GPS Wristwatch -- Hansel was so low-tech, strewing his bread crumbs; Gretel knew the birds would eat them. She knew her brother would get them lost in the forest. (And would he simply stop and ask a squirrel for directions? Oh, no.) What Gretel needed was Garmin's Forerunner 201 -- essentially, a GPS monitor small enough to impersonate a wristwatch. It can store the exact topographical location of the parking lot at the trailhead, and then the place where you got that awful blister, and then the place where you leaned over the stream and fell in. But that's not all: The Forerunner can store your last two years' worth of hikes -- their time, distance, pace, elevation, number of arguments over when to stop for lunch, all of it. So the next time to Grandmother's house you go, you won't be veering under the river and around the woods. Instead -- imagine what fun! -- you can irritate your friends by compulsively announcing longitude readings. The manufacturer refers to the little item that generates such factoids as "personal GPS technology." At less than 3 oz. and barely 3 inches wide, it's no bulkier than a bagful of bread crumbs. -- Michael Bowen
Bionicles -- If you have a Legomaniac in your midst, you're
probably already waist-deep in empty Bionicle
canisters. Lego Bionicles are only about a year old but represent the fastest-growing sector of the Lego plastic building block empire. They are pose-able, movable and highly detailed burly robot-thingies with imposing body armor and even more imposing weaponry that kids assemble from over three dozen parts. There are good guys (the Toa) and bad guys (the Bohrok) and a complex mythological backstory to boot. (You see, the Toa -- all six of them -- are the saviors and guardians of the tiny island nation, Mata Nui, whose population is constantly being tormented by the evil Makuta and his minions.) All you really need to know is that their exploits make for smashing role-playing and limitless crossover marketing possibilities (what with the movies, video games, etc.). Bionicles are also pretty affordable, allowing parents and kids to create whole armies on the cheap. They can even combine parts from individual Bionicle kits to make, um, well, even bigger and scarier super Bionicles. -- Mike Corrigan
Charity Transitions - For battered women and children, places like the Women's Drop-In Center, Miryam's House of Transition and the Transitional Living Center are a lifesaver, literally. The three programs serve to end the cycle of abuse, and to begin showing caring and love for women and children. Transitions operates under four key values: growth/wholeness, justice, respect and community. All three facilities aim to provide a safe environment for women and children while offering skills training, education, case management and childcare. While the women being served by these three facilities are bettering their lives, providing a happy holiday season for their children still isn't easy. Transitions has a wish list of its own for the holidays. The three programs are in need of children's and women's winter hats, scarves and gloves, art supplies, children's computer software, pillows, blankets and travel-size toiletries. (Transitions, 3102 W. Fort George Wright Dr., Spokane WA 99224; 328-6702) -- Leah Sottile
Capilene Underwear -- Most of us know someone whose winter sportswear consists of fabulous ski and snowboard equipment, high-quality outerwear and some stylin' sunglasses for those sunny days on the mountain. But strip 'em down to their skivvies and you'll see worn-out T-shirts, sweaty long johns and otherwise unappealing (not to mention inefficient) underwear. Underwear is the kind of thing people don't necessarily want to buy for themselves - especially when there's that great new board to save for. So treat any man, woman or child who spends time working it on the mountains to the high-quality, super-comfortable Capilene outdoor underwear made by Patagonia. You can find a wide selection of the Capilene line at Moose Lake, a well-stocked outdoor/Northwest kitsch shop on Main Avenue in downtown Spokane. Capilene underwear comes in light, medium and heavyweight versions. The product offers superior wicking, to keep sweat off the body. Its fast-drying material and close fit make it easy to wear in the lodge (or around the house) when all the coats and mittens are stripped off. Capilene underwear comes in a variety of sizes, styles and colors; visit www.patagonia.com. -- Cara Gardner
Imported Chocolate -- I'll never forget the first time I had real European chocolate. A friend had flown to Germany on business and returned with a handful of marzipan chocolates for me. Later, other friends introduced me to the glories of French chocolate. I've been a chocolate snob ever since. Now, treats from the finest chocolatiers are available right here in Spokane -- and for far less than the cost of an airline ticket. Creamy smooth semisweet, with marzipan filling, from Sarotti of Germany; from French chocolatier Valrhona, an assertive dark bar with pieces of hazelnut, or tiny balls of exquisitely rich milk chocolate; Swiss chocolate, Italian chocolate ... making a choice is too difficult, so just plan to pick up a selection. -- Ann M. Colford
Exfoliating Brush -- Remember a few years ago when we included the infamous Tongue Scraper in our Gift Guide? Well, folks, the Exfoliating Brush from Aveda is this year's must-have healthy lifestyle item. Dry skin brushing is one of the best things you can do for your body - it helps eliminate toxins, stimulates your lymphatic system, gets rid of old dead cells and most importantly, it feels sort of good in a "whip me, beat me" kind of way. This handsome, Japanese-influenced tool is made from sisal and wood; they're available in black and ecru, brown and black, and other cool combinations. To use it, you simply brush your dry skin in long strokes going in the direction of your heart, then jump in the shower and wash all that evil nasty exfoliated dead skin off your newly glowing person. When not in use, the brush is a nice objet d'art to have hanging around in the bathroom. -- Sheri Boggs
