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Melinda Monk (our art director) and I were on King Street last Wednesday judging our Best Dressed Windows Competition. We were sitting in front of a particularly inspiring shop window chatting about the season. And if that sounds a little quaint and made-for-tv, I should add that our conversation was more along the lines of, “Are you feeling it this year?” “Are you?”

After all, the shared sentiment of most folks heading into the last few weeks of the last month of a very turbulent, uncertain year is a collective sigh of exhaustion. I’ll be the first to admit I’m tired. Magazines. Web. Community contests. Planning. Home. Friends. Shopping. Me time. Family. Writing. Inspiration-seeking. Sound familiar?

But it’s Christmas. It's here now. And no matter how tired or busy we are, we still need something special. Whatever our particular brand of special is, it wouldn’t be the holiday season without it. And judging from what I see around me, we’re still finding it—with or without the long, exhausted sigh.

I’m sharing the proof here in the blog and attached photo gallery. Check out the holiday cheer that’s come my way in just a day or two around the office.

1. The above comes courtesy of my cousin Sarah’s hugely successful blog, Memories on Clover Lane. I was cruising the web, feeling terribly uninspired as the holiday workload was really bearing down, and decided to see what flashes of brilliance she could share. Check this out: with her trademark grace, she turned her family Christmas photos into cool homemade tree ornaments . And it’s not just the charmed, colorful tree ornaments that made me smile. She’s got five kids and she still manages to pull this off. In the new year, I think I'll remember that when I start to make excuses about the kinds of things I don’t have time for. (Go to for instructions.)

2. Our art director Melinda Monk’s phenomenally funky blue tree. She e-mailed me photos just as a, “Hey, get a load of our wild tree!” But I took one look and thought, a) is it radioactive? And b) that tree BELONGS to her family. More than any crew I know, her family is all about creating their own particular brand of magic. And this glowy Christmas beacon is as magical as it comes.

3. A charmingly perfect wooden reindeer as a Christmas gift? Yes please. Assistant editor Anna Evans gave me this as a Christmas gift, which would be enough to lift me out of even the most bah-humbug funk. But get this: it’s just one of the MANY homemade toys churned out by her 80-something year-old grandfather, Ralph Evans, in his Pittsboro, North Carolina workshop. A kind old gentleman making toys in his workshop just for the jollies he gets out of it? Remind you of anyone?

4. One of our staff designers, Ivy Deitch, and her equally creative and crafty husband, Seth, handed out these pretty 2010 felt calendars for friends and coworkers. Ivy made an early exit today to try to beat the weather to Pennsylvania for the holidays but the way I hear it, she spotted the colorful design online and then they screen-printed the whole look onto a piece of felt. Makes you feel pretty darn good about the New Year.