So. Much. Chocolate.

AuroraThe best part about ranking Houston’s best chocolate croissants? The requirement to eat said croissants. Or so I thought before consuming my fifth buttery, chocolate-filled pastry in a much-too-short three hour timeframe.

Ashley and I were recently in Houston, dubbed the “Fattest City in America” in 2001, 2002, 2003 and, more recently, 2012 by Men’s Health Magazine. So what did we do to celebrate our time in this city of obesity? We decided to research coffee shops claiming Houston’s best chocolate croissants and rank them for ourselves.

Ashley and I had ten coffee shops on our list. After our third stop, we realized that we had been far too ambitious in anticipating that we would be capable of eating ten croissants in one morning. Or even in one full day. Or over the course of an entire weekend.

In fact, I’m not quite sure how I’m typing this right now. I think I should be in a sugar and calorie-induced coma for the next month. Chocolate-filled croissants were not created to be consumed in such large quantities. I now realize that chocolate croissants are kind of like alcohol; for every one you eat, you need to drink a glass of water to help filtrate your system and prevent hangover. Sugar hangover.

Having never actually had a hangover myself, I’m not entirely sure what it feels like, but I imagine it’s sort of like what I’m experiencing right now: a lethargy and delirium that has me wondering if I will ever eat again. Or stand again. Or fit in my pants again. Or even desire to ever put on pants again, because that would require moving.

Good thing we only ate five and not the originally planned ten chocolate croissants. Or else  we MIGHT BE DEAD. In any case, so that you lovely readers don’t have to suffer as Ashley and I suffered, here is our review of the Top Five Chocolate Croissants in Houston:

5. Common Bond

image_2Earlier this year, Houston Eater named Common Bond one of the up-and-coming coffee shops of the city’s hip “inner loop”. So Ashley and I had high hopes for their chocolate croissants – especially when we saw that they were roughly the size of a small house cat. Seriously. These things are gigantic.

Unfortunately upon tasting, I found my croissant to be dry and brittle, and – although it looked beautifully golden brown – on the whole, the pastry tasted decidedly burnt. It also was not filled with enough chocolate to make up for the seemingly endless mass of breading. It would seem Common Bond emphasizes quantity to make up for their lack of quality.

4. Boomtown Coffee

image_6Although Boomtown is unquestionably the best hole-in-the-wall coffee shop in Houston (their Milk & Honey is the best latte I’ve ever had in my life), sadly, they need to stick to making coffee and leave pastry-making to the cafes in the top three.

The croissant texture was perfect – soft and flaky – but it was too buttery and had an unfortunate artificial taste. The chocolate had tinges of something akin to sickly sweet raspberry flavoring that was both unexpected and unwelcome. As amazing as Boomtown’s coffee is, I was disappointed at their pastry showing.

3. Croissant Brioche

image_3None of my Houston friends had heard of Croissant Brioche, but it actually had decent chocolate croissants. The chocolate was warm and melty, and the pastry had not one but two rows of chocolate inside, so the ratio of croissant to chocolate was perfect… except that it wasn’t really a croissant. It was more like a chocolate-filled kolache, but it was the best damn chocolate-filled kolache I’ve ever had.

Side note: Kind of ironic that the one place with “croissant” in the name didn’t actually serve croissants…

2. Revival Market

image_5This little gem of a cafe used to be a marketplace for local farmers and artisans to sell their wares, but Revival Market has since grown into a full-fledged cafe with seating and a farm-to-table menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Their chocolate croissants were certainly fresh. The bread was deliciously warm and flaky, and the Revival Market croissants definitely had the most chocolate. Unfortunately, some of the chocolate that had oozed out the side was hard and burnt, and even the warm, gooey chocolate on the inside tasted like Nestles chocolate chips. Additionally, much of the chocolate had settled to the bottom of the croissant, making for a sub-par distribution throughout. Nevertheless, Revival Market’s chocolate croissants came in second place.

Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 9.36.50 PM1. French Riviera

Amazing. Simply Amazing.

French Riviera‘s chocolate croissants are everything a chocolate croissant should be: warm, flaky, and chocolatey. I wish all five of my chocolate croissants had been from French Riviera because theirs was absolute perfection. Also, theirs alone was worth every one of the 300 calories of butter and chocolatey goodness.

Let’s not do that math.

Authentically Aurora

The Dream of Someone Else

DreamingThank you to everyone who has lovingly supported me over the past six months – and especially over the past couple of weeks as I’ve wrestled over the way forward with Bryan.

A special thank you goes out to Ashley, my stalwart, steadfast friend through whatever comes. Yesterday (pre-breakup), she sent me pretty much the best email a friend can send to someone in my situation:

“Breaking up with someone to beat them to the punch is not a very good reason to break up with someone, but, breaking up with someone because they aren’t treating you like you deserve & not respecting/pursuing you is a good reason.  So, while you should not use beating him to the punch as a reason, based on your blogging and what you’ve told me you do have other reasons.  I don’t want to try and convince you of which direction to go or force my opinion on you. So just know that I will support you with whatever you decide to do.  But I will say, there is a lot of stress & frustration being put on you for a relationship that isn’t defined.  I love you lots friend and am praying for you!”

She gently pointed me in the right direction while reminding me that I am loved and supported by her regardless. She is seriously the best.

I’m doing better than expected today. Someone posted an article on Facebook this morning that reassured me of the rightness of my decision. It was a reminder of the kind of man worth waiting for. I want to settle down, but I don’t want to settle.

“Wait on the guy who finishes your chores for you – who comes through in little ways to let you know he cares. Wait on the man who looks you in your eyes and holds your gaze as he tells you you’re beautiful… Wait for that man who dreams big and invites you to dream with him. And when your dreams seem too big, too scary to ever come true, I hope you wait for the one who listens to your insecurities but then speaks truth into your heart and breathes confidence into your spirit. This man will bring you to tears by reading Proverbs 31 to you, telling you YOU’RE that woman, and believing it with every fiber of his being.”

That’s the kind of man I want – the kind of man I need – and Bryan was not that man. So I’m going to wait. Right now, there is not someone else, but as Kathleen Kelly said so beautifully, “There is the dream of someone else.”

Authentically Aurora

Telephone Pictionary

Girls NightIf it’s been too long since you’ve laughed so hard you cried, it might be time for a round of Telephone Pictionary.

For the uninitiated, Telephone Pictionary is a game with no objective (which I usually hate), no winners (or everyone is a winner – lame) and very flexible rules (something that normally results in eye twitching for me). But it’s a pretty fantastic game with the right group of people. And this weekend, we had the RIGHT GROUP OF PEOPLE!

To celebrate my birthday, all of my closest girl friends got together for dinner and game night. Jo Ann was sweet enough to host at her house, and instead of baking me a cake, she baked cupcakes and sugar cookies for us to decorate, catering to my artistic nature (so sweet)!

Melanie, Bethany and Ashley were all there, too, along with several other friends from various parts of my life. It’s always interesting when different circles collide. In this instance, the results were absolutely hilarious.

Telephone Pictionary Rules: Essentially, everyone starts with a stack of paper and a pen. Each person writes a word or phrase on their stop sheet of paper; then the group will simultaneously pass their stack clockwise. The next person reads the word or phrase on the stack of paper, moves the top sheet to the back, and draws a picture that represents the initial word or phrase. The group will continue this pattern, alternating words and pictures, until the stack gets back to the original owner, who will then share (with uproarious laughter) the way the message got derailed as it made its way around the circle.

