The Good Life in Austin Texas

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The Mighty Cone :The Quintessential Food of the ACL Music Festival is also Austin's Finest Trailer!

The Mighty Cone - The Quintessential Food of the ACL Music Festival is also Austin's Finest Trailer!

The Mighty ConeYeah...I know, the title of this post is a mouth full but so is the cuisine you will find at the Mighty Cone trailer! Cuisine from a trailer you ask? The answer is a resounding YES! The Mighty Cone is the brainchild of Jeff Blank Chef/Owner of Hudson's on the Bend restaurant, one of Austin's finest restaurants for more than 25 years! The story of how Mighty Cone came to be goes back to the origins of the ACL Music Festival. Jeff was tasked with organizing the food vendors for the new festival and wanted to set the bar higher than the usual food fare found at outdoor events. During the process he also had to develop a dish for his own booth at the festival.

Mighty ConesThe challenge was finding a dish that would still represent the highest quality of Hudson's on the Bend while at the same time meeting the following criteria:  It had to be delicious, easy to produce in mass quantities (while maintaining quality), portable, and also affordable for the thousands of music fans! One of the signature dishes at Hudson's is the Hot and Crunchy Trout. It is covered in a ingenious coating consisting of corn flakes, sesame seeds, almonds, hot pepper flakes and other ingredients. The fish is fried (Deep sauté for those who fear the word, FRY!) and served with a mango jalapeño aioli and dressed with ancho chili sauce.  Over the years Jeff and his staff experimented with a variety of foods and it turned out that chicken, shrimp and avocados were perfect! Oh yes, A V A C A D O S...are incredible served this way and vegetarian friendly too! Served in a tortilla nestled in a paper cone, the different offerings have been a hit from the very beginning. To give you an idea of just how popular these tasty treats are, during the 2009 ACL Music Festival, the booth sold more than 22,000 cones in only 3 days! Yeah that's right, over 600 cones per hour! Word to the wise, get in line before you are hungry. They are incredibly efficient at getting out the orders but there will be lines!

More Mighty Cones!Speaking of hungry, I am already starting to get a craving as I type this post. And I am fortunate to know exactly what I am indeed craving; a chicken/avocado combo cone and the great thing is these days I don't have to wait for the ACL Music Festival. A couple of years back, Jeff opened  The Mighty Cone  at 1603 S. Congress #1, 383-9609 in the heart of the SoCo District. The trailer has been wildly successful and has acclaim locally and nationwide in the Wall Street Journal as well as other publications. The Mighty Cone will also be featured in an upcoming segment of a new Food Channel Network series about Food Trailers AND in a very special episode of one of the most popular talk shows on any TV network!

 Open daily, weather permitting, you can stop by for any of the cones and they also have organic beef sliders, Blue Bell Ice Cream Shakes (peach being my favorite) chili dusted fries and  an assortment of  seasonal items.Every once in a while you can get Foie Gras as a unique topping to your slider! I don't know how many taste buds are in my mouth but The Mighty Cone  has something for each and every one! Once, when my wife and I were on the way to our favorite Italian restaurant in the SoCo District we had to cross Congress Ave. at the corner where The Mighty Cone is located and I found myself stopping in at the trailer for what I explained to my wife was, "an appetizer"! I figured I would just skip dessert at dinner and call it even!

This year I WILL be attending the ACL Music Festival and will definitely be stopping by for a cone or two. As a matter of fact, around 4:00pm, I am going to drop by and see if I can entice Jeff Blank accompany me to watch The Black Keys before the mad dinner rush begins! You never can tell though, the lines start early end it is well worth the wait! So, if you are at the ACL Music Festival  for the next three days, in town for another reason or even better, LIVE IN AUSTIN you can stop by and enjoy something deliciously unique for diners in Austin, Texas. As the saying goes, "it's the only time you can eat the best meal from Hudson's on the Bend  for less than $10". And it's just another reason we are enjoying living  The Good Life in Austin Texas !

My name is Russell Lewis, I have twenty years experience assisting buyers and sellers in Austin's finest neighborhoods. I am not all things to all people and concentrate the majority of my business in Central, West and Southwest Austin and the Westlake/Eanes School District. If you or anyone you know is anticipating purchasing or selling real estate and would like to learn more about living The Good Life in Austin Texas I would be happy to be of assistance. Email or call my mobile listed below for a private consultation at your convenience!

