It’s for you!

My older brother and sister-in-law, Jazz and Karen, live a blissful existence at the foot of the Teton Mountains, Idaho side. Shopping for them is easy. They like pretty much everything. One of my first gift-buying priorities is to get something that mails easily.

They love traveling (from backcountry Utah to Italian sidewalk cafes), skiing, Frisbee golf and relaxing to the Grateful Dead. Such is the fodder for gift ideas.

Jazz in particular is a great cook. I love cruising the cooking stores, but I never remember what he has already. Karen, a ski instructor and graphic artist, is a free spirit with a flare for things with a flare. She likes things with sun images and jogging. Jazz and Karen gave Martha and me a wonderful wedding gift this year -- they made a beautiful basket out of red willow sticks they found near their home.

As I go holiday shopping, I am looking to find something to fit with the basket/bowl theme.

For about $25

For Karen: I made my own small gift bag of minor indulgences: a tube of jasmine-scented holiday bath confetti ($7), a set of bright silver pinecone-shaped candles, very festive, ($8), and a small travel kit of Burt's Bees products, including mini-containers of rosemary mint soap, carrot day cream, citrus facial scrub, bath oil, lip balm, body lotion and more ($12).

Where available: The Electric Fetus, 2000 4th Ave. S., M-F 10- a.m.-9 p.m., Sa 10 a.m.-8 p.m. and Su 11 a.m.-6 p.m.

For Jazz: Here's a head-to-toe gift idea. What better way to spend a winter day than reading a good book with warm feet. (No, you're not reading the book with your feet; you know what I mean.) My favorite book this year was "I Thought My Father Was God" ($15), which grew out of National Public Radio's story project. It's an anthology of short, personal vignettes, some funny, some sad, from regular people across the country. Add a pair of Wigwam wool sox for comfort ($10).

Where available: You can get both at Calhoun Square, the book at Borders (M-Sa 9 a.m.-10 p.m., Su 9 a.m.-6 p.m.) and the sox at Sox Appeal (M-Sa 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Su noon-6 p.m.).

For about $50

For Karen: For someone who doesn't like shopping, I like shopping at The Tibet Store. It's where I found a sparkly little box for Martha's engagement ring. For Karen, I found a sarong with smiling suns ($15), and if she doesn't wear it she could use it as a decorative cloth. To follow up on the basket/bowl theme, I found a small metal Tibetan singing bowl, which makes a contemplative sound ($35, mallet included).

Where available: The Tibet Store, 2835 Hennepin Ave. S. (M-Sa 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Su 11 a.m.-6 p.m.)

For Jazz: OK, forget everything I said about the gift being easy to mail. I found a very fun salad, pasta, whatever bowl -- a thick, clear glass bowl, about 20 inches wide, that sits on a cast iron stand ($55). What a classy way to serve the chips to the guys in the fantasy football league. Go Bloody Heroes!

Where available: Tidbits, 3010 Lyndale Ave. S., Tu-Sa 11 a.m.-8 p.m. (Su noon-5 p.m.)

For about $100

For Karen: To make sure the sister-in-law is safe and comfortable while jogging the highways and byways of bustling Driggs, Idaho, how about a highly reflective blue/gray jogging vest ($65) and a long-sleeved t-shirt with "Cool Max" fabric to wick away the sweat ($35).

Where available: Running Room, 2801 Hennepin Ave. S. (M-W 9:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m.; Th-F 9:30 a.m.-9 p.m., Sa 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m., Su 11 a.m.-5 p.m.)

For Jazz: To free his time to perfect the cranberry chicken-a-la-wing-ding flamb, I would get him a Zojirushi combination rice cooker and vegetable steamer ($80). It makes a maximum of about 15 cups cooked rice at a time, more than ample. For the holiday homer, add the Chicago Metallic popover pan ($20). I love popovers. Now, he'll have to make them when I visit.

Where available: Calhoun Square, 3001 Hennepin Ave. S. (M-Sa 10 a.m.-9:30 p.m., Su 11 a.m.-6 p.m.)

It’s For you

What to get for the kids I love but rarely see anymore? I used to be a nanny for Katie (3 years old) and Jack (1 year old). I saw them on a daily basis. I knew what they wanted/needed for Christmas before they knew. Unfortunately (for me), my babies have moved to Madison, and I'm lucky to see them twice a year. I have no idea what new toys they have. I don't want to get them something they already have. So, do I take the easy way out and get them things that are easily returnable in Wisconsin? Or, do I get them things they're almost guaranteed not to have? I'll try to go with the latter.

