growing the Chocolatour brand

by WizardOfWords on April 28, 2015


When I embarked on the project of writing a book about the world of fine chocolate in 2009, I had no idea that chocolate would become my life. I had no idea that one volume would turn into a series of three, that I would begin doing chocolate events around the world, and that I would become Doreen the Chocolate Queen. It’s all happened, and I’m thrilled, because I’m doing what I love to do: sharing my passion, knowledge of and enthusiasm for the world of fine/artisanal chocolate with fellow chocolate lovers and travel enthusiasts.

A lovely BMO employee helps serve the wine during the recent Chocolate & Wine Pairing event in Winnipeg.

A lovely BMO employee helps serve the wine during the recent Chocolate & Wine Pairing event in Winnipeg.

I’ve been a speaker at the Hawaii Chocolate Festival, a judge at the Puerto Viejo Chocolate Festival in Costa Rica, have now coordinated six chocolate dinners in the Community Classroom of McNally Robinson (we have the next dinner planned for September 19th and a larger chocolate dinner in the works), and this week, hosted my first chocolate and wine pairing event for a corporate group. It was well received, and we are already planning the next event for the fall.

I’m continuing to research volume II of Chocolatour, and next week, will be in Mexico on a long overdue return trip. I really don’t remember the last time I was in Mexico it’s been so long ago.

Hawaii Chocolatour flatsheet - itinerary

And I’ve engaged in a partnership with CAA Travel to host a Chocolatour to Hawaii in October to celebrate Hawaii Chocolate & Cocoa Month. It’s going to be an amazing trip, and will enable me to expand on the research I’ve already done for the chapter I will be writing on Hawaiian chocolate in volume II of Chocolatour.

Why is all this important? Because it’s made me realize the potential in what I am doing. My primary focus is the research and writing of the best chocolate travel books on the planet. But all the other opportunities that have come my way as a result of that are equally important and exciting. And they’ve made me realize that it’s not about selling books. That’s important to me, but not nearly as important as connecting with people and sharing my knowledge, passion, and enthusiasm for the world of fine chocolate–in whatever way best suits my audience.

In the next short while, you will see my three blogs converge into one site, that will have a tab for the writer’s lifestyle posts you find on this blog, the (chocolate) travel posts you find on and the posts about the chocolate events and books at

Thanks so much for your support and enthusiasm over the past six years. I couldn’t have made it this far without you!



cultural highlights of Winnipeg

by WizardOfWords on April 13, 2015


A huge congrats to the Winnipeg Jets hockey team for making the NHL playoffs! Fans in the Manitoba capital have not seen big-league playoff hockey since 1996, and they have been going crazy with anticipation, as the Jets gear up for the first round of playoffs.

The cast of the Rat Pack is Back!

The cast of The Rat Pack is Back!

Whether you’re a hockey fan or not, you can’t help but feel the excitement. The subject even came up at yesterday’s performance of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra (WSO) where the Rat Pack is Back! re-enactors dazzled the crowd with songs from Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, and Joey Bishop look/sound alikes. It was a most enjoyable concert.

I love the way the WSO has created an assortment of concert series to appeal to different kinds of music lovers. There is the traditional Classics series in which you are exposed to an array of classical music from composers that include Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, and Handel. There are also Kids Concerts and WSO Music Festivals. And there is the Pops series of concerts sponsored by Air Canada.

I really love the Pops series because it provides you with a little bit of everything. Next season’s Pops looks like a winner, with the Best of Rufus Wainwright, Cirque Mechanics that features some dazzling acrobats and contortionists performing to the an assortment of classical masterpieces, and the one I’m really excited about … Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band next April, in which a fresh treatment of Beatles favourites will undoubtedly take me and the rest of the audience on a wonderfully colourful ethereal journey!

