Hand Lettering Hacks (or–hand lettering for dummies)

I’ve finally started getting into chalkboard lettering. I am way late to the lettering party, but now that I am here, I am loving it.

Japanese Calligraphy Earlier this year I wrote that one of my 2015 resolutions was to learn calligraphy. It started after I bought ink and a traditional Japanese brush  to practice my Hiragana and Katakana characters, but once I found myself hooked on writing characters I can’t really read, I decided maybe I should try out the English version and invest in a few nibs to see where my interest could go from there.

I love to write and I love to make things by hand. So hand lettering just seemed like a natural avenue to pursue. Unfortunately for my yet-to-be-developed hobby, this year has also been extremely full of other projects like crocheting and photography and cake decorating, so it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I finally got around to ordering some calligraphy supplies. I will try my hand at calligraphy (puns!) as soon as my nibs arrive in Japan, so I’m definitely counting on it before 2016!

IMG_2316In the meantime, I have been playing with different lettering styles on the chalkboard my sweet husband built in our craft room. At first I was just trying to get the hang of writing with chalk, so I’d look something up on pinterest or etsy and try to copy it. This was my first chalkboard and was 100%  inspired by someone else’s creativity…

Ruth 1:16 was part of our vows and stayed on the chalkboard for a good couple of months, but right before Dane got home, I felt inspired to change it up. I couldn’t find anything that was really inspiring me on etsy, so I picked two of my favorite lines from one of our favorite songs and got to work coming up with my own rules for mixing and matching lettering styles.

Gypsy Soul ChalkboardAfter that, I was hooked. Now I’ve decided that every new week deserves new chalk.

Africa Toto ChalkboardI created the hashtag #letteringlately so that I could easily watch my progress, and since then,  I’ve had a couple of friends ask me to reveal my tricks of the trade, (I’ve got them fooled!), because I really have no idea what I am doing. The beauty of chalk is that nothing is permanent- so write fearlessly! If you mess anything up, it only takes a quick swipe of the finger and it’s like the mistake never existed.

IMG_4104The only real tip I can give you is that before I go to the board, I quickly jot down whatever quote, verse or lyric is inspiring me on a scrap of paper that is shaped similarly to my chalk board (as in– a vertical rectangle). Just this one step has helped me immensely when it comes to spacing the lines and letters to best fit the space.


Now, while I’m not revealing any groundbreaking tips for chalk lettering like a pro… I do have a few other hand lettering hacks for mediums like ink and paint that I’ve been using since long before my chalkboard days. And, as fate would have it, most of them involve chalk! I’ve been meaning to do a hand lettering for dummies (I happily include myself in the dummy category) post for a while now, so I figured this was a good time to do it!

Whenever I’m in a hurry or have a clear idea of how I want something to come out– I turn to the computer. Maybe this is my because I’ve yet to become a freehand lettering pro, or maybe it’s because I used to spend 10 hours a day behind a computer. But one way or another, I’ve always used Adobe Illustrator (because it makes layering fonts on top of each other so easy) as the first step of any painted lettering project. I would play with fonts until I got things looking just right, and then print the design (tiling pages if necessary to get the size right).

Prep your canvas or wood or whatever you are working with at least 8 hours before you are going to start with the lettering process to ensure that your base coat(s) are dry. IMG_1494 IMG_1498Then flip the paper over and go chalk-dust-crazy. Because you can always see through printer paper, I usually trace around the edges of my design with the blunt side of the chalk, then rub the chalk horizontally across the whole page, then draw the outline again. You cannot have too much chalk in this stage. This is also why you want to make sure that base coat is dry!

IMG_1504 hand lettering for dummiesNow you flip that chalky paper over (chalk side down) and trace again, this time using a pen or pencil around the edges of your design. By applying pressure like this, you are making a chalk outline of your design on the painting surface. After that it’s as easy as painting within the lines!

hand lettering hacksIMG_1508IMG_1543 IMG_1542 hand letteringOne thing to keep in mind, is that if you have a complicated background or multiple colors to work with, it’s best to prep the whole lettered area with a white primer or base coat before you begin painting with the final color.

