Monday, December 31, 2007

It's hard to believe that another year is ending. It's on this new years eve that you stop and ask yourself, "where did the time go?"

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

As I sit here and write, Christmas of 2007 has wrapped up. The last of the MANY celebrations are over; the last of the packages are unwrapped; the last bits of scotch tape with a scrap of wrapping paper attached are removed from the bottom of my sock; and Sirius has finally tired of playing with ribbon and tissue paper.

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.
Okay.. so gift cards are great. From Lattes to lounge wear, there are gift cards for almost every business and service available. "Get what you really want.." some of the enclosures read. "Shop 'till you drop," says another. If only one honest gift giver would write, "I didn't take the time to look at your list and make an effort to actually purchase a gift," would gift card mania end? Not likely.

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

Some people collect coins, some people collect dishware. Some people even collect shoes. One of the things I collect: Martha. "Marthabilia."
I started collecting Martha items in October of 1997. I invested in the company and I started to take a closer look at the various product lines and the person behind the company. That started it! It dawned on me that what I was experiencing as a television viewer, a subscriber and as an investor was something historical. There is no other company like Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia.
My collection ranges from hard to find Martha by Mail items to corporate promotional material and press kits. I've been working on collecting promotional 'wear' as well with t-shirts, baseball caps, aprons, and tote bags. I have large poster prints that were used for in-store merchandising and hanging banners used in outdoor garden areas. From pencils to promotional materials the collection continues to grow.
My major source of merchandise is eBay. Just recently, I found my neweset 'bag' given to some employees of Macy's.

Here are a few other pictures of collection pieces:

A collection of press kits

The debut of Martha Stewart Everyday at Kmart in 1997

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

Martha Stewart Cookies

Here is the first glimpse at the upcoming book "Martha Stewart Cookies" which is due to be released in March of 2008.

I'm with you Elaine.. I can't wait to see the "Cooking School" cookbook!

Check out this brief interview with Martha!
Okay.. to say I'm 'spoiled' would probably be an understatement. To say I'm loved is obvious! Each year, my partner has a little tradition.. giving me a card 12 days before Christmas. He calls this tradition the '12 Cards of Christmas."

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

Christmas Past

This time of year you can't help but think back to the days when you were a child anxiously awaiting Santa's arrival. That excitement is still part of my life today.

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!
This picture shows my new microphone and my little 'performing outfit' that my Mom bought me. The vest was a lighter blue color (I remember it vividly!) and the bowtie was black and blue color. Of course, I was wearing quite stylish black pants! Looking back, I think my collar should have been tucked inside the vest! (ha ha)
To this day at family gatherings, my family will always bring up my 'performing' days. I'm always asked if I can remember the words to a particular early Beatles song.. and you know. to this very day, I remember!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Old Kitchen Cabinet

I would have to say that this old kitchen cabinet, while beat up and showing it's age is one of my favorite pieces of furniture in the house.

The cabinet was made in 1904 by a craftman here in Michigan and was a gift to David's Grandmother. Over the years, this cabinet was used daily to store kitchen items and baking staples in the old family farmhouse.

When the farm was sold, the cabinet was given to David's mother who had no use for it. There wasn't room in her tiny kitchen for the cabinet so it sat in the garage and was used to store nuts, bolts, tools, and other items that were found in the garage.

Knowing my love of antiques, David's mother asked us before she passed away if we would like to have the kitchen cabinet. I immediately said, "YES!" It was in horrible shape having been in the cold damp garage all those years. We attempted to strip it down to it's original wood, but it was useless. There were so many coats of paint on it that we were actually harming theh wood withe all the strippers that we used. So we decided that we would strip off as many coats of paint we could, give it a good prime coat and repaint it, with all it's imperfections in place.

The old wooden top has a slide out bread board/pastry board that shows the years of wear from all the fresh bread and cookies made in the old farmhouse. The top and the pastry board are original to the piece. We no longer use it to roll out dough of any sort, but it's a treasured piece of David's family history. We did replace all the knobs to match the rest of the hardware in the kitchen.

We use it now to store odds and ends (none of the drawers or cupboards are very deep) and of course, it makes a great display piece for my Martha enamel canister set from Martha by Mail and my new blue set from the new Martha Stewart Collection at Macy's. The top shelf of the hutch is also a great place to stack my Martha green glass cake stands with a fruit display.

The lower right pull out drawer is actually a flour bin. It's very deep and currently holds all my copper cookie cutters!

Ready! Set! BAKE!

"Oh the weather outside is frightful... but the kitchen is so delightful!..."

Happy Saturday to one and all who might stop in for a cup of coffee and conversation.

