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!

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AuthorAB Chao
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Calloo, callay! Here's another Clementine Store giveaway!

Emily, the owner of Clementine, attended my NYC design camp, and we became fast friends due to her unwavering awesomeness. Her store has an amazing selection of handmade, vintage, and locally-made (in Vermont!) goodies, and I frequently would like to have them all. Today we are giving away several products with a "Be Brave!" theme. Are you the winner? First, check out the adorable items in the giveaway:

Be Brave Decal by Shanna Murray

Go Get 'Em Tiger Card / Leopard iPhone 5 Case / Proud of You Card / You Are Awesome Card

Emily even put together a little video on how to apply your Be Brave decal! Look: 

 

HOW TO ENTER:

1. Go to Clementine and look at/squee over/purchase all of the adorable items.

2. Check out (and like!) the Clementine Store page on Facebook.

2. Leave a comment here telling us about a brave thing you did recently.

One (1!) winner will be randomly chosen next Monday, July 8. Open to US residents only.

ALSO! Get 15% off all Clementine orders with code BEBRAVE at checkout, through 7/9!

We can't wait to hear your stories. GO, GO, GO!

UPDATE, July 8: Contest closed -- winner is #27, DriverB! Congratulations and thank you to all who entered!

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AuthorAB Chao
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Let's go to the beach and read things. Yes? YES.

I'm hitting the beach on Friday, and I'll be taking these books along. We've got two memoirs, three fictions, one true crime*, and one historical fiction. That about ought to do it, don't you think? 

OMIGOD I CANNOT WAIT. Where are you going this year, and what are you reading?

 

*Thanks, as always, to Hateful Buntsy for her excellent true crime recs.

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AuthorAB Chao
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Here's what the jacket description of Stealing Magnolias: Tales from a New Orleans Courtyard says:

In this dreamy and seductive entree into the magical city that is New Orleans, author Debra Shriver, a twelfth-generation Southerner, Francophile, passionate preservationist and jazz devotee creates a book that is part love letter, part scrapbook, and gives readers a rare tour behind courtyard walls and private gates of this enigmatic city, which is often considered the Paris of America.

Yes, yes. Those things are true. This gorgeous book is indeed part love letter, part scrapbook, part courtyard tour. But what you really need to know is that I read the thing from cover to cover. 

The photographs are gorgeous, of course -- and I am usually into coffee-table books like this just for the pretty pictures -- but the text is just as captivating. Each chapter tells a different story of New Orleans -- the Mardi Gras Indians and the Zulu parade; falling in love with the city; choosing and decorating a a house; throwing a magnificent party, complete with recipes; the incredible musical history of the city; and fun sidebars with information about things like correct party attire and local traditions. 

There are quotes from various New Orleans natives scattered throughout. They are all quite charming, but my favorite is the one from Justin Lundgren:

It takes a special kind of person to choose New Orleans over most of America. You have to be the kind who can dance at a funeral and spend thousands of dollars on plastic trinkets just for the privilege of throwing them off a tractor-driven float to complete strangers.

Yep. Sounds about right for me.

And there is, of course, an entire chapter devoted to the monogram, which caused me to stand up and salute my Leontine Linens.

All photos from Stealing Magnolias: Tales from a New Orleans Courtyard by Debra Shriver, copyright © 2010, published by Glitterati Incorporated.

I did not need to be sold on New Orleans, of course -- it's my favorite place on this entire planet, and I plan to one day live there. But I leave you with this warning: if you buy this book, you will likely find yourself, one day, as my neighbor.

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What's that you say? You hate Valentine's Day? Hey, I feel you. It can be such a jerk sometimes. But today I've teamed up with the awesome Emily at Clementine for a giveaway that is going to make you want to pour a glass of champagne, put on some Joni Mitchell, and romance YOUR OWN SELF. What we are saying is, honey, be your own Valentine.

This giveaway contains such queenly items as a mini milk & honey soap, a slate & gold geometric notebook , a felt Clementine bookmark, a letterpressed "Hooray For You!" card, a hand-built gold leaf paper dish, and of course, a wishing bracelet.

Oh, and just some amazingly indulgent and beautiful honey caramels, infused with grapefruit essence, enrobed in milk chocolate, dusted with bee pollen and sea salt, and wrapped in pistachios. NO BIG DEAL.

I know. It's the best giveaway ever. I wish I could win it myself. So y'all get to entering! All you have to to do enter is comment here and tell us what you're wearing. What? It's my website, I can do what I want. (Also, please remember to enter an email address.)

I'll choose a random winner and announce it on February 14. And go visit Clementine in the meantime -- there is lots of other way good stuff over there. 

Thank you so much, Emily! And, Happy Valentine's Day, Honeys!

