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If Martha Can Do it, I Can Do It! January 24, 2012

I love Martha Stewart. Pretty much everyone knows this. They don’t call me Baby Martha for nothing. Last week I got to go SEE Martha’s show in NYC. My fab mom flew from LA to go to the live taping with me and we had a great time. And the whole time she was teasing me because she doesn’t get why I love Martha.

Me and LL at Martha's studio

Which caused me to think about why I love Martha.

I like a lot of things Martha does – I like cooking, and crafting and decorating, and sewing, and homekeeping tricks, entertaining, and spending a lot of time making something that is probably cheaper to buy, haha – but what I really love about Martha is her approach to thinking about the home. As I understand it, the home should be a reflection of the people who live there, and should have a balance of comfort, practicality and beauty. Creating the home is something that happens continuously over time, and making things for it help make it unique. I said this to my mother, and she was a little offended. She pointed out that she taught me how to cook, and to sew (sortof…) and to clean a bathroom (that lesson didn’t stick too well) and that she has always had creative hobbies in our house. This is true. And I can tell you that I most certainly learned to love creating from my mom (and from my Grandma Chela, who I assume is where my mom got it from). She is also where I learned to think about alternate uses for everyday objects. She gives Martha a run for her money when it comes to clever solutions to household dilemmas. She’s the first person I call for advice when I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve never seen her try something domestic or handy that she couldn’t do better than the person who taught her how to do it, and she’s not even scared to go to Home Depot without her dad! (Home Depot is the most amazing/intimidating place in the world) She is also the person who taught me to take the time to do things right and carefully (and Chela’s favorite is “Lazy people work double,” which burns me at least once a day). I owe my precision to her.

But there is one thing that my mom isn’t good at. She doesn’t have self-assurance in her abilities, and it keeps her from wanting to start projects because they seem like too much work. She let’s herself get intimidated, even though once she starts, she blows everyone’s mind.

That’s where Martha comes into my life. Like my mom, Martha can do pretty much anything. And Martha does it. I don’t care what she’s like in real life, or that she’s an ex-con – I have a real mom to be a role model for me. Martha’s also a brilliant businesswoman and she knows how to sell herself as well as her brand. She is 70 years old, and that’s a lot of know-how, my friends. Martha wasn’t always Martha Stewart TM though. She had to learn how to do it little by little, one recipe, pattern or project at a time. And that is something I can do. I can learn how to do these things. I have already learned how to do lots of things. And Martha has provided me with the confidence I need to start. I know that if Martha can do it, I can do it, and I take pride in knowing that my home is a comfortable and beautiful place because I make it that way.

So I get the interest from my mom and impetus from Martha.

When my mom and I got back to Pittsburgh we decided to tackle a new project I have wanted to try for a long time but was very intimidated by: painting my bedroom. I ordered this stencil on Then we headed to Home Depot. It was scary at first, but my mom talked to all the grandpas and college guys who work there and I just listened and tried not to touch anything. We got the lowdown on the basics and then we got all the supplies we needed. After arguing about the color forEVER, we settled on a choice. We did two walls in a darker shade of turquoise (the walls that would get the stenciling on top) and the other walls in a lighter shade of turquoise. The stenciling on top of the darker shade was a glossy version of the lighter shade we used on the other two walls.

We spent a day sanding, which sucked, and then we washed the walls, and then we “cut” the walls around the edges…

and then we painted them,

and then my mom stenciled,

and then finally, four days and 3 more trips to Home Depot later, it was done.

And it looks awesome. And we did just as good a job as professional painters (like, really close to professional painters). And it never would’ve happened without Martha because my mom was hesitant to start since we didn’t know what we were doing and even though I knew we could I knew I needed my mom to help me.

And so the lesson we both learned is, if Martha can do it, so can we (but you have to do some research first and have the right materials). You just have to be willing to try and willing to make mistakes. The fact that you have never done something before is not proof that you can never start doing it. I can now say that I know how to paint.

I’m a creative person, and cooking and sewing and creating are ways for me to use that energy beyond the classroom where I teach, to make things for myself and the people I care about. After all, creating is one of the uniquely human characteristics, and something that enriches our lives, no matter what form it takes. So this is a place for me to show off what I can do, with a little help from Martha and my mom. If you look at it, I hope it inspires you to do something you’ve wanted to do, but were feeling intimidated by.


5 Responses to “If Martha Can Do it, I Can Do It!”

  1. Your room is gorgeous! Love the pattern and the color!

  2. Stephanie Says:

    This is the best blog post ever! First of all, I giggle when you refer to your mom as “LL,” mostly because that’s what Tracy Jordan calls Tina Fey’s character on 30Rock (my most favorite show!). Also, I am highly jealous of your trip to see Martha in studio. I think that our mothers have given us some very valuable and unfortunately nowadays, rare, skills to utilize in our own lives to encourage our creative brains to grow and flourish. I look back on my childhood and think of all the fun things my mom did for me that I look forward to doing for my kids too. Especially pumpkin shirts for Halloween! I think I am like your mom in that I sometimes don’t even start a project because I think I will fail and it will look like a 5 year old made it. But you’re right- everything she does (and you too!) looks so amazing.
    I, unfortunately, don’t have the unquestionable confidence in Martha like you do. I know that just because Martha can do it, it does not mean that I can too. Take the caramel buttercream disaster of 2009. I made 4 attempts to make that damn frosting and each time I managed to screw it up in some other way. It was not a good time for me. But, each recipe and craft I attempt shows me the skills I have and the skills I have yet to attain!
    I love reading your posts, they are so wonderful each time and so inspiring…and your room looks completely awesome.

    • bvanetten Says:

      Stephanie –
      I’m glad you feel inspired and I would love to see you show off some of your handiwork. And thanks for all the compliments.
      You raise a strong point about failure and Martha’s superior abilities. I have 3 responses to it:
      1. You don’t have to be good at everything, there will be things that Martha can do that we can’t do. But you won’t know until you try it. Every time you try something new, you learn something, even if ultimately it’s kindof a failure. And you take that newfound knowledge into the next project, which ups the likelihood that it will be successful.
      2. Not every recipe you will find is a winner. Even Martha’s (but I say that in a whisper so she can’t hear us…) Just because it doesn’t come out doesn’t mean anything, except that recipe isn’t working for you.
      3. Making homemade frosting is bogus. I have never successfully made it. I can make a lot of things, but I can’t make frosting. So I make homemade cupcakes and I frost them with store-bought icing. It’s not very Martha, but I feel ok about it.

  3. Andrea Says:

    I love this post. Love love love it, and probably even more so because I know your mother and grandmother and you and are constantly and consistently in awe of all you three do. The room turned out beautiful, and your second to the last paragraph is probably the most inspiring thing I’ve read in a long time. Thank you for the reminder that if you don’t start and try something (and make some mistakes along the way), you will never accomplish what you want to achive in the first place.
    But I must respectfully disagree with you about your position on frosting…I’ll make cake/cupcakes from a box with no qualms, but powdered sugar, butter, vanilla and milk is all I need to make a buttercream that kick’s canned frosting’s ass. 😉

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