White picket fences

Music, Personal

As the Olympians have been preparing to compete in Rio, I’ve been making my way to piano eisteddfods in pretentious dresses that I’ve found no occassion for otherwise. It doesn’t sound like much of an event, and honestly it isn’t when compared to something like the Olympics, but when I thought about my long hiatus from competitive stages, the stress made it seem larger than life.

During this period of preparation, I actually noticed that sport and music were really similar; the endless hours of training and practise, the bid to push yourself to move just those milliseconds faster, the determination to be your absolute best. Both careers mandate excellence in high-pressure environments and both sportsmen and musicians alike aim to get one step closer to perfection with each new day. There’s so much work to be done behind the scenes, so much pressure to be at your peak form that with music, I find it is just as much about refined technique as it is tremendous passion and just as much about frustration and failure as it is about enrichment of the soul. 

It’s been 5 long years… I have really taken a great deal of time off from the competitive side of piano-playing and I feel the years would likely have rolled on into eternity had I not snapped out of my self-encasing doubt. 

Piano competitions used to be a religious routine since I was 7, but as a kid, it was different; you just did it. Your parents enrolled you in something and it was just another activity to do to pass the time in your day. As adults though, oftentimes stress, illogical emotions and the ease with which you can simply choose to give up finds itself in the mix and it really stops you from being in an ideal state of mind. As each year whizzed by during this time off, I lost more and more chunks of my sense of foundation and my need to perform at a high-standard. 

My purpose in playing was chipping away and I dipped my toes in other things, trying to find the passion I felt I had lost. However, with the numerous new beginnings I realised one important thing; the problem was never really with piano itself. The problem was actually always with me. 

The issue wasn’t with what I was doing, it was with how I was doing it. It was simply a lack of zest with my approach to my activities which caused this internal conflict to build up, making me think that I was better suited to other things. So many people seem to fall into this trap; they chase passions blindly, thinking that they can find happiness simply by pursuing a different path. However, they usually find that they’re just as miserable as before even in new settings. Attitude is the absolute key. So instead of trying to search for passion, try taking passion into the work that you are doing. This shift in perception makes you realise that happiness can be found almost anywhere. For me, in these recent weeks, I’ve become more and more aware of my direction, learning a lot about myself, others and life in the process.  

In terms of what I’ve rediscovered, I think the attribute I’m most thankful to re-embody is confidence and belief in myself. I actually have some friends to thank for making me see myself in another light, making me see the limits I had unconsciously imposed. 

Fear stops you from doing a great deal. It makes you become comfortable with not trying, enclosing you behind pretty fences, leaving you to doubt your potential and capabilities. Don’t do that, don’t allow yourself to stagnate. Life, you’ll find, exists between your greatest fear and your deepest desire. Just make sure you keep dancing in between. 

xoxo Paula 

Piano vs. Nails

Music, Personal

When you choose to be a pianist or any instrumentalist for that matter, you slowly realise that to better your art, you need to give up or change a lot of things about yourself.

ONE You become cautious of any activity involving your hands
TWO You don’t do sports involving big balls
THREE You spend your time practising instead of going to birthday parties or camps
FOUR Your hands turn into gold and become the most precious thing to you
FIVE You become somewhat antisocial and untalkative from hours of sitting quietly at your instrument

Unpainted nails

When I was growing up, I WAS a quiet child but I was also a little tomboy at heart. I wasn’t into nail painting or shopping or even fashion when I think about it, and my whole family will tell you how atrocious my sense of style was. It was literally to the point where they would load bags of their own clothes into my wardrobe to stop me from wearing the same Pink Kathmandu Top and ¾ Length Army Pants to every gathering.

When I was young, I preferred to hang out with the boys and follow what they did. I loved the idea of cricket, reading comics (Tintin and Asterix, how I loved you then), and I had the biggest ambition to to get a 6 pack through athletics.

How drastically things have changed…

When I started S&S with Robyn, (after a great many years helped mold me into who I am today), I took some time to ponder about the things I do now that I didn’t dare to back then when piano was almost my everything. There was quite a list of things but after some thought, I realised I wanted to write about how being a pianist has stopped me from painting my nails or growing them out into long and beautiful rakes of seduction.