Another one of my favourite cultural indulgences in Winnipeg is Prairie Theatre Exchange (PTE), where this week, I’ll be attending what’s said to be a hilarious rendition of The Hound of Baskervilles. You get so close to the performers at PTE that you can practically touch them in the intimate setting of the 323-seat theatre. Quite different than the more elaborate performances staged at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre. I could go on, but I think you get the picture! Winnipeg is a small city with a big appetite for all things cultural.

If you live in Manitoba, what’s your favourite cultural event in Winnipeg? If you live outside of Manitoba, what is at the cultural heart of your own city? Let’s talk about culture in centres large and small. And please join us back here the week of April 27th for our next new post.



embracing the changing roles of our lives

by WizardOfWords on March 31, 2015


Infant. Child. Student. We’ve all been there. It’s after the school years, that our lives take off in different and varying directions, formulating the person we are today.

Doreen at 2

Doreen, age 2.

My mother died when I was just 13 years of age, morphing my tween years into that of a live-in maid. I had to learn how to cook and do housework early in life, as my brother was already living away from the family home, and my father was still working full-time, and had not previously ever had to attend to household chores prior to my mother’s passing. Together, we learned how to cope and survive the most significant change in our lives.

That prepared me well for my next major role in life. That of a wife. I married at the early age of 19, most probably driven by the desire to leave the family home. It’s not that I didn’t love my husband-to-be, but I think had circumstances been different, we would have taken our time in marrying, and I would have completed the degree I was engaged in at the University of Winnipeg.

Instead, I embarked on my next role–that of a gainfully employed woman. I began working for a large but local corporation in an entry level job, but over the course of nearly 18 years, acquired a significant amount of formal education (sponsored by my employer) which elevated my position to a fairly senior one by the time I took a severance package and opted for voluntary leave in 1993.

At that time, I embraced the role of entrepreneur, and became a self-employed communications consultant and freelance writer. My life has never been the same! No more stable income or health benefits. But a lot more freedom with my time, providing me with the opportunity to volunteer, travel, pursue my passions, and nurture and develop my skills as a professional writer.

Throughout my life, the role of caregiver has been prevalent. First, to my father who developed Alzheimer’s Disease in the late 1980’s, and passed from it and associated illness in 1994. And later, to my cousin, who was dying from cancer, my aunt who suffered from severe dementia, and more recently, to my loving (second) husband who is 25 years my senior and now suffering from the ailments of his age.

Wedding Day

My wedding day with Reg, May 27, 1995.

Each of these roles has taught me so much, and sculpted me into the person I am today, and for that, I am grateful.

Have you taken time to reflect on the changing roles of your own life? Have there been monumental occasions that forever changed your life, created new opportunities and challenges and set you on a new, unexpected path?

I’ve written this post because I am embracing the changes that have resulted in my life due to circumstances beyond my control. I am choosing to find happiness in places that cause others to leave. And I am hopeful that someone reading this may find the courage to do the same.

Please join me back here the week of April 13th for our next new post.



the importance of a good night’s sleep

by WizardOfWords on March 16, 2015


The good folks at the Casper Mattress Company sent me an e-mail asking me what type of sleeper I am, and having had discussions recently with friends about our inability to get a good night’s sleep got me thinking it might make for an interesting blog post.

Casper Mattress Sleepers

The graphics are fun and well done. There’s no question. I’m a “Cat Napper” as our cat Jimmy does indeed sleep on my head! What type of sleeper are you?

Do you have trouble sleeping? Is it because of your bed? Because of your time of life? (It’s well known that seniors have trouble sleeping through the night, and that women going through menopause also have difficulty getting a restful sleep.) Stress and diet can also affect our ability to get a good night’s sleep.

Jimmy sleeping

I admire cats for their ability to sleep. Here’s a great shot of Jimmy sleeping on the incredibly comfortable beds at Spirit Ridge Vineyard Resort. Definitely a “Bed Hogger!” And you can tell he sure was enamoured with the goose feather duvets.

But cats seem to be able to sleep any time, any where, don’t they? We should be so lucky!

