Degustation: the art of tasting

Last Friday evening was the night for the first Switchback Restaurant Degustation Dinner at the Zig Zag Motel. With over 30 local food lovers in attendance the night was destined to be a great success. Managers, Anthony Beard and Cassie Baker, said they wanted to put on a night to showcase the talents of their chef, Ty Hardin, and introduce the diners to a full range of wines available from their partnership with Robert Oatley Wines. The Robert Oatley wines and the chef’s talents were front and centre during the evening, with seven courses served in total, and a separate wine paired with each. Representatives from Robert Oatley attended the dinner, with Winemaker, Marc Udy and Account Manager, Brian Barnes, joining the other diners in enjoying the meal. Both Marc and Brian were willing to share their expertise, expanding on an informative powerpoint that showed throughout the meal, highlighting the characteristics of the wines that accompanied each course. The meal started with a pepper gazpacho, and continued from there, with each course bringing something new to the table. Some notable courses included the braised pork belly with ginger & lychee jelly, & spicy cashew butter and a final berry sorbet that was the perfect palate cleanser. Other courses included a lobster tail in a sake broth, roasted lamb rump, almond pannacotta, and a prosciutto wrapped scallop. The service was great, and the meal highly enjoyable. Conversation was vibrant, and the presentation of the room was excellent. All in all, it was a great night out.

Erysimum’s or Wallflowers

If you have a little space in your garden where you need some colour then why not plant an Erysimum. Formerly listed under Cheiranthus and commonly known as wallflowers these little shrubs will bring long-lasting colour to your garden. Erysimums, or wallflowers, have simple, narrow, green to blue-green leaves and are mostly evergreen. The flowers can range widely across a warm spectrum from mauve, apricot, yellow and crimson and the hybrid varieties often can extend the colour even further. It is said that the old genus name, Cheiranthus, meaning hand-flower, refers to a custom dating to the Middle Ages when the flowers were often carried in the hand at festivals and events. The vernacular name, ‘wallflower’, however is more prosaic. Erysimums are often grown best in loose dry soil with very good draining and, as such, have been know to do very well in loose wall mortar, making the name literal, rather than metaphorical. Bowles’ Mauve is an award winning variety with mauve flowers, set off against grey green leaves. This wallflower blooms over a long season, and has been known to survive all winter in warmer coastal areas. Here in Lithgow, where the winters are cold, it may fair better indoors. Fragrant Sunshine, another wallflower worth highlighting, has a cheery yellow colour that will brighten any garden. With dark green leaves, this erysimum is perfect for rock gardens, or the borders of hot, sunny gardenbeds. Last, but not least, one of the old time favourites Winter Joy will flower for many months of the year and the flower colour ranges from mauve to a dark orange. The Winter Joy has ever green foliage that can make it through the winter unscathed, especially if planted in a sheltered location, and will add to your winter garden. If you have the space these continuous little bloomers will not disappoint you. If cared for they can flower through winter, spring, summer and autumn. Wallflowers do require some deadheading to remove the spent flowers and a regular feed to encourage more blossoms, but if looked after they can survive for some years. It is also possible to propagate the flowers from the woody stems in spring, which means you can have the same varieties in your garden for years. They are often available in punnets or single pots, while for varieties such as Bowles Mauve can be purchased in 14cm pots.

Your options for selling your property

A residential property cannot be advertised for sale until a Contract of Sale has been prepared. The draft Contract of Sale must be available for inspection at your agent’s office during the listing period of a property. Keep in mind though, a rural property of over 20 hectares in size is able to be advertised without a contract. It is still important that you consult your solicitor or conveyancer about preparing the contract as soon as you think of listing your property for sale, to make sure that everything is in order prior to advertising and in the case of a rural property, that you are prepared and can move as quickly as possible with your sale. The property contract must contain a copy of the title documents, drainage diagram and a current Zoning Certificate (s 149) issued by your local council. If your property has a swimming pool or spa pool, a copy of either of the following must also be attached to the contract from 29 April 2015;

• a valid swimming pool Certificate of Compliance, or
• a relevant occupation certificate (less than three years old and that authorises the use of the swimming pool) and evidence that the swimming pool has been registered.
All property exclusions if any must also be included and a statement of the purchasers cooling off rights must also be attached to the property sales contract. If any of the above documents fail to be attached, the purchaser may be entitled to withdraw their agreement to purchase at any time within 14 days of exchange, unless settlement has already occurred. When selling your property, there are three main strategies that your real estate agent will recommend, which are as follows:

Private Treaty
Some of the benefits of selling your property by private treaty include: • You set the price. • A fixed price makes it easy for purchasers and sometimes more attractive as they don’t need to ‘guess’ your desired sale price and can determine if this is in their price range and therefore make an offer based on your desired selling price.
• Your can adjusted the sales price throughout the marketing stage.
• You get feedback on your property.
• Purchasers might be more comfortable with a cooling-off period, unlike auction.
• Marketing costs are normally lower.
• Most simple and flexible method of sale.

Some of the benefits of selling your property by auction include: • Auctions can attract more buyers to your property because they aren’t put off by an asking price.
• There is no set sale price so you have the opportunity to achieve a price beyond your expectations.
• You are protected by your reserve price. This means your property won’t sell unless the bidding reaches a pre-agreed price set by you. You can adjust your reserve price on the day of the auction if it is not reached.
• A set date creates a sense of urgency to buy the property. • Auctions produce an unconditional contract for sale. A deposit is payable on the day and settlement is normally 30 days following.

