Once we hit October in New Orleans, the days might get shorter, but somehow, we manage to jam more and more events into them: Halloween parties and Thanksgiving feasts, Christmas celebrations, open houses, glittery New Year’s festivities and colorful Mardi Gras balls. In other cities, they might hibernate during winter – but not here!

And since we’re so busy running around, we obviously need to fortify ourselves with extra calories. New Orleans Homes & Lifestyles to the rescue: Writer Robert Peyton offers up six crazy-good desserts that are as easy as they are impressive. (Even the Creole cream cheese soufflé is pretty foolproof, I promise!) The apple pie with an almond crust would be a great addition to any potluck, the grape clafouti is ideal for a mid-morning brunch, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m partial to the double-chocolate-walnut cookies as a midnight snack. Check them out, try them all, and find your favorite.

One more party to add to your already-packed social schedule this winter is the one we’re throwing for our 2011 Design Masters. We’ll be celebrating these elite six – Julie Neill, Phyllis Jordan with the Green Project, Matthew Ponseti, Randall Shaw with Nordic Kitchens, Jon Vaccari and Matt Voelkel – at Martin Lawrence Galleries later this year. Please check our Web site, MyNewOrleans.com, for more details, and please take a look at the Design Masters feature on page 42 to learn more about these talented New Orleanians.

We’re also delighted to feature the Coliseum Square home of Nick Mayor and Jessica Bride in its entirety. We’ve shown you bits and pieces of it in our 2010 Renaissance Awards issue and the 2011 Junior League of New Orleans Kitchen Tour issue, but the house as a whole truly shines. In what was an absolute labor of love, the young couple brought the Greek Revival home back from the brink of ruin. Now it’s full of art, love and cookbooks – a happy ending if ever I heard one.

Also in this issue, we have a recipe for tomato-basil soup – perfect for chilly nights – in Gatherings and a brief history of mulled wine – perfect just about anytime – in Last Indulgence. Our TrendWatch section is full of colorful and cozy items – blankets, pillows, mittens, throws – that will get you in the mood to cuddle. For the Garden gives you a basic guide to growing plants from leftovers (avocado pits, pineapple tops), and Living With Antiques offers a quick primer on how to treasure-hunt at estate sales.

With everything you’ve got to do between now and the end of Carnival season, leisure time to just put your feet up and read a magazine is pretty scarce, and so we aim to make our product more than just brain candy. We hope you’ll get something useful, helpful or inspiring out of each and every issue.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Stay busy, stay warm, and enjoy the festivities in the greatest city in the world!