Rambling Reflections on 2018

On this day, this day just following one of the most reflective and challenging Yin yoga classes I’ve ever taken, and the last day of 2018, indulge me in a little bit of reflection. Let’s talk about how this year has gone by so quickly, as years seem to the older I get, but also how this single year feels like it has taken ten years to pass. Last January feels like eons ago.

Work – Paid and Unpaid

In January, I performed in a comedic murder mystery which was somehow incredibly hard for me but went over super well. I was nominated for a CAT award for my performance which is somehow still mindblowing. (It also snowed a lot and I spent a lot of time sitting in my office after work, watching Grey’s Anatomy on my tablet while I waited to go to the theatre because there was no time to go home.)

At my day job, I took on a new very challenging project and attacked it with everything I had. I was only mildly successful. It was humbling. I am trying to reframe my thoughts and feelings about this course and this year I will do better.

Against all odds, I spoke on two panels about playwrighting at two different conventions. It still blows my mind that I’m qualified to do this. (I also attended When Words Collide officially for the first time and it revitalized me creatively in a way that my show in January didn’t. I’m more than just an actress.)

Fitness

I started doing spin weekly with my childhood best friend. Shockingly, my cardiovascular health actually is better. Also, it is so nice to have a regular excuse to see her, even if we are mostly just sweating on bikes instead of talking.

Ugh, Fine, I obviously just want to talk about my personal life…

I had a really great short relationship that ended amiably. I also had a few dating experiences that left me really quite uncomfortable and shaken. While this did lead to a little dating break, it also led to a lot of introspection about what I’m really looking for and what I’m willing to compromise on. (Important note if you’re looking to date me: don’t try to tell me about myself, especially before you have had time to get to know me. Literally just get to know me, don’t make assumptions… I can guarantee you that I, like most people, contain multitudes.)

I have such wonderful friends and I’m pretty pumped about the creation of Winesday.

In June, I went to Vegas with my bbf and it was so much fun. Like, SO MUCH.

Anything Else?

I went from blond to redhead.

Uh huh…

I wrote my first YA novel, which at this first draft moment is not very good. To be fair, I banged out 50,000 words of it during Nanowrimo, how could you expect it to be good? Now comes the fun part of editing and rewriting and making it good.

So, what’s to come in 2019?

Digging deep and loving myself more. Being organized and doing things I probably don’t want to do when that is necessary and dialing back when that’s the better choice. And most immediately, I’m going to do Sober!January and the Fit Girls Guide challenge again. This time I’ll blog about the last two weeks, since I don’t have a novel writing November to distract me. 😉

And in the interim? You can hear me every week on Mystery, Outsiders and Abs: A Teen Drama Fan Cast?

Sometimes A Video Comes At The Right Time

introspective after video
I’m the worst at Youtube videos. I never like, I never comment, it takes forever before I remember to subscribe – even if I love every video you post. I’m working really hard at being an engaged viewer. I’m not there yet but, hey, what is life if we aren’t always striving towards something, right? One day I will totally remember to comment on a video.

I also go in waves in terms of what videos or channels I watch based on what I need in life. (Yes, I realize this is not unique to me. I’m building to something. Give me a break, imaginary reader that I have apparently decided is harassing me!)

I really love watching Carrie Dayton when I need a video with a few laughs, some body positivity or just some old fashioned reassurance that it’s okay to not be 100% a grownup all the time at 30. Also, can we talk about how jealous I am of her ability to rock a half bun?

My other fav, and I’m not alone in this at all, is Kalyn Nicholson. Kalyn is not someone to watch all the time. Sometimes I’m not in the mood for her spiritual early 20s discoveries and I just want to shout “Yes, we were all 24 and drove cars through the mountains once! Geez!” But sometimes… sometimes I let those videos pile up and I just disappear into two hours of beautifully edited, yoga-filled, inspiring content.

Sometimes a video just comes at exactly the right time.

(Or I watch that video two months after it came out and that is exactly the right time.)

This video is the one I’m talking about. As you may be able to guess from my radio silence recently, I’m grappling with the idea of regret and wondering about some choices that I made what seems like a very long time ago – or was somewhat manhandled into, what seems like a very long time ago. Nostalgia is a real bitch, my friends.

