Thanksgiving at the Salvation Army

It has been our tradition at JB Goodwin Realtors for the last 22 years to volunteer serving Thanksgiving lunch at the Salvation Army, and this year for the first time I was honored to take part in it as a server.

Some of the JB Goodwin volunteers, with Major Kelley (center), head of the local Salvation Army

The  Salvation Army’s Downtown Austin shelter feeds and houses hundreds of folks in need every day.  In addition to that, at Thanksgiving they offer a sit-down holiday meal to their residents and to the homeless community at large, serving up some excellent home cooking from Chef Lynda Jones and her awesome kitchen staff.

Placemats were made by some of the residents

Seating was family-style at large round tables, which were dressed for the occasion with fall centerpieces and colorful placemats made by some of the shelter’s young residents.  Instead of standing in line for a plate, guests were waited on by a crew of volunteers, giving them a chance to take a load off and visit a little while enjoying some turkey, gravy, cornbread stuffing, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes (grown in a local community garden, these potatoes were the biggest I’ve ever seen — quite literally the size of a baby’s head!), roles and butter, cranberry sauce, and a wide variety of pies and cakes for dessert, plus all the sweet tea or punch a body could handle.

I think we served in excess of 600 meals and everyone was grateful for the feast.  I heard numerous compliments to the chef, and I have to say it all looked and smelled delicious!  I don’t think anybody went away hungry.

Chef Jones and helper with some of their amazing cooking

I truly enjoyed getting to serve and meet folks.  There were a few souls who didn’t seem up for a lot of conversation, which I can absolutely understand and respect, but most folks seemed to welcome a little chitchat along with their grub.  I was talking with one gal in particular who was sharing her concerns about her grown son, who has gotten into some trouble with the law but now seems to be on a good path.  Listening to her speak I had a few of those “there but for the grace of God” moments; I realized anew how blessed I am and how much I have to be thankful for in this life, but also how easily things can turn in the wrong direction.

This holiday season (or any time of year), if you’re looking for a place where your charitable donations will have the greatest impact, I’d like to make a plea for the Salvation Army.  You can donate your time, money or all kinds of stuff from their list of items they are in need of  and know that approximately 83% of the money they take in goes directly to benefit the  individuals and families they serve in Travis and Williamson counties, plus 100% of every dollar donated for disaster relief goes to help survivors and first responders.

Wishing y’all a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Race for the Cure

Our team, the Goodwin Gladiators made a great showing at the annual Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5k run today.  There were about 5,000 runners and walkers, and we won an award for having the second largest team (I think we ended up with something like 82 team members).  The weather was mostly cooperative, with really high humidity but good cloud cover and a gentle breeze to cool things off.  Energy was high and everyone seemed to be in a celebratory mood!  We had an absolute blast, and were able to do some good for a seriously good cause: raising awareness about breast cancer and getting the dollars to fight it.  Plus there was a live band, music, dancing, and more than one pink doggie!

Some of our team members
The starting line, and a little of the leftover morning fog
I ran (almost all of it) with my soul sister and our team captain, Indu
Dancing in the streets
Who doesn’t love a pink pug?
This seems like a weird spot for group photos, but at least SOMEBODY was into it!

It really was a joyous and fun event, and I look forward to doing this again next year!

Goodwin Gladiators

It’s Bats, Man!

Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na…

This has been an incredible last few days for witnessing awe-inspiring natural phenomena for your friendly neighborhood Realtor here.  Although Monday’s solar eclipse was both far bigger and way more rare an occurrence, Tuesday night I finally got to experience firsthand one of our local marvels — the emergence of Austin’s bat colony for their evening feeding!

Bats emerging from under the South Congress Bridge – August 22, 2017

For those unaware, Austin is home to the largest urban bat colony in North America.  While we actually have several colonies around the Austin area, the most famous is the one living under the South Congress Bridge, and the best views are to be had on a bat cruise, which is how I got to experience it. (Shout outs to Premier Nationwide Lending and Capital Cruises for providing us a wonderful evening of tasty eats, adult beverages and amazing bat watching!)

Click here if you’d like to read a little more about our local bats and where and when to best see them; otherwise, I’ll just let the video below speak for itself.  (Note, you don’t really need sound for the video.  You’ll mostly hear a lot of Realtors and lenders exclaiming in awe — surprisingly, the bats themselves are pretty much silent!)

