Monday, February 28, 2011

Finding Peace Margaret's Way

When I found the small brown box on my doorstep, I instantly knew what was inside; “And I Shall have Some Peace There,” by Margaret Roach.

I have to admit, I’m a tough one when it comes to books. If a book doesn’t stir my interest within the first 50 pages, I am likely to set it down and not open it again. If a book doesn’t force me to slow down and read (instead of scan), it gets put on the shelf and used as a decorative element at a later date (stacks of books look lovely as a room accessory).

“And I Shall Have Some Peace There” not only was read page by page, it was savored from cover to cover.

I’ve followed along Margaret’s career for years. As a matter of fact, as garden editor for Martha Stewart Living, Margaret taught me much of what I know about gardening. Yes, it’s her fault that I have this passion for the garden and everything in it (except grubs… I have no passion for grubs.. They are pretty disgusting).

When Margaret left MSLO to take on her passion, I was bummed big time. When she emerged several months later with, I was elated. I was pleased to see that Margaret didn’t just fall out of sight – she reinvented herself (or unleashed?) and turned the garden blogging world on its head. I very quickly became a regular reader of the blog and the forums. I still take great pride in the fact that I asked a question in one of the forums that ended up being one of the most popular – “why do you garden?” A simple question with a zillion different responses.. but I digress.

“And I Shall Have Some Peace There” is Margaret’s story, told Margaret’s way, on how she experienced the internal struggle of wanting more out of her life while others told her she had it all; and making the bold move to kiss corporate America goodbye to create a world SHE wanted, with solitude, dirt under her fingernails, and a once stray cat named Jack.

The story that Margaret shares is a true gift to the reader. It’s an honest and revealing look into her life as she moves from the fast paced city life to a quieter existence, finding peace in a life of solitude. No, this isn’t a story about being alone; rather it’s a story of having the joy and happiness of solitude when, and as often as she wants/needs it. Margaret is hardly living a lonely life. She stays well ‘connected’ with her readers and followers through a web of technology and social media.

For those expecting some inside scoop or dirt on MSLO, you’ll be disappointed. In her true gracious style, Margaret does not dish dirt. Rather, you quickly feel the respect she has for Martha. Martha’s respect for Margaret is clearly shown with a blurb on the back cover. Class acts on both sides.

While some have said that Margaret’s writing style was hard to follow, I have a great appreciation for it. A thought process will be humming along in the book and suddenly, there is a sideline of thought found in parentheses. I appreciate it because I do the same thing (memos can be a real struggle for me.. no use of parentheses). The book is like a progressive conversation with Margaret,  moving here and there in thought, but always in some way connected. Yes, there were moments when I would re-read something, but like any conversation, you sometimes have to seek clarification. I don’t see that as a bad thing.

Experiencing my own struggle with staying in the corporate life, this book spoke to me, often feeling like I was reading my own thoughts. I too have fears. I too hate snakes. I too have found myself under the kitchen table – not from a fear of lightening, but from a much stressed out day.

“And I Shall Have Some Peace There” is a must read for anyone who has experienced a significant change in their life, or is thinking of making one. Sometimes the quest of another provides some answers to our own questions. I grade this book a solid A.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Bake-a-long With Mike - Toasted Almond Scones

Perhaps it’s all the British blood that runs through my veins… I love scones.

My friend Mike belongs to a baking/blogging group called “Tuesday’s With Dorie.”  The group is baking their way through the wonderful book, “Baking.. from my home to yours” by Dorie Greenspan.

Each week, members of the group bake particular recipes from the book and share their creations on their blogs.

This week, the group baked a recipe selected by Mike, Toasted Almond Scones. When Mike asked me if I would virtually bake along with him, I couldn’t say no. Nor did I want to. I never turn down the opportunity to bake scones.

Scones are biscuit-like pastries or quick breads that are often rolled into round shapes and cut into quarters, then baked, sometimes on a griddle. Scones can be savory or sweet and are usually eaten for breakfast, but are also served with tea and in coffeehouses.

