Friday, May 29, 2009

On Vacation

We're off! We are on our way to New York for a weekend vacation away. Enjoy the weekend!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Weekend at Beekman

This weekend, David and I will be packing a few things, and heading east to visit Josh and Dr. Brent in Sharon Springs, New York at their home and farm known as the Beekman.

The stately Georgian/Federal style mansion is situated on 60 acres surrounded by meadows, heirloom vegetable gardens, and formal flower gardens. Oh, and let's not forget the goats.

I became familiar with Dr. Brent when he worked for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. It wasn't until a year ago April, during an appearance on the Martha Stewart Show did I become aware that he and his partner Josh owned a farm and made goat milk soap. During that appearance, Brent and Martha discussed (and fed) the goats and worked together to make homemade goat milk soap. When I logged into their website,, I was immediately taken in with the beauty of the farm, and their 'experiment in seasonal living.' I've been a avid reader (and customer) ever since, always learning from what they are sharing and adapting ideas into my own gardening and living ventures.

I've watched with great interest as Dr. Brent and Josh have turned their concept of home and farm into an emerging lifestyle and media company. Recent features in the New York Times and Vanity Fair have been key in building awareness of Beekman and the natural and useful product line available through their website. The appeal is far and wide. From coast to coast and from around the world, visitors are making a preferred destination during their Internet travels to learn from their work, while snapping up goat milk soap products, heirloom vegetable seeds and other beautiful items made by local artisans on their e-commerce site. In a most recent development, Beekman soap products will be available in Anthroplogie stores as well as Michael Chiarello's NapaStyle stores in California.

A visit to Beekman seemed like the perfect kick off to summer and the perfect way to celebrate my 50th birthday. I was thrilled when Josh and Dr. Brent graciously invited us to stay at the farm and help them in the gardens (which should be interesting for David, since he's not a gardener!). I want to stroll the grounds, see the goats, gather eggs from the chickens, dig in the dirt and hopefully see the production of their goat milk soap products.

As we drive to Sharon Springs, we're stopping along the way to visit antique shops that we come across. You'll be able to follow along while we're on the road through Twitter and read a complete recap (or two!) here on House Blend when we return. See you soon!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day Garden Update

As we make the turn into the warmer summer months ahead, the gardens have responded and the growth has been tremendous! Here's an update on garden progress:

No, we are not growing retro-metal lawn furniture. This chair (and another matching) were given to us by David's Dad. Our Memorial Day project is to begin sanding and cleaning the chairs for a new coat of paint. They will be painted in retro-blue and green. I can't wait to see how they look once they are painted!

The Irises are completely in bloom. This bed of Iris will be divided this year after the blooms fade.

The buds on the Peony bush are just about to burst open. This single bush provides me with numerous arrangements during early June.

Say what you may about the more 'typical' plants in the garden, but nothing beats the color and beauty of a hanging planter chocked full of beautiful Petunias. The deep purple and pink 'wave' variety will be spilling over the edges in a matter of a week or so.

Trailing Verbena are always a favorite of mine. This cherry color hasn't stopped blooming since the beginning of May.

Ferns, ferns, ferns. We have a ton of ferns growing in the gardens. These aggressively spreading ferns have taken over one garden bed. I love how lush they are. A stray Iris pops it's beautiful bloom in between the ferns.

This gorgeous Hosta is one of my favorites. "Sum and Substance" has large full leaves and nice long stems. I use the large leaves for arrangements throughout the summer.

My very first Lupine. The plant itself really struggled last year. I wasn't sure it was going to come back this year but it did and is producing 6 different flower spikes. These long lasting blooms are perfect accents in the garden.

The Hosta love the shade created by all the ferns. Here's another with smaller leaves but beautiful bi color leaves.

My "Endless Summer" Hydrangea has taken off and seems to almost double in size every day! At the recommendation of my friend Mike, I'm feeding these plants regularly with "Plantone" organic fertilizer. Lush blooms won't be far behind!

