LUSH choices for last minute holiday gift shopping: Find it in Austin Friday

Lush in Austin TexasFrom its humble origins in England (where products were being made upstairs and sold downstairs) to its arrival in Canada in 1990’s to its first shops in the U.S. in 2003, LUSH has been bringing people pure, safe bath and body products with minimal packaging.

LUSH Austin TexasI’d heard great things about them…especially about their “Bath Bombs” (I LOVE baths!) but I had no idea there was a LUSH right here in Austin. But joy of joys, there is! Tucked in between Waterloo Records and a Snap Kitchen, near Book People, we found Austin’s very own LUSH shop.

Lush shop Austin TexasIf you’re looking for Hanukkah gifts or Christmas stocking stuffers, there are so many choices here. If you want something luxurious for a special birthday or anniversary, I promise they will have it. Or (and this is my favorite), if you just need something to pamper yourself after a long day, I KNOW they have that. (Did I mention the Bath Bombs? Yeah. Those!)

Lush store in Austin TexasOh, and the people who work there are the best. They will help you find everything you’re looking for, and even show you a few things you really need but just didn’t know it. Listen to them. They know. (And don’t forget those Bath Bombs!)

The Specs

1012 W 6th Street
Austin, Texas78703
(512) 524-4459

https://www.facebook.com/LUSHAustin

Monday 10:00 am – 8:00 pm
Tuesday 10:00 am – 8:00 pm
Wednesday 10:00 am – 8:00 pm
Thursday 10:00 am – 8:00 pm
Friday 10:00 am – 8:00 pm
Saturday 10:00 am – 8:00 pm
Sunday 12:00 – 7:00 pm

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Kiddie Acres offers a just-right amusement park for little ones

Carousel horse I  had driven past it at least a dozen times, always promising myself that I would stop “next time.” It looked so cute, like the little local amusement parks I remembered from when I was little. This week, on a cool autumn day I stopped driving past and finally pulled into the parking lot of Kiddie Acres.

kiddie airplane ride at Kiddie AcresAnd after a wonderful conversation with owner Joseph (Joe) Herring, I was glad I finally pulled in. Kiddie Acres was exactly what I thought it would be: a simple, old-fashioned amusement park that’s just the right size for toddlers, preschoolers and early elementary school kids.

Joe told me he had owned Kiddie Acres since 1979. It started out on Burrnett Road, but when Mopac construction came through in 1986, he moved the park to its current location.

kiddie train at Kiddie AcresJoe, who grew up in a family of seven kids, wanted to provide a place for kids to play outdoors and imagine they’re piloting a plane, sailing a boat or working as the engineer on a train. This little park is his way of keeping imagination alive in a world filled with television and video games.

The littlest guests come first at Kiddie Acres, too. When a couple of moms came in with their kids during our conversation, Joe excused himself to greet them with a smile and find out what the kids wanted to try first. It was clear this park is something he genuinely loves.

kiddie car ride at Kiddie AcresAfter the kids were busy on their first choice, he showed me each ride in the tiny park. When he got to the car ride, his sense of humor came through. “I call it the Mopac trainer,” he said. “You go round and round and never get anywhere!”

Boat ride at Kiddie Acres

Kiddie Acres isn’t fancy. There are a few paint chips here and there. But it’s spotlessly clean and clearly lovingly maintained. It’s inexpensive, too. A ride ticket is only $2.00, and you only need one for most rides (the train and the pony ride are more.) Compare that to the hundreds a day a major park will cost — not to mention the preschooler melt downs and that long drive home.

The covered picnic areas out back and the mini-golf course make it a good place for a birthday party, field trip or playgroup meeting. It’s small enough for moms (or dads) to stay close to one another while the kids enjoy the rides.

The Specs

4800 W Howard Lane
Austin, TX 78728-6304

(512) 255-4131

http://www.kiddieacres.com/

November – March
Tuesday – Friday – 12pm-6pm
Saturday – 12pm-7pm
Sunday – 12pm-6pm

 April – October
Tuesday – Friday – 10am-6pm
Saturday – 10am-7pm
Sunday – 12pm-6pm

Closed Mondays

(Read more about Kiddie Acres in this article from The Jewish Outlook)

In case you didn’t know….why book addicts love Austin

Half Price BooksHi, I’m Lindsay, and I’m a book addict. You laugh? I’m serious!  Just ask the people who had to move all the book boxes on our recent relocation. And that was after I gave away a lot of books (okay three boxes, but that’s a lot to part with!)

Being a book addict is not easy or cheap. Libraries charge fines (oh, the stories I could tell!) New books are expensive. And even when I have the money, book stores are harder and harder to find, especially in Austin. (All I’ve found are Book People and a few Barnes and Noble stores.)

So within days (hours, maybe?) of moving here I was in my bliss at Half Price Books. But I haven’t written about this discount book nirvana here on the blog because I thought everyone knew about it. I was wrong! In the past two weeks, I have met three people who have been here at least a couple of months but did not know about Half Price Books.

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First of all, they are all over the place in the Austin area. (And in other cities, too, so you can get your fix while traveling,) And they are for the most part exactly what the name implies. A place to buy books for half price or less. And it’s not thrift store stuff. They’re real bookstores, with real sections and real book lovers working inside.

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Want best sellers? Odds are they have them (worth a mention…sometimes they get in new copies of best sellers and offer them at a discount, but not half price.) Need a classic? This is where to head. Computer books, study guides, mysteries, romance? Yup. Want books for your kids? Not only do they have aisles of those, they have a clearance section where your kids can feast on books for a buck or two.

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If you’re a book lover (or are sharing a house with one) and you haven’t been into a Half Price Books, run, do not walk!  Most locations are open until 10 pm, so there’s probably time tonight!

