Burton Snowskate by Michael Bowen -- When we were kids, falling off our skateboards meant serious road rash on elbows and knees (from blacktop impact). Imagine landing on snow instead. What more natural progression than for skaters and snowboarders to merge in their advocacy of the snowskate, the newest rage in terrain parks and your local neighborhood? Resembling a skateboard (32" by 7") mounted on a tiny ski, the snow skate, according to Mountain Gear's Marshall Powell, is intended mostly for snowboarders after a long day at the half-pipe, or just for practicing tricks in "urban assault" around town. Snowskates are durable, but they're not really for going down the mountain fast. "They're good for the weekend warrior who has it all, or the kid who's really into snowboarding and now wants something extra to do," says Powell. Yet even with their nylon ankle leashes (to prevent downhill runaways), snowskates may not be allowed at many resorts this winter. That's why, says snowboard aficionado Taylor Schaffer of Mountain Gear, "the best gift you can get any 'boarder or snowskater would be a lift ticket." That way, they don't have to hit up their moms and girlfriends for money. ($150, Mountain Gear )
Toys for Tots by Jessica Milstead -- Every holiday season since 1974, the Marine Corps Reserve distributes the familiar
Toys for Tots barrels to area stores, malls and businesses. Last year, the Toys for Tots campaign set a new record by collecting more than 15,800,000 toys and distributing them to 6,300,000 children in need across the nation. This year, of course, they would like to break that record.
Donating to the Toys for Tots campaign is about as easy as it gets. There are conveniently placed donation boxes almost anywhere people might do holiday shopping and all toys are welcome, as long as they are new and unwrapped.
In addition to the donation boxes, the Met will be hosting the second "Rock for Tots" concert, from which all proceeds will go to Toys for Tots. The show features the bands Vertigo Bliss, 10 Minutes Down, and Paradox on Tuesday, Dec. 11, at 7 pm. Tickets: $8; $10, at the door.
Wrist Camera by Ted McGregor, Jr. -- Remember when you used to play spy? Well, now grownups can play for real, with a wrist camera that takes pictures out of a tiny lens on the side of a working wristwatch. You can review and delete the photos in black and white on the watch's face; later, you can download them to your computer via an infrared connection and display them in color. The watch will hold up to 80 pictures in a jpeg format. No, as you can imagine, the resolution isn't anything near a high-end digital camera, but for sending pictures via
e-mail it's just fine. The bonus is that you'll always have a camera with you, so when you run into Bigfoot out in the backcountry, you can prove it.
The Casio WQV3D Wrist Camera also functions as an organizer. You can enter text to go with a photo -- like the phone number to go along with the picture of your current beau. You can even have a photo appear when an alarm time is reached -- again, your current beau can pop up to remind you to meet for dinner. If your beau has a wrist camera, too, you can transfer images to each other via the infrared connection. So instead of actual conversation, you can send a document of the day you had in pictures.
That, after all, is the way spies operate.
($230, Sunglass Hut)
Charms by Sheri Boggs -- Jewelry is always a big hit around the holidays, especially the kind that comes in little pillowy velvet boxes. This year, however, why not consider handcrafted artisan jewelry from Argentum Aurum. The dynamic jewelry-making duo of Tarawyn and Debra Brehren have a winning new selection of sterling silver charms, color beads (wonderful tiny gemstone elements that give a charm bracelet a little dash of hue), rings, earrings and pendants. The pieces are not only visually somewhere between adorable and beautiful, they also form a sort of symbolic vocabulary. The strong vertical lines on a ring remind the wearer of boundaries, a spiral on a charm bracelet speaks of creative energy, and of course the hearts, babies, cats, tiny houses and even mermaids that pop up in many of Argentum Aurum's pieces are picture language for all the things the wearer might hold dear. (Bracelet, $18; charms, $8-$18, Argentum Aurum)
Spokane Fashion by Ted McGregor, Jr. -- Did you ever want to send somebody a token of Spokane-style? But then you go looking and realize why some might consider that an oxymoron. Never fear, the folks at Boo Radley's have created a line of long-sleeve T-shirts that feature the name of this fair city prominently without looking stupid. First they started with cool, well-made T-shirts, some with stripes on the sleeves, others with v-necks for a subtle change of pace. Then they created some cool looks: one features a worn-out looking, athletic style; another features a funky fish to draw a connection to the river that runs through this town. The most random design features a Swiss cross for no particular reason -- they were designed prior to 9/11, so there's no Red Cross connection, but it somehow seems to fit. That snobby sibling from Seattle will see that, yes, Spokane is cool enough to have a hip T-shirt. ($18-$24, Boo Radley's)
Story Books by Dan Richardson -- Make-believe stories, someone once said, are truer than real life. A work of classic fiction is gift that says you, my friend, deserve a few minutes of peace. Come, see the world in your mind's eye more accurately than you ever will with your physical ones.
