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November 30, 2007

no office zone

the council meeting was like something off one of those court room drama television shows.

the developer continued to request to postpone the zoning change request.  he stressed the point that he needed more time to "work with the neighbors".

there was a unanimous vote for denial that was followed by some confusion during the short recess.  it seemed the council had intended to vote down the zoning change request in one vote.  it all happened so fast.  but the actual wording used before the vote only mentioned to deny the postponement.  so durring the recess the developer turned in a handwritten request to have the item removed from the agenda.

after a great deal of discussion they resumed the council meeting, reread the minutes, found that the vote did not mention the actual denial for zoning change.  the city atty read the letter issued by the developer.  the developer also make an emotional plea that it was within his and the land owner's rights to have this item removed.  city atty concluded that the letter handed in at 7.35 PM was not timely and since zoning is a legislative act, it was within their right to continue with the agenda that was set in motion by the developer.

once again they voted unanimously to deny a change from R-1 (residential) to O (office)

 well, that was the short version.  some of our gracious neighbors are hosting a holiday party and we all look forward to having a real victory to celebrate. 

as mentioned last post, we have friends trying to move into this neighborhood.  one of their biggest concerns is how do we feel about the people living around here.  we continue to learn how much we do appreciate the people we call neighbor.  

OK, that zoning issue is on the back burner till next year.  whatever they do try next, will surely be more sympathetic to the concerns of the neighbors.   

the dogs had a bed under the stairs.  it smelled bad.  Marvin; the boston terrier, evicts Eichler; the boxer (2x his size), in the middle of the night, every night.  the placement of the bed also seemed to ruin the lines and cantilever effect of the stair treads.  looks much better now.  but Eichler tried to spend the night in the carport where I had quickly tossed their bed before it makes it down to the trash can.  it's too cold for her out there and she was clearly confused by this placement.

I think I'm going to make custom dog habitat that fits in w/ the style of the home, maybe it will double as a bench for humans to sit on top and have TWO compartments so that bully Mariv will let us all sleep without middle of the night yelping from Eichler.

you can see the kids have started to utilize the stairs for their magnets.  the fall light now makes it's way into the house through the wall of glass along the back.

brought some plants in now that we have experienced the first frost.


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November 27, 2007

tii with a view

I'm helping some friends find a home here in west lake hills (eanes school district).  one of the really amazing features of this area is that many homes have these views yet we are really just five miles from downtown and the capital.  this home is perched over the wild basin preserve.

to get such views you really have to get creative and deal with the slope, check out the S curve driveway

then the drop from the parking level down to the entry of the house

another project here in west lake hills that is addressing an upcoming grid failure and resource war.  the idea is that this home will not require air conditioning, will have a garden area large enough to support the inhabitants, solar panels and what you see above is a 40,000 gallon rain water collection cistern.

try these links to get a youtube video of the owner-creator giving some background details on the project so far #1   #2

he got off to a rocky start when he told joked to the building inspector that he was building a residential nuclear reactor and also sent off some letters to city officials that included some colorful language.

the holiday party circuit has started

some friends that also moved from santa cruz at about the same time we did hosted a nice party, their lovely 3 story modern shown above also has amazing views.  it was funny to note that it seemed everybody present could be put into at least one of three categories, artist, realtor or was here from california.  and several fit into all three categories.

it's been cold here.  like a real holiday season.  we were unable to get a campsite at the last minute so we stayed home the entire thanksgiving break.  we got bored and started inviting friends over for wine and outdoor fire pit action.  we used the area down by the lower carport, kids made smores and we used the airstream's stereo to let stan getz provide the background music.



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November 23, 2007

more localization and tasty bird

this was part of a previous post.  it was removed by suggestion of my intellectual property attorney as it did not have the copyright notice on it.  I suppose that is a form of flattery if she feels it's worth stealing.

in an attempt to free the house from excess clutter everybody has their own cabinet, at the moment we have four cabinets.  each has a sliding door with a chalkboard surface.   the idea is that everybody is free to put whatever they like on their cabinet door and it can't be edited by the others.

we've stumbled on a schuster family thanksgiving tradition.  we drove to brenham to visit the blue bell ice cream factory.  this was prompted by my son's recount of a past trip to the jelly belly factory when we were visiting my mom who lives in east SF bay area.  that was also thanksgiving.  so from now on we'll try to visit a local factory or production facility local to where we are celebrating the holiday.  my vote for next year is live oak brewing company or becker winery.  and there are some folks in dripping springs making fantastic goat cheese.  now if BMW would open a factory in the texas hill country.....

and by happenstance we realized that this fits in with our theme of trying to buy more locally produced stuffs.  it's one thing to try and green up the house, but when most everything we find in stores is trucked and flown in from distant lands, that is likely a greater source of pollution that our home was contributing.  there is also something about buying produce from the person responsible for growing it.  

