Tag Archives: Martha Stewart

Roundup: Club 203 Celebrates, Martha Stewart Returns, Amy Irving Sings …

Thursday was special for dozens of Club 203 members, relatives, friends and volunteers.

TAP Strength hosted the social group for adults with disabilities, at their 8th event of the year.

The “field day” was led by TAP founder EJ Zebro. His 5-person team facilitated stations for soccer, volleyball, dancing, cornhole, musical chairs and giant Jenga.

Also on “tap”: music, snacks, hacky sack prizes, and lots of laughs.

Joining TAP on Jesup Green were MoCA Westport (crafts and art project), Westport Book Shop (open late for parents to hang out), Lesser Evil Popcorn (snacks), and Kevin Godburn of Toquet Hall (tables and chairs).

Club 203’s next event: a fun day May 25, sponsored by Westport’s Parks & Recreation Department. Click here for more information on the group.

EJ Zebro (far right) and friends have fun at Jesup Green.


Martha Stewart returns to Westport June 1 (4 to 6 p.m.).

And not just anywhere. The former resident and longtime lifestyle guru will be back at her old Turkey Hill home. She’ll share memories of her years there, as she started her business and grew her media empire.

She’ll guide guests through the gardens, ending with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres on the patio. (A few guests will stay for dinner with Stewart.)

It’s a fundraiser for Positive Directions, Westport’s behavioral health organization addressing the national mental health crisis.

Tickets are $1,000; $2,500 gets you that dinner. Click here to purchase, and for more details.

Former Westporter Martha Stewart.


A baseball game between the only 2 undefeated teams in the FCIAC should be a nail-biter.

Yesterday’s was anything but.

Chase Siegel threw a perfect game. He needed just 59 pitches to shut down Danbury 10-0. The game ended early, thanks to the mercy (10-run lead) rule.

It’s been a great season so far for the 7-1 Wreckers, whose lone loss was 8-7 to non-league Fairfield Prep.

Staples has been led by pitchers Hiro Wyatt and Chris Zajac — and great defense. They’ve made only 1 error all season long. Ethan Cukier sparkled at shortstop against the Hatters.

In other Wrecker sports news, the boys lacrosse team — 6-1 after knocking off powerhouses like Massapequa, Bergen Catholic and Darien (13-11, storming back from an 8-1 halftime deficit) are ranked 16th in the latest national poll.

Chase Siegel. (Photo courtesy of Allison Ginzburg for The Ruden Report)


Kings Highway Elementary School students arrived early yesterday, to meet 2 special guests.

First Selectwoman Jen Tooker and Police Chief Foti Koskinas starred in a special “Rise & Read” event. They chatted with parents and kids over donuts, hot chocolate and coffee.

Tooker knows KHS well: Her 3 children went there. She read aloud to the current students from a very appropriate book: “Duck for President.”

The youngsters then asked questions, ranging from what she did to if her job is hard, and the benefits of having an office so close to Cold Fusion.

First Selectwoman Jen Tooker, Police Chief Foti Koskinas, and “Duck for President.”


Compo’s South Beach is a great spot for romance.

Last night’s Pics of the Day featured a young couple enjoying the sunset in a hammock.

Also yesterday; another man proposed, to another woman.

Jody Peters saw it all happen, from a discreet distance. She reports: “I think she said yes…she put the ring on and they exchanged a kiss. It was beautiful.”

(Photo/Jody Peters)


Everyone knows Amy Irving as an actress.

She’s now a musician. “Born in A Trunk” includes 10 cover songs, pulled from her life and career.

On June 21 (7 p.m.), Westport welcomes her to the Levitt Pavilion stage.

Free tickets are available now to Levitt members. They’ll be available to everyone else on Monday at noon. Click here for yours.

Amy Irving


For years, one of the joys of Parker Harding Plaza — how’s that for an oxymoron?! — has been the pedestrian bridge.

Jutting into the Saugatuck River just a few yards from asphalt and automobiles, it offers a serene chance to stroll, observe nature, and relax.

Not anymore.

A chain and stern sign now keep everyone at bay.

(Photo/Diane Bosch)

It’s not clear whether the danger is because of rotting wood, to protect nesting swans, or another reason.

Nor is it clear when — or if — the bridge will be safe again.

Or who, exactly, is in charge of making it so.


The apple doesn’t fall far …

Shea Frimmer — child of Coleytown Middle School Company’s theater program — is directing a reading of “9:47” — a world premier play. It’s next Friday (April 28, 7 p.m., Toquet Hall).

The cast includes 2 professional adult actors, and 3 students.

Tickets are $7 in advance, $10 at the door. Click here to purchase.


State Representative Dominique Johnson’s office is open to submissions for a Pride Month video essay contest. Any high school student in Westport or Norwalk can enter.

