A tree for every chimney

Good morning! Can I interest you in a warm holiday beverage? Step right over here, to the Warm Holiday Beverage Station.

I decided the best way to embrace Marthcember was to arrange my home in a manner suggesting that a Christmas party may break out at any moment. I have no plans to host a Christmas party, just to be clear. But if you do show up at my house in the next two weeks, please expect a seasonal mug of hot chocolate and a bowl of mixed nuts to be foisted upon you. This serves the dual purpose of creating a festive atmosphere and distracting you from the tree.

I have also leaned pretty hard into serving only party foods for dinner. It's brunch-appropriate casserole week!

Hash-brown casserole

Baked vegetable omelet casserole

Steamed whole cauliflower with paprika brown butter

Okay, that last one isn't really a casserole, but it was still well-received.

I also backtracked and filled in the Martha's calendar items I missed last week. Party foods just make me really productive, I don't know what to tell you.

December 10th: "Stake tomatoes in the greenhouse." I kind of tried to drape the more alive-looking bits over the existing tomato cage.

Outstanding American Gardens, cont.

December 11th: "Collect newspapers and pinecones for kindling." No pinecones here, but I'm fully prepared to destroy all evidence of HEB's sale on blackberries.

How many cents per pound?? future scholars will wonder.

December 12th: "Friend Susan Mogrino's birthday. Service vehicles and inspect tires." Tires looked alright. Happy birthday, Martha's friend Susan!

December 13th: "Horseback ride; buy Christmas tree from a nearby farm." STILL DON'T OWN A HORSE, GUYS. As far as live Christmas trees go, I have already put in my time with those suckers, but I did buy some holly from a nearby Trader Joe's.

Its smells terrible! Is that normal? Hey, do I maybe just...hate plants?

December 14th: "Friend Susan Warburg's and nephew Chris's birthdays." Happy birthday Martha's friend Other Susan and nephew Chris!

December 15th: "Trim Christmas trees [Ed. note: MULTIPLE CHRISTMAS TREES]; send out holiday cards." Done and done-ish.

Official Martha Craft #2: Make a lot of stuff out of foil.

This is going really well, thanks for checking in.

Unofficial Martha-ish Activity #2: Bake chocolate chip cookies while listening to Christmas music.





Can't catch her

Thank you for the kind words, everyone! I am still getting back on track, schedule-wise, so Martha's calendar was even more blatantly ignored than usual this week. I'm going to try to catch up some over the weekend, but I never want you to doubt my commitment--even for a second--so yesterday I sucked it up and I did what I had to do to get back into my Martha headspace: I went to a Pilates class. And I made an excellent discovery! As it turns out, the key to my Pilates success is to attend a class that is modified for senior citizens, preferably one where the instructor plays Marvin Gaye the whole time. Yes I know Martha definitely does not do the modified version. Just let me have this.

Step Two of Mission ReMartha Myself: make the rest of the bruschetta options. NO MODIFICATIONS HERE.

Advanced Bruschetta

Only recommended for those who have completed Bruschetta levels 1 and 2.

In sound financial investment news, Ivy's Mother's Day Out program has basically paid for itself at this point:

Sometimes I forget to actually open the refrigerator and eat because I am just mesmerized by this thing.

And if you are in search of some Friday reading, I would like to introduce you to the entire Aarne-Thompson classification (AT 2025) of "folk tales of the runaway food type." I especially like the deviant foods who manage themselves to "eat a number of people."


Just birthdays and Pilates as far as the eye can see

Hey guys, some quick #realtalk: in October I had two living grandmothers and now I have none and I'm feeling a little down. Just wanted to let you know that my Martha-ing for the week has been slightly subdued, but not because this issue is not 100% amazing, seriously, you have GOT to see how many things she wants me to craft out of giant sheets of aluminum.

Let's start with something comforting: Beef Goulash with Potatoes. Especially comforting is the part where she instructs you to serve the leftovers over egg noodles.

And that is exactly why Martha and I got back together, Gwyneth.

