Our 2012 Blogging Year in Review!

As we move into 2013, we thought it only appropriate to take a look back at 2012 and share with you some of the data from our year in blogging.  (If you click on any of the images below, you will get an enlarged view.)  Thanks to all of our readers for helping to make the Every Woman Blog a success!  And a special thanks to our amazing bloggers who truly bring this blog to life and share their lives with us!

We hope you enjoy taking a look back at 2012 with us 🙂

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The Perks of Isolation

By: Summer Brons

Ever have those moments where two or three things have gone wrong throughout the course of your day and as you’re sitting there trying to figure out a viable solution to restore balance, suddenly the weight of EVERYTHING even slightly amiss in your life seems to come crashing down on you all at once? Those times where you feel like there is simply no way you’re ever going to catch up, let alone get ahead? Yeah. Welcome to the club.

It’s probably safe to say that most of us juggle some combination of responsibilities involving work, home, fitness, family, friends, hobbies and social endeavors. We have bills, we have schedules, we have people to please and duties to uphold each day. Toss in the occasional unexpected crisis or unsolicited obligation and we’ve got ourselves a three-course meal of stress, anxiety and headache.

One technique I like to try to employ during these lovely times – like when I’m contemplating, oh, let’s say, how my income is inversely proportional to my financial debts – is isolation. I’m not talking about hiding out in my house and avoiding interaction with society, I’m talking about isolating each situation for what it is. Breaking things down into manageable, bite-size chunks rather than attempting to navigate my way through the big picture makes it much easier to take it all in stride and develop a plan of action.

For example, let’s say I’ve had a rough day at work, I still have to hit the gym and I’m supposed to meet some friends out for a drink later that evening. I might leave work feeling frustrated from a project gone awry, then find myself feeling rushed to get my workout in before I need to leave to meet my friends on time, then I’ll start questioning whether or not I should really be going out in the first place. After all, I’m broke, right? The “I really can’t afford to go drink beer” thoughts then generally turn into analyzations of upcoming bills and anything that might be approaching past-due status, which inevitably leads me to tell myself that I really should try to pick up additional hours at my second job, which frustrates me because working extra hours will drastically cut into my training, which then discourages me because I’ll be that much further from reaching my fitness goals…on and on and on until I’m ready to start ripping out handfuls of my own hair. Oh, and did I mention that my laptop of six years unexpectedly died on me two weeks ago? All of my data from the better part of the past decade is sitting in the recovery machine of a computer shop downtown, waiting for me to scrounge up $325 so I can go retrieve it.

Fantastic, yes?

This is where that whole “isolation” game comes in.

  • Chunk Number One:   Work. Tackle work AT work. Once I’ve left the building for the day, it’s time to quit stressing over unanswered emails and purchase orders I haven’t received on time. Back at my desk the next morning, taking five minutes to jot down a to-do list helps keep me on track for the day and ensure I don’t overlook anything critical. But at 5, 5:30, 6pm – whenever I end up leaving – that’s that.
  • Chunk Number Two:  Fitness. I’ve recently started breaking up my workouts into two parts. I get up at 5am and hit the gym before work. My gym is quiet in the morning and I get a little “me” time before the craziness of the day begins. Plus, if something does crop up during the day that might prevent me from working out afterwards, I can still feel good knowing that I’ve at least done a little something. After work, I’ll go for a run. I’ve found that this split technique is a great way to balance weightlifting with half-marathon training; neither endeavor falls to the wayside in favor of the other.
  • Chunk Number Three: Friends. The nifty thing about friends is that the good ones tend to be pretty understanding. They won’t judge you for being a little short on cash one week or wanting to have a quiet night at home instead of bellying up to the bar. A quick “I really just can’t make it tonight” will suffice just fine. Rainchecks – use ’em!
  • Chunk Number Four:  Money. This is a toughie, especially for me. I am not one of those people who can just push their financial woes out of mind and happily go along on my way. What I have to do to maintain sanity in this department is to look at each bill as just ONE bill. If I sit there and contemplate all of them, I am easily overwhelmed. Dwelling on monthly expenses and paying down debts on top of day-to-day things like food, gas, etc. is neither productive nor beneficial to my mental state.