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hand lettering hacks handlettering hacksRarely are you going to be painting much that is standard printer-paper size, which is why tiling can be helpful (check your printer settings for the best way to tile paper. Tiling means that rather than scaling your design to fit the paper size, it is printing at 100%, printing each quadrant on its own sheet of paper.) You can do this for any size artwork, but I will generally only use this method if I know it won’t need more than four sheets of paper to print the full-size design.

But what if you are painting something significantly bigger? Like a sign or a mural? The answer is so obviously simple (and all you smarty pants out there might already know where I am going with this) but it wasn’t for years after I started painting signs that this hand lettering hack ever occurred to me, so I am sharing it like it’s a brand new, brilliant idea!

Print your design on a piece of 8.5×11 paper, just like you would for the paintings above. Now… PROJECT it onto the wall. If you have an easel, great. If not, just prop your surface up against the wall as flush as you can get it. Use a table and books if you need to. Just make sure there isn’t a lot of “tilt” to it. Now move that projector around until it lines up perfectly on the wood/canvas/paper and step back to admire your design. Looks lovely on that giant piece of cardboard you just taped to the wall, doesn’t it? Okay now stop admiring and get to tracing. Once traced, you can turn off the projector and when it’s painting time… just stay inside the lines!

hand lettering

hand lettering



Koh Tao & Koh Nang Yuan

Koh Tao is a diving island. Plain and simple. I wish I’d known that before I went. It wouldn’t have changed the destination, it would only have changed the length of my trip. Rather than staying for four days, I would have designated at least a week, gotten scuba certified in one of the most beautiful places on earth, and explored the reefs with a little more depth than my snorkel would allow (literally).

Koh Tao| Koh Nang Yuan-13I loved this place. In fact, it’s the only Thai island that is on my “re-visit radar” for the next couple of years. I loved it when I was there and I know that I would love it even more now that I dive. If we are able to add Koh Tao to our list of destinations while we are in Japan, I fully intend to make the visit last long enough to knock out our night diving and advanced open water certs if we haven’t gotten them taken care of already.

At last count, there were 25 PADI 5 Star Resorts/Dive Centers in Koh Tao, which says something about the droves of people who come to this island to dive. We stayed at Asia Divers Resort, and were probably some of the only guests who were not working toward some type of certification. Most of the people that we met there were spending their second or even third season in Koh Tao working divemaster internships or doing their diving instructor training.

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The resort is very reasonably priced (as in didn’t break our backpacker budgets), a balcony room costs a little less than 30 USD, and it not only had the two amenities that I had grown to require when at all possible: hot water and air-con, but also had a lot of nice bonuses: a pool, a bar and free wifi. The pool, although often occupied by training divers, is lovely for a quick dip after spending the day on the beach… just don’t mind the bubbles below you.


Asia Divers is less than a 5-minute walk, straight up the main street, from Sairee Beach. Sairee is the iconic beach with the horizontal palm trees that you see every time you google Koh Tao. (What you don’t google Koh Tao regularly? Shame on you. Well, just bookmark this page and feel free to come back any time you need your Koh Tao fix.)

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The famous Lotus Bar is located under one of the horizontal palm trees (the one with the Lotus Bar sign hanging from it) and is a sort of the meeting point for the island. After all of the day-trips and dives, this is where everyone comes to drink and watch the sunset.  Oh… and to watch the fire dancers. Let’s not forget the nightly fire dancing.

Koh Tao| Koh Nang Yuan-52 Koh Tao| Koh Nang Yuan-40Koh Tao| Koh Nang Yuan-44 Koh Tao| Koh Nang Yuan-49However, as much as I loved Koh Tao, the best day there was the day I spent away from it. We took a snorkeling cruise/day trip to Koh Nang Yuan, which is a tiny island about 15 minutes off the coast of Koh Tao. It’s actually made up of three little islands that are attached by white-sand strips of beach, and is one of the most picturesque places I have ever visited.

