Help Those Kids!

Two gifts I would love to have – to be able to write music and jokes.  New Zealand’s Flight of the Conchords have got both of those, in spades.  These guys crack me up and I desperately miss their HBO show.  Last year, the pair produced a charity song for  Red Nose Day featuring a gaggle of New Zealand’s biggest stars.

There are many things I love about this song.  For instance, it’s hilarious and catchy and the money raised supports charity.  However, I think my favorite thing about it is that the guys incorporated children’s ideas in the song.  I love how innocently creative these kids are and maybe I’m naive, but I feel like there’s a bit of earnestness amidst the fun FOTC had in making the song.

Check out the video below and then visit iTunes to purchase the song and support Cure Kids.


Easy Come

With the passing of the holidays, it was time to take down my Christmas wreath and change it over to something new.  And that something new would be a Valentine’s Day wreath.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have anything on hand to aid the transformation.  A trip to the craft store was in order (oh, darn).  While there, I was also able to plan ahead for March and April.

For a quick reminder, here’s how the wreath last looked for Christmas.

The Christmas Wreath

The Christmas Wreath

Pretty simple.  For Valentine’s Day, I went a bit further and purchased some big fake flowers and red ribbon to create this monstrosity:

Valentine Wreath

Valentine Wreath

I’m quite proud of it.  I tried to take pictures of my process for you, but the lighting where I was working wasn’t too great and let’s be honest, I was snapping pictures with my phone.  The good news is, I don’t think it took me more than 30 minutes from start to finish and most of that time was engaged in trial and error.  If you’re interested, you can check out my steps below.

Step 1: I wrapped the wreath in tulle (which I had leftover from the wedding).  The tulle provided various folds through which I slid the flower stems.  Remember that my goal is to add decoration to the burlap-wrapped base without using glue.

Step 1

Step 1

Step 2: Securing the Flowers

After I arranged the flowers to my liking, I noticed some of them felt a little loose (see figure 1).  So, I devised a plan to secure them using an extra strip of tulle. Starting at one end of the flowers, I tied the tulle around the wreath base to secure it.  Then, I began to wrap the tulle around the wreath and through the flowers.  As I brought the tulle around to the backside of the wreath, I was careful to secure the flower stem beneath the tulle (see figure 2).  The flowers in the front are voluminous enough that this extra piece of tulle cannot be seen.

Figure 1

Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 2

Step 3: Adding the Ribbon

I completed the wreath by wrapping a spool of Valentine ribbon around the wreath and tying it off in a bow at the bottom.  And the final product again:

Valentine Wreath

Valentine Wreath

So, what do you think?  What do you hang on your door?

Music Fridays: The Killers’ Christmas

The Husband and I originally bonded over a shared love obsession of music.  So, when I created our wedding website, I developed a special music page where I posted occasional updates on concerts we’d seen or music we planned to incorporate into the wedding.  It was a fun way to share part of our relationship with our friends/family/wedding guests.

What I found, however, was that I loved making these posts.  So, while I’ll be phasing out our wedding site, I’ll be phasing in music posts to Merging Lanes Love.  I’ll relegate such posts to Fridays for a bit o’ weekend fun.

To kick-off this new tradition, I’m sharing the latest installment of The Killers Christmas single, “I Feel It In My Bones.”  Each year, The Killers (incidentally, my favorite band) produce a Christmas song benefitting the (RED) Campaign, working to prevent the spread of AIDS and HIV in Africa.

This video is a great follow-up to a previous Christmas single (and quite possibly my favorite) produced by The Killers for (RED) in 2007.

The Killers’ Christmas songs can be purchased from iTunes with all proceeds benefiting (RED).



I guess I really caught the craft bug from all the projects we did for the wedding, cause I’ve still been creating.  Sometimes to more successful outcomes than others.

A recent quick and easy project was creating a fall wreath for our front door.  I bought a foam ring from Michael’s for less than a few dollars and gathered the rest of the supplies at home.

