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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

It's My Blog Birthday!

Whoa! You guys! I've been blogging here for EIGHT years (on Monday)! What the what? That seems crazy, right? I've loved bringing you guys all my best travel tips and photos from my travels. Well, it's not going to stop, and my next book is in the works. I'm hoping to have it available before Thanksgiving. 

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Usually I try to bring you some awesomeness from the year, which I will, but I'd also like to do a bit of a wish list for my travels. Since I've just turned 8, I'm going to do a list of 8 places. If you've been reading for a while, you know I'll be headed to Philly later this year, I'm probably in LA right now, and I'm planning a trip to Scotland/London next year for my husband's cousin's wedding. Here are 8 other wishlist destinations, in no particular order.

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1. San Antonio

We just reconnected with some long-time friends that I've known for practically my whole life. I've been very lucky to count a handful of people among my chosen family. Some of them live in San Antonio, so my mom and I are planning a side trip from Las Vegas to spend a few days in Texas to sightsee and spend some quality time with our chosen family.

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2. Iceland

I've had Iceland on my list for a long time. I'm shooting for 2021, because why not? I know several people who've gone and their pictures look amazing and I just can't even wait. Can I even tell you how much I want to sit in a geothermal spring and eat cod that was cooked by the same thing that heated the water? Why does that sound so intriguing to me? I don’t know, but the fact that the people of Iceland also believe in elves and I can see the Northern Lights there, I’m willing to try to figure out how to pronounce some of their gigantic words and also eat some gross fish dishes at unreasonable prices.

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3. Toronto

I have been dying to go to Toronto. Is that weird? I blame Barenaked Ladies, but that's okay. I'm okay with being weird. I don't know that much about it, but they have something like a Space Needle and different foods and they have a Harry Potter-ish themed bar called The Lockhart. That's not my main draw, because I rarely drink, but I wouldn't be opposed to checking it out. Anyone been to Toronto? I need tips. 

4. Orlando 

My BFF's daughter is going to graduate in 2020 and her pick for her graduation present trip was Walt Disney World and Universal Studios. They asked if we would come along. Heck yeah! There's not much that can keep me from Diagon Alley...plus there'll be a new ride (or rides and/or food) and I need a new wand and a reason to run around in a Quidditch costume. I mean, really, who doesn't need that with a side of Butterbeer?

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5. Tokyo Disneyland

Ah yes, Tokyo itself sounds really amazing, and I’m going to make it there one day, but one of the attractions I am dying to see is the Japanese version of my favorite theme park. It’s so different, yet I know it will probably still feel like home, but probably with more politeness. How can this not be on my list? Also, is it weird that I kind of want to spend a night in a capsule hotel? Yes? Okay then.

6. Turkey

This is the ultimate budget travel destination on my list. Once you fly there, everything is quite affordable, plus it’s not like your typical European destination. I want to visit Cappadocia and sleep in a cave hotel and go on a hot air balloon ride and take a ride on a yacht. I mean, don’t all those things sound just the coolest? Everywhere else this would cost a fortune, but not in Turkey!

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7. Greece & Malta

If you’ve ever seen a picture of the gorgeous Greek seaside, you won’t wonder why this is on my list, or really anyone’s list. Between the Mediterranean, the food and the people, this is really quite high up on my Life List. And since Malta is, literally, right there, there’s no reason to skip it. I blame old World’s Strongest Man competitions for making me drool over this destination. It’s small, it’s beautiful and it invokes a little bit of Greek heaven. I guess I better get to work on the elliptical, so my legs can handle the millions of steps I'll have to climb on my trip.

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8. Spain

How am I ever going to test out my Spanish if I don’t go anywhere that speaks it? That can’t be the only excuse to visit Spain though. The buildings, the history, the landscape. I just want to wander the villages and eat tapas my whole vacation.

What's Trending?

I find that some posts come back in popularity, including some that are several years old. Here are 5 that people have been looking at this year that you might have missed and want to check out too.

Looks like everyone's hoping to travel and explore a little closer to home, but also want to know what is necessary before they go a bit further and take a vacation abroad. 

What's next on your travel list?

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Harry Potter's Birthday: Part 2

It's been over a week since The Boy Who Lived turned 38, but that doesn't mean he's been forgotten. My house is still Hogwarts and we did our second Harry Potter themed tea last weekend where we did tea leaf reading in our mini Divination class. It was so well done, I decided it deserved its own post for pictures. 