Lastly, a planter of herb and trailing plants will sit on the patio. This beautiful bi-color sage is one of my favorites. I grow these not only to use for cooking, but for their decorative value as well.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Memorial Day

Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day because it was a time set aside to honor the nation's Civil War dead by decorating their graves.

It was first widely observed on May 30, 1868, to commemorate the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers, by proclamation of General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of former sailors and soldiers. On May 5, 1868, Logan declared in General Order No. 11 that:

The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

During the first celebration of Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, after which 5,000 participants helped to decorate the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried in the cemetery.

This 1868 celebration was inspired by local observances of the day in several towns throughout America that had taken place in the three years since the Civil War. In fact, several Northern and Southern cities claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day, including Columbus, MS; Macon, GA.; Richmond, VA.; Boalsburg, PA; and Carbondale, IL.

In 1966, the federal government, under the direction of President Lyndon Johnson, declared Waterloo, N.Y., the official birthplace of Memorial Day. They chose Waterloo—which had first celebrated the day on May 5, 1866—because the town had made Memorial Day an annual, community-wide event during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags

Monday, May 18, 2009

Martha Stewart Stationary - Weddings

In a recent Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia press release the company announced a partnership with Crane & Co., the crafters of fine stationary products, for a line of Martha Stewart Stationary. The first collection, "Weddings" is now available on the Crane & Co. website.

Martha Stewart Stationary - Weddings is an exquisite collection of paper suites that includes a complete range of accessories: from wedding programs, place cards, and menu cards, to thank you cards and table accessories. The selection can be customized with special ink colors, envelope liners, lettering styles, and motifs. Printing offered includes engraving, thermography, letterpress, lithography and foil-stamping. The collection is comprised of all-cotton tree-free and certified recycled papers, keeping environmental responsibility in mind.

Below, you will find the pages of an informational Martha Stewart Stationary Look Book. You can also download your own copy of the Look Book by clicking here.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

New Addition to the Garden

While at the flower market today, I came across a plant (actually a shrub) that I fell in love with, Sambucus nigra, commonly known as the Elderberry. This variety is called "Black Lace."

The intense purple/black foliage is finely cut, giving it an effect similar to the Japanese Maple. Creamy pink flowers are a spectacular contrast to the dark leaves of the plant. The flowers are followed by deep red berries that can be harvested in the Fall for making Elderberry wine or jam or just left on the plant to attract birds and other wildlife.

BLACK LACE™ is very cold hardy and easy to grow, and adaptable to most sites. Full sun is needed for the best color. It can be used as a dramatic accent plant, planted en masse for a trouble free high hedge, or incorporated into the mixed or perennial border. Left alone it will reach up to 8 feet in height, but plants can also be pruned back each year to fit into more formal settings.

I believe I'll be going back to buy a few more of these beautiful plants. I can envision an enter property border with some nice chartreuse plantings in front of them!

The Other Domestic Diva - Brini Maxwell

Okay, I admit it. There are two women in my life. Of course, there's Martha. But, there's also Brini. Brini Maxwell. Here's a quick glimpse of Brini:

Saturday, May 16, 2009

First Look: Martha Stewart's Dinner at Home

Here is the first look at an upcoming book from Martha Stewart Living. "Martha Stewart's Dinner at Home" features 52 quick meals for family and friends.

Due for release on October 13, 2009, pre-orders are being taken on

Thursday, May 14, 2009

MSLO To Test Online Video Subscription Offering

At a New York City panel discussion held by investment-banking firm DeSilva & Phillips, Martha Stewart shared that the namesake company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia will test a paid download service for access to a portion of its enormous online video library next month.

Next month’s test will make Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia the latest media company to try charging audiences for content online, where most media is currently free.

Details about pricing for the video subscription offering are yet to be worked out, but it’s an experiment for MSLO to find new ways to generate additional revenue from video content not currently available on the website The website will for the most part remain a free, ad-supported venture.
The company will launch the test using a platform from iAmplify.

