Are You There, Martha? It’s Me, Kevin


Martha Stewart’s new television season has begun on the Hallmark Channel — and I survived the day without tuning in — and that’s a very good thing.  I offer up this confession because Martha and I, well, we used to have a thing.  Or at the very least, I did. 

I remember it like it was yesterday — the day I met Martha Stewart.  I never actually met her, physically, but it was my first introduction to Martha style.  It was nearly 20 years ago, and I was sitting in my friend’s salon, leafing through magazines.  That’s when I came across an issue of Martha Stewart Living

I took one hit, and I was hooked.  I liked the writing.  I loved the style.  The fonts.  The photos.  The locales.  The recipes.  The gardens and flowers — there was so much in that magazine, and with each turn of the page, I felt my world opening up.  I saw things I never thought I would see.  Articles about terracotta pottery.  Photos of bulbs.  Handmade wreaths!

Then the fiending started.  I found her show (the early version).  In my area, it aired on Sunday mornings, and I incorporated it into my Sunday routine.  Breakfast.  Newspaper.  Martha.  Crossword puzzle.  There was nothing that she couldn’t do.  And it was all perfect.  She could pot an entire container garden and barely get a smudge on her garden gloves.  I, on the other hand, would look like I had been run over by a mulching lawn mower.

And I wondered:  How could I be more Martha?  I subscribed to the magazine.  I bought the books.  I embarked on a Martha Stewart odyssey.  I baked.  I cooked.  I planted.  I crafted.  That first Christmas with Martha was a homemade hot mess.  I bought her cookbooks.  I tried out her recipes.  I baked her cookies.  I even hand-painted my own holiday wrapping paper, tied them with raffia and twine, and inserted freshly clipped sprigs of holly into the bow. 

Then, I crossed a line.  I stalked her.

Stalk is kind of a harsh word.  It was more like a treasure hunt, and Martha left herself wide open.  She published a photo in her magazine of her home on Lily Pond Lane in East Hampton.   Joe and I had a free Saturday, and we needed a destination.  So we jumped into the car and headed east, armed with my copy of Martha Stewart Living and a Hagstrom map.  In my all-too-vivid imagination, we would find the house and catch Martha weaving a rattan chair on her front porch.  We would strike up a conversation, and she would be so impressed with our detective skills that she would invite us onto her porch for some freshly squeezed lemonade and homemade Madeleines.  (I know she makes them because I first heard about them on her show.  I even went out and purchased a Madeleine pan.) 

We found her house, and it was alive with activity — a whole crew of gardeners doing all of the work.  They were pruning, mulching, weeeding, planting, and no sign of Martha.  I knew she had to have a staff because running an omnimedia company takes up a lot of time — but surely she could take a day off to stop and smell her sweetly scented English roses.  My little adventure was rapidly turning into a sort-of intervention.

My “relationship” with Martha has cooled, much to Joe’s delight.  While I can certainly enjoy watching her on television, or thumbing through her magazine, I no longer need to have a regular fix.  The truth is, I’m not Martha.  I could never be Martha.  Achieving perfection — even with the help of a staff — is way, way too much work.  Just watch The Fabulous Beekman Boys for a glimpse into their reality as they embark on a Martha-like odyssey.

I will always credit Martha with helping me to discover dahlias and daylilies and Sydney Eddison and so much more.  But when I garden, I’m going to get dirty.  I kind of like seeing how filthy I am at the end of the day.  It’s a testament to what I accomplished, and in that there is satisfaction and progress. 

Besides, have you heard of  Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa?  She also lives on the East End of Long Island, and when I become her friend, she’s going to prepare this amazing picnic lunch for me and Joe and her and Jeffery.  At least that’s how it plays in my world.

31 thoughts on “Are You There, Martha? It’s Me, Kevin

  1. Oh my goodness. Why am I hearing this piece with David Sedaris’s voice?! Great post. Very funny. I get it; she is good at what she does. I contemplated (prob will still) a subscription. I actually, believe it or not, had a dream about her, where I was sneaking around her house (huge, white stucco thing) and hiding from her St. Bernard dogs. Maybe I/we (?) were trying to talk to her. A lovely garden she had too. (:

    • Wow! Thanks so much for the Sedaris comparison! In all honesty, there can only be one Martha — and she did give birth to the whole home crafting/HGTV/Create phenomena. I just learned — the hard way — that I’m not a Martha, but I can certainly appreciate what she does. Thanks for finding me!

