Saturday, March 17, 2018

A Colourful Adult Life

I remember back when...  Oh why do we always start sentences like that? As we write those four words, there is an immediate wave of emotion that hits us, well, it does for me. I sigh, get a little weepy and then realize it's OK to long for the past, especially when these moments were really pleasant. I just know that I cannot dwell on them because no matter what Zoltar fortune teller machine (remember the movie BIG?)  I wish actually existed (obviously in the opposite way to stay young!) or the countless times I could chant what age I want to be again, like in 13 Going On 30, reality sets in and I cannot turn back the hands of time.

It's refreshing that in adulthood a lot of us can enjoy the simple pleasures of colouring, drawing, and even playing with Legos! There's no "right" age for anything, although it's funny when suggested ages on toys or colouring books state "ages 5 and up" and here I am tickled pink that i'm enjoying them too at age...37! 

I realize that for a while and still today in 2018, the adult colouring book is a very "trendy" hobby. I dislike some trends to be honest because they can be so disposable. Once it becomes "uncool" to do something, to wear a certain style or to eat a particular food, there is this sudden amount of guilt that you need to change and not like these things anymore. Why? Who made those rules? Oh ya, society. If i'm into something, why do I have to just pretend it doesn't exist or add value to my life?  Well hate to break the news to ya, but i'm not going to wear triple high-waisted jeans, i'm not going to brush my teeth with activated charcoal, nor am I going to start drinking kombucha with every meal.  Now in case you are starting to get offended or already feel offended, try to step away from that frame of thinking for a moment. These are current "trends" i'm mentioning, so if you love your triple high waisted jeans, wear them with pride! 

Back to colouring.  Recently while going for a trip to Dollarama with Bill, we were walking around and just needed to pick up "a snack." This of course usually turns into a walk-about throughout the store.  I didn't buy the colouring book on the basis that "everyone is doing it, so I should too," but for the simple reason of trying to add more self-care into my life. The last few months have been difficult. February was quite a bit of a sh!t storm to say the least, and sadly I am dealing with some pretty persistent nerve discomfort/damage along my spine and neck, which has come with an array of symptoms, so managing my stress has been paramount.

Adult colouring does have some scientific evidence. As always, not one hobby fits all. If you recall, when my dad got sick, adult-colouring was recommended to help in his recovery. He tried it a few times, but I honestly don't think it meshed with his interests. Here are a few benefits that have been noted though:
  • Helps to relieve anxiety and stress (who couldn't use a bit of that?) 
  • Promotes concentration
  • Allows you to be "present" in the moment, similar to meditation 
  • Relaxes the amygdala  due to the repetitive motion
I've been setting aside time away to do a little Colour Therapy. I find it quite enjoyable and it does help to a certain extent for me to get out panic mode and be in a calmer state. This is the first book I'm working on:

Book and coloured pencils
All finished

Working on this one now

You can  find hundreds of different books online at Amazon and other retailers. Also, just Google "adult colouring sheets" and if you prefer, you can print them out as well.

Feel free to e-mail me some of your lovely colouring creations, or just leave me a note on my blog, letting me know what kinds of hobbies you enjoy to tackle stress and how you find a bit more peace in your everyday life.

Happy colouring! 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

The human touch of VNV Nation - Victory Not Vengeance

Photo Credit:

Last night, I was listening to In Defiance, one of my many favourite songs from VNV Nation's Of Faith, Power and Glory album.

Other personal favourites are  Illusion,  PerpetualGratitudeBeloved and Arena.

Within a moment, I was transported back to my days at University, where I took an intro music course. We listened and analyzed music from the tin pan alley era, all the way to electrifying sounds of Led Zeppelin. Our final assignment was to choose any artist/band from any era, and explain why/why not we would consider them a hegemonic force in the music industry. Many students chose icons like Elvis, Madonna or The Beatles. Of course, I chose something rather different; VNV Nation.

I kept this piece of work that I wrote around 2007 and wanted to share on my blog because I was really proud of it. You can see how outdated it is, as I mention "MySpace" but at the time, it was a very powerful media tool.  I also sent a personal note, as well as this enclosed essay to Ronan Harris (lead of VNV Nation) and his partner at the time, Mark Jackson, eons ago, in hopes they may have read it. I'm not sure if it ever reached either of their hands, or it was stacked in the PR bunch.  I'm sure like most artists are sent thousands of e-mails, letters, essays, photos, and more notes of appreciation and gratitude that they could even sift through. However, you know me, i'm that letter-writing kind of muse, so I like to express myself through words and without getting into all the gory details of my battles an traumas, Ronan left a rather large imprint in my heart, in you know.... that life-altering way.

