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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.