Nature, Food, Art – Unplugging the Tweed Valley Way


As a ‘unwind treat’ for (me and) my post HSC, arty eighteen year old daughter, I took us on a mid-week short break to the Tweed Valley. I’m sure daughter thought “Gourmet Adventure Package” meant good food but not much else to excite her. She was wrong.

Kym from Mt Warning Tours was waiting for us at the Gold Coast Airport. While acquainting us with the region and learning more about our interests, he delivered us to a tasty little cafe in Murwillumbah called Keith. Daughter enjoyed a substantial sausage roll and milk shake while I, a luscious salted caramel tart. I hear the Portuguese Tarts are to die for too.

To our surprise and delight we discovered Murwillumbah is the creative and cultural hub of the Tweed Valley. Upon learning that daughter was arty, Kym called Andy Reimainis, working artist at Caldera Wildscapes Art Gallery and Studio for an impromptu visit to the 20 meter Green Cauldron Panorama painting. While normally closed on a Tuesday, Andy was happy to indulge us and share his story.

A year in the making, incorporating the talents of about eight artists, this geographically accurate masterpiece is a highly detailed painting of the view from the summit of Wollumbin Mount Warning with some of the fauna and flora of the region. Andy invited us to add some tiny ‘y’ shaped tree trunks into the painting for posterity. We dutifully obliged.




In addition to Andy’s works, talented young artist in residence, Amanda Burns of Mandalee Arts offers an affordable range of cards and artworks in a variety of media for sale. They make the perfect souvenir or gift from the Tweed. I purchased a decaled-edged watercolour of a Rainbow Lorikeet for my grandson’s bedroom. All Amanda’s animals have great personality – to wit this sweet little joey amongst gum leaves.


Juju’s was our next stop for a delicious lunch. The chef  sources fresh local fruit, veg and produce. The service is quick and friendly, protein is perfectly cooked, all is simply presented and bursting with freshness. We enjoyed Duck Spring Rolls, Prawn Tempura and Stuffed Zucchini Flowers each with matched spicy salads.


We were then driven to our luxury hinterland Chalet accommodation in Uki for the night Karissa and Peter Ball reside here and run the six fairytale ecOasis Resort Chalets deep in the hinterland forest. We were welcomed like old friends and shown some of the other chalets which each have their own character. We were lucky to have the spa chalet, half way down the valley, aptly named ‘Spa.’

The views of Mount Warning and the sunsets are positively inspirational. You can literally hear your cortisol levels dropping. If you like your solitude and nature 360 degrees, but with every creature comfort – ecOasis will do just fine. Karissa does all the catering herself in her neat little kitchen. She had prepared a ‘snack’ of cheese, fruits and crackers for us on arrival. Around 5:30pm Peter delivered Karissa’s hearty slow cooked chicken and chickpea curry for dinner. Country folk sure love to feed people!







A glorious night’s sleep was had, waking to bird song and sunlight filtering through the trees. Daughter had dibs on the spa bedroom, so I contented myself with a high pressure hot shower over looking the bush and bird-life. Breakfast is plentiful self-cater supplies of bread, butter, spreads, bacon, eggs, baked beans, milk, juice and coffee beans ready to grind fresh. I needed to spend a week here to really blow the city cobwebs away.

After breakfast, we were picked up by Milton, a retired school principal. A very pleasant 40 minute drive and discussion ensued where we ‘set the world to rights.’ We were delivered to Tumbulgum and an outstanding morning tea at the 120 year old, fully restored House of Gabriel. The gift shop and gardens were the perfect place to while-away the time until our Tweed River and Rainforest Seafood BBQ Lunch Cruise was ready to depart.






The chef at The House of Gabriel is keen to show-off the wood fired oven in which he cooks the best pizzas in the region every Friday night between 5pm and 8pm. His latest toy is a Texan-style BBQ cooker. (I’ll be back to try his brisket.) House of Gabriel serves high teas and offers catering and functions. There are plans afoot for a rework of the garden area into an indoor/outdoor area to cater better for weddings and functions.










What really gives a more complete sense of the uniqueness of the Tweed River Valley and the Mount Warning Caldera geology and biome is the Tweed River and Rainforest Seafood BBQ Lunch Cruise.  Nicknamed, The Green Cauldron, it is the only land-bound natural erosion caldera in the southern hemisphere with Mount Warning the remnant plug of a once mighty shield volcano.

