Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Pink, White, & Blue?

I've been reading a bunch of baking blogs lately. I've also been feeling rather ambitious. I decided to make some cake balls tonight after seeing them at Bakerella. She dipped her red velvet cake in chocolate, but I had to do some improvising. I was trying to go for red, white, and blue since the 4th of July is right around the corner, but that didn't quite work out.

Cake Balls

More like pink, white and baby blue. I also used vanilla instead of chocolate since we already had it. Even so, they were delicious! I had 4 in one sitting and now my stomach kind of hurts. :(

Cake Balls

Cake Balls

Cake Balls

I didn't realize how quickly the vanilla dries. I need to work on my covering technique as I had big globs of vanilla at the bases, which were hard to break off. I'm sure I'll have more practice because they were pretty fun and easy to make. I packed these up and told my mom to take them to work. Hopefully she'll find some willing stomachs there!

Wordless Wednesday


Harry Potter Theme Park: Part IV

Part IV: Hogwarts

Hogwarts Entrance to Hogwarts

Ahh, Hogwarts. I think we could have spent all day just gazing up at the castle. It was magnificent. Two winged boars (hogs?) sat at the entrance, and the walkway ran up to the entryway embellished with the Hogwarts school seal. The Forbidden Journey ride was in the castle, and the line wound through the familiar rooms and past the magical objects that had only existed in my imagination.

Mandrakes House Points

We first tunneled through towards the back of the castle, passing the Mirror of Erased and doors to the potions classroom and the kitchens, finally reaching the greenhouse in the back where we encountered some devil’s snare and a few potted Mandrakes. Back into the castle we saw a few statues including the hippogriff statue that marked the entrance to Dumbledore’s office. We also saw the hourglasses keeping track of the house points (RavenclaW was in last place… boo!). Then we moved into a tall corridor covered from floor to ceiling with framed oil paintings. The four “paintings” of the school founders were talking to each other discussing an upcoming Quidditch match. From there we moved into Dumbledore’s office. It had cabinets full of dusty objects and a pensieve off to the side. Gryffindor’s swore sat on the top of one of the cabinets. And there above Dumbledore’s desk was a hologram of Dumbledore. I didn’t really catch what he was talking about, but Kelley said he was just spouting random quotes. (Urging us to be good I’m sure.)

That's a lot of pictures! Dumbledore's Desk

Then we moved into the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, where Harry, Ron, and Hermione appeared from beneath the invisibility cloak (again in hologram form). They were talking about how Professor Binns was going to be teaching DADA that day and that we should probably skip class to watch the Quidditch match instead. Ron then tried to cast a spell but instead made it snow; snow was very welcome after standing in the Florida heat all day. After that we shuffled through the Gryffindor common room and came upon the sorting hat, which I thought was really funny. He was chanting the safety precautions for the ride… “Do not ride this ride if you are pregnant. If you get motion sickness or feel dizzy you probably shouldn’t ride the ride…” Heheee.

Defense Against the Dark Arts Class Sorting Hat

Then came the ride. It was amazing; I think it’s the coolest ride I’ve ever been on. Each “cart” held 4 people in a row and it was separate from all the other carts. First we saw Hermione we threw green powder on us to make us fly. A burst of green air blew on us and our seats were raised up and we were off! I don’t know how well I can explain it without using my hands as props, but sections of the ride involved moving movie screens so it looked and felt like we were flying around the castle or on the quidditch pitch as our seats moved with it. The screens were curved so you couldn’t see the edges – it was just really cool. We were immediately chased by one of Hagrid’s escaped dragons. We were moved from the movie screen past props of fire breathing dragons, water spraying spiders, the flailing whomping widow, and spooky dementors. After successfully vanquishing the dementors and escaping the dragon a couple of holograms of the movie cast waved and cheered us on and we were back at the beginning. I know it sounds lame when I describe it but Kelley and I rode that thing five time – it was definitely one of my favorite parts.

