by The Inlander & r & & r & Suggestions for everyone on your list.

To: Friends


Twice-divorced and hates to be alone for the holidays

Bridal Christmas Ornaments (Christmas by the Lake, Coeur d'Alene, $100)

"Guess what?" she says, every time she meets someone new, but then she's your best friend since kindergarten. You know she hates to be alone for the holidays, but this time she's outdone herself. "Married?" you holler into the phone, remembering the past two divorces.

Ever the mentor, always the optimist, you get her the Old World Christmas Bridal Set of 12 ornaments. In addition to a heart with two rings, there are several "good luck" ornaments, like the pinecone (motherhood) and fish (God's blessing). And you remind her, lovingly, that the European-style glass ornaments are fragile and must be handled with care -- like a marriage. Here's hoping that, at the same time next year, she'll still have them. (CS)


(A newly adopted baby, fresh from Malawi)

Elephant hand puppet (Whiz Kids, $44)

We've heard all the stories and we've seen all the pictures. This child will not want for anything. But it is Christmas, and they're friends and all that, so we need to find a gift.

Ensconced in an opulent American home, thousands of miles away from where he began life, the only thing this baby might need is a reminder of where he came from. Short of purchasing an actual African animal -- Jacko's giraffes, a bargain at $35,000 a pair, are long gone, we hear -- we like this elephant hand puppet from Folkmanis. Not only does his mouth open and close, but little rings inside the puppet control the movement of his trunk -- pull one and the trunk goes up, pull another and the trunk curls down, so he can feed himself. It's a reminder of home and an exercise in manual dexterity at the same time. (AC)


(The love of your life -- from grade school)

"'Twas the night before Christmas" blanket (Area 58, $12)

Browsing through this new store on North Monroe Street is like being among the first shoppers at a yard sale that actually has some class. Connie Grove and Dennis Held have assembled an assortment of "the old and the odd": vintage clothing (a band leader's cap with gold braid), furniture (Impressionist-style dining room tables), sculptures (Ken Yuhasz's animals, made out of old industrial parts and neon tubing), decorative art (Nance Van Winckel's tissue-paper-and-lacquer legs and torsos with embedded poetic excerpts), rare books (Steinbeck's The Red Pony in a first edition) and housewares (vintage plates to give your kitchen a '40s vibe). As for the warm holiday blanket I picked out, not even my wife could object to its quaintness and functionality -- even when I'm giving it to the first girl I kissed. (Really, honey, it was nothing. I can't even remember Melissa's name.) (MB)


(Who has tasted everything)

Wine Smelling Kit (Williams-Sonoma, $130)

So your homie Chauncy has tasted everything. That makes him either a slob, a snob, or an epicure (which is really just a wealthy slob or snob). There's no sense, then, in playing his game. Any gift that's cooking or food-related will end disastrously. He'd thank you to your face, only to heap scorn upon you behind your back (cackling, "What'll I do with another cathedral-shaped Bundt pan? These people!").

But he's your friend, so what do you do? You switch it up. You take his epicurean lifestyle and parallel it. You indulge his connoisseur tendencies, but you make them work for you. You get him Le Nez du Vin Wine Aroma Kit (Red or White). If there's one libations-related thing food dorks love, it's also being snobby about wine. This'll prove useful to his achieving that end, while also gently hinting at his (considerable) shortcomings as a gastronome. That'll take him down a peg. (LB)

Mr. Panepinto

(Next-door retiree who gardens late into the night)

Hydroponic Grow Kit (Advanced Indoor Gardening, $290)

Come on. "Gardens late into the night"? What do people grow under the cover of darkness? "Next-door retiree"? Maybe he's in a little pain? Perhaps he could use a little supplemental income? We're gonna give Old Man Panepinto what he wants this Christmas: the GH Water Farm 8 Hydro System, a hydroponic growing set-up that's perfect for certain Schedule I narcotics and also good for growing, you know, other stuff. The kit includes eight six-gallon hydro systems, which grow plants using water and minerals instead of soil. These are connected via a feeding line to an eight-gallon controller unit that keeps the right water and nutrient levels for the individual hydro systems. The kit also includes all the nutrients he'll need. It does not, however, include Jefferson Airplane's "Surrealistic Pillow." Or protection from the DEA. (JS)


(Letter carrier, when the holiday deliveries are at their worst)

North Face Ear Gear (Mountain Gear, $12)

If you work at home, your local letter carrier can be a friendly face during your day -- and you can't blame her for all those bills! And this time of year, all Ben Franklin's brainchildren earn their pay, with all manner of rain, snow and sleet to contend with. So what better holiday thought than the gift of warmth? Sometimes a hat can be too hot when you're active, so a nice fleece headband can do the trick. And if you give it to them a little early, they'll be good to go when it's time to deliver all those piles of Christmas gifts the relatives back in Indiana sent. (TM)

The Neiderhoffers

(Who tackily redecorate their home every year)

Old World Christmas Nutcracker (Old World Christmas, $25)

Everybody has a friend whose house is filled with all manner of knickknacks and bric-a-brac. It may not quite work for you, but it's home for them -- so embrace it! Christmas is a great time to give Christmas decorations to help friends build up their collections -- and what blends Christmas with knickknackery more than a nutcracker? Old World Christmas's world headquarters are right here in Spokane, and they have a nice selection in their showroom. Have a fisherman on your list? Check. They have a fisherman nutcracker. And a wizard, and a skier, and a chef and, of course, they offer some traditional designs, too. (TM)

Jennifer and Greg

(Friends from the East Coast who've never visited before)

Space Needle Snow Globe (, $27)

