Making it my business: cha-ching bling-bling

Don’t panic. We’ve got ways for you to save some bones.

In response to the most recent economic freak out experienced by our great nation, Ross said this to me the other day:

“I think we might want to keep a stash of cash in the house. Or a gold bar.”

While I don’t think we’re really at that point yet, some of us are way overdue when it comes reassessing where our nickels and dimes go. Luckily, being married to a miser (but a cute one, guys) and coming from a less-than-affluent upbringing, I know a thing or two about saving money. Specifically, practical and non-scary ways that seem like nothing at first, but really start to add up.

Grocery shopping

Pay attention to expiration dates
I have vivid memories of my mother shoulder-deep in the milk case at Ukrop’s, scouring for the jug with the latest date stamped on it. The prices for perishable goods are vomit-inducing right now, so why waste your money on something that’s going to go bad in a few days? Take a little extra time (and frost bite) to find stuff with the latest expiration date. A helpful tip? Milk stored in cartons lasts FOREVER. We’re talking a week (or more) longer.

Plan a menu
I’ll just go ahead and say one thing: I hate doing this. I can never think of anything I’ll want to eat and I don’t do the cooking in my house, so I feel kind of weird demanding a specific dish that, unbeknownst to me, could be ridiculously annoying to prepare. But, anything that gives you focus and cuts down on hemming and hawing while standing in the grocery store aisle will keep the cost down. If menu planning is a new thing for you, try thinking ahead just a couple days. Write down only what you need to prepare those meals (in addition to any household essentials like toilet paper and cleaning products) and only buy those items. There’s nothing worse for your grocery budget than an unplanned free-for-all at Kroger where you’ll be seduced by row after row of 10 for $10 signs. Guys, no one needs that much Gatorade.

Eat before you go
I’m sure we’ve all heard this before, but it’s serious. The last thing you want to do is do your grocery shopping on an empty stomach. More than likely, your appetite will be bigger than your budget. Get at least some calories in before going – a glass of milk, a piece of bread, anything. Not only will this help keep your costs in line, you’ll also be less likely to be a raging lunatic when dealing with the crowds. Or that could just be me.


Drink at home
Dudes, booze is expensive. It’s even more expensive when it’s somebody else’s and they have to pour it into a glass for you. If you feel the need to imbibe (which of course, I UNDERSTAND – I haven’t had a drink in EIGHT MONTHS) opt for inviting some friends over to get ridiculous on your own territory.

Try the daytime date
I love an evening out probably more than most people. The idea of dinner and movie sends me into a squealing twirl of happiness. However, the cost makes me want to throw up. Luckily, the world has given us two wonderful things: lunch and matinees. Typically a lunch entree is about $2 cheaper than the dinner version. And matinee tickets? They run about $2.50 less than the evening prices. True, you might miss out on the opening night experience, but if this is an indulgence that you’re just not ready to let go of yet (which I admittedly am not), moving the event up a few hours will let you feel like you’re still getting a treat, but will save you from frantically doing sums in your head instead of enjoying yourself.

If it’s free, GO!
Luckily, most major (and even not-so-major) cities frequently have events that are free and open to the public. Granted, some of them might charge you for food and the like, but many don’t require any cash to get in. It’s a great opportunity for people watching… and to just get the mess out of the house. Richmond’s league of community blogs do a great job keeping us all up to date on such events. Check those often and you should be set.

Around the house

Say goodbye to paper
Not only are paper towels and paper napkins bad for the environment, you have to keep buying them! WTF? Instead, go for cloth. You can pick up a cheap set of cloth napkins at Target or even Kroger, and Costco sells plain white bar towels that work even better than their paper counterparts.

Get a programmable thermostat
Another change that helps the environment and your cash flow. Getting a thermostat that you can schedule based on when you are and are not home can save you 10-20% on your heating and cooling bills. Sure, it’s an investment at first, but knowing that your AC isn’t chugging away while you’re at work (but will cut on *just soon enough* before you get home to keep you from gasping for air when you walk in your house, what with the rain forest that’s sprung up in your absence) is well worth the initial cash output.

Take care of your sh*t
It’s pretty simple. If you take care of what belongs to you, it will last longer. This includes pretty much everything you own. Keeping things (house, shoes, clothes, car) cleaned and maintained means you get more use out of them. See? I told you it was simple.

I’m sure you have lots to add on this one, dear readers. Your wisdom. Share it with us.

