Category Archives: Life

News: Feb – March 2020

Hey friends,
It’s time, once again, to jot down all of my bits of news in another one of these updates. It’s really been an interesting year so far and I am enjoying some very fulfilling new experiences. Freelancer life isn’t easy, but I do love that each week brings something different; new music, new colleagues, new places to play and new ideas to play with. As always, I am trying hard to put my whole heart and self into everything that I do, which is, of course, difficult at times – it’s something that I’m constantly grappling with, maybe will do forever – but I find it can make some meaningful sense of everything in the end, so I suppose this is the ‘good’ type of self-challenge!
Anyway, here’s what’s going on in my life at the moment.

Concerts/Projects
I can’t wait to play with the wonderful True Concord Voices and Orchestra again. This is a group of musicians who put real music making right at its core. During each concert, I always have the feeling that what is happening in any moment on stage is the most important thing for each and every musician – the music really matters! For this cycle, we are playing Beethoven’s Mass in C major and Choral Fantasie, and Brahms Rhapsodie with Solo Alto. Really recommend catching one of these concerts if you can, all info found here.

It was so exciting to join the Arizona Opera Orchestra in the last few weeks, and I am thrilled to be playing with them again for a run of an interesting new opera, commissioned for the Arizona Opera Company, called ‘Riders of the Purple Sage’. With music by Craig Bohmler and libretto by Steven Mark Kohn, this opera is an adaptation of a novel by Zane Grey, set in Arizona. I’m looking forward to getting back in the pit, where the musicians create a world of their own and every note, sound, entrance and small rustle matters! All ticket info here.

Although I’ve heard a lot of elitist complaints about the fuss going on surrounding this 250th birthday year of Beethoven, I am personally using it as an excuse (not that you need one) to play as much of him as I possibly can. It must be said, therefore, that the year would be totally incomplete for me without a performance of the formidable Kreutzer Sonata fit in there somewhere. It feels like a looooong time ago, in the sense of time and distance, that I last played this music for my final Masters’ recital in Salzburg, but it is somehow still there in my fingers. I’m so excited to perform this in Tucson with a new colleague and for a new audience. Concert is free but all details listed here.

Currently Reading/Watching
Sometimes, the books on your TBR list are ones that you have heard a lot about, been recommended, or are ones that you have been meaning to read forever. Sometimes, they are none of these things and are simply books that you picked up on a whim. The book I am currently reading is one such book, called ‘The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay’, by Michael Chabon. It came out in 2000 and won the Pulitzer in 2001, so it’s nothing new, but so far I am really enjoying it. It is about two comic book artists who form a partnership in New York, one of them having just fled Nazi-occupied Prague, and their journey to creating their own story and it’s art. I find the writing style really effortless and the storytelling is believable and compelling – there is a real mix of fun and light-heartedness woven through a serious story that is filled with atmosphere and interesting characters.

I also wanted to mention ‘The Namesake’, perhaps the most well-known novel by Jhumpa Lahiri that I also just recently finished. Her collection of short stories called ‘Interpreter of Maladies’, was one of the best things I read last year, if not ever. This novel, obviously different as it was a full novel and not a novella, was a great story about cross-cultural challenges, family and relationships, living and finding a home within a society that is unfamiliar in every way. I would say that it was definitely a page-turner and very enjoyable – you really do become invested in her characters – but it just didn’t have the sparkle and genius that I thought her short stories had. Interestingly, I read that The Namesake was originally written as a short story that was published in the New Yorker a few years ago, and I am wondering if perhaps it worked better in that style…

There is an interesting wave of multi-genre creative media going on at the moment; I see more and more that established publications and organisations like The New York Times or the National Gallery are turning to outlets such as Instagram or YouTube in an effort to share micro-stories or engage perhaps a younger audience, and I find this movement to be refreshing and generally a positive thing. I wanted to mention one such account that I am really enjoying at the moment. I recently stumbled across a YouTube series created by New York Magazine called ‘How I Get It Done‘. Each video is a short snapshot into the life of a particular woman, each from a different field of work/different background/different financial practice etc. The featured woman takes you through her day, how she structures her routine and daily tasks while incorporating her main life values and goals. If you are nosy, like me, or just find the lives of successful women intriguing, you will love this series. My particular favourite was the one spotlighting Liana Finck, an illustrator for The New Yorker.

Art
With time to kill in Phoenix recently, I thought I would have a look in the city’s Museum of Art, and actually found their collection to be really interesting. The museum has a nice variety of 20th century European and ancient Asian art, and actually quite a large selection of works by female artists, which is always nice to see – I got to see a dramatic Kahlo painting (which ones aren’t dramatic though…) and also some by Georgia O’Keeffe, amongst others. But what I loved most, perhaps because of where in the world I currently live, was the number of paintings of the American Southwest by various American artists. I discovered one new artist in particular, called Thomas Moran, who’s work I completely fell in love with. He was commissioned to create paintings of the Grand Canyon, where he first visited in 1873, and it was these works that allowed the people who lived on the country’s east coast to see for the first time what this epic place looked like. It is so interesting to me that, in this way, art and artists influenced how people could see and recognise the beauty in their own country! Moran was especially inspired by John Turner – he actually went to England so that he could meet Turner and study his work – so his paintings of the Grand Canyon feature a very ethereal Turner-esque beauty… I haven’t seen the Grand Canyon (and other Southwestern landscapes which Moran also painted) portrayed like this before – usually, they inspire paintings that are bold in colour and almost harsh, reflecting the natural character of the Arizona desert, so I find Moran’s work to be incredibly special and unique.

Hikes
The season for hiking in Arizona is just now in it’s most optimal – not yet too warm for the more physically challenging hikes, but still very mild and sunny, so we are trying to get out on a new trail at least once per month. This weekend we summited Blackett’s Ridge, which is a trail in Sabino Canyon Park. I loved the trail, which does get steep, particularly near the top, but has plenty of nice lookout spots to catch your breath and drink some water. Unlike Picacho Peak, which really gives a sense of accomplishment at reaching the top, I found Blackett’s Ridge to be more all-about-the-trail, although the views from the top are also stunning. It was a perfect Saturday morning hike, coming in at just over 3 hours, and working up your appetite for a good lunch.

