Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Magical Birthday

Our kids have been excited for their respective Star Wars and Harry Potter parties for a couple of years now. This past year, our birthdays felt somewhat dampened by my Dad's passing and we didn't do our usual celebrating. So, this year we really enjoyed these theme parties that we've been excited about for so long! We've already posted about our Star Wars extravaganza. Now it's time to tell you about our Harry Potter party!

It started with very awesome invites in Harry Potter font, printed up in green with the Hogwarts Crest on parchment paper, and sealed with red wax and an "H" for Hogwarts. These were delivered by owl . . . kids found their invites on their pillows with feathers sticking out of it. Some kids got really creative and even RSVPed via owl, too! So cool.

And I would be remiss if I didn't mention the HUGE help we got from some very artistic friends of ours who helped come up with ideas and helped us out with fun decorations for the party. My friend Cristin is the artist behind the Portrait of the Fat Lady (she did a GREAT job) and her kids and our kids did most of the signs and notes.

We go all out with birthday parties, but as for number of guests, we're not crazy when it comes to that. We've always heard that a good rule of thumb is to invite as many guests as the age the birthday child is turning (so if you're turning 3, have about 3 guests . . . you get the idea). We have seen many party ideas online where people invited 50 guests. Are they insane? Anyway, to each his/her own. We had 8 kids, including our 2. It was a good-sized group for this event and a nice mix of girls and boys. And what an event it was! We love creative theme parties--the kids enjoy them, we have fun with them, they're memorable, they're creative, and we look at it as part of our gift to our kids.

So, party details. The weather cooperated (yay!), which is always a hit or miss thing with April birthdays, so we were able to do many activities outside, including Quidditch. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

So, the kids arrived and the first thing they had to do was run through the "brick wall" (red streamers) at King's Cross Station (our side yard) to get to Platform 9 3/4 (our porch) and catch the Hogwarts Express (black chairs set up on our porch).

Here are the young witches and wizards on the Hogwarts Express
(Mark played many roles for the party--here he is wearing his prefect badge)

Mark used his magic wand to tap on the bricks (Thing 1 made the bricks) in the proper way to open the door to . . . Diagon Alley (set up all around our living room)!

Here, to the sounds of a Harry Potter soundtrack (courtesy of Thing 2, who won it in a costume contest back when we celebrated at one of those midnight parties for the arrival of Book 7), the kids were greeted by Professor Minerva McGonagall (me) and they did a number of things (and we had Harry Potter Uno and Wizard Chess set up for them to play while they waited for their turns):

1. They withdrew a pouch of galleons from Gringott's Bank (the invite told them that a deposit had been made in their names) -- they needed this money to buy supplies at the other shoppes.

2. They then purchased their cauldrons:

3. Then they were fitted for robes -- notice the cool sign. We hung all the "robes" (Men's XL black t-shirts cut down the front) and the measuring tape on that cool coat rack (from our clinic):

4. They then visited Olivander's Wands where each wand chose its owner (notice the triangle for the "ding" to signify that that was the wand for them!):

5. They then purchased their brooms at Quality Quidditch Supplies:

There were many additional shoppes to see and visit in Diagon Alley:

But after the young wizards and witches had purchased their supplies, it was time to make our way to the Great Hall:

The great hall was decorated with a starry ceiling, the 4 house crests, a magical banner, and a fancy set table. Here we enjoyed homemade Pumpkin Pasties while hearing announcements from Dumbledore (Mark) about rooms/corridors and 3rd floor owlery that were off-limits (just like in the book), permission to apparate so that Filtch (me) doesn't have to vacuum floo powder, and a warning about using good behavior so as not to lose house points. Then, Dumbledore excused himself to attend to some business.

Then the sorting began:

One by one, I (Professor McGonagall) called out each child's name. The kids each took a turn sitting on the stool and placing the sorting hat on his or her head. The hat then began to speak to tell them which house they were in (we had 2 in each of the 4 houses).

We managed this with a rigged walkie talkie behind that pillow. The kids LOVED it. And Mark was seriously AWESOME at the voice and what to say. I wish I'd gotten better video of it. It was HILARIOUS. Then each child went over to the buffet and chose his or her appropriate house crest and clipped it to the party bag they got when they got to the train station.

The birthday girl was happily sorted into Gryffindor.

Thing 2 was gladly sorted into Slytherin (he has a thing for bad guys--I hear lots of little boys have this?)

