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
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“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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This post is in partnership with Amgen.
The seemingly simple task of taking a breath is something most of us don’t think twice about. But for people who live with severe asthma, breathing does not always come easily. Asthma, a chronic respiratory condition that inflames and narrows the airways in the lungs, affects millions of people worldwide – 5-10% of which live with severe asthma. Severe asthma is a chronic and lifelong condition that is unpredictable and can be difficult to manage. Though often invisible to the rest of the world, severe asthma is a not-so-silent companion for those who live with it, often interrupting schedules and impacting day-to-day life.
Among the many individuals who battle severe asthma, Black women face a unique set of challenges. It's not uncommon for us to go years without a proper diagnosis, and finding the right treatment often requires some trial and error. Thankfully, all hope is not lost for those who may be fighting to get their severe asthma under control. We spoke with Juanita Brown Ingram, Esq. and Jania Watson, two inspiring Black women who have been living with severe asthma and have found strength, resilience, and a sense of purpose in their journeys.
Juanita Brown Ingram, Esq.
Juanita Ingram has a resume that would make anyone’s jaw drop. On top of being recently crowned Mrs. Universe, she’s also an accomplished attorney, filmmaker, and philanthropist. From the outside, it seems there’s nothing this talented woman won’t try, and likely succeed at. In her everyday life, however, Juanita exercises a lot more caution. From a young age, Juanita has struggled with severe asthma. Her symptoms were always exacerbated by common illnesses like a cold or flu. “I've heard these stories of my breathing struggles, but I remember distinctly when I was younger not being able to breathe every time I got a virus,” says Ingram. “I remember missing a lot of school and crying a lot because asthma is painful. I [was taken] to see my doctor often if I got sick with anything so I was hypervigilant as a child, and I still am.”
Today, Juanita says her symptoms are best managed when she’s working closely with her care team, avoiding getting sick and staying ahead of any symptoms. Ingram said she’s been blessed with skilled doctors who are just as vigilant of her symptoms as she is. While competing in the Mrs. Universe competition, Juanita took extra care to stay clear of other competitors to ensure she didn’t catch a cold or virus that would trigger her severe asthma. “I would stand off to the side and sometimes that could be taken as ‘oh, she thinks she's better than everybody else.’ But if I get sick during a pageant, I'm done. I had to compete with that in mind because my sickness doesn't look like everybody else's sickness.”
Even when her symptoms are under control, living with severe asthma still presents challenges. Juanita relies on her strong support system to overcome the hurdles caused by a lack of understanding from the public, “I think that there's a lot of lack of awareness about how serious severe asthma is. I would [also] tell women to advocate and to trust their intuition and not to allow someone to dismiss what you're experiencing.”
Jania, a content creator from Atlanta, Georgia, has been living with severe asthma for many years. Thanks to early testing by asthma specialists, Jania was diagnosed with severe asthma as a child after experiencing frequent flare-ups and challenges in her day-to-day life. “I specifically remember, I was starting school, and we were moving into a new house. One of the triggers for me and my younger sister at the time were certain types of carpets. We had just moved into this new house and within weeks of us being there, my parents literally had to pay for all new carpet in the house.”
As Jania grew older, she was suffering from fewer flare-ups and thought her asthma was well under control. However, a trip back to her doctor during high school revealed that her severe asthma was affecting her more than she realized. “That was the first time in a long time I had to do a breathing test,” she describes. “The doctor had me take a deep breath in and blow into a machine to test my breathing. They told me to blow as hard as I could. And I was doing it. I was giving everything I got. [My dad and the doctor] were looking at me like ‘girl, stop playing.’ And at that point [it confirmed] I still have severe asthma because I've given it all I got. It doesn't really go away, but I just learned how to help manage it better.”
