Well that’s it. Hosting a Harry Potter party is not necessarily straightforward but its jolly good fun and you will learn a whole host of new skills whilst working in the sweat shops just off Diagon Alley unless you have a posse of house elves in which case it should be very straight forward.
So here’s how. First, having booked the venue The Pottermeister decided that whilst there were plenty of Harry Potter games available that a magician would take some of the strain out of proceedings. However, for early arrivals and milliseconds where entertainment or food weren’t happening we had a game of pin the glasses on Harry Potter. There are plenty of pictures of Daniel Radcliffe available on the net but none of Harry Potter without his glasses. For those parents/hosts/house elves with an artistic turn of mind and who have forward planned by at least six months there is a free tutorial on drawing Harry. we did wonder about hunt the snitch but decided that the entertainer was going to be entertaining so that was that.
The Pottermeister also found a web page that suggested a wanted poster photograph of each party goer. It is possible to buy a pre-printed poster frame but it’s much more entertaining to make it yourself. You will need a rectangular piece of card board preferably with enough left over to create a stand. We then blue-tacked it to the table so it didn’t fall over. The Azkaban prison card can be downloaded and printed either onto card stock or printed on paper and then laminated. We also printed out a couple of wanted posters to help decorate the hall and demonstrate what was required. It proved a very popular attraction. The Pottermeister is helping the birthday girl create a thank you letter which will incorporate each child’s wanted poster. You will note that although my intention was to lovingly hand craft the words on the poster that in the end I opted for a swift cut and paste as it turns out that I was cutting it rather fine in terms of its production and suffered from acute oak of writing skill (note to self – find calligraphy class before next party).
Next…Harry Potteresque arrival.. You will need a sheet , a rectangular sponge and red poster paint to create the entrance way of platform 9 3/4. The Pottermeister had hoped to create her red brick wall on a hot summer’s day, i.e. outside. Sadly she was foiled by the great British summer so had to paint the sheet in sections and as time began to run out turn to her hair dryer for assistance. It looks really good on both sides as the poster paint seeps through. No doubt there’ll be another Potter party in our lives so it’s not a wasted prop. Don’t forget the drawing pins to attach it to the doorframe and the Platform 9 3/4 sign.
And then there’s the small matter of the party bags. We found some brown paper bags with handles. We downloaded the Honeyduke’s logo and printed them out. Each bag contained a Harry Potter badge; a bookmark freely downloaded from the net and then laminated; a bar of chocolate with dement or wrapping; a box of jelly beans and a chocolate frog. The Pottermeister souced all the cartons and cards from the Internet and then it was just a question of printing, laminating the frog cards and constructing the cartons. You’ll find that you get quite good at carton construction after a little while. Prit stick is a must. Guests were also allowed to choose three other types of sweet. Again the labels are all freely available and the little sealable bags came from The Works. Yes, the Honeyduke’s box is another prop involving a cardboard box and three different tester pots of paint and yes I know the lines aren’t straight.
On the day it became clear that liquorice alsorts aren’t a great favourite of the average eight-year-old…such a shame, the adults shall have to eat them.
The display worked well as we found a stripy tablecloth that matched the colour scheme. Next time, assuming there is a next time, a shop sign and a warning about turning small witches and wizards into toads might be rather a nice touch. The original plan was that the children were going to be issued with cardboard coins on arrival to ‘spend’ at Honeyduke’s but unfortunately The Pottermeister, who didn’t get to bed much before 2 am the night before the party, decided that enough was enough. Again, plan in advance and Gringots could await the Potter party goer.
The kitchen smelled like a sweet shop for two days and now the car has the same aroma. You will of course also need to make your chocolate frogs. The moulds are readily available online but tempering the chocolate is not as easy as U-Tube makes it seem. You will need a thermometer and patience. I did not, in the end, have time to make the chocolate mice and owls although HWIOO did point out that the aim was not to send all of the Right Little Madam’s guests on their way with their own body weight in chocolate (note to self – book on chocolate making course before next party.)
