Miss A Columnist

R. Victoria Peterson graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Corporate Communications.

After teaching elementary school for several years, Victoria decided to pursue other interests and goals. She is now focusing on some of her evolving passions: Real Estate, Writing/Journalism, Animal Medicine and Leathery.

She loves the city of Austin with all it's diversity and culture, yet she has found that the Texas country is where she truly can call home at the end of the day, on acreage with cattle, horses and her Rhodesian Ridgeback, Gunnison.

Victoria enjoys attending charity-driven galas as well as local businesses and eateries to help promote their causes through her writing.

Victoria is a REALTOR® with ERA Colonial Real Estate and is helping to grow and strengthen her team - TEAM ASTON, with quarterly events and unique marketing platforms.

Victoria strives to guide and represent her clients with any real estate need whether it's a first time home-buyer or a seasoned investor; a farm and ranch property or a condo in the city.

Charitable And Stylish Holiday Gifts 2014: Austin

“For it is in giving that we receive.” Christmastime is such a beautiful time of the year because it reminds us to give to others.  Tucked away in the various pockets of Austin are local boutiques, eateries and salons with gifts as unique as they are charitable, you just have to know where to look and be creative.  I hope this gift guide will inspire you to give gifts of true meaning this year while helping others in our community live more fulfilling and enriching lives.

Lush Handmade Cosmetics

Lush Store Manager, Ryan Blagrave and Andrea Hughes make a furoshiki from a scarf filled with luscious skincare products.  (Photo Credit: R Victoria Peterson).

Lush Store Manager, Ryan Blagrave and Andrea Hughes make a furoshiki from a scarf filled with luscious skincare products. (Photo Credit: R Victoria Peterson).

This little store is full of color, warmth and wonderful smells.  You truly cannot go wrong buying a gift here as every product is vegetarian, never tested on animals and every ingredient is ethically sourced.  Angela Hughes and Store Manager, Ryan Blagrave enthusiastically explained that even the special Christmas gift boxes are made from recycled paper goods.  Ryan demonstrated how to tie a “furoski,” a traditional Japanese wrapping cloth used to wrap the goodies you choose and couples as a small handbag!   Don’t forget to include a jar of Charity Pot, the luscious hand and body cream where 100% of the purchase price goes towards supporting humanitarian, environmental and animal rights causes locally and around the world.  Since its launch, Charity Pot has donated close to five million dollars to more than 400 grassroots charities in 35 countries!

WHERE:

1012 W 6th Street
Austin, TX 78703
Ph. 512-524-4459

 HOURS OF OPERATION: 

Monday-Saturday: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Sunday: Noon to 7 p.m.

Mandala Trading – Himalayan Arts Retail and Wholesale

Mandala's is full of colorful, handmade items straight from the artisans in the Himalayas.  (Photo Credit: R Victoria Peterson)

Mandala’s is full of colorful, handmade items straight from the artisans in the Himalayas. (Photo Credit: R Victoria Peterson)

Located slightly off the beaten path, a stone’s throw from The Drag, is Mandala Trading, a small Tibetan shop which imports Tibetan singing bowls, Tibetan jewelry, prayer beads and other Tibetan Buddhists products directly from Tibet and Nepal.  Owner Sylvia Smelcer often travels to the Himalayas to choose selections from the artisans for the store.  A percentage of the proceeds goes directly back to the artisans and various charities in Tibet and Nepal.  Beauty is truly everywhere in this little hidden shop.  The calming sound of the singing bowls resonating throughout the shop; the glimmer of turquoise and lapis stones against the hand-melded silver cuff bracelets and handmade clothing, along with books and prayer rugs.  You are sure to find a one of a kind gift here for your loved ones while helping others in a far away land.

WHERE: 
3204 B Guadalupe St
Austin, TX 78705
Ph. 512-276-2448

HOURS OF OPERATION: 

Monday to Saturday: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Sundays: Noon to 6 p.m.

Blue Elephant Boutique, Apothecary & Gifts

This boutique has a little something for everyone!  Filled from wall to wall, ceiling to ceiling with trendy clothes, eye-catching accessories, novelty items and funky gifts.  Blue Elephant even carries unique stationary and shoes; seriously everything you could want is here!  Among all the swanky items piled into the store, I found handmade bracelets by Pura Vida Bracelets, where every colorful bracelet purchased helps provide full time jobs for local artisans in Costa Rica. These good-cause bracelets are affordable enough to buy everyone on your Christmas list one!

