Decking The Halls, Martha Stewart Style

Bill Geist channels his inner Martha Stewart to create holiday decorations, in this December 1996 story from "Sunday Morning."
Somewhere in the middle of the shopping and wrapping and cooking and all the rest, we're supposed to find time to decorate our homes in Christmas finery. On this subject one expert above all looms large, and she has inspired our own Bill Geist to try his hand, in a story first broadcast on December 22, 1996.

Nobody does Christmas like Martha Stewart. On her TV shows and specials, in her books and magazines, we are reminded time and again that this is the season of "Martha time."

And even though we sense that our homes and holidays will never look quite like Martha's, she encourages us to try.

Today we're going to make a festive Christmas wreath. Martha has a whole book on American wreaths ("Great American Wreaths"). And you can make it out of simple materials you find around the house.

Geist stars by cutting a circle out of a Dominos Pizza box. There, we have the circle.

Now what I do is, I like to bend it in half. (We can then cut out the middle portion.)

There, all set to decorate.

Martha always uses things from her garden for her wreaths. Let's go outside ...

Martha's always finding stuff like pink pepper berries in her yard. I don't think we have any stuff like that. We've got some dried plants. Those are always good. It's not too attractive, but it's kind of slim
pickings right now. Maybe some bark from the tree.

A Budweiser beer can is more like what I find in my yard. A little gold paint on it can make it work.

The holiday wreath: it's a good thing!

Martha makes balsam pine needle pillows for the holidays that look and smell great. Martha has balsam in her yard - and time on her hands.

But if you don't have any balsam, you can really do the same thing with car air fresheners, which you can purchase at your local car wash or gas station. We got them in Royal Pine and Wild Cherry, and start stuffing our pillowcase.

You want to use lots of them to get it good and fragrant. Add a little ribbon and voila! A lovely holiday gift.

Martha does all the little things, like decorating right down to the candlesticks. We can, too, in our own distinctive way. Sliced pineapple rings, donuts and bagels all fit easily.

Martha actually glues lima beans onto Styrofoam balls for decorations but I don't think lima beans are very festive. But hey, nothing says "Merry Christmas" like Spanish olives.

Martha makes her own marshmallows. Nobody does that! She makes her own swizzle sticks to go in her blood orange punch with pomegranate and ginger. With my basic recipe (two cans of Budweiser), no swizzle sticks are necessary.

Where does Martha find the time? You have to quit your job to be like Martha, or do a slap-dash job, like on the gingerbread house made out of frozen waffles, bologna and cheese, dried beans and whipped cream,

Martha does have help. On her TV special, a decorator from California "just happened to drop by" to help festoon her tree. Lucky her.

Leo the mailman, from New Jersey, dropped by my house.

"We can make little balls over here," he suggested.

"Snowballs," Geist said.

"Yeah," said Leo.

Leo took an avant garde approach, using a variety of unconventional materials, like dryer lint. "This would probably be a little better if I did it from a white load, I think, because of the color," said Geist.

"Mm-hmm." Leo suggested decorating with cheese.

"That's pretty," said Geist. "Adds a little color."

Leo was inspired. "Oh, hey, this isn't going to be too bad here,"

"OK. How's it look to you?"

"A masterpiece."

Martha really shines in the kitchen, like when she prepares everybody's favorite: Christmas cookies. Although she herself never seems to be wearing an apron.

My cookies? Once the smoke alarm goes off, well, they're ready, all right. (Cough!) But lavish decoration and a touch of creativity can always save the day.

Martha, we couldn't have said it better. But, then, Martha does everything a little better than we do.

  • David Morgan

    David Morgan is a senior editor at and