I know that ambient light also affects my sleep. I cover the light on our digital clock, as that prevents me from sleeping. My husband has severely reduced night vision, so we keep a night light on in the kitchen for him. It helps him, but the light that filters into our bedroom from that prevents me from going into a deep sleep.

We’re told that on the average, we sleep away 26 years of our lives! That’s an incredible amount of time to be catching Z’s!

Do you have a secret to helping you get a deep and restful sleep? Please share! We all learn so much from one another on this blog and I thank you for that.

And then please join us back here the week of March 30th for our next new post. Tip: If you subscribe to the blog in the column to the right, you’ll never miss a post! Thanks, and may your next sleep be a restful one! 



the importance of trust

by WizardOfWords on March 1, 2015


Thanks so much to everyone who participated in our discussion on the previous post about gratitude. It was a good one. (It’s not too late to share your thoughts on that one if you’d like.)

In today’s post, I’d like to talk about the importance of trust in our lives and relationships.

To trust means to put one’s faith in someone or something. To have confidence in someone or something. To be free of doubt or suspicion.

A terrific quote about trust by Ralph Waldo Emerson, a 19th century American poet, resonated with me: “Self-trust is the first secret to success.” So true! If we don’t have trust in ourselves, no one else will trust us either. And if no one has faith in our abilities, we are highly unlikely to succeed.

So trust begins at home–within ourselves. But it is so important to be sure that we trust those in our immediate lives and show them that we have that trust. Remember the old adage, Show Don’t Tell. Our actions speak louder than words, and when action we take implies a lack of trust, it plants the seed for a reciprocal lack of trust. And a spiral of darkness often results that is the beginning of the end–to a business relationship, a friendship, or a marriage.

I really think that people take the virtue of trust too lightly. At least some people do, and the result is that some people make their way through life never learning how to put their faith in someone or how to completely trust someone.

I may be naive in some regards when it comes to trust. But I would rather be trusting, and get the occasional (virtual) bruise, than live my life by infusing doubt and suspicion into my relationships–whether they be business or personal.

Let’s talk about trust. Have you found a lack of trust changed the way you felt about someone? Or created an inability to work or live with someone? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

If you’re ever looking for a complete list of virtues, you’ll find it at this site. And if you’re looking for more in-depth discussions on virtues, Stacey Porto has a great site in Virtues for Life.

Please join us back here the week of March 15th for our next new post.




my 10 catalysts of gratitude

by WizardOfWords on February 17, 2015


It’s been a tough winter in many parts of the world. So I’m bringing you a post to help focus on the important–and small things alike–that bring us happiness and for which we are grateful.

10 things I am grateful for

1. The love and support of my husband and friends. I feel so blessed to have terrific friends (many of whom have been with me through almost every stage of my life) and a husband who believes in me.


2. A terrific cat that makes me smile every day. Those of you who know me well know that Jimmy is the light of my life.

3. A safe and comfortable home with terrific tasting clean water. It’s not elaborate or extravagant, but our home is cozy, safe, and comfortable and we have the BEST water! I don’t know about you, but every day after my shower (or bath), I thank God for it. I’m not a religious person, but somehow having access to good, clean water is almost spiritual to me and something for which I am extremely grateful.

4. The ability and opportunity to travel frequently. My life has been so enriched, and my own world so expanded from the experiences I have gained through travel.

5. Work that I love. Being able to combine my passions for interesting people, travel, and writing into a viable career is the best gift ever!

6. Enough intelligence to enable me to engage in conversation in most circles. Nothing fuels my soul more than talking to others and seeing what makes them tick.

7. A reasonably healthy body and mind. My small aches or discomforts are nothing compared to those of others.

8. A good example to follow from my parents. My mother with respect to being social and loving people, and my father with respect to having confidence and being determined.

9. An adventurous spirit. No explanation required. :-)

10.  A developed palate that enables me to appreciate flavours. I admit to being a lover of fine food, wine, and chocolate!


How about you? Have you taken the time to reflect on the things that bring you happiness and help you feel gratitude?

