Harry Potter themed conference room added to our already non-traditional office decor

My husband’s law firm has always had some non-traditional office decor (for a law firm). We have a Batman, Avengers and Star Wars hallway. (Soon we will have completed our Lord of the Rings hall and dragon hall.) Our conference room has an Indiana Jones theme, and the break room has an arcade theme. You can check out my other posts on some of those decorations here or here.

So when we expanded yet once again in October, we decided the new conference room would have a Harry Potter theme. Some of the items we purchased – many from Etsy – but there are quite a few that we made ourselves. Let’s take a tour.

Once you enter, you see the Mirror of Erised (from Pottery Barn) and a canvas of Hogwarts (from Ebay). Next to that is our Quidditch area – which includes a robe, broom, chest with quaffle and bludgers, beater’s bats and signs about the four positions. I’ve added links to the items we bought though the robe is no longer available on Ebay. We made the signs, bludgers, and beater’s bats and of course outfitted the chest to hold its items.

The next area has a chess table with the House Point counter above it. The actual chess table is our second purchase of a table. The first one was too small (should have paid attention to the dimensions before ordering) though we found another place for it. I used my Cricut for the chess quotes. The house points is something my husband created. We got the gems from Amazon. (I’ll let you in on a funny story where as we tried to mount it to the wall, it fell and we had gems everywhere!)

The next area was a lot of work. It starts with a pensieve, our too-small chess table holding some bottled memories, and then an apothecary table with potions, a cauldron, and a hand-made spell book. On the wall we have keys (and some hanging from the ceiling), old photos (downloaded for free from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and then we made the frames out of foam), a Mandrake, a pygmy puff, and a cage of Cornish pixies. For the Pensieve, we were inspired by this post on Instructables, but modified it to our own needs. We got the mirrors off Amazon as well as the digital picture frame that shows images from office events.

Next we have a bookcase filled with spell books (repurposed old law books), potions and items from the movie including Fawkes the Phoenix, the sorting hat, the Tri-Wizard’s Cup, the Sorcerer’s Stone, Tom Riddle’s diary (and Baslik fang), Golden Egg, Crystal Goblet, and Slughorn’s Hourglass. The books, potions, diary and fang are all items we made.

To finish out this wall, we have fireplace (with train, floating snitch and house symbols), a list of Dumbledore’s Army, Hedwig, the Maurader’s Map (see my husband’s Instructable on how we created this), our copy of the Daily Prophet and the display of office wands.

I created the Daily Prophet including the stories which list the employees as the escaped prisoners. I had it printed on foam board and then cut out the area for the moving picture. We filmed employees who had no problem getting into character for the running display.

All of the wands were bought for about $15 each on Ebay. I printed the wand board art and employee names on my Cricut though originally my husband wanted the wood engraved (for the top, not the names as employees do change). And yes, we even had a wand selecting ceremony.

Oh, and did I mention the dementor behind the doorway? It has scared a few people.

The last wall has the house flags (a gift from the employees) as well as our listing of which houses the employees belong in. And that pretty much wraps up this unique conference room. Everyone who has seen it has been impressed with what we have done. The employees loved coming in on Mondays to see if we had added to the room. My husband actually once got ran over in the hallway after I sent an announcement that we had added something major.

Mourning a loss – part 2

If you read my last post – Mourning a loss – part 1, you know that my mother passed away last month. I had planned to write last week more about her but a trip to the beach delayed that post. The trip was bittersweet. The last time we went to South Padre Island was last June. It was my parents, my brother, myself and my kids. It was different trip with Covid restrictions in place. But it was nice to get away with family. This time it was my husband, myself and the kids. I found myself thinking about my mom, remembering her there and hating the fact that we will never go on another trip together again.

It began in 2015 that we started going on vacations with her, my dad and my brother. The first one was a cruise to Mexico, Jamaica and Grand Cayman. The next year it was a a cabin at the lake (without my brother). And then there was the cruise to Alaska and a trip to Corpus Christi. We had a trip to New Orleans planned but then Covid hit, and our plans were cancelled. We went to South Padre Island instead. Who knew that would be our last trip together? But thankfully, we have the memories from all those other trips.

