Monday, December 5, 2011

Biscoff: get some...

I enjoy what I do.  Baking cupcakes, doing hair, and singing on the weekends... how God has blessed me!

And this morning, I really don't want to say anything else.

Honey-Poached Pear Cupcakes with Biscoff Buttercream

But if I must, these are Honey-Poached Pear Cupcakes with Biscoff Buttercream.

Biscoff.  I stumbled upon it in a recipe one afternoon, and I did nearly an hour's research with cloudy results.  Is it a paste?  Is it a cookie?  Wait- it's a spread made of cookies?  What?  How is this possible?  And nearly a month ago, I found out.  All of the sudden, Biscoff spread popped up everywhere, and at a moderately decent price (now it seems to be back up at $4.99).  I went to my local Kroger and picked up a jar, and yes- it is made of 52% cookies, brown sugar, some other ingredients, and oil to bring it all together.  It is smooth and creamy, with a consistency that is very similar to peanut butter.  In fact, the label declares that it is "Europe's alternative to peanut butter," which is ridiculous on many levels, including the fact that there is NO nutritional value aside from caloric content in a jar of Biscoff.

However, if while eating a bagel one day you wondered if you could combine your love of bagel-consumption with your love of cookies, but you thought it might make you choke- think again.  Buy a jar of Biscoff and fight the urge to not only spread it on said bakery item, but also apples, crackers, a large spoon, or throw it into some frosting for goodness' sake.

As if I needed another Nutella.

Honey-Poached Pear Cupcakes with Biscoff Buttercream

Honey-Poached Pear Cupcakes with Biscoff Buttercream

Honey-Poached Pear Cupcakes with Biscoff Buttercream (adapted from Couture Cupcakes)
For the Poaching:
2 Large or 3 medium-size pears (I used Bartlett)
1/4 C honey
1 2/3 C sugar
3 cups water

For the cake:
1/2 C unsalted butter, softened
1/2 C white sugar
1/2 C brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 t vanilla extract
1 2/3 C self-rising flour
1/2 C buttermilk, room temperature
1 poached pear, mashed
1 poached pear, sliced

For the frosting:
2 sticks of butter, softened
1/2 block cream cheese, softened
1/3 C Biscoff spread
3.5 C powdered sugar, sifted
2 t vanilla extract

To poach the pears, combine the sugar, honey, and water in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil, and let simmer for 10 minutes.  Add the pears, and simmer for 20 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let cool before you refrigerate them overnight in their poaching liquid.

For the cake, cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, beat thoroughly after each addition.  Add the vanilla extract.

In three additions, add the flour, alternating with the buttermilk.  Begin and end with the flour!  Fold in the mashed pear.

Spoon into 20 (or so) prepared muffin cups (about 2/3-3/4 full), and place a slice of pear on top of each one.  Bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes, or until done.  Immediately remove from the muffin pans, and place on a baking rack to cool thoroughly.

For the frosting, cream together the butter, cream cheese, and Biscoff until smooth.  Add the sifted powdered sugar, and mix well.  Add the vanilla and beat well.

Assemble:  Frost the cakelets as desired, and sprinkle with crushed Biscoff cookies.  I also made little fondant pears, using cloves for the stems, and placed them on top.

Honey-Poached Pear Cupcakes with Biscoff Buttercream

So cute, I think.  And super delicious.

Biscoff.  Get some.  Or don't.  But do.  And if you do, throw it into some frosting.  Or an index finger.



Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Maybe just one last pumpkin dessert...

My house is noisy.  Always.

It is a symphony of singing, televisions, pots clanging, extreme emotion, dogs scratching, and usually a washer or dryer as well.  Tonight it is my son who is singing in his bed, "White Christmas" on the living room TV, "Community Season 2" in the bedroom, beds creaking, timers going off, and exuberant typing in the office.  The "Bees" are generally a quiet group everywhere else, but at home we are wide open.

I would be in a bed somewhere, except I agreed to baking a Lemon Layer Cake a few weeks ago, and here I am.  But I am tired, and I hate typing at night.  My brain is foggy.  But if I don't type tonight, you will have nothing Thanksgiving-y to read on Thanksgiving Eve; and I cannot begin to say how wrong that is.

So here I am, waiting for cake to cool, and about to share with you a dessert- the likes of which you are all to familiar with...

Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake.  I have been baking this cake long before I knew anything about baking, as it is about as easy as pie cake.  As a St. Louis native, Gooey Butter cake graced my grandmother's table at most gatherings- long before Mrs. Dean cornered the market on all things "butter."  But I have to admit, my grandmother never ate a Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake, and I do appreciated the "Lady" for developing the recipe.

