Saturday, February 28, 2009

Martha Stewart's Easter Workshop

Spring is right around the corner and Easter is too!

Once again this year, the editors of Martha Stewart Living will be hosting an Easter Workshop. This three week on line workshop will help you prepare for an Easter celebration your family and friends are sure to remember with craft ideas, no fail egg decorating techniques, and menus for your Easter dinner.

All of the Martha Stewart Living workshops provide participants with shopping lists, and complete instructions for all the suggested projects. Participants can even upload photos of their projects to share with others.

The Easter workshop begins March 23rd.

Coming in March - Martha's Pets

In a recent Business Week interview, Martha mentioned a new petkeeping website that will soon be available. Typing in a random address of brought me to a page with dogs barking and the announcement banner shown to the left.

A new newsletter option is available as well. Registered members of can sign up to receive "Happy Pets."

For those with pets, this could be a very good thing! (or so say my four cats!)

Friday, February 27, 2009

Destination : Beekman

The New York Times has published a fantastic article on the Beekman farm and owners Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Dr. Brent Ridge.

Please grab a cup of coffee and read the article, "The Old House That Became a Way of Life." It's a wonderful look in and around Josh and Brent's beautiful home and farm in upstate New York.

Beekman is no stranger to regular readers of House Blend. Last summer, Dr. Brent graciously agreed to an interview that appeared here on the blog and has become one of the most popular entries with readers.

Dr. Brent introduced the world to the Beekman goats and to goats milk soap when he appeared on the Martha Stewart Show last year. I became curious about this place called "Beekman" and ventured into their website Since that first visit, I've been hooked and visit the site almost daily. I encourage everyone to take a look around their site and share in their "experiment in seasonal living."

Josh, the incredibly talented author of "I am Not Myself These Days" and "Candy Everybody Wants," is just a delight. Creative, witty, outspoken, and 'real,' Josh has a wonderful way of connecting with his readers. Readers can also find Josh in the Advocate and Out magazine. His talent as a writer never disappoints me.

While I've not yet had the pleasure of meeting Josh and Brent in person, that will change this May when David and I are taking a long weekend to celebrate my 50th birthday (gulp!) at Beekman. How will we celebrate? By working in the the 50+ raised beds in the garden!

Congratulations, Josh and Brent, for the great article and thank you for sharing Beekman with all of us who enjoy it so much.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

MSLO Posts Loss, But Hints at the Future

I've just finished a two hour look at the 2008 4th quarter and full year results shared by MSLO this morning. While the company posted a loss for the quarter and year, executives of the company hinted at the future.

In his opening remarks, Charles Koppelman, Executive Chairman of MSLO noted that the company sees 'digital' becoming a key component of their "omni" offering. In recent interviews, Martha Stewart has also commented that the company is looking at all the possibilities a stronger 'digital' presence can bring.

Executives of MSLO were very clear that 2008 was the 'beginning of the end' of the relationship with Kmart. This was evident with the lower contractual minimum royalty payments after those payments reached the peak in 2007. In his comments Koppelman said, "We have known for some time that 2009 will be a transitional year as we position ourselves for 2010 when Kmart is no longer part of our business. It's a transition we've already begun to execute, and one that offers great new opportunities in the future." It's easy to read between the lines: MSLO is looking and negotiating terms for another mass market merchant for the everyday line or it's equivalent.

Despite the downturn in the economy, merchandising revenue experienced a gain of 67% for the full year when they exclude the Kmart factor. A gain of that magnitude during these tough economic times definitely shows the strength in the brand.

Robin Marino, Co-CEO and President of Merchandising commented that the new agreement with Hain Celestial Group to offer a new branded line of Martha Stewart natural home cleaning solutions are targeted to be on store shelves later this year. Later within the earnings conference call, other comments led me to believe these products will be available by the end of Q2.

Marino also mentioned that MSLO is very focused on expanding its presence in key areas where they have strong brand equity. One such area is food. As MSLO is concluding a two year run with Costco and the development of the Kirkland Signature/Martha Stewart co-branded food products, Marino mentioned, "Now, we plan to take what we have learned [with the Kirkland development] and apply it to a broader Martha Stewart food line, distributed in a wide variety of outlets including Costco. Could this mean we'll see a Martha Stewart food line at the local grocery store? It sure sounds as if that's a possibility.

