10 Questions with Archie J Jenkins, Owner of 180 Lyfe

 

During Black History Month, I’m interviewing Black business owners and founders to help bring more eyes to their products and services and also to celebrate them. My final interview features Archie J Jenkins, the owner of 180 Lyfe. I asked him 10 questions. Keep reading to find his answers.

 

How did your business come to be? What was your motivation?

My motivation comes directly from my past. In my early adult years, I was charged with a few felony convictions. During my incarceration, I began reflecting on what mattered most to me and 180 Lyfe was created. I’ve always been a visionary, but once I wrote the vision and made it plain, things began to shift in my life.

Giving back to others has always been a passion, but I got to a point where I decided to give back to myself. I knew in order to walk in my purpose, I had to get outside my comfort zone and truly change my mindset.

 

Did you face any adversities or obstacles in the beginning?

I am a creative and entrepreneur with ADHD but I’ve never let it define or cripple me. Also, remembering that being my true authentic self is what has gotten me this far, not faking it or being what others expected me to be. I refused to be put in a box. 

Another obstacle that I’ve had to overcome was mistakes I’ve made with finances. However, I’ve learned from each and every one of them. When it comes to business, I believe that the key to entrepreneurship is budgeting and money management. For example, I know that just because you earn $6,000.00 one month, does not mean you go out and buy a Mercedes Benz because you may only make $1,000.00 the following month. That is the risk with entrepreneurship as a whole, nothing is guaranteed.

 

Did you have a support system starting out?

180 Lyfe was started from the ground up. I took my time to build/nurture relationships, grow my network, and collaborate with other business owners until I was able to stand on my own. It is my desire to be a valuable resource for the community.

 

What void would you like to fill in the Black community with your business?

I am a visionary, and I am passionate about helping other individuals who desire to start a business but do not know where to start. I want to inspire my community and show them that they can take a little and build a lot with the right resources. 

I am also a Youth Advocate, and I am especially interested in the holistic development of our young Black men. I want to help them find their voice because I know the huge impact it can have on one’s life. I would like to use motivational speaking as an outlet for 180 Lyfe to reach the masses.

 

How do you keep yourself motivated to keep going?

I made a commitment to myself and my dreams. A commitment that my God given gifts have laid the groundwork for. With 180 Lyfe flourishing and thriving, I’ve learned a lot, the most important thing is that with hard work, persistence, faith in God and prayer, all things are possible. 

Who, if anyone, has inspired you during your journey?

There are many Greats that have inspired me but one person that stands out is Tyler Perry. Seeing someone that looks like me and has overcome everything from homelessness to rejection. When I learned that early on in his career, he invested his last in a stage play and no one showed up, it made me value his resilience even more. I admire anyone who eliminates the excuses and has the steadfast faith to never give up.

 

How can we, the community, help you exceed your current level?

The community can help me elevate by supporting my events and spreading the word about the 180 movement. Whatever I produce, my goal is to inspire, whether it’s through my magazine, my affirmations book, or a motivational speech, I need help bringing more visibility and exposure to the 180 brand.

Do you have any announcements or good news you’d like to share?

Last year, I was awarded Entrepreneur of the Year and that really gave me some great momentum at the start of this year to maximize all of the great connections I’ve made the previous year. On April 9th, I am bringing the 1st Annual Creative Connections Conference to Houston, TX. This conference will truly embody the “No Creative Left Behind” motto with panel discussions, spoken word performances, networking, live music, book signings, extraordinary vendors, and more.

We hope that this conference will bring forth fruitful relationships, collaboration, and networking opportunities for everyone that is involved. 

What’s one piece of advice you’d give someone starting the business owner/entrepreneurial journey?

 

BE CONSISTENT AND SHOW UP NO MATTER WHAT!

 

How can we find you to give our support? What’s your website and social media info?

You all can find me at www.180lyfe.com where you are able to shop, support, or leave a review. Follow me on Instagram at 180lyfe_180show. For booking inquiries, please email 180lyfe180show@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

Thank you, Archie, for this great interview! Be sure to check out the 180 Lyfe website to see everything they have to offer!

 

10 Questions with Viral TikTok Photographer, Michael T Davis

 

During Black History Month, I’m interviewing Black business owners and founders to help bring more eyes to their products and services and also to celebrate them. My next interview is with Michael T. Davis, owner of Michael T. Davis Photography, who recently went viral on TikTok. I asked him 10 questions. Below are his answers.

 

How did your business come to be? What was your motivation?

I photographed my first wedding in Philadelphia, on August 20, 2011, which was also my 1yr wedding anniversary, and my wife has yet to let me live it down. It came about because they saw some of my work on Facebook and decided to reach out. The experience was such a blast! I learned so much and really enjoyed the entire process. Prior to this event, I’ve never photographed a wedding before. So it was a leap of faith that they loved my work and trusted that I would do a great job.

11 yrs later, I photograph weddings full-time, educate others on how to run profitable photography businesses, speak at photography conferences and on podcasts, etc. Some would consider me an expert in the industry. I just consider myself a storyteller and wedding photographer

 

Did you face any adversities or obstacles in the beginning?

