9.16.2021

New Martha.com Exclusives

To those of us who miss the Martha by Mail catalog (and let's be honest, that's all of us) there are some pleasing indications that Martha's new online store, Martha.com, is reinstituting some of the iconic "Martha classics" we've come to adore. 

Recent additions to the shop include new pieces based on Martha's personal collection of Jadeite, whiteware and crystal. In days of yore, the Martha by Mail catalog was a place for serious collectors and 'brand fans' to find beautiful Martha Stewart exclusives for the home, including creations made by Wedgwood, Waterford and Fireking. It's nice to see the return of some of these finer collections where the intention behind the design is evident and the quality is assured. Have a look through Martha.com to explore the new offerings! Some of my personal favourites are highlighted below.

Martha's Jadeite collection was the inspiration behind these beautiful pieces, some of which are now available to order at Matha.com. (Each of the pieces shown will eventually be available for purchase). The cake stands are especially lovely, but I'm also rather taken by the pitcher and tumblers. 
These whiteware-inspired cake pedestals come in three different sizes and would look so elegant as a stacked set like this, laden with cupcakes or seasonal fruits. 
An exclusive partnership with Baccarat, fine makers of crystal, resulted in the creation of this pitcher and set of goblets, based on Martha's Baccarat Nancy stemware set. The pitcher is sold on its own and the goblets are sold as a set of two. They come beautifully packaged in a red box emblazoned with the Baccarat and Martha Stewart logos. 

Currently, Martha.com is only shipping to addresses in the United States. 

9.13.2021

The September Issue

During the first few years of my subscription to Martha Stewart Living magazine (and in my excavation and accumulation of her back catalog of issues) I came to realize that the September issue was one to look out for. It was traditionally an issue dedicated to decorating, organizing and getting one's life back into order: simple weeknight recipes, entertaining ideas, streamlining routines, fall updates to interiors. It quickly became an issue I looked forward to each year, and I count the September issues of Martha Stewart Living among my favourites of all time. 

I was so delighted, then, when I saw the 2021 issue in my mailbox. The cover, with its gleaming arrangement of round copper platters in Martha's studio kitchen at Bedford and the glossy copper masthead told me this was going to be a good issue. And it didn't disappoint. The issue is filled with everything you want in a September MSL issue: decorating, easy dinners, lots of Martha content, gardening and organizing ideas.

The cover image is an allusion to Martha's column in the issue, in which she details the renovation of her studio kitchen in the Maple Avenue house on her property in Bedford, New York. It was not a complete gutting of the space, but rather a simple refresh that involved new paint colours, new doors, shelves and appliances. The look is classic but modern with graphic elements that give the space definition. Martha moved her copper collection here from her main kitchen in the Winter House and it looks beautiful silhouetted against the new black shelving. 

The Good Things column has a nice assortment of ideas to adopt this fall. With ideas that will brighten up spaces and enhance your baking skills, it's filled with fun ways to update old standbys, such as these toile-wrapped desk cups to hold pencils and other supplies. There are also instructions on how to refinish old wooden chairs and improve your icing piping techniques. 
The Good Living section continues the theme with its tips on how to organize a pantry. Living in a city apartment where space is at a premium, pantries are not really a thing. And yet there are several ideas I intend to apply to my 'cupboard pantry' - particularly decanting my baking supplies (flour and sugar especially) and upcycling glass jars to use as storage for dried beans and lentils. 
I really enjoyed reading the American Made column about Koda Farms in California, a rice farm founded by Keisaburo Koda in the 1930s. He and his family were forced to relocate during the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War but were determined to start again after they were released in 1945. The family now operates their own seed nursery where they carefully select panicles to plant to ensure quality. 
The Everyday Food section is an ode to broccoli, that gorgeous green cruciferous vegetable that most children find appalling. The article made me realize how infrequently I buy broccoli at the grocery store and the recipes included (broccoli curry, broccoli frittata) gave me more incentive to do so. There are also recipes for granola and four variations of patties to try on burger night, including vegetarian options.

