The Sisterhood of Entrepreneurship in Niagara


Oh crap I am running late as usual, ok just plug in the address into your phone and get on the road!

This was how my morning began last Sunday, still groggy from not having any coffee or knowing where the heck I was driving too in Thorold, one of my quirks, I HATE driving somewhere I have never driven before, it gives me anxiety.  Thank the lord for Google Maps on my smartphone or I would still be circling around the wrong exit on the Trans Canada on my long trek back from BC back in 2013, but that is another story.  I only knew one person who was going to be at the 283 Performing Arts Centre:  Valerie Chalmers, a fellow social media manager who was the one responsible for putting this community collaboration project together to honour ‘The Women of Niagara’.

As you ladies know, venturing out into the world of entrepreneurship is a daunting, overwhelming and scary undertaking to say the least.  All are the emotions I have been feeling these past couple of months.  Questioning if I had made the right decision, if I was good enough, what if I fail at this age – what would I do then?  All of these things swirling in my head as I fight to figure out how to achieve a work/life balance as I take on this new eating and exercise program, where I feel like I am barely keeping my head above water.

Then, as I arrive in Thorold, I walk into a room full of laughter, silliness and fun; women of all walks of life coming together to support, empower and honour each of our uniqueness and beauty.  I immediately let out a sigh and knew I was going to be OK.  We are all creative, loving, supportive and uplifting women who have come together on this occasion to honour not ourselves but each other.  No matter what you do in your life, know that you have qualities and values that deserve to be recognized and rewarded.  I am calling all you mom’s, teachers, business  women, coaches etc.  and letting you know, YOU MATTER!  It has taken my almost 44 years on this planet to finally figure that out.  I have found my tribe, my community of women that I have been searching for, I am finally home.  Niagara FINALLY feels like my home again after being away for over 13 years and for that I am truly grateful!

For on this day, we were pampered with professional hair and make up, interviewed about who we are and what we contribute and feel about being apart of the community of Niagara and photographed to commemorate this special day.

I felt special and important, something we should all feel.  I know that each day can be a challenge with where my life is right now, but now I know if I take a breath I can take each day as an opportunity to grow and evolve into the woman I am destined to be.  The ‘Me’ today is pretty awesome, but I strive to always grow into my best version, moulded by the trials, failures and successes I have experienced to date.

I am a work in progress and you know what that is OK, we all are, us Company of Women.

Thank you ladies for welcoming me and making feel like I am a part of something special, we all are ‘Women of Niagara’ and for that I am grateful and humbled.

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For complete coverage and pics, please click’s wonderful write up here: Women of Niagara.

Until we meet again, love and light I send to all of you ❤

Love Always,

Dina xxoo




Somebody’s Cooking in the Kitchen with Dina

Bacon crackling and popping while frying in the pan, fresh coffee percolating and hissing with every whir, Conway Twitty playing on the radio, toast popping in the toaster, dancing and twirling with my Mom in the kitchen, and most importantly laughter.

These are my sights, sounds and smells of my childhood, memories I still cherish to this day.  These Sunday morning family breakfasts were some of the rare times I felt like I could just be a kid and not a mini adult that had to worry if my Dad had taken his heart medication, or if today would be the day the big heart attack would come and he would be taken from us forever.  Big responsibility and burden for an 9 year old don’t you think?

I never knew my father healthy, he had his first open heart surgery when I was 4 years old. With a large age difference amongst myself and my siblings, I essentially grew up as an only child.

My reality was different than most kids.  But, I have to say it was through these ‘differences’ I was molded into the woman I am today; strong, compassionate, loving, a never quit attitude and a love for cooking!

My Mom immigrated to Canada when she was a young teenager from the Netherlands. Trying to assimilate into Canadian culture was overwhelming and scary for her and her family understandably. But there was one thing they held onto, their European values and traditions.  These very traditions were naturally passed down to all 9 of us kids.

Like most European families, EVERY life event is and will always be centered around food. Glorious, delicious, decadent, lip smacking good food. Mmmmmmmm

It was in these precious moments of watching my mother take just basic ingredients and with what seemed like magic in my little mind, create a wonderment of smells and tastes that would make anyone’s mouth water with anticipation.  With every chair I pulled up next to my Mom, I got a front row seat into the world of dollops, smidgens, pinches and sautes.  Waffles, pancakes, pot roasts, apple fritters, oliebolen, croquets, homemade mac and cheese, lasagna, chicken devan and, and well the list could go on forever.

As I think about all of these moments and tastes we shared, one word always comes to mind, HOME.

Now since, I did invite you to come along on my journey called my crazy life, it would be rude of me if I didn’t invite you in for a little something to eat.

So pull up a seat, pass the bread and let me share some of my favorite recipes that were either passed down to me from my Mom or ones I had picked up on my own.

