Solo Dating is a Mental Health Game-Changer

faceless woman dining on french fries and a sandwich alone

Today is #BellLetsTalk day, so I’ll explain how the first time I took myself solo dating totally changed my well being.

“Table for one, please.”

After surviving a particularly awful breakup, I was looking for moments to feel happy again. So I chose one of my favourite restaurants – a Greek spot called Spiro’s in Lloydminster, Saskatchewan. I put on a fancy dress, did up my hair and makeup, and went out for the evening to dine alone.

Solo dating is ≠ to doing something alone

This solo dinner wasn’t the first time I had done something on my own. For example, I drove a moving truck over seven hundred of kilometers for a job opportunity at 18 years old. But taking myself on a date was different. It took place long before ‘solo dating’ and ‘self-partnered’ became buzzwords. At the time, a solo date wasn’t your run-of-the-mill singles activity.

When I arrived at the restaurant, I sat in my car contemplating the choice to walk through the front doors. Somehow I made it through the doors and I felt anxious waiting for my table. I immersed myself in the menu. Then, I went about my night quietly enjoying the delicious meal – a plate of Spiro’s famous Greek ribs. My anxiety decreased and I relaxed while observing other diners chatting with their friends and family.

I don’t remember having a smartphone to drown out my own thoughts or to fill the silence that was coming from the other side of the table. I can’t remember what else I’d planned for myself that evening after dinner, either. But I remember the moment I decided to take myself on a date very clearly. It was an internal transformation. I decided to stop waiting for people to show up for me and started showing up for myself. The self-esteem boost transferred into other areas of my life.

Later that same year, I took a solo trip outside of Canada with a group travel company. It was the first of many annual single travel adventures.

I find it much easier to meet new people when I’m alone. There’s a connectivity that develops when you meet other people who are also riding solo. When I’m with someone, establishing a connection to others isn’t always easy.

Learn to master your relationship with yourself

Solo dating helped me set new expectations for future suitors and gave me the confidence to love myself first. Learning how to master a healthy relationship with me trickled through to other relationships.

The capacity to love my alone time has affected my mental health throughout my life. It’s become a sacred part of who I am. Now, I’m more likely to choose things I want to do rather than waiting for someone else who may or may not join me. As an extrovert, being alone gives me an opportunity to interact with others which is key to filling up my energy.

Treating yourself to solo dating is a positive experience, not a lonesome one. Even if you have a spouse, spending time out of the house alone could change your well being, too.

Solo dating ideas in Saskatoon

So where are you going to go on your date for one in Saskatoon? Here are a few ideas:

  • Reserve a table at one of Saskatoon’s many fine restaurants
  • Take photos along the Meewasin Trail with a fresh perspective
  • Give yourself time to digest a new book at McNally Robinson Booksellers
  • Check out live theatre, concert, a festival, or a movie
  • Sign up for a DIY workshop
  • Book a night in a luxurious Saskatoon hotel room

Do you have other ideas for solo dating in Saskatoon?

Please support #BellLetsTalk day to end the stigma surrounding mental health.

Free counselling resources in Saskatoon

Edmonton dad embraces winter and builds massive living-room-sized igloo in his family’s backyard

This week, Western Canada is in the midst of an extremely cold winter vortex that’s keeping most of us indoors. Temperatures are diving as low as -51 C with wind chill in Saskatoon. But a snowpocalypse isn’t keeping one Canadian dad from inspiring all of us with a creative winter project in his own backyard.

Igloos are temporary snow huts historically tied to the Inuit peoples who craft them out of hard-packed snow. Chris Schrettlinger of Edmonton, Alberta started building ice igloos for his family last winter.

The album of his cold-weather creation has reached over a million people so far. There were many comments from across North America asking how he did it. So today, he shared how it’s done so that you can build your own backyard winter hangout, too.

All photos via Chris Schrettlinger

Why did you start making ice igloos?

“When you get older there’s not a whole lot of fun in winter anymore. It’s miserable to drive to work. But my three young kids aren’t bothered by the cold.

I was so sick of being inside dreading the cold. I remembered the forts we tried to build when I was a kid that never really worked out. And I saw someone make something similar on Reddit years ago. So I made a small one last year and then decided to make a bigger one this year.

Our Edmonton winters haven’t been as bad as they were in the past and there hasn’t been a lot of snow. You would need a massive amount of snow to make a proper igloo. We don’t have that hard packed snow to make that style.”

How many hours of labour did it take to complete it?

“I started freezing the ice five weeks ago at the beginning of December. It took about an hour or two at night on working days and about five or six hours on weekends. I’d say it took about 100 hours total. Just making the ice takes a lot of time.

The last time it was -36 C they froze in a few hours. It usually takes two days to freeze. And it needs the time to set in between the rows, so you can’t finish it with friends that help in a day. If I could sit on the edges of it, I’d start the next row.