Long, unpainted nails

Stereotypically, this activity is one of the basic givens of a girl’s life but to hell with stereotypes because in my life, I can safely say that I have coloured them no more than 10 times. With an embarrassing amount of effort, I worked out that painting my nails took up a whopping 0.001% of my entire life. Round that to 0% hahaha! I really believe that this is quite a feat considering those that I babysit have different coloured nails almost every week…

But alas, I am still on break and with an entire chunk of the year dedicated to holidays, I wanted to experiment on them during this time, just to get my girl game on. You have to know that for me, every time I paint my nails, it  feels like one of the ultimate betrayals of piano practice and learning music. I grew up with the mentality that everything besides piano (like cooking or TV) just took time away from piano and I was always paranoid about it. In those few times I have painted them, I learnt that it took so much time and effort that it wasn’t worth it as they would quickly chip from practise anyway. Also, I’m not sure if I’m the only one who feels this, but after coating my nails, my fingertips feel so weighed down and you really don’t want that when you’re trying to break records on Chopin Etudes.

Such a lovely hue of pink and went a bit crazy with the metallic nail ^^

You also learn that the state of your nails can roughly define your level. Musicians alike can start to identify your talent and musical ambition based on the look of your nails. This is a brief list of things I have picked up over the years about what to expect of a pianist by judging their nails.

How to Judge a Pianist List

  1. Long nails?
    Does not practise enough. Can estimate the length of time of the ‘piano break’ with each millimetre of height. Allow 1mm for every 2 weeks
  2. Nails kept short? Quite respectable and usually a good student
  3. Nails that are too short?
    Either less than 12 years of age or clearly new and inexperienced to the life of piano.. Don’t you know it hurts to play on short nails?
  4. Perfectly painted nails?
    Too much time (and paint) on your hands. Not practising and not enough hours dedicated to your craft. SMACK
  5. Painted nails with chips on them?
    Trying to enjoy the finer things in life but still making some time for practice
  6. Chipped nails?
    A sign of vigorous practice or frustration
  7. Scratched nails?
    Possibly learning a piece with glissandos
  8. Square nails?
    OKAY… If the finger itself is also in a square shape, you have a musician that does A LOT of practice. Kudos to you. I look up to you.

Who agrees with this list?!? Seriously I was a 4 and 5 for so long… But since I’m still enjoying the holiday break, I decided to momentarily switch into the group of non-practising procrastinators. I didn’t have high expectations of how my nails would turn out but I am quite pleased with them! What do you think for a nail beginner?

Closeup (sorry for the blurriness)

Feelin' feminine

Until next time!

xoxo Paula

New year. New friendship. New blog. 2015 is our year.

Beauty, Fashion, Food, Music, Personal, Quotes, Travel

We’ve both been thinking about starting up a blog for a while now (years), but was never really motivated enough to really get started. We met through a friend and decided to start this blog together. Now, this is where the story begins. Just spent the past few hours snacking on cherries, purchasing our own website domain, picking out a theme for the site (took quite a while considering how picky we are) and listening to Paula’s amazing voice on repeat (and her telling me to stop it haha).

So for our first post, let’s keep things short and sweet. What you guys can expect from S&S:

  • Fashion finds/trends (We sell some of the clothes that we feature)
  • Music videos
  • Food adventures (Blogs & Vlogs)
  • Beauty product reviews/recommendations
  • Hair care/tutorials (We’re learning too!)
  • Skin care/routines
  • Travel diaries
  • Glimpses of our lives

We really can’t just be “fashion gurus”, “food bloggers” or “beauty gurus”…we like a little bit of everything and that’s essentially why we decided on the name “S&S”. Sugar and Spice. (or everything in between). We’re both “girly girls” but can surprise you with our inner tomboy and we’ll show off our femininity through different styles and coordinations. We’re going to be vlogging via YouTube, blogging via WordPress and sharing random moments via Instagram. We might even use other social media platforms later on! (if we can handle it haha) So hope you stay tuned!

xoxo Paula & Robyn