Sherlock Holmes – Theatre… Tuesday…?

Two Thursdays ago my mom, Bryan and I went to see the opening night of Vertigo Theatre’s season closer Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily. Normally this would be a weird time to write about it – the show is still on but it would only have a week to go so it may be hard to get out to see it. However, this show has actually been so well received (it just won a Critter award!) that it has been extended until June 18 (which incidentally is also the day my show closes…)

Program Image belongs to Vertigo Theatre

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily was a bit of a revelation to me. I’ve seen the team of Haysam Kadri and Karl Sine play Holmes and Watson before, and I’ve seen Haysam in a variety of roles over the last nine or so years… but I don’t think I’ve ever seen Haysam be quite so funny. He – and the entire cast, really – was obviously having a blast onstage, and the enjoyment is infectious.

If Sherlock Holmes isn’t necessarily your jam, you still may love this show because it is peppered with real historical Victorian London references and characters. Paul Welch’s Oscar Wilde looks astonishingly like the real deal and lights up the stage with his witticisms. The script tends to stick to Wilde’s more popular works for its referential humour so even casual fans will be “in on the joke”.

I can’t imagine that I’m in the minority when I say that I love clever humour that throws around cultural references. This past month of theatre in Calgary has absolutely fed into this love and I hope that it is a trend that will stick around for awhile.

And if you’re on the fence about Holmes at all, let me just say… I was offered a ticket to see it again last Friday and I deeply considered it. I decided not to take it though so someone who hadn’t seen the show could have the opportunity. Soooo…

(Please note: This show did just win a Critter award for Best Direction of a Play so that may increase interest in seeing it. You can get tickets by visiting the Vertigo Theatre website.)

(Double please note: I know today is Tuesday… Thursday is the day before my show opens and if I thought I was stressed before… At least Tuesday still alliterates, guys!)

February Wrap-Up

Heart on Window

Well, here I am, sitting in the dark and watching last night’s The Walking Dead on PVR. And making myself way too afraid to get up and go to the washroom. (I do not have the lights off as a means to terrify myself, by the by. I’ve been trying to limit my energy use over the past month and have developed a real creepy habit of sitting in the dark and watching tv. It’s a good thing there is no one around to see this…) I thought this was the best possible time to write a wrap-up post – also because it is the last day of the month. All signs point towards writing this awesome post.

Now that the blog is just over a month old, I’ve been thinking about what I want for it in terms of tone and feeling. I realized that I’ve always loved chatty blogs that make me feel like I’m a part of the blogger’s life. As much as I would love to be crazy professional and write about the fun things I do in Calgary as if I were writing for Avenue or another well-established and very grownup publication… I just can’t resist bringing my personal and my casual into it. My very favourite blog, Happy or Hungry, has inspired me to craft a few healthy lunches… but mostly, I just sort of feel like I’m a part of her close-knit and incredibly fun group of friends. I love reading her recounts of all her adventures and watching her life grow and change.

So, all that rambling to say, I’m going to start being a little bit more personal, sharing bits of myself, and these monthly recap posts are where it is all going to start.

Lonely Work Chair

Overall Month Rating
B-. February turned out to be a far busier month than I had ever expected it to be – though I maybe should have expected it, as I run a course at work for the first two weeks of every February that keeps me at work for 11 hours days. (Please note the picture of the lonely work chair above, which sums up my life this month.) During February, I had a few extended family situations crop up while I also lost my lovely roommate of 3.5 years to the allure of a private basement suite and I haven’t yet found someone new to fill her place so that has me feeling a little uneasy going into March… I did have a ton of fun adventures with my brothers, of all people, this month though and my house has never looked more organized (post to come on that!) so those points saved February from dropping down into the C range.

Highlight of the Month
Definitely accompanying Bryan to a LARP event mid-month! I was super-anxious about it going in (there are so many rules to learn!), I was very tired afterwards (it ran from 6pm-2am), I had no idea what to expect… but it was so wonderful to be around so many people that were just so passionate and excited about something they were doing. I haven’t acted in a show since last June and being at LARP very much reminded me of the comradery and connection that develops when you do theatre. (And thus I have a bunch of auditions lined up for March…)

Lowlight of the Month
Definitely today, when I went outside to leave for work and there was so much ice built up on my front windshield that I couldn’t even scrape it. I just had to wait for the defroster to do its thing. I’ve been making a real effort to leave for work early enough that I can arrive 5-10 minutes before the official start time and not have to feel like I’m rushed the entire way there so it was such a bummer. (I do realize that I have alluded to quite a few other things above that maybe should be in this category, but I am trying to look at those as experiences to grow from. The ice windshield just sucked.)