This substitution chart from the Everyday Food section  has been printed out and now resides in my recipe binder. I find it so helpful! Capers are not a regular staple in my pantry, but green olives are: simply chop mild green olives, mild pickled peppers or dill pickles to get your substitute. Brilliant! I love simple solutions like this.
The splash page with its photograph of a planter at Skylands, Martha's home in Maine, has a wonderful quote worth jotting down somewhere: "Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished." - Lao Tzu. How true that is. Nature teaches us patience and reassures us that in time all will come to pass as it should. 
The centerpiece of this issue is the eight-page feature about Lily Pond Lane, Martha's former home in the Hamptons, which she sold this past summer. It is a beautiful celebration of the home she purchased in 1990 with all new photographs by Pieter Estersohn. Longtime fans of Martha have surely fallen in love with this historic house over the years; it was featured in many of her books and television shows. The feature takes a loving last look at the interior spaces as Martha imagined them. This feature alone is worth the cover price.
Many spaces in the home that had been previously unseen are showcased in this article. 
The main food feature is a great celebration of that late-summer bumper crop: tomatoes, eggplants and zesty peppers. The food editors have put together a series of rustic Mediterranean-style dishes that are simple enough for weekend dinners and elevated enough for entertaining, using all the best seasonal ingredients. My personal favourite: risotto with herb pesto, potato, and green beans. Yum!
"Cool Ranch" is a pretty feature about a remote ranch in Santa Barbara County in California and the family who runs it, producing their own produce, raising a passel of farm animals and tending to their honeybees. It's a nice piece about self-sufficiency and sustainability. 

Martha's 99th book will be published on October 12th: Martha Stewart's Fruit Desserts. The magazine features an excerpt of six recipes from the book, including these sour-cherry crumble bars, which I highly recommend! I made them the weekend after I received the issue in the mail and they were a huge success - and so delicious.
I used sweet cherries instead of the sour cherries called for in the recipe, which are very difficult to find in Canada this time of year. I simply reduced the sugar in the filling by a third. They turned out great!
This expansive moss garden in upstate New York was so beautifully photographed by Claire Takacs. Undulating berms covered in varieties of soft mosses look so magical. It is a beautiful closing feature. 


Martha's Remembering column is a fun reflection on a photoshoot she did in Marfa, Texas, in 1996 where she made a big batch of dessert bunuelos - fried dough in the shape of baskets, which she later filled with ice cream. How decadent!

In summary, this may well be one of the best September issues every published by the magazine. I don't say that lightly, either. I certainly count it among my favourites now!

SEPTEMBER ISSUE HIGHLIGHTS

Favourite Good Thing: Toile-wrapped desk cups, page 21

Favourite Recipe: Sour-cherry crumble bars, page 91

Favourite Find: Osaka three-handled dustpan, page 28

Favourite Feature: "Martha Moves On" page 68

8.25.2021

Martha in the Grocery Aisle

From apple crisp to chicken cacciatore, Martha is bringing a line of 40 different frozen foods to grocery stores across the United States, with plans to expand the line for holiday and beyond. Martha Stewart Kitchen was not conceived as a frozen foods brand, but it was the area of grocery product development that showed the greatest potential for success, according to Ken Venturi, CEO of MSK Foods, a subsidiary of his company Mediacast Holdings. (Venturi has partnered with Marquee Brands, which owns the Martha Stewart brand, to develop the new kitchen line).


All of the frozen foods on offer were based on recipes developed by the Martha Stewart Test Kitchens and span the whole gamut of prepared meals, from appetizers to mains to sides to desserts. The line is touting itself as a 'higher end' alternative to the more staid fare in the freezer section, using more vegetables, international flavours and fewer preservatives. Some of the offerings include baked brie, mini quiches, pigs-in-a-blanket, scalloped potatoes, beef pot roast, chicken curry, chicken and mushroom pot pie, apple hand pies, chocolate brownies, mixed-fruit crisp, and carrot cake. 

This is not Martha's first foray into packaged foods. In 2008 she developed a limited grocery line with Kirkland Foods for distribution at Costco stores. She later developed a line for JC Penney called Martha Stewart Pantry, which included items such as baking mixes, mixed nuts, crackers, sauces and marinades. Even her QVC and Macy's line had some food and pantry items on offer. Martha also has ongoing partnerships with True North Seafood (frozen fish), iGourmet (food gift baskets) and Marley Spoon, a successful meal-kit distribution service.


