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The Letdown

Challenging the nauseatingly cheerful portrayals of motherhood that tend to dominate film and TV, The Letdown offers a darker and more realistic picture of parenting. An Australian import with two seasons streaming now on Netflix, it stars Alison Bell, who co-created the show with screenwriter Sarah Scheller. Honing in on the disconnect new mothers often feel between expectation and reality, the show excels at offering fresh takes on well-worn material like breastfeeding, sleep deprivation, and mommy brain. And The Letdown finds both comedy and nuance in subjects most other shows shy away from altogether. ( —Bridget Arsenault


Weck Jars

Is there anything in life as satisfying as a well-organized pantry? Achieving such a thing is no small matter, but Weck jars make the process more pleasant—and the finished product more striking. Founded in Oflingen, Germany, in the early 20th century, Weck developed the home-canning method for glass jars, and has since gone on to dominate the organizational market as well. Upgrade your fridge game with the juice jars, and if you want to get really fancy, invest in the wood or cork lids. ( —Ashley Baker


The Kindling Cracker

At summer camp in my youth, a counselor instructed me to build a fire with a single match and materials from the woods. (This was before we were asked to walk blindfolded, in the middle of the night, through poison-ivy-laced brush toward the sound of a beating drum.) I was unsuccessful, though I did learn a valuable lesson about building wood fires: kindling. It’s essential, but when all you have is an ax, procuring it can be a pain, not to mention a good way to lose a finger. These days, my skills have again improved, thanks to a middle-school girl from New Zealand who has invented an ingenious and portable kindling splitter. It’s a small cast-iron instrument consisting of an upside-down wedge encircled by a safety ring that holds logs in place while you whale away at them. It’ll ensure you have a warm New Year’s around the fireplace, and will be a perfect camping companion for treks outdoors once spring hits. ($100, —Ian Stevenson


Taylor Swift

I shouldn’t have to tell you to listen to Taylor Swift’s Folklore or its new “sister record,” Evermore. Instead, I urge all recently inducted Swifties to go back through her discography, all the way to her 2006 debut, which she wrote at age 15. It is quintessential pop country, near perfection for the genre, but notes of her present strengths are heard throughout, mainly in the skillful storytelling and the pop melodies that amplify the lyrics’ drama, which define Swift’s cinematic approach to songwriting. Though this talent may be used to its most elegant effect on her two 2020 albums, it is equally potent in the songs about teen heartbreak and betrayed love found on Taylor Swift, which will move you to sing or cry along, sometimes both at once. ( —Clementine Ford

Issue No. 76
December 26, 2020
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Issue No. 76
December 26, 2020