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To Buy or Rent: Party & Event Edition

Weddings, birthday parties and holidays often present a challenging question. How do I get all of the gear needed to host the event without blowing my budget and leaving nothing for those special touches that make my event unique? At Loanables.com we want people to spend their money collecting memories and having experiences rather than on acquiring stuff that will sit collecting dust in an attic, or worse yet, cost more money to store for years to come. But, if you like to entertain, it’s possible the cost of owning may eventually even out. So, when it comes to special events, which items should I rent and which should I buy? The answer always depends on how many future uses you expect to get out of the item. We’ve done the math on a few common party items and you can apply the same formula to anything you are considering for purchase or rent.

Kid Table & Chairs

So, I know a family with 5 kids who was committed to doing birthday parties at home because…5 kids=5 kids birthday parties every year. That’s almost every other month! I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised, given I grew up in a family with 5 kids too, and at home birthday parties were the norm. Actually, we only got to have a party every 3 years so it wasn’t overwhelming. But, this particular mother of 5 purchased a long, folding kid table and 8 chairs for one of the first parties. She stored it flat against the wall in the garage in between uses but found that once she had it, she pulled it out for even more things like holiday meals and art projects. It cost about $175 to purchase the set, and it is used in their household about a dozen times each year. Assuming the kids fit in the chairs from the ages of about 2-12 years old, that it a cost per use of $1.46 ($175 divided by 10 years of use, divided again by 12 uses per year). To rent these items (1 kid table and 8 chairs) would cost $28. So in this case, purchasing is significantly less expensive than renting. If your situation is different because you host fewer events, the result may also be different.

Pop-up Tent

As a business owner, this is a difficult one for me. A pop-up tent seems to have many uses! I have done the occasional conference exhibit or holiday vendor show, and shade for an outdoor party or other event are key to making it bearable! The question comes down to cost and number of uses. These sorts of tents can vary widely in price. But for a good-quality, 10’x10′ canopy tent that won’t go flying in the wind, they are typically about $60- $100. This 12’x12′ pop-up tent is available to rent for $10 per day. So, it would take 6-10 uses to pay for itself. Thinking about my business, I really only do pop-up shows around the holidays. In fact, I think I did three last year. So, this probably wouldn’t be worth purchasing and storing all year long for those couple of uses. If you regularly show at a Farmer’s Market or other weekly/monthly event, though, your math will look different!

Bouncehouse or Inflatable Waterslide

Nothing completes a 3 year old birthday party more than a giant inflatable in the backyard! However, one thing I know for sure is that owning your own giant inflatable anything is not worth it! I say this, because we have had not one, but TWO in our attic for years. They have each been used only a handful of times. They are heavy and a pain to get in and out of the attic. The water ones need to stay out and dry for quite a bit before being stored. And they are really expensive! Now, they can also be expensive to rent, that’s true, but in comparison to other birthday party options, we think they turn out to be worth it for a special occasion. Your typical bounce house will cost anything from $120-$400 to rent from a company. There are a myriad of options to fit any theme. These cost $800-$2300+ to purchase initially and typically a rental company will include delivery, set up, and removal in their fee. Some of your neighbors may have a home version up in their attic though, so check the Loanables.com inventory to compare rental options from both your neighbors and local companies. Some examples include this Frozen themed bounce house in Houston or this Toddler waterslide in Austin that won’t set you back much at all!

If you have an event coming up or want to do something special for Labor Day in Austin don’t miss your chance to WIN a free rental of an inflatable waterslide and a bunch of other outdoor games like Giant Jenga and a Tug-O-War rope. It would cost almost $700 to purchase all of these items or they could be FREE if you win! Good luck!

 

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!

Tent Camping Near Austin

It’s summer and way too hot to go tent camping near Austin.  But, it’s NOT too early to start planning and booking spots for the fall.

Here’s a list of camping sites within an hour of Austin:

McKinney Falls State Park – within Austin city limits, you can camp, hike, bike and swim!  They have 81 campsites (starting at $20) and 6 newly remodeled cabins ($86).  It’s also a really fun place for geocaching.  (My kids LOVE this.  You can get the app on your smartphone, find the treasure with GPS coordinates, sign the log book and trade a family-friendly item with something in the cache.)

