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.

When I was staying with Maggie lo, those many months ago (July), it occurred to me that every time she fixed Hank's dinner, or a simple drink, or even a late-night snack, she took extra time to make the presentation look beautiful. For example, here is what happened when I asked her for a cocktail late one night.

We were in our ratty old sweats, watching So You Think You Can Dance, and out she walked with this. I nearly wept. It just felt so thoughtful and kind. And it was.

Now, I am no stranger to making things look pretty (I have been known to arrange golf balls in a pleasing fashion), but I am going to start applying this skill to more pedestrian moments. It takes all of two extra minutes, but the results last forever in your heart. OH MY GOD I AM JUST KIDDING. It does make you feel happy, though, and I am all for that.

Making this happen is so easy it barely needs instructions, but I am going to tell you how to do it anyway. Here's how I would (and did!) make my 5:00 drink extra-pretty this week:

First, gather up all your supplies and cute stuff. All of these things were within arm's reach in my kitchen. My mom bought me the old medicine bottles and that INSANE vintage poufy flower. (Made out of old patterns and black tulle! And sparkles.) You really just need one or two extraneous pretty items: I used these bottles; Maggie used a tiny vase with yard flowers and a special lime-holding glass.

Next, corral your supplies all together on a tray. Do you own a silver tray? Why not? They are practically free and elevate everything on them due to their shininess and reflecting properties. Also, they're kind of fancy. Mine is inherited from my daddy (RIP; DDC!), whose initials are engraved on it. I use it for everything.

The wine is a mid-range one which I chose for the label, a method I use to choose many of my wines (it is Leese-Fitch Pinot Noir, and actually very good). The glass is part of my wedding set (the pattern is Waterford Lismore, for the two of you who are interested). Pro tip: If you are hiring a person to stand near you to hold a towel and pour wine, please make sure they are wearing something nicer than jeans and a white tee. It's all I could manage on short notice. Because I had to be my own worker.

Aaaaaand, pour. See how easy that was? And your Wednesday night wine just got way better.

Y'all try it this weekend and report back. I want pictures. Cheers!

Photos: Ben Corda (TEARS)

 

A couple of weeks ago I left the comfort of sweltering Louisiana for lovely San Francisco, where I held TWO design camps on back-to-back weekends. Two. Two camps. You know what is a lot of camps? Two.

It wasn't that the camps themselves were hard -- on the contrary, they were both awesome. Amazing. An extraordinary person. It was that I was gone from home for thirteen days, which is about ten days too long for my taste. My dad's motto about fish and visitors going bad after 3 days also holds true for travellers, I'm afraid. Luckily, I had Maggie Mason on my side (literally: the girl shared her BED with me), and not only was she a lovely and gracious host, but if she got sick of me at any point, she did not let on. That girl is a keeper. (A keeper who snores.)

Also a keeper: the southern California weather I enjoyed my first week there. I know! In San Francisco! It was a sunny, glorious miracle.

Also ALSO a keeper: Jordan Ferney, whose gorgeous studio was camp headquarters, and who didn't even complain about keeping all my extra stuff there during the interim week. (Including a case of champagne, which I was hoping she'd mistake for sparkling water, get hammered on, and post Drunk Mormon photos all over the internet. Alas. Next time.)

One camper -- now my favorite camper ever -- brought ice cubes made of orange juice from her own yard for our Sunday morning mimosas. Good work, Cynthia. You're invited to all camps, forever.

Apparently I do this hand movement a lot. I only know this because sweet Victoria came in one Saturday to take pictures for me (the ones you're seeing here!), and I'm making this gesture in fully 99% of them. It obviously makes all the design knowledge I'm dropping sink in better.

See all the learning that is happening? I'm probably making the hand gesture. Or maybe I'm making this face:

Tell me you don't want to learn interior design from this person.

One of my Session One campers was Miss Lisa Congdon, who made me the painting you see above. It's my quote for what I think should be in every room, and she liked it. So she painted it and gave it to me, and then I cried. Lisa is super mean.

I made New Orleans-style iced coffee every day of camp, which involved many hijinks/shenanigans/etc, including my total overreaction to the fact that Blue Bottle wouldn't grind the coffee I bought from them. Y'all, I was so outraged. We Southern ladies are not used to people ignoring our charming accents, Blue Bottle was NOT HAVING IT, and I had maybe a little fit in the car afterwards. I'm sorry, Blue Bottle. I still love you and your delicious coffees.

