Okinawa Sunflower Festival

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It’s funny how difficult it’s been for me to keep fresh flowers in my house on an island teeming with fresh flowers!  And by that, I guess I mean that I am clearly looking in all the wrong places. They sell them sometimes in tents on base, and I have seen them at Makeman (i.e. Japanese Home Depot) but all of these people who instagram their gorgeous flower finds after leaving the farmers market must be going to farmers markets I haven’t found yet.

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Weber Sunflower for Blog WTW-17However, even if I haven’t managed to bring much of the beauty home yet, I make a point of getting to the flower festivals to do some serious hanami (hanami is the Japanese term for “flower viewing” or actively appreciating the beauty of blossoms. It is usually used specifically for cherry blossom viewing, but, really, whose judging my usage here?)

When I saw that the Okinawa sunflower festival would be going on through March 15, I called Kim and Brette, told them to dress their littles accordingly and we caravaned to the festival. What could be better than an impromptu pre-nap sunflower photo shoot??

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I have been swamped with photos lately, so I still haven’t had a chance to edit Brette’s babes, but the first day of April seems like a perfect day to share some of my favorite photos of the wee little Webers in fields of sunflowers.

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This Used To Be A Travel Blog…

…and I’ve gotta get back to my roots! At least once a week. I was joking with a friend a few days ago that my blog has turned into a mommy blog without me ever actually becoming a mommy. I love showcasing all of the projects I have done lately and sharing photos of all of the gorgeous little faces I get to spend my days with, but I have been really slacking on the travel front. I spent the first half of 2013 backpacking Southeast Asia, and when people ask me to direct them to my blogs on Malaysia, Indonesia or Singapore I have to sheepishly admit that I still (almost two years later) haven’t gotten around to writing them!

So… I am introducing Travel Tuesdays to Walking Through Wonderland! It’s going to be sort of like a “Time-Travel” Tuesday as well, at least for a while as I get caught up on some of the fantastic places I have been blessed to go over the last few years, but hopefully by June I will have some new spots to blog about too!

I’ve been trying to get on more of a blogging schedule, so (hopefully) setting Tuesday as a designated travel blog day will help me out!

Thanks for reading, friends. Isn’t this whole life thing pretty magical?

It Could Happen To Anyone… (The Day I Drove Off A Ledge)

With that said… my husband is quick to remind me that it didn’t happen to anyone. It happened to me. And I will never, EVER, live it down.

My friend Kim lives less than a mile from me on the Sunabe Seawall. I make exactly two turns to get to her house. Lately she’s been my workout buddy/inspiration so I have been driving over to her house at an ungodly hour so that we can hit the gym before her babies rise and her husband goes off to work. I wish I could tell you this happened at one of those really, really early hours. But it didn’t.

There is really no excuse. Oh, except for these few excuses that I have already come up with:

  1. Japanese roads are crazy.
  2. There is no sign, no painted warning, nothing to warn people who are coming up to this spot that the road ends.
  3. Even if there had been a warning (which there isn’t) I wouldn’t have been able to read it.
  4. It was early (not that early). And I had been up late (really, really late, as I often am when I get going on a project). And I hadn’t had coffee yet.
  5. I’d been working for 16 days straight and I was exhausted. (Plus my first graders were some of the toughest kids I have ever worked with- more on that another time).

Okay those are all of the excuses I have tried to use to make this seem less crazy… but  they sound more and more weak every time I use them (which has been a lot) because this story circulated like wildfire.

So here’s how it happened. I left my house with a dog and a cup of coffee that was still too hot to sip. I was supposed to babysit while Kim got her hair done. Between subbing, photos, and a design job, I had been working for 16 days straight. I zoned out and drove past her house. Once I realized I was off course, and lost in the middle of rows of monopoly houses that feel like a maze, I decided I needed to get back out to the main road to get my bearings.

I was on a street, there was a parking lot, and I could see the main street right beyond the parking lot.

Oh yeah! # 6. We cut through parking lots a lot here. In fact, one of those two turns I take to get to Kim’s is under an apartment building and through a parking lot.

Okay, that’s the last excuse.