On a different topic, Martha also said that Twitter, the leader in “microblogging technology” will become a powerful marketing tool for Corporate America. Martha said it was a service she would pay to use. She commented that in 11 weeks of using Twitter, and making only about 250 tweets, she gained a following of more than 600,000 people.

“It took me two years to get to 600,000 subscribers with Martha Stewart Living,” she said. “It took a fraction of that time to get there with Twitter.”

I like the idea of a subscription video service. My hope would be that MSLO would make several different types of offerings for the online video subscription. I’d like to see topic specific subscriptions (cooking, holidays, decorating, etc) and perhaps another subscription to the various SEASONS of the old Martha Stewart Living television show. I would also hope that subscribers would have the option of downloading the video content (much like iTunes) to their computers to watch it whenever they wished, as often as they wished. We’ll see what type of subscriptions MSLO comes up with.

The question for the day: would YOU subscribe to a Martha Stewart video library service? What would you like to see? (single content, seasons of television shows, vintage, new?) Share your thoughts in the comment section.

Hey "Bud." A Few Buds in the Garden

I've spent at least half of the days this week protecting the gardens from the threat of frost. Now that Mother Nature has THAT our of her system, I believe we're safe from any other threats of near freezing temperatures. (whew!)

Yesterday afternoon, I found a few beauties ready to burst into bloom.

These Columbine plants have actually changed color over the years. The original plant was a deep burgundy color and now it's more of a deep purple color. Still amazing, still beautiful. With the warm weather expected today, I fully expect to see blooms by days end.

This is one of two 'Endless Summer' Hydrangea bushes. This particular variety blooms on old wood as well as new wood. Last year, the plant did not produce any foliage on the old wood but this year, despite the harsh winter, it's decided to give the old wood a try. This hydrangea was planted in place of an old dead rose bush... but look closely and you'll see a left over rose root that has sprouted new growth. After three years it decides to come back?

Irises galore. I think it's time to divide this particular grouping. The flower buds are very small this year. Last year the blooms were huge. All of these are a wonderful deep purple color.

The peony bush is pushing dozens and dozens of buds ever closer to bloom. I love peonies. This particular plant produces very classic pink/white blooms. The blooms are typically so large, it just takes one or two to make a beautiful arrangement.

And finally, the raspberry vines (which are everywhere in the back of the house) are all green and ready to produce berries in just a month or two. It's so nice to walk out and pick a few to include with a fruit salad or to top a nice dish of yogurt.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Martha Stewart Home Decorating

I recently received this great Martha Stewart Home Decorating "Look Book" filled with many of the great Martha Stewart products. Take a sneak peek into the "Look Book" below. To see a more detailed view, click on the images below.

For more information on Martha Stewart Home Decorating products, log into

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

June Living is Busting Out All Over!

After a long day at work, there is nothing more relaxing than coming home to the most recent issue of Martha Stewart Living in my mailbox.

After dinner, I have my reading ritual; grab a glass of wine, or hot tea and make a quick 'once through' of the magazine. After the quick turn, I return to read it page by page. The June issue is packed with great ideas and inspiration. Here's what you'll find inside this wonderful issue:

Grilling 101 - A special section: Create meals with big flavor using this guide to grilling, recipes for homemade barbecue sauce and methods of keeping the grill in top condition.

Soups on Ice: Cool off with nutritious, easy-to-make chilled soups such as spicy tomato, fresh pea & buttermilk, corn & coconut and more!

Lasting Impressions: Capture the summer spirit with simple printing projects inspired by the sea including rice-paper prints and seashells printed on pillows.

This, plus Ask Martha, From My Home to Yours, recipes galore and of course a nice selection of Good Things to make life just a little bit easier.

The June issue is beginning to appear in subscriber mailboxes and will be on the newsstand May 18th.