Okay, time to drag through the calendar:

December 6th: "Sister-in-law Rita's birthday." Fortunately for me, Martha is too busy in December to bother much with this fake calendar, so a lot of days are just notations of people's birthdays. Happy birthday, Martha's sister-in-law Rita!

December 7th: "Horseback ride; bring flowering amaryllises inside from greenhouse." Hey, I remember when we, uh, planted those amaryllis bulbs! So glad that's paying off now. Anyway, look, I don't want to put a bunch of pressure on you guys or anything, but I've noticed on some blogs that readers occasionally send presents to the blogger in question and all I'm saying is that I still don't own a horse.

December 8th: "Pick Meyer lemons from greenhouse for lemon meringue pie." I guess I could make a pie with these, ORRRRRRR I could just dump a bunch of salt on them and pretend they are legitimate Christmas gifts. Time will tell!

Official Martha Craft #1: Balloon Ornaments.

Items required for Martha's version: 38-inch balloons, air pump, craft paint in bright colors, paintbrushes, foam pouncers, mirrored paper, double-sided tape, AN AWL, sturdy wire, monofilament (optional).

Items required for my version: month-old birthday party balloons, this stuff:

They look exactly the same, give or take some squinting.

Or eggnog.

Unofficial Martha-ish Craft #1: Gingerbread house.

I know putting together a gingerbread house with a kit isn't the Martha-est thing in the world, but I like to think the sense of grim determination we brought to it was.

Tis the session to be stoically productive!


Toasty December

Super good news, guys! I resolved my infuriating tree lights issue by totally ceasing to care about it. We covered the terrible lights with some terrible ornament placement and my fingers are almost healed, so now we can focus on MARTHCEMBER without any distractions. Pull up a cozy holiday-colored duvet and let's get started!

As you might expect, this issue is chock-full of holiday insanity. There are a dozen cookie recipes. There are miniature beef wellingtons. There are instructions for making enormous decorations for your barn out of aluminum siding or something. It's basically everything I dreamed it would be. And yet I have not been able to get beyond this single amazing page of bruschetta toppings.

I would have paid the full cover price for this one page.

It's all I've been eating this week. I'm not even joking. I think it's because Gwyneth wouldn't let me have bread.

Salmon and scallions

Pecans and maple syrup

Spinach and soft-cooked eggs

Banana and coconut oil

Ham and dried apricots

Anyway, I cannot recommend turning your entire diet into a holiday buffet highly enough. Festive things on top of toast is a really fantastic way to start your day, and also to continue and then end it.

To Martha's calendar we go!

December 1: "Sailors for The Sea event at Christie's in New York City." I did not attend this event, but I did wear an eyeliner called "Sailor" that day:

I took 300,000 pictures of my face and this is the least insane-looking one, how do people photograph their own faces, how.

I also sent Dan away on a week-long work trip that involves quite a lot of being on a boat, so I'd say we have Sailors for the Sea covered.

December 2: "Pilates." Look. For this round we're just going to stipulate that Martha is a real hoss about her workouts and that I exercise occasionally but rarely in a Pilates class and leave it at that.

December 3: "The Garden Conservancy 25th-anniversary event." Oh, I think I know a little something about "Outstanding American Gardens."

I mean, look how many things appear to still be alive in there. At least several.

December 4: "Shop for gifts for Jude and Truman." I had a juicer shipped to them.

Okay, I think we're off to a great start! Once properly fueled by bruschetta I'm sure I will have the energy to decorate my team of horses and make gift bags for my chimney sweeps. Just in case my Martha devotion interferes with my already-shaky commitment to sending out Christmas cards this year, here's a little holiday cheer from our family to all of you:

Also, side note, everyone should probably hide their infants. No reason.


