The Reason for The Season.

Guess who Simone found in her stocking on Christmas morning?
Do you recognize him? No? Here he is with his customary companion:
Yes! It’s Schmutzli! See the cane, for child-thwacking? I think St. Nicolas has a rather resigned look on his face in this picture—resigned for a finger puppet, I mean. I sense that he and Schmutzli have a complicated relationship.

I doubt anyone will be quite as delighted by this as I am, except perhaps Jaywalker, author of the excellent Belgian Waffle. Jaywalker lives in Belgium, where they have Pere Fouettard (FATHER WHIP!), a Schmutzli analog, Her children were charmingly convinced that if they failed to leave beer for St. Nicolas they would be soundly beaten by his henchman, and I think this is a clever way to trick one’s offspring into pouring you a little drink before they hie themselves off to bed. If only St. Nicolas’ Day were every day.

So, yes, we had a lovely holiday, thank you for asking. My knee is much better—I got myself a spot of Vicodin, and after a few days of that, my recovery made a series of exponential leaps, and now Advil is sufficing for the remaining ache. Pain control really does wonders. At some point during my labor with Ames and Simone, it became impossible to tell whether the contractions were getting stronger or whether they were merely magnified by the fact that my uterus was so battered from hours of this abuse that even breathing hurt, and I think something similar was going on with my knee.

If we were religious, perhaps it would be gauche to visibly delight in the material aspects of Christmas, but as we are not, I feel no shame in telling you that seeing Simone with her presents was easily the highlight of the holiday.
With Mortimer & Max
Some favorites included the moose pictured above, a small tag-festooned piece of blanket, and most especially this:
Sophie the GiraffeDeliciousUngulate!
This squeaking, rubber giraffe is essentially an overpriced dog toy, but was recommended by so many people that I bought one for Simone (actually, the tag said “FROM SCHMUTZLI”—very out of character of him to be bringing gifts). She has spent the past few days sitting with her toys piled companionably in front of her, sometimes grabbing one in each hand and squealing with the excitement of it all, then seizing the poor giraffe and stuffing its face into her teething maw.

It is hard to predict what toys babies will find most diverting. Simone’s hands-down favorite had been this…thing I found hanging on a clearance rack at Target and spontaneously tossed in my cart as I passed by. I can no longer find it anywhere online, which means it must be long gone, but it was by Dwell Studio and comprised several plush pieces festooned with various plastic rings, crinkly bits, a little mirror, etc. Of course MY favorite thing of Simone’s is a book she got last week from her aunt Amy, so if you are in search of a baby gift geared toward an easily-amused parent, may I suggest Louise: The Adventures of a Chicken.

My Christmas presents were almost as exciting as Simone’s, though they engendered (slightly) less drool and shrieking: a bottle of perfume, a Shinzi Katoh schedule book, and my gift to myself (besides the Hayden Harnett black patent Corcovado tote I got for $110 marked down from $650, can I get an AMEN) was a batch of these cookies, to which I added a splash of vanilla-infused cognac, because the bottle was just sitting there on the counter, so why not? I also added some cinnamon and used half pecans/half walnuts for the nuts, if you are interested, which you shouldn’t be if you have any desire to maintain your girlish figure.
I kept the cookies in an airtight tub to preserve their freshness, but let me tell you there is no way to preserve your dignity while calling “Could you bring me my tub of cookies?” to your husband as you recline on the couch. Scott laughed and laughed at my cookie tub, finally declaring that he is going to call me TUBBY from now on. Which I assure you he is not, not if he likes having his scrotum conveniently attached to his body.

I hope you all had lovely winter holidays, however you celebrate them. Personally, I find the family/presents/cookies combo particularly festive. Saxby Chambliss, friends.


  1. Jodi says:

    You crack me up. Seriously, I laughed out loud more than a few times whilst reading this post. Anyway, my point is . . . ooh, that perfume looks like it smells divine!

  2. cadence daly says:

    And a Saxby Chambliss right back at ya.

    The moose is adorable, and as we are inordinately fond of all things moose in our family, I’m wondering if you could share where you found such a wonderful specimen.

    Glad to hear the knee is feeling better.

  3. jen says:

    Ah the squeaky dog toy giraffe. We have one of those! I made up a verse for it since it is subjected to so many angry gnaws.

    Oh I wish I were a long-necked giraffe.
    Yes I wish I were a long-necked giraffe.
    I’d go crunch-y crunch-y crunch-y
    Through the leaves in a bunch-y
    Oh I wish I were a long-necked giraffe.

    Not very creative (because what giraffe is not long-necked) but oh well.

    And that tag blanket. What is it with babies and tags?

    Glad to hear you had a good holiday.

  4. Carmen says:

    I want a Smutzli! Where did you find a Smutzli finger puppet???

    My sister bought that French rubber Giraffe for my daughter, Sophia (just turned ten months) when she was only 3 months old. ‘Sophie le Giraffe’ is Sophia’s favorite toy, hands down. She has never tired of it, but the poor giraffe’s spots are rubbing off from my daughter’s attentions.

    Merry Christmas/Happy Festivas/Happy New Year to you and yours!!!

    p.s. your baby is so beautiful. :)

  5. Bridgett says:

    I can’t believe I had never heard this about leaving-beer-for-St. Nicolas-lest-you-be-beaten-by-his-henchman story before! And you found a knitted version of this character. It’s my three favorite things – knitting, beer, and inspiring minor amounts of terror!
    Glad to hear your knee is healing well.
    Saxby Chambliss!

