (Or even Beavis and Butt-head.)

Even famed director Kevin Smith weighed in:

Taylor Ham (I’m with Snooki) was invented in 1856 by state senator John Taylor. He introduced it as Taylor’s Prepared Ham. However, Taylor had to rebrand his product because it didn’t qualify as ham after passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. Your tax dollars at work.

The new name: John Taylor’s Pork Roll. However, spunky north Jersey people continue to call it Taylor Ham. The rest of the state adapted to the new name. That’s how you can tell if somebody is from north or south Jersey – if they call it Taylor Ham or Pork Roll. You could just ask where they’re from, too.

Taylor today
Today, Taylor Ham breakfast sandwiches are sold by the millions in every New Jersey diner, greasy spoon and bagel shop. I used to get some from a guy cooking them on the street in front of the Prudential Building in Newark.

It’s startling how a food item can be so dominant in one state and practically nobody’s heard of it anywhere else. It’s like New Jersey says, “We’ll share Bruce Springsteen and Frank Sinatra and Mike Trout with the world, but our Taylor Ham sandwiches ain’t going nowhere.”

So when I was asked, “Have you ever had a Taylor Ham breakfast sandwich?” – that pushed my obsessive button. I had to have one again.

Hoffman hams it up
Of course, I tried our local supermarkets first. A couple say on their website that they carry Taylor Ham, but good luck. “It’s at our deli counter,” I was told. Nope, it’s not.

I gave up fast — it’s my thing. I am told that if you look hard enough, you can find it in Houston. The supermarket will deliver it to your house, if they have it, or when they get it in. If you know a restaurant here that makes Taylor Ham sandwiches, let me know.

It’s easier and less gas just to order Taylor Ham online from Jersey food distributors, like American Butcher Store or Jersey Pork Roll. You can get a 1-pound chub for $10.99, a box of four 6-ounce pre-sliced packs for $17.59, or a 3-pound chub for $31.99 plus shipping. I promise: You will love this sandwich.

I followed the blueprint at home: Taylor Ham, eggs, cheese, butter, salt and pepper, and a roll. I couldn’t find a Kaiser roll so I subbed a brioche bun. I may be onto something there. (Editor’s note: Oh yeah? At what point do we alert Eric Sandler?)

I threw two slices of Taylor Ham into a frying pan, making small cuts around the edges so they wouldn’t curl up like pepperoni on a pizza. I made the eggs over-easy (personal choice). I buttered the brioche bun and toasted it. Because there are no mystery, proprietary, or unavailable ingredients, you can make a Taylor Ham sandwich at home to exact New Jersey specs and it will taste identical.

My ex-pat Taylor Ham breakfast sandwich was perfect, as delicious as any diner down the Jersey Shore where you take a napkin and wipe the silverware before you eat.

Nostalgia is expensive, but still cheaper than a ticket to Newark Airport.

Behold the Offical State Sandwich of New Jersey.

Photo by Ezume Images/Getty Images
Behold the Offical State Sandwich of New Jersey.
Photo courtesy of the Lance McCullers, Jr. Foundation

Ken Hoffman on why a Houston Astros pivotal star's most heroic work is off the field

the hero we need

Saturday, August 13 marked the successful, long-awaited, faith-restored return of a real-life Houston hero — who happens to pitch for the Houston Astros.

Lance McCullers Jr. threw a baseball in earnest for the first time since Game 4 of last year’s American League Divisional Series. He was sidelined for 305 days with a right flexor pronator strain (a body part I never knew existed. If you can’t pull it out with a tweezer in the game Operation, it’s not part of the human anatomy.)

It took him that long, forever in baseball terms, to return to the Astros and Minute Maid Park. How’d he do?

He struck out five, allowed only two hits over six innings, received three standing ovations from 34,000 fans, and got the W in the Astros 8-0 victory over the (for some odd reason) pesky Oakland A’s on Hall of Fame Weekend.