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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

Making it my business: how moving can suck less

Making a big move as easy-ish as 1, 2, 3.

My husband and I recently went through the terror and pain that is selling and buying a house at the same time. Our house was on the market for just under three months, but the closing on both our old and new houses happened in a matter of three weeks. On top of that, our realtor informed us that we had hit every obstacle possible during the process, and never had he experienced such difficulty before.


But, with all of the chaos that went on with the buying and selling, we were pretty determined to make the whole moving process as painless as possible.

Before I tell you how we did this, let me preface it by saying one thing: moving sucks. There is nothing fun about it. It’s stressful, time consuming, and guaranteed to make you (specifically me) crabby for days. Expect it to be horrible and hopefully you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Part 1: Recruiting help

If you’re like us, you probably can’t afford to pay people to move you. I had been saying since our move into our first house (which was actually quite painless – I was just 22 and bratty) that never again was I moving myself. To me it was worth paying money to not have to deal with the headache. Funny how impending parenthood and a soon-to-be larger mortgage change that perspective.

From our experience, most people are more than willing to help you move. The key here is giving just enough notice for people to plan to help out, but not asking so far in advance that they forget.

We sent out an email about two weeks before the actual move happened, begging people for help (and possibly making frequent reference to the fact that I was largely pregnant and therefore physically unable to do much of anything). After getting initial responses, we sent out a reminder email about three days before the big day. We gave a date, a time, and promised sustenance. And do you know what happened on our moving day? At 6:30pm sharp, 15 people arrived at our house and loaded all of our belongings into our POD in 30 minutes. THIRTY MINUTES. And all it cost us was $60 in pizza and beer.

Part 2: Taking the time to do it right

Let’s take a minute to clarify something right now. When you ask people to help you move, that means you are asking them to carry boxes from your house into a truck and into another house. “Moving” does not mean “packing.” There are few things that drive me more crazy (or really drive my husband more crazy because he gets asked to move people more than I do – see the reference to my inevitable crabbiness above) than arriving to someone’s house, ready to do some heavy lifting, to find them in the early stages of just getting things into boxes.

Your friends are not there to help you sort through your junk drawer and determine what should go with you and what should go in the trash. It’s up to you to get that finished well beforehand.

Prior to our move, my husband, my in-laws, and I went through absolutely everything we owned, making piles of what would go, what would get donated, and what could get laid out in the alley behind our house for the dumpster divers. It took us hours upon hours to do this, but we ended up not bringing a bunch of unnecessary crap with us from the old house to the new house. More importantly, by the time our friends arrived to help us move, our belongings were packed away neatly and labeled in such a way that complete strangers would know where to set things in our new house. This not only made the unloading of our POD much smoother, it’s made locating our belongings a complete non-hassle as we slowly unpack. Non-hassle is what we’re going for here – for you and for those who are being generous enough to give of their time, energy, and sweat.

Part 3: Filling in the powers-that-be

Believe it or not, the physical move from one place to another will most likely not be the hardest/most annoying part of the changing-of-residence process. The real pain in the ass? Letting everyone know about your move. I’m not talking about friends and family – that can be solved with a couple phone calls or a mass email. I’m talking about “official places” or, as most of us know them as, “people that are supposed to get money from you on a fairly regular basis” or “big scary government agencies who scare you with their officialness and incompetence.” Don’t assume that changing your address with the post office will take care of everything. Here’s a handy, dandy list of people/organizations you should to contact directly to let them know about your new digs…

I know that list seems overwhelming – and I’m probably forgetting a few. But, the best thing to do is to tackle a couple each day until you’ve run down the list. It’s particularly helpful to make a note of when you called, who you talked to (and their employee number if they have one), and what you discussed. I know it sounds OCD and neurotic, but the documentation will better equip you to do some massive pwning later on if necessary.

So there you have it. If you’re moving soon, this information either helped you get better prepared or scared the crap out of you. Either way, I hope at the very least we all learned that the inevitable feelings of doom and gloom that come with moving can be somewhat squelched with a little planning… and pizza and beer.

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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

Making it my business: beyond snuggly-wuggly blankets and itty-bitty booties

5 not-so-conventional but exceptionally thoughtful shower gifts for Richmond parents-to-be

You might have heard that I’ve got a bun in the oven… specifically a bun that is almost done and an oven that is starting to look forward to orchestrating an eviction come November. My baby shower is coming up very soon, and while I’m personally jonesing for the much needed baby accoutrements (mostly because I very much don’t want to pay for them), I got to thinking about what shower guests could give in lieu of your standard baby gear.