Basically, this all makes it possible for me to enjoy the small successes of daily life without being completely jaded by everything that isn’t quite where I want it to be just yet. Great workouts, a productive day at work, getting some writing done, even something as small as paying a $14 water bill can be looked upon as tiny victories. It’s all about perspective!

What are some of your own methods for keeping yourself sane when everything seems to be convincing you otherwise?

The Success of Unfulfilled Dreams

By: Summer Brons

I originally wrote this post in February of 2011 for a very short-lived personal blog. I often go back and re-read it when I’m feeling mixed up about my choices in life, so I thought I’d share it here now since February has rolled around once again.

“Now that,” I said, motioning to one of the TVs hanging on the wall at a frequented watering hole, shot of Goldschlager in hand, “is the perfect example of a failed dream.”  I downed my shot and set the plastic cup on the bar.  My boyfriend gave me a quizzical look, glanced at the highlight reels of parading dogs from the previous night’s competition and inquired as to how a dog show represents failure.

The last couple of days have given way to the famous Westminster Kennel Club dog show that takes place each February at Madison Square Garden. It’s an intense, glamorous show with a great deal of history and a cult-like following from both fans and competitors on the American Kennel Club show circuit. As with many events, dog shows are best appreciated if you’re able to personally relate. Dog people are, by and large, a quirky bunch; although I suppose you ought to be if you intend to spend the majority of your weekends traveling around multiple states to campaign your dog with the goal of becoming a Westminster hopeful. Several humorous books have been written on the subject, pick one up sometime if you’d ever like a behind-the-scenes look at the world of canine competition.

Bernese Mountain Dog

I used to show dogs back when I was in middle school, thanks to an English teacher who noticed me reading an AKC rulebook in class between assignments and called me up to his desk to tell me all about how he and his wife bred and showed Bernese Mountain Dogs, and would I like to come along to a show with them one day? Yes, in fact, I would like that, and like it I did. I began showing one of their young females, Peggy, in both breed competition and junior handling classes throughout Oregon and Washington. Turns out, I wasn’t too shabby for an awkward seventh-grader and started attending more shows, meeting more people and allowing myself to start dreaming a little bigger.  Beyond youthful visions of one day perhaps earning a living as a professional handler, competing at Westminster was most certainly at the top of my list of goals.

But then, as it often inconveniently seems to, reality stepped up to rain on my parade. Between health problems for my teacher and financial strain for my family, eventually it wasn’t so feasible to fund my dog habit, particularly when I was too young to enter the workforce and bear a bit of the load. The dog shows had to be shelved for a while and suddenly the years began to fly by.  One thing has a funny way of leading to another and, often, that chain does not involve circling back around to revisit glassy-eyed childhood aspirations.

That 12-year-old girl happily prancing around the ring with a big black dog certainly had no idea that 14 years later she’d be standing in a dimly-lit bar across the country, clutching a cup of booze and a pool cue while watching clips of the dog show she once thought she’d make it to.

“That’s terrible.” My boyfriend, Thomas, declares. I agree, on principle of disappointment over lost ambitions, but then I shrug and try to briefly think what I’d be doing with my life now if I had kept showing dogs throughout the years. Would I have ended up in South Carolina? Would I still be in the process of actively pursuing a writing career, something I’ve dreamed of far longer than I ever dreamed of Westminster?  Would I have developed such fierce affection for turkey bacon and rice cakes?

