Illustration by Giordano Poloni / For The Times; animation by Jess Hutchison / Los Angeles Times
When it comes to successfully stuffing a stocking, it’s all about strategy. Picking gifts that are small(ish) enough to fit in the holiday hosiery is the most obvious criteria, but that’s just the starting point. (Otherwise Christmas morning would be nothing but boot socks full of Bitcoin. Am I right?)
The contents of the stocking need to do double duty — each item needs to punch above its weight class. A well-stuffed stocking should also surprise, delight, spark wonder or do something big in a small way. Each of the items here ticks one — and often more than one — of those boxes.
If you make a purchase using some of our links, the L.A. Times may be compensated.
Working on your holiday shopping? We’ve got you covered with recommendations for the best gifts to find in L.A.
Kikkerland sloth sink scrubber
There’s nothing fun about scrubbing the crud off kitchenware, but these cute, sparkly sloth-shaped sink sponges (three to a pack) will at least add a dash of levity to the chore. The sloth’s nubbly nylon “fur” does the scrubbing, its front paws grasp a handy hanging cord and a wan, stitched-in half smile serves as a reminder that the scullery duty is only temporary.
$14.75 at Amazon
Zippo yellow-flame butane lighter insert
If you’re not a Zippo lighter lover, you’re probably not aware of two key things. First, users of the iconic flame maker tend to become very sentimental about them, cherishing each engraving, embellishment, scuff and dent incurred over a lifetime of sparking. Second, the traditional design (which dates to 1932) relies on old-school lighter fluid, which tends to evaporate over time, making for a sometimes-frustrating flick. This insert, which fits all regular Zippo lighter cases, addresses that problem, with a butane-powered, yellow-flame insert that replaces the original one. The result? A lighter that looks the same on the outside but burns cleaner and fires up more reliably.
$17.46 at Amazon
Traveler’s Co. Brass Pencil
As a writer, I like to always have a writing implement — or two — at hand, and almost always have one of these compact pencils in a pocket (alongside my Fisher Space Pen). The Japanese-made, two-piece brass pencil holder with a steam-punk vibe is about 5 ½ inches long when assembled and about 4 inches long when the pencil part is flipped around and stowed inside. Over time, the shiny brass exterior will oxidize, giving the pencil holder a vintage, worn-in feel. (Replacement pencils and screw-on eraser nubs sold separately.)
$24.45 at Amazon
Field Notes National Park notebooks
Inspired by the promotional agricultural memo books used by the farmers of yesteryear, Field Notes’ handy 48-page notebooks are the perfect size (3 ½ inches X 5 ½ inches) to jot down whatever needs remembering (a holiday wish list, perhaps?) in the moment. Although there are themed versions for just about every taste and interest (including gaming journals for the Dungeons & Dragons crowd and narrow reporter’s notebooks), consider gifting a three-pack (or more) from the limited-edition National Park series. The exterior of each features artwork from the Fifty-Nine Parks print series. Inside the front cover is a spot for the official National Park passport stamp, and inside the back cover is a brief history of the featured park. The best part? The gift does double duty because each purchase means a contribution to the National Park Foundation.
$14.95 per three-pack and $84.95 for a box set featuring 18 parks at Field Notes
Proraso shaving cream
This mad-refreshing, Italian-made, professional-grade shaving cream elevates the morning ritual like nobody’s business thanks to an invigorating combination of eucalyptus oil and menthol along with glycerin to help the razor glide across the skin. A decades-old, small-batch soap-making process results in a dense cream that quickly turns into a luxurious lather on the skin, which means a dollop the size of a pea will do the trick. A single 5.2-ounce tube could have a daily shaver putting their best face forward well into the second half of next year. (It’s also available in a bowl, which might be preferable for shaving brush users, though it won’t tuck into a stocking as easily.)
$9.50 at Amazon
‘A Pocket Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue’
This humorous compendium of 237-year-old colorful slang, curse words and insults was stuffed into my stocking last holiday season, and I have yet to crack it open and not find something that makes me laugh heartily. An abridged version of a dictionary first published by Francis Grose (described in the introduction as an “artist, militia captain and antiquarian [and by one account ‘the greatest porter-drinker of his day’]” in 1785 and culled from the London taverns, docks and alleys he frequented, it includes terms both familiar (“bones” for dice, “togs” for clothes) and novel (an “addle pate” is what you’d call an inconsiderate or foolish fellow; “ruffles” are a slang reference to handcuffs; and “to shoot the cat” is to vomit from an excess of liquor). Some of the funniest terms can’t be repeated here, but let’s just say the vulgar tongue of the 18th century had a particular fascination with procreation and the body parts involved therein that puts the eggplant emoji to shame.