Vintage Leather -- It never goes out of fashion. People of all ages with tastes that vary from motorcycle hip to '70s shaggalicious don leather ackets, pants, gloves, belts, shoes and more. If you've got a friend or family member who appreciates - and can pull off - leather fashions, don't spend hundreds at high-end retail stores. Instead, shop vintage and pick out one of the numerous interesting designs lurking on a rack, waiting to be sported again. Most vintage, consignment and used clothing stores have at least some leather coats, belts or hats. The major plus about vintage leather: It's unique, so you probably won't find others wearing the same stuff. Besides, it's less expensive, with no breaking-in period, and it's likely to be rather distinctive-looking. The leather lover on your list will know just how irreplaceable such a gift is. -- Cara Gardner
Care Bears -- It seems like whenever America turns into a dark and scary place (as it did during the Reagan administration), America's kids turn to Care Bears for solace. Well, the Care Bears are back, baby. Only this time they've really got their fuzzy paws full. The lovable and nurturing Care Bear clan has undergone a slight redesign for these sketchy modern times but is essentially the same adorable rainbow-colored teddy bear line that, in the 1980s, caused toy collectors to stampede and Toys R Us stock boys to pull their eyeballs out in protest. This season those cuddly, wuddly Care Bears are endearing themselves to a whole new generation of kids. Each 13" plush Classic Care Bear comes with a 20-minute videotape of the original Care Bears animated TV show -- and a unique, caring mission signified by its individual color and velvety monogram. There's pink Love-A-Lot Bear, sky blue Bedtime Bear, yellow Funshine Bear, navy Champ Bear, green Good Luck Bear and eight others. -- Mike Corrigan
Lewis & amp; Clark For Kids -- All right, parents, don't roll your eyes just yet. Janis Herbert's Lewis and Clark for Kids: Their Journey of Discovery with 21 Activities isn't just another "let's-pretend-history-is- really-fun" book. This is actually a really great history book for pre-teens. We all know it's the bicentennial for Lewis and Clark's expedition, and this book answers all the questions kids as well as adults may have about what exactly Lewis and Clark did - and why we are still talking about their journey today. The book begins with a timeline and a map, to get everyone off on the right track. It contains many historic photos, engravings, paintings and other illustrations, but we especially like the activities that show up periodically throughout the narrative. You'll find instructions on how to use Native American sign language, how to make your own moccasins out of a brown paper bag and how to make beeswax candles and a drum. Portions of Lewis and Clark's travel journals are included as well, complete with their creative spellings of words like "mosquito." A great gift for the kid who's a confident reader and interested in history and nature. -- Pia K. Hansen
Computer Backup -- Anyone who's ever stored important information on a computer knows that they're subject to crashes and bugs. And when something goes wrong, it can be a nightmare making sure that things are put back in the right order without any damage. Savvy users probably already have a backup system in place, but more casual computer users might not be prepared for the inevitable crash. So give them - if you've got the cash - one of Maxtor's OneTouch External Drives. They're sleek and shiny and sit next to the computer; with the push of a single button, they back up everything on the main machine's hard drive. That way, if there's ever a crash, things should be tucked away safely in the Maxtor's stand-alone system. The software that keeps the machine running is a little clunky to use, but that will probably change over time. The real selling point is the hardware involved, which is as sturdy and reliable as it comes, and the single button makes it as foolproof as possible. Geeks won't need it, but anyone who goes cross-eyed at the thought of file transfers and operating system maintenance will appreciate the convenience and security. -- Marty Demarest
Gama Go Bag -- The Gama Go phenomenon started the way many good things often do: late at night and over strong vodka tonics. Designer Greg Long, artist Tim Biskup and "unprofessional skateboarder" Chris Edmundson were talking about how streetwear fashion had no sense of humor. What if they were to combine their love of Japanese culture, American pop culture, style and art into a new line of clothing and accessories? Thus was Gama Go born. Their characters include Ninja Kitty, Gama Yeti and the Shadow, but one of our favorites is Space Bat, who shows up on an entire range of wallets, handbags and courier bags. While it was hard to pick just one, we decided we liked the "Chicklet" size, which is large enough for your journal, some cash, lipstick, and a cell phone. The black rectangular pouch is lined with red nylon and has one exterior and two interior compartments. Also, everything Gama Go does is a limited edition -- so once these bags are gone, you'll have to hang tight till next season. -- Sheri Boggs
Balance Toy -- If you're really stumped, why not look into the vast realm of tchochtkes and knick knacks? That's right, the stuff used to fill flat surfaces and offer delight to their owners. If that person on your list already has a full complement of Hummel figurines or commemorative beer steins, you might want to consider a tin toy reproduction. Based on 19th-century toys, these aren't simply trinkets. Handmade of metal and hand-painted in the Netherlands by Authentic Models, Inc., they are imported by a company in Eugene, Ore. Called "balance toys," they stand between one and two feet tall, and the Zoo in Coeur d'Alene carries a variety of motifs, from hummingbirds to whales, from circus tigers to old sea salts (like the one pictured). AM founder Haring Piebenga writes that "We want our products to reflect the true character of their originals. They should be seen in the light of their own historical background. Above all, it should be evident that thinking and feeling persons were involved in the product creation, and not soul-less machines." -- Ted S. McGregor Jr.
