Hey did I ever tell you about the time I turned my day planner (yes, I still use a really real paper book day planner) into the Monster book of Monsters? I’ve been meaning to show it to you for a while…
I was sorting through my day planner one day and decided, “you know what? I probably really need to turn this into that.” And I did. And it didn’t take very long! Its removable, and I can replace the day planner with a small sketchbook if I want.
It’s incredibly wonky and terribly made, but it works, and it makes me smile. I started by laying my book open flat on the fabric, cut a big rectangle to size, and sewed the little pockets to the ends, even adding a little side pocket for pens and post-its. After the pockets were sewn on and flipped, I sewed the fringed tentacles straight to it (thankfully, the stitches are fairly well-hidden because of the fur).
And see that piece of white cardboard on the left hand inside, in the photo above? I’ll explain that in a moment…
I sculpted lil teeth and gums from Sculpey, heated them up, and glued them straight on. I didn’t do a bottom set because I wanted it to still be functional, and that just wouldn’t work because I’m right-handed and those teeth would totally get in my way.
So that white piece of cardboard on the inside I mentioned earlier? That’s sort of the wonky key holding the top part of the “head” together. There are probably a dozen better ways to do this, but I just cut a curved section out of the top fur, added some stuffing, glued another piece of fabric that I attached some glass doll monster eyes to, and closed it all up on the underside with the cardboard. It’s wonky, but it works. The book slides on top of the wonky cardboard, and everything stays together (fingers crossed).
I sewed a quick little “tongue” bookmark, which holds my place on the calendar section.
And there you go! My favorite projects are not only fun, but FUNCTIONAL…so having something that I can actually use AND that makes me smile is pretty much a happy project for me, all around.
Technically, it should have the bottom teeth and a belt to close it, of course, but again–I needed it to be FUNCTIONAL, and anything that hinders the function isn’t gonna work.
Finally, I used gold paint on some pleather-like material, and cut it out around the letters, gluing it to the top. And BOOM! There’s my Monster book of Monsters day planner!
It reminded me of the homemade paper bag book covers I used to make for my textbooks ages ago (because that’s what we did a million years ago). But this was on a much fuzzier scale, of course… ❤
This week’s post won’t be so much crafty, but chock-full of Harry Potter goodness, as I take a LONG walk through the finer points of our magical trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida!
Well, it didn’t start out magical. Thanks to a ton of airline transfers, delays, cancellations, and all-out rude customer service (don’t get me started on my utter disappointment in American Air…), we ended up spending the night at a freezing cold Dallas airport, and spending the better part of ONE of our TWO park days of our first vacation in FIFTEEN YEARS waiting for stand-by flights to Orlando. But we made it, and once we FINALLY got there, it was AWESOME. I will tell you that we were not at all interested in Disney or any other part of Universal–just Harry Potter World…!
We arrived late on the first day (after stopping by our hotel to deposit our suitcases and freshen up after our terrible ordeal), late in the afternoon. Despite it being mid-December, it was surprisingly not that crowded at first, and we were able to see much of the park in that first day.
The first step was walking through the broken brick wall into Diagon Alley, which filled me with as much excitement as Harry must’ve felt seeing it for the first time (yes, I realize he’s a fictional character, but just go with it…). All the wonky buildings and wonderful signs, advertising, and storefronts made me giddy.
(There’s me and Myla, bottom right, her probably thinking, “dang, mom’s more excited than me.”)
The first thing we did was head straight to Ollivander’s for wands. Surprisingly, probably because of the lateness of the evening, there was no one in line, and while we didn’t get chosen for the little show (only one person gets picked per “show”), it was fun to watch, and afterward, we chose our own wands out in the shop section (if you don’t mind missing the show, you can skip the line by going straight into the store side). You can also get wands in another Ollivander’s on the Hogsmeade side, as well as Gregorovitch’s wand stand in Diagon Alley.
You can either choose an interactive wand (that “opens” little spells throughout the park) or a plain wand, and one of either a famous wizard from the series, or a unique one from the wall. They’re quite solidly made, heavy, seemingly out of some sort of thick resin. We chose our wands based on the writing on the wall, and each seemed to fit us quite well: Myla chose one of Rowan, which mentioned the bearer might use their “powerful imagination and resourceful nature to make their dreams come true.” Mine was Vine, which mentioned someone who is prone to “burn the candle at both ends.” And my husband’s was Ivy, which has the power to “easily overcome obstacles.” They each came with maps of all the “spell” spots throughout the park, and seemed to match us well! (I only wish they had these descriptions inside the wand boxes! We went back later to get a photo when I realized they weren’t inside the box…)
We set about doing “spells” throughout the park. The markers on the ground (as well as the map) tell you what spell to use, and what gesture to make (see the marker on the ground by the fountain, on the right, by Myla’s feet?), and there was nearly always a park wizard around to assist.
