Femee Culberson and Natalie Woodward
Femee Culberson and Natalie Woodward
Going to see your beautician may seem like a routine habit to many, but for two ladies in Philadelphia, being a beautician is anything but routine.

Femee Culberson and Natalie Woodward find making someone's outside appearance look just as beautiful as their inside more than just a job, it's a gift.

Culberson, an L.P.N. during the weekdays at Neshoba Pediatrics Clinic, along with her husband, Deaunda, who is a barber, ventured into business at the beginning of this year by opening their own salon. Mahogany Xperience Salon opened in January on Carver Avenue in Philadelphia and has three stylists and one barber. They are open Tuesday through Saturday.

"I've always had a vision to do something multi-cultural and to help people find jobs," Culberson said.

"Opening a salon was my way to use my gift as a beautician and provide jobs for others, Doing hair is an art. When a client comes in, we want to transform their look and help them feel better about themselves," she added.

Culberson, a mother of 5, finds staying busy just a way of life. Staying organized and scheduling her time wisely is the only way being so busy works for her.

"My grandmother had five daughters. Four of the five daughters, including my mother, always had at least two jobs at the same time. I'm the same way. I love to work!"

Culberson, vice president of the youth department at Jerusalem Temple, loves guiding youth in life choices and helping them make wise decisions about their education.

Woodward, salon manager, is a mother of three and has been a hair stylist for 13 years. She is married to the Rev. Marcus Woodward. They attend Poplar Springs M.B. Church.

Woodward, who lost her salon five years ago after a gas explosion, had been working from a shop at her home. When the opportunity to work with Culberson arose, she felt like it was the perfect opportunity to go back to work in a salon setting.

"Losing my shop in such a tragic situation five years ago was very hard. I had been waiting for the perfect opportunity and the right environment, and this was it," Woodward said.

Woodward agrees with Culberson in that being a stylist provides an opportunity to listen to your client about more than just their appearance.

"We have the opportunity to counsel our clients. The clients confide in us and I enjoy that. It gives me an opportunity to provide a listening ear and often a word of advice," said Woodward.

Both Culberson and Woodward have a lot to juggle in their lives as working moms, wives, business women and active church members. But they both agree they would not have it any other way. They want to see Mahogany Xperience Salon expand by opening it up to more stylists.

Culberson and Woodward enjoy providing healthy meals for their families and have shared some of their recipes.

Southern Chocolate Torte

1 package Swiss chocolate or devil's food cake mix

1 package instant vanilla pudding mix

3 eggs

1-1/4 cups milk

1/2 cup canola oil


1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened

1 cup sugar

1 cup confectioners' sugar

10 milk chocolate candy bars with almonds (1.45 ounces each), divided

1 carton (16 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed

In a large bowl, sift the cake and pudding mixes. In another bowl, whisk the eggs, milk and oil. Add to dry ingredients; beat until well blended. Pour into three greased and floured 9 inch round baking pans.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.

For frosting, in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugars until smooth. Finely chop eight candy bars; stir into cream cheese mixture. Fold in whipped topping.

Spread frosting on cake plate, between layers and over the top and sides of the cake. Chop the remaining candy bars; sprinkle over top and along bottom edge of cake. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Store in refrigerator.

Rotel Chicken Casserole

3 cooked, cubed chicken breasts

1 can Ro-Tel tomatoes

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

1 package Tostitos chips

Cover bottom of casserole dish with Tostitos chips and moisten with chicken broth. Saute onions. Mix onions with chicken, soup, chili powder and garlic powder and pour over chips. Top with cheese. Drain Ro-Tel tomatoes and place on top of cheese. Bake at 350 degrees until cheese is brown.

Macaroni Salad

1/4 pound elbow macaroni, cooked

1/2 diced cheese

2/3 cup chopped onion

2 red and 2 green peppers, chopped

1/2 cup chopped celery

2 teaspoon celery seed

3 boiled eggs, chopped

1 sweet or dill pickle, chopped

1 medium clove garlic, chopped or grated (optional)

salt to taste

1/2 cup salad dressing

Mix in order given. Let set in refrigerator 30 minutes or longer to blend seasoning. Serves approximately 10.

Cheesy Potatoes

4 or 5 potatoes

1/2 stick butter

1 teaspoon flour

1 cup milk

1/2 pound Velveeta cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Peel and slice potatoes. Boil until almost done. Drain. Put in a buttered casserole dish. In saucepan, melt remaining ingredients. Pour over potatoes. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.

Buttermilk Custard

1/2 cup butter

3 tablespoons flour

1 cup buttermilk

2 eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla

dash of nutmeg

Cream sugar with butter. Add flour and eggs. Mix well. Stir in buttermilk, vanilla and nutmeg.

Pour in unbaked pie shell. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes.

Mexican Stuffed Shells

1 pound ground beef (or ground turkey)

1 package low-sodium taco seasoning

4 ounces cream cheese

16 jumbo pasta shells

1 1/2 cups salsa

1 cup taco sauce

1 cup cheddar cheese

1 cup Monterrey jack cheese

For toppings:

3 green onions

Sour cream

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a pan brown the ground beef; add taco seasoning and prepare according to package directions. Add cream cheese, cover and simmer until cheese is melted.

Stir together and mix well. Set aside and cool completely.

While ground beef is cooking, cook the pasta shells according to package directions; drain.

Set shells out individually on cutting board or baking sheet so that they don't stick together.

Pour salsa on bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Stuff each shell with 1-2 tablespoons of the meat mixture. Place shells in 9×13 pan open side up. Evenly cover shells with taco sauce. Cover dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, add shredded cheese and bake for 10-15 more minutes with the foil removed.

Top with green onions or olives if desired. Serve with sour cream and/or more salsa.