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And We’re Off! What’s Going On: January 2020 (and a bit of Feb)

Life moves so bloody quickly these days, I felt the need to take a moment, perhaps every few weeks or so, to collect myself together in a post about what’s going on and what’s coming up in my line of vision (metaphorically). I have a romantic idea that I’ll look back at these short articles and feel somewhat satisfied and content, that there was a point to it all at the time. Well, in any case, I hope it will help me to catch up with myself, and maybe others too!

Concerts and Projects
January sprung right into action on day one with a lovely chamber music concert for me plus two new colleagues (in that they were new to me), playing works by Mozart and Beethoven to a packed and enthusiastic new year’s day audience. It was really a pleasure to work with musicians who gave me absolute liberty to play as I wanted – this is so very meaningful to me. I may soon be posting some short extracts from the recording of this concert to my social media pages so keep an eye out for that if you are interested.

Next on the docket is a piano trio concert on January 17th, in Green Valley’s Presbyterian Church, where I will be joining two more colleagues for Mendelssohn’s first piano trio amongst other works (more info here).

From January 18th to February 2nd, I am so excited to be joining the Arizona Opera Company for the first time in their production run of La Bohème. This will be my first time ever performing this opera in full, and my first opera since playing viola in the on-stage band for Don Giovanni at the Mozarteum 6 years ago! All information on performances and tickets to be found here.

The following week, February 4th to 6th, I will be working together with Renée Fleming and the Tucson Symphony, performing Strauss’ Four Last Songs. This will be a very meaningful experience to me I am sure, not just because I adore Renée Fleming and cannot wait to share a concert with her (absolute bucket list moment!), but also because this was my Grampa’s favourite music and I am still feeling his loss greatly. There surely won’t be a dry eye in the house. Information on this concert can be found here.

Finally, for now, I wanted to mention that I will be playing a concert on February 11th with a very dear friend of mine and superb violist, Hannah Nicholas, who will be joining me in Tucson for a concert at the ASA. We are putting together a really interesting programme, full of little gems of duos and solos. If you would like to come to this or any of my other concerts, all info is on my Calendar page, and I would love to see you there!

What I’m Reading/Listening To/Generally Consuming
I’m currently reading Toni Morrison’s ‘Beloved‘ and loving every word. Perhaps it is shameful for me to admit that it probably took her death to inspire me to start reading her works, but better to start reading them now than not at all and, as Ann Friedman said, there are so many people who are wishing they had not yet read anything by her, so that they could have the joy of discovering her books for the first time once again. So really, I feel lucky! She just has such a beautiful and unique way of posing ideas and forming language into stories – every day a new sentence or passage strikes me, and today it was this:

It was lovely. Not to be stared at, not seen, but being bulled into view by the interested, uncritical eyes of the other. Having her hair examined as part of her self, not as material or a style. Having her lips, nose, chin caressed as they might be if she were a moss rose a gardener paused to admire.

From ‘Beloved’, by Toni Morrison

What an amazing way to write about being looked at!

My podcast subscription box has not changed very much over the past few months, but I wanted to mention an old favourite, ‘Call Your Girlfriend‘ (hence the reference to Ann Friedman above), which is a really smart, fiercely feminist, commentary between two women on social, political and personal issues. I also enjoy ‘The Cut podcast on Tuesdays‘, which always brings to light one of those ‘unseen’ news stories that get easily lost in today’s whirlpool of world news chaos. I am always looking for more podcast recommendations so please let me know if there are any that you have loved (although no true crime please!).

Health and Activity
As you may have seen by my last post (read here!), hiking is really one of my great loves, fueled even more so by living in Arizona. I’m no crazy hiking buff, and certainly not an expert, just love to do it! A few days ago, we went on a superb out and back trail in Picacho Peak State Park, and were very pleased to reach the summit – something I was nervous about as I get quite bad vertigo in some situations. We took the less popular Sunset Trail to the top, which was about 5.9 miles long altogether. For about 2 miles, not a lot happens, except that you get to wander through the beautiful desert landscape, surrounded by noble saguaros and many other kinds of cacti, and look out on the stunning vista. However in the last half a mile, there is a 1700 foot elevation gain – many places with just sheer vertical rock and cable lines to pull you up. I’m feeling pretty proud of myself for conquering this one. Our next hike will probably be Blackett’s Ridge in Sabino Canyon, and I can’t wait to tick this one off.

One other thing I wanted to mention here, is that I recently began meditating. I don’t want to say too much now as it is still relatively early days and not quite yet a real habit, but I have found an app that makes sense to me in a scientific and well-researched way, and that is most accessible for me to fit into my life. I have already noticed a difference when it comes to difficult or challenging situations but will talk more about it once I have a real firm case for it!

In The Works
It’s time to travel. I’ve got a few trips lined up in the coming months but I need something bigger, more of an adventure. I’m working on a trip at the end of the year, hopefully will have more to say about this in the next one!

I’ve also started (very late) to plan my marriage party, to take place later this year. You might know that Logan and I got married last year but haven’t celebrated it yet. There is so much to think about and it is hard to know exactly what one wants… I think I have found a beautiful, laid back place, outdoors (which will be gorgeous in the Tucson Fall), and am really excited to start sending out the message.

I have several of my own project-irons on the fire right now too, and I would be SO happy if in 2020 I could manage to get one or two really going. I’m getting close, and my aim is to spend a couple of hours a day when I can working on these. Sounds do-able. This post must hold me accountable!

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Reflections on 2019…

This year, my whole life flipped upside down. I tripped and stumbled my way through so many ‘Big’ life events; a move across the world, a wedding, a Greencard application, many new jobs and hustles… However, having somehow arrived at the end of the year feeling joyful and excited, I know now that it is not any of these things that truly shaped my 2019, or left me with any real lasting impression (other than relief). Rather, it is the myriad of little things, the people I met and places I saw, the books I read and first-time experiences I encountered, which made a real difference to me personally and which I thought important, perhaps more so than any other year, to look back on as we lead into the new decade.

