Martha Stewart’s name has long been equated with “good things.” Martha is the original modern domestic goddess. Not only does she seemingly pay intricate attention to her terrarium tools, storage jars for cereal, and ironing of her sheets, but she’s also built a multimedia empire (and coined the term “omnimedia”). Frankly, as much as I admire her, she makes my head hurt sometimes.
Which is what brings me to this blog. I am about to embark on an experiment that will have far-reaching effects (well, at least in this house). I’m going to give my home and family a Martha Makeover. You can probably hear my husband and children screaming. Here’s the deal. I’m a pretty good cook, a fairly picky person, and a not so good crafter. Our home is comfortable and attractive (well, I like to think so), but to be honest, Martha would have a fit here. My pantry would reduce her to tears, my Christmas decoration storage cause her to flee, and my lack of any actual crafting perturb her. She might give me a few approving nods when she saw what I could whip up in the kitchen, but really other than that, she probably would not choose me as her protégé. So I do present a bit of a challenge if I’m to be made over into a mini-Martha.
Who Am I?
I’m Brette Sember, jack of many trades. I’m a former attorney and mediator who is an author, freelance writer, indexer, mom, wife and avid reader. If you want to know more about me in non-Martha mode, visit my site, http://www.BretteSember.com.
Ok, so here’s the deal. I’m going focus my attention on Living, MarthaStewart.com, Martha’s blog, Martha’s email newsletters, and The Martha Stewart Show (tv). Martha seems to be less involved in the other magazines under the Omnimedia umbrella. She probably had a part in conceiving them, but she doesn’t seem to be a regular presence in them. That being said, I may check them out once in a while just to see where Martha Stewart Omnimedia is going.
Then there are her books. Am I going to work my way and blog my way through them one page at a time? Probably not – that would take years. I do, however, want to spend time with them and find some good things to take away with me.
In addition to following along with Martha’s current good things, I want to ask myself “What Would Martha Do?” as often as possible. I’ll rely on her web site to help me answer that question when the answer is not apparent to me. If I’m reorganizing the linen closet, I’ll find out how Martha would do it and try to follow her lead.
Why am I doing this? It’s easy to say I want a more efficient, lovingly tended home. See, I just said it. But to really devote my life to the pursuit of good things is what I’m after. I think that somehow if I can surround my family with good things, good things will come of it.
I’m going to be turning 40 in a few months and I’ve been feeling for a while as if I need to do something to mark this, since it seems like a milestone to me. Sometimes I think my life is missing something. But what? I think Martha may be able to help me find joy in every day things or at least help me appreciate the small things a little bit more.
Martha appeals to me because there is such elegance and dignity in all that she does. When she’s hot gluing it, she believes that that acorn adorned napkin ring is truly important and beautiful. It’s like she’s building meaning into her life from the ground up.
I also want to understand Martha. How can she be such a perfectionist? Where does one find the time and energy for it all? And how does it change you when you do it? I hope that if I can do as she does, I can get inside her head. Martha is nothing if not controversial. I’m not really interested in her tangles with the legal system. What I do want to know is if replacing my drawer pulls with beads I’ve painted myself will change my life.
These are the questions I want to answer. I hope that you, dear reader, will come along with me on this journey and laugh with me at my many failures (I am not sure I am up to making my own wrapping paper, fertilizing my one rose bush with an organic fertilizer specially pH balanced for my soil, or making a centerpiece of cabbages, so it’s bound to be funny along the way), join in my successes, and offer me tips as I strive to “do the Martha”.
P.S. You’ll note I do not post Martha’s recipes or photos on my site, although a lot of other blogs do. Recipes and photos are copyright protected. Reprinting them without permission is a violation of copyright. I post links to the recipes on Martha’s site when possible, but I won’t violate copyright law by posting someone else’s recipe!
If you’ve been following along with me, you know that I started this blog and my Martha project a year ago. My mission was to do one Martha project a day for an entire year and see if it changed my life. The year is up.
I have lots of thoughts on how it has affected me and my family. I’m going to share just a few here. One of the biggest changes is that Martha has made me pay attention to details and thus I’ve found that the details really do matter. I’m nowhere close to Martha-perfection on anything, but I find that when I make a little extra effort in whatever I am doing around the house (cooking, cleaning, organizing, crafting, decorating, etc.), it almost always pays off.
Another important lesson has been focus. Martha has an incredible ability to focus on things. I’ve often heard her practically squeal with excitement over how orange some carrots are or how a loaf of bread turns out. She’s able to find the sublime in the everyday and I’ll always thank her for showing me how to do that. If you can find happiness in the small things, it carries you through the harder parts of your day.
I’ve had a lot of failures (recipes that were just plain awful, crafts I murdered and organizing jobs I didn’t quite complete) but I’ve also tried so many new things (corning my own beef, eating celery root, using glitter). I feel as though this year has been a complete education for me, like going to culinary school, apprenticing in a new trade, and practicing to open a shop on Etsy.
It has also been exhausting. In the midst of all the Martha lessons, I’ve had a busy year. My grandmother passed away, we went to the UK on a two week vacation, husband and daughter continued the balancing act required with rheumatoid arthritis, I wrote a book about the history of cookies (coming out next fall), I did massive numbers of indexes and wrote several book proposals, my daughter had swine flu and pneumonia, I struggled with an ongoing infection, my son started middle school, my daughter applied to and visited colleges, and I continued to be daughter, wife, dog owner, and mom to the people I love.
I’ve been contemplating what I would do when my one year of Martha ended. On the one hand, I’m tired. I’m tired of cooking Martha food all the time, tired of pushing myself to craft, and tired of spending a large portion of my disposable income on food for Martha’s recipes, supplies for Martha’s projects, and on Martha’s favorite products.
But on the other hand, I can’t see a life without Martha. I admit it – I am slightly hooked. I’ve already decided I’m ordering one of Martha’s turkeys for Thanksgiving and I’m giddy at the thought of her new line of cleaning products. I’m already looking forward to the December issue of Living. So, I don’t think Martha and I are going to part ways. Instead, I think we will reach a compromise.
So, my plan moving forward is to continue to experiment with Martha’s recipes, crafts, and projects, but at a slower pace. One year of doing Martha every day has been plenty. Instead, I’d like to see what sticks. I want to try a slightly different experiment – move forward with my life and see what Martha lessons and projects are truly me. I need some time and space to find what really works for me. So, I’m going to continue the blog, but may not have a post absolutely every single day. It almost kills me to write that, since I’ve come to depend on my loyal readers! I love coming here every day and reading your comments and knowing you’ve been on the journey with me. I might take a weekend off! I do plan to post regularly and to continue sharing my results with you and hopefully sharing my thoughts with you about how I’ve incorporated Martha into my real life.
I also would like to show you some non-Martha recipes – my own creations. Martha has certainly influenced me to try new things and enjoy new things, so I’d like to show the direction she has steered me as I move forward.
Martha Mondays will continue and I’m still going to do the MS Cupcake Club. But those are my only required assignments. As for the rest, I’m going to do what really interests me and excites me. At this point, I’m not even sure what that will be – I’ve been so focused on doing Martha, I’ve lost sight a little bit of what I want to do.
Many of you have asked me if I will be writing a book about this experience. The answer to that is I hope so! It’s started, but it really wasn’t something I could write until I got to the end of the journey so I could have perspective on it. If you would like to read such a book, I would love for you to comment and say so.
I can’t thank you enough for the support, cheering on, commiserating and just general interest in my project! It has meant so very much to me to know that every single one of you is reading along. So, stick around and come with me on year two as I discover where I go from here and what lasting influence Martha will have on me!