Jennifer and Greg were great pals in college and I loved filling their New England heads with absurd tales of the Great Northwest. I still get a kick out of feeding their "rains a lot" and "Spokane is pretty much close to Seattle" misconceptions. So as we drove around Spokane during their long weekend visit, I kept pointing over various shoulders and exclaiming, "Ya know, if it weren't for this darn fog/rain/overcast you'd just see the tip of the Space Needle right over there." I feel just a tad guilty so I got the Seattle Space Needle snow globe (had to order it online) from Made in Washington. Plus, at $27 it was way cheaper than the Seattle Space Needle peppermill at $119. Honest. (KT)


(Obscenely wealthy beloved friend of the family)

A dog (Kootenai Humane Society, $32.50)

He's been like a brother to you, an uncle to the kids, just like every other guy ... except he's embarrassingly, obscenely rich. What to get for someone like that? Unless you're Rembrandt or Martha Stuart, don't make him anything. Get him something that doesn't care how wealthy he is, that needs him and gives him unconditional love no matter what? A dog, of course, like Sarge, a 4-year old shepherd available from the Kootenai Humane Society Shelter. Of course, pet adoption is not be taken lightly so be prepared to take the pooch if Mr. Gotbucks bails, but he won't because you'll find him the perfect companion (at a minimal cost to you of around $32.50 for most dogs). The look on his face when you show up with his new best friend? Priceless. (CS)


(The nicest waitress in the world)

Davenport Hotel spa package (Davenport Hotel, $289-$389)

We are a well-off clan from 99203 and she's a former long-haul trucker named Doll who's still waitressing at our favorite breakfast joint because she has no retirement. We can be a rowdy bunch ranging in age from toddlers to grandparents when we go out to eat, but Doll gives as good as she gets and has become enough of a family friend that this year, we've all conspired to buy her something special. So we're kicking in a few bucks each for a spa package at the Davenport. The high end is for a corner suite with a panoramic view of Spokane -- her hometown as she's never seen it before. It'd be a hoot if her cat, Knuckles, could sneak in, too. (KT)


(A shut-in senior with no local family, just plenty of pictures)

Volunteer driving(Volunteer Chore Services, 328-8400)

Enjoying your inexpensive license plate tabs and bargain-priced studded tire deals? How does your SUV handle the snow at this time of the year? Isn't it terrible how high gas prices have gotten?

While you settle yourself behind the comfortable wheel of American affluence, consider taking a turn around the corner and lending a ride to the people who helped put those wheels under your feet, who paved the roads they roll on -- some of whom were around before there was even a road there. Senior citizens who can't drive, after decades of freedom behind the wheel, need your help with small errands and short chauffeur trips. A few dollars' worth of gas and a short trip around town can make the difference between someone getting out to enjoy the holidays and someone staying home alone. Put those wheels to good use. (Plus, you'd be surprised at how refreshing a cantankerous old man riding shotgun can be when it's time to gripe about gas prices.) (MD)

To: Family


(A long-distance sister everybody loves, just doesn't want to see)

Wine Connoisseur's tour of Italy (Travel Management Inc., $3,975)

I get along great with my family ... from a distance. (Three thousand miles, to be exact.) If you have a loved one you'd prefer to admire from afar, hook her up with something guaranteed to keep her home, or at least happily preoccupied: a social life.

Send her on a cruise, preferably a long one (during which you hope she meets Mr. Right, right?) Travel Management Inc., based in Post Falls, specializes in booking exotic locations such as a May 2008 Latah Creek Wine Connoisseurs tour of Tuscany, Chianti and other luscious-sounding Mediterranean locales. Prices start at $3,975 per person, not including airfare ( Sure, it's expensive, but you're worth it. And if she can't go, just call me sister. (CS)

Grandma Viola

(Who finally got time to garden like the maniac she is)

Aerator Sandals (Northwest Seed & amp; Pet, $19)

Poor Grandmother Viola. All she wanted to do was get her hands dirty in good soil and spend all autumn canning beets and pickles. Instead, her insensitive third husband bought one of those downtown condos that are all the rage. He's dead now. (The police will never find the skillet unless Tony Bamonte drains the river again.) Grandmother has moved back to a South Hill bungalow and is getting ready to rip out lawn and put in veggies. To help, we got her the Spikes o' Death aerator sandals, despite the fact she can roll her ankles and they don't really aerate. They are great at killing grubs, though. Hey, kind of like her third husband! (KT)


(Visiting cousin who's never seen snow before)

Make-A-Wish Snowglobe (Things Remembered, $20)

When cousin Lurleen arrives from Tuscaloosa, be prepared for her child-like reaction to the white winter wonderland we northerners take for granted. Go play: Mount Spokane for inner-tubing, Riverfront Park for ice skating, Silver Mountain for a gondola ride, and Coeur d'Alene Lake for a holiday-lights cruise. Sled, throw snowballs, build snowmen. Spin brodies in vacant parking lots. Then commemorate your time together with a snow globe from Things Remembered ($20, NorthTown and Spokane Valley Malls). For a few bucks more, you can even have it engraved. Sure, it's kind of cheesy, but every purchase donates a portion to Make-A-Wish Foundation, which is very cool. Every time she sees the glittery flakes swirl and fall, she'll think of you (and be glad she lives in a warm climate where she doesn't have to shovel). (CS)


(A 10-pound part-Siamese tabby who likes to pretend he's a tiger)

Dr. Noy's Swizzle Teaser (Urban Canine, $8)

For a cat, Christmas is just like any other day -- except the food schedule is different, and the humans are more twitter-pated than usual. Still, if there are presents to be had, you can bet the cat wants in. Cats don't subscribe to the "'tis more blessed to give than to receive" theory; they are shamelessly hedonistic, self-centered little balls of fluff who use their cuteness to get whatever they want. The word "share" is not in their vocabulary.

