Car Care

Car CareMuch of life is lived in the mundane, but the moments that hold the power to be impactful tend to also have the power to be intensely positive or intensely negative. And the way we (or others!) respond to situations can greatly impact the tone and outcome of those significant moments.

A few months ago, I had to take my BMW in for repair. The collision center I used did a great job providing me daily updates, offering multiple repair options complete with pricing details for each and even finishing the repair job early. They also coordinated with a nearby rental car company and shuttled me over to make my transition as easy as possible.

When I went to pick up my car, the owner – an attractive, young Armenian man named Hovik – came to personally shake my hand and wish me well. He looked a bit familiar, but I was shocked when he said, “Hey! We live in the same apartment complex. I see you in the gym there all the time.”

I had no recollection of noticing him in the gym (shame on me; he’s gorgeous), but sure enough, I’ve seen him there several times since he worked on my car. During one of our gym interactions, Hovik asked me to fill out a customer survey, which I did happily; his collision center provided the best customer service I’ve ever had. Apparently my positive feedback caused them to be awarded some kind of elite diamond-encrusted platinum status or something, because Hovik sent me a text a week later thanking me for completing the survey and telling me that I could bring my car in for a full detail any time, on the house, as a way of showing his appreciation.

I let months go by without cashing in on my free detail, but last Monday on my way to work, a dashboard light came on indicating that I had dangerously low tire pressure. We’d just experienced a cold front, so I assumed that, due to PV/T (yay physics), my tire pressure was lower because of the weather change.

I could have pumped up the tires myself, but I remembered my offer from Hovik, so I pulled over and called him. “Hey, Hovik. Does that free car detail include checking my tire pressure? Because if so, I’m on my way.” Hovik was delighted to hear from me and insisted that I stop by.

When I arrived, he was waiting for me in the lobby. As I handed him my keys, he asked, “Were you out late last night? I saw your car parked on the fifth floor of the parking garage instead of your usual spot on the second floor.”

Surprised, I nodded. “Yeah, I went swing dancing last night and got home around ten.” He noticed where I parked? He’d also sent me a text earlier in the day asking if I was alright because I’d made a pit stop on my way to the shop and took longer to arrive than he’d expected. This man is very attentive, I thought to myself.  

I set up my mobile office there in the lobby, dialing in to my company’s VPN and knocking out various email responses while Hovik and his team worked on my car. After several minutes, Hovik reappeared and gestured for me to follow him outside. I grabbed my purse, locked my laptop and trailed behind him. When we got to my bright blue Beemer, Hovik turned and gave me a lopsided grin. “The reason you had low tire pressure is right there.” He pointed to my front driver tire. “You have a nail in your tire.” Oh.

“Good thing you brought it in,” he continued. “I’m really glad you didn’t have a blow-out on the freeway. My shop doesn’t do tire plugs, but there’s a Discount Tire around the corner.”

“Okay,” I said, thinking about the logistics of my day. “I have another meeting coming up. I was going to dial in from your lobby… Do you mind if I stick around here for another hour before going to Discount Tire?”

Hovik studied me thoughtfully for a moment before speaking. “You know what?” he began, “Why don’t I have one of my guys take your car over to Discount Tire and handle it for you?”

I was stunned. “Really? You…. you’d do that?”

He shrugged and grinned, muscles bulging. How had I not noticed this guy at the gym? “Yeah, let me take care of you.”

So I returned to Hovik’s lobby, took care of my various business meetings, and an hour later, Hovik strode up to me with my keys in hand. “All set,” he told me with a smile.

“How much do I owe you for the plug?” I asked.

He waved away my question. “Don’t worry about it. It was my pleasure to take care of it for you.”

I was stunned by his generosity. Up to that point, I’d assumed the simple band on his right ring finger was a wedding band. But now I’m not so sure. Especially since his texts have continued into this week and are decidedly non-car-related.

And I’m also beginning to suspect that the lavishness of his shop’s customer service may – possibly, maybe, perhaps – be specific to the customer. Ha.

Authentically Aurora

Screen Shot 2015-11-05 at 8.03.20 AM

Je Suis Une Vache

Since I am bored out of my mind at work, I have been teaching myself French. You know, for something to do between the monotony of reading legal jargon and babysitting adults who cannot adhere to project deliverables.

“Parties agree to be bound by the terms of the Contract Documents as amended by this CCR-CCN. Except as expressly supplemented and amended by this CCR-CCN, the Contract Documents shall remain in full force and effect. From the effective date of this CCR-CCN, references to any of the Contract Documents shall…”

Je m’ennuie!

“Chris – I had a call with Ron this afternoon, and he advised that he believes Andrew is still waiting on an updated Citrix RFI. Could you advise if this has been delivered? I am trying to connect the dots, per our conversation this morning.”

Je ne comprends pas…

Yesterday my escapism was a fun lesson of learning to flirt in French. My app of choice, Duolingo, taught me valuable life skills, like how to say: “It is hot in here, or is that just you?”

