Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Holiday Magazine Watch

It's that time of year, when the holiday magazines appear on the stands, winking brightly at us beneath the grocery store's florescent lights, promising perfect Thanksgivings and Christmases if only we'll shell out the $3.99 cover price.

I am a sucker for magazines in general, though in recent years I've curbed my profligate monthly purchasing. The fact is, you could subscribe to Family Circle or Women's Day for one calendar year, save all your issues, and then just recycle through your stash ever after. If there's a new issue of FC or WD on the stands, I can promise you the following headlines: Walk Off the Weight! Twenty Minute Dinners Your Family Will Love! Ten Medical Tests You Need to Know About!

But when it comes to the holidays, my heart melts. I actually save most November and December issues of MS's Living and lesser magazines as well, just because when I start feeling Christmassy, I want some literature to feed the fire.

My first holiday magazine of this season is the November Real Simple. Now, as we all know, Real Simple is neither real, nor is it simple. I usually start having a mild anxiety attack about five pages in. The "Why Not?" feature gives you six ways to simplify your life. I don't have time to simplify my life in six ways. In fact, having six ways to simplify my life actually complicates my life. What are these people thinking about?

As someone else has said, if Real Simple were actually simple, it would be three pages xeroxed and stapled. Instead, this issue comes in at nearly 400 pages. How many of those pages are ads, you wonder? Really, almost all of them.

The fact, is Real Simple is pretty much about all the neat things you can buy in any given month. This issue has a spread on what you need to fill your cleaning bucket (p. 135). You won't believe it: you'll need rubber gloves and a scrub brush. Who woulda thunk it?

There are articles about what you'll need (and how much you'll need to spend) on stuff to keep your skin from looking all wrinkly and the lovely hostess gifts that it would have never occurred to you to purchase before reading this article. The RS editors kindly tell us which dish rack works best (the one that costs $20, natch) and present a selection of makeup pencils that will be sure to make us look just like the twenty-year-old models batting their eyelashes at us from the pages.

When RS gives us actual content, I often quite like it. My favorite section is where readers have written in with advice on a particular subject (this month, Thanksgiving Shortcuts). There's an article on the art and etiquette of invitations that was full of good, commonsense tips about dropping people from your party list and ensuring no one thinks your invitation includes their twin Boston terriers. And while I felt wildly irritated reading the article on using screens to divide living space (for what the screens cost, you could add another room off the kitchen), I thought their ideas for Thanksgiving decorations were nice and--get this--simple.

Did I finish this issue of RS feeling ready for Thanksgiving? Since we go to to my mother-in-law's for Thanksgiving (my husband comes from one of those fabulous southern families where about 75 people show up for Thanksgiving dinner at Cousin Jane's house and there's at least eleven green bean casseroles and seventeen plates of cornbread), I don't have much Thanksgiving prep to worry about. But I did enjoy reading the recipes and looking at the pictures of the stuffing (my favorite Thanksgiving food), and I felt sufficiently cozy and pilgrim-like when I finally put the magazine down.

Next up: the November Martha Stewart's Living.


Heather said...

I can't wait to read your thoughts on MSL. I tossed my subscription to Real Simple a few years ago, but cannot give up my MSL.
I will say that I am heartily disappointed in the December cover art. I like MSL to sit on the top of the mag stack and make my table look pretty. This one doesn't do it for me at all.Cheap decor, huh?

Victoria said...

Yes, the Christmas editions of magazines are the best, I love them.

Left-Handed Housewife said...


I'm not a MSL subscriber (gasp! it's shocking, but lately I've noticed the subscription price going down, so I may sign up), so I haven't seen the December issue yet. I will be gravely disappointed if it's not coffee-table worthy! I use magazines the same way--MSL and Country Living on the coffee table to make it look pretty, piles of (mostly unread) New Yorkers to make me look smart.


The Christmas editions rule! I ignore all sorts of magazines during the rest of the year, but I buy almost every Christmas edition I can get my hands on.