$12.95 at Amazon
Cool Story Bro Calling Cards
Thanks to technological advances such as smartphones and QR codes, handing someone a business card seems to have gone the way of the Pony Express. That’s what makes the assortment of calling cards offered by Terrapin Stationers so delightfully devilish to have on hand — and hand over when the moment is right. Among the elegant-looking messages engraved in black ink (that can be printed here) are “Bye Felicia,” “That’s racist,” “Good luck with that!” and “Ewwww.” My personal favorite, though, is the conversation-starting (or perhaps, -stopping): “Cool story bro.” There are 15 cards to a pack.
$8 at Terrapin Stationers
Explore the most captivating experiences in California, whip up 12 days of holiday cookies, find recipes for the best jams and preserves and much more with gifts from Shop L.A. Times.
Los Angeles Dodgers logo cufflinks
The perfect dress-up accessory for the Dodgers fan who wants to rep their favorite team at a formal event, these MLB-licensed silver-tone-plated cufflinks are about the size of a penny each and feature the team’s logo in white enamel against a Dodger blue enamel background and a bullet-back closure. Each pair is packaged in a gift box lined with artificial turf. Other officially licensed Dodger-themed wrist candy includes ball cap-wearing sugar skulls ($77) and sterling silver cufflinks set with stitching from game-used baseballs ($250).
$77 at Cufflinks.com
Session Goods One Hitter Pipe
Clocking in at 3 inches long, this slightly tapered tube of smoky gray borosilicate glass is a handy multifunction, pocket-sized cannabis smoking pipe that can be used either as a one-hitter (by putting a small amount of herb in the wider end and firing it up) or as a joint holder/mouthpiece (it plays nicely with most prerolled, cone-shaped joints). It ships with a silicone sleeve tab that allows it to be attached to a key ring or a lanyard, making it even more clutch for puff-on-the-go situations, from music festivals to long-haul hikes. And that makes it a go-to stoner stocking stuffer.
$22 at Session Goods
Rolling Square inCharge X Portable Keychain Charger Cable
I’m going to confess something: I bought one of these tiny devices after an ad popped up in my Facebook feed because it seemed to be too good to be true. And also because I’m laughably lousy at cord management — as in making sure I have the right cords and plugs on hand to charge what needs charging on the go. But after testing this one over the course of a four-day jaunt around the Southwest, I was sold. That’s because this designed-in-Switzerland, 3-inch-long device feels more like a Swiss Army knife of chargers than a travel charging cord. The aramid-fiber-wrapped braided copper cord loops through a key chain, and two powerful magnets hold the sides of the charger together when not in use. When open, an assortment of hinged USB connectors allows for two types of power input on one side (USB-A, the wide rectangular plug that’s common to computers, pronged wall chargers and many cars, and USB-C, the flattened oval style used by many Android devices and Apple’s iPhone 15) and three kinds of output on the other (via USB-C and a genius combo tip designed to somehow fit both Apple’s Lightning port and a micro-USB port). This is definitely the kind of stocking stuffer that will get heavy use, so why not get an extra and make your own charging life easier too?
$29 at Amazon
Lakers hoop earrings
If there’s a hard-core Lakers fan on your holiday shopping list, you’ve probably already scored a couple of seats to take in the Christmas Day home game at Crypto.com Arena where the purple and gold are slated to square off against the archrival Boston Celtics. Though you can’t control which team emerges victorious, you can still ensure the day is an overall win-win by tucking a pair of these officially licensed Laker-logo earrings into a stocking. The gold-colored, hypoallergenic, post-back, plated-brass hoops (hoops as an homage to the hoopsters, get it?) have an inside diameter of 2 inches, with the instantly recognizable team logo rendered in pavé glass stones. And if your special someone is a super-fan of the visiting team, we’ve got you covered there too, with options that include Celtic-logo hoops and green enameled three-leaf clover studs.
$48 at BaubleBar
Macon & Lesquoy small cactus brooch
This brand of whimsically embroidered accessories (the kind of brooches, hair clips and iron-on patches that might pop up in a Wes Anderson movie) from French designers Marie Macon and Anne-Laure Lesquoy has been in heavy gifting rotation in my house ever since the Bride came back from Paris Fashion Week and presented me with a lapel pin in the shape of a lit match. Today my collection of offbeat, hand-embroidered pins has grown to include a wheel of Camembert cheese, a pineapple and a cocktail with a cherry in it. This year I’ve got my eye on a couple of gift-worthy brooches that seem to effortlessly marry SoCal style to French elegance, including a cute little mini cactus (pictured), a prickly pear (with tiny pink blossoms), a movie camera and a date palm tree. Plan ahead — and consider shopping for more than one at a time — because these ship from France, and the shipping will cost you as much as the brooch itself unless your order is 120 euros ($130.80 at current exchange rates) or more, in which case it ships for free.
