Richmond Resolutions – richmondmagazine.com

Rather than greeting the new year with a grim self-improvement list that is, statistically speaking, doomed to fail, resolve to do something interesting instead. We highlight some offbeat, intriguing or enlightening activities to while away the winter days, no willpower or discipline required. Read a book, take a tour, learn a dance, make a smoothie, tell a joke, help a cause … once you get started, we’re betting you’ll be inspired to keep going all year long.

Toss, Catch, Repeat

Learning to juggle is surprisingly easy and extremely satisfying 

People talk constantly about juggling their home and work lives. This year, skip the metaphor and have a little fun by actually learning to juggle. A relatively simple skill to learn, it requires very little equipment or space and just a few minutes of practice every day, but according to professional juggler Jonathan Austin, it’s good exercise for body and brain alike, and it’s also great for boosting your confidence. “It will impress your friends and family, and make you a happier person,” he says.

Here are Jonathan’s instructions for getting started.

  1. You will need three tennis balls, beanbags, or something similar. If you are right-handed, hold two balls in your right hand and one in your left; you will start with your right hand. Reverse all instructions if you are left-handed.
  2. Toss one of the balls in your right hand in an arc a few inches above your head and catch it in your left hand. Then throw it in an arc back to your right hand. Practice tossing a ball back and forth in an arc.
  3. Toss one of the balls in your right hand. As it is peaking above your head, toss the ball in your left hand. Catch each ball with the opposite hand. Practice tossing and catching two balls.
  4. Toss one of the balls in your right hand. When it is peaking, toss the ball in your left hand and almost immediately catch the first ball with your left hand. When the ball you threw with your left hand is peaking, throw the second ball in your right hand, then catch the ball you tossed with your left hand. This is a complete juggle, making you an official juggler. Practice some more. 
  5. Keep going: Throw a ball and, as it peaks, use the other hand to throw the next one, continually alternating right, left, right, left. 
  6. Practice about 20 minutes a day for a week, and you will be able to juggle continuously. Go show your friends and family so they will be amazed by your newfound skill. What will you learn next? —Jonathan Austin

Jonathan Austin runs Richmond’s only 24-hour emergency juggling and magic service. He also offers comedy, unicycling and balloon animals.

Best in Show

Earn bragging rights at the State Fair of Virginia

Apologies to Wilbur, but state fair competitions aren’t just about prized pigs. The State Fair of Virginia hosts contests in more than 800 categories, including creative and culinary arts in addition to horticulture, livestock and equine.

Whether trying their hand at painting, learning to sew, planting a garden or baking with sourdough, millions discovered new passions during the pandemic. The State Fair of Virginia is ready to support these pursuits, encouraging first-time entries in everything from fine art and photography to backyard honey, peanut butter pies and hot sauce.

“Preserved foods have completely taken off since the pandemic, and last year, we saw a record-breaking 175 quilts,” says Sarah Jane Thomsen, the fair’s manager of agriculture education and strategic programming partnerships.

Entries also increased for cut flowers, homemade salsas, leather goods and giant vegetables. “In September, a Virginia man new to farming broke the world record for his 103-pound butternut squash,” Thomsen says. 

Thomsen turns to Pinterest and local craft shops to keep up with the latest trends when she’s looking to create new categories such as wine cork ornaments, fairy gardens and decorated graduation caps. “There’s a little bit for everybody,” she says. “We hope to connect with a more diverse group every year. We love seeing people getting into a hobby, being creative and having fun.”

Entries are free for children and range from just $1 to $5 for adults. Guidelines are posted in late spring for September’s fair. —Laura Anders Lee

Smoothie Operator

Level up with these tips from a blending pro 

Teetering between a snack and meal, smoothies are one of life’s most customizable, efficient and nutrient-packed beverages. We caught up with Ashley Lewis, owner of The Beet Box, to learn the basics of the blended drink. 

Lewis says there are a few foundational tips that that will make your blends better. 

For a more refreshing, lighter sip, freshly juiced apples or coconut water can be ideal bases. If you’re leaving the gym or trying to curb pre-dinner cravings, reach for almond milk and nut butters. And, says Lewis, kale and spinach are great green additions. “Make sure you’re putting vegetables in to complement the fruit.”

Lewis says she avoids ice and pre-packaged juices. “You can get into stuff that has added sugar, so just being mindful of that.” 

Time of day is key. To jump-start her mornings, Lewis counts on her go-to — a zingy lemon- and ginger-spiked concoction. “Ginger is an add-on I like to do when I drink my morning-time smoothie,” she says. “It’s good for digestion, skin, anti-inflammatory.”

