Thursday, August 23, 2012

Quick Coffee Cake with Dried Cherries

  Quick Coffee Cake with Dried Cherries

Browsing pinterest one day, I was struck with the desire to have a nice warm coffee cake for breakfast.

After a quick look at my pantry and another quick look for a bisquick coffee cake recipe or two as a guide line, this is what I came up with.

Coffee Cake

2 cups Bisquick mix (or Jiffy Buttermilk Complete)
2 eggs
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
2 TBS sugar

1/3 cup chopped dried cherries

In a large bowl, beat eggs and milk and sour cream and vanilla until smooth. Add bisquick mix and sugar, mix until just smooth. Do not over mix. Fold in chopped dried cherries.

Pour batter into a greased 9" cake pan or 8x8 square pan. Set aside while you make the topping.

Crumble Topping
1/3 cup bisquick mix
1/3 cup oatmeal
1/3 cup chopped pecans
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 TBS melted butter

In a medium bowl, mix together the bisquik, oatmeal, chopped pecans, cinnamon and brown sugar. Pour melted butter over the topping mix and stir until the butter is mixed evenly through out.

Spread evenly on your coffee cake batter.

Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 24 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool 10 minutes. Slice and eat.

This coffee cake has a LOT of crumble. Yum. That's the way I like it, crispety, buttery sweet. The sour cream adds moisture and the cherries add a tangy sweetness. If you're a big pecan fan, you could add more chopped pecan to the batter and topping. This really isn't very pecan-y.

I think as a basic recipe for people who are trying to cut their cooking time down (like me) the bisquick coffee cake recipe is a sentimental classic. But that doesn't mean we aren't free to doctor it up. Before I made this coffee cake, I was considering making an apple cake or a chocolate chip coffee cake. I went with the cherries because I have these beautiful dried cherries in my fridge. And I added pecans and oatmeal to my topping because I often top my muffins with an oatmeal/nut crumble and really enjoy it. That's why I went  heavy on the topping this time.

Sadly, I made this two days ago, and it is already gone. :( I kind of wanted some for breakfast.

I suppose I should make some more. I could. Apparently, you can make the mix the night before, leave it in your fridge over night, and then bake it in the morning. That's good for those of us, like me, who take a while to wake up and be effective in the morning.

I'd love to know if anyone makes this and what kind of additions or substitutions they make to their coffee cake.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

It's My Turn

it's my turn 
watercolor on paper 

I've talked a lot about how we go through seasons in life. Fallow periods and harvesting. Gestation periods and fruition.

Sometimes life is about, say, raising kids, and other aspects are put on the back burner for a while. Sometimes life is about fun and adventure. Sometimes it's about a lot of hard work. If it's time to raise kids, go there. Do it. Put your whole heart into it. The same for adventure or hard work. Love the time for what it is. Use your talents and skills in the service of the life you are living now.

However, I don't think life stays the same. Time turns and one season becomes the next season. The children grow older. The adventures settle down into commitments. The hard work results in bounty that you deserve to enjoy.

I think the key is to know what season you are in currently and to live that season, without yearning for something whose time has not come yet. And we need to let go of the season that has past, not hold onto it out of sentimentality or nostalgia.

It's not only about seasons of life, it's also about growth. New phases. New roles to assume. New jobs to take on.

When it's your turn, when your turn is now, don't waste it. Go all the way in. Live it.

Monday, August 20, 2012

You Know The Answer

You Know The Answer

You know you do.

That thing that you know you need to do to make things work out... you just gotta do it. That choice you have to make? That step you have to take? Just do it.

It doesn't how we talk ourselves out of it, how hard we convince ourselves it is, how impossible it might be. My personal favorite excuse is "Oh I'm so tired, I can't." But the truth is, I know what needs to be done. And I can, even if it's hard and I have to break it down into baby steps and accept that results won't appear right away and maybe not even ever, but I still have to do it.

Putting it off doesn't make it better. It doesn't make the task ahead any easier. It doesn't make us happier in the long run (although, we might be filling our procrastination time with things that make us feel good in the moment).

You know the answer.

Yes, that's the answer I'm talking about.

The scary one.

The one that is really what you want, in your deepest of hearts. The one that you know is the truest of true.

The one that you really have to rise to reach, to be the person you know you want to be.

The one that is all about your dreams. All about your soul.

The RIGHT answer.

