Pop’s Top 10: Our Favorite Posts of 2021

12 month 46 hour library 4Wow wowzers wowie WOW are we looking forward to turning the page to 2022! But before we put a lid on 2021, we thought we would revisit some of our favorite posts! Here they are, in no particular order, our Top 10 posts of 2021!

#1 TOTALLY RANDOM


Never in a million years did I think a recycled pasta box would go viral, but this was one of our most popular projects! It’s a simple writing prompt machine, inspired by an arcade claw machine from summer vacations past.

#2 LIFESTYLES OF THE RICH AND NOBLE


Medieval Vogue front 1

Katie and I had a good time revisiting this fashion-parody-but-it’s-actually-historically-factual magazine. Medieval Vogue was part of a massive 2012 Robin Hood event. You can read more about the event fun here.

#3 DESTINATION: SLEEPY HOLLOW


It’s not everyday you get to check a box on the life list! Visiting Sleepy Hollow, NY has been something I’ve always dreamed of….and our 2021 trip will always be something to remember.

#4 BRINGING LITERATURE TO LIFE


Katie was delighted to interview Australian blogger Bryton Taylor, whose amazing literary parties and original recipes give us much inspiration!

#5 LITERARY AMUSEMENT PARK RIDES


moby dick ride_2

A Top 10 list in a Top 10 list? We couldn’t resist including this one because it was pure joy to research.

#6 FLOWERS FOR FERDINAND


In addition to featuring one of Katie’s favorite picture books, this post was full of hope, spring, and a fantastic wildflower identification app!

#7 FROM FOLKLORE TO FANTASY


Co-hosted with Vineet Chander from Princeton University’s Office of Religious Life, Hindu Life Program, this live Zoom webinar with talented authors Sanyantani DasGupta and Roshani Chokshi was just magical. And the Q&A with the kids was epic! You can find the entire event here.

#8 SPLASHY SPELLING


This one made the list because it was almost a huge fail and it turned my hand pink. Yes, PINK! Though I ultimately managed to produce a cute bath time spelling craft, my digits were blush for days!

#9 PUPPY POST


more puppy post 1Of course we’re going to include the post that introduced Finley, the newest addition to Katie’s family! Look at him, rocking that doggie delivery mailbox! Awwwww!

#10 THE 12 MONTH, 46 HOUR LIBRARY


12 month 46 hour library 4 Otherwise known as the craft kit that almost took Katie down. It might have taken a year, but now we have an adorable physical representation of Katie’s persistence and perseverance (and just look at that cute library ladder)!

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE! HERE’S TO 2022!

DIY Harry Potter Party

diy harry potter partyWhat do you do when your best friend – who happens to be a huge Harry Potter fan – is celebrating her quinceañera? You throw her a surprise party of course, with all the trimmings! Our kid tester, Hope (who you last saw here) researched, designed, prepped, and coordinated this party for her friend Liv, and I was invited for a sneak peek.

The party was announced when a mysterious letter arrived for the birthday girl, informing her of her acceptance to Hogwart’s. She was given no more information than a time and date (Liv’s mom, however, was filled in on all the details). Other attendees received similar invitations. Hope “aged” the paper by soaking regular old printer paper and an envelope in black tea. She used a cookie sheet for both soaking and flat drying the paper. Depending on your paper, you’ll need to soak for 30 minutes to an hour. If you’re doing a number of invites, have fresh tea water handy (the solution gets weaker with every soaking).

letter close upWhen the paper was dry, Hope ran it through her computer’s printer. I was curious to know how the printer handled the crackly papers? “For the most part they went through okay.” reports Hope. “Once or twice an envelope got stuck, and I had to get down on my hands and knees and yank it out of the printer.”

When guests arrived at the party, they encountered a “brick wall” at King’s Cross Station. Hope made a brick template out of card stock, and then repeatedly traced the template onto a red plastic tablecloth using a black permanent marker. Finally, she added gold mortar highlights with gold paint (it gives it a nice shimmer, doesn’t it?). The tablecloth was slit 3/4 of the way up so guests could walk through the wall…

brick wall…and arrive at Platform 9 3/4! Hope hand-painted the sign on cardboard and hung it from the ceiling using tea cup hooks and twine (original instructions for the sign here).

platform signTo the right on the sign was a train compartment (and later photo booth) for the Hogwarts Express. Hope’s mom gets the credit for this one. She covered a bench with cardboard and secured it with packing tape. Then she added all the details. I love the armrests on the seat. And the window with the curtain!

train compartmentHere’s a close up of the luggage on the train. That super thick A History of Magic book? Originally, it was the collected works of Jane Austin.

train luggageDisembarking from the train, party goers encountered two party tables (10 knuts if you spot Hope’s unintentional photobomb).

first party tableThe first party table held a slew of potions (labels found online and adhered to funky bottles filled with colored water), Chocolate Frogs (template here), and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Bean (template here). Depending on the number of beans and size of your frogs, you might need to adjust the templates a little.

