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Last-minute Gift Guide 

The Desperate Times Edition, from your inspiration-challenged friends at the Indy

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The Olympic Training Center is not the first place you might think of at this time, but if you aren't familiar with the gift shop at the complex, it's definitely worth the trip. The store's possibilities abound, from clothing to souvenirs and other memorabilia. Regardless of your budget, cheap to unlimited, you can't go wrong.

Sometimes the simplest ideas are also the most convenient. Like gift cards. This especially works for that last-second present. Go to any supermarket (but I'd recommend King Soopers for its selection) and you'll find gift cards for department stores, restaurants, Visa or MasterCard (so the recipient can have total freedom), specialty shops, you name it. Most are in denominations of $25, $50 or $100, and you'll probably have to pay $5 extra, so the supermarket can make its money.

You'll have to move quickly on this one, but Brookstone actually has three stores in Denver (the closest is Park Meadows, less than an hour from downtown Colorado Springs) as well as brookstone.com. Both sell "innovative" gifts generally ranging from $30 to as high as you want, and the Web site is superbly organized. For example, a connoisseur's wine opener for $40, a wireless sports scoreboard for $99 or a digital iPod jukebox for $199.95. Tip: Choose online, then drive to Denver and make the purchase(s).

Ever been to a Web site called cafepress.com? If you like anti-Bush stuff, you're in for a treat. The site has more strongly worded T-shirts and bumper stickers than you can imagine, with such messages as "Bush makes me cry" (on an infant bodysuit), "Honk if you voted for Bush so I can give you the finger" (sticker), "01-20-2009, The Nightmare Ends" (T-shirt) or "BUSH: Like a rock, only dumber" (refrigerator magnet). Most of the prices range from $3.99 to $25. RR

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Well, I just watched What Would Jesus Buy?, so I might be a little pessimistic when it comes to gift-giving these days. I don't think it's a very good movie, but it is a gentle, if poorly produced, reminder of what the giving season should really be about so maybe I'll just ask my friends to go to Kimball's Twin Peak and see that. And maybe I'll pay for their tickets. Maybe.

If I don't do that, I'll likely head to Commonwheel Artists Co-op for the Holiday Market, where I can buy some reasonably priced handmade artwork from some 50 Colorado-based artists. People always need more art. Oh, and music, too. So, if I'm feeling really lazy, I'll just head to my nearest grocery/convenience store and pick up an iTunes gift card that one rarely disappoints. PF

You're an idiot and you know it.

But don't panic quite yet. Take your lame, last-minute butt down to the grocery store. There, in the back you will find something Aunt Nelly, cool cousin Keith and little Amber will all like ... that is, unless you come from a tahini-loving, NPR-listening, earth-friendly, pomegranate juice-drinking family. (If that's the case, stop reading this right now, hippie.)

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For the rest of us Americans, there's an easy solution to gift giving: Meat. Everyone loves a steak, or four. And after weeks of gluttonous office-party cookie consumption, no one really wants another box of Almond Roca. Translation: Your carnivorous gift makes you look like a brilliant mind reader.

And, of course, the great thing about giving cow to your relatives is that you really don't have to wrap it. This requires a bow, tops. JAS

The best gifts are probably those that involve great effort to produce, or understanding to anticipate some unvoiced need.

It's probably too late for those kinds of gifts now.

Recognizing that, why not buy anyone who still lingers on your gift list one or more compact fluorescent light bulbs?

Yes, practical gifts sometimes get mocked. The Longmont resident who fessed up to giving his wife a toilet seat one Christmas years back ended up the punch line on talk shows across the country.

But with the writers' strike going on right now, that probably couldn't happen to you. And light bulbs are different. The fluorescent kind, with their elegant curviness, cost a few bucks compared to cents for a regular bulb, but they save a whole bunch on your electricity bill, while lasting for years.

The problem is, many people are reluctant to buy replacements for perfectly good light bulbs before they burn out because they face the difficult task of balancing frugality and environmental stewardship.

You can ease their minds and electricity bills this holiday season by giving the gift of light bulbs. AL There are certain people among us (you know who you are) who stop celebrating the holidays after they reach a certain age. They tell their friends and family that gifts are futile, because "Christmas is for kids."

