My Spring Cleaning Checklist

Unbeknownst to my husband, the weekend of April 26th will be one filled with dusting, sweeping, scrubbing, sorting, polishing and all-round cleaning. He will find out, of course, once I print out the room-by-room Spring Cleaning checklist you see below. The list is specific to our needs and because we live in an apartment with only a few rooms we dodge some pretty scary bullet-points: organizing the garage, for instance, or cleaning the basement.
In the spirit of Martha's wisdom, I consider cleaning house to be rather good for the soul and do not consider it drudgery. Tomas, my husband, has a more difficult time with this philosophy. Spring cleaning is a foreign concept to him (literally) since in Puerto Rico, where he grew up, there really is no such thing as spring cleaning. The tropical climate lessened the need to purge or sort or tidy on a seasonal basis. To help make the process more fun, I designed the checklist below to be pretty and inviting. I will print it on nice paper and have it magnetized to our refrigerator door. It will help us tackle our plan of action and compile any cleaning supplies we may need ahead of time. We will divide the chores between two days (two very full days!) and will feel so much better knowing that we've been thorough in our approach. We'll put on some good music (Tomas will come up with a great playlist, I'm sure) and get down to business! What does your spring cleaning routine look like?


The May Issue

Like a blast of sunshine, a blaze of petaled glory, the May issue of Martha Stewart Living is making its way to the mailboxes of subscribers. The cover is so exuberant and bright that it's impossible not to feel instantly cheery when you look at it. I have not received the issue yet, myself, but I'm anxious to browse its pages. It will be on newsstands April 21.


Book of the Month: Gypsy ~ A World of Colour & Interiors

After spending nearly ten years working as an interior designer and stylist in New York City for clients such as Donna Karan, Vogue Living, Bloomingdales and Bergdorf Goodman, Sibella Court is heading home to Sydney, Australia, where she is opening her first shop, called The Society Inc. The young designer took the world of American interiors by storm by introducing a new and refreshing approach to living: filling a space with the objects you love. Now there's a novel idea! To call Sibella's style ''shabby chic'' or ''boho'' would be to minimize its depth. The rooms she creates are moody and atmospheric with layer upon layer of personal, treasured finds: a minimalist's nightmare and a collector's dream.
The designer-turned-bestselling-author has just released her latest tome, and it is my selection as the Book of the Month - a new feature on Martha Moments I hope to continue. It is called Gypsy: A World of Colour and Interiors and I think it is her best book to date. What makes it special is its global review of style, interpreted by one individual and then translated into beautiful rooms that we can all take lessons from. The book is filled with gorgeous photography and Sibella's own scrapbook of her travels to Scotland, Transylvania, Ecuador and Indonesia. She gives us insight into the people she meets, the food she tastes and all the beautiful objects she collects along the way. The rooms are utterly romantic and unique. Below are some images from the book and I highly suggest you at least browse its pages. Hopefully you will discover a new concept of home, as I did.

Sibella Court has authored several books and each one is a treasure. Bowerbird is a collector's bible. I am not talking about collecting Wedgwood or majolica, mind you. This book will appeal to the individual who collects rocks, feathers, pressed flowers and scraps of textile. The Stylist's Guide to NYC is an essential book for anyone who adores New York and wants to discover some of its hidden retail gems. Sibella breaks the code of silence and shares all the stores that New York's top stylists love to visit. Nomad is for the traveler who fills the empty spaces in her suitcases with found seashells and flea-market finds from far-off places. Etcetera was Sibella's first book and is a fine introduction to her eclectic style with beautiful photographs and notes on surrendering to the idea of living with the things you love.


New "Real Weddings" Special Issue

There is a new special issue of Martha Stewart Weddings on the newsstands today, filled with beautiful, practical wedding ideas and advice you won't find anywhere else. The best thing about Real Weddings (an ongoing special-issue theme for the magazine) is that it highlights numerous details from actual weddings, which makes the publication very accessible and very useful for the bride-to-be. There are 11 'real' weddings featured in this issue, from San Francisco to Colorado Springs, plus several more 'stylized' features: there are sections devoted to gorgeous gowns, flowers, cakes and those personal touches that make a celebration memorable. The casual observer may not notice Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence on the cover but there she is: tall blonde, far right. She was a bridesmaid at her brother's wedding in Kentucky last October.