It will be interesting to see how successful this line becomes and whether it will expand to international markets, such as Canada. There are plans to expand the line beyond the freezer aisle as well: soups, sauces, dips, cake mixes, etc. I've heard from some Martha Stewart fans who have tried the items, which are already appearing in grocery stores, and the verdict has been unanimously positive! 

Visit Martha Stewart Kitchen to find out where these foods are available. 


8.03.2021

Happy Birthday, Martha!

 Martha celebrates her 80th birthday today! She has already posted several photos of her celebrations at Skylands,  her home on Mount Desert Island in Maine - including a luscious looking, meringue-covered cake, decorated with rudbeckia flowers, sunflowers and ferns. (If you're not following Martha on Instagram @marthastewart48, you really need to be!)

I often take the opportunity on Martha's birthday to reflect on how she's influenced my life. The effect she's had on my approach to living has been profound. She taught me how to cook, how to bake, how to care for a home - all things no one else would really deign to teach me. They were subjects sloughed off as 'unimportant' or a 'waste of time.' How silly those admonishments were. I feel I can accomplish any task now with aplomb. The confidence Martha unlocked in me has been, I think, her greatest gift. It was there all along, but her guidance and instruction made it shine a little brighter. 

So, happy birthday to this legend, this amazing public figure who has accomplished so much in her lifetime and has shared it all with us along the way. Thank you, Martha! And cheers to you!

7.19.2021

The July/August Issue

 "Summer is just a sneeze in a long, bad winter cold," Joni Mitchell once penned. The comparison is especially true in the northeast where cold winds can persist until mid-May and return in earnest by early September. The lesson here: take advantage of those long, languorous summer days before they vanish! While I tend not to read too many magazines during the summer months (too busy swimming, boating, outdoorsing) the one I do read from cover to cover is the July/August issue of Martha Stewart Living. I always find at least one great new recipe to add to my repertoire and I am more drawn to the gardening features than I am in any of the year's monthly issues. The 2021 issue is a nice little summary of summery to-dos and must-trys. 

This cover really wooed me with its fresh take on a strawberry pie/pavlova. I knew immediately that I wanted to try to make it, although I haven't quite found the right moment to dive in. I can so easily imagine the light crispness of the meringue shell, the sweet texture of the strawberry filling, the silkiness of the whipped cream and the tartness of the fresh berries. Yum! 
Martha's column expounds on the virtues of one of America's native vegetable crops: okra. I can't say I'm especially fond of this vegetable. The few times I've tried it I have been let down by its tough, stringy texture and somewhat bitter flavour. But maybe I just haven't had it made the Martha way! (She could make shoelaces taste good). I was intrigued enough to read some of the recipes and will consider ordering it again if I ever see it on a menu, although it is not frequently seen in Canada.
A roster of summer Good Things fills this section, including ideas for the Fourth of July, outdoor dining, lawn games and alfresco cooking - including a grilled peach compotes that I've found myself pondering more times than I'd like to admit.




I love the 'tidal cool' of the first half of the Good Living section with its crafty take on bringing the seaside indoors, from DIY shell decorations and wreaths to napkin holders to centerpiece ideas - there's even a shell sconce idea that I thought was rather attractive and unique. 
The garden segment of Good Living was my "learn something new" moment. I had never heard of Monarda before, even though it is a life-giving midsummer bloomer that attracts bees, hummingbirds, song birds and wide-eyed onlookers who will be enchanted by its vibrant colours and stately heights. The plant grows naturally in many areas of North America and is simple to grow and propagate. 
 