With friends from work and church, engineers and artists, thirty-something moms and girls in their early twenties, the communication breakdown in nearly every round of Telephone Pictionary made us laugh so hard we cried. Enjoy my personal favorite:

Bday1

Bday2

Bday3

Bonus: During our final round, someone wrote about my upcoming sailing trip with Bryan. This might be the best picture ever:

Bday4

Hopefully it doesn’t come true. Becoming shark bait isn’t on my bucket list of thirty things to do before I turn thirty. ❤

Authentically Aurora

More Than Enough

SquirrelI just had the craziest experience. I have to write about it right now before the memory fades and it feels like it wasn’t real.

Yesterday was a pretty terrible day. I was all alone, feeling rejected, abandoned, unwanted and unloved. I don’t have the fortitude right now to write more about it than that. Suffice it to say, it was one of the lowest days I’ve had in about six months.

I started this morning with a prayer. I don’t remember what about, exactly. I just know that when I started the day today, I was more intensely aware than usual of my need for God.

I pulled myself out of bed, dragged myself into the shower and plodded along to church. My best friend Ashley was available to chat after church, so we went out for coffee, and I talked her ear off for a couple of hours, trying to get everything off my chest and out of my system. Like she has for the past twenty years, she took it all in stride and encouraged me to get it all out. She’s seriously the best.

After our coffee date, I went home, put in my ear buds and decided to go for a walk outside to try to enjoy the beautiful day and talk with God. My walk turned into a run, and after a couple of miles, I found myself back at my apartment complex, physically tired but still emotionally tightly wound.

Walking through the rows of apartments to my building, I spotted a squirrel sitting in a tree. It was on a lower branch, still without leaves since spring is still weeks away, so the squirrel was exposed and in full view. I stopped my walk, pausing on the sidewalk to watch the squirrel’s breathing. Its breaths became quicker as it sensed me watching.

I observed the pattern of its fur – mostly brown, but it had reddish tints along its head, just like my parents’ lovable old dog. I love to pet the red patch on the top of that sweet dog’s head. And in that moment, I wanted to pet the squirrel. Mostly, I just wanted to be comforted. I needed snuggling, and the squirrel looked soft and cuddly.

When I was a little girl, I used to go in the backyard and sing to the animals, thinking if I had a beautiful enough voice, all of the tiny woodland creatures would come scurrying to me like they do for the Disney princesses. Since they never came, I figured my voice just wasn’t pretty enough.

This afternoon watching that squirrel, I felt like a little girl again. I just wanted to be loved. I wanted a connection; to feel like someone cared, even if it was a little squirrel. So I stood on the sidewalk and started to sing along to the music playing in my ear buds. It was “More Than Enough” by Chris Tomlin.

All of You is more than enough for all of me,

For every thirst and every need.

You satisfy me with Your love

And all I have in You is more than enough.

As I sang, I prayed, “God this is a silly prayer, but I need to feel your closeness. I need to know that you hear me. Will you comfort me with this squirrel? You directed animals to come to Noah and his ark. You commanded the insects that plagued Egypt in Exodus. You ordained for the giant fish to swallow Jonah. I know you have sovereignty over this squirrel. Will you calm it? Slow its breaths? Have it come down from that branch and not be afraid of me?”

The squirrel blinked, raised its paw, turned to look at me, and when the song had just a few measures left, that squirrel scurried down the tree trunk, paused to look at me from the base, and hopped ahead of me on the sidewalk all the way to my apartment building.

Thanks, God. You answer even the tiniest of prayers.

Authentically Aurora

Bachelor Bash – Week 2

We’re only two weeks in, and already Bachelor Chris and his harem contestants have given us countless cringe-worthy quotes, producing simultaneous amusement and disgust in viewers everywhere. Here are the Top 10 Bachelor quotes so far this season!

#10 – Ashley S. [creepily hunched over a pomegranate]: “I feel so powerful right now.”

Ashley S Onion

#9 – Jordan: “Jillian has the hairiest butt I’ve ever seen. It’s hairier than some of my ex-boyfriends’.”

Jordan hairy

#8 – Lacy (former Bachelorette): “We’re 80/40 on the [wedding] date.”