Who knows. Bottom line – I’ll never know what might have become of me in the dog world, but the point is that none of us ever really know what would have happened if we’d made different decisions or followed alternate opportunities. The only thing we have is the reality of where we are now and the open doors before us that we either opt to explore or refuse to walk through. Honestly, I really don’t even miss showing dogs anymore and I haven’t for quite some time. Westminster each year is mostly a distant pang of, “That could have been me once” more so than it is a, “Why, oh why isn’t that me?!” and quite frankly, I think we can all stand to benefit from those types of pangs from time to time. Gentle reminders to stay alert and focused, to remember what our goals are and follow our passions even as they shift with the changing tides of daily life. Thus, is America’s most famous dog show really a “failed” dream of mine?  No, it isn’t.

That being said, here’s my tip for the day: stop wasting energy complaining about the past, use it to make something happen for tomorrow.

Reasonable Resolutioning

By: Summer Brons

With the end of January on the fast-approaching horizon, we’re at a logical checkpoint to assess our progress on all those resolutions we set just a few short weeks ago. In the face of a promising new year, it’s easy to hold our heads high and jot our lofty ambitions down on paper (or scrawl them across a keyboard), confident that THIS will be the year we refocus and really buckle down on the pursuit of our dreams. “2011? What a joke! 2012 is going to be MY year,” we say to ourselves, a confident grin spreading from ear to ear.

So…reality time: How are things going so far?

Whether your goals are centered around health, work, home, family, or even a simple vow to spend more time doing absolutely nothing at all – it’s easy to fall off the wagon if you’ve set the bar too high for yourself.  We tend to be results-driven creatures with a love for instant gratification, disregarding the concept of a step-by-step process. This explains why many resolutions are discarded (or forgotten completely) before we’ve even it made it through the first quarter.  Folks throw in the towel because all they see on that list they wrote on December 31st are statements like, “lose 40 pounds,” “get a promotion,” “spend more time painting.” These are all great things to strive for, but where’s the plan of action?

The road to weight loss is paved with consistent exercise and a balanced diet. Instead of getting frustrated because the scale isn’t registering the numbers you’d like to see each morning, break the process down into bite-size chunks. You didn’t gain the weight overnight and you’re not going to lose it overnight, either. Figure out what steps you need to take to put yourself on the path to losing those 40 pounds and go from there. At first, your success may be found in getting to the gym four times a week and bringing a healthy lunch with you to work instead of eating fast food each day. Next, you’ll see success by realizing you’ve dropped five pounds. And guess what? Five pounds turns into eight turns into 15 and so on until one day…you’re at your goal weight! But be realistic, because it’s not going to happen by default just because you slapped a shiny “RESOLUTION” label on the idea and you happened to notice it’s nearly the end of January.

The same goes for your other goals. You want a promotion at work? Great! Figure out how to best position yourself to catch the eye of your boss and make them think of your name first when that new management position opens up later this year. Perhaps you can offer to take on additional responsibilities, assist coworkers without having to be asked to do it, show up on time (wait, that counts for something?), or…here’s a thought, ask that boss of yours if he or she has a few minutes to spare, then sit down with them to share your thoughts. A well-spoken “I really enjoy being a part of this company and I’m looking forward to future opportunities here beyond my current scope of work. Is there any advice you can give me that might help me along a path to advancement?” can go a long way in garnering respect and displaying ambition.  Remember, just like the weight loss intentions, just because you’ve decided you want a promotion does not mean you’re going to walk into work the next day with a corner office and a generous raise, so don’t get discouraged and give up hope when April rolls around and you’re still daydreaming about throwing staples at that loud, obnoxious coworker who sits two cubes up.

Finally, just to round out the few examples I mentioned above, Ms. “I’m going to paint more often in 2012” shouldn’t be prematurely tossing out the oil canvas, either.  Sure, it’s wonderful to take time out of each day to devote to creative efforts, but it doesn’t always happen. Besides life getting in the way, sometimes you just flat don’t feel like it. The creative muse can be a fickle thing, so quit beating yourself up if you don’t hit that goal to write 500 words each day or to practice your crochet technique for an hour each evening. Try something more manageable, like blogging three times a week instead of seven, or taking just two photos per day instead of ten to improve your photography skills. If you’ve included your hobby, passion or artistic endeavor in your new year’s resolutions, don’t forget to be just as realistic about your goals in this department as you are with everything else. Very few things happen overnight, bestselling novels included.