So, all I had to do was drive through the parking lot in front of me to get to a street I knew. One of the two telephone poles that I was going to drive between was leaning, so I looked up as I inched closer. I wondered if it was safe to drive under a leaning a pole, but there were no electrical cords and no sign markers that I could find that said not to proceed. So I continued driving, looking up, and then… well… It’s pretty obvious what happened… I drove off a ledge. I guess I should have been looking down.

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It would be hard to put into words what went through my mind after I drove off the ledge. I just sort of sat there thinking, “Huh… is this a dream? Did I really just drive off a ledge in real life?” I had.

I got out of the car and realized, to my chagrin that I knew exactly where I was… (two blocks from Kim’s house), and went off in search of help. I ran into a friendly Marine who thought I was joking when I suggested that maybe, with his help, I might be able to lift the front of the car up eight inches to get it back on the road.

drove off a ledge | Walking Through Wonderland

“You need at least 5 or 6 guys to do that,” he told me. He clearly couldn’t tell that I have been working out. Then his face lit up. “I actually just saw a whole bunch of Japanese construction workers up the street and they have a crane. If you show them a picture of your car, they will know what you need.”

So I walked back to my car: in my sweatshirt, with no makeup, and a five-pound dog tucked under my arm. I was sure that I very much looked the part of a girl who might drive off of a ledge. I snapped a picture of the car and walked off in search of the construction workers.

“Ohayō,” I said, as I approached them. They all bowed to let me pass and I said, “No, no,” offering them my phone. They looked at the picture I had pulled up on the screen. No one laughed. The Japanese hate to be rude. They just nodded solemnly and passed the phone around. The leader of the group nodded and said, “Hhhooookay,” accompanied by, what I can only call a “we-can-do-it” fist pump. They started marching in the direction of my car.

“Don’t you need the crane.. umm.. the machine?” I asked pointing at the crane. “No, no,” he told me. So we marched. A blonde girl in a sweatshirt leading six Japanese men in hard hats. Single file.

As much as the Japanese hate to be rude, as we rounded the corner to see my car, they just couldn’t help themselves. I’d say about 4 of the 6 men broke into laughter. “I know, I know,” I said tapping my head with my hand as if to say, “I’m an idiot.”

They tried to lift the car. Every time they got it a little bit closer. Then the leader signaled to everyone and they started stretching. I am so glad that Kim had walked out of her house by this point to start taking pictures. As much as I wish it hadn’t happened, I’m so grateful that I have the pictures to illustrate and remember it.

drove off a ledge | Walking Through Wonderland

After their round of group stretching, they counted, heaved, and voila! The car rolled back onto the street and I was back in business.

Kim was late to her hair appointment, and I can guarantee she has felt better about leaving her children in the care of others in the past. But these things happen. Again, not to everyone, but to some of us. And I stand by my statement: It could happen to anyone.

The Party with the Flower Wall: Cosette’s Pink and Gold Birthday Party

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Could there be a more a picture perfect, All-American family in the world?? Well, I guess living in America would help with the latter, but picture-perfect… they’ve got in the bag.

Cozi's Birthday Party-98 When Brette hired me to do the cake for Cozi’s pink and gold birthday party, I immediately said, “Ohhhh… do you need a photographer too?” I knew Brette well enough to know that everything about this party (including the birthday girl) would be off-the-charts adorable, and boy, was I right! Brette made all of the little “one” hats, glitter bows, banners, chalkboards… even her water bottles had tutus! She didn’t miss a single detail.
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The Hat

It doesn’t hurt that all of Cozi’s friends are adorable too. I didn’t even know where to point the lens with all of these blue eyes staring back at me! All of my friends seem to make the most beautiful babies! We’re a lucky group to have so many little dolls running around.

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A week before the party, I decided that in addition to the cake, maybe I should make a flower wall too. As if there wasn’t already enough pink to go around. So we did! Check out Monday’s post for all of the flower wall deetz. And thank goodness it was fabulous because the cake… well… it started out as a disaster.

America's Perfect FamilyA few months ago when she decided to go with a pink and gold theme for Cosette’s first birthday party, I ordered gold luster and gold air-brush liquid for the cake. I had grand ideas of the gold sequin cake I would make for the top tier. Unfortunately we live in the middle of the Pacific and it’s darn near impossible to get things here in a timely manner… yes, even with Amazon Prime sometimes!

