Santa has his reindeer, you have the Internet. True, our favorite holiday Web sites are deficient in the area of Christmas Eve aeronautics, but they're a surprisingly good stand-in for Rudolph and friends. They inspire us when the season is fresh, support us in the crunch, and make delivering great gifts and parties a cinch. Could a reindeer help you spruce up the bathroom before the in-laws arrive? Who knows? Maybe you're getting the better end of the deal.
Wineenthusiast.com: Sometimes a bottle of wine says everything. Sometimes it says very, very little. Either way, it can be the ideal gift. Check out this great all-around source for giving and receiving, a favorite of food and wine critic Bill Daley.
Landsend.com: They're baaaack! The pretty little Peppermint Crunch Cookies, perfectly packaged in a cheery retro box. A great gift when you're clueless, harried or both.
Youngexplorers.com: A lot of award-winning toys cleverly organized according to narrow age ranges. Among our favorites: the wood blocks that allow you to build a wide range of marble runs ("A Maze and Marbles," $64.95).
Amazon.com: These days, Amazon is the Web equivalent of one-stop shopping — you could do all of your holiday shopping here. But we still love to use them for sending our favorite gift: books. If you know a few of your recipients' favorites, the site will help you choose by telling you what fans of a given book are also buying. Or, for great advice on the perfect book for a kid, try scholastic.com, where the "Parents" section has oodles of reading lists, some themed, all age appropriate.
Moma.org: Tons of stylish options. We're swooning over the MoMA Store's Margrethe Prep Bowls (four for $20), the ceramic version of the classic New York diner coffee cup ($14) and the half-pint creamer ($14), which re-imagines the pint-size milk carton in clear glass.
Kioskkiosk.com: This darling of design bloggers is a great source for off-the-beaten path stocking stuffers and gifts, from a Portuguese plumb line to German colored pencils.
Pearlriver.com: Another mother lode of interesting stocking stuffers and gifts. We love those wooden puzzles and the robots in the novelties section.
Giftgenius.com: If you're lacking in the idea department, this site has a fun search feature that lets you choose an occasion and recipient, then customize your list of gift ideas by adjusting "Attributes." Factor in how trendy, lighthearted or mainstream your recipient is and come up with tailor-made suggestions.
Containerstore.com: When the holidays roll around, the Container Store rolls out its legendary gift wrap aisle. Now you can find wrap, ribbon and supplies, as well as their cool collection of stocking stuffers, online. And if you'd prefer not to wait for your purchases to arrive via mail, they offer a store pickup option. You can even get curbside service, so you never have to leave the sleigh.
Minted.com: Why can't your holiday photo cards be as hip and happening as you are? At Minted, they are. Get Santa's "official" seal of niceness stamped on your card or spell out your holiday greeting in stage lights.
Kodakgallery.com: Clean, classic and, for as little as 50 cents a card, a very good deal.
Paper-source.com: If you want to make cards by hand, this site offers great kits that will save you from trekking through the craft store for supplies. And if you'd rather go prepackaged, there's a nicely edited selection of boxed cards. Bonus: Check out their blog for craft ideas.
Epicurious.com: Prepare the Feast of the Seven Fishes with Mario Batali! Check out a recipe for that elaborate French pastry construction, croquembouche — avec chocolat! Epicurious has recipes, videos and detailed instructions.
Foodnetwork.com: The satisfying, inspiring and useful Thanksgiving guide was our food editors' choice. A search on "Christmas" pulled up guides to Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, including videos, photos and recipes.
Omnifarm.com: Love the tree but hate the tree shopping? This family farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina has been shipping Fraser Firs by mail for more than 35 years. Trees (5 feet 6 inches tall to 6 feet tall) are $70, plus about $24 shipping.
Grandinroad.com: Keeping it artificial this season? How very green of you. Grandinroad offers an array of options, including a super-skinny tree for corners ($199-$299 for a pre-lighted Fraser skinny tree).
Marthastewart.com: You probably won't get around to re-creating your own home out of gingerbread, but you can dream, can't you? Martha's truly amazing ideas continue to bewitch and bedazzle us. There are 40 different ideas for handmade cards (the evergreen cards are our favorite). And her recipe database is another tried-and-true resource for the cooks we know.
Homedepot.com: Visions of sprucing up a tad before the in-laws arrive are dancing in our heads, and Home Depot feeds the fire with its appealing point-and-click "Affordable Bathroom Updates" feature.
Bhg.com: The time-poor woman's Martha, Better Homes and Gardens offers up a more attainable (though sometimes less sophisticated) version of holiday decor and entertaining ideas. Their ideas for food gifts and packaging had us longing to bake.
Familyfun.go.com: Give the folks at Disney their due. They know what kids like, from candy crafts to multiple printables. We're going to try making the adorable Puffy the Polar bear marshmallow creature.
Kaboose.com: Find fun party games from the obvious to the (delightfully) out there. In the Rudolph Dash, children affix red construction paper noses to their own with Vaseline — and try to keep them in place.
Foryourparty.com: Personalized party accessories including napkins, favors and invites.
Plumparty.com and socialcouture.com: Grown-up party supplies and party favors conveniently organized by theme, shown in settings that offer up ideas as well as products. We've never had a red dinner party or a Chinese New Year party, but that doesn't mean we can't start.
Google.com/calendar: Let the holiday season be your inspiration. Use Google Calendar to put together a free online events calendar for the busiest time of year and share it, as needed, with your friends and family.
Paperlesspost.com: Beautiful custom holiday party invites, sent electronically. (Think major upgrade from the classic online invite sites.) You make your own, which is surprisingly fast and fun, and pay $5 for 40 invites.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.