The Good Life in Austin Texas

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Westlake Open House-4312 Rio Robles Drive -Sunday March 15th, 2-4PM

This Sunday, March 15th, 2009 I will be holding open another exceptional home in one of my favorite neighborhoods in the Eanes School District. The Westview on Lake Austin community is located along the Westlake Peninsula on Westlake Drive and is one of Austin's finest neighborhoods. The home features quality workmanship and attention to every detail which is apparent throughout this luxury property.  Located at the quiet end of Rio Robles Drive, the home offers the best of everything the most discriminating buyers could want! The bright open floor plan is conveniently arranged for both living and entertaining.  For those who have been searching for a home that is well designed and has 4 Bedrooms (a 5th could be added by utilizing the media room) with 3.5 baths and 4 Living Areas your search may well end here! For more information or a private showing of this exceptional home or to see any other homes located in the Eanes School District, please contact me by email or my mobile number listed below.  I will be on-site between 2pm and 4pm Sunday to show this home and discuss in more detail the many amenities of the home and the neighborhood! I look forward to seeing you there!

4312 Rio Robles Drive

This home is beautifully staged and shows well, for more on the importance of preparing a home to sell and a list of helpful hints and websites, check out my recent blog post:

Staging a Home to Sell, How About Finally Removing that Christmas Tree???

If you or anyone you know is anticipating purchasing or selling real estate in Central, West or Southwest Austin or the Westlake/Eanes School District area, I would be happy to be of assistance. Let me put my nineteen years success helping upscale buyers and sellers in Austin's finest neighborhoods to work for you. Call or email for a private consultation at your convenience!

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29 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • March 15 2009 11:38AM

Staging a Home to Sell, How About Finally Removing that Christmas Tree???

Christmas tree removal"I will do it BEFORE I go back to school", my son promised as we looked at the once glittering tree lying forlornly in the yard. That conversation took place last December when (almost) everyone else in Austin was in the process of taking their tree to the Zilker Park recycling point under the Mopac Bridge and other places set up by the Parks Department to grind the trees into mulch. The conversation was repeated a couple of days before our son was scheduled to leave on January 9th and again I was told, "Don't worry about it, I have plenty of time and will take the tree to Zilker before I leave"! You already know where this is going and yes...our son made it back to school but the tree never made it to Zilker Park...

I mention this only because I am constantly asked by all of my sellers about the best way to get their home ready to sell. Besides pricing the home correctly from the start, de-cluttering and staging the home is of paramount importance. No matter what neighborhood or price range, clearing out and packing up items that will be moved or sold is the first step to making a home presentable. I give each seller a list of websites to access to get them started; this one is by no means comprehensive but a good place to start:

  1. Tree Removal 2Your moving so remove all personal items. Okay, besides that %#!*&% Christmas Tree, remove anything that you don't need or use on a regular basis. Potential buyers need to be able to imagine their own pictures and family mementos throughout the house. Allow them to see themselves living in your home...not you!
  2. Clean UP!! Do it yourself or hire a cleaning company to go over your house with a fine comb. Do everything that you've overlooked or put off. A cleaning service can do a complete make ready for you at a reasonable cost. I tell people that if they have not used something in the last year they probably don't need it anyway. Donate, sell or throw away anything you don't really need. Rent a storage unit for any items that will be moved to the next home
  3. Hire a handyman to make minor repairs, paint and do all of those things you've put off for years. Make minor repairs to each and every area that needs attention. Often this means repairing items that we let go and just "live with" over time. Noisy or stuck doors, holes in sheetrock, cracked windows, broken outlets and switches and a host of other "minor repairs that add up!
  4. Hire a professional home stager to come in and do a proper job of arranging the home for optimum presentation. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of this aspect of getting a home ready to sell. A good Stager can do a very proficient job at a reasonable price depending on the size of the home and the level of work required. At the same time a seller is often more amenable to taking suggestions about removing "Aunt Ethel's horrible wall hanging" or handling other potentially delicate feelings about personal items in the home from a professional (other than you!).

