2020 Review Thingo

2020 Review Thingo

Very belated new year greetings, comrades! Here’s the 12th annual instalment of Review Thingo. All previous episodes are here.

The Review Thingo is a set of end-of-year questions that first did the rounds back in the olden days of blogging. I’ve retired some questions and added in new ones over the years!

A country field with a metal gate. Attached to it is a handmade sign that reads: Please Leave This Gate Open During A Pandemic Thx

1. What did you do in 2020 that you’d never done before?

  • The pandemic thing… let’s start with the obvious!
  • Hung up a picture that had been leaning against a wall, on top of a radiator, for 4.5 years. Win!
  • Baked (burned) hot cross buns
  • Grew some dahlias
  • Attended a Zoom wedding 😍 and many Zoom quizzes.

What did you do in 2020 that you’d never done before. Photo of burned hot cross buns, a soft coral pink dahlia, and a page of a notebook with pub quiz answers on it

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions?
I chose a word: action. I must have been feeling feisty on 31 December, 2019. But I did hang up that picture!

3. What countries did you visit?
Italy. I met up with my dear pal Julia for a work weekend in Milan at the end of January 2020. A month later there were images of a deserted Piazza del Duomo on the news. The whole idea of a work weekend away feels so strange and decadent now!

January sunshine in Milan

4. What dates will remain etched upon your memory?
My dips in the sea only add up to handful of 2020’s hours, but they were chilly portals to joy, sprinkled throughout an often shapeless year. Here’s a few faves:

  • January 1 – I went along to a local New Years Day dip with fellow newbie Melanie. I hadn’t been in the water since my first cold dip up north, six months earlier. That had been so magical and world-shifting, I worried it couldn’t possibly feel that good again. But it DID! (though I don’t think my arse defrosted until January 2nd.)
  • May 30 – the first dip after 11 weeks of lockdown was a ridiculously warm morning, piping hot by Scottish standards. We dried off on the beach! In the sun! No shivering! Outstanding.
  • September 6 – An early morning dip with a blazing sunrise. My swim buds Melanie, Debbie and I, plus one friendly stranger had the beach to ourselves. The water was like silk and afterwards we all sat on a log, with appropriate social distance and Melanie’s homemade banana cake, sipping our tea as the sun finished its rise.

Outdoor swimming became a real thing in the UK last year, with Dry Robes selling out and the inevitable Daily Mash article Cold water swimming latest health trend people need to shut up about. But I will not shut up! Because I tried and tried and tried for decades to find something to help calm the relentless brain chatter; to feel like my mind and body weren’t at war with each other. I finally figured out that nothing makes me feel so at home, so at peace, so present and accepting, than a chilly hug from the North Sea.

Swims of 2020

5. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
a) Learning the Cookie Scoot, a technique devised by Erin of Cloudy Kitchen. When your fresh baked cookies come out of the oven, place a round cookie cutter slightly larger than the cookie, over the cookie, then “scoot them into a perfectly round shape”.

You can see Erin demo it in this Instagram Story highlight. I didn’t have a cookie cutter so had to use a pint glass, which was a tight fit but still made these babies pretty round! So pleasing.

Do the cookie scoot

b) Learning the shortcut for bringing up the emoji keyboard on a Mac. Control + Command + Space bar!

Frequently Used Emojis, 31 December 2020
Frequently Used Emojis, 31 December 2020

c) The Moody Blue Office. After five years of indecision and dodgy paint samples (that baby poo brown colour in the Before pic below was meant to be GOLDEN, dang it), I now have the library-meets-cave atmosphere I always wanted.

Home office renovation

d) Daily Duolingo habit. I struggled to be consistent with anything during 2020, so maintaining my Duolingo streak was a low stakes way of staying in touch with the idea of consistency. If that makes any sense at all.

I started out with German in the beforetimes for a planned trip, but when that was cancelled I switched to Finnish as I was currently engrossed in a Finnish crime drama called Bordertown.

I’m now on a 354 day streak. I’m not sure if I will ever get to visit Finland again, but now when I watch my murder shows I can understand thank you, sorry, ice cream and hello… if bugger all else!

Learning Finnish with Duolingo

6. What was your biggest challenge?
I often hear the phrase same storm, different boats used to describe the collective experience of 2020. My boat was pretty sturdy: I already worked from home, Gareth could safely work at work; I was used to not seeing my family. Meanwhile, I knew folks working on the medical frontlines, or juggling their work with homeschooling, or suffering with Covid, or losing loved ones to it, or dealing with terrible storms that had nothing to do with the pandemic. That puts things in perspective.