Subscription to Read Made -- Few things are as satisfying as making something functional by hand. And when the projects are as hip, stylish and useful as they are in Ready Made, you
can't go wrong. This is our new favorite thing here in the editorial department of The Inlander - two of us just subscribed and a third is scrounging around for a sign-up card. Ready Made's ethos is DIY all the way - from the helpful "ape to man" evolutionary chart that indicates the difficulty level of each project to telling you right up front how much you'll be spending and exactly what supplies and tools you'll need. The aesthetics are great - less fussy than Martha and quite a bit more hip as well. Past issues have included everything from origami boxes to bookshelves; the current issue includes instructions for making liqueur, lip balm, iron-ons, a coat rack, minimalist menorahs and even igloos. Give this to all your DIY, young, crafty or compulsively hip friends. -- Sheri Boggs
European Kid's Clothes -- This is perhaps a bit, um, overindulgent -- we may as well admit it right off the bat. But imagine that you are taking your children to a golden anniversary or a huge family reunion, a finally-we-have-everybody-together holiday marathon of the kind where there's not just one photographer but two. Of course you want your little darlings to look their absolute best, and if you don't mind spending almost as much on their outfits as on your own, there is only one solution: imported European children's clothes, as in French children's clothes. They're beautiful, they're comfortable, they're durable - so you can hand them down dozens of times -- and you can get them to match younger and older siblings, boys and girls. One of the more popular lines is Deux par Deux (pictured), which features pants and tunics, jeans and sweaters, t-shirts and dresses, skirts and tights, in kid-friendly colors and designs that will make the kids actually want to wear the clothes because they won't feel all dressed up and itchy. And believe us, your kids will look great. At least until they get into the fruit punch. -- Pia K. Hansen
Homemade Potpourri -- Buy a short three-foot length of tiny Christmas lights and layer them into a canning jar along with fresh potpourri (see recipe below). Top the jar with an old-fashioned doily or coaster that is porous. When you plug in the string of lights, you'll fill your home with the smell of Christmas potpourri -- cloves, orange peel and cinnamon.
1 qt. dried flower petals; 1/4 cup dried orange peel; 1 oz. cinnamon, cloves, ginger root, nutmeg; 1/2 oz. anise seed; cinnamon sticks; whole cloves; crushed herbs such as mint, balm, sage, rosemary, lavender; 1/4 to 1/2 cup dried sandalwood chips or pinecone chips; essential oils -- try a blend of orange, cinnamon and frankincense. Mix dry ingredients together, then sprinkle with 5 to 8 drops of the essential oils blend. When the aroma weakens, it can be refreshed by adding more drops of the essential oils. -- Mary Jane Butters
Hand Made PLate -- While Art by Yourself has all sorts of cool stuff you can impress people with ("Oh, that beautiful platter? I made that..."), you can't go wrong with a handprint plate. Grandparents love seeing the small, eagerly applied handprints of their grandchildren recorded forever and decorated by those same small hands. And hey, handprint plates aren't limited solely to children. Imagine the look on Mom and Dad's faces when they open a large handprint plate by "Mike, Age 42"! Art by Yourself also has all sorts of plaster ornaments. You go in, pick out the one you like, gussy it up in purty colors and the nice folks at ABY will fire it for you. What could be easier? Like the handprint plate, you don't necessarily have to stick with tradition. Why not paint words on your ornaments (like our favorite words, "cookies," "lust" and "fries") or better yet, paint your phone number on one and present it to your new would-be boy- or girlfriend. -- Sheri Boggs
Charity Pink Shamrock -- Denny Murphy cared about a lot of people. A lot of people cared about Denny, too. After losing her battle with breast cancer in 2001, her children, Molly, Megan and Joe, founded the Pink Shamrock foundation in her memory. When it comes to defeating breast cancer, according to the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, the poverty line separates those who will survive from those who won't. Knowing that women living in poverty are three times as likely to die because of breast cancer, the foundation serves to raise funds for medically underserved women who are battling the disease. Pink Shamrock raises its funds through the sale of merchandise -- particularly pins and baby clothes. Stylish sterling silver clover pins (pictured) are available for $40, and one-piece baby clothing, sporting the foundation's logo and with matching caps, are $20. (Pink Shamrock Foundation, PO Box 8718, Spokane WA 99203; or visit www.pinkshamrock.com) -- Leah Sottile
Piranha -- This little fella has got one thing and one thing only on his mind. Capable of bringing down water buffalo and clueless white tourists alike, piranhas live to eat, and they do it like nobody's business. From his sharp pointy teeth to the fearsome angles of his finned little body, the piranha cuts a stylish figure. Now you can have one of your very own. Supported by a small wooden stand, your new, 100% real piranha looks ready for action, and with all the aggravations in your life, can you blame him if he wants to take a bite out of your noisy colleagues, your ex-boyfriend, your gnarliest customers, or the mean parking ticket lady? Park a piranha - or better yet, a whole school of 'em - on the corner of your desk and see what he does for both your feng shui and your attitude. Just be careful of those teeth -- they're still razor-sharp! --Sheri Boggs
