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.

getting out there

May 29, 2012 § 2 Comments

I’ll admit that I am not much of a camper. Actually I have some great memories of camping as a child with my dad and uncles and, before having kids of my own, I did get out there every so often for a short trip with my hubby and friends. Ever since I had the girls though, I’ve preferred hotel rooms to tents and fireplaces to camp fires. But with my dad’s visit this weekend and my brother now living out here, a camping experience for my girls was in order. My brother is a regular mountain man – he hiked the entire Appalachian Trail straight from Georgia to Maine about six years ago, and now he lives on the Olympic Peninsula. The girls love their “Uncle D” and having him and Gramps to go camping with got them really excited. We ended up at the beautiful Lake Wenatchee State Park, and seeing our outdoor adventure through my daughters’ eyes changed my perspective on roughing it.

The girls loved all the things I remember loving when I was little: setting up the beds in the tent, hiking around and exploring the campground, tending the fire, laying in the hammock and making the food. We roasted hot dogs for dinner and made s’mores for dessert. In typical fashion, Bella got extremely scientific in creating the perfect s’more, expertly toasting the marshmallows and graham crackers and melting the chocolate. The little sister preferred to quickly toast the marshmallows, throw the combo together and then relax in the hammock, enjoying the tasty results. Sitting around the campfire was fun; the girls brought their own instruments (a recorder and a ukulele) and had a little jam session. And at dusk, we walked down to the lake’s gorgeous beach where I was happy to find some rocks and driftwood for my collection. I get it now, camping isn’t about roughing it – it’s about being together and having an adventure and making memories. I guess I can get out there every once in a while for that!

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!

memory jars

March 19, 2012 § 1 Comment

I love collecting seashells, driftwood and sand from the beautiful places I’ve been to and keeping them displayed in glass jars throughout the house as reminders. There’s something so simple, yet perfect, about a glass jar and the way it makes the treasures within stand out. Recently, I’ve been creating “memory jars” by putting some my collections into labeled Mason jars; I’m loving the idea of a row of these jars lining my mantle – such a personal way to decorate!

vacation scrapbooking

March 1, 2012 § 2 Comments

While I am by no means an expert at parenting, I do believe that I am quite skilled in the tricky art of entertaining my children in public. I’ve never been caught out at a restaurant without my little bag of tricks: games, toys, books and other activities to keep my little ones happy. Now that they’re older it’s the same story, although the books and games have gotten far more advanced and take up a lot less room. We started traveling with our girls when they were very young, both out of necessity – having moved here from the East Coast and desperately needing sun and a little family time – and out of pleasure. Drew and I love to travel and wanted to share that love with the girls.

I have figured out a perfect way to make our travels fun, keeping the children busy while creating a perfect souvenir. Before our trips, I assemble everything we need for vacation scrapbooks. My usual go-to items include a 6×6 scrapbook for each girl (Making Memories, SEI and American Crafts all sell great ones) and a pad of coordinating 6×6 papers. I bring stickers, markers and colored pencils, glue sticks and cute-patterned tapes. Head’s up: do not pack any scissors in your carry-on, even those cute little shaped ones, unless you want major drama and crying at airport security when they are confiscated. Along the way, we collect business cards, postcards, menus, brochures – anything we can find – and the girls go to work. They love putting everything in their books, and it definitely keeps them busy. Once we return, I print out photos we’ve taken, and we spend a few days adding them in. The results are incredible. Even scrapbooks from years ago are constantly revisited; we all love seeing the old pictures, drawings and scribble scrabble. And it’s so cute to see the memories the girls chose to include from a trip – moments I might not have even remembered. I know that we will always treasure these precious little books, reminders of the amazing times we spent lost in the world together.

collecting memories

April 23, 2011 § 1 Comment

Over Spring Break with my girlies, we spent a day at the beach with some of our dear friends. It was fun, as always, playing and talking about old times. And when I left, I had the perfect souvenir: a bucket of beautiful miniature shells we’d collected.

Since moving to the beach, my friend has discovered a new passion: “shelling”. Her new passion fits in perfectly with one of my obsessions: “collecting”. One of something is never enough for me! I love to display my little collections around the house; they make me smile and are a constant reminder of the places I’ve been and the life I’m leading. The small round pebbles and clay from Cinque Terre remind me of my amazing honeymoon. My collection of Washington driftwood makes me think of when my husband and I decided to roll the dice and move our family to the West Coast.

So now that this trip is over, and I’ve bought the perfect glass jar (another obsession all together) to display my pretties in  – I can sit home, pour over my newest treasure and enjoy the memories. Another little thing to love …

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