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

5 Minute to Win it Office Party Ideas

Like all parents of Elementary School kids over the last couple of years, I have spent endless hours watching my kids flipping bottles, 1/2 full of a range of sticky liquids, and trying to land them upright on their bases. I admit that I have tried it a few times myself and I do understand the appeal – it is a fun challenge and an adrenaline rush when it works on the first try.

This bottle flipping brings back memories of playing Flip Cup and Quarters in college, kicking a soccer ball in the air and trying to catch it behind my neck as a kid, and racing to diaper a doll at baby showers. All of these activities were not only fun personal challenges but great for instant team bonding making them perfect Minute to Win It games for any event.

Minute to Win It

If you have never heard of Minute to Win It, YouTube is full of videos of people playing competing in minute-long games and trying to beat the competition. The concept originally comes from an International Game Show Franchise where contestants take part in a series of 60-second challenges involving objects commonly found around the house. As they completed each challenge, they moved on to more and more difficult activities with the aim of winning $1M.

With much smaller stakes, this concept has been replicated at children’s birthday parties, office parties, and on different reality TV programs. The challenges are easy and inexpensive to implement and fun for both participants and viewers.

Our Favorite 60-Second Challenges

If you have watched the show or the videos and are thinking about holding your own Minute to Win It party, check out our Top 5 Minute to Win It Challenges:

1: Human Hungry Hungry Hippos

If you love the board game Hungry Hungry Hippos, the life size version is 10 times as fun and sure to get a crowd cheering and laughing for hours.

Object of the Game:

To grab (gobble up) the most balls in the allotted time (in this case, 60 seconds).

What You’ll Need:

  • Tape for the start line as well as a big X in the middle of the room
  • Skate boards, scooters, furniture dolly or something with wheels to roll on
  • Laundry Basket, or large plastic bucket
  • Plastic Balls or balloons
  • Stop watch or timer to keep track each round. (Optional)
  • Chalk board to keep score. (Optional)
  • Whistle or horn to blow to end each round. (Optional)
  • Prizes for winning team (Optional)

Setting Up:  

  1. Put a line of tape down in each corner of the room – if the room is not square, you just need 4 lines with good spacing between them. These will be the start lines.
  2. Make a large X in the middle of the room, this is where you go to gather the balls.
  3. Pile the balls on the X

How to Play:

  1. Split into 4 teams.
  2. Have each team line up behind one of the start lines.
  3. Start with one member of each team laying on their stomach on top of the board, and another member of the team holding their legs.
  4. Blow the horn or whistle and set the timer for 60 seconds.
  5. The person laying on the board holds the basket and the other player pushes them into the middle of the room so they can collect balls under the basket. Then, they pull them back to their corner of the room to drop off the balls and switch players.
  6. Switch players so that a new player is lying on the scooter and a new player is pushing them and repeat until all the balls are gone or the timer has gone off.
  7. The team that has collected the most balls wins!

2: Golf Beer Pong

A twist on the original where players throw ping pong balls across a table and into their opponents triangle of cups full of beer, this version involves chipping the balls into the opponents’ cups with golf clubs.

What You’ll Need:

  • A golf beer pong set – easily rentable from Loanables!
  • Beer
  • Stop watch or timer to keep track each round. (Optional)
  • Chalk board to keep score. (Optional)
  • Whistle or horn to blow to end each round. (Optional)
  • Prizes for winning team (Optional)

How To Play: 

  1. Fill cups with beer (or drink of your choice – you can easily use water, juice, or soda for kids’ parties)
  2. Divide players into 2 teams.
  3. Set the timer for 60 seconds.
  4. One player from each team chips the ball at the opponents cups. If they chip it into a cup, the cup is removed and the other team drinks that cup of beer.
  5. Switch players and repeat.
  6. The first team to chip golf balls into all 6 of their opponent’s cups wins. If at the end of the round neither team has chipped into all 6 cups, the team who has had the most cups removed from their opponents board wins.
  7. Repeat as long as you wish!

NOTE: If you are a traditionalist, why not play plain old beer pong? This giant beer pong set could not be more fun and will entertain guests for hours!

3: 4th and Goal Football Competition

Everyone loves Football, especially in Texas. With this inflatable football game, players can compete to see which team can throw that winning pass.

What You’ll Need:

  • 4th & Goal Inflatable Game – easily rentable through Loanables
  • Stop watch or timer to keep track each round. (Optional)
  • Chalk board to keep score. (Optional)
  • Whistle or horn to blow to end each round. (Optional)
  • Prizes for winning team (Optional)

How To Play:

  1. Divide into 2 teams
  2. Set the timer for 60 seconds
  3. The first player on each team steps up, picks up a football, and throws a pass – trying to complete it by throwing the football into a hole. After the player has thrown, he/she goes to the back of his/her team’s line. Any incomplete passes remain on the top level of the game and the completed passes are returned down below.
  4. The next player steps up and takes a turn.
  5. The first team to complete 3 passes wins. If the 60 seconds is up before either team has completed 3 passes, the team with the most completed passes wins.

4: Rapid Fire

If you are looking for something that is fun, fast paced, and very easy and inexpensive to set up, look no further. Rapid Fire puts to good use those rubber band shooting skills you may have perfected in grade school.

What You’ll Need:

  • 6 Empty Soda Cans (per player or team)
  • Several Rubber Bands
  • Table or Stool
  • Stop watch or timer to keep track each round. (Optional)
  • Chalk board to keep score. (Optional)
  • Whistle or horn to blow to end each round. (Optional)
  • Prizes for winning team (Optional)

How To Play:

  1. Set up at least 2 pyramids made with 6 soda cans each (3 on the bottom, 2 in the middle, and 1 at the top).
  2. The cans are placed on a stool or table approximately 6-8 feet from the player.
  3. Divide into 2 or more teams.
  4. Start the timer and blow the horn or whistle.
  5. The first player on each team aims a rubber band at the pyramid and shoots the rubber band trying to knock over the pyramid.
  6. The next player goes, and so on.
  7. The first team to knock over the pyramid wins. If a team knocks their pyramid over early, they can run over, reset it, and continue the game. If no team knocks over their pyramid, the team who has knocked over the most individual cans wins. If no team has knocked over any cans, the game is replayed.

