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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Quick and easy appetizers

By Lori Mork

Whether you use these treats as appetizers at your next holiday gathering, or for a quick snack, using wonton wrappers makes quick work of theses treats.

SPANAKOPITA BITES

INGREDIENTS:
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped fine
3 green onions, chopped fine
10 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
4-6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1 cup cottage cheese, ricotta cheese or cream cheese
1 egg
Salt and pepper, to taste
Wonton wrappers
INSTRUCTIONS:
Heat 1 Tbsp of oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Add white and green chopped onions; cook until softened, 3-4 minutes.
Mix spinach, feta cheese, cottage cheese and egg in bowl. Add cooked onions and season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Place wonton wrappers in a mini-muffin tin, easing to fit.
Add spinach mixture. Bake at 425 for 8 minutes or until filling is baked fully and wrappers are brown.

FULLY LOADED TACO BITES
(Above)

INGREDIENTS:
1 pkg. wonton wrappers
1 lb. ground beef or turkey
Taco seasoning packet
Shredded cheddar cheese
OPTIONAL:
Black beans
Shredded cheese (extra)
Finely shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, diced green onions, sour cream and sliced olives

INSTRUCTIONS:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place wonton wrappers in a mini-muffin tin, easing to fit.
Brown ground beef or turkey. Add seasoning packet and cook as directed. (I’ve also used the pre-made taco mix from Chi-Chi’s in the refrigeration section.)
Using a tablespoon, fill wonton wrappers with one scoop each and sprinkle lightly with cheese.
Bake in oven for approximately 8 minutes, or until cheese is melted and wrappers are browned.
Remove from the oven and sprinkle with your favorite toppings.
Serve while warm or cold.
Makes approx. 42 taco bites.

MINI BACON PINWHEELS

INGREDIENTS:
1-pound loaf of firm white sandwich bread
2 8-oz. pkgs. cream cheese, softened
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. dried parsley flakes
1/8 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
1 lb. smoked bacon

INSTRUCTIONS:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.. Grease cookie sheet and set aside.
Cut the crusts off bread slices, then cut each piece into three equal rectangles.
In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese, garlic powder, parsley, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Spread an even, thin layer of the cream cheese mixture on each bread rectangle, and roll it up, starting with the short side.
Cut each slice of bacon in half crosswise, and wrap a half slice of bacon around each of the bread rolls. Secure the rolls with toothpicks and arrange on prepared baking sheet.
Bake until the bacon is crisp, 8-11 minutes.
To freeze ahead, prepare rolls, then freeze in single layer on cookie sheet without baking them. Store in freezer for up to three months. Store in single layer in freezer containers, separating layers with waxed paper. Bake at 375 degrees for 11-16 minutes until hot and browned.
Cranberry pecan pie crust cutouts

INGREDIENTS:
1 (15-ounce) package refrigerated pie crusts
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans, toasted
1/2 cup finely chopped dried cranberries

INSTRUCTIONS:
Unfold each pie crust, and press out fold lines. Sprinkle one pie crust with pecans and cranberries; top with remaining piecrust. Roll into a 14-inch circle, sealing together pie crusts. Cut into desired shapes with a 2- to 3-inch cutter. Place pastry shapes on a lightly greased baking sheet.
You can also re-roll any scraps and cut out shapes, although the cranberries and pecans won’t be in the middle.
Bake at 425 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden.

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More great reads!

Killing Lincoln
by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard

Killing Lincoln tells of the time leading up to the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln and events after. The reader experiences the end of the Civil War with details and insights not shared in history classes. The book details the events of the time and the relationships and feelings of those involved. You get a sense of not only how Lincoln felt, but also the feelings of his assassin, John Wilkes Booth. The journeys of both men include details that bring their motivations and emotions to life. O’Reilly provides sources for his narrative, which gives a sense of the reality of this drama. The book addresses the conspiracy theories surrounding Lincoln’s death and considers the validity of speculations about key players in his assassination.
I really enjoyed the book. I was brought into the story almost as a citizen of the time, and the details made me feel as though I was there watching the events unfold.

