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.

Is Your Bottled Water Safe?

Is Your Bottled Water Safe?

Men's Journal magazine March 2012

Men's Journal March 2012 with Redesigned Logo

It’s convenient and tasty, but is bottled water as safe as you think?

When you receive your March issue of Men’s Journal magazine, you’ll notice a slight redesign in the new logo on the cover. “Rugged, elegant, unadorned” is what the magazine says they were going for, taking inspiration from European car racing posters from the 1930s. Although the logo has been tweaked a few times in the magazine’s 20-year history, this is the first total overhaul. I didn’t love it at first glance, but now it’s growing on me.

Once I could tear myself away from the logo and start flipping through my copy, one article stopped me in my tracks with the title “What’s Really in Your Water?”

According to another magazine, Fast Company, Americans spend about $15 billion dollars a year on bottled water. Yep, I said “billion” with a B. But are we getting more than just water in that bottle?

Imagine if the ingredients listed on the back of that bottle you have on your desk right this minute also included lead, copper, cleaning solution, asbestos, chlorine, paint thinner and cocaine. You probably wouldn’t be so quick to take another sip. Yet the FDA allows a certain amount of contaminants into our water. Yuck.

As I read the article in Men’s Journal, I kept expecting the author to tell me exactly which bottled water was best to drink. Instead, he warned of the dangers of improperly installed home-filtration systems and changing the filters too infrequently. Then he mentioned the problems with drinking out of plastic bottles. It all made me want to reach for a diet soda instead of another sip of H2O.

So what are we health-conscious, water-loving folks to do? Opt for natural spring water that isn’t overly processed and purified. And drink it out of glass instead of plastic.

Unlock the Medicinal Power of Your Spice Rack

Unlock the Medicinal Power of Your Spice Rack

Whole Living February 2012

Whole Living Feb. 2012

From the stomach-soothing relief of peppermint to the anti-inflammatory benefits of nutmeg, Whole Living magazine helps us stock our kitchens with delicious, health-inducing herbs.

I love winter for many reasons, one of which is the fact that I was able to stock up on peppermint ice cream around Christmas, and now I can enjoy it for a couple of months until spring arrives. I love that stuff and could eat it all year long, but I’m glad it only hits the shelves for a few months each year because it makes it that much more special to me.

According to the December issue of Whole Living magazine, it’s good that I still have some of that peppermint ice cream on hand. Why? Because peppermint can ease an upset stomach, as it turns on an “anti-pain mechanism” in the GI tract. And it doesn’t take much to reap the benefits. After a hearty winter meal, just a single piece of peppermint candy or a cup of peppermint tea can quickly make you feel better.

Also included in the magazine’s list of beneficial common herbs:

  • Sage: Baked into a dish or simmered in soup, sage can help boost your memory.
  • Cinnamon: As little as a teaspoon daily can help control blood sugar levels. Sprinkle it in your oatmeal, winter squash dishes or over French toast.
  • Cloves: Apparently cloves contain one of the highest levels of antioxidants of any spice. Antioxidants are good, especially if anti-aging is a goal.

I wonder how my peppermint ice cream would taste sprinkled with cinnamon and cloves. I had better not even try …

5 Must-Have Photography Apps

5 Must-Have Photography Apps

Macworld magazine January 2012With smartphones functioning as high-powered cameras now, blogger Summer Huggins unveils her top 5 picks for the best photography apps on the market.

I did it. I broke down and ordered the new iPhone. I have an iPhone, the 3GS version, so I didn’t really need the new iPhone 4S. It was more of a want thing. And one of the biggest selling points for me, as someone who enjoys photography, was the camera.

The 3GS camera is a three megapixel still camera that shoots 30 frames per seconds when making a video. You can also tap the screen to focus in on a certain spot. The new 4S includes an eight megapixel still camera that you can still tap to focus, but it also includes face detection, an LED flash and video stabilization. I’ll be using it all the time! And of course, if you’re going to use the iPhone (or any other smartphone) as a part-time camera, you’re going to need some apps. Here are the top five on my list:

  • PetSnap: As you might imagine, PetSnap is for taking photos of pets, with a sound twist thrown in. My dog Thunder always gives me the cutest head tilt when he hears the “hungry kittens” sound coming from my phone.
  • Instagram: Take a photo, add a filter to give it a cool effect and share it with friends. I like Instagram for the instant processing and effects and the social element. You can “like” friends’ photos and leave comments. You can even tweet the picture to your followers right from the app.
  • Meal Snap: This one is more for the healthy eating/weight loss aspect, but it’s a fun one just the same. Snap a picture for Meal Snap to analyze, and it gives you a calorie count for the food in the photo. This is great for keeping count of calories while dining out and traveling.
  • Flickr: Flickr will always be my favorite of the “social” sites out there. The Flickr app allows me to keep up with friends’ pictures–and any activity–while on the go. You can also upload photos from the app.
  • Foodspotting: If I could take photos of only dogs and food, I’d be a happy girl. Foodspotting helps with the latter. Take pictures of restaurant dishes and tag the restaurant and the type of food. You can search neighborhoods, types of cuisine and even “want” dishes to remind yourself to have them the next time you visit a favorite cafe.

