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Valentine's Day gift guide: Unique, local presents for your sweetheart

Since the dawn of mankind (or the 14th Centurywhatever), stuffed teddy bears, long-stemmed roses and candlelit dinners have, for better or for worse, been then currency of love on February 14. While these rituals are a devout yearly tradition for some, other more creative types may desire to give a different, more distinct, and even local, token of their affection.

Here are some creative ideas to get the Valentine’s Day juices — not those kind, wise guy! — flowing.

Great Bean Chocolate

The Aztecs may have believed that there was a link between consuming cacao beans and an increased sexual desire. Scientists, however, have since shut this down. Even if there is no physiological link between chocolate and sexy, there’s still something oddly erogenous (or, at minimum, void-filling) about biting into that particular piece of candy, especially on Valentine’s Day.

Locally, there is an obvious and surprisingly nutritious alternative to the Russell Stover’s route. Great Bean, which is handcrafted in small batches in Austin, is the brainchild of chocolatier Nora Hamerman and partner Dave Peters. Unlike most commercial chocolate, Great Bean’s product is completely raw and sourced only from “nutrient dense, sustainably grown, and fairly traded, cacao” with no soy, GMO, or gluten. Astonishingly, even the packaging is compostable and, in coming years, the company hopes to be entirely carbon neutral. This Valentine’s gift is clearly a no-brainer. 

Charitable Donations

Making a donation to a charity in honor of a loved one is not only an extremely thoughtful present but also a socially conscious one. Think about an issue near and dear to the recipient — animal welfare or children’s literacy — perform some light web research on local non-profits that focus on the cause, and then figure out a way to donate.

Most organizations have pages on their websites that are solely dedicated to soliciting donations and some even offer a fancy certificate in return for any monetary contribution. Even when no such prize is offered, a simple handwritten note or card will do. Check out I Live Here, I Give Here for a comprehensive list of local non-profits.

Custom Succulent Arrangements

Simply put, flowers die and are, therefore, a pretty lousy representation of everlasting love. Within a week of purchasing the trademark red bouquet of roses, rest assured, they will be a browned, wilted and slimy lot.

Living plants, such as the ever-popular and unique succulent varieties, will continue to flourish long past Valentine’s Day, given the proper care and attention. These fleshy, thick-stemmed plants thrive in dry, arid climates and are more durable than, say, the average fern or African violet.

East Austin Succulents, situated in the biodynamic Tillery Park shopping area, is the premiere local provider of custom succulent arrangements, landscaping installments, and individual plants. For the more creative and adventurous types, consider purchasing a lone succulent and potting it in a vintage piece of glassware or ceramic. Local resale and vintage shops such as Top Drawer or Room Service can serve as an excellent source of inspiration.

Personality-filled Local Wares

When in Valentine’s doubt, avoid shopping nationally and stick to local wares. This will add an air of sincerity to the gift and, chances are, make it last a bit longer in both the heart and the physical world. Stuck? Online guides such as Scoutmob are a great source for sussing out the local wheat from the chaff.

Here are some starting points:

Dimovi Shoes. These boots may be Texas-crafted and designed but, trust, they are anything but cowboy. Desert styles range from pink metallic, black leather, grey felt and even animal printed.

Kayci Wheatley.
Kayci Wheatley is a South Austin cartoon artist and her designs, such as the ingenious Tupac bow tie or the Pop Art Pee Wee pillow, are as hilarious as they are absolutely necessary.

The Burlap Bag. Forget about “Keep Calm And Carry On,” these artists are blazing new trails with kitschy poster phrasing such as “The Earth Without Art Is Just EH” and “If You Say Gullible Slowly, It Sounds Like Oranges.”

Unlawful Assembly. This unlikely t-shirt shop gets a mention for one and only one shirt alone. Behold, the “Paw McCartney!”

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