Monday, November 21, 2011

Facebook lists - a how-to

I know LOTS of people (especially page owners) have been having trouble adjusting to the recent changes to Facebook. Gone are the days when you saw status updates from ALL of the friends and pages you're connected with.

Instead, Facebook has begun selecting the status updates and information that IT thinks you’re most interested in, based on a complex algorithm (that doesn’t seem to work very well, let me say!)

So, if you want to go back to the Facebook you knew and loved, here’s the easiest way I have found…

YOU NEED TO MAKE A LIST (or lists – whichever you prefer).

To begin:

- Hover over the LISTS heading, then click MORE when it appears.

- At the top of the page click on CREATE A LIST.

- Give your list a NAME.

- You should see ‘Add friends to this list to see their updates’. Click on ADD FRIENDS.

- It might take a while for you list of FRIENDS to load but be patient… they will. Once they do, go to the little drop-down menu at the top left of the screen that says FRIENDS (with an arrow down). You should also get an option for PAGES. Click on that. Again, depending on how many pages you follow, these might take a little while to load.

- Once you can see the thumbnails of all your pages simply scroll through and select each one you want to add to your list (or you can also search for pages by name).

- When you're finished, click DONE.

To make sure you receive ALL status updates from your friends and pages, you need to do one more thing. Click on the list you want to edit. At the top right you will see a drop-down box that says MANAGE LIST with a down arrow. Click on it and then click on UPDATES TO SHOW. If you make sure there is a tick next to every item (which I think is the default anyway) then you won’t miss a thing!

And finally, if you have more than one list (for example Friends, Family, Businesses) you can add your most commonly used lists to your FAVOURITES on the left menu pane of your homepage. You simply go back to LISTS and MORE then click on the little pencil icon next to the list you want to add as a favourite. It will give you the option ADD TO FAVOURITES.

I do hope this helps!

x Bec

Friday, October 28, 2011

Right of reply

Today I feel sad. Yesterday I was angry. I'm not sure how I'm going to feel tomorrow.
For 2 years now I have put my heart and my soul into building a little business and into building a reputation as an honest, professional business owner.
Two days ago, I was labelled a bully by a small number of women, in front of a group of my peers and customers.
I was given no opportunity to defend myself. No discussion was entered into. My name and my business has been dragged through the mud because... well... I still do not know.
As best I can tell, I have been targetted for nothing more than having spoken my mind about matters concerning me and my business. And because a small number of women have decided that they do not like me.
Their actions have been a disgrace. Unlawful even.
But I am proud, and I hold my head high, that I have ALWAYS acted in a mature and respectful manner both in my personal and business lives.
I am placing my faith and my trust in those peers and customers to make up their own minds about me - based upon their own experiences and what THEY know to be true.
Today I am sad. But because some things are out of our control, tomorrow I will move on.
I might even throw a little party!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Canberra: stage 1

So, we're here. The move from Port Macquarie to Canberra is over. I spent nearly four weeks on my own, with two kids, running a business and packing up a 4-bedroom house. So glad that it's finally over. Exhausted just doesn't describe how I was feeling last week. I have never been so tired in all my life. But I survived. We're home. A family again.
Needless to say one of the things I've missed about the capital region is the seasons - spring blooms, crisp autumn mornings followed by glorious days, winter afternoons by the fire.
We've come home to the most beautiful spring I've seen here in years. The drought is gone, the trees and flowers are making a comeback. And the yard at our modest little rental is just beautiful!

Even in this afternoon's rain, my girls have had a blast - playing on their new (gifted) slippery slide, riding their scooter, tossing the ball for Charlie and watching the little birds flit about the garden. They've already got their fairy garden set up again and are waiting for their first visitors.


