Tag Archives: Christmas

Tomten Inflation

The tomten market is making a comeback. I was looking at my Christmas Things wish list on Amazon last week, and lo and behold one of the tomtens I bookmarked last year for possible purchase this winter is listing at $100,030.00. Another is now going for $290,024.00.

(If you aren’t clear what a tomten is, they are, in a nutshell, short Scandinavian awesomeness in hats who take care of livestock and security on farms.)

Now, tomten prices took a dive when everything collapsed a few years ago, but, like many luxuries of high living, they’re back on the rise. How can I tell? Well, there’s no exchange category for tomtens, since barn gnomes are not a commodity tracked by the US Department of Agriculture or anyone else except children (whose calculations can be, admittedly, inconsistent).

(It would be an insult if there were a market for them, really, being practically human as they are. And God knows you don’t want to insult a tomten: although, like the Mormons, their reputation has recovered from sometimes questionable practices of the past (in their case, violence to local maidens, not marrying them), they are still testy when not provided with buttered porridge, so let’s just everyone keep things civil and accord them the respect they deserve.)

In the absence of official market tracking, my tomten rebound data is somewhat anecdotal but so striking I think it stands. A jump from $29 to $100K+ is noticeable.

At first I was shocked at the inflation, but after a moment I realized that this is an appropriate market correction. Tomtens are, when you get right down to it, live-in farm hands. While paying a nearly $300,000 salary for a day laborer may sound steep, keep in mind that tomten work at night as well. Also, they’re magic, and you can’t put a price on that, am I right?

Of course it’s possible that these prices aren’t reflective of the larger market as a whole but a glitch in a server in Amazon’s subbasement,  but I prefer to think that tomtens are finally getting their due: civil rights – and possibly unionization – have brought equal pay for equal work.

Unfortunately, this uptick in wages puts them squarely in the 1%, so they’ll see a lot of the tax breaks they recently started enjoying disappear in the coming fiscal year, but we all have to pay a little to get a little, and tomtens’ socialist Scandinavian roots will have toughened them to a 40% tax bracket.

For my part, I’ve been priced out of the tomten market for the time being. I could get some livestock for our yard so I can write off my tomten as a business expense, but I’ll need to run that by my accountant to confirm. And R. He’ll probably want to have a say in introducing a cow to our twelve square feet of grass. I’m sure he’ll be fine with it though. Who wouldn’t want a cow if you already have a gnome to take care of it? No one, that’s who. This is going to be an awesome Christmas.

Little Dickens


My friend Molly teaches first grade and got a handmade Christmas card from one of her kids. She produced it the other night and I almost got a cramp I was laughing so hard.

There’s a Christmas tree at the bottom and several oddly shaped gifts floating around it. Across the top, the child tried to write the message, “Happy Holidays Molly,” but a couple of things went wrong.

First, he ran out of space for the first two words on the top line, so “holidays” breaks at the “s”, leaving


He also used a yellow crayon on yellow paper for his “h”s, so they’re pretty much invisible, reducing the message to


Try saying that out loud. Go on. Say it loudly. Pretend you’re Eliza Doolittle. Or a chimney sweep. “‘Appy ‘oliday, Smolly!” You definitely have a cockney accent. I can hear it from over here.

Now that it’s in my head, I can’t stop using it. The message is surprisingly universal: “Smolly”, being no one’s actual name, makes a good all purpose nickname, and it is Valentine’s Day and Presidents’ Day, and those are still ‘olidays, so you can get some mileage out of it for another day or two. Enjoy. ‘Appy Valentine’s, Smolly!

Christmas – Part 1

I think of the current weather as “bleak midwinter” but it’s neither “mid” nor “winter”, this being December 23rd and San Francisco. What passes for winter here is fog, then drizzle, then rain and back to the beginning again. I will concede that this is better than sunshine, which is like a slap in the face at Christmas, so I’m hoping the grey weather will hold. I understand that my hope for – and indeed, expectation of – snow at Christmas is entirely a product of a.) Christmas songs, b.) Nordic roots, and c.) having been born in Boston, all of which suggest that snow is necessary. That’s a lot of weight for me to deny so I don’t bother. Just so you know, though, I do understand that, Bethlehem being in the Middle East, it didn’t snow there on December 25th or, for that matter, at any other time of the year. I also know, while we’re at it, that Jesus was likely born in the springtime, which is the time of the year when shepherds are out in the fields with their flocks by night, as the song goes. Baby lambs and so on. (I could omit the “baby” part there since all lambs are babies, but “baby lamb” sounds way cuter than “lamb.” Why? Because the lone word “lamb” makes me think of mint jelly.)

It’s Christmas and, as ever, I am excited beyond all reason. Being northern European, I like it that the northern Europeans won the Christmas traditions battle – snow, pagan tree, snacks stuffed in shoes, elderly men in sleighs – and I’m making a valiant effort this year to recreate some of them here. I’m keeping my expectations very, very low because the traditions I’m recreating involve a complicated iron cookie press, another cookie press that has little removable discs and a screw-like mechanism and, last and very not least, a quart and a half of hot oil. Should be good. And, you know, kid-friendly. Which is why we’re hosting an informal party to witness the action. I’m less likely to go completely around the Christmas curve if there are witnesses. (We’re also making Swiss snacky cakes in tribute to R’s genealogy. In contrast to the Swedish recipes, his involve largely dry ingredients and making things ahead. Figures. The Swiss are way more organized than the Swedes who are, less face it, pretty much house-bound and living through 20 hours of darkness at this time of the year. I could probably come up with some pretty creative cast iron and oil traditions too, given four months of that.)

I love Christmas. I have not abandoned my sanity however: I do not wear Santa pins. I do repeatedly listen to the King’s College Choir Festival of Lessons and Carols. See? Northern European. I am stressed out the same way everyone else is however, and no small part of that I’m sure is the writing, or, precisely, the lack of it. See, I finished my graduate school applications on the 14th this year, NYU having moved their deadline conveniently forward so as not to coincide with my or their holiday season. After two previous years of holiday / applications extravaganza, I thought I’d be relieved. Instead, I find myself feeling oddly at loose ends. All the presents are wrapped. The apartment is stellar condition. I organized the spice drawer today. Yesterday, I rolled up all the ribbon in the wrapping paper box and pinned it together with paper clips and rubberbands. Most telling of all, my back went out in breathtaking fashion yesterday, a sure sign that I need to get back to writing. (Don’t get all worked up that I’m a crystal-toting mind-body connection hippie. Unlike Tom Cruise, I think psychology is legitimate science and that we don’t know much about what goes on in the brain, so who’s to say my mind doesn’t play tricks on my back? Plus, my back started hurting like I’d been shot right about when I started writing full-time in September. Sort that one out if there’s no connection.)

To get back on track with my post-application work and keep myself from sinking into a holiday sloth of sugar and manicures, I’ll post something heartwarming every day, like a little, tardy, bloggy advent calendar.