First, I cut burlap (left over from the wedding) into long strips while my glue gun warmed up.  Then, I wrapped the burlap around the ring, stopping to glue it down every few inches.  The only tricky part I encountered was finishing the last strip.  If I had it to do all over again, I would have purchased some tacks or pins to tack down the end of the last strip.  Instead, I went a little glue-happy and ended up with quite a blob of glue.  I just have to be cautious that the blob is at the bottom of the wreath (something I didn’t do at first – you’ll see in the pictures).  When my husband first saw the wreath he said, “That’s nice.  Is there supposed to be so much glue?”  Thanks, babe.

Three fall pom-poms.

Three fall pom-poms.

A bundle of wheat to accent the wreath.

A bundle of wheat to accent the wreath.

After the base of the wreath was prepped and drying, I got to work on the decorative items.  I selected three fall shades of yarn and made pom-poms.  I also wrapped some wheat stalks in excess burlap.  Finally, I used bobby pins to attach the decorative items to the folds in the wreath.  I found that the bobby pins actually held everything securely in place.

The final product.

The final product.

Once Thanksgiving was over, it was time for a Christmas wreath.  Instead of creating a whole new wreath (I just don’t have the storage space for that) I decided to update the fall wreath.  So, I removed the decorative items and replaced them with new ones.  Once again, I dug through items at home to see what was available.

Securing the ornaments with bobby pins.

Securing the ornaments with bobby pins.

First, I found a beautiful silver bow in our gift-wrapping pile.  I think this was recycled from my bridal shower.  Then, I selected a few Christmas tree ornaments that complimented the bow.  I once again used bobby pins to secure these items to the wreath.

The Christmas Wreath

The Christmas Wreath

I’m so happy with how versatile this wreath is turning out to be!  I’ve even gotten a compliment from a neighbor.  I’m already starting to contemplate what I’ll do once Christmas is over.

What do you think?  Do you have any recent quick and easy projects you want to share?

Birds of a Feather

According to, the average wedding now costs $27,800, but this includes those “lucky brides and grooms who get $40,000-and-up weddings thrown for them” so it brings up the average.  Holy schnikies, that’s a lot of dough!  Having just paid for our own modest wedding, I can’t imagine what the brides and grooms in the $20K and up range are spending their money on.  As stated before, I was a frugal bride and in order to practice such frugality, Darrin and I did a lot of the work for our wedding ourselves.

One way we cut major expenses was on flowers.  Also according to, a bride and groom can expect to spend 8-10% of their budget on flowers.  So for those of you keeping track, that’s roughly $2,200 – $2,800 (rounding to the nearest hundred) on flowers for the “average” wedding.  Yowzers!  We decided that 8 – 10% of our limited budget was too much to spend on an item that we felt was a luxury.

While flowers are exceptionally beautiful and add a lot to the decor, we felt we could create the same ambience with less expensive items.  For instance, we used a number of candles for centerpieces at the reception and placed throughout the chapel.

One area, however, where a florist really comes in handy is creating boutonnieres and corsages for wedding attendants and other guests of honor.  This is where I decided to get really crafty and I DIY-ed these items using artificial products so that I could reduce stress by making them well in advance of the wedding.

The Boutonnieres

I had pinned a number of inspiration photos such as this one, this one, and this one and had those on my iPad next to my workstation for easy viewing.  I purchased my supplies from Joanne’s including feathers, seashells, corsage pins, floral wire and spray paint in silver and blue.  At home I already had ribbon, wheat, floral tape and stems, electricians tape, and hot glue.

First, I prepped the wheat and seashells by spray painting them blue and silver, respectively.  The shells came out more of a muted gray which worked out just as well.  I left these items out to cure in the sun for at least 24 hours.  I then hot glued each shell onto a floral stem.

After all items were prepped, I gathered up the rest of my supplies and started to experiment.  I quickly decided that I did not like the look of the wheat – fail #1.  I also found that the floral tape did not play nicely with the feathers.  The glue from the tape left a sticky residue on my fingers that transferred to the feathers and severely disturbed their shape and design – fail #2.