It’s a time-intensive project. The kids get stuck with hauling all of the ice bricks over the backyard. I put a spotlight up and work at night until midnight.

I get obsessed with the project. My only caution is that it’s going to take a while. And you will get slightly depressed at least a few times. “

Do you have experience working outdoors during the winter?

“I try to get outside and go to the rink or skiing. It’s hard to find a reason to go outside when it’s so cold. And I’ve built fences and such in the past.”

How big is the final ice igloo of 2020?

“It’s 16 feet across and seven feet high at its tallest point. There are about 300 ice blocks. The bottom row is 56 blocks. It can probably fit 10 adults in there. It’s taller than the fence. If you walk down the alley, you’ll see it. I’m the only guy that has a canopy of lights and a massive igloo in the backyard. “

What do you use to stick the blocks together?

“You mix a mortar-consistency slush in a large plastic tub full of snow with about 20 litres of water.”

How were you able to work in -30 C weather?

“Many, many layers of clothes. Long underwear, two pairs of sweatpants, snow pants, -50 boots, a parka, toque, and four layers of work gloves. I change gloves every 20 minutes. I have a surplus of gloves.”

What kind of pans do you use to freeze the ice blocks?

“Disposable lasagna trays you get at any supermarket. It cost us about $50 in supplies from The Wholesale Club.”

I’m guessing you use food colouring to make the colours. Is that correct?

“Yes. The food colouring is already in the tins. My wife runs a hose out the basement window and I fill up all of the tins with water. I don’t bother mixing the food colouring and water beforehand.”

How long do you hope it will last?

“Last winter, it was melting during the first week in March.  You could see the mortar start to melt. Then a huge section fell in and collapsed.”

Did your family make igloos when you were a kid?

“I always made forts in the snow with my friends. I had two sisters and didn’t want to hang out with them all the time. And I made another massive snow fort during a few slow days at work when I was 24.”

Any plans for 2021’s ice igloo?

“No plans for next year. Usually by the time it’s done, I don’t want to think about it for a long time. Around September to October, I’ll start thinking about it again. “

What kind of impression do you hope building the igloo will leave on your kids?

“Don’t be scared of winter and the cold. I want them to be the envy of their friends and classmates and remember having fun with their dad. I hope they appreciate all the time I spent out there. ”

Have you been hanging out in it during this cold snap?

“We’ve been out there this week. I tried to put a propane fire inside, but it’s too hot and the air is too cold. The ice was starting to crack.

I’m planning a weekend camp out in it, but the ice is a terrible insulator. We’ll dress really warm. If it’s -35 C outside, it’s -30 C in there. I have to research what to do to insulate it properly.”

It’s easy to feel miserable when the mercury dips to extremely low levels. Chris has inspired everyone to see the positive side of our cold prairie winters with his massive ice igloo of 2020. Thank you for sharing your creation with Do Sask!

How are you embracing the extreme cold weather this winter? Join the Do Sask Facebook Group to have your say in the discussion.

Go-to friend dates in Saskatoon that make adult hangouts easier

In my opinion, adult friendships contribute to the magic of being alive. But the challenge of organizing different, fun hangouts together while respecting both friends’ schedules can be enough hassle to let the relationship go for months without seeing each other face-to-face.

I’m an extrovert which means I get energized in the company of people. That’s why I started making regular commitments with friends who wanted to hangout more. Together, we’d commit to doing something every week or month.

I’ve been experimenting with different regular hangouts for over two years. Usually, I find something I’m interested in and then ask some of my friends if they want to join me. They take turns and ask me if I want to join them at something. I’ve tried a lot of things that are totally out of my comfort zone by accepting a friend’s invitation.

The secret to making it work is actually pretty simple: stick with it. Stick with the same day, stick with the same time, and stick with the same activity. If you switch it up from week to week or month to month, there’s an opportunity to flake out… and then you both lose.

Now, you could still leave room for spontaneous gatherings. However, I find that these types of events happen less often as I grow older.

Here are my favourite go-to friend dates in Saskatoon:

Climbing gym

There’s something about challenging friends who can climb to the top of the walls the fastest that makes this one of my favourite hangouts. That and I’m usually totally exhausted by the end.

As a beginner climber, I have only ever been to Clip ‘n Climb in Saskatoon (I’ve been bouldering in Calgary prior to moving here). It’s newb-friendly with auto-belay on every wall. They also have two timed walls which track your race to the top. Go later in the evening to avoid scads of children.

Dance class

So far, I’ve taken hip-hop, belly-dance, swing, and ballroom dancing with friends. There are social dancing groups if you want to meet other people. Sign up for a half session to see whether you want to go deeper.

You’ll find dance companies all over the city with options that will suit your individual tastes and location preference. I’m still waiting on someone to bring a twerk-out class to Saskatoon.


