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.

sharing books

April 15, 2012 § 1 Comment

We are a family of bookworms. When the girls were little, we loved going to bed and waking up by reading a fun stack of our favorite picture books – books that now I will never be able to part with. But as the girls have grown, we’ve moved into new and even more exciting territory: the chapter book read-alouds. It’s probably not a coincidence that this is something that has become part of our family life given that my dad reading aloud is definitely a favorite memory from my childhood. The first chapter book I read to our family was Charlotte’s Web, and by the time we got to the part when the lovely Charlotte comforts Wilbur as she is meeting her tragic end, Bella was fully engaged, weeping along with Wilbur. She was so affected, loved the story and wanted to hear it again immediately. And I’ll never forget reading The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane to both the girls, crying so hard myself by the end that I could barely get the last words out.

This Spring Break, it was fun to have my dad read a bit of The Hobbit, our current read-aloud. He’d read it when I was little, and once convinced, he dove in again – it was like stepping back in time. He used the voices I remember, and I was thrilled the girls got to hear a little of his version. We just laid back and took it in – it was a good night.

We also love listening to books on CD. The Harry Potter series, read by Jim Dale, is a particular favorite with my girls. In fact, anything read by Jim Dale can transport you to another world. We have recently discovered a new series: Peter and the Starcatchers, a new twist on the classic Peter Pan story. We started reading the first book ourselves but, once we discovered that Mr. Dale was reading the audio books, we made the switch. On our ski weekends this year, we were consumed with listening to the series in the car, sometimes coming home after our long drive to sit at the kitchen bar, huddling around the iPod, unable to break ourselves away from the story. I love that we are book nerds.

It’s definitely fun to read alone, and each of us loves the down-time provided by checking out and escaping into our own little book world. But, there’s something different and amazing about reading a book together as a family. Having our own little book club and sharing that imaginary world together is a wonderful way to spend our time.

Our Favorite Family Read-Alouds:
any Oz book
Charlotte’s Web
Little Women
Little House on the Prairie
The Penderwicks
Peter and the Starcatchers
Harry Potter

party planning

June 27, 2011 § 2 Comments

I’ve been a busy bee putting the final touches on my little one’s 7th birthday party. This year, it’s an Alice in Wonderland theme, which was her choosing but something I can definitely get excited about. I absolutely love planning my girls’ birthday parties. It lets me put together my love for crafting, entertaining and focusing on the little things that make my life so full.

My favorite part is the invitation and the party favors. Now I don’t expect anything fancy from other parties we go to, but with ours I just love to push myself and dive into the little details. I like to think that my girls can feel my love in each little ribbon and flourish. I plan everything out, enjoying the process of coming up with fantastic ideas and tying everything back to the theme. I have saved all the party invitations over the years, and I want to create a little scrapbook for each girl as a sort-of party time capsule so they can look back and know that each year we celebrated their birth with a lot of love and excitement.

For the invitation this time, I found perfect Mad Hatter Tea Party rubber stamps from TJ Designs combined with a few industrial touches like brown paper tags and masking tape. Beautiful aqua papers from My Mind’s Eye’s Stella and Rose Collection tied in perfectly. On the back I added a little pocket and let my little one help in deciding what we should include. We ended up with a stamped key, a playing card and a Mad Hatter tag that she colored herself. She has her own strong opinions, and I like to make sure I include all her great ideas.

Last year, her party was a Wizard of Oz theme, but not just Wizard of Oz; she was very specific that it should be a Wizard of Oz play party. All of her friends would come and they would act out a play of the Wizard of Oz using the movie soundtrack as their guide. So for weeks we worked to build a stage and put together costumes. I planned all the details. There were tickets, coloring book programs and popcorn for the show. She practiced her play a lot and obviously had a vision, but we weren’t sure how it would come out or if she would actually even do it. On the day of the party, when my shy little birthday girl stood up on that make-shift stage and belted out “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” loud and clear to our family and friends just like she’d practiced, it was amazing. She said it was better than she’d even dreamed of. I know it was definitely better than anything I could have planned!

the magic of Oz

May 9, 2011 § 1 Comment

This year for my birthday, my dad gave me the perfect gift: 27 vintage Wizard of Oz books he bought for me from a woman looking to part with them. She had initially contacted my uncle to see if he knew anyone who might be interested. His first response was no, but then he thought again and called my dad.

When I was little, my dad read many of the Wizard of Oz books out loud to my brother and me. I can vividly remember Friday and Saturday nights at Dad’s place, lying around in the living room listening to him read. I can still hear the voices my dad gave the characters and have such wonderful memories of those nights. I loved knowing that my dad had also read them as a little boy, and I have a couple of my Grammy’s old Oz books with illustrations she had colored in as a little girl.

Most people probably know of the original story from the book or movie – the one about Dorothy and her little dog too and their adventures in Oz after being swept off by a Midwest tornado. But that is only the beginning: L. Frank Baum wrote 14 Oz books, and Ruth Plumly Thompson was chosen by the family after Baum’s death to continue the story with 19 more. The Land of Oz was always my favorite. It’s about Tip, a young boy who lives with a mean witch Mombi until he tricks her out of her magical “Powder of Life”, sprinkles it on his new best friend Jack Pumpkinhead and sets off on a magical trip of his own to Oz. There he discovers that he is actually the lost Princess Ozma of Oz – I love that part!

It’s been fun to watch the love of Oz books continue as my husband has been reading them to my girls the past few years. Last year, while on vacation in Italy, the best night of our whole trip was the one curled up in our little rental house in Tuscany making pasta and reading Oz. It’s the one night of the trip the girls can’t stop talking about. It makes me so happy to have this little thing as part of my family history. Knowing that my daughters are reading and enjoying something that also brought such joy to me and my dad and my grandmother gives me such a warm feeling. And now my very cool collection of Oz books is a constant reminder. In 2003, my dad gave a copy of The Wizard of Oz to my oldest daughter when she turned one. In the front of the book he wrote: “There’s magic in here. My mom found it. Your mom found it. I found it. You will find it.” I love that!

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