If you are one who has never made this cake, hold on to your socks, as it is amazing.  The filling tastes like pumpkin pie, only with more butter, cream cheese, and sugar in it.  The crust is nothing but cake mix, an egg, and a stick of melted butter.  I really don't like the flavor of boxed cake mix anymore, but here it adds a texture that I am not sure can be replicated elsewhere.  All in all, it's worth a try!

You can find the recipe here, as I am waaaay too sleepy and lazy to type it out.  Actually, I fell asleep while typing last night, and it is now 5:00 AM and I have so much else to do.  True story!

Anyway, Have a very Happy Thanksgiving, and I'll see you next week!

Rachel Bee

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"Choc-wate, pweeze?"

I know that brownies have very little to do with Thanksgiving, but the boys in my family love to eat them.  I have posted about brownies both here and here, all of the cocoa variety as I am too cheap to buy the literal pound of chocolate some require.  For me, brownies are a quick project.  They are soul food; belonging to the same category as mashed potatoes, meatloaf, and all things Sunday afternoon.  I whip up a batch of brownies when my husband starts perusing our sweet-less pantry with a wilted look- when my son so sweetly looks up at me and says with a crooked grin, "choc-wate?"  I make them when I am up to my elbows in sweet potato, and I worry as my husband has received no love from our oven.

"Choc-wate, Pweeze?"

So here you go, another brownie post: so simple and nearly a guaranteed success, even for those of you who are box addicts.

Hershey's Best Brownies

Hershey's Best Brownies
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 c ap flour
1/4 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup of whatever you want to dump in there ( I put in mini peanut butter cups)

Preheat the oven to 350.  Butter an 8x8 pan (sometimes I use a cake pan).  Set aside.

In a bowl, mix together the butter, sugar, and vanilla.  With a wooden spoon, incorporate the eggs.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.  Add them to the butter mixture, and stir just until mixed.  Fold in your nuts, chocolate chips, or whatever else you want to put in there.
Spread into the prepared pan, and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Let them cool in the pan.  Cut and serve.

Hershey's Best Brownies

Delicious.  Enjoy, and tomorrow there will be something  bit more... Thanksgiving-y.

Rachel Bee

Thursday, November 17, 2011

One last valiant effort...

I really must say that I am not a huge fan of sweet potato, or cooked orange veggies in general.  I don't care for the sweetness, nor do I really care for the texture.  The little fibers that run back and forth across the flesh of a sweet potato I find to be revolting as my teeth cut through them individually.  We never had sweet potatoes growing up, so I am going to assume that my parents don't care for them either.

Now, as the vegetable has received so much glory in recent years, believe me- I have tried to stomach them.  I have tried them roasted with exorbitant amounts of butter, cinnamon, and sugar.  I have tried them deep-fried with gallons of ketchup.  I have even pureed them with heavy cream to see if maybe, just maybe there is one circumstance when I could swallow them without grimace.  

In one final, valiant effort, I pureed a large roasted sweet potato and subbed it in for pumpkin in my Pumpkin Spice Cake.  One bite of this tender cake and... sold.  Top it with Brown Sugar Toasted Marshmallow Frosting, and call it "pretty darn palatable."  

Oh, and did I mention it was a purple sweet potato?

Purple Sweet Potato Puree

Yes, God's makes purple sweet potatoes, and above is the actual sweet potato puree mixed with some buttermilk.  Wow.  And here it is in cupcake form...

Purple Sweet Potato Cupcakes

The cake was a bit more purple when I baked it, but it oxidized overnight (which was awfully disappointing).  Regardless, I think it is still pretty pleasant on the eyes...

Purple Sweet Potato Cupcakes

With Candied Pecans

And for a finishing touch, I candied a handful of pecans.  Good decision, I think...

Purple Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Toasted Brown Sugar Marshmallow Frosting

I found my purple sweet potato at the Fresh Market, which is an upscale although not necessarily natural grocery store.  I am sure regular orange sweet potatoes will be just fine!

Purple Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Toasted Brown Sugar Marshmallow Frosting and Candied Pecans
(should make @16)
For the cake:
1 purple sweet potato, roasted (enough to make 1 cup of puree)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 t vanilla extract
1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups ap flour
1/4 cup corn starch 
1 t soda
1/2 t kosher salt
1/4 t baking powder
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t ground ginger
1/4 t ground nutmeg or cloves

Puree 1 cup of the sweet potato with the buttermilk and vanilla.  Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350.  Put liners in muffin tins.
Cream the brown sugar with the butter until fluffy, scraping the bowl down on occasion.  
Add the eggs one at a time, beating completely into the batter.  
In a separate bowl, sift together all of the dry ingredients.  Add the dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with the puree. BEGIN AND END WITH THE DRY!  Really scrape down the sides and bottom of your bowl between additions.  You don't want beige streaks in your cupcakes.

