Year 6 at Hogwarts

The third party, Year Six at Hogwarts, was July 16th, 2005, with 83 people in attendance – including about 20 kids! You can read the Year Six at Hogwarts FAQ, see the Marauders’ Map I made for the invitations, and read my posts of party preparations below…

time to breathe…?

I have been running non-stop for two solid weeks, I swear. Not only have I been frantically designing, creating & mailing my Year Six at Hogwarts invitations every waking moment not at work, but I have been staying late at work most days for the final stages of a several-month project for a total overhaul of the web portal for my product I manage…which just went live last night at midnight! I am relieved for that to be done. There’s still a bunch of training and other cleanup that needs to happen, but at least the major deadline is over.

Now I have to figure out my specific plan of attack for Year Six plans so I can work into the schedule how to get the Year Five webpages finally written, plus if there’s any possible chance of editing the choir UK tour DVD, which is coming up now on a year since we left at the end of June…*sigh* I only have myself to blame, since my spring catch-up on projects time was uncharacteristcally very unproductive this year…oh well…back to getting things done now at least…

Off I go outside for lunch for the first time in what seems like forever! πŸ˜‰

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Year Six party prep update

Amongst taking it relatively easy to get fully over my cold, plus seeing Batman Begins Saturday night (awesome!) and the end of the year choir party Sunday afternoon, I have made excellent progress so far with the Year Six at Hogwarts party!

  • Invitations went out first week of June, with the follow-up email a week later
  • The online FAQ went up June 15th
  • 75 gold paper plates have been painted with the Hogwarts crest
  • Best Potion recipe cards are printed & cut (~60)
  • Costume contest ballots are printed & cut (~60)
  • Best Edible Creation contest entry forms AND voting ballots are designed, printed and cut (~40)
  • My Bellatrix Black Lestrange costume is done
  • Ben’s dementor costume is done
  • The webcams are configured & placed as of Friday evening – remember this is a sneak peek! πŸ˜‰
  • Friday night I stapled up 400 icicle lights (white lights on white cords) on my ceiling so this year stars will be peeking through the black ceiling πŸ™‚
  • Saturday all the black ceilings went up (thanks Melanie for the extra hands!)
  • Also as of Saturday, almost all the stone walls are up (the kitchen wasn’t ready yet so it’s next)
  • The Sorting sticker badges are cut (~45, so I’ll probably need to print more going by RSVPs so far!)
  • 11 kids capes are done (cut to length, drawstring channel sewn, ribbon threaded)
  • 11 kids paper cone hats are cut, still need to add tape & elastic thread to them
  • All adult and kid prizes are settled & in their respective treasure chests
  • Young Wizard Treasure Hunt has been updated with new clues
  • New Beater bats have been purchased
  • Quidditch hoops & the Nerf Quaffle have had touch-up paint jobs (Nerf Quidditch was rough last time!)
  • 8 dozen Cockroach Clusters are made

    So you don’t think I’m absolutely crazy, some of these tasks have been done over the past couple weeks, not all this weekend! πŸ˜‰ Of course there is PLENTY still to do, including a few new props and LOTS of food to make, even with the new Best Edible Creation contest helping feed the masses, but I do have just under 3 weeks to do it all, so hopefully I’ll get it all done. What I’m most worried about is getting the Year Five webpages up before this party happens…hmm…wish me luck!

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    Year Six party progress – FOOD :-9

    Hooray! As of last night I have a good handle on the party food I’m providing, so now I can get back to decorations without feeling too stressed… πŸ™‚

  • Bertie Botts & filler Jelly Bellies already purchased
  • pre-sliced cheese already purchased in fridge
  • 8 dozen cockroach clusters were done this weekend
  • 5 dozen licorice wands done! (I used sour candy “licorice” wands since no one likes the black licorice anyway)
  • 6 dozen peppermint toads done!
  • crab triangles already in freezer
  • “parchment scrolls” already in freezer (purchased Party Swirls)
  • 2 full batches of pumpkin filling baked for pasties
  • 2 full family pie crust recipes (~3 pies worth each) made from scratch to be sure it’s veggie-safe (purchased pie crust uses lard – how lame!)
  • 9 dozen pumpkin pasties made & frozen unbaked

    Everyone loves the pumpkin pasties, including me, but they are time-intensive and take FOREVER to make…hence trying to create a time-saving plan. I had tried baking these a couple days ahead of the party before, but the pastry starts getting soft & soggy after about one day even in airtight containers, so I’m trying a new plan this year. The filling is baked in advance anyway so it can be put into the pasties, so there’s no risk there. Since all the hard work is making up the pasties in the little shapes with the filling inside, making them up early but freezing them as unbaked pastry is the new plan. This way I can just take them out of the freezer the night before or morning of the party then bake them nice & fresh without killing myself staying up all night making pasties…whew!

