Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Kurt and Nirvana - Seattle Oct, 2011

On October 15, 2011 I had the chance to visit Seattle.  Two things on the agenda for this quick trip, was to visit Kurts Park, and the Nirvana exhibit at the EMP.  This is my experiences.

Kurts House

Directly to the left of his house is a small greenbelt, with a single bench.  This is known as Kurts Park.  You can see what was his house from the bench.

There was something really special about this place.  Rumor has it Courtney left some of Kurts ashes at this park, but regardless of his ashes, his spirit remains.

After checking into our hotel we went to the Experience Music Project or EMP.  Our main reason for visiting was the Nirvana exhibit, and it was worth the walk and admission fee for that alone.  Any Nirvana fan should make the trip to Seattle for this.

The most amazing thing for me wasnt the MTV award, or the guitars, it was the simple things, casette tapes and original contracts.  The exhibit told an amazing story.

The exhibit was really well done, I didnt see anything that they could have done better.  There was plenty of space, and so much to see.  It probably took us over an hour to go through and read everything. 

Then we went to the giftshop.  To say I was shocked wold be an understatement, to say the EMP should be as ashamed for selling as Courtney should be for allowing this to be made is for certain.

All in all even if you dont want to go to any of the other exhibits, the Nirvana showcase is amazing.

The Common Ground Front

In August 2011, I started blogging.  It started as a way for me to be able to openly share my views about things without having to post them through the current social media channels because I disagree with the social and political views of many I associate with, and honestly posting my gripes in 140 characters or less on Twitter just wasn't cuttting it.  In addition I found it was a great medium to share my expereinces with family, personal struggles and my hobbies.

What I found however after blogging for a couple months was that my blog posts really were two fold.  I had personal things to share and I had views on current events that had nothing to do with my personal life.  After spending time at the Occupy Seattle movement in Seattle October 15th and 16th, 2011, and continuing to follow this movement, I find I have so much bottled inside me in relation to what is wrong with this world, and honestly I feel the need to speak out more.

So I have decided to separate personal life from personal views, and move some blog entries here and keep my meaningless thoughts blog for the fun stuff in my life.  Milweisers Meaningless Thoughts will remain a place where I post about my life, personal struggles and accomplishments.  I am moving some blogs from here to my new Blog at as they fit better with that format for that blog.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Harry Potter Birthday Party

In celebration of my daughters birthday we threw a Harry Potter Deathly Hallows Birthday Party for her this past weekend.  There was a lot of planning but in the end it was a fantastic day!

About three weeks out we created Hogwarts Welcome letters for each of the invitees, each child got a separate invite even if they were part of the same household.

I decided I would make what I could myself.  I knew we wanted to sort the children into houses so I decided to make scarves for each child to differentiate them in each house.  I bought flannel fabric at a local sewing store,   2 yards each of blue, canary, scarlet and green and 1/2 years of gold, bronze, silver and black.  I cut the large pieces lengthwise to create 8 strips, then I cut squares of the smaller pieces to create the stripes.  It took about three days of sewing to make the scarves but for a party favor I think they came out really well.

I looked and looked for wands that were cool and also cost effective and found nothing that worked.  So I decided I would make them myself.  I bought 7/16 width 12 inch wooden dowels (solid wood) and using a Dremel I created 30 custom hand made wands using a couple different grinding bits and a 1/2 inch sanding drum bit.  I tried to make each one as different as possible giving them their own personality.  These are the wands after a very light sanding (I wanted them a bit rough to feel more like wood):

I used three different wood stains applied with a rag, and after the stain dried I applied two coats of a semi gloss clear coat.

The finished product came out really well, and I am not sure I could have been happier if I had found the wands online. 

I had gone back and fourth about what to do for the cake and in the end, I decided simple was best.  I decided to do a Deathly Hallows Cake with some accents from a cookie recipt I had found at (  Being the anal person I am, I laid the cupcakes out in a shape similar to the deathly hallows symbol to help once I added frosting.  I had a pretty good triangle and circle to go off of.

First I added the Deathly Hallows symbol using a chocolate fudge frosting, I have no clue which bag tip I used but it was similar to something I would use to edge a cake.

