Ms Betterhome

Spring gardening: it begins
August 24, 2012, 2:46 am
Filed under: budgeting, city life, gardening | Tags: , ,

We had a little frenzy on the weekend, getting the first seeds in for spring/summer.

MrB planted his clumping bamboo seeds (we want it to screen our bedroom window from the street), and I planted 2 kinds of lettuce (Freckles and regular cos), some spinach (for the shady beds), and a punnet each of Tiny Tim and Tommy Toe cherry tomatoes. With our last two overcast/wet Sydney summers, we’ve had trouble getting larger tomatoes to ripen, but we’ve had good luck with cherries, so we’ll go with them again.

We’ve had bad luck with pumpkins, too, but being optimists we’ve started two varieties of non-running pumpkins in pots. We have lots of bees, so their problem isn’t pollination… they just rot on the vine. Maybe our luck will change this year.

I bought new rocket seeds, and some golden purslane for salads; and we’ve just ordered a replacement Fuerte avocado tree. The Hass tree has done well in the ground, but the Fuerte was never happy here… and finally died.

Our other trees are going crazy after nearly two years in the ground. The poor things were hammered by windstorms not long before we moved out of Newtown, and were a bit neglected last summer while I was recovering from my surgery. We gave them a big weed and feed a couple of weeks ago, and have started regular applications of EcoOil to start knocking down the leaf miners on the citrus trees. The multi graft stone fruit tree is starting to set fruit (though it needs some maintenance), and we’ve set out the fruit fly trap.

The multi graft citrus gave us 3 beautiful tangelos over winter, and now one of the other grafts is in flower (limes, I think). And the orange graft that was (accidentally) clobbered by the dog is recovering! The whole tree is looking much, much happier.

We’re still getting HUGE harvests of snow peas, broccoli, herbs, chinese greens and chills, though the lettuces are succumbing to the combined force of slugs and high winds.

And we’ve started our DIY Xmas gifts of mini herb gardens (in sterilised recycled pots). We bought premium potting mix, but very cheap punnets of sage, coriander, parsley, thyme and basil. We’ve added a cutting of our rosemary to each pot, and they’re lined up in the sun. We sound get 5 impressive home-made presents for an outlay of about 35 dollars (it would have been cheaper to start from seed, but we weren’t that organised).




Travellers tips
June 30, 2012, 9:03 am
Filed under: budgeting, city life, vegan eating | Tags: ,

It’s a beautiful sunny day in Paris, and I am cooped up in my room waiting for British Airways to deliver my bag – I made the Heathrow-Charles Du Gaulle transfer, but my bag didn’t. I’m here for a week for work so I REALLY need my stuff – I’m desperately hoping it turns up in the next hour.

I did a bit of research online before I left, and found some good tips. I thought I’d share a few of mine in return.


As is pretty obvious from the food posts in my blog, I’m vegetarian, mostly at the vegan end of the spectrum (but not strictly). This can make travel tricky, so I was thrilled to find the Vegan Paris blog and ebook.

I sometimes find it hard to get enough protein while I’m travelling, & I can’t afford to be woolly-headed on work trips, so I packed individual Vega shakes & protein bars. I buy them online, and use them for early morning protein hits, and as backups in case of conference lunches composed of white flour and lettuce (alas, these are frequent). The shakes & bars have a ton of fibre, omega 3 & multivitamins included, too, so they’re good insurance against getting rundown/clogged up while travelling.

My final food tip is self-cater wherever possible. This trip I was fortunate to find a small studio for the same price as hotel room. It has a tiny kitchenette with a bar fridge, cooktop, kettle, microwave & very basic pans, plates, knives etc. I’m really happy to pay for delicious food & coffees, but I don’t like to have to go out for breakfast, and sometimes I’m too jet lagged to sit in a cafe after a big day of work or touristing. I buy ingredients from local grocery stores and markets…mainly nuts, fruit and salad basics, or soy milk/soy yogurt.

Even when I’m in a basic hotel room, I take my little lightweight  camping kit, so I can have in room breakfasts & snacks.

