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It’s been a quiet few weeks around here. A website to design, book covers to work on. Homemade dinners, walks in warmer weather. So many books, plus a whole weekend spent catching up on last season’s Mad Men. Here are some close-ups of life in the Cleve.

photo of dried roses

A bundle of tiny dried roses on my windowsill.

bourbon. not mine.

Bourbon, Mad Men style. Not mine.

gold elephants on a silk blanket

Lots of time curled next to this gold blanket.

thank you note from client

A sweet note from a new client.

Pursuit of the Nearly Perfect

musings on perfection. photo by DOJ
Photo by Doj

The other day, I heard some magic words from a client. “It’s perfect–don’t change a thing!” These moments are understandably rare in a creative’s life. My client’s note gave me a high for the rest of the day. Perfect. But as amazing as those words are to hear, they got me thinking about my obsession with that word. Because I am obsessed.

Growing up, an A on an exam was never enough. It had to be an A+. Always, the highest possible grade. I wasn’t satisfied unless I saw a long row of them on a report card. And soon, that relentless need permeated into other aspects of my life. Is this boyfriend perfect? Is this dress “the one”? Is my home spotless? The problem with perfect is that there’s nowhere to go afterwards. You wonder if you’ve missed something along the way. You wonder what’s next. Not to mention that perfect is pretty darn rare–some might say impossible–to achieve.

Once I was out in the world, working for others, I found that design, art, and writing are a few fields where perfect doesn’t actually cut it. Though I’d labor over a book cover or a piece of writing, it was really that undefinable ingredient, that element of surprise, that would take a work to the next level. I could play by the rules, sticking to the style guide, taking art direction precisely, making every red-penned edit, but it was that messy, unexpected something that changed the whole landscape of the work.

Perfect is all well and good. The pursuit of it can make us better. But the failure of perfection is really where inspiration lies for me.

Ham and Cheese Crepes

We did a fair amount of traveling this month, and as wonderful as it was to escape these sub-zero (only a slight exaggeration) temperatures in Ohio, I found myself missing home more than usual. The thing I missed most of all? Being in my kitchen. The sounds and smells. The rituals of the hearth.

I wanted to catch sight of my worn carpet runner, the yellow teapot I use every morning. I wanted to rifle through the jumble of spices on the lazy Susan and mindlessly slice onion into a hot pan.

En route back home, I saw a video of a chef making crepes. I’m not one for sweets, but these were savory, filled with Serrano ham and gruyere, brown at the edges, but still thin enough to feel light. It was just right for my palate.

Saturday morning found me padding around in my slippers, digging up some lunch meat and a bit of pre-grated cheese. A far cry from Serrano ham and gruyere, but I didn’t feel like fussing. (I rarely do, when it comes to food.) The first batch wouldn’t hold together. In my morning fuzziness, I’d forgotten the flour. Needless to say, the second batch was much better. They were light, but filling, a grown-up interpretation of a childhood sandwich.  Salty, creamy, and simple. My favorite adjectives for breakfast.

photo of a comforting yet elegant recipe

Ham and Cheese Crepes | serves 2-4
crepes adapted from Alton Brown’s Recipe

  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Butter, for coating the pan
  • 4-5 slices of salty ham
  • 1 1/2 cups of cheddar cheese

Combine first five ingredients and whisk rigorously. Chill batter in fridge for half an hour, at least. (I was impatient and only waited fifteen minutes. Alton says the chilling removes the air bubbles from the batter, but mine was fine.)

Heat a small pan over medium heat and coat with cooking spray. Spread 1/4 cup of the batter in the pan and swirl to coat evenly. After bubbles start to form, flip the crepe (it’s easier than you’d think!). Fill half of the flipped crepe with ham and a generous handful of cheese. Fold the crepe over, so that it forms a half-moon. Slide onto a plate and repeat with the rest of the batter, ham, and cheese.

I had some leftover batter, so made these again the next day for lunch. They were even better the second time around.



A Handmade Headboard

When we first bought our home, I worked at a furniture company. The perks of that job are obvious–gorgeous, handcrafted sofas and beds and lamps, all right in front of me for the purchasing. We picked out a few favorite pieces, including a contemporary, upholstered headboard in the softest shade of grey linen. Then came moving day, and the sharp, uncompromising angles of our Cape Cod staircase. The headboard didn’t, wouldn’t fit, even though the movers twisted themselves in acrobatic positions trying, and back it went, to a sad little warehouse far away.

For the past eight months, we’ve been living without a headboard, which is alright. Here’s the requisite before photo (forgive the wrinkles):photo of headboard design But we read before bed and, more often than I like, stay up watching Netflix when we should be asleep. An upholstered headboard seemed like a nice cushion to have. So while I was away one weekend, Dan drew up some plans. He bought the lumber. We picked out fabric. And, a day of sanding, building, nailing, and lord-knows-what-other-tasks later, we had this:

building your own headboarddetail shot of making your own headboard

I’ll be honest, before I saw the bed come together, I was a little skeptical. We are new homeowners. We’re not builders. But apparently, Dan is a builder–and a good one at that. You learn new things about each other every day. And now, nighttime reading/movie watching is so much more pleasant. Maybe we’ll brave a coffee table next. There have even been whispers in our household about an upholstered chair for my office.

Loose on Earth: The Process

My dear friend Kathleen is one of the most imaginative, hardworking, and generous people I know—not to mention, an incredible writer of all genres. I was so fortunate to work on her website these past few months. She wanted an author’s site that could showcase her writing and describe her current book project—a full-length work about the Wandering Albatrosses of the South Arctic. (She’s traveling there next year with a team of scientists!) When we began to brainstorm about the design, we were exactly on the same page.

photos that inspired Kathleen Blackburn's website, designed by Thao Thai
Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4

First, we created a shared pinboard. We were both drawn to cool shades of blue and green, vintage influences, and a lot of white space. I wanted her website to feel expansive, yet contained, like a beautiful little book you want to keep re-reading.

homepage designed by Thao Thai for writer Kathleen Blackburn

The designs reflect her aesthetic, but put her words front-and-center. For that, we needed some typography that has elegance and history.

simple yet elegant about page designed by Thao Thai for Kathleen Blackburn

Each page has a slightly different layout, creating movement for the eye. Vintage woodcuts help provide context, as well as a dash of antiquated romance.

It’s a simple website, but we think it does the job! To see it in action, visit Kathleen’s website.