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Photo courtesy of Texas Parks & Wildlife

If roasting s'mores and hiking in the great outdoors sounds fun, pack up your family and visit one of Texas’ state parks this holiday season.

Texas state parks and historic sites are ringing in the holidays with a number of festive events. There are drive-thru light tours, special holiday hikes, arts and crafts for the kiddos, and more.

Reservations fill up quickly, so be sure to visit an individual park's website before you head out. And check the Holidays in the Parks page for many more fun options, pricing information, and more information.

Austin/San Antonio-area parks

Bastrop State Park
Follow ornaments with clues through the park every day in December during the annual Fa La La Through The Forest Scavenger Hunt. Enjoy the Lost Pines Christmas Parade, a collaborative event with Bastrop and Buescher Parks, at 6 pm December 10. Tour the inside of the historic Refectory and see how the Civilian Conservation Corps celebrated Christmas away from home during A Lost Pines CCC Christmas 9 am-12 pm December 17.

Lyndon B. Johnson State Park & Historic Site
Visit the popular attraction during December to learn how the farm staff get ready for das Weihnachten (Christmas). Return to the park at 5:30 pm December 18 for the 53rd Annual Tree Lighting, a holiday tradition started by President and Mrs. Johnson.

Garner State Park
Join the Buffalo Soldiers program and friends as they stop into Garner State Park before leaving for Christmas break during the Marching Towards Christmas event 10 am-2 pm December 10. Christmas activities will include hand-dipped candles, frontier Christmas painting, Christmas-themed hard tack in Dutch ovens, and stories of the Buffalo Soldiers.

Buescher State Park
On the Fa La La in the Forest Scavenger Hunt, you can follow ornaments with clues through the park to secure a prize at the end, December 1 to January 1. Enjoy the Smithville Festival of Lights and Lighted Parade, a collaborative effort between Buescher and Bastrop parks, on December 3.

Hill Country State Natural Area
See how art, history and state parks are connected; learn some basic watercolor techniques and paint a card or two to take home during the Watercolor Christmas Cards event 2:30-4 pm December 3. Come back for Horses in History & Ornament Craft from 2:30-4 pm December 22 and learn how horses played important roles in the lives of vaqueros, native people, ranchers and more. Then, play a round of horseshoes and paint a horse ornament to take with you.

South Llano River State Park
At Christmas at the Ranch, 2-5 pm December 3, guests can warm up with hot chocolate and cider, listen to live entertainment, enjoy crafts and cookie decorating, and anticipate Santa's visit while taking in the twinkling lights and Christmas decorations at the historic Ranch House that now serves as Park Headquarters.

Dallas-Fort Worth-area parks

Tyler State Park
Enjoy Reading Ranger Campfire Stories around a cozy campfire at 3 pm December 3. Head back December 9-10 for A Pineywoods Christmas, when you can stroll or drive through the Lakeview and Big Pine campgrounds to take in campers' elaborately decorated sites and take a Winter Wonderland Hike.

Lake Tawakoni State Park
Drive through or stay at the park and decorate your campsite with your favorite Christmas decorations to receive your second night of camping free during your stay. There will be a decorating contest, complete with awards, as well as a reading of The Night before Christmas — all part of Twinkle Tour 2022, 5-8 pm December 3.

Daingerfield State Park
Drive through the park lit up like Santa Land during the 10th annual Christmas in the Park drive thru lights tour December 14-17 (times vary). Marvel at the decorated campsites and lights, and enjoy hot chocolate and cookies while waiting for a chance to visit with Santa.

Eisenhower State Park
Help those in need and spread holiday cheer — and as a bonus, get free entry to the park — by bringing one unwrapped donation item to the park’s Holiday Donation Drive through December 19. Visit December 9-10 to visit the Light Up the Park drive-thru lights event, featuring milk and cookies with Santa. This year, the park is taking unwrapped toys to donate instead of collecting entrance fees for the event.

