Austin Feed

Bottoms up and bellies out

If you're planning to party tonight, by now you've already worked out the logistics. You know where you're going, who you're going with and who will be the designated driver. That last decision is critical, since for most folks, a new year must be met with a toast of an alcoholic beverage. Champagne is the traditional choice, but it's not the only one. Some folks don't like the fizz. Others don't like the price. But if you're watching your weight, the classic celebratory beverage might be a good choice. A 4-ounce flute of bubbly contains 105 calories. Wine, either red... Read more →

Merry Christmas 2006

We'll be opening presents, chowing down on holiday ham and corn pudding, making long distance calls to the relatives and watching the Cowboys beat the Eagles (I hope!!!). That's pretty much gonna occupy my day, so no more blogging until the 26th. In the meantime, enjoy these shots of our tree, pre-package plundering, and one of our new ornaments. Each year, we try to find a new decoration for our tree. We found a couple this time, or rather the hubby did while I was in D.C. a few weeks ago. He did a fine job with both, but I... Read more →

A walk on the Wild Basin side

The last few days have produced a decided autumn chill here in Austin, so the hubby and I took advantage of the drop in temperatures to explore the area's outdoor offerings. For months we've seen the discreet signs for Wild Basin Preserve as we drove along Loop 360, west of the city in Travis County. In a state known for excess, these markers are so unobtrusive that you almost think they're trying to keep anyone from finding the place. Luckily, despite the obscure signage, we did locate the exit and discovered a lovely 227-acre enclave that made us forget how... Read more →

A dance hall fit for angels

This morning, flipping through some of the cable movie channels that are part of our TV programming package but which we don't pay enough attention to, I came upon "Michael." It's a fun movie, notable mostly for the scene where John Travolta dances to Aretha's "Chain of Fools." But today I stopped the remote flicking not just because I enjoyed the movie, but also because Travolta's "Michael" moves (both dancing and the ensuing fight) were filmed at nearby Gruene Hall, AKA the oldest dance hall in Texas. As fate would have it, I got in on the movie right at... Read more →

Tax favors for gridiron green

Here in Austin, all the talk is not on tonight's gubernatorial debate (everyone knows Kinky will get in the best sound bites, if not the best political licks). No, everyone is talking about tomorrow's UT-OU football game. The annual meeting of the Longhorns and Sooners in Dallas' Cotton Bowl, ostensibly neutral territory essentially halfway between Norman and Austin, is variously referred to as the Red River Rivalry, Red River Rumble, Red River Showdown or the Red River Shootout (yeah, even we Texans hang onto those wild west clichés when they suit our purposes). When I was much younger, despite being... Read more →

Forget a New York minute

Here in Texas, we might talk a bit more slowly than our Northern neighbors, but when all's drawled and done, we don't have time to wait. My fellow Austinites and I know what we want and we want it now! Similar antsy attitudes were found in Houston and Dallas. That's the assessment of Guideline Inc., a research company that examined exactly where Americans are least likely to wait. The study was commissioned by eBay. The online auctioneer wanted to find out which areas might be prime locations for its eBay Express subsidiary, launched in April to cater to convenience-seeking buyers... Read more →

Tallying our West Texas wanderings

It's been almost a week since my cousin and I rolled back into Austin. Today, I finally pulled together the vital statistics of our trip down memory lane. The raw travel numbers: 1,470 miles 125 digital photos 17 bottles of water 6 days 5 nights 5 hotels 5 dinners 5 lunches 5 gas station stops 3 breakfasts Assorted admission fees and tourist tchotchkes 1 confirmation that you really can't go home again 1 realization that you can create new memories to enhance your earlier ones Now to translate those figures into dollars. Kathy and I split the costs, but not... Read more →

Electronically thumbing through austinwoman

AustinWoman story links are now updated on their own new blog page, Worth: All about finances in Austin Woman magazine. One of the first publications I picked up upon moving to Austin in 2005 was austinwoman. I was new to town, new to freelancing and the magazine appealed as a way to learn a bit about my new hometown, as well as serve as a potential job source. I'm pleased to report that it has more than met both expectations. On the newcomer front, I've learned a lot about Austin and some of the city's many notable women. Professionally, I... Read more →

Austinist accolades

Hear that tune? It's a little bit of horn tooting. The Austinist has included my post on our inordinately high July electric bill and related ramblings on zero-energy homes in this week's "Best of the Austin blogs." I was doubly thrilled to make it into this week's group, as this is the second time I've had an entry acknowledged by the site. The first was back in February, when Texas was inexplicably named just the 45th most livable state in the United States (don't get me started on this injustice again!). I thought after that rant, I'd probably topped out.... Read more →

Austin: tax hotbed

I knew coming back home to Texas was the right move. And that Austin was the right city. Now, Google Trends has corroborated the move on a professional level. Austin is one of the top 10 cities when it comes to Internet searches of the word "tax." (Hat tip to TaxProf.) This latest Google option analyzes who hunts for the word or words you enter to arrive at a snapshot of users by city, region or language. Type in "tax" and you get: Washington, D.C. Raleigh, N.C. Dublin, Ireland Dallas, Texas Tampa, Fla. Austin, Texas Houston, Texas Atlanta, Ga. Mumbai,... Read more →