Speaking of which, the iced coffee was so popular that I am thinking of doing a little video tutorial on how to make it. Vince Chao has offered to a) film it, and b) write some acoustic guitar backing music for it. Because every coffee tutorial needs an acoustic guitar soundtrack, AM I RIGHT?

If you come to camp you will learn how to make a houseful of adorable arrangements out of one bunch of supermarket flowers. See above.

The only known camp photograph of me where I'm not making The Gesture.

The flower and vignette-making tutorial often turns into a how-to-shoot-interiors lesson, and everyone gets really excited about their cameras.

One particularly perceptive camper from the first week mentioned that it would have been nice to have a fruit or vegetable somewhere in my snack plan. As if potato chips and burritos weren't enough, I am so sure. But she was right, because this basket of apples was quite a hit the second week. You live, you learn, you arrange apples in straight lines.

My campers are all adorable. Don't argue, you know it's true.

I also need to thank Maggie for her generous milk bottle/Mason jar donation. Camp would definitely not have been as cute without them. Also, Maggie, I'm sorry I told everyone you snore up there. I couldn't help myself.

Here is where I need to thank my fabulous and over-the-top-assisty interns, Traci (Week 1) and Hannah (Week 2). Those girls went so above that beyond wasn't even visible anymore. They tied ribbons on things, hauled ice, arranged sandwiches, went out for emergency popsicles, and served as all-around moral support during my more -- how shall I put this? -- NUTSO moments.

HAND GESTURE.

So, yay for San Francisco design camp! I had so much fun, and I hope everyone learned some good stuff. I know I did. I also know I'll be back as soon as possible, because San Francisco is my new favorite city.

Do YOU want to go to camp and have a person teach you design-y things while making wild hand gestures? You can! Seattle is up next, in September, and I am so excited about it. That one is unfortunately sold out*, but spots are still available in NYC, DC, and Chicago. So get on it, future amazing DIY designers! I would love to see you there. Especially if you bring orange juice ice cubes.

*PS. Speaking of Seattle, I'm only scheduled to be there for the weekend, but I have had several requests for Portland, and could maybe pull off a mini-camp there during the week. If anyone is into that, let me know, and I will try to make it happen! (This is mainly because I have never been to Portland and want to put a bird on something.)

Did you hear? I have a Mighty Closet! This is very exciting news. Mighty Closet is a product of the Mighty Mind of Maggie Mason: magic-monger, mess-maker, marshmallow-muncher, and medical doctor.

Just kidding. She doesn't like marshmallows.

Mighty Closet is a fun thing that shows a person dressed in several outfits for different events. Mine includes working from home, going to a bar, and romping at the beach. And, inexplicably, tossing apples and kicking.

I'm so excited I had to jump about it. Go see it right chya

PS. If you want to attend Austin Design Camp, but haven't signed up yet, there's something good for you at the end of the post.

Internet, I have tried to update this durn site every afternoon this week, after I've finished my client work. And every afternoon this week, my dumb service has gone down. It's like they're TRYING TO KEEP US APART.

So we're going to get this joint jumping earlier in the day for a little while. We'll show them!

Anyway. Here's what's going on:

1. Tomorrow I am going on a road trip with Pam, to the Mighty Summit. Yes, yes, we're only driving from the SFO airport to some nearby place in California, and yes, the drive is only two hours long. But do you know how much trouble Pamie and I can get up to in two hours? A LOT. I'm basically picturing us like Thelma & Louise, only super-concentrated. Like when you lick the frozen lemonade can before it's been diluted with water and your mouth goes all puckery. But fear not! I will return on Tuesday with many pictures and stories for your enjoyment and edification.

2. In honor of the summit, which was invented by the really very fabulous Maggie Mason, I am going to do something she's been asking me to do for months, and that is make a video of how to tie a turban-type scarf on your head. Now, before I show you this, I'll have you know that a) I have not washed my hair in several days, one of the dangers we work-at-homers face on the reg, b) I ain't got on no makeup, and c) this is my first time using iMovie, which will become obvious to you in about five seconds. So if you can forgive those things, as well as the dumb yappy dog barking in the background, I think this will be quite educational for you. Oh, also also, it's kind of long and includes some bloopers, but since I am not a professional internet videographer, you are just going to have to find some way to go on.

Enjoy! I'll see you jags on the flip. Practice your scarf-tying while I'm gone. This is for you, Maggie sis.

How To Tie A Turban-like Scarf In Your Hair from ab chao on Vimeo.

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