Meet once a week to work on your projects for an hour or two. Making a commitment to craft means you’ll actually accomplish projects you start. Being part of a crafting group is always the most productive I’ll ever be with my hobby.

Join the Saskatoon Craft Guild, Saskatoon Potters Guild, drop in to any of the studio workshops in Saskatoon, or set up your own Stitch ‘n Bitch.

Board games

If you have a competitive streak, invite your buddies to a regular game night. My husband and I played Catan quite often with one of my cousins who kicked our butts regularly – he’s a Catan savant. We played regularly until he got bored of beating us.

Play at home, or hit up one of the city’s two board game cafes. Usually, game cafes have all sorts of options depending on the size of your group.


Dive into a swimming date with your friend to escape from the cold of winter. You may feel good enough after the hot tub or sauna to save yourself a trip south of the border.

Plus, going to the pool is one of the most affordable dates around!


Asking a friend to volunteer with you can be a vulnerable moment. You tell them what you care about and why it matters, hoping that they’ll give a hoot.

Saskatoon has so much opportunity to give back. Many non-profit organizations need committed volunteers. Why not join one with a friend to socialize while giving back?

Bonus: volunteering is usually completely free.

Join a Club or League

I wanted to start a book club, but not many of my friends could commit to one. So I started one through Do Sask. Book club helps me read more for fun than I ever would on my own. My friends may have passed on joining the club. However, I’ve met people who have become friends.

This month, I saw an idea for a cookbook club and now I can’t stop thinking about how to make it happen.

There are other clubs in Saskatoon, such as the canoe club. One ex-local recommended I join the South Corman Park Judo Club. If you can’t find a club you like – start something new!

What do you and your friends typically do for a date in Saskatoon? Join the Do Sask Facebook Group to have your say in the discussion.

Next-level topics for the free Adulting seminars at the Saskatoon Public Library

Whether you just became an official adult, or have been an adult for years – it’s a lot more work than many of us bargained for. Between managing bank accounts, staying away from full Amazon shopping carts, trying to keep a semi-involved social life, pleasing your boss and higher-ups, and making sure your love life is taken care of – the everyday experiences of adults can sometimes be overwhelming.

Keep in mind that most adults actually have no idea what’s going on.

The Saskatoon Public Library recognizes that we may need some help learning the basics. This winter, they’re offering a free program called “Adulting 101”. Open to teens and adults, their seminars are focused on providing practical advice for new or burgeoning adults. Topics span from renting and budgeting to vehicle maintenance.

The first set of seminars took place on January 11 at the Alice Turner and Mayfair Branches in Saskatoon. There will be a new set of seminars each month, with the program concluding in April.

via SPL’s Winter 2020 Programming Guide.

These seminar topics are a good start. However, since Do Sask is all about leveling up, I believe there should be another tier of the program: Adulting 201. This is for those of who have mastered… er… managed to maintain the basics.

Here’s a list of next-level Adulting topics that most adults contemplate at some point or another:

  • Is This Love: How to decide if the guy/gal you’re currently seeing is worth your time
  • Living with Roommates: How to choose a good roommate and get rid of bad ones
  • Learn to Like Yourself: How to do things on your own
  • Turning 30: It isn’t a big deal and here’s why
  • Turning 30: It is a big deal and here’s why
  • Success: What does it mean to you?
  • Decluttering: How to avoid starring on an episode of Hoarders
  • Planning Ahead: Make responsible life decisions before you get stressed af
  • Plan B: (In case you missed Planning Ahead)
  • Family Rifts: How to manage dysfunctional relatives
  • Frienemies: Dealing with fake friends
  • Housework Hustle: Fair project management strategies for the home
  • Toxic Bosses: Know the signs before accepting that job offer
  • My Style: What is it?
  • Choose a Religion: How to live a good life according to Jesus, Buddha, Allah and more
  • Kids: To reproduce, or not to reproduce, that is the question
  • Death: Pondering your own mortality
  • When to Quit: Some things don’t need finishing

All that aside, if you’re looking for some beginner hints for life as an adult, you should probably check out the free program at SPL.

Saskatoon Speed Dating Success Story: Anthony and Sophie

bi-racial couple looks up at bright fair grounds, smiling

“I love meeting new people. So, I wanted to meet people and make some friends and go from there. Obviously, having a girlfriend out of it was an absolute cherry on top of the cake. “

This week, I spoke with a pair who matched at Saskatoon Speed Dating. Anthony* and Sophie* have been in a supportive, long-term relationship since connecting at their Do Sask event in January 2019. I asked them if they would share their experience and they graciously agreed. I chatted with each of them individually and encouraged honest responses.

Read on if you’re curious to learn how this couple developed from an initial 4-minute speed dating conversation.

What did you think about speed dating before you came?

Anthony: “I didn’t really have any feelings about it at all. I’d seen speed dating in a few movies and things. I didn’t know that Saskatoon had such a thing.

