Ms Betterhome

Birthday reflections

I’m celebrating with a work-at-home day (actually this is a very good celebration, and we will have veggie shepherd’s pie & bubbly later)

I thought I’d revisit the post on my priorities for the year, & see how things are tracking:

Home & relationships I said: I want to devote energy to MrB and our home & garden. That means having fun together, but also staying mindful of the household jobs that really niggle at him. The house is a bit dusty (and furry, thanks to our wonder pup), but in general, we’re on top of all the practicalities, and having a lovely time together. The various aspects of the sex/love constellation are all very sparkly, and I’m very happy (though not complacent, I hope).

Work I said: This year I want to thrive, not just survive!…That means preventing overwhelm by staying positive & forward looking, and focusing on eating well, and getting enough sleep & exercise. I wouldn’t say I’m overwhelmed – but I’m not super positive, either. My area is under-resourced, and I’m looking seriously into ways to make a lateral (or radical) move out of my current position. That said, I’m feeling strong, and well placed to move when I need to.

Exercise I’m still doing 30 mins of walking most days, taking the dog for a stroll, plus 3 x 20-40 minutes of yoga and pilates a week. I bought a couple of Exhale Core Fusion boxed sets, and have been loving their ‘Energy Flow’ DVD. My swimming dropped away in the wake of my last spate of work travel, I’ll get back into it next week. I also need to re-start my habit of getting up early to do 15-30 mins yoga or arm work in the mornings.

Food I’m still eating really well, but think I’ll do another 6 weeks of  myfitnesspal tracking from the 21st of May. My clothes are fitting well, and I’m feeling good, but I’d like to keep my good habits up.


Weekend to-dos
February 19, 2010, 10:31 pm
Filed under: home & hearth | Tags: ,

I’m going out for a dance tonight, for the first time since New Year, but won’t be having a big one, as I have WAY too much on this weekend.

On the home front: Make lime cordial & new chutney (shaping up to be nectarine & mango).

Give MrB sweet loving.

Do some work-type work (had my hair done yesterday morning, so need to make up a couple of hours).

Pick up new dress from dress-making friend (who has kindly copied an old fave that was falling apart).

Family: Go to Trop Jnr film fest with sis & her kids.

Call mum.

Garden: Re-planted tuscan kale & more egyptian spinach.

Trying to fit it all in
November 1, 2009, 9:45 pm
Filed under: about me, gardening | Tags: ,

My work is going to be really demanding over the next six weeks or so – I have to finish a grant application, write an essay for my Masters, knock up a couple of conference papers & run a series of ‘evaluation’ interviews with a group I’ve been consulting for.

I’m going to really need to keep my spirits up by exercising & eating properly. Fortunately I find cooking relaxing… so even though I had to go into work yesterday (ie Sunday afternoon), I still had a ‘wind-down’ in the evening, cooking up a couple of lunchboxes’ worth of soyaroni with broccoli/olive/tomato sauce (with a sprinkle of flaxseed oil & nutritional yeast stirred through at the end). I don’t like to get over-reliant on pasta or soy… but sometimes a less than ideal lunch is better than no lunch at all. The soyaroni tastes good, and gives a big bump of protein to the veggie sauce. I keep sachets of miso soup in my desk drawer for afternoon snack, and I carry a little pack of dried fruit & a few almonds, too.

I’m trying to combine exercising with commuting, too – will walk a half hour through to back streets to a ‘distant’ bus-stop this morning. Of course that only works ‘cos I don’t have too much to carry today. I did quite a bit of replanting on the weekend, so provided I keep the water up, the garden should pretty much grow itself 🙂

Thinking about food & health
October 14, 2009, 12:05 am
Filed under: food, politics, vegan eating | Tags: , , ,

I eat mostly vegan – largely for ethical reasons, but also because I never particularly liked to be near, or to touch raw meat when I was growing up. I suspect I’m slightly lactose intolerant too – drinking a whole glass of milk often left me a bit nauseous when I was a kid.

