Leah’s Hogwarts Party

Posted in Celebrations, Leah on September 20th, 2021 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Back when Molly turned 11, we put on an All-out Hogwarts Party for her, including special effects and hand-made wands. We'd planned to do one for Leah when she turned 11, but the pandemic got in the way. This year, however, we made it happen. And given that she's a September birthday, she wouldn't have started Hogwarts until this year anyway, so it all worked out.

As the kids arrived, they had their mug shots taken so we'd be prepared in case they escaped at any point.

Askaban prisoners missing

Once everyone had arrived, they went through the brick wall into Diagon Alley

Diagon Alley entrance

to Olivander's of America.


I again played Gerald Olivander, maker and seller of wands. I trained under my cousin Garrick Olivander before setting up my own shop in America. I even had an intern this year - Molly, who was very helpful during her summer break.

Wand maker's intern

We had a very enjoyable wand choosing experience. As always, the wand chooses the witch or wizard, and a wand chose all of them. Every wand was unique - each from a different wood. More info on that in this post.

Wand choosing

Wand choosing

Once everyone had chosen their wands, I left them in the very capable hands of Molly. Having been recently named a Hufflepuff prefect, she was the perfect person to guide them on their journey across the ocean to Hogwarts.

This included taking a port key to King's Cross Station,

Port key

running through a wall to get to Platform Nine and Three Quarters, and riding the Hogwarts Express to school.

After arriving at school, they met up with Professor Chitsom and Professor Cordelius. Of course, the first order of business for these first years was to be sorted into their houses.

Sorting hat

After being sorted, we had a quick-start Introduction to Magic class to give all of them a taste. We practiced the Locomotor Charm, the Summoning Charm, the Stunning Spell, the Severing Charm, Repairo, and Meteolojinx Recanto.

We also traveled to a nearby door to practice the Unlocking Charm as well as the Locking Spell.


After sorting and magic introduction, it was time to head into the Great Hall for a feast. This included a very fancy Hogwarts House drip cake (funfetti) made by Jen, as well as homemade ice cream (Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk and Buckeye Peanut Butter Chocolate).

Cake and ice cream

After cake and ice cream, the houses competed in some fun games. First up was Harry Potter Trivia led by Professor Cordelius. It was a tight competition, but Ravenclaw managed to squeak out a victory over Slytherin.

Harry Potter Trivia

Harry Potter Trivia

Harry Potter Trivia

Harry Potter Trivia

Then 2 houses played Tabletop Quidditch


while the other two houses played Harry Potter Pictionary.

Harry Potter Pictionary

All students left with treats from Honeydukes including Harry Potter cookies and Butterbeer fudge.

Harry Potter cookies

A good time was had by all. Even more pictures are on Flickr.

Happy birthday, Leah!

Wands for Leah’s party

Posted in Celebrations, Crafts on September 19th, 2021 by c-had – Be the first to comment

I made a bunch of wands for Molly's Hogwarts party and really enjoyed it. Knowing that Leah was going to have one of these parties as well, I started planning for hers right away. I thought I'd have 2.5 years to prepare, but ended up with 3.5.

I've learned a lot about wood working in the intervening years, so my process has improved. Also, I've been collecting small pieces of different woods over the years, with a goal that Leah's party would have a unique wood for each wand. I succeeded in that for the wands that were given out, and am very happy with the wands.

Here are all the wands I made for Leah's party. From left to right, they are Mahogany, Ash, Red Elm, Douglas Fir, Walnut, Purple Heart, Hickory, Cherry, Curly Maple, Red Oak, Bradford Pear, Poplar, Douglas Fir, and Cedar.


Ahd here's all the wood I started from.

Wand wood

The star of the show of course had to be Leah's wand. A couple years ago I mentioned that there was a purple wood called Purpleheart, and Leah requested a wand made of it for herself. She also requested this spiky handle, which was challenging to make but came out well. This was the only wand made with an exotic hardwood, and it really does look awesome. Purpleheart, 14 1/4", Phoenix feather core.

Purple Heart wand

We used to always get a live Christmas tree, but switched to artificial in 2019. In 2018, I cut off pieces of our last live Christmas Tree and dried them for a couple years for use in wands. I actually made two of them, though did not give any of them out to the guests. The first was for Molly, and was my first time painting a wand, which came out quite well. Douglas Fir, 13 3/4", Unicorn tail core.

Douglas Fir wand (Molly's)

The other wand from that Christmas tree was an experiment in making a wand without using my lathe. I took a branch, cut it to size, and hand carved the end. It actually came out quite nicely. We kept this one for sentimental reasons. Douglas Fir, 12 3/4", Phoenix feather core.

Douglas Fir wand

This Maple wand looked very cool thanks to the wood figuring, and I decided to keep it for my own. Curly Maple, 14", Phoenix feather core.

Curly Maple wand

Walnut, 13 3/4", Dragon heartstring core.

Walnut wand

Mahogany, 12", Dragon heartstring core.

Mahogany wand

Ash, 12 1/2", Phoenix feather core.

Ash wand

Red Elm, 13 1/2", Unicorn tail core.

Red Elm wand

Hickory, 14 3/4", Phoenix feather core.

Hickory wand

Cherry, 14 3/4", Dragon heartstring core.

Cherry wand

Red Oak, 13 3/4", Unicorn talk core.