Within the same line of thinking, what could friends and family do for couples expecting their second (or third, or fourth, whathaveyou) baby but who are also in need of some extra support when newest wee one arrives?

Thus, I present to you 5 not-so-conventional but exceptionally thoughtful shower gifts for Richmond parents-to-be…

1. Prenatal massage

This is clearly for the mother, but I’ve always thought that a relaxed mother equals a more peaceful partner. So, see? Everyone wins. Kneading Therapy at 8658 Staples Mill Road (804.261.6004) offers a prenatal massage for $65 – less than what you’d pay for a stroller and totally worth it if it helps the mom relax a bit once she hits the “OMG I’m huge and awkward and in pain” stage of pregnancy.

2. Cleaning services for a month (or two, or eight, etc.)

The thought of having to clean my house whilst learning to care for a newborn kind of makes me want to weep, so this gift idea comes from a purely selfish place, as I hope those of you reading this will put your lunch money together and make this happen for us. Luckily, Richmond has its own branch of the Maid Brigade that sells gift certificates. They offer regular or onetime cleaning services, and they are even Green Clean Certified. Costs vary depending on the size of the home, but they do offer estimates over the phone at 804.355.6243.

3. Lewis Ginter family membership

At $85 this might be a bit pricey for some, but it’s a stellar go-in option for a group. This will give two adults and up to six children under the age of 18 free, year-round admission to the gardens. It also includes discounts for classes and at various garden centers around the city. It’s nice to give parents a change of scenery while taking walks with the beh beh, and The Children’s Garden offers some fun and edumacational activities for older siblings. Memberships can be purchased online or over the phone at 804.262.9887 ext. 338.

4. Two words: prepared meals

The last thing a sleep-deprived couple needs is a steady diet of Wendy’s and Honey Nut Cheerios. Because really, who wants to be tired, terrified, AND fat? My Girlfriend’s Kitchen offers a great alternative to your standard “I’ll bring them lasagna, you bring them meatloaf” meal rotation that often takes place after the birth of a baby. The best option? Bring the new parents the menu, let them pick what they want, and you go pick up the ingredients. Packages start at $105, so this is another go-in option for a group. The Richmond kitchen is located at 13152 Midlothian Turnpike and can be contacted over the phone at 804.794.5732.

5. Diaper supply or service

If you’ve got parents into the whole not killing the earth thing, you’ve got a couple great options to shower them with love and guilt-free diapers. We will be using gDiapers with our little bugger (yes, this is another hint). If you know someone who is also going that route, they offer a premade gBaby shower gift that includes a starter kit, one additional cover, and a CASE of the flushable refills. Or, if the parents are opting to go full-cloth, Richmond now has a diaper service, appropriately named The Stork. Well, actually it’s in Charlottesville, but they’ve recently expanded their territory. The Stork offers gift certificates, with just $22 covering the cost of 80 diapers. You can email them at or call 434.295.2594.

So there you have it – 5 ideas for helping your currently-gestating, soon-to-be-parenting friends stay a bit more sane once their bundle of snuggles and joy arrives. Anything I left out? Leave it in the comments.

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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

Making it my business: Facebook etiquette

8 things you definitely should not do when navigating the world of social networking

Today’s guide comes from an actual, for-real-time request from a frustrated reader (as opposed to coming from the pits of my exhausted, ranting mind like they usually do).

She writes:

Dear Valerie,

Can you please put together a Facebook etiquette guide? I think everyone needs a little help figuring out what’s ok and what’s just kind of lame.

Frustrated Friender

Of course I can! Here we goooooooooooo…

1. Don’t friend complete strangers.

If you haven’t met in person or had some sort of contact (on the Internet or IRL) at any point in your life, DON’T DO IT. This isn’t myspace, kids. It’s not about quantity here; it’s *quality.*

2. Don’t feel obligated to send messages to people you haven’t spoken to since high school just because you’re “friends” again.

To me, constant messaging with someone you haven’t talked to in 6 years is the Internet’s equivalent to the “stop and chat.” No one knows how long the conversation should go on and, really, if you haven’t spoken in that long, there might be a reason for it. If you *must* communicate after the “add” has taken place, just leave it at a wall post with a simple “Dude, what’s up?” Do not, I repeat, do not, send them a 1500-word message outlining every detail of your life since graduation. If they cared, they would have been there.

