The Story of Noon Lodge

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Our recent trip to Noon Lodge happened completely by accident. Way back in December I was on Expedia late at night, experiencing some FOMO (fear of missing out – always a bad sign) because it had just snowed up in the mountains and all my friends were posting these amazing pictures of snow on Instagram. Taking the kids to the snow has been on my bucket list for a few years now. Neither of them had really experienced it, being the true Southern Californian natives that they are.

I skipped around Expedia, looking at cabins and landed on this site. I was struck with instant graphic-designer love. Swoon! What a beautifully designed website! I could imagine the photoshoots I would throw down surrounded by such beauty and nature and great design. Do you see the room decor?! I was hooked. Back I went to Expedia to check out the prices. I knew it would be expensive but surprisingly for some reason I read that the rooms were only one-hundred-and-something and NEXT THING I KNEW I was checking out and the grand total was SIX HUNDRED DOLLARS!!!  Wait. WHAT?!! Two nights somehow added up to six hundred dollars?

Back click, back click. Wait! Wait! This can’t be happening! Of course at this point Expedia was giving me the spinny ball of doom. I don’t have six hundred dollars for a freakin’ weekend! What the, what the?! Halp! I raced though the Noon Lodge site again and everywhere I looked they were very clear about their no cancelation policy. My heart sunk to the bottom of the ocean that is my bad financial planning. What had I done?

Deep breaths.

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I waited for Payam to wake up and I told him the news. Naturally, he was surprised but actually not horrified which was a huge relief. He calmed me down and made some calls. Nobody answered their phones of course.  So I sucked it up and calculated how long it would take me to pay off this new chunk of change I had now put on my credit card that already had a good sized balance on it. It would be bad but I wasn’t quite ruined. Six hundred dollars in the big picture wasn’t that much. Maybe this wouldn’t be the snowball of debt that would roll me into bankruptcy. I have a roof over my head and my landlord isn’t going to kick me out and I can take on more jobs and pay this down. I can do this.

And oh, how I wanted to do this! The Lodge! It was so pretty!

Several hours later Noon Lodge did call back and after talking to Payam (who is a great salesperson by the way) they said that even though it was against their policy, they would cancel my reservation because I had made it so far in advance, this being in December and the weekend I booked being in February after all. What nice people!

But wait. Now I was even sadder. I didn’t want to cancel this trip!!

I had fallen so deeply in love with the idea of this weekend in the snow at Noon Lodge, there was just no going back. Money be damned. Noon Lodge was going to happen if I had work my fingers to the bone for the rest of the year. I could do it!

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So we went!

What a crazy weekend. I had just gotten back from Alt Summit and my mind was a full of business tips and mixed emotions about where my online presence is really going and maybe it’s time to suck it up and admit failure. Le sigh. Blogging conventions always put me in a spin for a few days. It’s great to get inspired and learn new things and meet new people but it really makes you re-think your business plan and me, being the negative person that I can be, I often leave these conventions feeling worse about myself than when I started. It’s always good to mix things up though and I took away a lot of good advice. I just don’t know where I’m going with that advice yet. My head was a little spun.

Also, I had missed the girls (and Payam) terribly for the four days that I was at the convention. The girls were fine without me of course but I was just off my game. It’s hard enough only seeing them every other week due to custody arrangements but being gone the week they were with me made me super sad.  So when I got back I was so ready to spend a quality weekend with them.

I packed like a mad woman and we rushed off to the mountains!

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And it was everything I wanted it to be! The snow! The kids were so excited. The entire trip up the mountain they wouldn’t stop talking about the ice cream that was everywhere. Bug worked herself into such a silly state I actually worried for a minute that she was having a manic episode, which wouldn’t be that far from her mother.

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We tucked ourselves into our cozy cabin and the next morning awoke to the sounds of little girls singing at the top of their lungs, “THE SKY IS AWAKE AND SO AM I! DO YOU WANT TO BUILD A SNOWMAN?!!!” The sun had barely risen over the tree tops and the girls already had their snow gear on and they were out the door. Forget about breakfast. They were so happy.

And then DISASTER STRUCK.

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Payam had gone to the truck to get the girls saucers for sledding. I was back in the cabin, getting breakfast ready. The girls were down the ravine beside the cabin making a fort. Suddenly I looked up and I saw Payam out the window bleeding from his head. I ran out the door to see what had happened and it looked like he had something stuck out of the side of his head. Blood was everywhere. I screamed. What happened?! Are you okay?!!

Payam looked at me with this strange look like he had no idea what I was talking about. He was disoriented. He had his keys and his glasses in his hand and they were bloody and broken. I rushed him to the house and he sat down. I frantically looked for my phone to call 911.

Payam at this time is telling me he’s fine. Why am I freaking out and calling 911?! he asks. Over and over he kept saying he’s fine, he’s fine. He obviously was NOT fine and had no idea that he had a golf ball growing out of the side of his head. At this point I didn’t know if his head was broken and it was bone sticking out. I was in a panic. Bug found my phone and I called 911. The operator walked me through what to do with him and help was on the way.

