Photo by Sonnie Hiles on Unsplash

San Antonians have a lot to be proud of in their homes. We know they'll shell out thousands of dollars each year to keep up curb appeal, and the city is poised to attract lots of Gen Z residents who will at least become renters, if not buyers quite yet. But home maintenance can be overwhelming, even for longtime homeowners.

Inspiration and important tips can be found at the 35th annual San Antonio Fall Home + Garden Show. The expo just announced that it will set up its goods and service booths at the Alamodome from October 6-8, 2023.

With "hundreds of industry professionals under one roof," according to a news release, the show will offer a lot more than a chance to browse the more than 200 booths. Vendors are happy to give advice and inspiration (hey, maybe bring in that broken something-or-other you've been holding onto for months), and some have even prepared how-to presentations.

This isn't just something for landscape-obsessed dads. (Although...we'll see you there. Can't wait to talk about the best hoses.) Every member of the family can have a hand in keeping the home running smoothly, and kids are invited to learn about how to be more responsible and creative in workshops.

The release picks out 12 highlights, but here are the six CultureMap is most interested in:

  • Celebrity appearance by April Wilkerson: A home-improvement expert on YouTube, Wilkerson can often be spotted in her workshop forming DIYs with wood and metal. She has appeared on History Channel’s More Power, testing power tools. Wilkerson speaks on Friday, October 6, at 4 pm and Saturday, October 7, at 1 pm.
  • Celebrity appearance by Patric Richardson, The Laundry Evangelist: Believe it or not, people couldn't wait to go to Laundry Camp — so much that it created book and TV spinoffs. Richardson is teaching people to take better care of everything that goes in the laundry. He speaks on Friday, October 6, at 3 pm and Saturday, October 7, at noon and 2 pm.
  • Barbie-Inspired Dream Rooms: Barbie inspired tons of people at the movies this year, and her dream house will remain a lasting cultural touchstone for generations to come. Anyone who is ready to think pink can explore four "Barbie-themed dream rooms" by professional designers, to gather inspiration for what can be done in the real world.
  • Ask an Expert Arborist: Local arborists will be answering questions about "all tree-related matters." Hiring an arborist is a good idea, but not cheap, so these tree experts can help make sure you've checked all your boxes first. Consider asking what to plant, and where; whether your trees look healthy or need more attention; and if it's really time to take an old tree down.
  • Home Depot Children’s Workshop: Kids have too much creative energy to let it go to waste around the house. But before popping on a YouTube video and hand them a hammer, consider getting guidance from the Home Depot. The workshop will teach kids "how to build and make something real by themselves."
  • Runway Pet Show: Adoptable pets will hit the runway to inspire pet parents and find new homes. These runway models come from God's Dogs Rescue and San Antonio Pets Alive; Both rescue organizations will benefit from the silent dog house auction.

There will be plenty of snacks from San Antonio food vendors including Aloha Kitchen, Carina's Tacos, Casey's Cottage, Gigi's Cupcakes, Sofia's Pizzeria and The Original Taste of the Caribbean.

Tickets ($8 until October 5, $10 later) are available at sanantoniofallhomeshow.com. Children under 16 enter free, and special days are set for free entry for active military personnel, veterans, fire, police, first responders, and teachers.

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New holiday pop-up shop tops this week's 5 hottest San Antonio headlines

This week's hot headlines

Editor's note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. From a holiday pop-up shop to twinkling Hill Country towns, here are the five most-read stories over the past seven days.

1. Holiday pop-up store lights up with 3 San Antonio makers. For San Antonians looking to shop small this holiday season — while still finding unique gifts — a new type of retail store downtown offers both. The Holidays on Houston Street Pop-up is a retail store that sells products from local small businesses and artisans, who run the shop themselves.

2. This is the average holiday shopping budget for a San Antonio household. Santa and his elves get busier with every passing year, but sometimes even Kris Kringle has to use his black card to get the job done. And according to a new study by Wallethub, Santa's gonna be working overtime to fulfill the orders for residents of San Antonio and New Braunfels this holiday season.

3. 'The twinkliest town in Texas' and 6 other Hill Country locales become Christmas wonderlands. Throughout December, the Hill Country rolls out the twinkle lights and garlands to give city slickers some Christmas razzle-dazzle. Unpack a cozy sweater, cue a playlist, and fire up the sleigh.

4. What’s brewing in San Antonio: Vista Brewing and Growler Exchange launch new locations.Here's our latest roundup of everything that's brewing in San Antonio, including a second Growler Exchange and a new home for Vista Brewing San Antonio.

5. Hill Country's famous Salt Lick BBQ smokes out new location in Fredericksburg. A storied Central Texas barbecue joint is heading for the hills. Driftwood institution the Salt Lick BBQ is set to open a new outpost in Fredericksburg along the Highway 290 Wine Trail.

San Antonio sparkles and shines as No. 5 most festive city in the U.S. for 2023

on the nice list

San Antonio homes, businesses, and special events that go all out to deck their halls for the holidays have not gone unnoticed. San Antonio has been named No. 5 most festive city in the United States.