Those are my five faves. What would you add to the list?

How to Make Your Own Brown Sugar Scrub

How to Make Your Own Brown Sugar Scrub

How to Make Your Own Brown Sugar ScrubBlogger Summer Huggins spends some time in the kitchen–not baking cookies, but whipping up a homemade brown sugar body scrub.

DIY–do it yourself–is hot right now. As a society, we’re quilting (again) more than ever and making our own baby food. I even make some of our dog toys at our house. So when I decided I wanted to make my own brown sugar body scrub, I was sure I would find a great, simple recipe in the mail any minute. Surely one of my magazine subscriptions focusing on health and natural living–like Health or Natural Health–would have one for me. Nope. I kept my eyes open for what seemed like months and still didn’t find a thing.

So I did what any modern, crafty girl would do: I took to Pinterest!

And there I found what seemed like dozens of recipes. I scanned many and found that most of them were basically the same, with four common ingredients:

  • 2 cups of brown sugar
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1 cup of olive, sunflower or coconut oil
  • 1 TBSP vanilla extract

Making brown sugar body scrub in your own kitchen is simple: Mix the sugars together to integrate them and get rid of lumps. Pour into a lidded glass container, add the oil and vanilla and scrub! Mine will find a nice home on the edge of the tub.

It smells so good coming together, and so will your skin after you use  it–so much so that now I want to get back into the kitchen and bake those cookies …

Shape magazine February 2012 cover

Celebrate Valentine’s Day With a Workout Built for Two

Shape magazine February 2012 coverIf you want to get outside and burn calories while feeling close to your significant other, Shape magazine has just the workout for you.

Imagine, you’re looking into your husband’s eyes. Your hearts are pounding. Sweat is dripping down his chest. Adrenaline is rushing through you. No, ladies, I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about working out together.

With Valentine’s Day in mind, Shape magazine designed a workout that’s built specifically for two. This flirty and fun workout takes less than a half hour and targets your whole body.  A couple of the moves look fairly easy, like the side shuffle and the power punch. Others, however–like the partner press and pull together–look a bit more challenging.

I think my personal favorite is the rescue me, a move that works your back, core, arms and shoulders. It looks a little bit like a one-on-one game of tug of war, and it works like this: While sitting facing each other with knees bent and feet touching, each person holds the end of a towel. You start by lying on your back and then pulling yourself up, hand over hand, until you’re sitting up straight again. Repeat for 30 seconds and then switch.

My husband and I aren’t big believers in Valentine’s Day. We can get chocolate any time of the year. The prices for roses are inflated way too high in February. And he thinks it’s a holiday the card companies invented just to make money. But together, we’re taking our health and fitness much more seriously these days. This 20-minute strengthener will be a great addition to our Valentine’s Day evening.

5 Tips for Living With an Aging Pet

5 Tips for Living With an Aging Pet

dog named Bugsy by Summer Huggins

My Dog Bugsy / Photo credit: Summer Huggins

It’s never fun to watch a beloved pet age, but Summer Huggins offers five tips for making the process a little easier.

Bugsy–my oldest “boy” and first puppy love–turned 15 this year. Sometimes it’s hard to believe. When I watch him chase his sister or shake for a treat, he still looks like the smart, vibrant and silly dog I’ve had all these years. Other times, when I have a hard time waking him to go outside for business, I realize that he is, in fact, 15 years old.

In the past year, I’ve really started to notice that he’s slowing down a bit. He seems to get grayer by the day, and he sleeps far more hours during the day than he’s awake. But during those waking hours, I’m doing all I can to make sure his “retirement years,” as we call them, are full of health and happiness. Here are the five areas that I’m focusing on right now:

  1. Food. Feed your aging pet the best quality food, keeping in mind any health issues. We have to keep an eye on Bugsy’s fat intake after a bout with pancreatitis years ago, and he’s also on a food specially formulated to be gentle on his kidneys. It may cost a little more, but it’s totally worth a few extra cents to feed him what he needs.
  2. Exercise. Unless your vet has said otherwise, your older pets still need daily exercise and activity. Bugsy does like to sleep more these days, but we still start every day with a walk and some fresh air. Some mornings I can even see a little pep in his step.
  3. Routine. Bugsy eats dinner every evening at 5:30 and goes to bed each night by 10:30. He likes to walk the same two routes in our neighborhood. We haven’t rearranged any furniture and don’t plan to. I don’t want to upset Bugsy’s routine. Since his eyesight and hearing are starting to go, we want him to be as comfortable in his environment and routine as possible.
  4. Vet care. Keeping a pet up-to-date on vaccinations and examinations is vitally important throughout their entire life, but it becomes even more critical as they age. Our relationship with our vet, Dr. Garza, goes back almost 10 years, so she’s very aware of Bugsy and his history and is almost as good at noticing new lumps and bumps and changes in his personality as we are.
  5. Love. I hate to even think about it, but we probably don’t have much more time with Bugsy. There’s just no way to guess at this point. So every day, I make sure he is loved and comfortable and happy, and he does the same for me.

It’s all about quality at this point. Quality of his food, his care and the love I give him. On all fronts, I’m giving the Bug-man all I can!