Amazing, no?  If you’re looking for a cool experience to share with visitors, or if you’re a local like me who has never done it before (WHY did I wait SO LONG?!) I can’t recommend an Austin bat boat tour highly enough!  It really is incredible.

 

Mid-Century Modern in Austin

A rare gem designed by Austin architect and builder, A.D. Stenger

On a property tour this week I had the uncommon opportunity check out an absolutely stunning, mid-century modern home designed by famed local architect and builder, A.D. Stenger.  Although each one of the 100 or so homes built by Stenger from the 1940s to 1990s was unique, they share a few common characteristics in addition to their simple, modern lines, such as low pitch gable roofs, the use of clerestory windows and expansive stonework both inside and out.

2302 Rundell Place

Stenger homes are mainly found in the Austin neighborhoods of Rollingwood, Zilker and Barton Hills.  Because they were built in some of the most prized (and expensive) areas for Austin real estate, many have been torn down over the years by folks looking to build larger, more contemporary and/or functional homes, though this has led to conflicts with the city’s Historic Landmark Commission.  (Not to mention earning the ire of Stenger enthusiasts; Stenger homes enjoy an almost cult-like following among Austin architecture buffs, and with good reason!)

With only a few dozen or so of them left standing, these homes don’t often come on the market — so when they do it tends to make kind of a splash.  The one I toured this week was just listed by one of our top agents and sales manager, Dorothy Palmore.  It has been thoroughly and thoughtfully renovated very much in keeping with its mid-century modern aesthetic, but with contemporary conveniences and design touches added.  It’s listed at a cool $1.5 million, and to my eye worth every penny — it’s out-and-out gorgeous!

Although I only had my iPhone camera with me and my limited photography skills, I think this home’s unique beauty and style still shines through:

Stenger home hallmarks: fireplace and rock wall, with clerestory windows
Bringing outside in — notice how the rock wall continues from exterior to interior?

Although not original to the home, I love the dining room light fixture and the cool pattern it casts on the ceiling:

Another stylish lighting fixture in the bright and airy kitchen, and more clerestory windows:

High ceilings and clean lines, and awesome marble counters with waterfall edge

In the center of the home is a private zen-like atrium, open to the live oak trees above.

Tranquility abounds

Or if you’re feeling more like entertaining than meditating, the home features a wet bar nestled in between the kitchen and living room:

This property really is sublime.  If you’d like more information about it or to schedule a showing, please contact Dorothy Palmore at 512-925-0045.

What to do? What to Do?

I don’t want to hear anybody saying they’ve got nothing to do this weekend

Our Austin events calendar is usually pretty full — let’s face it: Austin is a VERY happenin’ city — but this weekend seems particularly packed with all kinds of cools goings-on.  Enough to warrant a post in my little blog, at least.

Presented without prejudice and in no particular order, here’s what’s going down this weekend in the ATX:

Eeyore’s Birthday — No, not exactly a kids’ event, though there’s a little something for everybody (and it’s decidedly Austin-weird).

Austin Bookstore Crawl — Celebrate Independent Bookstore Day in style!

Beast of the East Backyard BBQ Cook Off —   The name says it all.

Austin Food & Wine Festival — Food, wine, sunshine.*  What else do you need?  (*Okay, the sunshine might not happen.  Best two out of three.)

Annual Dragon Boat Festival & Races — A family-friendly event, with music and dance performances, martial arts demonstrations, Taiko Drums, Lion Dance and a Kids’ Zone with special activities for children.  All that, plus dragon boat races on Lady Bird Lake!

National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day — Barkworthie’s Chews Rescue program will be funding adoptions for all eligible dogs this weekend through Austin Pets Alive.

Jazz & Art on Main — This event in Cedar Park features arts & crafts, live music & tasty eats.

Vintage Market Days of Austin-Hill Country –  A vintage inspired open-air market in Dripping Springs featuring original art, antiques, clothing, jewelry, handmade treasures, seasonal plantings and more tasty eats.

Mommy, Daddy & Me Book Club — Featuring children’s book author Yolanda King, this book club encourages children to read with their parents.

