Friday, July 23, 2010

lately i've been FINDING that i need to clear something up...

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or its characters (property of J.K. Rowling), "A Very Potter Musical" or its quotes, or any of the images in this blog post, which were taken from

I've been M.I.A. on my blog recently, because I decided I'd rather read/cross-stitch/play video games/hang out with parents/and friends than spend lots of time on the Internet this summer. Sorry for the prolonged absence, but I thought I'd pop in for a hello, today!

Recently I've come to realize that I'm a Disney fangirl during the school year, but a Potterhead during the summer. Don't ask me why. *shrug* I do not know why this is, but it's true.

And lately, I'm FINDING that many hold misconceptions/misunderstandings about Hufflepuff House. You know, when I was about 11, I took the official Sorting Hat quiz on the WB website, and I manipulated every answer so that I'd get Gryffindor. You probably did that too at some point, don't lie, because it was so cool to be in the same House as our favorite trio. But then I realized, as I started to grow up, that I'm just not a Gryffindor. I'm not particularly brave, that's just the way it is. For a while I considered myself a Ravenclaw - Slytherin was definitely out of the question - until I read the 7th books, where Luna and McGonagall answer the Ravenclaw common room's questions to gain entrance. I couldn't for the life of me figure out the answers.

I took some more Sorting Hat quizzes out of sheer boredom, and I kept getting Hufflepuff. I kinda panicked, knowing their reputation for being "duffers" (thaaanks for that, Hagrid). But then I started to see the awesomespiceness in the House of Badgers, and started to realize that having Puff pride was just another way of expressing myself. So lemme clear some things up.

There's this general misconception that Hufflepuff is somehow the least important House at Hogwarts, because as the rhyme goes,

"Said Hufflepuff, 'I'll take the lot, and treat them all the same.'"

I guess some people think this means, Helga took the kids who weren't brave, smart, or ambitious. Actually, we are given examples of brave and/or smart and/or ambitious Hufflepuffs throughout the series (Sprout, Diggory, Tonks, Bones, Abbot, McMillan, Finch-Fletchley), just as we are given examples of Gryffindors who are not brave (Pettigrew), Ravenclaws who aren't as bright as we'd expect (Chang), and Slytherins who are not ambitious (Goyle) or evil (Snape).

What Helga actually meant, was that every magical child should be given the opportunity to hone their magic skills and learn; every person has value inside them; anyone can achieve anything they put their mind to if they just work hard enough; and loyalty is one of the most important traits in a person. JKR emphasizes throughout the series that a person's choices matter more than their abilities, and has suggested that a student has some control over which House they will be Sorted into; I don't think that Hufflepuff students lack guts or brains, but simply value friendship and fair play more (or maybe they possess all these qualities in equal measure, as opposed to one trait overpowering the rest). I think Hufflepuff students accept that they're considered to be misfits by the rest of the school, but don't really care, which is what sets them apart.

Some of my Puff friends on the Leaky Cauldron have suggested that Hufflepuffs tend to be a bit more moral than the other Houses, since Gryffindors, as much as we love them, can be prone to arrogance/pride; Ravenclaws tend to think anyone who doesn't score 10 O.W.L.s are worthless; and Slytherins are just little stinkers. Hufflepuffs seem very cheery and unwilling to lie or cheat anyone for any reason, and don't tend to show off or brag. They are most willing to give others a chance, like when the Fat Friar wanted to let Peeves attend the Triwizard feast in year 4. They believe everyone should be treated with equality and tolerance.

I'm not saying the House of Badgers is perfect. They definitely showed their nasty sides when they thought Harry was the heir of Slytherin in year 2, and when they were, um, overzealous in their support of Cedric in year 4 - so much so that they stooped to those unattractive "Potter Stinks" buttons. Quite unHufflepuffly, I think. So yeah, they're human. Also, where in the Sorting Hat song does it say we're NICE? We can be just as sarcastic as any Slytherin, thanks very much (for further proof of that, spend 2 hours with yours truly).