My family returned from South Padre two days before my mom’s funeral. Relatives that I haven’t seen in 8, 11 and 30 years came in from California, Florida, South Carolina and Missouri. It was great seeing everyone even if it was a sad occasion that brought us together.

It has been the hardest on my dad. He and my mother were married for 53 years. They met and married after only knowing each other for just 3 months. He was in the Air Force and days after they got married, my mom moved from Florida to Utah – her first time living out of the state. They went on to have three kids and lived in New Hampshire, Japan, Hawaii, California and Nebraska before my dad retired after 30 years in the Air Force. During those times, my mom was an elementary school teacher. After retirement, my dad went to work for the Department of Energy and my mom became a travel agent – which allowed us to do some more travel as I went to high school.

For fourteen years after I graduated, they stayed in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I would come see them or they would come visit me. During this time apart, I got married and helped put my husband through law school. When we finally settled in San Antonio and decided to have kids, my mom immediately moved closer to us. She spent almost 16 years spoiling those kids. When they were little, my parents went everywhere with me and the kids – to the zoo, Sea World, the park, the rodeo, and other special events like a day out with Thomas (the Tank).

My mom was always very supportive of anything I did. When I wrote on my blog, she would often leave a comment. When I sold Pampered Chef, she always bought something from each party. And of course, she bought and reviewed each book I wrote. She always bought something from every fundraiser the kids participated in and went to many of their concerts or events. She even volunteered at the school festival.

As I said, she loved to spoil me and the kids. She bought us Hallmark ornaments and made sure our favorite treats were there when we went over to her house to play board games. I love everything that we were able to do together. My only one regret is that we didn’t stop to take more pictures. Oh, I took pictures of my kids doing stuff. But we never gathered everyone together and took group pictures (unless you count Thanksgiving where every year we sat on the couch for a group photo.) I just wish I had more photos of she and I together. Often we were the ones behind the camera catching the joy and fun of the others.

It helps help knowing that she had a great 77 years of life here with us. I just wish it had been for many more years. I miss you, mom.

Mourning a loss…part 1

It has been far too long since I have last posted. May typically is a crazy busy month with Mother’s Day, my son’s birthday and just the multitude of end of the school year events (that were actually in person this year.) The kids last day of school was last Friday.

But what made these last few weeks even worse, as the headline of this article states, I was mourning the loss of my mother, who died on May 9 (Mother’s Day for those in the U.S.)

Her death was not expected but also at the same time, not totally a surprise. She had been in and out of the hospital since the beginning of January. Her issues began way before this. As I thought about how to give a brief rundown of her medical issues, I realized it would be hard to be brief.

In 2013, after surgery on her back, the doctors found a golf-ball size tumor (benign) in her head. Removing it led to an infection and a very rough recovery. Since then, she still had problems with pain and feeling in her feet which is what the back surgery had been hoping to fix. They even installed a device in her back to help with the pain. Fast forward to 2020 when more tumors were discovered in her head. Again they were benign, and they decided to treat them with radiation verses doing surgery.

A few weeks after the last radiation treatment, she began developing some coordination problems. On Christmas Eve, she fell in the shower, fracturing her back. Though they said it would heal on its own, her mobility went down from there. She began using a walker and fell several times. She even had some difficulty with her hands. It was concerning how fast she seemed to be going downhill and my father and brother finally convinced her to go the hospital.

There they determined that she had swelling in her brain and fluid on her brain which they think may be from the radiation treatments. They of course kept her, using steroids to control the swelling. The hospital visitor policy was one-visitor at a time so the family was able to go see her. Most of the time she was in good spirits but she couldn’t walk and had lost a lot of dexterity in her hands and arms. She needed help feeding herself. Physical therapy was started but she seemed discouraged that she was so weak.