McKinney Falls

 

Pace Bend Park – enjoy beautiful, sunset views of Lake Travis.  They have 20 campsites with water and electrical hook-ups ($20) and over 400 primitive spots ($15 per vehicle). You can reserve the improved sites, but the primitive spots are on a first come, first server basis.  Make sure to visit nearby Hamilton Pool – it’s one of Austin’s most beautiful treasures. If you go May 1 – September 20, you have to make a reservation.

Hamilton Pool

 

Pedernales Falls – great mountain biking trails, plus you can tube on the river. They have 69 campsites with water and electric hook-ups ($20) and numerous primitive sites ($10).  If you are into mountain biking, this is the place to go.

Blanco State Park – fish, swim and boat.  They have 29 sites with water and electrical hook-ups (starting at $20).  They also have 7 Screened Shelters ($30) – no AC, but they have fans.   If fishing is your primary camping activity, this is the place for you.  

Palmetto State Park – called the “Central Texas Tropics” because it enjoys multiple sources of water.  You can swim, tube, fish and canoe.  They have 19 tent sites ($12) and 18 sites with water and electrical hook-ups (starting at $18). They also have a group camping area for up to 100 ($60).  The San Marcos river has a steady current with no rapids making it a favorite for those that love to canoe.

 

My 5 favorite campsite cooking recipes:

Campfire foil packs – I love these because you can make them ahead of time and then just throw them on the fire.

Cinnamon Roll Ups – The kids love these, and you can indulge since you are burning so many calories with all the activities

Camp Cooker Pizza – As you’ve guessed by now, I have kids, and what kid doesn’t love pizza?

Red Wine Marinated Hanger Steaks – If you feel like getting fancy, this recipe will not disappoint.

Fire Roasted Salmon with Herbs and Lemon – You can also use fresh fish that you catch with this one – so delicious.

Lastly, you need gear…

If you don’t have the gear, you can rent it here.

Everything You Need for Camp Grandma

Grandparent Weekend

Grandma, Lovey, Mimi, Nana, picture this: You just hung up from a conversation with your daughter-in-law during which you agreed to have the grandkids come to your house for “Camp Grandma” while your son and daughter-in-law jet off to Napa for a weekend away. You are so excited to spoil those little angels while the parents are away, but you are left wondering how you can be sure they are comfortable and safe in your house without all of their usual gear. What baby and toddler stuff do they even use these days? And if you buy a bunch of stuff, what will you do with it in between visits, or will they grow out of it before it is ever used again? You want to ensure a safe and happy time for all, but you don’t want to spend a fortune. One new option that wasn’t available in years past is to rent items from neighbors or companies nearby. We find it’s best to rent anything that has a high initial cost, will be cumbersome to store in between visits, or will only be used a few times before they’ve grown out of it. The good news is, with the help of our list, you are only a few clicks away from being fully prepared to enjoy the time together and have everything you need at a fraction of the retail cost.

Sleep

  1. Infant to 2 or 3 years old: Pack ‘n Play. This is an easy solution for naps and nighttime in lieu of a regular crib. Most moms have one of these, but it may not be possible to transport it to your house for this trip. Upfront cost for a basic one isn’t excessive, but it will probably only be used a few times before the child can climb out of it and it is no longer useful. Rent here if you don’t have space to store it in between visits.
  2. 3-5 years old: Nap mat. Once they can climb out of the pack ‘n play it is not really a safe sleeping space. Most kids who attend Mother’s Day Out or preschool use a nap mat during their rest time. Ask the parents to bring this along so kids can sleep on the floor if they’re still just a little too young to sleep in a bed raised off the ground. Or just grab one of these inexpensive ones from Target.
  3. Pro tip: Use a pool noodle, inserted under the fitted sheet, as a temporary bed rail if you’re nervous a child might roll off the bed!

Eat

  1. Infant to 18 months: High Chair. It’s easiest to strap a young child in to a high chair so that you know they are safe while you prepare and serve meals. Grab either a free standing one or one that attaches to your dining table, depending on your set up.
  2. 2-3 years old: Booster Seat. A booster seat can help a toddler sit higher at the table while still using a typical dining chair. Be sure to secure it according to instructions to be sure your active tot doesn’t take a tumble while reaching for his drink.
  3. Pro tip: Unbreakable dishware. Melamine dishes will survive many years and are dishwasher friendly! You’ll thank us for this one!

