Love Jacked on The New Chitlin Circuit (Episode 6)

This week Syd & Lex reviewed Love Jacked, available on Netflix, and starring Amber West Stevens and Shamier Anderson. The movie follows a young artist who travels to South Africa for inspiration, but finds love and antics instead.

The movie includes some delightful appearances from some idols in Black film; Marla Gibbs, Keith David, and Mike Epps. The direction from Alfons Adetuyi and cinematography from Lance Gewer provided the perfect visual backdrop for this light-hearted romance.

Syd & Lex share their thoughts on Black rom-coms. Both hosts share a nostalgic appreciation for Hallmark romance films, so they appreciated the clean adaptation of that format in Love Jacked.

Lex enjoyed seeing Keith David in another endearing Father role. While he nailed the Disapproving Dad in this movie, Lex reflects fondly on his similar role in the classic ATL.

Syd’s Who Came to Ack Nominee of the Week:

Shamier Anderson in Love Jacked (2018)
Shamier Anderson as Malcolm/Fake Mtumbie

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Note from Lex: Syd and I are both quarantined in separate cities (DC and NY, respectively.) So we’re unable to record in the studio for a while. Bear with us while we perfect our remote recording.

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Selah and the Spades on The New Chitlin Circuit (Episode 5)

This week Syd & Lex reviewed Selah and the Spades, starring Lovie Simone and Jharrel Jerome. We were excited to finally watch this movie. Selah and the Spades is the directorial debut of young Director, Tayarisha Poe.

“Like Mean Girls meets the Godfather”

Syd & Lex share their thoughts on this teen drama. And Syd expresses her long-running appreciation for organized crime, along with the parallels between New York’s five crimes families and the movie’s five factions. Lex has some thoughts on young directors’ love for trick shots and flashy cinematography.

Syd’s Who Came to Ack Nominee of the Week:

Lovie Simone on 'Selah and the Spades' and 'The Craft' reboot
Ms. Lovie Simone

New Segments!

This week, we’re trying a new format. Our (spoiler-free) review of Selah and the Spades will in the first half of the episode. And, each week, we’ll have rotating segments. This week, our segment was “On Second Watch” where Syd defends the classic ‘Love and Basketball.’

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The New Chitlin Circuit is a podcast hosted by two best friends, and Black movie-enthusiasts, Syd and Lex. We review Black indie, low-budget, and direct-to-tv movies. Learn more about The New Chitlin Circuit.

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Always a Bridesmaid on The New Chitlin Circuit (Episode 4)

This week Syd & Lex reviewed rom-com, ‘Always a Bridesmaid’, written by Yvette Nicole Brown and directed by Trey Haley. Brown is known for her acting roles in television shows like Community and Drake & Josh. But she shows her chops as a film writer in the charming romance flick.

Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Bride?

Episode 4 of The New Chitlin Circuit, reviewing Always a Bridesmaid

Syd & Lex share their thoughts on modern romance and the anxiety to wed experienced by just about every 29-year-old, successful Romance protagonist. Lex is tired of hetero romances, but also cannot seem to stop watching them.

Syd’s Who Came to Ack Nominee of the Week:

Exclusive: Actress Yvette Nicole Brown Talks About Her ...
Jordan Calloway, as Mark Randall.

Learn more about The New Chitlin Circuit

Tune In Here!

Also find us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Podchaser, or Google Podcasts!

Note from Lex: Syd and I are both quarantined in separate cities (DC and NY, respectively.) So we’re unable to record in the studio for a while. Bear with us while we perfect our remote recording.

Join the Discussion

Uncorked on The New Chitlin Circuit (Episode 3)

This week Syd & Lex reviewed the newly released ‘Uncorked’, written, directed, and produced by Prentice Penny. Penny is known for his work on the HBO show ‘Insecure’, but ‘Uncorked’ is his film debut. And what a debut it is!

Which type of White Wine are you?

