Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Goodbye 2008... Welcome 2009!

The countdown to 2009 has shifted into high gear as we begin to say our goodbyes and farewells to 2008.

It would be very easy to create a recap post of the years top stories; but nearly every news station has had a recap sprinkled in their newscasts since mid December. I don't think we need to look back once again at the scandals, the losses, the election and the tragic news stories.

2008 truly brought this blog to life. While I started this small space in 2007, the blog has experienced tremendous growth during 2008. When I first started this space my friends and family would check in and see what was going on. As we wrap up the year, over 1,000 people visit each week and many are now regular visitors who stop in for their 'cup' of House Blend. I'm forever grateful for the opportunity to share this space with so many great people from all over the world.

The turning point for House Blend was the interview with Dr. Brent Ridge. The interview that appeared here in June of this year, generated the highest number of page views and single day visits. (You can still read the interview.. look for Dr. Brent in the topic section on the sidebar) It is still one of the most 'searched' pages. Thank you again, Dr. Brent for your generosity and your time to make the interview such a success!

We often hear about the 'power of the media' and 2008 brought that power to life for me. During the course of a call in segment on "Morning Living" (Martha Stewart Living Radio), Tracie Hotchner, host of Cat Chat received a call from a woman who was in need of help with two cats that belonged to her sister. Her sister had been hospitalized and she needed to find a foster home for the cats until her sister was well enough to take care of them. Tracie made the connection that maybe I could help her through the animal rescue I'm affiliated with. She made this connection not even knowing if the caller was close to me. All within 24 hours, the caller made her plea for help, Tracie made the connection to me with the caller, I made contact with the caller as well as the animal rescue, and help was on the way. Within two weeks, the cats were safely housed at the shelter as foster cats. They will return to their owner soon. I'm thankful for Tracie, who has been a wonderful friend and supporter of our rescue.

In October, my friend John and I spent the day together to see Martha at a book signing in Birmingham. It was a complete "Martha day" that began in the early hours of the morning as we stood outside in the cold to get our wristbands to secure our place in line. We met many wonderful people that day, who shared in our enjoyment of all things Martha. The highlight of course was getting a couple minutes with Martha as she chatted with us as she signed our copies of "Martha Stewart's Cooking School." Above all, it was great to spend time with John.. we just don't do that enough.

What will 2009 bring? Who knows... but one of my New Year's Intentions is to make sure I take sufficient time to experience the good things. Work/life balance is much more important to me than it used to be. It's time to find that balance.

To each of you I wish you the very best for the new year ahead. Don't forget to stop in and visit. The coffee is always fresh, and you're always welcome to sit at the kitchen table and talk about living. Happy New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Valentine's Day Crafts

So... you thought you were safe from the holidays for a while, eh? Not so fast!

While visiting family in Florida, my friend Elaine found this small selection of Martha Stewart Crafts Valentine's Day items at an area Wal-Mart store. Blank cards, stickers, confetti, and ribbons seem to be part of the holiday fun for Valentine's Day.

I'll have to scope out local stores to see if anything is popping up here locally. If you recall last year, the crafts line had very little in the way of Valentine's Day merchandise. It looks like this year will be a bit more interesting!

Start purchasing your Valentine's Day items soon! Nothing says, "I love you" like a homemade card! Well.. maybe some bling and chocolate will do the trick.. but the homemade card is nice too!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Martha Kicked it Up a Notch in 2008

While most of us will remember 2008 as the year of the economic downturn, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia kicked the year up a notch and continued to position itself for long term growth.

January2008: “Everyday Baking,” the new PBS series premieres. “Everyday Baking” is the companion show to the very popular “Everyday Food,” MSLO’s fastest growing franchise. The show, starring John Barricelli features multiple baking segments centered on a central theme.

January 2008: Martha Stewart 'On Demand' became available to digital subscribers to Comcast and Cox Cable. A variety of segments from Martha Stewart Living television and the Martha Stewart Show are made available to viewers on a variety of topics. Video clips change each month.

February 2008: MSLO announced the expansion of its Weddings franchise with an investment in WeddingWire, the online wedding planning company. The acquisition of approximately 40 percent of the equity in WeddingWire and a commercial agreement related to software and content licensing and media sales helps MSLO position itself as the ultimate resource for brides to be who are planning their special day.

February 2008: MSLO announced in what was probably the biggest news of the year, the acquisition of the media and merchandising properties of famed chef, Food Network personality and restaurant owner Emeril Lagasse. The contract was signed in April 2008. The deal brings together one of the biggest brands in food-related content with MSLO's well-established expertise in the lifestyle arena. Under the terms of the deal, MSLO acquired the rights to the Emeril Lagasse franchise, including television programming, cookbooks, website, and the licensed kitchen and food products.

April 2008: MSLO and 1-800 Flowers, the nation’s largest on line flower retailer announced their partnership and the new Martha Stewart for 1-800 Flowers collection. The 1-800 relationship replaces the long running which shuttered its operations in January . Martha Stewart for 1-800 Flowers collection opened with a wide array of floral arrangements and live plants all presented in beautiful vessels inspired by Martha’s own antique collection.

June 2008: For the first time since the magazines inception, Everyday Food featured Martha and Emeril on the cover and premiered his new column in the magazine. Emeril and Everyday Food was a perfect match for the newly acquired MSLO franchise.

June 2008: Martha Stewart Podcasts became available to iTunes users. Similar content to the 'On Demand' library, but with the ease of having them on your home computer.

June 2008: SVP Worldwide, owner of Singer®, Husqvarna®, Viking®, and Pfaff® sewing machine brands announced the new Martha Stewart Embroidery Line. Classic Embroidery Patterns, the first in a series of embroidery designs produced by MSLO and SVP Worldwide, provide designs for monogramming and frame, border, and corner artwork that allow for further enhancement and personalization of sewing and embroidery projects. These patterns include Scallop, Laurel, and Twist, three simple, graceful embellishments inspired by timeless embroidery patterns, as well as an elegant font--custom-designed to Martha's specifications--for creating clean, beautiful monograms.