Books, Shows, Films & Media

I can’t deny that, in the throes of my long visa application process, I felt like there was NOTHING productive that I could do with my waiting time. But, every cloud has a silver lining, and for me, it was the time and mental space to read and consume as many books, movies, TV shows, podcasts, anything, as I could! And I really discovered some gems. (Having acknowledged this, my heart goes out to anyone still counting down the timer on their application – my advice: steer clear of the internet forums…)

Books:
#1. Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri
Consisting of nine short stories, this little masterpiece was, without a doubt, the best book that I read this year.
#2. Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I found this novel to be extremely well-written, an important read, kept me interested until the last word.

Films:
#1. Parasite by Bong Joon-ho
One of the most well-crafted and superbly told stories I have ever seen in film.
#2. Amalie by Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Obviously, this film is nothing new. It took me almost 20 years to finally watch it – I was lucky enough to see it at my local independent cinema – but I’m SO glad I finally did. What a beautiful movie.

TV Shows:
#1. Chernoybl
#2. Euphoria
#3. The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel
2019 saw so much good TV, with wonderful writing and acting. Frankly, the TV that I watched was mostly a LOT better than the vast majority of movies that I saw…

New Places and Discoveries
#1. Zion National Park
Visiting this place was unreal – perhaps because of the mixture of breathlessness at the sight of such incredible beauty and the physical challenges of the most grueling hike that Logan and I completed together.

#2. ‘Hattie B’s Nashville Hot Chicken’ Restaurant
We stopped here on a whim during a road trip, and I knew when I saw the line out the door and down the street that this was going to be something special. The most insane hot chicken sandwich EVER.

Music and Art
#1. Performing Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, with True Concord
Such an inspiring and liberating musical experience that I won’t forget. I am so happy to be able to work with this group of fine musicians.

#2. Robert Mapplethorpe Exhibition at the Guggenheim
‘Im looking for the unexpected. I’m looking for things I’ve never seen before.’ – Robert Mapplethorpe
#3. Father of the Bride, by Vampire Weekend
This band was a new discovery to me this year and I have loved listening through this album, released last March.
#4. Sylva, by Benoît Pioulard
Of course, I am biased because I am privileged to have been able to collaborate for a song on this album (No. 8, ‘Meristem’), but the entire album and it’s art is gorgeous and must be listened to straight away!

Personal Highlights
#1. Liam
My first pet, my first cat-love, he is wonderful and the power of a pet is extraordinary.

#2. Learning to drive and buying my first car
I’m really quite proud of this one.
#3. The baby shower of a beloved friend in NYC
It is surreal to know that you are seeing one of your closest friends for the last time as a sole individual. It was a real personal pleasure and so special that I got to visit her in New York and to be at her first baby shower.
#4. My writing class at The Writers’ Studio
I had a really wonderful experience taking part in an eight-week writers’ workshop at The Writers’ Studio, Tucson. I explored putting my experiences into words in the form of poems and short pieces of fiction, and I am hoping to develop a performance based on these pieces of writing interspersed with music…

Moments for Pause
#1. Goodbye to my Grampa
No amount of preparation can really brace you for the loss of someone who was so important and present in some part of your life. All of my childhood memories surround my Grampa and my time at his house and I miss him very much.
#2. Politics
Although I feel very far away from my home country (where is home, really, anyway) I felt I must at least nod to the disaster that was the recent British general election, and everything that came before it and is still to come in the new year. My life has never been so directly impacted by my feelings towards politics as it is now, and my experiences living in America, especially in a place like Tucson which presents so many political issues at its city core, makes our actions and feelings seem ever more critical.

Looking Forward
#1. Concerts
Right from the get-go, on January 1st 2020, I am playing some really exciting projects and concerts, and I just can’t wait to get started. Hopefully, I will even be happy with my playing for some of them… More info on Calendar page.
#2. Visits
2019 was all about trying to put some shape on my new life and set myself up here in America. But I miss my friends and family dearly and have been painfully aware of how far away I am from them. Next year, I am really looking forward to heading back to Europe to see everyone and to having my Mom visit me in Tucson (and even having her in the audience of some of my concerts!).
#3. New Ideas!
For so long, I have been focused on the goals of graduating, leaving Germany, moving to the US and finding work here, that it feels strange that these are now somewhat taken care of. Now there is room to actually put my mind to the next goals, thinking up some new ideas and this is perhaps the best thing of all.

Please consider subscribing to ‘Freya’s Nook’ to stay updated on my comings and goings and whatever 2020 will bring!

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A S**t Week

Time to be totally honest.

This week has been hard to get through, it’s been a real downer, it’s been shit.  And yet, here we are again, we’ve reached another Sunday and I am facing the (self-set) weekly challenge of writing a nice post to put up here.  Truth is, I can’t really do it today.  I don’t feel very positive or inspired, and I don’t want to write about wonderful things when I don’t feel at all wonderful myself.  So, instead of faking my way through it and not doing anyone any justice, I thought I would just talk through what’s going on, and why I am feeling so down.  Maybe, hopefully, this will be some kind of therapeutic exercise for me, or it will be relatable for anyone out there who feels the same way.  So for now, I thank you for your patience in this, and look forward to writing something a little more uplifting next week!

We all have bad days, of course, it’s totally normal.  Perhaps, then, this week has just been a series of bad days for me, and they just all happened to come in a bunch together.  But, somehow, I am not content to just leave it at that.  My feelings aren’t those of being helpless and hopeless, I don’t feel like I just can’t do anything and have to wait for this tough period to pass.  Maybe that’s why this week has felt especially difficult – I still feel absolutely motivated!  I feel the need and energy to do things and get stuff done, I’m chasing up loose ends, getting out there and fighting the world.  But mixed in with this motivation, has been an ongoing suffering in my mind, and it’s having a horrible effect on me, so I want to figure out what is causing it and why.

I think I can identify my main negative emotion as stress.  It is very much in my nature to worry and over-stress about absolutely anything, so this is clear and not anything unusual for me.  However, I am normally able to keep my stress levels somewhat under control in a way that I haven’t managed in the past week.  Why?

Not to get too psychoanalytical here (although, why not..?), answering this question is difficult; it involves asking yourself really tough questions, even asking other people with more of a perspective those questions about yourself, and it also requires being really open-minded and allowing yourself the freedom to feel things you might not particularly want to feel!  After going through all of this, I have found that I can sort my stress into three different groups, each with their own sub-groups and secret side notes, and this has made understanding my feelings much easier for me and even improved my mood.

