Author Archives: Emily McMackin

Emily McMackin

About Emily McMackin

Emily McMackin is an editor, writer and perpetual storyteller with an incurable addiction to coffee, magazines, Neil Diamond and Caribbean travel. She resides in Music City USA (that's Nashville, Tenn., ya'll!), where you'll find her staking out live music, salsa dancing, scouring town for the best latte and working on her first No. 1 (book that is).

Boat sailing into Edenton Harbor_featured

Escape to Edenton, N.C.: Must-See Sights in One of America’s Prettiest Small Towns

A boat sails into Edenton Harbor.

Guest blogger and frequent visitor Emily McMackin reveals what makes Edenton one of America’s prettiest small towns, along with its can’t-miss sights, shopping and cuisine.

Everyone needs a hideaway. A place you discover all on your own and find yourself wanting to return to as often as possible. For me, that place is Edenton, N.C.

I first came to Edenton on a work trip. My job as a magazine editor often takes me places I would have never visited otherwise — and that’s what brought me to this town of 5,000 near North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

A few weeks before my visit, Edenton was named one of “America’s Prettiest Small Towns” by Forbes magazine — and it was obvious why. The first time I turned down North Broad Street, the town’s main thoroughfare, I felt like I was crossing into another time.

Lush oaks, elms, sycamores and magnolias towered above the road like a canopy, draping columned homes in curtains of green. Crepe myrtles colored yards in rainbows of pink and filled the air with fragrance.

Nearly every house had a spacious front porch with a swing and an American flag fluttering in the breeze. I was tempted to trespass just so I could sit on one for a little while.

Right away, I was captivated by Edenton’s storybook beauty, but I soon discovered more about this town that I loved. Here are three reasons I keep coming back and why you are sure to fall in love with it, too.

Steeped in Stories

Grand historic homes line North Broad Street, Edenton's main thoroughfare.

Edenton folks are natural-born storytellers, but perhaps that’s because they live in a place so rich in history. Established in 1712, this waterfront town is the second oldest in North Carolina and served as its first Colonial capital until 1743.

Almost every street has a historical marker, including two for National Historic Landmarks. Downtown is full of restored homes spanning two centuries and showcasing a range of architecture, including Jacobean, Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival and Victorian styles.

For a small place, Edenton has played a big role in shaping American history. History buffs won’t want to miss:

Chowan County Courthouse: Built in 1787 with funds raised by Declaration of Independence signer Joseph Hewes, this Colonial courthouse is the most intact one left.

Cupola House: Constructed in 1758 for one of the royal governor’s agents, the home is known for its gardens, modeled after their original 1769 layout.

Barker House: This mansion was home to Penelope Barker, leader of the Edenton Tea Party, America’s earliest group of female political activists (a teacup-themed memorial to the ladies can be viewed nearby). From rockers on the back porch, tourists can admire watercolor reflections of historic homes across Edenton Bay.

Edenton Harbor: Part of the Maritime Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Trail, Edenton’s Harbor on the Albemarle Sound has a deep history. Visitors can walk the docks where Edenton native Harriet Jacobs, whose Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl memoir documented her harsh treatment as a slave, secretly boarded a boat bound for Philadelphia and sailed to freedom in 1842.

Haven for Hospitality

Spend the evening at The Pack House Inn and enjoy a breakfast of blueberry pancakes the next morning.

If you love bed and breakfasts, Edenton is for you. Innkeepers are famous for their attentiveness. One of my hosts got up before sunrise to brew coffee and put out sweet bread for me when I left early one morning to catch a flight.

Some of them, like bed and breakfast owners and New England transplants David and Dora Drohen, moved to Edenton after falling in love with it themselves. For a memorable stay, book a room at:

Granville Queen Inn Bed and Breakfast: Guest chambers in this turn-of-the-century Victorian house come with antiques, crystal chandeliers, fireplaces and private balconies. Don’t miss rocking on the grand front porch or breakfast in the plantation room, where delicacies like poached pears, crepes, sausage puffs and frozen amaretto cream baskets of mixed berries are served.

