32 and Counting…

Recently, I celebrated my 32nd birthday.  I love birthdays.  People tell me this will change as I get older.  But so far, I still love birthdays.  Throughout my childhood, my mom always made birthdays special.  The day would start with birthday pancakes, the sticky sweet stack topped off with one solitary candle.  The rest of the day involved the birthday girl (I’m one of three daughters) getting to make all the decisions – like choosing what to eat for lunch and dinner, what movies to rent, what flavor of ice cream cake to buy, etc.  It was a day dedicated to the birthday girl.  And even when it was one of my sister’s birthdays, it was still a fun day.  I quickly learned that celebrating others could be just as enjoyable as celebrating oneself.

In honor of my 32nd year, I decided to get a little more personal on this post and share with you 32 things I’m thankful for, can’t live without, love, adore, and simply think are frickin’ cool.  Please note that the following list is random and the placement of an item on the list does not indicate its value in my life.

32 Things I’m Thankful For/Can’t Live Without/Love/Adore/Simply Think Are Frickin’ Cool

  1. My Wish List at Amazon – This thing allows me to “shop” without going over budget.  I’m able to save things for later and go back and purchase them when I’m ready.  It’s also a handy tool at Christmas time.  I simply share the link, et voila, my family members have full access to a list of things I want.  Even if they choose not to buy something from the list, at least it provides them with some inspiration.
  2. The greatest invention: the shower
  3. My fiance, Darrin, and his ever expanding ability to love me.
  4. The young man in this photo and the clever way in which he twisted hate into humor.
  5. I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again – Pinterest!  This site is just awesome.  There is so much creativity and beauty out there in the world and people share it on this site.  How can you resist?
  6. These two words uttered together: “Auntie Missy”
  7. Mint ice cream
  8. The way my in-laws-to-be have welcomed me with open arms
  9. These boys (Rocket & Jet):
  10. My Dad’s humor.
  11. My Mom’s hugs.
  12. My job.
  13. My big sisters.  
  14. Easy Street Wheat Beer (Why-oh-why won’t O’Dell distribute in CA? Insert whiny voice here.)
  15. Another great invention: The DVR.   So I can record my shows (brace yourselves people, I watch a lot of t.v.) such as: Modern Family, Raising Hope, Glee, Community, Parks & Recreation, The Office, The Soup, Top Chef, Supernatural, Being Human, Royal Pains, Psych, Fairly Legal, Covert Affairs, Suits…I think that’s enough for now.
  16. My friends!!
  17. Harry Potter.  Thank you, J.K. Rowling for such a beautiful series.  I loved the books and will continue to revisit them for the rest of my life.  My mom took me to see the final movie for my birthday and we loved it.  I even cried.  I couldn’t help it; before I knew it, tears were leaking from eyes.  It was just so emotional – the end of an era with characters that I absolutely adore.
  18. Drunk History.  These are hysterical and this one’s my favorite: 
  19. The Richter Center Ambassadors.  I work with these students on a daily basis and they are AMAZING!  When I am depressed by the news of the day just thinking of these students lifts my spirits.  They are young people who are gifted, bright, creative, and are deeply committed to making their community a better place through volunteerism and service.  One day, these students will be leaders in our communities and that fact alone gives me great hope for our future.
  20. Friday night pizza & t.v. with Darrin.
  21. Music.
  22. The fact that Denver will always feel like a second home (especially as long as my BFF Heather is there).
  23. Rock Band (2, 3, and Beatles)
  24. Our home.  It certainly needs a ton of TLC, but it’s ours, it’s definitely unique, and we love it.

    Our home, just after Darrin got the keys. Check out those pink doors.

  25. The fact that I’m a short car ride (2.5 hours or so) from the ocean.
  26. The interwebs (as Darrin likes to call it).  There is so much creativity and beauty out there.  And I’m just a huge nerd at heart.  Through the internet, I’m able to keep learning day-in and day-out.
  27. Photobooks.  I seriously love how I can now dump my favorite photos into a program, pay a fee, and a week or so later I receive a beautiful, professional looking book.
  28. The genius and gift of this young woman: 
  29. Sandwiches
  30. My iPhone and my game apps
  31. Life (as in the gift of, not the game of)
  32. Netflix (though I’m not in love with the recent price hike)
So that’s it.  I’m sure there are things I’ve left off this list.  But, they’ll just have to wait until next year.
What about you?  What are you especially thankful for/excited about/love right now that you want to share?

