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).

My Clipped Recipe Awards: Top Magazines for the Cooking-Challenged

admit it. I’m not the best cook in the world. In fact, I hardly cook at
all. I’ve used my Crock-Pot twice in the past eight years and the last
time I fired up the stove was about three weeks ago–to scramble an
egg. I’ve always been a grab-it-and-go kind of gal. Translation: My kind of meal is anything I can pull out of the refrigerator and unwrap or zap.

Cooking is an area where I find most women’s magazines
intimidating. Oh, I’m just as tempted by the mouth-watering dishes and
luscious confections as the next reader, but one glance at the long
list of ingredients, multiple steps and hours it takes to put it all
together, and my resolve turns to Jell-O. I doubt my attempt could ever
live up.

So when I find a magazine that demystifies cooking and
teaches me how to make tasty meals that are fast, easy and somewhat
healthy too, I say a silent prayer of gratitude. My cooking phobia may
not represent the majority of readers who have women’s magazine
subscriptions, but I’m convinced that there are more of us out there than
most food editors realize. For their recognition of and service to the
cooking-challenged, the following magazines take top honors in my

First Place
Woman’s Day magazine:
For putting the spotlight back on simple but scrumptious combos like
peanut butter sandwiches with sliced strawberries, and mashed potatoes
with pesto; for setting realistic expectations by listing both prep and cooking time; and for noting how much money a dish cooked at home saves compared to the same meal ordered out

Second Place
Ladies’ Home Journal magazine: For
breaking down the basics of baking a pizza and illustrating how to make
different concoctions by switching up the crust, sauce, cheese, veggies
and meat; for explaining the Mediterranean diet by categorizing its eight main food groups and dividing them into recommended portion sizes per day 

Third Place
First for Women magazine:
For suggesting protein-packed meals with minimal ingredients and quick
prep time; for providing tips on how to salvage a disastrous dish; and
for sharing secrets on finding healthy menu items at fast-food

The prize: These publications win my loyal readership and earn my promise to clip their recipes and perhaps even test them in my kitchen.


Charleston Is the Hottest “New” Destination for Magazines

southernliving.jpgAs a Deep South native, I’ve made it my mission to travel to most of the region’s renowned cities, including Atlanta, Birmingham, Mobile, Jackson and New Orleans. Apparently, though, there is one must-see city I’ve overlooked: Charleston, S.C. Everywhere I turn these days I’m hearing about it. My sister and her husband honeymooned there. My other sister and her husband stopped there on a cross-country drive. A few friends have vacationed there too. I’ve been hearing the buzz about Charleston for months, so when my March 2010 issue of Southern Living magazine arrived, I couldn’t help but smile when I saw the cover. The featured theme? Charleston, of course!

From the city’s distinguished architecture and enchanting communities to the historic horticulture and classic cuisine, the magazine explored every nook and cranny of Charleston’s “romantic charm,” weaving stories throughout its travel, home, food and garden departments. Even the mayor (the nation’s longest running, at 33 years and counting!) gets a cameo. And Southern Living magazine wasn’t the only one to pick up on the allure of this centuries-old city. Ladies Home Journal magazine named Charleston as a “Great Romantic Getaway” (along with Sanibel Island, Fla.) in its March 2010 issue. And Charleston native and novelist Josephine Humphreys described the charms of her hometown in a narrative for Smithsonian magazine’s March 2009 issue.

So, what’s all the fuss about Charleston, and does it really deserve all this attention? According editor-in-chief Eleanor Griffin, Southern Living magazine chose to highlight it because, it’s a city you’ve told us you’re passionate about,” she writes, alluding to readers who’ve crowned
Charleston as their favorite Southern city in the Readers’ Choice Awards for several years running. After hearing friends and family rave about the restaurants, hotels, tours and shopping in Charleston, I was a bit skeptical. It sounded like a travel fad to me–or the workings of a very good PR person steering Charleston’s rise as the “it” destination! But, as Southern Living magazine’s tribute to the city illustrates, it’s what we’ve forgotten about Charleston–and what thousands of tourists rediscover when they visit–that captivate so many. Here are few things I was (pleasantly) surprised to learn about the city from Southern Living’s March issue:

  • Best of the South: Window boxes are a signature of Charleston’s cobblestone streets; the mayor is a true gentleman; and you can buy everything here from a clutch made from vintage upholstery to a chic lamp fashioned from walnut wood.