Play

  1. Comfort Objects: Make sure to ask the parents to bring any specific comfort objects, blankies, or special toys like Sophie the Giraffe.
  2. Toys: Get ideas for and rent age-appropriate toys here. Look into a toy library like Toybrary Austin that allows a short term membership for borrowing a bag of toys and trading each day for new ones!
  3. Bikes and Scooters: Kids of all ages can enjoy bikes and scooters, just ask parents about their skill level before selecting a tricycle, pedal-less bike, bike with training wheels or regular bike.
  4. Outdoor Games: These giant games can keep kids off the iPads and engaged for hours.
  5. Pro tip: For an extra special day of fun, consider renting an inflatable slide or bounce house! This is something you definitely don’t want to purchase because of the initial expense and they are a bear to store, but would provide hours of fun during their stay!

Transportation

  1. Infants up to 20+ lbs. Infant Car Seat: It is crucial that all car seats are installed and used to manufacturers specifications. Today, many infant car seats can be used rear-facing until the child is 22-29 lbs, and it is very likely your children will bring this type of car seat with them no matter how they travel. Often, the seat can slide right into a “snap ‘n go” type stroller so this would also be helpful for the parents to provide for any outtings you take!
  2. 1-2+ years old. Convertible carseat: These can be used until a child reaches 35-50 pounds depending on the seat, so again, be sure to check manufacturers instructions. The parents will likely provide this type of seat because they can be very expensive, but if travel conditions require they come without, rent one here. Current recommendations include rear-facing for as long as possible, at least until 2 years old. This is a hot topic in mommy circles, so be sure to have a conversation with mom and dad about their preferences and again, always follow manufacturers instructions.
  3. 4-8+ years old. Booster Seat: Chances are, by this age its much easier for you to have a booster seat waiting for them when they arrive and it’s up to you whether you think you will use it enough to purchase your own to keep on hand. Always go with the high back booster because that back can eventually be removed, leaving just the seat when the child is tall enough for the seat belt to rest at the appropriate height across their chest and shoulder.
  4. Pro tip: A jogging stroller can be used to cruise the neighborhood, go to the park or even get around at the mall. Its a great option for kids ages 6 months to 6+ years old and will save your back from the child who just.can’t.walk.another.step.

 

We hope this list serves as a valuable guide as you prepare for Camp Grandma! But if you’re still overwhelmed, check out our Grandparent Bundle or email us at info@loanables.com to request a specific bundle custom designed for you! And keep in mind that children care more about the time you spend with them than the things you buy them so #collectmemoriesnotstuff.

 

How to Build the Coolest Playhouse

It took us 2 months of working part-time on the weekends (10 days total) and about $1500 in supplies, but we built the coolest playhouse:

My kids loved it and played in it every day for at least 2 weeks (it does still get a lot of play when friends come over). Today they had a water balloon fight from it.

Here’s how it started…my sister-in-law is a super-crafty mom (the kind that makes you feel wholly inadequate but she’s so nice you can’t hate her for it).  She found this playhouse from The Handmade Home and they built it in a couple of weekends:

 

Of course when my kids saw it, they had to have it!  Here’s the problem though: my husband LOVES to build stuff but refuses to read directions!  So, we loosely followed the directions for the Handmade Hideaway and modified them as we went along.

I put all the tools we used up on Loanables to rent for $50 a month for anyone that lives in Austin.   You can find that listing here.

There are 5 parts to this project:

