fitbit one

I bought myself a fitbit one at the end of last year and a few people have been asking me about it so I thought I’d put my thoughts into a post for you all to peruse at your leisure. My parents have both had one for a couple of years and they love them and use them every day, so I decided I needed to get in on the action and begin logging my activity with fitbit. It’s pretty easy to be sedentary these days – especially those of us with sedentary jobs. For me, I sit down to practice and I’m at a desk when I’m doing other admin things – then before you know it it’s dark outside and I’ve barely moved. The fitbit one clips discreetly into your pocket or bra and counts your steps, plus distance, calories burned and floors climbed. It has an automated goal of 10,000 steps per day but you can change this goal if you like. I’ve kept mine at 10,000 as that’s what we’re told we should be aiming for (10,000 steps is around five miles). The first few weeks I had mine I’m sure I became a total fitbit-bore to all around me. Parking miles away from where I wanted to be or just leaving the car at home altogether. Going out dancing and being thrilled to have done 14,000 steps before even going to sleep. Going out of my way to find the stairs rather than take the lift (not possible with harp by the way). Now that the initial novelty of the fitbit one has worn off, I’m still using it every day. Why? Because it encourages you to move more. My friend Katherina has one and she joked that it plays on all the negative emotions we have – the guilt of not moving enough, the thrill of achieving more than your friends, ick… but still I use it and like to be towards the top of the leaderboard of my fitbit ‘friends’. The fitbit one itself is really small… IMAG0090 But it comes with a handy silicone clip: IMAG0089 You can also get it in burgundy. I thought about it but I’m the only one who ever sees it really so there was no point paying an extra £10 for a different colour, right? So I just clip this to my bra first thing in the morning and forget about it – it comes with a tiny dongle to plug into the computer so whenever I’m a few feet away from the computer it’ll sync to my online fitbit account. I’ve also set my phone up to do this but you don’t have to. It emails you when it needs charging, which is only about once every 10 days, and it charges in about an hour. The button at the top lets you scroll through all the information – and you can tailor the information you want to see online – so you can see the time, steps that day, floors climbed and calories burned. There’s also a cute flower that grows if you’ve been active recently: IMAG0088 If you reach a milestone such as 50 total miles or 100 floors climbed you’ll get an email and a ‘badge’ – it’s quite nice to know I’ve climbed enough floors to be at the same height as a helicopter but, I’ll admit, not overly useful. What is really handy is that you can connect your fitbit account with myfitnesspal – so fitbit logs your steps, myfitnesspal logs your food, and theoretically, you will lose weight if you burn more calories than you eat (although there are lots of different opinions on this so let’s move on swiftly!) I’ve been logging my food for almost 100 days, and I think 100 days is enough, once I’ve got my 100th day of food logging I’ll probably stop doing it so religiously and just focus on eating whole, healthy foods (and maybe drinking fewer glasses of rose wine). I’ve lost 6 pounds since I’ve had mine. So I don’t know whether that’s from moving more or eating less – it’s almost definitely a mixture of both. I haven’t been trying to lose weight very quickly but I am aware that I want to lose a bit. No rush though – I’m not going on holiday for another eighteen weeks. Something else you can use the fitbit one for is tracking your sleep – this is a bit much for me, I tend to know if I’ve slept well or not! Also, I wasn’t keen on the wristband that came with the fitbit. The velco was weird and was already losing its grip after a few nights. I loved the silent vibrating alarm though, it wakes you up without disturbing your significant other. But it wasn’t worth it for me to wear the uncomfortable wristband unfortunately. I’d love to know your thoughts on the fitbit if you have one? What do you think?

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2015 Resolution Update

Hello all!

This week’s post is a round up of the New Year’s Resolutions I made for this year, and how they are doing now, almost a month later.

