Thursday, 26 June 2008

The school speed limit menance

Cool Round Speed Limit Sign., originally uploaded by Incase Designs. Picture: Flickr.

What is it about school 40 km speed limits which brings out the road rage in some people?

Where we live, there are quite a few schools around and so every morning and afternoon, the driving gets a little bit more complicated in terms of the speed limit (for overseas readers, roads near local schools here have a speed limit of 40 kms per hour during morning and afternoon arrivals and departures).

It seems it is a little too complicated for many - without fail, I will get aggressively tail-gated by one car each day while driving 40 kms along one of these school stretches. They sometimes drive so close it is quite unnerving and very hard to ignore.

Does anyone else 0ut there experience this? What to do?

Community wins back its maternal health centre site

This is a win for children. And it is a happy and timely reminder of what can be achieved when a groundswell of community opinion and concern is turned into action.
Last week the Bayside Council voted to keep the site of the Black Rock maternal and child health centre.
This follows a rising up of the community in outrage at plans to sell the site. Not only is it historic, but is also represents a great opportunity to provide Black Rock with a much needed facility for small children and their parents, such as a Playhouse.
The Council even said they were open to considering this.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Great books site

If you're looking for inspiration in the way of kids books, check out this local site:

Run by two Melbourne mums, it is all about offering reviews and suggestions for different age groups. What a great idea

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Bayside cat show and cats in need

Don't forget it's the Bayside Cat Show tomorrow (Sunday) for all those local animal lovers. I took a look last year and it was kind of quirky but interesting (but also wall to wall people).

But while we're on the topic of all things feline, the Keysborough Animal Shelter is, as always, bursting at the seems with unwanted but lovely cats of all sizes, colours and descriptions. This includes the lovely Lotus, pictured here, who has been waiting for a home for a very long time.....

Keysborough Animal Shelter:

Bayside Cat Show: Sunday , Sandringham College, Holloway Rd, Sandringham

Interesting link

Here's an interesting site that I've come across via a link from Loobylu. It's called Sustainable Melbourne and is full of all sorts of interesting tidbits, news and links. Take a look.....

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Artist in profile: AshleyG

Quality Time, originally uploaded by ashleyg. Image: Courtesy of AshleyG's Flickr site.

I love this artist's work. She has a quirky sense of humour which comes through in everything I've seen. I have one of her prints: 'Every boy is a superhero sometimes' in my son's room.
You can look and buy Ashley's prints via her Etsy shop, she also has a blog and Flickr page.

Visit Ashley at:

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Knock Knock

Let me in, let me in, it's cold out here (and yes, I know my windows need a good clean).

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Mamas Mean Business: Author and Journalist Claire Heaney

A few weeks ago I started a series called Mamas Mean Business, profiling women who have started their own enterprise. Today, we speak to journalist and author Claire Heaney who, when at home with her baby, started to write about women who start their own business. That interest has developed into her own section on business owners every week in the Herald Sun newspaper, and now, a book. Here's Claire:

Name: Claire Heaney

Name of book: 101 Ways to Kickstart Your Business Wilkinson Publishing, rrp. $29.95.

What inspired you to write the book?

They say every journalist has a book in them. With three children, and that stage the youngest a newborn, I was flat out finishing a sentence much less a story without even contemplating a book.
But while I was on maternity leave from the Herald Sun I was approached to see if I would like to do some freelance stories. for a new revamped business section of the paper. While people tend to buy the newspaper for the news and sport, as people have focussed increasingly on buying shares through various privatisations such as Telstra and as superannuation has become a real buzz word, people who may never have concerned themselves with finance pages are tracking how their investments are going. The launch of the Business Daily section was to reflect this. One element of this was the Business Owner section, pitched at small and medium businesses.
I took on the work and the section just grew like topsy. And while, after 25 years in journalism covering everything from politics to police rounds and courts, I'm as cynical as the next journo, I found the content really refreshing. I guess I probably more easily identified with the mums who, once they had kids, realised it was going to be tricky to slot back into a corporate workplace. And, for the most part, I don't think a lot of them wanted to do that anyway. But they still wanted to pursue something that would give them fulfilment. Some of them hatched businesses because they identified gaps in the market for baby services and products - think Delia Timms who launched findababysitter because she had trouble getting carers or Melanie Grant who launched Snugglebum because she had trouble finding cosy pjso for the littlies.
Anyway, after doing this section for some months I was approached by Michael Wilkinson who was keen to publish a book covering these small and medium enterprises. I tossed around some concepts and decided to write 101 Ways to Kickstart Your Business.