Cleburne State Park
Enjoy Pancakes With Santa and make pinecone bird feeders 9-11 am December 10.

Cedar Hill State Park
Search for birds taking their winter break at the park during their Winter Birding Walk, which takes place 7:30-8:30 am December 13. Explore Christmas on Penn Farm on December 17: Learn about the history and pioneers of the Penn Family and the farm they built 150 years ago.

Lake Mineral Wells State Park
Experience Christmas, cowboy style, at Cross Timbers Cowboy Christmas, December 3. Park ranger and cowboy poet David Owens will gather guests around a campfire at the Lone Star Amphitheater for an evening of cowboy culture through songs, stories and poems.

Dinosaur Valley State Park
In partnership with Toys for Tots, the park is hosting Christmas in the Valley, a full day of ranger-led events, programs, family friendly activities, arts and crafts, food and more. Bring a new and unwrapped toy for free admission for the whole family. The event takes place 1-4 pm December 17.

Houston and Gulf Coast-area parks

Brazos Bend State Park
Holiday in the Park is an all-day affair on December 10. Events include a self-guided "Elf Hike," Christmas crafts, "Pup Parade," s'mores, and more.

Goose Island State Park
See the park in lights, enjoy holiday activities, and camp for free when you decorate your campsite during Christmas in the Park on December 17. Guests are invited to "Santa's Village" at the CCC Recreation Hall for holiday crafts, games, hot chocolate around the campfire, and to drop off letters to Santa in the North Pole Mailbox.

Lake Corpus Christi State Park
Get in the holiday spirit with the second annual Holiday Light Drive Thru, 6-9 pm December 10. Visitors can enter the park for a drive through the lighted areas of Javelina and Opossum Bend camping loops, plus the Old Pavilion.

West Texas and the Panhandle-area parks

Franklin Mountains State Park
On December 3, make ornaments and holiday cards with recycled materials as part of the Art in the Parks series. During Cookies and Cocoa, you can decorate and take home your own Christmas treat while sipping on a cup of hot chocolate 2-4 pm December 23. Come back on Christmas Eve for a guided, two-mile Santa Hike at 11 am.

Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site
Bring your family out for Home for the Holidays guided family hike on December 10 and moderate hike on December 17.

San Angelo State Park
Enjoy a drive-thru tour of lights and optional pictures with Santa and Smokey Bear during Holly-Days in the Park, 6-8 pm December 10.

Photo courtesy of H-E-B

H-E-B unveils merchandise for brand super fans, available exclusively at one store

Aisle Love H-E-B Forever

Sometimes when H-E-B does something awesome, we just want to wear it on a shirt. Making fresh pizza, tamales, and sushi in stores? Partnering with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation? People who get that feeling can now act on it with a pilgrimage to the grocery chain's Kerrville store.

This small city, the birthplace of H-E-B, was chosen to launch the company's new line of H-E-B-branded merchandise, in celebration of its 117th anniversary. The merch will roll out to other Texas stores in 2023, but for now, there’s only one place to get sneakers that say, “Follow me to H-E-B.”

The new H-E-B Brand Shop, located inside the Kerrville store on Main Street, has themed merchandise from the traditional (T-shirts, socks, stickers, and mugs) to the nearly inexplicable (baby clothes, tortilla-disguised beer koozies, and badge holders).

H-E-B brand store Koozies and other stocking-stuffer-type merch from the H-E-B Brand Store. Photo courtesy of H-E-B

Some of these are just delightfully simple expressions of love for H-E-B and, by extension, being Texan; some are cute gag gifts for friends who sing the grocery store’s praises; still others are just convenient options to have on the way to, say, a last-minute beach trip when someone needs a shirt with better coverage and an insulated cup.

The history angle comes in for a few products, like a shirt featuring an old storefront and a koozie with cowboy boots and the number 1905, but most of the items look modern and quippy, if not entirely straightforward. One shirt says “Risk it for the brisket queso,” which is a lot more normal to wear than “I [heart] H-E-B Meal Simple Tex-Mex Brisket Queso Dip.”