Video submissions should answer this question: “What is something you have done to build community that makes you most proud?” Creativity counts — but videos must be between 1 and 3 minutes only.

There are 2 categories: 9th-10th grade, and 11th-12th. Winners will receive a state citation, and be honored by Representative Johnson June 10 in Norwalk.

Video submissions should be sent to Dominique.johnson@cga.ct.gov. The deadline is May 15.

Representative Dominique Johnson.


If you’re wondering why the delay on the Merritt Parkway was longer than usual yesterday: There was a car fire by northbound Exit 41.

Be careful out there.

(Photo/Mar Servin)


Heli Stagg manages the Westport Library café. She sees this view — and others like it, though always changing — often.

Today, she shares it with “06880” readers, for our “Westport … Naturally” treat.

(Photo/Heli Stagg)


And finally … in honor of the prodigal daughter returning to town (story above):

(You may or may not want to pay $2,500 — or even $1,000 — to see Martha Stewart. But you can contribute any amount to “06880.” We’re happy for any help! Please click here. And thank you!)


Roundup: Luciano Paving, Winfield Coffee, Playhouse Show …

There are (at least) 2 sides to every story.

A recent “06880” Roundup item about an advertising sign on a utility pole brought a ringing defense of the company.

Luciano Paving, the writer noted, is a long-time, very generous local business.

They donate to Westport PAL, and supply the equipment that keeps the Longshore skating rink clear. They bring equipment to the Touch-a-Truck event at the Imperial Avenue parking lot, and provide trucks and a car for the Westport Woman’s Club Memorial Day float.

Sam Luciano — former Westport chief of police, for whom the Saugatuck train station park is named — was Tim’s cousin. Every year, Tim sponsors a golf tournament in Sam’s name at Longshore.

More broadly, contractors are an asset to the town. In weather emergencies, they plow snow, clear roads and do whatever else is needed.

We would not be where we are without contractors like Luciano — a family that traces its heritage back to Antonio Gilbertie, founder of the floral business over 100 years ago.

Tim Luciano, of Luciano Paving, is a Westport native and Staples High School graduate.


Winfield Street Coffee has come a long way from its start, 98 years ago in East Norwalk.

Under current owner Breno Donatti, there are locations in Westport (the old Art’s Deli, just over the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge) and Stamford; kiosks in the Croton-Harmon and Rye train stations, plus Q line subway stops in Manhattan, and 2 in Naples, Florida.

Now — in addition to coffee (f course), Italian deli sandwiches, healthy bowls and salads, and fresh pastry.

Donatti is not sitting still. Culinary director Chris Gonzalez has designed an expanded menu, adding side dishes like bacon mac & cheese, roasted brussels sprouts with hot honey and crispy shallots, fries options like (sweet potato wedges, polenta fries, home fries), and homemade baked goods.

Coffee director Caleb MacPherson is implementing new drinks and roasting beans.

I know all this because Westport’s own Stephanie Webster covered it in her great CTBites blog. Click here for the full story (and excellent food photos).

PS: Click on the “Restaurants” tab at the top of “06880,” for details on Winfield Street Coffee and many more.


“Ain’t Misbehavin'” — a revival of the Broadway show celebrating jazz pioneer Fats Waller’s career, while exploring the “masks” he and his musicians wore while performing for white audiences — opens tonight at the Westport Country Playhouse. It runs through April 29.

Among the special events:

Taste & Chat (tonight, Tuesday, April 11, 6 p.m.): Wine and cheese with Marcella Monk Flake, of The Monk Center for Academic Enrichment and Performing Arts, and co-founder of Monk Youth Jazz and STEAM Collective.

Pride Night (Thursday, April 13, 6 p.m.): Pre-show cocktails for the LGBTQ community and friends.

Black Excellence Night (Friday, April 14, 6:30 p.m.): Free pre-show celebration for the Black and Brown community.

For ticket information, click here. For more on these special events, scroll down on that page.


Al Jaffee — the Mad magazine cartoonist best known for his clever fold-in comics, on the back page — died yesterday in New York. He was 102.

His obituary is fascinating reading.

Especially fascinating is this Westport connection: His 2010 biography, “Al Jaffee’s Mad Life,” was written by local writer Mary-Lou Weisman.

A 2010 story explains:

He has always had a soft spot … for Mary-Lou Weisman, a 72-year-old author from Westport, Conn., who used to own a summer place near his (in Provincetown, Massachetts). Not only did she appreciate his eccentricities but she also donated a stupid question to his collection. (For that, she thanks the sister who demanded to know, “Where do you keep your ice cubes?”)

Their friendship has led to a collaboration that should cheer anyone with a secret affinity for Mad magazine. Written by Ms. Weisman, “Al Jaffee’s Mad Life” lays bare in harrowing yet often riotous detail how a Southern boy, twice uprooted by his mother to Lithuanian shtetls on the eve of World War II, grew up to become a tireless satirist for some of America’s cheekier magazines. HarperCollins published the book on Tuesday under its It Books imprint.

