Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Chocolate Frogs And Other Harry Potter Treats (HP Month)

Those of you who have read my previous Harry Potter Birthday post know that a few days ago, my little sister turned 18 and to celebrate I threw her a Harry Potter inspired party. Today I'm going to show you the Harry Potter themed treats I made for the party, including little DIY tips and links to the eBay stores where I found some of the stuff I used. So to start, we have the must-have of all HP parties...

Chocolate Frogs 

To make these, I first had buy a frog-shaped mold. I found mine on eBay here but Amazon.com also has these if you're interested. To make my chocolate frogs, I also had to learn how to melt chocolate. Those who've tried it before know how easy it is to screw up and end up with burnt chocolate. Fortunately, I learned a little technique which makes the whole process super easy and practically fail proof. 

Melting your chocolate and making the little frogs

1. The first thing you need to do is break your chocolate into even pieces. Chocolate bars are easy to work with because they are already marked evenly where you're supposed to break them. 
2. Place your chocolate pieces in a microwave safe bowl. Place the bowl in your microwave and set it to 30 secs. 
3. Once the first 30 secs are up, take the bowl out of the microwave and stir the chocolate a little. Since chocolate can actually retain its initial shape even when melted, this will help you know whether or not it's melted. Don't worry if at this stage it's not melted yet. 
4. Put the bowl back into the microwave and set it again to 30 secs. Afterwards, take the bowl out, stir your chocolate and then put it back for another 30 secs. 
5. Repeat this process until you have melted chocolate with a similar consistency to, say, Nutella. You chocolate will really start to melt around the 2nd or 3rd trip into the microwave.
6. Once you have your melted chocolate, you need to work fast because your chocolate will start cooling and hardening quickly. 
7. With a spoon, take your melted chocolate and place it in the mold. 
8. Once the mold has been filled, leave the chocolate to cool. You can start unmolding your little frogs after a bit less than 2hrs. I was terrified of screwing up since it was my first time making anything like this so I ended up waiting for two solid hours before unmolding my frogs. You probably don't have to wait that long though!
9. And here's the final result:

The Chocolate Frog Cards

You can find free printables online including this oneI wasn't satisfied with the designs available online though, so I decided to make my own. I designed these on Microsoft Word with pictures I found online. After printing my cards, I folded then along the middle line and then glued both sides together. And in case you were wondering, the messages are written in French :) If you want more precision on how I made my cards, send me an email and I'll gladly give you further explanations.

The Chocolate Frog Box

You can find free printables of the boxes with the original design from the Harry Potter parks online, such as this one. I even printed one but at some point during the process of building the box I realized that it would end up being too small for my chocolate and card. So I instead downloaded a free printable of a pillow box here and used that as my box. I made a couple of Chocolate Frog labels on Microsoft word and stuck them on my box. And yes, Chocogrenouille is French for Chocolate Frog ;)

Bertie Bott's Flavored Beans 

This one was even easier to do than the Chocolate Frogs because you can just buy jellybeans to use as your Flavored Beans. I got a free printable of the box online here and after putting it together, I just filled it with my jellybeans. The only tricky part was probably getting the pointed top of the box right. 

So that's it for my Harry Potter treats. If you want to know more about any of the items mentioned here, don't hesitate to send me an email! In my next post I'll show you the crafts and DIY projects I made for my sister's HP party. Until then, you can check out my Harry Potter Birthday post to have a look at the crafts and decoration items I'll be talking about in my next post. 

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Sunday, July 26, 2015

A Harry Potter Birthday (HP Month)

Hey guys. So some of you might have noticed that I was quite absent these past two weeks, with me not posting anything and not replying to your comments. Well, the thing is that I've actually been super busy organizing a surprised birthday party for my little sister, Pooja, who turned 18 this year. I might be moving out next year for uni and if I do, I'll end up missing her birthdays for at least a couple of years. So, to make up for the birthdays I'll be missing and to leave her with good memories for the years when I won't be here, I decided to turn our house into Hogwarts and throw her a Harry Potter themed party. 'Cause not only is she a Potterhead too, but it's also not everyday your little sister turns 18!

