halfway flashback : february

Baking, friends, and food photography. Does it get any better? Love this post!

I think this post is going to be my valentine this year. I love it that much.

My love for whoopie pies knows no bounds. It’s almost as intense as my love for shoo fly pie. But just almost.

Also, why is Pennsylvania fond of naming non-pie desserts as pie? Whoopie pies? Basically hand-held cake. Shoo fly pie? Basically cake with frosting on the bottom. Dear PA, perhaps we need to have a cake vs. pie tutorial. I’ll be happy to provide examples. And help sample.

But that’s neither here nor there. The important thing is that Valentine’s baking + Saturday morning + a wonderful friend  =

A pretty perfect day.

These bright red beauties came from a recipe recently featured on Annie’s Eats. As always, she did not disappoint.

Also not disappointing: a free e-book! If you are feeling a bit unprepared for your big Valentine’s date tonight (as in: you have no idea what you’ll be doing 8 hours from now) check out my friend Carrie’s free e-book 101 Cheap Dates. It’s sure to give you the inspiration you need for planning tonight’s festivities (and 100 other exciting date nights, too)!

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

staying real : not sitting on the cactus

Yesterday and I didn’t get along. For a variety of reasons, both legitimate and laughably illegitimate. When 6pm struck I was ready to call the day a wash and hope for better luck tomorrow.

But I still had a whole night ahead of me…a whole night! A night with a roof over my head and food in my stomach and clothes on my back. In the grand scheme of things: a really good night. And I couldn’t come to terms with going through it grumpy.

So I made an effort.

I started by laying on the living room floor and crying praying. These verses were brought to mind and were especially comforting.

And then I did these things:

1. I went for a walk around the neighborhood. Really, is there anything more effective than sunshine and sidewalks to snap you out of a bad mood? I really don’t think there is.

2. I made my new favorite salad for dinner: Quinoa with Watermelon, Feta, and Parsley. (Recipe coming Friday!)

3. I listened to the daily podcast from Chip Ingram. It’s become something that I look forward to every day. If you are looking for encouragement, insight, and wise biblical teaching, I can’t recommend Living on the Edge strongly enough!

4. I watched Friends. Because laughter really is the best medicine.

(And then I watched the Bachelorette. Because watching Sean run through the streets of Prague shouting “Emily! Emily!” is pretty good medicine, too.)

I went to bed a happy woman. And this morning, I woke up to this:

A fitting reminder that there are real frustrations in life, but we don’t have to focus on them.

Amen? Amen!

Hope you all are having days free of cacti cushions and full of real joy!

staying relational [nc series] : in real life

People…please tell me that you’ve had completely geeked-out moments when you’ve gotten to meet someone in real life who you’ve previously only known through the invisible world of the internet and felt that this experience was probably on the same level as finding out that your favorite ice cream is healthier than kale covered in quinoa boiled in green tea?

The second thing didn’t happen, but the first one did!

While I was in North Carolina, I was given the wonderful opportunity to meet my very favorite blogger, The Carpool Queen. And by “given the wonderful opportunity” I mean I sent her a long fan letter that would have alarmed most people emailed her and asked her if perhaps we could get together while I was in her general vicinity. And she didn’t call the cops said yes!!!

This is where a picture of our coffee outing at Jubala would be placed if I wasn’t so beside myself that I remembered to take pictures of something other than the brewing system:

…and the coffee

Way to play it cool, slick.

But lack of photographic documentation aside, it was one of my favorite coffee outings to date – and not just because the coffee was to die for. First, it’s a wonderful experience to meet someone who you’ve followed online for years, laughing and getting teary-eyed and gaining perspective through daily blog posts, and then find yourself in the middle of that same set of emotions while sitting across from the real person, being given valuable lessons about your own life. Second, it’s validating to know that this thing I spend all of my free time doing isn’t just wasted space on the world wide web. Meaningful relationships can be made with people you probably wouldn’t ever have known otherwise, and I really think that’s what makes blogging so special. Sometimes it’s more about the unexpected community that forms around a thousand stories about check-out lines and bad daytime TV and failed recipes than the stories themselves. And third, I’m just so glad to know Susan in real life now. And not only because she introduced me to both Jubala AND Savory Spice Shop (where I purchased Mexican Cocoa and Honey Powder and will need to go back for refills on both asap).


