Fit Girl’s Guide – Week Two Recap

In a shocking turn of events, I’m delayed writing up my Week Two Recap and it’s already Wed, Oct 31. Halloween! I’m a deer! (If I get a cute picture and not just a poorly lit picture in my office, I’ll post it on the A Flimsy Plan insta.) With this spoooooky season coming to a close, let’s hit up another recap of my Fit Girls journey! (Syntax? What’s syntax? I’m not fixing that sentence!)

Fit Girls Guide Week Two Recap

So, How’s It Going, Erin?

Honestly, Recap Readers? I’m feeling like I maybe cheated myself by not deciding to do the Fit Girl’s workout plan. I have a fairly good workout routine of my own established – I’ll give it it’s own post despite the fact that it’s pretty boring – but I’m wondering if it’s maybe not really much of a challenge if I’m not changing my habits a ton? Should I have thrown myself in whole hog, balls to the wall?

To be honest, I’m a very all or nothing type person. I stay busy all the time because I’m afraid that if I stop moving, I’ll never start moving again. I genuinely have to remind myself that working out three times a week is something to be celebrated – it doesn’t have to be “seven days or you’re a failure”. One of the repeated mantras I’ve come across in the Fit Girls Community is “Progress, Not Perfection” and one of my hopes is that by the end of these four weeks I’ll start to grant myself this grace.

And if my university theatre teachers are at all reading this – I know. You’ve been telling me that I don’t need to be perfect since I was 20. I’ll get there one day.

Keep It Positive! What Did You Like This Week?

This week, I took such joy in the dinners.

For my adult working life, I’ve always been reasonably good about prepping lunches and making breakfasts at home – I feel like nothing is a bigger waste of money than buying breakfast on the go. (Now, I’m less good about having prepped lunches and breakfasts on the weekends and this challenge has forced me to do that, but we’ll talk about that another time.) Dinner is a different story. Intellectually, I know that I have lots of food in the pantry and freezer so I don’t often buy ingredients for dinner… but the problem is, I’m not great at looking at my ingredients and coming up with a dinner idea. I often think “I’ll just pick this up on my way home” or making one of my go-to 5 minute meals.

This challenge has made me have to change that. The dinner recipes they have provided are real, grownup dinners and also super easy and quick. This week I made lasagna rolls (!!!) and polenta with shrimp (!!!). There are no words for how together it makes me feel.

And What About The Low Points?

Sticking to the meal plans has been pretty easy because the food is delicious, easy and leaves room for flexibility and treats with the snacks.

That said, I’ve definitely still been drinking a little bit too much wine. (Before you start worrying about me – the plan technically allows for 10 oz of wine a week. So “a little bit too much” is pretty easy to go over if you go out on the weekend and also get a glass of wine when you go to the theatre… suddenly that’s 15 oz over the week!)

And on Saturday, my roommate was inspired to do meal prep – yay! – and was in the kitchen for three hours – less yay! – right around dinner time. I finally gave up, ordered some Vietnamese on Skip the Dishes (only $12! so frugal!) and then headed out for my evening plans. I ended up throwing the lasagna rolls I was going to eat into the deep freeze so now I have a homemade healthy “frozen meal” for one of those lazy evenings once the challenge is over!

It’s a lose-win, really!

Is a lose-win a thing? Discuss in the comments section.

Fit Girl’s Guide – Week One Recap

If there’s one thing my readers know about me, it’s that I’m an actress. Oh no, wait, that’s not what this post is about… Let’s start over. If there’s one thing my readers know about me, it’s that I love challenges. Challenges are essentially the only way I actually achieve anything in life because I truly thrive on external validation. (Hashtag, maybe not the best quality? Hashtag love yourself?) Anyway, today is a not a deep dive into my psyche, today is a recap of the first week of my most recent challenge – Fit Girls Guide‘s 28 Day Jumpstart.

The Why

I’ve owned the Fit Girls 28 Day Jumpstart ebook since probably 2016 and dabble in it here and there. I usually do a pretty okay job of doing the first week (I love their roasted veggie power bowl and it is 100% my go to lunchtime meal prep) and then I don’t make any lunches for the weekend and then I go to Bottlescrew Bill’s on the Friday to work on my beer passport and then that is that. Sooo… that really shows some real stick-to-it moxie, right?

