Monday, December 23, 2013

XOXO: 14 Xmas Photo Shoot Memories

When I was a magazine editor, Christmas-time was extremely busy. We would always try and shoot in season for the next December issue. This made sense because homes would either already by decorated or homeowners would welcome having their homes decorated by Country Living editors, or holiday decorating it was a collaboration between homeowner and editor.

Either way....whether I had to work my butt off creating Christmas from scratch or just marvel at the seasonal creativity of each individual homeowner and figure out how best to capture that....I did a lot of Christmas and XOXO-ed it.  Here are some of my favorite Christmas shoots.

1. Free Models - my kids have modeled for me over the years and they love looking back and seeing how cute they were.

2. The faded wallpaper in artist Kitty Babendrier's upstate NY house was the best mood maker for this dining room and I loved the overall time-worn vibe. When I was buying flowers for this shoot, I dropped my phone in a bucket of hydrangea. I was not happy.

3. Painter Helen Howard's home was cool Connecticut and I am hooked anytime traditional American furnishings look fresh and not uptight. And check out the fab wood valance.

4. Artist Ashley Carter set up a divine dessert part complete with her sparkle fantasy minstrels and of course, pink snowballs! Love the combo of soft chartreuse with multiple blush tones.

5. I love the way rayon ribbon drapes, and Midori's printed ribbon says it all.

6. This was one of the best holiday shoots ever because Mary Jane McCarty had the best stuff to work with in every room of her house. Out on her porch, I decided that a pop of yellow would do good and so painted and glittered twig stars for this tree.

7. Darlene Duggan and I collaborated on many shoots. She could make anything and had a trove of amazing vintage. And with the help of Jennifer from Sis Boom sending in goodies from afar and a magical disco ball, we made magic.

8. Simple and silver...this was one of my first studio holiday shoots. And I still like it and the chest looks amazing.

9. How do you bring holiday into the bedroom and make it look romantic. Answer: like this. (from Mary Jane McCarty's house)

10. I am a sucker for miniature deer and love the way my friend Cheryl Rogers propped this sweet one atop a pile of pristine white buttons.

11. Paper doves on a spindly feather tree in an old bucket - can't get much simpler or prettier than that!

 12. Also from the Mary Jane McCarty shoot.  I borrowed the vintage glass ornament wreath from Blue Raccoon and was so overly concerned with not breaking it, that of course, it slipped from my grasp at one point. Country Living bought the slightly damaged wreath after the shoot and it hung in the lobby for many Christmases thereafter.

13. This shoot took me to my hometown of Philadelphia to the home of fabricator and bag maker Liz McIlvaine. Her red walls and funky flooring set the scene for a funky and ultra colorful shoot.

 14. One year I was totally loving red and white.  The following year Spiegel was also loving it.

Saturday, November 30, 2013


To celebrate Small Business Saturday, I will spend the day working and shopping at Watson Kennedy, one of my favorite shops in Seattle.  Run by tastemaker extraordinaire and soon-to-be-published author Ted Kennedy Watson, Watson Kennedy recently celebrated 15 years in business. There are two shops in downtown Seattle. I will be stationed at the market location and we will be serving mimosas.

The outpost by the Pike Place Market is densely packed with all things pretty, colorful and scented, novels, travel guides, design books, and all sorts of diaries and journals waiting for words and pictures, as well as sparkl  jewelry, assorted glass and ceramic objets, Le Jacquard Francais dish towels, and a curated lot of vintage delights.

In honor of Small Business Saturday, my fabulous retailing friend Ted, the "Sound of Music" with Carrie Underwood, here are a few of my {Watson Kennedy} favorite vintage things.


Ted found these at Brimfield and the moment he did his heart stopped. 
Ted says: They just harken back to a slower, more gentile time.
Jane says: My heart stopped too. The fonts are exquisite and the names, wonderful. I want to know why Miss Mckenzie  only invited people for tea on Wednesdays.


Ted says: I just thought they were so cool looking--the vial, the seeds, the label.  I love certain objects just because of the feeling they evoke in me when I first spot them.  
Jane says: They reminded me of small vials of glitter that I saw in my friend's kitchen years ago. And the little red labels are the cutest things ever.


There are always dominoes at the shop, old and also new.
Ted confesses to a lifelong attraction and says: I think they are just the most exquistite objects.  Just think of all the stories they could tell.
Jane says: I usually like embellishing old dominoes with paper but these I wouldn't touch. They are perfect, as is.


