The June Issue: Sheet Cake Surprise

The arrival of the June issue of Martha Stewart Living always imparts a sense of excitement in me. While it is true that the fall/winter issues of the magazine are my favourites, the delivery of the June issue brings with it that childlike anticipation of the longer, warmer days ahead; caution is thrown to the wind and as many hours as possible are spent outdoors enjoying the best of summer.
The best feature in this issue is the cover story: six delicious sheet cakes to get you through a myriad of summer occasions, from family picnics to gatherings at the cottage with friends. The cover photograph is a beautiful tribute to these easy summer treats. Shown here is a strawberry shortcake sheet cake, topped with mounds of whipped cream and fresh strawberries. Inside the issue are five other sheet cakes you'll want to add to your repertoire of summer entertaining recipes: easy as can be and perfect for a crowd. (There is something nostalgic about sheet cakes, too. They make me think of my grandmother and the wide, icing-laden versions she would make when we would visit her at the cottage).
Dennis Landon, a member of the Martha Moments Facebook group, tried his hand at making the cover's confection in the breakroom at his office! In a pinch, he used a standard cake pan instead of a sheet pan and a toaster oven instead of a standard oven, but says the recipe held up perfectly. Since his colleagues were eagerly awaiting their slices, he topped each piece individually with whipped cream and fruit and served it immediately, rather than decorate it as shown on the cover. Dennis says this will now be his "go to" shortcake recipe because of its delicious flavour and its ability to adapt to his whims of improvisation! (I can't wait to try it, myself!)


Martha In the News

Martha has been in the news lately with several new ventures underway and the surprising sale of her company to new owners, Marquee Brands. I thought I would outline some of the developments in this post. First is the news of the sale (or rather, re-sale) of Martha's company; it was purchased by Sequential Brands in 2015 and Sequential has now sold her company to Marquee, which owns and manages global brands across numerous consumer channels and markets. Marquee controls brands such as Body Glove, Ben Sherman and BCBGMAXAZRIA - primarily apparel - and will now add Martha Stewart to its roster. This will be the first house & home brand for Marquee, although Martha's recent forays into apparel via QVC broadens her scope. From the consumer's perspective, little will change. Martha's products will still be accessible through familiar channels, such as Macy's, QVC, Michael's and online through Amazon and the Martha Stewart Shop at marthastewart.com. Martha's magazine, Martha Stewart Living, is still controlled by Meredith Corp. and her publishing partnerships with Clarkson Potter and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt remain intact.
Martha has also recently partnered with two Canadian companies: one which specializes in seafood and the other in cannabis production! In February it was announced that Martha would partner with Canadian seafood giant Cooke's True North to develop a line of seafood entrees, including Atlantic and sockeye salmon, Alaska pollock and a seafood medley, all sold with Martha Stewart spices and recipes. The line was showcased this spring in Boston and will be available on QVC starting this month. You can watch Martha discussing the fish on QVC by clicking here.
Meanwhile, also in Canada, Martha's expertise will be used to help develop products made with cannabis with a company called Canopy Growth. She will act as an advisor to help the company create new products for pets and people alike. Martha came on board when her friend and television co-host, Snoop Dogg, referred Martha to the company. "As soon as you hear the name Martha, you know exactly who we're talking about," said Canopy Growth co-CEO Bruce Linton. "Martha is one of a kind and I am so excited to be able to work alongside this icon to sharpen our CBD product offerings." (CBD is a naturally occurring compound found in the resinous flower of cannabis).
Martha has also recently partnered with MSC Cruises to curate on-board menus and shore excursions tailored to her tastes. Restaurants on board the ships will feature Martha Stewart menu options and activities on board will feature Martha Stewart events, such as crafting classes and cooking lessons. Martha traveled with MSC Cruises to also develop curated shore excursion itineraries: places Martha enjoyed seeing and activities she recommends. Guests on board the ship can tailor their cruise to include one Martha Moment after another!  Click here to watch a short promo clip.
Martha also has a new cookie book on the way! In October, you can purchase Martha Stewart's Cookie Perfection, which features 100+ recipes for the very best cookies. The book is hardcover with 256 pages. It will be published on October 15, but you can preorder it here. Here is the description of the book from the publisher, Clarkson Potter.