I gave up working with the floral tape and hunted around for an alternative.  I needed something dark that would camouflage behind the color of the ribbons and blend in with the feathers.  Aha!  Electricians tape.  I had it on hand and plenty of it.

Then I experimented with the different elements at hand.  I chose a feather or two, arranged it with a sea shell, wrapped tape around all of the items and finished it by wrapping it in a ribbon and tying it off in a bow.  I then attached each boutonniere to a card with the corsage pins.

The finished product: the groom’s boutonniere, as well as his brother’s and nephew’s.

A father-son combination.

A cool feature with the shells was that I was able to vary them while playing a match game amongst family members.  For instance, both Darrin’s and my nephews were in the wedding along with their fathers.  So, the seashells in the young boys’ boutonnieres matched those belonging to their dads’.

Boutonnieres in action! It’s hard to overlook the adorable ring bearers in this photo, but if you try, you can see two of the boutonnieres in action…not too shabby.

The Corsages

For the corsages, I learned to make fabric flowers by following the tutorial found here.  I had leftover fabric from another wedding project (more on that later).  I also went through my jewelry and selected a couple of old necklaces to scavenge for beads.  I stitched three beads to the center of each flower to create a stamen.

The father of the bride and mother of the bride lapel-wear.

I stitched floral wire to the back of each flower making sure to line-up the center of the wire with the center of the flower.  I bent the wire in half and twisted it to create a stem.  I also reinforced the wire by  wrapping electricians tape (my new favorite tool) around it.  There is probably a more effective way to create a stem for a fabric flower, but I didn’t realize I needed a stem until after I made the flowers, so I had to get creative.

I selected a feather and seashell to arrange with each flower to create a corsage that complimented the boutonnieres.  After all the items were arranged as I wanted them, I secured them in electricians tape and wrapped that in a ribbon which I tied off in a bow.

Like the boutonniere, I attached the corsage to a card with pins.

All of the corsages.

All in all, I spent a solid day working on this project but I saved a ton of cash.  Below is a list of my supplies and expenses.

  • Feathers – 7.99
  • Seashells – 3.99
  • Spray paint (2 cans) – 15.98*
  • Fabric for corsages – already owned
  • Ribbon – already owned
  • Hot glue – already owned
  • Electricians tape – already owned
  • Corsage pins – 4.99
  • Cards for display – already owned
  • Floral wire – 1.99
  • Floral stems – already owned
  • Total: 34.94 (+2.78 tax) = 37.72 for 11 boutonnieres and 4 corsages = 2.51 per item
  • *Total w/ only one can of paint, since I only used one color = 26.95 (+2.14 tax) = $29.09 or $1.94 per item

I found estimates ranging from $5 – $15 for fresh flower boutonnieres and corsages through google searches.  So, I feel pretty good about the savings we generated (even with my mistakes) and I even created some souvenirs for our wedding attendants and special guests.

What do you think?  Have you ever saved big bucks by getting creative?  Did things turn out as you expected?

Celebrity Names

Darrin and I made the decision to hyphenate our last names and became the Jessen-Hiser family.  This was a big decision for the both of us, especially since it is not so common for the man to change his name.  One welcome consequence of this decision is that Darrin and I are going through the whole process of changing our names on everything (from social security to drivers license) together.  It’s always easier when you have someone to commiserate with.

The very best outcome of this decision is probably that combined our last names create a super awesome sounding last name (if I don’t say so myself).  The name also happens to sound like a great beer (which is great since we both long to brew our own beer some day).  But, most importantly, we’ve essentially created a new name for our new family and that feels so good to us!

The day I returned to work following a two week hiatus for the wedding and honeymoon, I opened the door to my office to find it had been decorated by my students.  They came up with a combined name of their own for Darrin and me.  Our celebrity name: Mellissa + Darrin = MeDarrin.  Nice!


They also approved of our new last name.

Their decoration job definitely made me feel appreciated and happy to return to work.  How lucky am I?


What about you?  What is your/would be your celebrity name?