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45 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • October 09 2010 09:17AM

Healthier than Thou? Austin's Whole Foods Turns 30

Healthier than Thou? Austin's Whole Foods Turns 30

Whole Foods BannerI got off on the wrong foot with health food fanatics, vegetarians and as Anthony Bourdain describes them, the "Hezbollah-like" Vegans... New years Day, 1975 I held the first of an off again on again New Years Day Party that has come to be known as "The Day After the Year Before". I'd been a resident of Austin long enough to know that there would be several people attending who did not eat meat and planned accordingly. From the first event, the menu has pretty much always consisted of me grilling BBQ chicken and pork chops and cooking a large pot of traditional black-eye peas. I also prepared some extra vegetables and a large salad to accommodate the possible non-meat eating visitors. Everyone attending was asked to bring a side dish and a bottle of Champagne.

The crowd was smaller that first year with about 25-30 people, an interesting assortment friends consisting of fellow construction workers, students, artists, musicians and...no kids. We were all young and living the good life offered by the very laid back Austin lifestyle. It was a beautiful afternoon with folks streaming in recovering from assorted maladies usually associated with New Years revelry and everyone had plenty to eat and enough champagne to ease the discomfort of any hang over from the night before. And then it started, two of the guests began what can only described as an attempt to "save" the rest of us from the doom and destruction of our meat eating ways. No one asked, they just started making comments like "We don't eat meat", "Do you have any idea what that flesh is doing to you?" etc. I have to tell you that I have always attracted an opinionated crowd and before long the discussion escalated into a heated argument. I did try calm the protein deprived Veg-Heads with another helping of mashed potatoes and a plate of brownies but they were on a roll and ended up storming out while shouting that were all going to die horrible deaths. I grew up in a rather extreme church in West Texas and had already heard enough of this so was happy to see them depart.

Whole Foods First StoreFast forward to 1978-1979. I am driving along and on the radio I hear the first of way too many ads featuring a young man with an incredibly arrogant tone of voice "preaching" to me that a little store called Safer Way was the only place to purchase healthy, nutritious food and vitamins. The fact that there was also some horribly irritating snake charming music playing in the back ground only served to increase the annoying message! That was the first time I remember thinking the of the phrase "Healthier than Thou". Days passed and I kept hearing the same ad over and over and since I was something of a mischievous trouble maker back then, I began to devise a plan. I stopped by a Safeway market in South Austin and purchased a dozen packages of Twinkies. The next day I dropped by the store and because I had hair down past my shoulders, jeans and an Armadillo World Headquarters T-shirt, I fit right in. No one noticed my paper bag as I headed to the tiny baked goods aisle where I made a space on the shelf, deposited the packages of snacks and adorned the stack with a "groovy" handmade sign announcing 'NEW-Organic Twinkies'. Minding my business, I purchased a bag of  Healthy Hunza Corn chips and some Dr. Bronner'speppermint soap and moseyed on along without attracting attention. Now what happened next depends on who is telling the story. I heard that several people (both employees and their pious customers) were semi-enraged that the store had been polluted with the king of industrial junk food! Many seemed to think it was very funny and still others could not agree on whether this actually happened at all?  No matter, I could not help myself and told a few people who told a few others and well... it became an urban myth of sorts!

1980 rolls around and I moved into a large crumbling down mansion in the west end of downtown with my friend, the painter Jim Franklin and an assortment of artists, musicians, film makers and other interesting characters. By this time I had undergone a period of semi-self discovery and decided to begin living healthier (if for no other reason than balancing the sometimes wild nightlife I was enjoying). That same year, Whole Foods Market opened their first store on Lamar between 9th and 10th Streets only a block from my house. The new store was a result of a combining of the aforementioned SaferWay and another local store Clarksville Natural Grocery. I dropped by the week they opened and was standing in the vitamin aisle, when two friends of mine who were employed at the store approached me with extremely wicked grins. I said, "hello" and they replied, "OK, where did you put them?" "Put what?", I asked. They were both laughing but also very insistent. "The Twinkies, man! We know that is why you are here!" I was stunned and then started laughing because they knew about the past episode and were convinced that must be the only reason I was at the store. After a few minutes of bantering and seeing my basket full of produce, vitamins and same tasty baked goods they realized I was a changed man and let me finish my shopping. One of the most interesting parts of the new venture that I liked was a meat market which was unheard of at the time, at least for the so called "natural" stores.

Whole Foods AustinSince that time I have been a fairly steady customer for many reasons and more so in recent years. My family was in the grocery business for nearly 65 years and the way our food is developed, grown, and distributed has changed radically over the years. If you want to learn the more about the industrialization of our food, please rent and watch the film Food Inc. where you will learn in a direct, rational and honest way how our food supply is so drastically different than when my family was in business years ago. An excellent book on the subject that is referenced in the film is Michael Pollan's, The Omnivores Dilemma, a fascinating and sobering tome on just about every aspect of our choices concerning the foods we eat. My wife and I have made a conscious effort to try and buy organic, hormone free products. Meat, Dairy and other foods that do not have to be industrialized to the point of being without flavor and often unhealthy.