Luggage Owl Post

And now I’m back at home and back at school, but I had such a good time! It was fun hanging out with Kelley – playing 20 questions in the long lines, making videos for everything edible (“Butterbeer! *points* … *sips* …mmmm!”), and making fun of her for playing with her wand in the hotel room (hahaa <3). Kelley also knows way more about Harry Potter than I do; I used to be such a devoted fan! I need to reread the books.

Kelley &amp; Lindsey

I feel like I’m back at the Dursleys’, now that I’ve been to Hogswarts. *sigh*

The End.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Harry Potter Theme Park: Part III

Part III: Park rides, Performers, & Pumpkin Juice

Champion Banners Dragon Challenge Entrance

The park had three rides – Dragon Challenge, Flight of the Hippogriff and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. The entrance to Dragon Challenge was sandwiched between the Hogwarts Express and the Owl Post. It was two roller coasters – one representing the Chinese Fireball and the other the Hungarian Horntail. Banners for the Triwizard Tournament champions lined the walkway to ride. (“Fleur to Win” “Krum… You can do it!” “Support Potter” – strangely there were none for Cedric.) The wrecked Ford Anglia was displayed at the end of the line before you entered the building. The goblet of fire, triwizard cup, and the golden eggs were set up inside. The ride was a typical roller coaster: fast, loopy, and quick to stop. We road it twice (both times before lunch) so that we could experience both dragons, and that was good enough for us.

Ford Anglia Triwizard Cup

The Flight of the Hippogriff was at the end of the street across from the castle. It was the “kiddie ride” but I thought it was pretty fun. Hagrid’s cabin was built alongside the line; you could hear barking coming from inside as if Fang wanted out. The building to the ride kind of looked like the inside of Hagrid’s cabin. There were hanging keys, a can of Flesh-Eating Slug Repellent, a basket of Doxy Eggs and a box labeled “Baby Nowegian Ridgeback” sitting on the rafters. At the beginning of the ride you had to bow to Buckbeak before you got to fly!

Flight of the Hippogriff Buckbeak

Also across the street from the castle was a little performance space. They had two acts – the frog choir and the Triwizard spirit rally (I stole that name from some website). The frog choir was four “students,” one from each house, conducted by a Prefect. Two of the singers held big toad puppets that also did some singing. They sang the classic “Double Double Toil and Trouble” song and a few others. The “spirit rally” was performed by students from the Durmstrang Institute and Beauxbatons Academy. The Durmstrang guys jumped, kicked, and hit each other with sticks. The Beauxbaton girls danced around with their ribbons. Every now and then the girls would let out a sigh and the Durmstrang boys, who were busy looking stern in the background, would fall out of order for a second and start fanning themselves; it was pretty amusing. We got pictures to take pictures with them at the end!

Beauxbaton & Durmstrang Dancers Toad Choir

Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods was the last shop, and it was connected to the castle. I feel like we visited that place 20 times because it became our mission to get Kelley a shirt she wanted. See, the first day we were in the park everyone was wearing this cool black shirt with gold lettering that said, “Wizarding World of Harry Potter” (or something to that effect). And Kelley wanted it, but all the smalls were always sold out. We went there multiple times and made sure to stake out the rack during restock times. Finally on the last day she was able to snag a small; the rest had been grabbed up before she even checked out. Filch’s was the most touristy of all the shops – shirts, mugs, keychains, stuffed hippogriffs, and even a $70 (!!!) marauder’s map. I got myself a Ravenclaw shirt and a Hogwarts crest pin. We also made sure to get some pumpkin juice from the street vendors. It was pretty much apple juice with pumpkin flavors and lots of spices. It was rather gross the first day, but the second day it had grown on me and I gulped the thing down without a problem.

Sign post Pumpkin Juice... mmm!

That just leaves Hogwarts!


Harry Potter Theme Park: Part II

Part II: Hogsmeade

After a lot of cheering and merrymaking we finally stepped into Hogsmeade. The first thing you come upon is the Hogwarts Express. We got a picture with the conductor who prepared for the picture by saying, “1... 2... 3... Hogsmeeeaade!” Luggage was set up on the platform and steam blasted out of the bottom of the train intermittently.