Michael Simmons, owner, skipper and guide for the 3 hour cruise offers a narration spanning: volcanology, geology, botany, sociology, anthropology, ornithology, river morphology, history, biology, ecology and biodiversity. His ability to identify bird and plant species at a distance is astounding. What Michael doesn’t know about the natural or man-made environment and history of the Tweed Valley isn’t worth knowing. Every Earth and Environmental Science high school student in Australia should do this tour!!!

Karissa from ecOasis catered for our grazing seafood BBQ on board and there was plenty of wine flowing for those who desired it, soft drink and complimentary bottled water. Every dish was wholesome, generous, well prepared and loaded with fresh local seafood. The four grazing dishes were perfectly timed within our 3 hour cruise.













On our return from the cruise we strolled across the road to The House of Gabriel where we were treated to Husk Plantation’s Ink Gin with Tonic Water. Ink Gin is distilled with 13 organic botanicals. A post distillation floral infusion with an exotic blue flower petal imparts its distinctive purple hue. As you add tonic water it turns a pale pink. Husk Distillers are known for their Paddock to Bottle philosophy and the resultant Pure Cane  and Spiced Bam Bam Agricole Rums. The Husk Distillery will be open for visitors in early 2019.

















After our libation, we were dropped for an hour or so at the Tweed Regional Gallery and Margaret Olley Art Centre in Murwillumbah. The gallery is positioned for panoramic views of the Tweed River.


We enjoyed exploring the gallery’s six exhibition spaces and world class collection of portraits representing Australians from all walks of life. Daughter was particularly taken with the interactive multi-media drawing activity at the entrance to the Margaret Olley Art Centre, which she could retrieve when she got home (results below).








I I loved the recreation of areas of Olley’s famous home studio which features original architectural elements such as windows and doors, relocated from Olley’s home studio at 48 Duxford Street, Paddington, Sydney. The interiors are filled with over 20,000 items Olley collected over many years as subject matter for her paintings.



The kitchen was an amazing time capsule of spices, herbs, ingredients, pots and utensils used over her life.




Just before they closed for the day, we treated ourselves to a little ‘snack’ at the Gallery cafe – rosewater meringue with vanilla bean cream, fresh strawberries and lavish coulis.






Enroute to the Gold Coast Airport Michael showed us the world’s second longest, legal graffiti street-art wall installation. The murals are located along the concrete flood mitigation wall on the western side of the Tweed River bank and run for about 2 kms. As you enter Murwillumbah over the bridge, the river-side of the 2 meter high levee flood wall features the street art of local and international street artists. The Treasures of the Tweed which celebrates the biodiversity of the caldera flanks the township side.


For me, nature, food and art are the perfect trilogy for relaxation and inspiration and the Tweed Valley has them in spades. Check out the upcoming events in the Tweed which can be found here.

Michael tells me there are 2 coffee plantations, 3 cheese makers, a Bay Bug Aquaculture Farm, a character who owns a finger lime farm, a number of other excellent restaurants and of course Tropical Fruit World, all in the Tweed and surrounds.

I am in the throes of planning a small group Culinary Tourism Study Tour to the Tweed in the 3rd or 4th quarter of 2019. If you would like to find our more or join me and other passionate food culture groupies, send me an email or call me on 0415676238.

Bottom Line. Teach Your Children Self-Control


Recent research presented at the National Academy of Sciences in the USA shows that while we know life skills such as persistence, conscientiousness, and control are important in early life, Steptoe and Wardle’s findings also suggested how they are relevant in later life as well.

They measured five life skills—conscientiousness, emotional stability, determination, control, and optimism—in 8,119 men and women aged 52 and older.

The higher the scores on those five life skills were associated both cross-sectionally and longitudinally with economic success, social and subjective wellbeing, and better health in older adults.

Their research showed that the number of skills is associated with wealth, income, subjective wellbeing, less depression, low social isolation and loneliness, more close relationships and likelihood of volunteerism.

Cross-sectionally, the research also showed an association between these life skills and health and biological outcomes such as better self-rated health, fewer chronic diseases and impaired activities of daily living, faster walking speed, and favourable objective biomarkers.

