Martha Stewart enjoys the comforts

Saturday, March 5, 2005

KATONAH, N.Y. -- Enjoying her first day out of prison, Martha Stewart fed treats to her horses, harvested lemons in her greenhouse and sent out hot chocolate to chilled reporters as she settled in at her $16 million country estate for five months of house arrest.

Just hours after completing her five-month stretch at a federal prison in Alderson, W.Va., for a stock scandal, a smiling Stewart projected the softer, more approachable image she cultivated behind bars.

"It feels great," she said when asked about her first day home.

"I didn't really miss material things at all," she said later. "It was kind of nice to have a rest from the material things. And from this," she added, laughing and pointing to the media horde that was watching her every move.

The billionaire tastemaker made a dash for home after leaving prison in an SUV at 12:30 a.m. Friday. She hopped on a private jet and was in the comfort of one of her homes at the estate just after 3 a.m.

Stewart was given 72 hours to set up a meeting with a probation officer. Then, she will get fitted with an electronic anklet that will monitor all her moves.

She will be allowed 48 hours a week to work outside the home, and is expected to commute to her New York City offices next week as she begins her comeback.

The famously multitasking executive already has a full plate: She will star in a revival of her daily homemaking show as well as her version of NBC's "The Apprentice" while writing a column for her magazine and running her homemaking empire.

She might be allowed to do some taping of the shows on her grounds -- if she gets a town permit. But when she is not on the job, Stewart will be confined inside her house, unable to take a stroll like she took on Friday at the 153-acre estate 40 miles north of New York City.

Wearing an ecru quilted coat and matching knit scarf, the 63-year-old Stewart and a companion took her dog, Paw Paw, into a snowy paddock at midmorning.

"He missed me a lot," she said of the dog.

She handed treats over a fence to her five horses. After ducking inside her huge new greenhouse, she emerged with handfuls of lemons.

"People make jokes about making lemons into lemonade," she quipped.

While in prison, Stewart scrubbed floors, foraged for dandelions, concocted microwave recipes, and all accounts showed uncommon compassion and generosity toward her fellow inmates.

Stewart's release came one day shy of the one-year anniversary of her conviction in New York on charges stemming from her 2001 sale of nearly 4,000 shares of the biotechnology company ImClone Systems.

Stewart's neighbors seemed to be taking her return in stride.

"I guess it's good to be home even if it's home confinement," said Clement Darshow of Bedford, a retired financier. "I'm sure she won't be any trouble here. Did she really drive all night to get here?"

Told she had used a private jet, Darshow said, "I should have known."

Back in Alderson, which had been swarmed by fans during the night, a prison guard emerged at midmorning and picked up garbage as news crews rolled up their cables. All but four die-hard Stewart supporters were gone.

Jacquie Roberts of Detroit and three friends from Seattle wore "Martha's my home girl" T-shirts as they snapped pictures of the prison gate.

"I just feel good. I'm glad she's out and she can get back to everything normal," Roberts said. "She probably had a nice bath last night and today people over, making her up, back to normal."

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