January – all wrapped up

Okay January was a tough year, but we got through it… 

It was, of course, a heart-breakingly tough month for anyone caught up in the devastation of Australia’s bushfires. 

Others are talking and writing about that with far more eloquence and authority and proximity than I can, so I’ll leave it to them.

New Year

January began early for us. We were still in the UK and, more specifically in a fabulous village that I’ll tell you more about another time, Lacock.

Given that our little travelling party was comprised of Aussies and Kiwis, on the dot of 11am, as the TV in the pub was playing the fireworks from Auckland, we toasted in the NZ new year.

Then at 1pm as the telly in the pub was playing the fireworks from Sydney, we toasted the new year in Australia. Sometime around 2pm, we remembered to have a drink for the new year in Queensland. You get the idea.

We didn’t, however, last through until midnight in England, although our lovely landlady at Clover Cottage in Wyck Rissington gave us a bottle of red to see the new year in with.


We began the long trek home on January 3, landing in Sydney a couple of days later before beginning the 1000 km drive home via Armidale. It was surreal seeing the smoke haze and the hectares of forest that had been burnt out before Christmas in that part of the state. There were still trees alight and spot fires flaring up in the range as we passed.

Armidale through a weird smoke haze

As for other travel, nope, I’ve stayed put during January and hope to do so in February as well.

Excess Baggage

I didn’t intend to miss out on anything while we were in England so had budgeted on a 2kg gain with the intention of being back at my December pre-holiday weight by the end of January.   

I was back on my little baggagey wagon within a week of being back and it took me the rest of January but I finished the month at about the same weight as I was before we went away. That, in my view, was a win.

The total loss still stands at just over 10kgs.


I read six books during January, two of these being absolute stand-outs.

“The Most Beautiful Walk In The World” by John Baxter, was on the bookshelf at Wyck Rissington. 

It’s a memoir, but mostly it’s about Paris and walking, and people who walk in Paris, and the stories about famous people, mostly artists and writers, who walk in Paris. I’ve read a few of Baxter’s books before (and also read his latest, “A Year in Paris” during January) and love his fabulous style. It’s a ramble – as if you’re sitting having a glass of wine and chatting. He writes the way I’d love to write.

“With wide clean streets, Parisians began to walk, and to walk for the pleasure of it. They even coined a word for this diversion. It’s called flânerie, and someone who does it is a flâneur.

…People who lead tours or write guides crave an itinerary, the route from A to B. The flâneur has no such aim. Their promenade exists for itself, irrespective of destination.”

My other 5-star read for the month was “The Little Shop Of Happily Ever After” by Jenny Colgan. I’d read the sequel to this before I read the book but that didn’t matter at all. 

The easiest way to describe this is to say it’s the loveliest book I’ve read in a long while. Maybe since Nicholas Barreau’s “Paris Is Always a Good Idea.” It’s a book for anyone who loves books, who can escape into a story and who truly believes there is a book for every mood and for every ill.

“I swear you think books are alive,” said Lennox.

“Because they are,” said Nina.

Plus, it’s set in Scotland, which is always a good thing. One last passage, just because I love it:

Some people buried their fears in food, she knew, and some in booze, and some in planning elaborate engagements and weddings and other life events that took up every spare moment of their time, in case unpleasant thoughts intruded. But for Nina, whenever reality, or the grimmer side of reality, threatened to invade, she always turned to a book. Books had been her solace when she was sad; her friends when she was lonely. They had mended her heart when it was broken, and encouraged her to hope when she was down.

Yes, yes and yes.


Not a lot really. The stand-out for the month was the Derry Girls episode on Great British Bake-off. It was broadcast on New Year’s Day in the UK and was laugh out loud hilarious.

Other than that, I’m enjoying the current season of Death In Paradise (Foxtel) and the new season of Silent Witness(Foxtel) and am re-watching Shetland (Netflix).

Oh, and I watched the Downton Abbey movie on the flight.


