Farm to Table Brunch

Mike and I spent a beautiful, sunny – Sunday morning experiencing a new restaurant  in Historic Downtown Bryan, Texas.  Housed inside the rustic and recently restored Ice House on Main, Ronin Restaurant brings new life to the 1912 building.

For many years, Chef Brian Light and his wife Amanda have connected our community through local food production and provided a venue where guests can enjoy the traditions of a simpler life at Ronin Farms. The outdoor event venue under the Texas sky will make you fall in love with the Farm to Table concept.  Ronin has now created a second space where our community can experience this same concept in their new location in Historic Downtown Bryan.

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Guests at the Ronin Restaurant can choose from a variety of seating, including outdoor tables with a view of  Historic Downtown Bryan, a indoor community style table or simply a seat at the bar.

The menu selection was carefully crafted, providing us with the feeling that we were out on the farm and even included recommendations of drink pairings for each menu item.

Mike selected the Texas Wagyu Chicken Fried Steak and Farm Egg with Cream Gravy and Roasted Sweet Potato.  Although I helped Mike finish most of his delicious Wagyu Chicken Fried Steak, I went with a sweeter selection for my entree- the Cinnamon Pecan French Toast with Spiced Apple Compote and Spiced Caramel – and it was as delightful as the name.

Although the food and venue were amazing, please note that the pricing for us would be for special occasions only and not a weekly stop.  Based on your budget, I would recommend reviewing the menu pricing before dining.  I definitely see this venue as the perfect spot to host a bridal brunch, baby shower or even a birthday celebration with your closest girlfriends.

The Ronin Restaurant also has seasonal hours, so be sure to check their website for the most up to date hours.  If you are dining this Winter, the hours for Ronin Restaurant are:

Dinner 5pm-10pm
Thursday, Friday & Saturday

Brunch 11am-2pm
Every Sunday

Happy Brunching xx Jennifer

Home Sweet Home

I’m officially moved in, semi-unpacked and getting back into my “normal routine.”  I will admit I have driven the wrong way home from work a few times just out of habit but quickly realized…oops I don’t live here anymore.

One of the feelings I hadn’t expected was the huge since of pride that comes along with owning my first home.  A year ago, I didn’t even think this was a possibility but now that I’m in it, living it, I am so happy I took the leap.  I may have a few extra grey hairs but that’s nothing my hairdresser can’t fix.

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I also feel like more of an adult, that seems silly to say out loud, but right or wrong, I do.  Spending my Saturdays wandering the aisles of Home Depot or sketching out my elaborate backyard Spring DIY projects, it’s been a fun and exciting experience.

In meeting my neighbors, so far I have received rose bush pruning tips by the retiree on the next block over, and I’ve even met several of the neighborhood dogs – Jack has approved and is looking forward to his next playdate with his new furry friends.

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Here are a few lessons I learned after move in…

Ask friends for help. One of the best moving decisions I made was to invite friends over to help unpack.  Now they may not see it that way, but it was a huge time saver when it came to my kitchen.  We had the entire kitchen unpacked out of boxes and in cabinets in an hour.  I always think organizing a new kitchen is hard because you’re not sure how to set it up.  But having five women help organize the kitchen was a life saver.  It was also just a lot of fun having friends come over and hangout.  We played music in the background, ate sandwiches and unpacked – I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

I should have taken notes. This is a little bit like taking your first college exam and flunking it.  When you are in a high stress situation or receiving a lot of information for the first time it’s easy to forget half of everything.  From the final walk through on my house all the way to closing I received a lot of information… most of it started out something like this “Don’t lose this paper, it’s very important.” Or “You will want to fill this out and mail this to ______(fill in the blank).”  So don’t be afraid to take a pen and paper and ask clarifying questions every step of the way.  Here’s your second chance to be the straight A student you never were in college.

Make lists. After moving in I had created a mental list of all of the items in the house of what needed to be fixed or still needed to be done.  This list swam around in my head for days and even kept me up at night.  It’s just good to write it down or create a digital list on your phone or computer.

It doesn’t have to ALL be done today. I really like to knock things out… give me a list and it will be done before noon. I’ve always been that way, I like to just get stuff done even if it kills me or I have to spend the next week catching up on sleep.  After I finally stepped back and made my list of “to dos”, and prioritized them, it really helped me feel more relaxed and I could enjoy my house more.

Change of address. Someone needs to create a button or magic wand for this. I recommend making a list of all of the places you need to change your address starting with the most obvious mail forwarding with USPS.  Others would be your employer, bank accounts and credit cards, updating your driver’s license and most important your Amazon Prime account.

