Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Waco Cupcake Tour

Visiting Waco, Texas?  Or perhaps you live here?  You want a sweet treat, but you don't want to bake and you don't want to bring home the whole cake?  A cupcake is what you need.  Come take the Waco Cupcake Tour and find your dream come true cupcake.

Magnolia Bakery ($$$$, $3.50 and up per cupcake)

I must admit, my family's bakery tour began because of Magnolia Bakery.  My mother-in-law was visiting our family here in good ol' Waco, Texas, and she wanted to go see the Magnolia Silos just like every other red blooded American woman.  She also happens to love spoiling her grandchildren.  Thus, cupcakes.

As I sat on the faux, grassy quad at the Magnolia Silos, in downtown Waco, soaking up sun and watching my children play, my mother-in-law disappeared.  She came trotting back a while later with expensive perfume and a gloriously mysterious, black box filled with six enticing cupcakes.

At home, we decided to split them up into slivers so that everyone in the family could taste each flavor. We tried lemon lavender, chocolate espresso, strawberry, chocolate, vanilla, and verbena.

Magnolia's cupcakes are large and have artisan flavors.  I appreciated the sophisticated Magnolia flavors.   As an adult eating cupcakes, I have grown beyond the typical flavors one might choose for a birthday party (flavors that please everyone).  Give me something special.  Magnolia delivered.  Their most unique, delicious, artisan cupcake is the lemon lavender cupcake.  We also greatly enjoyed a chocolate espresso cupcake.  

If you are just in town for the Magnolia experience, you will not be disappointed with Magnolia Bakery cupcakes.  But, if you are a local and you want a great cupcake, and not pay an arm and a leg, keep reading!

HEB Bakery ($$$, $2.75)

The very next day while grocery shopping, my mother-in-law exclaimed that the kids enjoyed the cupcake tasting so much she wanted to try it again.  She bought six, big, fancy cupcakes from HEB, and the tour continued from there. When my mother-in-law wanted to get cupcakes two nights in a row, I was a little perturbed.  My husband and I are always trying to watch our weight.  It was fun and cute for one night, but two?  Certainly, I was not willing to fall off the wagon for a commercial joint like HEB.  But I was pleasantly, surprised.  HEB also delivered a quality cupcake in flavors that packed a punch. 

These cupcakes were the ones individually sold in the case, which are nicer than the pre-packaged cupcakes.  Honestly, I did not even know these cupcakes existed at my local grocer.  They were jumbo cupcakes, big enough for two people to share.  

We tried red velvet, coconut, carrot cake, chocolate, birthday cake, and oreo.  The best cupcake at HEB is birthday cake.  It had that overly-sweet, vanilla custard flavored cake that signifies "birthday cake."  It was a cupcake dream come true.  The rest of the flavors were pretty standard in flavor, but the quality was above average.  They had fluffy cake, smooth frosting and balanced flavor.  

If you are bedraggled and cannot find time to make a bakery order and pick them up, or are on a budget, but still want to make some occasion special, do not shy away from the fancier cupcakes at the HEB bakery.  You will not regret the experience.

What About Cupcakes? ($$, $2.50)

They claim to be the original cupcake bakery in Waco, and they will tell you so as you shop their store.  The woman who tended the store front seemed to equate being around the longest with being the best.  However, that was not my experience.  In fact, this was my least enjoyable experience on the tour.  Sadly, their cupcakes were no better than cake mix out of a box.  I was disappointed we wasted cash and calories on this experience.  What About a Cupcake? has limited inventory and little imagination when it came to flavor.  We tried chocolate, reeses, oreo, strawberry, vanilla, and lemon-raspberry.  I tried to decide a "best in bakery" for each bakery so I could recommend something about each place.  What About a Cupcake? did have a good solid vanilla cupcake.  They were cute little cupcakes too.

Simply Delicious ($$$, $3.00)

Simply Delicious has an unorthodox location amidst industrial distribution warehouses.  Even though this bakery is somewhat hidden it has a big reputation making Waco’s people’s choice list.  When we stopped by around the lunch hour, the parking lot was packed and it seemed folks were spending their lunch breaks consuming sweet treats.  

We tried vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, champagne, chocolate chip, and carrot cake.  They were good cupcakes, but I found the price tag a bit much.  They were not any bigger than an average cupcake, unlike Magnolia and HEB where they were more expensive, but also jumbo.

My favorite cupcake at Simply Delicious was the champagne.  Not only was it a lovely, delicate flavor I had never tried, but was also salted in such a way that enhanced the subtle champagne flavor.

Delightful Hearts Sweet Treats ($, $1 - $2.25)

Delightful Hearts is a perfect name for this bakery.  I found these cupcakes delightful!  But what is most delightful about Delightful Hearts is the baker/owner/shop keep, Tiffany Kosel.  She is a mom of four following her dreams.  I have made repeat visits to this shop in the last few months for several reasons: 1.) The cupcakes are exceptional.  I am guaranteed show stopping cupcakes every time I visit.  They taste great and are beautiful. 2.)  $1.00 Thursday cupcakes after 12:00 p.m. Thank you for this special!!! Our family lives on one income.  We rarely enjoy luxuries such as bakery confections.  This special makes it possible to celebrate the little things.  3.) Tiffany is a delight.  She always welcomes guests with joy.  This is a MUST visit bakery.