Syd & Lex share their thoughts on this classic tale of a young man balancing his the pursuit of his dreams with the responsibility to his family. Niecy Nash, Courtney B. Vance, and Mamoudou Athie come together to make ‘Uncorked’ a heart-warming showcase of Black families.

Syd’s Who Came to Ack Nominee of the Week:

Courtney B. Vance Interview: On 'Uncorked,' Wine, And BBQ
Bro. Courtney B. Vance

Learn more about The New Chitlin Circuit

Tune In Here!

Also find us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Podchaser, or Google Podcasts!

Note from Lex: Syd and I are both quarantined in separate cities (DC and NY, respectively.) So we’re unable to record in the studio for a while. Bear with us while we perfect our remote recording.

Join the Discussion

The New Chitlin Circuit Podcast is Live!

The New Chitlin Circuit, a podcast reviewing black indie, low-budget, and direct-to-tv black movies, is hosted by Syd and Lex.

What do chitlins have to do with movies?

The ‘Chitlin Circuit’ is a term used to describe a ring of performance venues where black entertainers could perform. Throughout American history this term has mainly referred to theatre and musical venues. But now independent black performers can showcase their work on streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Urban Movie Channel. This is what we call the new Chitlin Circuit. We started The New Chitlin Circuit as a place for independent Black films to receive the spotlight and appreciation they deserve.

What type of movies will we review?

While attending Howard University, Syd and I were roommates. And our favorite way to wind down on a Friday night was a tall glass of cheap Moscato (ahh, college) and the blackest movie we could find.

While many film buffs scoff at the Sister Codes and Boy Byes on the movie world, Syd and I love these feel-good flicks. But after finishing a movie like Plug Love, when I search the web to find the critical reception or the online conversation about the movie…there’s nothing. So The New Chitlin Circuit is our answer to that.

Black independent film comes in many genres and our goal is to highlight all kinds of black indies. So we’ll review the gangster movies, the rom-coms with Marques Houston, the arthouse dramas with Sundance buzz, and everything in between.

The Hosts


Syd is a native of Lithonia, GA and Howard Alum. She’s a proud member of the Beyhive, a Cheetah Girls enthusiast, and your local Black culture expert. While Syd is a professional Marketer, she moonlights as a free-trial scammer. Meet Syd!


Lex grew up in Metro Atlanta, but is (overly) proud of their country, Alabama roots. If Lex is chatting at a party, chances are they’re talking about public transit, a Tyler Perry movie, or some gay sh*t. Meet Lex!

Tune in every Monday to hear our review of the very best of Black independent movies!

Follow The New Chitlin Circuit on Twitter, Instagram, Apple Podcast, Podchaser, or Stitcher!

Your Guide to Entertaining Friends with a Fun Cheese Board

This weekend, I had several friends in town to celebrate Howard University’s Homecoming. And as a Howard alum, I was excited to attend the festivities. I was especially excited to feed and entertain my friends!

Remember that antique cutting board? Well, this was the perfect opportunity to christen that newly restored board with a full spread of assorted cheeses and breads.

Cheese board vegetarian Handy Chef Lex
Cheese Board featuring: cheddar cheese, Honeycrisp apples, goat cheese, grapes, pepperjack cheese
cheese board handy chef lex

Tips for Creating a Cheese Board

1. Select cheeses with varying textures

I typically include 1 soft cheese, a Cheddar cheese, and 1 hard cheese. This can be soft goat cheese, smoked white cheddar, and aged parmasean (hard.) This will provide some variation as your guest eat their way around the board.

2. In absence of meats, load up on extras

Charcuterie boards are traditionally prepared with meat as the main feature. But you can create a great spread with just cheeses, breads, vegetables, and fruits. To satisfy guests, without serving meats, be sure to add hearty extras. Examples:

  • Olives
  • Artichoke hearts
  • Apples
  • Roasted vegetables
  • Figs
  • Bread & Olive Oil

3. Jam!

Many people are unfamiliar with the magical union of cheese and fruit. So they wouldn’t think to combine cheese with fruit jam, but they absolutelty should. Every cheese board can be elevated with a dollop of jam made from fruits like raspberries, apples, or figs. Advise guests to try smearing the jam on a cracker and laying a piece of cheese on top; a guaranteed “Wow!”