Check It Twice

So, I’m a list person.  I love lists.  Love them.  I get things done by making lists.  Lists make me happy.  The best part of a list – checking things off.  Often (and I know I’m not the only person who does this), I’ll start a list with one or two items that I’ve already accomplished, just so I have something to check off.  That’s not so wrong, is it?  It simply is one little trick I play to motivate myself.  When I see those extra checks, or a couple of items already crossed out on a list, I start to feel like, “Hey, maybe this mountain of tasks isn’t so hard to climb.”

It is in the spirit of that practice that I’m writing this post.  Today, I’m posting about our kitchen.  We finished painting the cabinets in this room quite a while ago.  But, I feel like I need to add this accomplishment to the top of my list.  Just so I have something to check off on the mountain of things to-do in our home.

Let’s start at the beginning with some before photos.

A view of the kitchen before. Be glad we didn't show you the inside of that oven.

And here’s that same kitchen after we painted.  We settled on green for the outside of the cabinets and blue for an accent color.  We also painted the inside of the cabinets blue, which is a fun surprise when you open them.  We traded out the old hardware for some shiny new chrome ones that felt like they reflected the time period of our kitchen a little better.  During the whole process we became quite the contortionists, twisting and bending to paint the undersides of shelves and make sure we got the paint in to the far reaches of every nook and cranny.

We took a leap and went with some bold colors. We were so sick of the white walls.

And one more before and after.

kitchen before 2

How about that wall paper?

And after:

kitchen after 2

We've since rearranged some of the use of the counter space. But we're still so happy with the colors!

It feels so good to check this off our list.  Makes me want to move on to something else!

What about you?  How do you go about organizing your things to-do?  Do you have any special tricks to get yourself motivated?


In Treatment, Part Deux

It seems like ages ago that I wrote this rant post about our efforts to replace the window coverings in our great room.  Well, now I’m back with the results.  After I spent countless hours shopping (both online and in stores), it was Darrin who finally came home with a fabulous find.

We had already purchased bamboo shades at Lowe’s (on clearance even – suh-weet) but they needed a little something extra.  That’s when Darrin came through with some soft blue panels from Big Lots of all places.  And for only $10 a panel, we really couldn’t go wrong.

The end result is a window “treatment” we’re quite pleased with.  The blue of the curtain plays nicely with the blue in our kitchen, which can be seen from the great room, without being too matchy-matchy (yes, that’s a real thing).  The bamboo starts to bring in the ultimate theme we’re going for in that room – a kind of colonial outpost (more on that later).

Here’s a sneak peek at the end result on one of the windows.  I’ll share more photos later as more of the room comes together.  First, take a look at a before picture.  Notice the nasty white blinds.  Oh and check out those super clean walls and awesome grey carpet.

Before the window received treatment.

And now, here’s a look at that same window with curtains.

Perfect blue curtains thanks to Darrin's super shopping skills. They do need to be ironed, though.

We love the way the blue curtains look with the bamboo shades. And the shades let in some great light, while maintaining privacy.


It felt so good to get this project done!  What completed projects do you want to brag about?


Favorite Pitstops

Today, I thought I’d take some time to highlight a few of my favorite “pitstops” on the information superhighway (is anyone calling it that anymore?).  These are places I like to go for information, inspiration, and to gather ideas for our home and our future wedding.  I’m all for giving credit where credit is due and sharing things that I think are great.  Today is a chance to do just that.

Stop #1: Young House Love

I cannot say enough how much I love this site.  Darrin has taken to rolling his eyes when I start a sentence with “Today, on Young House Love…”  or “Sherry, from Young House Love says…”  Seriously though, this site rocks.  I first stumbled onto the page highlighting their DIY wedding.  It was simple, budget-friendly, and beautiful!

A gorgeous backyard DIY reception setting created for themselves by the Petersiks of Young House Love.

After a short time of following the YHL blog, however, I quickly discovered that this was a couple with a great sense of style, working within a realistic budget, and willing to share tons of tips with the public.  What a pair!  The Projects page alone is a great resource.  And I’m constantly inspired by their House Crashes and shopping trips.

Sherry at YHL was turned on by this lantern at Home Goods for only $17. She's helped me to see how I can incorporate pops of color in my own home with decorative and inexpensive items like this.

