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

Exotic gifts & bellydancing from Arabic Bazaar on Wordfree Wednesday

01-2014-12-07 15.17.49

Last weekend, I visited the Arabic Bazaar in Austin for the first time, and I  immediately knew it had to be featured here on A is 4 Austin. I  had planned to put it on Find it in Austin Fridays. It is a great place to shop for unique imported gifts (everything here is handpicked by the owner, Zein, on her trips to Egypt, Syria, Morocco and Lebanon. No “Made in China” imitations here!) And it’s a place to find authentic belly dance classes for all levels. So it would fit.

But when I looked at my photos, I changed my mind. The photos tell the story of this beautiful place better than words possibly could. So here, without too many more words, is Arabic Bazaar.

Bellydance Costumes

Handblown glass perfume bottles

handwoven rugs

 

Amazing jewelry

 

Hookah pipes04-2014-12-07 14.19.40pillowRight now is a great time to visit Arabic Bazaar, too. Sunday December 14th and Sunday December 21st, they’re having a big sale (yes, I DID shop! Of course!), bellydance demonstrations, discounts on bellydancing classes and free henna from noon until 3 pm.

Arabic Bazaar sale Dec 2014The Specs

5013 Duval St
Austin, Texas 78751
(entrance in back of building in alley)
(512) 533-9227
Monday 11:00 am – 9:00 pm
Tuesday 11:00 am – 7:00 pm
Wednesday 11:00 am – 9:00 pm
Thursday 11:00 am – 7:00 pm
Friday 11:00 am – 7:00 pm
Saturday 10:00 am – 7:00 pm
Sunday Closed (Except for special holiday events in December) 

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

Hope Market offers freshest produce on “Find it in Austin Friday”

close up of okra in basket

Fresh okra….

Every Sunday from 11 am to 3 pm, Austanites can by-pass the tasteless, mealy textured produced served up by  grocery stores and experience the real thing at the Hope Farmer’s Market located at East 5th and Comal.

The Market began in October 2009, a challenge in a city known for stores selling organic and local produce. But almost four years later, it’s still going and growing, bringing Austin residents a weekly destination where they can connect with the farmers who grow the food instead of just a clerk who’s stocking it.

baskets of persimmons

Ripe persimmons….

Shoppers can find all sorts of fresh vegetable, fruits, nuts and herbs in season. Vendors also sell fresh milk and dairy products (including my favorite goat dairy products from Swede Farm), honey, syrup, eggs, meats and baked goods.

Radishes

Just picked radishes….

And while you shop you can also listen to live music, and maybe snack on some of the treats you just bought. If you go, please bring plenty of reusable bags — remember, no more plastic bags in Austin. Personally, I like using one of those old-lady folding carts, too. Hey, veggies get heavy!

Most of the stands accept EBT/SNAP and WIC benefits, making it easier for people in need of a hand to get the healthy food they really deserve. You can find out more about that at the Hope Farm Stand at the market. Most vendors don’t accept credit or debit cards, so if you’re not using one of the food assistance programs, do bring cash.

Kale

Fresh kale…

The Farmer’s Market is also a great place to take your kids shopping. Once they see all those brightly colored, tempting veggies and fruits you might have an easier time getting them to try them.

pecans in basket

Well-behaved dogs on leashes are welcome, too.

Getting ready for the unexpected in Austin

I know that this isn’t my usual post for A is For Austin, but between the storms in the Northeast and the earthquakes in Utah, it seems like being prepared is a really good idea.

Whether it’s a fire, flood, hurricane, tornado or ice storm, when the unexpected hits here in Austin, will you be ready? Experts say that in a crisis, it usually takes about three days for people to either reach safety or for help to arrive. So being prepared with the things you need for those first 72 hours only makes sense.

That’s why I decided to take a step away from my usual reviews to offer some advice on putting together a 72 hour kit for you and for your kids. Sure, there are books about what to include and what to leave behind (I know…I wrote one!) But in reality you can put together a simple three-day kit without spending days researching it.

Ready?  Here’s a checklist for simple 72 hour kits for kids or adults

I know it’s kind of long.  But don’t let that throw you. The list has suggestions for kits for kids, for teens, for babies, and for adults. And just in case an emergency keeps you in your house instead of heading out, I’ve also included things you should have on hand in case weather makes it impossible to get out.

Most of the things on the list are easy to find around Austin. Some you may want to buy online. Not sure where to look?  Here are some suggestions for where to find the basics for your kits without spending a fortune.

BackpacksGoodwill and Salvation Army are great places to find good backpacks for really low prices. Expect to pay from $5 to $10 for a full-sized backpack in good condition. If possible, choose a backpack with separate zippered sections — it makes it easier to keep things organized.

Camping gear – When it comes to things like space blankets, camp stoves, emergency tube tents and high density food bars, head for your local REI , (there are several around Austin) Bass Pro (the nearest one is in San Antonio) or Cabelas (head to Buda, TX for the closest one to Austin.) Yes, you might find cheaper prices at some discount stores, but the quality might not be there. An emergency situation is not a time to cut corners.

Sleeping bags and tents – You can get a compact emergency sleeping bag at almost any outdoors store, like the ones mentioned above. But if you want to get a real sleeping bag or tent that will last, start with Academy Sports.  They have good prices, and several Austin area locations. If money is tight, head for the thrift stores to check for sleeping bags. I usually see several decent ones each time I’m at Goodwill, and they’re usually under $15.

Multitools, pen knives, scissors and more – If it’s something that might have been confiscated at the security checkpoints at the airport, odds are it’s available at the State Surplus Store in Austin.  Go here for multitools, basic tools like screwdrivers, and emergency supplies like Swiss Army knives, all at seriously low prices.

