It all started with a…notebook which struck me (no – not a lightning bolt, like what marked the famous Harry) last Tuesday afternoon around 5pm at Barnes & Noble Booksellers. I was browsing for a nice sketch pad for Patience who turned 10 last week, and the one with scenes from the Harry Potter movies jumped out at me and screamed, “Have a fun Harry Potter party for Patience!” We had already planned on getting together with my cousin Ben’s wife and kids (and his mom, who is my aunt, since my mom, her sister, was coming into town as well – get all that?), so instead of a beach bash, we ended up with Potter Party Central instead, turning our house into a makeshift Hogwart’s. After spending Tuesday night scouring the web, I woke up Wednesday morning with a plan: hit up a few stores, pick up my mom from the airport, finish out our shopping, and then get to work. This sort of panned out – last week is all a blur, and I distinctly remember Greer waking me up around 4am a few days in a row. I probably slept in as late as possible, cleaned up the house a bit for my mom, and then left for the airport in the late afternoon, dragging Gabriel with me for company. (He was the only one I told about the party since the little girls aren’t quite capable of keeping secrets. Patience didn’t even know there would be a party at this point – 5pm on Wednesday.) We were able to hit up Michael’s Craft Store for quite a few great ideas, and then it was time for to pick up my mom. John brought the other kids out, and we all had a birthday dinner (for John, since it was his birthday at this point) at an amazing Mexican restaurant. We pulled off a great surprise – with many fun smiles captured as the children discovered Grandma Rickwalt was at dinner. (Where’d she come from?) Properly fortified, we sent the rest of the family home and braved Dollar General, Target, and WalMart before limping home around 11pm. (John actually stopped into Office Depot – with 5 kids – for me as well to buy printer cartridges – but more on that later!)
Once the kids were in bed, the real work began. I basically spent the evening gathering items from around my house (empty jars, candle containers, textiles, crafty things), writing out clues and recipes, timelines and plans, and trying to print out the necessities. Apparently the printer cartridges used in the American printer from Office Depot for the exact same printer purchased in England, don’t work in the British printer. Seriously – the SAME printer. I tried installing them, and they were perfect, but the printer wouldn’t recognize them. Finally, at 4:30am, I crawled into bed for 6 hours of sleep before the big day, figuring I’d write out our stuff by hand or have John buy a new printer (since apparently the British Epson wasn’t going to cut it anymore.)
On “the big day” – Thursday (the party began exactly 48 hours after my first thoughts of having it – a good thing because it meant I couldn’t obsess over the details for weeks, and the only ones I could aim to please were Patience and the kids, rather than some imaginary Pinterest audience!) – I started working around 10:30 while simultaneously eating a protein shake for breakfast and lunch. My mom came alongside – sipping her meals as well – and did whatever was needed – from ten-day-old dishes (don’t ask) to five-day-wrinkled laundry to completely useless cake balls (remind us never to make these
for a party EVER, for any occasion, again.) I was a literal taskmaster and slavedriver, using my minions (the under-ten set) and co-laborers (my mom and husband) to the best of my ability. Delegation: something I learned as a Naval Officer which continually is put to great use; never underestimate the skill of delegation, especially when under stress!! I know some people really short-circuit when trying to accomplish a lot in a tight time-frame, and being able to spread out the work gracefully (without poking, prodding, shouting, or totally losing it) is not easy. 🙂 I think, perhaps, I lost it a few times…but I kept trying to remind myself that just because my timeline ended at 3:30pm, it really didn’t matter what time it started (since only my aunt and cousins were coming) and that this was all for Patience’s enjoyment, so things didn’t need to meet my standards of “perfection,” just her ideas of “fun.”
