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Venue Spotlight: Volente Beach

Meet Kara & Adam

Volente Beach Wedding Sunset

Volente Beach Wedding Sunset

Kara & Adam Weedman’s diverse backgrounds make them the perfect pair for shining up Volente Beach Resort & Waterpark, the only beach and waterpark on Lake Travis. Their idea to bring this hidden gem into the spotlight for events large and small began not long ago, but it seems like every twist and turn in life has been preparing them to create this perfect escape outside of the hustle and bustle of typical Austin city life. Kara first enjoyed Volente Beach with her kids during long summer days while Adam was working on his software startup. But that’s getting too far ahead.

You must first know that Kara earned her degree in Hospitality Management and worked several years at Westin Hotels prior to relocating to Austin for Adam’s job and to start their family. While raising their 3 children, her love of real estate grew, as did Kara’s experience in remodeling older properties through a series of new builds and renovations they completed over the years. During their “motivational tours” a.k.a. Sunday afternoon drives, Kara & Adam talked about one day owning land and building a home out in the quaint town of Volente, but as Kara said “Never in a million years would I have thought we would one day own Volente Beach!”

Through subsequent real estate investments, the Weedmans became familiar with the owner of the 1950s cottages across from Volente Beach and let her know that when she was ready to sell, they would love the opportunity to purchase the properties. Their vision was to remodel the historic homes and turn them into vacation rentals which are surprisingly lacking in the small, lakeside community. As it so happened, when the opportunity arose, they took it, purchased the cottages and celebrated with lunch at the cafe across the street. Kara explains that as fate would have it, that is where they learned that Volente Beach was on the market and available for purchase. The dove right in along with their long time friends and now business partners John & Gala Lyne, who also have extensive experience in remodeling and flipping homes.

Adam’s career has also perfectly prepared him for management of Volente Beach. His sales and business experience in restaurants, insurance, music venues and tech have all contributed to his business & marketing acumen. His most recent company, Affiniscape, was sold to a private equity company in 2012. Now Adam is utilizing his knowledge and experience to get Volente Beach positioned for growth as a well-known event venue in the Austin area. 

Volente Beach

Volente Beach Tent & Lounge

Volente Beach Tent & Lounge

Adam describes Volente Beach as one of the most unique properties in the U.S. “A lakeside waterpark that uses lake water to provide an awesome setting cannot be duplicated today. With great food, cold drinks, awesome sunsets, live music and lots of activities, Volente is a gem just minutes outside of Austin.” And we agree. There are so many groups that could enjoy Volente Beach along with the cottages, water park and Beachside Billy’s restaurant. They have hosted corporate events, family reunions, school outings, weddings and birthday parties for all ages. Activities include boat and jet ski rentals, multiple bars, waterslides, pools and plenty of games.

Volente Beach Pavilion

Volente Beach Pavilion

The Details

May through September Volente Beach functions as a waterpark for family fun on hot summer days. Fabulous special events like the Alamo’s Jaws movie screening this past summer make for fantastic summer night fun. However, October through April, it is also now open as a venue for all types of events from corporate gatherings, adult & child birthday parties and live music festivals. Beachside Billy’s caters with a variety of cuisine offerings or customers can bring in food trucks.

Volente Beach Pool Cocktails

Volente Beach Pool Cocktails

Volente Beach has numerous areas available for events and parties. The hillside area is perfect for lawn activities, petting zoos, music festivals and other live entertainment. When maximum shade is required, there is a 3,000 sq. ft. pavilion with a stage that makes it ideal for dancing and a full party set up. The sandy lakefront beach provides a stunning location for a fall or spring wedding and can accommodate up to 1500 guests! There is a picnic area surrounded by large oak trees providing lovely shade in a natural setting. Cocktail tables can be set up around the pool deck with floating candles in the pool for a romantic evening event. And last but not least, Ritaville, the most rented area, has access to Blu’s Bar and the most beautiful views on the property. Recently installed string lights providing perfect evening ambiance for adult birthdays and smaller corporate groups.

Volente Beach Ritaville

Volente Beach Ritaville

Pricing is affordable and being just outside of Austin city limits means there is more flexibility for special requests. Think outside the box for unique and fun ideas for your next event at Volente Beach. And you can feel great supporting local business owners Kara & Adam as they shine up this hidden gem.

