JOE CHAO | A Putter, a Fishing Reel, a Heineken, a Family

Mad, Mere, and Papa, Christmas 2012

I've had a lump in my throat for over a week and it's showing no sign of abating.

It started last Friday night, the 20th, with a text from Mad: “Daddy's been in a really bad car accident with Mere and Papa, please call this (random) number.”

And she's just a kid; she doesn't understand about FIRST saying, “Daddy's ok, I talked to him.” I would have done the same thing at her age. But for a couple of hours there, I thought her Daddy and her grandparents were all dead. And I did the Alias-pilot-Sydney-Bristow-silent-open-mouthed ugly cry in a restaurant parking lot for a while before springing into action and calling that paramedic's number, during which conversation I screamed such gems as, “JUST TELL ME IF HE IS DEAD! WHO IS DEAD? I WANT TO KNOW THE AMOUNT OF DEADNESS THAT THERE IS OMIGOD MAN JUST TELL ME WHAT THE SOUTHERN-FRIED HELL IS GOING ON!” And so forth, until he needed to hang up and call a mental institution.

I am clearly great in a crisis.

Vince called me an hour or so later and told me about the accident: they were on a highway, stopped in traffic, their car was rear-ended at great speed, Vince was driving, etc, etc, oh God do the details even matter right now? We determined together that he was, in fact, all right. We joked about how well people could gauge his hotness even all bandaged up, in a hospital gown. His mom, he reported, was all right, too. And then: “My dad didn't make it.”

Insert tandem ugly cry here. Insert panic, helplessness, and immediate booking of a flight.

So that's where I was last week. First in Texas, where the accident happened, then in Monroe, tending to my Chaos, who are all still and will always be my family. Vince's and his mom's injuries were relatively minor, and they are physically on the mend, but the family's grief is profound and colossal.

This story isn't really about me, of course: I lost a father-in-law, a man I adored, who was funny and generous and who never failed to make me and everyone around him feel loved. But the Chaos lost a husband and a dad, and my little girl lost her grandfather. I know what that feels like, to lose someone so suddenly and violently, and I know how it takes you right out of your body and into some surreal state of shock, interspersed with great crashing waves of grief. I am so grateful that I was able to be there to help however I could when that family, who have done so many things for my own family over the years, needed it. That we were all able to be together, to laugh, cry, tell inside jokes, change bandages, clean up all of the things, eat ham, worry about logistics, and regale each other with stories about Joe Chao's always-hilarious antics (the one about his 71-year-old self high on a ladder with a chainsaw and a Heineken – at 10:30 a.m. – is one of our favorites).

Meanwhile, back in DC, my partner was admitted to the hospital on that Monday and spent the entire week there, alone. Just some fun insult piled onto injury. She is ok, too, and following the services on Thursday, I returned to her and to DC to teach a Saturday design camp to some of the sweetest, most gracious people who ever gathered in a room. They endured my scattered, sometimes teary-eyed lessons about paint and lighting and choosing furniture, even acting like they'd learned something, and it was so helpful to return to some normalcy, if even for a day. DC campers, you are the best, and thank you so much. Lastly, a huge thank you to the friends and family who buoyed us all this week: Al, Chris, George, Cher, Eliza, Matt, Nixie, Erik, Jesse, Bef, my parents, and so many others who reached out with support. You showed us this week what real love looks like, and you will never know how much it meant to us.

It doesn't feel right just yet to start talking about my favorite Etsy shops or the boots I want for fall, or anything else for that matter. But I feel like it might be just the thing to start the healing process, so please don't think I'm insensitive should you see a roundup this week about fabulous products. I would also like to ask that you gather up whatever good thoughts, vibes, prayers, etc. you can muster, and send them the Chaos' way.

Here is Joe's obituary, which I wrote with help from all the Chao boys, along with the laughter and mayhem that goes with the territory of hanging with those three nutty brothers. If you read it you will be able to see what a remarkable, accomplished, interesting man Joe was, and how many funny stories there are to tell about his crazy habits. He will be missed like no other, and although I know that time will ease this lump in my throat, and the Chao family's grief, it can't come soon enough.


Your Tuesday DC-Related Headless Photo

Photo: Thu Nguyen

Today I went on a little DC adventure with my pal Thu, which included riding a train; more food trucks (including 1) Stella's, and 2) a Sloppy Joe truck that was out of a) chips, b) drinks, and c) beef); the Renwick Gallery, where I got in trouble for touching things; and photos in front of the White House. I think I'm gonna like it here.


DC LIVING | Stella's PopKern


I met up with a new friend yesterday for coffee, and she brought two bags of Stella's PopKern (hee!) for us to snack on while we coffeed. You may not know this about me, but popcorn is one of my favorite foods. It says so right there in my bio. So, I may have been overly excited. And then I tasted it, and now I want to live inside the truck. Right inside. Failing that, I can always live underneath it.