Great Egg-spectations

Martha’s hosting an Easter contest called Martha's Good Eggs (no bad eggs allowed) and she wants you to enter! She's looking to find the best decorated Easter eggs in the U.S. -- and she has crafty prizes for the ones that really wow her! Do you have what it takes to impress the Queen of Crafts? Whether you create a gorgeous decal egg, a decoupaged masterpiece, a FabergĂ©-inspired stunner, or a glittered egg that shimmers and shines, the editors at Martha Stewart Living want to see you break out of your shell this Easter and craft something egg-straordinary! Martha Stewart Living will be accepting photograph submissions of your best-decorated Easter eggs from April 4th to April 10th. Once the editors select their 50 favorites, they’ll open it up to you for voting, and they’ll announce the grand prize winner on April 17th. The top 50 picks will be featured on MarthaStewart.com to inspire crafters everywhere! Click here for the contest rules and regulations. Click here for a look at some of my favourite Martha Stewart egg crafts from issues past.


Season Three of Martha Bakes, Premiers April 5th!

Well, the long-awaited third season of Martha Bakes will finally be airing starting this coming Saturday, April 5th. Ball, King Arthur Flour and Nordic Ware will serve as the season's sponsors. The third season follows a strong second season that averaged more than 900,000 weekly viewers throughout its initial run and was seen in more than 96% of U.S. households, with ratings about ten percent higher than its first season. In each of the thirteen, 30-minute episodes of the third season of Martha Bakes, produced by MSLO, Martha will demonstrate more classic baking techniques and basics using her signature step-by-step, how-to teaching process. Episodes will include everything from puddings, French favorites and Bundt cakes, in addition to holiday breads, bar cookies and crackers and flatbreads.
"The success of Martha Bakes and Martha Stewart's Cooking School strengthens the fact that there is indeed a rise in popularity of home baking and cooking, and that is gratifying to see," Martha says. "I'm very happy that we are able to contribute so much excellent food content to such enthusiastic audiences..." Be sure to check your local PBS listings to find out when Martha Bakes airs in your area and click here to visit the program's official site. The program will air each Saturday for thirteen weeks and below is a list of the episodes in order:

Episode One: Traditional Fruit Desserts
Episode Two: The Breakfast Episode
Episode Three: Bar Cookies
Episode Four: Puddings
Episode Five: French Classics
Episode Six: Pies
Episode Seven: Crackers and Flatbreads
Episode Eight: Cupcakes
Episode Nine: Holiday Breads
Episode Ten: Baking With Chocolate
Episode Eleven: Bundt Cakes
Episode Twelve: Cookies
Episode Thirteen: Muffins


