The Good Life in Austin Texas


4304 Balcones Open House Sunday, November 23rd 2-4PM

This Sunday, November 23rd, 2008 I will be holding open an exceptional home in the Balcones area; one of Austin's finest neighborhoods. The home has undergone an exquisite renovation by the incomparable Sereno Homes, one of Austin's premier builders. Incredible quality materials and workmanship are featured throughout this beautiful home! I will be on-site between 2pm and 4pm Sunday so please drop by for a tour of this beautiful property. If you have questions before next Sunday or to schedule a private showing, I can be reached at my mobile number listed below. Thanks, I look forward to seeing you there!

4304 Balcones Austin, Texas - Open House 11/23/2008

If you or anyone you know is anticipating purchasing or selling real estate in Central, West or Southwest Austin or the Westlake/Eanes Shool District area, I would be happy to assist them. I have nineteen years  success working with upscale buyers and sellers in Austin's Finest Neighborhoods.

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35 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • November 19 2008 06:18PM


Mangia Pizza

Rell Rice & Russell Lewis

This morning I had the pleasure of attending another fun and slightly "weird" Austin event involving local restaurant, Mangia Pizza's attempt to break the Guinness Book of Records, "Longest line of pizzas in the world". Along with my wife, Margaret and daughter Mattie we headed to Zilker Park to hopefully be a part of history. The event was held in conjunction with Meals on Wheels and More to celebrate the  20th anniversary of Mangia Pizza opening for business here in Austin, Texas. If successful, the company would break a world record and after the event, Meals on Wheels would deliver the pizzas to The Salvation Army to feed the homeless!                    

On Wednesday of this week, I received an email from one of my best pals in the world who is kind of a Big-Shot with the Mangia Pizza Organization, Rell Rice, yes, it'sRell as in well or bell.Captain B...A...Pizza Super HeroHe tells me that day is "Guinness Book of Records Day" and all over the world different groups and individuals are vying to break any number of Guinness records but Mangia is looking at in in particular. A group in Italy and another in London are planning to break the record of longest uninterrupted line of pizzas.

In typical "Texas Hold-Em Poker" style, Mangia scheduled their event three days later to take place on Saturday and possibly upset the recent winners! Later that day, word is out that Chicago Town Pizzas in Camden Lock, London, UK set the new record of 936 feet 7 inches so Mangia has a big challenge ahead!

Leslye Denton-Garcia lines up volunteers

Mangia Pizza coordinated this event with Meals on Wheels and More of Austin so that as soon as the contest was concluded, all of the surviving pizza's (those not dropped or blown away by the windy morning) were immediately re-boxed and delivered by the Meals on Wheels volunteers who are also on hand to help with the event and hopefully break the record! Everything went well in spite of all sorts of odd circumstances . Try and imagine setting up a chain of tables in the shape of a large abstract "M" covering them with over a thousand feet of paper, having all of the volunteers wash hands and put on plastic gloves for sanitation and distributing hundreds of  boxes of cheese and pepperoni pizzas down the line of tables to prepare for the start?!? Down the line of pizzas

At a signal from Rell Rice and our friend Leslye Denton-Garcia along with owners Mark Negro and Jeff Sayers, the volunteers distributed the pizzas down the row of table, opened and lined them up edge to edge and did their best to keep everything on order despite gusting winds that sent a few of the pies flying. Reserves were brought in to fill holes and the line slowly extended.

Danny Girton Jr., the Official Adjudicator for the Guinness Book of World Records carefully documented the measuring by an independent official using a single wheel device to measure the length of the pizza chain from beginning to end. Mr. Gurtin was the same official who was on hand to document the pizza line efforts in Italy and London earlier in the week, so you understand that although fun, Guinness World Records takes its business very seriously!

still more PizzasMargaret, Mattie, Betty and Beth Coffeepizzas traveling on!Margaret Lewis-Mattie Lewis-Ed Clements-Beth Coffee 1023 Feet -World Record!Pizzas in the wind!