Do it.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

It's In Your Hands (Creating a Creative Practice)

"it's in your hands"

This coming September, when my kids are both in school full time, I am planning to take my creative career more fully in hand.

Truth be told, I've taken a bit of a hiatus.

I've had kid duties and work duties and household duties, and many of my creative duties have fallen by the way side. 

I am looking forward to re-committing to being a serious artist and writer, not just in the off hours when I'm not too exhausted from my long day, or while the kids are playing outside, before they come back in to ask for my attention in 15 minutes.

I'll still be working, and I'll still be taking care of my kids, but there will be more time to focus without distraction or multi tasking or kids every where. I'll be able to focus on my own personal work for at least a couple of hours a day, and for the whole day twice a week! It seems like such a luxury to me now, after all my years of raising infants/babies/toddlers/preschoolers. I am hoping that those years will have taught me how valuable my time is now, and that I shouldn't waste it.

And I'm going to do it.

It's only a few weeks away, but I am starting my process of organizing and planning and psyching myself up and getting the ideas flowing.

I've learned that it helps to psych yourself up before you even start, to plan and set goals for yourself. Like with Nanowrimo. If I think about it months before, I can start dreaming of my story and characters and plots. Then I can do an outline. And I can schedule in work times and write out logs and graphs to keep track of my work.

Really, I should learn from myself and write out my graphs and log books and such. I have plans for reorganizing and prettifying my "studio" which is really more like part of the kitchen, but has turned out to be a good place for me to work in the past, at least part of the time. 

The truth is that being creative is a lot more work than it seems sometimes, because so much goes on under the surface, before creativity happens, while you're staring out the window or in your psyche every minute of the day, even while you're doing other things. 

It often takes more preparation and planning than one would suspect. I often have to almost "go into training"  as I build up my work habits and practice my craft and coax the ideas into being. 

 In one way, this is comforting to me.

Even though I don't feel all that creative right now (particularly after burning out a bit with the craft intensive Harry Potter birthday party) I know that if I take my baby steps, I will soon be ready to get that creative engine going.

In another way, it's kind of exhausting, because I know how much work I have to do and how much I am going to have to commit to the work.

But then, that's exciting too, the idea of being able to commit real time and energy to work after so many years of naptime writing and painting while the kids are watching tv and being satisfied with arts and crafts instead of the larger projects that have been calling to me for the last few years (which I have been putting off.)

I drew this journal entry to remind myself of the work it takes to take your life into your own hands. It often doesn't seem like I am getting anywhere while I am in the middle of the small actions, but when I look back on it, I can see how far I've come and how much I've done.

It reminds me that I have the power to create things, to make life the way I want it, if I am only willing to do the work, commit to the end product, and trust the process.

Oh yes, that trust of the process. It can be very difficult, but it makes a big difference.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Cauldron Cakes, A Harry Potter Treat

When it came time for cake for my son's Harry Potter birthday party, after much exhaustive research, I came upon this recipe. Cauldron Cakes. I loved the idea and that it was relatively easy for such special type results. I of course, had to modify my recipe.

Really, it is just flipping your basic cupcake concept on its head... almost literally. It's just an upside down hollowed out cupcake with some embellishments, but it fits the theme and looks special.

Step 1

Make devil's food cupcakes.  

I just used a regular Duncan Hines cupcake mix, but I modified it with a food hack to make box mix taste like bakery cakes which I found, here. Again I modified it. Since this was a devil's food cake mix, I added one extra egg that the directions called for, switched out the oil for melted butter (rather than double the amount, I doubled it by half) then I switched out the water for half milk and half strong coffee. 
So bake the cupcakes according to the directions and when they are cool, take off the cupcake liners and, using a sharp knife, core the cupcake. You do this by cutting out a cone. Hold the knife at an angle pointing towards the center of the cupcake and then cutting into it in a circle. Make sure you go deep enough to leave a nice hole for your cream, but not deep enough to cut through the cake. About half way into the cake is fine.

Step 2

Make your glaze.

1 cup chocolate chips
4 TBS butter.

Melt your butter and chocolate chips over a double boiler, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Take the glaze off the heat.

