Homemade Wedding Dress

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.

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Chichen Itza

 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

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.

Oh Christmas Tree

Those of us that grew up with something resembling a Christian background are likely to have a Christmas tree up this time of year.
While not religious the tree is the center of familial celebration for the Christmas season. Some of the traditions go back a thousand or more years, while the modern tree is straight from Victoriana. Well by the way of Germany to Queen Victoria’s home.
There is in fact something charming about bringing the forest inside and placing trinkets on the branches, covering it with lights and fighting the cat off of it.
Growing up we did not have a lot of money, so the tree was always an exciting extravagance that came before Christmas. Most years we went into the national forest and found a tree to bring home, often it was a family outing with boots, scarves, and frozen fingers. Our dogs would act like maniacs in the snow and our little kid dreams always wanted to bring home a tree in the 10′ to 15′ range, when our ceilings topped at 8′.
At times the tree was a little sad and bare, but somehow it didn’t show too much when we added some tinsel and a mess of ornaments. There were clay hands, broken snowmen, and felt reindeer that made the tree look like an explosion of the worst crafts known to 90s children. Mom also had the “Special” ornaments that were more fragile and special, they always made it to the top of the tree where no child nor puppy, nor kitty could aim or maim them.
There were years that things went awry, like when the cat killed the nativity in an epic crash that involved a tasseled table runner, and it all landing on the Siamese’s head. Only Jesus made it out alive. Then there was the year that my sister’s and I took ornamenting the tree on ourselves, unaware of our mother’s awareness on evasive placement, and the litter of puppies ate all the wood ones on the bottom foot of the tree.
All around though, our tree was our own, and each year was looked on with excitement. It was never because we got new ornaments, or a new tree, it was because we got to relive all our old memories and all the ornaments that brought as joy and wonderment. We had crystal ballerinas, glass bells, and whimsical forest creatures.
As an adult I learned that people buy new trees, new ornaments, new decorations, and have a new theme every year. It enhances the general Martha Stewart nature of a home, it’s clean and happy, and photogenic. In the age of Instagramming, YouTube Stars, there is definitely an appeal. I like a home of clean lines and design as much as the next 20-something, but not when it comes to my tree.
This year our fake tree is on its last leg, there are metal-plastic branches missing the it is permanently bent, with many branches unable to hold bigger ornaments. We only paid $20 for it five years ago, so it makes sense that the 6′ Family Dollar mess is falling apart. This year is its last, but there is something about it that brings up an immense amount of sentiment. It was the first tree I bought as an adult, and not another family hand-me-down, but what decorates the tree is the better story.
Each ornament has a tale. There is the carousel horse I have had as long as I can remember, a 25 year old fragile plastic white horse with black hair. There is a copper ornament with a cutout elk, announcing many weekends spent in Rocky Mountain National Park. For my step-daughter there are My Little Pony’s and a plush fox. The newest ornament members include a pair of hedgehogs commemorating our marriage this year, and a fat clay dolphin from Mexico.
Each year Ryan, Lily, and I have been playing house, I have bought Ryan and Lily an ornament, something to remember the year or just something they like. Ryan has received Yoda, a Maneki-neko cat, and this year a spaceman. Lily has a Lenox Elsa, a parrot and this year will be the dolphin and a miniature sombrero. There is a wood cat for when we adopted our cat, and a groom from my bridal shower.
It looks like a mess, to be honest, it should not be in a magazine, or even an Instagram post, and the cat hates that it took over some of his prime sunbathing room. Yet it’s ours, a tree full of baubles to celebrate our lives, and the gifts from our families to get started on our own. Maybe I’m more sentimental this year because we are officially wed, but all around I love that we have such an ugly tree, and the joy of decorating it each year.
Maybe the best part is sharing this with Lily, we decorate the tree together, pulling out our boxes and deciding what makes it on the tree. Each year she gets more that are hers, and when she moves on to college or her first home, they will go with her, pieces of our home, so that she too can buy her first tree and start creating her own ugly Christmas Tree.

