Checking it twice: What to get for whom on your holiday list

If you haven't even thought about how to attack your monster of a shopping list, have no fear. Here are details on what to look for, where to go and how much you can expect to spend on the family and friends who made your gift list. Also, look for the "SHOP D.C." tag to learn more about those stores that haven't made it to your hometown yet.

MOMMY DEAREST As our mothers get older, they get to choose one of two fashion paths: Hip Grandma-dom or Marmsville, USA. We hope, your mother will choose the former, but if she's a little confused, you can find some cool-yet-sophisticated gifts for her at Banana Republic, Ann Taylor and Chico's. Banana Republic and Ann Taylor feature classic tailoring, superior fabrics and nice jewelry with prices ranging from about $20 to $400. Chico's has less traditional, funky jewelry and more hippie-inspired clothing at prices similar to Banana Republic and Ann Taylor. If you're looking to spend less, check out Banana Republic's and Ann Taylor's lower-end counterparts: Gap and Ann Taylor Loft.

SHOP D.C.: Gazelle is a clothing, jewelry and accessories boutique located in the Chevy Chase Pavilion in Friendship Heights on Metro's Red Line. The store has unique figurines, necklaces and clothing, some of which is handcrafted by selected artists. Normal hours are 10 a.m. - 6:30 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Fridays and 12-5 p.m. Sundays. Call (202) 686-5656 for more information.

FATHER (THINKS HE) KNOWS BEST Unfortunately, fathers usually have little to say about their dwindling coolness. Therefore, it's your job to help dear old Dad out of the tweed elbow-patch blazer and into something a little less "Mr. Roger's Neighborhood."

If you have a nice amount of money to spend, check out the Spanish import Zara, located on Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown. There you'll find plenty of Zoolander-esque "male model" shirts, but also some modern and practical shirts, pants and accessories that can adequately spruce up a conservative wardrobe.

If your dad is into technology, try the Sharper Image or Brookstone stores, which both have cool, but fairly expensive, items that any aspiring Inspector Gadget will love.

SHOP D.C.: For the literary dad, try Kramerbooks & Afterwords, a very cool bookstore directly across from the Q Street exit at the Dupont Circle Metro stop. The store maintains a book collection that is as hip and diverse as its clientele. Go with a friend and enjoy the caf? and grill located in the back.

SISTER, SISTER Shopping for young women seems easy because every other store in the mall appears to have some glittery tank top or rhinestone brooch just beckoning to some French-manicured member of the teeny-bop set. Alas, it gets complicated. If your sister has discriminating tastes, but can also pick up a trend or two, hit Forever 21 and BCBG for trendy styles that can also serve as accents for more classic pieces. However, the trends are about the only thing these two stores have in common.

If your bank account is on life support, stay out of BCBG - you'll just get depressed. The clothes, shoes and accessories are beautiful, but the nothing-less-than-$100 prices are tailor-made for rich girls. But if you love BCBG too much to stay away, try the cheaper "BCBG Girls" line, which features clothing, shoes, handbags and perfumes that are sold at places like TJ Maxx and Loehmann's. On the other hand, Forever 21 is the thrifty girl's party central. You can find $2 thongs, $5 earrings and $30 blazers. Get a Sephora gift card (which can also be used online) to keep the beauty junkie happy. Or you can get your sister one of the makeup giant's best sellers, the Mally Roncal Star Struck palette, which is a special set of eyeshadows, powder and glosses designed by the woman who is responsible for keeping Beyonce looking better than the rest of us.

SHOP D.C.: If your sister has a handbag fetish, you have to get her something at Fornash, a small boutique located in The Shops at Georgetown Park on the main drag of M Street. Privately owned and operated, the store allows customers to design their own purses with different handles and fabrics. Fornash also has belts and keychains made of grosgrain ribbon. Prices range from $40 to $225. Call (202) 338-0774 for more information.

BROTHERLY LOVE You can find guys fashion basics at the Gap and Urban Outfitters. The Gap is known for its classic, all-American look, while Urban Outfitters features shirts emblazoned with phrases like "Ain't Nothin' Like a Sausage Party!" and "Beaver Fever." Whichever route you decide to take, you'll be able to find reasonable gear for your probably fashion-challenged sibling. If he's into video games, try Best Buy, which is having a sale on its Playstation greatest hits games like "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City" and "SOCOM II: U.S. Navy SEALs"

SHOP D.C.: With three locations (Georgetown, Pentagon City and Georgia Avenue), Up Against the Wall is a clothing store for the coolest of the cool. The store features a wide range of East Coast fashions for men and women at decent prices. It sells labels like Sean John and Ecko and even sold P. Diddy's ubiquitous "Vote or Die" shirt during the election.

NUTTY PROFESSORS There are those of us who actually like our professors as people and want to get them something nice for the holidays. Then again, there are those of us who are just desperate brown-nosers. Whatever category you fall under, you can't go wrong with a nice book. Try any Borders location for a wide selection of books and nice gifts like metal bookmarks, blank notes, leather journals and book lamps, usually ranging in price from $2 to $60. For the fashion-challenged professor (and God, there are a lot of them), look for some nice leather goods in one of four D.C.-area Kenneth Cole stores (Georgetown, Pentagon City, Tysons Corner and Montgomery Mall). You'll find wallets, key chains, earrings and watches from $25 to $150. If you want to get your professor something, but don't know him or her well enough to feel comfortable shopping for books or jewelry, a restaurant gift card might be a good way to suck up in the spirit of giving.