5: Face the Cookie

Perhaps the most well known Minute to Win It game, this classic is so much fun. Plus, you need almost nothing but…cookies!

What You’ll Need:

  • Cookies – Oreos work great!
  • Stop watch or timer to keep track each round. (Optional)
  • Chalk board to keep score. (Optional)
  • Whistle or horn to blow to end each round. (Optional)
  • Prizes for winning team (Optional)

How To Play: 

  1. Divide Into two teams.
  2. Have each team choose one or two players.
  3. Place a cookie on the forehead of each of the players in the first round.
  4. Start the timer and blow the horn or whistle.
  5. Players have 60 seconds to move the cookie into their mouth and eat it using only facial muscles (or throwing the cookie up in the air and catching it in their mouth.
  6. The first person to finish the cookie wins that round for his/her team.
  7. Repeat!

So there you have it. 5 great ways to entertain guests who want to play and guests who want to watch at your next office party. Whether you go for the very elaborate or the very simple, Minute to Win It challenges will create memories that last long after the party is through.

2018 Trends in Event Decor

With each season and each year come new trends in parties and events. Not only does this keep everyone guessing but it keeps us all on our toes when event planning and, of course, makes every event that much more fun. Below are some of this year’s Event Decor Trends to consider when planning your next big event:

Show Your Personality

When planning your event, think about how you can do more than just fill a room with decorations that go along with a theme or holiday. Events provide a unique opportunity to express the personality of a brand, nonprofit, or host. For event planners, the challenge is to create an event that will not only impress guests but will create a memory that lasts a lifetime.

Don’t Be Afraid of Color

Go Big on Lighting

Don’t worry – candles and uplighting aren’t going anywhere but colored lights are making their way into events as an opportunity to make a statement or even to provide entertainment. Imagine a giant light bright to entertain guests or event an augmented reality gaming wall to light up a room. Make sure to consider lighting as part of your event planning. It can be a big expense but can also play a part in decor, entertainment, and memory making.

Make it Shiny with Metallic

This isn’t the first time metallic has made an appearance in events and for good reason, event planners just can’t resist that stylish shine. Gold and silver continue to lead the pack with rose gold holding its own as a favorite choice for vintage events. If you want something a bit newer, consider copper which makes an elegant statement for everything from vases to centerpieces.

Go Bold With Linens

Gone are the days of plain white tablecloths. Linens are a chance to make bold color, pattern, and texture choices that wow guests. Think unique, mix your colors, and make a statement!

Vary the Table Decor

With the ultimate goal of every event being a unique experience, consider a range of table decorations designed to tell a story and invite conversation. While maintaining a cohesive tone that complements the rest of the event decor, make sure each table is different, and ultimately, exciting!

Make a Memory

Don’t forget that not only should your event be memorable, you need to be sure you have a way for guests to capture those memories. What better way than a new age photo booth?

No matter who your attendees are, everyone loves a good glamour moment in front of the camera. Gone are the days of disposable cameras and professional photographers, interactive displays with themed props are all the rage in 2018. After all, getting guests to re-post their memories and share with their friends, families, co-workers, and industry professionals will create buzz and ensure the memories are set in “virtual” stone.

So, make it big, make it bold, make it unique, and make it the event guests are talking about for years to come.

5 Things to Make in a Margarita Machine (Besides Margaritas)

As an eternal optimist, I am always planning what I am going to do with my winnings when I win the Lottery, the drawing at a charity event, a door prize at a Company function, or a raffle at a school gala. Crazy as it may sound, I am always so confident I am going to win that this extensive planning process seems like a necessity! While the reality is that I pretty much always lose, I love to dream and plan for the best. So, this month when I learned that Loanables would be giving away a Margarita Machine from Centex Rentals, I went into full planning mode. I wanted to be prepared for a win with a list of new and different ways to use my prize.

Here is my list of my top 5 Things to Make in a Margarita Machine (besides Margaritas): Note: These are my favorite ideas but when it comes to making frozen drinks, there are no limits. Almost everything tastes better as a slushy, especially in the Texas heat. 

1 – Wine Slushies

At the end of the day, nothing sounds better than winding down with a glass of wine. A frozen drinks machine can make this even more tempting. Simply blend some white wine with fresh strawberries and lime juice for an amazingly refreshing wine slushy. Or, for a slightly different (and sweet) twist, try this recipe for a Frosé…delicious!

Frosé (Frozen rosé) Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 750ml bottle hearty, bold rosé – a Pinot Noir or Merlot rosé works well
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 8 oz fresh strawberries, hulled
  • 2 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice

Directions:

  • Chill rosé
  • Bring sugar and 1/2 C water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Add strawberries, remove from heat, and let sit 30 minutes until syrup is infused with strawberry flavor. Strain using a sieve into a small bowl. Cover and chill until cold.
  • Put rosé, lemon juice, and 3.5 oz strawberry syrup into a blender and puree until smooth
  • Pour contents of blender into Margarita Machine
  • Garnish with a strawberry and enjoy!

