9.15.2014

The October Issue + A New Halloween Web Series!

Many of you, I'm sure, are happily browsing through the pages of the October issue of Martha Stewart Living, which is on newsstands today. The issue features two covers, front and reverse: on the front, an adorable owl nestles with a trio of pumpkins that have been stenciled using a lace-stocking overlay. (For the craft how-to, see the Good Things section on page 23.) Flip the magazine over and we see Martha with piercing blue eyes and a stark white wig, cloaked in black satin. I saw several newsstands today that had the magazine displayed with the Martha cover facing out - a clever move to entice those of us who may still be hopefully searching for that elusive Halloween special issue. It will be a futile search, however, since there will not be special Halloween issue published this year. But...the October issue hints at a very intriguing, six-episode Halloween web series that will document the making of Martha's costume! Details below!
 FLIP THE COVER AND....
This is not, in fact, Martha's full costume. She is cloaked in black satin for a reason. The big costume reveal will happen in October at MarthaStewart.com as part of a new web series called "Shriek or Chic" that will document Martha's Haute Halloween Challenge in which three contestants will compete to design Martha's costume. Here are some of the details about the program:

For the first time ever, three fashion design hopefuls compete to create Martha's Halloween costume - and win the honour of dressing Martha for her favourite holiday of the year. Go behind the scenes at Martha Stewart headquarters where the contestants work around the clock, with surprise visits from renowned fashion designers! And don't miss the dramatic season finale where Martha selects the winner, and appears in her costume of choice. Click here to watch for updates about the series until its premier episode on October 7th.
 
ABOUT THE COMPETITORS:

Gabrielle Ruffino, 24, New York
A 2014 graduate  of Merchandising & Management-Fashion Design, FIT, Gabrielle comes from a family of seamstresses and looks forward to impressing Martha with her skills in dress construction.

Joelle Samaha, 24, New Jersey
A 2-14 graduate of Fashion Design at FIT, Joelle's attention to detail  and award-winning  evening wear line separates her from the competition.

Taylor Ormond, 19, New York
A sophomore studying Fashion Design at FIT, Taylor is a big fan of Martha. If she has her way, Martha will wear something completely different this year.

9.14.2014

Candy Aisle Crafts

This book has been out for a few weeks now, but I only just found out about it. It's called Candy Aisle Crafts and was created by Jodi Levine, who has been a longtime crafts editor at Martha Stewart Living.  Jodi was actually the former editor-in-chief of Martha Stewart Kids magazine but has worked in various departments at the company for well over a decade. (Martha Stewart writes the foreword to the book.) I've always loved Jodi's imaginative approach to crafting. She sees potential and artistic possibility in the most unusual and unexpected things. In this book, Jodi re-imagines all kinds of colourful confections and uses them in creative crafts. Be sure to visit Jodi's blog, Super Make It, to learn more about the book. You can order it here.
FROM THE PUBLISHER:

"Gumdrops, licorice, candy canes, cookies, cereal, and more become a crafter's toolkit for 59 adorable food craft ideas. Lifelong crafter Jodi Levine turned her creative eye to everyday edible items found in any grocery and convenience store--or even just around the home--and dreamed up easy projects. Learn how to transform familiar treats into gorgeous and whimsical party favors, decorations, wearable accessories, and more. Lushly illustrated with 100 color photographs, the book boasts lots of step-by-step photos to accompany the clear instructions. Candy Aisle Crafts will be an exceptionally useful and fun guide to crafting the extraordinary from the ordinary."

9.13.2014

Season 4 of "Cooking School" Premiers in October!

Martha Stewart's Cooking School is the number-one, most-watched cooking show on PBS and, earlier this year, won the 2014 James Beard Foundation Award for best cooking show in a studio or fixed location. It should come as little surprise, then, that season four will soon be underway! The new series of episodes will air beginning in October. Be sure to check your local PBS listings for showtimes and click here to learn more about the program, watch previews and find the recipes.
I am frequently asked where this program is filmed. It is filmed at the Starrett-Lehigh building in Manhattan, which is where MSLO is headquartered. When The Martha Stewart Show ended, the studio was dismantled and reassembled in this new location. The decision was made to keep all MSLO production under one roof, including all television and video recording.

A Beautiful Dining Room

In every home I visit, I always discover a favourite room. In my parents' home, it is the living room with its dark hardwood floors and big picture window looking out onto the garden. At the home of my friends Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell, it is the tiny bedroom on the second floor. It has only a twin bed, a small desk and a cabinet built by Brent's grandfather filled with vintage linens. It's a perfect little room.
 
