Martha Stewart's Cake Perfection - Out Today!

Martha's 97th book is out today and it's all about cakes, which makes it an automatic hit for me. Baking has been a pleasure for me during this pandemic and almost all of the recipes I made were Martha's - and almost all of them were from her first Cakes book. This book promises to deliver recipes and techniques that will take cakes to the next level of excellence, however the "from simple to stunning" subheading promises at least a few recipes for beginners. Be sure to order or pick up your copy today - or at the very least add it to your Christmas wish list!

The book will make an ideal companion to Martha's book "Cookie Perfection" which was published last year. Below are some examples of the cakes from the book. You can find even more in the October issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine. 


Martha Knows Best - Season Two

"Martha Knows Best", which aired earlier this summer on HGTV, will see its second season air later this month! On Wednesday, October 28, Martha fans can tune in to HGTV for the two-episode premiere, which begins at 8 p.m., EST. In this season, viewers will be shown how Martha prepares her gardens for the fall and winter seasons as well as her holiday decorating ideas at her Bedford, NY, farm, from Halloween to Christmas. Crafts, seasonal flower arranging, wreath-making, pumpkin harvesting and apple-cider making will all be on offer. As in the first season, Martha will take calls from celebrity friends and curious advice-seekers about how to prepare their gardens for the winter and share ideas for seasonal and holiday decor. Be sure to tune in!



Book of the Month: Daniel Hinkley's "Windcliff"

Those of us who are familiar with episodes of Martha’s first television show will know the name Dan Hinkley. A frequent guest on her show, and a personal friend of Martha’s, Hinkley is considered to be one of the world’s most renowned plant explorers and collectors. Founder of the Heronswood Nursery near Kingston, Washington, Hinkley has devoted most of his adult life to the pursuit of gardening and plant hunting.

I first came to know of him through Martha’s television program when he toured her gardens at Turkey Hill and Skylands, offering planting suggestions and recommending specimens that would survive some of the more challenging areas of those gardens. Several years later, his beautiful home and garden were profiled in the 2005 August issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine and I very quickly became an admirer.

Now, at last, the story of his personal garden is documented in a new book by Timber Press. Referred to lovingly by Hinkley and his husband Robert Jones as Windcliff, the garden straddles a wide swath of land overlooking Puget Sound on the northeast side of the Kitsap Peninsula on the coast of Washington State. The book chronicles the story of this garden, from its first days as a somewhat barren, rain-deprived site to its present-day incarnation as one of the most lush and beautiful gardens in America. 


Imagining A Book on Martha's Collections

I have this funny little habit of turning dreaming into doing, especially when it comes to design. I will get an idea for something and I will simply have to see it realized, visually, if I'm to have any sort of respite from the persistence of that idea. I've done this numerous times using Martha Stewart themes: coming up with alternate covers for Martha Stewart Living magazine, covers for make-believe special issues, books and products. I've done it, too, with some of my favourite musical artists; I'll create mock album covers for special anniversary issues that don't exist yet or design an alternate CD insert booklet. I've never studied graphic design, nor done it professionally (I did go to art school) and I don't have any of that sophisticated software needed to really achieve the perfect look, but I do what I can with what I've got. Designing is becoming a more consistent reality for me. As my yoga instructor would say, it's "manifesting your belief."

I was recently chatting with fellow blogger and Martha enthusiast, David Pantoja, who is the curator of the wonderful blog Good Things By David, where he showcases much of his Martha by Mail collection and demonstrates his exceptional baking skills. (No one ices a cookie better!) We were discussing how wonderful it would be to have a book - or at the very least a special issue magazine - devoted to Martha Stewart's collections. Her treasure trove must be vast. How excellent would it be to have a book that documents, archives and photographs these extensive collections of Martha's? Always the teacher, Martha would of course offer advice on how to source and care for these objects: how to clean them, display them and enjoy them, and how she herself has incorporated them into her own homes and routines.

David urged me to come up with a make-believe cover for this book and that's exactly what I did. The only photograph I had saved of Martha that was large enough for this project - and that suggested a collecting theme - was an image published in the magazine a few years ago showing Martha with some of her large collection of brass. I think it works well as a cover but I am not one-hundred percent sold on it as the final copy. It was used merely to demonstrate the subject and the idea. I used it, too, for the special issue magazine idea, which would also be fun, but I really do think Martha's collections deserve a book.


Remembering: Martha's Early Newsletters

 In the spring of 1988, Martha and a small team of assistants put together the first issue of the Entertaining Newsletter – a quarterly publication that offered recipes, gardening and domestic advice, and personal essays by Martha about the projects she was working on. It was an offshoot of her bestselling book Entertaining from 1982 and, in many ways, it was the forebearer of Martha Stewart Living magazine, which would emerge just three years later. For this reason, it is one of the most collectible and treasured Martha Stewart publications.

The Entertaining Newsletter was composed almost entirely by Martha, written on an IBM computer in her small office at number 10 Saugatuck Avenue in Westport, Connecticut. It was a way for Martha to communicate with her growing audience and a medium she could use to promote her latest books and seminars. I love imagining a late-40s Martha sitting at her desk with the golden afternoon sun streaming through the window, casting a glow in her long blond hair, books and notebooks stacked on every surface, as she typed up essays on homekeeping and some of her latest recipes. 

 From Martha’s Home to Yours

Each issue of the newsletter was like a personal love letter from Martha to her readers. They contained her words, her recipes, her reviews of the latest cookbooks and the hottest restaurants, as well as lists of her personal tastes and preferences for all manner of things pertaining to the home, from her favourite cleaning products to the best garden suppliers in the United States. There were occasional guest columnists, but the amplified voice of the newsletter was very definitely hers. 


The October Issue

I picked up the October issue of Martha Stewart Living on one of the warmest September days I can remember. Wearing shorts and a t-shirt, I lunged for it on the newsstand. I NEEDED a dose of fall. The magazine dispensed it perfectly. It is not your average Martha Stewart October cover and that, as she would say, is a "Good Thing." I like Halloween, but occasionally it's nice to give the autumn season itself a bit of love - ghosts and goblins aside. The cover, with its multitude of shapely and colourful pumpkins and gourds, tucked somewhere gray at Martha's farm, is the perfect mix of joy and restraint: a photo by Ngoc Minh Ngo.

True Halloween devotees will be a tad disappointed with the scarcity of ghoulish content, but do keep in mind that we're in the midst of a pandemic and that trick-or-treating will look extremely different this year - if it happens at all. My assumption is that the editors are being cautiously moderate when it comes to presenting a host of ways to celebrate a holiday that essentially involves going door-to-door to strangers' homes. Still, the Good Things section of the magazine is entirely devoted to Halloween fun - and fun should certainly still be had, albeit with a small circle of friends and family.