Koh Tao| Koh Nang Yuan-20This privately-owned island is a popular day trip for people staying in both Koh Samui and Koh Tao, and you have to pay a toll of 100 baht ($3) just to visit it. However, unless you are just dying to rent a bungalow at Nangyuan Island Dive Resort which is the only resort, and also home to the only bar/restaurant on Koh Nang Yuan, I would recommend it as a one-day excursion rather than a vacation spot of its own. (Nangyuan bungalows start at $60 for a standard room with a fan and no hot water, and gradually increase to $440 for more luxurious accommodations-which include hot water :) )

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To get from Koh Tao to Koh Nang Yuan you can “charter” a longtail taxi boat from just about anywhere on Sairee Beach for 200 baht ($6). While this is probably the most postcard-perfect way of getting anywhere in Thailand, not to mention one of the most economical, if you are lazy or like the idea of someone else planning your day, you can also do what we did and book a full-day tour on a speedboat/snorkel cruise.

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TOSHIBA CAMCORDERWe booked our Koh Nang Yuan excursion through our resort because it was easy, convenient and cheap… right around 700 baht ($21). The price included mask and snorkel rental, stops at several reefs, lunch, drinks, and a four-hour visit to Koh Nang Yuan where you could lounge, snorkel or hike to the “Viewpoint”.   We did a little of the first and a lot of the second (some of the best snorkeling of my life), but my favorite part of the day, and therefore, my favorite part of my trip to Koh Tao, was our 15 minute hike to the viewpoint.

Koh Tao| Koh Nang Yuan-17Although the hike really does take only 15-20 minutes, take those minutes seriously. It’s steep, most people are barefoot or sandal-clad, and the steps and rocks can be treacherous. While we were climbing we encountered one person who had lost a shoe, another who lost a sarong (what?), one Asian tourist who was stuck on a rock, terrified and crying because she could not get down, and a fourth who was badly injured. (In defense of the Asian lady… even I’d been a little bit nervous about lowering myself from that spot.) Our small group had no incidents, so I will just say hike it with caution, but by all means hike it! And when you get to the top: pose for dozens of touristy pictures. We all do.

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After hiking back down we posed for even more photos (I will spare you) and then vegged out at the resort bar (the only bar, as I mentioned earlier) for severely over-priced margaritas that were completely worth it… but take note: they are only worth it because margaritas are always worth it in paradise… even if it those margaritas are a little watered down.

It wasn’t until after we left Koh Tao that we heard great reviews about the climbing and bouldering on the island. I hadn’t climbed a darn thing since our climbing excursion in Laos, (though I would have been climbing those horizontal palm trees had they not thought of that and taken precautions to discourage poor decision making by wrapping the trunks in barbed wire) so it would have been nice to spend a day using those muscles, but alas, I spent the days lounging on the beaches instead. If you are looking for a more active stay check out Good Time Adventures, for a pretty exhaustively spectacular list of things to do in Koh Tao.

And like just about everywhere else I’ve ever written about in SEAsia, a motor bike is the way to go in Koh Tao. Make sure you take pictures of it before you rent it, we have heard horror stories about the fees you will incur if there is the slightest scratch, but if all five of these ladies can handle it… I trust you’ll be okay.

Koh Tao| Koh Nang Yuan-33 Koh Tao| Koh Nang Yuan-34(Side note, this is also the only picture I have of the main street of Koh Tao, headed from our hostel to the beach. Makes me all kinds of nostalgic! Just stop for an iced coffee at the little cafe on the right- about a block further down from where this picture was taken- then turn left at the 7-11 and take a right to the beach. I know these directions will be helpful. You’re welcome.)


It’s Official! Dream Job… Check!

A few weeks ago, I was waxing poetic about all of the different jobs I have held since I was 15, alluding to a new job that was on the horizon. (I’ve been a receptionist, a lifeguard, a waitress, a content writer, a marketing coordinator, a business development manager, a marketing and outbound sales manager,  a wine broker and a concierge. I’ve had the chance to work for some really fantastic companies: Disney and Tiffany are as magical as they come… and I’ve learned a lot of lessons from a few that were a *tad* less magical).