Now...I don't want to start sounding like the folks who crashed the party all those years ago and instead I am just offering some info you might want to research on your own. But even without the health aspect, Whole Foods Market has an incredible array of great tasting food sold by people who are passionate about their job and that's what it's also about for me! Check out the meat market (still a thorn for some purists I suppose), the beautiful produce, a bakery that has some of the best French Sourdough around and I am comparing it to similar loaves we enjoyed in Paris, an incredible seafood counter and variety that goes in and on. I shop Whole Foods Market  because it's just down the street from my office but also because I find great food at good prices and excellent service. An Austin Texas original, Whole Foods Market is just another of the great reasons we are living the good life in Austin Texas. If you live in an area that has a Whole Foods Market you probably have already enjoyed the experience, if not, then quit fooling around and get on over there. With 300 stores throughout 38 states, there is a good chance you are near one. To learn more about the 30th anniversary follow this link Whole Foods Market Birthday. Oh and if you are near the one by my office, would you pick me up something for me? Maybe a couple of slices of their fresh hot pizza and a bottle of ice cold Sweet Leaf Tea or maybe something from the sandwich section or one of those orange rolls , no wait, how about some Gelato...

 

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69 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • September 20 2010 10:00PM

Architecture at the Umlauf Series - Thursday, September 2nd 7:00pm

Architecture at the Umlauf Series - Thursday, September 2nd 7:00pm

Umlauf Sculpture GardenThe opening program  of the Architecture at the Umlauf Series Fall Season takes this place Thursday, September 2nd. Doors open at 7:00 pm.

The event marks the beginning of the fall season of this incredibly popular program featuring local Austin Architects in a beautifully intimate setting. As a result of the strong ties between AvenueOne and the Art and Architectural communities, the monthly series was founded and is produced by two of my associates at AvenueOne Properties; Scott Harveyand Carla Umlauf (granddaughter of the esteemed sculptor) and is sponsored by our firm, AvenueOne Properties and AIA Austin. There will also be tickets on sale for the upcoming 2010 AIA Homes Tour so please bring your checkbooks!

The series is a creative venue allowing local architects to share with the public and professionals their work and its meaning within Austin's contextual landscape. The lectures take place on the grounds of the beautiful Umlauf Sculpture Garden at the Pavilion. This month, Brian Dillard, AIA is the featured speaker. In a change from previous events the program is free to the public as well as museum members! Come out and enjoy an excellent talk in this extraordinary venue. You might want to show up early because this event has been at capacity at all of the previous lectures. Additionally, now that it is actually cooling off  you can enjoy a stroll through the garden and enjoy the numerous sculptures!

Brian Dillard, AIA Architecture at the Umlauf

The Umlauf Sculpture Garden is a peaceful sanctuary providing a pleasant escape in the middle of our bustling city and is another reason we are truly living The Good Life in Austin Texas! Thanks for supporting this great event and if have questions about architects, builders or real estate in any of Austin's finest neighborhoods, I would be happy to be of assistance. Let me put my twenty years success helping Austin upscale buyers and sellers to work for you. Call my mobile 512-657-8769 or email me  for a private consultation at your convenience!

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37 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • August 31 2010 12:25PM

Pain is STILL not a Flavor!

Pain is NOT a flavor!      Pain is still not a flavor!       Pain is NOT a flavor!      

Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce FestivalIt is hard to believe but this weekend will mark the 20th anniversary of the world's largest hot sauce festival here in Austin, Texas. The festival originally started as a contest between the cities of Austin and San Antonio but after Austin salsa makers swept the awards a couple of years in a row, the competition settled in Austin permanently and has grown larger every year. The 20th Annual 'Austin Chronicle' Hot Sauce Festival, is presented by Capital Area Food Bank of Texas and takes place this Sunday, Aug. 29 from 11am-5:30pm Waterloo Park at 12th and Trinity. Organized and run with incredible precision by my friend Elizabeth Derczo the festival is one of the most fun and unique in the world! Entry to the festivities is in the form of three nonperishable food items that will be donated to the Food Bank.  A very cheap price for a very good time and it all goes for a fantastic cause!