I could blabber on, but I think I will end this here. Below you can read my essay, if you wish to! PS. I got an A from my prof at the time. ;)

A hegemonic force: VNV Nation 

VNV Nation may not be a well-known mainstream band, but they have taken a path on which many other groups have been afraid to travel given the competitive nature of the music business.  They have gone their own way by structuring innovative approaches to success.  For this reason, I have chosen them as my essay subject.

Antonio Gramsci’s argument about hegemonic forces states that “new technologies and structures of control by the state and entertainment industries also generate new forms of cultural and political opposition.”  Using his concept, VNV Nation would be considered a hegemonic force.  While they were a part of the entertainment empire at the beginning of their career, they rebelled and are trying to create a new form of musical leadership.

In my analysis, I will look at a number of factors that support my position.  The group name itself has become their signifier of change. I will discuss the creation of their own record label and the musical genre known as Futurepop.   The polysemic nature of their lyrics has allowed powerful messages to be included in their songs that can reach audiences directly through advances in the use of Internet technology in distribution.

VNV Nation is comprised of Irish born-Ronan Harris who is the lead vocalist, composer and lyricist while English born-Mark Jackson played live drums.

VNV Nation's motto itself is their mission statement. The initials of the band stand for “Victory Not Vengeance.” According to their official website, the phrase demands that “one should strive to achieve, not sit in bitter regret.”  The use of the word “victory” is very significant.  It brings forward the image of a war-like battle in which they are empowered to change the music business using their new ideology.  They are casting aside the traditional recording industry approach to end the dominance of the cultural industry.

Like other musical artists and groups, VNV Nation relied at the beginning of their career on record companies to distribute their music. It is very difficult for an artist to develop a unique identity other than the prevailing one or to maintain a high quality level because of the structure of the music business and the necessity to conform. “Major labels work like a stock company to deliver a product which means you're not there to be creative, you're there to produce hits that sell and unless you sell over a certain amount, they dump you.”

The industry is a business after all and there is a need to generate profit by minimizing risk. As their career progressed, VNV Nation became unwilling to conform to mainstream beliefs, values and aesthetics or to be under the control of the musical “gatekeepers” who were interested in a manufactured sound and image. They felt restricted in their ability to express their musical talent.

Over time, VNV Nation developed a different philosophy. “Our aim was to reach people in our own way, not by compromising or selling out.”   Previously, they signed on to record labels such as a German label, Off Beat, and subsequently to Dependent Records. The irony in that Label’s name is obvious.  Dependency was something that VNV Nation wished to avoid.

 In 2002, VNV Nation reached a climactic point in their career when the contract with Dependent ended.  In 2003, they formed their own label called Anarchron Sounds where they gained creative control of their music and accomplished their goal of becoming independent.   They could now determine for themselves how the music would sound, what the lyrics said and what would be shown on album covers.   They could become trend-setters instead of followers as their producers and the record companies wanted them to be.

The conflict between the old regime and the new is pointed out dramatically once again, by the use of language by VNV Nation. Their old record label explained the breakup by saying that they elected “to place the professional and personal integrity of the label and management first.”  VNV Nation entitled one of the songs with their new label, Honour.  Ronan wrote in the lyrics:

“The way was clear to rebuild this land
Shall I call on you to guide me well?
To see our hopes and dreams fulfilled?”

VNV Nation have been influenced by many bands such as Kraftwerk, Depeche Mode, Human League as well as classical music and Irish folk songs which are part of Ronan's heritage. The earlier sounds of synth pop and electronic incorporated synthesizers and technology to enhance a new quality of vocals and replace the traditional instruments that were once used.  The sound of electronic music had “opened the minds to the possibility that supposedly dehumanizing machine might actually make us more human.”  Initially, VNV was categorized as part of the popular genre EBM – Electronic Body Music. But that did not satisfy them.  As the new sound evolved, Ronan wanted “to call this music something else than EBM.”   He wanted to create for VNV Nation a futuristic sound. With this idea in mind, he coined the term “Futurepop” which brought a new following and genre to the music scene.

Lyrics need to move people in emotional ways.  “Musical instruments are merely tools used to produce sounds. It is up to the artist to do something musical with these instruments.”  The interpretation and powerful messages in VNV Nation’s lyrics signify spiritual personal growth and social empowerment for those who are tired of being dominated by mainstream society.

