Anchor House -- Since 1983, Anchor House has provided a structured, community-based refuge for troubled young people in North Idaho, with both live-in and day treatment for substance abuse. The residential group home can provide living quarters for 16 boys (ages 10-17), who typically are in transition in or out of such facilities as Juvenile Corrections and the Department of Health and Welfare. Residents at the 85-year-old house on Government Way receive both group and individual counseling. During the day, both academic and pre-vocational training (computers, carpentry) are available. While de-tox is not available, residents build responsible behavior by doing chores, work projects and community service. One unusual feature of the program is that, for those who enter the program having harmed other members of the community, amends can be made through a face-to-face meeting with the victim in the presence of a trained mediator. This holiday season, consider making a contribution -- in cash or food -- to Anchor House. Also, if you have lumber, tools or used computers, those are much-needed for their training programs. (1609 Government Way, CdA Call 208-667-3340.)
Paper Shredder -- Okay, we know this isn't the most romantic gift; it's also not one of the cheapest. But consider its effect on the recipient's budget more than your own. Identity theft can cost people thousands of dollars, taint their name with unwarranted bad credit and burden them with legal fees. It's one of America's fastest-growing crimes, and the easiest way to prevent it is to shred your mail: those credit card applications and account statements are tickets into your life and bank account. People with home businesses or numerous charge cards are particularly vulnerable, since most residential trash is easily accessible. So forget the romantic gift - play it safe. (A shredder designed by Michael Graves can be found at Target for $40, and inexpensive models are available at office-supply shops.)
Lottery Tickets -- They've been called everything from "brilliant," to "a tax for people who were bad at math." While it's true that they usually benefit the government far more than they benefit the players, think of the delight you'll cause if someone actually wins something. Imagine - suddenly Christmas is transformed from an expensive holiday into a day when the winner's financial woes vanish, replaced with abundance and comfort. Well, it's the holidays, and you can dream. But lottery tickets are inexpensive, and buying a few dozen might actually keep your strange aunt who's impossible to shop for out of everybody's hair for at least a few minutes. And who knows: if she wins big, maybe she'll get in the holiday spirit and share. (Available for $1-$5 at grocery and convenience stores everywhere.)
Cobra 2-Way Radios -- In this era of cell phones, pagers and PDAs, what could a pair of walkie-talkies offer anyone? Well, if the number of these little gadgets that you see at ski resorts and on camping trips is any indication, they can offer plenty. For one, they don't require an expensive subscription or pricey initial investment. And while the distance covered between them is limited, you can use them anywhere, which is particularly handy for people who like getting off the beaten path and out of cellular range. Plus, what kid doesn't love taking a pair of these things and conducting a treasure hunt, or a game of hide-and-go-seek? (Best Buy has a pair for $10 after a mail-in rebate, but for $65, REI offers a pair with a rechargeable battery pack, which will save even more in the long run.)
Carry-On Luggage -- The last thing you want to think about at Christmas is traveling, but for many people, the period after the holidays is all about getting back home, returning to school or hitting the road for work. And they're expected to accomplish this with a treasure-trove (hopefully) of gifts and new airport security measures? Get real. Or, just get -- or give -- an inexpensive, regulation-size carry-on bag for Christmas. Sure, luggage isn't the sexiest thing to find under the tree, but you'd be surprised to find out how handy it is and how long it gets used. Plus, if recent flights are any indication, people aren't getting any smarter about the things they try to drag on the plane and cram into the overhead compartments. Save someone you know the hassle, and maybe they'll visit more often. (Around $20 at places like A-Tac in the Plaza.)
Santa Express -- The Santa Express caters only to children shopping for Christmas gifts. The proceeds from the temporary store will go to the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery, which provides emergency care for children of families in crisis and offers support programs for their parents. The nursery has room for 28 children for a maximum of three days. All the services are free of charge and confidential. The Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The Santa Express store allows children, ages 4-12, to pick a variety of fun and imaginative gifts from 50 & cent; to $7.50. Holiday elves will be available to help the children choose the best gift for their family and friends. The elves can also help wrap the gifts. The Santa Express is located on the 1st floor of the Crescent Court at 707 W. Main. The store will be open through Dec. 23, Monday- Saturday from 10 am-8 pm and Sunday from 11 am- 6 pm.
