Martha Stewart Helps Us Weather The Holidays

With the holidays fast approaching, it's time to put the finishing touches on yuletide decorations and last-minute prep for those year-end parties. Host Liane Hansen speaks with style maven Martha Stewart about holiday traditions, cooking, health and wellness.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

With the holidays fast approaching, it's time to put the finishing touches on yuletide decorations and last-minute prep for those yearend parties. And it's been a very busy time for style maven Martha Stewart.

(Soundbite of TV show, "The Martha Stewart Show")

Ms. MARTHA STEWART (Host): Hi, everybody. Welcome to our show. Last week, we had the honor of decorating several rooms in Blair House in Washington, D.C.

HANSEN: On her show this past week, Martha Stewart showed off her team's work decorating several rooms of Blair House. It's the presidential guest residence across from the White House. She was one of a handful of magazine publishers invited to spruce up the historic home. Martha Stewart joins us from her radio studio in New York. Welcome to the program.

Ms. STEWART: Oh, it's very nice to talk to you today. Thank you.

HANSEN: How did it go at Blair House?

Ms. STEWART: You know, it was really nice. And my crew, who I sent down from television and from the magazine - six of them - were ecstatic to be able to work in an American home. The Lee Dining Room was - Lee Drawing Room, excuse me - is papered in an 18th century Chinese wallpaper. We photographed the wallpaper and we took various elements from the wallpaper, like all the painted birds, and we silhouetted them and made them glitter with our numerous shades of glitter. We hung them on a giant tree. We stood them on tables around the room. And they were really the focal point of the decoration.

HANSEN: But, you know, most of us have pretty modest homes and, you know, we're in this final stretch leading up to Christmas and New Year's. Any ideas how we could maybe quickly and easily do something to make our house festive?

Ms. STEWART: Well, if you're celebrating Christmas, a tree, I think, is essential. And the trees this year, many people have opted for the artificial tree. You can use them year after year. You can fold them up and put them in the attic. And many of them are tabletop trees, which, I think, are wonderful for a small apartment.

And you just put them on a table and decorate them with a collection of whatever you can do - birds or ornaments that you've collected over the years. I still have a lot of my family ornaments from when I grew up on 86 Elm Place in Nutley, New Jersey. And this year, I think everybody's a little cash strapped, also.

HANSEN: Yeah.

Ms. STEWART: It is not a year to, you know, hang diamonds in your Christmas tree.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. STEWART: This is the year of the do-it-yourself, the handmade, the homemade. I think making things has given so many people a great deal of pleasure. And it you do make things, if you do involve the rest of the family in these projects, I think you'll enjoy it better, and you will be proud of what you've done. And there is sort of this sense of accomplishment, too.

HANSEN: You know, a lot of people get stressed out because they have in-laws coming, relatives coming, you know, a houseful. Any idea how to kind of prepare for that?

Ms. STEWART: Well, I think everybody gets stressed out around these holidays. It's amazing to me. I was starting to get stressed out until this morning and then when I finished all my lists and figured, well, you know what, the Christmas cards are gone, the presents are wrapped, I should relax a little bit and enjoy. And indeed that's what I'm trying to do.

But a lot of people look a little harried around my office. We have a lot of people here who are very diligent and they want to do a good thing. But they are sharing. A lot of people are sharing duties this year. I think that's another good thing to try to organize. If you're having five couples over, ask each couple to bring something, their specialty. And that - they like to participate, and they feel good about it. And it makes the, you know, it makes everything a little bit warmer and cozier.

HANSEN: I'm speaking with Martha Stewart about entertaining tips for the holiday. You mentioned, you know, going back to your childhood, having childhood ornaments from your childhood, because this is really a holiday that has a lot of sentiment to it. Did you have a picture of a fond memory of holidays past that may have shaped your vision?

Ms. STEWART: Oh, definitely, definitely. Every year we took the picture of the tree. And the one year that my parents allowed me to take over the decorating, I must say, it was the most unfortunate looking tree.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. STEWART: I was playing around. I was asked to be the decorating chairman of the high school prom. And I got it in my mind that I had to use blue angel hair. You know, this is like spun glass. Do you remember that stuff?

HANSEN: Yeah, oh, absolutely.

Ms. STEWART: Which I think is so environmentally unsound, but I bought rolls and rolls of it. So, I thought, wow, you know what? I'll try it on the tree. I swathed the tree in blue angel hair - pale blue. It looked horrible. It just looked like a blue cone sitting in our living room. And we all posed in front of it. I have the picture of me in my blue velvet dress and the whole family -my five siblings and my mom and dad - and we were all kind of laughing because it was so horrible.

HANSEN: And your hands must've been, I mean, that stuff hurts.

Ms. STEWART: Oh, we wore gloves. We wore gloves.

HANSEN: Oh, good.

Ms. STEWART: It's like bad insulation, this stuff.

HANSEN: Yeah. But I'm looking at the cover of the January issue of Martha Stewart Living and it...

Ms. STEWART: Do you like that soup?

HANSEN: It looks very good. But Happy New Year, eat better, live better, feel good - just, I think, what we all want. So, what advice do you have for staying healthy?

Ms. STEWART: Well, January is our body action plan. This is our whole living month where we take into consideration not only your mind and the beauty that your mind desires, but also your body. We have overeaten. We have eaten so much sugar. And it's time to really do not only - you don't have to do a major cleanser, detox, but you can really pay attention to what you consume. And not just in the month of January, but for the whole year.

I am a very avid believer in buying and eating organic if I can possibly. I grow a lot of stuff. I am very serious about the kinds of foods that I partake of. And in the January issue we have: How to shop for fruits and vegetables and weigh your choices in the produce aisle. So, we have the Clean 15 and we have the Dirty Dozen.

Avocados, corn, pineapples, mangoes, asparagus, kiwi fruits, cabbages, eggplants - those are probably some of the best things that you can actually put in your body. And then if you want to...do you want to know the dirty dozen?

HANSEN: Yeah, what's the dirty dozen?

Ms. STEWART: Well, these are fruits and vegetables that you want to eat, we all crave, like carrots, celery, lettuce, cherries, strawberries, pears, apples, grapes. But if they are not produced organically, they absorb a tremendous amount of not only the pesticides that they're grown with, sprayed with, but also the chemical fertilizers that are in the ground when they grow in.

So, we have to pay attention to this, because I think to really, really treat your body well and your family's bodies well, you have to start thinking a little bit more in the organic vain.

HANSEN: Martha Stewart joined us from her radio studio in New York. Thank you. Happy holidays and a happy New Year.

Ms. STEWART: And same to you.

HANSEN: This is NPR's WEEKEND EDITION. I'm Liane Hansen. Happy holidays, everyone.

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