Volente Beach Wedding

Volente Beach Wedding

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!

Top 5 Rentals for School Carnivals

If you have school aged children, it’s the time of year where you are either practicing your “saying no” skills or your calendar is getting full with volunteer commitments.  Personally, my calendar is full and now I’m practicing the fine art of saying no gracefully.  (Check out this article from Real Simple on 10 Guilt-Free Strategies).

If you find yourself on the school carnival committee, I’m here to help.  Below are the top 5 rentals for school carnivals. These are tried and true – you just can’t go wrong with these classics:

1. Slide

inflatable slide

I recommend getting a dual slide because kids like to race. Also, you can move more kids through in a given time.

2. Dunk Tank

Dunk Tank

Who wouldn’t love to dunk their teacher or the principal? Just make sure nobody is assigned to the station for more than about 20 minutes at a time. It gets old going into and getting out of the water.

 

3. Obstacle Course

Just like with the slide, I recommend getting a dual lane so the kids can race and you can move more kids through in a given time.

4. Games

Milk Bottle Toss

The most popular rentals are High Striker and the Milk Bottle Toss. Note: I think this is a great place to save money and put parents to work. Let them get creative with cake walks, bobbing for apples, face paint, etc. Check out these ideas on Pinterest.

5. Concessions

Popcorn Machine Cart

Popcorn machines, Cotton Candy Machine and Funnel Cake Fryers are by far the most popular.  Another fun thing to do is get a food truck to come to the school. I like doing this because it is one less thing the organizers have to worry about.  Check out our recent blog on the Top 10 Austin Food Trucks.

Making Your Event Unique

To make your carnival unique from year-to-year, bring in at least one new thing each year. Here are a few of popular ones:

The Big Baller

It’s like something you’d see on American Ninja Warriors

Meltdown

This will test agility. It’d be really fun to watch the teachers and parents do it.

Human Whack a Mole

Things to consider:

  1. If you need to move a lot of people through in a short period of time, don’t choose things where kids need to be suited up. Examples include rock walls, euro bungee bounces and the whack a mole. It would take a long time to give everyone a turn on these.
  2. If you have a wide age range of kids, consider having a few things just for the littles. I’d get a bounce house slide combo and put an age limit on it.
  3. Power – you probably need to rent generators to run the inflatables. Generally one generator can power 2 inflatables (note: this is not the case if the inflatable is large and has 2 blowers. Those need their own generator). If you plan to plug the inflatables into an electrical outlet, keep in mind that it is the only thing that can be on that circuit (I don’t mean plugged into the outlet – I mean the entire circuit). You can’t plug multiple inflatables into a circuit, and I wouldn’t recommend plugging anything else into the circuit. It will blow the fuse and you don’t want to deal with that during the carnival.
  4. If you are using any games with water, don’t put them on the football field because they create a muddy mess and the coaches will hate you afterwards 😉

Email us at info@loanables.com if you have any questions. We are always happy to help. Not only do we help others plan school carnivals, but also everyone on our staff has been on a committee for their kids school.

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!

Venue Spotlight: Sanctuary Event Space

The Vision

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” – Gandhi

Appetizer Buffet

Upon entering Sanctuary Event Space it is clear that this venue is truly unique to Austin. As described by Director of Events, Jessica Ryan, it is an urban sanctuary with a secret garden appeal. Huge oak trees fill the property creating a tree canopy which provides shade throughout the entire venue. String lights are strewn throughout the property, creating a romantic glow and mixed level terraces provide for a variety of seating arrangements. However, it is not just the natural beauty and ambiance that makes an event at Sanctuary most beautiful and meaningful. Its owners and customers are truly passionate about the purpose behind the event space.

Tablescape in Sanctuary Event Space

The Sanctuary Event Space is predominately a wedding venue, rented out for events on the weekend. During the week, the space is used by the Amala Foundation and home of Sanctuary Yoga. Both the venue rentals and Sanctuary Yoga classes are a means to raise funds for the Amala Foundation non profit organization. Founded by Vanessa Stone, The Amala Foundation has a mission to unite, serve and grow youth all around the world through social emotional learning programs such as youth summits, camps and leadership training opportunities. They are focused on “Inspiring people to grow as individuals and leaders in service to humanity.” Jessica explains that the customers who rent this space are a huge part of the reason she loves working there. Often social workers, teachers, and non-profit workers, they reflect the mission of the organization in their everyday work and care that their money goes to support a worthwhile cause.