  2. Hope you get to meet Ina! I’ve never watched Martha, but I do admire her success. She must be an incredible businesswoman. I’d just rather watch someone a little less perfect, I guess.

    • There is a lot to admire about Martha — her creativity and her business sense, and the fact that she rebounded after that unfortunate legal incident. As for Ina, well, I think she has one of the most soothing voices on television — add style, wonderful cooking skills, and an interesting bio — and I’ve got the start of a beautiful friendship. I’ll keep you posted. 🙂

  3. I’m sure, deep down that Martha would like to see you all dirty at the end of a long day gardening !!! It’s probably her dream & she’s already secretly stalking YOU!! HAHA…beware ‘rustling’ in the bushes…you never kow who’s watching you…:0)

    • There’s really not much to forgive, actually. She was found guilty, she served her sentence, and she was released — and that’s a lot more than can be said about the folks on today’s Wall Street.

  4. I always admired Martha for all the reasons that you list. She is talented and creative. I too love the magazine, but never watched her show. It would be fun to meet her for lunch, but hearing what is like to work for her (from a friend), not so much.

    • I’ve heard the same things — but most of my dreams involve sitting in Martha’s, or Ina’s, or Lydia’s kitchen — watching them cook, and then sampling what comes out of the oven, Yum!

  5. Martha is an amazingly talented and creative woman and it would be wonderful to meet her for lunch… but not work for her. I heard from a friend that it is not such a joy. I love her magazine for all the reasons you mentioned, but never saw her TV show.

    • The Madeleine pan was used once. I don’t know if I made a mistake, but I wasn’t prepared for a spongy cookie — so now it sits quite happily in a cabinet. I touch it whenever I have to get to another baking pan underneath. 🙂

      • oh Kevin! this is so wonderfully funny, I love your writing…Thank you for commenting on my blog, I am so happy you found me somehow, so I can now follow you…follow, not stalk…smile…..

      • Lilith, thank you for your kind words. I’m glad that you enjoyed the post — and I’ll try not to keep looking over my shoulder. Cheers!

  6. Hi, Kevin!
    If you want a few good laughs – tune in to “Whatever, Martha”. The show stars Martha’s daughter Alexis and her good friend, Jennifer. They take Martha’s craft projects and show the world how they come out when the rest of us “mortals” without Martha’s magic hands try to create them. They roll their eyes at the perfection that is Martha! It is too funny! If the show doesn’t come on in your area, I’m sure you can google it and view it on youtube, if nothing else! Enjoy!
    By the way, LOVED this post! Enjoyed the laughs! I do remember the hand-crafted wrapping and cards and still have them (yes, I AM a sentimental fool!). I still decorate my tree with the handmade ornament/package decorations you attached!
    One of my favorite e-mails I received one year was the difference between Thanksgiving at my house and at Martha’s house – hysterical. If I can find it, I will send you a copy. Take care!

    • Glad I supplied you with laughs — and although we cannot be Martha, I like to think that she has the ability to laugh at herself. I will definitely look for her daughter’s show.

  7. I love your fantasies! I, too, have loved Martha and her home and gardening endeavors since the 80’s. She has always been an inspiration, and I have used many of her decorating, cooking, and holiday tips. I like Ina Garten, too. 🙂

    • Thanks! I always try to make a Martha attempt, but then reality sets in and I have to adapt it to what works for me. And maybe there’s the lesson — use Martha as a guide, and just be yourself.

  8. Ahhhh, if only. LOL! I am so far away from being a Martha. Except my mother and her name is Martha too. I was always curious about what her house and gardens looked like too. I am glad you were able to check it out. Great posting.

  9. What refreshing, hysterical one-liners. “I took one hit, and I was hooked.” “How could I be more Martha?” I love the fantasy you have in your head of what the meeting would be like… so funny because it is what we all do, not necessarily with Martha, and you are candid enough to admit it. What a great writer you are! I can’t wait to read more! I know nothing about gardening, but that is secondary to the lively writing that you are putting on the page. I can’t wait until you start working on your memoir!

  10. You have me laughing and the sun isn’t even up yet! Completly understand your past obsession; where would she be without the millions of fans like you? Similarly, I thought Francesca and Sharkey would like to meet my two Cavalier King Charles spaniels! So on my bimonthly trips to visit my Mother, as I drive by Marthas Bedford home, I can be seen holding the dogs up at the window, “Hello Frannie and Sharkey.” I am sure the body guards and security types appreciate it!

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