Happy Holidays!

Tara Bitzan, Chicz Editor

Tara Bitzan, Chicz Editor

Thanks for all the wonderful feedback you sent us after our first issue of Chicz hit the stands in October! We knew we loved the magazine, but we were thrilled to learn that you loved it too! Not only did you send us your appreciation, but you also sent us your fabulous ideas to feature in upcoming issues.

A few of you even got so caught up with the new magazine that you sent us articles, and we’re happy to say, we printed them! A special welcome to contributing writer Amanda Herzog, a 7th grader who felt she had something to offer the “young chicz” in the area.

We’re already at work on your winter issue and would love your input. Please send us a note about what you think of Chicz or share your ideas with us.

In the meantime, enjoy every minute of the holiday season. Don’t get so caught up in the “to do’s” that you miss out on the real joys of the season – time with loved ones. My wish for you is that this time is unhurried, unharried and heartwarming.

Merry Christmas!
Tara Bitzan
Chicz Editor 

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Great reads

635568417450489856-After-the-War-Is-OverBy Kathleen Pohlig

After the War is Over by Jennifer Robson

Set mostly in Liverpool, England, After the War is Over is a multi-layered story of life in Britain at the close of the first World War. It felt to me like an authentic depiction of the time with details of characters’ daily lives and activities.
The novel’s main character is Charlotte Brown. Determined to make something of her life and be helpful to others, she completes a fine education at Oxford, finds a job as a tutor and governess for the daughter of a titled and well-to-do family, and then spends four years as a military nurse at a neurological hospital in London.
During most of the story she works in the office of a relief agency for the poor in Liverpool and goes home each evening to a boarding house where she lives with other young working women.
Charlotte makes every effort to speak out on behalf of the voiceless and point out the plight of those suffering in a struggling post-war economy. An impassioned letter written to a newspaper editor lands her an additional job as a weekly columnist speaking out on a variety of social issues.
She rebuffs the romantic attentions of the editor whom she feels is just a good friend; Charlotte’s heart lies with Edward, the older brother of her best friend Lilly. Edward, injured and missing in action during the war, finally comes home but has a lot of healing to do. Charlotte is enlisted to help him through a tough time and their feelings for each other solidify.
The romance is slow to develop because of the duties each has and the class differences they feel that keep them apart.
Charlotte is a strong, admirable woman who longs for love and happiness but also feels a strong sense of what is proper; she is determined to find happiness in her work and service to others if she is denied a life with the man she loves.
Fans of Downton Abbey may find some similarities of time, place and culture in this novel.
One thing I felt was missing was Charlotte’s relationship with her parents. She was an only child, still a young single woman; it seemed likely she would be in more regular communication with them. Of course, communication and travel were more difficult at that time, so maybe my expectations were not legitimate. Late in the book, she does go to visit her family and the reader learns more about her background.
Other than that criticism, I felt like this was an excellent story with many levels that were believable and interesting to me. This is the author’s second novel and I think it is one worth reading!

By Sarah Preusser

Until I Say Good-Bye: My Year of
Living with Joy by Susan Spencer-Wendel

Anytime someone asks for a book recommendation I always think of this book. The author shares her raw, personal journey with a disease that ultimately took her life just a short time after her story was published.
At age 44, Susan learned she had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a rapidly progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement.
There is one experience in particular that continues to stick with me. Recognizing the myriad of moments she will never live to see, she makes special arrangements to take her young daughter Marina on a trip to Kleinfeld’s in New York. While there, she will have the opportunity to see her daughter, though only 14 years old, put on a wedding dress for the first time. While the ladies surround her daughter, Susan shared a moment with her sister, asking her to bring Marina back when the time was right and there will be money left for her to buy her that special dress.
This is a beautiful memoir boldly scripted by a woman losing her life. As she types her story on an iPhone with her right thumb, the last finger working, her words will make you laugh as often as they make you cry. More importantly, they will remind you to live each day to its fullest.

Sarah Preusser of Brandon is a physician assistant working and living in the Twin Cities area.

