Holiday Gift Guide 

Recommendations for every single possible person on your list

Tis the season of The List. You know The List—that unmanageable, dreadfully long collection of names waiting for you to connect each one with this holiday season's perfect gift. Family members, friends and coworkers certainly make The List, as do a few marginal sorts who linger at the bottom as you try to calculate whether they'll gift back to you. The List is as much a part of the holidays as fruitcake (which should never make The List) and Rankin/Bass stop-motion specials. But for every easy check-off on The List, a maddening number of deserving names get stuck with the dreaded "?" or, worse, something like this: "Fruitcake?"

To help you avoid this stress-inducing mix-and-match game, the Independent dedicates its annual holiday gift guide to addressing almost every conceivable person on The List. Pops? Easy. Grandma? No problem. Those distant relatives who inexplicably invited themselves to this year's holiday feast? Child, please. We think we've covered the bases—at least those bases situated a little left of center—over the next five-plus pages. And if not, consider some candlesticks or a nice bottle of liquor—anything but the fruitcake.



To: The Drunkard

Beer koozie necklace or wine glass koozie

A koozie is critical for seasoned drinkers looking to keep their beer cold and their hand warm. However, a koozie with a neck strap takes the accessory to an entirely different level. Not only will the imbiber enjoy perennially cold suds and warm, dry hands, they'll be able to easily locate their drink, even as the night wears on.

Alternately, if your drunkard has more refined tastes than domestic brew and prefers a nice glass of Boone's Farm, consider getting him or her a classy wine glass koozie made of cotton, like the one pictured here. The sleeves come in various colors attached to a fashionable black strap, sure to match the recipient's best Missoula evening wear.

Wine glass koozie, $3.95. Available at The Green Light, 128 W. Alder Street. Beer koozie necklace, $7.50. Available online at www.floattripper.com

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To: Raisin smugglers

Possum Pam Nipple Warmers

According to the Possum Pam website, the introduction of the brushtail possum to New Zealand from Australia resulted in a possum explosion in the early 1900s, with 60 million possums now consuming 21,000 tons of indigenous vegetation nightly. One population control solution? Make those critters into nipple warmers. The warmers come in different colors—blue, red, purple, natural and black—and are naturally non-allergenic and biodegradable, requiring no factory or harmful chemicals to make them. You just pull off the adhesive backing and apply to nipples. They're great for added warmth during Montana's cold winter months, and it's at least one way to keep people from asking you about smuggling raisins.

$9. Available at www.possumpam.com.

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To: Tiny Environmentalist

Truck from Salvage Toys

Plastic schmastic. Let's return to wood. Better yet, reused wood. That's the idea behind Salvage Toys, a small venture from 27-year-old Missoulian Matt Gray. He makes trucks, tractors, bulldozers and cars from old wood he gets mostly from Home Resource, and other recycled items like coffee cans. Gray started making the toys about a year ago when his two sisters began having babies, and the hobby turned into a small business. Besides being a durable, fun and environmentally friendly holiday gift for the little kid on your list, it's probably good karma to support a guy like Gray—he has a master's degree in philosophy and works at the Good Food Store—instead of some mega-chain full of stuff made in China.

$8–$30. Available at Good Food Store, 1600 S. Third Street; Walking Stick Toys, 829 S. Higgins Avenue; and Home Resource, 1515 Wyoming Street.

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To: Freezing baby

Starry Knight leather slippers

Little babies can be tough to shop for, mostly because the toys you think they'd love aren't yet age appropriate (almost everything, it seems, is labeled for age 3 and up). Plus, babies don't really play. They just squirm and poop and sleep and cry. That leaves you looking for clothes, which can be an equally tough challenge. Make the search easy by focusing on infant/toddler shoes handmade by Melanie Knight in Corvallis. She offers a wide selection of Robeez-like footwear, all made from remnant or recycled leather. We're partial to the leather boots lined with organic fleece cotton, but they're a little expensive ($40). No matter what style you choose, these would surely work better for a wee one than, say, the nipple warmers.