The biggest obstacle was learning about the industry. I didn’t know anything about weddings before photographing my first one. So, I did tons of research on timelines, the do’s and don’ts, gear, etiquette, etc. After my first wedding, I began to bring my camera to weddings when I was a guest and photographed that.

About 1-2 yrs after that I was approached by a wedding company in Baltimore to join their team. It was here where I gained the much needed experience and portfolio. I was a 2nd photographer (one who assists the main photographer) for about a year. Then I was promoted as the main photographer. I developed a close relationship with the owners of the company and began to get a better insight on the business side as well.

 

Did you have a support system starting out?

Starting out, I mostly relied on my friend network to practice my photographer skills. They were great at getting in front of the camera so that I can refine my techniques. My wife was, and still is, my biggest advocate. She has been extremely supportive both mentally and physically. Without her, I would probably have never made it because imposter syndrome is so hard to get over without the proper people in your corner.

 

What void would you like to fill in the Black community with your business?

I want to preserve the stories of black families. One of the largest gaps in our community is that we pass down our verbal stories but not the visual ones. I find that it’s mostly because as a whole we don’t prioritize documenting our journey as much as our white counterparts. I want to change that narrative. As a storyteller and photographer, I am using my talents and skills to help black families, not only take more photographs, but hang them on their walls and shelves. Our children need to see themselves hanging on the walls and when they look through albums.

 

How do you keep yourself motivated to keep going?

I surround myself with the right people. I have people in my corner who are further along in the industry, as well as those who are a few steps behind me. This allows me to stay inspired and inspire others in the process. It allows me to practice humility and still grow as an artist and an educator. 

The 2nd biggest motivation is my family. I want to redefine what success looks like for my children. I want them to believe that they have options and that it’s possible to do what you love and be profitable at the same time. They are watching all of my accomplishments as well as setbacks, and it’s important for them to witness what entrepreneurship looks like in real-life, not just in theory.

Who, if anyone, has inspired you during your journey?

My biggest inspiration has always, and continues to be my wife. We had our first child when she was 19. She never took a break from college. She even continued on to get her PhD from Johns Hopkins. Now she is one of the foremost scholars of the history of Black women athletics in the 20th century. Her determination to always push forward, even through the darkest times, keeps me motivated. I push her and she pushes me to be the best for our children, our crafts, and ourselves.

 

How can we, the community, help you exceed your current level?

The best way to help is to hire me and tell others about the work that I do. As a storyteller and photographer, I follow my couples’ journey from the aisle to their 1st born graduating college and beyond. I am my family’s photographer for life.

Do you have any announcements or good news you’d like to share?

This past week, one of my weddings went viral on TikTok. It has had over 7 million views within a 4-day span. I’m so excited that I get to share my work with millions of people around the world! Watch it here.

 

What’s one piece of advice you’d give someone starting the business owner/entrepreneurial journey?

You can’t do everything well. Invest in yourself. Hire a mentor. Outsource where and when you can. This will allow you to only focus on the things that matter most to you, while everything else is working in the background. This will also help avoid burnout and lead to sustainability and longevity.

How can we find you to give our support? What’s your website and social media info?

website: www.mtdphotography.com

IG: @mtdphotography1914

tiktok: @mtdphotography

FB: Michael T Davis Photography

 

 

 

I’d like to thank Mr. Davis for taking the time to do this interview. Be sure to follow him on social media for more behind the scenes content, and head to his website to book him for your next photography session.

10 Questions with Tanya Walker, Founder of Black Women Who Kayak+

 

During Black History Month, I’m interviewing Black business owners and founders to help bring more eyes to their products and services and also to celebrate them. Today, I’m featuring Tanya Walker, the founder of BWWK+ (Black Women who Kayak+). I asked her 10 questions. These are her answers.

 

How did your business come to be? What was your motivation?

It was never my intention to start Black Women Who Kayak+ as a business. The idea for Black Women Who Kayak+ came from me trying to get a couple of people to come kayaking with me. There were rarely any people of color I saw, especially women, when I was kayaking. My former fiancé is the one that encouraged me to start a Facebook group to see if anyone would join me.

There was only one woman who showed up at each event I created. I initially considered closing the group page because I was discouraged, but the lady encouraged me to keep it open. Therefore, I created another event. Initially, I did not realize I was up against one of our barriers (which I later addressed by partnering with The British Swim School), the discomfort associated with large bodies of water.

So, this time kayaking, I reached out to Whirlpool Caverns to create the BWWK+  Cave Exploring/Spelunking event. I still didn’t think anyone would attend. However, each lady who RSVP’d came, making it one of the most memorable events we have ever experienced. We did something that people of color typically don’t do. At that moment, I realized that this platform could serve much more purposeful purposes.

My motivation came when I realized that there is nothing that people of color can’t accomplish with the right opportunities, access, supportive environment, and knowledge. In an effort to change those myths about what people of color can and cannot achieve, it became my mission and vision to use my platform to break down those barriers and more. 

