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Stuffer Stalking

[whitespace] Stalking Stuffers Michael Amsler


Quick, cheap--but oh-so-thoughtful--last-minute stocking stuffers

By Yosha Bourgea and David Templeton

WORK 12 long months, and what do you get? Another darned Christmas and deeper in debt. As you back the forklift through the living room, depositing another stack of gaily wrapped hibachis and Thighmasters under the towering tree, you can pause for a moment to anticipate the annual blessings of late afternoon, Dec. 25: a blizzard of torn wrapping paper and dry pine needles, an envelope from the credit card company that you'd really rather not open, and--of course--lots and lots of things.

Now where to put them all?

This year, in hopes of a less stressful holiday, maybe you're sticking to stockings. If you're not quite ascetic enough to do away with gifts altogether, but, faced with a tighter-than-usual budget and a house already crammed to the rafters, just keep it small and simple.

A stocking is really the best gift-giving medium anyway. For a few weeks, it hangs demurely from the mantel (freeing up floor space). On the big day, it bulges with a cornucopia of surprises, echoing the big sack that a certain Arctic philanthropist is known to carry on his sleigh.

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Stocking Stuffer Themes

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Environmentally conscious revelers will note that a stocking serves as reusable wrapping paper for its contents.

And a stocking is more likely to contain chocolate and less likely to contain exercise equipment. (Who wants practical gifts anyway?) Stuffers don't come with instructions or require assembly. They don't need to be fancy or awe-inspiring, just fun. And after all, isn't that what the holiday season is supposed to be? As the adage has it, the best things often come in small packages.

Here are few suggestions:

Cuppa Love

IT'S SMALL. It's cheap. It's kinda festive looking. That little mesh tea infuser--one that looks like the planet Saturn on a chain--not only makes nifty inexpensive stocking fodder (most of them run for under two bucks, found in most kitchen supply stores or coffee-and-tea shops); with a piece of candy inside, it also makes a dandy ornament for the tree.

Twisted Xmas

SOME TWISTED individual, whom we've so far been unable to identify, decided that riding in a New York taxicab was an experience that deserved some kind of sweet commemoration. Thus do various quirky gift shops (and Noah's Bagels in Petaluma) now offer New York Traffic Treats (Wildwest Products Inc.), little stocking-sized boxes of taxi-shaped cookies. Good for snacking or playtime fun. (You talkin' to me?!)

Chocolate Alert!

McSTEVEN'S Christmas Cocoas were literally made for stocking duty. Attractively decorated, fist-sized cans contain a variety of whimsical flavored instant cocoas, from Candy Cane to Eggnog. Available at various gourmet food shops (including Petaluma Market), they cost around two bucks a can, and--if you line up all half-dozen varieties side by side--the can covers reveal a magical illustrated panorama.

Brewski

THE AVERAGE stocking stuffer runs around three bucks. The average bottle of really good microbrew beer is slightly less than that. So beer, quite obviously, is a stocking stuffer made in heaven. We suggest a spicy Christmas Brew such as the ever-popular Winterhook Ale, or the Oregon-brewed Bobby Dawzler Christmas Ale ("Perfect for fireside sipping"), or Rogue Ale's "Santa's Private Reserve," with a nice picture of a beer-swiggin' Santa right on the oversized brown bottle.

String Thing

THE COOL THING about a yo-yo is . . . well, it's difficult to establish exactly what it is about the gravity-defying gizmo that so enthralls children--and a smattering of enlightened adults, including, but not limited to, Tommy Smothers. Stocking stuffer classics for decades, yo-yos are readily available, and Toyworks (in Santa Rosa, Healdsburg, and Sebastopol) boasts an enormous number of different yo-yos, priced from $2.95 to up in the $40 range.

Dog Days

FORGET BEANIES. Ever since it was decided they'd be worth something someday, those once adorable little critters have grown too big for their don't-play-with-me-I'm-a-collectible britches. The hot stocking stuffer this year is Olive, the Other "Reindeer," the canine star of the best-selling children's book by j. otto seibold & Vivien Walsh, now brought to hand-held life in a charming toy version that runs around $7.95. Commonly available in bookstores.

Smart Idea

QUICK! Who said this? "That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet." If you said Emily Dickinson, either you're really smart or someone's already given you an E. Dickinson Novel-Key. Whimsical and literary, these inventive pewter key chains--perfect for stocking stuffers at $5.25 apiece--are shaped like tiny open books, inscribed on one side with the name of a famous author (Shakespeare, J.R.R. Tolkien, Rudyard Kipling, Agatha Christie, John Steinbeck, etc.), and with a quote from the author in question on the flip side, such as, "Fish and visitors smell in three days." Now who said that? Available at Copperfield's bookstores.

Pagan Art

FOR THOUSANDS of years, the image of the spiral has held deep spiritual significance in many pagan cultures, embodying the endless path of life and the spirit. The spiral also makes a structurally perfect paper clip. Clipiola, the clever, cool-looking spiral paper clip from Italy, is now available in round, stocking stuffer-sized metal boxes. Copperfield's Books and Ideal Stationers sell them for $5.99. Give one to the paper-pushing pagan in your life.

Good 'n' Goofy

KITCHEN supplies are perfect stocking stuffers. From spatulas to whisks, to egg timers to potato peelers, the things just have a knack for looking shiny and fitting well in a stocking. For an extra touch of whimsy, try tossing in a giraffe-shaped sink brush. Available at Lechters Housewares in Santa Rosa, these remarkably goofy kitchen helpers, good for scrubbing sinks or dishes, have a bright, plastic giraffe handle and brush that rests in a nifty Savannah-like dish.

Cash Cure

ASSUMING your mantel can handle the weight, a big stocking full of silver dollars would always be appreciated. If you'd rather hand over the cash in a slightly cleverer manner, try this: Buy a little box of empty gelatin pill capsules from your neighborhood pharmacist. Get large ones. Separate the halves. Choose bills of whatever denomination you're willing to part with, roll them up very tightly, and squeeze them into a capsule, one bill per pill, of course. A pill bottle full of "money medicine" will be a welcome--and weird--stocking stuffer.

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From the December 23-29, 1999 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

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