Author Archives: Summer Huggins

About Summer Huggins

Summer Huggins is an amateur photographer, dog-lover, cupcake-eater and shoe-shopper in Austin, Texas. She loves to travel, cook and take in a good movie, and she volunteers with a local pet-rescue organization as a photographer and dog-walker.

Health magazine April 2012 cover

5 Habits of Successful Dieters

Health magazine April 2012Sure, most of us avoid the word “diet” like the plague, but sometimes we have to give in and give dieting a try. Here’s how to make your next diet less daunting.

I’d rather live a healthy lifestyle than go on a diet any day–that’s for sure. But sometimes I just have to buckle down and actually diet in order to get rid of those pesky five pounds that keep staring back at me from the scale.

It sounds easy enough: Eat less, move more. But it takes a little more than that, doesn’t it? In the April issue of Health magazine, motivation expert Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson offers up five strategies for making your diet work for you.

1. Be specific: Don’t just tell yourself you want to lose weight. Be specific about your goal and what it will take to get there. For instance, if you weight 170 and want to weigh 150, you know very specifically that you’d like to lose 20 pounds.

2. Plan ahead: Tell yourself what you want to eat and stick to your plan. If you’re going to a business lunch, tell yourself ahead of time that you’ll eat a colorful salad–and then do it.

3. Track everything: Keep a handy-dandy notebook with you at all times and take note of every bite that goes into your mouth, every workout, every emotion, every success and every challenge.

4. Practice realistic optimism: Losing weight isn’t easy. Losing 10 pounds in two days (as some fads would promise) isn’t realistic. I know I’ll never weigh 120 pounds, so I don’t beat myself up about not getting there. Set realistic goals and work to achieve real results.

5. Strengthen your willpower: Practice other activities, like sitting up straight instead of slouching, that work your willpower. Then, take baby steps from there. Instead of going totally junk food-free overnight, eliminate chocolate chip cookies first and replace them with a piece of fruit.

By following these five healthy habits of successful dieters, you’ll get there. And I will too!

Could You Make a Mystery Quilt?

Could You Make a Mystery Quilt?

McCall's Quilting magazine March/April 2012While some love unplanned adventures, blogger Summer Huggins prefers to have a map. Here, she has to decide whether or not to take McCall’s Quilting mystery quilt challenge. 

I just started quilting last year. I make a ritual of reading the instructions for each quilt from the very first word to the very last–sometimes more than once–before even reaching for a single piece of fabric. I’m still a beginner, after all.

However, now I’m going to have to change my routine because McCall’s Quilting magazine is trying to challenge that ritual.

Starting with their January/February issue and lasting for three full issues, they’re helping quilters create a mystery quilt–a quilt readers begin without yet having the full instructions. My hands almost sweat just thinking about it.

Still, I’m trying to learn the lessons the McCall’s staff is sharing with me, like enjoying every step of the process and taking care when choosing my fabrics.

Step one in the January/February issue was doing just that. The magazine offered tips and tricks for choosing fabrics that work well together and complement each other nicely. We even got to see the fabrics they had chosen as inspiration–they’ve been quilting along with readers, of course! They then outlined the fabric requirements for each of the four fabric choices for the mystery quilt, and readers started cutting their own fabric selections into squares.

Cutting squares without even knowing where I’m going with all these pieces? I still can’t decide if I can do it. My hands definitely sweating now.

Step two in the March/April issue had quilters begin to put the squares from step one together and add some other pieces. Step three–the final installment of the mystery quilt series–will come out in the June/July issue.

Several groups on Facebook and other online forums feature quilters showing off what they’ve done so far. I even saw two sisters who live across the country from each other and are each going to make the mystery quilt and then swap them as gifts for each other. It’s a sweet way to do a project together with so many miles between them.

Imagine getting into your car and just driving, not knowing where the road or your car would take you. It could be an exciting prospect for some. For others, like me, not having a full plan, destination and map in hand can be a little nerve-wracking. I just can’t decide. Should I drive ahead at full speed and start my mystery quilt?

Fitness magazine April 2012

Would Your Trainer Lie to You?

Fitness magazine April 2012Has your trainer been giving you bad advice? Does running give you wrinkles? Fitness magazine helps sort fact from fiction.

I don’t mind admitting it: Some of my hesitancy toward running is steeped in vanity. I’ve always heard that running can cause wrinkles by jiggling and jarring your face with every stride, breaking down valuable collagen in the process. Could I–and all the folks I’ve heard that from–be wrong?

And what about when a trainer or aerobics instructor insists that you cool down before leaving class to minimize muscle soreness? Hogwash?

The April issue of Fitness magazine tells us that these are some of the fitness lies we–and our trainers–tell ourselves.

“Having performed surgery on many women marathoners, I can say that their bodies overall are very toned, which refutes the notion that pounding breaks up collagen,” said Dr. Joe M. Gryskiewicz, president-elect of the Aesthetic Surgery Education and Research Foundation. Instead, that gaunt and loose look more likely comes from having less body fat and spending more time in the sun. that said, if you take up running, you’ll have yet another great reason to wear good sunscreen.

