Yesterday, I got to do a fun thing where I commandeered the Illume Candles Instagram feed. If you missed it, here's what happened (and don't miss the coupon code at the end of this post!):

I took a bubble bath surrounded by all of my favorite Illume body products, plus iced coffee. Their Anemone bath salts and triple-milled bar soap (in Cactus Verde) are a powerful, delicious combo. I still smell amazing RIGHT THIS SECOND.

Cactus Verde bar soap close-up. My soap dish is a vintage flower frog, and you cannot have it.

One of my new favorite products are the Gallery Glass candles. Y'all these are seriously beautiful. They look like some sort of a tropical ombre cocktail. (Please do not attempt to drink candle wax.) Also, their oversized matches are extremely cute.

 The new Boho Jar design is so good, and is perfect for staging a vignette with one's favorite Pyrex science vase, and yes, another vintage flower frog. I may have a tiny problem.

I think I grossed some people out when I suggested that these Color Block Tins could be used to store old fingernail clippings after the candle had burned down. Just be glad I didn't go with my original choice, in which I advised using the tins to store the teeth of spurned lovers. What?

And, of course, the day ended with Anemone and Blue Coral candles (mixing fragrances is fun!), and the new episode of Scandal. Giant bowl of popcorn not pictured, because I ate it all.

Also, also, also! If any of these delightful items strike your fancy, you can get them over at Illume's website, AND take 20% off any order over $40 with code AB2014 through March 7. Yay! And thanks to the fine folks at Illume for all the fun and for this generous offer. Go be lovely, y'all!

AuthorAB Chao
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BREAKING: The last two design camps have been scheduled! See below:


1. San Francisco Design Camp Mini, located at Oh Happy Day Studio, will take place on Saturday, March 15. Sign up here!

2. New York Design Camp Mini, location TBA, will take place on Saturday, April 12. Sign up here!

Spaces are limited for both camps, so hurry hurry hurry up!

I've missed y'all. Be back soon. xo

AuthorAB Chao
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What is up, people of the vast and illustrious world-wide web? I mean, you’re world-wide. There’s probably a lot going on. AB Chao, for example, has various things happening and can’t be blogging for a minute. She’s out DOING. Let’s face it, she’s dewing. You’re at your house like, “I think I’m going to get up and go do that thing that I have been thinking of doing,” and you go to do it and it’s done. Because AB did it while you weren’t looking. You’ve been planning to put scented drawer liners in your linen closet for three years. Go check it right now – she’s already done it, and you owe her time-and-a-half, because she did it on a Sunday while you were supposed to be at church but were actually sleeping off a slangover. (A slangover is when you go out on Halloween dressed as, let’s say, a Sexy Supreme Court Justice, and you’re having a beer that’s actually 13 beers and you think “I am going to be really hungover, tomorrow” but you’re old now so it’s so much worse than that – you’re SLUNGover.) You can’t even get up to let AB in your house to do everything that needs doing, so she has to come creepin’ down your stovepipe. Do people even have stovepipes anymore? I don’t know, but she’s coming down it, and she’s wearing a stovepipe hat and stovepipe jeans, and now you have to go out and buy those things to wear because she makes them look so good. Here is your new wardrobe:



I’m silly, but a lot of people I know, AB included, really are busy with just… DIFFICULTY, man. I guess that’s true every day, everywhere. Maybe with you, too. Hard times. They appear to be upon those near and dear to me on a serious level right now. Upheaval everywhere. Friends facing illness; loved ones experiencing heavy losses; compatriots in crises all around. And, while I try to inject some levity with my $2k Chimney Chic stylings (and, be aware that I almost made you go out and buy stovepipe trousers that included a peplum, but instead showed mercy), 2013 has been, if you can stand a major understatement, NOT GREAT for my crew. It’s a rough time and all I can do is rally, long distance. So, as we move through this month of gratitude prior to the annual time of renewal (I sound like a Wiccan, but y’all know what I mean), I want so badly for the good times to roll again. I want my people on solid ground. Yes, I pray for the, I don’t know, serenity to look back and be thankful for whatever but, Lord, help us get on the road to whatever’s next. And let it be good. Because we all need good.

I once wrote a song, in AB’s dining room, about a house on fire. I needed to write it, literally and metaphorically, because I had been through hard times and was coming out the other side. I struggled with feeling and showing gratitude. I struggled with believing that newness would come, but it did, because it does. We’ve got two months left in this dumbass year. If we’re using them to prep for 2014, how best to get started? Do we all need to go on a master cleanse of some kind? Do those work? I used to be so good at drawing the Hard Times Recovery Roadmap. I’m obviously not, anymore. So, in lieu of knowing The Right Thing to say; instead of providing The Perfect Solution; and forgoing the urge to leap in and fix everything with some kind of Take Care of Yourself List, let me offer this, just in case you are going through some BS.

Your house is on fire. Let it burn. You will be reduced. You will have less. You will suffer pain. But, fires consume and then they burn out. Every day, keep running, until you get out of the house. You will rise up. You’ll be covered with ashes. And you’ll stylishly sweep them away.
AuthorAB Chao
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Sometimes you just need to sit around in your $600 satin PJ pants and ultra-luxe cashmere sweater and eat popcorn. Sometimes you would like to do this during the day, as is my desire right this second. Can I get a little more satin-bepantsed Olivia Pope style in my life, please? THANKS, UNIVERSE.

1. Carine Gilson Silk-Satin Pajama Pants

2. See by Chloe Picture Frame Keychain

3. Gorjana Aria Ring Set

4. Mother of Pearl iPhone 5 Case

5. Cristinaeffe Collection Cardigan

6. Herbivore Botanicals Lip Butter

7. Popcorn!

AuthorAB Chao
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Nothing like some pretty things to take your mind off sadness, right? IKEA is kind of killing it this year with their new lines. And I love the dark/moody + shiny art direction. 

I'm not a big fan of talking about the holidays this early in the year -- in fact, it kind of enrages me. But I would like to paint a thing black and then throw a bunch of shiny stuff all around it, right this second. 

Hey, sexy lights. Come over to my house and we'll have a dimmer party. Hee. "Dimmer party."

I always find myself getting way into plaid in the fall/winter months. It's just so cozy. And that wallpaper! GIVE IT TO ME.

I will have this chair, and I will sit in it, and I will feel like some sort of Scandinavian style celebrity. The end.

PS. Thank you all so much for your sweet comments, emails, and carrier pigeons. They all made me cry, in the good way. xoxo.

AuthorAB Chao
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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.

AuthorAB Chao
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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.

AuthorAB Chao
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