Monday, December 5, 2016

Move Over Elf Because Krampus Has Arrived

Happy Krampusnacht!  I learned of Krampus a few years ago and I can see how terrifying this folklore could be for adults and children alike.  Although from what I have learned Krampus festivals throughout Alpine communities kick off the holiday season with townspeople dressing in Krampus costumes, running through the streets and putting a scare into the children. After the children have been given a good fright to ensure they stay on the nice list, the wild Krampus are rewarded with holiday spirits, traditionally beer and schnapps. In fact, Krampus celebrations have become so popular that they can last for days before the arrival of Saint Nicholas on December 6th.  In other words it might just be a good excuse to drink beer!

Originating in Germanic folklore as early as the 1600s, Krampus is believed to be a beastial creature who accompanies St. Nicholas on his annual journey. While St. Nicholas rewards the good children with gifts and sweets, Krampus dispenses punishment to the wicked children who have strayed from the path of good. It is said he takes care of St. Nick's "naughty list."

Bearing horns, dark hair, and fangs, the anti-St. Nicholas comes with a chain and bells that he lashes about, along with a bundle of birch sticks meant to swat naughty children.

I also read that Krampus's frightening presence was suppressed for many years—the Catholic Church forbade the raucous celebrations, and fascists in World War II Europe found Krampus despicable because it was considered a creation of the Social Democrats.  But Krampus is making a comeback now, thanks partly to a "bah, humbug" attitude in pop culture, with people searching for ways to celebrate the yuletide season in non-traditional ways.  You can now purchase everything from Krampus chocolates, figurines, and collectible horns in addition to t-shirts, movies, scarves, books, stockings, greeting cards, pillows and nutcrackers.  So put up your Krampus  tree topper and sit down with your favorite Ale.  Happy Krampusnacht only comes once a year! 


Friday, December 2, 2016

Wizarding Picture Frames and Pottermore Pages

While wandering around the Dark Arts Specialty shop Borgin and Burkes in Knockturn Alley I unearthed two of the great picture frames above.  The third frame at the top was from one of the shops on the boardwalk.  I am excited to put these up on my desk at work on Monday (when I am cast free - hopefully).

I realized recently that the Pottermore site has more more features that it did when it first visited.  Pottermore is an official Harry Potter website made by J. K. Rowling. It offers an experience focusing on the reading of the Harry Potter series with interactive features, new information from Rowling's extensive collection of notes, and eBook editions of the stories available for purchase for the first time. Prior to our trip I visited the Pottermore site to take the Discover Your Patronus quiz.  A Patronus is a defensive charm.  A form of advanced magic.  The Patronus has two forms, non-corporeal and corporeal. A non-corporeal Patronus can appear as mist. A corporeal Patronus has a form that is defined.  Each Patronus is unique to the witch or wizard who conjures it.

My Patronus revealed it's self as a Sparrowhawk.  I thought it would be fun to see what other members of our family came up with.  Alex's Patronus is a Manx Cat and Anthony's is a Goshawk.  I thought it would be interesting to see those protective charms in living color so here they are.  Not very magical but you can get a clearer image of their true form this way. 

 Anthony - Goshawk Patronus
 Alex - Manx Cat Patronus
Kelly - Sparrowhawk Patronus

We decided to see about what houses we would all be sorted into while visiting the Pottermore site.  Interestingly enough Alex and I were both sorted into Hogwarts Gryffindor House and Anthony was sorted into Slytherin.

Gryffindor is one of the four Houses of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, founded by Godric Gryffindor. Godric instructed the sorting hat to choose a few particular characteristics he most values. Such character traits of students Sorted into Gryffindor are courage, chivalry, and determination. The emblematic animal is a lion, and its colours are red and gold.

Slytherin is one of the four Houses at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Founded by Salazar Slytherin, the house is composed mostly of pure-blood students, due to its founder's mistrust of Muggle-borns. The house is traditionally home to students who exhibit such traits as cunning, resourcefulness, and ambition. Its emblematic animal is a snake and its colours are green and silver.