  1. Politics.  Along with a lot of people, I have felt deeply affected with this week’s proceedings in the Kavanaugh-Ford case.  I was humbled, moved and inspired by Ford’s testimony, but felt so shocked and betrayed by the way that she has been treated by the Republicans and people who hold ‘power’ over her.  This case has highlighted just where we are at in the treatment of women in our patriarchal society, and it makes me scared to integrate myself into that society, led by a man who thinks it is OK to sexually mistreat women.  Senator Kamala Harris articulates these sentiments more eloquently and powerfully than I could possibly write down here, so I very much encourage you to watch her speech if you haven’t already seen it.
  2. The Move.  It’s not surprising that my move, which is bearing down quickly upon me, is becoming such a huge source of stress for me.  The move itself is just the umbrella title; it encompasses the packing, getting rid of and selling all of our possessions, the business with our lawyer and my paperwork, the money, the daunting thought of living in a place I don’t know, finding a new house to live in, saying goodbye to Europe, adjusting to something that is as yet unknown, and all the many surprises that are to come.  I bet reading that list even stresses you out!
  3. General life worries.  These are all of the regular worries that never really go away.  Worries about my work, my finances, my relationship, my family, the future, what to do about dinner.  These are the worries that I think I have got good (or reasonable) at tackling on a daily basis, but paired with the other stress sources mentioned above, they have all, in turn, become exaggerated and augmented in my mind.  I feel like I am on the edge of a total overwhelming freak out at all times and anything could set me off!

Going into next week, I have planned to try out some new ‘self-caring’ strategies to help myself cope better and hopefully improve my mood.  I am going to read the news less – this week I have been glued to it and that probably hasn’t helped me – and read my book more.  I am going to get back into my normal gym routine – this week I couldn’t go as normal for various reasons, so hopefully getting back to my regular work-out schedule will help take my mind off bad things and make me feel better in myself.  I have also decided to try to live more slowly and intentionally.  I normally do everything I can, as fast as possible, and I think this makes me a stressful person!  I want to take a step back, and take more time over things like making decisions, working, walking and doing.  Maybe I will write a blog post on these thoughts.  Lastly, I am going to put a lot of my time next week into doing the kind of work that I love most, and I know I am privileged to be able to do that, so I feel very grateful that I can.  I still have a lot of work to do on my album which is work that I find hugely rewarding and fulfilling.  I also have new creative projects just beginning to take shape which I am SO excited about, and I am going to dedicate my time and effort to them, instead of stupid work and people.

So that was my week.  I would love to hear from you if you have also been feeling down about current events, and would be very interested to know what your coping mechanisms are for times like these – please let me know!

 

 

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10 Things That Make Me Feel Really British

  1. TEA
    At all hours, day and night.
    Must be just the right shade of light brown.

  2. Calling “Cheers Mate” to the bus driver as you alight from the bus
    You met them once, they delivered you home, they are definitely your mate.  Also, yes, we say “alight”.

  3. Rainy Walks
    The British countryside offers some absolutely gorgeous walks.  Unfortunately, a walk that doesn’t involve some amount of rain is very rare.  It’s just part of the whole experience.

  4. A pint at the local pub
    My favourite pub in England is Dad’s local; ‘The Eddie’.  It is beautifully old-fashioned, with delicious beer on tap and good old board games on offer.

     

  5. A Sunday roast
    For some reason, Sunday’s are always incomplete without a tender piece of roast meat, little roast potatoes, veggies and, of course, a Yorkshire Pud.

  6. Hearing a wonderful melting pot of accents
    Wherever you go in the UK, you will hear a vast array of different accents and dialects of the English language, from the Geordies to the Scouse, the Welsh and Scottish, the West Country and the Cockney… And when a few of them come together in one conversation, it sounds like a marvellous, albeit slightly comical, musical symphony of language.
  7. MARMITE
    I love it.  You probably hate it.
  8. The feeling of pursing one’s lips, holding in your feelings, all to avoid an argument and keep the peace
    The British are experts at bottling up their emotions to avoid any embarrassing conflicts or public displays of emotions.  The neighbours are always watching, and what will they think?!

  9. “I’m desperate for the loo”
    Some of our shortened words and phrases are just brilliant, especially those used in connection to the bathroom: loo, bog, privy, spend a penny…

  10. Monster Munch
    My personal favourite.  These pickled onion flavoured crisps are mouth-wateringly good.

     

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Going Blonde

Something that I love about my blog, is that I have the freedom to write about absolutely anything I want.  Whether I’ve been inspired by an art exhibition or a performance that I have recently seen, have stories to tell about a place that I have visited, or if I just feel strongly about a particular topic – anything goes here in my little nook.  Just now, my life is definitely on the stressful side; I have a huge impending move, bringing with it many difficult challenges, I haven’t been home for more than a couple of weeks in a long time and, well, I am a poor musician!  (Enough said!)  So, I thought that for today’s blog post I would take a step back, write about something fun and just keep it real.  The subject of today’s post is how I dyed my hair blonde.

Going blonde was quite an experience.  It took longer and a lot more work than I ever anticipated and I am still learning how to handle it.  So I thought I would document the process here – this will be a post that I would have wished to read myself before I began this blonde journey of mine.  And please, if you have any personal experience in this matter, any tips to add, I would love to read them, so do leave them in a comment below!

I guess I should start by clarifying that my natural hair colour is a kind of darkish red – in winter it looks a little more brick-brown and in summer it tends to go a shade of strawberry blonde. I have experimented with dying my hair darker in the past; I first tried a tone just a little darker than my natural colour when I was about 16, and have since also gone a more chocolatey brown.  But I have always been curious to see what a true golden blonde would look like on me.  And the thing about hair is, it grows!  Nothing you do to it will ever require more than a short-term commitment!  To me, this just calls for creative experimentation.

So where did I begin?  Well, I decided first, being the cheap-skate that I am, that I would try to do it myself at home.  I first bought a semi-permanent box dye of a shade that was more of a dark blonde.  I would say, at this point, I was still unsure of the exact kind of blonde I wanted to be, and this is something I would suggest you really think about first if you are considering going blonde – it’s definitely a good idea to know the colour you really want to be before you start.  I also chose the 8-week wash-out dye, only because this is what I had done for going darker in the past and it had always worked really well.  Basically, this dye did nothing.  Maybe in some light it looked ever so slightly lighter… but you couldn’t really see any difference.  So I wrote this off as a fail.