The most “liked” pics on the ‘gram last month was this one of Mooloolaba Beach Surf Life Saving tower

and this one – the road trip pie at Tenterfield.

Getting real

In addition to my day job I’ve taken on the presidency of the Romance Writers of Australia. It’s definitely bigger than I expected it to be, but I’m now getting my head around it. Slowly. Let’s just say there’s going to have to be some serious scheduling and balancing done this year. 

To give me some semblance of stability I’ve gone permanent part-time in the day job. It means that while I’ve compromised on some of my flexibility, I now have structures which were previously missing. Realising that was another get real moment for me.


I have a lot on the go. This year I’m getting real (there’s that phrase again) about my writing career so I’m currently:

  • Finishing the first draft of “It’s In The Stars” (Book 5 in my Melbourne Girls chick-lit series). I’ll have this to my editor in March.
  • Finishing the structural re-write to “Escape To Curlew Cottage” (Book 2 in my Brookford series and a companion novel to “Wish You Were Here”). This is due for copy editing in April.
  • I’ve also received the copy edit back for “Careful What You Wish For” (Book 4 in my Melbourne Girls chick-lit series) and now need to complete that and do something about a cover for it.
  • Finalise the formatting for “I Want You Back” (Book 3 in my Melbourne Girls chick-lit series).

It’s a lot to juggle, I know.


The 5 things series is back, but rather than being a run-down of my week, it’s now the things that either made me smile or made me think. Snippets from here and there. 

In addition to that I blogged my word of the year, wrote a closing ceremony for 2019, and wrapped up the year in books.

I’m also slowly blogging my way through our recent trip to the UK. If you’ve missed any you’ll find them here.

The Nigella Diaries

Remember how I have this lofty ambition to cook my way through Nigella’s “How To Eat?” I haven’t blogged an update from here for months, but during January I did cook another recipe from the book – a Chocolate Raspberry Pudding Cake.

You can find the recipe here...

Okay, that was my month…how was yours?

Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser

28 thoughts

  1. An inspiring post – how do you fit it all in? 😀 I recognise your moment of having to schedule a day better, even letting things go here and there. I got to the point where I was doing so much that I was doing nothing as well as I liked – and ended up stepping down from a few commitments. I felt so much better! 🙂 I will look out for the Beautiful Walk book in our library x Happy February Jo x

    1. Tbh I have no idea how I fit things in. I suspect that if I had to think about it the result might be very different!

  2. January certainly was a very tough year. Hope the rest of the year goes along nice and not so tough. The fires here in Australia are terrible, so much loss of our animals etc. Where we are on the Mornington Peninsula we were covered with thick smoke so for days I never left the house. Finally managed to get an air purifier that will help with the smoke. I have even started a kit just in case.

    1. That smoke haze has been terrible. We’ve been fortunate here on the sunny coast not to be too badly impacted.

  3. I like how you fit in a few New Year’s celebrations, Joanne. I have made a note of “The most beautiful walk in the world.” I am in the mood to read different books at different times. I look forward to this one. I have done fitness walking most of my life. Recently I am enjoying my loved ones and my surroundings, walking for the pleasure of walking. Little did I know I was becoming a flaneur. No words on the Pudding Cake. It would not be safe around my house at the moment. Joanne, you remind me of a saying, ‘if you want to get something done, give it to a busy person.’ You are this busy person🙂

    1. It’s funny but being busy does suit me – I get more done than when I’m not. I do have to balance it a bit these days and not feed on the chaos.

  4. I like your idea of toasting in the new year from all the different time zones. It reminds me of the phrase “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere!” No wonder you didn’t stay up until midnight in England.

    I need to make that chocolate raspberry cake. Looks and sounds delicious!