“I was a little bit anxious before the game,” McCullers said after his win. “Everybody’s been so supportive and really have helped me get back to this point. I’m talking about the guys in the clubhouse and they were all excited for me to be back today.”

Lance back = best news for the future
With Jake Odorizzi gone and the possibility that Justin Verlander (who loves him some Nancy’s Hustle burgers) may leave after this season, McCullers’ return was good news for the Astros’ drive to the World Series this year, and the next, and the next.

He’s already carved into Houston legend for the time he threw 24 straight curveballs against the Yankees to propel the Astros to the World Series in 2017. Watch that insane performance here:

And, McCullers was the starting pitcher against the Dodgers in Game 7 of the 2017 World Series when the Astros won their first and only championship. As Yahoo Sports pointed out, McCullers completely owned the boys in pinstripes.

But that’s not why he’s a hero in my book.

More than a sports hero
McCullers and his wife Kara are animal lovers and they’ve put their passion into relentless action. The Lance McCullers Jr. Foundation supports local pet organizations like Houston Pets Alive and Rescued Pet Movement. The foundation’s goal is to promote pet adoption and fostering, raise awareness and donations for animal shelters and continue the journey to make Houston a no-kill community. The motto is “Protecting Pets, Creating Families.”

“Since partnering with the Lance McCullers Jr. Foundation, thousands of pets are being saved each month that otherwise didn’t have a chance. Thousands of homeless dogs and cats’ lives have been saved,” Rescued Pet Movement notes. “To date, because of LMJF, almost 60,000 homeless dogs and cats’ lives have been saved.”

McCullers didn’t just attach his name to the foundation and step back. As we frequently cover here, he personally shows up to help locals in need: whether it’s handing out Thanksgiving turkeys or supplying 10,000 meals to the Houston Food Bank during the pandemic. “This city has embraced me and my family,” he told us in 2019, “everywhere we go, people couldn’t be more gracious to us.”

No big surprise that he handles his foundation the same way—he hosts events, advocates tirelessly for animals, and gets his hands dirty supporting efforts to save pets lives. To donate or volunteer to his organization, visit the How to Help section on the official site.

The Lance McCullers Jr. Foundation is a donor-advised fund at Athletes and Causes, a nonprofit with federal tax exempt status and a public charity.

Here’s the cherry on top why I love and support his foundation. He reminds people that 75-percent of dogs available for adoption in shelters are mixed breeds. I got one of those sitting next to me right now.

Mixed-up makes the best pup
I’ll show you how mixed breed my dog Sally is. When I adopted Sally, she was eight months old, 26 pounds and the card on her cage said “Schnauzer.”

One year later, Sally was 75 pounds and definitely not a Schnauzer. I sent away for a Canine DNA analysis kit. The company said it would use MDRI and EIC screening tp determine what breed was dominant (Level 1) in my dog, plus whatever else was in her DNA gumbo (Levels 2 through 4).

A week later, I received the results. Under Level 1, what Sally supposedly, mostly is, the analysis said “not present.” She wasn’t more of any one breed than any other. Level 2 listed Collie and soft-coast Wheaten Terrier. Level 3 was “not present.” Level 4 was Maltese and Poodle. The whole report simply should have said: “Congratulations, you have a mutt. Your dog is whatever you want it to be.”

Sally takes mixed breed to whole ’nother level. She’s the best.

McCullers has always been hands-on with dogs.

Photo courtesy of the Lance McCullers, Jr. Foundation
McCullers has always been hands-on with dogs.
Hannah Storm/Facebook

Ken Hoffman broadcasts the list of Houston stars dominating the 2022 Texas Radio Hall of Fame awards

airwave a-listers

The Texas Radio Hall of Fame is making headlines this week, as it will welcome 20 new members in November. No surprise here: Houston personalities are up and down the dial.