(I’m so glad I captured this stunning picture…of a door.)

But mostly because if I grow up to be anything like her, I’ll be thrilled.

THANK YOU, CPQ! The effect your kindness has had on me can’t be overstated.

(And, as per yesterday’s post, neither can the accuracy of your culinary recommendations.)

beka stays in rochester : good smoke bbq

This is Ashley.

She had the tall order of choosing between 8,000 different restaurants for our get together over the weekend because I make decisions about as well as I walk gracefully.

So… not very successfully. At all.

But luckily she’s a woman after my own heart and made a decision based on the dessert menu. Nicely done, Smash.

We went to Good Smoke BBQ in East Rochester, a practically brand new brick-and-mortar from a team that’s been traveling around winning BBQ competitions for years.

(FYI: the address is 326 West Commercial, not 376. If you accidentally put 376 into your GPS you will arrive about a block south of your desired location and wonder where in the world you are.)


In another feat of great decision making, Ashley ordered this turkey sandwich which was basically Thanksgiving on overdrive. Her reviews were very positive.

I opted for the pulled pork sandwich: kiddie size.



Or more aptly described: fat kiddie size.

But OH MY LAND was it ever amazing! Great smoky flavor, just enough sauce, and really crisp slaw. What more can you ask for from BBQ?

Hiding out in the back of the photo is the best cornbread I’ve ever had. Crunchy on the outside and SO moist on the inside – not dry at all like cornbread can be sometimes. And not pictured but equally delicious: a side of smoked potato salad. Wonderful.

And of course, the reason we gathered together in sisterly love at Good Smoke, the Gooey Bar:

That right there is a vanilla gooey bar topped with a banana caramel sauce and smoked bacon.

Bacon!

It was too decadent for description.

Now, since I’m making strides to be healthier than ever, I haven’t indulged in anything even slightly shady for over a month. So I was overdue for an oh-my-goodness-my-stomach-is-going-to-explode kind of meal. And I did really well with this one. I split everything in half to take home for later, dessert included!

At least, that was the plan.

Before:

After:

Dessert, I just can’t quit you. And to be honest…I kind of don’t want to! You bring me too much joy!

(But only getting together every now and then is probably best for both of us.)

(But mostly for me.)

beka stays real : two stories that made me laugh out loud

Story 1:

The family I nanny for had the sad task of deciding to put their dog to sleep last week after her valiant battle with cancer. When explaining to their four year old that their dog had died, she replied, “But that’s ok, because in 3 days they’ll roll the stone away and she’ll rise from the dead!”

Apparently we’ve been hitting the Easter stories a little too hard.

Story 2:

During a Skype conversation with my parents over the weekend my dad mentioned that someone he knew was looking for advice about going into full-time ministry. Having spent over 20 years in full-time ministry, my dad had a few thoughts to share, one of them being a precautionary tale about the financial toll on a family. Then my mom chimed in:

“Yeah but it’d be harder for them because they have kids.”

My dad looked at her, paused, looked at me and then asked, “…who do you think we’re talking to right now?”

To which my mom replied, “Oh, well it’s just Beka.”

Which either means I’m extraordinarily low-maintenance as offspring or extraordinarily forgettable as offspring. One way or the other, I think this can definitely be used as blackmail for the future.

(I love these stories. And these people. And my life.)

beka stays faithful : holding onto what matters

love it

pinned here via here

I hesitated to start writing this because Lord have mercy, we’ve been here before.

But…that’s what this blog is all about, right?

So, grab your waders! We’re heading back into the muddy waters of learning how to stay!

Today was a beautiful day for me. I got to go to a job I love (working at the juice bar). I ate lunch outside at Wegmans. Then I piled groceries into my cart at Wegmans. I made a pie. I delivered a pie. I got to see a family I love. A nice man came and fixed my TV. I ran on the canal at dusk. I had my favorite kind of dinner – picking and choosing between a mountain of fresh produce. I sat on my couch in sweats reading with the windows open.

What’s not to love?

Well, nothing. It was a great day! And I never wished it were any different; I was quite content with how the day unraveled.