 

Did you face any adversities or obstacles in the beginning?

I get asked this in every interview. I always say the same thing. There’s a higher being that chose me for this journey. That higher being has aligned me with some of the most influential people and organizations. Those experiences have not only shown the importance of creating an environment that welcomes all people of color. However, they see that implementing more diversity, equality, and inclusion in their work environments is essential. 

I wouldn’t say this journey has been easy. It hasn’t been. But God has never promised me that my purpose would be easy. My biggest challenge has been learning business skills. Many of us have a general understanding of how to run a business. However, building a successful business takes more than general knowledge. It is imperative for you to acquire more than common knowledge, or you will end up working harder than smarter.

 

Did you have a support system starting out?

Just getting started. No. I had to build it. I had to be able to demonstrate that my vision and determination were genuine. Eventually, my community joined me in this movement after people noticed I had something here. Now I have a strong support system. It makes the challenging days less painful and more manageable. In the context of the support system, I am referring to my family and my team of ladies. My vision and the rewarding feeling of making such a positive impact on so many women and their children keeps us growing and going strong.  

 

What void would you like to fill in the Black community with your business?

I was exposed to all of the things our chapters do now when I was pulled out of my environment. In a Christian youth group, a Caucasian woman noticed an opportunity and purpose where she could serve. Many times, white people come into black communities and expose them to things they would normally not see or experience. These encounters are known as The Great White Hope. I am grateful for my Great White Hope. Because she has saved me in many ways, and the Birth of BWWK+ would not have even existed without her. 

However, the truth about the Great White Hope is, generally speaking, they couldn’t relate to me. They can’t understand why there are barriers and myths that are ingrained in our culture. No. It isn’t necessary to be in poverty to relate to someone who is. Nonetheless, wouldn’t it be nice for the brown or black children to be rescued by someone who truly understands their plight? The intervention would be more impactful if brown or black people were to introduce kids and their mothers to activities that we don’t typically see ourselves in. Also letting them know that we can do those things, too. By providing that level of access, knowledge, and a welcoming environment. It is our goal at Black Women Who Kayak+ to make the mother feel comfortable enough to not only step outside her comfort zone but also bring her family and children.

 

How do you keep yourself motivated to keep going?

What a great question. Watching the looks on the faces of our members who have taken advantage of our partnership with British Swim School to learn how to swim for the first time. Watching kids and their mothers holding space within the community of rowers. Our partnership with The Texas Rowing Center has given them this opportunity. Whenever members who were considering not coming to one of our events tell me how happy they are that they did attend. They did something that we aren’t used to seeing us do. They stepped outside their comfort zone and now feel accomplished and empowered, with other ladies who look like them and possibly felt the same way.

Who, if anyone, has inspired you during your journey?

The woman I call mother. She’s my biggest supporter. She was a single parent whose first priority was feeding, sheltering, and educating her children. It was a difficult task for her to raise two kids on her own, but she did it! I want to target women like my mom and myself and expose them to something outside of their priorities. Something outside of their norm and what you typically don’t see us doing.

 

How can we, the community, help you exceed your current level?

In all established chapters, we still need more volunteers. In addition, we need ladies who want to open local chapters of Black Women Who Kayak+ in their area. More sponsors and donations would also be appreciated. There is definitely interest in partnering with businesses that offer sailing lessons, skiing lessons, wakeboard/surfing lessons, and flying lessons. Provide transportation for members who require it. Any donated gear for camping, hiking, kayaking, golf, tennis, and more would be appreciated. The plus with Black Women Who Kayak is that we can explore our possibilities beyond what a kid or mother desires, and perhaps provide something extortionate as well. It will be a memory and experience they will never forget.

Do you have any announcements or good news you’d like to share?

Definitely! It is always a pleasure to share the great news about BWWK+. We have recently partnered with NOLS. It is a global organization that offers a once-in-a-lifetime type of excursion to those who can afford it. Part of our partnership with them included a 2,330 sponsorship for one of our members to experience an 8-day backpacking trip to Alaska this year. We raffled off this amazing opportunity and one of our faithful members won. However, we’ll be doing a GoFundMe to assist with covering airfare and the opportunity for one of our admins to attend this trip with that member. One of the barriers we face is that we want to embark on these amazing adventures but the cost and there is no other brown or black person participating. So, we don’t want this member to do this trip alone or feel as if she can’t relate to any of the other participants.

Furthermore, if there are any Kentucky residents, on April 15th, 2022, our Kentucky Chapter will hold its first event at the Mammoth Cave National Park. The cave has a rich history. Attendees must be members of BWWK+. 

Last, for any Arkansas residents, our Arkansas Chapter will be kicking off their first event in June at the 50th Buffalo National River Anniversary. Attendees must be members of BWWK+. 

 

What’s one piece of advice you’d give someone starting the business owner/entrepreneurial journey?