When the ingredients are fully incorporated, fill the muffin cups all the way to the top.  Bake for 18-20 minutes, and put individual cakes on a cooling rack immediately.  

For the Frosting...
6 egg whites
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4+1/8 t cream of tartar
2 t vanilla paste or extract

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a double-boiler), mix the sugar with the egg whites.  Place the bowl over a simmering pot of water, and stir constantly until a candy thermometer reads 160 degrees.  Pull from the heat, and beat on high.  Sprinkle in the cream of tartar, and beat for 6-7 minutes.  The frosting should be ultra-stiff at this point.  Add the vanilla, and blend to incorporate.  

Pile the frosting on the cooled cupcakes, and singe the exterior with a kitchen torch.  

Top with...

Candied Pecans!
1/2-1/4 of an egg white
@1/4 cup brown sugar
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of whatever other spices you want to throw in there...
pinch of kosher salt
1/2 cup pecan halves

Combine the egg white, sugar, salt, and spices in a small bowl to make a viscous syrup.  Toss in the pecans and stir to coat.  Pour onto a cookie sheet lined with wax paper, and spread out until even.  Put in a oven preheated to 275, and bake for 15 minutes.  When they cooled, I broke them apart and placed a few on each cupcake.  And a few in my mouth.  

Yum.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The mellifluous voice of Josh Groban (she says with disdain)...

Saturday morning I went into work all too early (6:45 to be exact).  I have a sweet group of clients from out of town, and when one of these young women come my way, I do anything I can to accommodate her.

I walked in the door, stumbling around and flipping on lights.  Towels are stocked, sinks are clean, and  foils are torn; but before I ran to unlock the door, I flipped on the radio and heard (to my horror) the mellifluous voice of Josh Groban singing "Oh Holy Night."  Taken aback immediately, I swept a bit, considering that perhaps it was only a taste of the holidays- a precursor if you will as it is only November 12.  As Josh belted his final note, I waited with bated breath to see if my gut held an accurate feeling- but no.  Mariah Carey.  "Wha, oh-oh.  Yeah-ee-yeah yeah.  Ooh ooh... (drums build) Christmaah...s"

Immediately I felt old.  I remembered the years when Christmas seemed so impossibly far away, when in April I would think, "If I had a choice right now, I wish time would move backwards so that Christmas gets here sooner."  Now, all I felt Saturday morning was disdain and panic.  What's today?  When is Christmas?  When is Thanksgiving?  Have I ordered a turkey?  Can I find more people to come over and eat it?  What am I getting P for Christmas?  NOOOOOOO!

So it is officially begun. I have sworn off any feelings of "bah-humbug," and my mind is full of all things red and green, spices and peppermint.  I usually hand-make gifts for my girlfriends, but I could not be bothered to knit right now.  My friends are getting jewelry!

And here is another example...

I have a pile of necklaces that I have made, and I may show you a few more later.  I might even show you how to make one.  Wouldn't that be fun?

So pop in "Elf," or "White Christmas," or whatever gets you in that Chrsitmas mood, and start making something of your own for the holidays.

Rachel Bee

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pumpkin Apple Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe

Again.  Again I have raging allergic aversions.  At least I think that is what is going on.  Moral of the story is to not skip a workout to clean out a closet that hasn't been cleaned out in four years.  At least not without a mask.  But here, as promised, is the recipe for my Pumpkin Apple Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting.

Make them, have someone else make them- and eat them all until they are gone.  Amen.

Pumpkin Apple Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 t vanilla
2 cups minus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/4 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 t kosher salt
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t ginger
1/8 t cloves
1/2 cup buttermilk, sour cream, or plain greek yogurt
1 Large Granny Smith Apple, chopped into 1/2" cubes
2 T granulated sugar + 2 t cinnamon + 1 t flour

Preheat he oven to 350.  Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners.

Cream the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy (this can take up to 8-10 minutes).  Add the eggs one at a time, fully incorporating into the batter.  Stir in the pumpkin and vanilla.  Yes, your batter just became nearly curdled-looking.  Do not worry.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.  Add to the batter alternatively with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour.  Your batter should no longer look curdled.  Be sure to scrape the sides and bottoms of the bowl between additions.

