Stand Up Paddle Surfing

Apparently this is the new thing, stand up paddle surfing... or SUP-ing. (or more like "old thing resurfacing and is now all the rage" I guess)
The sport is suppose to be a ton of fun as well as an amazing strength building exercise for core body muscles ...and Austin's Lady Bird Lake (formerly Town Lake) is an excellent place to partake in the growing trend. I am trying to find a place in Austin to rent a board and take lessons - but haven't had any luck yet. Leave a comment if you know of a place or someone!
Thanks to Mike Baird on flickr.com for the pic. Note, the pic was unfortunately not taken on Lady Bird Lake... I couldn't find a good pic of someone SUPing on LBL. If you have one, send it to me!


Hot Sauce Festival This Weekend

Tomorrow (Saturday, August 24th) is the Austin Chronicle's annual Hot Sauce Festival. Not only can you sample the best homemade/local hot sauces in town...but there's also a great line up of bands including Black Joe Louis, Fingerpistols, Jungle Rockers, Girl In the Closet, and Band of Heathens. Bring a picnic blanket and lawn chairs. Dress cool (as in temperature). Each entrant is allow 2 factory sealed bottles of water. Admission is free with the donation of three non-perishable food items. Donations go to the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas. Festival is held at Waterloo Park (12th and Red River) 11:00 AM - 5:30 PM. Check out Austin Chronicle website for show times and complete festival guidelines.
Hot sauce photo courtesy of Basykes on www.flickr.com


Why Dogs Love Living in Austin

If I were a dog, I would want to live here in Austin where the city really seems to care about a dog's quality of life. The city has specifically identified some of the hottest nature spots in town as leash-free zones. I have a blond Labrador named Lola who has personally tested several of the hottest spots in town...

1. Auditorium Shores - South side of Lady Bird Lake, just west of First Street Bridge.
Big expansive green field on the banks of Lady Bird Lake (formerly Town Lake)...think "size of a football field"....with a downtown city view. Water dogs can get their fill of the lake. Land lubbers can run and run and run...and run some more. Watch out for joggers and bikers whizzing by on the trail...not all of them are understanding that it's a leash free zone right there. We like to go on Sunday's with a tennis ball and let Lola chase the ball into the water until her heart's content. She always seems to make friends too.

2. Norwood Estate Dog Park - Northwest corner of I-35 and Riverside
This park is better known as "the dog park on Riverside". There are community drinking water stations for the dogs (be sure to bring a jug of water to contribute if you can remember.) This is a good ol' standby dog park, with ample parking and comfy plastic lawn chairs for the human race... it's especially a good call when it's too much effort to go down to Auditorium Shores due to parking, traffic, etc. There's no water feature...but plenty of shade and always a good natured crowd of playmates for your dog.

3. Zilker Park - soccer fields north side of Barton Springs Rd.
Simply put: BIG OPEN GREEN SPACE Those Frisbee catching, ball fetching pooches will especially love you for it.

4. Shoal Creek Greenbelt - West side of Lamar, between 26th and 28th streets
This really feels more like a jogging trail that is permitting your dog a visit than a dog park. It's really a problem if you have the kind of dog who thinks everyone is a playmate and wants to run after every jogger who passes by. Still...it's green, and beautiful...but you do have to tune out Lamar traffic.

5. Red Bud Isle -- MY FAVE -- take 6th street west until it turns into Lake Austin Blvd. then turn left on Red Bud Trail. Park is on left...
Okay seriously, this little island on Lady Bird Lake feels like you are visiting another world! We like to go early in the morning with the kids and dog before it gets too hot. It's actually an entirely leash free island and the dog can swim to his/her heart content while you and the kids enjoy snacks on the shoreline.

There are 12 total "off leash areas" in Austin... sounds like Lola has some more exploring to do.

Photo courtesy of http://www.austindogwalker.com/ -- owner Kevin took it at Zilker Park on a beautiful sunny day in Austin.


Rad Skateboards ... from Austin with Love

I am not a skater or skateboarder by any stretch of the imagination...but I do have soft spot for sports whose athletes regularly use words like "stoked" "rad" and "totally cool". I also have a pension for Vans footwear.

