Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Harry Potter Party: Pygmy Puffs

Pygmy Puffs are the adorable pets that the Weasley twins stocked in their joke shop. I think of them as the wizard equivalent of a hamster crossed with a baby hedgehog. They aren't actually crucial to the plot of a typical Harry Potter story, since they don't cast spells or taste good or sort anybody into any kind of magical fraternity/sorority but they are somewhat cute and fluffy and have a normalizing effect on an otherwise otherwordly boarding school experience. I mean, the most evil villain in the history of the known universe was at large and declaring war on a world of innocents, but aw, look! Fred and George just got these fluffballs in! Do you want the pink or the purple?

Obviously Emily had to have them at her party

Rather than hand everyone a ready-to-swoon Pygmy Puff, however, she thought her guests might have more fun making their own. So she made a bunch of two-tone pink and purple pompoms, very similar to the kind we made for Kate's bunny party some years ago,

and bought white pompoms from the craft store - 1.5" for the heads and 1/2" ones for the feet, to make a kit.

This is what you need to make one Pygmy Puff:
  • one large pom pom (pink or purple) for the body
  • one 1.5" white pom pom for the head
  • four 1/2" white pom poms for the feet
  • two small black circles of felt (about 1/4" diameter) for eyes
  • one small pink bead for the nose
  • two small white felt triangles for eyes
along with glue (we used Tacky glue).

Emily printed out joke shop labels, turned them into stickers

and stuck them on regular zip top sandwich bags. Everything but the body pom pom went into that zip top bag. 

When guests came to "buy" their Pygmy Puff kit, they got to pick out a pom pom from a basket,

and pick up a zip top bag of supplies.

During the activity, we set out saucers of Tacky glue and Q-tips (cotton buds). We've learned from experience that this communal-glue method was much better than passing around bottles of glue for guests to take turns.

Finished Pygmy Puff!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Harry Potter Party: Quills and Inkpots

There are many ways to make quills and inkpots, but here is how Emily made hers for her Harry Potter party.


Our quills were essentially the ink reservoir of a ball point pen shoved into the shaft of a turkey feather.

These are the turkey feathers we used. We got ours from Michaels.  You can buy black-only and white-only packs of three, too; ours was a five pack of colors. 

Here is the ball-point pen we harvested for ink reservoirs. This was a $1 party favor we bought at Party City, very similar to this. The ink tubes come off easily with a pull.

Emily cut off the tip of the feather shaft

and pushed the ink tube into it, making sure to leave the tip protruding.

She also used a dab of hot glue to secure the ink tube in place, so that it wouldn't slip back into the feather shaft when the quill pen is in use.

She made a whole batch of quills this way.

For the ink pots, she considered several options, including simply drilling a hole into a block of wood. She finally decided on this stack design, made from wooden wheels we had in our wood blanks stash. It's cute and very stable. You can get these wooden wheels in craft stores like Michaels and Hobby Lobby.

The round bead in the top tier is a ball of black polymer clay. Round wooden beads, if you can get them with a large enough bore to accommodate the tip of the quill, are another alternative, but we didn't have those.  

So Emily improvised with clay like this and made holes to size. Don't they look dangerously like olives? If you make these and have little kids around the house, be careful where you leave them!

She then assembled the stacks with hot glue and painted them black (not necessarily in that order).

Each guest got to buy their own quill and inkpot in Diagon Alley on the day of the party.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Harry Potter Party: Patronus

Emily designed this particular activity as a prop for a photoshoot for her Harry Potter party. One of our challenges at birthday parties is trying to get a group shot of all the guests so we can send prints together with our thank-you cards as a fun memento of the special day. Our parties often have a lot going on and while the husband does a fabulous job photodocumenting the play-by-play, we don't always have the presence of mind to corral all the merrymakers into a single spot that has both a nice backdrop and decent lighting for a group shot. 

Emily planned ahead for that with this Patronus idea. The plan was to have everyone bunch together and cast Patronuses with their wands against the garage door, and pose thus for the group picture. 

Step 1 was to create Patronuses. Very easy - everyone was given plain printer paper and told to draw their favorite animal. We outlined them in ghostly silver ink and colored them in with ethereal blue and green marker.

Step 2 was to cut them out, distribute lengths of blue paper streamers,

stick the Patronuses on the wall/siding/garage door, and tape one end of the streamers to the Patronuses and the other end to the tips of our wands.

Step 3 was to yell, "Expectro Patronum!" with warrior faces while the camera clicked away.

With the right angle and (non) focus, it looked very magical, we thought.