Yeah, I need to work on that whole accountability thing…

I’m also doing a little No Spend Month with some friends on Facebook and, though I’ve re-framed that into “mindful spend”, my biggest area of mindless spending is on dumb convenience food so following a proper meal plan definitely helps with that.

Plus, I just bought a smart scale. I haven’t had a scale in over 13 years and I am obsessed with watching my body water and muscle mass levels fluctuate. I haven’t become a crazy person with the scale yet but… uh… watch this space.

The Plan

Fit Girls Guide is focused on easy, meal preppable, delicious whole foods. They don’t exclude any food group (though they do offer suggestions of substitutions and modifications for almost every preference/requirement you could imagine) and they account for everything in moderation. Progress, not perfection is the goal! The ebook is also full of wisdom, inspiration and fun dog pictures – it genuinely feels like chatting health with your bbf (best best friend).

Specifically, 28 Day Jumpstart offer a 4 week meal plan – 1 breakfast recipe, 1 lunch and 2 dinners that rotate through the week for easy of prepping and finances. However, they also have a ton of alternative meals so if you aren’t a creature of routine and consistency like me (I could genuinely eat savoury oats every single morning), you can mix it up. Additionally, make sure you treat yourself to a 200 cal snack of your choice (tons of suggestions included!) and a square of dark chocolate every single day.

There’s also an exercise plan that I’m not actually following because I only workout well during fitness classes. And barre just also just low-impact, bodyweight movements… just like the Fit Girls exercise plan. I’m doing fine.

So… How’s It Going?

Mostly good! I mean, I already know that I love Week One (overnight oats, that veggie bowl I talked about and alternating pita pizzas and sweet potato tacos for dinner) so this should be no surprise.

That said, I did goof a bit on the weekend. I knew I would be going out on Friday for a Paint Nite with my fam to celebrate my mom’s birthday, so I accounted for that (a little extra wine, a delicious buffalo chicken wrap and doing spin for the second time in a week on Saturday morning) but then Saturday night got a little bit away from me. I wanted to work on my novel but was having trouble focusing at home, so I headed over to an old classic – Earls Shepard Flats for a glass of happy hour wine and a new location. But then this lady sat down next to me at the bar, instantly befriended me and… well, I had a little more wine, a little more Salmon Zen Bowl and a little more bites of pumpkin pie than I expected.

But hey, what can you do? Progress, not perfection. And not that the scale is the be-all and end-all of all things, but I always expect it to pop up a bit after the weekend due to water retention and sodium nonsense and today it didn’t. So I’m not going to beat myself up.

Goal for this week? Actually make all your meals at home and stick to that mindful spend challenge, Erin!

(Oh, and if you want to follow along, you can find me on insta as Fitgirlera.)

No-Spend April – Week Three

No-Spend Week Three
Week Three

I keep thinking I skipped writing about No-Spend Week Three and I’ve messed up – and then I realize that I’m currently in Week Four and April has just been a bit of a runaway blur. I still have over a week left! I should be less smug about “no-spend”.

The Spends

  • Truth time: I bought a set of chairs and a new couch last week. (Note: Couch was bought on my mom’s HBC credit card so she can get points and I will be reimbursing her when the bill comes due, so not until May.)

This is literally the opposite of “No Spend”.

But hear me out! I’ve been looking for a new living room set since last summer. Despite being a fully functional adult and actually having a pretty cute house, I’ve never actually picked out my own, new furniture and bought it. Right around January, I picked out the chairs I liked at Ikea and the couch/chaise I loved at The Bay. Since then, I’ve just been waiting for a good price and, coincidentally, Ikea had a living room sale and The Bay put their couches on sale for 55% off, which is the best sale I’ve seen since the summer.

So, since this spend was from savings, it’s something that I would have spent a ton more on if I waited until May and it was mindful… I think it fits into the philosophy of “No-Spend April”.

