January 2021 – All Wrapped Up

Urangan Pier

Okay, that’s January done and dusted, so without further ado, let’s wrap it up.


I read 6 books over the month – and yes, I’m including Nigella’s Cook, Eat, Repeat in that list because the joy is in the words as much as the food. I reviewed it here.

Also read were:

  • The Break Up, by Tilly Tennant
  • Moonflower Murders, by Anthony Horowitz
  • Settle The Score, by Nicki Edwards
  • Becoming America’s Food Stories, by Antoinette Truglio Martin and
  • Under A Mackerel Sky, by Rick Stein

My stand-out read for the month was Moonflower Murders – Anthony Horowitz is an absolute master. A book within a book, I am in awe.

A close second was Stein’s memoir. While he is one of my foodie heroes, he’s also an amazing writer – something which I knew from reading his cookbooks (really reading them), but which somehow still surprised me. There are passages where he has really shown himself in a less than favourable light, remarking from time to time what an insufferable and selfish prig he must have been, and other parts where one gets the impression that things have been glossed over to protect the feelings of others, but for all that it’s a good read.

I now also know what a mackerel sky is – it’s one where clouds form a ripple pattern, almost like ripples on the water or scales on a fish. According to weather lore it means a change (of some sort) is coming:

‘Mackerel sky, mackerel sky – never long wet, never long dry.’

Becoming America’s Food Stories was a real treat & right up my alley – even though my own Australian upbringing was very different. There are so many parallels though in the stories of Italian Australians as well and anything that combines history with stories and recipes is a winner in my book (no pun intended). Thanks, Donna, for the recommendation.

I’m yet to read a novel by Nicki Edwards that I haven’t enjoyed and Settle The Score was no different. I’ve loved how in her most recent outings she’s really challenged the cliches. This time around her protagonist was an ex-player with the Women’s AFL – and it was a real winner (pun intended).


Not much – other than the new series of Death In Paradise I’ve been mostly re-watching old faves like Brokenwood Mysteries and (of course) Midsomer Murders.


New episodes of Desert Island Dishes and Gary Mehigan’s A Plate To Call Home. Plus I’ve recently discovered Sentimental Garbage which is about, well, I’ll let the blurb tell you what its about:

Sick of feeling guilty about the books you should be reading, but aren’t? Annoyed that the books you read don’t seem to “count” as literature? Join author and journalist Caroline O’Donoghue as she discovers the chick-lit classics her guests were raised on, from schmaltzy romances to family comedies to bodice-ripping dramas. We talk to authors, fans and cultural critics about what makes chick-lit tick, and investigate why it’s so often overlooked.


I’ve finished my first draft of The House By The Lake (although doubt that title will stick) and will now give it another run through before sending it through to my editor. I’m also in the process of scheduling 2021 edits – the deadlines will help me get my head down and hands on keyboard!

Escape To Curlew Cottage is ready for formatting and that one is available for pre-order now on Amazon with the release date March 12. You can find the link here.


the rainy drive to Hervey Bay

Look at me including this sub-heading!

Seriously though, while international travel is off the table (well, obviously) and interstate travel is still a tad on the uncertain side, I’ll be celebrating every short break and opportunity to explore Queensland.

Okay, so mostly it will be up to Hervey Bay to spend some time with Sarah, and I’ll mostly be working when I’m up there, but you know what they say – a change is as good as a holiday.

And, as it happens, I spent a week up at “The Bay” during January and, because I’d worked additional hours during December, even took a few days off. Bliss.

I helped Sarah move in, settle in, and fill her freezer. I also walked, swam, wrote and explored. I had no transport so had no choice but to explore by foot and it really is a great way of seeing a place. It’s a fabulous town that I’m looking forward to getting to know better.

Experiencing and Imagining

It was a great month for going a bit more with the flow and I booked two tours when in Hervey Bay – one to go snorkelling and the other a cultural walk. I learnt heaps from both and blogged about it here.

The tides provided me with endless fascination as I watched them – when you stop or slow down for a bit the cycles of nature are truly awesome – and that’s before you factor in the ripples and patterns in the sand left by water, rays and crabs.

Also this month I tried my hand at a pottery class. I’ll post separately about it, but so much fun. I never knew just how meditational working with clay could be – especially when combined with wine.

Excess Baggaging

So, confession time…I lost 11kgs up to March of 2020 and over 2020 managed to find a number of them again (thankfully not all and double thankfully none of them brought friends to stay). I’ve had a bit of a rest in January and waved goodbye to 1.5kgs, but am buckling back down in Feb.


In case you missed it, in addition to the posts I’ve linked to above (and the weekly round-ups) I published the following:

And Anyways

My Author Blog

My 2021 writing goals

Brookford Kitchen Diaries

Looking Forward

A few things – thanks for asking…

  • We’re off on a little train ride in the Mary Valley on Saturday
  • Sares and I have a glazing session booked in for next time she’s home to finish our pottery masterpieces
  • I’ll probably work out of The Bay for a week mid-month
  • Fingers crossed I’m hoping to get to Sydney to see Mum and Dad at the end of the month – assuming borders remain open.

So, for a short month, there’s plenty happening!

Okay, I think that’s all I have to tell you about…how was your month? What are you looking forward to in February?

Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser

34 thoughts

  1. Wow what a busy person you are ..it makes me feel positively lazy reading
    Good luck with your new book
    I’ll have to look at Rick Steins book

    1. Sometimes it’s a juggle Alison – with the day job – but it’s so important (to me) to do the things I love as well as the things I have to do. Thanks for dropping by.

    1. It was so much fun. I’m inspired to do more (without wine) just for the peace & the stillness. Thanks for dropping by.

  2. Loved your recap of January, Jo and you certainly fit a lot in. Some more books which I haven’t read to add to my list and exciting that your House by the Lake is so advanced. Have a lovely February and thanks for the inspiration to bake and read. #lifethisweek xx

  3. Oh I saw your post about your writing goals but then couldn’t find it. Will go and read now.

    I missed the last Horowitz novel but can’t remember if that’s it. I still think he should be writing the revised Hercule Poirots rather than Sophie Hannah. No offence to Hannah but I think his style suits it best (and I think he wrote for the TV series or TV movies!).

  4. Hi Jo – another full and interesting month for you. I was looking at the photo of the sand and thought of the mackeral skies – do they have mackeral sands? Congrats again on all the writing and book stuff – very inspirational, and on all the cooking, daughter-settling, and other activities. My month was very quiet in comparison (and just got even quieter for the next 5 days of ridiculous lockdown – just wore a mask for my walk with not a soul to be seen – crazy times!)

  5. You really are impressive how organised you are with your fiction (writing it) – you constantly tick it over. Congratulations on the soon to be released book. Also well done on the weight. That’s a lot to lose! Good luck shifting a few in Feb. I really need to get back to better eating and more exercise…#Lifethisweek

  6. Thank you for teaching me what a mackerel sky is. That memoir sounds wonderful. It is going on my TBR list.

    When I saw your “Travel” heading, I wondered if some (all?) of it was to go visit your daughter. Sounds like you will be exploring Hervey Bay. Wonderful! I hope you get to visit your parents this month too.

    And pottery and wine sounds like the perfect combination!

    1. Don’t ever say you learn nothing from my blog lol. Yep, I think most of my travel this year will be north to the bay – and that’s no great hardship.

  7. What an action packed post – there’s a lot to love here. I absolutely LOVE the new cover for Escape to Curlew Cottage – it’s gorgeous! Your break at the bay sounds ace and how lovely that you’ll finally get to see your folks. I know it’s a long shot but I’m secretly hoping you’ll find a spare few minutes for our belated annual dumpling AGM while you’re in town! 🙂

    1. Thanks, I hope you love the inside of the book too. When I get down you (& dumplings, of course) are absolutely on my list.

  8. Hi Jo sounds like January was kind to you. Well done on getting the book so far advanced. Great that you have a home away from home at Sarah’s. Lucky Sarah that her fridge gets filled when Mum visits.

  9. You’ve had such a full and exciting month Jo! How do you fit reading six book into a month? Wow! You also are so inspiring with the books you write. I love the titles you give them and I love ‘The House by the Lake’. I’m wondering what you’re thinking you should change the name to? In February I’m looking forward to 6 nights away at Burleigh Heads. I really need it. xo

  10. Hi, Jo – I don’t know what I am personally most excited about in this post — the baking (which I always enjoy vicariously) or the fact that you have now finished another book. I am wayyyyy over-due to read another Jo Tracey novel! 😀
    I’m also super glad that your borders are currently open – allowing you to see your parents.
    Add in time for you to work from Sarah’s locale and that’s a win-win-win!

  11. Sounds like a lovely month with reading, writing, travel and food! I feel like I should add what I’m watching and listening to in my reflections posts too. Not that I watch much but I do listen to a lot of music. And maybe if I ever get back into podcasts, it’ll be a good space to share! I love your foodie posts and in awe of all that you cook and bake. I hope Feb is a great month for you!

  12. What a fabulous recap of a very busy month Jo, I’m happy you have a new book almost ready! Can’t wait to read more. Hoping Sarah has settled in Ok and you’ve certainly been busy on all fronts. I love hearing all your news!

  13. You’ve accomplished a lot in January, Jo. Congrats on getting your new book closer to the launch date and keeping up with your walking and weight loss. The book cover is very attractive. Hervey Bay looks beautiful and Sarah is there so frequent trips are calling. I hope you get to see your parents in Sydney. Thank you for linking with #weekendcoffeeshare

  14. I actually really enjoy exploring a place by foot. Cars are great for convenience but feel to ‘tool’ for me to really enjoy. And walking means you find the tiny cool things you don’t notice from a drive.

  15. Sounds like a great reading month. I topped my February off reading your Baby, It’s You and I really enjoyed it a lot! Those beach pictures are fabulous (as we have a HUGE snowstorm swirling around outside) and I completely agree that the best way to explore a place is on foot.

  16. I so hope Sarah is settling in and enjoying her new job. I like knowing that with a bit of covid good luck you will be seeing your parents soon. All fingers and toes crossed for that!!

    Thank you for joining us this week for #lifethisweek. Next time, the optional prompt is 6/51 Decision. 8 Feb. and I hope to see your next blog post there too. Cheers, Denyse.

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