The Pack House Inn: Given the best innkeepers award by Bed and Breakfast Directory, this 1915 tobacco packing house includes period furnishings, canopy beds, fluffy bathrobes and a kitchen stocked with an endless supply of homemade treats. Guests receive a chilled bottle of Chardonnay upon arrival and can choose between blueberry pancakes or egg souffle for breakfast, with sides of home fries, grits, sausage links and fruit cocktail.

Turn back time with a visit to the Downtown Cafe & Soda Shoppe and order a milkshake, sundae or float.

Delectable Dining, Specialty Shopping

A downtown stroll is mandatory to the Edenton experience. Holly trees line brick sidewalks, where locals stop to shoot the breeze. The marquee of restored 1925 art deco Twin Taylor Cinema lights up each evening as it did 80-plus years ago, and 19th-century commercial buildings house some of best restaurants and antique stores. Foodies should try:

Waterman’s Grill: Savor the finest Carolina cuisine — crab cakes, seasoned shrimp, stewed tomatoes and corn pudding — in a candlelit yet casual setting. Have a glass of muscadine wine and save room for pineapple upside-down cake!

Downtown Cafe & Soda Shoppe: Scoot a red patent leather stool up to this old-fashioned soda fountain and enjoy a sundae, milkshake or float in this former pharmacy-turned-cafe.

Edenton Coffeehouse Bakery & Cafe: Linger over a used book and a latte, smoothie or frappuccino at this coffee bar and its adjoining bookstore (appropriately named The Garden of Good Readin’). The cafe bakes its own biscotti and has daily soup and sandwich specials. My recommendation? Try the apple chicken salad.

Love souvenir shopping? Don’t leave town without stopping by:

Edenton Bay Trading Company: This bayside shop sells everything from sea salt truffles and Carolina wines to coffee-table books, handmade jewelry and beachy collectibles. I bought my souvenir there — a shell box with red velvet lining. Every time I look at it, it reminds me of Edenton and all its hidden gems.

Visit for yourself to see what treasures you can uncover in one of America’s prettiest small towns!

For even more visuals or to create a travel board for your trip to Edenton, check out our latest Pinterest board featuring Emily’s picks!


All You Magazine Looks Out for You and Your Wallet

AllYou.jpgThis article was originally posted on Home MagaScene.

My coupon junkie roommate was the first person who introduced me to All You magazine. She subscribes to it monthly and gets all giddy and rips into it the minute it comes in the mail. Such a dramatic reaction made sense for her because she’s a buyer by trade who is always on the lookout for the best bargains and deals. But me? I’m a spontaneous spender who avoids thrift stores and rarely notices the price of an item before putting it into my grocery cart. For some reason, I’ve always found coupons overwhelming–and by the time I think about using them, they’re usually expired.

But something happened a few months ago that radically changed my carefree shopping ways. I got laid off. There is nothing like a checking account with no cash-infused direct deposit paycheck every two weeks to turn you into a money-conscious consumer.

All of the sudden, every $50 I spent–or every $20, $10 and $5, for that
matter–counted. For thousands of women who have dealt with
unemployment, or just the thrifty ones (like my roomie) who want to cut
corners, All You magazine offers a quick, easy-to-read, woman-to-woman
guide on how to live well while spending less. It includes realistic,
affordable ideas that you can apply to every facet of life, from food
and health to home and fashion. Inside, you can find smart shopping
strategies, budget-friendly recipes and meal plans, and hair and beauty
tips that make you look like a million dollars without spending an
embarrassing amount at the salon.