Henry loves toys that let him pretend he's a wild hunter stalking prey in the tall grasses, so this "swizzle teaser" from Dr. Noy's Pet Toys is a big hit. Alluring feathers dangle from the end of a leopard-print "tail," and it's all attached to a plastic wand -- so with a little human interaction, the feathers dance and flounce like a flitting bird. Best of all, the feathers are attached to the "tail" with Velcro, so when they get chewed and mangled, I can just replace the feathers for a whole new round of fun. Henry informs me that he is pleased. (AC)

Jonathan and Shana

(Cousins about to learn what "fixer-upper" really means)

Stanley screwdrivers, 10-piece set, plus a $50 gift card (River Ridge Hardware, $65)

It's a great old house, a little fixer-upper on the fringes of West Central -- one of the few remaining real estate bargains left in the city. Yeah, it needs some work, but they're optimistic. They'll be able to do it themselves, even though they've never owned a home before, and the last time they did more than change a light bulb was under parental supervision.

Welcome to the wonderful world of home ownership. We're here to help. Yes, power tools are great, both as useful tools and as status totems, but nothing beats a good sturdy set of assorted screwdrivers. When you've got a screw loose, Stanley's your man.

You'll need more, of course, but we're not sure what. That's what the gift card is for. Plumbing supplies, wiring, nails and all-purpose gizmos can be yours. It's a brave new world. (AC)


(18-year-old finally moving out of his parents' house)

Combination Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (River Ridge Hardware, $50)

When the kid moves out, Mom's thinking "safety." The kid himself, meanwhile, is thinking "party." So when the kid's doofus roommate decides it'd be a good idea to have a barbecue inside the garage -- or leaves his Camaro idling in there "just for a minute," or somehow the roommates just never get around to fixing that corroded water heater -- then there's real satisfaction for the loving mothers involved. That's because this smoke and CO detector is also a talking alarm. It doesn't just beep at your teenage apartment dweller: It actually screams "Fire! Fire!" and "Warning! Carbon monoxide!" at 85 decibels. (For just a bit more money, the manufacturer will record the high-pitched nagging in Mom's own voice. Kidding. But it would be just like living at home.) (MB)


(Crafty cousin, but how many balls of yarn do you need?)

A kitty (Humane Society of Spokane, $80)

Amy, I know how much you love Stitch 'n Bitch. I know how it's transformed your life. I know it wrested domestic culture from the hawkish claws of male dominance and misogyny, placing it in soft, safe cradle of popular feminism. It's nice that you can hem things and not feel like an Uncle Tom. But you've got so much yarn, kiddo. It's everywhere, and how much can you really use at a time? We're not suggesting you throw it out -- we just wanted to give you something to help get more use out of it.

A kitty! Kitties love yarn, so while you're laboriously crocheting that Siouxsie and the Banshees memorial afghan, it can play around in the balls you're not using. This will give you untold hours of glee. And if you stay on your present course toward spinsterhood, Amy, consider this cat No. 1 in your feline menagerie. (LB)

Fran and Ray

(Cousins who live in a motorhome and drove it here for the holidays)

Camp Chef Keg Roaster (The General Store, $169)

You're under retirement age and you live in a motorhome? That suggests something profound about your life priorities. It suggests that "We're serious and proactive about our vagabond style," or, alternately, "We bankrupted ourselves buying plane tickets and hotel rooms attending every NASCAR event from Brickyard to Talladega, so we bought this sucker." Either way, we bet you like yourselves a nice, juicy beer can chicken. But oh ye gods, you lament the lack of portability needed to cook those delectable birds (like an actual oven and whatnot).

Well, portability and beer can chicken need be mutually exclusive no longer, friends, thanks to the Camp Chef Keg Roaster. You just assemble the sucker, hook up the propane, fit a few cans of Bud in the pre-marked Bud holes, shove that beer up the chicken of your choice, put the lid on and roast away. Barely have to pull over. (LB)

Grandpa Joe

(Who hasn't smiled since Eisenhower took office)

Vidal Sassoon 17-piece Professional Haircutting Kit (The General Store, $26)

Grandpa Joe had a carefully cropped buzz cut his whole life, and each summer when he was a boy my father and his brothers would line up at the kitchen table, and Grandpa would give them each a 30-second haircut. Buzz buzz buzz. Simple as that. Flat-tops all around. Even when the clean and simple post-war boom turned weird, Grandpa kept his auburn hair flat as his North Dakota homeland. It was his shield from the Vietnam War, that cut. From the crumble of the inner cities and the rise of international terrorism. From -- my God -- the disco era. Today, his hair has grown out a little. Not from moral lassitude, but because his battered Sears and Roebuck clippers finally nicked their last whisker. That's why I'm buying him this a professional haircutting kit. It's got nine comb attachments. One for each of his nine beautiful children. (JS)


(Homesick college kid, back for a desperately needed break)

Logitech QuickCam for Notebooks Deluxe (CompUSA, $60)

Every college kid thinks they're fine with heading off to an exciting new city, with new people and new challenges. But it's also pretty common that they'll get more homesick than they expected. Back in the old days, letters from home and the occasional visit were all they had to feel close to home. But nowadays, in the era of laptops and high-speed Internet connections, there are more choices. If that college freshman on your list doesn't already have one, a Webcam is a great gift. That way, right through their Internet connection, they can stay in touch with mom, dad and friends who went off to different colleges, with both video and audio. There are lots to choose from, but Logitech combines reliability and cutting-edge features at a good price. (TM)


(Favorite cousin and his new wife)

Cop costume (Erotique Boutique, $40)

