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Five Great: Gifts for the Road Travelin’ Gal

I’m not gonna lie, gang. Between my best friend and fam on the Atlantic and my new home on the Pacific, I’ve spent a lot of time on the road this year and  frankly know more than I’d like to about this great nation’s truckstops and rest stops (Texas might have dinosaur-denying textbooks and sentence innocent people to death on a regular basis, but by gum we have the finest maintained rest areas in this good and golden land).

Although I don’t always travel IN style I like to think I travel WITH style.

For example, I’m probably the only person at that particular rest area outside of El Paso who cuddled up in the backseat of her trusty automobile using two truck stop horse blankets and a blonde mink for a pillow.

For the majority of my adult life, I harbored some serious anti-suitcase sentiment. I traveled everywhere packing only what I could fit into my great grandmother’s snug 20″ x 16″ x 8″. red crocodile suitcase.  I’d had these newfangled cases with their wheelies and whatnot, and not a single one worked the way it ought. It was like I was trailing a drunken toddler behind me, and I gave up on modern suitcases for good. Sorta.

Unfortunately, when I realized I’d be staying a month or longer away from home and I’d have to cross international borders –who might not necessarily allow exotics like crocodile into, or out of their country– I bit the checked-baggage bullet and invested in the best suitcase I could reasonably afford.

Enter the Antler “Camden” 30″ hardside spinner.

Even if I’d paid the $420 retail for this bag –I didn’t, it’s on sale at Amazon for less than half that in a variety of colors, I got white– it would have been worth every penny.

This thing corners like a Lamborghini, survived particularly brutal treatment at the hands of TSA not to mention the guy who hauled it down the 72 steps to my villa, dropping it no fewer than six times, and the various abuses and humiliations involved in all commercial air travel these days. My white one did get a little scuffed up, but the marks came off with a Lysol cloth –what, you guys don’t disinfect your luggage after God Knows Who has been handling it?– and honestly, it’s a white suitcase. It comes with the territory.

From the ridiculous to the sublime, or at least the really, really bright, I give you theStanley HID0109 HID Spotlight.

I had no idea how badly I needed one of these things until my father gave me his used one last month. I’ve used it half a dozen times since then.

First of all, this thing is as bright as the sun.

Okay, maybe not the sun, but it is as bright as anything you could ever want.

When I was in Mexico, one of the lanterns in the single restaurant in my village caught fire and exploded (whee!) and they had to turn off the breaker. My trusty Stanley saved the day so they could work their electrical-repair magic and because boys will be boys, one of the fellas pointed the lamp across the ocean at one of the Islas Coronados and I swear the light shone onto land…13 km away.

More practically, I used it to help a family whose car had broken down somewhere in…hell I don’t remember. Let’s say Arizona and to “accidentally” shine directly in the face of a creepy trucker who kept circling closer and closer as I was gassing up along I-10 well after midnight.

Incidentally, do you know why the family with the butch guy with the camo truck and the huntin’ dog in the back of the bed needed to be rescued by a Birkin-totin’ babe like myself?

Because he didn’t carry jumper cables.

I swear I don’t understand what’s so hard about this. You buy a pair, you stick ’em in the back of your car and you forget about them until you need ’em, which you –or someone– will, eventually.

I get into more arguments with women about the importance of carrying cables than I care to relate. Yes, I know you have AAA. That’s great. I do too, and I LOVE them, but I also distinctly remember having to come to my grandmother’s rescue because AAA simply did not show up. Not even after I called several times. This wasn’t in the boonies either. They just didn’t come. Ever.

To me there’s no difference in not carrying jumper cables because “That’s what AAA is for” and not learning to drive because you have someone to chauffeur you around. It’s weak-on-purpose and antifeminist and okay, perhaps I’m a little too invested, but you can bet that big butch man will go to his grave with the shame that he had to be rescued by a girl because he failed Boy Scouts 101: He wasn’t prepared.

Granted it might not be the most romantic gift, but it could be a dead useful “gag gift” when paired with some sexy lingerie or a pair of beautiful earrings hidden inside.


1) Clamp the red cable to the positive terminal on the dead battery

2) Clamp the other end of the red cable to the positive terminal on the good battery

3) Clamp the black cable to the negative terminal of the good battery

4) Clamp the other end of the black cable to a piece of solid, unpainted metal under the hood of the dead car (NOT the black terminal unless you want to reproduce the welding scenes from Flashdance)

5) Turn on the good car, let it run for a few minutes, then start the dead car. If it doesn’t work it might need a few minutes more. Once the stalled car is started let it run for at least 30 minutes.