Speed Cart -- Just when the world was afraid that the game of golf had become too strenuous -- imagine the cardiovascular strain of planting your tee in the ground by actually bending over -- comes the Speed Cart from Sun Mountain. According to the manufacturer, this cart "pushes as effortlessly as a scratch golfer swings." Or as easily as he bends his elbow to gulp another beer. That's because the Speed Cart comes with its own mesh cup holder and ColdPaq. With the tricycle-like stability afforded by its three "all-terrain tires" and the peace of mind that comes from having a dependable parking brake, you'll be hooking and slicing with confidence, terrorizing the foursome up ahead. And none of this torquing your upper body by twisting to haul a two-wheel cart behind you. With the Speed Cart, you simply nudge the adjustable steering bar while keeping all your woods and your little putter comfortably encased. Wouldn't want to have to exert yourself during your weekly exercise. It's a hole in one! -- Michael Bowen
Moodlogic -- You do know someone who's into digital music files, don't you? Given the fact that entire CD libraries can now be stored on computers, and songs purchased over the Internet, it's hard to justify keeping dusty, breakable stacks of discs lying around. But even MP3 and WMA files, for all of their convenience, need a little bit of maintenance. So this holiday, tell the techno-music geeks on your list to head to moodlogic.com and download the company's free trial software. Then, go there yourself and buy them a lifetime subscription to one of the most useful services available. (You'll need to know the account name that they've selected.) What you'll be giving the music lover on your list is the ability to figure out what all of those "unnamed" files are that were downloaded somewhere online and have been forgotten about since. And a true audiophile will thank you the instant they discover that they can now organize their songs any way that they like. Whether it's finding all of the upbeat pop tunes they have, or some fast-but-sad electronica, Mood Logic will sort files and create playlists like nothing else available -- Marty Demarest
Yasmina Boots -- Many women love sexy, three-inch heeled boots, but feel like their feet are going through a Chinese binding process after 30 minutes of walking around. And men, we know the baby steps we take while wearing these mini-towers on our feet baffle you. We know you wish we'd stop stumbling over sidewalk edges, small pebbles and our own heels. In that case, give us a gift that will keep on giving: the chance to boot out our blister-causing footwear. Nine West's Yasmina black boot, for example, is a feat of footwear engineering. The 3 1/2"heel, the small toe and the tight-fitting knee-high make this boot as sexy as they come, but the sole is fitted with deep grooves for traction, and the synthetic material makes for a stretchy, roomy walking experience. (While synthetics don't breathe as well, they won't dull like real leather and have endless shine.) The Yasmina comes with a removable ankle buckle that punks up the look. They're great with skirts, jeans or any dress pants. The Yasmina also has an ankle-boot sibling, the Yevette ($59). -- Cara Gardner
Riedel Wine Glasses -- For those who take their wine seriously, the choice of glassware is crucial. To deliver the precious nectar of the grape from bottle to mouth, connoisseurs count on Riedel crystal stemware. The family-owned Austrian company researched the effects of glass size and shape on one's perception and enjoyment of wine and then developed a dazzling array of glasses, each based on the characteristics of an individual grape varietal. The Riedel brochure states that "It is the responsibility of a glass to convey the wine's messages in the best manner to the human senses." (OK, sure.) As an introduction to these "finest instruments" of wine enjoyment, begin with a pair of Bordeaux glasses in the midrange Vinum series. -- Ann M. Colford
MovieBeam -- Got an early-adopter on your list? That's the name marketing types give to the folks who always want to be ahead of the curve on state-of-the-art tech toys. MovieBeam is the latest way to get Hollywood's best movies "beamed" right into your home. A cross between a trip to the video store and pay-per-view, MovieBeam improves the experience by allowing you to start the movie (or pause it) whenever you want. Best of all, you never get a late fee or have to put up with the video you want being out of stock.
"There's nothing else out there like it," says Jason DePue, a MovieBeam owner in Spokane. "That's the cool thing about it. You can sort it by adults movies and children's movies -- I think it's great for everyone."
Setting up the MovieBeam receiver is quick, and the interface is easy -- it even allows you to watch previews from any of the 100 movies available. Currently, you can catch Finding Nemo, Chicago and The Matrix Reloaded, among others. As many as 10 new movies are added every week -- digital quality movies literally beamed into your receiver via the regular broadcast signal. Rentals are $4 for new releases and $2.50 for classics. As the gift-giver, however, you can pay for a year of the service for about $120, which includes the receiver. -- Ted S. McGregor Jr.
