the world of harry potter

June 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

This year, when we went to Florida for Spring Break, we were so excited to spend a day at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. For the last year, both of my girls have been obsessed (OBSESSED) with the Harry Potter books and all things magical. Our 10-year-old Bella has finished all the books, and at seven years old, even Sophie has read through the fifth book. Both girls were the same thing for Halloween, Hermione Granger, a first for this family. They also watch the movies, love the books on CD, and endlessly play wizard school: dressing in their Hogwarts robes, making up spells with their special-ordered wands and writing with their genuine quill and ink sets. As parents Drew and I try not to miss perfect opportunities when they present themselves to us and wanted to be sure to fully capture this moment and the girls’ Harry Potter excitement.

The Wizarding World is located inside Universal Studio’s Islands of Adventure park. We stayed at one of Universal’s hotels the night before and, with our night’s reservation, got early entrance to the park – we were lined up and ready to go at 7:00 a.m. The accuracy of this place was literally amazing! As you near the entrance, you round the corner and the first thing you see is the Hogwarts Express – then the Harry Potter theme music starts and never stops. I think the most fascinating part was just wandering down the main street of Hogsmeade – we couldn’t stop staring in all the realistic shop windows. It felt like we’d stepped into the books and movies.

We waited in line for our turn in Olivanders wand shop where the girls got to let a wand choose them. The candy shop Honeydukes was awesome – there were chocolate frogs, and Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans – Gramma found the perfect chocolate wand and let us know, “This wand chose me!” We had lunch at Three Broomsticks and tried pumpkin juice (not so good) and butterbeer (delicious) – we ate our way through the park. The rides were so much fun. While the dragon roller coaster was too scary for Sophie, she was very brave on the little Hippogriff mini coaster and even loved the incredibly intense Forbidden Journey ride, which had you flying through an incredible Hogwarts castle, unlike any ride I’d ever been on. I think she didn’t have time to be scared because she was too busy being mesmerized by the scenes.

I love the role that great literature and movies have played in our family and how much my girls have been enthralled with these characters during their childhood; our family has been able to share the passion in unique ways: a Wizard of Oz birthday party play for Sophie, a trip through Salzburg acting out “The Sound of Music”, and Little House on the Prairie reenactments in our backyard playhouse. These events have brought our family so much joy, and our trip to the Wizarding World was no different; I know that we’ll never forget this time in our lives we spent together in the magical world of Harry Potter.

seizing the moment

April 29, 2012 § 2 Comments

So at 8:30 this past Monday morning, my phone rang. My friend Stacy told me she’d been excitedly waiting since 7:00 to call me with the news that Julie Andrews was coming to Seattle this weekend to promote her newest book in The Very Fairy Princess series she writes with her daughter. Ms. Andrews would be doing a few signings, but only for those lucky enough to get a coveted spot. My friend knows me so well – I mean, it’s JULIE ANDREWS!

This family is a little (OK, a lot) obsessed with “The Sound of Music.” We come by it naturally: my mom, and her mom, both loved the movie way before I was born. For months after it was released, my mom spent every Saturday in Speedway, Indiana, riding the bus downtown to watch the von Trapps sing and dance through the gorgeous Salzburg countryside! Of course with two generations before me already hooked, I came to love it too. And from the time they were little, I’ve shared the movie with my girls. They love the singing, they love the dancing, they love it all – and it makes me so happy.

My husband Drew and I are all about seizing the moment. We realize not only how lucky we are, but that life is short and our precious girlies will only be young once. We don’t want to leave anything on the table as far as they are concerned. A couple of years ago, we were planning a family trip to Italy around the same time Drew needed to do some work in Graz, Austria. It only took a bit of discussion for us to realize what an opportunity we had stumbled into. Austria means Salzburg and, to us, Salzburg means “The Sound of Music.” We got to work. Unbelievably, the actual von Trapp family home is now a hotel, and we were able to stay there for two nights. We booked a day-long tour with an amazing guide, a woman who knew every detail of both the making of the movie and the actual von Trapp family history.

Salzburg was beautiful – the hills really did feel alive with the sound of music! The girls loved the marionette museum we visited where they got to work with their own puppets. We toured the large and impressive church where the wedding scene was filmed and saw the lovely little church where the real Maria and Georg actually were married. At the famous gazebo where Liesl sang “16 Going on 17,” I forced my boy to dance with me to the girls’ delight. The best part was our visit to the Mirabell Gardens, where some of the most recognizable sequences from the movie were filmed. Drew waited patiently as us girls consulted our iTouch to find the exact scenes from the movie and then acted them out singing and dancing our way through the afternoon. We¬†will never forget it!

And today we found ourselves waiting at the book signing for the chance to meet Julie Andrews face to face. We were close to the front of the line, and it was cute to see the girls peering between the bookshelves to get a first glimpse as she entered the store. She looked so regal, addressed Bella and Sophie by name (her voice is exactly the same as in the movies) and had a lovely conversation with our family. It was thrilling – a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet such an icon. We love her as Mary Poppins and Queen Clarisse from “The Princess Diaries.” Most of all, we love her as Maria and for all the joy she and “The Sound of Music” has brought to four generations of our family. Just to see her in person, if only for a few minutes, was another perfect moment to seize!

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