Next we moved on to be sorted into the Ilvermorny Houses.  This time Anthony and I were both sorted into the Horned Serpent House and Alex was sorted into the Pukwudgie House.

Horned Serpent was one of the four houses at Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in North America founded by Irish-born witch Isolt Sayre.  Horned Serpent house is sometimes considered to represent the mind of a witch or wizard. It is also said that Horned Serpent favours scholars.

Pukwudgie was one of the four houses at Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in North America.  It was named so by Muggle James Steward, after the Pukwudgie, a fiercely independent magical creature based on stories he heard from his wife Isolt Sayre about William the Pukwudgie.  Pukwudgie house is sometimes considered to represent the heart of a witch or wizard. It is also said that Pukwudgie favours healers.

With one quiz left to take we all decided to unveil our personal wizard wands.  This was neat because we all ended up with completely different wands.

Anthony's Yew Wood Wand, Phoenix Feather Core, 12 1/4 in Length and Rigid Flexibility

Yew wands are among the rarer kinds, and their ideal matches are likewise unusual, and occasionally notorious. The wand of yew is reputed to endow its possessor with the power of life and death, which might, of course, be said of all wands; and yet yew retains a particularly dark and fearsome reputation in the spheres of duelling and all curses. However, it is untrue to say (as those unlearned in wandlore often do) that those who use yew wands are more likely to be attracted to the Dark Arts than another. The witch or wizard best suited to a yew wand might equally prove a fierce protector of others. Wands hewn from these most long-lived trees have been found in the possession of heroes quite as often as of villains. Where wizards have been buried with wands of yew, the wand generally sprouts into a tree guarding the dead owner’s grave. What is certain, in my experience, is that the yew wand never chooses either a mediocre or a timid owner. 

This is the rarest core type. Phoenix feathers are capable of the greatest range of magic, though they may take longer than either unicorn or dragon cores to reveal this. They show the most initiative, sometimes acting of their own accord, a quality that many witches and wizards dislike. Phoenix feather wands are always the pickiest when it comes to potential owners, for the creature from which they are taken is one of the most independent and detached in the world. These wands are the hardest to tame and to personalise, and their allegiance is usually hard won. 

Alex's Pear Wood Wand, Unicorn Hair Core, 10 3/4 in Length and Slightly Yielding Flexibility

This golden-toned wood produces wands of splendid magical powers, which give of their best in the hands of the warm-hearted, the generous and the wise. Possessors of pear wands are, in my experience, usually popular and well-respected. I do not know of a single instance where a pear wand has been discovered in the possession of a Dark witch or wizard. Pear wands are among the most resilient, and I have often observed that they may still present a remarkable appearance of newness, even after many years of hard use.

Unicorn hair generally produces the most consistent magic, and is least subject to fluctuations and blockages. Wands with unicorn cores are generally the most difficult to turn to the Dark Arts. They are the most faithful of all wands, and usually remain strongly attached to their first owner, irrespective of whether he or she was an accomplished witch or wizard. Minor disadvantages of unicorn hair are that they do not make the most powerful wands (although the wand wood may compensate) and that they are prone to melancholy if seriously mishandled, meaning that the hair may 'die' and need replacing.

Kelly's Dogwood Wood Wand, Dragon Heartstring Core, 12 3/4 in Length and Surprisingly Swishy Flexibility

Dogwood is one of my own personal favourites, and I have found that matching a dogwood wand with its ideal owner is always entertaining. Dogwood wands are quirky and mischievous; they have playful natures and insist upon partners who can provide them with scope for excitement and fun. It would be quite wrong, however, to deduce from this that dogwood wands are not capable of serious magic when called upon to do so; they have been known to perform outstanding spells under difficult conditions, and when paired with a suitably clever and ingenious witch or wizard, can produce dazzling enchantments. An interesting foible of many dogwood wands is that they refuse to perform non-verbal spells and they are often rather noisy.

