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.

Can a Rat Really Make a Good Pet?

Can a Rat Really Make a Good Pet?

Natural Health magazine February 2012Does a rat really count as a pet? With Natural Health magazine in hand, blogger Summer Huggins explores the question.

My husband and I visit New York City almost every fall during the three days that include both of our birthdays, with our anniversary smack dab in the middle. We eat; we see the sights; we try to live like the locals. Last fall, living like locals meant seeing our first NYC rat.

We were in the subway station, and this long, dark, gray creature was scurrying around the track. It was inevitable after all the years we’ve been visiting, and I was just glad our first sighting wasn’t in one of our favorite restaurants. Did you know that some people actually keep rats as pets?

Not those dirty NYC rats, of course.

The February issue of Natural Health magazine points out that movies and urban legends about rats can make them seem like scary animals, but as social and intelligent critters, they can actually make great pets.

“Rats can relate to and interact with you almost as much as a dog or a cat–but they require a lot less time and space,” says Zachariah Maule, director of North Star Rescue in Northern California.

Maule has three tips for caring for a pet rat (should you decide to get one):

  1. Pair them up: Though they thrive on human interaction, rats also like having a rat buddy.
  2. Tidy up their space: Maule suggests using recycled cardboard as their bedding instead of pine or cedar, which can stress their respiratory systems.
  3. Play: Check out the bird toys and accessories at the pet store. “Bird toys are great for rats because they’re both intelligent animals that like to destroy things for fun,” says Maule.

I had a couple of hamsters as a kid, so I’m no stranger to small, fuzzy pets. I just don’t think I’m ready for a rat. I’m gonna stick with dogs and cats for now.

Self magazine February 2012 cover

Bench Warmers: Work Out at the Park

Self magazine February 2012

Self Feb. 2012

Self magazine urges readers to get outside — and work out once we’re there.

When you’re at the park with the kids, you basically have two choices: You can sit on a park bench and watch them slide and swing and laugh. Or, you can use that bench to burn some calories and tone a few muscles.

The February issue of Self magazine offers up two bench workouts: One is designed to utilize the weight bench in the gym and the other uses a park bench in the great outdoors. With the sunshine and blue sky we’ve been experiencing in Austin, the outdoor version of the workout has me wanting to get outside and give it a try.

Self magazine illustrates each move in full-color photographs and detailed descriptions. The workout includes moves like Going in Circles, which works the arms, abs, glutes and thighs; and the Flying Ace, which focuses on the shoulders and back.

If “I don’t have time” is one of your go-to excuses for not getting into shape, this quick workout blows it out of the water. If you have time to take the kids to the park, you have time to work out while you’re there. Two birds, one stone!

Yoga Journal magazine February 2012

5 Ways to Care for the Caregiver (You)

Yoga Journal magazine February 2012

Yoga Journal Feb. 2012

If you’re caring for a loved one–be it a parent or a newborn–here are some practical ways to keep yourself as healthy and stress-free as possible.

I work full-time. I volunteer. I’m giving extra love to a 15-year-old dog. And Mom is still in rehab following her stroke. I’m exhausted, and I don’t even have kids. I don’t know how you parents do it sometimes!

I see Mom every evening after work and on the weekends. I know I need to stay upbeat and healthy as I continue to care for her on her road to recovery. I’m quickly learning that it’s all too easy to let healthy habits break during times like this. I need to remind myself that my health is important along the way, too–especially when I’m simultaneously caring for the health of someone else.

Caregivers sometimes let themselves go, focusing more on those around them who seem to need it more. I’m learning along this journey that taking that route is not the best way to do things. If you’re caring for someone–from a new baby to a parent following a big health event–here are some things you can do to keep yourself on top of it all:

  1. Get enough sleep. Easier said than done, right? But it’s so important to feel rested, rejuvenated and strong. A good night’s sleep–every night–will help you feel that way.
  2. Eat a balanced diet. It can be easy to hit the drive-thru and just grab a burger on the way home from the hospital each night, but I’m trying instead to plan dinners a full week ahead of time and do my shopping so I have no excuses.
  3. Stay hydrated. If you opened me up and looked inside me right now, you’d find diet soda and coffee running through my veins. Not good. I’m making a big effort to drink more water each day. It’s hard, but I know my body will thank me for it.
  4. Let someone care for you. Accept others’ offers to help. Let coworkers cook a meal for you. Let that sweet neighbor do a load of laundry. Let the kids across the street walk the dog around the block. I’ll be the first to admit it: I’m not Superwoman. I’m thankful to have a support system around me while I serve as part of Mom’s support system.
  5. Keep stress under control. Take a few minutes and get away once every couple weeks. A trip to the mall for a new pair of shoes. A massage. A pedicure. I’m finding that it’s quite reenergizing to be pampered a bit.

To help with that last tip, I’ve even been considering meditation. Who knew there were so many types of meditation? Yoga Journal magazine certainly did, and in their February issue, they break down each type to help readers choose the best one for them. From visualization to using mantras to meditating while you walk, the writer explains what each type does best and for whom it might be best suited. It sounds like I may need to try the walking meditation. I don’t have time to sit down these days!