20 euros (or $21.80) at Macon & Lesquoy
LA Original X Pocket Square Clothing Downtowner pocket square
One of the pieces in a capsule collection created by downtown L.A.-based Pocket Square Clothing in collaboration with LA Original (a program of the Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles), this 11-inch-square rayon handkerchief might be the perfect accessory for someone who holds the City of Angels close to their heart. The design is a white-on-blue map of downtown Los Angeles with the mighty L.A. River rendered as a line of orange meandering through the heart of the city. The handcraft squares are finished with a pop of pale pink merrow stitching around the edge, giving the urban core an extra dash of flair. The collaborative collection helps benefit the Downtown Women’s Center’s Made by DWC program that teaches job training skills to women transitioning out of homelessness. It also includes palm-tree-emblazoned neckties, upcycled fabric scrunchies, and face mask and hand sanitizer key ring combos.
$35 at Pocket Square Clothing
Boon Sauce chili oil
Launched in 2015 by Max Boonthanakit, this Diamond Bar-made, small-batch condiment has some serious heat to it (my colleague, food columnist Jenn Harris, clocks it at “a 7 out of 10” spice-wise) and a flavor unlike any other chili crisp out there thanks to a combination of Sichuan peppercorn, chili, shallots, garlic, fennel and anchovies in a canola oil base. It’s a unique flavor profile that makes it the perfect complement to all kinds of dishes from Asian noodles and stir fries to deviled eggs, salads and sandwiches. And it’s the perfect stocking stuffer for the spice lover on your nice list. When I first discovered this taste-bud tickler — back in the height of quarantine — there was often a wait for a new batch to drop. Although it’s more widely available now, each jar is labeled with the batch number (the one currently in my fridge is from batch 41), a nice touch that makes it feel even more special when presented as a gift.
$20.99 at Amazon
Darn Tough PCT hiking socks
The Cabot family have been knitting all manner of hard-wearing, guaranteed-for-life merino wool socks in their Northfield, Vt., factory since 2004, and it seems like every year since a pair has found its way into my stocking. (It’s a Vermonter thing.) Family tradition aside, this particular pair — emblazoned with a mountain and pine tree vista and the logo of the Pacific Crest Trail Assn. — is worth considering for the hiker close to your heart. That’s because the company is donating 5% of sales from these crew hiking socks to the nonprofit PCTA, which is responsible for protecting and maintaining the 2,650-mile-long trail that stretches from the Mexican border to the Canadian one. (Other versions of the sock benefit the Continental Divide Trail Coalition and Appalachian Trail Conservancy.)
$24 at Darn Tough
Siesta Co. mussels in pickled oil
A co-worker turned me on to these tinned mussels from L.A.-based Siesta Co., and now they’re a pantry staple. Plump mussels plucked from the Rías Baixas (a series of estuarine inlets in Galicia, Spain) are hand-tinned in an escabeche sauce marinade made with extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, paprika and sea salt. The punch of vinegar cuts through the richness of the oil resulting in an hors d’oeuvre (or anytime snack) that’s lighter and more refreshing than most tinned seafood options. (And there are a lot of options out there these days in case you haven’t noticed.) You don’t need to take my word for it though. All you need to do is stop by the Monsieur Marcel bricks-and-mortar store at the Original Farmers Market where you’ll find the tins (which sell for $10.99 each there) labeled with a “buyer’s favorite” shelf tag. Available online in five-packs ($35.95) or three-packs ($24.95) and free shipping with a $75 minimum order.
$35.95 per five-pack at Siesta Co.
John Waters ornament
One of the holiday traditions in our home is to add at least one new celebrity ornament to the tree each season. Among the bold-faced names dangling in ornament form from our boughs are Anna Wintour, Frida Kahlo, Karl Lagerfeld and Snoop Dogg. This year they’re going to be joined by writer, director and all-around provocateur John Waters (“Hairspray,” “Cry-Baby,” “Serial Mom”), rendered in hand-painted glass, complete with a pink puffy jacket, a red tie and a pencil-thin mustache. His ornamental likeness has been added to the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures’ gift-shop offerings (along with T-shirts, tote bags and a handful of cockroach-print items such as lunch bags and laptop sleeves) in conjunction with the museum’s exhibition “John Waters: Pope of Trash,” a career-spanning retrospective of the Baltimore-born filmmaker’s career. Once freed from the confines of the stocking Christmas morning, I know right where this one’s going to go on our tree — right next to the pink flamingo.
$20 ($18 for museum members) at Academy Museum Store
Prices and availability of items in the Gift Guide are subject to change.
More gift guides
It's a date
Get our L.A. Goes Out newsletter, with the week's best events, to help you explore and experience our city.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.