Pura Vida Bracelets are eye-catching and come in every color.  What a great gift!  (Photo Credit: puravidabracelets.com)

Pura Vida Bracelets are eye-catching and come in every color. What a great gift! (Photo Credit: puravidabracelets.com)

Blue Elephant has a gift for everyone on your list. and is a proud seller of Pura Vida Bracelets.  (Photo Credit: R Victoria Peterson)

Blue Elephant has a gift for everyone on your list. and is a proud seller of Pura Vida Bracelets. (Photo Credit: R Victoria Peterson)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHERE: 
4001 N Lamar BLVD Suite 510
Austin, Texas 78756
Ph. 512-371-3259

HOURS OF OPERATION: 

Monday to Saturday: 10 a.m. to 8p.m.
Sundays: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Walker Hall Design

Each kiondo is signed by the woman who created it.  (Photo Credit: tembotrading.org)

Each kiondo is signed by the woman who created it. (Photo Credit: tembotrading.org)

This is a whimsical, little shop located off of Lamar which offers a light dusting of handmade clothes for baby, seasonal decorations and gifts.  Created by Carmel Fenves and Deborah Thiras, the two women met in textile design school years ago and now strive to offer a boutique filled with “creative living” including fabric, home furnishings, textiles, baby and gifts “eclectically under one roof.”  Deborah exuded warmth and positive energy as she explained to me that a mixture of different textures is a passion of hers and that beautiful items for your home do not have to be expensive.  Found nestled in with the other trinkets and pretty things at Walker Hall Design are kiodos, beautiful bags, hand-woven in Kenya.  Kiondos of Hope is a project that was started by a humanitarian, Dr. Akre, with the women in the village Ngomano, Kenya where the women create the handbags from sisal for strength and yarn for color and the local men create the leather handles.   The selling of these bags in the United States helps to provide sustainability, jobs and promote a sense of hope for the people in the villages participating in the project.  You will find a small paper scrap or piece of cardboard inside each bag with the crafter’s signature.

WHERE:

904 D West 12th St
Austin, Texas  78703
Ph. 512-499-0484

HOURS OF OPERATION: 

Sunday and Monday: Closed
Tuesday to Friday: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Snap Kitchen

Snap Kitchen provides fresh, healthy, locally sourced food for clients and for the hungry in the community.  (Photo Credit: R Victoria Peterson)

Snap Kitchen provides fresh, healthy, locally sourced food for clients and for the hungry in the community. (Photo Credit: R Victoria Peterson)

Have you ever thought about giving someone a healthy diet and lifestyle for Christmas?  Probably not, but now you can with Snap Kitchen’s various health and eating plans.  Help a loved one get on the right track and start the new year out right.  Created by chefs with healthy eating in as a priority, Snap Kitchen allows customers to view a menu and either call in orders or stop by to purchase the fresh offerings at each store.  Snap Kitchen spends time sourcing the freshest and local produce from local farmers encompassing the store’s mantra of “eat food as close to the source as possible.”  Snap Kitchen doesn’t stop at healthy food for your body, Nikki Dillree, Store Manager at the 6th St. location, explained to me that Snap Kitchen also only uses reusable/recyclable packaging materials; uses BPA -free food containers; supports sustainable business by seeking out environmentally conscious vendor and supplier partners and supports local and environmentally aware organizations including the Keep Austin Fed organization, a volunteer based, non-profit organization that gather nutritious surplus food from commercial kitchens for hungry people in need.   As a creative and  invaluable gift, I suggest printing a  Snap Kitchen menu, inserting it in with a gift card for an hour with a  Snap Kitchen Dietitian for your loved one.  What a great start for their new, healthy lifestyle all the while helping hungry people in our community too!

WHERE: 
1014 W 6th St.
Austin, Texas 78703
Ph. 512-479-5959

HOURS OF OPERATION: 

Monday to Thursday: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Friday: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Saturday: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Sunday: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Stork Maternity Consulting

Bump Nest Pillows not only offer comfort, but also many health benefits for mom and baby.  (Photo Credit: bumpnest.com)

Bump Nest Pillows not only offer comfort, but also many health benefits for mom and baby. (Photo Credit: bumpnest.com)

Stork Maternity is the first of it’s kind in the Austin area: a luxury in-home consulting group on everything and anything baby!  Stork Maternity offers a concierge service, doula boutique, has certified Labor and Postpartum Doulas, Lactation s Specialists, Certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians, offers classes and even spa services.
Among other necessary items for moms, Stork Maternity sells the Bump Nest Pregnancy Pillow which allows for pregnant moms to sleep more comfortably, reducing back pain, improving sleep, allowing for more nutrient flow to the baby and ultimately an easier labor and delivery.  Now until the January 1, 2015. 5% of the proceeds from the purchase of a Bump Nest will go to the Mother’s Milk Bank of Austin, an organization designed to strengthen and save babies’ lives with donor, human milk.

