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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Pinterest inspired!

IMG_9576adjustBy Karla Mikkelson

1. Type a verse or find one online and print it out on paper.
2. Enlarge it on copier to the size you prefer.
3. Score each letter with an exacto or utility knife. (Cut out top and bottom of each letter so your letters line up perfectly.)
4. Use chalk to mark letters through the holes cut in your template onto a colorful painted canvas done with leftover wall paints.
5. Use a small stiff brush and the paint of your choice to connect your chalk markings, completing your design. (I used an acrylic paint.)
The fastest-growing standalone website in history, Pinterest, is a virtual scrapbook that allows people to keep “boards” of their favorite ideas through photographs linked to websites on which the ideas were found.

Karla Mikkelson is a graphic artist and jewelry designer in Alexandria.

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Camping fun

camp mallow ThinkstockPhotos-78288648By Jessica Sly

Have you ever gone camping and experienced that lull where the kids are twitching in boredom and all the parents want to do is nap, and you’re faced with the question, “Now what should we do?”
Look no further! Camping offers plenty of activities for families to enjoy. They just take a little effort to get ‘em going. Here are some ideas:

Lawn games: Soak up some sun and have some fun with your favorite games. It can be anything, such as golf shoe/ladder golf, bocce ball, bean bag toss, kubb and more.

Make it a tournament: Why not up the ante with these lawn games? Pit boys against girls or kids against parents. If the kids win, the parents buy ice cream. If the parents win, the kids give them a foot rub!

Collaborate on lunch: Light a fire and get everyone involved in the cooking. Make some pizza pockets or wrap vegetables and potatoes in aluminum foil. Your kids will take pride in knowing they helped make the meal.

Take a bike ride/go for a walk: Get out and move around by exploring the campground. If you didn’t bring a bike, then take a walk or go for a jog. You never know what you’re going to find.

Check out the amenities: Many times, campgrounds will have activities such as shuffleboard, horseshoes, mini golf, a swimming pool or a beach. You might even find a gift shop.

Go for a swim: Speaking of pools and beaches, many campgrounds are situated on a lake or have a pool for all to use. Fend off summer heat by taking a quick dip.

The classic campfire: As the sun starts to set, light that wood ablaze and cook your dinner or some s’mores for dessert. Or simply enjoy the heat and crackle of the fire and converse with your family.

Rain got you down? Stay cozy in your tent or camper by reading a book, taking a nap or playing a board or card game. If you brought a TV, watch a family movie while you eat some more s’mores.

Bring a friend: Some of the best camping is when you and your friends camp side-by-side. Let your kids bring a friend or invite another family to camp in the site next to you for twice the fun.

Jessica Sly of Alexandria is a writer/proofreader and has a passion for art of all kinds, whether it be music, writing, drawing or Disney.

Posted in Busy Momz, Eventz & Entertainment, family, Health & Fitness, Holiday, Vacation, Vacations | Leave a comment

