"This issue is filled with good food, spirits that raise your spirits, and stories about what really matters."

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Rachael Ray and John outside by wreath
John and me, making merry and making the best of it.
| Credit: Paola + Murray

Well, it's been yet another weird year! Like so many workers, John and I have been living a hybrid life, filming from our home in the Adirondacks for stretches and then going into the studio in New York City. It feels like that requires twice the organization, twice the scheduling—where am I supposed to be today? Then, just as we started taping, Hurricane Ida sank our apartment in NYC. Then some workers hit our main water pipe and sunk it again. Yes, it's been a time.

I expected 2021 to be better and easier than 2020. I thought that with the new year would come the promise of Americans coming together with fresh joy and new freedoms. But it seems that year two of the pandemic has turned us all into kids in one giant car asking over and over, "Are we there yet?" Unfortunately, we're not there yet.

I'd designated 2021 as my year of gratitude. (In fact, I wrote a book about it, which is out this month, This Must Be the Place. You'll find an excerpt in this issue with a great turkey recipe for anyone looking to make a masterpiece without breaking the bank or your back.) I think most experts would say gratitude is what we need most in a year like this. Being thankful for what we have rather than dwelling on what we don't is the salve for our challenging times. I'm trying to put that into action in these pages, filled with good food, spirits that raise your spirits, and stories about what really matters. Because being here, being with each other, in groups big or small, is what it's all about.

This holiday season, I hope that, whatever precautions we still have to take, and however strained things still feel among us, we can gather friends and family to break bread and be together, and that we can look at our lives and find more good than not. That's not quite there, but it's somewhere, and I'll take it. Happy holidays, all. Love, Rach

My Gift Guide Pick

Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett
Credit: Kelsey Bennett
Lady Gaga Love For Sale album

I'm a music geek. My husband and I have a huge record collection and multiple turntables; we're even part of a vinyl listening club. So the fact that Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga's latest, Love for Sale ($150), is being released in time for the holidays as a limited-edition vinyl boxed set has me going gaga. I love that everyone's pressing vinyl records again, and this set is full of Tony's artwork and other cool add-ons, including a sketchbook and pencils like the ones he uses. Tony is a dear friend of many years who's still making new, relevant, fantastic work at 95. He and Gaga are both amazing gifts to the American songbook, so cheers to them this holiday season. I'll be buying this for the most deserving on my list.

This article originally appeared in our Holiday 2021 issue. Get the magazine here

Photograph by Paola + Murray. Wardrobe styling by Cara Jammet. Prop styling by Raina Kattelson. On Rachael: outfit by Raquel Allegra. Wreath: the Local Farmers' Market, Rhinebeck, N.Y.