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'The Tao of Martha': Jen Lancaster strives to live the Martha Stewart way

Bestselling author Jen Lancaster endeavors to spend a year dictated by the recommendations of Martha Stewart in "The Tao of Martha," but can she maintain those exacting standards? Here's an excerpt.

I’m no science-tician but from what I understand, Ambien quiets the executive function, which is how it puts me to sleep in the first place. But once in a while, with my executive functions dulled, I go to my computer instead of going to sleep. This phenomenon led to the first Great Barbie Head Kerfuffle of 2007 and the 2008 Entire New Set of Bedroom Furniture Incident.

For the most part, though, the shopping thing is under control because our master bedroom is on the first floor, as far away from my office on the second floor as physically possible. That’s why I now end up in the kitchen instead of on the internet, making sandwiches instead of purchases. Granted, I don’t need the calories, but I really don’t need a new master suite.

At our holiday party, our friends Kim and Wes brought us the greatest hostess gift of all time – a Williams-Sonoma caramel apple. When we received our magical treasure orb, I immediately shoved it in the back of the fridge, lest any of our guests believe it was for sharing. Over the next week after the party, I’d crack the fridge door all Gollum-style, peering at it while murmuring, “My precious… my precious.”

And… then I got busy, filled the refrigerator with other items, and kind of forgot about the whole thing until one Ambien-fueled night when I decided it was time to have a crack at the apple.

I’d recently purchased a pair of Wayfarer eyeglasses, assuming they’d be as flattering as my sunglasses. What I didn’t account for was how thick the lenses would look in such a large frame. (Imagine Mr. Magoo, only more myopic.) I’d been in my bathroom getting ready for bed and I realized I was out of my makeup removal cloths, so I had to wash my face the regular way. My sink is super small, so I always end up splashing myself.


So, my face was clean, but my nightgown was covered in wet splotches. Then I dotted a couple of blemishes with drying serum, yanked my hair into a knot on top of my head, and threw on my massive glasses. I got a kick out of how unattractive the whole combination was, so I had to point it out to Fletch. I went marching out of the bathroom, announcing, “Hey, hey, here comes the sex machine!”

Then he laughed at me.

Which would have been fine, because I knew I was the opposite of adorable at the moment; that was the whole point of my announcement.

What I didn’t expect was for him to literally double over, clutching his sides, with tears pouring down his face, for two straight minutes.

“Okay, that’s enough,” I said. “Stop it, please.”

He couldn’t stop.

“I’m serious, it’s not that funny,” I said.

He was gasping for breath and when he tried to straighten up to look at me, he doubled over again.

That’s when I took my Ambien.

After it kicked in, I had a brainstorm. He’d hurt my feelings – okay, my pride – and I was mad. I figured the best way to exact revenge on the Braying Jackass I married would be to eat the caramel apple myself right that minute.

Yes. This was genius.

I scurried down the hall to claim my great prize.

Quietly as I could, I retrieved the apple from the back of the fridge. With much stealth, I grabbed a cutting board and a sharp knife. Bracing the wealth of riches with my left hand, I sliced into paradise.

Here’s a bit of Discovery Channel for you – apples don’t last forever. They can stay fresh for a long time, especially when refrigerated, but definitely not from December into the month of March. My beautiful precious had turned brown and awful. What made the whole situation worse is that the caramel and chocolate enrobing the rotten apple were totally okay, like a diamond-enrobed turd.

I’m not sure exactly what brought Fletch scurrying into the kitchen, but it may have been all my anguished screaming.

At this point, a non-Ambien-addled person would have swept the whole mess into the trash, whereas I… found the perfect opportunity to channel Martha Stewart.

“Hello,” I said to Fletch. “Welcome to the Martha Stewart show. Today I’m going to show you how to salvage your delicious Williams-Sonoma caramel apple. Now, first, we’re going to-”

“Hey, Martha, hold up a second – I’m going to need my camera for this.” Fletch raced over to the charging station to grab his iPhone. “And we’re live in five, four, three, two… rolling!”

Then, in full sex machine regalia and without benefit of a bra, I proceed to demonstrate the process of extricating the stinking brown apple flesh from the heart of the caramel center, before artfully spreading the good parts over a few stout slices of multigrain bread.

“The magic happens in the microwave,” I told my imaginary studio audience. “And don’t be afraid to use a little butter.” By a little, I meant half a stick.

After I assembled all the ingredients, I took an enormous bite of the chocolaty, buttery, slathered Shamewich, and without even a hint of irony, I told the camera, “The Williams-Sonoma salvaged caramel apple sandwich; it’s a good thing.”

And then I winked.

Fletch showed me the video the next morning, laughing possibly even louder than he had the night before.

Although I’m impressed with my Ambien-fueled knife skills, there’s not one second of the recording that doesn’t induce paralyzing mortification, from the topknot, to the braless swing-ability, to the wink.

I guess the good news is that shame often induces realization and this incident allowed me to uncover another fundamental in Martha’s Tao:

Revenge is a dish best not served at all, unless you’re camera-ready.

From THE TAO OF MARTHA by Jen Lancaster. Copyright © 2013 by Jan Lancaster. Reprinted with permission from NAL Hardcover.