Number of Workouts Completed
Not nearly enough. During the first two weeks of the month, I basically taught my barre class and maybe took one extra class (though I did prance around like Britney Spears for Med Show an awful lot)…

I’ve put my yoga membership on hold to save money, though, set up my treadmill/workout area in my basement and barre classes are slightly less busy this upcoming week, so I’m back on it! 3 workouts over the past 4 days… pretty promising!

Number of Plays Watched
Four plays this month, from a whole range of different theatre companies. Pretty wonderful!

Number of Movies Watched
In theatres – 0.

At home – 4. I’m trying to work my way through the Marvel Universe movies that I haven’t seen before Civil War comes out. And, also, I forced all my friends into coming over and watching Grease: Live more than once.

Number of Dates I Took Myself On
I love self-dates. On my vacation day, I took myself over to Double Zero at Chinook and enjoyed some wine, pizza and re-reading A Storm of Swords. Unfortunately, I am not a cheap date for myself, so I may need to find some more economical ways to express some self-love. (That sentence sounds creepy. I stand by it, though.)

Best New Discovery
Still Buffering. Technically, it launched in January but I am always behind on my podcast listening and picked it up in February. Still Buffering is a hilarious and heart-warming podcast hosted by two sisters, aged 32 and 15, discussing the differences between being a teenager then and now. It gives me such nostalgia and such laughter.

Best Book Read
I mentioned earlier this month that I love memoirs when I’m on the go because the chapters are generally little bite-sized chunks that allow you to read just one at a time. Amy Poehler’s Yes Please has just been making me so happy over the past couple weeks – she is just as positive and inspiring as I expected her to be.

And now, The Walking Dead is over and The Bachelor is on, so please excuse me while I go pour a weekday glass of wine and allow my mind to atrophy a little.

And if you are in Calgary and you are someone I know (which I assume is 98% of my readership), please please live in my house…

Everything I Love – Chocolate, Bacon & Booze at Willow Park Wine and Spirits

Willow Park Wine and Spirits is so much more than just a beautiful liquor store with an exceptional selection (though it is certainly that). Willow Park is an institution. They have an incredible team of expert connoisseurs to help you pick out exactly the right liquor, beer or wine for any occasion, they have speciality products that no other store has… they have an onsite kitchen and put on incredible festivals, galas, information sessions and tasting events. I’ve gone to festivals with vendors and wineries from all over where I have learned so much about products (and had more than enough to drank in a safe location close to home) and I’ve discovered pairings that I never would have imagined at tasting events.

So, last Thursday, for the second time that week, I roped Bryan and Darci into coming to a crazy fun and informative event with me. They like it when I force them into things.

Beautiful (and Packed!) Tasting Space At Willow Park
When we arrived for the event at 7pm on the dot, we showed our tickets and were immediately ushered downstairs to the basement to select our seats. (And don’t they do a great job of making the basement look appealing!?) As a note, I recommend arriving 10-15 minutes before the event begins – there is no assigned seating for tasting events and, trust me, you want to be together with your group and near the front to get the full experience.

Kevin's Bacon
As we filed through the door and immediately began scoping for the best seats, we were handed a very special reception cocktail – the Kevin’s Bacon, created by Senior Product Consultant, Michael Bigattini just for us. (PS: If you ever can take an event run by Michael, do it – he is both knowledgeable and hilarious in equal turns.) Featuring Bacon-Infused Jack Daniels, black tea and maple syrup, the Kevin’s Bacon was an ideal drink for summer, light and perfect for all the BBQs I’m planning to throw on my patio… thank goodness Michael gave us the recipe!

Tasting Brochure CoverTasting Brochure Inside
Each seat was set with a tasting guide – ostensibly to make notes in, but it mostly just seemed like a great way to tantalize us with all the pairings we were about to try out!

Place Setting
We also were each supplied with 5 different glasses filled with a range of alcohol options, an “empty space” (temporarily filled with popcorn) for a warm drink that was yet to be brought up and a few of our food pairings that could be served cold. The excitement was mounting and the space was filled with chatter but as soon as Michael began to share his enthusiasm for the pairings he had put together, we were all captivated.