July 2008: The Martha Stewart Crafts line expanded with Martha Stewart Create and Martha Stewart Celebrate collections available exclusively at Wal-Mart stores throughout the United States and Canada.
Martha Stewart Create features crafting essentials and memory-keeping products such as paper, cutting mats, tools, pens, markers, glitter, and ribbons. The assortment also contains craft and activity kits including jewelry-making kits, pipe-cleaner-animal kits, memory-keeping kits, party decor kits, and card-making kits.
Martha Stewart Celebrate showcases ready-made, paper-based weddings essentials such as stationery, guest books, embellishments, favor boxes, cake toppers, and customizable centerpieces, as well as flower baskets and ring pillows.
The expansion of the craft line which debut in 2007 fulfilled a need in the mass market distribution channel. Immediately upon the announcement, analysts and consumers speculated whether or not Wal-Mart would become the new distributor of Martha Stewart Everyday once the contract with Kmart expires in January of 2010. While no new announcement has been made to date, one could easily be expected by third quarter of this year.

September 2008: Martha Stewart Television went in two different directions in the Fall of this year. First, Martha opened her Bedford Farm for the season opener of the syndicated “Martha Stewart Show.” Filmed entirely on the property of the gorgeous New York farm, the show featured a number of guest chefs and glimpses into her stables and gardens.

“Whatever, Martha” also made its debut on the Fine Living Network. The show concept was created by Martha Stewart and inspired by the cult classic “Mystery Science Theater.” “Whatever” radio show personalities, Alexis Stewart and Jennifer Koppelman-Hutt host the new show. The unscripted TV format provides a provocative platform for the radio duo to reveal their very colorful, witty and sometimes shocking opinions about Martha Stewart, Martha's performance, appearance and approach to projects in memorable segments selected from the Emmy-winning program "Martha Stewart Living", which premiered 15 years ago.

September 2008: MSLO’s portfolio of home decorating products expanded with the introduction of the Martha Stewart Good Bed line of luxury mattresses. Designed by Martha Stewart and the MSLO design team and manufactured by The Good Bed LLC, an entity formed by MSLO and Columbus, Ohio-based Schottenstein Stores Corporation, the line is comprised of twelve mattresses, each covered in woven or knit tickings of 100% cotton and starting at $1,000. The mattresses are available in twin, full, queen, king, and California king sizes, and in comfort levels of firm, medium-firm, and plush. Each includes proprietary dual-directional coil innerspring support, a supportive soy foam comfort edge that makes it more comfortable to get into and out of bed, and continental tailoring for easier placement of fitted sheets. Select mattresses feature tight, Euro, box, and pillow tops, as well as layers of soy and visco foam.

October 2008: MSLO announced an agreement to invest in, and enter a commercial agreement with, Pingg Corp. (, an online event management site that offers stylish invitations and easy-to-use event planning tools. The move reflects MSLO's strategy to broaden its digital footprint.

December 2008: MSLO and NBC Universal, the syndication distributor for the Martha Stewart Show announced that the Emmy-Winning Syndicated Series Sold for 5th Season on Stations From NBC Local Media, Fox, Hearst, Scripps, LIN & More, Representing More Than 60% of U.S.

And you thought your year was busy?

In other MSLO news this year, in a move that shocked the business world, CEO Susan Lyne stepped down to pursue other opportunities. Susan is credited with taking control of MSLO during the massive company downturn following Martha’s personal legal problems and turning the company around to a profitable status. A number of restructuring moves at MSLO also made headlines in 2008 with the most recent announcement of CFO Howard Hochhauser stepping down.

Looking toward 2009

Speculation has been brewing about what could be next for MSLO. Additional licensing agreement announcements are expected in 2009. MSLO has hinted at an international expansion of the brand as well as domestic expansion (there are already international editions of Martha Stewart Living and Martha Stewart Weddings magazines). The buzz is a new garden line to be available at one of the big box home improvement stores and home improvement tools for the DIY’er at the same location. With the Martha Stewart Paint line available at Lowe’s, it would seem to be an obvious choice for further expansion of the brand in the home improvement arena.

I have a number of things I’d like to see this year:

  • Martha Stewart Organizing Tools: Online or paper calendar, reminder, and daily organizing tools. (ala Franklin/Covey)
  • An expansion of the food line to move beyond Costco. While Costco offers great value, it’s rather limited in consumer scope.
  • Martha Stewart Baking: A line of cake and baking supplies. It makes sense since MSLO owns a portion of Wilton Industries.
  • Martha Stewart Homekeeping: A line of cleaning supplies and laundry supplies available through mass market. While some items are currently available at Macy’s as part of the Martha Stewart Collection, I’d like to see a larger scale distribution of such products.
  • Martha Stewart Pets: A line of all natural foods, supplies, and care items for pets.
    Martha Stewart Garden: A full line of gardening items including tools, pots, planters, shoes (bring back garden clogs!), and work clothing.
  • Martha Stewart Home Office: A line of tools available to keep organized and keep the home office running at optimal efficiency.
  • An expansion of the craft/create line to include software tools to create your own cards, stationary, announcements, etc without having to use online services.
  • Martha Stewart Digital: Digital availability of their publishing library by subscription. Make all current and past issues available through a digital medium.
  • Martha Stewart Living – The Seasons: While the first run at DVD’s didn’t fare well for the company, I’d love to see all the seasons of Martha Stewart Living made available in a DVD collection. Don’t separate it out by ‘topic’ – rather, the entire season.
Hey, a Martha admirer can dream, can’t he?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A New Year is Coming