Last year, when I visited Brent and Josh in Sharon Springs, New York, they introduced me to Michelle Curran, a local real-estate agent who helped them secure the purchase of their home. I visited Michelle with my travel companion, Jessica Hodgson, who is quite a talented photographer. (Click here to see more of her work.) Jessie photographed the house inside and out. Looking through the photos recently, I fell in love with one particular room in Michelle's house: the incredible dining room.
 
Michelle lives in an 1850s Italianate-style home high on a hill just outside of town. The dining room immediately captured my imagination with its 14-foot ceilings, fireplace and tall windows overlooking the hills of the Mohawk Valley. It is utterly grand. I wondered about all the people who had dined here over the decades. When Michelle acquired the house, she insisted that there be no electric lighting in this room. It is lit only by candlelight at night, giving it a warm, ethereal glow. Michelle also chose a very unique and striking colour scheme for the room: dark purple for the walls and a deep chartreuse for the ceiling. It works perfectly and reflects Michelle's adventurous spirit. You will see more of this house in future posts.




9.09.2014

Domestic Insight: Polishing up on Silver Care

A reader recently asked me about caring for silver and wondered if using your silverware regularly was actually as benefitial as the experts suggest it is. This got me curious as well and I dug up some interesting facts about silverware and its upkeep. I always like to look for natural ways to keep things clean and have more or less abolished all chemical cleaners from my home. Therefore, the advice I seek (and subsequently like to share) will always have a 'green' tint to it. I would like to thank Seasonal Sunday Lunch blog for collecting all of this information that I'm so happy to share on this blog. Click here to watch a video about how Martha suggests storing silver to keep it from tarnishing. 

WHY SILVER TARNISHES:
Silver tarnishes because of oxidisation – but it is not caused by oxygen exposure. Tarnish develops due to the presence of hydrogen sulfide in the air or in any materials that come into contact with the silver. Unlike rust, tarnish is a ‘self-limiting’ patina, affecting only the top few layers and ultimately protecting the metal. (Tarnish can cause more damage on silver-plated items that only have a thin layer of silver.) While the patina of tarnished silver may look charming in these moody photographs, it is not particularly pleasant to eat from.

THREE WAYS TO CLEAN SILVER NATURALLY:

1. GIVE IT A SPA BATH

What you need: aluminum foil, baking soda (bi-carb), boiling water
Method: Place a sheet of aluminum foil, shiny side up in a large bowl. Place tarnished silver on foil, pour over boiling water, sprinkle over a good quantity of baking soda – at least a few Tbsp.
Watch as the tarnish moves from the silver to the foil. Repeat again as necessary.
Once clean, remove from solution, wash well in warm soapy water and buff dry with a soft cloth.
Pros: Fancy chemistry magic will thrill the kids. Great for silver with fine filigree or tight corners.
Cons: Smells like sulfur. Not a good method for jewelry with gemstones, or pieces that should not be exposed to boiling water.

2. MAKE IT MINTY FRESH

What you need: natural/organic toothpaste (not gel), soft cloth.
Method: Use your finger to spread a small dab of toothpaste on the tarnished area.
Rub gently with your finger or a soft cloth. Repeat as necessary.
Rinse well and buff dry with a soft cloth. The hideously tarnished forks in the above image were cleaned in less than a minute with this method.
Pros: Quick and easy, even removes tough spots caused by rubber-bands. Great use for those almost empty tubes of toothpaste.
Cons: The professionals hate this method and warn that it can scratch your silver. How well it works depends on the type of toothpaste you use. Hard to clean fine filigree or tight corners.

3. GO ALKALINE

What you need: baking soda (bi-carb), hot water, soft sponge
Method: Wet sponge with hot water and squeeze out, sprinkle a tsp or two of baking soda onto the sponge.
Rub tarnished silver gently until clean. Repeat as necessary.
Wash with warm soapy water and buff dry with a soft cloth.
Pros: Everyone has baking soda in their cupboard.
Cons: Can be abrasive on your silver. Takes a bit of elbow grease to remove tough stains. Tarnish tends to return rather quickly.
FIVE WAYS TO PROTECT YOUR SILVER FROM TARNISH

1. KEEP IT DRY

You know those little ‘do not eat’ sachets and capsules that come in everything from shoes to vitamins? Instead of throwing them out toss them in with your silver to absorb moisture. Replace every now and then. Chalk also absorbs moisture, a stick or two in with your silver will work wonders.

