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harry potter

    House of Minalima – Harry Potter in London

    “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” —Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. The wizarding world of JK Rowling has inspired millions, if not billions of imaginations around the world – and it all came from an idea she had on a train journey. The House of Minalima here in London showcases some of the incredible graphics of the franchise, and it’s well worth taking a wander into.

    Harry Potter House of Minalima London Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Whether you want to be a wizard, or not.

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    Universal Studios: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

    The best kind of travel when you can’t afford it or can’t be bothered has to be armchair travel. No rain delays, no lost luggage, no upset baby crying for hours and your husband physically wincing everytime a child wimpers… but I digress.

    Sit back, do not adjust your seat belt, and let me take you on a magical journey to… somewhere very English in one of the friendliest states in America.

    We decided that our big trip for 2013 was going to be New York, and hey, as we were in the neighbourhood(ish) we’d add Orlando’s Giant Orange into the mix. We planned to trip all over the State, exploring several different places; Cape Canaveral (NASA), Georgia, the Florida Keys and Celebration, the town of Walt Disney perfection. 

    We stayed in a small town called Kissimmee and a definite stop on our agenda (after an evening of lying by the pool with fruity drinks) was Universal Studios: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and Disney’s Epcot. Far from being excited, I was stressed. Pacing up and down, convinced that as an inexperienced driver I was going to make Biscuit (our wee moggy) an orphan ((I’m not nuts or a crazy cat lady I swear)) it wasn’t a good start. Once landed we roll up to the airport hire company after booking the smallest car we could find only to be offered a cherry-red Ferrari. What!? I was tempted, but couldn’t risk it, and so took a larger safer car.

    Still, I digress, sorry. So the next morning, up we get and make our way to Universal Studios. Best tip ever? Get there EARLY. We were almost first into the Park but as Harry Potter World is so busy and right at the far end of the Park and everyone heads to Hogwarts as their very first stop of the Day, we were still at the end of a long queue.

    It. Is. Amazing.

    I’m not a Potter-fanatic, just a big kid at heart and I was gobsmacked. Even Mr Kiwi who isn’t a fan (hasn’t read the books and only lasts about 20minutes into any of the movies) was astonished at the level of detail.

    It’s like stepping into a dream.

    You line up at the gates of Hogwarts Castle in order to queue for the biggest attraction, the Forbidden Journey ride. It’s a long snaking queue, but the genius Park designers have you wending your way through various rooms of the Harry Potter School. From the Herbology glasshouses stocked with mandrakes…

    …the Dark Arts Classroom through to Dumbledores office and so much more. It has every imaginable prop, holograms of the actors and talking/moving pictures. It is crazy. (For a much better ‘walk through’ see the Universal website, it’s 3D recreation is incredible).

    Borrowed from TheVacationGals

    Before you know it 50 minutes of gazing and wandering have passed and you’re about to join the ride itself. It’s insanely fun – the setup is as if you’re on a broomstick and having adventures that Harry Potter and his mates take. It’s 3D with fantastic holograms of swooping through the trees, being chased by Dementors and over icy lakes.

    I would line up for 3 hours to take this again. I’m not even kidding. Even Mr Kiwi came out swearing that was the best ride he’s even been on.
    I sometimes think this could apply to the London tube…

    Once we left the Forbidden Journey ride it was onto the Dragon Rollercoaster. I left this one to Mr Kiwi, bottling it at the very last moment and he assures me it was fantastic.

    After a touch of Butterbeer tasting (yummo!) we wandered into Hogsmeade village, letting the boy recover from his rollercoaster, and explored the Owlery (^), Ollivanders Wand Shop and Flourish & Blotts. Harry Potter heaven.

    Every detail was covered.

    Once thoroughly explored we began to flag, and we decided to repair for repast in the Three Broomsticks. We decided to test the Pumpkin Juice and Cornish Pasties.

    The Pasties were about as expensive and ok as you’d expect, but I really enjoyed the Pumpkin Juice. Cinnamony and really refreshing.

    Then, as good soldiers it was onto Zonko’s Joke shop and Honeydukes. They were flabbergasting (and a marketers dream). Every item from the books you could think of was stocked there.

    We went on to other areas in the park subsequently, but they didn’t quite live up to the excitement and sheer attention to details like the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

    Well worth the stress of driving on the wrong side of the road for.

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    Harry Potter Cheat: Butterbeer Recipes (Simple & From Scratch)

    The most iconic drink throughout the books and movies has to be Butterbeer. Drunk as refreshment, comfort and during the initial Dumbledore’s Army set up session, it’s as essential as round glasses, wands and familiars. 