No matter what, don’t give up. Giving up is easier than keeping going. There is a big difference between taking a step back to evaluate and adjust your approach or how you approach your plan versus giving up completely. Set realistic goals. Browse all free resources for small businesses. Get started with Score. Score is a really handy resource that’s free. Also, capitalize on what makes your business different. Create a strong support system. Learn to delegate when needed. Understand that you can’t do it alone. You need people to help you and don’t be shy about asking for help. Learn to apologize when you’re wrong. Be willing to be taught. Learn to be and do better. Remember, there’s always a bigger picture. Never allow someone’s negativity to change your direction. Keep your head up and pray… pray for guidance, strength, wisdom, courage, humbleness, and for the right people to be aligned with your purpose. 

How can we find you to give our support? What’s your website and social media info?

Facebook, Meetup, IG, and TikTok are our social media platforms! Alternatively, you can search for Black Women Who Kayak+, and you will find us. Furthermore, we have a website at www.blackwomenwhokayak.com.

Currently, our aim is to target women and their children of all social backgrounds, not men. However, we do have events that encourage women to bring their significant others and additional families. Everyone can still keep up with our progress by liking our Facebook Business page, website, or following us on Instagram. 

 

 

 

Thank you, Tanya, for taking the time to do this interview! Everyone, please make sure to check out the BWWK+ website and social accounts to find a chapter near you.

10 Questions with Aden’s Cookie Factory

Each February, I like to gather several diverse Black business owners to interview and learn about their journey, as well as help others discover their products and services.

My first interview this month is with Aden, the 13 year old owner and baker of Aden’s Cookie Factory, in Little Rock, AR. I asked him a few questions, like what motivated him to start and what keeps him going. Keep reading to see this rising star’s answers.

 

 

How long have you been selling cookies, and do you make them by yourself?

This is my first year selling cookies. I have always helped my mom bake. I started making cookies for my family and they were so good, I decided to sell them. I make all my cookies by myself from scratch.

 

What’s your favorite part about having your own business?

My favorite part about having my own business is tasting each batch of cookies and being able to save money for my future.

 

 

Is anything hard about your new business?

The hardest part about my cookie business is getting the recipe right to have a delicious cookie each time.

 

How do you keep yourself motivated?

My future keeps me motivated. Thinking about building now for the future keeps me going. My mom taught me that what I do today impacts my tomorrow. I hope that what I am doing will have a positive impact on my future.

 

 

Did anyone inspire you to start?

My mom inspired me to start my own business. She started a business. So I had a chance to see what it is like. I thought I was too young to have a business, but it doesn’t matter how old you are.

 

How can we help you grow your business?

You can help by spreading the word about Aden’s Cookie Factory.

 

 

Do you have any announcements or good news you’d like to share?

No announcements at this time.

 

What’s one piece of advice you’d give another young person starting the business owner/entrepreneurial journey?

Don’t be scared, just do it. If you have a dream, go for it. Set a goal, make a plan, and start!

 

 

Do you have a website or social media account where we can follow and support you?

I’m on Facebook at Aden’s Cookie Factory and on Instagram at adenscookiefactory.

 

 

Thank you so much Aden for taking the time to do this interview with me. You’re so intelligent and talented! You’ll definitely go as far as you desire with your business. 

For those looking to support Aden’s Cookie Factory, he currently sells half dozen cookies for $14 and one dozen cookies for $28 in the Little Rock, North Little Rock, and Pine Bluff areas in Arkansas. He doesn’t currently offer shipping, but be on the lookout for that in the future.

 

 

Ask a Local: Things to Do in New York City

 

William and I are visiting New York for the first time and want to squeeze in as many activities as possible during our trip. I was searching must see attractions, restaurants, you name it. Then I thought why not ask someone who actually lives there?? So, I did just that.

I asked my friend Joyce of JoyofMyLife a few questions about things to do in New York City and thought I’d share her answers with you.

 

 

 

Joyce is a content creator from New York. Her YouTube channel, JoyofMyLife, started as a fun way to make videos but has now become a platform where she ultimately wants to empower  her audience to embrace what makes them unique!

As a Black woman working in the tech industry by day, Joyce strives to show on JoyofMyLife that developers or coders don’t have to fit the typical stereotype and can still be successful while having outside interests like fashion and beauty!

What food spots do you recommend (restaurants, stands, etc.)?

Some places off the top of my head include Il Cortile in Little Italy, Industry Kitchen in South Street Seaport, Tacombi in the Financial District, The Cabin NYC in Alphabet City, and BLVD Bistro in Harlem, but there’s so many different types of food in New York that I don’t think you’ll get bored.

What’s  your favorite side of town or borough?

Hmm, that’s a good question. if I had to pick one, I would say the areas surrounding Union Square – West Village, Chelsea, and Flatiron District..

What’s something tourists think about New York that isn’t true?

Hailing a taxi is not as glamorous as it is in the movies. I can’t remember the last time I was in an actual taxi; I always use the subway or walk if it’s close enough.

 

 

Do you have any touristy guilty pleasures? If so, what?