There is great debate about what the lyrics of VNV Nation represent.  Some people believe that the common thread in their music is issues about war, politics and social justice. That would be too simplistic and superficial a view. “Hardship is always going to be the best stimulus for great music.” Ronan goes beyond the surface with symbolism and spirituality, which are woven through each song.  A common theme is to find one’s way without losing one’s own sense of self. This can be accomplished through internal change or rejecting the forces in society that seems to have a hold on one’s happiness.

The lyrics in their song “Fearless” are a prime example:
“I am not alone. I am not afraid. I am not unhappy
Such a stupid ritual to have to say to myself everyday
I'm not alone but I found my answer and set myself free.”

This language conveys the thought of being forced to adopt an ideology that one does not believe in but is forced to accept on consent.  Finally, the individual breaks free.  This can be viewed as an analogy for VNV Nation's struggle with their record label and being unable to express themselves in the manner they wished. They found their answer by forming their own label.

In another song,  “Nemesis” from the album Judgement, released in 2007, the lyrics represent the way the world is seen through someone's eyes, and the idealism of the way that individual would like it to be.

“I want justice for a voice that can't be heard
Vindication for every suffering and hurt.”

VNV Nation has a strong message for people to speak up and follow their hearts instead of being afraid of making changes that and conforming to what is expected of them as members of society. Finally, in order to promote their music to fans commercially yet to maintain their independence and avoid being part of the multi-national music corporation distribution networks, VNV Nation also uses a different approach to get their name out and their music heard. VNV Nation promotes their music using Internet technology.

Reaching their fans in this innovative digital manner, called the information age, is a  low-cost and cost-effective way to do so.  Like other artists and bands, their fan-base and even new comers, can be provided with up-to-date information on upcoming concerts, new releases and media events instantaneously through the promotional tools of mass emails, newsletters, and their official website which is maintained on a regular basis.   VNV Nation has taken it a step further.  They use social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace. The posting of their videos on YouTube by their fans is the essence of viral marketing.  It is taking word-of-mouth marketing to a higher level.  In effect, fans become their Marketing and Public Relations departments to assist in the distribution of their music.  People who otherwise might never hear a band like VNV Nation on a Top 40 radio station since many of the songs would exceed the limit for air time play can now be exposed to their music 7 days a week and 24 hours a day.

In conclusion, there is a powerful aura that surrounds VNV Nation that has allowed them to become successful without a big prestigious label attached to their name.  They have been able to create a new music genre that has gained a respect for them in the electronic industry.  The ability to create beautiful digitally enhanced songs with meaningful lyrics that provoke people to seek change and embrace their individuality requires a hegemonic force like VNV Nation. Lastly, they have demonstrated the ability to display a unity with their fans,  “We are at the end of the day human and that is what we're here to remind people.”


Balliger, Robin.  “Politics,” in Key Terms In Popular Music And Culture, edited by
Bruce Horner and Thomas Swiss, 57-70.  Malden: Blackwell Publishing
Ltd., 2006

Carlsson, Johan. “Spotlight: The Story of VNV Nation.”  Release Music
Magazine. (accessed July 18, 2007)

Dependent Records.  “News [01.02.02].”  Dependent Records. (accessed July 18, 2007)

Horn, Delton T. Digital Electronic Music Synthesizers. Blue Ridge: Tab Books
Inc. 1988

Jo. “VNV Nation.” Hard Wired. (accessed July 18, 2007)

Shapiro, Peter. Modulations; A History Of Electronic Music: Throbbing Words On
Sound.  Edited by Peter Shapiro.  New York, Caipirinha Productions, Inc,

VNV Nation.  “Propaganda.”  VNV Nation. (accessed July 18, 2007)

Update 2018:

Talking about life, Ronan's words of wisdom:

Exercising & Recovery with VON Erie St. Clair Services

Many of you know what happened to my Dad 3 years ago. Life changed dramatically for all of us, but with the amazing on-going care of countless doctors and specialists here in Windsor, as well as the enormous outpouring love and support from our family, friends, and even the kindness of strangers, he beat the odds!

If you click on the link, you can hear some of my Dad's story and how VON Erie St. Clair has helped him in his recovery!

The VON SMART Program (Seniors Maintaining Active Roles Together) is a research and evidence based exercise and fall prevention program provided by the VON Erie St. Clair. SMART is designed for community members 55+ who, regardless of current levels of ability, wish to maintain or are deficit in one or more of the following areas: upper/lower body strength, balance and flexibility. The SMART program is ideal for individuals with barriers to traditional exercise groups due to health issues, mobility restrictions and/or chronic disease.  All of our programs are client-focused, and tailored to the needs of participants.  We include an educational component within our exercise classes detailing falls prevention strategies and interventions to help reduce fall risks. 