Wenda Harris Millard, Co-CEO and President of Merchandising gave an outlook that wasn't sugar coated with regard to publishing. She noted that advertising revenue is expected to continue to decrease with current trends showing a 30% decline from last year. MSLO is not immune from the struggle and fight for every advertising dollar as it relates to print. They were very clear however, that they are in a strong position to 'weather the downturn' which left me with a clear indication that Martha Stewart Living or Everyday Food will not disappear from the shelves unlike many of their competitors.

Harris Millard, during a conference call Q & A also mentioned that the selection process for a new mass market merchant is in the works. In response to an analyst question regarding 'who' the next mass market partner will be, Millard said, "I can tell you that we've made significant process with a very complex selection process and we're very excited about our prospects for 2010. ...Kmart is still exclusive until February of next year and that does have a lot - a great deal of bearing on the timing of meeting our new partner." As the analyst pushed further to gain some insight on the potential merchandising partner, Charles Koppelman mentioned that they are under no obligation to announce the new partner. "However, we could be preparing for 2010 as we speak."

While seeing MSLO post yet another year loss is difficult, it didn't come as any surprise. MSLO is not providing guidance for 2009. I believe we can all have faith that the strength of the brand will carry MSLO through the continued economic difficulties and rise above the rest.

You can listen to the earnings conference call by logging into relations

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Business Week Interview with Martha Stewart

Martha sat down with Business Week Editor-in-Chief Stephen Adler for a great interview where Martha speaks on a numerous topics. You can watch the entire interview below. I believe this is one of the best interviews in recent months.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Have You Butt Dialed Someone?

Okay.. Am I the only person who has NOT butt dialed someone? I never carry my Blackberry in my back pocket (who wants the unsightly bulge?). My phone is usually in my briefcase (stylish, messenger bag type), or it's in my coat pocket, or my hand. (and as a general rule, 'belt clips' are so unfashionable!)

Despite my lack of experience as a butt dialer, I thought the new Blackberry commercial was actually quite funny. The facial expressions alone are priceless.

Friday, February 20, 2009

I'm in a Retro State of Mind

After a long, hellish week, I have no desire to watch the news and hear more doom and gloom. Instead, I'll just take a look back into my younger years. I've found several openings from television shows I enjoyed during my childhood. YouTube is an amazing place.

I remember watching Sally Field as "Gidget" in the early 60's:

My oldest sister was addicted to "That Girl" starring Marlo Thomas:

Another Sally Field Favorite, "The Flying Nun." I loved this show:

Is there anyone who didn't love Lucy? My fond memories of the Lucy Show from 1966:

Friday Nights were all about the "Partridge Family":

And.. everyone's favorite, "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." I still watch episodes on DVD:

After my post about David Cassidy, I had a reader email me and share that she had never heard "I Think I Love You." So... not to disappoint:

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Mike, Baking and New Found Blogs

For those of you who have yet to find this special place in the blogging world, I want to introduce you to my friend, my pal, my comrade, my cohort, Mike and his blog "Living Out West."

Mike can "tear it up" in the kitchen and behind the camera. Give the man a knee length apron, a few mixing bowls, some good baking powder, and a handy recipe - he'll whip up a little bit of heaven and photograph it with stunning results.

Mike has been participating as an active member of 'Tuesdays with Dorie' in recent weeks, creating the chosen recipe, photographing it and sharing it with the world on his blog. Dorie herself stopped by to pay Mike a compliment on a recent weekly submission.

His work is impressive.

I love reading the comments that readers leave on his blog. With clutched hankie in hand to wipe the tears of pride and joy, (not really, but it was a nice dramatic image..) I enjoy seeing my pal get the recognition he deserves for his creations. I'm a firm believer that talent should be recognized!

While reading through the comments and giving Mike mental 'atta-boys,' I paid particular attention to the comments of one reader, Matt. I enjoyed Matt's comments.. witty and clever. Two qualities I appreciate in a person. So.. as I often do, I click on the name of the person leaving the comment and it takes me to that persons blog. Voila! "Matt's Kitchen." Another delightful place to spend time while on line.
Matt is another 'Tuesdays with Dorie' participant who willingly shares his creations with delightful flare. I never knew I could smile or chuckle quite so much while reading a blog about "food, books and life in and around Chicago." I've added Matt's Kitchen to my regular blog reading list.

From time to time, I find blogs that I truly enjoy and have an overwhelming desire to share with others. I hope you'll pay them a visit.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival

The Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival presented by Food & Wine, is a national, star-studded, four-day destination event showcasing the talents of the world’s most renowned winemakers, spirits producers, chefs and culinary personalities. Hosted by Southern Wine & Spirits of Florida and Florida International University (FIU), the festival benefits the Teaching Restaurant and the Southern Wine & Spirits Beverage Management Center, both located at FIU.

The Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival presented by Food & Wine, began as a one-day festival known as the Florida Extravaganza held at FIU’s Biscayne Bay Campus. For six years, the Florida Extravaganza showcased wines from national and international wineries paired with food from local restaurants and chefs working with students of FIU’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management.

In 2002, Lee Brian Schrager, Director of Special Events and Media Relations at Southern Wine& Spirits of America, reinvented the Florida Extravaganza. Relocating to South Beach, the renamed South Beach Wine & Food Festival attracted close to 7,000 guests to a series of dinners, seminars and the Grand Tasting & Live Auction in its first year. The following year, the festival grew, attracting close to 10,000 people and garnered extensive national media coverage. In 2004, with the addition of a number of events and a revamping of the program, the festival doubled in size and attracted more than 20,000 guests to the three-day event.

In 2006, the South Beach Wine & Food Festival celebrated its fifth anniversary and during the planning of the 2007 festival, Food Network entered into partnership with the South Beach Wine & Food Festival to become its title sponsor. The resulting Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival elevated itself to new heights with Food Network’s endorsement as well as support from some of the industry’s biggest names.

Now in its eighth year, the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival is one of the largest and most well-known festivals of its kind in the country and combines the international appeal of top-quality libations from around the world with the international appeal of the worlds most celebrated chefs and culinary personalities set against the backdrop of America’s Riviera, South Beach.

Martha will be attending the event this year, participating in a tribute dinner honoring Emeril Lagasse on Saturday evening. Martha will also be conducting a cooking demonstration earlier in the day at the Whole Foods Grand Tasting Village and hosting a book signing event.

The 2007, the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival honored Martha Stewart with a lifetime achievement award.

Random Thoughts

While browsing through a men's fashion and lifestyle magazine, I ran across the above picture and there was an audible 'gasp' that escaped from my mouth. THIS is fashion?? THIS is what's showing for summer?? Eeek! Give me my 'classic' wardrobe any day!

Same magazine.. another ad. I loved this picture. Anyone for a nightcap?

Monday, February 16, 2009

And Now for Something Completely Different

I was recently reading the March issue of the "Advocate" and found myself laughing out loud when I reached "Talking Points" an article written by Josh Kilmer-Purcell. His topic: Teen idols.

It started me thinking about my younger days, when in my pre-teen and teen years, I was totally flipped out for the idols of my time: David Cassidy, the Monkees and Bobby Sherman. Those were the days...
I remember watching the "Partridge Family" on Friday nights, glued to every moment in that half hour. I wanted a maroon velvet vest. I wanted to play with the family. I wanted to be the 'adopted' Partridge! To this day, I still have my copy of the very first Partridge Family album.

And, I still know every word to the biggest hit of the time, "I Think I Love You."

Growing up in the 60's and 70's we didn't have the Internet, or blogs to keep up to date on the happenings of our 'fave' teen idols. The monthly teen magazines were the source of 'truth' that I looked forward to reading. My two favorites were "16 Magazine" and "Tiger Beat." I was shocked to see that Tiger Beat is still alive and on the newsstands. 16 Magazine seems to be long gone.

Life was so simple then. I didn't have to worry about the economy. I didn't have to worry about my investments or the stock market. I didn't have to worry about a crazy busy schedule at work. All I needed to worry about was being a good student, and waiting for the next issue of 16 Magazine or the newest single from the Partridge Family.

This year, I turn 50. While I am having some 'issues' around this milestone birthday, I don't think I would have wanted to grow up in any other era... life was good. I'll always hold on to those memories of teen magazines, fan clubs, and those concerts in my bedroom when I was, for a fleeting moment, the adopted Partridge. Hello world.. there's a song that we're singing...

Sunday, February 15, 2009


March is pasta month in Everyday Food!

In this new issue, readers will find 10 new ways to enjoy pasta with great recipes like linguine with spring vegetables, slow-cooker sausage lasagna, baked penne with chicken and sunn-dried tomatoes and a very easy recipe for that old stand by spaghetti and meatballs.

Confused about wine? Wine Basics will help you pick the perfect wine for your pasta dinner.

Are you a Mac and Cheese lover? Get the perfect recipe for Southern mac and cheese on page 72. Comfort food at it's finest.

The March issue of Everyday Food is appearing in mailboxes now and will be on the newsstands February 23.

I *Heart* Cake and Ice Cream

Okay, I admit it. I didn't plan ahead for our Valentine's Day dessert. When short on time (or to save face!) try a quick ice cream cake.