I remember spending my summers in nebraska.  my grandmother was always busy canning fruits she'd grown or harvested herself.  it was all done by hand.  she even made her own bread and never bought pre-made foods or mixes that came from boxes.  back in those days most fruits and vegetables were seasonal items.  it seems we've lost something special by having ripe produce shipped in from all over the world to have them year round.   

on the way back from the ice cream factory we stopped at a toursit trap looking shop off the highway selling giant bags of pecans.  we ended up buying an assortment of preserves all produced in texas.  the pickled water melon rind is pretty good.

anyhow, this years bird was fantastic.  I'm sure the convection oven didn't hurt, but I believe the trick to succulent turkey (not dry) is the brining.  I brined it for almost 24 hours in a sugar, salt and spice mixture.  

kat made sweet potatoes and dinner rolls from scratch (no cans or mixes)


I also made a big pot of stock, baked corn bread etc. for the stuffing.

none of it sucked.

the bird consumption went on into the evening.

the kids are taking the opportunity of being out of school to catch up on their star wars.  they started with episode one and have made it past episode four.  episode three caused my daughter to hide through the last half.  I suspect this star wars marathon will also become another holiday tradition.

and for those tracking the 83k sq ft office complex trying to go in across the street.  I put in a late night at the municipal offices this past tuesday.  there was a small army of neighbors there and the mood was just short of a tar and feathering for the developer.  many of us took turns speaking (as did I) and the crowded room often burst into cheers and whistles after each emotional plea to keep our area free from commercial property. 

the zoning board voted unanimously to reject the rezoning from residential to commercial.  the city administrator made a point that commercial property there did not fit in with the master plan of the city.  but, it's not over yet.  the council has the real power to approve or deny.  that meeting is next wed.  but since there is a majority of property owners near the land in question that are in opposition, this rezoning would require a super majority vote to pass.  I think that would require five out of six.


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November 19, 2007

green art and local burgers

this weekend was the east austin studio tour.  always makes for good fun.

thanks to sybil miller and sol-art.org/ for effort towards the event.

austin green art was using scrap cedar in fun ways. 

this run down property had it's windows removed and filled with mason jars of tea in varying shades and intensity.  the effect from inside had a very calming effect against the chaos of the building that looked like it was past it's usefullness. 



several temporary galleries were found in shipping containers

this one hosted an interactive feature and the kids applied their touches

all this art activity gave us a hunger for mexican food.  last year on this day we ate at el chilito so this year we ate at its big brother (or sister) el chile.  WOW!  that was some of the best food we ever ate and their margaritas are fun, too.  I sampled one that had chili and orange pulp.  a table near us had one with a floater of this bright purple concoction.  our server informed us that it was made by grinding up prickly pear fruit and soaking it in tequila.  it was a treat to look at.  someday I'll get around to the tasting part. 

we had a busy schedule with dinners this weekend.  friday was dinner with a group of neighbors.  we all had some talk about the proposed rezoning of the land across the street.  strong opposition was aligned.

saturday night we hosted a group of friends and served up some braised leg of lamb.

as often is the case conversation involved life in CA vs life in ATX.  at some point in and out burger was mentioned.  it was suggested that we try P. Terry's

their building has a sort of mid century modern approach to burger stands.  I think it's better than in and out burger AND they focus on local and organic ingredients.  

we also stopped by the music store to get some drum sticks that addeda subtlety to his style. 

thanks to the mccoy family for staying late, even if they did throw in the towel for sunday.  so far I've not been able to offend them yet, she's a photographer and he's an intellectual property attorney (see the resemblance?).  ben and abbey of modernaustin.com also helped consume braised beast as did our friends lane and  brooks (they don't have web sites for me to link, what's up w/ that?)  a good time was had and think I need to go swim some laps to work off all the meat I ate this weekend.

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November 16, 2007

new doggie door

the past few weeks have involved lots of hole digging.  many new trees and also trimmed or removed a few cedar that were close to the house or choking oaks.  a bare area was an ideal location for this handsome rosemary.  we sold our other house that had a rosemary that was larger than a volkswagen.  we now have a nice view of our new rosemary from the kitchen.


I've written before on how well the invisible fence works.  the dogs can roam freely over most of our one acre lot.  but there is a fence that seperates most of the front yard from the back.  they found that they could use the doggie door to get into the screen room, then push out the screen on the front door to the entry and get to the front yard (behind the bird of paradise is where they kept punching out the screen)

this is the door they were pushing the screen out of.  the door itself is a POS and rescreening it today did not remedy that.

