Once Thanksgiving is over, our focus will be on Christmas. On my desk is a huge pile of press releases with hundreds of suggestions for "ideal" gifts for friends and loved ones.

As I rummaged through them, I decided to pick out only the "practical" gifts - no ties for Dad and no perfume for Mom. I was looking for items that would be practical in and around the house.- Why not get Dad a power washer? No, this isn't a washing machine. The power washer attaches to the end of the hose and is used for flushing away dirt on the driveway or deck, washing windows and getting rid of soil and stubborn oil-and-grease film on lawn and snow equipment.

Nordic Outdoor Products has recently introduced several models of their Nordic Power Washer. The basic model is portable, weighing only 10 pounds. With its convenient shoulder strap, the unit is easy to carry around the yard whenever it's needed. (No price was listed in press release.)

Of course, we've got our fingers crossed that the ground will be covered with lots of snow by the time Christmas comes around. If that's the case, Dad can store his new gift in the shed until warmer weather comes around.

For more information, contact Nordic Outdoor Products, Division of Northland Aluminum Products Inc., Highway 7 at 100, Minneapolis, MN 55416.

- Mom might enjoy Black & Decker's new PowerPro Heavy Duty Cordless vac (model DB6000). It features 75 percent more peak suction power than Black & Decker's original Dustbuster vac. It's designed to handle tough messes - like fragments of broken Christmas ornaments - and it's even powerful enough to pick up quarters and ball bearings. Suggested retail price: $70.98

- The whole family, especially the children, will enjoy Black & Decker's new Sweet Hearts Wafflebaker (model G12) which, admittedly, is more novel than practical. But children seldom think in terms of practicality. The Sweet Hearts Wafflebaker will brighten up breakfast on Christmas morning, since it bakes 71/2-inch plate-size waffles that can be separated into four heart-shaped sections. A non-stick coated cooking surface makes cleanup quick and easy. Suggested retail price: $44.98.

Check department and variety stores for these Black & Decker items.

- Celebrate the holidays with gifts from Lillian Vernon's mail order catalog. The company promises Christmas delivery if orders are received by 6 p.m. EST on Dec. 15 (personalized items on Dec. 13).

The catalog is filled with a number of practical gifts. Several that caught my eye were:

- A super-size "welcome" mat that keeps mud, snow and sand out of the house. Coarse coconut husk fibers are tightly woven to retain shape and stiffness. Available in an exclusive beige/black design. ($16.98)

- Personalized aprons in red-and-white stripes for the whole family. (Adult's apron, $12.98; child's, $9.98.)

- Shower splash guards that seal corners where the tub and wall meet. They end spills that begin where your shower curtain ends. Made of sturdy white plastic, they can easily be installed by using sure-seal caulk that is included in the order. ($9.98)

- An inflatable pillow that cradles your neck. It lets you nap comfortably in cars, planes, trains or even high-back armchairs. When not in use, it can be folded in its own case and placed in tote bag or glove compartment. ($5.98)

To charge gifts from the Lillian Vernon Corp., call (914) 633-6300 at any time on any day. For catalog and customer service, call (804) 430-1500, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST, Monday-Friday. Or write Lillian Vernon Corp., Virginia Beach, VA 23479-0002.