I’m Baaack!

Merging Lanes Love went dark for a few months while planning the wedding overtook my free time.  But, now I’m back and ready to share all about the wedding – from the DIY crafts to lessons-learned.

We did everything ourselves – from table centerpieces to writing our own vows and from boutonnieres to the guestbook.  We did get a professional photographer and caterer and a real live Pastor  (my long time mentor) to officiate the ceremony.  We’re not that crazy.

So, now that the craziness of the planning and prepping is over, and I’ve relaxed and rejuvenated on a wonderful honeymoon with my hubby (I just LOVE that I can now call Darrin my ‘husband’), I promise to be a good blogger.

Here’s a sneak peek of what’s to come:

The newlyweds dancin’ up a storm!

What a Trip

Admittedly Merging Lanes Love has gone dark over the last couple of months.  We’ve officially hit the 5 month mark for the wedding, work has had a major upswing in activity, and did I mention we’re moving?  It always seems that the busyness of life compounds.  But, that just means, sometime soon we’ll be enjoying the lazy pace of summer.

In the mean time, we’re spending spare moments packing up the house and preparing to move into a condo we’re renting on the west side of town.  While I hate the moving process, one of the good things that comes out of it is a chance to purge.  After all, there’s no point in moving something if you’re not going to use it.  A couple of weekends ago, I took some time to organize, pack, and purge the hall closet where most of my craft supplies are stored.  At the bottom of said closet, however, was a large bin that was previously stored in my parents garage for over a decade.  I believe I packed it away when I was 18 or 19 and have not looked inside the box since then.  On Sunday, I decided to take a look inside the box, and I took a tumble trip down memory lane.

It’s amazing – the things that I thought were worth holding on to at 18.  Before tossing some things aside and sending some things off to be donated, I snapped some pictures to share so you could make this trip with me.  I’ve laid it out high school yearbook superlative style.  But first, here’s a picture of many (though not all) of the items I pulled from the bin.

One man’s trash… (Click on the photo to see it enlarged)

Most Likely to Be Found in the Bin

Proof of my skillz.

This prize goes to the trophies and awards found in the bin.  I feel like this is a pretty common thing for people to hold keep.  Who doesn’t want a piece of the glory days? Though, my glory days include elementary school soccer and karate belts.  Oh yeah, my sisters and I went through our Ralph Macchio/Karate Kid inspired dojo days like the best of ’em.  And that’s not something in your eye, that’s the glint of not one, but multiple cheerleading trophies.  Hey-oh!  But don’t worry, that “Script C” was handed out to students who achieved academic excellence.  So, I was a jock, a cheerleader, and a nerd.  Watch out Beyonce, I’m a triple-threat, too!

Most Educational/Insightful

Letters from the past.

Inside each of these canisters and sports bottles, I found stacks and stacks and stacks of letters dating back to elementary school all the way through high school.  In reading through the letters, I couldn’t help but wonder how different it must be for kids these days (wow, I think I just felt a hair on my head turn grey from saying that – “kids these days” – who am I?).  In the letters I read, the authors often mentioned what was happening in class (you know the things they were avoiding doing by writing me a letter) and how long it would be before they would be able to hand me the note.  For instance, if they were writing me the letter in homeroom, they may not see me until lunch.  In which case, I may not respond to the letter until sixth period and then pass them my response after school.  Now, kids can text each other and get an instant response.  No more sweet anticipation (oh Carly Simon, your song would fall on deaf ears).

The other tidbit I found interesting was how the letters provided such insight into the day-to-day life of my teenage self – even if only two of the letters I found were actually written by me.  Aside from the drama, I was most entertained by the language we used.  I think we thought we we’re gangsters or something.  Also, I don’t know who I was hanging out with (actually, I do since I have kept in touch with many childhood friends), but they all found it important to tell me that the 49ers are the best and the Raiders are the worst.  In every letter.  Please.  I mean, “Whateva!  Wuz up with that? Raiders for life!  49ers can suck it! Missy J #17 – TCCIC (Take Care Cause I Care).”