The Birthday Girl

My sister and I have been Potterheads since always. We've fangirled together over many series but Harry Potter remains our shared favorite. While my favorite Hogwarts House is Gryffindor, Pooja is totally a Slytherin. 

The Gifts

The Harry Potter Gifts

Apart from a bunch of other gifts, I got my sister a few Harry Potter stuff too, including this Slytherin scarf, and the Hogwarts pendant. Both the scarf and the pendant comes in different designs for the different Houses. You can find them on eBay at relatively low prices by clickling on the above links.

And since you can hardly call yourself a witch unless you actually own a wand, I just had to get Pooja her own. I got her Harry's wand (right picture), which I found on eBay here. This store also sells the wands of other characters such as Sirius, Snape, Dumbledore and a bunch of others. My wand though (left picture) was custom made by a friend of my dad's out of mahogany wood. Also, can you spot the Hogwarts Express train ticket and the Marauder's Map in the pictures? I made both myself using printables I found online. If you're interested in making your own, just click on the above links. 

My Harry Potter Crafts and Decorations

I planned my sister's birthday in a story format with her even getting her own Sorting Ceremony. You can find Sorting Hat replicas online but those tend to be rather pricey and I'm too much of a DIY newbie to attempt making my own. So instead, I just used a regular witch hat which I kept folded for a couple of weeks to give it that beat-up Sorting Hat look. 

These are the things I made myself. I made a bunch of potions, including the Felix Felicis pictured above, by filling discarded perfume bottles with colored water. I then scattered my little potions on the party table and in different rooms of the house. The Weasley clock (bottom left) was made from a free printable I found online here. The broom from the picture on the right was possibly the hardest to make. There are a lot of YouTube videos that show you how to make your own Quidditch broom but I personally found them too hard to make on my own so I instead went for a simpler model using a normal broom and a mop handle. 

I wanted the magical feeling to last throughout the day, so I put little nods to the Harry Potter universe all over the house... including the bathroom! When my sister went to take her shower in the morning, she was surprised to find a framed mermaid picture in the bathroom along with a cupcake soap with Honeydukes written on the box. The soap is actually from a local shop that sells candy and cake shaped, homemade soaps. Even if you're not from Mauritius, you might still want to visit their Facebook page to look at the pictures of their awesome cupcake soaps.  And yep, they smell just as good as they look!

Cake and Treats

Since this was a HP party, we just had to have Chocolate Frogs. These were surprisingly super easy to make. In an upcoming post I'll tell you how to make your own, including the box and card, with links to free printables for the box and the eBay store selling the frog shaped mold I used. For the birthday cake, I wanted something that remained close to the magic/HP theme and ended up selecting this one because of the stars and color scheme. You can find the original model on which this cake was designed here

The Party

If you look closely, you can spot my homemade potions in the bottom left corner. There's also my Gryffindor scarf draped over a chair in the top right area. 

I also had little witch hats as table decorations, which I made out of black paper after cutting out the models for the cone and round base from a free printable I found here

Final thoughts

I made this from a HP font I found online. I just printed each letter on a separate page, before cutting and arranging them on the wall to form Happy Birthday. 

Like I said at the beginning of this post, I may or may not be here to celebrate my sister's birthday next year, so I wanted this one to be really special. Here's a picture of us with our witch garbs. Who said Gryffindor and Slytherin can't hang out?!

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Thursday, July 9, 2015

What if characters from other fictional universes had to face Boggarts? (HP Month)

Continuing with the month's Harry Potter theme, I thought it would be fun to imagine the forms Boggarts might take if they were faced by characters from other books than Harry Potter. For this, I'm going to be considering books that are among the current major fandoms, so long I've read the books of course. 

Originally, I wanted to include Divergent in the lot but figured that since the characters already face their fears in the books (and movies), we kind of already know what their Boggarts would look like. And now let's start.

Loud and clear everyone... Riddikulus!

(Not So Fun Fact: Ron Weasley and I share the same Boggart...)

Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins 

Art by Alice X. Zhang on DevianArt

Throughout the series, Katniss fears not only for her life but also for the people she loves. However, as demonstrated by the very concluding scene of the series, her greatest fear and the thing that has affected her most, are the Hunger Games. If Katniss had to face a Boggart, it would either take the form of a contestant she has to kill or a reproduction of the arena. 

Percy from the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan

Art by viria13 on DevianArt

As the series progresses, Percy's fears do change but one which is pretty dominant, especially in the earlier installments, is his fear of planes or simply flying. Zeus, the God of the Sky is pretty pissed that Percy's dad, Poseidon, broke the pact he made with his brothers to not have any more half-human children. Consequently, Zeus warns Percy that should he ever come in his domain, by boarding a plane for instance, he'll be blasted out of the sky. So Percy's Boggart would probably take the form of a plane.

Jace from the Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare

Art by chrysalisgrey on DevianArt

This one is pretty hilarious. It's mentioned in the books that Jace has an irrational dislike for ducks. Where this weird and totally random phobia comes from? Well, I suppose it's a weird genetic thing... If you've read The Infernal Devices trilogy, you probably know what I mean XD. So yeah, Jace's Boggart would be a duck!

Cress from the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

Art by CzareenYJ on DevianArt

Having spent all her life alone in a satellite, Cress is pretty much an introvert. She's so shy that at some point in the books, when she receives a COMM (kinda like a call) from another character, she actually ducks and hides. Public speaking sounds like something she would be afraid of. So if Cress faced a Boggart, it might just as well take the form of a stage in front of a huge audience. I don't know about you, but to those of us who happen to be introverts, public speaking is. the. worst. 

So that's it for this HP Month post guys. Did you read any of the series mentioned above? If yes, what is your favorite character and what form do you think his or her Boggart might take? Let me know in the comments!

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Sunday, July 5, 2015

Harry Potter Spells Tag

Today, for my first Harry Potter Month post, I thought I would start with the Harry Potter Spells tag. This was created by YouTuber TurtleSympathy and I strongly suggest you check out his original video by clicking here. For the sake of the tag's adaptation to my blog post, I've chosen to stick to only a few of the original options. If you want to do the full tag, do check out the video linked above.

Alright, wands ready? Let's begin!

Expecto Patronum - A childhood book connected to good memories

I have to pick this edition of The Little Mermaid, adapted for children from the original tale by Hans Christian Andersen. The reason why this one is special is because it was the first book I ever read in English. Some of you might already know this but my main spoken language is actually French. When I was a kid, I read mostly French books and didn't pick up a book written in English until my mother bought this edition of The Little Mermaid for me. She knew I loved mermaids and thought it would be the best way to get me into reading English books. Years later, I now read almost exclusively in English and The Little Mermaid has become my favorite fairy tale of all time.

Expelliarmus - A book that took you by surprise 

For this I pick Just One Day by Gayle Forman. Influenced by the cutesy cover, I went into this one expecting a fluffly, romantic contemporary set in Paris, the city of love and stuff. And boy was I mistaken about this one. While the book did start on that note, around midway through it, something happened which just completely took me by surprise, leaving me staring up from the book in bewilderment for a good ten seconds. I eventually ended up falling in love with the story and the characters and went on to read its sequel and companion novel over the course of just a few days. I'm not going to spoil anything but keep in mind that this book has much more depth than what the cover and blurb might suggest. Definitely a book I would recommend to those of you who enjoy well-written contemporaries.

Priori Incantatem - The last book you read

The last book I read was Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte. It's set in the 19th century and follows the life and hardships of a young woman as she begins to work as a governess for the first time. The author was largely inspired by her own experience as a governess into writing this book, which makes it very interesting and eye-opening. Also, Anne Brontë is kind of becoming my favorite Brontë sister. I mean, she's usually remembered as the 'quiet Brontë' or the 'least famous Brontë sister', but I'm personally really fond of her and her books. Find out more about Agnes Grey in my July wrap-up at the end of the month.

