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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

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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

Upping the stakes

13 Feb 2015
Give me all your money

Give us all yer money!

A true win for Consistency last year was my blogging pact with Jennette. I ended up with 37 new posts in 2014, versus 28 in 2013 (both numbers exclude pimping-my-wares posts).

It was very effective having an accountability buddy and using Stickk to manage our commitment. It reminded me that whatever you do consistently shapes the tone of your life. If I want things to be different it’s not about dramatic sweeping changes. It’s repeated tiny actions and slightly smarter decisions, gathering momentum over time.

Likewise with the not-so-healthy consistent actions, like all those episodes of Grey’s Anatomy. If we are what we repeatedly do as Aristotle reckoned, I was a bum-shaped dent on the couch!

There were weeks when the thought of paying Jennette $5 for missing the blog deadline wasn’t sufficiently scary. I really like Jennette! Adding the occasional five bucks to her life never felt like a bad thing.

Turns out Jennette had been feeling the same in reverse, so she proposed upping the stakes for 2015. Stickk has an “anti charity” feature wherein if you fail to meet your commitment, your money goes to a nominated organisation to which you really do not wish to give money. I chose the UK Conservative Party. Now I have the above image of a grinning Treasurer George Osborne and Prime Minister David Cameron taped to my monitor to spur me into action. Win!

 

2014 Review Thingo

31 Jan 2015

I’ve got no bloody idea where January went. I wish I could say it was glamorous book promotion or naked skydiving, but it was mostly stomping around in the snow trying to hit my 10,000 steps per day. A very belated happy new year to you all!

Here’s my untimely annual review. Previous episodes: 2013201220112010 and 2009.

A pot

1. What did you do this year that you’d never done before?

  • visited the most northerly public toilet in mainland Great Britain.
  • got my eyebrows tinted. After a lifetime of invisible eyebrows and furious pencilling, you can’t imagine the delights of 24/7 definition! Until they faded, then my eyeballs got sorta lost in my face again. Anyone else have this problem? 😉
  • my forearm said goodbye to Wally the skin cancer
  • finally went full time freelance as a writer/web marketing-y type of person (rubbishness at describing skill set no doubt contributed to taking so long to take the plunge).
  • deadlifted 85 kilos (had set a goal of 100kg for 2014, but had to take five months off deadlifts after Wally!).

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for this year?
I had a word of the year – consistency. It guided me sweetly through the first half of the year but the second half I quite lost it. I didn’t feel drawn to choosing a word this year; I’m kinda guiding actions and decisions based on how I want to feel. It’s not as woo-woo as it sounds! One month in, it’s working well.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yes! Including my best mate Jenny on December 23. She said I could be an honorary Auntie so I plan to dote from afar!

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Auntie Marg passed away, one of our beloved quartet of Great Aunts. Still can’t believe her twinkly smile is no longer with us.

5. What countries did you visit?
Spain, France (for a day) and Italy.

6. What would you like to have next year that you lacked in this one?
I don’t feel I lacked for anything, except maybe for bargain cast iron pots. Sainsbury’s makes these great Le Creuset-esque pots and they were on sale last January. I had a bunch of Nectar points saved up, so I ordered two huge casserole pots and a griddle pan for all of £40. Then I found out about the melanoma and in a fit of morbid madness I returned the pots.

My reasoning was that since I didn’t actually need the pots, keeping them would be tempting fate, like I was arrogantly assuming I’d be around to use them. What use would Gareth have for a pile of cast iron pots if I died? Would he bury them with me, so I could make tasty slow-cooked casseroles with cheaper cuts of meat in the afterlife?

There was nothing logical at all about my thought processes during that period. And now that I’m currently alive and hankering for a hearty stew I really regret returning those bloody pots.

7. What dates from this year will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

  • 23 May – Melanoma all clear!
  • 24 May – After seven fruitless visits, finally spotted dolphins at renowned dolphin-spotting place Chanonry Point. There were twenty dolphins leaping around very close to shore, with the sun setting in the background. Pure magic! Especially since we went for chips afterwards.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Watching all ten seasons of Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix in an alarmingly short period of time.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Watching all ten seasons of Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix in an alarmingly short period of time.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Aside from Wally, a couple of colds but otherwise dandy!

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Vichy Aqualia serum for dehydrated skin- a Sali Hughes recommendation. Lizard face, sorted!

12. Where did most of your money go?
Groceries? I laid low with the spending this year.

13. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
The visiting Neighbour Cat!

The borrowed cat

She’s actually teeny tiny under all that fur!

14. What song will always remind you of this year?
The Gambler by Kenny Rogers. Know when to hold ’em; know when to fold ’em. Great advice, K-Dawg.

15. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder?

Happier.

b) thinner or fatter?
Same.

c) richer or poorer?
Slightly poorer but no worries.

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Daily stepping.

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Denial of reality through the medium of Netflix binges.
(Have now cancelled the Netflix subscription for my own good!)

18. How did you spend Christmas?
In London with Gareth and Rhiannon. Rum punch FTW!

19. Did you fall in love this year?
Definitely that Neighbour Cat.

20. What was your favourite TV program?
I finally watched Breaking Bad and loved it, and The Good Wife was a surprise favourite. But can’t go past Friday Night Lights for pure love and obsession!

21. What was the best book you read?
The Signature of All Things.

22. What was your favourite film of this year?
The Possibilities Are Endless.

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 37 and had a low-key day with a walk then lunch at the Dores Inn.

24. What kept you sane?
Bloody brilliant friends! Would not have got through it without you, THANK YOU! :)

25. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
A toss up between Jesse Pinkman and a Coach Taylor, Tim Riggins, Matt Saracen combo. I’m sure they have real names!

26. Who did you miss?
The Mothership.

27. Who was the best new person you met?
Does Neighbour Cat count as person? I love that grumpy nutter!

 

Enjoy the process

08 Jan 2015

Julia Jones in da tub

It’s Publication Day for our Up & Running book! Why a pic of Julia Jones in a tub? Well, when Dietgirl came out I didn’t properly enjoy P-Day. I felt scared, fraudulent and undeserving. Back then I still believed if I dared celebrate something I’d be immediately struck down for being so indulgent (see also: iPhone laundering incident).

But now I appreciate that life is random and you can’t dress rehearse disaster (paraphrasing Brené Brown), so you have to soak up these moments!

I went a bit bonkers during the writing part of Dietgirl, too. I had a meltdown over the last chapter, one which Gareth never tires of re-enacting. I somehow wound up kneeling on the floor, punching the seat of my chair while howling, “I CAN’T DOOOO THIIIIIS!”.

This time I declared I would enjoy the process. Every time Gareth looked in while Julia and I were writing he’d ask, “Are you punching the chair yet?” and I’d be all, “Nooooo… still good!” and he’d look disappointed.

I think it comes from knowing you’ve done it before and that it’s meant to be hard, but also from not having your entire self-worth tied up in the project. This time I just loved the act of creation and collaborating, even the months when I had to use that bloody voice dictation software.

So Julia lounging up there in the bathtub (snapped during the book’s photo shoot) sums up a fun and relaaaaaxed process and for once in my life I reckon I’ve been fully present for it all. A large gin shall be quaffed tonight. Woohoo!

If you’d like to know more about the book, here’s the lowdown. I wanted to say mega thanks to my friends and family and blog pals for being so patient during those writing months, to the Up & Running community for your fantastic contributions and for always inspiring us, to the good folks at CICO Books, and of course to Julia for everything!

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