When I was in high school, I went on a class trip to the Top of the Rock (Rockefeller Center). It was such a beautiful view, and I have been meaning to go again. So yeah, basically any type of place with a nice skyline view. The Edge is next on my list of touristy things to do. lol 

Is there a #1 must see attraction that you recommend to visitors?

I always say the High Line since it’s more of a leisurely attraction, and you can visit it on a day where you’re not as jam packed with activities. You can decide if you want to walk the entire length or just part of it, and you are also able to see some nice views of the city and the Hudson River.

The South Street Seaport is nice too, with views of the East River and the Brooklyn Bridge.

 

 

Is New York Pizza really that good?

YES! I haven’t found any pizza that is better than New York’s.

What local businesses do you suggest for us to support?

Gooey on the Inside! Such good cookies! 

 

 

I want to thank Joyce for her amazing answers. They definitely added more to our “things to do” list! It was very refreshing to get a local’s point of view instead of reading other tourists tell about their trips and experiences.

I plan to get a local’s suggestions whenever we visit somewhere new from now on. Also, be sure to check out Joyce’s social media outlets. She’s the best! Her links are below.

 

JoyofMyLife

Email: contact@joyofmylife.com

YouTube: YouTube.com/JoyofMyLife

Instagram: Instagram.com/ItsJoyofMyLife

 

Lutie’s Garden Restaurant

 

If you read my last post, you know that we stayed at the Commodore Perry Estate during the July 4th long weekend. We unfortunately didn’t get to eat at Lutie’s while there because they’re open Wednesday through Sunday, and we were there Monday. Luckily, though, I was able to come back Wednesday to try them out. Continue reading for a look inside one of the most beautiful, sought after restaurants in Texas, Lutie’s garden restaurant.

 

 

Lutie’s garden restaurant is named after the lady of the original estate, Lutie Perry. She was known for her beautiful garden as well as hosting Gatsby level gatherings, from dinner parties to soirees. So this restaurant is a breathtaking homage to her.

 

The Interior

As soon as you open the door, you’re engulfed by the lush green décor, including a mixture of live and artificial plants hanging from the latticed ceiling. While there is lighting, the restaurant is mostly lit by the sunlight entering two huge walls of windows. After sunset, the chandeliers and pendant lights take over.

Lutie’s may also have the most beautiful bar I’ve ever seen, with its gold trim around cream and glass shelves, the green velvet rollback barstools, and chandeliers on either end that almost feel like floral arrangements.

Seating is a mixture of booths and tables, as well as outdoor seating on the patio that overlooks the sunken garden. I arrived promptly at 5pm (actually before then), at opening time. So I was the first patron seated.

I was taken to a table for two near the windows and had the perfect view to admire the entire restaurant, both indoors and outdoors. Your food is served on antique ceramic dishes with gold flatware. You’re also offered your choice of still or sparkling water. Since this is still during cautionary times due to COVID, menus are still digital.

 

The Menu

Here’s the thing. Lutie’s menu is a bit different from what you may be used to. There isn’t an appetizer, salad, or entrée section. Instead, the food is listed from the smallest to largest dish, ending with a 2 lb aged ribeye steak. The menu also changes regularly, depending on what fresh ingredients they have available. So there isn’t really a menu available online for you to peruse beforehand.

The entire menu is explained to you upon arrival, and every dish is described. My server, Candace, said they suggest 2-3 dishes per patron, with two smaller items and one larger item. There are also dishes made to share.

 

My Meal

I started with a cocktail, the very flavorful Indigo Kick (all specialty cocktails are $17). It’s made of vanilla infused Kettle One vodka, blackberry, basil shrub, local honey, ginger beer, and lemon. I used it as a palate cleanser between dishes. For my meal, I chose 3 dishes, the corn falafel ($9 for 3 falafels), the barbecued scallops ($30 for 2 scallops), and the green dish ($18).

The corn falafel was tasty. It was crispy on the outside and nice and soft on the inside. The tangy sauce drizzled on top was a nice touch for my taste buds.

The barbecued scallops was insanely  good! It had several contrasting flavors and was cooked perfectly. The purple daikon relish also gave it a nice little crunch.

Finally, the green dish was also exceptional and nothing I would’ve ever thought of creating. The ingredients for this dish change, depending on what’s in season, but as of July 5, it consisted of roasted summer squash topped with mixed greens and feta cheese, all covered in a green sauce with a dash of sea salt. If only I knew what the green sauce was made of, I’d definitely try making this at home.

Everything had a great combination of contrasting flavors that made them stand out and keep me excited for the next bite. The three dishes were also just enough to fill me up.

 

Dessert

Of course, I saved room for dessert! I ordered the chocolate shaved ice ($12), which is layered from bottom to top with dark chocolate ice cream, chocolate shaved ice, vanilla Chantilly, and cocoa nibs. 

