Monday, December 31, 2007
Where did it go, indeed. As I get older the time seems to move faster. I can remember as a child when the holiday season would take forever to arrive. Now, before the last bloom in the garden has faded we're preparing for the holidays.
As I look back on 2007, I do so with happiness. Overall, it was a terrific year. This year, David and I marked our 10th anniversary. I made new friends and old friendships became stronger. I danced in the moonlight and I reflected on life by the same moonbeams. I became more aware of how unexpected life can be, and I learned to value each and every day with greater meaning. I learned knew things and shared my knowledge with others. I gave of myself for a greater good and I received many blessings in return.
2007 brought physical endings. My dear friend Nancy who's influence and power in my personal life will forever live on. My friend, colleague and mentor Julie, lost her battle with cancer this year. Julie instilled within me the importance of why we do what we do as healthcare professionals. Julie respected my creativity, valued my enthusiasm, and believed in me. Respect, value and belief are three things I now pass on to every person I can reach in the workplace and out. Even though I can never hear the voice of these two powerful influences in my life, their 'voice' will live on within me. I will do my very best to continue the work of their mission to touch and impact the lives of those they meet. I can't forget Mrs. Kostyra as I think about endings. While she wasn't a close personal friend, she was a joy to watch and learn from. She will be missed.
2007 introduced me to new friends. Tracie, Claudine, Elaine, Mike, and John. All people I love and adore for what they bring to my life. For each of you, I'm forever grateful for your friendships in whatever form they take. I hold you close to my heart.
2007 brought David and I a new 'baby,' - Sirius. Adopting him into our family was and continues to be a great joy. He's a spark of energy that can sometimes be annoying; but overall is fulfilling. Knowing that we gave him a chance to live the good life fulfills me. I love you Sirius!
2007 brought lots of great "Martha" things too! Books, a new collection at Macy's, great craft products, and more. I'm forever appreciative of Martha and her company for bringing us so many good things.
More than anything this year, 2007 brought personal growth. I can look at myself in the mirror and honestly say I'm a better person. For everyone who touched my life, provided me the opportunity to recognize growth, and supported me this year, I say, 'thank you.'
So, on to the new year. My resolution this year is to make a positive impact in the lives of others. Be it in a professional capacity or in a personal capacity I want to pay my blessings forward to others.
Much love, happiness, and peace in the coming year.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
At this point in the holiday game I typically find myself feeling rather quiet. I get a bit reflective. Some call it moody. Others call it depression. This year is different. I don't feel particularly quiet. I don't feel reflective and/or moody. I'm certainly not depressed. I just feel "calm." No more rushing around. No more festivities. No more small talk with distant relatives or in-laws. Calm. I'm liking this.
While it always seems harsh to me when I hear people say, "I'm so glad the holidays are over!" I think I can somewhat understand how they feel. Not that I'm opposed to any aspect of the holiday mind you.. it's just that I'm enjoying this calm feeling. No entertaining left to do. No more dinner parties to prepare for. No more scheduled visits. Calm.
It was a wonderful holiday. It stretched out a bit more than I think I would like (we actually had something going on every night since last Tuesday), but it was wonderful to be able to share with so many friends and family. Sharing the joy is a great deal of the enjoyment for me. But now, after night after night of entertaining and being entertained I can see that what I need is this time of calm.
I have my January issue of Martha Stewart Living close by. Tonight, I will make a cup of tea, I will curl up in my favorite chair with a cat or two by my side and I will catch up on a few of the articles I didn't read the first time around. I will pause from time to time and think about some changes I want to make after the decorations come down. I will begin to think about my resolutions for the coming year. But most of all I will enjoy the calm peaceful feeling.
It was a wonderful Christmas.
In our world of fast paced living, gift cards are here to stay. Personally, I like them. You walk in, slap down your piece of plastic, and leave with the goods. The best part.. no bill the next month to remind you of your shopping frenzy. The part I don't like about gift cards is that they can potentially seem impersonal. I think the key is in the presentation.
I've been fortunate to be on the receiving end of a number of gift cards this holiday. The first card I received was given to me in a white envelope (the ones that come pre-printed with lines for your return address) and my name scribbled across the front of it with an ink pen that didn't quite work well. Another card was put into a nice cellophane window box, with the gift card showing through.. glitter outlined the window with the words "have fun shopping" written underneath. Oh.. the tissue inside the box coordinated with the color of the gift card.
Both are nice gifts.. but one was presented in a way that showed they truly wanted to take an extra moment to make that piece of printed plastic special. A white envelope with pre-printed return address lines?? I didn't think they even made them anymore.
Gift cards are great... However, when is the best time to use them? Do you use them to catch the after Christmas sales? Do you wait to use them when the Spring merchandise hits the shelves? What's best?
Gift cards are great... However, do you keep them all in your wallet or purse so you have them readily available for a short notice trip to the mall? Do you keep them filed in a small organizer box so you can pull one or two out for a planned shopping trip? What's the best way to keep and organize your gift cards?
I guess for most people, gift cards are self explanatory. I just think merchants who offer the cards should also offer presentation seminars for those that give and usage seminars for those that receive. A nice service touch I believe.
I say all this in a tongue-n-cheek manner only because I was amazed at the number of gift cards I was given this year. Have we gotten to the point where we are far too busy to take a moment to shop? I can't imagine it. Life without shopping? Shoot me now.
