Cupid ain’t stupid
Valentine’s Day gifts with a gay twist
By MIKEY ROX
Christmas just ended, but the next gift-giving holiday is already upon us. The best thing about Valentine’s Day, however, is that it really is the thought that counts. (People lie about that at Christmastime, ya know.)
To help you pick the perfect gift for your sweetie this Valentine’s Day, here’s our list of fun and frisky ideas that they’ll love to unwrap.
Bear My Secrets Teddy Bear
Don’t let this cuddly couture teddy bear fool you. Inside its plush tummy are all the ingredients you’ll need for a night of passion, including candles, satin rose petals, edible love dust, a body massager, warming love oil, lube and a feather all nestled neatly within a small satin bag. To get to the contents, your main squeeze will have to use an included key on the heart-shaped lock. Bear My Secrets bears are available in girl and boy versions, identified by a purple headband or bowtie, respectively. ($96.69; bearmysecrets.com)
Give your significant other a blast from the past this Valentine’s Day with a View-Master-style viewer and reel from Image3D. Pick and choose from your favorite photos to create a custom reel that will preserve seven of your most memorable images in just a few clicks. After you’ve selected the winning pics, you can edit them online and add 3-D captions that will appear on the final thumbnails. An option also is available to have viewers imprinted with text to commemorate the special occasion and year. Viewer colors include classic red, black, blue and white. ($24.95; image3D.com)
School of Wash Custom Fragrance
What’s that smell? Whatever you want it to be when you replace your partner’s store-bought fragrance with a custom concoction of pleasant aromas from School of Wash. The combinations are endless with fresh scents like Christmas tree, cucumber, lavender vanilla and mojito, which are paired with essential oils that include anise, lemongrass and rosemary, among many other options. Sow and Sow Man Pick-A-Scent handmade perfumes and colognes are available for men and women, and come in 1 ounce, 2.5 ounce, 4 ounce, and 8 ounce personalized aluminum spritzers. ($9-$16.50; schoolofwash.com)
Homoquotables Greeting Cards
Skip the Hallmarks this year and say “I Love You” with Homoquotables, artistic greeting cards for gay couples in love. Memorable and historic quotes about love — from visionaries that run the gamut from Helen Keller to Trey Parker and Matt Stone — are paired with elegant and romantic original black-and-white images of same-sex couples just like you. Homoquotables is the brainchild of Colorado-based designer Dan McLellan, who shares his life with his husband Michael and their two kids. ($3; homoquotables.com)
JUARA Skincare Romancing the Candlenut Kit
Rub-a-dub-dub, hop in the tub! You and your lover can enjoy the ultimate in luxurious and relaxing one-on-one time with JUARA Skincare’s Romancing the Candlenut Kit, a skin-softening four-piece ritual that takes a sexy soak from ordinary to extraordinary. Inspired by the beauty secrets of Bali and infused with velvety candlenut oil, this elegant kit includes candlenut soap, body polish, body crème and perfume oil that will whisk you away to your own private paradise. ($30; juaraskincare.com)
Mastrad Ceramic Chocolate Fondue Set
Melt your partner’s heart and a heaping helping of ooey-gooey chocolate with the Ceramic Chocolate Fondue Set from Mastrad Orka. The set comes with everything you’ll need to feed each other sweet treats, including a fondue pot, warming stand, four fondue forks (just in case you want to share with friends) and a candle. Don’t be afraid to get creative, either — this chocolate fondue set works just as well in the dining room as it does in the boom-boom room. ($17.99; shopmastrad.com)
Proposition Love Jewelry
If you’re thinking about popping the question this Valentine’s Day, consider a set of “enGAYgement” rings from Proposition Love Fine Jewelry, which features a line of eclectic bands inspired by gay rights and marriage equality. All the rings in the Prop Love collection are made of high-quality materials, including 14K white and yellow gold, platinum and diamonds. A portion of the proceeds from each ring is donated to pro-equality organizations. Engraving options also are available. Jewelry designer Sam Street, who married his partner Jonathan in San Francisco in 2008, founded Proposition Love in 2011. ($275-$3,210; propositionlove.com)
Encourage your lovebug to slip into something more comfortable for your romantic nights at home with The Original FreeBeneath, a stylish new take on the classic bathrobe. Instead of a cloth belt to close the robe like on conventional versions, The Original FreeBeneath is a pullover robe that allows wearers to let it all hang loose while staying confident that they’re completely covered up. FreeBeneath robes comes in a variety of fabrics and colors and in the two years since the family-owned company’s launch they’ve gained a robust celeb following and interest from some of the world’s top spas and resorts. ($79-$129; freebeneath.com)
