Monday, November 25, 2013

We Say "I Do"

Since the wedding location is about 45 minutes away from our home, we only had a short time to prepare. We had that Sunday, November 10th, plus Saturday the 16th to accomplish most of our tasks. Ricky's apartment would serve as a location for both ceremony and reception. Chairs would be set up for the ceremony and be moved after. Between the ceremony and dinner, Eric and I would have photos taken while family set up the Chipotle buffet and eating areas. As you can see, it takes more than just the wedding couple to make it happen.

While thinking about the chunk of time between the ceremony and eating, I was stressed. How would we get the guests out of Ricky's apartment and down to the lobby for light snacks? There had to be a nice way of saying, "Okay people. We need to bring in the tables. Go hangout in the lobby until someone calls you all up." We'd figure that out later. 

On the same night Eric would finish the Wedding alter, Karla flew in from Northern California. Karla and Eric have a friendship that stretches far back through the web of time. When I met her in 2003, a friendship between her and I began to blossom. She's been "an ear", a person of knowledge, and a source of infectious laughter. Soon after Eric and I became engaged in 2009, we asked Karla to be our officiant.  

Let us fast forward to the Saturday before the wedding. I had to work. Off to Disneyland, at 4 AM I went. Eric had a few more hours sleep and headed back to Hollywood. Karla, Ricky, and Eric went at it all day. And then I waltzed in after work, around 4:30 PM. It was quite a long day. By the time I arrived they had a vast amount of set up complete and the place was glistening. Later Eric's mom Mary arrived with his aunt, Cecilia. They had the center pieces ready and were about to set up the Candy Bar. 

Once the candy was set up in their glass display jars and the navy blue ribbon was thoughtout the space, it felt like this was all coming together. Eric and I were so worried about logistics, we still didn't have that "OMG, WE ARE GETTING MARRIED" moment. But, I think under the surface it was slowly starting to sink into our brains. 

That night I had an awful experience where I was up every hour. I'm sure most people can relate to an annoying night such as that. The one thing I didn't want was to appear completely exhausted. We were taking lots of photos the next day and we both wanted a refreshed look!

    View from Ricky's place

Eric and I weren't awake too early. We finally got up around 7:15 for our big day. The set up was mostly complete so there was no need for a rushed morning. And once we set out to LA, it was a stress free ride. 

Once we arrived we added some last minute touches and waited for the cake delivery. There was a hole on the counter for our cake, so this would complete our spread. Too bad the delivery man was all business. I don't think he looked one person in the eye. 

We got over the weird delivery man quickly. Cassie and Ryan, great friends and photography duo, arrived to snap some shots of the place beforehand. At that point Eric and I decided it was time to get ready! In Ricky's bedroom, as we changed clothes, we strategically avoided the five tables we had stored there. I kept thinking, "oh poor Ricky. We've turned his world upside down". Soon, the guests would start to arrive. 

    Nephews taking in the view of  the Hollywood Hills

I'm not sure if anyone realized, but we had pop music as background, performed by a string quartet (recorded). To name a few, kudos to those of you that recognized Lady Gaga, Foo Fighters or The Beatles!! We had one or two guests arrive, then it seemed as though most all guests arrived at once. 

I told Eric, "At the moment it feels as though we are hosting a nice cocktail party. But, we are getting married in about 15 minutes!" It was nice to see how excited everyone was and people's reaction to the decor was great!

Karla delivered a deeply emotional introduction tailored to Eric and  myself. She touched on our vacations, love for collecting, and even Cirque du Soleil. Karla said that although we love these hobbies/places, it isn't as deep as the commitment we have for each other. There was even a moment where she surveyed our guests "Who has known the couple for 15 years......" and so on. It was nice she included them as well. 

    "15 years? Raise your hands!"

"Do you take Eric to be your husband?"

"I do."

Those words will resonate within my memory forever. He and I stood there in front of our family and friends while admitting to one another we were in it until the end. Although I knew that  two feet from me were our guests, I felt like Eric and I were the only ones in that room. I can't explain how special it was and still is. 