By Jeanne Ray

Romeo and Julie: A Novel
by Jeanne Ray

“All of the passion of hate had become the passion of love.”
This delightful book centers around two rival florists, Julie Roseman and Romeo Cacciamani, both in their 60s. For as long as they can remember, their families have despised each other for reasons unknown. The two run into each other at a business conference and develop a budding romance.
The reader is taken into their lives as they sneak around town to see each other, hoping their families never find out about their relationship. But, what happens when the families do find out?
I definitely recommend this light, quick, funny and charming book. The plot and the characters are delightful. I often found myself chuckling out loud throughout the book.
As we learn from this book, loves knows no boundaries, not even set family traditions of loathing another family (again, no reason why). This is a feel good read.

Lori Meath of Rochester grew up and graduated in Alexandria. She is a former NICU nurse (22.5 years), now working in the Fibromyalgia/Chronic Fatigue and POTS clinic at Mayo Clinic.

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As seen on TV: Hydro-Mousse Liquid Lawn

hydro-mousse-liquid-lawn_500By Jamie Kakach

Product:
Hydro-Mousse Liquid Lawn

Claim:
Liquid grass seed that grows where you spray

Grade: B+

Review:
My husband keeps up a very meticulous lawn, but we had this little patch he couldn’t get to grow near our mailbox. So he thought he would try out Hydro Mousse Liquid Lawn, and the results were pleasantly surprising! After patiently waiting for his shipment, it finally arrived. The instructions were easy – just attach the liquid feed to a regular garden hose, spray the feed, and water. Sure enough within a few days we had glorious green blades of grass growing! After a week or two even more grass grew and filled in! The results were great – the only downside is the cost per square foot of seed. This product is perfect if you just want to fill in small patches, but not cost effective for large projects.
Jamie Kakach loves making crafts and trying out new products. She lives in Alexandria with her husband, Brian.

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Unique gardening tips

EggShells_Thinkstock_UniqueGardeningTipsBy Lori Mork

IIt’s gardening season, so here are a few clever tips and tricks to keep your project manageable:
Keep small animals at bay with plastic forks.
Here’s a trick for keeping animals, especially cats, from using your garden as a litter box.
Insert a few plastic forks, tine end up, around your plants to keep animals away.

Fertilize with cooking water.
Save the water that you use to cook your vegetables to water your garden. It’s full of nutrients that plants need to grow.

Citrus rinds for seedlings.
Use hollowed out lemon or orange halves to start seedlings. The plants can be planted directly into the garden and the rinds will act as compost. Just be sure to make a hole in the bottom of the half for drainage.

Packing peanuts for drainage.
Use packing peanuts for drainage in large flower pots. Just add landscape fabric over the top of the peanuts to keep the dirt from draining to the bottom when watering. They are lighter than soil and make it easier to move the large pots.

Eggshells for nutrition and seedlings.
Leftover eggshells can give your garden a calcium boost. Just use your blender to grind them up. They can be used on indoor plants, as well, and can even be used to start seedlings. The shells can then be planted directly into the ground.

Pot-in-pot landscaping.
Dig a hole where you would like your seasonal plants to be and fill it with an empty plastic pot.
Each year, you can just place your seasonal flowers, herbs or vegetables in a slightly smaller pot and place it inside the larger one. The inside pots are easily removed when the season is over and will be ready when the next season begins.

Rubbermaid container gardens.
Make up for your lack of garden space by using Rubbermaid storage containers to plant. Lightweight and the right size, punch holes in the bottom of the containers, add drainage (possibly packing peanuts and garden fabric) then fill with soil and plant! They can even work on a small balcony.

Plastic pot watering system.
Dig a hole in the center of your garden and place an empty plastic nursery pot (with holes in the bottom) inside. This will make for easier and deeper root watering, which is especially good for squash, which has deep roots. You can also plant your seeds around an empty plastic pot to create a well for easier and deeper root watering.

Lori Mork of Lowry is a mother, grandmother and dabbler in all things food, photography and decor related.

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Color Trends for 2015

GreenPaint_ThinkstockBy Lori Mork

When checking out designers’ opinions on what colors will be popular for 2015, all of them agreed on one thing – color. Rich deep colors paired with lighter complimenting tones will be the direction for décor.
Deep moss green, olive green or a rich, bright Mediterranean blue pairs well with soft pinks and grays. Add plum and berry colors to that green or blue for big contrasts. Just don’t go overboard, temper your selection with some softer, muted tones to help calm the colors you pick.
Another color palette that many designers selected was one of gold, butter and cream. A step up from yellow, but easier to work with than bright yellows. One designer noted that working within a group of closely related shades in your room will give you a sense of softness and comfort.
Beautiful pale blue paired with dark gray and light gray can give you a feeling that is slightly Scandinavian, and leaves you with a feeling of relaxation and elegance.
Neutrals are also a good pick. A neutral gray can be used as a backdrop for accessories in dark charcoal, black or white, while rustic weathered colors, such as dusty aqua and pale tan on walls, can be matched with dark charcoal, copper or citrusy-orange colors.
Whatever colors you choose, make sure that they bring out your personal style.