As a rule, dragon heartstrings produce wands with the most power, and which are capable of the most flamboyant spells. Dragon wands tend to learn more quickly than other types. While they can change allegiance if won from their original master, they always bond strongly with the current owner. The dragon wand tends to be easiest to turn to the Dark Arts, though it will not incline that way of its own accord. It is also the most prone of the three cores to accidents, being somewhat temperamental.

The following notes on wand length are taken from notes on the subject by Mr Garrick Ollivander, wandmaker: 

Most wands will be in the range of between nine and fourteen inches. While I have sold extremely short wands (eight inches and under) and very long wands (over fifteen inches), these are exceptionally rare. In the latter case, a physical peculiarity demanded the excessive wand length. However, abnormally short wands usually select those in whose character something is lacking, rather than because they are physically undersized (many small witches and wizards are chosen by longer wands).

The following notes on wand flexibility are taken from notes on the subject by Mr Garrick Ollivander, wandmaker: 

Wand flexibility or rigidity denotes the degree of adaptability and willingness to change possessed by the wand-and-owner pair - although, again, this factor ought not to be considered separately from the wand wood, core and length, nor of the owner’s life experience and style of magic, all of which will combine to make the wand in question unique.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Star Struck Over The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

When I visited Hogsmeade in 2012 with my Mother-In-Law only 1/2 of The Wizarding World was open during that time.  Diagon Alley and the Hogwarts Express Train did not open until 2014.  As a fan of the books and movies I will confess that I was a bit star struck by the park it's self.  With the attention to detail in all elements of the Wizarding World it is hard not to just giggle in delight that you are standing there seeing it in person.  My few meager pictures do not do justice to the park or the experience.  And even with two visits in the same day I know there was still so much that I missed.

The actual rides in the park were great.  Universal Studios has really mastered state-of-the-art 4-D attractions and technology.  The  Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringott's ride is amazing!  I would also highly recommend the walking tour of the castle ride as there are no waiting lines but they give you the opportunity to see how amazing the castle details are from the inside if you are not interested in the ride.  Plus you can take all the time you wish checking out the details and rooms/props along the way.  I believe that other rides also have the walking tours but I only asked to go on the tour of the castle. 

In some cases Anthony rode a few rides solo.  He is a bit braver than I am (please no upside down adventures or spinning in circles for this little wizard) but a little known fact is that I put my back out as I was getting dressed at the hotel the morning of our Universal visit.  I have never had back issues before and have not experienced this type of pain radiating across my lower back except maybe during child birth.  Oh dear God it was intense and immediate.  I was a little concerned with some of the jarring of the rides that they would take an awful situation and make it a thousand times worse.  I did not complain because I was so excited to be there but when I first put it out I was worried I would not even be able to stand up.  It took me 10 minutes to just get my clothes on.  I really rocked the Advil all day at the park but honestly between my back and feet I was experiencing a very significant amount of pain the entire day.  I have decided that my ability to function with pain is exceedingly high.  If only I had brought my wand with me I am sure there is a spell for back issues.  The good news is I only had one significant flair up after originally putting it out.  Of course I was sitting at a restaurant eating breakfast not even moving around when it happened. And unfortunately it was on our travel day back to Boise.  Longest plane rides of my life.

Another favorite ride of mine was the actual Hogwarts Express -  Kings Cross Station.  I felt like a little kid as we disappeared through the brick wall of Platform 9 3/4 (just like in the movies).  On the train you wind your way through the British countryside, keeping watch outside your window. You never know who or what you might see flying, swooping or lurking just outside the train. You might also encounter an adventure or two along the way as other passengers shadows are on their way to their own compartments and you can overhear their conversations.  We rode the train both directions and each ride was unique.  I totally loved it!