The liquid came in, but the luster (which, as it turned out, was key) did not. “Oh well,” I thought, “I can achieve this look without it! I am a cake master!” False.

The Cake Disaster

I did everything exactly as I was supposed to. Step by step, it looked exactly the way pinterest said it should. And then… I started brushing the gold liquid on to the confetti sequins. Coat after coat, I prayed that this time it would start looking like gold sequins. Unfortunately, it did not. My version looked more like a cake covered in fruity petals that had been soaking in gold milk. By 2 a.m. I gave up, hoping it might turn into something pretty while I slept. It didn’t. Luckily I had set my alarm for 5:30, so I forced myself out of bed, peeled off the gloopy fondant mess, and started from scratch. The cake turned out fine… just not nearly as glittery as I’d hoped.  (Note: The luster dust came in the week after the party. Naturally. I am determined to make this cake again and succeed.)

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I really, really love these kids. Me and CoziMe and the Knaute Kids

These sweet little ones too ;) Webers

And as it turned out… Cozi didn’t mind the sequin-less cake a bit.Cozi Cube

 

The Flower Wall

It’s not that it’s hard…

But it’s definitely not “easy”. You don’t need templates, or kits, or rulers. You really just need scissors and glue and paper and patience. Hold on, rephrase… a lot of paper and a lot of patience.

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Cosette’s party was about a week away when the idea of a flower wall came to me. The “theme” for the party (if you can call a color scheme a theme) was pink and gold tutus.

Making a flower wall has been on my list for a while, so I brought it up to Brette. “Is this crazy or doable?” I asked her. We both decided that maybe it was both, but that’s never stopped me before! We had just the faintest glimmer of hope that it would all come together in the six days before the party, especially given that I was working full time and she has two toddlers that make the idea of paper crafting during their waking hours laughable. But we set off to the Hundred Yen Store (i.e. the greatest place ever) anyway, where we bought packs of pink, gold and purple paper and pink and white tissue paper flowers for ¥100 each (roughly a dollar).

I took all the paper home with me to experiment, while Brette was on tissue paper duty. I looked up a bunch of tutorials for inspiration and then changed them up to better meet my vision. Here are a few of my favorites:

Paper Roses:

How to Make a Paper Rosedetailed directions here.

Hexagon-Accordion Flowers

Folded Fan Flowers  How to Pink Fan FlowerDetailed directions here.

The tissue paper poofs are easy enough, so I don’t have a link for you… You just fold a fan, twist-tie the middle, and poof them out sheet by sheet. I’ve found that 8-10 sheets of tissue paper create the full looking blooms I love, but when tissue paper is running low, I’ve also made them with 6 sheets. Another thing to point out: I really like the finished look if you take a moment before fluffing to cut scallops or points on your strip of paper.  Much more flower-like, in my opinion! tissue paper flowers

With all of these flowers out of the way, I also wanted to put a dent in the collection of patterned scrapbooking paper that I abandoned when I started making digital photo books. The switch has saved me a fortune in rubber cement (and probably spared a lot of brain cells thanks to the lack of fumes), but it’s also left me with boxes full of 12×12 paper with no real purpose.

I didn’t use a tutorial… I think it’s pretty self explanatory. I cut flowers out of the paper in different sizes and then stacked one on top of the other until I achieved the look I was going for. I decided not to use a stencil or template, but just to eyeball the flowers as I was cutting to make sure that they weren’t too uniform. The number of petals per flower ranged from four to six, depending on size and petal detail. Because so many layers of paper were stacked, it didn’t matter if each cut wasn’t perfect. In fact, I really like the individuality that the petal variation gave each flower. Plus, there was no chance we would end up with any two alike with my cutting skills!

I used a pencil to roll the corners of the flowers to give them a little more dimension, and because I fell completely in love with the look of the paper roses, I made a lot of those in miniature scale to use in the middle of some of my stacked flowers.

Curling the edges of paper flowers

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I love the look of the stacked flowers individually, and when they were all grouped together, I think it added something really unique to the wall. One of our biggest compliments was from a friend who told us that she had changed her kids outfits to coordinate with the flower wall after we had posted a preview of it.