Nepalese Hat -- Good news, guys: Hat-head is hot. And in this cold weather, that's a great thing; wearing hats will get you that much-desired tousled look and keep you warm. Thank rap star Eminem, if you like, but since that Detroit native started flouncing around in his homely gray wool fold-over, guys everywhere have been digging through the bottom of their closets, looking for a similar hand-me-down winter hat. In other words, it doesn't have to be Burberry to be cool. But instead of donning a cap that smells like old shoes, send out hints for one of these fine - and inexpensive - REI men's hats this Christmas. The quirky, not-so-serious Nepalese Earflap Hat is made with colorful wool knits and lined in soft fleece. The EcoRagg Hat, a versatile classic, can be paired with Armani Exchange and old sweats alike. Its basic wool-knit design is insulating and earth-friendly. For the sporty and often clean-shaven, the Mountain Hardwear Micro Dome is a lightweight hat good for outdoor activity. REI's men's hats definitely have you covered! -- Cara Gardner
Bounce 'n' Slide -- Savvy parents will instantly recognize the intrinsic value of this toy, essentially a 8-foot by 8-foot hyper chamber wherein your little darlings can go completely berserk for as long as it takes for their blood sugar drop to manageable levels. The Six Flags Bounce 'n' Slide is an inflatable jumping room (and slide) with no springs, hard parts or sharp corners. It inflates in under 45 seconds with its own built-in electrical fan. It's made of sterner stuff -- that is, relatively puncture-proof, heavy-gauge vinyl. Five-foot-tall sides keep the action contained and skull fractures to a minimum. It's a little pricey, perhaps, but when you think about it, it's more like priceless. After all, with the Bounce 'n Slide set up in your back yard (or basement or garage) you not only end up with thoroughly zonked-out youngsters, but your kids also get to be the envy of the neighborhood. Everybody wins! -- Mike Corrigan
Homemade bookmarks -- Items you will need:
* tiny, flat, pretty things like pressed flowers and wireless ribbon,
or a collage of cut-out pictures
* 8.5-inch by 11-inch paper (not too thick)
* glue gun
* tweezers and toothpicks for picking up and placing your items
* scissors or a paper cutter
* use of a laminator
1. On the 8 1/2 " x 11 " paper, set up about five bookmarks, depending on how wide you want them to be. They vary due to flower size or pattern.
2. Place the ribbon first, using small drops of glue at both ends.
3. Holding the flowers, etc. with the tweezers, apply a small drop of glue and place. 4. Glitter can be sprinkled over the other items; however, there will be slight air pockets around the glitter after it is laminated.
5. When the whole sheet is finished, run it through a laminator.
6. Use scissors (fancy-edged if you have a pair) or paper cutter to cut between the individual bookmarks. Then cut across the top and bottom so all four edges have a finished edge.
7. Punch a hole in the end and tie on a ribbon.
-- Mary Jane Butters
Charity Crosswalk -- When the going gets tough, there are resources in Spokane to help the tough get going. Volunteers of America's programs are there to help in those real-life situations. Aside from annual events and its continual helping hand in the community, VOA successfully runs four human-services programs. Crosswalk is a center for street kids and homeless youth, Alexandria's House is a home for pregnant or parenting teen mothers, Flaherty House is a transitional living service for young men, and Hope House stands as the only Spokane homeless women's shelter that accepts anyone regardless of chemical use or mental state. During the holiday season, the Tidings for Teens program aims to benefit the teenagers of Crosswalk. Donors can choose if they want their contribution to go to food, clothes, counseling or other programs. All of the facilities are in need of donations of everything from clothes and underwear to toys and bus tokens. VOA also sponsors the "Brewing Hope" program--a $10-per-bag coffee sale that benefits Hope House and Crosswalk. (Volunteers of America, 324-2378) -- Leah Sottile
Canon Digital SLR -- Looking for a professional-quality digital camera without the professional price? If you're in the market for an affordable SLR digital camera, there's finally an answer, because Canon just recently released its digital Rebel SLR camera. The Rebel's image quality is comparable to its much more expensive and highly esteemed relative, the Canon EOS 10D, but for almost half the price. With 6.3 megapixels, this camera can deliver a maximum resolution of 3072 x 2048 pixels. It has a pop-up on-camera flash, as well as a hot-shoe for off-camera flash capabilities. The camera can come as part of a kit (for just $100 more) that includes a 18-55mm lens (which translates to 29-90mm in film camera talk) or, if you already own a Canon system, you can use your Canon EF lenses. With its plastic body weighing in at only 1.4 pounds (including the battery) and its rubber grip, it has a nice feel in the hands. Canon has made a big step with this camera -- putting a SLR professional camera in the hands of consumers. We can only hope that some of the other brands will follow suit. -- Amy Sinisterra
Classic Sweater -- Bridget Jones aptly conveyed the horror of the Christmas sweater with one withering glance at a poor bloke who, unfortunately, happened to be wearing a particularly horrendous green-knit with reindeer patches (a gift from Mom). Christmas sweaters aren't cute; in fact, the patches, the red bows, the little bells that jingle are downright alienating. So if you're considering a classic winter sweater as a gift this season, keep the green and red on your tree and delight her with something she'll truly love. One More Thing, a specialty clothing shop on Sherman Avenue in Coeur d'Alene, sells a delectable alternative to the chunky winter knit. Anyone unwrapping an O1O sweater this year should shout for joy. They're softer than a baby's blanket. The O1O comes in several styles (crew cut, V-neck and turtleneck), and a variety of beautiful colors (shades of pastel blue, pink, purple, rich chocolate and black). The sweaters are made from - believe it or not - nylon. They fit snuggly, but not tightly, giving them a streamlined appeal for casual or dressy occasions. They are delicate, feminine and so comfortable you'll want to sleep in them. But don't. This is high-quality apparel for women of all ages. With something this soft, flattering and versatile, you really can't go wrong. -- Cara Gardner
