Friday, October 31, 2008

In an interview with the Chicago Sun Times, Martha mentioned that the company is working on the concept of stand-alone Martha Stewart stores so that collectors and admirers of the Martha Stewart brand could find everything in one place: ''I long have dreamed about having free-standing Martha Stewart stores," Martha said, "and we can easily fill a store with all the products we make. I would love to have a store on Michigan Avenue [in Chicago] ... that would be great.''

Martha hastened to add that no specific locations had been set but that the company would likely begin to test the concept internationally. The first Martha Stewart Store was located in Japan in a mall in the fashionable Yurakucho district of Tokyo. It did not last, sadly, but the Martha Stewart line of merchandise is so rapidly expanding that a Martha Store just makes sense. It's something many fans have wanted for a very, very long time!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Mars Direct, a division of Mars Snackfood US, announced a collaboration between MY M&M'S Chocolate Candies and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. The collaboration, which will be unveiled on Friday during a special live Halloween edition of the Emmy-winning series, The Martha Stewart Show, combines Martha Stewart's unique do-it-yourself craft ideas with personalized MY M&M'S. These handcrafted gift ideas will be available exclusively at and across all of MSLO's media properties. In her Friday show, Martha takes viewers on a first-ever behind-the-scenes visit to the MY M&M'S factory, giving audiences a glimpse into what it takes to produce one of America's all-time favorite sweets.

Through the integration, MSLO will create a cross-platform 360-degree program promoting stylish, personable and affordable holiday gifts featuring MY M&M'S Faces. This platform will allow consumers to put their favorite faces and personal holiday messages on M&M'S Chocolate Candies. In addition to being featured on The Martha Stewart Show, these exclusive do-it-yourself personalized holiday gift ideas will be on Martha Stewart Living Radio on SIRIUS; MSLO's online, eight-week Holiday Workshop at; and through do-it-yourself articles featured in Martha Stewart Living and Everyday Food magazines.

"From family tree ornaments to wish jars, MSLO's personalized holiday decor and gift ideas featuring MY M&M'S Faces will allow our audiences to tell their own unique holiday stories," said Martha Stewart. "Featuring custom photos and messages with a sweet chocolate twist, each holiday craft idea allows consumers to take personalization to a whole new level to create truly one-of-a-kind holiday memories."

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My friend Kenn had the good fortune to attend one of Martha's book signings on Wednesday evening. More than 400 people lined up in Birmingham, Michigan, to have their copies of Martha Stewart's Cooking School signed by Martha. Kenn has written a little recap of the events on his blog, House Blend.

An excerpt: "Fans bundled in blankets, others wrapped in coats and scarves, were all chattering madly about Martha and anxiously awaiting their wristbands. There is a unique bond that happens between total strangers standing in line together. Within minutes, your talking with total strangers as if you’ve known them all your life."

Monday, October 27, 2008

I've had this old baluster my entire life and it, in turn, has had many lives. It was salvaged from the house where my father grew up prior to a renovation. It likely dates from the 1920's. It spent a while in my parents' basement during the early '70s and when I was just a year old it was put on show again. My father painted it a rainbow of colours and fitted it with a base he constructed himself so that it could stand freely, without the support of any railings. It was placed near my crib, and then my little bed, and it had a place in my childhood rooms, from house to house to house, until about the age of 13 when I considered it 'too juvenile' for my bedroom, which was painted a serious gray at the time. It went back into my parents' basement for a little rest.

It was only last year that I decided to reclaim it. It needed to be sanded down and repainted. I chose a dark cream tone, since neutrals work well in just about any scheme and I was quite pleased with the way it turned out.

I like the idea that I will have this 'artifact' from my father's childhood home in any home I live in. I also like the sculptural, architectural detail it lends to the room it finds itself in. In a traditional setting, it blends right in. In a modern setting, it adds a counterpoint of interest to cleaner lines.
The new cream colour on the baluster is a marked contrast to the rainbow-bright tones of its youth. The base, below, is an ingenious construction devised by my father to support the baluster.
The baluster now finds itself tucked neatly in the corner of my living room, where it stands in subtle contrast to its surroundings.