In this post, I’m just going to talk about the general party scheme and the decor, along with a few games we played. Then I’ll do a post specifically about our Scavenger Hunt, and finally one with some of the snacks and such. I am writing about it mostly to share fun pictures and tales with my friends and family but also to give some links to lots of “Harry Potter” help I found online. HERE IS THE BEST ONE (CLICK THIS SENTENCE.) I mean – you could read this page for weeks and never cease to be amazed by the plethora of ideas. It’s got enough material for all six of my children to have Harry Potter parties until they leave my home, and probably even afterwards, and perhaps enough for my next six children as well (hahahaha.) It’s hard to remember specific ideas I found on each site, but I will endeavor to give credit for each one. Others’ blogs were super-helpful, so I will link the resources here for those of you who accidentally find this post while trying to throw a Hogwart’s Party. One final disclaimer: my kids have seen the movies, which was sort of a downhill slope after playing the Lego Harry Potter video games with John, and it appears that I am more frightened of the scary parts than they are, so no, we didn’t feel the themes of the party were too dark for them. My kids don’t believe in magic anymore than they do in Santa or the Easter Bunny, so there ya go.
When we finally let the children out of the locked room where a movie was babysitting them (the cousins arrived on schedule, but 90 minutes before we had all the preparations completed), they traipsed downstairs to properly attire themselves. Collared shirts were disbursed, and they exited the house to wait on Platform 9 3/4 (a.k.a. the front porch) for the Hogwart’s Express.
I’m told (perhaps I don’t really pay enough attention when we watch movies – usually I’m blogging, folding laundry, or off playing the bagpipes somewhere!) that the students change into their Hogwart’s duds on the train, so we walked into the house to don neckties, robes, scarves, and what-have-you (from the Full-blast awesome site mentioned above.)
This was one of the things I was doing the night before – collecting anything for dressing up, from cloaks, to bathrobes, to ties and scarves, and putting them into the closet which doubled as the Hogwart’s Express and a good dressing room for privacy. Here are a few good ones of their wardrobe decisions:
Since the first clue for the Scavenger Hunt was taped inside the closet door, we will take up the next post there. I am going to hit on a few things that occurred along the way, though, like our first stop – at Ollivander’s Wand Shop! This idea was – wait for it – entirely my own!! Perhaps someone else has done this, but it really is the only thing I genuinely devised without reading about it first on some website. 🙂 A clue led them to the kitchen table where tiny containers of beads were arranged, labelled with different “spells” (which I found listed online), and wands (sticks wrapped with a bit of wire) hung from the chandelier. Each kid decorated a stick with the beads while drinking magical sparkling cider which turned different colors as we poured it (much to their amazement.) The drink idea is shown here.
This lady’s awesome Harry Potter party inspired our one hanging candle (using clear picture wire) which crashed to the floor around 10pm resulting in a bit of spilled wax but no deaths. She will be referenced more in later posts; her party was very gentle on the eyes since she’s a photographer who apparently used something other than her iPhone for documenting the excitement. 🙂
As they used their newfound wands to guide them over bridges, through forests, up stairs and down, into closets, out of garages, and around the neighborhood, they had a brief respite in the nearby pavilion for some makeshift Quidditch. The idea for it came from a blog (which, for the life of me, I can no longer find,) but I modified it to use each team’s colors and balloons rather than a ball. We placed a bit of water into each balloon to keep them from floating away, and then the kids had to push them into their team baskets to “score” using broomsticks. (Of course, we didn’t actually see a reason for keeping tally of the “points.”) After scoring they ran onto the stage to grab a clue for the hunt, and afterwards they just ran around hitting balloons and popping them at last.
Once the Scavenger Hunt had ended with tasty drinks, chicken wings, and
yucky cake balls, the present opening could commence. Part of the Hunt had them searching for items from the movies which were each called a “Horcrux.” Once found by various characters, these were destroyed with either a Sword or a Basilisk Tooth, so our Hunt had them finding these items as well. When the children “destroyed” each Horcrux, Patience received her presents which matched the objects. This was an idea from several blogs, but most notably from Sophie’s Blog. (We gave her a necklace to replace Slytherin’s locket – which happened to be a Harry Potter “Time Turner” also found at Barnes & Noble, a sketch book to replace the diary, and glow sticks for everyone to replace the snake.) Then she opened all the “magical” gifts brought by the cousins (and a few more from us, Grandma, and Great Aunt Kath.)
So that’s about it. The birthday went on a bit longer – with a Friday night (her ACTUAL birthday) trip with John, Gabriel, and me to see the new Star Trek movie along with dinner at Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Make sure to check out the second installment in a few days when I go into minute detail about our Scavenger Hunt. Teeheehee 🙂