Sara Feulner, Author at Loanables

About Sara Feulner

A lifelong entrepreneur and start up junkie, Sara loves technology, culture, ideas, and people! Prior to her current quest to raise 4 young children to be creative risk takers, Sara studied at Harvard Business School and lived and worked both in Austin and Internationally building great teams and great Companies.


View all posts by Sara Feulner

Top 10 Event Spaces for Rent in Austin

Planning your next office party, school function, or charity event and looking for somewhere to host it?  We have put together a list of 10 utterly cool and unique Austin Event Spaces.  So, if you are looking for something different to help create your event of the year…

Check out these event spaces for rent in Austin:

#10 – Springdale Station

This historic train station moved to East Austin in the 1980’s.  Recently, the station was renovated and in the summer of 2016, it was opened to the public as an event venue, a one of a kind space to host parties of all sorts.  In addition, they in the process of adding the Pine Street Station building to Springdale Station.  Moved from 5th and Waller downtown, this historic building will soon be part of the event venue complex – look for it to be ready when you plan your event!

#9 – Four Seasons Hotel

The ground floor of the Four Seasons Hotel in Austin hosts a beautiful convertible event space for groups of all sizes.  Located in the heart of downtown and backing to the beautiful Ladybird Lake and Hike and Bike Trail, this beautiful venue would be perfect for weddings and fundraisers alike.

#8 – Modern Rocks Gallery

This space is about 800 square feet and is bright and open with a rolling front shutter open to a front terrace which can be used during events.  The walls are covered in fine art rock-n-roll photography and art including some great shots of the early Austin music scene.  It would be a really cool private party venue!

#7 – South Congress Hotel

While most people who have been in Austin for a while know of the South Congress Hotel, many of us don’t think of it as an event venue but seriously, what’s cooler and more Austin-y than a party on South Congress?  This indoor/outdoor event venue can provide an amazing event space for up to 450 guests.  Designed with a flexible room configuration, this space can work for almost any event!

#6 – Hotel Ella

Located in the historic Goodall Wooten House just minutes from downtown and the State Capitol building, this venue is in the heart of Austin.  This Greek revival style mansion offers indoor and outdoor spaces which provide the perfect backdrop for any social event.

#5 – Waller Ballroom

Built in the early 1900’s, this multi-purpose event space sits directly on Waller Creek and 6th Street.  The main ballroom showcases the original brick, hand-scraped hardwood floors and a balcony overlooking the water and can accommodate up to 270 guests for a standing reception.

#4 – Coyote Garden Hall

OK, so it’s not technically in Austin but just 15 miles south in Kyle, TX lives this amazing event center.   An ex-motion picture studio, this property has been reborn as the peaceful and versatile event center it is today.

#3 – Mercury Hall

Nestled on a secluded hilltop just minutes from downtown Austin, the historic structure and beautiful gardens can accommodate up to 200 guests.  The hall was originally built in 1904 in Mercury, Texas and moved to its current location in 1997 where it has laid home to a wide variety of events.  One of our favorite things about Mercury Hall?  They try to keep things in the South Austin mindset; laid-back!

#2 – Waller Creek Boathouse

Another gem on Waller Creek.  Built in 2012 overlooking Lady Bird Lake, downtown Austin, and Congress Avenue Bridge, this boathouse is a partnership between the City of Austin Parks and Rec Department and Austin Rowing Club.  It is a short walk from the Convention Center, local hotels, and many restaurants and can accommodate up to 600 guests for a wide range of events.

#1 – Gather Venues

Gather boasts both indoor and outdoor customizable spaces that they use to help make your event come to life.  They have 2 unique venues:

  1. South Austin – Monroe Street just minutes from downtown between South First and South Congress. This hospitality-driven event venue can accommodate up to 200 people and hosts both big and small events including fundraisers, weddings, conferences, workshops, etc.
  2. North Austin – North Lamar just South of Koenig is Gather’s new north-central event location with a modern/industrial open feel with two floors.  This space was once the Texas State Troopers Recreation Center and can accommodate up to 380 guests.