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Brette left the wall up for a little while after the party, it seemed like such a waste to take it down too soon! When she did finally take all of the flowers down though, I used a few of them for a gender reveal photo shoot I was doing (luckily… it was a girl!). But after that last hoorah,  I had no idea what to do with all of these beautifully handcrafted, labor intensive, paper flowers! I hated to throw them away, but I have absolutely no where to store that much pink in my house!

We went back and forth about what to do with them and finally I asked her, “Do you think someone on Okinawa Yard Sales might buy them?” We didn’t want to ask too much and end up with zero interest, so I put up a couple of pictures of the flowers in garbage bags and asked for $20 OBO.  Big mistake. Big. Huge.  (I’ve always liked that Pretty Woman line, and just felt like using it. It wasn’t really a big mistake, except that we very quickly realized we could have asked for a whole lot more). Within a minute, I kid you not- in less than 60 seconds,  someone said she would come by with cash to pick them up. By the time I finished brushing my teeth there was a waiting list of about 6 people. By the time there were a dozen people claiming dibs on “next”, I started getting private messages from people offering to give me more than I was asking for. One girl messaged and said, “I will bring $50 and can pick up right now.”

Unfortunately, I had already agreed to the first girl, so we sold the whole lot for $20. However, with the obvious interest in flower walls, we decided maybe we should start taking on some custom orders. Brette and I did some quick pricing, and added to our post that we were happy to customize a flower wall for each person’s event for  $60- $150 depending on the size of the wall and the materials used. We are now asking $20 for the number “One” (that we threw in for free with the flowers)… And we already have orders in place. Not a bad day.

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I guess that makes us professional flower wall designers. No big deal. We promise not to let this success go to our heads. ;)

The Next Chapter

I love the act of creating. I’m not sure at what stage of life I realized how much I crave creation, but I know that it wasn’t early enough. It probably wasn’t until well after college that I realized how much it fulfilled me to make things. I look back and see that there were always signs pointing me in that direction. I spent high school winding up cameras so that I could capture and scrapbook every moment shared in the halls. I used to rescue garage sale furniture so that I could paint bookshelves and filing cabinets and dressers. Before graduation I’d filled thousands of pages with thoughts, poems and doodles … but back then I didn’t know that these interests might be pointing me in the direction of a career. They’d all just seemed like hobbies.

If I had college to do over again I would major in graphic design and minor in photography.  Instead I studied marketing and pr, realizing only after I entered the work force that I preferred the production side. I wanted to be the person designing a flier, not the person measuring its effectiveness. Still not having it all figured out, I went back to school and got a degree in education… right before I accepted a second great marketing job.

I turn thirty next month and I keep thinking about all of the lives I have led up to this point and all of the very different jobs I have held. I was telling the kids in my first grade class that I used to work at Disney World (they think this is the coolest thing.) I did the math. I spent almost 5 years as a seasonal cast member at Disney. Those kids are right- that is the coolest thing! Another day I told them that I used to take the subway to work. “At Disney World?” they asked me. I explained that a few years after Disney I had another job in New York City. “It was at the second most magical place on earth…” I teased: “Tiffany and Co.”

<Crickets>

That joke would probably have been more of a hit with people over the age of seven.

I didn’t bother to tell them about all the jobs in between. Like the job that took me to Hawaii as a freelance travel writer and photographer but never really ended up paying me much. Or the sales job right out of college that paid more than I have ever made again, and helped me get involved with the chamber of commerce and rotary club. Or the period where I spent 3 nights a week in hotels because my sales territory was too big to cover in a day. I never told them how much I loved that that hotel in Tallahassee knew my puppy by name and would take her out to the tennis court to play while I was gone. I never told them about the year I spent 10-12 hours a day working in a cubicle designing media kits and planning marketing initiatives and actually looking forward to Mondays.  I never told them about my days with a winery, where I drank better wine with breakfast, during our morning tasting notes, than I could have ever hoped to afford at dinner. They certainly don’t know that I used to wear a bathing suit and a whistle to work.

Nope. They just know that Mrs. Arnholt makes cool bulletin boards. And that she knows CPR in case anyone can’t breathe– long story.

