When Nerds Unite

family, geek, love, wedding
Ryan and I have many interests that differ, opposites attract if you will. He loves Star Wars, we love Harry Potter. He loves Star Trek, we love X-Files. I ylove costumes, we love jeans and t-shirts. I love traveling, we love vacationing.
We balance it out and find a happy medium. So for our wedding we needed something that blended our quirks into one. So we blended my love of romantic art nouveau, Alphonse Mucha pretty details with our nerdiness to make a fun and entertaining blend of us.
Example A: Our cake. Traditional white frosting with a variety of autumnal saturated colored flowers and leaves. The cake was delicately pieced together to make a stunning result. Then, being us, we had to have a Millenium Falcon crashing into the side. Thank you Das Meyer for working your wonders!
Exhibit B:
We needed something to celebrate my love of Harry Potter, well OUR love (I’m the bigger fan though).
So we brought our wands and had some fun.
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And FINALLY Exhibit C: We entered to the Imperial March from Star Wars, complete with a Vader helmet…
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So that is us, a mix of love and crazy, and nerdiness….
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A DIY Wedding

colorado, geek, wedding
If you saw my post on my wedding dress, the other side of that is that I made a majority of what ended up in my wedding. I did the bouquets, the center pieces, mercury glass jars, flower girl petals and leaves. I put together signs and activities, I even dyed my own hair extension.
This saved us a lot of money and brought our budget down, probably by half. If I had bought flowers or paid for each item fully made, I would have spent probably $2,000 more on the shindig. Instead I bought items on sell at JoAnn and online, I used coupons, and I looked on facebook for freebies or just inexpensive items for sale. For instance I got a giant box of glassware from someone on Facebook for FREE! I then bought “Looking Glass” spray paint to make fake mercury glass, and cheap autumn leaves and a glue gun to create the festive candle holders I used. The dollar tree was my best friend for the leaves and LED candles. I do believe the results were grand!
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For invitations I bought kits on clearance and used my home printer, saving hundreds. I designed my own “Save the Dates” and had them printed with VistaPrint for a reasonable price. Finally, my programs were hours of my own printing, cutting, and tying together to make a charming keepsake. 
I used old Alphonse Mucha calendars and dollar store frames for some table art, if they were too narrow I backed them with scrapbooking paper that matched our aesthetic. Making each frame maybe $2 per table. Saving significant money and recycling the art from calendars I already had enjoyed. For signs for food, gifts etc. I used my graphic design skills to put together themed signs and placed them around the venue with their dollar store frames.
For my midnight snack, I used up my girl scout troops left over cookies (I paid for them so we could go camping as a troop) which let people take as many or as little as they want. I was handing out whole boxes at the end!
All photos are from Stefan Rodriguez 

Homemade Wedding Dress Part II

Uncategorized
I ordered fabric for my dress before finalizing the design because I know how much the fabric choice would make the dress. I landed on a cotton and silk blend organza in ivory. Due to the softness and delicate nature of the fabric I decided to hand sew the entire dress to ensure that nothing was ripped or ruined via a machine. 
My under skirt was a simple cotton broadcloth that I died in a variety of bright autumn colors in an ombre color pallet with pink at the top, orange, red and purple on the bottom. It added the perfect brightness under the over-dress to make it pop a little more than just the white with a white under skirt (which would have been more historically accurate). 
I topped the dress, after many trials, with a black ribbon belt that wrapped around be about four or five times to add structure. 
My actual undergarments consisted of a long white tank top (cheapo target version) that I could wear my corset over (Jas Townsends Stays) which worked perfectly for the structure I needed. My socks were also from Jas. Townsends and were an off-white knee high. While my shoes were regency slippers from American Duchess (they no longer make them) all tied on with black ribbons and my garters (one blue and one new). 
Here are the results, with the amazing Jennifer Erikson of Fort Collins
and photos by the wonderful Stefan Rodriguez 

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Homemade Wedding Dress

europe, History, wedding
Our obsession with white wedding dresses is purely a concoction from the last 150 years. Why white? Well it represents “purity” but it was also a sign of wealth for those at the start of that 150 years. Having a white dress, that you only wore once, well that was the height of luxury. So with a growing middle class and more disposable income, in addition to cheaper labor, factory weaving and mass production, white dresses became more and more popular. Yet in my family, white dresses has only been a tradition for around 100 years. With my Great-Grandmother’s donning their white gowns in the 1920s and 1930s, but before that wedding photos show women in “sunday’s bests” posed with their husbands in nice suits. Many wore dark colors. Why dark? Dark blues last a lot longer than lighter clothing.

Anyway, we’ll set aside family wedding lore and get us to the 21st century. My grandmother’s wore store-bought dresses, as did my mother. Even though the grandmother’s were avid seamstresses. No doubt, their dresses were beautiful. Juanita wore a 1949 classic dress that had a train and a slim a-line cut with plenty of lace, while Candice went early 1960s in a bell skirt and soft satin.  My mom had a simple 1990s dress that was simple and suited their Western-themed shindig.