Next, I decided to change two things; I would now try a permanent box dye, instead of the wash-out one, and I would pick one that looked super light blonde on the box (lighter than I had intended to go).  By the way, we have a pretty limited choice of box dyes in the shops here in Germany – I have since seen the selection of dyes in stores in North America, which is highly extensive in comparison – so both box dyes that I bought were L’Oreal, as this was pretty much the best option I had available to me.  After dying my hair with this second one, I found that it came out lighter than the first one, but it still wasn’t blonde!  My hair was now just a lighter version of red.

At this point, I realised that I was never going to get to a real blonde colour by myself at home.  So, with the help of my kind aunt, I arranged an appointment at a salon in Stratford, Ontario (where I was headed in a couple of weeks).  Before my appointment, I finally decided to choose a shade of blonde that I really wanted and the kind of look that I was going for.  I did some research online and found a picture of a style that I really liked, and I took that picture with me to the salon.

My Aunt and I, with newly blonde hair

The result: I LOVE my new blonde hair!  I have to say, my hairdresser was fabulous, she pretty much achieved exactly the look of the picture I showed her, and I can highly recommend Dudes and Dames Hairdressing Salon in Stratford! The appointment took about 4 hours in total, and most of that time was spent applying the dye individually to very small sections of hair (I have a lot of hair).  So if you are going to go through it, bring some reading material! I actually found my hairdresser’s technique for applying the dye pretty interesting; she would apply it in a V shape to some sections of hair, to achieve a kind of ombre look, before wrapping it, and then applied it directly from the roots in other sections, which she then folded and wrapped in foil.  She even left a few strands of hair all over my head out, so they stayed red, and the overall look creates so much texture and dimension.

Now, by this point, I had achieved the blonde that I wanted, and I was so happy.  However, I still had (and have) a lot to learn, because what I have discovered is that getting to the blonde you want is only part of the journey.  Maintaining the blonde is where the real challenge lies.  I have found that since going blonde, my hair has been very dry and brittle, and extremely difficult to brush.  I have been using L’Oreal Ever Pure Colour Care System shampoo and conditioner, followed by some coconut-oil-based serum and a frizz control product from Lush.  I brush my hair out with a wide tooth comb after I shower, as this has always been my strategy for dealing with my curls.  Again, if you have any suggestions for good products to use, I am all ears!

The other thing is that, of course, I knew my hair would grow quickly, and with this my roots would also grow out.  And it is happening very, very quickly!  I still absolutely love my blonde hair, but it is changing in tone every day as it grows, so I am always learning how to style it to make it look good and fresh, and constantly trying new things with it.

As of right now, I am not sure what my next plan will be; whether I will re-dye it, just touch up my roots at some point, let it all grow out altogether, or dye it a whole new colour!  I guess I will see how it goes and what happens over the next few weeks and months.  I will say that, for right now, I am really enjoying my new look and the feelings it gives me; it’s kind of like having a new character to play when I am out and about!  It feels warm and summery, friendly and bright, and I know that my red hair is lurking there, not far away, so I really don’t miss it!

So, if you are considering changing your hair colour, to blonde or anything else, I say do it!  It will satisfy that small curious voice in your head, and even if you hate it, it’s always good to try new things!

 

To Recap

What I learned:

  • Know exactly what colour and shade you want to dye your hair
  • Blonde hair needs a professional
  • Be prepared for lots of after-care!

 

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10 Tips For Self-Care When Travelling

The season of travel is truly upon us!  Summer vacations, festivals, camps, conferences, weddings and a multitude of other summer activities and events mean that many of us will be away from home for a large portion of these upcoming weeks and months.  As I write this, I am sitting in a cafe in Salzburg, and, like all summers that I have spent here previously, I am again struck by the THRONGS of tourists bringing the streets of this city to life.

While travelling, visiting new places and exploring different cultures is SO exciting and a real privilege to be able to do, it can also be quite a stressful activity.  I have often heard people remark on the fact that, although they enjoyed their holiday on the whole, it didn’t turn out to be the incredible and fantastic adventure that they envisioned it would be, and I have come to believe that there is reason behind the saying ‘the best part about going away is coming home again’.  I think even the most seasoned travellers among us would agree that being away from home can be really difficult; we are displaced from all of our normal routines and suddenly without access to the regular home ‘comforts’ that we have implemented into our daily lives that we perhaps never realised were quite so important in making ourselves feel good.

The truth is that self-care really is important; it is what makes our bodies and minds tick, and what makes us be the best versions of ourselves that we can be.  And it shouldn’t have to stop when we leave our homes and go somewhere else – in fact, these might be the times when we need it most!  I have compiled my own list of self-care essentials for when I travel in the hopes that they might help some of you out too.  These are things that I know I need in my life so that I can function best, and therefore get the most out of every day, which is what we all want when we travel anyway! I have divided my list into different levels of necessity, starting with the absolute non-negotiables – the most vital self-care requirements to staying in top shape – working my way down to the more ‘luxury’ conditions – things that I don’t strictly need every day when travelling and that don’t really matter if I can’t get access to them, but that would just be nice.

