Tag Archives: North America

Happenings 4 at Arts Commons

Last week, Alberta celebrated the 100-year anniversary of white women gaining the right to vote. While the entire population of women in Alberta wouldn’t receive the right to vote until 1960, April 19th marks a very important day in this province’s history; a day when change began and when people realized that anything is possible.

Arts Commons opens its Centre Court to a few local artists and celebrates the new art being shown in their galleries. The event is Happenings, and on April 19th, I had the pleasure of attending Happenings 4. In celebration of many Alberta women receiving the right to vote 100 years ago, all of the Happenings activities were inspired around women’s rights, empowerment, and equality, including a free screening of She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry!, a documentary showcasing the modern women’s movement from 1966 to 1971.

The documentary was wonderful. It held nothing back. It was beautiful and heartbreaking and hilarious. The film showcased the stories of multiple women involved in different women’s rights movements in the United States. Thousands of women all over the country fought for change and this film showed just how fierce, badass, and totally inspired these women were, and still are.

After the movie, I met up with my friend to peruse the Centre Court and the various activities. The Happenings events are designed for the public to curate their own evening from the various art activities The button-making table was buzzing with people, scissors, and glue, and so we continued our meandering. The surprise guest, Mikaela Cochrane, a dancer with the Garter Girls, filled the room with beautiful and lyrical dancing. She danced for twenty minutes and held us captive the entire time we were there!

We continued our wander around the court and of course, stopped at the cotton candy making station. The same cotton candy artist from Happenings 3, magically created a beautiful, colourful masterpiece of sugar and air. We stopped again at the temporary tattoo station and covered our arms with feminist fake tattoos— mine said “riots not diets” and Ryan’s said, “Girl Power!”

The evening was so fun. The film was thought-provoking, the activities and crafts in the Court were rad, and the entire evening was inspiring. I am thankful to live in a world where such change can occur and am motivated to continue striving for change. Thanks for the inspiring evening, Calgary!

Eating Poutine during Poutine Week in Calgary

There are some moments in history for which I wish I could have been a fly on the wall. Like when the first person decided to ride a horse! Was he drunk or just gutsy? Or when they first lit the flame on the Calgary Tower, as the tallest tower in Western Canada. Or when those brilliant folks in Quebec decided to put cheese curds on top of fries and melt it all down with gravy. I, like many other Canadians, are happy those folks did that because we just can’t get enough of it. The world calls it ‘exotic’; we call it poutine. Summer is rapidly approaching Calgary, and what better way to celebrate the upcoming bathing suit season than with an entire week dedicated to the cheesy goodness that is this Canadian classic.

To start off my week right, I went to Flipp’n Burgers with my dad. We ordered their poutine week special, the chilli poutine. It was $9.75 and the least expensive dish on the poutine week website. It was delicious.  A classic poutine— fries, swiss cheese, gravy, and with chilli as an extra. Plus jalapeños and sour cream. I sat there, eating poutine with my pops, drinking our hipster colas from glass bottles and listening to the sweet sounds of the Breakfast Club soundtrack.

I figured poutine number two should be completely different, so Chris and I went to the Coup on 17th Ave. I may be a proud animal byproduct eater and lifelong bacon lover, but I am absolutely not closed-minded. Our server was a little pretentious and not as friendly as we hoped, but we were pleasantly surprised by the poutine. The potato wedges were giant and smothered in mushroom gravy and the smoked tofu “bacon” bits almost tricked me, lover of bacon.

I decided poutine three would be from the other side of the spectrum. I rallied up my four favourite poutine people and we headed to Cleaver on 17th Ave. Cleaver with their house made cheese curds, their treacle gravy, and their whiskey duck. The only problem with this dish was that it had to end. You think you’ve felt heartbreak? Try seeing the bottom of your plate through the duck fat fries. Accompanied by incredible service, and a total adventure of a cocktail list, this was my favourite poutine experience so far.

The week is young! Poutine Week goes until April 23. Go find your fave poutine and indulge in a guilt free snack, for this is more than just a celebration of a delicious dish. In fact, every poutine sold during Poutine Week in any of the participating restaurants provides a free meal to someone in need, thanks to local non-profit Mealshare. “Poutine with purpose.”