3. Don’t ever list “Whatever I can get” under your “Looking for” status.

Even if you *are* on the market for anything, I can guarantee that everyone who reads it either says “Buh, gross” or “Wow, desperate.”

4. Don’t poke. (Seriously, what the hell is that anyway?)

This concept is baffling to me. Who likes to be poked? No one. Get back to your stealth viewing of profile pictures and leave your friends alone.

5. Don’t quote anything that can be found in any edition of Chicken Soup for the ____________’s Soul OR in a Lee Ann Womack song.

If it would be appropriate under your picture in your senior yearbook, it has NO BUSINESS going on your profile.

6. Don’t spend hours each day adding applications and updating your profile.

Every time you make a change, it will show up on your friends’ news feeds. If you make changes constantly, they will see your name over and over again. And then they will hate you. They don’t want to see that you became a fan of Rock Band. They want to see that those two random people from high school finally broke up. Don’t interfere! Space it out and don’t be ridiculous.

7. Don’t post questionable pictures of yourself.

While I love pictures of drunk people as much as the next person (which, seriously, I do), employers are getting wise to this thing called the “Internet.” Googling potential hires is getting to be a common practice. Do you really want them seeing that picture of you doing an Ice Luge during your sophomore year of college? With no pants on?

8. Don’t forget to include a profile picture.

People will automatically assume you’re ugly.

Have something to add? Wanna fight about something I said? Comment away, kiddos.

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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

Making it my business: 5 not-crazy ways to save yourself some gas


You may have heard that gas in Richmond has officially hit $4 a gallon. I know, part of me never thought it could happen, too. But look at it this way – we could be in Europe where I believe it’s more in the $10 range right now. Still it cost 50 bones to fill up my tank yesterday – I remember when it took $10 to fill up my car. Now pumping $10 worth of gas will barely get me to and from work.

Anyway, I thought I’d break down a few tips for saving gas – I’m not talking about ridiculous strategies like drafting big rigs. I’m talking about real things you can do to save some cash, not to become some fanatical hypermiler. Let’s just keep it simple, shall we?

1. Slow the mess down.

The majority of cars are most efficient at around 55mph. It just so happens that the fairly standard speed limit of 55mph came about in 1974 in response to the Arab oil embargo of 1974 in an effort to save energy. Did you see how I just got all smart and informed all up in your face? Now I’m not saying you necessarily have to drive below the speed limit (people on 95 might kill you – or me for even suggesting it). But, think about it, do you ever really *need* to drive at or above 80mph… I mean in situations other than attempting time travel?

2. Toss the junk in your actual trunk.

Every extra pound of crap requires energy to move around. Energy = money. I’ll admit I’m guilty of mistaking my car for a junk drawer – in fact, I probably have about three pounds of faded receipts carpeting the floor of my backseat… and in my cup holders… and in the arm rest…. God, that’s gross. Let’s all make a pact that we will clean out our cars this week. We’ll keep it limited to the spare tire, the jack, and *maybe* an errant copy of Style Weekly (c’mon, you know you guys all have them stacked up in there).

3. No more peeling out.

Don’t be a jackass. Gunning your engine makes it work harder and burns more gas or, in our case, money. Accelerate like a normal person and rely on other things to make you feel awesome, like smashing beer cans on your forehead or knowing all the words to Old School (jk, jk, I love that movie).

4. Be a man and drive a stick shift.

I’m a bit biased to manual transmissions because it’s the only thing I’ve ever driven. And because my mom always said, “No daughter of mine is going to drive a prissy automatic. What if there’s an emergency and you’re the only one able to drive? *I’m* not coming to pick you up.” True story. Anyway, when driven correctly (i.e. not revving the engine) a stick shift will get you better gas mileage if you keep the rpms under 3000.

5. Stop using the brake.

Not totally. That would be dangerous! But think about it. The more often you brake, the more often you have to accelerate, thus using more gas. Luckily, The Universe has this wonderful thing called friction (please click that link, it’s SO FUN). Friction is cause by lots of things when you’re driving, specifically the road and the wind. If you scan about 10 seconds ahead and take your foot of the gas a bit sooner than you normally would, chances are you won’t have to use your brake as much. Please note though, those of us who drive in the city or in high traffic areas won’t be able to do this as much, what with all the crazy teens hopping around in the street. But you folks who live in the suburbs will be able to do this until the cows come home. Except they can’t because you live where their homes used to be. Different story though.

