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Photo by Painted Peacock Photography

As spring shopping fever surges, two upcoming events will help inspire a thoughtful approach to seasonal fashion and home décor. The Houston Junior Forum and The American Heart Association invite Houstonians to shop for a cause at their charitable affairs.

Photo by Painted Peacock Photography

April Salazar at the 'Shop With Heart" launch at Kuhl-Linscomb in 2022.

During both shopping events, customers can purchase high-end frocks, fun trends, gourmet food, and everything in between from notable retailers. Here are all the details to inspire an elite spring shopping list.

The City Market Benefitting The Houston Junior Forum

Kick off the spring season by perusing more than 65 retailers at the second annual The City Market. The two-day shopping event, held at the Bayou City Event Center on March 30-31, will benefit The Houston Junior Forum, a women's non-profit organization committed to providing charitable services for children, youth, women, and senior adults in the greater Houston area.

The event is the primary fundraiser for the 77-year-old charitable organization. Savvy shoppers will find everything from fashion and accessories to home décor, unique gifts, and gourmet food. Retailers include Boots & Bows Smocking Co, Creek Road Designs, Brenham Kitchens, Freida Rothman, Hila, One Hip Mom, and more. A complete list of retailers is available here.

The City Market has several ticket packages, making it easy to shop for a cause. Shoppers can participate in everything from a preview party to shopping and lunch or a general admission ticket. Prices range from $20 to $275 for the two-day event.

Shop With Heart Card Benefitting the American Heart Association

Prepare for fabulous discounts during a ten-day premier shopping event benefiting the American Heart Association. The Shop with Heart Card runs April 21 through 30, and cards are available to purchase online or for pre-order before they go on sale on March 31. Shoppers looking for a 20-percent discount on regularly priced merchandise and services at many of Houston's premier retailers can purchase a card for a minimum donation of $50.

One hundred percent of the proceeds benefit the American Heart Association. Retailers include Abejas Boutique, Bering's Hardware, The Container Store, Christy Lynn, David Peck, Frock Shop, Intermix, Kuhl-Linscomb, Tootsies, Weidner Hasou & Co, and so many more – a complete list of participating retailers is available here.

The American Heart Association will host an after-hours soiree at Kuhl-Linscomb to launch the ten-day event. The Shop with Heart Card Kickoff event will be Thursday, April 20, from 6-8 pm. Everyone is invited to purchase a Shop With Heart Card to receive discounts at an extensive list of local retailers and restaurants, with a $50 minimum donation. At the event, shoppers will enjoy light bites, drinks, door prizes, and a DJ.

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Gigantic 50-foot shark dives into Houston museum for jaw-dropping new showcase of Earth's greatest predator

jaw-dropping jaws

By the numbers, the great white shark is one of the most fearsome predators to ever exist on planet Earth. Consider:

Sharks! The Meg, The Monsters & The Myths HMNS

Photo courtesy of Houston Museum of Natural Science

Yes, this is actually scale.

  • The largest great white ever recorded spanned 20 feet – half the size of a school bus — and weighed at least 5,000 pounds.
  • At any given moment, great whites possess 300 teeth — measuring up to 6.6 inches — and can regenerate and replace up to 20,000 in a lifetime.
  • Swimming up to 35 miles per hour, a great white can launch itself out of the water like a missile.

But those stats are child's play to the great white's prehistoric predecessor, the megalodon (which literally means "big tooth"), which grew to 65 feet long. Known by scientists and fans as the "Meg," the massive monster will star in Houston Museum of Natural Science's new exhibit Sharks! The Meg, The Monsters & The Myths.

The immersive shark fest opens Friday, May 26 to members and Saturday, May 27 to the general public. Tickets are available online.

Dive into the shark tank

Meant to educate and inspire awe and curiosity rather than hysteria, the new exhibition features six galleries that include live shark tank, 14 life-sized models, interactive and touchable items, dazzling digital displays, fun photo ops, and meg-sized chunks of information about the ocean's apex predators.

