Monday, June 6, 2011

My Martha Moment

July / August 1999 issue from KJ's library
This evening, I had a chance to see Martha Stewart speak as part of the Unique Lives and Experiences series at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto.  It was the first time I had the opportunity to hear her speak.  

Martha is an important influence for me. Given my family situation, I didn't learn to cook and sew from my mum (and my dad - the physicist who raised three girls on his own - was well versed in the periodic table but not so much in the bain-marie). 

In the 80s, I would watch the "young" Martha on PBS and take notes. In the 90s, I would purchase back issues of Martha Stewart Living at thrift shops and garage sales, and in 1999 when I finally had a real job (post law school) I subscribed (i.e. above).  I have well over a decade of issues (as well as the cookbooks, craft books, sewing books, etc.) which I cannot part with (her Thanksgiving brine turkey has been a tradition for years as well as her banana bread from the Baker's Handbook). 

While most of Martha's talk focused on the path she took to create her company (growing up in New Jersey, modelling to get through university, marrying Andrew Stewart in sophomore year, the birth of Alexis, purchasing and restoring the Turkey Hill property and the start of the catering business], there were also many unscripted moments.  I jotted down tidbits of what I found interesting.

  • There were less than a dozen men in the audience.
  • Her biggest regret - Not having more children
  • Martha is a grandmother now.  Her granddaughter Jude was born on March 8th.
  • About her mum, Mrs. Kostyra - appeared on the show 40 times and her mother's meatloaf recipe is one of the most requested recipes
  • What Martha is reading now - Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
  • Her "recipe" for success - be passionate. She spoke of her passion for craft, gardening, cooking, photography, and holiday celebrations.  Her mum taught her to sew and cook. Her dad taught her to garden and take photographs.
  • She takes hundreds of photographs. She always carries two cameras with her.
  • Her fence at Bedford and the four friesian horses are from Canada (Brantford, Ontario).
  • Her next book: a new version of Martha Entertains (the original and her first book was published in 1982 when she was 40), this next one will come out in November 2011 and features photographs taken over the past five years. She wrote the content this past December.
  • Her signature dish - simple delicious fresh food, for example, a soft boiled egg.
  • Sleeping is "not that important." She does not bring her blackberry upstairs.
  • Martha Stewart Kids is an example of a project which did not work out.  She loved that magazine, but couldn't get any advertisers to keep it running. [How sad, I loved that magazine].
  • Eggs - she has 200 chickens which lay 100 eggs per day. She brings many of the eggs to the office for her employees.  Limit 4 eggs per day.
  • Her love of food, makes weight a "constant struggle." 
  • 2002 to 2005 was  a particularly difficult time for her and her company. The magazine kept going (with little advertising), but the readership remained strong. She said prison was a terrible place.  She spent five months at Alderson Federal Prison.  She thought of it as a "vacation" to read books and try to do things she had not done before.  In reality, it was a horrible place and a sobering experience.
Coincidentally, I arrived home from the event and found the July issue in the mail....


  1. I have much to be thankful for - my Mom taught me so much.

    Sleep not so important - I beg to differ - I am seriously envious of people who don't need much sleep.

    I like the bits and pieces you shared with us from her speech - thanks for taking the time to do it.

  2. Interesting tid bits...especially about your childhood and growing up with a physicist father. I had the opposit. My father was very busy with multiple careers while my mother was the dutiful homemaker.

    My house is filled with lots of Martha's books and magazines. I've always enjoyed her special interest publications...especially the Halloween issue. I can't imagine her time in prison. Thanks for sharing your observations.

  3. My mom usually refers to me as our family's "Martha Stewart" which I take as a compliment because that lady is incredible in every sense of the word! Loved reading your post KJ, thoroughly enjoyed it! I imagine myself covered in piles of those lovely mags you treasure and leafing through them.. for hours... What a great feeling that creates...!!

  4. I also grew up gleaning a lot of information from Martha. She is an inspiration.

  5. I was also raised by my dad with the help of Martha (=

    She's a fascinating woman and an incredible business mind. Although I sometimes chafe at the standard of perfection she puts forward, if I could be a fly on anyone's wall, it would probably be hers.

  6. first of all those fountain treats on the 99 cover look perfect for the 101 F heat we had here this afternoon.

    such an interesting post, i really enjoyed reading it ~ i learned so much, i didn't know she was a grandma, interesting that her biggest regret was not having more children, & very interesting that her first book came out when she was 40 ~ very similar to Julia Child ~ it just shows us women that 40 is not too late to start a whole new career...

    i really enjoy Martha Stewart Kids, it's too bad it's not still around, i should try to find all the back issues i don't have...

  7. I don't know much about Martha Stewart but I enjoyed reading this very much KJ. She is definitely someone who has loads to share, who we can learn so much from, and very much has a human side. A great reminder for all of us. Nobody is perfect. Let us not judge.

  8. I was also raised my Dad! Dinner consisted of Taco Bell and frozen entrees. I too learned to cook on my own.

    What a great experience to hear her speak. I really enjoyed reading all the notes you jotted down.

  9. Fascinating post, KJ. What a thrill to have the opportunity to hear Martha speak in person. I loved Martha Stewart Kids, too!

  10. another thought that i forgot to mention, she'll be 70 soon, first of all she looks great, but did she talk about the future? when will she retire? i'm curious to know what will happen to her magazine, etc after she retires? will someone replace her? will her daughter take over the company?

  11. Martha didn't specifically mention retirement and yes she looked fantastic at 69! She mentioned that she is working on a number of geriatric related projects including a book on care giving and receiving care which should be published next year out of Mt. Sinai in NYC. She is very interested in aging and spoke quite a bit about aging, but she did not give any impression that aging will slow her down!


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