Just remember, start with “Red Cross to Dead Cross” and work in a circle. You should only be turning one direction.

Okay, ready for something a little less butch?


There, you don’t get much girlier than Caudelie Beauty Elixir.

I love this stuff. Basically it’s a water-weight mist with extracts of rosemary, and other essential oils, plus benzoin that perks your face right up. I know my skin goes to absolute hell when I travel and I keep a little bottle of this, along with some natural tears, Five Hour Energy and some Yellow Stick in one of the cupholders when I drive. One little spritz makes me feel human again and refreshes my body and as much of my spirit as can be reached by atomized spray.

What, you don’t know what Yellow Stick is?

It’s only about the greatest thing a dollar and four cents can buy!

I first started using Yellow Stick, which is a solid tube of 100% pure cocoa butter, when I was a volunteer at the cold weather shelter and I needed something I could stick in my pocket without worrying about spillage or leakage. I needed to be able to use it on my hands, lips and any place that got dry, without it irritating my skin or smelling too strongly of anything I didn’t want on my face. Plus, it’s easy to disinfect with a Lysol wipe, which is always a plus in my borderline germaphobe book. I use it for everything now, especially my cuticles and lips, and it makes a great stocking stuffer…you know, in case the jumper cables don’t fit.

‘Tis the Season for the Lovable Geek

The Complete Monty Python 16 Ton Megaset
Iconic Red Swingline Stapler
Dalek Webcam (awww yeah)
Star Trek Original Series Tricorder

Be sure to check back at the main ‘Tis the Season page to look back on profiles you’ve missed and look forward to ones that are soon to come!

From Francesca’s Inbox: Sales for the Weekend

Many of the sales about which Francesca wrote on Monday and Tuesday are still going on. Click here for clothes and here for accessories and gifts.

YOOX is offering free shipping through December 23, in addition to their big sale which includes beautiful accessories, shoes, and handbags. Gift guide here. Gift Certificates available here.

Igigi has 2 pages of gifts for under $100. Their holiday dresses are here. Pictured:  Imperia Lace Dress in Black/Red.  Remember, free ground shipping on orders of $150 (or 2-day shipping for $10).

Avenue will take 35% off your online purchase, through Sunday, with code AV91167. Holiday dresses are here. Pictured: Avenue Plus Size Katherine Satin Trim U-Neck Dress.

Junonia has taken 30% off fleece and flannel items, and will give you free mittens and a hat with orders of $75 or more. Both offers end on Sunday.

Jessica London is having a tremendous, site-wide sale. And, through Sunday, take 30% off your highest-priced item (if you order three or more) with  code JLE4484. Holiday dresses here. Francesca’s pick.

Swimsuits for All will take an additional 25% OFF your order, through Sunday, with code 25NEW. See their new arrivals here. Francesca likes the new colorblock swimsuits by Longitude. Buy your swimsuit now to save money in the spring.

Ashley Stewart will take 40% off your entire online purchase (excluding sale, clearance, Diva Deals, and turtlenecks) “for a limited time.”

Chadwicks will give you shipping for flat rate of $2.95, and toss a free cardigan sweater into your order of $20 or more, with code CHDEAL09. Deals end on Monday.

Zaftique will give you shipping for a flat rate of $3.50 on orders of $100 or more, through December 21, with code FSHLDY09.

Happy shopping and happy weekend! xoxo

From Francesca’s Inbox: Shoes, Accessories and Gifts

For information on current clothing sales, go to yesterday’s FFI here.

Designer Shoes adds a new brand, Nota Bene, of whose style and quality Francesca approves. Francesca’s pick: their classic Mary Jane (pictured).

YOOX is having a big sale, including high-end shoes, handbags, and accessories.

Zappos, one of our favorite shoe sources, is offering free shipping both ways as always. Now, additionally, they offer free overnight shipping on clothing. Sizes go up to 40 or 4XL (warning: largest sizes are mostly swimwear). They also sell kitchenware and all sorts of nice gift items like cologne and toys, starting here. Free shipping and return shipping on everything. Francesca says: wow.