Wish List -- This year, each program that Volunteers of America provides will have a Wish List specifically to meet the needs of individuals enrolled in the programs.
Volunteers of America has four programs in Spokane. Each of them serves a different population in need. The Hope House provides support for single women; the Alexandria House helps pregnant teenagers and young mothers; the Flaherty House provides for young men between the ages of 18-23; and Crosswalk serves teenagers.
The people in these programs have created a list of gifts they could use. Each of these programs will have a Wish List of personal items, clothes, household items and other similar gifts. To receive a Wish List with options of gifts to give, contact Volunteers of America at 624-2378.
Home for the Holidays -- This season, SpokAnimal C.A.R.E. is participating in an international campaign to find homes for 250,000 orphaned pets.
The campaign, called Home for the Holidays, runs through Jan. 5. This year 19 different countries will join the Helen Woodward Animal Center in finding families for homeless cats and dogs. Since the program began in 1999, the international holiday campaign has become the largest pet adoption event ever.
SpokAnimal is campaigning locally this year. The adoption center for animals was incorporated in 1983 and currently handles more than 700 area animals per month.
SpokAnimal hopes to find homes for 300 animals locally through the holiday event. If adopting an animal isn't an option, SpokAnimal also needs food donations for their puppies and kittens. To adopt a pet or donate, contact Gail Mackie with SpokAnimal at 534-8133.
Giving Tree -- This winter marks the eighth year Auntie's Bookstore has provided an opportunity for area children and teen mothers to enjoy a good book for the holidays.
Auntie's huge Giving Tree has more than 350 paper angel ornaments waiting to be picked. Auntie's has teamed up with area schools and charities to put a name and reading level on each angel in hopes that each one will receive the gift of good reading.
Customers can purchase a book from $5-$35 in the given reader's level. Once the book is picked, Auntie's will wrap the gift and replace the angel ornament with a star and the gift-giver's name.
Auntie's Bookstore is open from Monday through Saturday 9 am-9 pm and Sunday 10 am-6 pm during the holidays. The Giving Tree will be available to donators through the holidays until each ornament is filled. Auntie's is located at 402 W. Main St. For more information, contact Auntie's Bookstore at 838-0206.
Success by Six -- Second Harvest Food Bank (SHFB) and Q-6 will team up to increase food donations for the holidays on Dec. 14. Area Yoke's grocery stores and the Q-6 Studio will be accepting donations all day. Each $1 received will be met with a $10 food donation. If Dec. 14 looks too busy, Huppin's Hi-Fi will be offering a Mannheim Steamroller CD for $15 and all proceeds go to the SHFB.
SHFB was incorporated in 1972. Since then, it has become the region's food distributor for those in need. In 2000-01, it distributed 11 million pounds of food to 13,000 people.
Success by Six is part of a large holiday fundraising effort by SHFB. The holiday fundraising creates more than 60 percent of their food budget.
To donate on Dec. 14, visit the Q-6 studio at 1201 W. Sprague or contact SHFB for Yoke's locations and other holiday donation options at 534-6678. Huppin's Hi-Fi is located at 421 W. Main.