Longitudinally, these life skills also predicted sustained psychological wellbeing, less loneliness, and a lower incidence of new chronic disease and physical impairment over a 4 year period. These analyses took account of age, sex, parental socioeconomic background, education, and cognitive function.No single life skill was responsible for the associations and neither were socio-economic status or health. The effects depended on the accumulation of life skills. Despite the difficulties of later life, life skills impact a range of outcomes. The research suggest that the fostering and the maintenance of these attributes in adult life may be relevant to health and wellbeing at older ages and benefit the older population.

According to latest findings out of the University of Otago’s world-renowned Dunedin 30 year Multidisciplinary Study it was found children with more self-control turn into healthier and wealthier adults regardless of IQ or social background. Low self-control makes children vulnerable to “snares” that could have life-long impacts on their health, wealth, well-being and criminal history in later life. This study was the first hard evidence that childhood self-control does influence adult outcomes in the general population.

Children as young as three who scored lower on measures of self-control were more likely than children with higher self-control to have the following outcomes as adults:

  • Physical health problems (including poorer lung function, sexually transmitted infections, obesity, high blood pressure, bad cholesterol, dental disease)
  • Substance dependence (including tobacco, alcohol, cannabis, and harder drugs)
  • Difficulty with financial planning (including savings habits, home ownership, investments, retirement plans)
  • Difficulty with credit and money management (including bankruptcy, missed payments, credit card problems, living from pay cheque to pay cheque)
  • Rearing a child in a single-parent household
  • A criminal conviction record

Their findings also suggested the following:

  • that even small improvements in self-control for children and adolescents could yield important reductions in costs of healthcare, welfare dependency, and crime to a nation
  • children whose self-control increased with age tended to have better adult outcomes than initially predicted, showing that self-control can change and with desirable results
  • even those who already have above average self-control — could reap later rewards from universal interventions designed to improve such skills, especially in childhood but also in adolescence
  • not only could the most vulnerable children have a better chance at a happy and healthy life, there is the potential for across-the-board benefits in personal, social and economic well-being.

These two studies have important implications and challenges for developing interventions specifically focused on improving self-control skills for early childhood learning, for parenting, educators and prevention policies for countries with aging populations such as Australia.

My Third Reinvention

business card at July 1 2015

My Third Reinvention

The time has arrived for my third career reinvention. To be truthful, I feel like I have been preparing for this reinvention my whole life, especially when you consider the strength of the early influences from my mother and what I have been doing the last 20 years.

I spotted this infographic recently and realised that I am well along on the pathway. My reasons for considering a career path change are 1, 2, and 3.

This career matches my interests as I am an “Analytical Promoter,” based on a personality assessment test.

This career area has great future predicted growth and all my strengths and skills are transferable.

Undertaking the Gastronomic Tourism classes in the Masters program with SCU and Le Cordon Bleu fills in the knowledge gaps. A huge bonus to taking on Master’s level study at this age is that I am fascinated by the subject matter and this makes the challenge to my brain much more pleasant.

I am enjoying re-establishing and building new connections in food tourism, council and tourism in my region and I have found a new mentor in Barossa Baron, Barbara Storey.

Offering my services gratis and sharing my old and new found knowledge as a speaker is something I really enjoy. My local tourism authority’s training arm (for small tourism businesses and volunteers) are always on the look out for speakers and have already been asked to present a talk on food tourism with one of my current clients.

Studying online has meant I have had to re-embrace the habit of reading and doing lots of research online. During this process I have ample opportunity to keep up with the trends in this industry – and they are very interesting.











The Learning Myth – Why You Should Never Tell Your Child They Are Smart

Frimageom a Post by Salman Khan:

“My 5-year-­old son has just started reading. Every night, we lie on his bed and he reads a short book to me. Inevitably, he’ll hit a word that he has trouble with: last night the word was “gratefully.” He eventually got it after a fairly painful minute. He then said, “Dad, aren’t you glad how I struggled with that word? I think I could feel my brain growing.” I smiled: my son was now verbalizing the tell­-tale signs of a “growth­ mindset.” But this wasn’t by accident. Recently, I put into practice research I had been reading about for the past few years: I decided to praise my son not when he succeeded at things he was already good at, but when he persevered with things that he found difficult. I stressed to him that by struggling, your brain grows. Between the deep body of research on the field of learning mindsets and this personal experience with my son, I am more convinced than ever that mindsets toward learning could matter more than anything else we teach.

Researchers have known for some time that the brain is like a muscle; that the more you use it, the more it grows. They’ve found that neural connections form and deepen most when we make mistakes doing difficult tasks rather than repeatedly having success with easy ones.