If you or someone you love is in need of care and support, contact VON in any of the following areas: Windsor-Essex, Chatham-Kent, Belle-River, Sarnia-Lambton, Pelee Island areas.

Please feel free to share.

*Video credit: Marvin Edward
Physiotherapy/Occupational Therapy Assistant
TEAM LEADER for SMART Exercise & Fall Prevention Program
(Seniors Maintaining Active Roles Together)
VON Canada
400 - 4520 Rhodes Dr.
Windsor, ON   N8W 5C2
Office: (519) 254-9301 Ext. 6240
Toll Free: 1-866-354-4866 Ext. 6240

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day!

Everyone has their own unique recipe for love. 

Simply put, every day is Valentine's Day when you love someone and they love you right back.

Bill, I am so happy we found each other. 

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Recipe time: Flourless Apple Crisp

Baking dish of Flourless Apple Crisp (left)
Portioned individual containers (right)
These are ready for the fridge/freezer.

I am not sure if I am allergic to certain foods or whether I have food intolerances, so I am awaiting an appointment with an allergy specialist in... August. Yep, the wait is long but I really hope I get a call sooner. The IGG testing is confusing, not to mention ridiculously expensive and eliminating a lot of foods from different groups all at once can be very harmful. Some say there is some credibility to these tests to at least give an indication of what foods you may want to try to start eliminating to see if that helps with inflammation, digestion, while others say it's a total sham.

 IGE testing seems to have more validity, but not total accuracy either.  I've been given mixed reactions from numerous health care practitioners on both, so right now I am pretty much on the "flexitarian" side of things, just trying to eat a balanced diet, although I have pretty much cut out most dairy (I love my substitute of Silk almond milk which has high amounts of calcium and protein and other vitamins/minerals!) and have limited red meat to once/twice a week because I find this seems to be helping with digestion.

Anyhow, I really enjoy making healthy treats and even though it's easier to buy a pie from the store or grab cookies off the shelf, I rather make food at home, with the occasional treat out.  So, looking through many sites, I found a great version for a Flourless Apple Crisp that I was able to tweak that was so easy to make, didn't require any sugar (aside from the natural sugar found in apples) and absolutely no flour! To sweeten it up a little bit bit, I did use a little bit no-sugar added jam, but that's totally optional.  You can add any toppings you like before or after too. Of course, this is not going to taste like the usual decadent apple crisp that you'd find in a restaurant, but I've been making this now for a few weeks now and it's pretty delicious and packed with lots of great nutrients, especially fiber from the oats!

What you need:
  • 4-6 medium sized apples of choice
  • 2 cups of oats (quick oats will work best)
  • unsweetened shredded coconut 
  • 1/4 tbsp of butter or margarine 
  • Sprinkle on as much cinnamon as you like
  • 1-2 tsp of oil
  • *optional for more sweetness: a spoonful of jam/syrup/honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Peel and dice apples. Place into your baking dish. This is the most consuming part with peeling the apples so it's always nice to have a helping hand in the kitchen, if possible!

Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine oats, unsweetened shredded coconut, cinnamon, oil and jam (or other alternative as listed above, if desired).

Microwave butter or margarine for about 20-25 seconds (depends on your microwave) or until melted and pour into mixture.

Give it all a good stir. Add more margarine/butter and/or oil if it's still too dry.
Once you like the consistency, pour over the apples, making sure to spread out everything as much as you can to cover all the apples.

Bake for approximately 35 minutes or until the oats have a nice golden brown look.

Serve on its own or add some fresh fruit on top or even some ice cream on the side. You can eat this warm or cold. Also perfect for freezing once cooled.

Serving size is 6-8 depending on how much you fill each container. I used the smaller Rubbermaid containers, so that seemed like an ideal portion size.

Enjoy and make sure to leave me comments or send me an e-mail of your own creations!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

CBC Marketplace: Weighing in on deception

“Honest liars” are everywhere and they are experts in the art of deception! Bill Nuvo knows this, as he is one, being a master magician over the last 30 years.

However, when he is not performing for audiences, his passion is to help others avoid being duped in their every day lives. The most vulnerable population is often seniors, but we can all be fooled at any age. The sad reality is that sometimes we don’t even know it until it’s too late.

The anticipated CBC Marketplace episode with Asha Tomlison that has Bill helping to debunk a scam that even the Dragons' Den investors bought into, will air Friday, February 2, 2018, at 8 pm on CBC!

Click here to view previous episodes:

Stay tuned!

*updated.  here is the video!

Monday, January 29, 2018

Windsor's AVB Podcast

Well hello readers!

