8.16.2017

Martha Stewart's Wall Manager System

Martha and her team have been busy redesigning their Office line, available exclusively at Staples stores in the United States and online at staples.com. New products have been introduced (including a new line of totes and bags) and previously-sold items have been redesigned and upgraded, such as the bestselling Martha Stewart Wall Manager System.

Today, Martha and her colleague Kevin Sharkey demonstrated much of the line during a Facebook Live video. You can watch that below. Also below is a description of the new wall manager system and how it works. I love how streamlined it looks. I also love its versatility. Sadly, this line will not be available in Canadian Staples stores.
Using horizontal rail sets in three sizes – small, medium, and large – the Wall Manager System allows you to hang writing panels, file holders, shelves, and more in one interconnected unit. All of the busiest rooms in the house can benefit from the system: the kitchen, entrance halls, bedrooms and, of course, the home office. (Take the system to work, too, to enhance your office organization system).

Step 1: Define Your Space

The first consideration is how much wall space you have to work with. Does your home have a dedicated office, or are you looking to better utilize the end of the kitchen counter top? The Wall Manager System can be built with three sizes of rails to fit your space. Make sure you’ll have enough clearance on both sides to slide accessories, such as reversible chalkboard-corkboard panels, onto the rails and space underneath the bottom rail to mount accessories, like a pencil cup, that hang lower.

Tip: All accessories are designed to a width that fits the small rail set. The medium rail set is double the width of the small, and the large rail set is triple the width.

Step 2: Identify Your Needs


Next, think about what your needs are and how this organizer can help. Will it be mounted above your dorm room desk to keep track of class assignments, in the kitchen to schedule family activities and sort mail, or in the home office to file presentations and meeting notes? Tailor the accessories to your organization goal. The hanging file sorter can hold papers, folders, and mail, while the panels are reversible—from corkboard to dry erase and corkboard to chalkboard—to write and pin notes.

Tip: If you have the space, consider installing the medium or large rails. This will allow you to add new accessories to the Wall Manager® System as your needs change.

Step 3: Fill Your Cart


Now it’s decision time: choose your rail size and accessories to create a cohesive organization system. You won’t lose your phone under a pile of papers with the hanging smart phone holder. The platform has an opening specially designed to fit a charging cable, plus it can hold a tablet with up to a 7-inch screen. And for stationery lovers, the hanging shelf has compartments for sticky notes, paper clips, and other small office supplies.

Tip: Martha Stewart Dry Erase Markers and Liquid Chalk Markers can be used on the dry erase and chalkboard panels.

Step 4: Assemble and Organize


Hanging the Wall Manager System is made easy with step-by-step instructions included in the rail set packaging. An installation template with markings for drill holes can be placed directly on the wall to guide you in positioning and mounting the rails. Even better, wall anchors and screws are also provided. Once the rails are secured in place, slide on your accessories to create a clutter-free zone.

Tip: It’s best to hang the system at eye level; that way you can easily write a grocery list on the chalkboard and grab outgoing mail from the file folders.

In this Facebook Live video, Martha Stewart and Kevin Sharkey demonstrate the new Wall Manager System and preview of the new Martha Stewart products at Staples:

8.14.2017

The September Issue

The September issue of Martha Stewart Living is on newsstands now! Traditionally the "home" issue, September always has lots of helpful homekeeping tips and style ideas to get you organized and inspired for the busy season ahead. In this issue we learn how Martha selects and plants all her tulip bulbs for next spring, how to solve some pesky laundry quandaries and how to use up leftover rice in some truly inspiring and innovative recipes. In the well of the magazine, I was pleased to see the return of Fritz Karch who produced a beautiful story on collecting artificial fruit, from wood to glass to ceramic. We get a glimpse into the busy but inspired life of Jennifer Aaronson, a former food editor at Martha Stewart Living who is now overseeing the Martha & Marley Spoon venture. We learn how she juggles being a wife and mother while simultaneously co-running two businesses! And there is a great article on how to raise your home's IQ with safety suggestions, organizing ideas and style tips.
On the cover is a photo of some inexpensive shelves that have been enhanced with simple DIY upgrades to give them more style punch. Open the cover and you'll see an alternate version with some of the cubbies exposed (below).

8.03.2017

Happy Birthday, Martha!

Martha is celebrating her 76th birthday today at Skylands with friends and family. On behalf of the Martha Moments community of readers and supporters, I want to extend my warmest wishes to you, Martha! I hope you're having a wonderful day full of activity, surrounded by gorgeous scenery and grateful friends. Happy Birthday!

8.02.2017

Test Kitchen: Pistachio Cannoli Cake from the May Issue

A few months ago, I asked members of the Martha Moments Facebook group if anyone was thinking of making any of the cakes from the May issue of Martha Stewart Living. I was so impressed by the feature in that issue ("Cakes for Any Occasion") that I was hoping someone from the group would be interested in sharing the process of making one of them.

