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Photo courtesy of 2nd Street District

Mark your calendars, because Santa Claus is coming to the 2nd Street District.

On Saturday, December 3, from 12-4 pm, Austinites are invited to celebrate the holidays with the 2nd Street District during the Santa on 2nd holiday event at the W Austin hotel.

Guests can snap their annual photos with Santa for free (prints and digital copies will be provided), create holiday crafts, and enjoy hot non-alcoholic beverages and cookies.

You can also sneak away to the pop-up Apres-Ski Holiday Bar at W Austin, a cozy ski-themed lounge where you can enjoy delicious holiday food, beverages, entertainment, and photo opps.

Be sure to take in the holiday sights, too.

From now through the end of December, enjoy the 2nd Street District’s Holiday Window Walk. This year, the District partnered with professional Texas artists to create holiday-inspired art installations in its retailers’ storefront windows. Participating stores include Bonobos, Luxe Apothetique, and Sneaker Politics.

Visit for the holiday magic and stay for the shopping, dining, and entertainment. With more than 50 businesses, Austin’s 2nd Street District has all your holiday needs (and fun) covered.

Photo courtesy of 2nd Street District

Visit for the holiday magic, stay for the dining, shopping, and fun.

Photo courtesy of Vesper

Check out these cool Rainey Street condos for laidback luxury

ATX Living

On the hunt for your new home in downtown Austin? Vesper is a new high-rise that offers laidback luxury and comfortable living in the historic Rainey Street district.

Think unpretentious luxury with a high-desert Marfa feel and nods to the local nightlife mingled throughout the building. Vesper has a sleek, utilitarian, earthy feel that makes it easy to call home.

Its 41 stories offer penthouse and one- and two-bedroom units, available in 26 individual floorplans and three curated color schemes.

And there's so much more outside your door. From the 24-hour concierge to the 41st-floor pool and rooftop lounge, Vesper’s amenities exist to enhance your living experience, day in, and day out.

The building boasts coworking spaces, a bike room and repair station, resident lounge and liquor lockers, a dog run and wash, and fitness studio and yoga studios.

Between the bustling downtown scene, iconic Rainey street bars and restaurants, and local hot spots, the opportunities for fun out and about are endless. You're also near Waller Beach, the Colorado River, and the Butler Hike and Bike Trail.

Interested in seeing it for yourself? Email info@vesperatx.com or call 512-600-2231 for more info and to set up a tour.


Photo courtesy of Vesper

Vesper offers 41 stories of laidback luxury.

Photo by JPM Real Estate Photography

This Dripping Springs dream home honors its gorgeous natural setting

On the Market

Designed by the award-winning David Webber of Webber + Studio, 9500 Reese Cove in Dripping Springs seamlessly blends sleek design with the surrounding natural landscape. Located on the edge of extensive ranch lands, this modern home is open and bright but with excellent privacy and views that are not to be missed.

Floor-to-ceiling exterior glass walls are integrated with oversized Western Sliders for a seamless transition to the outside. Polished concrete floors run throughout, and all paneled walls have integrated picture rails.

Custom cabinetry and built-ins complement quartzite countertops, plus all Miele appliances in the kitchen. Stay cool with Haiku ceiling fans or cozy up with the Malm wood-burning fireplace.

All told, the 4,100-square-foot home features three bedrooms, three bathrooms, three living areas, and an office. There is also a two-car garage, two-car carport, and additional surface parking for guest overflow.

And you'll definitely be entertaining in this home, thanks to the pool with sun pavilion and 1,400 square feet of covered patios. Custom hardscape and landscape integrates well with the natural setting, using all native plant selections.

Sustainability and energy efficiency were top of mind when building, from the solar-powered property gate to the rainwater catchment system to the aluminum louvres oriented to block direct sun and enhance the views.

The home sits on 1.88 acres of private land and looks over 700 acres of ranchland and beyond. Located off Hamilton Pool Road, just west of 12, it's only minutes to Bee Cave, Hamilton Pool, or the Hill Country. The impressive LTISD school system is another plus.

