Author: <span class="vcard">thaoie</span>

It’s that time of year again folks when there are graduations galore. Our niece, Faith, graduates from high school this Friday and we wanted to do something extra special for her. Not gift her with the usual flower lei, balloons or bouquet of flowers, but something she can wear proudly and show off to her fellow graduates who will look at her with envy that she is well loved and cared for.

With helpful instruction from our dear friend, Anh Nguyet, Rob and I worked tirelessly for hours on end over several days to create 2 very heavy, super intricate candy lei’s made up of Werther’s candies and Starbursts for Faith to don on her big day. Since we spent so much time on it, we thought we’d document (aka blog) the detailed instruction on how it’s done so that we’ll never forget how to create it and also to share with the world on how it’s all done so you can create it yourself for a loved one.

*sorry for the poor quality images in this post. i took these on my cellphone and half of ’em didn’t come out so great.*

Part I: the Werther’s lei

What you need:

  • Curling ribbon (this can be purchased from Party City)
  • Thicker ribbon (around 2 inches wide; got mine from Costco)
  • 1 big bag of Werther’s hard candies (ours contained ~80 pieces); big bags available at Smart & Final; make sure it’s the twisty wrapper kind.

Step 1: Cut curling ribbon into lengths of 6 inches. You’ll need one ribbon per piece of candy. I used 2 colors for Faith’s lei’s (green and black) to represent her school colors. You can do 1 color ribbon or even 2+; all up to you.

Step 2: Tie ribbon to one end of Werther’s candy (as illustrated below). Make sure there is an even length on each side.

Step 3: Cut the thicker 2 inch wide ribbon into 3.5 feet in length (may want it longer if the person has a bigger head; measure it on yourself leaving room to knot the 2 ends later).

Step 4: Start double knotting candy to 2 inch wide ribbon; making sure to alternate sides that the candy is on.

Photo of me in action:

Step 5: After you’re done going all the way to the end, tie the two ends together to complete the circle; take a scissor and curl the ribbon so that its not so straight and pokey.


Part II: the Starburst lei *warning: takes 10x as long and is very tedious*

What you need:

  • Curling ribbon
  • Thicker ribbon
  • Loose Starburst candies (ours contained ~90 pieces; purchased from Target)
  • Clear cellophane wrapping (got ours from Party City)

Step 1: Cut curling ribbon into lengths of 6 inches.

Step 2: Cut 4 inch squares of the clear cellophane wrap. This part was super tedious and hard. I had Rob make me a cardboard template that was 4″ x 4″ to measure and cut the cellophane. It was hard enough that the material doesn’t stay put let alone it being almost completely invisible!

Step 3: Sort candy. This really isn’t a step unless you’re picky with the colors. We purchased 3 variety packs and chose only the hues of pinks, reds and purples to go on the lei. We’re now stuck with the yellows, oranges, and greens to eat.

These are the 6 colors we worked with; it was so hard not to devour ’em while putting the lei together.

Step 4: Wrap each Starburst candy with cellophane and tying the end with a ribbon (as illustrated below).

I found that there was a lot of extra cellophane after it was tied at the end so to make it easier to tie to the main ribbon I’d cut some of the extra cellophane off. You don’t have to but I’m just knit picky.

Step 5: Cut the thicker 2 inch wide ribbon into 3.5 feet in length.

Step 6: Start double knotting candy to 2 inch wide ribbon; making sure to alternate sides and colors to get in a good mix. It starts getting really difficult when you mix in multiple color ribbon and candy colors. You can see in the photo below that I curled the ribbon as I went along so that it didn’t seem so overwhelming at the end.

Step 7: Tie the ends together (you can leave a bit of space w/o any candy, it’s ok b/c it’s behind their neck).

Viola! This is the face of a person after hours on end of back breaking work to put this Starburst lei together. I look like total crap and usually would not show a photo of myself in this sort of condition but I had to show you proof that making this Starburst lei takes a ton of dedication, time, and MUCHO love for the recipient in order for you to power thru it all. I am not convinced that I can or ever will make this lei for any person ever again. Perhaps the love for my children or grandchildren when I am super old without much to do in my retirement age will entice me to give it another shot. I did tell Rob that I would make this for him for his graduation (that would mean he’d have to go back to school). hehehe.

Step 8: get a back massage.


In early April, Rob and I spent roughly 2 days in Philly with Laura and Thanh in tow for part of the time. We did a ton of site seeing and a bit of some grubbing. The city of Philadelphia ties in so well with our D.C. visit b/c the two have so much connected with the history of our country. We enjoyed our time there very much even though I was sick as a dog. You bromance boys (Dan, Dennis, Jason, Duy, Thanh) should all go here together; the city’s slogan is just too fitting for your “bromances”. =)

First tour stop was none other than the Liberty Bell. This is a must see in Philadelphia.