candy boxesSnowy white owl balloons hovered over the table. Hope recreated these from a picture she saw online. They are so cute and simple it’s just genius. Wouldn’t it be fun to do a whole shelf like an Owlery, with each balloon holding a special message?

owl balloonsDid you happen to notice the wands on the party table? These were my absolute favorite party item. Here’s a close-up of them on a white background:

wandsHope modified these instructions and made the wands out of chopsticks and meat skewers (with the sharp ends sawed off of course). First, she used hot glue to create patterns on the sticks, then she painted them with with brown paint. When the paint started flaking, she added a coat of glossy mod podge. Each wand had a handwritten tag attached, informing the owner of the wand’s specs. Honestly, I couldn’t stop playing with them.

second party tableThe second party table was designed to hold some classic wizard delicacies. More on those in a moment. For now, let’s admire those house banners. They’re plastic table clothes cut into banner shapes and adorned with the house coat of arms (which Hope found online using a Google image search). Notice the floating candles overhead?

floating candlesThose are painted toilet paper and paper towel tubes with hot glue drips. An LED is mounted in a little paper towel sling at the top. They’re hanging from clear cord. And speaking of candles…

candelabraHope spotted this at her church and asked if she could borrow it for the party! Perfect, isn’t it? The cobwebs are a super nice touch too. Now, who’s hungry?

chocolate frogFirst, chocolate frogs. Hope found these molds on Amazon ($2.29 plus $3.27 shipping). She used Wilton’s dark melting chocolate and a borrowed chocolate melting pot (very similar to a fondue pot) to construct the treat. I tried one. It was very tasty, but I have to admit, it was a trifle unnerving to bite off its head. Next up? Pumpkin Pasties.

pumpkin pastiesHope used pre-made pie crust dough (Wegman’s brand) and the pumpkin pie recipe from the back of Libby’s canned pumpkin. The mini-pies were baked in a muffin tin. I tried one. Nom nom (if you’re in the mood for a different kind of pumpkin pastie, check out the one we posted about last summer). Finally, butterbeer. Served in a chilled wine glass of course.

butterbeerHere’s the recipe she used (and here’s the original source for it). Very rich and tasty!

Ingredients:

  • 1 quart vanilla ice cream
  • 1/4 cup butterscotch syrup
  • 32 oz cream soda

Directions:

  1. Place 4 (16-ounce) glasses in freezer and chill for at least 20 minutes
  2. Mix ice cream and cream soda in a blender until combined
  3. Divide between the frosted glasses
  4. Top each glass with whipped cream, if desired

Shaking only slightly from all the sugar I had just consumed, I moved to the living room, where a Harry Potter movie marathon was being cued up. A CD of movie music was playing on the stereo as Hope’s little sister cavorted in her Hedwig costume (instructions for the no-sew costume here).

hedwigBy now, the guests were starting to arrive before the birthday girl’s big entrance. Hope had asked them to bring the gifts unwrapped so she could wrap them herself, using brown paper and twine reminiscent of  the owl post.

owl postRevelers could also opt to put on some wizard robes (i.e. old graduation gowns). Hope borrowed them from yours truly (because I – ahem! – have 5 sets of wizard robes in my attic. And 3 wizard hats. But who’s counting?). Since the birthday girl was due to arrive shortly, it was time to depart. A quick pit stop revealed that Hope had left no stone unturned:

ministry of magic entranceSo, how did the birthday girl react? According to Hope, she walked through the door and was overwhelmed. Stunned. Totally caught by surprise. And then she toured the party floor several times, pouncing on various items like a little kid in a candy shop.” The other guests were equally delighted and enchanted. Wouldn’t you be? I tip my hat to you Hope, and look forward to you coordinating all my children’s birthday parties until they go to college. I’m kidding of course. But only slightly.

While we’re on the subject of Harry Potter, here’s a rundown of all the HP projects, programs, and cool connections we’ve featured on the blog!

Worth the Splurge

tape dispensor 1Exactly what are we looking at here? Perhaps this will help:

tape dispensor 2Still a bit strange? How about this?

tape dispensor 3That’s right. You’re looking at a tape dispenser with an attached tape drum. YES!

I don’t know about you, but for years I fought the tape dispenser drum battle. For some kids, ripping tape off a dispenser is not easy. They jerk the tape, causing the whole roll to fly out of the dispenser. Those nefarious drums would go missing too, chuckling gleefully in the shadows while we tried to rig up something with craft sticks or toothpicks shoved into bouncy balls. Inquires about “extra tape drums” were met with blank stares from office supply store clerks.

When I saw this in an office supply catalog in 2006, looking like a little DeLorean tape dispenser, I rejoiced.

reenactmentThen I ordered sixteen of them and never looked back. These dispensers are easy for kid to handle, there are no flying rolls of tape, no lost tape drums, and they are super easy to reload. You can get one from the Office Max catalog for $8.62. Absolutely worth the splurge!