As the officials slowly made their way down the tables carefully following the measurement team and confirming that each pizza was actually touching, the man would shout out, 700 feet, 750 feet, 800 feet... volunteers are hustling to fill in the gaps of pizzas blown off the line by gusting winds and steadily adding more to the line at the end. The man shouts, 800 feet, 850 feet...900 feet! A group comes running down the hill with another 30 pizzas to add to the line but will it be enough?? 950 feet, he shouts and a roar goes up from the volunteers as the record is broken but he moves on...1,000 feet and the crowd goes wild and sill he moves on until we finally hear 1,023 FEET! Everyone breaks in to applause and cheering up and down the long line of pizzas again proving that we do things big here in Texas.

Mark Negro/Mangia Pizza-Danny Girton Jr./Guinness World RecordsPizzas winding through the park

The crowd begins breaking down the tables, gathering up and re-boxing the pizzas and meets at the start for a group picture and a ceremony. More hot pizzas are delivered and slices are handed out to the crowd as we join a large group photo taken to commemorate the event! (My daughter tells us to stand near the Mangia Dinosaur so we can find ourselves in the crowd). City Councilman, Lee Leffingwell is on hand to read a proclamation from  Mayor Will Wynn of Austin, declaring that, in honor of breaking the world record and to celebrate 20 years of being a truly Austin original, November 15th will now be recognized as "Mangia Pizza Day" in Austin Texas!

Awards ceremony

By the way, I also want to give a shout out to my very good friend Rell Rice! We have had more fun together over the years than we could ever expect...and live to tell about it! Thanks Rell! And Happy 20th Anniversary Mangia Pizza! Here's to twenty more great years from an Austin Texas Original! I have to tell you that we are all truly living the good life in Austin, Texas!

UPDATE: Mangia Pizza has a great article about the Record breaking event and were kind enough to add a link to my blog on the website: Mangia Pizza Website Announcement


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75 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • November 17 2008 08:50AM

No One Goes Hungry–Giving back - An Austin Texas Solution

On the streetWhile standing at the corner of 6th and Lamar by Whole Foods, looking at the peach in my hand and waiting for the light to change, my daydreaming is interrupted by the shout of "GET A JOB!" Startled, I look up and see a man in a car glaring at the homeless person standing near me. The homeless person has a sign that says "Dreaming of Mexican Food". The peach in my hand seems heavy now and I walk over and give it to him. "Thanks man...God bless you" he says quietly. I tell him, "same to you" and mention that he should go to Wooldridge Park by the Downtown Austin Library around 6:00 and he can get a free meal from the Mobile Loaves & Fishes Truck.  He says he will check it out and thanks me again.

Tracy Rodenborn,Ruth Dore',Russell LewisThe light changes and as I walk across I see a young woman in one of those small new "Ultimate Driving Machines" as she leans from the window and shouts, "Hey, why are you helping that bum!"I stifle the urge to say something and put my hand in my pocket to keep from waving at her with one finger. I am amazed at that thinking but not surprised. There are many people who have the idea that they want to be able to succeed without any help from anyone and that is laudable but not realistic because we are not all given the same opportunities. There is nothing wrong with concept that we can all achieve anything through our own efforts. My problem is with those who so arrogantly advocate this in blogs, books, online and in conversation without ever understanding that many people have never had the same opportunities from the very beginning and at the same time, taking for granted what they have!

Don Haynes & Make Ready CrewTracy & Make Ready CrewWe have all heard of the "Puritan Work Ethic" and though admirable it is not always realistic or applicable. I was raised in an affluent family (though I was not aware of it as a child because people were not valued by their income or what they owned) and with the same hard work ideology. My father was a strong proponent of self reliability and working for a living but he also believed that people had a responsibility to take care of those less fortunate. This came from his Christian back ground that he practiced as well as preached (which is why I never won the hypocrisy argument with him).  He was in the grocery business in West Texas and I remember as a child accompanying him to the Salvation Army at Christmas to help hand out turkeys and bags of groceries to poor families in the community. As a child, I was uncomfortable at first but my Dad would remind me that we were doing something to make the lives of those who did without a little better. Even in the last years of his life he continued to donate money and volunteer with The Salvation Army, Meals on Wheels, The Adult Literacy Project and Habitat for Humanity. I will forever remember his words, "We live in a country that is so rich and so powerful, there is no reason anyone should ever go hungry. We have a moral obligation to share our blessings with the less fortunate".