Jania recognizes that people who aren’t living with asthma, may not understand the disease and mistake it for something less serious. Or there could be others who think their symptoms are minor, and not worth bringing up. So, for Jania, communicating with others about her diagnosis is key. “Having severe asthma [flare-ups] in some cases looks very similar to being out of shape,” she said. “But this is a chronic illness that I was born with. This is just something that I live with that I've been dealing with. And I think it's important for people to know because that determines the next steps. [They might ask] ‘Do you need a bottle of water, or do you need an inhaler? Do you need to take a break, or do we need to take you to the hospital?’ So, I think letting the people around you know what's going on, just in case anything were to happen plays a lot into it as well.”
Like Juanita, Jania’s journey has been marked by ups and downs, but she remains an unwavering advocate for asthma awareness and support within the Black community. She hopes that her story can be an inspiration to other women with asthma who may not yet have their symptoms under control. “There's still life to be lived outside of having severe asthma. It is always going to be there, but it's not meant to stop you from living your life. That’s why learning how to manage it and also having that support system around you, is so important.”
By sharing their journeys, Juanita and Jania hope to encourage others to embrace their conditions, obtain a proper management plan from a doctor or asthma specialist like a pulmonologist or allergist, and contribute to the improvement of asthma awareness and support, not only within the Black community, but for all individuals living with severe asthma.
Read more stories from others like Juanita and Jania on Amgen.com, or visit Uncontrolled Asthma In Black Women | BREAK THE CYCLE to find support and resources.
If I’ve said it once, I promise that I’ve said it a billion times over at this point. After (officially) working with couples for almost 20 years, although I’ve just about heard it all, if one thing is steadily rising as the reason for why people are seriously dissatisfied in their relationship, BOREDOM is screaming loud and clear.
When you stop to really think about it, that makes sense since boring means things like “tedious repetition” and “weary sameness” — and when you apply that to sex? Eww…who wants that? Not one damn person on planet earth, chile.
So, since we’re right at the beginning of another new year, in the hopes that you can avoid that seven-letter word that can cause so many yawns and, if you’re not careful, also a lot of potential harm, here are 12 relatively simple ways that you and your partner can keep things fresh instead of boring in 2024.
1. Change Up Your Decor Themes Twice a Year
I know it’s not just me who feels like hotel sex is automatically hotter than sex at home, more times than not. Aside from the fact that hotel beds are top-tier, another reason is that a change of scenery can do wonders when it comes to adding some spice to your relationship — especially if you’ve been with the same person for a while now.
It’s not just in our heads either. There’s actual research to support that being in new(er) environments activates the part of our brain that puts us in a better mood. That’s why, whenever married couples tell me that their sex life is in a bit of a rut, one of the first things that I’ll recommend is they switch up the décor of their bedroom. If you do this twice a year (a spring and summer theme followed by a fall and winter one), it can help you to feel more excited about going into your bedroom every night — and who knows what that could “trigger” in the best way possible?
2. Plan a Sexcation Twice a Year Too
It really is kind of wild that, almost five years ago, I wrote “Married Couples, It's Time For A Sexcation!” for the site. I try to bring sexcations up as much as possible, yet if you’ve never heard of one before, it’s a vacation that only has sex in mind. See it as a honeymoon 2.0, if you will. That said, one of my favorite things about sexcations is you don’t need a ton of money to make them happen because this isn’t about embracing a new country or city — the only sightseeing you will be doing is when it comes to your partner’s body which means you can go to a hotel up the street and your goal will still be reached.
And just what makes a sexcation special? A lot of couples say that they’re not able to have a lot of “wall climbing sex” because life, well, LIFES, and that makes it super challenging. So, planning some time when nothing but sex is on the menu… helps them reignite the spark that may have died down a bit. Try and have one no less than twice a year. Four times? Even better.
3. Prioritize Morning Sex (at Least) Once a Week
If you’re married and you wonder how much sex is “normal” for your kind of relationship, reportedly, 25 percent of people in your demographic copulate once a week and 16 percent 2-3 times a week. Interestingly enough, the happiest couples also have sex no less than once a week. That’s why, what I recommend to my clients is to prioritize no less than once a week, although two is ideal — because listen, if you can spend almost three hours a day on social media, you can figure out how to devote 30 minutes to intimacy with your partner (we make time for what matters to us; full stop). And one of those times? Make it morning sex.
