Grass Valley, The Buddha Embiggerment Project and other News…

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Another month goes by and I have been busy! Time to report!

My friend, Teri, and I flew up to Grass Valley (via Sacramento) last week and visited my friend and fairy godmother, Susan. It was a business trip disguised as a girl’s getaway which means we visited the spa, sipped wine and tea, ate at all the good restaurants, shopped in groovy downtown shops and talked our heads off deep into the night. I think we got about four hours worth of work done but those were concentrated hours!!!  And a baby business was born so there’s that! I’m sure I’ll share more on that later. Maybe more later than sooner but things are always cooking around here.

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Susan took us to the Ananda Gardens in Nevada City to see the 15,000 tulips they planted this year.  Fifteen thousand bulbs!!! Not all of them came up because of the crazy rains we had this year and other challenges but they were AMAZING. Like they always are.

Ananda is a meditational retreat seeped in spirituality which has been kind of a theme with me lately, even though I do not subscribe to woo-woo in general (being raised the way I was).  I do, however, connect deeply with the thousands of happy-faced tulips covering the terraces and hillsides and that powerful sense of peace and quiet you feel when you stand on the edge of  a vast ravine. The sheer compounding of atmosphere in a space like that is overwhelming and beautiful.  It demands respect and reverence.

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We tripped around downtown, tucking into shops for trinkets to bring back to our girls. I swear every shop in Nevada City has a yoga studio sound track playing and crystals dangling in the windows, catching rainbows. It’s not a bad mental state to be in. I wish Southern California could get a little more of it’s woo woo on sometimes and a little less of it’s stress and traffic and real housewifery. It’s very beautiful there and everyone seems to be an artist or a connoisseur of something delightful. I could definitely see myself living there someday.

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Speaking of woo woo… I’ve made some progress on the embiggerment of the Rockin’ Buddha painting. I busted it out a few weekends ago and now only have the details left. It was a blast to paint. I got lost in the movements and swirls of the paint and kind of forgot what I was painting. I might put a light wash over it to bring down the garishness of the colors. It just feels a little loud for our living room. I didn’t mean to make such a big Buddhist statement with it. I was just trying to replace the artwork Payam already had there.

Sadly, I think some of my relatives (and friends) who are devout Christians have found this painting offensive which I never meant it to be. It doesn’t feel that way to me, even though I was raised to believe that any idol or graven image was a portal for Satan to come into my life and wreck havoc. And here I am painting a giant one for my living room!!

I have mixed feelings about it. I may or may not keep the giant Buddha in the living room. Right now (s*)he feels very happy and pleasant, like she’s rocking out to The Weekend and she wants you to come stay awhile and stop being so afraid that bad things are going to happen.

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In other news, Payam has been rocking at the woodworking. He’s been making some beautiful things!  He’s also had some health issues and is on blood thinners right now which sends me into a deep state of fear every time I hear him fire up his bandsaw. I’m sure you can imagine all my daymares.payams-striped-coasters

Thankfully, he has not cut himself and he humors me by wearing gloves, big sturdy construction worker boots and being very very very careful all the time. But still I am a mess worrying about this.

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We’ve been tightening up his branding which I LOVE. He has a logo that is now on a branding iron and he can brand all of his wood pieces with a searing hot logo. It’s very cool but also difficult to get just right so you can imagine the carefulness it takes to brand a cutting board that you spend hours and hours working on and is made from expensive materials. No pressure! OR more accurately, JUST THE RIGHT PRESSURE! Just right. Then we wrap it all up in salvaged coffee bean bags I found and ship them off to customers. It’s been fun!

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What have I been making? I’ve been making lots of stuff. Mostly our house has been full of pink boxes, ribbon and pretty silk flowers for this Mother’s Day jewelry box craft we did for alphamom.com. (Do click through and watch the movie, I worked hard on it!) It’s funny because I needed a jewelry box which is what prompted this craft and now I have about five. Payam also bought me one from a thrift store that he is refinishing. (It’s really cool and has yellow velvet from the 70’s which I LOVE.)  Now I just need another dresser to display them on! I’m not complaining though.

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And, and, AND!!! Big news alert!!!  WE ARE GOING TO LONDON AND WALES this coming fall. With the kids! Can you believe it!? Seriously, making friends with a travel agent was my best decision ever.  Of course, the next trip I plan needs to be to the country of Payoffyourcreditcards but I am really happy that we can have these experiences and especially with the kids. I love travel. I am happiest when I am planning a trip or a party! Bring on the adventure!

Speaking of parties… you knew I was going there! Joon is having a Harry Potter-themed birthday party in a few weeks and I am in my favorite mad-manic party-planning mode. I love the challenge of combining a pool party with an unlikely theme like Harry Potter. I’m thinking terry cloth robes made from long burgundy towels I find somewhere cheap like Walmart, white helium balloons that look like owls, flying envelopes as a garland and of course brooms made out of pool noodles! Bring it on! Underwater Quiddich anyone?

What happens in Vegas…

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I survived Vegas and I had a great time! Who knew?! I might even hate it less than I used to, which is amazing because you know how I feel about Sin City and gambling and nightlife that doesn’t quit…it just makes my  head hurt. But not anymore!

Payam’s Birthday Bash was everything we hoped it would be and more. It was really, really fun. Mostly because the company we were with would be fun anywhere (and I mean anywhere) and because The Cosmopolitan is an amazing hotel that I could probably live in and never leave.

