Glorious gift-giving and other wonderful holiday stuff

We make it easy for you, offering up a selection of people in your life and how to buy for them. Follow our instructions and see faces light up when the wrapping is pulled off.

For the fantasy nerd

It's a fair bet that most local nerds will want to catch the release of the new Jim Cameron science-fiction feature Avatar later this month. Help them do it by giving an Empire Theatres Gift Card. Until December 24, if you put $30 or more on a gift card, you get a $30 coupon bundle with all kinds of movie-going savings, useful into the new year. The Book of Eli comes out January 15, 2010, and your favourite nerd will want to see that, too. Visit empiretheatres.com for more info.

Books are always a safe bet. Woozles (1533 Birmingham Street, 423-7626) is a bookstore for children, but you know as well as I do that Young Adult novels, especially those written by the Meyers, Rowlings and Pullmans of the world, appeal to all ages. You'll find them here, along with other "mature readers" titles such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies ($17.99).

Head down to Dust Jacket Books (1505 Barrington Street, 492-0666) in the basement of the Aliant building and find a tower of science fiction in paperback. Yes, they're pre-loved, but many haven't even had their spines broken, and with prices ranging from around $2.50 to $6, a stack would make a great fantasy-nerd stocking-crammer. We found a hardcover copy---10th printing, mind you---of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring for $15 in good condition.

And when books fail you, try comics or comic-related memorabilia. There are a number of comic-book emporiums to choose from in town, including Monster Comic Lounge (2091 Gottingen Street, 429-2398), which has in stock a Conversations With Dead People board from Buffy the Vampire Slayer ($32.95) and a life-size statue of Yoda ($500) among all the comics. And all graphic novels at MCL are 20 percent off the sticker price.

Many fantasy nerds subscribe to a more gothic lifestyle and enjoy the accoutrements, so try Alberto Lorenzo Decor (Dartmouth Crossing, 29 Logiealmond Close, 481-9030). A two-handed Excalibur sword, over three feet long, can be yours for $170, and there are plenty of other fantasy blades in stock. Or visit Morrigan LeFay's Mystical Gifts (79 Alderney Drive, Dartmouth, 444-8267) for locally made Rustic Revolution Pottery by Lilly Greer, mugs and goblets emblazoned with pentagrams and skulls ($35).

Though they are two separate subcultures, gamers and fantasy lovers do overlap occasionally. Try The Last Gamestore (278 Lacewood Drive, 457-7529) for classic arcade games, or if your giftee has a PS3, pick up the new, hi-def God of War Collection package, or Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, both in the $60 range. —CK

For the water baby

Know someone who'd rather be out playing in the waves than stuck on dry land? Bryan Darrell, AKA The Kayak Guy (6050 Almon Street, 453-8866) can help make their water-soaked dreams come true. Sign your friend up for a five-week (one night a week) instructional kayaking course at Centennial Pool ($160). Or, your crafty water baby can build their very own kayak for $699 to $1,500. —CB

For the vertically inspired

Know someone who definitely does not suffer from vertigo? Consider sending them up, up, up with rock climbing lessons. Ground Zero Climbing Gym (Wright Avenue and John Savage Drive, 468-8788) offers day passes for $12, or other membership options ranging from one month ($50), six months ($275) to a year ($350). For $85, you can send them outside on a full-day tour with Vertigo Climbing School (1586 Granville Street, 858-2158). Or they can climb the walls, literally, at the Dalplex Climbing Wall (494-1605, 6260 South Street). Non-members can purchase a three-month Climb Nova Scotia membership for $135, and there is an extra cost for Dalplex members. —CB

For the jack russell- or pug-lover

A trip to Willow's Pet Place (1526 Dresden Row, 405-3161) will uncover plenty of treats for your furry friend, or your friend's furry friend. Check out fortune cookies for dogs by Kung Fu Fido ($7.99). Nibbles of precognitive wisdom include "You will get to the park today" and "Don't forget to stop and eat the roses." To amuse your cat there are the Kitten Mittens ($8.49) that have very long fingers topped by pom-poms, with bells and catnip sewn in. There's also the ever-popular Thing in a Bag ($17.99), which sounds like a great toy, especially if your cat is named after a horror or science fiction character, like Jones or Ryker. The Thing in question is a motor inside a heavy-duty brown paper bag, making it crinkle and move. Irresistible to kitties, we understand. For the Jewish doggies, try the fuzzy dreidels and Star of David-emblazoned dog toys, a great Hanukkah gift ($9.99) found at Glamour Puss & The Naughty Dog Pet Boutique (1551 South Park Street, 405-4763). The store also carries cookies from local pet food makers Three Dog Bakery and tartan collars from Whiskers to Wags ($21.99 through $25.99, depending on the size). -CK

