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Martha Stewart on the holidays | Home Front

Martha Stewart (Photo by Fadil Berisha)
Dec 19, 2014

Martha Stewart, Emmy Award-winning television show host and founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, is the lifestyle expert who goes by one name: Martha. Her many books, articles and TV shows are a source of useful “how-to” information for all aspects of everyday living: cooking, entertaining, gardening, home renovating, collecting, organizing, crafting, holidays, healthy living and pets.

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. Got a question about decorating? She's happy to whip out her paint chips and suggest the perfect hue, call a retailer to help track down a hard-to-find accent piece or offer some do-it-yourself. Built on years of reporting experience, Home Front is an online conversation about the best way to feather the nest. We invite you to submit questions and share you own great tips, ideas and, yes, the occasional complaint.

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I am really looking forward to having Martha Stewart on my chat today, a woman who is one of the most celebrated businesswomen, tastemakers and lifestyle authors in the country. The holidays are the perfect time, as this is the season Martha’s creativity in decorating and entertaining takes center stage. I met Martha in 1991, when the Washington Post sent me to her home Turkey Hill Farm in Westport, Ct. to interview her about her strategy for living well. She had just launched her magazine Martha Stewart Living. I’ve written a lot about her and her many business ventures since then and I keep up with her always fascinating life through her . Today we have a chance to ask Martha the questions that always come to mind when seeing her on TV or in the pages of her magazines and books. There are dozens already posted (I love the one asking about her like/dislike of blinking Christmas lights). Keep ‘em coming. Let’s chat with Martha.

Storing cookies- best to use glass or metal tins versus plastic ?

Better to store it in glass or tin.

With all your beautiful collections, what is new at your house in Bedford this year?

A 4 1/2 year old Fell Pony, four peacocks, and 20 new canaries and a partridge and a pear tree.

I can't believe I have no questions for Martha. Just wanted to chime in to say that I'm a big fan. Many of her projects are inspirational / aspirational to me - generally they have too many steps for me to follow (short attention span, limited amount of patience). However, I can always appreciate how good the projects look when they're finished and how happy people must be to enjoy them at the end!

Thanks for writing in.

Hi Martha! I'm going to be building a new house and need to make a decision about counter tops for the kitchen. I'm tired of granite and am thinking about soapstone. What is your favorite surface? Thanks!

Go to the Home Depot and look carefully at all of the Martha Stewart offerings in the home department. We not only have beautiful counters, but gorgeous cabinets and more, all at affordable prices

You are such an inspiration to so many people, I am wondering who or what inspires you?

Every day, I try to be inspired by something or someone

So many holiday parties, so many questions about what to give the hosts. Have any last-minute, no-fail suggestions? Please don't say candles.

Personally, I would never give anyone candles, especially scented, which are injurious to your health, by the way. A dinner for two at a favorite new bistro, a birthday cake to order for one of the children, a beautiful home-grown plant, or a dozen fantastic, farm-fresh eggs from your own chicken coop. That's my idea of a hostess gift.

Hi, Martha, I love to decorate with poinsettias during the holidays, but they seem to be somewhat finicky about their placement. What are the best lighting and watering conditions for these plants?

Poinsettias are finicky and need filtered light, lots of it, neither too much or too little water, and once they begin to fade, either chuck them or give them away.

Hi Martha , I was wondering what color names of paint you have used in and on your bedford home? I am trying to pick some for our summer home but am not so good at it, thx love love love your website. Help

Sharkey Grey, Bedford Grey, Linen, Seaglass, Aegan Blue

What polish meals do you make for the holidays? Have you modify the recipes over the years?

Please go to our website for Martha's Mother's Stuffed cabbage, Polish mushroom soup, these are some of my favorites.

I need a large rug that I can put through the washer & dryer every week. Any suggestions?

Any light-weight cotton runner could be used, although washing so often is bad for the fibers. Try using large, terrycloth towels instead

Hi Martha! The Christmas tree skirts that I've found in stores are typically made of cheap-looking fabric, even the expensive ones! I am planning to sew one myself. If you could design your own, what fabric, trim, and color(s) would you suggest? We are empty-nesters, and I'm ready for the new skirt to be elegant and classy (very "Martha-ish")! Thank you.

Please to go our website at where we have many patters. It's fun to make your own, I circle min with something different every year. This year I've circled it with a beautiful wooden surround made of a fallen down tree

Hi Martha! This is going to be my first year spending my holidays away from my family and with my significant other's family; I was wondering if you had any suggestions for a knock-out dish to bring to the dinner table to please and impress without come off like I'm trying too hard?

