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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10 uses for old books

By Lori Mork

It’s always a great idea to donate old, unwanted books to give someone else enjoyment, but there are some that are not usable for reading. Why not try to repurpose them? Here are a few ideas.

1. Turn it into a tablet case. Do you have e-books saved on your tablet? How about giving it a new look. Using a knife, some fabric and glue, you can hollow out a book to make a vintage case for your tablet or e-reader.

2. Make gift tags or cards. Old book pages can be made into little tags or cards. Cut out shapes from the page and card stock, glue them together and the blank side is available for your message.

3. Use as a mini-storage container. Hollow out the interior of a book and use it like a box. Store your treasures there, or even use it as a bank. No one will think to look inside, and you can hide your things in plain sight.

4. Turn a book into a shelf. Mount a book onto your wall to turn it into a shelf. You can then stack more books on top, giving the impression that your books are floating in mid-air.

5. Make a picture frame. Hardcover books can be made into great standing picture frames, and with just some cutting and pasting, you can pair a photo with the front cover of a book that has an appropriate title.

6. Plant some succulents. Hollow out an old book and use it to make a planter for succulents and a great table decoration. This works best with thicker books.

7. Make unique bookmarks. Using the spine of an old book, glue it to heavy cardstock, then roll it down to flatten them together. Let dry and trim around the spine, punch a hole in the top and add a ribbon or tassel.

8. Use for packing filler. Wad up those unusable pages and pack them around items to be mailed. It’s great protection for your special items and it can be recycled later.

9. Lots of books? Build a breakfast bar. Stack as many old textbooks together as you can find to create the base of your bar, then add a piece of wood or glass for the countertop.

10. Utensil holder. Hollow out a book, glue it shut and use it to hold kitchen utensils. Perfect for that old, unusable cookbook.

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Pet perfect: Choose the right one for you

By Jessica Sly

There’s nothing quite like a good pet. They provide companionship, entertainment and a lesson in responsibility.
Here’s an overview of a variety of pets to help you decide which one is right for you.

Diet: Fish flakes or betta pellets; frozen, fresh or freeze-dried brine shrimp.
Lifespan: 2-4 years
The perks: Bettas are beautiful with their flashy fins and can be relaxing to watch. They are hardier than most tropical fish and can survive through a number of circumstances.
The quirks: Bettas are also called Siamese fighting fish, so they don’t cohabitate well with their own kind, especially males. However, they can live quite happily with other small tropical fish.


Diet: Dry and wet protein-rich dog food, such as chicken, salmon or lamb.
Lifespan: 10-12 years (small dog) or 6-8 years (large dog)
The perks: Dogs love you with unconditional love and will be a constant companion so you never feel alone. They are all-around happy creatures and can provide hours of entertainment.
The quirks: Dogs must be house-broken and have to be let out to do their business. They require attention, grooming, walking and must be trained not to bark or chew. They may shed, and vet visits are a must.

Diet: Dry and wet cat food.
Lifespan: 13-17 years
The perks: They are low-maintenance in that they groom themselves, don’t need to go outside for the bathroom and don’t need lots of space. They also love to play and cuddle.
The quirks: Yes, you have to empty the litter box at least once a day. Except for the hairless breed, all cats shed, and they’re independent to the point where they do whatever they want. They can be very active at night and need regular shots.


Diet: Birdseed, pellets, fruits and vegetables, nuts.
Lifespan: 15-20 years
The perks: “Budgies” are very sociable and like being handled. With enough toys, they can entertain themselves quite happily, and they don’t need much maintenance.
The quirks: If allowed to fly around the house, they will make a mess. They need plenty of room and don’t do well if not kept with at least one other parakeet.

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.

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Great reads: The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