I do not try and re-invent the wheel and point my sellers toward a number of online resources. Here are a few that I think are good:

realtor.com/Basics/Sell/PrepHome/GetReady

4siterealestate.com/gettingReadyToSell

realestateabc/homeselling/showing

homebuying.about.com

Tree Removal 3

In an effort to practice what I preach and as you can see from the pictures, we did finally get the tree to the recycling area and yes it was not until March 10th!!! I lashed the tree to the roof of his truck before I went to the airport to retrieve him for Spring Break. All the way to the airport, I kept getting shocked and amused stares from from drivers on the freeway. It was worth it when I saw the look of astonishment on my sons face as I picked him up from the terminal and it was too funny. I laughed out loud when I saw his incredulous look and unbelieving laughter as I drove up! I only wish I could have taken that picture! He was laughing the whole time to and from Zilker Park and we had quite a few folks gawking as we drove through traffic in HIS truck.

Now here is the really strange thing, when we dropped off the tree, we saw a half dozen other Christmas trees and a park employee informed us that there were at least a dozen more left over the weekend (one with the lights still attached)! My son looked at me and said, "See, we are not so different, lots of people wait to do this". "Yeah, right," I replied," I guess we are just doing our part to keep our beloved city "weird", and we both started laughing. It's good to have him home and I am now off to give some "De-Cluttering" advice to my new clients!  

 

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85 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • March 13 2009 01:33PM

Eanes Tour Caravan March, 11th 2009

Gateway to WestlakeAs tour coordinator for this weeks Eanes Tour, I am posting this for  your convenience. It's a great way to preview several properties at one time and to network with fellow agents about new listings, buyer needs and changes in our market. The tour meets at Thundercloud Subs at Walsh Tarleton and Bee Caves Road Wednesdays. We call for announcements and leave at 9:30 am. 

Eanes Caravan Area D

4920 Barclay Heights Court - 5BR, 5BA, 3Liv & 2Din                 $1,650,000

Marybeth Hubenak, AvenueOne Properties

Private home site! High end finish out, amazing home with breathtaking views of the city! Minutes to Westlake high school & downtown Austin. Built by Russell Eppright Homes.

Directions: From highway 360 and Mopac,360 North, left on Scottish Woods Trail/Westbank, right on Wild Briar Pass, Left on Barclay Dr., Right on Barclay Heights Ct.

4511 Heights Drive - 5BR, 4BA, 3Liv & 2Din                                    $639,000

Kent Redding, Prudential

Completed in 2003 this amazing Richard Bright custom built home has incredible city views and showcases 5 bedrooms , 4 full baths, 3 living areas and office all in 3500SF of living area. Features includes a chef's gourmet kitchen w/professional appliances, an incredible master suite & a relaxing pool.  Extensive use of hardwoods, granite and elegant finishes create a sophisticated, yet relaxed living space.

Directions: Loop 360/Capital of TX Hwy & Westbank Drive; travel south on Loop 360 and your first RIGHT is Heights Drive.

2009 Cerca Viejo Way - 4BR, 3.5BA, 3Liv & 2Din                           $849,000

Cynthia Goldrick, Wilson & Goldrick

Former Parade Home designed & built by Luis Juaregui.  Dramatic entry, kitchen opens to great room, master & office down.  3 bedrooms & game room up.  Beautiful fenced back yard w/plays cape & sport court. 

Directions: 360 South of Bee Cave Rd to Parkstone, left on Real Catorce to Cerca Viejo  (R) 

6507 Valley Ridge Court - 5BR, 4BA, x3Liv & 1Din                        $825,000

Don Sembera, Moreland Properties

Fabulous remodel in 2001; Architect Juan Miro, AIA! Spanish-influenced exterior w/soft contemporary interior. Miles-long west view.  Exceptional light, great storage. Family Room converts to Home Theater with the push of a couple of buttons! Extremely flexible floor plan can be used for ideal work-at-home, artist's studio, other.  One Utility in huge master closet; main Utility Room downstairs is also a mud room with a Pet Shower!  Quiet cul-de-sac lot provides great privacy. Lovely pool. See at sunset!!

Directions: From 360: West on Bee Cave, Left on Knollwood, veer to right, Right on Valley Ridge Court

8857 Chalk Knoll Drive - 4BR, 4.5.5BA, 4Liv & 2Din                      $850,000

Sheryl Lowe, Avalar

New Price and completely re-staged! Master AND Bedroom/study w/full bath down.3 bedrooms and 2full and 1/2 baths  up. New Carpet and ready to go! Shows beautifully now!