The dragon on top of Gringott’s went off quite often, blowing a quick burst of fire, which was awesome to see.
We stopped by Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, where Myla instantly squealed over a purple Pygmy Puff. A lovely witch at the register performed a “naming ceremony,” which she had her put it on her head, announcing that Myla was the new owner of a Pygmy Puff named “Puff,” who eats earwax and small spiders, which made Myla laugh. (Similarly, some of the cashiers would say things like, “Here’s your muggle plastic,” upon handing your credit card back.)
It was late the first night, and we took the Hogwart’s express to the Hogsmeade side (you have to have a park-to-park pass to be able to go to both sides). The train personnel on the muggle side ACT like muggles, and react as if you’re crazy if you question them about platform 9 3/4 when they take your tickets. They ask things like, “what kind of dog is that?” about Puff (because they’re muggles, and wouldn’t know anything about wizard things, right?).
I had an app that showed wait times for rides, and since it was late in the evening, we were able to go fairly quickly through the Hogwarts castle line for the Forbidden Journey ride. It was such a short line, in fact, that we didn’t really get a good look at all the fun things inside the castle! (By the second day, that same ride was SUPER crowded, and we waited nearly 45 minutes in line, which was a good time, actually, and we could enjoy looking at the castle details, and hear the talking paintings.)
Since we had done so much the first day (despite spending half the day at the airport), we slept in a bit the second day, and took our time getting to the park. It was a Monday, the first “official” day of winter school vacation, so it was MUCH more crowded than the day prior, but we were able to spend a lot of time around the park.
Again, we started in Diagon Alley. We chugged many, many foamy butterbeers (which come in frozen, chilled, and hot forms–ALL of which are amazing). We revisited the little shops, and doubled back on some of the details we didn’t get to the night before.
We saw a few of the shows we didn’t see the night before, like Celestina Warbeck and her Banshees, which sang classic songs like “You Stole My Cauldron, But You Can’t Have My Heart.” Later, we saw a wizarding theatre troop perform the Tale of the Three Brothers on the same stage.
We stopped in the Gringott’s Money Exchange, just because you can ask the goblin questions like, “Have you seen Harry Potter?” and he’ll reply, “That’s not my area of expertise.” (He also gets testy if he sees too many cameras pointed in his face.) We rode the Gringott’s ride (whose line was SUPER long the second day–and quite an uninteresting wait until you get inside–but it was worth it!). (Incidentally, for the rides, you have to store your things in a locker room near the ride entrance, and they’re only so big (our wand boxes barely fit), so you have to keep that in mind if you have large items!).
Everything was so awesome to look at! Even the building fronts that didn’t contain shops (like the House Elf Placement Agency, above right) were so beautifully designed.
We enjoyed Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream shop and got ice cream with crystals. We ate at the Three Broomsticks and the Leaky Cauldron. We drank more butterbeer.
Next, we took the train back to Hogsmeade, to explore that side a bit more.
Since Myla’s a kid (and gets her clumsiness from me), she dropped her wand a couple of times (see the chip in the skull’s eye on the left up there?), and when it wouldn’t work anymore at one of the spell sites, a wizard helper advised us to swing by the Owl Post for a FREE wand repair! At no charge, the wizard there took it to the back and got us a brand new one, which (for a clumsy wizard like myself) I thought was AWESOME.
We waited in the super-hot sun under my tiny umbrella to see the Hogwarts Toad Choir perform songs like “Something Wicked This Way Comes.” (There were only two performers with toads, though–I thought they should’ve all had them!)
I decided that despite being a grownup (and despite his lackluster paint job) I needed a foam poseable Dobby, so that was my big souvenir. We rode the Hippogriff rollercoaster ride, which (because of the much bigger crowds) was a very long, hot wait–a bit over an hour, with not much to look at in line. It’s primarily a kid’s ride, but as we had a kid (and we’re big kids ourselves) we had fun.
