For Martha, Nothing’s Too Much

When we last left Martha Stewart … but have we ever really left her? It’s impossible to get away from the woman.

More than ever, Martha is everywhere, especially now, during the holiday season, when we all look to her for guidance in the things that really matter. Such as? Well, such as making a delightful seasonal wreath out of fresh pears (three varieties) and camelia leaves. You know, the sorts of things everybody has lying around the house this time of year.

The instructions appear on page 199 in the holiday issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine: “Weave three lengths of chartreuse ribbon between the pears … the sinuousness of the ribbon contrasts with the strict form of the pears.” I can’t wait to get started. But first I have to festoon the entire house with mistletoe garlands (page 156). “It’s the holidays: Why stop at one stingy little sprig?” Why indeed. Why stop at anything, for that matter. It’s the Martha Stewart way.

Recently a number of people have e-mailed me copies of “Martha Stewart’s Holiday Calendar,” a parody of the famous day-by-day schedule that appears in the Great Woman’s magazine. It originated last year in the Washington Post Style section, when readers were invited to submit suggestions typical of the sort of activities Martha might undertake.

The winning entry, if I recall correctly, was, “Gild lilies,” which seems to be missing in the current version of the calendar posted on the Internet. Several people mentioned that they liked the Dec. 25 entry: “Bear son. Swaddle. Lay in color-coordinated manger scented with homemade potpourri.”

My favorite, though, is Dec. 11: “Lay Faberge egg.” I can almost see her doing it.

Reading the bogus calendar, I realized that the entries were only marginally less absurd than many of the real projects Martha suggests. Flipping through her magazine, I remembered a Bob & Ray routine, an interview with the editor of “Wasting Time” magazine that might have presaged Martha’s career. The Two and Only seem more brilliant with each passing year.

But back to Martha. There are dozens of labor-intensive holiday ideas in her current magazine, projects the whole family can undertake between fights over who ran the MasterCard over the limit.

You could “antique” new Christmas ornaments by filling them with a mixture of water and ammonia, letting them sit overnight, then scrubbing them in soapy water with a hard-bristle brush to remove the decorative coating. Voila! Crummy-looking ornaments.

Or make an Advent Tree, a small evergreen adorned with 25 tiny gifts, one to be opened on each day of Advent, every single one of them wrapped in a wee hand-sewn sack tied with silk cords.

Serious time-wasters might want to study an article titled “Snowmen.” It may have been written by Celia Barbour, but I sense Martha’s hand in it. Consider, for example, this sentence: “As snowmen go there’s nothing wrong with the classic three-baller.”

Such condescension. A three-baller may be more than enough for most people, but not for Martha. She prefers her snow in “unusual shapes” - reindeer, dancing girls and clowns - all constructed on “wooden skeletons” made of, “two-by-fours and two-by-twos joined with nails.” Building the “creatures” requires a daunting array of tools and materials, including a snowball maker, a device that resembles a two-headed ice cream scoop. It’s $7.95 at F.A.O. Schwarz, the ideal gift for the Martha Stewart fan who has everything, except perfectly shaped snowballs.

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