In which the author tells you how to run your life -- or at least how to make the most of the fun parts of it.

For instance, inside these pages you will learn how to weather a mortar attack in good spirits; how to avoid booking yourself on the Internet into a bed and breakfast full of twee quilts and dusty tchotkes; and how to plan a dinner party that will stun your guests with deliciousness and style and not destroy your will to live with the amount of work you have to do to pull it off.

These are things I know firsthand, and things people who know me often ask me about (though I usually just book them into bed and breakfasts myself -- identifying ruffled death traps is an acquired skill). I am almost always right about everything (food, style and travel-related, anyway, and often many other things) and if everyone would just do as I say, dinner would taste better, cupcakes would not be dry, your parties would be more fun (for you), and mortar attacks... well, they always suck. I can't do anything about them.

*except laundry. I can't manage my own laundry, much less yours.

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

How Martha Stewart Can Help You Hide Porn

For reasons economic (a couple of months too late perhaps, given the $5,000 chesterfield couch slowly slowly wending its way toward me....)

I have decided to Make Do With Less.

(don't panic, I'm getting to the porn)

I have Much. I don't need Much (probably because I already have it).

As of Day 2, this new belt-tightening regime is remarkably refreshing. I normally blow $100 a day on the weekends at flea markets and farm stands but this weekend, I spent just $40 -- including 5 Honeycrisp apples, a bag of curly kale, an onion, 5 paperwhite bulbs and a desperately needed broom.

But I broke down and just bought the latest issue of House Beautiful (it's on Entertaining! I was helpless before it).


So while laying on the floor in my couchless living room (the couch is literally on a slow boat from China and has been since August) in front of a fire reading Said Magazine, my eye wandered over to my well-thumbed collection of design magazines (not to be confused with food magazines nor the design and food books that line my shelves). They are stored neatly in a clever open cabinet that has 28 cubbies.

And I wondered: exactly how much have I spent on these things?

So I removed them, cubby by cubby, dusted the open shelves, and started sorting and counting.

Most are in great shape, but two tripped me up: no covers, spines or back covers. What were these things? It quickly became clear they were Marthas, and I remembered what had happened.
A couple of years ago I went to visit a wounded Marine at Bethesda Naval Medical hospital. I brought with me the two things I knew any Marine would enjoy: homemade salty oatmeal and cranberry cookies and porn.

Don't get your knickers in a bunch: it was straight ahead naked ladies, nothing terribly twisted. Nevertheless, I had no idea where to get it. I happen to live near a Marine barracks on Capitol Hill so I wandered to the corner and waited. Within seconds, a tall handsome blonde man with the telltale high and tight haircut walked by.

I stopped him: "Excuse me, you're a Marine," I said, stating the obvious. "I am visiting a wounded Marine at Bethesda and I'd like to bring him some porn. Where do I get porn around here?" He pointed across the street at the videostore that is not Blockbuster, but is certainly innocent looking enough. "Walk straight to the back through the curtain, and don't look the right. It's on the back wall."

(The gay porn, it turns out, is to the right. I couldn't resist looking to the right. Like Lott's wife and Bluebeard's girlfriend with the bloody key, I'm doomed to do whatever it is you tell me not to do. I can't help it. This once happened while waiting in a two-hour line to get maple donuts in the Appalachian mountains while people walked by us with literally DOZENS. I wondered aloud: why don't they limit them a dozen per customer? Then the line would move. And my boyfriend, being of those mountains, said: I beg of you, don't ask them when we get to the window. And I promised but forgot when I got to the window and I asked and he was right. I shouldn't have asked. BECAUSE IT'S A FREE COUNTRY was the answer I got, followed by a very long diatribe possibly punctuated by things like "don't tread on me" and "the war of Northern Aggression" and it was a miracle that I walked away having been allowed to purchase any maple donuts at all. Truthfully they had too much nutmeg in them. I later made bread pudding with the ones we didn't eat right away, and the nutmeg didn't bother me anymore.)