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Putting the phone away for the kids

By Eric Morken

EricMorkenChallenges in parenting happen every day and they are called the “terrible 2s” for a reason.
A few unexpected meltdowns a week have become the norm in our house with our daughter. That’s not the right spoon. I don’t want that napkin; I want that napkin.
Frustrating, sure, but there is another challenge our generation of parents face that our moms and dads never had to deal with. It’s time to put down the cell phones.
It’s an issue I have thought about since our daughter was born more than two years ago. It seemed easier to shrug off holding her as a baby while surfing the Internet or Twitter on an iPhone. As she grew, it became evident that she was following in our footsteps every time she grabbed her toy phone.
My wife and I were watching WCCO news at 10 p.m. earlier this spring when this topic was brought up in a story. The consensus from a study published in the Journal for Marriage and Family concluded that the amount of time we spend with our kids has almost no bearing on how they turn out.
It hit home. I don’t consider myself to be addicted to my iPhone. I don’t check it often during a busy day at work. I can leave it behind on a vacation and feel fine.

It’s at home where I struggle. Twitter is the main culprit with my tendency to keep scrolling through all the up-to-the-second happenings. It’s tough to put it down, but it’s worth the effort to stop.
I’ve made a point of putting my phone away when Aubree and I are together since reading up on the recent study that was referenced on WCCO. The research dealt with children ages 3-11 and showed that quality time was more important than quantity in areas of academic achievement, behavior and emotional well-being. Interacting with a child, reading to them, playing with them.
Technically, I do them all. My wife and I both read to Aubree every night. I talk with her about her day; play with her in the yard and in the house. Too often, though, I’m distracted.
This was a gentle reminder that nothing on social media is as important as helping our kids grow.

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Mimosa Mocktail

By Lori Mork

ThinkstockPhotos-76764449Mother’s Day is right around the corner, and what better way to start her day than with a special drink for her breakfast?
Mimosas have long been a part of special celebrations, such as weddings and morning brunches, so this is the perfect start to her day, and making it non-alcoholic allows the whole family to join in.

MIMOSA MOCKTAIL
Ingredients:
1 can (12 ounces) orange juice, chilled
1/4 teaspoon grenadine syrup
1 can (12 ounces) ginger ale, chilled
4 orange slices
Ice cubes

Directions:
Add orange juice and grenadine syrup to a pitcher, add ice cubes and mix well.
Add ginger ale and stir well.
Fill champagne flute glasses with mimosa mix, garnish with orange slices and serve.

Lori Mork of Lowry is a mother, grandmother and dabbler in all things food, photography and decor related.

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Family dinners

By Lori Mork

pastaFamily dinners seem to be becoming a lost art, but you should know, experts have found that families who make an effort to eat together at least three or four times each week get some great benefits, including healthier eating habits, better relationships, better school performance and less obesity. Here are a few recipes to help you get started, and allow your children to pitch in with the cooking!

KAYAKER’S CHICKEN PASTA
This recipe is so easy to adapt to any number of people. I use whatever fresh vegetables I have on hand – asparagus; red, yellow, orange, purple and/or green peppers; snow peas; onions – anything you like. You can also increase or decrease the amount of pasta or chicken to suit your taste. When I’m in a hurry, I use rotisserie chicken without the skin. Easy as can be and the whole family loves it!

INGREDIENTS:
1 pound rotini or other shaped pasta
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced
1/2 yellow bell pepper, sliced
2 cups snow peas, cleaned and trimmed
1-1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup toasted almond slices
DIRECTIONS:
Cook pasta according to directions; drain. Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces.
Heat 1/2 of the olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add garlic and sauté three minutes. Add chicken pieces and sauté 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove chicken and keep warm.
Add remaining olive oil with red and yellow bell peppers, and sauté over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add snow peas and sauté 3-5 minutes more. Add chicken and heat quickly.
Stir in Parmesan cheese and almonds. Toss pasta with chicken mixture and serve immediately.
Serves 4-6.