What are you good at? Make something that's delicious to make and that you're comfortable making. Try something simple, this isn't the time to try something new.

I listen to your Sirius show. I believe it was Daniel Boulud on your show and he talked about his method of cooking a turkey. It involved immersing the turkey in boiling water, I believe, but I do not remember fully. Could you comment on that? I also listened to a show where the discussion was about macarons. Your host talked about a paint which could add color to the macaron. What is that product?

The turkey is a poached turkey, and turkeys are good poached slowly in a chicken or turkey broth. Once cooked through, they can then be cooked in an over. Macaroons can be colored with food coloring, specifically for brushing on a surface--it's a soft gel paste.

If I am planning to serve caviar what are some good ways to serve it? If I make blinis can they be made in advance?

I love to serve caviar and my favorite ways are on top of little roasted new potatoes, on top of blini, freshly made with crem freshe and a squeeze of lemon, or on a sliver of brioche toast with sour cream.

Looking for some craft ideas for 6 year-old before Christmas when school is out.

We have two children's craft books available on Amazon or in Michael's. Children should be kept busy with a project for every day. Painting, drawing, cooking, building with blocks or lego, making giant bubbles, making slime. Go for it, children are voracious. 

What is in your mantel this year?

Which mantel? Truman counts my fireplaces and we do the fireplace march at m house in Maine. Luckily we have fuegaos...fuegao numeros dos...he just has to see the fireplaces. He went nuts when we saw the tenth one. It's very funny how children are entranced by fireplaces.

If you could only plant three things in your garden this year, what would the plants be, and why.

Vegetable garden, tomatoes, lettuces, and all kinds of herbs. That way I can have a salad every day.

Hi Martha! two of my kids are getting married within 3 weeks of each other next summer - both destination weddings. I know it's a strain for some of our extended families - should i offer to subsidize part/all of their travel or let them decide if they can attend?

Make a deal so half go to one and half go to the other. Offer to pay for anyone who is strapped for cash.

Given your creativity and your talent for tweaking things, is there one thing that you always do the same at Christmastime? ...a tradition?

My eggnog recipe does not vary nor does my recipe for Stolen

What is your all time favorite Christmas cookie to make and give, if you had to choose only one?

Old fashioned rolled out sugar cookies with sugar icing, the older the better.

Martha, what is your essential pet hair solution? -Nico D.

Dogs that don't shed. Francheska, Sharkey and GK are all well-groomed, well-bathed dogs. As such, they don't shed much. And if they do, get out the vacume. 

How to keep white cotton sheets looking fresh - any hints?

I have sheets that are actually close to 100 years old that I use all the time. My washing method is as follows: don't let the sheets get dirtier than three days, wash cotton in very hot water with a high-quality detergent unscented like Persil or Tide, line-dry until damp, then iron.

What's the best way to remove stains from antique linens and how should they be cared for on an ongoing basis?

If you have difficult stains in linen or napkins, you can boil the fabrics on your stovetop with a little non-chlorine bleach, then wash as directed. I find most stains will come out of cotton or linen this way.

Martha , with your busy life do you have time to do crafts anymore? Perhaps with your grandchildren? If so what do you enjoy most when you have the time?

I like anything that has to do with gardening and cooking, and I wish I had mroe time for needlecrafts. I have a room full of projects stared and unfinished. I still have some of my Bargello projects from college unfinished. 

I love the look of those full mantels with a variety of greenery. Is there any trick to keeping them fresh- or do you really need to just change it every few days?

Its really best to adorn your mantel with artifical greenery that might be illuminated, or spray-painted branches, or glittered leaves, or something that will not drop needles after a few days. One thing that is very important is to secure branches and bows with display clay or tape so that by accident the entire mantel isn't wiped away by some guests ungainly elbow.

Just wanted to chime in and say that your Ginger Crinkles cookie recipe from umpteen million years ago is the ONE cookie that my family insists I make every Christmas. Thank you.

Will have to try this one.

What is your favorite Polish tradition or recipe from your dear mother that remains part of your current Christmas celebration?

My mother's delicious, light, tender Kruschiki

Hosting a party, including dinner. Any thoughts on activities to keep the evening festive until midnight?!

Great drinks, make it a martini night. A good card game or dancing, and lots of kissing at midnight.

What is your favorite type of smoked salmon from all of those available from Russ and Daughters?

I buy my smoked salmon from a reputable fishmonger. My favorites are Russ and Daughters in New York City or Barney Greengrass on the Upper West Side.

Any tips on decorating your guest room festively for holiday guests without overdoing it?