The first resolution was to make this month alcohol free. Yep. Dry January, who else was doing this? How did you find it? For me, it has been mainly quite uneventful. I did have a night off last Sunday so I could have a wee dram to celebrate Burns Night…

Burns Night

…but apart from that I’ve been good. I don’t even miss drinking in pubs – I like saving the money and just drinking loads of water – but it’s hard not having a glass of wine with dinner, or when friends come round with a bottle of wine to share and I’m stuck with Asda Price Low Calorie Ginger Ale (other brands are available). I haven’t really been a huge drinker since my days as a student (honest!) but I’ll enter February with a new appreciation of a glass of wine to relax in the evening.

My second resolution was to have a ‘mid-week weekend’ on Tuesday and Wednesday as I’m usually gigging on the weekend. Well, I’m not too sure about this one. I tried it for a few weeks and dutifully had my days off Tuesday and Wednesday, then the weekend came round, and I didn’t want to work then either! There’s definitely a different vibe on a Saturday and Sunday, treating them like working days just feels wrong to me. So I can’t have Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday off! I’ll have to stick with the regular weekend. I’m working on practising more in general, so having Saturday and Sunday off practice still creates a distinction. Crikey I love my schedules don’t I? Maybe my 2016 resolution will be to stop being so OCD about everything…

So just a short one for you this week. Next week I’ll be telling you about the little gadget I bought myself for Christmas last year – my fitbit one.

December 2014 catch-up…

This post is a continuation from last week’s post in which I raked over the glowing embers of November 2014, I originally wanted to put November and December into one huge post but alas, there was just too much to put in! So here’s a run-down of December 2014.

The first gig of the month was a solo recital! Yay! This is what it’s all about: performing lovely repertoire for a large, appreciative audience. Many thanks to Philip Scowcroft at Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery for inviting me back to perform – I always have a lovely time. Thanks also for inviting me and Marten to do a joint recital next year – time to find some harp and piano repertoire, suggestions in the comments please!!

On December 5th I had a background gig at Manchester Art Gallery. Those of you who know Manchester will be aware that there is very little parking around there. Pretty much none in fact. So I thought it would be a clever idea to get an estate car taxi to take me there – what could possibly go wrong?

I called the taxi company at least twice during the day to check the booking, 5pm estate car taxi to the city centre. Emphasis on the estate car part. Five o’clock rolls around, no taxi. At quarter past my phone rings to let me know the taxi’s outside, so I trundle out with the harp and all my bags.

It’s not an estate car.

Cue one diva-strop.

Car goes away, angry phone call to Radio Cars, an estate finally arrives. I’m now behind schedule. Trying to hold it together.

I arrange with the driver that he’ll come and pick me up after I’ve finished playing so I don’t have to go through that again. I’ve been asked to play downstairs in the foyer. But all that happens is people come in, hang up their coats, and head off upstairs to the party.

I’m providing music for the hanging up of coats. This has to be a new low.

Fast forward to the end of my set. No taxi.

Cue another massive diva-strop (I’m getting good at these) and phone call to Radio Cars “Yes, it’s the lady with the harp” to request an estate asap.

Taxi turns up, it’s not an estate.

By now I’m rather upset, I finished playing an hour ago and have gone nowhere. Another strop, another phone call and the driver who stood me up sheepishly apologises for not showing up when he said he would, and takes me home, where a party is currently underway, that I am hosting, that I am also very very late for.

Time to start drinking.

Luckily, by comparison the next few days went very smoothly. An hour of background music in Middlewich for a community Christmas buffet-type-thing (I had a lot of the cakes, they were excellent). Then on the Sunday I had the first Ceremony of Carols of the year down in Wilmslow – conducted by Lloyd Buck.

Barnby C of Cs

The Ceremony of Carols is a very special piece – written by Benjamin Britten. I’m sure it is special to many harpists, it’s just for treble voices and harp – although it has been arranged for a full choir.

