Away for Awhile

Well, friends, I'm off on a three-week long excursion to Scandinavia: Denmark, Norway, the Faroe Islands and Iceland. I'm sure I will have plenty of photos to share when I return. In the meantime, remember that Martha's book "Appetizers" comes out on September 8th! I will be back at it at the end of September. Wish me well!

Flower Arrangements at Skylands

There are some blog posts that bear re-blogging. Martha's recent blog post about Kevin Sharkey's flower arrangements on The Martha Blog left me speechless and awestruck. The sheer beauty of the flowers in their spectacular arrangements - both large and small - around the rooms at Skylands, Martha's home in Maine, are some of the most beautiful images I've seen in a while. All of the blossoms were harvested from Martha's own cutting gardens. I hope you enjoy the photos! (All photographs by Kevin Sharkey and Martha Stewart for TheMarthaBlog.com)
This arrangement combined pink lilies with Rodgersia leaves. The leaves of Rodgersia first emerge as bronzy-green on the plant, and then this mat-green in summer.

 A lovely warm, rosy pink arrangement of lilies with striking green-red foliage. I think this one if my favourite.
 On another occasion, Kevin made this lily arrangement for the living room.
These lilies added such vibrancy and color to the room. They make excellent cut flowers - choose lilies with buds that are just about to open with a bit of the color showing. Just be careful of the pollen - it will stain clothes and carpets.
Aster is a genus of flowering plants in the Asteraceae family. They are daisy-like perennials, many of which have starry-shaped flower heads. These flowers bloom late, so they are wonderful to have when many other flowers have faded. Jens Jensen, the landscape architect who designed the gardens at Skylands, had called for abundant plantings of asters in his original plans.
 An arrangement of dahlias in the living hall in various shades of coral, pink and yellow.
 Pink cosmos for the pink guest house!
 More pretty dahlias in white, burgundy, and shades of pink.
All the flowers were cut from Martha's own gardens. Here was an arrangement of hydrangeas Kevin made for my giant faux bois table at Skylands.
Sometimes, the prettiest arrangements are the most simple. Here, Martha filled several small, white vases with white phlox. Phlox is a perennial, and among the most popular choices of wildflower - most likely because it's so easy to maintain
These lilies in the living hall were arranged with hay-scented ferns, Dennstaedtia punctilobula, a species of fern native to eastern North America. And, they do smell like hay when bruised.
A pretty blue arrangement of Ageratum. Commonly known as 'floss flower', these fluffy blooms are lavender-blue, but they also come in pink, lilac, or white, and form small, compound umbels.
Dahlias on the dining room table - small, clear vases mixed together with glass votives.
On this day, a spectacular show of lilies and ferns lined the dining room table, catching the rays of the setting sun.


Sofia Vergara for Martha Stewart Weddings

Actress Sofia Vergara graces the cover of the Fall style issue of Martha Stewart Weddings magazine, on newsstands August 31. Her marriage to model Joe Manganiello will take place on November 22 in Florida's Breakers Palm Beach Resort and MS Weddings features the bride-to-be in a series of the season's latest gowns. This is the second MS Weddings cover in a row that has featured a celebrity; Sarah Jessica-Parker took the cover for the magazine's summer 2015 issue. Click here for a behind-the-scenes look at Sofia's cover shoot for the fall issue of Martha Stewart Weddings.

My Fall Cookbook Wish-List

As I've stated here before, cooking is not my strong suit. It's not that I dislike cooking, it's that I just don't have that "gift" that an authentic home cook has: that sense of ingenuity and creative composition in the kitchen, and the willingness to experiment. I'm afraid I will always need a recipe, which means I will always need cookbooks. I have many cookbooks already. I love them. Some I simply read for the pleasure of reading and some I use, but all of them impart a sense of comfort.

This fall there are a lot of new cookbooks on the way, including a new one from Martha called "Appetizers," which is due out on September 15th. I've selected eight of the cookbooks I am most looking forward to.