The four of us in front of Independence Hall. Why is it called that? B/c that’s where our declaration of independence was written and signed into law.

These guys are sitting in the building where the House and Senate used to meet before our capitol was moved from Philly to D.C.

Benjamin Franklin is buried here in Philly. People throw coins on his tomb to make wishes; not sure why really.

Yay to money!! This particular mint makes a lot of our coins. Laura and I are actually holding cash money as we jump.

We visited Betsy Ross’ house who had made our first flag which featured 13 stars for the 13 colonies. Rob and Laura are trying to break an entering.

The four of us outside the Betsy Ross house and a fun picture on our bus ride to the next location.

Sustenance to fuel our tourist legs. Jim’s Steaks was a bit of a wait but yummy!

Rob’s pretty happy about digging into his Philly cheese steak AND enjoying some dessert at Rita’s Ice.

The Philly skyline.

We got to the top of the famous Rocky steps.

Rob declares Thanh the winner over saddened Laura.

This railroad station reminds me of Monopoly.

Us lovebirds at the LOVE park.

Rob trying to lift my heavy butt with a life-size monopoly wheel barrow piece.

Laura wasn’t thinking when she hugged this iron straight on; it’s hot, Laura! And here’s Thanh posing with his sorry piece.

Neat little park with random board game pieces eh? Just right outside our hotel in downtown.


This book was suggested to Robert and I at our engaged encounter retreat in January 2010. We put it off since it was the last 6 months of wedding planning and the last thing we wanted to do was sit down, read a book, and work on our relationship. We knew it would be an ongoing, lifelong process well after the wedding was over. I left it on my wish list and didn’t start reading it until January 2011 after Robert purchased me a Kindle edition; and I have been so grateful to have been introduced to this book. I am now a true believer in the 5 love languages.

The concept is that people express and feel love in 5 ways (languages); one being more predominant than the next for each person. The book explains the 5 love languages as so: (taken from the website)

  • Words of Affirmation

    Actions don’t always speak louder than words. If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important—hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten.

  • Quality Time

    In the vernacular of Quality Time, nothing says, “I love you,” like full, undivided attention. Being there for this type of person is critical, but really being there—with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby—makes your significant other feel truly special and loved. Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful.

  • Receiving Gifts

    Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous—so would the absence of everyday gestures.

  • Acts of Service

    Can vacuuming the floors really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. The words he or she most want to hear: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don’t matter.

  • Physical Touch

    This language isn’t all about the bedroom. A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face—they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive.

Do me a favor and take the quiz online to find out your love language. Then have your significant other take it as well. It’s a short quiz of just 30 multiple choice questions; shouldn’t take any longer than 10-15 minutes. If you’re single, don’t worry–there’s even a quiz on there for you! Same concept applies. If you’re a parent, you can also have your kid(s) take it so you can show them love the way they want to be loved (applies to kids ages 5+). There’s even a teen edition.

I think it will make a whole difference in your relationship if you put your learnings into practice. It’s made a whole world of a difference so far in my relationship with Robert. Even though he has not yet read the book, he still understands the concept and it has done wonders! I am such a HUGE believer that if you want to read the book I am willing to buy you a copy whether it be a paperback, nook edition, kindle edition, or audio edition. To gift you with this book would mean the world to me; a small amount of my hard earned money does not compare to the lifelong happiness you can have from reading this book. Heck, if I had read this book before the wedding it may have been another wedding favor we gave out to our guests. Leave a comment and tell me in what form you want to receive this book. *Stipulation: you must promise to read it all the way through within 2 months of receiving it.*

You may be wondering what’s my primary love language. Well, Dr. Chapman (the author) said we could also be bilingual in our love language and that is ME! That just gives Rob more options to show me how much he loves me; we both “speak” the same 2 languages of “quality time” and “acts of service”. Don’t get me wrong, I still like gifts, physical touch, and nice words but the other 2 is what truly screams out LOVE to me. Here’s how we scored:

Language Thao Robert
Words of Affirmation 7 2
Quality Time 9 9
Receiving Gifts 0 3
Acts of Service 9 10
Physical Touch 5 6



Since we’re still in our early stages of this blog, I thought you should get to know a few random facts about me.

