Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Darling, Linda Lou

This is my friend, Linda.

And I am not sure how she would feel about me putting her picture on my third blog post, but, well, it is sort of late, and I can't call, and I- I really want to talk about her right now.

So here we go.  Linda ended up in my chair nearly three years ago for a big haircut and color change. After all, nothing says "eat your heart out" like bombshell blonde and a gamine style (see Gwyneth Paltrow in "Sliding Doors").  I cannot remember when I realized that she and I would make great friends.  It might have been when she followed me from one salon to another, and always has until this day said, "do whatever you want."  I don't recall the first time we had a deep conversation, or what we ate when we went out to lunch all of that time ago.  All I know is that Linda fills a void in my life, and I miss her when we get too busy to say "hi."  I appreciate her nerdiness, timely humor, and matter-of-fact personality.  I like her enough to make her this for Christmas.

I made this extra-long scarf with two skeins of felting wool.  Similar to my last post, I popped some flowers off of a silk stem and attached them to rounds of scrap fabric with a little button.  I then did some light embroidery with an organic cotton yarn.  A blanket stitch on the bottom completes the look (and hides a really dreadful cast-on).

Here is anther picture...

I hope you have fun embellishing your knitted items.  I know I do.  And it really took a very plain scarf to decadent levels for a very special friend.

Have a beautiful day.

Rachel Bee

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I heart pot luck dinners...

I grew up a pastor's kid, and "potlucks" were little gems studding the typical timeline.

Let me clarify:  as a p.k., especially before the drivers license, I climbed into the minivan at approximately 8:00 am on a Sunday morning, with little more than a Poptart, Toaster Strudel, or bowl of cereal in my chubby little belly.  We had two services, a 9:00 am and 11:00 am, and the sermon was brought by a very excitable man (not my father); who, when the "Spirit moved him," could go on until at least 1:00 pm.  Add clean-up and that last kid who's parents were detained by, well, who knows...and my stomach would be knotted inside and out, longing for even a Goldfish cracker, crushed between a toddler's sneaker and some dried up Play-Doh.

The potluck, that bi-monthly sacred event, followed the second service, and brought gratification to my empty core.  No waiting for tables in restaurants (God help us if we got out AFTER St. Pete's), no insult to injury- just delicious, home-cooked (ok, lukewarm and fly-nibbled) victuals.

I reminisce because my church had one such event a few weeks ago, after the annual Christmas play, and I got to have my go at bringing something small and decadent.  My mother used to bring a dessert we called "cherry crisp," (to this day, one of my favorite mouth experiences), but it can get a little messy as "finger food."  So I brought these little wonders...

They are so cute.  Here is another.  What the hey...

The green ones are chocolate with peppermint Swiss meringue buttercream, and the pink are chocolate with vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream.  They were adorable, and they were delicious.

Mini Chocolate Cupcakes with Swiss Meringue Buttercream

For the cake...

1 3/4 c all purpose flour
3/4 c cocoa
2 c sugar
2 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1 t salt
1 c buttermilk
1/2 c oil
2 eggs
1 t vanilla extract
1 c hot coffee

Sift the dry ingredients together, mix well.  Mix the wet together, except the coffee, and add slowly to the dry, mixing thoroughly, but don't get too crazy about it.  Then, slowly add the coffee, mixing all the while, just until it is incorporated.  Be sure to scrape the bottom and sides of that bowl.  it can get goopy down there.  Your batter will be thin.  Grab a plastic cup, dip it into the batter, and pour your batter into your cups, just over halfway.  Work as quickly as you can, without making a horrible mess (impossible, I am sure).  Pop into an oven preheated to 350, and bake for...10-12 minutes.  But watch it, folks.  it takes longer than you think, and provided that you did not fill them all evenly, some will be done b-4 the others.  Taking into account that you will probably have to toss about 10 out, you should get about a million out of this recipe.  Or 50.  Or 24 regular cupcakes, or 2 8" rounds.  This recipe is extremely popular right now, but I have been using it for years, care of Ina Garten.

For the buttercream...

4 sticks of unsalted butter, softened but still cool
5 egg whites, at room temp
1 c + 2 tbsp. sugar
2 t vanilla extract
pinch of salt

In your stand mixer bowl, combine the sugar and egg whites.  Place your bowl over a pot of simmering water, and without ever stopping not even once, whisk the mixture until a thermometer reads 140 degrees.  Place the bowl onto your mixer, and with your whisk attachment, beat on high until you see glossy, stiff peaks (about 10 minutes).  Then, tablespoon by tablespoon, add the butter to your meringue.  At some point, the frosting might appear to have curdled, but keep beating until all the butter is incorporated.  Beat in the extract, and feel free to replace  3/4 t of the vanilla with any other flavor you like.  I chose peppermint (never add "mint" unless you want it to taste like toothpaste).

Note: If you have added the butter, and your frosting is soupy, place the bowl of frosting in the freezer for @10 minutes, remove, and beat again.  It will come together, I promise!

Frost and garnish.


5:00 am, You are Sweetness!

I love 5:00 am.  We are a house full of morning people, including my 2 year-old son, who can't stand to know that people are up doing things without him.  My hubs is still sleeping, but he is normally up getting ready for work at a place where he is dedicated to making morning people out of the rest of our little town (fruitless endeavor).

I suppose a question remains, "what is so great about 5:00 am?"  I am not really sure.  I used to work out at this time, but when I had my baby, going to the gym at 5 became one of those really impossible notions.  Now, I suppose I use this hour for the same principle: I use this hour for me.  I set out supplies for baking, finish up a scarf, mop my kitchen floor, read my Bible, take a shower and spend the hour to meticulously do my hair...sometimes, I even choose to sleep.

Last week was a very productive week, finishing off Christmas presents for girlfriends, and baking hundreds of cupcakes for clients.  Here is a one of those projects that I finished...

As my husband informed me, this is a "snood."  I called it a "neck warmer," or a "collar."  I made it for my very favorite friend, out of merino wool.  It is studded with flowers, viciously plucked from a 50% off stem from Hobby Lobby.  I sewed them on with buttons I yanked from an old shirt, sandwiched between some netting I cut from a vintage dress in my closet that desperately needs refurbishing.  The lace detail was from  the shirt that lost its buttons, and the yarn,'s just yarn.  A lot had to die to make this "snood," but I love you that much, friend.  And here is what it looks like on...

Ok, I know it is too big, but normally my knitted items are drastically over/undersized.  I know there are ways to avoid this, like patterns and test-squares, but as you will come to know, I am not that kind of girl.  Still pretty though, don't you think?


OK.  That's all for now.  I hope you grow to love my little blog, and I will grow to provide more info on how I produce my projects.

Have a great day, friends!

Rachel Bee.