Now I’m not a chocolate ice cream fan, but something said try it, and I’m glad I did. The different textures are a lot of fun in your mouth. The chocolate did start to take me over close to the end, but the vanilla Chantilly calmed it back down. It almost reminded me of tiramisu with a crunch. Then Candace, my server, said someone described it as a fancy fudgesicle, and they were absolutely right!

 

Final Thoughts

Lutie’s garden restaurant is hands down the most beautiful restaurant I’ve ever visited, but it’s also very down to Earth. The servers are very attentive and go out of their way to make sure you  fully enjoy your visit. The presentation of each dish was top tier, with nothing out of place. You definitely receive the full 5 star experience from arrival to your last bite (or sip).

I recommend everyone dine here at least once. You’re unlikely to experience anything like this anywhere else.

 

 

 

 

 

Commodore Perry Estate: A Texas Getaway

 

During the long weekend for July 4th, we were able to have an overnight staycation at the Commodore Perry Estate here in Austin, TX, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it! It ended up being a rainy day, but we were still able to get the full experience, minus the pool. So, keep reading to find out more about this local treasure that feels like you’re in another country.

 

Quick Backstory

Commodore Perry Estate has been several things through the years, mostly schools and learning centers, but it was originally the home of Edgar Howard “Commodore” Perry and his wife, Lutie Perry. They built the estate in 1928 during the Roaring 20’s and held some of the best social events in Austin. It’s since been listed as a historic landmark and has had several additions and renovations. 

The current owners decided to restore the estate to its original glory, while also adding a few more modern conveniences. Commodore Perry Estate is now a private retreat in the middle of Austin, with Mediterranean-style design, 5 star dining, and Texas hospitality. 

 

A Tale of Two Guests

William and I arrived separately, and I made it there first So, at my arrival, I was welcomed by valet with an umbrella because it was raining off an on all day. I was guided to the front desk to check in, and my bags were taken to our room.

The host for the day took me to my room, gave me a brief history and rundown of the estate, and made me a welcome cocktail.  I had already informed him that William would be coming soon. So he told me how to make William’s drink for when he arrived. After the host left, I realized I didn’t ask the bellhop to bring my laptop up, which was in the trunk of my car. So I called William and asked if he could get it when he arrived.

So now, William is knocking on the door. I let him in and gave him a tour of the room. I made his drink and asked him what he thought so far. This is when it got interesting.

He parked across the street, where guests are suggested to park if they don’t want the valet service. So, as he walked up the estate driveway, he wasn’t acknowledged. Since no one acknowledged him, he went to the mansion instead of the inn, where the guest rooms are. The hostess at the mansion informed him where the inn was. So he walked back across to the correct building, all while in the rain and still not being acknowledged. 

He also had issues getting help to get my laptop out the car. Finally, he was told where our room was, not taken there like I was.

 

 

The guest room is absolutely  gorgeous! The bathroom features an open, walk in shower, a double sink vanity, and a water closet. The bedroom has a sitting area, a king size bed, a small balcony, and several other amenities. The lighting is all set to a universal dimmer but can also be operated separately.

There is a bar cart that can be customized with your  preferred alcoholic beverages and spirits. That isn’t complimentary though. Also, surprisingly, all the artwork and décor in the room was available for purchase.

 

The Mansion

After checking out our room, we decided to explore the grounds, starting with the mansion. The hostess at the mansion gave us a tour and told us about each room. Each room has its own unique design. The library is pictured above. It has very deep, moody décor and would be perfect for enjoying cigars and brandy (I don’t smoke cigars, but it has that vibe).

The den is a bright room with a bar in one corner and two taxidermied zebra heads above the fireplace. A punchbowl social is held there every evening, 3pm-6pm. Pre-COVID, there was a large punchbowl everyone shared, but now, each table has its own.

The solarium can be used for dining or lounging, and is beautiful. It has long, floral drapes on the multiple French doors that make the exterior walls of the room, and it still has the original floors from when the estate was built. There’s an expansive patio behind the mansion, overlooking the sunken garden and swimming pool.

Dining

We decided to eat dinner in our room instead of going down to the dining room because of the rain. I had the  brisket sandwich, and William had the Sicilian pepperoni pizza. We also had the house bread, which was highly recommended before our stay. My sandwich  and the bread were very  tasty and filling. The pizza, however, was very doughy and average.

Weather was a lot better the next morning. William left early for work. So I slept in then headed down for breakfast. The manager on duty was very nice and accommodating, and, of course, the dining room was beautiful as well. I had the frittata and a pineapple mimosa. After finishing breakfast, I walked through the garden a while, capturing photos, and contemplated going to the pool. I ultimately chickened out and headed back to the room to prepare for check out.

 

 

Final Thoughts

Though we had a few negative experiences at the beginning, overall, I truly enjoyed our stay. If you’re missing traveling and need to feel like you’re in a completely different country, I’d highly recommend staying at the Commodore Perry Estates. Also, don’t be like me. Go to the pool, and enjoy its beautiful vintage style.

Something I forgot to mention is that the resort style hotel also has 2 Mercedes Benz cars available for guests to drive on a first come, first served basis. We also didn’t take advantage of that benefit. I do plan on visiting again for more than one night and doing every single activity possible. So stay tuned for that!

