Country Living: Deck the Halls, edited by former Country Living executive editor Katy McColl, is a “practical how-to holiday guide dedicated solely to the fun stuff.” The goal is to help readers celebrate the season with “simple recipes and stylish DIY projects” in a way that doesn’t overburden to-do lists or budgets. You can’t get much easier than the 90 pull-out pages full of sturdy place cards, tags, notes, stickers, labels and decorations.
Color photos demonstrate how to decorate, make and wrap gifts, and set a table with designer panache. The end results are gorgeous, but it won’t take tons of time to get there, and the projects do not demand an unreasonable pitch of craft enthusiasm and skill. Flipping through the handy recipes (what, it’s this easy to make a fancy gingerbread cottage?) and ready-made tree trimmings (birds, keys, old-fashioned silhouettes) feels like an early Christmas present in itself.
FESTIVE GREEN GUIDE
At some point, most of us have to face up to the fact that it’s in our magpie nature to turn our nests into a heap of (more or less) shiny junk. Danny Seo’s Upcycling Celebrations takes all the accumulated “lemons” in our lives and turns them into artful “lemonade”—in the process adding style and pep to a host of occasions and holidays.
Say you’ve got: sheets of environmentally distressing Styrofoam; a box of Fruit Loops from the Pleistocene Era; your kid’s forgotten LEGO set; unread coffee-table books; and empty plasticized potato-chip bags you feel guilty about sending to the landfill. Thanks to Mr. Seo—the CEO of reusability—you’ll soon have: carved Styrofoam hearts that look like pussy willow stems in a vase; a string of Fruit Loops arranged into a birthday gift topper; a nifty LEGO chess set; a sturdily bound-up chair to sit and read upon; and shiny party balloons. The book includes 100 projects in all, with a helpful visual index.
TOP PICK FOR LIFESTYLES
Knit the perfect gift in “a half hour or less” with 30 Min-Knits by Carol Meldrum, a collection of 60 mini-projects that can be dashed off while you’re waiting for appointments or riding to work. Creations range “from whimsical toys to practical pieces,” so there is something for nearly everyone, and not a dud in the bunch. The author is a designer at Rowan, the revered handknitting company, which means readers can take creativity and aesthetics for granted.
The projects range from easy to intermediate. For babies, knitters can whip up sweet buntings, booties, mittens and a pixie cap. Young children might receive tiny toy critters, finger puppets, a crown and a teddy bear hat. Wearables for any age include bow hairpins; flowery and leafy headbands and grips; and scrumptious warmers for arms, ears and necks. Key rings, a mug cozy, a pencil case, a phone cover and little ornaments for the home are good gifts regardless of gender, but the prize for most versatile (and surreal) goes to the ready-to-wear Salvador Dalí mustache.