  1. The Deck: here are the directions.  We put the stairs on the inside of the house instead of the outside.  Also, to make it a little easier on us, we decided to use Plywood for the floors instead of decking.  Here was our deck cut list:
    • 10 – 2 x 8 x 10 (double what Handmade Hideaway calls for)
    • 4 – 2 x 8 x 8 (double what Handmade Hideaway calls for)
    • 2 – 4 x 4 x 12 corner posts cut 6′ (instead of the 3 – 4 x 4 x 8 that the Handmade Hideaway calls for)
    • 6 – 4 x 8 x 3/4 thick plywood (instead of the 22- 5/4 x 6 x 8 that the Handmade Hideaway calls for)
  2. The Walls: here are the directions.  We have 2 floors of walls. Here was our cut list for the walls:
    • 27 – 2 x 4 x 12 (11 at 5′ and 16 at 5.5′)
    • 4 – 2 x 4 x 8 (cut to 7′)
    • 1 – 2 x 4 x 10 (cut at 4′)
    • 90 cedar fence boards with the rounded tops cut off.
  3. The railings and shutters: here are the directions. This is only for 2 windows, but we have a total of 5 windows.  Two on the top level (just like the Handmade Hideaway), and 3 on the bottom level (2 just like the top, but we added one to the front). Change up the Supply List based on how many windows you decide to make.
  4. The Roof: here are the directions for the roof.  Note: we brought our roof over the entire top level. The Handmade Hideaway only covers the back half.  Therefore, you need 2 more rafters and 8 sheets of tin instead of 4.
  5. Painting and/or Staining (this was the least fun part).   I stained the outside with Behr semi-transparent Cape Cod Gray. The trim on top is just a basic exterior white.  The floor and other trim I painted the same color as the trim on our house.  It is an Exterior Behr flat paint that it is brown with a gray hue in it. Like an idiot I got rid of the empty can so I can’t tell you the exact color (nor will it be easy for me to do touchups in the future).  For the inside, I wanted the wall color to pop when looking in so I chose a turquoise.

The last thing to do was finish it out – by far my favorite part.  I bought outdoor, striped curtains on Overstock.com.  I chose the color “spa”, but there are several fun colors.   The “Admiral” blue would be really cute, too. You should be able to find one that goes with whatever color theme you already have going on outside.   (The Handmade Home also gives some good tips for how to make the curtains hang correctly on their blog.)

I really wanted something cute for the porch and found these not-too-expensive kid’s Adirondack chairs.

I put plastic table and chairs on the inside where my daughter likes to play school or do art.  Upstairs, I put some kids folding chairs and a table that we already had.  Mostly, though they like to play and yell down at whoever isn’t up there.  Here are some items I finished it out with:

Outdoor Metal Art

Outdoor Art

Slide

Side Winder Slide

Dinner Bell

Dinner Bell

Telescope

Telescope

Pirate Ship Wheel

Pirate Ship Wheel

Mailbox

Mailbox

This really was a fun project for our family, even though there were times during the project that I thought we would never finish and regretted starting it.  Now that it is done, I’m really glad we did it.  My kids are so proud of it, and they have a playhouse that they will use for a few short years and the memories that will last forever.

Playhouse Tour from Leak on Vimeo.

P.S.  Tim (my husband) and I are happy to answer any questions if you decide to take on this project.

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.

Top 10 New Items Posted

We’ve had some awesome items posted lately so I bring you the top 10:

  1. Pongo Bongo Beer Pong Float – $10 Floatable Beer Pong Austin
  2. Stand Up Paddleboard & Gear – $20Rent SUP Austin
  3. Poker Table – $40Rent Poker Table Austin
  4. Trailer – $40 Rent Trailer Austin
  5. Walk Behind Brush Cutter – $92Rent Brush Cutter Austin
  6. Litter Vacuum – $435 Rent Litter Vaccum Austin
  7. Chipper – $96Rent Chipper Austin
  8. Chocolate Fountain – $65Rent Chocolate Fountain Austin
  9. Hot Dog Cart – $110Rent Hot Dog Cart Austin
  10. Water Slide – $269Rent Water Slide Austin

Why We Do What We Do

The U.S.A. makes up 5% of the world’s population but uses 25% of the natural resources and creates 50% of the solid waste. (Worldwatch Institute).

At Loanables, we believe that people over-consume because there is not a good alternative to buying. Our mission is to make it as easy to rent as it is to buy. We are focused on giving consumers access to the things they want without ownership.

Perfect Weekend in Austin

Planning a visit to Austin or are you a local looking for a fun staycation downtown? Either way, we have the perfect weekend all ready for you-compiled from the Loanables.com team’s favorite places to stay, foods to eat, and things to do in town.

Where to stay

There are a plethora of high end hotels from which to choose, but that wouldn’t be as “Austin” as it gets! Experience the tiny house trend without crossing that point of no return by checking into this amazing Tiny Home located just 2 miles from downtown. It’s the perfect launch pad for all of your adventures while in Austin. It accommodates up to 4 people and starts at only $125/night! Your hosts, Christi & Wes, are not only some of the coolest locals in town, they’ve been known to go above and beyond by accommodating special requests like a beer-stocked fridge prior to guests’ arrivals.