Lacy 80 40

#7 – Megan: “The butterflies in my stomach are just… colorful and smiling!”

Megan butterflies

#6 – Whitney: “Do y’all inseminate pigs on your farm? We kind of do the same thing! I’m a fertility nurse!”

Whitney insemination

#5 – Kaitlyn: “Sometimes when I tell a joke, it makes people laugh.”

Kaitlyn joke

#4 – Amber: “My heart literally pumps every time I see one of those little white envelopes.”

Amber literally

#3 – Bachelor Chris: “I wish I was a polygamist right now.”

Chris polygamist

#2 – Kaitlyn: “You can plow the **** out of my field any day.”

Kaitlyn plow

#1 – MacKenzie [to the virginal Ashley I.]: “Guys like taking your virginity… I’m so jealous. I can’t even use that because I have a kid.”

MacKenzie virgin

#facepalm. Just… #facepalm.

Authentically Aurora

The Liebster Award

Liebster AwardWhy do you write? Is it for the attention; the acclaim; the dream of being the next Jonathan Acuff? Is it your way of cataloguing or even processing your life? Or is it for the pure love of writing?

I write because it is therapeutic and because, let’s be honest, my life can be a great source of entertainment for the downtrodden desperately in need of a laugh. But it’s also nice to be noticed and complimented on a job well done, even though that wasn’t my goal going in. So it is with great honor and appreciation that I accept mylittlepieceofquiet‘s nomination for The Liebster Award. Consider this my acceptance speech.

Jennifer Lawrence acceptance speechI’d like to thank, first and foremost, God for the gift of words, particularly the Word who is also the Way. Next, I’d like to thank my family and friends for all of their support through the crazy adventures detailed in this blog. And lastly, I’d like to thank all of the kind, psycho, timid, bold, wise, immature, clueless, well-intentioned and not-so-well-intentioned men who have served as fodder for my writing. I couldn’t have done it without you.

Alright, on to the good stuff. What is the Liebster Award? It’s an award of recognition in which one blogger with less than 200 followers nominates 11 other gifted bloggers who have less than 200 followers. Here are my 11 nominations:

  1. Masculinity Summit
  2. Lifeloveandthepursuitofmommyness
  3. Written For Our Instruction
  4. codegirlblog
  5. typetasting
  6. themodernladyofficial
  7. Casey Fiesler
  8. MARKMDMPH
  9. Fictional Types
  10. My Heart Will Sing No Other Name
  11. Scribal Tattoo

Next, my 11 answers to mylittlepieceofquiet‘s questions:

  1. Do you have any pets?
    1. Nope, but that didn’t keep me from getting fleas earlier this year!
  2. If you could meet anyone from the past, who would it be and why?
    1. Jesus. It’s hard to trump the Son of God. Initially, my answer to “why” was going to be that there are some questions I’d like to ask God, but then I decided that, really, I just want to bask in his presence, sit by his side and be wrapped in the strong arms of the One who loves me more than I can imagine.
  3. What are some of your hobbies?
    1. I have tons of hobbies. I get bored easily, so as soon as I feel like I have mastered one, I move on to another. Over the past five years, my hobbies have included: reading, swing dancing, writing music, painting, photography, running, traveling, cooking, ancestry research and now blogging!
  4. Do you prefer to drink coffee or tea?
    1. I have always loved the smell of coffee. It’s a comforting smell that reminds me of mornings in my childhood home as my dad was getting ready for work. But only in the past few years have I started to like the taste of coffee. I drink green tea every morning, but I’ve become a sucker for sweet coffee drinks.
  5. What is your favourite season of the year and why?
    1. Christmas, duh! Actually, fall in general. I love the crisp weather, the changing leaves, the spices and smells of the season, the focus on friends and family, the perspective shift to a season of giving, and the celebration of the birth of our Savior.
  6. How long have you been blogging?
    1. Just a few months now. I started in August.
  7. What are a couple of your favourite movies?
    1. Top 3: Bourne Identity, Tangled, Gladiator
  8. If you could pick one favourite book, what would it be?
    1. Besides the bible? Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith. It was one of my favorites in junior high/high school and still has a special place in my heart.
  9. What is your favourite colour and why?
    1. Picking a favorite color is tough because my favorite color to wear is not the same color I’d pick for a new car, nor is it the color I would choose for the interior decorating of my living room. My favorite color to wear is green, but when I was a girl, my favorite color overall was purple because I believed it to be the color of royalty, so I thought it best represented God, the King of kings and Lord of lords.
  10. What is one of your favourite quotes?
    1. So many good ones, but for today… my dad always said, “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.”
  11. What is your favourite type of music or favourite song?
    1. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of country music, but this week, my go-to song is Blank Space. Don’t judge. Horrible lyrics, but you’ve gotta admit that it’s catchy!