Monday, August 29, 2011

The simple things

It really is the simple things that make me most happy.
Today is Day 1 of my life as a (temporarily) single mother. Clinton left last night for Canberra to start his new job. The girls and me, well, we're holding down the fort here in Port Macquarie until we can sell our home and find a new place to live. It's a scary prospect - we won't see him for two weeks - and there is such uncertainty around just how long we're going to have to live this way.
I don't know how these FIFO (fly in, fly out) families manage. But I guess it's what you get used to.
But back to the point.
When Clinton left I made a pact with myself - to make the most of this rather ordinary situation. I want to spend more quality time with my children. To enjoy the simple things. To get out and visit the beach, the parks and all the great things that we love about our coastal lifestyle. One last time.
Today we sat on our back deck in the sun. We cracked open the big box of inkpads and stamps and went wild. It was messy, there were fights. But amongst it all I found myself just wanting to pick up the stamps and write something. I could have said a lot of things, but I reckon this sums it up...






Sunday, August 14, 2011

Nanna's passionfruit pie


I love a good tart. A pie. A strudel. Anything sweet really. And it always tastes so much sweeter when it's made with love. My Nanna gave me her recipe for passionfruit pie when I was just starting out as an independent woman. I made it often for Clinton and our friends and for a while there it even rivalled his mum's lemon meringue. It has been years since I made one, and with an abundance of lemons and frozen passionfruit pulp that needed to be used, I decided to give one a go.
For this recipe you will need:
  • biscuit base (packaged, or home-crushed)
  • butter
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 can reduced cream
  • juice of two lemons (must be fresh - don't substitute bottled juice)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 tbsp custard powder
  • pulp of 4-6 passionfruit
Prepare your biscuit base and press into a pie dish or flan tin. Refrigerate. Combined a small amount of your water with the custard powder to form a paste, then slowly add your remaining water and sugar. Stir over a medium heat until the mixture boils and thickens (it will become translucent). Set aside to cool. Combine your milk, cream and lemon juice and beat for 2 or 3 minutes to give it some air (it will thicken a little, but sets in the fridge). Once base it chilled, pour in your cream mixture. Return to fridge. Once your jelly mixture has cooled, stir through your passionfruit pulp and pour over the top of the cream mixture. Refrigerate until set.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Introducing... Imaginart

People are always telling me ‘there’s not enough for boys’ when it comes to shopping handmade. And so, with the big Collaborate for a Cause charity auction just a few days away, Little Toot Creations and Imaginart have teamed up to create this great ‘boisterous bedroom’ themed auction item.

I’m very excited about this collaboration – firstly because Lisa is the very talented lady behind my own Little Toot artwork – but also because this auction will mark a whole new direction for my little business.

I’ve worked super hard these past few months to develop a range of boys’ and girls’ sleepwear that is 100% Australian made AND Australian Standards compliant. I don’t know of a single other handmade business in Australia which can make that claim.

Our auction item consists of a pair of Little Toot Creations PJs (made to the winner’s chosen size) and "Pillow Fight", a 7x9" print illustrated by Lisa especially for Collaborate.

Many of you may not know Lisa’s work, and so I’ve asked her to share with us a little about her business…

Tell us about your business, what do you do?

Imaginart has been evolving over the last four years. This has involved lots of painting and illustrating as well as the odd bit of Graphic Design.

What inspires your art?

Mostly my children, how could they not? I also find myself longing for a simplistic and happy world and love to recreate this. I’m just a big kid really!

And what about the process of creating an artwork? How do you go about it?

My creative mind works best at night, when the kids are tucked up in bed! I’m currently doing a lot of illustrations. Sometimes I have a plan and idea ready to go, especially if it is a commissioned work. Other times it just evolves. I can spend hours sketching and reworking before I have a finished illustration that I am satisfied with. Then I digitally colour my images. Being a bit of a perfectionist this gives me a great deal of flexibility and control which I love.

What do you enjoy most about working from home?

I’m still working out the delicate balance that is working at home. In saying that, I love it! What I appreciate the most is spending precious time with my two little girls. I am quite happy to skip the daily commute too.

And where to from here? What’s your goal for Imaginart?

I have a lot of dreams and plans. I have particularly been enjoying doing the odd fabric design and have also been working on some children’s book ideas. I look forward to seeing where this adventure takes me next!

Where can people purchase your work?

http://www.imaginart.com.auLinkhttp://www.madeit.com.au/imaginart

Thank you Lisa!

