2021 Year in Review

2021 Review Thingo

A very very belated happy new year to you all!

Here’s the thirteenth annual instalment of Review Thingo. It’s a set of end-of-year questions that first did the rounds back in the olden days of blogging.

All previous episodes are here.

1. What did you do in 2021 that you’d never done before?
Wrote over 50,000 words for my clients. It was exciting to remember I do have the ability to slap words down on a page. There is hope!

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for this year?
No and no. We’re taking it one day at a time, baby!

3. What countries did you visit?
Does England count? In October, my pal Julia Jones came over for the London Marathon so I nipped down over the border on the train for a happy reunion.

4. Did anyone close to you give birth?

5. Did anyone close to you pass away?

6. What would you like to have in 2022 that you lacked in 2021?

Ziggy Reid living in the moment
Ready for 2022

7. What dates from this year will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
I don’t know about you, but specific dates are fuzzy from the blobby megayear that was 2020-21! But here are some gems:

  • A peaceful late arvo swim in November. Orangey soft Autumn light, a rainbow, and a sweet chat with my swim buds.
  • A particularly deep yet hilarious conversation with The Mothership.
  • A superb surprise care package from an absolute legend of a friend.
  • An excellently-timed joke in a Burger King parking lot that made a dear friend speechless and wheezy with laughter, then I couldn’t stop laughing too, practically gargling a mouthful of fries. I can’t remember the joke, but I remember the wave of purest happiness.

Autumn swim

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Finally solving my clothing storage issue! I have a built-in wardrobe that is an awkward, sloping shape and has no shelving. When we moved in 6+ years ago I put a dilapidated chest of drawers inside it to host my clothes. The drawer fronts kept falling off, and it was super dark so I could never find anything without a torch.

Every six months I’d have a meltdown and vow to sort it out Once And For All. I’d draw plans to build shelves, approach a handyperson to do it, or look for ready-made solutions. But I’d lose steam and go back to throwing things into the void and closing the door in a hurry. YES, this could very well be a metaphor!

In December 2021 I decided I could not let this drag into yet another new year. I found some mesh drawer units from IKEA that fit perfectly. G added a motion-sensor light, and my well-being has improved by approximately 675%!

9. What was your biggest challenge?
Remember a few years ago I wrote about the time I left the house for school and nearly stepped right onto a snake on the doormat?

“That’s what the start of a New Year feels like – that mild anxiety as you open the door and stretch your foot out into another set of 365, wondering if there’ll be the proverbial snake on the doormat.”

There were multiple snakes in 2021, each with their unique bitey challenges. But it’s already half past January bloody April and I don’t want to dwell. It was a difficult year, but it was also chock full of hilarity and love. So I will toddle on into the glittering future, make some new memories, and write about them instead!

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Pre-cut baking parchment sheets. No more wrestling with the stupid roll of paper that never tears off neatly and doesn’t quite fit in the kitchen drawer. No more paper that never quite sits flat on the baking tray. No more petty raging at inanimate objects!

12. Where did most of your money go?
As with 2020, repairs on our elderly Renault Clio. It is held together purely with sticky tape and stubbornness at this point.

13. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
The day when there was a woodpecker in the back garden.


Also, the new season of Succession. It took a wee while to get going then, pow!

Roman Roy in Succession
A particularly memorable Succession scene!

14. What song will always remind you of this year?
In March, I had That Was Yesterday by Foreigner stuck in my head for three weeks straight. I’d wake up every morning and it would pop back up in my brain in all its epic 80s goodness. Then in December, it was this Stevie Wonder cover of We Can Work It Out. It is very catchy, I am just warning you now!

15. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Taken more walks and more photos.

16. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Checking email.

17. How did you spend Christmas?
I cooked Christmas lunch – I told Gareth I would take full responsibility for the cooking if he assembled my aforementioned IKEA drawers. I really do hate assembling IKEA. After his folks went home we watched North By Northwest and ate cheese. Top day!

18. Did you fall in love this year? 
Extra grateful for Gareth… after 18 years he still cracks me up every day. Many times in 2021 I’d say “Can I get a hug?” and he’d reply, “£10.”

19. What was your favourite TV programme?

  • The Killing popped up on BBC iPlayer, ten years after it first aired in the UK. Long enough for us to forget it was twenty one-hour episodes, and for Gareth to forget who the killer was! It was fun going back to where the Scandi crime drama obsession began, marvelling at Sarah Lund’s jumpers and her eating dinner out of a saucepan, plus all the ye olde mobile phones. And thinking all over again that Troels Hartmann would be an excellent name for a cat.
  • Not wanting to leave Denmark, next I watched Ride Upon The Storm. I didn’t think a show about a family of priests would grab me but it stars Troels Hartmann (Lars Mikkelsen) and Nanna Birk Larsen’s mum (Ann Eleonora Jørgensen) who are always compelling. Family drama and shenanigans + much soul-searching and meaning-of-life pondering + frilly Danish priest collars = very entertaining.
  • Also enjoyed: the final series of Call My Agent 🇫🇷 , Bump 🇦🇺, Mare of Easttown 🇺🇸 and When The Dust Settles 🇩🇰.

2021 Telly

20. What was the best book you read?
I really admire my Goodreads friends who write smart, insightful book reviews because when I like a book all I struggle to articulate why I liked it beyond, “It gave me feelings!”.

Basically, sign me up for any book containing: loneliness, longing, sadness, regret, second chances and/or healing.

My 2021 favourite reads

21. What was your favourite film?
I keep thinking about Mads Mikkelsen (Troels Hartmann’s brother) in Another Round. He can just sit there and let his cheekbones communicate complex emotions!

Mads Mikkelsen

22. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 44 and had a very quiet Monday with G. We went for a walk on the beach and I rued leaving my swimming gear at home. Then we went to the garden centre to buy a bird feeder, my requested gift. It’s placed so I can see the wood pigeons, blackbirds, blue tits, robins, spuggies etc. dropping by from my office window.

23. What kept you sane?
Friends. How good are friends?! Seamlessly passing the “Shitty Day stick” back and forth, sharing and listening, laughing and crying; being real and being there for each other. Whether it’s in person or in the DM’s, occasional contact or a daily flurry of messages, it’s all precious stuff and hell yes I am grateful.

24. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
During the Euro 2020 tournament both Gareth and I were utterly obsessed with Italy’s dapper assistant coach Alberico Evani. We were far from alone.

Alberico Evani

25. Who did you miss?
Everyone during the lockdown times! But especially the folks in Oz.

26. What were the best things you ate?

  • This pumpkin bread with maple glaze from Yossy Arefi’s Snacking Cakes (the book I raved about last year). I baked it just to use a can of pumpkin puree that had been haunting the back of the cupboard for years, but the cake was so tasty it’s an autumn regular now.
  • The veggie breakfast below at Contini in Edinburgh – who knew a grilled zucchini could rock one’s world? All the better coz it was also a reunion with my dear pal Ravideep. It’s good to have witnesses for these tasty moments.
  • This festive spiced shortbread with sour cherries and pistachio from Bre Graham’s newsletter. I added clementine zest for extra fest.

2021 eats - maple glaze pumpkin bread and veggie brekkie from Centotre, Edinburgh

Sending you all excellent humans good wishes for the not-at-all-new year!

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 a handful of 2020’s hours, but they were chilly portals to joy, sprinkled throughout an often shapeless year. Here are 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 hello to Gareth’s folks from their driveway, then came home and faffed around, then finally started cooking Christmas lunch. We ate at about 8 pm, 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 delivery, 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.

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