By Kathleen Pohlig

One of the best ways I find to really relax is to enjoy reading a good book. A book can take you away in your thoughts to a new time, place and set of circumstances. A good story can offer you the chance to experience life through the eyes of someone else. Historic fiction is fun because it takes you back to an earlier time and makes it seem real. Fantasy or science fiction can stretch the imagination and make you think about what is possible and how life might be in the future.
One book I particularly enjoyed some years ago came to mind when considering what to write about for this review; it’s not one of the popular best sellers today but certainly was in the past, and it deserves to be remembered and read by those who missed it earlier. The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith is described on its cover by The Plain Dealer as, “One of the best, most charming, honest, hilarious and life-affirming books to appear in years.”
That describes it well and those attributes are some of the reasons that it has remained a favorite with readers for more than 15 years. Smith wrote a number of books in the series that follow the main character, Precious Ramotswe, and her one-woman private detective agency in Botswana.
The titles of the books in the series are themselves delightful and include Tears of the Giraffe, Morality for Beautiful Girls, The Kalahari Typing School for Men, Blues Shoes and Happiness and The Good Husband of Zebra Drive.
In a writing style so fitting for a plain, simple, but thoughtful woman, Smith’s “widely acclaimed series tells the story of the delightful, cunning and enormously engaging Precious Ramotswe, who is drawn to her profession to ‘help people with problems in their lives.’”
The books are classified as mysteries and all have interesting cases Precious tries to solve. At the same time, there is an element of romance as she develops a relationship with the local garage mechanic.  Wonderful stories that will definitely transport you to another place, very different from Minnesota, these books are highly recommended for fun reading. The Wall Street Journal calls the books “one of the most entrancing literary treats of many a year . . . A tapestry of extraordinary nuance and richness.” Give it a try. You won’t regret it.

Kathleen Pohlig is owner of Cherry Street Books in Alexandria.

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Work together to pursue your passions

By Eric Morken

I saw the theme of this month’s Chicz magazine and could only smile. Every issue, we get an email intended to help us think of topics we can write about. This month’s theme? “Me time.”
Every parent knows there isn’t a lot of that to be had, so my initial response when seeing that was the thought, “This will be short.”
Upon deeper reflection, I started to focus on the fact that time to one’s self as a parent should be more about quality than quantity. I don’t get as much “me time” as I used to, but when I do, it’s about pursuing the things that are most important to me.
There are days when it simply doesn’t work. My wife and I both work odd hours, so it’s inevitable that our responsibilities to our daughter will take precedence over anything else a lot of the time.
That’s great. I’m grateful that this means I get to have a lot of alone time with my daughter, knowing that it will strengthen our relationship as she gets older.
The time I spend by myself now is usually focused around my biggest passion – hunting. Bow hunting in particular is something that I spend three months out of the year pursuing and the rest of the year thinking about.
I spent an entire day on July 27 wading through river water on slippery rocks to hang stands in order to put up game cameras. That’s fun for me.
My advice is to figure out what is really important to you. Then make it a priority to pursue it no matter how busy life gets.
This often takes some selflessness from a significant other. My wife can’t understand what I find so intriguing about sitting in a tree and watching deer. All she knows is that it’s my passion, and she’s willing to allow me the time to do it.
Her passion has always been reading. She loves it, but since our daughter was born; she hasn’t touched a book.
Perhaps that’s as much my fault as hers. I could be more accommodating in allowing her to have time to herself to sit and read again. She could also make it a priority and let me know when she simply needs a break.
As parents, it’s important to work together to make sure the time we have alone is time well spent.

Eric Morken of Alexandria is a husband, father, sports editor and outdoor enthusiast.

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He sez…she sez: Why do we have “special” towels?

By Brandon and Amy Chaffins

Brandon: I never really paid much attention to this before, but I recently noticed that there are “special” towels at our house when we have company. These towels are of a different color than any other towels in our home. The towels are dark navy blue, which happens to be my favorite color, by the way.

Amy: I’m not sure which mystifies me most: The fact that you’re just now noticing the towel protocol after 11 years of marriage, or the fact that you have a thing for dark blue towels. You, my dear, remain a mystery to me.

Brandon: Two things: One, the fact that the “special” towels are a different color than all the other towels tells me that it will be easier for me to not use them, and, two, the fact that the towels are my favorite color makes it all the more difficult not to use them. For the record, I have not used the “special” towels. Although, when I occasionally fold the “special” towels, I must admit, I think they are softer than mine. I sure would like to give ‘em a try. Better not.

Amy: Do not use the “special” towels. They are soft, fluffy and pretty and I’d like them to stay that way for our guests. Yes, there are some towels that are FOR GUESTS ONLY, but it’s one of those little nuances of marriage that you’ll have to power through. Hands off the guest towels, babe.

Brandon: The more I look into this towel situation, the more I wonder why? These towels even have a special place in the closet separate from all the others. Heck, we even have towels just for drying dishes. What the… just noticed that there are “special” towels in our half-bath when company comes over, too.

Amy: Let me explain it to you like this: I certainly don’t want our guests to use a towel that recently spent a weekend in your gym bag, regardless of how clean the towel comes out of the washing machine. Towels have special assignments for a reason.