At the same time, it was (still is) Unprecedented Times™ and like everyone I talk to, it’s an ever-shifting tour through okayness, frustration, deep gratitude, loneliness, numbness, rage, quiet joys, tedium, gut-churning worry and uncertainty, 3am staring at the ceiling… etc etc etc etc etc.

(This one is bloody impossible to answer, I’ve been trying for six weeks now. I hope you get me!)

7. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Minor clumsy injuries only.

8. What was the best thing you bought?
Neoprene gloves and a fleece-lined beanie for making swims a wee bit toastier!

Swimming beanie

9. Where did most of your money go?
Repairs for our ageing car.

10. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

  • The Mysterious Caramilk – my swim buddy Debbie discovered a large display of Caramilk, my favourite Aussie chocolate, in a bargain shop right here in Dunfermline. How and why this happened, we will never know. Did it fall off the back of a ship somewhere? A true Christmas miracle.
  • Neil Finn’s Fangradio broadcasts – for a good six weeks during Lockdown #1, Neil performed live from his LA home every freakin’ day. He was often joined by his equally talented sons, wife, and charming 3 year-old grandson Buddy. His songs have been companions to my ears since early childhood, so it was pure comfort. I loved the nightly routine of heading up to bed with headphones, ready to tune in along with folks around the world. Special shoutout to Dana, lovely longtime blog buddy in Kentucky – we often messaged as we listened and her witty banter added lockdown sparkle! 💗

The Mysterious Caramilk

11. What song will always remind you of this year?
Running With The Devil by Van Halen. When Eddie passed away in October I could not get this out of my head. Also for my fellow nerds out there: Rick Beato did an excellent episode of What Makes This Song Great about it.

12. How did you spend Christmas?
I had a quick morning swim, then we said to hello to Gareth’s folks from their driveway, then came home and faffed around, then finally started cooking Christmas lunch. We ate about 8pm, on the couch, watching Close Encounters of the Third Kind for some reason.

13. Did you fall in love this year?
Yes! With Cats of Brutalism on Instagram. Eternally grateful to my pal Sue for introducing me to this match made in heaven.

Cats of Brutalism

14. What was your favourite TV programme?
This year was mostly about comfort telly. 2020 kicked off with a foreign crime drama phase, including Bordertown and Deadwind from Finland, Rebecka Martinsson from Sweden, Ultraviolet from Poland and Cardinal from Canada.

After I saw the brilliant documentary series Lenox Hill on Netflix, I switched to medical dramas. The Resident, New Amsterdam and Chicago Med. The faces vary, the doctors usually have excellent hair, and in most episodes someone will have a miraculous recovery and someone else won’t make it. That predictability was nice when the real world situation was unfathomable.

I also enjoy how these shows seem to nick each other’s plots. I’ve seen multiple patients with cobalt poisoning, multiple patients who they initially dismiss as drunk but turn out to have auto-brewery syndrome, and more than one evil doctor fiddling with a clinical trial.

Also enjoyed: Unorthodox, I May Destroy You, Schitt’s Creek.

15. What was the best book you read?
Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid and Snacking Cakes by Yossy Arefi.

I’ve always liked the term “snacking cake”, which I first heard in an American food magazine. It basically means a single layer, one-bowl, no stand mixer required, relatively casual cake to have with a cuppa, or for breakfast, or for no reason at all. My favourite kind of cake to bake and to eat.

This is one of those rare cookbooks where you want to make pretty much everything. It’s a great blend of classic flavours and plot twists, and there’s not a single recipe where you read it and think, “I cannot be arsed making that”. The exact kind of book we needed in 2020.

Snacking Cakes

16. What was your favourite film?
Newer: Parasite
Older: Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

17. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I was 43! I had a Zoom afternoon tea with my local pals Alli and Nicole. We developed a nice 2020 ritual of having arvo tea for each other’s birthdays, since we couldn’t meet up in person. The non-birthday duo would do the baking and doorstep deliver, then all meet with the birthday woman on Zoom for tea and chat. Good times, great cakes!

