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Your weekly guide to Houston: Five (plus) don't-miss events — strawberry pickin' included

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Shen Yun in concert
Through music, song, folk dances, animated backdrops and story telling, Shen Yun journeys through 5,000 years of Chinese history. Courtesy photo
Family Flicks screening: The Painting
The French animated film The Painting is a story that takes place within a colorful work of art. Courtesy of GKids
Todd Waite as Crumpet in The Santaland Diaries
Todd Waite as Crumpet in The Santaland Diaries. Photo by Jann Whaley
Blessington Farms Strawberries
Blessington Farms in Simonton has ripe Strawberry fields ready to harvest. Courtesy of Blessington Farms
Blessington Farms
Blessington Farms' "Holiday Farm Funland" is a playground that offers hay rides, giant slides, pedal cars, train rides, hay mazes and animal interactions Courtesy of Blessington Farms
Archway Gallery's Annual After Christmas Sale
Works by Archway Gallery member artists. Courtesy of Archway Gallery/Facebook
Shen Yun in concert
Family Flicks screening: The Painting
Todd Waite as Crumpet in The Santaland Diaries
Blessington Farms Strawberries
Blessington Farms
Archway Gallery's Annual After Christmas Sale
Joel Luks, head shot, column mug, April 2013

'Tis the time between Christmas and all New Year's parties, when hostesses scramble to bring cheer to their visitors, some arty.

Whether children, grandparents, cousins or friends, read on so you can be an expert of all Houston trends.

Some outings are free, others may cost you a touch. Although if it starts getting pricey, why not try going dutch?

On the schedule this week are movies, plays, performances and road trips; there's something for everyone — including big kids.

Shen Yun in concert

Are you the type of born-again Houstonian who feels the need to convince your visitors of the virtues of living here? Among the oft-cited strengths are cost of living, economy and diversity. The performance troupe Shen Yun speaks to the latter. Through music, song, folk dances, animated backdrops and storytelling, ShenYun journeys through 5,000 years of Chinese history, family dynasties and mythological stories.

The skinny: Through Jan. 1, 2014; Jones Hall; tickets start at $70.

Family Flicks screening: The Painting

The French animated film The Painting is a story that takes place within a colorful work of art. Inside something that resembles a melange of the styles of Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall and Amedeo Modigliani, three social orders struggle to coexist, particularly the "sketchies," who are treated as rejects. When they cross over the boundaries of the cursed forest, they encounter something they never imagined: Their maker.

What ensues in the painter's studio . . . no worries, I won't spoil the ending for you.

The skinny: Thursday through Saturday, 1 p.m.; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; free with museum admission.

Alley Theatre presents The Santaland Diaries by David Sedaris

Last year was supposed to bring this Alley Theatre holiday tradition to a close, but subscribers would have none of it. So back for another run is David Sedaris' The Santaland Diaries, starring the charming company actor Todd Waite. The one-man show tells the sarcastic tale of Crumpet the Elf during the frenzied holiday scene at Macy's. Though Crumpet may sometimes appear a tad jaded, deep inside, he truly embodies the spirit of the holiday. Or at least a side-splitting approximation of the madness that ensues.

How Waite gets through performance after performance without losing his luster is magical.

The skinny: Running through Dec. 31; Alley Theatre; tickets start at $45.

U-Pick Strawberries at Blessington Farms

Make jam, pie, blend them into a smoothie or eat them plain raw. Freshly-picked strawberries, blueberries and blackberries carry so much flavor and nutrients that their store-bought counterparts aren't even in the same league. Blessington Farms in Simonton, located about 40 miles west of downtown or 20 minutes west of Katy, has ripe strawberry fields ready to harvest — a terrific outing for the whole family.

Adding to the fun are activities as part of "Holiday Farm Funland," a playground of sorts that offers hay rides, giant slides, pedal cars, train rides, hay mazes and animal interactions. Call ahead, though, as Blessington Farms sometimes closes because of inclement weather.

The skinny: Saturday, 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m.; Blessington Farms; free admission, strawberries are $5 a pound.

Archway Gallery's Annual After Christmas Sale

Now that Christmas is officially over, it's time for every retailer to roll out end-of-year closeout specials. Because if families aren't eating, they should be shopping, right? 

Try something different than the big box stores. Archway Gallery, during its annual after Christmas sale, offers a collection of works crafted by 30 local artists who are in the middle of cleaning out their holdings in preparation of the arrival of 2014.

The skinny: Thursday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Archway Gallery; free admission, shopping encouraged.

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