Thursday, April 30, 2009

Outdoor Rooms

A room under a canopy of whispery leaves where the sun dapples through cool shadows and where birds sing all around you. A room whose walls are laden with vines or espaliered shrubs, where the carpet is pebble or moss or grass - no vacuuming required.

Outdoor rooms have become something of a 'must-have' for homeowners who love their backyards. They are places of hidden refuge amid the more public zones of the outdoor spaces, tucked behind hedges, gates, or fences, or contained within a series of ceiling-less walls.

Since I do not have a yard, I now find myself pining for one of those outdoor rooms to escape to, especially with the weather warming up and the leaves popping out of every branch on every tree. Below I've compiled a series of some of my favourite outdoor rooms - ones I can only access by sight and imagination, but nonetheless alluring.

Outdoor rooms do not have to be elaborate. This one above is charming and simple, contained within a wall of vines and potted plants. Designating a 'room' outdoors requires only a few simple elements:
  • A well-defined zone made more prominent by a differing groundcover or separated from the rest of the outdoor spaces by hedges, steps, pathways, fences or walls. It should be a destination.
  • A function: a dining area, a sitting area, a reading area or an activity area. The 'room' should serve a purpose.
  • Furniture: be it a dining table or a series of outdoor seats, the room needs its fixtures.

This outdoor sitting area in a yard in Vancouver is accessed from the house by a flight of stone steps, sunken in an area defined by a flagstone floor.
In the same yard, an outdoor dining room is located in a different section.

Another home in Vancouver, this one is designed for daytime or nighttime entertaining with its large gas fireplace. Note the adjacent dining area just a few steps away. With functional and well-equipped spaces like these, there is no excuse to miss a fine summer day.
In the same space, a wall contains a trio of fountains offering a natural introduction of outdoor atmosphere.
Martha's home in Bedford has several outdoor rooms. This one is located near her main residence. She is in the midst of building another outdoor room next to her summer house on the same property, a room that will be defined by 9-foot tall walls of emerald boxwood.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

10 Pom-Pom Good Things

The big, beautiful pom-poms by Martha Stewart Crafts at Michael's craft shop come in a rainbow of sorbet-inspired colours. Below are some tips on using pom-poms for all kinds of special occasions:

1. Hang pom-poms over a dining room table using monofilament (fishing wire) for a festive look.

2. Hang them on the sides or backs of seating along a wedding aisle.

3. Place them on top of presents instead of a bow for an oversized and unexpected look.

4. Create flower-like blooms by layering two pieces of green tissue on the bottoms of the pink tissue when assembling the pom-poms.

5. Place them on top of wide brim vases and position them at the end of a buffet table.

6. Position three white pom-poms together to make a snowman.

7. Hang on the backs of chairs at a celebratory dinner party.

8. Hang with ribbon or streamers in an entranceway when hosting a birthday party.

9. Hang from low tree branches or along the railings of a deck for an outdoor celebration.

10. Unfold only one half of the pom-pom and place them flat-side-down on a table to be used as a centerpiece.

SorbetLattice Heart Camellia

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Fun Fonts for May

The May issue of Martha Stewart Living heralds the delightful introduction of a new, bold font in its well. I've posted examples below. To offset the boldness the art directors chose to make the letters transparent and to overlap them to create intimacy. They also chose to colour them in bright shades, playing up the theme of colour in this annual issue devoted to using colour in the garden, in cooking and in interior design. I have to say I quite like the effect: modern, impacting and fun.

Brown and White Rooms

Style and decorating gurus have determined that brown and white is one colour scheme that will dominate interiors this spring. While I'm not a general supporter of 'trends' in design, I have to applaud this particular decision by the powers that be. The casual grace of this monocrhomatic combination speaks to an easy, beachside elegance yet is solid enough to resonate timelessness - even in zones far from any beach.

Some elements of the look:
  • Create a base of white and add brown accents to punctuate the space. White should be used in the paint and the fabric, with particular attention paid to texture.
  • Warm, weathered and burled woods and stains are essential to the look. These could be used in architectural elements like window trim and flooring or in the furniture.

  • Caning, bamboo and grasses are wonderful accents for this look: sisal rugs, wicker chairs and bamboo furniture will lend an air of natural comfort to a brown-and-white space.

  • Natural fabrics like linen, cotton and canvas in neutral colours will bring additional texture to the room.