When we were growing up in the sticks, throwing dirt clods and imagining we were superheroes, cousin Jeff used to always tell me that if he didn't grow up to become a dinosaur, he wanted to be a cop. Now he's an adult and neither. He does lube jobs on North Division. But he's still a dreamer. And he just married this great girl, Cheryl. So my gift to him aims to kill two birds: to help him (kind of) realize his childhood ambitions, and to keep the newlyweds' romance alive and glowing. This sexy cop costume comes with cuffs, a badge, a goofy-looking hat and a skintight, navy blue Lycra bodysuit, with oh-so-short shorts. I figure if Jeff wasn't lucky enough to be an actual police officer, he can at least get lucky pretending to be one. (JS)

To: Mom

(A trend-chaser more up-to-the-minute than her kids)

Spell Bound Bronzer

(Summer Sun in Coeur d'Alene, $55)

Around prom time, every tanning bed in the Wonder Bread-white north gets overly booked as teens scramble to achieve the sun-kissed celebrity look. Tanning takes money and time, two things many busy moms are in short supply of. What trendy moms know -- and what many youngsters are discovering -- is the way to tan smarter, not harder. So-called bronzing lotions like Designer Skin brand's Spell Bound provide necessary moisture for your baked epidermis as well as the aforementioned bronzer to enhance one's tan. A 10-ounce bottle sells for $55 and is available from Summer Sun, with two locations in Coeur d'Alene: on Ironwood Drive and (appropriately enough) on Sunshine Street. (CS)


(Stepmother and her three little dogs, too)

Small Orbo chew toy (Urban Canine, $7)

What do you buy for those parents who have everything? If they're pet people, forget them and just get something for their dogs. You'll be able to find something at the Urban Canine, Spokane's store for the hip pooch. All-natural dog treats, waterproof, fleece-lined coats -- those are good choices, but the clever Orbo chew toys might be your best bet. They're super-durable, and the innovative part is the "Treat Spot," where you can stuff goodies to keep the dog a-chewin' -- Planet Dog, the manufacturer, even offers recipes for you to mix up that they'll love. And the toys come in three colors, so for less than $25 you can get one for each of your stepmom's three little babies. (TM)


(Non-Christian, still-a-little-hippie)

Salt Crystal Energy Lamp (Wonders of the World, $50)

Mom's never forgotten her days in the commune, even though it was almost 40 years ago -- back before she met Dad, when she called herself Chrysanthemum and spent her days on the back of a Harley with a guy known only as Fang. Today, she's into yoga and chanting and healthy living, and she prefers natural healing alternatives to conventional medicine. She decries the commercialism of the season and has no interest in the religious holiday.

But we get her a gift anyway. This year, it's a salt crystal lamp, touted as "Nature's Air Cleaner." The 15-watt bulb inside warms the natural salt crystal rock, releasing negative ions to clear the air and a warm orange glow to soothe the spirit and promote a feeling of security. Sounds crazy -- but sit by one of these lamps for a time and you'll find yourself feeling calmer and more relaxed. That's a gift anyone can use. (AC)


(Hates to cook, but owns every appliance on the market)

"Born To Shop, Forced To Cook" apron (Kitchen Engine, $20)

Every year, Mom gets some kind of kitchen appliance for Christmas -- despite the common knowledge that she hates to cook, she's a terrible cook, and she does everything in her power to get out of cooking. Funny thing is, she'll go buy the latest trendy thing from the Kitchen Engine for herself, even though she knows she won't use it. Bosch Kitchen Machine? She's got one. A full set of Demeyere cookware? Yep, she's got those, too. It's the shopping, not the cooking, that gets her every time.

This year, I found the perfect gift. It's an apron -- and she doesn't have to cook while wearing it, either. From Attitude Aprons, it's a bright red one-size-fits-all bib apron adorned with the words, "Born To Shop, Forced To Cook." The apron is fully washable, for those rare occasions when she wears it near the kitchen, and the red coordinates nicely with the holiday table linens. (AC)


(Who never leaves home without her makeup on)

Campaign for Real Beauty E-Card (, free)

Sorry, but if you always have to look just so, then you aren't thankful enough for your good qualities -- and you're spending way too much time fretting over how others see you. What's not getting done just so your nails can look perfect? After all, when the family plays touch football, does your typical guy want the fashionista on the verandah or the mud-smeared chick playing linebacker? And when her friends send her notes (here's what's really beautiful about you, girl), there's a tendency for the cosmetic kit to get ditched in favor of a tool belt. (MB)


(Redoes her home annually)

Restoring a Home in Italy (Auntie's Bookstore, $50)

She's annually redoing her house -- eventually, she's gonna want to take it to the next level. (That's how addictive behaviors work. And this addiction leads straight to Palermo.) Elizabeth Helman Minchilli's book -- subtitled Twenty-Two Homeowners Realize Their Dream -- explains how, even in Italy, real estate is all about posizione, posizione, posizione. The decorator mom on your list will revel in all the details about what to do with those Etruscan boulders you discover in your basement, how to restore 18th-century Neapolitan bathroom tiles, how to turn a hayloft into a living room, and how to obtain the necessary permits for building a rooftop porch above a Venetian canal. Let her dream about rust-colored Tuscan hills stretching far, far beyond her castelletto's impossibly blue swimming pool. Even if the only pool she can afford now is made out of plastic and meant for wading. (MB)


(Garden-crazy mother of five with lots of dirt, little time)

The Garden Claw (Home Depot, $37)

You've seen this thing on TV for decades, but do you actually have one? You should if you want to maintain a decent garden and still have time to maintain a decent family. Say it with me, this bad boy "cultivates, loosens, aerates and weeds." Yeah, son, it's the Garden Claw, and it's not only good for quickly facilitating healthy growth in all manner of veggies, beans and legumes. It's also handy for seriously stunting the growth of one of your petulant little rugrats should he/she traipse through mommy's garden. Tough love is making a comeback, we can feel it. (LB)

Someone's mother

(Starving in a country you've never visited)

A heifer ( HYPERLINK " ", $500)

Moms are major parts of most families. Whether they're the hub around which the household turns, a major force of working and wage-earning, or simply the lady that lends everyone maternal support, a mother's life affects her entire household.