Among the inductees with Houston ties, in alphabetical order:

  • Roula Christie from KRBE’s Roula and Ryan Show and before that Mix 96.5. (Side note: Roula is related to the Christie family that operates Christie’s seafood restaurant on Westheimer. It was the first place I visited on the first day I stepped foot in Houston. I had the fried shrimp platter.)
  • James “Moby” Carney from KLOL and 97 Rock.
  • Dean Myers and Roger Beaty, “Dean and Rog” from several stations, most notably The Eagle.
  • Bob Ford from Z107 and currently the public address announcer at Minute Maid Park. (Side note: I love the way he pronounces “Altuve.”)
  • John Lisle and Steve Hahn from KLOL’s Outlaw Radio.
  • “Uncle Funky” Larry Jones from Majic 102.
  • Pam Kelly from KLOL and KSBJ.
  • Laurie Kendrick from KTRH and KLOL.
  • Joe Pogge from 93Q and Mix 96.5.
  • Hannah Storm from 97 Rock. (Note: I remember the day, I was visiting 97 Rock studios, when Mr. Leonard corrected Hannah’s pronunciation of Ken Caminiti’s last name. She blistered Mr. Leonard for interrupting her sports update. Even I was scared and was looking for a desk to dive under. Hannah got past the incident and has become a long-running, respected star of sports broadcasting on ESPN and the Olympics.)
  • Maria Todd from KRBE’s morning show alongside Sam Malone.
  • John Trapane from KKBQ.
  • Dana Tyson from Sunny 99.1. (Side note: Dana and Sunny 99.1 FM have done more for Christmas music than Santa Claus.)

These stars join more than 400 radio characters and behind-the-scenes management types inducted into Texas Radio Hall of Fame since its inception in 2002. I counted at least 100 with a Houston connection, including legends like Paul Berlin, John Lander, Weaver Morrow, Wash Allen, Lowell Passe, and Gene Elston. Some of the Hall of Famers are still at it on the airwaves, like Ralph Cooper, Outlaw Dave Andrews, Harold Gunn and Johnny Goyen.

Did you know that for a couple of years in the late 1950s, young pups Dan Rather and Willie Nelson were reporting the news and spinning country records on Houston radio? Whatever happened to those guys? (Editor’ note: We’ll look into it, Ken.)

I’m not one to complain, it’s not my nature, but how can a Texas Radio Hall of Fame not include John Granato and Lance Zierlein, the morning team from ESPN 97.5 FM? (Side note: ESPN 97.5 FM is owned by Gow Media, which also owns this publication you’re currently reading.)These guys have been doing it with humor and consistency for 25 years together. And still going strong.

The Texas Radio Hall of Fame will hold its reunion weekend and induction ceremony for the Class of ’22 on Friday and Saturday, November 4 and 5 at the Texas Museum of Broadcasting & Communications Museum in Kilgore, Texas. The event is open to the public with tickets available starting Wednesday online.

I caught up with Doug Harris, executive director of the Texas Radio Hall of Fame, and Joe Pogge, former marketing director at KKBQ during the Q-Morning Zoo’s heyday in the ’80s and ’90s for some quick banter (radio term).

CultureMap: What is the mission of the Texas Radio Hall of Fame?

Doug Harris: To recognize and celebrate broadcast greats from the Lone Star state while promoting awareness of radio’s ability to educate, entertain, and inform.

CM: What is the process for nominating and inducting members? Is there a requirement that they’ve had to work in Texas a certain number of years, etc.?

DH: Beginning in the May each year, voting members of the Texas Radio Hall of Fame may nominate broadcasters they feel have enjoyed worthy careers and achievements. This year, over 200 broadcasters were nominated then reviewed by an internal committee of TRHOF board members who vetted the entries for accuracy and compliance in pursuit of the final 50 nominees.

From that list, the voting members of the TRHOF selected 20 who will now be inducted. The only requirement for consideration is that they have a record of exemplary service to Texas radio listeners while employed by a radio station or stations in Texas.

CM: How is radio dealing with the challenges from other forms of broadcasting, like streaming and podcasts?

DH: The industry seems to have recovered from the COVID-related downturn in revenue. To their credit, broadcasters have expanded their product portfolios to include extensive digital offerings to clients and most station personalities have active and extensive social media followers.