For about $25

Before Katie and Jack moved to the land of cheese, St. Paul had Snoopy statues all over town. Katie loved Snoopy, and though her vocabulary was limited, she could push the word "Schnoooopy" through her nose. So, at Paper Post, I not only found a small Snoopy figurine ($24), but one dressed as a cheddar head -- perfect for her new state. And although Jack is still a baby, it's never too early to start reading. So for him I found a box of Sylvia Long's Mother Goose Block Books ($24.95) at the new Borders in Block E. The books are all made from cardboard, so he won't be able to rip the pages.

Where available: Snoopy can be found at Paper Post, skyway level of City Center, 615 Hennepin Ave. (M-Sa 10 a.m-7 p.m.; Su noon-6 p.m.) Mother Goose is at Borders, 600 Hennepin Ave. (M-Th 8 a.m.-11 p.m.; F 8 a.m.-midnight; Su noon-6 p.m.)

For about $50

In the $50 price range, I found gifts that are both cute and cozy. For Katie, a Travel Bed. It's a small pillow and blanket inside a clear tote. She can use it during those long car trips from Wisconsin to Minnesota in her car seat. Jack's gift supports my belief that children's clothing should be practical and funny. So I found a winter snowsuit made by The Bugs Ear Star Bunting that will make him look like a gingerbread man ($59).

Where available: Both the Travel Bed and Star Bunting at are at The Baby Collection, 5006 Xerxes Ave. S. (M-Sa 10 a.m-5:30 p.m.; Su noon-4 p.m.)

For about $100

For the original groovy girl herself, I found the Groovy Girls Lush Loft ($99.95). It's a soft dollhouse with such groovy features as shag carpeting, velour chairs, and lots of retro accessories. Jack's gift is a bit more questionable. I love it and would like it decorating my room. He might feel the same way, or he might have bad dreams. Dr. Seuss' nearly life-sized Grinch ($175) from his book "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" is soft and very cuddly.

Where available: Both the dollhouse and Grinch can be found at Patina Inc., 5110 Bryant Ave. S. (M-Sa, 9:30 a.m.-9 p.m., Su, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.)

It’s for you!

What do I get for the people I love most who already have everything (that I can afford)? For Tammy, my 42-year-old girlfriend, gift-giving is a pretty basic affair. She's as imminently practical as if she had been raised during the Depression.

Nate, my 17-year-old son, is far and away the greater challenge, as teen-aged males generally are. Fortunately, he's a unique enough guy that your average ultraviolent Playstation game isn't going to do it for him. Plus, he's the Iggy Pop of the family, so buying something musical is usually a good bet.

For about $25

Pretty much at Christmastime every year I have to replace Tammy's little foot-warmer bootie/slippers. I found a pair of fuzzy Isotoner Too! charcoal slippers at Marshall Fields for $20. Nate has recently become a major reggae maniac, so I selected for him the incredibly nice-priced six-disc Bob Marley box, "The Complete Upsetter Collection," for $23.99, which can be found at Electric Fetus.

Where available: Marshall Fields, 700 Nicollet Mall (M-F 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Sa 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Su noon-6 p.m.) Electric Fetus, 2010 4th Ave. S. (M-F, 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Sa 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Su 11 a.m.-6 p.m.)

For about $50

Here I have departed significantly from the practical. The lady at Marshall Fields directed me to an instant winner -- a $50, 1.7-ounce bottle of Chanel's new fragrance called "Chance." That it was described as an "unexpected floral" scent didn't grab me, but the phrase "delicious naughtiness" might have played a role in my choice. A trip to the Mall of America is needed to get Nate's $46 blue SpongeBob Royal hooded sweatshirt, or "hoodie," from Hot Topic. He loves Sponge Bob.

Where available: Marshall Fields, 700 Nicollet Mall (M-F 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Sa 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Su noon-6 p.m.) Hot Topic, 179 E. Broadway, Bloomington (M-F, 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Sa 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Su 10 a.m.-6 p.m.)

For about $100

I stayed with Marshall Fields for Tammy for this gift -- which truth be known, I will never purchase. Who's kidding whom? It's 2002: I'm not actually spending $100 on a single gift for anyone! But if I were, I might go with the gorgeous $120 turquoise faux gemstone earrings from Lori Bonn that I saw there. If it were 2001, I would do what I actually did do for Nathan last year. I'd buy him the $120 Tascam MF-PO1 four-track "portastudio" so he could record his own songs, including overdubs. They can be found at Guitar Center.