I had a problem, because my glaze did not turn out smooth. In fact it was thick and lumpy. I think I cooked it at too high a temperature. But since I have been known to make myself a chocolate glaze at night after the kids go to bed, so I could dip apples for a treat, I know how to fix it. I added a splash or two of milk and mixed the glaze smooth and it turned out just fine... if  a little thick. You can also use the liqueur of your choice, cointreau or kahlua is lovely, but since this was for kids, I used just milk. 

You need to let the glaze sit and cool for about five minutes and then, although the recipe says dip the cupcake tops, mine was too thick for that, so I ended up smoothing it on with a spatula in a thin layer. Although it did not look as pretty as the original recipe, it tasted great.

Step 3

Add the chocolate chips for feet.

about 1/2 cup of chocolate chips, or enough choc chips to give each cupcake 3 feet.

Make sure you let the glaze cool a bit (I didn't, and when I tried to put my chocolate feet on it, the glaze melted my chocolate chips. oops.) 
Place three chocolate chips about an inch apart on waxed paper or a silicone mat. Press the chocolate cupcakes, glaze side down, into the chips so the chips can serve as tripod feet. Press gently so the chips stick. 

Step 4

Make the cream. 

I did not use the marshmallow cream found in the original recipe because I am not a fan of marshmallows. I considered using just plain whipped cream (from a can) as a short cut, but at the last minute, I found this recipe for a whipped cream-cream cheese frosting that really made me happy... so that's what I did.

1 small package of cream cheese, room temperature
1.5 cups of powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 pint of whipping cream.

In one bowl, mix your room temperature cream cheese with a mixer on low speed, adding the powdered sugar gradually, until it is light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and mix until incorporated.
In another bowl, mix your whipping cream at high speed, until the whipped cream is stiff and firm. It works best if your cream is very cold.
Fold the whipped cream gently into the cream cheese frosting until it is blended smooth.

Step 5

Fill the cupcakes

Put the cream cheese filling into a pastry bag, or a sandwich bag with the corner clipped off (which is what I did) and squeeze the filling into the hollows of the cupcakes, allowing it to rise out of the top like boiling potion. 
Sprinkle the top with yellow sanding sugar.

Step 6

Add the handle.

Take a handful of licorice sticks. I used black Twizzlers. These turned out to be far too big for my cauldron, so I sliced the twizzlers in half and then again, in half the long way, making them both shorter and thinner. 

For each cupcake, I took the quarter Twizzler and bent it into an upside down U shape. I pressed one end into one side of the opening of the cupcake cauldron, and the other end into the other side of the opening, pressing them in until they stuck.

I tried to find chocolate Twizzlers, as I don't like black licorice, but couldn't. If like me, you don't like licorice, the handles should be discarded before eating, as we don't think licorice is edible. For those strange ones who DO like licorice... well, go ahead and eat it, it's ok if I think you're strange. 

Step 7


I actually loved the way these cupcakes tasted. The chocolate glaze was fudgy and the cream cheese filling was light and sweet and tangy. I don't know how often I'd make the upside down cauldron, but I would definitely make this combination in regular cupcakes. 

They were great at my Harry Potter party, but I somehow feel that older kids or young adults would enjoy them even more. For links to all the other crafts and tutorials and recipes involved in the Harry Potter party, check out the main post.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

DIY Chocolate Frogs and Honeydukes Sweetshop at the Harry Potter Party

It is a truth held to be universal that kids love candy.

What better for a Harry Potter party than to provide a sweet shop to indulge the delights of the kids?

So that's what I did. I would call it the biggest hit of the party, actually, and I encourage all hosts of wizarding parties to include a sweet shop or a Hogwarts Candy cart. 

Now, the thing about Wizard Candy is it's unusual to us muggles, but as muggles, what can we do to approximate the wonders of the candy of the wizarding world? There are, of course, Bertie Botts Every Flavour Bean, which even muggles can enjoy, and the kids certainly do, but outside of that, what do we do?

We use our imaginations. 

Peruse the candy aisle and keep your mind open for near approximations of wizarding candy.

All sorts of gummy treats can be used, some that they mention in the book, and sometimes you can just make up ooky sounding treats that MIGHT be wizarding treats. I found:

Jelly Slugs (aka gummy slugs)
Sour Caterpillars (aka sour gummy worms)
Wiggling Snakes (aka gummy worms)
Boneless Frogs  (aka gummy frogs) 

As you can see, much of the wizarding verve comes from the names you give the candy, so make sure to add labels.

