Monday, 24 December 2012

Frangipane Mince Pies

Chances are, most people have probably made their mince pies by now. Me, I like to whip up a batch either Christmas eve, eve, or ideally - Christmas actual eve. This way they are super fresh, and you can even enjoy a few when still warm. Here is a little Christmas themed recipe that is super easy, yet super tasty.

My mince pie of choice, is one a little bit special, and a little bit different. If you are less a fan of pastry, and more a fan of fluffy almond sponge, then you will enjoy these as much as I do. Basically, you do away with the pastry lid and instead, top it with a fluffy, light, almond based sponge - a mincemeat bakewell, if you will.

To make these little scrummies, you will need:

For the pastry -

  • 175g plain flour
  • 75g butter, cut into cubes
  • 25g icing sugar (plus extra for dusting)
  • 1 large egg, beaten

For the frangipane topping-

  • 100g butter, softened
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 1 level tbsp plain flour
  • 1⁄2 tsp almond extract, or to taste (in my case, a lot)

For the filling - 

  • One jar of mincemeat - I used some of my Mum's homemade, but shop-bought is just fine. My sister doesn't actually like mincemeat, so I made a few with cherry jam in the bottom, as a substitute - she reports that they were yummy.

You can make the pastry by hand, but I used a food mixer. This way, the pastry stays as cold as possible, making it easier to work with (again, you can just get the shop-bought, sweet shortcrust pastry if you prefer/have limited time). To make the pastry and the mixture:
  1. First things first, preheat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Then, in the food mixer, pop in the flour, icing sugar and butter, and mix until it looks like breadcrumbs. Once this has happened, pour in the beaten egg, bit by bit. If your pastry has not quite come together, you can add a splash of cold water (be careful not too add to much as this will be hard to rectify) to bring it together.
  2. Spoon out this mixture on to a floured surface and lightly knead to bring it together. Once you have a dough like mixture, wrap it in some clingfilm and put in the fridge to chill for approx. 30 mins.
  3. Whilst the pastry is chilling, you can make your filling. For this, pop the butter and caster sugar in to the food mixer - no need to clean it as it is all similar ingredients. Cream these together until smooth. 
  4. Pour in the eggs and almond extract, and mix together (do not be alarmed if the mixture looks curdled at this point, it will be ok, I promise). Add the flour and almonds and mix until smooth, and put to one side.
  5. Whilst you are waiting, you can grease your bun trays with a little butter, sprinkle in flour, and shake off the excess. Also, pour your mincemeat into a bowl and bring back to life with a glug of brandy, or port, or rum - up to you.
Now for the fun bit, the assembly(!):
  1. Roll out your pastry and cut out circles big enough for your bun tin. If you do not have pastry cutters, you can always use a wine glass or tumbler to fit. Place these in the bun tray, lightly (careful not to squash them in, or they will be hard to get out).
  2. Spoon in a teaspoon of your mincemeat, and top with a teaspoon-and-a-half of your frangipane mixture (no need to level this out as it will even out in the cooking).
  3. If you like, you can sprinkle on a few flaked almonds for decoration.
Now, pop your little treats in the oven for 12-15 minutes, checking they don't catch. Once done, pop them on a plate, or cake stand, and dust them with icing sugar - then, tuck in and enjoy!

I will pop up a pic of this year's attempt at a later date :)

E x

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Weekend #16

This weekend was spent in London so naturally we made the most of it with lots of sight seeing and getting out and about. We had the weather for it and who knows how much longer it will last...

On Saturday we planned to spend most of the day at Portobello Market. Because this would require lots of energy, we filled ourselves up on these. When we got there, we did the whole thing, from right at the top by Notting Hill Gate, all the way down to Kensington. There were sooo many lovely things that I would have loved to have filled not just one, but many houses with but alas, I do not have the room for any of them! Perhaps I'll take a trip back when I have my own place ;)

In the evening, we took ourselves for the early bird menu at Charlotte's Bistro, a really lovely little restaurant in Chiswick. This places boasts a great menu and if you are happy to eat before 7.30, you can get it for their early dinner prices - £26.95 for 3 courses and an aperitif. I would have taken some snaps but it was quite a small place and not too busy that early so felt a bit concious! I had a scrummy partridge salad to start, Cornish gurnard for the main and earl grey and fig crème caramel for dessert. J had venison tartare to start, slow cooked pork belly for main and the cheese selection to follow. After stuffing our faces, we rolled home for some movies and bed time.

Sunday we popped off to J's parents for some lovely home cooked Sunday lunch. A little taste of fresh air and home life, in the midst of London madness is always appreciated. After gorging ourselves again, we headed back to London, chilled out and then it was time for J to head back to Southampton and me to fall swiftly asleep - all that food tired me out!

The song that I have been listening to a lot recently is Ellie Goulding's new one, Anything Could Happen. I really enjoy this song and it is great to have her back making music again after she has been away for a while.

