Category: Family & Friends

Beginner’s Guide to Tubing the James River

In our lives, “tubing” has two distinct meanings… this and this:

Prior to moving to Richmond, I’d been river tubing just once. It involved finding a rental company, making reservations, and forking over a lot of cash. So, when I came to Richmond and learned people tube on their own, I was intrigued. Turns out, it’s not as difficult as you might think. Just use this simple guide to help plan your tubing adventure.

Buy yourself some tubes

While there are tons of options out there, we’ve had good luck with the Intex brand available on  You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get something fun and reliable.  There are many options, including single, double and cooler tubs, or our new favorite, tubes that connect.

The other piece of equipment you should seriously consider is a life jacket.  Depending where you decide to tube and the level of the river, life jackets may be required. There are some great alternatives to the huge orange foam things from the 70s and 80s.

Also, if you don’t have tubes that connect, you’ll want to bring along a sturdy rope so you can tie your team together to float as a group.

Plan the Route

The route we enjoy most runs from Pony Pasture to Reedy Creek and is a 3 to 4 hour float that takes you down 2.5 miles of beautiful James River scenery. Float time will vary with the water level, so be sure to check it and plan accordingly.

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You’ll need at least two cars to execute the required drop-off and drive back.  First, plug Reedy Creek (4190 Riverside Dr, Richmond, VA 23225) into your GPS. Have both cars meet there.  Pile all of your tubes (deflated), coolers and friends into one car and lock the other one up safely. It will stay behind at Reedy Creek.

Next, enter Pony Pasture (7200 Riverside Dr, Richmond, VA 23225) into your GPS. When you get there, you can pull up to unload all your stuff and blow up your tubes, but you may have to parallel park in the neighborhood as the lot is often full. Don’t forget to lock your car!


A few important tips:

  • Stay to the right – the rapids tend to be on the left in the James.
  • Butts up! – lift your bottom up when going over rapids to help ensure you don’t get stuck.
  • Be careful when walking on the bottom. There are major, abrupt drop offs as there are rocks lining the bottom.
  • I REPEAT: The rapids past Reedy Creek are intense, dangerous and not fit for amateurs in innertubes. Don’t do it, or you may end up a Trauma patient in the ED with us!


Don’t Miss the Take Out

After floating underneath the train bridge in the photo above, you should start keeping a lookout for the Reedy Creek Take Out.  The James will fork temporarily, and it’s important you stay to the right if you want to end up anywhere near your car. There’s a sign you can’t miss that says “TAKE OUT” with a big arrow guiding you to the right. Don’t go left. Even an UberXL won’t be large enough to fit your whole crew plus all your gear if you miss it.

When you exit the water and walk up, you’ll see the Reedy Creek parking lot where you left your other car.  Time to deflate the tubes and pile everyone in this car to head back to Pony Pasture and grab the other car.

Capture the Fun

If you don’t have a waterproof camera or a GoPro, you can easily take pictures or videos with your SmartPhone with the help of a $10 Joto Waterproof phone case.


So that’s it.  Grab your tubes, +/- a life jacket, cooler and some friends, and get ready for an awesome afternoon on your schedule.


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Celebrate the Small Stuff: Surviving the Marathon of Medical Training

In just two short months, thousands of newly minted young physicians will be walking into new hospitals, new jobs, and new responsibility. They’ll notice something unfamiliar tickling their calves on that first day – a long white coat having replaced the short one, which in our case went up in flames just days earlier. They’ll be excited and terrified, nervous and naïve.

A doctor’s “intern year” has become something of a legend in pop-culture, portrayed as twelve months of rude awakenings, sleep deprivation and verbal abuse, +/- a love triangle or two. Having been there, done that and proudly owning the t-shirt, I can say the reality couldn’t be further from the truth – at least it doesn’t have to be.*

To all the newbies out there – yes, there will be long hours and sleepless nights. You’ll occasionally go a full week without seeing your loved ones and eat whatever/whenever you can. Med school will seem a lifetime ago when you’re being asked at 3am what to do for a dying person, and you’ll wonder why they never taught you all the things that matter. But Steph and I have stumbled across the solution to all of that.

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Champagne celebration for med school graduation | Photo credit: Amy McClure

We celebrate the small stuff.

Sure we popped champagne like we’d just won a Grand Prix on graduation day, but we’ve also raised a glass to finishing tough rotations, making a clutch diagnosis and running our first double cardiac arrest. We’ve made a ritual of rare Sunday mornings off together with a supply of cinnamon buns always available, just in case. Sometimes we just celebrate because it’s Tuesday and we can. By making a big deal of small victories, the roadblocks become surmountable.


Don’t get me wrong – residency is tough. In the past month, three of my patients have died, and I’ve told four others they have cancer. But for every bad day I have had there have been a dozen that left me thinking, “I have the best job in the world.”

I encourage all the newbies out there to approach this next chapter the same way. And remember: when the champagne runs out, there’s always more coffee.


*Note: does not apply to general surgery residents. Your life will suck.

How do you like to celebrate the small stuff?