Clothes & toiletries

This is not my first ‘lost luggage’ experience. As a result I always pack my toothbrush, deodorant, basic makeup, moisturiser and a clean shirt & underwear in my carry-on. I am always desperate to scrub up & get changed after a long-haul flight, so I was super grateful I had packed my insurance supplies yesterday. I also carry saline nasal spray… fantastic for dealing with the dry air on a plane.

I change into knee-high travel socks as close as I can to boarding time, to prevent puffy feet and cankles. I’m not high risk for DVT, so don’t have a custom pair of compression socks, but I do try & stretch and wriggle my feet to keep my circulation moving.

Girl Stuff

Getting your period while travelling is not fun, but it happens, I always pack pantyliners in case of spotting, and when I know my period is due, I pack the wonderful diva cup, and a packet of flushable wipes for cleanups. I’m not generally a clean freak, but I always carry antibacterial wipes (and tissues) on the road, in case of hideous public toilet experiences.

Earplugs & noise-cancelling headphones

I have dodgy eustachian tubes, and have had painful take-offs and landings my whole life. A few years ago, I discovered that wearing regular foam earplugs helps stabilise the pressure in your ears, and yes, it most certainly does. Earplugs also mute the sound of one’s fellow passengers, which can be a blessing at times, (and are good for getting sleep in noisy hotels).

I have borrowed my mother’s noise-cancelling headphones on the last few trips (thanks Mum!), and they are fantastic – they filter out the rumble from the plane, and not only help me sleep, but allow me to turn the volume waaay down on the inflight movies. The only  drawback of my Mum’s set is the size… they are large, & pack into a solid case that takes up a lot of room in my carry-on bag. I think it’s time I lashed out & bought a folding pair with a smaller case.

Jet Lag

I’ve tried homeopathics and other supplements, and frankly have never found any especially useful. My general jet-lag prevention tips are similar to many travellers: Eat lightly in flight, go easy on the booze, try and get out and walk around (ideally in the sun) as much as you can on the first day to help your body adjust.

Sourdough & christmas pudding vodka
August 28, 2011, 10:42 am
Filed under: city life, food, learning | Tags: ,

Encouraged by the success of the 9 bottles of limoncello I made for Christmas presents, I decided to fill my last 3 250 ml bottles with a modified version of the Christmas Pudding vodka from Not Quite Nigella. The recipe calls for macerating the mixture in a large bowl, but I’m using a 2 litre wide-mouth jar. I left out the mixed peel, and substituted chopped dates for raisins, and garam masala for the mixed spice. It’s brewing up nicely.

My other culinary adventure this week was a sourdough baking workshop at Alfalfa House. The class was pretty full, and it was clearly the trial run of what will be a very successful class. Even though it was a bit disorganised, I learned a lot about baking bread, and took home my own no-knead loaf at the end of the night. After proofing overnight, it baked beautifully this afternoon. I didn’t bring home any starter, as I’m not ready for that level of commitment. I think I have a good idea now, though, and I’ll be confident to DIY it when I’m ready.

Aparteid for poor people
August 7, 2011, 5:42 am
Filed under: city life, food, politics | Tags: ,

This inititative is incredibly creepy. I can understand quarantining benefits where there has been documented and proven neglect… but why target everyone in a given suburb? And why force them to shop at Woolworths rather than small businesses? I have to agree with the researcher quoted in the article: the judgments made by Centrelink staff were ”heavily influenced by prejudice. In the context of a suburb like Bankstown, it will overwhelmingly be migrant communities, along with indigenous and other marginalised groups who will be targeted.”

Exhibition on Urban life opens in Sydney tonight
August 4, 2011, 3:22 am
Filed under: city life | Tags:

I’m intrigued by this exhibition at Carriageworks, near Redfern station.

According to the website:Urbanition’s co-curators, Meg Shiffler and Justine Topfer, have tasked the selected artists to create works addressed to the Mayors of San Francisco and Sydney that propose visionary solutions to making each city more humane, green and livable. The artists’ proposals range in subject matter from improving immigrant rights to commuting by jetpack, and are presented across a wide variety of media including video, sculpture, drawing and performance.

It looks great, & I’ll definitely swing by for a visit next week.