Each job I’ve ever held has taught me something, and I have been excited about all of them on some level, but I have never walked out of an interview and said, “That would be my dream job,” until this one.

When we first arrived in Okinawa, we quickly discovered the website OkinawaHai. OkinawaHai is the English speaker’s “google” on this island. When you need directions: you OkiHai it. When you need to find a place to eat in Ginowan or Yomitan or Nago: you use the OkiHai Restaurant Index.

As soon as I started reading OkinawaHai I knew I just had to write for the site. When they published my first piece I gleefully re-posted it here and danced around, just excited to see my byline again for the first time in too long!

I’d only submitted four posts when I got an email from the on-island manager, who said that she would be PCS’ing in April and wondered if I would be interested in an informational meeting about what it would mean to take over her job.

Take over her job?!

Be both the local manager and the submissions manager of Okinawa Hai?!

Manage a site that gets thousands of hits each day?!

Yes I was interested!

I called my husband. “What would be my dream job on this island?” I asked him. “I don’t know, working for Okinawa Hai?” he guessed. “What about managing it???” I squealed. He loves when I squeal loudly into the phone.

I called my parents. More squealing. “Don’t get excited,” I warned my mom. “It’s just an informational meeting.” She was still excited. The squealing had probably done that. She just can’t help herself.

I had the initial meeting with Marie. I loved her. (But I didn’t squeal.) I played it cool. She opened the meeting by laying her cards on the table. They had read my blog, liked my voice, but were also considering other candidates.

“Of course, I am just flattered to be in the running,” I told her and I meant it.  Cool. Play it cool. I reminded myself. A week later we had a second meeting. Still no definitive yes or no. Still playing it cool.

A week later I got an email congratulating me on the job. There was no more playing it cool. I jumped around the house. The squealing recommenced. I called my husband. I called my parents.

I wanted to write a post right away. But I didn’t. It still all felt too good to be true, so I waited. I kept waiting while I trained with Marie. I kept waiting when we switched her email over to mine. I kept waiting as I started to schedule new posts, meet with new advertising clients, and correspond with our writers. I kept waiting until they put my picture on the “About Page” of Overseasyes.com (our parent company) and OkinawaHai.com. But now that that’s live, this post is too. No more waiting!

Okinawa Hai Manager Mindy Morris




Koh Phangan Minus the Full Moon

The kick off to my Travel Tuesdays (luckily a late publish in Japan means first thing in the morning in the States).
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I know what some of you are thinking… why even bother? Koh Phangan is almost synonymous with “Full Moon Parties”. In fact, no matter where you are in Southeast Asia, you will come across someone who starts talking about spending too much money on a flight to Koh Phangan about a week before the full moon. While I was in Laos I met two guys who were trying to make it down there. In Vietnam it was the same, we met a whole group who was flying to Phuket to pick up a Full Moon Party Package they’d booked the week before. Every month you meet people who are willing to skip all the temples and treasures of Southeast Asia to make it to this particular Thai island just in time for the full moon.

It seems to me, there are two schools of thought on Koh Phangan. There are the party people who regard it as the crown jewel of the Thai islands, and there are those who will skip the island completely because of the instagram hashtags they find morally reprehensible. I fall squarely in the middle. It’s not that I don’t like the idea of being cool enough to handle a full moon party…  glow sticks and body paint really do sound like fun to me! It’s just that I am old and somewhat boring and I can’t think of those two features without thinking of the house music and hangovers that accompany them. Not worth it.

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Apparently I am not alone in my feelings. Back when I was timing my trip it was difficult to miss a moon party. Besides the full moon parties the island promoted quarter moon, half moon and black moon parties… and let me tell you: it is tricky to time a trip for a non-memorable moon! The two-thirds moon or seven-eighths moon are never marked on the calendar.