The following weekend also had engagements on both days, so I decided to get my first ever spray tan in preparation (even my winter foundation for very pasty skin is now looking quite orange on me – I need some sun asap) I went for the lightest tan you can have (they call it ‘Glow’) and yea, it was fun for a few days, until it started coming off. In patches. Starting with my hands. Bad times.

Anyway

On Saturday 13th December I was playing for a wedding banquet, in a marquee. A marquee in December? Sounds crazy but was in fact surprisingly cosy. Who knew?

The following day  I headed over to attend York’s Annual Community Carol Concert. My dad has been conducting this event for decades. It usually attracts a crowd in the region of 1,500 and raises money for several good causes in and around York. They get a school band, a couple of school choirs, a church choir and a ‘novelty item’ (in 2013 it was my Harp Quartet CLOUDS) and we spend an afternoon together singing carols and being entertained by the wonderful Revd Andrew Foster. Father Christmas usually makes an appearance to hand out sweets. I honestly can’t say enough good things about this wonderful event. Long live YACCC!

Daddy Barbican

We are now half-way through the month, almost there. Believe it or not December 2014 was comparatively quiet for me… I’ve had much busier Christmas seasons – I’ve also had quieter ones where I’ve had to live on frozen vegetables with rice due to lack of money. 2014 was a very happy medium, except for the fact that I’m pretty sure I had a chest infection (or just the worst cough of my life) and sounded like I was dying for the whole month.

On Friday 19th December it was time to head over to York again for the Masonic Carol Service that I always play for – this time I brought my own page-turner with me. Doesn’t he scrub up well?

Marten and me at lodge

This is another lovely event that takes place every year. We have a small service of lessons and carols, then claim a glass of sherry or three and head downstairs for a Christmas Dinner with all the trimmings. Just what we need. The evening then always finishes with my parents reading from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. It’s predictable, it’s the same every year, but we love it and for me this evening is what starts Christmas off.

Saturday, 20th December was my final gig of 2014, and it was a Ceremony of Carols (what else?) in Rochdale.

Cantare Programme

I also contributed to this concert by playing a solo, Marcel Samuel Rousseau’s Variations Pastorales sur un vieux noel. One of my favourite solo pieces, but sadly it’s christmassy so I can’t really perform it any other time of year. It was so lovely to work with Michael Betteridge for this gig – his energy is fantastic – I do hope I can work with him again soon *hint hint*.

So there you have it. I didn’t mean for this post to turn into a 1000+ words epic but there you go. The rest of December was spent either with my parents in York, or with my sister down in the Midlands, lots of food was eaten, lots of wine was tasted. All in all a lovely Christmas, and for that I am very thankful.

I hope you all also had wonderful Christmasses and New Years. How are those resolutions going? Next week I’ll be gauging the success (or otherwise) of mine. Eeek.

November Catch Up…

This blog has been quiet for a while so I thought this week’s post should address that and get you all up to date with the last few months of 2014 – my favourite time of the year for a number of reasons.

For the first gig of November I was playing for a Vintage Wedding Exhibition at the Bowden Rooms in Altrincham with the lovely flautist Anna Rosa Mari.

flute and harp wedding fayre

We definitely kept it professional (profesh??) at all times:

Instant Anna Rosa and me

Next on the agenda was Bonfire Night – a rather weird claim to fame I can make is that I went to the same school as Guy Fawkes. I think everyone who went to St. Peter’s School in York has to mention this at some point during November 5th.

Now then, I am a tall girl, but in the huge crowd that gathered in Platt Fields Park in Manchester to watch the bonfire all I could really see was the fire, on the screens of the smartphones of the people around me. I don’t get why you would take a picture or a video of a big fire? Just enjoy it guys! Anyway, after the fireworks we rushed off for a Rusholme curry on the way home, the perfect way to warm up after standing outside for most of the evening. I think this needs to be our new Bonfire Night tradition.

The day after Bonfire Night is my Dad’s birthday so we decided to make the drive over to York to surprise him – these are appropriate for a man in his early eighties right??