While all this is going on Bug ran upstairs crying and Joon fainted and fell onto a wooden burl table and bumped her head. At the time I didn’t realize she had actually fainted. I thought she had just slipped on the rug (things were wet from us rushing into the cabin with melting snow on our boots) and when she righted herself and started to complain about her head hurting I thought she was having some kind of psychosomatic copycat symptom. Poor Joon. It wasn’t until after the commotion that we figured out she really did faint.

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Here’s what we think happened: Payam went to the truck to get the sleds but for some reason the hatch didn’t open (this happened to me when I went back and retraced his steps). As he was struggling to lift the stuck trunk door, he slipped on the black ice and hit his head, hard on the frozen asphalt. He has no memory of any of this happening. That’s the weirdest part. It’s a complete blank in his memory. Nobody saw him. Nobody knows what really happened. I’m just glad he was only gone five minutes and he didn’t get run over from laying in the street!

The paramedics arrived and checked Payam out. Because Payam was lucid and he could answer all their questions clearly with no trouble, they surmised that he was probably fine. They told me that injuries like this on the ice are VERY common and the swelling is normal even though at this point he started to look like the Elephant Man. The head is very”vascular” they told us which is why his wound was swelling up to the size of a tennis ball. There was just a lot of blood inside his head. No concussion but just watch it carefully and drive to the nearest urgent care if anything gets worse–like he starts throwing up or falls asleep etc.

Hoo Boy.

Payam rested. The girls went back outside to play. I checked on Payam like a chicken with my head cut off. The wound persisted with little change. Four hours later Payam decided he probably needed stitches. At the time the paramedics were there we couldn’t really see that he had a cut by his eye because everything was so swollen. This was actually a secondary wound from his glasses cutting into the side of his head and is additional to the blow that knocked him out.

Now here’s the part that I’m embarrassed about. Payam talked me into letting him drive himself to the Urgent Care. I know. I’m a terrible girlfriend! I should have driven him. But he assured me up and down that he was fine and besides the crazy swelling he did seem fine.  It was true that the last thing we wanted to do was spend our entire trip in an Urgent Care full of snowboarders with broken arms. I really should have driven him and I do feel bad but it was nice to sit in a chair, watch the girls and calm down from the trauma with Payam checking in with me by phone often.

Just like we expected he was stuck in the Urgent Care for a while. Eventually he got stitches and got checked out, which was a relief to all of us. He came back and rested some more.

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And then I went for a walk. Yeah. I did. I know. Girlfriend of the year awardee over here. But maybe you should give that award to Payam because he totally understood how bad I wanted to get out and take pictures. This was my $600 weekend. Worse weekend ever. Or was it?

I had noticed from the cabin windows that the sun was going down and I really, really wanted to see the lake before we had to go home. I asked Payam a million times if it was okay and when he assured me over and over I rushed out into the snow and trekked down the ravine towards the lake. I missed the sunset but the afterglow was amazing. There was beauty everywhere!

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It was a long cold walk and I kept falling through the snow every fourth step but I couldn’t stop because it kept getting prettier and prettier.

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Just look at the pink glow!

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Here it is bigger so you can feel how big this expanse of space was. Imagine this 360. The lake was frozen with a thin layer of ice and the sky was crisp. Everything was quiet. I stood there with my camera and soaked all the beauty and glory in click by click. It was such a contrast to the storm of recent events.

Payam was okay. This beauty made all those worries from Alt Summit seem small and insignificant. I don’t care about my website being a business. I don’t care if my instagram feed isn’t curated to a color palette that embodies my brand. All I care about is my family and nature and being in this moment where the sky is so pink and big! This is really what matters, right?

Everything was okay. Payam was home with the girls by the fire and he was okay with me being outside chasing the last glimpse of the day. He gives me permission to be a freak and book a weekend at Noon Lodge that I can’t really afford. And yes, he is kind of my safety net when I make mistakes like this which I really try not to do regularly. He lets me be the photographer who’s love in life is capturing beauty and sharing it. It’s almost a sickness with me. Everything is about capturing that crazy, beautiful picture. I don’t care about stuff. But I care about pictures. I don’t know if this is a bad thing or a good thing but I’m learning that it’s pretty hard-wired in me.

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And then I walked home and was welcomed by this site. Oh Noon Lodge. You are so charming with your green siding and bright orange doors.

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The next day before we packed up to leave I took a few more pictures of the girls having fun in the snow. I metered the top photos wrong but I kinda like them.

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Happy Kids.

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And that was that! What a crazy trip. We packed up all our stuff and headed down the mountain. For Payam it was the trip from hell and I’m sure he won’t be too keen to come back anytime soon but I will be. I’m not too terribly fond of Big Bear and the crowds but I love Noon Lodge. noon-lodge-7

And I love this guy. Put some sunglasses on that shiner and he’s good as new! Seriously though, the swelling has gone down and now he has a huge, scary, black eye–that he’s totally milking for sympathy points. He deserves them though. He took one for the team this weekend and we owe him big time.

