Monthly Archives: December 2012

Duckmaloi. Yes, it’s a place.

A place very close to our hearts.

Duckmaloi fire grate

It’s where we had Christmas.

Table set for Christmas

A beautiful, crazy, bustling, overflowing Aussie Christmas.

Christmas bush reflected in dining room mirror

With our very own Christmas elf.

Charlie the Christmas elf

Cousins, big and small.

Big and small cousins

And plenty of helping hands.

Everybody fussing over Charlie

Steve’s grandparents built the original Duckmaloi Guesthouse in 1940 and Steve’s brother Gerard still runs it today as self contained accommodation. The kids love it. We all do. Seven bedrooms, big country kitchen, about 100 acres running down to the Duckmaloi River, its very own ghost … what more could you want.

Looking down towards the river

But it’s mountain country – about 45 minutes south east of Bathurst.

37 degrees Christmas Eve. 9 degrees and raining Christmas Day!

Clouds over the Duckmaloi Valley

Not flash five star but warm and inviting with an old fashioned charm.

Outside loo with Gentleman's sign

With all the textures that you would expect of an Australian farm.

Old wood and pine needles

Pine bard and barbed wire

Corrugated iron and gum tree bark

Lots of opportunities to be together …

Dining room at Duckmaloi Christmas night

And plenty of space to run away.

Front verandah at Duckmaloi Park

We had the car full of blow up dinghies and old surfboards and li-lows all set to have a searing Boxing Day on the river with a truckload of friends and left overs.

BBQ on the deck overlooking the valley.

But we didn’t leave the house.

And we had a fire instead.


P.S. The pudding was sensational. In fact some described it as “the best pudding they’d ever had” lol.

P.S.S. If you’re interested in renting Duckmaloi Park Lodge, here’s the website.

Hope you had a lovely Chrissy. See you in the New Year.



… in which she finds her Christmas groove in a graveyard at sunrise.

You know how I said last week I was struggling with the whole Christmas thing?

Well I’ve had a change of heart.

I still have no time for the ‘buy a shit load of rubbish because you think you have to’ scenario but I decided at 5.30am this morning wandering through the Holy Trinity Graveyard at Kelso (because it was too hot to sleep) that I’m not going to let the whole Christmas consumer-gone-mad nonsense dampen my Christmas spirit.

I’ve got friends who are hurting.

And family.

For all sorts of reasons.

Christmas is a God awful tricky time for a lot of people. It has a way of heightening all those emotions you manage to keep a lid on for the rest of the year. You feel like you should be doing this, or you feel like you should be doing that, or buying this or buying that but as a friend (who won’t be seeing her kids on Christmas Day) said to me wistfully last week “It’s just another day Marg.”


Take a walk in a graveyard.

I don’t even know how I found myself there this morning. My plan was to try and catch a sunrise for you and share some summertime shots of Bathurst but I ended up on the hill at Holy Trinity in semi darkness waiting for the light that never came and kind of got sidetracked.

I don’t frequent graveyards regularly.

I’m not suggesting you do either but it’s a leveller.


A reminder that life is bloody tough at times – not just at Christmas.


But it’s also full of surprising joy and beauty.

destinationhereandnow_holytrinitychurch kelso_detail

This little church was the first church in Australia to be consecrated by a Bishop in 1836 and the first church to be built in inland Australia.


Until today, I didn’t know that.

By Aussie (European) standards, it’s old. 

It stands on a hill north of Bathurst looking south towards the city and beyond to Mount Panorama, our world famous motor racing track. As a visiting comedian quipped years ago, “Why have they painted huge Mount Panorama lettering on the side of the hill? Are they worried someone’s going to nick it?” I’ve been walking that hill recently with friends and I can tell you it’s a hell of a lot steeper than it looks.


Where am I going with all of this?

I dunno. I just came away from all those old graves, many of them falling apart, untended and unremembered, thinking “Shit it’s good to be alive!”


And as I pulled out of the grounds on to the main road I noticed that one of the little cottages had made an effort – not a huge one but an effort nonetheless – wrapping a lonely piece of tinsel along the top of their gate.

And that’s all it takes!


See you in the New Year!



Cooking with Pat: Part 1.
The Hogan Family Christmas Pudding.

My mother-in-law Pat is a legendary cook.

Particularly when it comes to sweets.

