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)

I thought it might be fun to go behind the scenes of our bathroom shoot last week, so y'all could see a few things that go into styling a room.

A question I am asked often is, "Does your house look like that all the time?" And the answer is, "No." NO, NO, NO, NO, NO. Now, I admit that I try to keep my house looking like a magazine is coming at all times, but that does not mean I succeed. Everything is usually picked up and clean and magazines are arranged just so and there are plants and flowers and branches everywhere. But I certainly don't show you the times when the magazines have coffee stains from being used as coasters, everything is covered in dust, and all of the branches are dead and the vases make me gag from their rot-water. Seriously: GAG.

Styling a room for a photo shoot is a hundred times worse, because every single detail has to be perfect. To some of you, this might sound like a nightmare, but it's my favorite thing to do. I LOVE IT. I am sure there is a page in the DSM-IV concerning this problem.

So, the bathroom styling preparations: 

All the towels, rugs, and washcloths went into the laundry. And then I ironed the towels and washcloths on my dining room table. In the dark. (We don't get light in our dining room until the afternoon and I refuse to turn on lamps because of stubbornness.) My iron is a Rowenta, and I'm pretty sure we are in love. (CALL ME ROWENTA!)

Freshly washed, ironed, and folded. Well, as much as one can iron a washcloth, which is not very much. The rug will live on the side of the tub until showtime.

After the linens and whatnot were taken care of, I swept the floor and wiped down the walls. I am not sure what I'm doing here, but I'm sure it involves a cleaning supply. Please note three kinds of stripes in this photo: towel, decorator, photographer. We obviously planned that.

Next up, I shopped my own yard for foliage. This poor fern has been through a lot, and Hurricane Isaac helpfully knocked it off its perch and smooshed the entire top half of it. Dumb.

I am not tall, so my usual method for cutting tree branches is: 1) jump, 2) grab lowest branch, 3) hold on like hell, 4) cut.

Testing vases; trimming; arranging.

Time to set everything up. I am 100% sure there is not even water in this vase. And that the reason I'm holding on to that stool for life is because I am balancing my body over the rug so as not to disturb it. Styling! It's weird and complicated, but usually looks really good.

And then I accidentally took a nap in the bathtub.

All photos: Ben Corda

AuthorAB Chao
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Here is what an Easter Basket for a girl teenager looks like. The basket itself must not be too cutesy or twee; candies must be of a Twix-or-higher quality -- but not too high, because that's gross; any and all forms of sparkly makeup are encouraged; feathery Mardi Gras masks optional but accepted.

After we all ate a bunch of candy and applied glitter eye shadow, my family arrived for a lovely and low-key Easter dinner: crawfish and beer on our porch. It was so easy and good that I have hereby declared it a tradition.

Of course, even a lowly crawfish dinner can be styled.

Vince Chao made his "famous" cocktail sauce. Miller made the beer.

And the Lord made the crawfish.

The weather was a little overcast, which contributed to the cozy porch-time feeling.

Good? GOOD.

AuthorAB Chao
Categorieschao camp, food
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People ask me all the time how to arrange items so that they look pretty in photos. Well, here is a secret: if you start with beautiful items, you don't really have to do very much work. The photo above is a great example, since the entire thing was kind of an accident. The hot (and hawt) pink Epiphanie bag* was already on the kitchen table when I came home from work. Then, as a surprise for when everyone else got home, I arranged the macarons and king cake we bought at Sucre in New Orleans on two random cake plates. (Seriously random -- I have no idea where either plate came from.) The sun was sort of shining through the window at the time, and I realized that all of it looked really pretty together, so I moved everything closer to the light and grabbed my camera (fitted with that cheapie 50mm lens that everyone should have by now. If you don't have it, remedy that sad situation immediately.) Everything was done before I even started arranging things. All I did was put the smaller cake plate in front of the bigger one (obvs), and added in a silver vase with some sparkly picks inside (for no other reason than it was already in the kitchen with me.) I mean, this little vignette doesn't even make any sense. It's not even a very good picture. But it looks kind of pretty, doesn't it? That's because I started with beautiful things shot in nice light, and they did all the work for me. Voila! You are now a stylist + photographer. Go forth and bust out some beauty. PS. You can never go wrong with macarons. The reason you see them in so many styled photos is because they look good with everything, even king cakes and camera bags. Yes, they're a total cliche, I know, I've heard. Who cares? *For you old-school Flickr people, you'll be tickled to know that the Epiphanie bag I have is the "Clover," named after one of Sesame Ellis's twins! It was a gift from the delightful Maile and is super fabulous.
AuthorAB Chao
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