  • This week also contained my pre-selected social outing – it was my friend’s 30th birthday and his girlfriend planned a whole surprise day for him (board game café, beer and chip tasting, Escape Room, Pin Bar). To be honest, I originally wasn’t going to go. I even texted her and was like “Ugggh, it’s No Spend Month!” And then I thought about it. About how I would probably regret it if I missed it, about how I shouldn’t be an anti-social shut in, about how I had budgeted myself one night out this month. And about how, really, life is about moderation and normally I would go out every weekend and have so many self-dates so I was still doing better. So I went and it was so much fun and so good to see my friends.

The No Spends

Groceries were $23 this week and I’m just killing it.

Maybe because I did purchase my new living room set this week (though it won’t be moving in until early June), but this month really isn’t feeling like a No Spend Month anymore. Not in that I’m spending a ton, but I’m just not feeling deprived, which is what I expected. It’s really just about making better choices about what I’m spending my money on and focusing on my goals.

I think I’m going to continue with a No Spend May (I have waaaaay too much stuff in my pantry still that I need to cook through), excluding a shopping day with Claire for my upcoming Vegas trip. I have finally found a roommate that I like, who will be moving in for May, which means a little help on the household expenses, but I don’t want to be going too wild just because of that. Gotta save for the future. Be the ant and not the grasshopper and all that.

The Yoga

I am two days behind on the challenge and I am totally okay with that. I am getting so much better at finding the space in my day and prioritizing my yoga. 30 days to make a habit, right?

Two Days In

No-Spend

Well, my friends, I’m two days into No Spend April and I haven’t goofed it up. Yet. (I would really hope that I wouldn’t mess up in two days, but… you know. If
I hadn’t publicly announced to the entire world that I was doing a No Spend Month, I probably definitely would have popped on over to the original Sunterra after my Lagree class on Monday to grab one of their tuna melt paninis. Only $6.99! Such a good deal! Those things are like crack.)

Okay, but let’s talk about the fact that if I get a tuna panini every week, that’s $28 a month and that is basically my entire grocery budget for a week.

Also, I’m definitely almost out of eyeshadow primer and am going to be rocking a real shimmery eye for most of the month because I do still have a bunch of the Sin Urban Decay Primer Potion left. And I should use that stuff.

Spend

Anyway, thus far I immediately had to get gas on the first – only $25 worth because I was convince the price of gas was going to go down and I could get a marginally better deal later in the week. (Sidenote: I was correct. It went down by about two cents. I could probably save a full $2!)

No Spend Groceries
No Spend April – Week One Groceries

I also technically picked up my groceries for the week on March 31, because I was out running errands with my mom and she had to go to Superstore anyway. Full disclosure: I spent $34. It was all the nutritional yeast and the cashews’ fault!

But the yeast will last for longer than the entire month and the cashews are both delicious for snacks and earned me 1200 Optimum points towards free groceries. And $34 is pretty close to $30, so I’m not going to complain.

I live by meal prep so I made peanut butter and berry oats for breakfast the week (you can see the berries above, though I did mix them with the dregs of a few packs that were just languishing in the freezer) and chicken stirfry bowls for lunch for the week (all I had to pick up for that was the spinach and frozen veg – I had herbed chicken, basmati rice and all the sauces kicking around all ready).

Dinner is chaos, I’ve discovered I’m obsessed with the new Green Giant cauliflower tots, they’re all I want to eat ever anymore and I’m sure they’re secretly terrible for me so please don’t destroy my dreams. Also, I will be so sad when the package that I weirdly hoarded in my freezer for no reason at all runs out, because those things are expensive if they’re not on sale. And I’d try to make my own, but cauliflower is expensive too, yo.

An Incredibly Important Question

Do you guys want to see pictures of my meal prep? Is that a thing people like?