Chop up the apple and toss in the sugar/flour/cinnamon mixture.  Fold into the batter.  Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, almost to the top (these do not rise much).  Bake for 17-20 minutes, or until done.

Cream Cheese Frosting
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened but still cool
8 oz cream cheese, softened but still cool
3.5 cups powdered sugar
1 t vanilla extract
pinch of kosher salt

Beat the butter and cream cheese together until no longer lumpy.  Sift the powdered sugar into the mixture, and mix until combined.  Add the vanilla and salt, and mix again.  For fluffier frosting, you can beat for 3-5 minutes, but note that it will be full of small air bubbles and therefore not quite as pretty for frosting.

Frost after cooling completely, and decorate as desired.  I topped mine with Pumpkin Spice Hershey's Kisses and a sprinkle of cinnamon.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween alternatives and baking in jars...

I told myself I would work out this morning, so at 4:00 AM I rose and threw on my workout clothes.  An hour later I sit here with half a slice of cake in my belly, and a very well organized closet.

And I am frustrated.  I want to work out, but the idea of giving an hour and a half of my day away to Tony Horton seems inexcusable.  There is simply too much to do.

Yesterday was Halloween, and it has received a cold shoulder from my family for a few decades.  We grew up as Christians, and my church always had a Halloween alternative.  In previous years we called it "Hallelujah Night," but in the the effort to make the peculiar seem less so, most churches simply call it a "Fall Festival."  My father is the children's pastor at my church, and he did an exquisite job with this year's event.  In times past we dressed up as Bible Characters, but now kids can dress up as just about anything tasteful.  Besides, there aren't very many notable female examples in the Bible (Ruth, Esther, Lydia, Rachel, etc.), and their costumes all look the same, generally speaking.

All games and candy aside, Halloween was something very different for our family, as it is also my little brother's birthday.  He lives in Washington DC, and this year he turned the very big 30.  I miss him desperately, and knowing he likes cake I decided to send him some.

My son and I are huge fans of Bonne Maman preserves, and the empty jars make great drinking glasses. To my husband's lament, I snagged four and baked some cake in them.

Yes, I baked cake right inside old jelly jars (le gasp! I called bonne maman "jelly").  You can bake cake in just about anything glass, and mason jars are quite popular as well.

But with no mason jars on hand, my Bonne Maman jars would have to do.   Here is a picture of them capped and ready to go.

I made some cupcakes with the remaining batter, stuck one in the mailbox, but can't figure out what to do with the rest.

I am sure I can find someone to eat them.  Pumpkin Apple Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting.

Shouldn't be a problem.

Happy Birthday Frankie.  Hey.  Hope you like pumpkin.  I needed to use it up.

Recipe tomorrow...

Rachel Bee

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Wardrobe malfunctions and mishaps... and a knitted hat pattern!

Yesterday I got ready for work in the usual way, after running my ensemble through a few points of criteria.*

1.  Cleanliness: What is clean?
2.  Thickness:  What did I eat the night/day before?
3.  Season: What is the technical season?
4.  Temperature:  Uh... temperature.  Average temperature.
5.  Whimsy:  How creative do I want to be?
6.  Wild card:  Do I have anything new; have I put on some committal makeup?

And this is how I answered these questions...

1.  I just did laundry.  Everything is clean.  Information overload.
2.  Despite finishing P90x, I gained about 5 lbs. this summer.  And no, it was not muscle weight.  It was rear-not-fitting-into-pants weight.  I have lost half of it, so I am feeling OK there.
3.  It is technically fall.  No white pants, strappy sandals, etc.
4.  It felt like summer.  Not hot summer, but summer.
5.  I was feeling moderately whimsical, but not brave.  Maybe a necklace or funky shoes.
6.  Yes!  I have a skirt a friend gave me, and I need to wear it before it gets too cold.

So the winner was a white v-neck t-shirt tucked into said skirt, a necklace with a large ribbon charm, and some cute Irregular Choice shoes.  Nothing too weird, but typical for a Wednesday at work.

*This process doesn't take me more than the average 3-5 minutes, depending on trial and error.

I work at a salon in Martinez, GA, and have for just over a year.  Yesterday was no unusual day, and I had the pleasure of doing my very favorite friend's hair.

And as she was sitting in this middle chair...

...I turned around quickly to mix up some toner for her blonde.

And my cute little shoes meeting the shiny laminate caused me to not just fall, but fall hard.

I fell on my butt like a toddler.  A big, fat toddler without a diapered butt.  As I lie on the floor, my friend came over and asked, "What can I do??"

