Jewish World Review Oct. 29, 2004 / 14 Mar-Cheshvan, 5765

Lori Borgman

Lori Borgman
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Consumer Reports

Martha's world still perfect in the magazine | Long before I ever laid hands on a bona fide Martha Stewart Living magazine, I enjoyed a parody called Is Martha Stuart Living? This was the magazine that detailed how to make your own water from scratch and gave tips on dirt collecting and stenciling the driveway. It was a good thing. And a funny thing.

This week I renewed my subscription to the real Martha Stewart Living magazine. It, too, is a good thing.

When a friend gave me a subscription several years ago, I wondered if it was a joke. After all, Martha was the woman who would core an apple, stuff chicken salad in the center, then carve her daughter's initial into the side of the apple before packing it in her school lunch for a special treat. As close as my kids came to a special treat was opening their brown paper sacks and finding Lunchables, factory-packed lunches containing high-fat bologna and processed cheese with enough sodium to create a salt lick for every blacktail deer in North America.

Living told things like how to carve a pumpkin, drill a gazillion holes in it and thread twinkle lights through the holes for a spooky, yet glittering effect. The perfect way to please the neighborhood vandals, come Halloween.

Living told readers how to make an angel food cake from scratch, braid rugs and rewire lamps. I didn't do any of those things either, but I realized the magazine was more than a bible for domestic perfectionists; it was catch-up material (how to make great lasagna, prune raspberry bushes and fix a broken windowpane) for some of us who hadn't been paying attention. Silently scattered among the sophisticated pages of Living was my grandmother's old-fashioned resourcefulness and industry.

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Granted, there also was a fantasy quotient to the entire Martha phenomena, but there was something greater than the woman with the mixer that never splattered. There was an appeal to the well-ordered life, the intentional use of time and the ability to bring beauty into the home.

Soon the magazine began accumulating in a corner of our family room the same way National Geographic refuses to leave the homes of retirees. The kids used Martha's magazine as reference material and for craft ideas when baby-sitting. Besides that, the photography has always been outstanding. It is a magazine you can readily admit to buying for the pictures.

After criminal charges were filed against Martha, advertisers fled from her magazine like their hot pads were on fire. Martha's stock recently surged upward when CBS announced she had signed a deal with the producer of Survivor (How does one get that towel rack plumb on the cell wall using only a plastic fork and strand of dental floss?).

Uncertain whether Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia will make a full comeback, other mavens stand poised and waiting with meat forks in hand. Joan Lunden will host Finding the Next Designing Diva, a reality television show where 12 rivals will duke it out in the kitchen, garden and craft room. Let the battle of the glue guns begin.

Meanwhile, Martha's magazine has been quietly retooled. Martha's personal calendar (move the greenhouse 3 inches to the west on Thursday) has disappeared. Her essay on the back page has been replaced by a cookie recipe and her name on the cover noticeably reduced in size. Still, the content remains the same: home-keeping information and ideas, with a touch of escapism and fantasy, where gardens never grow weeds, soufflés always rise, and the kitchen is forever clean.

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JWR contributor Lori Borgman is the author of , most recently, "Pass the Faith, Please" (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.) and I Was a Better Mother Before I Had Kids To comment, please click here. To visit her website click here.


© 2004, Lori Borgman