The Urban Curio 2016 Valentine's Day Gift Guide


Even though it's only the first day of February, Valentine's Day is almost here. You may think you have time, probably thinking about two weeks in your head, but it's literally going to be here tomorrow if you put it off. That's how holidays work.

Whatever your situation, single, coupled or complicated, I created a mini gift guide to help get your Valentine's Day plans underway. Since this is also Black History Month (much to Stacey Dash's dismay), all of the shops are black/people of color owned, so you can spread some love to the businesses as well. All of the shops also have even more great, gift worthy selections in addition to the items I chose. If you own a black business or know of one, please leave a link to the shop in the comments.

Enjoy the gift guide below, and hopefully you'll be ready for Valentine's Day long before February 14, and not standing in a crowded, barren shelved Walgreens on Saturday night at 11:45 p.m. with Brain McKnight's "Shoulda Woulda Coulda" playing on repeat in your head. 

White and Gold "Loved" Jewelry Dish by BeFreeDesigns handmade with polymer clay. $14

Sweetheart Collection by Phillip Ashley Chocolates with six unique flavors, including apricot gorgonzola dolce, bourbon pecan, black currant caramel with Fleur de Sel, caramel macchiato, framboise and raspberry jam, and sour cherries and brandy (cordial). $39

Randy Watson novelty concert tee from the Hillman College Bookstore. $19.99 - $22.99

"Grown Woman Ballie" Ballie by Beads by Aree is a remix of the classic girlhood barrette with beads from Kumasi, Ghana. $35

Bevel shaving system specifically designed to reduce razor bumps and irritation for those with course and curly hair. See Web site for pricing. 

Vee + Co Apothecary "Mellow" aromatherapy roller. A mix of energizing and refreshing essential oils and sweet almond oil to elevate your mood. $18

"KeKe" Leather Bucket Bag in fuchsia pink by Love, Cortnie. Only available until the end of February 2016. $235

Black Girl Magic Notebook by Effie's Paper. $18.50

HRDCVR, a hardcover culture magazine created by a diverse team for the "newevery1." $25

Red Earth - Celestial Perfume Oil from The Hood Witch with a spicy, earthy, and citrusy blended scent. $35

Writing the Many Layers Self-Discovery Workbook from GG Renee Hill. $10

Bamboo Wood Time Piece from Enbois by Maxim. $64

Balm & Co. Flower Oil for face and body with blends of peony, bergamot, and blood orange. $30

Zora Clutch by Rachel Stewart. $50 

Undertaking II print by Jeff Manning. $25 - $90

Coffee Oatmeal Body Scrub by Oh Honey! Skincare. $19

I Got It Made earrings from PeaceImages Jewelry. $24
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Take 3: A poem, a piece of advice, and a picture


The Poem//What's This?

A contemplation on the uncertainty of transitions and the fears and hopes that simultaneously exist during these times. This is one of my favorite pieces from my poetry compilation, "The Mind's Attic." More information on the book in the sidebar. 

Post Pomp and Present Circumstances

What do you do
when people don’t ask you
what your dreams are
in what ways your soul
has fought to protect them
and how little pieces of you die
each day, to keep them alive

They wonder why you’ve traded
laughter for sighs
and smiles for indifferent visages
never knowing that at times
you’ve given up on the possibilities
even though your passions wait for you
at dawn’s door, coming, when you can’t sleep
with a persistence that is as innocent
as it is intense

What happens
when regret and guilt bombard your world
and you unknowingly harbor
a consistent resentment
for ears that don’t listen
good intentioned well wishers
and advice giving acquaintances
that infiltrate your decisions

Your distrust for others marred only
by an innate sense of paranoia
and they are watching you
surmising your positions
and calculating your confusion
always waiting to criticize the outcomes
despite their own intrusions

So you ask yourself questions
you question your existence
and interrupt your journey to adulthood
while stopping to gather with the wall-flowers
that someone must pick to ensure that
“you’re loved” is always last

While waiting you entreat endlessly
for some reassurance greater
than testosterone and estrogen
wondering when and if opportunities,
significant or otherwise
will be plucked from heaven’s rafters
and sent down to be realized

And so you unfold your apprehensions
and lay them on your shoulders
so that your talents and ambitions
and your once infallible visions
can be shielded not from what could be
but from solemn realizations of what is

And what is peace for you today
if you can find it
you’ve found strength somewhere
between rejection and yearning
but you’re still seeking that quiet place
between exuberance and exasperation
between the sanctuary and the secular
the everyday and the eclectic

Please believe
that we are made of something tougher
than air, water and carbon
that we are more than penetrable flesh
brittle limbs and delicate organs
more than susceptible systems
and degenerating bones

Maybe God used our breasts
to mold the mountains, our hips to curve hills
and the bends of our legs to create valleys
Perhaps He commissioned our emotions
to control the elements
putting Mother Nature at the mercy of our moods
and our world will only stop spinning
if we allow it to, so
put your thumb on the equator
and find some balance