The editors of Martha Stewart Living present a new, fun source for anyone looking to make their go-to cookies even better and bolder. These recipes make ordinary cookies absolutely extraordinary--all the familiar favorites you love, but taken up a notch in variety, flavor, and creativity. Classic recipes discover new life with unexpected twists such as Lemony Brown-Butter Crinkle Cookies and Carrot Cake Thumbprint Cookies. Go over-the-top in super-sized fashion with Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookies; get inspired by cultures around the globe with Brazilian Wedding Cookies and Stroopwaffels; and celebrate with beautifully decorated holiday treats, such as Easter Egg Puzzle Cookies and Snowball Truffles. Whether for a special celebration or a sweet anytime-treat, you'll be sure to find inspiration to trade in your everyday cookies for versions far more special--and especially delicious.


A Simple Dessert: Martha's Lime Pudding Cups

I took advantage of today's April showers by staying indoors and cooking up a little something sweet. The word "cooking" may be a bit of an exaggeration, actually, since the recipe I used required just ten minutes of stove-top time! I made Martha's lime pudding cups, which are featured in the May issue of Martha Stewart Living on page 30 in the Good Things section: I highly recommend it.  With just six ingredients and the promise of a silky pudding texture with the delicious bite of lime, I was enticed to give it a try.
The dessert is based on a British dessert called posset, which is a simple mixture of cream, sugar and citrus juice (lemon or lime) often served with shortbread. In this recipe, the addition of crumbled graham crackers on top replaces the shortbread and adds a nice crunch, conjuring taste memories of citrus tarts; a pleasant texture contrast.  The lack of gelatin or eggs was another appealing factor for me; the chemical reaction that occurs between the acidity of the citrus juice and the mellowness of the hot cream creates a pudding-like texture without the use of additional ingredients or prolonged cooking time. Neat! I was smitten and very pleased with the results. I'll be making these again!
Here is the recipe:

In a saucepan, bring 2 cups of heavy cream, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon of finely-grated lime zest and a pinch of kosher salt to a boil over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until reduced to 2 cups, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat: stir in 1/3 cup of freshly-squeezed lime juice. Let cool for 20 minutes, then strain through a fine sieve in a liquid measuring cup, discarding any solids. Divide evenly among six glasses. Refrigerate until set, at least two hours. Top the cups with sweetened whipped cream, crumbled graham crackers and more grated lime zest; serve.


Martha Moments Readers Share Their Easter Photos

It's been one week since Good Friday, but I couldn't resist sharing some of the wonderful photos that have come in from Martha Moments readers depicting their recent Easter celebrations. As always, Martha's fans are keen to make their celebrations festive, decorative, delicious and most of all memorable. Many of the recipes used for their celebrations were Martha's recipes; many of the products used to decorate their tables and serve their meals were Martha's products. And many of the ideas were inspired by Martha's projects and personal sensibilities. I hope you enjoy these Martha Moments!
Ramona Barry made the gorgeous cookies that were featured on the cover of the April issue using Martha's "four Ds" method: dip, drip, decorate and dry. They turned out very nice! You can watch Martha make the cookies here.
Alirio Pirela showcased his decorated Easter eggs in a ceramic egg tray. The colours are splendid!
Anna Darina Bredenberg in Germany sent in this photo of some of her Easter cookies, which were inspired by the ones shown on the cover of the April issue.
Hayden Regina went all out with colour this year for his Easter table. I love the very graphic table cloth, the fresh flowers and all that lustrous Jadeite!
Jeremy Lambertson showcased some of his McCoy pottery alongside hand-dyed Easter eggs and some lovely rabbit decorations. Very Martha!
Jeremy also used Martha's carrot cake recipe for his Easter dessert. It is displayed on a Martha by Mail cake stand.
This delicious looking version of Deviled Eggs by Bernie Wong was made all the more beautiful with the delicate application of a flower decoration on each serving.
Easter lilies at Bernie's house - and some very pretty bunny dishes.
This is a mix of goose and chicken eggs that Bernie has blown out. He left them white and I love the simplicity.
Anthony Picozzi set a gorgeous Easter table using some of Martha's faux-chocolate bunnies from her QVC holiday line.
Anthony also served Martha's classic devilled eggs. He gilded the lily by decorating the beautiful platter with quail eggs in a nest of dill.
Here is a closer look at one of Martha's QVC bunnies that Anthony had on display on his fireplace mantel. It really does look like chocolate!
Christopher Lewis-Long also displayed Martha's bunnies in his kitchen. (Jadeite really was a big theme this year for everyone!)
Melina Barbone-Leone made Martha's blueberry ricotta tart from her "New Way to Bake" book. You can get the recipe here. Looks delicious!
Melina also made Martha's flourless chocolate walnut torte, also from "A New Way to Bake." You can get the recipe here.
And here is Melina's very springlike centerpiece. Lovely!
Onana Pena made a blueberry bundt cake and decorated it gorgeously with a giant peony blossom. Looks so elegant!
Cindy Hamel's table looks absolutely beautiful and so welcoming! (Notice the eggs hanging from the chandelier?)
Paul S. Neumann made Martha's spring garden cake this year for Easter. He did a wonderful job! You can get the recipe here.
Sean Frederic Edgecombe made these delicious-looking scallops for his Easter meal. I love the dinnerware!
Sean also made Martha's recipe for vegetarian matzo ball soup. You can get the recipe here.
This antique buffet in the home of James Richmond is festooned with Easter decorations. A Martha Stewart Collection cake stand plays host to two nesting bunnies.


