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37th Street Christmas Lights

That  Other Paper's photos of the 37th Street Lights in Austin from 2006.

That Other Paper's photos of the 37th Street Lights in Austin

Started in 1980 by a few neighbors wanting to “one-up” each other, the 37th street Christmas light display is now an Austin tradition.

There is no committee or neighborhood planning for the lights. It is a voluntary effort made by the residents of 37th street every December to decorate their front and (sometimes) their back yards with huge, non-traditional light displays.

Many people visit the street over the holiday’s some drive through and others walk. It is recommended that you walk… driving does not allow for the “full experience” and is dangerous since there are many pedestrians.

A few years ago the Austinist published these tips for visiting:

1) The utmost and strongest encouragement we can give you is to walk, not drive. You will miss many details of the Christmas light art if you see it from a distance. And don’t just walk through quickly. Stroll leisurely and check out the details of the decoration instead of hurriedly trying to take it all in. The longer you look, the more you will see in each yard.

2) Since you will be walking the block, we suggest you come in on 38th street and find parking off of one of the side streets. There are other lights in the area, and this way you can check them out too.

3) Jamie’s (Jaime Lipman has been decorating his house with lights since the 1970’s and is one of the initial creators of this tradition.) house is one of the more noticeable houses. Don’t miss thoroughly enjoying this one. You can go in and explore his backyard which is incredibly decorated. He is the master of finding unusual things to light up. We can’t imagine how long it must take him to decorate each year, nor how many circuit breakers it takes to power everything.

4) Don’t litter while you’re enjoying the lights. It makes baby Jesus cry.

I live on E. 37th street (not the same street as the lights but close), and am definitely going to check out the lights this year! It’s a nice alternative or addition to visiting the Trail of Lights at Zilker.

Map of 37th Street Lights

Map of 37th Street Lights


No Socks for Me.

SocksI hate socks.

Ever since I was little, if someone told me to make a list of things I hated, ‘socks’ would always be one of the top items on the list.
Worser socks are socks with toes. Even grosser are wet socks with toes.

Socks with toesSo, for me, it’s awesome that Austin has such warm, dry weather that we only need socks for maybe a month or two. I always hang on to my flip-flops as long as I can, and even in the coldest weather I still try to figure out ways to avoid wearing socks.

Most people in Texas will be thinking, ‘What’s the big deal about not wearing socks?’
Well, that’s because you’re in Texas. In other places, it is a huge deal. Places like Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania lies entirely within the humid continental zone, and has cold long winters and cool summers. Perfect weather for socks.
Apparently, they get so sick of socks that they have even declared May 8th as “No Socks Day.” says,

No Socks Day is a day to free your toes of the confines of socks and stocking. Give those toes of yours a breath of fresh air. The creators of this day also profess that No Socks Day will reduce your laundry load, and therefore, is healthy for the environment.
It’s easy to participate in No Socks Day. Just leave your socks and stocking off, and let your toes enjoy a moment in the sun!

It must be terrible up there, having to actually declare a day to not wear socks! I would be very unhappy living there.

Austin is the place for happy toes. So I love Austin!


Happy Toes

Interesting sidebar.. the guy who created No Socks Day is Tom Roy, who played the crazy street evangelist in the movie 12 Monkeys (an awesome movie, if I may say.).

Austin-Bergstrom International

When someone has writer’s block or isn’t able to think creatively about their writing, he or she is often told to “write about what you know.” (As an aside–that link to the Purdue OWL Web site is invaluable for writers. They have tremendous resources. Aside ended.) I’m not insinuating that I currently suffer from “the block,” but I am saying we’re going to be talking about a place I know very well: the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

While it’s probably true that I’ve spent more total hours at my layover destinations (Dallas/Ft. Worth or, God help me, Chicago O’Hare), I’m always one to arrive with plenty of time before my flight, so I’ve logged some hours at ABIA. For starters, it’s a smaller airport with only 25 gates. As soon as you walk in the sliding glass doors, the “vibe” of the place grabs you. It doesn’t have the half-sterilized, over-trafficked feel that most airports do.

The Austin-Bergstrom International Airport served nearly 8.9 million passengers in 2007.  It was also the first facility in the nation to be converted from an Air Force base to a commercial airport.

The Austin-Bergstrom International Airport served nearly 8.9 million passengers in 2007. It was also the first facility in the nation to be converted from an Air Force base to a commercial airport.

This so-called “vibe” isn’t an accidental by-product of engineering, either. Rather, the City of Austin, who owns the airport since its conversion from a U.S. Air Force base, made a concerted effort to capture the “character of Austin.” The airport’s Web site reads:

The airport immediately reminds visitors that they have arrived at a place that is mindful of its heritage — political, cultural, and natural. A Live Music Stage features local performers. Well-known Austin-based companies operate many restaurant and gift concessions. Landscaping consists of native and xeriscape plantings.

On Wednesday, I enjoyed a bit of this “well-known, Austin-based” restaurant food at 5:30 a.m. as I was flying home to Pittsburgh. Two breakfast tacos with egg and sausage and a cup of coffee from The Salt Lick’s airport stand: $9.90. Breathe it in–that’s the smell of getting ripped off, my friends. I’m not saying they weren’t delicious, but for $9.90 I’m fairly confident in my ability to find a hen myself and demand it produce an egg for me.

Structurally and aesthetically, it’s a beautiful public building. Airport terminals can often feel oppressive with low ceilings and thousands of people (I’m lookin’ at you, O’Hare), but the lofty feel of the (somewhat ridiculously) high ceilings at ABIA give you room to breathe. Security can sometimes have lines that wrap around for days, but I’m always astonished at how quickly they move. On Wednesday, TSA was so well prepared that I had no wait at all. Even though I appreciate the peace of mind that added security brings to the flying experience, I never thought I’d actually be tipping my hat to the people who feel you up before your flight. And speaking of TSA, they’ve produced a “Holiday Travel Guide” for what you can and can’t bring on the plane. If you’re traveling soon, this will save you time (and potentially embarrassment).

