It's time! It's almost here! No, not the end of the year. Not yet. What is fast approaching is the annual hunt for holiday gifts. But an extra special New Year adds another big day to plan for. That makes shopping from mail-order catalogues especially attractive.

One can choose from a universe of unique, useful items, while planning for Y2K. Speaking of which . . .

Two, Oh, Oh, Oh

Mega-Millennium Jigsaw Puzzle depicts events of the last 2,000 years with tongue-in-cheek, but historically accurate, cartoons. 8,000 pieces, finished size about 55-by-75 inches. #P1000. $99.95 (plus shipping and handling, $12.95). Turn off the TV, 800-949-8688.

Millennium Snowflake Pendant. Letters MM fashioned into a six-point snowflake design. One inch in diameter. In sterling silver. #PD035. $35 (plus $4). J.H. Breakell & Co., 800-767-6411.

Millennium Lapis Globe inlaid with 20-plus gemstones has brass stand in shape of numerals 2000. Globe is held by oversized curve of the numeral 2. Four inches diameter. #410009604411. $795 (plus $9.95). Mayor's, 800-535-2159.

Animal Aids

Doggie Umbrella. Chain attaches to pet's collar and pet owner holds specially-hinged shaft handle to keep 30-inch clear vinyl umbrella at right height to keep pooch dry. #A6. $22 (plus $6.50). Donna Salyers' Fabulous-Furs, 800-848-4650.

Oriental Rug for Mouse. MouseRug combines ancient Turkish design with advanced mousepad technology. Nylon bristle surface for accurate tracking, gliding, also cleans mouseball. Natural rubber base, hand-washable; 10 1/2-by-7 inches, with fringe. #63410. $24.50 (plus $5.95). Solutions, 800-342-9988.

Critter Clips for Charity are paper clips adorned with wire butterflies, dragonflies and spiders. Handcrafted by a woman's cooperative in Xiao Shan, China, portion of sale supports child care at Yeun Shi Town Hospital. In sets of six, two of each insect. #621168. $9.95 per set (plus $3.50). Kitchen and Home, 800-414-5544.


Sand Pillow With Awning. Seaside head cushion has attached adjustable sun shield. Pillow, awning of water-repellent nylon. Foam-filled pillow has pocket for keys, wallet, etc. #DP9662. $24 (plus $5.35). Celebration Fantastic, 800-235-3272.

Circa H2O Notebook has synthetic cover and 50 sheets of plastic-coated paper that is moisture-, sand-, and tear-resistant. Cover is yellow with blue edges and folds back for firm writing surface. Notebook 5-by-6 1/2 inches. #L9-ADS1020. $29.95 (plus $6.50). Levenger, 800-544-0880.

Gardening De-Lights

Lightweight Wheelbarrow is foldable, portable, yet can carry up to 125 pounds. Steel frame with industrial-strength, woven polypropylene tub. Folds flat when not in use. #1606. $24.99 (plus $6.45). whatever works, 800-499-6757.

Smart Plant Care System for indoor plants combines automatic full-spectrum light, moisture sensor, reservoir base for proper microclimate. Light can be set to simulate spring, summer, fall or winter. Accommodates pots up to 5 1/2 inches diameter, plants to 12 inches tall. #13-713. $39.95 (plus $8.95). Gardener's Supply Company, 800-863-1700.

Solar Dragonfly Light automatically swiches on at dusk, glows for five hours. Glass and aluminum garden ornament has solar panel in base, changeable color jells. On 36-inch metal stake. #35B. $155 (plus $22). Horchow Garden, 800-456-7000.

Tasteful Surprises

Oil and Vinegar Bottle Bookends. Half-bottle shapes of garlic sesame oil and rosemary vinegar weigh over 2 1/2 pounds each, stand 8 1/2 inches high. Oil bottle contains hot peppers, garlic; vinegar has rosemary branches. Both can be used in cooking. #SP8023. $49.95 (plus $5.95). The Stonehill Collection, 888-290-5701.

Travel Cheese Board Kit has notebook-sized nylon case fitted with wooden cutting board, serrated cheese knife, two cloth napkins, folding corkscrew/bottle opener. Wine Glass Set has fleece wine bag, two unbreakable, screw-together Lexan wine glasses, corkscrew. Glasses hold 10 fluid ounces. Cheese Kit, #72338. $24.50 (plus $3.95). Wine Kit, #72123. $29.50 (plus $3.95). Early Winters, 800-458-4438.

A Truly Rich Dessert. Scoog Pie has pecan crust with a touch of cinnamon, filling of handmade carmel, and a topping of chocolate ganache sprinkled with edible 24K gold powder. Weighs 2 pounds, serves 10 to 16. #98171. $34.95 (plus $6.95). Gevalia, 800-438-2542.


Perfumers' Paintbox. Five powder perfume disks in musk, floral, citrus, wood and herbal for creating unique scents. Instructions on how to blend scents with suggestions on pleasing combinations. In aluminum case. #25601. $38 (plus $6.75). Femail Creations, 800-969-2760.

Laptop Cosmetic Bag eight inches square opens to 17 inches wide with unbreakable flip-up mirror. Two large vinyl pockets, mesh cosmetic holders. In black microfiber with removable carrying strap. #32718. $19.95 (plus $5.95). The Vermont Country Store Apothecary, 802-362-8300.

Auto Directives

AutoLAB CD-ROM for those who want to explain the problem as well as do-it-yourself mechanic. Searches data base by part, topic or symptom for diagnostic and component info. Easy to read and understand format. With full-color graphics. Suitable for Windows 95 and 98. #C6719. $29.95 (plus $7.95). Good Catalog Company, 800-225-3870.

