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Monday, August 3, 2020

Happy Birthday, Harry Potter! Part 2

2020 has been a weird year, but that hasn't stopped us from trying to make the best of it and being creative with our plans. Every year we throw a big Harry Potter birthday party on the Saturday closest to July 31, and we were on track to do the same this year; but in April, I made the choice to switch up the theme and also move it online. It turned out to be a great idea.

If you missed my first post, go check it out now for decor photos. The theme this year was Dragon Pox Quarantine. We had a smaller group this year, but I wasn't sure if I should expect way more or way less than usual, since I was opening it up to my friends from all over, not just locals. It turns out that around 15 is a great number for an online party. We used Zoom as a platform, because we have a business account, and I could share my screen in order to play one of my games, but first, let's look at foods:

There's never been a party at my house without food. Even though we only had the two of us in actual attendance, I decided we should still have a feast. I brought out my bar cart and added some of my official Harry Potter licenses candy boxes, then some of my homemade Chocolate Frogs. I made a small batch of Butterbeer and Pumpkin Fizz.

Butterbeer recipe:
  • 1 liter of cream soda
  • 1/2 cup of butterscotch syrup
  • 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 3 scoops of vanilla ice cream
Pumpkin Fizz recipe:
  • 1 cup of canned pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1-2 tsp of cinnamon
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 cup apricot preserves/jam
  • 1 bottle of sparkling apple cider

On the top tier of my server:
  • Pumpkin Pasties
    • Recipe (makes approximately 10):
      • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
      • 1/2 cup canned butternut squash <---I get both of these at Trader Joe's
      • 2 tsp cinnamon
      • 2 tsp allspice
      • 1/4- 1/2 cup brown sugar (I taste this to make sure it's to my liking)
      • 1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger
      • refrigerated pie dough
        • Cut out 4" rounds, add 2 tsp of filling to the middle, wet the outside edge, fold over, press closed. Bake for 12-15 mins at 350 degrees.
  • Cauldron Cakes
    • I looked for a recipe that didn't involve chocolate, because there are so many chocolate goodies in the Harry Potterverse. I use this recipe and just sub already made pie dough to save time.
Middle tier:
  • Toad-in-a-hole - these are traditionally sausage in Yorkshire pudding. I shortcut this by using Lil Smokies and a can of crescent rolls. 
  • Turmeric custard raspberry tart
    • I liked the Gryffindor colors of this dessert, and I'm a lover of turmeric. 
Bottom tier:
  • Chicken and leek hand pies
    • I shortcut this and it was fail, but I've used this recipe in the past and they are delicious. I also highly recommend this recipe for winter squash and onion pies, especially for vegetarians.
  • Licorice wands
    • I make a ton of these each year. I generally find some weird flavors of licorice sticks, but this year I just used Red Vines, since they are my favorite. I dip them in Wilton Melts and add sprinkles. Super easy.

I wanted to stay on theme for myself, so I scoured Etsy for this lime green cape. It's vintage. I was also able to find a St. Mungo's patch, purchased a nurse headband, and here I am as a Healer from St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries.  

Our newsfeeds are full of so much right now, and I ran with that for Eric's costume. He is a protester, hoping for equality in the Wizarding World. Here he is trying to get equal rights for Werewolves, better working conditions for House Elves (S.P.E.W. - Hermione's Society for the Promotion of Elfish Wellfare), the release of the Knight Bus conductor, Stan Shunpike, who was arrested and held by the Ministry, and a button to tell people to vote for Kingsley Shacklebolt for Minister.

We had several people go all out with their cosplay, even at home. Here's my friend Stephanie as a Dragon Pox victim. She also had a great face mask, a St. Mungo's water bottle, and played with a green lamp pointed at her face, so she had that gross green hue that Dragon Pox gives you. She was also the winner of our costume contest.

This is my friend Kara and her daughter Ellie. Kara is Gunhilda Gorsemoor, the inventor of the Dragon Pox vaccine, and Ellie is the actual potion. So creative! 

My co-worker, Cathi, made a beautiful Bellatrix LeStrange, complete with Dark Mark tattoo. She even added a grey streak to her hair. Wow!

You saw my sorting board in Part 1, but here we are sorting people. I allowed people to pick a number and underneath was a House mascot to let them know what House they were sorted into. 

Normally, my party runs 3 hours, but I didn't want people to get Zoom burnout, so I shortened it to 2, kept our games to 2 instead of 3-4, and also made sure we had some short breaks. This gave people a chance to run to the restroom, get a drink or snack, and for me to tally points. Our first game was black-out Harry Potter Bingo. I uploaded a blank card for people to print out, included a long list of words that could be used to fill in their squares, and this allows everyone to have a unique card. 

We've done this game before 3 years ago, and used other versions of it elsewhere. The trick is to give people about 3 times as many words as squares. I'd say to up that to 4 times if you're also going to do blackout like this, or you will end up with multiple bingos all near the end. No big deal though. Here's how I play with points: 1st bingo gets 50 points, 2nd gets 45 points, 3rd gets 40 points, and 4th gets 35 points. Because we were playing online, I loosened the rules and everyone who got one at the same time got to declare the same points. We had 3 people who won 3rd place and 4 who won 4th. 

My big game every year is trivia. Usually, people get into their House groups and get 30 minutes to answer as many of my N.E.W.T.-level questions as possible. Because we couldn't do that this year, I cut down my questions to 25, used AhaSlides to create a quiz that everyone could do on their phone. I followed up each question, which I gave 20 seconds each to answer, with the answer on the next slide. People kept their own scores, and when we were finished, I took everyone's score. I added each House's points together, but in order to make it fair, I divided by the number of people in the House, and then multiplied it by 4, since some Houses had 3 players and some had 4. This gave an average number of points.

Congrats to Ravenclaw this year!
I reused my House Point board from last year. This is made from magnetic sheets in the shape of hourglasses, then I laminated "gems" in House colors, so I can use dry erase markers on them to add point totals from games to their hourglass. It took me 5 years to figure out that this was better than making a new board each year, and I'm really pleased with it.

As always, Snape oversees this party, even though he's still disapproving of fun of all kinds. He still wears a party hat, because Harry requests it :) He's there to make sure everyone stays in line, or else he'll take points or give detention.

We also had our resident House Elf making a stew of some sort, as this party took place in the Great Hall. 

As always, we finished up the party with a request to add a memory to the Pensieve. I ask that people include what they liked about the party itself or what they love about Harry Potter in general. And then we awarded the House Cup to the team who had the most House Points, as well as a prize for best costume. I had people add their pictures to our FB event page for people to vote. House Cup winners will be getting a prize pack in the mail via Owl Post. (Because you gotta have prizes.) We also made some money for the Harry Potter Alliance, as we usually do, because my friends are amazing. 

So, while this wasn't quite as fun as it usually is in person, not having to clean my whole house, or set up table and decor outside in the 90 degree heat, or make food for 30-40 people, or create goody bags for everyone (which I love putting together) was much less stress. I now know that we can totally create other online parties for the rest of this year, especially for my birthday that is in December when it's too cold to do an outside, socially-distanced lawn party. I hope I gave you some fun ideas for your own parties and you enjoyed this walk-through. It's nice to have options

How are you trying to create fun ways to enjoy quarantine and safely party with your friends?

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