Anyway, as a largely sedentary 42 year old who can tend to moodiness, I have to watch my intake of various nutrients. For this reason I favour  almonds & figs or  dried apricots as snacks. I just ate 12 almonds & 2 figs as a morning snack, which doesn’t sound like much. It was really satisying though, and gave me a good bump of calcium, EFAs, protein, fibre & even a little iron. It also gives me a sweet treat without a sugar spike – I am a wreck if my blood sugar gets too low.

I adore greens, especially if they’re strong flavoured, but my partner doesn’t share my passion. Unfortunately, our ‘compromise’ vegan meals have gotten a bit heavy on the potatoes, pasta, bread & rice lately. Not that any of those things are bad, but when I fill up on those at the expense of veggies, my pants get tight. Coming into spring I’m feeling uncomfortably squeezed into my clothes, so I’ve negotiated a couple of weeks of ‘no compromise’ dinners for me (Mr B is happy to fend for himself on those nights).  I’m making a special effort to keep my breakfasts & lunches high in veggies & protein sources (legumes, tofu, tempeh etc), and reasonably low in stodge.

Meals so far this week include:

Breakfasts: tofu/broccoli ‘frittata’ with a small green apple, banana/raspberry smoothie with soymilk & a scoop of rice protein powder.

Lunches: roast zucchini, capsicum, fennel, cauliflower, watercress, tofu & walnut salad; chilli bean wraps with avocado

Dinners: Lentil soup with extra greens, veggie stirfry with tofu & cashews; roast pumpkin, asparagus, mixed greens, avocado & chickpea salad.

My plan is to keep up a good mixed intake of food, get a half hour walk in everyday for a couple of weeks to boost my stamina, then lift my activity levels from there.

Could I eat the way I want if I had to eat locally grown food only? I suspect I could to some extent, but it would take a LOT more planning & stockpiling, and a lot more growing space & sun in my garden. That’s something I’m continuing to think about.

Using resources (our footprint)
September 30, 2009, 7:37 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

Another post adapted from the AIP course – assessing our current use of resources, & our needs for the future:


According to the calculator on Aaron Newton’s site, my household uses 40515 gallons per
year. We observe water restrictions here, although they’re not as strict as they
could be. In summer we have a habit of catching our shower water in a bucket before
we get in & start soaping (ie as it’s heating up). With a shower a day for each
of us, that goes a way towards watering my thirstier veggies.

Our tap water here is sourced from an inland dam, with a fairly large catchment
area that always seems to be just outside the edge of an actual rainfall. I
checked a local rainwater tank sales site that told me Sydney’s average rainfall
is around 1175 mm. (47 inches) a year. The pattern is for an average of around
470 mm. (18.5 inches) to fall between July and December, with some 705 mm. (28
inches) falling from January to June.

We are close to a river, but most streams etc have been closed in & converted to
stormwater drains. The state govt is building a desalination plant, but it will
not be terribly energy efficient, I gather.

Although I claimed in my intro we were on the edge of a sub-tropical climate (I
think in 10 years we def will be), currently we are officially ‘temperate’, with
drought & flood cycles.


Most of our meals are home-made from scratch, but this is still only a rough
estimate. Over a week-10 days in March this year we ate:

2-4 cups of rice and/or 2-5 cups of pasta
1/2 kilo (about a pound) of potato and sweet potato
1 cup of mushrooms
4 cups of salad greens (including fresh herbs)
2 cups asian greens
4-6 cups assorted veg in season (ie zucchini/eggplant/broccoli)
7-10 pieces of fruit
1 cup dried fruit
4-10 slices of bread or tortillas
a cup to 2 cups of nuts (almonds, walnuts & cashews most often)
2-4 cups of tofu
1 litre (about a gallon)of cows milk
1 litre of soy milk
½ litre each of cow & soy yogurt
¼ cup of sprouts
½ cup to 1 cup of olive oil
½ cup of vinegar or 2-3 lemons
¼-1/2 cup margarine
4 cans of tomatoes
4 cans of beans
2-4 portions dried beans
½ kilo (about a pound) of meat or chicken (Mr B only)
¼ cup -1/2 cup of cheese
1-2 cups of flour (various kinds)
1-2 cups oats
½ cup jam
½ block dark chocolate
4 tablespoons chutney
¼ cup sugar or other sweetener
Assorted splashes of soy & other sauces
4 tablespoons egg replacer
4 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
About 100gms rice crackers (ie a package)
2-3 litres soda water
2-4 bottles of wine

