Forget this week’s Target run — the Austin Home + Garden Show has everything an Austinite needs, wants, and didn’t know they crave in tools and knickknacks around the house. The Austin Convention Center will fill up with tools, fashion, organization, and appliances this January 6-8.

Like any expo, this offers demo and browsing opportunities, plus service and product specials that can save attendees hundreds of dollars. In addition to the shopping, some speakers will get onstage to share inspiration with DIY-ers. New this year, attendees can learn from a well-known pair of designers and flea market-loving sisters dubbed the Junk Gypsies and Austin’s own Zilker Botanical Garden.

Amie and Jolie Sikes run Junk Gypsy out in Round Top, a feminine, bohemian, and decidedly country retail store that initially sold the duo’s market finds, and served as a launchpad for the HGTV series that solidified their nickname. The rogue designers take the aesthetic of the junktiques-obsessed city and turn trash into many Austin women’s treasures, while making custom pieces for celebrities with rockabilly aesthetics: Miranda Lambert, Dierks Bentley, Billie Joe Armstrong, and more. They’ll hit the stage on January 7 at 2 pm, for an unspecified chat between seminars about garden planning and creating a more energy-efficient home.

Zilker Botanical Garden, a partner of the Home + Garden show, is signing on for its first activation and keeping things straightforward: garden design and maintenance. The all-levels talk promises useful tips that anyone can try, a demonstration on growing broccoli microgreens in one week, plus a Q&A portion for more specifics on different types of plants, which need different care. Texas Bamboo Society and Austin Herb Society will join to display and sell goods. The Botanical Garden offers frequent workshops at its home location, but this event appears to be broader than its usual programming.

The show also welcomes social media influencer Rhonda Kaiser, Dennis Celsor of Built Green Custom Homes, and Jewell Parker of ShelfGenie as speakers. In addition to the convenience of all shopping in one place, the show provides a free shuttle to the Barton Creek Mall, enabling free parking.

The Austin Home + Garden Show invites visitors January 6 from 12-8 pm; January 7 from 10 am to 8 pm; and January 8 from 11 am to 6 pm. Tickets ($10 adults, free for children) are available austinhomeandgardenshow.com at a reduced rate ($8) until opening day on January 6. The Zilker Botanical Garden (2220 Barton Springs Road) offers visitors free tickets to the show.

Photo by Eddy Lee on Unsplash

Zillow's experts predict the top 5 home trends for 2023 in Houston and beyond

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Zillow analyzed its listings data to determine the top five home trends to watch in the New Year, and while it may be 2023, not 2020, many pandemic-era home fads are still hanging on.

Do not disturb
Take, for example, segmented layouts. The past three decades have seen contractors taking down walls to create open-concept spaces, but more than a quarter of all Zillow listings mention "privacy" or "private spaces," up 7 percent over last year.

"The pandemic exposed the fatal flaw of the open floorplan once everyone was living, working, and schooling at home: the lack of privacy. A soundless space for video calls or a quiet sitting room for reading became more desirable than ever," says the study.

Homeowners who have open floorplans will look to compartmentalize their space through furniture layout and design to create private nooks and corners, Zillow predicts.

Room to roam
Backyards are also still a luxury, and are highlighted in one out of every five Zillow listing descriptions. Mentions of patios and pools also surged, up by more than 13 percent and 11 percent, respectively, in 2022.

"The rising popularity of outdoor features suggests the pandemic has changed the way we want to live for good, priming the backyard for a 2023 evolution," says Amanda Pendleton, Zillow's home trends expert. "When the pandemic forced all entertaining outdoors, homeowners reclaimed their backyards from the kids or the dogs. Now they're rethinking how that space could serve as an extension of their home in new, creative ways."

In 2023, Zillow says to look for outdoor home gyms, natural pools alive with plants, edible gardens, and outdoor rooms for dining, lounging, and quiet reflection.

Gather 'round
Speaking of entertaining — and just general everyday living — kitchen islands are increasing in functionality and desirability.

Zillow listings mentioning a kitchen island saw an uptick of 19 percent in 2022, as people move further away from formal dining rooms and embrace the casual comfort of gathering in the kitchen.

Expect to see these islands stand out with contrasting paint colors or wood stains and different countertop materials, Zillow predicts. The trend of repurposing unique furniture pieces or vintage tables as islands will also grow in 2023, the company says.

Upgrade and upkeep
Lots of other home improvements are on the horizon, especially for younger homeowners.

A new Zillow survey finds 48 percent of homeowners younger than 40 have tapped the equity in their home in the past two years, most commonly to pay for home improvement projects.