Podcasting continues to gain ground but the majority of listening still happens via terrestrial radio and the stations that continue to enjoy market dominance are almost all personality-driven, especially in morning drive.

CM: Joe, what does it mean to you to be inducted in the Hall of Fame?

Joe Pogge: Tons of emotions mixed together — I’m shocked, surprised, honored and humbled. Most of all I’m blessed to have had the opportunity to work with so many talented individuals, truly a radio equivalent to a Super Bowl championship team

CM: What was your single craziest promotion during your Q-Zoo days?

JP: One comes to mind quickly and clearly stands out. In 1986, the [Houston Rockets] had beaten the [Los Angeles] Lakers in the first two games of their playoff series in Los Angeles. Rockets general manager Steve Patterson visited us in studio, and we asked what do Houston fans need to do to beat the Lakers.

He said we should be like Jack Nicholson: wear Rockets gear, get to the arena early, yell at the refs, and don’t leave until the final buzzer. We immediately said that we’ll give out 16,000 Jack Nicholson sunglasses to fans.

The [Houston] Chronicle and [Houston] Post both ran front page stories. A bank put up a billboard with a basketball wearing sunglasses. Jack Nicholson even posed for a photo with two young fans wearing sunglasses.

It was huge. I still have a photo of the entire Rockets team with everybody wearing sunglasses.

Former Houston radio star Hannah Storm is now a prominent national media figure.

Hannah Storm/Facebook
Former Houston radio star Hannah Storm is now a prominent national media figure.
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Iconic Texas 'cowboy-style' BBQ joint's Katy outpost closure leads week's top stories

this week's hot headlines

Editor's note: It's time to recap the top stories on CultureMap from this past week.

1. Iconic Texas 'cowboy-style' barbecue joint's Katy location quietly closes. Sadly, the local outpost couldn't replicate the magic of the original in Llano.

2. Ken Hoffman urges Houston travelers to keep calm and enjoy the trip at the new-look Bush IAH. Our columnist explains why travelers might be in "for a big, pleasant surprise at Houston’s Bush-Intercontinental Airport."

3. Houston's most spectacular winter light shows and events dazzle for the holidays. We rounded up where to see dazzling lights with family, friends, and visitors.

4. Disgraced Theranos CEO and former Houstonian Elizabeth Holmes sentenced to 11 years for fraud. Additionally, Holmes faces a fine of $400 million.

5. Houston's NASA leaders 'giddy' after historic Artemis 1 moon flyby. The spacecraft cruised just 81 miles above the lunar surface.

Disney's Strange World is a visual stunner with too many story ideas

Movie Review

For a studio whose entire reason for being seems to rely on creating and sustaining familiar characters, Walt Disney Animation takes its fair share of risks. In the last 10 years, it has released nine films, seven of which were not based on pre-existing properties (the other two were sequels for two of those seven). That’s a lot of new stuff, most of which has succeeded mightily for the perennially-popular leaders in animation.

They’re at it again with Strange World, which takes place in an unknown country/world known as Avalonia, where Jaeger Clade (Dennis Quaid) is a famous explorer whose only desire is to find a way over, around, or through the imposing mountains surrounding the land. His son, Searcher (Jake Gyllenhaal), doesn’t share his enthusiasm, and an early discovery by Searcher of a unique energy source leads to a rift between father and son. Jaeger continues onwards, while Searcher returns home with a plant they call Pando that creates harmony throughout the land.

Years later, when the plant shows signs of failure, Searcher is recruited by Avalonia leader Callisto Mal (Lucy Liu) to help in an expedition to find the source of whatever is attacking Pando. What they and others – including Searcher’s wife Meridian (Gabrielle Union) and son Ethan (Jaboukie Young-White) – find in their travels certainly lives up to the title.

Co-directed by Don Hall and Qui Nguyen and written by Nguyen, the film is a visual stunner. The quality of animation in Disney movies rarely fails to impress, and Strange World is the latest and greatest example. Whether it’s the humans, the landscape, or the innumerable weird creatures that populate the film, there is almost nothing that doesn’t deserve to be stared at and admired.