Cranium Cadoo -- Tired of board games that are really bored games -- generally mind-numbing for kids of all ages and tedious from the get-go for adults? Well, here's one that's fun and stimulating for junior achievers (ages 5 and up) and that has real potential to hook adults as well. It's called Cadoo, and it's from the same collective giant brain that brought the older generation a little thing called Cranium. Cadoo fuses general knowledge of life, the universe and everything with tic-tac-toe, sculpting skill, a scavenger hunt and a whole crap-load of other intellectual and physical tasks. Players (solo or in teams) advance in the game by completing tasks (or "missions'), many of which require a nimble mind, a way with sculpting clay and an appreciation for strategy. It's a left brain/right brain workout with so much silliness, color and excitement built into it that all anyone will notice is how ridiculously fun it is. -- Mike Corrigan
Wool Blanket -- Everybody's got somebody on his or her list who already has everything. These are the people who tell you, "Oh, don't get us anything." Right -- like you're going to show up at Grandma's house for Christmas dinner and stiff her. No, you've got to get her something. Simple pleasures are a safe bet on Christmas, so you might as well start there. And nothing fits the description better than a nice blanket for those chilly winter days. Pendleton Mills has taken this simple pleasure and run with it for 140 years now. Their wool blankets are heirloom-quality and made in the good old USA -- a rarity among Christmas gifts these days. Some are actually little pieces of art, like the Native American series, designed by Indian artists to represent their tribal experiences. The Turtle throw (pictured), for example, represents Iroquois legends in bold red and black. There are several to choose from. Some people hang these up on their walls, but it's OK to take a nap under one, too. -- Ted S. McGregor Jr.
Aebelskiver Pans -- If you're a fan of the local Old European restaurants, then you already know your aebleskivers. For the uninitiated, imagine a not-too-sweet pancake about the size of a cue ball, but puffy and light enough to melt in your mouth. Add some fruit and whipped cream, or maybe just a dash of butter and syrup, and you'll be singing praises to the culinary heroes of Denmark. Now, homemade aebleskivers are within the reach of most breakfast cooks with this solid cast-iron pan made by Norpro just for that purpose. The pan fits neatly over a standard large range burner, and the detachable wooden handle stays cool during cooking. Best of all (for those of us without a Danish grandmother), the pan comes with a recipe. -- Ann M. Colford
Cookie Cutters -- These aren't your grandmother's cookie cutters. But they sure are a lot of fun. You get 10 different animal cookie cutters in this set, including our favorite, a gorilla. Finally you can get a Christmas-decorated King Kong on your tree. (Or you can just eat him, head first.) Other shapes include a rhino, a lion and a polar bear. True to Williams-Sonoma, the cutters come in a beautifully decorated bright red tin with a little handle for easy carrying and storage. If you're craving the full cookie experience, pick up the decorating set as well. Yes, we realize that you can get sprinkles and colored gels, little candies and chocolate buttons at every respectable grocery store, but if you get this kit, you'll have everything you need to make incredibly decorated cookies. No need for second trips to the store - guaranteed. We especially like the decorating pens, which are filled with the usual colored gel but shaped much like big markers, making them a lot easier to handle. All you need to do is preheat the oven and you're ready to go. -- Pia K. Hansen
Paintball Marker -- We're just playing high-end tag," says Cameron Gates, co operator of Virtual Assault, a paintball equipment vendor in Spokane with two locations and a paintball playing field of its own. His team plays tournaments on flat, grassy fields with inflatable barriers, symmetrically arranged on each half of a 40-yard by 20-yard playing area. The number of players on a team varies, as does the goal: either a capture-the-flag arrangement or else "total elimination" (tagging every opposing player with a splash of paint). Gates encourages paintball wanna-bes to watch games on Sunday afternoons at the Virtual Assault field, 4103 E. Mission Ave., then join in. "You'll just be a target, anyway," he deadpans. After that, roughly $200 will get you into your own gear, including a marker -- don't call it a gun -- mask, hopper and CO2 canister for power. The Piranha marker by PMI, as one example, features semi-automatic firing. Gates spent $1,500 on his marker; it shoots 23 paintballs per second. "But everybody is wildly inaccurate," he says. "I just put out a rope of paint and hope to hit somebody." Still, when those paintballs hit at 300 feet per second, "they really sting." The new National Professional Paintball League is owned by Fox. Think maybe you'll see some people getting stung on TV next year? -- Michael Bowen
Beyblades -- With Beyblades, the venerable top has been updated for the 21st century with armor, weapons and a burning vendetta. Kids snap a Beyblade top into the "shooter" (which can run the gamut from basic to deluxe), pull the rip cord and let it drop (onto the floor or better yet, into a Beyblade battle stadium) then watch with unbridled glee as it spins madly, careening to and fro while obliterating opposing Beyblades. It's a little unnerving for adults to watch, but kids -- especially those sublimating violent tendencies -- totally dig it. Each Beyblade is categorized into a "type" class and can be customized with parts from other Beyblades to create truly menacing combinations of speed, weight and endurance. Some minor assembly is required, and stickers are provided for flash. A Beyblade starter set includes a Beyblade top and a basic shooter with rip cord. Parents purchasing one or more of these things for their kids should be advised: You might also want to invest in a "Beystadium" -- that is if you value your furniture legs, drywall and bare ankles. -- Mike Corrigan