I guess that’s really 11 if you are being pedantic, and there are so many others as well.  If you don’t see what you are looking for on this list, check out Peerspace or Unique Venues to find a unique, creative space that meets your needs!

So, what are you waiting for?  Book your venue today and get planning!  And, remember, check out loanables for all your event rental needs!

Party Drink Calculator: How Much Alcohol Do I Need?

If you are throwing a wedding, housewarming party, 40th birthday party, or any other big bash, you may be wondering how much alcohol you need to buy.  If you read our How Many Glasses Do You Need? blog, you may be searching for some additional information on how much alcohol to actually buy to go in those glasses.

As you may know, you should plan on one drink per guest for each hour of your function.  This should ensure you have enough alcohol for your party (unless you are having a college fraternity party – then you may have to rethink your calculations).  So, you can use the following formula:

# of guests x hours of party time

Let’s assume you are throwing a 4 hour party for 250 guests.  In other words, you will need 250 guests x 4 hours = 1000 drinks.

Now, let’s assume you will serve beer, wine, and mixed drinks.

BEER: How Much Do You Need?

40% of all party drinks are beer.  So you will need to use:

# of total drinks x 40%

or

1000 x 40% = 400 beers

We recommend bottled beer but if you are having a keg, you need to make sure you can serve 400 beers.  (NOTE: Most kegs contain 15.5 gallons of beer or 165 12-oz servings.)

WINE: How Much Do You Need?

Wine accounts for 60% of all remaining drinks.  So you can use the formula:

(Total # of Drinks – Beers) x 60%

or

(1000 – 400) x 60% = 360 glasses of wine

A standard bottle of wine (750ml) serves approximately 6 glasses, but unless you are really careful about how much you are pouring, you may not get the full 6.  I like to use 5 glasses per bottle for my calculations, then you are sure to have enough.  To figure out how many bottles you will need, you can simply divide the total number of glasses you need by 5.  In this case: 360 glasses of wine / 5 glasses per bottle = 72 bottles of wine needed.

Now you need to decide how many bottles of red, white, and sparkling wine you need.  In order to do this, you should consider whether the event is an indoor/fall, winter, spring event or an outdoor/summer event.  In case of an indoor/fall, winter, spring event people will drink more red wine so you should plan for 50% of the bottles being red, 25% white, and 25% sparkling.  In our example, this would mean you need 36 bottles of red, 18 bottles of white, and 18 bottles of sparkling.  If you are planning an outdoor/summer event, you can split the bottles evenly between red, white and sparkling.  Using our numbers, this would mean you needed 24 bottles of each red, white, and sparkling.

When buying multiple bottles of wine, you will definitely want to buy it by the case.  I always round up to the next case.  Having a few extra bottles ensures that you will not run out and maybe you will have a few bottles left over for hostess gifts or to drink while you wind down!

SPIRITS: How Much Do You Need for Mixed Drinks?

Any drinks that are not wine or beer will fall into the mixed drink category.  You can calculate this as:

Total # of Drinks – Beer – Wine = # of Mixed Drinks

Calculating what you need to buy for this category is WAY trickier and depends entirely on the types of mixed drinks you will be serving.  Limiting the choices to one or two “signature cocktails” can help you decipher how much alcohol and mixers you will need to purchase.

The average cocktail uses:

  • 1 1/2 ounces (the average shot) of a base liquor (ie. Vodka, gin, rum, etc.)
  • Accent juices (ie. lemon and lime) usually use 1/4 to 1/2 ounce
  • Filling a highball or tall drink with juice or soda often requires 4-6 ounces of the mixer.

For example, if you are making mojito which contains rum, lime juice, and club soda, you can assume you need 1.5 oz rum, 1/4 oz lime juice, and 4-6 oz club soda.  You just need to figure out how many ounces your bottle of rum contains, and divide that by 1.5 to know how many cocktails you can make with that bottle and then do the same with your accent juices and mixers.

CHAMPAGNE?

If you are serving champagne for a champagne toast, you will need one bottle of champagne for every 8 guests.  This should give you enough champagne to have 1/2 glass for each guest for the toast.  In our example, this would be 250 guests/8 = 31.25 bottles of champagne (rounding up, you need 32 bottles).