Another unique thing about the
magazine is that it prides itself on providing “real-life advice from
real women.” This means you can find plenty of reader-submitted tips,
tricks, remedies and stories, along with fashion for curvy women,
recipes for the cooking challenged and finance advice for spendthrifts. A
few of my favorite recurring features include:

    * Save Every
Day: Creative tips to help you be more frugal throughout the day, like
finding ways to make every room in your house beautiful without breaking
the bank

    * Know-How: Smart, financially savvy steps for
managing your household, life and stuff (for example, the clutter you
don’t need and want to donate, sell or dump)

    * Fast Fixes:
Handy hints to help you around the house, like cleaning with natural
substitutes instead of expensive household products

Of course,
this doesn’t even cover all of the coupons you can find for food,
cleaning items, beauty and household products.  And if that still isn’t
enough, the magazine is chock-full of coupon codes, shopping guides and
online giveaways. Thanks to my new appreciation for saving money, I
found myself enjoying flipping through this magazine and learning about
the simple but significant ways that I could become a smarter spender. I
swear I even started smiling every time I turned to a new coupon (which
is practically every other page). Now that I’ve read All You magazine
and know what all the fuss is about, I might just clip a coupon or two.


The Future of Magazines: The Good News You Haven’t Heard

future_mag.jpegThere is a nasty rumor going around in the marketing and media world. It goes something like this: Print is dying, and magazines are on their way out. Sure, this is an easy assumption to make when you consider how the Internet has revolutionized the way we do pretty much everything or how society seems to revolve around social media like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. But don’t believe everything you hear.

Yes, it’s true that newsstand sales are down (a sobering but not surprising fact considering the magnitude of the recession). And, yes, the shutterings of stalwart magazine titles like Gourmet, Home and Garden and Domino have sent a collective shiver down the spine of some of the biggest magazines in the the consumer market.

Despite all this, magazine readership has grown at a higher rate in the past five years than patronage of any other media except the Internet, and subscriptions are at their highest level in a decade, according to a Mediamark Research & Intelligence report released by the Magazine Publishers of America. And for all the YouTube videos, iPhone apps, and Facebook and Twitter obsessing that consumes our time, young adults (ages 18-34) are the fastest growing group of magazine readers, the report notes.

So all that talk about magazines becoming as obsolete as last season’s
fur-trimmed boots? It’s easy to buy into the hype, I know. I started my
career in magazines, but lately I’m spending more and more time writing
Web content, blogging and posting to social media sites. And I lost my
last job at a magazine after one of our major clients shifted all of
their marketing dollars from a print magazine to a website.

But I
still read magazines (as do most people I know). I still dream of
writing for the big glossies. And I’m not ready to count magazines out
yet. Neither should you. My prediction: In the next decade, magazines
will not only survive; they will thrive. Here are three reasons why: 

1. Magazines are the ultimate trendsetters.
Media experts may be debating the demise of magazines, but most editors
and publishers aren’t sitting around fretting the future. They are
taking action: connecting with readers via Facebook and Twitter,
expanding their reach through digital magazines and websites, developing
handy iPhone apps and planning how to integrate their content with the
iPad. Marie Claire magazine became the talk of Twitter recently with the
release of its interactive shopping edition,
which allows readers to snap a picture of a fashion item with their
smart phone and instantly shop for it. If any medium has a reputation
for looking forward, it’s magazines–and they are finding ways to stay
more relevant than ever.

2. Readers still need the escape. Sure,
technology makes it possible to have all of the information we need
right at our fingertips, 24/7, but that’s even more of a reason we all
need a break sometimes. And that’s what magazines do best. They let us
escape, pretend, imagine and daydream. They encourage us to look beyond
what’s right before our eyes and think about the possibilities. People
already seem to be looking for technology time-outs, with more Facebook
users taking “sabbaticals” and surveys showing a desire to unplug. Whether magazines become as trendy as playing vintage records, as one blogger suggests, or morph into an interactive iPad platform, they will always captivate us and encourage us to break away.

3. Magazines are extensions of us.
Who doesn’t remember the magazines on their coffee table growing up?
Who hasn’t looked for answers to relationships, careers, love or life in
the pages of a magazine? Magazines reflect our culture back to us, help
us make connections, spur conversations and raise questions we are too
afraid to ask. When what we read or see makes an impact, it often
inspires us to act. Magazines are one of the top drivers of Web searches and the favored medium
for media engagement–proof that the majority of us still turn to them
for insight, advice, enlightenment and a sounding board for our emotions
and experiences. 