Check out the participating restaurants and their menus here: http://www.calgarypoutine.com and let’s talk about it! #PoutineWeekYYC

Making Terrariums with Maker YYC

There is a crafter inside each of us. Whether it’s knitting, or painting, or building, or bottle cap art, or whatever, I believe we all have creative juices and once in a while, those juices need to flow. That being said, there is a lot of work that goes into opening those creative juices flood gates! Where do I get supplies for the craft? How much do they cost? How the heck do I actually do this craft? Then Pinterest mocks me with its “easy” DIY’s and “simple” tutorials and I recoil from trying the craft at all. Sarah and Kat, two Calgary artists, realize how frustrating it can be to try crafting, and they understand the difficulty in answering those questions, where, how, what, wtf, and have put together the perfect solution— Maker YYC.

On April 5, my friend Chris and I went to Inglewood. Here, the Maker YYC Build-Your-Own -Terrarium event was happening! We found the place, 500 Cucina, a delightful Italian restaurant with a killer cocktail menu, because we all know that the only thing that could possibly make craft night better is an amaretto margarita!

Terrarium 101 began. Kat presented us with a diagram of the standard components of a standard terrarium and all of the various bits and pieces we would possibly need to complete this project. Of course, our terrariums must have dirt so the plant doesn’t die but Kat told us about all the other things we could put into our creations— sand, shells, sticks, moss, figurines, and anything else we damn well please! I was nervous! How would I decide? What if it looks bad? Kat read my mind and said, “the terrarium you thought you were going to make this evening? Forget it, because the one you are going to make is going to be even more amazing than you could imagine.” I just went for it. I put some white rocks in the bottom, then put in some dirt, and then replanted my little cactus. It was the most dangerous thing I’ve done in a long time, replanting a cactus. I added dried berries and pinecones and moss and some crystals and sticks, because why not?! Then a little bear figurine. It’s a ter-bear-ium now! I sat there and smiled.

It is clear that Kat and Sarah want to inspire people to let their creative sides see the light every once in a while. No more will I be intimidated by Pinterest. No more will I think, “I can’t do that, I’m no artist.” Everyone is an artist, we just need room to practice and try and fail and discover. Kat and Sarah and Maker YYC create that space.

Thanks for shining the light on my crafty side, Calgary!

Check out Maker YYC on their website, or on Instagram, to keep up to date about  future events!



Rocking out at JUNOfest!

The 2016 Juno Awards were held in Calgary on April 3. The Juno’s are a celebration of Canadian music and so, fittingly, the two nights leading up to the awards show was Juno Fest. Over 100 Canadian bands and musical acts to see, 50 venues around the city participating in the festival, and a wristband to get you into any venue on either night cost $30! There were so many options. It was like a ‘Build Your Own Music Festival’. No two music lovers would have the same Juno Fest experience. Here’s mine.

On April 1st, some girlfriends and I started our evening at Nite Owl. We were presented with our Juno Fest wristbands and were set to see Shred Kelly, from Fernie, BC. The 5-piece walked out on stage and from the first strum of the banjo to the last chord of their set, the crowd did not stop moving. The band was having a blast. I was having a blast.

After Shred Kelly, we wandered over to Flames Central. The Royal Foundry had already taken the stage. The only thing bigger than the lead singer’s beard was the female vocalist’s stage presence – the one with purple hair and a sequin shirt. The two of them smiled and laughed as they sang to a rowdy, dancing audience. The Dead South came up next. These men, from Regina, look like they walked off the farm and onto the stage. They all wear white shirts, tucked into pants with suspenders. My absolute favourite part, other than the mandolin player’s curls, was when the cello player held down a rad cello melody, and the other three each cracked a beer in time to the music. A band with beer choreography? Gotta love it!

On April 2nd, we began our night at the Palomino. Here we would catch the last half of Calgary’s own The Ashley Hundred. I like this band. Their sound was so fun and they each looked like they belonged to a different band! From the bassist in the Canadian flag tank top, to the poncho-wearing banjo player. As different as their looks were, their sound was cohesive and they rocked the basement of the Pal. Off to the Ironwood in Inglewood. It was here my heart would swoon over the songs of Joe Nolan. He sang a song about “dead ends and damaged hearts” and I could tell this guy had some heart break to sing about. At the end of his set when he had the audience sing along to “Come On, Baby”, my love for this musician was solidified.