J.P. Hayes and Russell LewisThere are three levels of competition individual(homemade), restaurants, and commercial bottlers in three categories, RED, GREEN and SPECIAL VARIETY. I entered the individual (homemade), category twenty years ago and have made nearly every contest since then along with a large number of other enthusiasts including my friends Ted Fick (who makes an incredibly complex and delicious salsa of slow roasted and smoked ingredients) and J.P. Hayes, creator of Sgt. Pepper's salsas and hot sauces and partner at Tears of Joy Hot Sauces! As a multiple entry competitor I have not been all that consistent in my success. I have a salsa I have made every Christmas since meeting my wife and I have entered into the individual RED category numerous times but as far as I can tell have never even made it past initial testing. Now I do not mean to boast but this particular salsa is very good but also very different. Every Christmas a large number of people clamor for my attention to see if they are on the "list". Recently it was pointed out that my salsa (though red) was not really a traditional red salsa. Made with Piloncillo, it has a marked sweet taste that blends well with the peppers, tomatos and other "secret" ingredients which many people crave almost to the point of obsession however; it appears that the salsa is "politically incorrect" for the RED category. With that in mind I am changing the entry to Special Variety.

hot Hot HOT!!!In the past my only success has been in Special Variety with a fresh peach/red pepper salsa developed by my daughter Mattie and me in 2007. That year we received an honorable mention for the new concoction. The next year 2008 we moved up and placed 2nd in the Special Variety with a slightly tweaked version of the same salsa. 2009 yielded nothing in any of the categories and I heard later that the judges were tired of fruit salsas (rumors, ideas and conjecture are rampant every year). Of course this begs the fact that there are hundreds of entries every year with just as many variations of taste, consistency and yes the ubiquitous HEAT! I've written about the heat factor in the past when I realized that though I like it hot, Pain is not a flavor ! Now I am a person who like its hotter than most so we have to utilize the "Goldilocks Heat Assessment" method in our home. By that I mean we have three categories of testers; my wife (mild) our daughter Mattie (medium) and me along with our son Morgan (HOT!). Again, I do like some heat but it is very subjective and if it ever becomes truly painful then the experience becomes one of misery and if you've ever severely burned your taste buds it ruins  tasting just about anything for awhile. With that in mind always beware and try "just a little" before diving in and scooping shovelfuls! If you DO over indulge here is something that can "help" quench the heat !

Well...I better get busy on my hot sauce entries; I have some excellent peaches for my peach/red pepper salsa and my old standby "Hot, Sweet & Righteous" is already bottled and ready to go. I have no idea how the contest will turn out and it would be impossible to even hazard a guess because there are so many variables. If you get a chance, whip up a batch of your own and head over Sunday to enter. Remember there will be hundreds of entries and the judges tastes are subjective and change every year so what the heck...EVERYBODY has a chance to win and a good time will be had by all! I look forward to seeing you there and enjoying yet another way we are living the good life in Austin Texas!

UPDATE:  http://russelllewis.posterous.com/1st-place-individual-category-for-my-red-pepp

                                         1st Place Individual Special Category Austin Hot Sauce Festival 2010 

SPECIAL THANKS to my friend and fellow Activerain blogger, Craig Rutman for fixing this picture! I was so excited that I held it up backwards when my wife took the photo !

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84 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • August 27 2010 06:41PM

Quenching the thirst of a long HOT summer...

Quenching the thirst of a long HOT summer... 

Iced Tea"Miss, could you repeat that," the waitress asked my wife for the third time. "Ahhssd Teee, please" she patiently answered again. The waitress, still baffled just shook her head, gave us a pen and asked us to write it down. My wife took the pen and wrote in block letters on a napkin I-C-E-D  T-E-A."You mean you want tea with ice?" to which we both exclaimed, "YES, That's it!" This conversation took place while my wife and I were living in Minneapolis, Minnesota during her time at Anesthesia School. And even with our Texas accents aside, the idea of iced tea in that part of the world was and I assume still is, completely alien.

I mention this because this summer in the U.S.A is going down in the books as one of the hottest in many years! As a Texan I have to mention (yes, it's always bigger, better, hotter etc. here)  my favorite local weatherman, Jim Spencer noted recently that by this time last year we had already experienced over 50 days when it was 100 degrees or hotter in Austin, Texas. We've been blessed with a "normal" summer this year but it is still HOT. Now...I was born and raised in Texas and I am one of those odd sorts who actually enjoy the heat. There are times when you've been cooped up in the office or car with the AC cranking all day and the moment you first step out into the blast furnace of a Texas Summer and it just envelopes you, it feels GOOD! In a weird way I find it comforting but I remind myself that I am happy to be out of the construction business (a place I toiled for mote than sixteen years) where I used to spend way too much time in the harshest of elements.