 

 

 

6 Things to Do this Summer in

Pflugerville, Texas

 

It’s almost officially summertime, and like usual, I started looking for places to visit. Then I realized that I haven’t really fully experienced Pflugerville yet, though we’ve lived here for almost 4 years. So, I went on the hunt for fun and relaxing things to do inn Pflugerville before looking elsewhere, and thanks to the City of Pflugerville, I got some great ideas to add to my list.

 

produce at the Pfarmer’s Market

Pfarmer’s Market

Pflugerville’s Pfarmer’s Market is every Tuesday, 3pm-7pm, ,from May 11 to October 26. Due to construction, it’s currently located at Pflugerville First United Methodist Church.

You can expect tons of fresh produce (of course) from local farmers, as well as baked goods, honey, plants, eggs, Find new small businesses to support while enjoying some time outdoors. Pro tip: while cards are accepted by most vendors, bring cash just in case.

 

Rochelle & the Sidewinders

Music in the Park

Music in the Park is a good time for the whole family! It’s an outdoor concert series held on select Friday nights, 7:30pm-9:30pm, all summer long, starting next Friday, June 25. The first musical guest will be Royal Velvetee, a classic soul and jazz band who put on an amazing show!

Music in the Park is a free event in Pfluger Park, located at 515 City Park Rd. Alcohol is allowed, but no glass containers. For more info and a list of all the concerts this year, check out Pflugerville’s site here.

 

photo courtesy of Typhoon Texas

Typhoon Texas

If you’re trying to beat the Texas summer heat, aside from all the natural water holes, my first recommendation would be Typhoon Texas. They have rides and attractions for  every age range, from Buckaroo Bayou, which is made for toddlers, to the Snake Pit, where you must be 48″ or taller to ride the intertwining water slides.

For Independence Day weekend, Typhoon Texas will have its annual Red, White, and Boom festival, which will have carnival themed attractions, live entertainment, a hot air balloon ride, fireworks, and a Saluting our Heroes event. There’s also several food and beverage options at the park. Read more about Typhoon Texas here.

 

photo courtesy of ILY Nails

ILY Nails & Beauty Bar

Tired from running around to all the different events this summer? Treat yourself to a day of pampering at ILY Nails & Beauty Bar, Pflugerville’s first and only Black owned nail salon. They currently offer nail services and pedicures, with facials, brow services, and waxes coming soon. You literally sit on a throne while receiving a relaxing, stress relieving pedicure from one of the licensed technicians. For pricing or to book an appointment, head to ILY Nails’s website.

 

photo courtesy of Spirit of Texas

Spirit of Texas Independent Distillery

Do you like supporting local distilleries and breweries or maybe touring them? Well, Spirit of Texas Independent Distillery is located right here in Pflugerville! Their tasting room is open Thursday through Saturday. You can also book group tours or private events outside of these hours.

Something really cool to me about this distillery is that their spirits have local related names, like Pfluger single malt whiskey, Spirit of Texas straight silver rum, and Pecan Street rum. You can support them by visiting the actual distillery or by using their store locator to purchase these spirits at your neighborhood liquor store.

 

photo courtesy of Down South Cajjun Eats

Down South Cajjun Eats

My favorite, somewhat new, restaurant in Pflugerville is Down South Cajjun Eats, located at 15630 Vision Drive. As the name suggests, they specialize in Cajun dishes. They also have the best fried catfish in town, in my opinion.

This restaurant is owned by twin brothers and has turned into an awesome gathering place for great food and music. It’s located in a food court, but has definitely become the anchor site for the venue. Besides the catfish, they offer gumbo, pasta, wings, and several specialty items. Check out the full menu here.

Thank you for reading! To find even more things to do this summer in Pflugerville, visit the city’s event calendar.

 

The Backspace Anderson Lane

 

I’ve been trying to branch out from my go-to’s and explore new restaurants. So, last week we visited The Backspace Anderson Lane, the sister restaurant to The Backspace, Austin’s first Neapolitan pizzeria. These restaurants are under the umbrella of Parkside Projects, which is comprised of several local restaurants and venues in Austin. 

The Backspace Anderson Lane serves Neapolitan pizza (of course), antipasti, pasta, paninis, and many other Italian dishes. Read below to see what we tried, including pictures to lure you in.

 

First Impressions

When arriving at the restaurant, you enter it from the back side of the building. Get it, the backspace? There’s a nice small outdoor sitting area near the door and cool painted signage on the wall with neon lights of a pizza being flipped (top picture).

Upon entering, you’re welcomed by the hostess, who is kind enough to give your husband a disposable mask because he forgot his at home. To the right, there’s a private dining area with banquet style tables. Straight ahead is the bar, kitchen, brick oven, and a shelf featuring the many Italian wines served there. Then, to your left is the seating, which is a mixture of booths and tables.

