Sometimes it seems impossible to me that I’ve been doing this for almost five years. I mean, I can do the math. I can look at my daughter Ruby, who was 13 months old, barely walking, when I started here and is now staring down the Big 0-6 and taking gymnastics classes. I have done this job long enough that I know without Googling how to spell the names of renowned New Orleans designer Gerrie Bremermann and fabulous decorative painter Bekye Fargason. I know Julie Neill’s name has two L’s and that Monique Poché Bennett has an accent on her middle name. I know, by heart, the addresses of Leontine Linens, Stafford Tile & Stone, Hazelnut, perch., Pied Nu and M.S. Rau. The latter is the only one not on Magazine Street; when I moved back here in January 2008, I had only the foggiest idea where Magazine Street even was. So yeah, I guess it really has been five years.

It must be – because we are honoring our fifth class of Design Masters, some of the very best and biggest names in the city in architecture, green design, furniture design, lighting, landscape design and interior decorating. It must be – because we’re showcasing the PRC Holiday Home Tour for the fifth time, offering a sneak peek at these lovely, elegant homes before they get all dressed up for Christmas.

In addition to these annual touchstones of the magazine, we are featuring a classic and classy Creole cottage in the French Quarter.

Designed by Evelyne Clinton of Source., it serves as a second home to Lisa Donofrio and Brian Valzania, who also live in New York.

Now is the true beginning of party season in New Orleans – cocktail parties, holiday soirees, charity balls, New Year’s bashes and various other fêtes, all culminating in Carnival. We are all Southerners here, by birth or by choice, and so we know better than to show up empty-handed to any kind of special event. But both as a guest and as a host, bottles of wine and bouquets of flowers get a little boring after awhile. Luckily, we live in New Orleans, a hotbed of creativity, and so we can choose from things as varied as vintage coasters, a gold ceramic rhinoceros and molds that allow you to freeze herb-infused water into an icy shot glass. We suggest some unique but sophisticated hostess gifts in our feature “Give and Learn” on page 48, along with outlining the etiquette protocol on when and what to give for various occasions. An added bonus of this story is that it introduced me – and will introduce you – to some great new stores to complement the old standbys. Even though I don’t yet know the addresses of A.K.A. Stella Gray or Modern Market or all of the shops at The Shops at 2011 without looking them up, I am thrilled to welcome them to the home décor scene.

Rounding everything out, we have articles on cooking, gardening with native plants, repurposing little-used antiques and de-cluttering. In TrendWatch, we showcase some incredible children’s rooms. White bedding in Ruby’s room is out of the question for me – I’m pretty sure that even in my room, it would be covered in red wine and red pen ink in a matter of minutes – but Angelique Palumbo Short of Angelique Stores and Caroline Robert of perch. have really made it work, creating tranquil yet trendy spaces for their kids to rest and play.

Even though I’ve learned so much in the past five years, I am constantly surprised and awed by this city. That might not be something you can wrap up in a pretty bow and bring to a party, but for me, it’s just about the greatest gift there is.

CLARIFICATION: On page 41 of our Autumn 2012 issue, there was a picture of the room of Jack Finger, son of homeowners Simon and Rebecca Finger. We correctly credited the wall mural to; however, we failed to notice that there was a portrait of Jack that overlapped the mural. The portrait should have been credited to Victoria Snell. More of her work can be seen at We regret the confusion.