What this means is that our intelligence is not fixed, and the best way that we can grow our intelligence is to embrace tasks where we might struggle and fail.

However, not everyone realizes this. Dr. Carol Dweck of Stanford University has been studying people’s mindsets towards learning for decades. She has found that most people adhere to one of two mindsets: fixed or growth. Fixed mindsets mistakenly believe that people are either smart or not, that intelligence is fixed by genes. People with growth mindsets correctly believe that capability and intelligence can be grown through effort, struggle and failure. Dweck found that those with a fixed mindset tended to focus their effort on tasks where they had a high likelihood of success and avoided tasks where they may have had to struggle, which limited their learning. People with a growth mindset, however, embraced challenges, and understood that tenacity and effort could change their learning outcomes. As you can imagine, this correlated with the latter group more actively pushing themselves and growing intellectually.

The good news is that mindsets can be taught; they’re malleable. What’s really fascinating is that Dweck and others have developed techniques that they call “growth mindset interventions,” which have shown that even small changes in communication or seemingly innocuous comments can have fairly long­-lasting implications for a person’s mindset. For instance, praising someone’s process (“I really like how you struggled with that problem”) versus praising an innate trait or talent (“You’re so clever!”) is one way to reinforce a growth ­mindset with someone. Process­ praise acknowledges the effort; talent­ praise reinforces the notion that one only succeeds (or doesn’t) based on a fixed trait. And we’ve seen this on Khan Academy as well: students are spending more time learning on Khan Academy after being exposed to messages that praise their tenacity and grit and that underscore that the brain is like a muscle.

The Internet is a dream for someone with a growth mindset. Between Khan Academy, MOOCs, and others, there is unprecedented access to endless content to help you grow your mind. However, society isn’t going to fully take advantage of this without growth mindsets being more prevalent. So what if we actively tried to change that? What if we began using whatever means are at our disposal to start performing growth mindset interventions on everyone we cared about? This is much bigger than Khan Academy or algebra — it applies to how you communicate with your children, how you manage your team at work, how you learn a new language or instrument. If society as a whole begins to embrace the struggle of learning, there is no end to what that could mean for global human potential.

And now here’s a surprise for you. By reading this article itself, you’ve just undergone the first half of a growth­-mindset intervention. The research shows that just being exposed to the research itself (­­for example, knowing that the brain grows most by getting questions wrong, not right­­) can begin to change a person’s mindset. The second half of the intervention is for you to communicate the research with others. We’ve made a video (above) that celebrates the struggle of learning that will help you do this. After all, when my son, or for that matter, anyone else asks me about learning, I only want them to know one thing. As long as they embrace struggle and mistakes, they can learn anything.”



Hiring Older Women is Good for Your Share Prices – Keep Calm and Avoid a Terrible Waste of Human Capital

50It is a serendipity, I suppose, that the Diversity Council Australia released its Older Women Matter: Harnessing the talents of Australia’s older female workforce report today, the day after my 50th birthday. This has not been an easy birthday for me. My 30th and 40th did not affect me so acutely as this one has, and frankly I can’t wait till all the hoopla in my head is over and done with and I can move on.

A Terrible Waste of Human Capital

In the report, older female workers (defined as 45 years plus) represent a significant employment participation group of Australia’s workforce – 17% to be exact.

Relative to their male counterparts, older female workers have lower labour market participation rates, higher underutilisation rates and Australia’s performance in this regard lags substantially behind comparable countries.

With one of the highest life expectancies in the world, most people, particularly women, need to work for many more of these extended years to ensure their financial security.

As Australia ignores the huge pool of talent and experience represented by older women, it is not only a terrible waste of human capital, it undermines the national imperative of growing the economy which results in significant loss to businesses and it impacts the financial, emotional and physical wellbeing of the many women who are consigned to unwanted early retirement.

The Government responded to public interest in the challenges facing older workers by introducing legislation to extend the Fair Work Act 2009 ‘right to request’ flexibility provisions from parents of young children to any employees with caring responsibilities and mature aged workers 55+.

Women’s employment also continues to be a focus for government, as evidenced in the recent passage of the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 and the implementation of government-provided paid maternity leave and parental leave schemes.