Monday, December 24, 2007
A collection of press kits
One of the first items sold by Martha and Company... before Martha by Mail was created. Peony note cards.
Some of it all put together. See the organge "media" tag just to the upper left of the yellow t-shirt? This was a media pass to attend Martha's "Welcome Home" press conference after her release from Alderson. A treasured peice of Marthabilia!
Monday, December 17, 2007
Every morning when I wake up, get moving around and head into the home office to check my morning mail and enjoy my coffee, I find a card sitting on my keyboard. Each card is just so special.. some are funny.. some are very serious... but each card is filled with love. It's very special to me and means so much.
Sometimes I'm not the easiest person to live with. I admit that! I've been told a few times in our relationship, "Do you know how hard it is to live with Martha Stewart?!" This is said somewhat in a joking manner, but I know that my habits of re-arranging furniture or repainting a room drives David nuts! It's one of the differences between us.. he's very much into being 'set' in a particular way and I'm all over the board trying new things, finding a better way to organize, or changing a color scheme in a room. Through it all, he tolerates it and I think he actually likes the end result... he just wishes that there would be more time between the changes!
It took him a while to understand my Martha collecting and my loyalty to the brand. He doesn't quite understand why I need a new spatula in blue when I have several already in use. He doesn't understand why I have two complete sets of Martha Stewart Living magazine. He doesn't understand why I bid on eBay for a new Martha something when I already have a like-kind item. David works for General Motors and I tried to explain to him that his loyalty to GM and GM products works the same as my loyalty to the Martha Stewart brand. I think he finally 'got it' when I explained it that way!
Collecting Martha is a hobby of mine. (I'll feature some of my collection in a future post) Our home is my hobby. I could dabble in homekeeping all day long, everyday and never really tire of it. Each enhancement or change is my hobby in action! Instead of small craft projects, I have larger scale projects I like to work on!
Through it all, I'm reminded just how good we are together. We celebrated our 10th year together this year, and with each passing day I am thankful to have him in my life. I can't imagine life without David. We're two totally opposite people who balance each other well. You can't ask for a better match than that!
Sunday, December 16, 2007
As part of a Christmas gift to my family members, I put together a photo book of family memories. I poured over hundreds of family photos to create a wonderful first volume. I never realized that selecting the right photos would be so difficult! There were so many to choose from!
One of the photos I ran across was this picture of my Father and Mother at Christmas, circa 1964. My Dad (who passed in early 2001) was a handsome man. My Mom, such a beautiful woman. I remember Mom fussing with her hair for HOURS it seemed when we were going out to dinner or to a family members house for a holiday celebration. She always made sure she was dressed to the 9's except when she was working around the house or out in the garden!
This picture shows our 'hodge podge' Christmas tree. I loved our trees when we were kids. They always seemed to be so big! The star on the top of the tree (you can barely see it in the picture) has rested on my own trees for the last 10 years or so.
Life in 'black and white' was so easy then! One of my very favorite Christmas memories came in the same year, 1964 when the Beatles had arrived into the US and I was a total Beatles fan! Mind you, I was just a wee lad. I was 5 years old at the time and I could sing EVERY word of EVERY Beatles hit that was on the AM radio airwaves. That year, Santa brought me a microphone and amplifier to 'perform' all my loved Beatle songs. And perform I did! I would perform for anyone at the drop of a hat! I wasn't bad for a 5 year old!
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Friday, December 14, 2007
Thursday, December 13, 2007
On Friday, December 14, Martha celebrates the 25th anniversary of her first book, "Entertaining" which started the entire Martha Stewart 'movement.' At the time, "Entertaining" was cutting edge as a combination cookbook, how-to book and beautiful coffee table book. With elaborate photography, detailed recipes and precise how to with in it's pages, "Entertaining" changed the way America entertains. And, that's a 'good thing.'
I am the proud owner of a first edition copy of Entertaining. My oldest sister gave me a copy of "Entertaining" for my birthday. I loved to cook even while in college, and she thought I would enjoy the book. I remember looking over it and truly not giving it more than two thoughts. It was a tremendous book, but to lavish for my taste at the time. In all honesty, I didn't give Martha Stewart another thought for several years. Now, not a day goes by that Martha hasn't been a part of a conversation, or an inspiration for something I've accomplished. Frankly, I can't imagine NOT having Martha part of my day to day life.
There should be a declaration that Friday, December 14th be "National Martha Stewart Day."
Let's celebrate this wonderful anniversary!
Thursday, December 6, 2007
MARTHA STEWART LIVING OMNIMEDIA AND WEDGWOOD DEBUT THE MARTHA STEWART COLLECTION WITH WEDGWOOD EXCLUSIVELY AT MACY’S
Distinctive Assortment of China, Stemware and Flatware
Will Be Available at Macy’s in January 2008
From the simple to the elaborate, artful details and signature Martha Stewart colors allow for a traditional display or can be intermixed to create a personalized look. Each china pattern is available in 5-piece place settings, ranging in price from $99-$159; tea and coffee services and a full complement of serveware are also available. Each of the six-stemware patterns offers Wine, Goblet, Flute, and Iced Beverage styles and range from $30 to $37 per stem. The flatware’s larger size reflects Martha’s preference for a heavier, more substantial eating utensil, with designs spanning traditional, transitional and modern styles and ranging from $45 to $60 for a 5-piece place setting.