1. Martha Stewart's Appetizers
Obviously, every fan of Martha's will have to get this one. It is hardcover and features 200 recipes for dips, spreads, snacks, small plates and other hors d'oeuvres. There is also a chapter on cocktails. I like that the book is hardcover, too. I've always been a fan of hardcover cookbooks. Martha is planning a few book signings for Appetizers, so stay tuned for any updates. September 8, 2015

2. Essential Emeril
I don't have any cookbooks by Emeril Lagasse, but the longtime chef and restaurant owner must be good! Martha endorses him whole-heartedly and this book promises to deliver a 'back to basics' approach to cooking with a more intimate look at Emeril's life as a dad and family man. Fans will delight in Emeril's anecdotes revealing the inspiration behind each recipe, with appearances from A-list names - Mario Batali, Roy Choi, and Nobu Matsuhira, to name a few - alongside family members and early influences such as Julia Child and Charlie Trotter. October 6, 2015

3. Vegetarian India
I grew up watching Madhur Jaffrey. After school, her program was always the one I would watch and I'm sure it was an early influence for my adventurous tastebuds. Indian food is among my favourite types of cuisine and vegetarian cooking (and eating) has become an increasingly important aspect of my life. My husband is vegan (partially by choice and partially by dietary necessity) so cooking vegetables in interesting ways is essential. With more than two hundred recipes, beautifully illustrated throughout, and including personal photographs from Jaffrey’s own travels through India, the book promises to be a kitchen essential for vegetable enthusiasts and home cooks everywhere. October 27, 2015

4. CCCP Cookbook
This is a book I will read more for historical insight than anything else. As the Soviet Union struggled along the path to communism, food shortages were commonplace, and both Party authorities and Soviet citizens had to apply every ounce of ingenuity to maximize often-inadequate resources. The stories and recipes contained in the CCCP Cook Book reflect these turbulent times: from basic subsistence meals consumed by the average citizen (like okroshka, a cold soup made with the fermented beverage kvass) to extravagant banquets held by the political elite (suckling pig with buckwheat), with a scattering of classics (beef stroganoff) in between. Each recipe is introduced with a historical story or anecdote from the period, and illustrated using images sourced from original Soviet recipe books collected by the authors, food historians Olga and Pavel Syutkin. It promises to be a great read for any food historian. September 29, 2015

5. Heart & Soul in the Kitchen
Longtime chef and television host Jacques Pepin, a personal friend of Martha's, gives us an intimate look at the food he prepares for his family and friends at home. Among the 200 recipes are the simple dinners that Jacques prepares for his wife, elegant dinners for small gatherings and dishes for outdoor parties and barbecues. Jacques will appear with Martha at the Newport Mansions Wine & Food Festival on September 27th in Rhode Island for a cooking demonstration. Martha will be signing copies of her new book, Appetizers. Click here to read more. October 6, 2015

6. Simply Nigella
Say what you will about Nigella Lawson, she is an unabashed food lover and her passion for food is what I love most about her. She loves to eat. She loves flavour and simplicity in the kitchen. She also loves to write and her style of writing is always engaging and inspiring. Simply Nigella taps into the rhythms of our cooking lives, with recipes that are uncomplicated, relaxed and yet always satisfying. November 3, 2015

7. My Pantry
In her most intimate and compelling cookbook yet, Alice invites readers to step not into the kitchen at Chez Panisse, but into her own, sharing how she shops, stores, and prepares the pantry staples and preserves that form the core of her daily meals.  Ranging from essentials like homemade chicken stock, red wine vinegar, and tomato sauce to the unique artisanal provisions that embody Alice’s unadorned yet delightful cooking style, she shows how she injects even simple meals with nuanced flavor and seasonal touches year-round. The book is illustrated by her daughter, Fanny. September 15, 2015

