Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, NM)

Hung With Care.(Last Minute Gift Guide)

Byline: Jane Mahoney

Fill the customary stocking with tokens of tradition, affection or amusement

Candy or coal? What traditional stuffer are you expecting to find in your Christmas stocking this year? If you are like many Americans, chances are it will be neither. Just as stockings have become more elaborate throughout the decades, so have the trinkets that go inside them. Sure, candy, nuts and oranges still turn up in stockings, but so do offbeat toys, kitchen gadgets, tools or even an occasional diamond ring.

"Small, inexpensive and unusual" are the criteria that Robert Placencio uses as he helps customers find creative stocking stuffers at EduNation, a specialty gift store at Coronado and Cottonwood malls.

Placencio, the shop's operations director, has plenty of suggestions for unusual items costing less than $10. Remember growing "sea monkeys" as a kid? The teeny dehydrated shrimp are back, complete with plastic aquarium and a magnifying lens, for $7.50.

Toys start at just 25 cents at Pick Up Your Toys, 3100 Central Ave. SE, where busy clerks finally decided that every single item purchased needn't qualify for the store's free gift wrapping benefits. A quarter is all it takes to buy an icky-looking plastic cockroach or a plastic parachutist packing his own tiny chute, both real pleasers for 8-year-old boys.

Of course, the price jumps considerably at Coronado Center's Zales Diamond Store, where diamond pendants or anniversary rings run the gamut in price from $99 to more than $1,500. …

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