Directions: From Bee Caves Rd, S on Barton Creek Blvd, Right on Chalk Knoll

Gate Code to be announced at the meeting

 8112 Navidad Drive - 4BR, 3.5BA, 3Liv & 2Din                             $1,350,000

Patsy Wimmer, Amelia Bullock

Extensively remodeled* stunning, exquisite, yet very chic with its special details.  Custom wrought iron doors, Ann Sacks Tile Accents, travertine columns, gold and silver leaf ceilings, Venetian plaster walls, chef's granite kitchen w/6 burner DCS cook top & copper stove top, mesquite & oak floors, 3rd bay of garage is sound proof studio and can easily be restored back, resort style pool & spa on 7th tee of Fazio course w/private setting

Directions: Barton Creek Blvd to Navidad .

Gate Code to be announced at the meeting

3722 Lost Creek Blvd. - 3BR, 2.5BA, 2Liv & 2Din                           $639,900

Mark Warshawsky, Keller Williams

Exceptional Barton Creek Estates home on large 1 acre private wooded lot.  Tastefully remodeled with modern, contemporary influence.  All bedrooms & study on main level.  High vaulted and coffered ceilings.  Beautiful gourmet kitchen w/granite, stainless & open breakfast room.  Travertine, marble, wood floors throughout.  Updated baths & fireplace w/granite and stone tile.   Game room up with wet bar,  front and rear balconies.  Multi-level decks overlooking private yard and in-ground pool w/spa.  Must see!

Directions: West on Bee Caves to Left on Barton Creek Blvd to Left on Lost Creek Blvd - home on left

 

7915 Escala Drive - 6BR, 7.5.5BA, 7Liv & 2Din                            $3,990,000

Lisa Foster, Avalon Realty

REDUCED 750K!Completed! Seller wants an offer!!!!This is a fabulous home at a great price, in one of the best neighborhoods in Barton Creek. Estate home in Barton Creek overlooking the Fazio canyons golf course. Over 4000 sq ft of outdoor living, great entertaining featuring media, billiards, game room, caterers kitchen, study, two master suites all on main level and nannys quarter. Ready to move in!  

Directions: 2244 west to past 360, left on Barton Creek Blvd. Left on Lost Creek Left on Escala Drive

Gate Code to be announced at the meeting

 

1304 Falcon Ledge - 4BR, 4.5BA, 3Liv & 2Din                             $1,750,000

Caren Upshaw, Keller Williams

New construction by Todd Whelpley! Expansive views across Barton Creek Ready to move in!  

LUNCH WILL SERVED FOLLOWING TOUR AT THIS HOME!

Directions: From Escala take Lost Creek Blvd to (L) on Whitemarsh Valley to (L) on Torrey Pines to (R) on Falcon Ledge

 Compliments of Russell Lewis

 

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21 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • March 11 2009 08:58AM

Westlake Open House-4510 Rapid Springs Cove-Sunday March 8th, 2-4PM

This Sunday, March 8th, 2009 I will be holding open an exceptional home in one of my favorite neighborhoods in the Westlake/Eanes School District. The Westview community is located along the Westlake Peninsula on Westlake Drive and is one of Austin's finest neighborhoods. The home features quality workmanship and attention to every detail which is apparent throughout this luxury property.  Located on a cul-de-sac this home offers the best of everything in the Westview neighborhood to discriminating buyers! The bright open floor plan is conveniently arranged for both living and entertaining.  For those who have been searching for a home that is well designed and has the flexibility to provide SIX or SEVEN bedrooms, this residence may just fit the bill. For more information or a private showing of this exceptional home or to see any other homes located in the Eanes School District, please contact me by email or my mobile number listed below.  I will be on-site between 2pm and 4pm Sunday to show this home and discuss in more detail the many amenities of the home and the neighborhood! I look forward to seeing you there!

4510 Rapid Springs Cove

If you or anyone you know is anticipating purchasing or selling real estate in Central, West or Southwest Austin or the Westlake/Eanes School District area, I would be happy to be of assistance. Let me put my nineteen years success helping upscale buyers and sellers in Austin's finest neighborhoods to work for you. Call or email for a private consultation at your convenience!

