Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Jason Turner has a lot of goodness to come home to.
photo: Jane Dagmi
On Wednesday morning at the Greenville-Spartanburg airport, the Turner family was waiting anxiously. Ansley, Carson, and Laney were waiting for their dad. Little Camden was waiting for his grandfather, and Mr. & Mrs. Turner were waiting for their son.  Jason Turner -- father, grandfather, and son -- was coming home from Afghanistan to spend the holidays with his family, and he is sure to be hugged, kissed, and lovingly admired as soon as he gets within sight of his family.

I am a seasoned airport greeter, and truly love the whole build-up that goes with waiting for family to arrive. My children and I plot ruses that will surprise our visitors but not scare them. I am the front person, seemingly alone, and then the kids jump out from the wings and into the arms of an aunt, cousin, or grandmother. This is our welcoming committee scenario.

screen shot taken from the opening airport sequence in "Love Actually."

One of my favorite movies, "Love Actually," pays homage to the wondrous airport love-fest. Beyond the fab mostly British cast -- Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant, Bill Nighy, Colin Firth, Kiera Knightley, and Emma Thompson -- who each tackle and triumph with affairs of the heart, the general theme supports the idea that "love is actually all around." The first and last scenes of the movie take place in airports; the camera, in slow, lyrical motion, catches a multitude of happy reunions. The narrator's opening sentence is: "Whenever i get gloomy about the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport."

So if you find yourself in an airport this holiday season, take note of the XOXO that's all around. It's pretty spectacular.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Spruced Up: 5 Easy Christmas Decorating Ideas

We celebrated Hanukkah in our house, but I always loved decorating for Christmas.  I was thankful for our gift-a-night tradition, but for a girl with a penchant for decorating, picking out the colorful candles for the menorah couldn't compete with picking out ornaments and tinsel for the tree. I was lucky to have friends with trees though, so I got invited to "do Christmas" at their homes. Thank you Linda and Hope.

Fast forward 20 years...

I work at Country Living Magazine; I live and breathe holiday at least 4 months a year. I plan photo shoots in season and pray for snow. I shoot holiday in June and it just feels wrong. Whatever the timing, year after year I come up with new ways to decorate trees, mantles, and any other part of the house, and also hope that the homeowner has done it for me.

Here are 5 easy Christmas decorating ideas -- all taken from the pages of Country Living Magazine, from shoots that I produced. Hopefully, one or more will work for you!

Mary Jane's Porch. Photo: John Blais
1. Paint popsicle stick or twig stars in an unexpected bright color. Buy made or use a glue gun to make yourself.  I chose yellow because it had no traditional holiday connection. It just seemed to go really well with all the red.

Kathryn's feather tree. Phoho: Keith Scott Morton
2. Cut out paper shapes and punch a hole and hang. Use a stencil, or a Fiskar's shape punch. Keep it simple or personalize with words, drawing, etc. Other paper goods that work well as ornaments are photos and postcards.

Christine's pear place cards. Photo: Steven Randazzo
 3. Decorate with fruits of the season. Pears are lovely to look at and to taste. Tie a card or tag onto the stem and you've got an instant placecard.

Diane's bounty; photo: Steven Randazzo
 4. I never tire of the look of glass jars brimming with colorful ornaments. Each arrangement turns out differently and there are good views from every angle.

Mary Jane's bed; Photo: John Blais
5.Some beds naturally call for sprucing up, and an open canopy is the perfect spot for some garland swag. A strand of lights makes for a merry mood.