I’ll close with this inspirational quote from Anthony Robbins that came to me yesterday via Twitter.

“When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears.”

I’ll be grateful if you join me back here the week of March 2nd for our next new post.



finding your happy place

by WizardOfWords on February 5, 2015


I’ve just returned home from a month’s retreat at a lovely and serene wine resort in British Columbia. Somehow, I’d wished I never had to leave this peaceful place, as it was stress free and a place that enriched my soul and rejuvenated my spirit. I was in a truly happy place.

Spirit Ridge

Returning home was not as difficult as I’d feared. Our weather in Manitoba has not been as severe as it could have been for the dead of winter.  We have had a lot of sun this past week, and as I know how much sunshine fuels my spirit, that has been a blessing as well. My husband and cat also seem to have settled back into life in Matlock with ease, so all is well.

It got me thinking about happiness, and how some people search forever trying to find their happy place–whether that be a physical place that they think will make them happy, a certain level of prestige and wealth that they think will bring them happiness, or a certain someone that they they will be the answer to their prayers and the end of any dark cycle they may be going through.

I think we all agree that the song, “Happy” by Pharrell Williams hits the mark on making us feel happy. The beat. The images of people doing joyous things. The encouragement it provides. No wonder this video has had close to 400 million hits!

How do you find your happy place? What do you do to get or be happy?

Please share your thoughts on finding your happy place. We’ve had some amazing discussions on this blog and I’m confident we’re in for another one!

Then please join us back here the week of February 16th for our next new post.





the need to rejuvenate

by WizardOfWords on January 22, 2015


I have spent the month of January at a wine resort in the South Okanagan Valley of British Columbia. I chose Spirit Ridge for this retreat because of its remote location and serene setting.

I took this shot from the plane window on a recent trip. It symbolizes the spirit of rejuvenation to me.

I took this shot from the plane window on a recent trip. It symbolizes the spirit of rejuvenation to me.

Being here has made me slow down and actually have a relaxing vacation, versus the fast-paced trips I am usually engaged in with my work and research as a freelance writer and author. We have now been here nearly three weeks and the idea of going home doesn’t appeal for a number of reasons:

1. The weather. Although it hasn’t been as warm here as is usual for the month of January, it has been considerably warmer than my home province of Manitoba.

2. The scenery. The Okanagan Valley is a tremendously beautiful place at any time of year, with its mountains, valleys, lakes, vineyards, and orchards.

3. The pace. Osoyoos is a sleepy haven for Canadian snowbirds from the Prairies who just want to escape the chill of winter and enjoy some fun and beauty while they’re at it.

4. My need for rejuvenation has not yet been fully fulfilled. I am happy, relaxed, and at peace. What will it be like to go back to the stress of trying to build my brand and further forge a path for Chocolatour in the niche of chocolate travel?

What does it mean to rejuvenate? Words that had initially come to my mind were:

to rescue, to rest and relax, to retreat, to renovate.

Other words lists in the definition on my online dictionary include:

to give new life to, to reclaim or recondition, to regenerate or revitalize, rehab, to reinvigorate or renew.

It seems they all apply in one form or another.

Have you gone through a period of rejuvenation? Are you in dire need of one?

What have you done to successfully rejuvenate yourself or your spirit?

I look forward to the discussion, and to joining you back here next month in a revitalized, reinvigorated, and refocused state of mind.




setting goals for 2015

by WizardOfWords on January 8, 2015


Happy New Year to all!

This amazing image welcomes you as you make the ascent to the Spirit Ridge Vineyard Resort & Spa

This amazing image welcomes you as you make the ascent to the Spirit Ridge Vineyard Resort & Spa

Right now, I’m sitting at Spirit Ridge Vineyard Resort & Spa in Osoyoos, BC, enjoying 4 weeks of rest and rejuvenation. I learned long ago to listen to my body, and it’s been telling me to get out of my usual environ, and just chill. We’ve been here 5 days now and I’m finally starting to feel the effects of this peaceful and serene setting. I therefore feel I’ve already achieved goal number one for 2015.