"I have always been an avid collector of fine china, crystal and silver, and my personal collection includes many Wedgwood pieces I am very proud to own. Our new line with Wedgwood offers a range of beautiful and timeless pieces that can be collected and enjoyed for years to come just like my antique pieces," said Martha Stewart, Founder of MSLO.
"We are thrilled to work with Martha Stewart and offer a blend of tradition and innovation to our customers," said Lou Scala, president of Wedgwood and Rosenthal and chief marketing officer for all Waterford Wedgwood Brands. "This collection reaffirms our classic vision which is the perfect marriage of Wedgwood's history and expertise, inherent in both the Wedgwood and Martha Stewart brands. Our exclusive with Macy's positions us for continued advancement at the forefront of the luxury market."
"This collection speaks to our brand’s ability to embrace artful living and entertaining and bring that to consumers. Tabletop settings are essential in every home and an important part of our expanding home program. By collaborating with Wedgwood, we have designed a unique product that will have the quality and taste that both brands are known for," said Robin Marino, President of Merchandising for MSLO.
"The Martha Stewart Collection with Wedgwood is a natural extension of the Martha Stewart Collection home products that debuted in Macy’s stores this past September," said Tim Adams, chairman and CEO of Macy’s Home Store. "This is another incredible union of the ‘best in class’ – Martha Stewart’s wedding and entertaining expertise, Wedgwood’s manufacturing distinction, and Macy’s robust national wedding and gift registry."
Fine Bone China
Lily of the Valley – A richly decorated pattern inspired by treasured Lustreware, capturing the shimmering essence of the original 19th century classics.
Ribbon Stripe (Available in Silver, Gold and Rose) – A simple tailored band inspired by an antique French pinstripe pattern, is updated for today’s contemporary lifestyle.
Flourish (Available in Ecru or Robin’s Egg Blue) – A classic vine motif reinterpreted with Ecru and Platinum or Martha’s signature Robin’s Egg Blue with Platinum.
Bouquet Silver – A stunning silver rendition of a signature sepia-colored Transferware pattern, featuring jewel-like accents in both shiny and matte platinum.
Petal Lattice – Inspired by one of Martha’s favorite pieces, the simple lattice design of raised enamel against a matte ecru background, is dramatically contrasted by the modern floral design of the accent plate
Garland Moss – A design of lovely pale green accented with lavish garlands in raised gold paste that combines two elements of Martha’s own favorite antique plates. Banded patterns from two of Martha’s favorite plates are combined to create a richly decorated pattern in moss green with lavish garlands in raised gold paste.
Wedding Band Taupe – A sophisticated banded pattern of complementary gold and taupe is one of Martha’s personal favorites.
Bracelet (Silver and Gold) – A simple crystal stem with a metallic band of platinum or gold to be dressed up or down for any occasion.
Shower – A pattern of shimmering ovals creates an illusion of raindrops to illuminate any table setting.
Petals – A flower blossom at the base of the stem creates a stunning design from within.
Trellis – Inspired by a lattice design, the pattern features round cuts inside each square to add sparkle and shine.
Circlet – A handsome barrel shape is perfect to showcase the classic crown cuts that inspired this pattern.
Cadenza – Sculptural with an intricately detailed scallop design and subtle curve at the base.
Chorale – Inspired by traditional chopsticks, it is clean, simple and the epitome of modern design.
Canto– The perfectly smooth pattern, which is flat on top with a simple scalloped end, rests gracefully on the table.
Serenade – All about simplicity with its very smooth surface and gently curved handle.
Aria – Hollow-handled to give dimension and weight, featuring a smooth round handle with an elegant cap on the end.
Sonata –Hollow-handled featuring exquisite ribbed decoration.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
If you use an artifical tree but long for the true scent of the season, follow this simple suggestion and you'll have the scent of a beautiful Christmas tree all through your house!
Visit your local tree farm or farmers market that is sells Christmas trees. Most all of these Christmas tree vendors will make a 'fresh cut' on the base of the tree trunk leaving behind small pine disks that typically get thrown away. Before they make their way into the wood chipper or landfill, ask your local tree seller if you can have a few!
Placing the disc in a pan of simmering and steaming water extracts the natural oils from the wood, filling your home with the wonderful scent of a fresh cut tree. Each tree trunk disc will last for about 12 hours. Another option is placing the disc in an electric potpurri pot filled 1/2 way with water. As the water heats and steam rises, the scent will be relased into the air. You'll get that farm fresh evergreen scent that no candle can replicate!
One important note: Use an old pan if you elect to use the stove top simmering method.. the natural 'gum' that is also extracted during the simmering process is impossible to remove.
Many years ago, I recall the founder of Bell'occhio doing a wreath making segment on Martha Stewart Living and interesting segments on wrapping gifts for the holidays. While she has since passed away, it's wonderful to see that Bell'occhio is still going strong with their wonderful assortment of gift items as well as their wrapping specialty. Check out their website at
I may have to order a couple of those boxes!
