Got your turkey ordered? Your mincemeat minced and your cranberries crammed into the grinder? If so, pat yourself on the back -- but don't relax. That other holiday -- the biggie -- is coming up fast. The department stores are already decked with tinsel. Truckloads of conifers are speeding down the freeways and shopping-mall Santas are getting their red suits out of mothballs. The pressure is on.
But don't overreact. Settle back on the chaise longue; pour yourself another steaming cup of cafe au lait , and do your Christmas shopping by the books. All those catalogues that have been weighing down your mail carrier for the past few months. Far from the madding throng, you can make relatively rational decisions on what color bedsox to send great-aunt Elizabeth this year. And you won't even have to send them. The mail-order house will do that for you, thus eliminating the humiliating hassle of dragging your sloppily wrapped parcels to the post office and having them rejected by the clerk.
Here's a sampling of what's available on the catalogue front, with suggestions for virtually everyone on your list.
A bumbling boater, for example, deserves a PORT-AND-STARBOARD WINDBREAKER -- $23 plus shipping from Lands End (Lands End Lane, Dodgeville, Wisconsin 53533; 800/356-4444; AE, V, MC). Port and starboard sides of the nylon jacket are labeled and color-coded to help keep everyhone on the proper tack.
If you have a pig freak on your list, Touch of Class (New Hampshire Common, North Conway, New Hampshire 03860; 603/356-6301; AE, V, MC) sells a 13'' -long, crushed-stone grinning PORKER DOORSTOP for $25 plus shipping. While you're at it, send some newlyweds a floral-patterned, handpainted porcelain BATHROOM SET consisting of toothbrush holder, tumbler and soapdish ($16.50 plus postage). A grandmother on your list will probably fall for a NANA SCARF, with up to 36 kids' names inscribed on a 27'' polyester square for $21 plus shipping. Touch of Class giftwraps for $1.25 per item.
An intrepid biker will appreciate a shearling fleece BICYCLE SEAT COVER for either standard of ten-speed saddle for $8.95 plus shipping from Eddie Bauer (Fifth and Union, Seattle, Washington 98124; 800/426-8020; AE, V, MC). Matching earmuffs are $7.95.
To a friend or relative who sings in the shower, give a chance to sing on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera. The MET SHOWER CURTAIN, $24.95 plus shipping from The Metropolitan Opera Guild (1965 Broadway, New York 10023; 800/228-5656; AE, V, MC.dd), frames the singer with the gilt curtain of the opera house with the audience in their seats. BATH SHEETS in the form of billboards for Met performances of Manon Lescaut or LaBoheme are $18.95 plus shipping.
To someone who likes to set a fine table, give an Imari-pattern Sauce TUREEN on an 8" x 6" platter, $50 plus shipping from Neiman-Marcus (P.O. Box 2968, Dallas 75221; 800/527-5800; NM). For ladling out glogg or warm winter soup, there's a larger, six-cup tureen in the form of a stag. Copied from a Meissen piece in a Dresden Museum, it's $200 plus shipping.
For a friend whose Epicurean tastes never let up, N-M has a set of three tubes of AFTER-DINNER TOOTHPASTE -- in anisette, creme de menthe and amaretto flavors ($10 plus shipping).To carry the toothpaste -- if your friend is a woman -- add a chic little moire EVENING BAG with shoulder strap in copper, wine, black or bone ($35 plus shipping).
N-M's Dallas neighbor, the Horchow Collection (P.O. Box 34257, Dallas 75234; 800/527-0303; AE, V, MC) has something for the expensive man in your life: antique Edwardian mother-of-pearl CUFFLINK AND STUD SETS. No two sets are exactly alike and they sell for $100 plus shipping. Horchows has also been beating the bushes for vintage FLASHLIGHTS (circa 1900 to 1930 ) and you can give one, restored to working condition, for $125 plus shipping.
Someone who's into all-weather backpacking needs an ALL-WEATHER JOURNAL, $1.95 plus shipping from Eastern Mountain Sports (2 Vose Farm Road, Peterborough, New Hampshire 03458; 603/934-9212; AS, V, MC). Rain or snow won't fade, wrinkle or dissolve the immortal words written on this pocket-size pad. When not writing in the journal, outdoors people might while away the hours in the tent with BACKPACK-SIZE GAMES of Othello ($6.75) or Cribbage $3.50).
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire are possible if you give a copper CHESTNUT ROASTER, $27.50 plus shipping from Norm Thompson (Dept. CH80, P.O Box 3999, Portland, 'oregon 97208; 800/547-1160; AE, D, V, MC). Copied from an English antique, it has a 15" steel handle to keep you away from the fire and a pierced copper lid to let the steam out and keep the chestnuts in.
If you're lucky enough to be invited out for Christmas dinner, bring your hostess a long, machine-washable red-and-green tartan taffeta APRON, $27.50 plus shipping from The Cook's Collection by Figi's (Marshfield, Wisconsin 54449; 800/826-8541; AE, V, MC). If she has a husband or male helper, give him a chef's apron with a red vest ($17.95).