And the perfect way to end my Juno Fest was listening to the Fortunate Ones. Sean Majumder from This Hour has 22 Minutes surprised the audience by showing up and introducing this band. From Newfoundland, this duo is a girl with an accordion and a guy with a voice that’ll make you sigh. There I sat, listening to the softest voices, smiling like a goof.

To sum up my Juno Fest:

Number of bands I saw: 6

Number of venues I went to: 4

Number of banjos I heard: 3

Number of bearded musicians I fell for: 8

Number of sequinned shirts I saw and wish I owned: 1

Number of times I said, “Calgary is Awesome”: COUNTLESS!

Thanks for the rad Canadian music, Calgary.

At the Rose and Crown for Story Slam

Have you ever heard of a Story Slam? It is when a bunch of people get together and tell stories to each other. Rad, right?! You can imagine my excitement when I found out about the Story Slam that takes place at the Rose & Crown on 4th St. SW. every two months. We arrived and put our $5 in the bucket. On Thursdays, the Rose & Crown has half priced bottles of wine, so it was clear to Ryan and I what we would be ordering. We learned that each Story Slam has a different theme and this evening’s theme was: Oops! There is room for twelve storytellers who must tell their mostly true, themed story within the five minute time limit, or risk losing points. The host of the evening reminded us that this is supposed to be a fun, competition free evening, but that there is a prize at the end.

The storytellers began. We heard a story about a woman peeing in a forest, a man whose junior high jazz band career ended just as soon as it began, and a man whose childhood bike story includes a plywood jump, a rock, and a gin & tonic. A man told us about his trip to Indonesia ending with too many drugs and an epic, Frogger-like run across a highway, and a woman told us about the time her son was gifted, by a homeless man straight out of a dumpster, a bong, which is now a vase on her mantle. We heard from a woman who once spent an entire first date discussing preparations for a zombie apocalypse in Calgary, and we heard a story from a woman who was temporarily stranded on a Panamanian island after entrusting a sketchy captain with her passport. We heard about a man who was caught sober skinny dipping by a policeman who was surprised only to find out he wasn’t drinking, a mother who made the mistake of buying her kids the same winter Splasher suits as every other kid in school, and last but not least, a woman whose drunkest evening had her trespassing on the train tracks, being kicked out of Cowboys, and breaking a few laws, BEFORE 10pm!

The evening was over. I could have sat and listened to stories all night! The scores were tallied up and the winner was the mom who now has a bong from a dumpster holding flowers on her mantle. Then I asked the host about the idea for the slam and where it came from. “Poetry can sometimes be esoteric”, she said, “but anyone can be a storyteller.”

The Story Slam usually takes place once every two months, but they will be holding Story Slams in May AND June! For more information, check out the Facebook page! Thanks for the stories, Calgary!


Getting out of a Locked Room

I remember loving riddles as a kid but never actually being very good at them. What gets wetter as it dries? What word becomes shorter when you add two letters to it? I would sit there and rack my brain trying to come up with the most complex answer. Then the riddler answers, “towels,” and “short,” and you laugh because it was so simple all along!

Speaking of riddles, the newest location of The Locked Room just opened in Calgary! These guys were the first Locked Room in the city, and this is already their third location! If you aren’t familiar with how this activity works, you and your friends are locked in a room, and you are surrounded by clues you need to use to help you get out of the room. The Locked Room has three locations and a total of twelve rooms with different themes and puzzles.

I had the chance to try out the Hipster Hangover room with my friend Ryan. We arrived and watched the quick briefing video. We closed our eyes and were led into our room. The story of the Hipster Hangover is that we were at a giant party the night before and drank ourselves into a stupor. We passed out in the laundry room of someone’s house and now have to find our way out.

In each room, there is an emergency key that can unlock the door in case a team member needs to leave, and a button that summons an employee to the room to deliver a hint. There are cameras in each room so the employees can make sure you are treating the room nicely and being safe, and so they can check on your progress. We figured out a few things on our own, but needed the hint doorbell once or twice. We continued to overthink things and had to remind ourselves that it shouldn’t be THIS hard.