Don’t Forget the Water

In all the discussion about how much alcohol to buy, don’t forget that all guests will need water at some point in the event.  Make sure you have plenty!  You can estimate that guests will drink about 12 ounces every 1/2 hour – hour during the party.  We recommend tap water where possible to help preserve the environment.  Did you know that only 8% of plastic water bottles are actually recycled?  That leaves a lot of water bottles filling up our landfills!  If serving tap water you need to account for 4 12-oz glasses per person or 1000 glasses of water.

If you keep these tips in mind, you can rest assured that you will have everything you need (drink-wise) for your big event.  If you need glasses, tables, chairs, etc. check out loanables.com to find, compare, and rent.

Throwing a Great Office Party

 When it comes to office parties, one size definitely does not fit all.  Depending on Company age, lifecycle stage, culture, age of employees, etc., a great office party can mean very different things.  In addition, a great office party may mean different things as a Company evolves.  For example, a small, relatively young company may love beer pong and Karaoke while a more mature family business may like an outdoor barbecue with food and games for the whole family.  Whether its outdoor games and cotton candy or pizza, beer, and singing office parties can play an important part in a Company’s culture, creating social networks, and ultimately retaining their employees – after all, employees who have a personal connection to their co-workers are less likely to go somewhere else!

Throughout my career, I have been responsible for and involved in office party planning and I have seen great parties where people come, stay, and talk about them the next day, and I have seen horrible parties with low attendance and zero posts to Social Media.  The key to this is know the Company, the employees and the best time to throw the party – the middle of a big deadline is never a good time!

Here are a few ideas for Office Parties which may help get your party brainstorming juices flowing:

Ultimate Office PartyThe Start Up – usually filled with young, energetic people who don’t mind spending their evenings hanging out in the office with work colleagues (after all, they are there working until early morning hours anyway).  Loanables.com has a great Ultimate Office Party bundle for start up companies in Austin.  It includes everything you need for:

  • Giant Connect Four
  • Giant Jenga
  • 8 Foot Table and Supplies for Beer Pong
  • Speaker System with Microphone and Karaoke Machine
  • Margarita/Granita Machine

You can even add a bounce house, dunk tank, other giant games, tug of war, or whatever else you can dream up…and, for $100 they will deliver it straight to your office.  Add some pizza and drinks and the party is basically done!

tug of war ropeSmall Sized Family Owned Business – These business tend to have close
personal relationships among employees (often related to each other in some way).  Why not treat this as a backyard family barbecue – large or small?  You can order some Barbecue, sodas, and beer and organize a few games/activities like:

  • Tug of War
  • Foosball or ping pong tournament
  • Sack races
  • Karaoke

Loanables.com even has a Backyard BBQ Party Bundle which includes

  • White 12×12 Pop Up Canopy/Tent
  • 2 6-ft Folding Tables
  • Giant Jenga
  • Giant Checker Board
  • Tug of War Rope

They can also supply all the tables, chairs, and linens you need…and, they have a delivery option!

Young – Mature Medium to Large Sized Family Oriented Companies – Employees often want to spend their time outside of work with their families and friends so why not throw a daytime family oriented party – think “Office Carnival”.  You can rent:

  • Dunk Tank
  • Bounce House
  • Euro Bungee

Or any other big carnival things you can dream up – remember if Loanables doesn’t have something, they will find it for you – just send an email to info@loanables.com.

For food and drink, you can hire some good food trucks Pizza, Sno-cones, Corn Dogs on a Stick, etc – they drive up and do all of the food service for you!  Then, you can set up a bar and hire a bar tender, rent some tables and chairs from Loanables and you are done!

Other – what kind of Company do you work for?  Let the team at loanables.com help plan your next office party and find everything you need to rent to make it a huge success.

Camping – On the Bright Side

I admit it. I am not a camper.  I love bathrooms, showers, my own big comfy bed, and most of all, 8 kid free hours every night after they all fall fast asleep.  To me, all I can think of when I think about camping is depriving myself of some of these simple pleasures.  That being said, I know that with 4 outdoors-y kids, an occasional camping trip is inevitable.