There’s a very nice ambiance inside, which is definitely matched by the food offerings. This isn’t your everyday pizzeria after all. I mean, you don’t have to be dressed up as much as I was, but I feel it calls for at least a polo shirt or blouse, depending on your preference.

Though there’s a bar, the restaurant is still family friendly. Case in point, there was a young lady celebrating her 13th birthday with her family and friends while we were there.

I love that the pizzas are made out front where you can see the artistry in action. Also, pretty funny to me, my favorite aspect was the water glasses made from old wine bottles. Enough of the visuals, though. Let’s get to what you really want to know. How was the food?

 

caesar salad
crispy calamari

William (my husband) started with a caesar salad, and I had the crispy calamari. I tasted his salad, and he tried the calamari. Both were delicious!

Usually when I think of a caesar salad, I just think of lettuce, parmesan, croutons, and caesar dressing. So, I was pleasantly surprised to see this colorful medley. The calamari included the typical calamari rings as well as mini octopi and was served with an Italian tarter sauce.

 

fettuccini

As I said, William had the fettuccini. So, here are his thoughts.

“It was very flavorful. The basil added a pleasant zing to each forkful. There  was a nice amount of pesto sauce. It wasn’t too much, and it wasn’t dry.”

 

the speck

I ordered the Speck pizza, and oh my goodness! The flavor combination was almost too good to handle, from the spinach and read onions to the calabrese chili and ham, it was a true party in my mouth! I will be honest, though. The chili almost had me, but I was able to come out victoriously. All in all, though, I’d absolutely recommend it.

 

tiramisu

Finally, there was the tiramisu, which I have to order whenever it’s an option, thanks to my oldest brother, Chef Tony Evans. May he rest in eternal peace.

In my opinion, tiramisu should be listed as one of the wonders of the world, and the one served at The Backspace Anderson Lane is top tier! The bottom wasn’t soggy, which I have unfortunately experienced elsewhere several times. The coffee flavor wasn’t overpowering, and the mascarpone was perfectly light.

My final thoughts overall are that this won’t be our last visit, and I look forward to trying other dishes in hopes that they’re all as delicious as these. If you have or haven’t been before, make this your next restaurant to visit. Dine in, and really take in the full experience and vibe.

 

*This was a hosted visit, but all thoughts are my honest opinions.

WHAT TO PACK FOR A CAMPING TRIP

 

Last October, William and I went camping together for the first time at Big Bend Ranch State Park. We each had different camping experiences when we were younger, but this was our first time doing primitive camping. So we wanted to make sure we had everything we needed since we’d be basically in the middle of nowhere with zero cell service.

 We’re super excited to be going back to Big Bend Ranch very soon. So, I thought I’d bring you all along as we prep for the trip in case you decide to visit the great outdoors this spring or summer.

 

panoramic view of our campsite in Big Bend Ranch State Park
our campsite
 
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The Necessities

I’ll start with what you’ll definitely need for your trip. Then, we can talk about things that are nice to bring along, just in case. So, the necessities are:

  • a tent with stakes
  • sleeping bag or several blankets
  • lantern or flashlight
  • batteries
  • portable charger
  • first-aid kit
  • sunscreen
  • deep woods insect repellent
  • 1 gallon of water per person per day
  • a separate gallon or more of water for cleaning and misc.
  • knife
  • firewood and kindling
  • matches or other fire starter
  • cooler
  • pots, skillet, cooking utensils, and eating utensils
  • plates, bowls, cups, or mugs (depending on what you plan to eat or drink)
  • towels
  • hand sanitizer
  • toilet paper
  • a spade or small shovel (if there’s no bathroom nearby)
  • washcloths
  • toothbrush, toothpaste
  • unscented biodegradable soap
  • canned goods and easy to cook foods
  • can opener
  • tape
  • trash bags

 

picnic area

Nice to Have Items

These next items aren’t necessary for your trip, but they may make it more enjoyable.

  • lawn chairs
  • plastic tablecloth (if a picnic table is available at the campsite. Trust me!)
  • a small grill
  • sleeping pad
  • headlamp
  • small folding table (if a picnic table isn’t nearby)
  • hammock
  • cord or rope
  • grill rack
  • cards and board games 
  • binoculars
  • reading material
  • action camera (like a GoPro)
  • baby wipes

 

 

Clothing

Something to remember when camping is that the weather can change at any time, especially when camping somewhere like Big Bend Ranch. The nights are waaay colder than the day. So try bringing multiple options such as:

  • short sleeve and long sleeve shirts
  • a sweatshirt
  • a jacket
  • socks
  • thick socks
  • pants
  • shorts
  • underwear (of course)
  • bandana or sweat band
  • sneakers
  • maybe hiking boots
  • flip flops
  • stretchy pants, like leggings or yoga pants
  • swimsuit
  • warm pajamas (a MUST)
  • rain gear
  • maybe long johns

 

 

These are all great items to have, some less necessary than others, but it’s a nice list to help you realize what you may want or need to pack for your camping trip. Did I forget anything? Let me know in the comments if you have any additional suggestions.