Travel the World- Without Leaving Denver

Denver is a city that has no lack of things to do. If you love museums, there are plenty to see. Want architecture? no lack of unique designs from decades of inhabitants. Native American History and art? We have you covered.
Perhaps the best way to experience a mix of old and new, western and global is at the Denver Art Museum.
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My favorite statue in the Native North American art section- I remember them building this in 2011!
I know….art museum…. it’s an intimidating term, yet you don’t have to be an art geek to enjoy what the DAM has to offer. DAM is a unique blend of classic art museum with the joy and enthusiasm of modern delights. Currently, they even have a costume display from the original Star Wars movies!
However, if you don’t have time, or the exhibit is sold out, there are plenty of options and things to see in the permanent exhibits and ones that are included with general admission.
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Trade Canoe for Don Quixote- Jaune Quick-to-see Smith
When I say it’s a chance to see the world, I don’t mean it lightly, they literally have floors of art from around the world and each floor is like another continent waiting to be seen.
While I have taken many trips to the Denver Art Museum, I always find something new. S
Sometimes, it’s when I explore the thousands of pieces of pre-columbian South and Central American art. Often it’s a wonderful and exciting sculpture or pottery piece. This time it was a variety of pins from Peru that were made out of silver spoons, (Manta Spoons) originally brought by the Spanish. They even offered a craft project to make a plastic version for visitors.
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Manta Spoon Pins from Peru, used for hooking cloaks together in decoration and function
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Lily making her own plastic manta spoon
In fact, the entire museum offers craft projects for art fans of all ages through the entire museum. In the Northern Native American art section it was putting together puzzles based on beading designs, and in their fashion displays it was pinning together fashionable designs. All of which my 9 y/o travel buddy loved.
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Casta Painting collection from the Spanish-Colonial period. Casta paintings list what status one had in Latin America based on their ethnic background and skin color. 
If you like asian art, you won’t be disappointed, I am personally always impressed by the sand-art from a group of Buddhist monks that has been preserved. Along with centuries of stone sculpture and pottery. They section off each area to provide cultural context and experience. China, Japan, Middle East, India and Southeast Asia are all represented through natural and historic materials.
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If you love modern art the most, do not despair, because they have constantly rotating and changing displays that inspire through modern methods and art forms.
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Finally, my favorite permanent display is the European art pieces including paintings of nobles, and classic pieces by some of Europe’s most famous painters. Currently they are displaying Treasures of British Art which included “Anthony van Dyck, Benjamin West, Angelica Kauffman, Thomas Gainsborough, Thomas Lawrence, George Stubbs, John Singer Sargent, and Adam Birtwistle.” They also had a Canaletto on display that had been recently restored and to round it out, their main floor display of Venetian artists was to die for.
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Sir Thomas Lawrence- Portrait of a Lady
Titled the Glory of Venice this display showed the progress of Italian art and its significance in combining Danish and Italian and Eastern art for some of the most influential pieces in classic art.
All around if you want a wonderful experience in the mile high city, where everyone will enjoy, love, laugh and be inspired, check out the Denver Art Museum! What is your favorite piece?

If You’re Mourning Carrie Fisher- Laugh

Carrie Fisher the very big Star Wars actor that we knew and loved. The Princess that didn’t needed saving, and that could fire a gun and actually hit her enemies….. well she passed away this week.

Huge Star Wars fan, or not, many of us have taken time to reflect on her contribution to film and women in film. She was also the daughter of another iconic performer, Debbie Reynolds, who they say died of a broken heart the day after her daughter died. Reynolds contributed a hell of a lot in her life too, and the loss of both this week is a blow to film nerds around the world.

Yet, while I am saddened by these losses, I know there is something really cool we can all do right now. It not only honors the memory of these performers, but it also cheers the soul. I did this when Bowie and Rickman died in January, I took to their art and I devoured it. I watched movies and listened to music and loved their art. I’m doing this right now with Fisher.

I just read her book Wishful Drinking over the last 48 hours and I laughed my ass off. It’s a hilarious book, full of comical  (intentional) stories and moments from both Fisher and Reynold’s life. I plan on reading more of Fisher’s work and just enjoying her contribution to the world. Ya know what, she would have wanted it that way.

Weirdly Wishful Drinking is almost prophetic of her own death and passing, but in a loveable way. In a “it’s gonna happen” way. Because, that’s the end for all of us.

Because that’s this planet, this universe, and not so far far away or long long ago. We’re all mortal, and we’re all trapped in that truth.

So, wipe the tears (don’t deny them) and enjoy what artists made when they pass. That was the whole point, a lasting contribution on a world that’s ever changing and temporary. Laugh at their jokes and their writings, and love that we get to live NOW and enjoy these pieces of humor and life. Also cry if you must, that’s okay too. We’re laying to rest and saying goodbye to some friends from our own journey.