Put a cork in the wine this year and reach for something with a bit more punch. Lovoka, the first 60-proof liqueur to debut in the United States, is made from the finest triple-distilled vodka and delicately infused with a rich, buttery caramel essence. Liquid gold, you might even say. Lovoka is divine on the rocks, mixed with after-dinner coffee, or poured all over your partner. Bottoms up. ($27.99; lovokausa.com)
Pengallan Slim-Fit Boxers
Skip the requisite skimpy skivvies and opt for more flattering, freeing underwear to gift this Valentine’s Day. Pengallan Slim-Fit Boxers feature a flat-front waist, contoured seat design to counteract the “riding up” effect, side vents on the outseam of each leg for greater mobility and range of motion, and a button closure in the front — truly as close as you’ll get to a bespoke boxer without a tailor. There are 10 dapper styles from which to choose, including solids, stripes, plaids and gingham. If you’ve got a guy who likes to look great even in the items that most people won’t see, Pengallan are the perfect present — that you can both enjoy. ($80; pengallan.com)
Adult Loaded Questions
Turn your couples’ V-Day celebration into a night of unexpected admissions with Adult Loaded Questions, the irreverent and off-the-wall board game that features 300 suggestively silly questions. Your party guests will get a kick out of queries like: “What is a sure sign you are dating a psycho?,” “If you were an adult film star, what would be your screen name?” and “What television show would you watch if it included full nudity?” By the time the game is over, you’ll all be a little bit closer, for better or worse. ($24.99; familyandpartygames.com)
Out Colors Jewelry
Not ready to put a ring on it? Take your time, and in the meantime consider another piece of sentimental jewelry from Out Colors. This gay-owned online jeweler features an array of pendants, bracelets, necklaces and watches that can be personalized with your favorite photos. For those who aren’t partial to jewelry, Out Colors also offers a wide selection of other keepsakes, including apparel, crystal accessories and home-art items like woven tapestries, canvases, matte-finish posters and wall murals. ($9.95-$2,771.95; outcolors.com)
Love By Robot T-Shirts
Make that hot nerd in your life swoon over the geek-chic Love By Robot T-shirt that features an adorable android who proudly wears his heart on his cold, steely chest. Ts are available for men and women and come in grey or glow-in-the-dark black. ($25; lovebyrobot.com)
Love Is Art
Take a pass on the limited-edition prints this year and pursue a more personalized route with a Love is Art kit. Each kit is equipped with all the materials you’ll need to make an abstract expressionistic masterpiece with your partner in the most intimate way possible using your bodies. When the piece is complete, it can be stretched, framed, and hung on the wall as a reminder of your love and commitment to one another for years to come. Kits are available in myriad themes (like wedding or equality) and colors to match your décor. ($60-$110; loveisartkit.com)
Mikey Rox is an award-winning journalist and blogger who lives in New York City with his husband and their two dogs. Follow him on Twitter @mikeyrox.
Thinking of renting your place short-term in D.C.?
Here are some key factors to consider
Summer is coming, and in D.C., many homeowners turn their attention to generating revenue from their primary D.C. residence while they are away for the summer. Due to the way some D.C. employers enable staff to work remotely and permit longer vacation schedules in the summer months, many owners can find extra income annually by considering short-term rentals. Here are a few key things you should know before getting started.
In 2021 the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs announced it was “finally ready to start implementing and enforcing ” a law passed three years earlier for short-term rentals (AirBnB, VRBO, etc.). According to DCist, the agency started accepting license applications for short-term rentals on Jan. 10 last year and started enforcing the law’s provisions in April 2022.
According to Martin Austermuhle’s “D.C. to Start Restricting Airbnb and Other Short-Term Rentals” he wrote for DCist, “The law applies specifically to short-term rentals, those lasting less than 30 days at a time. Under the new law, any D.C. homeowner who wants to rent out a bedroom, basement, or entire home on Airbnb or any other platform has to get a short-term rental license from DCRA. (The two-year license costs $104.50.)”