Absolutely Necessary

  1. Sleep.  No question.  A decent night’s sleep is the most fundamental requisite to staying in good shape, when travelling or at home!  It doesn’t have to be a fancy hotel to do the job well either.  I’ve found that making sure my body is at a comfortable temperature and earplugs if I am sharing a room go a long way, and it doesn’t hurt to have some Nyquil in my bag either.  Whatever works for you to get a good sleep, do that.  And prioritise it!  I’ve definitely learned the hard way (admittedly, especially as I’ve gotten older) that my body just can’t keep up with staying out and socialising all night and then working at 100% the following day.  I’ve trained myself to ditch the FOMO and put my sleep at number 1, which means that I will maybe stay out for 1 drink before hitting the sack at 10 or 11pm, and not feel pressured into ordering another pitcher of beer (which inevitably turns into an all-nighter), and this has helped me out so much when travelling!
  2. Regular routines.  Obviously, nothing is really regular when we travel – every circumstance is temporary and different.  But I have found that the more that I can keep any kind of regularity in my bodily functions, the better I feel.  This means sleeping and waking at around the same kinds of times each day, eating at regular intervals so I don’t get overcome with hunger and hangry and (sorry to be TMI) making sure I have access to a washroom at about the same times each day too.  Especially if you are like me, and your body tends to have it’s own very clear clock and schedule, this last one is really important!
  3.  Coffee.  Well, for me it’s coffee, but for you it could be anything else; tea, a banana, a certain brand of orange juice, a bottle of wine…  I’m talking about that one thing that you know you need.  Don’t avoid thinking about it, if you know you need that one thing every day to make you feel the best – make a plan for how you are going to get it!  For me, I bring my Aeropress and a little bag of coffee with me everywhere – I just can’t rely on there always being a decent cup of coffee wherever I am, and I’ve suffered with instant crap enough to know that I need something better.   Maybe you can bring your own tea bags with you and a travel kettle, if that’s what you need.  Maybe you want to pack extra supplies of granola bars or nuts, if you know you are a picky eater and you want to make sure there will be something for you to eat.  Whatever it is, think about it in advance and make sure you can have it!
  4.  My water bottle.  It’s an easy one but it is definitely a permanent travel companion of mine.  I hopped on the reusable water bottle trend a few years ago, and haven’t really left home without one since.  Travelling is thirsty work, and there is really no need to continually buy bottles of water, nor to contribute to that needless waste of plastic.  I love having my own water bottle in my bag, and I find that I fill it up two or three times a day when I travel, which just shows how necessary it is to me.  I highly recommend getting your own, and here’s to staying hydrated! Just FYI, I use one by the American brand Nalgene, and I like it because it’s BPA free and it holds 1000 ml of water which is plenty but also doesn’t make it too heavy to carry.  Also, it’s a pretty colour.

Moderately Necessary

  1.  Physical activity.  I decided to put this in the Moderately Necessary category, because I know that lazy beach holidays are a thing and definitely have their place, and sometimes it is good to take this kind of break.  But, for me, even on this kind of vacation, making sure I have some kind of movement and activity in my day really helps me to feel so much more energised and mentally positive.  I love to explore new places by foot, as I think it’s the best way to really get to know a new environment, so walking is usually my preferred and most accessible form of activity.  If I happen to be staying in a hotel with a gym I will always try to use it (and I always pack some light work-out clothes accordingly), but if this isn’t possible, I would definitely recommend downloading and following the 7 Minute Work-Out app on your phone.  I really got into using this app when I was travelling for a couple of months straight last summer.  It offers a work out routine that you can do anywhere, and which involves no equipment, so it’s really easy and effective (definitely gives you a sweat!).  There are lots of other good apps too, including ones for stretching (although I would love any recommendations you might have for this!) and they are free, really beneficial and so easy to incorporate into your travel routines.
  2. Good food.  Again, I know there are some people who would disagree and put this one in the Absolutely Necessary list.  The reason I put it here is mostly to do with the matter of budget.  I am very open about the fact that I am pretty much always travelling on a tight budget, and in some places this can accommodate a great diet, with lots of great and cheap healthy food.  But in lots of places (unfortunately the places I tend to go most often), it just isn’t possible to get the best, most nutricious meals every day.  I would say, just do the best you can, and prioritise food as you want to.  For me, I know that I can’t afford to eat really good meals out every day, so I will make sure that I have a bag of apples to snack on, opt for buying some salady stuff for picnic lunches (which is just as cheap as buying fast food, where I am anyway) and find ways of having access to a small kitchen – either through friends or often hotels and hostels have them available for guests to use – so that I can prepare cheaper dinner options myself.  Fruit and veg are really what I try to go for as much as I can, and I will avoid quick, greasy junk food where possible.  Maybe you can choose to eat one really good and healthy meal each day, and just make do on bread and cheese for the rest of the time.  Perhaps food is higher on your priority list, so that you decide to save on other things like taxis or tram tickets.  But travelling should never be an excuse to binge on junk food just because that is what is most easily accessible to you. Putting effort in to find the best food options for you is really important.
  3.  Communication.  I know, sometimes we travel precisely to get away from everyone and everything.  And I enjoy that sense of liberation too.  But I still do find it moderately necessary to keep some amount of communication to the world going.  I need to be able to reach my boyfriend or my family, I might want to tell a friend about something exciting that I experienced that day, and just keeping up with the news these days is no small task.  A little bit of WiFi time each day for me is perfect, just to keep in touch.  Occasionally, and for very special people, I’ll even write a postcard.

Luxuriously Necessary

  1.  Downloaded podcasts.  Podcasts are a fixed and firm aspect of my everyday life at home, and I would definitely count them as a part of my regular self-care routine.  I find them interesting and entertaining, and they represent a way for me to escape my own world for a bit, to stop thinking about my own problems and just relax! (By the way, I’ve written a couple of blog posts on some of my favourite podcasts – check them out here if you need some recommendations!)  When I travel, I totally rely on having some pre-downloaded podcasts ready to go.  I listen to them while actually travelling, on planes and trains, or any time I don’t have access to WiFi (which can be often) and they also help me to get to sleep too.  I also sometimes have some downloaded TV shows or movies from Netflix on my tablet, and I know some people would opt for this, but for me, it’s podcasts all the way.
  2.  A good book.  I mean, because a good book is to travelling like hot sauce is to eggs.  They just go.  Even if you never have time to open it, just knowing that you have the option of reading a great book is like having a feeling of peaceful security in your bag.  I am on the brink of jumping on the Kindle bandwagon (a bit late to the party, I know) and would love to know your thoughts on this.  Are you a kindle person, or will nothing ever replace a real-life book for you?
  3.  My penknife.  My penknife is definitely a luxury; I do always take it with me when I travel, but I don’t always use it.  I have to say, the most useful element of the knife is the corkscrew/beer bottle opener!  But for those couple of times that I have been stuck without a knife, it has totally saved me.  Sometimes you need a knife to cut bread and cheese for a picnic.  Now and then you get some kind of technical issue with a suitcase that requires a knife to sort it out.  My knife also comes with tweezers, which I have definitely also found useful, and the screwdriver function has also meant that I have never had to buy a screwdriver – win!  It’s not hugely necessary, but it is really nice to have and when it does come in handy, I am always so thankful for it!

