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Monday, December 13, 2004



The ABC's of Christmas


Gifting is the obligation of the season. How to approach it? Why not alphabetically? It's as good a device as any for examining a range of ideas for holiday giving. Check out our suggestions, which cover all age groups and a plethora of special interests.


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A is for anime

Give that anime fan on your list a gift of registration to the first Kawaii Con in April -- billed as "Hawaii's very own anime convention and conference." The event at the Ala Moana Hotel promises voice talent panels, video rooms, hard-to-get anime swag and rabid fans dressed as Final Fantasy characters -- all that stuff isle otaku have had to travel to the mainland to see in years past. Three-day registration is $35 and includes a free T-shirt; sign up at www.kawaii-kon.org.

Another idea, especially if you're introducing someone to the wide world of anime, is movies from the famed Studio Ghibli. The blockbuster "Spirited Away" (above) is an excellent choice and will be appreciated by adults as well as children. For more kid-friendly fare, try "My Neighbor Totoro," "Kiki's Delivery Service" or the "Sherlock Hound" series. Adults may also like "Princess Mononoke," "Grave of the Fireflies" or "Castle in the Sky."

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B is for big bouncing ball

The bouncy exercise ball is a model of versatility in one gift. Stretching, rocking and otherwise working out with the ball strengthens abdominal and back muscles, and loosens tight hips, says Dr. Ye Nguyen of Sacred Healing Arts. Birthing women can use the ball to assist labor and would later do well to sit on it while nursing. The gentle bounce calms baby while improving mom's posture.

Non-exercising/laboring/breastfeeding folk can replace an office chair with this ball and reap the benefits of comfort, improved balance and a strong lower back. Check out yoga shops, big-box stores, sporting good shops and online sources for this gift of health.

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C is for candy factories

The boxes imply that these "toys" are for children but adults will have just as much fun making the candies they enjoyed when they were younger. We tested three of WHAM-O's candy factories -- the Lifesavers Gummies Flavor Factory, Marshmallow Peeps and Baskin & Robbins Double Scoop Ice Cream Shop. The Lifesavers factory was easiest to use (all are for ages 5 and up); the ice cream shop needed the most adult supervision and was the most tiring (you'll have to crank the machine). Overall, the factories provide a great shared family activity -- made even more enjoyable in the end when everyone enjoys the spoils. The factories cost around $15 with refills available at select toy stores for around $9 or online at www.WHAM-O.com.

D is for dog bed

Don't be shortsighted when gifting your furry best friend. While Milkbones may be delectable, once the box is empty, it's all over. How about a gift that keeps on giving?

Dog beds fit the bill; they also fit every budget. No-frills foam beds, all sizes, are a mere $18 at Petland Ala Moana. At the other end of the spectrum are "shabby chic vintage quilted beds" for $70 at Hawaii Doggie Bakery and Gift Shop at Ward Warehouse. In between: a 42-inch round bed with cedar chips at Costco ($22.59), or an actual mattress bed (starts at $39) at Pet's Discount in Salt Lake.

Make your selection, then it's sweet dreams, doggie.

E is for Elvis

The legend of Elvis Presley lives on in two deluxe edition DVDs of his most important TV specials: his 1968 comeback show and, of special interest to local fans, the 1973 "Aloha from Hawaii" telecast from what was then the Honolulu International Center Arena (nee Blaisdell).

Of the two, the '68 comeback special ($49.98) is the most important in a historical context. It would hearken Elvis' triumphant return to live performance after his stint as a Hollywood star. Included are two complete versions of the jam sessions and solo concerts -- with Elvis clad in black leather and working up a sweat.

On the "Aloha" deluxe set ($29.98), Elvis was interviewed by then-KPOI deejay Tom Moffatt about his Hawaii show. He simply said "it's the biggest show I've ever done."

It would be the one concert that captured Elvis at his peak in the '70s. The DVD includes the post-concert song session, with renditions of "Blue Hawaii" and "Hawaiian Wedding Song."

While either DVD set would make a fine Xmas gift, if you're a tried-and-true Elvis fan, you can't have one without the other.

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F is for flask

This gift of holiday cheer will last all year long -- a stainless steel flask.

Ranging from about $10 to $25, most flasks carry between 5 and 6 ounces of liquor. Most are rectangular, to fit easily into a jacket or pants pocket. Check Web sites such as executivegiftshoppe.com, drinkingstuff.com or eFlasks.com for a wider variety of shapes and embossed designs such as sports team logos. You can even find flasks with built-in cigar or cigarette holders.