Swine and Sow – Big Taste Calgary

Surprise! I actually have one last Big Taste Calgary review under my belt! I had thought I was done after Teatro (and my wallet was probably a little relieved, since even $35/meal adds up when you are a crazy person and do it upwards of five times)… but I had a surprise last minute invite pop up for Saturday night, so how could I say no? Girl’s gotta eat!

menu

My date selected Swine and Sow for our final dinner – in part because of the usual bonus of the Big Taste menu having a few options to select from and in part because we had never been there before and, with its location next to Theatre Junction Grand, we’ve always been curious. It was a good, good choice.

cocktails

We started our night with some delicious craft cocktails – the Basilisk (gin, elderflower liquor, basil and lime) and the Vegas Water (blueberry stoli, grapefruit and 7-up) since we’re always on the search for cocktails we can re-create at home. I’ve been a huge gin fan since I was 19 and mixing it with cream soda like only a dumb new drinker can, so I was obviously partial to the Basilisk. As we sipped our cocktails, we perused the full menu and excitedly made plans to return in the future for charcuterie and bacon tacos – but tonight? We were ordering and sharing literally everything from the Big Taste Menu.

first course

For our first course, we shared a Forest salad and risotto croquettes. The salad was fine (actually, I’m sure it was very good, I love mushrooms and it was probably wise to get some vegetables into our systems) but those croquettes… they knocked the memory of any other foods right out of my mind. They were so so good. They’re also kicking around on the regular menu and you better bet I tucked that information away for the future…

second course

Can we talk about how much food we got for the second course!? That lovely photo right there shows two racks of cherry wood smoked ribs and a phyllo-wrapped steelhead trout. Delicious, sizable and easily shareable. I preferred the trout to the ribs, but I’ve never really been a fan of food that requires lots of work for very little pay-off so I may be a biased party. (You know… Ribs, wings, bone-in meat… so much work for so little protein!)

third course

I was most excited for the dessert – a sticky toffee pudding and a Fiasco Gelato ice cream sandwich… and it was the Mini-egg gelato! March is totally my month! We initially had plans to share both desserts and, yes, we did each take a bite of both, but once that ice cream sandwich hit the table, there was no way I was sharing. Thank goodness my date preferred the sticky toffee pudding!

During our dinner, we noticed that there was a super large party downstairs (it sounded like a birthday party) and the staff was doing such a great job of keeping on top of it. We noted that our order was in just behind theirs but we never felt like we waiting for our next course and watching the Big Taste plates file past us to downstairs just got us more excited for our next course. I have to give the team at Swine and Sow big props for that and we will definitely be back.

ice cream sandwich

I’m in the midst of developing a new series for the blog, now that Big Taste is over, so check back next week for that and in the meantime have an amazing long weekend! I am looking forward to both catching up on sleep and dressing up to go out drinking/dancing with Claire on Saturday… best weekend ever!

Teatro – Big Taste Calgary

I’ll be the first to admit it, I’ve been pretty glowing in my reviews of the Big Taste restaurants that I’ve gone to. Part of that is because I chose my restaurants pretty carefully, part of that is because I just wouldn’t post about an experience that I didn’t like. I would like this blog to be a positive place for all the exciting/fun/interesting things I do in my life. And also for nonsense. Obviously. All that aside, Teatro really was a highlight of the week – of the year, more likely.

My date for Teatro was my most high-powered, fancy, successful friend who is probably also the smartest person I know – and I neglected to ask her if I could feature her on the blog, so I won’t be calling her by name. She has had a few disappointing Big Taste experiences this year, so we decided to really go for broke, treat ourselves and choose the Gourmet menu. It was the best choice we could have made – everything was delicious, everything was perfectly proportioned to allow us to end the night satisfied but not full, and the service was impeccable. The pacing of the courses was completely on point, our server was so patient when we got busy talking instead of ordering, and she gave incredible recommendations. Teatro may be pricey, but they without a doubt deserve it.

Teatro Cocktails
Our Teatro date was on a Thursday night and, since we both had to work the next day, we declined to go for the wine pairings. (Though, they were exceedingly reasonable at only $30 added to pair wine with five different courses.) We started our night with a cocktail – my date selected the always fabulous Kir Royale while I ordered something delicious with gin that I totally forgot to record the name of. C’est la vie.

Teatro Insalata
First course – the Winter Lyonnaise Insalata which was the perfect start to our night. How can you ever go wrong with a poached egg? Or pancetta? I suspect this was a smaller portion that you would normally get when you order ala carte but, with five courses to follow, it was perfect.