The best part of this tea were all the little details. I've left them at full resolution, so you can click to make them bigger and see all the gorgeous ways this steampunk tea house made Harry Potter come to life.

They even Harry Pottered up the bathroom with giant spiders {"Follow the spiders. Why couldn't it be follow the butterflies? - Ron} and Moaning Myrtle.

You can see photos from my other Harry Potter events here, but you'll probably get a bunch more when I'm back from LA and my visit to Universal's Hogsmeade. We'll be doing some cosplay in September for Rose City Comic Con and then again in October for Chestnut Hill's Wands and Wizards Fest.

And if you want to see more of my Harry Potter and other travel-related trips in real time, follow me on Instagram.

Who's your favorite Harry Potter character?

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

How To Save On Airfare

No matter where you go, airfare can be a big chunk of your vacation budget. If you know what you’re doing, it can be a smaller one than expected, even during the more expensive times of the year. Of course, planning your trip in the off-season can save you big time. Here are my best tips on how to save on airfare:

airfare tips

Book/Look on Tuesday or Wednesday

Airlines set their prices for the week on Tuesdays, this means that if you're going to find a sale on your chosen destination, this is the likely day to find it. Know that once an airline posts a sale rate, other airlines may jump on the bandwagon to lower their prices on those same routes as well, in order to gain your business. Now, that doesn't mean they will, but it's probable. Sale wars last until Thursday and then prices begin to rise again, as airlines want to take advantage of travelers who don't check prices until the weekend.

Know that sale seats are often limited so if you wait, you may not get a seat at the rock bottom prices offered. Generally, I don't find deals on the weekend, but that's not entirely a hard rule either. Sunday seems to be the new Tuesday, as I've discovered and booked a few cheap flights on that day. My tip: keep checking all week until you find a flight that fits your budget.

Fly on Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday

The majority of people are trying to fly so they get the full weekend into their schedule. This means Thursday, Friday, Sunday and Monday are the most popular days to fly. It enables people to get a full three days out of their vacation and the airlines do their best to make the most money on these days. 

Aim to fly on less desirable days. We often fly Saturday to Saturday or Wednesday to Wednesday, because we get a price break and the added benefit of a less crowded airport. Security lines are shorter, there's always a seat at the gate, and sometimes the planes aren't entirely full either.

Like everything else, there's an exception to this rule, which may depend on the popularity of the route/destination on any given day, so you'll have to do a bit of research to see if your destination fits into this criteria. I've gotten a great deal on a flight to Vegas arriving on a Monday and leaving on a Friday, but then again, it was in February, and that's a downtime for tourists.

Fly in the morning

Ugh, nobody wants to get up before the sun rises, especially to lug a bag with them and endure the airport nonsense. I love the airport, but I'm not a morning person, so I am not the most fun person to deal with early, unless you just ignore me and play on your phone or read a book or something. My husband knows this. Fortunately, I'm a bit more people-y when I'm headed on vacation. I'm willing to get up while it's still dark to head to the airport, because I know I've saved money and I'll probably get to my destination at a reasonable time and not miss a whole day of stuff.

You might hate it, and your family might hate having to take you, but if you could save a significant chunk of money, wouldn't you do it? You can call an Uber. You can sleep on the plane (bring ear plugs and an eye mask). You can indulge in the biggest coffee Starbucks can legally sell you. However you deal with it, think of what you can spend that extra money on. A bonus is that when you get there, you have a lot less chance of your flight being delayed, because you're on one of the first flights of the day.

Make a flight with several bookings

Don't limit yourself to those round-trip options given when you search. Instead, book your legs separately, possibly on different airlines, to save as much as possible. Make sure if you have any connections, that you have enough time in between flights. It might be annoying to do this extra work, but once it's booked, all you have to do is print your boarding passes and figure out how to get from gate to gate.

I just booked a flight this way, because I had enough miles for one way (see below) and I also had an airline credit to spend. I got the flights that fit my trip, on airlines I actually wanted to fly, and I paid less than $20 for the entire round-trip flight. If you can save hundreds of dollars by booking flights separately, why not do it?

Search for a single seat

As I said above, sale seats (and often rewards seats) are limited, so you might be screwing yourself by searching for multiple seats at once. If you look for everyone at once and don't find anything cheaper, then search for seats one at a time. Here's why: If there are two sale seats available for $97, but you are searching for three, you aren't even going to see this option. Instead, you'll see the next price tier that has enough seats to satisfy your search. If there are only two, you can snag those at the sale price and then pay the higher price for the third seat, not the higher price for all three. You can choose your seats after booking, so you can all sit together, so don't worry about this at the time.