$20 and up. Available at Blackbird Kid Shop, 525 S. Higgins Avenue, or www.starryknightdesign.com

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To: Diehard Griz fan

Griz knit kits

When the temp inside Washington-Grizzly Stadium starts to dip at the tail end of football season, it's the longtime devotees—not the fair-weather crowds—chanting "First down, Montana!" And odds are at least one of those cold-braving souls is on your Christmas list. Fortunately Camas Creek Yarn in Kalispell has the only line of officially licensed Griz Knit Kits to solve your holiday gift quandary. Keep your beer-guzzling bud or fashion-savvy gal warm with a maroon and silver beanie—if you've got the stones or the skills to take a crack at knitting, that is. Feeling real cocky about your needlework? Throw in a pair of Griz mittens to match. They might not ensure a Griz victory over the Bobcats next year, but at least your favorite fan won't be left entirely in the cold.

$25.95 for the Griz beanie knit kit. $35.95 for the Griz mittens knit kit. Both available online at www.camascreekyarn.com.

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To: Obsessive Big Lebowski fan

The Dude Sweater

The Territory Ahead offers a "classically comfy cardigan" modeled after the one Jeff Bridges famously lounged around in as Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski in Joel and Ethan Coen's classic The Big Lebowski. The 100 percent lambs wool sweater isn't an exact replica—The Dude's, after all, was pretty ratty—but it does sport the same "easy fit," "chunky ribs" and "natural tones" as the original. Oh, and there's a sweet thunderbird on the back. More importantly, the catalog description specifies the cardigan "pairs exceptionally well with White Russians and discursive conversation." To paraphrase a line from the film, this sweater could really tie a fan's look together.

$129. Available at www.territoryahead.com.

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To: Future Rollergirl

Carpet skates

Few organizations made as large an impact in Missoula this year as the Hellgate Rollergirls. The DIY roller derby league dominated headlines—from the Indy to Mamalode—and now counts more than 50 full-time "butt-kickin', tights-wearing', roller-skatin' Missoula ladies" as members.

Help cultivate the next generation of rollergirls with these lightweight (9.2 ounces), wheel-less plastic "skates." Designed for indoor use, they slide right over shoes and attach with a Velcro strap. At the most rudimentary level, carpet skates allow you to glide across the living room rug like you're gliding around a derby rink.

Be warned: Carpet skating is also morphing into an extreme sport, growing a following of bored office workers and daring college kids who perform jumps over cardboard boxes and fly down staircases covered with flattened plastic tables. It seems carpet skating, like roller derby, isn't for the faint of heart.

$9.98 and up. Available at various online retailers, including amazon.com.

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To: Whirling dervishes

Jam Band Setlist Pad

Brah, it's like wicked hard to remember stuff when you're busy tripping out at a Phish show, or a Slightly Stoopid bash, or even catching Slanky at the Top Hat. This pocket-sized tour journal, available from the kind buds at Phish's Dry Goods online store, helps you "keep track of setlists, show no., directions to your hotel, or anything else you want to be able to remember the next morning." Totally. In fact, that reminds us of this one time, at Great Woods in Massachusetts, right after an epic Stonehenge set, when we got lost in the parking lot with some folks selling fatty veggie burritos and...wait, what were we talking about?

$6. Proceeds go to Phish's WaterWheel Foundation, which raises funds for a pre-selected nonprofit in each community the band visits while on tour. Available at drygoods.phish.com.

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To: Frustrated hunter

Recycled Cardboard Deer Head

General hunting season has come and gone, and chances are you know a few camouflage-clad hopefuls now crying into their empty freezers. Help soften the blow of a winter of store-bought beef—or, if you're taking a harsher angle, rub in your loved one's awful aim/poor luck—by offering up this faux mount. Made of recycled cardboard, the deer head would make a relatively artistic addition to any trophy wall.