My son and I went to petsmart to buy an additional doggie door so they can go through the screen room to access the front yard without going THROUGH the screen.  Prices were more than I was willing to pay so we went to home depot.  there a large doggie door was $70!  since it's a screen room I only need a mosquito barrier and it doesn't need to be weather tight.  I just needed a flap.  then I found some rubber sheeting used as carpet runner.  things strated to get ugly at HD as I found four guys leaning in the appliance dept who were unwilling to cut me some of the material.  they sent me to speak to a woman who was on the phone.  I waited for her to get off the phone and she tried to page somebody else to help me.  15 minutes later I was still waiting.  I again asked the lady for assistance and she again tried to call somebody.  again, 10 minutes of us standing there waiting.  the lady was back on the phone.  I went to the service desk to complain.  I found a line.  I put all the other items I had intended to purchase down and left.  

I found the flooring dept attendant at lowes on the phone.  he quickly ended his conversation, jumped up and cut the material we needed.  

below is my $2 doggie door.  I used two different flaps of contrasting rubber.  I don't know why, I just like it better that way.

the inside flap is clear with translucent stripes.  the top edge is folded and held in place by aluminum L with screws through it.

outside is a black ribbed material.  the dogs quickly learned this new access route to the front.

across from our house is 13 acres of land that is zoned residential.  it was recently sold and we were looking forward to 13 new neighbors.  then we got word that it was purchased by a developer from Houston (land of NO ZONING).

I can see this sign from my front door.  they are asking for a zoning change to put up an eighty three thousand square foot office park with a free standing deli.  you can bet this hasn't sat well with the neighbors.  a petition has been signed by almost if not all the people that own property within 200 ft of the land.

I spoke with the developer as he pounded his sign post into the ground.  he assured me that his commercial project left a wide green belt across from my house and I wouldn't even see the office park.  I went down to the West Lake Hills municipal office to view his proposed site plan.  I was not satisfied with what he called a green belt.  it looked more like a 75 ft set-back with parking and deli on the other side.  so it looks like there is a strong opposition to his plans.  I think most everybody on this street has signed petitions and written personal appeal letters to the zoning committe and council.  I will attend the zoning meeting in person next week.  We had hoped for a trip to Big Bend this turkey holiday but things have gotten complicated.

I would rather see residential land used for residences.  vacant lots are as rare as hen's teeth in this small community.  this past summer a mid century ranch home up the street came on the market for mid 600's.  it was sold and work on the house started right away.  I had feared it would be an unsympathetic mcmansion makeover.  but... I was completely blown away this past week when I drove by and found no trace the house ever existed!  bare dirt with not a single scrap of material left, cleanest scrape I ever saw.  the builder has a sign up on the lot. (builder linked)  I can't say I'm impressed as I thought the existing home had loads of potential for an addition or sympathetic remodel.  now it's in a land fill.


my daughter's school sells gift wrap and high end chocolates from a catalog to raise $.  they don't allow door to door or selling to strangers.  the products are nice and who doesn't need gift wrap or chocolate?  the kids get cheap trinkets as a reward.

the gift wrap order came in today.  when I picked her up from school today I offered to carry the big box of gift wrap rolls.  She insisted I carry her back pack instead (it rolls on wheels).  I then noticed how proud she was to be one of the kids who had sold to help raise funds, even if her box wasn't one of the largest ones.   

we got home and she upacked her rewards.  what is surely a ten cent made in china trinket is a valuable symbol of achievement to her.  she beamed with pride as she admired her LED light....thingy.  she also got a 8 ft ballon that really made her brother envious.


speaking of turkey day.  my son is very insistent that he does not want us eating turkey and he will refuse to eat a turkey.  he explained to me that he really likes turkeys.  I had asked him about his appetite for chickens to which he replied, "chickens!  I DON'T like chickens so I DO want to eat them, I DO like turkeys and DO NOT EAT THEM!"  with the exception of Rudy's bbq and my dad's cajun fried turkey, I don't usually care for it myself.  He gave me the green light to cook a duck, he doesn't like them either.