4. Group complementary items together

Group together the “perfect bites” so your guests can easily enjoy your board. See examples of “perfect bites” below:

  • Cheddar/Apple
  • Goat Cheese/Jam/Cracker
  • Feta Cheese/Watermelon

5. You don’t need rules

There is an endless list of rules when it comes to making this hors d’oeuvre. But the true reward of making a cheese board isn’t a picture perfect spread, instead it’s the joy of eating tasty cheeses with friends. For you rule-followers: here is a more comprehensive guideline for crafting cheese boards.

What appetizer do you usually serve to guests?

Save Money on Picture Frames by Re-Purposing Custom Frames

On a visit to my favorite antique shop, I picked up a photo frame. It held a piece of crochet art that formed a bright scenery. The crochet landscape could have been hung above the mantle in your grandmother’s house without anyone noticing its apearance. But on this particular visit, I was in the market for a frame not artwork. So the colorful yarn didn’t distract me from the potential of the frame which was holding it. I bought the frame and carried it home, ready to give it a second life!

how to reuse old picture frame
The original frame, with crochet artwork.

The Story

Despite my excitement, the frame sat in my closet for weeks. Okay, it was actually a few months. I stalled on this project not for lack of know-how or motivation, but because I didn’t have anything worth framing. That is, until I found a rolled-up poster in my partner Kaia’s closet. Perfect!

the handy chef lex
Photo 1. The poster before I painted the frame.

The new occupant of this old frame is a promotional poster from Kaia’s first film festival, BlackStar Film Festival 2017. The poster is special to Kaia so it deserves to be framed, not just thumb-tacked to plaster.

The poster fit well into the frame and the gold lettering looked awesome in the gold-flecked frame (see Photo 1.) But the chipped, gold flecks were not enough. I knew the poster would truly pop if the entire frame were painted gold.

When I first opened the back of the frame, I discovered that the crochet art was done on the back of the painting that originally occupied the frame (see Photo 2.) So someone before me had already given this frame a second life! This made me wonder just how long this frame had been around, how many crafty hands it had been passed through. But without any brand name or year marker couldn’t uncover that history.

how to reuse old picture frame
Photo 2. The original painting, hidden behind the crochet art.

With some snips and pulls, the crochet yard came cleanly off the original painting. From then, I was able to give this frame a third life.

See the steps I took to transform this old frame to a sparkly new gift for Kaia.

The Tools

A proper frame fitter would probably scoff at this list of tools, and recommend just buying a new frame from a frame store. But this is how I made my antique frame shine again.

How to put new photo in old picture frame
Photo 3. Dissembled photo frame with the tools I used.
  • 1 flat shaped wedging tool (I used a blunt butter knife)
  • 1 can spray paint (optional)
  • 1 background paper, if needed
  • Replacement nails, if needed
  • Cloth for cleaning
Lex The Handy Chef DIY Black Bloggers
Photo 4. Handy Chef Lex cleaning the wooden frame.

The Process

  1. Pick out a picture frame that is in tact, with glass front and a photo. already in place. The photo can be flipped to serve as the backdrop for your new photo.
  2. Open the back of the frame by carefully sliding the wedge underneath each nail and bending it toward upward to release the content of the frame. Some nails may break, that’s okay. You can replace those nails with the identical nails you’ve purchased. If you don’t want to preserve the old nails, simply remove all the nails and replace them all.
  3. Once the nails have been opened or removed, take out the photo, cardboard, backdrop, glass or whatever contents fill the frame. Carefully set them aside.
  4. Take the wodden outer frame, clean it with warm water and mild soap. Dry the frame thoroguhly. Spray paint the frame if you wish.
  5. Clean both sides of the glass with a mild window cleaner. Try not to get your fingerprints on it.
  6. Fill the frame with your new photo, which can be attatched the the reverse side of the old photo.
  7. Secure the nails by wedging them back into place or by gently hammering new nails into the back of the frame.