The goodies at Macy's from the Martha Stewart Collection are all lining up along Holiday Lane for your perusal. I've selected some of my favourites from the 2008 Holiday Collection and a few other items from the Macy's line that would work well for the holidays - as gifts, or for yourself.

The Radiant Reflections 36" Feather Tree in gold looks gorgeous on a tabletop: $125

Three 12" glass tree-toppers in red, white and gold: $14.99 each.

These are my favourite, I think. A set of three gingerbread style snowflakes retails for $9.99

My parents had ornaments very similar to these ones, above and below. They're made of glass and are gorgeously elegant. Above, Snowflake Burst set of four $18.99. Below, Peppermint Swirl, $10.99 for a set of two.

Another gingerbread style ornament, these ones in the shapes of stately houses. (The bottom one looks a bit similar to Turkey Hill!) Set of three, $16.99.

Radiant Reflections and Red Berry wreaths and garlands: Wreaths are $48.99, Garlands are $34.99. Tres chic! So, it's your first time hosting a holiday dinner? Try the new Turkey Brining kit to make the turkey's juices flow through. The kit uses a brine inspired by a classic Martha Stewart Living recipe: $19.99.

Packaging cookies and cupcakes never looked so pretty! A set of six boxes for $9.99.
Not an experienced baker? No worries. Try the new Martha Stewart sugar cookie mix at Macy's: $9.99.
Luxurious hand soap and lotion for the kitchen in a light pomegranate scent will make cleaning up after dinner a pleasure: $29.99 for the pair.

One of my favourites from the Martha Stewart Collection is the Oasis Red bedding set. It just screams festive warmth! Let's snuggle.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A new play in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, will examine the far-reaching effects of Martha Stewart's influence on women - from those who embrace Martha's teachings, to those who adamantly reject them.

“There’s a really interesting dichotomy with her,” director John Hudson explains. “She’s a high-powered business woman, and yet she has made all her money and built her business on the ideal of domesticity. It’s such an odd kind of thing. I don’t know if you’ve seen her magazines, but everything’s perfect. And really, how can you attain that unless you have a bevy of servants like she does?”

That’s what Dough: The Politics of Martha Stewart tries to knead through; not Martha herself, but the struggles of the women who follow her in lieu of her "impossible" perfection. Shadow Theatre regular Coralie Carins plays all nine of the show’s domestic divas—“Everything from high-powered society women to a street person, and everything inbetween,” Hudson says—as they follow, reject, or grapple with the teachings of Stewart.

Something tells me Martha wouldn't be a fan of this play. But if you're in the Edmonton area and feeling brave, you may want to check it out:

Dough: The Politics of Martha Stewart
Directed by John Hudson; Written by Lindsay Burns
Starring Coralie Cairns
Runs Thu, Oct 23 - Sun, Nov 9 (7:30pm)
The Varscona Theatre (10329 - 83 Ave), $17 - $25

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Since I couldn't find the new cookbook on Tuesday when it came out, despite visiting four different book stores, I decided to order it on Amazon. Less than 48 hours later, it was at my doorstep at a huge discount. (Remind me to always buy online.) The book is fantastic. I'm not a big cookbook collector and I don't tend to be that adventurous in the kitchen. The textbook style of this book, though, may just make me broaden my culinary horizons. But even if it doesn't, I collect Martha's books for all kinds of reasons, not the least of which is design inspiration.

The book was designed by William van Roden, who also designed the Homekeeping Handbook, the Everyday Food cookbook and the Baking Handbook. Since the publication of those books, I've become a huge fan of this designer, who uses minimalist strategies to perfectly clarify instructional text in a way that is attractive and engaging.

Cooking School is no different.

It's a prime example of the well-planned guide. Much of this also has to do with the writing, which was undertaken by Martha and food editor Sarah Carey. The writing is clear, consise and well structured into highly-organized chapters that promote basic culinary techniques, which subsequently graduate to more challenging cooking tasks. All of it is fully illustrated with hundreds of step-by-step photographs.

