Martha Stewart’s Peony Party: Learning About Leisure from a Workaholic Media Mogul

Image via iStock Photo/Eduardo Jose Bernardino

Martha Stewart and I go way back. I attended a blogger party at her New York City headquarters in 2010. It was beautiful, of course, and the members of her staff were gracious, well-groomed and attentive to the guests.  Though I arrived too late to meet Ms. Stewart herself, or hear her welcome remarks, I admired what she’d done with the place, as well as the tiny cupcakes and beautiful cocktails that were served.

Recently, she spoke at DAR Constitution Hall as part of the Smithsonian Resident Associates program of events. She spoke about her homes, her horses, and the parties she likes to host in them. Ice cream socials, Thanksgivings, Fourths of July barbecues …  all done impeccably. She also spoke about her annual Peony Party, and how the peonies have had the audacity to bloom earlier each year, perhaps due to global warming, despite her efforts to plant for a staggered and therefore longer bloom time.

And I thought this was all just wonderful. Disobedient peonies, tweaking a tiny nerve in a beautiful, whimsical annual affair.  Tweaking it in what sounded to be a manner similar to how your beloved dog (Stewart has three) gets into some minor mischief and is scolded with a smile. All of this is projection, of course. I have no idea how she really feels about the peonies.

It takes a strong personality to use the word Omnimedia in the name of their company, as Martha does,  and I really admire Stewart’s strength, determination, and passion for detail, as well as the way she has raised living graciously to at once an art form and an industry. Taste and quality are increasingly hard to come by – as is an appreciation for the history of an object or design.

I’m a slapdash homemaker at best. The buzzwords in my house are “cleanability and functionality.” And I know that Stewart has her flaws, a complicated history, and her detractors. But her work stands on its own. And I really love the idea of entertaining graciously, and savoring things that are tasty and beautiful.

During her remarks, Stewart mentioned that she thought that the computer would be a great tool to improve her efficiency at work,giving her more free time. She found, as we all did, that it didn’t quite work out like that.

The seductive efficiency of technology was supposed to allow us to do more with less time. But instead allows us to do less with more. We’ve all become voracious consumers of media – Omnimedia, even – and I don’t think it’s improved the overall quality of either the media or our own collective intellect.

This bottomless well of words has removed reflection from the equation. My beeping iPhone (this tiny miracle) keeps my attention on the data flow, not on taking a moment to think about what any of it means.

This has made my time in the shower invaluable. The tools of my enslavement are still vulnerable to moisture (Dear Apple – please don’t change this), so I have to put them aside for a time. A moment’s peace is sometimes all it takes for the morning’s volume of data to start to sift into the pigeonholes of my mind, and for something to float to the top.

It’s a good thing.

Thea Joselow is a freelance writer and online editor based in Bethesda, Maryland. She has worked in digital media for such illustrious institutions as National Public Radio, Smithsonian Magazine, and at a strategic communications firm in Washington, DC. By far her favorite professional qualification was that for a brief time she wrote the online quiz for the Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me program. Currently, she blogs at, runs the Cancer is an Asshole ongoing fundraiser, and the BookGraf, a low-impact book club.

Oh, and she’s somebody’s mother.


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