I Went to Hogsmeade and It Was My Favorite!

At the end of March, I went on a work trip to Orlando, FL. Since I was already going to be in the area, I decided to stay a few days longer and I went to what people affectionately call “Harry Potter World!” I had a BLAST! I only went for one day and I actually got to go with my friend, Kate! It’s such a small world, because she was already planning on going to Universal Studios when I was going to be there! She was such a great guide (she’s been there multiple times) and helped to make sure I experienced every little thing.

So get ready for a ton of photos, y’all… I’m finally starting to share my time at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando! Oh yeah! I’ve decided to break it up by area, so it will be a little more tolerable. I’ll post about Diagon Alley next, but today let’s start with all things Hogsmeade!

Actually first let’s back up. For anybody who doesn’t know, let me explain the park setup a little bit. So the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is part of Universal Studios in Orlando, and it’s broken up into 2 parks: Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. Since they’re *technically* 2 different parks, you need to get the (much more expensive) multi-park pass to get to go to both. (But it’s 100% worth it!) You can walk around a lot of other parks to get from one to the other, OR you can take the Hogwarts Express train (which they count as a little ride) between the two! But the kicker is that you can’t ride the train unless you have the multi-park pass. So again, it’s totally worth the extra money- just do it.

Ok. On to ALL THE PICTURES!!! Here’s what I did and saw and loved while in Hogsmeade!

The village is ADORABLE!

The snow-topped buildings! The streets! I really felt like you’re in a quaint little English town – especially in the afternoon when it got cloudy and grey like it would be in England, the land with no sun.

The first glimpse of Hogwarts!

STUNNING. It literally took my breath away. I seriously felt nostalgic for a place I’ve never actually been, and I loved getting closer and getting to see more details of the castle. I love that you can see Hogwarts from most areas in Hogsmeade – it definitely helped keep the magical feeling alive!

The Hogwarts Express!

I’ll go into more detail about this on the next post, I think, but it was so easy to ride the train between the 2 parks!

Hearing Moaning Myrtle!

This is one of the little “secrets” that really isn’t secret at all – if you go into the women’s bathroom you can hear her talking! I’m sure you can hear her in the men’s bathroom, too, but I didn’t go in to check!

Eating at the Three Broomsticks!

The level of detail in the entire park was so incredible, and that includes the restaurants! I was so excited to go in the Three Broomsticks and I ended up having breakfast there. I got to try pumpkin juice (actually REALLY good!) and loved getting a side view of Hogwarts from the patio out back!

Seeing a little show!

I’m not sure what this little show was called, but it was starting as we walked by, so Kate and I stopped to watch! We got to see little dances from the two other schools participating in the Tri-Wizard Tournament and they did a great job! But it was VERY hot out and I can’t even imagine being up there dancing in those hot uniforms all summer. No thank you.

Riding the Flight of the Hippogriff!

I just need everyone to know that I 100% spelled hippogriff wrong the first time there. Thanks for the assist, Google. This was the only outdoor ride they had, and it was definitely for a younger crowd, but still pretty fun! You got to see Hagrid’s hut close up as you waited in line which was pretty neat! This was the longest line we waited in all day (maybe 45 minutes) which isn’t too bad at all, really!

Riding the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey!

I think this was my favorite ride at the parks! I loved how it spun you around, lifted you up and down and back, made you feel like you were in some real danger (but in a safe way), and let you feel what happened around you. It was honestly just so cool! I don’t really get motion sickness, but I definitely didn’t want to ride this more than once in a row. We went through the single-rider line 4 out of the 5 times we rode it and it was amazing – we waited maybe 5 minutes tops.

Walking through Hogwarts!

Later at the end of the night when the crowds were a little more manageable, we walked through the regular line for the Forbidden Journey ride and got to see all the details inside the castle! I loved getting to see the house points, Dumbledore’s office, a classroom, the talking and moving pictures, and so much more! It definitely made waiting in line seem a little more bearable.

Seeing the Hogwarts light show at the end of the night!

As we were leaving the ride/gift shop (I had to get a Christmas tree ornament!) we got to see the light show!! It was fabulous! So bright and the music was awesome and there were even some fireworks, too!

I mean, how pretty is that castle, tho?!? I’m swooning over here!

I hope you liked seeing all the bits of Hogsmeade I loved! If you’ve been, what was your favorite part of this park? If you haven’t been – what are you waiting for?!??!

Be sure to stay tuned for my photo dump/recap of the Diagon Alley park next time!!