Cosmetics Mall is having a big sale on Women’s Fragrances.

Books Online has a menu of book clubs for yourself or someone on your gift list. Francesca loves the gift of the book club!

Smart Bargains has added new items to clearance. This includes home goods, jewelry, women’s apparel (including some plus sizes) and menswear.

Beauty.com will take $20 off your purchase of $100 or more, through December 20. No code necessary. Exceptions: This won’t work for international orders (APO and Territories addresses OK), and won’t apply to gift cards, gift certificates, prescriptions, contact lenses, magazine subscriptions, or the following brands: Aramis, Bare Escentuals, Darphin, Donna Karan/DKNY, Jane Iredale, Lab Series Skincare for Men, Origins, Missoni, Prescriptives, Sean John, Smashbox and Tommy Hilfiger.)

Magazine City provides excellent prices, with no strings attached, on magazine subscriptions. Francesca found some of her favorite fashion magazines for $1 per issue (to US) and under $5 per issue internationally (a very good price, Francesca fears. Living outside the US has its advantages, but certainly not in the realm of access to English-language print media!)

Amazon has set up a page from which you can see their “top holiday deals” FYI, the Gund bear pictured is a free gift if you order $75 or more of toys (also add the bear to your cart).

Sun Jewelry, a vendor of high-end bracelets, earrings, etc, has set up a gift clearance page, with sale items to buy for the special someone (including yourself). Francesca’s pick: Marguise Amethyst and Diamond earrings (pictured).

Happy shopping! xoxo

What Miss Plumcake is…

So I got some sleep and there’s no sign I’ve actually ordered a horse, which is more than a small relief.  I thought I’d give the mosaic theme a break today and treat you to a few bits o’ choreographed brill from this week’s list courtesy of Judy Garland and Rufus Wainwright.

Reading: Wise Blood by Flannery O’Conn0r. There’s no Gothic like Southern Gothic and there’s no guilt like Catholic Guilt. Besides, “no man with a good car needs to be justified”.

Watching: Summer Stock — my favorite Let’s Put on a Show musical, courtesy of Judy Garland and Gene Kelly

Hearing: Rufus Does Judy at Carnegie Hall -in a continuing theme of Saint Judy.  He lived the dream. Bastard.

Smelling: Bvlgari Black. A weird fragrance I usually save for summer, but a fine example showing not all brilliant perfumes are expensive.  You can pick up Black for under 30 bucks online or at Ross/TJ Maxx etc. The notes in Black include black rubber and tar. Before you turn up your nose, read this review from Bois de Jasmin and then go out and try it. Originally a men’s fragrance it’s being marketed to women, too which makes me think it’s gearing up for a relaunch and corresponding price hike. If you like it, get some now.

Loving: Cows N’ Things Everyone wants to help those adorable little poor children and that’s great and all, but what about the old folks? I won’t teeter up on my soap box about the way Western culture treats its elderly, because I could go on for.ev.er about it and if you want to be tediously lectured there are plenty of other places to go for that. BUT Cows n’ Things is a great charity.  You can buy chicks, a beehive, a donkey ambulance OR cataract surgery (for about 20 USD!!!) for an eldery person in developing nations throughout the world.

Hating: The concept of “being good” or “being bad” at the holidays, especially when it comes to food. It’s ridiculous to see grown damn woman smile like their mischievous toddlers whispering loudly they’re “being bad” and having another sausage ball. Listen, if you need to justify to a room of people what you’re eating AND put a moral judgment on it, your problems are a lot deeper than Bisquick-based party snacks.

Wanting: chocolate-dipped spiced apricots. Partially submerge plump dried apricots in dark chocolate and let set. Drizzle pre-dipped bits with bitter sweet or white chocolate and dust with pumpkin pie spice/warm aromatic spice of your choice. Let chill. Dead easy, makes a million and are super delicious.

Buying: Ovation Finalist Pro Field Boots with extra-wide calves (check the size chart, you may have to go with men’s extra-wides)

From Francesca’s Inbox: Cyber Monday

Francesca has never heard of the “Cyber Monday” until this year, but whatever! The important thing is that the sales are ebbing down.

First, the Most Exciting Sale in Francesca’s opinion:

Sydney’s Closet will take 30% off your entire order of $99 or higher, with code THANKS09, ending tomorrow.  Wedding dresses here. Prom dresses here.