Venue Details

Sanctuary Event Space Layout

Outside ceremony seating can be quickly transformed to seat up to 150 guests in the terraced seating areas with the use of either round or rectangle tables. Sanctuary Event Space provides a Ceremony Arbor with lush green jasmine vines that bloom fragrant flowers in April and May. There is a quaint house in the center of the space to stage catering and buffet-style food service in addition to the two-story house toward the back that provides an area for live music and dancing. Upstairs is a quiet Tree Top Loft with a beautiful bird’s eye view over the property, which is ideal for couple’s photos or setting up a sweetheart table for a private romantic dinner. The interior space includes a living room with space for hair and makeup and getting-ready photos, a second kitchen, bedroom, and private bathroom.

Sanctuary Event Space with Buildings

There are a multitude of Airbnb properties within minutes of the property and downtown hotels are a mere 7 minutes away so that guests can stay nearby the venue and benefit from ride-sharing to arrive home quickly and safely after the evening’s festivities. Fun note! Because Sanctuary is in a residential area all events must end by 10pm but The Highball and Gibson Street Bar are right across the street and provide amazing after-party libations so your guests can continue late into the night.

Bar Setup

Vendors

Sanctuary Event Space is open to working with new vendors, allowing food trucks parked in front of the venue and customer’s choice for various event providers in most cases. An impressive team of vendors pulled together this styled shoot at the fabulous Sanctuary Event Space.

Place Settings

Event Planner: Jessica Ryan, 3 of Cups. In addition to being the Director of Events at Sanctuary Event Space, Jessica owns a boutique wedding and event planning company, 3 of Cups. She offers collaborative planning, in addition to on-site coordination services. Jessica is passionate about wedding planning. Her approach to working with her clients is personal. She and her rock star team are very well accomplished with 5 years of experience, published styled shoots, and all 5-star rave reviews. You can find 3 of Cups listed on the Preferred Vendor List at local Austin and Hill Country Wedding venues.

Sanctuary Event Space Oaks

Photographer: Lee Hardin, Hardin Photography. Lee has an incredible gift for telling a story and capturing the moments that make up your fairytale. As an Austin native, she grew up loving photography and eventually fell in love with the wedding industry in particular. She loves capturing each chapter of your story from the proposal, to the bridal portraits, to the wedding festivities and eventually the newborn and family photos! She provides a personalized experience, and is proud to say her clients are her friends that allow her to continue to photograph their journeys as their families grow into the future.

Place Setting

Event Florals & Linens: Fabian Salcedo, Monarch Event Rentals. Monarch has a new in-house floral division led by the talented Fabian Salcedo who has worked with the likes of David Tutera and other great event professionals. They provide bouquets, wedding party florals, wedding design and event design for all types of corporate or private events and as one of our rental partners, Monarch’s rental inventory can be reserved through Loanables website.

Florals Table Linen and Charcuterie Buffet
Let us know your favorite event space or vendors so we can feature them in an upcoming blog in this Spotlight Series!

Floral Arrangements

 

Meet Leigh Stein: Scout & Cellar Clean-Crafted Wine

Meet Leigh SteinLeigh Stein

If you don’t know Leigh Stein, please allow me the pleasure of introducing you. Leigh is vibrant and joyful, yet exudes a calm and collected vibe that makes her almost mysterious. She is super-friendly, while slightly reserved and very thoughtful. She has a Turquoise Table in her front yard and if you know about that movement, you know that means you are wanted in her home. She and her husband, Tony, have intentionally curated their home to allow for entertaining and welcoming guests.

Turquoise Table

A native Texan, Leigh was born in Dallas, attended UT, did a stint in New York and then came back to Austin where she met her husband and has lived for the last 14 years. Before she had kids, she worked in sales in stock photography, ultimately for Getty Images. She loved the business side of her work but also loved the creative outlet that photography brought to her life.