2. ACID IS BAD. SULFUR IS REALLY BAD

Acid will both tarnish and eat away at your silver – this is especially bad for silver plate. Avoid acidic foods like lemon juice and vinegar. Avoid foods with sulfur such as eggs, mustard and onions.

3. MATERIALS MATTER

Do not wrap your silver in rubber or latex as these can react badly and even eat away at the metal. Storing a set of silver forks with a rubber-band around them – worst.idea.ever. Wool can also cause a chemical reaction. Use soft cotton or felt-lined storage boxes. Don’t store your silver with other metals such as stainless steel or aluminum.

4. WASH BY HAND

Putting silverware into the dishwasher is equivalent to spraying it with Tilex. The harsh chemicals in dishwasher detergents can corrode the metal. Wash by hand with gentle dish soap and dry with a soft cloth.

5. USE IT OR LOSE IT

Using silver regularly keeps it tarnish free so take it out of the drawer and use it for a Tuesday night dinner or lazy Sunday lunch just because you can.

Book of the Month: 'The Stuff of Life' by Hilary Robertson

A new interest of mine is how to live with the things we love in a way that is aesthetically pleasing. Decorating a space that pushes the boundaries just enough to be interesting, without being too eccentric, is challenging, especially when incorporating all those quirky, beautiful, lovingly-collected 'things' that touch our hearts and souls. A new book called The Stuff of Life by stylist Hilary Robertson aims to help magpies and minimalists alike merge their modern tastes with the knick-knacks and collectibles they have inherited or gathered over the years. The photographs in this book are gorgeous and the ideas are inspiring. Here are a few words on how the book is structured to help us embrace the 'stuff of life' beautifully and artfully:
 
In the first chapter, How to Arrange your Stuff, Hilary identifies and illustrates four different approaches to arrangements and shows how each one can be achieved. In Chapter 2, Where to Arrange It. she suggests places to experiment with arrangements, From Blank walls to windowsills and tabletops. Finally, in Real Homes, Hilary shares inspiration from real-life interiors that fall into four different styles - Neatnik, Bohemian, Sculpture Vulture, and Noble Salvage. Some people are magpies - they love stuff; finding, collecting, and displaying it, while their opposite, the minimalists, are on a mission to contain it or tame it. The ideas in this book are sure to appeal to both magpies and minimalists and everyone in between.
 
"Many of the houses that interior designers show me look more like hotels than homes. And that's because there is often nothing personal about them: a designer created them and the owners haven't managed to add those personal layers that real homes need:decorative things, vases, sculptures, children's drawings, hats, bicycles..."the stuff of life" as I like to call it." - Hilary Robertson
 




Avenue House: "A Home, An Office, A University"

When I first read that Martha Stewart had written a "manifesto of dreams'' for Cantitoe Corners, her farm in Bedford, New York, I became fascinated by the idea of the purposeful home. Martha planned every detail of her residence, thoroughly imagining how she wanted to live before implementing all of the architectural and landscape designs she had in mind. This has been Martha's approach to all of her homes: to use them as inspiration factories, as idea laboratories, as teaching facilities. 
 
This concept reminded me of another homeowner in another country from another time who used his home in much the same way Martha uses her homes. Sir Albert Richardson (1880-1964) lived in a Georgian brick townhouse in the town of Ampthill in Bedfordshire, England. He called the home, Avenue House. During the 40 years he occupied the home with his wife, he filled it with products of the Georgian Age, a period in British architectural history he loved and admired. Richardson, an architect, writer and historian, was so fascinated by the Georgian Age that he lived in Avenue House without electricity for many years and even had a closet filled with authentic Georgian clothing, which he sometimes wore in public. (His wife finally convinced him to embrace electric lighting and the convenience of modern appliances!) He once described Avenue House as a home, an office and a university. It was a place he could curate and collect, a place where he could derive inspiration as well as share it with others.
 
For 50 years after Richardson's death, Avenue House was lovingly maintained by his grandson, Simon Houfe, who was anxious to secure its future in the public realm. He offered both house and collection to the British National Trust on advantageous terms. Negotiations dragged on for seven years, only to end with his offer being rejected. Richardson's collections have since been auctioned off by Christie's, a rather sad end to more than a century of curating and maintaining an authentic Georgian manor home. Below are photographs by Simon Upton of Avenue House taken shortly before auction. The interiors remained unchanged since Richardson's death in 1964. I find Richardson's devotion to authenticity, as well as the interior design of the rooms themselves, to be very beautiful.