"The Farm Chicks Christmas" by Serena Thompson is the follow-up to 2009's The Farm Chicks in the Kitchen: Live Well, Laugh Often, Cook Much. The first Farm Chicks book was a countrified cookbook peppered liberally with stories and reminiscences by Serena and Teri, antiques-inspired craft ideas (a reusable stencil was included in the front), and comfort food: easy recipes for breakfast treats, appetizers, soups and salads, and decadent desserts, over fifty in all.
"Farm Chicks Christmas," on the other hand, is written only by Serena, a contributing editor for Country Living magazine and antiques show hostess (her best friend Teri has retired from their business). The book still includes numerous country-inspired craft ideas; you'll find decorative, retro-inspired self-adhesive gift tags and notecards at the back, along with various decorating ideas for "the most wonderful time of the year." However, the ratio of crafts to recipes is reversed from the first book; there are only 17 recipes included at the back with gift-giving suggestions on how to package them.
"Farm Chicks Christmas" captures the magic of childhood Christmases, from family visits to the tree farm (complete with recipe ideas for hot drinks to tote along), holiday decorating ideas (holiday scalloped bunting, vintage-inspired snowball pompom ornaments, cone trees and vintage funnel trees, banners and more), and photos of Serena's friends' and family's homes decorated for Christmas.
Much of the book is more like a scrapbooked photo essay, with crafts sprinkled in every few pages. Also, the decorating tips (and included photos) are vintage country in the Farm Chicks fashion: displaying old farm toys standing in coconut snow, for example, or stacking metal funnels to make "trees." If you're not a fan of all things country, this probably isn't the holiday book for you.
The included holiday recipes are few, and aimed mostly at gift-giving, like the sweet and salty nuts, mini orange bundt cakes, and various types of cookies (butter cutouts, chocolate-covered peanut butter balls, snowballs, Spritz cookies). As with the previous book, a handy list of metric equivalent charts is provided at the back. I tried the sweet and salty nuts recipe first, and though tasty, I didn't think that the "sweet" flavor predominated; it was more of a subtle afterthought (there's only 1.5 tablespoons of brown sugar and 2 teaspoons of honey for 3 cups of nuts).
Overall, "Farm Chicks Christmas" is a nostalgic walk down a snowy memory lane, but it has narrower mass appeal than "Farm Chicks in the Kitchen" due to the reversal of the recipe-to-crafts ratio and the genre-specific decorating style (I enjoyed the many beautiful photographs, but won't find myself making yarn-ball wreaths or filling jars with spare Christmas lightbulbs anytime soon).
(Review copy courtesy of Sterling Publishing)