This past Saturday, as I was doing all the Saturday type things, I caught a couple of Martha Stewart episodes on PBS. I haven’t watched these in quite a while, but I am clearly still a fan. Though she may be cooking updated recipes and the kitchen set is new, her voice and teaching style still draw me in. It’s a funny thing because just a while back, I was talking with a friend about how when I was in my early twenties, I basically learned to run a household from Martha Stewart Living television shows, magazines and books.My mother, who passed just a few years ago, wasn’t a housekeeper at all, bless her heart. She cooked basic southern food – breaded & fried everything and veggies simmered down in bacon drippings. I was never required to make my bed. I never had dish night. I never really had chores…though I saw that the kids on TV did and I always secretly wished someone would make me take out the garbage. When I’d visit my grandmother, which was often, she’d ask me to help dust & vacuum and I loved it! She would also let me help her cook and bake. Those times are the absolute favorites of my childhood. Her house was neat, orderly and nicely pulled together. So technically, she was my first influence on housekeeping.
But I can honestly say that when it was time to set up my first home, it was good ole Martha who I connected with and taught me the specific techniques. I don’t know how many of you remember the show, but she covered every topic possible from her sprawling farm in Connecticut. Turkey Hill, built in the 1800’s, was restored over time and reminded me of the beautiful Antebellum homes in the historic district of my hometown, Apalachicola, FL. From her kitchen, she taught me to make my own pie crust, quiche, roasted chicken and what a caper was. I learned that you really should cook with real butter (unsalted please!) instead of Parkay and why. I learned how to bake complicated recipes and later wow everyone at Christmas with a perfectly decorated buche de noel complete with chocolate bark and a variety of tiny marzipan fruits.
From her simply, but tastefully decorated bedrooms, she taught me how to properly make a bed, the best way to fold a fitted sheet and the important difference between feather, down & down alternative comforters & pillows. From her neatly organized linen closet, she taught me the smartest way to fold towels, hand towels & washcloths so that they laid in neat rows that didn’t tip and made the most of a typical depth shelf. From her workshop, I learned to strip, sand and repaint any number of furniture pieces.When the holidays came around, I learned the art of coordinating my wrapping paper and using real, fabric ribbon to create beautiful handmade bows instead of the shiny pre-formed & stapled versions that came in a bag. Heck…I learned what grosgrain ribbon was. I spent a portion of each Saturday learning how to force branches and create gorgeous dishes of narcissus nestled in vintage porcelain dishes (which she also taught me how to collect).
Her distinctive decorating style influenced me deeply. She is known for using solid colors inspired by nature. When she uses a print, it’s usually a classic motif. Her dishes were always solid, leading me to at some point abandon my (very mid-90’s) hand painted sunflower set for all white, which I still love today. I was never a fan of a “themed” decor (think apples, geese, cabbage roses) and she reinforced that instinct with her timeless sophistication.
I remember at the time hearing others’ snarky comments about her too high standards and how none of us could ever aspire to be “perfect like Martha”. But I just shook it off and happily bought another book. Now obviously, I have never attained Martha Stewart’s level of expertise or organization around the home, but the lessons I learned from her were invaluable and I still pride myself on my fitted sheet folding proficiency and the fact that I can boil a perfect egg sans the icky green layer.
Thanks Martha! xoxo
…these are SO Martha Stewart
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