When I heard about it, I thought, “What the heck!” I would give it a try. I was in the mountains on a snowboard trip scrolling on Facebook. Something popped up and it was Do Sask, so I read into it. I saw speed dating and read about it and went from there.”

What did you want out of speed dating?

Sophie: “To be honest, going into it I didn’t have any expectations. One of my friends worked at the Crazy Cactus. She and I were both part of a group of friends who were mostly coupled up since high school or a few years after. When she heard Do Sask Speed Dating was scheduled at the Crazy Cactus, she began a campaign to get me to join her. I wasn’t gung-ho in the very beginning. But I thought why not to see what would happen. I didn’t expect that it would be the way I met my future partner.”

Anthony: “I was going in to have a new experience and try something new. I didn’t necessarily want a relationship out of it, but I wanted to try something out of my comfort zone. I love meeting new people. So, I wanted to make some friends and go from there. Obviously, having a girlfriend out of it was an absolute cherry on top of the cake.”

Tell me about what happened the night of speed dating.

A: “The night of I was running late. I rolled up a minute or two to 7 pm. I figured I was going to be a couple minutes late. I just remember thinking to myself “here we go”. There were some butterflies. I remember seeing all the people there. Once I registered, I knew I had a drink ticket and went to grab one. I started chatting with some of the guys there and my butterflies went away.”

S: “I told my friend I really needed a drink. I had no idea what I was walking into. There were a lot more people there than I thought there would be.

I liked the icebreaker game which introduced me to everyone who was there that night. We played people bingo and got to know other people. It was kind of nice to have a little conversation with everyone before the dating started.“

A: “We had an introductory bingo game. There was a bingo card and we were asked to find people that matched the description and write their name on the squares. There were no nerves, it was just excitement at that point.

Once the game started, I remember thinking, “Okay, you’re supposed to mingle”. A few of the girls had huddled up together asking questions and some of the guys were asking questions to each other. My initial thought was, “I’m here to go on dates, so I’m going to talk to the girls”.

I remember seeing Sophie walk in at the beginning of the night. With the game on, I went right over to her. She was happy and had this beautiful smile. I remembered her immediately. Once the dates started, I was looking forward to having that 4-minute date with her.

S: “As soon as you said go for the ice breaker game, Anthony was the first person who came up and talked to me. I kind of liked being approached first. He was nice to talk to. He said it was nice meeting you and I’ll talk to you soon.”

A: “During our date, we were talking about football. She was very open and didn’t seem shy. She plays fantasy football and I like football. My go-to question for that night was, “here’s a plane ticket you can go anywhere you want, where are you going?” And I had a lot of good conversations from that. Sophie was very easy to talk to. The 4 minutes flew by. We chatted through the intermission.”

S: “When it came time for Anthony’s 4-minute date to end, he asked, “Do you want to keep talking?” Intermission had started, so we decided to chat right through the short break. We talked about fantasy football. And we’re both big travellers, so we discussed all the places we’ve been and wanted to go. That probably took up most of the conversation.”

Describe your first date after speed dating.

S: “On our first date, we met at D’Lish by Tish Cafe and got a drink. We took it to go and walked along the river. We walked to Rotary Park, by River Landing, and up the Broadway Bridge. It was the end of January, so the night turned cold. We went to the Yard and Flagon to warm up a bit. Anthony walked me back to my car at D’Lish before we said goodnight.”

A: “We met up at a coffee shop about a week later, grabbed a cup of joe, and went for a stroll by the river. Tried to get to know each other. There was a wind – it was winter – so we just kept moving. I walked her back to her car gave her a kiss goodnight.”

How has your life been better since attending?

S: “I’ve never really had a serious relationship and it’s really nice having someone to share a life with. Anthony adds to my life.”

A: “I’ve had a girlfriend since then, so it’s been a change for the better. It was a pretty good bonus. I’m happy and the months have flown by since meeting her. It’s a great relationship. We support each other. It’s very easy to get along.”

Do you feel like four minutes in person is enough to decide?

A: “Yeah, it is enough to make a decision about someone. Pretty quickly you get a vibe if you want to chat with that person any further. Whether it’s friendly or more. You’ll know if want to talk with them again.”

How do you know if speed dating was successful?

A: “It was a win for me because I gained a girlfriend out of it. For me it was going to be a success because I went. I didn’t back out! I booked it back from the mountains. And the next day I thought I was going to cancel. The act of trying something different that not everyone would do made it a success. It put me out of my comfort zone. Not everyone would do this. It’s different way to go about meeting people.”

S: “I’d never been to speed dating before. I’d even mark it as successful if I hadn’t found someone because I’d have made some new connections.”

How do you feel about online dating or apps?