In Austin we have  many ways to beat the heat. I've previously written about my favorite ice cream location, Amy's Ice Creams and everyone in Austin has a chance to enjoy the cool waters of Barton Springs Pool. Many years ago when I was single and shared a house with my brother we went through a bizarre period of no air conditioning which, I know is completely insane in these parts! I spent a lot of time at the Library,numerous movie theaters, Book Stores and assorted water holes as well as cultivating relationships with girls who DID have air conditioning! One of the best ways that we stay cool in Texas, rich or poor, tall or short, intelligent or otherwise is with a tall glass of Iced tea. It is more than a way of life in Texas for just about everyone. I grew up drinking it at most meals, on my Grandmother's back porch, at friends houses, funky cafes and the finest dining establishments and frankly it's just a  way of life in Texas and the South. Everyone has their own way of making tea and it's a hotly discussed issue no matter where you go.

My current favorite method for making iced tea comes from the founder of the legendary Sweet Leaf Tea Company, Clayton Christopher. The locally founded company went nationwide awhile back and if you are lucky you may live in an area where the many wonderful varieties of teas and lemonades are readily available. If not OR you are just a fan of homemade iced tea I am including his grandmother's recipe here. And before I get flooded with different recipes for the "best" iced tea, I realize that there are as many variations of recipes as there are grandmothers and great aunts but try this, it's as delicious as it is refreshing!

You will need the following items pictured below: 

Items needed to make iced tea

To whip up a batch of iced tea follow these directions:

1 ounce high quality, organic tea leaves (Don't waste time with any of the pre-bagged stuff, compared to the leaf varieties the rest is floor sweepings, if that is a word)

1/2 gallon carbon filtered water

1 1/8 cups of organic sugar

Ice

1. Bring 1/2 gallon of high quality, carbon filtered water to a boil. Water should be carbon filtered to remove chlorine which can be achieved with a Brita.

2. Turn off heat; stir in one ounce loose, organic tea leaves to water.

3. Let sit 5 minutes, uncovered.

4. Add 1 cup of sugar to large, ice filled pitcher. If using tea bags, remove bags from water and add sugar to hot tea.

5. Pour tea through strainer into ice filled pitcher, stir and enjoy.

Of course, you can always leave OUT the sugar and substitute some other sweetener and even jazz it up with an assortment of herbs or libations whatever your tastes may crave. In the meantime, I hope this helps cool down your summer a bit and in spite of the heat we are still living The Good Life in Austin, Texas !

NOTE: This is post is NOT an endorsement for  any political group or candidate ;-)

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61 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • August 16 2010 09:03PM

3012 Hatley Drive Updated Energy Efficient Home in Rollingwood with a $6.23 electric bill?

 3012 Hatley Drive Updated Energy Efficient Home in Rollingwood with a $6.23 electric bill?

You read that correctly, a $6.23 electric bill is the lowest so far in my new listing at 3012 Hatley Drive in Rollingwood, one of the Eanes School Districts finest areas! Though the bill is by no means typical, over the last year they have ranged from $25-$48 monthly with a single bill as high as $150 for a particularly harsh weather month. Still this is extremely impressive for a home that is just north of approximately 2,760 sq.ft. according to appraisal. Some of the energy upgrades efficiency upgrades that make such low utility bills possible include:

Solar panels (commercial grade with 50 year warranty) (8/08)

Solar hot water heater with reserve tank (8/08)

Upgraded insulation in attic (5/07)

Replaced main air ducts in attic (5/07)

3012 Hatley Drive has also undergone extensive renovations since 2007 with complete bathroom remodeling, added storage, cosmetic additions and many other upgrades. As Rollingwood has experienced a leap in remodeling, expansions and new construction since the Austin building moratorium, 3012 Hatley Drive represents the perfect opportunity to move in today! The large wooded lot offers the prospect of expanding and making this into an even bigger home WITHOUT overbuilding for the area. Located in the heart of Rollingwood near local community pool, park, tennis courts, baseball fields and shopping, this home offers the best of Rollingwood and Eanes schools at a very competitive and affordable price for the area! For a better idea of the beauty of this home and lot click on the link:

3012 Hatley Drive Virtual Tour

3012 Hatley Drive

If you have questions or would like to schedule a private showing, contact me directly at my number or email listed below and learn more about living the good life in Austin TexasDon't miss your chance to see this wonderful home and learn more about the incredible City of Rollingwood and surrounding area.  look forward to visiting with you at your convenience!