Sparrow Conference 2018

Do you remember last year when I posted about going to a Christian women’s conference? It was so good that I bought my tickets for the next year (aka this year) in advance. Well, the 2018 Sparrow Conference was a few weekends ago and just like last year, it was SO GOOD! I went with two friends and we just had a great time together. The speakers this year (quite a few of them were also speakers last year) were amazing and I filled up my little notebook with so many good little nuggets of biblical truth.

This year it was held at the Music Hall at Fair Park so that more people could attend. The lobby was decorated so well, there were lots of opportunities to purchase books and candles and earrings and things like that, and there was even a super fun photo area!!

All of the (again, incredible!!) speakers led us through the book of 1 John, and I got so many great things out of it- SO MANY- and I wanted to share a few of the things I learned/took away from the weekend! (Just remember that this is all coming from going over 1 John, for context.)

The goal is to experience fellowship with God so we can have fellowship with others.

God made something good. We messed it up. Jesus made it right. One day God will make all things new.

Abiding is a choice. It’s loving Jesus beyond anything else so that is the place we want to be.

If we abide in Christ and not in the world, we will love as God loves. But you can’t abide in both places at the same time- you can’t be bitter, withholding, and unkind AND be nestled in Jesus.

If we abide in Christ, our life patterns will change. We cannot keep in a pattern of sin and also keep in a pattern of loving Christ.

You repeat the actions that matter most to you. God isn’t calling us to be perfect followers of Christ, but to be practicing followers of Christ.

When you’re living a life abiding with God, He will give you the desires of your heart because your desires begin to be His desires for you.

God hears you. He is not a distracted father. He is present and interested and we can have a fellowship with Him.

God’s commands are not burdensome- they are an extension of his good character. Sin IS burdensome, oppressive, and worrisome.

My Favorite Halloween Tradition

Trick-or-treating was always pretty fun growing up. Getting dressed up in costumes (my all-time favorites were Dorothy, a 50’s girl, and an Oompa Loompa!) and going out with family and friends – what’s not to like! Besides it being super cold and having to wear a winter coat that covered the amazing costume. That was always kind of a bummer. But while walking around and going house to house was great, my very favorite part of Halloween happened AFTER trick-or-treating!

My favorite Halloween tradition: trading candy with my sister!

Every year my sister and I would come home, get into our pajamas, and immediately spread ALL OF OUR CANDY on the living room floor. Then the sorting began. The sorting was the most important part. We would get all of our candy into neat little piles so we could assess how many Skittles, Snickers, etc. we had. Then it was time to look over all of the candy, decide what we wanted to keep and what we wanted to give away.

Now the exciting part…. the TRADING! My sister and I would spend SO MUCH TIME bartering back and forth, trying to get rid of the candy I hated (like Nerds and gobstoppers) and get more of the candy I loved (like ALL of the Reese’s cups!) We would also eat some candy here and there during the trading, but it was very important to focus on the task at hand.

Finally after a while when we both felt satisfied in how we had changed up our candy situation, the trading floor would close, the candy would go into the pantry, and we would go to bed in a slight sugar coma.

So that’s the best thing about Halloween in my eyes. I can’t wait for my nephews to get older so I can make sure that this tradition continues with them. I’m sure my sister will teach them the importance of trading candy, but don’t worry, I’ll be there to make sure.

Random Ramblings

Do you ever just have SO MANY THOUGHTS swirling around your head that you can’t seem to concentrate on anything else? I’ve been feeling like for the past few days. It’s gotten to the point that the things I’m thinking about have started popping into my dreams at night! (That usually happens, anyway, but recently it’s been getting very specific.)

I know a lot of people are big fans of doing a “brain dump” before going to bed, and I think I might have to start doing that, too. (Brighton Keller has a good post going into more detail!) It sounds like a good way to kind of help get your brain organized, but for tonight I’m just going to spill some of my random thoughts out here. Cool? Cool!

A lady in the WalMart parking lot stopped me in the middle of the aisle and asked “Are you a teacher? You look like you teach small children!!!” And I think she was genuinely disappointed when I told her no.

I spilled an ENTIRE bottle of nail polish last night (thankfully it was on the bathroom counter and none of it got on the carpet) and it made me so sad! It was a pretty sparkly orange, so I guess I won’t be wearing that color for Halloween this year. Black it is.

I went to Chick-Fil-A a few days ago and at the drive-thru speaker, I asked “…and with 3 Chick-Fil-A sauce packets, please!” and the worker confirmed “…and with 3 Chick-Fil-A sauce packets.” And then I got up to the window and the worker AGAIN confirmed “…and with 3 Chick-Fil-A sauce packets” and then I get all the way home and there are ZERO Chick-Fil-A sauce packets in the bag and I had to eat a dry sandwich and dry French fries like a peasant. I was very disappointed!!!