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AuthorAB Chao
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DC Camp: How can I describe its awesomeness? First of all, Tabula Rasa provided the incredible space. If you need to have an event in DC and you like all-white palettes and beautiful things and a stocked champagne refrigerator, this is your place. They even had overhead lights to match our mood (a sort of pinkish-purple, which is why all of my inside shots have a crazy white balance. I love it.)

Oh yeah, and the campers were pretty good, too.

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Pictured above foreground, left and right: Beth and Kristen, who had absolutely no business helping me as much as they did -- Kristen sent me a bazillion informational emails before camp that I could not have lived without, and Beth a) brought me a gift, b) helped clean up EVERYTHING, ALL OF THE TIME, and c) deposited me safely to my hotel one particularly boozy night. I'll say only that it involved sake oyster shots. Let us never speak of it again.

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InkKit sent some adorable gift packs for the girls. More on her great shop later. 

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The food was incredible, and all within spitting distance of our space: Pizza from Matchbox, homemade pop tarts from Ted's Bulletin, cupcakes from The Sweet Lobby, coffee from Firehook, banh mi from Pho 14, and random Japanese snack we found in a drawer. 

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If you look closely, you can see our Mimosa "Be Brave" necklaces, this time in RED. Love. Also, Amy's arm. I am certain she was explaining something life-changing.

Below: In between all the fun and food and good times, I like to teach stuff. Here, we're learning how to hang art properly. It's important, y'all.

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Before we got started on Sunday morning, Jennifer expressed a deep longing to learn to saber a bottle of champagne. Naturally, we obliged. You can't turn that kind of life lesson down.

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VICTORY!

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Flower arranging contest: ON. First I showed the class how to do it...

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Then I divided them up into two ridiculously competitive teams. Seriously, there was not even a prize for this and these ladies acted like it was the final challenge on Survivor.

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GIRL EAT FLOWER.

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They're both so cute. Can you even tell who won? Hint: It was the team with the flower-eater.

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What is camp without awesome props and sponsors? Katey and Chris from The Society of Natural Industry sent a custom-painted string of lights that was so beautiful it is now hanging in my house. 

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I am no longer able to hold a camp without my stash of PomLove confetti. It just can't be done.

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I'd like to thank Mad and Vince Chao for sharpening ALL of those pencils, and Knot & Bow for the cute twine I tied them together with.

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I spray-painted some antlers before camp and brought them with me in my luggage. Don't ask me how, because it is a secret.

Antler styling: me. Neon string, Mason jar, and flower styling: Amy, who is craftier than she lets on; and Camille, my actual intern who was actually awesome in every way. In addition to being a delight to be around, Camille runs 50 miles a week with her rescue pit bull, and volunteers at a stable teaching disabled children to ride horses. So, she is obviously some sort of do-gooder alien sent here to make us feel inferior.

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Baggu bags, this time with foxes and alpacas! I think these are my favorite ones we've ever had.
When we got ready to take our group picture, something awesome happened. I'll just let these photos speak for themselves.
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I guess it's a good thing Beth likes dogs. Clearly that dog couldn't resist this adorable group.

And that was DC camp! I'm sure the girls will fill y'all in on anything I missed in the comments: they're a gregarious bunch. I love them. Thank you thank you thank you for being a part of this, ladies.

Anyone else want to come to camp? Well, you're in luck, because I'm going to tell you next year's cities TOMORROW. Whee!

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Categoriesdesign camp
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After a prolonged search for an event space, I turned to my blog friends for help. And none of them helped, because they are all jerks, but I remembered that Jordan had attended an event at the Sunday Suppers studio a few weeks before I started searching. So I emailed Karen, the owner, and name-dropped Jordan, and all of a sudden I was having NYC camp at this gorgeous space.

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The whole place is painted white, with white floors, exposed beams and columns, and gorgeous natural light. Oh, also,  a full kitchen, complete with industrial appliances and marble counters, and real glassware, dishes, and so forth. So, basically, my house. Isn't it lovely?

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The tables are handmade and ridiculously heavy, but did that stop me and my two tiny friends from moving them all around so the campers could see properly? NO. I may have a couple slipped discs now, but all in the name of education. 

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Yes, yes, y'all. I've started taking this to every camp. The people seem to like it. Thanks again, Vanessa!

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My friend Sarah -- you know Sarah, right? She's a genius? -- recommended her friend Kat to do the flowers. Not only is Kat funny and adorable, but the flowers turned out so beautifully I nearly wept. I told you Sarah was a genius.

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Top photo: The view from the studio. Bottom photo: Sarah B, Genius.

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This here is Beckie, who served as my intern/assistant for the weekend. She's sitting there like that because she is tired from DOING EVERYTHING. This is actually the last minute of quiet before the campers arrived. Beckie is contemplating jumping out one of those windows, probably. 

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We had a full house in the NYC class. Also coffee, mimosas, and hysterical laughter.