8. Bien Cuit: The Art of Bread
The new Martha Stewart Cafe carries pastries by Bien Cuit, one of New York's finest patisseries, and one of Martha's personal favourites. In his latest book, The Art of Bread, Chef Zachary Golper continues his ongoing quest to coax maximum flavour out of one of the world's oldest and simplest recipes. The book shares fifty bread recipes that span the baking spectrum from rolls and quick breads to his famous 24-day sourdough starter. This book is an homage to tradition, but also to invention. November 17, 2015


My Fall Decorating Book Wish-List

Anyone who knows me knows that I love a good decorating book. I have dozens of decorating books already and I am always interested in building my library. Some people enjoy reading novels on a rainy Sunday afternoon; I enjoy reading decorating books. They can be a great source of inspiration to all kinds of areas of your life and can train your eye to see beauty in even the smallest details. I think that's what I most appreciate about them.

Because my tastes are quite eclectic, I read from a wide variety of sources that tout a wide variety of styles. I don't limit myself to one style or one period or one designer. I like to see what everyone is doing and then I select little things here and there that I can incorporate into my own living space, which is just 600 square feet, by the way! So, without further adieu, here are eight books that I can't wait to read this fall:
1. The Kinfolk Home

If you've read The Kinfolk Table, a cookbook and entertaining guide by Nathan Williams and the editors of Kinfolk magazine, you will know that the pared-down, Scandinavian-inspired style the magazine celebrates will translate very well into home decor. I'm excited about this book because the style very closely resembles my own taste: simple rooms, minimally 'decorated' that are kept warm through the use of woods, textures and natural materials. October 20th, 2015

2. At Home In the Garden

Fashion designer turned lifestyle expert Carolyne Roehm never disappoints with her books. She has penned more than a dozen books on the subjects of flower arranging and decorating and in this new book she illustrates how her gardens can be used as 'outdoor rooms' for entertaining. Her books are always lush, filled with beautiful, full-colour imagery and I can't wait to see her gardens at their peak. If the cover is any indication, it's going to be a very lavish book indeed! October 27, 2015

3. Styled

So many of us seem to want to know the secrets to good styling. Paging through magazines and catalogs, many of us scratch our heads and wonder, "How did they get it to look so pretty?" In her new book, Emily Henderson reveals all! While decorating can take months and a lot of money, styling can take just minutes, often using what you already have on hand. Even a few little tweaks can transform the way your room feels. The book promises to share ten easy steps to styling your rooms. October 13, 2015

4. The Curated House

This book intrigues me because of its philosophy and the use of the word "curated" in the title. I like that word a lot because it implies careful consideration, editing and living only with the things you truly love and want in your surroundings. Interior designer Michael S. Smith shows us inside his Los Angels home, his Manhattan apartment plus several other spaces he was commissioned to design in New York, London, Malibu and Montana. Smith reviews the constants of his interiors, what is integral to his style and why, and how they can work for the reader: from the forms that repeat themselves to the layering of fabrics and patterns, the use of subtle colors, and the idea of comfort in every room. October 27, 2015

5. Habitat: A Field Guide to Decorating

Lauren Liess, an interior designer and founder of the popular blog Pure Style Home, fuses her love of design and the great outdoors into all her work. In this, her first book, Lauren invites readers to bring nature inside by mixing the textures of natural elements such as wood and stone with eclectic groupings of modern and quirky vintage pieces. I'm generally suspicious of "how-to" books or "guides" for decorating, because it's such a personal thing, but I've always loved Pure Style Home and I think this book will avoid being didactic. October 13, 2015

6. Beekman 1802 Style

This is the fourth book by Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell, founders of the Beekman 1802 lifestyle brand. Their previous three books have been cookbooks and this is the first to describe and disseminate their personal approach to style. Chapters like "East Meets West" and "Old Meets New" offer thoughts on the attraction of opposites in the home and the importance of incorporating what you already have, along with some new must-have pieces. I love Brent and Josh so this book is a surefire hit for me. September 15, 2015