Ted says (of toast racks in particular): These bring back such great memories for me. The family I lived with when I went to school in London had one and it was put to good use each morning. Seeing one of these filled-up with toast just warms my heart.
Jane says: I would rather be in a a posh London hotel right now using this stuff.

This Saturday and beyond...
Support neighborhood businesses and independent entrepreneurs.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

XOXO: Wrap Fabulous

I received two gifts recently that were wrapped so beautifully that I wanted to share.

Homemade wrap from years worth of pictures.
I XOXO the gift wrap made by my friend Robin. She incorporated tons of photos of our families at different points in our lives. Robin used Pagemaker, importing all the shots on an 8.5 x 11" template, turning images any way she wanted and moving them around till she was happy with the layout. She printed out a few pages and taped together as needed. The wrap is now up on my bulletin board, and it makes me smile.

Map wrapped gift holds the cutest mini RV ever!
Last week I received a gift covered in map wrap. Creatively folded and tied up with a jute ribbon, this prezzie came from VP+C, one of my favorite marketing/p.r. firms. The map motif was directly related to the present which was a miniature RV. Totally wanderlusty! 

Heading to a bday party in a few days. Ribbon is recycled (see above) and "50" is passed from one person to the next.
So while you are stashing your hand made and store bought gifts, and thinking of others, remember the wrap counts. Make that part of the gift and make it personal.

Monday, November 4, 2013


As I scoot around the internet, I am amazed at how many sheepskins I see flung casually over the seats of chairs. For someone who likes feeling cozy and dislikes being branded on the backs of my thighs with any wood or wire chair seat pattern, the tossed furry thing makes a lot of sense. One part "Sex in the City" and one part "Mad Max", I like the sheep skin thing (I might even WANT one for my desk chair), even if I do think the indispensable photo stylist's tool of 2013 is a bit overused.

As you scroll down, it'll be more fun if you do it to Beyonce's "Single Ladies"
"If you like it then you should have put a skin on it....."

Photo: Style by Emily Henderson
Photo: Sacramento Street
Photo: Blood and Champagne
Photo: Independent Fashion Bloggers
Photo: The Post Social
Photo: Emmas Blogg
Photo: Hickory Chair pinterest
MGBW's Otto Tibetan fur cocktail bench comes this way!

If you're wondering where to get yer skin on, here you go....

Ikea $29.99
Ooh la la PINK via Fur Throws
Oh my - something for everyone: Ultimate Sheepskin
Even Walmart has them.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Beaded Love: Blessings in Disguise

Beaded beauties: Blessings in Disguise by Melissa Rovner
I XOXO my new beaded bracelets from Blessings in Disguise. I put them on the morning of my big trip (aka "Fall 50 Tour") and have worn them everyday since. I love each of the colors individually and I love them together as a group. I love the mix of silver and gold charms and the way they dangle and make a delightful sound when my arm is in motion. This stack of beaded bracelets in gray-brown mineral tones goes with every single outfit and color of nail polish, and it could easily be the color inspiration for decorating a room.

While visually, they are perfection, I have discovered that this jewelry is very engaging too. Its beauty is contagious, and the meaning, curious. When I went to a party last week, I met several amazing women, and I believe that the jewelry was the ice breaker. Let me explain.

The party was at Calico where Thom Filicia was celebrating his fabric collection. Certain my brown and white bandana print blouse would be an eye-catcher among fabric contraire -- it was my bejeweled wrist that got all the attention. Theresa, a regional sales manager, was the first admirer. She touched my wrist and gushed "Don't you just love power beads?" The moment her hand was on my wrist, I felt a surge of energy go through me. It was the kind that makes you tingle and then go completely limp and into a trance-like calm. Power beads, indeed!

Melissa Rovner is the creative force behind Blessings in Disguise. These are the 10 bracelets (above) she wears everyday. They are a mix of pyrite, sandstone, & fossil agate. Melissa says, "For me, their importance comes less from the neutrality of the stones, and more from the specific things that adorn them. These antique medals & vintage charms were gifted to me along my journey and each has its own special story. They're a daily reminder of where I've been & to trust where I am going."