Anyway, my point is, outside of the Gryffindors, the Hufflepuffs seemed - for the most part - the most willing to support Harry throughout the series. Many members of Dumbledore's Army were Puffs. I quote from book 7:

"Then a figure rose from the Slytherin table and he recognized Pansy Parkinson as she raised a shaking arm and screamed, 'But he's there! Potter's there! Someone grab him!'

Before Harry could speak, there was a massive movement. The Gryffindors in front of him has risen and stood facing, not Harry, but the Slytherins. Then the Hufflepuffs stood, and almost at the same moment, the Ravenclaws, all of them with their backs to Harry, all of them looking toward Pansy instead, and Harry, awestruck and overwhelmed, saw wands emerging everywhere, pulled from beneath cloaks and from under sleeves'" (DH 610).

The Hufflepuffs stood up a split second before the Ravenclaws. They were the fiercest and most loyal after Harry's own House.

Oh, and those little comments about HufflePUFF being the pothead House, because of our connection to the greenhouses? Not even close. Just because people are laid-back doesn't mean they're druggies, lamespice people.

(If that ^ didn't make you laugh, or you didn't get it, you need to click here. And keep watching.)

Our Head of House is Professor Sprout, a good-natured but sensible witch with a gifted green thumb. She awards points generously in her classes, rather than focusing on her own House, and she even tells Moody (well, Crouch, but whatever) that Neville has a gift for Herbology in year 4. She's pretty darn awesome.

The Hufflepuff Ghost is the Fat Friar, who's known for his always-positive demeanor.

JKR did an interview with some really cool people on the Leaky Cauldron a while back, and she commented on the Puffs' common room:

"J.K. Rowling: The Hufflepuff common room is accessed through a portrait near the kitchens, as I am sure you have deduced.

J.K. Rowling: Sorry - I should say `painting' rather than portrait, because it is a still-life.

J.K. Rowling: It is a very cosy and welcoming place, as dissimilar as possible from Snape's dungeon. Lots of yellow hangings, and fat armchairs, and little underground tunnels leading to the dormitories, all of which have perfectly round doors, like barrel tops."

Woot! My room used to be yellow. And my iPod case is yellow. Yellow is an awesomely awesome color. And dude. Duuuude. Our common room is by the kitchens! Excellent!

If you want further proof of Hufflepuff's awesomeness, consider this: our mascot is a badger. Badgers can eat snakes, do just as much damage as a lion, and defend themselves against birds of prey (like say, eagles?). Badgers are awesome little critters.

So yeah. If you identify with the phrase, "You might belong in Hufflepuff, where they are just and loyal; those patient Hufflepuffs are true, and unafraid of toil" then 50 POINTS TO YOU.

If you still don't get it, that's cool. We don't need your pity, and we're above your scorn and petty comments. (I'm talking to you, Malfoys of the world.) We're just happy to be Puffs. But in the end, "we are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided" (GoF).

Finally, I leave you with this:

I know I already said it, but isn't it great? Holla! Hey, Harry Potter, maybe if you were a Hufflepuff you'd have found those Horcruxes faster, eh?

Peace, love, pixie dust, & Puff pride,


Thursday, June 24, 2010


10 years ago, I was getting ready to hit double digits. I was beyond excited, and maybe a little scared.

Now, I'm about to hit double decades. That sounds so dang old to me. I mean, you're reading a blog that's called "Searching for my Neverland." Most people who know me, know that I have a bit of a Peter Pan complex. So since I'll be out of my teens in less than two hours, I'll be honest: I'm freaked out.

In magazines, there are warnings to use anti-wrinkle cream beginning in your 20s. Excuse moi? I have acne, and I'm going to start worrying about wrinkles soon, too? Awesome. Even my beloved Alice from Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" was told by her older sister that she should marry some guy she doesn't like, "Because you'll be twenty soon, and that pretty face won't last forever."

Thanks for that, sis.

The other day, my boss said, "So, turning 20 next week? Cool! That's half of forty!"