I would love to know what your self-care tips for travelling are!  Do you have a special pillow that you always take with you?  Is there an app on your phone that you use to make lists or travel arrangements?  Do invest in travel-sized products that help you maintain your favourite routines? Let’s start a conversation in the comments below!

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Update: The End of an Era and Looking Forward

Phew!! What a moment this is in my life!

This week marks the end of my life as a student and, even more significantly, the end of my ‘Salzburg Era’.  On Tuesday evening, 26th of June, I played my last and final Masters Recital, thus completing my Masters Degree.  That night, I said goodbye to being a student, to the city of Salzburg that has created itself such a special place in my heart, and to my brilliant and wonderful teacher, Klara Flieder.

I moved to Salzburg when I was 20 years old.  At that time I didn’t speak a word of German, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life or with music, and I didn’t even know much about my new teacher whom I was going to study with.  I only knew that I wanted (and needed) to get away from the boring politics and depressing life that I was living in London.  When I first arrived in Salzburg, I was completely overwhelmed by trying to figure out how everything worked and seemed to ‘fail’ at every step.  I don’t think I realised how difficult a move like that would be or what it would entail, and creating a new kind of life for myself has definitely been a slow and gradual journey.  But now I can honestly say that Salzburg, and being a student there, has enriched my life in so many ways and I can’t imagine what I would have done if I had never moved there! (I probably wouldn’t still be playing the violin, that’s how unhappy I was in London…)

 

A sneaky snap of my Beethoven ‘Kreutzer Sonata’ performance during my Masters Recital

 

I owe pretty much everything – my love of violin and music, my education, my outlook, my ideas – to my teacher.  I was so lucky to get to study with a professor who so understood me and cared about me, who inspired me and made me excited for each lesson, who made me feel the importance of our work so profoundly.  Klara deserves her own blog post so I won’t say too much more about her here, only to mention that saying goodbye to her the other night was incredibly sad.  When I finished my Bachelor degree with her and left Salzburg for the first time in 2014, it definitely didn’t feel like the end – somehow the metaphorical (and literal) door remained very much open for me to come back to do my Masters.  But this time, even though I know we will always be in contact and she will continue to be a big part of my life, it really does feel like the chapter is closed.

 

Celebrating with my wonderful teacher and pianist, after my Masters Recital

 

Right now I feel quite an intense mix of emotions! I must confess, I have been looking forward to this moment for a while and NOT having to deal with the obligations of being a student any more.  I am excited to get out there and start working on my own creative ideas, to not be held back by responsibilities of things like trying to get enough orchestra credits… I do feel nervous, though, because real life is daunting and being a musician was never going to be a big money-maker, especially doing the kind of creative work which I find so fulfiling.

But more than anything, I am SO excited! My head is bursting with ideas and I am ready to dive straight in.  Firstly, I always knew I wanted to get this blog back on track.  I have lots of posts ready to go, and ideas for many more, and I have decided that my upload day will be every Sunday, so make sure to check back in each week to stay updated!  I have my whole Eckhardt-Gramatté project on the back burner, so get excited for the imminent release of my album as well as more news surrounding the project! I can’t wait to get my recordings out there and hope that you love them as much as I do!  By the way, you may have seen that I created a whole section on this website dedicated to my work on this project, including videos, photos, quotes and even my Masters Thesis, so definitely check it out if you are interested! There is also the small matter of my upcoming move to North America.  I will be documenting that whole process, as I think it will be bigger and more complicated than I can even get my head around at this point, so there are indeed many exciting times ahead.

So, for right now, I want to say Adieu to my old life, hello to the new one, and a big welcome back to my blog! I am so happy to be back here and writing again and looking forward to a new chapter of life!

 

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Favourite Podcasts #2

Over the past couple of years, I have become something of a podcast ADDICT.  Podcasts are such a great source of entertainment – what could be better than listening to interesting people talk about interesting things?!  One thing I have noticed though, is that this is a platform that has grown massively and become quite saturated; there are SO MANY great podcasts out there, that it can be difficult to find ones that are most suited to you, or to even know what to search for.  I have definitely come to rely on other blog posts and articles with recommendations for podcasts to listen to, so I thought I would pass the favour on and write one of my own!  I did write an initial ‘Podcasts I’m Enjoying’ post a couple of years ago, which you can read here, but I figured it was definitely time for an update.  So, hope you enjoy and happy listening!

 

Secret Feminist Agenda

Comprised of two seasons so far, this is a podcast hosted by Canadian scholar, cat-lover and general bad-ass feminist, Hannah McGregor.  About a year ago, I started to get really interested in the hot topic of feminism, but couldn’t find a ‘way in’.  I was looking for someone who could talk about this issue in an articulate, balanced and inspiring way, while sparking an interest in me personally, and for some reason, I just couldn’t find this.  Everything I had read or heard I found stale, serious in a way that made me feel bad or helpless, or not representative of my own experiences and perspectives. Until I discovered the Secret Feminist Agenda podcast.  Hannah is funny and exciting, she has wonderful and interesting guests and listening to her podcast feels like I am listening to a thrilling conversation that I want to be part of.  Incidentally,  Hannah is also the co-host of the podcast ‘Oh Witch, Please‘, which is a podcast that I mentioned in my first post on this subject and is still one of my FAVOURITE podcasts!!

S-Town

If you are into real-life crime drama, this is a podcast for you.  Think ‘Making a Murderer’ and ‘Serial’ (also a fabulous podcast by the same producers).  Divided into a season of episodes, this podcast uncovers the story of a man from a tiny town in the deep south of Alabama.  The podcast involves a mysterious murder, lots of secrets and a few surprises too.  Full of suspense and made even more hyper-dramatic because it’s completely REAL and all of the people in it are REAL, I guarantee you will be hanging on the end of every episode of this podcast.