Anyway, I was finally in a Kalyn mood and the Toxic Things video popped up on my feed. It was exactly what I needed this month to get me out of dwelling in the past and force me to focus on the future. We let go of things for a reason and sometimes it is hard but it’s so worth it. And Kalyn says it better than I do so please head on over to Youtube and give this girl a little love.

(Just for fun, Here’s a throwback to the last time I felt real introspective about this exact thing and also used this exact picture, apparently. Two steps forward, one step back, my beautiful friends.)

~*~*~

I’m thinking that I want to make Tuesday posts (when I have Tuesday posts) about new discoveries/media that I like, etc. How do ya’ll feel about that? It’ll be like a mini-version of Wonderful, except not a podcast and not as clever as Rachel & Griffin and also not starring a 30 under 30 media luminary. So… not like Wonderful at all.

Hey! What’s your favourite recent discovery? Hit me up in the comments!

I’m In a Play – Secondary Cause of Death – Theatre Thursday

secondary cause
(Caption: This is the face of a girl who slept for four hours during the daytime on Tuesday because she was sent home from work, and went on to kill it at the theatre that night. This is the magic that theatre does.)

I’m in a play!

Let me be real here – this is not a review for the play that I am in. Mostly because I think the show is pretty great but it is nigh impossible to be objective about a play that you are in. This also isn’t really an advertisement or promotion for the show that I’m in – I’ve been doing a ton of that on social media, even including a “tech week selfie” game with Claire since we always seem to manage to be in tech week at the same time. So, what is this? I guess it’s really more of an ode.

I can’t remember the last time I was so thrilled to be in a play – maybe when I did Scorpio Theatre’s world premiere of Blood of the Red Queen, had a role rewritten for me and knew that I was a part of something that was going to just take off? I don’t know… I’m always pleased to be in a play and I always love it (otherwise I wouldn’t do it), but this time I’m just thrilled.

Part of it may be that I was asked to step into this show to fill a role once they lost an actress after rehearsals began – I hadn’t met the director before so I did do a bit of an audition, though nothing like the ones I’ve written about before – and it’s always nice to be needed/wanted.

Another part of it may be that I’m really getting to stretch myself as an actress. I am playing the type of role that I often get cast in (lovely and graceful) but the process hasn’t been “easy” by any means, and I appreciate that. I swing towards bubbly when I act and I’m playing a character who is on the older end of my age range so there is absolutely no room for bubbly. The show also takes place in England in 1939 (and is very British murder mystery in feel) so accents are imperative. I went to U of C, I haven’t learned accents! But I can do one now…

I think the biggest part of it, though, is that I just feel like such a part of things doing this show. I am a shy person by nature (which people always seem to mistake for my being a bit of a bitch and not just rampantly socially awkward) but everyone in this show has just made such an effort to make me not feel like the “new girl” since Day One. There is a camaraderie in the dressing room that I haven’t actually felt since university (other than during Full Circle Theatre shows, but that’s really just me gathering my friends together and going “let’s make a play!”) and I love it, even when I just sit quietly and listen to everyone else. I absolutely trust every person on that stage to pick me up and save me if I forget a line. (Oh gosh, that better not happen… knock on wood!)

I’m in a play. And even though I am going on vacation the day after it closes, I’m going to miss it when it’s done.

If you would like to see the play that has inspired such gushing from me (and hear my sparkling dulcet tones), Simply Theatre’s “Secondary Cause of Death” runs until October 1 and tickets can be purchased by calling 587-575-656 or by visiting http://www.simplytheatre.ca Come see it. It’s worth it. (This is not a promotion, I’m just happy.)

Fluffy Theatre – Theatre Thursday

Beach Hat
Guys, I get to go to the beach tomorrow. I’m so excited! I love nothing more than reading a light girl-gets-the-guy book in the sun with a cool drink and maybe a giant hat. Beaches are few and far between in Calgary, though, unless you live in a lake community. (Which my parents actually do, but that means hitting up the beach involves convincing one of my parents to go with me, which is just so uncool.) So that means, even though this is one of my favourite things, I haven’t actually gotten a solid beach day since my trip to Cabo in February 2015. I’m so out of the loop!