Make sure you log-on to Facebook this weekend to check out the auction (you can bid on either of my two Collaborate items – see my earlier post for details on my partnership with Little Lou Lou).

x Bec

Friday, July 22, 2011

Collaborate for a Cause

Next weekend, Little Toot Creations and Little Lou Lou Handmade will be taking part in a fantastic fundraising initiative called Collaborate for a Cause.

The aim of Collaborate for a Cause is to promote friendship, understanding and fun in the handmade community, while raising money for those less fortunate.

Lisa and I have teamed up in support of KIDS Foundation in Australia, which is a not for profit health promotion charity dedicated to childhood injury prevention and injury recovery (Kids in Dangerous Situations).

I found KIDS Foundation through their Port Melbourne to Port Macquarie cycle event, which is one of their major fundraising events each year.

Luckily, no one in my family or circle of friends has gone through the unimaginable trauma of serious childhood injury, however it’s nice to know that this fantastic support network exists if ever we should need it.







About KIDS Foundation

On an average day in Australia about 5000 children are injured in serious accidents. Accidents are also the leading cause of childhood death.

For eighteen years KIDS Foundation injury recovery programs have provided services and facilities to support children, families and carers adjusting to life-changing injuries, with a particular emphasis on survivors of severe burn trauma.

The foundation runs an annual burns survivors’ camp that provides burn survivors and their families a place to talk, feel emotionally comfortable and supported, whilst enjoying time away from the ongoing treatment associated with recovery. Camp TANGO is run for teenagers.

KIDS Foundation relies on the support of corporate and community sponsors to also provide young people and their families with specialist equipment, such as bicycles adapted to a child’s ability, and laptops to assist where hand-writing is difficult.

KIDS Foundation also works extensively in the field of injury prevention.

Their safety education programs are being introduced into pre-school, primary and secondary schools across Australia and with adequate funding they hope to have their program taken up by every school in Australia.

You can learn more about KIDS Foundation’s great programs at www.kidsfoundation.org.au.

Lisa and I will be auctioning this size 0-1 Strawberries and Cream dress matched with a pair of 6-12 ruffle bloomies.

To bid in the auction simply visit and like the Collaborate for a Cause page on Facebook and be ready to bid next weekend!


GOOD LUCK!Link

x Bec

Monday, July 18, 2011

Down on the farm

I love the farm. The place where my husband grew up. It was his father's home too, and his grandfather's, and his great-grandfather's before that.
'The farm' is a property of about 600 acres located an hour's drive north of Goulburn in the NSW Southern Tablelands (see
here). This time of year the mercury bottoms out about zero and doesn't climb above 6 most days (and that's being generous). Of course my favourite place to be while the men are out working is on the tiled hearth, right in front of the wood fireplace.
As you could imagine, the farm is a place steeped in history.
There's Clinton's Mum and Dad's place (a quaint little fibro that's modest but comfortable), his Nanna's old house (built in the early 1900s) and a plethora of old sheds and outbuildings that each have a story in their own right.
They run sheep, mostly, and grow potatoes.

On the farm, it's about as handmade and homegrown as you can get. I've learnt a lot from watching, working with, and listening to my in-laws. It was Margaret who inspired me to buy a Fowler's preserving kit to bottle fruit and vegetables while they were abundant and in season.
She's shared with me her recipes for tomato sauce, relish and chutney - not to mention that famous chocolate slice. Her kitchen is small, but it runs like a well-oiled machine - churning out jams, scones and Christmas dinners for 15+ without a hiccup or a complaint. It's not uncommon to find a roast leg of lamb cooling in the meat safe, out in the walk-in pantry.
This latest visit to the farm was to help out with the annual task of lamb marking - the process of innoculating, ear branding and tail docking the young lambs. It's not a fun job - it's dirty, hard work - but the kids love getting up close to the animals and having a chance to help out their grandparents. This year we were joined by some friends of ours from Port Macquarie, who relished the opportunity to get in there and have a go, and learn something new.