Melissa is on a fierce trunk show circuit this fall. I will catch up with her in Miami on October 24-25 at Kakar House of Design.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Paper Trail

I XOXO when visual merchandisers use paper in creative ways.
saw these 3 examples as I shopped at the King of Prussia Mall.

Bloomingdales used kraft sheets to simulate a shingled roof.

West Elm used photocopied wood grain to simulate large thick birch logs.

Arhaus featured pinned book pages on the wall in a window vignette.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Designing Spaces Makes Changes at a Boys & Girls Club in Pompano Beach

The Boys & Girls Club of Pompano Beach was the first club in South Florida.
I xoxo a deserving heartfelt makeover, and so I was excited to take time out to check out the newest Designing Spaces   "Spaces of Hope" project at the Thomas D. Stephanis Boys & Girls Club in Pompano Beach. Here, the Designing Spaces Dream Team, composed of O2 Media staffers, civic leaders, and corporations such as Texas Instruments and Grip On Tools, tricked out the math lab, wood shop, and lounge with new technology, cool tools, and of course, a fresh coat of paint. As Lysa Liemer, Designing Spaces Executive V.P. of Programming, says, "When the Dream Team gathers it's partners for projects the goals is to impact lives while making over spaces."

Each child received a new Ridemakerz car.

Indeed! The collaboration was a huge success. After months of steadfast planning, The Dream Team arrived on location, and in a matter of days, completed the installation. As volunteers and partners step in and out of the picture to discuss their involvement, a camera crew is filming the transformation. Each project concludes with a party. In this instance, the reveal party included a couple of speeches, tours of the newly designed spaces, and pizza, soft drinks, and Ridemakerz cars for about 260 kids.

Tom Reardon, math teacher on board with TI, acclimates some of the kids to the new technology.
Kids catch on pretty fast.

Texas Instruments was integral to this Spaces of Hope project. The company took charge in the math lab, donating a generous amount of TI-Nspire CX graphing calculators, computer software, a few iPads, apps, and science exploration tools.  Melendy Lovett, TI Senior VP  and President, Education Technology, eager to impact an alternative learning environment says, "We quickly could envision an appealing high tech learning lab where students would like to spend time."  The TI-Nspire technology enables students to see how math and science are related to their hobbies and extracurricular interests. This summer TI will return to the Pompano Beach facility to host STEM camp.

The family that builds together...

Pegboard is excellent for out-in-the-open organization.

Kidz Tools are sized for smaller hands.
Another partner,  Grip On Tools, commandeered the wood shop. Company rep Kevin Vanderwoude and his wife Lindsay and sons Kyan, 7, and Koby, 10, hung up the color-coded tools on a pegboard backdrop. Especially sized for kids, these real working tools are designed to enhance woodworking skills in youth. Kidz Tools is a new brand for the Michigan-based 30-year old family-owned company Grip On Tools, and its motto is: "Build a better tomorrow kid, and one tool at a time!"

Woodworking is one of the kids favorites. Projects have included treasure boxes and bird houses.

Mark Clifford (above left),  a state certified general contractor and teacher of the special vocational course, Building Trades and Construction Design Technology, through the Broward public school system, gets to test drive the new tools first. He runs the woodworking studio at the Club. A volunteer for nearly 3 years, Clifford must create projects suitable for 7-18 year olds. It is a challenge at times, and is one that Clifford relishes. He says, " It makes me rethink things. Makes me better at what I do."

The lounge now has two interactive game stations.

Health and Fitness Coordinator Christopher Cleveland
Health, fitness, and recreation are also on the Boys & Girls Club daily roster. In the lounge, the kids can now enjoy interactive game stations compliments of BrandsMart . In the gym, as usual, they will get to work out with Coach Chris.  Coach Chris has a long history at the Pompano Boys & Girls Club. He started going here when he was 6, and has been working for the Club for 13 years. Coach Chris says, "I love working with the kids and being like a big brother. I dream to be the director one day."

Greg Jones (center) is the much-loved Director of the Stephanis Club. To his left (black shirt) is Lysa Liemer from Designing Spaces. 

For now, Greg Jones presides over the Pompano Beach Club.  He first came to the Club in 1976 when he was 9 years old. In 1985 he joined the staff. Jones the target of much respect and admiration, is a big guy with sizable shoes to fill. If dedication pays off, Coach Chris seems to be on track for following in his footsteps.

I'm glad I was there. I made all these new friends!!