The Results

I enjoyed this project not only because the process was simple and fulfilling, but also because I repurposed something that had already been repurposed by someone else. This frame could have ended up in a landfill at any point in its many lives. But instead it lives on, freshly painted and newly cherished.

How (and Why) I Take Care of My Indoor Plants

In classic millennial fashion, I proudly call myself a Plant Mom. While I don’t have any roommates, I am accompanied by my many indoor plants. I’ve had most of my plants for over a year. Needless to say, they were all long overdue for some TLC.

Lex The Handy Chef. Black lifestyle blog
Me, holding my Snake Plant

For the past few weeks, many of my indoor plants started drooping and browning. My largest plant is a **corn plant that sits on my living room floor. It was losing life with each passing day. I was confounded by what could be killing my plants. I hadn’t changed my watering schedule or light levels. Then it dawned on me, it’d been a full year and I had not fertilized or re-potted my plants!

So I took a trip to Home Depot to buy a few new pots, potting soil, and all-purpose plant fertilizer. Then I spent the afternoon carefully re-potting my plants.

**Okay, the corn plant died. But I stealthily replaced it with another from Home Depot.

Why I Keep Indoor Plants

Lex the Handy Chef. Indoor plants

For me, and droves of other millennials, caring for plants is a way of grounding my life. I work in a field where everything I create is digital. After working all day, I have no finished product that I can physically touch. With most of my day happening behind a screen, plants provide a tangible outlet.

When properly watered and cared for, they liven up my space, freshen my air, and bring me joy. When neglected, they droop as if literally disappointed. This is real; it’s concrete. And having these plants’ lives depend on me is an anchor to a reality that doesn’t require software updates, but may require some debugging.

I grew up surrounded by lush greenery, often eating things directly from the soil instead of the grocery store. Moving to an urban landscape has been rewarding in every possible way. But I miss that connection to the Earth. So I keep my living room full of as many plants as I can keep alive. While I haven’t started growing my own vegetables yet, I’m excited for the small amount of dirt that I do get to play in.

How many house plants do you have?

Stay Cool & Hydrated With this Ginger Mocktail

Whether you plan to sit poolside or lounge on your couch with the air conditioner on full blast, an ice cold beverage is just what you need to stay cool this summer. And I’ve got just the thing…

The Ingredients

4 oz coconut sparkling water, I prefer the Waterloo brand

4 oz Ginger beer

1 Lemon

1 tsp Honey

1 thumb Ginger

Fresh mint leaves


  1. Cut two thin slices from the lemon, save the rest of the lemon for later. Peel the ginger root, then cut two slices from that as well.
  2. Squeeze the juice from half of the lemon into an 8 oz glass. Add the honey, the ginger slices, and 2-3 mint leaves. Muddle this mixture with a muddler, or the bottom end of a wooden spoon.
  3. Once the fresh ingredients are muddled in the glass, add ice cubes. Then pour the sparkling water and ginger beer into the glass.
  4. Garnish with the lemon slices. Enjoy!

I Would Probably Be Great at Divorce

Like many people my age, I grew up laughing at reruns of The Wayans Bros. on MTV. And like many people I grew up with, I was a child of divorce. While casually watching NBC one night, I found a funny intersection of the two.

Marlon is a new sitcom driving Marlon Wayans’ quasi-comeback. In the show, Marlon’s character (bearing the same moniker) and his ex-wife Ashley (played by Essence Atkins) have a friendly divorce. Marlon frequently visits their two children, who both live with Ashley. Ashley and Marlon joke leisurely and co-parent with as much ease as a married couple would. The children seem to be satisfied and even benefiting from the non-traditional arrangement. This reminded me of my childhood.

