Frieda Ball's seven children rarely saw their mother on Christmas Eve. While other families were hanging up stockings and putting out cookies for Santa, Mrs. Ball's family was wondering which store she was in and what presents she was buying. And many times she stayed up all night wrapping the toys she had just bought.
Back then, Christmas sales didn't start the day after Thanksgiving, says Mrs. Ball, 67. "A lot of stores would only put their toys on sale on Christmas Eve, so I saved money by waiting."
Although there have been many sales this season to entice shoppers, stores will still be jammed today with last-minute PTC gift-seekers -- including Mrs. Ball, who has to shop for 17 grandchildren.
Instead of buying the usual tie, sweater or picture frame, procrastinators might consider some gift ideas that give the appearance of forethought. Here are a few possibilities.
* Bonsai trees -- A miniature evergreen tree, already styled and in a decorative container. Comes with care instructions. Available at Bonsai Associates, 3000 Chestnut Ave., Hampden.
* Amaryllis in a pot -- A complete kit with soil, container and amaryllis bulbs. Just water and you'll have blooming flowers in six to eight weeks. Available at Meyer Seed Co., 600 S. Caroline St. and 8633 Belair Road.
For happy eaters:
* Food baskets -- Prepared to match your pocketbook and taste. Give the ingredients for a pasta dinner, an espresso break, a dessert tray or a mini-meal of cheeses and meats. Available at Dipasquale's, 3700 Gough St., or Morton's, 10 W. Eager St.
* Popcorn -- Comes in 20 flavors including Cheddar, creamy caramel and double butter. All natural ingredients. Available at Kernels World, Security Square Mall.
For tired bodies:
* The groomed look -- Body massages, facials, manicures, pedicures, scalp treatments and hair stylings for men and women. The "Day of Beauty" for women lasts eight hours and includes breakfast and lunch. "The Gentlemen's Pleasure" is a three-hour spruce-up. Gift certificates for entire packages or individual treatments available at About Faces, Kenilworth Mall, Towson.
* Natural foods -- Herbal teas, foods for those on salt-free, sugar-free or fat-free diets, high-power muffin and cookie mixes for athletes and body builders, and vegetarian foods. Available at Special Diet Shop, 1 N. Howard St.
For the mind:
* Old and rare books -- First editions, leather-bound books and tomes featuring unique illustrations can be found at Inscribulus Books, 857 N. Howard St.
* Comics -- Step back into the past and browse through Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys and Zane Grey books, or 50 years of comic books and movie posters. Available at Comic Book Kingdom, 4307 Harford Road.