And we don't need to stop there, with creative naming, we can turn all sorts of regular candy aisle stuff into wizarding treats.

Cockroach Clusters (chocolate covered nut clusters)
Chocolate Flies (raisinets)
Cobweb Crunch (white chocolate bark)
Drooble's Best Blowing Gum (gum balls)
Wizard Wands (twizzlers)
Candy Floss (cotton candy)
Lemon Drops (actual lemon drops... Dumbledore's favorite was a muggle treat)

And then there's another option. 

You can create your near magical candy with muggle recipes meant to recreate wizard ones. 

 or todays recipe,
Chocolate Frogs

I've seen plenty of chocolate frogs around the internet where they got frog molds and then made chocolate shaped candies in the molds, but it was not in my plan to do so. I wanted something short cut-y-er.  Enter...

Crunchy Chocolate Frogs

I found the original recipe here and pretty much that's what I did but I'm going to pass on some of the things I learned along the way. You need Haribo Gummy Frogs, Dark Chocolate and Pop Rocks candy.

Start with Haribo Gummy frogs. They are yummy on their own and were a big hit, naked, at Honeydukes.

I used about two bags. I could have done with one bag, but I guess I forgot that I was serving other kinds of candy. I have plenty of these chocolate frogs sitting in my fridge right now, waiting for me to nibble as I watch tv or read books or what have you.

Melt your chocolate over a double boiler until it is smooth.

I used one extra large bar of Hersheys Special Dark. It is a tasty dark chocolate that works surprisingly well in recipes.  It melts smoothly and tastes great.

When the chocolate is melted, dump in two pouches of  Poprocks candy. They will pop on contact, but mix them into the chocolate and most of them will retain their crunch/pop.

 Dip your gummy frogs into the chocolate. Flip over until covered in chocolate and then remove, quickly. I found that the gummies started to melt if you left them in the chocolate too long, so don't attempt to dump all the gummies in and then take them out as you go along, as I was tempted to do... which would have been a gummy massacre. Don't do that.

Instead, dip them one at a time.

 They cover well. They look nice covered with the lumpy chocolate, too. The frog shape comes through but is not too bold. The crunchy poprocks look a little bit like warts. (Note the plain cookie sheet underneath these frogs. This was a mistake.)

Place your chocolate covered frogs on a silicone mat or parchment paper or waxed paper. Initially I just put them on a cookie sheet, but that was a BAD idea. The chocolate sticks like glue. I had to redip  my frogs because of this mistake.

Put the chocolate frogs in the refrigerator to harden.

Ideally, they should be in a covered container to avoid condensation issues, but I found that impossible until they were actually cool and hard. So I chilled them on the mat, and then transferred them (easily, thank you wonderful thing that is a silicone baking mat) into a tupperware container with foil between the layers. They store there very well, without condensation issues.

I'm really glad I remembered that I found that silicone mat on one of my safaris to the thrift store. And really glad I didn't leave it behind, thinking it was just some useless kitchen junk. How did I ever make anything in the kitchen with out a silicone mat?

Back to the story.

Once chilled, you may take out your chocolate frogs and present them to your wizarding guests.  Please remember, though, that these are chocolate covered and they do indeed melt in summer temperatures.

Leave them in the refrigerator until they are ready to be served. Also, they are small enough that you can eat them in one bite. Two bits makes for messy melted chocolate. I guess that's because  they are trying to get away. *wink wink*

As for presentation of my Honeydukes Sweetshop, I always keep my eyes open for interesting containers. I was strangely drawn to those cylindrical containers that you find brie and other cheeses wrapped in. I've been collecting them for a while.

When it came time to create my Honeydukes containers, I thought these would be the perfect thing. They were the right size and they looked as if they were packaging, but were not like our normal muggle type packaging of plastic and cardboard.

So I peeled off the paper labels, turned them upside down and filled the inside of the white or tan containers with... well, the paper plates from last year's birthday party, cut to size. Thus there was a bright pop inside the candy containers and also the plate kept grease spots from showing on the containers themselves.

I could place my candy labels inside the containers or tape the labels to a skewer and then tape the skewer to the container. (Please ignore the fact that I forgot to label some containers of candy. It is very hard to hold kids off of candy, once they see it, just so you can put up the fancy labels.)

(honeydukes sweetshop frenzy)

I put the round containers on a pretty tray and brought them out and before long, the containers were mostly empty and the kids were buzzing with sugar highs.

