Weekend Reading

By Kate Riley January 25, 2014

Hello and happy weekend friends! I’ve been preoccupied over the past few days, so I’m sorry for the late links! We’ve been in Harry Potter’s wizard world having read the books together over the past months and then we started a movie marathon, watching all the films in a row.

I read the first book when it came out in the late 90s and loved it but then purposefully reserved the remaining books and movies for when I had kids of my own. My sister thought I was crazy to wait asking why I never read them when they were released and why I never saw the movies. I sensed they were special but wanted to live the adventure when I had children of my own, and I’m so glad I did!

Now I finally get the hype, what a great series! We finished the last movie yesterday and now my husband insists on being called “Lord VoldeMatt” by our kids or they will get tickled “to death”. So who among you has visited Hogwarts at Universal Studios in Florida? I’d love to hear your reviews, we’re thinking of making the trip this year. 

On a completely different note, I’ve noticed there’s a movement and a feeling out there in the blogosphere, and several are reflecting on it with their thoughtful posts on how it has all changed – many of us missing the “good old days” when blogging was for the enjoyment of it and not for the attention/likes/accolades. Do you sense a change too?

Here are a few favorite links from the week:

Decorating trends for 2014

52 clever ideas for organizing your home

An epic ode to blogging (great comments)

Or you could just slow down

Letting go of fear

The humility of the artist

And for fun…

Senior citizens recreating movie scenes

Brothers recreating images from childhood

Bad lip reading at the NFL

Chewbacca’s behind the scenes Star Wars photos 


Also my latest posts over at Better Homes & Gardens …

versatile expedit

salvage finds

The Versatile Expedit

Add Style with Salvage Finds

Enjoy what’s left of the weekend!



  1. We went to the Wizarding World at Universal on opening day back in 2010. My husband and I were in Florida for our honeymoon and decided to visit Universal to see it. It was crazy busy. I don’t think we quite realized it was opening day before we got there. Once we got into the park it took another 2 hours of waiting in line to get to the Harry Potter portion of Universal. But it was so worth the wait. The place is AMAZING! You have to go on the ride in Hogwarts castle. It is fantastic and even just walking through the line to get to the ride was good because you go through several rooms in the castle to get there. You also need to try Butterbeer. They have both regular and frozen. It is quite sweet and kind of like a cream soda flavor. The only other thing we really got to see was Olivander’s wand shop because of the lines. Also very cool. We are hoping to go back this year, probably October. They are supposed to be adding the Hogwarts Express and Diagon Alley this year. We can’t wait!

  2. Wizarding World is opening in Universal Studios Los Angeles this summer! I’m local and will definitely be making the trip. So excited! I’ve heard great things about the Florida one, so I’m glad it’s coming to our own state so soon!

  3. I read Sethy G’s post this week too and also had a bit of an epiphany. If the masses like it, well, then it’s average! In trying to appeal to everyone we reach the heart of no one. Great recommendation, Kate, and I loved the ode to blogger post too. I think it’s only so long people can try to be so put together and perfect in every way before they burn out and come back to reality!

  4. Oh my gosh did we LOVE The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! It was so fun, and everyone was so excited to be there, it was like this huge communal high of excitement! The frozen butter beer was the bomb, and the stores and rides were AMAZING! They are adding a 400 million dollar expansion it was so popular!

  5. “I’m gonna rest ’cause I’m the best!” Hahahah, got me laughing really out loud at my computer! And the rest of list is great too, thank you very much! But I think the second link is broken – it starts ttp:// instead of http:// and so doesn’t open in my browser, please consider editing it :)!

  6. Waiting to read a book series with your children (especially Harry Potter) is such a neat idea! I am certainly looking forward to visiting the Wizarding World once my little people are bigger people. Enjoy your trip!