The shops, much more crowded the second day, were similar to the other side, but one of the bookstores had a great window display of several caged and chomping Monster Book of Monsters books, surrounded by shreds of paper. Most of the spell sites were crowded with lines of kids waiting to do the spells, so often we would just watch what they did without bothering to stand in line.
And then, sadly, it was time to go back home. But–SIGHHHH–I loved it there. I wanted to LIVE there. Not in Orlando, exactly…but in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Myla and I decided we should probably just move in. No one would notice–we’d just sort of set up in Knockturn Alley (which is in a dark and cool shady tunnel of shops in Diagon Alley). People would just assume we worked there, wouldn’t they? …It could work, right?
Well, anyway. Goodbye, Weasley Shop. Goodbye, Gringott’s Dragon. Goodbye, Hogwarts. Goodbye, Harry Potter World. Hopefully we’ll be back again soon.
I, for one, have been in a renewed Potter daze since our trip. My husband and I once read the ENTIRE series of books ages ago, and I’m I’m revisiting them by listening to them again on audiobook while I do my crafts. I forgot how GOOD they are and how very different they are from the movies! (We read the majority of them before seeing most of the movies.) Did you realize that there are nifflers and bowtruckles in the Potter books?? After seeing them in the Fantastic Beasts movie, I didn’t realize I had already read about them ages ago!
So join me next week for some Potter crafts from after our trip–where I’ll update you on my dad’s backyard garden train Hogwarts castle, show you my repainted Dobby, and feature our wand and wand-box wall displays.
In the meantime, check out these grumpy little mandrake seedling necklaces I made, for sale in my Etsy shop! I’m pretty sure they keep bad things away. At least that’s what the shady dark-robed wizard in Knockturn Alley told me…. 😀
‘Til next week!
The thanksgiving holidays got me thinking about Hogwarts.
Oh, that’s weird. I should explain… Maybe it’s because of the full-scale Hogwarts my dad built by HAND in his garden train village off of their back porch…
Or maybe it’s because for the first time in our 14 years of marriage, we’re going on our very first REAL VACATION to HARRY POTTER WORLD in Florida!
What? You mean we’ve never gone on a vacation in fourteen years of marriage??? Nope. NEVER. And Professor McGonagall is silently judging me for it.
Being an army family, finding time and planning for a vacation is very tricky. The husband has been deployed three times in our daughter’s seven years. There are field exercises and training to work around. Most of our leave has been used relocating to new duty stations, trying to squeeze in visits to family along our way there. Fun, but not a “vacation.”
Once, when my husband was deployed to Afghanistan, he got two weeks of R&R, and we met up in Hawaii with our 2-year old Myla (who was in her very “terrible” phase then)… and then I returned with Myla to the frozen temps of Alaska, and the husband went straight back to Afghanistan. But I’m not sure that counts as a real “vacation,” does it?
Yeah, I didn’t think so either, Mad-Eye.
My husband and I have been pretty big Potter fans for ages. Early in our marriage, when we were kidless and waiting for our new home to be ready to move in, we spent hours in the hotel room, devouring all of the Harry Potter books. We didn’t do much else. But we had so much fun reading them all. Because we’re adults and we CAN.
Thank you, Professor Trelawney. I don’t think it sounds crazy at all, either.
Myla is seven now, and has excitedly braved her way through the entire series of Harry Potter movies (despite our warnings that they get darker and darker), and she LOVES them. (Snape is her very favorite…)
Honestly, it’s been a rough year, this year. A terrible, no good, very bad year. It seems to have been unusually unpleasant for a great deal of people.
I know, Voldemort. I get a headache just THINKING about how rough this past year’s been.
So I decided that now was the time. We were going to go. I was going to plan it. We’ve had the money saved for ages. We’ll need money for the bumpy road ahead next year, sure, but THIS money has always been saved for a vacation we’ve never taken. So we’re taking it, and we’re not going to feel a stitch bad about it at all.
(Don’t worry, Dumbledore. Don’t worry, McGonagall. We’ll be okay. We got this.)
We’ve only got a couple of days there. And we’re not going to Disney. We just want to go to Harry Potter World. We’ll get wands. We’ll get butterbeer. We’ll do all the fun “hidden” trivia things my friend Cathy told me about, since she goes all the time. I can’t wait! Just a couple of days there, but we will be wizards, and we will have so much fun. We deserve a little fun.