Locally, check liquor stores, Waikiki gift shops or the swap meet. The Liquor Collection in Ward Warehouse has more than a half-dozen types in stock.

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Gis for Godfather

Mario Puzo was never interested in writing a sequel to his masterpiece, "The Godfather," but before his death in 1999, he approved the idea of someone else taking on the task. Novelist Mark Winegardner was thus anointed by Puzo's publisher, Random House.

Critics have applauded the novel, which covers the Corleone family from the mid-1950s to early 1960s, bridging Puzo's novel and the three "Godfather" movies. Winegardner fleshes out the stories of the weakest Corleone son, Fredo, adopted son Tom Hagen and the Hollywood relation, Johnny Fontaine. "Written so tightly that it squeaks," one critic wrote.

List price is $26.95.

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H is for hula doll

So kitchsy they're cool, hula girl dashboard dolls are a fun, lighthearted way to spread aloha during the holidays and long after.

Hawaiiana collectibles expert Joe O'Neill said the swaying charmers, made in Japan and introduced in the 1950s, originally sold for 99 cents to $2 each.

These days, find the little dancers at ABC Stores, made in China and priced at about $7. At Hilo Hattie's stores, they sell for $6.99 to $7.99, depending on style.

The real deal is pricey -- $40 to $350 based on condition at O'Neill's Hawaii Antique Center on Kapahulu. If the girl has a chenille lei or a silk-flower, expect to pay more. Shane Ferreira over at The Hunter in Kailua has three in his store, some with chenille leis, at $60 to $75.

Get shakin' and check these out.

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I is for incense

Who knew bamboo and hibiscus could smell so good? Tommy Bahama has managed to combine the two to create a scent of the tropics that also looks fabulous. Called INfluence Fruits & Passion, the decorative scented ensemble sells for $50.

Here's the twist with this incense: no messy ashes, so it's pretty enough that you'll never want to put it away. A stylish glass cube holds the liquid, and strands of bamboo placed into it, like flowers in a vase, lift the scent into the room.

The miniature version ($18) is the more familiar type with sticks that are burned. The 90 sticks included are not dipped, but crafted from incense paste and each will burn for about 15 minutes. Both are available at Tommy Bahama, Ala Moana Center third floor. Call 955-8869.

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J is for jazz

Jazz is all about reimagining and improvising on source music, and the sounds emanating from today's DJ culture are a reflection of that. In a smart marketing move, the venerable Verve label gave carte blanche to some of the better deejays to redo selections from its vast catalog, resulting in two volumes of "Verve/Remixed."

Recommended for the young dance enthusiast (or aging, if still open-eared, jazzbo), the remixes range from those that closely hew to the spirit of the original to radical reworkings that strongly bear the stamp of the deejay.

The good thing about this project is that the budget-priced, unadulterated originals remain available. List price is $18.98.

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K is for Kikaida

Introduce a new generation of fans to Kikaida with DVDs from the nine-volume set released by JN Productions.

The show was an instant hit when it premiered on Hawaii television screens in February 1974. In 2002, almost three decades later, the first volume was released. The final DVD in the series hit stores in October.

Besides each of the 43 episodes in the television series, the DVDs include Kikaida karaoke music videos, interviews with Ban Daisuke (the actor who played Jiro) and behind-the-scenes factoids.

Individual volumes are available at local Wal-Mart, Borders Books and Music, Sam Goody's and Blockbuster locations. Shirokiya also offers a special three-pack of Volumes 1 to 3 for $29.99.

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L is for Lush scents

From the Christmas Candy Cane bubble bar ($6.95) to the Sinter Klaas ballistic (named for the Dutch Sintaklaas -- $5.95), soaps from the new Lush store in Waikiki will keep the holiday mood in the air.

Lush also has something for party animals who need a quick pick-me-up -- the Party On Temple Balm ($7.95), infused with lemongrass, lime and peppermint oils, plus a little coffee to help keep users awake. Other products: glitter massage bars ($5.95 to $12.95) and gift sets ($19.95 to $164.95) to introduce newbies to the products. Beware though, many Christmas products are seasonal, so if anyone falls in love with your gift, they'll have to wait a year to get more. Lush hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Call 923-5874.