    Butterbeer may be based on Buttered Beer, which was a real drink. The earliest reference to Buttered Beer is from, ‘The Good Huswifes Handmaide for the Kitchin’ published in London in 1588 A.D., made from beer, sugar, eggs, nutmeg, cloves and butter back in Tudor times. Another old recipe for Buttered Beer, published by Robert May in 1664 A.D., from his recipe book, ‘The Accomplisht Cook’ calls for liquorish root and aniseeds to be added. (Thank you Harry Potter Wiki). 

    Now, down to the nitty gritty. One could say that having tried it in America at Universal Studios and at the Warner Brother Studios in the UK, that Mr Kiwi and I could almost be considered a connoisseur of the butterbeer beverage variety. Sadly in the muggle world you can only get it by training to Watford or flying to Florida. Any excuse, right? 

    Butterbeer is a popular wizarding beverage with a very slight alcohol content and a taste “a little bit like less-sickly butterscotch.”


    Quite honestly it’s sweet and delicious. Quite similar to an unexploded spider or ‘soda float’ you get the crisp butterscotch soda on the bottom with the creamy slightly vanilla head on top. Delicioso.


    You can make making this as difficult or as simple as you have time for.


    Butterbeer – the simply delicious ‘recipe’




    Creaming Soda (*if you can’t get creaming soda, see the below recipe) 

    Butterscotch Sauce (normally for Ice Cream)



    Icing Sugar



    • Fill your vessel with soda to around 2cms from the top.

    • Stir through about a teaspoon of butterscotch sauce for every 150ml or so, to taste. Stir to combine but don’t overstir as you’ll lose your bubbles.

    • In a separate mug beat the cream, a touch of sugar and and vanilla essence (I liked the ratio of about 100ml:0.5tsp:2 drops) just long enough to get air in the cream. Don’t let it thicken too much or it’ll whip. If it does begin to thicken too quickly, pause in your beating & let it relax a little before continuing.

    • Now, the magic. Get a metal tablespoon, flip it upside down and lean the handle against the glass and the tip just on the top of the soda and against the glass. Closely and slowly pour the cream. Et voila, you have floated your first Butterbeer. No flights to America strictly necessary.

    • Enjoy it shortly after pouring.

    Butterbeer – the more hands on approach





    Butterscotch Sauce (scaled down from FoodPreserving)

    Vanilla Simple Syrup – 2 cups sugar, 1 cup water, 1 vanilla bean



    Icing Sugar


    • Make Butterscotch Sauce (sorry, cop-out but it’s not my recipe!) and let it cool
    • Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a saucepan.
    • Split the vanilla beans lengthwise into halves and place in a heatproof jar or bottle.
    • Pour the hot syrup over the vanilla beans, cover, and let stand for 8 to 10 hours.
    • Fill your vessel with soda to around 2cms from the top.

    • Stir through about a teaspoon of butterscotch sauce & a teaspoon of vanilla simple syrup for every 150ml or so, to taste. Stir to combine but don’t overstir as you’ll lose your bubbles.

    • In a separate mug beat the cream, a touch of sugar and and vanilla essence (I liked the ratio of about 100ml:0.5tsp:2 drops) just long enough to get air in the cream. Don’t let it thicken too much or it’ll whip. If it does begin to thicken too quickly, pause in your beating & let it relax a little before continuing.

    • Now, the magic. Get a metal tablespoon, flip it upside down and lean the handle against the glass and the tip just on the top of the soda and against the glass. Closely and slowly pour the cream. Et voila, you have floated your first Butterbeer. No trains and coaches to Watford nessecary!

    • Enjoy it shortly after pouring.



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    The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook

    “A branch of magic is still open to you [muggles] – Curye, later known as Cookery, which combines elements of potion with transfiguration, a bit of herbology and divination.” Can’t argue with that, really.

    Of the layers that were used to construct the world of this amazing boy, one of the most fascinating (bar Hogwarts Castle of course – how amazing would that be to visit!?) are the Wizarding foods that play such a pivotal role in establishing the whole world. From Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, to Cauldron Cakes and of course the reviving bars of chocolate:

    The mood-enhancing properties of chocolate are well known in both the Muggle and wizard worlds. Chocolate is the perfect antidote for anyone who has been overcome in the presence of Dementors, which suck hope and happiness out of their surroundings.”

    This book presents 150 directly mentioned (and a few fleetingly referred to) delectations that any fans of the books and movies will love. It seems to be written for a mostly American audience, and shares many common British dishes; mashed potatoes, toad-in-the-hole, treacle tart and ‘four classically British Pies’. It also has 4 of the big 5; Pumpkin Juice, Pumpkin Pasties, Cauldron Cakes (aka ‘Big Fluffy Pancakes’) and a chapter devoted to Honeydukes Sweets. Sadly, it doesn’t include a recipe for Butterbeer (methinks that worry about Warner Brothers breathing down the authors neck plays a part) but overall is a fantastic book. I’ve cooked a few things and they seem pretty spot on –  a couple less Ice Cream recipes wouldn’t go amiss though.



