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Michael Barnes

TreeHouse Reception, Katrina Stories, Breakfast in Austin, Violet Crown Trail

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TreeHouse founder Jason Ballard. Photo: TreeHouse.

TreeHouse founder Jason Ballard. Photo: TreeHouse.

BUSINESS: I was blown away. I must have walked past TreeHouse sustainable hardware store in the Westgate Shopping Center dozens of times. I assumed it was an oversized boutique. Yesterday, I attended a reception there. The staff knows how to teach and please the guest with usable data on building materials, water and air systems, all sorts of things to improve personal health and the health of the planet. And they know how to have a good time. We were there to salute new funding that will allow TreeHouse to expand to other Texas cities, also the release of its Annual, which is less like a corporate report and more like a handy lifestyle magazine. I spent time with owner Jason Ballard, his wife Jenny and yet another interesting, profile-worthy person, Gail Vittori from the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems, which has become a world leader in sustainable construction. Another big surprise: Prices are already pretty competitive at TreeHouse.

Terrence and Christine Moline at Ruby's BBQ. Photo: Jay Janner / American-Statesman

Terrence and Christine Moline at Ruby’s BBQ. Photo: Jay Janner / American-Statesman

CITY: Why did Katrina evacuees stay in Austin? Sample taken from my story — part of a package — in the American-Statesman: “When Terrence and Christine Moline first walked into Ruby’s BBQ on Guadalupe Street in 2007, they felt transported to Esplanade Avenue in New Orleans. “It’s very warm and rustic,” Terrence says. “It feels as though history has gracefully seeped into the walls.” When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans on Aug. 29, 2005, the longtime residents barely escaped. They left behind a recently purchased house — later buried under 10 feet of water and mud — and landed for what they thought would be a temporary stay in Austin. “Immediately, we were welcomed with open arms and offered job opportunities,” Terrence says. “The transition from life in New Orleans to establishing a foundation in Austin was as easy as could be expected, thanks to the people we’ve met who have become our Austin family.”

Breakfast at Elizabeth Street Cafe. Photo: Laura Skelding / American-Statesman

Breakfast at Elizabeth Street Cafe. Photo: Laura Skelding / American-Statesman

FOOD: Breakfast options grow in Austin. Sample taken from Matthew Odam‘s invaluable guide in the American-Statesman:  “People call breakfast the most important meal of the day, but we just love talking about brunch. Maybe it’s because people brunch on the weekend, when most folks have more time to unspool into their day — and drink mimosas. Maybe it’s because people want every last second of sleep during the week and start their days in a frenzy with little time to consider sitting down to eat breakfast. Brunch is sexy; breakfast boring. But some people still appreciate a good breakfast. Maybe you don’t have to work every weekday morning. Maybe you’re taking the day off. Maybe you have a business meeting. Maybe you have the luxury of starting your work day whenever you please. For you, I offer this list of 18 restaurants in Austin where you can get a good sit-down breakfast. Not brunch. And not just on the weekends.”

WEB081715 aus fit citySPORTS: The first six miles of the Violet Crown Trail have opened. Sample taken from Pam LeBlanc‘s swell story in the American-Statesman: “Just a few hundred yards from U.S. 290, along a new trail that dips into rocky ravines and winds along Gaines Creek, chirping birds and rustling leaves swallow the sounds of traffic. Last Friday, the city unveiled the first 6 miles of the long-awaited Violet Crown Trail, which ultimately will stretch 30 miles from downtown Austin to Hays County. A pair of stone pillars, a small shade awning, a trail map and a park bench mark the trailhead, tucked just to the east of Spec’s in Sunset Valley. This inaugural section of trail weaves through thickets of ashe juniper and oak and clatters over limestone “What you hear here is nature,” says George Cofer, executive director of the Hill Country Conservancy, a nonprofit land trust that works to preserve open space and has spearheaded the effort to build the trail. “In the early morning it’s extraordinary.”