Okay.. so those that know me (and my cupboards) would quickly say that I do NOT need another mug or any other piece of dishware... but come on.. I couldn't help myself! These mugs are perfect for a bit of hot chocolate or a hot cup of Starbucks Christmas Blend coffee. They feel great in your hand and the snowman chef is just way too cute! A perfect addition to the kitchen this holiday season and for seasons to come! A set of four cups: $29.99
Hot chocolate anyone?
Monday, December 3, 2007
Friday, November 23, 2007
On Thanksgiving day, the DIY Network kicked off the new show with a 5 hour "Martha Marathon."
Each half hour show is filled with several craft projects. The Martha Marthon focused on holiday crafts just in time for the holiday season kick off. From flocked wreaths to glitter galore each episode was a trip down memory lane with all the favorite craft projects from holidays gone by.
"Martha Stewart Crafts" is proof positive that the television content from Martha Stewart Living Television is 'evergreen.' When repackaged in new formats, it's almost like the content is brand new. I've been a viewer of Martha Stewart Living since the beginning and there were segments I had forgotten about!
What I love most about the show is the calm, quiet instruction Martha provides without the annoying applause or the planned 'ooohhhhh's and ahhhhhh's' of a live audience. "Martha Stewart Crafts" is a return to the televised Martha I love best!
"Martha Stewart Crafts" will be shown weekdays at noon on the DIY Network. There will be select replays on weekends.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
I've been busy in the kitchen this evening doing as much pre-cooking as possible so tomorrow will be a bit less stressful. I'm not really one to get all stressed out during the holidays. I love to entertain family and friends and I love the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.
While many refer to the Friday after Thanksgiving as "Black Friday" I call it "Decorating Friday!" It's the day when the house is transformed from Fall Harvest to Holiday in a matter of a few hours!
Typically, I awake at my usual hour. (which is between 4-5 a.m.) David is usually up and around already, preparing for his early morning shopping journey with his good friend Barb. I prepare them a light breakfast and send them out the door. With a fresh pot of coffee (Starbucks Chirstmas Blend) and the 'vision' of what I want in my head, I begin the transformation process.
With HGTV on the television for inspiration (they always fill the day with holiday decorating themed shows) and a few hours of time, I will have successfully decorated the family room, kitchen and dining room. Even with two trees to do (one in the family room, one in the dining room) I can actually move through this transformation process pretty quickly. I usually plan weeks in advance what I want it all to look like. One thing about my decorating 'plan'... it's always subject to change. I may see something else that inspires me and the entire plan can change!
After the first 'rush' of decorating, I take a break and enjoy a traditional moment with my copies of the old Martha Stewart "Home for the Holidays" primetime specials from the mid and late 90's. My favorite is the very first special from 1995.. it was filled with decorating and gift ideas. It's a priceless piece of Martha history! After breaktime, it's back to work.. finishing my first round of decorating. By now, "White Christmas" is playing in the background (my all time favorite holiday movie) and I'm dancing along with Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney! (I often wonder if it's just too much coffee!?!)
The first night snuggled in the family room with it all a-glow is like magic to me. I can sit and watch the lights on the tree.. the holiday season has begun!
As we work through the remainder of the weekend, I will continue the decorating process.. the tree in the project room/home office (the large window faces the street - so I must have a tree there!) will be up and I will make adjustments (if any) to the other rooms.
The last tree to go up will be in the master bedroom. That tree is always a live tree and it will go up the first weekend of December.
Am I a crazed man at the holidays? Ummm.. YES! But it's a good thing!
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
1 stick unsalted butter
1 2/3 C all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 C sugar
2 large eggs
1 C pumpkin puree
1/2 C warm (110 degrees) milk
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9x2 inch round cake pan. Line pan with parchment and butter the parchment. Coat pan with flour and tap out any excess.
2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat sugar and butter togehter until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat until combined. Add pumpkin puree and milk; beat until combined. Add dry ingredients; beat on low speed until just combined. Batter will be very thick.
4. Por batter into prepared pan, abd bake until a cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool. Let cake rest for 20 minutes.
5. Unmold cake. Using an offset spatula, spread icing over top of cake and decorate with carmalized walnut halves.
4 TBL unsalted butter
1 C sifted confectioner's sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1-2 TBL milk
In a small saucepan, melt butter until nut brown in color. (For a 'nuttier' taste, brown it to a deep brown color) Remove pan from heat and pour the melted butter into a bowl. Note: Leave any burned sediment behind.
Add sugar, vanilla and 1 TBL of milk. Stir. If the icing is too thick, add remaining TBL of milk slowly until you achieve desired consistency. (icing should be thin enough to pour, but thick enough to not run over the edges of the cake)
Let the frosting cool 5 minutes. Use immediately.
For a more traditional taste, add one 8oz brick of cream cheese to the icing mixture and beat completely until smooth.
This recipe appeared in Martha Stewart Living magazine in 1998. It's been a favorite since then!
It's very easy in our busy everyday lives to take a good many things for granted. We feel the love of our friends and family so it's easy to assume they will always be there. We wake up every morning to go to work and it's easy to assume that we'll always have a job to go to. We use our kitchen apppliances and assume they will always work. We turn on our faucets and we assume we will always have water. Some of what we take for granted we may want to stop for a moment and appreciate fully.