Stay safe outdoors

ThinkstockPhotos-87637938flat2By Dr. Kristen Haabala

Summer is a great season to get outdoors and spend time doing all of the healthy activities you enjoy with family and friends. The benefits of fresh air, sunshine, exercise and time spent in nature are extremely revitalizing for your health! Unfortunately, time spent outdoors also increases risk for skin irritation that can be caused by overexposure to the elements and of course from the Minnesota state bird – the mosquito.
To protect our skin from these summer elements, we often increase our use of personal care products like lotions, sunscreen, and bug spray. But be cautious of these products as many of them contain chemicals that can be very harmful to your health and can actually harm the environment that we have been waiting all winter to enjoy. Studies done on many of these chemicals show that when applied to our skin, they can not only harm our skin directly, but they can also actually be absorbed into our bloodstream and can increase our risk of hormone disruption, immune dysfunction and even cancer!
Finding a safe product to use for you and your family can be confusing, especially since there are currently no restrictions on putting harmful chemicals into personal care products. Companies are also not currently required to even list all of the ingredients in their product, so something labeled as ‘Natural’ may be far from. To find out if your products have any risky chemicals, you can check the list of ingredients or the product name on the Environmental Working Group website under its Skin Deep Cosmetic Shopping guide. (www.ewg.org/skindeep). There is even a handy app available for smart phones to scan products when shopping to help you make an educated decision.
For your upcoming gatherings, vacations, and camping trips, try to bring supplies that will be safe for Mother Nature as well as the health of your loved ones. Aim to replace your personal care products with natural alternatives, not only in the summer, but all year long. Try to find products with an ingredient list you can actually read and feel confident using. Personal care products made with natural ingredients can not only protect your skin from the elements, but can also nourish your skin with naturally occurring vitamins, oils and herbal ingredients. Don’t forget about your children and furry friends either as their delicate skin is extra sensitive to chemical exposure.
Here’s to a healthy, fun-filled summer for you and your family!

To find out if your products have any risky chemicals you can check the list of ingredients or the product name on the Environmental Working Group website under its Skin Deep Cosmetic Shopping guide: www.ewg.org/skindeep.
There is even a handy app available for smart phones to scan products when shopping to help you make an educated decision.

Dr. Kristen Haabala is a Naturopathic Physician at Midwest Natural Medicine in Alexandria and is the founder of Raw Natural Products..

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As seen on TV: Micro S’mores

micro smoresBy Jamie Kakach

Micro S’mores

Claim: S’mores in 10 seconds!

Grade: B+

Do you love making s’mores but are lacking a campfire? Well, the Micro S’mores is the product for you! The instructions couldn’t be easier. Construct your s’mores the typical way: graham cracker, chocolate, marshmallow and graham cracker, place the plastic plunger on top to keep the s’mores in place. Next put it in the microwave for 10 seconds – then BAM! A perfectly cooked s’more! I found that 7 seconds was the perfect time for cooking in my microwave (10 seconds the marshmallow got a little too gooey), so you might have to play around with it. The product is even dishwasher safe – so clean up is a breeze. While the Micro S’mores was fun and easy … nothing can compare to an “old fashioned” s’mores-making around the fire with family and friends.

Jamie Kakach loves making crafts and trying out new products. She lives in Alexandria with her husband, Brian.

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Mommy & Me crafts

binocsBy Melanie Danner

Cool-off Sponge Necklace (Pinterest)
Dry sponges cut into 1/2” squares (any small shape will do)
Embroidery needle
25” of .5mm Stretch Magic cord

1. Cut sponges into 1/2 inch squares.
2. Cut and thread a needle onto a 25” length of the Stretch Magic cord.
3. Thread squares onto cord.
4. Knot ends together.
5. Wet and freeze for about 30 minutes

Cardboard Tube
Binoculars (Pinterest)
2 cardboard bathroom tissue tubes
1 sheet felt/fabric
White craft glue/glue gun
Craft foam to match your felt/fabric (with adhesive is great!)
40” piece of twine or yarn

1. Roll up the cardboard tube inside the felt/fabric, gluing as you go. Trim off the excess. Repeat for the other tube.
2. Glue 3/4” foam strip on each end of the tubes.
3. Glue tubes together. You can support with rubber bands if needed.
4. Poke a hole on the outside of each tube about 1/2 inch beyond the foam.
5. String twine/yarn through holes and tie.

Melanie Danner of Alexandria is an at-home mother and craft lover.