    Now, back to decorations & activities…maybe I’ll feel I have enough time to post some prop construction photos later… πŸ˜‰

    Aww…now I’m hungry! I want a pumpkin pasty…darn!

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    New Cauldron Cakes

    While working on, I saw Lexicon_Bel~’s version of Cauldron Cakes, which sounded yummy, especially since my clever idea of cotton candy smoke ended up failing last summer (the cakes are so moist that the cotton candy melts as soon as it comes in contact with the cauldron – doh!). My full-size cupcake Cauldron Cakes were not eaten as much at previous parties, probably because they were that large. Since it’s already looking like 75 people are coming, maybe more (ack!) I’m trying to stretch my food as far as possible! I found mini-Reeses peanut butter cups and used my mini-muffin pans last night with a Betty Crocker devils food cake mix, so these are bite-sized, which also means one cake mix gives you around 11 dozen adorably cute Cauldron Cakes…hooray!

    By filling the muffin cups about half-full, then gently setting the peanut butter cup in the center, the cake batter rises around the edge of the candy and over the top edge of the muffin cup, making a cute little rolled edge to the cauldron. The chocolate of the peanut butter cup nicely bubbles on the top, too. I think these came out so cute! πŸ™‚

    New Mini Cauldron Cake – side view

    Bel’s original recipe calls for marshmallows, which I knew would bubble perfectly, but they contain gelatin and I have some hardline vegetarians coming, so I wanted to use something else. A blob of cream cheese was yummy, and one drop of green food coloring made a nice swirled potion effect, but the blob was too irregular, so it just looked like a cream cheese brownie. The caramel Hershey’s kisses upside-down just made a caramel volcano that glued too well to the bottom of the pan, albeit tasty, and the white/milk kisses right side up to have the white show were just engulfed by the cake batter. The mini peanut butter cups were the perfect size, but if they were pressed down into the batter too far, there was risk of the chocolate gluing to the bottom of the pan, making it a mess to get out of the pan! Two bags of mini-Reeses only lasted for 7 dozen, so the last 2 dozen were the white/milk Hershey’s kisses turned upside down for the milk chocolate to show and bubble. The cauldron edge is larger, so not as cute, but if people get really hungry to plow through all 7 dozen, I don’t think they’ll be complaining… πŸ˜‰

    View of the bubbling chocolate potion on top

    Cauldron Cake Cross-Section

    A Cornucopia of Cauldron Cakes! πŸ˜‰

    These are now safely in my freezer with the 9 dozen Pumpkin Pasties, to be thawed two weeks from tonight, the night before the party…I can’t believe it’s so close!

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    “If Hogwarts had Home Economics, then Britta Peterson would be the teacher. She’s with the Web site, and knows a thing or two about the importance of setting the right mood.

    “I go all out for my ‘Harry Potter’ parties, transforming my house into Hogwarts, complete with fake stone walls and Quidditch hoops in my backyard,” she said.

    If that’s a bit too involved, she recommends using a plastic cauldron as a centerpiece, turning ordinary books into “spell books,” and having a few magic wands on hand. The Web site has a lengthy list of decorating ideas, complete with instructions. Go to for details.”

    Especially funny since I’ve never taken a Home Ec class in my life! haha…! Yes, this was an “interview” via email, since he wrote to about this article, and since he was asking about the party planning side, they suggested I reply to him. πŸ™‚

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    Year Six at Hogwarts party progress

    Even with attending the SF Symphony fireworks concert at Shoreline Amphitheatre Monday evening, I have gotten a lot of party prep done this week…scarily I’m feeling like I’ll actually get everything done…we’ll see what really happens! πŸ˜‰