2 – Sparkling Raspberry Limeade

The beauty of sparkling raspberry limeade is it can be served as either an alcoholic or virgin drink. Either way, it is delicious, refreshing and simple. Why not mix up a batch for the kids and then add a bit of gin to serve the adults?
Sparkling Raspberry Limeade Recipe
Ingredients:
  • 4 C fresh raspberries
  • 1 C fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 C white sugar
  • 3 C cold sparkling limeade (non-alcoholic recipe can be found here – for an alcoholic version, simply replace the seltzer water with 2 C tequila)
  • Fresh raspberries and lime wedges for serving

Directions:

  • Combine raspberries, lime juice, and sugar in blender and blend until smooth.
  • Strain through a strainer into a large bowl or pitcher. Use a wooden spoon to press the mixture through sieve. Discard any seeds.
  • Stir in sparkling limeade and stir.
  • Pour mixture into Margarita Machine
  • Garnish with raspberries and lime wedges and enjoy!

3 – Frozen Gin & Tonic

If you aren’t looking for frilly or fruity frozen drinks, you can still enjoy a delicious frozen cocktail on a warm spring-summer-fall evening. A frozen Gin & Tonic is the perfect warm weather twist on a classic favorite.

Frozen Gin & Tonic Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 C of your favorite Gin
  • 1/4 C fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 3 C tonic water
  • Lime wedges for garnish

Directions:

  • Mix all ingredients except lime wedges together in a pitcher
  • Pour into Margarita Machine
  • Pour into glasses and garnish with lime wedges.
  • Enjoy!

NOTE: This recipe can easily be doubled, tripled, etc. to serve a small party or a big crowd.

4 – Frozen Lemonade

Another slushy with endless options is frozen lemonade. Make it a virgin, add a splash of bourbon for a kick, or mix with your favorite fruit (think strawberries, peaches, mangoes, …) for a really cool and delicious treat. Whether you make the lemonade from scratch or from a can, you can’t lose with this one. Below is my favorite summer lemonade recipe.

Frozen Peach Lemonade

Ingredients:

  • 3 ripe peaches peeled and chopped
  • 12 oz frozen lemonade concentrate
  • 24 oz water (fill the lemonade can up twice and you are there)
  • Mint leaves for garnish
  • Bourbon – optional

Directions:

  • Place chopped peaches, lemonade concentrate, water, and a splash of bourbon (why not?) in a blender and blend until smooth
  • Pour through Margarita Machine
  • Serve and garnish with mint leaves
  • Enjoy!

5 – Margarita Machine Milkshakes

There is nothing like home made milkshakes and with a Margarita Machine, you can make them for a crowd. For kids and adults, this is a great treat at a birthday party, And, remember, you can always mix this one up to make it a more adult-style beverage. Just be creative!

Simple Vanilla Milkshake Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 gallon half & half
  • 1.5 gallons whole milk
  • 60 oz sugar
  • 9 tsp vanilla
  • Garnishes – whipped cream, cherries, chocolate shavings, chocolate chips, cookies, etc.

Directions:

  • Mix all ingredients together
  • Pour into margarita machine
  • Serve with whipped cream, a cherry or your favorite garnish
  • Enjoy!

For the Margarita Machine Purists

If you are a purist and just have to make margaritas in your Margarita Machine, see our blog on Healthy-ish Margaritas. And, if you have questions on how many drinks your margarita machine will make, you can check out our blog here.

Otherwise, what are you waiting for? Enter here to win a Margarita Machine for a day – we hope you get to enjoy some margaritas or try out a new frozen drink. The sky is definitely the limit!

5 Guidelines for Hosting a Great Wine Tasting Party

I am no wine expert, but if you ask me, the only thing better than a party with good wine is a party where you get to taste different wines. That’s why I love wine tasting parties!

If you are looking for a fun way to spend an evening with your friends, why not throw your own wine tasting party? Even if you aren’t a wine connoisseur, you can throw a fun and successful sipping soiree by following these 5 simple guidelines:

1 – Choose A Theme

There are several ways to approach choosing wines, a few ideas are:

  • Variety – Sample a specific wine variety from different regions. For example, compare Cabernet Sauvignon’s from different wine regions.
  • Vintage – Compare multiple vintages of the same wine
  • Style – Compare similarly styled wines. For example, compare a selection of “rich, bold reds” or “dessert wines”.
  • Region – Choose several unique wines from a specific region and compare those.
  • Price – Choose a variety of wines in a specific price range. Or, conduct a blind comparison of different priced wines – ie. very expensive vs cheap wines.

Really, the sky is the limit. After seeing the Scout and Cellar blog a couple of weeks ago, I thought it might be fun to compare Clean Wines with Traditional Wines (aka the wines I normally drink).

If possible, try to choose 4-6 wines which follow whatever theme you select. Any more than this will overwhelm the palate and less than 4 doesn’t really give your guests time to settle into the tasting and learn about their preferences and different wines.

If you need help choosing wines, I have had great success asking the experts at the Austin Wine MerchantSpec’s, Central Market, and even Costco here in Austin. They can point you in the right direction and give you some recommendations for any theme you choose!

2 – Have the Right Supplies

Wine

When purchasing wine, remember that a standard tasting pour is about 1/2 the size of a regular serving, around 2-3 ounces, and a bottle of wine contains about 10 tasting servings. It is always good to have a little left over just in case. So, for a party of 8-10 plan on buying 2 bottles of each wine.

  Other Supplies

  • Wine opener
  • Wine Glasses – you will need enough glasses so that each guest has a different glass for each wine they are tasting. So, if you have 10 guests who will each be tasting 4 different wines, you need 4 glasses x 10 guests = 40 glasses. Wine glasses can be easily rented and you don’t even have to wash them!
  • Water
  • Napkins
  • Palate cleansers (water crackers or similar)
  • Spit buckets (Red solo cups are great for this)
  • Pens and Paper for writing down preferences and thoughts on each wine
  • Placemats – You can have a wine tasting placemat or just simple white paper. It is important to avoid colored backgrounds and glassware so make sure to keep everything clear or white.
  • Wine bags for blind tastings
  • Food

For larger parties, you may need to ensure you have plenty of tables and chairs for your guests. You can rent almost any shape or size of tables and chairs when you rent the glassware.

