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Photo courtesy of Hemline

January brings resolutions, positive affirmations, and some serious shopping. First up: the SALE, an annual two-day shopping event presented by Houston Tri Delta Philanthropies, Inc., the fundraising arm of the Houston Tri Delta Alumnae Chapter.

Due to the pandemic, the SALE’s in-person shopping event has been cancelled but Houstonians can still “shop to cure childhood cancer” through participating retailers and markets this Friday through Sunday.

Announced on the SALE’s Facebook page last November regarding the canceled in-person event, they write that their resolve to continue their mission has never been stronger. This year’s beneficiary is Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers. Through underwriting dollars and ticket sales, the SALE has raised more than $1.2 million to fund pediatric cancer research since its inception in 2015.

This year’s participating boutiques are offering dramatic discounts and after a rough start to 2021, there’s nothing more heartwarming than giving back. This weekend, look to Houston’s hottest apparel, accessories, jewelry, and home decor boutiques. Masks are required while shopping and don’t forget to mention “the SALE” while shopping.

Friday

  • Memorial West Club Pop Up, 700 N. Kirkwood Rd.
    • Jewelry designer Mirta Tummino will showcase her handcrafted, one-of-a-kind gemstone jewelry while Hemline City Centre and Hemline Heights offer up to 80 percent off merchandise.

Friday and Saturday

  • Back Row Home Pop Up, 8750 Katy Freeway #111
    • Shop French and American antique furniture and accessories from Back Row Home; contemporary fine jewelry from M.u.s.e Collection with 25 - 50 percent off; and women’s apparel from Cottage288 and Tutu and Lilli. Enjoy 50 to 75 percent off everything from Cottage288.
  • Cheeky Vintage, 2134 Richmond Ave.
  • French Cuff Boutique
    • Bellaire, 4048 Bellaire Blvd.
    • Woodway, 6401 Woodway Dr., #127
    • Town and Country, 791 Town & Country Blvd., #144
    • Lake Woodlands, 1901 Lake Woodlands Dr., #150
  • Frock Shop, 9055 Gaylord
  • hila Designs, 2609 Greenbriar Dr.
  • J. Landa Jewelry, 3264 Westheimer
  • Leslie and Co. Ladies Store, 1415 S. Voss Rd., #115
  • Lewis Jewelers, 1141 Uptown Park Blvd.
  • Maidas Belts and Buckles, 5727 Westheimer Rd.
  • Marye-Kelley, 1740 Westheimer Rd., #100
  • Memorial Designs, 1010 Campbell Rd.
  • Raintree Boutique, 5161 San Felipe #170
  • Swoon & The Monogram Shop, 5886 San Felipe St.
  • Tenenbaum Jewelers, 4310 Westheimer Rd., Suite 100

Saturday, January 9

  • Eastside Pop Up Shopping Market, 3414 Eastside St.
    • Located in the Très Chic parking lot, more than a dozen of Houston’s boutiques, including Alchemia, Andrea Montgomery, Christina Greene Jewelry, Frock Shop, MIRTH, Pomp & Circumstance, Raintree Boutique, Très Chic, and more are coming together for a free outdoor market. Complimentary parking is available in the Dress for Success parking lot.
  • Memorial’s beloved home decor and furnishings shop, Weidner Hasou & Co. (12649 Memorial Dr., Suite B) is offering 20 percent off all in-stock items from 10 am to 5 pm. Select items will also be marked down and they will match donations collected from shoppers.

All weekend

  • Boutique by Maryam, online only
    • Enjoy 40 percent off with code THESALE40
  • Mighty Aphrodity Pop Up, 3005 West Loop South, Suite 144
    • Shop Mighty Aphrodity and jewelry from Gris by Allison Hall
  • Hemline
    • City Centre, 795 Town & Country Blvd.
    • Heights, 1533 N. Shepherd, Suite 110
  • Kendra Scott
    • City Centre, 816 Town & Country Blvd., #131
    • Highland Village, 2701 Drexel Dr.
  • Magpies Gifts, 5000 Bellaire Blvd.
  • Paisley House, 2420 Washington Ave.
  • Saint Lo, 714 Yale St.
  • Two Tequila Sisters, 2431 Rice Blvd.
  • Woody’s Furs, 2050 Post Oak Blvd.

Enjoy up to 80 percent off at Hemline City Centre and Heights' Pop Up on Friday.

Photo courtesy of Hemline
Enjoy up to 80 percent off at Hemline City Centre and Heights' Pop Up on Friday.
Courtesy photo

Santa surprises generous Houstonians at Frost Bank's donation drive-through

The Gift of Hope

Houstonians in the mood to give had a worthy place to direct their energy on December 5: the Frost Bank and CultureMap donation drop-off, benefiting Kids' Meals.