A new study by home services provider Thumbtack puts San Antonio at the top of the nice list this year. The report compiled data from millions of Christmas-related home projects across all 50 states between October 2022 to November 2023 to reveal their list of the most festive cities in the nation.

San Antonio is on the rise, after the city previously ranked No. 10 in the 2022 report. And while Thumbtack specifically focuses on home holiday projects, San Antonio residents certainly can glean inspiration from the city's many festive displays, and several surrounding Hill Country winter wonderlands.

Texas cities dominated the top 10, with Austin (No. 1), Dallas-Fort Worth (No. 2), and Houston (No. 3) ranking just ahead of San Antonio to claim the top three most festive U.S. cities. Rounding out the top five is Seattle, Washington in the No. 4 spot.

The average cost to hire a holiday lighting specialist, Thumbtack says, is between $168-$300, with other requests like wrapping outdoor trees tacking on an additional cost. If San Antonians are looking to outsource their exterior home decorating to a specialist, they're already past the peak time to hire one, Thumbtack says. Americans most frequently hang their holiday lights and Christmas decorations during the Thanksgiving weekend, according to the report.

"Whether you’re looking to make your home a brightly lit winter wonderland or simply looking to add a few festive touches to your home’s exterior — sprucing up your home’s exterior with lights is an exciting part of getting into the holiday spirit," said Thumbtack design expert Morgan Olsen in the report. "Hiring a holiday lighting specialist can help you avoid stress (and unwanted injuries) so you can focus on enjoying the season."

Thumbtack's top 10 most festive cities in the U.S. for 2023 are:

  • No. 1 – Austin, Texas
  • No. 2 – Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas
  • No. 3 – Houston, Texas
  • No. 4 – Seattle, Washington
  • No. 5 – San Antonio, Texas
  • No. 6 – Atlanta, Georgia
  • No. 7 – Phoenix, Arizona
  • No. 8 – Tampa, Florida
  • No. 9 – Denver, Colorado
  • No. 10 – Orlando, Florida

Director Todd Haynes tackles inappropriate relationships in May December

Movie Review

Director Todd Haynes has pushed buttons throughout his career, starting with his acclaimed short film, Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story, which used Barbie dolls to illustrate the late singer’s anorexia battle. He’s at it again with his latest, May December, which tackles the idea of highly inappropriate relationships through a lens that itself has the potential to be upsetting.

Elizabeth (Natalie Portman), an acclaimed actress, has traveled to Savannah, Georgia to shadow Gracie (Julianne Moore) in preparation for a movie in which Elizabeth will play Gracie. That movie tackles the beginnings of Gracie’s relationship with Joe (Charles Melton), when he was a 13-year-old seventh grader and she was a 36-year-old pet shop worker. The shocking tryst resulted in much controversy, a child, and a jail stint for Gracie, but the couple professed their love for each other through it all.

Twenty years later, they’re still together, having added two more kids to their family, children who happen to be the same age as Gracie’s grandkids from her previous relationship. Elizabeth wants to experience it all, bouncing from person to person to try to understand exactly who Gracie is and was. Striving for authenticity in her performance, however, soon takes her down a Method acting rabbit hole.

Directed by Haynes from a script by Samy Burch, and loosely based on the story of teacher Mary Kay Letourneau and her 12-year-old student, Vili Fualaau, the film treats Gracie and Joe’s relationship in a relatively straightforward manner. It details a benign life in which they have the love of their kids and some neighbors, even if they occasionally get a box full of poop on their doorstep.

It’s the arrival of Elizabeth that sends things spiraling, as her various conversations trigger responses from both Gracie and Joe that they seem not to expect. Haynes alternates between being serious and being campy, with not enough of each for either for them to seem to be the goal. The score gives off a less-than-serious vibe, and an early scene in which a mundane thing is treated as if it were happening in a soap opera points in the campy direction, but those type of moments are few and far between.

In casting Portman as the obsessive actor, Haynes may have been trying to offer up echoes of her Oscar-winning role in Black Swan. It’s no small irony that the person who comes off as the most craven in such a sordid story is the actor who everybody wants to be around, not the woman who became a pariah because she is a sex offender. In that and other ways, Haynes upends expectations, keeping the film interesting even through its slower moments.

Portman and Moore are ideal for their respective roles, Portman because she has a knack for portraying confidence and guile, and Moore due to her ability to manipulate at will. Melton, best known for playing Reggie on Riverdale, pales in comparison due to his less showy role, but he complements the story well. Special notice goes to Elizabeth Yu as Gracie and Joe’s daughter Mary, who shines in her limited scenes.

The story of May December contains elements that will creep certain viewers out, whether it’s the subject matter itself or the performances of the two great lead actors. Haynes has a way of getting under the skin with his storytelling, and this film is yet another great example.


May December is now available on Netflix.

Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore in May December

Photo by François Duhamel / Courtesy of Netflix

Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore in May December.