Standing in lineWhat many people do not understand is who is actually "homeless". At least half of the people in line are too mentally ill to hold a job but at the same time are not a danger to anyone but themselves. They are out on the street due to the fact that over the last eight years, the previous government administration changed the guidelines of who should be "institutionalized" and turned many of these hapless people out in mindless "cost cutting" efforts. The hope that the "compassionate conservatives" would fill the void never materialized and in fact has caused a severe strain on the general public, law enforcement and social services and exacerbated the a terrible situation.

Another large group of homeless are the working poor who have some type of job but are living hand to mouth, out of their cars or in shelters while they try and get enough money together to move back up. Many of these people have children, and when you see a child in a food line, only the most self absorbed and insensitive could look down on them. Finally, there are the junkies and winos and it's so easy to judge unless you truly know the monster that is the destructive power of addiction. The fact also remains that there are so many people living hand to mouth, only a paycheck or two away from being on the street. The economic collapse will only aggravate this already horrible situation. You get my point; the vast majority of homeless people are not there because they are lazy, shiftless or no-count.Debbie Machicek serves lemonade

About nine years ago, I joined a group from AvenueOne Properties and began to volunteer with a new community outreach organization that began here in Austin, Texas called Mobile Loaves & Fishes. Mobile Loaves & Fishes , The brainchild of Alan Graham, with the mission to provide food, clothing, and dignity to our brothers and sisters in need.   They now accomplish this mission through the use of 12 catering trucks that go out onto the city streets of Austin, San Antonio, New Orleans, Providence, and Nashville every night of the week.  Now with almost 10,000 volunteers, it started with the hard work of a few volunteers and a single supply truck.

Liz Saieh Serving foodI have helped on the make ready crew preparing food and as a truck driver since I first joined in 2000 and in the last few years have worked with a small crew of friends to deliver meals once a month.We have a good time together Our favorite stop is Wooldridge Park by the Austin Downtown Library. My company and my fellow truck crew members save up toiletry items, clothing and other things that that are needed. The irony is not lost on us that we all save bath items from our vacations and often hand out soap and shampoo from the Four Seasons - Bora Bora and other Luxury Hotels from across the globe and I even gave out samples from Plaza-Atheneein Paris but soap is soap no matter the source.

There is an online sign up for the volunteers to "reserve" a location and for awhile it got a bit competitive. I was on the phone complaining to one of my fellow volunteers about the fact that someone beat us to the punch on "our stop" and my wife gently teased me by saying, "Well are upset because someone else got YOUR homeless people???" I reluctantly laughed and had to agree that was more than absurd wasn't it? Although we DO still compete and manage to get the library stop as often as possible...

Steven and AJ feeding the peopleI want to thank everyone who has made our efforts possible; Ruth Dore', volunteer coordinator, who patiently herds all of the volunteers on a daily basis, Tracy Rodenborn and Don Haynesof St. Michaels Academy who along with students have prepared the food for the last 3 years. Tracy just had a beautiful baby girl named Catherine so this is a shout out to her! I also want to thank my fellow friends and truck crew; Stephen & Debbie Machicek, A.J. Lindow and Liz Saieh. (Scroll over the pictures to see who's who)! I always enjoy our time together and look forward to going out with y'all every month!

I am not trying to change anyone's mind but think about it, times are hard for everyone these days and it never hurts to show some compassion, especially when you see the truth from a different perspective! Look around and see where you can help out, you will receive more than you ever give!