The ceremony felt as thought it lasted a few minutes, but I am told it was around 20 minutes. Karla graciously led the seated guests to join her for a light refreshment in the lobby. After a few quick family photos and hugs, Eric and I followed Cassie and Ryan for our wedding photos. We were heading to the streets of Hollywood and the location of our first date, The Pantages theater. 

     Eric and Kelly(our close friend and roomie for many years)

As I said, The Pantages was our first date on April 19, 2002. We watched The Lion King. As it turns out, the same show was back in Hollywood again!! It was meant to happen!! Well, most of us think it's pretty cool. 

    Where it all began.

We took a few shots standing underneath the marquee. Cassie and Ryan stopped traffic to get the shot!! It was insanely hilarious. But there we were trying to only smile and not laugh. The Russeks are hardcore! 

    Cassie and Ryan! Love the sock bun Cassie!!

    Martin (my best man) and Jason (our friend and Martin's boyfriend) came along for the fun. Too bad they didn't get a photo of Cassie in the street, stopping traffic. 

When we headed back, Eric and I found the place ready for food! It was a relief that the wedding was happening smoothly. When we throw a party I like to oversee the event, but I had to let go of the reigns this time. 

So far everyone was loving Chipotle!! Based on this wedding meal, our friend Angie decided to use the same catering service for work. I dug into my meal with a little wine! After all, it is mine and Eric's favorite place to dine. I probably should've taken a photo of the food. Well, it was a taco bar with burrito bowl options. 

A short while later we gathered for the toasts. Both Ricky and Martin delivered some wonderful words and wished us well. The drink of choice for the toasts was Moscato Champagne. It was delicious and I'm glad we still have one bottle left!

I had never cut a cake "with" someone before so we tried to make it look as natural as possible. If you were there, did it work? As we knew from already tasting it, the cake would be fabulous. I'm pretty sure I ate 2 1/2 slices. Another big thank you to my cousin for taking care of the cake's cost! 

As a matter of fact, there are many people to acknowledge! It feels like we can't thank our family and friends enough. Our Mom's made a big contribution to the day and helped us bring this to life. They gave us a day Eric and I will never forget. It's been almost two weeks and I'm still reliving it in my head. But, that was only the beginning. In two days we have our Disney World Honeymoon! After that there is life. I don't know what we will go through together, but I'm glad I will be with Eric. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

How to Plan a Gay Wedding in 2 Months

We looked around the room. Eric and I could see the left over Chipotle, tasty left over cake, wine, "empty chairs and empty tables", and a few guests that had stayed behind. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, our wedding day was drawing to a close. So much time and creative energy was spent to bring about our cherished day. Did we feel satisfied? We sure did! 

Planning only began in mid September. With the wedding day on November 17th, we heard many say we were crazy. Eric and I, being a little stubborn, were determined to carry out our wedding prior to our upcoming Disney World trip, December 2nd. It did cross our level headed minds to wait one more week December 1st, but that is Thanksgiving weekend. So, that was a "No". 

Eric and I had an idea of what we wanted, but budget, location, and timing would play a huge role. And, when I say we knew what we wanted, I meant we had about four ideas between us. Did that cause some arguments along the way? Of course it did! Do you all think a smaller wedding made planning any easier? No, not at all. Later, when the decor fell into place, it felt perfect.  

A hard subject when one has a small wedding or event is the Guest List. When we decided to keep it at 50 and under, I assumed that was a good amount. Well, when we started listing names the slots filled quickly. Hard decisions were made and looking back, I don't think we even disagreed about the list. Once a number was decided, it definitely was understood between us that we had to be strict. 

Right away we had some family members that stepped up, without hesitation. My cousin Albert and wife Clara really wanted to purchase the cake. We were blown away by the gesture. Then, his sister and my cousin, Francesca, offered food money, and to create our "card receiving" box. We also had both Mothers offer to lend a huge hand in many different ways. Ricky, Eric's best man, allowed us to hold the wedding at his place. And, our great friend Cassie would be our photographer for both our wedding guest book, and the event itself. I can honestly say without our family and friends' generosity, this wouldn't have happened.

One item we quickly crossed off our list was the cake. Eric, my mom, and myself headed to Glendale for the cake tasting at the bakery Portos. They had about 12-16 different combinations for us. The red velvet was tempting, but lately it's almost too expected. We made up our own cake combination of white and chocolate cake, layered with vanilla custard. Eric and I couldn't wait for everyone to taste it!