H-E-B brand store Super fans snag T-shirts at the new H-E-B Brand Shop.Photo courtesy of H-E-B

“At H-E-B, we’re always looking for ways to offer our loyal customers exclusive, quality products, and with H-E-B Brand Shop we’re excited to give our superfans opportunities to celebrate and show off their passion for all things H-E-B,” said an H-E-B Group department vice president Sabina Israelian-Garcia in a press release.

Shoppers anywhere can view the nearly 60 branded items from the mobile app, as long as they select a store where H-E-B Brand Shop has rolled out.

Photo courtesy of Blue Genie Art Bazaar

The holiday shopping genie returns to Austin to fulfill one-stop browsing wishes

Best Wishes

Sometimes it feels like the only way all the holiday shopping can get done is if a genie steps in. Austin’s Blue Genie Art Bazaar (BGAB) isn’t far from that fantasy; no one can choose for you, but the curated artisan goods narrow down the possibilities, gathering a mix of people-pleasing and hyper-specific gifts under one roof.

November 18 kicks off the 22nd iteration of the bazaar, with nearly 200 vendors that generally steer clear of holiday clichés, focusing mostly on art, snacks, and home goods. It would be easiest to shop for friends and family who love decorating their homes and kitchens, but shoppers will also find accessories, toys, and sometimes even experiences.

The website divides the vendors into categories that make it easy to plan a trip with shoppers who like a plan, although seeing what stands out in person is at least half the fun. One step further into perfectly streamlined shopping, personal shoppers will make selections for a fee of 10% of the price of the item a home shopper selects (capped at $25).

Three of the four BGAB founders — all artists themselves — sent out some ideas to their nice list contacts:

  • Dana Younger recommends soap by Fleegal Farms, tea towels by Victrola and Kimball Prints, chocolate by Madhu, tea from White Cloud and SESA, and shirts by Supermaggie.
  • Kevin Collins recommends artworks by Dan Grissom and Danika Ostrowski, and accessories by JNA Designs.
  • Chris Coakley recommends art by JCR Work, Eya Claire, and another founder, Rory Skagen.

“As always, this year’s Blue Genie Art Bazaar will be filled with some of the best work of our local artists,” said Younger in a press release. “And, as always, we’ll have a mix of recognized favorites along with exciting new artists and plenty of items to surprise and inspire."

In 2021, Blue Genie’s efforts were acknowledged by Austin Chronicle readers, who voted it to the top of the Austin Gifts/Souvenirs category. In addition to a well-balanced curation, it offers a very shopper-friendly experience with free parking and admission, and a snack bar. Shoppers can feel good about supporting local artisans as well as the Make-a-Wish Foundation of Central and South Texas, which receives a portion of every Monday’s sales.

The 22nd annual Blue Genie Art Bazaar will be held in the Blue Genie Art building at 6100 Airport Boulevard, from 10 am to 10 pm daily until December 24. The last day, Christmas Eve, closes at 6 pm. More information and shopping links are available at bluegenieartbazaar.com.

Photo by Pooneh Ghana

New music festival two-steps into Georgetown with classic and cutting-edge country stars

Giddy Up

Country is one of the widest and most misunderstood genres in popular music. Even in Texas, where fans don’t have to look for a way into its traditions as they would in many other areas, the genre is sharply divided — mostly between “old” and “new” country. Much to the excitement and chagrin of many country fans on one side or the other, artists like Orville Peck and Lil Nas X have made huge strides in expanding the bounds genre, which makes headlines every year that it continues to grow its market share.

Festivals can lean into that division, or take a step (or two) forward. Two Step Inn, a new music festival in the scenic Austin suburb of Georgetown, is on that new frontier, with an eclectic lineup that displays a deep devotion to country in old, new, and fringe forms. Its inaugural year showcases more than 40 musicians — country or other pop musicians with country-inspired sets — in what it calls “the world’s largest outdoor honky-tonk” on April 15 and 16, 2023, at San Gabriel Park. (Curated by C3 Presents, this festival will probably carry some similarities to Austin City Limits Festival.)