And that cool down? Turns out it’s more for your heart than your muscles. “I would recommend doing it after any class to allow people to get their heart rates down,” says Dr. Carl Foster, professor of exercise and sport science at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

Not to worry if you need to cut your session a little short, though. “After a moderate workout, walking to the locker room will provide all the cool-down a healthy person needs,” Foster adds.

How to Ensure a Lush Lawn for Spring

How to Ensure a Lush Lawn for Spring

This Old House April 2012Spring is upon us, and that means it’s time for everyone’s favorite thing: lawn care. Wait, don’t cringe just yet–this year it can be fun and effective.

When my husband and I first bought our house, we decided he would take care of all chores outside of the house, and I would take care of all chores inside. Sounded easy enough, but it didn’t last very long. I help with the yardwork, and every once in a blue moon, I catch him washing a dish or two.

Though my husband would never admit to having fun while washing the dishes, I do happen to like helping in the yard. I don’t have anything near a green thumb, but working up a sweat with the sunshine on my back and getting to say hello to neighbors as they walk by makes a day of outdoor chores much more enjoyable.

And of course, we never want those neighbors to say, “Ugh, why don’t they do something with their yard?” as they walk past.

If you haven’t done much to your yard since last summer, now is the time to get to work, as spring is sneaking in. Thankfully, the April issue of This Old House magazine has some tips for making those neighbors jealous with your lush and healthy lawn.

Writer Sal Vaglica offers 10 tips for sprucing up your lawn for spring, including taking care of pests and weeds and choosing the best sprinklers. One of my favorite tips has to be the “compost tea.” Yep, you brew it on your own. The instructions go something like this:

Put five cups of loose compost into a mesh sack of some sort. (I bet the leg of an old pair of pantyhose would work just fine.) Suspend and aerate in a five gallon bucket for 24 hours. Use a pump sprayer, backpack or siphon system to cover up to 1,000 square feet of your lawn. The writer suggests repeating every four to six weeks.

If the sound of brewing your compost doesn’t appeal to you, you can also use a granular compost. A dehydrated version of common compost, it can be easily spread with a broadcast spreader, just like fertilizer or seed.

Have fun sprucing up your yard for spring, and be sure to say hi to the neighbors!

How Socks Lead to Peace: Introducing a New Cat to An Old One

How Socks Lead to Peace: Introducing a New Cat to a Resident Cat

Natural Health magazine April/May 2012Introducing a new cat to the resident cat can be intimidating, but the April/May issue of Natural Health magazine provides tips for making the transition a smooth one.

I’ve done my fair share of introducing new dogs to each other, but I’d be stumped if I had to introduce our two resident cats to a new one right now.

If you’re considering adopting a new cat and are wondering how in the world to smoothly introduce her to your current feline, cat behaviorist and author Mieshelle Nagelschneider encourages you to keep these three things in mind:

  1. Smells. During the first week or so, while you’re still keeping the cats in separate rooms, pet the resident cat with a sock and place the sock in the new cat’s living area. Then, pet the new cat with a different sock and put that one in the resident cat’s living area. This gives both cats the chance to smell and get used to each other’s scents. If that goes well, pet one cat with a brush and then the other with the same brush, letting them get used to the scent of the other actually touching them.
  2. Sights. After a couple weeks of living separately, let the cats see each other for brief sessions, using a baby gate that they can easily see through. Keep these sessions short and always end them on a neutral or even positive note, not waiting for hissing or growling to escalate.
  3. Playtime! When steps 1 and 2 go well, it’s time to let the cats interact for the first time. Offer up toys and treats for each so they know that being in the same space can be fun and delicious rather than scary.

Good luck on your peaceful transition!

Bring Sexy Back: Make Your Back Sexy

Bring Sexy Back with a Sexy Back

Oxygen magazine March 2012

While Many health and fitness magazines are encouraging us to get our abs and thighs in shape this spring, Oxygen is focusing elsewhere.

It’s almost bikini season. I hate to even think about it, but it’s true. Look at any magazine cover and it’s probably encouraging you to show off your abs in just six weeks, whittle your arms so they’re tank top ready or trim your thighs for beach time.

These areas of our bodies are pretty common targets come springtime, but what about our backs? When was the last time you focused a workout solely on your back?

The March issue of Oxygen magazine offers a friendly reminder about this area. With just three moves in nine minutes, you can get your back tank top and bikini ready, according to the editors. What are those three moves? Take a look:

  1. The Dumbbell Shrug. Standing tall with a dumbbell in each hand, simply raise your shoulders straight up toward your ears and then release. Sound easy? Do three sets of 10 and feel the burn!
  2. The Twisting Bent-over Row. With knees slightly bent and a dumbbell in each hand, bend at the waist. Your arms should be out in front of you, perpendicular to the floor, with palms facing your legs. Lift the dumbbells toward your waist and twist so that your palms face your sides. Lower and repeat!
  3. The Scapular Push-up. Sounds like the latest plastic surgery trend, doesn’t it? It’s not. Start in the basic push-up position. Instead of bending your arms to do a full push-up, simply squeeze your shoulder blades toward each other and then away. If that’s not quite challenging enough for you, stack your feet and try it again.

Well, what are you waiting for? Grab some dumbbells and set your timer for nine minutes. Your bathing suit is waiting!