I’m no Martha Stewart, but I sure do love her. Well, not her, per se, but the lifestyle that she and her staffers promote. I realized this when a subscription her to magazine, Martha Stewart Living, was foisted upon me in early 2013.
For years, I had signed up for print issues of Martha Stewart’s pint-sized Everyday Food (and gifted a half-dozen subscriptions) before our move to Guatemala forced me to switch to the Kindle version. While reading the magazine on a screen wasn’t nearly as satisfying as thumbing through its pages and dog-earring recipes, I still felt a mini jolt of joy any time my Kindle downloaded a new issue.
Needless to say, when my digital subscription to Everyday Food disappeared at the end of 2012, I was distraught. After a little research, I discovered that I hadn’t forgotten my annual payment. Instead, the magazine was no longer a standalone publication. It had been absorbed by Martha Stewart Living, relegated to that magazine’s back pages on a quarterly basis. While I was happy that I would still have an Everyday Food to look forward to, I was disappointed that it was playing second fiddle to another magazine about which I felt only lukewarm–a magazine to which I was now automatically subscribed.
I put off reading Living for awhile. Finally, on one of my long commutes from Antigua to Panajachel, I ventured into an issue. While I didn’t love it, I didn’t mind it, and when the next issue appeared in my queue, I didn’t wait quite so long to jump in. And then little by little, I started to develop a crush.
Again, it’s not Martha that I’m really into. Stories about how her struggling company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSLO), axed 20 percent of its staff just before this past Christmas while she raked in about $5.5 million the year prior has to make you think “ouch” and question her allegiance to her brand and the many hard-working folks behind it.
No, what I love, instead, is the inspiration that her magazine provides and the aspirational lifestyle it promotes. I stockpile, bookmark, and file away design, craft, and shopping tips for now and whenever we move into our very own Brooklyn brownstone (a girl can dream, right?). Many recipes are drool-worthy, too.
Surprisingly, some of the publication’s floral features are my favorites. It turns out that I have an innate desire to do more than simply shove a bouquet in a vase (the extent of my previous efforts at floral design). Stories like “Snippets of Spring” from March 2013 have encouraged me to not just buy flowers but to think about scale, variety, and texture. Fortunately, I’m in Guatemala, a perfect place to pursue this…er… “budding” passion, as ornamental flowers and foliage are big business here—indeed, they’re one of the country’s top 25 exports. Roses, orchids, daisies, lilies, and myriad other floral varieties fill local markets and are often sold for less than the price of a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich in New York. Thanks to Martha, fresh and dried flower arrangements fill our house regularly.
What I also love about the Martha lifestyle is how much it jives with Shon’s interests. Features on beekeeping, raising chickens, gardening, and making fertilizer hold little appeal for me but definitely speak to the type of life Shon would want if we lived in rural Vermont. It pleases me immensely to know that he and Martha’s crew would have plenty to chat about at a party.
I have Martha to thank for all of these little joys—from deliciously simple Everyday Food recipes to features on raising chickens for Shon to floral, design, craft, and shopping inspiration for me.
Sadly, though, as I mentioned, the Martha brand is in trouble. Recent layoffs aside, MSLO has lost money every year since 2007. Ms. Stewart has been waging legal battle with big business partners like Macy’s. Per the Fiscal Times, “Stewart has proven far more adept at fashioning crafts than at developing a coherent, successful corporate strategy.”
Don’t worry, M.S., numbers and strategy aren’t my thing, either. But I am hoping that 2014 is a turn-around year for the brand. I’m crossing my fingers for many more issues of Living. I have so much more to learn about decorative chair backs, dahlia arrangements, and spray-painted straw baskets.
Photo credits: Me, marthastewart.com & naomipicks.blogspot.com.