December is a month that's always super crazy to me when it comes to how I process time. The reason why is because, no matter what has transpired in the months leading up to it, once the final month of the calendar year pops up, I'm always caught off guard. Something tells me that a lot of you can totally relate—especially since we're literally just days away from Christmas Day.
Whether you're the consummate last-minute shopper or you're struggling a bit to figure out what to do this year because money is tighter than it's been in a while, I've got a few ideas on gifts that you can make for the special man in your life that are sweet, thoughtful and that you can put together for under $20 (before tax and wrapping paper). Hopefully, this will give you one less thing to stress out about before Christmas comes.
1. Date Calendar
I believe I've shared in an article on this platform before that, to this day, one of my favorite DIY gift ideas comes from a husband, who, on one of his wife's birthdays, he gave her an annual calendar. It wasn't just any ole' calendar, though. He actually went through every single month and pre-planned dates for them to go on. He also included a handwritten letter about how, no matter what life would bring their way, she would always be his top priority. How thoughtful, romantic and—one of my personal favorite words—proactive was that?
You could do the same thing by picking up a calendar and pre-planning some dates. For the record, it doesn't always have to be something that's over the time; you can have some dates right from the comfort and convenience of your own home (check out "10 Romantic Dates You Can Go On (In Your Own Home)"). Shoot, you could really put a smile on your man's face and throw in a few sex datestoo.If you really wanna DIY it, you can make your own Instagram calendar (check that out here), create your dates in the form of a journal calendar (some easy instructions for that are located right here) or, you can even make a pencil holder type of calendar for his desk (tips on how to do that are here).
2. Personalized Candle
Two things I've come to learn that a lot of men like are flowers and candles. So yeah, if you and your partner happen to be apart this Christmas and you know that he enjoys a fresh bouquet from time to time, having one delivered could definitely put a smile on his face. Or, if he enjoys coming home, turning on some music, opening up a bottle of wine and lighting a few candles, a sentimental approach would be to carve your initials (you know, like how kids used to do on trees back in the day) or a short 'n sweet message onto one. All you need to do this is a linoleum cutter, a metallic pen and some tape. Oh, and a (tall) candle, of course. If you want to take a stab at this, you can get some step-by-step instructions here.
3. Beard Oil & Aftershave
There is something that is oh so sexy about a man who rocks a well-manicured beard. But something that a lot of us—and by "us", I mean women—don't really think about is a great beard goes well beyond a shape-up. Self-care products like beard oil are necessary too. So, why not make your man some to put into his Christmas stocking?
All you need is a carrier oil and essential oil, along with the right kind of storage bottle and you're good to go. If you'd like a CliffsNotes read on which oils are able to accomplish what (as far as facial hair is concerned), Wise Beards has a cool article entitled, "7 Do It Yourself Beard Oil Recipes—The Ultimate DIY Guide". If you'd like to accompany the beard oil with some homemade aftershave, I found some great recipes for that here, here, and here. (Arts and crafts stores typically sell bottles to package items like this in, by the way.)
4. Customized Gift Basket
Sometimes, when funds are low and I want to do something thoughtful for an individual in my life, I'll go to an arts and crafts store to pick up a basket, some cellophane, some tissue paper and a bow and then fill the basket up with random stuff. Maybe some homemade muffins or cookies. Some homemade spices or infused sugar blends. I've even been known to make body washes and lotions too. It really depends on what kind of theme that I want the gift basket to be.
Well, another cool DIY Christmas idea is to make a gift basket for your partner. It can have a food theme, an office theme, a car theme, a sports theme, a self-care theme, a sex theme—it's totally up to you. For instance, on the self-care tip, you can put in some travel-size toiletries, a beard brush, some shaving razors, some DIY massage oil and a new nail kit.
5. Wallet Cards
Who hasn't heard of a love (or sex) coupon book? A masculine twist to those is to make wallet cards instead. It's the exact same thing, only you print your "free for one massage" or "free for your favorite kind of movie night" on a card that fits conveniently into his wallet, so that he can carry his coupons wherever he goes. Click here to print off some that are already designed with messages on them. Also, if you want to laminate the cards so that they'll last longer, t here's a YouTube video that can show you how to do it without an actual laminating machine here.
6. Sex Box
There's a young Black couple on YouTube that I check out from time to time (mostly because I remember when the guy was a playboy online and now he's all in love 'n stuff; it's cute). Their channel is called Cey & Jai. Anyway, Jai recently got Cey a PS5 for his birthday and ever since, pretty much not one video goes by, where she doesn't slay something slick about wishing that she never got it…because he is always on it.
If you can totally relate, I recently saw a "fix" for that—a DIY sex box. What you do is create controller pieces and add duel-adhesive foam stickers to them so that they end up having a 3D effect. Then you write sexy messages on the back; you know, things that will make your man want to put the game down and play with you for a while. If this has piqued your interest, you can get the deets on how to make your own sex box here.
7. Throw Blanket
Who doesn't like to cuddle up with their boo under a comfy blanket during this time of the year? Well, even if you're not a master knitter or crocheter, you can still make one for your partner. How? By doing something that is known as finger knitting. Basically, you get yourself some Bernat Alize Blanket EZ Yarn, download some instructions (some are here) and you're all set.
The long-short of it is this works because, since there are already loops in the yarn, you can use your fingers to connect the loops rather than applying an actual needle (how cool is that?). Just select your man's favorite colors and then, once you're done, put his favorite scent (on you) on it. It'll easily become one of his favorite presents of all time.
