The Good Life in Austin Texas

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$1.40 short at the Check-Out Counter - Pay it Forward

The difference between a helping hand and an outstretched palm is a twist of the wrist.  ~Laurence Leamer, King of the Night

 $1.40 short at the Check-out CounterOne of the unexpected benefits of being an "empty nester" is that I seem to have more money in my billfold,...actual "folding green". On a recent Saturday morning, I saw that I had a twenty and two ones in my billfold, a BOUNTY! Feeling flush, I headed over to our local market to pick up few items for breakfast. I live in a very nice, upscale part of Austin and we have almost any item you can imagine available at our fingertips and truthfully we live in abundance. There are very few foreclosures, short sales or bankruptcies and few signs of homelessness or poverty. In a way we are somewhat insulated from many of the problems facing others in the community and throughout the rest of the country. For that I am grateful!

Standing in line at the check-out counter, minding my own business, I heard the cashier say, "That will be $21.40". There was a pause and the customer in front of me said in a very quiet voice," I'm sorry, I only have $20.00...maybe you can take a few things back". The cashier was very friendly and said, "no problem" and began to try and figure out which items to take off the bill. For some reason, without thinking, I said, "I've got it" and retrieved the two $1 bills from my billfold and laid them on the counter. There was an awkward moment when the customer stammered, "Thanks" while the cashier, also surprised,  smiled, took the money and completed the transaction. Again the customer said, "Thank you" and I replied, "no problem, in the past, I have been in the situation myself". The cashier then handed him the .60 cents change which he self-consciously handed to me and again said "Thank You!" , I just smiled and said, "you are very welcome, it's not often I can help someone out and get change back on the deal."

As I was checking out the cashier was smiling and said, "That was a really nice thing you did" and as I offered thanks to her, the customer behind me also chimed in about my good deed. I said that he would have probably done the same thing in my shoes. His answer ,"I don't think so but...in the future I will think twice before ignoring someone like that".  I left the store feeling pretty good because as I mentioned we don't see a lot of people with obvious financial problems but it's out there though maybe not in plain view. While Austin, Texas is thriving in these hard times there are many people who are down to their last $2. I do not know what the persons situation was but for some reason, without even thinking about it, I responded. When you think about it, it's the little things that can still make a difference, especially in the face of the HUGE problems we see these days. I am certainly no Saint but I as I walked out of the store I realized what a great experience I had shared with the others at the counter and that is something that is worth more than two dollars, it really is PRICELESS!

 

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120 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • October 29 2010 11:33AM

Keeping Austin Scary!

It's no secret that people in Austin, Texas love to have a good time and Keep Austin Weird. It is certainly no different at Halloween and if you are new to Austin, it can almost appear like a national holiday! Obviously Austin is a place that not only allows people to have fun but encourages a lot of us to just go over the top. This year is going to be a bizarre fest of weirdness that has something for just about everyone. I've picked out a few of my favorite events that cover the spectrum from somewhat interesting/scary to the outrageously terrifying.

First on the list is House of Torment. This is a local production that is a Haunted House on steroids! Enormous amounts of planning and special effects go into this project that is as polished and frightening as any movie. I am not even sure I want to walk this but I already know that hundreds of people will be there to scream like banshees. Here is a little taste to give you an idea of the scale and production of this incredibly terrifying show :

If you like to Rock & Roll rock and still want to dress up in your favorite costume then check out the Zombie Ball at the Seaholm Power Plant on October 30th. This is an over the top event that will feature a Haunte'd Couture fashion show and it just gets weirder with all sorts of bizarre exhibitions. To top it off, Roky Ericson will perform! I have been a fan since his work with the 13th Floor Elevators but he's at his best when he cranks out stuff from his work in the 80's and 90's. For more information click on: www.zombieball.com     Austin Zombie Ball 2010