Do you have any other ways to save gas and, thusly, some Benjamins? Leave them in the comments.

(Questions or suggestions? Send them to

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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

Making it my business: 5 things not to say to a pregnant woman

You might think you’re showing “interest” and “concern.” She might think you’re a total a-hole.

So I’m having a baby in November. Since I’m past the halfway mark, my “delicate condition” is getting to be pretty obvious. Thus begins the constant inquiries and input from relative to total strangers. For some reason, pregnant women seem to become public property once their bellies pop, and all sense of appropriateness seems to float out the window on a breeze of good intentions and unwelcome insight.

Now before I launch into my list of comments for you to avoid when around ladies with a wee bun in the oven, let me first say that I don’t typically mind these comments, but I could see why other women would be offended. So don’t consider this a rant. Think of it as a public service announcement meant to protect you from accidentally making a gestating woman cry… or punch you in the face.

1. “How much weight have you gained?”

Let’s think about this. Would you ever ask anyone else that question? Probably not. Pregnant women gain 25 to 30 pounds on average when they are pregnant. THAT IS A LOT – especially considering the average baby weighs about 7 pounds at birth. While they understand that the weight-gain is necessary, it’s a sensitive subject. They don’t need to get the feeling that you’re monitoring their gestational spread, too.

2. “If it’s a boy, will you get him circumcised?”

I’m not floored by much, but I was a briefly speechless when this one was tossed at me. First of all, we haven’t decided, and second, I was sure that if we do have a boy that he wouldn’t be too thrilled knowing that some person I knew once upon a time knows about the state of his bits and pieces. Good rule of thumb: any questions related to nether regions are strictly off limits.

3. “Can I touch your belly?”

I should preface this by saying that most women are probably Ok with close friends and family going for the goods, with or without permission – hey, I understand that there’s just something about that belly that makes people lose their minds. But chances are, if you don’t fall into one of those categories, hands off. And if you have to ask, the answer is probably no. Best to wait until (if ever) invited.

4. “You’re (blank) weeks? Wow, you look a little (big/small) for that!”

I got a similar comment this weekend. Granted it was exclaiming how small I looked rather than how big, but still, it ranks right up there with #1 on this list. Whether the mother-to-be looks big or small, chances are her doctor is well aware of her size and is monitoring it closely. Pregnancy is already stressful enough without casually making comments that could send the woman into a fit of anxiety-ridden thoughts of “Am I too big/too small? What if something is wrong?” Just because the woman doesn’t look exactly like your best friend’s sister did at that point in her pregnancy doesn’t mean that something is wrong.

5. “You look tired.”

Regardless of your intentions (which I know are probably more about expressing concern than anything), telling someone they look tired implies that they basically look like crap. Chances are, if a woman is pregnant, she is tired, she looks it, and she knows it. Give her a break and tell her she looks great… even if you are lying with every fiber of your being.

Got something to say? Leave it in the comments.

(And if you have a question or suggestions on things that I should be making my business, send them to

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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

Making it my business: j to the o to the b, kids

For my next trick, I will attempt to pass myself off as a career counselor!

I’ve talked about work before, but this time we’re going a bit deeper than happy hours. Yes, dear readers, this time we’re talking about navigating the tricky waters of Ye Olde Dreaded Job Search.

(Before we get into it, if you have any questions, send them to Seriously, send them because we’re running out.)

Dear Valerie,

I recently left a job that I stayed at for less than a year. Is that going to be a problem when I interview? What should I say when they ask me about it?

Thanks a bunch,
Jumpy Job Seeker

I doubt I’m alone when I say the idea that you must stay at a job for at least a year is old news. People leave jobs at different times for all sorts of reasons, and your short time at your last job is not necessarily a black mark on your record. As long as you don’t make it a habit, it shouldn’t be a problem, particularly if you’re changing careers, not just jobs.

If your interviewer asks you about it, be brief and honest. Go with a simple “The company was making changes and it was no longer a good fit” or “They weren’t able to offer as many development opportunities as I would like, so I decided to look for something that had more potential for advancement.” Odds are the person conducting the interview will leave it at that and might even take your decision to leave as a sign of initiative and clear-cut goals.

A word of warning, though. By no means should you ever insult or bash your previous employer. This is Richmond, and there’s a good chance you could be talking to your former boss’s wife’s best friend from college. You all know I’m right. So watch your tongue.