We also took the opportunity while the weather was mild to make a batch of lamb sausages. I skipped that job - choosing instead a lovely visit with my dear friend Anita from Winnie&Clem - but returned to find about 40kg of delicious, all-natural sausages hanging in the meat room.

And of course, I must not forget to mention the chickens. Oh, how I wish I could keep some chickens! The girls just love traipsing down to the chookyard with their old tin can filled with grain to feed (and with Nanna's help occasionally hypnotise) the chooks. And for me there's nothing better than those soft little hands cupping a warm, freshly-laid egg.

Yep. I love the farm.

x Bec

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Doing it right - a checklist

Someone wise once told me (and it was probably my Mum), if you’re going to do something, do it right, or don’t do it at all. It’s a message I’ve carried with me through life.


When I started out making things to sell, I was clueless. Let’s admit it. Most of us are when we decide to start something new. It’s been a process – a steep learning curve – and I’ve been lucky to have some fantastic advice and support along the way.


But from the very beginning I was committed to ‘doing it right’.


I’ve had my share of hiccups and faux pas along the way, but I am happy to say that Little Toot Creations is now a registered business. I hold an ABN and have a registered business name. Although I will admit my record keeping leaves a lot to be desired (at the moment), I do report all of my meagre earnings to the tax man. I try as best I can to be original and to observe other people’s intellectual property rights. I’m a stickler for the rules – just ask my husband – it’s something that drives him a bit nuts, I think!


I am by no means an expert in running a handmade business, but I’ve learnt a lot along the way, and my ultimate goal (apart from seeing Little Toot Creations succeed) is to see the handmade industry establish itself as a quality, professional alternative to mass-production.


And so, here is my little checklist.



Hobby or business?


I could write a whole post on this one! It’s the question we all seek answers to when we first start out. A good place to start when making your own decision about this is the Australian Taxation Office (http://www.ato.gov.au/corporate/content.aspx?doc=/content/00199712.htm).


Generally speaking, if you conduct your operation in a business-like manner and intend to make a profit (no matter how small), then it is considered a business.


For me, it took a few months to take that step and formalise my operation. But when I weighed up the facts – I had a business name, a logo, labels for my garments, I marketed my product, keep customer lists and measured myself against other businesses in the industry – I decided that I was, in fact, a business.


But regardless though of whether you choose to become a business for tax purposes, or to consider yourself a hobbyist, there are still other rules and requirements you must meet if you’re selling a handmade product.



Registering your business name


In NSW (and I presume in most other states), it is compulsory to register your business name if you intend to trade under a name other than your own. For example, if I were to operate only under the name Rebecca McAlister, then I wouldn’t need to register. However because I am known as Little Toot Creations, I am required by law to register than name with the NSW Department of Fair Trading (see here http://www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au/Businesses/Business_names.html).


The only exception to this is if you trade ONLY on the internet.


Business name registration does not protect your name from being used by others. If you want this protection, you need to register a trademark.



Australian Business Number


If you decide to become a business, then you will need to apply for an Australian Business Number. Don’t panic – that doesn’t mean hours and hours of paperwork, registering for GST and completing business activity statements. Visit the Tax Office website (http://www.ato.gov.au/content/57752.htm) to get feel for what’s required and talk to your accountant if you’re unsure what to do.


There are a couple of reasons to get an ABN. Firstly, so that other businesses you deal with (for example wholesale customers) don’t withhold 46.5% of their payments to you. But secondly, because having an ABN opens many doors in terms of purchasing your supplies at wholesale rates and setting up trade accounts. You also won’t be able to register a .au domain name for a website without an ABN.



Insurance


Whilst not essential (unless you’re attending markets), a public and product liability insurance policy is something you should seriously consider.


What if something you made caused someone an injury? Could your family wear the emotional and financial burden of a claim against you?


There are quite a few insurers who now cater for our type of small business. Shop around, get quotes, and weigh up which one is right for you.



Mandatory regulations



Care labelling for clothing and textiles


Did you know that there are legally-enforceable standards that apply to the construction and sale of clothing and textile products in Australia?