The two inaugural headliners, Zach Bryan and Tyler Childers, have much in common: the solo artists, despite leaning toward folksy or straight-up country instrumentation, are above all singer-songwriters with similarly textured, gentle voices. Both favor an earnest, introspective tone, although Childers sinks more into a Southern twang and more upbeat songwriting, while Bryan stays more mellow and retains more of an edge when the tempo picks up.

Across the three stages, more acts stand out for their longtime country credentials or genre-bending surprise factor:

  • Wynonna Judd: The younger half of mother-daughter-duo The Judds, Wyononna Judd, has spent plenty of time at the top of Billboard charts over her nearly 40-year career. In the 2020s, she’s still releasing music in a variety of very country styles.
  • Tanya Tucker: The Texas-born former teen star Tanya Tucker went through highs and lows in her 50-year career, but ultimately made a comeback and is regarded as one of the first and most independent “outlaw” country women.
  • Mavis Staples: Although Mavis Staples, formerly of the Staple Singers, is known as a gospel and rhythm and blues icon, her music displays a clear affinity with Southern traditions. Her latest album, with Levon Helm, is built on a near-constant country shuffle.
  • Diplo: The pop producer and DJ Diplo has had a hand in too many projects to tie him to any one genre. In recent years he’s made a flamboyant effort at leaning into his Mississippi heritage, including a country album and lots of red-carpet cowboy hats.
  • Disko Cowboy: Vinyl Ranch, a lifestyle brand led by Disko Cowboy (Dave Wrangler, who grew up in the Hill Country and is based in Dallas), brings very urban and very country images together, emphasizing independence and loyalty as a cowboy would.

A huge portion of the lineup is local, or at least from Texas. Austin-based or originated acts include Calder Allen, Charlie Robison, Kathryn Legendre, and Ben Burgess (now in Dallas). The most widely-recognizable band from nearby, Midland, comes from Dripping Springs, while Clay Walker, Madeline Edwards, Niko Moon, Paul Cauthen, and Tracy Byrd all hail from East Texas (plus Drake Milligan from Mansfield). Two other Texas-named bands, Lonestar and Little Texas, were formed in Nashville by Texans.

Tickets (starting at $99 for one day or $149 for both days) for Two Step Inn will be available on presale starting November 4 at 10 am, with a public sale two hours later, at noon. Premium tickets include amenities like seating, air conditioned restrooms, VIP bars and dining, lockers, and more. More information and ticket sales at www.twostepinn.com.

Photo courtesy of Lake Austin Spa Resort

Austin's acclaimed destination spa unwraps exclusive $1,000 Swiss facial for 25th anniversary

Palatial pampering

When the Lake Austin Spa Resort went shopping for a 25th-anniversary gift for guests, it aimed higher than traditional silver and picked treatments that incorporated gold, diamonds, and caviar. As a result, the dreamy destination spa now offers some of the most opulent, exclusive, and — at upwards of $1,000 — most expensive facials in the world.

In anticipation of its milestone anniversary in 2022, the Lake Austin Spa Resort’s LakeHouse Spa partnered with Swiss luxury skincare brand Valmont to introduce the new facials, which are as cutting-edge as they are indulgent.

Creme de la creme among them is The Regal by Valmont, which costs a jaw-dropping $1,050. The Regal was designed in Switzerland exclusively for LakeHouse Spa, and Austin is the only place in the world to get it.

“It’s definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a lot of people,” says Becky Bence, Lake Austin Spa Resort lead esthetician. “And it’s definitely worth it.”