Since this month’s loanables giveaway is a camping trip (click here for details), I have decided to put on my optimist hat and consider all the positive aspects to camping.  So, here’s what I came up with:

  • A technology free vacation.  This has to be at the top of my list.  No whining about wanting to watch a video, play on a game station, or tune in to YouTube…it sounds like paradise.  Plus, it would be such a great impetus for my husband and I to turn off our phones and enjoy the great out-of-doors.
  • Cooking outside – everything tastes better when you cook it on a fire.  Hot dogs and hamburgers are my personal favorite because they taste best cooked over a campfire but if you are feeling ambitious, you can cook almost anything – pizza, veggies, shrimp, cheese dip…the sky’s the limit!  Check out this great collection of campfire recipes – some of them are making my mouth water as I type!
  • S-mores – this deserves a mention all its own. I know I can make s’mores anytime or even throw a s’mores party and rent this awesome s’mores maker but there’s just something special about sitting around a campfire singing songs and playing games and cooking marshmallow after marshmallow over an open fire.
  • Outdoor activities.  Our family loves to be outside doing just about anything – swimming, hiking, throwing a football, climbing trees, etc.  I found this list of great outdoor camping games to keep everyone entertained outside.  If you are thinking about things to bring with you on your trip, why not rent a corn hole set or giant Jenga?  These would be great entertainment at a campsite and everyone can play!
  • Time to read a book – Everyone can read their own or you can read out loud as a family.  In our house there are only 2.5 readers out of 6 of us so a family book works great.  For little kids I love A Camping Spree for Mr. Magee and Curious George Goes Camping.  Teenagers and adults alike might find some good camping reads here.  Wild or Into the Wild are two of my favorite books of all time and would be great for an outdoor trip!  Whatever your pleasure, being outside can offer a chance to relax…and how better to relax than with a great book.

And just like that, I am kind of excited about the prospect of a camping trip – talk about the art of positive thinking.  So, I guess I will have to overlook comfort and take some time to truly enjoy the things I have listed above, and, of course, my family.  I’m off to enter the giveaway!

Everyone Screams for an Ice Cream Party

I love parties (and planning them) but there just aren’t enough days in the year to plan and throw all the parties I want to.  This week, I decided to focus on a party that won’t take up too much precious party planning time – an ice cream party!

With an ice cream party, the food and entertainment collide making it an easy party to plan or even to throw together at the last minute.  All you need is the tools and ingredients to make the ice cream, some bowls to serve it in, and the accompaniments to make sundaes and banana splits galore!  Loanables.com has a great Ice Cream Party Bundle for rent which includes everything you need for your party.  It includes an ice cream maker, Ben and Jerry’s book of recipes, an Ice cream scoop, and a waffle cone maker.  There is even an option to purchase an Ultimate Toppings Kit which makes throwing a party super easy!

On top of the bundle, you may want to do Invitations, decorations, and a game (to play during any waiting time or when the guests are done eating their ice cream).  Below are some easy ideas (if you are ambitious you can do even more – I have seen some pretty over the top ice cream parties!):

Invitations

In today’s world, most people use Evite, Paperless Post, etc. to invite guests and luckily these sites have loads of online Ice Cream party invite options – check these out!  But, if you just love a paper invite, there are lots of options for that as well.   Check out these really cute printables.  Or, if you are feeling really crafty, you can make your own – how cute are these? or these?  And there are plenty more great ideas on Pinterest so browse away … but don’t forget, the invites are not the fun part of the party.

Decorations

I think of colorful paper goods when I think of Ice Cream parties.  There are a million ideas on Pinterest for decorating for the cutest party ever.  Here are just a few.  I say keep it simple and let the toppings act as part of the decor.

Some staples that will make your party cute without breaking the bank and creating extra waste are:

  • Tablecloth – any bright color will do but I think of pink when I think of ice cream parties!
  • Napkins – pair these with some plain napkins in bright coordinating colors.
  • Bowls, spoons, etc. – this set comes with bowls and spoons and if you are ambitious you could even reuse them!
  • Balloons – they are great for adding color and make a great favor at the end of the party.
  • I also LOVE this Ice Cream truck – you could turn it into a party photo booth (think extra activity and memory maker) and kids would play with it all year – it could easily double as a birthday present for a birthday party.  You could even repurpose an old appliance box and make your own, even better!