Set up airfare alerts

Know when your desired trip goes on sale! Set up airfare alerts on our preferred airlines and get notified right away when those route's rates drop! 

Let an aggregate site do the searching for you

Set up airfare alerts on aggregate sites, too. But when you search, make sure to check your favorite aggregates, because you can see a bunch of airlines all on one page and make a more informed decisions. Sites like Webjet can help you find cheap flights every day, by finding the best deals across the board and putting them in front of you. Not only that, but you can book a package deal too, weather that includes a car rental and a hotel or just one or the other. You don't even have to purchase airfare through them to book the other services. Score! 

Use your air miles

Anytime you book a flight, a hotel, or a car rental, make sure you put your frequent flyer number in that box they provide for you. I don't always fly the same airlines, but I will always put in my American Airlines' number if they let me. With them being partners with Alaska, they flight just about anywhere I want. We use Eric's Alaska card to book most of our flights, which gives us more miles and a cheap companion fare each year, so when I fly again during the year, I check my mileage total to see if I have a free flight coming. 

On my next trip to Vegas, I found I didn't have enough miles to book a full free flight, but I did have enough for a one-way trip, so I booked that trip on the American site for an Alaskan flight. Then I went to Alaska and booked my return flight using the credit I received on my last flight when I got stuck on the tarmac for almost an hour coming home from LAX. 

You only pay taxes and fees when you book using these methods. The new rate is $6, so both flights cost me a total of $12 + the slight extra I paid for the rate over my credit, which still came under $20 in the end.

Is there a magic formula?

The answer isn't simple, because there is, but there also isn't. The window to find the best rate on a certain flight is 5-7 weeks out for domestic and 3 months for international, but that doesn't mean those are the only times to find deals. I've found awesome rates 3 weeks before a flight, but also several months out for a domestic flight. 

Set your budget and keep looking until you find something that works for you. Worried that you're going to miss out on a better deal, use a service like Yapta to monitor rates on airfares you've already booked. If you're eligible for a refund of any sort, they will let you know and tell you how to go about getting an even better deal.

What are some of your best tips on getting cheaper airfare?

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Earn Free Gift Cards during the Back to School Team Challenge - US

It's that time of the year again! Swagbucks is holding a Back to School Team Challenge to help you earn free gift cards! For those of you who don't know what Swagbucks is, it's a website where you can earn cash back on everyday tasks you do online like shopping, answering surveys, discovering deals, and watching videos. You can even earn for searching the web! 

If you've never tried Swagbucks before because you didn't know where to begin, their Team Challenges are a great way to learn the ropes and earn points towards free gift cards and PayPal cash! The challenge runs from Monday, August 6th to Friday, August 10th. 

Here's how you can join the challenge and the site: 

1. Click here to join the challenge and be assigned to a team.

2. In addition to earning SB, you'll contribute to your team's total as you complete different activities on Swagbucks.

3. Check back on the page often to see the scores and what you've contribute so far. 

All members who participate and contribute at least 600 points to their team’s total will receive a SB bonus in the form of a SB Swag Up Shop Bonus on their next gift card! 

Not only that, but if you sign up under me this month and earn 300 SB before September 1st, you'll get a 300 SB bonus!

Members of the 1st place team will receive a 100 SB Swag Up Rebate, members of the 2nd place team will receive a 50 SB Swag Up Rebate!

Disclosure: If you click through my referral link, I'll be compensated in the form of SB. Thanks in advance!

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Organizing Your Travel Info

When you’re planning for vacation, do you end up with endless pieces of paper for hotels, car rentals and other stuff you’re doing? I know I do, but instead of printing out every last thing that I may or may not need, I now have learned that putting it all together online is a better method and helps me to know exactly where everything is and what I’m still needing. Once I go on my trip, I can print out the necessary things (3 pages vs 42 is easier to carry) and have a back-up for myself that isn’t attached to just my email.

I also like to back-up and organize on-the-go, because if my camera gets stolen or I lose it, I will cry my eyes out over all the photos I’ve lost. This is why uploading at the end of each day to “the cloud” or an online program is fancy, convenient and helps eliminate the needless worry of impending photo loss. 

