Last-Last-Last-Minute Gift Guide

For when a bottle of wine is not – for reasons economic, legal, religious, or medical – an option.

 

PERSONALIZED BOOKMARK

 

The only thing better than a selfie of you is a selfie of you reminding your nearest and dearest where they left off reading Team of Rivals before the book club meeting on Wednesday night. For seasonal bonus points, take a fresh one (big smile, please) in your most outrageous holiday sweater – double bonus if you can dig up the reindeer-antler headband your daughter made at school. Print, trim, "laminate" (snack-size Ziploc baggie) and cross the lucky recipient off the list. Can be done in quantity, but note: there's something a touch creepy -- all right, creepier -- about distributing these at a party.

 

SPOON REST

 

Here's the thing: a spoon can rest on just about any damn thing. But nobody wants that béchamel to get on the counter. So, beat the hell out of an old jar lid with a hammer, give it a coat or two with nail polish, and make sure you leave time for it to dry. This can be plausibly passed off, if necessary, as a purchase from that funky little store that sells crafts from Bhutan or Suriname or wherever and always smells kind of legally dubious.

 

WIND CHIMES

 

Self-explanatory, right? You can go a lot of different ways here, from modern & kooky (short length of aluminum tubing from your garage, from that time you bought the wrong type of pipe, monofilament, mismatched utensils) to rustic & kooky (stick from the woods off Rte. 9, wire, bottles from side of Rte. 9, and you can say it came "From that place on Rte. 9? It might be closing?"). Really, kooky is sort of the default. Warning: Wind chimes are odious and violate the covenants of many planned communities, so only gift this to people lazy enough never to consider hanging up.

 

GLAM HAM HANDLERS

 

Nobody buys themselves oven mitts, but everybody needs them, and the pathetic gratitude with which something – anything -- that fulfills this domestic function is received will make you think twice about how truly irrational a species we are. The largest, cheapest gloves your local chain drugstore carries, wrapped in many layers of reflective duct tape until a sort of blob effect is reached, will serve nicely, especially if you strongly imply that they are from IKEA.

 

TWINE ANIMAL

 

I promise you: this is next year's "sock monkey."  Stop at hardware store on way to recipient's house: buy large spool of sisal twine (the browner and rougher the better) and, in the parking lot, form multiple balls of varying sizes. Attach with unbent paper clips and say you found it on Etsy and "couldn't help yourself." Suggested animal shape: pig.

 

HISTORIC-STYLE ARTISANAL QUILL PEN & INK SET

 

Higher level of difficulty, but recommended if you've got to make up for what you thought was an innocent remark at Thanksgiving dinner about your cousin's hairline. If you live in an urban area, the streets nearby are likely littered with pigeon feathers; if you live in a rural area, ask a nearby turkey farmer. With a pair of toenail clippers or jagged end of a key, create a sharp point on one end. Gather up a supply of blue or black ink pens from handbags, briefcases, coat pockets, children's backpacks, kitchen drawers, bathroom cabinets. Extract ink cartridges and drain into empty glass spice jar. Nest in tissue paper (or tissues!) in repurposed wooden box that originally contained four authentic Wisconsin chutneys from your brother-in-law.

 

REPURPOSED "ASHTRAY"

 

The post-smoking world is justly fascinated with these artifacts of a formerly nicotine-driven America, but our sketchy memories for specifics have left us communally gullible. Any flattish bowl or dish – the uglier and cheaper the better, with brass being the preferred substance– can be offered as a hilariously kitschy "vintage ashtray." "I mean, I don't know," you say, laughing "You can use it for nuts, or chips – I just loved it. I think my Dad had one just like it!" Note: don't try this on your Dad.

 

Bill Tipper left your gift at home, but he will absolutely bring it by next week.

July 24: On this day in 1725 John Newton, the slave trader-preacher who wrote the hymn "Amazing Grace," was born.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.

Pastoral

When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).