I used to love Martha Stewart. In fact, during my 30’s I tried to reimagine myself as a Martha wannabe, covering Tide boxes with decoupage and brown craft paper and wrapping all my Christmas gifts in sheets of newspaper.
To this day I owe Martha a debt of gratitude. If not for her and her daily television programs, I would never had figured out how to program the VCR properly. Every day I would come home at lunch to watch the taped half hour program where Martha would teach us how to cook the perfect omelet or fold a fitted sheet.
I admit I was envious of her wrapping room where she would transform a gift package with double-sided tape and a bone folder. Martha introduced me to Washi Tape and origami paper folding, envelope making and the importance of a unified colour palette.
Every month I purchased her overpriced magazine, poring over each and every page for inspiration. With Martha’s help, we could all become homemakers, home keepers, or even beekeepers! We could raise organic vegetables in weed-free gardens and harvest our bounty wearing a large sunhat and oversized gauntlet garden gloves. Mosquito’s did not dare bite Martha and bumble bees buzzed around her sunhat in perfect military formation.
A large basket was always filled with flower cuttings from her glorious wild flower garden and then arranged beautifully in an antique crystal vase. A little smile would tug at the corner of her mouth when she remembers how she dazzled and confused the vendor so that he mistakenly sold it to her for half price. “One must always keeps ones wits about oneself when one is negotiating a price” she would remind us – you see…….everything could be a teachable moment.
My calendar was covered with dates and times of dental appointments and teacher conferences whereas Martha’s calendar was colour coordinated, labeled magic.
January was organization month, February was all about love, March was spent looking through seed catalogues. April was Easter Eggs and Passover, May was the month to turn the mattress, June was wedding month where we were introduced to art of letterpress. July was spent mastering the art of the perfect Pavlova so that in August it could be served with fresh berries. September was back to school and sewing nametags into book bags, October was a special Halloween edition of Martha Stewart Magazine. November was cooking the perfect turkey and celebrating the sweet potato and finally……..December arrived upon the gilded wings of doves specifically trained to help tie the perfect grow-grain ribbon bow.
No wonder I suffered my most severe depression during this time. The expectation that I had placed upon myself to be the perfect wife, mother and employee was now exacerbated by the onslaught of “domestic goddess television”. Nigella Lawson and her voluptuous…..errr…hair and Ina Garten with her Barefoot Contessa persona were enough to send any young mom spiraling into self consciousness.
It was during this time that Martha introduced the entire world to the Croquembouche, pronounced KROCUMBOOSH. Basically it was a tree created out of puffed, cream filled pastry bites. Martha didn’t stop there though…..no….Martha cut the end off a whisk and masterfully spun caramelized sugar around the tree like a filigree lace web.
SHE CUT THE END OFF THE WHISK!!!
This is where I removed my apron and upped the serotonin. Like an MMA fighter I tapped out and gave up on my pursuit of perfection. I couldn’t compete and didn’t like person that I was hiding inside. It was exhausting………
Twenty years later I sometimes miss my Martha moments – especially after I receive a handmade gift or a see a tablescape worthy of a Martha half smile of satisfaction. But then I look at all of my Christmas gifts that I wrapped in a half an hour using Dollar Store gift bags (apparently called the sweat pants of the gift wrapping world: they don’t look great but they serve a purpose) or eat “homemade” Chicken Noodle soup that I whipped up with a pre-cooked chicken I purchased from the grocery store deli and I don’t feel so bad.
Growing up and growing older is about learning when to say no and when to scream STOP. It is about doing what you love and loving what you do and embracing the short cuts along the way.
As Martha would tell us, “It’s a good thing”.