Chia, hemp and flax seeds — aka “The Seed Trilogy” at The Beet Box — are also an easy way to amp up a smoothie. Lewis also recommends dragon fruit, whether it’s fresh, frozen or in powder form, for a quick boost of Vitamin C and a pop of color. 

“The main thing for me, I’m always going 100 places a day. I can drink this and drive. … I’m eating but not having to eat,” Lewis says of her love for smoothies. “Get it in on the go.” —Eileen Mellon

Getting a Read on Richmond  

Explore the city’s past to understand its present

Richmond’s history entails wars, floods, fires, pestilence and the vagaries of municipal government. Along the way, too, there have been festivals and street parties, fairs and parades, theater and all kinds of music-making. Exploring that past can offer context and lead to a better understanding of the city’s present. Go beyond the daily news and take a deeper dive into the city’s history with these books.

“A Short History of Richmond,” by Jack Trammell and Guy Terrell (History Press, $22). A narrative that hits the high points of our city’s storied past, this book exists in large part because Fountain Bookstore owner Kelly Justice asked Richmond writers to create a brief but warts-and-all accounting of the Richmond story. Trammell and Terrell took up her challenge, resulting in this 2017 volume. 

“Nonesuch Place: A History of the Richmond Landscape,”  by T. Tyler Potterfield (History Press, $23) Potterfield’s sudden passing in 2014 robbed us of one of our most enthusiastic and knowledgeable citizens. His 2009 book takes Richmond from the ground up, detailing how builders have for 400 years adapted to the ridges and ravines along “The Falls,” where the Piedmont uplands and the Tidewater estuary collide in rocks and roaring rapids. Captain John Smith observed, “No place we know so strong, so pleasant and delightfull in Virginia for which we called it Non-such.” 

“Built by Blacks: African American Architecture and Neighborhoods in Richmond,” by Selden Richardson, with photographs by Maurice Duke (History Press, $25). Originally published in 2007 by the former Alliance to Conserve Old Richmond Neighborhoods and now republished by the History Press, this book explores slavery and early buildings, city estates and the Civil War; Black architects and craftsmen; the founding of Virginia Union University; the destruction of Black neighborhoods through “urban renewal”; the preserved Westwood community; and the city’s Black churches and cemeteries. 

“Lesbian and Gay Richmond,” by Beth Marschak, with 200 photographs compiled by Alex Lorch (Arcadia Publishing, $22). This 2008 book uses photos to trace the lives and legacies of Richmond’s LGBTQ citizens. Divided into three sections indicative of progress — “Hiding Out,” “Speaking Out” and “Living Out” — it starts in Jamestown and touches on well-known historical figures; struggles for social acceptance and legal gathering places; the tie between women’s rights activists and the LGBTQ community; and group rights demonstrations, leading finally to the growth of gay pride events and organizations like the Richmond Triangle Players, founded to produce LGBTQ-focused theater.

“From a Richmond Streetcar: Life From the Lens of Harris Stilson,” by Kitty Snow (Dietz Press, $18). In 1888, Richmond debuted the world’s first practical, citywide electric streetcar system, which lasted until 1949. During the halcyon days of the early 20th century, motorman and shutterbug Harris H. Stilson (1868-1934) captured the city’s streets and working-class residents of all races in often-remarkable photos. Stilson’s great-granddaughter Kitty Snow brought the trove to light for this unique account of the time when Richmond rolled on rails. —Harry Kollatz Jr.

Richmond magazine Senior Writer Harry Kollatz Jr. has produced two books of his own exploring Richmond’s history: “True Richmond Stories,” which compiles early Flashback columns from these pages, and “Richmond in Ragtime: Socialists, Suffragists, Sex and Murder,” about the rollicking years of 1909 to 1911.

The Obvious Places 

You don’t have to dig deep to learn something new in Richmond

American Civil War Museum

The ACWM at Tredegar (pronounced in Welsh as tra-DEE-ger, the name of the welder from Wales who fired the ironworks up) is one of three connected historic sites, along with the White House of the Confederacy and the ACWM at Appomattox. Together with the Richmond National Battlefield Park surrounding the city, they tell the story of four years that divided our country.

Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia (pictured above)

Through stories of the struggles and successes of Black Americans, this museum’s exhibits present compelling narratives that are important to all citizens. Learn from a history timeline and hear about inspiring Black Richmonders, from banker Maggie Walker to athlete and activist Arthur Ashe.

Historic St. John’s Church

To make it real, on summer Sundays you can sit in the pews and see passionate reenactments of Patrick Henry’s 1775 “liberty or death” speech that helped spark the American Revolution.