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68 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • July 08 2010 06:00PM

Stonewall, Texas Peach JAMboree & Rodeo

Stonewall Peach JAMboree

Stonewall, Texas Peach JAMboree & Rodeo

Stonewall, Texas PeachesAbout an hour and a half drive west of Austin lies El Dorado...Not the El Dorado of hidden Spanish gold or the failed escapades of the Raising Arizona bank robbers. Nope, I am talking about the golden deliciousness of the peaches found in Gillespie County, home of the Peach Blossom Trail between and around the towns of Stonewall and Fredericksburg, Texas. Numerous farms and orchards dot the country side making Gillespie County the largest peach producing county in Texas. To give you an idea of the scope of production this area produces 40% of the entire Texas peach crop. The thing about regional peaches is that they are grown for flavor and not to be shipped half way across the country. We have all tried fruit that was grown to be shipped. Sometimes it's very pretty but most often very  bland. Yeah...what I am talking about here is a peach that you bite and the flavor explodes as the juice just flows down your face. REAL TASTE! Check out texaspeaches.com for a bounty of information on peaches, growers and more!

Every summer during the third weekend of June, the Stonewall Peach JAMboree takes place celebrating all things related to peaches.The various farmers and orchards enter baskets of peaches, single "perfect" or larger peaches and there is also a contest for best Peach Pie, Peach Cobbler and Peach Preserves. The are also contests for best vegetable and a small regional rodeo that is well worth watching! For a schedule of all the events try this link 2010 Peach JAMboree & Rodeo. Remember too that the roads around the county are blanketed with garden stands selling peaches and all manner of produce so it's a great time to pick up some local goodies while you are there! We enjoy peaches all during the season but prefer the late summer varieties. I am going to write a follow up post and list my favorite farmers and orchards in the area as a guide but do not have the space here so stay tuned!

I like living near this epicenter of peach producers because I love peaches. My family was in the grocery business in West Texas and my Grandfather did business with orchards and farms  all over the state and every summer we would receive "sample" crates to enjoy. We used to stuff ourselves on all sorts of varieties including Loring, Bounty, Red Skin, Harvester, Hale Haven and...oh, you did not realize there were so many kinds? The fact is that there are numerous varieties that ripen over the summer starting in May and ending for the most part in August. My Grandmother used to make peach ice cream, peach cobbler and one of my all time favorites...Peach Preserves! Which finally brings me to the subject of this post.

Russell Lewis 2nd Place, Jerome Jenschke 1st PlaceTwo years ago, I entered the Peach Preserves contest using my Grandmother Mattie Lewis' recipe and to my surprise took 3rd place. Last year I decided to pay closer attention to the recipe (which is absurdly simple but requires a certain amount of intuitiveness) and ended up in 2nd Place. The funny thing about this contest is that in recent years, 1st Place has been taken by Mr. Jerome Jenschke who I believe is around 86 years old, three years in a row.  He is a very friendly sort despite the lack of a smile in the picture. This has become something of an issue with many of what I like to call the "Grandma Cartel". I am just kidding when I say this but last year my wife was hanging around the winners display and heard some grumbling about "men in the kitchen". Later in the summer, I was in the area with my friend, Jeff Blank of Hudson's on the Bend restaurant to pick up some more peaches (Dixieland and  Ouachita Gold) and at one location a gentleman stopped me and said, "Hey young fella" (I liked that) Aren't you the fella that placed in the peach preserves contest with Mr. Jenschke the last two years?" Yes sir, I replied, to which he said, "well, you need to go in there and talk the lady here!" We went in and actually had a very amusing visit but I could not get over the bewilderment she had at the idea of "men in the kitchen".  It's still old school in some places  and pretty funny so I always answer that it's safer than the rodeo and a bucking bronco contest!

This year I made another batch to enter but I am a bit worried. My friend Jeff Blank , a world class chef, always tells me that you must start with the best ingredients so my secret has been to use late summer peaches from the previous season that I freeze in bulk. We always freeze several bags for peach pie, cobbler and the sort to dine on during the winter months remembering to save enough for my preserves. Well this year...we somehow ate everything so I have been scrambling at the farmers markets, Whole Foods and Central Market here in Austin searching for some good peaches. And yes, they are good but...they do not seem to have that power punch of flavor that comes from late summer peaches. Or maybe as my wife says, "I am way over - thinking this":-) Hmmm...I hope so, I just finished my second batch because the first was "missing something". Here is a brief description located on my russelllewis.posterous blog. And I also noticed that Mr. Jenschke always wore blue (the same as the blue ribbon) and I wore red so maybe a blue shirt will help?? It is the color of the 1st Place ribbon  ;-D Anyway, if you have the time, drive out to Stonewall this Saturday for a great time. I guarantee you will thoroughly enjoy the whole, as my Grandfather used to say, "Kit and Caboodle"!! We are certainly  living The Good Life in Austin Texas!