Brandon: Sooooo…. This just popped into my head. The other night Amy, and I gave our dog a bath. Even he has “special” towels! They, too, are kept in a different place than even the regular, everyday bath towels. I’m so getting new towels!

Amy: Guilty as charged – I don’t want to jump out of the shower and put a dog towel on my face… and I certainly don’t want guests using the dog’s “special” towels. I have faith in our washer and dryer, but it’s just about manners and being a proper host.

Brandon: Towels schmowels! Aren’t they all the same? Keep the faith, fellas!

Amy: (Insert eye-rolling here)

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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The cat lady

Boe gives time, attention and love to all furry felines

By Tara Bitzan

Bonnie Boe of Alexandria loves cats. While she loves them enough to have many of them at her own home, she knows that’s not a good idea.
So, she has one cat of her own at a time and then shares her love for the furry felines with those less fortunate – at the local humane society.
Boe can be found almost every day at the animal shelter, sitting on the couch in the “cat room,” gently petting a cat on her lap, or walking from cage to cage having conversations with each cat individually.
As people come in to look at the cats, she’ll watch them for awhile, sizing them up, and then say, “Do you want to adopt a cat? I’ll pay the fees for you!”

“I just want them all to go to good homes,” she said when asked about the generous offer. “If I could take them all myself, I would, but I can’t. So it just makes me feel good if I can help put a cat in a good home.”

How long have you been volunteering at the Lakes Area Humane Society?
Seven years. I used to volunteer at the one in Pope County before that, for about 12 years.

How often do you volunteer and what types of things do you do?
I volunteer about five hours a week. I usually come in every day for about an hour a day. I spend all my time in the cat room, feeding them, giving them treats, brushing them, playing with them.

Why do you do it?
It’s a good feeling to come in and help out. I love the cats and they need the attention. When new ones come in, I read their names and the information on their cards so I can get to know them. Sometimes there are some sad cases. Some of them were abused. It’s hard not to take them all home.

Do you have favorites?
Oh, I suppose I do. I really like Apple. There’s just something about her. She is just so sweet. Rios over there has a big mouth and drives me nuts. He’s always yowling. I think he is purposely trying to get to me.

What other hobbies do you have?
I like to read, I used to golf. I love to feed the ducks and geese at [Noonan Park] and on Lake Agnes. They see me coming and they come right over.

Do you have any cats of your own?
I do. Her name is Maggie. My last cat, Copenhagen, was 13-and-a-half. She got cancer and I had to put her to sleep. That was hard.
Do you have any other pets?
No, I love cats. I just have one at a time though because you never know how they are going to get along with each other. I do have four dogs for grandchildren though! My daughter has one dog and my son has three. They come over a lot. The one dog, Shadow, and my Copenhagen didn’t get along at all, but Shadow and Maggie sleep together. I couldn’t believe it!

What do you like about cats?
I don’t know. I’ve always loved cats. I like their personality, their softness, I like how they keep you guessing – you’re never sure what they’re going to do next.

Tara Bitzan of Farwell loves writing, organizing and trying to keep up with her teenage daughters.

Nominate your favorite extraordinary woman in Douglas County! chiczmag@gmail.com or call 320.763.3133.

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5 minute yoga

By Alyssa Stern

Staying active each day will help keep you more relaxed and focused. Doing a quick morning yoga series will get you moving in the right direction. Try these quick five moves:

Standing backbend and side stretches
Inhale with the arms up straight and bend back slightly to feel elongation throughout your entire body. Exhale and let one hand slide down the side of your body with the other hand still raised. Allow your head and neck to relax, feeling an even deeper stretch in the ribs and side body. Slowly inhale up to center and exhale to the opposite side. Repeat five times on each side.

Forward fold
Exhale, folding forward at the hips. Allow your knees to bend and try to bring your chest toward your thighs. Relax the neck and let the head hang heavily. You will feel this stretch in the lower spine as well as in the legs. Stay here for 10 deep breaths.

Tree pose
With feet hip distance apart, spread the toes wide to help plant yourself firmly on the ground. Bring the hands onto the hips or to heart’s center. Inhale while bringing one foot up, placing it on either the calf or the thigh, not on the knee. Exhale. Keep the core engaged, and if you have your balance, reach your arms to the sky. Stay here for five rounds of breath. Exhale while slowly placing the foot on the ground. Switch legs.