During October, the details changed, shapes evolved and themes came and went . Would we have round tables or rectangular?  Something that drove me insane was that even though I could envision the space, I wanted to see the final product and experience it. Thank goodness the catering company was a "no brainer" for the both of us. We chose to go with Chipotle catering because it's our favorite. The spread we went with was the three meat taco bar. They would also throw in a few different salsas and chips with guacamole.

Suddenly time was creeping toward October 17th. This meant we absolutely had to send out the invitations. We just needed to decide on the style we liked. I have to be honest, the idea of sending out a massive text message did cross our minds. Don't worry, we got rid of that idea.

After invitations, the first photo shoot was upon us. As I mentioned before, our great friend Cassie would take our photos. She went with us to Disneyland and California Adventure in the wee hours of a Monday morning. Eric and I would be posing for our Guest Book. Eric had the idea to have photos where our guests could sign the borders, and write short messages. It was such a fun morning in the parks. Cassie is amazing at what she does. Check out Russek Photography on Facebook! 

(I don't rely on mirrors alone...they're deceiving)

It was an experience trying on suits for the big day. To be frank, we did encounter frustration as we shopped. Since we loved the first suits we tried on, it was hard to settle on anything else. Maybe a guy would usually think, "Hey it's no biggie." But for us it was really important. There was no wedding dress to be featured at this wedding ceremony. Eric and I were it and we wanted to look as good as possible. Once we finalized the suits, I felt stress levels slightly lower. 

 With exactly two weeks left, Eric, his parents, Ricky, Greg, and I got to work. Poor Ricky was "losing" his living room. We cleared it all out in that one afternoon. The sofa, tables, lamps, and shelf all ended up in his spare room. Ricky was left with the floor to sit on, and a TV. So when I say we couldn't have done it without Ricky, it's the truth. 

The plan was to then return to the following Sunday, which was a week from the wedding, to get even more prepared. When that day came, Eric then brought the backdrop for our ceremony. He made it that week from plywood, chalkboard paint, and of course chalk. He spent almost five hours getting this piece just right. 

Whoa, what a blog post, right? I want to keep all of your interest so I'll be back soon with a heck of a lot more photos and the wedding details. I can't give it all at once! And, if you were there, then I guess you know all the secrets. I will add that our daydream was becoming a reality. See all back soon!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

"Don't Open, Dead Inside"

Although we couldn't come up with an exact amount of time, it had been a while since Eric and I visited Universal Horror Nights. We were lucky to be invited by Ricky, along with a few others. Ricky's  boyfriend Greg and Ricky's brother Tim also joined the fun. We also were on the lookout for a friend/former Fantasyland coworker, Erin. 

The night began early. Ricky had special passes to the Pass Holder event that kicked off at 5 PM. There we would walk through a maze during the day and hear a Welcome speech by a Horror Nights creator. 

At first we aimlessly wandered through the European side of the park. We finally came across someone that was announcing the El Cucuy walk through. This maze is based on the Latin version of The Boogeyman. I expected a sort of creative narration during this walk through. Instead, guests were funneled through the maze quickly. If anything, we at last saw the detail that go into this event. 

Looks like a scary birthday party gone wrong. 

After this "behind the scenes" look, we gathered at the adjacent arena for a presentation. What it ended up being was a constant reel of YouTube promos for Horror Nights. The four of us waited for a bit, but we decided to leave. I know everyone there was full of anticipation, so these little commercials were slightly annoying.

When the barricade was moved and we we gained access to the rest of the park, we went straight to the lower lot. Ricky led our strategy to start at the furthest area. Even the creator announces, via twitter, to do this. We saw many head to the lower level, but it wasn't busy at these mazes. 

A little fog sets the right mood. I'd say it's the easiest method to creating that Halloween spookiness. Even at Knott's, this stuff spills into the neighboring streets. 

