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!

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.