While I typically don't subscribe to the "Sex is great but have you tried…" sayings that seem so popular right through here (because sex is kinda incomparable), I do have a semi-short list of things that are somewhat like mental climaxes to me. Beyond the shadow of a doubt, the fall season is one of them. I like the cooler weather. I like the turning leaves. I like layering my clothes. I like hot apple cider and hot chocolate. Two of my favorite men ever (who are both gone now: my late fiancé and father) are both born in October. Weddings during the fall are dope. I personally celebrate Rosh Hashanah and it happens in the fall. I could go on and on. I really could.
Something else that I like about the fall is it's a cool time to do a bit of switching around when it comes to my home décor. Nothing really big or super expensive. Just some touches here and there that convey feelings of warmth, coziness and peace.
Listen, fall is literally right up the road. If you want to create a few looks in your house that will make you want to stay in more once the weather starts to drop closer to freezing, I've got 15 that you could easily pull off over the course of a weekend without breaking the bank in the process.
1. Go with Some Low-Watt Light Bulbs
Although we've still got a couple of months before it will be time to "fall back" as far as daylight savings time goes, because it's darker during the autumn and winter seasons, this would be a good time to cop a few low-watt (40-watt or lower) light bulbs. They tend to offer a softer glow that can make the various rooms of your house feel warmer and more comfy.
2. Get Some Pine Cones
If there was a signature plant for the fall and winter season (other than poinsettias), it would have to be the pine cone. While technically, it's considered to be an "organ" in the family of Pinophyta plants, I doubt any of us would give those plants a second thought if it weren't for the pine cones that are hanging from them.
Anyway, I like pine cones so much that I've got a basket that's full of them that I keep in my living room, year-round. However, if you don't really dig them unless it's cold outside, we're about there. Pick some up and put them in a basket, a glass vase or even make a wreath out of pine cones to hang on your front door. As far as where to purchase some, local arts and crafts stores typically carry pine cones (especially as the fall season rolls in).
Oh and, if that wreath idea is something that you're interested in, click here for some step-by-step instructions.
3. DIY Some Fall-Themed Potpourri
I don't know about y'all but something else that I'm a fan of is potpourri. It just has a way of making my house smell so, shoot, "delightful" is the word that immediately comes to mind. If you want to customize your own this year, it's pretty easy to do. A particular recipe that I like consists of "fall-ish scents" like apples, oranges, cranberries, cinnamon sticks, allspice and nutmeg. I found it on the blog, Pip and Ebby. You can check it out here.
4. Play Around with Kernels of Popcorn
Speaking of centerpieces, if you plan on doing a little bit of entertaining over the next few months, a super inexpensive décor idea is to get yourself a couple of tall glass cylinder vases. Then fill them halfway with popcorn kernels and stick some in season fall flowers like sunflowers, chrysanthemums or pampas grass into them. Corn ears are something that's oftentimes seen a lot around Thanksgiving, so the popcorn kernels are something else that can speak "fall" in a subtle kind of way.
5. Decorate with (Preserved) Gourds
While in all honesty, gourds aren't the most fun to eat, they are a wonderful thing to decorate with. Matter of fact, I can't think of many fall harvest décor themes where I don't see them as a major focal point of the design. Whether you want to use them as candle holders, centerpieces, a hanging for your front door or something else, if you preserve them correctly, they can easily last for several weeks. On Sutton Place is a blog that can walk you through how to do just that (here).
6. Darken Your Window Treatments
This particular point is a bit of a play-on words. The reason why I say that is because, if you want to block out the daylight so that you can sleep more while you're off during Thanksgiving (and later Christmas), I can certainly vouch for the fact that blackout curtains (and/or blinds) can get that done. The other spin on this point is to go with some window treatments that are darker in color. It can make various rooms of your house appear "richer".
7. Buy Some Pumpkin Shapes
C'mon. We all know what the signature fruit for fall is — the pumpkin. One day, we'll have to get into the whole "which is better?" debate — pumpkin or sweet potato pie. For now, let me stay on topic and just say that whether or not you adore the taste of pumpkin, it can be cute to have some pumpkin-shaped ideas to decorate your house. Arts and crafts stores (along with places like Walmart and Target) typically have pumpkin stuff. If you think that the orange ones are a little too "country" or even corny, look for metallic ones instead. I saw some on Grandin Road's website that I thought were pretty dope (check it out here).