Dear Valerie,

I’m about to start looking for a “real job” and I wanted to see what you thought about something. I have a full sleeve on one of my arms. Should I cover it up when I’m interviewing?

Inked-up Inquisitor

It all depends on what you mean by “real job.” If “real job” means working in a creative setting like an advertising agency or a graphic design firm, you’re probably Ok with letting some of your ink peak out. If you mean an investment firm or law office, it’s probably best to cover up. If you’re not sure where your prospective employer falls in the spectrum of tattoo acceptance, ask around. See if you have friends or family who know anyone who works there and can pass some insider info along to you about the company’s tat-friendly status.

But, as demonstrated in my response to the last question, I think it’s always best to play it safe during the interview process, regardless of where you’re looking. You want to use that time as your chance to present your skill set, not bring up issues tha t quite frankly have nothing to do with your ability to do good work. if it looks like the job will work out, and you’re still not sure of they’re tattoo-friendly, just ask. If they’re cool with it, awesome. If not, you can choose to keep yourself covered or look for a job elsewhere.

Got something to say? Leave it in the comments.

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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

Making it my business: 8 tips for beating the ungodly and horrible heat

Actually, it’s the heat AND the humidity.

You may have noticed that Richmond has forgotten it is located in a temperate climate and instead thinks it’s fixed IN THE CENTER OF THE SUN. Seriously, we’ve had almost an entire week of 100 degree weather. Ha, and I’m telling you that like you weren’t here suffocating along with me.

Even though it’s supposed to be cooler today (a chilly 88 degrees, kids!) we all know it’s just a matter of time before Richmond decides to show off again. So, here are 8 easy ways to beat the heat…

1. Don’t be a hero.

It’s hot. Everyone knows it. Now is not the time to see who can win the “I didn’t turn my air conditioner on until the last week in August!” game. We are all sticky and crabby and could use a constant flow of cool air. Flip the switch, buddy.

2. Give your oven a break.

When it’s 100+ *outside*, the last thing you need is a big old box of 450 degrees *inside.* Give the complicated dinners a rest until it cools off and opt for light and easy stuff like salads and cold sandwiches.

3. Turn off your computer when you leave the house.

A lot of us have trouble doing it, but seriously, have you ever touched a computer that’s been running all day? It’s like molten lava. Trust me, leave it off and your bedroom or office will be significantly cooler when you get home from work at the end of the day.

4. Go to the movies.

I worked in a movie theater for two summers, decked out in a long sleeve shirt, black Dickies, and a vest, and not once did I sweat while in that building. Those places pump the AC like none other. Take advantage of it. It’s almost worth the $9 just to get in the door.

5. Loose the booze.

I know that everyone loves a nice, cold beer when it’s sweltering out. But, you might not know that alcohol is a diuretic. And the last thing you want to do when you’re sweating buckets is to put something in your body that worsens dehydration. And ok, I know this is Richmond and you all *need* your PBR, so if you can’t loose the booze, at least lay off the caffeine because it does the same thing.

6. Don’t shower until after you’ve stopped sweating.

Taking a steamy shower after sweating buckets is just going to keep your core temperature at an uncomfortable level. Drink some water, splash some cold water on your face, and wait until you feel a bit more yourself before walking into a small area filled with rushing hot water and steam.

7. Forget the ice, go with rice.

Sometimes the only thing that will help is something cool against your skin. Ice is messy. Instead, fill a cotton sock with rice, tie it shut, and let it sit in the freezer for a couple hours before bedtime. When you’re ready to turn in, tuck the sock in between your bed sheets to keep cool through the night.

8. Watch Christmas/Winter-time movies.

You don’t need to save The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe for when it’s chilly out. Seriously, after almost three hours of nothing but ice and snow, your brain will be demanding your own snuggly lion to keep warm.

Did I miss anything? Leave them in the comments.

(Got a question or suggestion? Send them to

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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

Making it my business: let’s get beautified!

It’s all about beauty this week with questions about skin care and taking the leap into the land of short hair.

I never claimed to be a beauty expert, but seeing as no one else around here is giving any advice, I guess you all will just have to trust me.

(Oh and before we get to it, if you’ve got any questions, send them on over to

Let’s get to it, shall we?

Dear Valerie,

I’m pale. Like really, really pale. Do you have any advice as to how to prepare my fair skin for the summer sun? Should I just bite the bullet and go tanning?