Speaking of which, anyone have any suggestions for some good light beach reads? I spent a couple of days earlier this week delving into my Meg Cabot collection, but, unsurprisingly, it’s not going to hold up to a second read within a week so I need something new to borrow from the library (aka: download to my e-reader).

My search for some beach reads got me thinking about theatre, though. Mostly about “fluffy” or “light” theatre. I know I’m not the only girl who is perfectly able to accept some fluff in her literature – as long as the storyline isn’t problematic and the heroine exhibits an appropriate level of unique perspective, we don’t mind if we know from page 32 that she is going to end up with that Or even with tv… we always knew that Mindy and Danny would eventually end up dating, the question was how?

So why don’t we accept the same lightness in our theatre these days?

I feel like we are always asking for a story to be special, for it to be something that needs to be told because no one else has ever told this story before and now it can change the world if the right person hears it. Which is absolutely true of some theatre, some movies, some tv shows and some books. But sometimes you just want a pretty, spunky heroine who has the exact life you always wish you had in your dreams. Or you want the mismatched set of friends who are just like your group of friends only with slightly better references. We accept this in all our media, why not theatre?

My brother once wrote what was essentially a buddy comedy, taking place in a crappy apartment with an eccentric cast of characters including neighbours, a handyman and a landlord. It had a cute little plot, but was essentially a sketch comedy just intended to make you laugh for an hour or two and forget your life. We took a reading of this show to a festival and were just lambasted by a newsboy-cap wearing, muttonchop having, pretentious audience member who couldn’t understand why we chose to make such a thing a play and demanded that Kevin rewrite it so it could be a black commentary on sitcom tropes.

Why couldn’t it be pure entertainment?

I once took a group of girlfriends to see Neil Labute’s Reasons to be Happy and after the play they said to me “Wow, I didn’t know that plays could be like that! They were real people, like us!” I mean, Reasons to be Happy isn’t exactly fluff, but I still think that means there is an untapped market in the theatre community. We want it to be for everyone, let’s make it for everyone!

Which is why my girlfriends and I are working to create a play that takes place in a ladies’ washroom at a club. It’s going to be awesome.

32 Weeks – Almost Everything

Almost Everything

I know, I know. I’m in Calgary and I’m not writing about the Stampede. I will (I actually love the Stampede unlike a lot of other people who have lived here for any significant period of time, it seems), but as of right now I’ve only been to the grounds once for about 5 hours. Once I have a bit more Stampede-ing under my belt, I’ll be all over a recap. For now, I’m going to bust out one of my vaguely emotional, introspective and overall vague posts that probably only my friends will enjoy. Whateves, it’s my blog, I do what I want.

Something might happen
but nothing will be neverending

~ The Hold Steady, “Almost Everything”

For the past little while, I’ve been struggling with the idea that I should be in a certain emotional place, thinking or feeling a certain way. That if I don’t get there, that’s it. Even more specifically, if I don’t get there soon, that’s it. I never thought I would care much about turning 30, and I’m still not sure that I do, but I am starting to feel like I am running out of time to do and have the things that I want. And that if I don’t pull it together and feel differently than I do, I won’t get these things.

The way I feel right now feels like forever.

Nothing is forever, good changes happen, just like bad changes do.

When the lights come up
I can’t see so much
I can hear you breathe
I can feel almost everything

~ The Hold Steady, “Almost Everything”

Anyone who has been around me for any extended period of time lately has probably heard me announce that I hate everyone.

This is obviously not true.

I am probably closer with both of my brothers right now than I have been at any time in my life. I have absolutely amazing friends and I work with a really cool group of people who somehow aren’t even annoying when it’s 8 am on a Monday and I haven’t had any coffee yet because I’m doing a juice cleanse. (Well… aren’t that annoying. And, really, that is my fault, guys, not yours.)

But everyone new in my life? I just hate everyone. I’ve got no patience for any sort of nonsense, annoying questions, more questions about myself than I deem appropriate, poor grammar, using the wrong “you’re”… literally most things.

