Shelley's Harry Potter 25th Birthday Party

Okay, Okay... I'll admit it. Back behind my girly, crafty self.... I am actually a super big nerd! I grew up as a part of the "Harry Potter generation," staying up late every year for J. K. Rowling's midnight book release (maybe even dressing up in costume now and again). Her books were captivating, and filled with imagination and stories of friendship and heroism. I remember hanging on every word, devouring each page she dreamed up and wrote down on paper. After each book release, I can't even count the amount of nights I stayed up late reading under my covers, flashlight in hand. Looking back, Harry Potter was, and always will be, a huge part of my childhood. 

So naturally, when my husband asked me what I wanted to do for my 25th birthday, the big "Quarter of a Century," I, without hesitation, exclaimed, "HARRY POTTER BIRTHDAY PARTY!!!" And to my delight, he said, "Okay." We spent weeks planning the whole thing and, as you can see, we got way too into it. Joe and I had a blast planning out all the HP themed snacks, beverages and games. Joe even designed custom signs and name tags for each item and bottle. Little details from each book decorated every wall of our house and people came dressed in their "house colors". We even designed an O.W.L.S. Exam for guests when they walked in the door containing trivia questions and a scavenger hunt. Paper versions of all 7 horcruxes were hidden around the house, which they had to find before getting their exam graded by "Headmaster Joe" (Did I mention he gets the "best husband award"?!). Harry Potter movies played in the background and, for those over 21, there was a "Potions Class" station. Follow the directions and you might just brew up a delicious cocktail. 

In all, it was by far the best birthday I could have ever asked for. It's not very often an adult wants to have a Harry Potter Birthday Party, but believe me, it was well worth the wait. 

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I promise these "Owl Droppings" were just chocolate truffles! Next to them are chocolate-filled croissant "Wizard Hats." Yum!

The section of the party I may be most proud of: Potions Class. Customized potions dreamed up by me and Joe. Each potion bottle contained the ingredients for different mixed drinks. When "brewed" correctly they made either a Cherry Cosmopolitan or a Mint Mojito! 

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Actually just maraschino cherries & mint leaves...

We even photoshopped me into this DA member photo as one of our decorations. See me in the birthday hat!?

Our customized O.W.L.S. Exams! Trivia questions by me, designed and graded by "Headmaster Joe" 

My parent's gift to me, my very own Marauder's Map!!

Below are the 7 horcruxes hidden around the house:

I couldn't help putting Moaning Myrtle in the bathroom! Printed on transparency paper so she would be ghost-like. ;)

Customized Educational Decrees designed by my amazing husband!:

And how sweet are these gifts from my friends!? I love that they kept the theme. :) Thanks Dani & Niki!

Also, thanks to Hannah & Sam for my adorable "Herbology" plant & too-awesome-for-words driftwood deathly hallows necklace!!!

And lastly, thank you Joe for making my birthday dreams come true.
You're the best husband in the whole wide world and I couldn't have done it without you!
Best. Birthday. Ever!

Valentine's Weekend 2015

As always, I intend to post a Valentine's blog post on the actual day of Valentine's but, just like every year, I was having too much fun enjoying it to break away! (What a great problem to have!!) If you've ever met me and Joe, you'll know that we simply refuse to end the "honeymoon phase" of our relationship. We've been together almost 7 years already and I'm happy to say that we are still just as in love as when we first started dating. I suppose that's why we love photographing weddings so much. We love being in love, being around love, and capturing it too! We're also super big on holidays...especially love ones! Any excuse to celebrate being together and we're all over it! This year Joe took off 4 days of work to have a whole Valentine's weekend with me! This is what followed:

After his last day at work, he surprised me with these beautiful flowers!! He knows that Spellbound Flowers is one of my favorite flower vendors here in Portland, Oregon. The owner is super sweet; she has a cart in Pioneer Courthouse Square, and she always puts together the most beautiful, organic, rustic bouquets (everything that I love!!). And the coolest thing is, each flower has a meaning so she helps her customers build bouquets with a story! How clever and fun! :)

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The following day we took a day trip to Hood River to drive along the "Fruit Loop," (haha, it's really called that!). We'd never driven along it before, but Joe heard that there was a several mile loop you can drive that takes you along the roads to all the fruit vendors in Hood River! We set out and were looking forward to a beautiful day filled with fruit picking and buying all sorts of fresh fruits from local farmers. However..... we forgot to account for the fact that it is currently the dead middle of winter. There was not a piece of fruit for miles! We cracked up laughing once we realized our mistake. Luckily for us, it was still an incredible view.

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We stopped for some Lobster ravioli at Romul's for lunch. It was crazy delicious! I've never tasted ravioli with such flavor! 

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After lunch, we continued driving along the Fruit Loop until we finally stumbled upon a lone fruit stand that was still open for winter.

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On the way back, with fruit in hand, we stopped at a few waterfalls and took some portraits together. Sometimes I just can't believe how blessed we are to live in Portland, Oregon -- a city filled with so much beauty.