Beautiful holiday flannel sheets, from Macy's of course. And wreaths hung in the windows, and maybe a small decorated artificial tree. Too much is never too much at holiday time.

We are planning on beef tenderloin, some sort of potato, and I'm not sure what else. Martha, do you have any suggestions to make our small Christmas dinner special?

Make pommes anna, and why don't you try our Wee Wellingtons, our miniture beef wellingtons, page 118 in Martha Stewart Living December issue. These are delicious.

Hi Martha! I want to make the perfect ginger-molasses cookies for my family this Christmas. Do you have a go-to recipe you can share?

The cover recipe from our Cookies book has one of the best cookies ever made. Please use our recipe. It does incorporate chocolate.

Any suggestions for neat holiday traditions to start with young children?

First learn all the important Christmas caroles and sing them daily. Learn all of the names of Santa's reindeer in alphabetical order. Learn how to decorate a Christmas tree with lights. Learn how to make a paper train to decorate your tree with, learn how to make a buche de noel and a croqueenbouche

Hi Martha - not a question as much as a request. We are huge fans of your holiday specials from years back. We would love to see them released again or replayed. Some of my favorite segments are the gingerbread house with Miss Piggy and making chrusciki and pierogi with your mom. And of course croquembouche with Julia Child! Please consider issuing DVDs of your Living shows, too -- miss those terribly! Merry Christmas to you and your family!

I own a number of these vintage Martha DVDs and they are amazing and so entertaining! My favorite is the one with  Martha and Julia Child and the dueling croquembouches, pyramids of filled cream puffs. Martha's is perfect and Julia's is a little wobbly. Then they fling spun sugar on top of them, laughing all the way. Here is a link to the video from

Do you make New Year resolutions each year? Are they a waist of time? If you do make them, what are they typically about?

I never make New Year's resolutions. They are boring you never ever accomplish them. Try something new.

Can you give us the name of that ginger cookie recipe so we can find it on your website?

Molasses-Ginger Cookies

What do you hope to teach to your grandchildren so that they will always remember their wonderful grandmother?

If they don't remember Martha, something's really wrong.

Any suggestions on how you've used it? I put it in gin and tonic and it is awesome.

Having just returned from Istanbul and Morocco where Rose water is used in and on everything, I'd save it for the summer time. Although Mario Badescu makes a very refreshing rose water facial spray.

Which do you prefer for a dutch oven?

I prefer the Martha Stewart for Macy's enamel cast-iron dutch ovens, available in many colors. 

I really miss your Whole Living magazine. You had some great writers. Can you share with us some tips that you incorporate into your day to keep yourself healthy?

I have a new book coming out called Clean Slate. In it I have several golden rules for maintaining a healthy diet. You can also read my book Living the Good Long Life.

Decided to add a Mexican flavor to our normally traditional Christmas dinner - with tamales etc- would love to add some pizazz to my table as well and perhaps a sangria. Do you have a favorite recipe and can I make a spiked and non spiked version?

We have several delicious Sangria recipes on our website, 

What is your favorite quick, easy and festive holiday cocktail and hors d'oueve?

Try the Bourbon-Cranberry Shrub and Artichoke and Feta Dip in the current issue of Martha Stewart Living, page 120, part of our Kitchen Wisdom Holiday Edition.

My palette has matured of late and I have discovered anchovies which I ate all summer with capers and heirloom tomatoes. Apart from Caesar salad, what else can I do with them? Also, where can I get good ones? Markets usually have a paltry selection of one or two..

They are excellent as a base in vinaigrette, or make a Bagna Cauda ("hot dip") served with crudites. Spanish anchovies are the best, order them online if you can't find them in your grocery. 

You mentioned you have a new book coming out, Clean Slate. What recipe are you really excited about sharing with this book? Any favorites that I should look for?

All of the recipes are excellent, but I drink a green juice every day, for which there are several delicious versions in the book. Drink a green juice every morning.

Thanks so much for answering questions from our readers today. What fun to see all these answers - and to know that you make a new Christmas tree skirt each year and that you hate new years resolutions. And so many great tips. All the best for the holidays to you and to everyone who joined us today.

Thank you everyone for joining me today. I've enjoyed answering your questions. Wishing a warm, festive and fun holiday to you and yours. Martha

In This Chat
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering, organizing and DC retail.

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Martha Stewart
Martha Stewart, Emmy Award-winning television show host and founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, is the lifestyle expert who goes by one name: Martha. Her many books, articles and TV shows are a source of useful “how-to” information for all aspects of everyday living: cooking, entertaining, gardening, home renovating, collecting, organizing, crafting, holidays, healthy living and pets.
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