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56 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • November 13 2008 05:38PM

Rob Roy Open House-6903 Pascal Court-Sunday November 16, 2008

This Sunday, November 16th, 2008 I will be holding open an exceptional home in the gated community of Rob Roy in the Westlake/Eanes School District area. The home was built by Hugh Radney, one of Austin's finest builders and his quality workmanship and attention to detail is apparent through out. Located on a cul-de-sac and backing to a lush valley, this home offers the best of everything in the Rob Roy neighborhood to discriminating buyers!  The new price  indicates a 100K Price Reduction which makes this a very good value for both the home and the neighborhood. I will be on-site between 2pm and 4pm Sunday and if for any reason, the guard at the gate is unavailable, I can be reached at my mobile number listed below to gain access. Thanks, I look forward to seeing you there!

6903 Pascal Court

If you or anyone you know is anticipating purchasing or selling real estate in Central, West or Southwest Austin or the Westlake/Eanes Shool District area, I would be happy to assist them. I have nineteen years  success working with upscale buyers and sellers in Austin's Finest Neighborhoods.


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29 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • November 13 2008 11:42AM

The Election is over...and we are still HERE!

The Statue of LibertyWell...the election is finally over and I can say unequivocally that I am very proud to be a citizen of this incredible experiment called Democracy. I am NOT a Red American or a Blue American but an American! Once again, we have proved that we are one of the few countries that can witness the peaceful exchange of power in spite of all the rhetoric, impassioned argument and yes even the mud-slinging. I have not spoken out much and this will be my only political post but I was very impressed by what I saw last night.

Watching John McCain speak, I was impressed by his complete calm and straight forward talk about the campaign and election.His no nonsense quelling of the initial boos during his speech was an indication of his will to take his defeat with dignity and class that has rarely been seen in recent years from ANY politician on either side of political thinking. He spoke about coming together as a nation and made it clear that he wasn't undermining Obama's chances to lead. He was so articulate regarding his praise and concession but most of all his insistence that as Americans, we WORK TOGETHER to overcome the challenges that face us ALL, "Senator Obama and I have had and argued our differences, and he has prevailed. No doubt, many of those differences remain. These are difficult times for our country, and I pledge to him tonight that I will do all in my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face,"I urge all Americans who supported me to join not only in congratulating him, but offering our next president our good will and honest effort to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences." John McCain proved to our country and the world that he is a man of honor and self respect and that he values his love of our country and his service to our way of living above all else.

President Elect Obama's speech was more sober than I would have first imagined but as has been the case all along, his words, though eloquent, were grounded in the reality of the enormous hardships and challenges that we as a nation face together. "If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer. To those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices. I need your help. And I will be your president too. "This is our time to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth, that, out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope. And where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can." I tend to be a skeptic at times but Obama seems to be just as much a patriot acs McCain. His statements are admirable sentiments and in the future we will learn if they can be turned into reality with the involvement of all of us as a nation.

Today is Wednesday, November 5th 2008 and it's great to be an American. I did not get everything I wanted out of this election (no one ever does) but I am proud to be a part of a political system that allows us to disagree (sometimes vehemently) and still move forward TOGETHER. It's now about 7:50am here in Texas and I am headed out for a morning run. After that, I am going to work because we have a lot to do ahead of us and it's time to get cracking. We will have to wait and see where this will take us all but again, I am still amazed at the way our great nation works and have to agree with the words of Tim Russert, "What a country!"


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93 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • November 05 2008 10:21AM

The Luxury of Actually Owning a Home - Giving back in Austin Texas and Beyond!

