Thursday, 20 December 2012


I love shortbread! People always say how hard it is to make so for a long time I was too nervous to try it, but I'm so glad I finally did because it's not only delicious, but also incredibly easy. Even if you are not a baker you could definitely make this as a lovely festive treat.

I started with Jamie Oliver's Best Ever Shortbread recipe (from Cook With Jamie) but have made some changes.

250g softened butter
125g caster sugar
250g plain flour
125g cornflour or semolina (I prefer to use rice flour)

That's it!


Prep: put your butter on the counter ahead of time so it will soften. Make sure you have rice flour or similar. Preheat your oven to 150 degrees. Find a square tin and line it with baking paper. (You can, if you prefer, use a round tin instead of square. You can not, despite what Jamie says, grease your tin instead of using paper. If you do you'll be sorry.)

Step 1: put the butter (chopped up a bit) and the sugar into a bowl.

Step 2: cream it in your pink Kitchenaid. If your mean boyfriend hasn't bought you one yet, borrow your Mum's or just use a wooden spoon. You will know it is creamed when it looks like this:

Step 3: add the flour and rice flour or similar. If you don't want to weigh out all your ingredients separately, just put your mixing bowl on a digital scale, set it at zero then add each ingredient straight into it so you are weighing them all in the bowl. Be careful though!

Step 4: mix it all up. You can't do this in your kitchenaid! It will go everywhere! Use a wooden spoon instead.

At first it will seem like it can't possibly work.

But soon you will have a lovely dough! Roll it into a neat ball.

Step 5: this is where Jamie and I really disagree. He thinks you should roll your dough out into a square then put that in your tin. I have no idea how you could do this and everyone I know seems to struggle most with this step of the shortbread process. Not me, because I have a secret: just chuck your ball of dough into the tin, then squash it about until it fits the square and is roughly level. Easy peasy!


Step 6: prick your dough all over with a fork. Don't forget this step!!!

Step 7: put it in the oven for about 50 minutes.  The good thing about biscuits is that it is pretty hard to get the cooking time wrong - too little and they're extra soft and moist, too long and they're extra crunchy and perhaps a little too golden.  Either way they're still edible so don't worry too much.

Step 8: Once the time is up, sprinkle some extra caster sugar over it all and leave the tray to cool.  After it's cooled, lift out the whole thing by the edges of the paper and cut it into pieces.  Jamie recommends twelve gigantic chunks but I do about twice that.  You can always have a second (or third or fourth or tenth) piece.


Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Four Days, Fifteen Snaps

 On Friday I treated myself to sushi for lunch, since I'd been so busy decluttering all week and there were no leftovers at home anyway.
It was pretty good!
I also decluttered some belts:
Once upon a time I had a hanging rack thing on my bedroom door for stuff like dressing gowns and scarves, but we had new doors put in a while ago and the rack doesn't fit any more.  I moved my scarves to the wardrobe and hung my dressing gowns from the picture rail on the wall behind the door.
I used 1980s-style ornate picture hooks because I just have such good taste when it comes to interior decorating.
This went on for a while but on Friday I realised I thought maybe, just maybe, I could hang the whole hanging rack from the picture rail.  And as it turns out, I was right!
I chucked the pink dressing gown because it's scruffy now and I retrieved this vintage nylon number from a storage box.  It doesn't have a hanging loop so I put it on a hanger suspended from one of the picture hooks.  I love storage solutions!
On Saturday Jim brought me some flowers.
Then I went to my Nana's place to pick up some trifle, and when I got there look what she was doing:
Reading Expect Cowgirls!  And having Happy Hour.
Hello Nana if you're reading!
She had some Christmas decorations up too.
Here is the trifle:
Afterwards I went to my cousin's place for a BBQ.
On Sunday I went to the pub for Ben's birthday.  Happy birthday you lemon!
Meg looked so good in her Summery maxi dress:
FF looked nice too:
Just kidding, that's Emily! Could've fooled me though.
I had one of these lovely cocktails.
It was called a Russian Rose but it tasted quite like a cosmo. Tasty
And when I came home look what I found:
Festive! Thanks Mummy!
On Monday I made my usual lunch:
A handful of rice crackers (these ones are Peckish brand, try them!), a tin of tuna, thirty grams of cheese.  It is a quick and easy but super tasty lunch and I love to eat snacky things because it's like being on holidays.  Kind of a bogan antipasto.  And good news if you're on a diet, because if you buy the light tuna like I do this meal will only have about 1000 kilojoules.
Speaking of diets, that night Jim and I had dinner at the $3.50 sushi place in Cronulla then went to San Churro in Miranda for dessert because I'd had churros on my mind for days.
He had the sundae:
Naturally I had these:
They were so delicious! I'm pretty sad that adults can't get the kids' churros anymore though, they are a much easier serving size, and cheaper of course, but the best bit is they come with sprinkles!
Anyway what have you all been doing, anything?