$28–$58, depending on size. Available at www.uncommongoods.com

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To: Gun nut in training

N-Strike Vulcan EBF-25

Nothing screams "right to bear arms" like a little backyard battle among the neighbor kids. But every parent knows your kid needs the biggest and the best armament possible to make the final stand. We're guessing that's why Nerf offers a battery-operated, belt-fed automatic machine gun with collapsible tripod—the aptly named N-Strike Vulcan EBF-25. This puppy can empty 25 darts on next-door enemy factions in five seconds flat, making even the latest Super Soaker model look like a toddler's bath toy. Patriots young and old need to be ready to defend their own. And whether it's the bully down the block or the big bad federal gov'ment, the Vulcan will strike fear into anyone looking to stomp on a kid's God-given gun-toting freedoms.

$39.99. Available at Wal-Mart, 4000 Brooks Street or 3555 Mullan Road.

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To: Slave to fashion

Custom cowboy boots

Slaves to fashion, above all, fear being ordinary. There's nothing humdrum about alligator-, kangaroo- or elephant-skin cowboy boots custom made to fit. That's why we'd happily throw down a chunk of cash to Bad Dog Custom Boots in Whitehall. Proprietor Kay Cook lovingly designs the footwear to fit your fashionista's arches, ankles and delicate little toes, while also meeting your specifications on sole thickness, color and how the footwear tapers at the tip. You can even have the boot monogrammed with your stylish recipient's initials.

$1,000 and up. Available from Bad Dog Custom Boots, 32 Toll Mountain Road, in Whitehall. Visit baddogcustomboots.com or call 406-494-7967.

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To: Empty nester

A new dog

There's a significant void that forms when the last little troublemaker grows up, and home begins to resemble not a warm pocket of love but a post-war wasteland of lovelorn mothers and cranky fathers. They need exercise, they need affection, they need some outlet for their natural parenting instincts.

The answer is simple: a new dog.

The Humane Society of Western Montana always seems burdened with an excess of homeless animals. Call it a double dose of philanthropy if you want, but your folks will love you all the more when they're once again romping through the backyard with a slobbery bundle of joy. The Humane Society takes great care of these dogs; adopted animals already have their rabies shots—though spaying and neutering costs extra—and come with a starter bag of Science Diet food. Mom and Dad deserve something special after putting up with your crap all those years. Now they can work out the last of their maternal and paternal tendencies without eating up your Verizon minutes.

Adult dogs go for $90, puppies under four months for $125. Visit the Humane Society of Western Montana for more details at 5930 Hwy. 93 South or www.myhswm.org.

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To: Adventurous home brewer

Water purification unit

It's illegal to make your own spirits with a still in the United States without being a licensed production plant—and that's final! Got that? Illegal. Naughty. Dangerous. Don't do it.

That said, a water purification unit can be used for other things, like distilling oils and water. Your home brewer can also get a free ethanol fuel permit from the federal government, which would come in handy for their green transportation projects. Whatever you do, don't suggest that they make whiskey or moonshine-type products. And definitely don't include instructions on how to make those alcoholic beverages—you know, for hypothetical purposes—along with this nice gift. That would be irresponsible.

A water purification unit (think of it as a home brewer's "water pipe" to the layman's bong) is an expensive holiday present, but probably one that will make your favorite home brewer very happy for being able to distill so much...water.

$262.70. Available at Chapman Homebrew, 2506 Mount Avenue.

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To: Grandma and Grandpa

Self-painted ornament from the ZACC

Grandparents are pretty freaking cool, showering the next generation with heavy checks and scores of pricey toys. So forgo the usual scarf or tie this year and go with something a little more personal. The Zootown Arts Community Center (ZACC) offers a "paint your own pottery" room at its digs on N. First Street with a wide variety of gift options. They've got pre-made plates, bowls, tiles, figurines and ornaments ranging from $5 to $30. Try the cute and slightly festive penguin ornament for a modest $7, then paint it yourself. The ZACC supplies the paints and brushes, and they'll fire it for you when the masterpiece is done—no extra charge. The process takes about a week, but budget your time right and you'll walk out with a Christmas present that says, "Thanks for all the awesome stuff over the years."