And finally, my 11 questions to my 11 nominees:

  1. Which of your posts is your favorite, and why?
  2. If you could meet anyone from the past, who would it be and why?
  3. What are some of your hobbies?
  4. Where is your favorite place to sit and write?
  5. What is your favorite topic to write about?
  6. How long have you been blogging?
  7. Of the topics you’ve blogged about, which is the most difficult to write about, and why?
  8. If you could pick one favourite book, what would it be?
  9. What is your favourite colour and why?
  10. What is one of your favourite quotes?
  11. Who has been the most influential person in your life?

Thanks again, and happy reading!

Authentically Aurora

Why I Don’t Date Musicians

Josh GrobanI don’t date musicians. Musicians make me crazy. Sure, they drive me crazy in the good sense, but they also make me a psychotic, emotional roller coaster. The highs are high, the lows are low, and I am generally a basket case.

I swore off dating musicians about three years ago after I realized how much they transformed this normally sane, rational, logical, methodical engineer into a completely unstable crazy lady!!! And tonight, I was reminded of just how potent the combination of me + a musician can be.

Background: My baby brother is getting married in three weeks. Yep, the one who proposed to his girlfriend on the same day that my fiancé broke off our engagement. Since his fiancé lives on the other side of the country and they are getting married in our hometown… and since I just planned a wedding in this city (albeit one that got cancelled last minute on account of the groom’s lack of commitment), my help in planning was requested. I have obliged as gracefully as I can without suffering internal combustion. So far I have selected the photographer (as a photographer myself), done taste testing at their venue (my dream location), given entrée recommendations (with the help of the ever-loyal Ashley) and hand designed their stationary (using my pending second degree in Graphic Design). I am also singing in the wedding, so tonight I drove 45 minutes across town to meet my duet partner, an up-and-coming star who studies at our city’s nationally acclaimed college of music.

Here’s where I get to the part about how musicians drive me crazy. First, Jack – this young star – irritated me. He had already cancelled on me twice, like a typical musician, and then tonight, we were supposed to meet at 7:30 pm, but he sent me a text at 6:30 telling me that 7:00 would actually work better. Since I live 45 minutes away from the university, I wouldn’t have made it by 7:00 even if I had left immediately, so I just ignored his text and decided to arrive at the agreed-upon time of 7:30. I felt guilty for not meeting when he wanted to, but there’s no way I could have made it by 7.

Next, I got angry. The college campus is huge, so I couldn’t find the building, and parking is a nightmare. I’d just spent 45 minutes in rush hour traffic; and then Jack responded to my request for better directions with, “The [music building] is on the back side of campus.” What the heck, Jack. What constitutes the “back side of campus”?! I prompted him further, and he told me, “There is a lot right in front of the building that might cost you 5 dollars but is probably the best option.” Jack. I don’t freaking know where the building is! Try using cardinal directions, son! Fortunately, I’m not above asking for directions, so I eventually found my own way. And paid I don’t even know how much for parking.