I have finished picking the last bit of scotch tape off the floor, put the rolls of wrapping paper back into the storage container, and noticed that my project table looked like a bomb went off on it... Christmas is over.
Soon, it will be time to get organized again, clean every room from top to bottom, and pull out the 'winter white' bedding. I'm so organized when it comes to decorating FOR the holidays... but it seems to take me forever to remove and pack everything away for another year. It's a task I don't enjoy as much as I do putting it all up!
This week, we'll wind down 2008 and I can't say I'm sorry to see it go! While there were many good things that happened this year, there were also a good many challenges that tested my 'will' and tapped danced on my very last nerve. Having faced those challenges with determination and a strong will (some say I'm bull-headed), I'm ready to celebrate the incoming year and all the promise it brings.
I'm not one to make new year's resolutions. Why set myself up like that?! Instead, I make new year's 'intentions' which seem like less of a failure if I'm not totally successful. I am not a big party boy on New Year's Eve. We usually go out for a nice dinner (all gussied up in our finest), and return home before all the drunk people are on the roads. For years and years I've spent the Eve with Dick Clark and in recent years with Ryan Seacrest (no complaints). My New Year's' Eve party days ended nearly 20 years ago.
One of the things I do recognize about myself is that I get rather 'reflective' during these last few days of the year. Did I accomplish all I set out to do? Can I say I was successful this year? Did I fulfill my personal mission? It's my time to take my personal inventory and evaluate my life. That's a good thing, as it sets the direction for the coming year.
All the reflection does make me want to celebrate, however. Perhaps I'll throw on a rhinestone tiara and dance about the family room with wild abandon. Ahhh... the good 'ol days.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

On this Christmas Eve, I wanted to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas. Thank you for taking a moment or two out of your day to share time with me through this blog. It's been a pleasure to create a place you enjoy visiting.

I wish you all peace and great blessings. --Kenn

Friday, December 19, 2008

And Then it Snowed...

When the alarm went off at 4:30 this morning, the news was all about the winter storm that was heading our way with an expected 6-10 inches of snow. By the time I was ready to leave for work at 5:45, the snow had already accumulated 2" and it was near white out conditions. Short of the blizzard in the mid 70's, I don't recall the snow ever falling so fast and furious as it did this morning.

Conditions continued to worsen throughout the day until about noon, when the storm was pulling off to the east, leaving behind a 9" coating of snow in most of our immediate area. As beautiful as it is, I hated driving in it! I'm glad to be home and now enjoy seeing it from the comforts of the great indoors! I did tiptoe outside to take one quick photo. We have to go out in a little bit to do some holiday party shopping. I may take my camera along to catch a few more snow moments.

David is clearing paths to the barn and clearing out the driveway while I give encouragement from the front door. :-) More snow is expected on Sunday and again on Christmas Eve. I do hope Rudolph has his nose at maximum wattage!

A Package of Cookies Arrive!

I received a package today... from Martha Stewart for 1-800 Flowers. It was a tin of cookies!

The tin is wonderful! In all the pictures you would think that the brown ribbon and label were 'attached' to the tin.. but alas, they are printed on. A nice sized tin!

When you open the tin, you have a little 'gift' note from Martha and recipe cards for all the various cookies inside.

The cookie varieties are individually wrapped to retain freshness. It will be interesting to see how they compare to homemade!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

It's Raining (Snow) Men...

My Thursday night project: completing the decorated sugar cookies for friends and family. To coordinate with my Christmas cards this year, I decided to deck the snowmen out in teal blue hats and scarves. Two dozen snowmen later, it's time to let them dry and then start packaging.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Brent and Josh, Bing Crosby and Martha Stewart... Sirius-ly.

If you're huddled around your Sirius radio on Wednesday night (December 17) at 8pm Eastern, catch two of my favorite people, Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Dr. Brent Ridge on Sirius Out Q radio, channel 109. Josh and Brent will be guests on the Dereck and Romaine show, discussing life on their farm (Beekman) and their concept of 'rural chic.' Sounds fun and fabulous to me! Brent and Josh will be taking calls from listeners, so feel free to call in and say, 'hello!'

In other Sirius news.. for those who love nostalgia for the holidays, check out channel 113 for "Bing Crosby Christmas Radio." Join special guest host Regis Philbin for this non-stop broadcast of more than twenty years of vintage Bing Crosby holiday radio specials, featuring a wide variety of Crosby’s beloved music — including his most popular recording ever, "White Christmas" — and special guests like Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland and Bob Hope among others. Bing Crosby Christmas Radio airs through Christmas Day, December 25.

And right in between these two channels, you'll always find Martha Stewart Living Radio on channel 112. (XM subscribers can also find MSLR on channel 157) Great holiday tips, recipes and inspiration is available 24 hours a day. Oh.. and let's not forget Alexis and Jennifer, the hosts of "Whatever."

Monday, December 15, 2008

Martha Stewart Show Renewed for Season Five!

The Martha Stewart Show has been renewed in over 60% of the country for 2009, according to distributor NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution.

That signals that the syndicated series, produced by Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, will be returning for a fifth season.

The daily strip has been cleared by NBC, Fox, Hearst, Scripps, and LIN stations, among others. Top-market renewals include WNBC New York, KNBC Los Angeles, WMAQ Chicago, WJBK Detroit, WTVT Tampa, WBAL Baltimore, and WISN Milwaukee.

The series averaged a .7 in the November sweep, down from the previous November, but showing year-to-growth in most of the top 30 markets and on par with previous-week performances.

"Martha and the team behind her show continue to produce an entertaining daily program that resonates with our viewers," says John Wallace, President, NBC Local Media, which oversees NBC's TV stations.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Baking Has Started

Yesterday, I was making cookie dough for my over-sized sugar cookies. The disc's are in the fridge chilling away, ready to be rolled at any time.

Today, I did get the Chocolate/Dried Cherry Biscotti baked, cut, baked again, and packaged:

It is DELICIOUS. You can find the recipe from Emeril here.

I also started some Marshmallow Snowflakes. The marshmallow mixture was easy to make and it's amazing what some hot sugar water and corn syrup can turn into after about 10 minutes on the Kitchen-Aid!

This pan (a standard rimmed baking sheet) will be cut into snowflakes tomorrow. The recipe to make these easy treats can be found on

So much more to do... but so pleased with the achievements so far! Happy Sunday, everyone!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ready for Some Fresh Thinking?