Readers will also be treated to 74 original drawings by Mr. Jaffee, nearly twice what he had pledged. “He was on fire,” Ms. Weisman said.
Click here for the full Times book review.


It’s budget season.

So in this week’s “What’s Next in Weston” podcast, 1st Selectwoman Sam Nestor discusses her town’s projections — and urges residents to participate

Click below to listen, courtesy of the Y’s Men of Westport and Weston.


Save the date!

The VFW Joseph J. Clinton Post 399 charity golf tournament is June 12, at Longshore.

Individuals, businesses and organizations can support the local club by sponsoring a veteran (or a vets’ foursome) to play.

Other ways to help: donating prizes, registering to play, buying a tee sign, even being a title sposnor.

For more information, contact tournament chairs Ed Cribari (203-451-0644; ecribari71@gmail.com) or Patty Kondub (203-767-3778; nortonpk@aol.com).

VFW on Riverside Avenue.


Speaking of the VFW:

Ever-popular pianist Chris Coogan headlines this week’s Jazz at the Post (Thursday, April 13; shows at 7:30 and 8:45 p.m.; dinner at 7 p.m.).

Chris grew up here, and the area is home base for his multi-faceted career. He is a world-class jazz pianist; an in-demand accompanist for singers; a powerhouse Gospel pianist, choir director and bandleader; an inspiring educator, and an all- around good guy.

He’s joined this week at the VFW by bassist John Mobilio and drummer Joe Corsella.

Reservations are highly recommended: JazzatthePost@gmail.com.

Chris Coogan


Starting yesterday, Church Lane will be closed to through traffic.

The move — begun during COVID, and continued in following years thanks to the popularity of outdoor dining and leisurely strolling — continues through November 6.

Outdoor dining on Church Lane. (Photo/Dan Woog)


The Y’s Women spaced out yesterday.

Marty Yellin — a Ph.D. in engineering, who helped design and manage the Hubble Space Telescope — explained the differences between it and the James Webb Telescope.

His photographs, we are told, were “out of this world.”

Marty Yellin addresses the Y’s Women.


Martha Stewart returned to Westport recently.

She sampled Arogya Holistic Healing & Tea’s teas, and shared recipes. The event was filmed for her TV show, “Martha Cooks!”

Click here, for the full episode on Roku.

Martha Stewart at Arogya.


Judith Katz’s Harvest Commons magnolia tree serves beautifully as today’s “Westport … Naturally” image.

(Photo/Judith Katz)


And finally … Happy Barbershop Quartet Day!

(Stay “in tune” with “06880” — and please support what we do. Click here — thank you!)





Roundup: Straight White Men, Jewish Teenagers, Martha Stewart …

There’s something new at the Westport Country Playhouse: hosts for the evening.

And they don’t look like anything you’d expect:

Ashton Muniz, one of the Westport Country Playhouse hosts. (Photo/dan Woog)

Ashton Muñiz(above) and Akiko Akita are proud non-straight, non-white non-men. So why are they welcoming guests (with big smiles and ear plugs) to the current production of “Straight White Men”?

As they explain before the curtain rises, it’s because the audience needs to get out of its comfort zone.

And why are those ear plugs necessary? Well, the music that plays as the audience finds its seats is not what you’d normally hear at the historic, near-100-year-old theater.

The show itself is quite funny and unsettling — sometimes simultaneously. Playwright Young Jean Lee is the first Asian-American woman to have a show on Broadway.

She’s not the type of person you’d expect to write “Straight White Men.” But  she — and Ashton and Akiko — are happy to welcome you to it.

(For more information and tickets, click here.) 


In an annual ritual, parents gathered this morning at 5:30 a.m., to set up a wider slide at Kings Highway Elementary School.

Their kids did not see them at work. But a few hours later, they’re sure enjoying it.

(Photo/Frank Rosen)


Merkaz is a place for Jewish students from area high schools and congregations to learn, socialize, explore and strengthen their religious identity.

This fall (Mondays from 7 to 9 p.m.), Merkaz offers a Westport location.

Courses include:

  • Merkaz Mahjong
  • Choices on the College Campus
  • Jews in the News
  • Denial and The Holocaust
  • Jewish Humor
  • Superheroes
  • Judaism and the Environment
  • Outstanding Jewish Women
  • Jewish Cooking
  • Broadway and the Jews
  • Jewish Songs and Songwriters
  • Yoga, Meditation and Mindfulness
  • College Bound
  • Making Local Change

Click here for more information. MerkazCT.org. Questions? Email Merkaz@JewishPhilanthropyCT.org.


Eve Potts writes:

“There is a new Optimum store in the Fresh Market plaza. We noticed the sign this week. We have questions about billing, so we decided to pay a visit.