Full disclosure: 
  • this was a less independent activity than we'd envisioned, because at least half the kids didn't care much for what they drew themselves and wanted someone else to draw their animals for them. Or they spent an inordinate amount of time penciling-and-erasing their animals. Or they made them so miniscule that they'd never show up in a photo as more than a blob. If you do this activity, and your party guests aren't self-confident artists, best to have an adult on hand who can do fast animal sketches. Or pre-draw/print out animals for the kids to re-outline in silver Sharpie and color in.

  • we didn't manage to pull off Step 3. Or even Step 2. Because we started to run out of time and the children opted to play Quidditch instead of fighting the forces of evil. Well, duh.

P.S. My patronus is a squid. Obviously. What's yours?

Friday, February 17, 2017

Harry Potter Party: Spellbooks

One of the most empowering (literally) things in the world of Harry Potter must surely be all the magic swirling around the ether, just waiting to be harnessed. Which child doesn't want to feel, just for a single escapist moment, that they are in control, that they can protect themselves and those important to them? This is the trend now: young, ostensibly-wallflower nobodies discovering they actually have a SpecialSnowflakeDestiny, that they must save the cosmos, that they are the only ones in all creation who can, but - drat it all - they must also apparently spend x number of weeks/months/years learning 12 kinds of martial arts, toughening their bodies with one-handed pushups in refugee camps, doing yoga to center their inner voices, increasing their pain thresholds to unprecedented levels by bathing in gigantic urns of boiling oil, etc. etc.

And mastering spells.

Hundreds and hundreds of spells, with just the right inflection in the tone and just the right flick of the wrist so as to levitate a teapot rather than accidentally turn oneself into a salamander. 

Ah, the world of fantasy.

Some of my favorite children's (and teen) fantasy stories are about regular children. Who may or may not have magical destinies but who have to work really, really hard to grow up. Period. I don't need them to save the world or find their soulmate or whatever; growing up is a bells-and-whistles adventure in and of itself without the weight of predestination to churn the mix. Some books do this really well. Some books . . . don't. And some books just hop on the tropes bandwagon and we come away aghast because we'd expected a portrait and got a Sharpie stick-figure instead.

Did I just digress?
I did, didn't I?

So, anyway, spells.

The spells of the Harry Potter wizarding world, I suspect, are a cunning way for children to learn Latin without realizing it. Which is cool in its own way, although the children themselves might be upset to discover they were tricked into something educational rather than true magic. Ha ha - sorry, kids, everything's educational these days, even making slime. Parents and other adults are heinous that way. 

For her Harry Potter party, Emily compiled as many of the spells and charms from the books as she could find, using sites like this, this and this. She laboriously typed them all out, changing a few words whenever she thought the online definitions contradicted the books',

and wrote her own disclaimer/dire warning at the end, to caution against the use of Particularly Bad Spells.

The spells couldn't all fit into one volume, so she made two,

formatted everything to print out as an 8-page book,

including the front and back covers,

and made enough for every guest.

The spell books themselves were a neat take-home resource for any Harry Potter fan who might want all their favorite incantations in one (er. . . actually two) place(s). However,  we also created a game to play on the party day itself, that utilized those spell books.

We explained the game in more detail here, but essentially, it's a game-show-style quiz, in which prompts are hidden under numbered flaps, and contestants take turns to call out numbers and respond to the prompts underneath.

Everyone was allowed (and encouraged) to use their spell books, because some of those prompts were tricky!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Harry Potter Party: Monster Book of Monsters

The first of the books the guests picked up at Flourish & Blotts was the Monster Book of Monsters, 

a hairy, carnivorous tome with a belligerent disposition. 

Emily adapted a Youtube version to mass-produce her own. 

Here is her tutorial. You will need:
  • one pad of Post-it notes
  • a piece of cardstock the same size as the Post-it pad
  • four googly eyes
  • faux fur
  • red felt for a tongue
  • white/off-white/pale yellow felt for teeth
  • glue

First, lay the Post-it pad on the faux fur 

and cut out a piece about 
  • the same width as the Post-it pad 
  • 1/2" longer than twice the width of the Post-it pad. 

This extra 1/2" provides the space for the spine and will wrap around the thickness of the pad and allow the completed "book" to open and close easily. Scroll three photos down to see this spine spacing.

Cut two piece of white/off-white/pale yellow felt into rows of serrated teeth. Cut a forked tongue from the red felt. On the WS of the faux felt piece, glue the rows of teeth so the serrated edges protrude beyond the short sides. Glue the tongue on top of one row of teeth, as shown.

On the half of the faux fur with the tongue, glue the Post-it pad, backing side down. On the half of the faux fur piece without the tongue, glue the piece of cardstock. Line up the edges of the pad and the cardstock with the short edges of the fur - you should have a gap of about 1/2" between them for the fur to wrap around the spine.

Shut the book. The side with the cardstock is the top cover. Glue the googly eyes on the top cover, in a random formation.

Here is the finished Monster Book.