We took time to visit  the makers of fine wands since 382 BC, Ollivanders.  In the books and movies it is one of the wizarding world’s premier wand shops. While there we were able to witness the magical experience of a wand choosing a wizard. And of course you can purchase your own wands in the shop.  Since I do have my own wand already I did not select a new one but I will admit I was tempted to purchase one of their interactive wands.  Wizards can perform spells around the park and if cast correctly things happen.  There is a map to show you where to find the special medallions on the ground and from there you perform the spell outlined on the medallion.  You wave your wand, recite the spell, and watch as the magic unfold.  Some times it takes a bit of practice to swish your wand properly.  It was pretty neat to watch kids delight in creating the magic in the shop windows and with some of the statues (like the mermaid above who would spit water at you if you did the spell correctly).  The only thing that stopped me was the $50 price tag and the fact that the interactive wands are much more delicate than the wand I purchased previously.  The next time we travel back to the Wizarding World I am going to see if I can borrow G's wand so I can play around too without forking out the funds.  Why should the kids have all the fun?

I did have some Pumpkin Juice while we were there but my favorite is the slushy ice cold Butter Beer.  Oh, it is so delicious on a hot day!  We did not end up eating at any of the restaurants in the Wizarding World but I would like to sample the food some day.  I though it might be fun to try the Leaky Cauldron which features traditional British Pub Fare or Three Broomsticks which is a rustic tavern.  I also need to revisit Honeydukes (Hogsmeade's legendary sweet shop) to pick up some unique treats.  I was worried the Florida heat would melt the chocolate frogs I had my eye on.  They also have Acid Pops, exploding bonbons, Cauldron Cakes, treacle fudge and Fizzing Whizzbees.

Although I have been sorted and am from the Gryffindor house (more about that later) I was very drawn to Knockturn Alley.  Borgin and Burkes was one of my favorite shops even though it specializes in Dark Art supplies.  Death Eater Masks, skulls, costume replicas and shelves full of sinister items.  It was so creepy and cool I could not get enough. 

We also happened to be in the right place at the right time and enjoyed the 10 minute show by the Frog Choir which was composed of four singers, two of whom are holding large amphibians sitting on pillows.  The choir is inspired by a brief scene in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the group sang quite a few cappella wizarding-related songs, including “Hedwig's Theme” and “Something Wicked This Way Comes."  It was really entertaining and I was even able to nab a picture with them after the performance as I was right by the stage when they appeared. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

It's In The Details - Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Too Big to Hide - Not quite all of Diagon Alley is hidden from the rest of Universal Studios Florida. Sit down for a bite to eat in Springfield, and you’ll be able to see the tail of the dragon that sits atop Gringotts Wizarding Bank.

Touchy Goblin - Try asking the animatronic goblin in the Gringotts Money Exchange if he is a house elf, and see what kind of response you get.

Call the Ministry - The traditional red phone booth outside Kings Cross isn’t just for show. If you dial 62442 (MAGIC) using the phone, you’ll be connected to the Ministry of Magic.

The Quint Trio - This is a tribute to the Jaws attraction that sat on the same land for over 22 years before making room for the Wizarding World.  Displayed in the window is a record titled “Here’s to Swimmin’ with Bow Legged Women”, by the Quint Trio. This is a reference to a toast made by shark hunter Quint in Steven Spielberg’s movie.

Familiar Ad - In Kings Cross Station, you’ll see a perfume advertisement that looks very similar to the one Harry and Professor Dumbledore stand by in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

All Aboard - You might recognize one passenger who is waiting on the Kings Cross platform – Hedwig, Harry Potter’s owl.

Mail Your Letters - The Owl Post, located adjacent to the Owlery, is a fully functioning post office where visitors can mail postcards and letters with a "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter" stamp, postmarked from Hogsmeade.

The Monster Book of Monsters - Dervish & Banges carries a rather animated copy of the Monster Book of Monsters in a cage.

