I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again, being a mom is hard. Long hours, no pay, and little to no appreciation, mom does her thing and takes it in stride, she really is the best isn’t she?
Moms do the jobs most are unwilling to touch and that’s why we thought it was about time to honor some of the best of the best here in the 573 with the Mommy Make Over contest!
This year we had two very deserving winners. Last issue we met Penny and had a blast up in Ste. Genevieve celebrating her mommy-hood. Today we’ll be going to Cape Girardeau to join our other very special contest winner, honoring her, and making sure she gets the experience of a lifetime.
Meet Becky Barnes...
High school teacher, wife, and mother of five (yes five!), Becky definitely has her hands and her schedule full. Never having the time or inclination to pamper herself like the hero she is, her family and students stepped it up in our poll to make sure that she got the recognition she deserved.
Concepts Styling Salon, owned and operated by Danae Johnson, has been a refuge for women needing some “me time” since 2006. With a strong family feel among their well trained staff, you just can’t help but feel right at home as well in one of these salon chairs. We sat down and introduced ourselves, and as we chatted, stylist Destiny Raines went to work on Becky’s ‘do.
“I’m not really one to draw attention to myself...
“I am very excited, but also very awkward and nervous.” Becky said as she eyed the room and the camera that was taking snap shots. “I’m not really one to draw attention to myself so it’s a little bit overwhelming.”
I couldn’t help but smile. She was such a sweetheart! A true-blue selfless mommy who’s perfectly happy being in the background while helping others to shine.
“Were you surprised when you won?” I asked her.
“Yes.” She said, “I didn’t know two people were being chosen so I was pretty disappointed when I saw the story about the winner last issue, but now here I am and I am so excited!”
Destiny reappeared from the back where she’d gone to gather materials, and as she approached, I asked, “What are we doing today with Becky’s hair?”
“We’re doing balayage & baby lights.” She responded.
“Baby lights?” I asked.
“Fine, sunkist highlights.” She explained.
Destiny is from the area and studied cosmetology at Renaissance in Cape Girardeau. She started working at Concepts after graduating and has been there now for 4 years. She worked diligently on Becky as we continued chatting.
“I love being a teacher...”
I asked Becky about being a teacher and she told me she’s been teaching high school English for 9 years now. She currently teaches at North St. Francis County High School in Bon Terre and has been there for a year.
“I love being a teacher,” she said, “my kids are wonderful. In fact, it was them who made this possible. I shared the contest on facebook and my students actually voted me in, I don’t really have a whole lot of friends.”
How awesome… To have that much of a positive impact on that many young people. I mean, it’s hard to get kids to appreciate much of anything these days, so well done Becky! You may not be a party gal, but you are one popular woman whether you know it or not. There seems to be a whole lot of love out there for you.
“Wow. So you must be pretty close to your students, huh? Do you ever get all “mommy” at school?”
“Nope!” She grinned, “I get teacher at home!” Lol.
“Tell me more about home, what are your kids like?”
“My kids are awesome! They are so easy…and just really smart.” Her kids are rock-stars in school (the mark of a true teacher mom). Getting good grades and having perfect attendance, they make their mama proud! “My daughter, Lainey, is quiet and shy, but also very funny. My son, Lucas, is almost the opposite, very outgoing. He never shuts up!” She laughed, “He makes up for all the things Lainey doesn’t say. They both play instruments; piano, ukulele, and they sing. My son likes to come in my room and play while I sing. He’s always asking me, “What songs do you know, Mom?”
"It’ll be nice to have clothes to wear to dinner without fur stuck all over it!”
She went on to tell me about their adult children that had already moved out and her 3 fur babies. Becky has 2 calico cats and a Border Collie. “I’m constantly covered in animal hair…It’ll be nice to have clothes to wear to dinner without fur stuck all over it!”
“What do you guys like to do for fun?”
“We love hiking & traveling, and obviously reading and writing, haha, being an English teacher, it kind of comes with the territory.” She giggled. “We really like to travel. We like to show the kids new places and new cultures. We want to show them the world.”
“What’s one of your favorite memories traveling with your family?”
“Karaoke.” She smiled broadly when she said this, “I did karaoke in front of everyone and the kids were just amazed, especially my son who loves to perform. It was during our Smoky Mountains trip at a little seafood place in Gatlinburg.”
“I told you I was awkward.” She laughed.
She suddenly got very emotional and started to well up. “I don’t know why I’m so emotional.” She said as she wiped a stray tear. “I told you I was awkward.” She laughed.
As we gathered our things, I gave her the wooden nickels from the City of Ste. Genevieve for her shopping spree later, and thanked her for the wonderful company and conversation. And with that, we left her to enjoy the rest of her salon visit with some beautiful motherhood memories fresh on the mind.
Our next stop was The Downtown Guest House where Becky and her husband Dave would get to have their relaxing mini vacay.
Strategically located within walking distance from all of the fabulous shops and restaurants that Downtown Cape Girardeau has to offer, and the beautiful riverfront of the Mighty Mississippi this cozy one bedroom one bath guesthouse is the perfect haven for a woman ready for a night on the town!
