Sunday, November 30, 2008

No, friends, your eyes do not deceive you. An ingenious crafter at (lavenderlizard) has come up with the perfect solution for keeping your gluesticks warm: knitted gluestick cozies in Martha's signature blue. With winter's approaching chill, be kind to your gluesticks and keep them out of frost's way! Crafted in 100% cotton yarn, the two cozies also come with a button closure and a keyring attachment for easy portability. Great for hanging on a keyring or on a hook at your craft table. The set ($15) includes the Martha Stewart Crafts gluesticks, which are in desperate need of warmth.

Smaller cozy measures approximately 3 1/2" (9.5 cm) high and 1 1/2" (4.3 cm) across. Smaller glue stick is .28 oz (8 g).Larger cozy measures approximately 4 3/8" (11.7 cm) high and 1 3/8" (4.1 cm) across.Larger glue stick is .78 oz (22 g).

This craft is high camp. For the crafter on your Christmas list who takes their projects just a bit too seriously, this funny little gift is the perfect remedy.

Friday, November 28, 2008

In recent years, I’ve become enamoured of pomegranates. And I’m not alone. Everywhere, it seems, there is pomegranate: from juice to soda, facial scrubs and bath oils to scented candles and wreaths. It was only after I bought my first box of six that I realized they were a favourite among just about everyone in my family.

My father’s Lebanese roots meant he had lots of exposure to Mediterranean cooking growing up, and pomegranates (native to Mediterranean regions) were no strangers to my grandparents’ kitchen. Even my British grandmother on my mother’s side enjoyed pomegranates as a child, recounting how she and her sister used to use their little knitting needles to get the juicy seeds out of their tough casings.

I love the look of pomegranates as much as I love the taste, which is strong and slightly sour. Their robust round shape, large size and pretty crowns – not to mention their lustrous ruby tones – are just so beautiful. I had to photograph them before using them:

One pomegranate yields about two cups of seeds.

Personally, I like to eat the seeds on their own, but they can be used in all kinds of unique ways, from juice to garnish, from desserts and salads to main dishes. Below are some facts about pomegranate preparation and a yummy recipe for cucumber and pomegranate salad, a common blend in the Middle East.


Cut off the crown then cut the pomegranate into sections. Place the sections in a bowl of water then roll out the arils (juice sacs) discarding the peel and pith, leaving just the arils in the water. The water reduces staining and contains the peeling process. Strain the water through a strainer to catch the arils and proceed to use them as desired.

Cut the crown end off a pomegranate, removing with it some of the white pith. Lightly score the skin in quarters, from the stem to the crown end. Firmly yet gently break the sections apart, following the score lines. Bend back the skin and gently scoop the seed clusters into a bowl; remove any pith.

Cut the pomegranate in half vertically. With the cut side up, make 4 equally spaced cuts 1 inch long and 1 inch deep. Hold the pomegranate half, cut side down, over a deep bowl and pull the fruit open but not apart, using equal pressure from both hands. Holding the pomegranate half, cut side down, in the palm of one hand, whack the top of the fruit with the back of a large spoon. The seeds will fall out.


Cut the fresh pomegranate in half as you would a grapefruit. We recommend using a hand-press juicer to juice a pomegranate. If you use an electric juicer, take care not to juice the membrane, so that the juice remains sweet. Strain the juice through a cheesecloth-lined strainer or sieve. Caution, pomegranate juice stains.

Place 1-1/2 to 2 cups seeds in a blender; blend until liquefied.Pour through a cheesecloth-lined strainer or sieve. Caution, pomegranate juice stains.

On a hard surface, press the palm of your hand against a pomegranate and gently roll to break all of the seeds inside (crackling stops when all seeds have broken open). Pierce the rind and squeeze out juice or poke in a straw and press to release juice. Caution, pomegranate juice stains. NOTE: Rolling can be done inside a plastic bag to contain juice that leaks through the skin.

Cucumber and Pomegranate Salad

1/2 cup chopped scallions
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint or 1 tablespoon dried mint
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon angelica powder
1 long seedless cucumber, peeled and diced
Seeds of 2 pomegranates
1 fresh lime, peeled and sliced, with inner skin removed

In serving bowl, combine ingredients and mix thoroughly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. For an extra kick, crumble feta cheese on top.

Did you know that Spanish Padres are credited with bringing pomegranates to California? They grew them at missions some 200 years ago. Today the San Joaquin Valley, the heart of California, is the only concentration of commercially grown pomegranates in North America.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The magazine industry will honour two veteran women publishers, Ann Moore and Martha Stewart, with Lifetime Achievement Awards. Moore, chairman and CEO of Time Inc., will receive the Magazine Publishers of America’s Henry Johnson Fisher Award; while Stewart will be inducted into the American Society of Magazine Editors’ Hall of Fame, both organizations announced. The prestigious awards will be presented Jan. 29 at a luncheon at the Plaza in New York City.