On the other hand, this dude's pretty wise. And I think he was around 150 when he died, or something. The stuff that Dumbledore says generally ends up being the best quotes in the whole Harry Potter series. So I guess getting old's not so bad, if you get to be cool like Dumbledore. Hopefully someday I'll be that wise (even if I don't make it to 150).

But for now, I'm just going to enjoy the rest of my youth. Even if I'm no longer a teenager, I'm by no means sprouting gray hairs - yet. I was extraordinarily blessed in my teen years, because I'm one of the few people I know who is sad that it's over. That's a good thing, because it means I had fun. With any luck, the journey through my 20s will be even better.

Thanks for reading this post! Now go find my parents and congratulate them on making it past my teen years in one piece (er, make that two pieces). As for me, I'll be where I was nearly a decade ago...celebrating my own birthday on the sofa with a nice Harry Potter book.

Prayers & pixie dust,


Friday, May 28, 2010

susie's recently updated bookshelf!

So I realize everyone's waiting on a trip report from the fabulous Disneyland Resort, but I'd like to get this post out of my system first. See, it's summer, which is a joyous time for many reasons, but especially for English majors it means that we can read whatever we want, and not whatever our professors are thrusting down our throats.

I like going back to reread my favorites every summer (cough, the entire Harry Potter series) but I started off this summer with a bang, with books I didn't think I'd like.

It's no secret to those who know me that I'm obsessed with Meg Cabot. I think she's a genius. I think J.K. Rowling is a genius too, but I value Meg's opinion on everything, not just books. She once had a pink streak in her hair, just because. While she was in her 40s. She writes from the point of view of teenage girls, and it's convincing. I see parts of myself in all of her characters. Plus, she's so great to her readers. It's really a shame she didn't want kids because she would've been awesome at being a mom, I'm sure of it. She probably deserves her own post in this blog.

I was iffy about her Airhead series, featuring a typically beautiful model on the cover. I read the summary on Amazon and thought it wouldn't be anything special. I gave the book a chance and read it, and I instantly loved it. It's narrated by Em, your standard 16-year-old social pariah, which is Meg's go-to character because she figures lots of readers can relate to social outcast-type characters, and she's right. Anyway, Em has a little accident, and the next thing you know she wakes up inside the body of the person she least wants to be - teen supermodel sensation Nikki Howard. Yep, she had a brain transplant, thanks to the company Nikki works for, Stark Enterprises, which is basically Disney + Wal-Mart + any other major corporation rolled into one. She has to stick to Nikki's modeling contract, and no one outside of her family can know that she's really herself, Em Watts. She can't even tell her best friend (and the boy she's secretly in love with), Christopher.

I'm kind of ashamed for having my doubts...of course if Meg Cabot wrote it, it's awesome. Period. Airhead did not disappoint. I'm no 12-year-old, but it was fascinating seeing this incredibly glamorous life through Nikki's eyes, in a nicer way than the cynically trashy narrative of the Gossip Girl books.

The second book in the series, Being Nikki, kept me glued the entire plane ride home from California. There is a definite sci-fi twist to this story because of the whole brain-transplant thing. It gets creepier in the sequel. I won't spoil it for you, but Stark has something dark hidden under their spotless exterior. Meg Cabot also plays up the romance thing, as usual, with Christopher (and the many celebrity boys who are in love with Nikki - her body, anyway).

Finally, the recently released Runaway wraps up the trilogy, and last night I sped-read to get to the end. I totally saw what was coming, but that doesn't mean I wasn't on the edge of my seat. I won't spoil the ending, but it was freaky, y'all. Go buy all three books, or at least borrow them from me.

On the other end of the spectrum, my new favorite celebrity is Chelsea Handler, comedian and star of late-night show Chelsea Lately. She's confident, she's funny, and she's hot, aight? Look at her!