The view! Our travel agent hooked us up big time. If anybody is thinking of going to Las Vegas email me for her info. We had a balcony on the 26th floor over-looking the Bellagio fountains and I could sit out there for hours watching the light change and the fountains play. It was so pretty and peaceful to be in the middle of all the hubbub but to be above it, just watching all the twinkling lights. I really enjoyed it.

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I also really enjoyed The Neon Museum but I have to admit I may have gotten my hopes up a little too high. It fell short of my expectations. Mostly, because we had tickets for the middle of the day and the sun was beating down so hard on the white gravel that my eyes hurt. It was SO BRIGHT!! I never wear sunglasses and I really wished I would have. While I was bugging out about all the cool colors and fonts (stuff graphic designer dreams are made of!), I was also squinting and holding my hands over my eyes because I felt like a headache might come on.

Secondly, the actual lot that houses their collection of neon signs is small.  Really small. There are lots of signs all stacked on top of each other so there is a lot to look at but I thought we’d wander around an acre, maybe a warehouse or two like the parade float museum in New Orleans. It was barely the size of a small block. They also make you take a guided tour which means you’re stuck in a group trying to lean this way and that to take a photo so that the lady’s umbrella in front of you isn’t blocking your frame.

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We got a lot of umbrella shots. It’s actually really nice that they provided umbrellas though because it was hot in the sun!

I did like listening to the guided tour. Who doesn’t love a good old Vegas gangster story? But I also like to be able to wander independently so that was kind of a drag that we were tethered to our guide who rambled on and on. I would definitely recommend taking this tour during the morning hours or even better, sweet time (sunset) when everything would be glowing with golden light. The one good thing about our middle of the day tour was that the sky was super blue. So bright! So blue!

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So graphic! It was a lot to take in. We were glad to be done with the brightness and heading back to our oasis of a hotel afterwards.

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Which, let me tell you, is an oasis! I loved the Chandelier bar in the middle of the hotel. Sadly, I didn’t take any photos of the long sweeping pink beads that hang and drape from the ceiling and down two floors to create this massive illusion of a giant chandelier but you can see them on their website. It was so pretty! I loved the light blue satin couches that you could lounge on behind the bar and nobody really cared if you were drinking or just hanging out. We hung out there quite a bit.

We also tried their Buzz Button drink that is on their secret menu. Yes, remember this and order it if you are ever there because it was A TRIP! It’s this little flower bud (acmella oleracea, common name: toothache plant) that when you chew it, it creates this really strong tingling, cooling sensation in your mouth that is enhanced by the citrus in your drink. I was a little scared to try it at first, thinking they were serving me acid or something off their “secret” menu but it’s not hallucinogenic or anything like that and it only lasts for a minute or so.  It’s a fun surprise for your mouth! You might even want to try it and kiss someone like certain members of our group who decided to do that while the rest of us wolf-whistled and lost our minds laughing. It was a crazy bunch.

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We threw a little party in our hotel room suite the first night (enjoying the view on the balcony mightily) and then the second night we went off the strip to The Artisan for a private dinner. I have so many mixed feelings about The Artisan. It was a good find but lacked in some areas.

The Artisan is a really really funky, dark, gothic, vampiric boutique hotel that looks like it really goes off after hours. Unfortunately, our dinner party was before those going off hours. In the normal light of day, without the writhing, dancing bodies and bumping beats from the deejay, it was a little worse for wear.

The bar itself was awesome. They have art and mirrors on the ceiling and the whole room looks like something funky is going to happen, maybe a haunting, maybe a party? Who knows!  Our private dining room on the other hand was sad. I was so disappointed. It was pathetic.

It was a small back room with a fake marble plastic table in the middle. When I first walked in, the fluorescent chandelier lights were on full blast and it looked rinky-dink and cheap. Plastic glasses, no table cloth, our names printed on cards with Times Roman. I was so sad. This is what you get when you organize events remotely. I immediately dimmed the lights and that made it about a thousand times better.

The food was sad too. Frozen mushy vegetables out of a bag?! Thankfully, the rib eye was tasty and so were the mashed potatoes (and I hear the lamb and shrimp were good too) and more importantly our guests were off-the-hook fun so nobody but me really seemed to care about the food. Too bad I’m a micro-managing party planner and these things really bum me out.

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We made the best of it. We laughed the night away with all the usual shenanigans. Payam has a raucous group of friends who always make my sides hurt from laughing so hard. My smile muscles ached worse than usual that night and I got over the lousy food eventually. We sang happy birthday, ate cake, toasted the birthday boy and all and all had a pretty great time.

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Here are some of us lounging in the bar. You get the idea. Very funky. I don’t know if I’d recommend staying here overnight but if you are a vampire you might like getting your groove on. There was this one couch that was so old and dilapidated you immediately sunk to your ankles as soon as you sat down on it. And then you were stuck wriggling like a bug trying to get your butt up out of it. We had a lot of fun pranking our unknowing guests as they arrived one by one with that one.

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Then back to our hotel for a little gambling (for Payam), a little drinking (for Payam) and a little sleep (for me!) so we could get our butts back home in the morning! Nothing like a whirlwind Vegas trip to make you appreciate your regular boring old life. Which by the way included a ton of traffic on the drive home. Next time we HAVE to leave earlier because that drive home was the pits. Hours and hours of standstill traffic.

Good thing I can pretty much block that drive home out with all these other good memories!