When baking these scones, the kitchen filled with the most incredible aroma. When I pulled them out of the oven, and had my first taste, it was heaven. I’ve made scones before, but these are definitely the best scones I’ve ever had the pleasure of making, baking, and eating!

Perfect for breakfast, brunch, or afternoon tea, these scones are best served with a nice slathering of melted butter, or homemade jam. Anyway you take them, you’ll love them.

Take a moment to visit Mike’s blog,  and make sure you visit often. You’ll be inspired not only by his creations, but his photography is amazing. He could make sautéed cardboard look delicious!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Martha Stewart Living Paint Line Expands

Creating a faux finish on the walls of your home has never been easier with the recent expansion of the Martha Stewart Living Paint line at The Home Depot. 

Three different specialty paint/glazes help the home decorator to create beautiful textures that add depth and interest to any room. 

Just as velvet nap changes appearance to the touch, the lightstrokes finish reflects light differently depending on the direction in which it's brushed on.  As a result, you can manipulate the finish to create the illusion of depth,, while your wall remains completely smooth. 

Potter's Clay provides a medium for creating a variety of surface textures, simply by dragging the wet finish with combs or brushes.  Depending on the tool you use and the thickness of the finish application, you can create well-defined lines or a finish that's looser and softer. 

Precious Metals (image not available) is a decorative sheen that captures the shimmering luster of silver, gold, and other precious metals.  It's particularly beautiful combined with traditional finishes in patterns and stripes, or when added to the glazes used for Martha's favorite faux-finish technique like Faux Bois. 

A decorative tool kit and a line of faux finish rollers, both by Martha Stewart Living are also available at The Home Depot. 

Saturday Cinnamon Rolls

One of my favorite breakfast treats is a delicious cinnamon roll.  The combination of tender bread-like dough, cinnamon, sugar, and a sweet glaze has grabbed my attention since I was a child. 

While I have grown accustomed to the store bought variety, I decided I would make my own.  I was pleasantly surprised at just how easy it is to make these pinwheels of cinnamony goodness. I can't wait to have one with my coffee this morning. 

For the Dough:

1 package of yeast
1/2 C warm (110-115 degrees) water
1/2C scalded milk
1/4C sugar
1/3 C unsalted butter (melted)
1tsp salt
1 egg
3 1/2 - 4C all-purpose flour

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water and set aside.  In a large bowl, mix milk, sugar, melted butter, salt and egg.  Add 2 cups of flour and mix until smooth.  Add yeast mixture.  Mix in remaining flour until dough is easy to handle.  Kneed dough on a lightly floured surface for 5-10 minutes.  Place in a well-greased bowl, cover and let rise until doubled in size, usually 1-1 1/2 hours. 

For the Filling:

1/2C melted butter, plus more for the pan
3/4C sugar, plus more for the pan
2 T cinnamon
3/4C raisins, walnuts, or pecans, (optional)

When doubled in size, punch down the dough.  Roll out on a floured surface into a 15 by 9-inch rectangle.  Spread melted butter all over the dough.  Mix the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the buttered dough.  If you wish to add raisins, walnuts, or pecans, sprinkle them over the sugar coated dough and lightly press into the dough. 

Beginning at the 15inch side, roll dough in a log shape and pinch edges together to seal.  Cut into 12-15 slices using a clean sharp knife. 

Coat the bottom of a baking pan (I used a half sheet pan) with butter and sprinkle with sugar.  Place cinnamon roll slices close together in the pan and let rise until dough is doubled, about 1 hour.  Bake for 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven until lightly browned. 

For the Glaze: 

4T butter (melted)
2C powdered sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
3-4T hot water

To make the glaze, mix butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla.  Add hot water 1 tablespoon at a time until the glaze reaches the desired consistency.  Spread over the slightly cooled rolls.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

And I Shall Have Some Peace There

Margaret Roach asks a very simple question, "didn't you ever want to get up from your desk one day, and just walk away?"