The Benefits of Hiring Older Women – It’s A No-Brainer

The proven benefits organisations experience hiring older women include: sustained job performance, high motivation levels, high reliability, improved retention and accumulation of experience, knowledge and skills over working lives, reduced attrition, enhanced innovation, group performance, access to target markets and financial performance, and minimising legal and reputational risks.
  • Market share – organisations that align workforce and customer demographics will better understand changing market needs and demand, and therefore customer service and product development. It is said that in customer service areas it is best to hire staff that are 7 years either side your target/ideal customers age. Given the massive actual spending and spending potential of baby boomers hiring older women for these roles just makes good business sense.
  • Retention – Workers aged 55+ are five times less likely to change jobs than those aged 20-24, and organisations stand to gain an average net benefit of $1956 per mature-age employee per year, via lower attrition, absenteeism and recruitment costs.
  • Innovation – Research examining 15 years of panel data of management teams of S&P 1500 firms, has found that more women in top management improved the performance of firms which were heavily focused on innovation.
  • Reliability – Research reviewed in the World Economic Forum’s report Global Population Ageing: Peril or Promise? suggests that mature age workers may be more reliable than younger workers, being less likely to engage in theft from their companies, be absent or quit their jobs.   ABS surveys have found that a smaller percentage of women employees aged over 45 have days away from work, either because of their own illness or to care for others, than younger women.
  • The Bottom Line – there is a large body of research showing a correlation between gender diversity in management ranks and improved organisational financial performance. One US study found that companies with the most women board directors outperformed those with the least on return on sales (ROS) by 16% and return on invested capital (ROIC) by 26%.
  • Return on Investment (ROI) – ACCI guidelines highlight the better return on investment in human capital businesses can experience by retaining or recruiting the advantages’ of significant length of service, investment in training and wealth of accumulated experience. To illustrate in relation to ROI on training, research shows 45% of workers aged 45+ intend to remain in the workforce until the age of 65-69, representing a potential 20 year investment in training, while those aged 30-39 are likely to remain with an employer for an average of only 5.8 years.
  • Productivity – Research shows workers aged 65+ have the highest productivity and motivation levels, and that workers aged 55+ perform at their best for seven hours out of eight per day (an achievement unmatched by workers in other age groups)
  • Reputation – Research in the US has found that when a diversity complaint goes public, the company’s share price drops within 24 hours, and when an organisation wins a diversity-related award, its share price rises within 10 days.

Does all this positive data make me feel better about being 50? No, because one report does little to break down the fundamental societal attitudes that underlie age and gender discrimination. The fact that Australia has to legislate in order to force employers to recognise the realities of being older and give women a ‘fair go’ the workforce is a tragedy.

How A Man in an Orange Suit and Another in Heston Glasses Rocked my World

Jay Baer, me, Joe Pullizi - Content Marketing

In mid-Feb 2013 I saw an ad for Content Marketing World at the end of  a marketing blog. I was delighted to find that two US gurus of content marketing were hauling themselves and their team the 20 hours to Sydney to share insights and emerging trends over a 2 day conference in the CBD.

I fondly remember the days 15+ years ago when my employers in Australia and the US, routinely (and happily) forked out $1000 a day for a one or two day seminar on the fast moving Marketing trends of the time. Yes, I did Relationship Marketing in 93, Telemarketing in 94, Database Marketing in 95, Positioning Marketing with Trout & Ries in 97 and 98, Strategic Communication in 98 and then more recently, Social Media Strategy in 2011.

And when I got back from each of these inspiring events, I breathed all that I had learned back into the organisation and whipped up the staff in a frenzy of new ways to market. My employers really did get value for their $1000 or $2000 which is no doubt why they continued to send me.

When I studied the speakers and topics of Content Marketing World, my heart began to beat faster and I thought:

  • I would get to meet Joe Pulizzi and Jay Baer in the flesh! (Photo op.)
  • I would get to hear their American accents which would remind me so much of my youth in California!
  • I would get to hear great speakers that would inspire me with their challenging journeys and subsequent victories with content marketing!
  • I would get to talk to grown-ups that understood the storytelling marketing I had been doing for 10 years! (but was called something else)
  • I would get to meet suppliers of content, software, hardware and other fantastic content related services – some of which I could use!
  • I would get brewed coffee, 6 kinds of tea, 2 kinds of juice, delicious morning/afternoon tea treats on tap, as well as lashings of luscious lunch offerings!
  • I would get to fill out dozens of “rate your speaker” surveys! (breathe now)
  • I would need to get a bus from Kellyville at some ungodly hour to get there and then get home to my kids at some ungodly hour! (sigh)
  • I’m too old for this now. I bet I will be the oldest one there? It will be full of Y and X gens and they will snicker at this old duck turning up at such an event! (double sigh)