We tried strawberry, butterfinger, oreo, nutterbutter, boston cream pie, vanilla, chocolate fudge, cherry cordial, animal cookie, coconut, snickerdoodle and carrot cake.  We were able to try a lot due to $1 Thursday.  It was hard to pick a favorite.  They were all so good.  But if I were only allowed to have one, I would pick the cherry cordial.  My girls could not get enough of the coconut.  This bakery also makes gluten free cupcakes!

Lollipop's Sweet Treats ($, $1.75 - $2.25)

Located in Robinson, on Hwy 77, minutes from Baylor University.  Honestly, the quality of this bakery is comparable to Delightful Hearts.  I appreciated the interesting flavors at this shop.  In particular, we tried a Dr. Pepper cupcake, which is a nostalgic, signature of Waco.  I have made repeat trips to this bakery as well.  The price is also right.

We tried chocolate, vanilla, Dr. Pepper, banana cream pie, almond joy, and red velvet.  The standout was the aforementioned Dr. Pepper.  

My one complaint of Lollipop's is that I wish they were prettier.  They were the most plain looking cupcakes on the tour aside from Magnolia.  The way they looked did not get me excited to eat a cupcake.  But when I took a bite, I did not care what they looked like (get in my face cupcake)!

Sweetness Desserts ($$, $2.25 - $2.50)

This is Waco's finest--a cut above the rest--ambiance, presentation, flavor.  I died and went to heaven which was a patisserie in France.  

One word people, syrup! The cake has a light layer of flavored syrup on the top, between the cake and the frosting.  Omg! The intensity of cake flavor is an ultra-reality.  There is not a subtle flavor in all the store.  They all reach out and excite every taste bud.

The vanilla tastes like the way vanilla smells, except not overpowering, except totally overpowering, like I cannot control the groans of ecstasy as I eat it.  The chocolate fudge was a similar experience.  It was the most intense chocolate I have ever tasted.  

After trying each cupcake I sat there scraping the plate with my fork, hoping that I could get just one more crumb to taste.  Then I ate another cupcake even though I was already far too full.  I would skip meals all week if I knew that I would be rewarded with a cupcake from this bakery in the end.

We tried carrot cake, strawberry, coconut, vanilla, chocolate fudge, celebration, coffee toffee caramel crunch, and lemonade raspberry.  There was not a disappointing cupcake in the bunch.  

The best cupcake at Sweetness Desserts was definitely the coffee toffee caramel crunch.  We were about to leave the store without this cupcake when the kind, exuberant baker/attendant insisted we take one.  We are so glad she did.  

These cupcakes inspired me to write up our cupcake tour experience.  I decided then that everyone had to know about these cupcakes.  

Final Word

We have some great bakeries in Waco of which most people are not aware.  Go try some cupcakes when it's not someone's birthday.  Live like there is no tomorrow.

-Definitely visit Tiffany at Delightful Hearts Sweet Treats. 
-Sweetness Desserts is my pick of all Waco.  The experience is worth every calorie and every penny.
-Or just visit the bakery nearest to you and support someone local.  It's good for your neighborhood.

Lastly, my favorite cake flavor is carrot cake.   I did not get to experience a lot of good carrot cake on our tour.  There were some contenders though.  People don't care about the carrot cake and do not put a lot of effort into making it--or maybe carrot cake is just hard to master.  When the right carrot cake comes a long it's like time stops as the shock and awe of all the complex spices, textures and flavors dance upon your senses.  It's a moment to remember.  I remember all the times I have had good carrot cake as though they were significant moments in my life.  Carrot cake is just my personality--a little healthy with that carrot, spicey, unusual, all topped with a heavy, creamy, vanilla cream cheese frosting; people underestimate the carrot cake.

Happy Cupcake Touring.  

P.S.  I want to thank my mother-in-law for starting us off, buying us a lot of cupcakes, spoiling us with her love and generosity.

May God grant you many more blessed years. 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Tot Talk - Five Husbands

I have not done one of these posts in a long time.  It's not that these zingers have stopped coming.  I just stopped recording them, which is such a shame.

This past Sunday was the Eastern Christian remembrance of the Samaritan woman at the well.  There are so many powerful messages in this Gospel.  It is celebrated during Easter season every year as a reminder that our sins are forgiven and if we follow Christ we shall not thirst but have eternal life.

The Samaritan woman has many sins.  Jesus points them out to her mainly as a means to prove to her that he is Christ.  Christ tells the Samaritan woman that she has had five husbands.  This proves to her that Jesus is the Messiah and she goes and brings many people to Him.  The name given to this saint is Photini - "enlightened one."