    Here’s some of what’s happened since I last checked in…

  • Staples has these nice tagboard preprinted parchment scrolls for like $1, which I used last time for the Nerf Quidditch rules. There’s a green background, but by cutting the scroll out from the background, it looks very cool. The drawback is you can’t fit it in a printer, so hand-lettering is usually what I do…however, I did print the Best Edible Creation contest flyer out large in two 11″x17″ sections, then after I ripped the edges as close to the lettering as possible, I tried oiling the white paper to make it translucent, which worked pretty well. I fear for the spray adhesive not sticking to the still-greasy paper, so I’m leaving it flat for now and will only hang it for the party…less chance of gravity working against me I think.
  • I’m at about 6 layers of papier-mache plus a thick layer of spackle on my tree-trunk garbage can. This is an idea I’ve had for a couple years now, since I never have good garbage & recycling receptacles for my parties. My mom had seen a Martha Stewart show on how to make upside-down plastic buckets into small tree stumps for Halloween decorations, but I mutated that into using the round plastic garbage can I have, putting plastic around it so the trunk isn’t permanently attached to the can, then starting with as many paper grocery bags as I could find, first to block out the organic-looking trunk shape, then to keep covering in layers. I think now with the spackle it will be sturdy enough, plus the spackle has the added bonus of looking very much like bark for texture – hooray! Painting & sealing is next…
  • Since the RSVPs are up to about 20 kids now (ack!), and I had originally only made 11 capes & black paper hats to decorate, I made 14 more of each. The capes are made out of two 3’x50′ rolls of weed blocker fabric, which is essentially slightly thicker gossamer you purchase for more money from party supply websites.
  • I bought (well, used free JoAnn pts) more white felt since I’ve changed my plan for blocking off my staircase, using the front door piece of flagstone gossamer (only needed for Halloween) for a fake wall, so that is handled – cut to size, stapled & taped.
  • I played around with furniture arrangement to get Potions into the kitchen while still having space for the main food table with clearance. By using a smaller tabletop, I think it’ll be perfect! Since the Potions table was already moved, I decided to get out the bricks & shelves & bottles to start setting everything up. It bugged me wasting the paper & gold thread ingredient tags on the liquid potions, so to improve on that, I got gold-edged scrapbooking tags on 50% off sale (made the free JoAnn pts go farther!), painstakingly cut the parchment printed ingredients to tag size, then used laminating sheets to stick the parchment to the metal tag edges, also hopefully making the tag water-resistant! Add a gold elastic cord (also free JoAnn pts) to the tag, and removable & reusable Potion ingredients tags! πŸ™‚
  • Both the kids prize chest and the adult prize chest are filled, and all the prize buttons are done. The Best Edible Creation statuette is all finished too…I won’t tell you what it looks like so you’ll be surprised…heehee!
  • Spot the Spell, Whirled Words and Ogle the Owl sheets are all printed – 60-80 copies each! (the little kids won’t do Spot the Spell or Whirled Words)
  • The signpost has been put up outside, with the 4 destinations written in chalk. (Maybe I should have referenced the original when I was setting it up? Ah well!)
  • I also have purchased stuff for the last new prop I’d like to make, so we’ll see what happens timewise. I would like to make the Quidditch scoreboard from the movies, which will be a challenge, and will be only manually functional by hand-changing the numbers, but we’ll see. Since all the spending I’ve been doing at JoAnn Fabrics & Crafts for this party has been all totally free money (I had $100 free from my JoAnn VISA card & still have $45 left! – that’s what happens when a new laptop, UK airfare plus major auto maintenance all happen in 3 months!), plus the tree trunk garbage can is only costing the glue since I already had the spackle, I figured I could spend some on Michaels for this one project.
  • 8 dozen chocolate frogs are done, and I’m stopping there even though they’re small. There is no way I’ll have spiffy boxes for them all, so only a token few with be put into the pentagonal movie-style boxes I designed for the last party.

    Only one week to go – wheeeeee! πŸ˜€

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    another press mention!

    I got this email from an East Coast co-worker this morning:

    So I was reading the Post Food section, and saw the tease on the front page about the Harry Potter feast. I said to myself, I should send the link to Britta.

    Imagine my surprise when I see you’re credited with one of the recipes!

    This one didn’t contact me personally, so either they found & actually paid attention to the crediting, or they found my website directly. Either way, it’s nice they credited me properly. πŸ™‚

    More party progress later when I get photos loaded in…among other things, the tree trunk garbage can is finished! woohoo!

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    Year Six at Hogwarts Success!

    Sorry I was much too busy to post any further updates before the party, but that’s the way it goes!

