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.

Natural Health magazine March 2012

How to Clean Your Yoga Mat

Natural Health magazine March 2012 Congratulations for sticking to your healthy yoga routine! The only thing left to consider is this: How clean is that mat beneath your feet?

When was the last time you looked at your yoga mat? Sure, you “see” it every time you get it out of the car and when you do your sun salutations. But have you really looked at it to see how clean (or dirty) it is? You walk all over it barefooted, drop plenty of sweat on it and put it on a studio floor not knowing who or what has been there before you.

The March issue of Natural Health magazine has a few simple steps for feeling at peace about the cleanliness of your favorite yoga mat. Yoga instructor Kathryn Budig suggests the following:

  1. Mix together a concoction of 1/4 cup white vinegar, 3/4 cup warm tap water, 1 tablespoon baking soda and 10 drops of tea tree oil.
  2. Lay your mat out flat in the tub or shower and spritz both sides with your vinegar-tea tree oil concoction.
  3. Wipe the mat with a clean sponge, paying close attention to the muckiest areas.
  4. Rinse with warm water, towel dry and then leave out to air dry.

If those four steps are too much for you, yoga instructor Sara Ivanhoe says you can actually throw your mat into the washing machine. “Just take it out before the spin cycle, which will shred it,” she wisely advises.

Vegetarian Times magazine March 2012

How to Easily Build a Vegetarian Resource Library

Vegetarian Times magazine March 2012Blogger Summer Huggins is starting a 30-day vegetarian challenge. Here, she lists the best resources for those who are flirting with the idea or have already made the jump.

When I do something, I love to learn everything I can about it. My degree is in English with a focus on composition–my mom even calls me the “Grammar Queen”–and sitting at my desk right now, I can see 13 different books about grammar and the English language.

As I volunteer more and more with a dog rescue group here in town and work to teach my own dogs new tricks and commands, I’m amassing quite a collection of books on dog training and positive reinforcement.

So when I started flirting with the idea of venturing into a vegetarian lifestyle, I had so many questions about how to get started: How will I fit in the protein I worry about missing out on? How will I feed a meat-and-potatoes husband? To answer these questions, of course, I started reading!

I asked vegetarian friends and family members for recommendations as I built my own resource library for living a vegetarian lifestyle, and they had some great suggestions. Here are a few of the best:

  1. Vegetarian Times. Published nine times each year, this magazine includes more than just healthy recipes. It also features cooking tips and information about good overall health for vegetarians.
  2. Fresh & Fast Vegetarian. From side dishes to soups, this book holds 150 recipes for quick and easy vegetarian meals.
  3. How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. This book is huge and could easily be the only book in my kitchen on cooking vegetarian meals. Author Mark Bittman uses language and techniques that cooks of any level could master.
  4. Better Homes and Gardens 365 Vegetarian Meals. I’ve been thinking of giving myself a 30-day vegetarian trial period, just to see if I can do it. Since this book alone is filled with a whole year’s worth of recipes, I have no reason to stop at just 30 days.

If you’ve moved to a vegetarian lifestyle and have a favorite go-to book or magazine in your library, I’d love to hear what it is!

Self magazine March 2012

The Only Piece of Cardio Equipment You Need

Self magazine March 2012Balance balls. Kettlebells. Yoga mats. Medicine balls. You may have the hottest home gym equipment, but Self magazine suggests you lose it all for just one thing.

When I was a kid, jumping rope and singing silly rhymes was fun. It wasn’t a workout; it was what I did in the driveway with friends on a sunny afternoon. I remember the sound the rope made as it hit the concrete and how much my friends and I loved to try lining up four or five deep to all jump the same rope. That didn’t always work, but we tried anyway and just kept singing and giggling.

Now that I’m all grown up, the March issue of Self magazine is calling the jump rope the No. 1 way to melt fat. That’s quite a statement! In eight minutes, jumping rope can burn 100 calories. Who doesn’t have eight spare minutes in their day?

If it’s been years since you’ve played Double Dutch in the driveway with your friends, Self offers some great tips for getting the most from your rope–and your workout.

  1. Hold your elbows square to your body and let your wrists do all the turning. Contracting your arms and shoulders along the way will sculpt those upper body muscles.
  2. Engage your core to protect your back and knees from injury and tone your midsection at the same time.
  3. Jump and land on the balls of your feet–no need to bring them any more than an inch from the floor. For greater comfort in your legs and feet, wear cross training sneakers.

I actually keep up with a few of those gradeschool friends on Facebook. They all have kids and careers and activities they enjoy now. I wonder if they might meet me in the driveway to sing and giggle? And hey, we could burn a few hundred calories while we’re at it!

Health Magazine March 2012

How to Headache-Proof Your Home

Health Magazine March 2012Headaches often hit when we least expect them, but Health magazine suggests a few tips for making your home a headache-free zone.