Charity INW Blood Center -- When it comes to donations, a contribution to the Inland Northwest Blood Center can save a life. It's the most life-affirming of all donations. Since the INBC first opened its doors in 1945, it has had over one million donors and provided continual support to 24 hospitals through Idaho and Washington. A single donation can help aid three patients who need blood. The INBC will host a Holiday Blood Drive from Dec. 15-27 at its facilities in Spokane and Coeur d'Alene. It's practically pain-free, and you get cookies afterward. INBC is also in dire need of platelet donors and individuals willing to register as bone marrow donors. For those more willing to donate from their pockets than their veins, INBC is also in need of monetary contributions. The blood center relies on such donations to provide transfusion and transplantation services across the Northwest. (INBC Spokane, 210 W. Cataldo Ave., 324-0151; INBC North Idaho, 1341 Northwood Center Ct., Suite B, Coeur d'Alene, (208) 667-5461) -- Leah Sottile
Italian Food Basket -- One of this city's hidden gems is Cassano's Grocery on East Sprague, purveyor of fine Italian groceries, meats and cheeses. For the person who loves to putter in the kitchen, assemble a gift package filled with goodies from Cassano's shelves. You can select a medley of pasta shapes, tomatoes and olives straight from Italy, Stella Doro cookies, olive oils from every region and wine for every budget. If you can deliver your gift quickly, throw in a loaf of fresh-baked Italian bread accompanied by prosciutto sliced so thin you can see through it. Pile it all in a colorful ceramic serving bowl or an oversized bread basket and tie it up with a big bow of red, white and green. -- Ann M. Colford
DVD Recorder -- DVDs have pretty much made VCRs irrelevant. The picture quality and amount of extra information that can be found on a DVD makes them an obvious choice for anyone who likes to watch movies at home. The VCR has staggered onward due to the fact that you can record, and re-record, television shows on the tapes. But writable DVDs are becoming more common. If only there was a justification for the high price of the machines that do the recording. That's where Pioneer's DVR-810 DVD Recorder comes in. It's an 80-hour Tivo, meaning that you can record all of your favorite shows onto the machine's hard drive and watch them at your leisure, skipping through commercials and scanning to find what you want. And if you like the program enough, just drop a writable disc into the machine, and you'll have your very own home-burned DVD. Of course it plays DVDs and music too, meaning that you shouldn't give this to anyone who you might want to see in person during the next few years. They may never have a social life again. -- Marty Demarest
Matching Hats -- Christmas is all about matching: the napkins must match the tablecloth, the candles match the napkins, the napkins match the plates, the plates match the runner and the dog matches grandma Deborah's pants. So why not matching hats for family members? At Miaz, you can pick up a pair of soft, cozy, knitted hats that come in pairs. One for dad, one for son; one for mom, one for daughter. They come in many shapes, patterns and colors. We're sure you can find at least one combination that agrees both with the child and the child inside the grownup. Plus, on your favorite sledding hill, these hats make it a lot easier to match wayward toddlers with the corresponding parent. At Christmas, after all, it's all about staying warm and safe. -- Pia K. Hansen
Jerky Mix -- Some packaging just makes the saliva flow. And when it comes to Grandma LeMure's Spice 'n' Slice Jerky Mix, they sure do know how to advertise in a way that gets a fella's taste buds a-tinglin'. DIY jerky - oh, stop - is a great source of protein for those long camping trips. Basically, all you do is blend the mix, some water and 2 lbs. of extra-lean meat, then roll it flat, cut it into strips, stick it in your oven for four hours and refrigerate. You can use beef, venison, chicken, turkey, moose, elk, pork or Dick Cheney. While you could simply assemble your own spices (including cayenne pepper, cardamom and marjoram, according to one recipe), this way you get to savor that smooth "Western Hickory Smoke Flavor." And Grandma LeMure also ensures that you get your Recommended Daily Allowance of such tasty additives as sodium nitrite, silicon dioxide, "and tricalcium phosphate (0.10%) as an anticaking agent." They're chewy, they're nutritious, they're plenty salty. Yum. -- Michael Bowen
Ugly Doll -- I don't know what I love as much as this Ugly Doll. Made of some indeterminate soft fabric that resembles all the colors and textures of old binkies that have been peed on, puked on, dragged through mud and then washed with plenty of Tide and bleach, Ugly Dolls are so deeply ugly that they're kinda cute. According to their Web site (www.uglydolls.com), they come in seven different varieties, including Tray, my new best friend (and the one you see right here); Wage, who "works hard like you do. Uh-huh. Right"; and Target, who has one eye but plenty of chest hair. Each one comes with a tag that tells you what his or her name is and useful things to know about your new companion. An example: "If you want to make Tray extra happy, sit him next to you in the subway, or in your car. It makes him feel important." (He also likes to lean against the wall and stare...) There's even a hotline you can call: (866) HEY-UGLY. -- Sheri Boggs
Oxford Dilemma -- Board games make great gifts, but it seems like there haven't been any worthwhile new ones to come out lately. Trivial Pursuit is more than 20 years old now, and of course most people already own classics like Scrabble. But one new game might be good enough to get added to the list of all-time greats. Oxford Dilemma, by Rumba Games of Canada, blends some of the best board game elements -- spelling (like Scrabble), trivia (like Trivial Pursuit) and even a hint of Monopoly -- in its Victorian-themed package. It's a little complicated, but in a good and challenging way; once you get the hang of it, it's fun and fast-moving. The game board is filled with letter squares, and as you spell and define words of varying difficulty, you collect letters. Then, you create words, Scrabble-style, with bigger words worth more money. As an added bonus, a board game for Christmas also gives you something to do after Santa departs. -- Ted S. McGregor Jr.