  • For decorative accents, consider botanical and marine collections, from white coral, pale shells and eggs to horn, tortoiseshell and bird imagery. Old books and sepia-toned photography will pair rusticity with the coolness of the white.
  • Consider cut branches and white blossoms in white vessels for arrangements.
  • Avoid colourful accents for this look. A touch of silver or gold will lend some shimmer, as will clear crystal and glass.
Some of the elements of brown and white decor, above.

A beautiful, traditional kitchen is inviting yet composed with its limited palette.

A more modern take on the brown and white scheme, above and below. Wood is used extensively on the surfaces of this large kitchen. In this instance the white acts as a frame. A classic brown and white room with all the elements combined.

Large brass vases on the mantel give the room some needed shimmer. Varying tones of brown and white work harmoniously to create a calming sense of welcome and ease.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Wenda Harris Millard leaves MSLO

One of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia's Co-CEOs is leaving the company, the New York Post is reporting. The Post reports that Wenda Harris Millard is leaving Omnimedia to pursue a presidential opportunity at Media Link, adding that an ongoing feud between Martha and Wenda may have contributed to her departure. Additional media sources say the departure is due to a major media restructuring program underway at the company and an effort to shrink expenses by reducing staff and trimming pay. At the moment, there are no plans to replace Wenda or name a new Co-CEO. Wenda was chief of media at Martha Stewart Living and shared the CEO position with Robin Marino, who is head of merchandising. Marino will stay on in her capacity as CEO while Martha will continue to handle all editorial and creative decisions for the company.
It had been predicted by several sources when the decision was made to hire two chief executives at Martha Stewart Living that the Co-CEO structure would not last at Omnimedia. Both Wenda and Robin were appointed their positions after Susan Lyne left the company last June. Wenda came to Omnimedia from Yahoo! and is a continued favourite on the media conference circuit.

Martha Stewart Lighting

In an effort to promote the Martha Stewart Lighting collection, designed in collaboration with Murray Feiss, there are two new catalogs available to shoppers and collectors containing the full line of the lighting fixtures designed by the MSLO team. Below are some of the highlights from the catalog.

The Veneto Collection: Named for the celebrated Italian town that produces it, this collection pays homage to the grandeur of Venetian glass. Inspired by Martha's collection of Venetian chandeliers at her home on Lily Pond Lane, each piece comes with a companion sconce in the same design.

The Mid-Century Collection: An exciting discovery by Martha at a Paris antique shop gave rise to this fine collection, which comes in several styles, including floor lamps and table lamps. Satin brass finishes and solid marble bases lend a hint of 1940s glam to any room.

The Conservatory Collection: This group offers an array of refined lighting options that serve virtually every room in the home. All pieces are available in Polished Nickel or Warm Bronze. The Glazed Ceramic Collection: A series of Chinese urns lent their curves as inspiration for this line of traditional lamps. There are five designs in this collection, each boasting a fine crackle glaze to offer texture and sophistication.

The Architectural Crystal Collection of Lamps: Beautifully handmade from genuine solid crystal, these lamps are inspired by the fine details of classical European architecture.

The Industrial Milk Glass Collection: Like Martha's sconces that inspired them, the industrial milk glass fixtures in the Martha Stewart Lighting collection create wonderful task lighting in kitchens, bathrooms, hallways and bedrooms. Canopies, backplates and cast metal fitters are finished in Warm Bronze while the milk glass shades complete each piece.

These catalogs below are availbe for download at You can also order a pre-printed catalog for $15 by writing to Murray Feiss catalog department with a money order and making a catalog request. Visit for catalog order information. This is the full, 80-page catalog, which can be downloaded at or purchased pre-printed for $15.This is the summer catalog, a shorter catalog available for $10 or to download free at

Monday, April 20, 2009

ASPCA to Honour Martha

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has selected Martha Stewart as the recipient of its Presidential Service Award. It will be presented to Martha by Ed Sayres, ASPCA president and CEO, at the 12th annual ASPCA Bergh Ball on Wednesday, April 23, at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. Martha was selected for embodying the values of the honour's purpose, Sayres noted. The award recognizes individuals who have made an ongoing commitment to animals and have gone above and beyond to support animal welfare and encourage awareness. Martha said: "My life has been greatly enriched by the many pets I have cared for over the years. I am deeply committed to the values the ASPCA embraces and am honoured to be receiving this award."

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Kitchen Linens Book

She hung them on the line in a sun-dappled patch of lawn in the backyard: a whole row of them, waving like damp flags in the breeze. Tea towels, tablecloths, napkins - colourful in their embroidery and bold patterns, their stitches and their fringes. My grandmother always had fun kitchen linens and would collect at least one 'travel tea towel' on her trips to bring back home with her.