We set the hall out so that it looked vaguely like the Hogwarts great hall with the top table covered in a gold tablecloth and decorated with the house banners which I laminated and which will shortly be decorating the Right Little Madam’s side of the bedroom. The Pottermeister found black plastic goblets, gold paper plates and gold and silver star decorations. We couldn’t find a table cloth in each of the house colours so went for celebratory purple instead with serviettes in the house colours.
There is plenty of food in the Harry Potter books including remarkably successful corn beef sandwiches. We had ham sandwiches and chicken sandwiches as well as cheese sandwiches but couldn’t decide what Hagrid’s stoat sandwiches could be made from working on the basis that there’s authentic and then there’s the edible. We had herbology snacks, bread wands, bludgers in the form of mini scotch eggs, quidditch rings in the form of hula hoops and muggle snacks for all those other snacks that no children’s party would be without.
Thank goodness for the old BeRo recipe book and Mary Berry’s Victoria sponge. Hagrid’s rock cakes came from the BeRo recipe book. They didn’t disappear as rapidly as the sweeter cakes but again the adults really aren’t too bothered and they freeze rather well – the rock cakes not the adults. House cakes are simply fairy cakes in suitably coloured paper cases and iced with sugar sprinkles (how much sugar!!!). Cauldron cakes are little chocolate cakes. We couldn’t find any black paper cases so opted for gold instead. There’s assorted decorating suggestions from marshmallow via coconut to icing. In the end I opted for purple icing. We had planned for a chocolate handle but again didn’t leave enough time for that as I was still struggling with tempering chocolate a week before lift off.
Blast-ended skrewts are three marshmallows on a pop stick dipped in milk chocolate, given chocolate eyes and decorated with stars. Leave them to set in the fridge then watch them disappear. Golden snitch pop cakes – why on earth do you want to put cake on a stick? I don’t understand but that probably means I’m getting old and grumpy. You can either make spherical fairy cakes with a silicone mould or you can make two eight inch sponges, cool them down and then break them up in a bowl into crumbs add enough butter icing so that it binds. Mine was vanilla flavoured. You then create 30 equally sized balls and stick them in the fridge to harden off. Once they’re ready all you do is add the pop stick and coat them in chocolate candy melt which is much easier than melting chocolate because you do it in the microwave and it doesn’t seem temperamental so long as you follow the instructions. Once the shell has hardened add a pair of rice paper wings and spray with edible gold so that the wings curl and the snitch becomes golden. Don’t forget the stand! Some of the cardboard ones are about as much use as a chocolate teapot. In the end we used a dry oasis wrapped in foil and when we ran out of space an empty egg box filled with bubble wrap and with strategic holes. You’ll need a box and bubble wrap as well as a careful driver to transport them…good luck…you’ll need it. We printed off a picture of a quid ditch pitch and mounted it on card to add to the sense of Potterness. We did discover a freely available downloadable 3D quid ditch pitch but finding these things at 9pm the night before the party isn’t terribly helpful.
The red jelly is called slug jelly after Ronald Weasley’s unfortunate episode with his own wand and is partly made with lemonade and has a generous helping of sweets inside it. The green jelly we called polyjuice potion and served in plastic shot glasses.
You really don’t want to know how long The Pottermeister spent making the birthday cake tower. The decorations are all edible rice paper and absolutely brilliant – though you do have to cut them out. The cake was a four tone cake and I shall say this only once – buy good quality food colouring or you’ll be disappointed.
Now, I’m off to find a darkened room for several hours before we start planning the next party. The Little Madam wants a tea party. Her mother’s thinking Mad Hatter. She’ll have to decide pretty soon though because quite frankly her mother and I will need to spend much more time on the cartons, party bags, food and props as well as tracking down the right colour schemes for all things Alice. And if I want to post about these things properly I’m going to have to take many more photographs.
…I don’t think the Harry Potter’s going to stop though. I think we might be well and truly infected.