3 – Serve the Right Food

Before the wine tasting, make sure you notify the guests of which kind of food will be served so they can be prepared.

Consider providing food before the wine tasting so guests aren’t trying wines on an empty stomach. I prefer to have a spread of food for guests to graze on plus some kind of dark chocolate and fruit for later.

Some of the foods I like to see at a wine tasting party are:

  • bitter chocolate – find something that contains at least 60% cacao which makes the chocolate richer
  • dried fruit or cut fresh fruit such as grapes and apples
  • salted nuts
  • mixed olives
  • a cheese and charcuterie platter
  • breadsticks
Between tastings, you will need to have water and some kind of palate cleansers such as water crackers and/or sliced baguettes. Many guests do not like to eat while tasting as many food flavors can alter the flavor of the wines.
Finally, remember to keep the tasting area as neutral smelling as possible. If you have been cooking bacon in the tasting room, the wine will taste like bacon!

4 – Taste the Wine

If you have the opportunity before the tasting begins, consider lining up the wines in this order: bubbles, light whites, rich whites, roses, light reds, bold reds, and then dessert wines. If possible, serve the wines at the temperature they show best: bubbles 40-45 degrees, whites 40-50 degrees, and reds 55-65 degrees.

Before starting the tasting, give guests some guidance on how to taste wine. The following simple steps can guide them in their tasting:

  1. Look – Examine the color of the wine against a white background tilting the glass away from you. In red wines, look for bright and saturated color. Young reds that are going brown may be aging too quickly. Here are some other tips for examining the color of wines.
  2. Swirl – This will help release the aromas. After a good swirl, give the wine a deep sniff. This process can be repeated several times.
  3. Sip – Always take a good sized sip in their mouths and swish it around to cover the palate. Note what it feels like – is it thin and acidic or rich and velvety?
  4. Savor – Draw some air between your front teeth and gargle the wine. Is the wine salty? Bitter? Sweet? Acidic?

Through this process have the guests look for aromas, flavors, texture, and weight. Is the wine clean or musty? Is it light, crisp, soft? Is the wine balanced? Does it linger on the palate or disappear the minute it leaves the mouth?

Have guests note their thoughts (and preferences) for discussion and comparison after each tasting.

5 – Compare the Wine

Make sure to allow everyone enough time to taste each wine and take a few notes. Then, discuss the various wines sharing tasting notes and likes and dislikes. I would recommend doing a little research on each wine ahead of time to understand its properties. This will help guide the discussion.

At this point, you may want to retaste the wines to see whether they have changed with aeration or whether the discussion has caused guests to think about the wines differently. Some wines may improve over time and others may lose their freshness.

You also may want to take a vote on favorites. This can be especially fun in a blind tasting prior to revealing the labels.

Enjoy!

And there you have it…a guide to hosting a great wine tasting party. If I can do it, anyone can! And, if things aren’t perfect, serve more wine – chances are the guests are not going to notice and everyone will have a great time regardless!

Top 10 Austin Food Trucks

Austin is famous for many things: live music, the University of Texas and its longhorns, and food, specifically food trucks! You simply can’t live in Austin (or visit the city) without dining on food truck cuisine. Austin has more than 1000 trailers and more are popping up every day. While everyone has their personal favorites, here are some of ours:

1 – Jep’s Southern Roots

Located in Dipping Springs, this food truck was started by reality TV stars Jep and Jessica Robertson. The Duck Dynasty duo have focused the truck on Southern and Cajun comfort food with a modern twist. Jep, who often cooked with his family growing up, always wanted to open his own restaurant and he is getting his chance. The menu ranges from handheld meat pies (which include chorizo for a Texas flair) to classic dishes like jambalaya and po’boys.

2 – Kebabalicious

Located at West 3rd Street and Congress Avenue, Kebabalicious serves wraps made with chicken, lamb, beef, and falafel. The founders came up with the idea (and love of kebabs) while living in Europe and brought it back to the US along with recipes and spices and started the first Kebabalicious food truck in 2006. They now have a store front on East 7th along with a food truck and their downtown trailer.

3 – The Best Wurst

Located at 201 East 6th Street, the Best Wurst is the longest running food truck in Austin selling grilled sausage sandwiches since the early 90’s. They have sold over 1 million sandwiches and participated in more festivals than any other mobile food vendor in town. They also offer catering services for office parties, weddings, and other events.

4 – The Mighty Cone

Located at 1720 Barton Springs Rd, the Mighty Cone serves up chicken, shrimp, and avocados in tortilla cones making the perfect meal to go. The concept was created when Hudson’s on the Bend chef Jeff Blank was asked to create Austin style festival food for ACL festival in 2002. In March 2009, Jeff found a way to make the food available year round, through a food trailer!

5 – The Peached Tortilla

These traveling food trucks travel throughout Austin serving simple Southern Comfort food with an Asian flair for lunch, events, and festivals. Although they started as a food truck, The Peached Tortilla has expanded their offerings over the years to include a brick and mortar restaurant, a full service catering company, and a venue space (Peached Social House). They even have an Austin Airport location so if you are traveling, you can check them out there!

6 – Juana Taco

I find that when I am really hungry, I almost always “wanna taco” and I think most Texans are right there with me. Luckily, Austin has more than its fair share of taco options. One of our current favorites is Juana Taco. They offer fresh and authentic Mexican food from both their East Austin trailer and their traveling food truck.