  6. Corinne says:

    I feel like a matchmaker who has been told of a wonderful first date. Seriously, I am inordinately pleased that you like Belgian Waffle – it’s so ridiculous.
    And if it wasn’t me that told you first, let’s pretend it was.

  7. carol says:

    Thought you’d like to have a Saxby Chambliss from an actual constituent – Happy New Year (and Saxby Chambliss!) from Atlanta! I love to read your blog – it’s such an amazing phenomenon, blogging – I’m a 50s-ish mother of 2 grown kids, grandmother to a 9-year-old, a slow but steady fitness runner (so sorry about your knee!) who would seem to have little in common with you but I care a lot what happens to you and Simone – and you write the best blog!

  8. Jaywalker says:

    You are quite right Alexa. I am horribly, dementedly happy at the sight of this. I want my own! I might even learn to knit. Actually that last bit was a lie. But I might use physical violence on a knitter I know..
    Thank you. That is the most beautiful thing I have seen all holidays. But then, that is Belgium for you…

  9. tash says:

    Haha, here I thought it was a Grim Reaper finger puppet, and we all know what happened when I failed to leave HIM a beer, eh?

    Cheers, Merry Merry, and I’m off for a chilled pre-dinner Saxby Chambliss raised in your honor.

  10. beyond says:

    schmutzli always scared the bejeezus out of me on dec 6th. it was no laughing matter for an impressionable 4 year old. i was always scared of forgetting my poem, and getting punished. in the late 1940s schmutzli once put one of my uncles into his burlap sack and carried him away before letting him go a few houses down the road, and this is what i thought might happen to me. when we moved to north america for a few years, i was relieved to find that santa clause only brings presents on the 25th. and that he had a jolly good disposition and no schmutzli manservant.

  11. silene says:

    Sophie la Girafe is no dog toy, my friend, but a time-honored tradition. I believe there is some article in the French Code Civil which mandates that each child must own one. I am glad that Simone is experiencing the joy of chewing on her ears, although my Kitten will tell her that everyone knows the best part of a “girafe” is the nose… Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year to you and yours.

  12. Glynda the Good says:

    Schmutzli! SCHMUTZLI!!
    I cracked up when I saw him, a little knitted Grim Reaper with his sidekick, Claus. They have that good cop/bad cop thing going on, don’t they?

    Oh Simone… she is a gorgeous girl in green. Glad to hear the knee is better, and that Christmas was good. Happy new year to the Flotsam famille! Or should that be Many Saxby returns.

  13. Ruth says:

    Alexa, please forgive me if I am 10,000 miles off base on this, but you appear to be a knitter. If you are, have you found It is THE online resource/community site for knitters. If you are not a member, you should check it out.

  14. elizabeth says:

    I think we have the same…thing from Target – we call it “new toy” since it so little resembles anything with an actual name in English.

    Saxby Chamblis to you too :-)

  15. Susanna says:

    You’ve read/heard David Sedaris’s story about St. Nicholas Day in Holland, with the accompanying 6-8 Black Men, right? — it’s a great one.

    It’s funny now, to encounter a new toy and have my mind immediately size up its merits as a chew toy for my demanding, toothless pirana. That giraffe is a fine specimen.

  16. A. W. says:

    Well you know me…ya just gotta love the Schmutzli. You should watch last year’s Christmas episode of Supernatural. Talks the evil side of Santas.

  17. Kristen says:

    Saxby Chambliss to you! I can’t tell you how many times I say that to myself now. Someone cut me off in traffic – Saxby Chambliss! Happy Holidays… no, Saxby Chambliss!
    I hope the new year brings great things to you and your family. And I hope you continue to make all of your readers laugh for another year. Saxby Chambliss!

  18. Renee says:

    The first book I ever learned to read was called Minerva Louise and the House with the Red Curtains. It was about a chicken (Minerva Louise) who lived on a farm, and the red curtains were in the farmhouse.
    I think it’s funny that Simone got such a similar sounding book :) although the cover gives me the impression Louise doesn’t live on a farm.

    The other coincidence is that this christmas my sister gave me another book she found at a thrift store. It’s called A Hat for Minerva Louise.

  19. Leslie says:

    I would trade all of my Christmas cookies for just get one little nibble of Simone’s delicious chubby cheekies! Glad you had a wonderful holiday – loved the pics.
    Saxby Chambliss to you too!

  20. Marti from Michigan says:

    Agree with tash above. When I first saw the picture, I thought Schmutzli was the Grim Reaper.

    Glad your Christmas was good, hope for good things for your family in 2009!

  21. April says:

    Ahh. Sophie the giraffe. My son has chewed on her so much now – that at 8 months old, her spots are sadly faded (it’s food grade dye though, so they tell us).

    I stepped on her on the hardwood floor last night and proceeded to jump about 4 feet straight up. Sophie seems innocent enough, but beware… she will scare the ever living hell out of you too, one of these days.

  22. Miss Ash says:

    I love your blog!!!

    I just went through and re-read from Simone’s birth! You have quite the talent with words. I look forward to my subscription!

    Have a great day!

  23. Beth in SF says:

    Everyone in our neighborhood has Sophie the giraffe, which I find hilarious. She is essentially a dog toy, like you say. In fact for the first week we had ours, the dog thought it was his.

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