Then it was time to attend classes:

Herbology Class

In Herbology Class with Professor Sprout, the kids had to put on headphones and dig up mandrakes (we used potatoes and drew funny faces on them and "planted" them). All the other kids would scream when the mandrakes got pulled out of the ground.

They also tasted gillyweed (nori for sushi) as part of class.

After Herbology, we snacked in the kitchen on magic wands (Red Vines) and Niffler Droppings (pretzel nuggets) and Basilisk Scales (Chips) as well as more Pumpkin Pasties and also Butterbeer (Lemonade).

Thing 2 worked really hard and diligently on decorating these cups--such a great job!

We then took them up one of the 2 staircases to Charms with Professor Flitwick. My pictures from this aren't the best, but here they made Magic Postcards with crayons and paper clips and index cards (where you scratch your name into the black over the colors).

(Sorry, not the greatest pictures)

As we walked around the castle, they used spells like "Alohamora!" to open doors and "Lumos" to turn on lights (or when I lit the candles in the great hall). The kids REALLY got into character and were so creative with it.

After Charms, we attended Defense Against the Dark Arts where Professor Snape filled in since Professor Lupin was unable to attend (something about a full moon . . . ).

For this class, the wizards and witches learned to make anti-dark wizard missiles and really enjoyed that! Here are two short videos from that class:

(Those are film canisters that you fill half way with warm water and then quickly drop in an Alka Seltzer tablet and close with a lid and put it upside down and then stand back . . . POP and they fly 15 feet in the air! BIG hit with the kids. Plus, it's magic!)

Next up . . . Divination Class with Professor Trelawney:

We decorated the kids' room for this class by putting cushions all around a little table that had gems and smelly candles and a crystal ball on it. After I looked in the crystal ball and told them their fortunes (cake, presents, etc.), they got to make their own fortune tellers (those folded paper ones we used to make in school when we were little) of their own by choosing magical colors (bronze, magenta, etc.) and numbers and writing some very fun Harry Potter-like fortunes inside. They really enjoyed this class, too.

Next, we went down 2 flights of stairs (it would've been 3 but the 3rd floor owlery was off limits) to the dungeon for Professor Snape's Potions Class. Mark was a mean Snape and threatened them with detention if they didn't behave. He also unfairly took points from Gryffindor and totally showed favoritism to his Slytherin students!

The ingredients for the potion

Mixing up our bubbly, colorful, smelly potion in the dungeon (our 160-year-old basement works really well for this) . . . Mark set up a table with a black tablecloth and candles and a "cauldron."

After classes, it was time for Quidditch! We used our backyard as the Quidditch field and we'd found a way to play "Muggle Quidditch" (even though the invitation said that Hogwarts was disguised as a Muggle house and that Memory charms had been placed all around so that we could practice magic without fear, we still thought it would be prudent to play Muggle Quidditch instead of flying and zapping things with our wands). J.K. Rowling wrote rules to the game and everyone had a lot of fun with it (though it wasn't entirely without injuries). And we still used our brooms to play, because, well, why not?

Our Quidditch Teams
(we're so glad the weather was so so so very cooperative!)

Playing Muggle Quidditch:

More Quidditch Fun -- the kids loved this and played for a long time while I helped prepare the grand feast in honor of Gryffindor's new Head Girl, Thing 1!

Since the Harry Potter books talk about pretty normal food being served in a magical way, we were going to make grilled chicken tenders and jacket potatoes and carrots, etc., but then as we were shopping, we had this stroke of genius . . . at .88 a piece!

Thing 1 chose which of the meals to get and we got enough for everyone and served them in the great hall--it was perfect! It was just like in Harry Potter!

I lit the candles . . . Lumos!

And the great feast began!

After the great feast, it was time to adjourn to the Gryffindor common room. To get there, we had to say the password to the Portrait of the Fat Lady . . . FlibbertyGiblet! Then the pocket doors slid open and we were able to enter for Thing 1 to open her presents:

My very artistic friend Cristin did that--isn't it great?

Everyone was so creative in their gift giving and packaging! That little bag was from Hedwig with a little something ("Owl Poop" Bridge Mix) for everyone! Thing 1 LOVES her cool HP-related presents and packaging and all the thoughtful things everyone got for her. She's working on thank you notes (which are report cards with the kids' O.W.L.s from their classes).

Then it was time to go back to the Great Hall for Quidditch Cake!

Gryffindor was playing Slytherin, as represented by the M&Ms and edible gold and silver glitter on the left and right. The other M&Ms are spectators.

