One of the nice things about my job is that it *requires* that I read a lot of magazines in search of new editorial and design ideas. I eagerly await the arrival of each year's Christmas magazines, and this year's issues are some of the best yet. In recent years the trend seems to be for well-known magazine brands to publish special Christmas/Holiday issues in addition to their regular monthly or bi-monthly issues. They feature thicker paper stock and a higher price tag, but the quality makes them worth it. Country Living Holidays ($9.99, 122 pages) is brimming with good ideas, from do-it-yourself candles in teacups to beaded snowflake ornaments and Chocolate Bark made with something called cocoa nibs. If you're planning a Cookie Exchange, you'll be happy to see such recipes as Cranberry Pinwheels, Ginger-Marmalade Thumbprints and Chocolate Chip Shortbread. You'll find recipes for cooking the turkey AND the ham, and there are giftwrap and decorating ideas galore, all served up with the beautiful photography we expect from Country Living.
Southern Lady Holidays ($7.99, 132 pages) is a special issue from Hoffman Media. The cover's color palette is very similar to that of the new Tea Time, red with white-hued foods. I especially enjoyed the giftwrap ideas (though I'm not sure I'll tuxedo pleat or accordian ribbon anything this year!) and the elegant black-and-white table setting featuring silhouettes. As a fan of both Barbara Randle (the colorful crazy quilter) and the MacKenzie-Childs company (which makes colorful furnishings and home decor), I must say I was quite smitten with the colorful Christmas table setting styled by Randle. (Yes, I'm the magazine nerd who flips to the back of the book and reads the credits. "That looks like Barbara Randle's work" and then "By George, it *is* Barbara Randle's work!") There are also some good recipes to try, including several that would be perfect for a Christmas tea or luncheon.
Finally, my favorite "special" Christmas issue so far this year is Southern Living Christmas at Home ($10.99, 114 pages). Now here's a bit of magazine trivia for you: When we editor types go to conferences, the "experts" are always telling us to put numbers on our covers. If you look at all three of these covers, they all have numbers on them. I did not realize until just now that the magazines boast 215, 185 and 86 ideas, respectively. (The "experts" also say to make it an odd number, not an even number, so I'm heartened that Southern Living went all renegade on the matter.) But seriously, have you EVER bought a magazine because it had "x" number of ideas inside? I never have. I always flip through a magazine first, and generally if it's got one or two things that grab me, I'll buy it. But I digress ... What I love about this issue is the great variety of styles of Christmas decor. There's organic (wrap presents in burlap!), glamorous (flock your tree and decorate it with Tiffany blue beads and ribbon!), natural (make angels from pinecones!) and more. The recipes are great, and I predict I won't make it through Christmas without succumbing to the desire to make Snowy Chocolate Baby Cakes, which are inverted muffin-sized cakes topped with icing and red berries in imitation of Christmas puddings. And if YOU come across a terrific Christmas issue, I'd sure love to hear about it!