While in the middle of making cookie dough this afternoon, there came a knock at the door. It was our mail-person, Michelle, who presented me with the haul of mail for the day. Within the stack of mail, I found the January issue of Martha Stewart Living.
After a hectic holiday season full of projects, decorations, lights and bits of scotch tape on the floor (which you will find until St. Patrick's Day), it's always refreshing to put a focus on getting organized once again. Despite my best efforts every year from Halloween - New Year's, I can't quite keep the house in quite the 'order' I'm used to. (to see my project room right now would make any professional organizer shudder!)
The January issue of Living is all about 'fresh thinking.' Despite it's small size this month (only 144 pages), it's full of great articles and photography.
Looking to maximize your closet space? there is a range of clever and easy organizing ideas to make the most of the storage you have. Ever wonder how Martha 'does it all' and maintains her great appearance and vigor? You'll find all her health secrets in her monthly column, "From My Home to Yours." Get a glimpse behind the scenes at some of MSLO staffers offices in an interesting articled titled, "Creativity at Work."
There's much more in this issue of Living. Go beyond the expected uses of citrus when cooking breakfast, lunch or dinner. Take a look at a year of flowers - a calendar of a dozen seasonal bouquets. Anticipate being 'full' from all the holiday goodies? Try a dessert of meringues in the coming new year.
A new year, and another resolution to get fit. Dr. Brent Ridge shares his insight on how exercising actually affects your body in his monthly column Doctor/Patient. It's an article you don't want to miss.
Cooking, entertaining, gardening, homekeeping and more all in the January issue. Watch for it!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Help in the Kitchen From Martha and Costco

With holiday preparations in full swing we could all use some help in the kitchen. Martha Stewart has you covered with great selection of food products available at Costco.

Wanting ham for the holidays? Look no further than your local Costco for Kirkland Signature/Martha Stewart Ham. First introduced last year to rave reviews, this ham can’t be beat. These bone-in hams are slow cured and then lightly smoked over applewood chips. Each artisanal ham comes with simple reheating, glazing, and carving instructions. If you traditionally serve ham at holiday time, this ham is the perfect choice.

When the wrapping paper and scotch tape frenzy leave you with little time for a simple supper, try these great Martha Stewart alternatives:

Beef Chili with Beans ……This beef chili brings together black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, and hearty chunks of beef. Tomatoes, smoky ancho chilies, and a touch of lager round out the chili’s deep flavors and give it plenty of personality. Make it a southwest supper that is quick, easy, and tastes like you had it simmering for hours.

Chicken Slab Pie ……All-natural chicken, carrots, leeks, mushrooms, peas, and pearl onions
simmered in a creamy sauce—are brought together in these rustic, double-crust pies. This chicken slab pie takes the traditional pot pie and kicks it up a few notches.

Turkey Soup …… Brimming with hearty chunks of turkey, tender noodles, mushrooms, carrots, and onions, this turkey soup is delicious served piping hot on its own or with some crusty bread.

After dinner, who doesn’t love a good dessert? Try Martha’s Apple Raspberry Slab Pie …… A rich, buttery crust encases a filling of apples, raspberries, and a hint of spice to create this apple-raspberry slab pie. Serve it warm or at room temperature with your favorite ice cream.

Planning a holiday party? Martha makes it easy with these quick appetizers:

Olive Bruschetta …… This olive bruschetta blends the tangy, slightly salty flavors of olives with the sweetness of roasted red peppers and cipollini onions. It makes a wonderful alternative to traditional pasta

Pork Meatballs …… These tender pork meatballs feature floral lemongrass and spicy habanero chiles. Serve them on bibb lettuce leaves with a chili-lime dipping sauce or on a mini baguette with shredded carrots, sliced cucumbers and pickles, nd cilantro sprigs to create a Vietnamese-style sandwich.

Mushroom Dip …… Classic flavor of rich, savory bacon mingles with earthy mushrooms in this creamy dip. When entertaining, serve a bowl of Mushroom Dip with an array of fresh vegetables.

Whether your entertaining, hosting the holiday, or just looking for something quick to prepare during a busy week, Kirkland/Martha Stewart products make meal time taste just like you made it yourself… and all you had to do is heat it up!

For more information on these and other Kirkland/Martha Stewart food products, visit the shop page at

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Tis the Season to be Decorated

A fairly decent picture of the Christmas tree in the family room

The kitchen garland with the overhead lights off and all a-glow. I love the LED lights. They cast a wonderful shade of blue light.

The garland with a bit of extra lighting.. it's adorned with blue and silver ornaments.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Not A Creature Was Stirring... Not Even Sirius

I had to share this picture of our youngest, Sirius. One of his favorite things is burrowing into a pile of laundry fresh from the dryer. Here, he found a nice warm fitted sheet to tunnel into and fall asleep. How could you not love this cat?

Cookie Week

Just in time for holiday baking to begin, tune into the Martha Stewart Show during the week of December 8th for numerous recipes of everyones favorite holiday treat: Cookies!
Tune in to catch recipes for: Walnut cookies; Orange pinched macaroons; Spiced cardamon cookies; Ski cookies; Chocolate thumbprint cookies; Classic sugar cookies; and lemon-raspberry sandwiches.
After you bake batch after batch you'll also want some clever packaging ideas! Martha has you covered this week!
Also, handmade gift ideas continue with affordable and charming gift ideas for the loved ones on your gift list this year. It's a "can't miss" week of shows!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Which Should It Be?

About two months ago or so, MSLO sent a survey to readers of Martha Stewart Living asking for opinions on which cover should be used for the January 2009 issue. With the January issue soon to arrive in mailboxes, I'm curious to know what you think... which cover would you select and why?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Martha Stewart Collection Packaging Receives Recognition

Doyle Partners, a New York based design firm has won recognition in the highly prestigious competition for creativity in graphic design from Communication Arts Magazine. Communication Arts recently published the winners in the 2008 Design Annual.