Jack called my phone right at 7:30 as I was pulling into a parking spot. I turned off the ignition and looked toward the building, where I saw the silhouette of a man leaning against a door frame as he held the door open with his body. The silhouette put a phone up to his ear just as I answered, so I knew it was him.

“Hey, Jack,” I said, watching his figure as he stood backlit by the building lights.

“Hey, Aurora. Did you get parked?” There was a quiet confidence to his stance, and it came through in his voice. Stop it, Jack. I’m trying to be mad at you. But I couldn’t. He looked so sexy standing there (sorry, Mom), and he was entirely too charming, in a completely unintentionally disarming kind of way.

I almost hugged him when I walked up – I don’t know why – but we shook hands instead. He had a warm grip and friendly smile. I am attracted to this 23-year-old punk. What is wrong with me?

He led me to a rehearsal room in the middle of the building, where a pretty red-haired girl waited at a piano. This Masters student had agreed to accompany us for our run-through. I’d wanted to talk a bit before we jumped right in (I think chemistry is important to singing duets), but she started playing, so we started singing.

Any time people hear me sing – at church, in the car, around the campfire – I inevitably get compliments. I’m not a bad singer. In fact, I’m a very gifted singer. I was a three-time All State Choir member in high school (ranked 2nd in the state my junior year), auditioned with Houston Grand Opera at the age of 18 and could have gone pro if I had chosen that path. But I was practical and decided to be an engineer. So now I work full time at a job I hate, going to school part time for Graphic Design (trying to pursue something that gives me more joy), and my vocal talent is largely being wasted. Tonight when we started singing, my vocal cords weren’t warm, and they’re muscles I don’t exercise much. I hadn’t realized how much of a difference regular rehearsal makes until Jack opened his mouth to join me in our duet.

His voice was rich and deep and warm and… beautiful. Heavenly. He is a young Josh Groban. And I was simultaneously overcome by joy, pleasurelonging and insecurity. No one has made me feel insecure about my voice in years. I have more vocal talent than 99% of the world’s population – purely by God’s grace and generosity. But next to Jack, who is training vocally full time and is in his prime, I felt like a shadow of who I could have been. And I felt regret for not having pursued music. I miss it. Intensely.

We finished our first run through, and it went so well that both Jack and the pianist were ready to call it a night. I was floored. I’d driven nearly an hour in maddening traffic to rehearse, and they were ready to be finished after five minutes? As Jack and the young pianist talked, I saw a rapport and camaraderie – perhaps even attraction? – that suddenly filled me with jealousy. I honestly don’t know if I was jealous for Jack’s attention or for the musical future those two are aspiring to. Either one is ridiculous. Jack is almost five years younger than me, still in school, and – most importantly – I’d met him five minutes earlier. My mom told me once, “You have to be careful with guys like that. You’ll fall in love with his voice and think you’re falling in love with him.”

I convinced them (without much effort) to run through the piece one more time, and it went even better than the first time. Our voices blended well, especially when the song swelled to a crescendo. Jack complimented me on my Italian pronunciation, and I glowed. I realized, then, that I – the ever-confident dragon lady – felt shy around Jack. What is happening?! I am a MESS!

We all looked at each other, agreed that the piece seemed performance-ready and packed up. Jack grabbed his backpack and walked me out to my car. In the chilly darkness, I felt safe next to him. We made small talk – I don’t remember what about – and he made me smile. When we reached my car, he reached out for a hug, even though we’d just met.

He’s a good hugger. It’s probably just a musician thing – kids were always pretty huggy in choir – but I felt peaceful when he hugged me. I told him to call if he thought of any questions about the wedding, and he echoed the same back to me. “Sure, just give me a call.”

Driving home, I felt hopeful.

And confused.

Especially when I realized that over the last hour, I have felt irritated, guilty, angry, disarmed, attracted, joyful, pleased, filled with longing, insecure, regretful, floored, jealous, shy, safe, peaceful and hopeful.

THAT is why I don’t date musicians.

Authentically Aurora