Stop #2: Grey Likes Weddings

Grey Likes Weddings is a recent addition to my regular stops, having added this one after I got engaged and started actively thinking about planning a wedding.  Grey is actually a stylist named Summer Watkins and Grey Likes Weddings is her beautifully curated blog with an eye for an artful take on love.  One of my favorite sections of her blog highlights Real Weddings.  I am head over heels in love with this “Big Sur Indie Love” wedding.  I don’t even know this couple, but the unique details, intimate setting, and great photography make me feel like I was there.

Love the dress. Love the candles. Love the piano. Love how it all feels right for this couple. Thanks to Grey Likes Weddings for showing how a couple can really let their personal style shine through at their wedding.

Stop #3: Andrew & Jessica Photographers

I’ve been visiting my third stop for quite a few years.  Andrew and Jessica are wedding photographers in Denver, CO.  In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess that I have a personal bias towards them.  Jessica is the sister of my very best friend, Heather.  However, one look at their amazing photography will prove that the reason why I keep going back to their blog extends far beyond loyalty to a friend.  What I love about Andrew’s and Jessica’s work is that they love what they do and it shows.  They really take the time to get to know their couples and thusly are able to capture intimate (and dare I say magical) moments.  I also love Jessica’s obsession with shoes, which ensures that the rest of us get a regular dose of shoe porn.  Finally, I like to regularly stop by Andrew and Jessica’s blog to be reminded that photographs can be beautiful, that they don’t have to be static, and that weddings are all about the love – as is evident from the pictures they take.

At a recent wedding shot by Andrew and Jessica, the bride and groom sent out invitations on paper made from wildflower seeds. Guests could plant the invitations and wait for the flowers to bloom. What a great idea! I love how Jessica and Andrew pick up on these details and share them with the rest of us.

Stop #4: Catalog Living

The last stop I’ll share today is a quick one and a favorite when I’m in the mood for a laugh.  Of course, I found out about this one on YHL (pause for dramatic eye-roll from Darrin).  Ever look at pictures of staged homes in catalogues and magazines and wonder who could possibly live there?  Molly Erdman, a comedian, writer, and actress, has answered the question for us.  The result is a sarcastic and satirical skewering of some of the more outrageous and over the top home decorating models.

So that’s about it for today.  I’d love to hear about any websites or blogs you visit that you’d like to share.  Are there any that you have to check regularly?  Which ones can you simply not live without?

Photos found at Young House Love, Grey Likes Weddings, and Andrew and Jessica Photographers.

Tiki Weekend: Return of the Funk

It’s finally the weekend and in the Jessen-Hiser house that means it’s cocktail time!  As many of you know, Darrin is a true tikiphile (one who loves all things tiki).  What’s tiki?  I think I’ll leave the official definition for a time when Darrin can be a guest blogger here on Merging Lanes.  In the mean time, satisfy you’re curiosity with a brief visit to wikipedia.

One of the fun things about our relationship has been learning about the interests and passions held by the other person.  For me, that means learning all about tiki.  The best part?  The cocktails.  Darrin’s forage into the tiki world has resulted in him developing mixology skills.  The man can mix a serious cocktail.  And I’m reaping all the benefits.

The night we were engaged, Darrin proposed to me at Don the Beachcombers in Huntington Beach (more about that story to come later), a famous stop for tikiphiles.  We celebrated with cocktails, and this was the first time I was introduced to the Dr. – Dr. Funk, that is.

Upon our return to Fresno, Darrin went about perfecting a Dr. Funk recipe and I was all too happy to serve as the taste tester.  Eventually, he found the perfect combination.  The drink includes fresh lemon and lime juice, grenadine, Pernod (a licorice flavored liqueur), and jamaican rum.

Dr. Funk after some shaking. I love the layers of color.

One of the things I’ve learned to love about tiki drinks is that many of them have a history and Dr. Funk is no exception.  Dr. Funk was in fact an actual person.  Dr. Bernard Funk was a German doctor and crony of Robert Louis Stevenson, hanging out in Samoa at the turn of the century.  He was known for a concoction of absinthe with lemonade or limeade.  Eventually, as did happen with most tiki drinks, Dr. Funk’s concoction received a stiff infusion of rum and we now have what is similar to Darrin’s recipe (though it varies from bar to bar).

Dr. Funk courtesy of Darrin.

I can’t decide, however, what I like more about this drink:  the delicious, refreshing flavor; how it matches my engagement ring; or, how every time I say the name, I feel the need to get funky a la Parliament (see below).  I guess all three make it a winning combination.

What about you?  What are some of your favorite cocktails?