8. Invest in Some Huge Pillows and/or an Ottoman
Two things that can make even a really nice place feel more like a dorm room (and not in a good way) are bare walls and a lack of big ole' pillows. Keeping this in mind, beside my loveseat, there's a space that's designated for nothing else other than some really large pillows; they really help to make my living room look and feel more comfortable. Or, if you want to fill up an area but you don't want anything too large or bulky, an ottoman may be just what you need.
In the spirit of fall, go with hues that immediately bring autumn to your mind — white or off-white, shades of brown, shades of orange, deep greens, metallics, greys or even purple. The cool thing about this particular tip is you can store the pillows elsewhere once fall/winter is over. Also, if you're looking for another décor theme, the ottoman can be reupholstered or you can put a throw blanket or something over it once a new season arrives.
9. Hang Some Faux Autumn-Colored Foliage
Fall is usually the time of year when folks are down for hanging twinkle lights around their bed (you know, since it's darker longer outdoors. Plus, it's a precursor for Christmas decorations).
If you'd like to have more of a nature-like feel, how about going with some faux foliage that comes in autumn colors like yellow, orange and red? Listen, I've got a nice sized fake tree in my bedroom and it's one of the best things I've ever purchased.
You can get faux foliage at your local arts and crafts store too.
10. Look for Some Jewel-Toned “Accessories”
Colors that reflect autumn leaves are very popular when it comes to home décor. Something else is the rich shades that derive from jewel tones. If you're curious about what falls under that category, it's literal jewel colors like sapphire, ruby and emerald. Dishes, picture frames, glasses, shower curtains, linen, serving trays, plant holders, vases, blankets, pillows — these are just some of the ways that you can add jewel tones into your décor in order to add some elegance that says "fall" in the most sophisticated way possible.
11. Bring in Some Fall-Scented Essential Oils (or Candles)
Other than potpourri, another way to keep the various rooms of your home smelling fall-themed-divine is using an oil diffuser or some scented soy candles (it can't be said enough that soy candles burn cleaner and last longer) that come in some of the season's signature scents. Some of those would include vanilla, apple, pomegranate, fig, sandalwood, berry, patchouli, spice, sage and the combination of frankincense and myrrh.
12. Accent with Cinnamon Sticks
Another scent that's amazing for fall is cinnamon. One way to incorporate it into your candles is to get some cinnamon sticks that you can line up all around, say a vanilla-scented tall candle that you've got. Can anything smell better than that? Lawd. Anyway, tips on how to DIY this can be found on the Home Stories A to Z blog here.
13. Put Some Autumn Leaves in a Contrasting-Colored Vase
My maternal grandmother used to press plants and flowers a lot. Matter of fact, I've got a large beautifully framed piece of her work in my living room. Since the vibrant colors of autumn leaves are also a huge part of fall décor, if you want to press your own leaves, check out Red Ted Art's list of ways to make that happen here.
Another cool take on autumn leaves is to cut down a few small branches and then put them in a vase that is a totally different color from them like a royal blue or a deep purple. That way, the leaves will "pop" as the combo makes your home office desk or even a centerpiece in your kitchen look "fall ready" with a bit of a modern twist.
14. Get Some (More or New) Throw Blankets
I think I've told y'all before that I don't even know how many throw blankets I've got in my house at this point; that's how much I adore them. I like to put them across my ottoman, drape them over my loveseat and I really like at the foot of my bed. A particular kind that I currently don't have is what I'm gonna invest in this year — a huge cable knit throw blanket. Without a doubt, throw blankets are warm, they're cozy and they definitely are a great way to make your house look like it's all about the fall (and winter) season.
15. Add Some (More or New) Throw/Area Rugs Too
Speaking of "throw stuff", there is something that looks very inviting about a throw/area rug on the floor. Here's the thing about them too — they literally help to keep the rooms in your house warmer (especially if you've got hardwood floors). As bonuses, they can make it more comfortable to walk around barefoot and they even can reduce the noise in the rooms that they are in because they absorb sound from the air (wild). The throw rugs that I have keep my neutral carpeting from looking "blah". One or two in your place could make a dramatic difference. Just in time for the fall season that is definitely on its way.
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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. ;)
How We Met is a series where xoNecole talks love and relationships with real-life couples. We learn how they met, how like turned into love, and how they make their love work.
I’m willing to bet that this is not the first time you’ve seen this couple. Dalen Spratt is a television producer, owner of a tailored men's suit line, and creator of Ghost Brothers: Haunted Houseguests, which is currently streaming on Destination America. Stacey Spratt is also a serial entrepreneur, focusing mostly on events and the nonprofit world, and she is the owner of two award-winning craft beer bars called Harlem Hops. But their accolades are not what united them.