Friday, 7 December 2012

The Last Few Days In Pictures

Let's take a little look at what I've been up to lately.
I visited some op shops and in keeping with my shopping ban bought only this $3 retro pie dish. 
I am really pleased about this purchase. It is for when I move out next year, but I think I might have to use it before then.
I went to The Crest on Tuesday with Jim, wearing the pink blouse, navy cardi and navy jeans from my capsule wardrobe:
You can't see it here, but I was also wearing my purple flats, beige handbag and dangly silver earrings that I love.
You also can't see my face but I was wearing that too.
It was $10 schnitzel and pasta night.  I was going to be healthy, but the pasta was boscaiola so I figured I might as well have the chicken.
It was great.  And I ate all my salad too.
I ordered this Vodka Rush because it was only $4, but it was pretty yuck.  My sister would probably like it.
This Midori Splice cocktail was controversial.  They had a fancy little sign advertising the cocktails (all using VOK products so it must be a special VOK promotion and they send the signs out to pubs, I have seen similar elsewhere) saying "$6 cocktails" and they had added their own little sticker saying "Wednesday 7-9.30 and Saturday 9-11" or something. 
It was Tuesday, but I had seen a lady making some earlier so I asked whether they were doing them that night and the lady told me yes.
Then when we got our change it turned out she had charged me $9, because the $6 price is a happy hour special.
Funny how the sign didn't say anything about the $6 cocktails being a discount.
If you tell someone you sell $6 cocktails on Wednesdays and they ask whether they can buy one on a Tuesday, I think you should say "sure, but it will be $9", not just "sure!".
This is why we stopped going there in the first place, they are always doing things that are technically not that dodgy, but are just a bit tricksy.  Like when they have $4 house spirits and you order a gin and tonic and they charge you $6.50, and when you query it they say they used a different gin because they don't have any of the house.
Anyway, after that I had a $4.80 house gin and tonic (from a different bartender, who was great).
I also had a bet on the dogs!
I chose a dog called Leopard Print, because it was called Leopard Print.  After James put the bet on for me he told me it was the worst dog and would probs come last.  And I realised it was the one in the stripey jacket, yuck!  I had serious buyer's remorse.
Then it came second and won me $10.80! My financial woes are over! Thank you Leopard Print if you are reading!
Here's a funny ad I saw the other day:
If you want to join a club for old singles that is only open to university educated people, maybe there is a reason you're over fifty and still single.
Speaking of pretentious, here's Jim looking very spiffy on his way to his Summer Clerkship job at a fancy law firm in the city.  I won't say what it is but if you know me in real life I have probably told you already because I am very proud!
The decluttering continues:
In more cheerful news, James had this iced chocolate beverage from New Zealand Natural and it was amazing.
Here's yesterday's lunch:
And today's:
On Sunday Jim and I went to trivia night at Club Blakehurst and ordered this fantastic seafood board:
It was a little heavier on the fried foods than I'd like and I'm always upset that their "smoked salmon" is actually sashimi salmon, but you get a great variety and the prawns are superb, so for $42 I was pretty happy!
We didn't win trivia, but we won Everyone's Favourite Game (heads and tails) and the prize was a catering size passionfruit cheesecake that weighed over 3 kilos.  Really.
They gave it to us in the cardboard tray, but then they cut us each a piece and plated it up nicely with ice cream for free.  It was really tasty actually.  I may have had two pieces.
Jim and I went out for breakfast at the cafe in Flower Power, where I ordered poached eggs with Hollandaise:
And he ordered a big breakfast:
It was pretty nice but they didn't have any fresh juices, just stuff from a fridge plus coffees etc.  I really just want to have fresh juice with my breakfast.
A reward for a hard day's decluttering.  This icecream sandwich is from Aldi and it was actually so yummy, I wish it hadn't been the last one in the freezer because I could really go for another.  Hey Mum if you're reading could you please get me some of these next time you're at Aldi?
Smoked salmon pasta made by mum:
So yummy.  The salmon was really smokey and delicious.
And look what came for me in today's mail!
It's a beautiful Christmas card from my delightful friend Emily! Thanks Emily! Merry Christmas!