Charlotte Perry, owner of LUXbnb, a property manager specializing in furnished short-term rentals in D.C. for more than 15 years, is a trusted partner to Columbia Property Management. She shared her expertise and guidance with me on short-term rentals. Her business, LUXbnb, punches above its weight in the D.C. area, bringing owners greater opportunity to realize the gains they hope to make. She brings deep insight into what you can expect if you were to go down this path with your property.
Companies like hers function like any other property manager might. LUXbnb collects the rents, “hotel” taxes, security deposits, departure cleaning, and any other applicable feeds on behalf of the owner. They manage turnover between guests including cleaning and any needed repairs. And at the end of each month, they release the rental income earned less the management fee and any repair costs or new purchases.
In the District, if the owner resides at the house during the rental, s/he can host short-term renters all year long with no consequence. However, if, like many of Charlotte’s clients, the owner is renting their property while they are gone during the summer or while on assignment for, say, the World Bank, those owners can only do so for a total of 90 days for the entire year. Owners like these will want to consider that under the new law, you cannot rent out your second home as an Airbnb/VRBO short term rental, and so knowing the regulations can save you a lot of headaches.
Did you know all short-term rental hosts in D.C. are required to obtain a Short-term Rental License?
According to the Office of Short-term Rental Licensing, “In order to operate a short-term or vacation rental in the District, the property must be owned by an individual, and serve as a homeowner’s primary residence – with the owner being eligible to receive the Homestead Tax Deduction. ”
To be eligible for such a license the home must be your primary residence and owner-occupied. You will need to provide DC’s Office of Short-term Rental Licensing (DLCP) the following:
Specify whether you currently have a Homestead Exemption on the property.
Proof of your liability insurance with a minimum of $250,000 in coverage. (See below for more details).
A Certificate of Clean Hands issued within the last 30 days in the property owners name must be obtained from the Office of Tax and Revenue.
The owner, or “host,” must attest to the habitability of the property.
If the rental is a co-op, condo, or if the property is in a community where there is a homeowners’ association, the owner must attest that the bylaws, house rules, or other governing documents of the homeowner/condo/ cooperative governing board or association allow short-term and/or vacation rentals, do not prohibit owners from operating short-term rentals and/or vacation rentals, or that they have received written permission from the association to operate a short-term and/or vacation rental at the address.
Once you have successfully registered with DLCP, you will be provided with a license. You will then upload this Short-term Rental License number into your property profile in both Airbnb and VRBO. Those sites will then provide bookings for “under-31-nights” on your property.
By working with an experienced rental property manager specializing in furnished temporary stays, you can ensure that you’re operating your short-term rental legally and safely. Better yet, you can avoid any penalties or fines that could result from non-compliance with District regulations.
Some factors you might want to consider on your journey to short-term rental success:
Cleaning Fee and Preparation Service
Perhaps you’ll want to have a cleaning service at-the-ready in case your renters have a slight disaster while they’re there. Or maybe you’ll want a service to clean prior to arrivals and directly after departures, so you can quickly turnaround the property for further rental.
Do you want pets in your home while you’re away? If so, you might want to add in an automatic post-stay pet cleaning fee to cover the expense of hair and other less pleasant odor removal.
Charlotte’s company takes out a $3,000 accidental damage insurance policy on every stay in lieu of holding a damage deposit. The cost to the guest is $39 per rental. This insurance is a safe-guard for the guest, property owner and her company, of course. This insurance policy “allows for the equitable transfer of the risk of a loss, from one entity to another – in this case the insurance company. It is a simple way for all parties involved to mitigate risk, and most importantly, provides peace-of-mind.”
As you saw above, the District requires all owners to possess a liability insurance policy with a minimum of $250,000 in coverage to gain a license in the District. A variety of companies can help, according to the Motley Fool’s “The Ascent” newsletter, but some do this faster and better than others. And they even recommend ones that are best for Airbnb and VRBO rental owners. The Ascent’s best homeowners insurance for short-term rentals include the following:
Allstate Insurance: Best for possessing a large network of agents
Proper Insurance: Best for Airbnb and VRBO owners
Nationwide Insurance : Best for bundling policies
Farmers Insurance : Best for vacation rentals
Steadily Insurance: Best for getting coverage quickly
Safely Insurance: Best for fast claims processing
Should you have further questions or seek to explore the option of short or mid-term rentals, do not hesitate to contact Charlotte Perry directly at 202-341-8799 or [email protected].
Scott Bloom is senior property manager and owner of Columbia Property Management.
For more information and resources, visit ColumbiaPM.com.