Pairing One
We first sampled Hot Pepper Bacon Popcorn with Chocolate Drizzle paired with the Howe Sound Diamond Head Stout. I had actually just posted on Instagram about how I didn’t care for stout… but this lightly hoppy oatmeal stout really was a perfect pairing with the popcorn. The stout mellowed some of the heat in the popcorn and brought out the notes of the chocolate. Plus… who can complain about popcorn popped in bacon grease!? I kept thinking I would save some for the drive home but that was not to be.

Pairing Two
Pairing Number Two! Chocolate Dipped Bacon Skewer with a created-by-Michael Mexican Hot Chocolate. This was voted the best pairing by a show of hands and though it wasn’t my pick, it was tasty. There was also something just so decadent about using the bacon as a stir stick for the hot chocolate. Darci felt that the cinnamon in the hot chocolate overwhelmed the other flavours (I find that cinnamon is one of those love it or hate it flavours), while I found this pairing just a liiiiittle too rich. Blasphemy, I know!

Pairing Three
Number Three: Salted Maple Bacon Truffle with a Manhattan. Did you know that the Manhattan was created for Winston Churchill’s mother, a society lady who loved her booze just as much as her son did? I sure didn’t! For extra points, here is an absolutely terrible picture of me looking real skeptical with my Manhattan:

And why do I look that way? Because, and I quote: “In this drink, the cherries are the mix – they’re the only non-alcoholic… wait, they’re brandy-soaked”. But it turns out, I do appreciate a quality Manhattan with quality ingredients. Also, I appreciate brandy-soaked cherries.

Pairing Four
This pairing featured the incredible and not at all healthy “Dude’s Magic Bar” (pretzels, chocolate chips, bacon, peanut butter chips, potato chips and dulce de leche)… Bryan’s pick for the best pairing. Bryan loves both peanut butter and being a dude. The Magic Bar was paired with the Granville Island Lion’s Winter Ale, a beer described by Michael as “vanilla-y and special”. (Can I please mention again how much I loved Michael’s enthusiasm for absolutely everything we consumed?) I already like the Lion’s Winter Ale and I loved how the mellow flavours made the Magic Bar seem not quite so terrible for you.

Pairing Five
During this pairing, we received the overview of how to properly taste wine. Unfortunately, by that point, Darci and I had already devoured both our wine and our Bacon Cannoli, so we just kept pretending with empty glasses. We are all class, all the time. The wine, by the way, was the Chateau Trillol from the South of France – a 50% syrah blend with notes of cherry, black currant, raspberry and black & white pepper. Michael described it as a “food-driven” wine with a good acidity to act as a palate cleanser to cleanse away the richness. I bought this wine.

Pairing Six
And finally, the pairing that Darci and I voted as the best pairing – Chocolate Bacon Pull Apart Bread and the Zenato Amarone. I have absolutely no notes about why I loved this pairing so much, but a ton of notes about the wines from the Valpolicella valley of northern Italy. (Only three types of red wine can come from this valley, Amarone is the highest end type.) I think this really exemplifies why I love the Willow Park events – yes, I got to enjoy delicious food and dranks, laugh at some clever humour… but I also gained some very special knowledge about wine that I can maybe use to feel superior in the future.

By the way, red wine should be served at “cellar temperature” (17-18 degrees Celsius) not strict room temperature.

Anyway, the night wrapped with us finishing up any nibbles or dribbles we had left, receiving a coupon for 5% off up in the store and tasting the plum & rootbeer bitters that were used in the Manhattan. (When you taste bitters, you put a drop on the back of your hand. It is still VERY strong. Bryan said we had to taste it for the blog, but I think he just wanted to prove he could do it.)

Close up of Bitters bitters dabbing Bitters Licking

Check out the Willow Park events page for more of their amazing upcoming events – I will be hitting up the Cupcakes Pairing event next… maybe I’ll see you there?!