Tender – (selling your property to the highest bidder)
Some of the benefits of selling your property by tender include:
• Tender allows the purchaser to place their highest offer to you for consideration without the stress and intimidation possibly felt in the scenario of an auction.
• Tender enables you to keep the price you may accept for your property discreet.
• Let’s the market dictate the price purchasers are prepared to pay for your property.
• A tender sale has a closing date to create a sense of urgency in the buying process and can generate competition between purchasers for your property.

The great stripe hype!

A trendy great way to add some style & uniqueness to your home is to decorate it using stripes. Stripes are becoming a great tool for designing & styling a room, and are an amazing way to make a room pop. There are various ways to use stripes throughout your home. Using stripes on furniture pieces, like an accent chair for example, is the most stylish way to make a room stand out. This is particularly great when the room has a neutral or white theme. Another way to use stripes is to create a feature wall in a room using wallpaper with a striped pattern on it. This is a bold way to make a room stand out and goes great with funky coloured pieces of furniture. Incorporating stripes into the lounge room is as easy as adding a cushion with striped patterns on it. You can also use a throw with a striped or chevron pattern to bring something different to the room. A striped rug would also be a great option. Also a fun way to jazz up a room is to purchase a striped light fitting or lamp. The larger the space, the wider the stripes should be. Thin stripes in a big area can look silly & strange from far away and when in a small area bold stripes can claustrophobic. Horizontal stripes are a great way to create a retro feel to a room while vertical stripes can help create a more masculine look to compliment a man’s taste. Multi-coloured stripes are great for a kid’s room to create a happy & fun environment. Chucking in some adorable home décor will help finish off any room. You can use striped decorating trays, bowls, wall art or even a cute little ottoman with a striped design on it. Bedspreads are also a lovely way to brighten up a bedroom without overdoing it. Just remember to try not to clash the wrong colours together and avoid over using the stripes.

Taking it with a grain of salt

In early 2012, those already invested in the Australian property market may have been made to feel slightly uneasy by commentary predicting prices would fall by up to 60 per cent in 2013. Individuals focusing on other investment markets may have breathed a sigh of relief, happy to now wait until the decline had passed before entering the market at a better time. As we now know, 2013 actually saw a strong recovery in the Australian property market, with values finishing the calendar year 9.8 per cent higher and property values in Australia currently sitting 16.1 per cent higher than the start of the current growth cycle which started in June 2012. These days everyone has an opinion on the state of the Australian property market – and the louder and more panic-inducing the comments are, the more attention they are likely to receive. The important thing to remember is that if you predict a market collapse every single year, one year you are bound to be right. This can encourage people to continually try to predict movements in markets they may not have relevant insight into; to one day be able to say ‘I told you so.’ Another thing to consider is the context and timing of when data appears and to remember that data is often historical, and doesn’t necessarily represent a picture of where the market will go. This is not at all to say that informative websites such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics or RP Data are providing incorrect statistics. These sites are hugely useful and credible resources for looking at pricing information and property trends, which might then be used in guiding more informed purchasing and selling decisions. Another limitation of the data is that it is affected by a range of operational factors in addition to the movement of the market. For example, Christmas is a period of downtime for many Australian businesses – and the analytics industry is not immune to this. This is why traditionally the January/February periods often records low levels of activity, while March can appear to experience a slight uptick. Such fluctuations are not necessarily caused by what’s happening in the market, but are rather impacted by the low levels of data provided during quieter periods. Instead of paying too close attention to these often conflicting opinions and data points, it’s best to focus on doing your own research, talking to agents and listening to reliable commentators and forming your own thoughts about events in the property market.


Surviving in modern retail

Keeping shop isn’t so simple anymore. However, assuming you have great, fair priced, products on offer with enough width and depth of range to keep customers happy, then it’s just a matter of keeping your eye on the future and following a few golden rules: Know your target customer. If you don’t understand your core customer, you will fly blind and are likely to fail. Map out your trade area so you know where they come from. Every few years, analyse factual demographic data within your target trade area to get hard evidence on population, households, age, ethnicity and income expenditure levels over time. Plan for changes as they are happening, before they make an impact on your business. Monitor all major and minor activity areas. Activity is the people and people mean customers. Study local habits and patterns because we are all habitual, but habits can change often. Evaluate competition properly and constantly. Most retailers think they are unique, but the majority are not. Your business must impact the competition enough to draw sales away from them to make yours more profitable. In some over-saturated markets, competition is such a significant factor that it will make or break your business. Stay in touch with new technology. These days, new developments to streamline the way businesses work are being introduced daily. We have mobile applications, new point of sale equipment and online staff training options which can benefit you and your staff. Realistically estimate potential sales and expenses every day, week, month and importantly, season. Use this budget to track against actual results. You may be surprised at how small losses of a few dollars a day add up into major problems over the longer term. With rising rents and staff costs affecting your bottom line, the challenge to be smarter becomes important to your business’ livelihood. Time and money spent in staying ahead of the competition and driving the market in directions that suit you is a great investment. Keeping on top of the important things will ensure you keep on top of your competition. Have you got questions about your business that you would like to have answered? Send us your questions to and we will pass them on to our business experts for you.