    Last night around 10pm, Ben went in dementor costume, along with Jen in full Ravenclaw Quidditch gear to the Sunnyvale Borders to stand in line for our 18-book order for the party. At 11:30pm, Melanie as a Muggle (slacker because her costume was all finished! Admittedly it would not have fit in the Briata over to Borders, so probably just as well) and I as Bellatrix joined them, staying until 1:30 to actually get our books! Ben left his in the batch until leaving the party to avoid temptation, but Melanie read the first chapter this morning. I did not want to be tempted to keep reading vs. party prep, let alone be careful when talking to party guests, so I have not yet opened the books, let alone even reading the inside cover!

    It was overall a successful day amongst many glitches, even though not necessarily a success in the way I envisioned. Too hot for many planned activities, and not enough table space for all the food that did actually arrive (some fabulously creative entries!), but people (I’m counting about 83, but it really seemed like more I think!) all still said they had a great time, which is what matters! πŸ™‚

    Black wigs itch horribly on a hot day! Hopefully my couple Bellatrix photos came out okay even though I was literally melting. At least I have some good photos from last night at Borders when I wasn’t melting, so those might have to do. I had to take out my contacts & rinse them twice this afternoon because sweat kept dripping into my eyes! But everyone loved how I stored my wand in my cleavage…like a breast dagger from renfaire lore…I figured out last night on our way to Borders to pick up the books when I had no pockets that my new shorter, more “sinister”-looking wand from Simone from Brazil fit very nicely there, and it seemed a very Bellatrix thing to do…oh, and I have been christened “Brittatrix” by several different people now, even though that sounds more like a dominatrix than a Harry Potter character…*raises eyebrows*!

    Somehow the majority of the voting ballots went missing before counting! I had seen a ton overflowing the cauldron where everyone was putting their votes, but when Ben offered to count them for me, there were only 25 ballots, including only 4 for the Best Edible Creation award, which of course was a 4-way tie. Very suspicious! Someone accused Draco Malfoy (no one came in that costume by the way), and I said someone must have cast Evanesco to vanish them… πŸ˜‰ I still haven’t found them, but when it’s light I’m going through all the trash anyway. Gilderoy at St Mungo’s won Most Creative, the most elaborate of several Dobbies, this one complete with makeup matching his ears, won Most Authentic, and Ben the dementor won Best Costume. Of those who were left around 10ish, we awarded the quiz winners, including Ogle the Owl, Spot the Spell matching game, and Whirled Words (anagrams), but since most of the votes went missing, plus so many people had already started leaving, the First Annual Dobby Award for Best Edible Creation (a statuette of a gilded sock!) went unawarded….darn!

    Again, no Best Potion was awarded since it was so hot, people mostly stayed outside to catch a breeze when they could, meaning they only drank the lemonade or the canned/bottled drinks in the large cauldron cooler. However, the creativity displayed with all the Best Edible Creation entries replaced the Best Potions creativity more than enough! I will definitely need to post all the entries eventually when I work on BOTH websites (yes, the Year Five webpages never got done before Year Six happened – too bad I know but oh well).

    I have to admit my personal highlight was that long-lost highschool friend Amanda convinced her gracious friend to wait around while we reminisced about highschool & caught up on what’s happened inbetween, long after the majority of guests had already left (only 11ish). Amanda beats my overnight guest for longest distance traveled to the party, since she now lives in Las Vegas but was in Sacramento visiting so she could come to the party…hooray! πŸ™‚

    It was when showing Amanda the highschool reunion pix from 1999 reunion she didn’t attend that I saw my email that my mom had checked the webcams at 7ish & saw the outside cam had stopped broadcasting…why does it only cause problems during parties – argh! It has been broadcasting just dandy all week long…I see from the captures it actually stopped about 6:12pm, but we never really did anything outside, so not much was missed I don’t think. No Quidditch at all – too hot! Kids kept asking when we could play, but I kept telling the kids they could play Quidditch when they adults left the cool grass in the shade, which of course never happened! πŸ˜› We did do the kids treasure hunt, but since several kids were older this time, I let them read the clues, which wasn’t loud enough for the smaller kids to hear, so many smaller kids who had been looking forward to the treasure hunt were overwhelmed by the speed & inability to hear. Unfortunately that’s what happens when I don’t know the exact ages & abilities of the kids, but I did have enough variety of kid activities (pretzel wands, potion mixing, blowing bubbles, decorating hats & capes, and free drawing) that they all seemed to have a great time anyway.