AFHS LOGOI remember sitting in church in 1996 and seeing a couple walk on to the pulpit wearing tool belts. Odd, yes and then they began talking about a group called "Habitat for Humanity". Francis and Lori Fey speaking at River Bend Church  introduced me to the organization. Along with a few others, I met them after church and agreed to help out with the next River Bend/Habitat Build for the Norma Avalos Family.(One of many sponsored by River Bend)

Before entering real estate in 1989, I had a construction background of over sixteen years as an Apprentice, Journeyman Carpenter, Construction Foreman and Furniture Designer/Builder but never encountered anything quite like "Habitat for Humanity". I was a fan of Jimmy Carter and say what you will about his years as President, he has gone on to prove that he is a true humanitarian and does indeed practice what he preaches! What's great about a Habitat site is that every work day begins with a prayer, no one starts a fight and you only hear a few bad words. And I will admit that they usually are uttered by me. (Old habits are hard to break but I am improving). Since working on that home in 1996, I have worked on various builds, homes and projects as a Carpenter, Crew leader and House leader for  Austin Habitat for Humanity

Gulf Port Family BuildAs a Real Estate Broker, I work with buyers and sellers of upscale homes in the luxury market in Austin Texas. I enjoy my work immensely and make a good living. I do have to say that it's incredibly gratifying seeing a family that is "in-between" (not able to qualify for a regular mortgage but making too much to receive assistance) get the chance to own a home! I remember one year at a house dedication where all of the family was there except for one of the children who had just left for college. That's cool that a poor working class family could actually get child in to a school but what was mind boggling was the circumstance. The mom barely spoke English. Both she and her husband worked multiple jobs to raise the family and make sure the kids took school seriously. In fact, the son who left for college had a PERFECT ATTENDANCE RECORD for TWELVE YEARS. I was so impressed by that dedication and perseverance and by the fact that Habitat indeed represents the concept of: "A hand up, not a hand out!" Click on this link to learn more about Austin Habitat for Humanity

Habitat Volunteer CrewThis year I had the good fortune to travel to Gulfport Mississippi and participate in the annual Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project 2008 - The Gulf Coast to help with rebuilding nearly three years after Katrina. It was an unbelievable experience and with my friend, Pat Horne, I worked with volunteers from all over the country to restore homes that were that had been severely damaged. The homes had new roofs installed, were stripped to the studs, sheet rocked and textured. Our crew painted the interior (I will never again say that painters have it easy!), installed flooring and new doors, trimmed out all windows and door frames and installed new cabinetry.

What was incredibly gratifying was working with so many young AmeriCorps volunteers. Wonderfully gifted and hard working, most of them in college or headed for graduate school and with such a great attitude. (They even helped me overcome my prejudice about vegetarians and VEGANS!) If you ever have doubts about the next generation, you can stop worrying. There were several local volunteers who also took time off from work to help out and it was truly a communal effort. No matter where you are, there is probably a Habitat For Humanity affiliate nearby. Check them out when you have a chance and you should make the effort to "make some time". I promise that after showing up you will learn something about building, meet some new friends and leave with more than you can imagine in the way of experience, new understanding and a true sense of thankfulness.

Crew Picture with the Carter's

One of the things I had hoped to accomplish this year was to actually meet Jimmy Carter and maybe get a picture. Well, I finally got my  chance. The Carter's worked on one of the new builds and also attended the different functions that ended each work day. I was amazed at the boundless energy of both of them as they put in long hours each day and hope that I also have that kind of energy and drive when I am older. On the last day before everyone departed for home, the Carters showed up to have pictures taken with the different housing crews. I was pretty excited and managed to say hello and shake their hands. The picture was taken and when I received it later this summer...there I was, with my eyes completely shut...looking like Forrest Gump! Ah just gives me a reason to show up again next year and if you have the opportunity, I hope you do too! I would like to thank my friends Pat Horne (House lead on too many homes to list), Donita Haden (long time Austin volunteer coordinator), Michael Willard (Austin Director of Habitat for Humanity) and all of the other volunteers with whom I have had the honor of working side by side with over the years to improve our community! 

For more information and to volunteer with a Habitat For Humanity affiliate or Habitat re-Store near you check out the International Habitat site at: Habitat For Humanity International

Remember, it's a hand up...not a hand out!


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58 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • November 01 2008 12:38PM