Loanables - Helping save the planet

Vendor Spotlight: Freedom Fun

Freedom Fun: Seriously Fun Events

Masters Family

The Masters Family

This local Austin family is serious about fun. They own and operate a party and entertainment business called Freedom Fun. Tim Masters launched Freedom Fun while he was still working at Dell, but recently quit his full time job to pursue growing Freedom Fun into a national franchised brand. He has brought his mother, son and others into the family business to help as it has grown tremendously. His mother, he says, is the secret weapon. She has superb customer service skills and can handle any issues that arise, while his son Zach is building the marketing plan to reach more and more Austinites with their message about how YOU can be a Party Pro. With Tim’s military background, he trains the entire team to provide excellent service allowing you, the host, to have peace of mind that your party will be the ultimate in fun for your guests. Customers say that the Freedom Fun team members arrive as vendors and leave as guests.

Options for Epic Fun

Laser Tag

Ultimate Outdoor Laser Tag

Freedom Fun offers so many options I don’t know how I would choose! Some favorites include laser tag, outdoor movies, bubble ball and virtual reality. They also have bounce houses, slides, concessions and audio/visual rentals for your event. Even more fun includes foam parties, an archery hoverball game and archery tag. Such a variety of options allow you to delight guests of any age or interest.

Bubble Ball/Bubble Soccer

Bubble Ball/Bubble Soccer

Many of the rentals can be picked up locally, shipped to your door, or delivered with full setup and ongoing monitoring throughout your party. What’s better than that? A convenient DIY option all the way to true concierge services!

Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality

Featured Rental & November Giveaway

Frosty Snowman Snow Machine

Freedom Fun has generously offered to give one lucky Loanables winner a FREE rental of the Frosty Freedom Snow Machine for your holiday party! This amazing artificial snow making machine is 3 feet tall and shoots realistic snowflakes 15 feet in the air! Use it for the perfect winter backdrop for fun family photos or to create a magical snowy kingdom for your next event. Free rental includes 1 gallon of snow machine fluid which will last about an hour (Retail value $279.95). Add extra snow solution for $49.95. Giveaway includes delivery & pickup within most Austin zip codes. Delivery to outlying areas may incur an additional fee. See details with fine print here.

Entry is easy. Head over to our Instagram and follow the directions on this post!


10 Tips to Save on Rentals For Your Next Event


  1. Find a venue that is flexible on delivery and pick up times.

    If you can have your rentals delivered and picked up during standard times with a 4 hour window, your fees will be significantly less (averages $100 in Austin). Time specific and after hours fees are significant (average $200 more than standard delivery).

    For example – if the rental company can deliver Friday afternoon and pick up Monday morning, you would pay $100. If your vendor requires delivery Saturday morning and pick up after the event Saturday night, your fees will easily jump to over $500.

  2. Ask your venue what they have available to use.

    Many times venues will have standard tables and chairs that you can use free of charge or for a very low price. Don’t be afraid to use the basics – there are many ways to spruce them up and still have a glamorous look and feel.

  3. Find out if your venue requires you to use a certain rental company.  

    A few venues (not many) require you to use a certain vendor for rentals. Quite often the vendor is one with the highest prices so consider that when booking. You will not be able to shop around to get the best deal.

  4. Use as few vendors as possible.

    Again, delivery fees add up quickly. You want to get everything from as few vendors as possible to save money and to simplify logistics.

    Pole tent at night

  5. Shop around for Tents

    Tents are always one of the biggest line items for outdoor events, and prices vary widely amongst vendors. You want to use a reliable vendor with quality products, but there are many to choose from. Pro Tip: Just use Loanables and we will find you the best deal (for FREE).

  6. Don’t make linens your focal point.  

    Linens are expensive to rent due to the cleaning costs incurred by rental companies. Use a simple polyester linen and then spruce it up with table runners, centerpieces and place settings.

    If you have an annual event, you may even consider purchasing the linens to use each year. Just keep in mind that this also has its own set of headaches as you will need to wash and press them (or pay for that service which cost as much as renting). See more in my related blog Should You Rent or Buy Linens for Your Event?

    Place Setting

  7. Make decorations / decor.

    Look for inspiration on Pinterest and directions on Instructables and make some of the decorations / decor.

  8. Use twinkle or bulb lights instead of other expensive lighting options. Buy these string lights instead of renting.

    String lights are budget friendly and can create a beautiful ambiance. Watch for sales at Costco and on Amazon. You can purchase for less than the price of renting and use them from year to year (they don’t require a lot of storage space).

  9. Serve wine, beer in bottles, and a signature drink instead of having an open bar.

    This will not only save you money on liquor but also on glassware. Each type of drink is served in a different glass. You rent glasses based on estimates, which typically means you have more of each type than what you will actually use.

  10. Buy second hand decor instead of renting.  

    Flea markets and online marketplaces are a great place to find second-hand decor. Plus, you can resell them again after your event. If you are crafty or have design-forward friends to help, this can be fun and save you a ton.






Party Essentials: Photo Booths

Whether you are throwing a corporate event, charity fundraiser, wedding, or children’s birthday party, one thing that you should never leave out is a photo booth. Not only do photo booths fit with any party or event theme, they serve multiple purposes: they capture memories from the event, provide entertainment, break the ice between guests who don’t know each other, and even provide event decor.

If you do plan to include a photo booth in your next event (which you most definitely should), here are 5 things to consider:

 1 – Be Creative With the Props

We all know that boas, hats, and funny sunglasses make a photo booth even that much more fun, but why stop there? Consider providing guests with bubbles, champagne bottles, dry erase and chalk boards for guests to create their own signage, or even shaving (or whipped) cream if you are feeling brave. Really, the sky is the limit where props and extras are concerned and the more creative you are, the more creative your guests will be and the more memorable the photos.

