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Your weekly guide to Houston: 5 (plus) don't-miss events — escape the NBA All-Star frenzy

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Soprano Ana María Martínez will sing love songs by Handel and his contemporaries accompanied by Mercury-The Orchestra Redefined. Photo by Tom Specht
Hermann Park
Hermann Park hosts its inaugural Valentine's Day event, which combines food, pedal boat rides at dusk, chocolate and flowers. Photo by Scott Adams/Overland Partners
News_Houston Grand Opera_Ana Maria Martinez
Ornery Theatre presents <i>Cthulhu: A Puppet Play</i>
Hermann Park
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On the itinerary this week (besides the NBA All-Star frenzy) are Valentine's Day events, puppet horror shows, Academy Award film screenings, spring gardening lectures, artsy concerts and RodeoHouston wine and food parties. 

Help me help you by clicking on the link below each suggestion. There, you will find helpful features, like the ability to download the intel to your electronic calendar, and nifty information including where to eat, drink, shop and crash for the night.

Valentine's Day "Dinner and a Cruise" at Hermann Park

I love the pedal boats at Hermann Park's McGovern Lake, although I always feel like I need to find someone's child to borrow as an excuse to take a boat out for a spin. I am not the only one who feels this way, I am sure, and I suppose that's why a 30-minute leisure ride is part of the fun at the park's first Valentine's Day "Dinner and a Cruise" soiree.

After an al fresco repast (BYOB, no glass containers) complemented by the tunes of flamenco guitarist Lalo de Pilar, chocolates and a flower, head to the banks of the lagoon for a romantic sea trip as the sun sets over the skyline.

The deets: $40 per couple; Pinewood Cafe at Hermann Park; three seatings are available, at 5,6 and at 7 p.m.

Ornery Theatre presents Cthulhu: A Puppet Play

After the first time I witnessed the puppet artistry of Kelly Switzer, I had bizarre dreams of wicked life-sized creatures coming at me with a sinister agenda. And I wanted more. Cthulhu: A Puppet Play, co-written with her husband Mike, borrows horror themes and characters from H.P. Lovecraft, author of The Call of Cthulhu, The Dunwich Horror and The Dreams in the Witch House, and layers original music and film to transport Lovecraft's milieu to a contemporary setting.

With talent including Stephanie Saint Sanchez, George Heathco, Matthew Carter, Paul Locklear, Kira Vincent, Chris Kemmerer, London Alexander, Luke Hubley, Shanon Adams, Ashley Horn and Daniel Adame, the troupe brings to life a production that's not suitable for children under 13.

The deets: Thursday through Feb. 18; 14 Pews; tickets start at $10.

2012 Academy Award Nominated Short Films (Documentary)

While film buffs will be knowledgeable of the full-length featured films that will earn accolades at this year's Academy Awards, I doubt many will be familiar with the short documentaries nominated for the movie fete.

Be the smart one in the room by attending this film screening, which screens King's Point by Sari Gilman and Jedd Wider, Mondays at Racine by Cynthia Wade and Robin Honan, Inocente by Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine, Redemption by Jon Alpert and Matthew O'Neill and Open Heart by Kief Davidson and Cori Shepherd Stern.

The deets: Saturday, 1 p.m.; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; tickets are $9.

Lecture: Spring Veggies

The time is now for those considering turning part of their green space into urban gardens filled with growing sustenance. Wabash Antiques & Feed, a charming center that focuses on organic gardening, offers lectures and how-to tutorials, including Thursday's event on how to grow beets, bok choy, lettuce, Swiss chard and tomatoes. Texas Master Gardener Dianne Norman will make it look easy.

The deets: Saturday, 1:30 p.m.; Wabash Antiques & Feed; admission is free.

2013 Rodeo Uncorked! Roundup and Best Bites Competition

One of the social highlights of RodeoHouston is a series of events that fuse wine and cuisine for a well-mannered, Western-style gluttonous debauchery. At the Roundup and Best Bites Competition, guests can taste wines from the International Wine Competition coupled with signature dishes from Houston's dinning establishments and catering companies. Come hungry, leave happy.

The deets: Sunday, 6:30 p.m.; Reliant Center; individual tickets start at $125; tables start at $1,800.

Staff writer and savvy Houston explorer Whitney Radley's pick: Valentine's Day Beer & Cheese Pairing at The Brewery

Whitney says: "As one whose parents have regularly exchanged 'Cheese of the Month Club' membership in lieu of more sentimental Christmas gifts, I believe that nothing says love quite like cheese — and so, of course, I think that Saint Arnold Brewing Company is onto something in its collaboration with Houston Dairy Maids for an annual Valentine's Day Beer & Cheese Pairing. It sounds like a perfect plan for the holiday, whether your relationship status is single or saddled."

The deets: Thursday, 6 p.m.; Saint Arnold Brewing Co.; tickets are $25.

Staff writer, arts savant and all around good guy Tyler Rudick's pick: Zoya Tommy Contemporary All-Stars

Tyler says: "With this weekend's NBA All-Star events filling the dance cards of many a sports fan, art aficionados can stop by Zoya Tommy Contemporary's own all-star event. Every hour on the hour from 11a.m. to 6 p.m., gallerist Zoya Tommy will feature a brand new piece of art from her ever-growing stable of artists — the likes of which include Tierney Malone, Guus Kemp, Sofya Tatarinova, Charles Krafft, Matthew Couper, Anastasia Pelias, Frank X. Tolbert and Mike Hollis.

"As a bonus, the gallery will serve up a special "All Star" cocktail throughout the day. Sssslam dunk."

The deets: Saturday, 11 a.m.; Zoya Tommy Contemporary; admission is free.

Arts smarty pants and in-the-loop happy-go-lucky gal Nancy Wozny's pick: Mercury presents "Love Songs with Ana María Martínez"

Nancy says: "I'm grabbing my honey and heading down to hear Ana María Martínez sing us love songs by Handel and his contemporaries played by Mercury-The Orchestra Redefined. Martinez, an alum of the HGO studio, is one of the most sought after sopranos around so it's best not to miss her when she is in town.

Plus, the folks at Mercury are old hands at putting on terrific Valentine's Day shows.

The deets: Thursday and Friday, 8 p.m; Wortham Theater Center; tickets start at $10.

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