From Wishful Drinking:

George comes up to me the first day of filming and he takes one look at the dress and says, “You can’t wear a bra under that dress.”

So, I say, “Okay, I’ll bite. Why?”

And he says, “Because. . . there’s no underwear in space.”

What happens is you go to space and you become weightless. So far so good, right? But then your body expands??? But your bra doesn’t—so you get strangled by your own bra.

Now I think that this would make for a fantastic obit—so I tell my younger friends that no matter how I go, I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra.

Turn Your Back On Wrong

You know how in school we’re told to stand up for what’s right, even if we’re standing alone?

My parents encouraged this. Which I am profusely grateful. Even if my right is their wrong and vice a versa.

As someone that always took this as 100% the way to live my life, this means I don’t always make friends or peace with those around me. I often tangle with people in my family and people I grew up with. It means that many teary and angry conversations have been had with people I legitimately love, but that I cannot agree with their beliefs.

After the election on Tuesday I removed a lot of these people from my immediate connections. It was a long time coming, but I just couldn’t continue to be confronted with the following:

Bigotry,

Islamophobia,

Homophobia,

Transphobia,

Sexism,

Racism,

Anti-immigrant,

Anti-equality

and the list goes on.

I didn’t unfriend these people because they had a different argument or a different feeling, it’s because they continued to perpetuate inaccuracies and make excuses for hate speech and bigotry. They did this without fact-checking or without reading or without thinking what it means to any one of these groups of people that have been oppressed, abused and mistreated for these identities.

The did not care to research that racism is based on a system of oppression and that there is no such thing as reversed racism. Or that sexism is very well alive and can be proved over and over again. They kept themselves in a bubble that ignored reality, that ignored the tears and pain of those being abused as a result of our systemic problems in this country. It’s not the vote for the talking head, it’s the willful ignorance and hatred that they endorsed and support.

I CAN’T have this in my life, I refuse, and I refuse to make excuses for people that endorse this behavior. I refuse to make excuses so I can stay friendly with people that view me and so many of the people I love and admire as second class citizens.

So here I am, standing for what is right, and I will stand alone if I have to.

I am standing for what is right, which is basic human rights for all people. Which is giving people safety and sanctuary when they have been brutalized. It is standing against continued rape culture and the perpetuation that women or men “make it up” when they’re assaulted. It is standing up against a system that favors jailing minorities over whites that commit the same crime. It’s standing against anti-drug policies that favor abusing and oppressing minorities. It’s making sure women have access and rights to all the things male counterparts have. It’s making sure people of color, LGBTQ, differently-abled and anyone else that has been the victim of oppression is given the right and opportunity to succeed.

I refuse to write off people that haven’t had the opportunities of others. I refuse to view a group of people with hate (including Trump-ites). I refuse to believe any nationality or ethnic group is different, or more prone to, or less than human. I REFUSE. And I refuse to acknowledge others’ hatred as an accurate or even real argument.

I don’t care if one time someone from some group was mean once, or said something once. That’s not a representation of everyone from that group and their behavior sucks, but when you have lived a life treated as less than, sometimes you lash out, sometimes the anger from years of mistreatment boils over. And one becomes mad as hell and has just had enough. I think we have all been there for some reason. We cannot acknowledge one negative action as an example of how everyone behaves. You know this to be true. One kid in the class eats glue, not everyone in kindergarten does.

However, I will listen to REAL arguments and I will listen to real complaints. I will listen to real feelings about being left behind and underrepresented. Because, hey, I feel that way too. However, I also know that the layers to these problems are not from minorities and they are not from immigrants, they are not from foreign governments and they are not from any group that can be scapegoated. If you want to learn with me, then let me know. I’m happy to talk, I’m happy to show you. I’m happy to learn.

I’m happy to take suggestions, ideas and encouragement, but only if they have a standing in reality. I will not, and cannot take your bigotry or your privilege as an argument. Do you understand?

So today I turn my back on hatred and oppression. I don’t turn my back on people, but I will not see their hateful actions on my Facebook or twitter. It’s not a willful ignorance or wanting to shut these people out, but I refuse to be on social media terms with people that post these statement as if they were just a cute cat photo.

It may make no difference in the long run, but you know this poem:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

~Martin Niemöller

I am speaking for those that can’t speak up and maybe someone will speak for me or not, but I am speaking for others now. You should too.