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Best Aesthetician – Wax

Maximum FX aesthetician Tess has amazing abilities. She can somehow make you feel comfortable even when your bare bum and legs are over your head, midwax. She can clear a forest faster than a tornado can a trailer park, all while keeping up the convo about love lives, pets, and the daily grind in general. She will get you in, out, and ready to show off some skin with impeccable speed, all while maintaining a level of professionalism and attention to detail that comes along with almost a decade of experience at the same salon. Her clientele is loyal to her and for good reason. Got a mustache creepin' up on ya? Give her a ring – she's got you covered … or uncovered, rather.

Maximum FX, 1007 S. Congress Ste. 10-C, 512/472-3331,

Best All-Faiths Knot Tyer
Chaplain Scott Johnson

Father Scott Johnson has married many, many couples in many, many ways: religious, spiritual, some, all, and/or none of the above. He officiates with Austin flavor and will tailor your wedding to a "T." It takes a man of deep faith to administer to all faiths, and when it comes to "I do," there's something special in knowing what you believe, whatever that may be, is treated with the utmost respect on your big day.

Fr. Scott F.E. Johnson, 699-4027,

Best Cat Whisperer
Michelle Oliveri, Austin Vet Care

Michelle Oliveri talks to cats – and listens to them, too. You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone in Austin who better understands and explains feline behavior, which can be – err – quirky at times. There's good reason for Oliveri's expertise. Not only does this vet tech work at Austin Vet Care at Central Park, but she also has nine cats of her own. For reals: nine. And to top it off, those were all bottle babies. Needless to say, she's put a lot of time and effort into figuring out exactly what our purr-y friends are trying to tell us. And we're glad she has. Meow.

Austin Vet Care, 12419 Metric, 512/832-1088,

Best Eco Makeover
W3LL People

photo by John Anderson

W3LL People constitutes the perfect eco-friendly makeover haven with fresh facial care on one wall and Shirley Pinkson's "eco-luxe" organic makeup line on the other. Choose from mango- or cucumber-scented sunscreen (paraben-free, of course) or grab a moisturizing lip gloss with corn labels and wind-powered stickers. Packed full of antioxidants, every piece of makeup nourishes your skin while making you beautiful. We've never seen a woman who glows like Pinkson, and we're pretty sure it's because she uses everything in her store. Meet with one of W3LL's knowledgeable consultants, and we bet that glow is contagious.

W3LL People, 215 S. Lamar Ste. B, 512/366-7963,

Best Hope for the Kitties
Trap-Neuter-Release and Foster Care Programs

Austin, we have a problem: cats. And, specifically, feral cats – homeless cats that live in our alleys and yards that have had little, if any, positive human interaction. There's no real way to know how many of these felines actually live in the ATX, but, by anecdotal wisdom, experts say the number could surpass 100,000. For reals. Thankfully there are those among us who are working hard to get those cats fixed, identified, and, when possible, tamed, socialized, and moved into loving homes. Chief among those groups is the Austin Humane Society, which has spayed and neutered more than 14,000 cats as part of its free trap-neuter-release program, overseen by Austin's own feral cat guru Leticia Stivers. Also, the fabulous ladies behind the AHS foster-adoption program headed up by Heather Allard work day in and day out to make Austin a healthier and safer place for felines and humans alike. It's a big job, but somebody's got to do it – and this team does it well.

Austin Humane Society, 124 W. Anderson, 512/646-7387,

Best Place To Recover

Spruce's Lizzie Nguyen and Amanda Brown hit the ground running less than a year ago, bringing high style and recycling culture together to recover and restore vintage furniture of all eras, right in their on-site upholstery workshop on Lamar. The secret of their success lies in their unusual and gorgeous fabrics, high-quality restoration, and, most of all, an uncanny eye for the perfect yet unexpected mix of the two. The results are all utterly unique and often a little breathtaking; their friendly, down-to-earth demeanor and updated sensibilities create a welcoming sense of simpatico to boot. Visiting Spruce will probably prompt you to recover something, anything, just for the pure pleasure of the results, but the store also sells its fabulous fabrics by the yard, as well as an assortment of household items, and offers upholstery classes on an ongoing basis. Nguyen and Brown's creations have rocketed them on to the national radar almost immediately – they've already been featured on E!'s Ultimate Bachelorette Pad and in The New York Times – and while we wish them boundless success, we prefer to think of Spruce as a hometown treasure for as long as we can.

