Why did I start making yule logs? Because they are hilarious. (Bûche de Noëls, on the other hand, are beautiful, French, and fine and not hilarious at all.) The idea of taking this wonderfully airy, yellow sponge cake, a delicate whipped filling and a rich, decadent chocolate frosting, and turning it all into a cake make to look like a rotting log covered in fungus is simply one of the most marvelous holiday traditions of all time. If you aren’t dead on your feet yet (if so, sorry! Just skip ahead to the drink at the bottom of the page!), grab your friends, and log away.
Cast of Characters Me: Late thirties/early forties (what’s the rush?). Daughter: Five years old. Looks like a cross between myself and Michael Fassbender, or possibly like myself and one of my guy friends (???!!!).
Scene Early 2020s. My daughter and I are sitting in our Space Colony or apartment — who knows what the future will bring.
Me: So then there was a temple that was destroyed. And it needed to be cleaned up, which people could do only by the light of a menorah. I’m not sure why they didn’t just open a window to get natural sunlight? Anyway, there was supposed [...]
Gift baskets! They’re great, except that the pre-made ones you order online are overpriced, and you get approximately one chocolate chip per five pounds of packaging. Plus why are they always themed around one flavor? I mean, yes, we all can and will eat an entire basket of chocolate, but wouldn’t you rather give someone a variety of goodies precisely calibrated to their personal tastes?
What you may not have realized is that you can make your own gift basket at any grocery store at any time, including an hour before that holiday party at your neighbor’s house when you’re not sure what to get her because it seems [...]
“No wish — I just wake up, eat, work, run, sleep.”
Questions tend to be tied to circumstances. Someone asks “Would you please pass the guacamole?” if guacamole sits nearby. Now is the time of year when reverie (the soul’s guacamole) is palpable and fresh, so we hit the streets of New York with a single question: “What’s your holiday wish?”
The old nativity scene we put up on the church lawn was made of white plastic that lit up at night, bright slashes of paint for beards and eyes and hair. The figures — one Mary, one Joseph, one Jesus, two shepherds, one angel, three wise Men, and a camel — had always glowed cheap and cheerful under their straw hutch. And they were light enough that it only took a couple volunteers from the youth group to set them up (and untangle their wires, and enjoy the scene with hot apple cider in little styrofoam cups).
This year, though, the plastic figurines had flickered and then gone dark [...]
Many Christmases ago, I spent hours crafting a box with my bare hands to put my boyfriend’s gifts in. We broke up not so many months later, and on my way out, after I’d gathered up every trace of myself from the apartment we shared, I dumped that handcrafted box down the trash chute. Normally, I don’t believe in take-backs, but the guy was terrible, it turned out. I don't miss him, but I still miss that trash chute. It was strangely therapeutic; a long, tinny whoosh on the descent, and a loud, heavy thwump when the bag hit the barrel.
With the holidays kicking in, perhaps we should [...]
1) Be 17.
2) Get arrested.
3) Live in suburbia but not John Cheever’s suburbia. Kevin Smith’s suburbia.
4) Sit in the back of a cop car and reflect on the course of events that led to you to this point.
5) Note that you are wedged between two people from your graduating high-school class. It’s December and 15 of your peers are being busted for underage drinking. There’s frost on the ground and a chill in the air, so it’s not half bad being in a heated car — as opposed to clutching a plastic cup of cold beer in a parking lot.
NPR is streaming an "eclectic" Jingle Jams mix for the remainder of the holiday season, if you're looking for unexpected musical combinations (Ella Fitzgerald's "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" followed The Barenaked Ladies' "Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah," when I turned it on). And if you missed it, here's SNL's "Silent Night" on YouTube. NPR is also hosting a new Dido song, featuring Kendrick Lamar: "Let Us Move On." (She's releasing a new album in March.) And I'm still partial to the World's Most Perfect Christmas Playlist, but that is a self-serving link.
It was the night before Christmas, and my small studio apartment was very quiet. I didn't have any presents except for the one my mother had sent me and a package from a book publishing company that was almost certainly a galley they were hoping I might mention on the website I work for. But they'd wrapped it, so who knew — maybe they'd sent me a thank-you present for writing about another book they'd published earlier in the year. In any case, two presents looked nicer than one! I didn't have a tree, but I did have a green potted plant, so I put the presents beside it.