Horcruxes -  Look closely at the moving portraits of the four founders of Hogwarts (Godric Gryffindor, Salazar Slytherin, Rowena Ravenclaw and Helga Hufflepuff). Each is holding an object that Lord Voldemort stole from them to create his evil Horcruxes.

Club Pennants - Take a look at the windows above the Quality Quidditch Supplies store. These feature pennants from the teams seen in the movies, including Puddlemere United, the Chudley Cannons, the Montrose Magpies and the Holyhead Harpies.

Familiar Tune - While attempting to track down the shark in Jaws, the three heroes sing “Show Me the Way to Go Home”. This song is among those performed by the shrunken heads that are on display in Knockturn Alley.

Shark Jaw Bones - You can find another Jaws reference in the storefront of Mr. Mulpepper’s Apothecary. A set of shark jawbones is hidden away behind a variety of herbs and potions.

Invisible Bird - If you listen closely to the Vanishing Cabinet in Borgin and Burkes, you’ll hear a bird chirping away inside.

Mythical Being - The mythical Crumple-Horned Snorkack beloved of Luna Lovegood can be spotted on the second level of the Magical Menagerie store.

Speaking in Tongues - In the window of the Magical Menagerie store is a snake, which will speak to you in Parseltongue and English.

Bill's Telescope - In Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment, sitting on Bill Weasley’s desk is the microscope that Bill uses in the pre-show portion of the Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts.

While visiting Florida last month we took a day to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  The park features two unique sections Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade.  

Diagon Alley is described as a cobblestoned wizarding alley and shopping area located in London, England behind a pub called the Leaky Cauldron.  Inside the alley is an assortment of restaurants, shops, and other sights. All items on the Hogwarts supply list can be bought at Diagon Alley. The alley is completely hidden from the Muggle world which is right outside of its boundaries. It is very large in area and essentially the centre of wizarding London.

Hogsmeade Village, or simply called Hogsmeade, is described as the only all-wizarding village in Britain. It was founded by Hengist of Woodcroft. Since before 1714 (when the 1714 Edict was passed), Hogwarts third years and above have been permitted weekend trips into the village. Mainly, students frequent the High Street in the village which contains the named specialty shops and pubs such as Zonko's Joke Shop and Honeydukes. Otherwise, they wander on to observe the infamous Shrieking Shack.

Hogsmeade is a picturesque little village of cottages and shops, with enchanted candles hanging in the trees during the holidays. It is also near the location of the train station used by the Hogwarts Express.

Just like Hogsmeade, I learned from Kelly Reed, that Diagon Alley is filled with little tributes (Easter Eggs) to the books and movies that inspire the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. As you move through the alley, unless you know what you are looking for, you can easily miss these hidden gems.

Although we were blessed to be at Universal Studios with Anthony’s sister Pam and her husband Dean we did end up splitting up for some of the day so Anthony could help indulge in my inner wizard fix during our visit.  We knew that Pam and Dean had other interests in the park and we did not want to hold them up while I was searching for hidden secrets.  This post features some of the hidden treasures we discovered.  I did much better with these Hidden Easter Eggs than I did with the Hidden Mickeys.  We did discover that some of the hidden secrets were no longer in place or were not functioning as expected.  An example would be the sign at the Leaky Cauldron.  It was rumored that it actually did leak but alas there was no moisture on the day we visited.  Maybe they fixed the leak.  Also some items we found I was not able to capture in pictures like the Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes perpetual fireworks display in the ceiling.  It was too high and too bright in the shop to get a decent image.  And you can't take a picture of Moaning Myrtle moaning in the Loo. 

It is absolutely amazing to see all the details the engineers, architects and designers built into bringing the Wizarding World to life.  I think my only disappointment was the volume of Muggles in this area of the park.  It is said that the opening of the Wizarding World increased Universal attendance by 50%.  Naturally being wizards ourselves the term Muggle does not apply to us.  I have learned to own the fantasy and ignore the Muggles.    

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