I never thought I'd read her books based on the titles: My Horizontal Life and Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea. Well out of pure curiosity I picked up the latter in the little bookshop in Santa Ana's airport. And I laughed so raucously on the plane that I disturbed the people sitting around me. Yesterday I bought My Horizontal Life at Barnes and Noble and finished it today. Chelsea is a dirty girl and writes wildly inappropriate things, but dude, she's hilarious. She uses my favorite brand of comedy, and that is dry sarcasm. Plus, I admire someone who speaks so frankly about herself and life in general. Here's my $15.99, Chelsea, thanks for making me laugh harder than I have in ages. (Plus, for those who might be shocked by the content of her books, Chelsea confesses at the end of her first book that she realizes her life really is horizontal, because it's not going anywhere thanks to all her one-night stands. She decides to get more serious about her life. So she throws in a lesson with all the laughs.)

I'll probably get started on her third book, "Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang," tomorrow. If I can keep a straight face in front of customers, which I doubt.

What have you been reading lately?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

twitter giveaway results!

It's 12:22am, it's been a weird day, and we may or may not be going to Disneyland tomorrow, depending on the state of my grandma's health (she needs your prayers, guys). Either way, it's the end of the Twitter giveaway! I was blown away by how many responses I received. I learned a lot about Disneyland trivia while having fun, and I hope y'all did, too!

I wanted to do this via webcam, but my computer won't cooperate: I put one slip of paper for every correct answer into a big bowl (I had a LOT of pieces of paper in there!) and pulled random ones without looking. My mama is my witness! Here we go...*drumroll*

First place: winner of Disneyland merchandise of his choice, up to $30: @kjmaje.

Second & third places: winners of smaller Disney surprises: @hatboxfiend and @bigdsp.

The winners can direct-message me their addresses on Twitter.

(If we end up not going to California in the morning, I will try to find something Disney-related around town, instead.)

Thanks to everyone who played along! It was a blast. Here are the questions and answers for those who missed them!

1. What American town was Disneyland's Main Street, U.S.A. designed after?
- An idealized version of Marceline, Missouri, Walt Disney's hometown.

2. Which Disneyland attraction first used Audio-Animatronics technology?
- The Enchanted Tiki Room, which opened in 1963.

3. Where are the controls for the fireworks show Fantasmic! located in Disneyland Park (more than one answer)?
- Possible answers: Cider Mill on Tom Sawyer's Island; the balcony near the Disney Gallery; a light tower in Frontierland.

4. What is the name of the statue in the hub of Disneyland Park featuring Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse?
- "Partners."

5. What is the name of Disneyland's paddle boat? (Hint: Its Walt Disney World twin's name is the Liberty Belle.)
- The Mark Twain.

6. Imagineer X Atencio wrote the song "Grim Grinning Ghosts" for Disneyland's Haunted Mansion. Which other iconic song did he write for another beloved Disneyland attraction?
- "Yo Ho, Yo Ho, A Pirate's Life for Me" in Pirates of the Caribbean.

7. In honor of Mother's Day, what is the name of Walt Disney's mother?
- Flora Call Disney.

8. The Imagineers use a special technique to make buildings throughout the Disney parks look taller than they actually are. What is this technique called?
- Forced perspective.

9. Which themed land is home to Splash Mountain in Disneyland?
- Critter Country.

10. Which Disney Imagineer designed the concept art for "it's a small world," not to mention several Disney movies and the mural in Walt Disney World's Contemporary Resort (famous for its five-legged goat)?
- Mary Blair.

11. What is the name of Disneyland Park's nighttime parade (which will soon be shipped to Florida for the "Summer Nightastic" promotion at WDW)?
- Main Street Electrical Parade.

12. Which attraction replaced Disneyland's Carousel of Progress in 1974?
- America Sings.

13. What is the name of the cab Guests board in Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin? (Hint: it's not Benny.)
- Lenny, Benny's twin brother! (Benny is a character from the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, and Roger is driving him throughout the attraction.)

14. For their 31st wedding anniversary, Walt Disney gave his wife Lillian a very unique gift. It's on display in Frontierland. What is this gift?
- A petrified tree stump.

Well, that's it, guys! I won't be blogging from the parks, but hopefully you'll still follow me on Twitter! (If we go.) Please keep my grandma in your prayers!

Have a magical, blessed week.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

win free disney merch! srsly!