Montgomery County supports LGBTQ businesses amid ‘headwinds’
Economic Development Corporation leader on overcoming barriers to success
Growing up Black in the D.C. area, Bill Tompkins learned early to appreciate diversity. In Maryland, as president and CEO of the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation, this understanding drives his support for LGBTQ-owned businesses.
“With the headwinds that the LGBTQ community runs into, we want to make sure we’re giving everyone the right opportunity to do well here,” Tompkins said.
The corporation, created in 2016 as a public-private economic development organization, helps businesses start, grow and relocate in Montgomery County. They are also tasked with supporting underserved communities.
“MCEDC staff know our capabilities very well and that we’re experts in what we do,” said Pat Larrabee, founder and president of Facility Logix, a firm assisting biotech companies with relocating to specialized facilities. “They’ve been very helpful to us and our clients, and on projects.”
Larrabee, a Vermont native, met her partner during a softball game in Montgomery County. They married and raised three daughters in the county in part because of the “favorable environment.”
In 2020, Montgomery County unanimously passed Maryland’s first LGBTQ Bill of Rights, which included adding gender expression and HIV status to existing anti-discrimination protections.
“We’re always doing these things because it’s the right thing to do,” Tompkins explained.
However, across the country many LGBTQ businesses struggle to survive, citing access to capital as a significant problem.
Challenges accessing capital
Nationally, LGBTQ-owned small businesses were more likely to report operational and financial challenges, according to a 2022 report released by the Center for LGBTQ Economic Advancement and Research and the Movement Advancement, using data from the Federal Reserve Bank’s annual Small Business Credit Survey.
Inc. Magazine, in partnership with the National LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce, StartOut and MasterCard, reported 82 percent of LGBTQ business owners said limited access to capital affected their day-to-day operations, and 93 percent stated it limited their ability to grow.
“Small businesses, particularly those that are LGBTQ+ owned, often face unique challenges and barriers to success,” Larry G. Webb, the district director for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Washington Metropolitan Area District Office stated in an email to the Blade.
Webb, who resides with his husband in the region, also stated LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs and small business owners have access to all of the programs and services SBA offers, including counseling and training, loans and capital, contracting programs and disaster recovery assistance.
“By providing support and resources, we can help to level the playing field that gives businesses a better chance at success, and help to strengthen the social bonds that hold our communities together,” he stated.
Maryland is among 34 states without credit and lending nondiscrimination laws explicitly protecting LGBTQ borrowers, according to the Movement Advancement Project.
“Obviously, this can create a difficult environment for LGBTQ+ businesses to thrive,” said Terri Hett, Maryland LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce Board President, also citing the current political environment as concerning for some chamber members. “Of course, additional economic support with the state and local governments would be extremely helpful. This could include grants or legislation that continues to support and protect these business owners.”
Tompkins agreed that “credit risk is a big challenge” facing many small business owners, including members of the LGBTQ community.
But he also pointed to Denizens Brewing Co., co-founded by married partners Emily Bruno and Julie Verratti, as just one example where working together can help overcome those challenges.
Denizens, like other businesses in the county, received support and resources from the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation.
Last year, the corporation was approved by the state to provide loans through Maryland’s Small, Minority and Women-Owned Business Account.
The Accelerating Community Excellence (ACE) Loan fund will provide $1.5 million in financial assistance to assist eligible businesses in underserved communities.
“We’re the only fund agent in Montgomery County to provide loans to underserved communities, to include LGBT-owned businesses,” Tompkins said. “People who apply to us may have been turned down by banks. But we know FICO scores are just a small part of the equation.”
These supports could help many LGBTQ-owned businesses, particularly bars and restaurants, in their struggle to survive.
Jan Guttman, a MoCo Pride Center board member and parent of a nonbinary trans youth, has been working to create a local LGBTQ chamber of commerce to help local businesses network and share resources.
“It’s been difficult,” she admitted. “We’ve had businesses coming and going, and one that went under.”
Guttman, a former educator who worked with at-risk youth, said it’s important because these business owners and entrepreneurs serve as vital role models for LGBTQ youth.
“I started trying to gather Montgomery County owned and operated businesses that would want to share my vision of this workspace where the front part would be aimed at LGBTQ adults – to have a space to sit with their laptop – so kids could see them,” Guttman explained. “Because they often don’t see their future selves.”