A fun event that also gives to a worthy cause is  Goodwill’s Ghoulwill Ball and Halloween Party this Friday, Oct 29 at The Driskill Hotel.  There are tales that Austin's Driskell Hotel is actually haunted and what better place to hold a Halloween party. The Ghoulwill Ball is back to resurrect the ‘80s  (Now that is really scary) with costumes, live music, drinks and assorted madness. Proceeds for the event will benefit Goodwill's job-related programs and services with a simple mission of helping put people to work. It's in the heart of 6th Street   which will be crammed with all sorts of characters so you are bound to have fun even if you are just watching the people! For more information check out the link: www.ghoulwillball.org 

                     Ghoulwill Ball

Another event that supports a worthy cause is the Planet K Gifts in Austin,  fourth annual Dias de los Muertos Texas Fireworks Celebration, Sunday, Oct. 31 at 9pm in East Austin off Lakeshore Pleasant Valley Road.  http://www.planetktexasfireworks.com/ An ancient Mexican holiday, Dias de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is said to date back thousands of years  and is a holiday when  families honor the members and friends who have died. This year proceeds for the fireworks display will benefit The Capital Area Food Bank, Mobile Loaves & Fishes, House the Homeless and Austin Area Harm Reduction Coalition. All of these groups give so much to Austin and this is  fantastic way to enjoy the event and help out some great Austin charities!

Planet K Dia De Los Muertos Fireworks

The Lewis House Halloween ClownLast but certainly NOT least is the time honored tradition of trick-or-treating that will take place in neighborhood all over the city. Like many areas, my neighborhood of Lost Creek will be a hub of activity as we have a large contingent of kids who will be dressed in all manner of costumes from the whimsical to the "your parents let you wear THAT?" Literally TONS of candy will be gathered and there will probably also be a few surprises for some unsuspecting goblins too. There are always a few characters and I have to admit every neighborhood one and this Halloween it will be me...again.  There will be plenty of candy and a somewhat scary "stuffed" clown at our house so if you are in the area, stop by and see what happens...

As you can see, Austin takes Halloween seriously but we also have a lot of fun and REMEMBER TO BE SAFE!

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34 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • October 27 2010 08:22PM

"Old Fashioned Service" Never Goes Out Of Style

Y'all Come Back SoonI was recently listening to a friend complain about the fact that she could not get good service or even basic attention at many stores and businesses these days. You know what I mean, "Old Fashioned Service" and here is the funny thing, she is only 26 years old. I have been hearing the same thing for years and with the advent of Big Box Retail, Megastores, and Corporate empires along with a lack of personal involvement on the part of many business owners I see this happening at many businesses locally. However, after thinking about it for awhile, I realized that "old fashioned service" DOES still exist. The unfortunate fact is that you sometimes have to look around to find it!

Obviously, the key ingrediants to great service in any business are the people. My neighborhood convenience store manager, Cherie Kalaher is a great example. She is exceedingly friendly and also very mischievous. When I first began stopping there for gas, coffee and other items, I would hear her teasing others in the store and always enjoyed watching her in action (while managing to avoid any of her humorous barbs)! One day I was in a long line (yes it is a popular store) and when my turn arrived, I asked her to go easy on me. She laughed and said "Well honey, if you would just get caught up on our "child support payments" I would not have to hassle you!!" I was so shocked that I was speechless (a rare event) and all of the regulars in line broke up laughing"! I managed to recover and then began laughing myself. Since that time we have become good friends and I always make it a point to stop by just to see if she has a new story, joke or to watch her tease a "newcomer" to the neighborhood. She knows everyone and just about everything going on!

There are many other places where I do business in the community and again, the main reason is the people who work there every day.  My local hardware store Breed & Company is managed by David Oltrogge. He is one of those people who has an encyclopedic mind and can help with any request in the store. If you want to know; what it takes, how it works or what will fix it, he is your man! At my favorite local restaurants, grocery stores, book stores, (yes you read that correctly - plural) gas station, music store, library, mechanic, camera shop and even at my Post Office are folks who I know and depend on to help me with whatever service I require. I wish I could list them all with a link to their respective web sites and plan to in the near future! In my profession as a real estate broker, I am keenly aware of the service aspect in my job. There are over 10,000 real estate agents in my MLS area and the only thing that differentiates us from each other is a professional approach and the level of knowledge and service we are willing to provide to our clients and customers! There are business establishments for every need and competition is fierce for business in the general public! Because of this, I avoid places where I am met with arrogance, indifference or rude treatment. I can almost always find what I need in a better environment!