Ctrl Alt Delete

For me, this podcast provides the simple joy of listening to an interesting conversation.  Hosted by Emma Gannon – intellectual internet chick, influencer and writer – each episode comprises an interview with a different guest, from someone like movie director Greta Gerwig, to director of GIRLBOSS Jerico Mandybur.  The interviews generally turn into lively discussions about current events and issues faced by today’s typical ‘millennial’, and I find them to be intelligent and relevant.  Emma also co-hosts the podcast, ‘Get It Off Your Br**sts’, a podcast where women talk about things that annoy them in a humourous yet meaningful and honest way, and I can also highly recommend giving this podcast a listen!

All The Books

I had to include one podcast in this post that was book-related and for now, this one wins this category!  If you are looking for a podcast to garner some new book recommendations and reading inspo, this is IT.  New episodes of this podcast come out once per week, in which co-hosts Liberty Hardy and Rebecca Schinsky of ‘Book Riot’ discuss that particular week’s new book releases.  It is a conversation about books and the love of books, and I can attest that these women have very good literary taste!

Homecoming

I thought I would include one fiction podcast in this list as, sometimes, when I am looking out of train windows or walking to the supermarket, I just don’t want to think, and prefer to have entertainment put directly into my ears for me.  This podcast is reminiscent of a radio play; its a thriller, it has a wonderful cast and a good dramatic storyline.  It also takes the clever form of overheard snippets of conversations and phone calls – something that I find really effective and captivating.  It’s difficult to ‘put this one down’!

 

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Why The ‘You’re Too Young To Understand’ Argument Just Doesn’t Stand Up

I have recently encountered, in various different areas of my life, an argument being thrown around by the older generation towards my own age group, that says we are ‘too young’ to be getting  involved in serious political or social issues.  Perhaps it has been one of those things where, once you notice it happening once or twice, you start to see it all over the place.  Regardless, I find so much at fault with this mentality, so many important messages to be taken from it, that it sparked a blog post within me, so here we go!

To give some context, I thought I would talk about a couple of examples of when I have directly faced an argument like this.  The first happened a couple of weeks ago.  I have been planning a concert in London for a while now, with my newly formed, diverse and ‘cutting edge’ ensemble, Hauptstimmen.  The goal of this group of classical chamber musicians is to bring our music to a wider audience, to break down boundaries that we have experienced in our world of classical music and make it an all-inclusive art form, something that everyone can share in and take something away from.  We have organised a concert ourselves in London next week (see all the details here, please come!!), and the theme of our programme is ‘war, time and death’.  I know it sounds a little dark and depressing, but actually it is really fascinating; we are going to be performing unique music that is very rarely heard, including Gideon Klein’s string trio, which was the last piece he ever wrote, just two weeks before being deported to Auschwitz.  It isn’t just going to be a concert – it is going to be a real experience, with cool lighting, sound effects and stage design, where the audience will be encouraged to feel completely at ease with drinks and snacks and also totally engaged with our performance.  In short, this is an event that we have put a lot of thought and work into and one which we think will really create huge impact.

Now, in organising this concert, finding the right venue has obviously been extremely important – the space is paramount to the whole experience, and so it was something we knew we had to get right.  We were overjoyed to find The Red Hedgehog, a cool and intimate venue with easy access in London.  When our group leader met with the venue director, she seemed totally on board and supportive of all of our ideas, so everything looked bright for us.  Two weeks ago, we received an email from this same director and let’s just say that it completely contradicted everything that had been agreed on previously and everything we are striving to achieve.  Her overarching message to us was that we were far too young to be presenting a concert that placed war as its central theme.

My initial response to the email was anger, of course, followed by a real sense of sadness.  I felt so sad because, here is a group of young musicians who are trying to do something different and creative and combine their art with important world issues, only to be shot down by someone older and with more ‘power’.  Today, after having dwelled on it for a while, I feel so strongly the error in her way of thinking!  The fact is that war and death are very much part of our world, and unfortunately this is something that is becoming  more of a scary reality everyday.  To think that only people of a certain age should be talking about it is naive; I am in my twenties and part of a generation that will have to deal with the remnants of what is left post-Trump, or with whatever the future holds for North Korea, Syria, ISIS etc.  We are exactly the ones who need to be talking about it and understanding what is happening and why – we are the ones who can help the future.  As musicians, we have such a special way of sharing these ideas.  Through music, we can reach out to people and bring people together, we can talk about fears of war and death through our playing and use music to make it relevant to everyone, no matter their age.

The second example I wanted to mention was something that I saw on a social platform a few days ago.  A friend of mine had posted an article about veganism – a topic sure to fire anyone up, I know, and of course it did.  But the most offensive response to the article, in my opinion, was from someone from a slightly older generation who advised my friend that she was too young and shouldn’t be concerned with issues like veganism, rather she should just live her life and spend her time ‘dreaming’.  I am just so confused how anyone could suggest that talking about veganism is only for people of a certain age!  What is this age, exactly? Because I am definitely not looking forward to turning this mysterious age when suddenly the weight of the world will be on my shoulders.  And, as my friend pointed out in her reply, isn’t bringing up issues such as veganism on social media exactly what ‘dreaming’ is? Dreaming of a better world, dreaming of what the future could be.  I am not purporting to be an advocate of veganism or not – that is not the point here – only that I certainly think that anyone who wants to talk about veganism, or war, or death or any other huge political or social issue absolutely can and even that we, as young people, should!

And this ‘young’ thing… I mean, I’m 26! I am not exactly a spring chicken.  I have been old enough to vote for a long time, and I have definitely held strong political views for pretty much my whole life.  I am lucky enough to live in a society where I can freely express my views, so who is to tell me, or anyone else in my generation, that I shouldn’t because I am too young?!  In fact, in recent elections, basically all the ones where shit really started to go down, it has been shown that young people really do have a voice and really do know what they are voting for and the consequences of what they are voting for – it’s the older generations that have really screwed things up for us all.

Basically, I want to make it clear that, yes, I am young and yes, that absolutely means I will continue to use my voice and my art to share ideas and fears and issues that I believe in or that I believe are important.  I hope that if young people like me are also facing this ridiculous argument from our elders – that we are too young to be concerned with these important topics – that we can feel inspired to rise above and speak even more loudly.  Age doesn’t equal power, and with our youth comes a responsibility for the future, so let’s engage with each other NOW and make the world a better place.

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