 

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

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31 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • March 06 2009 01:20PM

Keeping it Weird and Fun at Austin’s 81st Annual Zilker Park Kite Festival

Zilker Kite FestivalToday, as a spectator, I took part in one of Austin's annual rights of the coming of spring; The Zilker Park Kite Festival and as usual it was a blast! The event features hundreds of kites of all sizes, shapes, designs and colors swirling and dancing in the sky above the Zilker Park Polo Fields. There is something for everyone; kite flying demonstrations, make your own kite workshops, kite battles, contests with many categories, trophies, and all sorts of food vendors. Kites are incredibly popular all over the world and Austin is no different and as everyone knows we have so many opportunities to have fun (and keep it weird). As a child, I remember my Dad helping me build kites, from the first old school models covered with news paper to plastic "Bat Kites" and a progression of ever evolving types and makes. The hobby stuck with me and I have always had a fondness for kites of any style. Over time I have entered the Zilker Park contest many times and in many categories through the years but when I reflect, one entry in particular comes to mind...

Zilker Kite FestivalA number of years ago when I was building furniture, I had access to all sorts of tools, materials and a wonderful facility where I could build just about anything that I could possibly dream up. One year I got a wild hair (the day before the contest) and decided to assemble an entry in the biggest kite category. I had a design in mind for a huge octagon shaped kite covered with 12mil plastic. Pestering my friend and partner, Tom Wood (cool name for an architect/furniture builder) into helping me, we set about designing and putting the monster together from scratch. Most of the day was spent gathering materials and the evening was devoted to constructing the framework from wood and pvc pipe and covering the structure with the plastic skin that we had painstakingly melded together. Of course, like all last minute ideas and projects, there were many things that had to be "rigged" and adjusted so the work went on well into the early morning hours. The ENTIRE time, my friend kept telling me, "It will never fly". I just ignored him because after all, I still needed his help. Zilker Kite FestivalAround 3:00am, we finished the kite, my friend went home and I decided to paint my creation. Digging through a closet of spray cans, I began splashing and spraying the kite with all manner of colors, symbols and primitive designs that would have made a DADA-Anarchist proud! The longer I worked, the more bizarre it became and by 8:00am I had done all the damage I figured possible and crashed for a nap in my office!

Zilker Kite Festival

Knowing that it would take a major effort to get the kite airborne and with safety in mind, we called a number of other friends to help launch and control the kite during its flight. About a dozen of our friends showed up to help and fortified with a cooler full of beverages and party favors we made our way to Zilker Park. I need to mention here that Tom told each and every person on the crew that, "It will never fly". We spent most of the afternoon hanging out and watching the different kites, talking and laughing and generally enjoying the festive atmosphere! I don't have to remind you of this but about every 15-20 minutes, Tom would proclaim to anyone who would listen, "It will never fly..." Toward the end of the afternoon, our event was announced and we assembled our kite got in position and awaited the start. There were only six entries and it looked like we might have a chance IF we could launch our kite and keep it airborne for the ONE MINUTE time minimum.

Zilker Kite Festival

We had fourteen people ready, two to hold the kite and a dozen people placed along the woven nylon line to help pull the kite along for enough time to get the thing up in the air. As the whistle blew, four of the contestants could not get up, crashed on takeoff or flew apart while the teams vainly attempted to make them fly! Down to us and one other team, we began pulling in unison running and screaming at each other to keep going and slowly our strange looking kite began to lift off. The coordination up to this point was perfect. Zilker Kite FestivalWhat is important to remember is that it is crucial for everyone to release the line simultaneously so the kite can catch the wind and propel into the sky! As we were running along the kite gained altitude and I shouted for everyone to LET GO OF THE LINE! Everyone complied with the exception of, you guessed it...Tom, "Mister IT won't Fly"! Unfortunately, his position on the line was closest to the kite so he neither saw nor heard (or maybe ignored) everyone as they released the line. As the wind caught the kite, it began to pull up and twist violently pulling Tom up and down. We were all screaming at him to let go as the kite began to wildly careen up and around but he still held on. At that point the kite shot straight up and then plummeted into the earth, shattering the frame and collapsing in a huge pile of broken wooden limbs, pvc pipe and plastic shreds! All of us began yelling at Tom but he was completely nonplussed and said, "See, I told you it would not fly!" I don't know who said it first but one of our friends shouted, "DOGPILE" and we all jumped on Tom as the crowd watched in amusement breaking into applause, jeers, laughter!