We conquered the Evil Dead attraction. None of us had seen the film, but it sure kept us on our toes. Even though these sets felt recycled from the Friday the 13th mazes from the past (trees and tents), there were some good scares here. What made this creepier was the group ahead practically ran through and left us. At one point I was in a room alone, and Eric was in the previous room alone. When that happens the actors really make an effort! There was an instance where someone would appear where a wall once stood. They'd be there scaring us and the wall would be gone. Clever!

A tram would take us to our next destination. All of us were dropped off at storage facility that was infested with zombies from The Walking Dead. Fog filled our path and strobes flickered sporadically. This environment really messed with our pupils. I'd get blinded by lights and suddenly have a zombie in my face!

This path led all of us to the prison featured in the hit show The Walking Dead. The setting was so great and our group of four became very excited. It was awesome that they recreated so many sets from the show. There was even a moment in The Governor's office where Penny comes running at you from her closet. When the scare actors reveal themselves, there's a lighting and audio cue. The timing is another nod to the professionalism of the Universal Studios mazes. 

Eric and I jumped as we walked through the maze, into a dark hall. A group of 6 "walkers" came flying at us via a hidden track. We were not expecting that! I wish I had video of our faces. 

The maze sitting right next to the previous attraction was the Black Sabbath themed maze. It featured black light sensitive paint and we all wore 3D glasses. I was impressed by the opening cemetery scene because of its detail and size. We were accosted by a small female who's skull head appeared to hover a foot in front of her body. I blame the cool use of 3D for that. I don't know a thing about the band Black Sabbath, but the maze was fun. 

After our friend Erin, along with her posse, joined us we headed to the Insidious maze. It's based on the film of the same name that follows the paranormal happenings within a home. This maze was awesome!!! The whole gory/watching people beheaded act is "tired" and over used. It was refreshing to walk through a maze heavily focused on  being haunted and not gore. 

As we waited in the queue for this, we asked Erin her thoughts on these types of events. She said these mazes don't scare her, the films do. Cut to 10 minutes later, I see Erin running away from a scare actor in the Insidious maze. Well, I guess this maze got the best of all of us. Our whole group felt this was the strongest maze they had. 

There were scenes where ghosts were "alive" in portraits then were in the hallway with you. A sceance scene conjured up a dark spirit that reached out at you. The medium conducting the sceance had a scary looking gas mask on her head and she shook violently in her seat. I could go on and on about this chilling maze. 

Eric and I with our pal Erin. 

We all made our way back to the Upper Lot to experience the Terror Tram. I never get scared with this experience. To be honest, the novelty of walking this path has worn away. This attraction is out in the open and nothing really comes as a surprise. I do enjoy getting a close view of the Psycho House. We also made use of the photo location and met Norman Bates. 
We can see Mother hanging out in the window. She had some unkind words to yell down at Norman. 

For a serial killer, Norman looked pretty cute. Eric was in Norman's grip during the photo. 

As shown with this terrifying baby, the Walking Dead team also was present. Although I enjoy the show, I'd say there were zombies in too many places. I hope they skip the Terror Tram in the future. Or, maybe our group should decide to skip it. 

The final two mazes we visited were El Cucuy (this time lights off with actors) and then Monster Maze Re-mix (classics horror). I'm gonna come right out and say that the El Cucuy was just bad. As we saw earlier, a lot of detail and time had been put toward this. Too bad for us, it failed. The theme was weak and it didn't make any sense. 

The Monster Re-mix maze is there for day guests as well and has been for a few years. It's nice to see come classics characters like The Mummy, Phantom of the Opera, Frankenstein's Monsters, and of course Mother from Psycho popping out of a blood splattered shower. I agreed with Ricky that it's always great to come across a Psycho reference in a Universal maze. 

By this time it was nearing 12 AM. We were surprised that the event lasted 2 more hours! We finished all we hoped and felt good about our visit. I've walked away from this event annoyed, after waiting two hours for one maze. The El Cucuy maze wasn't impressive, but we only waited about 15 minutes. I gave the event a 4/5 stars. It has a great environment for Halloween and is a must so for those looking for a some scared and laughs. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Ever Thought About a RunDisney Event?

Who had the odd ball idea to run two races in one weekend? It was Eric's idea and I said, "Well....alright!" Plus, I didn't want to just be in the cheer section as he ran his 10K. Maybe I was the one out of my mind?