The 4 house crests (getting a little chocolaty from the frosting)

A very happy (and flushed) birthday girl

The trick wand candles didn't work so well, darn it. I love that it was nice enough to eat cake outside and enjoy the nice weather. The kids continued to play outside on the Quidditch Field and inside of Hogwarts until they left.

When it was time to go, the kids got to make a trip to Hogsmeade where they were able to visit Honeyduke's for sweets and Weasley's Wizard Wheezes for jokes:

Mark and I stayed up late into the night (morning?) putting together the candy. It was really fun! We also designed wizard cards (Mark made up names and characteristics for the front and back of all the cards) for the chocolate frogs. So fun . . .

There were so many little detailed touches all around, just like for the Star Wars party. The kids made really cute signs and pictures that we taped all over the upstairs hallway--notices about Quidditch practice, a Lost and Found notice for Neville Longbottom's Rememberall, a "Beware of Basilisk" sign that Thing 2 drew, many different announcements and notices made by Thing 1, etc.

We also had a "Beware of Mountain Troll" sign on the bathroom with 2 troll pictures on the mirror in the bathroom:

It was really such a fun, FUN time. We love theme parties and this year's kids' parties have been SO much fun, especially since Star Wars and Harry Potter are so big around here and favorites of ours.

Thing 1 turns 10 next year and we're approaching 10 and up parties a little differently--basically, in addition to family celebrating, the birthday child gets to choose a couple/few friends to spend the day with and a couple/few activities, too. Both of them are already planning. :P Something along the lines of I take them out for lunch and dessert and something like bowling or mini golf or lazer tag . . . you get the idea.

I'm glad, too, because as much fun as these parties are, they're also a lot of time and work. We think it's totally worth it. Like I've said before, it's part of our gift to the kids and something we can always be glad we've done. :) Happy Harry Potter Birthday, Thing 1! We love you!


emily said...

Oh my GOSH! I wish I could have gone! It looks amazing. I would be flushed if that was my party too! How long was the actual party?

Zelia said...

Wow!! I am soooo tired just reading all you did. Loved the pictures.
Great Party Kate.

bythelbs said...

Wow. Just wow.

Vivian said...

Fantastic! So clever! I loved the attention to detail all around the castle. I'd nominate you two to chair grad night if you were here:)

Boquinha said...

Thanks, everyone! Emily, we did all this in less than 3 hours (party time). The prep was, of course, much more involved. :P

J Fo said...

Prep time was about 2 months, right?! What a blast and what great memories for all involved! Holy Quiditch cake! I'm impressed with that. Frosting cakes has always been my nemesis, just ask Greg. fun fun fun fun fun fun fun! Wish I were there!

Lindsay said...

That is very impressive. I was talking to scott about it last night and we were both wondering if we could do something like that? Im not much a detail oriented person and know that I would miss so many little things...but that is what I have Scott for, right? All of the Foley's (from what I have seen) are great at paying attention to details.

Jillo said...

Okay, I don't even know where to start. this was fabulous! What an awesome mom and dad you guys are. How long did your party go?
My favorite were the brooms, the star ceiling and the candies. Very clever. You should totally go into business.

Gary said...

Holy Crap! What an adventure. You guys are unbelievable. A birthday Thing 1 will never forget. I'm glad I read all the Harry Potter books so I knew what you guys were talking about.

Dr. Mark said...

It was a lot of fun to plan and do, but let's put the credit where it's due. Stacy did A LOT of planning starting months ago. She always finds the greatest resources and does a wonderful job of making it a special day for the birthday girl (or boy). And Lindsay, I don't know that all of us Foley boys have the same attention to details. It's sort of a running "joke" around here.

Swawaeve said...

That was SO much fun! And you guys are amazingly creative. I loved the idea of the invitations by owl. Great job guys.

kara said...

Okay...seriously? That is the perfect example of WHY we told Nora the local easter egg hunt was her birthday party. We can't live up to such things. My poor children. You should just adopt them, so they have happy memories of their childhood.

Boquinha said...

I know. Totally over the top, right? But you have to consider how that is balanced out by all the parenting stuff that *doesn't* come naturally to me.

Party planning and theme stuff? That I can do! Making homemade playdoh and camping (I'm so not a camper) and being okay with food messes and not getting anxious from chaos and mess and germs and keeping up on everything . . . not my strong suits.

I think as parents, we have to play to our strengths and be okay with our weaknesses. For our sanity.

But if it means getting to see you, I'll totally throw Nora a party! :P ;)