A few weeks ago we had a series of crazy thunderstorms in Monroe, one of which broke an entire ligustrum (I think? Correct me if I'm wrong) in half. I am currently in the midst of the non-stop spring cleaning/decorating/styling binge that happens to me and my house every year. This venture includes trolling my yard -- in a robe and slip flops, shut up -- for suitable vegetation to bring into the house. I don't really care what it is as long as it is big. So above, you see parts of the destroyed shrub, along with some of my beloved lantana, and the Carolina jessamine that threatens to take over my yard on a yearly basis. I would like, here, to give thanks for the product known as Oasis, for allowing me to basically cut everything up and shove the branches haphazardly into this concrete urn.

It's been long established that Maggie's favorite decorating style is what she describes as celebratory decay. I love the idea of that: something lovely and old, just waiting to be found and reclaimed, its very antiquity informing its beauty. My decorating style, which I'm not sure I've shared before, is what I like to call rich old grandmother: a ridiculous mix of old, new, high, low, modern, antique, masculine, feminine, a little bit Southern, and just the right amount of batty. So this beat-down old bush is giving me some celebratory rich old grandmother decay feelings. 

This week, I'm at the beach on the east coast. I have never been to the beach on the east coast, having been raised visiting the Emerald Coast of Florida, also known as the Redneck Riviera. Anyway, the first night here I came across this enormous horseshoe crab, a creature I'd never seen before. It's basically an old-timey helmet with a tail. It was really dead and smelled like it, so of course I picked it up and took it back to the beach house with me.

Per the instructions I found on the internet, I soaked the crab -- henceforth to be known as Horace H. Horcrab, PhD Horticulture, Horvard University -- in alcohol for 48 hours. Then I cut out Horace's, um, soft parts with kitchen scissors. Please do not tell the owners of this beach house. Horace then took a long soak in a tub full of bleach, and is now resting peacefully in the sun, drying to a golden crisp. Later, I will spray Horace down with a few coats of lacquer and use him as decoration. 

Horace has been my project all week, and is making me happier than an old dead crab should make someone. And that, my friends, is some celebratory decay. BOOM. 

 Horace.

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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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I'm in beautiful San Juan this week, which probably makes those of you in the cold hope I drown in this here water. In lieu of a headless photo, please regard Puerto Rico's incredible scenery being totally photobombed by this awkward bystander.

I shall return in a couple of days with a camp recap, a coupon, a book review, a life list update, and a super fun times giveaway. Not necessarily in that order.

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This is basically my favorite picture that has ever happened: my child driving a kayak, with Hank following along behind her like a bodyguard. (And the tennis ball. Never forget the tennis ball.)

In camp news, if you have written me about the Austin intern position and I haven't responded, it is not because I don't love you -- it is because I am on vacation and am kind of distracted by things like the above. I will be in contact next week! Please be patient with me during this difficult time.

OK, now I have to go cut a three year-old's hair in the bar. Don't ask; just accept it.

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Prepping for NOLA Camp, trying not to eat all of the chocolate croissants

Hello, hello. I've got a lot to talk about this fine Friday. It seems like this should be another three-day weekend, doesn't it? Let us make it so: everyone call in sick on Monday! If you get in trouble, blame it on me.

First item on the agenda: Camp News!

1. I am looking for an intern-slash-assistant to help me with the Austin Camp. The job is easy PA-type work -- picking up coffee, setting up lunch, opening champagne. You know, the usual. Plus, free camp! If you are interested, please email me with the subject line "Austin Intern." 

2. Speaking of Austin, there are three spots left. I am just telling you. Oh, and a location has finally been chosen! Austin Design Camp will be held at Meredith Pardue's brand new art studio in Davenport Village. You may remember Meredith from such paintings as all of the ones in my house. I tried to make her be my intern, but she said she would be hospitalized for exhaustion at that time. 

3. My two San Francisco camps have been a comedy of errors, what with cancellations, un-cancellations, people switching weekends to be with their friends who can only go on a certain date, pregnant ladies who might go into labor on their weekend, etc. The upshot is, there is now one (1!) spot left for the first SF weekend. The dates are July 21-22. So if you've been waiting to sign up, or waiting for an opening, here's your chance!

4. I have had lots of new signups in the past week thanks to some nice people on the internet, and I just want to say thank you, both to them and to those of you who have signed up, especially if you are new readers! I am super-excited about the remaining camps, and also, thank you for reading! (Quit laughing, Sars.)

Abruptly switching topics, let's discuss the Books I Am Taking to the Beach next week. I don't know if y'all know this about me, but I get excited for the beach kind of like a goldfish gets excited for...well, anything. I forget, then I remember, then I get excited all over again! This happens for approximately three months prior to the actual vacation. Anyway, I have lots of books on my iPad for the trip, but I like to have real live books in my hand for actual beach reading. Sand in your iPad is kind of uncomfortable. So these are the three I've chosen:

1. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. I kind of like running, maybe you've heard? This book keeps coming up in nerdy running conversations with my fellow nerdy runners, so it is first up. Don't disappoint me, Murakami.

2. Let's Pretend This Never Happened. Duh. Everyone on the internet has read this one twice already, but I have WILLPOWER, y'all, and I SAVED IT so I would be GUARANTEED a fabulous beach book. You are welcome, Jenny Lawson. I know this is something you've dreamed about.

3. The Sociopath Next Door. You never know! Be prepared. 

The book I am most excited about, really, is the one written by my friend Kelley Lilien. It is a book of COCKTAILS. It is formatted like a SWATCH BOOK. And it is beautiful and filled with fancy beach drinks and I will have them all. Mrs. Lilien's Cocktail Swatchbook, I will conquer you!

OK, so the last thing I want to talk about is something awesome that I am very excited to be a part of. The principal designer of the St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway here in Monroe asked me and several other designers to collaborate on decorating and styling the house before the tour begins next week. We each chose a room, and I will soon be the proud decorator of a guest bedroom in this really, really lovely house. It's been a huge honor to work on this project, and I can't wait to see the finished house. If you're a local, please stop by and check it out. And then buy a ticket! But try not to buy the winning ticket, because I kind of want to win. Thank you for your cooperation.

That's it, ladies and gentlemen. I'll be back next week with some exciting new content, including the bathroom I've been promising you for weeks now. Probably. If I don't call in sick Monday. Oh, don't get all mad, you're doing it too!

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AuthorAB Chao
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