Stephen Doyle, Creative Director and Brian Chojnowski, Designer secured their place in the Annual publication for their design work in the packaging for the Martha Stewart Collection, available at Macy's. Stephen Doyle, married to MSLO Chief Creative Officer, Gael Towey, is also credited with the design of the Martha Stewart circle logo which has unified the Martha Stewart brand across multiple media platforms.

According to the designers, "The idea was simple: Why not turn the stacked cardboard boxes holding Martha Stewart Collection kitchenware into wallpaper? Creating artwork from the actual product drawings allowed us to forego expensive, elaborate product photography and print the boxes while the products were being manufactured."

Congratulations to Doyle Partners for the recognition of their outstanding design talent.

A Message of Hope

Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

"DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old. "Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. "Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.' "Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?"


Your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Ready... Set... DECORATE!

The Friday after Thanksgiving and the weekend that follows is the time that our home transforms from generic autumnal decor to Christmas. This year, the tradition continued with a decorating frenzy! Here's a quick glimpse:

Our tree this year is in red, white, silver, and a bit of green here and there. It's a tree that mixes old with the new. Here's one of my favorite vintage ornaments. An original from 1945, it belonged to David's mother who passed it on to me shortly before she passed away. I love this ornament.

I have many, many glass cylinders and bowls, so this year, I decided to put them to work displaying some ornaments and other items. Here, a glass cylinder filled with artificial snow acts as a home for a small snowman. The pine cones that form a wreath along the base are from trees near our property.

Apothecary jars of all shapes and sizes displayed more snowmen and other ornaments all in bases of snow. You'll also notice the 'holiday' M&M's... these are my candy of choice when I need that quick chocolate fix.

A wonderful glass bowl filled with snow is home to more snowmen. This bowl is sitting as a centerpiece on our kitchen eating area table.

The mantel shelf in the kitchen is used to display different pieces of our jadeite collection and other kitchen collectibles. After watching the Martha Stewart holiday DVD, I was inspired to stack fruit on some of my smaller cake stands and surround them with greenery from around the yard. Fresh holly and arborvitae greens flock the cake stands for a more festive touch.

One of the last things I have to do is finish this garland that I started to decorate. It is hung over our jadeite display cabinet. I still need to weave some lights, ribbon, and more ornaments through it. Another snowman found his way to the jadeite cabinet. (Can you tell I have a lot of these snowmen??)
This year it was all about repurposing a lot of the decorations I've had from years ago and making them fit into the color scheme this year. The snowmen that are sprinkled about were all 're-glittered' to fit the room they were going in. All those that are on display in the kitchen are with turquoise blue glittered hats and those in the family room are in red. I've become quite handy with glitter!
More to come!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Holiday Cards from Beekman 1802

In today's mail, I was happy to receive my first shipment of the new 2008 holiday cards from Dr. Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell, available through BEEKMAN 1802.

The limited edition cards are nothing short of exquisite.

Brent and Josh designed two unique BEEKMAN 1802 Holiday Cards for 2008, and made them by hand on a 19th Century letterpress at Foxglove Printers in Sharon Springs. Each card was run in a limited edition and signed & numbered by both of them. You can watch the actual printing process in a wonderful video on their 'How To' blog.

The first card design, entitled "Unwrap. Play." is printed in crimson in on a heavy cotton rag stock. It features an antique plate illustration of various 19th century toys.

The second, entitled "Star." was inspired by a lone pine tree that stands near the Beekman barn. The design, from an antique plate, runs off the edge of the card as if the reader is looking up to find the "star" atop the tree.

The "Star" card design was my favorite. The cards measure 3.5 x 5" and comes with matching envelopes. The cards are available in a set of 10. A combined 'set' does not appear to be available

These cards are beautifully crafted, simple in design, and very elegant. The print is clean and slightly raised on the cotton surface.

Even though I'm making my own cards this year, I had to purchase a set of the cards. When I see something so well designed, it's difficult for me to pass it up.
You can order your BEEKMAN holiday cards and purchase their other delightful merchandise by logging onto their website Remember, the cards are in limited edition so order quickly!
Once you visit BEEKMAN 1802 you'll book mark it as a favorite place on the web.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

With Thanks...

I wanted to take a moment to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving! Given this day of thanks, I wanted to take a few moments to give my thanks to a few people...

To the readers of this blog: Thank you for making this little space on the web a place you visit on a regular basis. I appreciate your visits, your comments and your emails.
To Will: I'm very glad we've had the opportunity to 'meet.' I always look forward to hearing from you and sharing bits and pieces of life. You're a good man.
To Andrew: I'm thankful for a chance meeting that turned into a friendship. One day we'll have that museum. Perhaps one in Canada and one in the states. :)
To John: My local Martha-phile. It seems we've started a tradition... meeting Martha in the Fall. We have to keep that tradition next year! Thank you for all your kindness, your inspiration, and your friendship. You're a true gem.
To Chris and Dan: You're such special members of my extended family. There is so much to be thankful for this year and much to celebrate. Always know just how much I love you both.
To Brent and Josh: Thank you for so much for all the inspiration and for your kindness. Josh, your writing makes me laugh and think more about life. Brent, I've learned so much from you. I'm looking forward to our visit next spring. I'll be ready to garden for sure!
To Claudine: People come into our lives for a reason and at the right time. Thank you for being part of mine. I can't look at anything gold or glittered without thinking of you!
To Elaine: One of the kindest and most generous people I know. How honored I am to have you as a friend.
To Mike: I'm reminded of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, when she is about to say farewell to the Scarecrow... they acknowledged their special friendship and I feel a special friendship with you. I cherish you.
To David (my partner): Did you really know what you were getting into all those years ago? Each day is memorable with you in my life. I love you.
To Nancy: While you're no longer physically here to share in the day to day of life, I know that you're with me. I miss you more than words can even express.
To Agnes, Jenna, and everyone at MSLO corporate communications and public relations: Thank you for your confidence that this small blog is a reliable place to relay Martha news.
Last but not least, to Martha Stewart: Without your work, there would be no need for this blog. For all the years of inspiration and education I thank you. You, your company and all the work that has been done over the years has totally changed my way of living. I am forever grateful.
So many people mean so much to me, it's impossible to list them all here. Know that you're in my heart as we celebrate this day of thanks and every day.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Credit J.L. Hudson's for Creating "Black Friday"