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Valentine's Morning

The next day was Valentine's Day. After some yummy husband-cooked breakfast, we exchanged gifts. I surprised Joe and hand-made all of his gifts and cards this year.  Below are some ceramic mugs I painted and baked. (Woo-Hoo! My calligraphy practice is actually paying off!) He's morning coffee drinker, and I'm a tea-only girl so I figured these quotes were only too perfect to put on them.  :)

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My second gift was a hand-made mason jar filled with date night ideas. We love going on dates together, but we're not that great at thinking of fun and spontaneous things to go do. This should give us ideas for quite a while... (there are over 45 suggestions inside!!)

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Then it was my turn. And might I point out that Joe's packaging abilities are super impressive! I'd like to think I taught him a thing or two... but let's be honest, he's Joe and he's awesome at everything, haha.

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(Luckily, one of my Date Night Ideas was "Play a board game!")

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The other thing you should know about me is that I'm a super big nerd and I love anything Marvel or Guardians of the Galaxy related. Here's me opening my outrageously adorable Groot bobble-head.  Too. Stinkin. Cute!

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I mean, c'mon... how adorable is he!?!

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Valentine's Picnic Lunch

A little while later I made lunch and surprised Joe with a picnic in our backyard, where his game of Scrabble was perfect. 

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I made french bread salami sandwiches with pesto, basil, bacon, provolone, & mayo, a citrus fruit salad, and basil lemonade with with frozen strawberry & basil ice cubes, served in the mason jars from our wedding.

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But of course, I couldn't forget about dessert! I'm a sucker for apple pies, so I made these cute little one-serving pies, baked in mason jars to eat after our lunch.

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(I think he liked them... hehe!)

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Valentine's Dinner for Two

I'm not going to lie, I was pretty proud of all that I had planned and made for Joe. I thought there was no way he could out-do me this year! (Boy I was wrong!!) We had a few hours of downtime to just hang out and play Scrabble before Joe told me that I should get ready for dinner. He said to stay in our room and that I wasn't allowed to enter the kitchen for the rest of the evening because he would be cooking something in there. A couple hours later he retrieved me from our room and guided me towards the dining room. Everything was dark except for a slight glow coming from the dining room. As we turned around the corner I saw that he had completely transformed our dining room into a candle-lit, fine-dining restaurant for two. He told me that we would be eating a 3-course meal, which he had prepared entirely from scratch, and that he would be serving each course one-by-one. (EEEK!!!!! HOW ROMANTIC IS THAT!?!?!) He also thought ahead and completely blocked off the kitchen from view, using a curtain and hanger to cover the open doorway between rooms. (oh, that sneaky man!)

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The first course was an homage to our honeymoon; a Roquefort Pear Salad with candied pecans (that he candied himself!!) and a homemade salad dressing. Our honeymoon was an all-inclusive resort that had 8 all-you-could-eat restaurants, yet somehow one of my favorite dishes at the whole resort was this salad. Haha! He found the recipe and recreated it just for me! (So sweet!!)

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He then surprised me by bringing out my favorite red wine sangria (with freshly-cut apples!), and telling me that I could take as many pictures as I liked because all the plates during the evening were either chilled or warmed to keep the food at their correct temperatures while I took photos!! (WHAAAAT! How incredible is this man?!?!) At this point in the evening I was already flipping out and jumping up and down from excitement. He had thought of everything. There was even a dedicated "fruit spoon" to help me get to the fruit in the bottom of my sangria while drinking it! (Always the most difficult part, haha!)

We devoured our Roquefort Pear Salads, but by then the smell emanating from the kitchen was intoxicating and I couldn't wait to find out what the main course was!! He brought it out and my mouth literally dropped. (see photo below, haha!). It was a Mint, Rosemary & Thyme Herb-Crusted Rack of Lamb with Potatoes Boulangère. As we were eating, he was explaining the names of everything he had made for the evening, and I honestly had never heard of half of the items, let alone had any clue how to make them!

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After dinner, I had no idea what could possibly be next. For dessert he brought out a Mocha Pot de Crème with a Strawberry & Banana Skewer. The closest thing I could relate it to is a dark chocolate pudding, but that doesn't even come close to doing it justice. Apparently while cooking it you have a 90 second window between switching the heat, otherwise it won't set and won't be the right consistency. Suffice it to say... he made the window, and it was entirely too scrumptious! (Mind = blown!!)

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If you've made it all the way to here, thanks for reading about our Valentine's adventures! I realize, this post is dangerously close to turning into a food blog, haha! But what can I say? We're foodies, and like most other Portlanders, we love to eat. :)

A huge thank you goes to my unbelievably thoughtful husband for making all this happen, and for letting me take so many pictures along the way. These past 4 days have been out of this world and I am so thankful that I was able to spend them all with you. There's no one else that I have so much fun with, or share so many laughs with. You make every day a happy one, and I can't wait to spend the rest of our lives together.

Love you, darling!
Xoxo, Shelley