A couple years ago we decided to do an every other year plan for the kids birthdays. This means every other year we do one BIG party for one of the kids – not both. I really wish we had an every 5 years plan for big birthday parties, but we have this so it will have to work. It still means we are throwing a bigger party every year, but at least it means we are only doing it once a year and not twice. This year was Lauren’s year because she is turning 10. Ten is a big deal to me. I have very strong memories of my 10th birthday (It involved a pink boom box and the Dirty Dancing soundtrack, but I digress.) and I wanted Lauren to have equally strong memories. The summer before last Lauren read through the entire Harry Potter cannon, she was Hermione for Halloween last year, and last winter when we were holed up in the hospital for 10 days with her burst appendix we watched all the Harry Potter movies. Like her mother, Lauren is obsessed. We have been talking about making her 10th birthday party Harry Potter themed for over a year. In fact, there was really no other option at all. So, I started pinning things a year ago and started putting stuff together a few months before her birthday because I know myself, and if I leave something to the last minute then it never turns out very well. And man, did I want this party to turn out well. I am NOT a crafter. Like, not at all! So the fact that many of the things I was working on were squarely in the crafty world left me with a bit of trepidation. I admit, my focus was on decor. Lauren is born in October, so decorating for a Harry Potter birthday party also morphed into decorating for Halloween. Jill would laugh at me when I spent MORE money on stuff at Michael’s or on Amazon and I’d say, “Well, this is an investment in Halloween’s to come!” Yeah, I have a problem. It’s cool. What’s really funny is once Lauren’s party came and went, I felt like Halloween was done as well. News flash: It’s not.
So, in the spirit of obsession sharing, I wanted to show you how things turned out! By the time her party started I was so worn out that I barely took any photos of the actual party (typical) and not a single picture of Lauren at the party aside from the photo booth. So yeah – that Mother of the Year award is not coming home with me any time soon. Full disclosure here, everything I did for this party I found someplace else for the most part. The only thing I created 100% out of my own head was her photo booth print out. Everything else was the product of hours, if not days, on Pinterest and Google and YouTube. Here’s what worked, what didn’t and what I decided just wasn’t worth it.
Accio party madness!!
The Great Hall’s Floating Candles
This was actually one of the first things I pinned on my HP Party Board. It seemed so simple, and so fun! I had a glue gun, and my family goes through toilet paper at an alarming rate! This seemed perfect. We started collecting toilet paper and paper towel rolls a few weeks in advance of when I wanted to get down to creating these. We saved from home and from the office, and I was even going to make Jill start saving them, but that just felt like crossing some sort of line. After some experimentation, I found painting the rolls white first with classic white acrylic paint, and then making the drips with hot glue and painting over them once they were dry worked best. I painted everything standing at my kitchen island over a cut open paper bag while I caught up on tv in the middle of the night. It was delightful. I recommend using a high heat glue gun for the drips as you can make them a bit more authentic looking. I started with the low heat glue gun and it was a bit of a disaster. I purchased these flameless candles from Amazon to put inside them. I have to say, I’m super impressed with these. They come with batteries, and they have been hanging from my dining room ceiling for almost two weeks without us making the effort to turn them off and are STILL flickering. It really does feel like magic. When we were putting the candles into the painted rolls we noticed they were smaller than the roll openings and some ended up wanting to fall through. We were a little stumped about how we would hang these as well, but per the usual, my brilliant husband came up with a great idea. We used a mini hole punch on opposite sides of the tube and then ran the fishing line we used to hang them through the tube creating not just a little shelf for the candle, but also making them much easier to hang! Dustin ran fishing line over the dining room using some hooks he mounted in the wall. I had wanted to use command strips, but I’m glad we didn’t. I don’t think they would have been able to handle the sustained pressure of things hanging from them for several weeks. And, since we plan on doing this every year, I’ll probably just paint the hooks to match the wall and call it good.
I LOVE how this looks a night! It makes my heart all warm and gooey. The lights flicker beautifully off the ceiling and it truly feels like magic.
The Monsters Book of Monsters
Chalk this up to another late night Pinterest binge. I found a vague written tutorial on how to make this project and knew I had to do it. Being I’m not crafty I did what I always do when I don’t know how to do something: searched YouTube. I found THIS GREAT VIDEO with step-by-step instructions that made it a breeze. I got these super creepy eyes off Amazon as Michael’s didn’t have any. Everything else I was able to purchase at Michael’s. The kids helped me with this and it was seriously fun. I am not so great at letting my kids help me when I’m trying to create stuff – especially if I have no experience with what I’m trying to make. But I tried REALLY hard to let them be involved in the creation process of a lot of stuff. This was especially fun. Lauren created the teeth with polymer clay, I did the mouth, Ben placed the eyes and helped me with the little bit of stuffing that needed to be done. Overall, this was the most fun we had creating something for this party. Added bonus, Ben wants to keep it in his room once Halloween is over. And honestly, I just might let him.
Wands for the party guests
I have no photos of these, even though I wish I did because GOOD GRIEF were these fun to make and I’m super proud with how they turned out. Over the course of several weeks, Lauren and I would create a few wands in a sitting. We started with wooden dowels that she and Dustin carved up a bit to make them look more authentic. Then we painted them and used everything from hot glue and beads to plastic spiders and skulls to make each one different. This project was the thing that sent me racing to the craft store to buy a low temp hot glue gun. After three blistering finger burns from my hotter than hell regular glue gun I figured it was worth the investment. What a difference it made! I was able to make MUCH more detailed designs on the wands with the low temp glue gun and didn’t burn myself once. So, that was a win! The kids LOVED getting their wands (Ben, dressed as Dobby, stood near where we had them and reminded everyone the wand chooses the wizard, because OF COURSE!) and it was so fun to watch them run around the party jinxing each other. Between this and the sweets they got to take home I felt good about my minimalist approach to party favors.