7 – Coat & Thai

Named best Thai Food Trailer in Austin by Lazy Smurf’s Guide to Life, this authentic Thai restaurant resides in The Picnic on Barton Springs Road. With freshness and authenticity in mind, Owner/Chef Ninrat founded this trailer in 2010. Some personal favorites include the Chicken Pad Thai and the Crab Rang Goon.

8 – Holla Mode

Located in the Picnic on Barton Springs Road, Holla Mode sells the only Thai style ice cream in town. At Holla Mode, your ice cream is made to order by pouring liquid ingredients onto a cold, stainless steel surface, adding the “chopping” (think mix-in) of your choice and letting the mixture freeze into delicious ice cream right before your eyes. Toppings are added and voila, you have fresh ice cream made to your own personal taste.

9 – Bananarchy

Bananarchy uses bananas from socially responsible companies, coats them in a coating and rolls them in toppings to create truly amazing and unique desserts to satisfy any sweet tooth (banana lover that is). They then compost all their banana peels and recycle. This is a dessert you can feel good about and they have both a South Austin and a campus location to help you do that!

10 – Hey Cupcake

We just couldn’t leave this one out. Arriving on South Congress in 2007, Hey Cupcake was one of the first trailers to appear in Austin helping shape the Austin food truck scene. The shiny airstream with the revolving cupcake is now located at The Picnic on Barton Springs Road and beckons you to top off your Food Truck meal with a treat from its tasty selection of cupcakes.

We will continue to add new favorites as they pop up – we just can’t resist trying out Austin’s finest food truck cuisine! In the meantime, we would love to hear from you. What are your favorite Austin food trucks and/or food truck dishes?

5 Great and Different Austin Summer Staycation Ideas

If you haven’t heard, Austin is not only the 3rd fastest growing city and the #1 place to live in the United States but now it is also one of the country’s best destinations for a summer getaway according to a new study from WalletHub.

WalletHub, a personal finance website, compared 40 key indicators of budget-friendliness and fun-friendliness in 100 U.S. metro areas across six key categories: 1) Travel Costs & Hassles, 2) Local Costs, 3) Attractions, 4) Weather, 5) Activities and 6) Safety to come up with its list. Overall, Austin ranked third behind Washington, D.C. (No. 1) and Orlando, Florida (No. 2).

Austin’s highest marks were for most attractions (No. 13) and most activities (No. 18). So, it has to be asked, what are we all running from in Austin’s summer months? Sure it’s hot but if you get creative, there are lots of ways to stay entertained and “cool” if you just put your mind to it. Here are some suggestions for a great and easy summer “staycation”:

Lost Pines Resort + Spa

When I think of a “Staycation”, I typically think of a hotel and night(s) away without having to pack a big suitcase, fly or drive long distances, or plan a big trip with all of the activities way ahead of time. A visit to Lost Pines Resort + Spa definitely meets these criteria.

Situated on 400 acres along the banks of the lower Colorado River, the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort and Spa is a great way to get away from it all and is just 23 miles from Austin. With onsite activities ranging from horseback riding to a waterpark with a lazy river, there are plenty of things to do without ever leaving the resort. If that’s not enough, try zip lining through Lost Pines nature park, kayaking the Colorado river, or hiking through nearby McKinney Roughs Nature Park.

While a weekend or even a night away sounds amazing, not all Staycations need to involve sleeping away from home. Some of my favorite Staycations are day outings doing things that are different than we normally do, making memories, and taking a whole lot of pictures to look back on.

Day on the Lake(s)

There are several lakes in and around Austin which provide a range of activities for both the water sports enthusiast and the occasional floater or boater. For a day of fun and a few thrills, rent a boat on Lake Travis or Lake Austin and go waterskiing, wake boarding, or tubing. Or, for a more relaxing experience, rent a stand up paddle board, kayak, or canoe and get a view of downtown Austin from Ladybird Lake. Whatever you choose, be sure to take a cooler full of drinks and snacks to keep you going.

After a day on the lakes, be sure to take a dip in Deep Eddy pool, the oldest swimming pool in Texas.  This pool isn’t chlorinated or heated and is fed from a hand dug clear water well so is a perfectly refreshing way to end a hot summer day.  If you plan ahead, you may even be able to catch a Deep Eddy Splash movie!

Finally, be sure to enjoy a burger and cocktail at Pool Burger – an Austin original Tiki Bar and burger trailer right there at Deep Eddy Pool.

Barton Springs Pool and Zilker Park

While I often visit Barton Springs Pool for a quick dip (it’s cold after all), rarely do we make a family day of it…and, why not? For a fun filled day, load up a wagon with everything you need – swimsuit, towel, a good book and plenty of food and head down to Zilker Park. With very little planning, you can spend a day splashing in Barton Springs Pool, playing on the playground or playing pickup soccer or football at Zilker Park, and then lighting up the barbecue before heading to the Summer Musical at Zilker Hillside Theater (be sure to reserve your space early though – these summer productions are popular!).

Photo Op Tour

Another great adventure is to spend a day visiting and photographing all of the great “Austin-y” murals. You can even use this opportunity for some great family (or selfie) pics! We are all well familiar with the “i love you so much” mural on the North facing wall of Jo’s Coffee Shop on South Congress, but there are so many other great murals in Austin to visit and take your own photos. Some of our favorites are: Hope Outdoor Gallery, also known as the Austin Graffiti Park, at the corner of 11th and Baylor Street; the Greetings from Austin Mural on South 1st Street; the “HI HOW ARE YOU?” mural at Guadalupe and 21st Street, and the Austin, Texas Mural on Guadalupe. Or, you could visit some of the less photographed and “different” murals, check out this mural guide for some ideas.

For a treat between murals, make sure to stop for a light and healthy summer lunch at Flower Child, True Food Kitchen, Picnik, or my personal favorite, Koriente. For a late afternoon cool down, head to Amy’s Ice Cream – an Austin tradition for over 30 years.