French crush

At the end of the lesson, I was greeted with the sound of a trumpet flourish (da da, da DA!!!) and a vibrant banner that declared, “You have learned the skill: Flirting!”

It’s possible that I laughed out loud, or at least smirked to myself. As my best friend Ashley said, “Glad you will be adept at flirting in multiple languages.” Ha.

But then today, Duolingo decided to humble me. It decided to remind me that there is no need to learn the skill: Flirting because I am a fat cow and will be single for all of eternity. Attempts at flirting are futile, it told me. Just look at the horrible things Duolingo made me learn (and practice saying out loud)!

French cow

“I live with my cats.”

“He looks at a cow.”

“I am breaking the belt.”

What’s up with that, Duolingo? Way to teach me to flirt like a champ; then crush my soul by reminding me about my extra tonnage and cat-less cat lady status.

Duolingo, you are the Indian giver of hope. Zero stars.

Authentically Aurora

Courageous Kindness

cinderella-movie-2015As a little girl, I never liked Cinderella. She was too quiet, soft and subservient. She wasn’t feisty, passionate and adventurous like Belle or Jasmine or Ariel.

Cinderella-dadI always wanted Cinderella to stand up to her stepmother and stepsisters. I never understood why she was such a doormat, blindly tied to a promise to her dead parents who, at the time they asked it of her, had no knowledge of how her situation would develop and change after they were gone. Cinderella seemed foolhardy to me, incapable of adapting to the dynamic nature of her situation.

cinderella-headshotBut I recently watched the new Cinderella movie, and it landed differently with me than the animated film I grew up with. In this new, live actor film, Cinderella inspired me. Her story stirred me and actually moved me to tears. “Have courage, and be kind,” she repeated to herself over and over again, through the death of a mother, death of a father, servitude to her stepsisters and incomprehensible cruelty by her stepmother.

Cinderella-ragsAs an adult watching the movie of Cinderella, I am struck by her response to suffering – intense, terrible suffering. Cinderella didn’t pretend everything was okay, mindlessly skipping through a field of wildflowers and humming with bluebirds while her so-called family abused her. No, we saw Cinderella hurt, frustrated and broken. We watched Cinderella struggle and almost fail to keep her courage and kindness as the pains of life continued to roll in.

cinderella_horseBut Cinderella resolved to keep her heart soft; chose not to betray her true self to the all-too-easy bitterness and anger over circumstances beyond her control. Cinderella also chose kindness – and not just kindness, but courage as well. She chose to be strong and gentle; noble and compassionate; brave and tenderhearted.

The complements of courage and kindness united in the person of Cinderella are a strikingly beautiful portrait that remind me of another story: one of a God who is both all-powerful and loves without reservation. Power belongs to God, and Loving-kindness is Yours, O Lord.” -Psalm 62:11-12

There is power in courageous kindness. Some might even call it magic.

Cinderella-dress-transformation

Authentically Aurora

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

Bachelor Bash – Week 1

The BachelorAllow me to preface this post by openly stating that I never had any intention of (or even inclination that I would ever consider) posting about “The Bachelor”.

However, since the roots of this particular blog are Dating and Humor (just have a look at my Tag Cloud to the right), I suppose it makes sense that my blogging could eventually intersect with this ridiculously horrible, sadly laughable fiasco of a show that simultaneously inspires, disgusts and amuses its viewers. Okay, mostly disgusts and amuses.

In any case, my friend Melanie invited me to this season’s session of recurring Girls’ Nights to gather with other women and marvel at the lengths girls will go to find “true love.” As a rather jaded former Disney-princess-at-heart, I have decided to join in the festivities for the purposes of:

  1. Engaging in fellowship with my girlfriends
  2. Conducting an informal study of female psychology
  3. Totally dominating our group’s Bachelor Bracket
  4. Gathering easy fodder for hilarious blog posts

In preparation for tonight’s season premiere, I did a bit of research on the contenders and, to my surprise, found that I have already begun to experience that rare combination of emotions elicited only by horrible reality TV shows: simultaneous disgust & amusement. For your viewing pleasure, ladies and gentlemen, I give you:

JordanJordan: The most outrageous thing she’s ever done is jumping “off the back of a boat bar naked in the British Virgin Islands”, and if she wanted to impress a man, she’d “give him a sexy dance because it would turn him on and hopefully lead to more.”

Oh, Jordan. Please develop some self-respect and realize that you attract the kind of men you cater to. If you want a man to treat you like you’re nothing more than sex on a stick, keep doing what you’re doing, kiddo. You’re on a roll.

NicoleNicole: If she could be a fictional character, she would be Jessica Rabbit because “she is so unapologetically sexy with natural sex appeal”, and if Nicole were an animal, she would be a wolf because they are “magical and bad-ass creatures”.

Okay, when I look at you, Nicole, I’m not getting “sexy” and “bad-ass”. Or, by the way, someone who wants to “jump in the sack”. Are we compensating a bit here?