Also, check out the November 24 issue of Fortune magazine for an interview with Martha. In it, she says she still keeps in touch with many of the women she met while in prison: "Some of the women who became my friends while I was incarcerated have visited with me. There are some very interesting women there of great value to society, and I keep in contact with them. We have some broken systems in this country -- one is the prison system."

Monday, November 24, 2008

Dr. Brent Ridge, a contributor to Martha Stewart Living, and his partner, writer Josh Purcell, are well ensconced in their upstate New York farmhouse for the upcoming holiday weekend. But they're also busy preparing for that OTHER holiday just over a month away and are overseeing the production, packaging and shipment of their goat's-milk soap and hand woven linens, which make beautiful gifts for purveyors of the handmade. You can read their blogs and order their products at Among the lovely inclusions this year:

I intend on treating myself to this soap soon. Being a December baby (the 27th) I feel compelled to bathe with this intriguing December soap, which is described as having the inviting scent of a warm kitchen with hints of vanilla and ginger. As always, it is handmade from the milk of the Beekman goats, who graze freely on the land and drink from the waters that once made Sharon Springs one of the most famous spa destinations in the world. The soap uses the highest percentage of pure goat milk possible in each bar. You may notice a faint layer of ash on the bottom of the soap, which washes away with first use. This ash affirms the bar is made from pure goat milk using non-chemical methods. I've used the soap myself and I love it, but I'm especially eager to try my 'birth' soap.

Speaking of birth, the Beekman store now has a new line of baby goods, including soap for baby as well as these beautiful, heirloom baby swaddling blankets. Usually woven with dark blue wool, Brent, Josh and the crew have adapted an overshot weaving technique for use in this textile, which is 100% cotton. While there are nearly as many methods for swaddling an infant as there are cultures who practice it, the blankets come with a set of instructional diagrams to get you started with your swaddling cloth: perfect for the new mother or those expecting. Patterns include Hollyhock, Dyer's Broom, Pale Indigo and White.A beautiful gift box of 12 soaps. Each 3.25 oz bar is individually wrapped and presented in a 9"X12" red cedar tray, made of sustainably harvested wood. Choose either unscented or one of the seasonal scents.

New letterpress holiday stationery was designed and handmade by Brent and Josh on a 19th Century letterpress at Foxglove Printers in Sharon Springs. Each card was run in a limited edition and is signed & numbered by both of them on the back cover. The first, entitled "Unwrap. Play." is printed in crimson on a heavy cotton rag stock. It features an antique plate illustration of various 19th century toys - just like the ones William Beekman would have carried in his mercantile. The second, entitled "Star." was inspired by a lone pine tree that stands near the Beekman barn. The design, from an antique plate, runs off the edge of the card as if the reader is looking up to find the "star" atop the tree. Both cards come in a wrapped set of 10, with envelopes, and each measures 3.5" X 5." Order these soon to send them out before the holidays.

Friday, November 21, 2008

When I heard recently that one of my favourite interior designers had a new book out this year, I was giddy. Walda Pairon, a renowned French designer who is widely known for her atmospheric and traditional approach to decorating, has released two other books, both of which are stunning design showcases but sadly out of print: Joie De Vivre and At Home With Walda Pairon. The first is a showcase of Pairon's designs and the second is an intimate portrait of the designer's own homes. Her new one, Interiors with a Soul, is probably her best yet.

Pairon creates her unique and warm interiors from a strong interest in colours, light, fabrics and fashion, and combines old and time-worn objets d'art with more recent objects into an inspirational living space that is both traditional and fresh. That's why I love her style so much. It doesn't shun the new but it doesn't compromise on the classical.

Ivo Pauwels, a renowned garden and lifestyle writer who authored Joie De Vivre, perfectly captures the atmosphere of Pairon's interiors in this book as well by giving weight to the importance of soul in interior design. The photographs by Cees Roelofs, one of the foremost lifestyle photographers in Europe, are lush and plentiful. They perfectly illustrate the 'soulfulness' of her rooms. I just want to dive into this book and experience each room in person. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in classical or European design, or to those who want to learn more about working with colour and light in design. I think most fans of Martha's own decorating style will appreciate this book also.
The cover is striking.

The Dutch painters likely inspired this gorgeous tableau on a dining room table.

A parlour is warmed by dark crimson tones, amber wood, low lamplight and afternoon sun.

A Christmas tree in the other corner of the room lends to the warmth.