S: “I was visiting a friend in Calgary. She took my phone and made a Tinder account. I didn’t want to activate it in Saskatoon because I found it very superficial. But I did go on some dates from the app. I saw one guy for a couple months and it didn’t work out with him long-term.”

A: “Nothing against the dating apps. They have their good and bad. I think they’re fine. I’ve had dates from those too. They’re just another page in the dating book.

Nowadays there’s Tinder, bumble, POF, and speed dating is just another way. For me, you meet people face-to-face and have a good chat. You get to know a lot about a person by chatting. ”

What is the most frustrating thing about dating before meeting your speed dating match?

S: “The most frustrating thing is meeting new people. I have a great group of friends, but there aren’t too many new people coming into the group.

Lots of my friends have been dating since around high school or shortly afterwards. They met through mutual friends in high school. A couple years after high school they would come around. That’s how most of the relationships happened.”

A: “For me, dating was just getting to meet new people and hopefully something goes well from there. Nothing seemed to work out for a bit there. But that’s just me and the other person weren’t meant to be. I probably wouldn’t have met Sophie if I didn’t go to speed dating.

I have a certain group of friends from high school. There was a bit of a disconnect. They were with someone since high school. I could never relate to that. I have other friends through hockey. I always seem to meet new people here and there.”

Would you recommend Do Sask speed dating to others?

A: Yeah, absolutely. I would recommend speed dating to others. If someone asked me, I would tell ’em it’s a lot of fun and it turned out better than I would have expected.

Do you have a speed dating match success story? Share yours now. 

*Names have been changed to protect the couple’s privacy. Testimonials have been lightly edited for clarity.

Speed dating match testimonials are honest and genuine. However, they don’t guarantee similar match results.

How to use 110 Nature Hot Spots in Manitoba and Saskatchewan to Plan Your Road Trip: Book Review

This week, 110 Nature Hot Spots in Manitoba and Saskatchewan: The Best Parks, Conservation Areas and Wild Places helped me plan a two week long camping trip. It’s the summer of RVing throughout southwest Saskatchewan for my husband Chris and I. This book came perfectly timed alongside the opening of the Saskatchewan Provincial Park campsite reservation service.

Jenn Smith Nelson, one of the book’s co-authors, asked me about writing a review of her new book in February. I don’t normally write book reviews, but the title intrigued me since I make a point of exploring Saskatchewan. I thought this would be the perfect book to motivate and inspire my summer RV camping plan.

Imagine asking a stranger for directions and getting a lot of local expertise and hidden gems about the wild along the way – that’s what you can expect from this guidebook.

I relate to Jenn’s ‘Welcome to Saskatchewan’ message. In her introduction, she explains that her love of nature and pride for the prairies is what motivated her to write this book. Jenn says that the prairies are often overlooked. Next to her message is a gorgeous photo of the northern lights dancing above Castle Butte.

Jenn and I make it our mission to compile gems within Saskatchewan. And it helps to continuously discover more reasons to love our home province.

Pick up 110 Nature Hot Spots in Manitoba and Saskatchewan and you’ll likely read it cover to cover in a short sitting. You’ll use it again as a reference guide when researching a destination before hitting the road.

The book’s main introduction mentions “the healing power of nature” along with a call for readers to respect wildlife areas. The authors clearly want readers to explore rather than disrupt the fragile environments. So don’t all go stampeding into these wild places at once!

What to expect from 110 Nature Hot Spots in Manitoba and Saskatchewan

On the day 110 Nature Hot Spots in Manitoba and Saskatchewan arrived in the mail, I opened it somewhere in the middle and began flipping through. Its modern format, eye-catching headings, and clean layout makes each nature hot spot pop. Captioned photos reinforce each profile’s wild flora (plants) and fauna (animals).

Sections start with a map and point to which page you’ll find each nature hot spot. This visual Table of Contents is helpful to reference during road trip planning. Every hot spot has a short summary with information on location highlights and icons that indicate activity type.

Page view of 110 Nature Hot Spots in Manitoba and Saskatchewan
An example entry of one of the 110 Nature Hot Spots in Manitoba and Saskatchewan: The Great Sandhills. Photo courtesy of Firefly Books.

It must’ve been challenging for co-authors, Jenn Smith Nelson and Doug O’Neill, to keep each destination brief, yet detailed. There is no room for personal opinion within the hot spot entries which results in short descriptions. Imagine asking a stranger for directions and getting a lot of local expertise and hidden gems about the wild – that’s what you can expect from this guidebook.

You’ll want to check out the ‘Special Interest’ category at the back of each province’s section for information on waterfalls (yes, we have those and I’m surprised too), birds, paddling, and sky viewing spots.

How to use 110 Nature Hot Spots in Manitoba and Saskatchewan to plan your road trips

It’s super easy to flip through and plan a road trip on the fly. The map at the beginning of the Southern Saskatchewan section was helpful in creating a circle route plan for our summer RV trip. For instance, we chose Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park, Grasslands National Park – West Block, Lake Diefenbaker – Douglas Provincial Park, and the Beechy Sandcastles.