Her goal is to secure a location and financing for a community co-working space, where LGBTQ professionals can network and, most importantly, where LGBTQ youth can see them and be inspired to succeed. They also serve as safe spaces for LGBTQ youth to work and be themselves.
Small businesses as community ‘backbone’
Webb also pointed out that local small businesses are the “job creators and economic engine” for the country as a whole.
“Small business owners not only earn a living for themselves,” he said. “They are the backbone of many communities that help drive our nation’s economic strength. Providing support and resources for small businesses, including those that are LGBTQ+ owned, is essential for their success and for the overall health of the economy.”
Similarly, the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation has supported LGBTQ-owned businesses across a variety of fields in an effort to support local diversity and their economy.
Tompkins works closely with county government officials to coordinate their economic development priorities and short-term needs with MCEDC’s current business activities. He has a long record in business operations, strategic planning, marketing, and nonprofit management, serving for most of his career as a senior executive in the media and entertainment industries with Fortune 500 companies. He has worked for the Washington Post and served as president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, which represents more than 200 Black-owned-and-operated newspapers across the nation.
“Where there is prejudice, there are barriers,” Tompkins said. “If you’re going to be a part of the DMV, then you should be very embracing of those with backgrounds that are similar to yours and different.”
Multiple options for buying a beach house meant for rentals
Consider going in with friends, making use of the off season
As we near the summer season and you hear the beach calling and taste the orange crushes – let’s take a look at a few ways to make those dreams a reality. The real estate market across the U.S. is still very hot due to the lack of inventory and the higher interest rates. However, when looking at an investment property, it’s a little easier to stomach a higher interest rate when it is offset by rental income. Let’s take a look at a few of the options we have for rental styles.
The typical idea of a beach vacation is for a week right? While we wish it were longer (and it can be!) the usual summer beach vacation is a week long. In the Rehoboth and Delaware coast region – most homes rent for a week at a time in the summer season. While the idea here is to make the most you can in summer rentals – you as the owner, of course, can always block off weeks when you want to use the home for your personal use. Talk about the best of both worlds.
Short-term rentals are a great way to make some extra money. If you plan to use your beach house for most of the season but know you have a wedding weekend here and a week long vacation planned in the Bahamas – then put that on a short term rental site for those dates. This way you can make a little extra money. Most of the time, you can make as much or even more than a weekly rental scenario. Short-term rentals are great for the sporadic renter – if you want to use your home most of the time but you want to rent it out every other weekend and during the week all of August – you don’t have the need for the “my family rents this home the same week every week and has done so for three years now…” kind of dedicated renters. It is important to make sure that your community allows for short-term rentals or this option might not be possible for you.
If you know anything about the coastal regions in the Northeast – things in the winter are not like they are in the summer. In my humble opinion – they are better! But I digress. If you are looking at a rental pro-forma and wonder if it makes sense to winterize your beach house or to rent it out, I would say rent it. You can easily rent for long weekends in the “off season” and in most cases you can also rent to one person for the entire off season period as off-season rentals are hard to come by in most markets. In this case, you wouldn’t charge the same premium you do during the summer.
I have mentioned this ownership option before. If you have a group of friends that love to kiki in Rehoboth then it might just be an option to get four together and buy a house. I would say this option is a risky one and one I would highly encourage you to speak to an attorney about. The idea here is that an arrangement would be formed to outline what party uses the home during which periods of time. Expenses would be split based on share of the home.
Oftentimes people forget that you can often provide your rental home to a charity event for example an item at a silent auction for your children’s school gala. A portion would be tax deductible and as such is a savings for you that year. Of course – speak with a CPA to ensure these items are true and correct for you.
The above options are all great ideas in black and white on paper — but what option will work best for you is based on what you want, where you want to be, and for the last option, how well you trust your friends who you might be interested in doing a group beach house option with. In this case I would highly recommend speaking with an attorney who can walk you through the pros and cons of a group purchase with multiple people on a deed and mortgage.
Cheers to a happy, healthy, and fun 2023 summer season and hope you can make your beach house dream a reality – I’m here to help.
Justin Noble is a Realtor with Sotheby’s international Realty licensed in D.C., Maryland, and Delaware for your DMV and Delaware Beach needs. Specializing in first-time homebuyers, development and new construction as well as estate sales, Justin is a well-versed agent, highly regarded, and provides white glove service at every price point. Reach him at 202-503-4243, [email protected] or BurnsandNoble.com.
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