Where available: Marshall Fields, 700 Nicollet Mall (M-F 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Sa 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Su noon-6 p.m.) Guitar Center, 3650 Hazelton Rd., Edina (M-F, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.,Sa, 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Su, noon-6 p.m.)

It’s for you!

Holiday shopping for my younger 20-year-old sister Molly is a challenge every year. Since she's a college student and can't afford little luxuries she'd indulge in otherwise, I thought I'd start there. Although it seems no matter what I get her, she'll say she likes it, even if it's hideous.

So how can I tell if Molly really likes her gift or is faking her enthusiasm to spare my feelings? Because I'm only a couple years older -- and arguably cooler -- I finally decided to pretend to shop for myself. This way if she doesn't like my gift at least I could "borrow" it for a while. (Code with my sister and me for "borrow" means to not give back.)

$25 range

Molly is big on pictures and has always surrounded her living space with photos of friends and family. A jeweled picture frame for $24 was a good find because it's cute, but not too frilly. Jeweled picture frames are very popular, and variations in different shapes and sizes can be found in shops all around town. And to make the gift more personalized, I could add a picture of us together.

Where available: Inizio Gifts, 3070 Excelsior Blvd. (M-Sa 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Su 12- 5 p.m.)

$50 range

Beaded purses and Asian-inspired clothing trends have been popularized in both fashion magazines and on TV this past year. I thought this purse, which cost $45, was a great combination of both trends, with a sushi-inspired theme, complete with bamboo handles. My sister has always liked funky clothing accessories, so this was a perfect choice.

Where available: The Fun Sisters Boutique, 4253 Nicollet Ave. S. (Dec. hours: Th-F 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sa 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Su 12-5 p.m.)


The stressed life of a working college student can be tough, cramming for midterms and working for pennies. So, I thought a gift certificate to a spa or salon up to $100 would be a nice gift. She could use the gift certificate to put towards any service she wanted, whether it's a manicure or a massage. This gift is good for her because although she can't afford to indulge herself in pampering, I know she would if she could.

Where available: Tom Schmidt's Urban Retreat, 1609 W. Lake St. (M-F 8 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sa 8 a.m.-6 p.m.; Su 10 a.m.-6 p.m.); Juut Salonspa Minneapolis Uptown, 2945 Hennepin Ave. (Tu-F 9 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sa 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; Su 12-5 p.m.- massage appointments only); and ReVamp Salon Spa, 2910 Hennepin Ave. (M-F 9 a.m.- 8p.m.; Sa 9 a.m.-6 p.m. during the holiday season).

For me, holiday shopping for my 24-year-old boyfriend Matt is harder than shopping for anyone else. He's an extremely thoughtful present giver, so the pressure is really on to find the "perfect gift" for him. I wanted to find him a gift he would never expect, something creative. But Matt's only wants are the newest in electronics, like MP3 players or digital cameras, all of which are a little too pricey. So I tried to find smaller gifts to coincide with his hobbies, things I knew he would like and use, but not expect. (Note to Matt: Don't read the following or you'll ruin Christmas.)

$25 range

Every guy I know loves "America's Finest Newspaper," The Onion; Matt actually has it delivered to his home. The spoof newspaper, started in Madison, Wis., is so popular they've come out with a coffee table book of their funniest material: "Our Dumb Century: 100 years of Headlines from America's Finest News Source." At $16 it's perfect for his apartment, plus paging through it in the store was fun, too.

Where available: BookSmart, 2914 Hennepin Ave. (M-Sa 10 a.m.-midnight; Su 11 a.m.-11 p.m.)


In addition to loving gadgets, Matt is an avid cyclist, when weather permits. So for $59.95, just a pinch above the budget, I found the CAT EYE OS1.0 personal cycle computer. This gadget hooks to the bike to measure maximum, current and average speed, distance of the total bike trip, in addition to providing clock time and a pace indicator. This allows bicyclists a way to track their progress.

Where available: The Alternative Bike and Board Shop, 2408 Hennepin Ave. (M-F 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sa 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Su 12-4 p.m.)


For someone who likes to hike and camp, a new camping backpack is also a great gift idea. Backpacks specially made for these outdoor activities come complete with special compartments for shoes, gear and clothing. Making the most of this storage space is ideal when it's on your back for hours at a time. These backpacks range from $75 to more than $100.

Where available: Aarcee Recreation, 2910 Lyndale Ave. S. (M, Th, F 9 a.m.-8 p.m.; Tu-W 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Sa 9 a.m.-5 p.m.)