I love the sunshine. I was sitting in the airport just yesterday with my face toward the windows, not a cloud in the sky, enjoying the warmth of the sun on my skin. About two minutes into relaxing in the glow, though, a terrible headache came out of nowhere.

I packed up my diet soda and my magazines, and I moved to the other side of the gate, out of the brightness of the sunshine and out of my headache. I don’t know why it affected me so quickly, but it made me realize that extremely bright lights and sunshine might not be the best idea when I’m trying to relax and read.

It sounds like the editors at Health magazine agree. In the March issue, they list several ways to headache-proof your home, including turning down the lights. They say that a soft glow is much less likely to make your head feel like it’s been hit by a truck. If you’re reading in that soft glow, they suggest getting tinted lenses on your glasses, which can help reduce glare and subsequently reduce headaches.

Other tips for keeping future headaches at bay:

  • Vacuum upholstered furniture once a week to free your home of allergens. What? Aren’t we all vacuuming our furniture once a week already? I’m sure my husband wishes I would.
  • Get rid of strong odors in your home, including that cupcake-scented candle. Masking bad odors with delicious ones can sometimes make the combined odors worse, and unfortunately some candles contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) — the same ones found in paint and floor varnish — that can really trigger a headache.
  • Watch what you eat and drink. The artificial sweeteners in my favorite diet soda and the MSG in some packaged foods can quickly trigger head pain as well.

When my headache hit in the airport, I got a cold bottle of water and a couple of painkillers from the bookstore in the terminal. My headache didn’t last long, but I do kind of miss that comfy spot I was occupying in the sun.

Women's Running magazine March/April 2012

Train for Your First Half Marathon with These Simple Tips

Women's Running magazine March/April 2012Non-running blogger Summer Huggins gets a dose of “I think I can” from Women’s Running magazine.

You’ve heard me say it before, and I’ll say it again: I’m not a runner. No matter how much I want to make it happen, becoming a runner intimidates me for some reason. I start out well, but when a training schedule requires me to run for 20 minutes without stopping, I always tend to find something else I’d rather do with those 20 minutes.

Then the March/April issue of Women’s Running magazine shows up in my mailbox.

Right there on the cover, in big black letters, they introduce me to their “no excuses” training plan for a half marathon. Their 16-week schedule includes training only three days a week. And–this is where they won me over–there are a few “spa weeks” on the schedule as well.

A bit to my disappointment, the spa weeks don’t include massages and breakfast in bed. Instead, these weeks include what the trainers call “chill runs”–runs that are more at a leisurely pace. They’re a bit easier than runs that show up in other training weeks, but they still get you out there running, working toward your goals. Also on the training schedule: cross-training days that can be filled with Zumba classes, swimming or even hiking with the dogs.

Now, I don’t know if a 13.1-mile race is in my future, but this training schedule makes it look almost possible for me, a non-runner, to fit running and training into my weekly calendar.

Can I also just say bravo to the designers of Women’s Running magazine? I’ve long been disappointed and even distracted by the blaring glow of the white cover with each and every issue that shows up at my house, but with this March/April issue, you’ll notice a difference when it comes to yours. The colors are soft and inviting, not harsh and stark like the solid white covers of the past. I hope this is a trend they’ll continue!

Whole Living magazine March 2012

A Plant for Every Room of the House

Whole Living magazine March 2012From lowering blood pressure to relieving stress and encouraging good luck, plants are powerful decorative additions to any home.

I cannot and do not claim to have a green thumb. I’ve tried to keep plants alive in my house. I make sure all the plants I buy come with that little instruction stick. I research information on how to care for them on the Internet. I attempt to pull plant care knowledge from the brains of my green-thumbed friends. And still, the plants in my house don’t last long.

The February issue of Whole Living magazine has me wanting to try my hand at plant care one more time, though, and this time I’m thinking I can actually do it.

Plants are great for home decorating. They add color, bring the outdoors in and add an element of light and life to rooms that are filled with heavy and lifeless furniture. But plants are much more powerful than that.

Take the Ficus Alii, Bamboo Palm and Boston Fern for example. These plants have even impressed NASA with their powers: They’re natural air purifiers for your home! A study by NASA about 30 years ago was the first to scientifically prove that plants like these could actually remove VOCs (volatile organic compounds) from the air, and many other studies since have backed up their findings.

I’m tempted to try a Boston Fern. According to the Whole Living article “Power Plants,” this plant needs to be watered twice a week and kept in medium light. It also likes a warm and humid environment. It just might be perfect for my Texas life!

In addition to the group of air-purifying plants, the magazine also suggested a group of plants that will add natural soothing fragrances to your home–plants like Jasmine and the Miltonia Orchid, as well as energy-boosting plants like Ficus Lyrata and Jade.

Wish me luck with my Boston Fern. And if you have any good tips for cultivating my green thumb, I’m all ears!