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Gifts that make the season bright

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It's that time of year once again when almost everyone decides to show his or her appreciation with gifts. Whether you are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or even Festivus (you know who you are), chances are good that in the past few weeks you have been spending money like it's going out of style. But if you're anything like me, finding that perfect gift always seems to be just out of reach. I mean, really, what are you supposed to get that friend who has everything, that parent who says she doesn't want anything or that sister who immediately asks for the receipts? If this situation sounds familiar, take a deep breath and read on for some ideas that just may help you cross a few names off that ever-growing list.

Sur La Table, located in Bridgeport Village (7479 S.W. Bridgeport Road), offers scores of items for that special someone who never leaves the kitchen. With everything from cookbooks to mixers to utensils to cookie cutters to glassware, this specialty shop seems to have it all. According to some incredibly helpful Sur La Table employees, espresso makers are hot sellers this time of year, and the Nespresso Le Cube ($299) is one that deserves a second look. With 19 bars of pressure, the highest on the market, this little machine uses nespresso capsules that guarantee perfect espresso every time. For $89.95 more, get the Aeroccino Milk Warmer And Frother and receive $50 nespresso bucks back by mail. Another good pick is the AeroGarden ($149.95), a revolutionary technology that grows plants anywhere without dirt or mess. This machine uses seed pods that guarantee a harvest in 28 days, ensuring fresh salad greens, herbs, chili peppers, cherry tomatoes and more, any time of the year.

Anybody who knows outdoors knows that R.E.I. is the place to go. And at the Tualatin store (7410 S.W. Bridgeport Road), racks and racks of winter clothing mingle with bicycles, tents and backpacking gear. Looking for some waterproof matches? They got 'em. How about some thick socks? Check. And a Leatherman combination knife? You're sure to find it here. A good choice for that person who loves being active but also knows how to enjoy the finer things in life (i.e., dessert) is the Camper's Dream Ice Cream Maker. For $39, this handy little ball makes one quart of ice cream in 20 minutes without electricity; just add cream, sugar and ice and roll the ball back and forth.

With enough titles to make your head spin and a magnificent new building to house them all, the new Powell's at Beaverton's Cedar Hills Crossing (3415 S.W. Cedar Hills Blvd.) is just the place to find that next literary masterpiece. But even though Powell's is known for its books, it also has a large assortment of off-the-wall items that make great gifts. Take, for instance, Slang Flashcards and Slang Flashcards 2 ($14.50 each). The tag lines on these read: 'Are you over 30? Nerdy, uncool, or simply suburban? Get hip in mere days!' And with examples that include 'wanksta' and 'grip,' as well as proper usage of the terms ('Put a grip of sugar in my coffee- that's how I stay so mad sweet'), these cards are sure to turn even the biggest square into a verbal know-it-all. Also look for the Office Espionage Kit (for $14.95, it comes with everything you need to be able to spy on your coworkers, including a micro listening device, invisible ink pen, mirrors for making a spy periscope and an espionage handbook) and language magnets ($19.95).

Some of the hottest electronic toys of this season can be found on the shelves of your favorite stores, including Best Buy (3055 S.W. Cedar Hills Blvd. in Beaverton) and Target (21365 S.W. Baler Way in Sherwood). Keep your eyes open for the tiny and clippable iPod Shuffle, which holds up to 240 songs and weighs a measly .6 ounces. Also check out Zune, Microsoft's new music player. With 30 GB of space, a built-in FM tuner, wireless Zune-to-Zune sharing and three available colors, this product is sure to be a hit this Christmas.

Even people who have never been to Hawaii love the idea of a tropical getaway. Since few people are able to afford that expensive of a gift, the Freaky Tiki Retro Deck in Beaverton (9620 S.W. Beaverton Hillsdale Highway) can help you give the gift of tropical without the steep price tag. Items of interest in this eight-month-old business include pirate- and tropical-themed novelty items, retro furniture, neon signs and a hodgepodge of other items. For the person who seems to have everything under the sun, how about buying a wooden mask decoration ($38) to round out his or her decorating scheme?

Know someone who likes licorice? With 32 different kinds on hand, Hans and Lia Middlehoven's Dutch American Market and Import (9575 S.W. Beaverton Hillsdale Highway), is a good bet for finding something for that person. Includes licorice drops, fish shaped licorice and many other varieties, ranging from sweet to somewhat salty to very salty. Other items of interest in the store include Delft pottery and wooden shoes ($31.99). And don't forget to pick up a chocolate letter, which is an Americanized way to enjoy the Dutch tradition of celebrating Sinterclause.

And last but not least, don't forget the safe and easy gift card option. With area shopping centers such as Bridgeport Village, Washington Square and Cedar Hills Crossing all loaded with fun products they love, the only difficult part is choosing which store to get the gift card at.