In recent weeks, my dear friend Nancy passed away. Her unexpected death sent my heart reeling into a tailspin. How could this be? I just talked to her and she was fine.. Why did God take her from those that love her? I was dazed. I was confused. I was angry. I was terribly sad. Yet, as I stop to reflect and give thanks, I am thankful that even for a short time, I had Nancy in my life. In the scheme of life, our friendship was brief. Yet, it seemed as though I knew Nancy all my life. She had this ability to pull from me the BEST in me and bring it to the surface. Through her friendship I became a better person. Through her death, I learned to value friendships on a greater level. Her passing is something I had no control of and I don't question the plan God has for us. In her death, I've learned more about life itself. It's brought me closer to wonderful people who also shared in a love for her. For Nancy in life, and Nancy in death, I'm eternally thankful to have had her influence in my life. I am forever a better person for it.
I'm thankful for new friendships. I'm thankful for existing friendships. I'm thankful for my partner, I'm thankful for my wonderfully supportive family. I'm thankful for having a home that brings comfort, peace and safety. I'm thankful for my boss, who sometimes drives me crazy, yet teaches me through our disagreements to be a stronger member of the team.
I'm thankful for my life and all the ups and downs that come with it. Each experience in life makes me stronger and wiser.
To my friends and family - I'm especially thankful for your love. I hope in some small way I have returned that love to you and you know it's there.
Monday, November 19, 2007
This year, the menu for Thanksgiving will reflect the classic and timeless.
- Assorted Snacks
- Turkey 101 (the very best way to cook a turkey) with herb compound butter
- Mom's Classic Stuffing
- Garlic Mashed Potatoes
- Roasted Sweet Potatoes
- Baked Corn Casserole
- Green Bean Bundles
- Potato Leek Soup
- Fresh Whole Wheat Dinner Roll Twists
- Pumpkin Spice Cake with Burnt Butter Icing
- Pumpkin Pie w/ Fresh Whipped Cream
- Cream Puffs w/ Cinnamon Ice Cream
Saturday, November 17, 2007
For those of us that have watched Martha over the years, we've been witness to the countless guest appearances Mrs. Kostyra made on the Martha Stewart Living and Martha television shows. As elegant and delightful as her daughter Martha, Mrs. Kostyra earned her own fan base over the years. There was talk for several years of a cookbook of Mrs. Kostyra's family favorites. Perhaps that cookbook will still be written one day.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Mrs. Kostyra during a special Mother's Day edition of Ask Martha on Sirius radio. What a delight. To this day, the Kostyra meatloaf recipe is one of my family favorites and serves as excellent comfort food throughout the year.
The loss of a parent is devistating no matter how much we prepare ourselves. I don't think you can ever prepare yourself for such a loss. My heart, my prayers and my thoughts are with Martha, her brothers and sisters as well as all of the Kostyra related family during this time. Collectively, those that love Martha and I would venture to guess even those that don't like Martha are praying for healing and comfort.
This morning, I mailed off a donation to the Martha Stewart Center for Living in honor and memory of Mrs. Kostyra. I felt it was a fitting way to pay tribute to this very special woman.
Beyond the moon, beyond the stars, Mrs. Kostyra wraps her arms around us all. In so many ways, "Big Martha" was our Mom too. Bless you Big Martha.
Monday, November 12, 2007
Chicago is a magical place. With it’s diverse shops and eateries, the clean streets and friendly people, Chicago seems to open it’s arms and welcome you like an old friend. Chicago is a place of great culture AND a lot of weekend construction projects!
We left for Chicago at 6am Saturday morning. From our home in Michigan to the ‘windy city’ it’s a four hour drive (given good traffic) which left us plenty of time to get there. (Take into consideration there is a one hour time difference). The ride was smooth. It’s a fairly straight shot from our area to Chicago with I-94 being the greatest length of roadway to travel.
We arrived in Chicago within that four hour time period. With Mapquest directions in hand and the availability of On-Star turn by turn navigation, we weaved through the busy Chicago Loop and found our exit that took us to the downtown area. Construction. Lot’s of it. Not only were they doing some street repairs, they were also blocking off streets to put up the holiday lights along State Street and Michigan Avenue better known as the “Miracle Mile.” We made it through the detours and found a place to park. Note: Public parking in Chicago is a nightmare! There are few parking structures or places on the street to park since most people take the train (Metro) into the city. Anyway.. We found a structure to park for the day and we were on foot headed toward Macys!
We arrived at Macy’s along the Washington Street entrance. There, we found the “anti-Macys” group protesting. For those of you that don’t know, Macy’s bought the former Marshall Fields store, which was a landmark in Chicago. There was a huge protest when Macy’s decided to change the name of this flagship store from Marshall Fields to Macy’s. The protesters were handing out flyers and buttons that proclaimed that there wasn’t room for Macy’s in Chicago. I guess everyone has to have a ‘cause’ to participate in; but I think there are greater issues one could devote time to!
A line was already forming outside of the store at all the entrance points. The buzz on the street: Martha Stewart. Martha was in town for the lighting of the great tree, a two story giant of a tree located on the 7th floor in the Walnut room. As I was standing there, I overheard a couple conversations about Martha signing ornaments following the tree lighting. No other details. I was thrilled! Within minutes, John, who is another huge Martha admirer sent me a text message (he was at the other entrance) that he heard the same thing… Martha would be signing ornaments. I was even more thrilled now! However, I didn’t have any details… I had to get the ‘scoop’ and get it fast!
