The Ultimate Texas Gift Guide 2014
Suggestions for the perfect present, no matter the season or the reason.
Puzzling over what to buy your favorite fifth-generation Texan? Scratching your head over what to send to your Texas relatives who now reside out of state? Wondering what to get the family next door who just moved here from California? Let this roundup of gift-worthy items—inspired by a few of my favorite Texas Monthly features—be your guide.
You can scarcely go wrong with something made by Texans for Texans, like the handcrafted finds that Lauren Smith Ford features every month in our “Made In Texas” column.
6. Third Coast Surfboards // Twenty to thirty hours of work go into each of Tom Sterne’s boards, which are perfect for catching waves off of South Padre Island or Corpus Christi’s Bob Hall Pier. (The armchair surfers in your life will enjoy photographer Kenny Braun’s Surf Texas.)
No matter the occasion (housewarming, Hanukkah, sale of champion steer) or the recipient (old cowhand, new boyfriend’s parents), comfort foods are often the best answer. Each month, Courtney Bond’s Vittles column stokes anew our hankerings for traditional Texas dishes, like pozole rojo and King Ranch casserole and fried pies. Luckily, as food editor Patricia Sharpe wrote about in “The Chop Is In the Mail,” many of our state’s delicacies are but a delivery away.
1. Cat Spring Tea // Two sisters from Cat Spring have been harvesting the leaves of the underappreciated yaupon plant, which grows in abundance in certain parts of Texas, and turning them into antioxidant-rich teas.
2. Gaido’s Famous Pecan Pie // In lieu of a crust, this pecan pie simply has…more pecans! The ages-old family recipe is still a secret, but you can try to crack that nut by ordering your own pie directly from the Galveston restaurant where it’s baked or from Neiman Marcus (fancy).
3. Texas spirits // Consult this “Build Your Texas Bar” series, brought to you by the Texas product curators at No. 4 St. James, as you (re)stock your own liquor cabinet and/or decide which bottle of whiskey or gin or vodka or rum to buy for your hunting buddies or your boss or your wife.
4. Snow’s BBQ // You don’t have to travel to Lexington to enjoy some of the most lauded smoked meats in the state (if not the world!): Tootsie’s brisket, pork spare ribs, sausage, chicken, and more are a mere click away.
5. Texas citrus // Few gifts are sweeter than a bushel of Rio Reds or Star Rubies or Ruby Reds; those and other Texas grapefruit varieties, not to mention juicy Texas oranges, are available from these TexaSweet shippers.
Whether you were born in Texas or just got here as fast as you could, there are certain things folks in this state should know how to do, like how to make chili or wear spurs. The 47 lessons in “The Manual,” penned by editor of texasmonthly.com Andrea Valdez (who will soon be turning her popular series into a book), are the kinds of gifts that’ll keep on giving.
2. “How To Handle The Texas Flag” // You’ll want to make sure your intended recipient knows how to properly hang this 3-by-5-foot Essential Cotton Texas flag from Wimberley’s Eagle Mountain Flag and Flagpole.
6. “How To Dance Cumbia” // Ones, a compilation of Selena’s chart-toppers, wouldn’t be complete without the late singer’s “Baila Esta Cumbia,” ideal for learning or perfecting your fancy footwork.
As the writer of “The Wanderer” column, it is my wholehearted belief that traveling this great state is a gift in itself. We’ve done some of the legwork for you already with these Texas Trip Guides. But if you want something to wrap up, here are a few ideas that are on my wish list.
1. Wildsam’s Austin Field Guide // In addition to a well-curated list of places to check out in the Capital City, this guide book also enthralls with its interviews with locals, thoughtful essays, and wide-ranging almanac entries.
2. A night at Hotel Saint Cecilia // This Saint Cecilia At Home care package (kimono robe, custom Cambria Handmade slippers, amber oil, Glassy Baby candle holder) will help you “replicate the mood” of the intimate Austin hotel, but you’ll also want to spring for a gift certificate for a night’s stay.
3. Noah Marion Quality Goods camera strap // Like a well-traveled wanderer, this strapping strap, made of natural vegetable-tanned leather in the U.S. of A, will only get better with time.
4. A Design Build Adventure weekend // Jack Sanders’s design company offers a variety of immersive camps and workshops—e.g., Camp Heavy Metal, Yoga and Welding—that’ll have you flexing your creative muscle while wielding power tools.
5. Dr. J’s All-Purpose Aromatic Spritz // Throw a bottle of this handmade pick-me-up (available in four scents) in your travel bag and use it whenever you need to pep up your space, face, or body (also sold here by Stash Co.).
6. Jon Hart Design Weekender // The San Antonio company has long been a go-to for stylish and sturdy luggage and travel accessories, and just about everything can be monogrammed.
With more than 600,000 acres of state parks, historic sites, and natural areas—as well as 37,000 acres of federally designated wilderness—outdoorsy types could spend a lifetime exploring Texas’s wide-open spaces. For “Let’s Go Wild,” a few of our most adventurous writers went out in search of the state’s “uncivilized corners” and came back with tales from 18 of the best spots that may inspire your own next adventure—or purchase.
1. a Texas Parks and Wildlife state parks pass // There are more than 90 state parks in Texas (here are itineraries for ten of them), so you can present this annual pass to your favorite nature enthusiast as both a gift and a challenge.
3. a Kammock Roo // With each lightweight camping hammock sold, the Austin-based company makes a donation to Malaria No More.
4. Moore Maker Trapper knife // As handy as it is pretty, this bone-handled pocketknife, made in Matador, can be engraved.