When you are done, turn your photos into a gallery to adorn the walls of your Austin abode. There are a million gallery ideas on Pinterest and many tutorials on how to create your gallery wall. Personally, I think bright mural photos would make a great canvas print gallery wall.

Giant Connect 4

Backyard Weekend

If you want a vacation experience without ever leaving your house, try a backyard fun weekend. Rent a water slide, outdoor movie screen and projector, and some outdoor games to stay cool, entertained, and relaxed right in your own backyard. Just add a pop up tent and some concessions to turn it into a party with friends and neighbors to celebrate birthdays, back to school, 4th of July, or just summer! For some ideas, check out our blogs on outdoor games and concessions.

If you can’t decide which of these “staycations” to embark on this summer, why not try a few, or try them all?  Or, if you have some great “staycation” ideas of your own, we would love to hear about them!

Lesbutante + The Boss & YEAR OF THE WOMXN

Photo by Marina Cohen

From the moment Kelly Frances West and Michelle Solorzano Daly (aka. Lesbutante + The Boss) picked up the phone, I knew exactly why they are considered “the premier lesbian event producers in Austin, TX.” They are personable, funny, open, great conversationalists… in short, an interviewer’s dream. I loved them!

During our call, the two of them talked freely about how they met, formed Lesbutante + the Boss and ended up planning and hosting this year’s official women’s party during the Austin Pride Festival.

Here’s the story:

Kelly (aka “The Lesbutante”), an Austin native and professional event planner turned interior designer met Michelle (aka “The Boss”), a disabled Army veteran from Washington D.C. who had been in Austin for about a year, at a brunch in 2013.  Kelly had recently moved back to Austin following a failed 10 year relationship, and Michelle was struggling to meet people in Austin. At the time, there were no good ways for Lesbians to meet. The only two bars in Austin had closed in 2012; Tinder didn’t exist; and the online dating options were limited. From their first encounter, it was a match made in heaven, but Kelly was not in a position to start a new relationship (although Michelle had a huge crush on Kelly). So, the two became friends…and then business partners.

The business relationship kicked off in the fall of 2013 when a married lesbian couple who had met on a speed date asked Kelly to help them set up a speed dating event to “pay it forward.” They had about 75 people attend and afterwards everyone went to a separate space in a bar to hang out. The event was a huge success and the guests wanted more.

Kelly and Michelle realized there was demand for events where women could meet other women and hang out in a safe environment; so they set up their first monthly happy hour in December 2013. These monthly events, held at Sellers Underground in downtown Austin

, have grown to 300 attendees – a number that includes a steady group of regulars along with newcomers every month. Through the years, L+B have maintained their focus on community building – they do not charge for the events and they always make sure to have a DJ as well as a photographer to memorialize each happy hour. To make people feel welcome and included, Michelle often stands at the door to greet guests and make introductions so it is easy to come as a single person.

Photo by Anne Van Zantwijk

About a year after their business kicked off, Kelly & Michelle’s friendship evolved and the two started dating. In fact, they recently got engaged in Amsterdam during a European vacation. This power duo is here to stay and Austin and the LGBTQ community is definitely happy about that!

 

Year of the WOMXN

Now that they are back from their European travels, Kelly and Michelle are busy preparing for their next big event. On August 10th from 8pm to 1am, the two will be hosting the Womxn’s party of the year right here in Austin, Texas. Appropriately dubbed “YEAR OF THE WOMXN”, the party is this year’s official women’s party during the 2018 Austin Pride Festival.

This is L+B’s 4th straight year to host Austin’s official “Women’s Party” and they have something really special planned. Committed to Austin Pride’s 2018 theme – REVOLUTION – L&B’s focus for 2018 is on breaking down racial and social barriers, creating a safe place for WOMXN to be themselves for the night, and showcasing influential WOMXN of different cultural backgrounds, specifically WOMXN of color.

During a regional Pride Conference last February, Kelly emphasized that it is important to have spaces and places dedicated to women. She cited that cities that hosted a separate party specifically for WOMXN, had double or triple the attendance at their Pride events. “The women’s community is particular about where they spend their money. They need to feel included.” So that’s what L+B set out to do – create an event which is welcoming and inclusive for women.

The party, which will take place in the parking lot on the corner of 4th St. and Congress Avenue downtown (a space from which they can also watch the parade the next day), will feature a fantastic lineup of WOMXN entertainers including Chulita Vinyl Club, DJGiiQ, and headliner DJ Citizen Jane along with professional dancers and Angel SUPASTUD Hamilton as the celebrity host. Sponsors include Tito’s and Deep Eddy Vodka, Lonestar Beer, Torchy’s Tacos, Soul Cycle, Gypsy Spirit, NSSI, and many more. Holding the party in a fenced off parking lot will allow them to accommodate 1000+ attendees – a much bigger number than other event spaces in Austin.

Get Your Tickets


VIP Tickets
include access to the all-inclusive VIP lounge sponsored by Tito’s Vodka, Deep Eddy Vodka, and Lonestar beer. The VIP section will be in close proximity to the performance stage, is the ONLY area with a designated lounge and seating, and will have access to the celebrity DJ’s.  VIP’s will also receive a swag bag full of amazing swag from the sponsors of the event.

General Admission tickets
 include entrance to the party with access to cash bars to purchase drinks (beer, liquor, sodas, water).

Austin Pride Festival with L+B

The Official WOMXN’S Party on Friday night is just the beginning of the celebration for the weekend. L&B will also have an Official Parade float in the Pride Parade on Saturday, August 11 and then on August 12 will be hosting a rooftop pool party at the Westin Azul Rooftop Pool & Bar from 1pm – 6pm. Further details can be found on the L+B Facebook page.

