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The Skinny By Elaine Langlois

Magical Must-Haves

With the release of the hit film Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the marketing people finally seem to have got a clue. No more tacky collectible plastic figures or boring board games. Instead, consumers can choose from a wide array of truly magical merchandise lifted directly from the pages of the Potter books. Check out our list of magical must-haves for every happy woman!

House-elf. Your number-one magical requirement. These homely little creatures, bound to serve one family for life, cheerfully cook, clean, and keep your secrets without pay. It's like having an au pair, cook, and housekeeper rolled into one, without the immigration hassles or the worry that they'll write a snipey bestseller about you after they've gone.

Remembrall/Pensieve. Stop taking gingko, throw away your PDA, and shred your planner. A Remembrall is a small glass globe that runs on-well, I'm not sure what it runs on, but it glows red if there's something you've forgotten. Conveniently packaged with a Pensieve, a shallow stone basin attractively decorated with runes that serves as a handy place to store your extra thoughts. Can double as a tabletop Zen water garden. Fogger optional.

Room of Requirement. Need more space but can't afford a bigger house? The Room of Requirement, from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, is the answer. This room appears only when you need it and comes completely furnished with whatever you happen to need at the time. Whether you are looking for a sixth bathroom for your home, a romantic sanctuary, or a convenient place to bash in your husband's head with Calphalon and dispose of the body, an ROR is for you!

Sneakoscope/Foe-Glass. What's that line from Casablanca? "This place is full of vultures. Vultures, vultures, everywhere." But you can stay one step ahead of them all with this twin set of tools for the hopelessly paranoid. A Sneakoscope lights up and spins if anyone untrustworthy is around. A Foe-Glass looks like a regular mirror, but instead of revealing just how good you look in capris, it shows any enemies lurking nearby. You've always known that everyone's out to get you. With your Sneakoscope and Foe-Glass, you can prove it!

Howlers. Are there people in your life that really deserve telling off? Why not humiliate them with a Howler? These smoking, scarlet envelopes scream snarling invective at the recipient, audible to everyone within a city block. Perfect for your father-in-law or the ex-guy in your life.

Skiving Snackboxes. Looking for a good excuse to skate out of work? These kits from Fred and George Weasley, budding joke shop operators, are just the thing. Nibble a little Nosebleed Nougat, bleed all over the boss's carpet, take the antidote, and set off for a day of fun. If the sight of blood upsets you, try their Puking Pastilles, Fever Fudge, or Fainting Fancies.

Knight Bus. Just out from Ford and timed to coincide with the release of the Azkaban movie, the Knight Bus takes you, in the words of pimply conductor Stan Shunpike, "anywhere you want to go." Put the pedal to the metal and watch buildings, lampposts, trees, and mailboxes leap out of your way. Features mismatched chairs that transform into beds at night and (deluxe version only) hot chocolate, a hot water bottle, and a toothbrush in the color of your choice. Slightly smaller than your average Range Rover; available exclusively in "violently purple."

Owl Post. Ditch that cell phone for this hot new, environmentally friendly way to communicate. Simply tie your message to your owl's leg and send it off. Unlike cell phones, owls do not emit hazardous electromagnetic radiation--just pellets, which make for excellent school science projects.

Sorting Hat. This savvy piece of headgear can save you from years of psychotherapy and countless foolish choices. Has some cute guy asked you out? Simply jam the Sorting Hat on your head and hearken to its sage advice: "He's a no-good, low-life scum puppy who will give you nothing but grief!" Can't decide on a career? Just don the Hat: "You should be either a sandwich artist or an investment banker." Not sure what to wear tonight? "Your swirl-print halter dress and silver ankle-strap sandals." Let the Sorting Hat make the call!

Extendable Ears. Are you a nosy Nate who can't get enough of the neighbors' doings? Or a rumor-mad vixen who hacks into coworkers' e-mail and haunts the water cooler? Just put one end of this flesh-colored string in your ear, watch the other wriggle stealthily under a door, and sit back for hours of eavesdropping pleasure. With Extendable Ears, you can know it all!

The next movie isn't due out until next year, and there's no fixed date for the next book. So I guess we'll just have to wait for Invisibility Cloaks, flying Ford Anglias, Floo powder, and Cockroach Cluster.

© 2004 Elaine Langlois