I made these vanilla custard slices from Edd Kimber in August and we loved them — they’re like a rustic Napoleon or mille-feuille, at a fraction of the fuss — but declared them “not August food” and better saved for December because they feel elegant and a little festive. But now it’s December and, at times, I know it can feel like we will need a jeweler’s loupe to find some of this promised festivity. There are essays about what a bummer this holiday season promises to be. There are articles about what a dark winter is ahead. There are dire warnings about overwhelmed health systems. Listen, I am in charge of absolutely nothing — not even my own children listen to me — but I hereby give us permission to read none of these articles. Real life can be enough of a drag; we have absolutely no moral imperative to absorb additional gloom.

what you'll needdock the pastry with a forkweight the pastry while baking itbake puffed pastrycook, stirringcook until thickened

Instead, I’ve been keeping a log of things I consider mood elevators. We went to a museum last weekend for the first time since last winter, and then an aquarium. We walked on Brighton Beach the weekend before, and got some dumplings to go. I splurged on some votives I’ve always loved and gifted others, and filled each with a candle, because the sun sets at approximately 2:30pm right now. We have vases and jars filled with knots of these wiry lights. We are “making” Hanukah candles, like we do every year. We are baking through jars of molasses, cinnamon, and ginger. We are making carafes of Irish cream, and finding ways to distribute them to friends. I’m trying to bury myself in books, but I loved the last one I read so much, I might just read it again (permission granted for this too). We’re going to cut snowflakes. We are going to ignore my husband’s protests and watch some terrible-wonderful holiday movies.

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