And then I decided not to go…

Two days later I was at my 40 year old accountant’s house to sign some documents. I happened to mention the Conference to him and how much I would love to go. I told him how it was hard to keep up with the mountain of reading I should do, the emerging technologies and strategies, stay focussed and inspired about what I was doing while working from home and being a proactive mum and carer of 2 dogs, 6 cats, a 12, 21 and 51 year old. I told him that I was too old to go to Conferences now, at my age I was really downcycling now.

And then he said, “Rubbish!

“You should go, you need inspiration, you have another 15 years you will have to work – you should be ‘cranking it up’ not ‘cranking it down’!”

And then I decided to go…

So then what happened…?

  • I got to meet, listen, chat, laugh and have my photo taken with Joe Pulizzi and Jay Baer in the flesh!
  • I got to hear American accents which reminded of my youth in California – and I felt young again!
  • I got to hear great speakers from all walks of business, that inspired me with their challenging journeys, wisdom and “in-progress” victories with content marketing!
  • I got to talk to grown-ups that understood the storytelling marketing I had been doing for 10 years! (but had been calling it PR)
  • I got to meet suppliers of content, software, hardware and other fantastic content related services – some of which I could use!
  • I got brewed coffee, 6 kinds of tea, 2 kinds of juice, delicious morning/afternoon tea treats on tap, as well as lashings of luscious lunch offerings!
  • I got to fill out dozens of “rate your speaker” surveys!
  • I got a bus from Kellyville at an ungodly hour to get there and got home to my kids at an ungodly hour!
  • I discovered I’m NOT too old for this game.  I was NOT the oldest one there. It was NOT full of Y and X gens and they did NOT snicker. (not that I saw)

I guiltlessly gorged myself on inspiration, insights and ideas over the two days. And to keep the high going, Content Marketing afficionados know I will be able to “shoot up” with Joe and Jay’s blogs until March 2014.

Thanks guys – you rocked my world!

The Mauve Marshmallow or A Formal Dress for a 12 Year Old

Well, the time has come. My daughter is having her Yr 6 School Formal at the end of this month. If you are one of those highly organised mum’s you did all your research on the internet and found you can buy a flower girl dresses up to girl’s size 12, from Hong Kong for around $25, no postage, in any colour of the rainbow. Here is an example of what I call the mauve marshmallow dress.

The brief I got from daughter was periwinkle blue, long and flowy. We could not find anything on the internet that met the brief exactly. Then 21 year old son pipes up and says in front of daughter, “Mum, don’t buy off the internet, what if it looks terrible on her?”

This meant a trip to our local formal dress shop. The shop had forewarned me that they did not have much stock for 12 year olds, but that some styles in an adult 8 sizing may work. I was a little stunned to see the styles that she was offering me. She would say “this one was purchased by a Yr 6 mum for xxxx school” and I would shudder. I would look at the price tag and shudder some more. (The average 12 year old does not have a lot of call for a formal dress and so to spend upwards of $250 on a dress that would be worn less than 3 times seemed outrageous to me.)

I informed her very nicely that my daughter was not a street walker and asked if we could look at something long, blue and flowy. We found a bit of a bargain in cobalt blue (daughter’s other favourite colour) with a one shoulder adjustable strap (one shoulder’s all the rage at the moment apparently), ruching on the front bodice and shirring with a zip on the back bodice and then flowy from the hips.

We then found some funky silver chain in my sewing nik naks to use as the other strap. After removing 20 cm of excess hem on the under and over dress, plus hemming about 3 metres by hand, then teaming this with a handmade co-ordinating long silk scarf made in a silk paint class 2 years ago, we will have a very decent frock which can be cut down to cocktail length as she grows older.

We got some simple silver sandals to go with the dress and I will do a mani/pedi the night before with clear nail polish. My daughter has long straight hair down to her bottom. On the day of the formal, daughter is booked in for  a steam pod, trim and some ringlet curls around the face, will dress at the hair salon, throw on some lip gloss and go straight to the formal from there.

My daughter’s high fashion switch has not yet been flicked.
I hope this formal does not flick it!!