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Get color!

medwt10014By Karina Mork

Looking for a way to add a little color and curb appeal to your home with minimal investment? We recommend painting your front door. It is the perfect DIY project that will give you a big impact, with little time and cost. And it’s so easy, anyone can do it!
Choosing Your Color: Start by thinking about the colors you already have on the outside of your house including your siding, shutters, shingles and even flowers. Also think about the colors you use throughout your home. Remember, you want the color to stand out and showcase your personal style. It should provide guests a sneak peek at what they might expect to see inside.
Before You Paint: Before any painting project, you always want to make sure your surface is clean. Any chipping or peeling paint should be scraped off or removed. You also want to remove any dirt from the surface with a little dish soap and water, followed by a clean water rinse.
Painting Your Door: We typically recommend two coats of paint for a front door, allowing the first coat to fully dry before applying the second. You also want to paint on a mild day. Temperatures above 75 degrees or rainy, damp weather can interfere with your paint drying and curing correctly.
Most people choose to keep it simple with a single color on their door, but you can get as creative as you want by incorporating texture, layered colors or even stenciling if you truly want to make a statement. But most importantly, have fun and relax! You will be amazed at how simple, yet stunning a painted door can be.

Karina Mork is the owner of MECO7 in Glenwood and offers custom framing, home décor and gifts along with being a stockist for Chalk Paint® by Annie Sloan.

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Great reads

Mrs Kennedy and meBy Kathleen Pohlig

I recently read a non-fiction book as fascinating as any good novel. Mrs. Kennedy and Me is Clint Hill’s story of his years as the Secret Service agent assigned to Jackie Kennedy. It begins immediately following John Kennedy’s election to the presidency and continues for a year beyond his assassination. People of my age remember those times well but there was certainly a lot of behind the scenes information included in Hill’s writing that was never in the news.
Jacqueline Kennedy was an intriguing personality, one who entered the national and world spotlight as a very young woman and handled her celebrity with grace. As a young mother, she wanted to protect her children from too much public attention and try to raise them in as normal a situation as she could manage. Of course, as we read about her life, we see that a “normal” life to her was pretty far removed from what most of us might experience. Even so, I gained a new understanding and appreciation for what she had to go through and a far better insight into the kind of woman she was.
Clint Hill was not pleased when he was informed that his new assignment was to protect the new, young and glamorous First Lady. He had previously been assigned to President Eisenhower and felt his new job was a demotion and couldn’t possibly be as important or exciting. He gradually became very close to Mrs. Kennedy; the job and subsequent events that he went through with her completely changed his life. Sometimes I felt frustrated while reading because I wanted certain questions answered or I felt that the writing wasn’t perfect or was sometimes repetitive, but overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and wanted to go on reading more about Jackie’s life when I was finished. The book is described as “An enthralling, tragic, and intensely private portrayal of the captivating First Lady from a man who knew her like no one else.” Hill wrote the book with the help of journalist Lisa McCubbin. It earned many great reviews; Kirkus Reviews said, “Of the many words written about Jacqueline Kennedy, these are among the best.” I agree and think you will too! Give it a try this summer.

Kathleen Pohlig is owner of Cherry Street Books in Alexandria.

After a Fashion
by Jen Turano

This book, from the Douglas County Library’s “New Book” section, is a quick read.
Set in New York City in 1882, Harriet Peabody is a hat-maker who finds herself in the middle of a business proposition with Oliver Addleshaw. Oliver asks Harriet to pose as his fiancée and from that moment on, chaos and some hilarity along with high society, mystery and romance ensue.
The author’s wit and humor is evident. However, I did find it hard to follow and engage in the story … until becoming completely entranced about halfway through the book.
It was definitely worth the read by the last 100 pages of the 344. I generally read more non-fiction than fiction, and by the end of this book I decided I would check out Jen Turano’s other works. I wanted to read her because she is a new author, wife and mother. She is the author of five books, one of which was one of Booklists’s Top 10 Romances of 2013.

Rachel Barduson lives on Lake Carlos near Alexandria. She engages in Community Education history tours and writes for a few local publications. She loves history and enjoys

The Invention of Wings
by Sue Monk Kidd
The Invention of Wings tells the story of Sarah Grimke, a privileged Southern girl, who receives a 10-year-old slave, Hetty or “Handful,” as a gift on her 11th birthday in pre-Civil War Charleston.
The story follows their lives for 35 years as they both struggle for freedom, Sarah fighting for women’s rights, and Hetty from the ravages of slavery.
I enjoyed this novel and I highly recommend it due to the rich character development and because it is a compelling story that transports the reader back to a tumultuous time in American history.
Sue Monk Kidd is a gifted storyteller who also wrote The Secret Life of Bees.