(I know, I know–Don’t worry, Dumbledore! Don’t worry, McGonagall! We’ll be okay! …I’m sure we’ll be okay…)
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of wonderful characters. And it seems JK Rowling has filled this magical, wonderful wizarding world full of them. I love to draw them. I love to paint them. I’ve done tiny portraits of them. I’ve done larger portraits of them.
And I think our love for that world has spread to Myla…and I’m okay with that.
The husband and I recently watched Fantastic Beasts, and loved it. (Myla hasn’t seen it yet–a few things in there she’s not ready for, but she’ll get there at her own pace.)
So we’ve only got a couple of weeks until our Harry Potter vacation. Our first REAL vacation. I’m so excited! Aren’t you?
So I’m going to celebrate. See that Newt Scamander doodle above? He was so much fun do draw! So I’m going to put 20 signed and numbered 8×10 fine art prints up in the Etsy shop. They’ll be waiting for you there, if you think one should live at your home. Or at a fellow Potterhead’s home. Just because.
So enjoy your fantastic beasts, and I’ll try to patiently count down the next couple of weeks until our Harry Potter Vacation! It’ll be difficult, but mischief will be managed…
My sister and I grew up in a pretty artistic family. My mom and dad both paint and have always been very creative. So today, I thought I’d share a little project of my dad’s….
I learned to paint and draw when my mom started showing me how to draw shapes and make people when I was still learning to walk. I get so much of my encouragement and imagination from her. And I get a lot of my furious, frenetic, constant MAKING from my dad, who was always knee-deep in a project or two, always creating, always building, always doing SOMEthing. (Sounds very familiar!)
A few years ago, my dad got into building garden trains. He had fun setting up the track, but also building the structures for the cities and towns in his train village. At one point, before they moved, he had worked on a Harry Potter’s Hogwarts castle to add at the back. The old town below included Diagon Alley, Hagrid’s, and the Weasley’s. He even included a few fun things with the people…
Awhile back, my parents moved to a new home, and my dad started up a new train village. He built each structure by hand, from sheets of styrofoam and thin pieces of wood, coating them in liquid cement, and then painting and decorating them (often with the help of my mom’s awesome decorative painting skills).
They’re pretty good-sized structures, too–here are our two dogs–a fully grown Boston Terrier and Boxer, who love to sniff around town. (Thankfully, they haven’t destroyed anything…yet.)
The liquid concrete and coats of varnish keep the structures fairly well-protected from the weather.
As fantastic as dad’s sculptures are, Mom’s painting details are just as amazing! She creates tiny handpainted murals on some:
After finishing a good chunk of the town, Dad recently decided to try his old Hogwart’s castle again. But this time, he studied schematics of Hogwarts, looked at reference photos and movie models, and laid out a foundation. He started by building a styrofoam mountain in the back, up against their patio, adding a water feature as well.
Then he worked on the first building tower, sculpting into the styrofoam and shaping it with wooden pieces.He laid the tiny wooden shingles on the roof one by one, by hand.
Here it is, temporarily mounted on the “mountain”just as a test-run.
Initially, he matched his paint job to a reference he found, which was a lot more rusty orangey brown (the first photo, below). He sent a photo of it, and asked, and we talked about how although he matched the reference, the FEEL of it in the movie (although the shots of it are often at night) is that it’s mostly grayish. So he repainted, and it made a WORLD of difference!
Here are some more progress shots of the mounted castle tower, and of coating and painting it.So, fast-forward to several steps later, and HERE is the final Hogwart’s castle!He put lights in them, so the towers glow beautifully at night.
It’s so beautiful and amazing! If you look closely, you can see these tiny Hogwarts shields I painted for him, with each house emblem on them:
I also customized a few figures for his castle, although they turned out a little wonky. I turned one into Harry, and chopped off Darth Maul’s horns and nose to turn him into Voldemort.
Here they both are, complete (lying next to an adorable heart-holding griffin Myla drew on my work board).
Anyway, there it is! Dad’s Garden Train Hogwarts castle.Growing up, I knew enough to realize that not everyone’s parents were as creative as mine…but knowing that we didn’t come from a ton of money, I realized that everyone had the capability of being creative. Seeing something start from small beginnings to something huge and amazing doesn’t always require specific tools or the finest art supplies or the best brushes. Dad was building stuff when we were younger out of dental floss and twigs! Really, when it comes down to it, the most important thing you really need is a desire to create!Congrats on your castle, Dad!