Today begins "Ready, Set, BAKE!" the marathon baking time when I bake as much as I can in a weekend. We're already off to a good start! I have 12 different cookie packages to put together and I've completed the first dozen cookies for each package! The first 12 dozen cookies baked were a simple cookie, yet quickly has become everyone's favorite: PeanutButter M&M cookies.

These are easy to make and have a wonderful texture that will melt in your mouth. They taste GREAT with a cup of hot coffee or a tall glass of milk. It is reported that Santa loves these!
Here is the recipe:
1 3/4C All purpose flour
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2C Brown Sugar (light) packed
1/2C Peanut Butter (smooth)
2T Milk
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2C Sugar
1/2C Crisco Solid Shortening
1 Egg
1 tsp Vanilla
Preheat oven to 357 degrees.
Cream shortening, sugars, egg, milk and vanilla until smooth and creamy.
Add all the dry ingredients and mix until just combined
Add peanut butter and mix to incorporate.
Using a small ice cream scoop or cookie scoop, roll dough into 1 1/2 inch balls.
Roll the balls in either granular sugar or coarse sugar. (I use coarse sugar.. more sparkle!)
Place balls appx. 1" apart on a parchment lined or silpat lined baking sheet (I prefer silpat)
Press each ball with your fingertips until they are a uniform round size.
Press M&M's into the cookie dough (use as many as you wish)
Bake for 12 minutes. They will be rather 'loose' when they come out of the oven. Cool on the baking sheet for 15 minutes and transfer to a wire cooling rack until firm.
Package these quickly or they will be eaten!

Friday, December 14, 2007

I was inspired by my friend Claudine to enhance the garland decor that adorns the jadeite cupboard in my kitchen. I had to add a bit more sparkle! Thanks Claudine!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

For 25 wonderful years, Martha Stewart has been providing us with all the best in entertaining, cooking, gardening, homekeeping, and crafting. What a wonderful 25 years it has been with Martha in our lives.

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!

Congratulations, Martha!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Martha Meets Fine China

Distinctive Assortment of China, Stemware and Flatware
Will Be Available at Macy’s in January 2008
Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. and Wedgwood will introduce the Martha Stewart Collection with Wedgwood exclusively at Macy’s, a tabletop line featuring 10 fine bone china patterns, six crystal stemware patterns, and six stainless steel flatware patterns, available in the United States at Macy’s, and beginning in January 2008.
Inspired by some of Martha’s favorite pieces of china – modernized for the needs and
tastes of today's discerning bride and entertainer –the Martha Stewart Collection with Wedgwood has been designed by MSLO, in collaboration with Wedgwood, bringing together the distinctive Martha Stewart palette and patterns with Wedgwood’s 250 years of manufacturing excellence, creating a thoughtful, beautiful line of tabletop items available at the largest department store wedding and gift registry at Macy’s.

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

Capture the Scent of the Season

There is no scent like that of a Balsam or a Fraser Fir tree.

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.


One of "Martha's Secret Sources" was a shop in San Fransisco called "Bell'occhio." This antique and specialty shop is known for it's highly unique merchandise selection and special wrapping of all items purchased at the store or through it's mail order service. While looking through the website I found these great 'Martha blue' boxes. Who would need wrapping paper if you used these boxes?!

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!

I Couldn't Resist!

I could not resist a purchase this afternoon... I stopped at Williams-Sonoma (yet another of my favorite stores) and discovered the cutest set of snowman-chef mugs with matching dessert plates and candy-cane striped spoons. Are these not just adorable?!

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

Kitchen Decorating

One of my favorite rooms in the house to decorate is the kitchen. Our jadeite collection is a "natural" when it comes to decorating. I like to incorporate the jadeite and now the blue dishware into the decorating theme.

In the kitchen eating area we have a shelf and I'm in the process of adding a bit of Christmas. The bay leaf wreath above the shelf is adorned with a 'Martha blue' ribbon which is the main holiday color in the kitchen this year. Even my small Martha colander comes in handy as a place to stack a small cluster of ornaments for display. Starting this week, I'll add real greenery to this shelf to bring it alive for the holiday and make it look much more festive!
The display shelf with a (small) portion of the jadeite collection (and also showing the new Martha blue bowls!) is draped with a garland. Matching Martha teal ornaments and bow help highlight the color scheme. The garland is wrapped in small white 'rice lights' that bring a beautiful glow as the lights are dimmed.
This week will bring all the final steps in decorating as we prepare for our annual holiday party. All the live greenery will be up by Friday. I hope to post more pictures this weekend with all the final touches!