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Shopping Ban

To reduce the amount of clutter in the house, I also have to put a stop to the constant stream of things entering it.  I really have all the things already anyway.

I still need to buy:

  • Work clothes for next year
  • Homewares for next year
  • Christmas presents
  • A few things at Priceline that I've run out of
  • Maybe something to wear for graduation, if I can't find anything

That is all.  I will not buy any other things.

Capsule Wardrobe

Obviously I'm going to need something to wear over the next few days while I sort out my wardrobe, so I saved a few things for a little capsule collection.

  • Navy jeans
  • Black skirt
  • Black work pants
  • Navy singlet
  • 2 x tank tops (1 pink, 1 navy)
  • 2 x sleeveless blouse style tops (1 pink, 1 navy)
  • 2 x dresses (1 work, 1 LBD)
  • 2 x cardigans (1 navy, to wear with jeans and tops; 1 black, to wear with black clothes)
  • Pyjamas for varying temperatures: t-shirt, shorts, warm pants, nightie
  • 2 bras (1 nude, 1 black)
  • Several pairs undies
  • 1 pair black tights
  • Black heels
  • 2 x flats (1 black to go with black clothes; 1 purple to go with navy clothes)
  • Pink thongs
  • Beige clutch
  • Beige handbag
  • 5 pairs earrings, 1 bangle, 1 ring

My wardrobe looks so nice with just these few things in there.  It wouldn't really do in the long term, as there are only two work outfits and nothing warm enough for Winter, and the mix-and-match possibilities are limited because I play by the old rules and refuse to mix black and navy.  But I will see how long I can manage with it; these are the clothes I wear most anyway so I hope this will help me learn to live with much less.

Things I Hate Thursday: Hoarding and Clutter

On Tuesday I decided to do a bit of tidying and made a discovery: I'm living in an episode of Hoarders.

Here is the pile of things I have that are still brand new. There are five pairs of shoes there!!

I do periodically declutter though. Here's the pile of things I'm getting rid of:

That's right, it's smaller than the pile of new things.

I am putting a stop to this before I end up crushed to death by a pile of junk in a house so cluttered it takes weeks for someone to find my body, or rather what's left of it after the stray cats and racoons get to it.

Also I'm going to stop watching Hoarders, it disturbs me.

Step One: taking all of my clothes and shoes out from my wardrobe and the attic (where I keep the clothes that don't fit in my wardrobe) and dumping them in my sister's empty room so I can sort through the whole lot. Ruthlessly.

What is wrong with me? I can't possibly wear all that. I don't even want to! That doesn't even include coats, of which I have 15, or the work clothes I have purchased for next year.

Anyway stay tuned for some Adventures in Decluttering! And tell me your tips if you have any, cause I am really going to need them.

(Sorry if you were expecting something else for Things I Hate Thursday! I was going to talk about Jessica Simpson's ridiculous singing voices, but now all I can think about is this mess.)

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

The Expect Cowgirls Christmas Gift Guide

Sick of this sort of thing? Me too. So I've decided to be the change I wish to see and the world and create a gift guide of my own! One that might actually help you in your Christmas shopping and won't require a personal loan.

Tween Girl Who Likes Katy Perry

Chemist Warehouse Beauty Case, $14.99
One of my most loved gifts when I was 13 was a purple beauty case.  I thought I was so sophisticated and I still use it now.  They have red and purple too.
At that price you could buy a few extras to pop in it, like this Models Prefer glitter nail polish.