I thought I'd take you 'inside' Martha's Cooking School and describe some of the details.

I always take the jackets off my cookbooks. The reason for this is that they don't get damaged and a well-worn book cover can always be covered again with the jacket. I keep the jackets in a small portfolio. I was pleasantly surprised to see this elegant black cover under the jacket. It's authoritative but not intimidating.

There are numerous new photographs of Martha throughout the book. Portrait photography was undertaken by Ditte Isager while the food photography (below) was done by Marcus Nilsson.

The Basics:


“To home cooks everywhere, may you always continue to learn.”

From Martha’s Introduction:

“This book has been designed and written as a course of study, very much like a college course in chemistry, which requires the student to master the basics before performing more advanced experiments. The lessons here begin just as they would in a true cooking school, with instruction about the essential tools and equipment, and perhaps the most basic lesson of all: how to hold and use a chef’s knife. You’ll also learn about fundamental ingredients, such as onions, garlic, and herbs & spices, as well as how they are used to build flavors. Then the book is organized in seven chapters, each offering indispensable lessons, such as the proper way to make a rich brown stock; poach eggs; braise meats, fish and poultry; prepare fresh pasta; simmer and puree vegetables; and cream butter to produce a fine-crumbled cake. The lessons are followed by recipes – a tutorial in stock making, for instance, is followed by a soup recipe that calls for the stock. This practical approach works throughout the book, which means that you build your recipe repertoire along with your skills.”

Pages: 504
Recipes: 200
Photographs: 500
Weight: 2 kilograms
Dimensions: 26 x 21.2 cm, and 4.4 cm thick

The Basics, 1) Stocks & Soups, 2) Eggs, 3) Meat, Fish & Poultry, 4) Vegetables, 5) Pasta, 6) Dried Beans & Grains, 7) Desserts.

Food photography by Marcus Nilsson
Portraits of Martha by Ditte Isager

Book designed by William van Roden

Printed in Japan

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Since I am at home sick today, I thought I'd read the dictionary. Now that most of us get our information online these days, I thought it would be pertinent to remind myself what REAL research is about. All of those high-minded ideals went out the window, however, when a flurry of pressed leaves collected last fall, sandwiched between the pages and a few well-trimmed pieces of paper towel, came flooding out into my lap. I had gathered them last year during a trip to Quebec City, stuck them in the dictionary on my return and just completely forgot about them.

I got giddy when I realized I had a stack of new white frames that I had recently purchased (with not much idea as to what I'd use them for) and the little craft project that followed could not be stopped once the inspiration took over. I decided to frame a pair of the leaves, which were perfectly flat and completely free of moisture, one year after their first pressing. It's ideal to press them in a flower press, not books, since the pages of the book could potentially warp from the moisture or stain. But I made sure to layer them well with paper towel and there were no casualties.

I whipped out the craft paper (I have three large 'books' of various designs) and started planning. I tried the leaves, which are all of reddish hue, on various types of paper: calming neutrals and warm oranges, even some outlandish patterns like green with brown polka-dots.

I finally settled on a chartreuse-toned paper with a faux-bois pattern. It's modern and goes well with my decor. Green and red are also complementary colours and the crimson leaves stand out nicely against the green, which I really liked. I picked my two favourite leaves from the bunch I had, laid them out first to make a nice arrangement and then glued them with craft glue to the paper.
I have three other white frames and I'm not sure whether I'll make a gallery of leaves or just do the one frame. I'm also not sure where to put it yet, but I have a few ideas. The nice thing about these kinds of projects is that they're easy to do, inexpensive, and can be as temporary as you want them to be: a few days, a month, a year, or several years.

I should really get sick more often.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

On Tuesday, Martha's latest cookbook will be released: Martha Stewart's Cooking School. Tuesday will also mark the first day of Martha's Cooking School series on her television show, co-hosted by Everyday Food editor Sarah Carey, so be sure to tune in to hear the latest details about the program.

Martha recently spoke to the Detroit Free Press about the book and says Cooking School is the most instructional cookbook she has ever written.

