I attempted to both begin and complete my Christmas shopping a week and a half ago, on a Sunday afternoon at the Galleria Mall. Inexplicably, only the odd, beat-up XL sweater and other bottom-of-the-barrel selections were left scattered on the shelves. I incredulously mentioned to my sister, Hilary who began checking items off her list in October - that I couldn't believe how picked over everything already was, and she replied, "That's because you waited until the last minute." I was actually feeling really good about starting my shopping on Dec. 6 to me, it was like tackling the task two years ahead of time.
Why I end up doing this every year, I'm not sure, but last-minute is the only way I know how to shop. From tales told of "the good old days," I hear it was the norm to wait until a few days before Christmas to hit the stores, just after those sizable Christmas bonuses came in. The "Christmas bonus" is a fairly abstract concept nowadays having a job in the New Year is a bonus. Better forget about that happening company Christmas party, too.
It's the final weekend before the big day and if you have any hope of filling that space beneath the tree with gifts, there is no time to waste. Get your act together now and it's still possible to purchase gifts online. For example, until Sunday on Amazon.com, it's still possible to do standard shipping and still squeak by. There are also some nice sales on sites now Kaboodle.com () has a good round-up of holiday sales.
A true procrastinator understands that shopping seven days before the holiday is mere child's play. If dashing through the aisles just before closing time on Christmas Eve is more your style, no worries: your present needn't show the signs of being haphazardly slapped together with seconds left on the clock. Some crumpled bills and a card with the inscription "A donation has been made in your name to The Human Fund" (important note: only funny if the recipient has seen that episode of "Seinfeld" and also if a real present is coming, too) probably won't cut it. Since that's probably what I would do, I consulted my crafty sibling for some suggestions, feasible without a trip to the mall here they are:
Hilary's Last-Minute Solutions
Make your own gift baskets or bags. Dollar stores have the best gift bags. Buy a bottle of mid-priced wine or liquor, add a couple of glasses in the gift bag and maybe a fancy foreign brand of crackers or cookies from the international food section of the grocery store to make it look like more of a concept. Individual wine or lowball glasses can be purchased for a dollar or two just make sure to take the price stickers off the bottom and rinse out that dust! For example, try a box of dark chocolate Le Petit Ecolier cookies (available at Tops), Sonoma or Mendocino wine white or rose suits a wider range of palettes than red, two glasses in a gift bag.
Let people enjoy your cooking when they want to, after the holiday abundance of candies is gone. Get a great recipe from an online site like allrecipes.com, layer the dry ingredients for cookie or muffin mix in a glass jar, and print out the full recipe ingredients and instructions on either colored paper, or regular paper with a border you added on the computer. Pack either some pretty oven mitts or a little 6-cup muffin tin in the gift bag. Oatmeal raisin cookies, chocolate chip muffin recipes work especially well.
Avoid cash SO last minute. But, if you stoop that low, make sure the bills are at least crisp and fresh-looking. Gift cards are even worse than cash at least you can spend cash wherever you want. [I disagree with my sister on this point, as long as the gift cards are for businesses you actually frequent].
Two More Suggestions
For your favorite cinephile: A movie night gift basket. Include a Blockbuster gift card and/or tickets to the theater, an assortment of candy and popcorn, and perhaps a DVD they might enjoy. You can never go wrong with the complete three seasons of "Arrested Development."
For your friend who has more than 20 nicknames for their pet (bonus points: they've referred to Patches as a "people person"): Go to Solutions.com. Type "Pet camera" into the site's search engine. Voila! A digital camera that fastens to your pet's collar and takes photos every one, five or 15 minutes (it stores about 40 pictures). Perhaps your pup leads a secret life when you're not at home or maybe you'll find 40 photos of the same couch cushion. The site has free shipping and 20 percent off through Friday.
"Santa Claus Conquers the Martians" (1964) is so terrible it's almost good. The premise: Martians, fed up with this Earthling concept of holiday cheer, kidnaps Santa to teach him who's boss. The title sort of gives the ending away. It's only fitting that this film would be shown as part of this weekend's "Off Beat Cinema," on WKBW-TV Saturday night at 2 a.m.
Some classic holiday selections: tonight, "Christmas in Connecticut" (1945) at 8 p.m. and "Holiday Affair" (1950) at 10 p.m., both on Turner Classic Movies. On Friday, get back-to-back Frosty on CBS with "Frosty the Snowman" at 8 p.m. and "Frosty Returns" at 8:30 p.m.
At 41 West: The Groove, featuring Keith Medley, Jack Pasquale, Steve Stickland and Dave Stuart, from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Rinky Dink will play Saturday, also from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., and on Sunday, there's Bills football fun starting at 12:30 p.m.
Wishberry, Saturday, starting at 9 p.m.: Longitude and Sleep Close Death.
Four films by the legendary Kuchar Brothers will be presented for free by Secret Screen and Dylan Van Ord at the Labyrinth Press Company, 12 E. Fourth St. in Jamestown, on Tuesday, Dec. 22 at 8 p.m. The movie marathon includes "Sins of the Fleshapoids," "The Craven Sluck," "The Mongreloid," and "The Secret of Wendel Samson," with negligible butt-numbing (under two hours for all four).
Here's a couple of holiday-themed performances to take in this weekend: first, Christmas in Our Hometown, a dancing extravaganza by the Collage, will be presented at the Fredonia Opera House Dec. 17 and 18 at 7 p.m. each night. At JCC's Scharmann Theatre in Jamestown Dec. 19 at 2 and 7 p.m., Drama Enrichment Program presents "A Magical Christmas" with a Rockette-style chorus line and songs from "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas."
April Diodato is an OBSERVER Staff Writer. Give her the dish on what's happening at firstname.lastname@example.org