The last few years have kept her busy with her three kids, two of whom are in elementary school and one who is in preschool. They love enjoying all the outdoors activities that Austin has to offer, including hiking the greenbelt, visiting nearby watering holes, and attending UT football games. When it’s too hot to be outside they like to spend family time at indoor climbing gyms and trips to the Thinkery. They are faithful attendees of ACL, both before kids and now enjoying the addition of Austin Kiddie Limits with their kids. A favorite date night for her and her husband is trying out a new restaurant in Austin’s ever-evolving food scene followed by a concert at ACL Live at The Moody Theater.

Scout & Cellar Clean-Crafted Wine

Wine and Appetizers

Leigh was drawn to Scout & Cellar through her personal experience with wine headaches and the pleasant surprise that she truly felt better after drinking a clean-crafted wine. She now enjoys representing the company through wine tastings and parties.

Scout & Cellar was founded by Sarah Shadonix as a solution to her personal frustration of getting headaches the morning after having a glass of wine. Funny that she noticed this, in particular, while she was studying for her sommelier exams. When she dug into the research, she found that hundreds of chemical additives can be included in a seemingly simple bottle of wine and she made it her mission to find a healthier option.

Once she had determined that she could deliver a better, clean-crafted wine through a continuous hunt of wineries committed to following a clean-crafted process, Sarah launched Scout & Cellar Clean-Crafted Wine. To be considered “clean-crafted” it necessary to follow many strict guidelines some of which include zero added chemicals (of the 250 approved FDA additives), zero added sugar, and low sulfites (less than 50 ppm). They also emphasize the importance of wine production as an art rather than with a mass-produced process. They require that vines are tended by people, not machines, and slow crafted with a flavor that is “wildly delicious and always distinctive year after year like nature intended.”

August Giveaway

Leigh is generously giving away 4 BOTTLES of her favorite clean-crafted wines to one lucky Loanables winner! Here are the bottles she has selected:

Wine Bottle Basket

  1. NV Maysara Sparkling Pinot Noir Rose: This vegan, biodynamic, 100% Pinor Noir wine is from Willamette Valley, Oregon. Pairs well with meat, fish, spicy hot chicken wings or any festive party food.
  2. 2016 Wildmakers Lirio Garnacha: This vegan, organic, 100% Grenache wine is from Mauley Valle, Chile. Pairs well with poultry, pork, BBQ (brisket tacos!) or seafood (fish tacos!)
  3. 2017 Caecus Joven: This vegan, organic 90% Tempranillo/10% Granache wine is from Rioja Alavesa, Spain. Pairs well with meats, strong cheeses, ripe green olives and Mexican food.
  4. 2016 Domaine Des Guyons Murmure Cabernet Franc: This vegan organic 100% Cabernet Franc wine is from Saumur, Loire Valley, France. Pairs well with beef, pork, game, poultry and mild and soft cheese. Envision a dinner party starting with cheese and crackers, moving to grilled chicken or steak, and ending with chocolate!

To enter, head over to our Instagram post HERE and follow the instructions!

Deadline for entry is September 3, 2018. Check out the fine print Contest Rules and, of course, winner must be 21 or over. Good luck!

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?

Top Tips For Throwing a High Tea Party

The beginnings of the tradition of High Tea in British society is a bit disputed. According to a few sources, the 7th Duchess of Bedford is due the credit for the creation of this late afternoon meal accompanied by a pot of tea. What is less sure is if she began it simply as a fashionable social time for ladies while men were finishing up their afternoon business discussions, or as a means to make it through until the late evening dinner, as she called the 3-4 o’clock hour the time when “that sinking feeling” came on, requiring a little pick-me-up. The Carrington Hotel in Australia, says that high tea was actually a working mans meal taken standing or sitting on stools at high tables, hence the name “high” tea, and eventually became adopted by Ladies and Gentleman of society for social enjoyment before attending evening events around town at places like the theater. Whichever the true source, we know it sure makes for a fun theme for a bridal or baby shower, or even a fundraising event like Ballet Austin Guild’s annual tradition.

One of our favorite customers, Charlene Sigler, just hosted her second bridal shower with a tea party theme. She gave us some tips along with some fabulous photos of the event so that you can easily recreate your own tea party, true to English tradition. And, of course, events like these are so much easier (and MORE FUN!) when you work with a team, so a round of joyous applause also goes to fellow hostesses Margaret Garcia, Cathy, Amanda and Mary King, as well as Terese and Jennifer Sigler. You ladies truly outdid yourselves!