And if you swear to keep it decent
Then yeah, I’ll come and see you
But it’s not gonna be like in romantic comedies
In the end I bet no one learns a lesson

~ The Hold Steady, “The Weekenders”

The funny thing is, the less I try to feel differently, the more fun I have. The less I try to like everyone and be relentlessly (or maybe aggressively) positive, as is my way, the more I don’t hate everyone. I think I’m better than I think I am.

So I’m going to jam out to some live videos of The Hold Steady, drink some boxed wine and lean into the way I feel, even if I think that I should be in a different place. Because I am clearly an idiot.

(Note: I realize that 32 weeks kind of sounds like a pregnancy reference? It is most certainly, definitely NOT in any way shape or form. My family reads this, yo!)

What Type of Theatre Do I Do? – Theatre Thursday

This is probably the second most common question I get asked, usually right after I say that I don’t do film, just theatre. (Note: I probably would do film, given the opportunity, but theatre has always been my focus. In part because I love to do the entire journey in one go, in part because I love the energy exchange that comes with having the audience right there with you while you do the work.) I suspect that what most people are asking, even if they can’t put words to it, is “Do you do musicals, Shakespeare plays or just plays?” I usually try to break it down a little more than that, without getting too ramble-ly because, really, who wants to get lectured by someone they just met? But lemme break it down for you.

Shakespeare
The Midsummer Night's Dream
I do love Shakespeare. There is something so freeing about telling big stories and feeling big emotions in a way that never seems appropriate to do in “real life”. I mean, how often do you actually get to keen in your day-to-day? How often do you get to make pithy sexual remarks or craft oddly specific insults or choose the perfect Classical reference to describe exactly how screwed over you are? It’s like a puzzle, finding all the nuance and allusions in Shakespeare’s lines and then figuring out exactly how to communicate that to a modern audience who isn’t sitting in the audience with a dictionary and a mythology reference book.

It is important to remember, though, that Shakespeare isn’t the only classical playwright in the world and there are other plays out there that are just as bombastic, descriptive and stirring. Classical Greek playwrights like Sophocles and Aristophanes wrote comedies and tragedies about great women and men in Greek “history” who met their fate in spectacular ways – Oedipus gouging out his eyes after discovering he had murdered his father and slept with his mother, anyone? You could also take in a tragedy written by Christopher Marlowe – one of Shakespeare’s rivals who was largely considered the greatest tragedian of their time and is rumoured to have actually written Shakespeare’s plays. Or you could read a George Bernard Shaw play and luxuriate in his descriptive stage directions. There’s some pretty cool stuff out there.

Contemporary Theatre
What Pushes Are We Wenches Driven To?
On the flip side, I have a real soft spot for theatre that’s been written in the past 20-or-so years. I saw Neil Labute’s The Shape of Things when I was 16 years old and it just blew my mind that theatre could be like this. It was raw, it was immediately accessible… the lines were simple but there was so much underneath them. Like good tv, good contemporary theatre is like your life but elevated. Only the good parts are picked out. There are absolutely still epic, sprawling plays being written (and Classical works are being adapted all the time) but, as my current director put it at rehearsal last night, there is an ever growing trend in theatre of plays being written like movies – all smash cuts from one scene to the next and real life playing out right in front of your eyes. The air in the theatre is electric during the climactic scene.

Good contemporary theatre makes me feel the way every 14 year old theatre kid feels when they discover Rent for the first time.

By the way, The Shape of Things is also a film starring Paul Rudd and Rachel Weisz – people tend to either love the show or think it is terribly overrated, so watch it and decide for yourself.

Collective Creation
Shakespeare's Heroines
Collective creation – a bunch of theatre artists get together with some sort of inspiration (A vague concept? A piece of literature? A striking photograph?) and write, move and brainstorm to create a show together. There could be a cohesive storyline or it could be a serious of snapshotted moments. There could be music, dance, improvisation, projections, it could even tour through different locations. A collective creation can look like anything the creative team imagines it to look like… that’s the beauty of theatre.

My theatre company does a ton of collective creation work. I know so many beautiful, talented women, and we can never find a pre-existing show with enough good roles for ladies that speaks to us the way we want it to. So we make our own plays. Maybe they aren’t always as polished or good as The Shape of Things or A Midsummer Night’s Dream but they are ours. They are honest, they are raw, and they are genuine. And they are always getting better.