5. YETI Coolers Beer With Bear can insulator // It may not be grizzly proof like YETI’s uber-popular coolers, but this can insulator (a.k.a., koozie) is a cheaper way to indulge your YETI-loving friends.
6. Sea Dart Boat // This sixteen-foot skiff—billed as “a sleek canoe-kayak hybrid”—is built (in Buda) out of Joubert plywood, is available in three color schemes, and was designed by John Townes “J.T.” Van Zandt (yep, he’s the oldest son of Townes Van Zandt).
In “Against the Canon,” San Antonio writer John Phillip Santos discusses the state’s legacy of literary greatness and offers his subjective list of the Ten Best Texas Books Ever Written (pictured above), which would be welcome additions to any Texan’s library, as would these selections from a number of other well-read Texans. Of course, books about Texas aren’t just good reads—they can also be just good-looking, like this decorative set from Carrollton’s HucksterHaven.
1. Revolution In Texas: How a Forgotten Rebellion and Its Bloody Suppression Turned Mexicans Into Americans (2003) by Benjamin Heber Johnson
2. Tongues of the Monte (1935) and A Texan in England (1945) by J. Frank Dobie
3. The House of Breath (1950) by William Goyen
4. Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987) by Gloria Anzaludúa
6. Hecho en Tejas: An Anthology of Texas Mexican Literature (2006) by Dagoberto Gilb, editor
7. Woman Hollering Creek (1991) by Sandra Cisneros
8. Stone Artifacts of Texas Indians by Ellen Sue Turner, Thomas R. Hester, and Richard L. McReynolds, editors
9. The Secret School (1997) by Whitley Strieber
10. With His Pistol In His Hand: A Border Ballad and Its Hero (1958) by Américo Paredes
Is there any state whose outline is more distinctive than Texas’s? And, more importantly, is there any Texan who doesn’t love to give and receive Texas-themed items? We think not.
1. Tumbleweed TexStyles’s Republic of Texas raglan baseball T-shirt.
2. Texas Humor’s “Ain’t Texas” wooden Christmas ornament.
5. Texas-shaped beeswax candles from Mockingbird Domestics.
6. A customizable “Texas Love Location” print from Minted.
There are a number of purchases that the Texanist, who has been offering fine advice since 2007, would suggest you not waste your money on: a box of whittling sticks, broken-in straw hats, or a name belt with someone else’s name on it. On the flip side, he is more than happy to help you spend your savings in pursuit of the coveted title of “The Giver of the Best Gifts.” It’s an award the Texanist receives with some frequency, because when it comes to doling out treasures to his nearest and dearest, his instincts are unparalleled.
1. Chick-o-Sticks // The Texanist does his part to proselytize on behalf of one of his favorite road foods every chance that he can get. He’d like for you to know that for $125.55 you too can procure a thirty-pound case of these delicious Lufkin nuggets in preparation for your next long drive to, say, the nearest corner store for another sixer of Lone Star. The candies, which he likens to “Butterfinger innards with a hint of the tropics”—and which the Texanist’s dentist refers to as “job security”—are ideal for stuffing in stockings or Easter eggs and also make excellent birthday cake toppers. (His birthday is April 20. “Just saying.”)
2. A Dos Carolinas guayabera // As the Texanist has previously pointed out, you needn’t be going to a Mexican wedding in order to sport a Mexican wedding shirt. After going on and on about the merits of the guayabera’s “elegant pleating and abundant pocketry” for a beat or two too long, the Texanist finally obliged us with a recommendation for his preferred guayabera purveyor: that’d be Dos Carolinas, out of San Antone. (“You’re welcome,” he says.)
3. A hand-tooled name belt // For the closest members of your entourage, the Texanist suggests the Western-wear equivalent of the vanity plate, like the one he commissioned Capitol Saddlery to make for his dearly departed editor Jake Silverstein, may he rest in peace. (Editors’ note: Silverstein has not departed this life, just this state, and is alive and as well as one can be when one lives in New York City. Not that the Texanist is still sulking over this development instead of turning in next month’s column.)
4. The Devil’s Backbone // No, that is not what the Texanist’s chiropractor has taken to calling his most squirmy patient’s spine, despite what you may have overheard from the waiting room. It is the title of the fictional tale penned by Bill Wittliff that is illustrated by a one Jack Unruh, the man who has the unenviable task of capturing the Texanist’s glorious likeness for the pages of this magazine month in and month out. Can you imagine such an arduous task? The least you can do, says the Texanist, is buy your own copy of The Devil’s Backbone and/or one of Unruh’s prints, even though the Texanist does not have any affiliate links set up and will not, therefore, skim even a small percentage off the top of the sale of each cutthroat trout or tarpon sold.
5. Rattlesnake earrings // The Texanist comes from a long line of God- and snake-fearing people, so it should come as no surprise that he regularly encourages both a healthy respect for and a healthy distance from the state’s many venomous residents. So while he does not suggest picking up a road-killed rattler that is merely presumed dead just for the sake of fashioning it into a sartorial souvenir, he wouldn’t hesitate to pick up a pair of dangly, already assembled rattle earrings for the missus, like this lovely pair from El Paso Saddleblanket.
6. A subscription to Texas Monthly // In addition to being his favorite, if long-suffering, employer, Texas Monthly also happens to be the Texanist’s preferred reading material at the doctors’ offices, auto shops, and Apple stores in which he often finds himself having to pass inordinate amounts of time. Plus, the magazine is, as he’s quick to point out, quite a deal for the bargain-minded gift giver, as you can purchase a whopping 36 issues for about the price of a single co-pay, tire rotation, or car charger. Happy reading, y’all!