  7. Hi Kate! I need 52 clever ideas, but the link doesn’t work! Thanks for all of your hard work on this blog. I love it!

  8. I have been to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Orlando. I found the rest of the park to be a waste of time because my kids are older. However, this part of Universal was worth it for us and especially me because I’m a huge fan of the series (books and movies). My biggest piece of advice is to go at a time of year that is not busy. Otherwise the lines will make it a lot less fun. We actually skipped the wand store because the line never got smaller and was over 2 hours long. They did have a place outside it where you could buy wands though if you were interested. Also, try the frozen and regular Butterbeers. I hear with the opening of the new part of the park they will have warm Butterbeer but I’m not sure for how long (I think it’s part of the opening). I prefer frozen ;)

  9. We’ve visited the Universal and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (my kids were 13 and 15) and we had a fantastic time! Do yourself a favor and stay in one of the hotels on the property, because with those reservations, you can get the express pass (I think that’s what they’re called) tickets for your whole stay. You can also get into the park earlier than anyone who doesn’t have them. Don’t get me wrong, the hotels are not inexpensive, but being able to walk everywhere and take a ferry boat to the parks saves you the money of having to rent a car etc. Plus, you can get through all the parks and rides faster using your express pass, so you don’t have to stay as many days and pay for additional nights in the hotel. You should hit the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (the castle tour) ride first because you can’t use your express passes for that ride and it can have a long wait if you don’t go as soon as you are allowed into the park. The rest of the two Universal Parks are wonderful as well — my kids had a blast on all the rides and my daring kid enjoyed all the roller coasters with her dad (I’m a chicken too). There’s a free Universal app that you can download onto your phone, and that can give you a quick overview of the wait time on each ride in real time. This is obviously very helpful in planning where to go next. Hope this helps! I think your kids would probably be old enough now to really enjoy a trip like this, although you may want to check minimum height requirements for rides before you go. We went on spring break (March in TX) and the weather was perfect. Summers are much more brutal, as you may imagine.

  10. Harry Potter became a part of our family when our oldest received the first book for his 7th birthday. After that we waited for each new book to be released each summer. He was going into his junior year when book seven was released and waited in line with his cousin to get it. Our oldest was turning 11, just likes Harry, when the first move came out and we went for his birthday. After that each movie became a birthday family tradition.We were a family of 4 by the time the first one came out, our youngest was two, so basically Harry was a part of his life as long as he can remember.
    With that long preamble I have to say if your kids have let Harry become a part of their lives you have to at some point take them to Wizarding World. We took our family to Orlando 3 years go. With our 2 older kids in college, we thought we may not have many more opportunities to do a family trip. By far WW was the best venue at Universal and beat everything at Disney. I would make one recommendation stay in a hotel in Universal. Your room key gives you an express pass which allows you to skip the long lines all day and you can enter 1 hour before the park opens to the public. This is the only way you will be able to enjoy WW. We were through all of WW before anyone was really in line.
    PS I recommend the audio books also, which which are unabridged and read by a fabulous EnglishI recommend the audio books also which which are unabridged and read by a fabulous English actor actor, for long car rides.

  11. oh boy- I was really glad to read that last paragraph.
    the design blogger who features high dollar meals and parties and fashion (blog posts showing her getting her makeup done for one of the parties) and her sponsors are low dollar grocery store products ,
    the design and “living” blog whose vocabulary doesn’t appear to go past the words “swoon”, “crushing” “obsessed” or back to “swooning” ,
    design and living blogs that feature posts about locally sourcing food , clean eating , slow food,and recycling (all PC) and then they do a feature on how fun that this year fur is back in fashion and finally the design blogs that ask a guest ” expert” to do a DIY and it’s a mess, it won’t work in real life -all in the name of content. One of the reasons I enjoy your blog so much is the obvious thoughtfulness that you appear to give to it’s content. And it’s great content , love all of it .

  12. Thank you so much Deborah for the tips and I hadn’t thought about the audio versions, but what a brilliant idea for road trips!! Thank you Carla and Jennifer for your tips as well, I love when people share their personal experience to help others :) and so glad you enjoyed it! We’re thinking maybe this spring break or next of visiting, we have family in Georgia too so we’ll try to visit both.