SHOP D.C.: You can smell LUSH about half a block away. The English-based bath and beauty store is on M Street in Georgetown and has some of the most luscious handmade soaps, bath bombs, lotions and powders ever to hit stateside, from $4 to $150. Why not treat one of the professors who work so hard to keep us insanely busy?

MY BOO Holiday shopping for your significant other depends on how significant he or she is to you. If you've only been dating a short time, you may not feel comfortable exchanging gifts. For those who've been dating for months or even years, trying to find an original or spontaneous gift might be difficult.

For nice clothes sure to flatter your mate's body, try H&M, which has both men's and women's Euro-inspired clothing in its extensive inventory. You're sure to find something fashionable and practical that your girlfriend or boyfriend will model for you later.

The Body Shop has a wide range of lotions, body oils, candles, and perfumes that will entice the partner you have, or attract a new one. Give one of the thick body butters or the essential oils.

For the die-hard romantics, you can have a frame, jewelry box, or figurine engraved with your names, birthdays or anniversary dates at Things Remembered in Montgomery Mall. This store specializes in personalized items and can make gifts to last, even if your relationship doesn't. Holiday purchases usually come with a free gift.

SHOP D.C.: Find sweets for your sweet at cakelove on U Street. This cute little bakery makes $2 cupcakes and specialty cakes with clever names like "Least Common Denominator," "My Downfall" and "Chitchat Stopper" for $20 to $105. Call (202) 588-7100 for details.

FRIENDS IN LOW PLACES So many friends, so little money. If this is your dilemma, you can slyly avoid giving a gift if you don't mind the idea of not receiving one. Only buy gifts for very close friends and hold out on the others until you see what they may or may not have gotten you. But, if you're more about the giving then getting, head to TJ Maxx, Target and the Container Store to find some bargains for your friends.

"The Maxx" has plenty of cheap clothing, shoes, jewelry and beauty products to suit the needs of even your pickiest friends. You can also find nice clothes and housewares at Target, and you can't go wrong with a gift card. For cool gadgets and novelties, go to the Container Store, which has a wide selection of cute and useful stocking stuffers like a mini survival kit and portable laptop fan. Stocking stuffers range from $3 to $40.

SHOP D.C.: For your anti-authoritarian friends, go to Commander Salamander, a punky little store hidden on Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown. You'll find funny T-shirts, funky shoes, Hello Kitty gear and a staff proud to believe in "Viva La Goth!" Call (202) 337-2265 for more information.

ODDS AND ENDS For some people, there is no overwhelming difference between the role that pets, roommates and co-workers play in their lives. This section is dedicated to these people, in the hopes that they don't get the gifts mixed up.

Gift cards work well for co-workers who you know well enough to see that a Starbucks card will go a long way. You can find some nice things for your roommate(s) at Pottery Barn or Crate & Barrel. A bonus to finding gifts here is that the vase you get them will probably end up in the living room you share.

If you're into getting gifts for your pets, try one of the many D.C.-area PetCo stores, which have plenty of treats, toys and beds for the animal you love.

SHOP D.C.: For the political activists in your "others" group, check out the Human Rights Campaign Store in Dupont Circle. The store, which is owned by the gay and lesbian advocacy organization of the same name, has T-shirts, hats, candles, mugs, frames and other gifts emblazoned with the HRC's equality logo. It also has fun greeting cards, magnets and novelty gifts from $5 to $80. Call (202) 232-8621 for details.

THE UNEXPECTED GIFT So, it's the last day of class and that nerdy girl who always tries to sit next to you (and succeeds) is looking extra giddy and quite pleased with herself. You don't get it, and hope that she won't bore you today with a long story about how SpongeBob SquarePants is the one person, living or dead, she would love to have over for dinner.

Yet, instead of delving into her dorky soliloquy, your nerd (who we'll call "Hortense") pulls a shiny, gift-wrapped box from her backpack and hands it to you along with a card. "I was in Talbots and I saw something that reminded me of you," she says. Shock! Horror! Not only did she get you something, but she got it at Talbots. You have nothing for her but a nervous smile. Pop quiz, hotshot: What's your next move?

Like any polite person, you say thank you and wait until you're alone to see what genre of abomination sweet little Hortense has picked out especially for you. If she insists on seeing your reaction when you open it, remain stoic and dignified while you open your new snowman cardigan. (You'll put your re-gifting plan for this piece into action later, of course.) If you look up and Hortense is watching your every move and is practically demanding a gift from you, there are three things you can do:

1) Card her: Pick up a nice holiday card and mail it to her home address. Even though it's not as fancy as say, a snowman cardigan, both of you will be glad you made the effort.

2) Re-gift her: Because you're bound to get some crappy gifts over the break, keep one of the extra special ones around for Hortense. When you get back from break drop it off and wish her well.

3) Grinch her: This is obviously the least desirable of the three options, but it will almost surely work out. If you do decide to dis' her, you can justify your cold-heartedness with the assumption that Hortense knew you weren't good friends anyway, and shouldn't have wasted her money.

We hope you won't fall victim to the "surprise gift" this holiday season, but if so, try to let poor Hortense down gently.

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