Search

Latest posts

Eh look! A mysterious button. Let's click it!

Shauna Reid

Welcome, weary traveller! I'm Shauna Reid, an Australian writer who moved to Scotland twelve years ago in pursuit of adventure and kilts

Join my monthly newsletter

Spring has sprung

Friday night frights

24/Apr/2015

It’s Friday night and there’s 47 minutes until my Scary Blog Deadline. The post I’ve been working on today won’t come together in time so I’ll blurt an old fashioned update.

I keep thinking of the lovely Jen’s comment on the Phoning It In post asking if there was any reluctance to blog stemming from unpleasant comments received in the weight loss blog days. I replied that while that does cross my mind sometimes, it’s mostly my being disorganised or knackered from work-related computering. But thinking deeper on it, I reckon there’s a bit of a stage fright.

I don’t know why but ever since Wally’s demise I’m full of big emotions all the bloody time. It’s either intense, frilly, full-o-the-joys thoughts or black humour morbid kind of thoughts. I shuffle paragraphs around in my head and by the time I open up WordPress I get all tongue tied. Will keep working on that.

Gareth is away at a work thing tonight so I’ve had a highly productive on my lonesome. As well as the blog post faffing I’ve:

  • mucked around with one of those “airbrush your face” iPhone apps, where they smooth your cheeks and douse you in sparkly Bratz doll eyeshadow. But technology could do nowt for my dark circles, inherited from my Mum’s side. They make the brunettes look brooding and mysterious but on ol’ ginger locks here it just looks like I’ve been in a brawl.
  • ran Gareth’s face through the same app; even more fun.
  • read six posts on the rather addictive My Morning Routines blog. Summarise: the key to world domination is to get up early and don’t check your email until you’ve done a thing that really means something to you.
  • enjoyed a brief visit by a certain fluffy creature who snoozed on Gareth’s backpack. I took a photo to send to Gareth but it couldn’t be delivered as his phone has buckled under the weight of fluffy creature updates and cannae take nae more.

Orkney

19/Apr/2015

We whisked The Mothership away to Orkney for a few days, because as you may recall she loves, “The history, Shauna, THE HISTORY!”. These islands, ten miles off the north coast of Scotland, have been inhabited for at least 8,500 years. First by Mesolithic and Neolithic tribes… then by the Picts… then invaded and annexed by Norway in 875… then re-annexed to the Scottish Crown in 1472.

All that means HISTORY GALORE, with some of the oldest and best-preserved Neolithic sites in Europe. We started with the Ring of Brodgar, thought to be erected between 2500 BC and 2000 BC. Turns out The Mothership is a big fan of a good stone circle. If the gale force winds had not blown her back towards the car, I think she would have pottered round there all day.

Ring of Brodgar

By the way, here’s a map for context if you like that sort of thing. I do! Whenever someone writes about their travels I have to look it up on Google Maps so I can picture the journey. In this case, picture a very choppy ferry crossing, Mum chattering merrily with Gareth and myself a wussy shade of green.

Road to Orkney

Tangent: whenever I watch historical documentaries and they show pictures of old maps, I always think about the ye olde explorers toiling away at them. Then I wonder if the first folks that flew into space looked back down at the earth and thought, Hey shit, it looks just like the maps! And then I say this out loud to Gareth and he says, “Yeah!” and I realise I’ve expressed that same thought every time we’ve watched a documentary for the past ten years and I need to get some new material.

Anyway, back to the Ring of Brodgar. The stones have been up there for thousands of years so they weren’t ruffled by the weather, but Gareth was forced to retract hands and retreat into the hood of his jacket.

orkney-brodgar-gareth2

I will keep this one in case he ever needs a cover for a prog rock album.

orkney-brodgar-gareth

Another day, this time with blue skies. The pile of big rocks on the left is one of the Churchill Barriers, four causeways built in the 1940s as naval defences to protect Scapa Flow, but now serve as road links.

orkney-causeway

We also went to the beautiful Italian Chapel. It was built during World War II by Italian prisoners of war, who were housed on the island while working on the construction of the Churchill Barriers. From the Wikipedia:

“The chapel was constructed from limited materials by the prisoners. Two Nissen huts were joined end-to-end. The corrugated interior was then covered with plasterboard and the altar and altar rail were constructed from concrete left over from work on the barriers. Most of the interior decoration was done by Domenico Chiocchetti, a prisoner from Moena.[4] He painted the sanctuary end of the chapel and fellow-prisoners decorated the entire interior. They created a facade out of concrete, concealing the shape of the hut and making the building look like a church. The light holders were made out of corned beef tins. The baptismal font was made from the inside of a car exhaust covered in a layer of concrete.”