We were able to escape the room in about an hour and fifteen minutes. We were pretty darn proud of ourselves. The production value of the room was so spot on, I actually felt like there could have been a party there the night before. The clues were difficult, but doable, and each time we figured out how to open another lock, we could hear the employees cheering for us at the front desk. The Locked Room is about $25 per person. Each room is built for different sized groups and so calling ahead to book a room ensures you get the right size room and right level of difficulty! Thanks for the rad riddle, Calgary! I can’t wait to go back and try another room!

Listening to Tim Williams play the Blues

You know when you’re northbound on 14th St. SW? You know when you pass Heritage Records and you see that big, ol’ mural of that cool looking old guy playing a guitar? Did you know that the cool old guy playing a guitar is international Blues legend, Tim Williams? Did you know he plays Blues guitar every Tuesday at Mikey’s Juke Joint? For free?

It’s true! Every Tuesday night, Mikey’s boasts Blues night with Tim Williams. Ryan and I rocked up around 9 pm, took our seats at a table near the stage, and ordered our drinks from the breezy, hip young bartender. Our ice-cold beverages arrived at our table and the music began.

Tim Williams was born and raised in California. As a musician growing up in Southern California in the ‘60s, the stories this man tells are not surprising. He introduced the song Summer Land by saying, ”back when I was in school in Santa Barbara, [this beach] was full of a bunch of crazy musicians and painters and artists drinking wine and dropping acid and watching the sunset. It was too good to last… Anyway, this song is about that.”

It is hard not to smile while he plays. His voice blends beautifully with the music, and his fingers move effortlessly on the strings. He played covers of some of his faves, introducing each song— the time period, the songwriter, the story— and played some of his own tunes too. “I wrote this song from out of nowhere” he said, “I thought, it’s either start drinking now and watch daytime television OR write a song. So I wrote this song.” The song was titled ‘Rehearsal for the Blues.’ For something written in a dingy hotel room in the middle of Camrose, Alberta, this song was beautiful.

Then he played his cigar box guitar. This instrument really is a cigar box, with a piece of wood stuck in it, and a few extra pieces attached in specific ways. Tim plays this guitar with a slide on his finger. I have never been to the southern US, to the Mississippi River, and am not a connoisseur of the Blues scene, but I feel like Tim Williams playing a cigar box guitar is the real thing. Thanks for the Blues, Tim! Thanks for the rad musical evening, Calgary!

Mikey’s Juke Joint is located at 1901 10 Ave SW and hosts Tim Williams every Tuesday night at 9pm (unless Tim is out of town).

Eating Village Ice Cream on St Patrick’s Island

On an unseasonably warm Saturday afternoon in the city, my friend, Chris and I did what any Calgarian would do on an unseasonably warm afternoon in the city: went for ice cream! The city of Calgary has a plethora of ice cream places. My Favorite Ice Cream Shoppe in Marda Loop, Peters’ Drive-In on 16th Ave NW for a delicious milkshake, and Amato Gelato in Kensington, just to name a few. This afternoon, Chris and I decided to stay downtown and wandered towards East Village to Village Ice Cream!

We joined the line outside the shop. Honestly, I am not one for lines, (who is really?) but there is something about the line at Village that is unlike any other. A certain buzz flows through the crowd. It’s the kind of buzz that only exists among people about to buy delicious and creamy ice cream. I have a rule that I must try three flavours before ordering – today,  Earl Grey, Chocolate Coconut Milk, and Snickerdoodle. They were all so good, but Snickerdoodle won me over. Usually for me it’s a Cardamom cone at Village, but the Snickerdoodle was just too good to pass up! Chris doubled up his scoops and had Village Vanilla Bean and Snickerdoodle piled high on a freshly pressed waffle cone.

With ice cream in hand, we hopped in the car, motored over to the riverfront, parked by Fort Calgary, and walked across the Skipping Stone Bridge. St Patrick’s Island is a relatively new park in the city that opened its bridges in August 2015. With a giant toboggan hill that doubles as a movie theatre in the summer, a huge playground, and “The Point” which has some of the best downtown and river views, St Patrick’s Island was the perfect place for a stroll and to eat our ice cream. We ignored the looks from the other park-goers when seeing our fingers turning red in the brisk weather. We walked through the trees and along the river, watching the geese slide about on the ice. The sun shone through the branches. It was a magical place to enjoy our ice cream.