However, 90 percent of those homeowners under 40 who took out a home equity line of credit or second mortgage, or opted for a cash-out refinance, have yet to spend all the money they borrowed, suggesting 2023 may be the year they complete all the renovation projects on their to-do list.

What's on the docket? Improvements that make homes more sustainable, low-maintenance, and high-tech. Investing in drought-resistant landscaping and smart-home systems are energy-efficient projects that can help save money and the environment, and boost a home's value when it's time to sell.

Mirror, mirror
One trend you might not have seen coming is the return of mirrored walls and ceilings, which are now appearing 12 percent more often in listing descriptions on Zillow.

We're not talking 1970s panels, per se, but rather antiqued mirrored surfaces applied in a grid for a tres chic Parisian feel.

Don't want this shiny upgrade to feel overwhelming? Embrace the closed layout and go bold in one room only.

Photo courtesy of Kappa Kappa Gamma Charitable Foundation of Houston

3 tony Tanglewood dwellings open their doors for Houston's oldest holiday home tour

decked-out halls

Since 1941, the Kappa Kappa Gamma Charitable Foundation of Houston and the Kappa Kappa Gamma Houston Alumnae Association have hosted the biennial Holiday Pilgrimage Home Tour. It's allowed guests into some of Houston's finest addresses to see their holiday decor, while also raising millions of dollars for area charities.

The home tour is back this year, with a focus on Tanglewood. Three homes are available for viewing, part of Kappa Kappa Gamma's Making Spirits Bright for Our Community campaign. Homes are open Friday and Saturday, December 2 and 3 from 10 am to 4 pm.

Go inside 414 Shadywood Rd., 5936 Deerwood Dr., and 5950 Stones Throw Rd. to see examples of beautiful architecture, lovely holiday displays, and gracious living. This is an opportunity to gather inspiration for seasonal decorating and learn more about what makes each home unique.

Tickets are $25 each and can be purchased online, as well as at fine retailers such as Berings, Briargrove Pharmacy & Gifts, and Memorial Designs.

Those who purchase tickets online must bring their receipt to the first home they tour, where it will be exchanged for the number of tickets purchased. The home tour is self guided, and guests may begin at any of the homes and proceed at their leisure to each during the tour's hours.

Kappa Kappa Gamma is a national sorority, with chapters at colleges around the country and a history dating back more than 150 years. Houston's Kappa Kappa Gamma Alumnae Association was founded in 1928 and boasts more than 900 members in the Bayou City.

Photo courtesy of Kappa Kappa Gamma Charitable Foundation of Houston

The classic 414 Shadywood Rd.

Photo courtesy of AIA Houston

AIA Houston Home Tour

AIA Houston Home Tour

Eight architect-designed houses representing the finest in new residential architecture will be featured in the annual AIA Houston Home Tour. Open to the public, all of the homes on the self-guided, two-day tour are located within the Houston metropolitan area, designed by an AIA architect, and completed within the last five years. The criteria used to select homes for the tour include design excellence, quality and craftsmanship, innovative design solutions and use of materials, and sustainability of design.

The featured architects and houses (square footages are approximate) include:

  • Arc Three Studio - 4730 Redstart Street, 77035
  • Architangent - 5311 Rose Street, 77007
  • Albany Studio - 4126 Gairloch Lane, 77025
  • Mirador Group - 5417 Pine Street, Bellaire, 77401
  • CONTENT Architecture - 1011 East 7-1/2th Street, 77009
  • m + a architecture studio - 2814 Ruth Street, 77004
  • McIntyre + Robinowitz Architects - 1036 East 6-1/2th Street, 77009
  • studioMET Architects - 1334 Glourie Drive, 77055
Photo courtesy of Norhill Neighborhood Association

Norhill Neighborhood Association presents Bungalow Home Tour

Norhill Neighborhood Association presents Bungalow Home Tour

Norhill Neighborhood Association's annual Bungalow Home Tour showcases a well-preserved collection of bungalow-style homes. Six examples of bungalow home architecture will be on display during this year's tour.

Photo courtesy of Houston Home and Garden Show

Houston Home + Garden Show

Houston Home + Garden Show

At theHouston Home + Garden Show, visitors can shop for home-related products and services, industry experts, and more. There will be unique feature displays, booths, and Joe Mazza, host of HGTV’s Home Inspector Joe.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Houston-born America's Got Talent star jazzes up new TUTS' production of Broadway smash Chicago

Razzle dazzle 'em!

When Christina Wells steps onto the Hobby Center stage as Matron "Mama" Morton in the 25th Anniversary Tour of Chicago, she knows she's coming full circle.

Wells takes on the famed role in the highly anticipated Chicago run produced by Theatre Under the Stars, which runs January 31 through February 12 at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts.

Houston — and national —audiences fell in love with her during her breakout, Season 13 of NBC's America's Got Talent.