Regardless of how small you are, or whether you’re a hobby or a business, you need to comply with the Mandatory standard—Care labelling for clothing & textiles (http://www.productsafety.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/971636).


Basically, the standard requires you to accurately label all textile products with their care (wash temperature, can be tumble dried etc) and content (100% cotton etc) information. Some items (such as reversible clothing) do not have to carry a sewn-in label but you still have a responsibility to inform consumers about how to properly care for their purchase.


The mandatory standard for textiles labelling covers:


· clothing


· household textiles


· furnishings


· piece goods made from textiles


· plastic coated fabrics


· suede skins


· leathers, and


· furs.


And it doesn’t just apply to the manufacturer, or creator of a product – it also applies to retailers who on-sell. They have a duty to ensure the items they are supplying comply with the standard.


Supplying clothing and textiles that do not comply with this mandatory standard can make you liable for heavy fines and recall of non-compliant products.



Nightwear for children


Like the care and content standard, the Mandatory standard—Nightwear for children exists to protect consumers. And in this case, our children.


Walk into any fabric store and pick up a bolt of cotton flannelette and it will clearly state on the label – not suitable for children’s sleepwear. That is because – contrary to popular belief – cotton is a highly flammable material.


If you want to make and sell children’s nightwear (sizes 00-14), then you need to comply with the standard. This means all garments need to be appropriately labelled (either Low Fire Danger or High Fire Danger), their cut and style needs to comply (not too loose etc) and the fabric they are made from must be tested for flammability (particularly fabrics with a pile, like fleece or flannel).


It is quite complex, and if you’re serious about selling onesies, pyjamas or children’s sleeping bags, then I recommend purchasing a copy of AS/NZS 1249:2003 Children’s nightwear and limited daywear having reduced fire hazard.


There are various testing labs around the country that will assess your garments for you, to ensure you comply.



Copyright, patents and all that jazz


It’s been a hot topic in handmade circles in recent months and someone should (seriously) write a book on it.


I’ve written to the Australian Copyright Council seeking clarification of the issues that plague the handmade industry – it’s been a month and I’m still waiting on a reply.


I’m no expert in this area (and I truly wish I was!) but I will just say this.


It is your responsibility to act RESPECTFULLY and RESPONSIBLY when using someone else’s pattern or design. If you’d like to make items to sell, contact the pattern maker or designer. I do, and in most cases they are happy to grant permission. Just changing one or two things doesn’t get you around the law – so take care.


With regards to trademarks and patents, one of the biggest breaches I see in handmade circles is in the sale of ribbon blankets, or taggies. I have the team at Handmade Kids to thank for bringing my attention to this one, when I first started making mine. There is a company in the US – called Taggies – who hold trademarks on the name taggies (and also taggie). They have also patented the technique of folding a piece of ribbon in two and stitching it between two pieces of fabric. To the best of my knowledge, this doesn’t preclude Australian sellers from making ribbon blankets, but it does prevent them from calling them taggies or taggie blankets.



It’s these sorts of issues that we, as handmade sellers, need to make ourselves aware of. Network, chat to other handmadies, join forums, ask questions. It’s the only way to get answers.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Meet our mate - Bluey



















This little guy's being hanging out in our backyard for a few months now. He's a blue tongue lizard (or so we believe) who we have affectionately (and rather uncreatively) named 'Bluey'.
A few weeks ago we found Bluey trying to climb up the overflow pipe for our swimming pool. We tried everything to get him out - a tickle, a prod - I even tried gently pulling him out by the tail. But to no available.
Then hubby had the brilliant idea to pull the plug in the pool and 'flush' him out! Poor Bluey. I'm sure he thought he was going to perish but the little trooper backed himself out of the hole quicksmart!
Despite the ordeal, little Bluey's decided to hang around and we found him today out in the vegetable garden stalking insects.
Gotta love having little helpers in the garden!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Super-easy and delicious chicken satay

Dinner at our place is, most days, a bit of a last-minute decision. And with two kids under 5 in the house we tend to play it pretty safe. Meat and veg. Spag bol. Crispy fish and chips. Homemade pizza.
But when hubby asked the other day: “What do you feel like for dinner?” I, for a change, decided to try something new. It’s not often I ‘feel’ like anything in particular, but this day I had a hankering for Thai food.
Now, our attempts at Thai in the past have been pretty disastrous as neither of the girls is fussed on chilli. But what I felt like, in particular, was satay.
And so I turned to the trusty internet, and found a great recipe for satay chicken stir-fry.
I’ve tried to find the link again but it seems to have vanished, so here’s my version, for your enjoyment.

