beka stays relational: coffee lessons from my mom

Happy Leap Day, everyone!

I think an extra day deserves an extra gift. Which means it’s time for a good Mom story.

My mom is a hard worker. She works as a bus aide and in the middle school cafeteria. She leaves the house every morning around 6am, goes on her first bus run, and then has a short break before heading to the cafeteria. During that break she likes to have some coffee.

If only it were that simple.

The problem is that she prefers her food and beverages to be hot. And by hot, I mean volcanic. So putting coffee in a travel mug and saving it for her break just isn’t an option because it won’t stay hot enough. I’ve tried to help the situation by giving her super-insulated mugs and mugs that plug into the car lighter to self-heat. Neither of those options complied with her temperature preferences.

So she came up with her own solution instead. And when she started telling the story of how she prepares her coffee every morning I knew I had to write it down because it’s the best thing I’ve heard…basically ever. And then I knew I had to share it with you guys, because I love you that much.

Here’s our coffee conversation, as told by my mom, with select input from my dad and me. Good luck.

Mom: (Said in about 3 seconds) Okay, fill a coffee cup with hot water and put it in the microwave…

Me: Wait wait wait how fast do you think I can type this?

Mom: Oh…(laughs uncontrollably) sorry. I’ll have to send you a picture of –

Dad: Yeah there’s an idea!

Me: Of the mug?

Mom and Dad: Yeah!

Mom: Ok so anyway fill a coffee CUP with hot water and put it in the microwave until it boils, or you know, whatever, comes to a boil. Then I put the boiling water in my coffee MUG and I seal it up. I wrap the bottom part in foil –

Me: Bottom part of what?

Mom: My mug!

Me: Why the bottom?

Mom: SHHHH. And then, before I leave – I figure it’s like 10-15 minutes since I put the boiling water in, whatever – when I leave I pour the coffee from the machine into the CUP and put it in the microwave.

Dad: Now you know why she has to get up at 5am…

Mom: And put it in there –

Me: Wait, in where?

Mom: In the MICROWAVE. Just shy of 2 minutes and 45 seconds, just shy of coming to a boil. Then I empty the hot water from the insulated mug and pour the hot coffee into the mug…put the lid on…hahahaha!…And then I put the foil on.

Me: What happened to the foil on the bottom?

Mom: It’s still there!

Me: So where are you putting the new foil?

Mom: On top! And then I put the plastic bag on top of everything.

Dad: You have to see this…

Mom: And then I put a rubber band over everything (starts to break into another fit of laughter). But it works because you can see the steam inside of the bag once I’m done with my bus run!!!

Dad: Gee, I wonder why…

Mom: And then I put it in the car and I have a big beach towel and then a regular towel and then I wrap it around with all the towels –

Me: Ok wait, towels?

Mom: Well I have the beach towel which I wrap around the “mug” and then, like I said, I have the other towel and I wrap that all around the other towel…it’s like a cocoon around my mug!

(Pauses momentarily.)

But if I DON’T do that…well even if I don’t do the foil! Or the microwave! I mean it’s just not the same. This stays HOT for 2 hours! And sometimes, just as extra, I put a bag on top.

Me: On top of…the towels?

Mom: Yeah!

Me: So you leave at what time in the morning?

Mom: No later than 6:15.

Me: And when are you drinking this?

Mom: About 8:45 or 9.

Me: And your coffee stays hot?

Mom: Oh, absolutely, absolutely!

Dad: It wouldn’t dare get cold.

Mom: It’s just as hot as if it’s being served in a restaurant!

Me: How…did this happen? How did you start doing this?

Mom: I don’t know how I started doing it. But I’ll tell you what: it WORKS!

End Scene.

And just in case you thought it was too good to be true, here’s the visual:

One towel:

Two towels:

The bag:

And the mastermind behind this whole process:

Mom…I love you more than you’ll ever know. Thanks for making life so much fun.

good things : kids


pinned here via here

I didn’t think there was anything better than having a 2 year old tell you he loves you and has missed you after a week long vacation.

