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The intern vs. the experts 

How tough is it to out-gift our 2007 Best Of winners?

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Sydney Hamilton is an intern in our editorial department. Aside from an admitted "love" of shopping, she'll tell you straight-up that she has no special qualifications or expertise when it comes to buying holiday gifts.

Now, folks at RetroMoto Toys, Rick's Garden Center, Earth Pig Music, Whickerbill Gifts, Best Buy, Terra Verde and Mountain Chalet ... they're experts. Each of these seven businesses won awards in our 2007 Best of Colorado Springs poll. When it comes to gift-giving, we figured people from these mostly local stores could point out some solid options.

So we identified seven would-be gift recipients and stripped them down to personality types (OK, stereotypes), a gender and, in some cases, a vague age.

Then we asked Sydney and the experts to determine the perfect gift for each of these faceless characters. Once the suggestions were in, we asked the seven people we knew no longer faceless which gift they'd choose.

We were pulling for Sydney, but no one was putting any money down. Here's how she did:

Intern choice:
Set of two stemless Riedel wine glasses and a bottle of J. Bookwalter Cabernet

Price: $20 for two Riedel glasses, $36.49 for the wine

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Purchase place: Glasses from Chefs Catalog retail store, 5070 Centennial Blvd.; wine from Cheers Liquor Mart, 1105 N. Circle Drive

Why buy: "This gift is meant for the food snob who is always looking to bring out specific flavors of the meal with a quality glass of wine. Riedel glasses come in a variety of shapes and sizes that actually help the wine breathe better, allowing for the full wine-pairing experience. The wine would be great with a hearty meal like, perhaps, that $150 slab of Kobe beef. Come on, it's not just there to look at."

Expert choice:
Tea thermometer and timer

Price: $34

Purchase place: Whickerbill Gifts, 742 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs

Why buy: "It's very unusual and is something the food snob wouldn't have."

John Eastham, Whickerbill owner

Decision: "Because I'm a wine-o, I would definitely prefer the glasses and wine. Plus, I know those glasses they're really nice."

Point: Intern

Intern choice:
Door-size poster that reads, "Danger keep out. Maximum noise output. Enter at your own risk"

Price: $9.99

Purchase place: Independent Records, multiple locations

Why buy: "When I was a teen, I was addicted to posters. The more you had, the cooler your friends would think you were. This poster, which fits on any door, screams, 'I'm rebellious and cool, and no parents are allowed in here.' The kid's friends will love it, and so will he."

Expert choice:
And All That Could Have Been by Nine Inch Nails

Price: $10

Purchase place: Earth Pig Music, 1953 W. Uintah St.

Why buy: "I like Nine Inch Nails, and it's for the harder-edged teenage male following." Tim Atherton, of Earth Pig

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Decision: "The door-sized poster. I don't give a rat's ass about Nine Inch Nails. Nor do I know who they are."

Point: Intern

Intern choice:
The New York Times 1000 Gardening Questions & Answers
by Garden Editors of the New York Times

Price: $34.95

Purchase place: Barnes and Noble, 1565 Briargate Blvd., 795 Citadel Drive East

Why buy: "This could be a book for the beginner gardener, or the advanced. I happen to know a few who believe they are the latter, but in all actuality are the former. This book has so many tips and tricks, you can make anyone believe you are a master horticulturist, while also helping you keep your garden beautiful."

Expert choice:
Musically tuned wind chimes

Price: $30 to $40

Purchase place: Rick's Garden Center, 1827 W. Uintah St.

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Why buy: "I love these because they're tuned musically to songs." Gail Estes, sales associate

Decision: "The musically tuned wind chimes. I would think the New York Times gardening tips would be too generic for use in this climate."

Point: Expert

Intern choice:
Baby Einstein Press-and-Play Pals Dragon

Price: $9.99

Purchase place: Babies "R" Us, 3555 Citadel Drive South

Why buy: "I've been a fan of the Baby Einstein products because they take the developing mind of a child into consideration when creating toys. This toy is awesome because not only is it cute, soft and cuddly, but if you squeeze the dragon's hands and feet, it introduces sounds and words in English, Spanish and French. Trs cool."

Expert choice:
Rubber ducks, assorted sizes

Price: $2.95 for a large duck, $1.95 for a small

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Purchase place: RetroMoto Toys, 738 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs

Why buy: "They're wonderful. We have such a variety of them, with all occupations and kinds. Toddlers may also like to chew on them." Karen Sucharski, manager, and Susan Wolbrueck, owner

Decision (from the toddler's mother): "Baby Einstein. She's into Spanish and Baby Einstein. And, although she's a big fan of baths, she prefers playing with washcloths."

Point: Intern

Intern choice:
The North Face Glacier half-zip fleece pullover and Gordini Wooly Mitt

Price: $50 for the pullover, $13.95 for the mittens

Purchase place: Mountain Chalet, 226 N. Tejon St.

Why buy: "The pullover, paired with the ridiculously soft, warm mittens, would be great for any woman who can't resist hitting the trails or the slopes, no matter what condition. Also, the pullover comes in some pretty cool colors and is light and fashionable enough to wear anywhere, whether you're going camping or going out with friends."

Expert choice:
Haiku To-Go Bloom Bag

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Price: $66

Purchase place: Mountain Chalet, 226 N. Tejon St.

Why buy: "This is great so that you don't lose your keys at a huge outdoor thing. And it will wear well." Hilary Studebaker, sales associate

Decision: "I'd go with the bag. I'm more of a bag person. I have lots of fleeces, and the bag is something I could use every day even when I'm not being sporty."

Point: Expert

Intern choice:
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LS75 digital camera, 7.2 megapixel with Patriot Memory SD memory card, 512 MB

Price: $129.99 for the camera; $9.99 for the memory card

Purchase place: Ultimate Electronics, 7207 N. Academy Blvd.

Why buy: "For the price, this camera packs a punch. Its Mega Optical Image Stabilizer and 3x optical zoom make for a high-tech piece of equipment that captures pictures well, no matter if it's a still object or an action shot. It's a great addition to any technologically inclined guy's arsenal. We all know he doesn't need another copy of World of Warcraft."

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Expert choice:
4 GB Zune

Price: $149.99

Purchase place: Best Buy, 3150 New Center Point, 7675 N. Academy Blvd.

Why buy: "I like it because it doesn't use iTunes." Nolan Skinner, sales associate

Decision: "I'd go with the digital camera. I have an iPod, and the Zune is pretty much second place to that."

Point: Intern

Intern choice:
Giannini silver metallic handbag and Charles Klein necklace and earring set

Price: $12.99 for the handbag, $7.99 for the earrings

Purchase place: Burlington Coat Factory, multiple locations

Why buy: "This was a difficult task, to find something fashionable for under $30. However, metallics are in, as is the large, slouchy handbag. The pairing is perfect, with a pair of drop earrings and matching necklace, making for the perfect accessories for your holiday outfit. They can transcend into the spring and summer. I'm not 30, but hell, I'd wear it."

Expert choice:
Mikasa champagne flutes

Price: $29.50 for a set of four

Purchase place: Terra Verde, 208 N. Tejon St.

Why buy: "These glasses have broad appeal, from the more trendy to the more classic." Laura Thompson, gift buyer for Terra Verde

Decision: "I already have champagne flutes, so I'd be inclined to go with the handbag, necklace and earrings. Plus, those seem more personal."

Point: Intern

Conclusion: Well, hot damn. We don't know what this means, really. Except that you should probably remember to keep your receipts this holiday season.
scene@csindy.com

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