A Look Inside the First Issue

It took me years to finally accept that I needed to have the first issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine in my collection. For so long I had told myself that paying upwards of $60 for a magazine - no matter how coveted or collectible - was simply not something I was willing to do. Well, I caved. I found a copy on eBay for exactly $60 with a reasonable shipping rate so I bit the bullet and bought it. It arrived last week and I have been examining its pages, imagining how exciting it must have been for Martha and her team to finally see a published issue on the newsstand. In November, 1990, it made a huge impact on the publishing world and from there Martha never looked back. Below I've shared a look inside the pages of this rare issue. I hope you find it enjoyable!

Putting a photograph of the magazine's founder on the cover was unheard of at the time, as was naming the magazine after her. By 1991, however, Martha understood the power of branding. Her face was recognizable through her television specials, print ads with Kmart and subsequent commercials for the retail giant. Daring though it may have been, it simply made sense to put her on the cover. The photograph was taken by Neil Kirk on the balcony off Martha's bedroom at Turkey Hill. Martha's shirt, pants and belt are by Louis of Boston. Her sweater is Armani; her t-shirt is Hanes. The watch, of course, is a Rolex.
All the hallmarks that make Martha Stewart Living recognizable were immediately evident while I was browsing through the issue: lavish, full-page photographs of beautiful and delicious-looking food abound throughout the issue. Martha really was the pioneer of this photographic vision. No other American publication granted full-page status to food photography. Gael Towey was the creative director on the project and went on to spend over 20 years at the magazine with Martha.
The first issue was a holiday issue with a focus on holiday entertaining and food preparation. The editorial shown above was devoted to holiday desserts.
An article about making "Cookies for the Children".
Alexis Stewart, Martha's daughter, makes her first and only appearance in the pages of Martha Stewart Living magazine in this article on homemade gift wrap.
While the ideas may look a bit dated by today's modern standards, they are extremely creative and the results are extremely beautiful.
The kitchen of the Adams House, a Connecticut historic home that was renovated and auctioned by Martha for charity, was the subject of this decorating feature. Martha documented the entire process of renovating this house in her book "Martha's New Old House". She also made several VHS videos of the process, which she sold at Kmart and through phone order.
The first Martha Stewart glossary was devoted to types of conifers.
In the early '90s, Martha's name was synonymous with wreath making. A full feature on how to make several variations of the holiday wreath is really informative.
Perhaps my favourite feature of the first issue is this cardboard page featuring pop-out decorations for a New Year's Eve at home. The idea was to use the silvered moons and stars as decoration on the holiday table, or even to suspend over a baby's crib in a mobile. Then, the cut-out spaces could be used to stencil anything you desired: a gift from Martha to you!


  • A profile on an up-and-coming celebrity chef named Ina Garten
  • Restoring an antique chandelier
  • Good Things!
  • Planting bulbs indoors for the holidays

After so long denying myself the joy of this issue, I must now urge everyone who collects Martha Stewart Living magazine to seek it out. You can occasionally find good bargains, as I did, but don't expect to pay less than $50 for it - unless you're really, really lucky! I hope you enjoyed this look back on this Throw Back Thursday!

The March Issue

The March issue is appearing on newsstands and it looks pretty delightful! Spring is such a time of renewal after a long winter, a time to open the windows and doors, sweep away the cobwebs and let all that sunshine in. I love the colours on the cover and the promise of a lot of home content with "stylish ways to elevate your rooms". There will be a sneak peek inside Martha's new baking book (see the post below) and a section on how to grow vegetables anywhere - even on balconies, I hope!


A New Way To Bake (New Book!)

At the end of March, Martha's company will release its 88th book! It is a baking book called "A New Way to Bake" that features 130 recipes that use better-for-you ingredients without sacrificing the taste. It will be released on March 28th, but you can pre-order it now on Amazon. See below for the description.

Here is the go-to cookbook that definitively ushers the baking pantry beyond white flour and sugar to include natural sweeteners, whole-grain flours, and other better-for-you—and delicious—ingredients. The editors at Martha Stewart Living have explored the distinctive flavors and alluring textures of these healthful foods, and this book shares their very best results.

A New Way to Bake has 130 foolproof recipes that showcase the many ways these newly accessible ingredients can transform traditional cookies, pies, cakes, breads, and more. Chocolate chip cookies gain greater depth with earthy farro flour, pancakes become protein powerhouses when made with quinoa, and lemon squares get a wonderfully crumbly crust and subtle nutty flavor thanks to coconut oil. Superfoods are right at home in these baked goods; granola has a dose of crunchy chia seeds, and gluten-free brownies have an extra chocolaty punch from cocoa nibs. 

With a DIY section for making your own nut butter, yogurt, coconut milk, and other basics, and more than 150 photographs, including step-by-step how-to images, A New Way to Bake is the next-generation home-baking bible. 


Martha Stewart's Slow Cooker Recipes - August 29th

Martha Stewart's Newlywed Kitchen - December 12th


Martha's Flowers (Release date unknown)


Happy New Year! (And New Issue!)

Wishing all of you a very Happy New Year! Thank you all for reading the blog, keeping me inspired and sharing your thoughts about one of the most influential brands ever created! I think 2017 will be a good year for Martha! I love this quote from the opening page of the well in the January/February issue of the magazine by feminist Gloria Steinem: "Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning." A good omen, indeed.
The cover is a bright and festive ode to love and happiness!