Dad's birthday presie

The following weekend I had three gigs! Three gigs in two days! The first was a Fauré Requiem in Doncaster in honour of Remembrance Day:

Lest We Forget

Then on Sunday I was playing for a wedding in Bury:

wedding flowers 9th Nov

This was then followed by another Fauré in St. Ann’s Church in Manchester.

Faure St Ann's

I’m sure you’ll gather that this weekend was slightly crazy – it’s so good to be busy though.

On Tuesday 11th November it was my birthday so I decided to visit Dough in the Northern Quarter with a few friends, the food was amazing and we had a really lovely evening:

Birthday Dinner

I also received this beautiful necklace from Marten, I don’t think I’ve taken it off since then! I love it:

Birthday necklace

The rest of the birthday week could have been a little more pleasant to be honest – it involved a dentist visit and spending a lot of money on my car to get it through its MOT. But enough of that! Let’s move swiftly on to the 22nd of November. I had a gig in Sheffield (my favourite) to play the Debussy Nocturnes and Holst’s The Planets. This gig was rather exciting as the other harpist was Calum Macleod and we could fit both harps in his van! So that meant no driving for me! I could definitely get used to that.

I’d never played the Nocturnes before, they are amazing – especially the third movement Sirènes, you can actually hear the mysterious song of the Sirens over the swirling sound of the sea and the waves – it’s breathtaking. The Planets will always be a favourite of mine too, the violence of Mars, the beauty of Venus, the mystery of Neptune, and Jupiter, the tune of which used to be a favourite hymn at school (who remembers the classic 295 ‘I Vow to Thee my Country’?)

Planets 22nd Nov

Fast forward to the end of the month, the final gig of November was at Leeds Uni, playing Stravinsky’s Symphony in three movements. This piece is very cool and I suggest you have a listen if you’re unfamiliar. There’s lots of harp and the part is substantial so it’s a really good project to get stuck into.

This post was originally going to be November and December but it’s become so big I’m going to have to split it into two separate posts. Stay tuned for more craziness in December’s catch-up post.

Happy New Year 2015

So here we are, 2015, can you believe it?

This is the third Happy New Year post I’ve done – time flies – so I’ll try and make this one a little different (check out 2013 and 2014).

It’s natural at this time to assess the previous year and to look forward to what we want to achieve in the future. Last year I moved in with my boyfriend so that has been the biggest change. We are absolutely loving having our own space just to relax and spend time together. He probably does 90% of all the cooking, which leads to me eating far too much of his delicious food (carbonara is my favourite – I may steal the recipe for a future blog post, leave a comment below if you’d be interested in this).

Work-wise, things still seem to be ticking along nicely. I’m making enough to stay afloat, woohoo! I’ve started saving 20% of everything I earn, which comes in really handy at this time of year when my tax bill is due.

I haven’t been running quite so much as I used to and have joined a gym instead. I wanted to work more on strength but also I wanted the variety of being able to do things like Yoga, Body Pump and Spinning, then be able to swim and have a jacuzzi/sauna afterwards. I also like doing classes as once they are in your diary you treat them like appointments, so emails, phone calls etc. just have to wait until you get back. End of story. I can’t help it. I just love prioritising ‘me time’. Having already done two classes this week I can’t believe how much busier the gym is! So many people on their New Year’s Resolutions. I miss the old days before Christmas with Yoga classes of six and spinning classes of two!

So now for some resolutions, I don’t want to commit to too much and then fall off the wagon later, but here goes:

1. Dry January

No booze in January. I’m tweaking this ever so slightly and doing January 5th to February 5th to allow for a large family party last weekend. I’m doing it to stretch my self-control, and possibly save a bit of money. In addition to that, I’m trying to lose a bit of weight and I’m interested to see if quitting the drink for 31 days will help give me a headstart.