Simple Steps for Throwing a British Themed Party

The great thing about a British theme is you can apply it to most types of parties. Whether you are throwing a baby shower, birthday, bon voyage, or simple dinner party, the theme is flexible and can be expressed in a number of creative ways.  My husband is 1/2 English, so we decided to throw a England/London/British themed Valentine’s Day party and called it “Love in London.”


British food has a reputation for being a little dull and boring, but your spread doesn’t have to be. There are so many amazing recipes online, it can be hard to decide just what to make. We opted for sausage rolls, beef wellington (labor intensive & expensive, wouldn’t do it again), fish & chips (just buy ’em & fry ’em), cucumber & tomato salad, cucumber sandwiches and more. You can add some easy flare to your finger foods with these union jack toothpick flags.

Simple sausage rolls with union jack flags
Marinated cucumbers, onions & tomatoes add a flavorful vegetable dish

Last but not least, don’t forget proper condiments for your amazing food.  Buy a bottle of malt vinegar for your fish & chips, and a bottle of HP sauce, and you’ve got your bases covered.

Don’t forget the condiments!


Ok, depending on your crowd, this might be the most important aspect of the party.  There are lots of great drink options, but a British party wouldn’t be complete without Pims cup.  There’s no exact recipe you have to stick to – I like taking whatever fruit looks fresh at the store and adding it to Sprite and/or ginger beer.  For ease, you can also mix up a whole pitcher to have ready to go, similar to a sangria.

A spin on the traditional Pims cup

Fortunately we can thank England and Scotland for having a number of great beers.  Head to your local beer/wine outlet and find the “England” section.  We went to Total Wine.  You only need a 6-pack or so of each if you are buying a big selection.  Guests enjoy trying new beers as well as old favorites.

Assorted British beers we found at TotalWine

If you want to try something really special, and have some time to plan ahead, take a chance on a home brew and create your own.  We made a delicious London Porter in just 4 weeks using this easy home brewing kit.  We also customized the bottle to fit our theme using these handy waterproof labels for your home printer. We sealed the caps with union jack flag stickers for a finishing touch.

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London Porter Home Brew


There are many creative options for desserts to fit your theme.  I’m not much for baking, so I cheated and outsourced a bit of this.  The classic English dessert is a trifle, which is simply a layered dessert, typically with pudding, sponge cake and fresh fruit.

Strawberry trifle with fresh berries

The hallmark of English tea time, after the tea of course, is small cookies.  Any small simple butter cookies will do.  You can make these, but I opted to buy pre-made.  For a mixed display, buy a box of chocolates to add to your 3-tier cake stand, and you’re ready for tea time.

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Traditional 3-tier cake stands with tea time floral designs
Store-bought coconut macaroons on the bottom tier
Add a frilly tablecloth to complete the authentic tea time look

For another dessert option (which is a great go-to for any party or theme), consider some custom decorated cookies.  These sugar cookie masterpieces are from Cookies by Design in Virginia Beach.  They are also a hit if you have little kids attending your party.

Hand-painted London themed cookies by Cookies by Design


The easiest way to convey “British” visually is with the union jack flag.  You don’t have to be an artist to create cool and creative decorations.  Add a $5 union jack flag over a white tablecloth to create a bold canvas for your delicious food.

$5 union jack flag adds an easy visual punch

Simple things like adding a sticker to your cups or nametags can help carry your theme forward in an easy way.

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Cute and easy cups thanks to $3.25 union jack stickers

Another option that requires no artistry, is to apply this $4 union jack duct tape to simple objects.  For this project, buy 3D cardboard letters to spell whatever you choose.  Then wrap them in the duct tape and viola!

“LOVE” decoration made with 3D letters and duct tape for just $8

If you do consider yourself artistic or crafty, and don’t mind putting in some time cutting objects out, consider making your own garland.  Find any image you like online, print it on photo paper, cut it out, hole punch it and string them together.  Add a lace paper doily for an extra English touch.

“Love in London” hearts strung together with lace doilies and twine
Itty bitty hearts strung together with silver thread to make a precious garland
Template for tea time heart garland
Search your house for any knick knacks that fit your theme and display them together
Colorful tissue poofs are cheap and high impact


Pandora has an array of great themed channels.  The best fit for an all-ages England themed party is British Invasion Radio.

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Games & Fun

Party games and activities are tricky.  Everyone’s been to a party where games feel forced and grueling, but you don’t want a party with everyone just standing around.  Two simple activities I love are photobooths and trivia.  They are great because guests can participate on their own time throughout the party, and they don’t take any bandwidth away from the host or hostess.


Grab some simple props (hats, glasses, boas) and if you want to go big, a life-size celebrity cut-out.  Kate Middleton and Queenie were the life of the party.


If you entertain a lot, consider investing in the modern polaroid, the FujiFilm Instax mini camera.  It instantly prints a polaroid-style photo that makes a great takeaway memory for your guests.


Create a set of questions related to your theme and post them, along with pens and ballots, for guests to fill out.  Winner gets a prize!


So that’s it, ideas for food, drinks, music, decorations and activities for your next London/British/English themed party.  For additional ideas not mentioned here, check out the Love in London Pinterest board.