House hunting hurdles

Nick over at Punny Money has posted the latest in his "Adventures in First-Time Homebuying" series, examining in this particular segment the land component of homeownership. The timing of Nick's post struck me because a story in Sunday's Austin American-Statesman (registration required) looks at the troubles of first-time homebuyers in this area. The Austin/Central Texas real estate market is hot, hot, hot and that's good for folks already in a house and looking to trade up with the money they make selling their current residences. But relative to other parts of the country, our housing market is not so hot... Read more →

The heat is definitely on

We moved from South Florida in part because I don't really like hot weather. So I guess coming back home to Texas wasn't the smartest move in that regard. Right now, my WeatherBug icon is flashing 107 from my PC's task bar. I think (hope!) that might be a bit on the high side, but here we go again. Last July, just after we moved into our house, we went through almost two straight weeks of triple-digit temps. But it's a dry heat. OK, some of my fellow Austinites might argue that point. But having lived in South Florida for... Read more →

Bastille Day lessons

I know I've been on an international jag of late, what with World Cup postings and frequent references to F1 auto racing. But I've got one more global blog for you and then I promise to settle down to more U.S. of A. specific items. Today is Bastille Day, France's national holiday that always falls in the middle of the Tour de France bicycle race. The hubby and I are watching the Tour again this year, even though fellow Austinite Lance Armstrong is not there. A "flock" of yellow flamingos at a local Austin nursery salutes Lance's seventh record-setting Tour... Read more →

An Austin Home Companion

Just a quick post today to add to my list of musicians we've seen since moving to Austin (lower left column). Last night, we went to "Late Night with Garrison Keillor," primarily because Joe Ely was one of the show's musical guests. That afternoon, Keillor and crew had done a regular Prairie Home Companion performance in the same theater. It sold out quickly, so this second show that evening was added. I catch at least part of Prairie Home each week via Internet (WGBH Boston) as I'm waiting for another show, Says You, to come on Saturday nights. I wouldn't... Read more →

Shame on you!

The Commonwealth of Virginia has decided it no longer will extend Southern courtesy to one sector of its residents. Delinquent taxpayers in the Old Dominion now are being exposed in an effort to collect long overdue taxes. Virginia's Department of Revenue became the latest office to publish the names of tax scofflaws on the Internet. The state unveiled its pilot program last week, a Web site list of 11 businesses that owe substantial back taxes, penalties and interest. State officials say the companies have not responded to several attempts to collect this money and that more names will be added... Read more →

Debt collection defenses

An Austin law firm looking to track tax deadbeats for government agencies has been smacked down a second time, this time in its own backyard. Travis County executives this week tabled a proposal by Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson to collect delinquent tax bills from county residents even after a representative of the firm essentially offered a money-back guarantee on the service. According to the Austin American-Statesman, Linebarger spokesman Ken Oden said his firm would forfeit "every nickel we make" if it couldn't collect as well as the county has. Ah, yes. Money. That's the driving force behind outsourcing the... Read more →

Springtime's natural and financial storminess

Our first spring in Central Texas has been fantastic. Early in the season, we discovered bluebonnets in our yard. When we moved into our house last summer, the flowers had long since bloomed and disappeared. Now we're collecting seed pods to spread around the property and help boost the number of gorgeous indigo patches next year. We also have enjoyed the return of the barn swallows. These graceful birds were here when we moved in, but left for winter. Our garage area has a carport extension that the birds find an acceptable substitute for the bridges where they often nest.... Read more →

Robison redux

I've taken some teasing this week for getting my taxes done at the last minute. I never intended to take tax filing down to the wire, but life kept getting in the way. And then on that final weekend, we did make a conscious decision to take a tax-filing break. Actually, I took the break, but since hubby has to listen to my curses as I work through the tax morass, he deserved a break, too. So on what is usually the traditional tax-filing deadline, April 15, we headed into Austin for a concert by Bruce Robison, sometimes known as... Read more →

Despicable dementia scam defrauds IRS

We all complain about taxes. They're too complicated. They're unfair. We don't want our tax dollars going to programs that we're philosophically, politically or morally opposed to. As Yul Brynner would say, etc. etc. etc. Fine, whine and moan all you want. And by all means take all the available legal tax breaks you qualify for in order to lessen the annual IRS hit to your bank balance. Some folks, however, step over the legal tax line. In fact, pushing the tax envelope is an annual enterprise this time of year. A couple of weeks ago, almost half of Don’t... Read more →

Putting off today what you can put off tomorrow

Austin apparently is a city of tax-filing fiends. In fact, it looks like most of my fellow Texans are on the ball this tax season. Except me. Maybe. I'm not sure. As I mentioned yesterday, I'm still slogging through the bulk of my taxes. I figured the self-employment component enough to get some ancillary tasks completed. But as far as the whole, as we say here in Texas, enchilada … well, I've still got some chiles to chop and cheese to grate. Hey! Back off! I've got a few days to meet Uncle Sam's deadline! Maybe I need to knock... Read more →