YAY CANDY!!! (Wizard and otherwise.)

P.S. Is it possible that silicone baking mats were created by wizards?

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

DIY Acid Pops for a Harry Potter Party

 This was one of my favorite Harry Potter handmade treats. It caused the least stress and delivered the most fun. I found the original recipe here and tweaked it a little. I found the original recipe through this post, and I have to give those girls credit for giving me some of my ideas.

 The original recipe used sour lollipops with honey to get them sticky and poprocks to add the sizzle.

I knew my kids and also knew that they do not always enjoy sour candies, and sometimes they can't even finish a fullsize lollipop. So here is my adaptation


One bag of dum dum pops, assorted flavors (about 24)
1/4 cup honey
the juice of one lemon
4 packets of poprocks, assorted flavors (I used watermelon, grape, and blue razz)

Put the honey and lemon juice into a small bowl and stir until it is well mixed.

Unwrap the dum dum pops and dip them one by one into the honey mixture. Set them aside to dry until the lollipop is sticky and tacky, not wet. I left mine out to dry for about an hour. If they are too wet, they will cause all the poprocks to lose their sizzle. I used an upside down colander to dry my lollipops and was very pleased with how it worked, not only to dry the acid pops, but also as presentation.

As close to presentation as possible, open up the packages of pop rocks. pour them into piles of separate colors. Then dip your sticky dum dum pops into the pop rocks and roll them around a bit to pick up the little nuggets. Stick them back in the colander, or however you are presenting them, and serve. It is best to eat them as soon as possible, because these do not keep at all. The few that were left at the end of the party had no acid left at all. They were still sweet lollipops, but the magic was gone.

I picked one color for each dum dum pop, but near the end when the poprocks were getting low, I combined the colors and had multi-color poprocks. Either way, it makes for a pretty candy. The presentation on the colander showed off the colors. It's also important to label your wizard candy, because without the name, it's just regular muggle candies mixed together. WITH the name, it's a treat imported from the Hogwarts Train candy cart.

 By mixing colors of pop rocks and dum dums, you can get a whole delightful assortment of pretty candies. This one is green and blue pop rocks on a white dum dum.

This is the one I had. It is grape pop rocks on a butterscotch dum dum. It was pretty tasty. And fun.

Not only did the kids enjoy these, but all the adults had one and relived their child hood a little.

Now that's magic that even muggles can practice.

You can see the rest of the Harry Potter party here, with links to the other crafts.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Styrofoam Stamped "Cauldron" Gift Bags DIY

When I was trying to figure out a favor bag for my Harry Potter party, I knew I wanted to do some sort of cauldron. At first I was thinking I'd get beach pails and spray paint them black, but that seemed kind of an expense and time commitment considering all the other projects I was doing. Then I thought of using some recycled metal canisters... and that seemed even MORE labor intensive and borderline crazy.

When I went to the Dollar Store, I was looking for possible favor bags, thinking I'd find a set of black paper gift bags or something like that. In the end, all I found was lunch bags. I thought I could work with that. I imagined painting my cauldrons directly on each bag.

Then I stumbled upon this  idea of potato stamped Halloween Gift Bags from Martha Stewart, and I knew what I was going to do.

It's not a big leap to get from Halloween skulls to Harry Potter Cauldrons... in fact, I could see using this craft come October, but I also wasn't planning on using potatoes.

I had a  nice slab of pink styrofoam, left over from a grocery store meat tray, and after seeing things floating around pinterest about how to make stamps and prints out of those pieces of styrofoam, but never finding an image I wanted to try, I knew I had my answer.

I drew a basic shape of a cauldron in my flat styrofoam with a pencil, pressing to make an indentation, then I took my big scissors and cut out the shape. 

This is a rough shape and basically symmetrical, so was not a concern for me, but if you wanted to make something more detailed or something with writing on it, you have to make sure to carve it backwards, so that when it is printed it will be forward. (This cauldron, in particular, would be pretty cute for Halloween with "BOO!" written in it. That's good to note that I can customize it later if I want.)

 Rather than cutting out the inside of the stamp, I used a broken pencil point (the end of a paint brush would also work, I suppose) to depress the whole area I did not want to ink. The styrofoam doesn't really carve the way rubber or linoleum would, so I just kind of "drew" heavily with my blunt point, leaving the whole area indented so it doesn't show up when you print it on the paper.

