th3 This just in: Men prefer sex to a Valentine gift.Stop the presses, right? It certainly doesn’t surprise me that 66% of the men polled by Retail Me Not would choose the pleasures of the flesh over, say, a teddy bear holding a red sateen heart embossed with “I Wuv You.”

They’re likely to be disappointed. In the same survey, 70% of the women said they’d much rather have a present than an extremely personal moment.

Selfish? Maybe. But let’s face it: Most women in relationships can get all the sex they want. Gifts, on the other hand, are a surprise.

Well, sort of: Apparently it’s expected that we’ll be getting gifts on Valentine’s Day. Just flip through any store circular, turn on the TV or surf the Internet to be bombarded by ads that shriek some version of, “Feb. 14 is at hand! Buy the right gift or you won’t get laid for the rest of the year!

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th Vegan condoms. Who knew?My new once-a-month gig at The Real Deal has begun and it’s going to be a keeper. How do I know? Because the editor left in my reference to “ethical, vegan and fair-trade condoms.”

Apparently some condom manufacturers use “animal byproducts” in the manufacture of their love sacks. Fortunately for vegans, cruelty-free alternatives do exist – and you can even get coupons for them. 

The Real Deal is a blog published by Retail Me Not, the online coupon code behemoth (and finder of vegan condom coupons). I got hired to write a “best things to buy this month” feature, and since the editor is also a former print newshound I’m expected to do old print newshound things. You know, like research. And interviews. In return the editor will also do old print newshound things, like fact-checking and editing.

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mQnjN7kUnHZUnRoCHD 3tMQ Some linky bling for your Valentine.Now that things are more or less back to normal, it’s time to resume the weekly giveaways. This week’s prize would make a good Valentine’s Day gift, provided the winner answers on time – and provided that the winner’s sweetie likes jewelry.

It’s a bracelet from Victoria’s Secret, made of “rose gold” links with a sparkly angel-wing catch. Well, most people think it’s an angel-wing catch. My 7-year-old nephew spent the day with me yesterday and opined that the catch “looks like a mustache.”

A rhinestone mustache, mind you. (Admit it: The song “Rhinestone Cowboy” will now be stuck in your head all day.)

The giveaway is sponsored by my daughter’s website, I Pick Up Pennies. Hope you’ll give her a visit and browse around a bit.

For a shot at linky bling, enter by:

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th6 Gift Card Exchange Day: A chance to fix Christmas.Show of hands: How many of you have received an inappropriate gift card at Christmas?

Maybe it’s a steakhouse card from the grandparent who doesn’t understand what “vegan” means, or a gift card to a store where you’d never willingly shop.

Or perhaps a well-meaning pal sent a movie theater gift card, but your new apartment is an hour-long bus ride away from that particular chain.

The easy answer: Sell the gift card on the secondary market.

The best day to do it: Dec. 26, aka Gift Card Exchange Day

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th5 Of caramels and sidewalks.It was 7 below zero and 12:45 a.m. when I left Anchorage for Phoenix, a city where I don’t think it’s ever been below zero. My layover in Seattle was marked by several startling holiday visions:

  • An electric cart driven by Mrs. Santa; beside her, Santa played the guitar and sang “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas.”
  • A life-sized plush snowman and a holiday princess walking through saying “Merry Christmas!”
  • An old time Father Christmas giving coloring books to kids and asking adults to applaud in appreciation of several embarrassed-looking Navy dudes.
  • A quartet of strolling carolers wearing Dickensian garb.
  • Someone dressed as a reindeer and what I think was a one-man band (but since the music was far away, it could also have been a one-woman band).

But you know what seems stranger than that now? The fact that I took a walk in shirtsleeves, on sidewalks I could actually see.

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