I'll Never Get Lost Again. "The Complete Guide to Improving Your Sense of Direction," by Linda Grekin. Paper, 118 pages. Comes packaged with a pewter compass keychain--just in case. #77954 $28 (plus $5.75). Signals, 800-669-9696.

Time Plus

Memories in Time clock lets each hour's Roman numeral be replaced by wallet-sized school photo. With cherrywood frame, protective glass; 13 1/2 by 16 1/2 inches, 2 1/2 inches deep. Uses one AA battery (included). #148090. $49.95 (plus $8.95). Linda Anderson, 800-437-1500.

Time on Bag. Working quartz clock decorates side of round vinyl shoulder bag. Nine-inch diameter purse has zipper top. Clock requires one AA battery (not included). #4486A. $39.50 (plus $8.45). The Paragon, 800-657-3934.

Ring Watch. Japanese movement watch has silver metal expansion band to fit most ring sizes. Watch's dome-shaped crystal comes in three colors--green, #3723F; yellow, #3723G; blue, #3723H. Each watch, $36 (plus $6.45). FLAX, 888-352-9278.


Jack Nicklaus Pewter Putting Cup. Decorative coaster with golf ball design on rim and Golden Bear emblem has removable side for putting practice. Cork base, 4 1/2-inch diameter. #1577. $50 (plus $9). Reflections of Bucks County, 800-238-5058.

Golf Glove for Golfers With Nails. Professional cabretta leather glove with open-tip fingernail slots. Contour fit in black, white, navy; sizes S-XL. Specify for left or right hand. #CL101. $17.50 ($4.95). Woman's Golf Catalog, 800-984-7324.

Tiger Woods Ultimate Golf Game uses an electronic "club" and separate tracking device to measure yards, note slices and hooks. Use the0 "club" correctly or suffer the consequences. Three game modes with three skill levels. Requires two AA batteries (not included). #76941. $55 (plus $8.95). Wireless, 800-669-9999.

Kids, Kids, Kids

Numzzles. Each colored foam number, one to nine, is a puzzle made up of the same number of pieces the numeral represents. #2970. $19.99 (plus $5.50). MIT Museum Shop, 617-253-4462.

Small Fry Fishing Vest has button fastener, two front pockets, large back pouch, trout image. Boy's has square wool fly-patch, sizes 2, 4, 6, 8, 10. Girl's has lace trim on pockets and shoulders, heart-shaped wool fly-patch, sizes 2, 4, 6, 8. Boy's, #15-35-9. Girl's, #15-35-11. Each $24 (plus $4.95). Angler's, 800-657-8040.

Play It Safe Electronic Game Book. Skip the Frog and Wiggles the Caterpillar move through six adventures that show how to be safe while having fun. Games have light and sound cues. Ages 3 and up. #1720. $16.95 (plus $4.95). Electric Outlet, 888-333-8829.

Bowling Bunnies. Remake of a classic 1920s game. Six sculptured bunny pins made of wood, metal, nylon; two cabbage-shaped beanbag balls. Bunnies each 8 1/2 inches high. #AF0622. $39.95 (plus $7.45). What on Earth, 800-945-2552.

Sandcredible Snacks has special hopper for making design of colored sugar, then transferring art work to cracker. Comes with recipes, five colors of sugar, special hopper, design tool, applicator. Top rack dishwasher safe. #23335. $12.95 (plus $4.95). Sur La Table, 800-243-0852.

Backseat Organizer for SUV, minivan, holds toys, books, road gear. With fold-down tray, two drink holders that snap flat when not in use, mutiple pockets. Hangs from seatback. Black nylon. #M418. $24.95 (plus $7.95). Herrington, 800-622-5221.

E-Yo, the electronic yo-yo, charts user's skill. LCD screen reports sleep time, distance traveled, speed of spinning, number of reps. With tip sheet. 2 1/2-inches diameter. Batteries included. #08-K7717. $24.95 (plus $6.95). Bits & pieces, 800-544-7297.

Abstack, a build-your-own abstract sculpture kit. 60 wooden pieces with odd angles and curvy shapes connect in limitless ways. Once the sculpture is done, it comes apart for a new and different creation. With solid wood base. #1502. $34.95 (plus $8.95). Museum Tour, 800-360-9116.

Mesmerizor, a black light kaleidoscope for both eyes. Shaped somewhat like binoculars. An internal black light bounces off a maze of mirrors, strikes fluorescent bits floating through a gel-like medium for an ever-changing display. #990423. $19.99 (plus $5.99). Terrific Toys, 800-804-6785.

Girl Power: The Board Game With an Attitude. The object is to collect Spirit, Loyalty, or Pride tokens to trade for the ultimate goal, Girl Power tokens. Players make choices, face challenges, helping others out of trouble along the way. Two to six players. Ages 8 and up. #949840. $26.50 (plus $6.85). Casual Living, 800-843-1881.

Nonprofits & Non-Presents

Area nonprofits offering catalogues include:

National Geographic Society, 888-225-5647 or 888-647-6733.

National Wildlife Federation, 800-477-5560.

Smithsonian Institution, 800-322-0344.

U.S. Capitol Historical Society, 202-543-8919, ext. 10, or 800-887-9318.

U.S. Committee for UNICEF, 202-296-4242.

Save the environment or help one person with a selection from the Alternative Gifts International catalogue.

An ecumenical group that funnels money to groups in the U.S. and abroad, AGI provides cards inscribed with the name of the benefiting relief or rehabilitation project, so recipients will know to which project you've donated in their honor.

All projects are monitored by church groups. AGI uses none of the funds earmarked for projects for administrative costs. Catalogues and information, 800-842-2243.