Birthday tea

18. What kept you sane?

  • Friend chats!
  • Swimming, when permitted
  • Pen McKinley-Rodgers’ Qigong course
  • Sitting under the silver birch tree in the back yard, listening to the leaves rustle. When we weren’t allowed to swim, it almost sounded like waves.
  • Ziggy’s endless array of withering looks…

Ziggy in 2020

19. Who did you miss?
All the humans. And the library, if we can personify the library.

20. What were the best things you ate?

  • Saag Feta – “The secret to my mom’s saag paneer is… that it contains no actual paneer” says the fabulous Priya Krishna, author of Indianish. I always say feta makes everything betta and this dish is no exception. We cooked this at least once a month.
  • A tasty Biscoff variation of that old standard, Midnight brownies.
  • Nicole’s outstanding soda bread, and spelt and rye sourdough (pictured below)
  • Right before Christmas, Allison dropped round the most amazing hunk of chocolate cake, still warm from the oven. It tasted like the memory of childhood chocolate cake… tender crumb, fudgy icing, no fuss. Still dreaming of it nearly two months later…

I appreciate this Review is 90% cake and swimming. There was lots of other stuff, but this is what was left in the sieve after I shuffled through all the thoughts, feelings and happenings.

If you made it this far, thank you for reading! I so appreciate you being here after all this time 😍

Biscoff brownies and homemade sourdough bread

The End.

About Shauna Reid

Ahoy there! I’m Shauna, an author, copywriter and content mentor. I love telling stories about life and helping others to tell theirs.

Find out more about me and how we can work together – I’m now booking for May 2021.


40 thoughts on “2020 Review Thingo

  1. Thanks for your Review Thingo – It felt like you were my friend although I don’t know you but your human-ness was so comforting x

  2. So good to hear from you!!! I appreciate all the news and photos!

    I had wondered about you many many times this year. (Once a month would be very nice . . .)

  3. Oh man, Saag Feta sounds really good. The best way to get me to each spinach is to serve it up with cheese. I used to buy microwave dinners of that stuff all the time.

  4. Let me know when you’re ready for a Finnish penpal! We can’t talk about Bordertown, though, since Poirot is as gritty as I can take it. I took up Danish on Duolingo 2 months ago because yes, exactly, any sense of consistency is better than none. Based on my knowledge of Danish, you should be able to understand when I say “tytöt syövät omenoita”. 😄 For cold dipping Finnish style, I suggest searching for pics with “avantouinti”. You couldn’t make me do it. ❄

    1. Boys eat apples? Woohoo!

      I’m rapidly reaching the point where the avantouinti pics look really appealing! 🙂

      So good to see you, T!

  5. Biscoff brownies is brilliant! The Offspring will be speechless when I make it for them… And I’ll get some quiet 🤣

    I discovered caramilk this year and it is good. I can send you some more if you have run out 🙂

    1. That sounds like a win for everyone, Kate! Mwahaha 🙂

      Isn’t Caramilk fab? I tried some “posh” caramelised white chocolate, and you can make it yourself in the oven or microwave… but Aussie Cadbury’s Caramilk is the best!

  6. Loved catching up on your year- 90% cake (and swimming) is an awesome way to summarize a year well spent! I’ve been following you (not literally, just on the web) since “way back when!” So great see your life unfold. Just one thing…I’m American and I’ve never heard the term “snacking cake.” But it sounds great and I’m all about snacks and cake! 🎂❤️
    Also, I live in Arizona and I’m fairly certain I would die if I plunged into the North Sea in winter. It’s 55 degrees (Fahrenheit) here tonight and I’m bundled up like it’s the North Pole. 😄

    1. Hi Eve! Thank you so much for your comment, it’s so cool that are you still here from way back when! 🙂

      I think I first heard “snacking cake” in an American food magazine, it really spoke to me, mwahahaha 🙂

      I can imagine how 55F would feel utterly freezing when it’s normally so hot, I remember that feeling in Australia all too well!

  7. Belated happy new year Shauna. I always love your review posts. And good to see you were doing as ok as could be expected in an unprecedented year! I am fine to read lots of cakes and swimming. Never heard of snacking cakes before but it is my sort of cake too. And I got into outdoor swimming after lockdown when that was all I could do and then found it hard to go back to my indoors pool but the weather has been lovely for a swim in Melbourne. I remember colleagues doing the loony dook in edinburgh. Great to see some pics of ziggy – lockdown was/is perfect for cats! You did well to get to europe before lockdown and your blue room looks fantastic. Good luck with getting through lockdown – it was tough in Melbourne (and we are on a snap 5 day lockdown which I hope will not extend as I am finally back in the office 3 days a week)

    1. Belated happy new year to you too, Johanna! That’s so cool you started outdoor swimming in Melbourne! I had a similar experience when we were briefly allowed to swim indoors again – it felt like being in a big bathtub!