Teatro Salt Cod Risotto
The second course – the pasta course – was the only one where my date and I deviated from ordering the same thing. She loved her dish, but I couldn’t resist the creamy draw of the Salt Cod risotto. I actually saw a gentleman at another table sending his risotto back and I cannot imagine how you could possibly do that – I loved every bite of the mild flavours!

Teatro Eggplant
This Eggplant Parmigiana was actually the dish that tipped us over from getting the 3-course menu to the 5-course menu. Eggplant, tomatoes, cheese – and not just any cheese, but a fior di latte. Yum. This dish is on their regular menu as a Contorni (side dish) and I suspect I would order it again. Maybe just it and a cocktail before a show – is that weird? I’m okay with that…

Teatro Flat Iron Steak
Red meat twice in one week is not usually something that I rock – but when a prix fixe menu has a flat iron steak on it, you pick the flat iron steak. And look at that portion! (There are little potatoes hiding under the steak, but still. It’s a lot. And I didn’t even know that arugula puree was a thing that I loved, but it was definitely a thing that I loved.)

Teatro Panna Cotta
We finished our night with coffees and vanilla panna cotta. The panna cotta was light, the strawberry-rhubarb compote was appropriately tart – dessert was probably my least favourite dish, but it was still absolutely delicious… the rest of the dishes were just so elevated that this was the least of the best. And, honestly, after my week of dining, it was nice to have something light to finish off.

This review is much shorter and less rambly than my previous ones but I just don’t know if I have the words to approximately communicate how incredible the food and the experience really was. I can’t do Teatro all the time, but I am so glad I did it this time and that we went big. Thank you to the smartest person I know for helping me make a smart dining choice and for staying out way too late on a Thursday night, talking life and catching up.

Murietta’s – Big Taste Calgary

In my “About” page, I wrote about how this blog wouldn’t at all be aspirational because, let’s face it, I’m no Cup of Jo or Cupcakes and Cashmere. I don’t live in a major city that people dream of moving to and I certainly don’t have a book deal. I don’t even have a DSLR camera! That being said, my blog so far has mostly been fitness classes, wine tastings and nice dinners out, soooo…

Here’s some real life for you.

Today, I went to grab an English muffin from the fridge (because I am super not a morning person so I have to plan one breakfast for the entire week that I can make in approximately 2.65 minutes). The English muffins were moldy! I only bought them on Saturday! Ugh, what do you even do in that situation? Do I return them? (No, I threw them out when I got home from work.)

Anyway, I am not capable of coming up with a new breakfast plan that I can make in 2.65 minutes on the fly, so I grabbed a McDonald’s coupon out of the recycling bin. Classic money-saving! I probably just should have leaned into the fact that I was doing the McDonald’s thing and gotten something greasy-slash-delicious but I have recently designed the flimsiest of plans which involves a health component so I got the kale feta More-ning wrap. It was okay. The kale was a weird component, I think it was only there to sound fancy. Eh. What can you expect from McDonald’s?

I still have three Big Taste restaurants to talk about (I know, I said two, but if you follow me on Instagram you’ll know I had a surprise dinner out on Saturday as well), so let’s dive into it. Last Wednesday, I spent a lovely evening at Murietta’s Bar and Grill with my very oldest friend, Lynn. (We’ve been kicking it together since junior high school – over 17 years ago now. How old does that make me feel!?)

I’ve been to Murietta’s a few times in the past after other events to take in some live music, so I knew they had a great cocktail list, but I’ve never done food there before. I also didn’t realize that they had a spacious dining room off to the side and just set slightly away from the live music so you can easily chat with your dining companions. Since this was my first time seeing Lynn since her honeymoon in Japan-New Zealand-Australia-etc and my recent change in my living situation, we had a lot to chat about and took about an hour per course!

We specifically chose Murietta’s because it offered options on the menu and, of course, we made a real effort to try all the different things.