Party Games

The options are endless – you can stick with the ice cream theme or just pick games you love to play.  Here are some ideas:

  • Pin the cherry on the ice cream cone – this one on Etsy is super-cute but you can easily make your own just like it if you have some spare time.
  • Create and name your own Ice Cream Flavor – have each person (or team) use toppings, extract, or whatever to create unique flavors and name them.  Then have a taste test and vote on the best, worst, and most creative!
  • Taste test – buy a bunch of flavors and have a blindfold test – see who can name each flavor correctly.
  • Ice Cream Bingo – here‘s a great print and play version.
  • Ice Cream Eating Contest – see who can eat the most in a minute.

Or, why not combine your ice cream party with some fantastic outdoor games by renting the Birthday Party Picnic Bundle or the Outdoor Movie Bundle from loanables.com?  The Birthday Party Picnic bundle  even comes with an egg and spoon race game – wouldn’t it be fun (and a lot less messy) to substitute cherries for the eggs?

This is really just a starting point.  You could take this and create the diy party of the year or just rent the bundle once a month and have a standing ice cream party…you can’t lose because after all, EVERYONE screams for Ice Cream!!!

How to Throw an Old Fashioned/”Retro” Birthday Party

Recently, I have seen a lot of people throwing “Retro” Birthday parties.  Being an arbitrary term, “Retro” can be something referring to a party in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s ,or 90’s…it just depends on the age of the person having the birthday (or in some cases, the age of their parents).  The one thing that seems to be consistent is that “Retro” almost always means low-tech and homemade (which of course appeals to me).

My daughter is turning 4 in September and I have been busy planning her birthday party.  September is the start of a new school year and since she only goes to school 2 days a week, we won’t have much of a chance to get to know her “friends” and their families prior to her birthday.  So, I tried to come up with a party that facilitates talking, laughing, and playing with people you are just getting to know…sounds like the perfect opportunity for an old fashioned “retro” birthday party!

With this theme, the sky is the limit – my original idea was to have a sock hop with records, a soda fountain, poodle skirts, and dancing – there are a million cute ideas on Pinterest and I am kind of mourning not following through with it (stay tuned for future party posts – I may use this idea for another party in the future).  In the end, I decided to focus on something I could easily set up at a park near my daughter’s school – something that didn’t take too much time to plan at the beginning of the busy school year and something laid back and fun – like a birthday party from my childhood.

Here’s what I decided to do:

Theme: Rainbows! my daughter would really like another Minion party.  She has been obsessed with Minions since she was 18 months old but I am desperate for a change.  I think Rainbows are cute and simple and perfect for preschoolers.

Invitations: I know “retro” does not usually mean online invitations but to make sure everyone gets the invitations and for attendance tracking, I think online invites are the way to go.  The key here is simple and maybe a little old fashioned.  I personally like this one from Punchbowl.  It looks like it could be a homemade paper invite and is cute and simple.  There are tons of others that you can choose from or make to fit your theme on evite, paperless post, etc.

Retro Birthday Party Bundle: We are going to start with  the Retro Birthday Party Bundle from loanables.com – for $60 you can rent the following for your party

  • White 12×12 Pop-up Canopy Tent
  • 6 foot Folding Table
  • 12 Potato Sacks (you can request more for an additional fee)
  • Tug of War Rope
  • Giant Jenga

It’s such a great deal and renting the bundle means so much of the party is done for you!

To the bundle, I am adding:

Party Games: I love games, especially the old fashioned party games, so in addition to Tug-of-war, Jenga, Potato Sack Races, and Egg and Spoon Races, we are going to play:

  • Hot Potato – who doesn’t love a game that only requires a potato to play?
  • Duck Duck Goose – or a game that requires nothing but kids?
  • Pin the tail on the donkey (or the cow, or cat, or … whatever)  This was a favorite when I was a kid and my kids love it.  For our party. we are going to Pin the Pot of Gold on the rainbow – like this.  You can just as easily buy one if you don’t want to make it.