I think that people crunching and chewing on ice all day long is the most annoying thing. There was a lady at my last job that did it nonstop, and now I sit near someone who crunches on ice all day again. Doesn’t that make you so cold?!?!?

I decided that I’m going to get Netflix again – but just for one month! I want to see the next installment of the Stranger Things saga, and if I wait a little bit to watch it, I can also use Netflix to watch all the cheesy Christmas movies that I love.

I’ve had ONE smart phone my entire life, since I got my first one in 2014, and it’s been an Android Samsung Galaxy S4 (which was the older model at the time). I’m terribly cheap so I don’t want to get a new phone until this one craps out, but I think I’m going to get an iPhone next… and I’m already excited about it!

I’m pretty sure that my apartment complex is going to raise my rent A LOT when my lease comes up in the spring and I’m already not looking forward to making some decisions. Do I stay and pay more than my apartment is actually worth/above my budget? Do I move AGAIN? Do I sneak all my stuff into my sister’s house and hope she doesn’t notice and then go over there for dinner and just never leave?!?!?! (Just kidding… kind of…)

Well I think that’s pretty good for one night! I put a notebook and pen on my nightstand so I can jot my thoughts down before bed – hopefully that helps me get a little more organized and keeps me a little more sane!

I Took a Baking Class (and so should YOU!)

I LOVE baking. It’s one of the first things that people find out about me – either because I tell them or because I shove baked goods in their face. Sometimes it’s both! I’m known as the “baking” friend in my little Dallas friend group and I love it – I always make the birthday cake for friends, I bake the pies for friendsgivings, and I’m expected (happily!!) to bring a delicious homemade treat to all of our get-togethers, no matter how casual.

While I feel like I have a handle on cookies and cakes and other various treats, there was one thing that I had always wanted to try and make myself but was kind of scared to try…. Macarons.

You know the ones I’m talking about? They’re so delicious and delicate and can come in so many colors and flavors – but they’re notoriously difficult to make. Everything has to be PERFECT. Beat the egg whites too much? Throw it out. Didn’t fold in the dry ingredients using the proper technique? Toss it. Made the batter too warm while piping out the shells? Ruined. I was so nervous to try it out on my own and ruin it and get frustrated, which was the most likely scenario.

There is a macaron shop (Savor Patisserie) in town that offers baking classes and I’ve wanted to take one there… basically since I moved to Dallas. I was finally tired of saying “I should” and I went ahead and signed myself up for one of their macaron baking classes! And it was…….. AWESOME!!!

Seriously – it was so great! I showed up at their new classroom (by downtown Dallas) and the space was perfect. I met all the other people also taking the class, and we were divided into tables. I was at a table with 3 other ladies, and together I think we did a pretty good job making these little treats!

The owner of Savor (also named Kelly) led the class and helped us step by step as we followed along with the recipe page we were given. There was plenty of room on the paper to take notes – and I took a TON of notes! She gave so many great tips and tricks and I’ll be glad that I wrote them down in the future.

There were a lot of flavor options that we got to choose from, and my table decided to make raspberry shells with champagne buttercream filling. There were also a lot of great color options, and we chose BRIGHT blue for the shells! The color was SO bright and So happy and I absolutely loved it. Piping the shells was more difficult than it looked, but I feel like I got the hang of it pretty fast and felt comfortable doing it. Since there were 4 people at my table, we all took turns piping out a few rows of shells and some of the ladies were…. less comfortable… with the process… so a few of our shells looked very “special.” They still tasted great, tho!

Even the baking process is extremely precise for these little goodies! The host took care of the baking for us, and we all sat together chatting and enjoying the DELICIOUS smells coming out of the oven.

Once they were done baking, we made the buttercream. Again, my table chose a champagne flavor, and I got to pick the color – so obviously I went with BRIGHT pink. I know I’m biased, but I think that our macarons turned out SO GREAT!!!!!

I had SUCH a great experience taking this baking class! It was my first time doing anything like this, and it definitely won’t be my last. I’m so glad that I learned how to make macarons from a professional first and I can’t wait to try making them myself at home! (Actually I’m going to try making them at my sister’s house because she has a nice new kitchen with a fancy new oven and my oven is probably 40 years old and it’s kind of terrible…)

Have you made these on your own before? Have you tried them? What’s your favorite flavor combo?!?