Sunday, January 23, 2011

Wizards: Made

OK! Harry Potter birthday party complete! Guys, it was so, so awesome.

As I mentioned in my earlier post, we didn't have the party at home. I discovered an amazing place in LA called Whimsic Alley that's designed to look like Diagon Alley and features a great hall for private parties in the back. This place is, seriously friends, the shit.

Here are my little owls all lined up, waiting for their new wizards.

Each owl got a name and was assigned to a little person (child, not person of small stature). It's not that easy to come up with 16 owl names, in case you're curious. I am proud to say there were no repeats. Wow, I am a serious nerd.

Here are all the young students lined up to be sorted. Rather than using a Sorting Hat, each kid selected a stone from the wizard instructor's pouch. The color of the stone determined the kid's house & they were assigned a robe and table.

Dash, you'll be shocked to hear, was Gryffindor. (Well, actually, I guess, "Naysayer." They renamed all the houses to avoid copyright issues. But the kids can't read, so we just called them the real names the whole time. Up yours, Warner Bros.)

The first lesson of the day was wand-making. The instructors passed out dowels, supplied the kids with markers, glue, gems & pipe cleaners & they went to town. Each guest got to keep the wand they made.

Stand off!

After breaking for lunch (hey, Wizards gotta eat, too!) we moved on to potion-making class. Each kid got a plastic vial and they were supplied with all sorts of colored syrups, gummy candies, powders and sprinkles which they combined into unique concoctions.

Omar's Lomo Photo Effect copy
Here's Dash's.

This may have been my favorite part of the day. When it was time for cake, the kids were instructed to hold up their wands and cast a darkness spell by shouting "Nox!" After the cake came out and the candles were blown out, they lit the hall back up by shouting "Lumos!" You guys, they really, really believed they did it. I wish you could have seen their faces when the lights went out and then came back on. One way or another, it was magic.

Here's the cake. It's based on the cake Hagrid made for Harry's birthday.

We thought the candles were the kind that keep re-lighting. Turns out the kid was just too far away when he was blowing. [Ring, ring. Hello? Mensa! Hi! Oh, wrong number. Ok. Bye.]

Turning the lights back on.

After the cake, the kids got to play some games. First, a version of musical chairs or hot potato or something where you didn't want to be caught holding some puffy pink thing when the music stopped? I dunno, I wasn't paying attention for that one. Dash won. (I call rigged).

THEN! Best drinking game ever (unless you're five, then it's just a game, game. Don't call child services). Put a pretzel on your forehead, then, with your hands behind your back, try to get it into your mouth. I made them let me play. Yes, yes I did.

The last game of the day was "guess the flavor of the Every Flavored Bean." Poor kids. Sweet Maya got "centipede" and thought she had eaten an actual centipede. There were tears. Most of the kids had no idea what flavors they got, so I went around smelling their breath & trying to guess. I'll tell you this much: I never need to smell another moldy cheese-flavored jelly bean ever again.

Young wizards, freshly-minted.

And then, just as suddenly as it had started, our adventure ended. We headed back to Platform 9 3/4 and returned to the world of the Muggles.

In conclusion:


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Fuck Yeah Dance Party!

Just another Wednesday night at the Engels'




Monday, January 17, 2011

One, Two, Three, Four


Little Dash,

Five years ago today the world became a slightly happier place. The sun shone a little brighter. The net volume of optimism on the planet increased a bit.

Five years ago today you graced us with your beaming presence. I know every parent thinks that the sun rises and sets on their babies, but in our case it's actually true.

You are the sweetest, funniest, warmest, kindest and (obvs) most handsome little man we could have imagined. When your father & I spent those difficult years trying to conceive you, we would often daydream about what it would be like to welcome a third person into our family. Not in a million years could we have guessed it would be as good as it is. The worst day of being your parents is better than the best day before we knew you.

Happy, happy birthday little man. We love you with the heat of a thousand suns. Here's to a hundred more birthdays.

Now pick up your pajamas and put them in your hamper. How many god-damned times do we have to tell you?