The Martha Stewart Shop + Easter Offerings

Martha always celebrates Easter in style. It is little wonder, then, that she is offering several Easter decor items for the season, most notably through Macy's and QVC. At QVC, there is a selection of Peter Rabbit decorations that are personal favourites of mine; the rabbits are designed to look exactly like chocolate Easter bunnies but are in fact made of a sturdy resin. There are two styles available in two different sizes: a standing rabbit, which is 16" tall and a seated rabbit, which is 10" high. Both styles are tied with a pretty green gingham ribbon, which can be changed for your own ribbon if you desire. Placed along the center of a table or on a buffet or a sideboard these bunnies would add whimsical charm with their trompe-l'oeil effect. Click here to see more of these cute little guys! I really love them.

These are the resin bunnies that Martha has at her home in Bedford. She based the QVC rabbits on these designs.

Meanwhile at Macy's, Martha has a selection of Easter offerings as well, including this set of four ceramic cocottes and a flower-shaped casserole dish that I'm quite in love with. Click here to see more of Martha's Easter offerings at Macy's.

Martha shoppers will be glad to hear that marthastewart.com has now created a Martha Stewart Shop where all of Martha's products can be viewed through one simple portal. From lighting to rugs, garden supplies to clothing, home decor to books, wine and pet supplies, the Martha Stewart Shop is your one-stop location to see everything Martha!


Remembering: My Friend Kenn

"Is this THE Andrew Ritchie?" That was the first line of the first email Kenn Sheats ever sent to me. It was 2004, right in the midst of Martha's criminal trial. I had been writing for SaveMartha.com and this gentleman named Kenn in Michigan would often leave comments of praise on my posts; he was a kindred spirit in the fight to clear Martha's name. He had been a fan of Martha's from the very beginning: he had every issue of her magazine, every mail-order catalog, every flyer, every poster, every newsletter and every piece of advertising. I was in awe! He was THE Kenn Sheats!
 Kenn met Martha on a few occasions, but perhaps his most memorable encounter was at the wedding of Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell (the Beekman Boys) in Sharon Springs, New York, in 2013. Martha said the biscuits Kenn made for the event were among the best she had ever tasted!