Remember, the key is to keep things MANAGEABLE. Don’t stand in your own way with an “all or nothing” mentality.  Progress is just as successful as seeing a goal ultimately come to fruition, so use those stepping stones along the way as motivation to keep going and as validation that you’re on the right track. You’re the only one who can make things happen for yourself, which, in turn, means that you’re the only one who can prevent things from happening, too.

So go ahead and take inventory of those 2012 resolutions.  If there’s any you’re struggling with so far, take some time to break them down further and create a plan to get from point A to point B…preferably in once piece.

Good luck!

Burgers and Tacos and Cookies, Oh My!

By: Summer Brons

“It’s a good thing you run so much, otherwise you’d probably gain a lot of weight,” my friends often joke when they hear that I’ve just sat down with a cheeseburger or am baking a second batch of cookies for the week. While it’s true that certain foods are often associated with a less-than-healthy lifestyle, I pride myself on being able to effectively modify most “bad” meals to accommodate my sensible eating habits – even when all I can think about is a huge plate of nachos.

Since it’s the holidays and I find myself in a semi-giving spirit, I’m going to share a few of my tips. Gather round, friends…

The tormentor:


The temptation of a big hunk of juicy beef, oozing cheese and a gourmet bun with all the right fixings can be awfully hard to ignore when the craving for a really good burger strikes.

My solution:

1)  Extra-lean ground beef. I never buy beef that is more than 10% fat. I prefer 7-8%, or even 4% when I can find it. Yes, it’s a little more expensive than your standard pound of ground chuck, but it’s still cost-effective versus a restaurant burger and you get to control your calories. I promise you that a 90/10 beef patty is still just as juicy and flavorful as the real deal. Season to your liking, cook as desired and thank me later.

2) Part-skim cheese. Although I do often buy cheeses made with 2% milk instead of the full-fat variety, cheese is one of my most favorite foods and quite often worth the splurge, as far as I’m concerned. But, you can easily shave a few extra fat grams from your burger by using a reduced-fat variety. Just, at the very least, do yourself the dignity of avoiding that processed, plastic-flavored, individually wrapped fake “cheese.”

3) Toppings. I’m not much of a condiment girl, never have been. Mayonnaise physically repulses me and I’ve never understood the desire to put salad dressings (such as ranch or thousand island) on a burger, so avoiding fatty add-ons is no problem over here. But if you’re a fan of such things, try instead choosing lower-cal, no-fat options like ketchup, mustard, or barbeque sauce. You can also add flavor and texture with veggies like onions, avocados, or tomatoes.

4) Nice buns, babe. There’s a plethora of low-calorie, low-carb, low-fat, whatever-low-you-want bread options on grocery store shelves these days, so snag a bun that suits your dietary goals and slap that extra-lean patty right between ’em. Try toasting or grilling the breadstuff if you feel like you might be bored with it otherwise.

The tormentor:


Who doesn’t love taco night? Enough said.

My solution:

1) Again with the beef. Same deal as with my cheeseburgers, I buy extra-lean beef. Particularly for taco purposes when I know the meat will be heavily seasoned, I’ll really try to seek out a package of 4% fat. For those who may be concerned about the meat tasting dry or tough; I’ve never shared any of my taco concoctions with anyone who noticed a single thing about the beef. Trust me, you WON’T know the difference. Or, as an alternative, have chicken! Diced or shredded and generously seasoned chicken can make for some awesome tacos.

2) Again with the cheese. Grab some shredded 2% or grate up your favorite block of the good stuff.

3) Try fresh salsa or hot sauce for added flavor.  Go easy on the guacamole and swap out full-fat sour cream for reduced or fat-free varieties.