  13. I LOVE using salvage finds in decorating. It’s one of my favorite ways to add character to a home. Thanks for the tips over at BHG!

  14. Oh, I love the fact that you have been preoccupied with reading! What a lovely way to spend your time. A little literary distraction is only healthy, I think! ;) I love your blog, as well; new follower. :) Thank you!

  15. We drove all the way from Ontario, Canada to see the park the first year it opened. My daughter was 17 and not too old to enjoy it, as we did as well. As others said, if you stay in the park (we stayed at Portofino) you get the early pass and the express lines. We walked quickly where there were no lines, passed people beside us who were waiting for hours. I felt a bit embarrassed by it, but anyway, that’s how it works. We loved the whole HP part of the park, so well done and thrilling for any HP fan to see!

  16. Kate, I sure appreciate your blog. I love how family oriented you are. I love how creative you are. I love that I can learn things about life and happiness and drive in the middle of a tutorial about painting a dresser. I’m grateful that your blog is still purist. It is conversational and driven by a love of creating, not a need for accolades or sponsorship. Thank you, and please keep it up!

  17. I appreciate your willpower to hold off on the rest of the HP books for your children–I definitely could not have done that, though I am very much looking forward to reading the books to my daughter when she is older. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is amazing, but crowded, and the expansion they are currently building and is slated for a Summer 2014 opening looks VERY awesome (but will be…crowded, I’m sure!)

    Thank you for being a great blogger. Your blog is one that I truly look forward to reading every day.

  18. I started reading the books at age 13 and read the last book when I was 22. I really grew up on the books and I think they had a wonderful impact on my creativity.

  19. Like you, I waited to read these with my oldest son. I was so excited when he received the series from a family member for Christmas. He made it through the first three books and first two movies, but unfortunately we’ve had to stop there. He began having terrible nightmares shortly after starting the books and after reading some reviews on commonsense.org, I realized that the later books and movies are really meant for older children. They get darker and edgier and much scarier. Some children can handle all the books in the series just fine, but my oldest is a bit of a sensitive child so we are waiting until next year to read book 4 and we’ll see how it goes. I’m not sure I can wait!

    • I know what you mean Pat, they get darker and scarier as they go along! We decided to watch and read them together constantly being sensitive to just that issue. We had a few “cover your eyes” moments when Voldemort is doing his thing like at the end of Goblet of Fire and the last three movies, but our kids handled it really well. I agree, every kid is different and some are far more sensitive, good call!

  20. LOVE Harry Potter! My husband and I went a few months after it first opened and it was PACKED! You had to wait in line just to get into the area they created. Once in though it was completely awesome and totally worth it. The ride was incredible (but you can definitely get motion sick). Get the butter beer! (frozen). it’s so good!

  21. Loved Harry Potter. i too read the books with my kids and it created some voracious readers out of a few reluctant readers. We loved Wizarding World, it really does feel like you are walking into the books (with crazy heat and thousands of other people). Seriously would go back again and again if we weren’t on the other side of the country.

    Like others said, stay onsite (you’ll get entry into Wizarding World one-two hours before general public and it’s worth it to explore before the crowds!). For us, it made sense to buy 1 season pass and then use the season pass discount to book the hotels rooms and buy discount admission passes for the rest of the family (the discounts we got more than paid for the season pass, but you’d have to check the discounts available with your dates of travel before knowing if that would benefit you). The season pass also got us additional food and merchandise discounts. Be aware if you go this year that they have a new Harry Potter area so it will be extra crowded. Try the butterbeer and do the wand experience. My eleven-year-old got chosen and was so excited it almost made up for her disappointment at not getting a letter to Hogwarts. ;) We spent a lot of time in Wizarding World but aside from one roller coaster fanatic, our kids weren’t super crazy about the rest of Universal so we fit some Disney World into the trip too.

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