The minutes seemed to tick slowly by. When the store opened, it was a rush of people. Literally hundreds of people were rushing in the door at the same time, quickly fanning out into the store to their desired destination. Most were headed to the 7th floor to the Walnut Room.
As I walked in the door, the first person I saw standing in the center aisle was Terry Lundgren, the CEO of Macy’s. I recognized him from his appearances on the Martha show. I stopped and introduced myself. He’s a very elegant man. He extended his hand, and shook my hand as I told him that I had been a Macy’s shopper for years and I was especially thrilled with the new exclusive offerings with the Martha Stewart Collection. He was very kind. He took a moment or two to talk and thanked me for being a loyal Macy’s shopper. It was a nice way to start my Macy’s day.. But the crowds were running by me to get up to the Walnut Room! I had to get moving!
I was walking so fast I was leaving poor David in the dust! I kept turning around to make sure he was coming along.. He would smile, wave, and urge me to keep going! He knew how important this day was to me… I wanted and I needed to see Martha today!
When we arrived on the 7th floor, the line was already stretching around the corner. We found our place in line and secured it. Members of the Macy’s staff were announcing that the Walnut Room would take the first 400 guests to attend the tree lighting. With David holding our place, I went off to scan the crowd and take a quick assessment. Would we be part of that 400? Indeed we would! We made it! Now, we just had to wait.
As we were waiting in line a Macy’s staffer announced that Martha would be signing ornaments at 1pm downstairs in the Martha Stewart Gallery. You had to purchase a special ‘Great Tree’ ornament and had to have a special wristband to participate in the signing. I turned to David with this look of sadness on my face. All David could say was, “I had no idea…” Nor did I. Oh well.. A missed opportunity; but I could at least SEE Martha at the tree lighting and could watch from afar as she was signing ornaments.
A text message came through on my phone. “I have two ornaments and two wristbands” It was John. With a fury of text messages back and forth, we decided that we would meet in the signing line and he would slip a wristband off his wrist for me and give me an ornament to have Martha sign. HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY!!!! I was thrilled!
As we were standing in line waiting to get into the Walnut Room, there was a flurry of activity. Security was everywhere. Martha staffers were running about with clipboards and cell phones keeping aisles open and elevators ready for Martha’s arrival into the Walnut Room. Martha Stewart Television crews were on hand to record the event. Producers were interviewing kids and adults alike as we waited. The excitement was mounting! It was much like watching a Presidential candidate make an appearance. “Advance” staff running around making sure that everything went smoothly. It was exciting to watch.
We were up to be seated in the Walnut Room and our seat was actually behind the tree and lighting stand. DRAT! But.. Where there is a will, there is a way.. I would eat lunch, and venture off with camera in hand.
Lunch was wonderful. A delicious “Poinsetta” drink… cranberry and pomegranate juice with Champagne and a wonderful lunch of Chicken Pot Pie. There were other choices on the menu of course, but Chicken Pot Pie seemed to be quite “Martha” and seemed to be appropriate. It also reminded me of Claudine, who is another Martha admirer and loves Chicken Pot Pie! The room was so beautiful. Very elegant. There were great performances by local gospel groups and a local children’s choir. The anticipation was building and building quickly! We were soon to be moments away from the official tree lighting!
We finished our lunch and had “Martha Stewart gingerbread pumpkin cake” with ice cream for dessert. I looked at David and told him I was off to see if I could get a couple pictures. The tree lighting was minutes away!
The MC for the day announced the President of Macy’s North who introduced Martha and Terry Lundgren. Mayor Daily was also on hand to light the tree. When Martha came forth the crowd came alive! A thunderous round of applause for Martha who looked stunning. She waved and said a few words about the Chicken Pot Pie that SHE just had. (see.. I knew it was a great choice!) Members of the audience would yell out, “We love you Martha!” and she would turn, wave and smile in the direction of the admiring fan. It was wonderful! Television cameras were rolling and it was time to light the tree.
Unfortunately I do not have a high powered digital camera. While it takes great pictures in the right lighting, it was difficult to capture the moments due to the dim room lighting. Photoshop came in handy as I tried to enhance the pictures a bit! (Special thanks to John for his picture of the tree! )
With a loud countdown of “5-4-3-2-1” Martha, Terry Lundgren, and Mayor Daily pushed the magic button and the tree came to life! The applause was incredible! It truly was the holiday season! This picture of the lit tree does not do it justice at all. It is a tree that you must see to appreciate. It was adorned with hundreds of Kugels and “great tree” ornaments.