Listen. I know all you big-city people out there have seen so many food trucks that probably you have food truck fatigue. But this small-town girl is new, and excited about it. Also: ZA'ATAR-flavored popcorn? What is za'atar? I don't know. But I know it's delicious, and that I want it on my popcorn at all times, and that I would eat said popcorn for every meal if I could.

I am pretty sure this also means that I'm going to have to do research on more delicious food truck options for y'all to know about. It's going to be really sad and hard for me.

Speaking of DC, there are still a couple of DC mini-design camp spots left. Maybe I'll bring Stella's for you, who knows?

Follow Stella's PopKern on Twitter so you can know where they are at all times. I certainly am.


Fashion | Fall Uniform 2013

1. Aiden Modern Vintage Turquoise Ring / 2. Jennie Kwon Black Equilibrium Cuff Ring / 3. Jules Smith Zoe Bracelet / 4. Sorel Caribou Boots / 5. Tuareg Fleece Jacket + Scarf / 6. Zara Funnel Collar Dress / 7. Madewell Linen Baseball Tee / 8. Benjo's Cousin Traci Boot Laces / 9. She Makes Hats Simple Slouch Hat / 10. Emerson Fry Trainer / 11. Joe's Jeans Rolled Skinny Ankle / 12. Kowtown Seattle Black Pant / 13. Eyefly Abbey Road / 14. By Terry Baume de Rose Lip Care / 15. Deborah Lippmann Dark Side of the Moon / 16. Leonor Greyl Eclat Naturel Styling Cream / 17. Bumble and Bumble Thickening Dryspun Finish / 18. Madewell Western Jean Shirt  / 19. H&M Knee Socks  / 20. CloudberryFactory Knitted Wool Socks


And now, presenting this year's Fall Uniform. It's a little different than the Elegant Cowgirl of past seasons. I'm going a little more monochromatic, a little more edgy, a little more... COLD. I'm really into the slouchy-pantsed, layered look that's happening. Also: short dresses, tights, wool socks, and boots. Because now I live in Canadia.

Vince Paper Leather Scuba Jacket

I am also yearning for a leather jacket. Here is my money-is-no-object pick. If you are my rich uncle, please get in touch. I'd also take this one. It's on "sale."


Life List | A Room Dedicated to My Closet

Brought to you by Energizer®. Click here to learn more about Energizer® Portable Lights with Light Fusion Technology.


When I made my life list a few years ago, I included the item "Live in a house with a room dedicated to my closet." It's hard for me to keep my things organized in a little closet, where they get hidden behind other items or tossed on the floor and forgotten about, so I loved the idea of being able to see all of my clothes, shoes, accessories, and jewelry all at once. I realize that this is quite a goal in any space, especially when there are people, you know, living in a house and using the the rooms for things like sleeping. But my recent move to DC has made so many things possible, including this weird dream of mine. The house we are living in happens to have an office that was only being used infrequently; I have a lot of clothes; and we are sorely lacking in adequate closet space, so I was basically given permission to turn the office into my very own closet. Victory!


Jenna Lyons is inspirational to me on several different levels, and it was the original photo of her closet room that inspired me to add this particular item to my life list. Unfortunately, I do not own as many shoes as Jenna does, nor do I live in a fabulous Brooklyn townhouse, so I decided to combine the closet and another super-inspirational photo -- Jenna's office at J. Crew. That's right: a closet + office. A cloffice, if you will.

I had all the clothes, obviously, and we bought a clothing rack, hung some shelves + hooks for shoes, bags, and scarves, and repurposed a big restaurant work table as a desk, but the desk chair was, shall we say, lacking in style. What I am telling you is that it was ugly as sin. Purchased for $5 at a garage sale, someone had "helpfully" spray-painted the perfectly good, very cute industrial-type wood and metal chair black -- poorly -- and then applied a red faux finish. I mean to tell you.

Of course, that could not stand. And, of course, I decided that the chair needed to be properly stripped, sanded, and repainted. Right now. In the dead of night. Enter Energizer and their amazing line of portable lights.

The Girl With The Spray Paint Problem.

That right there is the 3 in 1 Light, which is perfect for up-close spray paint situations. 

I set the Folding Lantern on the ground for illuminating the bottom of the chair while I painted it. Also, my grass is now black. 

I love the 3 in 1 light's little legs, so it can stand up by itself.

A good sanding and a few coats of clear lacquer on the seat, et voila!

Here is the office room before. Please note that most of these items are mine -- the room obviously didn't look like this before I hauled in all of my junk. By junk, I mean three lawn and leaf bags full of wardrobe.

And now, it looks like this:

When I finished putting the cloffice together, I realized I didn't have enough light sources for nighttime. Bonus: The Pop Up Lantern is perfect for lighting up the inside of a cheapo paper lantern. EXTRA BONUS: it has a dimmer!

Hello, beautiful.

Brought to you by Energizer®. Click here to learn more about Energizer® Portable Lights with Light Fusion Technology.