For myself, a child and grandchild of crafters and history nerds, I went a new but old direction. No doubt for centuries my relatives made their own clothing or had someone make them clothes, probably a relative, maybe a seamstress. So when it came to my own dress, I started with shopping in stores, and online, and with Etsy. I ended at making my own dress.

Being me, I couldn’t make a normal dress. Because of being stubborn and also being entranced with a certain design from the 18th century. The Chemise a la Reine, which was worn in the late 1700s is the amalgamation of changing culture, feminism and moving away from the strictness of fine dress. It was the beginning of a brief 30 years or so where women wore clothing that was more comfortable and more reasonable for the lives that women were leading. The Chemise a la Reine was controversial in its time for being too simple, too much like underwear. The painting below of Marie Antoinette was scandalous in its day.

So for me, the chance to create and wear something so beautiful, but
representative of how far women have come and the excitement of having something of a “princess” dress was the perfect blend.

Naturally, I made a  few modern changes. I added less poofs, I made a multi-colored under skirt and my hair represented a more modern take. It all also blended well with the Alphonse Mucha fall theme that touched many aspects of our day.

Part II tomorrow.

Chichen Itza

Caribbean, History, mexico, Travel
 If you read my last post you know that I went to Chichen Itza recently, as a part of my journey through the Seven Wonders of the World. I am sitting at 2 out of seven and feeling pretty good about getting tot he other five eventually.

However, I want to expand on my journey through Chichen Itza as it was a really remarkable day and I highly recommend spending the time to visit if you find yourself in the Yucatan or Mayan Peninsula.

I never truly understood why Chichen Itza was considered a wonder of the world until we visited it, and we made the right decision in getting up stupidly early and going with an archeologist as a tour guide.

 

This helped with several parts of our day. First, we beat the heat by getting there early. Second, we beat the general public crowds. Third, we missed some of the harassment from vendors that set up all over the city grounds. Finally, and most importantly, it gave us historical and cultural backgrounds we would have not otherwise learned.

If you have an interest in this tour, click here, it’s through Viator and well worth the price.

We started the day with a somewhat late pickup from our resort, this was the only real issue on the tour, which I am unsure of what happened with it, but it was a minor hiccup that was fixed with a quick phone call.

One downside for my husband was that the van from Playa del Carmen was pretty small for his 6’4″ body, but we survived. However, do note that this will be up to three hours in the van/bus each way. Also, you may bring a hoodie just for the cool weather and/or air conditioning on the bus. This is also a great time to nap! Don’t worry about needing a restroom of food/water, there will be about two stops going and coming back for any needs you may have.

At the complex we met up with our guide/archeologist, Marco, who took us on what felt like a SHORT two hour tour of the main part of the city.

As you walk into the city complex you are met with the grand pyramid, or Castillo Temple that is so iconic. This is where we learned about the sounds that bounce through the temple creating a whistling like a bird, which changes in pitch and volume from where you stand and listen or clap. To the east of this is a remarkable temple that makes a rattle snake noise (tail rattling) when you clap at a certain angle.

All of this is meant to represent and celebrate Kukulkan, the feathered serpent man-god that meant so much to the Maya culture. They also, at this time in the culture, practiced human sacrifice to appease the god(s) through blood offerings where hearts were ripped form chests while still beating, and  backs were broken before being drowned. (This really isn’t so different from gladiator games, public hangings, warfare etc.)

From there we toured buildings set up for the king of this specific city-state and the intricate measures that were taken for the rulers and nobility. For instance, a king was never allowed to touch the ground, so there are no steps from his throne room at the ball field and other areas that reach the ground. Instead, the noble was transported on a Litter.

In addition to being blown away by just the scale of the buildings more auditory wonders came into play. For instance, at the ball field, for the Mesoamerican Ballgame, they had an auditory system set up where the King could hear conversation from the opposite side of the field.

Maybe you remember it from this movie:

Traditionally, visitors from other tribes and cultures would be placed here, so that the king could listen for any treasonous information or gossip and it’s likely that the visitors had no idea they were being spied on.

Finally, our tour was wrapped up with some free time, around an hour, where we were able to see other buildings that made up the city. We also had to note we were only seeing about 30% of the entire city as much more was closed off for restoration and research. However, it was exciting to explore the city and imagine what it would have looked like with thousands of people milling around. People that were praying, working, selling, cooking, talking and living their lives as people around the world do.

In the other areas of the city we saw what is believed to be an astronomy tower, additional pyramids, and royal complexes that housed people and worked in tandem with their beliefs and rituals.