"The city of Houston showed up for me," she tells CultureMap, explaining the hometown love she felt in her appearance on the talent show. "I feel such joy in returning here. You know, performing is a two-way street, and I feel like, we did it!"

Wells' gratitude for her home and her career runs deep. The H-Town native is a trained registered nurse, and didn't step into performing full time until after her stint on the hit show. By that point, she was in her 40s, with two grown children.

All the stars seemed to align, pointing her in a brand-new direction.

"I was always that nurse who would whip open the curtain on a patient before surgery and say, hey!" Her voice notches up, evoking an emcee warming up the crowd. "So, I always brought that kind of entertaining aspect to it."

Following the AGT appearance, she secured and agent and began the path to full-time acting. The single mother (her sons are now 27 and 21, and she has a toddler grandson) calls it her "second adulthood."

Chicago is her first national tour, and every day is adventure for Wells, being in a new city every week — sometimes multiple times a week — and learning who she is in this new phase of her life.

"It's just surreal," she says about having the tour stop in Houston. "I started in community theater and I looked up to TUTS. That was the goal."

A goal she met in 2021, with a dream role of Ursula the sea witch in Disney's The Little Mermaid. Now, she's back on the Hobby Center stage in another iconic role in an another iconic musical.

Matron "Mama" Morton is in charge of the women's ward of the Cook County Jail, where she oversees the musical's accused murderers, taking the occasional bribe in exchange for favors and preferential treatment Her big number, "When You're Good to Mama" is often a showstopper, sung by some of show business' biggest names. Think Patti LaBelle, Lilias White, Jennifer Holliday, and Queen Latifah.

That might nbe intimidating to some. Not to Wells.

"I try not to think of stepping into other people's shoes," she says. "I want to myself to this. I want to be authentic in it. [Mama's] a big woman, and she loves these girls. She protects them. But she's tough. She gets what she wants."

The musical, with music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb, and a book by Ebb and Bob Fosse, opened to mixed reviews on Broadway in 1975. But its 1996 revival fared better. That iteration of the show is still running on Broadway.

And the 2002 movie musical was a hit, starring Richard Gere, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renee Zellweger, and Latifah. It explores the idea of celebrity criminals and a corrupt justice system, blending those dark themes with some of Broadway's most instantly recognizable tunes such as "All That Jazz," "Razzle Dazzle," and "Nowadays."

Being part of the tour has taught Wells a lot, both about the business of performing and about her self. She prioritizes singing over everything else, she says. And she's tapped into her own desire for authenticity in her roles to amp up her acting. She credits the show's creative team, especially the show's director and assistant choreographer, in helping her to grow in her craft an confidence.

That confidence is something she wants to share.

"Opportunity and talent don't just belong to the young," she says. "Everyone has value."

That's the message she shares with others when she offers workshops and talks, where she not only offers her own journey as an example, but encourages others to tap into theirs.

"I'm a cheerleader," she explains. "I have one friend who teases me, 'Don't listen to her; she'll have you going back to college and leaving your terrible boyfriend.'" Wells laughs. "But I say, stand in my confidence for a little while. If I'm going to have a platform in this life, I'm going to tell you to believe in yourself."


Chicago runs January 31 through February 12 at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts (800 Bagby St.). For tickets, showtimes, and more information, visit TUTS online.

Photo by Jeremy Daniel

Christina Wells plays "Mama" Morton in TUTS' Chicago.

New City of Houston law now requires locals to chip in for their precious pets

plug and play

Starting on Wednesday, February 1, all dog and cat owners in the city of Houston will be required to microchip their pets.

The new rule is officially going into effect after the Houston City Council passed an ordinance last year. Initially, there was a year-long grace period for enforcing the microchipping requirement, but that ends on Wednesday.

It's part of a three-step process to completing a pet registration with the city. The city says the microchips help animal control return pets that are brought to city facilities that are lost.

The City of Houston Municipal Code requires that anyone who owns, keeps, possesses, or has control of a dog or cat that's at least 4 months old must have their pet registered, microchipped and vaccinated against rabies every year.


Continue reading this story, with accompanying video, on our news partner ABC13.

Where to eat in Houston right now: The most swoon-worthy restaurants with open tables on Valentine's Day

where to eat on valentine's day

Valentine’s Day is two weeks away. Couples who wish to celebrate at a Houston restaurant need to make their plans now.

Instead of listing every establishment with a prix fixe, this list offers suggestions of newer or more offbeat options. All of the restaurants listed below show at least some reservations available online as of Monday, January 30.

Of course, those who want to avoid the Valentine’s Day crowds may want to consider going out the weekend before. People who aren’t football fans will find plentiful options on Super Bowl Sunday.