Once you have your styrofoam stamp shape, it's a pretty easy process. I tried a stamp pad first, but it did not ink heavily enough and I just went straight to craft paint. I used my stamp, my craft paint, a paint brush and my paper bag.

 I put a dab of paint on the stamp and then painted it on with my brush, making sure to spread it thinly and evenly over the whole stamp and making sure to hit each part that I wanted to have on my image.  You'll notice that I only painted the handle, and not the negative space inside the cauldron, although some paint gets into that space, the depression keeps it from printing on the paper.

Then I placed my styrofoam stamp face down on my paper bag and pressed the back of the styrofoam down, evenly, all over, with my hand. Making sure that all the paint touched the paper firmly.

This is the stamped bag. Please note that there is a rumple in the middle where the bag folds over. I went with that rustic feel, it didn't bother me. I suppose if you wanted to get rid of that, you could slide a cardboard inside the bag before you did the stamping, so that you would have a smooth surface to print on.

When the bag opens, it is a cauldron ready to be filled with candy and other assorted goods that young Wizards and Witches require.

This was such an easy craft that I was really happy with the results and it really helped out at our Harry Potter party, keeping all the kids' goodies safe while they ran around like wild wizards and witches.

Here's the link to the Harry Potter party where you will find links to all the other craft projects I did for it.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Expecto Patronum and Dementor Stones: A Harry Potter Party Favor


Almost two months ago, I showed you a craft I made, with plastic animals and silver craft paint. I called them patronuses and had plans of making them a favor/activity for my son's Harry Potter birthday party, but I was stumped as to how I was going to present them.

It took me a while but I did finally figure out how to do it. I created a modified surprise ball from a tutorial I found here. These are more stone shapes than balls, but I thought that was appropriate because they're kind of dementors. The black shapes of darkness, fear and sadness.

I filled the bowl (found at a thrift store in a lucky coincidence... always keep your eyes and mind open when on the look out for creative project ideas) with my dementor stones.

And then I drew out a sign for the spell the kids needed to defeat the dementors. I had a whole sheet of blank labels that I made, using a tea stained paper, so any time I needed a label or sign, I just wrote out another. I used many of the labels for my potion bottles, and others for candy labels. I taped the label to a skewer that I cut in half, and the tapes the end of the skewer to the patronus bowl.
The party was planned out with different levels of activities. After they'd run around a bit I set them down with the Expecto Patronum/Dementor Stones, and asked them what they knew about dementors. Enough of the party goers were Harry Potter fans that they explained the story to the others.

Then I told them about the Expecto Patronum spell, and when they said the spell, they had to think very hard about good and happy things. so that while they were opening up the dementor stones, they could bring their patronus into being.

They unwound their dementor stones and ended up with their silvery patronus charm.

Each kid found one of these inside of their dementor stone and I told them that their patronus spirit would help chase away bad thoughts and feelings.

"Like bad dreams?" one of the kids asked.

"Exactly," I said.

These were the stones that were left, and the dementor shrouds that dried up and blew away.

Dementor Stone Tutorial

This is how I made the dementor stones. I bought black crepe paper streamers and then I picked a relatively large patronus figure.

I started with one end on the figure and, holding it tightly and stretching the crepe paper out slightly as I did it, started wrapping up my figure. I tried to wrap it evenly, sort of like wrapping a ball of yarn. The tighter you pull it, the more the paper will conform to the shape of your figurine.

You want to wrap it in opposite directions, pulling snugly so that the crepe paper almost stretches around it.

When the stone is wrapped completely and the shape of the patronus is concealed in the streamer, cut the streamer and glue or tape the end to the outside. It does not have to be round like a surprise ball. This is only one gift and I do like the stone shapes. I was thinking that it would be a cool surprise, though, to add glittery confetti inside of the stones, so as they unwrap, the wizard or witch would be releasing magic. But I thought of that after my shopping trip was already done.

If the patronus figure is smaller, like this little turtle, you actually need a thinner streamer. So I pulled off a good deal of the streamer, folded it several times so that it was layered, and then cut it in half lengthwise, so when unfolded I ended with two long narrow streamers.