Salad

Soup

Course One offered a choice between a garden salad with lemon balsamic dressing or a seasonal soup (in this case a perfectly light tomato-based vegetable soup with lentils). Lynn was kind enough to allow me to take a picture of her salad – we were shocked by how big it was! Generally speaking, Big Taste portions are a little smaller than normal due to the great deal you get on the menu but that was definitely not the case at Murietta’s.

short rib

For Course Two, I selected the Braised Short Rib and Pork Cheek Duo. I do love short rib, like any good resident of Alberta, but I don’t often think to order it so this opportunity was perfect. I’ve never had Pork Cheek before – it was a little rich for me – but the short rib was a perfect compliment to it and I just alternated between the two proteins. Also, there were beets. You can never go wrong with beets. (I paired my dinner with a Mirassou Pinot Grigio with the soup and then the Pinot Noir with the entrée. I am excellent at pairing, apparently.)

Dessert
And, finally, we both wrapped with the Chocolate Devil’s Food Cake with bananas flambé. How can you not!? It was rich, moist and, even though it looks small when plated, it was almost too big to finish. (Actually, I think I finally did have to tap out and just eat the bananas off the second half of my dessert leaving the cake behind.) Of course, we were so busy chatting once again that the waitress was worried we didn’t like it… I promise, we did!

I love the ambiance of the bar side of Murietta’s so much that I suspect that’s where I will be returning to in the future… but I certainly wouldn’t mind a classy little dinner in the dining room first!

Anejo – Big Taste Calgary

Tuesday night, for Big Taste, I hit up Anejo with one of my most favourite friends, Claire. (Yes, of the fun and less-than-professional tasting event post. This time I took pictures!) Anejo is a trendy Mexican eatery on 4th Street, with a menu featuring tableside guacamole, 200+ tequilas and our city’s most innovative margarita flavours.

4th Street means parallel parking and, since I spent most of my 20s hanging out in theatre and railyards, I don’t have a lot of experience doing the parallel parking thing and am subsequently less-than-skilled at it. After looping around the side streets around Anejo, looking for the perfect spot, I arrived about five minutes late for our 7:30 reservation and was immediately informed by the server that tonight Claire and I were only drinking tequila. So I immediately ordered an Anejo size chili coconut margarita. Happy Tuesday!

Margarita
(Only order this margarita if you can handle your heat – I loved it, but it involves habanero so there is definitely some kick to it.)

We were sorely tempted by the tableside gauc, but decided to stick to our guns and go with the Big Taste menu. With three choices for the first two courses and two choices for our dessert, it offered lots of options of its own!

Note that Anejo has a great, fun atmosphere – slightly dim lighting, tables of differing sizes and configurations so everyone has a great view of the scene, and while we were there, they were projecting “Blazing Saddles” onto the wall over the bar. This atmosphere is a little dim to be taking pictures in, though, unless you want to rock a flash so I only have pictures of my own selections.

Tartare Taco
For my first course, I was all over the steak tartar taco in a crispy wonton shell. This isn’t something I would normally order as an appie at Anejo because I just don’t know if I can do tacos on tacos on tacos, but with just a single one offered as a first course on Big Taste, I was all in. It was tender, a little bit spicy and paired well with that crispy wonton shell. Claire also had no complaints about her salmon ceviche, which seemed equally delicious and maybe a little bit more fun to eat.

Enchilada
I wish Max Fuller’s catchphrase on Fuller House was “Holy enchilada!” instead of “Holy chalupa!” so I could make a somewhat topical cultural reference. (Instead I just wrote an awkward lengthy sentence.) But seriously, holy geez! Look at the size of that enchilada! It took some serious girding my loins and double-down to get through even half of the deliciousness. The enchiladas were stuffed with adobo pork and potatoes, topped with a restrained amount of cheese and a spicy red sauce. “Hot” was the theme of the night, apparently! (Though what else can you expect at a Mexican restaurant?)

Claire partook in the mole chicken and devoured every bite – other than her carrots, which are one of her least favourite vegetables and which the server totally teased her for in the most charming way.

Fiasco Gelato
Dessert! (And a dessert margarita – we both chose to go for fruit-based margaritas to wrap up our experience since they are more like dessert. I had a strawberry rhubarb marg which did have a nice tang to it.) Anejo has about a thousand Fiasco Gelato flavours on their menu, so the server brought us over an entire little printed list to choose from.

I went for the Salted Caramel, Lavender Vanilla Bean and my absolutely favourite flavor… Mini Egg! Hello Spring Collection!