So from my home to yours, here is our first dish:

Homemade Potato Gnocchi with a Pancetta White Wine Cream Sauce

Before I begin, I am a cook who well ‘cooks’ by feel, that is how my Mother taught me, and her Mother taught her and her Mother and so on.  So my recipes may not always have exact measurements but a round about amount.  I do however invite you to take any and all recipes that I will be sharing with you and make them your own, add or subtract any flavours or ingredients that would better suit and please your families pallet.

So let’s begin:                     



4-6 Russet Potatoes

2 Eggs


Dried Basil

Dried Oregano

Dried Parsley

Salt & Pepper

Pancetta White Wine Cream Sauce

100 grams Pancetta cubed

3 shallots

2 cloves of garlic finely chopped

3/4 cup Sliced Crimini Mushrooms

White Wine

Chicken Stock

Heavy Cream

Dried Parsley

Dried Basil

Dried Oregano

Salt & Pepper

1/2 cup Shredded Asiago Cheese

1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese


Take the 4 – 6 Russet potatoes, peel and rough chop and toss into boiling salted water, boil until tender.  Drain well and mash, add the dried herbs and salt & pepper to taste.  Set aside to cool.  Once cooled add the 2 eggs and keep adding flour until the mixture makes a bread dough consistency.  I find my hands work the best, they are your best tools in the kitchen after all.  Roll the dough out onto a floured cutting board or counter.  Slice the dough into 1 cm thick strips, roll each strip into a log.  Cut each log into 1 – 2 cm in diameter pieces.  Once they are all cut, drop them into boiling salted water until they float, around 2 minutes.  Drain and add to sauce.  Toss them around the sauce until they are fully coated.


Chop the shallots, pancetta and crimini mushrooms.  On medium high heat, heat some olive oil in a pan and add the shallots.  Once they become translucent, add the mushrooms and garlic.  Saute’ until the mushrooms start to brown, add the pancetta.  Fry until they all start to caramelize.  Deglaze the pan with white wine ( I generally use a chardonnay or sauvignon blanc, which ever you prefer)  Using between 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup.  Reduce the liquid, add 1/2 a cup of chicken broth, reduce some more.  Add the medium size carton of whipping cream, blend and then add both cheeses.  Keep an eye on the sauce so it doesn’t burn or stick, if it looks like it is getting too thick simply either add more wine or chicken stock, or the gnocchi water whatever your taste.  Reduce.  Once it is a bubbling, tasty and rich, add the cooked gnocchi and cook for another 5 minutes or so.  Serve with freshly grated Parmesan and a nice glass of wine if you are so inclined.


Voila, Potato Gnocchi with Pancetta White Wine Cream Sauce.  Bon Appetit!

Now its time for the best part, EATING!

I would love to hear how this turns out for you, or what modifications you made, like adding yams, squash or pumpkin to the gnocchi recipe or instead of using a cream sauce you use a brown butter sage sauce.  The possibilities are endless!

Until we meet again folks, eat, drink and Mangia!





The Life & Times Of A Serial Dieter



Hi, my name is Dina and I am a serial dieter, a statement that I am sure many of you have made at some point in your lives .  I believe I was 13 when I went on my first ‘diet’ as I lived in a house with a mother who was overweight, and some would say obese.  I would watch as she hid food and snuck ‘forbidden’ treats late at night when she thought no one would hear or see.  I thought that this behaviour was normal and common place.  Isn’t this the kind of “healthy” relationship we are supposed to have with our food?

I can lose weight, I have many, many times, more times than I can count, but keeping it off and believing that I deserve to be healthy and happy has been another story.

I have been able to see firsthand the positive effects that having a supportive network of like-minded individuals can have not only on your business, but for a powerful way of life. This is what I am seeking to achieve for myself with all of you here.

So here we go again, I am starting my journey to a more healthier, stronger and more forgiving version of myself and I am inviting all of you to come along with me.

What makes this time different you ask?

This time and honestly for the first time in my life, I AM DOING IT FOR ME!

Every other time I did it, it was for others.  How others thought of me was so wrapped up in my own impression of my own self worth.

I am worthy of being healthy on my terms and for nobody other than me.

The struggle is real, but I hope to be up to the challenge.

I have embarked on a 3 month meal and workout plan prepared by trainer Josh Hopkins I am not going to lie, this program is intense.  But, there is something you don’t know about me, I am an all or nothing kind of girl.  If I go, I go all in, BUT only if it is a challenge, if its a simple Jane Fonda workout I am not interested.  I need the challenge and structure to keep me interested and motivated to succeed.

Now, learning how to incorporate work/life balance and finally coming to the realization that eating healthy and exercising is not a punishment, but a gift to give is an ongoing inner battle, but I am working through it every broccoli stalk and painful, sweaty workout at a time.