"I am a teacher, so I thought this would be a good time to use all of our knowledge and put it down as a cooking school," she said. "We have people coming on the show all the time using some of these techniques, and we've never organized them as we have in this book.

"Here we go through the different techniques -- the braising, the poaching, the steaming, the oven roasting, the sautéing so that you really know what you are doing when you say you are sautéing," she said. "And the recipes we give are really jumpstarts for you to then be able to sauté something else. You are going to sauté a piece of chicken cutlet and you will be able to do veal if you wish, or beef or something else."

The chapters are called 'Lessons' and are built around a particular technique. A chapter on braising will teach readers the technique and then demostrate how that technique can be used in different ways in different recipes. In some ways it's like a textbook, with the lessons numbered 2.1, 2.2, etc. and "extra credit" sections such as making soup garnishes or homemade mayonnaise in the egg lesson. There are plenty of illustrations and pictures along with step-by-step instructions. The book weighs a hefty four pounds, is hardcover and has over 500 pages with 200 recipes: another tome to add to your Martha Stewart book collection!

Martha also says that learning to cook can help families save money in hard economic times. "I think all the how-to's, the do-it-yourselves, are totally reflective of what's going on in the world today," she told the Detroit Free Press. "Paying a lot of attention to nutrition and homemade is exactly where we need to be right now."

Martha will be promoting the book with a short book tour, so be sure to take note of the dates and check your calendar to see if you can make it to one of the book signings.


10/21: Williams-Sonoma, Mall at Short Hills in Short Hills NJ, 6pm

10/22: Williams-Sonoma, Columbus Circle in New York City, 6pm

10/25: Macy's, Lakeside in New Orleans, LA, 11am

10/29: Borders in Birmingham, MI, 3pm

10/30: Book Stall in Winnetka, IL, 5pm

11/1: Williams-Sonoma, Westchester Mall in White Plains, NY, 12pm

11/7: Williams-Sonoma, The Bellevue in Philadelphia, PA, 5pm

11/9: Vroman's in Los Angeles, CA, 4pm

11/10: Barnes & Noble, Glendale, CA, 11am

11/11: Sur La Table in Dallas, TX, 1pm
Check for changes to dates and times and other additional information about the book.

Friday, October 17, 2008

There is something about Halloween that brings out the kid in all of us, even those of us who don’t have children of our own. I’m no exception. I love candy corn and those little ‘Rocket’ candies, and I'm wooed by the allure of grinning Jack-o-Lanterns as much as any 10 year-old.

But all this talk of the faltering economy and discussions about how to save money got me thinking about how juicy the taste of extravagance really is. What better time than Halloween is there to fantasize about over-the-top escapism?

I’ve always wanted to have a wickedly decadent Halloween party that spared no expense, in the vein of the Goths or the dreamy Victorians. I'd love to throw a big masquerade ball for adults only in some lavish location, sipping dark, vintage port in our costumes and eating slice after slice of Devil’s Food Cake, layered with the richest icing.

And in this moneyed fantasy I would have loot bags for all my guests containing the most exquisite Halloween treats. I did some virtual shopping for this pretend party and came up with some pretty good finds for my loot bag (which would actually be a large wooden trunk lined in black velvet and bejewelled with onyx fixtures on black leather buckles, in case you were curious) as you’ll see below.

These sketchbooks and journals by the 27 designers at (an artists' collective) are printed with eerie images that speak to the holiday's darkness. The sketchbooks measure 5.25" by 8.25" and the smaller journals measure 3.5" by 5.5." The sketchbooks are $36.

Below are two books for the reader who loves artistic spook. "Skulls" by Noah Scalin is the published version of his popular website Scalin created a skull for every day of the year out of everyday objects. In this book they're gorgeously photographed and creatively presented for posterity: $15. On the right is a classic book by famed illustrator Edward Gorey. "The Gashlycrumb Tinies" is the dark subversion of a children's alphabet book, guaranteed to bring a sinister smile to the face of everyone with a twisted sense of humor. Opening with "A is for Amy who fell down the stairs" and running all the way to "Z is for Zilla who drank too much gin," the simple but inspired rhymes combine with Gorey's pseudo-Victorian Gothic crosshatch illustrations to wickedly funny effect: $15.