Francesca cannot emphasize enough: Even though it is now November, the June, it will come around again, with its proms, weddings, graduation parties, etc. If you are engaged, or graduating from high school, or have a family member or friend who will be hosting the formal bash this summer, you can save the monies by purchasing your outfit now, when you can get 30% off. All the wedding dresses here are from Sydney’s Closet. Francesca loves.

Always for Me will give you free shipping on orders of $75 or more today (within continental United States), with code earlybird75.

Ashley Stewart‘s entire site is 30% off. Francesca does not know when this ends. Their clothes are very good, and there are pretty accessories on sale here. Also today, online only, they are announcing different sales/discounts every three hours from 6 am – 9 pm EST.

Avenue will take 30% off your entire purchase today with code AV91158. This code also works at Jessica London.

Catherines‘  Holiday Madness saleicon ends tomorrow.

Evans “20% off Everything” ends today.

JC Penney is having a big “cyber sale.” Plus-size women’s apparel is here.

Peggy Lutz is having a huge sale in all departments (Couture, Classics, and Outlet) ending today.

Roaman’s will take 50% off your highest priced item today with code RD50%SALE

Shoe Mall will take 20% off your order today with code SHOEMALL. (Brands excluded: Camper, Ecco, Geox, Globe, Harley-Davidson, Minnetonka)

SWAK Designs has two codes for you, ending tomorrow: BF35 will take 35% off regularly-priced items, and BFSALE25 will take 25% off sale and clearance items. Their pashminas make a nice gift.

Torrid has taken 50% off clearance items, and is having a big Holiday sale. No ending date is specified. Francesca found Halloween costumes selling for under $17 in clearance, and cute accessories for the edgy teen or earnest tween girl here. Francesca’s pick for your 8th-grade niece: Betsey Johnson Betseyville tote bag on deep discount (or for you. Francesca harbors a deep, deep love for Betsey Johnson, since she herself was in 8th grade). Or play it safe with Twilight paraphernalia here.

Zaftique is holding the Holiday Clearance Sale through December 14.

From Francesca’s Inbox: Monday “Basic Black” Edition

Hello! Here we go in alphabetical order (mostly):

Avenue and Jessica London will give you free shipping on your purchase of $60 or more with code AV91140. This code is good through December 10. Shop both stores here.

Catherines is having a Buy Two, Get One Free sale in stores and online ending today. Buy any two items, and get any third (for equal or lesser value) for free. Francesca’s Picks: Buy the sleeved, accessorize-for-the-office black dressicon (pictured) and this taffeta ruched dressicon for the office party (pictured), get the border print dressicon (pictured) for free to wear on date night with your husband.

Designer Shoes (“for women who leave a larger footprint”)will give you 25% off any shoes today with code SALESHOESNOV. And, through Monday November 30, 20% off anything on the site with code CYBERMONDAY. Their apparel does run in plus sizes.

Just My Size sale on Playtex bras is still going on.

Old Navy will give you 15% off purchases of $75, or 25% off purchases of $100, ending today, with code ONSAVE15. Also, through December 15, free shipping on any purchase of $50 or more. Click here to go straight to plus sizes.

Perfumania has posted a holiday gift guide, which allows you to shop by price or by recipient. Francesca does not normally recommend buying frangrance for anyone whose favorite scents you do not know for sure, but it could be nice for a teenage girl or for the vague acquaintance who seems to have everything. Those who read this blog often know that Francesca personally wears Light Blue and Euphoria.

Shoe Mall is selling something attractive for the edgy or biker girl: Harley Davidson brand boots.  And, order any Harley footwear and enter code SMHARLEYD in the “promo code” to receive a little collectible Harley Davidson motorcycle, while supplies last (Francescais not telling you this because she loves the Harleys, but because some of you might). Francesca’s picks: the Tiff boot, the Carlin boot.

Silhouettes is having a jeans sweepstakes. Enter here before November 30 for a chance to win any pair of Blue Couture brand jeans of your choice.

Smart Bargains is having a liquidation sale on designer brandsicon, ending today. Click here to shop by sizeicon (see the nav bar on the left). Francesca says: These are good brands at very good prices.

Chico’s has completely renovated their style and are not nearly as matronly as they used to be. Through Thursday they will give you 50% off your most expensive item if you spend $100 or more and enter code 6693.

Happy shopping! xoxo

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