“An incredible, bright and knowledgeable young man named Alex answered all our questions quickly and completely. it was a very different experience from our visit to the Norwalk office.

“Alex said they’ve been in town since December, but the sign just recently went up and nobody knows they are here. I want to let Westport  know that Optimum is here, and has a really great guy on board.”


Speaking of (relatively) new businesses: More than a year after opening — in the middle of COVID — The Porch @ Christie’s held its official ribbon-cutting yesterday.

It was a quick, informal and friendly ceremony — just like the Cross Highway deli itself. The icing on the cake: free cookies, from the Porch’s partner Sweet P Bakery.

Cutting the Porch ribbon (from left): consultant Mark Moeller..2nd Selectwoman Andrea Moore, owners Bill and Andrea Pecoriello, 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker, marketing director Betsy Weissman, Sweet P Bakery head pastry chef Terri Cahn, manager Iby  Rivera. 


Beach-bound traffic was diverted yesterday afternoon, when a moving truck snagged a low-hangiing wire on Hillspoint Road, after pulling out of Edgewater Commons.

The road was reopened a few hours later.

The cause of the Hillspoint Road closure. (Photo/Andrew Colabella)


“The Great American Tag Sale with Martha Stewart” aired last night.

ABC previewed it: “Martha Stewart, known for turning everyday living into an art form, is ready to part ways with pieces from her vast collection of furniture, art and housewares in this new 1-hour special. Over the years, Martha has amassed an assortment of items that ranges from fine art to knickknacks.

“During the special, she will regale viewers with fond memories of how these beloved items were acquired and offer expert advice on how to execute a successful tag sale. Alongside her team of event planners, Martha will host a series of tag sale events including an exclusive cocktail party for celebrities and neighbors to preview the sale.”

I did not watch the show. In fact, there are 27,298.331 things I would have done before I’d even think of watching it.

But — as someone who remembers when the lifestyle guru/ businesswoman/wrtier/television personality/chef/inmate lived in Westport (and the stories that circulated here) — I wonder how many of of items (both fine art and knicknacks) have a Westport back story. (Hat tip: Betsy Pollak)

How much of Martha Stewart’s tag sale started on Turkey Hill?


Last month, “06880” reported that Great Island — the 60-acre property off the Darien coast with a stable, riding rings, “grand house,” and whiskey and wine cellar with contents dating back to Prohibition, all once owned by the Steinkraus family of Westport — was for sale.

It was called “the largest private island ever to be offered for sale on the East Coast.”

Now, the Wall Street Journal reports, the town of Darien is in negotiations to buy the island for “more than $100 million.”

Granted, Cockenoe is no Great Island. And 1969 money is not the same as 2022.

But we got our island for just $200,000. (Hat tip: Adam Stolpen)

Great Island …

… and Cockenoe Island.


Congratulations to May’s Staples High School Students of the Month: jnior Jordyn Goldshore, sophomores Michael Blishteyn and Kervin Joseph, and freshmen Jonah Bernstein and Davi Da Silva.

Principal Stafford Thomas said they were chosen for helping make their school “a welcoming place for peers and teachers. They are the ‘glue’ of the Staples community: the type of kind, cheerful, hard-working, trustworthy students who keep the high school together, making it the special place it is.”

Staples High School Students of the Month (from left): Michael Blishteyn, Jonah Bernstein, Davi Da Silva, Kervin Joseph. Missing: Jordyn Goldshore.


Relaxing recently for their “Westport … Naturally” closeup at Wakeman Town Farm were these 2 beauties:

(Photo/Lauri Weiser)


And finally … in honor of a TV show I would never watch, even though it stars one of Westport’s most famous ex-residents (see story above):

Roundup: Lynsey Addario, Track All-Americans, Martha Stewart …


Lynsey Addario — the 1991 Staples High School Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist — is usually behind the camera.

Now the BBC has turned its lens on her. The international describes her this way, for its profile of her:

“She took the defining picture of Putin’s war so far: a family killed by Russian troops as they tried to flee to safety. The US photojournalist Lynsey Addario has reported from almost every major conflict in the 21st century, and now she is on the ground in Ukraine, documenting suspected war crimes.

“Lynsey Addario — who reported on the Taliban before most of the western world knew who they were — has borne witness to war, humanitarian disaster and the worst effects of climate change. She has been kidnapped three times, but still keeps returning to conflict zones. Mark Coles profiles the award-winning photographer whose images continue to make the front pages.”

Click here for this in-depth look at a true Westport — and international — hero. (With a bonus: interviews with her mother Camille, and older sisters Lauren, Lisa and Leslie.)

Lynsey Addario


Congratulations to the Staples boys indoor track sprint medley relay team.

They finished 6th in the US last night, at the national high school meet in the New York Armory.