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M is for mochi

Sweet and oh-so-pretty, mochi is a gift made all the more special because it takes some trouble to obtain. Of course, you can pick up a bargain variety pack at the grocery store, but for a truly gift-worthy selection, you'll have to go to a specialty shop -- for example Fujiya (845-2921) or Nisshodo Candy Store (847-1244), both in Kalihi.

Here you'll find the freshest, most colorful mochi. Select individual pieces with such fillings as chestnut, peanut butter and fruit. Mochi is traditional among Japanese at New Year's, but a gift box would be a pretty hostess gift or a nice offering for anyone who appreciates the soft, sweet treats.

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N is for nothing

The "Gift of Nothing" delivers karma points. "Mutts" Cartoonist Patrick McDonnell designed a gift box containing a card that explains the concept: Proceeds from each box sold are donated to Toys for Tots. The idea was born in a 1997 Mutt's strip, in which Mooch the Cat ponders the question, "What do you give a guy who has everything?"

Reader response was overwhelming and McDonnell decided to expand the strip into a charitable endeavor. Although recipients receive nothing, a child will get something. Random boxes will include a pink sock, similar to the one that Mooch loves. A grand-prize box will entitle the receiver to an original piece of "Mutts" art. The 4-inch square box is $12, available at www.MuttsComics.com.

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O is for obi

The obi, or kimono sash, has long ceased to be a fashion accessory, but the beauty and detail of the fine, embroidered works gave them a second life as decorative pieces, making them worthy of consideration for giftees with an appreciation for fiber arts and craftsmanship.

Obi are most frequently used as table runners or as accent pieces on chests or pianos. Craftier pals can probably find a multitude of uses for the exquisite fabric, whether refashioning into more contemporary garb, or making pillow cases. The fabric is also beautiful enough to be framed. Pieces measure 6 to 12 inches wide, and more than 12 feet long. Find them for as little as $20 and up to $500 at Garakuta-do, 433 Koula St., where they are on sale for 30 percent off through Christmas. Call 589-2262.

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P is for Peter Pan

Enjoy the classic story two ways this season:

» Head to the movies for "Finding Neverland," the remarkable Johnny Depp film that tells the story of how J.M. Barrie wrote the original stageplay. Plan an outing to the theater with friends in lieu of exchanging gifts or buy tickets as a gift for a family.

» Head to the bookstore for "Peter and the Starcatchers," by Dave Barry (the Miami Herald columnist) and Ridley Pearson. This wonderful fantasy-adventure explains how Peter came to Neverland. Like the "Harry Potter" books, it appeals to all ages, from the very young as a read-aloud tale, to the young-at-heart adult.

Q is for quarters

When was the last time two bits cost you eight bits? A dollar is the average cost of a pristinely "collectible" statehood quarter.

We're about halfway through a 10-year plan to release statehood commemorative quarters, at the rate of five a year. We won't see Hawaii's until the end of 2009 and the design has not yet been selected. Dealers such as Hawaiian Island Stamp & Coin sell mint -- shiny and unblemished -- statehood quarters for $1 each.

To display this booty, consider a U.S. wall map, with quarter-sized slots, or a coin album ($13 and $25 at Hawaiian Island). Simple fold-out slot books are sold at hobby shops (around $8).

Dealers also sell "colorized" sets of statehood quarters. A set of five goes for more than $25.

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R is for Roomba

Home shoppers and couch potatoes have seen this device on TV: a robotic vacuum cleaner that glides around, picking up dust, lint and other creatures that lurk on the floor. When its energy runs low, it makes its way back to its docking station to get recharged. For older folk, this makes a great gift, as it's light and easy to use. And for those short on time, the Roomba will clean while you shop, work or just want to catch a little shut-eye.

Find the Roomba at Sharper Image for $249.95 (it's out of stock at the Ala Moana location but can be ordered in three to five working days). Too much? Sharper Image offers another robotic vacuum, the remote-control e-Vac (pictured below, for $199.95.

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S is for stole

December always arrives with the prettiest cocktail dresses, and what happens? It's cold and rainy the night of your big event, forcing you to throw a jacket or sweater over that perfect dress. What a shame.

The solution: pretty fur stoles, both real and faux, in a rainbow of such non-traditional holiday hues as fuchsia, violet and chartreuse.

Furs? Hawaii? Disconnect? Not a chance. Henry DeLeon, manager of the Women's Galleria at Neiman Marcus says the Ala Moana store topped all NMs in the nation in sales of the furs, which younger fans have also been wearing with tank tops and jeans.