"Uh, could you erase the mental picture you have of me falling on my rear permanently from your brain??"

I have a feeling she cannot.  And even now she is snickering to herself, although she is way to good a friend to do it in the moment.

Despite legs full of varicosities, I have never possessed too much common sense about shoes.  I am not a complete idiot, as I would never wear stilettos to work- but you will never find this girl under the age of 50 wearing Clarks or Danskos.

Sorry.  But this was not my only fashion blunder yesterday.  Uh, it got cold.  And as the wind licked at my legs, flipping my insubstantial skirt every-which-way, I thought of the child I put in shorts that morning.  Ugh... what a parent!

So as we are going into colder seasons, I thought that you all might like a simple hat pattern that requires NO circular needles, just simple knitting and perling.  And heck, you really don't even need to perl.  Just grab some good wool, cotton, or bamboo (only natural fibers, please!), some 10's and get to knitting!

Easy Hat (adapted from Stitch and Bitch Patterns)

1 skein Debbie Bliss Full of Sheep
US 14 knitting needles
Yarn needle for stitching up the sides

Cast on 38 (50, 54, 58) sts.*
Work 22 (29, 32, 35) rows in stockinette (or however you would like).

Shape crown:
Row 1: K2tog, K2; repeat to end
Row 2: P2tog, P1; repeat to end
Row 3: Knit to end.
Row 4: Perl to end.
Row 5: K2tog to end.
Row 6: P2tog to end.

Break off the yarn with a 15"-20" tail.  Thread through a yarn needle.  Thread the needle through the remaining live stitches and pull them tight, and then stitch the two sides of the hat together.  I like to do this with my work inside out (perl side facing me).  When you are at the bottom, secure the end so that it doesn't unravel.  Thread the loose yarn into the hat.

Yeah!  You are done.
*The first measurement is for a large 3 year old.  The other are more adult in size.

So, as one can tell, I have adjusted my elements for dressing a wee bit; but I still can't make a reasonable enough argument for a #7: Practicality.

Rachel Bee.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Spice Cupcakes with Maple Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

My blog.  It is definitely not at the top of the totem pole right now, obviously.

I have been busy:  four weddings in three weeks, my church's annual women's retreat, and then another wedding.  What is the deal with October?  I love all we are doing, but I really wish we could spread a little love onto September.  It was just plain awful!

As I mentioned in my last post, I went to New York last weekend, and it was wonderful. I didn't write about it last week, as I felt like a girl who met a really hot boy for the first time and was completely and irrationally gaga over him.  Because I was (irrationally gaga over my time there).  And I sounded pretty ridiculous in my brain.  For a lover of film, travelling to New York for the first time is like finally meeting a pen pal who you know so well and yet have never met face to face.  I was sad that it was a wee bit chilly the day of our outing into the city.  I had the perfect outfit planned which was in turn covered up with a bulky sweater. Would anyone would notice me?  Of course not. I just sensed that the eyes of one of the most fashionable cities in the world would look down on me from the heights of impossibly colossal buildings and spew my South Carolina swagger straight out.

Those Yankees can sniff out a drawl faster than you can say... well, something stereotypically southern.  And how I hate to stand out when I travel!

My two hours in the city were however trumped by my 2.5 days at West Point, preparing for the wedding of one of the most generous and kind girls in the world.  I will say more about it another time, when I can show you in pictures.

I have been back to my normal life for over a week now, baking and again knitting misshapen hats, doing a lot of hair and makeup, and loving on a family I left for 4 days and 3 whole nights.  Wow.

So as it has been awhile since I have tempted you with sweet treats, here is what has been smelling up my kitchen recently...

Spice Cupcakes with Maple Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting.

And they were heavenly.  And in the words of a young woman who ate one, "they taste like October."

And I would have to agree.

Spice Cake

So here you go.  A recipe:

Spice Cake with Maple Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting
2 cups cake flour
3/4 cups sugar
3/4 cups brown sugar
3/4 t baking soda
1.5 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t cloves
2 Tbsp. ground ginger
3/4 t kosher salt
3/4 c sour cream
1 stick of butter, completely softened
1 t vanilla extract
2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 350.  Prepare 2 cupcake tins with liners.
Whisk together all of the dry ingredients (including sugars).  Add the sour cream and butter and beat on medium until they are fully incorporated. Add the eggs together and beat on medium until they are incorporated, and beat another 20 seconds or so.

Spoon batter into cups until they are somewhere between 1/2 and 2/3 full.  Bake at 350 for 18-22 minutes.  Pull out of tins immediately and cool on a rack.