Priceline, $5.99
Fancy Lady Who Likes High Tea, Kittens And Hair Ornaments
Lush Macaron bath bombs, $6.50
Fancy-ish Lady Who You Don't Know Much About, or For Whom You Are Shopping In A Terrible Hurry
Lush gift sets, various prices from $9.95. 
The Christmas Candy box is particularly charming.
High Schooler Who Reads Mostly Popular Stuff Like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games
Life of Pi by Yann Martel, various prices at various bookshops (Big W is normally cheapeset!)
If you are a cool aunt or uncle you could pop a movie voucher in it too so they can see the film after they read it.
Female Friend Who Kind Of Seems Like An English Teacher
Big W, I forget how much but surely pretty cheap
Kid Aged Eight Or Under
The Reject Shop lolly dispensers, $4
I think basically all little kids are amused by these little toys, which poop jelly beans.  Yeah it's tasteless but also it will keep the kids amused for a while, which is kind of a Christmas gift for everyone.
If you really want to keep them occupied, buy them a giant bubble wand at Kmart for $1.  Then tell them they can only blow bubbles in the yard.
Lady Who You Like But Who Is Hard To Buy For
Khaya candles, from $10
These handmade soy candles are really beautiful and smell fantastic - I actually prefer them to brands like Glasshouse and Ecoya.  They are great for someone you don't know well, like an office Secret Santa, but are also really lovely to give to someone close to you.
They don't have a store but you can check their Facebook page for info on where they have stalls set up.  The man at the stall also told me I could contact them to place an order.
Youngish Woman Who Likes Etsy, or Crazy Old Aunt Who Wears Zandra Rhodes Stuff
Teacups and teasets from T2, various prices
People who are into the tea trend (as Etsy lovers always are) probably have this stuff already, but they probably need more so they can have a special set for every kind of weird tea they drink.  I just drink regular kinds of tea out of a regular mug so I'm just guessing here.  Ask the salespeople if you're as confused as I am.
T2 do lovely giftwrapping for free as well.  You have to wait a while for it, so visit T2 first then do the rest of your shopping.
Youngish Woman Who Drinks Cocktails
T2 Chill Pack, $55
People who aren't into Etsy but like delicious fruity chilled beverages will probably enjoy this kit for making fancy iced teas that just taste like a posh refreshing mocktail.
This flavour combination isn't my favourite but it's all right.  I bet if you tasted some of the samples in the shop and liked one of them better, the salespeople would help you make a kit for that instead.
Kid Who Doesn't Seem Too Dumb
Games & Things card games, various prices (roughly $10-$20)
These are especially good for kids who are going on holidays after Christmas.  Some are fun for adults too - I love the Trivial Pursuit one. 
Nerdy Boyfriend
Eurogames, various prices (approx $50-$100)
TIP: Meganerds might enjoy the Game of Thrones game (ask the nerdy friends he plays games with if you don't really know what to buy)
WARNING: Don't buy an expansion if your boyfriend doesn't already have the original game!
Trendy Lady Who Loves Shopping
Sequinned cushions, $10-$20 at various shops
This funky one is from Hot Dollar.  Target has some in solid festive colours, Kmart usually has something similar, and department stores probably do them too but they would be more expensive.
Guy With A Big TV
The Dark Knight Rises DVD or Blu-Ray, or the whole triology if he doesn't have the others already.  Available basically everywhere, prices vary but about $20 for the DVD and $25 for the Blu-Ray.
Little Kid Who Lives A Long Way Away
Big W Christmas card with DVD, $1
Yes, one dollar! The novelty of getting a DVD in their Christmas card is probably more fun that the film itself but whatever.  If you are sending a card to an adult, send this as well for their kid.
Humourous Kris Kringle Recipient Who Is Travelling Over The Christmas Holidays
Hot Dollar Luggage Tags, $2.99
If you can't see, they say "I am young, handsome, faithful, millionaire and single!".
Girl Who Is Into Fancy Labels But Can't Actually Afford Them
Kate Spade mugs, $20 at David Jones
And there you have it!
If you have any other types of people for whom you need to buy gifts, or some other gift-related dilemma, let me know and I'll do a second list.
Merry Christmastime!