The fictional family of Marlon: Ashley (ex-wife), Marlon, Zack (son), Marley (daughter) source:IMDb

As a Former Child

My parents were married for a few years before I was born. But their marriage ended when I was two years old. From then on, I lived with my mom and my two sisters (both from my mother’s previous relationships.) My father lived about a 15 minute drive away. He would come over occasionally to bring firewood, cut the grass, or just to eat dinner and make dad jokes. This carried on for most of my childhood. Until his job relocated him to Virginia when I was 14. We held a fairly steady correspondence, until he passed away when I was 18.

My parents were always open about their friendship, their marriage, and their divorce. In fact, the first thing I learned about their divorce was my mom telling they went out to dinner at Red Lobster after it was finalized. Of course there were the not-so-pretty details, like my father’s alcoholism and my mother’s controlling nature.

But, even in my fatherless household, I couldn’t quite relate to the “tragic” narrative TV shows always showed about children of divorce. And still to this day, I just don’t feel like I missed out on anything by not having an in-home father.

Nearly every household in my childhood community was lead by a single mother. That was all I had known as normal. The few lasting marriages I saw between my aunts and uncles were riddled with infidelity and a type of patriarchy that never sat right with me.

Image result for cosby show
The cast of The Cosby Show.

Consequently, as a child, I genuinely thought the happy, traditional two-parent home was just a made-up on TV fantasy. (see: Cosby Show, My Wife and Kids, etc.) Further, I thought the Child of Divorce trope was entirely fabricated as well. I didn’t get why children on TV were so bent out of shape over their parents’ divorce. I say that as a testament to how fulfilling my childhood was, not as a detractor from pain that divorced has caused many people. I would have been grateful to have seen a show like Marlon during my childhood.

As a Future Parent

Just like any other family structure, being raised by divorced parents came with some downsides and struggles too. Marlon doesn’t exactly capture some of those feelings. So, I look to Raven’s Home. In my childhood, Raven Symone was the star of another perfect TV family in her show That’s So Raven. But the actress has returned to Disney Channel in a TV show much more like my own childhood. Raven plays a single mother of two. She and her children live together with Raven’s best friend, Chelsea, and Chelsea’s son.

Image result for raven's home
From Raven’s Home

In episode 4, “The Bearer of Dad News,” Raven’s ex husband has to tell their kids that he’ll be moving to Texas and won’t see them as often anymore. The mood of the episode darkened and the children’s faces got long and sad. While I initially identified with the kid’s angst about the change, my attention shifted to the parents’ reactions.

As I get older and have more frank conversations with my mom, I uncover more of the details in my parents’ divorce. Now I can see how some of my parents’ smiles in front of me had just been tears and disagreements behind closed doors. In the same way, Raven’s Home showed how the adults handled tough times. Raven and the children’s father, Devon, had a heartfelt talk without the children around. They joked about having one last hurrah, then came to a solemn goodbye.

This episode was like peeping behind the veil of “grown folks business.” When I was a kid I didn’t understand how much effort it took for my parents to raise me while living apart and forging new relationships. But now that I’m slipping into adulthood, I recognize how hard my parents worked for my happiness. And I’m thankful that they worked so hard for it, especially my mother. Lastly I hope I have that same strength in raising my children, whether in marriage or divorce.


I never saw my parents kiss before they left for work in the morning.

Or join a couples’ book club.

Or wear matching outfits to church on Sundays.

But I value what I did see. I saw them calmly set aside their differences to buy the wacky toys on my Christmas lists. I saw them both at my rec-league basketball games, even though I played terribly. And I saw them love and respect each other outside of marriage. Seeing that has taught me things that I could use in my future marriage or, albeit, divorce.

Because I was raised in such a pleasant divorce, I can love and wed without the crippling fear of divorce. Because I know I can raise happy children and have a healthy family without being married. And because I’d probably be great divorce.