In the future, I’m looking forward to exploring northern parts of the province and eventually Manitoba. This year, I’m focusing on the south and central regions. I found myself flipping to different parts of the book to dream about where we’d visit next. After seeing a photo of the swinging bridge, I literally booked a campsite at Nipawin Regional Park .

Beginner travellers and seasoned adventurers navigating through the prairies will find this book useful. If you’ve done a fair bit of Saskatchewan travel, 110 Nature Hot Spots in Manitoba and Saskatchewan will shed new light on old favourites while introducing you to places you likely never knew existed.

For example, I learned about the Northeast Swale right here in my home city of Saskatoon. It’s located in the Silverspring neighbourhood, east of the Chief Mistawasis Bridge. On a spontaneous visit this weekend, I was surprised to find a beaver lodge along with a patch of wild crocus in full bloom and checked it off my spring bucket list.

A wild crocus blooms on the eastern edge of the Northwest Swale in Silverspring. Photo by Amy Rederburg.

Saskatoon’s entry reminds me of the natural amenities I have, steps from home: Meewasin Trail, the South Saskatchewan River, Cranberry Flats, and white pelicans at the weir to name a few.

110 Nature Hot Spots in Manitoba and Saskatchewan provides a broad overview of natural gems with unique details that you can only learn from a local. The personal touch within Jenn’s introduction would’ve been interesting to weave into each destination entry, but would’ve resulted in a much longer book. If you’re looking for a personal story of prairie wildlife, choose a hot spot and create your own adventure.

Author Info:

Jenn Smith Nelson, co-author of 110 Nature Hot Spots in Manitoba and Saskatchewan: The Best Parks, Conservation Areas and Wild Places, is a well-known travel writer and media contributor who calls Regina, Saskatchewan home. Co-author, Doug O’Neill, is an established travel writer, certified hike leader, and Trans-Canada Trail ambassador. He resides in Toronto, Ontario.

Book Details:

110 Nature Hot Spots in Manitoba and Saskatchewan
The Best Parks, Conservation Areas and Wild Places
Published on April 15, 2019
ISBN: 9780228101697

I Quit Coffee for Lent And I’m Still Alive

I quit coffee for Lent

I used to drink at least one cup of black coffee every day. Now it’s been over three weeks, two days, and 6 hours since I gave up my habit for Lent, but who’s counting?

Now, before you worry about an entertainment entrepreneur tackling a religious topic like Lent, I want to say this isn’t about preaching at you, or encouraging you to quit coffee ’cause this shit is hard. This post is strictly about how quitting coffee for Lent has affected my total well-being.

What’s Lent?

It’s the period of time between Ash Wednesday and Holy Saturday. Christians take 40 days to reflect on the life of Christ and spend time trying to be humble, ascetic, and reflective. It’s a season that sparked giant raging parties like Mardi Gras, where people try to fit in all the debauchery before limiting themselves from hedonistic pleasures.

Coffee is a daily habit in my life.

Four years ago, I swapped my daily rooibos tea for coffee. My motivation for the day-to-day grind started to wane as my degree program came to an end. It started with the Keurig machine at work. Now, I usually make myself a personal-sized French press every day.

I’ve never thought myself a coffee addict, but I rely on it to get my through most days.

A Lenten resolution challenge.

This March, the priest at my grandma’s church handed me a paper with the words “Lenten Resolution” as I was exiting the chapel. I thought it might be a good time to control some of the things that have been controlling me.

Disclaimer: I’ve never given up anything for Lent in my life. I consider myself a Christ follower, but I’m not a regular churchgoer (sorry, Grandma). I feel at home in spiritual communities where members can openly question, discuss, and think critically about Christian doctrine. Drastically changing my behaviour due to observation of Lent is an anomaly.

So back to this “Lenten Resolution” paper. I made mental notes of which things would be challenging to give up:

  • I love POPCORN. So it was the first thing to go. I can eat an entire bowl to myself semi-regularly!
  • Then, I upped the ante: COFFEE. My daily addiction that would be much more difficult to control.

Coffee and popcorn are currently off limits. I haven’t been physically affected by a lack of popcorn.

Coffee withdrawals are as real as any other addiction withdrawal symptoms.

My first three days off coffee were brutal. I had a splitting headache that I couldn’t shake, my ears were ringing, and I was thirsty. I popped several ibuprofen. And I just wanted to sleep all day.

My body was going through major caffeine withdrawals.

I didn’t feel like I was dying Things started to even out around day three. My irritability and drowsiness were still hanging on. Weird nightmares interrupted my sleep. I likely snapped a few times.

Once finding out I had quit coffee for Lent, friends seemed genuinely concerned about how I could function without it.

One friend asked, “But what about coffee poops?”