Diann Drew of Alexandria is a wife, the mother of two girls and business manager at the Echo Press.

South of Broad by Pat Conroy

Pat Conroy, well known author of Prince of Tides and The Great Santini, writes this dark story of love, friendship and tragedy.
Leopold Bloom King, a teenager in Charleston, South Carolina, narrates this story beginning with family dynamics that include a loving father, strict mother and the shattered effects of their family due to the suicide of his older brother.
Leo develops friendships with other outliers at his school. This tight-knit group of friends find themselves submerged in drama that spans two decades and takes them from Charleston to San Francisco, while facing issues of racisim, class division and the dawn of the AIDS virus.
The bond of friendship, through dark and difficult circumstances, was one of my favorite elements in this story. While the friends do not always agree or get along, they come through for each other at critical times. It is not a light read, but one that is compelling and difficult to put down once you’ve begun.

Julie Critz is the director of teaching and learning for the Alexandria School District and mother of two girls who also love to read.

The Catcher in the Rye
by J. D. Salinger

This quintessential coming-of-age novel shows 16-year-old protagonist Holden Caulfield as an icon of teenage rebellion, angst and alienation. Holden tells readers about interactions with roommates, teachers, strangers, dates and family. Deeming everyone other than children as phonies, he struggles with identity and a sense of belonging.
While the vulgar language and sexual references may be off-putting to some, the realness in Holden’s character captivated me. Anyone can relate to parts of his character, specifically in the way we are all trying to find our place in the world and among family and peers.
In simple terms, Salinger uses Holden as an outlet to say what everyone is thinking. I’ve read the book more than a dozen times. It is absolutely a book everyone should read in their lifetime.

Annie Harman of Alexandria is a free-spirited writer who believes in dreams, laughing and champagne.

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New trends for the 2014 holidays

By Lori Schultz

Do the words “new trends” or “trendy” make you nervous? Are you afraid to invest in new, trendy items, only to have them be “out” next year? Here is my advice: If you are seeing these new looks in the furniture stores, then you know the trend is going to be around for a while. Get in on the new looks by buying things that go with what you already have. For instance: burlap is hot and it goes with almost everything! Also, chevron is the new trend. Pick a chevron pattern in colors that go with what you already own.
Burlap is back, and this year I am pairing it with the shabby chic look from the 80s. Pull out all that fun stuff that you tucked in your attic or basement. Even drag out those old window panes, the more distressed the better. They look nostalgic leaning on the fireplace mantel!
Ah, how words can totally change how we perceive things. Not too many years ago, I would have called old window panes yucky. Now we call old things distressed and I love them! Adding burlap to shabby chic gives it a modern, trendy look. Add some of the new angels shown here. As soon as I saw these angels, it brought me right back to the gunny sack dresses from the 80s. Remember those? Adorable!
Chevron is hot! Do you know what chevron is? Think of Charlie Brown’s shirt – that zig-zag look. You are seeing it in clothing, scarves, ribbon, dishes and even furniture. Now it is making its way into Christmas. I have a vignette beautifully decorated in red and white chevron and crystals. Iced branches and red berries are always popular, and I have blended them into this décor for a winter wonderland look. Using red and white chevron will always go with any of your Christmas decorations.

Lori Schultz is the owner of Anderson Florist, Garden Center and Greenhouse in Alexandria.

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Take a walk on the dark side of wine

