Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (part 2)

(cheers, from Hogsmeade!)

I'll try to keep this short and sweet, but I can't NOT share photos and advice with you guys, on how to do the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. So this will be broken up into four posts so as not to overwhelm.

As most of you know, Fedora and I took an epic 3-day jaunt through Universal Studios Orlando, to play at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. If you are a Harry Potter fan, you should also do this. It was more fun than you can fit into a Gringott's Bank vault, and despite 3 full days spent entirely in their two Harry Potter-themed areas of the park we still didn't see everything.

The Food:
Butterbeer. Is it worth it?

First off, I'm not a fan of sugar and sweets. I like complex flavors, and I was utterly convinced that butterbeer would be too sweet for me. And I was very wrong. It IS sweet, but not sugary. It's something like a melding of butterscotch and shortbread. I can tell you both the butterbeer base and the shortbread-flavored foam topping are made with a dairy base.
It comes in three versions and, amazingly, all three are tasty and a somewhat different experience. I'd be hard-pressed to pick which was my favorite.

(the creamy dregs of the hot version)

Hot, it tasted like a creamy sweet chai, especially getting that last mouthful of shortbread foam. YUM.
Cold, it was like a low-carbonated soda without the sugariness. Not thick, but still somehow creamy.
Frozen, it was like a milkshake slushie mix, but not heavy in the stomach.
I consumed about 2 of these each day.

(Not technically an eating establishment, this is where you buy 4 different flavors of potion for effects from Fire Protection to Babbling, Euphoria, and Peace, to add to your water. Or your Gilly Water.)

Specialty beers.
Oh yeah, by the way, WWoHP has a craft brewery on site. You'll never see it (or we didn't, anyway), but they serve three proprietary beers- 2 at Diagon Alley and 1 at Hogsmeade, that you can't get anywhere else.

Wizard's Brew, at Diagon Alley, was by far my favorite. It's a creamy stout, lacking any bitterness and nicely heavy (though lighter than, say, Guinness).

Dragon Scale is a darker IPA, also at Diagon Alley. Fedora hates IPA (we both hate hoppy beers), but it was surprisingly smooth, not very hoppy at all, and more like a sharp ale.

Hogshead, at Hogsmeade, is a red Scotch Ale, and was Fedora's favorite. It's slightly creamy on the end, with no bitterness, and very refreshing.

The Leaky Cauldron (Diagon Alley):
We ate here twice, and had Toad in the Hole (delicious Yorkshire pudding with sausages), Fisherman's Pie (salmon, cod and shrimp), Fish & Chips (nice 'n' crispy), a Banger Sandwich, Otter's Fizzy Orange Juice, Peachtree Fizzy Tea, and Fishy Green Ale.

The ambience is awesome, and I love the table side service. There's plenty to look at, and somehow it felt more intimate than The Three Broomsticks.

(Like the sign says....not fishy, not ale, but surprisingly tasty- if totally weird)

(Muchas gracias to Holly, for clueing me in to Otter's Fizzy Orange Juice, which was taaaaaasty)

The portions seemed small at first, but turned out to be perfect (not too full as to get sleepy, or feel nauseated on the rides, or weighed down while walking).

Otter's Fizzy Orange Juice was like an Orange Julius with cinnamon sugar and I LOVED IT. The Fizzy Tea was refreshing. The Fishy Green Ale was unique- not as minty as you'd expect by the description, great for a hot day, and the blueberry juice 'fish eyes' explode in your mouth in a way that's off-putting and charming at the same time.

The prices were what I'd expected for a theme park, which, after eating and drinking, were totally justified. Maybe it's because I live in a metro area on the West Coast of the USA, but I think the plates being $9-$16 were totally fair for the value.

(So tall, with staircases, we couldn't stop pining for a room above The Three Broomsticks. Dear Universal, please rent us a room above this establishment.)

The Three Broomsticks (Hogsmeade):
We ate here once (we missed our second chance, due to the park closing earlier than anticipated), savoring Shepherd's Pie and Cornish Pasties.

It's a larger restaurant with great ambience, but served cafeteria style. The Cornish Pasties were tiny, which bummed me out, but served with a fresh salad to make up for it. The Shepherd's Pie was delicious and this place is connected to the Hogs Head Inn, which is very convenient.

The Hogs Head Inn (Hogsmeade):
You can only get alcoholic beverages (and butterbeer) here, so it's definitely the bar. Our service was consistently great, but watch out for the boars head behind the bar, which can surprise you. Also keep your ears open for witches and wizards in the rooms above!

The Hopping Pot (Diagon Alley):
Strictly drinks here, though I think they had alcoholic and non (including butterbeer, which you can get everywhere). We sought refuge from the rain through Wizard's Brew here. Conveniently near the Owl Post, so you can send a drunken owl to an ex.

Florian Fortenescue's (Diagon Alley):
Save room for ice cream and soft serve, because this place is magically delicious. We tried the soft serve butterbeer ice cream (just as amazing as the drink), soft serve toffee apple, soft serve pistachio, chocolate chili ice cream (my favorite), chocolate raspberry, peanut butter and strawberry, salted caramel blondie ice cream, and sticky toffee pudding. And we still didn't try all the flavors we wanted to. The portions here are large, and you can choose two flavors for each ice cream order (or soft serve order). Next time, I can't wait to try Clotted Cream and Early Grey with Lavender!

And, of course, there were treats galore at Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes (in Diagon Alley) and Honeyduke's (in Hogsmeade). I blew $50 on candy and don't even regret it.