The Quality of Service is Not Strained – On Cruises

I went on my first cruise in January – 10 days in the South Pacific. It was a most interesting experience. Not the least of which was the people-watching value.

Quite coincidentally my Y gen son decided to take a 10 day South Pacific cruise with friends on a different cruise line. While extracting any details about the cruise was impossible for the first three days, on the fourth day, in the five minute drive to drop him at work, he commented on some things that had impressed him about the staff. I wanted to draw life lessons out for him on the spot, but alas he had to go before I got the chance. (Methinks there is method to his madness). So I get the chance to tell you in my blog instead.

If the title of the blog sounds somewhat familiar then you may have studied Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice at school. The actual quote was, “The quality of mercy is not strained, it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven…”

My son’s first observations were about the characteristics of the dining room maître’d. He said he felt special having a person dressed in a suit clearing tables and enquiring if everything was alright with the food. There were plenty of vest-wearing staff to clear tables, but the matire’d did it with dignity and grace. The way the maître’d carried himself was also noticed – smiling, chin in, chest out. “He reeked of professionalism,” was how my son described it.

He went on to explain that their dinner table head and assistant waiter’s were very experienced and had travelled the world on ships. They were always willing to have a joke and were not just like smiling robots. They did not seem like waiters, but more like friends. These are the examples he gave:
• One night the assistant waiter brought a guitar to their table and asked if anyone could sing. They volunteered one of their female friends and another waiter joined her with written lyrics and they all sang together with the guitar.
• The wait staff regularly asked how they were feeling. One night one of the girls said she was feeling sick, upon which the assistant waiter disappeared and reappeared with a green apple presented on a plate, neatly sliced through almost to the bottom so it stayed together in segments. He explained that green apples were good for sea sickness.
• The wait staff told us jokes and gave us brain teasers to solve between courses.
When my son first boarded and went to his stateroom, the room steward introduced himself, asked everyone their name and then asked if they all had their luggage. All did except my son. The steward went immediately to the luggage area and collected his luggage so he could unpack and get settled with the others.
I asked him in what other ways he was surprised and delighted by the service onboard. He said:
• “Everyone was so personal. The Cruise Director and his staff were self-depreciating, placed themselves at the same level as the guests by making fun of each other, which set us at ease and made us laugh. They wandered around onboard always smiling and very visible.
• It was happy to read in their posted profiles that the Executive Chef was world class. He had worked on the QE2 and some of the biggest ships in the world. He had been head-hunted as one the best.”
What can one learn from this experience about serving patrons?
• You can express your professionalism and pride in your role on the outside through uniform, posture, smiling, modelling the behaviours you expect of your staff.
• A personable, friendly attitude goes a long way
• Be truly human and show genuine care and concern , Caring is not just lip service, it is demonstrating you care
• Be engaging, warm and have an easy humour – don’t be stuffy or superior
• You can minimise a patron’s potential displeasure in delays by engaging them in conversation
• Anticipating a patron’s needs and going the extra mile is always noticed and appreciated – even if nothing is said at the time
• Be visible and available to help as much as possible. Don’t disappear when things aren’t going as planned.
• Smile often. This is the single most powerful non-verbal cue that you are genuinely pleased to be of service

None of these service gestures came across as forced or insincere. They were spontaneous, genuine and made my son’s cruise experience enjoyable on a whole other level.

The quality of service is not strained, it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven…”

Is it the Self Esteem Chicken or the Confidence Egg first?

During this tremendously busy time in my life – running a large household, two children, a partner, tour groups, bed and breakfast and a business, it was so easy to neglect myself. As I saw it, there were simply not enough hours in the day anyway, why bother with me?

As I got showered and dressed in the morning, I did not look at myself in the mirror, except to brush my hair. No make-up, no skin care, no hair dryer – I just went out with my hair wet to do the daily errands. I dressed in flat shoes, black, navy or black every day.

I scurried about doing the bank, post and supermarket errands without looking up from the ground. I sent a clear non-verbal message with my posture that I did not wish to engage.

How I looked seemed to make no difference to how my children, partner, customers or community colleagues related to me.  I now realise that it did make a difference – a difference on how I thought about myself .

What Comes First?

I have thought long and hard about the roots of this flawed thinking and have come to the conclusion that it stems from the nature of one’s self-esteem training in the very early years. I can hear you all say, “Self- esteem training in the early years – I don’t remember getting any of that?!”

