A box swaddled tightly in bright paper is nice. Isn’t it a little more fun, though, to dig surprises out of an oversize sock?
Stuffing a stocking full of small gifts is sort of the side dish of Christmas morning — the mashed potatoes to the metaphorical steaks you leave out under the tree. We’ve been doing it for centuries, according to the Smithsonian magazine. They cite a legend that St. Nicholas slid down the chimney of a family whose father was struggling to pay the bills. In typical Nick fashion, he filled the kids’ stockings, hung up to dry over the fireplace, with some gold.
And here you were, just throwing Hershey’s kisses in there.
Listen to Eric Webb give stocking stuff secrets on Austin360 Radio:
I’ve always loved stocking stuffers, which swim around the foil-wrapped candy I work to polish off until New Year’s Day. (I eat the inevitable orange immediately.) To me, a stocking stuffer should be of modest size, natch, and not cost a whole lot. Some might keep it as simple as a spinning top or, if you’re blessed with a budget, hide away a little bling inside all that red fabric.
We hope you’ve checked off some of the bigger items on your holiday shopping list already, so we rounded up a list of stocking stuffer ideas to help you finish up. We tried to keep things around $20 or less. To be honest, anything more than $10 starts to feel like you should stick it under the tree. All of the items listed are either made by Central Texas companies or available to purchase somewhere locally.
And we tried to make ‘em fun.
For the lil’ (or regular-size) Houdini: magic trick from Terra Toys
Sometimes the most obvious choice is the best one. If you’re looking for small gifts, Terra Toys contains multitudes. The Austin toy shop, in business since 1978, carries doodads and whatsits galore. (Can we interest you in a plush DNA model?) Their selection of magic tricks is particularly enchanting, like a plastic magician’s box ($6) that makes objects disappear. OR DOES IT? This is a good pick for the budding performer in your midst. (2438 Anderson Lane; terratoys.com)
For anyone, really: a multi-color drip candle from BookPeople
Listen, Janet, no one wants that Yankee Candle named Autumn’s Hiccup or whatever, which smells like someone chain-smoked a pack of Glade plug-ins. Consider, instead, these rad taper candles that, as they burn, reveal an explosion of color. Perfect for dinner parties and accenting the candelabras in your haunted mansion. You have to poke around a little to find these at BookPeople — go to the back of the second floor, where they keep the incense. (603 N. Lamar Blvd.; bookpeople.com)
For the superhero: buttons and magnets from Austin Books and Comics
The superior stocking stuffer, in this comic book fan’s mind, and also one of the least expensive. Austin’s biggest comic book shop sells any crime fighter-adjacent collectible you can imagine. We’re partial to their assortment of buttons ($1) and magnets ($3.99) featuring the mugs of your favorite heroes and villains. Hawkman belongs on your backpack, and Thor belongs on your fridge. (5002 N. Lamar Blvd.; austinbooks.com)
For the Texas shell-raiser: pecan goodies from Berdoll Pecan Candy & Gift Co.
Take a trip down Texas 71 and see Ms. Pearl, the giant squirrel statue near Berdoll Pecan Candy & Gift Co. Decide to exit after driving past a million times and find a pecan lover’s paradise at this beloved nut nexus. The options are endless: a tray of pecan bars ($11.99), an ambidextrous-friendly handheld nut sheller ($14.99), or a simple but delicious pecan praline ($2.99, chewy or creamy). (2626 Texas 71 W, Cedar Creek; berdollpecanfarm.com)
For the homeopath with a runny nose: elderberry syrup from Wheatsville Co-op
This gift guide is not a peer-reviewed scientific journal. But elderberry, a natural cold remedy riding a recent wave of popularity, has been used medicinally for centuries. Some — including Hippocrates, according to InStyle — swear by it. And all I’ll say is your features editors at Austin’s daily newspaper have their own bottles at home when sick season hits. You can find it at plenty of health stores; Wheatsville’s Guadalupe location carries a bottled version from Austin-based Texas Medicinals ($11.99), for example. (3101 Guadalupe St.; wheatsville.coop)
For the voluptuary with a keen sense of smell: holiday bath bombs from Lush
This bath and beauty brand doesn’t do subtle. You can smell their bright, colorful creations from a mile away, whether passing by a store or a shopping bag you’ve taken back home. Lush, which touts itself as ethically minded and devoted to natural ingredients, stocks festive versions of its signature bath bombs ($7.95). We’re partial to cotton candy-pink Snow Fairy and glittery, ylang ylang-infused Santa’s Workshop. (Downtown at 1012 W. Sixth St. and in the Domain at 3211 Palm Way; lushusa.com)
For the glam Austinite: nail lacquer from Kendra Scott
Sometimes you want to look good and support the home team at the same time. Most of local jewelry mogul Kendra Scott’s creations fall outside our self-imposed stocking budget, but this shiny nail lacquer ($12) does the trick. (1701 S. Congress Ave., 3800 N. Lamar Blvd.; kendrascott.com)
For the eco-conscious sipper: reusable straw from Thom’s Market
No one here’s shaming you for asking for a straw with your Coke, but it’s never a bad idea to use less disposable plastic. If your loved one eschews the tubular devils, though, or if they make a lot of smoothies for breakfast and they’re tired of buying straws, this metal cutie from Thom’s Market ($3.50) will do nicely. Plus: It comes with a cleaning brush. (1418 Barton Springs Road, 160 E. Riverside Drive and 1500 Spyglass Drive; thomsmarket.com)
For the sock person: Austin-themed socks from Austin Parks Foundation
You know. The sock person. We all have one. A twofer on this pair: Buy a set of these socks ($15) designed by local company Sock Club — featuring the Austin skyline, bats, cacti and bikes — and you’ll help support the city’s parks. (shop.austinparks.org)
For the demon-hunting beer lover: pint glass from Family Business Beer Co.
Austin likes beer. Austin likes its hometown celebrities, such as "Supernatural" stars Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki. Don’t you think the brew hound in your life will like a handsome pint glass from Family Business Beer Co., co-owned by Ackles and his wife, Danneel? Please wrap it up safely before you stuff it in a stocking. No one’s trying to bust out their insurance card at the ER on Dec. 25. (19510 Hamilton Pool Road, Dripping Springs; familybusinessbeerco.com)