The couple met years ago at their alma mater, Clark Atlanta University, when they were still working to create the life they have now, and if you had told them then that they’d eventually tie the knot, the pair probably would’ve laughed in your face.
Today, they’re new parents, flourishing in their careers, and each others’ “teammates.” When desiring love, Dalen recommends not looking to other couples for advice. And Stacey advises staying true to what you want. “Don’t put age or limitations on love and children. If God could do it for me, why can’t he do it for you?”
Here's How We Met.
How did you meet?
Dalen: We met in 2005 when she was advising the Greek sororities and fraternities in college. She was old as hell in college, and I was a young buck (laughs). Everybody had a crush on her, but I didn’t think much of it. Then, in 2007, we were in the same grad school class, but she still wasn’t trying to see me then either. I had to catch her five years ago; I was very patient.
Stacey: Yeah, everybody in our grad school class called him Young, Fresh to Death because he was always dressed in B-school (what CAU affectionately refers to as business major classes), and we’d just wear sweatpants (laughs).
So, I know Dalen was always attracted to you. But what about you? Did your attraction to him develop over time?
Stacey: So 2006-2008 – all the years went by. I don’t think we were really thinking about each other at all back then. Years later, I had an event in Dallas, and I booked him to be a speaker. Then, a few years ago, Dalen posted a photo of him on Instagram, and I slid in his DMs. I remembered him being so young and handsome, and I’m like, I should hook him up with my younger cousin. His response was: "If you’re not hooking me up with you, no thank you." But I still thought he was too young at the time, and he started pulling receipts. Taraji P. Henson was dating someone young at the time, Gabrielle Union–
Dalen: First of all, I didn’t do that. You did that.
Stacey: Okay, I did. I thought he was a cutie pie, but that age thing was on my mind!
"Dalen posted a photo of him on Instagram, and I slid in his DMs. I remembered him being so young and handsome, and I’m like, I should hook him up with my younger cousin. His response was: 'If you’re not hooking me up with you, no thank you.'"
Talk to me about the first date. How did he change your mind?
Stacey: Our first date was at Tin Lizzy's in Atlanta. During that time, he was living in Dallas, so it was long-distance. But he came into town, and we just had a good time. We talked a lot, which we still do. It wasn’t anything fantastic.
Dalen: Don’t downplay our first date.
Then, walk me through your courtship. How did you get to the next level? What was that conversation like?
Stacey: I think he knew at age 43 or 44 I wasn’t playing around. But also, I think it just naturally progressed.
Dalen: Yeah, it just happened naturally. And I’m going to be honest, I don’t think initially either one of us thought it would be as serious as it was. She thought I was too young and I wasn’t ready for marriage, kids, and all that. I think we both thought we were just hanging out. But after spending so much time together, a lot of stuff started happening. Like, she had to have surgery early on. It wasn’t just time together; it was intimate time. Next thing we know, we just never left each other. That’s why we still don’t have an anniversary date because we never really asked.
"It wasn't just time together; it was intimate time. Next thing we know, we just never left each other. That's why we still don't have an anniversary date because we never really asked."
What made you want to commit to each other?
Dalen: The moment I knew Stacey was for me was from a phone call. I don’t really like talking on the phone, and I can be really blunt sometimes. But we were talking, and I said, ‘I don’t really feel like talking anymore.’ And she was just like, okay, and hung up. I wasn’t trying to be rude, and she understood that. It sounds bad, but that’s how I knew she just got me. I felt like she could get my random awkward moments, and she does to this day.
Stacey: For me, I liked him as a person. Even when times get rough and tough, I could still like him as a human. He is my best friend. We have time. We laugh until we cry, and it’s just always like that. Even when we get pissed at each other, something happens, and we fix it. Also, how he treats his mother. That’s a momma’s boy, but I’m a daddy’s girl – so I get it. I know how I want to be treated, and I see how he is with her and that’s beautiful.
What are some important lessons you’ve learned about yourself through loving your partner in this relationship?
Dalen: I grew up an only child and she grew up with siblings. So, when you have someone who is used to doing things by themselves, there is definitely a learning curve when you get into a serious relationship. It’s funny now, but it was definitely a process.
Stacey: I agree – definitely the only child thing. There’s times I look at him like, did you ever live with anyone else? That comes from being momma's baby, too. I have to say, my “mother-in-love” spoiled him. But also with Axel (their daughter), that brings another level of patience.
Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images
What was the biggest challenge that you had to overcome together?
Dalen: We’ve gone through a lot within the years we’ve been together. We suffered two miscarriages – I’d say that’s the biggest.
Stacey: Having those miscarriages and trying to understand what’s next and what our options are was a lot. I had two myomectomies (fibroid surgeries), and he supported me through that time. Also, still, it was on my mind that he’s eight years younger than me. I was wondering if I can’t carry [a child] what that looks like for us. We had very real conversations pretty early in our relationship.
"Having those miscarriages and trying to understand what’s next and what our options are was a lot. I had two myomectomies (fibroid surgeries), and he supported me through that time. Also, still, it was on my mind that he’s eight years younger than me."
What do you fight the most about?
Dalen: Nagging. Stacey nags; she’s a complainer. She’s that momma that will look in a room and just hunt for something to complain about. Like, I’m worried for Axel when she's in high school.
Stacey: It’s because I like things to be in place. He leaves stuff all over the place. I can tell where he’s been in the house because something is left around. So he says I’m nagging – but it’s like, just get your stuff.
What are your love languages?
Dalen: Stacey is gifts all day.
Dalen: We’ve talked about this. xoNecole is about to cause problems in our home (laughs).
Stacey: Obviously I love you. *thinks again* It’s words of affirmation.
Dalen: That’s it.
What’s your favorite thing about each other?
Dalen: I’ve always respected her business-mindedness. That may sound superficial, but it’s not because I’ve never been with someone who thinks like me. It’s one of my most treasured things about her. I remember one day, I was just running through ideas with her, and each time Stacey had a suggestion on how I could make it better. It’s just very comforting. She takes whatever I’m doing and elevates it – including me.
Stacey: I love Dalen’s hustle and creativity. He’s been on multiple shows, and he continues to create, produce, and reinvent himself and the product he’s putting out. I love that we can create together and bounce things off each other. Even though we may be in different arenas, there’s nothing he can’t offer me great advice about. I love that drive.
Finally, how did you know it was love?
Dalen: Well – she said it – first. (laughs)
Stacey: And he looked at me and smiled! He didn’t say it back. We were on a trip, out of the country.
Dalen: We were arguing when she said it, and she just threw it out.
Stacey: But we continue to do that. We’ve spent holidays and everything outside of the country.
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Oh, the infamous man-child. Some of us have had the pain of encountering a man who has the mental and emotional maturity of a petulant child. I know I have. Between the weaponized incompetence, arrested development, lack of self-awareness, lack of impulse control, and lack of introspection that tend to come with this type of partner, the jokes can write themselves in the pursuit of a relationship with an evolved man who can actually meet you at your level.
As women, we are encouraged to keep our standards high, which ordinarily allows the man-child to stay in the wild where he belongs. Even though the current state of our dating pool is not giving what it needs to give all the way through here, standards and boundaries have long served as effective tools in weeding through the “potential” and showing suitors the door if they aren’t on our level.
But let’s be real; sometimes, an unworthy partner can fall through the cracks as their “representative” takes the lead during the courtship stage. Months and sometimes years later, you might not even realize the full breadth of what you’re dealing with until the proverbial mask begins to slip. Instead of being a help, he’s more of a hindrance. Instead of being an equal, he’s more of a dependent. And instead of being invested in the commitment of a relationship, he’s more into indulging in laziness and low-effort tendencies.
In essence, a man child, also commonly referred to as Peter Pan Syndrome, is a man who is stunted (read: emotionally immature) and refuses to grow up. Instead of feeling like you have a partner, you end up falling into the role of a second mama, and who wants that?
Be prepared to run, not walk, if any of the following signs apply to your guy.
1.They lack purpose and/or direction.
Who was it that said a man with no direction can’t lead you anywhere? Whoever said it deserves credit for doing the Lord’s work and then some. Purpose is how you know fulfillment. Direction sets the tone for the path you are taking in life. Without either or both, you can find yourself squarely in a dead-end relationship with a man who isn’t capable of leading the relationship. More than that, being directionless can manifest in other detrimental ways to the way he leads his own life. This can look like not having routines, procrastinating like a mutha, or even avoiding self-work or self-improvement.
The man-child is just going with the flow and taking one day at a time. While being present is always a gift, the man you’re with shouldn’t be afraid of setting long-term goals so that his present can inform his future.
2.They become paralyzed at the sound of a commitment.