After taking photographs, I went back to our table. David was sitting there (quite patiently!) and I sat down. Tears started to flow out of me. I started to cry. David, with a quite puzzled look on his face asked me what was wrong.. Did I get too excited? I told him that I was thinking of Nancy.. My dear “Martha” friend who had passed away earlier in the week. I sat there and the tears were seemingly non-stop. David reached across the table and grabbed my hand… “are you missing her?” I nodded that indeed I was. I told him that if she were still alive, there would be a zillion emails waiting for me when I got home excited to hear the news of my Chicago trip. David gripped my hand, and said, “you know.. She’s probably looking over your shoulder right now enjoying this day with you.” More tears burst forth, but this time they were different. It was odd.. It was as if they were cleansing tears. Tears that finally put my grief into perspective. I was healing from the pain of losing my dear friend. Nancy was with me; Laughing at my child-like excitement and encouraging me to be the ‘kid’ that was inside. I could feel Nancy’s spirit surround me.. There was much more to do today.. My tears dried themselves. I think Nancy was holding a tissue to my cheek to catch the last drop of grief in my soul. I raised my glass… “cocktails at five, Nancy”
We were off to the races again to the ornament signing. I had to find John and James! The elevators were slow.. Very slow.. So we took the escalators down to the first floor. The line was long .. We finally found John James! We exchanged stories of the day so far and we tried to get one of his wristbands off. IT WASN’T BUDGING!!! There was no way to slip the band off his wrist so I could put it on. That was okay.. I figured I could go around to the other side and at least take a few pictures of Martha and enjoy the excitement of others. Just being able to be there and share in the day was fine with me. But a signed ornament would be a total bonus! We went around to the other side, through the wonderful Martha Stewart Gallery (it was incredible) and I wedged my way to the roped off section right at the signing table. There were a few people in front of me, so I raised my camera up and started snapping pictures. Slowly, people would move out of the way and I could get to the very front of the roped off area! I was just across the aisle from Martha! I was snapping pictures like crazy! I had positioned myself in the best “viewing” place!
I watched as Martha greeted her guests and signed the ornaments. She was quite warm and friendly with each person that came through. Macy’s made sure that the people coming through the line had NOTHING but their ornaments for her to sign. No cameras, no memorabilia, nothing but the ornaments. This would speed along the signing. You could see the excitement on the faces of those that were in line. You could see people saying things to Martha and she would look up and smile and say, ‘thank you.’ Martha was so gracious to everyone. People were moving through at a good rate of speed! A few people were introduced to Martha
by a person from Macy’s and Martha would shake their hand.
At one point there was a lull in the action.. Someone in line had a camera which resulted in a halt in the process. I took a chance.. “Martha!” I said in a voice loud enough for her to hear… she turned and I waved.. “I hope you’re having a good time today!” she said. I nodded and said, “I can’t think of a better way to kick off the holiday season” She flashed that wonderful smile again and said, “I’m glad you’re here!” A “Martha Moment” for sure! That brief exchange made the entire trip worth it!
During this time, David was going through the gallery finding items that we have not been able to find locally. I waved to him to come closer so he could see Martha. He too was thrilled to watch her. He commented that its strange to see her in person when he only sees her on TV. He said several times, “she’s beautiful.” And indeed she is a beautiful woman, inside and out!
A Total Surprise!
As we were shopping along, we met up with John and James again. He (John) opened his bag and said, “pick which one you want..” I looked at him quite puzzled. He said, “you came all this way to see Martha and you’re not going to leave without a signed ornament.” I was in shock! I couldn’t believe he was serious! I was thrilled beyond words! I picked a beautiful green ornament and there was Martha’s signature right on the box. I will be forever grateful to John for his generosity and his kindness. It was a day to remember. The only thing that could have made the day better.. to have my friends Andrew, Bill and Claudine there to share the experience. Nancy was with me... I had a craving for a cocktail right around 5:00.
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
The holiday movie season always kicks off with "Miracle on 34th Street." Not a remake.. but the original in black and white. The movie is just magical! As one of the original movie trailers touted: "It's romantic, it's exciting, it's charming!" After watching this movie year after year, you can't help but believe in Santa Claus!
It's available in a variety of formats but the digitally remastered DVD is the absolute best!
I typically watch "Miracle on 34th Street" the night before Thanksgiving. I have a couple favorite scenes: The first is the scene where Santa meets the little girl from Holland and speaks Dutch to the child to the amazement of her adoptive Mother. The look of the little girl when Santa speaks to her is precious! My second favorie scene is he closing scene when Susan runs into the house that she claims is "the" house that she's dreamed of. As the movie ends, you see Kris Kringles cane in the corner of the room... 'could it be?'
My next holiday favorite is Irving Berlin's "White Christmas." This 1954 movie is what I call the last of the big screen musicals. With painted backgrounds, faboulous music, and wonderful production numbers, I'm drawn to this movie year after year.
With a cast of Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Vera -Ellen, and Rosemary Clooney - you can't go wrong! I remember watching this movie when I was very young and 'revisiting' it as a young adult. This is one movie that can never be re-made! The current Broadway show of the same name is excellent; but it can't replace this movie classic. My favorite songs include (of course) White Christmas, Sisters, and Count Your Blessings.
This movie is always playing when I'm decorating the family room tree. It's a 'Friday after Thanksgiving' must have!
These movies are the essential holiday movies for any movie collection. Coming up next I'll share my favorite holiday television specials!
Monday, November 5, 2007
One of the most enjoyable parts of the holiday planning is thinking about the decorating scheme (or to some, it could be a 'theme') I'll use this season. I have a few ideas!
I'm leaning toward a 'natural' Christmas theme for living room/family room. I love the look of magnolia leaves mixed with seasonal greenery. I also love the look of the pomegranite, deliciously read and a natural accent to the green of the season. This wreath photo is my inspiration photo as I create the season in my home this year.
