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You meant to go shopping for the perfect gift — make that gifts, plural. You had a plan over the summer to begin stockpiling trinkets and re-giftable items. And then, Halloween rolled past and that gift box was stocked with nothing but good intentions and one re-gift item you're sure will make somebody happy one day — just not Christmas Day. As for the good intentions, sometimes that can happily translate into tidy little envelopes — because for some people, the perfect gift is a gift certificate. Here are a few shop-local options so you can do your part to help our local economy while spreading a little good cheer.

Smokin' Aces. Everybody's got a tennis nut in the family — the kind of person who would rather skip a family event than miss a reserved court time. That devotion doesn't come without wear and tear. Every hardcore player is always in need of a few upgrades or replacement gear: racquet, shoes, tennis bag, tennis balls, etc. Now you can get the goods or a gift certificate for them to get their own goods.


And for this, String 'n' Swing — 5,700 square feet of nothing but tennis — is aces. Gift certificates can be purchased in any amount, but if you're wondering what sort of tennis loot your gift certificate might bring, here are a few numbers to work with: Tennis bags run from $40 to $120, while tennis balls — a must-have — are a scant $2.99 per can. Tennis shoes, such as Lacoste's Repel, are $135. Both men's and women's versions feature a honeycomb design, toe-box ventilation, and an oversized croc detail. As for a new racquet, consider the Babolat Areopro Drive, $189.95, "a racquet for those who plan to do battle on the court." A $250 gift certificate will net the recipient a racquet or shoes plus new bag, balls, etc. Bonus tip: String 'n' Swing features a mini practice court (one-third regulation size) complete with ball machine for test-driving shoes or racquet, or both. String 'n' Swing, 6100 Primacy Parkway, Ste. 115, 818-2897.


Push It. In 2009, I will be healthier. In 2009, I will exercise more. In 2009, I will be stronger, fitter — well, until the next major meltdown involving my career/ kids/ relationship spins me off-track and I drop my fitness plan like it's hot. We all do it, or most of us do. We forget about last year's shattered resolutions and promise ourselves that this year will be different, somehow. But more often than not, all of our dreams of having Jessica Alba's body or Sting's inner peace are gone by mid-February. This year, why not help give the would-be fitness guru/zen master in your life a little push in the right direction? Push Pilates' peaceful Midtown studio has pilates/yoga apparel, pilates gear, and yes, pilates classes. For apparel, Lululemon's Vitalize tank ($52) and Be Still crop pants ($79) are great workout options. Looking for a more results-targeted gift certificate? A package of four private sessions with a student trainer is just $100, while a package of five sessions with a full trainer is $300. Gift certificates can be purchased in any amount — a $250 gift certificate gets your giftee four private sessions with a student trainer and a confidence-boosting workout outfit. Push Pilates, 1882 Union, 278-9022.


Spahhhh. After the roller coaster that was 2008 — the wildest presidential election in recent memory, the economy's near-death experience — chances are your wife, girlfriend, mom, best friend, babysitter, boyfriend, or husband could use an hour (or a day) of pampering. If so, we suggest a physical recalibration escape plan that includes one of Mona Spa's two local havens. The estheticians and therapists at Mona's do everything from facials and massage to teeth-whitening and laser hair reduction. Looking for a jumping-off point? A $75 gift certificate is good for the deep-cleansing, detoxifying facial. (The deep-cleansing facial features a papaya enzyme mask and reawakens your complexion to the possibility of a younger-looking, fresher, more radiant future — recommended as needed in harmony with laser facials or microdermabrasion.) $150 pays the tab for the double oxygen facial. $300 buys your stressed-out loved one the double-oxygen facial plus 30 minutes of teeth-whitening. While $450 makes you a hero and treats your lucky recipient to one double-oxygen facial plus 30 minutes of teeth-whitening and two one-hour massages. Mona Spa, 5101 Sanderlin Center, Ste. 102, 683-0061, or 7945 Wolf River Blvd., Germantown, 756-7945.

Shop This is compiled by Shopgirl. E-mail with tips and suggestions for items to be promoted. Please send a daytime phone number and print-quality digital images for consideration.


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