Paint-it-yourself penguin ornament, $7. Available at the ZACC, 235 N. First Street W. Open noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and by appointment on Saturday.

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To: The shirttail cousins

Bernice's Bakery water bottle

Seeing distant relatives—those third cousins once removed and whatnot—every five years or so leaves some pretty big gaps in familiarity. What grade was she in again? Was he varsity football or varsity "World of Warcraft"? But you're obligated, and if you're not in the loop regarding their interests, you might as well go with whatever you can find. Since you're already stopping for coffee before you hit the highway, kill two or more birds with one stop. Bernice's Bakery has an artsy 20-ounce aluminum water bottle—emblazoned with their skull and crossed rolling pins logo—that works for both the equestrian-obsessed girl and the Xbox-addicted boy. It's age neutral, gender neutral and incredibly practical, even if little Zuzu or Mikey gives you a weird look at the next family reunion. And if they complain that the gift's "lame" or "impersonal," just tell them Christmas will go better next year if they finally friend you on Facebook.

$10. Available at Bernice's Bakery, 190 S. Third St. W.

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To: Cannabis enthusiast

The Launch Box or "Fold-a-Pipe"

Vaporizing has become the preferred method of cannabis consumption for Montana's more than 26,000 medical marijuana patients (and the countless other cannabis enthusiasts we hear about). But there's a significant price to pay to save your lungs from smoke. "Vapes" can cost $500 or more. Not the Magic-Flight Launch Box, though. The Launch Box, made of birch hardwood, fits in the palm of your hand, and, instead of a lighter, requires a rechargeable battery to heat up your medicine. The Launch Box, pictured, is discreet and windproof, meaning you can use the little guy just about anywhere—like, say, on a chairlift. And since it produces vapor, not smoke, there's little odor.

Looking for something more portable and even cheaper? Consider the "Fold-a-Pipe" for about a tenth of the price. It's not a vaporizer, but a stainless steel card—about the size of a credit card—that folds into an "emergency pipe."

Either way, merry medicating.

The Launch Box, $99. Available at www.blisssville.com, or 760-723-3800. The "Fold-a-Pipe," $7. Available at www.bewild.com.

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To: Besieged parents

Nature Boy's Cloth Diaper Service

It's perhaps the biggest conundrum facing all expecting parents: disposable diapers or cloth? Missoula's Nature Boy helps you make the more environmentally friendly choice by offering cloth diaper "rentals."

Here's how it works: Every Wednesday, Nature Boy picks up your wee one's dirty diapers and drops off a stack of clean ones. You choose how many diapers you want to have in rotation, and the number of diapers you turn in each week will be returned to you the following week. Diapers are laundered by Missoula Textile Services. (Heads up: They use bleach to meet public health and hygiene standards, so be mindful of a potential skin sensitivity.)

Consider it a way to free your friends with newborns of that dirty duty, while also making their newly hectic lives just a little more sane.

$8–$12 per week. Available at Nature Boy, 892 S. Higgins Avenue, or call 406-728-1408.

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To: The Mulder or Scully of your life

Area 51 Love Doll

She's purple, with green eyes, three breasts and, according to the package, features "three out of this world love holes." We've heard the Area 51 Love Doll is a popular item at Fantasy for Adults Only on Main Street. Maybe she's in demand because of the included "alien lube." Or, it could be the fact that with no hair, no ears, and supple suction cup fingers, she's the "kinkiest love slave in the galaxy." Regardless of the reason, we think this popular extraterrestrial gal is a superb selection—and just geeky enough—to help satisfy any Trekkie's otherworldly bedroom fantasies.

$28.95. Available at Fantasy for Adults Only, 210 E. Main Street, Missoula.

