Muggles in Diagon Alley + Free ‘Platform 9 3/4’ Printable!

A few weeks ago, Chris and I went on a road trip through Williamsburg, Savannah, and Orlando! Each stop was a blast, but let’s be real — I was the most excited about going to Diagon Alley.

I have precisely zero shame talking about the Harry Potter conventions I’ve attended. In the summers of 2010 and 2011, I met up with friends in Orlando and we talked about Harry Potter for four days straight. We wore wizard’s robes and carried wands around Universal’s Islands of Adventure in July. We all watched the final installment of the film franchise together the night before it premiered.

But a few months after LeakyCon in 2011, Chris and I got engaged and later married, and now, five years into our marriage, we’ve bought a house and have full-time jobs at the university where we met — so my memories of those summers in “Hogsmeade” seemed like a summation of my childhood.

Except not really! Chris grew up reading Harry Potter too; it’s one of the shared interests that sparked our friendship. Numerous copies of Harry Potter books in various editions fill our shelves. When it came time to plan a trip to celebrate our fifth anniversary, it seemed an easy (though admittedly expensive) decision to visit Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.

You guys. They nailed every detail in these parks. I thought Hogsmeade was magical when I visited with friends in 2010 and 2011. But walking into Diagon Alley with my husband back in May, soaking up all the details and the grand scale — that was perfect!

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There are so many more photos (by both me and Chris) of the other stops on our road trip on Instagram at #chrashleyroadwarriors!

So here comes the free printable! I’d been meaning to make a Platform 9 3/4 printable for our new house since before we even moved in… but coming back from our trip, filled with warm fuzzies remembering the magic of growing up reading those books — that was just the motivation I needed to whip up this simple, low-key print!

FREE Harry Potter Platform 9 3/4 Printable!

And I want to share the printable with you! I ended up making a black and white version as well as the slightly more colorful one pictured. When you download the file, you can choose between a 5×7 size or the full size, which can be trimmed down to 8×10 or use as the 8.5×11 pictured.

Click the image below to download the printable of your choice!

Copy of Card – Untitled Design

Download the

Wanting to fill your home with more Harry Potter goodness? Here are two other gorgeous free Harry Potter-centric printables that I’ve been eyeing for our home, too!

  1. Happiness Can Be Found Even in the Darkest of Times – Lightbulb printable by Simple Everyday Mom
  2. I Solemnly Swear that I am Up to No Good – Watercolor printable by How to Nest for Less

If you’re a little more ambitious, you could try making a Book Page Wreath! I have full instructions with photos at that link!

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Crafts for Groups of Kids (A Challenge Accepted)

On Wednesday nights throughout the school year, Chris and I are “yellow team” leaders in our church’s Awana program. We hurry home from work, feed our pathetic cats, grab some fast food, and show up to church a few minutes late every Wednesday. We work with a group of third, fourth, fifth, and sixth graders as they study Scripture, complete activities, and ultimately memorize verses.

With May just around the corner, I’ve started planning for our summertime program that replaces Awana once the kids are out of school: MegaSports. If you know me even remotely, you’ll know sports are significantly beyond my wheelhouse. Fully within my realm of expertise, however: crafts, y’all.

Yes, I lead the less-than-sporty crowd at MegaSports, and we do crafts proudly.

I’ve been leading crafts since 2015. I took up this mantle when I learned that our children’s pastor could never find anyone willing to do it. This blew my mind; who wouldn’t want to bust out the popsicle sticks and glue with some munchkins on a fine Wednesday evening in summer?

Turns out, the hard part isn’t corralling an excitable group of kids around a table strewn with craft supplies. It’s finding crafts that are do-able with groups of kids. Most kids’ crafts that you’ll find on Pinterest are either too complicated for the attention-deficient or too simple to occupy older kids, or they require materials that are expensive or impossible to find in bulk (a must for church activities). It takes time and effort to find crafts that use inexpensive supplies, have simple instructions, and are suitable for a range of ages.

Crafts for groups

This blog post is inspired by my quest for such crafts. I’m writing it selfishly, as an attempt to wrangle all the ideas floating around on my children’s ministry Pinterest board for this year’s MegaSports. (Also, I’m 100% procrastinating some yard work needing to be done. Whoops.)

Wanna see some of my ideas for this year’s crafts? (Click the Read More button below on the right.)

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18 Tried & True Whole30 Recipes for Normal People

Well, family, it’s here: Day 29 of our very first Whole30. And we’ve made it here relatively unscathed! My cravings are mostly under control and, though I haven’t been on the scale, I can tell I have lost some weight. I’m feeling pretty great, y’all!

One of the reasons I embarked on this Whole30 was to gain a new perspective on meal planning. And considering that, in the last 29 days, we’ve tried 23 new recipes or food preparation methods, I believe that one has been achieved!

