Thursday, July 30, 2015


Forgot to include this among all the other birthday posts!  Joseph chose his beloved Guapo's again for his birthday dinner this year.  Another felix compleanos for "Joe Joe Bro Muchacho," as he is sometimes called by his amigos!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Happenings at Hogwarts

Although I love to share all the crafts and decorations I work so diligently on for Joseph's birthday, as I have in the last 2 posts, the party itself is really more about having a good time with friends and family.  There were a few fun activities that I mentioned in the other posts, first of which was the sorting ceremony.

Knowing that a bunch of the kids weren't as well-versed in Harry Potter as Joseph, I gave them a brief rundown of the story (casually mentioning the part about his parents being killed and heading quickly to how he learned he was a wizard and what happened when he got to Hogwarts to start his education and training).  I printed out a poster of the sorting hat song and invited each guest up for a turn in the chair after reading it aloud.  (No, sorry, I didn't put a cell phone or baby monitor inside it so it could really talk.  I just chatted with each kid for a few seconds, asking if they were loyal, or brave, or wise, or whatever, then called out the house Joseph had fairly randomly assigned them to).

No one was terribly upset about their assignment, aside from one friend just being sad for a short time that he wasn't in the same house as the birthday boy.  I think they were just stoked to get a t-shirt!  Back to the crafting for a second, I had to make the striped fabric in the right colors (well, no one had to, but you know me well enough by now...), and made the ties and the knots separately so the stripes would go in different directions.  (Is that pathological?)

While surfing the net for ideas for party games and activities (because yes, I did consider going there), I came across a local entertainer who performs in character as Professor Snape.  I was a bit worried that hiring a random person off the internet would be a total disaster, but seriously, he was awesome and totally lived up to his glowing online reviews.

He kept the entire crowd interested, not just the kids, and involved almost everyone in the show.  He taught a few spells right out of Harry Potter like Accio, Engorgio, Incendio, and Wingardium Leviosa, and fortunately stayed away from the Unforgivable Curses.  Then it was on to lots of illusions and classic parlor magic that fascinated us all.

He gets major marks from me for being communicative, responsive, respectful, affordable, and most importantly, entertaining.  If you're a local, check him out at

I must say, though, the highlight of the party had to be the Bertie Botts Every Flavor Bean game. In the series, the jelly beans truly come in every flavor, not just tasty ones.  So while there's yummy flavors like chocolate, berries, bubble gum, and popcorn, there's also a lot of nasty flavors like skunk spray, moldy cheese, toothpaste, and grass.  Spin the spinner and get a color, then take your chances.  Will it be chocolate or dog food?  Peach or barf?  Juicy pear or booger?!?

Literally, the kids would spit the nasty ones out into a cup, drink some water, then head right back to the end of the line for another go at it!  After a while they were all just begging to try every option.  Give me the dog food!  Can I please have a booger?!  Even a few adults got in on the action, and it was great fun.  Days later, some of our neighbor kids are still asking to play again when they come over.  Hysterical!

Alas, another birthday comes to an end :(  Hope I made eight really great for my boy!  And now to get around to those thank you notes...

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Welcome to Hogwarts - Part 2

You surely can't have a birthday party without cake!  You can imagine my dread as Joseph described the epic battle scene between Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort he wanted depicted on the cake, and then my relief when he changed his mind after realizing some kids might not be too familiar with the story at all.  After looking at some of my cake decorating books, he thought it should be more of a generic wizard cake, so we decided on a castle with a wizard and dragons.

My attempts to fashion a wizard out of fondant were pathetic, but luckily I always aim high and plan to scale back anyway.  The dragons and mythical creatures we had hanging around the house were the perfect adornment to the castle cake I was able to pull off, but I did need to run out to the toy store the day before the party to try to find a wizard figure.

The cake wound up a smashing success!  And oh, my, was there a ton leftover.  As I was baking I was thinking a 10" and 6" square didn't seem like much, but once assembled it weighed a ton and was more than enough to go around.  The birthday boy requested half vanilla and half red velvet this year.

After clean up we played the Bertie Botts Every Flavor Bean game (made by Jelly Belly and officially called Bean Boozled), and the kids loved every second of it.  More on that later!

No question that there were goody bags!  They were personalized to match the house t-shirt each guest got, and we slipped in the cauldrons and broom pens from the table settings, along with a few lightening bolt tattoos and some of the most well known treats from Honeydukes Sweet Shop.  I never did get a pic of all the bags together since we had to keep everything out of the rain :(

As a reward for playing the jellybean game, everyone took home a big box of Bertie Botts Beans, but only the good flavors.  Downloading and making the box for a party favor seemed simple enough, but printing, cutting, folding, glueing, and filling 20 of them took more time than a normal person would have been willing to spend.  In retrospect, I now wonder how I lived the first 47 years of my life without ever owning a bone folder.

I did modify the free template in my graphics program to add the happy birthday message - mostly so I wouldn't have to cut out 2 more windows!  It looks good and it's personalized - win-win! - and it was worth the extra effort even though I knew the kids would tear them to shreds within 5 seconds to get at the jellybeans.  (As an aside, tons of people online complain about how expensive it is to fill theses boxes with Jelly Bellys, and for them I have 2 words: resize, and Costco.  I just didn't print them at 100%.  I forgot exactly what percentage I used, but the sides were 2" wide, and they were plenty filled with about 1/2 cup of jelly beans inside a small cellophane treat bag.  A four pound container for $15 at Costco was enough for 20 boxes.)

Number one on the list of required Harry Party party items seems definitively to be chocolate frogs.  With a free wizard sticker in every box!  Molding the frogs was easy, but cutting, folding, and glueing  20 pentagon shaped boxes after making the 20 jelly bean boxes is enough to drive a person insane.  Be warned.  Find a groove, get in the zone, and be happy you spent the $5 on a bone folder.

One last thing I slipped in the goody bags was this little book of spells that I made.  They were supposed to be on the tables for the kids to read and have fun with, but I didn't want them to get trashed in the rain.  This delightful person went to the effort of making the original books and offering them to the world for free.  I still changed them up a bit by printing them 2 to a page so they'd actually be little, and then I designed and printed my own covers.  I actually sewed them down the middle, then punched a hole in the back cover and added some color coded house ribbons to use as a bookmark.

I was happy to see the kids all using the various props around the house - they all look totally adorable in Harry's glasses!  I think I might be able to pull them off as well.  Hedwig concurs.

Happy birthday to my little Gryffindor!

If I haven't lost you by now, there's still a few more pics coming to cover the activities at the party!