Whoops! I intended to post this a few weeks ago but got sidetracked. Better late than never?
When I first heard of the Roanoke Harry Potter Festival, I had assumed that it was going to be a small, local festival with a few hundred people tops. Little did I know that over 9,000 tickets had been sold to the event and the city had capped tickets due to being at capacity.
Fortunately for me, after my meltdown during the Unicorn Frappuccino disaster of 2017, my husband was pretty darn determined to get tickets. He eventually was able to procure some, forever increasing his good-husband status in my book. After attending, I decided to write a review of the event.
Atmosphere. I would give the atmosphere of the event an 8/10. A lot of local stores and restaurants got in on the act and decorated. Each Hogwarts house had a “common room” that was decorated with the house colors. Street windows had Harry Potter signs and patronus cut-outs. They could have used more Harry Potter music; there was a ’90s cover band playing instead which my husband and I suspected was contracted with Roanoke City to play on Saturdays. A Harry Potter soundtrack would have really helped the atmosphere, though.
Food. I would give food an 10/10. Lots of local restaurants had Harry Potter themed menus. There were also Harry Potter vendors selling Fish ‘n Chips, Butterbeer, Butterbeer ice cream and snow cones, and more. There were also local food trucks with non-Harry Potter fair like burgers and ice cream.
Activities. Unfortunately I have to give this one a 3/10. There wasn’t much to do; my husband and I really stretched our time to even stay there three hours. There were some classes based around Harry Potter literature, psychology, and the like that seemed really, really, interesting, but they were all sold out. There was a performance of a Very Potter Musical that we saw a little snippet of, but unfortunately it took place behind a loud generator and the students were having to shout over that. We also saw a snippet of a quidditch match, but it would have been nice to have an announcer or a scoreboard for that, especially for people who didn’t know the rules of the game. I am hoping that next year there will be more to do and that the activities they had this year would be more accessible. Trivia in the Ravenclaw commonroom, maybe? A scavenger-hunt around the city? A school house relay competition? An owl raptor show? It would have also been helpful to have a more detailed brochure; we had to look up a lot of additional information online.
Shopping. I give this one a 6/10. There were, I would guess, 10-15 kiosks set up selling brooms, mugs, jewelry, and other fantasy-themed memorabilia. Living near that area though, I would have LOVED to have a tshirt, keychain or mug with the Roanoke Harry Potter Festival logo. The logo was super cute. I suspect that a specific Roanoke Harry Potter Festival kiosk would have been a HUGE hit.
The verdict: I wouldn’t have driven out of state for this festival, but since it was local, it was nice to spend an afternoon eating fish ‘n chips, watching a quidditch match, and trying butterbeer ice cream. I give it a 6/10 BUT with the hope that, since it’s the first year, they will have some kinks to work out before next year and will be better organized. I got the impression that this was intended to be a very small event that quickly got blown out of proportion. If there were more accessible activities next time, I would definitely go back.
I will also say that, while the big, well-funded Harry Potter tourist destinations are certainly magical, there was something particularly charming to me about how all the shop and restaurant owners in a small downtown area got in on the act and used their own creativity to transform their spaces into something magical. If that doesn’t represent an Enchanted Outlook, I don’t know what does.
So here’s what happened. Last week, due to a to-do list of things I have been dreading that has been hanging over my head, I had decided to take a week of “No Magic Fixes” and tackle one difficult task every day. They were all tasks that I absolutely hate to do and for some of them there was some big emotional involvement as well. I started this project on Saturday and some of the tasks weren’t going so well, so by mid-week I was… stressed. Okay, I was a bundle of maxed out brain cells attached by a spinal chord to a full-speed train wreck.
Now, if you have followed my blog for a while now, you might have guessed that I might be the kind of person who likes unicorns.
In truth, I don’t like unicorns. I LOVE unicorns. I even wrote a blog post about them.
And so, when I heard that Starbucks was coming out with a Unicorn Frappuccino, I just had to try it.
I had been anticipating this beverage for quite some time. I thought it was cool that, true to the magic of the elusive unicorn, the drink would be only available to five days. And, even better, it would change color AND flavor as you drink it. I mean, come on, I had to have one. I thought it would be a great reprieve in the middle of a difficult week and thinking of it was really helping me to get my tough to-do list done.
Day One: Before I try the drink myself, I share a post of a negative review, hoping against hope to get some positive feedback from friends (“Au contraire Stacey, it’s the best magical potion I have placed in my mouth!”). This did not happen. I receive a barrage of (mostly negative) comments, some saying they didn’t like the taste, some criticizing the drink for how unhealthy it is and urging me not to drink it.
Now, to be clear about the health factor, I do eat a largely plant-based diet and I don’t drink alcohol, juice, or soda (with very rare exceptions). I also try to avoid added sugar, other than in a small dessert now and then. I don’t usually drink Starbucks other than a plain iced coffee now and again with a little cream. I generally try to be a healthy person, so I don’t like to consume things that I know are terrible for me.
It’s not that I don’t respect my body. I just respect unicorns MORE. Because magic.
So, I am reading all the negative comments and articles hating on the mythical unicorn beverage, and somehow, I can’t be quite sure how it happened, but somehow, I went into full meltdown mode. With tears. (Remember, I was in the middle of a “scary tasks” desert and unicorn magic was my only oasis. Or at least that’s what I told myself.)
