Preserving an Heirloom

I don't hold on to 'things' the way some people do. I'm probably as far away from being a hoarder as possible without being a minimalist. If it doesn't mean something to me, I really don't mind letting go of it. The collections I do maintain, however, always have some special meaning. Very often, the objects that I showcase in my cabinets have belonged to a relative, such as my grandmother's Wedgwood and Minton, my aunts' crystal glassware and some of her handmade pottery.

Not on display are items that are just as meaningful but perhaps need a bit more care in their preservation. I was recently given the tablecloth my great grandmother hand stitched and embroidered in the 1960s as well as the tiny outfit my grandmother knitted for me to wear when I first came home from the hospital after being born in December, 1976. Both had been stored in a cardboard box in my parents' basement for quite some time. When my mother offered them to me, I simply couldn't say no.
My grandmother knitted this ensemble for my mother to bring me home from the hospital after I was born. Because I was a winter baby and was born in the second-coldest capital city in the world (Ottawa, Canada), it had to be warm. Included is a pair of leggings, slippers, mittens, a sweater, an outer sweater and a cap. My great grandmother's tablecloth (below) is another masterpiece of homespun skill: each flower was embroidered by her. There are over 100 flowers in total. 
I decided to invest in a proper storage box for them and set about making sure they would be stored properly. Heirloom textiles and linens should always be as clean as possible before they are put into storage. The knitted outfit had developed a slight musty smell after having been stored in a basement for over 40 years. I hand washed it with a mild detergent and laid it out to dry completely. It needed some air, too, so I left it laying flat for several days to really breathe. This got rid of the smell and I was assured it was clean before I put it back in storage.

The tablecloth was another matter. Some of the thread my great grandmother used to embroider the gorgeous flowers is not colorfast and can easily bleed. I consulted the Smithsonian website and discovered that a gentle vacuum would remove any grit or dust particles that may have accumulated in storage. (The Smithsonian's page on preserving antique linens is an invaluable resource, by the way. Click here to view it.)
As a general rule, all vintage linens should be kept in cool, dry, dark places that are free of dampness. Basements and attics are not, therefore, the best choices since temperatures and moisture levels can be difficult to moderate. The Smithsonian suggests keeping them in an acid-free storage box in a bedroom closet or in a dresser drawer. I opted for the bedroom closet since I had a free upper shelf available. The box I purchased is a Lineco Museum Storage Box, readily available in multiple sizes and colours on Amazon. It is acid-free and is very nicely made: sturdy but not heavy. I also invested in acid-free tissue paper to wrap the garments and the table linen. This further protects them from dust, light and moisture.
I wrapped each item separately to reduce any fraying from friction.
They all fit nicely in the box.
I made a tag with the names of my great grandmother and grandmother and included the approximate dates the items were made. (The snowflake decoration was an added touch, since the package contains winter baby clothes.)
On the outside of the box, I used my P-Touch label maker to denote what it contains.
It's all ready to be placed in my closet, with easy access any time I would like to look at it. (Textiles should, in fact, be taken out and refolded from time to time to prevent permanent creasing or wearing along the folds).


Martha's Harvest Collection at Macy's

Each year at Macy's, the Martha Stewart Collection presents a Thanksgiving capsule for kitchen and tabletop that inspires. This year is no different and some of the offerings are quite nice. With just seven days to go before American Thanksgiving, now would be the time to shop. Pre-Black-Friday sales have already kicked in with promises of further reductions next week. So, why not have a look to see if there are any items that may spruce up your table or make your holiday meal prep a little easier. Below are some images of the collection snagged from Martha's blog and from the Macy's website: items I find particularly charming. Click here to see the full Harvest Collection by Martha Stewart.
A mix of rustic themes with modern materials keeps things looking fresh. I like the combination of wood with ceramic, silver with brass and plain with patterned. There is a twelve-piece dinnerware set on offer as well as plenty of table accessories. The gleaming salt and pepper shakers on the right are adorable.
One tureen, two ways! Martha suggests using this pumpkin-shaped tureen (which comes with a lid and ladle) to serve hot apple cider, shown above, or to display a fall centerpiece for the table, below. You could, of course, also use it for soup - its traditional purpose.
This set of four pumpkin-themed napkin holders is quite nice. They are made of zinc alloy and can be cleaned by simply wiping with a dry cloth.
I think everyone needs a classic turkey platter in their collection and this one fits the bill. A careful observer will notice the scene of Martha's Bedford farm depicted in the background as well as her old cedar fencing, which she imported from Canada.
Make things fun and festive in the kitchen, too, with themed tea towels, trivets and brassy utensils. Not shopping for yourself? Think 'hostess gift' too!


Martha and the Food Network Kitchen App

Martha is one of several celebrity chefs who will be taking part in a new cooking app developed by The Food Network. For $48 a year, subscribers to Discovery's Food Network Kitchen app will have access to live and interactive cooking demonstrations by some of America's most renowned cookbook authors and cooking-show stars, including Ina Garten, Bobby Flay, Giada De Laurentiis and Guy Fieri. The app will feature live cooking courses, on-demand cooking classes and videos that will teach you about cooking tools and techniques. Some of Martha's first videos will be about Thanksgiving. Click the link above to learn more and subscribe. (There is currently a three-month free trial for the service. The app is available to US residents only).