My eldest daughter's patron is St. Photini.  We reminded her of this as the Gospel was read.  She listened very carefully to the Gospel and sermon this day.  After church our daughter walks up to the priest and says,
     "My patron saint is Saint Photini. [pregnant pause] She had five husbands!"

My husband turns red and moves her along quickly.  This is so her personality.  She does not remember that Photini converted many and was martyred, but that she had many husbands. :-/

In a Good World/In a Fallen World

Family and Motherhood by Fr. Timothy Vaverek
Waco Catholic Moms Retreat
May 6, 2017

This is pieced together from notes I took during Fr. Timothy’s talk.

I have two parishes I head.  I am the pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes in Gatesville, and St. Thomas in Hamilton.  I have been a priest in this diocese since 1985 with a short 3-year stint in New York serving the bishop of the Maronite Church there in New York.

The relationship between us and God is not adversarial.  We are not in opposition to Him.  Rather He did not create us to benefit Himself.  God did not create us because he needed us.  He did not create us because He would gain some benefit.  He created us because it would benefit us.

Growing up I had to help with the family farm.  I had to help weed and harvest.  I remember harvesting beets down the line and it was a long field.  We would complain about the hard work and My Dad would say keep your head down and you will know when you get to the end of the field.   Over dinner my brother said that the teacher said people used to have large families because they needed laborers on the family farms. Then my brother exclaimed that he didn’t think that was true because kids are crumby workers.

Parents do not have children because it benefits the parents.  They eat up time and resources, and it is really hard to raise children.  We have children because it benefits them to be alive, experience love and know God—the true, the beautiful, the good.

Kids represent an expression of love.  For a moment, a mother and father came together in one flesh and made a child.  Then God creates a soul in that newly united body.  In a good world, this is how a person is created.

There were seven of us in my family.  I was the second.  We were all strong-willed children.  At one point, my older brother and I knew about a new baby coming before my dad did.  We were raising hell as usual and my mom muttered, “No, I can’t do this for another nine months.”  Of course, we immediately figured out that nine months means another baby.  She told us to go wait for her in the bathroom.  Then she came in and cried at us that we had to help her.  How was she going to tell our father that there was another one coming.

One year we lost a brother.  Donald was born early and he only lived two days.  We buried him on Christmas Eve.   When he was born he only had a 1% chance of survival.  He was born with cerebral palsy.  My sister before him was also born with cerebral palsy and had a low chance of survival, but she did.  She grew up to be just as stubborn as the rest.  Anyway, when Donald passed away, my Dad came home from the hospital to tell the family that Donald had passed. My younger sister said, “Isn’t this a wonderful Christmas gift?”  We all were stunned at what she had said and asked her how this could be a gift.  She said, “We have a brother in Heaven.”  Yes, they is the goal of all parents—to have children in heaven.

This is the goal.  We are raising children for eternal life.  This is not an easy thing in a fallen world.  We live in a world with birth control.  We want to prevent life because there are more important things that we want to define us.  “My career give meaning to my life.”  Your career does not define you.  Our culture sends us messages that we need to attain new material goods to be a part of this world.  Every couple of years we have to replace all our things because they are not new.  It makes it very difficult to raise children in this environment. 

How do you measure your own success?  How do you measure your children’s success? Families are endlessly traveling from soccer, football, ballet.  This is how they measure their own success.  How good they are at these activities, or how involved they are.  But why should we do these things?  Why do we play a game—to play, because we enjoy playing it; why does one dance—for the joy of it; why speak another language—to speak to others; why do we have a job—to live.  But these things should not be a measure of your success.

Know the goal. Raise the children to love God; to love thy neighbor.  It’s a simple goal.  It’s not easy to carry out.

God’s got a plan for mothers: seek Him and follow him.  Motherhood is not pretty.  It’s gritty.  So I recommend you read the lives of the saints.  I don’t mean the cute little nuggets about the lives of saints that give you some ultimate, beautiful, reality wrapped up in a nice package.  That’s part of their lives.  But I recommend you read full accounts of their lives where you learn about their hardships in detail.  That is where we can find Divine inspiration.

One of my favorite phrases is “Pray as you can, not as you can’t.”  You can’t pray like a monastic.  Also, be consistent.  One of the greatest keys to success is to be consistent.  You know this from disciplining the children.  One of the hardest things is to be consistent.

Do what works for your family.  There are many ways to raise a holy family.  Don’t try to do it someone else’s way because you see it working for them.  It might not work for you. 

Do you know what I hear a lot from mothers in confession? I was overwhelmed and lost it, I was angry, I was impatient, I’m not good enough.  Quit beating yourselves up. This is not necessarily all sin.  We’re going to have freak out moments.

Prayer, self-denial, works of mercy –these are trials I choose.  But my crosses, these are trials that comes to me from God for my perfection.  Life is going to hurt.  The crosses you bear are not sin.  They are for making you good.  God did not put your crosses into your life because you sinned.  Beating yourself up when bad stuff happens does no good. 

God knows you are flawed and He still put your kids in your care.  You can do this with God.  Ask for Good counsel.