...everything you would need for a relaxing weekend...
Deceptively small on the outside, this sweet little downtown cottage has a vintage, rustic appeal that you just can’t find anymore. Bare brick walls, retro furniture and décor, and over 100 years of charm, this comfy B & B is absolutely fabulous! And it has everything you would need for a relaxing weekend including a queen sized bed, full size couch, slopped back tub for soaking, free wireless internet, a beautiful kitchenette with an antique rough-cut oak wall & counter, a Keurig coffeemaker with a selection of coffees, and a mini fridge with complimentary snacks.
The back door opened up to a private shaded patio where there was outdoor seating, a fireplace, a view of the winding staircase that climbs Mother Earth, one of Cape’s amazing downtown shops, and the gardens that surround it.
Satisfied that our honored guest would love the digs, we moved on to Bistro Saffron to see what kinds of things our friend Chef Su Hill had in store for the couple later that evening. A rare jewel here in Cape Girardeau, Bistro Saffron is a fine dining restaurant with a California casual kind of atmosphere. I walked in and took a look around. Clean, hip, and super swank, with the beverage selection on display as functional art, this place had my full attention.
The front of the place is super laid back, with bar-like tables along the windowed walls, a beverage station, stone tile, and a glass door that leads out to the patio which is dotted with tables and chairs complete with large bright umbrellas for shade, and surrounded by a vintage style rod iron fence complete with twinkle lights laced through for a magical night time ambience.
Su grows a variety of herbs right there at Bistro Saffron
There were lots of little shrubs and flowers out there too. I started looking at all of the different potted plants and little gardens and realized many of them were herbs! Su grows a variety of herbs right there at Bistro Saffron to make sure she has them fresh and ready whenever she needs.
I made my way back inside where I was drawn to the large deli case next to the hostess stand. Inside the glass display was some of the most attractive slices of cake I’ve ever seen. There was a chocolate layer cake and another kind of cake that looked like some kind of vanilla layer cake, both garnished with fresh strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and a tiny sprig of mint. It was so lovely I had to ask about it. “That’s layer crepe cake.” Su said. Crepe cake? That sounds interesting.
"That’s layer crepe cake.”
I’ve always been a huge supporter of dessert first!
She must have read my face pretty well because before I knew it, she’d hurried off to the kitchen and was back in no time at all with a beautiful piece of the Layered Crepe Cake. Only, this piece was even prettier! 15 visible layers of thin delicate crepes stacked together and iced with a heavenly homemade whipped cream, topped with a raspberry sauce that’s as fresh and sweet as summer love, and garnished with fresh ripe beautiful strawberries, blueberries, and mint leaves. I’ve always been a huge supporter of dessert first! (Except of course when it comes to my kids… Lol)
Man I wish I had her energy!
Su came in the doors from the patio with a small sprig of leaves in her hand. Noticing that I was watching her with great curiosity, she came to show me what she had. “Kafir Lime” she said as she showed me the little green twig with leaves and what looked like green berries. She explained that they use kafir lime as a seasoning and garnish, and that the tree was right out on the patio. I had passed right by it when I went out there and hadn’t even noticed it was part of the herb collection. She smiled and hustled back to the kitchen, busy as ever. Man I wish I had her energy!
Sticking with dessert first today, the next thing I was fortunate enough to try was the Vanilla Crème Brulee. Not sure if it was the sugar rush I was already on or just the perfect little bowl of awesome I was about to dig into, but my excitement steadily grew as I broke the wafer thin, crisp, perfectly golden-brown top to reveal the creamy smooth light, yet rich, vanilla custard base. A vanilla utopia, it danced on my tongue and melted away as I closed my eyes and savored every moment of its flavor until it was gone.
Now that dessert’s done, on to the entrées!
The first entrée to arrive was the Grilled Salmon with Crusted Skin. An enormous fresh sushi-grade salmon slab grilled to perfection with a crisped seasoned skin running down the middle, on top of a Panang sauce with peas & spinach, served with grilled shishito peppers. A complex array of flavors including curry, coconut, and a peppery heat, makes this sweet and spicy sauce pop and excites the palate. I had a small glass of Rickshaw Chardonnay, a semi-sweet white wine with a light refreshing fruity almost tropical taste, hints of vanilla, and a subtle oak finish.
As I wrote my notes I was approached by Front of House Manager, Megan Kays, who was supposed to be out on maternity leave, but since baby was 2 days late for its own delivery, this hard working mama and dedicated employee came in to work to make sure everything went smoothly for us and Su. “Do you need anything?” She asked kindly.
Freshly picked veggies from Su’s own garden...
Before I could answer the next dish was out, and noticing that I had lost my fork when the dishes were changed, she quickly went and grabbed me a clean one.
The next dish to taste was Sautéed Mixed Veggies. Freshly picked veggies from Su’s own garden, including zucchini, yellow squash, brussels sprouts, green beans, and tomatoes all grilled with a subtle amount of seasoning perfect for bringing out all of the natural flavors of the very fresh ingredients.
“This is Papaya Salad.”