For the What Not to Wear nominee

Perhaps your fashion-challenged friend is just getting into the job market, returning to work or---OK, let's face it---in need of a wardrobe overhaul. Personal shopper and wardrobe consultant Cindy Wheeler from Customizing Wardrobes by Cindy (18 Carlson Court, 456-7297) can help, with services such as a body shape consultation ($75) or body colour analysis ($125). Her wardrobe detox (we love that name, $200) can help make sure you never have to face that faded peasant skirt at Sunday brunch again. —CB

For the time-challenged cook

With the frantic business of keeping up with work, who has time to cook, especially for family or friends? What's for Supper (20-120 Susie Lake Crescent, 876-2936) is a full-service meal preparation facility. That time-challenged individual on your list can cook up a storm in just a couple hours, without the grocery shopping, menu planning or messy kitchen cleanup. For an average of $21.50 per meal, depending on the recipe, they can prepare meals for four to six people. Gift certificates are available in any denomination. With a freezer full of pre-cooked food, your food preparer can breathe easier a few nights a week. —CB

For the knitting knut

For the friend who always needs something to do with their hands, The Loop (1547 Barrington Street, 429-5667) has a bevy of intricately handspun wool by local weaver Elinor Crosby ($20-$30). Who knows? Maybe they'll use the wool to knit you a pair of socks. Talk about re-gifting.

Or if your friend is really ambitious, you can buy her a pack of freshly sheared, hand-dyed fleece from local sheep farms. ($5 for 25 grams, or you can buy it in bulk for 15 cents a gram.)

"The supply of local wool is really unreliable and unpredictable," says Cathy Merriman, co-owner of The Loop. So, like the guy on TV says: Act now while supplies last!

Or you could sashay down to Carbonstok (1235 Barrington Street, carbonstok.com) and look through the animal-shaped accessories by Kenana Knitter Critters. Hand-knit by a group of rural women from Kenya, the Critters range from monkey hats ($30) to elephant scarves ($25). Profits help to pay the women's higher-than-fair-trade wages. And really, who couldn't use a pair of mittens shaped like lions? —JL

For the would-be cowboy

The rustic setting at Hatfield Farms (1840 Hammonds Plains Road, 835-5676) will take you home, home on the range. The farm offers a wide range of horseback riding options, including single trail rides ($32) or riding lessons ($55) for two hours. Pony rides are offered as well as a five-minute introductory mosey ($7) or a half-hour ($37). Christmas and New Year's special packages are also available. Giddy up now, y'all hear? —CB

For the sex addict

What do you get your sex-addict pal who just can't get enough? These gift ideas will heat up the holidays for your friskiest friend:

Get hipster sex fiends the Naughtibod ($99.95) at Venus Envy (1598 Barrington Street, 422-0004). This vibrator plugs into an iPod and vibrates to the beat of the music. Plus, it's rechargeable, so users can feel good about saving the planet while they get off. The perfect toy for someone leaning every possible way is the We Vibe ($99.95 at VE). This vibrator pleasures heterosexual, lesbian and gay partners, providing both g-spot and clitoral stimulation and doubling as a vibrating cock ring.

Your horny friend might also enjoy a gift certificate to X-citement Video (6260 Quinpool Road, 492-0026) starting at $5. Alternately, head to Books R Us (6050 Almon Street, 455-7832) to find some vintage Playboys, full of natural beauties who didn't pump themselves full of silicone. For the bookish stud who could use a good laugh, find a used copy of Robert Greene's The Art of Seduction. Greene teaches seducers how to "isolate" their "victims" and "disarm with strategic weakness and vulnerability." For more sound advice, consult The Guide to Getting it On($29.95 at VE), the Encyclopedia Britannica of sexuality.