My husband flies planes. From the time he was a little boy he knew that he wanted to fly when he grew up, so he took all the necessary steps (which is a very Dane-like thing to do). He went to college, got a degree in engineering, joined the Air Force, and became a pilot.

Me on the other hand… well I’ve done a little bit of everything. And I have liked it all. I think I’ve always looked at jobs the way I used to look at dating. Each one can be so fantastic and each one offers so many opportunities to grow. You embrace all the good, you learn from all the bad, and you experience them fully… until your heart tells you it’s time to move on.

I also think each job has made me uniquely qualified for the next. I know there is no way I would have gotten my particular job with Tiffany & Co. if I’d left out my time at Disney. And I know that without my previous b2c and b2b sales experience I wouldn’t have been able to get the job at the winery. I feel like every job I’ve ever held has enriched my life and given me amazing opportunities I would never have had without them.

Which leads me to say…. I absolutely cannot wait to announce the next chapter of Mindy’s Employment Adventures. In fact… it might just be my favorite job yet. And Tiffany created some stiff competition for future endeavors!!! This job takes almost everything I love and wraps it all up into one excitingly wonderful opportunity. From the minute we arrived in Okinawa it’s been my dream job. But for another couple of weeks- I’m not announcing anything. Just running around the apartment clapping and smiling, making the dog wonder what the heck is so exciting. And I will tell her, and everyone else… very soon!

Cosette’s Rosettes: Birthday Smash Cake

It seems that a lot of my projects and “picture taking”  have  centered around the Knaute kids as of late… so I wanted to do something completely different for Cosette’s first birthday smash cake photos.

We wanted the whole look of the shoot to be soft and whimsical, and I used the opportunity to experiment with all new methods: a different shooting style, alternative photo editing, even a new cake decorating style… I’m very lucky to have a friend who trusts me enough to let me “experiment” for her daughter’s first official photo shoot.

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Cosette’s Rosette cake was my first real attempt at decorating with butter cream. Piping has always seemed intimidating, so I’ve stuck with fondant in the past-  but it seems almost cruel to give a baby a fondant smash cake! Now that I have gotten my feet wet, I am excited for more opportunities to experiment with piped cake decor.

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The photos, too, are a different style than I have done before. I’m still getting used to having a camera around my neck again after my two year hiatus, and I’ve been having so much fun coming home at night (after my utterly exhausting days spent herding first graders) curl up on the couch with a glass of wine and a full youtube queue of photography tutorials teaching every technique under the sun. (My favorite channel is Anthony Morganti’s, for anyone else who wants to nerd out with me.) I’m not sure if/when I will settle on a “style” that feels like my own… but for now, I am just having too much fun as a “picture taker” to worry about whether or not to market myself as a photographer.

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The only thing about this session that felt typical of a Mindy shoot was the tulle tutu that Brette and I made for Cozi the week before her birthday. We figured a girl can’t go wrong with as much pink and as many pearls as possible on her birthday. And, I’ll be honest- after the time I have spent dressing this little one up- it’s going to break my heart a little bit if we never have a baby girl I can put bows on!

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“Don’t even think about it, Cruise.”

Cozi Cake with WM-15  Cozi Cake with WM-32

The One Where We Had Our Own Wedding: Our Wedding Day Film

We met at a wedding, so it seemed only fitting that someday we should have one of our own. From the minute we started planning, everyone kept telling us that the wedding day would “just go by so fast”. And they were right. It did. And it was the most lovely blur of activity in history.

I remember little bits and little pieces of the day… And at the end of it all, I remember feeling like I’d hardly had a chance to see my new husband, let alone any of the people who had flown in to be there. But I wouldn’t change a single thing. (Okay maybe one little thing… but one detail out of a thousand is not a bad record!)

This week, our videographer delivered the virtual copy of our wedding day film and I got to relive all of the little moments I’d missed (again, and again, and again.) I know I said I was done with the love stories for a little while, but this video is just too cute to keep to myself! So for those of you who really care (and yes, Katie Haas (McFadden), you look absolutely adorable in it!!) here you have it: Our Wedding Day Film!