 

 

 

 

Or check out Austin’s new Native Experiential Hostel. From the website: “Native is for the seekers. The curious ones, filled with youful wanderlust. Explorers who know that possessions are fleeting, but experiences last a lifetime. Native is a kinetic collision of music, arts, warm beds, sleepless nights, food, and spirits. Our kindred are this generation of artists, creatives, thinkers and folks who simply embody good times; those who thrive on connection, unbridled fun and meaningful experiences.” If that doesn’t sum up the local feel of Austin, we don’t know what does!

How to Get Around

Use a local ride-share company like Ride Austin on the fly, or even pre-arrange a ride with Wingz and you’ll be able to get to anywhere in town in a jiffy! (Use our favorite Wingz driver’s code colettedg for $5 off your ride!)

Want to be a little more green? Rent a scooter or a bicycle and save money over paying for each ride or dealing with the stress of finding parking for your own vehicle! You’ll also feel great knowing you are supporting the locals in the economy, not just the local economy.

What to Eat

Day 1: Your first night in Austin, you should start by checking out some hot spots along South Congress, like Hotel San Jose for their signature summer beverage, Frose.

Then, head to a new local favorite, El Chiporon, for amazing, authentic Spanish tapas. The cold soups are so refreshing in the Texas heat!

For that extra-special meal, Eddie V’s stands the test of time. It’s a favorite for birthdays, anniversaries and other celebrations. Similarly, the local and seasonal menu at Wink will not disappoint!

Day 2: Of course, you can’t leave Austin without some good ‘ole Texas barbecue, so perhaps waiting for a few hours with a few hundred of your new best friends at Franklin’s will be part of your Saturday activity?


If standing in line isn’t your thing, hop over to Forthright Café in the heart of downtown and enjoy a lovely selection of brunch items including Avocado Toast, Pork Belly Hash or Forthright’s signature Waffle Sandwich.

Day 3: No time in Austin is complete without eating your fill of TexMex! Establishments like Chuy’s and Guero’s Taco Bar will surely be the perfect conclusion to your weekend of Austin’s finest cuisine.

What to do Outside

At the top of any Austinite’s list is spending some time enjoying the gorgeous outdoor scenery. Take a walk around Ladybird Lake or feel the peaceful bliss of Austin’s iconic stand up paddleboard experience. You can rent this inflatable paddleboard for a fraction of the price of renting from the lake-side companies, if you plan to be out on the water more than an hour. The owner will meet you at the perfect location to hop in the water and pump it up so you’re all set to enjoy both the tranquility of the water and one heck of a workout!

 

What to do Inside

Take an extended break from the heat and still enjoy the local scene by catching a movie at Alamo Drafthouse, Austin’s original dine-in movie theater. You can also play The Escape Game Austin with your group or for those who enjoy a little history, take a tour of the Texas State Capitol.

Need a little retail therapy? Shop the Austin way by perusing local vintage stores like Moss and the fabulous, new Ford on Fifth for designer finds at a fraction of the original retail price. And men, not leaving you out, the YETI Flagship is not to miss!

How’s that for the perfect weekend in Austin? Let us know YOUR favorites so we can add them to our list!

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Ways to Celebrate 4th of July


How do celebrate the 4th of July: play baseball, eat a hot dog and pop some fireworks. You’re done.

But what if you live somewhere like Austin where it is too hot to be outside playing baseball in the middle of the day? Or what if you are a vegan? Or what if you live in the city that doesn’t allow fireworks of if there is a burn ban because it’s so dry. Well, here are some ideas for you..you high-maintenance American 😉

1. DIY Slip N Slide

I’m NOT crafty by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m pretty sure I could pull this off. Big tarp or thick trash bags, dish soap, a water hose and voila – you have a fun-filled afternoon.

Ice Cream Party

2. Vegan Ice Cream Party

Check out these Vegan Ice Cream recipes (it says they are better than the real thing!) Want to make a big batch for a party, rent an ice cream maker.  And if you aren’t vegan, here are 13 delicious recipes (including s’mores)!

Photo by Jim Harmer

3. Get Creative with Sparklers

So, you can’t pop fireworks, but sparklers usually steal the show anyway.  Here are some creative sparker photography tips.

However you choose to celebrate, I hope you have fun.

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!