 

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67 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • June 18 2010 12:52PM

What is a "Neighborhood Specialist"?

What is a "Neighborhood Specialist"?

Neighborhood Specialist?

Recently, a friend and I were on a morning walk in my  neighborhood, Lost Creek in the Eanes School District and noticed a new "For Sale" sign in the front yard of a home. As we passed the sign I saw a rider posted at the bottom proclaiming the agent to be a "neighborhood specialist"! My friend laughed and said, "Oh look, another agent who I've never heard of and they also claim to be a local expert!" I just laughed and shrugged it off but my friend whipped out his phone and dialed the number on the sign. No one answered his call and we continued our walk and talked about real estate in Austin.

Lost Creek is a beautiful area in the hill county of south west Austin. With just under 1,200 homes built from 1978 through the late 1990's and located in the acclaimed Eanes School District. The Lost Creek area is a very popular neighborhood and many agents would love to be THE "neighborhood specialist"! Frankly, even though a couple of agents in my area do more business than others no one really dominates the market and at least a dozen good agents live here. I am told by marketing "experts" that to command market share in any neighborhood an agent must have at least 30% of the market and no one does that out here. I sell my share of homes in Lost Creek and have done so since before we moved here and though I always like to have more business, I am happy with my efforts.

Last night my neighbor called and told me that after calling 7 or 8 times, the "neighborhood specialist" had FINALLY called him back. He started out by asking about the home price, upgrades, taxes etc. which the agent handled well but as my friend began asking specific questions about the neighborhood, local parks, shopping, clubs, schools and other pertinent details, the answers became increasingly thin. At the same time the agent seemed to turn up the pressure on the caller in an attempt to change the subject and clumsily  "close" his prospect.  At that point in the conversation my friend asked how many homes the agent had actually sold in the neighborhood which seemed to catch him completely off guard. Sensing the discomfort in the pause and before the agent could recover, he took the opportunity to say thanks for the info and tell the surprised agent goodbye!

I have to say that I don't approve of the way my friend wasted the agents time but on the other hand I have even more disdain for anyone who projects themselves as an "expert" or "specialist" in any business in a deceptive manner. When I first got into the business, teachers at the real estate school I attended urged us to "Fake it until you make it!" I never did that because I was afraid that someone would catch me at it and I did not want to suffer the embarrassment and beyond that, it's just plain dishonest! I realize that everyone has to be a beginner at some time but trying to impress others with blatantly dishonest claims of expertise is just going to be trouble in the long run. I urge clients all the time to ask questions and these days with the internet, buyers and sellers are more savvy than ever and often know more about a subject that the person they call. Whenever someone asks me a question, if I do not know the answer, I tell them I do not know but will find out. At the risk of sounding "old school" if you are not a true "expert", don't try and pawn it off on the public! It not only make's the individual agent look bad but the rest of the industry too!

My name is Russell Lewis, I have twenty years experience assisting buyers and sellers in Austin's finest neighborhoods. I am not all things to all people and concentrate the majority of my business in Central, West and Southwest Austin and the Westlake/Eanes School District. If you or anyone you know is anticipating purchasing or selling real estate and would like to learn more about living The Good Life in Austin Texas I would be happy to be of assistance. Email or call my mobile listed below for a private consultation at your convenience!

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Pemberton Heights Open House - 2424-B Hartford Drive

Pemberton Heights Open House - 2424-B Hartford Drive

Open this Sunday April 25th 2:00 - 4:00PM

2424-B Hartford Road is one of two units in this beautifully built complex. Utilizing quality finish outs and superior construction techniques, the home offers the discriminating buyer many features. If you would like to expand the already open, brightly lit, well designed floor plan, the builder is offering the option to add an additional 550 +/- square feet to the current layout. This is a rare opportunity to live in newer construction in Pemberton Heights for under $1 Million and is an excellent value for one of Austin's finest neighborhoods!

Pemberton Height is arguably the crown jewel of West Austin Neighborhoods. Centrally located to downtown, the neighborhood boasts some of Austin's finest homes and there is always a demand for property in the area. To learn more about the interesting history of the area regarding development, background, building restrictions, historical designations and many other details please access the  Pemberton Heights website which is one of the best maintained and well developed neighborhood websites in the City of Austin.

2424-B Hartford Road

Don't miss your chance to see this wonderful home and learn more about the incredible Pemberton Heights  neighborhood! I will be on-site between 2pm and 4pm Sunday afternoon so please drop by for a tour of this beautiful home in a relaxed, no pressure environment.

AGENTS, this is an excellent time to preview!

If you have questions or are unable to attend and would like to schedule a private showing, contact me directly at my number or email listed below and learn more about living the good life in Austin Texas. I look forward to visiting with you at your convenience!

