Welcome to Hogwarts

For all my kvetching about small town living, one of the best things to come out of our being here so long is that we’ve become good friends with some people who went to my high school. I was friendly with Karen (a class behind me) and while I knew who he was, her now-husband Andriy was an exchange student from Ukraine and I don’t know that I ever had a conversation with him back then. We randomly saw Karen and her sister and nephew in a mall in the Denver suburbs a few years ago, and since then we’d connected on Facebook, but it wasn’t until we moved to Cloverdale that I really had a chance to get to know either of them as adults.

Luckily, not long after we moved here I suggested that we hang out one evening, and the four of us hit it off. As it turns out, we’re all nerds and we all like playing games and we have quite a bit else in common, and in the months since we’ve been here we’ve spent quite a few nights playing games (the four of us), playing D&D (Dan and Andriy), and being game widows (Karen and me). Early this summer, Karen mentioned she planned to have a Harry Potter-themed party, either for the movie premiere or for her birthday. Their annual Ukraine trip in June pushed the timing back to Karen’s birthday in August, but that just gave everyone more time to prepare for the big event.

Dan made this for Karen's party

Karen spent MONTHS researching, re-reading the books, playing around on the Harry Potter Wiki, re-watching the movies. She spent many weeks planning food, activities, games, props, and decor. She went ALL OUT for this party, and I was tickled when the owl arrived in our mailbox, inviting us to be students at Hogwarts for an evening (appropriate dress required!) We’d had plenty of advance notice, and so I was finally able to plan and put together the costume I’d wanted to do both last fall and this most recent July for the midnight screenings of HP7.1 and HP7.2, but didn’t have the time.

Nagini, locket, ring, diadem, diary, cup

Internet, you should know by now that I can’t resist a good costume party theme. I went to Karen’s Harry Potter party dressed as all seven Horcruxes.

Can you spot all 7?

I won’t spoil anything for people who haven’t read the series or seen the movies and still plan to do so, but these seven things are a big part of the plots of the final two books, so read the next few paragraphs and view the photos at your own risk.

One of the most challenging things about this costume concept was that I knew we couldn’t afford to spend any money. So I had to be creative and use materials we had to put together something I thought would live up to my own standards. When we saw HP7.2 in July, for example, my sister and her friend dressed as the ring and the locket, and both costumes used this shiny gold paper stuff. So last weekend when we went down to the Bay Area to attend a garden party at Leah and Simon’s house, we stopped at my sister’s on the way so I could borrow a piece of their shiny gold paper, which I used for three of my Horcruxes: the cup, locket, and the eyes for Nagini. I cut up an old t-shirt, pulled stuffing out of an old pillow, used legs from a decade-old pair of green tights and a nearly-that-old pair of green fishnets. I dug a goblet out of one of our boxes in the garage, used old fimo leftover from making our cake toppers for the basilisk fang, and cut a piece of linen from a pair of pants that developed holes before I moved to Colorado. Sometimes I wonder why I keep so much junk, and then an occasion like this happens and I’m able to put together a neat costume without spending a dime. Sometimes it pays to be a packrat.

Sparkly!

Rowena Ravenclaw’s diadem was made possible by a birthday gift of a tiara from Leah and Simon for my 31st birthday. I had a loose blue stone with a small ring on the end from some ancient family costume jewelry, and at first I thought of hot gluing it to the tiara, but then I had the genius idea of using a blue post earring, and put the post through the ring, thereby adding TWO blue shiny bits to the tiara to make it more Ravenclaw-ish.

Sneaky!

Snake-y!

Nagini was the aforementioned tights and fishnets, gold paper with pupil slits, stuffed with a piece of baling wire and some old pillow stuffing. I sewed it all up and she hung down my back and under my belt, peeking over my shoulder.

Shiny!

Salazar Slytherin’s locket is actually an evil eye charm my sister brought back from Greece several years ago. Dan used it for his Mad-Eye Moody costume last fall, and here I was able to repurpose it by covering it with the gold foil and drawing an S using a green sharpie. I added a bit of gold wire to the top and strung it on a chain.

Silvery!

Helga Hufflepuff’s cup was an old goblet I have from I can’t even remember why or where, and I used the gold paper to add a letter H. At the party, I tried drinking out of the cup, and water tasted OK, but the whiskey and coke I had in it tasted weird so I stopped.

I'm all out of S-adjectives.