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Don’t really feel like spending 26 minutes watching the day unravel? There’s a three minute sneak peak in the “bonus features” section too. ;)

Mindy and Dane Wedding Trailer

Thank you to Trinity Wedding Cinema for giving me this opportunity to relive my wedding day whenever I want! (Which has been a really lot this week!)

 

Okinawa Food Flea

I love Okinawa. Like really, really love it. But I still have no idea where anything is or what anything means. Signs started going up two months ago to advertise the Okinawa Food Flea, which would be held during the last weekend of February at Uminchu Wharf.

I’ve been excited about it since I saw that first sign. What I didn’t realize, (until I suggested that we take a cab to the Food Flea so we could try Okinawan Fish Sake), was that Uminchu Wharf is a five minute walk from my house. Not really cab-worthy.

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Perfect! I thought after my friend suggested we just park at my house and walk. I will eat Japanese food and drink sake to my heart’s content and we will just walk home!

The plan started off well. Although rather than sake, I had a beer while we stood in line for soft-shelled shrimp and strange looking giant edamame things. Both were new to me and both were delicious. (Although that’s the first and last head I will ever eat off of a soft-shelled shrimp. I didn’t mind the shell on its body… but the squishy brain part?? Mehhhh….)

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The “edamame” weren’t edamame, but what exactly they were, I couldn’t quite translate. They were roasted over an open fire and served in a bamboo bowl but they had a more pea or lima bean-like taste and consistency than edamame. None of my google searches have helped me track this bean-thing down, so I will have to go straight to my Japanese source and report back later.

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This picture does the size no justice. That little bean was the size of half my thumb.

The first half of the day was going well as far as trying new Japanese food went, but then I got distracted. I mean, what’s a good cheat day without pizza, pasta and bread?? We just couldn’t help ourselves. The line for the bread tent was the longest by far, but with beautifully baked breads chock-full of fruits, nuts and chocolate it wasn’t hard to understand why. We walked away with sweet potato and chocolate bread. How very Japanese and American of us.

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Plenty of vendors had far more than food to offer, including one booth by a local vintage shop that kept catching my eye. I’ve always loved a good display and whoever set this booth up has an eye for design that I’d like to borrow! I kept finding excuses to walk by for “just one more picture” all afternoon.

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Nothing makes me feel more foreign than seeing another culture’s interpretation of what is American.

 

After several hours (and more calories than I care to count), we finally walked home, full and happy. It wasn’t until I’d reached my door that I realized I hadn’t even tried the shochu or Okinawan fish sake I’d been most excited about!

Oh well, those are two good reasons for me to start looking forward to the next Food Flea now.

Okinawa Food Flea

Fondant Cake Creations

I love icing. In fact, I’m pretty sure that sugar is one of my love languages. Really. Some husbands bring flowers, mine brings “Cookie Monsters,” i.e. the chocolate chip sandwich cookies with monster faces made of icing. They are specifically meant to cater to the under five age group…and me. No rose in the world could score him that many brownie points. Oooooh… but maybe a brownie could.
I digress. My point is, I like icing. And I love cake. So cake decorating was a natural hobby for me to fall into.

A few years ago, I watched a couple of youtube videos and made my first fondant cake. It felt like a grown-up reason to play with play-doh, and I instantly fell in love with it. Since moving to Okinawa I have had more opportunities for these fondant cake creations than ever before and my fondness for fondant only increases with each cake.

One of my recent favorites was an “Under the Sea” cake I decorated for a friend’s “Sip and Sea” baby shower. When one of the hostesses had approached me about decorating the cake, she’d sent me a picture of the sea creature mobile that had served as the inspiration for the nursery decor. “Sarah just loves this mobile,” she had told me. “Maybe you could incorporate it?”

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Here’s what I came up with:
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These little characters were definitely my favorite part of the cake, but between the four layered top tier and these little fondant creatures, that cake sure did get heavy! Luckily, Dane was in town to rig a weight distribution system out of chopsticks and cake boards.

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So far the only downside I’ve found to fondant cake decorating has been that by the time I finish these cake creations, someone is always ready to cut into them. Oh well. At least the pictures last longer than an afternoon!

Made with Repix (http://repix.it)

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A Blog About Life Being Pretty Magical