(These are the actual donuts)

So back to the porn: I eventually found what I was looking for, paid for my magazines, explained to the non-English speaking clerk that I was fulfilling my patriotic duty by purchasing filth, and raced home with the brown paper bag tucked into my coat. I passed the same blond Marine on my way home and waggled the bag at him. He gave me a thumbs up and a big smile.

There I carefully (to make Martha proud) sliced off the covers and spines of two of her issues and carefully glued them around the Gentlemen Prefer Ds or whatever they were. I didn't know if porn would be confiscated at the hospital but I wasn't taking any chances; I once sat through a congressional hearing where the sale of porn on base was outlawed. The Marine was grateful for both cookies and porn.

Anyway, my collection includes: 30 Elle Decors, 38 Marthas*, 42 House Beautifuls, 14 Dominos, 28 House and Gardens, 7 Martha Stewart Weddings (I desperately want a wedding. Not to be married -- just the wedding part), 34 Metropolitan Homes, and 73 random ones -- Renovation Style, Garden & Gun, traditional Home etc. Oh, and 8 Dwells.

If my math is right, and its probably not, that's more than 250 magazines. At an average of $5 a piece... I have spent over $1250 on magazines (and this is not to mention the several dozen I just realized are in my bedroom and bathroom, and the many I read outside and forget about in the rain and then I have to throw them out. I think sometimes I do it on purpose so I can get rid of a few.)

They are all going back in the cabinet, mind you. But it's good to face facts now and again. That $1250 would come in awfully handy about now...

(* 2 didn't have covers)


  1. I'd really rather not see that couch again.
    And wouldn't porn be terribly frustrating to a wounded marine?

    Am I being contrary? Perhaps.

  2. @Blackbird: you WIll continue to see that couch until the actual article is hauled up my walk, had the legs removed, wedged through 5 doorways that have had the doors removed, and installed in front of the fireplace. I apologize in advance.
    Also, the Marine apparently had a LOT of luck with the nurses, only his foot was injured (but grievously: shot through with his own M-16 when wrestling with a Taliban fighter.) So I think porn served its normal purpose in his case.
    I wonder about Martha. I will tweet this at her. I think I deserve a seat at her workbench on the Hallmark Channel. At least to tell this story, no?

  3. But I adore that couch and cannot bear it!

  4. So, he had to sit there in his bed appearing to be reading Martha mags? I guess he considered it worth it.

    Those cookies sound great, by the way.

  5. Allison -- I'll post the recipe as soon as I can. Basically, you just make oatmeal cookies, double the salt in the recipe, add a handful of dried cranberries and walnuts if you like them, sprinkle the tiniest bit of coarse salt over the top, and then if you overdo it sprinkle on some sanding sugar to even it out, and throw them in the oven. Recipe to come.

    Blackbird: you will keep seeing the couch and you will like it, if I have to prop open your eyeballs like Clockwork Orange. Everyone must suffer along with me until I get it, and now I hear it will be another week! Now all i need is some Somali pirates to hijack the cargo ship...

  6. Oh my God Pam, I´ve been reading your blog all afternoon and since the distance between us doesn't let me go knock on your door and beg for your friendship, you have a new follower, and even tho I'm happily married, this is my new favorite quote: "I desperately want a wedding. Not to be married -- just the wedding part" LOL!!!!

    Perla from Mexico

  7. Oh my GOD Perla, it is declared: we are now best friends. I totally forgot about this post. ha!
    Thank you for reading. I do need to be better about posting. I've been .... occupied with work craziness.
    Are you Mexican or just living in Mexico? Where are you? I have a fascination with all things Mexican, particularly the food, but until headless bodies stop showing upon the border...
    I really want to go to Oaxaca. and Baja. and Guadalajara. and I've never been to Tulum. And I want to see the Monarchs!