The lit­tle gifts: Tips on how to build a per­fect stock­ing

Hol­i­day hosiery will hold the right mix of prac­ti­cal and silly

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - JAY JAN­NER / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN By He­len Anders han­ders@states­

There’s a sci­ence to stock­ing-stuff­ing, and it starts in the toe.

You want a beau­ti­ful, rounded toe upon which to build a sock o’ sur­prises. Peo­ple like to see their stock­ings full. An empty, flabby stock­ing toe is a sad, sad, thing.

My mother al­ways put an or­ange or ap­ple in the toe, but you can go with any­thing round or roundish — per­haps a ten­nis ball if the stock­ing re­cip­i­ent (hence­forth re­ferred to as the stoc­kee) plays ten­nis. Or maybe one of those Bath Bombs skin-soft­en­ing prod­ucts from Lush. In fact, Lush is a great provider of stock­ing stuffers, in­clud­ing mini mas­sage bars, tiny tubs of mois­tur­izer, lit­tle bot­tles of scented bath wash and wee jars of lip scrub.

You can also put a sock in it. The toe of the stock­ing, I mean. Ev­ery­body loves and needs socks. A rolled-up pair fills the toe nicely.

Then it’s time to pile in mis­cel­la­neous stuff­ings, usu­ally a blend of prac­ti­cal and silly. Some of the best stock­ing stuffers are prac­ti­cal items with a dash of whimsy: a pen­guin-shaped flash drive, for ex­am­ple, avail­able at any of­fice sup­ply store.

For women’s stock­ings, you can’t beat the afore­men­tioned Lush, along with fel­low cos­metic/bath stores Sephora and Ulta. Sephora has lit­tle sam­plers of six glit­tery lip glosses for $3, for ex­am­ple. At Ulta, you’ll find a lit­tle kit of four Smash­box prod­uct sam­ples, all ex­pen­sive in their full-size form, for $19.

Write this stuff down, be­cause Mama tends to fill all the stock­ings, but Mama needs her stock­ing filled, too.

“Don’t for­get the par­ents,” says Mol­lie Kirby, who is one of those par­ents. “I don’t want to do my own stock­ing.”

Kirby knows stock­ing stuffers be­cause she’s a sales floor leader at Austin’s Con­tainer

Store. The place is stock­ing stuffer heaven, with racks and racks of lit­tle items for men, women, lit­tle kids and teenagers: sil­i­cone coast­ers that grab onto the bot­tom of your drink, hand­bag or­ga­niz­ers, small flash­lights, USB hubs, tiny lit­tle vac­u­ums for com­put­ers, cloths for clean­ing iPads, travel dog­gie bowls, wa­ter­proof elec­tron­ics cases and lit­tle soap­stone cubes that warm and cool bev­er­ages — just to name a few.

There I found, for my hus­band, who’s al­ways los­ing his read­ing glasses, a Dok­son Nosy, a squat lit­tle man with a slit in his head to hold eye­glasses. A small green plas­tic box shaped like a Lego will please the 5-year-old Lego fan and will be a good home for his itty-bitty Trans­form­ers. A daugh­ter who likes to camp will love the orig­i­nal light­weight but sturdy Spork.

This isn’t that thing you get with fast food that’s es­sen­tially a curved fork and tends to break. This one’s made in Swe­den with a fork on one end and a spoon on the other. And, at $2.99, it’s a cheap stuffer.

We’ve come to the top of the stock­ing, and there, you need candy stick­ing out. When I was a kid, it was marsh­mal­low San­tas — I loved those — and a candy cane. Big Top Candy on South Congress Av­enue has some lovely canes and also some vin­tage stock­ing-top­per op­tions such as Atkin­son’s Peanut But­ter Bars, a fa­vorite of my hus­band, and a gi­gan­tic 1-pound Sugar Daddy. (You’re go­ing to need a big­ger stock­ing.) I sup­pose if your stoc­kee is vir­u­lently anti-candy (and, there­fore, anti-fun), you can put an en­ergy bar or a piece of beef jerky in there. But Santa won’t like it.

So, the stock­ings are full, and they’re hung by the chim­ney with care. Or, if you don’t have a chim­ney or man­tle, you can hang them from the bar a coat rack or maybe the laun­dry room door. (If Santa can’t come down the chim­ney, maybe he could crawl in through the dryer vent.)

Now, it’s time for the stock­ing id­iot check. What did you get the stoc­kee that you for­got to put in the stock­ing? Oh, yes: the sil­ver, whale-shaped sta­pler from Pot­tery Barn. In th­ese pa­per­less days, no­body prob­a­bly needs a sta­pler. But if you’re go­ing to give one, it might as well be whale-shaped, as­sum­ing you want to spend $16.50 for that “awwwww” moment.

And here we come to the core phi­los­o­phy of stock­ing-stuff­ing. Stock­ings are for fun lit­tle gifts, not ex­pen­sive ma­jor gifts. An ex­pen­sive gift pre­sum­ably has some thought put into it. It shouldn’t wind up in a stock­ing. It should be wrapped beau­ti­fully and placed be­neath the tree to be in­di­vid­u­ally un swathed, re­vealed and ad­mired.

The one ex­cep­tion: If you want to pull one of those clever tricks where your true love is ex­pect­ing an en­gage­ment ring, and you want to make her think you didn’t get her one, and just when she’s good and mad she finds a ring ... you can put it in the toe of the stock­ing. Just pre­pare to get dope-slapped.

Fes­tive Christ­mas stock­ings are stuffed with fun but prac­ti­cal gifts such as mon­key bag clips, pen­guin-shaped flash drives, candy and sil­i­cone coast­ers.

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