The 135-minute facial begins with the high-tech deep cleanse of the HydroFacial and proceeds with seven masks, including four collagen masks, a papaya enzyme, and a medical-grade LED light mask. Every single product from Valmont’s ultra luxe “masterpiece collection” called l’Elixir des Glaciers is used; some products are made with an uber anti-aging essence of gold sturgeon fish. All are applied using a Valmont signature “butterfly” motion that helps to lift and sculpt the face.

What puts the Regal over the top, though, are 35 minutes of choreographed massage, including a 500-year-old technique called “kobido,'' developed for the empress of Japan. Touted as a “surgical facelift as a massage," Bence says, kobido was once reserved only for nobility and the empress, then later handed down from masters to disciples.

So rarified is the Regal facial, that just six of the 21 LakeHouse Spa estheticians are trained to perform it. They learned at a weeklong “bootcamp” conducted by two Valmont experts who flew in to Austin from Switzerland.

“It was kind of like the Navy Seal program of facials,” Bence says. “It was kind of like being handed down something from a true master.”

The $1K price tag hasn’t kept people away. Since the Regal was introduced several months ago, guests have come from all over the world — and from all corners of Texas — to experience what the spa calls “the ultimate in anti-aging perfection and cellular renewal.” (After all $1,000 is still far less than an actual facelift or even regular nick-tuck-plump-ups by a cosmetic surgeon.)

Why reach all the way to Switzerland for the palatial new treatments? After emerging from COVID shutdowns, Bence says, LakeHouse Spa personnel “auditioned” just about every single skincare line out there. The estheticians voted, and Valmont won.

“We wanted to add something really special, something luxurious but yet something out-of-this-world amazing that truly benefited the skin,” Bence says. “Something almost to replace Botox and fillers …that gave you basically a natural face-lift without being invasive but still being relaxing.”

In addition to the Regal, other new Valmont facials introduced in this 25th anniversary year include:

  • The 150-minute Gold & Diamond Trifecta Facial that involves three massages, four masks, infra-red LED, and a hydrogel mask with micronized gold and diamonds, which costs $990.
  • The Golden Aura Rose & Caviar Facial, a 100-minute treatment that incorporates marine products containing caviar extract and Diamond Collagen, costing $790.
  • Energy of the Glaciers, a 90-minute facial that features rare ingredients from Switzerland and deep, structural massage of the face, stimulating muscles to tone and lift; $750.
  • Luminosity of Ice Facial, a 90-minute treatment described as a “toxin-flushing, facial reflexology-inspired facial” that uses a cocktail of seven plants organically cultivated at high altitudes; $650.

The spa also has a complete menu of non-Valmont facials and dozens of other signature treatments.

Luxe but laid back
Lake Austin Spa Resort’s Dallas-based co-owner, Mike McAdams, says the new facials are indicative of how high the spa wanted to aim for its 25th anniversary.

“Our guest demands a luxurious, more refined experience, and Valmont helps us deliver on that objective,” he says.

And yet, Lake Austin Spa Resort remains a place where robed guests can emerge from a $1,000 facial and step over geckos skittering along the sidewalk while a speedboat whizzes by pumping Beyonce through the speakers. It’s upscale but unpretentious, luxurious but laid-back — almost like “spa camp.”

“We never wanted to create the ‘zen’ spa with stark lines and absence of color – we aimed to create just the opposite,” McAdams says. “Your surroundings absolutely have an impact on how your wellness journey can unfold and influence your daily life. The colors and textures that surround you mimic the vibe of the Texas Hill Country and pay homage to nature.”

The top-rated spa and resort is a far cry now from the place McAdams purchased on January 1, 1997. Located along the shores of scenic Lake Austin in the Texas Hill Country, the property had lived previous lives as a fishing camp, nudist enclave, rodeo ranch, and diet camp.

McAdams — at the time a commercial real estate developer for Dallas-based Trammell Crow — experienced a personal work-life-balance crisis that's wholly relatable in today's post-pandemic, "great-resignation" world two-and-a-half decades later.