However, it looks like Koh Phangan has finally found a decent balance. The island will continue to host Full Moon Parties, which put the island on the map for many backpackers and tourists, but as of April 2015, the island is banning all other parties, including the quarter moon, half moon, black moon and jungle parties according to the Bangkok Post.

It seems that there are a lot of varying opinions about what this will mean for the island. With that said, I thought I might as well give you mine! Koh Phangan-3Obviously the goal is to make the island more attractive to non-party goers for the majority of the month, but it’s my opinion that it could also improve the full moon parties themselves. No longer will you be able to squeeze in a Koh Phangan Half Moon Party if the full moon doesn’t jive with your travel schedule. So party-goers, relax. The island is still there and you still have every reason to paint yourselves in glow-in-the-dark paint and drink out of buckets. Now you all just get to do it at the same time under the same full moon!

For those (like me) who think this ban is a win-win for everyone, here are a few suggestions of things to do in Koh Phangan when there’s no full moon to party under.

Haad Rin (or Haat Rin) is the party beach, but when there is no full moon, I actually find this white sand beach to be incredibly relaxing. It’s also the perfect spot to eat pad thai sitting in the sand, grab a taxi boat to Bottle Beach, and stock up on all of the elephant pants and neon-colored tourist tank tops you will need for the remainder of your trip.

Haat Rin Haat Rin Haad Rin Haad Rin  Haad Rin

Catch a sunset and have a cocktail at Mae Haad Beach. This little beach is overlooked… which actually might be why I loved it so much. The water is crystal clear, the sand is squeaky soft, and there is almost no one there.  Mae Haad BeachKoh Phangan-7
Koh Phangan-13   Koh Phangan-9    Koh Phangan-4

GO TO Bottle Beach. This might be one of my favorite beaches in all of Thailand. You can play volleyball, get a thai massage, have a drink, Oh… and there are swings. Enough said?

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Secret Beach is another beach that everyone recommends, but we were given directions to two different beaches when we asked about it. I’m going to go ahead and say this one is Secret Beach… (the one with the wooden sign nailed to the tree that reads: Secret Beach), but I can’t be sure. One thing I know is that posting a sign isn’t a great way to keep it a secret.Koh Phangan-35
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If you make it to the Haad Son resort, follow their signs to the “beach” too. I loved this little temple we discovered. At this point, some of you have discovered a theme here… basically, you can’t go wrong with the beaches in Koh Phangan. Catching on?

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I would suggest a motorbike to get the most out of the island. Like anywhere in Southeast Asia it’s always an adventure, but at least in Koh Phangan it’s just about impossible to run out of gas.  There are honor system “gas stations” every quarter mile. (I exaggerate, but only a little.) Southeast Asia Gas Station

Take a yoga class (or several). I didn’t… But if I ever make it back… I will. And I imagine this is what your view would look like while lying in shavasana.

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The Bat (that was a bird)

It was 10:00 p.m. I had just poured myself a second glass of wine. I had the craft table down in our office and was painting a monogrammed canvas. Dane was due home in three days after having spent seventeen days in Guam (but who was counting?) The dog was peacefully sleeping in her favorite spot on the lambskin rug. All was well with the world.

And then… I heard a loud THUD against the wall. I stopped and looked at the closed door to the living room. The dog lifted her sleepy head and cocked her face to the side. We always leave the door open so that Sydney can use her “potty spot” outside. This had never seemed like a bad idea to me before. THUD. We looked at each other. Suddenly I heard, what sounded like hundreds of papers thrown into the air and fluttering down.

“It’s a bat!” I realized.  Flutter, flutter, flutter, THUD.

Sydney tucked her tail, began to quiver and hid under the chaise lounge. I wanted to do the same. THUD. CRASH. Something had just fallen off of my wall. “The fan is on!” I remember thinking.

I could just imagine this giant bat flying through our tiny apartment, fan slicing through it’s 4-foot wingspan, splattering blood on my walls as it spun. You think I’m exaggerating- but the bats here grow to an absurd size… and there are two who hang on the telephone line right outside our balcony and battle one another almost nightly, so I was positive it had to be one of them. I’ve seen how they fight for their turf. As far as I was concerned, our house now belonged to which ever bat had just flown through my open door. I would not fight for it. He could have it, if he would just let me leave with the dog. THUD.