Kenn and I became fast friends and over the ensuing years, Kenn was instrumental in helping me build this blog. He later became a co-moderator of the Martha Moments Facebook group. I always used to tell him that I felt this blog was 'our' blog. Kenn loved to cook. He loved to garden. He loved to 'keep house' and he loved the holidays - all holidays. Martha's books, magazines and television shows played right into all his passions. He was her biggest champion and certainly the most passionate collector of her wares I had ever met.
Martha Moments may have been my inception and concept, but it was Kenn's encouragement and assistance that often kept me going, even during times when I felt like throwing in the towel. I trusted him implicitly. He had all the passwords to the site and I would often run my design ideas past Kenn before going ahead with them. If it had his stamp of approval, I knew I was on the right track. Kenn was my biggest supporter and helped me so much in my understanding of Martha's ventures. He was a teacher to me, as well as a friend.

We had planned to meet in 2006 when Martha hosted the "Good Things Event" in New York City but his mother sadly passed away just days before the convention. Even though we never met in person, there were always the annual Christmas cards, the occasional phone calls, the frequent emails and the very real understanding that we were there for each other and that we loved each other as friends.

Our shared fantasy was to one day run a Martha Stewart museum together, preferably at Turkey Hill, where we would guide visitors through the gardens and the house. We would convert the barn into a gallery where Kenn would have all of his memorabilia on view and perhaps a little gift shop where we would sell - of all things - Martha Stewart logo earrings! (Kenn's hearty laugh over the telephone when we came up with the silly earring idea still resonates with me).

I am currently mourning his loss.

Kenn passed away late in the evening of March 22, 2019, after a four-year battle with cancer. There are really no words to express the loss one feels when you lose a friend; the pain must simply be felt and endured. Endurance was something Kenn had in spades. Rarely does one meet someone as courageous and optimistic as Kenn. Throughout his battle with cancer, which had many setbacks but also many encouraging signs of remission, Kenn was the epitome of grace and strength. He never once complained. He never once said, "I can't." He was the definition of a fighter and I want to remember him that way.

I will miss Kenn's insights and his friendship so very much. I dedicate this entire blog to him. Next to Martha, herself, Kenn was and is the reason I keep this blog going. Please take a moment to look through these photos of Kenn and remember my dear friend with me. I love you, Kenn. The angels are lucky to have you. Rest In Perfection.
A young Kenn looking dashing in his jacket and bow tie.
Kenn posing with his sister.
Kenn adored the holidays!
He loved all things 'home.' Setting the table was a simple pleasure he took pride in. Although, he hated the word "tablescape"! 
When he was diagnosed with cancer, Kenn's colleagues had these bracelets made to show their support for his fight. Kenn was the epitome of strength and courage.
Even during the most difficult times, Kenn always found a way to smile - and make others smile too.
Kenn's greatest pleasure was spending time with his partner of 22 years, David LaFramboise. (All of Martha's books and magazines are stored in his office).
 I will always remember you, Kenn. 


I Love the April Issue

Spring cannot come soon enough for me. Here in Ontario, Canada, this winter was especially cold and snowy. And as much as I love a snow-laden landscape, my desire for beautiful gardens, leafy trees, blue skies and sunshine has superseded my attraction to the warm and cozy. The April issue of Martha Stewart Living, which is on newsstands now, is the perfect bastion of the season to come. With its exuberant colour and promise of 'Spring Fun', it is a sight for winter-weary eyes.
Inside the magazine, I was so pleased by the content. Those are Martha's cookies on the cover and she shows us how she makes them in her monthly column. There are gorgeous new ideas for Easter egg designs that are based on fine-china patterns (reminiscent of classic Martha content) as well a gorgeous spring menu that I'm eager to explore. There are delicious recipes for morning pastries, a guide to a greener spring cleaning regimen (and greener eating, too!) plus a guide to buying furniture that lasts.

What most warmed my heart was the feature written by Margaret Roach about her garden in Copake Falls, New York, which I was lucky enough to visit in 2005. The former MSL editor-in-chief (and the magazine's founding garden editor) will publish a revised version of her first book "A Way To Garden" on April 30th. I have the first edition and can tell you that it is one of my favourite books of all time. I will certainly get the new version as well, which includes new photographs and a new design.

I like that the magazine is plucking from its field of alumni: Margaret Roach, Gael Towey, Melanio Gomez and Ayesha Patel have all been contributors over the last few years and I hope this trend continues; the incorporation of familiar faces is the perfect bridge to connect longtime readers to the newer ones. The April issue is lovely, indeed.