How To Throw A Harry Potter Movie Night

My parents are top notch, but they failed me in one major way.

None of my birthday parties were ever Harry Potter themed.

I KNOW, right?! It just seems like the worlds biggest oversight on their part. Would I ever have rebelled as a teenager if I had gotten a snitch shaped birthday cake even once?! Something to think about. The world will never know. 😉

Anyway, I’m sure it surprises no one that the idea of hosting any Harry Potter themed get-together sounds like heaven to me. I’ll probably overcorrect from my failed childhood (lol, kidding) and make every one of my future kids’ birthday parties Harry Potter themed. My hypothetical wedding might have some Potter-ish aspects to it. Today, though, we’ll start with an admittedly lower stakes kind of party: a movie night.

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Throwing a Harry Potter movie night is kind of like…duh. What better way to celebrate than by watching 1 or 2 of your favorite Potter films with some friends? It doesn’t take a ton of expertise to pull off, but I thought it would be fun to share how I did it.

The Guest List

First things first? Knowing who to invite. My ideal guest list for a Harry Potter movie night is a bunch of already established fans (or at least people who know the story and appreciate the franchise). If you have a bunch of non-Potterheads on the guest list, you run the risk of a few things happening: 1) they won’t appreciate the little details and extra efforts you made as a hostess, 2) you might have to stop the movie(s) to explain things to them (annoying), 3) playing themed games might be less fun for them, and 4) they will probably hate it when you and your other Potterhead guests recite the very famous lines along with the movie (when I went to the Hollywood Bowl to watch Sorcerer’s Stone, literally every single person in the amphitheater recited the line “she NEEDS to sort out her priorities ” at the same time and I was so happy I almost passed out).

The Decorations

For any kind of organized gathering, it’s best to have some sort of decorations set up. If it were closer to Halloween, I might’ve thrown up some spider webs or brought out some skulls and potion bottles. Since it’s the middle of summer however, and I really didn’t want to go digging through my holiday decorations, I chose to go a more classy, subtle route. Flowers are always a must for me. I stopped by Trader Joe’s to pick up some dark red blooms, golden mums, calla lilies (a subtle homage to Lily Evans!) and eucalyptus for dirt cheap. The rich, moody colors and greenery went well together and were so on theme.

Candles are also a requirement for any HP themed event, preferably tall tapers with either black or gold holders. For me, candles helped set the mood with some medieval vibes and warm tones.

I like displaying quotes, especially since Harry Potter has so many good ones! So I used my letter board to showcase a silly, well known quote that guests were bound to recognize.

If there’s ever an appropriate occasion to bring out some souvenirs you might have from the Universal Studios Wizarding World, it’s this. I happened to save a few boxes from Honeydukes that I strategically placed about. They were obvious, but not over the top in your face, so they worked. You can also order these or download printables from the internet!

Finally, with a little more time I would have loved to hang some Hogwarts acceptance letters with fishing line from the ceiling in my entryway, so it resembled this scene & so guests felt like they were entering a little realm of magic right away! Next time, for sure.

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The Food

Obviously, the menu is crucial. Most of the food mentioned in Harry Potter are types of sweets. Luckily, it being a movie night, sweets are definitely appropriate. It took no effort at all to set out some jelly beans to resemble Bertie Bott’s Every Flavored Beans, & chocolate coins to look like big galleons (wizard currency). I even made Fizzing Whizbees, a popular candy from Honeydukes, which couldn’t have been easier (you just add melted chocolate and Pop Rocks to a bumblebee candy mold, freeze, and serve). 

No movie night is complete without popcorn, and no bowl of popcorn is complete without m&m’s sprinkled throughout. I chose to put out a big bowl of popcorn and surrounded it with smaller bowls of m&m’s separated in the colors of the four Hogwarts houses. Guests can prepare their own personal bowls and choose the m&m’s that represent their own house. It’s fun to see how all your friends have been sorted! 😉

Not everyone has as big of a sweet tooth as me, so I always think it’s a good idea to set out at least one savory option. An easy flatbread or a moody cheeseboard are perfect candidates.

Finally, every event needs a signature cocktail! I set up a mini martini bar so that guests could make their own Voldemortini (which is really just a dirty martini). So easy and so fun!

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The Games

Whether or not games are needed depends on your crowd and your preference. Some people just want to get right to watching the movies, and I respect that! But if you have time to kill, or you’ve all seen the movies 100x and can afford to play/chat as you watch, consider a game of Harry Potter themed Trivial Pursuit. Or Harry Potter Clue. Or make up hilarious drinking game rules! “everyone takes one drink every time Ron says “bloody hell!”

The Movies

Nobody asked my opinion, and everyone has a different answer for this, but my definitive ranking of the Harry Potter films are as follows:

  1. Sorcerer’s Stone
  2. Deathly Hallows Part 1
  3. Prisoner of Azkaban
  4. Chamber of Secrets
  5. Deathly Hallows Part 2
  6. Order of the Phoenix
  7. Half Blood Prince
  8. Goblet of Fire

So, that’s my recommendation. It’s probably best to take a vote on what movie(s) your specific group wants to watch. Recently, when my family was tasked with choosing a movie to watch together, we came up with a bracket system and everyone had to make spirited speeches for the movies they wanted considered. Choosing the movie became as fun as watching the movie itself!

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There ya have it! Honestly, the most important thing is to have fun and try not to cry an embarrassing amount when you see the golden trio together for the first time in Sorcerer’s Stone. I know, easier said than done.

Thanks for reading!

Worlds Best Carrot Cake

In my humble opinion no Easter celebration is complete without a carrot cake. It being my very favorite cake, I’ve tried more than a few variations. Even still, my favorite recipe is my moms (you can call it bias, but I swear its superiority is the objective truth).

