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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Running for the Colon Cancer Challenge …

By: Summer Brons

On Saturday, March 24 I participated in Lexington Medical Center’s Colon Cancer Challenge.  Held at Dutch Fork High School in Irmo, the event offered 65-mile and 25-mile cycling races, as well as an 8k run and a one-mile fun run/walk. With the race practically in my backyard (and with a modest registration fee!), I signed up for the 8k, happy for an opportunity to run my favorite distance for a great cause.

The 8k didn’t start until 8:45am and it was probably after 8:15 by the time I arrived. I’d intended to show up earlier, but I found myself in a bit of a battle with my iPod Shuffle, having determined that the morning of a race was the perfect time to completely erase everything on the device and begin anew. Multiple syncing issues later, I gave up the fight and decided to run with my iPhone since it was already in my hand and I knew it had music. I can’t run without my tunes, I just can’t. Kudos to other runners who can pound out the mileage without a soundtrack…I am simply not one of them.

I’ve digressed.

I made my way over to Dutch Fork High and was pleased to find that the event was extremely well-organized.  I was parked within seconds and able to walk straight up to the registration tables and pick up my race packet with no wait, no hassle. All that was left to do was sit in my car and compile a suitable playlist. (Shameless plug time: A premium membership with Spotify is totally worth it.)

As the clock ticked closer to 8:45 am, I made my way to the starting line with the other runners. It was a small field and everyone seemed to be in good spirits as we listened to the speakers touting the importance of colon cancer awareness prior to the start of each race.  As the horn blew and we set off, I went out entirely too fast and found myself tired within the first half of a mile…oops. I don’t run with other people very often, so when I’m in a situation with other runners around me, the excitement tends to push me beyond my typically manageable pace and I’ll burn out quickly.

Luckily, I was able to settle into a reasonable clip and particularly enjoyed the downhill stretches throughout the five-mile route. The course was great; a nice mix of flat, downhill and uphill terrain as we looped back to Dutch Fork High.  My Garmin clocked me at just under 48 minutes for 5.03 miles. Solid! As long as I’m under a 10:00 min/mile pace, I’m happy.  9:40 or under is grounds for excitement in my book.  According to the results posted by Strictly Running, I came in at 47:52 for an average pace of 9:38 and finished 10th out of 24.

The race was a great way to kick off my weekend and I’d like to give a huge thanks to Lexington Medical Center, Strictly Running and all involved sponsors for pulling the event together!  Cancer awareness is so important; it’s great to see folks getting involved with the community to help spread the word and raise funds for continued research and treatment.

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.

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:

Cheeseburger.

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:

Tacos.

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:

Nachos.

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?