Red Oak wand

Bradford Pear, 13 3/4", Unicorn talk core.

Bradford Pear wand

Poplar, 13 1/2", Unicorn talk core.

Poplar wand

This last one was also not given out, as we had one person unable to attend. Cedar, 10 1/2", Dragon heartstring core.

Cedar wand

All wands but one (as mentioned) turned on my lathe, finished with SealCoat dewaxed shellac and General Finishes High Performance polyurethane.

Happy 12th birthday Leah

Posted in Celebrations, Leah on September 17th, 2021 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Leah is 12! This age may not have been a milestone before, but this year it's become one as it means she's old enough to get a Covid vaccine. She did get that vaccine (the day after her birthday for the first dose), but first we celebrated her a bit.

For lunch on Leah's birthday, we went out to a fancy meal at Stanford Grill. Leah was very excited to have sorbet for dessert.

Birthday sorbet

Us and Grams

For dinner, Jen made beignets for the first time as a special treat.

Birthday beignets

And there were of course presents.

Birthday presents

Birthday presents

Birthday presents

Birthday presents

Starting new schools

Posted in Leah, Molly, School on August 30th, 2021 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Molly is now in high school and Leah is now in middle school. Hard to believe. We're glad they're back in school full time this year, and excited for the new adventures.

First day of 9th grade

First day of 6th grade

Starting High School

Starting Middle School

Starting Middle School


Posted in Family outings on August 20th, 2021 by c-had – Be the first to comment

We went tubing with friends on the lazy Shenandoah River, and had a great time.




I opted to skip the tube and get a kayak instead.

Chad's kayak

After tubing, we had a delicious meal at the Guide House Grill, our favorite place to eat around there.

Guide House Grill

Beach vacation

Posted in Family visits, Trip on August 13th, 2021 by c-had – Be the first to comment

We went to Ocean City! G'Mom and Grampa came in town, and we took a vacation to Ocean City with them. We arrived Sunday evening, and walked out to the beach as the sun was going down to check it out and throw some surfer dudes.

Surfer throwing

The next morning it was time for some mini golf followed by beach time.

Mini golf shark

We hit the Ocean City boardwalk the next morning and rented a bike surrey from Bike World. It was a more serious workout than we were expecting and very crowded, but it was fun still fun.

Surrey ride

We spent lots of time at the beach.

Beach kids

Swimming in the ocean

G'Mom brought a new game for us to play - Sequence.


And we had lots of treats.

There was a Dodo edible cookie dough and ice cream shop right near our beach house, so we had to try it out. Not bad.


Candy Kitchen

Candy Kitchen

Leah saw this Thai style rolled ice cream place off the boardwalk in Ocean City and kept begging to go. Finally we did, and had rolled ice cream for the first time ever. It was awesome. Highly recommended.

Rolled ice cream

And of course got Boardwalk Fries.


Summer Strings Institute

Posted in Leah, Molly, Music on August 7th, 2021 by c-had – Be the first to comment

This year, the Summer Strings Institute put on by the National Philharmonic was back. Leah was accepted into the Prep week (elementary school week) and Molly was selected for their Junior week (middle and early high school). Then Molly was also asked to serve as an intern during Prep week, so for that week both girls were at camp together.

This video is of the end of SSI Prep, including both Leah and Molly.

And here's video of both the chamber music concert and full orchestra concert at the end of SSI Junior.

Both sets of grandparents even came to see the final concert of SSI Junior.

Grandparent attendees

Great job girls!


Anniversary trip

Posted in Celebrations, Trip on July 17th, 2021 by c-had – Be the first to comment

With the girls off at camp for the week and away for the first time since the pandemic began, Jen and I finally got a chance to go away. We'll call this our 18th and 19th anniversary trip since last year's trip never happened. We didn't have enough time to go far, so we found the Hyatt resort in Cambridge, Maryland, and had a lovely few days.


Hotel view

We brought our bikes and biked through the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

Bald Eagle


We played frisbee golf and putt-putt at the resort.

Frisbee golf

Frisbee golf

Mini golf

We hung out in the infinity pool.

Infinity pool

Infinity pool

And we of course ate at lots of delicious restaurants (Black Water Bakery, Ava's Pizzeria & Wine Bar, Emily's Produce, Jimmie & Sook's, and more).

Jen photoshoot

Off to camp

Posted in Leah, Molly on July 16th, 2021 by c-had – Be the first to comment

The girls made it to Manidokan. They were sooo excited!! It was the first time they’d slept out of the house since Jan 2020. The last time was actually for a winter retreat at Manidokan. They had a great week, as always.

Off to camp

Off to camp

Off to camp

Texas visitors

Posted in Celebrations, Family visits on July 4th, 2021 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Aunt EA, Uncle Scott, Charlie, and Max came to town. Thanks to vaccines and lower transmission rates, we finally got to see them. And we quickly made sure we got a family picture.

Family picture

We celebrated Caroline and Grams's birthdays with a strawberries and cream cake.

Birthday girls

Birthday cake

Happy birthday Aunt Caroline

Happy birthday Grams

With Max and Charlie in town, we headed to a local playground for some outdoor fun.

Park play

Park play

Park play

Park play

And Grams got a picture with all her grandkids on the 4th of July.

Grams and her grandkids