Come down onto the hands and knees. Be sure that the wrists are directly below the shoulders and the fingers are spread wide. Distribute the weight evenly onto the hands so that not all of the weight is on the wrists. The knees are hip distance apart and the tops of the feet are on the ground, the big toes are touching. Inhale into cow (the head and tailbone lift up, dropping the belly toward the ground, heart extending forward). Exhale into cat (arch the spine upwards, tuck the chin toward the chest, draw the navel in toward the spine). Continue for two to three minutes, moving slowly at first and steadily increasing your speed as you gain flexibility.

Alyssa Stern of Alexandria is a busy mom and certified group exercise instructor teaching spin/cycling and high intensity interval training. Visit her blog at alyssajeanstern.blogspot.com.

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Mommy & me crafts

By Melanie Danner


Washable tempera paint

1. Decorate each rock with paint and let dry


Tuna or chicken salad
Googly eyes

1. Glue eyes to toothpicks
2. Spread salad onto croissants
3. Poke toothpicks into sandwiches for eyes


Egg crate
Washable tempera paint
Pipe cleaners

1. Cut egg crate so each caterpillar will have three humps
2. Decorate each with paint and let dry
3. Poke two holes in top of one end with scissors
4. String pipe cleaners through holes for antennas

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

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5 minute mommy time-outs

By Alyssa Stern

We all have five minutes in our busy lives to take for ourselves. The important thing is to remember to take the five minutes and do something for us, because we mamas deserve it.

1. Essential oil bath – soak for about 20 minutes. Here are some suggestions:
Take a handful of Epsom salts, 1⁄2 cup baking soda and 10 drops of essential oils – lavender (calming), grapefruit (uplifting), peppermint (fatigue)
This combination will draw out the toxins, lower stress, and balance pH levels. Take a cool five minute shower to rinse off the toxins and close your skin’s pores.

2. Order your favorite dessert to-go on your way home from work. After the kids are put to bed, find your favorite spot in the house and take out your dessert. Enjoy each bite, and think about why this is your favorite dessert. What makes it special? Savor every sinful bite of chocolate, caramel and whipped topping goodness.

3. On your way into work, find a favorite play list and try not to think about the grocery list or the play date schedule for the week. Allow yourself to prepare for the day and say an affirmation. “Today is a great day. I will be the best I can be and succeed in all the tasks I perform today.” I love the app Spotify (plus, it’s free!). You can search by genres and moods. And, you can create your own playlist with your favorite songs and play the list whenever you want!

4. DIY Sugar Scrub – Use this in the morning during your shower or after a long day at work:
1/2 cup sea salt (non-iodized)
1/2 cup oil of your choice (jojoba, almond, olive, coconut oil)
1 tsp. citrus zest (lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit or a mix)
Mix ingredients together. Rub on skin while in the shower (avoiding eyes) and rinse off.
Store in a container such as a mason jar or a squeeze bottle and enjoy!

5. Favorite beverage – sit down with a hot cup of coffee with a dash of cinnamon to rev up the metabolism or sip on some settling nettle tea. Enjoy a tall glass of iced tea with a slice of lemon on the side, with your feet propped up on a chair. Visualize yourself in your favorite place, or maybe being on the deck with your favorite beverage is your favorite thing to do.

Alyssa Stern of Alexandria is a busy mom and certified group exercise instructor teaching spin/cycling and high intensity interval training. Visit her blog at alyssajeanstern.blogspot.com.

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10 benefits of reading

By Lori Mork

As a voracious reader, I know the positive effect that getting lost in a good novel can bring. Here are 10 reasons why you should grab a book and dive in:

Works your memory. It doesn’t matter what you read, reading helps the parts of your brain connect in a challenging way.

Helps you improve your workouts. A book that keeps your mind occupied can help you stay on your exercise machine longer.

Keeps your brain young. Diving into a good book can slow the rate of your brain’s decline by 32 percent, according to a study by the Rush University Medical Center.
Reduce stress. Climbing into your favorite chair with a good book helps decrease the levels of unhealthy stress hormones.

Improves your vocabulary. Researchers estimated that people learn 5 to 15 percent of all the words they know through reading, according to a Scholastic report.

Promotes empathy. Getting caught up in the lives of characters in your book can make it easier for you to relate to someone else’s point of view.

Save money. An average book costs somewhere between $8 for an e-book and $13 for a paperback. Compare that to going to see a movie or eating out, reading is much more cost effective.

Improve your outlook. Identifying with characters in your book can help you feel a partnership with them.

Sleep better. Sleep experts say a regular de-stressing routine before bed helps give your body the signals it needs for a good night’s sleep.

Gives you better writing skills. When a person is exposed to published, well-written work, it’s been shown to have a strong effect on that person’s writing skills.

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

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