Trish Conroy is a retired county
librarian who now has plenty of time to read.

reading biographies and historical fiction.

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The Single Chic: Stuck in the first date loop?

pink rose broken  -80621420By Annie Harman

Dating isn’t a new experience; it’s the same experience, over and over and over again.
People have been dating since the beginning of time, and while fashion trends, hairstyles and technology may change, dating rarely does.
I’m not talking the simple logistics of online dating vs. speed dating or calling the next day vs. texting the same night. I’m talking about the actual act of trying to impress someone on a first date to see if there could be any potential for it to grow into more.
During what feels like a job interview, you feel your heart racing and sweat forming. Gosh, I hope I remembered to put on deodorant, you think to yourself. Now you are trying desperately not to be fixated on whether or not you are exuding body odor and trying instead to focus on what exactly your date is currently going on about.
When the date is over and done with, you spend the next two days analyzing every small detail, everything you said, everything your date did or didn’t do. You are certain this is what insanity feels like.
Albert Einstein once defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If you ask me, there can’t be anything more insane than dating. The way I see it is: You go on a first date, you enjoy the date, but you don’t enjoy the date enough to put in any real effort in seeing if it will progress.
As far as dating in your mid to late 20s goes, that’s usually where the dating ends: Another first date chalked up as a last one. You never talk again, and if you do, it’s awkward and short.
Now it’s time to repeat, as you are infinitely stuck in the first date loop.
I believe that the problem people like me are facing isn’t an actual problem, though, just a huge frustration.
Once you pass the college-age era of your life, dating may feel a lot more difficult, but essentially it is a lot more effective. At this point in your life, you know who you are, you know what you’re looking for, and you know what you deserve. There’s no more searching for yourself and no more wasting time on someone that you feel in your gut isn’t really the person for you. You are past that stage.
The beauty of it, if you wish to call it that, is everyone else in your dating pool is at that point in their life, too. The games have ended and you’re now coming face to face with people after the same exact thing: something real.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that every fish in the sea is a keeper for you; you’re still going to have to throw out your line a couple of times.
So, if you feel you are in dating purgatory, going on endless first dates and zero second ones, don’t sweat it. You may not realize it at the time, but you’re doing it right.

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

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He sez … she sez: “We do this with leftovers…”

AmyAndBrandon_cBy Brandon and Amy Chaffins

Amy: We both have jobs that allow us to stop home for our lunch break during the week. There’s usually just enough time to throw together a sandwich or heat up leftovers and ask each other, “How’s your day going?” We take the dog outside, gobble up our lunch, steal a smooch and away we go back to work. Here’s the catch – the first person home for lunch gets the good leftovers.

Brandon: For almost my entire career, I have not been able to regularly stop home for lunch. I got quite used to a brown bag lunch and the occasional restaurant visit with the fellas on shift. That changed a little over a year ago and I do really enjoy stopping home and seeing my lovely wife for a bit. You all know that leftovers taste better the next day for some reason. I think the flavors meld over time sort of like an aged piece of beef. Mmmmm … Beeeeeeeeffffffff …… sure ain’t a dang bean burger! Yeah, I’m still not over that one!
Amy: My favorite is leftover hotdish. When you’re in the midst of workday hubbub, there’s something blissfully comforting knowing there’s a warm bowl of leftover tuna noodle hotdish waiting to be devoured at home. In my opinion, hotdish makes everything better. However, that tasty dream can be instantly shattered when I get home, open the refrigerator door and … discover … the hotdish … is … gone!!!

Brandon: I would defend myself to say that my wife is a good cook. Nuff said. OK, oK, I do think it’s kinda funny to get the “What the heck?!” reaction when she realizes the planned meal is gonzo.