Now, more than ever, in this current economic downturn it's important to patronize the folks who practice the Golden Rule and truly work for the customer!

Good service, knowledgeable and courteous assistance also comes with the responsibility to be a good customer! How many times have you watched rude, demanding patrons mistreat and abuse an employee who is trying their best? Such impatient, angry treatment is not soon forgotten and I am always amazed at the customers who act in such an inappropriate manner! On more than one occasion, I have been the next person in line and when appropriate, I usually say something funny or empathetic that in some way diffuses the situation. Over the years I have developed some good relationships; you know the type, when they see you walk in they smile and greet you and the feeling is mutual.

In Texas, we have a reputation for being friendly and though that may not ALWAYS be the case, I like to think it is true more often than not. It's really a way of life and not just an empty saying. A few years ago, a friend related the story about a European family on vacation that stopped for lunch at a small West Texas Café. After finishing their meal, they paid the bill and told the owner how much they enjoyed the meal and the friendly service. As they began to leave the owner said, "Y'all come back". The family turned around and marched back in, literally taking the man at his word. Funny story and as you know, it is just an expression in Texas but what makes people return to any business anywhere is friendly, courteous knowledgeable and professional service! So, please patronize the businesses where these options are available and you will be doing yourself and that business a favor!

Thanks for dropping by my blog today, y'all come back real soon!

 

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142 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • October 26 2010 06:27PM

Paying it Forward at Austin Habitat For Humanity's 25th Anniversary Build

Austin Habitat for Humanity 25th AnniversaryPaying it Forward at Austin Habitat For Humanity's 25th Anniversary Build

I have been a long time volunteer and supporter of Austin Habitat for Humanity beginning with a home for Norma Avalos and family back in 1996 as part of the Austin Riverbend Church community. In my previous life I was in the construction business as a Journeyman carpenter, Foreman, Designer/Builder and eventually, furniture maker.  After entering Real Estate in 1989, I did not do any sort of construction and that's fine. Frankly, on a construction site, if you get into an altercation there is an excellent chance a fight may break out and fists (or anything handy) will be involved. In real estate, if there is any sort of argument...people will just talk behind your back. I can certainly  live with that! As a volunteer I try to spend a few days and work on a couple of local builds every year. After Hurricane Katrina, I  participated in the Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Project in Mississippi to rebuild. I have written about my involvement with Habitat for Humanity before in the post The Luxury of Actually Owning a Home.

This week, Austin Habitat for Humanity celebrates the 25th Anniversary of making the dream of home ownership a reality for 275 families here in Austin. When I learned about  Austin Habitat's Blitz Build (2 houses in 7 days) I made arrangements to take some time off to and again swing a hammer to help! I have to tell you that it is not like any construction job in the world. The day begins with a prayer and you only hear a few expletives, if any (sometimes from me). Working with others in this kind of service gives you more than you can contribute. This year I was pleasantly surprised to run in to some fellow volunteers (Leroy & Daniel) I had not seen in years. It turned out that we had worked on the same projects over time but on different days! Developing friendships with like minded people is just another great aspect of giving back in a volunteer capacity. For me the best part is helping a deserving family build and purchase a home they will appreciate and protect. This year I spent my time on the HomeAway sponsored build for Rosa Randall and her Family.

Leroy, Daniel Brown, Russell LewisAs a real estate broker, I work with AvenueOne Properties; my company  is an acknowledged  leader in the sales and marketing of upper end properties and luxury homes throughout Austin, Texas. One of the best things about my company is the support provided to all of us in each of our volunteer efforts in the community. AvenueOne Properties shares a committment to helping others in all parts of of our city and is dedicated to giving back to Austin, Texas!