4) Same as with hamburger buns, there are plenty of low-carb, low-fat tortilla shells available. If you can’t have taco night without a crunchy taco, just employ a sense of moderation and go for it. If you normally eat three tacos, replace two of your crunchy shells with soft ones instead and get all the satisfaction without the guilt.

The tormentor:


Cousin of the taco, delicious platter of cheesy heaven; whatever your favorite nickname for nachos is, just know that they don’t have to be a total gut-bomb.

My solution:

1) At the risk of sounding like a broken record, please see line items 1 and 2 of the previous solutions.

2) Use baked chips instead of typical oil-soaked variety. Get creative with your chip selection – just because you’re eating nachos doesn’t mean you have to use tortilla chips. Poke around the health foods section of your preferred grocer and see what you can find if nothing on the standard chip aisle appeals to you. Fun fact: I absolutely love using Sunchips for nachos.

The tormentor:

Cookies. Do I really need to elaborate?

My solution:

1) Ditch the butter or oil in favor of applesauce. Although they sound worlds apart, applesauce makes a wonderful replacement for high-fat ingredients. If your cookie recipe calls for a 1/2 cup of butter, just dump in a 1/2 cup of applesauce instead, it’s that simple. You can also use yogurt or a combination of the two. The resulting texture will be different from that of a butter cookie (more muffin-y, cake-like), but the flavor will be just as tasty.

2) Use packaged cookie mixes. These are much faster to prepare (and require less clean-up!) than measuring out individual ingredients for a batch of cookies. They generally only require the addition of an egg and some butter or oil (which you’re going to replace with applesauce, right?).  If I’m feeling frisky, I’ll toss some white chocolate, butterscotch, or semi-sweet chocolate chips into the mix.  Again, moderation is key.  Don’t dump an entire package of chips in your cookie mix, just sprinkle in a handful for a little extra treat without undoing all of your good intentions.

I could go on all night with examples, but you should have the hang of things by now! Just a few simple ingredient exchanges can make all the difference in turning a questionable food choice into a great idea.

When it comes to healthy cooking tips, what are some of your own favorites?

Tips for Productivity

By: Summer Brons

Although I [usually] consider myself a relatively productive individual, blog posts and articles with tips for being even more efficient always seem to be some of my favorites. It’s interesting to see how others balance their busy schedules and find small ways to get ahead. Thus, I thought it might be fun to share a few tactics I try to implement for myself:

Prepare for the day ahead. I find that my weekday mornings go much smoother when I’ve taken a few minutes out of the previous evening to get myself on the right track to start the day.

I can waste more time than anyone I know staring at a closet full of clothes, completely incapable of choosing an outfit. I also excel at getting dressed, hating everything I’m wearing and then changing clothes 12 times before I finally settle on something I’m still not thrilled with. If I force myself to choose an outfit the evening before, I know exactly what I’m slipping into after my shower and can get on with my morning.

The same goes for packing a lunch before heading to bed. Not only am I saving money and gas by taking food to work with me, if I’ve prepped it the night before, I can simply snag it from the fridge and head out the door once I’m ready to leave. This is far more efficient than scurrying around the kitchen trying to put together a reasonable meal before work in between bites of breakfast, making coffee and letting the dog out.

Make a to-do list. I know, I know, people have sworn by to-do lists for years. I’m unfortunately not one of those people. I’ll occasionally scribble out a list with lofty ambitions of accomplishing everything I’ve deemed worthy of committing to chicken scratch, keeping a pen close at hand so I can smugly cross one task off a time … and rarely find this fantasy as my end result. I’ll either abandon the list once I’m busy enough that I don’t have the time nor inclination to refer to it anymore, or I’ll forget about it entirely. But when I do actually write a coherent to-do list and stick to it? The results are pretty amazing.

If you want to be super detailed, organize your to-do list into multiple categories so you have an outline of exactly which tasks are absolute necessities, and others that won’t start any fires if they’re pushed off to tomorrow’s list. You can make a list for your entire day and a separate one for your workday once you get to the office. By day, I work in project management and if I didn’t have a legal pad next to me at all times, I’d be lost.