Listed by Ed Hughey with Moreland Properties, the home is listed for $3,250,000. Email ed@moreland.com or call 512-940-0950 for more information.

Photo by JPM Real Estate Photography

It sits on 1.88 extremely private acres.

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Onscreen intrigue in Don't Worry Darling blunts off-screen drama

Movie Review

Opportunities for female directors have only been growing in recent years, a development that’s taken too long to happen. One of the beneficiaries of this sea change is Olivia Wilde, who made her directorial debut with 2019’s well-received Booksmart. Now she’s back with her highly-anticipated (for an assortment of reasons) sophomore film, Don’t Worry Darling.

The film stars Florence Pugh as Alice Chambers, who lives in a utopian small desert town with her husband, Jack (Harry Styles), who works for a company called Victory. The town has all the trappings of an idyllic version of the 1950s, from the style of the houses to the cars to the way the wives dote on their husbands. But right away it’s clear there’s something off about the town, especially since everyone seems to hold up the company’s leader, Frank (Chris Pine), as some kind of infallible person.

Olivia Wilde and Nick Kroll in Don't Worry Darling Olivia Wilde and Nick Kroll in Don't Worry Darling Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Alice starts to sense the cracks in town’s veneer, and gradually tests the boundaries that everyone else adheres to faithfully. Her suspicions only deepen when another wife disappears, and anyone with whom she chooses to confide gaslights her into thinking that she’s losing her mind. Trying to figure out what’s real or not drives her to do many things that threaten the whole town’s way of life.

Collaborating once again with Booksmart writer Katie Silberman, Wilde creates a mysterious and tension-filled film that is about as far away from the revelry of her previous film as you could get. There are times when the story starts to become too enigmatic for its own good, but Wilde seems to know exactly when to add on a new layer to keep viewers interested in where the story will take them next.

Wilde and Silberman also continue to explore gender politics through this well-told allegory. The actions of Alice and the other women (which include Wilde, Gemma Chan, Kiki Layne, Kate Berlant, and others) come off as Stepford Wives-ish, but they also act in ways inconsistent with people who have been brainwashed. When secrets finally start to be revealed, the story takes on a deeper meaning of male insecurity and female empowerment.

Chris Pine in Don't Worry Darling Chris Pine in Don't Worry Darling Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

The behind-the-scenes technical team greatly aids in the mood of the film. The production design by Katie Byron is impeccable, and it and the desert landscape are shot extremely well by cinematographer Matthew Libatique. Especially standing out is the score by John Powell, who utilizes unconventional sounds and voices to create music that elevates every scene to which it’s attached.

Pugh has already been a star for several years, and she shows yet again why she’s held in such high esteem. She brings just the right level of angst, confusion, and anger to the evolution of her character, making her compelling throughout. Styles acquits himself well in his biggest role to date, never coming off as just a singer pretending to be an actor. Pine is also great as the creepy-but-charismatic Frank, demonstrating skills that every good cult leader needs.

Don’t Worry Darling holds a lot more than what it shows on the surface, making it a great second film for the talented Wilde. With a proven ability to jump between genres effortlessly, she should be given many more opportunities to tell stories on the big screen.

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Don't Worry Darling opens in theaters on September 23.

Don't Worry Darling | Official Trailer www.youtube.com

Photo courtesy of Kuper Sotheby's International Realty

Barton Creek: Homes for every taste and style, with activities to go with

Your Expert Guide

There are so many great places to live in Austin that it helps to have an expert on your side. The Neighborhood Guide presented by Kuper Sotheby's International Realty gives you insider access from the agents who live and work there, providing in-the-know info about your possible new community.

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Sixth-generation native Texan Debbie Lowe has lived in Austin for more than 20 years with her husband Chris, who is a native Austinite. Chris and Debbie, with some other partners, began building spec homes in the Barton Creek neighborhoods in 2013.

But it was when her close friends asked for help in finding their dream home that Lowe realized her true passion lay in real estate — and what better area to concentrate on than her own?