Bernie Wong, a longtime reader of Martha Moments and fan of the Martha Stewart brand, recently took on the challenge. The occasion was a special meeting with a fellow Martha Moments member, Dennis Landon. Below are Bernie's photos of the process with some of his notes.

I'm hoping to regularly feature some readers here who take on some of the recipes in the magazine in a new series I'll call "Test Kitchen." If you are interested in taking part, just email me.

PISTACHIO CANNOLI CAKE
Active time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 4 hrs. 10 minutes
Serves: 10 to 16
Find the recipe by clicking here.

The magazine describes this cake as an "Italian pastry-inspired treat." The batter is flavoured with orange-flower water and crushed pistachios and the ricotta filling is laced with candied orange and semisweet chocolate.
Mise en place: "put in place". It's always a good idea to assemble all of the measured ingredients before you begin baking so that you can simply add them as you go without pause. Bernie does this every time!
The candied orange and the semisweet chocolate are finely chopped. This will be added to the filling.
A half a cup, plus three tablespoons, of shelled, unsalted pistachios are finely ground in a food processor. this gives the cake a bit of crunch and a faint green tint.
Bernie says the cakes came out perfectly and that the batter tasted delicious. He cut each cake in half, horizontally, to create the layers.
The filling was runnier than Bernie expected it to be, even after it chilled for a couple of hours, but it tasted wonderful and was still fine to use.
Ta da! Here is the finished cake, displayed on a Martha Stewart jadeite-green cake stand, of course. Bernie says he needed more crushed pistachios than the 1/4 cup the recipe called for to cover the sides of the cake. He says the process of covering the sides of the cake with the melted chocolate and then coating them with the crushed pistachios was quite challenging, but it still came out looking nice.
Bernie used his Martha Stewart Wedgwood plates for the dinner and created a lovely centerpiece of potted ferns and cut flowers from his garden.
Overall, a very delicious cake that was fun to make for a new friend!

7.28.2017

Martha Coming to QVC in August

Martha Stewart will be debuting on QVC in August with a selection of home, food & beverage, beauty and apparel products that all bear her signature style and her personal stamp of approval! Martha will make frequent appearances on QVC to discuss her products and she has selected a team of brand ambassadors and "favourite experts" who will help her along the way. Be sure to stay tuned to QVC and qvc.com for updates about the launch and product details!
“Our brand has always been devoted to teaching and inspiring people to live more beautiful, more functional and more meaningful lives and our products provide solutions to do just that,” Martha Stewart said in a press release. “I am thrilled to partner with QVC, which offers unique opportunities to engage directly with an even broader audience, bringing to life several new categories for the Martha brand including beauty and fashion.”

7.27.2017

Martha to Host Four Food & Wine Events with USA Today

Martha Stewart (Sequential Brands) and USA Today (Gannett Inc.) will be joining forces to host a series of food and wine events across the United States in the coming months to help build brand awareness and increase subscriber rates to their respective media properties.

According to the press release, the 2017 Food & Wine Experience series is "a culinary tour that will highlight regional food trends and local chefs and alcohol experts, complete with samples from area restaurants for attendees to try, seminars and kitchen displays."
Martha will host four of the events, including the inaugural event with the Detroit Free Press in that city on September 16th. Cost of admission for these events will range in price, depending on the type of package and the location. The Detroit tickets begin at $90 (with $10 off for subscribers) and go as high as $120 for a VIP ticket.

Below is a list of dates and cities where Martha will be on hand for the Food & Wine Experience Series:

September 16: Detroit, Michigan
October 1: Ventura County, California
November 4: Scottsdale, Arizona
December 2: Las Vegas, Nevada


7.18.2017

Antonio Valente Flowers

"Boys don't play with flowers!" Those crushing words, uttered by an elementary school principal, devastated Antonio Valente, who was then in grade two. He had been asked by his teacher to draw a picture of his future career and when it became apparent that young Antonio wanted to be a florist, his dream was shut down with a mocking chuckle.

But dreams have a funny way of growing back, much like the flowers Antonio now harvests and arranges and sells from his home in Thornhill, Ontario, just north of Toronto.

On just a half acre of land, Antonio grows tulips, ranunculus, peonies, zinnias, scabiosa, foxglove, snapdragons, asters, roses, cosmos, larkspur, poppies, dahlias, phlox and ornamental cabbage - filling dozens of orders a week from florists around the greater Toronto area. All of the flowers are picked and packed by Antonio and delivered, in person, in his pickup truck.

I first discovered Antonio on Instagram, where he has thousands of followers from around the world. I only recently discovered that Antonio had been reading this blog for years and had affiliations with some florist friends of mine in Toronto! I was so curious to know more about him and his business and wanted very much to do a feature on him.