The organization Heifer International would like to provide needy houses with big mother influences--in the form of a cow. The animals are provided to families in need along with the training required to raise the animals successfully and profitably. Milk-producing, calf-bearing, fertilizer-making heifers are the sorts of gifts that can transform the economic situation of an entire family. At the very least, one will take an enormous amount of pressure off of someone's mom. (MD)


(Mother of five, with six grandkids and two great-grandkids)

Photo album (Paper Garden, $20)

I don't remember when it was when it hit me: My mom, a woman the world knows as Arlene Mallard, is breeder. She has five kids, six grandkids and two great-grandkids already. When this hit me, "vasectomy" was the next though in line. But then I mellowed. She's my mom. She's from a different era where big families were normal and everybody wrote long letters instead of e-mails and remembered birthdays and anniversaries. So instead, I'm thinking of getting her photo albums, cards, stationery and other fine accoutrements for cultured and civilized family life at Paper Garden. (KT)


(First-time mother, single and proud of it)

George Foreman grill (Target, $90)

I thought about getting Rachel a tubal ligation for Christmas but figured she might someday want to pop out more pups, so that seemed impractical. I was going to get her a massage at a day spa, but Kevin Taylor beat me to that gift. So I'm getting her a George Foreman grill. Why? Because since she's a single mother juggling a kid and a job, anything that can minimize her cooking and prep time is an invaluable resource. When her shirt smells like yak and there are Cheerios in her hair, the last thing she wants to do is fire up the range, melt the butter and slowly grill a cheese sandwich. And how is she going to barbecue for friends without little Mindy getting into the charcoal bag or sucking on the propane tank? With a George Foreman, that's how. Time saved cooking will be time gained with the kid. (JS)

To: Dad


(A fashion disaster, with matching haircut)

Kangol Wool 504 Cap (Nordstrom, $38)

England's Kangol hat company has been going since the 1930s, and it's ridden all the highs and lows of hat fashion. The beret got hot just after World War II, as Gen. Bernard Montgomery, England's colorful "Monty," wore one. But by the 1950s, the beret was out of style -- luckily, the Kangol brain trust came up with the 504, and it's a classic. It didn't hurt that Samuel L. Jackson wore one all the way through the film Jackie Brown (and seems to still wear one every time he's on TV). So if old dad has a comb-over or just needs a little fashion nudge, start at the top. The 504 comes in all kinds of colors, tweeds and plaids, but the classic black is hard to beat. (TM)


(Loves extreme sports ... the more they hurt, the better)

Belt Buckle (D & amp;B Farm & amp; Home Stores, Coeur d'Alene, $115)

It's a couple thousand pounds of angry meat, horns and hooves hell-bent on payback. When the buzzer sounds, being atop it is just as dangerous as being in its path. Forget BMX and snowboarding -- when it comes to extreme sports, bull riding separates the men from the boys. Requiring stamina, courage, and the right gear, bull riding is not for the faint of heart. This holiday, send Dad to D & amp;B Farm & amp; Home across from the Kootenai County Fairgrounds in Coeur d'Alene for all things western. While Dad's learning how to break into the arena, Mom can check out the requisite leather boots and tight jeans that give new meaning to the term "cowgirl up." And until Dad earns his own, D & amp;B sells a variety of belt-buckle bling, like this model for $115. D & amp;B will treat you right. (And that ain't no bull.) (CS)


(Lives for CNN)

Digital camcorder (Huppins, $350-$3,500)

Buying gifts for any dad is a challenge, but what do you get the dad who is such a news junkie that he stands by the side of the Information Superhighway with a cardboard sign reading "Need RSS fix. It's been 5 minutes"? The next step, obviously, is for Dear Old Pop to make his own professional-grade newscasts for those slow cycles when even the Brittney Spears no-underwear sightings are stale and endlessly looped every 30 minutes. Digital camcorders are just the ticket. There are models around $350 that fit pretty much in the palm of your hand, all the way up to a $3,500 digital video hottie with professional glass on the 20x zoom lens and high-quality microphone. Check them out at Huppins.



(Recently divorced, trying to spend more time with the kids)

Dangerous Science (Whiz Kids, $15)

My older sister had a chemistry set. It had an instruction manual apparently written by the scientists who were considered boring even by the other scientists. I never got past Experiment No. 1, which involved litmus paper and ... not much else, come to think of it. But this product ... this is a set that has real chemistry -- the kind of chemistry that people want to perform. I mean, who doesn't want to know what makes snot green? Or how to make fake blood? Or what kind of little creatures grow all over our bodies? With Dangerous Science, divorced dads like Steven will prove that they can match 9-year-olds gross-out for gross-out. (MB)


(Before his midlife crisis)

Financial intervention (Prospera Wealth Management, free consultation)

Strange things happen to men when they realize they aren't young anymore. They drink, they carouse, they spend beyond their means, all to try and wrest a little youth from the clutches of agedness. Whatever pep talk you want to give your not quite middle-aged dad about the wonderful expanse before him -- his golden years -- there's little chance he's going to skip that awkward, aimless, striving stage. So here's a bit of pragmatism for daddy's little boys and girls: Get him some investment advice before he blows your college fund on a Honda Gold Wing. The consulation's free, so we suggest giving Dad $100 as seed money to get him started. It's the gift that keeps on securing your future. (LB)


(After his midlife crisis)

Amateur Radio (, $228)