Samir Mott (200 meter leg), David Sedrak (200), Bruno Guiduli (400) and Jalen St. Fort (800) roared to a 3:35.43. That earns them All-American status — and fame that will last far beyond that very fast race.

Indoor track All-Americans (from left): Samir Mott, David Sedrak, Bruno Guiduli, Jalen St. Fort. (Photo/Barry Guiduli)


In 2018, freshman Corey Hausman died in a skateboarding accident at the University of Colorado. A varsity skier and track athlete, he had graduated from Staples High School just 3 month earlier.

At its banquet last week, the Staples ski team inaugurated the Corey Hausman Award. It will be presented each year to the senior racer who best epitomizes his special spirit, through a love for skiing, the desire to improve, a willingness to work and the ability to inspire others.

Olivia Marshall was the first recipient. Corey’s family presented the award, with coaches Rebecca Anderson-Furlong and Tom Owen.

Corey’s memory continues to be honored through College911.net and the College Safety Coalition. Both projects — initiated by the Hausman family — help make the college experience as safe as possible for everyone. (Hat tip: Michelle Howard)

From left: Coach Tom Owen, Olivia Marshall, Coach Rebecca Anderson-Furlong, Corey’s parents Nanette and Joel Hausman, and Corey’s good friend Michael Valarie.


Fortunately, the weekend winds did not do too much damage.

But they did some. This was the scene on Hillandale Road, near Hillspoint:

(Photo/Bob Weingarten)


Bob Weingarten also sent this photo, a couple of days ago. Hopefully these guys are still standing, at Chapel Hill and Hillandale.

And hopefully they won’t be, much longer.

(Photo/Bob Weingarten)


Looking for a special wine, with a local touch?

Sarah Kerstin Gross received this the other day.

The cork adds an extra touch.


It was standing room only at Betsy Pollak’s bird feeder. This impressive “pecking order” makes for quite a “Westport … (okay, Weston) … Naturally” photo.


And finally … Bobbie Nelson — Willie’s sister, his longtime pianist and an important influence on him — died Thursday in Austin. She was 91. (Click here for a full obituary.)

It’s Official! Westport Arts Center Moves To Newtown Turnpike.

In December, “06880” reported that the Westport Arts Center was planning a move from its Riverside Avenue home. They’ve been in the long, narrow 3,600-square foot space since 2002.

They were eyeing Martha Stewart’s former TV studio. The address is 19 Newtown Turnpike, Westport. But the 3-story building is actually located a few feet over the border, in Norwalk.

Today, the WAC confirmed those plans. The first phase of their relocation and expansion will open this fall.

They’ll take nearly 10,000 square feet of 19 Newtown Turnpike, nearly tripling their current space.

The former Martha Stewart TV studio on Newtown Turnpike.

The opening coincides with the Arts Center’s 50th anniversary. It was formed in 1969 as the Westport-Weston Arts Council. The organization was renamed Westport Arts Center in 1986. It was housed in a variety of locations, including the then-closed Greens Farms Elementary School.

In a press release, the  WAC says they’ll be “marrying our rich heritage with an exciting new chapter as a leading contemporary arts destination.”

The Newtown Avenue 1926 stone building, attached warehouse and free-standing cottages offer the potential of 33,000 square feet for museum exhibitions, state-of-the-art classrooms, concerts and events, and offices.

The 6-acre property includes an outdoor garden space and parking for 110 vehicles.

WAC executive director Amanda Innes says:

This important expansion of the Arts Center allows us to greatly broaden the scope of our programming and exhibitions. We will be able to showcase large-scale, innovative art pieces and installations both in the gallery and on the exterior grounds. Our first exhibition in the new space will be something never before seen in Connecticut. We look forward to unveiling details of the exciting exhibition and expansion at our 50th Anniversary gala on May 18th.

The interior remodel and renovation of 19 Newtown Turnpike is led by Howard Lathrop of Sellars Lathrop Architects. He has served as designer and project architect on major museums around the world.

Westport Arts Center Eyes Martha Stewart Move

The Westport Arts Center may be on the move.

To a few feet over the Norwalk border.

The gallery — which also sponsors educational outreach, talks, music concerts and films, in its Riverside Avenue home and other venues — has hired Sellars Lathrop Architects to possibly convert Martha Stewart’s former TV studio into the WAC’s new home.

The address is 19 Newtown Turnpike, Westport. But the 3-story building is in Norwalk.

Sellars Lathrop has invited neighbors to an informal meeting tomorrow (Wednesday, December 19). It’s an early step in the process.

The former Martha Stewart TV studio on Newtown Turnpike.

The Westport Arts Center has a long history. When Greens Farms Elementary School was closed, the WAC moved in. Artists and sculptors rented studios in former classrooms, and the gymnasium was used for exhibits.