Until his 4 year old sister hit me with this:

“Beka, when you get married, I’ll be the nanny for my brother.”

“Oh, that’s so nice of you! But who will take care of you?”

“Well, Beka, don’t be silly. I’ll be in college when you get married so I won’t need a nanny.”

Good to know the world is on the same page about my marital status.

But seriously…LOVE IT. Love them. Kids are the best.


beka stays out of rochester : lancaster, pa

When I was a teenager I went to a church dinner with my parents. It was one of those church dinners with table games, one of them being the game where everyone at the table answers a list of questions and the rest of the table has to guess who each answer belongs to. One of the questions was, “If you could go on vacation to any place in the world, where would you go?” Most people listed exotic locations: Fiji, Madagascar, Switzerland. But I was 14. And I could only think of one place I wanted to go.

Southeastern Pennsylvania.

I was pretty much a dead giveaway.

Now, over a decade later, I might pick a few different vacation spots. Italy and Greece and Australia come to mind. But if I could pick anywhere in the world to live, literally anywhere, my answer would still be the same.

Southeastern Pennsylvania.

This is one reason why.

The other reason may or may not include the frozen empire devoted to Dairy.

But really, this is why:

1. I have lots and lots (and LOTS) of family there, family who I’d really love to know better.

2. People are warm, friendly, and funny.

3. Seasons are warm, friendly, and temperate.

4. It’s close to the epicenter: Philly, NYC, DC. (Hello, professional sports.) And Albany and Boston aren’t too far away, either!

5. There’s something peaceful about Southeastern PA. Maybe it’s the farm land. Maybe it’s the presence of Sheetz. Maybe it’s the Amish pies: both shoo-fly and whoopie. Whatever it is, it’s wonderful.

Last week my mom and I spent a few days near Lancaster visiting family. We ate. We laughed. We came home with Tastykakes.

It was well, it was well with my soul.

Dear Rochester, if for any reason you decide you no longer want me as a citizen, please ship me directly to Pennsylvania. I’m happy to stay here…but you know, a girl needs to keep her options open. Just FYI.

beka stays painfully honest : a new endeavor (and a new blog!)

Perhaps I’ve missed my calling. I may need to look into becoming a professional blog creator, because apparently that’s what I do.

But not to worry, there’s no need to change bookmarks or addresses in Google Reader. This blog, as per the title, isn’t going anywhere. I LOVE this blog; I could never abandon it! But I think I may have taken the “staying” part a little too literally as of late. Like as an invitation to “stay” in my sweatpants, “stay” huddled in front of my TV, “stay” away from anything that is not composed of sugar and/or chocolate.

You might say I’m in a health and fitness rut.

You might also say that it doubles as a general life rut.

And disclaimer: this did not start with not being able to run for over a month, although that didn’t help. It did not start with continued career confusion (which I’ll be sharing at a later date…because those posts are so few and far between for me…). It didn’t even start over the summer when I was working 80 hours a week and couldn’t remember my first/last/middle name.

Nope, I’ve been digging this hole for awhile, thanks to a keen sense of denial and an affinity for avoidance. I’m hardly in the depths of despair. (People, please. The Packers went 15-1 this season.) But I’m not living joyfully, up to my full potential, either.

My answer to these problems has been really exemplary: eat more, work out less; sigh more, act less; stay in sweatpants more, shower less.

I’m sure my badge of honor is in the mail as we speak.

Oh goodness, it’s time for a change. A big one.

So I’m doing a 24 Day Challenge and starting a new blog.


It probably sounds like the least plausible solution…but trust me, it all makes sense in the end. Just hop over to the new companion blog, beka thrives, for more details. For at least the foreseeable future, beka thrives will be the blog home of the 24 day challenge and my new endeavor to get into the best shape of my life. To make a mental change by way of a physical change.