A week or so later she was doing better and went to a live-in rehabilitation center to continue the physical therapy. Their COVID policy was more strict and only my dad was allowed to visit her. In February she came home. For the first week, she seemed to be doing better. But while mentally she seemed fine, she still was having issues with mobility – as in she was still in a wheelchair. While they had home health workers to do therapy, a lot of the moving and care was left to my father who is 85. In February, she went back in the hospital but by this time the hospital had a new COVID policy and only one visitor was allowed per day. This visitor was my dad so my brother and I were not able to see her.

Again, she improved and they moved her to an in-hospital rehabilitation area to continue her physical therapy. While in the hospital this time, she missed both my brother’s birthday (his first since he had moved to the San Antonio area) and my daughter’s thirteenth birthday. She was released the Saturday before her 78th birthday. We were able to go out to a family steak dinner at a nearby restaurant. Besides being in wheelchair and seeming a little more frail, she was quite with it mentally. But I think her lack of progress with physical therapy discouraged her. It is amazing how far downhill she had come. In December she was walking, holding a pen, feeding herself and doing stuff that we all take for granted. By April, she was wheelchair bound, relying on my dad to move her from the bed or chair to the wheelchair that he pushed. She couldn’t write and struggled with some of those basic tasks such as holding a fork or toothbrush.

And to top it all off, I don’t think the pain in her legs that she had dealt with since way before her 2013 surgery was still there. I do think she could have recovered from all of this but it would be a long hard road. In April, when she was still having problems, she decided to have surgery to remove the tumors and see if that would help. The surgeon had been hesitant to do surgery because of the difficulties from last time but he agreed that this was now their only course of action.

She had surgery on April 20th. It went welll and the surgeon removed all the tumors he could find. I visited my mom in the hospital the day after the surgery. She was in pain but generally seemed in good spirits, joking with hospital staff. But she did break down once, crying over the thought of dying and leaving my dad alone. Two days later, she was moved out of the Critical Care Unit. And everything else went downhill from there. We later found out that she was having seizures but at the time all we knew is she had periods of being incoherent. I went and saw her that week and it was such a change from how she was after surgery. I left the hospital in tears. But after an adjustment of medicine, she seemed to be getting better and there was even talk about her coming home to continue doing physical therapy.

Then she developed a little bit of chest congestion. The hospital wanted it cleared up before they released her. We thought she would be home by Mother’s Day. I spoke to my dad on Wednesday and made plans to go see her Friday, even though he thought she might be coming home on Saturday. Then Friday morning, I received a text from him. She wasn’t doing well. The hospital said we need to decide if we wanted to put her on life support or choose hospice.

I was in shock. Just days before we were talking about her being released which I had been dubious about since the last time I saw her she was so out of it I couldn’t imagine her going home in that condition. But my dad had said she was improving. In fact, the day before the whole hospice/life support question, my dad had called my aunt and said she was improving. I don’t know if this was false hope or really that she went downhill quickly.

When I saw her on Friday, her breathing was labored and she kept refusing to wear the oxygen mask. They didn’t think she would improve. She was much like she was on the previous visit but this time she was able to communicate with me though honestly her mind was already going. Her thought were of the past, of her mom and other things that often didn’t make sense. But she would answer questions. And she did look me in the eyes and said she loved me.

I didn’t know it at the time but that was my last conversation with her. We decided to bring her home for hospice, but she deteriorated overnight and the hospital didn’t want to transport her. We went with hospice in the hospital. When I saw her on that Saturday, she never acknowledged us. Her heart was beating like crazy and she struggled to breath even with the oxygen mask on. We knew the end would be soon.

She died the next morning. What a way to start Mother’s Day – a day to celebrate our wonderful moms. I still struggle with the fact that the Sunday before we thought she was coming home. We thought she would be home by Mother’s Day. I had already bought her a card and the stuff to make brownies – a dessert we often had on special occasions.

Since her death, I’ve written and published her obituary. She has been cremated and is waiting to be interred at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery. They have a long wait so it won’t be until June 10 – my wedding anniversary – before we will have her services. Another crappy way to celebrate a special day.

