Shortly after jubilantly flinging my mortarboard into the air at college graduation, I came back down to earth with a sudden and stinging revelation. Yes, the calendar said it was summer – but I had a job to get to every morning at 8. My years of indolent Junes, Julys and Augusts were no more. Getting up early and working all through the summer initially felt as wrong to me as the first time I had to take a midterm on Mardi Gras Day.

But I sucked it up, the way grownups have to do, and the second time I turned the calendar over to June and realized I was not getting the next three months off to sleep till noon, watch Jeopardy! in my underwear and otherwise do whatever I wanted, it hurt a little bit less.

When I moved back home to New Orleans in 2008, I’d been in the working world for long enough that it no longer fazed me one bit to work year-round, but one thing that did change was that seasons ceased to be truly distinctive the way they are in Missouri. Leaves didn’t change; snow didn’t fall. I didn’t have to pack away my sundresses in September or my overcoat in April. Don’t get me wrong: I love drinking iced coffee in a T-shirt in January – but it’s not all that different from drinking iced coffee in a T-shirt in June. 

But two things have happened recently that have given the seasons new meaning for me again. First, we made the happy decision to revive this magazine from semiannual to quarterly, so each season can be celebrated in all of its glory in its own issue. And second, my daughter, Ruby, started pre-K at Morris Jeff Community School: I definitely felt the stirrings of autumn as I pawed through the bins of school supplies at Target and the stirrings of jealousy and nostalgia as it occurred to me that she will now have a summer vacation.

But summer vacations are over now for all of us. We can’t cling to the popsicle-stained, sand-coated, barbecue-and-chlorine-scented days of summer any longer, so there’s nothing to do but wholeheartedly embrace fall.

And so from the recipe in Gatherings for a healthy breakfast for busy back-to-school mornings to the tips in For the Garden for growing lettuce – a perfect autumn crop – to the ode to caramel apples in Last Indulgence, we’re putting our arms around the season and squeezing tight.

We also have some evergreen reads in this issue: Classic dishes and flatware, on display in our TrendWatch section, are always in season, as are the romantic, Southern chic clothes made by Kerry Fitts of Bayou Salvage, profiled in Masters of Their Craft. The sturdy copper pots that L.J. Gonzales, featured in Living With Antiques, lovingly restores by hand have been fashionable for centuries, while Home Renewal takes us into the future with some mind-blowing innovations in home design and décor.

Our features in this issue showcase kitchens and baths both classic and modern, and the whimsical, wonderful, one-of-a-kind home of Tia Elders. We also honor the winners of the Fourth Annual Renaissance Awards, our partnership with the Preservation Resource Center, giving special recognition to homeowners who renovate their homes with an eye toward historic integrity. This partnership is very dear to my heart, and I’m excited every year to see the winning homes.

Long after I stopped thinking of summer as one long vacation, I still got a pang of sadness when it was winding down into fall. Not this year. This year – with Ruby off to Big Kid School – I feel the giddiness and promise of a new year. I know it’s still 2011, that January is a long way away, but there’s no limit on resolutions, fresh starts or new beginnings. Right now, it feels like a new year to me, and I just know it’s going to be a good one!