“I was living on a plane, traveling a lot. It was high stress, and high energy and I loved it,” he says. “In 1984, I found a place that changed my life — the Ashram in Calabasas, California. It was a true bootcamp, with physical activities and dietary restrictions that were very intense… This experience forced me to come down from my hectic lifestyle of traveling, eating, drinking, and not exercising."

After adopting healthier habits in his own life, he and an LSU fraternity brother, Billy Rucks, seized an opportunity to buy and transform the Lake Austin Spa Resort; they still co-own it today. “It was a diamond in the rough," McAdams says.

More 25th anniversary offerings
One of the biggest challenges running the spa the last 25 years (besides navigating a global pandemic), McAdams says, has been continually evolving in an industry dominated by fleeting fads and headline-grabbing gimmicks.

“The changes in the last 25 years in the spa industry have been monumental,” McAdams says. “The global wellness industry is now a $4.5 trillion economy, with ‘spa’ being one small part of the bubble. We are all seekers looking for ways to look and feel our best, and I think the growth is due to a demand in wanting to take our health into our own hands.”

One of the resort’s newest touts (proudly stated on their home page) is that they’re Texas’ only destination spa on a lake. Recently they’ve introduced a full range of water activities, including a water taxi that transports guests to the spa and back.

“When we bought Lake Austin Spa Resort in 1997, our guests would put a toe in the water — but we’ve also evolved and now understand the power of being near a moving body of water and how it affects your health, happiness, and even alleviates depression,” McAdams says.

Along with the new fancy facials and lake programming, the resort has also added new classes and activities and upgraded amenities for its 25th anniversary. Befitting its location in the “live music capital of the world,” Austin-area musicians now entertain guests nightly around s’mores pits. There’s new artwork around the campus, too.

“My favorite part of celebrating our 25th anniversary this year has been to watch a very special piece of commissioned art be installed in the first few months of the year,” McAdams says. “A local Austin artist created a 64-foot long, 400-square foot abstract mural of stone, glass, and tile designed to honor our magnificent natural location on Lake Austin.

"Within the creation, I wanted to honor all of the amazing past and present people who helped get to where we are today. Their names are included in this mural, discreetly placed within this homage to nature. Because of these special people, Lake Austin Spa Resort has enjoyed many wonderful accolades through the years.”

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To mark its 25th anniversary, Lake Austin Spa Resort is offering 25 percent off stays of at least two nights or more, through January 31, 2023. Reservations must be booked by October 31. Some packages include generous spa credits, but sadly, the $1,050 Regal facial is not 25 percent off. Find more information at www.lakeaustin.com.

Photo courtesy of Lake Austin Spa Resort

A red light mask is part of the $1,050 Regal by Valmont facial.

Renderings courtesy of Space Center Houston

Texas Space Center blasts off with cutting-edge features for 30th anniversary

go for launch

Texas' most stellar destination has introduced some game-changing developments for its 30th anniversary: Space Center Houston has revealed a new plan to address the ever-growing need for space exploration learning and training with two massive structures centering on our moon and Mars at its fan-favorite destination (1601 E. NASA Pkwy.).

The new Lunar Mars facility will gather guests, NASA, commercial space partners, colleges, universities, and global space agencies to collaborate on new technologies for present and future human spaceflight, per press materials.

Meanwhile, a new elevated exhibit hall over the two surfaces will offer the public immersive experiences to observe astronaut training first-hand while experiencing the future of space exploration as humans return to the moon and eventually on to Mars.

Specifically, the Lunar Mars facility will boast simulated surfaces of the moon and Mars, plus modular surface labs. According to Space Center Houston, these labs will design and test instruments and techniques for surface exploration, support testing lunar and Martian rovers on a one-mile indoor track, allow engineers and astronauts to practice working in reduced gravity, and conduct important emergency procedures.

Guests can look forward to an immersive experience that allows viewing of astronaut training in-person, while also offering education on missions, challenges and benefits of the space industry.