Hogwarts Express Conductor Hogwarts Express

To the left were two of the main shops, Zonko’s and Honeydukes. Zonko’s joke shop had a bunch of toys: rubber chickens, Jacob’s ladders, color-changing hair brushes and funny hats. They also had some fun items out of reach (and therefore not for sale) like Filibuster’s Wet-Start No-Heat fireworks as well as Portable Swamps. Nothing was very “Harry Potter” so we didn’t buy anything there. Apparently they also sold Pygmy puffs, though we never saw any; they sold out the first day.

Zonkos Kelley

Honeydukes was attached to Zonko’s making it one big store. (Good thing too as we had to wait in line for 45 minutes to actually get into the store. The shops were all very small, and after complaining about it to Kelley, a store employee explained that J.K. Rowling wanted the village to be as authentic as possible. Apparently this meant small stores.) Honeydukes didn’t disappoint though. They had everything you could want – Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, Pepper Imps, Chocolate Wands, Dark-Mark Lollipops, Chocolate Cauldrons, Canary Creams, Lemon Drops, Chocolate Frogs, and more! There was also a wall between the two store that read, “Shhh... the walls have ears” with a hand pointing up. When you looked up there were extendable ears hanging down from above. Why weren’t those for sale!?

Honeydukes Honeydukes Display

Just past Honeydukes was The Three Broomsticks, the only restaurant in town. We had lunch there (after waiting an hour to get it!) – I had the shepherd’s pie and Kelley had the chicken and ribs. We both had a mug of butterbeer! The butterbeer was very sweet. The cream was like vanilla ice cream and the drink itself was like very sweet cream soda. Truthfully I could only drink about half of it, but it was fun to try! There was also an outdoor seating area in the back, which is where Kelley and I would hide from the heat - and then the rain - on the next two days. Not too many people knew about it so it was a nice hideaway. To get to the back you had to pass by the ATM machine, which had a sign that read, “Gringotts Bank: Automatted Teller Machine” plastered above it. The Three Broomsticks also had fun signs that read, “Please do not feed the birds or other winged creatures” and “Notice from the Department of Intoxicating Substances: Underaged wizards will not be served alcohol.” The Hogshead was connected to The Three Broomsticks, and it was just a bar for buying the above mentioned intoxicating substances.

Three Broomsticks Meal Butterbeer time!

There were other cool shop fronts with fun window displays, but you couldn’t go into any of them. They had Gladrag’s Wizard Wear, Potages Cauldrons, Dogweed and Deathcap and Wiseacres Wizarding Equipment. The window fronts had moving quills, stacks of cauldrons, flying papers, rustling plants, heaps of books, owls, and even a broomstick and a Quidditch chest complete with rattling bludgers.

On the other side of the street was the Owl Post, which was just a covered sitting area with (fake) owls on the rafters above. The Owl Post was connected to Dervish & Banges and Ollivander’s Wand Shop. I was most excited to go to Ollivander’s! Of course, before we got in we had to wait in another line. While we were waiting the Hogwarts Express conductor walked by and paused to look at the red headed girl in front of us and said,“Ah, another Weasley! You can’t degnome a garden without hitting a Weasley!” then he kept on walking. How could you not love it there?

Ollivander's Ollivander's

We finally got into the shop to have the “Ollivander’s experience.” It went down similar to the movie scene. About 12 of us were shuffled into a small room where the walls were stacked to the ceiling with wand boxes. Mr. Ollivander called a girl to the front and measured her arms, asked for her wand arm, and presented her with different wands. He asked her to point at a bell over head or swish it a certain way. The bell clanged and crashing sounds emitted when she had the wrong wand. Finally of course she got the right one, and we were moved into the very crowded Dervish & Banges where Kelley and I got our very own wands!