Hey guys! Guess what? I leave for the Disneyland Resort on May 18th, which is 15 days away! So in honor of my very first trip to Walt's original park, I decided to have a little Twitter giveaway. My friends @kidanikatie and @shaene_o_mite did Disney-themed Twitter giveaways of their own recently - I won an "it's a small world" t-shirt from Shaene! - so I decided to continue spreading the Disney love.

I'll be posting a Disney trivia question every morning up the 17th. To enter the giveaway, all you have to do is answer the question correctly. Don't worry, I'll try to make some of the questions easy enough so that non-Disney fanatics will have a chance to win, too! For every question that you answer correctly, your name will go into a hat. So if you answer every question - 14 total - and get ten of those right, then your name will go into my hat 10 times.

And what can you win from this giveaway, you ask? The grand prize winner will get a Disneyland souvenir of their choice, valued at $30 or under. Anything goes: t-shirt, snowglobe, Vinylmation - whatever, as long as it's $30! Two other winners will get something a little smaller.

My Twitter name is @SusieNotSusan, and I hope to see lots of participants!

Everyone have a magical week! (Good luck preparing for finals, LSU people!)


Thursday, April 22, 2010

heri ya siku kuu!

That means "happy birthday" in Swahili! Today is Earth Day, and it's also the twelfth birthday of Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park! (Coincidence? No! The Imagineers planned it that way, of course!)

I'm one of the first people to admit that AK is my least favorite of the four parks. I'd much rather immerse myself in the wonder of the MK or the glamour of DHS - although lately I find myself appreciating Epcot much more than I used to. I'm one of those people who is usually content with spending half a day at AK before scooting off to an afternoon at World Showcase.

Today, however, I find myself reflecting on WDW's newest park and appreciating the little things about it. My friends Rikki and Katie both posted their thoughts on AK, and I think they capture the park's essence perfectly. AK is a very interesting park in terms of statistics: it's the largest of all four parks, and its symbol is the "Tree of Life," a majestic manmade tree that towers over the park on Discovery Island. Over 300 animals are carved into the "tree"'s base by a number of incredibly talented artists.

There are those who believe that Disney is run by a group of money-hungry vultures, but AK is proof against that. The park was inspired by Walt Disney's passion for animals and conservation. For example, you won't find drinking straws at the restaurants inside AK, because they are harmful to the animals if swallowed. Disney is very careful to protect the wildlife inside the park.

AK gets a bad rap for being a zoo. Actually, its motto is "nahtazu" - not a zoo, get it? It's a park teeming with animals, yes, but it's also filled with thrill rides like Dinosaur and Expedition Everest. The park offers some of the best counter service restaurants in the World. And of course, it's Disney, so the attention to detail goes above and beyond. A cult favorite "hidden gem" is DiVine, a woman wearing stilts who blends into the background of the trees so well that you might not spot her until she decides to surprise you!

I will always have fond memories of my very first Internet Disney community meet at Flame Tree Barbecue in January with the BOGP group!

In addition to having an entire park devoted to animals and conversation, Disney also continues Walt's passion for the environment through the Walt Disney Conservation Fund, the Disney Wilderness Preserve, the Disneynature series for Imax, and Disney Friends for Change: Project Green, which collaborates with Disney Channel stars like Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato.

Some interesting facts about Disney's efforts to reduce their eco footprint can be found at the official Disney Parks blog.

I hope everyone has a magical Earth Day!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

i solemnly swear i am up to no good.

Did you know that before Christian, I loved another boy? Hard to believe, since I was so young. But 2010 marks ten years since I first fell in love with this kid. Some people say that first loves never die. I guess in many ways that's true, because this young man will forever hold a special place in my heart.

Yep, that's my man right there with his two best friends. To be honest, it was unrequited. Harry never really knew I existed.

I love telling the story about how I fell in love with him. I owe it all to my friend Brandy. We were best friends in fifth grade (in the year 2000), and we were the geeky kids who played Nancy Drew computer games together and came to school the next day to compare notes on our progress. We wrote in our diaries and read books at recess. We were completely content in our geekdom. Harry Potter was wildly popular then, but I refused to get sucked into the fad. I knew it was some book series about a kid who found out he was wizard. It had a stupid-looking book cover of the kid riding a broom. How dumb, I thought. Well, my worst fears were realized when Brandy started reading these books - and raving about them.