Alohamora - A book that introduced you to a genre you hadn't considered before 

My pick for this one has to be Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, simply because it was the first contemporary I ever read. I ended up loving it so much that I went ahead and read a bunch of other contemporaries right after finishing it. This was also the first book I picked up after a very long book slump, so you might also say that this book also kind of got me into reading again. It follows the story of two very different young people who, despite their differences, come to first befriend each other and then fall in love. Saying more would probably spoil too much but if you enjoyed Fangirl by this author, I suggest you check out this one as well. As far as contemporaries go, this one is a must-read. 

Crucio - A book that was painful to read

For this one I'm going with The Last Battle, the 7th and final book in C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia. These books are classics of children literature and are much loved by a lot of people, which is why is saddens me a bit to pick one of them for Crucio. While the first books of the series were undeniable great children books, in the later installments, the author began to include racist and misogynist elements which gradually became more apparent as the series progressed. Eventually, the last book, though offering a rather satisfying finale to the series in its own way, had way too much racism and sexism for me to actually enjoy the book. The too many cringeworthy scenes make The Last Battle one of the rare books I actually found painful to read.

Avada Kedavra - A book that could kill (interpret as you will)

For this one, I'm going to choose a fictional book and go with Tom Riddle's diary from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling. The diary has the power to possess a chosen victim, eventually draining the person of his or her life force. Had the diary not been destroyed, it would have eventually taken away all of its victim's life force, leading to the person's death. Moral of the story? Don't spill your secrets to a diary that writes back at you... 

So that's it for this tag guys. I tag everyone who's participating in Harry Potter Month. Have fun :)

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Thursday, July 2, 2015

June Wrap-Up (16 books!)

June was an awesome reading month. I read 16 books, most of which I really enjoyed. Because there are so many books this month, I thought I would group them by category. Or at least attempt to! I like how diverse my reading was this month. I got through classics, LOTS of children books and a few recent releases. So without further delay, let's begin!

The Classics 

The first classic I read this month was Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. It covers the events of a day as middle-aged Clarissa Dalloway makes the preparation for the upcoming party which is to take place in the evening. As the day slowly passes, Clarissa reflects on her faded youth and the people who were important to her then. Meanwhile, somewhere else in town, a young war survivor slowly sinks into madness, haunted by visions and nightmares. I gave it 5 stars.

The next classic I read was Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. In this rags-to-riches story, Pip's modest life takes an unexpected turn when a mysterious benefactor enters his life and decides to man a gentleman out of him. Through his relationships with characters such as strange the Miss Havisham who hasn't stepped out of her tattered wedding dress since her groom abandoned her at the altar, and the cold and beautiful Estella who captures Pip's heart, the young man begins a journey of self-discovery through a book which is as captivating as it's eventful. I gave this book 4 stars.

I also read Fairy Tales of Andersen by Hans Christian Andersen, which is a compilation of some of Andersen's best fairy tales. If I had to rate these stories individually, there are many which would get 5 stars. Because there were some I enjoyed less than others though, I ended giving this book 4 stars. I'll definitely be reading more of Andersen's stories later on. 

My TBR shelf veterans...

After four years (or so), I finally completed the Wicked Lovely series, by Melissa Marr. Finally :D I read books 4 and 5, respectively Radiant Shadows and Darkest Mercy, back to back over the course of two days. These books might not have much to offer plotwise and they may not have the best characters in YA fantasy, but you have to give them credit for being fast reads. I would recommend these books mostly to those who, just like me, have been following this series for a while and just want to know how it ends. Oh, and I gave them 2 and 3 stars respectively. 

The children books I kinda liked...

These are last three books in the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. Book 6,  The Horse and his Boy, follows the adventures of two runaways, a Narnian talking horse and a little boy, as they attempt to reach the land of Narnia. It was rather enjoyable and I ended giving it 3 stars. 

Book 6, The Magician's Nephew, follows the adventures of Polly and Diggory, two young children who find magic rings which give them the power to travel between worlds. Their rings eventually lead them to the dangerous Queen Jadis who sets out to conquer their world, and later to a barren land where they come to witness the birth of Narnia. I found the mythology and creation of Narnia in this one quite fun to read about, hence a 4-star rating. 