Martha's Christmas Wares at QVC

Last week, Martha launched her 2019 holiday collection on QVC. From wreaths to trees to outdoor lights to various indoor/outdoor decorations, the line is quite expansive. Below I've selected some of my personal favourites from the collection. Click here to view it all and watch video clips of Martha discussing the products from her stables at Cantitoe Corners, her home in Bedford, New York.
I'll start with my favourite item from the collection: this Scandinavian-inspired wooden advent calendar with 24 tiny drawers to conceal a daily surprise. It is very reasonably-priced and measures 16 inches by 16.25 inches by 3 inches deep and comes pre-lit with a festive village scene. It is meant to sit on a dresser or table and does not come with any hanging hardware, although the crafty ones among us would surely be able to rig something up to make it possible to mount on a wall. I just think it's really cute!
There are numerous artificial trees in the collection, but my favourite is this natural looking, pre-lit spruce variety. It stands 7.5 feet tall and is available with both clear and multicoloured lights. It also comes in a 6.5 foot version and a five-foot version.
If retro-glam is more your style, then this 9-foot tall gold tinsel tree provides maximum impact. It is also available in silver and, like its realistic sibling above, comes pre-lit with a collapsible stand. All of the trees in Martha's collection come with replacement bulbs and fuses as well as protective gloves for installation.
Not everyone needs or wants a large Christmas tree. This diminutive variety (24 inches) is made of gold-flecked pinecones with gold ornaments interspersed, placed inside a small stone-like urn. It is simple on its own on a small table or stand and would look stunning in a pair set on either side of a mantel or on a dining table: rustic but elegant.
I'm really fond of this natural-looking wreath. I love the silvery greens and the feathery textures of the white pine and the eucalyptus. Though it is all artificial, it looks very real. It is also pre-lit with 20 LED lights that are battery-operated. The lights can be adjusted to flicker or to stay on all the time. It would be beautiful on your door all winter long.
As part of the same greenery line, this group of four 18-inch winter-floral picks can be used either indoors or outdoors to add to a holiday scene. Simply tuck the sprays into a tree for some added flourish or conceal the ends under a lantern to create a green surround. They can be layered along a mantel or placed into an urn outdoors to create a festive bouquet. A very ingenious and useful item to help with your decorating.
 Never one to ignore the benefits of good organization, Martha is offering this set of three Christmas tree storage bags in her signature Beford Gray. The bags are suitable for most 7.5 foot and 6.5 foot trees and are designed to store your trees carefully so that they look their best year after year. Each bag has a label insert and pouches to store extra fuses and lights. It's a Good Thing.


Bats in Sarah's Belfry

My friend Sarah Konyer in Vancouver got a bit batty this Halloween. Taking a page (literally) from the October issue of Martha Stewart Living, she endeavored to recreate the batty mantel from the Good Things section. And I must say, she scored top marks! The magazine provides a helpful bat template, which Sarah used for her dining room decor, below, and suggests affixing the paper creatures to the walls using adhesive dots.
 Sarah used a horde of small paper bats that, when assembled en masse, seem to be flying frantically out from the open flue. The trick is to cluster them slightly near the bottom and then spread them out as you near the ceiling, giving the swarm some dimension. Bending the wings adds to the effect.
For comparison, the image that appeared in the magazine is on the left and Sarah's interpretation is on the right. Both are magazine-worthy!
Sarah used Martha's bat template for this creepy bat arrangement that hung upside down in her dining room prior to her Halloween soiree. A very effective (and spooky) look all around!


Asking Martha

Sometimes it's the little things in life that can really make you smile. While flipping through the November issue of Martha Stewart Living, which is on newsstands now, I was delighted to see that the editors had selected a question I had submitted to them back in the spring. On page 68 you'll find my question about ironing vs. steaming and the helpful answer that accompanies it:


The last time I sent in a question to the Ask Martha column was in the early 2000s. My question wasn't selected but this past spring I thought I would give it another go. Sure enough, one of my two questions was chosen! I have a few tips on how to get your questions noticed out of the hundreds that I'm sure the magazine receives each month.
  • I suggest sending your questions via post, rather than by email. It's just a hunch, but I feel as though the editors will take more notice if you've taken the time to sit down and pen your queries on pretty stationery, as I did.
  • Ask more than one question. I sent in two, but you could send three or four or five: it gives the editors more to choose from.
  • Ask very specific questions. Don't be vague. A question like, "Are apples healthy?" is far too broad for the editors to respond with a succinct reply. An alternative question might be, "Do the skins of apples contain any added health benefits?"
  • This may seem obvious, but keep your questions in the realm of home, health and lifestyle: food, cooking, cleaning, organizing, collecting, gardening, repairing, mending and crafting are all topics the magazine deals with, so start with that footprint.  
  • Think a season or two ahead: submit a question in July about a Christmas quandary, or a question about gardening in January. This gives the editors time to plan out the publishing of your question to fit seasonal themes well in advance.
  • Be patient. I sent in my question last May and it was only published in the November issue. Don't be discouraged if you don't see your question in the pages of the issue immediately following. 
I hope some of you take the time to Ask Martha a question or two! It's nice to get a direct response from actual experts and to see your name in print in your favourite magazine. Below is the address to send your letters to as well as the email.

c/o Letters Department
Martha Stewart Living
225 Liberty Street
New York, New York

The other alternative is email: Ask.Martha@meredith.com


Cookie Perfection

Martha's next book, Cookie Perfection will be out on October 15th. The book promises to take cookie classics to the next level with interesting flavour and texture twists. I'm pleased that the book will be hardcover: there's something so nice about a hardcover book. It is already a bestseller on Amazon and I'm betting it will be featured under quite a few Christmas trees this year. Below are some samples from the book you can try in advance of its publication. You can also find some recipes from the book at marthastewart.com. They all look soooo good! Click on the images to enlarge them.