Piñata: In our house, “party” means “piñata” and we had pinatas at birthday party when I was a kid so they MUST be retro:)  So, we will definitely have a piñata.

Snacks: 

  • Fruit Skewers organized in a rainbow
  • Goldfish butterflies – you can fill these with anything but our kids love goldfish
  • Fruit Loop Necklaces – this could even be a craft project if you needed extra activities
  • Water bottles with rainbow labels – free printable labels included here
  • CUPCAKES – this is a recipe for easy rainbow cupcakes.  I am going to write each child’s name on them.  This is a great way to create conversation and a great way for kids to learn their classmates names.

Decorations: I am going to go with really simple decorations because we are partying in the park.  So, in addition to the piñata, I am sticking to:

  • Tablecloth – you can get them on amazon here or at your local party store
  • Balloons – I am going to pick up rainbow colored balloons at my local grocery store the day of the party.

Prizes: With all the games, you need some prizes for the winners.  If you have ever been anywhere with a kids’ treasure chest, you know that they love cheap bracelets, plastic cameras, tops, slinkys, etc. – you can get any of that at oriental trading for very little money.  I am going to go with a selection of rainbow candy – skittles, lifesavers, M&M’s, etc.

Party Favors: Personally, I like party favors you can eat so you aren’t collecting more little pieces of junk.  My favorite favors are cookies from my friend Megan at Junebug & Moo.  She can make anything, including cute rainbow cookies!

As you can see, throwing a Retro Birthday Party can be easy, inexpensive and a lot of fun.  I would love to hear your ideas and see pictures of your parties as you put them together and create your own amazing party experiences.  Happy Partying!

Ticket to a Fantastic Outdoor Movie Party

Whether you love to sit down and watch a movie with your family, throw a big party and air the current (or past) great flick, or entertain the kids while you enjoy some adult conversation with your friends, outdoor movie nights are a great way to put a new twist on a classic evening activity.  Since loanables.com is currently giving away an “Outdoor Movie Night” package, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to pull together some ideas for a fantastic evening.
Here are some of my favorite ideas for your next outdoor movie night:

Invitations

If you are throwing an outdoor movie night because it’s a special occasion or if you just love to make everything into a “party”, why not send out some cute invites ahead of the event.  While Pinterest has a million ideas, here are some of my favorites:
If you’re feeling crafty, I think this Popcorn Invite is adorable.  Or, for something a little easier, try this Movie Night Printable and print your own tickets.  Or, you can always outsource and order some really cute Movie Ticket Invitations here.

Food

You can’t have movies without food right?  In my house you can’t do anything without food.  Here are some easy cute food ideas:

FOOD BARS!  Try any one of these 20 Fun Food Bars To Recreate at Home! Grilled Cheese Bars, Burger Bars, and S’mores Bars all lend themselves to an Outdoor Movie Night as do several of the others listed.  And, if you find that you are in need of a Crock Pot, S’mores Maker, Panini Maker, or Serving Pieces, check out loanables.com and rent some for the evening!

Even if you decide to just order pizza, I still think candy and popcorn are a must during the show.  So, why not set up your own concession stand and if you are feeling crafty, you can even make personalized concession boxes for your guests.  Or what about a Popcorn Bar like this one from Hostess With The Mostess.

Drinks

Soda is a movie classic and check out these cute personalized coke bottles.  My kids also love lemonade so I always have a drink dispenser full of fresh lemonade and one of ice tea (for me).  If you don’t have a drink dispenser, you can always rent one from loanables here.
 
For adult beverages, a tin bin (also rentable) full of beer, a couple bottles of wine, and mixed drinks.  Check out the pre-made mixed drinks in Mason Jars on celebrations.com here.  If all of the drinks are out and ready, you don’t have to spend your evening being a bar tender!

Seating

If you are looking for an easy option, blankets on the ground are always great but sometimes this may not be the most comfortable.  You can always set out camp chairs or other folding chairs (rentable on loanables.com here.  Another cute, cheap and practical option is hay bales covered with blankets.
 