Monday, June 28, 2010

Harry Potter Theme Park: Part I

Part I: Lines

Kelley and I took off to Florida on Thursday, the day before the grand opening of the Harry Potter theme park. We had a shuttle take us to the hotel, and after nudging Kelley and pointing to the huge Harry Potter billboard out the window, we discovered that everyone else in the van was there to see Hogwarts too. That night we had dinner at T.G.I. Friday’s (who had a Harry Potter WALL) and we met a kid from Australia who had flown more than 18 hours to be there.

Kelley T. G. I. Fridays

The next morning we woke up at the crack of dawn… okay it was only like 6:00 am, but that’s 5:00 am Texas time! We were sure we were going to get a good place in line. We had special passes that let us into the park an hour before the general public (pft, peasants!) and we made it there by 7:30, thirty minutes before even we were supposed to be let in. This is not what happened.

The crowds were so huge that they let everyone in early as to avoid mass hysteria or something. (Harry Potter is serious business if you didn’t know.) We still thought we had it pretty good. We stationed ourselves at the end of the line, and not armed with any type of map we were sure Hogsmeade was just around the corner up ahead. As 8:00 rolled around we waited for the line to move so we could glimpse the castle. Helicopters hovered in the sky and by now we were nowhere close to the end of the line.

By 8:30 the crowds were getting anxious. The family behind us were upset that after spending $5,000 to stay in one of the Universal hotels they weren’t going to be able to see the opening ceremonies. Apparently members of the Harry Potter cast and the news stations were living it up on the streets of Hogsmeade. Good Morning America was interviewing Daniel Radcliff and Rupert Grint, and we were all waiting outside. They didn’t actually open the park to the public until 10:30 after the cast had left. (Personally I don’t blame them, Warwick Davis might have been trampled or something!)

So by 10:30 we took a look at a map, courtesy of our line friends April and Uncle John (when you stand next to someone for half a day it’s easy to make friends). It turns out we had started waiting about 2 miles outside of the park gates! Some people were quoting 4:00 as the time we would be in. Some said we wouldn’t make it in that day. Either way, we weren’t getting out of line.

Lindsey & Kelley

It was hot. We eventually whipped out the umbrellas we had brought in case it rained. Everyone held places in line as people went to get food, drinks, or take bathroom breaks. At about 11:30 a guy who had been in the park was coming out down the line with his son. We all huddled for information. What was it like? Did he see the cast?? He said he had been there since 3:00 AM and had got some paparazzi style pictures of the cast by standing on a boulder and holding his camera over his head. He also said the ride inside the castle was the most technologically advanced ride he had ever been on, but that the park wasn’t worth the huge wait. (Pssh, said the guy who showed up at 3:00 in the morning.) We got back in line excited for what was ahead, a little envious, and completely stumped on why the guy would leave after only being there for an hour.

Hogwarts Hogsmeade

By 12:00 we were getting close, and people who had not been waiting in line for 4+ hours were trying to cut. Silly, silly people. Every now and then we would hear cheers as people were kicked out of line. “Woo! End of the line buddy!” Some girls even tried to sneak in behind us, but security was immediately called. One of the security guys, Steve, started to stop people from moving past the lines towards the park. He was very loud about it, shuttling people backwards, and he developed a huge fan following that day. There were yells of, “Steve for President!” and mentions of facebook fan pages. (I need to check if that actually happened.) Finally we made it to a bridge that looked out over a lake and onto the castle and the back of the Hogsmeade shops. One girl fainted from the heat and a wheelchair was fetched for her. The crowd cheered her on as she was rolled up the line into the park. We were all in good spirits; we were so ready to be there! At one point a squirrel was running along the bridge’s railing. Someone (possibly me) yelled, “Line jumper!” and it caught on as everyone watched. “Cutter!” “Back of the line!!” The squirrel, caught off guard by the yelling, stopped and took a few slow steps back then ran forward as fast as possible. This left the line in giggles and many mentions of animagi. (Harry Potter fans are cool.)

Finally, after making it through a weird dessert park, we passed under the gates to Hogsmeade (which says, "Hogsmeade. Please respect the spell limits."). It only took 5 ½ hours, and yes Mr. I-woke-up-really-early-man it was worth it.

Park Entrance