Chetta B fox stoles start at $290 at NM. Acrylic, rabbit and wool versions at BCBG are about $100 (now marked down). Faux versions in hot pink, white and black are $20 at Claire's, and $24 in rabbit and $39.50 in faux leopard at Wet Seal.

T is for trolley ride

Spend quality time rather than dollars with those who matter in your life: Take a ride on the Honolulu City Lights Trolley Tour, which runs nightly from Ward Warehouse through Dec. 30 (except Dec. 24 and 25).

The tour, which passes through light-bedecked downtown Honolulu and around the elaborately decorated Honolulu Hale block, is a festive 30-minute event, complete with Christmas carols blaring from trolley speakers.

Tickets are just $3.50 apiece, and each purchase benefits the Hawaii Foodbank. Call 589-1788.

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U is for U2

The new U2 album, "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb," is the Irish quartet's least fussy yet most powerful in a long, celebrated career. The album takes U2 trademarks -- the Edge's shimmering, cascading guitar, Bono's wail-in-a-windstorm vocals, and optimism in the face of a punishing world -- and turns them into blissful blasts of rock 'n' roll.

"Atomic Bomb" partially was influenced by the death of Bono's father from cancer in 2001. But even at its most mournful, the disc reverberates with the joy of life and affirmation.

V is for video game system

It's time to get rid of that old Game Boy and move on -- to the Nintendo DS, with dual computer processors, wireless networking and a color touch screen right below the main gaming screen that is getting high marks from reviewers.

The system costs around $150 and plays old Game Boy cartridges. Its 3-D graphics and stereo sound are a plus, but the cool thing is the built-in speech-recognition feature, which means eventually users will be able to control the games by talking to them.

Unfortunately, many stores are already sold out and can't guarantee another next shipment before Christmas. You could always give an I.O.U., though!

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Wis for Warhol

Make your 15 minutes of fame last in the form of an Andy Warhol-like psychedelic print. Thanks to allpopart.com, a division of HotGoldfish, any snapshot can be transformed into pop art.

Configurations abound, check the Web site at allpopart.com, but a 20-by-24-inch version -- one photo in four different panels printed on canvas -- costs about $225 framed, plus $27 for shipping; rolled, $151.

At this late date, they'll design a nice gift certificate made out to any amount to present as your gift and send it to you priority mail or via the courier of your choice. Just call (877) 728-9278 toll free, charge it and it'll be good to go. All the lucky gift recipient needs to do is send along any snapshot with their specs. Hurry, the sooner you call the better.

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X is for Xbox games

The Xbox game of the moment is "Halo 2," a first-person shooter/adventure that features a new online mode through Xbox Live (requires a monthly fee, although certain games such as "Halo 2" include two-month free trials.) The multiplayer mode was what really boosted the popularity of the original, and the sequel's online capability vastly expands that realm.

The blockbuster role-playing game "Fable" is another must-get. Popular franchise games for the Xbox include "Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords" and "The Urbz: Sims in the City."

And for the players who can't get enough of online gaming, starter kits are available that include a three- or 12-month Xbox Live subscription and communicator headset.

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Y is for yourself

Spending money is easy; spending time takes a far greater commitment. So strike a double blow: against conspicuous consumption and for true sharing. Give a bit of yourself. Promise to mow the yard for a neighbor, to cook a meal for a friend. Surely you can think of something.

The Web site www.buynothingchristmas.org offers colorful coupons you can download offering a night of childcare, a back massage or a specially made dessert.

Z is for zoo adoptions

Whether you fancy flamingos or are passionate about primates, an animal adoption is a great gift idea. Adoption funds are used for wildlife education, conservation projects, animal enrichment and habitat improvements. Various levels of adoption are available, starting at $35. The basic package includes a 4-by-6-inch matted photo of the animal, a certificate of adoption, an animal fact sheet and a bumper sticker that says, "I adopted a wild child at the Honolulu Zoo." Call 926-3191, ext. 13.


Compiled by Star-Bulletin staff writers Nancy Arcayna, Burl Burlingame, Gary C.W. Chun, Wilma Jandoc, Nadine Kam, Ruby Mata-Viti, Joleen Oshiro, Michelle Ramos, Betty Shimabukuro and Jason Yadao; and Cary Darling of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.



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