So, yes, I was literally reduced to tears over a Starbucks drink. I don’t even usually DRINK Starbucks. It apparently wasn’t even a GOOD drink, according to the reviews. I decided to pull myself together, take a bubble bath, and leave the Unicorn Frappuccino for another day when I was more able to appreciate a magical elixir.
Day Two: I realize that a guest is coming into town and the house is a wreck. Frantic cleaning and errands ensue to get things somewhat passable. This guest works for another gourmet beverage company, and was very critical of the Unicorn Frappuccino. (I.E. proceed with caution). By the time I finish chores and errands, I realize I still haven’t gotten my unicorn goodness and it’s really late. Was Starbucks even still open? I decide to go in the morning before work.
After all, there was no rush aside from my own desire; it would be available for five days, right? Right?!?
Day Three: I find out that I need to meet with two clients today instead of the one I had planned. I don’t have time to stop and get my Frappuccino. I don’t consume sugary stuff on the job so as not to be a bad influence (I work in in-home care), so I decide to stop by after work.
Then I remember I also have other errands to run after work on the other side of town. I run those errands as quickly as possible and then FINALLY pull up in the Starbucks drive-through in eager anticipation.
ME: Yes, um…I would like a UNICORN…latte?
BARISTA: I’m sorry, we are all out of Unicorn Frappuccinos.
ME: Oh no! Um… uh… um… I’ll come back later. (Drive off slightly panicked and feeling somewhat dumb and guilty for not ordering another drink. Start calculating closest distance to next nearest Starbucks, which is 20 minutes away. Decide to go home and maybe coerce husband and guest to come with me, since I’m already late. Would guest come? He works for the enemy. Is this allowed?)
I get home, and my husband tells me that several Starbucks around town have run out of the drink. I decide to go in the morning, figuring they would re-stock by then.
Day 4: Okay, now it’s full-on panic mode. MUST find the mythical unicorn drink of goodness before it is gone!
I go by the other Starbucks, where I learn that the entire town is out of frappuccinos. The barista herself didn’t even get to try one. And they would not be re-stocking. I spiral into a tunnel of sadness. I might never get to try the mythical drink of my hopes and dreams. Guest is trying to console me by talking about the benefits of using real mango in drinks rather than fake mango flavoring and how mango leaves a certain sheen when blended that is not found in other fruits. Guest, it turns out, is a mango connoisseur. I sadly nod along, trying not to think of my terrible misfortune.
Day 5: I awake in a world that is still full of icky gross things to be done but devoid of magical unicorn drinks. I start to wonder if they ever truly existed. Were they just a myth? If they once existed, does that mean they still do? Or are they, like their counterparts, not actually real anymore? (And yes, if you are calculating, I am now on day eight of my week of no magic fixes and still not done.)
But then it occurred to me: I could make my own.
I decided to use it a reward for finishing my awful to-do list, which would be done on Monday. And I decided to make it out of some of my favorite things rather than follow an online mock recipe. I started with a base of Nutella. (Was it a statement about the dark sadness of my unicorn journey? Was it unicorn poo? Do I just really, really like Nutella? Hint: it was the latter.) Then I added a milkshake made with gourmet salted caramel ice cream and added a food coloring swirl. I topped it off with whipped cream, pink sugar, and a candy garnish. There was no coffee in it, but I heard the original didn’t have any either, so I was okay with it being basically a milkshake. After all, I figured if it was my own unicorn fantasy, I could make it however I wanted. It did kinda sorta change color from pink and blue to purple, but the flavor didn’t change.
I learned many life lessons this week. The early bird catches the worm. Don’t put all my eggs in one basket. Don’t procrastinate on the tough stuff. The biggest one, though, was one that Glinda taught Dorothy years ago; to paraphrase: I always had the power to make unicorn magical goodness; I just had to learn that for myself.
Once I finished all my difficult tasks, I slept easier than I had in months. Never again would I put off important things just because they were difficult or scary, and never again would I fall for some commercial marketing ploy, even if it played into my love of magic. Life’s magic, I realized, couldn’t be found in some external source; it must come from within.
But then today I found out Katy Perry is launching a limited edition MERMAID MAKEUP line!
I am currently tackling a few projects that I have been putting off for a while because they are just not fun. Stuff like getting a part fixed on a car that can only be done at a dealership I don’t like, selling furniture that will probably involve some bartering and negotiating, changing a medication that will involve side effects, confronting someone about something I’ve been putting off. In short, stuff I absolutely HATE to do.
I am normally a huge fan of re-framing things, changing my perception of things so the not-fun tasks are more fun. But, sometimes that kind of over-thinking leads to postponing things if we can’t find a way to re-frame them. And then we get to my current situation, where the to-do list of icky stuff is piled a mile high. So, instead of finding a magic fix, I’m just going to grit my teeth and do one thing a day this week.
Magic fixes are great, but sometimes they can make things more complicated, or even be used against us. That magic health food fix will never compare to a whole foods plant-based diet. The magic sleeping pill or the super-caffeinated drink might be needed on occasion, but maintaining a balanced sleep schedule (if possible) is probably the healthier option. And those magical discounts, if not for things we really need, just mean spending more money.
So, this week, I am trying to keep an eye peeled for the ways in which magic fixes actually bring us down, rather than how they raise us up. It should be an interesting change.
Have you ever had a magic fix that went awry?