 

Hopefully a few of the lessons I learned will help you with your home purchase.  With home ownership comes new responsibilities, new challenges and new adventures.  I’m excited to see where it takes me.  I’m excited to be home.  – xx Jennifer

Southern Brunch

The Brazos Valley is quickly becoming the Southern Brunch capital of the World, y’all… I am seriously convinced of this!  With the continued growth of our community we have attracted a few new eateries that are making my gym membership quiver.

Sundays are for Jesus and brunch with my girls, (pause I’m making a T-shirt now with this quote).  This summer we have had a few new spots pop up that you need to add to your weekend brunch plans asap.  First on the list is Stella Southern Cafe.

A fun fact about the name of the restaurant, it was actually named after the owner Michael Lair’s 1995 Dodge Dakota club cab with a 5.2 liter V8 engine, Stella.  A part of every road trip adventure he took, Stella now lives on through the name of his southern cafe.

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Photo Credit: Clare Rowe

Walking into the restaurant you are immediately greeted by hosts who provide you with a menu while waiting in line to order your food.  Don’t worry it’s not a long wait, but you will be tempted by all of the great gift items and homemade jams as you make your way to the register.

I had a tough decision to make because everything on the menu just looked amazing.  I decided to go with a more traditional breakfast which included eggs, bacon, grits (with cheese of course) and I would be crazy not to try their homemade biscuits with mimosa jam.  I didn’t know that my favorite breakfast drink could be made into a jam, but they found a way!

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The overall dining experience was excellent.  The staff was warm and friends, much like the south.  My friends and I will definitely put the Stella Southern Cafe into our brunch rotation! xx-Jennifer

I said YES…to the Real Estate Agent

I set some pretty big goals at the beginning of the year and one of them was to explore the option of owning my first home, with the long term goal of becoming a real estate investor.  I’ve rented in the Brazos valley for over 17 years (wow) and as I continued to deal with paying high rental prices, a leaky rental property roof and all of the college students…. I finally threw my hands up and said enough is enough.  It’s time to move on, move forward and take the leap.

Ok so the decision to buy wasn’t exactly that easy.  Last week I shared with y’all a few home buying tips and lessons I’ve learned throughout this process. But one of the big takeaways for me was interviewing a real estate agent.  I will admit I failed at this part, that’s why I am sharing with you today, the top 5 questions you should ask your potential Real Estate Agent.

Bonus: I’m also sharing a fun exercise you can do that will help you answer questions that a real estate agent will ask you during your first meeting.

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Choosing your Real Estate Agent:  My recommendation is to choose three agents to interview… ask a friends for a referral or use the Dave Ramsey Endorsed Local Provider (ELP) guide.  Once you have narrowed your search down, set up face-to-face meetings.  It is so important to meet your potential agent in person.  I know this is hard to do in today’s world of technology, but trust me you will know within 10 to 15 minutes of meeting the agent if you will be good business partners.

Here are five questions to ask your agent to get the conversation started:

  1. How long have you lived in (insert community name here) community?
  2. How long have you been in the real estate business?
  3. What does the home buying process look like with you?
  4. How will you match my must haves/wish list items with a potential home?
  5. How do you communicate? (via email, phone, in person)

Preparing to interview your potential real estate agent is important, but you should also be prepared to answer a few questions of your own…

What is your timeline?

Have a good idea of when you would like to be moved into your house and when you plan to close.  If you are currently renting and are nearing the end of your lease agreement before you can get into a new home, I would encourage you to speak to your landlord about the option of going month-to-month or extending your lease if you think that would even be an option.  I setup a time to meet with my property manager and explained my circumstances and she was completely accommodating.  The key thing is to just communicate.

What is your budget?

There are new costs of living when you own a home that you need to be aware of outside of your monthly payment, such as PMI (private mortgage insurance) if you are not putting 20% down, home owners insurance and property taxes.  If you have a lender in mind I would recommend speaking with him/her before starting to look at homes.  You don’t want to fall in love with a home that you will never be able to pay for in the end.  Your lender will also provide you with a Pre-Qualification Letter that you will need before placing an offer on a home.  This is a document that shows the seller that you are serious and have the ability to purchasing their home.

Tip:  When you are pre-qualified, the amount will most likely be over your budget, so make sure you have done the math and it is a monthly mortgage payment that you can honestly afford.  I was pre-qualified way out of my comfort zone, so I had the lender decrease the amount listed on the pre-qualification letter, this will help you when negotiating with a seller.  For example if you are pre-qualified to buy a home for $250,000 , but know you only want to spend $200,000, you will want the letter to reflect the budgeted amount. 