    Since it’s much too dark at this hour, after a bunch more chatting into the wee hours with my overnight guest, the leftovers I’d like to save to eat later have been put away if they need to (cookies & breads last fine) with the major cleanup to happen tomorrow when I can see clearly. Before we can try waffles for brunch since I’d like to play hostess to my overnight guest, I need to find the kitchen counters in all the mess!

    Oh, and my cat has gotten out after being social after it was down to just the 5 of us towards the end, and being a black cat I can’t find her for anything…this will be the first night she’s been out by herself ever, so I hope she’s okay. I even poured out some crunchy food so she’d hear, so I’ve left her a way back in & hope she’ll come back when she’s hungry… πŸ™

    Update: Kylie was back inside, acting nonchalantly, as of ~4:30am…whew! I’ll be able to sleep much better now knowing she’s safe inside… πŸ™‚

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    enjoying the summer

    I have still been recovering all week from the big party last weekend. Aside from finishing Half-Blood Prince already Monday night and getting my party photos posted, I’ve done some cleaning, mostly gooey things like dishes and potion bottles, but I’ve been trying to let myself relax a bit as well. Unfortunately my cat hasn’t been as cooperative at letting me sleep through the night as she usually is – maybe it’s too hot for her as well? I have no air conditioning but I have a 2-story place, which is usually only a problem over here for a few days each summer, but this week has been a doozy. It’s hard to get motivated to do things when it’s so hot! Good think I live alone and my cat doesn’t care, since I don’t mind having a huge decoration mess around for awhile. I am leaving the stone walls and black ceiling up through Halloween to save myself time for that party (plus I like the effect!), so it’s a matter of taking the Hogwarts-specific stuff down and putting it away safely…plus I have to reorganize since I have two new HBP boxes now, so I’d like to put decor in those for storage vs. the boring normal boxes I had before. 2 OotP boxes, 2 HBP boxes…woohoo! πŸ˜‰

    In other news, we now have all our lodging settled for the hiking in Scotland + week in London trip are taking in September – hooray! Two hotels in Edinburgh and London, a lodge in Torridon, the Macdonald Hotel in Kinlochleven near Glencoe, and the Snooty Fox Country Inn near Carlisle/Lake Country. Gotta love staying at a place called “The Snooty Fox!” πŸ˜‰ Since he has a spiffy digital SLR camera he bought last year before our choir tour, he’d like more practice taking landscape photos, and he’d never been to Yosemite, we had discussed a couple months ago to try taking a day to go after the Glacier Point road was open but before our trip. We finally had the chance this weekend, so we did. Ironically I realized that even though I have been to Yosemite in 1996, 1998, 2003 & earlier this year, this is the first time I’ve been to Yosemite with an American since 1993! πŸ˜›

    Yosemite in July Gallery Album

    and at Glacier Point

    We took some cheese & cracker party leftovers and a fresh fruit salad for a picnic and drove the Briata (of course!), leaving Cupertino about 8:30am. We made it to the Big Oak Flat entrance around noon, to Tunnel View around 1:30, and up to Glacier Point for our picnic lunch about 2:30. It was hot, and I’d never been to Yosemite on a weekend, let alone in the summer, so it was much more packed with people than I had even seen! We still had fun, though. We left the valley after sunset about 9ish, making it to Oakdale by 11ish where we ate at Denny’s, then back to my place about 1:30am. Around 455 miles, with all but the first 80 miles with the top down! A very exhausting day, but a lot of fun and beautiful scenery. Today is hot again so I’m having difficulty wanting to move at all, let alone leave the spot on my couch where my fan is blowing on me, so I figured I might as well settle the Yosemite photos and update my blog… πŸ˜‰ Maybe after it cools down I can do some more party cleaning…

    Hope you all had a good weekend!

    P.S. The iPhoto to Gallery plugin is SWEET! πŸ˜€

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    first Year Six at Hogwarts how-to page online!

    Just had to post my success…due to nagging by complete strangers so I guess you could say “popular demand” the first how-to page is online before any of the rest of the website is anywhere near ready…yes, it is the Marauders’ Map. Amazing how just a little commment at the very end of my Year Six party FAQ has had strangers asking about it already!

    Now for some sleep…

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