"Come on, you have to read them," she'd say emphatically. I always resolutely refused. No way was I reading some dumb book about a kid wizard. Finally one day, Brandy snapped.

"Read the first chapter of the first book. It'll take you five minutes. I swear if you hate it I'll never bother you about it again," she said solemnly.

I thought about it. She'd never bother me about it again? Fine. I agreed. I took home Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and read the first chapter. I was immediately caught up in the mysteriousness of the wizarding world. I delighted in how purely British it was: "Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much." I couldn't stop at chapter one. I read the entire thing, and a sort of frenzy began. I devoured Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in rapid succession. I actually racked up a juicy library fee from keeping Goblet of Fire three weeks past the day it was due, despite having read it in two days; I kept it in the cubby below my desk, and I'd take it out from time to time to read my favorite passages and stare lovingly at the front cover.

Harry might be fictional, but I thought he was the finest thing EVA.I wish I were making this up, but it's true, people. I was a girl obsessed. Brandy was very smug and delighted that she had someone to discuss Harry Freaking Amazing Potter with.

After finishing book four, I panicked. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix wouldn't come out until 2003 - THREE YEARS LATER. I was like a drug addict suffering from withdrawals. What do you mean, no more Harry Potter? I thought I'd never survive. But we HP diehard fans soothed ourselves with the movies and merchandise, and reread the books every so often. Finally 2003 did come, and Half-Blood Prince came two years later. Finally, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came in 2007.

I'd followed the series from the age of ten to the age of seventeen. I'd literally grown up with Harry. I knew my fictional friends so well - I'd laughed with them and cried with them. Brandy, our friend Allie, and I went to the midnight premiere of Deathly Hallows at Barnes and Noble on July 20, 2007. I'll never forget that night. My emotions were bittersweet - we were finally, finally going to see how it all ended. But did I really want to know? In some ways, I didn't. Because it would mean the end of Harry's story. It would be the last time I'd experience the happy exhaustion that comes with reading furiously until the sun comes up. And I knew that revisiting the series wouldn't be the same as cracking open a fresh Potter book.

The excitement at Barnes and Noble that night was almost tangible. At midnight, everyone began screaming hysterically - you'd think Harry himself had ridden his Firebolt into our midst. There was much fidgeting as we waited our turn at the register, but we were among the first twenty people to hold that prized book in our hands. We immediately turned and ran from the store, in fear that some kid would scream out the ending just to spoil everyone's fun (yes, that has happened before). I trembled as I opened the front cover and read the words, "We now present the seventh and final installment in the epic tale of Harry Potter."

I didn't turn on the TV or radio until I finished the book, and I didn't dare check the Internet for fear of spoilers. And when I finished it, I experienced a mix of joy and numbness. You know how when someone dies, you don't start crying until later, because you're in shock? That's how I was. I didn't cry the first time I read HP7 (but boy, I used half a box of Kleenex during the second round).
I'm happy to report that almost two years after the release of HP7, my ardor is not dead. I reread the series every summer, and I look forward to visiting Harry again this summer. I cannot WAIT until I get the chance to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (the sole reason I'd visit another theme park in Orlando besides Disney).

Just the other day I was discussing Harry with a good friend who shares a love for HP. He said, "There are two kinds of people in this world: those who say Harry Potter sucks, and those who have read it." It was like describing myself, circa 2000. Of course, there are people who don't like HP - and that's cool. But I think it really says something when a series has such a cult following. I have SO MUCH respect for JKR - she's a bloody genius. I mean that. She's brought more meaning to my life through her "children's" novels than anyone with a Ph.D. has. That's why HP7 is my favorite book - no other book has come close to making me feel the way I felt when I held a brand new Harry Potter.

So that, friends, is the story of my long and emotional relationship with the boy wizard. Ginny Weasley doesn't know how lucky she is.

Long live the Boy Who Lived!

Mischief managed.