(they're so much larger than expected. And solid milk chocolate! Thankfully, ours didn't hop away)

The long and short of it is, expect to pay theme park prices for the food but also expect it to be worth every penny, and BETTER than the restaurants outside the theme park in greater Orlando.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Book Review: Exquisite Captive

Synopsis according to GoodReads:
"Forced to obey her master.
Compelled to help her enemy.
Determined to free herself. 

Nalia is a jinni of tremendous ancient power, the only survivor of a coup that killed nearly everyone she loved. Stuffed into a bottle and sold by a slave trader, she’s now in hiding on the dark caravan, the lucrative jinni slave trade between Arjinna and Earth, where jinn are forced to grant wishes and obey their human masters’ every command. She’d give almost anything to be free of the golden shackles that bind her to Malek, her handsome, cruel master, and his lavish Hollywood lifestyle.

Enter Raif, the enigmatic leader of Arjinna’s revolution and Nalia’s sworn enemy. He promises to free Nalia from her master so that she can return to her ravaged homeland and free her imprisoned brother—all for an unbearably high price. Nalia’s not sure she can trust him, but Raif’s her only hope of escape. With her enemies on the hunt, Earth has become more perilous than ever for Nalia. There’s just one catch: for Raif’s unbinding magic to work, Nalia must gain possession of her bottle…and convince the dangerously persuasive Malek that she truly loves him. Battling a dark past and harboring a terrible secret, Nalia soon realizes her freedom may come at a price too terrible to pay: but how far is she willing to go for it?

I didn't realize, when I read Exquisite Captive, that it's the first in a series. It reads like a standalone, with enough backstory and forward-moving tension to feel self-contained. And then the cliffhanger ending happened, so I'm relieved there will be more. 

The fantasy world (overlaying our contemporary) is influenced by Arabian folklore and jinni mythology, which makes it exotic and enticing. The main character is an 18-year old female jinni who has been enslaved since she was 15 years old. This is important because, as we start into her narrative, her temperamental, rich-as-sin master has shifted from cruel to seductive (and ew). 

At first, the themes smacked of insta-love, with a love triangle. I was fully prepared to put it down based on that alone BUT I'm glad I didn't. Because Demetrios turns the trope in its head, with elements of Stockholm Syndrome. It was nice to see the abusive/manipulative relationship elements from the PoV of the young woman caught within the isolation of it. It's so easy to paint villain vs. hero but as anyone who has been in this kind of controlling relationship (magic aside) can tell you, what Nalia experiences is pretty much spot-on.

I also really appreciate that Demetrios did her research on the current slave trade and human trafficking, Arabic terms, jinni mythology, etc. for this book. Book 2 comes out in September and I'll definitely be picking it up. Oh, and there's plenty of diversity in it- yay!

I recommend this for fans of contemporary fantasy, Middle Eastern mythology and folklore, high-stakes adventure stories, and magic. There may be parts you raise an eyebrow to, but stick with it- I promise the few wrinkles even themselves out.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Nail Files: On the Dark Caravan

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Misty at The Book Rat got me thinking about matching my mani to the cover of my read. And when that happens to be a gorgeous cover, it's pretty easy doing.
Yay #BookLooks!

Unfortunately, my shiny brand new nail stamping equipment failed me. Or I failed it. After an hour of different designs (which would have matched that cover PERFECTLY), different polishes, different attempts, and absolutely nothing working...I gave up and did this:

That's ALiquidLacquer mystery polish (no kidding, the name is a question mark), with Nubar Blondie topping.
But what you WERE going to get was gold stamped swirls and a genie bottle over these purple nails, to match the cover more correctly.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

How to Wear Printcess Eyeshadow as Lip Gloss

One of the reasons I call Printcess "mineral makeup" instead of just "eyeshadow" is because you can do a LOT with these loose powders.

I'm posting a series of tutorials on ways you can use a pot of Printcess color to sub for things other than eye shadow. Feel free to let me know if you have any questions, in the comments below!


You need:
A lip brush (or clean brush of that size)
Mineral eyeshadow (For this, I used Ma'am.)
Vaseline (petroleum jelly), or soft beeswax
A container to mix your gloss in

Colors you shouldn't use on your lips (as per the FDA):

Once Upon a Time
Happily Ever After
The Chase
Heart of Gold

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Printcess Seahawks Limited-Edition Trio

If you didn't hear already, the Seahawks won Sunday's game against the Packers (who played a great game!), in overtime, after waiting to score until the end of the 3rd quarter (thanks for the adrenaline rush, guys!).

In honor of their new status as NFC Champs and the fact that they'll be playing the Patriots on 2/1 at the Superbowl, I'm offering a limited-edition Printcess Seahawks trio.

This is how proud I am of my city's team and the community around it- I spent hours Sunday evening, grinding up matching shades for the logo after their win. 
So, you know, you can rock a 'Hawks look.

All three brand-new colors will be sold as a set for $12 (a 33% savings). 
Get 'em here, or here!
I only have a limited number available, and when they run out they run out!

12th Man is the standard Seahawks blue: a deep, true hue with intensity as loud as the 12th Man.

Go 'Hawks is a bright grass green, loud but not obnoxious, true to the third color of their logo. It has a nearly-metallic sheen, to guarantee easy identification as a Seahawks fan.

Legion of Boom is a high-sparkle light silver, very eye-catching and just as effective at stopping people as our safeties and cornerbacks.

(Legion of Boom is silver, not blue. My camera couldn't handle the awesome)