If powerful enough, a story (generally though not always fiction) can shape a person's life. What makes one timeless gift, though, is time spent in reflection; this is a gift that requires thoughtful introspection and a deft touch.
Some classics stand out. The following are a few suggestions, all of which can be found within a $15 budget.
To introduce a child to great stories, try Curious George and Where the Wild Things Are. A friend yearning for adventure? Peruse the Victorian classic Sailing Along Around the World by Joshua Slocum, the first man to do so, or the modern classic Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. For something scary to read on dark winter nights, skip Stephen King and reach for the short stories of Edgar Allen Poe and H. P. Lovecraft.
Then there's the Harry Potter books everyone seems to be reading. They're popular, but consider the classics: The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien, and The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis. Both are magical stories that will live for generations, and they are available at most every bookstore in a variety of editions. ($13.94 for the two pictured, Auntie's Bookstore)
Chocolate by Dan Richardson -- Montezuma had it right when it came to chocolate, sort of. The Aztec emperor supposedly drank a cocoa bean concoction before entering his harem, believing it to be an aphrodisiac. (Though how he could swallow the concoction, flavored with chili peppers, is anybody's guess.)
Chocolate is not an aphrodisiac, but it does contain a natural substance - phenylethylamine - that reputedly stimulates the brain the same way falling in love does. So while that makes chocolate confections a natural choice for Valentine's Day, they are a perfect gift for the Yuletide holidays, too. It possesses an undeniable universal appeal: No one will return a gift of fine chocolates. A classy example is the half-pound truffle variety set in a tartan tin (pictured), a winning combination if ever we've seen one. Given with a smile or a kiss, this selection of fine chocolate is perfect for a good friend or a romantic partner, even if he is your husband or she is your wife. Maybe especially so. ($13, Boehm's Chocolates and Flowers)
Rankin Bass Hermey Action Figure by Mike Corrigan -- I'd like to be a... a dentist," stammers Hermey, the misfit elf when asked what he'd rather be doing with his life other than conforming to his stifling, highly regimented elf way of life and toiling in Santa's toy shop for eternity (okay, so that's not exactly the way his elf foreman put it to him). Playing Mantis has effectively captured the essence of this resourceful and pivotal character from the 1964 TV Christmas classic, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in the form of a nicely-detailed, 4-inch action figure with articulated head, arms, hands, hips (!) and feet. He comes with his book of dentistry, pliers, a hammer and two, newly extracted Abominable Snow Monster teeth. Other figures in the series include Yukon Cornelius, Sam the Snowman, Rudolph with Misfit Doll, Clarice with Raccoons and Rabbits and of course, that ill-tempered master of elf and reindeer exploitation, Santa. ($8, Boo Radley's)
X-1 Espresso Maker by Ted McGregor, Jr. -- Why get any espresso maker when you can get an espresso maker that looks like it was part of a World War II submarine... or maybe a death ray activator on an old Star Trek episode. Wired magazine pegged it as "retro-futurisic," but whatever images it conjures up in your head, the Francis Francis! X-1 Espresso Maker is a guaranteed head-turner. Designed by former architect Luca Trazzi, the Italian-made X-1 is also notable for coming in a variety of colors -- and we mean bright colors (orange, lime green, yellow). But don't order the Ferrari red; it's sold out for this holiday season. You can also get the classic chrome or black and chrome.