Vintage Fur Collars -- Vintage clothes and shoes are all the rage these days. In Europe, there's one more vintage find that ranges at the top of the list: vintage fur. We're predicting that trend will hit the Inland Northwest any time now. Yes, we know, it's probably not politically correct, but let's face it: these critters have been dead since your grandmother was a little girl. If you're game, check out Hattie's Attic. There we not only found a great selection of actual fur coats (some were from the old Crescent Department store -- very cool) but also a whole box full of fur collars, in many shapes and colors. ($8 and up for collars; $75 and up for vintage fur coats, Hattie's Attic)
Hindu Tote -- Ethnic styles have always inspired fashion designers, whether it be African beads and headbands, flip-flops, henna tattoos or braided hair. We came upon a new store on Main -- Namaska -- which carries a whole collection of Asian inspired items, and we completely fell in love with these denim totes with Hindu gods on them ($15). Pick one up with a brightly colored, made-in-India picture of Krishna and Rhada (the divine couple) and let it brighten up your winter-black outfit. We can just about hear the sitars playing... wait... Listen - it's Jingle Bells they are playing. ($15, Namaska)
Cashmere Sweater -- Most women like clothes, it really is that simple. What type of clothes the woman on your list prefers is, of course, a matter of personal taste. But if you find something both trendy and made with quality, you almost can't go wrong. Surprise her. Buy something she'd never buy for herself. Something she'll think you had to go to New York to get. At Jigsaw, we fell in love with a sheet dress by Mica made in that traditional Chinese inspired fabric that depicts a combination of Chinese signs, water buffaloes and bamboo bushes. Very cool. Even cooler, however, are sweaters by Mark Richards in 100 percent tropical cashmere. These brightly colored tops are perfect to liven up her favorite black suit, and they are so incredibly soft they are guaranteed to become an instant favorite. ($180, Jigsaw)
Thermal Pro Jacket -- You know how it is: there is always this one colleague that dresses in a very particular way. We have a colleague like that, here at The Inlander. He's all about corduroy pants, big wool sweaters and those soft flannel shirts girlfriends love to steal. Now we know where he buys his clothes: at Finan McDonald in Coeur d'Alene. In fact, as we innocently approached the store we realized that one of the mannequins was wearing the exact same outfit we saw our boss in last week. It's the truth! There were stacks of Columbia sweaters in half cotton and half wool and flannel shirts in all types of plaid. But we particularly liked the & Auml;lf Thermal Pro jacket -- it's functional and clearly well made. ($205, Finan McDonald.)
Bulldog Shorts -- Everybody's favorite local hoop squad has lost a few tough ones (to Indiana and Kentucky) and won a couple close ones (over UW and WSU, both games in overtime) -- but they've always looked good. Now you can slide into their cool unis, as exact replicas of their shorts are now on the market. We can't guarantee they'll make the wearer jump any higher, but they'll score lots of style points. And rumor has it that jerseys with the Bulldog players' names on them are just about ready to arrive. ($40, SportTown.)
Toss & amp; Chop -- For every gadget that hits the market, only a handful are worth the price of the packaging, but this one is on my personal wish list. (Hint, hint.) The Toss & amp; Chop is the ideal gift for those who prepare salad with one hand while balancing (a) a fussing toddler, (b) a telephone, or (c) a martini. Throw some greens into a bowl, toss in a tomato, onion, what have you, and have at it with the Toss & amp; Chop. Voila, instant salad. ($25, Cook's Dream)
Microplane Grater -- The Microplane grater started out in the wood shop; a Canadian housewife brought one indoors and a whole new genteel existence began. From fine grate to wide ribbons, these graters really work like a dream. Citrus zest, ginger, garlic, cheeses, veggies and chocolate all yield easily, producing fluffy piles and no grated fingers.
($13 and up, The Copper Colander)
French Oven -- Grandma always said there was nothing like cast iron for cooking hearty, down-home meals. But caring for it -- aye, there's the rub. The French artisans at Le Creuset have updated Grandma's favorite with their line of porcelain enameled cast iron cookware. The traditional covered French Oven, or cocotte, distributes heat easily, whether used on the stovetop or in the oven. The porcelain enamel interior will not react with foods, and the pots are dishwasher safe. The oval casseroles come in sizes from 3-1/2 to 9-1/2 quarts; the largest runs $250 but can hold a family-sized pot roast or turkey and will last forever. (Available at Joel.)