Couples looking for a more casual celebration should consider the popular Midtown bar, which will host a market curated by Shop Local Market. The evening also includes a screening of the cult classic movie True Romance, tacos by Boombox Tacos, and cocktail specials.

El Topo
Chef-owner Tony Luhrman will collaborate with former Top Chef contestant Sasha Grumman (Sasha’s Focaccia) on a five-course, $140 per person menu that explores the intersection of Texan and Italian flavors. Dishes include cherries and chicories salad, ricotta cavatelli with guanciale, and smoked tenderloin with masa polenta. Beverage pairings ($25 for non-alcoholic, $50 for alcoholic) are also available.

George’s Bistro & Bar
This neighborhood restaurant in West U. will supplement its regular menu with a three-course, $100 per person prix fixe. Choose lobster bisque or fried mozzarella to start, followed by either a 10-ounce filet mignon or pan-seared sea bass. Finish with chocolate covered strawberries and lemon meringue pie.

GJ Tavern
Chef Tim Redding will serve a six-course, $135 per person menu at this intimate downtown restaurant. Dishes include East Coast oysters, fried asparagus with crispy prosciutto, octopus, roasted flounder, and New York strip. Two seatings available.

Hidden Omakase
Chef Niki Vongthong will serve a special, Valentine’s themed version of her $175 tasting menu from February 9-12. Look for dishes such as oysters with ikura and yuzu, wagyu udon, and sour cream panna cotta.

Agricole Hospitality’s Texan-inspired restaurant in EaDo will supplement its regular menu with a few Valentine’s Day specials, including three different shared entrees — mesquite-grilled veal chop, snapper with lemongrass butter, and chicken fried piccata — as well as Mexican hot chocolate lava cake. Miss Carousel, its companion cocktail bar, makes for a worthy pre or post-dinner destination.

Louie’s Italian American
This East End newcomer will supplement its regular a la carte with a four-course, $60 prix fixe that includes shared starters, lemon and ricotta ravioli, redfish with salsa verde, and olive oil cake.

The Lymbar
Chef David Cordua’s new restaurant in Midtown will offer a three-course, $85 per person menu. Start with choices such as snapper ceviche or chicken chicharrones before picking an entree such as chicken ballotine, gemelli pasta, or beef tenderloin tacos arabes. A few dessert choices are available, but people should get the tres leches.

Navy Blue
The Bludorn team’s newly opened Rice Village seafood restaurant will serve a three-course, $145 per person prix fixe. Start with one of six appetizers, including oysters, seafood gumbo, or crab cake. The six entree choices include blackened snapper, lobster ravioli, and dry-aged striploin. Finish with any dessert from the menu.

Passerella Ristorante & Wine Bar

This Italian restaurant in Cypress from the owners of The Union Kitchen will offers its Valentine’s menu from February 10-19. Choices include wild mushroom tart, lobster ravioli, veal osso bucco, and bone-in pork milanese.

Chef Anita Jaisinghani’s Lover’s Thali is a two person, $50 dinner that includes Potato Cake Chaat, Vegetable Korma (carrots, cauliflower, snap peas), and sides such as citrus pilaf, grilled zucchini, and avocado herb salad. Add chicken for $10 or shrimp or scallops for $15. Available Saturday, February 11 through Valentine’s.

Roma Ristorante
Rice Village’s homey Italian restaurant will serve a three-course, $59 per person prix fixe. Starters include Caesar salad, octopus, and arancini. Risotto, chicken cacciatore, veal scallopini, and crispy skin salmon are the entree choices. Finish with one of three desserts.

Saint Arnold Brewing Company
Houston’s oldest craft brewery will host a six-course dinner that includes beer pairings. Even better, the $100 per person price includes tax and gratuity. Look for dishes such as French onion soup paired with Spring Bock; oysters Rockefeller paired with Bishop’s Barrel No. 11; and lamb chops paired with Bishop’s Barrel No. 20.

State of Grace
The luxurious steak and seafood restaurant in River Oaks will serve a five-course, $145 per person menu on Valentine’s. Everyone starts with caviar and and oysters before selecting from four appetizers, three pastas, and six entrees. Choices include roasted bone marrow, grilled strawberry salad, blue crab risotto, braised lamb shank, and a surf and turf of filet and lobster ($15 supplement).

Chef Hugo Ortega’s street food concept in Uptown Park will serve a three-course, $95 menu that’s designed to feed two people. Available on February 10, 11, 13, and 14, choices include chicken taquitos, ceviche, braised pork shank, huitlacoche quesadilla, and skirt steak. Drink specials will provide pairing options.

Photo by Ajna Jai

Share a Valentine's thali at Pondicheri.