To a child who already has all the American DOLLS, give a doll dressed in the folk costume of the Hardanger region of Norway.Father doll, with a pewter-buttoned red coat and knickers, stands 13" tall and costs $46 plus shipping. Mother (13" and $46) and daughter (9 1/2" and $34) wear beaded red caps and vests, white aprons and black shirts. All are available from Longships (P.O. BDox 162, Belle Mead, New Jersey 08502; 800/526-3898; AE, DC, V, MC). Gift wrapping available.
To a tea-drinker on your list, give a "Heavenly Bamboo" TEA SET with pot, strainer and four covered cups packaged in a colorful Chinese box, $25 plus shipping. The Brooklyn Museum Gallery Shop (Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn 11238;MC, V). Copied from classical I Hsing ware, the brown earthenware is incised with a white bamboo motif.
IF YOU KNOW SOMEONE WHO COULD WRITE A BOOK, give him or her the wherewithal -- a book with 160 blank pages from Publishers Central Bureau (1 Champion Avenue, Avennel, New Jersey 07131; V, MC). A book with gold-stamped, simulated leather cover and gilt-edged pages is $2.98.
Since you don't want to forget the birds this Christmas, give them an EDIBLE WREATH, $7.95 plus shipping from Audubon Workshop (1501 Paddock Drive, Northbrook, Illinois 60062; 800/621-5199; AE, V, MC). The 8" wheat circle holds rosehips, sunflower seeds, yarrow, peanuts, popcorn and raisins.
To someone who sleeps alone, give a HOT-WATER BOTTLE in a fuzzy bear, woolly lamb or porky pig cover, $18 plus shipping from Gokeys (84 South Wabash Street, St. Paul, Minnesota, 55172; 612/292-3911; AE, V, MC). A barbecue chef would probably like a rare, medium or well Steak-branding IRON ($12).
What everyone needs this time of year is a CALCULATOR that fits inside a checkbook. The battery-operated SuperSlim Data Checker, which keeps tabs on your checking account plus two charge accounts, costs $39.95 plus shipping from Chris Craft (Algonac, Michigan 48001; 800/521-3230; Ae, v, MC). For a kid who's not yet into checkbooks but needs to keep track of time, Chris Craft has a MISS PIGGY WATCH in luscious lavender for $25 plus shipping.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Box 255, Gracie Station, New York 10028; 212/758-8991; AE, V, MC) has gifts for just about every kid you have to play Santa to. Give a would-be PRINCESS a Japanese variation of the theme, the tale of a Shining Princess , illustrated with Japanese paintings, for $8.95. Would-be archeologists -- nine and up -- would probably dig the Met's new BOARD GAME "Expedition," set in Egypt ($11.95). A Young Person's CALLIGRAPHY STARTER, with instruction manual, three pens and pad, is $8.95. For kids who like to put things together, there are an Etruscan CHARIOT KIT ($3.95), a Chinese Village KIT ($9.95) and a medieval Spanish WALLED TOWN ($9.95). And to make sure you get a thank-you note, throw in some children's STATIONERY -- 20 lined 8 1/2 x 11 illustrated sheets with envelopes for $4.95.
A three- to six-year-old who hikes or at least walks to school will appreciate a CHILD-SIZE PACK from L. L. Bean (Freeport, Maine 04033; 207/865-3111; AE, V, MC). The six-ounce, water-resistant pack comes in green, royal or red and sells for $7.75, shipping included.
Kids who enjoy PUZZLES can also learn something about architecture with the Houses of New England Game -- 96 laminated cardboard pieces that can be turned into pictures of eight historic structures. It's $10 from the Boston Museum Shop (P. O. Box 1044, Boston 02120; 617/427-1111; Ae, v, MC).
The smithsonian Institution (P.O. Box 2456, Washington 20013; 455-1700; AE, V, MC) isn't carving its Hope diamond for holiday momentos, but its catalogue does feature some other MINERALS to decorate a favorite female. Pendants of amethyst crystals from Thunder Bay, Ontario, or azurite nodules from the Pinal Mountain if Arizona hand from 17" gold-filled chains and cost $30.
If you know a Christmas baby, the Smithsonian can send a very ceremonial present -- a copy of a 19th-century CHRISTENING GOWN and hat. The white polyester-and-cotton ensemble fits a newborn to six-month-old babe and costs $85. Giftwrapping is available on all Smithsonian items.
If you can't give a Mercedes, give the car buff in your life a Satin PILLOW with the Mercedes logo, $39.50 plus shipping from The Silvers (1201 Boston Post Road, Milford, Connecticut 06460; 800/243-9280; Ae, v, MC). It's blue-and-white and will look wistful on the backseat of a Chevy. m
To someone who loves being creative in the kitchen, give the ultimate status sumbol -- a custom-made ROTISSERIE big enough to cook two suckling pigs, three large turkeys or eight chickens all at once. Hammacher Schlemmer j(145 East 57th Street, New York 100022; 800/228-5656; AE, DC, V, MC) will make it up in brass, copper and tile for $34,000. If your means are more modest, give the gourmet on your list a professional EGG PEELER for $9.95.