The town eventually reclaimed GFS for education. After being homeless for several years, the WAC eventually landed at 51 Riverside Avenue. The long, narrow space works as a gallery, and has a killer view of the Saugatuck River.

But there is little room for other programming — and none at all for working artists.

Westport Arts Center, 51 Riverside Avenue.

The Newtown Avenue project is not a done deal. Sellars Lathrop must make an application to Norwalk’s Planning & Zoning department. Westport officials will be involved too, because the entrance to the property is here.

“It’s no secret we’ve been looking for space for the better part of 3 years,” says Amanda Innes, executive director of the WAC.

“We’ve looked at many places in Westport. Some are near downtown. But this is a great property. There are 110 parking spaces. It’s nearly 10 times the size of where we are now.”

Riverside Avenue — which is rented by the WAC, as the Martha Stewart property would be — is just 3,400 square feet.

“We’re part of the whole fabric of Westport,” Innes notes. The Martha Stewart studio “is still Westport to us. In order to grow, this is the best space for all of us — hands down.”


It’s been a dozen years since Martha Stewart sold her Turkey Hill home, and moved to Westchester. Both she and we moved on.

But Westport and Martha remain an item in the minds and hearts of the many followers who still revere the lifestyle guru.

And this weekend, diehard fans from as far as Wisconsin and Canada will make a pilgrimage here, for her.

On Saturday, June 3, Positive Directions — the Westport-based awareness and treatment program for adolescents, adults and families affected by addiction — sponsors a private afternoon tour of Martha’s old farmhouse and gardens.

Locals will be there. Joining them is a flock of others, for whom the chance to meet their idol — at the actual spot where her empire began — is worth a trip from anywhere.

On Saturday, Martha Stewart returns to Turkey Hill.

Joey Jelnicki calls himself “the biggest Martha Stewart fan,” and he may well be. He lives in Philadelphia, but he calls his gardens “Turkey Hill.” His email address is “WestportJoe81.”

He’s had it ever since he got his first computer as a kid 20 years ago. Westport is “a place I can only dream about calling home,” he says. “It’s country living and beaches — the best of both worlds.”

On Joey Jelnicki’s previous visit to Westport, he posed at this sign.

“I adore Martha,” Joey says. “She adds a touch of class and good things to what can be a hard life to live.”

He has goosebumps thinking of walking through Turkey Hill — which he calls “my Graceland.”

It will be Joey’s first time meeting Martha in person (they talked once on her radio show for 7 minutes). But it won’t be his first visit to Westport.

Several years ago he stayed at the Westport Inn (which he’ll do again). He walked up and down the Post Road, swam at Sherwood Island, shopped locally, and talked with everyone he could about the town.

“Hearing how people grew up in Westport was great,” Joey says.

Dennis Landon’s email pays even more direct homage: “MarthaFan.” The Madison, Wisconsin resident has loved her ever since 1993, when a co-worker gave him her magazine. He got great ideas about changing a room’s shape with paint.

He’s kept copies of every magazine since, and videotaped nearly all the “Martha Stewart Living” TV shows. He’s converting them all to DVD.

“My life in the kitchen and garden has been totally been influenced by Martha,” Dennis says. “Her guidance over all these years is timeless.”

Dennis Landon, in his Martha-inspired Wisconsin kitchen.

The chance to take a tour — led by Martha herself — “really hasn’t sunk in yet,” he admits. “It doesn’t seem possible.”

Dennis flies in 3 days early. He hopes to visit some of the Westport places she’s referenced over the years.

Nathan Schmidt

Nathan Schmidt will drive here from Pittsburgh. He’s been a fan since 1992, when he was not yet 15 and his parents bought him a Christmas gift: the book “Martha Stewart’s New Old House.” He devoured it, and has re-read it many times since.

His friends encouraged him to come here, for “the chance of a lifetime.” A ticket to the tour was expensive, but Nathan says it supports a good cause.

He has been to Westport a number times — he even had a job interview here once. He’s driven past Turkey Hill — and the Adams house on Long Lots, the subject of his holiday gift book — but this will be his first chance meeting his idol, and touring her property.

Rox-Anne Henderson will be coming with her mother from Kitchener, Ontario, making this an international event.

Rox-Anne Henderson in Ontario, with the Canadian flag.

In fact, she says, besides her parents only Martha has influenced her life more. Rox-Anne was introduced to the magazine in 1990, at age 9; got her own subscription at 16, and learned to bake, craft and can her own food, all by reading and watching.

A few years ago Rox-Anne started her own lifestyle blog: Celebrating This Life. When creating content, she always asks, “What would Martha do?” That silent guiding voice has taught Rox-Anne that women can be both homemakers and business people.

The chance to speak to — and perhaps pose for a photo with — Martha makes Rox-Anne dizzy. She’s never been to Westport, but follows a few local bloggers.

“I’m excited to explore the city for myself!” she says.