WHERE:

608 W 31st 1/2 Street
Austin, TX 78705
Ph. 512-MOM-1476

HOURS OF OPERATION:

Monday to Friday: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Dominican Joe Coffee Shop

Domincan Joe's partnership helps strengthen these children's education.  (Photo Credit: dominicanjoefoundation.com)

Domincan Joe’s partnership helps strengthen these children’s education. (Photo Credit: dominicanjoefoundation.com)

“Drink coffee. . . Change the world” is Dominican Joe’s  motto and that is just what they are doing on a daily basis while their customers enjoy high quality coffee in a relaxing atmosphere.   Realizing that there were under privledged children living  in the Dominican Republic with little or no access to education while in the very same area, coffee bean farmers were growing high quality beans, yet were not getting paid enough to support their families, Dominican Joe Coffee wanted to help.  Partnering with Makarios – a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending poverty by promoting high-quality education among youth, Dominican Joe Coffee decided to buy the coffee beans themselves (which are  now certified by the Rainforest Alliance) directly from the farmers, using fair-trade practices, import them to the US and sell the coffee here to raise money for the schools – it’s a win-win!   My gift suggestion for the coffee fiend you love: swing into Domincan Joe’s, order your own cup of joy, relax and then on your way out stock up on a few bags (1/2 pound or pound, medium or dark roast) of the high quality coffee, a Dominican Joe travel coffee thurmos, a few baked goods and of course a gift card so your loved one may come back for more, which means more of helping a child gain a good education and a hard-working coffee bean farmer provide for his family.

WHERE: 

515 S Congress Ave
Austin, Texas 78704
Ph. 512-448-3919

 HOURS OF OPERATION: 

Monday to Friday: 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday: 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Austin Zoo & Animal Sanctuary

The Austin Zoo & Sanctuary offers a safe home for animals and an experience for the whole family.  (Photo Credit: austinzoo.org)

The Austin Zoo & Sanctuary offers a safe home for animals and an experience for the whole family. (Photo Credit: austinzoo.org)

The Austin Zoo is a nonprofit organization with the care for the animals at the heart of the operation.   The Austin Zoo & Animal Sanctuary  currently houses over 300 animals from over 100 different species, relying on mostly private donations, gate admissions, grants and sponsorships for funding so the handlers may continue to care for the animals housed at the facility and to continue to house new animals that need a home, love and care.

The Austin Zoo proudly supported the Lion Ark project  where 25 lions were rescued from illegal circuses in Columbia and Peru.

On set days, Audrey, the Zoo Educational Specialist, will read books from the Zoo’s gift shop and also host a toy-making workshop for the children visiting the zoo!  Every child is welcome for these fun and enriching activities.

My gift suggestion for the animal-lover in your realm is an Austin Zoo & Animal  Sanctuary  gift certificate for regular admission or  memberships to the sanctuary along with a stuffed animals or small toy from the zoo’s gift shop.  What a beautiful and meaningful gift to allow your loved one to enjoy a day at the sanctuary and what a great gift for the kids in your life too!

WHERE:
10808 Rawhide Trail
Austin, Texas 78736
Ph. 512-288-1490

HOURS OF OPERATION: 

Every day, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Generous Art has a diverse array of art and an equal variety of nonprofits you are helping by purchasing the art.  (Photo Credit: freshfixdesigns.com)

Generous Art has a diverse array of art and an equal variety of nonprofits you are helping by purchasing the art. (Photo Credit: freshfixdesigns.com)

Generous Art 

“Be Generous, Buy Art” is the motto and is exactly what Generous Art does!  Generous Art has teamed up with dozens of charity-driven organizations in the community including
Animals Trustees of Austin,  Amala Foundation and Austin Child Guidance Center.  Generous Art strives to form a mutually beneficial relationship with nonprofit organizations by offering 30% of the proceeds to the chosen organization when a customer buys artwork.  Hundreds of pieces of beautiful  art from which to choose by talented artists are available or you may purchase a gift card and you have the pleasure of knowing your gift  of art is also a gift to a non-profit organization.

WHERE: 
1200 E 2nd St
Austin, Texas 78702
Ph. 512-482-0747

The Austin Harmony Project

The Austin Harmony Project offers a place for self expression and creativity for adults with disabilities.  (Photo Credit: theaustinharmonyproject.org)

The Austin Harmony Project offers a place for self expression and creativity for adults with disabilities. (Photo Credit: theaustinharmonyproject.org)

The Austin Harmony Project’s mission is to enrich the lives of adults with developmental disabilities through art, music and community.   The organization creates daily events full of art, music and enrichment sessions that help the Harmony participants to focus on creative self-expression.  The participants perform in regular art and music shows in the community allowing them to share their talents with others at facilities such as nursing homes, retirement homes and other people with disabilities, plus they enjoy the treat of outings to places like museums, art galleries and activities like bowling.  Harmony’s Art Store  offers diverse and creative pieces of art created by the Harmony participants like glass mosaic mirrors or wooden guitars adorned with colorful objects, handmade cards and even jewelry.  Proceeds from the purchase of the artwork goes to help support the artists, the Harmony  organization and other nonprofits involved wth the enrichment of the Harmony participants’ lives.  The artwork may be purchased online at the Harmony Etsy site or from the permanent display in Austin.

WHERE:

1806 W Stassney
Austin, Texas 78745
Ph. 512-394-5394

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