I also love the look of the magnolia garland draped over the mantel with the white candles. Very elegant. Last year, I found candles that look like pillar candles but are actually electric with 3 small LED lights inside that 'wave' and cast a light that replicates candle light. Much safer than actual candles! The photos used here are from Restoration Hardware - another of my shopping enjoyments!
Saturday, October 20, 2007
I had the pleasure of getting to know Phil prior to his tour of duty in Iraq. He's an employee of our parent company Trinity Health and served as a corporate consultant as we developed a new department in our health system.
As the situation in Iraq intensified Phil was called to serve as a Major in the Army Reserves. With pride and yet a great deal of fear for his safety his colleagues at Trinity Health bid him farewell praying for his safe and quick return.
Employees of Trinity Health supported Phil and his family throughout the duration of his service. We frequently collected money, bought holiday gifts, paid for home repairs, paid for home maintenance services and the list goes on and on. We wanted Phil to concentrate on staying safe, not having to worry about his family at home. It was our turn to support Phil as he always supported us in a variety of professional roles.
During his time in Iraq, Phil and his men were fighting furiously each and every day. Through the battles, Phil and his men saw that more needed to be done. The military action was only accomplishing 'part' of the mission.. there were children who needed so much more.
Phil and his men during their off hours supported numerous children in war torn Iraq. Their secondary mission, which was a personal mission, became about the children and families. Through a variety of initiatives they provided education, recreation, and support to the families they 'adopted.' They assisted with the necessities of life that provided a greater sense of security to these families that lived with daily violence. Phil and his men wanted to bring a greater sense of security to these families... especially the children.
Phil did return safely after his extended tour. Trinity Health was waiting for him with open arms and he is now back to work.
Phils life changing experiences on the front lines in Iraq have now provided Phil with a new mission: Sharing his story. Phil spends his own personal time doing presentations at local churches, civic organizatons and throughout Trinity Health. His message is one not of all the violence, but the hope. His message is about going the extra mile to do what in your heart you know is the right thing. His message is about mentoring children, mentoring families on how to have a better life. His message is about compassion.
It will be my honor on November 15 to introduce Phil to members of our health system when he shares his story during a 'lunch and learn' program.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Okay, so I'm a proud 'parent.' I have four wonderful 'kids' that bring so much happiness into my life. I'm speaking of my four cats, Martha, Riko, Cinnamon, and Sirius.
Martha is the queen of the household. She was born in a horse barn and absolutely hated being outdoors. Our friends Charlie and Laurie would do their very best to keep Martha outside (where they thought she belonged) but she wasn't having any part of it. During a visit, Martha came right to me and batted her beautiful eyes. I scooped her up into my arms and the rest is history. I knew I had to have this cat!
Riko is a rescue cat. He was one of the first 'residents' of Friends of Michigan Animals Rescue when the rescue was still operated out of the home of Pete and Marcy LaFramboise. (my in-laws) Riko had a pretty rough childhood until he was brought to the rescue. He lived in the engine of an old van. The owners of the van decided to do some work and make the van operational again only to find Riko living in the engine area. When they started the van, Riko was shaken and slightly injured. He was taken to the rescue to receive necessary medical attention and hopefully find a home. A home he did indeed find! He is the mirror image of my long time friend Spooky who was laid to rest after a brief battle with stomach cancer. Through his first year, Riko had several medical problems. He's now healthy, (you can see by his size he's a bit "too" healthy!) and living the good life.
Cinnamon was another rescue cat. She was born in a household of a woman that had well over 40 cats that she couldn't afford to take care of. Cinnamon (as well as most of the other 40) was rescued and she was very sick. She was very frail and had an awful eye infection that matted her eyes shut for weeks. I would go to the rescue and I could hold Cinnamon in the palm of my hand. She was so tiny. Pete and Marcy nursed her back to health and we adopted her into our home. Cinnamon had an eating disorder. She would literally eat anything and everything in sight. The Vet told us that it was her way of survival since she never knew if the food would be available again. She would go for days on end and not eat at her previous home. Being the weakest and smallest cat the others would push her out of the way and she would go hungry. She certainly isn't hungry any longer! She is now (along with Riko) on a weight management program to reduce the waistline a bit! She's a big girl but she's the most dainty cat I've ever met. She's quite a lady.
Sirius is the newest member of our family and he is the 'wild child.' He was born to a stray cat that was taken in and thought to be a male. (hmmmmmm) As the stray began to grow, it was realized that 'he' was a 'she' and 'she' was going to have a rather large litter of kittens. Indeed she did. She gave birth to six beautiful kittens who have all found homes through the animal rescue. Sirius is named obviously after the Sirius satellite radio. I had never dealt with newborn kittens before and used to call into Tracie Hotchner the host of "Cat Chat" on Martha Stewart Living Radio for advice. She walked me through the care of the kittens as they were growing up and getting of age to be taken to the rescue.
All of our kids have their own unique personalities. No two are alike! It does get a bit crowded in bed sometimes when everyone decides to grab a place on the bed to sleep! In their own way they like to 'help' us when we are working on a project around the house. Have you ever tried to paint and keep four cats out of the roller pan at the same time?! It can often be a challenge!
They each have their own stocking at Christmas and Santa is very good to them. We'll be adding a stocking for Sirius this year. Our first Christmas with him. This could be interesting with his energy level and a well decorated tree! You do the math. It's a recipe for potential disaster!