Book 7, The Last Battle... was just terrible. There's a fake Aslan who's creating chaos in all the land of Narnia, lots of racism and a great deal of misogyny. At this point, I just want to forget about this book. This is sad because if not for the sexist and racial cringeworthy scenes, this would have been an awesome series. But as it is, The Last Battle is just a poor ending to an enjoyable book series. One star, duh...

The children books I really liked

This month, I also read the Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi. These books follow the adventures of the twins Simon and Jared and their older sister Mallory as they discover the hidden world of faeries after moving in the old house of their Great-Aunt. This was overall very fun to read. Each of the five books in this series is around 120 pages or so and read more like segments of the same story rather than individual novels of their own. In fact, the books had rather abrupt endings which feels like they could have been combined to form larger volumes but were, for some reason, split into five. This is why I gave them 3 stars each. This however remains a really nice children fantasy series and I would totally recommend them to fans of the genre.

Recent Releases (2014-2015)

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas is a Beauty and the Beast retelling set in a faerie universe. When 19 year old Feyre accidentally kills a faerie during a hunt, she is taken away to the faerie lands as retribution for what she has done. Feyre soon realizes that her captor, Tamlin, is not just any mere fae but in fact one of the strongest of his kind, gifted with very powerful magic. While Feyre initially tries to figure out a way back home, her growing friendship for Tamlin and terrifying revelations about their world, soon begin to make her question her plans. Is her place truly back in her old life or is it in this new land, with its promises of magic and protection? This book was overall quite good. I ended up giving it four stars.  

All The Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr, is a historical fiction set during WWII. It follows the two main perspectives of a blind French girl who lives in German-occupied France and a young German soldier who is given a chance to rise from the poverty of his childhood by joining the military services. I gave this book 5 stars and I'm not even kidding when I say this is now of my favorite books ever. Beautifully written, with a lyrical prose, delightful descriptions and just the right pacing, this is a book that will make you feel all the feels and stay with you for a long time. Trust me, you need this book in your life!  

This Month's Favorite 

After their parents die abroad, Melanie and her younger siblings are sent to live with an uncle they barely know, who owns a toyshop in London. There, Melanie meets her mute aunt Margaret, along with Margaret's brothers. Francie, who doesn't talk much, seems to care mostly for his music while Finn, outrageous and daring, quickly befriends Melanie. And ruling over their strange, mismatched household is Melanie's uncle, who is as mysterious as he is menacing. Indeed, his only love seem to be the lifelike puppets he creates himself. Short but powerfully written in a lyrical language rich in subtle messages and hidden meanings, this was not only my favorite book of the month but also one of the most unusual and interesting books I've ever read. While it doesn't actually have any element of supernatural nor magic realism, the book does convey a somewhat Gothic atmosphere that I really enjoyed. A five star book for sure.

So that's it for this month's wrap-up guys. Have you read any of the books mentioned here? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Announcing: Harry Potter Month!

Hey guys! So July's finally here and with it comes something I had been anticipating for weeks. My fellow book nerds and Potterheads might already know this, but July happens to be Harry Potter's birthday month. In fact, Harry's birthday is on the 31st of July. This year, to celebrate, I've decided to participate in the Harry Potter Month, which is basically a month's worth of Harry Potter themed posts and celebrations. 

Harry Potter Month was originally hosted by Faith from GeekyZooGirl, and this year it's being co-hosted with Micheline from Lunar Rainbow Reviews. If this sounds like something you'd like to participate in too, check either of these blogs for more details. Participation is super easy and rather flexible, so you can post as little or as much as you want :)

If you're also participating in Harry Potter Month, let me know in the comments below so that I can follow your blog and read your posts. Links to your blog and posts are of course welcome :)

Also, to those of you who had participated in my giveaway from last month, note that on the 2nd of July, entries will be closed, after which I'll pick a winner. So if you participated in that, do keep an eye on your inbox. And for those of you who haven't participated yet, you still have a few hours to do so. The winner gets a free book of his or her choice. To participate click here

So that's it for my little announcement post guys. I hope you have an amazing July!

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