    Each chapter of the Harry Potter Cookbook [UNOFFICIAL]
    has a random mix of recipes (eg. Chapter 4: Recipes from a Giant and an Elf) each accompanied with the book/chapter that it’s related to in the books, and a random historical fact. Physically it’s a beautiful book – hardcover that opens flat (perfect for cooking) and faux worn page edges. My nephews will love this… if they can pry it out of my hands that is. I always love having a look at peoples cookbooks because they say a lot about people, and this one sits proudly on my meagre shelf.

    “He had never seen so many things he liked to eat on one table: roast beef, roast chicken, pork chops and lamb chops, sausages, bacon and steak, boiled potatoes, roast potatoes, fries, Yorkshire pudding, peas, carrots, gravy, ketchup, and, for some strange reason, peppermint humbugs.” 

    Warner Brothers, you are missing a trick here. Seriously.


    What’s your favourite Harry Potter dish?

    (Please note any links to Amazon are through
    my Amazon Associates account, which means I make a little money (less than 5%)
    from any purchases made after clicking through these links without adding any
    cost. This helps support my book addiction, so if you are interested in buying
    the book, please click through the top link)

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    The Magical World of Harry Potter – Warner Brother Studio Tours

    Harry Potter seems to have turned into an international language that knows no borders. Everyone I’ve ever known, if they haven’t seen or read J.K Rowling’s series about a young boy learning about being a Wizard, they at least know of it because someone they know is obsessed.

    Take for example my Italian friend – she learned English simply because the books weren’t being translated fast enough for her. I have Harry Potter to thank for one of the loveliest friends that anyone could have.

    There are so many intriguing levels to the book series. You have the basic story; good vs. bad, kid growing up, making friends, facing the enemy in incredible situations with the added layers fantasy brings; magic, monsters and the normal world (muggles). Then add growing pains, High School, living as an orphan, falling in love, death and living. Add a few dashes of some incredible historical research (there really was a Nicholas Flamel and each character’s name was taken from history somewhere), adult themes running through the books (work, family, football) & the fact that secretly (and not so secretly) that feeling that having magical powers would be incredibly cool.

    When I found out that Warner Brothers were opening an interactive exhibit of the Harry Potter movie sets I wasn’t convinced about travelling all the way to Watford (North north London) or paying £30ish pounds for the delight. With all of the London landmarks it seemed pointless.

    Holy moly was I wrong.

    There are only a few attractions I’d heartily recommend tourists go and do when visiting London that are worth paying £20+ for. This makes the shortlist of 4 (the others are: the Tower of London, going on the London Eye at Twilight, and visiting Kew Gardens). There are London attractions too – eg. the film locations of Diagon Alley, the Ministry of Magic phonebox and of course Kings Cross for Platform 9&3/4s. I’ve been on a couple of tours (permatourist remember) and the walking ones are much better than the coach ones in my experience.

    The exhibition consists of two huge sound stages (coincidentally named J & K as they are all alphabetical) jam packed with more memorabilia than you can shake a wand at.

    That infamous cupboard below the stairs? It’s the just the waiting area to get into the main rooms.

    They have absolutely everything you could imagine. And more.

    According to Rowling in interviews, she had a lot of input on how the various locations look in the films. “It was the most bizarre experience when I walked onto the set of the Great Hall; it really was like walking into my own brain”.

    Fabulous sets –

    Costumes –

    Interactive exhibits (ie. how to wave a wand properly & a green screen photograph of you on a broomstick (for an extra charge))

    Props –

    (at the top those are fake Turkeys, by the way!)

    …and of course;

    The level of detail was astonishing.

    Did you know that Daniel Radcliffe was allergic to his glasses?

    Or that Hermione’s buck teeth (as described in the books) were abandoned because no-one could hear what she was saying when she was wearing them?

    As if you can’t already tell I loved it, and could have spent a whole day in there. Easily. Then, then there is the ubiquitous gift shop. They sell everything you could possibly imagine. Gryffindor robes, replica wands, Hermione’s earrings from the Twiwizard ball, Pygmy Puffs… the list goes on and on. It’s expensive, but then that will be no surprise.

    I’ve also decided that as it’s my birthday soon, I’m going to totally indulge my inner child, and have a Harry Potter week on the blog. I’m sorry, but I suspect most of you will enjoy my ramblings (why you do normally I don’t really know…) but in case you don’t, normal (whatever that is) service will resume next week. I have so much to share!!

    I definitely think my admission letter from Hogwarts must have gotten lost in the mail.

    (Stay tuned for a recipe later in the week…)

    (Btw this is the website site for Harry Potter Studio Tours – I’ve been in no way comped for this, I’m just sharing because it’s something I really loved). You have to pre-book it and it’s quite a way out of Watford but again totally worth it.

    You can buy chocolate wands and Butterbeer. Need any further convincing?

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