Mama & Zaz

mommy kiss


Saturday, January 08, 2011


We took a ride up the mountain with 20 of our closest for some hardcore sledding!

The Snow-Engels (Get it?! like Angels. But Engels. Right? Right?)

Dash and his best friend Xander are a couple of serious bad-asses.

Hi. I'm adorable. Take me home?

Hott husband

Elegant wife

Mommy race. (Dudes. I totally won but no one agrees.)

Daddy race.

(Also the disputed winner. I say it's because we're Jews.)

Snow squirrels.

The end. Biggest fun ever! I love Winter so hard.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

The Making of Wizards

We're rocking a Harry Potter birthday this year for young Dash (he'll be 5. FIVE. hold me.) This will be the first time that we don't have the party at home--I just couldn't face it this year. I think I went a little over the top with all the holiday entertaining the last couple of months and am still nursing a party hangover.

That said, I am insane with glee over the venue for the party. I'll share more on the day of (next Saturday). In the meanwhile, here's a bit of what's been apparating around the Engel house lately.

(I'm about to go full nerd. Be warned.)

Each guest received a parchment letter by owl post from Hogwarts.

The letters advised the young witches & wizards that they had been accepted to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry.

Because some of our young guests aren't yet learned in the ways of magic transport, we also provided directions for Muggles.

I think we've established by now that I'm favor-bag-obsessed. AND, since I'm not throwing the party at home, I felt entitled to go a little off the rails on these. I sewed up some little (6" x 8") drawstring pouches out of some muslin I had in my stash. Then I printed the Hogwarts logo onto transfer paper & ironed it onto each baggie.

I wanted to buy chocolate frogs for each bag, but do you know how much chocolate frogs cost? $3.99. Each. I mean. That's just offensive to me. I don't think I'm a cheap person, but for 15 kids that would have been more than $60 after tax & shipping. FOR CANDY FROGS. So, here's what I did instead. I bought a $2 candy mold and some lovely chocolate from Trader Joe's and I made my own. So there.

I also made fake bags of Every Flavor Beans out of regular Jelly Bellies, mostly because I didn't want to torture the kids with actual vomit-flavored candy.

The scar tattoos are about the size of a stamp and didn't come packaged in anything. Because I didn't want them to get lost or destroyed in the bags, I printed out a picture of glasses onto card stock, added the description in the Harry Potter font & tucked everything into a teensy baggie from the craft store.

And then (because once I had the idea I couldn't not do it) this:

(this is before I finished hand stitching the bottoms)

Because every little witch and wizard needs their very own owl.

And, once they're done learning how to make wands & potions and have turned all of the adults into frogs, each guest will receive one of these. Suitable for framing, yo!

OK, I'll post more from the party next weekend! In the meantime, if you want any of the sources, materials, patterns, details etc., leave a comment & I'll do what I can.

Monday, January 03, 2011


So, here's something that has never happened in my entire life in LA:

Snow! In our backyard!

Homie the Gnomie was all, "wha whaaa?"

This little homie spent some time catching snowflakes on his tongue.

And hucking snowballs at his parents as hard as he could.

In conclusion:


Saturday, January 01, 2011


I didn't manage everything from my list last year, but I did well enough to feel pretty good about it.

This year I'm going less specific with my goals. I mean, there are things I'd like to do (berry picking, jamming, gardening, baking, crochet, etc.) but these things are more traditions now than goals, so I don't feel any need to write them down.

I would love to learn to knit (though I'm not trying anything new until poor Josh finally gets the afghan I've been working on for nearly a year) and I've still never been camping. But I feel like those things will happen when they ought to. No big urgent need to write that down, either.

This year we'll likely move to a new house. My best friend is getting married. Dash is starting kindergarten. That's plenty to keep me tired.

But, because this is me, I do have a couple things to note:

1. Lose the last 15 lbs. I feel better than I have for years and years, but I want the number on the scale just a wee bit lower.

2. Participate in the Toy Society's toy drop.

3. Less wine for me, less candy for Dash.

4. This. Shh. Don't talk about it. I'm scared.

Happy 2011, world. Be kind.