The Martha Challenge

I have always loved Martha Stewart Living and have a library of back issues in my office to prove it. Looking back through them, I found a Valentine’s issue from February 2002 with a chocolate meringue tort on the cover. Even back then the beauty found in something so simple, so elegant amazed me. Maybe this was the start of my magazine obsession. It definitely pushed me to love food and love styling my everyday.

Recently Martha Stewart Living underwent a complete redesign. From my experience in the magazine industry I know that this can take over a year to accomplish and takes an outside team to come in and work with your editorial and creative staff to accomplish. The August 2013 issue was the first on the newsstands with the new look (the one with the tomato grilled bread on the cover). I hated it.

Martha Stewart Living Redesign

Some of the changes include a brand new typographic direction with a modern serif, sans serif, stencil, and typewriter font. There is less typography on images and less full bleed images. They’ve introduced illustrations and line-drawings (it has always been photo driven). Even the cover masthead has been changed (which I agree with) back to the double story “g” and now the page numbers are at the top of the page in the center (huh?).

I was heart-broken that the Living magazine that I had loved for all these years had been man-handled and changed so drastically. That is until I bought the September issue … I made myself sit down with it and read every page. By the end I had sticky noted almost every page with things I wanted to try or design that I loved. I gave it a hug at the end (literally) and pressed my face against the cover (ok, that’s embarrassing). I had just fallen in love.

The magazine has transformed into manual full of lovely how-to’s. The stunning beauty it found in the everyday is still there, only now presented in short, easy to move through, snippets of information that is more approachable. The longer features remain but the back of the book is repackaged as the “How-To Handbook”, featuring visual lessons and sidebars. Even the stencil typography has grown on me. It took me a couple of issue to appreciate the new (and improved) design … cut me some slack—change is hard.
The Martha Stewart Living redesign inspired me to start “The Martha Challenge.” Every month I will choose 4 things out of the current magazine to do and write about here. Recipes, organization, crafts, etc. Let’s just hope the magazine doesn’t fold and I have to do four things out of Vogue. I can’t afford that!

Chicken-and-Broccoli Mac and Cheese

1. Chicken-and-Broccoli Mac and Cheese Recipe

Jacobs was dying for me to try this recipe—all of his favorite things in one dish! It turned out to be really good and VERY SIMPLE. Blanching the broccoli in the pasta water and cooking the chicken in the milk for the cream sauce made it very quick and well thought out. I split it into two dishes (as it made a lot) and took one to a friend but I could have easily frozen the other dish.

Honey Fix

2. Crystalized Honey Quick-Fix

I bought some of my favorite Trubee Honey recently but for some reason it crystalized in my pantry. I was ready to throw it out until I saw this tip in the newly repackaged “How-To Handbook” section in the back of the magazine. I just put my glass jar of honey in the microwave for 15 secounds. Stupid easy.

Also on this page was a cleaning your bird feeder how-to. Who knew it was important to disinfect your bird feeder to prevent the spread of disease? I soaked ours in a bucket of the bleach mixture and then turned the page for my next how-to …

Bird Feeder

3. Feed The Birds

The illustrations by Ryo Takemasa really drew me into this “Good Living” page and inspired me to take down our feeder (which has sat empty on our patio for years now), clean it and fill it with Safflower (it says squirrels don’t like and attracts cardinals). The birds haven’t found it just yet but I can’t wait to fill our yard with finches and red birds.

Tea and Ice Cream

4. Tea Affogato

I drink a cup of tea every morning and ice cream may be my all-time favorite thing (vanilla especially). The opening of the “Food & Gatherings” section is so beautiful I could almost take a spoon to the page. My favorite things together? Yes please! It is so simple and yet one of the most delicious things I’ve tried—just pour hot tea (traditionally a shot of espresso) over cold ice cream. I know, right? I used my favorite fall tea, Harney and Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice, which paired perfectly with the French vanilla ice cream.

Patch NYC

5. PLUS ONE! for our Boston Trip

We just happen to be going on a trip to Boston next week and this store that they highlighted in the “Our Finds” section looks so lovely that I’ve added to our list of places to visit while we’re there. Patch NYC (in Boston though … I know, I was confused at first too) has amazing hand-made jewelry, art and pillows. I’m dying over this necklace.
Check back next month to see my adventures in the October issue … I can’t wait for Halloween/fall crafts and recipes. Also, go look at (I swear they’re not paying to me say all this). It’s undergoing a redesign too and while it has some kinks, I really do like it—especially on my cell phone.
What do you think of the redesign? Did anyone even notice other than me?!