2 – Don’t Hide the Photo Booth

We often see some of the best and most creative photo booths hidden in the back corner of a party. This means one thing – fewer photos (or at least more photos of the same people). People who don’t naturally jump in front of a camera will steer away from an activity that is hidden in the back and those who love a camera will run to it and spend their whole night snapping photos of themselves while other guests go unseen.

Consider placing the photo booth front and center. Make it one of the main attractions and steer guests towards it when they walk in the door. This is the best way to get everyone involved and having fun creating some event memories (and they and you will have the pictures to prove it).

3 – Use Your Booth as Event Decor and Entertainment

Not only can you have a photo booth that follows the same theme as your party or event, you can also use the photos to create a live photo wall during the event. Guests will love looking at all the pictures and trying to top one another with the most fun, funny, or outrageous photo of the day. This extends the entertainment value beyond just dressing up and having a picture taken and it provides cheap event themed decor!

4 – Mix it Up

If you have other activities during your event, consider using the photo booth to capture images of winners of raffles, auction items, dance contests, or any other activity you have planned. This will not only memorialize what happened during the event, it can also get complete strangers posing together and even making new friends.

5 – Post the Photos Real Time

Whatever you do, make sure guests have the opportunity to post their photos to their favorite social media channel right then and there. This can help get the word out, create conversation and buzz around the event, fulfill attendees social media needs, and create a memory which will then show up every year and remind guests of what a great time they had.

While the sky really is the limit with photo booths, make sure to think through all of these things before your event so you are sure to get the biggest bang for your buck. A 2-hour photo booth rental starts at $300 which includes unlimited prints for guests and someone to man the booth. Adding props, time, etc. adds cost, but all in all it is a very cost effective form of entertainment for any event.

In the past, Loanables has given away a free 2 hour photo booth rental. If you missed out that time, be on the lookout for another opportunity to win either a photo booth or other cool prize – just follow us on Facebook or Instagram to stay informed of upcoming giveaways and then be sure to enter to win. In the meantime, start planning how you can incorporate a photo booth into your next event.



The Art of Swag

swag bags

Art of the Gala

This week, Austin’s premier brand strategist, event producer and fundraising specialist, Jennifer Stevens, of JHL Company joined together with non-profit champion and journalist Monica Williams of Giving City to share their expertise at Art of the Gala with hundreds of non-profit leaders in Austin. The team curated a fabulous list of speakers and discussion leaders including Cindy Lo of Red Velvet Events, Sandy Marple of Neiman Marcus, Cassie LaMere of Lexus of Austin & Lakeway, among many others. They shared ideas on how to make an event magical, what corporations really want out of their non-profit and event sponsorships, and the importance of the first and last impression, which intentionally send guests home from the event saying “I loved that event because…” and continuing to talk about it for days and weeks to come. Making the most of all of these opportunities to wow your guests is what ultimately makes for a successful event.

The Art of Swag

Art of the Gala Jennifer Stevens, Brian Worley & Sandy Marple

Creating Extraordinary Experiences with Jennifer Stevens, Brian Worley & Sandy Marple

When it comes to that last impression, Sandy Marple of Neiman Marcus shared ideas like having live music outside after the event to serenade guests as they wait for their valet or a warm chocolate chip cookie to enjoy on their ride home. But what struck us was Brian Worley, of Bold Catering & Design, said about the importance of a well-curated swag bag. He explained that paper in a swag bag, those promotional flyers, leaflets, postcards and coupons are a complete waste as they end up immediately in the trash, without even a glance most of the time. In fact, he said that he thinks the ROI on those is not only nothing, but negative! Jennifer Stevens echoed his sentiments and explained that the best way to approach swag is to respectfully request that sponsors include a certain quantity of items with a specific dollar value and then curate the bags by combining various items for each level of attendee. Being specific in your request of quantity and dollar value, while communicating who these items will go to keeps your sponsors happy knowing their investment will be impactful on their target audience. Keep this concept in mind for your next event and attendees, who know the swag will be good, will also be excited to get an invitation for subsequent years!

Art of the Gala Jeremiah Bentley, Cassie LaMere, Lisa Trahan & Rob Golding

“What Sponsors Want” with Jeremiah Bentley, Cassie LaMere, Lisa Trahan & Rob Golding

Perfect Party Favors- Food Pun Coasters by Marie Saba

Chef & Author Marie Saba

Chef & Author Marie Saba

So how does this idea translate to a small party at a private home? How can a hostess best thank her guests for taking time out of their busy schedules and send them home with a little momento to remember the fun of the gathering? We have discovered the perfect take-home gift for evoking a memory of joyful times shared between friends. Marie Saba is a seasoned chef, food artist and cookbook author. Her website Cocina Marie shares her recipes, book and fabulous food art. She keeps us in stitches with her daily Instragram posts which reveal her witty sense of humor and the PIES! You must see her beautiful pies! While home with her young children, Marie has taken a small step back from her busy career to enjoy their growing up, and meanwhile, translated her popular food puns into the perfect dinner party favor: Food Pun Coasters. These would also be the perfect addition to any swag bag, or could even be used as hostess gifts throughout the holiday season as well!

Puntastic Coaster Giveaway

Food Pun Coaster

Along with Marie, Loanables Event Rentals is giving away fifteen 4-packs of Food Pun Coasters from Marie’s witty collection (Retail Value $135). Head over to this Instagram post to enter today! Giveaway ends Monday, October 29, 2018. See more details here.


Marie Saba Enter Here Image

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


  • 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


  • 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
  • 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


  • 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


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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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.


  • 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


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 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


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.


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!