10 Lessons From Martha's Turkey Hill Gardens

Martha's garden at Turkey Hill remains, to this day, one of my favourite gardens of all time. While I never had the priviledge of seeing the property in person, it was extremely well documented in her magazines and on her television shows and I feel as though I have been there. Looking through some of the photographs of the Turkey Hill property recently, I began to see some lessons emerge - guidelines and philosophies for the gardener, expert or novice, to keep in mind while planning and tending her own garden. Below are ten lessons we can all learn from the gardens at Turkey Hill. 
One of the things I've always loved about the Turkey Hill garden is how painterly it is. I think Monet would have loved to paint here, finding just the right angle from which to view the garden's beauty. Martha has said that Turkey Hill was a personal garden, one that evolved over several decades. The painterly quality comes, I think, from Martha's need to plant the things she loves the most and then finding just the right spot for those specimens. Colour and texture are considered. Varying heights and a mix of foliage keep the compositions interesting and 'negative space', such as pathways and lawns, give the eye a rest. In the photo above we see this painterly quality beautifully illustrated: a base of green dappled with brilliant pops of red and purple and pink; the light creates shadow and depth-of-field and the pathway guides the eye.
One of Martha's favourite flowers is the tree peony. It is not native to Connecticut. In fact, it is not native to North America at all. The tree peony originated in China, centuries ago, and was then introduced to Japan. Japanese varieties were the only ones available to the American market in the late 1970s but Martha was determined to grow them at Turkey Hill. A single specimen at the time could cost hundreds of dollars, because of their rarity. Martha was undaunted and made the investment, planting them in a mixed border in a partially-shaded location, shown above. She continued to grow tree peonies throughout her many years at Turkey Hill, adding new specimens in new colours, ensuring her garden contained examples of one of the flowers she loves the most.
No matter where you stood in the garden at Turkey Hill, it seems there was always a good view. Martha designed it that way and played up the views by framing various vignettes with arbors and pergolas that were laden with climbing roses. These 'frames' not only provided gateways into new, undiscovered areas of the garden for the visiting wanderer but also ensured that what was being viewed was seen through a defined aperture. In the photograph above, Martha's studio is beautifully framed by this arching arbor. It is echoed beyond by another identical arbor, which creates a sightline and a sense of symmetry.
Martha designed her formal herb garden in the early 1980s. It arose out of a necessity to have herbs at the ready for her many catering projects. The design was adapted from a book called Herb Garden Design by Faith Swanson and Virginia Rady. One chapter in the book called Using Standards and Maypoles inspired Martha's layout. As you can see from the conceptual illustration of Martha's herb garden (top) it was intended to be extremely elaborate, enclosed by a stone wall. Martha did build the stone wall and planted the garden as planned. In later years, Martha conceded that the plan was too difficult to maintain and she scaled back the design to make it more streamlined and easier to care for. Martha did her research and compiled sources for inspiration. While the initial design may have been too ambitious, she tailored her expectations and made the garden workable for her needs. Never stop reading, learning or adapting.
One of the first things Martha and Andy Stewart did when they purchased Turkey Hill was to install a pool. Far from the bright blue, kidney-shaped varieties you often see in backyards, Martha's was designed to look like a pond with its interior walls and floor painted black, initially, and then a deep shade of green. Over the years Martha built the space into a destination, a kind of 'garden room' where you could escape to. The unadorned lawn and the stone pathway leading to its entrance creates the effect that one is going somewhere special. The view is also partially obscured by the wisteria, creating a sense of enclosure and privacy.
Every space on the Turkey Hill property was considered, even the smallest corners. Oftentimes, the most diminutive spaces provide the most special compositions. Here, on the opposite side of the stone wall surrounding the pool, Martha planted a border of muscari, ferns and daffodils for early spring. The border is edged with old brick. I love the graduating levels of height and the mix of textures. It is a microcosm that is filled with its own breadth of life and colour.
This old white picket gate leads from the pool to the orchard beyond. Flanked by rose bushes, it offers a nod to the English countryside. This gate was eventually replaced with a more modern design but it provides a sense of linear structure to an otherwise freeform garden, much the same way the stone walls do. Martha later added many tuteurs that were painted a deep shade of gray-green and placed them throughout the garden beds. They acted as structural columns that provided linear guidance for the eye.
It was only in the late 1980s that Martha decided to landscape the east side of her property, which was extremely shady. Martha had initially left this part of her yard as lawn but later discovered numerous shade-loving plants. Martha endeavored to create a woodland garden with a winding pathway through the trees and garden beds snaking through the tree trunks. It was one of my favourite parts of the Turkey Hill property because of its cool, sun-dappled atmosphere. Filled with ferns, hostas and other shade-loving plants, it was a verdant place with a magic all its own.
Not every gardener will want to have a vegetable garden, but how nice it must be to step outside your kitchen door and harvest your own lettuce, tomatoes, cuccumbers, carrots and kale. Martha is shown in the photo, above, tilling the vegetable garden at Turkey Hill in the early 1970s. A vegetable garden was essential for Martha's catering business and she grew everything she needed, including asparagus, brussels sprouts, numerous varieties of squash, various leafy-green vegetables and much more. There was also an orchard on the property with apples, pears and plums, and a berry-bush grove where she grew raspberries, blackberries and strawberries.
The photo above, taken in 2003, is one of the last photographs of Turkey Hill under Martha's stewardship. As you can see, Martha's original vegetable garden, which was initially in this location and shown in the photo prior to this one, is no longer there. Martha moved the vegetable garden to another part of the property and replanted this area with a vast cutting garden, shown here. Rotating your crops reinvigorates the soil and curtails the growth of microscopic pathogens and parasites. The maturity of the Turkey Hill gardens meant that crop rotation was necessary to keep the soil rich and fertile. The results, as you can see, were highly successful!