The Planning: Source Authentic English Tea Cups & Saucers and Reserve Your Rentals

Charlene’s mother-in-law has an English friend named Margaret, who helped with the shower, and authenticity is important to for the event. So, a few months in advance of the tea, they begin collecting tea cups, saucers and tea pots from estate sales. Nothing “made in China” would do. Only items made in England because, as a special treat, guests got to take home their tea cup and saucer as a treasured memory from the event. Next, Charlene found Loanables to help secure the rentals needed. They decided on 36″ round bistro tables with four fruitwood folding chairs per table. The tables were decorated with burlap underlay, a rose/floral print middle cloth and topped with a lace table cloth to accent the luxurious table settings, complete with tulle & flower ball centerpieces, sugar & cream servers and tea pot charms around each napkin. So romantic!

The Menu: Homemade Sandwiches, Finger Foods & Desserts with English Tetley Tea

Homemade sandwiches and sweets make for an incredibly personal event and truly wow your guests. Charlene’s team truly outdid themselves with the spread they offered. Classic Cream Cheese & Cucumber sandwiches along with Chicken Salad, British Corned Beef with Butter and Ham & Cheese were displayed on sandwich platters. For even more options look at The Spruce Eats Traditional English Tea Sandwiches for inspiration! For sweets they had fruit scones sliced horizontally to allow guests to butter them in true English style, Lemon Curd Tarts, Teapot-shaped shortbread, Victoria Sponge Cupcakes and cream-filled meringues. Finally, they supplemented with a variety of English sweeties including After Eight Mints, Thornton Truffles, assorted English biscuits and Mark & Spencer Cheese Straws. I think it is safe to say with such an array of choices, no guest left unsatisfied!

 

The largest tea company in the United Kingdom & Canada is Tetley Tea. Charlene points out that the English version of Tetley is different from what we get here in the U.S. so if authenticity is important to you, have a friend from England send it (along with some classic sweets) or find it on British Online Supermarket. Charlene explains that having a few electric kettles along with stove top kettles is helpful for serving hot tea to all guests at one time. Start by pre-heating the water before guests arrive so that serving isn’t delayed. To warm the tea pots, swirl some of the hot water around in each pot before filling with hot water. A few tea bags in each pot, letting them steep 4-5 minutes, makes for a typical strength tea, but simply adjust the number of tea bags for stronger or weaker tea, accordingly to your guests preferences. Keep hot water on throughout the event for quick refill of the pots as they near empty.

The Entertainment: Games & Prizes

Before opening presents, it’s fun for guests to play a few English games. Pass the Parcel is a fun game where a gift wrapped many times is passed around the room from person to person while music plays. When the music stops, the person holding the gift unwraps one layer until the final gift is revealed. To add some fun different questions about or for the guest of honor could be written on each layer, or for more prize winners a few gifts could be placed wrapped inside of each other!

Other fun games are word matching of an English word to it’s American equivalent and Trivia & Tea Type where guests have to match tea descriptions with the correct tea type. Finally, Charlene’s guests enjoyed random door prizes, with numbers given as they entered and drawn every 15-30 minutes throughout the shower. Prizes included tea towels, high end teas, London pillows, aprons, Walkers shortbread, English fudge, china and soaps.

The Attire: Encourage Guests to Wear Fabulous Hats

It can probably be left unsaid that most ladies love an excuse to get glammed up. So, encouraging guests to wear a home made or vintage hat is always a hit! Being dressed up encourages guests to take photos so that they and the guest of honor can enjoy looking back at the event for years to come.

From pre-setting the lovely table arrangements to a special token to honor the memory of the bride’s mother, these hostesses did not miss a chance to delight guests and care for small details to complete the picture. The bride’s mother loved mice so they found a little mouse, decked out in pearls, to place on the bride’s table to pay tribute. And hostesses provided pink bags with tea pot stickers to take home each guest’s tea cup and saucer, along with any prizes they won during the game time.

 

Let us know if you want to try this theme for your next event, we would love to help you make it an authentic, memorable occasion!