Category Archives: travels closer to home

Beyond the city walls but still in Oz.

Sculpture in the Vineyards

“Trust me,” I said. “When have I ever given you a bum steer with accommodation?”

“Well there was the night we landed in Damascus at two in the morning … No sheets, no blankets, no lock on the door.”

I conceded that one. It was a shocker. In fairness though, it was the wrong hotel. We found the right one the next day, but not after a lot of nervous giggling and very little sleep. Would that we could wind back time.


But this was different.

Yes, it wasn’t your typical motel. In actual fact The Vine Valley Inn is an old hotel, right in the main street of Cessnock but it has been converted with love and an artistic eye and a funkiness that I couldn’t resist.

“It’s on top of a bloody pet shop,”

“Trust me,” I said.

vine valley inn

And the moment we walked in he was hooked too, chatting away to Simon the owner and enjoying the crazy mix of art and kitsch.

vine valley inn simon and steve

vine valley inn cassock

In the space of a week we’d gone from 35 degrees in Delhi, to six inches of snow in Duckmaloi (in mid October!), to the main street of Cessnock to deliver a sculpture to Sculpture in the Vineyards, an annual sculpture competition and exhibition held at four different vineyards in the beautiful Wollombi Valley about two hours north of Sydney.

Sculpture in the Vineyards 2014

Our friend (and artist) Harrie Fasher, has been encouraging Steve to start putting his work out there so he was very chuffed to be accepted into this year’s exhibition. His piece is on display at the Stonehurst Cellar Door. Thanks Haz x


And I was very chuffed to be able to tag along with camera in hand, especially when I laid eyes on the Stonehurst cellar doors!

Stonehurst Cellar Door

Suddenly India didn’t feel so far away …

Stonehurst Cellar Door

Stonehurst Cellar Door

It’s a really big deal making the leap towards making art, putting yourself out there, opening your work up to criticism.

This week he launched a website: and a Facebook page – with a little help of course 😉

Steve and The Australia Policy

The Australia Policy

And today is his birthday. Happy to you my clever boy. mwah x


The girls get a turn at Duckmaloi :)

By complete coincidence one of my old university friend’s close friend booked Duckmaloi* for the long weekend. And when my friend made the connection she rang mid week and said come out and join us on Saturday night.

Duckmaloi River

Serendipity. One of my favourite words in the English language.

Duckmaloi River

A gang of eight girls from all walks of life … clever, funny, welcoming and wise.

The kind of wise that only a few chapters of life can grant you.

girls out walking

Thrown together in a house full of slippers, warmth and laughter.

Duckmaloi Park Guesthouse

Duckmaloi Guesthouse

Frosty nights and big long walks. Red wine and chocolate. Cups of tea and conversation.

Duckmaloi Valley

I can’t tell you the last time I had a couple of days away with a group of women.

Duckmaloi River

And I have to admit I was a little nervous heading out to the guesthouse. These girls knew each other well. They had a shared history. But Saturday became Sunday. And Sunday became Monday. And somehow … over the course of a night that became a weekend … strangers became friends.

Duckmaloi Guesthouse verandah

And I feel very lucky to have been a part of it all. Thanks girls xxxxxxx

How very special are female friendships? Where would we be without them?

*Duckmaloi Park Lodge is in the Duckmaloi Valley about 10 minutes east of Oberon, on the western fringe of the Blue Mountains. It was built by Steve’s grandparents in 1940, as a guesthouse. Steve’s brother Gerard runs it thesedays as self contained accommodation. In a particularly pretty valley amidst rolling hills reminiscent of Irish countryside it sleeps 15 and is a great place for a getaway with friends or family. One of the girls was saying it’d be great for book club weekends or even as a writer’s retreat. Normally it’s the boys who are out there for golfing weekends so it was good to see the girls give it a run 😉

If you like this you might also like …

Duckmaloi revisited … because that’s where her story began

Duckmaloi … yes it’s a place


A Sunday drive to The Zin House in Mudgee

I’ve been looking forward to sharing The Zin House with you.

I’ve been looking forward to seeing it first hand myself.

Set amidst the Zinfandel vineyard of Lowe Wines just outside of Mudgee, I knew it would be special.

the zin house kitchen reflected in old mirror

The Zin House is the new restaurant of Kim Currie, a highly respected chef in our part of the world. Together we’ve been creating The Zin House brand and website over the past few weeks.

zin house menu

If I had a restaurant I would like it to feel like this … long farmhouse tables …

the zin house interior

Everything on the menu proudly sourced from regional producers, friends, from the farm and organic garden …

zin house menu

Food so fresh it needs only the simplest preparation…

ryolstone olive oil

touches of pink

Food that tastes like real food. Butter that tastes like real butter.

the zin house courses

Warm autumn tones, an eye for art, soft light …


Beautiful wines, a generosity of spirit … from the heart and on the plate.

Unhurried. Just as a weekend lunch should be.

museum room and persimmon tree

I knew it would be special Kim but I had no idea it would be quite so lovely.

kim currie cooking at the zin house

Well done girl. Not a bad effort for a kiwi 😉

The Zin House
329 Tinja Lane,

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