Here’s the list of goals I’ve set for myself for 2015:

1. To get more in tune with my spirit and let it guide me.

2. To continue to market my expertise as a chocolate writer and speaker.

3. To expand my network in the world of artisanal chocolate.

4. To establish chocolate travel as a new niche for women and lovers of fine chocolate.

5. To forge strategic partnerships that will enable me to achieve the above goals.

Those are the primary goals I have set for myself in 2015. With your help and support, I will achieve them.

Please like, share this post, and if you haven’t already, please subscribe to this blog and/or to my chocolate travel blog. Thanks!

And now, please share with me one of your goals for 2015, and how I can help you achieve it. And then please join us back here the week of January 19th for our next new post.



10 Most Important Things I learned in 2014

by WizardOfWords on December 23, 2014


2014 was a year of mixed feelings for me. My husband was critically ill from June through July, and I almost thought we were going to lose him. But he recovered, and the second half of 2014 was filled with much joy.

This is Reg in August, as his bout with diverticulitis had been successfully dealt with.

This is Reg in August, after his bout with diverticulitis had been successfully dealt with.

As this is the final post I will be writing for this blog this year, I’d like to share the 10 most important things I learned in 2014:

1. Having a really good doctor help gets you through the most trying times. My husband adores his doctor, and we are still making the 45-minute drive each way so that he can see Dr. Wiebe. Having a doctor you know and trust is especially critical when you have an unexplained condition in which the physician must partner with specialists and help you jump the queue to get faster medical service.

2. Good things can come out of tragedies. Through my husband’s illness, I learned I had much more fortitude than I was aware of. And I think the difficulties we encountered brought forth a deeper level of respect and appreciation for one another.

3. Hard work pays off. Self-publishing my book, “Chocolatour: A Quest for the world’s Best Chocolate” has been an amazing experience. But my hard work and professional partnerships rewarded me with an international award for my book. I won a bronze medal in the 2014 Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards. That has truly been the highlight of my writing career (to date!)


4.  A good book doesn’t sell itself. Getting good reviews and winning an award will not sell a book by itself. You’ve really got to market your book–and yourself as an author–in order to keep your book on the minds of people, so that when they are ready to buy, they think of you!

5. Being active and effective on social media takes a lot of time and effort. But it is essential to building my author’s platform and enables me to expand my reach and meet many of the fascinating people in the world of fine chocolate who are being profiled on my chocolate travel blog, and in my book.

6. That I really need to establish a mailing of people interested in my work as a chocolate writer, blogger, expert, speaker, and tour guide. I’ve heard it said by every expert in the marketing field: you need to create an e-newsletter to connect with your tribe, readers, and audience. I resolve to work on this next month, and hope to have the inaugural edition out in early February.

7. That the expression of gratitude is one of the most import virtues one can possess. I’ve really learned how important it is to appreciate everyone and everything good in my life. Have you?

8. I learned that I have pretty good intuitive powers when it comes to reading people. This was really reinforced by an unfortunate situation in my writing world. Trust your instincts!

9. I learned that as an extrovert, blogging provides a terrific outlet for my thoughts, feelings, and knowledge. Come February, I will have been blogging for  six years! Yes, this blog was launched in Feb, 2009, and I’ve stuck to a twice-monthly posting schedule ever since launching the travel blog as a separate entity. But I still love it!

10. I learned that blogging is meaningless unless there is a conversation going on. So I really appreciate everyone who reads, shares, and comments on my posts. Without you, I’d be talking into the wind, and that’s no fun!

I hope that 2014 provided some meaningful lessons for you as well. Please share! What is the most important thing you learned this year?


I look forward to continuing our discussion and our community in 2015. Until then, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and thanks very much to everyone who has been a part of my personal and professional life. This blog is a blend of both, and being a Gemini, that feels good. :-)