Pasty McNoMelanin

Whenever someone tells me that they’re white, I’m always tempted to pull up my pant leg and show them the blinding glory that is my calves. You aren’t white, guys. I’m white. As white as the snow atop Mt. Everest, as the clouds in the sky, as the cocaine loved by La Lohan. White, white, white.

So, Pasty, I guess that was a dramatic way of saying that I know where you’re coming from.

Let’s address the tanning immediately. I have a word for people who tan – Ok, it’s actually my friend’s word but I thought it was funny so now I’m stealing it. It’s “LEATHAFACE.” Yes, that’s “leatherface” said in some undefinable but hilariously condemning accent. When I hear about someone going tanning, I call her a LEATHAFACE in my head, not because she already looks like her face is made of leather, but because I know if she keeps it up, it’s just a matter of time before the premature wrinkles set in and she starts to resemble a football.

In short, don’t do it. Any exposure – whether to the sun or tanning lamps – can damage your skin and cause premature aging.

The way I see it, you have two alternatives…

One. Slather on the sun screen and head outside for brief spurts of time. Slowly but surely, you will build up a base. Remember to pay attention to the instructions on the bottle of sunscreen (yes, it does need to be reapplied, particularly if you’re swimming or sweating) and give yourself plenty of breaks. Those of us who burn tend to get more worn out by being in the sun, and we don’t want you passing out from heat exhaustion, now do we?

Two. If you’re just going for a nice summer glow that will allow you to expose your arms and legs without causing blindness, opt for a nice, subtle self tanner. Avoid the ones offering immediate results and go for products that add color over time, such as Jergen’s Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer for fair skin – just be sure to wash your hands after applying. And please, please, please remember that a tan achieved through lotion is NOT a base and will not make your skin better equipped for being outside. You still need to wear sunscreen and limit your exposure to the sun.

But really, the best piece of advice I can give you, Pasty, is to embrace your, uh, pastiness. Some of the most beautiful women in the world sit on the fair end of the spectrum. I saw work it, own it, and stay the mess out of the sun.

Hi Valerie!

I’m thinking of cutting my hair short, but I’m nervous about making the leap. Any tips?

Contemplating the Cut

I! Love! Short! Hair! I’ve had my hair short for the majority of my adult life and I doubt I’ll ever make it back to a pony tail ever again.

Now before I start dispensing my handful of short hair tips, let me issue a warning: short hair is not for everyone. In order to keep it short, you must cut it often. On top of that, there will be no more pulling your hair back when you don’t have time to shower – if you haven’t showered, everyone will know it. And they’ll all be talking about you.

But, if you think you’re ready, here are some helpful tips when going for the short cut…

1. Bring in a picture. Seriously. It’s one thing to say “Just take off a couple inches,” but it is quite another to say “Oh, just cut it short.” You need to be specific, show them what kind of style you’re going for, such as sleek vs. spiky, stacked vs. wedged, Meg Ryan vs. Halle Berry.

2. Go to a stylist you’re comfortable with. DO NOT break in a new stylist with a drastic change, even if it means putting up with long hair for one more month. Once you’re comfortable with his or her approach, *then* talk about making a big change. And when you do, be sure to ask questions and be willing to trust his or her professional opinion.

3. Think about doing color. If you’re going really short, you might be surprised to see that your hair can sometimes resemble a well-shaped helmet. Adding a few highlights will break things up and give your hair a little movement and depth.

4. Ask for a straight razor. Often the difference between a man’s short haircut and a woman’s short haircut is a little texture. When stylists use a straight razor (or some variation of it) while cutting your hair, they’re able to make sure the hair is laying right, giving you a more feminine shape.

5. Use the cool button. When you’re finally greeted with styling your own short ‘do, make sure to use the cool button on your hair dryer after blow drying and before applying any product. Heat messes with the hair cuticle, getting it all huffy and fluffy. This is pretty unnoticeable on long hair but hard to miss on short hair. A quick blast of the cool button calms the cuticle down and helps things lay just right.

And really, the most important advice I can give you is a little saying my mom likes to throw out there over and over again. And over again. Seriously, she thinks it’s so funny. Anyway, here it is: The difference between a good haircut and a bad haircut is two weeks.

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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

Making it my business: let’s drop some lbs.

OMG, it’s almost bathing suit season! What’s a Richmonder to do?

(Got questions? Send them to

Dear Valerie,

I’ve decided it’s time for me to lose some weight – about 20 pounds. Do you have any tips for getting started?