“This is Papaya Salad.” Su said as she brought out another dish. With fresh green shredded papaya, carrots, cabbage, tomatoes, and fresh crushed peanuts drizzled with a green chili & lime sweet-spicy vinaigrette this was one of the tastiest, and definitely the most unique salad I’d ever tried. It was a table favorite for sure.
They were all incredible!
The next plate that came to the table was a sample platter of their Nigiri Sushi selection. The platter included red snapper with ikura, yellow tail with golden tobiko & jalapeño, eel with eel sauce & sesame seeds, mackerel with scallion & ginger, salmon with raw wasabi & kaiware, and last but not least, tuna with avocado & red tobiko.
They were all incredible! The yellow tail and the salmon were much spicier than the others, so if you like heat, these would be good for you. I enjoyed the hot stuff, but my favorite was the eel!
The masterpiece that came last was full of surprises, the biggest one being that it turned out to be my favorite dish today.
The Summertime Roll was a sight to behold. Crab, cucumber, and cream cheese all rolled in Nori, topped with salmon, avocado, spicy mayo, kaiware, and the beautiful jewel-like golden tobiko, served with ginger and wasabi and garnished with Oba leaves. DELICIOUS!! Complexity in both texture & taste, it’s nearly impossible to describe, but I’ll give it my best shot. Sweet, savory, light, fresh, spicy… bursts of flavor and spices erupt as it all melts together in my mouth continuing to surprise the taste buds even long after it’s gone.
Meet Sushi Chef Adam Stone...
Su came out to our table as we were wrapping up the meal and introduced us to Sushi Chef Adam Stone. Young, but extremely talented, Chef Adam has been at Saffron Bistro for 3 years.
“This was my first formal position. I always cooked for myself and family events but that was pretty much it until I came in here looking for a job.” He said. With no formal training, Adam learned on the job under Su herself and is already making a name for himself through his amazing work.
Su happened to have a second to come chat for a few. A very busy woman, we knew we needed to make it as quick as possible and be out of the way so they could prepare for their dinner rush.
Su Hill is not just interesting, she’s a force to be reckoned with.
But man, I would love to get a chance to have a long conversation with this phenomenal super woman. Funny, kind, incredibly intelligent, and extremely talented, Su Hill is not just interesting, she’s a force to be reckoned with.
Knowing how little free time she has, I was honored to be able to hear her story. She told me about growing up with her parents and how they always cooked at home, and never went out to eat. They kept a garden and cooked whatever they had and whatever they could catch fishing. She learned her love for food through her family and the creative ways that they kept mealtime interesting.
After going to school for accounting and business and moving to the US, Su joined Holiday Inn and worked all over the area. Su’s potential was noticed in no time and she was chosen to attend Holiday Inn University for culinary arts. She learned all kinds of dishes from around the world and could prepare gourmet cuisine from a variety of cultures; French, Italian, German, Japanese, Vietnamese…
"...nothing happens over night, you have to work for it. Success is won..."
She used those skills when she started her own restaurant in 1996. In fact, she had multiple restaurants. Manee Thai, a Chinese joint, Ciao, an Italian restaurant, Pho8, a Vietnamese place that served noodles that were out of this world, and of course Saffron Bistro.
“You can’t do everything,” she said with a shrug while talking about all of the things she used to fill her schedule with, “you got to pick something and do it. But nothing happens over night, you have to work for it. Success is won. It’s not determined by money; you spend faster than you make.” And after those words of wisdom, Su said her goodbyes and went back to work. What an amazing and energetic lady!
I hardly recognized her...
Knowing Becky would be well taken care of, we left to meet up with her and husband, Dave, in Jackson City Park to take some pictures of her newly made over self. I hardly recognized her when we got there! I mean, WOW! She had a beautiful beachy wave in her hair and you could see the sun-shine like wisps of baby lights throughout her lovely locks. Her face was bright and happy, and she was rocking a new crimson mini dress that looked as if it were made just for her.
It seemed the pampering was enough to bring her out of her shell, or perhaps it was the new confidence she had do to her new fabulous look, but she totally owned that photo shoot and looked like she was having a blast with it.
“How was your day?” I asked her.
“It was amazing!” She said with a radiant smile.
“So, where’d you get the dress?”
"...I’m definitely going back...!"
“Belle Ever After Boutique.” She replied, “And I have to tell you about that,” She went on to tell me that her shopping experience was just as awesome as her salon experience, and how wonderful the shop girl was. “Britani was so helpful. She’s this young, cute, super sweet & social girl who just loves dressing people up, and she’s actually the one who picked this dress. When I tried it on, she was like, ‘Yes! You have to get this dress!’ ...It was 100% like shopping with a friend. The salon felt like that too, I’m definitely going back to both!”
As we left the park to leave the couple to their evening plans, I couldn’t help but smile. I love my job. I love meeting these wonderfully amazing people here in the 573, and I’m so happy we got to do this today for Becky. Congratulations Girl! You rock this mommy thing! And to all the Mothers out there, thank you for everything, and even though it doesn’t always feel this way, you are very much appreciated, and we here at 573 Magazine applaud you and all that you do!
-Written by AJ Koehler