It was this question that prompted the former Editorial Director of Martha Stewart Living to do her own soul searching, and make the bold decision to leave the 'city' behind for a more fulfilling life in rural upstate New York.

Margaret chronicles her quest for fulfillment in her new book that will be released on February 23rd, "And I Shall Have Some Peace There,"

In December of 2007, Margaret made the decision to leave MSLO to fulfill the craving for different rewards: "solitude, a return to the personal creativity of writing, and a closer connection to nature and my first passion, the garden I'd been making on weekends for 20 years."

Once she settled back into what had been a 'weekend home" for years, Margaret began, named after her 1989 prize-winning book.  The New York Times named it the best garden blog, and rightly so.  From the very first day the site was 'live' to the world, it was obvious that Margaret was living her passion for gardening.  Together with her blog readers, Margaret shared "real" gardening how-to (and woo-woo as she says..), and shared her many triumphs and (a few) failures, that every gardener experiences. quickly grew from a handful of readers to thousands.  (I'm pleased to say I was among the first handful!)

One of my favorite covers from Martha Stewart Living was shot in Margaret's garden in upstate New York.

I first became familiar with Margaret when she held the position of garden editor for Martha Stewart Living.  It was then that I grew to appreciate her gardening philosophy and gained a lot of respect for her knowledge and wisdom.  As Margaret's role changed to editor of Martha Stewart Living magazine, I was struck by her heart-felt monthly letters to readers.  I especially recall the period during Martha's legal troubles .  When it seemed as though there was a push to 'remove' Martha from the publication, Margaret always wove in Martha's importance to the company, the readers and viewers, and to all those that she inspired.  One letter stands out in my mind, when the magazine underwent the masthead "makeover."  The letter was about change.  I've read that letter many times in that particular September issue, and I've always been left with the impression that Margaret, as editor, was not convinced that the changes being made were for the best.  Margaret was my hero from that point forward. 

In Margaret's garden.  Notice the familiar pots from the cover of MSL?

In 2009, I had the pleasure of meeting Margaret and touring her beautiful gardens during an open garden tour in May. While there were many people to tend to and talk to, Margaret was so kind, and spent a few minutes with us talking about the gardens, conducting the tours, and Jack, the Demon Cat (her words.. not mine!) who adopted her following 9/11. 

Since the release date of "And I Shall Have Some Peace There" was announced, I've had unending anticipation.  As a matter of fact, I don't think I've ever anticipated a book release more.  The idea of giving up what is 'safe' as a career to live out a passion (or two), is exactly where I'm at in my own life.  I've sat down and asked myself all the questions about making such a transition, and often become riveted with fear to take the final leap into my own world.  I'm anxious to read her experiences and about her thought process. 

Margaret made a wonderful video that needs to be shared with the world. Please take a few minutes (a little over four, to be exact..) and watch this video.  Once you watch, I have every confidence that you'll want to make yourself a good cup of tea, and curl up with this book as much as I want to. 

For more information about "And I Shall Have Some Peace There"  and prepare yourself for the gardening season ahead, visit her blog(s) at 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Grow Your Own : The March Issue of Living

I don't know about your area, but we are living with over a foot of snow on the ground and bitterly cold temperatures. With all the snow and cold,  it seems like spring will never arrive (and it will take until July for all the snow pack to melt!).  Never fear... spring is around the corner!

One sure sign of springs pending arrival is the special gardening issue of Martha Stewart Living. This March, Martha encourages you to "grow your own" with an issue chocked full of great hints, tips, and advice for the novice and most experienced gardeners. 

The March issue is beginning to warm subscriber mailboxes and will be available on newsstands and for the iPad on Valentine's Day (what a wonderful gift that will be!).  Take a look at some of the iPad videos from the issue HERE