  • Travel: Hotels ooze with history (one housed a signer of the Constitution) and hospitality (another serves milk and cookies before bed).
  • Homes: Rooms, from airy piazzas to elegant parlors, are rich with history and showcase a personal, collected style. 
  • Garden: Southern staples like azaleas, camellias, gardenias and crepe myrtles all have roots here. Who knew?
  • Food: From shrimp and grits and bacon-fried okra to benne brittle and Hoppin’ John salad, Charleston offers some of the most savory tastes around.

If you can’t venture to Charleston, this issue offered plenty of recipes and gardening and decorating tips to help you bring a piece of Charleston style to your home. As for me, I hope to be making a visit very soon….


All You Magazine Looks Out for You and Your Wallet

allyou.jpgMy 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. (The June issue alone had a total of $102.61 in coupons.) 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 September Issue” Reveals Human Side of Vogue Magazine

vogue.jpgI’ve always admired Vogue magazine.
My roommate, a seamstress in the fashion industry, used to get a
subscription, and I couldn’t resist the temptation to snatch a few of
her issues and flip through. One look, and it’s impossible not
to respect this magazine. From the glamorous cover and gorgeous spreads
to the outlandish clothes and ethereal models, everything is perfectly
polished and packaged. And to me, it represented something
unattainable. So after a quick skim, I usually put the issue down.

When I sat down recently to watch “The September Issue,” a behind-the-scenes documentary that chronicles the creation of Vogue magazine’s
highly anticipated and historic September 2007 issue, I was surprised
to hear infamous editor-in-chief Anna Wintour addressing people like me
in the opening scene. “There is something about fashion that makes
people nervous,” she says, cracking a tentative smile. Yep, I nodded.
Her candor made me want to know more about the imposing fashion queen
and magazine.

And “The September Issue” does just that.
Directed by R.J. Cutler, the 90-minute film takes you behind the
clothing racks and shelves of shoes, bags and accessories that adorn
the Vogue magazine office, and offers a glimpse into the dynamics
between Anna Wintour and the people she interacts with daily–the
designers who respect her and the staff that worships her. The camera
observes the editor as she presides over meetings, hobnobs with
advertisers, scrutinizes trembling designers who come to show their
collections and critiques runway fashions from behind her trademark

Unlike her Miranda Priestly incarnation in “The Devil Wears Prada”
(a movie loosely based on former assistant Lauren Weisberger’s
experiences at Vogue magazine), Anna Wintour comes off as cool and
businesslike rather than frigid and cruel. She simply likes what she
likes–and she isn’t afraid to express that or push until she gets it.
“It is always going to be Anna’s point of view,” one of the editors
says. “It’s Anna’s magazine.” Few people are willing to challenge that
point of view, but one exception is the magazine’s visionary creative
director, Grace Coddington. A former model who started working at the
magazine the same day as her boss, Grace Coddington has her own ideas
about fashion and how to portray it, and she isn’t afraid to argue
about anything, from artistic interpretation of photos to wardrobes to
the budget.

Throughout the film, the veil behind the
magazine’s picture-perfect image is lifted, and viewers are treated to
a candid–and often amusing–peek into all of the planning and
coordination it takes to put together a 699-page issue in five months.
There are plenty of ego clashes, photo shoot snafus and
down-to-the-wire moments. But the most fascinating part isn’t Anna
Wintour or the lonely life she leads outside the office; it’s watching
her and Grace Coddington collide and collaborate. The editor-in-chief
may be the brains behind Vogue magazine, but the creative director is
its heart. By revealing the delightfully imperfect side of the magazine
and the people behind its masthead, “The September Issue” helps Vogue magazine fans relate to both a little better.


Magazine Cover Girls With a Cause

ladies_home_journal.jpgCelebrity cover stories aren’t uncommon for most women’s magazines. In fact, they’re the norm. Usually, these stories focus on the signature style of celebrities or harp on some revealing detail about their lives. In the March issue of Ladies Home Journal magazine, actress Julianna Margulies takes the coveted cover spot for a different reason: She’s using her fame to raise money to find a cure for Lou Gehrig’s disease. She isn’t the only celebrity using her status for good. The magazine also spotlights CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric and Academy Award-nominated actress Julianne Moore, both of whom have devoted their time and resources to giving back to causes close to their hearts.