Battling the Bulge

Well, BTB, you’ve got the first part down: making the decision to lose weight. About a year ago I was struggling to get rid of about 30 extra pounds, accumulated thanks to a sedentary lifestyle and a penchant for Wendy’s among other things. All in all, it took me about 6 months to lose it, mostly because I spent the first two month futzing around. I would go to the gym and then call my husband to see if he wanted me to pick up McDonald’s on the way home. And, uh, of course he did because *he* didn’t need to lose any weight.

And then I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror on day. Like a *real* glimpse. It was time for things to change. I buckled down, started exercising and eating well, and eventually the pounds started falling off.

While I’m not a doctor and I don’t know the circumstances of your weight gain, BTB, I can offer some tips that worked for me:

1. Water. And then some more water. Oh, and then have some water.

More often than not, when you think you’re hungry, you’re actually thirsty. When you feel that hunger pain, drink a glass of water and give yourself a few minutes to see if you’re still “hungry.” If so, eat something. If not, don’t. Please note, I’m not advocating replacing food with water; I’m simply pointing out the need for you to better understand what your body is telling you. (Helpful hint: To determine your ideal daily water intake, convert your height into inches. That’s how many ounces of water you should have each day. For example, I am 5 foot 4 inches, or 64 inches total, so I should drink 64 ounces of water a day.)

2. Prioritize your food.

When eating a meal, eat the green stuff first – and there should always, always be something green on your plate. This way, if you fill up before cleaning your plate, you’ve gotten in the good stuff. This takes discipline, I know, but trust me, your body will thank you.

3. Cut back on the alcohol.

People hate it when I say that, but it’s true. The average serving of beer (12 oz.) is about 150 calories, while wine (4 oz.) is about the same. To me, drinking your calories is a complete waste (unless it’s useful calories that you’d find in milk or orange juice). If you’re going to indulge, save it for something that’s easier to keep track of. Like mozzarella sticks.

4. Exercise and often.

The more you exercise, the faster your metabolism. The faster your metabolism, the faster you burn calories. It’s cause and effect. Unfortunately, for someone who has never exercised before, the whole process of getting started can be pretty daunting, often to the point where you don’t want to do anything. It’s ok to start small. Just remember to keep challenging yourself so you don’t get bored or start to plateau.

5. Forgive yourself.

You’re going to mess up and probably in some pretty horrible ways. I recall a certain incident myself in which I ate a Junior Bacon Cheeseburger, Biggie Fries, and an order of chicken nuggets all in one sitting. The key is to not use a slump as permission to throw all of your progress out the window. Acknowledge it, forgive yourself, and move on.


What are the best ways for a Richmonder to lose weight? Gyms to join. specific restaurants to eat at, stores to shop?

Ready to Reduce in Richmond

You’re in luck, RRR. While Richmond is in the South, and we in the South do love the fried delicacies, the River City does have a lot to offer for those looking to take the healthier path.

Gold’s Gym, American Family Fitness, and the YMCA all have several locations in and around the city. Be sure to check out the amenities at the different locations in your area and choose the one that offers what you’re looking for. And for the record, I highly recommend actually joining a gym, just in general. If you’re paying upwards of $30 a month to be a member, you’re much more likely to get off your duff and go than if you just stick to doing Tae Bo in your living room.

As far as eating out goes, I’d recommend limiting it as much as possible as it’s difficult to *really* know what they’re putting in the food and how many calories you’re putting in your face. But, if you must eat out (and I am one who must indulge in a night out every once in a while) try going for the vegetarian options available to you. Places like Ipanema, and Cous Cous, among others, offer a wide selection of cuisine for the veg-lovers.

As far as shopping goes, I could be a lovely little local and tell you to head to Ellwood Thompson’s or Fresh Market and stock up, but very few of us can actually afford that. Instead, think about joining a farming co-op like Sprout Richmond!, giving you access to fresh, local vegetables throughout the spring, summer, and early fall. It’s a big output of cash at first, but it works out to just a few dollars per person each week, and you get more vegetables than you could ever, ever eat. If you don’t manage to get in with a co-op, try to get the majority of your produce at the farmer’s market, just so you know where it’s coming from. When it comes to items that just aren’t available locally, I go with my mother-in-law’s advice and stick to the outer areas of the grocery store, buying only fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean cuts of fresh meat.

As usual, if I left something out (or completely offended you with inaccuracies) share it in the comments.

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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.