Cook's Knife -- Chef-turned-author Anthony Bourdain says every serious cook needs one good chef's knife, and he recommends the Global line of cutlery from Japan. Many professionals favor Globals for their light and easy handling. All of the top brands boast forged surgical steel blades, but the Global - with its stay-cool stainless handle and samurai-inspired shape - just feels good in the hand. And it looks really cool, too. Of course, before choosing this gift, it's wise to consider the stability of the recipient as well. ($78, Spartan Cutlery)
Stainless Steel Fondue Set -- Food nostalgia isn't limited to pre-World War II recipes; comfort food takes many forms. That standby of 1970s bridal showers, the fondue set, is back, but it's been updated for the times in this stainless steel model by Kuchenprofi. Indentations along the rim of the pot keep forks from tangling or sliding down into the contents. Perfect for some cozy winter cocooning or casual entertainment, this set reminds us of the good things to come out of the '70s. But please, please, leave the disco albums in the basement. Kuchenprofi kitchen tools are distributed in the USA by a Spokane company. ($100, Cook's Dream)
Leapfrog Leapstart Learning Table -- Don't let your toddler miss the electronic gadget craze -- he or she is going to have to grow up and use cell phones and laptops like all of the other kids, don't you know? Get them started with the interactive Leapfrog Leapstart Learning Table. Everything they touch will react in some way, whether it's pushing colored buttons or moving a slider. A book in the center switches everything at the turn of a page from music mode (sounds and instruments) to learning mode (letters, numbers and colors), making it two tables in one. It even has detachable legs, so kids just learning to walk can pull themselves up with it. Leapfrog also makes a great line of interactive books and boards for increasing ages, so kids who get hooked will have something to look forward to. Or as they say about adult toys: upgrade. ($40, Whiz Kids at Northtown Mall)
Archos Jukebox Multimedia 20 -- Is there such a thing as too much of a good thing? If there is, this may be it. Not only will it hold your entire CD collection in MP3 files (1,000 hours worth, give or take), but it comes with a built in LCD monitor, which allows you to save and view as many as 40 hours of digital video or 200,000 digital photos. (You can also run the images through your television set.) There are cursors on the front, allowing you to navigate your way through all of these digital riches. And just in case all that wasn't enough, you can plug it into your computer and use it as a 20 GigaByte external hard drive, much like the Apple i-Pod. All of this, and it's only slightly larger than a cassette. ($400, CompUSA)
Handspring Visor Pro -- No, palm pilots and pocket PCs are not the same thing. The difference between the two is very similar to the difference between a Mac and a PC. One is more versatile (PC), while the other tends to work better (Palm and Mac). So while there are plenty of more powerful devices out there on the market, the Handspring is a solid choice if you're giving it as a gift. Running the popular -- and still not outdated -- Palm system, the machine lets you keep track of your appointments, write down memos, play games and send files to and from your computer with ease. And expansion modules, which can be purchased separately, transform the Handspring into an MP3 player or a pager. Even better though: the price. ($200, Office Depot)
GE 2.4 GHz Cordless Phone -- Remember when cordless phones were the coolest things imaginable? You could talk to friends, glamorously moving around while holding a receiver the size of a shoebox, until you left the room and pretty much went out of range. Thankfully technology has come a long ways since then, making smaller phones that can take you down the block without losing the connection. Unfortunately, airspace has gotten more crowded, with wireless networks and microwaves interfering in the signals of even new model cordless phones. But GE's 2.4 GHz cordless avoids the snap, crackle and pop that can plague these, it's small enough to still be stylish and it's the type of gift that's likely to get used every day. That is cool. ($20, Best Buy)
