Cultural Writer — Gifts Beyond the Spa

cultural writer

As a cultural writer, I cover community events, holidays, and happenings in and around The Woodlands, Texas.


Article by Melanie Saxton
Photography by Presley Daniel
Originally published in The Woodlands City Lifestyle

Imagine Mom’s expression when she receives something beyond the ordinary for Mother’s Day! From soufflé for brunch to food tastings, pottery lessons, adventures in photography, and shopping for art, these thoughtful gift options will surely add fond memories (and a lot of fun) to this special occasion.

Soufflé on a Special Day!

How about brunch at a brand-new restaurant? Rise Souffle, located at Creekside Park West Center on Kuykendahl Road, is where impeccable flavor and French sensibilities meet comfortable hospitality. Add this to your list as an enchanting locale, and if you ever happen to be in Dallas or Fort Worth, you can visit the locations there.

“Rise Souffle will steal you away to the French countryside,” says CEO Chris Florczak. “Until you experience it in person, it’s almost impossible to describe in words. The French bistro and wine bar is a one-of-a-kind concept with carefully curated décor and thoughtful and intentional design that transports guests from the moment they step foot inside.”

Savory and sweet soufflés, each made to order, leave guests dreaming of their next visit. French cuisine, including soups, salads, entrées, and wine, is available every day. French press coffee, Rise chardonnay-apricot iced tea, and sparkling apple cider Duché de Longueville are among the beverages to try!

Often shortened to Rise, the Dallas locale has been featured in Conde Nast Traveler as one of the 20 best restaurants in Dallas. The Dallas Morning News reported a visit by President W. George, who enjoyed a Jambon & Gruyere soufflé, while First Lady Laura Bush enjoyed a Creamed Spinach soufflé. Learn more at

Throw, Spin, and Create at Clay Bar Co.

Introduce Mom to her inner potter! Clay Bar Co. by Potteryland Studio is a state-of-the-art venue located on Sawdust Road, offering full instruction by talented artists.

The process of shaping clay on a potter’s wheel can easily turn into a hobby — or an addiction! Try it, love it, and consider enrolling in a six-week-long beginner class. Everything you need is in one place — clay, wheels, tables, tools, glazes, and kilns! Plan ahead for a hands-on dive into “good clean fun,” which can get a bit messy as you work from your wheel.

You’ll conquer the concepts of centering, wedging, trimming, and how to glaze stoneware. Then it’s on to a first bisque firing and a second glaze firing. Eight days later, your pièce de résistance is ready for pickup.

Hourly wheel rentals are available for more experienced potters. Maybe Mom will acquire hand-building skills (pinching, coiling, and slab building) to make almost anything out of clay. Learn more at

Photography For All

From amateurs to professionals, there’s something for everyone at The Woodlands Photography Club. A membership for Mom is a year-round gift! It’s a wonderful opportunity to socialize with fellow enthusiasts and learn more about the art and science of capturing moments in time. Whether using sophisticated equipment or a smartphone, photographers of all levels come together to express, create, and build their skills.

Monthly club meetings include share & learn slideshows, and members look forward to workshops, field trips, exhibitions, mini contests, and more! The TWPC’s monthly Facebook challenge motivates members to learn something new, and those who accept the challenge can post up to three images. This May, the topic is shutter speed, with an upcoming Dancing Flowers challenge in June, and Composition with Animals in July.

The newest initiative is a photo discussion group (like a book club, but for photographers) via Zoom every third Tuesday of the month. This is a learning initiative with homework! Visit

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Art To Go at Unique Boutique

Emily Startz, Owner of The Woodlands Art Gallery & Studios, has a new offering — the Unique Boutique. Explore affordable original art for Mother’s Day with nothing over $100, including exquisite handmade jewelry, painted scarves, paintings, and more. Unlike art in a formal show, the Unique Boutique inventory is ready to go and can be taken home immediately.

“We also have a nook dedicated to The Woodlands Art League, and this art can be purchased to go as well,” says Emily.

In addition to selling art from featured artists, her gallery displays art on a consignment basis from local artists and sells used books in the Reading Room. Learn more at

Tasting Events at Avila Flavors & Experiences

Treat Mom to handmade cuisine with a Latin flare! Husband and wife team Maria Cristina (MC) and Executive Chef Nelson Padron hale from Venezuela and met in The Woodlands. Their culinary expressions are inspired by MC’s mother, a chef, and Nelson’s grandmother of French descent, who taught him to cook food to perfection.

Together, they own and operate Avila Flavors & Expressions in Tomball, which includes an online store and catering.

Consider a food-tasting experience at Avila’s micro restaurant. Past offerings have included steak tastings and Northern Vs. Southern Italian food. “We love food, we love this town, and we love serving you,” says Chef Nelson. Reserve your spot and enjoy the latest, greatest delights at But get your tickets early — these gatherings sell out quickly! Also, visit

Gift Ideas at The Bella Bottega

The fine artwork at The Bella Bottega Art Studios in Magnolia makes gift-giving a delight. Husband and wife team Ron Robare and Kimber Hardick founded this collection of studio spaces to build and grow an artist community. View one-of-a-kind items that are perfect for Mom, all created inside of artisan studios —mixed media, oil, paper, print, and ceramics. Online, you’ll see a link to each artist’s gallery and can contact them to meet and buy gifts.

Ron and Kimber donate 100% of the proceeds from the art they personally create and sell to Compassion United in Conroe, serving the marginalized of Montgomery County through outreach, relief, and empowerment. They also work alongside local businesses to create showcasing opportunities for artists and shopping options for art lovers looking for the perfect piece.

“Our goal is to enhance our community through open studio days and art gatherings. Recently, we welcomed Ardest Gallery to The Bella Bottega, creating a space to view and purchase 2D and 3D art from a range of local artists,” says Kimber. Visit to learn more.

Julie Verville, curator of Ardest Gallery located at The Bella Bottega, invites art lovers to browse affordable ready-to-frame works, shelf art, ceramics, fused glass, charcuterie boards, wood sculptures and bowls, handmade jewelry, and candles. The exhibition “Bloom” begins on May 6 with an opening reception from 5-8 p.m., on display May 13 from 5-8 p.m., and on Mother’s Day from 1-4 p.m.

“The first 20 moms who attend the Sunday show will receive a special artisan gift courtesy of the gallery,” says Julie. “And enjoy a Mother-Daughter Bracelet Making Party on Mother’s Day from 1-3 p.m., and an introduction to Gouache Painting on May 20.” Learn more at

Cheers to Mother’s Day 2023!

We hope these suggestions provide some out-of-the-box inspiration, and we wish every mother (and mother figure) in our readership a very happy Mother’s Day.