I was so flattered when writer EllynAnne Geisel (author of The Apron Book and Apronisms) sent me a preview copy of her upcoming book, called The Kitchen Linens Book: Using, Sharing and Cherishing the Fabrics of Our Daily Lives. The book is a charming little history of kitchen linens, beautifully packaged in a slim, hardcover, cloth-bound volume that speaks to the tradition of vibrantly patterned and colourful kitchen linens. The book traces the history of the humble tea towel and the evolution of their designs, but strikes a warm chord by sharing the stories of kitchen-linen collectors and their passions for these soft, unassuming implements - as well as the family rituals of washing dishes, eating breakfast in the kitchen and making daily meals. It is a sweet examination of American kitchen traditions as much as it is a thorough discussion of the history of kitchen linens. Sprinkled througout the book are classic recipes, tips on washing dishes, caring for your tea towels (never wash or dry them with fabric softener since it will leave a residue on the fabric that will transfer to the dishes) and instructions on how to make your own kitchen linens.

A very nice feature of the book is that it comes with a sheet of vintage butterick transfers in an envelope attached to the back cover of the book so that the reader can make her own patterns on a plain tea towel using the designs on the transfer paper:


Bright, beautiful kitchen linens got their start in the Depression. That's when even the wealthiest women, who were raised to oversee kitchen help, found themselves, out of necessity, doing all the cooking and cleaning themselves because they could no longer afford help. The better-off families had kitchens equipped with a few conveniences - a gas stove and a refrigerator, say - but most women faced an enormous task when it came to food preparation. Everything had to be prepared from scratch; you could buy a loaf of bread read-made, but little else. Women toiling over a hot stove or sink truly appreciated a bit of cheer in the way of vibrantly coloured and facifully designed dish towels.

And it wasn't just dish towels that took on colour and verve during the Depression. Tablecloths, too, became much more interesting as meals became less formal affairs. Dinner might still be served on the white damask in the dining room, but with Mother doing all the cooking and serving, it was inevitable that breakfast and lunch migrated to the kitchen - or more specifically, to a little room or alcove off the kitchen called the breakfast nook. The nook housed a square or gate-legged table that was surrounded by a couple of chairs or built-in benches. Conventional tablecloths would have been far too big for this cozy setup, so the breakfast cloth was invented.


Linen, cotton or linen/cotton blend towels that are bleached tend to be softer and more absorbent than their unbleached counterparts, but they will wear out faster, as bleaching compromises fibre strength. Beacause fabric sizing, excess dye and fabric softener all impair absorbency, always wash a new batch of tea towels before using them.
Some of the most beautiful and inventive kitchen linens can be found at Anthropologie. Their unique patterns, hommages to vintage designs and creative fringes are some of the best on the market today. (And, yes, I'm totally biased!) This one above is my latest buy.
On my trip to Scotland in 2006, I collected a multitude of tea towels: a Scottish wildflower motif, a thistle motif and many others. This one above is my favourite. Its design is a collection of Scottish slang words and their definitions.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Spring Menu for Six

I came across this excellent spring menu for six in Canada's Food & Drink magazine, a free catalog distributed in Ontario by the Licquor Control Board of Ontario in their stores. I was so dazzled by the freshness and lightness of the flavours that I decided to share it on Martha Moments. If anyone indulges in the following recipes, please write to let me know how they turned out.


The beets give this soup a wonderfully earthy taste, which is reminiscent of borscht. A nice complementary garnish is chopped dill. The serving sizes are small.

2 tblsp olive oil or vegetable oil
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped white onion
1/4 cup chopped carrot
1 small red beet, peeled and grated
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tblsp tomato paste
4 tomatoes, chopped
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
Salt to taste
1/4 cup yogurt

1. Place oil in a pot over medium heat, add celery, onion, carrot, beets and garlic. Cook gently until translucent, about 5 minutes.

2. Add tomato paste and cook for 1 minute, then add chopped tomatoes and cover, cook for 4 to 5 minutes. Add chicken stock and salt. Bring soup to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

3. Place soup in a blender and add yogurt. Strain soup through a fine strainer to remove seeds and tomato skins. Serve hot or cold. Serves 4 to 8, depending on size of serving vessel.


This dish uses all the flavours of sushi in a different presentation. It can be made up to 4 hours in advance and refrigerated.