But while I was running, I caught myself in a familiar pattern. Thinking about my next career/geographic/relational moves. Thinking about how things might change. Thinking over an endless stream of possibilities that would result in said changes.

I was surrounded by over-the-top beauty, running outside in the middle of March in Rochester, in the midst of a day that made me joyful and grateful and content…and yet my mind was a million miles away, burning rubber trying to whip around a thousand and one curves.

As I ran past an open field I spotted a big crowd of deer in the pasture. It was a moment that Bob Ross would have lovingly depicted on a canvas with streaks of pink sunlight and new spring greenery and “happy clouds.”

And I just felt like God was saying, loud and clear, “YOU ARE MISSING THIS!” You are here, but you aren’t. You are smack dab in the middle of what I’m trying to give you, and you’re missing it.”

Unsurprisingly…he was right.

When I titled this blog “beka stays” I knew it had a deeper meaning than just staying in one location geographically, even though that was the catalyst for it’s creation. The heart of my inability to stay lies in my inability to stay present.

And apparently just because you write a blog about it doesn’t mean the problem is solved. Darn it.

So, here’s the thing. This lack of staying power is twofold: on one side, I feel responsible for making the most of my future. So I try to plot it out as best I can because I want to honor what I’ve been given. But the other far more dangerous side is that I fear embracing today in light of the possibility of losing tomorrow.

I don’t want to be too enthusiastic about today because what if tomorrow isn’t quite as good?

I don’t want to love the family I nanny for too much because what if I have to leave them?

I don’t want to invest too much in Rochester because what if I have to move?

I don’t want to dive into thriving with complete reckless abandon because what if nothing changes?

I don’t want to give 100%, of myself to anything because what if it doesn’t work out?

It’s the sad truth.

But then I felt God leading me toward another truth: I don’t get to keep anything forever. Not the place I live or the people I love or the body I inhabit. Anything I tangibly have right now. There will come a time when I don’t possess it.

Except for Him.

He’s the only thing I get to keep.

And for some reason that thought made everything click. It was like someone turned on the lights in my sparsely inhabited brain. “OHHHHHHHH, this. THIS! This is what you mean. This is joy, freedom, peace in the moment – knowing that all I have is You, all I can keep is You, and all I need is You.”

If I can trust that holding onto God means that I’m holding onto the only thing that matters, then everything else falls into it’s proper perspective. Protecting “my” life becomes completely irrelevant. I don’t have to worry about loving too much, giving too much of myself, investing too much into each day. I don’t have to worry about what may or may not lie ahead, how my life might change or who/where/what I could lose, because I know that ultimately, my future is secure.

It seems so simple.

Now if only I could remember it.

beka stays in rochester : bin and barrel

I spent some time with Lauren (hi, Lauren!) in between shooting family sessions in Chili last Saturday. She thought it would be fun to go to Bin and Barrel, an antique store in Churchville. I had never been and I love nothing more than a low priced glass jar in my life so that sounded like a fun field trip to me.

Upon entering the store I found approximately 18 glass items that I was ready to claim…but then…THEN…I saw this, lowly and unassuming, laying on the floor:

I think I almost burst a blood vessel.

That, my friends, is a tried-and-true cast iron skillet. And all for the low, low price of $12.

TWELVE DOLLARS!!!

I still can’t believe it.

You’d better buckle up for a litany of posts related to cast iron cookery. I foresee many pancakes, grilled sandwiches, and seared chicken and fish in my future.

Oh. my. word. Bin and Barrel, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

(Me and Castie up there? We’re already BFF’s.)

beka stays faithful : where toasters and beliefs intersect

I have a new friend. We share a lot of similar interests and life experiences, but our beliefs about God are substantially different. We’ve had great conversations (and civil conversations – it’s possible!) about why each of us adheres to our respective beliefs. In the end we agree to disagree. Then we start talking about road trips and California and our favorite food groups, among many other things.

These conversations have made me realize that I have a very simple approach to what I believe. Not simple as in naive, but simple as in direct. Perhaps this is because I’ve never been one for theological debates or complex exegesis. I think it’s important to have a well-rounded perspective on what you believe and why and what other people believe and why. It was interesting to learn in-depth information about the Bible and also about world religions from classes I took in college. But I’ve never felt compelled to compose definitive answers to the questions of Christianity for my own benefit.