‘Midnight’ and ‘black’ blends offer bold, sensual characteristics

By Al Edenloff

Here’s a way to sip through those long, darkened days of fall and winter: Try a “black” or “midnight” wine. These bold, dark blends of red wine, touted as seasonal or limited releases, are popping up more in local wine stores these days, and at affordable prices.
Popular labels include Apothic Black, Ménage à Trois Midnight and Gnarly Head Authentic Black.
Dark and inky, these wines are perfect for those who enjoy concentrated black fruit accents, a powerful, lingering finish with hints of mocha, and richer, bolder flavors that blend cabernet, petite syrah, petit verdot, teroldego, merlot or other variations.
The wineries that produce them emphasize the unique “seductive” characteristics of these velvety wines.
Here’s one of their descriptions: “At Ménage à Trois, we’re not shy or inhibited; in fact, we’re known for creating wines that are bold and sensual – even a tad risqué. Midnight represents the dark side of Ménage à Trois – it’s our most intense expression yet, a passionate blend bursting with dusky aromas, an extraordinarily deep color, and rich, ripe black fruit.”
An added appeal of these seasonal blends is that they can stand up to the heartiest of dishes, whether it’s spicy pasta, pizza or a big bowl of chili.
So as fall settles in, consider picking up a bottle of these unique blends. Don’t be afraid of the dark.

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 your photos stand out this Christmas

By Lori Mork

Christmas is one of the best photo opportunities of the year, so make it one to remember with some of these tips:

1. Skip the flash
Turning off your camera’s flash brings out the warmth in your photos. Use as much natural light as possible, and if you need to lower your shutter speed, balance your camera on a tripod or even the back of a chair to eliminate the blur.

2. Make it candid!
Instead of photos with everyone lined up and posing, make your photos tell a story. For example, snap a photo of your child’s first reaction to the Christmas tree, or click a few when he’s ripping open a package, fists full of wrapping paper, hair mussed and still in his pajamas.

3. Find a new angle
Try finding a new vantage point for some of your photos – maybe lying on the floor or, while you’re standing below, shoot smiling faces peering down from the top of the stairs.

4. Christmas lights are wonderful photos
Twinkling lights are the mainstay of the holidays, but don’t wait until it’s too dark. The best time for outdoor lights is right at sundown, when there is still some light in the sky. Indoor photos are best if you turn off all the other lights in the room.
For a unique shot, get close and shoot from just a few feet away, or move your camera while shooting, giving you a beautiful, blurred photo.

5. Shoot off center
Another perspective is to take your photos with the main subject off center. Think of your camera’s viewfinder in thirds and anchor your subject in one of the outside thirds. You can also crop your photos creatively later.

6. Zoom in
Don’t make the common mistake of trying to fill the frame with every single thing. It’s not fun later on to realize you also included the dirty dishes or empty cardboard boxes.

8. Don’t just go for the obvious
Zoom in on a child’s face as they open a gift. The look might be worth far more than a photo of the gift. How about a close-up photo of an ornament on the tree, a plate of cookies hot out of the oven or your toddler having a tantrum? These are all part of the festivities!

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Naught nog

By Crystal Dey

Ah, the holidays. When spices spice up kitchens and cups of cheer are cheered.
Eggnog was once a favorite of European aristocracy. The sweet milky nectar migrated into common folks’ mugs in North America in the 1700s.
Although the spicy notes of nutmeg make the drink smell delightful, to some the thought of downing a glass of raw eggs, no matter how pretty it looks, is not appetizing.
This holiday season, try a cup of Naught Nog. Pumpkin pie and egg(less) nog have blended into a frothy festive nectar all ages can enjoy –­ even those expecting the next generation.
Naught Nog uses pudding in place of the raw egg usually called for in eggnog recipes so it’s safe for pregnant women who would otherwise have to abstain from the holiday drink.

6 cups milk
1 pkg. instant vanilla pudding
(4 serving size)
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp. confectioners sugar
4 tsp. rum extract
1 tsp. ground nutmeg

Combine milk and pudding mix in a punch bowl, mix well. Add rum extract and 3/4 teaspoon nutmeg. The remaining 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg will be used for garnish. Set mixture aside.
Beat heavy cream, pumpkin puree and confectioners sugar until stiff peaks form. Mix half of whipped cream mixture into milk mixture until blended.
Pour finished nog into mugs (serves 6) and dollop with remaining whipped cream. Sprinkle nutmeg on top.

For an extra creamy drink, add more whipped cream. Serve immediately as the mixture will stiffen with time. If preparing ahead for a party, add a little milk to the mixture just before serving.

Crystal Dey is a reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. She    enjoys converting cocktails to mocktails and concocting non-alcoholic drink recipes that people of all ages can savor.