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I’ve alluded to this cake many times on this blog, so this year I finally decided it was time to share the wealth. It’s a definite crowd pleaser, and the true magic of this cake is it freezes beautifully. I take the leftovers, freeze them by the slice, and pull them out for months (or, let’s be honest, weeks) afterwards whenever I’m craving something indulgent.

A little bit more about the cake: carrot cake recipes often call for raisins, the original version of this one included. I omit them from mine. I love the nutty and carrot-y flavors in the cake and I just think raisins distract from that.

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One of the best parts of making a carrot cake is decorating the top. So much room for creativity! This year I went for a simple but elevated look, with some piped carrot tops and candy eggs. A little Peter Rabbit-esque. Fun!

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ingredients:

1 1/4 cups vegetable oil

2 cups sugar

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

4 eggs

4 cups grated carrots

1 cup pecans

8 oz softened butter

8 oz softened cream cheese

1 lb of powdered sugar

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1 cup sweetened coconut shavings

optional: cadbury eggs, orange food coloring, and carrot greens for garnish

directions:

preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

grease two 9-inch cake pans and line their bottoms with parchment paper.

in a large mixing bowl, combine the vegetable oil and sugar. in a separate bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

alternate between adding some of the dry ingredients and the eggs, one by one, to the sugar/oil bowl. mix after each addition. finally add the carrots and pecans, mix to evenly combine, and divide the batter evenly between the two cake pans.

bake in the oven for 70 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. let the cakes cool completely before removing them from their pans. trust me here.

in a new mixing bowl, cream the butter and cream cheese together. add the powdered sugar and vanilla extract, and beat till everything is well combined.

reserve 2-3 tablespoons of icing for piping the carrots (more if you want to do additional decorations). spread a thick layer of frosting between cake layers, then ice a crumb coat on the whole cake. place the cake back in the fridge for about 20 minutes so that the crumb coat can set.

use the rest of the icing to completely frost the cake. mix a few drops of orange food coloring with the 2-3 tablespoons of reserved frosting. use a piping bag with a large, round tip to pipe the carrot tops. gently insert carrot greens into each of the carrot tops. add the candy eggs in whatever arrangement you like.

take the oven temperature down to 300 F and spread some coconut on a baking sheet. toast the coconut until lightly browned, tossing every so often so the coconut toasts evenly. apply a layer of the toasted coconut to the sides of the cake.

cut & enjoy!

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Creamy Potatoes Au Gratin

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Alright, people. Final 2018 Easter recipe begins now!

I’m just going to start by saying the past week has been SO much fun for me to write. I always share a lot of recipes and holiday-oriented posts, but having all of the recent recipes connected by the common theme of building an epic party menu felt so fresh and playful for me. I was so inspired and now I’m getting really excited to apply the same kind of style/organization to future holidays. How do y’all feel? I hope you liked reading these as much as I loved writing them!

Anyway, back to the food.

The final recipe is a favorite side dish of Mark’s and mine. I made it a couple of years ago for our first Easter together, and we instantly decided it had to happen again and again and again. It’s creamy and cheesy, good for serving to crowds, and makes bomb leftovers. It’s potatoes au gratin!

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I know this isn’t exactly groundbreaking. Potatoes au gratin are kind of the go-to for Easter side dishes. But up until two years ago, it wasn’t something I had ever had. Mark hadn’t either, because he didn’t really celebrate Easter growing up. So it’s still new enough for me that I think it’s worth sharing as I experiment a bit.

I can easily understand why it’s a mainstay on Easter brunch menus, though. You can serve these potatoes alongside a bright, citrusy salad or with a honey glazed ham. Or both! They’re pretty versatile. Also…it’s potatoes and cheese. So, instant and guaranteed crowd pleaser. If you’re ever feeling worried about whether or not your guests will really enjoy the menu, add a dish with potatoes and cheese. Real talk.

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Potatoes Au Gratin:

6 small potatoes, cleaned and thinly sliced

2 tbsp unsalted butter

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 c heavy cream

1/4 c milk

1 tbsp thyme

pinch of nutmeg

pinch of salt and pepper

pinch of red pepper flakes

1 1/2 c shredded gruyere cheese

1/2 c grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Using a mandolin (or a really good, sharp knife) slice the washed potatoes.

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Then add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes, stirring consistently. Add the heavy cream and milk into the saucepan, stirring to combine. Then add the thyme, nutmeg, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Finally, mix in the shredded gruyere cheese. Mix constantly, making sure to scrape everything from the bottom of the saucepan, until mixture is smooth and creamy. Remove from heat.

Arrange half of the potato slices in circular pattern around a cast iron skillet. Pour half of the cheese/cream mixture over these slices. Cover the skillet with the remaining slices and then pour the rest of the sauce over the potatoes.

Cover the skillet with aluminum foil and bake, covered, for 45 minutes.

Remove the foil and sprinkle the parmesan over the top of the potatoes. Then bake, uncovered, for another 15 minutes.

Serve and enjoy!

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This rendition was so, so good. Much better than my 2016 version. It had a respectable gruyere in it, which made all the difference. Plus, the red pepper flakes added some heat without the dish crossing the line into being “spicy”. I really can’t wait for you to try this.

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As I’ve been mentioning, my Easter will likely be nothing special. The bunny won’t visit me. I’ll be at work starting at 11 am, so no church or brunch for me. I will probably treat myself to a slice of carrot cake. And maybe I’ll make a quiche in the morning? I can probably manage that. Mostly, I plan on just spending the day feeling grateful and looking forward to fresh starts and new beginnings.

 

Thank you so much for reading, everyone! Have very Happy Easters. And don’t let your pets eat any chocolate or you’ll have me to answer to. 😉