If you have questions or want to know more about this amazing couple and their upcoming events, be sure to follow them on Facebook or Instagram or just introduce yourself during Pride Weekend.

Photo by Anne Van Zantwijk

Party Host Helpers

About a year ago, I threw a 5th birthday party for my daughter. While I “think” it turned out great – homemade aprons, spoons, cookie decorating, piñata, snacks, etc., I can’t really remember much of it at all and I have absolutely no pictures to look back on. I was simply too busy trying to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything, that all the guests were taken care of, and that the event went smoothly. I didn’t enjoy it at all and I vowed never to do it again.

All that said, I am not a fan of parties at establishments that do the whole thing for you. As a self-proclaimed pinterest mom, the regimented schedules, loudspeaker announcements to eat cake, establishment led renditions of “Happy Birthday”, and impersonal nature of the whole thing is not really my style.

Not knowing which direction to turn, in the past year, I have somehow managed to talk all 3 of my other kids out of big birthday bashes in return for a bigger gift, a piñata with friends, and a party sometime in the future…I know, poor kids. Now, however, I have the answer to my birthday party problems – Party Host Helpers! I can throw my pinterest mom parties and still enjoy the events!

Party Host Helpers

So, “What does Party Host Helpers do?” you might ask. Well, everything it takes to make your party go without a hitch while you sit back and enjoy the event. Think wedding coordinator for corporate events, fundraising events, birthday parties, anniversary celebrations, bridal showers, baby showers…you name it!

Party Host Helpers set up party space, greet guests, put out food, take coats, serve drinks, … and the list goes on. Whatever it is that will help make your party worry-free, that’s what they are there to do.

While Party Host Helpers has been around for a few years in cities across the US, it has only had an Austin presence since March of this year thanks to Austin Regional Manager Alison Spring.

Meet Alison Spring

A stay at home mom of 4, Alison is now busier than ever setting up a business that will allow party throwers to enjoy their parties. We asked Alison what drew her to Party Host Helpers and her response summarized my own thoughts on throwing parties.

After hosting her 7 year old’s birthday party at a “loud, germ-y, dangerous, and expensive bounce house venue” last year, Alison decided she was not doing it again. While the venue had it’s perks – very little set up and clean up and virtually no logistics planning, the upsides did not outweigh the noise, grime, and cost. She had a hard time enjoying the party and decided the next event would be at home. But, she had to find a way to enjoy the next event, her family, and her guests rather than running herself ragged. So, she began to research a way to hire someone to help host a party and ran across Party Host Helpers, a national party staffing company.

After realizing Party Host Helpers didn’t have an Austin presence, Alison sent an e-mail to the owner of the Company, Renee Patrone. After a few conversations and a chance to understand their business model, she was sold. She quickly signed on to roll out the Austin regional branch. “I’ve been a stay at home mom for the last 5 years, and I was finally feeling ready to get back into the working/adult conversation world” Alison said. The timing was perfect.

Since setting up the Austin branch in March, Alison has worked with Kendra Scott, Austin Mom’s Blog, the Thinkery, Ryan Companies, as well as several private parties. “Our goal is to revolutionize the art of entertaining. Order the cake, order the catering items, order the Party Host Helpers, relax and enjoy your party.” Business is good and Alison is having a great time.

Win 4 Hours Assistance from a Party Host Helper

This month, Loanables is partnering with Alison and Party Host Helpers to give away 4 hours assistance at your next event, a $160 value. Whether you are having a neighborhood barbecue or big fundraiser, this is your chance to really enjoy your next party rather than spending the whole event running around making sure everyone else is having a good time.

Head on over to Loanables’ Instagram and follow the directions to enter. Like both Loanables and Party Host Helpers and tag your favorite hostess with the mostest so she can enter to win!

Entertaining Corporate Clients in Austin

While we love Austin, my husband is British and essentially can’t tolerate the Texas summers. So, on the first of June each year, our family heads to the beaches of California for 3 months to escape the Texas heat. It’s a luxury and a necessity in our lives and although I can’t imagine life any other way, I often find myself hankering for a dip in Barton Springs pool or a delicious Taco Deli taco while we are away.

You see, while we are gone, I find myself talking about Austin a lot. Although I am originally from Arizona, I consider myself a Texan and I am proud of it. I spend much of the summer telling our California neighbors all of the reasons we love Texas, and especially Austin.

Over the past 2 years, one of our friends in California has begun frequent work trips to Austin where he meets with (and entertains) his Texas clients. He often comes to me for ideas on the best places to take and entertain clients in Austin. Through numerous discussions and a lot of research, these are my favorite new and different ways to entertain clients in Austin…plus a few recommendations on filling them up with good Texas food:

NLand Surf Park

NLand Surf Park claims to be the only surfing destination of its kind in North America and I believe it. I have met several surfers who live near the beach and surf in the Pacific Ocean every day who are making a trip to Austin just to experience this wave park. Check out some of the videos – you will want to try it too.

And entertaining clients is something NLand is set up to do. Their concierge can help you tailor your event to your needs whether it be for very small or very large groups. They can accommodate speakers, live music, yoga, custom gift bags, and the list goes on.

Austin Helicopter Tours

While this is not an ideal option for large corporate events, if you are entertaining a few clients, you can’t beat a tour of Austin from the sky. Austin Helicopter Tours offers a number of different tour options to satisfy the interests of any Austin local or visitor. They also have options to charter a helicopter to the Flat Creek Winery for some wine tasting and dining or even to the Salt Lick to enjoy some authentic Austin barbecue.

Out on the Range

I am not talking about the driving range/golf course although Austin is full of those as well. When clients come to Texas, they often want to check out the shooting range.

The Range At Austin is a great indoor range that services both seasoned shooters and beginners and can accommodate everything from small client meetings to large corporate events up to 150 people. They offer instructors, catering services, and they rent everything you need for a fun day at the range. So, if a day at the shooting range is what your clients are looking for, check this place out.