BISQUICK DROP BISCUITS
When I was young, my mother used to let me stir together the batter for these and help drop them on the baking sheet. It’s easy and fun!

INGREDIENTS:
2-1/4 cups Bisquick mix
2/3 cup milk

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Stir ingredients together until soft dough forms. Drop by spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Makes 9 biscuits.

FAMILY-SIZE CHEESE-GARLIC BISCUITS:
Make drop biscuits, except decrease Bisquick to 2 cups and add 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese. Mix 2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted, and 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder. Brush over warm biscuits.

CHEESY EGGS IN THE HOLE WITH BACON                                                                                       Kids can use their favorite cookie cutter shapes to help make this breakfast.

INGREDIENTS:
4 slices bacon
1 tablespoon butter
4 half-inch thick bread slices
4 large eggs
4 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the bacon until crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, drain bacon on paper towels; crumble when cooled.
Add the butter to the hot pan to melt with the bacon fat; set aside.
Cut a piece from the center of each slice of bread with 2-1/2-inch round or decorative cookie cutter (star, flower, heart). Brush slices and cutouts with the butter-bacon fat mixture, transfer to a plate.
Toast 2 slices of bread and 2 cutouts in the skillet over medium heat until browned on one side, about 1 minute. Crack an egg into each hole. Sprinkle each toast with 1 tablespoon Parmesan; cook 2 minutes. Flip slices and cutouts, season with salt and pepper and cook 2 minutes for a runny yolk or slightly longer for a set egg. Repeat with the remaining bread slices, cutouts, eggs and Parmesan.
Transfer each egg-in-the-hole to a plate and sprinkle with crumbled bacon. Serve with the toasted cutouts, for dipping in the yolk.

 

Lori Mork of Lowry is a mother, grandmother and dabbler in all things food, photography and decor related.

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Don’t leave wine out of BBQ

Ditch the beer bottle for a glass of bubbly, white or red wine

By Al Edenloff

chardonnay86528094Ahh, spring. Time to fire up the grill, get some friends together and enjoy some … wine.
Yes, wine.
Ice-cold beer and BBQ is, of course, the more popular option, but why not try something new this spring and give wine a pour?
Wine is a natural fit for the smoky, sweet barbecued meats and also pairs deliciously with grilled veggies.
The goal is to match the characteristics of the wine with the food by having them complement one another – same weight, same intensity of flavors, such as sweet to sweet – or contrast each other, such as salty and sweet or sweet and spicy.
Concentrate more on the rubs, glazes and sauces you are using instead of the meat.
Another tip to consider is temperature. As a rule of thumb, most white wines should be served between 40 to 50 degrees. Bring a bucket of ice and water out to your deck to keep the bottle chilled.
Although chilling reds is often a no-no, they shouldn’t be served at 70 degrees or warmer either. Give them a quick chill in the fridge, less than 20 minutes, to get the temperature down to 60 to 65 degrees.
Remember, this is a casual setting – outside on a deck or a lawn – so don’t obsess over matching every element in your food with every nuance in your wine.
Instead, just kick back, relax, swirl, sip and give a toast to spring.

GRILLED FOOD IDEAS WINE PAIRING
Brisket cabernet
Pulled pork sliders Cotes-du-Rhone or zinfandel
Ribs champagne (try one from Mumm Napa) or white pinot gris
Grilled fish sauvignon blanc or dry rose
Tuna or other fatty fish buttery chardonnay
Hamburgers or steak red wine (Calif. cabernet or Bordeau)
Spicy recipes zinfandel, Australian shiraz or Argentine malbec
Grilled veggies white chablis or riesling, dry roses or light red pinot noir

Al Edenloff of Alexandria and his wife, Celeste, were married in the heart of California wine country and enjoy sipping wine on their weekend date nights.

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Make meals fun

By Amanda Heffner

ThinkstockPhotos-87625736fadeOver the past 40 years, Americans have become more and more accustomed to eating foods prepared away from home.
The troubling reality is that foods made away from home are often poor in diet quality and much higher in calories when compared to foods prepared at home. In fact, research shows that the consumption of just one meal made away from home each week can contribute to an average of two pounds gained per year! Learning to cook meals at home with the family can help prevent weight gain and allow the family to work together to make meals more fun.