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November 12, 2007

modern preview and party circuit

we previewed a few homes for sale this weekend.  this first one was just reduced to 599k for a quick sale.  I hope it sells soon so we can quit thinking about.  it was originally listed for 749k.  the rooms are all very large and the level of finish and fixtures are top notch AND it's in the eanes school district.

entry is via bridge.  all steel construction, no wood stick framing.

huge walls of glass

we viewed this late 80's/early 90's contemporary that is in need of a little work.  it's at the very top of a steep incline in an area of multi million $ homes with a fantastic view


whimsical circular motif all over the place


we also previewed a spec home that really had a lot of house on a tiny lot.  it seemed that some where along the path the builder lost scope of the design.  the house is very modern but some of the fixtures and finish choices seemed to indicate otherwise.  lock sets had lots of curvey lines as did the oddly placed sink fixtures and there was an excessive use of BEIGE tile.  then again, this is just my opinion.  somebody may see those items and prefer them to something that actually matched the clean straight lines of the house they were in.

 Saturday night, Mr. Domingo and I hit the modern house and design party circuit.

Steven Herbert and the vintage modern crew unveiled their latest mid century modern renovation on belfast st and treated us all to eats and drinks. 

warning-web site linked above has audio soundtrack that really jumps out at you, I like their choice in music but I just don't like web sites that play music without my requesting it.  I might be surfing quietly when suddenly I jump to search for the audio adjust.  I expect that from a myspace page.

work from a group of local artists was on display.  mr domingo said this gave him a bad flash-back

this shaggy fellow seemed to appreciate this piece

next stop, IF+D

we knew we found the right spot when we found the pool of PBR

we quickly made many new friends.  party was to unveil their now being a dealer of blu dot furniture.  blue dot is 1/3 charles lazor of flat pack house fame

 I like the buttercup rocker by blu dot and was happy to report it is as comfortable as it is good to look at (seen in the bottom left).  I also got to hang out with Ben from modernaustin

taking a picture.  note the squirrel video in the background.  he was quite talented.  they showed how he came home from work (complete with briefcase) and quickly assembled a chair.  

Mr. Domingo testing to see if the PBR was still chilled at the end of the event.  He was pleased to report that it was. 

 finally, a fresh monarch emerged, stood helpless in the sun as it's wings dried.

my daughter took the opportunity to get personal with it 

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November 08, 2007

moving the garage and papaya adoption

I'm almost done sealing/staining the cedar siding on the garage.  you can see the line where I left off for the day.  I tried spraying the stain but it was too thick for my sprayer.  it left me with a thick line of stain when the spray head clogged and the spray turned to stream.  I had to quickly find a roller and get to work.  the roller application is a bit splotchy but it's better than nothing.

the mercedes has a new home.  new owner sent one of his employees down from dallas to fetch it for him.  

our other home is under contract and the new owners don't really want the garage to be used as our personal storage.   rented a trailer.  we've lost the garage space at austinmodhouse to storage of boxes, furniture and surplus building supplies.

while we moved, my artist daughter made organic yard sculptures

we have more monarch action

we finally caught chrysalis formation in action.  note the J pose and the point of attachment.

just hours later....

I've planted 12 trees over the past two days.  found the thing below a patch of volunteer tomato vines

thumb included to show scale

our friends domingo and isabel came over this past weekend.  domingo held a rather sad looking shrub in his arms.  they hoped we could revive it and explained that when healthy it would provide us tiny chili peppers.  we pointed to a red dotted plant growing on the ground and asked "like that?"

they got all excited and we outfitted them with plastic bags for the harvest.  soon we were in the kitchen burning up our taste buds with the fruit of their labor.  we found that these plants grow wild all over our propterty.  MUCHO PICANTE!  I was lucky to find that the burn can be cut with 100% agave mixed with lime.

we have a small grove of papaya trees.  I don't think they will survive a hard freeze in their current location.  winter is coming.  if you have room for a papaya tree, give me a call.  I've seen these at home depot for around $45 at this size.



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November 01, 2007

more tourist photos

next week I plan to get back to home project blogging.  but for now we have one more installment of things to do around austin.


I went with my daughter's class on a field trip to natural bridge cavern.  I've never been in anything like this and it was bizarre to be 180 ft under the ground and find these HUGE rooms with shapes that seemed so alien.  that dark silhouette in the bottom is our guide.  you can just make out the brim of his baseball hat.  this should give you and idea of the size.  the tallest of the cave columns is 50 feet!

looks like jelly fish.  this was the largest room.  that big jelly fish looking thing is probably 20 ft tall.

we did not have one single trick or treater despite my amiable pumpkin. 

back in CA, when we started to hatch our plans to move to austin I was greeted by shock and horror by some.  one person kept responding, "but it's TEXAS!?"  I tried to explain the positive but her reply always had the same negative tone, "it's TEXAS?! how could you live there?"  I soon realized that many folks insist on believing texas is a flat dry wasteland.   we don't find that to be the case


inside hamilton pool

the shot below is from top of mt. bonnell 





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