Simple, elegant, impeccable.

A lovely mix of dark tones and light ones creates a memorable impression in this kitchen.

Flowers so often make such a difference to a room.

Walda Pairon's first book, Joie de Vivre. Walda is shown on the cover.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

When my elderly aunts moved from their home to a new retirement facility in September, my father and I were charged with the responsibility of moving their furniture and getting the house ready to sell. It was an arduous task that took more than a month to complete. Among the tasks was cleaning out the basement and going through their storage items. One of the finds was an enormous box filled with my Aunt Ann's collection of postcards - ones she had received from friends abroad or ones she had picked up on her own travels as souvenirs. My aunts had truly travelled the world: Egypt, Greece, England, France, Italy, Spain, the Caribbean, all over the US and Canada, Lebanon, Israel, Mexico... Their friends had obviously travelled too, given the huge assortment of postcards we found, covered in stamps from all over the world.
When my Aunt Ann told me she didn't want the postcards anymore she offered them to me. I jumped at the chance to have them!
I've since framed a selection of the black-and-white ones and mounted them over my desk in my home office. You can see the results below. Many of the postcards are dated from the '50s and '60s. The oldest one received was to my great grandmother, Mary, in 1941 from a relative of hers in Lebanon. These are treasures!
I framed the faces of the black and white postcards in one frame and, beside it, the written-on backs of postcards in the other frame. I like seeing the fancy stamps and all the different styles of handwriting from pepole I never met who wrote to my aunts. One of them is from a member of the Canadian Senate.
Some close-ups of the postcards: from glorious architecture in Russia to a simple motel bedroom in Florida.

Different scrawl from different people from all over the world makes an interesting collage.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

During her presentation at the Good Things Event in 2006, Martha spoke briefly about the new circular design of the Martha Stewart logo. It was designed by graphic-design firm Doyle Partners in Manhattan under the guidance of Stephen Doyle, who is married to Gael Towey, Chief Creative Officer of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. (Stephen is also responsible for the beautiful packaging of the Everyday and Collection merchandise.) In consultation with Stephen, Martha said she wanted the round logo to resemble an ancient Roman coin, which often had the names of emperors etched into the money around the circumference of the coin. Stephen set about making a large plaster cast for the logo and it was all chiseled by hand. It was used as the template for the logo, which was then mass produced.
For fun, I thought I'd play around with the logo and dream up a few new uses for it...
A Martha Stewart logo clock. Wouldn't we all love to tell time this way? The logo could also be incorporated into a wristwatch face.
Probably not hip for the under-20 crowd, but I'd love a Martha Stewart Frisbee. (I have a Ralph Lauren Frisbee that is similar to this. It never gets used, but I enjoy its novelty.)
Soup's on! Have dinner with Martha every night of the week with Wedgwood "Marthaware."
Kenn, this one's for you - and me. When Turkey Hill was for sale, Kenn and I joked that if we had the means we would buy the estate and run it as the official Martha Stewart Museum. Our uniform would consist of Martha Stewart aprons...and Martha Stewart stud earrings, which would also be sold in the gift shop (formerly the Palais des Poulets.)
If these t-shirts aren't already in production and given to staff at MSLO, they will be soon.
Can you guys think of anything else you'd like to see the Martha Stewart logo on? I'm still waiting for the Martha Mobile - a vehicle in jadeite green designed by Martha and her team to meet all the needs of the homemaker and collector. And it has to be fuel-efficient and environmentally sound, too. On the grill at the front of the car, the Martha logo would gleam in shiny chrome! Move over Mercedes.

Friday, November 14, 2008

If you have some extra copies of Martha Stewart Living magazine lying around, you may be inspired to use them for crafts. One seller on (BellyBuzz in Houston) has done just that by fashioning gift bows and package filling out of the pages of a past issue.

Each bow is handcrafted from a different page of the magazine - in this case the February, 2008, issue - and is finished with a peel-and-stick adhesive backer. The bows can be continuously reused because of the sturdy brad in the center of each bow. The bag also comes with a hefty filling of shredded packaging using the pages of the magazine.