Biggest Laugh

From left: Is that a pencil holder or a dead tree?; Clown-boy (see below); Coil Basket; Old West Doctor?; Excalibur Rises from Paint (my personal favorite); and a Deserted island (complete with treasure chest).

As a junior in high school, I took a ceramics class.  I was pretty proud of my work and wanted my mom to display it in the house.  At our annual family Christmas celebration, I even suggested that she use my creations as dinner table centerpieces.  My mom refused to put my artwork on display, however.  I never understood why.  When uncovering items in the bin, I picked up something heavy, wrapped in newspaper and let it unfurl in my lap.  What I saw made me shriek with laughter.  I laughed so hard I cried.  I finally got it, mom!  This stuff is horrifying!  No wonder she didn’t want this displayed at the dinner table – it would make people sick.  When Darrin came to investigate, I could hardly get the story out for all the laughing.  I’m not sure what to do with these pieces.  I’m pretty sure they’re not recyclable and I’m positive they don’t belong in the Goodwill pile.  Maybe I’ll save them till Christmas and then wrap them up for family and friends – anyone interested in an MJ original?

Most Likely to Scare Your Children

What is it?

Closely on the heels of the last entry, I give you this little gem.  Surely, this would give your children nightmares.  You can’t tell me this isn’t total horror! Though this is part of my ceramics creations, it was worth of its own category.  Anyone looking to freak out a friend?  Starting bids open at $5.00. Ha!

So, that’s everything in all it’s juvenile horror!  What about you?  Have you ever stumbled upon something you thought was lost or long forgotten?  Do these things bring back some old memories?  Share!

Put a Cork In It

Darrin and I just finished watching Season 2 of the hilarious Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein sketch show, Portlandia.  If you haven’t been watching it, you’re missing out.  They provided this notorious commentary on the DIY/Craft movement in season 1.

Love it!  When my favorite DIY/Crafty gal over at Young House Love announced the latest Pinterest Challenge, I decided to take on a project I pinned a long time back, but I’d been seeing a lot of lately – wine cork projects.  With DIY cork projects popping up all over the place, it seems that they’re about to jump the shark, just as Fred & Carrie so effortlessly proved that birds did (or at least that there was some crafty-bird overkill).  So, I figured I should get this project done before it was too late.  And instead of “Put a bird on it,” my mantra for this project was “Put a cork in it.”

A long time ago, I originally pinned this photo.  The pin is so old, that when I tried to trace the origins of the photo, I hit a dead-end (if anyone can find it, please let me know).

Two things I love - letters and wine.

Since then, however, my interest in cork projects ventured beyond the simple monogram and into other creations.  I started to wonder how I might incorporate cork decorations in our wedding.  This is an especially fitting decoration given that our reception is in a backyard surrounded by a vineyard.  I stumbled upon these other photos (click photo to be taken to its original source).

A heart of cork from Lovely Morning.

An intricate design from Anthropologie found at House and Home.

Cork planters in honor of Earth Day at Anthropolgie.

All of these designs inspired me to put a twist on the regular monogramed letter.  So, first I gathered the corks (I scored about 250 from Freecycle a while back) and then laid out a pattern until I was happy with the spacing.  Then, I photographed the letters to help me remember the layout.

Pre-arranging the corks into the desired shape also helped me to know how many I needed for each letter. An 'M' for Mellissa and a 'D' for Darrin.

I started with the ‘M’ for Mellissa (I figured I’d rather do the testing on my letter, so that everything would come out perfect on Darrin’s).  I mixed a few different shades of blue and began painting the corks, one at a time.  However, I really liked the faded look as seen in the heart photograph above.  So, after I painted the top of the cork, I stamped it on a piece of newpaper to give it a distressed look.  After painting a handful or so corks one color, I mixed a little white paint into the color to lighten it up.  Then, I painted that color on a few corks.  After that, I would add a little more white paint to lighten that shade, and so on and so on.