"Living in Barton Creek has made me very knowledgeable of it," the Kuper Sotheby's International Realty agent says. "I love the golf, food, neighbors, and schools nearby. No matter if you are active or want to simply relax, Barton Creek has something for all."

Since becoming a real estate agent, Lowe has continuously been among the top producers within her brokerage and is a former member of the Elite 25 Austin and Luxury League.

She draws from her personal experience with home building and staging to advise her clients on how best to approach their home purchase or sale, while her effective negotiation skills help them get the best possible price.

Lowe, her husband, and their four boys are very active in their Barton Creek neighborhood — "you're sure to run into us here," she says. Besides being involved with Austin Ridge Bible Church and Young Life, they support such Austin charities as Habitat for Humanity, Austin Area Food Bank, and Boys and Girls Clubs.

Lowe offered up a few of her personal favorites about life in Barton Creek. Here's her guide to the area:

Where to eat & drink
From an elegant meal at Bob's Steak & Chop House or sipping a drink poolside while enjoying the amazing Hill Country views at Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa, Barton Creek has something for every day and every vibe.

Where to play
If you'd rather be active than eat, check out the four golf courses at the Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa along with the tennis facilities and pools. Make time for a massage or facial at the Mokara Spa after.

Of course, you can't overlook the proximity to Lake Travis and Lake Austin and multiple hiking trails that criss-cross the area, providing several breathtaking ways to become one with nature.

"I am a current trustee/board member of Zach Theatre, and enjoy watching the amazing talent on display there," Lowe says.

Where to live
"Barton Creek offers all tastes and styles, from traditional to Spanish to modern," says Lowe. Homes can range from small, one-story dwellings to mansions of 10,000-square-feet or more, with both older, more established buildings and newer construction.

A significant sale of Lowe's — 7609 Escala — is one such jaw-dropping estate, with a backyard that featured incredible Hill Country views.

"We have worked with Debbie for years and have been involved in a number of real estate deals with her," says one client. "She is incredibly insightful about the Austin housing market and knows everything that is happening in Barton Creek, Westlake (Eanes), Regents, and Travis Country. She has found us amazing properties both on and off the market and has worked miracles for us! She’s a smart negotiator and always mindful of helping us make a solid investment decision."

"Debbie is the most wonderful, knowledgeable, and honest real estate professional that you could have in your corner," agrees another client.

"While the housing search can be quite challenging at times due to the competitive market, we have relied on Debbie to be our rock," says a third. "What we love most about her — even more than the fact that she is extensively dialed into the west Austin housing market — is that she is honest and fair in everything that she does. She gives a direct and honest opinion, negotiates deals fairly, is incredibly patient, never uses pressure tactics, and truly has the clients' best interest at heart. I couldn’t recommend Debbie more highly."

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Debbie Lowe lives, works, and plays in Barton Creek. For more information on buying and selling a home in the area, click here, email debbie.lowe@kupersir.com, or call 512-289-4167.

Photo courtesy of Moreland Properties

Two of Austin's top real estate firms join forces in big merger

Better Together

Two is better than one, especially when it comes to high-performing real estate firms.

Wilson & Goldrick has joined Moreland Properties, Greater Austin's leading boutique brokerage and the region’s exclusive Forbes Global Properties member.

Founded over 35 years ago by respected industry veterans Cindy Goldrick and Diane Wilson, Wilson & Goldrick has consistently ranked as one of Austin’s top 25 real estate firms since 1997.

“On the heels of our Forbes Global Properties announcement last month, this new partnership only further solidifies our position as the leading independent luxury brokerage firm in Austin,” says Sarah Railey, COO of Moreland Properties. “We know that Cindy’s decades of experience navigating the local luxury market and exceptional commitment to client service will be an asset to the Moreland Properties team.”

Wilson & Goldrick’s team of agents will join the Moreland Properties real estate professionals, bringing a seamless transaction experience to both buyers and sellers.

“This new partnership is a testament to our company’s culture and proven track record of success,” says owner Emily Moreland. “We know and respect the agents at Wilson & Goldrick and look forward to welcoming them into Moreland.”