So. As always, this is not a comprehensive list, it is wildly personal, but that’s the type of theatre I do. If you ask me in person, I’ll try to give you the short version. If you ask me on the internet, I may just refer you to this blog post…

What types of theatre do you love the most? What do you wish you could see done more?

March Wrap-Up

IMG_3046
My March recap is decidedly late (I know, I know, it’s already April 5…) but I swear I have a good excuse. I bought a tablet this weekend and have fallen into a bit of a black hole of setting it up. And by setting it up, I mostly mean playing with it. I feel like I did when I got my first iPhone back in 2011! My wellness benefits at work will actually reimburse me for this tablet because it will enhance my wellness and improve my efficiency, I guess? If I can ever stop testing out podcast apps when I am actually supposed to be blogging…

Overall Month Rating
B+. March was a decidedly better month than February – in a large part because of Big Taste Calgary and a couple other excellent social outings with friends. The weather improved with a couple of absolutely gorgeous days in the high teens and, with the sunshine as inspiration, I made a concentrated effort to reframe my mental state to be equally sunny. I’ve always been aggressively positive at work; I wanted to bring that into my personal life as well. However, I was not nearly as fiscally responsible this month as I meant to be and I still don’t have a roommate. B+ it is.

Highlight of the Month
Either the incredible dinner at Teatro (and a chance to catch up with an amazing friend who I do not see nearly often enough) or the fact that the auditions I had lined up for this month went exceedingly well and I’ve been cast in a super fun show that goes up this June. I am going to hold off sharing details about the show until the company formally announces the cast, but check out Theatre Thursdays for more about what it’s all about to be in a play once I can talk about it.

Lowlight of the Month
To protect the innocent, I’m going to be vague, but I had a situation mid-month where there was someone else involved and we were just not on the same page at all. At all. Which is fine, except this other person thought that the situation was so great and… it was not. Which I had to tell them. I hate having to disillusion people. (But, oh man, that misinterpretation could not stand…)

Number of Workouts Completed
March was actually pretty solid in terms of workouts. I got in a good routine with barre classes on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, sometimes with an extra one added on Thursday mornings and usually with a lunchtime yoga class on Tuesdays. Moving into April, I would like to solidly add in that fourth barre class and also start the Couch to 5K training. Everyone who runs loves running. I want to feel that too.

Number of Plays Watched
The Turn of the Screw at Vertigo Theatre, Bad Jews at Theatre Calgary (this show sparked such great conversations between myself and my mom, I definitely recommend it if you can sneak it in), Fight or Flight Response by Verb Theatre. Hopefully I can sneak in a show or two more in April as well.

Number of Movies Watched
In theatres – 1. I made the mistake of seeing 10 Cloverfield Lane which really fell apart once they started doing the “Cloverfield” stuff. John Goodman rocked, though.
At home – 5. Okay, I watched 22 Jump Street twice and after one particularly stressful weekend my mom and I unwound to The Ridiculous 6. Don’t judge me.

Number of Dates I Took Myself On
None! I went on far too many dates with other people, though. I really have to talk my friends into hanging out with me in my home.

Best New Food Discovery
These peanut butter balls. The recipe was shared with me by my lovely Irish co-worker earlier this month to add into my weekly meal prep insanity. It’s total junk masquerading as health food (come on, the recipe comes from Kraft), but I have no interest in making the recipe un-trashy. One little ball is so super filling.

Best New Culture Discovery
I watched all of Unreal in about a week once it came on shomi… keep in mind, these were hour long episodes and I was relentlessly social this month so that is a huge compliment. Apparently Unreal is strikingly accurate in terms of what goes on behind the scenes in “reality tv” (though obviously the drama is somewhat exaggerated) and I cannot wait to watch The Bachelorette with this knowledge in mind. Constance Zimmer and Shiri Appleby kill it by embracing the nuanced, sometimes unlikeable, sometimes so vulnerable characters that they are given.

Best Book Read
This is one of those super buzzy, probably read in a zillion book clubs book, but for good reason. I absolutely devoured The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah in about a day and a half. I started reading it while invigilating one Thursday and had finished it by the next afternoon. So compelling.

As always, if you’re in Calgary and aren’t a creep… please live in my house.

Happy April!

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…