orkney-chapel

orkney-chapel-inside

orkney-chapel-inside2
Next stop was Skara Brae, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a stone-built Neolithic settlement consisting of eight clustered houses, and was occupied from roughly 3200 – 2500 BC. Older than the Pyramids of Giza and Stonehenge, as the little stone plaques remind you as you walk down to the site. Being a sketchy-weathered and non-touristy time of year there were no other visitors that morning, just a wind-battered guide roaming round. I nearly did a runner back to the shop for a cuppa, because I feel awkward in such situations. I always overcompensate for the lack of crowds and go, “REEEEALLYYYY that’s so INTEResting!” then buy a souvenir that I immediately regret. But this guide was brilliant and really brought it all to life.

orkney-skara-brae

orkney-skara-brae3

orkney-skara-brae2

Aside from all the history, there were walks, tea breaks and sampling of local ales.

orkney-coast

orkney-peggy

Then back on the ferry then home again, where Neighbour Cat pounced on the unpacked suitcase.

orkney-alfie

Everyday Life: March 2015

03/Apr/2015

March kicked off with a night on Skye for our wedding anniversary. It poured the whole time, but that added a nice brooding atmosphere.

Rain at Glen Sheil

The best reason for a sneaky night away? B&B breakfast!

Skye Brekkie

I went to see the Scottish Ballet’s production of A Streetcar Named Desire. I loved it so so much!

Streetcar Named Desire - Scottish Ballet

I wish I had smart ballet-criticky ways of expressing this goodness. It was moody and sexy with a clever, elegant set and perfect music. I was completely engrossed from start to finish. Except for the scene where Blanche kisses the paperboy. Instantly the voice of Apu popped into my head, singing I am just a simple paperboy from The Simpsons episode and I nearly lost it.

The Mothership arrived later in month and we quickly got into a routine of morning walks. We strolled past the new skatepark with its resident Loch Ness Monster.

In Portlandia they put a bird on it; here in Inverness they put a Nessie on it.

Put a Nessie on it

Epic hopscotch.

Hopscotch

March had all kinds of weather. Flooding…

Flooded Ness River

Snow…

Last snow

… which made Neighbour Cat’s comings and goings less subtle.

Alfie's path

Then finally, some sunshine!

Sunshine at last

Neighbour Cat continued her thing for Sleeping On Bags, seen here in hedgehog pose.

Alfie the Hedgehog

Phoning it in

20/Mar/2015

Ducks of Inverness

I remember Jillian Michaels screaming Don’t phone it in! during in her 30 Day Shred DVD, probably as I slumped on the couch pouring water over my head. I haven’t done that DVD in yonks but that phrase stayed with me. Don’t phone it in. Don’t half arse it.

Yet here I am at 11.30pm with my Blogging Pact deadline closing in, the Conservative Party oh so close to collecting £5 from me. I have no excuse, just bloody disorganised. Can I blame The Mothership’s impending arrival? Not really. She is low maintenance these days and no longer says things like, “When was the last time you cleaned underneath the oven?”.

Anyway, I have an action plan for next week. I’m putting down the phone.

By the way, does anyone watch The Americans? I don’t know anyone else who watches it so I’m dying to talk about it. It’s the 1980s, Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell are KGB agents undercover in the US. There’s gazillions of terrible wigs and Keri Russell is so badass that Felicity is forever banished from my mind.

Here is Neighbour Cat. Her latest thing is dropping by to Sleep On A Bag. A wheelie suitcase, my handbag, my gym bag, and here upon a pile of grocery bags. She just curls up then shall not be moved for three hours.

Alfie kitten

Midnight Brownies

13/Mar/2015

Midnight Brownies - illustration by Claire Roberston, loobylu.com

Tonight I’m going to the lovely Susan’s house for dinner. After faffing around on recipe websites for two hours in search of a gift to bake and take, I’ve circled back to the trusty Midnight Brownies.

Way back in 2000 the brilliant Claire Robertson of Loobylu had a Celebrity Chef feature on her website. Because there were less people online wittering about their lives back then, I managed to squeak in as a “celebrity”!

Over 14 years later I still get search requests for “midnight brownies” on this blog. Claire’s website has gone through evolutions since that time, but I found the page in the good ol’ Wayback Machine. Thanks to Claire for letting me use her original illustrations here!

