I’d be lying if I didn’t admit the holidays are already on my mind. I’ve made my list, checked it twice, and shopping is under way. One tradition I miss is one I shared with my sister. Martha was philanthropy-minded, and one Advent season she suggested we “do something that mattered” for Christmas. Because hunger issues and self-sustainability were important to us, our choice was Heifer International, and it remained so until her last Christmas, in 2013.

We loved to surprise each other with what animal we chose to give each year – would it be rabbits, goats or perhaps some pigs? I’ve continued in that spirit, although these days, I frequent local businesses that give a portion of their proceeds towards those causes or initiatives I support.

That’s the whole point of our Coastal Illustrated feature. In it, we take a look at two local companies – Rahab’s Rope and GraceFull Goods – which have serving people at the core of their corporate philosophies. Rahab’s Rope works internationally with victims of sex trafficking, and GraceFull Goods helps women who are impoverished, single mothers facing challenges and women in recovery from addiction, build sustainable lifestyles. Consider placing them, and other local mission-focused companies, on your gift-giving lists. The work they do, and the artisanal products they create, deserve special places in everyone’s homes.

We switch gears in the Coastal Illustrated feature and explore micro-wedding alternatives in this time of COVID-19. Getting married at home was once a fairly common practice, and with the continuation of the global pandemic, they’ve experienced a resurgence. Patsy Bryan, a Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Hodnett Cooper Real Estate, tells readers what to look for in houses that will be used for weddings and other special occasions, and Stacy Bass, of Straton Hall Events, provides his expertise in putting together soirees of every size.

In our local Q&A, we meet Dr. Carlton Hicks, owner of Coastal Eye Care, who discusses his family and career, how he came to live on St. Simons Island, his dedication to running and his love of fly-fishing all over the world.

In Shore Things, Cheri Leavy, forever a proponent of commerce and shopping small (and local), shares her favorite trends and spotlights products found in shops throughout the Golden Isles. We’re sure you’ll find something you simply can’t live without! Literary columnist Cary Knapp reviews Sue Miller’s latest novel, “Monogamy,” which explores complicated family relationships with truth and humor. Finally, Jim Henderson, gives Galliano, that curiously yellow liqueur no one asks about, a second look. The recipes he unearthed include one for that favorite 1970s cocktail, the Harvey Wallbanger. Disco night, anyone?

In addition to our feature, Coastal Home section is packed with helpful information. In his real estate story, Gordon Jackson speaks with local Realtors about the challenges they are facing with a low housing inventory. Horticulture columnist Ann Ditmer is checking to see if readers have been paying attention – she’s created a crossword puzzle, just for fun! Finally, our Realtor Q&A features Missy Neu of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Hodnett Cooper Real Estate. Missy talks about her career, female mentors and favorite spot in the Golden Isles.

I told y’all last issue that our Events page has returned, and this issue, our Captured page does the same. Our friends at Southern Soul Barbeque brought together some of their fellow barbeque gurus and held a limited, socially distant event to benefit the Firebox Initiative, which assists food and hospitality industry workers in emergency situations.

We hope you love this issue as much as we do. Until next time, wear your masks, wash your hands and play nice. Happy reading!