Do you have a lender?

My recommendation would be to meet with a lender before starting the home buying process, but it’s not necessary, it just depends on what stage you are at in your home buying process.  For me I am very much a gatherer of information, then I will think on the information for awhile and then make the decision.  So I chose my real estate agent first and then selected a lender.  You’re agent will most likely have two to three lenders that he/she works with and can make a referral to you.

Is there an area in town that you would like to focus your home buying search?

Have a good sense of the neighborhoods that you are interested in and even the ones that you don’t want to live in.  As a single person, I was not concerned with school zones/districts as much as I was on location to my employer and family members who also live in the area.  Another thing to consider is new developments around the particular neighborhood and does it align with your needs, such as grocery stores, restaurants and retail.

What are your Must Haves/Wish List/Deal Breakers?

I’ve put together a fun exercise that will help you to have this ready at hand when asked this question.  My real estate agent provided me with a listing that was in my budget and asked me to basically give a review of the home.  He asked me to tell him everything I liked about the house and everything I didn’t like about the house.  While reviewing this home it allowed me to clearly formulate my must haves, wish list items and also the deal breakers.  Here is a free download to help you navigate your first home time buying experience,  Growing Up Texas_ Yes to the House, Exercise !

Happy house hunting! xx- Jennifer

The Lake Walk Town Center: a hidden gem in Bryan

Joining our community in 2017, the Lake Walk Town Center in Bryan has created a wonderful retreat and gathering place for local residents and visitors.

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View from the 75 foot “Lookout” over the Lake Walk Town Center

Saturday mornings I enjoy my short walk to this newly created venue for sunrise yoga with SolYoga.  Feeling relaxed and fully renewed, I meet up with my girlfriends for a cup of Joe across the street at P.O.V. Coffee.  Sitting outside on the patio, I take in take in all the beauty the lake walk offers while catching up with friends.

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Photo Credit:  Lake Walk Town Center, SolYoga.

Tucked away before you enter into the Traditions Club & Community, the Lake Walk Town Center creates a family friendly environment offering you 10 different visitor experiences, 4 of which are completely free!

The Lake Walk is complete with a event lawn, water feature, a 75 foot tower perfect for overlooking the city or gazing at the stars.  Beyond the lake, The Stella Hotel adds another element unlike anything in the Bryan-College Station community.  The boutique hotel is perfect for a staycation, romantic getaway, or even a fun girls night out.  One of my favorite features of the hotel is the speakeasy inspired cocktail lounge, Hershel’s.  When I started my blog this was actually the location of our first onsite photo shoot.  Some of the best shots Shelby took were in the bathroom – yes I’m serious.

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Photo Credit:  Shelby Tiska Photography

From cocktail hour to poolside, The Stella Hotel pool cabanas and day passes are available, if you’re looking for a retreat like atmosphere to cool off this summer.

The Campfire Grill also featured inside The Stella Hotel provides guests with gourmet “farm to fork” meals and another outdoor seating area perfect for cozy conversations next to a campfire inspired fire pits.   I have not yet had the opportunity to stay at the hotel, but it is definitely on my staycation list of places to stay!

The Lake Walk not only provides special events, a beautiful hotel, coffee for days, but they have recently added a shopping experience with a local boutique, The Coterie.  The friendly staff and owner are always there to greet you and help you find your best style.  Full disclosure my wallet cringes a little every time I walk through the door because it’s impossible to walk out empty handed.

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Photo Credit:  Shelby Tiska Photography

This summer, on Friday nights, you can find me at the Lake Walk enjoying their summer concert series and food trucks with friends.  And if you’re looking for something to do during the week stop by The Local on Tuesday’s to explore the popup market featuring local vendors, food trucks and live music.

Here are a complete list of everything the Lake Walk Town Center has to offer, including links of all of the wonderful things to do around the Lake Walk and Stella Hotel!  I have enjoyed the Lake Walk and I hope you can plan your next staycation or visit to Bryan-College Station!  xx-Jennifer

  1. Paddle Boarding on the Lake – visit the Stella Hotel for rentals
  2. The Lookout, 75 ft tower overlooking the city
  3. Poolside Cabanas @ The Stella Hotel
  4. P.O.V Coffee on the Patio
  5. Saturday FREE Yoga by the Lake, 8 AM
  6. Hershel’s Bar @ The Stella Hotel
  7. The Local – popup market featuring local vendors, food trucks and live music
  8. Coterie Boutique
  9. Eats & Beats Summer Concert Series
  10. Campfire Grill