If you are looking for something different and want to get crafty, what about a pillow bed?  Tutorial is here.  Or, how about these floor cushions?  I made these for my kids a couple of years ago and they make great seating for any occasion (as well as a great pillow fight prop).  Or, check out these great seats – I may have to make some!

Activities

When you combine a movie with some activities you end up with a perfect party.
Try movie night bingo or even a corn hole or outdoor chess set (rentable from loanables for the evening).
As you can see, the potential for great outdoor movie night is HUGE.  Enter to win the loanables giveaway and start planning.  Just get creative and remember to check out loanables for all your rental needs.

Making the Most of Your Backyard

When reading through my Facebook feed the other day, I came across the following request for recommendations: “So in love with our little back yard and dying to get some use out of it. Any suggestions for fun backyard games for a smaller yard? (other than beer pong, that is :-)”  
 
As a brainstorm loving, creative, idea person, I could barely control myself.  The options were endless.  My first thought was “Armadillo washers – I LOVE a good game of washers.  It’s social and competitive and VERY Texas.”  But the more I thought about it, the ideas kept flowing: “What about Giant Jenga?  I have been wanting to play a game of Jenga with my kids and Giant Jenga looks like twice the fun!  And, there’s always horseshoes and croquet – oldies but goodies in my mind.  And, I saw this really cool Giant Connect Four game on Amazon the other day – that looks fun.”  And the brainstorm in my head went on
 
This morning I woke up with a new view on this whole backyard dilemma.  Why pick one thing (or even two)?  Why not have a rotating backyard “play station”?  Rather than buying one game that you can get tired of after a while, you could rent one for a day or a week and then trade it in and rent another?  Or, have a standing backyard game night with friends or neighbors and rent a new game each time.  From experience I know that games get played with a lot at first but then the excitement wanes and they fall by the wayside.  This way you wouldn’t have a bunch of unused stuff laying around.  Plus, I would personally enjoy my backyard MORE if there was something new to play on a regular basis.  
 giant jengaI looked on loanables.com for some ideas that I could share with my Facebook friend and the options were endless.  I saw the Giant Jenga and Giant Connect Four I had been thinking of but there was also Giant Chess, Ladder Golf, and a ton of really great inflatable games (how cool does Inflatable Simon Says sound?) that I would love to try out.  They even have bundles which included more than one game which would be so great for a party.  There are enough choices to have a new one every week all summer or every month all year and I am sure they would add more if people requested them (giant scrabble perhaps?).  I got so excited about what I found that I started to think about my own backyard and how I could try out some of these games by renting them.  
Bean Bag Toss GameSo, if you are looking for a way to make the best of your backyard or looking for some new games to play with your family or friends, maybe renting is the way to go,  I am on to my next brainstorm – Saturday afternoon backyard party themes – food, drinks, and games.  I can’t wait – I am thinking “Old Fashioned Family BBQ” or “Board Games are Bigger in Texas” or “Family Olympics” and if my kids are away at a friend’s one Saturday I am not counting out “Just Like in our College Days” complete with Beer Pong!

How to Make Bean Bags

DIY Bean Bags

During the summer months, I am always looking for creative things to do with my kids that will not only keep them busy for an hour but will give them weeks of happiness and entertainment.  So many of our summer craft projects end up in a pile of “completed work” or as a temporary decoration for the refrigerator so I am always excited when I find a project that doubles as a toy!

Last summer, I decided to make bean bags with my kids and they were a HUGE hit! Not only are they great for playing corn hole, you can make up games throwing them in empty cardboard boxes, have a bean bag fight, and the list goes on.  Plus, they are SUPER easy to make (with a little help for young kids) and really cute – you can even give them as homemade gifts.