The little things – Before you pay a lot for the small things in your 72 hour kit, check out Dollar Tree. They’re a great source for kids books, coloring books, emergency candles, inflatable pillows and small sized-toiletries. There are plenty of locations around Austin, so it’s easy to find one near you.

A word of caution…avoid buying crayons or toys made in China. Yes, they’re cheap, but they may also be toxic, so skip those, even if it means paying a bit more somewhere else.

If the budget is super-tight, consider printing coloring pages from your computer and stapling them together. Saving the crayons from restaurants after your kids color is another way to stock your bags for little or no cost.

Healthy food and drink choices – If you’re facing the stress of an evacuation or a storm that makes travel impossible, the last thing you need to do is add to your stress by filling your bags with junk food. Austin is fortunate to have several wonderful places that offer healthy, compact choices in food and packaged drinks. Try Whole Foods, Central Market or Sprouts for tasty, healthy snack bars, dried fruit, juice pouches (or boxes) and ready-to-heat packaged meals with less salt than grocery store brands (important when water may be limited.)

Outdoor clothing – If the weather is cold (admittedly a rarity here in Austin, but without proper clothing, even the 50’s can feel cold), having warm clothing can be life-saving. But if cost is an issue, try some of the area’s better consignment and thrift stores.  My favorite is Buffalo Exchange, where they consistently offer incredible choices for a fraction of even the discount stores.

Water pouches and MREs – Water and food are essential for survival, but commercial packaging designed for kitchen use are often too bulky or heavy for 72 hour kits. Using water pouches instead of bottles, and adding some MREs to your pack can lighten your load and make those three days more bearable.

I haven’t found a reliable in-town source for these in Austin, so I recommend you order them from a reliable online store like Emergency Essentials.A case of 64 of them is under $20.00, so it’s an affordable choice, too.

If you do order online, sticking with a trusted source helps you avoid damaged or spoiled food — a problem with some online “survivalist” websites.

What’s in your own four walls — Odds are, a lot of what you need is already in your own house. Look around for small toys, a cuddly stuffed animal, an extra blanket or some ready-to-eat snacks. Put some extra crayons into a plastic box, and give those scuffed shoes another life as your backup pair for emergencies. You may be surprised at how much of your needed emergency supplies won’t cost you anything extra!

Tips and ideas:

  • Use plastic zipper bags to keep things together, and prevent leaks. Those vacuum storage bags are great, too, if you have them.  Just check them once in awhile for leaks to prevent one “re-inflating” in your backpack!
  • Check clothes and shoes every 3-4 months to make sure they still fit and are appropriate for the season
  • Don’t underestimate the power of a familiar toy to a child in a scary situation. Buy a extra of a favorite and keep it in the bag in case there’s no time to grab the well-loved toys
  • Twice a year, check food and drink for expiration dates, leaks, crushing or other damage. I like to have an “eat the treats” party with my kids when it’s time to update or replace the food and drinks in the bags
  • Store the bags in a area of your home where you could grab them in at a moment’s notice. Avoid high temperature storage, as that will destroy food and other items (melted crayons are no fun!)
  • Consider making a duplicate bag for your car, in case an emergency strikes when you’re not near home. Most of the items in an emergency bag are also good to have if your car gets stranded.
  • If your kids are little and go to daycare or a babysitter, consider keeping an extra kit there.

Book People is part bookstore, part destination

 Book People Austin Texas at A is 4 Austin

Bookstores used to have personality. There were some where I could browse for hours, others where I would pop in to grab that hard-to-find book no one else carried. Then came Borders and Barnes & Noble, and bookstores became vanilla. The same in Seattle as in Austin, indistinguishable in Maine and Miami.

Thank goodness there are a few holdouts. Powells in Portland, Tattered Cover, and Faulker House Books in New Orleans. And here in Austin, it’s Book People.

Part book store, part coffee house. Part new age store, part novelty shop. Part venue for meeting writers like Charlaine Harris and part the perfect place to get your kids excited about reading.

Book People has great hours, amazing bibliophiles on staff, and (gasp!) free parking!

The best of weird Austin is for sale at Uncommon Objects

Uncommon Objects Collectibles Austin TexasEvery city has its antique stores.  And most have vintage and collectible shops, too.  But there is only one shop in one town I know of where you can buy a dozen classic Shriner’s jackets, a set of French flashcards from the 1920’s, a wall-mounted statue of Ganesh, and a box of 6 dozen microscope slides of bug legs all in one shopping trip.  And you can throw in fine vintage china, a couple of Waterfall dressers and all the 1940’s sign art you can carry while you’re at it.

If you have not been to Austin’s “Uncommon Objects” on South Congress, you might think I’m exaggerating. After all the store looks kind of small on the outside.  But with Tardis-like magic, it seems to get bigger and bigger the further you walk into it.

You might be wondering why I’m including a store on the blog.  After all, this blog is about things to do and places to eat, right? It’s not about stores.

Well, from my first visit to Uncommon Objects a week after I arrived in Austin to my visit last week, this store has definitely been something to ‘DO.”

I go in.  I wander. I imagine.  I try to picture where I could put three 5 foot high letters from an old grocery store sign, just because I love the font.  I think about buying the Shriner’s jackets and using them for some kind of party theme.  I find inspiring words in a pile of 1950’s flashcards and I lay out the 6 I will buy to create a unique piece of art on my wall. I find a book from the late 1800’s with my daughter’s nickname in the title on the book’s artistic cover, and add it to my purchases, musing over how I will display it in her room. I get lost in looking at pieces of the past, and imagining how to use them now.

This isn’t shopping.  It’s doing.  It’s the place I take visitors and newcomers who are even more fresh to Austin than I am. This, I tell them, is not just a store.  It’s weird Austin, for sale.