“Imagine having a front row seat on the surface of the moon or Mars right here in Houston,” noted William T. Harris, the center’s president and CEO, in a statement. “Space Center Houston is recognized for providing meaningful, moving experiences about people and the courage, innovation and teamwork they use to expand the boundaries of what’s possible. We inspire our guests to connect with the significance of space exploration, to pursue their own path in space, or simply follow along as incredible feats of human spaceflight continue to bring joy and wonder to the world.”

Space Center Houston also revealed a new logo/brand identity that the organization says in press materials represents the evolution of Space Center Houston and its future, and its mission to educate the public.

All this comes as part of a Facilities Master Plan and more plans to expand, which will be revealed in 2023.

Sound timing, as current estimates show that the global space industry is projected to grow nearly five times its current size by 2050. With 77 government space agencies currently operating around the globe, Texas boasts a key advantage as home to 17 of the world’s top 20 aerospace manufacturers, per the center.

Since its inception 30 years ago on October 16, 1992, the beloved Space Center Houston has seen more than 24 million starry-eyed guests enter its gates. Clearly, however, it’s time to rocket forward, as Houston and the nation, to quote President John F. Kennedy, choose to go to the moon, the Red Planet, and beyond.

“Space is expanding once again and a new space age is upon us,” Harris added. “With new ambitions, new players and new challenges, we will shift our focus from being a curator of past achievements to also facilitating new feats in space.”

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Mobile vet company brings its no-rush, stress-free services to Austin homes

Home Is Where the Vet Is

Austin, one of the largest no-kill shelter cities in the United States, already knows a lot about adopting instead of shopping. A puppy is a wonderful addition to the family, but senior dogs need love (and are loved), too. As many have learned firsthand, taking care of a senior pet can be challenging — with higher medical bills, potentially heavy lifting as joints stiffen, and tough decisions to make about what kind of care is necessary — but also incredibly rewarding.

November is National Senior Pet Health Month, calling for awareness about an older pet’s needs, and providing opportunities to celebrate wins all over local news. In Austin, one of those wins came in scrubs. The Vets, a mobile veterinary service that makes house calls, expanded into Austin in 2022 (after launching the year prior), eventually bringing the national count to 16 locations including Houston and Dallas. Texas and California are tied for the most locations, at three each.

“Among the top reasons that pet owners avoid or postpone their visit to the vet clinic include the stress of transporting their pet, restrictive pet carriers, and crowded waiting rooms,” explained a statement from the company. “Our no-rush visits give your pet the time to bond with our vet and you the opportunity to ask questions. And you always have the option to rebook the same vet to help grow that special relationship over time.”

This team provides care for every stage in a pet’s life, and most of their needs, too; that’s everything from routine wellness exams, microchipping, nutrition consulting, and even emergency services including those with specialized equipment like ultrasound machines. When the time comes to ease a pet’s end-of-life transition, the team also offers at-home euthanasia, dramatically reducing stress for both pets and people who don’t want a sterile environment or a tearful drive home.

The American Veterinary Medical Association lists many needs for senior pets, including increased medical care, vaccinations, and pet parents that are observant about environmental concerns like house structure and stimulation. With a home vet, pet owners might consider asking for opinions on how to streamline some of these interactions, without having to worry about having to write notes, try to remember potential issues in the space, or miss any important details a professional would see right away.

A good vet can make animals comfortable no matter what, but The Vets emphasizes the stronger relationships that its team can build in a comfortable, stress-free environment. In addition to a more convenient and comfortable experience, this can also mean better care for a pet that doesn’t have an entire puppyhood to adjust.

More information about The Vets, including scheduling, is available at thevets.com.

Austin-area pig rescue wins Airbnb contest to build one-of-a-kind pig-themed guest house

This Place is a Pigsty

KVUE — From tens of thousands of entries from around the world, 100 aspiring designers, architects, DIYers, and makers from more than 20 countries and regions have been chosen to bring their unique space ideas to life as part of the $10,000,000 Airbnb OMG! Fund.