Note to non-Michigan readers... As a point of reference, J.L. Hudson's was 'the' department store in Michigan for many years. Hudson's was to Michigan (and surrounding states) what Macy's is to New York. Hudson's was sold in the 90's and became "Marshall Field's" until the purchase in 2007 by Macy's. I remember fondly, the trips to Hudson's to see Santa and to have lunch. It was 'the' shopping destination in Detroit and in later years, the 'burbs. Enjoy this bit of hometown trivia regarding Black Friday. This article originally appeared in the Wednesday edition of the Detroit News.
Early bird holiday sale in 1981 snowballed into shopping frenzy
Jaclyn Trop / The Detroit News

Before 4 a.m. openings were routine, the post-Thanksgiving retail orgy known as Black Friday was a day of modest discounts and unhurried browsing.
But few shoppers know that the sense of urgency that now rouses them to the pre-dawn hunt was manufactured here in Detroit, to spur sales during hard times in 1981.

The notion of an early bird sale to kick off the holiday shopping season was born at J.L. Hudson's, when the department store unlocked its doors at 9 a.m. -- half an hour earlier than usual -- and held a one-hour "doorbuster" sale.

"From the moment the store opened, we got this tremendous incremental business, and customers hung out all day," said Fred Marx, now a partner at Farmington Hills marketing firm Marx Layne.

Marx, who joined Hudson's marketing team in 1979, helped spearhead the "Beat the Clock" sale, inspired by a similar concept at Philadelphia department store John Wanamaker & Co. By applying the idea to the day after Thanksgiving, Hudson's created a tradition that has given way to a host of attention-grabbing incentives and ever-deepening discounts.

Although merchandisers thought they could justify the sales in terms of profits, store organizers "weren't really that crazy about it," Marx said. They worried that opening early and taking markdowns at the cash register would disrupt service levels.

"It wasn't this constant promotional drum beating that we know today," Marx said.
Hudson's kept the promotion a well-guarded secret, waiting until Thanksgiving Day to unleash a blitz of television spots and newspaper ads. The full-page ad in The Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press on that day, Nov. 26, 1981, featured an alarm clock alerting shoppers to the early opening.

"It didn't get any art award, but you couldn't miss it," Marx said. "It was very clear. Customers got it." The following year, "all patent rights were off," he said. "K-Mart, Crowley's, J.C. Penney's -- everybody had their version of it."

Economists call it the "Super Bowl of Shopping." Between 60 million and 65 million consumers hit the stores over Black Friday weekend looking for deals. It's become an odyssey of mythic proportions, according to Wayne State University economics professor Jeffrey Stoltman.
"It's a huge cultural event," Stoltman said, "like the opening day of hunting season."
Thanksgiving traditions such as parades and visits from Santa are nearly as old as the department stores that began sponsoring them in the 1920s and 1930s, said University of Detroit marketing professor Michael Bernacchi. Sales and discounts probably began appearing the day after Thanksgiving sometime in the 1950s, he said.

With the advent of shopping malls in the 1960s, the concept spread from department stores to independent retailers. By the 1970s, the concept of kicking off promotions the day after Thanksgiving was well-entrenched. But the day had no special name. "The thought was there, but no one had enunciated it," Bernacchi said.

The name Black Friday first appeared in print in 1966 in a newsletter from the American Philatelic Society, a group of stamp collectors, in reference to the holiday traffic in Philadelphia, and reappeared in 1981, when the Philadelphia Inquirer used it in reference to commerce, according to Bernacchi.

"It was a catchy expression, and folks gravitated toward it," he said.
According to modern lore, Black Friday was named for the day retailers earn their annual profits, turning their balance sheets from red to black. Some historians trace the usage back to the 18th century, but Marx said that's not true. The red-to-black yarn is "quoted like it's one of the Ten Commandments," said Marx, who prefers the term "National Shopping Day." "It's like it's been carved out on a tablet that this is the official explanation, but it isn't."

A second rationale behind the name derives from the frenzy induced when crazed shoppers descend on stores en masse. "It really has become a chess game" as retailers try to outdo each other by manipulating prices and hours, Bernacchi said. "Everybody wants to gain an edge."
The competitive and secretive nature of promotions remains to this day. "It's like we're making the atom bomb again," he said. "I mean, come on! It's a shopping day!"

To be sure, Black Friday becomes more frantic each year, as retailers implement an arsenal of sales strategies, including 4 a.m. coffee and doughnuts, giveaways, gifts with purchase, additional markdowns and guaranteed interest-free payments.

"Customers come to expect it, and if you don't offer it, they'll wait for the next bus," Marx said.
However, aggressive promotions can affect the quality of a shopper's experience, from long lines to a lack of inventory to the unavailability of in-store help, Stoltman said. "Some will find it downright unsatisfying," he said. "If I'm in line for an hour and a half, that's too much."

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Win Martha Stewart Home Decorating Products Every Friday Via Apartment Therapy’s Holiday Giveaway!

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia is pleased to sponsor this year’s Annual Apartment Therapy Holiday Giveaway.

This week – Win a lamp from Martha Stewart Lighting; choose one of five selected styles! (Ends 12:00AM ET on Thursday, November 27.)

Friday Nov 28 – Win a Constellation Rug (approximately 6’ x 9’ size) from Martha Stewart Rugs; select from five available colors!

Friday Dec 5 – Win an occasional table from Martha Stewart Furniture with Bernhardt. Choose one of five selected styles!