I stumbled upon this new skateboard company here in Austin called Roger Skateboards. The boards are designed and developed by Michael Sieben (super cool artist/illustrator, skateboarder) and his buddy Stacy Lowery (former pro-skateboarder). Apparently the two share not only a passion for skating, but also a wicked, satirical sense of humor, communicated through their eye-catching graphics. Check out their website for more from this dynamic duo...it's very entertaining.

Look for their boards at No Comply, 812 W. 12th Street (12th & Lamar).


Crestview and Crestview Station

Crestview is a north central Austin neighborhood that has always been high on charm, loaded with 1940's and 1950's houses, but still reasonably priced for young families, professionals, and hipsters who refuse to move out to the burbs in search of affordability. The neighborhood is bound by Anderson Lane on the northside, Koenig Lane on the southside, Lamar Blvd. to the east, and Burnet Road to the west. A quaint shopping village lies at the center of Crestview with an independent grocer, a barber shop, and a mix of restaurants and delis.

Capital Metro has one of it's nine commuter rail stations planned for the northeast corner of Crestview. Crestview Station will be more than 70 acres of office space, retail space, multi-family and single family homes, and open recreation spaces.

There are homes and condos surrounding the Crestview Station (like the ones pictured above) that are priced as low as $175K and go up to $400K, with the majority of homes around the $250K - $280K range. This part of town is currently "car dependent" but in a few short months is going to explode with grocery, dining, shopping, and public transportation options...all within a short walk. Lower priced housing options lie east of Lamar, but still within walking distance of Crestview Station. Crestview and Crestview Station adjacent properties are a fantastic opportunity to buy quickly appreciating property at an affordable price before the craze hits. Please email me for some of the listings in this area.


The Low Down on Austin Schools by Neighborhood

As a realtor, I get asked a lot which neighborhoods have the best public schools in Austin. As a parent of a preschooler here in Austin, I am currently struggling myself with the private school vs. public school dilemma as I live in an area with not so great public schools. It's amazing to me that there are a lot of neighborhoods in Austin where you can buy a million dollar home, but only have a lowly academically acceptable elementary school to send your children to! I love Central Austin and wouldn't move to out to the burbs for anything in the world, but that $600 per month I am likely going to shell out for private school for the next 8 years in order to avoid sending my child to the local elementary school is going to be painful.

So if you are looking for a neighborhood with good public schools in central Austin, here are the neighborhoods I would recommend buying in from the beginning:

BEST BETS - good public schools elementary through high school...

- Barton Hills

- Bryker Woods
- Rosedale
- Northwest Hills

- Highland Park
- Tarrytown

- Anywhere in Westlake -- Eanes School District...where every school is exemplary

- Crestview
- French Place
- Hyde Park (amazing LEE elementary but not so great middle school...KEALING)
- Clarksville
- Downtown Austin (PEASE elementary is apparently pretty neat with small class sizes)

...also to note, in Delwood, which is a quickly gentrifying East Side neighborhood, the public elementary school, Blanton Elementary, just received an exemplary rating from Texas Education Association for 2007. That neighborhood has great homes for the money and is extremely centrally located. Unfortunately, that neighborhood also has terrible middle school and high schools so don't plan on staying forever.

PLAN ON PRIVATE SCHOOL (at least I would)

- East Austin - 78702 zip code

- Travis Heights

That being said, I am sure there are parents of school age students who live in these neighborhoods and who might disagree with my opinion. Please leave a comment as I am eager to learn more.

All Texas public school TEA ratings can be found here.

Thanks to woodleywonderworks on flickr.com for the pic.


The "Human Race" ... Here in Austin

I just signed myself and hubby up for the Nike Human Race to be held here in downtown Austin on August 31st. Austin is one of 25 cities to host the first ever "global" 10K where over 1 million runners will be running to benefit global charities including Livestrong, the UN Refugee Agency, and WWF (environmental preservation). Other cities that are hosting the event include Paris, Los Angeles, New York, London, Quito, Sao Paulo, Seoul, Warsaw, Singapore ... I love that Austin is on this list of world cities! Following the race is a concert by Ben Harper ... open ONLY to race participants. ! It costs $35 to register. Click here to register for the race.
Pick provided by Patrick Dentler on flickr.