One of those winners is Tracey Stabile, director of the Central Texas Pig Rescue (CTPR) in Austin. Tracey and Dan Illescas, founders of Central Texas Pig Rescue, will receive up to $100,000 to create a one-of-a-kind pig-shaped guest space. Over the course of the next 10 months, they will design, construct, and outfit the space to be guest-ready by summer 2023.

"Basically the OMG! Fund contest was a way for people to be really playful and kind of invent a really cool dwelling that would be something that's totally notable to people and be a destination," said Stabile.

Stabile said Airbnb left all of the freedom of creativity up to them. They went through several rounds of design and planning and review.

"Each step of the way, we were like, 'We're one step closer.' It was very exciting. Just getting those emails at each milestone and seeing that we were actually contenders in this contest. Then the fact that we, of course, won and now we're going to be able to build this amazing thing that we absolutely never would have been able to build under other circumstances. It's just an amazing opportunity," stated Stabile.

Stabile said she wanted to build something that was a little bit unpredictable and wanted to avoid some of the shapes that people might expect. The current pig sanctuary in Smithville, about 45 minutes outside of Austin, is home to over 200 pigs that were saved from abandonment. The sanctuary houses a mix of all different types of pigs, mostly potbellied pigs, and is 100 percent volunteer run and 100 percent donation based.

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Read the full story and watch the video at KVUE.com.

University of Texas launches $10 million seed fund with investment in vaccine storage pioneer

Sprouting Ideas

Planting a seed seems like a quaint activity, but the University of Texas at Austin doesn't do anything small. Its new $10 million UT seed fund is going into incubation soon, thanks to the efforts of Discovery to Impact, the team leading the University's "research commercialization and innovation efforts."

Except for its scale, this project is no different from any other seed investment, which inputs capital into a business in the form of a lump sum, in exchange for a portion of the business. In this case, the recipients are "promising new startups built on university-owned intellectual property," according to a press release. In total, UT Austin estimates that this intellectual property, or research enterprise, totals $800 million, a number it commits to "dramatically expand."

“By investing in these early-stage companies, we will be addressing a crucial gap in the capital market and enabling development of impactful technologies, while encouraging investors to consider opportunities coming out of the university,” said vice president of business strategies and operations Jim Davis in the release.

Discovery to Impact helps launch startups and stays on board through the many growing pains many startups experience, helping to accelerate "new products, services, solutions and cures." This means choosing and collaborating with three or four new companies each year, and when divided, the seed does appear rather small: companies can expect no more than a $250,000 investment.

The first seed will be planted in Jurata Thin Film, in order to grow solutions that streamline vaccine and biologic development and distribution worldwide. As many who followed COVID-19 vaccine news are aware, one major problem in distributing a vaccine is keeping it cold and stable. Jurata, based on the work of UT College of Pharmacy professor Maria Croyle, makes "thin films" (look up this keyword to see how unique Croyle's contribution is) that preserve vaccines for up to three years at room temperature. This is excellent news for communities with fewer resources or more arduous shipping needs.

The company is still relatively young, although not brand-new, having been founded in 2019. Its leadership has more experience; CEO Sheila Mikhail and co-founder Jude Samulski have previously collaborated on Asklepios BioPharmaceutical Inc. (AskBio) and Bamboo Therapeutics Inc.

The UT Seed Fund investment, along with other funding, will help bring about a pilot-scale manufacturing line that can create 1,000 doses of loaded thin films per hour, plus studies to ensure the safety of the formulation under the tongue, inside the cheek, and via intramuscular injection.

“Jurata is very excited to be the first recipient of UT Seed Fund,” said Jurata’s senior director of business development, Megan Livingston. “UT has been extremely supportive of our technology and development, and we look forward to continuing our relationship through this investment.”

A similar seed fund already exists at the University of Texas at Dallas, with larger sums for each business. More information about research at UT Austin is available at utexas.edu.