Spruce, 6607 N. Lamar, 512/454-8181,

Best Professional Art Bridge
The Art Department

A radically new approach in master's level art studies, the Art Department has expanded to Austin and hired many local professional artists as teachers. Founders Jason Manley and John English have a history establishing new concepts in the teaching and commerce of art. TAD also has "pods" located in San Francisco; Kansas City, Mo.; and Richmond, Va., and offers an extensive course schedule available both online and on-site, as well as hosting international art and design symposiums. Traditional and digital art merge in a 30-month intensive program that bridges the gap between learning the art of art and actually being a professional artist.

The Art Department, 500 E. Fifth, 512/359-6097,

Best Reason To Keep Your Mind in the Gutter
New Storm Drain Markers

photo by Jana Birchum

Thanks to a new city volunteer program, critters like this one (see picture) are appearing curbside all around town as a reminder that what goes down the storm drain ends up choking the waterways that Austin's creatures call home. The city will provide the metal markers (in both English and Spanish), as well as maps, door hangers, safety vests, and other handy equipment to anyone interested in helping out with the effort, so feel free to extend a hand – these wild animals don't bite.

City of Austin Watershed Protection Department, One Texas Center, 505 Barton Springs Rd., 512/974-2550,

Best Sisterly Support in Motherhood
Mocha Moms

Mocha Moms started out as a way to encourage stay-at-home moms to share resources, knowledge, and support. As this chapter of dynamic and talented women grew, the ranks opened to include all moms, stay-at-home or not, for weekend outings and holiday events. And while Mocha Moms exists primarily for support, outreach, and involvement, some of the best parts center around having a place where sisters can be found away from home, kids can be surrounded by culture, and sharing the load includes sharing the laughter.

Mocha Moms,

Best Tattoo Shop
The Austin Tattoo Co.

We know a little something about the tattoo business at the Chronicle, since the late Rollo Banks served as our cover master in the Eighties. We also know that when Banks handpicked Keith Underwood as his last apprentice, he did so knowing Underwood would carry on the right traditions of the art form. Steeped in the Sailor Jerry tradition, Underwood and partner Frank Carter opened their North Austin shop earlier this summer, fusing modern and classic styles with myriad designs. That the shop operates as a tribute to Rollo Banks makes us love it, too.

The Austin Tattoo Co., 5241 N. Lamar, 512/380-0780,

Best Tress Unstresser
Roxana Wise

Is there anyone else in town who loves cutting and styling hair more than Roxana Wise? It's doubtful. Her charming little shop past the crook in Mary Street, just off South Lamar may be hard to place until your first visit, but once you've had your tresses cut and styled by Roxana, you will gladly make the trip every time you need a new 'do. Roxana takes the time to listen to what you want and hears what you say, but she's not afraid to make suggestions. No hard sell here, just her desire to make sure you leave her shop looking as marvelous as you can. You will look – and feel – marvelous.

R Salon, 1706 Evergreen, 512/447-7467,

Best Tribute to a Father
Polly Parsons' Hickory Wind Ranch

photo by John Anderson

How cool is this: Inspired by the brief but pivotal career of her father, Gram Parsons, Polly Parsons' Hickory Wind Ranch offers a sober living environment for recovering men and women. Though it does not regard age, ethnicity, or profession, there is a creative element to the program that comes from Parsons' deep belief in nurturing the arts. In Austin, that's a crucial step for those pledging to stay sober and successfully entering into a new stage of their lives.

Hickory Wind Ranch, 1013 Penion Drive, 310/251-6766,

Best Way To See Right Through You
River Ranch Radiology

It's no fun once you find out you need "diagnostic imaging services." But if an MRI or a CT scan is what the doctor ordered, you know you are in sensitive, professional, and well-trained hands at River Ranch Radiology. Best of all, patients are allowed to bring in a DVD to help distract them during the long and stressful process. (We're OK, in case you are wondering.)

River Ranch Radiology, 711 W. 38th, 512/454-9597,

Best Way To Upload Friends and Family
Precision Camera

Sullivan family portrait   photo by Todd V. Wolfson

We have few uses for photo prints these days, since we now share myriad images with a click and enjoy them on a screen. Most consumer printers yield only 4-by-6-inch prints or smaller, so take heart when it's time to enlarge and frame that old shot of Uncle Buddy for Aunt Dixie's birthday. Precision Camera can beam him right up for you: Just choose your file transfer speed, then upload Uncle Billy's posterior for posterity from the crib. The lab will see you coming, since they can often have them ready in an afternoon.