Don’t let tragedy make you sadder than it has to. Use a back-up – or several – to keep everything within your reach, even when you lose papers, cameras, your laptop, phone or all your worldly (travel) possessions are stolen.

TripIt.com – Don’t you hate carrying around a novel worth of confirmations and check-in sheets with you while you’re in transit? Sometimes, it takes up so much room, you could have fit in an extra outfit. I have a secret, which is not SO secret anymore, but if you don’t know about TripIt, then you will jump up and down for joy. Okay, maybe just on the inside. Not only can you add an infinite number of things to your itinerary online, but you have space to write in confirmation numbers, phone numbers, addresses, times, who you talked to and how much it all cost you (helping you keep track of your budget…effortlessly!).

Are you dreading now having to input all that stuff more than carrying the stack of papers around? This is the coolest part: You can email your confirmations to TripIt, via their special email address and they will suck all the useful info out for you and instantly updates your itinerary. It says it can take a few hours, but when I’ve done it, it has been a matter of minutes. It’s magic, I tell you! Now, it doesn’t work with all confirmation emails, but many of them. I haven’t tried dining reservations, but I’ll be doing it for sure on my next trip.

Once you have your whole trip planned and input into TripIt goodness, you can share it with everyone you like (although, you can do that anytime) and even post the less detailed version on Facebook, so everyone you know can be jealous…and start plotting the raid of your house. Print out your complete trip plan before you go and whittle down your paperwork from War and Peace to a funner version of Pat the Bunny. And if you want to go totally paperless, get the app and view it all on your smartphone.

Shutterfly – If you take a ton of pictures like I do, it would be a serious tragedy if you lost all of them while on vacation. You would not see a meltdown so big unless I was shot in the leg or found out I had some sort of incurable disease. This is why I do multiple photo uploads on my travels. It may not be every day, but it depends on how many I took that day. The more often you upload, the less time it will take. 

I travel with a laptop, so when I get back to my hotel/apartment/timeshare/ship cabin in the evening, I pull the SD card out of my camera and dump all my photos. Once I have internet, I select and copy all of them to my Shutterfly folder. This way, if something happens to my netbook or my camera or my SD card all is not lost. I have also started using SmugMug, which is a paid program online, but it organizes your photos much better.

Dropbox – I can’t even tell you how much I love Dropbox. You start with 2GB of space for free, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but you can save so much stuff in there. I use it for my blog photos, all my budget travel book info (media contacts, revisions, cover images, marketing ideas and everything else associated with it) and all my personal things I don’t want to lose, like my resume and important documents. And I still haven’t used up all my space. 

Essentially, all your files are on an online drive, but you can add the dropbox folder to all your computers, your iPad, your phone and whatever else you might have to store info and have access to it anywhere you are and on whatever device you’re using. If you are just out wandering around and need a file, you can log on online and still be able to get to it in a matter of seconds! You’ll love it, sign up.

It’s good for travel because you can make copies of your passport, visa, credit cards and add a document in there with all the important info you need, like hotel addresses and phone numbers, contacts you might need to get in touch with and anything else you deem important. This way, if something unsavory happens to your belongings, you aren’t completely lost. You can find everything you need wherever you are. And it’s more secure than keeping it in an email folder.

Evernote – I am a devoted Evernote user. I love it. Not only can you use it across all systems like Dropbox, but you can also edit and post to your blog from within it, copy links, pictures or full webpages with a click of a button and even share things to your social networks. I use it on my phone most often, though I’ve taken to writing blog posts with it, too. I have a long-running grocery list (paperless!) in a note, as well as party menus in another and add things that I find that I want to do on my vacations to another. If you see something that looks cool, but can’t really explain it, clip the whole page for later instead of writing down some code and months from now you don’t have to figure out what a Scottish Historic Monument Pub is.

You can have an endless supply of notes and access them anywhere. You can also speak your text into your phone for translation to type, but so far that has only be a source of amusement for me, because if you don’t speak super slowly, you get some really random things that do not make a good blog post. It’s pretty hilarious though!

Anyway, Evernote is great for everything and is a spectacular app for your phone, because you can jot things down if you think of something while you’re sitting in the doctor’s waiting room, waiting for a movie to start, getting your oil changed. Pretty much whenever it’s convenient to send a text, you can be making a list or blogging. So much better than the notepad, too.