Martha Stewart Living: The Year That Was

I almost didn't do an annual review this year. Not because I didn't want to, I just wasn't sure there was that much to say about the year that was in 2016 for Martha Stewart Living. The issues were consistently good but nothing really jumped out as being utterly inspiring - or completely disappointing. Three things are worth noting, however:

1. 2016 marked the first complete year that MSL was managed by Meredith Corp. and Sequential Brands.

2. Early in 2016 a round of layoffs in both the editorial and advertising departments saw the departures of some very familiar faces, including stylist Ayesha Patel and crafts editor Marcie McGoldrick.

3. Eric Pike, the longtime creative director and editor-in-chief (largely responsible for giving the magazine its soul) stepped down after the March issue, succeeded by former Weddings editor Elizabeth Graves, who began her position as editor-in-chief with the April issue.
An assembly of the covers of 2016. There were no hideous covers (February, 2015, still haunts me) but there were some very pretty ones. My favourite cover is November: I love the pies and the symmetry; it's modern-traditional. Love it. December is also really nice: kitsch with a classy twist. 

The issues of 2016 were similar in style, content and volume to the issues from the year prior. Nothing really changed: no new columns, nothing taken away. There were two special issues: one on organizing and one that celebrated the magazine's 25th anniversary. For collectors, both are worth having. 

The general consensus among many readers in 2016 (according to comments left here on the blog and on the Martha Moments Facebook group) seemed to be that the magazine is "okay" but that it does not give them the same enjoyment as it once did.

I would put myself in this category as well. I definitely enjoy receiving the magazine as a subscriber and I do enjoy quite a bit of the content. For me, though, it's the overall feel of the magazine that has changed. I no longer feel it has very much that differentiates itself from other lifestyle magazines.

I do feel that it was the people who gave the magazine its soul, starting at the top with Martha. It was always Martha's intent to phase herself out of the magazine's pages as time went on, something that is becoming increasingly apparent. The effect that has, however, is the subtle disassembly of an image that gave the magazine so much of its strength and personal vision. Aside from her opening column (which I always read first!) there isn't much "Martha" in the magazine anymore - neither literally, nor stylistically.

Many of the faces we had been groomed to recognize over the years have also left: Lucinda Scala-Quinn, Eric Pike, Margaret Roach, Gael Towey - stewards of the brand who really gave "Martha" the look and feel that so many of us identified with.

If you don't see yourself or the qualities you're interested in within the magazine's pages, you will seek it out elsewhere.

Now that the Martha Stewart editorial staff has been reduced to its barest minimum under the controlling interests of a larger corporation (Sequential) it was to be expected that the magazine would change.

I still do feel the content is strong and consistent from issue to issue. In every issue I read there is always something - a kernel of knowledge, an inspiring photo, the story of a maker or designer - that keeps me interested in coming back to its pages.

I've learned to let my love of the magazine - and the brand - relax a bit, which is why I no longer blog as much as I used to. It will be what it will be and we can either decide to tag along for the ride or find something else to inspire us.

And since we all know that Martha is irreplaceable, we had better fasten our seat belts for the rest of the journey!


Readers Share Their Holiday Baking Moments!

I'm always so delighted by the talents of the people who read this blog and share their ideas and projects on the Martha Moments Facebook group. This year, so many of you shared your amazing baking creations - straight from the Martha Stewart recipe archives! From meringue mushrooms to Yule stump cakes (and the classic Birch de Noel!) right up to the gorgeous Eggnog Semifreddo Genoise Cake in this year's December issue of Martha Stewart Living, you rolled up your sleeves and dove right in! Below are some of the photos you shared. Happy Holidays, everyone!
Bernie Wong's "Birch de Noel" looks like it came straight from the pages of Martha's magazine!
Bernie makes Martha's meringue mushrooms every Christmas.
Jeremy Lambertson prepared some of Martha's meringue mushrooms too!
And used them to great effect on his Birch de Noel!
Angela Lande-Pachal made Martha's Yule Stump cake for Christmas dinner dessert this year.
Anthony Picozzi's Yule Stump Cake is magazine-shoot ready! Amazing!
Anthony also made a glorious gingerbread mansion this year! His talent just astounds me.
Martha's Eggnog Semifreddo Genoise Cake from the current edition of Martha Stewart Living is a challenging recipe to tackle, but at least two Martha Moments readers gave it a shot - and the results are gorgeous! Steven Haschke and Steve Jones followed the recipe exactly (left) while Jo Axelrod Martin substituted the eggnog mousse for chocolate mousse and used a buttercream frosting instead of the meringue frosting. Both look delicious!
David Pantoja's cookies are works of art. He uses his own sugar-cookie recipe but many of the icing techniques he uses he learned from Martha. Visit his blog for more amazing photos of his creations!


The December Issue

It's the most wonderful time of the year! The time when the December issue of Martha Stewart Living arrives in my mailbox! While almost every issue of MSL is a delight, there is always something special about the December issue for me. The editors really seem to push it, to give it their all for this holiday-themed issue. This year they really did a superb job of making the magazine feel modern, fresh and fun, with just the right balance of nostalgia and tradition. It's really, really good! Look for it on newsstands now!