. . .

This recipe was created out of a desperate need for some sort of chocolate. As university students we’d often be up late writing essays in blind panic or watching crappy TV shows like Renegade or Sunset Beach. Inevitably the chocolate cravings would seize us, and since we were always too poor and lazy to go out and buy some, I used to knock up a batch of sweet and gooey Midnight Brownies. You don’t have to make them at midnight of course, but somehow they always taste better when you’ve whipped them up in a famished frenzy. They’re cheap, easy and scrumptious. Just like your average uni student.

Midnight Brownies - illustration by Claire Roberston, loobylu.com

Ingredients
200 grams butter
½ cup Cadbury’s cocoa powder (nothing else will do)*
2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla essence (the cheap and nasty stuff)**
1 cup of plain flour

* These days I use Green & Blacks because I’m a middle-aged fusspot.
** I use vanilla extract now, see *

Method
1. Preheat oven to 180°C / 350°F. Gently melt the butter and cocoa over low heat on the stove. Add the brown sugar and keep heating gently and stir it til its all one melty chocolatey mess.

2. Remove from heat and stir in the egg and vanilla essence til it all looks smooth and glossy.

3. Gradually add in the flour. Stir it up to buggery and taste numerous times to make sure it’s okay.

4. Taste again, just to be sure.

5. Pour the lot into a tin lined with greaseproof paper. Doesn’t matter what shape the tin it is.

6. Whack it in the oven for about 25 – 30 minutes, depending on how ferocious your oven is. Watch them closely. Sit in front of the oven with rapt attention as if you were watching an episode of Bold and The Beautiful. You do not want burnt brownies.

7. Gather teaspoons and flatmates around pot and scrape up every last drop of batter. Use fingers and/or tongues if you’re bunch of savages (we were).

8. Get too impatient to wait and remove from oven after about 20 minutes. The top of the brownie should be slightly firm but when you poke it with your finger it should still be nice and gooey underneath.

9. Wait about 15 seconds for it to cool then eat. Also works well as a poor-mans mud cake for dessert with some strawberries and cream.

10. Next day, heat piece of brownie for 20 seconds in microwave and serve with glass of cold milk for delicious but nutritionally unsound breakfast.

Everyday Life: February 2015

06/Mar/2015

Another month, another snowy jaunt down the A9…

Snow on the A9

I was also back in London to hang out with some our lovely Up & Running Alumni members to celebrate the book coming out, including a DIY 5K that began in front of Buckingham Palace (Rhi and I had planned the route at Christmas).

Buckingham Palace meetup for Up & Running

Julia left Jennie and I in charge of her son Evan for a couple of hours. First act of child minding: “Climb up on that lion, kid!”

Evan in Trafalgar Square

Now here’s the Neighbour Cat photo of the month.

Alfie does the Thriller dance

I like to think she was dreaming of being a dancer in the Thriller video…

Thriller dance

There were glimmers of sunshine amongst the grim and grey. This was from a walk on the Black Isle, not far from the brewery.

Horse on the Black Isle

I loved the second paragraph of this unsubscribe email. When I’m looking for airport parking I’m looking for the bargain of a lifetime!

Unsubscribe

The lovely in-laws Mary and David came up for a visit. I took them to the Botanic Gardens to contemplate the cactii, which I like to do when it’s maximum miserable outside.

The cactus room at Inverness Botanic Garden

ORRIGHT LADS? HOW’S IT GOIN’?

Friendly flower

I’m sorry this is such an uninspired update! Aside from London, February was a real zombie of a month. I’ll make a better effort to open my eyes in March!

River Ness at sunset

10 years a sham

03/Mar/2015

It’s ten years today since Gareth and I got married in Las Vegas. So much has changed. Back then we had to take selfies with our ARMS. No selfie sticks, kids. Times were tough.

10 years

One of the reasons I was excited to get hitched was because I was marrying into a Nokia 6230. This state of the art phone had a coloured screen and could take 640 x 480 pixel photos! And you could send photographs by email!

I had the bright idea of “live blogging” the day via a convoluted process of sending pictures to my Flickr account, which in turn zapped them to the blog by way of a bunch of embedded code. Except I forgot to email the establishing shot of us standing in front of the Graceland Wedding Chapel so nobody realised we were in Las Vegas and I got some concerned emails, “Why is Gareth playing slot machines on your wedding day!?”.