Martha has been gone a while. But Turkey Hill remains a storied destination for many of her fans.

We look forward to welcoming Martha Stewart back this weekend.

And if you see Joey, Dennis, Nelson or Rox-Anne — or any other Martha devotees — give them a big “06880” hello!

(A few tickets remain for Saturday’s event. Click here for details.)

Cabbages And Kings: Talking Of A Community Kitchen

Back in the day, Martha Stewart’s kitchens — the small one on Saugatuck Avenue, then the glamorous, made-for-TV Newtown Turnpike space — put Westport on the culinary map.

A new kitchen concept may soon get us back there. And it’s got a Martha connection.

C&K Community Kitchen is a collaborative, community incubator kitchen. Launched through Cabbages & Kings Catering — Sarah Gross’ renowned business — it supports the use of organic, non-GMO, locally sourced products and services.

It nurtures anyone inspired by that movement by offering affordable, certified commercial kitchen space, rented in 8-hour shifts.

And it’s available 24/7/365.

Sarah Gross logoA core of folks are already excited by Gross’ venture: an organic frozen soup maker, a gluten-free baker, a maker of potato omelets who is creating a frozen version to bring to market, a cooking teacher, and a local food retailer needing a kitchen to create more substantial offerings for its stores.

Others who have contacted Gross about using the kitchen include a how-to-cook filmmaker, a farmer considering new products, 2 people hoping to create a meal delivery service, jam and canned good makers, a chef who wants to make his very popular grilling sauce organic, and an organic bone broth maker who would like to offer his healthy option to the world.

“We’re open to any and all inquiries,” Gross says.

Sarah Gross and Martha Stewart, back in the day.

Sarah Gross and Martha Stewart, back in the day.

Gross is well known to everyone here who eats. A Westport native and Staples class of 1970 graduate trained as a fine arts painter (with a master’s in psychology), her mother’s kitchen and dining room were often filled with great artists, poets, authors and editors.

After college, she answered an ad for a new retail establishment: The Market Basket. It was Martha Stewart’s 1st venture.

Gross’ talents evolved. She eventually managed Stewart’s catering business.

The idea for C&K Community Kitchen dates back to those early Market Basket days. In addition to Gross, Stewart hired locals like Dale Lamberty (who went on to found Great Cakes) and Audrey Doniger (who launched her famous lemon bars there).

Sarah Gross with a very satisfied President Obama.

Sarah Gross with a very satisfied President Obama.

Gross herself made desserts after hours in the prep kitchen, for Soup’s On. When owner Sue Fine moved, she offered Gross her Saugatuck Avenue space.

Cabbages & Kings Catering grew quickly. Gross has served fabulous food and managed events all over Connecticut and New York. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are among the many diners who have enjoyed her meals.

Yet after more than 40 years in the industry, Gross realized what needed to change.

“The more aware I became of the pollution of the mainstream food system, the more difficult it became for me to service my clients with the quality I was known for, without totally revamping how I work,” she says.

She closed her Saugatuck Avenue kitchen, but kept her facility nearby. She could not give up her beloved 3-bay refrigerator and freezer, stove and sinks.

Sarah Gross, in her C&K Kitchen.

Sarah Gross, in her C&K Kitchen.

Though she wanted to support what she knew to be “good and true” in relation to food, Gross also realized that with today’s extensive rules and regulations, she could not have started out today the way she did in the 1970s.

So she’s keeping her kitchen alive, in a 21st-century form: a collaborative community incubator kitchen.

She’s giving anyone who cannot afford a certified kitchen the legal space to produce organic, non-GMO, locally sourced, regenerative food — and get it into the marketplace, for others to enjoy.

“I want everyone to experience, accelerate and champion the kind of world I want to be a part of, and share,” Gross says.

Bon appétit!

(To learn more about the community kitchen, call 203-226-0531. She offers a 10% monthly discount to the first 6 applicants who meet the required criteria, and commit to 1 or more shifts weekly for 6 months.)

Remembering Laura Plimpton

Laura Plimpton — the youngest sister of Martha Stewart, and a longtime writer for the former Westporter’s blog — died Wednesday, after suffering a massive aneurysm. She was 59 years old, and lived in Weston.

Laura left a living will. She was kept on life support until her 3 children could say goodbye, and testing could be completed for organ donation.

Laura’s husband Randy — a Westport realtor and independent property manager — wrote this remembrance.

Laura’s death was totally unexpected. I’m still in shock, but buoyed by my kids, extended family, and wonderful network of friends.

That evening, my kids, sons-in-law and I ate dinner. We served ourselves dessert – a blueberry crisp that Laura baked the day before she collapsed. Laura was a brilliant chef, and eating her delicious dessert was the definition of bittersweet. Here was this perfect creation that she had so lovingly prepared for us, even though she would no longer be here. It felt like we were giving her and ourselves culinary last rites.