Need more convincing? Listen to what the country’s top publishers have to say about the vitality of magazines.

a reason magazines are such an enduring and engaging media force,” says
Charles H. Townsend, president and CEO of Conde Nast. “The format
showcases our rich content and our advertisers’ brand messages like no
other medium, resulting in a bond with consumers that is uniquely


10 Things I’ve Learned from Magazines

glamour_jlo2.jpgI’ve had a lot of great teachers in my life, but magazines have been one of the best, especially when it comes to the “school of reality.” Teen, fashion, food, home, human interest … whatever the genre, I’ve been able to learn valuable lessons from all kinds of magazines. Next to my hairdresser, magazines are where I get my best beauty and fashion advice. They’re also where I turn when I need a cool recipe to take to a party, inspiration for organizing my closet or tips to help me budget my money better.

Through the years, magazines have been my confidante in many different situations: when I’m dealing with an issue too embarrassing to discuss with friends or family; when I’ve had a bad day and need a pick-me-up; when I need inspiration to take a risk or step outside my comfort zone. Here are the top 10 lessons I’ve learned from magazines:

1. Change is the best (and cheapest) beauty product. Since I started reading fashion magazines at 17, I’ve seen lots of fads come and go, but one constant I’ve noticed: The latest fashion is always about experimentation. Sometimes trying a new ‘do or an outfit no one would expect you to wear is all you need to feel like a supermodel.

2. Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. Magazines get a bad rep for setting beauty standards most women could never live up to, but I’ve found the opposite to be true. I’ve seen my body type (petite, pear-shaped) and others featured plenty in magazines, along with advice on how to dress to flatter our God-given figures!

3. Inspiration is everywhere. I’m the worst at getting down on myself when I’ve hit a wall. But reading stories about women who have turned their setbacks into stepping stones to success has shown me that strength can be drawn from anywhere–you just have to open your eyes and look around.

4. A well-written list can solve a world of problems. A lesson from the ubiquitous lists in magazines: Taking time to think before you speak, act or react will keep you out of a whole lot of trouble.    

5. A well-told story can make a world of difference. I’m living proof of this, along with thousands of others who have adjusted their attitude or their direction after reading a story that changed their way of thinking.   

6. Love is a mystery. I wish I could say that all of the insight I’ve gleaned in magazine “love departments” has led me to my soul mate. I’m still single, so I can’t say that. If anything, this is where magazines have given me the most conflicting advice over the years. What I have learned from reading stories of heartbreak and happiness is that love is sacred and not to be taken for granted.

7. Cooking is an art (I have yet to master). Magazines show food the way it should be served–in all its glory with every tiny but key ingredient accounted for and explained. I know this level of cooking is attainable; I just haven’t found the patience to try it yet!

8. Laughter is necessary. Most magazines embrace the idea that life should not be taken too seriously and offer tons of ideas for finding joy in the smallest, most mundane moments.
9.  There are no rules. Despite all of the tips, hints and solutions magazines offer, the idea of tapping into your intuition to find the answers you need is an underlying theme in most of them.

10. Anything is possible. Pick up any magazine, and you’ll find stories of obstacles overcome, barriers crossed and challenges faced. That’s what makes them empowering.

How about you? What lessons have you learned from magazines? We’d love to hear your 10!


The Glossy Pages of Magazines: Why We Love Them

Glossypages_edit2.jpgI’ve always enjoyed reading. I’ll read anything–books, newspapers, fliers, even pamphlets. But when it comes to magazines, not only do I like to read them, I love to read them. Some of my reasoning for this stems from the format and the content, but much of it goes back to the glossy pages of magazines. Here are the top three reasons why I love them:  

1. They are fun to flip through. The glossy pages glide through your hands, just as a leisurely read should. Unlike newspapers, they don’t leave grubby ink splotches on your hands. You don’t have to scroll down to continue a story, or fold and refold to move on to the next one. The text and images of most features flow seamlessly from one page to the next, with minimal jumps. While flipping through, you happen upon all kinds of surprises: coupons, perfume samples, tear-out quizzes, pull-out posters, planners and calendars. 