Maybe you could explain to readers what it is about?

As the names suggests it is 101 ideas or tips, if you like, to apply to your existing business or if you are planning to launch a business include them in your business plan.
Alongside each tip I have included a real life business example in which the suggestion has been used to great effect. It might be a suggestion about using a website and then I might include a business that has found that their website opened up their business to places they never imagined.
For instance, Caroline Hume, who developed the Cuddlefish range of buoyancy suits and swimwear, the impact on her business of a website was remarkable. A well constructed website belies the fact that you may be sitting around the kitchen table running the business. Everyone can look professional and it does create a more level playing field.

How will people running small businesses find it useful?

I think, from the feedback I have already received, that 101 will be useful for people wanting to sack the boss and go it alone or even those in business who really want a bit of a boast. Maybe they have stalled and want a bit of inspiration. I've had some emails from a few people that have told me that they are working through some of the marketing tips. Just basic and cheap stuff like getting magnetic signs promoting their business for their car or getting a flyer together and putting it around the neighbourhood to promote their services.
I think it is pretty accessible and I would like to think that people will hopefully keep going back to it and picking out initiatives that might be handy for their businesses..

Does it feature lots of case studies?

Yes there are plenty of case studies and I could have included even more. Maybe I could use them for the next edition. In my past life as a books editor at the Herald Sun and as an editor of this Business Owner section, I get plenty of books over my desk. But I wanted this to be really practical. I think too often the books are full of jargon and theory. My book is pretty basic. It's fully of lots of suggestions and I have illustrated them by including one or more businesses that show how that can be applied to a business.
It might be the importance of choosing a good business name. One that sounds good but also you need to make sure it is registered. Bayside business Puppy Phat started off as Lush Puppy until the owner was warned to change to name or be sued.

Also I note time and time again that start ups and small businesses just don't have the marketing dollars to match the big end of town. But using some practical and simple strategies such as networking, adoptng good branding, building business partnership, joining trade associations, adopting loyalty programs and concentrating on keeping existing customers happy, they can punch well above their weight.

What's next in terms of book plans?

I am nearly finished a book on fundraising which is another of my passions. You name it. Organising trivia nights, raffles, mother's day stalls, sausage sizzles ... I have done it. It's a great way to contribute to the various organisations your children attend. I still need to do some work on this so maybe next year.
I reckon I could write a book a year but time is the real killer.

From your research, what do you think the biggest challenges are for women starting a small business?

I think often women go into a business without a real idea of where they see that business going. This can be a real problem if they have gone into partnership with a buddy and they both have different visions for the business.

One might see it as a hobby in which they can devote two or three days a week while another may have more ambitious plans to take on the world. There are issues where one might be upset because the partner doesn't want to live and breathe the business and they may not agree on how much money they want to invest into the business. I've encountered some pretty sticky partnership splits.

Some businesses I return to in a column I call Rewind and from time to time the partnership has completely disintergrated.

Also time management is a real problem when women are running home-based businesses. It is OK for women who have a partner who may earn good income and be able to pay for a nanny to look after the children. But for others who can't do that they are trying to fit in half an hour here and there which means they feel they are working on the business all day for no real reward.
I guess, like anything, you have to be energetic and dedicated which can be difficult if you have been up all night with a sick baby.

But it is important to get out and about whether you attend networking events or trade shows or cold call shops to see if they will stock your goods.

Who have you found inspiring from the research?