    1. It’s always 5 o’clock somewhere! The cake is super rich, but my family said was great with some softly whipped cream (I bake ’em but don’t eat ’em…)

  5. I like how you celebrated multiple New Years, Jo. My best wishes to your writing this year. I hope you get a lot of it done just how you want it done. It must be hard to have all the creative ideas and thoughts, and not enough time to write them all down. You’re so good at baking cakes for your family without eating them. Very strong willpower 🙂

  6. Hi, Jo – I’m 99% sure that I commented on this post yesterday, but don’t see my comment above. Perhaps it it still in cyberspace…or perhaps I had neglected to press “post comment”. I fully agree with The Tiny Potager. I don’t know how you fit it all in. I admire you greatly for this. Oh, and I am super delighted that you baked and shared another recipe from Nigella. I’ve been missing that series! #MLSTL

    1. I thought about you when I posted it! I really need to get in the habit of Nigella posting once a month…

  7. Hi Jo, I just read and enjoyed The Little Shop of Happy Ever After also. I love the Scotland setting and the bookishness of it. I just wrote down the titles of your series so I can check them out. Any advice about which one to start with?
    Good luck with your new romance writers rile. those things can be time consuming, but often very satisfying and worthwhile as well.

    1. Ummm a very good question… Probably Wish You Were Here and then Happy Ever After… but thanks for asking!

  8. You’re still managing to pack an amazing amount of stuff into each month Jo! I’m so glad you’ve sorted out the day job to give you a bit more headspace for all those books you have on the go. It’s definitely looking like a great year ahead for you and I’ll be following along with interest.
    Thanks for linking up with us at MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM 😊

  9. I like your style of celebrating new year in several different time zones!
    I can’t even begin to imagine how you felt when the bushfires were so out of control, it was so sad to watch on the news programmes.
    That chocolate cake looks amazing, Nigella would definitely approve of your take on her recipe I am sure!

    1. It was tough to be on the other side of the world knowing that family & friends were caught up in those areas. I like to think Nigella would be happy with me…

  10. Hi Jo, another great catch up and some books I will put on my reading list. I’m hooked at the moment on L.J. Ross and the DCI Ryan series. I love a good crime thriller especially set in the U.K. I also think you and I need to have a UK TV Series Marathon I love all of the shows you have mentioned except I haven’t seen the Derry Girls. Congratulations keeping off the 10kgs that is great news and I know you will continue on your Excess Baggage journey in 2020. We do have to enjoy life though don’t we? Thanks for sharing at #MLSTL and bring on February! xx

    1. I haven’t read any LJ Ross, so will put that on my list. Yep the balance with excess baggage and life is a tenuous one, but for me it seems to be all about routine…and having room to stray from that too.

  11. Hi Jo, I always enjoy your wrap-up posts and this was no exception. We also saw the new year in in the UK and managed to stay awake (listening for news of the fires at home) and toasted a few different time zones. We always have a toast to absent friends and family at 11am in whatever time zone we’re in and we know everyone in the family does the same thing wherever they are in the world. Congrats on the excess baggage. I haven’t managed to lose any of my winter weight gained while over there yet but I’m not too concerned. Good luck with all you have going on! #mlstl

  12. Sounds like a busy month! I’ve just put The Little Shop of Happily Ever After on my reading list because that is exactly how I feel about books. I do love a good book about books like The Eyre Affair.

      1. It’s a different sort of book. Great if you want to have a fun read about a literary detective who is chasing characters from different books.

  13. Wow what an action packed post! Yay you being part time, you won’t know yourself and loved your cross country approach to NYE celebrations. I love Jenny Colgan too although I must say I did enjoy Cake Shop in the Garden although it wasn’t standout reading material. That chocolate raspberry cake looks the business – I must check out that recipe 🙂 Wishing you a fantastic February!

  14. Oh, that cake. Proud of you to be able to bake and enjoy it and still lose weight. That’s what balance can do for you. That’s why I like Weight Watchers.

    I pinned the “Little Shop” book for consideration with my book club. Of course, the title speaks to me but so did the quote. Will check it out.

    Checking out 5 things.

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