2. They are easy on the eyes. This applies both literally and figuratively. Magazines don’t strain your eyes after long bouts of reading like a computer screen does. They look good on the coffee table or spread out in your lap. The glossiness of the pages make colors, shades, lines and textures more vivid and defined–almost as if you can reach out and touch the images on the page in front of you. Fashion looks more luxurious, food more succulent, furniture more ornate, scenery more spectacular. Which brings me to my next point …

3. They add to the experience. Glossy pages bring the content and design in magazines to life. Without them, Elle magazine‘s sleek black-and-white photos of Julia Roberts and her Eat, Pray, Love co-star Javier Bardem wouldn’t be nearly as evocative; the detail images in the “O” list in O, The Oprah magazine wouldn’t be as enticing; Sunset magazine’s photography on national parks wouldn’t feel as inspiring. Can you imagine Southern Living magazine’s spread on bluebonnets or fruit sorbets without their glossy sheen? Fonts display better on glossy pages, too, creating a pretty package for readers to “unwrap.”

Oh, and one more reason I love glossy pages: They’re practically waterproof. If I get them wet (while reading in the bathtub or on a float in the pool), they dry much faster than the pages of a paperback book. And I can enjoy them anywhere–no Wifi connection required!


Discovering a New World Through Magazines

window.JPGI grew up in a small Southern town. So small that our tallest building was the water tower, most cultural events revolved around high-school theater, the nicest restaurant was a meat-and-three, and the finest wine was a chilled glass of sweet tea.

I was never what you would call “cosmopolitan,” though I always wanted to be. The only catwalk I ever pranced down was the runway at the mall’s spring fashion show. Being a trendsetter meant convincing my parents to buy me the bomber jacket that all my friends were wearing. Diversity was hard to find in my small town of 800. Nothing ever seemed to change. People thought alike, talked alike, many dressed alike. I often wondered if there was more to life than trying to be like everyone else.

That’s where my love affair with magazines began. Magazines were like a window to a bigger world. Peeking inside their glossy pages gave me a glimpse into a universe full of different people, places and ideas I wouldn’t have known or cared about otherwise. At the time, I had never been to a big city–except Birmingham, Ala.–so magazines were the closest I got to visiting one. If I needed an escape, I would pull one off the coffee table and within minutes be engrossed. Magazines made me smile. They made me question. They made me dream.

Fortunately, my family loved magazines and kept plenty around. The first magazine I remember flipping through was my mom’s Southern Living magazine. Not only did it entrance me with stories and images romanticizing the rustic region in which I lived, it also revealed the diversity in my own backyard, from Amish communities in Tennessee to Mardi Gras festivals in New Orleans. It changed my perspective and perhaps gave me a deeper appreciation for my hometown.

I loved the fact that magazines could surprise me. I was never
outdoorsy, but the ethereal photography on the cover of my grandmother’s
National Geographic magazine would suck me in every time. Before I knew
it, I was reading about salamanders, geo-science and all sorts of
topics I could usually care less about.

There were others, too,
that made a lasting impression: the Reader’s Digest magazines in my
dad’s office that kept me occupied for hours; the inspirational stories
from Ladies’ Home Journal magazine
that my grandmother would clip and share with me; the teen magazines
that guided me through the treacherous topics of love, fashion and
friendship, and reassured me that it was OK to be different.

remember one year when my dad couldn’t afford to take us on vacation. As
a consolation, he let me and my sisters each have our own “day” to go
anywhere we wanted. I chose the bookstore and spent the afternoon at the
magazine rack. If I couldn’t go on vacation, reading magazines was the
next best thing!

I live in a big city now filled with more
diversity and entertainment than I could ever hope to explore. Sometimes
I wonder: Would I have loved magazines as much if I hadn’t grown up in a
small town? All I know is that when life gets hectic, I long to sit on
my deck with a glass of sweet tea and get lost inside the pages of my
favorite magazines.