I think the one I go back to most often in terms of women is Carolyn Creswell. I love her story. She was 18 and at uni, working part time for a family who had a boutique muesli making business. They decided to sell and she scraped together $1000 or so to buy Carman's Fine Foods. Today she has two kids and is based in Cheltenham running a business that turns over something like $15million a year. She runs a family friendly business and is exporting. She's a real poster girl and also happy to mentor other people.

Another one is Megan Misso who runs Sweet by Nature. She was on maternity leave and started baking biscuits. Now she's cooking up a storm from a purpose built factory in Heidelberg.

What is a typical working day for you like?

I officially work three days at the Herald Sun. I tend to put in a 12 hour day on a Tuesday as my husband has the day off. Wednesday is just a normal day preparing my pages for publication on a Thursday.

During the other days I tend to administer my emails from home or it might be easier for me to do an interview on a day off if it is close to my home. I tend, because of time constraints, to do most of my interviews via the telephone. I find because of the internet and email I can be well briefed on a person and when I interview them I can just cut to the chase.

I would say I get about a third of my stories from word-of-mouth. For instance, I new shop in my suburb Richmond interested me. I popped in and just got chatting to Guava Jelly owner Jo Prior. Being nosey I asked her what she did before she opened the vintage emporium. She told me she was a ceo but when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer decided life was too short. She wanted to follow her passion. I did a story on her. I love those sorts of real stories. i hope she does well in every sense.

How do you balance everything?

With much difficulty. My husband, John, who also is a journalist, is a fantastic husband and father. But I am forever chasing my tail,. This year I am trying to say NO more often which is really hard for a gult ridden lapsed Catholic Virgo. I am also trying to streamline my life and yes my New Year's Resolution was to get a cleaner which I haven't done yet.

Your advice to mothers thinking about going into business?

Have a plan. Be practical. Have childcare, Manage your time. Do plenty of market research. Network.Any other good resources you recommend? I love the Small Business Mentoring Service it is made up of volunteers who have retired but want to give something back. They are great and offer really low cost mentoring. Also the State Government has some great advice on its website It also has a great small business festival called Energise Enterprise which runs in August. A booklet will be in the Herald Sun on July 1 but there will be a link on the business website.

Where or how can readers by the book?

It retails for $29.95 but they get it direct from me by emailing me for $25 posted to them.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Why Gran was a Greenie

For Melbourne readers of Baysidemama, my green living column is in today's Herald Sun Home magazine. This week I'm looking at why your Gran was a greenie and all the great things she did which make a lot of sense now (think carpet sweepers, nanna shopping trolleys and natural cleaners).

Thursday, 12 June 2008

I love possums

This is our possum box which I had installed in one of our front trees when we moved into this house. I love possums. I am amazed by their intelligence and ability to adapt to what for them, is usually a very hostile urban environment.
What I don't love are the numnuts who think they have no right to exist in urban territory and keep ripping down their habitat and then complain because they eat their precious gardens.

If we didn't razor blocks of land and get rid of all hints of native foliage, perhaps the possums wouldn't be driven to eating the roses.

There are reports that in parts of my region - which used to be famous for its bushy streets - possums are starving because developers have gotten away with taking out so many trees.
So to all those who complain about them, I say, go away and plant a banksia tree!

I put this box in because when we moved in, we had a family of ringtail possums (for overseas readers, these are the smaller of the possum breed) living in the roof and they were making a wee bit of noise and were a trifle smelly and I was not enjoying their 4am wakeup call. So I got in an expert who gently lured them out of my roof over a series of nights with food and successfully relocated them to this possum box.

Tucked away in this box - we checked again on the weekend - are two ringtails who curl up and sleep the day away in there. They have made it most cosy, filling it with leaves to keep warm.

Every evening they wake and then take a walk along my side fence to feed on the trees in the backyard. It's a fine balance of nature and urban life and a much better lesson to teach kids than the alternative - eradicate all remnants of nature.

And don't even get me started on the mass slaugter of kangaroos in the name of food, sport and 'management' of numbers.

Baby possum, originally uploaded by wollombi. Photo: Peter Firminger.