The Everyday Food section is a celebration of summer classics, such as the wedge salad, but imagined in new ways to make them a little more flavourful, a little more interesting and a little more enjoyable. Tomatoes, steak, summer cocktails and grilled chicken all make appearances. 
The summer splash page is a lovely welcome to the features section with a bright blue bouquet and a fitting lyric by American songster Van Morrison.
The opening feature is an examination (re-examination, really) of classic sandwiches, elevated and enhanced with new flavour combinations and ingredients, with fresh takes on the turkey club, the peanut-butter and jelly, the best tartines and the most satisfying rolls. I was immediately taken by the fried-fish subs with Thai-style chili sauce and herbs. Yes please!
The editors then take a look at the virtues of bamboo decor, particularly as it relates to outdoor settings: by the pool, on the patio, under a tree or by the lake. It's a simple, sturdy, reliable and handsome addition to any space. I've always loved its understated rusticity and inherently beachy vibe. 
A book excerpt  from "The Maine House" Basha Burwell takes us inside a century-old stone cottage tucked away on Hunting Island, about a five-minute boat ride from Cape Newagen in the town of Southport, about an hour north of Portland. Its remoteness explains its weathered facade and the many ways the owners have enhanced its durability to withstand the harsh elements without sacrificing an iota of its stripped-down beauty.
There's that pie again! It's part of a feature on fruity desserts, from plum tarts to blueberry pies. There's also a chocolate-mousse tart with fresh raspberries that has me a bit fussed. 
The issue closes with a meandering stroll through a beautiful garden in Mountain View, California. Small, private outdoor rooms and wandering pathways that connect them all create an outdoor space that is filled with verdant surprises. 
The Remembering column on the last page is a flashback to Martha in the late 1970s rounding up some gray geese she raised at Turkey Hill. 


JULY/AUGUST ISSUE HIGHLIGHTS

Favourite Good Thing: Quick Peach Compote Dessert Cups, page 21

Favourite Recipe: Strawberry-Lemonade Angel Pie, page 89

Favourite Find: Monarda, page 38

Favourite Feature: "Wander This Way" by Julie Chai and Caitlin Atkinson

7.05.2021

Remembering: Lily Pond Lane

It was reported recently that Martha has sold her iconic home on Lily Pond Lane in East Hampton, New York. I know that many of Martha's readers and viewers consider that home to be a beautiful reflection of her design aesthetic. Second only to Turkey Hill, perhaps, it is the home Martha's fans considered to be most familiar in terms of its style vernacular - particularly throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. It goes without saying, then, that we will miss seeing it in the pages of Martha's books and magazines going forward. The home was reportedly sold to former Huffington Post publisher Kenneth Lerer. 

I thought it would be fun to do a post about the house and the role it played in Martha's work. From a line of paints to a complete furniture collection based on the home's atmosphere and aesthetic, Lily Pond was enormously influential in the creation of many of Martha's products. It was an oft-used site for her magazine photoshoots, both indoors and outdoors, and was also frequently used as a set for her television show: season five of Martha Stewart Living features an extensive number of episodes filmed at this address, particularly cooking and gardening segments. Below is a brief history of the house, how it came into Martha's possession, how it influenced her business and a brief synopsis of some of its iconic style signatures. I hope you enjoy it!

Built in 1873, the house once belonged to one of East Hampton's most memorable preachers, Reverand Talmage. It stands on the site that used to be called "Divinity Hill" for the many ministers from New York and Brooklyn who stayed at its boarding houses. Some still call Lily Pond the DeWitt Talmage House, named after the longtime summer resident who commissioned extensive renovations to the home in 1893.

Martha first fell in love with the Hamptons in the early '60s when she would vacation there with her husband. One of her favourite streets in the area, even then, was Lily Pond Lane, known for its stately width and the rows of majestic beech trees that line the street, as well as towering London plane trees and elms. In one of her "Remembering" columns, Martha describes her initial attraction to the street she would one day call home:

"I was attracted to its quiet, serene appearance, and though most of the houses were tucked behind privet barriers, some of the gardens were fully exposed. The most wonderful one was on the pond itself. It was breathtaking. I stood and gazed at the profuse and colourful flowers, making mental notes of the types that were blooming so perfectly - dahlias, salvias, asters, daisies and roses."

Thirty years later, Martha would have her own home on this lovely street. It was apparently Martha's daughter, Alexis, who encouraged Martha to purchase the old house in 1990, shortly after her divorce from Andy Stewart. It was a place to start a new garden, make new friends and create something that was entirely hers.