You wonder if you’ll ever love,
despite the too often unfair
ruby cheeked cherub that it is
and if you’ll ever learn to live
by the blueprints that exist
in our divinely architectured souls

To do so, learn, quickly
how to divide the chaos around you by simplicity
and make peace your common denominator
take a breath
and blow the sands of time in reverse
to give you forever

And I’ll tell you that destiny is wiser
than the credit we give it
It knows the caterpillar must blossom
into a beautiful butterfly
It knows gray clouds must drop rain
from a melancholy sky
It knows warm tears will fall
from a lonely lover’s eye

Why can’t we
find that butterfly on a rose’s thorn
and the rainbow after a storm
and a lover whose heart is warm

The Advice//What's This? 

Artfully executed words of wisdom for those who do creative work. Targeted toward beginners, but great advice for anyone seeking inspiration and motivation to create.

THE GAP by Ira Glass from Daniel Sax on Vimeo.

The Picture//What's this? 

My small but growing collection of crystals and gemstones. Inexpensive baubles believed to possess various metaphysical properties that can influence your vibe, affect your energy, and manage your mood. Can be used in decor or carried with you on your daily travels. My top three "rock stars" for budding stone enthusiasts: quartz, citrine, and amethyst

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In Pursuit of a Pink Pillow


So I was looking for a pink pillow. An inexpensive pink pillow. An inexpensive, dark pink pillow. And I didn’t want a furry, shiny, sequined, striped, dotted or round one. Just a simple, dark pink, oblong pillow. It sounds like a small request, but it was one that Target, Walmart, Kohl’s, At Home, Gordmans and other stores couldn’t fulfill.

What I did find was a canvas pillow cover and pillow insert from Hobby Lobby, and the pillow I couldn’t find as is, I created.

I used a magenta colored acrylic paint by FolkArt, the same color I used in my DIY pinwheel painting. I painted several coats on each side, and the finished result made the material stiffer than I would have liked and had a slight odor. I washed the pillow cover to help alleviate some of the stiffness and odor, which it did. It also stripped some of the paint, giving it a slight distressed appearance. That wasn’t necessarily the look I was going for, but I didn't stress over it. With just a few items and a little time, I created the pink, pop of color pillow I wanted.

I used a multi-surface paint so that I wouldn’t have to mix a regular acrylic paint with a textile medium. Several brands carry a range of multi-surface colors – FolkArt, Martha Stewart, and Craft Smart to name a few. Being a bit of a pillow junkie for the living room and bedroom, crafting up a pillow inexpensively in pretty much any color I need could save me a lot of time running from store to store and not finding what I want. Hobby Lobby also carries the pillow covers and pillows in not just the oblong size, but also in square. Yep, bought that one too, and already making plans to create something colorful for the bedroom. 

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Jewelry Storage and Organization


I have a habit of wearing the same two or three pairs of earrings and the same few necklaces. I have more than what I wear, but my go to pieces stay in heavy rotation. In an effort to diversify my daily adornment selections, I got rid of what I rarely wear and organized what was left. I’ve tried a number of various storage and organization techniques for my jewelry, but they weren’t always practical or accessible.

I scanned Pinterest and other sites to research a few ideas, and found this particular earring storage DIY that I liked best. It consists of a three drawer desktop organizer by Sterilite from Walmart and craft sponge from Hobby Lobby. The drawers were about five dollars and the sponge was about three dollars. 

I  cut the foam in pieces slightly smaller than the size of the drawers, and placed the cut pieces inside of them. Done. Ta-Daaa. I stick my post and stud earrings in the sponge and they can be removed and replaced with ease. I've also stuck a few dangle earrings in there as well. The backs and a some hoop earrings I keep in a small trinket box. I bought another set of drawers in which I store rings and bracelets as well.

What I love about this storage method is that my earrings (and other accessories) are not exposed. And for someone slightly accident prone like myself, should I ever knock the storage drawers over, there’s a chance that most of the earrings may stay safely inside. At least I hope they will. 

My necklace holder is an idea I came up with to prevent me from having to put holes in the wall. In the past, I stuck giant push pins in the wall to hang my necklaces on. Many of the DIY necklace holders I found online were wall mounted as well.

For the necklace holder, I painted some wooden knobs from Hobby Lobby black and glued them to a white 16 x 20 inch canvas at various heights using E600 glue. I could have embellished the canvas more, and I may do so around the edges, but I liked the simple and clean look of it just being black and white, with no images or other colors to compete with the jewelry being displayed. To be fair, these could be hung as well, but they work just fine propped up against a wall, which also means they don't take up a lot of space.

These budget and time friendly DIY’s have been great for getting my bits and baubles in order. Even if I still choose to wear one or two different jewelry pieces, it won’t be for lack of organization. 