Morning sex reduces stress. Morning sex improves your mood. There are even studies that say morning sex will give you better orgasms because certain sex hormones are at their peak during the a.m. hours. Not to mention that any kind of sex helps to bond you (further) to your partner.
So, if you’re not much of a morning person or you tend to get up on the wrong side of the bed more than you’d like, forget the coffee and get your partner to spend a few more moments with you. It’ll do your mind, body, and spirit far better than any java ever could!
4. Put "Sex Fish Bowls" on Your Nightstands
What in the world is a “sex fish bowl”? It’s simply an empty fish bowl where you put your sexual wants, needs, and fantasies into. It’s also something that I incorporate with a lot of my clients when they want to take their sex life up a notch. I recommend that they each put a fish bowl on their nightstand and that they immediately fill the other person's with no more than 10 sexual requests.
Once a week, at some random time, they each get to say “Go fish” and pull something out. Then, they discuss what’s on the piece of paper and why it’s important to them to have it fulfilled. It opens up the lines of sexual communication, helps them to learn more about each other sexually, and it also helps to bring more “new energy” into their sexual space. I also suggest they throw in new pieces of paper as different ideas come to mind. Not one client has regretted “going fishing,” so try it. It might just be the “sex hack” you’ve been looking for all this time.
5. Keep Fresh Flowers in Your Space
Sure, flowers are pretty to look at, but there are also studies to support the fact that their scent is good for your overall health and well-being; especially your emotional health. Lavender is calming. Rose is an aphrodisiac. Lilies can make you feel happier. Peonies reduce head tension. Jasmine is a sexy scent that can also put you into a meditative state. Not only that, but there’s even a Rutgers University study that says that men receiving flowers actually makes them feel happier and more open to interacting with women socially.
So, how can you not take all of this in and not see why it would be a wise move to put some fresh flowers somewhere in your bedroom on a weekly basis? It’s a simple thing that can make a pretty significant impact, if you ask me, chile.
6. Install Some Blackout Curtains
Even though science says that the best time of day to have sex is within the first 45 minutes that you wake up (another “win” for morning sex), there are plenty of surveys out here that say, women, especially, prefer to have sex in the dark. Your first thought might be that it has something to do with body image issues — and for some, that would be correct. Others find that it’s easier to let their imagination run wild if they are not relying on their sense of sight. If you can relate to any of this, don’t rely on the moon to determine when you can get in it.
Because I work from home, I am good for taking a nap (if not a couple of ‘em based on how my client sessions went…SMDH) in the middle of the day. And it’s easy to do because I have blackout curtains in my bedroom. Invest in the right ones, and I promise you won’t know if it’s 7 a.m. or 7 p.m. Cop some and thank me later.
7. Buy Each Other Something Sexy Once a Month
If you’ve been considering going into 2024 with a subscription box or some other type of service, I recently read it’s something that 33 percent of shoppers actually rely on. This means that they won’t be going away any time soon. So, if you want to add some extra…extra-ness to your bedroom, why not sign up for a sex-themed subscription service? Vice published an article this past September (here) that featured some popular sex toy subscriptions. Adore Me (here) has a lingerie subscription service that I can personally vouch for (as far as how cute a lot of their stuff is).
You can also put “lingerie subscription services” in the search field of your favorite search engine to see what other companies have to offer. Or, you can make it a point to buy or order something on the sex-related tip for your partner once a month on your own. It’ll get you all hot ‘n bothered to find something. It’ll get him all hot ‘n bothered to know something sexy is on the way (and vice versa).
8. Hold “Sex Meetings” OUTSIDE of the Bedroom
Some of y’all love to treat your bedroom like an office or conference room. What in the world? Like, I don’t get why you would find the same space where you argue, talk about money, and debate about your in-laws to be very sexy. That’s why I am a firm believer that you should only use that space for sex and sleep. I’m actually gonna expound on that more at the end of this.