I prepared a delicious chocolate cake and poured the batter into a half sheet pan (jelly roll type baking sheet). Because the batter is spread so thin, it bakes in under a half hour. After the cake is cooled, I used a large heart shape cookie cutter to cut out the heart cakes.

Using the same cookie cutter, I pressed soft vanilla ice cream into the cutter to make heart shaped blocks of ice cream. The heart shaped ice cream was placed on a small cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Once the ice cream shapes were made, I placed those back into the freezer until I was ready to assemble the cakes.

To assemble, place one heart shaped cake on the dessert plate and top with one of the heart shaped ice cream molds. Top with another heart shaped cake. I melted chocolate with some heavy cream and drizzled it over the top of the moist chocolate layer. Voila! a successful dessert for my special Valentine!

Products for Less

House Blend readers are the best readers... I recently received an email from one reader who had a great hint for those on a tight budget (and who isn't these days?); shopping for Martha products in places you would least expect to find them!

On a recent shopping trip to ROSS, a discounted merchandise store (similar to TJ Maxx and Marshall's) she found items from both the Martha Stewart Collection (from Macy's) and Martha Stewart Everyday (from Kmart). She reports that the price savings were substantial from the original list price. She reports that the selection was minimal at best, but she was surprised to see the products at this particular store. With some careful shopping, you might just be able to pick up a great bargain!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Dream of the Garden

The March issue of Martha Stewart Living has always been one of my favorites. As an avid gardener, I look to the this issue as my source of inspiration for the upcoming season.

The March issue of Living became the 'special gardening issue' in 1996. Since then, March Living puts the focus on good things from and for the garden.

Some of the most beautiful covers have graced the March issues. Here's a look at great inspiration throughout the years:

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Early Arrival of Spring

When I looked in my mailbox this afternoon I was shocked to see the March issue of Martha Stewart Living! I never expected it to arrive this early!

Every March, we are treated to the issue being devoted to the love of gardening. The special gardening issue has always been one of my favorites. This year, the gardening issue looks at "Gardening solutions from the ground up."

Here's a look at some of the feature stories in this issue:

Scents of Time: The demand for fragrant roses has a heady effect: New hybrids and old favorites are turning gardens and backyards across the country into perfumed sensations.

Cultivating Local Flavors: In Maryland, a farm that delivers fresh vegetables is part of a national movement, but its most immediate impact is in the local kitchens.

Flights of Fancy: Vintage prints, embellished silverware, and whimsical flea market finds bring birds indoors, taking avian imagery to new heights.

A New Hampshire Haven: A self-taught gardener with a passion for plants transforms her property into a brilliant composition.

Vertical Thinking: Hillside gardens add layers of drama to any landscape, but they can be a challenge. Learn how to rise to the occasion.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Are You a Meijer Shopper?

If you live in Michigan, or the tri-state area, you are certainly familiar with Meijer (for those that are unaware, it's pronounced like Meyer) stores that dot the landscape.

My friend John sent me this snapshot of Martha Stewart Create products that were beginning to fill the end cap at his local Meijer store! John indicated that the items were identical to those available at Wal-Mart.

Meijer is a regional "superstore" with locations throughout Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and I believe there are stores in Illinois as well. (there could be more..) This is another great distribution point for the Martha Stewart craft products! Meijer is a major competitor of Wal-Mart in this area, though the price points tend to be a bit higher on some items.

So, if you're a Meijer shopper, stroll through the craft aisle and see what you can find! It looks like there may be Martha Stewart Crafts in your Meijer future!

New Martha Stewart 'Green' Home Cleaning Solutions

Hain Celestial Announces Agreement With Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. to Introduce Exclusive New Martha Stewart-Branded 'Green' Home Cleaning Solutions

MELVILLE, N.Y., Feb 04, 2009 /PRNewswire-FirstCall via COMTEX/ -- The Hain Celestial Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: HAIN), a leading natural and organic products company, today announced a license agreement with Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. (NYSE: MSO) to offer a new Martha Stewart-branded line of natural home cleaning solutions.

In collaboration with the Martha Stewart design team, Hain Celestial will develop the products for this line, which are planned to be primarily derived from plants and minerals to create a clean and natural home and workplace environment.

Martha Stewart, MSLO's Founder said, "As the author of the bestselling Homekeeping Handbook, an encyclopedia of information for the homemaker, I care intensely about non-invasive and environmentally sound products for the home. I am pleased to be working with The Hain Celestial Group to create a new line of non-toxic, 'green' Martha Stewart-branded home cleaning solutions. The products will be sensibly and attractively packaged with useful homekeeping tips and instructions to ensure that consumers can clean their home safely and effectively, without harming family members or pets."

"Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia is a recognized leader in providing consumers with products that address their lifestyles. Hain Celestial is known as helping consumers to lead A Healthy Way of Life(TM). This is an ideal partnership, with our two companies enabling more consumers to maintain a clean home and workplace with products that are environmentally-friendly and in balance with nature," said Irwin D. Simon, President and Chief Executive Officer of Hain Celestial. "We're excited about offering a new line of green home cleaning solutions under the Martha Stewart brand name, and extending our presence in the natural and organic market to household products. Green cleaning is a growing category, which further strengthens our portfolio and reflects our commitment to sustainable products. We anticipate that this may present opportunities for new distribution channels, and we look forward to working with MSLO on these products as the cornerstone of future development projects." concluded Irwin Simon.

MSLO Executive Chairman Charles Koppelman added: "We're excited to team with The Hain Celestial Group to develop the first in what we hope will be a broad program of Martha Stewart-branded household products. Hain Celestial is a leader in natural and organic food and personal care products, and Martha Stewart is synonymous with high-quality products for the home. We look forward to a strong and successful collaboration that will benefit both companies and consumers."

Robin Marino, MSLO President of Merchandising and Co-Chief Executive Officer, said: "Our exciting new program with Hain Celestial is an extension of MSLO's ongoing strategy to diversify and expand our business. Our continuing goal is to provide consumers with Martha Stewart-branded products that they want and need wherever they shop."

The above press release was received late this afternoon. No details were available on the official launch date of the products or where they will be available.

Bold and Beautiful Spring

With winter clearance sales behind them, the shelves at Macy's are starting to fill with new additions to the Martha Stewart Collection for Spring.

Bold and beautiful is one way to describe the newest additions in the spring collection. With Martha's signature blue, brilliant red, a golden yellow and a deep grass green color scheme, you can't help but think of spring when you see the collection.

The bold polka dot motif can be found on cookie/cupcake boxes, cake plate doilies, cupcake liners, and even a charming 'cooks kit' for kids, that includes oven mitts, apron and a chefs hat all in bold polka dots.

The "Marthateers" have been in the stores, hunting down some of the newest finds and additions. With camera phones in hand, the shoppers snapped pictures to share with you here. Several new items were also found on Macy's website. Here's a quick look:

Bold butterflies take flight on these whimsical plates perfect for serving spring treats

A boxed set of dessert dishes in spring '09 collection colors.

New spring cookie cutters in floral and insect shapes, cake plate doilies, cake stencils, and cupcake sprinkle sets

Cupcake liners, large and small as well as cupcake topper picks.

Box up those spring treats in these way too cute polka dot boxes

Think Easter Eggs with this egg plate, available in Martha's signature blue, red, or yellow.

New Martha signature blue cakestands. These also come in red and yellow. The new cakestand doilies fit perfectly on these stands.

Get the kids cooking this spring, with an adorable kids cooking kit in the bold polka dot pattern

Doesn't everyone have seasonal dishtowels? Here's a new butterfly set to get you started.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Coconut Cake

David is returning from a weekend in northern Michigan so I thought I would make one of his favorite cakes for his return: A coconut layer cake.

The recipe comes from the Barefoot Contessa.


3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pans
2 cups sugar
5 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pans
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup milk
4 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
For the frosting:nocoupons
1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted
6 ounces sweetened shredded coconut


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 2 (9-inch) round cake pans, then line them parchment paper. Grease them again and dust lightly with flour.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light yellow and fluffy. Crack the eggs into a small bowl. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl once during mixing. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well. The mixture might look curdled; don't be concerned.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and the milk to the batter in 3 parts, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. Fold in the 4 ounces of coconut with a rubber spatula.

Pour the batter evenly into the 2 pans and smooth the top with a knife. Bake in the center of the oven for 45 to 55 minutes, until the tops are browned and a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a baking rack for 30 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto a baking rack to finish cooling.
For the frosting, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and almond extract on low speed. Add the confectioners' sugar and mix until just smooth (don't whip!).

To assemble, place 1 layer on a flat serving plate, top side down, and spread with frosting. Place the second layer on top, top side up, and frost the top and sides. To decorate the cake, sprinkle the top with coconut and lightly press more coconut onto the sides. Note: I prefer to lightly toast the coconut; but it's optional. Serve at room temperature.