NikkiNikki: Her occupation is listed as “Former NFL Cheerleader.”

So Nikki, what you’re trying to tell us is… you’re unemployed? Living in the past? Looking for a sugar daddy? Trying to keep the glory days alive as long as possible?

TaraTara: She can’t live without whiskey, loves it when her date “opens the truck door” (I guess she only dates country boys?), views marriage as merely “legal documentation” of commitment, and her occupation is a “Sport Fishing Enthusiast.”

Can your occupation be “an enthusiast”? I mean, I’m an ice cream enthusiast. Can I get paid for that? Because that sounds sweet. Literally and figuratively.

*Sigh. All right, Bachelor Chris. It’s now Open Season on thirty needy, desperate, insecure bachelorettes. This should be interesting. And by interesting, I of course mean simultaneously disgusting and amusing.

Authentically Aurora

Quote/photo source: http://abc.go.com/shows/the-bachelor 

That Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady

Girl in a Country SongAs a woman who loves old school country music and clever lyrics (especially if they involve stirring the pot), I absolutely adore Maddie & Tae’s hit single “Girl in a Country Song”.

The new “Bro Country” sub-genre of country music has been gaining popularity for years, arguably at the expense of any semblance of moral fiber in today’s society. These days, rampant sexuality is touted in country just as much as in rap or pop music. And in Bro Country, it’s always the woman who gets objectified in the celebration of moonshine-saturated tailgate parties and sleepless nights in the back of pickup trucks.

Maddie & TaeBut 18-year-olds Maddie & Tae have offered the world of country music a different perspective. These two girls, fresh out of high school, have burst onto the country music scene with their first hit, which expresses the perspective of some of the women sung about in country songs these days. Some of their playful lyrical jabs may be lost on those who don’t normally listen to the country genre, but more seasoned listeners will pick up on the fact that these brave young girls didn’t shy away from poking fun at big names in country like Blake Shelton and Chris Young.

Have a listen, and see if you can pick up on their references to these song lyrics:

Chris Young Aw Naw“Aw Naw” by Chris Young

Aw Naw, do you hear that song, the one that just came on… It would be so wrong if we didn’t dance once, show off those jeans you painted on, aw naw.”

David Nail Whatever She's Got“Whatever She’s Got” by David Nail

“She’s got the blue jeans painted on tight, that everybody wants on a Saturday night… And when she moves every jaw’s gonna drop, and I do but I don’t want her to stop… I want whatever she’s got.”

Cruise Florida Georgia Line“Cruise” by Florida Georgia Line

“When I first saw that bikini top on her, she’s poppin’ right out of the South Georgia water, thought ‘Oh, good lord’, she had them long tanned legs!”

Luke Bryan Drunk On You“Drunk on You” by Luke Bryan

“Girl, you make my speakers go boom boom, dancin’ on the tailgate in a full moon. That kinda thing make a man go mmm hmmm. You’re lookin’ so good in what’s left of those blue jeans.”

Billy Currington Hey Girl“Hey Girl” by Billy Currington

Hey girl, what’s your name girl, I’ve been lookin’ at you and every guy here’s doin’ the same girl…So hot, gotta give it a shot, gotta get a little bit of what you got.”

Jason Aldean Take a Little Ride“Take a Little Ride” by Jason Aldean

“I’m just ready to ride this Chevy down a little backroad. Slide your pretty little self on over. Get a little closer…put your pretty pink toes on the dash, lean your seat back, Man I swear there ain’t nothing looks better than that. Sweet tan little thing with nothing to do. I want to take a little ride with you.”

Randy Houser“Runnin’ Outta Moonlight” by Randy Houser

Come on baby, don’t you keep me waitin’, I gotta go, I’ve got a reservation… Come on baby let me take you on a night ride, windows down, sittin’ on my side.”

Boys Round Here Blake Shelton“Boys Round Here” by Blake Shelton

Red red red red red red redneck. Yeah, the girls round here, they all deserve a whistle. Shakin that sugar, sweet as Dixie crystal.”

Get Me Some of That“Get Me Some of That” by Thomas Rhett

You’re shakin’ that money maker, like a heart breaker… Love the way you’re wearin’ those jeans so tight… I never seen nothin’ that I wanted so bad. Girl I gotta get me some of that.

Luke Bryan That's My Kind of Night“That’s My Kind of Night” by Luke Bryan

“You got that sun tan skirt and boots. Waiting on you to look my way and scoot your little hot self over here. Girl hand me another beer, yeah.”

Jon Pardi Up All Night“Up All Night” by Jon Pardi

“I’ve been a thinkin’ about breakin’ in the weekend and not doin’ any sleepin’ So get in. Let’s take a ride. Baby, let’s go take a dirt road.”

Jason Aldean My Kinda Party“My Kinda Party” by Jason Aldean

“Baby if you’re in the mood and you can settle for a one night rodeo, You can be my tan-legged Juliet, I’ll be your Redneck Romeo.”

Authentically Aurora