Friday Dec 12 – Win a Martha Stewart Floor Designs with FLOR Needlepoint Stripe 30-tile rug in any color (approximately 8’ x 10’ size)

Friday Dec 19 – Win an exclusive signed print from Martha Stewart Framed Photography. Choose one of three selected photographs!

To enter the contest and for more information, please visit Apartment Therapy -holiday giveaway

For more home decorating ideas from Martha Stewart go to Martha Stewart - Shop

Monday, November 24, 2008

As we approach Thanksgiving, a good many people pause and give serious thought to 'what' they are thankful for. I've been doing the same.
I'm most thankful for personal growth. As I've gotten older and had more experiences in life, I've come to realize how important it is to take a few minutes out of the day and reflect on the people and/or happenings that allow me to continue my personal journey of self awareness and growth. Life is full of "ah-ha" moments... you just have to make yourself available to experience them and recognize them when they happen.
I'm thankful that each day my feet touch the floor, I have another opportunity to touch the lives of others. Be it at work, or in my personal life, "making a difference" means a great deal to me. Sometimes it's nothing more than dropping a note to friend to let them know they are thought of. At other times, it's sitting down with someone to share life experiences. I learn from them, and (hopefully) they learn from me. I'm thankful for those moments.
I'm thankful for a wonderfully diverse and interesting group of friends and family. From wealthy social-lites to homeboys in the hood, I've been able to surround myself with good people from all walks of life. True friends. A very loving family.
I'm thankful for the challenges life presents me. As the old saying goes, "what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger." It's quite true. Thankful for adversity?? Try it.. you'll find that adversity isn't quite so overwhelming.
There are so many things in life to be thankful for... not only during a holiday; but every day of the year. Take time out to be thankful. It makes a difference in how you view your day.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Last One Out of Detroit, Turn Out the Lights...

The above headline was the caption on an editorial cartoon back in the 60's when riots broke out and the city of Detroit burned. No one believed that the city of Detroit had a future. We face that belief once again as the auto industry hangs on by a thread and faces what looks to be certain failure.

In Michigan, one person out of every eight has ties to the auto industry in one way or another. Mind you, that is a direct tie to the industry. That's a huge connection. The entire economy in the state of Michigan and many other states will be severely impacted by the failure of any one of the automakers. People will be out of jobs, they won't be able to support small businesses (or even large businesses), those businesses will close, increasing the numbers of unemployed. As one business closes it will have an impact on another business who will lay off or eliminate jobs and the downward spiral continues.

I am angry. I'm angry at the CEO's of the auto companies for their performance in general. Failed business concepts, arrogance and a sense of 'perk' entitlement (can you say private jets?) made their plea for help in Washington, DC this week pointless.

I'm angry with our lawmakers. The double standard that exists is appalling to me. We as a nation freely gave billions in money to banks who turn right around and squander millions of that money on lavish events for employees. We give billions to the banking industry, who through their own greed, failed. Yet, the banking failure has contributed to the demise of the auto companies. When it came to the auto industry, our lawmakers were quick to judge, and that was apparent with their hearings. I've never heard such arrogance in my life. It was so obvious that the white collar needs far surpassed the blue collar needs. It makes me sick to my stomach.

I don't know what the answer is... I just feel that our government has turned it's back on an industry that is so important to this state and others. The failure of any one of the auto makers would be devastating for our national economy.. you think it's bad now? Just wait. It won't be pretty.

So, perhaps that editorial cartoon from the 60s says it all... The last one out of Detroit, turn out the lights. But please, leave a night light on. Maybe we'll be able to find our way back at some point.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Have an Easy Holiday with Everyday Food

Take the stress out of the Christmas holiday with great recipes found in the December issue of Everyday Food.

With great ideas for an easy holiday dinner to simple cookies that are perfect for gift giving, the December issue is a perfect companion when the stress of shopping, decorating and entertaining mounts.

Looking for some cozy oven side dishes this holiday? Look no further! Try baked sweet potatoes with maple sour cream or roasted broccoli and cauliflower with lemon and garlic.

How about a quick holiday dessert? The cover of this issue says it all.. try a cranberry trifle with lots of freshly whipped cream.

Looking for a great gift idea for the cook on your shopping list? Give a gift that continues giving all year long with a subscription to Everyday Food. The December issue is arriving in mailboxes now and will be on the newsstands next week!

Friday, November 14, 2008

How Do You Decorate?

Christmas trees are already starting to pop up in homes around our area. As you're walking or driving by, the holiday lights catch your eye and you find yourself staring, like some Peeping Tom of the holiday season.

In our home, we have a tradition that we follow every year. Our outdoor lights will go up on a suitable weekend prior to Thanksgiving. (we were shooting for this weekend, but the weather may not cooperate!) On Thanksgiving evening, after everyone has enjoyed their pumpkin pie and coffee, we bundle up and head outdoors for the 'flip of the switch' to light up the holiday season. Now that we have young ones in the family once again, this tradition will have even more meaning with their 'ooohs and aaahhs.'

Our indoor decorating begins the day after Thanksgiving. We normally have four Christmas trees, though this year we are reducing our holiday footprint by only having two.

David and his friend Barb are normally up at the wee hours to begin (and often end) their holiday shopping. By 4 a.m. I'm already unpacking the storage bins and getting things ready. Now mind you, I've been sketching and planning my decorating for WEEKS and the furniture in the family room has been rearranged for tree placement. Once David is out the door, let the decorating begin! All of the autumnal decor comes down, shelves and furniture are dusted, and the mass transformation begins!

Now, don't be upset that David doesn't take part in the festivities. He has no desire to do so. He loves the end result; but knows that the decorating piece is 'my' thing... and clears out as early as he can! (or he may be put to work!)

There are 'traditions within traditions' when it comes to our holiday decorating. To begin, I always have "Martha Stewart's Home for the Holidays" prime time Christmas special in the DVD player. This special is classic Martha from 1995. It's a must have. Next up is the 1996 Martha Stewart special, "Welcome Home for the Holidays." These two television specials are my favorites. I wish MSLO would release these as DVDs or podcast specials. I've made DVDs from my VHS copies, so the quality isn't all that great... but still, they are such classics, I can't imagine a holiday without them.