Hopefully, you will get a lot of use out of these sites, as well as the two in my previous post. It’s never a bad idea to back up all your important info and things you like to have access to all the time. Emergencies happen, but you can be more prepared to deal with them now. 

What are some of your favorite apps you can use for vacations?

Friday, August 3, 2018

Get 300 bonus SB when you sign up for Swagbucks in August

All throughout August you can earn large bonuses when sign up as my referral on Swagbucks. Swagbucks is a rewards site where you earn points (called SB) for things you're probably doing online already, like searching the web, watching videos, shopping, discovering deals, and taking surveys. Then you take those points and exchange them for gift cards to places like Amazon, Target, or PayPal cash.

When you sign up through me this month, you can earn a 300 SB bonus! Here's how: 

2. Earn 300 SB total before September 1st, 2018. You'll get a 300 SB bonus for it! 

3. That's it. It's super easy, and Swagbucks is for real. I use it myself, and I've earned over 70,000 SB, which I use on Amazon gift cards to purchase items for travel or for my yearly Harry Potter party. 

What will you spend your SB on?

Disclosure: If you click through my referral link, I'll be compensated in the form of SB. Thanks in advance!

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Red Roof Inn Is Making Your Summer Travels Cheaper

I'm a fan of Red Roof Inn. Their hotels are convenient and super comfortable. It helps that they are pretty affordable too, and now they're making your summer even cheaper with low rates and a special summer promotion called Red Hot Stubs. 

You're going to do things when you travel, otherwise, why go anywhere, right? Red Roof Inn knows this and they want to reward you for being an awesome traveler and contributing to the local economy. Now through August 31st, you can get 10% off your stay when you show them a ticket stub from a local event or attraction (ticket can be an e-stub on your phone or a physical ticket, but it must be dated between July 1, 2018 and August 31, 2018 and presented at check-in).

Who doesn't want to save money on one of the biggest expenditures on their trip? As a budget traveler, I very much enjoy any promotion where I can save even a little, but 10% off your hotel is pretty significant...and it means you can do even more! Obviously, the peeps are Red Roof Inn are budget travelers at heart, just like you and me:  

"At Red Roof, we know travelers covet summer vacations and are working on a budget as they take time to enjoy and experience events and attractions with friends and family across the country," says Marina MacDonald, Chief Marketing Officer, Red Roof. "With this in mind, we're making it easy for guests to save more with the launch of our Red Hot Stubs: Ticket to Summer Savings promotion, giving travelers the opportunity to stretch budgets farther by honoring ticket stubs to local events and attractions in exchange for a 10 percent discount."

photo credit: Red Roof Inn

You can choose from participating Red Roofs in select cities:


See all the sights in the Iron City by jumping aboard the Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus, explore the Carnegie museums, see amazing birds at the National Aviary, or even take the kids to play and learn with hands-on exhibits at the Children's Museum.


The Emerald City is full of things to keep you occupied for a long weekend or longer. Visit the Space Needle to see a 360-degree view of the city, hit up the Museum of Pop Culture when you can check out rotating exhibits of your favorite movies, television shows and bands, or take an afternoon to stroll their fantastic zoo.


It's not all about the Bean here, but you can certainly visit it. I'd suggest a view from the top on Chicago's Skydeck, which has a glass floor and tilt-out windows. There's also the Mob & Crime Bus Tour, and a lunch cruise around Lake Michigan. Those are all things I'd have on my list.


In a city so full of history, there's something to do around every corner. Just a few that you might want to fill your time with are a trip to the New England Aquarium, a ride on the original, world-famous duck boat tour, or even take the Old Town Trolley Tour of Boston. If you like a little more fun with your history, learn about the Boston Tea Party with the Interactive Ships & Museum Interactive Tour where you can throw tea overboard one of two replica ships.

Washington, DC

A trip to D.C. can be quite eventful and affordable, if you know what you're doing, but between the free museums and landmarks, don't forget some of the more unique activities. I'm talking about The International Spy Museum, the Newseum and seeing all the presidents in wax at Madame Tussaud's. 


I'm currently planning my visit to Philly and I probably have more things on my list than I can possibly get to, buy some of the coolest things I want to get to are Eastern State Penitentiary, the abandoned prison with self-guided tours, the M├╝tter Museum where I can view all sorts of medical oddities, and Independence Hall, where I can see the Liberty Bell.