Precision Camera, 3810 N. Lamar, 512/467-7676,

Fiercest DIY Spirit
Austin Yellow Bike Project

Austin's raddest bike co-op recently opened its new headquarters on Webberville Road, its third move in two years and hopefully its last. YBP operates by the teach-a-man-to-fish ethos, offering free education in bike repair and free or low-cost ways to get new riders on the road. The shop was renovated by volunteers and financed by $100,000 in microloans; all the materials were moved from the previous shop location by bike. Newcomers can volunteer, donate, or stop by during an open shop.

Yellow Bike Project Headquarters, 1216 Webberville Rd.,

Friendliest Greeters in Town
ABIA Parking Attendants

After a day of flying – or of waiting in airports for that delayed next connection – arriving home can seem like just another bleary-eyed burden: schlepping the baggage, loading the trunk, finding our mazelike way out of the lot. How delightful, then, to arrive at the parking toll booth to a Texas-sized smile and an Austin, Tejas, welcome, 24 hours a day. We’re not sure whether it’s just the airport training or, more likely, an abundance of local workers who want to make certain travelers know they’re coming home – no matter where they live – to the friendliest spot in Texas. ’Cause as we all know – if you’re not from Austin, you’re just passing through. Bienvenidos!

ABIA: Airport Parking Garage & Ground Transportation Services, 3600 Presidential, 512/530-3300,

Most Amazing Use of the Human Foot
Austin Ashiatsu

Austin Ashiatsu will change the way you think about massage. The therapist, balancing above you on bars, uses her incredibly sensitive feet to palpate your muscles, and the feeling is almost indescribably strange and fantastic. Feet are bigger and stronger than hands, and the added use of gravity – you are actually being walked on – means that whole muscle groups are moved. This depth and the exquisite precision of placement are what make ashiatsu marvelous. Cathy Altman, owner of Austin Ashiatsu, is a magical creature with a rare gift to share.

Austin Ashiatsu, 1601 E. Fifth #105, 512/966-1963,

Most Fabulous Floral Arrangements
Mandarin Flower Co.

Sumptuous calla lilies become tutu chandeliers for the ballet fete! Lavish orchids for the Hispana Leadership Summit gala! Bamboo and ginger for the Austin Bar Association's gala! If you're going to do flowers, you might as well do fabulous flowers, right? Mandarin Flower Co. has made a big splash on the local charity circuit. Working with Ballet Austin, the Center for Child Protection, Habitat for Humanity, the Boys and Girls Clubs, and Caritas, Mandarin's impossibly glamorous founders, Sofia and Victoria Avila, represent a new generation of Austin floral designers.

Mandarin Flower Co., 1002 S. First, 512/300-3163,

Most Luxurious Ground Transport

photo by John Anderson

The fabulous Mercedes Mobilejet is nothing if not a first-class airline cabin – with an attendant, no less – able to get you door-to-door from Austin to your destination in Houston or Dallas in the same amount of time it would take you to catch a flight, travel, deplane, and travel some more to your final destination. With Mobilejet, there is no changing planes – the luxuriously appointed traveling conference center picks you up at your front door and delivers you to the front door of your destination without any stress or wasted time. Equipped with a 7-foot interior height; four luxurious, completely adjustable captain's chairs; uninterrupted and secure wi-fi; and an onboard bathroom, the Mobilejet gets you there with the style of Mercedes and the service of the Four Seasons.

MobileJets, 512/828-7766,

Most Reasonable Altered States
Marfiel's Tailors

The suit was perfect. The sleeves were not. They were way too long and needed to be shortened. This was no simple hem. The jacket was lined and featured snazzy decorative buttons. The event where the jacket was to be worn loomed. All of this information was given to a number of local tailors, and the prices they quoted produced vapors, gasps, and in one case, a fainting spell. Lo and behold, Marfiel! One call to this friendly altar of Eastside alteration did the trick. The turnaround was quick, the work was flawless, and the price produced another fainting spell – this time for being so unbelievably reasonable.

Marfiel's Tailors, 2703 E. Cesar Chavez, 512/478-3639

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