We learned other snippets as well, like that the Castillo or main pyramid has several pyramids built inside of it and that the Maya would build new things, and burn the old every 52 years or so as a rebirth cycle with their calendar. Additionally, the majority of the city would have been painted in lush, vibrant colors, specifically red made from paprika or cochineal.

While many people jump on the bandwagon that the Maya were supernatural or even in touch with a greater power, I have to encourage additional research and thought. It’s easy to come up and write off ideas as beyond this world, it’s harder to do the research and actually learn where, what, when and how things came together. Pretending that an alien or outside entity must have created these marvels writes off people that fall into a minority as somehow unable to build such remarkable things. Which is complete garbage. These empires and cultures from the Americas lived in the same complex cultures and identities that Europeans held onto. While they looked, spoke, and existed differently, their mores, taboos, and livelihoods were very similar and equally important. There are also endless wonders in the Americas, some of which are just being discovered.

Anyway, get out, explore, be amazed!

Seven Wonders of the World

History, italy, mexico, Travel
The “new” Seven Wonders of the World are not exactly “new” in any sense of the world. In fact the list makes up wonders and beautiful creations from cultures and peoples in the past. Which maybe makes them more impressive and engaging than if it were a list of mega stadiums and mansions from today. Not that engineering feats from the last 100 years are not important or impressive, but there is something whimsical and magical about those buildings that were created for a purpose centuries before we had cranes, automobiles. trains and other modern technologies that make building significantly easier.
What inspires me is that I am slowly, but surely, marking locations off of the list and I currently stand at two out of seven in my 26 years on planet earth. With two being seen in the last four and a half years! #killingIt
The list is as follows:
1. The Great Wall of China- China
2. Christ the Redeemer- Brazil
3. Machu Picchu- Peru
4. Chichen Itza- Mexico
5. The Roman Colosseum- Italy
6. Taj Mahal- India
7. Petra- Jordan
 
So far I have been able to visit 4 and 5 on my adventures and they have been nothing short of remarkable!
My first visit was in the summer of 2013 to The Roman Colosseum on my study abroad in Italy, where….well when in Rome, I had to take an absurd photo.
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The Colosseum was one of those odd locations where when you are fully aware of the blood and sacrifice that went into the stones you are standing on, it’s kind of eerie. This is also true for location five…
However, The Roman Colosseum is a fantastic gateway int the history of the region, especially when paired with the Roman forum which offers a full explanation on the life and times of the nobility in Rome. Besides the fact that the Colosseum was used for a bloody display of “sport” it is also an engineering marvel. Beyond that, did you know that the majority of the damage has nothing to do with time and wear over two millenia? Instead it is a reflection of thievery and people stealing materials in the middle ages, renaissance and into the 19th century for new buildings and moments. Which is pretty damn cool, and impressive that their skills and abilities have stood so greatly through the test of time.
Additionally, it is a part of Rome that is impossible to miss, a testament to the vastness and power of the Roman Empire, and the eternal city, showing the strength of the empire at its height. 
However, like all great things, they come to an end eventually. Which also brings us to Chichen Itza. 
Chichen Itza was found by Western explorers in the 19th century covered in jungle and abandoned for centuries.  Here it is in the 1890s:
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Due to being covered oh so romantically in greenery, some believed that the Maya people had lived “as one” with the planet and had a somewhat Utopian society. However, upon further research going into the next 100 years it was learned that they in fact had been a society that utilized slash and burn techniques and other methods to clear forests. This meant land for growing crops of corn and beans along with building an extensive road network that connected places like Chichen Itza with the rest of the Maya Empire.
Anyway, not to bore you with too much history, but the reality is that this city and subsequent cities in the area were home to a vast and powerful society. Additionally the use of sound techniques for spying, entertainment, religion and building the entirety of the area with the solar system, equinoxes, and celestial events in mind make it even more exciting. 
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Chichen Itza circa 2017

Naturally, the list of “wows” go on. Such as depictions of North American tribes that were visiting the area, such as the Mohicans. Then, there are mysterious pieces such as a man depicted with a long beard (most Native peoples don’t grow facial hair) and others showing a Star of David. Additionally, the auditory nature of the buildings is still somewhat puzzling and no one is positive how bird whistles and rattle snack sounds could be replicated. These aspects leave more questions than answers, that I look forward to hearing about in the future. 
To wrap up on the Maya, it’s important to remember this city also acted as a sacrificial area to the gods and especially Kukulkan. Many times slaves, prisoners, and even the “strongest” warriors and gamers were sacrificed for the benefit of all people in a bloody removal of organs, or sometimes drowning in a cenote.
Anyway, I’ll share more on Chichen Itza shortly, but I want to mostly say, it’s always a thrill to work through a list of exciting places in the world.
I do believe my next stop will be Peru and Machu Picchu where I am planning to hike the Inca trail and walk in the foot steps of another great civilization.