Each bag has 9 custom bows and the package filler. They are placed in a cellophane bag and topped off with another part of the magazine

I personally think it's a brilliant craft idea! I've used the pages of Martha Stewart Living as wrapping paper and stationery before, but nothing quite so impressive as this. She also works with magazines like Esqurie, Wired, Vanity Fair and Vogue. How perfect for the magazine afficionado on your list.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

One of my favourite things to do this season is to peek into all the shop windows to check out their holiday displays. First of all, it's free. Second of all, the displays offer a wealth of ideas for one's own decorating. Inside many of the stores, too, there are lavish and creative displays to herald the festivities. The talented people who create them, who dream them all up, are to be commended for their imaginations. Most of the photos below were sent to me by my friend Christine in Toronto where the downtown settings are already festooned with Christmas trimmings.
Holt Renfrew is Canada's version Bloomingdale's - a boutique department store nearly a century old where the creations of all the major designers can be found. The holiday windows of the Toronto Holts store this year are shimmering with gold and red.
Maidens with long, flaxen braids and designer gowns emerge from flower-like packages to reach the stars.
Symmetry and monochrome are the design forces behind this all-crimson Christmas display at The Hudson's Bay Company. At 400 years old, The Bay is one of North America's oldest department stores.
Gold and green in another Bay display.
Anthropologie is coming to Toronto soon and these holiday displays from New York City are perfect examples of the opulent tableaus found in their window displays. Above it's all baking and icing. Below, a cable-knit snowman is surrounded by multitudes of cut-out snowflakes.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

In the December issue of Martha Stewart Living there is an "Object Lesson" on silver candlesticks. It inspired me to dig out my Martha by Mail Hotel Silver candlestick set (of three) and polish them up for display again. They were given to me by John Small, creator and founder of, as a parting gift. Many of the Martha by Mail items were not available for shipment to Canada, sadly, so I cherish the MBM items I do have, many of them gifts, including a leather-bound "Good Things" journal given to me by my friend Kenn. It's probably my favourite item. Other items I have include some of the Burleigh ware, including a very nice soap dish, and the famous tin of 18 Araucana egg soaps.
They look so nice all polished up. The third one in the set (much smaller) is kept on a window sill.
I took three of the egg soaps and displayed them in an antique silver mustard dish. I miss Martha by Mail!

Monday, November 10, 2008

On Wednesday, Martha Stewart will present the winner of the Dreamers Into Doers contest, which was launched by her company in June. Women entrepreneurs from all over the country were asked to enter for a chance to win $10,000 to further develop their companies. Out of thousands of entries, the contest has now been narrowed down to 11 finalists and the winners will be announced on Wednesday's episode of the Martha Stewart Show. The grand prize winner will receive the afforementioned prize money, a lifetime of free vacations from Wyndham Vacation Ownership and a trip to New York to meet Martha and be featured on the show.

I think this contest is a wonderful example of a company giving back by continuing the pioneering legacy of its founder. Martha turned her dreams into a reality and she knows as well as anyone who worked their way to the top that it didn't happen without a lot of help. The fact that MSO is helping these great women further develop their entrepreneurial ventures is inspiring and exciting.

Visitors to also had their say and could vote on their favourites. I've chosen mine:

*Patricia Fragen of Naperville, IL: Normal Moments Inc.

After watching her 16 year-old daughter fight against and eventually lose her life to cancer, Patricia wanted to help parents going through the same ordeal. Patricia's organization provides supportive services like housecleaning, lawn care and more to parents with critically ill children, giving them the time to spend more 'normal moments' together.

*Tabitha Geary of Richmond, VA: Tabitha Geary LLC

Tabitha was thrilled when her mother took on the overwhelming task of organizing her photographs and momentoes into charming memory books for each of Tabitha's five children. Each one was custom made to suit the child it was given to. Thinking she might not be the only one who needed "memory organization" assistance, Tabitha started her company to help families organize and preserve their most treasured memories in professionally-designed memory books.

*Amy Jaffebarzach of West Hartfort, CT: Boundless Playgrounds

To honor the memory of her son who died of spinal muscular atrophy, Amy started Boundless Playgrounds as the first national nonprofit dedicated to helping communities create playgrounds where children with and without disabilities can play and learn together. There are now more than 130 Boundless Playgrounds in more than 20 states.

Good luck to all 11 finalists. They're all worthy.


Sunday, November 9, 2008

In the December issue of Martha Stewart Living there is a whimsical article on making old-fashioned holiday candy (peppermint sticks, candied citrus peels, toffee, chocolate bark, almond nougat and pecan clusters) with the long, complicated recipes printed at the back of the magazine so that they don't interfere with the food-porn photos. To accompany the recipes, the genius designers at the magazine and the masterful webmasters who run have created the pretty packaging for anyone to download and use to wrap these classic confections. Simply visit to download the clip-art wrapping and labels and to read full instructions on how to make the containers or affix the paper labels to store-bought boxes.

Step-by-step instructions can be found at for the handling and use of the download clip-art and labels. The wrapping patterns for the fudge and chocolate-dipped marshmallow cookies, above, are inspired vintage designs that come in red and green.

Materials lists and printing techniques are also found along with the download links.