Make cooking an event
If you have little ones at home, encourage them to help you prepare dinner. This is a great way to introduce new foods to the family. When children help prepare new and different foods, they are usually more willing to taste them. This will also help them learn about nutrition and healthy eating.
Instead of meeting friends at dinner, host a potluck. Tell your friends to each bring their favorite, healthy dish! This will help you cut calories and you might even try a dish that you never thought of.
Do your prep
I often hear people say that cooking at home is “too much work.” Here are a few tips to help you get started. Do your prep ahead of time. Chop salad and/or stir-fry ingredients the night before so when you get home from work the next day, all you need to do is put the pieces together. Try frozen fruits and vegetables to help cut prep time in half. Some frozen vegetables are so convenient that you can steam them in their microwaveable bag and, voilà, your vegetables are ready to eat in 5 minutes or less.

Experiment with foods
The best part about cooking meals at home is that you are in the driver’s seat. You have full control over the ingredients, portion sizes, calories, and nutrition quality of your foods. When making meals at home, experiment with new and different flavors. For example, my family loves Parmesan cheese sprinkled over their cooked green beans. We also love to use fresh lemon when cooking chicken and fish.

Have fun.
Make meals exciting. For example, if it’s Cinco de Mayo, try making a Mexican-themed meal and even play Mexican music while cooking to get your family excited about dinner. My favorite Mexican dish is shredded chicken tacos.

EASY SHREDDED CHICKEN TACOS

Ingredients:
4 chicken breasts, thawed
6 oz. can tomato paste
1 cup water
8-10, 6” corn tortillas
Toppings of your choice*

Directions:
Place 4 thawed chicken breasts in a crockpot with a 6 oz. can of tomato paste and 1 cup of water. Cook on low for 4-6 hours. Using a food thermometer, make sure chicken is cooked to 165°F. Once cooked, shred chicken and serve over a warmed corn tortilla. Add salt and pepper to taste. Recipe makes 8 to 10 tacos. Refrigerate leftovers for up to 4 days.
*Tip: Add your family’s favorite taco toppings (e.g.: low-fat sour cream, cheese, avocado, shredded lettuce, salsa, etc.)

Nutrition per 1 Taco:
175 calories, 5 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 75 mg sodium, 15 g carbohydrate, 2 g dietary fiber, 2 g sugar, 18 g protein

Amanda Heffner is the registered dietitian at Elden’s Fresh Foods in Alexandria.

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Fashion trends for spring 2015

By Denise Drown

lace white faded -81271364Spring is in the air! Time for a fresh look to celebrate. Fashions have a decidedly feminine flair this season, with sheer fabrics showing up in soft chiffon layers of violet, pink and mint. Pair with a moto-type jacket in leather or denim to keep the look sophisticated. Another way to wear pastels is to pair them with navy, spring’s softer alternative to black.
Lace, crochet and fringe are all showing up in a big way. Chic is back! Fringe trim on tops and jackets, crochet pants and details are all reminiscent of decades gone by. They look modern reinterpreted in the newest neutral shades of cream, hazelnut and buttery yellow. Maxi skirts and fringe trimmed tops are a fun way to try this trend.
Bold graphics are always stylish and this spring’s versions are no exception. Look for black and white with hits of bright blue, red or sunny yellow for a pop of color.
Tunics paired with leggings continue their popularity. Asymmetrical hemlines and graceful, flowing styles lead the way.
Dresses and skirts show up for apring in easy to wear styles and lengths. Skirts can be mini, maxi, or any look in between. A maxi skirt worn with a fitted top and sandals will give you a polished look suitable for many occasions.
While narrow pants still rule by day, evenings are seeing a return of soft, flowing pants. Many feature a patterned silky finish.
This season’s hottest colors translate well to accessories. Try a tangerine purse or sandal for an easy way to try out a color trend. Another great way to add color is with statement jewelry. The bolder the better whether you choose a chunky necklace or a belt with sparkle and bling.
This spring, there is a style for everyone – bold and bright or pastel and soft. You are sure to find a look you love!

Denise is a sales associate at Bon Jos in Alexandria.  She enjoys helping customers look their best.

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