Charity Food Bank -- Everything from buying movie tickets to holiday gift buying can be done on the Internet these days. And now, you can even donate canned food via the World Wide Web. Spokane's Second Harvest Food Bank has compiled suggested shopping lists of perishable and nonperishable food on its Web site, www.spokanefoodbank.org. Now you can search for one of those lists, depending on how much you want to spend, click a few buttons and -- voila! -- you've made a donation of food without even looking in your pantry. What's next? No computer? Don't be deterred. Second Harvest still needs you to clean out the shelves of your pantry and donate unwanted food items. Donations can be made at all area fire stations, or during the Q6 Food Drive at all Yoke's Foods stores on Dec. 13. (Second Harvest Food Bank, 1234 E. Front Ave., 534-6678) -- Leah Sottile
Wine of thhe Month Club -- The fine folks at Vino! have a wonderful gift idea for that special someone on your list who really wants to learn about new wines but isn't sure where to get started. With a gift membership to the Wine of the Month Club, your favorite oenophile gets one choice bottle each month, selected by the experts at Vino! and stored in his or her own personal bin in the shop's temperature-controlled "cellar." You may choose all white wines, all reds, or alternate red one month and white the next. Five price levels make the club suitable for collectors or the just plain curious. Memberships of six or 12 months are available. -- Ann M. Colford
Whoozit Toys -- For the littlest ones on the list, toys are always a great gift. Whoozit - also known as Manhattan Toys - offers a line of super-stimulating play figures featuring many different textures in bold primary colors. But that's not all: made out of fabric and completely safe for little hands, feet and mouths, these toys have little mirrors, spider-like legs, big squishy tummies, small doors that open, attachments that can be pulled at and stretched out. They rattle, they jingle, they look really cool. On their own, they make great additions to mobiles over cribs or attached to car seats or strollers. Or you can get the Gym To Go, which folds completely flat for transportation and weighs nothing, yet pops open much like those trekking tents -- you know, where you pull a cord and the thing goes 'whoosh' and your tent is ready. The gym unfolds to reveal two arches with toys already attached and a comfortably soft blanket for baby to lie on. Can't think of a baby who wouldn't go goo-goo over this one. -- Pia K. Hansen
MuVo MP3 Player -- Last year, Apple brought us the iPod, which remains one of the best-designed, easiest-to-use, and priciest MP3 players around. But not everyone needs to keep hundreds of music files on hand all the time. For PC (not Mac) users who have a hard drive full of songs, but only find themselves listening to tunes for a few hours on the go, Nomad's MuVo NX player is ideal. It's tiny -- about the size of a large pack of gum -- and it holds enough music to keep someone in tunes for hours. Changing the songs that it holds is as easy as dragging and dropping new files. But what really pushes the MuVo into the must-have category is its ability to serve as a portable file-storage device, allowing users to carry documents and other small files from computer to computer, then plug them in without any networking hassle. There's also a built-in microphone for capturing ideas and quotes. It's not as big as the iPod or as beautiful, but for PC users who only use portable audio occasionally or for a few hours at a time, the MuVo is the best choice available right now. -- Marty Demarest
Vixing Teapots -- Whether you're buying for a teapot collector, or just want to buy a cool knickknack for someone's living room, Yixing ("eeshing") teapots are the way to go. The teapots originate from the Yixing region in eastern China. Today's versions are a throwback to the Sung Dynasty, when the purple clay used to form them was first encountered. A Yixing pot's authenticity can be judged by the impression made on the bottom of the vessel. Yixing pots are known as superior tea-brewing vessels because of their unique ability to absorb flavors. In other words, the tea you brew in these particular pots will taste better over time. And they look cool. The pots are still constructed with purple clay -- but they don't all come in pretty shades of violet. Wonders of the World carries pots in all colors, shapes and sizes. -- Leah Sottile
Publication date: 12/11/03