Decide on your non-negotiables. Work is obviously a non-negotiable for your day. Anything that requires you to be there at a particular time is probably going to be something you can’t exactly reschedule without repercussions, but you can use this concept to your advantage to squeeze extra time out of your day.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when I hear people complaining about how they just “don’t have time” to workout. I completely understand that sometimes the day just slips away and suddenly the plan to run five miles was lost somewhere between happy hour and laundry, but if you treat your workout as an obligation instead of an option, you’ll be surprised where you can find extra time. Waking up one hour earlier (or staying up one hour later, depending on the hours you keep) can offer just enough time to get your heart rate up and burn a few calories.

The same can be said for anything else that you know you really SHOULD be doing, but often don’t. Whether referring to your creative endeavors, a repair project around the house, even just a few quiet minutes alone to read a novel – consider it a must-do instead of a “If I have time, I’ll try to get to it.”

Quit putting everything off.  Procrastinating is fantastically easy to do, which is probably why so many of us do it. But instead of repeating myself, for this tip I’m going to refer you to my last LMC blog post, “Changing With the Leaves.”  In short: stop saying you’ll change your ways “next week” or “starting in December,” and just do it right now. You’ll be surprised how quickly a change can take effect when you decide to act on it rather than just think about it.

I’m certainly not saying that I do all of these things without fail, but they are a few of my favorites to keep in mind when I’m looking for ways to get things done. What are a few of your own techniques for managing your time?

Changing with the Leaves

By: Summer Brons

I’m going to be cliché for a moment and declare fall as my favorite time of year. The temperature cools, the air becomes crisp, my electric bill goes down significantly and the leaves turn lovely colors that are best left described by Crayola. While I’m not much for the hype and hustle accompanying the impending holidays, I tend to feel a renewed sense of determination when autumn abounds, which means that I find myself even more apt to buckle down and make things happen.

As I was recently contemplating this mysterious spurt of inspiration, I found myself wondering why it is that we tend to gravitate towards points thought of as a “fresh start” to actually START anything. We vow to get back into our routine at the gym…starting Monday. We swear we’re going to get the house cleaned up…this weekend. We shake our heads in frustration over a mess of receipts, bills and bank statements, resolving to keep our finances better organized…starting next month. We make these arrangements with ourselves on everything from a grand scale (New Year’s resolutions, anyone?) to the tiniest day-to-day tweaks that we’ll, of course, begin tomorrow.

To all of this, I ask: What’s wrong with right NOW? Why can’t we make a positive change for ourselves starting on a Thursday instead of a Monday, or on the 11th of the month instead of the 1st? Although I know it certainly doesn’t feel like it when you’re staring at the clock on your desk and counting down the hours until 5pm, time does pass at the same rate of speed each year, month, week, day, hour and minute. Thus, every hour we waste putting off simple tasks, every day we let slip by without paying respects to our health and fitness, every month we ignore that little voice in the back of our mind (the one quietly urging you to finally pursue that creative project, for example) the more time we’re simply tossing out the window.

It often amazes me how quickly I’m able to accomplish things once I actually focus up and do them. Turns out, the perks of a clean house, an organized inbox, a completed workout, or even the sweet escape of reading a novel are much easier to enjoy once we take the necessary steps to get there. As a procrastinator who thrives on deadlines and a fast-paced environment, I can absolutely vouch for the satisfaction of getting to cross something off the to-do list and no longer having it hanging over my head.

My goal (beginning, you know, next Monday) is to quit seeking a start date for everything I want to accomplish. I’m the only one who can make the time to write more. No one but me can lace up my running shoes and pound out some mileage. I’m the one in charge of my future, whether that future is tonight, tomorrow, next week or five years from now. At the risk of sounding cliché again – I’m going to make like a leaf and change before I fall.

And you should, too.

What are some things YOU tend to procrastinate? What helps you to spring (oops, punned the wrong season!) into action?