Materials
  1. Fabric – I used scraps of lightweight canvas and made 3” x 6” bean bags (so you would need 2 3” x 6” pieces for each bag).  If you don’t have fabric scraps, an old pair of jeans works great!
  2. Thread
  3. Sewing pins
  4. Dried beans (I used dried pinto beans because that’s what I had)
  5. OPTIONAL: sewing machine or serger (I think kids love to use a sewing machine and it makes the project move faster so you can get more bean bags during their attention span)
  6. OPTIONAL: cutting mat and rotary cutter (Makes it a lot faster and easier)
Instructions
  1. Cut out your beanbag front and back 3”x6” using a rotary cutter and mat (parental help needed).  If you want to try this out and don’t own one, you can always rent one here.  You can always draw a rectangle on your fabric with a sharpie or pencil and cut it out using scissors.
  2. Put the wrong sides of the front and back pieces together and sew around the edges of 3 sides leaving one of the short sides open.  You can either use an overlock stitch on a serger or a zig zag stitch on a regular sewing machine (available for rent here).  I let my kids sit on my lap and do the sewing which they thought was a lot of fun!
  3. Fill the bag with beans through the open end.
  4. Pin the open side closed using sewing pins.
  5. Sew across the open side to close the beanbag using a serger or a zig zag stitch.  If you use a serger you need to be careful to take out the pins before sewing.
  6. Play!  My kids are still playing with these a year later.  We even rented a Corn hole game (available here) when we had some friends over recently and my kids loved playing with (and showing off) their own homemade bean bags!
corn hole set

A Great Preschool Party Theme!

Peace, Love & Preschool

My kids’ preschool has a family day every year where families can go and see their children’s artwork, have lunch, and socialize with their kids’ friends and their families.  This year, I was put in charge of Family Day and while it was a lot of work, it turned out great and I am already looking forward to chairing next year’s event.  I thought our theme was adorable and easy; so, the whole event is begging to be replicated!  Here’s what we did:
First, we came up with a theme.  Given the times, we went with Peace, Love, and Preschool (insert the name of the school here).  We decided to go with peace signs, bright colors, and 60’s garb.  We quickly had some invitations mocked up inviting all of the families to come, bring a picnic blanket (think 60’s music festivals), and enjoy the day.
Next, we broke into 3 committees: food, entertainment, and decorations and let the creative juices of each committee flow.
 
Food – being in Austin, we decided to stick with Food Trucks.  Since we weren’t offering tables or chairs, we went with food you could eat standing up – Corn Dogs, Funnel Cakes, and Sno-cones.  We used:
Hands Off My Funnel Cake and Kona Ice.  They both drove their trailers right into the preschool parking lot and set up shop. These are both really affordable options for a school sponsored event OR if you are asking everyone to pay for their own food.
We also offered bottled water and Lemonade which we served in dispensers like the ones here.
 
Entertainment:
– Face Painters and Balloon Artists – we hired 2 of each to keep the kids happy and entertained.  We used Epic Entertainment and they were great!  My girls ended up with the fanciest balloon animals I have ever seen – hard to part with when they pop but really fun to play with!
– Spin Art – we bought some spin art machines like these and cut our own paper to size (although you could easily buy it).  We added a clothes line and clothes pins to hang the art around the party to dry.  It was really cute!
– Kids Karaoke – We set up a stage out of wooden crates on the playground and hooked the karaoke machine (rentable here) up to a kids dance mix.  We also bought props for the kids – Inflatable GuitarsGlitter Microphones, SunglassesNecklaces, and some hippie vests we made out of paper bags and then let the kids decorate (here’s how).  This activity was a hit.  The kids loved it!
Decorations – we had an amazing decorations committee and we ended up with:
– Event T-shirts which we sold before and at the event itself.  At my house, we have to “doctor” all of our outfits to make them as girly as possible so the shoulder ribbons are definitely an add-on.
– A “photo booth” VW bus made out of a large piece of white corrugated cardboard sheets from Office Depot.  We duct taped it to kids chairs which acted as both a stand and as something for the kids to stand on while we took their pictures.
– Cardboard Peace Signs Decorated with plastic flowers.  There are tons of ideas for this on Pinterest – here’s a cute one
– LOTS of balloons – Both Tie Dye and White balloons with daisies on the ribbons – something like these but substitute your favorite hippie flower
– And a few other things we picked up on Amazon like these.hippie decorations
Of course we also brought in a few folding tables and chairs for the face painters, spin art, and lemonade – you can rent those on loanables.com here and here.  It was great art and great company.  The party was a HUGE success!
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