Monday, 9 June 2008

A colleague of mine, Claire Heaney, who runs the Business Owner section of the Herald Sun, has asked me to let readers know about a survey she is running for women in small business. She is inviting people to fill out the survey and go into the draw to win a range of prizezs (including a $5000 Herald Sun advertising package). Here are the details from Claire:

SMALL Business is big business in Victoria.
There are something like 1.2million small businesses operating in Australia.
And many of these micro businesses are run by women.
Women like you and me.
Many of them have pursued a career and then when they have started a family they have realised, often painfully, that a corporate career in incompatible with their new goals to be a wife and mother to their growing brood.
Often they have been able to tap into the skills and networks and build a new business. It might be exploiting their well honed skills or perhaps going out on a limb.
Perhaps, in their new role as a mother, they have seen a gap in the market and developed a service or product to make life a bit easier.
It is this segment of the small business population that needs to have a voice.
They have the opportunity with the Herald Sun-RACV Business Insurance survey currently being run at
The Small Business Issues Survey builds on the Business Owner pages that appear in the Herald Sun each Thursday.
The survey, open until June 12, will take about 10 minutes.
Those successfully completing the survey will go into the draw to receive a great prize hamper.
The package includes a $5000 Herald Sun advertising package, a conference at beautiful Inverloch to the value of $4000 and a Tom Tom GPS navigation system to make sure you are on the right track.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Some recent Flickr favourites: with some touches of nice warm pink on a cold winter's day

1. Selina Lake - Flowers, 2. Selina Lake - Bazaar Style, 3. Selina Lake - Magnets, 4. Selina Lake - Pink Summer Room, 5. Selina Lake - Flowers, 6. Selina Lake - Blossom, 7. Selina Lake - lanterns, 8. Selina Lake - Sugarpot, 9. Blue Jay, 10. Untitled, 11. a clash of seasons, 12. Fruity Pebbels, 13. A big beauty showing off her fall color, 14. . . . ., 15. la ballade of lady and bird, 16. Williamsburg Bottle Birds '07 (House Wren)

Many of the top few images are styled by Selina Lake, one of the authors of the new book Bazaar Style (see second from left, top row). I was given this book for mother's day and it is stunning - full of lots of inspiration and colour.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

World Blog Tour: Sweden

Blogged by Poppy Talk, originally uploaded by Chez Larsson. Courtesy; Chez Larsson Flickr site.

Onwards with my world blog tour this week. Today's destination is Chez Larsson, which I discovered only recently. She has a wonderful eye, and runs a great blog and Flickr site showcasing her very creative and stylish home. I like all her tips on organising, showcasing collections, etc. How are the miniature chairs (above, from Chez Larsson's Flickr site) for a fab little collection?

Monday, 2 June 2008

World Blog tour: Morocco

Table setting in Marrakech, originally uploaded by moroccanmaryam.
Photo: courtesy of My Marrakesh Flickr site.

This week I thought I'd shift focus from local life and take a virtual tour of some of my favourite blog and web sites around the world. Some I enjoy the writing, others the photography. I find I'm drawn towards those involving lovely design, art, interiors and nature.

This one - My Marrakesh - is a recent find. I love the colour and descriptions of life in Morocco - somewhere I have always wanted to visit. The writer is an American woman who has moved to Marrakesh with her young family to build what looks like a stunning small hotel.

World blog tour: USA

, originally uploaded by liquidskyarts. Photo: Courtesy of liquidskyarts Flickr site.

Continuing with my world tour of lovely blogs, this one is one of the first design blogs I found and loved:

The blogger - based in the US - is a gifted artist who also has an amazing eye for photography and all that translates to stunning images of her home as well. Lots of colour and inspiration.

A favourite from Flickr

sakura3, originally uploaded by ricco-t.

Just love the colour in this picture.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Seagull at a winter's lapping shore

It's official - the first day of winter and Melbourne has put on a show of its archtypical winter colours - cool, pale grey seas and blue skies. This seagull was taking a late afternoon rest along the shores of the marine sanctuary at Rickett's Point on Sunday afternoon, watching the people and dogs stroll by.