But the X-1 doesn't just look good; it also makes a mean espresso. It features a temperature gauge on the front so you know when it's time to brew. The frothing wand also doubles as a hot water dispenser, so you can make hot cocoa or tea in a flash from the three-quart reservoir. You can use ground beans, but you can also use the ESE (Easy Serving Espresso) system, which uses prepackaged pods. You can get a variety of blends over the Internet, and the cleanup is a breeze. Finally, the top is designed to warm your demitasse cups before serving. Cold cups can ruin even the best coffee drink, even when it's made in a Star Trek-looking gizmo. ($500, Williams-Sonoma)
Portable Turntable by Ted McGregor, Jr. -- You've got a big stack of them, and every time there's a garage sale, you hold on to them for dear life as the neatness police come prowling around your stuff. Why? Sure there's the off chance that they'll "be worth something someday," but it's more to keep hope alive that one day you will pull them out of the basement and give 'em a spin for old times sake. "Are You Experienced" by Jimi Hendrix, The Cars first album, even Michael Jackson's Thriller (yeah, you bought it, just like everybody else) -- none of those albums sound nearly as good on the CD player as you remember them sounding on vinyl all those years ago.
Small problem: To realize this nagging ambition, you'll need a turntable, since yours long ago met with a messy demise that had to do with trying to see how long a full beer could go around and around -- now it's in pieces in a box with your old eight-track player. No worries; Restoration Hardware, that purveyor of all things old and nostalgic, is offering a portable turntable. Open the suitcase it comes in, and your vinyl longings can come true. It plugs into the wall, and is completely self-contained, with speakers on the sides -- it even plays 78s! And it sounds pretty good -- good enough, anyway, to reproduce that scratchy sound the compact disc never could quite duplicate. ($130, Restoration Hardware)
Candle Monkeys by Sheri Boggs -- Monkeys are a little bit of an inside joke around here. Somehow we got this idea that the big boss might someday replace us all with trained chimps. After all, chimps are always happy, they work for cheap and they don't disappear for three-hour lunch breaks. "Eee eee eee," we would screech, enthusiastically punching our keyboards and laughing uproariously. "Monkeys... tee hee hee." And then we would look at each other and remember we've got work to do.
So, to make a long story short, we found these monkey candle holders made of wire and metal from Indonesia. And we had to have them. They have happy painted smiles, they each hold a tea light votive, and you can hang them on the wall. What's even more fun however, is that you can hang them from each other. Remember "Barrel of Monkeys" and how if you pull one out, you often pull out three or four with it? These candle monkeys work the same way, and you can actually make a long chain of them if you like. Their arms swing up and you can hook them to the arms or feet of the other monkeys, or you could string them from a cable and make kind of a monkey garland. You could also hang them up from your office bulletin board or file cabinet! ($7, Cost Plus World Market)
Charity: Tidings for Teens by Jessica Milstead -- Every year, hundreds of homeless Spokane area teenagers turn to Crosswalk (run by the Volunteers of America) for food, shelter and personal care items. Many of these teens have children of their own to care for, and Christmas is a time when they need comfort and support more than ever. You can help make that happen by donating money, time, clothing or toiletries to Crosswalk.
"We provide 200 to 300 hundred kids with a Christmas they would never have had otherwise," explains Brenda Hunter, Development Director for Volunteers of America. The group tries to have one gift for every teen, and also puts on a Christmas party for teens with nowhere else to go.
Although Crosswalk is always accepting donations, Christmas is the only time of year that the nonprofit organization actually campaigns for donations of money, gifts or time.
Other welcome donations include deodorant, combs, and soap; warm clothing, diapers, or gifts that would be appropriate for a teenager, such as hair dryers, backpacks and purses.
Donations can be dropped off at the Volunteers of America office, located at 525 W. Second Avenue. Call: 624-2378.