I agree, it is for kids, but it's also for the kid in each of us. If you concur, look for gifts that are playful or creative.

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There's nothing better to brighten a drab office than a basket of small, inexpensive toys that wind up, squeak, squish, blink, splash and bounce. Little Richard's Toy Store carries tons of choices.

To indulge your recipient's creative urges, stop by Meininger Art Supply. It carries elegant, funky and affordable journals and sketchbooks, along with pens, pencils and paper in every color. Check out the gift aisle for fun stuff like Real Art: The Paint-by-Number Book & Kit ($24.95). It comes with paints, book and 10 canvases, including a paint-by-number "Mona Lisa" and van Gogh's "Sunflowers."

Have a little fun shopping and your own "inner child" will guide you to the gifts that bring back that holiday mystery and magic, no matter how long it's been since Santa last showed up. JT Since I tired of giving clothes that would be returned the next day and gift cards that were about as personable as a wet sock, I began to observe what my friends really enjoyed: wine. This led me to the conclusion that my friends are total winos which made it that much easier to buy them something they would like. There are liquor stores on every corner, and each of them sells wine, so unless you're going shopping on a Sunday, you'll be in luck.

My favorite? Bell'Agio Chianti Classico. Sure, it's relatively inexpensive, but it's pretty bold and comes in a cool bottle. Hell, the bottle could re-gift itself as a candelabra. Maybe. SH

As local rock poster artist Jermaine Rogers can attest, designer vinyl (art toys one pictured below) is where it's at. More and more artists are jumping mediums to produce an eclectic array of these unique figurines. Check out sites like kidrobot.com, unklbrand.com and richardgoodallgallery.com for some samples. Yes, your gift will arrive late, but you can print someone a teaser image with a note that says, "Sorry, I am a late shopper and generally awful person."

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In town and truly available last-minute, I like the idea of giving local food products. Whether it's a sampler of local microbrewed beer (Bristol comes to mind), a jar of local honey (available in several locales) or Colorado meats (Ranch Foods Direct), you're likely to be gifting something tasty to be enjoyed anytime. And you're also making a statement about supporting foods that don't travel thousands of miles to get to your table.

Oh, and purchasing local art is smart, too. Across our city's many galleries, paintings, sculptures and craft items are easily found at very reasonable prices. Just $30 to $60 has bought me some very cool stuff in the past. If you're a high roller, I'm sure you won't have trouble fetching some high-dollar canvas. MS

For the person on your list who has everything, think food. Bake something yourself or pick up a few of my local favorites: a dozen of the soft and sweet ginger cookie by Otho's Gourmet, or an assortment of all their flavors; a jar of Justin's natural nut butter in Honey Almond; a whole-grain sweet bread from Great Harvest Bread Co. (selections change daily); a bag of 100 percent natural gourmet fettuccine from The Villa Pasta Co. in Palmer Lake; a tower of salt-free Garden of the Gods Seasonings through Garden of the Gods Gourmet; or any number of beautiful and tasty European tortes from Old Heidelberg Pastry Shop.

Finally, a holiday night out for two will be romantic and delicious at Bistro de Pinto. Just make sure you say yes to one of their homemade desserts. KA

When I was living overseas, as a destitute, badly bartending, 21-year-old wannabe Bohemian, I decided the best thing I could do, for everyone involved, was to send my parents separate, heartfelt letters around the holidays.

"50 Reasons Why You're a Great Dad," and its companion, "50 Reasons ... Mom," had a Les Claypool-esque effect on the heartstrings.

Alas, I cannot, in good conscience, tell you to do such a thing. (It's almost by way of confession that I mention having done so.) Instead, how about this: Buy a set of gift certificates that will give your family members/friends a fully loaded day or night out. For example, hook them up with a dinner at La Creperie or Everest Nepal, then tack on a film at Kimball's, and maybe a trip to Josh & John's for a post-movie dessert.

If you're feeling especially thoughtful, paper-clip tip money to the restaurant gift certificate.

(Or you can try a lovely little note. But you didn't hear that from me.) KW

Contributors: Kirsten Akens, Pete Freedman, Sydney Hamilton, Anthony Lane, Ralph Routon, Matthew Schniper, Jill Thomas and Kirk Woundy.

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  • Your shopping days are numbered, but this package of ideas and stories might help.

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