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32 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • April 25 2010 04:01AM

Celebrating Earth Day with 101 Quadrillion Colors on Texas (and our Nations) Roads-Thanks to The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Texas Bluebonnets

Celebrating Earth Day with 101 Quadrillion Colors on Texas (and our Nations) Roads-Thanks to The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

I was going to try and do something with 101 in the title because after 20 months of blogging, I finally managed to break 100 posts but something a lot better came along with Earth Day and the advent of Texas Wildflower Season. Every year about this time, if we get enough rain, the roadsides all over Texas explode with a variety of colorful wildflowers! Few people probably realize that the reason for the  multicolored carpet of flora is none other than Lady Bird Johnson and her creation of the  Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center! Back in 1965, Lady Bird began a number of efforts towards "Beautification" of our country that was a "combination of rural and urban environmentalism, national parks conservation, anti-pollution measures, water and air reclamation, landscaping and urban renewal." Lady Bird was "GREEN" and celebrating Earth Day long before many of the current environmentalists were even born and was a true pioneer!

Texas Wildflowers 2010Texas Wildflowers 2010Texas Wildflowers 2010

I remember cracking up as a kid listening to Lady Bird on TV and radio reminding us, in that southern drawl to, "Plant a shruuub, a Tuhree or a Booosh", to help keep America beautiful. (I don't know why I thought it was so funny  as I have a pronounced Texas drawl myself) Using donations by wealthy philanthropists she planted thousands of flowers all over Washington to bring beauty and "masses of flowers where the masses pass." On my birthday, May 24th, 1965, Lady Bird Johnson addressed the two-day White House Conference on Natural Beauty, and began actively pursuing environmental and conservation legislation that Lyndon Johnson's administration would work on during his tenure as President. She encouraged the Job Corps to expand skills it taught to include landscaping and Lady Bird also created the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden and the Children's Garden on the White House South Lawn. Mrs. Johnson took her crusade to low-income areas, "largely populated by African-Americans, in preparation for the work they would conduct there: the cleaning, refurbishment and maintenance of city schools, the installation of recreation areas, massive housing project trash cleanups, and the implementation of a summer "Projects Pride" program employing college and high school students in neighborhood tree plantings and conservation, pest control, sanitation and renovation of decaying public buildings." As noted in Lady Bird Johnson's biography.

Texas Wildflowers 2010

 Texas Wildflowers 2010

Something most people do not know is that Lady Birds efforts spread all across the country. She took on negligence within the National Government and brought about the cleaning of Military "eyesores", focused efforts toward local and state air-pollution, convincing power companies to run power lines underground, stopping strip mining(actually supported by The National Coal Association) and more efforts at local beautification projects. Her most controversial effort was the Highway Beautification Act which was dubbed "Lady Bird's Bill". One of the ideas was to limit the enormous amount of billboards cluttering up the landscape an use access to Federal Highway funds to bring about compliance. Lady Bird received sharp criticism and resistance from the powerful "Outdoor Advertising Association of America" fought every aspect of the project from the beginning. She was lampooned in numerous cartoons as a "typical woman driver" running down several billboards and denigrated in ways unthinkable today, or maybe not...After a very hard struggle that brought a number of unlikely supporters together, the bill finally passed. Though Congress continued to resist by releasing few funds and the lack of authority to enforce the regulations in many states kept the bill from having as much of an initial impact, Lady Bird persisted through the private sector to have locally indigenous plants throughout the countries roadways. Many of her original efforts were the spark to bring about environmental changes in many areas that had been neglected for years. So, when you are driving along and see a few less billboards, junkyards, toxic gas stations, strip mine sites and less of a lot of the crap and more of natures beauty, Thank Lady Bird!

Texas Wildflowers 2010 Texas Wildflowers 2010

Texas Wildflowers 2010 Texas Wildflowers 2010

Texas Wildflowers 2010

To learn more about Lady Bird's Legacy and numerous programs to beautify the world and nurture our environment, visit Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.  The facility is located here in South Austin and is an amazing place. By the way, all of these pictures were taken over the last two weeks here in the Austin area in Westlake, Rob Roy and Lost Creek. We have had just the right amount of rain and sunshine to keep the roads covered so it's a good time to "join the masses" and stop by the roadway to take a few pictures for posterity. You see folks doing it at all hours of the day and NIGHT! SO...JUST BE CAREFUL, PULL OFF TO THE SIDE AWAY FROM TRAFFIC. Use common sense and you will have some great pictures.  We are certainly living The Good Life in Austin Texas Y'all!

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73 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • April 22 2010 02:00PM