I always thought I would be more of a Margo

Oh, guys. Dear me. I really, really wanted to show up here today with a nice fanfare for the end of NoGwynber, including a lengthy and joke-laden discussion of how "muffins" aren't the only thing I hauled out into the woods, as we also threw some vegan dumplings into a pan full of leftover bacon grease over a Coleman stove:

And also a proper WELCOME BACK to this beautiful bringer of yeast dough:

But the fact is, I do not have either of those things within me today because I am having my own personal full-on Clark-Griswold-Christmas-lights meltdown at the moment and I'm afraid nothing short of a rabid squirrel to the face will pull me out of it again. Actually, the first December Martha project on my list was the entertainingly fussy using of a vacuum cleaner to ensure fake tree spotlessness, but I have so thoroughly bathed the thing in my sweat and tears as to render that step unnecessary at this point.

Basically what happened is, entire swaths of lights had burned out on our tree and it takes a really long time to replace over 100 tiny light bulbs and it takes even longer if you do every single bulb incorrectly on your first attempt and, long story short, life is nothing but a series of really pokey wires and broken dreams.


Good news though! The six hours of jaw-clenching work and actual bloody fingers was SO worth it when this vision of perfect, perfect treehood greeted me around 2:30 am:

You can't see it in the picture, but the very bottom row of lights is blinking, for comedic effect.

Know what we do now? The only thing we can do now? Put on the Christmas music and dance it out.


I made so many electioneering jokes yesterday

In this week's spirit of thanksgiving and generosity, I feel like I should point out that Millet-Fig Muffins aren't terrible if you know what to expect, which is an aggressive, borderline-menacing flavor of healthfulness. Just don't introduce them to children as "muffins" lest they lose all faith in humanity or at least in you as a provider.

Fortunately, distraction was right around the corner in the form of this Buzzfeed breakdown of the epic, era-defining struggle between Martha and Gwyneth and their desire to wound each other through whipped-cream-based dessert items. Both Regan and Hillary sent me this link within seconds of its publication, so I know that my friends are there on the ground, always looking out, and that's a good feeling. It seemed obvious that the only way to settle this dispute was to take it to the people, and the largest dessert-eating population to which I have access is my extended family on Thanksgiving day. I knew what I had to do.

Spend all afternoon exhorting people to do their "civic duty."

Before I reveal the results of this rigorously scientific undertaking, let's take a closer look at the candidates and where they're coming from.

Candidate #1: Martha Stewart

Background: In October, Martha Stewart featured a spread on pies entitled "Conscious Coupling," an unsubtle dig at Gwyneth's recent, new-agey separation from Chris Martin. This title was a real stretch that had absolutely nothing to do with pie and everything to do with fanning the flames of a mild guru war that she herself had started for no apparent reason other than the realization that she had the ability to do so. Martha is a mean and kind of scary lady and that's part of why we like her.

Recipe: This is a phyllo dough-based chocolate mousse pie. Each layer of phyllo is brushed with melted butter and sprinkled with sugar. The crust is topped with a thin layer of solid semi-sweet chocolate, like a grown-up version of a Drumstick. This encases the bittersweet chocolate mousse and homemade whipped cream. The dessert is topped with chocolate shavings.

Candidate #2: Gwyneth Paltrow

Background: Gwyneth is an actress who seems to be trying her best. People give her a very hard time and often misspell her name. Every time Martha comes at her, Gwyneth responds in a manner that can best be described as "lame." In this case, after the "Conscious Coupling" feature made some waves, a recipe for "Jailbird Cake" was published on goop.com.

Recipe: This is a box of cookies squished together with whipped cream. It is actually the recipe from the cookie box.


Except they added more whipped cream, which made it worse and less cake-like.

This dessert is also topped with chocolate shavings.


Exit polling garnered responses varying from "They were both pretty good, I had a hard time deciding" to actual anger at the wasted calories. Thanksgiving is often a time of enflamed passions, and this contest was no exception. In the end though, there can be only one, and it is the lady who seems to have worn her prison uniform on the Today Show yesterday morning because that's how much she DGAF.

Martha's pie: 14
Gwyneth's cookie mush: 3

I know this is a dark time for Team Cake.

But I implore everyone, winners and losers alike, to remember one thing: this brickle is about a hundred times better than either of the above recipes.