Next up, is the movie "White Christmas" with Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera Allen. My all time favorite holiday movie. The musicals of the 50's were so fabulous! Following the closing credits of "White Christmas," I turn to holiday music to take me through the remainder of the decorating festivities.

Twelve or so hours later, most of the decorating is done, David has returned, and we're settling in for a dinner of wonderful left overs. The cats can't seem to keep their eyes off the lights (or an ornament that looks like a play toy) and neither can I. I love this time of year.

How do you decorate? I'd love to know your traditions.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Let the Season Begin!

A few days ago, my friend Andrew received his December issue of Martha Stewart Living. Since seeing the festive cover, I've been chomping at the bit waiting for the magazine to arrive in my mailbox. Today, the wait is over! The December issue arrived in pristine condition.

After reading Andrews review of the December content, I couldn't wait to open the magazine and take in all the inspiration for this holiday season. My quick 'one through' of the magazine left me anxious to return for a more in depth look.

I have a ritual with my Martha Stewart Living magazines... when they arrive each month, I do the quick once over. Then, once dinner is completed, dishes are put away, and the kitchen floor is swept (yes, I do it every evening... it was a hint from Martha that I absolutely have taken to heart!), I sit down with my beverage of choice (hot chocolate sounds good!) and my magazine for a front to back read.

The holiday season can now officially begin! Two weeks until the decorating begins!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Keeping Pans Pretty

I love stainless steel cookware. While a good set of stainless steel will probably cost you the equivalent of a mortgage payment, it's well worth the investment if you're a home cook that takes the art of cooking seriously.

Stainless steel does have its issues, however. Keeping it shiny and bright can be a challenge after a while. The interiors and exteriors can discolor after a period of time. I was recently turned on to something that has actually been around for quite some time... "Bar Keepers Friend." It will keep your shiny investment looking like new.

Bar Keepers Friend is an abrasive cleaner and polish wrapped into one. A light sprinkle of this friend in the kitchen, and a few swipes with a wet sponge or cloth will remove any build up of discoloration within a minute or two. While abrasive, it's not as harsh as a standard cleanser like Comet or Soft Scrub. It really does make your pans look new once again.

Our double stainless steel sink with stainless drain board also looks new again after a good scrub. Care needs to be taken to rinse completely to avoid any pitting of the steel.

If you haven't tried this helper in a can... do so. I think you'll find it useful!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Martha Stewart Living is making it easy to treat someone on your Christmas list to something special!

For this week only, buy a one year subscription to Martha Stewart Living at the regular price of $24 and get up to four more subscriptions at $12 each! That's 50% off the regular yearly subscription price!

This special pricing offer will expire on November 14, 2008 so act quickly to not miss your opportunity to purchase an inspirational gift that will last all year long!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Shopper Alert!

I wanted to alert all you readers of the sales that are forthcoming this week! We are fortunate to get our weekly sales flyers and catalogs on Saturday morning so here's the heads up this week!

Michaels: Two coupons: 50% off one item, and 40% off an item. All Martha Stewart Crafts are on sale this week, for 30% off. No merchandise exclusions are noted. Great pricing on the holiday craft items with the 30% off!

Kmart: All Martha Stewart Everyday Holiday merchandise is on sale. A variety of sale prices and discounts depending on item.

Macys: The Veteran's Day Sale. 10% off selected and clearance items. Several different Martha Stewart Collection items are featured throughout the sales flyer.

In these tough economic times we can all use sale prices!

Shop Martha.
Shop often.

Friday, November 7, 2008

December Issues of the Past

The December issues of Martha Stewart Living have always inspired readers to create the most beautiful holiday season in their own homes.

The very first issue of Living, which premiered in December of 1990, encouraged readers to "create new holiday traditions" and the magazine has been doing just that year after year.

As I anxiously await my 2008 issue to reach my mailbox, I wanted to take a look back at the December issues of past years.

December 1990 (premiere issue) - 1993

1994 - 1997

1998 - 2001
The 2000 issue was the biggest December issue ever

2002 - 2005

2006 - 2007
The 2006 featured two covers. The Kugel cover was used for subscribers and the ornament cover was found on newsstands. The 2007 issue featured Martha, for the first time since 1992.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Martha Stewart Crafts for Christmas

While watching returns on election night, I placed an order with Martha Stewart Crafts for a few holiday items that I've not found in stores. Mind you, that was Tuesday... just two short days ago. My order arrived today!

The gold collectible Christmas 2008 tin is very nice. It comes as a set of two and has a beautiful wreath design on the cover of the hinged top.

The set of nesting cookie tins are perfect for gift giving. There are two red and one 'Martha blue' tin to the set. The tins coordinate perfectly with the holiday cookie and treat boxes.

Martha's favorite chocolate boxes are beautiful. A set of 9 boxes, in gold, bronze and silver come with pre-cut tissue liners and labels. They are perfect for truffles, holiday candies, or that special little something for your favorite persons stocking.

Lastly, a set of snowflake window clings. Each snowflake is an individual cling for easy placement and snow design on your window or mirror.

I'm so impressed with the quick shipping. While it does help that the fulfillment center is in Illinois, (just a hop over Lake Michigan) I never expected the goods to arrive this quickly!

My friend Claudine reported on her blog that Martha Stewart Crafts for the holidays are flying off her local Michaels shelves. I checked during my lunch hour today at one local store and the stock was nearly wiped out. I asked the sales person if they planned any further shipments and she said that they will 'probably' get one more shipment before Christmas. As Claudine mentioned, it's a good idea to make your purchases early before your favorites are gone. You can always check the Martha Stewart Crafts website as well for item availability. I did notice, however, that several items found at Michaels are not on the website and vice versa. Keep your eye open in both places for the best of the best in holiday craft items!

Hurry! I just logged into the crafts website and noticed that all the Christmas items were on sale! Place your order today to get the best pricing!