Florists adore Antonio's friendly nature, his passion for his flowers and his seasonal selection. "Antonio arrived at the shop with his pickup truck filled with pails of the most gorgeous summer blooms," writes the owner of Periwinkle Flowers, a Toronto-based flower shop. "The girls and I promptly fell in love with both Antonio and his beautiful flowers and we would wait in eager anticipation for every week's delivery."
It's the kind of testimonial Antonio doesn't take for granted, but he knows what makes his business special. He is one of the 'little guys' on the scene but his business has several factors that set him apart from the crowd. He grows primarily heirloom varieties or flowers that are pollinator-friendly: alluring features for florists who care about the quality of their flowers and where they come from. His farming operation happens on just a half acre of land and Antonio uses sustainable methods to plant, grow and harvest his plants.

Antonio was good enough to answer a few questions for Martha Moments about his business.

With just a half acre of property to farm, how do you decide what flowers to grow? Is it based on popularity and demand, or is the decision based on what you love to grow?

It’s a little bit of both. I absolutely need to grow what’s in demand and popular; at the end of the day my flowers need to sell. Having said that however, I don’t grow anything that is both popular AND available from larger scale growers or wholesale markets; I just can’t compete on pricing there. I also need to grow what I love. If a grower isn’t loving what they’re growing, they’re likely to neglect it during the height of the hectic growing season and that can lead to lost revenue. And on only half an acre, I can’t have that! Every square foot needs to be productive.

Are there any flowers you do not grow but would like to? 

I would love to grow high quality sweet peas, but the climate here in southern Ontario is very continental. It goes from being very cold to being very hot in a relatively short span of time. Sweet peas do best where there is a long, drawn out spring. The season here is just too short for a profitable sweet pea crop. I’ll save them for when I have a greenhouse or multiple acres of land.
Since we are a four-season climate in Ontario, what do you do to sustain your business during the fall and winter months? 

It’s a little known fact that I substitute teach during the winter months. Yup, once upon a time the plan was to become a teacher. I graduated from teacher’s college in 2009. The economy at the time was in a dismal state and landing a full time teaching job was nearly impossible. I was eventually hired as a substitute teacher, but warned that securing a permanent contract could be anywhere from 7 to 10 years down the road. Facing the reality of precarious employment as a substitute teacher, I had to be creative and find an additional means of paying the bills. It was either head back into landscaping, which I had done throughout university, or grow even more cut flowers, which I had already been doing for myself, and hope to sell them throughout the summer at local farmers’ markets.
If you could wave a magic wand and create your perfect flower business, what do you think it would look like and what would be your role?

I think my perfect flower business would be one where I could bring beautiful varieties of flowers to a larger audience and a more mainstream public, both in the form of cut flowers as well as inspire people to grow their own beautiful gardens. People are tired of white hydrangeas laden with chemicals! There’s a real need in the Canadian market for certain varieties of cut flowers. The floristry style today is very different than it was years ago. The look today is more garden-inspired, and reminiscent of 17th century Dutch still life paintings. I have designers contacting me all the time wishing to source my product, but I honestly cannot currently meet the demand. It’s overwhelming, but also very flattering. As for what my role would be? Ummm wait, you mean I could possibly have a single role one day?! I can’t even imagine what that would look like! Right now, that would be an absolute luxury!

Instagram has obviously helped leverage your visibility and profile, but is there a website in the works?

Yes! I need to get on that. EVERYONE around me has been on my back about it! You’ll all be happy to know that I did recently purchase a domain name, so I am one step closer. You know, each spring I actually use Kijiji to sell dahlia tubers! It’ll be nice to sell them from my own website one day. So, if there’s no website by next spring, look no further than Kijiji for some pretty awesome dahlia varieties!

Who have been some of your mentors and teachers in this enterprise?

My father and grandfather were excellent gardeners. Gardening must be in my blood as they had the most amazing gardens and I attribute much of my passion to them. I also grew up admiring many Canadian gardeners in the media like Mark Cullen and Marjorie Harris, and, of course, Martha Stewart!

I know you enjoy reading this blog and anything to do with Martha Stewart. What is it about Martha that inspires you?

Yes, I love your blog! It’s such a pleasure to read, by the way. I can remember when I first discovered Martha. She was this woman on tv doing all the things that I also loved to do. Being a young boy and having an appreciation for gardening and collecting antiques wasn’t very “cool,” but Martha continued to be such an inspiration and source of creativity. I think in many ways Martha did what I would like to continue to do with my flowers – bring a little bit of beauty to people’s everyday lives.

I know it's like asking a mom to choose a favourite child, but do you have a favourite flower?

Definitely dahlias! Evidently I have no problem choosing between children! They were the first flower I ever grew for the purpose of cutting, so they’ll always hold a special place in my heart. As for the flowers I have in my home, they’re always changing with the seasons. That’s the nice thing about choosing seasonal flowers; each flower variety gets its shot at the limelight.

Finally, what would you say to that principal who told you that boys don't play with flowers? 

I would just give him a locally- and organically-grown bouquet from Antonio Valente Flowers!

Until Antonio gets his website, please follow him on Instagram @antoniovalenteflowers