You've done it again. It's almost Christmas and you haven't bought all your gifts. Or, worse, you haven't bought any. Last-minute shopping is rarely wise: Shoppers tend to hit the malls desperate to buy anything.
But it doesn't have to be that way. Here are a few suggestions that may ease that last-minute scramble to buy Christmas presents.
Have a game plan
Tickets to sporting or other events are potential stocking stuffers. You can order by phone or, if time is of the essence, check with the box office to see if the tickets could be picked up in person that day. Here are a few ideas:
*The Baltimore Arena has tickets ($14.50-$12.50) on sale for upcoming games for the indoor lacrosse team, the Baltimore Thunder, Friday and Jan. 25. The Washington Bullets will be in town Saturday and Jan 18; tickets are $24 and $19. There's plenty of soccer with the Baltimore Blast and hockey with the Skipjacks.
*Children might enjoy going to a taping of Nickelodeon's kids' game show, "Double Dare," on Jan. 5, and Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch with Rythm Syndicate, appearing Jan. 16. For information on events at the arena, call (410) 347-2010.
Give a little culture
Why not order a gift certificate for the theater or symphony, and let your special someone choose the show? Single admissions range in price from $10 to $55, depending on theater, presentation, seat location, day and time.
*Center Stage certificates can be ordered by phone today, at 332-0033, or can be purchased at the box office through tomorrow. At the Mechanic Theatre box office, or through Telecharge (625-1400), you can get a certificate redeemable for tickets to any show or shows the Baltimore Center for the Performing Arts presents at the Lyric, the Mechanic or the Pier Six Concert Pavilion.
Theatre Project (752-8558) will sell a gift certificate for the price of a single seat -- $15 -- or any multiple thereof, or you can spring for an $80 "Gold Passport" or a $50 "Silver Passport," each good for eight admissions.
*For music lovers, perhaps a certificate redeemable for seats at a Baltimore Symphony Orchestra concert might do. Call the ticket office at 783-8000.
*For those who like their music louder, consider concerts coming up at -- to name a few places --
Hammerjacks, (410) 659-ROCK; Max's on Broadway, (410) 675-MAXS; and the Capital Centre, (301)481-6000.
For the new year
How about a calendar? But some calendars will do more than tell you the date, they'll keep you aware of what's happening, where and when.
*The "Mid-Atlantic Weekenders Calendar," ($11.95 in local bookstores and card and office-supply shops), is full of weekend events. Aimed at the five-state-plus-Washington area, the calendar's format makes it easy to find out what's going on: Events are noted on the day they occur and also listed by category.
*The "D.C. Doings" calendar focuses on Washington and its Maryland and Virginia environs, with a nod to the bigger Baltimore events as well. The Smithsonian sells the calendar, and it's available at Ginn's downtown for $10.95. To order by phone, call (301) 270-5273.
*From closer to home comes WLIF-AM "Life Around Maryland" calendar, with stunning photos of local scenes. Events are noted on the appropriate dates, and intervening pages have ads and coupons from calendar sponsors. It's selling at Royal Farm stores, Thomasville Galleries and Southern Seafood Markets for a $1 donation to Santa Claus Anonymous; or send a check for that amount, to WLIF Lite 102, 1570 Hart Road, Towson 21204.
*At Kinko's copy centers, you can create a personal calendar for about $25 to $35. Take 12 snapshots to Kinko's; the photos will be made into an 8 1/2 -by-11-inch calendar. Most can be done in about 24 hours. For more information call (800) 743-COPY.
It might be a little late to get the hottest toy this year, but you can always fall back on the classics: Erector sets, Legos, Tinker Toys, and games such as Chutes and Ladders or Monopoly are readily found in area toy stores. Crayons, markers, watercolors and other art supplies are presents that inspire creativity.
* Why not give someone a subscription to a favorite magazine? It's a quick gift and it'll keep on giving long after December. Kmart and Caldor stores carry Subscriber Systems that include the subscription information and a gift card -- nothing to pack or wrap. Or buy the magazine to give and send in the subscription card in their name. Most subscriptions cost between $10 and $20.
* Or, appeal to their stomachs. Grab a colorful gift bag or a basket and cruise the gourmet aisle at the local store. Assorted teas, jams, cheese and crackers or cookies in a re-usable tin could show you're a gift-giver with good taste. Or make it easier by buying one; most supermarkets offer packaged food baskets or party platters. Giant food stores offer fruit and cheese baskets for about $10 to $30. Order by phone by calling the store or by calling (410) 995-4322. Giant offers gift certificates from $5 to $50 if you're not sure what someone would like.
*And brighten someone's morning routine with a gift bag of coffee. Follow your nose to Coffee Tea & Thee at Hunt Valley and White Marsh malls, or the Coffee Mill at Belvedere Square, for gourmet coffees, creams, teas and mugs.
*A basket of bath beads, lotions and sweet-smelling soaps and shampoos is sure to please almost everyone on your list. Crabtree & Evelyn stores at Harborplace and at White Marsh, Owings Mills, Marley Station and Columbia malls sell baskets ranging from $25 to $45. Or check out Bath and Body Works at Towson Town Centre and the Body Shop at White Marsh or the Gallery, where you can find items such as Dewberry soap and Ice Blue Mint shampoo.