Institute for Contemporary Art at VCU

Its doors opened in 2018, inviting us to learn about the art of our time. There is no permanent collection here, so you’re sure to see new exhibitions, performances or films whenever you go. The pieces are meant to initiate conversations about the artists’ artwork and ideas.

The Valentine

With a focus on Richmond — our history and culture — The Valentine does an excellent job of illuminating facets of the city through artifacts and stories about cultural trends. The costume and textiles collection is amazing.

Virginia Holocaust Museum

Beyond the important facts and figures of the Holocaust, this museum shines a powerful light on personal stories of victims. The message is one that’s an essential component of life on our planet: tolerance. No better time than the present to visit.

Virginia Museum of History & Culture

Formerly The Virginia Historical Society, the museum has just completed a renovation that cost more than $30 million, and now there’s more to do and see. Learn about 16,000 years of Virginia history through a collection of 500 artifacts, use the new research library and get lunch at their new cafe.

Virginia State Capitol

Brush up on your Virginia history at our Capitol, designed by Thomas Jefferson and first occupied in 1788. Free one-hour guided tours are offered daily, and the guides are experts on the building who offer a valuable overview of Virginia’s history. —Elizabeth Cogar

Elizabeth Cogar is the author of “Really Richmond — A City Guide,” a lively handbook for exploring our environs. It’s available at Mongrel, Chop Suey, Shore Dog, Papeterie, Verdalina, Sheppard Street Antiques, The Shops at 5807, Barnes & Noble, and, if all else fails, online booksellers.

Moving Pieces

Branch out to new board games

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when people were looking for ways to have fun at home, many found entertainment in board games — and have kept playing. Christopher Wood, owner of Modern Table Top Gaming in Colonial Heights, says that his customers include families, teens and older gamers, and he has definitely seen an increased interest in board games. 

“You’ve got your avid board gamers and your average board gamers,” Wood says. “‘Catan’ and ‘Ticket to Ride’ are two popular ones right now, but there are so many board games produced every month.” 

“Catan” is a multiplayer game in which players build settlements by trading resources such as wool, lumber and brick. In “Ticket to Ride,” players collect matching train cards in order to claim railway routes across North America. 

Wood says that when most people talk about board games, they think of classics like “Risk” and “Monopoly,” but there is a huge variety that people don’t know about. To find games that may interest you, he suggests checking sites such as boardgamegeek.com or going to a game store where you can try different options.

“There are games that are even one-player now,” he says. “Some games last five minutes, and some of our games can even last up to 20 hours. It’s all about finding what works for you and your family.” —Anna Ridilla

Working the Room

Put it all on the one-liners at an open mic night

So you think you’re funny? Considering taking those one-liners and goofy stories from the break room to the stage? Telling jokes in a room full of strangers isn’t as easy as it looks, but fortunately, Richmond has some places where you can test your material and find out if stand-up comedy is right for you. 

Local comedian Micah “Bam Bamm” White says it didn’t take long for him to make a decision after his initial outing as a comedian. “The very first time that I walked off the stage,” he says, “I just knew for a fact that this was something … I knew I was able to do.”

The first time isn’t the charm for most comedians. It may take a few sets of awkward silence and heckles before you come up with a solid performance. White adds that patience and persistence are vital elements to becoming a working comedian. 

“The only way to fail is to quit,” he says. “As you continue to drive and have your idea of things that you want, don’t time them. Just don’t quit, and they will, at some point, they will come to full fruition.”

If you want to try to make people laugh, visit Sandman Comedy Club for open mic nights on Sundays (for more options, search “open mic Richmond”) or take a class at Coalition Theater. For inspiration, hit Funny Bone Comedy Club in Short Pump, which will feature graduates of its Hampton-based Comedy School Graduation Showcase on Jan. 5. —Craig Belcher

Find Your Style (Sustainably)

Organize your closet without cluttering the landfill

Make tackling your closet clutter more productive — and permanent — by hiring a fashion consultant to help you discover your style. Anetra Byrd, a wardrobe consultant with Makeup by Holly Beauty Partners, says hiring a professional helps you to determine your personal look and create a cohesive closet.

“Think about what makes you feel confident and happy, but also remember your body type and pieces that will enhance your aesthetic,” Byrd says.

To stick to a fashion refresh resolution beyond January, Byrd says to consider your goals both personally and professionally. “Will investing in yourself — through personal style and image enhancement — ultimately propel your career, business or personal life? Absolutely!” she says.