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Money saving tips for a debt-free Christmas

By Lori Mork

With Christmas just around the corner, it’s time to get shopping! But how do you spread good cheer and still refrain from going in debt?
Here are a few budgeting tips to guide you through the season:

1Set your budget. How do you begin to make a budget? Look at your spending from last year’s holiday season. Were there areas where you spent more than you expected?
Make a list of the purchases and events you plan to spend money on and consider all major spending areas, such as gifts, entertainment, meals and travel. Estimate how much you think you can afford to spend in each category, and set a spending limit for each person on your gift list.
Having an idea of your spending goals before you begin will help you stay on track financially.

2Get creative. Store-bought gifts are nice, but homemade gifts are often more meaningful and many truly appreciate your time and effort.
3 Join together. Instead of excessively spending money on each other this year, join together with family members to help those who may be less fortunate.

4Travel wisely. If you plan on traveling, take some time to determine how much it will cost you.

5Entertain for less. Holidays are a wonderful time to entertain, but a little planning and budgeting can help you avoid financial headaches.

6Use debit instead of credit cards. A debit card automatically forces you to spend only what you have and allows you to avoid paying interest. Leave the credit cards at home.

7Pre-shop. Do some research before heading to stores. Call around or go online to find better deals. Try to consolidate to a few stores to cut down on transportation costs.

8 Free gift wrap. If the store you are shopping in has a free gift-wrapping service, take advantage of it. You can save so much money by not buying fancy gift-wrap.
9Beat the season. Start your Christmas shopping in the off-season or right after the holidays have come and gone. Keep an alert eye open for bargains, sales, and discounts throughout the year and load up when you see that perfect gift at the perfect price.
10 Use coupons. While checking the local paper is still advantageous when it comes to finding store discounts, sales, and coupons, the range of coupons available online is almost endless. By way of specialized coupon websites or through store sites themselves, always check for the latest coupons before you buy.

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A wreath made with love

By Courtney Bitzan

Make a memorable keepsake with your child this holiday season in just six simple steps! Gather the materials and enjoy making this holiday wreath together.

Supplies:
• A piece of white felt approximately 14 inches by 14 inches
• A wooden rod, 16-18” long
• A 2 foot long piece of red yarn or paracord
• Green paint
• 9 small red pompoms
• A red bow
• Hot glue

Directions:

1. Fold approximately 1 inch of felt over the wooden rod and glue it together.

2. Knot the red yarn or paracord on one end of the wooden rod, and then again on the other side to form a hanging device.

3. Next, have your child place one of his or her hands palm side down in green paint and then make a print on the felt. Continue doing this in a circular pattern.

4. Wait for the paint to dry and attach the red bow at the top of the wreath with hot glue.

5. Next, attach the pompoms onto the wreath in groups of three to symbolize holly. Secure with hot glue.

6. Optional: write your child’s name on the bottom and date it for a meaningful remembrance.

Courtney Bitzan of Farwell is an 18-year-old student, part-time writer and adventure enthusiast.

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Gratitude

By Dr. Pete Pfeffer

There are pumpkins, cornucopias and symbols of harvest everywhere. It is the time of year when happiness comes easy and we naturally count our blessings.
Last issue, I wrote about meditation and mindfulness. These are easily linked to gratitude, and we are on the doorstep of the holiday season, a definite time of gratitude.
Humans are predisposed to noticing their surroundings. This skill helped primitive people survive. It tends to tip us toward what is not…versus what is, and what is good. It can require concentration to recall our homes and disposable income make us some of the richest people in the world.
Forgetting our blessings is not common now, but as winter sets in, it takes deliberate steps to preserve the good cheer that flows so naturally now. These steps help to avoid the melancholy that can accompany the darkest and coldest portion of our year and positively impacts our health and well-being.
A simple step I use personally is the think and thank exercise. Beginning this exercise during the season of good cheer builds plenty of momentum to help this habit continue through the year.
The exercise consists of counting my blessings first thing in the morning. The moment I awaken, before I move or rise from my bed, I think about the people, experiences and things that have blessed me. The list is long and instantly focuses my mind on what I have…not what has yet to occur. My mind has not fully switched from its sleep pattern and my subconscious is still impressionable.
Counting your blessings, saying affirmations and reviewing goals no matter how wild, is effective in the morning because our daytime “survival mind” has not clicked on yet. This positive first step sets the tone for the day, and day after day sets the tone for the week, then months.