That midlife crisis hit Dad pretty hard. It sent his self-identity into a tailspin, and the Harley sorta wiped out his retirement fund. Now Mom won't speak to him, and since he totaled his hog doing a wheelie in the fast lane, his motorcycle friends have pretty much moved on. Now he spends most of his time idling in the garage, indiscriminately pounding nails into things. Bring Dad back from the edge with ham radio. Specifically, this Cobra 200 GTL DX 4-Band 10-Meter Amateur Radio. And a couple classes at the community college. Yeah, it's a little low-tech, but so is he. And once he's got his license, he'll be plugged into an enormous network of people in cold garages all over the world -- people who understand what he's been through, who don't care that he's poor and who can't see that although he's given up biking, he still wears the chaps 24/7, even over his sweat pants. It's perfect. (JS)


(Beach bum and unrepentant Jimmy Buffett fan)

Parrot (Bird Lovers Outlet, $175-$2,400)

He's already got all the records, and as his whole family can attest, his collection of tropical-print shirts is unparalleled. The only thing better than buying him the indentured servitude of the King of the Parrotheads himself (Buffett makes a heavenly cheeseburger, we hear) is to buy him an actual parrot. Nothing says "calypso douchebag" louder than a squawking parrot on a guy's shoulder (and those tropical shirts say it pretty loud). This could out work two ways: It could either totally realize all his wildest fantasies (making you miserable, but happy for his happiness), or else the constant squawking, the unfortunate smell and the bird shit on all his favorite shirts could make him realize how completely absurd and irrelevant he's become as a human being. (A man can't go chasing that long-lost shaker of salt forever.) This will make you happy and him miserable, but could also knock him into a new, more constructive hobby, like building model trains. (JS)


(Two canoes, a kayak and an Isuzu in a two-car garage)

Pikolinos Jarez Driver Loafers (The Walking Co., $140)

Mom's supportive of your somewhat contradictory suburban mountain man persona, Dad, but she likes to get classed up every once in a while. We'd like to help you support her the way she supports you, and since your idea of dress casual is Marmot raingear and plain black Chacos, we've wrapped a semi-functional piece of footwear that's going to look as good trolling the aisles of REI as it will at the ballet (or even on some hasty Eurotrash vacation). Hark, the Pikolinos Jarez Driver Loafer.

We've eyeing these bad boys for months, coveting their queer Spain-meets-Sioux-Nation splendor to the point that we came up with a whole new shoe type to describe them: the future moccasin. We've just been looking for the right guy to give them to and, Papa Hans, you're it. (LB)


(Whose best friend is his easy chair)

A seat at the Fox (Fox Theater, $500-$1,500)

So dad comes home tired and cranky, and the only thing he really wants to do is sit down and be entertained. Up swings the footrest, back tilts the recliner and out comes the remote. Several hours and a few dozen channels later, dad is relaxed -- but is his life any better?

Give your father the gift of cultural enlightenment (and pad his ass at the same time) by donating a seat at the Fox Theater to him. For $500-$1,500, dad's name can be engraved on one of the art deco seats in the historic theater's loge, orchestra, or balcony areas. Even though the gift doesn't guarantee him a reservation to seat himself in his seat, perhaps curiosity will draw him out and into the symphony's new home. Maybe dad will realize that 1) total strangers who see his name automatically think he's someone well-to-do and important, and 2) he's gotten out of his chair in order to share it with the entire community. (MD)


(Hates cooking, loves to eat)

Gift sleigh filled with chocolate gift assortment (Chocolate Apothecary, $100)

Dad doesn't want to have anything to do with food prep. He claims it ruins his appetite to see how a meal gets from refrigerator to plate, sort of like learning the magician's secret. And yet he always manages to finish whatever's put in front of him. He does not eat to live; he lives to eat.

But food gifts have the potential to be spectacularly bad. I mean, how many vacuum-packed smoked summer sausages and foil-wrapped triangles of pasteurized processed cheese food can one man eat? So this year, I went for everyone's favorite major food group: chocolate. The Chocolate Apothecary carries a wide variety of individual European chocolates, drinking (or sipping) chocolates, traditional and unusual hot cocoa mixes, and hand-dipped truffles -- Susan built a custom gift basket just for Dad. I just hope he remembers that the holidays are a time for sharing. (AC)

To: Boys


(A10-year-old whose best friend is his dog)

A Party at Triple Play (Triple Play, 208-762-7529, $75-$95)

Sometimes it's rough being a kid, especially when your best friend is your dog. Don't misconstrue: Fido is a fine companion but every child needs to have chums his own age... and species. Help out your socially awkward youngster with a birthday bash from Triple Play in Hayden, Idaho.

Junior and six of his soon-to-be-pals can enjoy three hours access to indoor mini-golf, laser tag, rock climbing and bowling for $75 weekdays/$95 weekends. It's only $15 for each additional guest, and $50 more for a pizza party, 'cuz growing boys need their nourishment. There's also a new indoor water park, which looks like as much fun for adults as kids. The only drawback: no dogs allowed. (CS)


(Who shares his room with three or four computers)

Escher Jigsaw puzzle (Uncle's, $24)

Brendan is so attuned to his computers that he doesn't sleep -- he just has cycles of downtime. He has created his own network right there in his room, and no one really knows its full capabilities. Entire weekends can pass without seeing his face.

So this year, it's not just Christmas -- it's an intervention. You're getting an analog gift, pal. No electricity, no moving parts, except for the pieces you move yourself. It's a brainteaser, unplugged: a jigsaw puzzle. Can't write a program to solve this one.

The image is the famous waterfall tower by artist M.C. Escher, a great mind-bender all by itself. Think of it as a fractal from before the days of fractals, an artist's vision of an imaginary number or an equation that doesn't quite add up. And only you can solve it. But who knows? Set it up on a table in the family room, and you might get help. Heck, you might even have fun interacting with those other carbon-based life forms in your home pod. It could happen. (AC)


(Hyper 10-year-old who wants to play "every" sport)

Winter Season pass to the Ice Palace, plus group lessons (Riverfront Park, $90)

He loves every sport he's ever tried. He's been in t-ball and Little League, basketball and soccer, but this year he wants to try something different. God knows he needs the outlet for his energy, because otherwise he's bouncing off the walls -- or the siblings.