During the two-hour event, thousands of packaged food items — that Kids' Meals will use to build brown-bag meals and distribute to children all over the city — were handed over at the Frost Bank on Navigation Boulevard, and those who donated received a few surprises in return.

Santa Claus himself was there, visiting with kids from the safety of their cars (and even hearing the Christmas wishes of a few dogs and cats who joined their humans at the event).

Carolers kept the mood jolly, and cookies were waiting for those who donated, along with $10 Frost It Forward cards to continue spreading optimism.

This generous gesture from Frost Bank echoed the Optimism Starts With You mural by GONZO247, which was located directly across from the drop-off point.

Those who attended the donation drive-through also got a head start on entering the social media contest by snapping a selfie by the mural and using #OptForOptimism to enter.

If you'd like a shot at winning a one-night stay at Hotel Alessandra with valet and two drinks at Bardot, along with gift cards to El Tiempo and The Grove, there's still time. Get your post up before December 31, when we'll pick one lucky winner.

The items received from the event are more important than ever to Kids' Meals, which delivers free, healthy meals to the front doors of low-income Houston families.

Since its inception in 2006, Kids' Meals has given more than 7.2 million free meals to food-insecure children in 43 Houston-area ZIP codes. It's the only program of its kind in the nation, and has grown from two delivery vans to a fleet that shares not just food, but connection to service partners that are focused on growing healthier children.

Poverty-stricken families are impacted significantly by fluctuations in the economy and changes in work hours, like those that have happened during the pandemic. Donations like the ones received here make a huge impact for children and their families looking to break the poverty cycle.

If you missed the event but would still like to contribute to Kids' Meal's important mission, please make a donation this holiday season.

Santa Claus himself talked with kids about the importance of giving.

Courtesy photo
Santa Claus himself talked with kids about the importance of giving.
Photo by SDI Productions/Getty

Help feed Houston's hungriest kids at Frost Bank's donation drop-off event

The Season of Giving

Looking for a way to give back this holiday season? Then mark your calendar for Saturday, December 5, when CultureMap and Frost Bank are hosting a donation drop-off benefitting Kids' Meals.

Donations will be accepted at the Frost Bank located at 2240 Navigation Blvd. To help the nonprofit deliver free, healthy meals to the front doors of low-income Houston families, bring these nonperishable protein options to donate:

  • Canned chicken
  • Chicken salad lunch kits
  • Tuna salad lunch kits
  • Granola bars
  • Cereal bars
  • Peanut butter snack packs

When you bring five or more donation items, you'll receive a $10 Frost It Forward card as yet another opportunity to spread generosity and the power of optimism.

People who donate will also get the chance to win a special grand prize of a one-night stay at Hotel Alessandra with valet and two drinks in Bardot. There are also gift cards to El Tiempo and The Grove up for grabs.

To enter, visit the Optimism Starts With You mural by local artist Gonzo247 at 2219 Canal St., on the southeast-facing wall on the corner of Canal and Navigation. Snap a photo of the mural and share it on social media using #OptForOptimism. We'll choose a grand prize winner on December 31.

Since its inception in 2006, Kids' Meals has given more than 6.7 million free meals to food-insecure children in 43 Houston-area ZIP codes. Kids' Meals is a first-responder to children ages 5 and under facing debilitating hunger due to extreme poverty. As of May 2020, the organization — the only one of its kind in the nation — is delivering 7,000 meals every weekday.

Help make sure no kid goes hungry.

Photo by SDI Productions/Getty
Help make sure no kid goes hungry.
Photo by Brandon Martin/Rice University

Houston philanthropist Fayez Sarofim leads funding for new Rice arts facility

an artful gift

A new arts facility at Rice University has just received a major boost, thanks to one of Houston’s most generous philanthropists. Local businessman and benefactor, Fayez Sarofim, has made a lead gift to create a 50,000-square-foot facility located next door to the Moody Center for the Arts.

The $25 million building will be named in honor of Sarofim and will seek to amplify the arts on campus and in the community. Financing will come from a combination of university funds and philanthropic donations, including the lead gift from Sarofim, according to a press release.

“Fayez Sarofim has once more made a tremendous difference for the arts in Houston, and we are incredibly indebted and proud to be able to recognize his support with a building named in his honor,” Rice University president, David Leebron, said in a statement.

The building, once completed, will cement the southwest corner of campus as an arts district that will serve as a resource for Rice students and faculty, as well as the larger Houston community. Nearby facilities include the Moody Center for the Arts, the Shepherd School of Music’s Alice Pratt Brown Hall, and the newly built Brockman Music and Performing Arts Center.