2. Have a ‘weekend’ during the week

Ok this is an odd one but bear with me, I nearly always have gigs at the weekends, so I’m trialling a system of making Tuesday and Wednesday my weekend – and treating Saturday and Sunday like normal working days. Normal working day means getting up at a reasonable time, and either practising, doing admin, going to gigs or something useful during the working day. Weekends mean sleep in, practise if I want to, go to the gym, go for walks, maybe cook a nice meal and generally potter about. I’ll be reporting back on this after a few weeks. Obviously it won’t be completely clear cut – I have pupils who can really only do Tuesday for example. But we’ll see how it goes. I may just end up binge-watching Sex and the City on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Let’s hope not.

I’m also aiming to publish a blog post once a week (on a Thursday, just in case you’re interested). So watch this space for more musings during 2015. It’s good to be back!

CLOUDS in Scotland with David Douglas

Last Thursday the lovely Elfair Dyer and I set off from Manchester to go to Peebles in the Scottish Borders. After the compulsory stop at Tebay services on the M6 (best services ever?) we arrived late afternoon and began rehearsing for our concerts the following Friday and Saturday. Oh, and when I say ‘rehearsing’ what I actually mean is ‘learning the music’.

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Waiting for us was Esther Swift. We usually play as a quartet but on this occasion Rebecca Mills was somewhere around Italy, entertaining the guests as resident harpist on board the Queen Elizabeth cruise ship.

The first gig of the weekend was at the Old Parish Church in Peebles, we were collaborating with the tenor David Douglas to play some Scottish folk songs together. We know David from our days at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, he was so lovely to work with! We definitely want to do more projects like this together. Esther and David also did a few songs just the two of them, and we played a few CLOUDS Harp Quartet pieces – Clouds (our first piece) and Twa Sisters (recently premiered at the Wales International Harp Festival last April) – both composed by Esther.

That evening, after the concert, we decided to go for a cheeky cocktail (or three) in Peebles:

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I can’t tell you how lovely it is to hang out with these ladies, we work so hard together on the quartet but we are such good pals too. It was also the last time the three of us would be together for a while as Elfair is going away for a whole year soon – Elfy, what am I going to do without you??

The following day, feeling a little groggy, we made the two hour drive over to the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Ayr. This part of Scotland is so beautiful – especially at this time of year when all the leaves are changing colour. We performed for an absolutely lovely audience – one of whom even gave us extra money on the way out, saying she felt the concert was worth much more than the ticket price! What a sweetie pie.

I loved the staging in the Museum too:

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It was really light and airy in there, don’t you think the harps look amazing?

After the gig it was time to pack up, say goodbye and head back down to Manchester – stopping for a burger in Tebay of course.

Autumn Term

The summer is drawing to a close and there’s a definite sense of ‘back to work’ here in Manchester.

It’s been a very chilled break for me, I spent some time in the Netherlands, where I had a few cycling lessons, learnt a bit of Dutch, ate a lot of food and drank lots of coffee. I also went on a few National Trust adventures and had many, many dinner parties with friends.

I had a few gigs here and there, mainly providing background music for weddings and other social occasions. It was enough to get me through August (just) but things feel like they’re stepping up a gear now.

It’s September, the start of a new term, I’ve joined a gym (and have been going three times a week) – already I feel like I have way more energy. Gigs are starting to come in thick and fast so I’m spending more time practising. The choir that I sing with has started up again after an August break, and with that the weekly trips to the pub also restart. The new term has also started at Chetham’s, where I work one day a week, how is it that some schoolkids now were born in 2006?!

So the upshot of all this is, all of a sudden I’m ridiculously busy! I’m seeing this as a very good thing as it means I may have money soon yay! I also need to start getting up early again (boo!) but for this I have freshly ground coffee that starts making itself at 7am – I don’t have the mental clarity to grind beans at that time.

I intend to be posting more or less weekly from now on. Just to keep checking in and keep this blog up to date. I hope all of your summers were lovely and that the start of term isn’t too traumatic!

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