Nokia

I was a terrified, jet lagged mess the day before. We had to go down town to get a marriage licence from the court house, where dudes wandered round in orange jumpsuits and handcuffs like on Law & Order. I launched into a panicky ramble, How the hell did we get here? What the hell are we doing? This is a huge mistake! Gareth did so well to almost disguise his Hmmm you could be right there face.

But after the ridiculous ceremony, then the second ridiculous ceremony with bonus Elvis after they forgot to film the first one, then the Pharaoh’s Pheast buffet at the Luxor, then the Tom Jones concert, it all felt good and right.

There were a lot of Sham Wedding/Only Did It For The Visa jokes at the time, but it did feel unreal and shambolic. It’s hard to take things seriously with a picture of Elvis on the marriage certificate. It’s only with the testing events of the last few years that the solemnity of those vows kicked in. I’m so glad that such a ridiculous start has evolved into something strong. Well. It’s still pretty ridiculous, too.

Thanks G. You still RAWK!

 

Up & Running March 5K winners

26/Feb/2015

Thanks for all your four-legged giveaway comments!

If you missed out but would like to join our only live 5K Course for 2015, you can use the code MARCH2015 at checkout for 20% off until the course starts on Monday 9 March.

This discount can also be used on our other self-paced courses – 10K, Half Marathon and the Up & Moving walking course.

Here are the lucky winners as decided by the Random Number Generator:

  • Cazz – who loves mysterious wild wolves
  • Desiree – adores an elephant
  • Clementine – is an alpaca fan
  • Meg J – is on Team Cat
  • Nicole – loves orcas and also Brutus, her Dogue de Bordeaux.
  • Eloise – is also on Team Cat but is a recent convert to Team Monkey!

I’ve emailed you with the details so please get in touch ASAP to claim your prize. Thanks again for taking part, folks!

All aboard for the Up & Running 5K

Cromarty Firth

Everyday Life: December 2014 and January 2015

19/Feb/2015

Praise be to Christmas lights, for without them a December 4pm would be so depressing…

Inverness high street at Christmas

I know it looks sad but promise we haven’t resorted to dressing up Neighbour Cat. Her December caper was to come in all miserable from the rain and stare at us until we dried her off with a tea towel…

Be merry

We went to London for Christmas. Just myself, Gareth and Rhiannon, it was the laziest low-key Christmas ever. We had breakfast at 11am, lunch at 4pm and dessert at 10pm, with lots of old movies and rum punch between courses.

Rum punch

Rhi had a real Christmas tree, only the second we’ve had. The first was thirteen years earlier back in Australia, where the needles turned brown after a week and our handmade cookie decorations melted then got scoffed by ants.

Christmas tree

The day after Boxing Day we went for a walk in town, where the crowds had gathered for the Changing of the Guard.

Dudes on The Mall in London

St James's Park, London

Alfie waved hello to 2015…

Hello from Alfie

Gareth really got into his bread making.

bread

As per tradition the first two weeks of January were all about laying low and worrying what a new year would bring. I got myself together and spent the rest of the month focusing on Fitbitting 10,000 steps per day, to rack up a small sense of achievement. The snow made it fun.

Snow in the

Speaking of snow, there were some cracking Highland views from the Perth – Inverness train!

Highland views from the Perth - Inverness train

Win a spot on the March Up & Running 5k course

16/Feb/2015

Up & Running

Giveaway time! This is the first and only time I’ll don the Up & Running 5K Course pimp hat this year. The March 5K is the one live course we’re running in 2015*, as we need to clear space for the epic task of creating a new Marathon course.

The course starts on Monday 9 March and goes for eight weeks. Here’s what you get…

  • an eight week training plan to get you 5k race ready, designed to gradually increase your strength and fitness while avoiding injury
  • a daily blog chock full of support materials, like running techniques, drills, videos and inspiring videos
  • unlimited support from expert coach Julia Jones, for all your running questions
  • access to our private community forum so you can cheer/moan every step in a safe, friendly environment.

I’m giving away five free places. All you have to do is leave a comment on this blog post and answer the following question:

What is your favourite four-legged creature and why?

(I got this question by googling “best random questions”. Hehe.)

  • Entries close 11PM GMT on Wednesday 25 February.
  • There will be five winners and each win a place on the Spring 5K Course.
  • The winner can gift the prize to a friend if desired.
  • Winners will be randomly selected.
  • Winners can be from anywhere in the world. Previous winners are eligible to enter again. Remember the course is for women only.
  • * self-paced versions of all courses still available!

Up and Running

Older Posts