For Julianna Margulies, the fight against Lou Gehrig’s disease became personal when she saw the toll it took on a friend who was diagnosed and later died from the disease. Since then, the actress has used her name and connections to promote Project A.L.S., a nonprofit her friend helped start to equip doctors searching for treatments and a cure with research funds and facilities. “As a celebrity, it’s my responsibility to give a voice to a cause,” she tells the magazine. Wow, a celebrity who sees fame as a responsibility? It’s rare to hear that these days.

Raising awareness about cancer, along with money for research, is a cause that has hit home for Katie Couric ever since her husband, Jay Monahan, lost his battle with colon cancer in 1998. Since then, the anchor has used her platform to spread the word about early detection, even going so far, as you may remember, as to film her own colonoscopy for live television, an event known as the “Couric effect” that led to a 20-percent spike in colonoscopies across the country.

Recently, Couric launched the first-ever telethon to raise money for cutting-edge cancer research. She may be a star, but what Katie Couric had to say about her efforts can apply to anyone, especially women whose friends or families have been touched by the disease. “Getting involved in the fight against colon cancer offset the helplessness I felt,” she says.

We’ve all dreamed about the things we would change if we were famous, right? Well, that’s exactly what Julianne Moore has done. Growing up in a military family, the actress moved around frequently, bouncing from schools in wealthy districts to rural ones with limited resources. “It became clear to me that not everyone gets a fair shot,” she recalls. As a celebrity, she sought to close this educational gap by getting involved in Save the Children, a nonprofit that offers advocacy, resources and programs to poor children abroad and at home. As an artist ambassador, Julianne Moore visits schools in poverty-stricken areas and spearheads campaigns to raise money for children in need. Best of all, she’s passing this spirit of service onto her children!

With the saturation of celebrity news these days, it’s nice to read about stars who are using their notoriety to make the world a better place. I would like to see more cover girls like these … what about you?


Getting Frugal With Woman’s Day Magazine

WomansDay_summer.jpgEveryone is looking for ways to cut back these days. Unless you’ve been lucky enough to escape the fallout of “The Great Recession” (as the Associated Press calls it), you’re probably searching for ways to skimp and save in every part of your life. I know I am! For the frugally minded, the March issue of Woman’s Day magazine includes tons of short, substantive articles on how to save on travel, entertainment, food, fashion, decorating and home organization.

The cover story,”50 Things to Do With $5,” was my favorite article. Often we women think that the only way to properly pamper ourselves is to shell out lots of cash on a spa day, a girls’ getaway or a shopping trip. But the truth is, simply allowing ourselves little indulgences–a cupcake here, a cheap cocktail ring there–may be all the spoiling we need to satisfy us for the moment. The article is full of novel ideas to help you entertain, decorate, treat yourself and give back, all without spending more than $5. My favorite find in the article was a $3 set of stylish to-do folders from OfficeMax that come in spring colors and divide tasks into “today,” “tomorrow” and “never” folders! 

Another cost-cutting article, “The Do-It-Yourself Vacation,” offers four pages of websites and phone apps to help you plan your next trip without blowing your budget. From getting there and finding where to stay to eating out and exploring, the article provides a range of resources to help you nail down the best prices. If a vacation isn’t in the cards this summer, you can get advice from a thrifty mom on planning fun but affordable mini-trips in your own town.

Redecorating your home can get super expensive really fast (trust me, I know!), but in this issue, you can find simple solutions to help you reorganize and spruce up your living space without racking up debt your credit card. Sometimes it’s a matter of adding a few colorful pillows to furniture to punch up a room or hanging a mirror on the wall to enlarge the space. You could spend a fortune on gadgets and gizmos to help you organize your kitchen, but the magazine’s “Kitchen Confidential” article shows you how the simplest and cheapest products often work the best. Think $2 hooks for towels, potholders and measuring spoons that you can stick inside cabinets or hang over pantry doors. 

I would like to applaud Woman’s Day magazine for its budget-conscious hints and tips. Finally, a magazine that understands that not all women shop at Nordstrom, drive BMWs or have several hundreds of dollars in our pockets to plunk down for a home decorating project. Best of all, the magazine makes saving money seem like a fun, rewarding game, not a depressing obligation. This is the magazine for creative ways to cut corners. I’m sold!