AtoZ Challenge 2021 Wrap Up

In case you took all of April off from viewing my blog, I participated in the A to Z challenge where each day (except Sundays) you post on a new topic following the letters of the alphabet. So April 1 the blog topic started with A, on April 2 the blog topic began with B and so on.

This was my eighth year doing the challenge. The organizers of the challenge suggest you pick a theme for your writing. The first year I didn’t do a theme. The next year it was TV shows, followed by characters, antagonists, songs about magic, character flaws and comic strips. This year my theme was cat characters.

This turned out to be a fun topic. I featured some well known cats such as Garfield and the Cheshire cat. There were animated cats Mittens, the Aristocats, Oliver and Lucifer as well as live action cat who starred in movies such as Keanu, DC and Jake.

The typical harder letters – Q and X – were definitely hard this time as I did not find in cat characters with those letters. For Q, I featured my book Quietus that inspired this topic. For X, I just featured another cat character – one of my favorites Hobbes from the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. W this year was also hard but I went with a cat-character based book series called Warriors.

As always, I enjoyed the challenge and look forward to doing it again next year.

For any of you who have missed out on my blogs from the A to Z challenge, here is a recap of what I covered.

Previous Posts

A is for the Aristocats

B is for Binx

C is for Cheshire Cat

D is for DC

E is for Elsa

F is for Felix

G is for Garfield

H is for Heathcliff

I is for Isis

J is for Jake

K is for Keanu

L is for Lucifer

M is for Mittens

N is for Nala

O is for Oliver

P is for Puss in Boots

Q is for Quietus

R is for Rum Tug Tugger

S is for Salem

T is for Thomasina

U is for Unknown

V is for Victoria

W is for Warriors

X is for Xtra

Y is for Yum Yum (and Koko)

Z is for Zira

Recipe of the Month – BLT Pasta Salad

Up close side shot of easy BLT Pasta Salad recipe in a white bowl with one fork spearing pasta

I saw this recipe on Facebook. Oh, my, it looks so good! I can’t wait to try it. I’m not sure about the lemon chive dressing as lemon isn’t my favorite, but I’m willing to give it a try. This recipe comes from the Carlsbad Cravings website. They say it is great for a potluck. With Spring here and the nice weather outside, we will be getting out soon with friends and family. I can’t wait to try this recipe.

***

Ingredients

PASTA SALAD

  • 12 oz. mini Farfalle pasta (or other small pasta like medium shells)
  • 1/2 pound (½ bunch) asparagus tough ends removed then cut into 1” pieces
  • 1 cup frozen petite peas thawed
  • 1 yellow bell pepper chopped
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes quartered
  • 4 cups roughly chopped romaine lettuce*
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 8 oz. thick cut bacon cooked and chopped

LEMON CHIVE DRESSING

  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest (approx 1 lemon)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/2 tsp EACH sugar, dried oregano, dried parsley, pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives may sub 1 tablespoon dried

Directions

  • Whisk together all of the Lemon Chive Dressing ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to use.**
  • Cook pasta in generously salted water just short of al dente, then add the asparagus to the pot and cook with the pasta for 1 more minute. Drain the pasta and asparagus, rinse with cold water then toss with a drizzle of olive oil to keep pasta from sticking.

SERVING IMMEDIATELY:

  • Add all of the salad ingredients to a large bowl. Once pasta has cooled, add Lemon Chive Dressing and toss until evenly coated. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste (I like more pepper). Serve immediately.

MAKING AHEAD:

  • Add pasta, asparagus, peas, bell peppers and cherry tomatoes to a large bowl and toss with half of the dressing once the pasta has cooled. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Refrigerate the lettuce, bacon and Parmesan separately.
  • When ready to serve, add the lettuce, bacon and Parmesan and the remaining dressing and toss until evenly combined. Taste and add a splash more lemon if desired and salt and pepper to taste (I like more pepper).