Happy January! Hopefully everyone had a relaxing holiday and all the horrible cold and flu bugs circulating didn't knock you down too badly. I've had a lot to blog about, so i'll be sitting down hopefully this week a bit to share my musings with all of you!

For now, I'd like to showcase my wonderful partner, Bill Nuvo!  He had a great opportunity to meet the crew and chat with A.J. Vanden Berghe, who is known for his AVB Podcasts that explore the arts and culture community here in Windsor, Ontario. 

Here is a sneak peek:  Podcast Clip with Bill Nuvo   

The Full podcast episode will be here soon, so stay tuned!


Part 1  Bill Nuvo - Part 1 
Part 2  Bill Nuvo - Part 2
Part 3  Bill Nuvo - Part 3
Bill Nuvo talks about his "Windsor Favourites"

Photo credit: AVB Podcast
Bill is on the left, A.J. is on the right.

Make sure to check out AVB Podcast's Facebook page

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Greatest Showman: No one ever made a difference by being like everyone else

Bill and I went to see The Greatest Showman yesterday at Cineplex. I needed to write this review so I wouldn't forget about it and perhaps I can convince my readers to grab a loved one and take a night out and see this amazing piece of work, directed by Michael Gracey.

From the very first scene, I looked over at Bill and noticed that tears were welling up in his eyes.  A moment later, it just got more emotional for the both of us. Every time I wiped a tear away, another one would start to fall. I was just so overwhelmed with emotion and when Jenny Lind (played by Rebecca Ferguson) started to sing, I think I heard the whole audience in the theatre sobbing.

WOW, what a spectacular movie! Every song is a breath of fresh air and just filled with so much passion. Hugh Jackman's performance is incredible, along with Michelle Williams, Zac Efron, Ellis Rubin, Keala Settle, Rebecca Ferguson, and pretty much everyone in the film.

Don't go into the theatre looking for a historically accurate story of P.T. Barnum because you will disappoint yourself. Go into the movie thinking of imagination, hope, happiness. friendship, and love. Celebrate who you are and not what others expect you to be. Bring joy and smiles to the world and appreciate those you love and who love you right back.

Was there anything wrong with the film? My only issue was that some of the CGI moments with the animals felt a little off at times.

It is definitely a movie that I want to add to our dvd collection once it is available to buy.

Although The Greatest Showman came out at the end of 2017, what a magical way to start off our movie viewing adventures in 2018!

Reading up a little bit, the film took 7 years to make. Now that is dedication and shows the true craft of wanting to get it just right. This trailer doesn't do the movie justice, but enjoy anyhow!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Countdown to 2018.

My favourite quote from the film, Love Actually. These words that still holds true to this day. 
It's worth sharing.

"Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinions starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there - fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends."

Wishing everyone a safe and Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

My Top 10 Movies of 2017!

BabyDriver - Captivating story and visually stunning to watch.  Terrific casting and a soundtrack that couldn’t be any more diversely cool.

The Big Sick - An unconventional romance that allows you to go beyond the boundaries of culture to ponder whether the heart really gets what the heart really wants. There is no shortage of laughter throughout, even at the most fragile moments, which makes this movie really special and one of a kind.

Maudie - Based on a true story, an unlikely pair develop a love that withstands the hands of time.  Ethan Hawke and Sally Hawkins shine in their roles.

Logan Lucky -  A multi-million dollar heist that has never been funnier! Suspend your disbelief at times, and enjoy the ride. There were a lot of unexpected moments and an all-around great ensemble cast.

War For The Planet of the Apes - We are more alike than ever, we just have to open our eyes to see. Definitely the darkest of the trio. Incredibly moving film, beautifully-filmed and a perfect send off to the honourable Caesar.

Beauty and the Beast - A whimsical live action re-telling of his classic tale that is filled with memorable songs to sing along to, a terrific cast, especially Luke Evans as the egocentric Gaston and a heartfelt message that beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder! 

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - The visuals are awesome, combined with a lot of humour, great dialogue and fun characters.

Wonder Woman - A powerful performance by Gal Gadot! Amazing visual effects, great story and just a kick-ass strong female lead. Kudos to the directors for not making it overly cringy and beating down our throats the feminist agenda (ahem...Ghostbusters 2).

Only the Brave - This film was based off the true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots firefighters. Filled with determination, hope and sacrifice, these are what heroes look like.

The Disaster Artist - What’s there to say? Tommy Wiseau is like a fine wine, he just gets better with age! Note, you may want to check out “The Room” before seeing this so you can revel in the “it’s so bad it’s good” feeling of this cult-favourite phenomenon. Oh, hi Mark!

This was my list. What made YOUR top picks?

Leave me a comment below!