“What is marriage? It’s just a piece of paper. Why do we need to move in together? Everything is going fine just the way it is.”
Being strung along is too common when engaging with a man-child. Common relationship steps considered to be pivotal in moving the relationship forward are things they wince at or things that they just act very indifferent about. It’s not an act, it’s a refusal to commit to the commitment, a paradoxical reality the man-child can write the book about. It’s why questions of moving in together or marriage are things Mr. Go With the Flow can see himself doing without.
A reluctance to truly commit could also be why the relationship might feel like it’s not on solid ground. He prefers to run instead of resolve and sometimes waivers under the weight of what should be viewed as a simple mistake. And if you don’t want to feel stuck in a loop of are we or aren’t we, or worse, plateaued forever, you might be better off letting the runner be the track star he so aspires to be.
3.They rarely (if ever) take initiative in big things and small things.
Whew, chile, can’t you just feel the brunt of emotional labor brimming from this one? Whether it’s meal planning for groceries during the week or even planning dates and trips, hell, even your own birthday – everything seems to fall squarely on your shoulders to get done. More than that, you know if you didn’t take care of it, it wouldn’t get done. A relationship is not a one-person effort, so there is no reason why you can see that things around the house need to get done or things in the relationship need to be maintained, but your partner cannot.
Newsflash: they are okay with being willfully ignorant and might even be serving you a side of weaponized incompetence on purpose.
A healthy partner is willing to look at your mental and emotional well-being and take the initiative to take things off your plate, not burden you with the task of upkeeping most if not all, of the expectations of a household. Let alone a thriving relationship.
4.They always have an excuse.
Couldn’t wash the dishes or clean the bathroom today? Excuse. Couldn’t communicate they’d be running late? Excuse. Couldn’t pick up the kids on time? Excuse. Couldn’t create a meaningful idea for his turn to do date night? Excuse. Couldn’t get groceries done this time but wants to eat? Excuse. Couldn’t be bothered to cook tonight? Excuse. Any behavior deemed bad or unreasonable that they have done? Of course, an excuse. Whatever the instance may be, the ownership is severely lacking with this one, and the blame is always on someone or something else that will rarely (if ever) have anything to do with them.
There’s even an excuse about why past relationships didn’t work out, and surprise, surprise, their exes are almost always the cause. Early on, the blame game with his excuses applies to everything and everyone outside of them. Just know, eventually, he’ll also blame you. Speaking of which, this brings me to my next point…
5.They can’t take accountability if their life depends on it.
Maybe he shuts down when you bring up anything remotely serious or shrugs it off as not being able to do “negative emotions.” Maybe he downright denies it when you mention something he has said or done is hurtful to you. Maybe he acts defensive or doesn’t allow you to take up space in the conversation and instantly dishes out a rebuttal. Something he did is not acceptable under the light of accountability, and so it becomes about what you did to him. You’re being “too sensitive,” that’s not what he meant, you’re “overthinking.”
Maybe all of this points to the man-child you’re clearly dealing with is one that refuses to take responsibility for his actions or his words when it comes to you. He deflects instead of owning, whether it’s his bad behavior or his own emotions. Who wants that?
6.They have standards that they can’t or won’t meet themselves.
It starts with a comment or two here or there while you’re out and about, but they make it known how high their standards are regarding cleanliness or upkeep. But let them get into a relationship with you, and the unsolicited criticisms about how you are and how you move are never-ending. It can start with something seemingly small, like commenting on your cooking despite not ever lifting a finger to cook a meal themselves. The complaints themselves are self-serving because while they attach a lot of expectations to you, they never have any intention of meeting their own strict morals or high standards.
Said man-child might also appear withdrawn or “pout” when things aren’t happening “his way.” It’s almost as though they want you to fit squarely into what they believe a partner should be, say, or do, all while knowing they have no desire to also meet those standards.
Honorable mention to the version of these types that are able to dish it but can’t take it and lash out whenever they feel remotely offended. Pot, meet kettle.
7.They are still attached to the teet.
Sometimes, the makings of a man-child and a mama’s boy do overlap, and honestly, when you think of the refusal to grow up or be responsible in both types, you can probably understand why. In the case of a man-child, this can also manifest as relying on his mom to cook his meals and do his laundry, or calling her for every little thing.
It could also look like wanting to be the center of attention at all times and questioning why he is not the focus when he wants you both to do something he wants to do. Mr. Man-Child is used to being doted after by his mother figure, and wants you to fill her shoes, and wants you to be just as self-sacrificing as she is/was while doing it.
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