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When In Doubt...

Classic gifts

 Special Advertising Supplement

Let's fast-forward to a possible, even likely, not-too-distant future. Think of this as an allegorical passion play, if you will. It's December 24, and our hapless perfectionist of a protagonist, who shall remain unnamed, is braving the borderline chaotic and ever-maddening crowd of like-minded procrastinators in one of the city's many malls. For seven hours he or she (for the purpose of this story, our hero shall remain gender-neutral) has been in this environment, this environment that can only be described as a sheer love-fest. Having already witnessed loving parents morph into fire-breathing demons and fighting over the last Blue's Clues talking Steve (which comes complete with his own working light saber in this season's most bizarre cross-promotional marketing blitz engineered by that behemoth of promotional overload, George Lucas, in anticipation of next summer's Star Wars -- Attack of the Clones) and unable to find the perfect gift for that special someone, our hero decides that originality in gift giving is entirely overrated. So that special someone (child, spouse, parent, etc.) will yet again this year be receiving something extraordinarily unspecial. And while money in a card can lead to wonderful things, it just lacks the pizzazz of something more tangible.

Now, this is probably a bit of an exaggeration (and any cross-promotion taking place at Christmastime will no doubt have something to do with some movie about magical golden rings or some snot-nosed little wizard in training), but the scenario is one we're all too familiar with this time of year. We wait, and then at the very last minute set out to find that one item that will win the much-coveted prize of "best gift of the year." Often-times, though, we forget that some of the most endearing gifts that can be given at the holidays are the most tried and true staples of the Christmas season. It's so easy to get caught up in the trendy, next-big-thing mindset that today's marketing gurus push upon us.

Renaissance Platinum is available in Houston at jeweler Louis Tenenbaum.
Renaissance Platinum is available in Houston at jeweler Louis Tenenbaum.

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Visit our Holiday Guide for more holiday ideas.

So this year we set out to make life a little easier for you...and for ourselves! We're going to offer a few suggestions for finding that totally perfect gift, that timeless treasure, that gift that will win us all the love and adoration we could ever hope to buy, and hopefully make the whole pro-cess a little less stressful.

Gifts for the Kiddos

When everything is said and done, Christmas is all about children. When-ever a picture is drawn depicting the Christmas season, it more often than not has a child at the very heart of it. Think about it. How many times have we seen images of children sitting around a Christmas tree, children building a snowman, having snowball fights, or skating on an icy pond, or a child lying wide awake in bed, waiting eagerly to hear the bells of Santa's sleigh? Even the religious imagery of Christmastime re-volves around a child, the Christ child. In fact, the image of the baby Jesus lying in a manger is perhaps the single most recognizable and meaningful image the season has to offer.

It's not an accident, then, that Christmas takes on a whole new meaning when pertaining to kids. For a child, there is no greater time of year. So this year, make Christmas just that much more special for your little one. If they are into being outside, get something that will make them enjoy it even more. A bicycle makes a great gift for kids of any age. There are so many different models to choose from at so many different stores. If you're serious about finding a good two-wheeler for your kiddo, though, be sure to check stores like Sun & Ski Sports (713-783-8180), Academy (713-520-1795) and Toys R Us (713-785-8697). You can also visit local area Target stores, Wal-Marts and Kmarts for some more basic models.

Kids today are becoming more and more adept in using computers, in many cases more so than their parents. As a result, a new classic for holiday gift giving is computer game units and games. Whether it's Sony's Play Station 2, Nin-tendo's soon-to-be-released Game Cube, or the upcoming X-Box from Microsoft, all offer a level of excitement of unrivaled proportions. Check stores such as Best Buy (713-552-1512), Circuit City (713-777-7550), Wal-Mart (713-977-2099) and Tar-get (713-975-6876).

Board games, the precursor of video games, have always been a great pastime for kids, and today, many of the top-selling games are the same ones that were at the top years ago. Games such as Mono-poly, Scrabble, Clue, Candy Land, Life, Operation and Hungry, Hungry Hippos are still as fun today as they ever were. Another game of sorts that seems to be primed for resurgence into popular culture is the Rubik's Cube. Now a whole new generation can get addicted to that incredibly frustrating puzzle of immense impossibility. Most of these games can be found at stores like Toys R Us, Target, Wal-Mart and Kmart.

There's a world of discovery for every child who has the good fortune to own a model train set. Brio train and track sets, along with their compatible counterparts from Thomas and Friends, offer enjoyment beyond compare. They can be found at The Train Store (713-521-4587), The Toy Maker (713-521-2251) and Trains and Planes Hobby Store (713-977-1420).

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