Posted in Beverages, Coffee!, Mom Life, Recipes

Mid-Afternoon Mocha (AKA My Motherhood Essential)

It is no secret to those of you who have been reading for awhile that I love coffee. In fact, even if you’re new to the blog, the title and the cover photo make that pretty easy to decipher. What you may not know is that I didn’t really drink coffee until I became a teacher. Yes, I drank a variety of steamed milk beverages throughout high school and college (ah yes, the days of Dunkaccinos- anyone else?? Do those even exist anymore??) but I didn’t pick up the true coffee habit until my first year of teaching in DC. Then in the years following the habit evolved into nothing short of a passion. Of course as many of you know, I had to make the switch to decaf around Fall 2015 because my body suddenly decided caffeine was no longer a friend, but a foe. The silver lining is that I didn’t have to make a switch to decaf during the early days of my pregnancy, and no one found it at all suspicious that I was drinking decaf before I shared the news. See, there is always a silver lining if you look hard enough…or wait awhile.

Coffee = Love.
(Photo by Mike Kenneally on Unsplash)

Anyway, fast forward last Spring and again another big life change only deepened my love of/passion for the gift that is coffee.  I know so many people warn you that there is no tired quite like parents of a newborn tired, and while I do agree with that assertion, I think people leave out an important piece of the parenting puzzle: the sleep deprivation continues. Is it better than those newborn days? Absolutely. You will get more than a 90-minute stretch of sleep (hopefully). But at least in those early days, you’re likely on maternity and/or paternity leave, there are plenty of people offering meals, laundry help, etc. and you hopefully started out without a massive sleep deficit (unless you’re one of the unlucky ones like myself who didn’t sleep super well toward the end of pregnancy). As your baby progresses through all the challenges of growth spurts, travel, teething, and the “insert-month-here” sleep regression, the sleep deprivation only continues to accumulate. Not to mention, you might be back at work and you don’t have a newborn anymore so people expect you to be a functioning member of society again and usually aren’t showing up at your door with random casseroles and offers of assistance.

So what do you have to sustain you- aside from the cutest little snuggle-bunny you could hope for? That’s right, coffee. And thankfully for me, since Little Man was born my body decided it was more than fine with caffeine again. So coffee and I now have an even closer relationship, something I wasn’t sure was even possible. I am also fortunate because I live in a city. There are five coffee shops (soon to be 6) within a half-mile walk from my front door. We still brew a large pot at home every morning, but sometimes when I need that mid-afternoon pick-me-up, Little Man and I trek to one of the local establishments for a breath of fresh air and a dose of caffeine. However, as in most of the country, this winter has been a cruel one in Boston. Not to mention when you’re living in one of America’s most expensive cities, #budget factors in. So lately I’ve developed a bit of an afternoon naptime routine: Little Man goes down for his nap and I enjoy a delicious homemade Mocha, usually while I run around trying to get a few things done, emails sent, and phone calls made without interruption. (I’m a part-time Director of Religious Education for a local parish this year so the at-work hours are great, but it leaves some administrative tasks for naptime.) Granted that means the days when Little Man skips his afternoon nap can be doubly difficult, but such is life with a little one.

Every once in awhile I savor a moment of calm during naptime.
Given the fact that winter has lasted quite long this year, I have had plenty of time to try out different recipes and have finally arrived at one that I love: it is simple, quick, and delicious. Granted, I am fortunate to have some fantastic coffee accoutrements at my discretion thanks to our wedding registry and various gifts from family. All you need is cocoa powder, sugar, hot water, milk of your preference (almond for me!), and espresso!
Mommy’s Magnificent Mid-Afternoon Mocha (only 5 ingredients!)
 1 Tablespoon Hershey’s cocoa powder
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon hot water
3/4 cup almond milk*
double shot of espresso

1) First mix equal parts cocoa powder and sugar in the bottom of your mug. I personally use a little less than a tablespoon of each for my perfect taste but you may need to adjust according to your own taste.

2) Add a teaspoon of hot water so that the cocoa powder and sugar create a mocha syrup of sorts.

3) Heat 3/4 cup of almond milk* in a frother and start brewing your espresso.
(You can just warm it but I promise the frother makes a big difference!)

DeLonghi EC702 espresso maker

Chef’s Star milk frother
4) I pour half of the espresso into the mug, then add the milk, and then add the remainder of the espresso. I like to think it better distributes the taste 🙂

5) Mix and enjoy!!

*I feel like I need to give a strong recommendation regarding the almond milk. I have made many a beverage over the years with various brands of almond milk and the frothing never really works. Even baristas at coffee shops will warn me that almond milk doesn’t really do that. However, I recently found these two varieties which create the kind of froth I used to only visualize in my dreams of dairy-filled days gone by. 
#1 personal favorite: Mooala!
My personal runner-up: So Delicious Organic Almondmilk

Wherever you are in life right now- whether it’s an actual baby keeping you awake, an older “baby” that still has your heart and your worries, or a proverbial baby (like a start-up, a new job, a new life adventure, etc.) that keeps your mind racing at night, consider me your personal cheerleader. You’re not alone, there are countless others sitting up with you in the dark at 3 AM, and it will all be worth it in the end. And in the mean time, we have coffee.