Building our first meal plan for our first week of our Whole30 was terribly intimidating. I wasn’t yet comfortable ferreting out the non-compliant ingredients I was used to using in recipes, and I was wary of going all-in on any recipes that I might not love. My husband is notoriously picky, so some ambitious ingredients (salmon, zucchini pasta, stuffed peppers) were off the the table this time around. Additionally, we don’t have an especially roomy grocery budget, so we couldn’t rely too heavily on pricey specialty ingredients.

So what the heck have we been eating for the last 29 days?!

I decided to compile a list of our favorite Whole30 recipes we successfully tried this month. These recipes were all simple and made up of ingredients normal people can afford and enjoy! Ready to dive in? 🙂

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Quick disclaimer: All of these gorgeous photos are the property of the bloggers linked in each caption. Please visit their blogs for the full recipes!

First up, let’s talk about breakfast! (Click the Read More button below on the right.)

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Whole30 – It’s all downhill from here

Well hello, Internet!

Here we are on Day 18 of our Whole30 — several days “over the hump,” midway through our third full week, very nearly out of the teens. If you’re familiar with the Whole30 Timeline, this is what whole food fans refer to as the “Tiger Blood” phase!

I don’t know about Tiger Blood, but I have seen “non-scale” improvements in several areas:

  • The food is good. I haven’t tried a lot of new foods, but I’ve definitely become more comfortable with preparing meals from scratch and using whole foods. We’re still eating too many white potatoes, but I only recently realized that sweet potatoes actually taste sweet on their own (without brown sugar and butter)! I don’t even think that they need cinnamon! And that’s just one example of my “good food” discovery.
  • I have way more self-control than I thought. I’ll talk more about my bad habits below, but saying no is becoming easier (that may be because I know that I’m one step closer to being able to say yes as I progress through my Whole30…shhh).
  • We are saving a ton of cash money! Anyone who is concerned about whole foods causing a spike in their grocery bill should consider how much they will save by not eating out as frequently. We’ve been eating out once, maybe twice per week, whereas we used to eat at least five meals outside of our home each week. In addition, many whole foods purchased in bulk (and in season) are far less expensive than convenience foods.
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A colorful, simple, last-minute meal that we tried this week (roasted veggies and chicken)!

There are, of course, some tough aspects, too.

  • My instincts toward junk food are still alive and well. I have become very conscious of some bad habits and toxic attitudes I have toward foods that aren’t so good for me. When coworkers offer me a snack or treat, it’s bizarre how I am wired to just say “Sure!” without even thinking, “Am I hungry? Is this a good choice if I am hungry?” It will take a lot longer than thirty days to break this habit, but I’m thankful that it’s being brought to light now (and I’m learning to arm myself with appropriate snacks if a craving hits).
  • I have had some moments of real boredom with the diet. These seem to occur most frequently on the weekends, when we have a lot of time at home and I feel so unenthused by preparing all three meals in my kitchen. I have tried to fight this by injecting lots of new meals into our meal plans; check out my Made it & Ate It board on Pinterest for meals we’ve tried so far!

I’ll still be posting daily snapshots over on my Instagram Story, so if you like pictures of people’s food (if you’re on Instagram, you clearly at least tolerate such photos), check out my Instagram!

Toward the end of our Whole30 (the last day of which is April 10th), I will post an update on the reasons we embarked on this thing in the first place. Stay tuned!

Whole30 – 1 day at a time

Yesterday was my first day of our Whole30 diet. It ended up being a looong day, which I think can be partially attributed to the start of Daylight Saving Time and the late-setting sun, but it’s also because I spent nearly the whole day in our kitchen.

After church, I set to work making breakfast for us to eat for the first half of the week (Egg, Bacon, and Sweet Potato cups), then moved to lunch (Bacon-Wrapped Chicken and carrots sautéed in ghee), followed by snack prep: washing and cutting fruits and veggies and making Whole30 compliant mayonnaise and ranch dressing for the first time. Finally, when I was desperate to go chill on the couch, I realized it was getting late, and quickly threw together our dinner (meatloaf and baked potatoes). Luckily, I was able to spend quality time with my couch for the hour that dinner baked in the oven. 🙂

All told, our day was full of eggs, bacon, sweet potatoes, fresh fruit, chicken, carrots, and meatloaf, with no grains, dairy, or sugar in sight. And we survived!

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The Whole30 Timeline refers to Day 1 as the “So what’s the big deal?” day. I saw glimpses of that yesterday, but all that meal prep was work. I see where our bad habits with convenience foods and eating out originated: I don’t think I have time to eat right. But yesterday, I proved that wrong.

Now that I’m cruising into Day 2, I want to remember the satisfaction I felt yesterday after making good choices all day long. I want to remember how delicious my homemade, dairy-free ranch tasted right out of the jar I’d blended it in. I want to remember all the colors of my foods strewn across my countertop and my plate. I want to remember the guilt I didn’t have when I climbed into bed last night.

Day 2, I’m coming for you.