Paint Nite @ The Station

In my opinion, every neighbourhood needs a solid neighbourhood bar – I think I alluded to this in my first real post, about my work neighbourhood bar. You know what I mean, a casual little bar that you don’t need to dress up to fit in at, that has solid greasy pub food and that is stumbling distance from your house. My neighbourhood has an absolutely rad pub that ticks all these boxes, The Riverbend Station. The Station is a pub that my dad used to hangout at with his friends in the 90s, but it recently came into new ownership, a renovation and began hosting what is, in my opinion, the very best new activity to do while drinking… Paint Nite!

Paint Nite events, taking place at bars across North America, are an event designed to elevate the typical night out and help patrons access their creativity. In Calgary, Paint Nite events take place at a range of bars across all four quadrants and you must buy tickets ahead of time from their website for the date, painting and bar that you love. All of the paintings are originally created by professional artists and the excellent Paint Nite team consists of fun, spunky and talented visual artists who walk you through the process of creating each painting in an easy and accessible way. You are always free to follow their instructions to the T or exercise your own creativity to take your canvas in your own direction. I have been to four Paint Nite events and was crazy impressed by the art I did each time.

My brother’s girlfriend, Darci, and I have been looking for a Paint Nite that we could attend since before Christmas and when a painting featuring a cute little owl popped up at my neighbourhood bar, we jumped all over that. We also brought along her boyfriend/my brother, Bryan, for a little extra colour.

The event started at 7 pm, but, always the anxiety filled perfectionist, I showed up just before 6pm to scope out the best possible table to paint at. (And you know that as soon as we were allowed to reserve our spots, I was all over that!) While waiting for Bryan and Darci to arrive – and pretending I wasn’t just going to jump on reserving spots – I enjoyed a pint of Kokanee Gold, which was on special on Mondays, and a few chapters of Judy Greer’s memoir I Don’t Know What You Know Me From. I love nothing more than a fun memoir when I know I’ll only be able to sneak in a tiny bit of reading. (My mom gave me her old Kobo a year ago and it is the best ever when you’re on the go.)

Beer And Book

I also snuck a look at the menu, but pizza was on special ($10 for a ten inch, $15 for a fifteen inch) so, really, our mind was already made up.

The Station - Menu

Right as Darci and Bryan arrived, our Event Host, Kenzie, popped up a canvas telling us to grab a canvas to reserve a seat… so I sent Bryan over to set up our canvases at the ideal table I had already picked out (close to the host stand, but not right at the front of the room and in the corner enough that I hoped our fourth seat wouldn’t be filled)… isn’t that what brothers are for!?

Save a spot! That's what brothers are for

That’s why we invited him, yo.

We dove on the menu and created the perfect pizza for $15 – ham, chorizo and bacon. When the pizza’s on special, you’ve got to double down on the meats! And in case that wasn’t quite enough for to quench our hunger while in an artistic frenzy, we also added on an order of cod bites. It may not have seemed this way to most, but our food arrived in perfect timing – right as we finished up on the first layer of the painting which meant we could snack while we waited for it to dry!

The First Step
(That hourglass outline will become an owl. Seriously. It’s like paint-by-numbers but more fun and more beautiful.)

Bryan and Darci
Bryan and Darci relaxing with some pizza.

Our pizza's on a chair!
Our server was crazy resourceful and found us an extra bar chair to set our pizza on while we painted away. It seems counter-intuitive to review the pizza that we created ourselves but, trust, it was delicious… lots of toppings, perfectly melty cheese and a great crust that could hold up to all the tops but was also perfectly light.

Cod Bites aka pure deliciousness
This is a terrible representation of the Cod Bites, because we had to tuck them between all our canvases to fit them on the table, but they were definitely the highlight of the night. Lightly breaded with a sriracha-infused coating, they were just crispy and spicy enough to add some kick.

I won’t go too deep into describing the process of creating our paintings – just know that the two hours of instructional time flew by in a haze of mixing colours, dabbing the perfect amount of paint here and there, and jokes from Kenzie. She was also crazy on point when it came to settling our painting insecurities and helping us fix any perceived imperfections. I will share a few of my work in progress pictures, though, along with the final project…

Step Two Step Three

Final Product

Isn’t amazing how even though we were working on the same basic picture, our individual personalities came through anyway!?

If you are looking for a fun night out, I could not more strongly recommend doing a Paint Nite. I am sometimes even tempted to do one alone! (Note that there are almost always discount codes available so you can buy your event tickets for $25. If you are having trouble, email me… and, hey, maybe I’ll just join you! I’ll always take any excuse to paint…)