Zilker Kite FestivalThat was many years ago and though I have taken my wife and children to this event many times over the years, I have yet to enter again but always enjoy the show.  But you never know, maybe I will give Tom a call and see if he wants to try again...NEXT YEAR! It's still a great time for people of all ages and well worth the trip even as a spectator. I guess my favorite part is watching the thousands of adults and children running around trying to fly hundreds of kites all at the same time. It's anarchy and of course there are all sorts of mishaps, crossed lines and crashing kites along with the infamous kite eating trees mentioned so often by Charlie Brown! These days, the larger kites have taken a different tact and are now made from colorful parachute material that allows the design of all sorts of intresting creatures.The mood is always festive and there is something about taking it easy and watching hundreds of kites flying in the air that is so pleasant and relaxing and just plain fun. It's another of Austin's wonderfully simple pleasures that can be enjoyed by everyone for FREE. So...as long as there is wind, GO FLY A KITE!

 

 

 

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65 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • March 01 2009 05:08PM

Dear Diary, My Passion is for Living...and Returning the Favor!

The world keeps turning round and round...Many years ago when I worked in the construction industry, I had a laborer on my crew who used to tell me, "Everyday, when I wake up the first thought in my mind is "thank you for another day" followed by "Damn, now I gotta go to work"! I always thought that was a funny mix of gratitude and resentment but the first part stuck with me and over the years I eventually adopted the same attitude. Each morning when I wake my first thoughts are "thank you for this day" followed by a list of the people and things for which I am grateful. No matter what is going on personally or with the universe at large, I start my day with the attitude that everything is as cool as can be in a peaceful world. I did not come to this way of thinking over night but as part of a natural process of growth. I am a person who still thinks that people are basically good and believe that hatred, greed, prejudice and a host of other human defects are learned from those around us as we grow up. Yes, yes...I am not naive and I know that mental illness and just plain bad genes may play a role but again, it's not the majority. Everyone is affected by their own circumstances but again, the good qualities are there and they are either nurtured or crushed by our own life experiences.

I believe that compassion is something that is to some degree, inherent in just about everyone and it's there from childhood. When our son was younger, he would get very upset when we would pass a homeless panhandler on the street. He always wanted to know why they were out there and what we could do to help. In February, 2003 when the Space Shuttle Columbia was destroyed entering the atmosphere over Texas, we watched in shock as it played out over the news. Our daughter came downstairs and when told of the disaster, her first words were, "We need to pray for the Astronauts and their families. This was from a little girl, ten years old and we were just blown away. I mean, we try to follow the golden rule and do our best to be a decent example but the intensity of these feelings from our children was more than something they picked up from us. I see and hear about this kind of compassion from people every day but that never makes the "NEWS" does it?

Compassion is something that is taught and revered in every culture and religious tradition and like gravity is a universal truth. Christianity has the story of The Good Samaritan and The Golden Rule. Buddha's teachings reveal that compassion is at the heart of all of the religious principles and that it enlightenment comes from relieving the suffering of all living beings everywhere. Hindu's teach that all life is considered sacred, human life is deemed the highest form of earthly existence and compassion is one of the three main virtues. In both the Jewish and Muslim traditions the act of compassion for our fellow man is expressed as a empathy caring and "Do to others as you would have done to you". Compassion is revealed as a profound human emotion and expresses itself in altruism and all of us are on the road to Shambala.

I know this is beginning to sound way too optimistic and let me assure you that I am no Pollyanna (though some of my friends might disagree) brimming with a mindlessly optimistic attitude about anything that comes along. The "up with people" types grind on my nerves too and before we go any further, you might want to watch this video: Okay, all kidding aside now, I have been the recipient of some harsh treatment over the years. Lies, deception and betrayal from others in business, friendships and even my own family. At times I have let these setbacks dominate my attitude until I finally learned that my "attitude" is the only thing over which I have any control. One thing I FINALLY learned is that when I am helping others, I am outside myself and not consumed with my own "so-called problems". People tell me all the time that they want to help out in some way but never have the time, do not know where to start or that there is so much need, it seems overwhelming. I agree and with over thirty million people in our own country living at or below the poverty line, it seems hopeless. I cannot save the world so I do one small thing when I have the time and the funny thing is, giving back is addictive in a way because you begin to make time to help and you get something back and it before you know it, it is a habit! Find something you care about and make a small effort and you will eventually discover what works for you.