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To: Year-round folfer

Winter traction

Missoula is home to many an obsessed folfer who isn't deterred by a little snow and ice. Make sure your buddy doesn't fall on his or her keister while chucking a disc around Blue Mountain Disc Golf Course this winter by buying them some traction in the form of YakTrax or Kahtoola MICROspikes. They're like tire chains for your sneakers or boots, giving users sure footing on the trickiest of terrain. The pull-on mini crampons also happen to be great for the devoted sidewalk shovelers, all-season runners and dog walkers on your list. A few different companies make them, including YakTrax (www.yaktrax.com) and Kahtoola (www.kahtoola.com). Some styles aren't exactly cheap, but neither are the alternatives: butt cushions and helmets.

$18–$60. Available at the Trail Head, 221 E. Front Street; Bob Ward's, 3015 Paxson Street; and REI, 3275 N. Reserve Street.

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To: Hunter with poor sense of direction

SPOT Personal Tracker

You love that your partner brings home meat during hunting season, but it's a little disconcerting when they're gone for days at a time, often without cell phone service and no way to call for help if something goes wrong. So buy the hunter in your life—and yourself—a little peace of mind this holiday season in the form of a SPOT Personal Tracker. It's a GPS device with four very cool features, but none of the super-expensive—and often excessive—mapping technologies. Push the "911" button in the event of a critical emergency to notify emergency services of your GPS location. Push the "Help" button in the event of a non-life threatening emergency. And push the "OK" button to tell select family and friends that all's good in the woods. Plus, you can use the "Track Progress" feature to send your location to Google Maps, where others can watch your progress. Pretty snazzy, and relatively easy on the budget. Happy hunting.

$99, plus $99/year for a service plan. Available at Bob Ward & Sons, 3015 Paxson Street; REI, 3275 N. Reserve Street; and Wholesale Sports, 2523 N. Reserve Street.

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To: Depressed liberals

Chia Obama

Nothing says big change like a Chia Obama. Okay, maybe that's a bit of a stretch, but here's the thing: Unlike the economy—which, unfortunately, has no step-by-step directions—a Chia pet will prosper and grow if you just follow the easy instructions for seeding and watering. On a side note, you can be reassured that the controversy about the Chia Obama being racist doesn't hold much water considering there's a Chia Washington and a Chia Lincoln. Those presidential Chias, however, are for nostalgic people living in the past. For the progressive and green-thumbed voters, this handmade clay planter and drip tray says, "Yes We Can." I mean, literally. Right there on the side of the clay planter.

$21.99. Available at Rockin Rudy's, 237 Blaine Street.

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To: Anyone on the outside

Inmate-made horsehair belt

This stylish accessory is made of horsehair and "hitched" into geometric designs by a convicted criminal currently serving time at Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge. "Hitching" with horsehair involves making stitches, like knots, in a concentric arrangement on a wooden or wire dowel. It's a time consuming process—which, of course, makes it appropriate under the circumstances.

Inmates make other items, too, including art, beadwork, leather goods and furniture, and 75 percent of the proceeds go directly back to those who made it.

Between $200 and $400. Available at the prison Hobby Store on Main Street in Deer Lodge, across from the Old Prison, or by calling Montana Correctional Enterprises at 406-846-1320 ext 2323.

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To: Klutzy wine-drinker

The Winestein

Wine glasses are the high heels of the drinking world. The delicate stem and quaint vessel is really engineered for those with a keen pinky balance–sexy, but maybe not practical when you're just trying to get a buzz on without ruining someone's carpet. With that idea in mind, the Winestein is the perfect gift for your klutzy friend who's got a wine tooth but can't seem to drink anything without guzzling it. The wine glass inside of a beer mug allows less-than-graceful people to enjoy their favorite red, white or pink drink in style but with the ability to hold tight to the hefty handle of a beer glass. Put another way, this gift gives them a figurative handle on their drinking situation—at least until the fourth round.

$19.99. Available at Liquid Planet, 223 N. Higgins in Missoula.

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