For now, let me just say that a lot of people are sexually dissatisfied (one report said that as much as 50 percent of young women are), and while there are several layers as to why that is probably the case, at the risk of y’all taking this the nasty way…closed mouths don’t get fed. In other words, if you’re not speaking up and articulating your needs (or that your needs have changed — check out “How To Get More Of What You Need In The Bedroom”), how do you expect them to get met? Contrary to whatever rom-coms may tell you, no one is a mind-reader.
My suggestion? Hold sex meetings once a month. Not in your bedroom either. Send a text to your man that you want to have a sex talk, have a sexy dinner (takeout with candles is fine) with him, and discuss what you thoroughly enjoy about sex with him, what you currently need more of, and then give him the floor to do the same. It’s important to always remember that sex is the ultimate form of communication — however, if you think that you and your partner can figure out how to master physical pleasure without any form of verbal discussion? Like Vanessa Williams’s character said in that Tyler Perry movie that she was in, “Good luck with your struggle.” Real talk.
9. Commit to Some Sexual Reflexology
If you’re not a “foot person,” this might be one that you’ll pass on. On the other hand, if you’re like me and feet don’t phase you one way or another, or if you’re like a guy I knew in college who had a bona fide foot fetish, this might especially pique your interest. Sexual reflexology is the practice of touching specific pressure points (mostly feet, hands, and ears) that will help to arouse you and your partner’s genital regions. On the surface, it might sound like a regular erotic massage (check out “You And Your Partner Should Definitely Be Giving Each Other 'Sex Massages'”); however, it’s not because it’s the specific areas — again, feet, hands, and ears — that need to be the focal point as far as applying pressure goes.
Anyway, if this interests you, MindBodyGreen has some tips that can get you started via their article, “How Foot Reflexology Can Help You Have Great Sex (Yes, Really).” As a bonus, reflexology is very soothing and relaxing. It’s a form of “sex pamper play,” if you will.
10. Try a New Sex Position a Month
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. While I get the overall point, anything in excess can backfire. And when it comes to that particular frame of mind, doing the same ole’, same ole’ just because it “works”? That can cause you to become pretty lazy if you’re not careful. And when it comes to sex, specifically, a lazy partner and/or experience can get pretty old after a while.
One thing that can get you a leg up from this ever happening is if you and your partner are intentional about learning/trying (at least) one new sex position a month. He can bring six to the table, and you can do the same. You might be surprised by how a simple turn of a leg or a different angle of your pelvis can introduce you to a level of intensity that “what ain’t broke” never would’ve gotten you to. To get you started off, a site called Royal Intimacy has 100 positions (including illustrations) that you can check out here. Enjoy!
11. Have “Naked Dates”
Something that just might be your “something new” for today is the word gymnophobia. It’s a person who has a phobia when it comes to nudity. And while this may not be an issue in your home, if you or your partner barely ever see each other naked (hell, even during sex because it’s always in the dark), I’m gonna strongly encourage you to have more naked dates in the new year. Have an at-home movie night — naked. Share a pint of ice cream together — naked. Play a board game together — naked.
Even though you’ve probably heard how you and your vagina can benefit from sleeping without any clothes on, there’s also research that says being naked, period, can improve your body image, make you happier and, yes, build more intimacy and trust with your partner. A naked date is inexpensive and hella sexy. How can you not be sold on that?
12. Finally Use Your Bedroom for What It’s for: Sex and Sleep ONLY
This is gonna be a full circle moment because you know how I said at the top of this that hotels are great for sex? Another reason is because who goes on a vacation with the agenda of doing work? You know you want to relax, and so you take that frame of mind into the room. Your bedroom needs to be treated in a similar fashion because, if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a trillion times that interior designers say that bedrooms should ONLY be for sex and sleep. This means no laptops to finish up projects. This means no scrolling IG and TikTok for hours on end. If you can get that television up outta there, do that too. There really needs to be a place in your world that looks and feels like it is an oasis, a sanctuary and den of intimacy for you, your partner, and no one or nothing else.
So, as we close out one year and prepare to enter into another, breathe new life into your bedroom by not turning it into a multipurpose room. SEX AND SLEEP ONLY. Watch how it changes intimacy for the better. I can almost promise you that. #wink
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