A view of my workspace shows my color mixing as well as my stamping surface (newspaper) for a weathered look.

Once the corks were dry, I rearranged them into the ‘M’ design until I liked how the colors flowed (a little darker at the bottom, lighter at the top).  I then used a glue gun to glue each cork to the next.  I found that it was helpful to put glue on each cork before pressing together.

Rearranging the corks to prepare for gluing. I apologize for the bikini shot. I used a Target ad for my workspace and didn't realize the shot until after the fact.

The final product!

What do you think?  These are the colors for our wedding – blue and green.  So, we will be able to use the letters as decor at the wedding and to hang up in our home.  Not too shabby!

What about you?  Do you have any projects you’ve taken on recently that can pull double duty (decor for a party and your home, or have function and decoration purposes)?  Do tell!

Don’t forget to check out what the pros made during this round of the challenge.  Visit Young House Love to see Sherry’s homemade bean bag chair.  Go to Bower Power to check out Katie’s watercoloring.  Cassie over at Hi Sugarplum! made faux antlers.  Finally, Erin at The Great Indoors stole my heart with a homemade mason jar chandelier.

The Pizza Man Cometh

Darrin has two favorite foods – pizza and burritos.  Before we got engaged, when we just kicked around the idea of a wedding, we talked about having a burrito bar catered by a local taco truck.  But then, every time we turned around, it seemed like everyone was having a taco truck cater a party.

So, when we officially became engaged we went back to the drawing board and thought about what we’d like to see served at our reception.  For longer than I can remember, we’ve been having “Friday Night Pizza” dates.  This involves ordering pizza for delivery and watching our favorite t.v. shows that have been recorded on the DVR.  It’s the perfect end to a hectic work week.  Suddenly, the idea of having pizza at our wedding started to make sense.  Why not?  It’s one of Darrin’s favorite foods and it’s a tradition in our relationship.  Also, who doesn’t love pizza?

I then started to imagine our wedding guests sitting around a table, sharing pizza and a yummy and fresh green salad, pouring each other wine, enjoying good conversation and one another’s company.  I shared this vision with Darrin and he was right on board.  So, I immediately got to work looking for a way to serve pizza at the wedding.

Delivery was a no-go due to the location of the reception (out of delivery bounds).  Also, we wanted something a step up from your standard pizza chains.  We were thinking wood-fired, brick oven creations.  Thanks to some online research, I stumbled upon Mattie’s Mobile Wood Fired Pizza and Catering.  Could this be real?  A mobile wood-fired pizza oven?  Luckily, I discovered that Mattie’s sold pizza at the Clovis Farmer’s Market every Friday night.  So, Darrin and I rounded up some taste testers (i.e. my family) and headed over to the market one sultry evening last September.

Darrin giving his best Tom Colicchio impression.

Sister Jenn & Brother-in-Law Kevan are brought in as professional taste testers.

To our delight, the pizza was delicious!  Mattie’s uses locally sourced and fresh ingredients for his toppings, making for very tasty food.  And, you just can’t beat the flavors created by the smoky wood-fired oven.  I tried a Margherita style pizza and Darrin went for a traditional pepperoni and sausage.  Then, we shared a pesto pizza with fresh heirloom tomatoes.  Words can’t express how delicious that was.  The pesto was so fresh and not too oily.  We got a hearty response from my family as well.

Dad gives Mattie's a thumbs-up on presentation.

A few months later, we finally took the time to sit down with Matt, the owner of the company.  And this was what really sold us on hiring Mattie’s.  Matt took the time to listen to us and understand our vision for the wedding.  He even stopped to ask us how we met and learn about our relationship.  What caterer does that?  He has also been great about working within our budget while still offering a delicious menu.  His personal attention demonstrates to me that his business is about more than making money – but it’s where his passion lies.  That’s probably why the food is so darn good!

Darrin and I are so excited to have pizza at the wedding.  We know it will be unique, but what’s more, we know it will be something that our guests will love!

What about you?  Did you plan/Are you planning some special treat for your guests?  What was the meaning behind it?