I absolutely love this season....the food, the wine, the gatherings, the happiness of the season from late November to early January! This is the time for hope, love & warmth. As I pull out last year's decorations & bring out the fancy China I consider the times. This is the year we are reaching beyond our family to "orphans"... friends & family, co-workers & neighbors that are left without family. We want no one left behind...no one to experience Thanksgiving this year without friends. This year is especially poignant...3 acquaintences have been diagnosed with cancer. These dear, sweet souls face a kind of hell no one can know...the uncertainty of life. While it is easy to jump on the carasel of Christmas, this year I want to only think about the specialness of life. It really isn't about "the perfect gift for all" as that is a moving target...only retracting further away from my economic capacities each year. For that reason we are extending this spirit to Christmas. The caveat... gifts of love and time for all...no money, no gift cards, only the most endearing personal gift...the gift of oneself. So with some major adjustments in our personal lifestyle this year, we are giving gifts of time. My (ongoing) request from my 11 or 13 year old is to sort all the socks for a year (or at least a month). I am so tired of the spaghetti that comes our of the dryer with no mate! My biggest wish is to realize the spirit of food/wine/fellowship of friends and family over a great dinner with a great bottle (or 3) of wine. My family/friends are used to me gushing over the perfect pairing, the great marriage of wine & food. This collaboration of delicious wine & great meal is usually the fda approved viagra highlight of the season (pretty geeky eh?) My theory is gifts come & go depending on how well my diet du jour is going (last year's size 12 pants won't fit this year's size 6 body... and vice versa) so the only lasting memory is how the meal went, how the family got along, how much fun the kids had & how well the wine paired with the meal so that other closet wine geeks could enjoy the amazing marriage of wine & food. The closer to that big _0 b'day I get, the more reflective I become about what really constitutes a great holiday.