Broke? What's better than a Chinese take-out box stuffed with glow-in-the-dark and root-beer-flavoured condoms, vibrating bullets and peach-flavoured lube? Venus Envy sells boxes for $1 each, which you can fill with assorted technicoloured goodies priced as low as 50 cents. Or, grab the sex-crazed-maniac with a sweet tooth a few packets of pop rocks from Freak Lunchbox (1723 Barrington Street, 420-9151) because we all know what those are good for. The hot-and-bothered child-at-heart will enjoy the game Phantasm, an adventurous role-playing game for couples, which goes on for days on end (on sale for $10 at Night Magic, 5268 Sackville Street, 420-9309).

Your freaky friend could use his/her own stainless steel pole ($350 at Studio in Essence, 1717 Barrington Street, 405-5500). Or just buy them their own Twister game (try the Halifax Forum flea market on Sundays) and they'll be on top of their dates in no time. —LH

For the outdoor gourmet

For some people, food just tastes better outside. For the outdoor gourmet in your life, Mountain Equipment Co-op (1550 Granville Street, 421-2667) and The Trail Shop (6210 Quinpool Road, 423-8736) have everything you need to ensure they eat in style without compromising valuable space in their backpack.

Orikaso---"the original fold flat tableware"---sells for $19 at The Trail Shop and includes two sets of fold-into-shape mugs, bowls and plates and comes in four exciting colours including hot pink. Cutlery is also available in a variety of materials and styles, from $2.80 for a telescoping "foon" at MEC to $10.50 for a titanium "spork." For a romantic dinner under the stars, MEC sells stainless steel wine goblets for $8.25 and the Trail Shop sells nesting plastic champagne flutes for $5.75 and pink dripless candles for a quarter each. Raise a glass to Mother Nature. —MW

For the outdoor enthusiast (non-gourmet)

Is your outdoor enthusiast friend into climbing sheer cliffs? Doing bike tricks off a city railing? Visiting other countries and cultures? There's a present for that: tickets to the Banff Mountain Film Festival's world tour, arriving in Halifax January 26 and 27, 2010. It's a travelling festival screening films at Empire Park Lane (5657 Spring Garden Road, 442-1111) about culture, environment and outdoor sports, with one night's ticket price at $15, both nights for $25. Get tickets soon at The Trail Shop in either Halifax or Wolfville---the festival sells out each year.

Cool footage aside, you can't gift-buy for the outdoor enthusiast without getting into the land of gadgets. A cool stocking stuffer for the eco-conscious is the Stapleless Stapler ($8.50) available at Uncommon Kids Gear (1030 South Park Street, 431-8543), which doesn't need staples but securely fastens papers. Hiking Trails of Nova Scotia, by Michael Haynes ($19.95) is a second stocking stuffer that's great for reading on those blustery winter days and is available at Bookmark (5886 Spring Garden Road, 423-0419).

For the person who never can get those hands warm, TAO: The Adventure Outfitters (182 Chain Lake Drive, 481-9826) carries Hot Tips ($59.99)---battery-powered mittens and gloves that will heat up your hands just as those shake-'em-and-toss-'em hot shots do, but without all the non-recyclable waste. They're made by a Canadian company, which is a plus. TAO also carries an incredible line of outdoor wear by Sherpa Adventure Gear: made by sherpas, worn by sherpas. With gorgeously knitted, brightly hued toques ($29) handmade in Katmandu using merino wool and a fleece lining, you need search no further for a warmer-than-ever headpiece. Earflaps available.

If you're buying a gift for the locally minded cyclist, Bikes by Dave (6191 Young Street, 455-1677) has got you covered. Ladybugs, penguins, salamanders and other critters peer out from a box of dringdrings ($23.95), old-fashioned bicycle bells hand-painted by Montreal artist Annie Legroulx. Not just painted with animal faces---swirly patterns and speedometers are also present---Legroulx uses eco-friendly paints to give her bells character. Dring, dring! —HG