Martha completed an extensive renovation of the shingle-style summer home, which had been badly neglected. Replacing the cracking plaster ceilings with beadboard and removing the outdated heating system in favour of a more eco-friendly modulating gas boiler were among the necessary changes. Martha also completely renovated the kitchen, installing new marble counters, mahogany cabinetry and a beautiful floor of handmade cement tiles from Mexico that had been dyed a deep teal. She enclosed a screened-in porch to create an expansive breakfast area with wall-to-wall windows. Outdoors, Martha planted  sumptuous gardens of climbing roses around her front porch and big patches of purple hydrangeas. There are over 1,800 tulip bulbs planted on this relatively small lot (just one acre) as well as hostas, Japanese maples and other shade-loving plants. The interior features large, open rooms with hardwood floors and big, bright windows. The six bedrooms played host to numerous guests during the summer months, when Martha entertained there frequently.
As with Turkey Hill, Martha used Lily Pond Lane as a design laboratory, a place where she could derive style inspiration and then turn that into product. Many of Martha's products at Kmart (the Martha Stewart Everyday line) were influenced by the style of Lily Pond Lane, with its summery-beachy cottage feel. There were paint colour palettes in each of Martha's paint lines that were inspired by the colours found at Lily Pond Lane, particularly soothing greens and blues, soft pinks and shades of yellow. A later collection in the early 2000s introduced deeper colours: mauves, olives, ambers and browns. 
When Martha leased Westport Digital Studios in the mid-1990s, Studio A was modelled after her East Hampton Kitchen. 

In the summer of 2001, Martha partnered with Bernhardt Furniture to create two lines of furniture, both based on two of her homes: Skylands and Lily Pond Lane. The Lily Pond Lane collection borrowed heavily from the design aesthetic of the furniture Martha used to decorate the home. In the opening of the Lily Pond furniture catalog, the collection is described this way: "The Lily Pond Collection embodies the beauty of a sun-filled cottage by the beach with airy interiors and a cool, seaside palette that welcome casual, carefree living."
The Tides Turn faux-bamboo bed was part of the Lily Pond Lane collection, based on some antique bamboo bedroom furniture Martha used at the house. 

STYLE SIGNATURES

Each one of Martha's homes has a distinct and distinguished personality, usually composed of elements drawn from the area where the home is situated but sometimes inspired by a certain way of life. (At Bedford, for instance, Martha employs visual cues reminiscent of Shaker villages). At Lily Pond the decoration scheme was very much about the garden, about the sea and about summer. 
The colour green (and all its various hues and shades) was very influential in the design philosophy that guided the interior decoration of the home. Reminiscent of sea foam and the underside of hosta leaves, the teal/turquoise shades used on the trim of the exterior of the house as well as several areas of the home's interior evoke a calm and cool atmosphere. Martha once painted the ceilings of several rooms in the house a vibrant combination of these saturated hues. 
The handmade Mexican tiles in the kitchen and breakfast room were dyed a deep teal colour, almost matching Martha's vast collection of teal-toned McCoy pottery, which resided at this house for decades. 
It will be interesting to see where Martha will integrate her collection of McCoy into other spaces.
Even exterior spaces, such as the porch, were treated with refreshing hits of teal.
Martha once kept all of her books about gardening and art at Lily Pond Lane. 
Taxidermy also figured very heavily in the decorating scheme, particularly fish and aquatic birds. Martha once said these Victorian specimens, which she has collected for decades, make a loud and peculiar statement. This antique mounted tarpon is a specimen from the late nineteenth century. Taxidermy suits the home's Victorian pedigree.

Many of us, too, will remember how enchanted we were by the prolific climbing roses that grew along the openings of the main front porch. Martha transplanted them to her home in Bedford several years ago. In their hay-day, however, the roses were among the most widely-admired features of the home's exterior.

To replace the roses, Martha planted clematis vines, barely visible here but beginning to make themselves known. She also painted the trim of the house a light shade of taupe, foregoing the familiar teal.

As years passed and Martha's lifestyle changed, she found herself spending less and less time at Lily Pond Lane - only a weekend or two each year. As she herself would say, "When you're through changing, you're through." I'm sure Martha is extremely grateful for the 30 years she played caretaker to this beautiful, historic home. 

If you're interested in reading more about Lily Pond Lane, click here. I also suggest buying the book "How to Decorate" by Martha Stewart Living, which was published in 1996. There are numerous photographs of Lily Pond Lane in its pages with very specific details about its decoration.