Amy: I know he secretly sits there, shovels in the hotdish and snickers like an evil cartoon character … because that’s exactly what I do when I get to the leftovers before he gets home for lunch.

Brandon: Yup, guilty. Waa-ah-ah-ah! (That’s my evil cartoon character laugh.)

Amy: Then there are the leftovers I wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot-pole. I’ll leave them in there for days kind of hoping the funky food will jump into the trash on its own, but my husband feels obligated to eat whatever is in there … why is that? I’ve never had qualms about throwing away food – I know, shameful waste, but I just don’t have the “stomach of steel” that hubs has.

Brandon: As far as the stuff that sits in the fridge for a little while – if it doesn’t stink, it’s not fuzzy, if it’s not encased in slime (except for those of you brave souls that eat lutefisk, I always went for the mashed potato and meatball option), what the heck, I’ll eat it. I have also found that a quick rinse under the faucet can cure all sorts of food blemishes. Hmmm …. Still good to eat!

Amy: Why do we do this “steal each other’s” lunch thing? Are we the only ones? I adore this guy, but sometimes I can’t help myself from purposely taking his favorite treat! Is it revenge? Is it sinister? Is it flirtation? Am I a sicko? Regardless, it sure is fun … when I’m the one doing the lunch stealing.

Brandon: I would call it survival of the fittest or the circle of life. I wonder how things would be if we sang Hakuna Matata together sometime? Yeah, I would still eat the leftovers if I beat Amy to them. Waa-ah-ah-ah. Ha, ha, ha, ha!!! Keep the faith, fellas!

Brandon and Amy Chaffins of Alexandria have been married 11 years – long enough to have learned to live with each other’s “quirks.”

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Bugged! Fend off mosquitoes this summer

mosquito Metro_N1109P19006CBy Dr. Carly Erickson

Summer in Minnesota is finally here and that means so are those annoying mosquitoes! But before you reach for that toxic bug spray, try some of these natural recommendations to ward off those irritating insects!

Citronella, as many people know as the main ingredient in most mosquito repellents, is actually a plant. It’s a member of the geranium family. Clipping or crushing the leaves and rubbing them on the skin helps to naturally repel mosquitoes.

Lemon balm, a member of the mint family, is easy to grow and drought resistant. Just break off a leaf and rub on your skin as a repellent.
Marigolds contain Pyrethrum, which helps ward off mosquitoes, nematodes and other animals. They are a very hardy annual plant that is bright and beautiful.
Basil, like the citronella, can be rubbed onto the skin as an insect repellent. Additionally, dried lime basil can be burned to keep those mosquitoes away. It’s perfect for throwing into a bonfire.
Catnip has been found to be 10 times more effective than DEET, a common ingredient in many bug sprays. The leaves can be rubbed on topically. Be careful not to plant in your garden though, as all the

neighborhood cats will roll around on your plants if given the chance!
Rosemary, commonly known as a favorite seasoning, is perfect to have in the garden to keep the bugs away, and as an added bonus, it even attracts butterflies!
Lavender can keep away insects and rabbits. Its oil’s lovely fragrance is even thought to hinder a mosquito’s ability to smell.
Garlic, while eating it won’t repel mosquitoes, planting it in your garden will.

Fill a spray bottle (usually 4-8oz size) with half distilled water and half witch hazel.
Add up to 30-50 drops of various essential oils to desired scent, the more oil you use, the stronger the spray.
Commonly used essential oils for mosquito repellent include: citronella, lemon balm, lavender, rosemary, cinnamon, lemon eucalyptus, basil, thyme, peppermint and/or cedarwood.
Apply spray topically only as needed.
As always, use caution when handling essential oils, particularly around small children and pets. Essential oils are very concentrated liquids and can be hazardous if not used properly!

Carly Erickson of Alexandria is a doctor of naturopathic medicine at the Dynamic Healing Center in Alexandria.

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