And now, lets check our Runners Roster! Our good friend Ricky would also run both races. Friends and couple, Josh and Daniel would be running their first event! AND! was Tim, Ricky's brother. We couldn't all be crazy, right?

The problem with this event was the heat! If you're reading this and live in the immediate area, you'll know what I mean. Obviously no one can control how hot it gets. What we had to control was our preparation for it and how to keep dehydration at bay. 

I was extremely nervous because we trained horribly! So when I say we prepared for the heat/run, I meant we drank our water. 

It was just a little crowded. Little did we know that the following day would draw a bigger crowd. (More on that in a bit)

This 10K was themed to Alice in Wonderland. Eric created a Cheshire Cat image he then added to his shirt. And, mine was a "Queen of Hearts Royal Court" theme. (Gotta love a Queen!)

This route was relatively short as it looped around the Anaheim Convention Center and proceeded through California Adventure, Disneyland, and then Downtown Disney. Although short as a whole, the last stretch through Downtown Disney felt so long. The humidity really added to that "We're never gonna finish" feeling. 

One we started to round ESPN zone I started bounding for the finish line. Eric was right next to me and we were determined to put this sticky race behind us. For the 10K, we both finished at 1 hour and 17 minutes. 

We were satisfied with our time and glad we didn't have to run in that weather any further. Here we all are with our shiny, Alice themed, 10K medals!

After the event, Eric and I were determined to not be in pain the next day. We spent some time in the pool and steam room. We also spent about an hour using the P90X Stretch program. I think that definitely helped us because I wasn't sore the next morning. 

Day 2 began with another early rise at 3:15 AM. Sadly that's when we usually wake for work so it wasn't bad. As we ate our blueberry muffin we psyched ourselves out for the 13.1 mile run. I usually have issues with my calves and ankles. That was at the forefront of my thoughts. 

The participants came out by the thousands! We hadn't seen such a huge turnout until this year. There wasn't even room in our assigned area, Corral D. Eric and I had to jump a barrier to enter Corral E. You have to understand that me jumping a fence is a big deal. 

Once the race started, they threw us right into an incline, so mean! But, we had run this before and knew what was coming. This route had us run through the parks and then head East, toward Angel Stadium. The area between the stadium and the resort is pretty dull with a view of only tile warehouses. 

Eric and ignored the event's Dumbo theme and decided to dress as Buzz and Zurg. Yes they are rivals, but we thought it was a fun idea. (Thanks to our craftiness, we put these together). Ricky, his brother Tim, and their cousins put their outfits together as well!

We absolutely had to pose with icons of the race's theme and our costume themes :-)

Once we made it to the route between the parks and the stadium, we had to maintain a steady pace and stay injury free. Heading toward the stadium too quickly can really count against you while heading back toward the resort. 

At one point the route runs beside the river and that portion was so long. This area was in fact drawn out because the event planners had to avoid construction. It certainly felt longer!

While we were to enter the stadium, we received an extra boost of encouragement from our pal Josh! He was cheering us along. Josh snapped a photo of me sucking on a Cliff Bar Energy Shot, not flattering, but it was a "must do"!

Once in the stadium and the announcements are sounding off (couldn't understand a lick of it), the excitement grew! 
One can see our professional craftsmanship on our costumes here. 

The route heading back to Disneyland was as tough as expected. There was an entire mile we walked. Around mile 10/10.5 is when my calves usually start to contract into cramps. It seemed I was keeping that issue at bay, but it didn't last long. 

Both Eric and I started getting thigh cramps at mile 12. This was inconvenient as we had hoped to push ourselves hard through the final mile. We jogged. We walked. We jogged. We walked. That final stretch Eric and I put the pain to the back of our minds and jogged out to the finish!

Here are our earned medals! We received one for the previous day, one for the 13.1 miles, and a third symbolizing the entire weekend event. Three! The feeling of accomplishment made the pain all worth the effort. Our final time for the 13.1 miles was 2 hours and 50 minutes. That time was about 20 minutes slower than our best recorded time, but that's ok. It was done!

Eric and I have our next Run Disney event this coming January, The Tinkerbell Half. We've kept up our running since this event, but we must stay focused and keep running!