Visitors can meet these fin-tastic friends via a 360-square-foot virtual “shark tank,” where sharks of all shapes and sizes (there are eight different orders and more than 500 species) swim by, showing off their sleek shapes, bioluminescence, and grace.

Meet the monster Meg

A giant, life-sized, 50-foot model of a female megalodon — in full swim pose and jaws that easily down an entire refrigerator or a few humans — wide open in a toothy grin. The megalodon's sheer mass compared to humans, its color (gray to reflect the sea wall with a "great white" belly) will be on display for photos and wow moments.

Another gallery takes viewers back more than 400 million years to the earliest sharks and fossilized shark teeth. Each visitor can select a fossilized tooth dating back to the Miocene era to keep as part of the journey.

Some gentle bamboo and epaulette sharks will join stingrays (cousins of sharks), sea urchins, and a host of other sea dwellers in an easily viewable tank, which will offer an up-close-and-personal perspective as to why these creatures are so essential to the ecosystem.

No excursion would be complete without swag, and this one offers up toys, puzzles, t-shirts, magnets, and more at the Island Store, which also houses megalodon teeth, fossilized coral, and a 100,000-year-old giant fossil clamshell.

Fans of these finned friends

While they have survived every mass extinction event in the past 450 million years and have ruled their water kingdom for some 300,000 years, sharks are now in peril by the worst predator of all: humans. Spurred by bloodlust after the release of the 1975 epic film and novel Jaws and other sensational pop culture vehicles, an average of 100 million sharks are killed by humans each year.

Whether for sport, shark fin soup (where fins are cut off while the shark is cast back still alive and left to drown), scientists worry that this decimation could mean the end for many of these astounding creatures. '

“Sharks are remarkably diverse and efficient predators but are more threatened than threatening. In fact, over one-third of shark species are now facing the threat of extinction,” said Nicole Temple, the exhibit curator. “With this exhibition, we hope that our guests are able to explore the misconceptions, mysteries, and mystique of sharks to help pave the way for conservation efforts, as well as explore their unique adaptations and behaviors that continue to inspire scientific innovation around the world.”

“Sharks are critical to maintaining the health of our oceans, which are a huge carbon sink for the planet,” Temple adds. “Really, sharks help keep us alive.”

Consider this a chance to visit to a monstrous meg, snap a selfie, and say thanks.

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Sharks! The Meg, The Monsters & The Myths opens Friday, May 26 (members) and Saturday, May 27 (general public) at Houston Museum of Natural Science, 5555 Hermann Park Dr. For tickets and more information, visit HMNS online.

Disney's Little Mermaid remake goes swimmingly despite new so-so songs

Movie review

The biggest problem with the majority of the live-action updates to classic Disney animated films is that they haven’t been updates at all, choosing to merely regurgitate the moments audiences know and love from the original in a slightly repackaged form. That’s great for nostalgia, but if that’s all viewers wanted, they’d just go back and watch the original.

The Little Mermaid falls into much the same trap, although the filmmakers get at least a little credit for trying to offer something new. The story, of course, remains the same, as Ariel (Halle Bailey) has a fascination with everything above the surface of the ocean. Her rebellious nature, at odds with strict King Triton (Javier Bardem), leads her to spy on a ship with Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King) and his crew, putting her in position to save Eric when the ship crashes into rocks.

Now totally enamored of Eric, Ariel is convinced by the sea witch Ursula (Melissa McCarthy) to give up her voice for a chance to live on land and make Eric fall in love with her. Trouble is, despite the help of Sebastian the crab (Daveed Diggs), Flounder the fish (Jacob Tremblay), and Scuttle the seabird (Awkwafina), Ursula has no plans to let Ariel succeed fair and square.

Directed by Rob Marshall and written by David Magee, the film clocks in at nearly one hour longer than the original, going from 83 minutes to 135. They accomplish this feat with the addition of several songs, including ones “sung” by Ariel while she is without voice, a relatively clever way to get into her thoughts during that long stretch. There are also additional scenes that give Prince Eric more of a backstory, making him more than just a pretty face on which to hang all of Ariel’s hopes and dreams.

