Leah’s 13th birthday party

Posted in Celebrations, Leah on October 29th, 2022 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Leah's party was supposed to be the weekend after her birthday in September, but she turned up Covid positive the day before. So, we celebrated on her 13 plus 1 month birthday instead.

Finally party day

For this birthday, Leah requested a painting party. Jen found online tutorials and allowed Leah's friends to pick the artwork they each wanted to create.

Painting party

Painting and drying

Molly was just as excited as Leah about the painting party. Molly has been taking Art electives in school for many years.

Sisters love painting too

The Step by Step Painting tutorials had great instructions and pictures to follow.

Technology and Art

Ice Cream Love

Tiny mushroom house

Starry Night interpretation

Pink Pig Painting

Serious concentration

A little face painting too

Adding all the details

After a couple hours, we took a break for some cake.

There were gifts.

Gifts from friends

Gifts from friends

Gifts from friends

Our artists were loving their painting time so much that we extended the party another 30 minutes. A group photo (minus 1) of the finished artwork.

Finished paintings

Here are Leah and Molly's final paintings.

Leah s painting

Molly s painting

Happy birthday Leah!

Halloween 2021

Posted in Celebrations, Leah, Molly on November 1st, 2021 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Happy Halloween everyone! Both our girls decided to do group costumes with their friends this year. Leah and her friends are characters from My Hero Academia, and Molly and her friends are penguins (and King Kong). Costumes are fun!

Halloween 2021

Halloween 2021

Halloween 2021

Halloween 2021

Homecoming 2021

Posted in Celebrations, Molly, School on October 15th, 2021 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Molly went to her first Homecoming dance. I set up a a little photo studio to get a few pictures before Molly left.

MHHS Homecoming 2021

The back

Homecoming 2021

Homecoming 2021

Molly then went to a pre-party with some friends.

Homecoming pre-party

Homecoming pre-party

With mom

She had a great time!

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

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

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

Molly’s Confirmation

Posted in Celebrations, Church, Molly on May 23rd, 2021 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Molly was confirmed at Glen Mar Church! We're very proud of her, and so excited for this special day. Thanks Christy for being a great Friend in Faith, and thanks to Jen Rowell for making it all happen.

Molly's Confirmation

Molly's Confirmation

Molly and Simon performed at their Confirmation services (both of them).

Molly's Confirmation music

Molly's Confirmation music, second service

Molly's Confirmation

Molly's Confirmation

Molly's Confirmation

Molly's Confirmation

Molly's Confirmation

Molly is 14

Posted in Celebrations, Molly on March 30th, 2021 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Molly is 14! Her only requests for the cake were that it was chocolate and PINK! So here's a pink ombre striped chocolate cake with peanut butter mousse filling. It was soo good! Molly said this is going to be her choice of flavors from now on. The stripes were a new adventure for Jen. Dang they are hard.

Molly's cake

Molly loved all her gifts, especially her Comfy.