I started thinking about how long I could survive in the office. Why hadn’t I brought in snacks with my wine?! Could I open the door and jump off the balcony? No. Because the door to the balcony in the living room is how he got in, and if he got in, he could get out, and he might do so when I opened the office door to the balcony.

Instead I opened the window of the office and started waving my hand calling out to passerbys. “Could someone please help me?” Luckily it was a Friday night and there were plenty of people on the seawall. Three young marines stopped and looked up.

“Are you okay, ma’am?”

I thought about lecturing them that I was not that much older than them and certainly didn’t need to be addressed as “ma’am”. I mean, seriously, how old did they think I was? THUD. I decided now was not the time.

“There’s a bat in my house!” I yelled. Sydney continued cowering. “Can you come up the stairs and catch it?” At this point of the story Dane likes to point out that had I been a dude calling to women on the to come upstairs, it’s unlikely I would have gotten help.  Luckily for me, in this case especially… I’m not a dude.

Moments later I heard the front door open, and three people walk into my living room. I remained in the office. “I’m in here,” I said, cracking the door just enough to slip my index finger out and give them a mini “waggle-wave” thing.  THUD.

All three voices yelled out and I imagined the giant bat swooping low over their heads. But then one voice half-whispered, “Umm, I don’t think it’s a bat. It kind of looks like a pigeon.”

“Great,” I said, trading my wiggling index finger for a thumbs up. This did not, however, ease my mind greatly. There was still an animal flying around my house, knocking frames off of the walls. “Could you still get it out of the house?”

They followed that poor scared bird around the house with a broomstick, trying to get it to land on the stick, for the better part of ten minutes. Finally one of them slipped on a pair of work gloves, that happened to be lying on the dining room table (Dane was still in the building phase) and caught the bird with his hands.

“We’ve got it!” he cried triumphantly. I opened the door a little wider. Sure enough, he had it. I decided it was now safe to leave the room.

He walked out to the balcony and opened his hands. We all watched, waiting for it to fly away as pigeons do in the movies when they are released. Instead it just sort of dropped. Damn.

No one really knew what to say. This was not the ending we had hoped for. “Umm, thanks!” I said. Trying to sound cheerful and not point murderous fingers at these poor guys. “You really saved me.”

We all just kind of stood in a circle on the balcony.

One of them asked if he could hold the, still shivering, dog. Of course! I said, so grateful to them that if they’d asked nicely I might have let him keep her. Okay, not that grateful.

“Can I offer you a beer to say thank you?” I asked. No marine I know has ever turned that down, and the ban had been lifted so they were free to accept. I opened the fridge. No beer. I felt it was odd to offer them glasses of almond milk so I shrugged and asked if they drink scotch.

All three nodded enthusiastically as I poured Dane’s “good stuff” from the decanter. One boy took it like a shot. Okay, I’ve never seen anyone do that before, I thought. The other two sipped it as I had expected but rather than nods of approval, they both started coughing and choking. Oh geez, I thought as I offered them both water.

“Do you have any coke I could mix this with?” one boy asked me. I didn’t. “Just almond milk,” I joked. They didn’t get it. They put the glasses down. We all smiled at one another pleasantly. Awkwardly.

“Ok, well- I can’t thank you enough!” I said, starting to walk toward the door. “I guess I’ve learned to keep the doors closed!”

The boys left. I closed the doors to the balcony. I left them closed for about three nights before I missed the breeze and the sound of the waves too much.

Okinawa Sunflower Festival

Weber Sunflower for Blog WTW-4

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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Weber Sunflower for Blog WTW-12

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.

drove off a ledge | Walking Through Wonderland

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.
Brette's Touches

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.

Birthday Collage 1

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.

Flower Wall | Walking Through Wonderland-15

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

rose centers for paper flowers

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.

collage of flowers

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. ;)

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