8. Lipstick Art
Here's an idea that is super easy while being both cute and sexy too. If you want a subtle way for your boo to think of you while sitting in his office, why not give him some lipstick art? All you're literally doing is choosing different shades of lipstick, kissing a piece of blank paper and then framing the final result once you're done. Then you can put a personal message either in the corner or on the back of the frame. You can get an idea of what the final result would look like by going here.
9. Personalized Coasters and Cup Sleeve
What if you want to get something for your significant other that is more on the practical side of things? How about some customized coasters and a couple of personalized cup sleeves for his favorite drinks—hot and cold? A site called Thinking Closet can walk you through a whopping 30 different DIY coaster ideas (check it out here). Some felt and Velcro can help you to make the cutest cup sleeves (DIY instructions are here).
10. DIY Bedroom Board Game
I write way too much about sex on this platform to not end this DIY Christmas gift idea piece with some kind of gift that will get the fires burning in your bedroom. If you and your man enjoy unplugging and doing something as simple as playing a board game sometimes, The Dating Divas offers up some helpful tips on how to make your own (right here). Just make sure that you've got a mistletoe, a Santa hat and a prize for the winner close by. It's sure to be a naughty with a side of nice night once he opens this up. Merry Christmas, y'all!
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Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at email@example.com. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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Food is the star of the show for Thanksgiving, but let’s be honest: dinner wouldn’t be anything special without a good tablescape. Decor is a significant part of the holiday season! Garlands, pumpkins, candles, and other decor can take your Thanksgiving spread from bland to brilliant! However, we understand the stress of making a whole feast for family and friends.
We sat down with Beth Smith of Beth Diana Smith Interior Designs to learn how to create the perfect tablescape for any dinner party.
Set the Tone With Dinnerware
Carolyn Ann Ryan/Getty Images
“Focus on the meal you’re serving and make your dinnerware set the tone and be the highlight of the table,” says Smith. The dinner is why your community is coming together and is arguably the most crucial centerpiece. Decorative pieces are nice, but food and what we use to eat can make it much more special. Smith suggests, “I recommend the Nguka dinnerware set from 54kibo, which is stunning, unique, and beautifully made.”
If you’re looking for a more affordable option, The Stoke Collection by ceramic artists Althea’s Meade-Hajduk is intentionally created to visually enhance any meal experience.
Have Fun With Your Color Palette
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In the world of nude palette overload, it’s nice to see color occasionally. Color is a natural mood booster that can bring excitement to the room - or table! “Create a thoughtful color palette that is not the standard Thanksgiving palette of fall colors,” says Smith. Having fun with colors and moving away from a traditional setting can bring uniqueness to your tablescape.
There’s also no chance of your tablescape having the same color palette as everyone else on social media. Smith adds, “If pink has grabbed your attention, this dusty pink set from Our Place has different plate and bowl size options.”
Incorporate Florals Through Bud Vases or Bouquets
Who doesn’t love florals? This look is accepted year-round, not just when romance is involved. “You can’t go wrong with florals for a tablescape if you’re setting it for your family, friends, or a group of singles,” says Smith. Florals are an easy way to make any event look elevated without having to try as hard. If you’re worried about hypoallergenic guests, you can purchase artificial flowers from Amazon. Here, you can find various floral options and even create your own bouquet.
“A floral tablescape can be budget-friendly or as extravagant as you may like. You can select a few bud vases and strategically place them around the table using a bouquet you bought locally,” says Smith.
Unsure of who is your local florist? Black Girl Florist is a site that helps you source local florists in your area. Click here to find a florist in your neighborhood! And if your budget is a little tighter than usual due to the holidays, Smith has a solution that will save you money altogether. Smith suggests, “You can also use dried-up branches and leaves from your backyard, which would be free.”
Elevate Your Tablescape With a Charcuterie Board
Charcuterie boards have become all the rage on TikTok, and for good reason. Mixing your favorite meats, cheese, and grapes has made snacking visually tasteful. Smith says they can also create a fabulous tablescape - killing two birds with one stone. Smith says, “You can never go wrong with creating one large charcuterie board. This makes food the decoration interesting, colorful, and delicious!” This could be especially great for Friendsgiving, and you want to avoid cooking a turkey twice.
The beauty of charcuterie boards is creating a food palette unique to you or your guest's needs. On the flip side, we also understand how overwhelming it can be to decide precisely what to put on your board. Smith has a few recommendations that can be helpful, “You can include cheeses, crackers, and meats, but you can also add specialty items like deserts, chocolate, and truffle mustard.”
Smith refers to the Truffle Mustard by Truffiest, an award-deserving mustard infused with summer truffles from northern Italy. This mustard can be paired with crackers, cheeses, meats, and shredded turkey if you want to stay on the theme.
Build on an Artsy Vibe and Add Layers
There’s no shame in bringing it back to basics. Bring out the old tablecloth your family member gave you a few years ago; it’s vintage! “The goal is to make the table look and feel like you have everything you need and more,” Smith says. Everything you need and more can consist of four main ingredients: tablecloth, napkins, cups, and, most importantly - wine glasses. “Make the tablescape feel artistic with funky dinner napkins and tablecloths. Then, layer with oversized plates, long-stemmed wine glasses, and after-dinner cups.”
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