And to stop looking for the answers to life’s questions in my pantry.

And to be painfully honest in the process.

And to do it all without coffee or chocolate or sugar for 24 DAYS…

Oh, Lord. Be near.

beka stays hungry : quick chicken parm

Confession: I didn’t actually make this week’s dinner challenge meal. Unless you count taking pictures and cracking jokes as “making dinner.” But I definitely benefited from dinner, which is almost the same thing.

This week’s dish is from my mom, who found it in the January 2012 issue of Woman’s Day and tweaked it a bit. Here’s her version:


  • 3-4 Chicken Breasts
  • 1 cup Panko Bread Crumbs
  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil
  • 1 cup Marinara Sauce
  • 1/2 cup Shredded Mozzarella


  • Season the rinsed chicken with salt and pepper.
  • Coat the chicken with a layer of panko bread crumbs (we used Italian Style)

This is my Mom showcasing the bread crumbs

This is my mom showcasing the bread crumbs after she realized I was saying “Channel Vanna!” and not “Channel Santa!”

  • Fry the chicken in olive oil – about 2-3 minutes per side

  • Put about 1/2 cup of marinara sauce in the bottom of a baking dish
  • Place fried chicken on top of marinara sauce

  • Top the chicken with the remaining 1/2 cup of sauce
  • Finish with a layer of shredded mozzarella (about 1/2 cup)
  • Broil on High for 3 minutes, or until cheese is golden and bubbly

And then enjoy! It’s a quick and easy version of the real deal, and you could easily add a side of pasta if you’re feeling traditional (or in need of carbs). Great weeknight dinner.

The Rating:

Difficulty: Easy.

Preparation Time: Only 10-15 minutes, if that.

Dumpster Dinner, Not Bad, Good, Really Good, or Unbelievably Amazing: Really good! I love chicken parm so this is a nice time-saving alternative.

Overall Rating: 3.5/5 but almost 4/5 – for the same reason as last week: I’m not the biggest carnivore, so I probably wouldn’t make this all the time. But for an occasional easy weeknight meal, this is perfect!

good things : carmelitas

I’ve made three pans of these since Valentine’s Day with the intention of sharing them. “Intention” being the operative word.


pinned here via lulu the baker

Oh my word. These things are out of this world amazing. And since I don’t want to be the only one in a sugar coma want to share the love, here’s the recipe:


slightly adapted from lulu the baker


32 caramel squares, unwrapped
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup bittersweet chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine caramels and heavy cream in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until completely smooth and then set aside.

In a separate bowl, combine melted butter, brown sugar, flour, oats, baking soda, and salt.

Pat half of the oatmeal mixture into the bottom of an 8 x 8 pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

Remove pan from oven and sprinkle bittersweet and semisweet chocolate over crust. Pour caramel mixture over chocolate chips. Crumble remaining oatmeal mixture over caramel.

Return to oven and bake an additional 15-20 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool completely before cutting.

Side Note 1: These are especially good just slightly warm with a glass of cold milk.

Side Note 2: On Monday I’m starting a new healthy initiative, new blog (with only nutrition/fitness focus) included! (It’s not because of the Carmelitas…but it kind of is.) (And beka stays is still staying – no changes there!) Stay tuned!

inspired : 2.18.12

this week’s list is a little photo-heavy…and therefore chock-full of beautiful images! enjoy!

the bride at dawn photo shoot

my southern valentine photo shoot

so this is love photo shoot

there are no shortcuts to anywhere worth going

this butterfly baby shower is so beautiful!

i know two kids who would L-O-V-E this birthday party

hawaiian wedding? um, yes please.

in the immortal words of liz lemon, i want to go to there

glidden’s my colortopia is my new favorite toy

life essentials from joy the baker

sweet baby, amazing photos!

pin of the week:

do something you've never done

pinned here via here