I answered, “The first few days were a blur , so maybe there was… er… a kink or two. Other than that, I’m pretty regular.”

Since I quit coffee, I’ve felt a bit anxious and stressed. A pinching or squeezing sensation in my heart started, but subsided.

I still find it difficult to concentrate. For example, I sat down last Friday to write a blog post and was coming up dry for nearly two hours. I settled on a spring bucket list to get some words out. It’s really tough for someone who has to focus as part of their job to suddenly lose that ability.

Mornings are hard, so I’m taking better care of my nights. My routine consists of a cup of caffeine-free tea, washing my face, brushing and flossing, and then reading a physical book. This daily practice is beginning to have a positive and energizing effect on my mornings.

If I can quit coffee, I can do anything!

Quitting coffee has empowered me to look at other areas in my life that could value from a little self-control. If I can quit coffee, I can quit negative self-talk, go to the gym everyday, have that tough conversation, or give back to my community.

But I won’t lie: I smell coffee strongly on people. It’s haunting me everywhere! So I sneak in some Green Tea when I’m desperate.

Lent can be a season of going without, or it can be a chance to examine what’s worth holding on to. It’s a chance to question motivations and adjust daily routines to focus more on things that empower, enrich, and inspire.

I quit coffee for Lent. What are you giving up?

My Saskatoon Spring Bucket List

It’s feeling like spring in Saskatoon! After a brutally cold winter, I can’t wait to pack away my winter coat, toque, and scarf. In celebration of this amazing warm streak, I’ve put together a spring bucket list that I’ll be crossing off over the next few months. Join me!

Saskatoon Spring Bucket List

Start a vegetable garden from seeds and plant them

Make a mosaic concrete garden stone

Take a spontaneous day trip

Book sites at Saskatchewan campgrounds for summer RVing

Spring clean closet and donate the rest to YWCA Opportunity Shop

Make a Moss Bag at Wanuskewin

Call dibs on fresh produce at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market or Community Farms Market of Saskatoon

Learn how to cook new Mexican cuisine for Cinco de Mayo

Drop-in jam in the park with the acroyogis of Saskatoon

Tour a part of Saskatoon that’s unfamiliar

Work up the nerve to go for a horseback ride

Tune up bike and hit the Meewasin Trail

Sign up for the Saskatoon Canoe Club

Practice suspension circuit training at Shaw Centre

Get the official pickleball introduction at Saskatoon Field House

Have a board game night with friends at King Me Boardgamery

Create a signature spring cocktail using local spirits

Catch the first prairie crocus bloom on camera

Take an entire weekend off

Make office furniture more cat-friendly

Go for a hike and toast halfway with a champagne picnic

Take a chocolate truffle workshop at Purdy’s

Sign up for a 5K to get into running again

Christen the backyard patio with a crisp brew

What’s on your spring bucket list?

International Women’s Day 2019

International Women’s Day is dedicated to making the world a more balanced place. Part of celebrating is acknowledging that there’s a problem that needs to be corrected. The 2019 theme #BalanceforBetter challenges each one of us to improve the gender balance. It’s important that I share this post today because Saskatchewan is Canada’s hotspot for intimate partner violence. There are a lot of reasons why our province should be named #1, but this is one title I would be happy to lose.

‘I, with a deeper instinct, choose a man who compels my strength, who makes enormous demands on me, who does not doubt my courage or my toughness, who does not believe me naïve or innocent, who has the courage to treat me like a woman.”

Anaïs Nin

The quote above acknowledges that men play a critical role in the empowerment of women. The man Anais chose reinforced how she viewed herself and solidified her individual identity. I envision this person to be supportive and encouraging, while helping to challenge the often monumental beast of self-doubt.

Today, I’ve decided to share a short writing prompt on the state of feminism in the media. I wrote it nearly five years ago as part of my Communications Degree in early part of 2014. At the time, pop artists I admired such as Beyonce and Katy Perry were actively avoiding identifying with the word “feminist”.

Fast-forward only a few years later, and both women came out with clear statements that affirmed their feminism. This shift has taken place over a relatively short period of time. Beyonce and Katy admitted they had no idea what the word meant before the media began asking them whether or not they identified with it.

So, what does “feminism” mean anyway?

Coming from small-town Saskatchewan, I relate to having no prior understanding of feminism before my post-secondary education. How can you identify with something that has never been defined for you? In case you’re curious, I’ve included my favourite definition of feminism below.

‘Simply put, feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression. (…). Practically, it is a definition which implies that all sexist thinking and action is the problem, whether those who perpetuate it are female or male, child or adult. It is also broad enough to include an understanding of systemic institutionalized sexism. As a definition it is open-ended. To understand feminism it implies one has to necessarily understand sexism.”   