Magical Book Covers
This was the easiest and most effective decorating craft. I found these free printables (again on the Pinterest) of fun books you maight find at Hogwarts. I purchased this parchment paper from Amazon and printed them out! Then I grabbed one of the many books from my home library and wrapped them around. Since the books are stacked with the spines facing out, you don’t even have to worry about covering the whole book! I used a little removable tape to keep them in place and LOVED how I was able to use stacks of books to add height to various decor elements. If I had had more time, I may have even created some of my own! But of course I did not have time for that, so this did just fine. But, there’s always next year. ;)
Potions Class and Tasty Treats
I am one of those people who totally over estimate how much food people are going to eat, so I really over did it with ordering pizzas. Especially when you see how much other food I provided. One piece of advice – don’t order 8 large pizzas for 15 kids and 6 adults. It’s too much. You might think it’s not, but I promise you it is. Just, word to the wise. I also had Jill chop up some carrots, celery and peppers and we put those in short plastic cups with Ranch dressing at the bottom and told the kids they were from Professor Sprout’s vegetable garden. It was nice to have something other than pizza, candy and soda for our little witches and wizards.
We had lots of fun treats for the kids. Dustin dressed as Snape (I could seriously do a whole post on the fiasco that was his costume. Sure, it ended up AMAZING, but still was a fiasco) and did a “Potion’s Class” with the kids toward the start of the party. I decorated the top of our piano like Snape’s Potions class. I filled it with lots of dark magic looking things, put bats behind it, and shoved flameless candles into every nook and cranny! We picked up some test tube looking things at Michael’s as well as some beakers. Dustin filled the test tubes with different flavors of Mio water enhancers and filled the beakers with Sprite, tonic water, and seltzer water. The kids then got to create their own drinks with the various ingredients. Dustin names everything! From liquefied frog legs to troll drool to blended dragon heart. The kids had a blast! Meanwhile, I made a batch of Polyjuice Potion in the kitchen. Most of the recipes I found called for Lime sherbet, but I couldn’t find any of that. So I used Pineapple sherbet and extra neon green food coloring. The block of dry ice I threw in made it bubbly and steaming in the best possible way! We got a bunch of mason jar glasses with straws from Michael’s as well that had funny things like Vampire’s Blood, Zombie Virus, and Poison written on them. The kids each got their own for making potions and drinking up some Polyjuice Punch! It was a hit!
For Lauren’s cake we decided to recreate the cake Hagrid brings to Harry. I made an awesome chocolate cake, covered it in pink frosting and misspelled everything I wrote in green icing. The joy of not having to be perfect when it came to the cake was magnificent. I also made some Butterbeer Cupcakes for those who didn’t want chocolate cake. These cupcakes were SOOOOO good. Incredibly sweet, but super good all the same.
I also created a little Honeydukes for the kids. Right before it was time for the party to end we set out the candy and some goody bags so the kids could fill them up with everything from Chocolate Frogs to Fizzing Wizzby’s to Sugar Pumpkins. I got these great chocolate molds off Amazon and then bought these lovely Honeydukes printable from Etsy. I printed the Honeydukes logos on sticker paper and had the Lauren cut them out and stick them on some suckers as well as the goody bags. I used the Fizzing Wizzby labels with a stapler to close up a small treat bag with two candies in it. I made the Fizzing Wizzby’s by putting Pop Rocks in the bee chocolate molds before I put the chocolate in. They are super weird to eat, but my kids thought they were rad. I rounded Honeydukes off with some M&M’s, Hershey’s Kisses and mini candy bars. It was, naturally, a hit. Because – candy.
Overall I am really happy with how everything turned out. Part of that was letting go of things I just couldn’t get to or make happen because of other constraints. I had everything to make the flying keys from book one, but ran out of time. We had wanted to make a “Have You Seen This Wizard?” cut out for the photo booth but had to drop it. We were going to use my mom’s Cricut to cut everything out, but her blade was dull. She was going to carry on, and I said nope. In the end it was totally fine! The kids loved the photo booth even with no props! It was also pouring rain the night of the party so we didn’t turn our front porch into Platform 93/4 even though I bought all the stuff to do so. We said we’d do it for Halloween, but it’s going to rain then too so maybe next year. I think being able to let go of stuff is an important part of pulling something like this off successfully. Also, knowing when to buy something instead of make it. I purchased the invites from an Etsy seller, but with all the rules about invites at school I will never do a physical invite again. Evites for every damn thing from here on out. I also entertained the idea of making the house banners for the Great Hall myself, but when I found these pre-made house banners on Amazon, I knew the time I saved on it would be worth every penny. I also ran to Barnes and Nobel the day before the party to pick up one of Lauren’s gifts and they just happened to have a Sorting Hat. I had not purchased one because, well, I was on the verge of my husband telling me that he was going to take my Amazon privileges away if I bought anything else. But seeing it there in person, I knew I had to have it. I bought it and texted Jill a picture with the caption, “I have no impulse control.” Which is true. But all the same, it was SUPER fun to put on the kids when we were sorting them. So, no regrets.
I am so pleased with how Lauren’s party turned out. She had an awesome time and so did we! Her friends are wonderful, and it was just delightful to revel in all things Harry Potter. I am excited that my husband is on board with being “The Harry Potter House” every Halloween, and I’m looking forward to figuring out how to incorporate more of HP into our exterior decor. (I have a feeling the kids old playhouse is going to somehow be morphed into Hagrid’s Hut and put in the front yard next year… just saying.)