Another reminder I use comes from a mentor and coach of mine:
“And the place to start with is gratitude…loving ourselves and our families, loving life, loving and trusting God, and creating a vibration of thankfulness that is so potent that nothing can dislodge it…enjoy and be grateful for every bit of your life. All you have to work with is this moment…realize how fortunate you are to have it in the first place, and then use it well.” Dennis Perman, 2007.

Peter Pfeffer is a doctor of chiropractic with HealthSource Chiropractic and Progressive Rehab in Alexandria.

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Homemade coffee creamer

By Lori Mork

If you enjoy flavored creamers in your coffee each morning, then these recipes are for you! Make your own and try a variety without having to purchase big bottles of each one.
Each creamer begins with this base.
Base:
14 ounces Sweetened Condensed Milk
1-3/4 Cup Milk or Cream (whole, lowfat, skim, almond, soy, heavy cream, half & half, etc. The more fat, however, the creamier it will be.)

French Vanilla
2 tsp. vanilla extract or vanilla coffee syrup

Vanilla Bean
2 tsp. vanilla bean paste

Chocolate
2-3 Tbsp. chocolate syrup
(1 tsp vanilla extract, optional)

Chocolate Almond
1 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1 tsp. almond extract

 

 

Strudel
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract

Vanilla Caramel
2 Tbsp. caramel ice cream topping
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Chocolate Raspberry
2 tsp. cocoa powder
2 Tbsp. raspberry syrup

Irish Cream
2 Tbsp. chocolate syrup
1 tsp. instant coffee
1-2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract

Coconut
2 tsp. coconut extract

Samoa
(like the Girl Scout Cookies)
2 tsp. coconut extract (or sub coconut milk or cream of coconut, heated and strained, for the milk/cream)
2 Tbsp. chocolate syrup
2 Tbsp. caramel ice cream topping

Peppermint Patty
2 Tbsp. chocolate syrup
1 tsp. peppermint extract

Cinnamon Vanilla
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Pumpkin Spice
3 Tbsp. pureed pumpkin
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
4 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Honey Vanilla
1/4 cup honey
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Almond Joy
1-2 tsp. coconut extract (or sub coconut milk or cream of coconut if you heat it first, strained, in place of the milk and extract)
1 tsp. almond extract
2 Tbsp. chocolate syrup
Sweet Cream
Use 1 3/4 cups of heavy cream instead of the milk in the base recipe
2 tsp. vanilla extract or the inside of a vanilla bean, scraped
1 tsp. almond extract

Chocolate Orange
2 Tbsp. chocolate syrup
1-2 tsp. orange extract

Hazelnut
2 tsp. hazelnut extract

Chocolate Hazelnut
2 Tbsp. chocolate syrup
2 tsp. hazelnut extract

Cinnamon Cake
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Salted Caramel
2-3 Tbsp. caramel ice cream topping
1/2 tsp. salt

Eggnog
Replace milk in base recipe with equal amount of heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. rum extract
1 tsp. ground nutmeg

Directions and Tips:
For those who want or need a sugar-free option, these recipes can be made with homemade sweetened condensed milk with a sugar substitute.
In all these recipes, anything that has a dry or thick ingredient (like cinnamon, honey, etc.) should be heated up with a small amount of your milk/cream from the base recipe so it can dissolve properly. It keeps the creamer from becoming grainy. Then, add the rest of the milk/cream along with the sweetened condensed milk.
If you want really creamy creamer, use heavy cream instead of milk in your base recipe.
Label Mason jar lid with the expiration date from the milk you used as a guideline to when the creamer should be used by.

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