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