The new songs are hit-and-miss; Ariel’s “For the First Time” is a fanciful number that fits in nicely, but “Wild Uncharted Waters,” a solo song for Prince Eric, feels unnecessary, and the less said about “The Scuttlebutt,” a rap performed by Scuttle and written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the better. What most people want to see are how the original songs are done, and they come off well for the most part. The actors’ voices are uniformly good and the staging is engaging.

Other changes seem half-hearted, at best. A vague environmental theme broached at the beginning is quickly dropped. The cast is very multicultural, but haphazardly so. The film is obviously set on and around a Caribbean island, making it natural for The Queen (Noma Dumezweni), Eric’s adopted mother, and other islanders to be Black. But giving Ariel “sisters from the seven seas,” allowing for mermaids of several different races and ethnicities, feels odd and forced, and a little creepy given that King Triton is supposed to be the father of all of them.

The fact that Bailey herself is Black, while great for representation, is neither here nor there in the context of the film. Bailey has a voice that is equal to everything she is asked to sing, and her silent acting is excellent in the middle portion of the film. McCarthy makes for a great Ursula, bringing both humor and pathos to the role. Hauer-King, who bears a similarity to Ryan Gosling, plays Eric in a more well-rounded manner.

The live-action version of The Little Mermaid, like almost all of the Disney remakes, never truly establishes itself as its own unique thing. Still, it’s a thoroughly pleasant watch with some nice performances, which clears the bar for success for this era of Disney history.

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The Little Mermaid opens in theaters on May 26.

Halle Bailey in The Little Mermaid

Photo courtesy of Disney

Halle Bailey in The Little Mermaid.

New Jersey-based Viet-Cajun seafood restaurant steams up first Houston location with crawfish, po-boys, and more

be nice to the crabs

A New Jersey seafood restaurant has debuted in West Houston. Nauti Crab is now open in the former Hank’s Cajun Grill space at 11660 Westheimer Rd.

Open since 2016 in Metuchen, New Jersey, Nauti Crab owner Ryan Mai has chosen Houston as the next outpost for his Viet-Cajun fare. The restaurant specializes in boiled seafood such as crawfish, shrimp, mussels, crab, and lobster paired with different sauces and spices.

“Continuing our incredible journey started in New Jersey; we are excited to bring our unique flavors and unforgettable dining experience to seafood enthusiasts in Houston,” Mai said in a statement. “We chose Houston as a second location because Houston is one of the most diverse food cities in the United States. Houstonians are passionate about Cajun cuisine, just like we are! Houston is a perfect match to continue the Nauti Crab brand.”

Meals at Nauti Crab are built around boiled seafood. Diners may select different shellfish such as lobster, king crab legs, Dungeness crab clusters, blue crab, shrimp, and crawfish. From there, choose one of five flavors, including the signature Nauti Cajun that blends garlic butter, lemon pepper, and Cajun spices. Finally, select a spice level (ranging from mild to extra hot) and optional add-ons such as corn, potatoes, garlic noodles, or andouille sausage.

The menu also includes appetizers such as wings, fried calamari, and shrimp tacos. Nauti Crab offers sandwiches like the shrimp po’ boy and crab rolls as well as rice and noodle dishes including Dungeness crab over garlic noodles and shrimp fried rice.

Pair them with drinks from the full bar, including wine, beer, cocktails, and sodas. Sit at the bar to follow sports on the restaurant’s flatscreen TVs.

Nauti Crab comes to Houston after having been well received in New Jersey. The restaurant maintains a solid 4.7 stars on OpenTable and 4.5 stars on Yelp.

Nauti Crab food spread

Photo by Rebekah Flores

Nauti Crab offers different varieties of boiled seafood.

To celebrate its grand opening, Nauti Crab will be offering a 10-percent discount on Saturday, June 3. In addition, a DJ will play music and giveaways will take place throughout the day. After that, the restaurant will be open Monday-Friday from 3-10 pm and Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 am - 10 pm.