7. Cabin Porn
 My parents have a lovely little two-bedroom log cabin in the Lanark Highlands in Ontario, Canada. They built it themselves and they spend most of the summer there enjoying the great outdoors. I intend on buying this book for my dad and probably a copy for myself, as well. Living in the city, I don't often get to the cottage so it will serve its purpose as 'cabin porn' on those days when my insatiable lust for the scent of pine needles and the sounds of the birds takes over. September 29, 2015

8. Apartment Therapy: Complete + Happy Home

 I've loved Apartment Therapy since it was a little blog, espousing design methodology for small-space living. This is the fifth book by the editors of Apartment Therapy and it promises to be the most comprehensive collection of rooms and ideas yet: 75 rooms, from bedrooms to kitchens and living rooms to kids’ rooms and workspaces. The book explores every detail—lighting, color palettes, flooring, and accessories—that brings a home to life and, most important, makes you happy in it. Sounds good to me! September 15, 2015

New Halloween Products from Martha Stewart at Home Decorators

In the recent catalog by Home Decorators Collection (a subsidiary of Home Depot) there are numerous Halloween decor products from the Martha Stewart Living line, called "The Witching Hour Collection." With spooky wall hangings, mantel and table decorations, the line is gradually expanding as the holiday approaches. Overall, the line feels very sophisticated (no bright orange glitter pumpkins with googly eyes) and has a dark palette of blacks, greys and whites. These items are only available for online purchase and ship from the U.S. to U.S. addresses only. Click here to see the products on offer so far - and stay tuned for more! I've selected a few of my favourite things below. (Note: If you are reading this outside of the U.S., you must select "Ship to USA" in order to view the collection.)
The collection appears to be quite extensive with cauldrons, wreaths and decorating accessories.
I love the "Skeleton Wall Banners" which come in a set of four fabric panels and can be hung vertically to create the full skeleton.
This "Mushroom Wreath" is both spooky and tasteful. It is made of real dried mushrooms and comes in two sizes.
This "Crow Snow Globe" would be perfect on a mantel.
I love the ornate details on this "Black Hanging Birdcage."


Next Door to Skylands

The property adjacent to Skylands, Martha's home in Seal Harbor, Maine, is currently for sale. Known as Ox Ledge, the house was built in the mid-1910s by Duncan Candler, the same architect who designed Skylands. It boasts ten bedrooms, seven bathrooms and sweeping views of the harbor. It sits on just over eight acres of rugged seaside landscape and has just over six-thousand square feet of living space. As you'll see below, the house shares many historical connections to Skylands - and at one time it even shared a driveway!
The house was commissioned by Richard G. Tower in the early 1900s and was originally referred to as Tower Cottage. In 1922, the house was purchased by Edsel Ford, along with two adjoining properties, to create his Skylands estate, a summer retreat, which is now owned by Martha Stewart. After Skylands was completed in 1925, Ox Ledge became the summer home of Ernest Kanzler, a Ford executive who was married to Mrs. Ford's sister. The cottage was later owned by the Kanzler's son, whose widow married William Van Alen, son of the noted architect, and grandson of both Atwater Kent and Mrs. James Laurens Van Alen (later Brugiere). 
 The circular driveway is very similar to the one at Skylands.
Stones lining the driveway are similar to the "Rockefeller teeth" found along the driveways of the Ravenscleft estate and Skylands.

The property was built on a sturdy foundation of granite, quarried on site.

The view from the terrace is spectacular.
Indoors, the house still has most of its original fixtures and architectural details. While it appears to require some refurbishing (and lots of redecorating!) the house remains true to its original design: built for summer guests and entertaining.
Skylands and Ox Ledge once shared a driveway, and when the properties were divided, the driveway, as well as the Ford's formal garden, were retained by the Van Alens for Ox Ledge. In the 1940s, a new driveway and a separate entrance from the main road was created for Skylands.
The garden, designed by Jens Jensen, was built on the foundations of another shingle cottage built in 1901, and the beautiful stone gazebo, shown above, survives from that house. Jensen's formal plan for this site is shown below:
The Ox Ledge property is currently for sale by the Van Alen/Kanzler heirs. Photographs from the Knowles Company. You can view the listing here.