―     bell hooks

Internalized oppression is a daily battle for women

During my undergrad capstone research, I discovered how a woman’s own internal voice is developed to oppress her from her date of birth. My life and identity were the subject of this study. I’ve been passionate about living as a feminist since leaving school.

You may or may not have thought about internalized oppression before. Let me explain: from a woman’s perspective, it whispers about what you’re wearing as you strategically hold your keys when you walk home alone at night. It nods at you while you’re hissing insults at yourself in the mirror. It tells you to keep quiet when you’re too afraid to speak out against harassment. And it’s the disguise your friends wear when the conversation goes back to feeding self-hatred (i.e. diet culture).

Moving society in a positive direction

The mainstream popularization of feminism is doing something to transform the way we, men and women, live out its ideals. Flipping negative messages, behaviours, and beliefs from the current realities to a new, positive movement.

Empowerment of an entire gender is a big effort. Start with something small and practical, such as paying a woman with the same qualifications and skills as her male colleague the same salary or hourly wage. Or have a willingness to pay self-employed women the rates they command. Or support a woman’s choice to be a stay-at-home mother without penalizing her when she wants to rejoin the workforce.

International Women’s Day: The state of feminism

As I said earlier, the following prompt is what I thought was going on with feminism in the media back in 2014. It’s slightly more difficult to read than a typical Do Sask post, but it gives a good snapshot of how far society has come over the past five years.

“The truth is that we have not reached the point where sexism, sexual oppression and exploitation have become history and yet most young women denounce the term feminist when describing their image. Strong, female role-models (especially Beyonce) have avoided answering the question when asked directly. This may be due to the media twisting the definition of feminism to mean the ‘men-hating, radical, bra-burners’ of the second-wave. The main foundations of feminism are either represented inaccurately or not at all by the media, leading many to believe contemplation of the term to be outdated.

Feminism allows women to share their experiences in hopes that they can individually and collectively revolt against the patriarchy. It is about becoming an inclusive body for women to work towards the goal together, not a system to alienate ‘real women’ from ‘real feminists’. The problem is that ‘fourth-wave of feminism’, the new generation of young, liberated, post-feminism, Generation Y women and men, are unsure of how to categorize their stance on the issue. There have been so many sub-categories added under the umbrella of feminism (race, class, sexuality, gender) that its aura has been diluted. Instead of these groups rallying to continue the struggle to end patriarchal oppression, the hierarchical culture of feminism has torn women apart to scrutinize which group makes better feminists.

In a post-feminist media context, popular discourse actually reinforces the powers that have been holding women back for eons (Foucauldian internalized oppression, self-monitoring). The most repressive aspect of feminism is to deny that young people care about the term, which can lead many to believe that the time has come to silence the topic entirely. Extraordinarily, Miley Cyrus may be the most famous young woman to publically declare herself to be the “biggest feminist in the world”, while Katy Perry says she is “not a feminist, but believes in strong women”. In most cases, the media is acting as a repressive force by choosing the victim as their scapegoat while perpetually representing women as damaged, manipulative and promiscuous.

This leaves every day women perplexed as to how to identify with feminism at all. On one hand, young women should be able to wear whatever they choose without fear of harassment. On the other, revealing costumes, hyper-sexualized lyrics, and pastiche-porn performances reinforce the idea that women are sex objects.  Strident feminists who criticize Miley Cyrus for her behaviour should realize that she has outwardly supported feminism, albeit in her own way, while other female stars have shied away from it. Cyrus understands that in order to make money for herself and her record label, she needs to capitalize on the systems created within patriarchy. After all, the type of sex Miley is selling is atypical; aggressive, confrontational, masculine characteristics. The trouble is the audience lacks the ability to observe the thin line between parody and acquiescence.

Popular media figures such as Joseph Gordon Levitt, Lena Dunham, and Pink are other examples of celebrities who have taken a public stance in affirming feminism. Their individual representations have been showcased by creating art from their own experiences. Joseph Gordon Levitt challenged damaging labels of masculinity and femininity in Don Jon, a mainstream movie about porn addiction and objectification. Lena Dunham writes about her realistic and relatable experiences as a 20-something in New York with Girls. Pink has constructed her image by speaking out about the patriarchal demands of the record industry and being a strong woman. These artists have gleaned inspiration from the movement as modern individuals.  

When celebrities choose to bring feminism to the forefront of their work, they also bring it back into the spotlight of the public sphere. Strides are being made by social media to unite women around the world by having real-time discussions about ongoing cultural issues like slut-shaming, violence and the gender gap. Women are still dealing with issues that were being tackled by second-wave feminists (sexual harassment, rape, reproductive rights, etc.). When celebrities dismiss feminism as something to be ashamed of, it makes the continued mistreatment of women (and all of the other categories of feminism) right. As more prominence is given to feminism in the media, the term will become less about isolating it to academics and more about making it accessible to women and men from all walks of life.”

Happy International Women’s Day!