The facility will also support increasing enrollment in the Visual and Dramatic Arts (VADA) department and provide new opportunities for collaboration across disciplines, per a release. VADA serves 900 students a year, roughly a quarter of the school’s undergraduate population. Demand for more classes through VADA continues to grow in a variety of majors, including engineering, computer science, and architecture, according to the school.

Photo by Emily Jaschke

Southern Smoke blows into the Windy City with $4 million in aid

helping the windy city

One of Houston's highest-profile non-profits is taking its talents to the City of Big Shoulders. The Southern Smoke Foundation has launched a relief fund dedicated to restaurant workers in Chicago.

With the support of the James Beard Foundation and a group of anonymous donors, the Chicago Restaurant Workers Relief Fund already has $4 million in funds available. In addition, those donors will match up to $1 million in additional donations to give the fund a total of $6 million, and they've agreed to cover all administrative costs associated with the fund. The foundation cites a study by McKinsey & Co that estimates nearly half a million food service jobs in the Chicago metro area are at risk due to the economic slowdown from the coronavirus pandemic.

Founded by Houston chef Chris Shepherd, the Southern Smoke Foundation provides emergency relief funds to hospitality workers in dire situations. Since the start of the pandemic, the foundation has issued over $2.9 million in grants to over 2,200 people nationwide. The CultureMap Tastemaker Awards recognized Shepherd's efforts with its Hero Award.

To be eligible for the Chicago fund, a person must be able to demonstrate (through documentation such as pay stubs or a W-2) that they worked at least 30 hours a week for at least six months in a Chicago-area bar or restaurant. The foundation does not have a cap on specific award amounts, but life and death cases take priority.

“We want the people of Chicago to know that they can depend on us and that we are committed to supporting them with both conviction and compassion in every way possible,” Southern Smoke executive director Kathryn Lott said in a statement. “It is our obligation to gain the trust of the people we are here to serve in order for them to feel safe enough to ask us for help."

To help administer the fund, Southern Smoke is seeking to hire Chicago-based restaurant workers to fill roles such as caseworkers, application screeners, and communication specialists. The positions pay $15 per hour.

"This dedicated fund for Cook County will not only allow us to invest in the community by financially serving restaurant workers who are in crisis, but it also allows us to create employment opportunities for furloughed and unemployed workers so that they may serve their own community," Lott added. "This also enables Southern Smoke to form meaningful partnerships and collaborations with Chicago-rooted, locally trusted chefs, restaurant groups, advocacy organizations, fellow nonprofits and more.”

Prior to establishing its Chicago-specific fund, Southern Smoke had granted over $46,000 to 22 area hospitality workers. Ruth Rodriguez, a Chicago-based server, received a grant of $2,490, which covered two car payments, rent, and utilities. Chicago cook Michael Shawn Clendening Jr. received $1,750 from Southern Smoke for rent. In a release provided by the foundation, he expressed enthusiasm for the fund.

“Southern Smoke Chicago will be a huge help, especially in the South and Westside communities, which have become food deserts and disproportionately funded which fuels Chicago’s obvious neighborhood segregation,” he said.

Photo by David Shutts

Texans co-owner Janice McNair pledges $1 million for Houston rental relief fund

the mcnairs step up

As Houston is gripped by the global coronavirus pandemic, thousands of residents are in a desperate need to pay their rent. As CultureMap new partner ABC13 reports, a $20 million rental relief package that intends to help Houstonians most at risk of eviction unanimously passed a city council vote with city council August 5.

Meanwhile, a beloved member of the local sports community has stepped up to help those Houstonians in need. Houston Texans co-founder and Senior Chair Janice S. McNair and the McNair family have donated $1 million to the second rent relief package for the city of Houston.

The funds will be distributed to the most vulnerable families first who cannot pay rent due to economic challenges caused by COVID-19, according to a press release.

Funding for the city's second rental relief package includes $15 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act — also known as the CARES Act — and $5 million from private donors.

This recent $1 million contribution is just the latest in grants from the McNairs. The family and the Houston Texans Foundation has donated $1 million to COVID-19 recovery efforts, which include the Houston Food Bank, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Houston, the YMCA of Greater Houston, the Greater Houston COVID-19 Recovery Fund, Southern Smoke, and more.

“So many are struggling to provide for their families during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Janice McNair, in a statement. “It was extremely important to me and my family to step up and make sure the most vulnerable in our community don't lose their homes at this critical time. It’s one thing we can do to keep families together and provide some hope to people who need it. I’m thankful to Mayor Turner for providing programs focused on assisting our neighbors.”

Those looking for more information about the Houston Rent Relief Package can visit HoustonRentAssistance.org.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

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.

---

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.