Microsoft Wireless Optical Mouse -- There are few things that see more action on a computer than the mouse. Since it's the preferred method of interacting with the machine, it's always being clicked and swiveled, not to mention dropped, spilled-on and slammed down in frustration. So the chance is good that any regular computer user will appreciate a new one, especially if it's this cool. The wireless feature means that it can be used anywhere -- even resting on your lap -- without cluttering up desk space with cords or giving the user carpal tunnel syndrome. The optical reader means that there's no trackball on the bottom to get clogged with hair and dirt. And the fact that it's made for either hand, and is compatible with both Macs and PCs, means that this is one gift that's guaranteed to fit. ($40, CompUSA)
Bettie Page Journal -- We believe it was Oscar Wilde who once said, "I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train." Even if your life consists of nothing but work-grocery store-home-work, this handsome, 5x8 journal will have friends and strangers alike wondering what delicious secrets you might be recording. There are different covers to choose from, all showing Bettie in a variety of wink-wink, nudge-nudge scenarios, with such magazine copy teasers as "Bettie Makes the Wild Kingdom Even Wilder!" and "She Tames to Please!" Inside, lined pages (with Bettie silhouettes in the top margins) give you ample room in which to confess all your drinkin', smokin', seducin' and misbehavin'. ($10, Boo Radley's)
Motion Pictures -- Every decade seems to have one or two home d & eacute;cor fads that have great potential as future kitsch. In the 1960s, it was the lava lamp. In the 1970s, those little fiber optic weeping willows were all the rage. The '90s were all about tabletop water fountains. And now? We're pretty sure "motion pictures" have the inside track. These large lighted landscapes come in ornate faux-carved frames and plug into a standard wall outlet. In addition to the fact that they come in a variety of scenes -- including seashores, mountain streams, waterfalls, European castles and Mt. Fuji -- the water part of the scene moves, simulating the thundering cascade of water or the gentle rippling of a lake's surface. And get this -- you can also turn on the sound so that you hear water trickling, birds singing or the roar of the tide! ($37-$190, Pink Cadillac at NorthTown)
Utterly Outrageous Drinking Games -- If your idea of a drinking game is "Flirt Unwisely, Throw Up in the Bathtub and Lose My Car Keys," you need help. And not just a cup of black coffee and a stern talking to -- you need the solid guidance that only Utterly Outrageous Drinking Games can offer. This handsome, bottle-shaped tin includes everything you need for 25 different adult party games, including "Mutation," "Jekyll and Hyde," "Drag Queen" and, um, "The Probe." There's a deck of Drinking Game cards, a deck of regular card, five dice, four straws, a ribbon, pencil and paper and even a ping pong ball. Plenty of fun can be had with such humble materials, we're certain, and if not, we know for a fact the tin itself can be used to play "spin the bottle." ($16, Boo Radley's)
Argentum Aurum Silver and Resin Rings -- Allow me to let you in on a little secret. We do gift guide every year primarily as a service for our readers, but for some of us, it's a chance to get out there and check out a few fabulous things we covet for ourselves. Which is decidedly the case when it comes to Argentum Aurum. While they still offer their pleasingly unique handcrafted charms and charm bracelets, their newest thing is silver, set with bits of colored resin. We like the rings, with their resin bands, leaves, circles and squares in a variety of color combinations, as much for how they look as for how they're unlike anything else. ($95 and up, Argentum Aurum)
World's Largest Underpants -- You know how it is. You've been dating for awhile and you've thought of everything -- dinner and a movie, romantic picnics, dancing till dawn... you've done it all. Now you're settling down for countless nights of pizza and DVDs. Imagine the look then, on your beloved's face when you turn off the movie, rest your arm along the back of the sofa and whisper "Hey baby, wanna see the world's largest pair of underpants?"
Okay. So it's a gag gift and probably doesn't deserve inclusion in our annual gift guide. But anything that makes us giggle this much is bound to please someone on your Christmas list. This enormous pair of not-so-tighty whities has a 100-inch waist, reinforced stitching and as best as we can tell, is made from 100 percent cotton. It also, should you need it, has a fly. ($15, Boo Radley's)
NORTHWAVE SANCHEZ SNOWBOARD BOOTS
Why pay more than the typical $150-$200 range for a pair of snowboard boots? Because with these babies, you can just get up and walk away: The Diablo liner has a sole. After sliding down the mountain, you can unclip and trudge into the lodge, leaving the outer shell still in the bindings.