As the sun went down, it began to feel a bit more like February. We walked back to the Skipping Stone Bridge as I took the last bite of my cone. Perfect timing! Thanks for the ice cream and the beautiful walk in the park, Calgary!

At Happenings 3 at Arts Commons

When I hear “gallery opening” or “art exhibition”, I am immediately intimidated. Maybe it is because every art exhibition I have ever seen in a movie includes a demographic of people I might not fit in with, or perhaps it’s because when you Google “gallery opening” the first links that pop up are “art gallery opening etiquette” and “10 things you shouldn’t do at an art gallery”. I am not an impolite, or uncivil person, and I do know how to act in public, but any event for which there are that many rules intimidates me!

Arts Commons wishes to change this negative perception that sometimes goes along with galleries and art exhibitions with its own kind of celebration of art. It is called Happenings. On February 29, my friend Ryan and I attended Happenings #3 in the Upper Centre Court of Arts Commons. This was unlike any gallery opening I could have imagined. We walked in and it smelled sugary sweet; my attention was immediately drawn to the person making cotton candy on one side of the court. Across from him was the adult colouring station, and next to that was a silvery stage showing off some delightful live music. We made our game plan: we wanted to hit up everything we could!

The nice thing about this event was that it had an anything-goes itinerary, during which people could come and go as they pleased and hit up the activities they were most interested in. For Ryan and I that was cotton candy, buttons, and having our portraits drawn by a local artist, Kelsey Fraser. We were too late to see the film, The Peel, but from the looks of the line-up to get in, I can only guess it was a total hit.

The man making the cotton candy flowers was covered in sugar. Sugar wisps hung all around his face, his hat, his arms, the ceiling straight above him. We watched as a stick and some sugar was miraculously spun into a strange fibre-glass-like treat. We put our names down to have Lindsay Sorrell create beautiful, personalized monogram buttons. We waited patiently in line for Kelsey Fraser to do a blind contour drawing of us and paint it with watercolours.

Happenings #3 was free and it was the perfect way to spend a Monday evening. Happenings #4 will be on April 19 and Happenings #5 is on August 18. Arts Commons isn’t telling us what you shouldn’t do at an art gallery, but instead asking us what can’t you do at an art gallery? Thanks for inviting us to celebrate some art, Calgary!

In the Mountains

If you ask a Calgarian their favourite part of living in Calgary, I can confidently say that the majority of Calgarians would say “the mountains.” I know the mountains are not in Calgary, but the fact that they are essentially our back yard, makes them a very good reason why Calgary is awesome. Did you know that the Rocky Mountains are the youngest mountain range in the world? I always think of the Rockies as teenagers, which somehow makes them endearing. I love the mountains.

We were heading west on Highway 1. First stop: Goat Pond. I first learned about Goat Pond in an acoustic ecology class when my professor made the bold statement that Goat Pond has the best echo in the Kananaskis. I am not an echo expert, but when I first yelled over the water, towards the mountains, at the top of my lungs, I was pleasantly surprised with the almost perfect repetition that came back to me. Today, we were lucky. The water was absolutely still. Not even the slightest ripple. It looked like a mirror. It was stunning! We stood for a while in the sun and let it warm our faces.

Next stop: The Banff upper hot springs.  After paying our way in, we donned our swimmers and waded into the warm water. What a view! Perched on the side of the mountain, and fed by natural springs, the upper hot springs are a majestic place to go for a soak. One of my favourite aspects of Banff is the number of people from all over the world in one place. The hot springs are no different. We heard languages and dialects from everywhere!

Our last stop: The Rimrock in Banff. Just around the corner from the hot springs, sits this beautiful gem of a hotel, where we enjoyed both our fairly-priced beers, and a stunning mountain view.. A curling rink a few stories down, caught our eye. We asked our server if the rink was open to non-guests and she gave us the good news; yes! With the warm weather the  ice was not entirely frozen, making it almost impossible for the rocks to slide. We did our best, and laughed that our best wasn’t all that good.

The sky turned and it began to snow. We hopped in the car and began our drive home. As we passed Canmore on the highway we saw about 20 elk just hanging out in the clearing near the road. Stunning views, natural hot springs, beer, curling, AND wildlife?! Thanks for the day trip to the mountains, Calgary!