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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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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.)

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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Hello and happy Monday to you, internet! I have a few items of business to take care of as we start the week.

1. NOLA camp is coming up so fast I can't believe it! I went down for a day last week to finalize our catering + event space, and secured the cutest and best place in the world. It's on Prytania right across the courtyard from St. James Cheese (who will be serving our lunches, yay!), and I am so excited.

2. I've had some NOLA cancellations (damn you, Mother's Day!) so there are 2 spots available. Let's fill them! I know it's short notice, so perhaps a coupon will help? Use code DEWITNOLA to receive 20% off the camp fee. Go go go!

3. I'll be emailing all NOLA campers later in the week, so make sure to check the email account you signed up with or you will miss some pertinent info.

OK, I think that's it! I will now return to creating slides and being nervous. Woo!

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AuthorAB Chao
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Photo by Lori Andrews and Shane Yuhas

I told y'all in the comments last week that I need 10 dedicated campers to add a city. And that is true! 15 would be awesome, obvs, but 10 is the minimum.

The current San Francisco camp is sold out, but I have heard from enough of you that I am adding another! And DC, I have added you as well, because a bunch of you have requested it. I've never been to DC, and I want to go there. So I am adding these extra two camps, but if they don't fill up, y'all are in big trouble. By which I mean, you better sign up now.

Here you go:

San Francisco II, July 28-29

Washington, DC: November 10-11.

GO!

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AuthorAB Chao
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