Wine and Dine ‘Em

One of the most important part of Client entertainment is great food and great drinks. Since Austin is full of both, you really can’t go wrong. I recently wrote a blog about Still Austin Whiskey Co. They offer tours, whiskey tasting, and have a great event space for larger corporate events. This is still my pick for your next client outing but some other food and drink options to consider include:

Second Bar + Kitchen – Not only is the food amazing, this downtown spot offers multiple options for entertaining clients. With 3 distinct spaces, Second Bar + Kitchen can accommodate parties of up to 100. The first floor is great for smaller group dinners amidst the energy of Austin’s Second Street District. The second floor, with an open air balcony overlooking Second Street, is perfect for private events up to 44 people. The third space, Congress Hall, is a fully independent event space which can accommodate 80 seated or 100 for passed hors d’oeuvres. Congress Hall also has a small private dining room which seats up to 12 guests. The options are endless and foodies will love it!

Franklin Barbecue – An Austin sensation, Franklin Barbecue is open 6 days a week from 11am until they sell out. The food is delicious and visitors love the chance to sample the famous bbq. We suggest pre-ordering because the line starts early and the bbq sells out!

Salt Lick – I mentioned it above and have to throw it in as a Franklin Barbecue alternative. Salt Lick has been a tried and true bbq experience in Austin for ages. It is a great place to entertain groups big and small and give them a taste of Texas cuisine.

Whatever you choose, remember to check out Loanables for all of your rental needs. They have everything from chairs for the surf park to pop up tents to rental items for a full scale client conference.

Still Austin Whiskey Co.

  \ We’re always looking for cool, local, Austin-y places to explore and lucky for all of us, there are a ton of places that meet these criteria. One of our current favorites is Still Austin Whiskey Co., a “grain-to-glass” distillery located in The Yard, a burgeoning South Austin development located just south of Ben White Blvd on St. Elmo Street.

About Still Austin Whiskey Co.

Still Austin Whiskey Co. is a grain-to-glass distillery which produces whiskey made 100% from scratch using local ingredients. Their whiskey is made by hand right here in Austin, Texas using ingredients provided by Texas farmers.

Founded by CEO Chris Seals and distillery co-founders Sal and Joanna Salinas, Andrew and Lisa Braunberg, and Cleveland and Carrol Seals, Still Austin Whiskey Co. mills, mashes, ferments, barrels, and bottles all of their spirits in-house at the distillery.

Still Austin Whiskey Co., through their partnership with Texas farmers, is able to use a wide variety of local grains (corn, wheat, and even rye can be grown here in Texas) and the warm Central Texas climate to facilitate the expansion and contraction of their barrels to make authentically crafted whiskeys. Unlike so many whiskey distilleries that buy whiskey already made and aged, Still Austin Whiskey Co.’s name says it all – they do it themselves right here in Austin!

The Texas inspired spirits are currently sold and served in Still Austin’s tasting room as well as at Twin Liquors, Spec’s, Total Wine & More, and several Independent Liquor Stores in Central Texas.

The Spirits

Still Austin has two goals in mind when crafting their whiskey: authentic and original. They are the first distillery in Austin since prohibition and, as such, control the quality and the flavor of their spirits at every step.

Because bourbon and other whiskeys take time to age, Still Austin started by releasing New Make Whiskeys which are taken straight from the still rather than aging in barrels. These whiskeys take advantage of the unique Texas grains and are never sweetened or artificially flavored. Flavors like Mother Pepper Whiskey provide a spicy mix of fresh chile sequin, smoked serrano, and ari amarillo peppers whereas Daydreamer Whiskey is a sweeter, cleaner spirit infused with a combination of Valencia, Tangelo and Bergamot citrus. Whatever your pleasure, these New Make Whiskeys can be enjoyed straight up or in a cocktail. For cocktail ideas, check out Still Austin Whiskey’s website. My personal favorite?… Becky with the Good Hair. Plus, I love the name!

Visiting The Distillery

Situated in The Yard, a new development that claims to celebrate community and culture in the heart of South Austin, the 9,600 square-foot distillery fits the description. The distillery is both industrial and intimate, providing a comfortable and authentic Austin feel.

Still Austin Whiskey Co. offers tours of the distillery on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at various times throughout the afternoon and early evening. These 30 minute tours allow visitors to get a look at the silos where the milling is done, the distillery, including the 42-foot column still made in Scotland by one of the most prestigious still makers in the world, and the barreling process.

After touring the Distillery, visitors can visit the tasting room where they have the opportunity to sample a flight of whiskey or other seasonal specialties. The goal of the tasting room bartenders is to get non-whiskey drinkers to give it a try. With a menu ranging from Frozen Whiskey Margaritas, a twist on a Texas standard, and Frozen Gin and Tonic, made with their recently launched Rye Gin, to some Still Austin originals like The Daydreamer, a citrus infused whiskey, there is something to please every cocktail lover’s tastebuds.

This month, Loanables is giving away a tour and tasting for 6. Check out Facebook or Instagram for details on how to enter.

And, if tours and tastings are more than you are looking for, why not stop in for a cocktail with local flare and to relax outside in the Whiskey Garden?

Event Space

Finally, if you are looking for a cool unique space for your next event, Still Austin Whiskey Co. may have the space for you!

Picture an open warehouse just south of Downtown Austin with ample parking opening up to a patio with tables and games. This space can accommodate up to 300 guests and is the perfect way to stay true to the local Austin vibe. You can see a tour here.

So, now that you know a little bit about Still Austin Whiskey Co. I hope it’s your next stop for a tour, tastings with friends, date night, or your next big event.

We would love to see pictures from your next visit…enjoy!

 

 

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