Single Stream Recyling for Austin

GREAT GREAT NEWS. The little blue bins will soon be a thing of the past as "single stream" recycling is on its way to all of us here in Austin. Instead of sorting our paper and recyclable items into the current little blue bins (which never seem to hold enough and are always overflowing...), we will now all have 90 gallon recycling carts. The service officially begins on October 6th and the city is passing out the carts during the month of October. Recycling will be collected on your normal trash day, every other week. This is great news for those of you who don't currently recycle because it all seems so complicated -- it doesn't get much easier than this! Details on the new service found here.

I wonder how the city will recycle all of those little blue bins?
I wonder if City of Houston will ever get a city-wide recycling program?


Sno-Beach ... Reviewed

We went to "Sno-Beach" this past week. Sno-Beach is a snow cone stand situated on Barton Springs Road between South First and Lamar. I love the concept of Sno-Beach...a random seasonal trailer that pops up during hot summer months selling wonderful ice cold treats. I was a little disappointed with the execution...but really...what can you expect from an establishment housed in a trailer that can be rolled away at a moment's notice? It was hot, very, very hot...and there was basically no shade...except that generated by an office building next door...and the bumle bees were out en masse making nose dives into our snow cones! Oh - and the snow cones are actually served in cups, not actual cones, which was a little disappointing too. (although I guess less mess) Anyway, my 3 year old was thrilled with the whole scene regardless - thumbs up from her. Oh - and kudos that they pass out giant golf umbrellas to everyone waiting in line.

Best Wading Pool in Austin

I love Eastwoods wading pool in Hyde Park, just north of the university. It's cool. It's clean. It's shady. It's free. It's almost never crowded. It's open 3-7 Tuesday - Friday. 2-6 on Saturdays, Sundays. Closed Mondays. ...and closes for the winter August 24th...so sad. Oh - and here's a little secret if you live in the area and you have a water-lovin' dog...casually show up at closing time and the lifeguards will let your pooch go for a dip before they drain the pool for the night.


New Downtown Boot Shop...Every Girl Needs a Pair of these...

These vintage cowboy boots sold at a new downtown shop are seiously cool. I want some. "Part Artwork, Part Footwear, All Fancy" ... Owner/designer Jerry Ryan creates vintage inspired boots, combining elements from the past (ode to Texas history) with his own designs to come up with a totally unique "retro-modern" look. ...which I think is right in line with our unique fashion style 'round here in Austin. I see me wearing mine with lots of flowy skirts and dresses. Prices start at $300. Shop is located at 117 W. 8th St. between Congress and Colorado. http://www.heritageboot.com/


'Walk Scores' for Austin's Neighborhoods

I found this website ** http://www.walkscore.com/ ** where you can plug in any address, and it will calculate that address's "walk score". A high walk score means less dependency on automobiles to go about one's daily life and judges distances to grocery stores, gas stations, fitness centers, hair salons, post offices, restaurants, etc ... a low walk score means high dependency on the car. I plugged in addresses for some of Central Austin's neighborhoods and here's what I got:

(possible total score = 100)

Travis Heights *55* - somewhat walkable
Bouldin Creek *78* - very walkable
South Congress (SoCo) *80* - very walkable
Rollingwood *52* - somewhat walkable
Westlake *45* - car dependent
Zilker *75* - very walkable
Downtown *94* - walker's paradise (obviously)
Clarksville *86* - very walkable
Tarrytown *63* - somewhat walkable
Rosedale *72* - very walkable
Allandale *55* - somewhat walkable
Crestview *62* - somewhat walkable
Northwest Hills *40* - car dependent
Delwood *58* - somewhat walkable
Hyde Park *78* - very walkable
French Place *72* - very walkable
Central East Side *58* - somewhat walkable
Holly Street District *69* - somewhat walkable

...next up... SCOOTER SCORES!

(thanks to Sister72 @ flickr.com for the pic!)


French Place 78722 ... Renovated 1940's Bungalow ON SALE

My friend just sent me pics of his bungalow he's selling in Austin's beloved French Place neighborhood. He dropped the price nearly $25K this week to $274,800. ...this is the only house in the French Place neighborhood at that price.
A similar house 3 houses down is on the market for $299K for the same square footage. Another similar sized house on the street, sold for $299K a few months ago. This is a 2 bed /2 bath completely renovated 1940's charmer. Instant equity. The house is great. Well located. Excellent condition. My friend is just ready to make a move. Email me or call me if you want the full MLS listing.