We currently grow very little food – mostly greens, herbs and the occasional lemon, but it would be better than nothing is the rest of our diet was pantry
stores. I make sprouts and yogurt, & sometimes bake bread at home.

The whole `food miles’ issue is difficult here. The area around Sydney is
actually quite fertile – we still have market gardens with in the official city
limits, and national parks that contain small amounts of native edible plants
(plus good old weeds). However, housing sprawl has been allowed to build out
lots of the local small farm, making us more reliant on food trucked in from
further away.


I don’t have a real indicator of my current household’s usage yet, but looked at
last winter’s bill’s (when I was living solo):

Natural Gas (hot water & cooking) consumption was (on average) 35 megajoules
per day during winter.

Electricity (lights, heating, gadgets) on average was 1.20 kilowatts per day.
July (mid-winter) quarterly bill was for 287 kw, April bill (when neither fans
nor heaters were running) was 108kw.

(sorry, I wasn’t sure of the most meaningful non-metric conversions for these).

We have a camping stove & a small gas barbeque (with gas bottle). I also have a thermal cooker, but I’ve only experimented with it once.

Health care:

Australia has a universal health care system, but it doesn’t cover dental work.
I have private health cover for basic hospital plus extras (ambulance, dental,
optical, acupuncture etc), Mr Betterhomes has none.

He has serious allergies to grass seed, and is currently on a program of
injections designed to desensitise him. Herbal remedies might well help, too.

I have an old injury which causes some weakness in my left leg. I have been lax
with my exercises lately, but can take more care of it when I put my mind to it.
I also have (benign) uterine fibroids that are beginning to bug me.

More worrying, I have long-term damage from the after effects of juvenile
peridontal disease that mean regular treatment from a dental hygienist. It would
be almost impossible to find a non-professional alternative to this. I am likely
to lose teeth without this care – not a happy prospect.

I prefer alt therapies, and will herbal teas, tinctures & creams (from a herbal
dispensary in the city) in preference to things like steroid creams,
anti-depressants etc. I keep a small stockpile at home, alongside more orthodox
items such as Betadine, painkillers & bandages

I’m still (theoretically) fertile, though neither of us has plans for kids. I use a menstrual cup for my periods, & we use a combination
of condoms & outercourse for contraception.


We both have mobile phones – I can’t say I would trust the networks in an
emergency – they overload on Xmas day & New Years Eve as a matter of course.

We have an array of electrical gear – almost none of it essential. I have
flashlights, candles, matches, a windup lantern and and a battery/wind-up radio with a phone charger & LED lantern built in.

Mr B’s ute gets 500 km (about 311 miles) per tank. He currently refills the
tank about once a month. He also has a well-maintained mountain bike. We walk to
local stores.

I take the bus to work & use the bus and/or train to run
errands/visit friends. The Sydney public transport system is not on par with
places like London & New York, but it’s pretty good where we live. We are about
15 minutes gentle walk from the nearest railway station. I would like to get a
bike that would be safe for my injured leg, possibly also with a small back-up
engine to help with the (many) local steep hills – am researching at present.


Some form of refrigeration is essential here most of the year if perishable food
is to be stored for more than half a day. We currently run a second hand `upside
down’ fridge, with a large freezer compartment at the bottom.

We have a reasonably efficient washing machine we use about 4 times a week, and
a dryer we use almost never (line drying is the done thing in Australia – we
boggle at the US laws forbidding it!). I didn’t own a washing machine in my last
house, & am a proficient bathtub /bucket washer when I have to be.