It's not called Charm City for no reason. Baltimore is great for families, couples and solos. Explore the weird at Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Odditorium, stuff your face with goodness on Fell's Point Food Tour, or go see an Orioles game at Camden Yards.


It often gets a bad rap, but Detroit is full of history and delicious food. Not only that, but you can take the kids to SEA LIFE Michigan Aquarium or LEGOLAND Discovery Center, see the Rosa Parks bus, JFK's limo and more at Henry Ford Museum, or take in a show at the grand, Asian-inspired Fox Theatre.


The capital of North Carolina has a lot going for it, including plenty of awesome stuff for tourists (and locals hoping for a great staycation). Explore 5,000 years of art at the North Carolina Museum of Art, learn about local floral, fauna, geology and more at North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, wander the Queen Anne architecture of the North Carolina Executive Mansion, or even take a ride on the historic Pullen Park Carousel that features 52-hand-carved animals.

These are just a few of the ways to make your summer spectacular. There's still plenty of time left this month to fit in a getaway. You can book your room now by visiting RedRoof.com or calling 800.RED.ROOF.

Where will you be going on your last-minute summer trips?

Disclaimer: This post was brought to you by Red Roof Inn, in exchange for a free stay; however, all opinions are my own and I have enjoyed all my previous stays with RRI.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Happy Birthday, Harry Potter!

Yesterday was a big day for Potterheads. It was Harry Potter's birthday. As you know, I spend a lot of time planning parties and traveling for Potter-related activities and helping the Harry Potter Alliance. This marked our 5th annual Potter party at my house and though it was pretty hot this week, we still made it work, with some adjustments.

This year's theme was Triwizard Tournament and we had a Goblet of Fire that guests put their names into to compete in a task that would earn them points for their schools. Instead of the usual Hogwarts houses, we sorted into Hogwarts Hufflepuff and Gryffindor, Durmstrang and Beauxbatons. 

I dressed as a mermaid, to break out of my wizard attire.

My friend Melisa took this pic, which is one of the very few I have, and probably the best bad one :)

Eric dressed as Viktor Krum during the task in the Black Lake. Did I mention it was 95 degrees outside? This was our creative hot-weather outfit.

One of the tasks I set was to look around the grounds for Rita Skeeter, who was trying to get the "inside scoop" on Harry's life. I placed beetles around with random words that could be rearranged to build a headline for the Daily Prophet.

And in addition to my normal goodie bags for everyone in attendance, the winning group (Gryffindor, for the third year in a row) got to take home a Triwizard cup and some other fun prizes.

On Sunday, Eric and I attended a Harry Potter literary tea at a cute little tea shop down the road from us. The place was decked out very well and we had some wonderful conversations with other Potterholics.

The Great Hall was set with menus, little broom pens for trivia (which I rocked) and there were even floating candles. 

The spread was incredible and included cauldron cakes pumpkin pasties, a golden snitch, and other delicious British bites. There was nothing I wouldn't eat again. It was all delicious and complementary.

Each setting came with your choice of tea, which were themed for the Hogwarts houses, plus there was bonus Butterbeer and Butterbeer fudge after, trivia with prizes and a potions class where you got to mix your own tea blend. So fun! We have a second tea set for this next weekend, which I'll definitely update here.

On Harry's actual birthday, I volunteered with the Harry Potter Alliance to help organize costume contests at a old school turned bar. This was in their small gym and the staff outdid themselves making long house tables, which were all completely full by the time I got there a little after the shindig started. I'm guessing there were over 200 people. 

The McMenamin's staff had a special menu for this fundraiser, which included both alcoholic and non-alcoholic Butterbeer, treacle tarts, pumpkin pasties and a dragon egg (Scotch egg).

I dressed in my best Quidditch robe for the occasion. Aside from giving away awesome prizes, the HPA collected school supply donations and money from raffles for those prizes. They raised over $600 in cash and there were so many supplies, they barely fit into the one volunteer's SUV. Potterheads are THE BEST.

I was busy helping to wrangle children for the 11 and under costume contest, but here are some of the best costumes from the adult round. Everyone went all out and were super creative. You'll see on the left the Whomping Willow.

I'll be headed to Universal Hollywood later this month and then to Philly in October, where we hope to catch the renamed and re-structured Harry Potter Festival, now called Wizards and Wands. In between all that, I'll be volunteering for the HPA booth at Rose City ComicCon to bring more Potter goodness to the masses.

Stay tuned for more awesome Harry Potter-related stuff coming this year
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