Prevention magazine February 2012

Eat and Exercise Your Way to a Healthy Heart

Prevention magazine February 2012In honor of February being Heart Health Month, Prevention magazine gives some tips on becoming “heart-attack proof.”

I’m starting to get the message: Eating right and living a healthy, active lifestyle is about much more that maintaining a healthy weight. It’s also about keeping your heart strong and beating.

A recent article in Health magazine outlined seven heart-smart foods, and now the February issue of Prevention magazine is reiterating that advice.

Prevention’s heart-healthy foods list overlaps Health’s a bit–healthy fish and nuts are included on both–but Prevention also adds oranges, dark chocolate and garlic, among others. The magazine suggests that living for a healthy heart starts with the foods we put on our plates. We all know that what we eat is important to our health, and I keep hoping that the more I hear it, the more I’ll live it.

To multiply the health benefits of a healthy plate full of food, Prevention also includes a fitness routine in the pages following the diet advice, complete with a weekly workout schedule, illustrations of the moves and the benefits of the whole regimen. The magazine also outlines many alternative medicines that can help heal and keep our hearts strong, as well as the latest and greatest in medications for heart disease.

Bottom line: Love your heart, and it will love you right back.

10 Uses for the Rubber Bands in Your Junk Drawer

10 Uses for the Rubber Bands in Your Junk Drawer

This Old House magazine November/December 2011

This Old House Nov/Dec 2011

Blogger Summer Huggins reads her first issue of This Old House magazine and feels inspired to start tackling projects around the house.

When my husband and I bought our house almost eight years ago, we knew we wanted something fairly new. We didn’t want to spend every single weekend and spare dollar making repairs or upgrades to an older home. We were lucky and went almost five years before having a big expense: The air conditioner had to be replaced. In August. In Texas. That was a must!

After picking up my first-ever copy of This Old House magazine a couple months ago, though, I started to feel like we may have missed out on the fun and pride that comes from spending weekends replacing wall paneling, retiling bathrooms or building an island in the kitchen. This magazine makes it seem possible for the layman to do some of these things without having to hire a professional.

In addition to big projects in that Nov./Dec. issue–like installing wainscoting and building said island in the kitchen–there were also smaller projects that even my husband and I could tackle. The magazine gave instructions for making a wine rack from a simple wooden planter, for example, and it included step-by-step photos and instructions for replacing balusters on the staircase as well. Remember to measure twice and cut once!

My favorite department in the magazine has to be Home Solutions. In this department, this issue gave 10 ideas for using the rubber bands you’ve been saving in your junk drawer. (And this list doesn’t include popping your little brother on the arm with them.) What does it include? Well, let me tell you: opening jars, reshaping broom bristles and, my favorite: keeping your paint cans neater. If you’re going to tackle weekend projects like painting the dining room, you want to keep things neat. Stretching a large rubber band over a paint can gives you a place to wipe excess paint from the brush without using the side of the can. So smart!

And the list doesn’t stop there. You can use rubber bands to clamp items together–especially when they have fresh glue on them–get a better grip on handles, label storage tubs, keep cabinet doors closed, wrap needle-nose pliers to protect your fingers, shorten cords and label the volume on containers of liquids.

All these ideas are listed on a single page of This Old House. I think I may tear it out and hang it in the garage.


Do You Live in One of the Fittest (or Fattest) Cities in America?

Men's Fitness Cover March 2012

Men's Fitness March 2012

Men’s Fitness just released new research revealing the most physically active and apathetic cities in the U.S. Find out where your city ranks.

In the March issue of Men’s Fitness magazine, editors revisit their 3-year-old list of the “Fittest & Fattest Cities in America.” According to their research, obesity rates have climbed at an “alarming” rate since their last report, and the medical journal The Lancet says that 7 out of 10 Americans are overweight or obese. Sigh.

Topping the “fattest” list this year: Houston, Texas. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 34 percent of Houstonians are overweight, and Houston is home to more than 1,000 fast food restaurants. Congratulations to Boston, Mass.–they have the fewest. Rounding out the top 10 fattest cities were Detroit, Mich; Cleveland, Ohio; Memphis, Tenn.; Tampa, Fla.; Las Vegas, Nev.; El Paso, Texas; Baltimore, Md.; Los Angeles and Louisville, Ky.

I feel a little better for living in Austin, a city that comes in at number 12 on the “fittest” list. Portland is tops though. Portland is a cycling-, walking-, outdoor-friendly city, and the CDC says that more than 40 percent of its residents live a healthy lifestyle. Finishing up the top 10 fittest cities are San Francisco, Calif.; Albuquerque, N.M.; Oakland, Calif.; Boston; Seattle, Wash.; Denver, Colo.; San Diego, Calif.; Minneapolis, Minn. and Honolulu, Hawaii.

I’m pulling for you, Texas. Let’s get out of that bad No. 1 spot and move into the good No. 1 spot. I know we can do it!