I’ve just started bottling jams & chutneys, & I have small food dehydrator… but have not
started experimenting with it yet.

Looking back, looking forward
September 30, 2009, 3:29 am
Filed under: about me | Tags: , ,

This is part of my intro to Sharon Astyk’s online ‘Adapting in Place’ class I took earlier this year. We’ve moved house since then, so I’ve removed discussion of the house… but I thought it was worth re-posting here as I’m thinking about where I’d like to be in the next few years. It starts by talking about climate, to give a sense of place, then discusses some other ‘environmental factors’, including work & relationships. The temps are expressed in farenheit for my US list-mates:

Australia suffers from the El Nino/La Nina weather cycles & we’re
currently in drought, although Sydney had a fair amount of rain this
summer. The dam that provides Sydney’s water is 60 per cent full, and
we have had official water restrictions for the past 4 years. The
climate where I live is on the cool edge of being sub-tropical, &
getting warmer. We had a long stretch this summer where the
temperature didn’t drop below 90F, although the official average is in
the 80s. Humidity is generally around 75-80% in summer. Winters are
very mild by northern standards & it would rarely drop below the high
50s during the day, and mid to low 50s at night. We don’t get close to
frosts or freezes in the Sydney basin (though an hour’s drive
southwest they do freeze, and even get a light sprinkle of snow).

Our home is not insulated, but it is free from drafts (unlike many
houses of this vintage). It is perfectly possible for a healthy adult
to do entirely without heating in a Sydney winter, & I got close to it
in my student days. In a drafty house it is pretty miserable, though.
Summer is more of a problem & without fans the heat is terribly
oppressive, especially on nights where it doesn’t cool down.

Economy permitting, my goal is to move into a continuing teaching
and/or research position in the next couple of years. Education is
booming in the economic slump, and I’m currently doing a Masters in
Education to bolster my PhD and other credentials. Both Mr B & I
would like a backyard big enough for a decent-sized rainwater tank, a
compost pile, a real veggie garden, a couple of companion dogs & some
maybe quails or chickens.

My concerns are: real estate prices in Sydney mean that buying anymore
than an apartment is very hard to achieve – even for professionals. If
I were not in a relationship with a property owner, I would more
likely to be the sister-in-law on the couch than vice-versa. (That
said, I have shared with my sister’s family before, & it would be ok
to do it again). We have very little food & water stored & about a
week to 10 days worth of food (I should add Mr b sees no need for storage
whatsoever, but humours me). Water is the real sticking point for me –
dehydration can be fatal here in summer.

Mr betterhome’s business is very quiet, and no doubt will get quieter as things
get worse here. I have some savings, enough to live on for a year in a
pinch- but it would be a very hard year. Also, while he’s a very
practical person (qualified as a mechanic, owns lots of tools, is good
at home carpentry etc); I’m a classic intellectual. I have great
skills at vegan/vegetarian cooking, am good at living on very little
thanks to years as a post-grad; and I worked in daycare for years so
can take good care of babies & little kids. Other than that, I don’t
have much to barter. Our garden isn’t big enough to produce surplus,
either. I have never had a driver’s license (always lived in the inner
city), but paradoxically suspect as peak oil bites, I am more likely
to need one. Mr betterhomes has a 4 door ute (utility pick-up), that he can service

Reading back over this, a few things have changed – the economy in general is promising an upswing (of sorts), I have more $$ in the bank, & we have a better stockpile of food & water – which I’ll post about another time.

Life after 40…
September 30, 2009, 1:46 am
Filed under: about me | Tags:

I celebrated my 40th with a ‘homemade’ themes, & I knew it was going to set the tone for the next decade. So far, so good.

I’m a both respectable and queer; politically radical & family minded. I love to cook & go dancing & my hearts desire is a house & garden in Sydney, Australia, with plenty of space for me, my lover, a veggie patch, a dog, & lots of books & paraphenalia. Inspired by the likes of Jackie French, Homegrown Evolution and Sharon Astyk, this is my wish list, resource site & recipe central.

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