A Winter Season pass to the Ice Palace in Riverfront Park will open up the world of ice-skating and hockey to him, and it's only $35 for the whole season, clear into March. He hasn't done much skating, but the Palace offers group lessons, too -- either basic, learn-to-skate classes or an introduction to hockey. The lessons start in January and run every Saturday for six weeks. The lessons will get him started in a new sport, and the pass will let him practice as much as he wants, whenever the rink is open. (AC)


(Awkward teenage nephew visiting for a week before Christmas)

Spokanistan knapsack ($25, Boo Radley's)

If the Uzbeks and the Kazakhs can have their own -stans, why not Spokane? Homeboy will look like he's making some kind of retro political statement. (Nobody will know what it means, but they'll still nod their heads knowingly.) Besides, consider the Spokane/Afghanistan parallels: Edge of a desert? (Check.) Near mountainous regions in which people can easily stay lost? (Check.) Religious zealots seeking to impose their morality? Potholes nearly crowded out by streets? Really small delegation at the Olympic Games? (Check, check and check.) The Spokanistan knapsack does more than just carry books; this is a backpack that incites political debate. (MB)


(A teen who likes sports primarily on television)

Digital Sports Tier Cable ($5/month, Comcast)

Creative gifts are well and good, but if you're a teenager and you're way into something, it's best for kid and parent alike if you just pander to it. Teenagers aren't an age to be messed with. Get them what they want and they won't hate you as much. There'll be less brooding, threats of violence, animal torture and self-mutilation that way. If Jimmy likes sports, get him a soccer ball. If Jimmy likes to watch sports, get him a sports cable package for God's sake. It's not even that expensive. Comcast's Digital Sports Tier offers the NFL Network, four regional FOX Sports affiliates, Fox Soccer, NBA TV and the Outdoor Channel. (LB)


(Politically obsessed, but still too young to vote)

People's History of the United States ($6.99, Auntie's Bookstore)

Doesn't everybody go through that stage? Doesn't everybody get to, like, their junior year in high school and get pissed off that everything their parents and teachers ever told them was just a bunch of hypocritical, hypothetical, hermeneutical bullshit? Howard Zinn did, apparently, and his People's History of the United States is required reading for all academic and cultural dissidents, young Ethan included. The book aims to tell the real story of American history -- or at least the one that was pushed to the margins of the history books. Those savage-looking natives in the textbook woodcuts? How did they feel about the arrival of our heroic white forefathers? What happened to the slaves? To the immigrants? To the proles? Zinn's historical philippic will foment and cement Ethan's righteous indignation just in time for college. (JS)


(Won't sit still, despite the Ritalin)

Stuffed wolf ($17.95, Wolf People)

So then there's my nephew, Crandall, who is a bright and sweet 8-year-old for exactly 27 minutes every day while he regenerates from being ADHD Monster Boy the rest of the time. We've tried everything in the way of gifts -- restraints, duct tape, drum kits (I was mad at my brother that year) -- but they would all be torn and broken by Boxing Day. This time, we have it. On a trip to Wolf People, U.S. Highway 95 near Cocolalla, Idaho (between Coeur d'Alene and Sandpoint), Crandall was transfixed by the "ambassador" wolves who hang out with visitors. For Christmas, he gets a stuffed wolf ($17.95) from the gift shop and a sponsorship in his name ($39.95) to care for one of the 19 members of the pack for a year. He gets newsletters and can even call for regular updates on "his" wolf. (KT)


(Two-years-old -- and showing it)

Stitch Costume (, $20)

By the time they're 2 years old, kids are developing their personalities and imaginations. And there's not much they like more than a good costume to wear around the house -- and to bed, and to church, and pretty much everywhere else. Stay away from anything too elaborate, and those costumes with the fake muscles are too goofy. Disney, which used to have a shop at NorthTown, has a good selection, and the Stitch costume (based on the cute but dangerous little alien from the Lilo and Stitch films) seems to have it all -- easy on and off, bright colors, extra arms. Of course matching the costume to a favorite character is fun, too. (TM)


(Wants to show off on the playground but not get beat up)

Yobbo Football (Uncle's Games, $5)

We had to wince when our best and brightest son Chalmers thought he'd be a playground hero by taking his PowerBook to recess and showing off his research into the human genome. Instead, those ill-bred ruffians - I hesitate to call them "classmates" - tried to exchange dirty e-mails with the Kootenai County prosecutor. Just as we were ready to cry uncle, we went to Uncle's Games and found the Yobbo Football. This odd-looking (just like Chalmers!) foam-and-plastic dealie has special grooves that let even the most Steven Hawkingsian among us throw perfect playground spirals to their chums. (KT)

To: Girls


(In college with a yen for travel but no cash)

Bob Ross Master Paint Set (Michael's, $100)

"Dearest Daughter: Hope all is well at college. We'll miss you this holiday and wish we could send a plane ticket, but Dad can't miss either job and I don't dare leave the boarders alone in the house. Those travel brochures you sent us look wonderful. Daddy thought to get you the painting kit from the guy on TV. You know, Bob Ross. Happy clouds? It's supposed to help anyone -- even people with no talent at all -- learn how to paint. He thought you could use those travel brochures to paint from and maybe even sell your paintings to pay for your trip. Wouldn't that be swell? Hugs and kisses. Mom and Dad." (CS)


(Animal-lover who just got her first cat)

Pink Kitty bed and cat collar (Urban Canine, $68)

Tiffany decided that she wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up, so Mom and Dad let her pick out a kitten from Spokanimal so she can learn firsthand about caring for an animal. They got all the basics, like a litter box and a food bowl, but this was a no-frills adoption. She dotes on that little tabby, though, and when I saw the velvety pink kitty bed (it'll also work for very small dogs) at Urban Canine, I knew this would be the perfect addition to her bedroom.