Moreland Properties’ stellar track record has resulted in consistent accolades, including The Residential Real Estate Awards, The Platinum Top 50, Luxury League, and Top 10 Women Led Companies in Austin, as well as individual agent inclusions in the Elite 25 Austin.

“As we join forces with the Moreland Properties team, I know that we will continue to deliver an unparalleled home-buying experience for Austin’s residents,” says Cindy Goldrick. “I am excited to enter this new chapter in our company’s rich history.”

Earlier this summer, Moreland Properties joined Forbes Global Properties’ network of top brokerages. The exclusive worldwide residential real estate partner of Forbes, Forbes Global Properties provides branding and marketing services to the world’s premier real estate firms and is represented by more than 12,500 real estate agents across 19 countries in approximately 400 locations.

Emily Moreland and Cindy Goldrick.

Photo courtesy of Moreland Properties
Emily Moreland and Cindy Goldrick.
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Austin Pets Alive and Austin Animal Center launch $31 pet adoptions for the holidays

New home for the holidays

Two Austin organizations are looking to get local pets into their "furever" homes this holiday season. In a special December promotion, Austin Pets Alive! (APA) and Austin Animal Center are working to get as many animals out of the shelter as possible, by making all adoption fees a flat $31.

The promotion runs December 1-31. According to a release, APA's director of lifesaving operations, Stephanie Bilbro, sees this as a great opportunity to clear out the shelters and make a great impact heading into 2023.

“The holidays are a great time for the Austin community to come together and add to their families. We have so many precious kittens, puppies, cats, and dogs just waiting for their turn to find a family,” said Bilbro. “We hope this is a chance for any family who’s been looking to add a pet to theirs to do so right in the middle of the holiday season. We know Austin is in the upper echelon when it comes to animal welfare. We hope this promo sets us and AAC up for a successful end to 2022 and a fast start going into 2023.”

Both shelters are also seeking fosters and volunteers throughout the holiday season, for Austinites looking to help the shelters without making a long-term commitment.

APA has two locations, one at 1156 W. Cesar Chavez St., and one in Tarrytown (3118 Windsor Rd.). Both locations operate 12-6 pm daily, except Christmas Eve (12-4 pm), Christmas Day (closed), and New Year’s Eve (12-4 pm). The Austin Animal Center is located at 7201 Levander Loop and is open every day from 11 am-7 pm for adoptions. For holiday hours, AAC will be closing at 5 pm on December 23 and will be closed December 24-26.

'Famous' rooftop igloos return to Austin hot spot for the coolest experience this winter

Stay Cool

There aren’t so many winter wonderlands in Austin during the holiday season, but things get colder at higher elevations. The Hotel Van Zandt fourth-floor rooftop may not be high enough to change the weather, but visitors throughout December are invited to hang out in its self-proclaimed "famous" all-weather igloos, snacking on bites from inside and themed cocktails after the sun goes down.

Each private, six-seat igloo at the “South Pole” contains a Christmas tree, board and card games, festive records, and other cozy holiday decorations. It’s as private as Austin dining gets without completely breaking the bank, but the poolside mini-village of transparent igloos creates a warm feeling of togetherness. And in case it actually does get cold (a Christmas miracle!), the vinyl globes are heated.

It's not just a fun gimmick — as cute as the igloos are, Geraldine's is a great foodie destination. Visitors can expect (strong) drinks like the “Dandy Andes,” a minty chocolate mix of Grey Goose vodka, crème de cacao, crème de menthe, and matcha tea. “Santa on a Beach” combines tropical flavors with cinnamon, and other drinks include unusual ingredients like Chartreuse whipped cream, pistachio, and chocolate mole bitters.

Geraldine’s menu focuses on classic Southern cuisine without getting weighed down by tradition; that means a roster of semi-adventurous gourmet comfort foods, like mole birria short ribs, smoked carrots, and salty Brussels sprouts with serranos and mint. Shareables are a good idea, since the igloos are intimate (read: not especially convenient unless you like balancing a dinner plate on the couch).

