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With an extended family which seems to expand and contract from one Christmas to the next, I purchased this book because I wanted to get a 'handle' on Christmas, try a few new ideas and regain for myself a sense of greater Christmas enthusiasm. In particular, I was hoping for something which I could bring out each year which would herald the start of preparations and become a planning stalwart.
With its tag line on the cover of "A bumper collection of traditional recipes and festive craft projects" and a blurb on the back which detailed that the book includes "easy, colourful craft, gift projects and decorating ideas" and "do-ahead planning and cooking advice and countdown to the big day", I was hopeful that this book would soon become my all-in Christmas planner. Of course, finding this book available on-line meant that I wasn't able to flick through and see what was inside, I just let the blurb work its magic and ordered it.
* Christmas is Coming
* Drinks and Nibbles
~ oo ~ Good points ~ oo ~
* It's a lovely book to handle and look at. It's a soft back with a slightly washable feel ~ good for use in the kitchen.
* In fact, overall the book seems to have been thoughtfully bound for kitchen use ~ I have others which refuse to stay open at a given page without me piling things on top, whereas this one stays open when flat at whatever page you are using!
* The cover images and those throughout the book are lovely: very clear and festive. These include whole page images of just 'random' festive things, such as a vintage type advent calendar which reminds me of the kind we had when I was about 4 ~ this image alone has re-awakened my enthusiasm for Christmas somewhat!
* There are images of the end result for each recipe, which is always helpful (to me, at least)!
* Some of the images also inspired ideas for giving some of the items as gifts, such as some of the truffles and biscuits being shown nicely wrapped as 'open' gifts.
* The recipes are fabulous ~ I particularly love the nibbles section, there are some lovely easy makes in there which rival the kinds of thing you can buy from M&S's entertaining range, but it costs a fraction to make them yourself.
Now don't get me wrong, I do love this book (hence I haven't given it any 'bad' points): the neutral points which follow are given from an 'even better if ...' perspective:
~ oo ~ Neutral points ~ oo ~
* For a book which suggests itself as offering organisational tips and planning points, I felt that it did fall a little short of what it's trying to do. It does have a countdown for advance planning ~ from one year ahead; six to three months ahead; one month ahead, one week etc - right up to Christmas Day itself and it does include lots of recipes, but all of this was common sense stuff and the ideas were only joined up in a sparse way. For example, the planning ahead section does give page references for later in the book, such as making the mincemeat recipe one month ahead to prepare for your mince pie making, but I felt that much more of this could have been highlighted within the recipes themselves. Some of the recipes did carry extra info on how to store if made ahead, but I was a bit disappointed that this was the exception, rather than the rule and would have liked more of this information, particularly for the baking and puddings section!
* There were some crafting projects interspersed among the recipes, but I did feel that these were limited - both in their number and in their type, seeming to require more specialist equipment or purchases - crafting projects using items that you're more likely to have to hand would have been more welcome.
* A small thing, but given that the book is so lovely and so well bound for the purpose of kitchen use and overall time-of-year-busy-ness, that I expected there to be a fly page (book mark type addition) to one of the front or back covers, to make it easier to use or some kind of pocket at the back for lists and notes, but there was not one. The book really 'feels' like it should be there, or a pocket at the back to slip in shopping lists or your own printed off December calendar page etc, to bring your own planning into the book ~ that would be a welcome addition ~is it very sad of me to reveal that I have stuck my own pocket in the back so that I can max the book's planning potential?
Overall, I do love this book and am pleased with my purchase. However, I did not pay the cover price of £12.99 for it (I paid £3.99) so to me it does offer value for money, particularly if you regard this purchase as buying a Christmas recipe book with a few extra ideas besides. I think I would have been disappointed if I paid the full price with an expectation of fabulous planning gems and crafting projects. With my own customisations (pockets and bookmarks) I think I now have the Christmas planning stalwart that I wanted.
If you can find this book at the lower price and are happy with the focus on recipes, then I would highly recommend it!
This review also posted by me onto Ciao :-)