At this point, you wrap up the figure the same way you wrapped up the bigger one, snugly and firmly, wrapping in different directions as you go to cover the whole figure. If the streamer snaps, it's no big deal. Just hold onto the end that has already been wrapped, and keep wrapping it with the rest of the streamer. You can add more glue if you want, but it's not necessary. You don't want it to be too hard to unwrap.

Finish wrapping and glue. Let the glue dry. I like how the black crepe paper, pulled tight, is almost shiny and seemingly solid.

Present to your favorite Harry Potter fan, and watch the magic happen.

Harry Potter Party!

 I have been working on this party for quite some time, from searching pinterest for great ideas to making favors to hunting thrift stores and making decorations and taking trips to the 99 cent store oh and all the crafts.

So this weekend it finally happened. And it didn't rain until after the party, woo hoo!

I still have some crafts to post, so I'm going to show you some of the things I've already posted or things where I don't have tutorials, or just fun things.

 I brought my fancy wooden table out to the deck and laid a baroque looking runner across it so I could set up my potions table scape. I set out the gold cups and napkins and I had a few candle stands and candy bowls that I set with crystal platters. I liked the height they gave and thought they would work really well when I brought out the candy for Honeydukes Sweetshop and the Cauldron Cakes.  But somehow, the sweets never made it onto the pretty table.

 I took some of my son's toy snakes and wrapped them in and out of the bottle, for just a little bit of added spookiness.

And how about that fantastic green glass bowl I found at the thrift store? I filled it with the Expecto Patronum and Dementor Stones activity.

 Here we have a photobooth set up that I made. I took out the navy sheet and pillowcase and bought some glow in the dark stars from the dollar store, but for a while, I thought I'd run out of time and not be able to put it up... but at the last minute, I tacked the sheet up to an unused corner of the deck and covered the ottoman with the pillow case, brought out the little railroad village rug and stuck those stars on the sheet.

For the amount of effort it took, this photobooth was really worth it.  If I'd had a little more time, I would have made a witch broom to go with it.

When the kids first got here, I had them choose their favorite owlet from amongst Pigwidgeon's Pals.

That is Ivy's christmas gift, Mrs Hoot Hoot inside the old birdcage, on top of the old suitcase, ready to travel to Hogwarts.

Then they got to pick their wand from the box sent from Ollivander's Workshop.

I made gift bags and wrote their names on the gift bags so that they would be able to keep track of their owls and wands and other assorted stuff. That was a good plan, because with all the running around that happened later, they really needed one place to put their favors. Here is a tutorial for the gift bags .

 While waiting for all the kids to arrive, they got right to work at Transfiguration Class, where they needed to turn a rock into a creature.

All I did for this activity was to go to the 99 Cent store and buy some decorative rocks (in gray and green glass) some paint, glue, feathers, markers, gems, pipe cleaners and of course, googly eyes.

Then I just put those all in a box and put it on a kids table covered with a silver table cloth.  They really loved it. Who knew?

 I also made some Hogwarts House Banners. I really like how they came out, so I'll try to do a tutorial later on, but I really just painted them free hand.

I kept staring at them during the party and going, "wow, I like those." Right now, they are living very happily up above G's bed.

Once a bunch of kids were all there, I brought out some balloons and told them that they had to keep them in the air with their wands and the spell, "Wingardium Leviosa" I didn't get any pictures of that because I was going another craft at that point.

ACID POPS! You can see how I made these and displayed them here. They were a big hit with the kids and with the adults. But the kids were still sweaty after the acid pops so I remembered that I had some Gillywater in the fridge.

What is Gillywater? Oh, no one knows, but it was in the books, and I found this site where they wanted an alternate Harry Potter drink and found an Invisible Koolaid that tastes like Koolaid but looks like water. I put it in a clear glass jar and filled their glasses with the magical stuff.

The kids really liked the Gillywater and it was so easy, I almost forgot about it until I realized how thirsty the kids were after running around.

I forgot about quite a few things during this party. I forgot to put out the chocolate covered flies/raisins. I forgot to make that broom so the kids could fly. I forgot to do the crystal ball reading with the meditation jars I made. I also forgot to hang up the floating candles, and I'm kind of bummed about that one, because I really wanted to see how they turned out.

Then they went back out to play again, off in the yard. It was a Wizard War, with their wands and another craft I made out of recycled coffee can lids that I painted with silver stars, lightning bolts and swirls of various types. They would fling them like frisbees at each other and then run around picking them up again, with cries of, "I'm loaded! Better watch out!"