Once you start to develop your personal style, it’s time to shop. Checking out local consignment stores is a good way to give clothing new life and save a few bucks. For upscale consignment, Byrd suggests It’s Chic Again in Midlothian and Roan in Carytown. For a more economical option, she recommends Uptown Cheapskate, which has locations around the region. When purging your own unwanted articles of clothing, you can also consider donating to a nonprofit such as Boots to Suits, Dress for Success and Caring Clothes Closet.

Ultimately, Byrd says, “You are your brand, and whether you are an entrepreneur, a small business owner, work in the corporate space or if you work within the home, your clothing tells a story and makes a statement about you. Ensure that you set the narrative and are the author of your story.” —Nicole Cohen

Learn to Dance

Casual classes make it easy to step in time

Put your best foot forward in the New Year by learning to dance.

For an approachable way to learn, Rigby’s Jig is offering $5 Wednesday-night dance lessons at The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen. A different style of dance will be offered each month, so newbies will be able to expand their repertoires, and the diversity keeps it interesting.

“These [classes] are great for brand new dancers as well as people working on their dancing,” says owner Eleanor Robertson. “The classes start from scratch and allow participants to learn the basics, the rhythms, the timing and the steps.”

In addition to the confidence boost of learning a new skill, dancing is great exercise and a fantastic way to meet new people, Robertson says. She notes that a big hurdle is just getting started. “People aren’t sure what to expect, but we really try to make it easy, accessible and understandable. You don’t need to be a good dancer to get started,” Robertson says. “We break it down so that many are surprised how quickly they can learn to dance — and how fun it is.” The all-ages lessons begin at 7 p.m., and walk-ins are welcome.

And once you catch the jitterbug, there are group classes available for all skill levels, private lessons and weekly Thursday-night dance parties to show off your moves. —NC

Volunteer Enlistment 

We want you … to get involved in your community 

As the pandemic fades and a new year begins, the avenues for civic engagement are alive and well despite three crisis-filled years. “It’s good news,” says Vanessa Diamond of the Community Foundation for a Greater Richmond. “And maybe we all could use some of that.”

Diamond, senior vice president of community engagement, says the pandemic changed the face of volunteering as virtual volunteering became a force. At the Community Foundation, many volunteers worked to get computers into the hands of Richmond Public School students, while others across regional school systems prepared education and mental health kits to help families navigate the pandemic.

Gail Cavallaro, the organization’s manager of civic engagement, says that coming out of the pandemic, the foundation has experienced increased interest from companies wanting to know, “How can we get involved?” 

Overall, Diamond and Cavallaro say employees are coming up back to work and saying, “I just don’t want to show up for work. I want to be part of something bigger.”

Based in rural Goochland County, GoochlandCares is a largely volunteer organization that provides medical and mental health care. But that’s only part of the help that flows from a community-rooted, largely community-funded effort that has been three decades in the making. 

The organization’s mission statement is simple and succinct: “To provide basic human services and health care to our Goochland neighbors in need.” Volunteers provide everything from emergency home repairs to domestic violence services and assistance with tax returns. The organization has about 200 regular volunteers, but in 2021, an additional 500 volunteers came aboard to help. They donated a total of 17,587 hours, enabling GoochlandCares to provide a safety net for more than 2,500 Goochland residents — roughly 10% of the county’s population — who came to the door for help.

Liz Rider, a volunteer and former president of GoochlandCares, says that over 30 years she has watched as it grew “from a tiny organization run by a couple of older ladies” to a strong, locally based enterprise that has no federal funding but still fills in the gaps for a rural community that takes care of its own — pandemic or not.

Rider says an overriding philosophy of the organization’s executive director, Sally Graham, is, “If someone comes in for a bag of groceries, they probably need something else.” And chances are, GoochlandCares can help.

Liz White has championed civic engagement for years. She first worked with OneVirginia 2021, which advocated for nonpartisan redistricting in Virginia. With those battles largely over for now, the group re-formed in August as UpVote Virginia. 

The Richmond-area nonpartisan group is testing voters’ appetite for ranked-choice voting, which enables voters to rank by preference which candidates they like best on a ballot. Ranked-choice voting is seen as a way to curb negative campaigning and encourage candidates to appeal to a broader cross-section of voters. In a pilot program, Arlington County recently endorsed the use of ranked-choice voting for its June primaries for county board seats.

White, the executive director of UpVote Virginia, says her organization was pushed largely to the sidelines by the pandemic, but she believes that, given the opportunity, “people are ready to shake off the pandemic and engage and advocate for causes they hold dear.” —Gary Robertson

For more volunteer opportunities, visit handsonrva.org, volunteermatch.org or yourunitedway.org.  

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