Marvolo Gaunt’s ring set with the Resurrection Stone was gold wire I bought last fall to make my Cleopatra costume and a flat glass marble. The original marble was a seafoam green, so I used blue nail polish to paint the back, making it a murky color, and used silver nail polish to paint the Deathly Hallows symbol on the front, and hot glued the marble to the ring base.

Shabby. But still kind of cool.

My biggest triumph, I think, was Tom Riddle’s diary. I made the basilisk fang out of polymer clay leftover from when Dan made our wedding cake toppers, and the book was some cardboard, some scrap paper, a piece of linen cut from old pants colored with a sharpie, and a couple of snips off a piece of gold rickrack from the Cleopatra costume. It was hot glued together and then I stabbed the fang through the diary and hot glued the whole contraption to one of Dan’s old t-shirts on which I’d already cut the neck and sleeves.

Stabby!

So! Costumes assembled and donned, we headed over to Karen and Andriy’s house. When we got there, we were welcomed to Hogwarts and given free reign of the house and grounds to explore. Karen did a fantastic job of coming up with activity ideas that appealed to both kids and adults, including entrance exams for people less-than-familiar with the wizarding world, OWLs and NEWTs for more hardcore HP fans, and each room or area a different classroom or theme from the books. There was a treasure hunt for hidden horcruxes and other items important to the story, and a “sniff the potion ingredient” guessing game. There was a potion-mixing station for kids (I am told it was mostly colored sugars and different sodas), a potion-mixing station for adults (tasty adult beverages), and a Quidditch pitch. Dan and I collaborated on our OWLs and NEWTs and I spent a fair amount of time both inside and out, searching for the horcruxes.

We contributed a few of these bottles to the cause

There are days I could use a good wit sharpening.

One of the horcruxes in the graveyard

One of the ingredients smelled like dirty feet, but I'm betting that's not what was in the bottle

Not pictured: NEWTs

The best part of the party, however, was seeing the gleeful grins on Karen’s face as her friends and family had fun participating in all of the events and socializing with one another. Everyone was amazed at the sheer volume of work that had gone into transforming every room in their house and a fair amount of their yard into Hogwarts, and every person who came seemed to have a great time. The kids played Quidditch, the adults mixed potions, and I was thrilled to be amongst friendly people who were all at least a little nerdy (even if they weren’t actually Harry Potter nerds). Prizes were awarded to top scorers in the various games and contests, and Karen opened presents, and we all ate cake and sat around a bonfire.

...yum?

Weasley twins and a Hogwarts student play Quidditch

Professor Gilderoy Lockhart and a Weasley throw the water balloon bludgers

At Karen’s party, I got to reconnect with an old high school friend (we took driver’s training together, and I was delighted to discover that she had the exact same sense of humor). I got to see a couple of people who were younger siblings of people I knew, hadn’t seen since they were teenagers, and learned they had turned into awesome people. And I met a couple of new people who I feel could become really good friends. Karen and Andriy know a lot of good folks, and I felt so touched to be included with such a fantastic group, everyone geeking out a little, one guy with four-foot-long dreads and one girl in skinny jeans and one woman who’d named her daughter the same thing we’d name a hypothetical daughter, and one guy who didn’t come in costume but he sure did have a great time with the OWLs and NEWTs even though nobody knew he was a Harry Potter fan. I can’t imagine a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon and evening.

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4 responses to “Welcome to Hogwarts

  1. Looks like it was lots of fun! You have far surpassed my basic knowledge of Harry Potter (I only read the first book and have seen a few of the movies), but I am way impressed by your crafty ingenuity. Speaking of costumes, do you have any Halloween ideas for this year? Sadie told me she wanted me to be a butterfly. I’ll check back with her in October.

  2. Do you want to do a homemade costume? It might be fun for Sadie to get to paint/decorate her own “wings,” whether those be of cloth or paper. If I were doing a butterfly costume for a toddler, I’d probably dress her all in one color, get a one of those headbands with the dealy ball things on it, and cut down one of my shirts to make a vest-like base for the wings that can be easily removed. Of course, there are plenty of places to buy wings if you’d rather do that.

  3. Damn, some people sure know how to party. And you, m’dear, are proof that necessity drives ingenuity. So impressed with all you were able to create on a budget of zero dollars. (Also love that it validates my own packrattiness, although of course I can never find the right junk when I need it…)

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