      I hope you’re doing okay there in your lockdown, crossing fingers that you can get back to the office soon!

    1. It’s pretty good! So creamy and caramelly… sigh 🙂

      I first heard ‘snacking cake’ in an American food magazine, think it might have been Bon Appétit! Actually think I will edit the post to say that.

  8. You’re such a good writer. I loved reading this. A nice combination of challenging things and comforting things. And hanging up pictures is not to be sniffed at. Looking forward to seeing you in person whenever that may be (I’ve stopped saying ‘soon’).

  9. ❤️❤️ your review thingo , as always! So many clicks and searches that make it even more fun. May 2021 treat us all more kindly (at least here we no longer have an asshat as president, that’s huge!). xo L

  10. Highlights of cake and swimming sound pretty good to me! I’m another one who’s been reading your blog forever so kind to read these years in review. I’m really intrigued by the swimming. I dismissed it as an IG fad when I first saw people doing it but could definitely do with some of those feelings you describe.

    1. Lynsey! 🙂 Always love when I see your name pop up!

      The swimming really did become the Sourdough of the Sea, didn’t it?!

  11. It’s funny because I’ve never met you but, every time I make brownies, I think of you. I’ve been using your brownie recipe for 20 years! And those chilly dips sound amazing *sobs in Queensland*

  12. HAPPY NEW YEAR! Excited to see a post from you – I always love your Year Review Thingo!

    I am such a huge fan of Hunt for the Wilderpeople – so underrated.

    I’m really intrigued by cold water swimming – it’s been ages since I’ve been in the sea. I mean, obviously it doesn’t get anywhere near as cold here!

  13. I’m so happy to see a new post from you Shauna! Love your writing and hearing about life abroad from a real person. I’m in America, SE Georgia, so swimming in anything under 70F is completely out of the question! LOL! I’m so happy to see you made it to Italy before lockdown. I had planned to go this year for my 50th birthday, but we realized summer last year it wasn’t happening. I’m still a little pouty about it, but with everything else going on in the world I cannot complain too much! BTW, I have heard the term “snacking cake” before and they are not to be dismissed! So easy and SO GOOOODDD! I think it’s derived from the “snack cakes” we have which are single-serving, individually packaged cakes from the store. Mom used to put those in our lunch from time to time.

    Love ya bunches lady and keep on writing! You’re fabulous in my book!

    1. Hello Bernadette! You completely made my day with this comment! Thank you for your kind words!

      I’m crossing fingers that you can get to Italy soon… happy 50th for when it comes!

  14. So lovely to read this, Shauna. It would take a lot to persuade me into the cold sea, but I’m delighted that you’ve found something you love.

    Though we’ve only met once, I am so fond of you through your writing! Very best wishes to you.

  15. All the hugs Shauna! It’s good to see you posting here. Can’t wait for you en Julia to be able to have a working weekend over here again <3

  16. Nice to see you posting again, always love the Review Thingo. As a longtime Split Enz/Crowded House fan, I was so excited when I found Fangradio, and you are the only person I’ve seen mention it! I was a little late getting on board and missed most of the first round, but heard a couple episodes live during the summer–so comforting and real, and often made me tear up. Once he got back to NZ, the timing was usually wrong, but you’ve reminded me that I’ve gotten notified about a few episodes recently and they’re up on the website — what a lovely pre-bedtime treat.

    I got to meet Neil Finn once after a Crowded House show and made an utter fool of my self gawking and stammering — he’s such a sweet person, I’m sure if I could have tried to make any kind of normal conversation, he would have responded, but I just didn’t give him anything to work with and it was among the more awkward moments of my life.

    1. Oh Amanda that cracked me up… I would have been a blabbering mess in that situation! Hehehe.

      “Comforting and real” – that nails it!Btw if you look up Fangradio in a podcast app, it’s available as a podcast and all the first round lockdown episodes are in there if you ever need something to listen to!

      1. Thank you! And duh, I realized an earlier post of yours was how I found out about Fangradio in the first place, so double thank you! And many more thank yous for everything comforting and real you have shared over the years…I think I’ve been reading you for about 14-15 years now, and I seldom comment.

        1. Thank you Amanda… this made me weepy, I am so sentimental these days (well, all the days, let’s be real). Thank you for being here all this time!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Name *