Most would call this ignorant. Some may call it irresponsible. Others might see it as downright dumb. I can understand each sentiment. But for me, I think of it more in these terms:

When I want to watch TV I turn the TV on and select a channel. When I want a piece of toast I put a piece of bread in the toaster and push the toaster down. When I want to microwave oatmeal I combine the oats and the water and put it in the microwave for 4 minutes.

The result of each action? I watch TV. I make toast. I cook oatmeal.

I don’t have to know how each appliance works to achieve the desired result. All I know is that when I press the Power button, the TV turns on, the bread toasts, the oatmeal cooks.

I think I put less emphasis on scientifically dissecting why I believe what I believe because I view faith in the same way.

When I want an answer to a question in my life I pray about it. When I want to offer hope to a person in need I tell them about the hope I have in Christ. When I want to know that I have eternal security I remember that it is by grace that I’ve been saved through faith, by confessing with my mouth that Jesus is Lord and believing in my heart that God raised him from the dead.

I don’t have to know how prayers are answered, how hope is transferred, how salvation works to achieve the desired result. All I know is that when I pray, God answers. When I place my trust in Him, I have hope. When I made a commitment to give my life to the Lord, I was given eternal security.

I realize that it’s not at all the same thing. Describing the functionality of a toaster is far and away less complicated than describing the functionality of faith. And just as there are people who can explain the anatomy of an appliance, there are people who can explain the anatomy of faith.

But I’m content to believe what I believe because I experience the evidence in my daily life. I know that when I press Power, the TV will turn on. I know that when I go to the Lord, He is there.

It may be too basic for some. For me, it’s plenty.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, certain of what we do not see.”

Hebrews 11:1

beka stays real : just call me phoebe

via google images

Remember that episode of Friends with Phoebe and the fire alarm? Yeah, I’ve basically been reenacting that for the past week.

Let’s rewind to the fall when I thought I had a gas leak but actually had an unlit pilot light (Gas Stove Rookie, Party of One) and the gas company sent the fire department out, sirens blaring, to my rescue. While the firemen were here for nothing they figured they might as well check my smoke detector. They deemed it acceptable for use.

Fast forward to a week ago during a pre-check for an upcoming fire inspection. Come to find out that the smoke detector deemed acceptable for use had no batteries. So apparently it was acceptable for hypothetical use. Which would have been a great comfort during a non-hypothetical fire, I’m sure.

So new batteries were installed. You’d think that would be the end of this story.

And wouldn’t that make for a scintillating blog post.

No worries, there’s more!

Later that night I was boiling water. Boiling. Water. And suddenly to my great dismay, a foreign beeping noise was coming from the hallway. Since the sound of smoke detectors blaring during mealtimes is not necessarily foreign to me (sorry, Mom), I did what I’d done for years: stood underneath it for a few seconds while fanning a large object to clear the air. And the beeping ended.

Until it began again two minutes later.

This cycle was repeated FOUR MORE TIMES before I finally pulled a Phoebe and took the alarm down from the ceiling.

But it continued to beep.

So I removed the batteries.

But it continued to beep.

So I removed the wiring.

And all was (finally, for the love of imminent hearing loss) quiet on the western front.

Fast forward a few days. Fire inspections are now over. I come home for the night, park my car down the street, and start walking toward my apartment. In the distance, I hear a faint noise. I bet someone’s car alarm is going off. But as I get closer, I recognize the noise. Someone’s fire alarm is going off.

“Must be one of the new ones put in for the fire inspections,” I think.

(You already know where this is going. You guys are swifter than I am.)

But then I arrive at my front door.

The beeping is louder.

I walk up the stairs.

The beeping is louder.

I open my apartment door.

The beeping is louder…and directly in front of me.

Coming from the alarm I had previously murdered.

Apparently it had been fixed and reinstalled for the inspections and was now gracing me with it’s welcoming intonations once again.

Feel free to assume that it is neither fixed nor reinstalled anymore.

All of this to say: Previous Tenant, I understand why the alarm was battery-barren to begin with. And thank you.

(Disclaimer for all of you kindly concerned citizens out there (Hi, Dad!): I also have a new fully functioning alarm in a less temperamental location. Both my sanity and my neighbors are thrilled with this development.)