These are the spell discs I made. No tutorial. It's just painted directly on the plastic with silver craft paint. Frisbees would work very well for this and could also serve as favors for the kids to take home, but I had a dozen coffee can lids that I'd been holding onto (I use them for paint palettes sometimes) and when the brainstorm came that is what happened. I'd been thinking they would be used in a Wizard Duel where two kids stood apart and tried to throw it at/to the other kid, but the kids turned them into a wizard war and then ran their little butts off and got all sweaty.

I really tried to alternate slow paced, sit down activities with running around, because it would keep the kids from getting bored or worn out. So after Wizard War, I got out the Butter Beer. No photos of that, because I was too busy serving and by the time I was finished, everyone was pretty much done.

The next activity was the Expecto Patronum spell with the Dementor Stones.  That was a lot of fun and very cool when they were opening them... I mean, working on their spell. You can see how that worked here.

Once we finished the Expecto Patronum, I asked the kids what they wanted to do next and if they were ready for the candy.

Silly me.

They practically herded me into the kitchen to get the candy. I wisely didn't have it sitting out for most of the party, not only because some things would melt in the heat, but also because they would have been snitching candy the entire time.

As it was, they all wanted to be "helpful" when it came to the candy, and offered to carry the candy back out to the deck. Aww so sweet. I gave them the sugar mice and the chocolate frogs to take out.

But by the time I brought the main tray out, they'd set everything up on the little coffee table I'd put out there, kid height, instead of the pretty potions display table where I had all the nice cake stands and such.

Oh well. There was no orderly civilized Honeydukes Sweetshop line. No, it was mass, sweet, chaos. A free for all.


Then I brought out the cauldron cakes but that was kind of anticlimactic after the candy. I thought they were great, but the kids were mostly sugared out.

And then they spent about an hour pulling each other around in a wagon. That wasn't part of my party planning. Perhaps in their imaginations, it was the flying Ford Anglia that Ron wrecked.

Anyway it was a lot of fun and some things were definitely more worth the fuss than others.

The wands were worth it.

The owlets, sadly, not quite as fun. Unless they took them home and loved them quietly. So not quite worth it.

The Acid Pops were great... for adults and kids. Worth it.

The chocolate frogs? They were cool, but the kids didn't love them that much and the adults didn't bother much with the candy. I would have made fewer chocolate frogs. Not so worth it. Better for an adult party.

Sugar Mice? Also cool, but I will probably eat more out of my fridge than all of the kids combined. So I'm glad there are left overs, because those are mine. But perhaps not worth it for the level of time consumed in making them. Also better for an adult party.

Honeydukes Sweetshop/table of candy. TOTALLY worth it. Maybe better to just get candy from the store instead of making some of it, though. Most of the home made candy was more trouble than it was worth.

The Gillywater/Invisible Koolaid? Cheap, easy and fast. Beloved by kids. Worth it.

The Butterbeer? Tasty, but very sweet, done soon, with no refills. I bought too much ice cream and cream soda. Maybe not worth the stress. Adult party. Spiked with real booze.

The Expecto Patronum/Dementor Stones activity. Really cool and worth it, though it took a while to craft.

Cupcakes? Worth it, because you need cake and these were tasty and not that hard, although a little stressful. But it could have been any cake really... so not necessary. Also, i had trouble with the heat and the melting of chocolate. Again possibly more for an adult, indoor party.

Those flying disc spells? I painted them months ago and just stuck them in a cupboard and the kids played a lot with them, so Worth It. Same for the balloons which are always fun.

Gift bags, easy and worth it. Really I had been planning some sort of difficult craft for making cauldrons and the bags worked fine.

The Pet Rocks/Transfiguration. awesome and low maintenance and just the cost of the dollar store items. Worth It.

And as for the banners and the potion bottles? I really liked the way they looked and I think they added to the Harry Potter feel, so worth it. And G gets to keep the banners.

Also, the photo booth was pretty easy, so that was worth it too. I've got pictures from it.

It seems that I got wrapped up in "cool projects" that would have been better for older party goers but were kind of lost on little kids who like koolaid, running around and candy. Hmm. Well, live and learn there, Ro.

Boy, I also have a lot to post on this party. If you click the links, you will find my tutorials and recipes to many of the crafts and foods, and you can decide for yourself which ones might be worth your time and effort.

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