Satay chicken stir-fry











500g chicken (breast or tenderloin), sliced quite thin
A dash of oil
1 can of coconut milk
A couple of dessertspoons of crunchy peanut butter
A couple of dessertspoons of sweet chilli sauce
2 chicken stock cubes
Snow peas
Broccoli
Red capsicum (this was in the original but we left it out)

Combine your coconut milk, peanut butter and sweet chilli sauce. Heat your oil in a wok or pan. Fry chicken on a medium-high heat until browned. Add the combined wet ingredients. Stir to combine and bring to the simmer. Add your vegetables and toss until vegetables soften.
We served ours with jasmine rice. Super-easy, and it was super-delicious! As an added bonus, the kids loved it too!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

I've put the kettle on... come on in

So, here I am. A blank page. A clean slate.

I probably should say hi. Welcome. Thanks for stopping by for a cuppa and a chat.
If you’re here it probably means you’re a friend, family or a lover of handmade who follows my business – Little Toot Creations – on Facebook. I thank you for coming and showing your support (or exercising your idol curiosity
).
For those who may not know me well, my name is Rebecca (Bec), I live at Port Macquarie on the Mid-North Coast of NSW, Australia and I am a wife (of almost 10 years) and a mother of two girls (Alice, who is almost 5 and Lucy, who is 2 and a half). I will get to my husband in a minute.

In no particular order, some of my favourite things in the world are family, friendship, food, craft, gardening, travel and a good cup of tea.
‘My Two Hands’ is my little celebration of the ‘good life’. The ‘simple life’ I talk about over at Little Toot Creations. It is my hope to make this blog a place where I can share my love of all things made by hand, grown and prepared with care and nurtured with motherly love.
Since starting my business in 2010 I have, sadly, sacrificed many of the things I love. Bottling a batch of homemade tomato relish, pulling weeds, watching a new release film or getting lost in a good book. Making pasta from scratch, reading the Sunday paper… I could go on.
In days gone by I was also quite an enthusiastic (albeit not that great) photographer. I get lost in beautiful images. I miss my camera. These days it only gets used to capture funny moments with the kids or to photograph my latest sewing project.
I will be 33 this October. I met my husband when I was just 17. We were married when I was 23. My husband, Clinton, grew up on a farm in the NSW Southern Tablelands. From him (and his parents), I have discovered the joys of vegetable gardening, of preserving fruits and vegetables while they are in season, and I have realised the pride and joy that comes from handing skills and knowledge down through the generations.

Most of you probably know me for my handmade creations. I couldn’t sew a stich until 5 years ago. I dabbled in crafts – I recall a cross stitch I completed for my Mum when I was about 21 – and I always admired ‘creative’ people, but I never thought I had that within me. But I grew up surrounded by handmade things – my grandmother was an excellent sewer and as children we wore many of her creations. It wasn’t until I became a mother myself that I started to remember and appreciate the simple, handmade life we enjoyed as children (thanks Mum and Dad). And I wanted to recreate that for my own family.

At our place we have filled our (rather small) backyard with vegetables and fruit, rather than flowers. We use solar power. I recycle. I try to buy Australian, handmade or we make do and mend. But more about that later.
Let me close this introduction by saying that through ‘My Two Hands’ it is my hope to inspire and motivate not necessarily others but MYSELF to take time out and get back those things that I love. To be a better person. To live that life I aspire to. To pause and appreciate a home-cooked meal straight from the garden. To capture a beautiful image. To share a great read, or a must-try craft project with friends.
And I thank you all, friends, for stopping by. See you here again soon.


x Bec












Photograph by little glimpses