OKAY, WHILE I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION

This year I am also helping the Build by donating some of my treasure as well as talent. As part of the 10-10-10 Challenge I am helping raise funds for this build. The best part is that you can donate $10.00 and who doesn't have an extra ten bucks? Okay...I understand that it's tough these days but I guarantee there are few things in this world that will give the same return. Click on the link below:

http://www.firstgiving.com/russelllewis

You can donate online with a credit card. All donations are secure and sent directly to AUSTIN HABITAT FOR HUMANITY by FirstGiving, who will email you a printable record of your donation.

If you have not had the experience of working on a Habitat for Humanity project click on the link to learn more about the affiliate in your area. AND if you want to learn construction skills to use on your own home, you can get hands-on training that beats DIY TV anytime! You might also visit a Habitat Building site on dedication day. It's an amazing and gratifying experience to see a family move into a home of their own that was previously only hopeless dream. If you are in Austin, drop by this Saturday and watch as Habitat for Humanity hands over the keys to new homeowners Rosa Randall and Mara Alvarado! A home is just the beginning because Habitat builds families, communities and HOPE!

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39 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • October 22 2010 05:02PM

Pemberton Heights Open House - 1406 Wooldridge Drive - November 14th 3:30-5:30PM

  1406 Wooldridge Drive $2,595,000

Sunday, November 14th from 3:30--5:30pm I will be holding 1406 Wooldridge Drive open from 3:30 to 5:30 pm. and announcing a $200,000 price reduction! Wooldridge Drive is arguably the best street in the heart of  Pemberton Heights , recognized as the crown jewel of Old West Austin. 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 Neighborhood Association website which is one of the best maintained and well developed neighborhood websites in the City of Austin.

The home at 1406 Wooldridge Drive was designed and carefully built utilizing the highest quality craftsmanship and building materials  available. Rarely do you get the chance to see  this sort of design and construction in the same home. Designed and constructed by the owner, who is a builder, as his personal residence great care was taken in every detail utilizing quality finish outs and superior construction techniques.

1406 Wooldridge Drive offers the discriminating buyer many features not found in other homes of similar construction or even in the same neighborhood. For those who would like to change or modify in any way the plan to truly customize the already spectacular home, the owner is able to provide construction services in that regard. For more information about this incredible home click on the link:

1406 Wooldridge Drive

 Pemberton Home For Sale 1406 Wooldridge Drive

 

Don't miss this rare opportunity to see all of the spectacular amenities and careful craftsmanship displayed throughout 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. I look forward to visiting with you at your convenience! 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.

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22 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • October 17 2010 12:21AM

AvenueOne Open House Event - Sunday, October 17th

 This Sunday, October 17th AvenueOne Properties will be showcasing a dozen of our listings in some of Austin's Finest neighborhoods! Below the graphic you will find a convenient list of the homes, addresses and open house times. To learn more about each of the properties, click on the address and a new page with further information will open for your convenience, At the bottom of this post is a link for a printable brochure that will allow you to download and print the entire tour. I hope you are able to visit on Sunday and learn more about these wonderful homes and our market here in Austin, Texas. AvenueOne Properties, Inc. is an acknowledged leader representing both sellers and buyers in the upper tier market in Austin since 1986. We look forward to visiting with you in a professional relaxed environment. 

AvenueOne Properties Open House Event

Time

Address

Price

2:00-4:00

1406 Wooldridge Drive

$2,795,000

2:00-4:00

208 Brandon Way

$1,699,000

2:00-4:00

409 Vale Street

$1,499,900

2:00-4:00

4301 Waterford Place

$799,000

2:00-4:00

1605 Travis Heights Boulevard

$760,000

1:00-3:00

1303C West 29th Street

$749,575

2:00-4:00

3104 Beverly Road

$499,000

2:00-4:00

607 Half Moon Cove

$499,000

2:00-4:00

1609 Mohle Drive

$439,900

1:00-3:00

4500 Edendale Court

$435,000

2:00-4:00

8 Woodstone Square

$345,000

2:00-4:00

411 Krebs Lane

$229,900

Click here for a printable brochure

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 peopleand 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!

 

Russell M. LewisPage copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape 

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14 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • October 15 2010 11:16PM

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