Experts say, success breeds confidence, not the other way around. This is why it is vital to set children up for a successful experience and the confidence will blossom accordingly.

But what comes first? The self-esteem and then a healthy attitude to self-image and  self-care or the other way around? How do you as an adult correct your own flawed thinking? Moreover, how could I instill a healthy self-esteem in my 11 year-old daughter? I confess, that in the beginning I did the things below for her benefit, not my own. But imperceptibly, over time, I began to stop feeling guilty about doing them and began to look forward to them.

Modelling the correct behaviour yourself is most important in influencing children. I had to begin to show positive images of me caring for myself. No more going out of the house with wet hair. Make-up and skin care were back on the daily schedule. I tried to introduce more colour and variety into my wardrobe. I made sure my shoes and bags where clean and in good repair.

Setting her up for self-care, self-image success – From time to time I give her  little gifts of cupcake shaped and delicious smelling soaps, I have provided a shoe shine box, so she had a special spot to clean her school shoes daily, I make sure her school uniform is not missing buttons, stained or the hem down.

Put a self-care routine in place – this may include mother/daughter friday night face pack/facials, DIY hot oil hair treatments, bubble baths or massages.

Occasional Self-care or pampering treats – About once every two months when I get my hair cut and foiled, I ask her if she would like a hair conditioning treatment. She has very long hair, so this is not only beneficial for reducing knots, she adores the pampering and for a week afterwards we can marvel at how soft it is. I recently treated her to a full-body remedial massage at the day spa I have my membership at. That went over extremely well.

Most importantly, I want her to know what it feels like when you treat yourself well and to be treated well by others – and that it is important not to rely on others to make you feel good.

I’d love to know what other mother’s experiences are on this topic?

Extreme Makeover – 42% More of My Life to Live

9c313-extreme_makeover-showSome years ago, at 40 something I read an interesting statistic that was the trigger for my personal reinvention. It was that “the average Australian woman at 50 years old today still has 42% of her life to live.”

At that time I was 100kgs, always working,always dressing in black, never making time for me.

But perhaps I should step back in time to 1999 when I was stressed out strategic marketer for the largest private hospital in the state. I never imagined that I would be earning a living making and marketing wooden rocking horses to baby boomers.

I had enjoyed nearly 3 years of managing events large and small for Specialists, GP’s, doctor’s secretaries and staff . However, the job was demanding more and more hours and I was newly single with a 4 year old son and there were 25 year olds with the qualifications and no children who would happily put in the hours. So I set about to find my replacement from among those ranks and did so by early 1999.

On a 5 acre property with busy Windsor Road frontage near to Windsor with two, fifty year old houses, a shed and a huge pool, my then partner and I lived in the smaller house, rented out the larger house and made rocking horses in the shed.

By the June of that same year we were making enough money from the rocking horses for me to risk resigning my job at the hospital. In the space of a week I had surrendered my title, my hard won salary and sold my BMW.  After 6 weeks of adrenalin withdrawal migraines and a small identity crisis, I set out to make and market rocking horses full time.

After many years thinking I would never have another child, I had a beautiful daughter in October 2000.  She turned out to be a copy book baby and child, who today loves many of the things her parents do—antiques, rural living, farm animals, all things French, people and making things.

Christmas 2000 in the workshop, she was 3 months old in a front baby pouch on my chest asleep while I was putting the finishing touches on Christmas rocking horse orders.  To her the workshop was just another room of the house.

I was 12 weeks pregnant with her when we did our first 16-day Royal Easter Show. She was 6 months when we did our second Royal Show and 18 months when we did our last. She did the Adelaide Royal Show with us at 3 and has done many Timber and Working with Wood Shows.


My Little Pathological Marketer

To say she is socially adept and a pathological marketer would be an understatement. At one Timber Show in Canberra she boldly informed the Renapur Leather Dressing demonstrator polishing her shoes that she “could make a rocking horse at our place and stay at our B & B and have scrambled eggs, egg in the shell, omelette or flat eggs for breakfast.”


I have shown my porcelain doll and pram collection to many tour groups over the years and had my developed patter which rolled swiftly off my tongue without too much brain-effort. One day when she was about 6, I overheard her explaining the prams and dolls to a school friend – my patter verbatim!

It’s was good to know that when my marketing mouth got tired she could step into the breech.