1 cup sushi rice
1 1/2 cups water
2 tblsp rice wine vinegar
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 ripe avocado
2 tbsp sour cream
1 lime, juiced
2 cups cooked baby shrimp
1 tsp grated ginger
1/4 cup red onion finely diced
1/4 cup red pepper, finely diced
1/2 cup yellow pepper, finely diced
1 tbsp chopped coriander
1 lime, juiced
1 tsp sesame oil
1 sheet of Nori for garnish
6 cooked shrimp for garnish

1. Place rice in a strainer and rinse rice until the water runs clean. Place rice and water in a medium pot and place on high heat. Place a lid on the pot and when liquid comes to a boil turn down to a simmer. SImmer until all the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove pot from the heat and let stand 10 minutes, covered. Place rice in a bowl and add the rice wine vinegar, sugar and salt.

2. Peel avocado and remove pit. Either mash or puree with a food processor. Stir in the sour cream and squeeze in some lime juice. Season with salt.

3. Roughly chop the shrimp. In a small bowl combine shrimp, ginger, red, onion, red pepper, yellow pepper, coriander, lime juice and semsame oil. Mix to combine.

4. Into 6 clear glasses, place 1 tbsp of the shrimp mixture, followed by a layer of the avocado mousse followed by a layer of the sushi rice. Continue until all the ingredients are used up, preferably with the shrimp as a last layer. Top each with a few piece of julienned Nori and a large shrimp.


Sold in small jars, tobiko is a Japanese word for flying fish roe. It is typically used in certain sushi dishes such as California Rolls.

1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 piece of celery, roughly chopped
1 white onion, roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
1 clove of garlic
1/2 lemon
8 cups water
6 salmon fillets
1 bunch coriander, washed and chopped
2 tsp grated lime rind
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tbsp semsame oil
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 package green tea soba noodles or spinach fettuccine
1 English cucumber, de-seeded and sliced thinly with a vegetable peeler
1 bunch scallions, sliced finely
Tobiko for garnish

1. Place carrot, celery, onion, bay leaf, garlic and lemon into a medium pot with 8 cups of water. Gently bring to a simmer. Simmer for for 10 minutes and remove from heat. Let stand another 10 minutes and strain or remove vegetables, saving the liquid.

2. Bring the liquid back to a simmer and place the salmon pieces into the broth. Gently poach until desired doneness, 5 to 6 minutes, depending on thickness of fillets.

3. Place coriander, ginger, lime rind, rice wine vinegar, vegetable oil, sesame oil , brown sugar and salt into a blender and blend until smooth.

4. Cook green tea soba noodles or spinach fettuccini as directed on package. When done, toss with 1/2 cup of the coriander and lime vinaigrette, 1/2 the cucumber and scallions.

5. To plate, place 1 cup of green tea soba noodles in the center of the dish, top with a poached fillet of salmon. Place a reserved cucumber curl on top for garnish and drizzle the coriander vinaigrette lightly over the fish. Garnish with tobiko. Serves 6.


The pistachios add a rich creaminess to this dessert and lend it their pale green colour.

3 cups 35% cream
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup shelled green pistachios
6 large yolks
1/2 cup sugar

1. Pour the heavy cream, vanilla and pistachios into a pot and place over medium heat. Bring the cream to a simmer, do not boil. In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is a lemon colour. Temper the yolks by gradually whisking in the hot cream into the yolk and sugar mixture. Do not add the hot cream too quickly or the eggs will cook. Place mixture into a blender and puree until smooth. Pass the mixture through a fine strainer.

2. Preheat over to 350 degrees.

3. Pour the mixture into six 8-oz ramekins, filling them three-quarters of the way up. Fill a large shallow baking pan with 1/2 inch warm water. Carefully place the ramekins in the water bath and bake for about 35 minutes; the centre should just wiggle slightly. Remove the pan from the oven and let the ramekins cool in the water for about 10 minutes. Then put them in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours to chill. Serves 6.


These cute cakes are baked in a muffin tin to create individual desserts for your guests. You may substitue the rhubarb for peach or apple with the same great results.

1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder

Pinch of salt
2 cups chopped rhubarb
1 1/4 cups brown sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Beat the butter and sugar until creamed, about two minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time until well blended, add vanilla. Beat in flour, baking powder and salt and beat until combined.

3. Butter a 12-cup muffin tin.

4. In each muffin tin distribute evenly the chopped rhubarb and 1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar. Place 1 heaping teaspoon of the batter in each tin. Place in oven and bake for about 40 minutes, or until light golden on top. Cool and turn out.

5. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Serves 6.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Brent's Apartment Therapy

Brent Ridge, a friend of MSL Radio (and a friend of mine!), used the Apartment Therapy 8 Step Home Cure in renovating his apartment in Manhattan. For four Mondays in April on Whole Living (live 10 am ET/7 am PT on Sirius 112 and XM 157), Martha Stewart Living and Apartment Therapy will be bringing listeners/readers ideas on doing a renovation, decorating their homes, making rooms as comfortable and functional as they are stylish, and even on entertaining at home. Be sure to check the Whole Living website for listings.

The Martha Stewart Living Radio Blog now has a complete slideshow of the renovation process, so be sure to check it out. Below I have some of the photos of the finished apartment. I asked Brent about the renovation:

"We lived in our apartment for 5 years while it was literally falling down around us. Several good things came out of the experience (and one REALLY good thing). Living in the space for so long before starting the renovation enabled us to really put some thought into what needed to be adapted to make the apartment more functional for us. Because the apartment was completely ruined by flooding, by necessity, it was a gut renovation which enabled us to bring in more environmentally sound building materials than we may have been able to if the project had been on a smaller scale."

A view of the entranceway from the living room. The entrance has lots of hidden storage and a built-in table for working or dining.
The kitchen is attractively designed with dark woods and low lighting, creating an inviting space. Leading into the kitchen is a display cabinet for glassware.
The bedroom was once blue and grey. It's now found a more comfortable pallette in hues of brown and taupe.
A beautiful hutch in the bedroom.

Clean lines and cool tones for the bathroom.

"Everyone who knows Josh and me knows that we like to entertain. For at least three years, we were completely unable to have guests safely in our home. As a result, we were able to save a lot of money which ultimately became the down payment on The Beekman Farm. Perhaps it is true that everything happens for a reason."

Below are some photos of the interior of the Beekman mansion in Sharon Springs, New York. These were first published in the New York Times. Be sure to check out the May issue of Vanity Fair for another feature on Brent and Josh - "Hot Young Farmers!"

The living room is painted a sunny yellow.

An expansive kitchen is ideal for entertaining.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Country Living at Kmart

A new home furnishings line named after Country Living magazine will debut this summer in Kmart and Sears stores across the country. With Martha Stewart's Everyday brand of home products leaving the Kmart shelves in 2010, the new Country Living line appears to be poised to replace it.

The new line will include furniture, tabletop, bedding and bath items. Items will range from $3.99 for candles to $349 for dining room furniture - similar price points to the Everyday line. Jaclyn Smith also launched a home line at Kmart last fall, ostensibly in an effort to personalize Kmart with a well-known spokesperson for the home division in lieu of Martha's departure.

Martha Stewart Living has not yet announced the mass-market retailer that will distribute its bestselling Everyday brand but it has confirmed it is in talks with a well-known store and is close to finalizing a deal.

Two corner cupboards replicating 18th Century originals made by the designers at Country Living. The new Country Living line of home furnishings will be available at Kmart stores this spring.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Apartment Therapy

We are at last settled in our new place in Toronto after a whirlwind few weeks of training in the U.S., making back-and-forth visits between Toronto and Ottawa to organize the move. Looking back on it, I'm amazed that I found this little gem of a place on the first day of my apartment hunt. It was the fourth place I looked at and I fell in love with the neighbourhood as soon as I pulled up the driveway. It's in an area of Toronto called Lawrence Park - a mostly residential area with beautiful homes, quaint little shops and parks, but still very close to all public transit, including the subway, which takes only 10 minutes to get to the downtown core.

I've included some photos of the place that I took the day we moved in, earlier this week. I hope you see as much potential in it as I do! I have many plans! I will have more photos once the place is furnished and all set up.

The cute little entrance is nestled to the side of the building after walking up a long pathway from the street. There is a lawn with two large hemlocks and a crocus garden.

Come on in! The apartment has hardwood floors throughout and gets some nice afternoon sunlight. This looking into the living room from the foyer and the breakfast area beyond.There is a mantel in the living room (not a real fireplace) with two built-in sconces on either side. The breakfast area is large and bright with built-in shelves.The kitchen is my only real disappointment, but it's still workable. It's tiny, dimly lit and has very few sockets for appliances. It's not practical, which is a typical problem with these old buildings. I do like the checkerboard flooring and the subway tile backsplash. The sink is a large double with a very nice faucet. I'll make lemonade with my lemons!
The bedroom has a nice piece of trim around the perimeter and is quite spacious with a walk-in closet.