Buc-ees is a driving to or from Austin must-stop

Buc-ee's sign

The first time we stopped at Buc-ee’s, I wasn’t sure if I thought it was adorable or kind of weird. I mean, there are pictures of Buc-ee the Beaver on everything you can imagine: t-shirts, cups, bags of snack food and home decor items.

buc-ees sncksAnd the place is big…really big.

Buc-ees interiorThey serve hot food and cold. They have a produce section and the biggest self-serve soda fountain area I have ever seen. There are talking characters on the way into the giant (and spotless) restrooms (they’ve won awards for their clean bathrooms! Really!)

So in one place, you can get themed shirts, hats and shorts for the whole family, lunch or dinner, the food you forgot to bring for cooking over the campfire, candy and snacks for every taste, fresh baked goods, a new phone charger, wall decor for your house, oh and more unique canned jams, jellies and pickles that I knew existed. They even have a whole rack of flavored Buc-ee’s brand garlic! (You HAVE to try the habanero garlic! Seriously!)

1-20131117_182840And did I mention gas for your car? This is not a truck stop…in fact 18-wheelers aren’t allowed at Buc-ee’s. That space is ALL for cars and pick-ups.

1-20131117_181608So what separates Buc-ee’s from a convenience store? I think it’s the Beaver. Seeing that Buc-ee face on almost everything makes it feel more like an odd theme park than a road-side store . People pose with the Buc-ee’s statue for pictures!

4-20140316_101141So yeah, it’s kind of weird. But after a couple of stops, that silly beaver kind of grows on you.

The Specs

There are Buc-ee’s locations all over Texas. Here’s the one I visited:

2760 IH 35 North
New Braunfels, TX 78130

http://www.buc-ees.com

Open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year

See’s brings back memories, adds a sweet option to Austin

See's Boxed ChocolatesWhen I was in grad school in Salt Lake City, my budget was the classic starving-student tight. Most luxuries were out of reach…except one. Every week, there was a buy-one-get-one special at the See’s in the mall near my downtown work.

And every week, on that morning, I would be there for my double dose of their dark chocolate truffles. Two sweet treats in my tiny bag, I would head for my favorite bench and eat the first one. Slowly, savouring every bite. Then I would put the bag with the second one into my purse, and head for work. That sweet morsel was my lunch treat, the perfect end to what was usually an otherwise ordinary PB & J or cheese sandwich lunch.

See's Dark Chocolate Truffle

That small indulgence was my personal ritual, until graduation came and I moved away.

It’s been years since I’ve lived anywhere near a See’s candy shop. But this week, all of that changed. See’s Candies is having their grand opening right here in Austin!

Tonight was the bloggers event to let those of us who share Austin area food news get an inside look at the new store.

See's Chocolates Austin 2

And taste. We got to taste…a lot!  All kinds of deliciousness I remember from See’s in Salt Lake. Boxes of chocolate were passed around. Samples were offered from the chocolate counter. Stories were shared of See’s memories from California or Utah.

See's Chocolate Austin 3

We checked out the newest offerings, especially all the colorful Easter choices (what a perfect time to open a See’s, right?!)

 

Foil wrapped chocolate bunny from See's

 

Sour candies for Easter

And then the fun started. All the bloggers and guests were invited to try their hand at packing a box of chocolates. But just like Lucy in that old TV series, we had to do it as fast as possible!  We even got to wear hair nets!  It was classic See’s fun…they always did know how to make something as simple as buying a box of chocolates into something fun and special.

Traci Shannon

Lee Ann

My box of chocolates and my Lucy hairnet

My very own packed-by-me box of chocolate…and of course, my hair net!

I know there are other candy stores in Austin. But when it comes down to it, there’s only one See’s. And I’m so glad they’ve landed here.Time to make some new See’s memories!

See's Dark Chocolate Truffle

 

The Specs

10710 Research Blvd
North Hills Town Center (next to the H-E-B)
Austin, TX 78759
Ph: (512) 372-1048
Hours:
Mon-Fri 10am – 9pm
Sat 10am – 9pm
Sun 11am – 7pm

 

Cookies by Design: Find it in Austin Friday

Cookies by Design Austin cookie bouquetIt’s just a small shop, tucked into a strip mall in Northwest Austin. But there was something that drew me in as I walked by.

Cookies by Design Window

The first thing I noticed when I walked into Cookies by Design was the smell. It was a heavenly mix of cinnamon and chocolate and sugar cookie. When a cookie bakery smells this good, and tastes just as amazing, it should be enough.

But Cookies by Design takes it further. They use those mouth-watering cookies to make truly creative bouquets for all occasions.  Yes, I know there are any number of food gift companies. But when it comes to celebration, a food gift should shout fun. And that’s where so many gift companies miss the boat.

Maybe it’s just me, but cut up fruit on sticks just doesn’t do it for me. Nor does a basket of boxed candies, tinned cake and preserved cheeses.

Cookies by Design window display

This place does it right, with bouquets that shout “Have Fun!” “Smile” and above all, “Eat!”  They can even put photos right onto the cookies! And they’ve been doing it for over 30 years…in fact, founder Gwen Willhite is credited with coining the term “Cookie Bouquet.”

I love knowing I’ve found a place to go when I want to give someone a special birthday, graduation, new baby or congrats treat here in Austin, and have them hand-delivered. Or I can use their website to order fresh cookies from one of their other individually owned and operated locations.

The Austin shop I visited is located at 13343 Highway 183 North, Suite 250 in Austin. Their phone number is 512-257-8400, and the shop is open from 9:00-6:30 M-F and 10:00-3:30 Saturday, The shop is closed on Sunday.

Check them out Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, too!

Cookies by Design Austin TX