Wrapping up 2016 with a massive picture post!

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I have so many photos to share with you. I should have blogged all the events while they happened but you know how that goes. Whiz-bang gone. So I’m just going to post them in reverse order and prattle along descriptions like I do.

This year we had my first ever New Year’s party. Usually New Year’s parties and I are like oil and water, as in you can’t have them both at the same time because I fall asleep. I never stay up to ring in the new year. However, I always feel guilty about my not staying up, like I’m old and boring or something. This year we decided to run the espresso maker all night long and host a bash.

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And bash it was! We turned out all the lights (except a few with red lightbulbs–shout out to my post Paris party!) and lit dozens of candles all over the place. We made a really good play list and cooked up a bunch of Chinese food (my specialty: homemade pot stickers, fried rice, sticky chicken wings, Asian slaw) and threw together a few other favorites like chips and Trader Joes bruschetta lentil dip.

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We set up the ping pong table in the garage and of course fell for all the usual Party City decorations. But everyone likes to take photos right? Flash photography be what it will.

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It was really fun. A few guests brought guests of their own (surprise!) and next thing we knew some French lady that I didn’t know put on her playlist (we didn’t even get to play ours) and we were dancing to the Macarena of all things. (!) It was the most fun I’ve ever had on New Years, not counting that one year in San Francisco at Union Square.  I didn’t even get a chance to watch the ball drop on tv because I was dancing and talking and having my own ball. I didn’t even feel tired once.

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Now rewind to a few days before New Year’s. Descanso Gardens!!! Have you ever been? I saw a picture of The Enchanted Forest on a friend’s Instagram feed and I knew I had to go. And guess what? It was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!! Seriously. It was so worth the two hours of traffic we had to sit in to get there. (That says a lot coming from a freelancer who never has to drive anywhere if she doesn’t want to.)

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It’s a one mile walk through a mysteriously lit forest with music and interactive installations. It’s a photographer’s dream and nightmare because it’s so hard to photograph but such a tempting challenge anyway!

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I managed. It was actually a really good way to learn how to photograph in low light situations. Payam and I muddled and messed our way through AV, TV and full manual mode on my camera (which is actually his camera that I have taken over and purchased a few lenses for).

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I loved this tunnel of star lights so much. Payam is a true gentleman, taking pictures of me whenever I request. Have I mentioned how much I love him?

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Along the way they offer food and drinks which is charming. We were really excited to have a drink but the martini I had turned out to be so watered down it was kind of a disappointment.

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More lights and more lights! It went on and on forever which was so pleasantly surprising! I really loved the moody music that echoed here and there so lightly.

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This interactive display was the best, especially for kids. I wished we had brought the girls but they were with their other parents. Next year we are already making plans to bring them.

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The tour ended in this Japanese tea garden with hundreds of red paper globe lights. I think it’s a nod to the fact that many acres of the gardens were acquired from Japanese who owned nurseries but were sent to internment camps during World War II. I’m not sure of the whole story on that. I need to do some more research.

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Rewind again to a few days before Christmas. Cookies! This is the first year I really did all the things I wanted to do. Every year before this I have always wished I had baked cookies or made a special dinner or made homemade ornaments or gifts or whatever and every year Christmas just snuck up on me and I couldn’t pull it off. But I’ve been taking notes and I’m getting smarter at holidays.

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Payam spent his pre-Christmas days making me a table. Isn’t it beautiful?!! He’s been making all kinds of intricate wooden things with different kinds of exotic woods these days. I’ll have to write a post on all his creations. He also made his mom a jewelry box and a really pretty striped tray that he’s thinking of selling in his Etsy shop. I plan to photograph everything soon.

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The girls and I also made air-dry clay ornaments that totally turned out better than expected. They took a few days to dry but after a coat of paint and some spray gloss they almost looked better than ornaments you can buy in the store!

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The fire has been going regularly, which makes Whiskey and I very happy.

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That brings me to Christmas… games, tea, family time…

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The girls put on a concert and I actually cooked a special dinner. It didn’t turn out so great. How can you screw up a pre-cooked ham and mashed potatoes? It wasn’t horrible but it was meh which of course makes me more sad than I should be. It’s the effort that counts, right? But even so I’m thinking pizza next year or maybe my Chinese food specialties. I’m done with trying new things on guests.

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It was a really sweet time though. My family doesn’t celebrate Christmas so I didn’t grow up with any of these traditions but I have to say they are starting to feel more and more sentimental and familiar and I like that.christmas-2016-5

There were so many presents! Pusheen anything for Bug and unicorn everything for Joon. It is quite easy to shop for these two which is a good thing and a bad thing.

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I wish they could stay this age forever.

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And that was that! Stick a bow on 2016 and put it in a box! Just kidding. But that is all I have to say about 2016. I’m really excited about 2017, now that I’m getting the hang of holidays, work and family so much more.