You ask her grandchildren about her sponge cakes and her lamingtons and her Charlotte au Chocolat and her Chocolate Rum Pie and her 13 Layer Mocha Cake.

destinationhereandnow_oldhandwrittenrecipe and nutmeg

She is also a formidable individual.

All 5 foot nothing of her.

Terrifying I’m telling you 😉

Especially if you’re caught doing the wrong thing in her kitchen.

One of my favourite Hogan family stories from many years ago is of Steve’s brother picking Pat up, sitting her on top of the fridge and leaving her up there till she calmed down. Gorgeous.

destinationhereandnow_fruit soaked in brandy

So when I was given the job of cooking this year’s Christmas puddings, having never done them before, I thought I’d call on Pat to show me the ropes. Especially as I was using her grandmother’s handwritten recipe.

Pat's grandmother's recipe for christmas pudding

Deep breath.

Pass the brandy.


I wish life allowed more time for this, cooking side by side with someone who bosses you around someone you love.

destinationhereandnow_pudding basins

Neglecting to buy slivered almonds. Not having to rush.

Pat chopping almonds

Learning things that only a lifetime can teach you.

Mixing the pudding with Pat

It really was a lovely afternoon.

Pat greasing the pudding tins by hand

Learning that you must grease the pudding bowl by hand and use plenty of butter.

Greasing the tin by hand

Standing together with spoons in hand, tasting, tasting, agreeing that while the recipe calls for 1 gill of brandy, 8 tastes sooooo much better.

All done!

I have been really struggling with the whole Christmas thing this year. Not wanting to get sucked into the consumer vortex but also not wanting to be a bah humbug downer for the kids. Business confidence is at its lowest in Australia in three and half years. Steve’s been out of action for five weeks with more to come after a 70 kilo sheep charged him fair and square in the sternum. But you know what? As a new friend online said to me recently “Let those be my problems.”

We are not living in Syria.

Or – heartbreakingly – Newtown, Conneticut.

Today was a humble little taste of Christmas for me. What Christmas should be about. Being bossed around by an 86 year old 5 foot nothing dynamo who was so chuffed to share her pudding secrets. Not just with me. But with you.

This is a gift from Pat my friends.

Season to taste, with brandy, rum, sherry .. whatever you have on hand.

I love you Pat – and I’m sooooo glad you have a sense of humour 🙂




The Hogan Family Christmas Pudding

450g currants
450g sultanas
225g raisins
225g citron peel
120ml brandy
450g butter
450g brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
9 eggs
brandy, dry sherry, cointreau (because Pat forgot the Bundaberg Rum – honestly!)
112g SLIVERED! almonds lol
225g plain flour
1/2 a grated nutmeg (1 tsp)
1 big tsp mixed spice (you might want to add a bit more to taste at the end)
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
225g breadcrumbs (processed from fresh white bread)

Soak the currants, sultanas, raisins and citron peel overnight in 120 ml (1 gill) of brandy.

Have 2 large boilers of boiling water in readiness ( the water needs to come no more than half way up the pudding tin).

Cream butter and sugar.
Add well beaten eggs.

Add grog. mmm… We started with about 3 lids of brandy and 3 lids of sherry.  to be continued…

Stir in fruit.
Add breadcrumbs and sifted dry ingredients.


(We added a bit more mixed spice, significantly more brandy and sherry (you’ve got to be able to taste the grog in it) and then a little more flour too help soak up said grog).

Da dah!

Put into 2 x 2 litre pudding tins, greased generously by hand with butter. Lids too.
Divide the mixture into both.
Cover with a sheet of aluminium foil.
Put the lids on. Fold the foil to the top. Clip lids into place then secure the lids with string – it also helps to pull the hot puddings out of the water.
Place in the boiling water – no higher than half. Boil for 4 hours. Set your timer regularly to check water levels. Every 20 min? Pat said the first hour is the most critical … try not to lose the heat when you check the water levels. Carefully top up with boiling water from the kettle as you need – just keep it near the edge of the boiler and not the pudding.

Don’t let it boil dry (like I did). Did I say that out loud?

Boil on Christmas Day for 2 hours.
Serve with brandy sauce and hard sauce.

Order a taxi.


P.S. I think we could have a sequel in us …  “The best sponge in the world” perhaps…

P.P.S. To those, whose hearts today, are breaking … for what it’s worth, our hearts are with you. Our love from far away. xx

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