This “last” — one of so many for me this week — made me vividly remember a “first”: the first time I met my wife. It was in Westport.

Laura and Randy Plimpton.

Laura and Randy Plimpton.

In the 1980s and ’90s I was the producer for Jerry Simpson, a New York photographer. We were contracted to shoot for a magazine story at Martha Stewart’s property. So Jerry and I drove up I-95 and arrived at Turkey Hill. Laura was working as a food and prop stylist for her sister, and we hit it off immediately.

After shooting all day long, Jerry, Laura and I decided to grab some dinner. Jerry and I were staying overnight at the Inn at Longshore, so the 3 of us went there. Instead of eating we rented some golf clubs and tried our hand on the course. It was a disaster. None of us had any clue how to play, and we sprayed balls everywhere.

Our memorable game led to drinks at the bar. From there we went to the Black Duck for more. Jerry and I went back to Longshore, and Laura drove all the way back to her house in Weston. The house she went home to became our home together for almost 25 years.

The next day we returned to work, still recovering from our antics. Laura told us that she had woken up to find that her shoes were still on, but somehow on the wrong feet. We had a great laugh, and it made for a hilarious beginning to our relationship.

I know there will be many more “lasts” in the days, weeks and months ahead. At the same time, my Laura’s love has already led to healing and warmth in our family this week, and will lead to many “firsts” in the years to come.

Former Virginia Governor Indicted; Yes, There’s A Westport Angle

“06880” prides itself on our ability to tie nearly any story — anywhere — back to Westport.

Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Including the indictment earlier this week of former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen. They’re charged with accepting $165,000 worth of Os­car de la Renta dress­es, a Rolex watch, Louis Vuit­ton shoes, Cape Cod week­ends, golf greens fees and cash from the head of a di­etary sup­ple­ment com­pa­ny that hoped for state aid.

The current issue of The Washingtonian has an exhaustive, 4,000-word story on Todd Schneider. He’s the governor’s former chef who blew the whistle on the fishy doings down in Richmond.

He was once so close to the first family, Maureen asked if he’d go to Washington if McDonnell became vice president.

But he chafed when Maureen sent him text messages as late as 2 a.m., ordering him to fetch “everything from liquor to tampons.” If he didn’t bring back the exact items demanded, she’d “browbeat” him, Schneider said.

“Have you ever gone and bought tampons?” he added. “There’s a million different kinds.”

Schneider also says the McDonnells’ college-age kids removed “cases and cases” of Gatorade, soda and water from the kitchen, plus “half” his pots and pans, drinking glasses with the state seal, and “boxes of unused trash bags.”

Eventually, Schneider got fired. He himself is no prize. The Washingtonian says he was charged with felony embezzlement in 2000; AP says he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge. He had more than $400,000 in state and federal tax liens.

Todd Schneider, when he was executive chef for Governor McDonnell.

Todd Schneider, when he was executive chef for Governor McDonnell.

But he catered for the stars: former governor Tim Kaine, Republican House majority leader Eric Cantor, George W. Bush’s Thanksgiving address, and the Obama presidential campaign.

So how did he end up hired for the governor’s mansion? Whether or not the staff ran a background check on him is in dispute.

The magazine story goes on and on. Bottom line: Schneider was concerned that too much “weird stuff” was going on in his kitchen, with the McDonnells and their political patron Jonnie Williams. He then took cell phone photos of anything that smelled funny.

Former Virginia first lady Maureen McDonnell.

Former Virginia first lady Maureen McDonnell.

But someone called in an anonymous tip that it was Schneider who was stealing food from the governor’s mansion. The FBI and state police woke him up one morning last year, for questioning.

The chef was fired. Soon, he handed the Virginia attorney general a stack of documents — like a check showing that Williams had paid for the governor’s daughter’s wedding, and photos of “Costco-size hauls of snacks the McDonnell kids had lifted from the mansion.”

More stuff happened to Schneider, most of it bad. The Washingtonian story goes on and on, longer almost than all the documents Edward Snowden leaked to the media.

So what does all this have to do with “06880”?

According to The Washingtonian, Schneider grew up in Westport. And he “got the ‘food bug’ while working for the catering company of his hometown celebrity, Martha Stewart.”

Former Westporter Martha Stewart. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Former Westporter Martha Stewart. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

But — in keeping with this convoluted, contradictory tale — “a Stewart spokeswoman couldn’t confirm that Martha ever employed Schneider.” And his name rings no bells with many longtime Westporters.

Schneider has not been charged with a crime (this time). But his business has gone kaput, and his house went into foreclosure.

Sometime in the future, ex-Governor McDonnell and his wife may follow Martha Stewart to prison.

You can’t make this stuff up.

But it’s all part of “06880 — where Westport meets the world.”

(To read the entire VERY long piece in The Washingtonian, click here.)