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Here we are doing introductions. I am the short one standing on a bench. My favorite part of this was when I asked each camper to introduce herself and tell us her greatest irrational fear, and someone was like, "I don't have any irrational fears. Only real ones. Like, bears." I'm afraid that one is irrational, Lifelong Resident of New York City.

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It still shocks me when people act like they are interested in what I have to say, and then I am doubly shocked when they tell me they learned something from it. I think what is so helpful to me is that, after every camp, I have a better understanding of what works and what doesn't, and it helps me to refine the way I share information so I'll present it even better the next time. On that note, I would like to apologize to my very first class, since y'all clearly learned nothing. (Just kidding.)

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The whole of the first day of camp is classroom-style lecture/slides/discussion, so it helps to lubricate + caffeinate one's students as often as possible. I think we went through a gallon of coffee and half a case of prosecco on the first day. These ladies were FUN by 5 in the afternoon.

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It also helps to feed them food. I cannot thank Radish NYC enough for their delightful lunches -- Radish catered for us both days, and everything was pitch-perfect, down to the HOMEMADE SODAS they brought, like, oh, now I'm in Williamsburg. Also, they delivered everything. Total bonus for Beckie.

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 Campers lunchin'.

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I do not know what is happening here.

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And then we had more class, and good snacks, and it was time to go home.

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Day 2! The weather and studio and campers were just as beautiful as the first day, except now we were all best friends. Instead of jumping right in with the campers' individual houses, which I usually do, we started the day with a kind of AB Chao Dewit Master Class, which means the campers learned the important ways I like to make beds, hang curtains, arrange art, and style everything from furniture to tables. I know, you are riveted by this schedule change information. ACTUALLY, smarty-pants, it worked really well, and I plan to do it again.

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Lucy charmed me with her funny name tags.

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We again had a delicious lunch care of Radish, and then it was time for...

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SPECIAL GUEST NICK OLSEN! Do you have a question, lady in the back?

Nick was kind enough to stay and answer questions for as long as the campers had questions, and it was so nice for them to get his take on NYC-specific problems: renting, radiator fires, where the best upholstery guy is located, how he stays so trim despite a steady diet of cheeseburgers and gin and tonics.

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"It's this big."

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Quit taking pictures and get back to work, Beckie.

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After Nick was finished with the class, we refreshed with a little snack break and he signed autographs for all the ladies. Just kidding. Nick can't write, y'all. No, seriously, we were all so happy to have him there and now he is under contract to attend every single camp I ever have, for the rest of time. Thanks, Nick!

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Another fun surprise was when Sarah from Rivet & Sway, who came as a camper, busted out her case of beautiful frame samples. Naturally, we swarmed them like nerdy little design bees. I couldn't decide on anything, of course, so I think I'm going to do their awesome home-try-on thing.  

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We decided to take our group photo in our sample glasses. Studiously adorable. Photo by Hateful Buntsy, who attended camp the second day for the sole purpose of getting to make fun of me later.

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 And now it's time to thank some of our incredible brands and sponsors for this camp. Baggu, of course, who keeps me in adorable bags for every camp.

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The unfairly talented Hannah sent the photo prints. The perfect start for a gallery wall, don't you think?

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I've mentioned before that the number one rule I have for campers is "BE BRAVE." Can you believe these? Holly from HollyWouldPress sent these gorgeous prints, and they are even better in person. Holly's shop has some really cute things, AND she is a fellow southerner. Nashville represent! Go see her over at Etsy.

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 In other local artisan news, I have long admired Madeline's work at Mimosa. For instance, she does work like the initial necklace you see above, a thing she must have known I'd wear every day (I do!). Madeline is based in Baton Rouge, and don't think I won't go down there and hug her neck in person for creating the FLAMAZING original necklaces for camp. Look:

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What's that? It's the most beautiful thing you've ever seen? I agree. Sometimes I wear like five of them at the same time. Y'all, they are so lovely that they made the campers CRY. That is maybe the highest compliment that can be paid, right? At least it is in my world. You make me cry, we're in love for life. Also, now I really need these earrings for the fall. In addition to the site, Mimosa also has an Etsy shop with even MORE pretty things for you to look at and have. Yay, Madeline! 

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Oh, also, this girl I know sent a box full of individually autographed copies of her new novel, You Take It From Here. That was pretty nice, I guess. 

Actually, it was incredibly sweet, especially since this girl is about a hundred years pregnant with a baby she will probably name Anna Beth. Thanks, Pam. I love you.

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Another big thank you to all my ladies who came to camp! Y'all were so fun and sweet and, yes, my favorite class ever. See you next year.

Please enjoy some of the Instagram photos we took, right here.

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PS. Want to come to camp? I want you to! The last one of the year is a mini-camp (one day) on Saturday, December 8 in Chicago. There are a few spots left, so come on!

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