Northwave's Boa Lacing System features bootlaces made out of titanium. They criss-cross until merging into a dial-up-the-tension fastener that gives persnickety 'boarders every kind of fit from loose to tight. What's more, the "memory foam" on the inside molds itself to your foot time and time again, reports Kim Anderson of Loulou's North Division: "It feels like new every time you step into them," she says.
Designed by pros like Northwave team rider Chris Engelsman, these boots have the look and feel that snowboarders covet. But dude, don't try double-knotting those titanium laces. ($300, Loulou's.)
MSR DENALI CLASSIC SNOWSHOES
Whereas downhill and cross-country sales are flat, says James Kimball, Specialty Shop Manager at REI, "snowshoeing is one sector of the market that is demonstrating real growth. That's probably because it's easy and takes up less time."
Snowshoes differ in size: The more gear you pack, or the deeper the snow you're traversing, you'll want a snowshoe with a larger footprint. Mountain Safety Research has solved the problem of having to switch shoes in midstream, so to speak, as you move from deep powder to packed trails. Their Denali model can grow by four or eight inches with the use of quickly attachable tailpieces "for extra flotation."
The steel traction bars, which run the full length of the shoe, are good "when you're doing a traverse or doing a lot of backcountry climbing," says Kimball. "They prevent slippage."
They also prevent your being in trouble up to your armpits. ($130, REI $130; $25 for the four-inch flotation tail.)
PETZL ZIPKA HEADLAMP -- This headlight-for-your-forehead will make you blindingly handsome. Literally. It also passes the Batteries-Not-Included test: Right out of the box, you can go spelunking, faucet-fixing, fog-exploring or (while out in the forest) rabid animal-attracting.
Even with the three AAA batteries that are included, this unit weighs barely two ounces and features a nifty zip-cord: no bulky head-straps on this Zipka.
For the first 12 hours of operation, enjoy illumination 20 feet in front of you; after 24 hours, alas, your personal radiance will extend only about eight feet. (You'll still be the most attractive Cyclops on the block.) The Zipka, moreover, will put zip in your night vision -- enough to read by, certainly, and without needing new batteries -- for 150 hours.
So who cares if you Petzl around the house resembling some kind of yuppie coal miner? After all, I see Austin Powers wearing a Petzl Zipka now. Let there be light, baby. ($35, Mountain Gear)
WOOKEY SUN DOG BACKPACK -- This is no Barbie backpack. It comes with an instruction booklet. This is a backpack that needs to be explained.
Don't confuse this Wookey with the Star Wars hairballs, either. The owner is actually named Wookey, and her backpacks, handmade in Bozeman, Mont., boast such features as Sternum Vertical Adjusters, Shoulder Pull Sliplocks and Web Reduction Buckles. (I hadn't been aware that my sternum needed vertical adjustment.)
The Sun Dog has various loops and crevices for carrying skis, snowshoes, shovels and hydration bladders. "And every one of the pressure points has a bar tack -- special heavy-duty stitching," adds Lon McRae, owner of Mountain Goat Outfitters. "It's almost overkill, really. It also has quick releases on both shoulder straps, in case you have to ditch it real quick during an avalanche."
I'll remember that. Helpful advice -- if I don't get tripped up by the Back Cinch Cross Straps. ($175, Mountain Goat)
PRO PERFORMANCE SPORTS HIT-A-WAY -- Real men don't play tetherball. But they'll play with the Hit-A-Way. It functions on the same principle: After a batter swats the attached baseball (or softball), it wraps around a pole really fast, then slowly circles back so it can be hit again. And again. Just imagine the Barry Bonds wannabe in your life taking 500 swings a day. (I just love the ping of aluminum bats echoing in my brain forever, endlessly, in my sleep. Don't you?)