I offer this as just one caffeine-filled option to brighten your day (and your eyelids). And though every once in awhile, an outing to your favorite local coffee joint is a much-needed treat, this should carry you over through the other days…and leave a much smaller dent in your bank account. The next time you find yourself fighting that mid-afternoon energy battle, brew yourself a hot cup of mocha deliciousness and think of me doing the same in my little corner of the world.  Cheers to you, my friend. May your coffee be hot, your body be re-energized, and your (probably brief) moment of calm be beautiful.

Posted in Coffee!

A Cup of Coffee with Linda

It’s hard for me to believe, but you’ve been enjoying a “Cup of Coffee with Katie” for over a year and a half now; however, for quite some time before that, there was someone else who enjoyed a monthly cup of coffee with me: in real time, face-to-face, not through the interface of a digital screen. If you flip through my planners from the past few years (which yes, of course I keep!) you’ll notice the same entry somewhere on almost every monthly calendar: Coffee with Linda.

Linda was the first teacher I met at my new school when I arrived in Baltimore back in the summer of 2010. When I went to unload some boxes in my new middle school classroom, she was sitting across the hall at her desk in a classroom already decorated and prepared for the start of the new year (note: it was mid-July at this point). She and I were the 6th grade team that year and she helped me navigate the world of middle school: one which was completely foreign to this 2nd grade teacher transplant. We shared very few things in common: I was a math person, she was not; she LOVED the Ravens, I showed up on the first Friday of the school year in a black cotton dress with a yellow cardigan (a huge no-no I soon learned in this anti-Steeler city where I now reside); she was in her final year of teaching after a career which spanned 25+ years, I was a bright-eyed 3rd year teacher full of dreams for the future. And yet, two interests united us: a tendency to arrive at school before 6:30 AM to get work done, and (probably in large part due to this tendency) a devout love of coffee. We quickly became fast friends and would take turns stopping on Tuesdays, our self-designated “Treat Ourselves to Dunkin coffee” day, to purchase 2 large coffees. We’d share brief life updates over the first few sips and then retreat to our respective desks to plan for the day ahead. 
At the end of that academic year, Linda retired and I moved back down to the world of elementary to teach 3rd grade. It was around October of that year (2011) when our “Coffee with Linda/Katie” tradition was born. Each month we’d meet at Dunkin so I could fill her in on stories of life back in the classroom while she regaled me with stories of her retirement: books she finally had time to read, trips to Virginia she now could take, etc. In the years since, we have kept this tradition alive. She heard stories of my various moves to different grades, my health struggles, my great “Should I move to NYC to take this job I’ve been offered?” debate, etc. I got to hear about her daugther’s boyfriend who within a few coffee visits had become a fiance, and eventually the coffee date after the wedding where we scrolled through all the photos. The thing about monthly meetups is that time passes quickly between each one, and yet it’s enough time that only the major topics and events are really shared.  It was around this time last year that Linda’s health took a turn for the worse and many of our coffee meetups relocated to her hospital room or her house. Though her body was weaker, her spirit and her faith remained strong as I filled her in on the Physicist and she shared the news that she was going to be a grandmother. This past December I went to visit her at Hopkins (with 2 cups of Dunkin in hand of course!), and she finally got to meet the Physicist. We hadn’t even made it to the elevator on our way out when my phone buzzed with her evaluation: “He is such a sweetheart! I fully approve”. 
Unfortunately her health continued to decline and this past Friday, she peacefully left this world behind. I went back in my phone after a call from her daughter and saw that, fittingly, her last message to me was a picture of a stitch in her latest cross-stitch project which she captioned, “this stitch looks like the pi sign. Thought of you!”, followed by a “P.S. Hi to John!!” I had written her a response and also sent her a message on the now-infamous Pi Day 2015, but I now know her health precluded a response by that time. 
I wanted to share the story of our coffee tradition for several reasons. In part because I’ll miss our monthly meetups; in part because she’s yet another person who inspired me with the way she handled the numerous health setbacks and challenges which she faced over the past few years. Her prayer book was never far from her side, and she found great solace and strength in prayer and in her relationship with Christ, something I admired and also tried to emulate during my own health challenges. Lastly, because often times we think of friendship as something we share with people who look and think like we do. And yet, despite our decades-wide age gap, Linda and I became fast friends. We shared a tradition I cherished, we shared laughs over delicious coffee, and she shared advice which I’ll carry with me until the day I reach my sunset years of teaching and befriend a young, wide-eyed new teacher and take her out for a cup of coffee.
Tomorrow I’ll pay Linda one final visit, and I’ll certainly be downing at least one cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee on my way. I’d encourage you to do the same. Maybe buy 2, and then show up at work and strike up a conversation with someone new over your delicious cups of coffee. You never know when a new friend might be sitting at the desk just across the hall…

And of course, just this afternoon, an email landed in my inbox: an entire month of 99 cent coffee (any size!!) begins on Wednesday. I can’t help but wonder if Linda had a little something to do with this one…
Seriously though, if you don’t have DD perks, sign up now. April of 99 cent coffee, here we come 🙂