The Grease & La La Land Double Feature Sing Along — Double feature movies, music & singing at the Blue Starlight Drive-In — what could be more fun than that?

Daniel Tosh — The star of Comedy Central’s Tosh.0 is appearing at the Frank Erwin Center.

Now, I don’t want to hear anybody saying they’ve got nothing to do this weekend!  Even if the weather is looking kinda iffy…  🙂

Have fun out there, y’all, and be safe!

 

Earth Day 2017

Showing love to the planet

My Earth Day haiku:

Tiny tomatoes
Grown in earth, round like the Earth
So perfect with salt

My garden’s first harvest

Sheer pottery, no?

Happy Earth Day, y’all, from my garden to yours!  And remember: composting is our friend…  🙂

Springtime in Central Texas

Time to get your bluebonnets on

I absolutely love living in Austin, and especially so at this time of year.  I love seeing the live oak, cedar and pecan trees get their leaves back, and all the gorgeous wildflowers come out alongside Texas’ back roads and highways (thanks, Lady Bird Johnson).  Taking pictures of your children in a glorious field of bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush is pretty much an obligatory exercise for local parents, as my Facebook feed will attest to every year at this time.

Central Texas Flower Child

On a particularly fetching day last week I decided to play hooky (or do “location scouting” as I like to call it) and headed out with my camera for a road trip throughout the surrounding Hill Country area just to see what all was abloom.

Back road in Burnet County

I got off the main highway just outside of town and made my way up and down whatever roads struck my fancy.  These horses grazing in a field of bright yellow caused me to stop in the middle of the road to take their picture — of course, part of the beauty of traveling on back roads means you can easily get away with this.

Ponies & wildflowers

The first part of the day was overcast but the clouds still made for some dramatic scenery.

Windmill & wildflowers

The afternoon skies were perfect and blue with scattered puffy clouds, which made for some cool lighting.  The shadows playing on this field as I was driving past caught my eye.

Live oak trees, cloud shadows and green fields

Staying on the back roads I made my way past the Pedernales River, which was flowing nicely and looked very inviting.  (Yes, I also stopped in the middle of the bridge to take this picture.)

Crossing the Pedernales River

While much of my day was spent going wherever the road took me, I did have one destination picked out for certain: Hamilton Pool Preserve, which, if you’ve never been, NEEDS to be on your list of places to check out in the Austin area!  It was my first time to go, and it’s an amazing spot.

Hamilton Pool

If you’re unfamiliar, Hamilton Pool is a natural spring, appropriately located just outside Austin in Dripping Springs, Texas.  Jade green in color, it’s fed by an underground river and is surrounded by lush growth, making for an inviting spot for hiking, swimming or just hanging out.  The remains of a natural dome that covered the grotto before its collapse more than a century ago provides a deep shady overhang, complete with waterfall.  It really creates a stunning display, and makes me wish I were a better photographer to be able to truly capture the beauty of the area.

Behind the main waterfall at Hamilton Pool

Depending on certain bacteria levels the pool is not always open for swimming, which was the case when I went. But when swimming is allowed it is quite a popular swimming hole!  There is a bright white sandy beach area, which stands in stark contrast to the green water and  blue sky.

Hamilton Pool, taken from the beach area

It’s only about a 30-40 minute drive from Austin, and to get down to the pool there is a relatively easy 1/4 mile or so hike from where you park.  If you’re visiting during the months of May – September you must make a reservation to get in, and outside of those times you may run into a waiting line on the weekends as only a certain number of visitors are allowed in to the preserve at any given time.  But if you do like me and go mid-week in April you can pretty much waltz right on in, which is why I’m kind of ashamed of myself for not having gone before this. (Travel note: bring cash or a local check to pay the $15 parking fee; they do not accept plastic and the nearest ATM is 5 miles away.)

Again I’ll say, if you haven’t gone do make a point to do so.  You won’t be disappointed.

Sunset on a back road

I wrapped up my day’s adventure at sunset, thoroughly pleased with the whole outing and especially happy to visit some new places.  We are so fortunate to have so many gorgeous sites to visit right in our back yard — it makes me even more glad to live where I do, and to have a job where I can take advantage of them from time to time!

Happy trails, y’all!