It’s odd, then, that the story does not come close to matching the graphics. There are a variety of reasons for this failure. Nguyen is the sole credited writer, and he stuffs the film full of big and small ideas, probably too many for this type of project. Searcher’s family and the world of Avalonia and beyond are diverse in multiple ways, to the point that it feels like Nguyen was trying to include everything he could think of in case he never got another shot.

The bigger sin, though, is how quickly the film advances through its plot, often bringing up new things out of nowhere. While Searcher and his family make for an interesting group, the side characters never make an impact. There are also multiple instances where the story takes a turn that makes no sense, either in the world of the film or a storytelling manner.

This includes the final act of the film, which features a significant twist that is presented and accepted in a way that doesn’t fit with the rest of the film. It adds on yet another message in a movie that contains a lot of them, but in a way that even those inclined to believe in what it’s trying to say may wonder why that part is there at all.

The science fiction element of Strange World is a bonanza for the filmmakers and animators to go as wild as they wanted in the visual department. But all that splendor is in service of a story that just doesn’t measure up, making it one of Disney’s less successful offerings in recent years.

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Strange World is now playing in theaters.

Photo courtesy of Disney

Searcher (Jake Gyllenhaal), Jaeger (Dennis Quaid), and Ethan Clade (Jaboukie Young-White) in Strange World

Affluent Houston suburb leads region for highest holiday spending budgets in U.S.

Santa Baby

As the most wonderful time of the year approaches, holiday shopping budgets are in the spotlight, and a study from WalletHub lists Sugar Land as one of the top cities where Santa doesn't need a whole lot of help.

According to the personal finance website, the average holiday budget in Sugar Land is $2,793 per person, the 15th highest in the nation. As CultureMap previously reported, Sugar Land residents here make an average of $123,261; the average home price is $337,600.

Fittingly, Fort Bend, home to Sugar Land, was recently named the second-richest county in Texas.

As for Greater Houston, Santa's bag could be a mixed bag, with three suburbs in the top 100, but the urban center falling far behind:

  • Sugar Land, No. 15, $2,793
  • Pearland, No. 36, $2,172
  • The Woodlands, No. 71, $1,733
  • Houston, No. 366, $890

Each year, WalletHub calculates the maximum holiday budget for over 550 U.S. cities "to help consumers avoid post-holiday regret," the website says. The study factors in income, age of the population, and other financial indicators such as debt-to-income ratio, monthly-income-to monthly-expenses ratio and savings-to-monthly-expenses ratio.

Despite nationwide focus on inflation strains, holiday spending is expected to be healthy, and higher than last year.

"The seeming social upheaval in recent times may lead households to spend more in an attempt to take some control of the environment which they can control," says Robert Wright, University of Illinois, Springfield professor emeritus who was among five experts consulted for advice about holiday shopping.

Elsewhere in Texas, 10 North Texas cities landed in this year's top 100 heftiest holiday budgets:

  • Flower Mound, No. 3, $3,531 (The only Texas city in the top 10)
  • Allen, No. 17 , $2,670
  • Frisco, No. 37, $2,150
  • McKinney, No. 45, $2,070
  • Plano, No. 50, $1,999
  • Carrollton, No. 55, $1,837
  • Richardson, No. 58, $1,823
  • North Richland Hills, No. 81, $1,658
  • Lewisville, No. 90, $1,630
  • Fort Worth, No. 366, $890
  • Dallas, No. 401, $845

Spending in the Austin area won't be ho-hum with the Capitol City's budget of $1,705 ranked at No. 78. Two Austin suburbs, Cedar Park (budget $2,855) and League City (budget $2,541) ranked 14 and 20, respectively.

Things don't look too jolly for San Antonio, ranked at No. 431 with an average budget of $803 or Pharr, which was the lowest ranked city in Texas.

At No. 553 with a budget of $487, the Rio Grande Valley city came in just a few spots ahead of last place Hartford, CT with a budget of only $211.