Velcro cuffs attach two flexible cords to a pole in your backyard -- you do have a pole in your backyard, right? -- and the cords can be adjusted for height and angle. Perform switch-hitting drills. Practice smacking high-and-inside heat or low-and-away breaking balls -- all without smashing a hole in Mrs. Boronski's plate glass window next door. And here's a comforting thought: You'll never have to chase after your loose balls again. ($30, Kimmel Athletic Supply)
Mp3 Players -- College students love listening to music and especially downloading it off the Internet onto their computers. That way any genre of music -- rap, hip-hop, pop, country -- is either at their fingertips or in their hard drive. Now technology has made it possible to download those music files, otherwise known as MP3s, from our computers directly onto these nifty new portable MP3 players.
These players come with headphones, so it's easy for students to walk around campus listening to their favorite music without having to worry about changing a CD. These music machines range in price depending on how much memory you want or how many cool options and buttons you want. Some machines have up to four hours of music and others have less; some are only PC-compatible and some are both PC- and MAC-compatible. Make your college student happy and give them a rockin' Christmas. ($50 for the DigiFun (64MB Portable) MP3 Player; $220 for the MTV-Now Evolution MP3 (256MB Music) Player. Both at Radioshack.)
Italian Charm Bracelets -- The Inland Northwest is always behind in getting the latest trends in fashion, but as I walked through River Park Square Mall, I saw a booth selling these new Italian charm bracelets I had seen in magazines and heard were hot in California and Europe.
These new bracelets portray a band, not like the old-school charm bracelets that dangle. Because of the different band designs, the bracelets are unisex and a watch face can even be added. The booth I saw had an enormous selection of charms: hearts, letters of the alphabet (gold and silver), country flags, footballs, baseballs, pets, military, cosmetics, flowers, jewels and a lot more. These are on my wish list, and a few are going out as Christmas presents to my family. ($30-$35 for starter bracelet, no charms; $15-$32 for charms. At Simply Charming.)
Gap's Warmest Jacket -- A new down-jacket from the GAP is popular around college campuses this season. If you have ever worn any down-filled coat you'll know why -- they are incredibly warm. This region is extremely cold during the winter, so students need to bundle up to walk from class to class during the day.
These coats come in various colors, like red, white, black, brown and blue, and range in sizes from XXS-XXL. The water-resistant lining makes it easy to wash, too. GAP also carries the coat in a vest style for those who already have a winter coat. While Christmas shopping, try to envision your poor son or daughter trudging from one class to the other in a foot of snow and make the right decision on what they need this holiday season. ($60-$100, The Gap)
Gift Certificates -- The usual teen shopping suspects -- Abercrombie & amp; Fitch, Old Navy, The Gap -- are simple enough to locate. What's not so easy is knowing what kind of threads the fashion-conscious adolescent in your life favors. No one can keep up with the new style of sweaters or jeans anymore. Did you know that all hats, gloves and scarves must match the entire outfit?
North Town Mall has gift certificates that are available at the customer service counter for your teen to use at any store in the mall -- not just one.
Instead of worrying about buying a sweater that your teen may take back, just send a gift certificate. That way, you'll know where your money is being spent -- and you'll rest assured that your teen, with all of his or her new wardrobe, will get exactly what he or she wants.
Any Household Items -- Trust me, college students have gone at least a week without doing laundry because they can't afford laundry soap, or they've used leftover paper towels because there's no money for toilet paper. Parents, your sons and daughters are crying out for these household necessities to keep their dorm rooms or apartments like home.
Costco has large bundles of products to stock your student up on -- and they aren't that pricey. Small items like toothpaste, a toothbrush, razors or soap are even great stocking stuffers. Cleaning supplies are also a great gift. That way, there's no excuse when you come visit them at school.
Even if they do manage to hang onto some dish soap or toothpaste, it will run out sooner or later. With this thoughtful present, you would be effectively buying your young student some precious time, which they will surely use to hit the books quietly in the library, right?
