Photos of Saskatchewan That Help You Escape for a While

This post captures photos of my spring and summer in Saskatchewan during quarantine. It’s intended to help you add to your own bucket list of places to explore and things to do in your immediate community. Uncover the beauty that’s right under your nose.

I haven’t left Saskatchewan since February, so all of my bucket list remains within provincial borders.

Related posts you’ll love:

Before I get to the good stuff, here’s a personal note on the how quarantine has affected my life.

Like many folks in the world, this year isn’t going exactly as I had planned.

2020 started strong with great attendance at my early events. I had been working on creating a new program for members looking to build real connections in Saskatoon and Saskatchewan. Then, it all disappeared overnight.

After March 12, I chose to cancel live events as attendee safety is my top priority. I was telling folks that I hoped to be back in April! In hindsight, I was naïve about how long this would last. Last week, my heart broke when I heard that physical distancing could last two or three more years. Our culture is forever changed to pre- and post-coronavirus. Anything that happened before that day in March now feels like ancient history.

Losing the opportunity to meet people and help them connect in person feels strange. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy writing about our prairie city, nerdy things, alternative activities, local travel, love, and lifestyle. But you, the community, fuel my energy, passion, and commitment to keep moving forward. It gives me such a rush to see your smiling faces in person – I don’t need corona to affirm that.

While exploring different styles of events, I discovered hosting and organizing live events where you can have a space to meet new, like-minded people is something I want to do on a professional level. I don’t regret one minute of it and I hope that someday I’ll be able to do it again, safely.

Fortunately, I have a supportive husband, friends, and family who’ve made the past five months easier. I haven’t been able to attend and host events like I normally would, but I’ve set personal and professional goals that give me renewed purpose.

Saskatchewan Photo Bucket List

I took all of these photos on my smartphone (Samsung Galaxy S8).

Hunt for Saskatchewan’s wild flora

Wild Crocus at the old Langham Golf Course.
Wild Prairie Lily in the forest of Meadow Lake Provincial Park.

Walk along a prairie landscape where the sky takes your breath away

Silhouette of the Northeast Swale.
Looking out at a private dock as seagulls fly at Grieg Lake.
Taking a moment to breathe at our lakefront campsite at Grieg Lake.
Cow spotting on an acreage in Borden.

Watch coy fish peacefully swimming at Boffins Garden

Explore abandoned places of yesterday

The overgrown trees of Borden Bridge.
Eerie and historical American-style architecture at Glenside United Church.

Take a day trip to a place you’ve never been before

Sand dunes at Douglas Provincial Park.

Soak in the sun at a nearby beach

Furdale Beach a.k.a. Chief Whitecap Dog Park.

Camp with an adventurous friend in Grieg Lake

Pick fresh Saskatoon berries in your very own physically distanced row

Make frozen Saskatoon berry custard with those fresh berries

Ride with a local slow roll cycle group

Joanne Cliff is the Saskatoon cyclist who completed her personal challenge to ride every street, crescent, and avenue in Saskatoon.

Complete a corn maze

The Rosthern Corn Maze is open from August through October 25, 2020.

There are many beautiful places across this province that didn’t make it onto the photo bucket list because I was too busy enjoying the moment without my phone in hand.

This year has reinforced the fact that nothing is ever certain. You never know when life as you know it will take a detour, but your mindset will always impact how you move forward.

As Saskatchewan re-opens, you should expect to find more regular posts from me. I will continue sharing content that supports the tourism, events, and hospitality industry. You can check the Do Sask Facebook Group for daily updates on local events.

I will also publish content and work hard to offer alternative events related to making the best of this time at home. We aren’t out of the woods yet.

Someday I’ll look back on 2020 with a teary-eyed smile. I miss you so much and I want to see you (standing 6 feet away) again.

Amy

What are your favourite bucket list activities in Saskatchewan during quarantine? Share yours in the Saskatoon Events & Date Night Ideas group.

20+ Creative Ways to Unwind During Physical Distancing (It’s not Puzzles)

Since completing the first month of lockdown, I’ve had several weeks to try out a tonne of unique and entertaining activities that are keeping me busy doing things I enjoy. By now, you know that tuning in to ‘living room’ concerts is an opportunity to get your fix of musical entertainment. And streaming the latest from Netflix has its place, too. The following ideas are different because they move you from an audience member to an active performer in your own entertainment.

In my last post, I mentioned that it’s important to schedule a routine that includes fun activities, giving yourself breaks from the constant media stream and work from home tasks that dominate your day. Make an appointment with yourself to unwind creatively. Some of the links go to support independent businesses in Saskatoon. Here are some options that you may not have tried yet:

20+ CREATIVE WAYS TO UNWIND DURING PHYSICAL DISTANCING

  • Design a neighbourhood full of your dream homes in the Sims 4.
  • Order a themed takeout meal from your favourite restaurant to match your movie choice.
  • Play Jackbox with friends remotely.
  • Sing a karaoke duet with a friend on Smule.
  • Have a make your own pizza night.
  • Take a country drive and sing along to your favourite road trip songs. I like driving down to Whitecap Dakota First Nation for a short break. Blackstrap and Diefenbaker/Outlook would make a nice longer drive. It’s the cheapest time to get out on the open road.
  • Start your own plant seedlings. Start an apartment herb garden, or a small backyard container garden.
  • Watch the sunset and try to describe all the colours.
  • Play a Just Dance game. In my opinion, this is the most efficient way to bust stress.
  • Whistle a tune to your pet.
  • Choose a theme and host a family or friend dinner online. Selecting a theme makes it feel like you’re together.
  • Take friends on a “hyper-local wine tour” of your place. Visit the bathroom, the living room, etc.
  • Take a photo walk around your neighbourhood. Notice the things that you may not have seen before.
  • Create a self-portrait sugar cookie. Recreate your face on a simple round sugar cookie shape.
  • Rent a board game. If you like it enough, you can share another round with friends in the future.
  • Order a new book for curbside pickup. Browse books online and support a local author.
  • Play card games with friends. Psst… “Remote Sensitivity” is essentially Cards Against Humanity.
  • Browse renowned museums and galleries from your home.
  • Decorate your fence or front window.
  • Download, print, and colour drawings from artists around the world. Many artists are uploading their designs for free, or a small donation to charity.
  • Bird watch and try to name a few of the flocks that are coming back to town.

What have you been doing to unwind? Please don’t say puzzles.

A Weekly Routine to Help You Regain Focus When Life Gets Messy

Skip to: My Personal Weekly Routine

In mid-March, when Canada was in the initial stages of coronavirus lock down, my life felt out of control. On top of the external stress of a worldwide pandemic, I began an internal battle. My mood dipped, anxious thoughts kept me awake, my phone was at my face throughout the day (and night), my go-to after-work hydration was alcohol, my facial skin was dry and sore, and I felt drowsy.

I know I’m not alone. This pandemic is as much a mental health crisis as it is a public health crisis.

I had to remind myself about my personal routine; a weekly schedule of healthy habits that I created about six months ago. I originally designed it to help organize the internal clutter of my day-to-day and it has become a mainstay in the midst of uncertain times. My personal routine is comforting. Some days, it’s the only thing that can bring my focus back again.

This post is about how creating a personal routine could help improve your focus when life is a chaotic mess.

It has taken me years to determine how to set professional boundaries with myself and others. I balance self-employment with part-time employment. This requires a blend of working environments, but I’m mostly working from home. My biggest struggle with working from home is that it often leads to my needs being placed on the back-burner. Scheduling a personal routine helps me focus on my daily tasks while finally putting my health first.

Last fall, I developed a structured weekly routine that makes my wellbeing a priority. My routine has changed three times since. It changed after the coronavirus crisis. And I can guarantee it will change again before this is over.

Set Your Top Weekly Goals

When I accomplish my goals, I feel more in control of my life.

I set two major weekly goals: planning and preparing meals, and working out at least four times. I put both my meal plan and my workout plan in writing, so that I don’t have to constantly think about what I am going to do.

An added benefit of organizing meal prep is that our weekly grocery list is created at the same time. Now that we’re limited to one trip per week as the current recommendation, meal prep continues to make grocery trips focused and efficient.

Activity is also shown to improve mood and immunity, among its other positive benefits.

Seek Outside Support

Outside support means asking someone else for help to achieve your goals. If you live with your support person – wonderful! If not, seek encouragement and accountability from family, friends, and loved ones.

My husband has taken initiatives that make keeping our lifestyle easier and more connective. So far, he’s created a shared habit tracker chart; committed to being the household grocery guy; walks the neighbourhood with me daily; joins in guided mediations; and joins in virtual yoga. Having a supportive partner helps me maintain my personal routine long-term.

MY PERSONAL WEEKLY ROUTINE

Feel free to use my weekly routine to build your own framework. I deliberately left out my work schedule and specific times so that you could create a weekly personal routine that’s unique to you. The point is that you create a routine that works right now, and plan to review and update every few months.

SundaySpiritual Community
Meal prep 4 hours preparing meals for the week
Optional walk
Personal grooming
MondayBook Club x1/mo.
Volunteer x1/mo.
60 min walk
Phone family member
TuesdayRead
Full body HIIT circuit
Text an old friend
WednesdayAdditional Meal Prep
Leg day
ThursdayRead
Dance drills
30 min walk
Friend date
FridayBike and abs
Date night or game night with friends
SaturdayPilates
30 min cardio
Clean floors dust organize clutter
Meal plan, create grocery list
Fun afternoon activity
All activities and dates happen remotely from home. I haven’t seen my friends and family in person in over three and a half weeks. I miss your hugs and your faces. I can’t wait to see you again.

During the coronavirus lockdowns, my routine has become a source of comfort. This new lifestyle makes it easier to focus on taking care of my health. I’m grateful to past-me for carving this path and present-me for choosing to stick with it through unprecedented times.

DAILY HABITS

  • waking up at a set time
  • taking a shower, brushing and flossing, applying face moisturizer
  • getting dressed in work clothes (weekdays) or comfy clothes (weekends)
  • 30 minutes minimum of physical activity
  • keeping phone in a separate room
  • drinking lots of fluids
  • planning for social connection
  • eating meals at regular times together
  • limiting alcohol consumption
  • making space for quiet time

Daily habit tracking seems insignificant at the time, but seeing the pixelated chart in our kitchen gives me visual motivation to be consistent everyday.

A personal routine is a source of comfort when the world is very uncertain. It gives my mind a chance to focus on what needs to be done each day and stop trying to manage everything internally. If you have been experiencing multiple weeks like my first week of lockdown, I encourage you to take some time to focus on what’s important to you. Once you create a weekly personal routine, don’t forget to track your daily habits. Since starting my routine six months ago, my day-to-day life has changed my focus for the better. I have a feeling yours will too.

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.

Crafting

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.

Swimming

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!

Volunteer

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
Paperback
$29.95
ISBN: 9780228101697