Maple Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting
2 sticks butter softened, but still cool
1 block name-brand cream cheese, softened but still cool
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 t pure maple flavoring (or 1 T real maple syrup)
1 t vanilla extract or paste
3.5 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Beat the butter, cream cheese, and brown sugar on medium high for 3 minutes.  Scrape down the sides.  Add the powdered sugar and mix until incorporated, and then beat on medium high for another 2 minutes.  Add the extracts and mix until incorporated.

I sometimes add a bit of good ol' pancake syrup to this, as few Americans know how real maple tastes.  Just be sure you use a syrup made without high fructose corn syrup:)

Fall is here, despite our 88 degree weather.  Wedding stress aside, make some of these and bring some comforting warmth to your high-strung self.

Rachel Bee

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tips on growing out your hair...

There is nothing easy about growing out hair, which is rather absurd when I think about it.  What could be more easy than doing nothing?

I find it very easy to leave a dish or two in the sink.

Spending an entire day on the sofa watching a Law & Order marathon takes little effort at all, and I really would enjoy it.

So what's the big deal about growing hair out?  What's the deal?!?

I have mentioned before that nearly 2.5 years ago I had the worst hair experience of my life, and that is saying a lot for me.  I had rather short hair, but longer on top and in the front.  My salon owner wanted to color my hair "salmon," and somehow that sounded like a good idea to me.

As you may or may not know, in order to tint hair with a vibrant temporary color, one must extract all of the existing color from the hair.  Think of it this way- imagine you have a handful of bright crayons, and you have a choice of brown, yellow, or white paper to decorate.  On which piece of paper would you get the best result?  The white one!  The same concept applies to hair color.  In order to achieve a vibrant salmon, my stylist needed to pull out all of the color from my hair (aka "bleach").

I do not blame my stylist entirely for the blunder, as I know my hair's capabilities when it comes to bleach; but I never expected to be able to mush off large chunks of it a half inch from the root.  That day I received my last pixy, and that was that.  I was growing my nasty, half-inch long hair out.

That was in March of 2009.  Here is a picture of me in September of that year, 6 months later.

Yikes.  At an average of 1/2 inch a month, that is 3 inches of growth.  Wow!

And this is in late October, a month later, pulling a Friar Tuck...

This hair-do came straight out of Robinhood...

And this is in January of the following year, and it is finally in a bob configuration...

And in the summer of that year...

And from here, I had to just let it grow.  Here it is last week, 2.5 years after the original offense.

Success!  My goal is another 3-4 inches, and then I'll hang out there until... whenever.

So here are some practical tips on growing out one's hair, with very few awkward moments.  It is not easy, but you really can do it.  I did, and that is really unbelievable, believe me!

1.  If you have cut your hair in a pixy or near-pixy (over the ear, nearly every piece the same short length), the goal is to grow out the very top and front first.  Find a stylist you can trust.  See her no less than every 4 weeks for the first few months, and get her to taper in your neck (from the occipital bone down) for the first 5 months, or until the hair at the highest point above the ears is down to your jaw line (an average of 3 inches).

2.  In month 6, get a good 1/2 inch trim all over.  It has been 6 months since you received a good haircut,  and your hair is tore-up.

3.  Month 7, your hair could be in a bob configuration ( the weight line is straight from jaw around to the back hairline).  If it is not, continue to have it tapered in the back until it is in a bob.  Why am I so hung up about the bob?  I am trying to get you to avoid the awkward mullet stage.  This is important for your self esteem, and for the person who has to sit behind you in church.

4.  Once it is in a bob, do not get monthly trims.  Really.  This pulls from my pocket, but you can't keep getting hair cut off if you want to achieve length.  I would suggest that you schedule cuts for every 3 months, and only get a half an inch off at those times (if you even get that).  Again, find a stylist you can trust.  You should be able to partner with your stylist to achieve your length.

The above is the ideal situation, and there is really only one variable: chemicals.

Are you chemically dependant?  Do you crave color change every 3 months like I did?  I hate to say it, but your color-craving is only going to hold back or even halt your growth.  Here are a few suggestions...

1.  Opt for a shade that is 2-3 shades (max) away from your natural level.  If you are naturally dark brown, do not dream of pale blonde and expect to keep it healthy.  The farther you are away from your natural shade, the stronger the chemicals we get to use, and the more often you will feel compelled to visit us.