  • i am married…to Robert.
  • i get excited over the most scenic places and taking photos of people in them.
  • i have 2 jobs.
  • i love weddings…hence the 2nd job.
  • i want to have 4 children…let’s see how I fare after the 1st.
  • i already named my 1st daughter…if 15 people comment and ask me what it is, i will reveal it.
  • i love to blog…duh!
  • i am pretty shy and get super nervous in social/public situations…prob why i blog.
  • i will not eat beans, olives, guacamole, sour cream or ginger.
  • i love to eat at the habit: burger with cheese and bacon; onion rings with ranch to dip.
  • i love to sing in church…just ask Robert.
  • i want to play the piano…and own a white grand piano someday.
  • i love to read…yes, i own a Kindle.
  • i am in love.

Once I get an “about me” page going, this info and probably a few more tidbits will go on there.


Welcome to my personal blog! came about because I wanted a place to share my personal life and the random thoughts I have that are longer than 144 characters (twitter) without mixing it with the wedding business side of things on Follow along on my life adventure here where I can guarantee beautiful images and complete randomness.

Back in early April we visited D.C. to see the cherry blossoms and my immune system couldn’t have been at its lowest defense. I was sick the entire time, going through cough drops like crack cocaine, hoping to sleep through an hour at a time at night without being awakened by horrible cough attacks. It eventually developed into runny noses coupled with cough attacks. I tried so hard to push through each day to enjoy what I could with the very little energy I had. The weather in D.C. wasn’t cooperative either–rainy and windy. With wet jeans on in the middle of the Washington Mall I was at a point of regretting the trip. I hated being me and it wasn’t helping my fellow travelers either. I ended up going to bed early most nights while Rob and Thanh leaned on each other for a good time.

After getting to see and process the images we took, I am truly happy the trip went on as planned. We made the best of the circumstances and made it our own. Thanks, Rob and Thanh, for taking care of me and putting up with my sickness and mood swings. You guys are the best! Now…onto the awesome cherry blossoms, 3,800 trees gifted to our country by Japan.

If this were a sunny day this spot would be swarming with visitors. Because it was raining it was completely empty for us to shoot. Looking back I don’t know what I’d choose…a sunny day full of people or a rainy day with no one around.

Wouldn’t you say Thanh was lucky to be my model on this trip? I almost wish I had my own photo taken too.

Well, maybe my photo taken at this angle sitting on the bench with Rob. This wet rainy scene is so calming.

View of the Jefferson Memorial from across the Tidal Basin.
The MLK, Jr. Memorial was still being worked on when we visited.

Thanh is just too lucky to be my easy subject.

View of the Washington Monument from the Tidal Basin. Look at all the cherry blossoms!!

We also visited a number of sites including the Korean War Memorial. These soldiers are larger than life!

Here’s the WW II Memorial and Lincoln Memorial.

This, to me, is such a powerful way of saying “in yo face, slavery!”

Abraham Lincoln statue was a lot bigger than I had imagined.

The Vietnam War Memorial.

We drove across the Potomac River to Virginia to visit Arlington National Cemetery.

Rob with the JFK eternal flame.

We witnessed the changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Can’t believe they stand guard 24/7.

Of course we refueled in between all this excitement. Falafel’s were super yummy. Ethiopian food wasn’t too shabby either.

Unfortunately the Obama’s didn’t come out to see us, but we did ride bikes around D.C. for a bit.

Me next to my “sweet tea”. Got him for $1! ;)
D.C. subways are so clean.

After this we made our way to Philly for the 2nd part of the trip. Rob and I had to make our way back to D.C. 2 days later for our flight home anyways so we spent a few additional hours cramming in as much site seeing as possible. The weather was a huge contrast from just days earlier. It was now 85 degrees. I was wearing tights and a tank dress biking around town like it was mid summer.

I even got to see the blossoms with sunlight and blue skies!!

We stood outside Ford’s Theatre where Lincoln was assassinated.
The most exciting part of the trip (for me) was getting to see the original documents of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. It was so amazing to see in person that it’s hard to describe the feeling. The level they take to preserve the fading documents is mind boggling. I now have a much deeper respect for our country and its founding fathers.

In the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, like any girl, I was super stoked to see gowns on display worn by First Ladies to inaugural balls. They even have a gown worn by Martha Washington! How crazy is that?!
I didn’t have 6 images to balance the collage below so I included Rick Flair.

I leave you with Lincoln’s actual top hat!

The main purpose of this trip was to see the cherry blossoms. If it weren’t for them I would have probably never visited our nation’s capitol and never gained what I did from it. Thanks, Japan, for such a beautiful site we get to experience 2 weeks out of the year, but thank you mainly for bringing me out to learn more about my country and come away with a deeper appreciation for it all. I feel like a more complete American citizen from this trip.

Philly part of the trip will be blogged about soon…not sure when yet.