Although I had made wands for the kids, I really didnt want to hand them out and have the kids shooting curses at each other during the whole party, so my idea was to have them arrive and select a wand (or the wand select them I should say) but then have a way to keep track of whose wand is whose for them to take with them at the end of the day.  In the end I took black yarn, placed a bead at the end and then a name tag for each child.  When they arrived at the party I had them add additional beads to their yard (as a way to waste time until everyone arrived) and then they reached into a bag for their wand to choose them.  We then tied the yarn around the wand and placed it on a table to wait for them at the end of the party.

We almost 30 kids invited I knew my house would be way too small for the party, so we choose to do it at a local park.  This meant decorating options would be limited, so in the end, I put balloons for each house on a separate table and decorated the main seating ears with colors for each house.  Its not how I would have done it at home, but for an outside park party it worked fine.

As the kids arrived they added beads to their yarn and reached into a bag for their wand to choose them, once all wands were done the kids sat out in the grass to be sorted.  I had pre-chosen 4 kids who are Potter fans to serve as prefects for each house.  They were told to get together and choose their houses, and if they couldn't decide they would pick out of a hat.  In the end they were able to cone to a consensus on the houses they wanted.  Each prefect stood with their scarves on holding the scarves for their house, I called each child up, they reached into the hat and received a paper with their house on in.  They joined their house and were given their scarf by their prefect. 

Then it was time for the first game.  The first game, was for the Defense Against the Dark Arts class, in Honor of Professor Lockhart - Memory.  I found images online of 15 different Potter items and glued them to one side of cardstock.  I laid them out face up and decided the order then turned them over and added numbers so make it easier to remember their locations.  Each house went one at a time to try to find a match.  I was expecting this to be the most frustrating game but in the end I think the kids had more fun with it than any other.

The game ended fairly even with 3 to 5 matches per house.  At the end of the first game house points stood as follows:

Griffindor: 60, Ravenclaw 45, Hufflepuff 45 and Slytherin 75 - A lead that Slytherin would keep for the rest of the day.

The second game was Transfiguration class, or charades.  I knew that not all the kids had Potter knowledge so I choose items that were Potter related but common knowledge for most to guess.  In the end I completely underestimated this group and they were for the most part WAY too easy.  I split them into groups: Items, Places, Creatures and extra credit.

Items: Invisibility Cloak, Broomstick, Sorting Hat, Wand
Places: Hogwarts Castle, Forrest, Train Station and Post Office
Creatures: Owl, Dragon, Unicorn, Snake
Extra Credit: Warewolf, Gringotts, Basilisk Fang, Deluminator

Each team had one minute to figure out their item or other teach got to choose, every team got their own items with the exception of Deluminator, which was won by another team.  At the end of the second game points were as follows:

Griffindor: 145, Ravenclaw 130, Hufflepuff 110, and Slytherin 190

The final game would be Charms class.  I had told the students at the beginning to pay attention to the items presented in the first two games, and if they did it would pay off now.  Charms class was the ABC's of potter.  I gave each prefect a paper with their house crest at the top and 26 lines, each with a different letter of the alphabet.  They were told to go to their tables (common rooms) and come up with one thing from Potter that started with each letter.  They would have 15 minutes.

Each house was fairly well represented with Potter and non-Potter fans and had at least two kids who were knowledgeable enough to get a lot of these down.  I did walk around and help give them ideas of things to think of.  I think every house got at least 19 of the letters, however Slytherin lead by a 15 year old prefect and the biggest Potter fan I know, accompanied by a 9 year old that is currently immersed in reading the series came up with an item for every letter.

Final points: Griffindor: 365, Ravenclaw 310, Hufflepuff 300, and Slytherin 450

Syltherin would win the House cup!

After the games we had a quick stop at Honeydukes for some candy and then we went to the three broomsticks and had pizza.  The kids ran around for a bit before we did cake. 

It was a great party and I hope all the students had a great time. I had at least two students that started reading Potter after receiving the invite and I hope this party will incentivise more to read the books and begin their own journeys into the world of Harry Potter.  Each child left the party with a wand, a scarf and a small goodie bag filled with candy.  It was truly a great day!