And a tip from my own personal experience with ABIA–arriving an hour before your flight (if you know what you’re doing) is all the time you’ll ever need. Don’t believe the hype.



The Village is to Brooklyn, what Central/ Downtown Austin is to the East side.

Out with the old and in with the new. Brooklyn is where everything is happening. Many of the featured bands at this year’s ACL came from Brooklyn. There are five-star restaurants there, the real estate prices are growing and condos are going up along the East River. Longtime Brooklyn residents are protesting the demolition of historical buildings and zoning regulations…

Listing for an East Side Condo by Austin Living Properties

Listing for an East Side Condo by Austin Living Properties

A similar situation is happening here in our fair city of Austin. The East Side just hosted it’s 7th annual “East Austin Studio Tour.” Condominiums are being erected throughout the area, and with them more bars are opening and high-end clothing stores are selling their wares.

Knowing a of a new place to go to eat or drink in East Austin is something many Austinites regard as “cool.” To know where to go on the East Side is a mark of someone “in the know,” someone who has the inside scoop.

Many of the places to go to on the East Side are really awesome, they’re a lot more relaxed than bars downtown and are perfectly kitschy.  I like them a lot- but, there are times when I do think about the people getting kicked out of homes they have lived in for their entire lives, and it makes the evening a little bittersweet.

In the video below, Professor Gene Burd from UT talks about gentrification in Austin and his experiences…

However…It is, what it is… so, I say enjoy it!

There are excellent restaurants and hangouts. Take advantage of it. Or don’t.

Here is a list of places to check out.


No more [Dhaba] Joy.

This was the storefront to Dhaba Joy.

This was the storefront to Dhaba Joy.

I am a vegetarian, and often enjoy the vegan treats scattered around Austin at places like Mother’s Cafe and, until this fall, Dhaba Joy. Indeed, I had not found a better place for vegan cupcakes, cookies and cake. Dhaba Joy was a delicious vegan haven, and they began to expand their deliciousness to include deli sandwiches and other meal-type foods. However, this past fall, they opened their doors for the final time. I still haven’t figured out why for certain, but I know it’s a travesty. Dhaba Joy became incredibly popular in its short time on the other side of Toy Joy, and it is missed by many. There are rumors that the bakers will continue to create their delicious treats, but I have found nothing to confirm this yet. I hate that you are gone, sweet Dhaba Joy.

Does anyone know of any other great places for vegan baked goods? Or perhaps, have you heard where the bakers from Dhaba Joy are headed?

Munch on,


Holiday traveling.

Austin, being located in the middle of the state of Texas, is in a perfect location for beautiful day trips. Because it is now the holiday season, my dad and I went shopping for a pine tree today. To be honest, we drove from San Antonio, but since San Antonio is only about an hour and a half away from Austin, the tree place we went to would only add about ten minutes to your drive.

If you celebrate Christmas, Pipe Creek, Texas is a fantastic place to pick up your tree. The Pipe Creek Christmas Tree Farm is open until December 21st, and it is a wonderful farm with a huge spread of trees. The farm offers saws so you can cut your own trees, or you can get help from the workers there. There are also measuring sticks, because the farm charges by the foot. They also offer hayrides and, on specified dates, pictures with Santa!

This is the map to the farm.

This is the map to the farm.

The best thing about this farm is the drive. I highly, highly recommend getting onto TX 16, because the drive is gorgeous – hills scattered with red, yellow and orange treetops. It was perfect today, because the wintry clouds just barely kissed the hilltops. Please be careful when you’re driving along the winding roads, though – there was actually a fatal accident today.

Pretty drives to day-trip locations are absolutely something I love about Austin. What’s your favorite day trip? Let me know!

Happy Holidays,


‘Tis the season

Ok, so the holiday season has officially arrived.  Today is Thanksgiving and for the next month or so people will spend a large amount of their time shopping for Christmas presents, planning holiday travel and family arrangements and decorating homes and apartments in festive holiday decor.

Yet as fun as all those things may be, one of the things I love the most about holidays is the charitable spirit that seems to fill the air.  I think around this time people really think about how thankful they are for what they have, so the desire to give to the less fortunate kicks in to high gear.  For the homeless in Austin today, among the many efforts to get a thanksgiving meal to them was Operation Turkey, a program based in Austin that has volunteers make and deliver food to the homeless.  It was started by a Richard Bagdonas following this experience in 2000

That year, I drove to downtown Austin on my way home and handed out the plate of food to a homeless person in a wheelchair on 6th street. He couldn’t say thank you because he was mentally challenged, but the guy next to him said thank you and helped feed it to him. Afterwards I sat and cried in my car. From then on I was hooked.

In 2000, he handed out 2 dinners.  The next year his group handed out 4 dinners, 2 coats and a blanket.  By 2006 they fed over 500 people.

This program is among the many you’ll find based out of Austin centered around giving to the less fortunate during the holiday season.  Orange Santa is a program that provides help for members of the UT Austin community who have special needs during the holiday season by sponsoring a campus-wide toy drive for University employees.  At University United Methodist Church, a program called LoveWorks provides a generous food basket and gifts from Christmas wish lists for families of children with an incarcerated parent.

So, if you are so inclined this holiday season, look up one of these programs and give a little to the less fortunate – whether it be a little of your time or money, extend a hand to those who need it.  Good karma goes a long way.


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