2.  Steer clear of foil.  Sure, a few foils can make a huge difference in solid drab hair, and they are great for subtle change if you can stay there.  But in most cases, blondes here in Augusta achieve their flaxen status through regular highlights, and I have to say that if you are growing your hair out foiling is not the way to go.  The idea in any hair-color maintenance is for the stylist to not overlap previous work, but when it comes to foiling, this is nearly impossible to do.  Nearly.  "Overlapping" is the act of spreading product (bleach in this case) over hair that has already been lightened (compromised in regard to hair health).  I am not saying that you are killing your hair by foiling, but you are making it more prone to breakage, which makes it harder to grow out.

3.  Stick with root color.  Sure, all over color change is fun, but I would say that you leave those ends alone.  If your stylist cannot accomplish your desires with either a simple touch-up or a ammonia-free demi-permanent color, you are not helping yourself.

Obviously, "touching up" implies that you have done an all-over color before.  Color is fine.  Color is awesome.  I love color.  All I am saying is that if you are growing your hair out, you need to lighten up on the frequency of chemical treatments.

As for maintenance, all I can say is take care of those ends.  They are old.  If your hair is one foot long, your ends came out of your head almost 2 years ago.  They need some love.

1.  Shampoo every other day.   This is not a necessity, but rather a suggestion.  Buy some dry shampoo, pull it back in a cute pony, and give it a rest.  Letting the natural oils sit on your hair for a day is soooo good for your hair.  C'mon.  Just try it.

2.  Focus on the blow-dry.  Instead of manipulating your hair every which way with an iron, do most of the smoothing work during the blow-dry.  Get a good round brush, a good dryer, and go for it.  And if you do find it absolutely necessary to smooth your hair with an iron afterward, do this right after you blow it dry.  Your cuticle is wide open, and your hair wants to be manipulated.  It will take you no time at all, and it will be more likely to last.

3.  Avoid tight ponytails.  It is so sad to me when I see a perfectly healthy and gorgeous head of hair with a halo of breakage, right where a pony tail would be.  Especially avoid doubling up your pony, as then there is a tight band right at the ends of your hair.

So the reality of the situation is that growing hair is out is not about doing nothing.  You have to work at it.  You have to maintain.  The desired result can't just be long, but also swingable, touchable, and worth the effort.  You can do it.  I promise.

Love to you all,

Rachel Bee

Monday, September 26, 2011

House keeping + cakes with a slice missing...

I have some house keeping to do.

First of all, here is a link to a video tutorial for those fabric roses I showed you last week.  I have tried to do a tutorial as still life, but a video is necessary I think.  So there you go.

Also, some of you have noticed that I have removed my "Purchase a Cake" page in the last two weeks.  That is for a few reasons.

1.  We need some fall cakes.
2.  And a slight price adjustment
3.  I was so stinking busy at the time, I couldn't make any cakes outside of what I was already doing.

So here is the deal for all of you semi-locals (Augusta, GA and anywhere within a 30-minute radius):  I need consistent pictures of the following cakes...

Beatty's Chocolate Cake + Fudgey Frosting

Vanilla Party Cake + Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Apple Spice Cake + Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

Pumpkin Cake + Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Chocolate Cake + Peanut Butter Frosting

Coconut Cake + Marshmallow Frosting

Chocolate Cake + Peppermint White Chocolate Buttercream

I will need to make all of these cakes (6" 2-layer cakes) in the next 2-3 weeks.  I will remove one slice to photograph, but then the rest of the cake will need a home.  A cake like this is normally $27, but as a slice will be missing, I am asking $12.  Obviously, it is not something you will bring to a birthday party- just something special for your family.

If you are crazy enough to buy a cake with a slice missing, comment either on this blog or on the Facebook post.  I am only making ONE of each of the cakes listed above.  A 6" two-layer cake will feed 6-8 people (unless you are really hungry).

First come, first serve.  Help a sister out.

Have a great one!

Rachel Bee

An apple green wedding cake...

Good morning, everyone!  We are up and at 'em at the Bee home this morning- sipping coffee and eating things like grapefruit and yogurt.


It was a very busy weekend in our house, starting Friday evening and pulling straight through to Sunday night.  Friday brought a mere two hours of sleep as I made sense of 125 cupcakes, a cake for cutting, and a groom's cake for a Saturday wedding.

I read a Facebook post requesting an "inexpensive bakery" in Augusta, and with no thought I replied something like, "Well, right now it's my kitchen."  After a day's banter she decided to let me do it, and everything went very smoothly from that moment.



All of the ordering went very smoothly, the baking went well, but on Friday night I sat down for a moment to relax with a Diet Coke.  Langston approached me to ask for some of my "juice," and saying "no" was just not acceptable to him.  He stuck his finger in the opening of the can, and ever so slightly slit it open (his finger, not the can).  Langston has not seen blood in over a year, and as P went to find a bandage, Langston began to fuh-reak.