Musini -- Musini wants you to play. To run and jump. To dance. If you do this, the revolutionary and award-winning Musini will channel your physical energy to create beautiful music. Musini's patented MagicSensor will transform any room into a musical playground where your every step, turn, touch and tap activates a unique musical response. Children (ages 3 and older), you need only select your favorite musical style and instrument and start moving. Musini will do the rest -- sensing the strength and speed of each motion, each vibration and responding with a totally personal and unique musical composition of superior sound quality. Musini's robust construction is designed to withstand whatever punishing treatment you meter out so that, together, you can create unique and masterful electronic symphonies in the name of fun and learning for years to come. ($60, Toys R Us)
Yu-Gi-Oh! Cards (Yugi starter set) -- Parents, Yu-Gi-Oh! (a two-player character-based card game) is yet one more thing your kids are probably totally rabid for that you will most likely never comprehend. Of course, that's the way it should be. So just succumb to the might of this latest Japanese marketing blitz and forget about it. As we learned in the case of the impenetrable Pokemon web, resistance is futile. Based on a comic magazine and animated TV series of the same name, Yu-Gi-Oh! the card game (also a video game, action figure line, board game, etc., etc.) focuses on the heroic exploits of Yugi and his monster-dueling buddies. Sort of a cross between Pokemon and Harry Potter, the game's frenzied mix of myth, magic and monsters is appealing to both boys and girls. The Yugi starter deck comes with a game mat, instructions and 50 cards (47 common and three foil cards). ($12, Toys R Us)
Polly Pocket Sparkle Style House -- Let's face it, most toy research dollars obviously go into developing really cool, creative play stuff for boys. What do girls get? Well, there's not much out there other than toys -- and the Barbie franchise is one of the worst offenders here -- that overemphasize physical beauty and promote submission to patriarchal oppression. Mattel's Polly Pocket line isn't exactly the girl power antidote, but it is cute, colorful, fun and non-sexual with playsets that have the potential to keep children engaged for hours on end. Polly's Sparkle Style House has lots of rooms to decorate with the included sticker sheet. The set also comes with Polly's pet kitty, furniture and two tubes of "magical glitter," to glam up her more than 50 fashion items and accessories in the fan-powered "Glitterific Closet." And of course there's 3.5-inch blonde, blue-eyed Fashion Polly herself to loll around the house all day. ($20, White Elephant)
Tycho Air Rebound -- If you're not hip to the popularity of radio-controlled vehicles, you're either kid-less or you've packed your ears with enough beeswax to muffle your little consumer-in-training's incessant and increasingly shrill pleas for some sort of RC fun this Christmas. The Air Rebound by Tycho sports sleek alien looks and an oversized, inflated neon green front tire that allows this thing to go virtually anywhere and do pretty much anything. Floor it into a wall and it bounces right off. Flip it upside down and it keeps going. Air Rebound cares not which way it is oriented as you run it through stunts that would sideline more traditional RC land vehicles. It's available in two frequencies (27 MHz and 49 MHz) for head-to-head racing. As cool as this toy is, bear in mind that to make it work, you'll have to put down another 30 bucks for the TMH Flexpak rechargeable battery system (sold separately). ($44, Target)
K'Nex Screamin' Serpent Roller Coaster -- This toy reinforces not only your child's love of roller coasters but also the thrill of operating one. So if plans for your kid's future don't include him/her serving out their time on Earth as a carny, maybe you should shy away from the Screamin' Serpent. Otherwise, go for it. What kid wouldn't love it? When completed (a fun and trouble-free but fairly time consuming process) this thing stretches six feet long, stands over three feet high and works just like a real roller coaster. The battery-powered plastic chain tows the cars up to the top and gravity does the rest. As if the action of the cars careening through the coasters' various twists, turns and loops weren't exciting enough, the toy enhances the experience with built-in sound effects that emit authentic roller coaster sounds and equally authentic blood-curdling screams. You gotta love that name, too. ($65, Whiz Kids)