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Fanstastic Fall Accessory

September 22, 2015

Congratulations! You survived a sweltering summer in Austin! Now it’s time to enjoy a season filled with football games, concerts, and art festivals in the cool, crisp autumn air. Oh wait. Scratch that.

Though high temperatures are not behind us, at least we have a local company helping us beat the heat in style.

Fine & Folded, created by Austinites Suzanne McGinnis and Carmen Sutherland, makes beautiful, practical hand fans. The carefully designed fans are constructed of sleek bamboo and high-quality, double-sided paper. The six different styles combine a classic pattern with a touch of whimsy, such as “Gingham & Grackle” or “Dogtooth & Dragonfly.” They are incredibly fun to use and, best of all, they cool you down.


McGinnis said the goal was to create something simple and delightful that actually works. “It’s not another techy gadget you have to plug in,” she said. “It’s the exact opposite. And there’s something about a fan…everyone who holds it can’t help but smile.”

The pair of friends started their business after Sutherland took a (very hot) trip to Japan and was inspired by the abundant and lovely fans found there. McGinnis and Sutherland had spent several years working together as marketing professionals who built other people’s brands. When their business came to a crossroads, they decided to create something of their very own. Fine & Folded was born.


After two years of research and product development, the company launched in the spring of 2015 and spent the summer promoting their business and getting their fans in the hands of overheated locals. For their 100 Days of Hotness campaign they surprised Austinites (dubbed “Hotties”) on the street and rewarded them with cool fans.

The products can currently be customized with small charms (letters including the Greek alphabet) or with personalized wrappers (great for weddings and special events). More designs are in the works, including a “Lace & Longhorn” fan that will please the burnt-orange crowd.


The fans are currently found in 8 states and 15 Austin retailers, including Tarrytown Pharmacy, Aloe Skin + Body, The Herb Bar and Zilker Garden Gift Shop. They are also available online 24/7. Locals can waive the shipping fee and pick up at the fan headquarters in west Austin by using the code ATXPICKUP. And if you are heading out to the ACL Festival, look for their pop-up tent near Juiceland on Lake Austin Blvd.

If all goes as planned for the Fine & Folded duo, locals will embrace the fans and make them a critical part of their survival kit. “I don’t leave home without one,” said Sutherland. “I grab keys, sunglasses, phone and fan…all the essentials.”

It’s as much about surviving as it is enjoying Austin, despite its 9 months of heat. “We’re super active people, as are most of our friends,” said McGinnis. “You don’t want a little thing like heat to stop you from being outside in this great city.”


Elizabeth McGuire is a writer, photographer and mother of three from Austin. Her words and images have appeared in print, online and on stage. She is a 5th-generation Texan who doesn’t eat barbecue. (


First Film Festival

August 17, 2015

Photo Credit: First Film Festival

Do you have a child who is really into filming things? Or being filmed? Are you living with the next Kid President? More importantly, have you heard about the First Film Festival?


The First Film Festival is a project created to encourage kids to get out there and make videos. The festival will happen online in October. It will be both live-streamed and recorded. So wherever you are, you can watch it in real time, or watch the recording after the fact.

There will be three big winners, with three big prize packages — but EVERYONE who enters will receive a $25 movie pass, plus a First Film Festival t-shirt.And it’s open to anyone under 18.

If you’re just hearing about it for the first time, there are still a few days left to enter — there’s still time! The final day for entries is August 22nd. Then, the entries will be handed over to the festivals illustrious judges (including the dude behind Kid President: check out the fantastic judges page ).

So check it. Get on it. Tell your kids. Tell your friends. Such a fun opportunity for all those budding filmmakers out there! I know between Austin and LA, there are a lot of you. So go do that now. We’ll be here when you get back. And we can’t wait to see your kid’s entry.


May 5, 2015

It’s May 5, 2015.  5/5/15.  Cinco de Mayo. Time to party.

It’s also time to start this blog up again. With new posts, new people, new design, in the same spot.

I started The Queso as Blog con Queso in 2005 while I was on maternity leave. At the time I needed a creative outlet and a way to share photos of my newborn with my sister in Boston and my son’s godfather in Washington DC.  I named this spot after queso  because at the time, I thought blogs were cheesy, and in Texas, we call that queso.

Behold the power of queso.

Because over time and from this blog, five businesses were born, countless ideas were developed and thousands of friendships were made. One of the ideas that came from one of those friendships, is what I’d like to introduce you to today.

Behold the new Queso.

It was redesigned by Laurie Smithwick of Step Away From The Screen and Make Something (I know, ironic.) My friend Karen Walrond has helped me all along the way (she is a partner and constant contributor), along with my fellow Texan soul sisters Jenny Lawson, Brené Brown, Maile Wilson, Katherine Center and Wendi Aarons. And I have to say, Gabrielle Blair, Laurie White, Carrie Pacini and the entire Mom 2.0 Summit community have encouraged me over the last year (and definitely over the last weekend) by showing me the power of storytelling.

I am really very happy and excited to be here again. Launching this place again. And I’m really interested in what this blog is becoming…a culture blog that represents Texan and Southwestern lifestyle, travel, food, music, ideas and inspiration about real people living authentically, with a sense of humor and a sense of adventure.

It is my intention to introduce you to some lovely things, lovely people, and a number of smart and interesting contributors from around the US … we are starting with three girls who currently live in Texas right now (me, Karen and Kristen) but I’m already starting to add more…friends from around the country and around the world who are interested and connected to the art, the food, the culture, the music and the people of the southwest and my lovely Texas.

When people hear that I live near Austin, they almost always say, “Oh! The only good part of Texas!” Or, “That’s the ONLY place I’d ever live in the South.” And I know they are just trying to be friendly and all, but it’s just not accurate… and sure, I can see how many would think Austin is fantastic (because, Austin is really fantastic…), but it’s not the only great thing going. Not at all. If you’ve lived elsewhere…or even ever been to other places in Texas and/or the South, then you totally know this. And you deserve to have your story told.

So pull up a chair, grab a chip, and join us.

We hope you love it.

Soundtrack: That’s Right. By this smart guy with really great hair from Klein, Texas. 


Shop con Queso: My Own Austin-Inspired Store

May 22, 2014


Ever since I was about five, I’ve always wanted to have a store. That was always my big grown up dream … but it never involved a big grown up store. The image of the perfect shop has been pretty consistent since Sesame Street was my primary form of entertainment. And with that inspiration, it would be on a street like this. It would have an awning outside and an old kelly green door that sort of creaked and rang a bell when you entered. It would smell like gardenias and old wood. And it would be filled with pretty things and candy. My friends and I would sit in the back of the store all day and play cards and talk to visitors. Oh and everyone who came in would get a sugar cookie. I never knew what the name of this store would be, but it would have the word shop in it that wasn’t spelled like shoppe. Because that’s ridiculous.

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Dreamy Dream.

January 13, 2014

Where do you do your best dreaming? I’m not talking actual sleep dreaming, I mean, day dreaming, possibility dreaming. When your mind goes elsewhere and comes back with something new, something clearer, or just, something. Anything really.

I’ve never really been a grand Walter Mitty imaginer (Yes, go see it, if only for the cinematography and the soundtrack). But my answer for any run-of-the-mill, where-do-you-dream questioning (and pretty much every question) is: It depends.

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