"Red, Red, RED!!!!!!  RED!!!!"

The bandage bothered him even more than the blood, and the only thing that soothed him was mommy's hands (both of them) covering the "owee" up.  For an hour or more.

Although I began a few hours late, I finished everything on time and made it to Washington, GA without a single tragedy (Oh, come on.  Twas nothing but a flesh wound).

P came with me to help me piece together the "Cupcake Tree."  OK.  And to take a few pictures.  And because he smells good.

Ribbon Cake, Cupcake Tree

Apple Green Wedding Cake

The cake topper the bride used had been used for generations of weddings.  How romantic!

The groom was the drummer for the band the "Dead Confederates" for a decade, so the bride asked that the groom's cake resemble a drum.

Drum cake

Dead Confederates Drum Cake

Pardon my ignorance, but those little silvery screwy things- well, I intended to make 6 of them, but I then got so caught up in symmetry that I ended up with four.  I could have made 8, but that didn't seem like a very good idea at 3:30 AM.  I think it still looks like a drum.

All in all, I am really pleased with the way everything turned out, although it was a bit stressful at times.  All throughout the making of these cakes, and while setting them up- I prayed for my friend and her (now) husband.  I prayed for so many years of togetherness, unity, and love.

I did.  I prayed for you, "K!"

So now that that's over, we are on to other things... like hair and makeup for four other weddings in the next three weeks.  And maybe some knitting.  And (squeal) a trip to New York.

May your day be beautiful.

Rachel Bee

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I really have been doing stuff, I promise...

I am busy.  Oh, so very busy.

I am busy with home, with work, church, friends, crafting, and baking (of course).

I would love to inspire you right now, but I simply must start in the kitchen before my son gets up.  My son.  What a beautiful declaration!

I went into his room this morning to see if he was under covers, and naturally he was not.  His thick pink thighs were curled up against his body, with pieces of the "Memory Game" pinched between his snug little joints (yes, he wanted to sleep with it last night).  His rosebud lips were gently open and somewhat smashed against his pillow, with a generous pool of drool gathering under their fullness.  As I watch him, I think (oops, he heard me talking about him- he's up) of so many of my friends who are currently pregnant- some of them expecting 3rd and 4th babies.  I look my child's curls falling over his face; I think of his excited eyes as he recites his ABC's and counts to fifteen- and I understand.  I understand why parents want more, even though we can just barely keep up with the ones we have.

He is exquisite.  Bless the friends he will choose to have.  Bless the wife he will call his own.  God, help me to be worthy of him.

And here is what I have been doing these past few weeks...

Thomas the Tank Engine Cake

This is my attempt at a Thomas Cake.  After making my Phineas and Ferb Cake, a friend asked me to make her son Thomas Cake and I agreed; and shortly afterward declared that I would not ever do another character cake.  And we'll leave it at that.

Ruffle Cakes

This is a typically bad photo from my phone of my first attempt at a ruffle cake, and I was so pleased with it.  I made it along with 60 cupcakes for a good friend's 40th birthday party.

Cakes in Augusta, GA

This is a Double Chocolate Crunch Cake, one of three cakes I sent to the Limited's corporate offices 3 weeks ago.  By the grace of God they arrived safe and sound, and I was beyond relieved.  But given the experience, I am not going into shipping cakes as habit for now.  Sorry, my far away friends.

Cakes in Augusta, GA

This is a two tier Humming Bird Cake I made for a first birthday party.  I made this and another smaller one for the little girl to dig into.  I think I actually have a decent picture of that one somewhere...

I know you love the nice, greasy cake board...

Oh, dear... this is an engagement cake for a good friend of mine.  It was lemon-scented cake full of lemon curd and covered in lemony cream cheese frosting.  It was heavenly.

Bird Cake 

Bird Cake

And there has never been a boy so excited to marry a girl.  She is lovely, and he is well-aware.

Fondant Roses

And this is a Chocolate Cake frosted with Cream Cheese Frosting.  It was for a 13th birthday party.

Pink Cake

Please forgive the countertop.  It is all sugar and it is somewhat clean now.  I say "somewhat" as I am currently baking for a wedding on Saturday, so my kitchen is covered in a haze of powdered sugar and flour.

So there you have it.  I have also been making more headbands, and I will put together a tutorial on those shortly.  Oh, and it is way past time to pull out the knitting...

Have a wonderful day.

Rachel Bee