The Theme Park Side of Orlando: Harry Potter

Oct 20, 2014

Recently, our good friend Steven, who is an event manager at Universal, gifted us tickets to go to Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. He knows I've been wanting to go see that part of the parks since I heard they sell wands (and more importantly, interactive wands). He made that dream come true since I never received my letter from Hogwarts, Durmstrang, or Beauxbatons.

We're not theme park people. S + I feel that if we ever went to hell, it would be waiting eternally in line queue. But, October is "slow" to "moderate" season according to Orlando Informer, thus, the perfect time to go. We arrived shortly after the park opened, said hello to our friend who was working a morning event at the Studios, and made our way to Diagon Alley. We chose Diagon Alley first only because it's the busier of itself and Hogsmeade. We went straight to Gringotts Bank where we enjoyed a fire breathing dragon and trolls as tellers. My kahleesi! Oops, wrong fandom...

The trolls and their brass scales of justice looked as real as some somber tellers at our local bank, we enjoyed scotch eggs and fish and chips for lunch at the Leaky Cauldron, and we spent a great deal of time admiring the curiosities at Diagon Alley wishing the creatures in jars were for sale.

Before entering our main objective of Harry Potter's wizarding world, I snapped a photo inside a London telephone booth, to send to my cousin who is currently studying abroad in London. Of course, I intended to purchase a wand (or two) to cast spells around the park. Brass emblems in the ground educated novice witches like myself on the movement and spoken spells. We shared a Butterbeer, licking our lips while casting spells to see the enchanted artifacts in the shop windows.

I had to snap a photo of 12 Grimmauld Place since Sirius Black is my favorite character. I bought his interactive wand, as well as Bellatrix Lestrange's gorgeous walnut wood and dragon heartstring wand. I felt I needed her wand (spoiler) because she killed my favorite character, and because I'd make a damn good Bellatrix for Halloween (my previous career as a hairstylist and hairdressing skills will reveal themselves October 31st).

Diagon Alley is made of dreams, everything I could only wish to be a part of in my muggle life. My friend Steven warned me to pack some tissues, and I managed to choke back tears with evidence of a simple teary eye as we entered the colorful and congested buildings. It was beautiful. Every shop I wished was real like an apothecary and household elf placement (substitute household elves for retired racing greyhounds).

We took the Hogwarts Express to the Hogswarts castle, entering the greenhouse and venturing the halls, passing the secret portrait entrance to the Gryffindor common rooms, and admired motion pictures in strewn newspapers. There was a dim hall of painted portraits as black as Rembrant's that moved and talked. I dream of owning paintings like that some day.

The only thing missing from my experience was real thestrals which are my favorite magical beasts; a winged and skeletal horse that can only be seen by those who have witnessed and accepted death. Maybe I just couldn't see them pulling the carriage at Hogwarts Express' Kings Cross Station after crossing Platform 9¾...

Jersey and Queens

Oct 8, 2014


This past weekend was nothing short of amazing. I had an incredible time catching up with family, celebrating my cousins wedding, and enjoying the cool fall weather that has already crept into the tri-state area. While we were away, Florida had it's first "cold" front with temperatures in the 60's meanwhile we were enjoying the 40's on a balcony overlooking all five boroughs. I don't think we missed anything, except Mordechai.

We spent some time in New Jersey enjoying a bottle of wine over dinner with my family and enjoying drinks with a friend's family. We walked through a local park enjoying the moms running by with strollers after school and young teens that made picnics in the woods, taking photos together. We stumbled upon a family of deer deeper in the woods and enjoyed crossing the river that runs through the park. The leaves crunched under my feet and they were all different colors, it was beautiful. We don't get that in Florida and it makes me so nostalgic for home (New York). 

We took a train, the subway, and a bus to get to our hotel for the evening of my cousins wedding in Queens. Other family members were staying at the hotel so we continually ran into one person after another in the lobby and in the restaurant. Soon enough it was time to change into our evening wear for the ceremony at a Greek church, and the reception in a building that overlooks some monuments from the 1964 World's Fair in NYC. We could see the ruins of the observatory (they were in the Men In Black movie) and the wedding party took photos at the Unisphere. We enjoyed a cocktail hour that put our Florida dinner receptions to shame with Greek and Brazilian appetizers, towers of vegetables and cheese, beef and lamb under heat lamps, and a suckling pig (S enjoyed a crispy ear). The spread went on for days while an old man in the corner made awesome caipirinhas. Even over the loud music, he heard our drinks every time.

Not only was my cousin beautiful with her hair and makeup done and in a gorgeous dress, but from beginning to end it was all just so much fun and smiles all around. My favorite part by far was when my cousin surprised her husband (!) with a grooms cake - a custom he didn't even know about. The grooms cake was topped with a skull and had Misfits lyrics all over it, an homage to the grooms love of punk rock. During the cake cutting, the DJ played Misfits' We Are 138 and the groom stabbed the cake. Inside, appropriately, red velvet. 

Doggie Photo Shoot

Oct 1, 2014

Our wedding photographer is the most wonderful, down to earth, kind, and talented person. Live Happy Studio offered us a family session to celebrate our new pup, Mordechai, and I was so happy to take her up on it. We decided to shoot around the house and our neighborhood because I know that's where Morty is most comfortable, especially only having him less than two months. We got some ice cream cones and gelato and shared with him. Like I said before, it was so nice to have photos of Mordechai with both S and I. I love how expressive Morty is. The photo of him on the couch, smiling? He's been sleeping on the couch at nights ever since. 

Another week, another whirlwind. Last Thursday, my dear friend came into town to start her wedding weekend! We re-purposed the glass vases that I used for my own wedding and we accented them with her burgundy and gold color scheme by using crushed pyrite and burgundy floating candles. Everything came out beautiful! It rained on her wedding day like it rained on mine, but it was still the most wonderful wedding. I didn't know all of her extended family but in these last few months as a bridesmaid, I got to know my fellow bridesmaids and enjoyed their fun company. I got to know the parents, especially the mothers, and siblings and learn about all of them and their lives miles away. It's incredible seeing all these people joining from across the miles just to celebrate two lovely people that fell in love. 

At the ceremony rehearsal, it was nice to be on the wedding party side. The event coordinator at that venue was doing everything I would have, except he didn't remind the bridesmaids to smile (which I did). I designated myself the rehearsal dinner photographer to make sure my friend would have many memories to look back on of her wedding weekend. At the rehearsal, all of us bridesmaids received a gift, a burgundy and gold Corning glass necklace, which our friend had custom made by a glass maker at the museum she worked at. It's a gorgeous necklace to remember the wedding by. 

The day of, we enjoyed mimosas and getting our hair done. It was a day of pampering followed by a champagne toast in a quick limo ride to the venue. The ceremony quickly came and went, as well as the reception of dancing and a delicious dinner and drinks. It was such a wonderful evening, I wish it never ended and that all weekends could be like that.

All photos on this post were taken by Live Happy Studio.