I am just one of those people who was fortunate enough to realize how privileged I have been and I am grateful. I express my gratitude by helping out now and then and jump on board when I am offered the chance to Come on up for the rising, Come on up, lay your hands in mine. When my wife and I were first talking about marriage she kept telling me "We are going to have a great life together" and though we have had some ups and downs, it's been true and these days we sometimes have to remind each other "We are having a great life together". It's wonderfully accurate and I can see clearly and remember that I need to return the favor.

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118 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • February 24 2009 11:13PM

Austin Luxury Homes - 5919 Bold Ruler Way

The annual "Million Dollar Homes" issue of the West Austin News is out this week and as part of the event, I have featured a premier listing in one the Eanes School District's finest neighborhoods, Davenport Ranch. Located at the intersection of Westlake Drive and Capital of Texas Highway (the Loop 360), Davenport Ranch lies at the east end of the Westlake peninsula and is convenient to downtown (20 minute drive) and the business corridor along loop 360. Davenport boasts some of Austin's finest homes in a community that offers the discriminating buyer every amenity imaginable. Austin Country Club and golf course are within the area and overlook Lake Austin. Nearby dining and shopping is available along Loop 360 and at The Village at Westlake Shopping Center, 701 South Capital of Texas Highway. As is readily apparent, this home has numerous amenities and construction details that really have to be seen to be appreciated. For more information or a private showing of this exceptional home or to see any other homes located in the Eanes School District, please contact me by email or my mobile number listed below.

5919 Bold Ruler Way

If you or anyone you know is anticipating purchasing or selling real estate in Central, West or Southwest Austin or the Westlake/Eanes School District area, I would be happy to be of assistance. Let me put my nineteen years success helping upscale buyers and sellers in Austin's finest neighborhoods to work for you. Call or email for a private consultation at your convenience!

 

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

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37 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • February 17 2009 02:04PM

Amy's Chocolate Covered Strawberries-An Austin Valentine's Tradition

ChocoberriesValentine's day in Austin is like any other place except we are the lucky recipients of some of the best chocolate dipped strawberries on the planet (along with outposts in San Antonio and Houston)! These delicious morsels are locally produced by our own Amy's Ice Creams to celebrate the most romantic holiday of the year. Chocolate is a Valentine's Day essential and it would be hard to find anyone who does not enjoy strawberries. Chocolate strawberries are beautiful to look at and wonderful to eat! Anyone who has ever visited Austin's own, Amy's Ice Creams for their luscious, out of this world ice cream knows that they are first and foremost about quality!  Joe Morris, head of production described to me how they select the finest berries in season available. Perfect strawberriesThe trick is that Mother Nature has to cooperate so they have several resources available at this time of year. Amy's also uses a superior quality of dipping chocolate. And let me tell you there IS a difference. There are some vendors who use cheaper ingredients and I have seen a substance known as "candy coating" that does not even qualify as real chocolate. chocolate also contains Phenylethylamine which is the technical name for a substance often described as the "love chemical." When dealing with something that has to do with my love life and my taste buds on Valentine's Day, I don't want fake or cheap substitutes! Amy's uses a premium dipping chocolate from the heart of Belgium created by Callebaut. Excellent quality White Chocolate is also incorporated into the process creating a beautiful and mouth watering indulgence that is extraordinary to behold and consume.Melting Chocolate

As something of a fan of all things culinary, I had the chance to work a shift at the production facility and get hands on experience making some of the treats myself. In the interest of full disclosure, our son, Morgan, was an employee at the Amy's Mira Vista location until he left for college (I am a regular customer at the store and a fan of the manager, Melissa Hanson). Melissa's goal is to make the world's tallest ice cream cone and I would love to volunteer when that happens!! As an employee, Morgan worked a "strawberry" shift and invited me (along with several members of his Westlake football team) to make extra money while learning something new and having fun. We all arrived for the 4PM to Midnight shift and looked at the various tasks available at the different stages of production. Mark & TeresaOperations Managers, Mark Banks and Teresa Noll walked us through the different stations describing the tasks at hand and I have to say you will not find any two individuals as efficient and also cool as these two! They watch over the operation like shepherds over a flock, paying attention to every production detail regarding quality and efficiency including the well being of each of the employees!