And now we head to (one of my new favourite spots on the web!) where we get a bit of the handmade and homemade charm Martha would so approve of. This sassy, spooky, cute-as-a-button vintage-inspired hostess apron below is complete with rick-rack accents and a large pocket for all your utensil-wielding or party favor needs. The feminine design features a black spiderweb net lace apron skirt (for that extra dash of sexiness), and gray waistband, ties, and pocket. The pocket features a black felt spider applique: $28. Search for seller flappergirl.

This handmade Halloween wreath, repleat with black florals, pine branches and oak leaves - oh yes, and skulls too! - measures 16" around and is the perfect adornment for the front door: $40. Search for seller fabulouslyfierce.

Let the pets get in on the dress-up action, too! These one-of-a-kind Tutus for your animal child come in three colours and are available for cats and dogs alike. They can be custom made to fit your pet. Very soft tulle is used and there is a 5 inch gap at the bottom of the tutu for extra comfort and accessibility. The seller also makes adult and children's Tutus to match! $15. Search for seller jiniaj.

If you love curiosities, you'll love this polished Victorian Cloven Hoof Pincushion for the sewers and collectors out there. Topped with old sun-dyed fabric, it can easily be embellished with the fabric of your choice. (A deep red velvet would be very inspiring!) It could also look lovely in a dark boudoir displaying fancy hat pins. It measures approx. 3 in. tall, 4 in. wide, 5.5 in. long. It's signed on the bottom: $85.

Few designers today do dark decadence quite as well as Douglas Little, whose items are listed below. The founder of DL&Co. has become a highly respected designer whose items are made of exceptional quality...and with exceptional creativity. I'd love to have an entire room in my house devoted just to his brand of neo-Gothic darkness, which is very elegant despite its sinister themes. In any case, his designs are ideal for a Haute Halloween! Visit for more information.

Send out invitations to your Halloween party on these minimalist skull-print notecards, made in Italy. The set of 12 cards and 13 envelopes goes for $55.

This silver effigy of a thorny apple by Douglas Little contains an intensely-fragrant votive guaranteed to intoxicate even the most sensitive of snouts. It may be rivaled only by his opium poppy candle, below, which is deeply exotic and richly fragrant.

Much more affordable than Damien Hirst's diamond version, this silver skull by DL&Co. below still manages to sparkle up the darkest night. From Douglas Little's “Memento Mori” collection, which is Latin for “remember that you are mortal," the small, elegant card holder would look dazzling on a front hall table or even more spectacular in a series set round a dining table, clasping the names of your guests in their silver jaws.

Another one from the Momento Mori collection, this black porcelain skull-print plate comes as a set of four wrapped in a round black box tied with silk ribbon: $800 Douglas Little worked with confectioner Valerie Gordon to create this set of divinely decadent skull chocolates for his line. A set of three, one of each flavor: scorched caramel (organic cream is slowly combined with sugar over an intense flame, until the deep amber confection appears) , bitter brandied cherry (an exquisite and unusual confection of indulgent bitter chocolate, kirsch-perfumed ganache and succulent sour cherries steeped in liqueur, finished in porcelain white cocoa), curious chilli (an eccentric array of chilies and spices are combined with the deepest chocolate into an exotic and exciting sensation, with a heat that lingers long after the chocolate is gone). They all come wrapped in a satin-lined box and tied with black silk ribbon. Swoon!
And I just couldn't have a Halloween post without including something from Martha. These Halloween-shaped copper cookie cutters from the Martha by Mail collection (now defunct) are rare collectors' items today, although there is a similar set being sold at Macy's through the Martha Stewart Collection. Still, the Martha by Mail cachet lives on and a set of these cookie cutters, unopened, would fetch between $300 and $600 at auction today. They came in a black box lined in orange faux-bois and a Martha by Mail instruction booklet. Fab! So? Wanna come to my party?