For the stalker

Who doesn't have a stalker? And what better time to acknowledge their constant presence on the periphery of your life than this season of peace and goodwill. To start with, every stalker could use a 2010 planner to keep track of your comings and goings. Duly Noted (1459 Brenton Street, 446-5605) sells an attractive variety of day planners (from $8.95 to $31.95) many with helpful maps and conversion charts at the back. Candles are also a good idea to keep your stalker's altar to you well-lit, and P'Lovers (Park Lane Mall, 5657 Spring Garden Road, 422-6060) sells beautiful-smelling beeswax candles in a range of sizes from $1.50 tealights to 700- to 900-hour burning "friendly giants" for $56.95. Stalkers are also likely to appreciate free gifts such as a lock of your hair or a partially eaten sandwich, and while you may not get to see your stalker's happy smile when they find your gift (court orders often discourage such proximity), rest assured it will be more fun for them to find it anyway. —MW

For the crafty couch potato

For those who like to spend the winter months curled up on the couch and secretly want a Snuggie but don't want to drop $20 or more on something it looks like a thumbless moron could make, why not see if they'll rise to the challenge and give them a big pile of fleece to make their very own blanket with sleeves? Fabricville (1211 Cole Harbour Road, 434-2581) sells a wide variety of fleece prints from soccer balls and teddy bears to camo and wilderness safari, ranging in price from $11.99/metre for solid colours to $15.99/metre for specialty prints. Top this gift bundle off with a bag of Covered Bridge Cinnamon and Brown Sugar Sweet Potato Chips from Pete's Frootique (1515 Dresden Row, 425-5700) for $4.29 and your favourite couch potato is in for a tasty night of crafting fun. —MW

For the suave foodie

Does your foodie love to put out a good spread? Sign them up for a cooking class at Fid (1569 Dresden Row, 422-9162). For $95/person (minimum six people), chef Dennis Johnston will teach them how to prepare one of his menus focusing on local foods (and then your foodie can chow down on all the wonderful grub they prepared). Or send them to a wine appreciation course at Bishop's Cellar (1477 Lower Water Street, 490-2675). For $50 they'll learn all they need to know to select the perfect vintage to accompany their next culinary masterpiece. —CB

For the coffee connoisseur

They call themselves geeks and nerds. But you're likely to know them as the snobbish sipper of coffee in your life. They're the ones with a French press on their desk at work or who brew their coffee cold. This holiday season give the geek or nerd in your life something to really raise their nose about.

A safe gift would be a selection of various roasted whole beans. At Trident Booksellers & Cafe (1256 Hollis Street, 423-7100) you can scoop and bag your own selections from large tubs at the back. They suggest a quartet of their Awake Dust (a burgundy that's lighter and brighter than most Arabica coffee), Maestoso (their newest drip blend), espresso roast (a four- blend mix) and their house Trident blend.

Java Blend Coffee Roasters (6027 North Street, 423-6944) also offers a wide selection in-house roasted beans. Most popular are their darker North-Ender and Sumatra blends. They also carry "cup of excellence" award-winning coffees like Miralvalle (El Salvador) and Cafe Golonderina (Bolivia), along with the $64/lb Hacienda Esmeralda (Panama).

Of course, every coffee drinker needs a mug. There are of plenty of options in Halifax to find a perfect fit for your deserving deconction lover.

Handsmiths (1869 Upper Water Street, 492-4438) carries Fredericton potter Shanie Stozek's Convo mugs, featuring text such as "dear coffee, I like you." Jennifer's of Nova Scotia (5635 Spring Garden Road, 425-3119) carries enough Atlantic Canadian-made mugs to "rock your socks off." At Seeds Gallery (1892 Hollis Street, 494-8301) you can add a little fine art to your joe with ceramics from Martina Lantin, Sonya McRae and Zimra Beiner.

For a more retro flair, stop by Urban Cottage Antiques & Collectables (1819 Granville Street, 423-3010). They often have entire coffee serving sets in various vintage styles. Top travel mug awards go to Just Us! Cafe's (1678 Barrington Street, 422-5651) hand-sized baby tumblers.

The ultimate gift this year though is an Abid coffee driver. Save yourself some dough, and just give a gift certificate to Two if by Sea Cafe (66 Ochterloney Street, Dartmouth, 469-0721). They always have an Abid-brewed option. The cafe also offers 49th Parallel gift baskets, limited edition cappuccino cups along with a swoon-worthy gift---barista classes with huge coffee nerd and TIBS master barista, Zane Kelsall. —ML

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