I don’t remember what Claire had, I was too excited about my own ice cream. I think I remember a Pear Riesling, that I may be all over next time, though.

We’re already making plans to come back on a Saturday and see what the vibe is like then – another successful Big Taste outing! Three down, two to go…

Cucina – Big Taste Calgary

How have I never been to Cucina before!?

Cucina, the little sister of Teatro (my favourite place to grab a pre-play drink if I want to feel terribly classy), was on Living Life to a “T”’s list of the top dinners of Big Taste Calgary and, after taking a peek at the menu, it was immediately top of my list too. Sweet potato gnocchi? Wine pairings? Tiramisu? I’m in! However, I had also already booked four Big Taste events at that point and was quickly running out of friends to bully into foodie fun with me.

Social media to the rescue! I put out a couple of cute tweets and facebook posts about how I was left to go on a self-date (which is actually something I love so don’t feel sad for me) and up popped a message from a lovely friend, Malina, who I had been meaning to catch up with. This is a girl who has been to a 3-Michelin star restaurant before and would be more than willing to put up with my weirdo picture taking… I knew she would be the perfect company for this dinner!

We booked an early reservation so that we would be able to head downtown straight from work (reservations are highly recommended as the adorable bistro-inspired space only sits 50 guests), though we still pulled into the Holt Renfrew parking lot almost an hour before our set time.

Oh well! It just gave us more time to wander around Holt and The Bay, ogling all the beautiful designer shoes and bags. (I snapped up some way too fun Taylor Swift Glitter Dot Keds after Malina’s enthusiastic review of her own Kate Spade keds. Online shopping is the best.) We easily filled the extra hour up, chatting and browsing, before making the incredibly short trek across the street from Holt Renfrew to Cucina. Such a wonderful location!

I was so busy chatting and marveling over the space that I forgot to take a picture of our adorable table for two, tucked just around the corner of the open concept kitchen and with a great view of the entire restaurant. Cucina is tiny but open and perfect for a relaxed dinner of catching up. I did manage to snap a quick – albeit blurry – pic of the menu, though!

menu

Malina and I elected to order the complete opposite of each other, by chance, but it meant that we were able to sample the full range of the Big Taste offerings as well the wine pairings, all from Tinhorn Creek. (Note that Cucina was awesome when Malina revealed that she couldn’t do red wine and they had no problem subbing in a white to go along with her second course.)

First course was an elevated version of the standard – choice of soup or salad.

Insalata

I enjoyed a simple but satisfying cherry tomato insalata, using the tomatoes to scoop up every bit of the tangy goat cheese capricco. Malina had the leek and zucchini bisque, which went un-photographed, but was an absolutely incredible size portion and, according to her, was equally tasty. This course was paired with the Tinhorn Creek Pinot Gris.

gnocchi

For the second course, I naturally went for the sweet potato gnocchi with oyster mushrooms, kale… and more goat cheese! When I make gnocchi at home, I’m never patient enough to pan fry the little pastas to the perfect level of fluffy inside, crispy outside that a good restaurant manages to consistently put out. This gnocchi absolutely checked all my boxes. My gnocchi was paired with a delicious Tinhorn Creek Pinot Noir.

Lamb

After the first forkful of this braised lamb shank, Malina just closed her eyes and said “Oh, that’s good lamb”. That seems like a ringing endorsement to me! (Note: I’m a bad blogger and don’t know which white wine Malina received with her lamb… I was too busy digging into my gnocchi as soon as it hit the table.)

budino

Malina selected the chocolate coconut budino, a light but rich molton cake. I tried to google specifically what a budino is so I could share that here but it seems that it is a quite mysterious and variable dessert. Either way, Malina had nothing but positive things to say about it.

tiramisu

Saving the best for last, an absolutely perfectly sized tiramisu with a sweet little honey dessert wine. Tiramisu is rarely the dessert I pick from a full dessert menu, but I’m not sure why – this nuanced and light dessert was the perfect ending to the dinner I was so excited about.

If you can snag a reservation at Cucina during Big Taste, I definitely recommend taking it even if you have to dine early or late. It is an incredible venue, meal and dining experience.

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…
riverbend2