Two rounds of two-hour seating will be available every night, and reservations will go very fast. As of December 5, there are only a few dates left. Reservations ($100 upfront) entail a $200 minimum on food and beverage, plus a 20 percent service charge. Book on Eventbrite.

Acclaimed Texas chef toasts the Italian liqueur that's perfect for the holidays

The Wine Guy

Editor's note: Long before Chris Shepherd became a James Beard Award-winning chef, he developed enough of a passion for wine to work at Brennan's of Houston as a sommelier. He maintains that interest to this day and covers it regularly in a column for CultureMap's Houston site. Here, he talks not about wine, but the perfect after-dinner sip.

All right, team! Listen up! I’m going to give you some very important holiday information to help you get through all of the parties, family gatherings, and large festive dinners. We are not going to talk about wine today. We’re going to talk about another love of mine — the life-saving amaro.

What is amaro, you ask? It’s an Italian herbal liqueur that’s traditionally consumed post-meal as a digestif. Think of it this way: you start your meal with an aperitif — could be a martini, Campari, or Aperol spritz — to get your palate going and your body ready to eat. After dinner, amaro will help you get through the rest of your night. This elixir will magically and quickly break down everything you just consumed.

Most amari are from Italy, but fortunately new producers with similar styles are popping up all over the world. Some are sweeter, some are more bitter. You just have to find the style you like. Producers don’t traditionally tell you what’s in their amaro, because most of them are made up of dozens of herbs and spices. It’s all about trial and error to find the one you love.

I drink it neat, but some people drink it on the rocks. More and more, you’re seeing amari in cocktails, too.

The amari selection at our house is awesome. My wife and I are firm believers in this beverage as a night cap, and it’s even become part of my regiment pre-dinner as a spritz. Kill two birds, you know?

Unfortunately, not a lot of restaurants carry multiple amari, so it’s up to you guys to get this trend moving. The more you ask for it, the more they’ll stock it.

Our No. 1 go to at home? Montenegro. It’s easy to find, and it’s easy drinking. It has flavors of vanilla and orange, but it’s not too sweet and not too bitter. It’s had the same recipe since 1885, and I hope they never change it.

My wife’s favorite is Braulio. This spirit is from the Italian Alps and aged in Slavonian casks. Using more medicinal herbs and fruits means it skews more bitter than Montenegro, but it has a nice sweetness at the end.

A newish player in the amari game is Amaro Nonino. The Nonino family is historically one of the best grappa producers in the world — they’ve been distilling grappa since 1897 — but they didn’t start to produce their namesake amaro until 1992. (By newish, you get what I mean.) It has lots of honey, vanilla, licorice, and orange flavors. It’s a tad less sweet than most, but I think it’s fantastic.

Pasubio is really different from other amari. If you’re a fan of blueberries, this is for you. It literally tastes like crushed blueberries.

The next two are really cool and unusual, because they're made here in the U.S. An all-time favorite is Southern Amaro from High Wire Distilling Co. in Charleston. Yaupon is one of the main characteristics, which is found all over Texas.

High Wire built its reputation on using regionally grown and foraged ingredients. If you’re ever in Charleston, you should stop into the distillery and say hi to Scott and Ann! Also, try some of their Jimmy Red Corn whiskey. Actually, everything they make is delightful.

Heirloom Pineapple Amaro is made in Minneapolis. To me, this is fantastically bitter but also tastes like roasted pineapple in a glass. One of my new favorites, for sure.

Now, here’s a helpful tidbit of info. You may have heard of fernet. That’s a general term for an amaro with very little to no sweetness. Branca is a producer that makes fernet, and it’s the most well-known. Search out others as well, because they’re all pretty cool.

Almost everything I listed can be found at most liquor stores. Don’t be afraid to try something. Yes, sometimes it tastes like taking your medicine. But I’ll bet the smell of Jägermeister penetrates your early 20s, and surprise — that’s a style of amaro as well.