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The sisters are alright: changing the broken narrative of black women in america


While reading “The Sisters Are Alright: Changing the Broken Narrative of Black Women in America,” by Tamara Winfrey Harris, I thought of all the people who need to read this book.

Such as Daniel Holtzclaw, the former Oklahoma City police officer who sexually assaulted at least 13 black women, most whom he believed were the forgotten among the community due to not so angelic pasts.

And Rachel Dolezal, the modern day snake oil salesman peddling an inauthentic form of blackness with curly wigs and spray tanner, but without the pesky struggles that accompany a blackness that can’t be pulled or rinsed off at the end of the night.

This book is for the cringe worthy meme makers and social media commenters who boldly bully black women in QWERTY and ten key while hiding safely behind their monitors.

And I can’t forget the “black empowerment” Instagram accounts that praise Serena Williams for her success in one post, and in the next post feature a nameless, overweight black woman whose hair and style choices are open season for commenters to fire rude and unnecessary shots at her appearance. True story. The message: black women matter, but there’s an invisible asterisk there that doesn’t make room or desire for the diversity among us.

This book is a great read for everyone noted, and many more who aren’t, who attack black women verbally, physically, mentally, emotionally, and sexually, based on racist and societal stereotypes. It's also, of course, for black women, providing comfort when the world is sometimes ruthless in its assessment and treatment of us. 

Harris covers many of the well-known stereotypes with which black women are painted, some of which include the angry and strong black woman tropes, single motherhood stigmas, and the historical generalizations of the Mammy, Jezebel, and Sapphire.

“The Sisters are Alright” presents and examines the sources of such misrepresentations in an accessibly academic manner and combats the stereotypes with statistics and unfiltered personal anecdotes from black women. Harris keeps the information fresh with plenty of personality and testify in agreement moments.

One thing the book suggests is missing from the soul dimming scenarios that plague black women is a very simple but often overlooked idea when it comes to them: their humanity.

That it’s OK to check the boxes that may label you angry, single, and loud, and that black women are no more these things than any other group. Do black women have difficulties, individually and collectively? Yes, as with everyone else. However, alongside valid issues are deceptive and negative tales that have snowballed and deformed over time and buried black women in the process.

Despite all, we are indeed alright. It’s only the narratives that are broken and not the black women they target. 
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Ruby Kisses Jellicious Lip Gloss


l to r: Crushed Strawberry, Caramel Frappuchino, Plum Seduction, Chocoloco & Cotton Candy

Matte lips may be in, but I've always been a gloss girl. Either over lipstick or alone, I love a smooth, gloss with longevity and shine. If it's tasty and smells sweet too, then I'm sold.

I spotted the Ruby Kisses Jellicious Lip Glosses in the beauty supply store ages ago, and they were right up my alley: cute packaging, food inspired names, pretty mauves, pinks, and nude-ish colors. But the wording on the display made me believe that they were plumping glosses. I had an awful experience with a plumping gloss, and my lips started to itch at the thought of that incident. I always stared at them longingly regardless. One day on a small make-up buying binge, I actually read everything the display stated and realized nothing indicated that these were plumping glosses. Except the big ass JELLO PLUMP LIPS in the center of the display. I'm not even sure what "jello plump lips" means, but plump + gloss to me means, "you might have itchy swollen lips." But the fine print details basically said " nope, you're good." I had sabotaged my lips from trying out these confection flavored beauties for so long that I was kicking myself. I know that reading is fundamental, but ill chosen marketing copy is just unfortunate.

There are 12 different colors, which includes a clear, that range in cost from $2.00 to $2.50, depending on the store.  I snatched up five in the lovely shades above, and they're everything I wanted them to be. Some have a hint of shimmer, and most of the colors are highly pigmented and can be worn as thus, or sheer depending on how much is applied. They're lightweight but stay on well, even if you tend to rub your lips together often or nibble on them, which you'll probably want to do with these snack worthy flavors. The scents match the flavor of each gloss as well, as opposed to all of them having a similar, generic smell.

I've layered them with other lipsticks and glosses and worn them alone. Since they are more pigmented that your average gloss, they would be really versatile if you used them with a brush, giving you more control over how much was applied and where.

The Crushed Strawberry and Cotton Candy are the most sheer, and those are great if you only want a hint of color. The Caramel Frappachino and Chocoloco are a more pigmented shimmery honey brown and pinkish mauve respectively. The Plum Seduction is highly pigmented and looks great on my darker skin tone. It's a rich purple, which I was originally wary of, but it's just the right amount of bold for me when lightly applied. It almost takes on the appearance of a shiny lip stain as opposed to a gloss.

Overall, they wear, smell, and taste like a more expensive product. They actually remind me of Avon's Glow Baby Glow lip glosses from the Mark line, a product I absolutely loved. The Glow Baby Glows are currently $10 on the Web site, but back in the day I recall them being less.  For no more than $3, the Jellicious glosses are perfect. I'll eventually add the rest of the colors to my collection and hope they add even more to the current selection.
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Maira Gall