dipping strawberriesThe process starts with the freshly washed and scrubbed berries being sorted with the green stems sliced off and placed in trays. These trays are sent to the "Dipping" tables where each berry is individually dipped in a bowl of melted chocolate. This is not as easy as it might seem because the strawberries must be COMPLETELY enveloped in chocolate to prevent leaking from the freshly cut strawberries. As a tray of berries is completed, it must pass inspection by one of the full time pros (I think this must be the most difficult task because each berry has to be scrutinized individually!) Any berries not passing must be returned to the dipping bowls and any tiny holes filled! Upon passing this element of the procedure, the chocolate covered berries are move to a station where the are splattered and drizzled with white chocolate "Jackson Pollock"  style which adds a visually pleasing finish as well as another tasty element to the creation! The berries are then sent to a station where excess chocolate is trimmed and the berries are placed in egg cartons. At this point the cartons are packed in crates and refrigerated before being shipped to the different Amy's locations!

Dipping into chocolateAs we began our shift, we were chosen to work at the task of dipping the strawberries and jumped right in donning our hair nets, gloves and name tags (I chose the name Tyler Durden and it gets a laugh from everyone who notices.) The entire place is filled with the intoxicating smells of melted chocolate and the sweet tangy scent of fragrant strawberries. The sound system is cranking some great music and everyone  is enjoying the work. Dripping white chocolateI don't have to say this but we are all competitive (especially with a group of football players) As we worked we all began to try and outdo one another at the production. It took awhile to master covering the strawberries completely (I am not kidding about this) but I eventually developed a style and rhythm and begin to make some progress. After each tray of my dipped berries was accepted, I would return to our station, raise my hands in triumph and exclaim,"I Rule!". At first, Morgan was somewhat embarrassed and his friends would laugh. I continued to outpace them and each time I returned, they would all laugh and say, "yes, we know..." YOU RULE and eventually my son joined in as we all worked together enjoying some silly and funny banter. I have to tell you that after an eight hour shift I was tired but when we got our paychecks (my first in 18 years) shortly after midnight I was pleased that I had been invited along. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience I will never forget! trimming and packing! 

Do yourself a favor this Valentine's day and treat yourself and your loved one to something sweet, delicious and romantic from Amy's. I have already purchased a dozen for my two best girls and a dozen for my office. They are available at all locations through Valentine's Day, Saturday the 14th! You may want to place an order at your nearest location to ensure there are some available when you arrive! One other noteworthy fact: they usually make extra Chocoberries to mix with into a heavenly concoction called Chocoberry Ice cream and well...just try some, straight up or with hot fudge or...do it yourself with a carton of the most luxurious chocolate dipped strawberries around! 

 

  

 

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54 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • February 13 2009 11:05AM

"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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79 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • February 09 2009 02:36PM

4405 Balcones Drive-Open House-Sunday, February 8, 2-4PM

February 8th2009, 2-4PM - I will be holding open 4405 Balcones Drive in the Balcones area; one of Austin's finest neighborhoods.This home is a Classic mid-century contemporary with beautifully updated kitchen and baths. High vaulted ceiling, lots of glass in the huge main living room with a floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace. The beautifully appointed granite/stainless kitchen with a big island and custom cabinetry, opens to the dining and family room. Split level plan. Roomy study down could be 4th bedroom. Master suite opens to the open landscaped yard with decks, privacy and room for pool. Also included; security system & sprinkler systems, Zoned HVAC, Blue ribbon elementary. This open house is part of our AvenueOne Company event and includestwenty three (23) additional homes on Sunday!

Check website for details Wednesday afternoon: http://www.aveone.com/

AGENTS, this is an excellent time to preview!

I will be on-site between 2pm and 4pm Sunday afternoon so please drop by for a tour of this wonderful home. If you have questions or are unable to attend or to schedule a private showing, I can be reached at my mobile number listed below. Thanks, I look forward to seeing you there!

Open House 4405 Balcones Sunday Feb 8th 2-4PM

If you or anyone you know is anticipating purchasing or selling real estate in Central, West or Southwest Austin or the Westlake/Eanes School District area, I would be happy to be of assistance. Let me put my nineteen years success helping upscale buyers and sellers in Austin's finest neighborhoods to work for you. Call or email for a private consultation at your convenience!

 

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29 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • February 03 2009 04:45PM