So this is where I get very real with all of you.  To make me completely accountable and motivate me even further to succeed, I have decided to post my weight, measurements and before pics right here for all of you to see.  Being this vulnerable is very scary for me as I have a need to be in control, some would call this being a ‘control freak’ I like to call it having a powerful influence on the outcome of situations within my control 😛

So here goes:

Weight: 247 lbs

Right bicep: 13 inches

Bust: 46 inches

Waist: 44 inches

Hips: 49 inches

I will be giving you updates every month to let you know how my progress is going.  If any of you are embarking or have embarked on a similar journey, I would love to hear about it.

They say a journey begins with just a single step; well this girl for the next three months at least will be carrying a dumbbell with every one!

Haters Gonna Hate Yo

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Keyboard warriors, cyber bullies, trolls no matter what you call them, they are all the same, haters whose life mission is to spread misery wherever they go.

It has been brought to my attention recently while watching a close friend of mine deal with these “trolls” online how destructive it can be both mentally and in some cases financially dealing with these keyboard warriors.

With the advent of the internet and the anonymity it brings, faceless figures behind their computer screens have taken it upon themselves to voice their level of online justice onto the cyber-world;  “Justice” being hatred.

Now I am going to approach this topic two fold, both from a personal and a professional perspective.

To begin, I am human just like the next guy or gal.  When I see the out and out hate fueled vile that some of these individuals spew on both theirs and other people’s social media pages, chat rooms, message boards etc. hoping to gaslight reactions from any and all that dare to enter thunderdome with them, I too get my back up and want to take them on with all of my might just like the next person.  BUT, after working in the online, digital world for some time, I have been able to come to the conclusion on a couple of things.


Let me explain, trolls have a predetermined agenda and no matter what you say or what you do, they will NEVER listen or change their propaganda or position on any and all conversations they participate in!  Let me repeat, YOU WILL NEVER change their point of view EVER!

As most of us do, when we participate in a debate whether it be online or in person, we use knowledge, opinion, information, perspective and logic to support and demonstrate what position we are presenting.  However, when you are dealing with a cyber bully, all of these elements will have no effect, as they operate from an irrational position where logic has no place.  They don’t care what you say, they will ALWAYS disagree and in turn attack you as a person, gender, race, age and or any other social signifiers to break you down and discredit you.  So basically its a losing battle.

Second, the best approach I have found to deal with them is simply resist the urge to enter into an online war with them. Simply chose to ignore, delete their comments and block them.  If nobody participates in the hate, they will have no one to play with and nobody to help them perpetuate their propaganda.

At the end of the day, participating in these online wars just fuels these warriors to dig in deeper and continue perpetuating their hate because they got what they wanted; you to react.  The anxiety, stress and negativity it brings is just not worth it in my opinion.  If you must say something to prove your point by all means do, but then walk away and leave it at that.

Now from a professional level, I wanted to broach this topic from what a small business owner should do when they encounter negative criticism online.

What I have encountered are two types of negative criticisms when it comes to online platforms for small business owners:

  1. Genuine negative customer feedback
  2. Online cyber bullying

Genuine customer feedback is something that happens much more frequently when it comes to small business owners. Social media has become the direct line of communication between business and customer.  Customers generally will jump on Twitter or Facebook to lodge a complaint about a business rather than pick up the phone and call.  This is why it is so imperative that someone is actively monitoring what is being said about you and your business online.  The best way to deal with negative criticisms is to take this negative as an opportunity to shine.

What I mean by this is, when a customer posts on your Facebook page for example, that they waited forever to get the product they ordered from you and when it came it was broken, you can either chose to ignore it, delete it or become defensive in how you respond. Or you can take this as an opportunity to show not only the customer but every follower you have your outstanding customer service and transparency.

In my opinion, the best way a small business should react to a negative comment is:

  1. Apologize for their bad experience
  2. Validate what they are feeling
  3. Rectify and offer a solution to their experience
  4. Apologize again and reiterate that you will take the necessary steps to ensure this does not happen again

Following these steps, will allow you to take a negative situation and turn it into a positive solution for this customer and everyone who will view the interaction.  As a result, they may become one of your biggest cheerleaders because of how you handled the situation.

Second, cyber bullies and small business owners are not as frequent  but they do happen. It can be a little trickier to deal with because as a business you want to remain transparent.

My suggestion is to take the steps I have outlined above, if they continue to attack you give them a warning that if they continue to be belligerent, profane or vulgar, you will take action to block them for the protection of all of your followers.  If they do not heed your warning and continue  by all means block them, after all it is your page and you are in control of what is said on it.

At the end of the day, both personally and professionally how you use social media is up to you and how you allow others to influence your experience online is also up to you.  Why not make it a positive experience and let the haters know they have no place in your cyberspace.