After all, it's made in the Northwest, from West Paw Design in Montana, and it will give the kitten -- soon to be cat -- a place to sleep other than the center of Tiffany's pillow, which is her current favorite. The collar from Up-Country Cat Collars is just another fashion statement and proof that we're dealing with one very cool cat. (AC)


(Silent little sister who loves to sulk)

Goddess of the Night (Borders Books, $10)

Sulky sis could lose herself in a story like Goddess of the Night. It's about Vanessa, a tween who just happens to be able to make herself invisible. Otherwise, though, she's just a normal member of Harlequin Nation, at least judging from an early passage: "She thought of Michael Saratoga. His wild black hair hung in thick curls on his shoulders. He had strong, angular features, a sexy smile, and soft, dark eyes." Vanessa's three best friends in this initial novel of Lynne Ewing's "Daughters of the Moon" series are telepathic, psychic and capable of time travel. So not only can they daydream about Michael Saratoga, they get to violate the laws of physics, too. That's enough to turn any girl's scowls into smiles. (MB)


(Who fills her after-school hours with every sport school offers)

Red Bull (area grocers, $30-$35/case)

Back in the day, I could play a mean game of pitch-pennies with my crew from the 'hood. But when it comes to Megan, neither her mother nor I have any clue where the sports gene was hiding. She's only a sophomore and already we've been to 17 awards banquets. She's turned out for cross country, volleyball, basketball, gymnastics, softball, track and golf and is going to university in the Running Start program just so she can join women's crew. I don't know whether to get her an agent or send a "chill" message by getting a gift certificate to Zanie's. Instead I got her a case of Red Bull. It should help one of us get through the holiday tournaments. (KT)


(Teen girl with an eye for fashion and no fear of peer pressure)

Outfit from Hot Topic (Hot Topic, $119)

The Hot Topic vibe brought back memories of what it was like when it mattered (so much!) to have just the right clothes. Of course, I lost all sense of what the right clothes were some time during the national fashion disaster known as the 1970s. So I got some questioning looks from the nose-pierced sales girl when I started making serious inquiries about this leopard-print hoodie with matching black lightning-bolt T-shirt and belt. (Though I really do think the rock 'n' roll flats look cool.) I'm assured that these clothes will look just right on the self-confident young women of today. At least until they start to look all wrong. (MB)


(A 5-year-old entering the talky phase)

Slang and Euphemism (Auntie's Bookstore, $8)

Though her parents would probably appreciate some sort of muzzle, I'm offering something more constructive: the gift of cursing. As much as our knee-jerk puritanical streaks would like to ignore this fact, the only way to fit in -- be it elementary school, college, the bar or the workplace -- is to know your way around English's unseemly edges. For that reason alone get your talky little cricket Slang and Euphemism: A Dictionary of Oaths, Curses, Insults, Ethnic Slurs, Sexual Slang and Metaphor, Drug Talk, College Lingo and Related Matters. Not only will the third edition make cursing less mystical and romantic (though no less fun) -- which will leave her better behaved in the classroom -- it will leave her poised to conquer whatever social and professional milieu she finds herself in. (LB)


(11-year-old whose face has started looking "awkward")

#32 Meat Grinder (The General Store, $47)

The first thought here was a boob job or a gift certificate to some place that sells slutty clothes -- you know, just to direct attention away from the awkward face. Then we read the fine print. Maybe if she was, like, 17, but 11's a little young for that kind of thing. Thus, the #32 Meat Grinder from Eastman Outdoors. Because if she can't get through cruel, cruel middle school with her looks (and we couldn't think of any presents that would instill charm or social grace), her best bet is to embrace her awkwardness. Become That Stoner Girl, or That Girl With the Sparkly Shoes, or -- in this case -- The Meat Girl. Imagine the friends she'll make as she uses the three included nozzles to manually crank out hamburgers and sausages for everyone. If nothing else, it'll give her the protein to ease on out of the awkward phase. (JS)


(New baby sister who doesn't look all that adorable)

Robeez Baby Shoes (Baby Cottage, $32)

Babies are cute, but even they go through their awkward, not-so-cute phases -- think projectile vomiting and the fat that accumulates after they discover solid food and just before they start to crawl. The make-or-break fashion accessory is the same as it is for grown-up women: shoes. (You might as well start their taste for expensive footwear early.) So to make sure that your little girl gets her fair share of oohs and aahs, get her some Robeez slippers or shoes. They have all kinds of designs, and the Baby Cottage at the Spokane Valley Mall has lots to choose from, but the pink with penguins is mighty precious. (TM)


(Sweet niece, smothered by her militant mom)

Blue Man Group tickets (, $100)

Moms and daughters -- sure, they love each other, but often they can't stand each other. Human instincts to live vicariously through others and to rebel against authority can play out spectacularly between moms and daughters. But someday, say when the daughter turns 25, they'll laugh about the bad outfits and tantrums. So give the gift of memories that may not be appreciated for a decade or so. Send those two out of the house, to bond by doing something totally different, disorienting and engrossing, where the fire can cease for a few hours: A Blue Man Group show is perfect. A sensation the world over, and especially in Vegas, the Blue Man Group is bringing its unique stage show to Spokane for the first time (at the Arena, on Feb. 6), and -- just your luck -- tickets go on sale Saturday. (TM)

American Original: The Life and Work of John James Audubon @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Sept. 19
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