I discovered this plate of Christmas cookies, left over from the Test Kitchens and up for grabs on the freebie table. (It was originally a much fuller plate, but by the time I returned with my camera the rest of the staff had gotten to it.)

Yes, we're testing recipes for December already. And a couple weeks ago, we had a seasonal planning meeting for summer 2009. Last week, I put together a list of web links for the September issue, and next week, I have to create the Web Notes page for August. The wall where we hang in-progress layouts is July right now, and recipe developers are sending in menus for next June.

We live in bizarre world outside of time here at Cooking Light, and it can start to mess with your head sometimes. After seeing so much spring produce in February and March this year, I expected peaches and tomatoes at the farmer's market when it opened in early May. No dice. I'd been working on this grilling story for so long in May that by the time Memorial Day rolled around, I was ready to make some soup and huddle up under a blanket for fall, and it's not even officially summer yet.

When I asked some of the staff about their experiences, Mary Creel, our Projects Editor, told me a story from 1987, Cooking Light's very first year of publication. Nowadays, we shoot seasonal stories a year in advance so the right produce is available and everything looks right. Back then, they didn't have that luxury, so they scheduled a pool-party shoot for a summer issue in April. That wouldn't normally be a problem here in north-central Alabama, but this day there was a freak snowstorm. Yes, a pool-party shoot was interrupted by snow (don't worry, they canceled the shoot and nobody got hypothermia).

So with that, it's back to working on October for me. Halloween is just around the corner! Oh, wait...