E x

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Weekend #15 with an ooey, gooey, calorific but delicious, breakfast. Let's just say that I have no idea, nor do I want to know, how many calories, saturated fat or other artery clogging factors this stack of wonder has but it sure tasted good - and we all know that calories don't count at the weekend.

Let me introduce to you, bacon cakes...

Smothered in maple syrup, with a sneaky rasher of crispy streaky bacon nestled in the middle, these are to die for. Enjoy best by sprinkling on fresh berries, covering in maple syrups and pouring yourself a glass of cold orange juice.

I wish I could lay claim to this scrummy delight, but all thanks has to go to the culinary genius that is, Rose from The Londoner. Her blog is full of the tastiest dinners and treats that you could ever dream of. The full recipe for bacon cakes can be found here.

Rose's recipe calls for mixed berries but you could always add any sort of fruit you fancy. If you are feeling very glutenous, there is always room for whipped cream. Personally, I think the sharp and juiciness of the berries was the perfect counterbalance for the bacon and syrup.

E x

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Weekend #14

This weekend has been a very quiet one, with a couple of very self indulgent and relaxing lie-ins, lots of yummy food and general chilling out. In between all of the relaxing, it has been one for crossing all the 't's and dotting all the 'i's, catching up on boring life admin, car insurance, backing up files etc. - thrilling!

We also had a couple of housemate birthdays so the house has been filled with lots of cake and laughter which has been nice. We were paid a little visit by my housemate's boyfriend's pooch, Austin (see top right for lots of snaps of him, or Instagram!) who I absolutely fell in love with. Lots of cuddling and tennis ball throwing ensued. 

On the Saturday, my housemate did my nails with Shellac, which was a pampering treat. She has the kit to do it at home, saving on lots of pennies and is actually very easy to do and not to expensive to set yourself up with. I love it so far and can't stop touching it!

Soundtrack to this weekend definitely has to be this song, One Day/Reckoning Song by Asaf Avidan and is the Wankelmut Remix (mouthful of an introduction!). This was another track I heard on the radio when driving around and thought it was super catchy, couldn't stop humming it and had to track it down. I hope anyone who listens to it enjoys it as much as I do, it's a toe tapper!

E x

Thursday, 20 September 2012

All Saints Jacket Love

All Saints is one of those shops that I always glanced at the window but just walked on by. I wasn't too sure what sort of style it really sold and just assumed it was either out of my price range or just not up my street. I think I had connotations of it being a brand for 'lads' with those horrid deep v t shirts and men who take themselves a bit too seriously, with girls who are too skinny on their arms. Since moving offices, I now walk past an All Saints shop every day and thought I would give it the benefit of the doubt and check it out. 

I eat my words, the stuff is lovely, luxury feeling and individually stylish. It is a little on the pricey side and probably nothing that I will be able to afford for a while, but hey, a girl can browse :) It is kinda biker-esque but very feminine at the same time. There is also not much nylon in sight - always a plus, lots of natural wools and cotton fibres.

One thing that massively stood out to me in the shop was their gorgeous range of leather jackets. They were so soft and expensive feeling. I have been considering a leather jacket purchase for ages but always held back. I love the look of them but was unsure if I would be able to pull it off so have loved from afar - until now. When I spied this beauty, it was love, I felt like a long term relationship of lust had begun.

This is my favourite jacket from the collection and something I would LOVE to get my hands on one day.

The Belvedere Leather Jacket and comes in at a not-too-pricey (for leather) £250

For now, I'll keep dreaming. Perhaps I'll put in a few pre-Christmas hints too...muahaha.

E x

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Weekend #13

There isn't much to report about this weekend just gone apart from the fact it was another craaaaazy busy one helping J settle in to his new house, buying lots of storage solutions and poster frames galore.

We spent most of Saturday whizzing around town picking up all sorts of things. We just grabbed enough time to have a hog roast bap in the sunshine which was yummy, lots of apply sauce of course ;). I also treated myself to some new make up brushes as my old ones had started to shed a bit too far and becoming a bit sparse. I justified this as a 'need' purchase, rather than a 'want' so this was ok...yes?

We went out in Bedford Place for a few drinks in the evening but nothing to raucous as J was on call. Home for some late night pizza and we hit the hay - both exhausted from the days efforts.

Sunday, more of the same, housey things for most of the morning and afternoon. We took the evening off to cook some steaks as a treat for all of our hard work. We watched the film "We Need to Talk About Kevin" which I thought was brilliant, but someone had spoiled the ending for J so he was a bit disinterested. Somewhere in this madness, I managed to stir up a batch of the infamous Slutty Brownies so we kicked back with a cup of tea and some of these before it was time for me to hit the motorway, back to London.

This week sees all change in our little London house with some new housemates who I cannot wait to get to know a bit better. Lots of wine and telly I think! Right up my street :)

Found it a bit hard to pick a Sunday Sound this week as we were a bit too busy to stop to even listen to any music! I have my housemate to thank for this current choice as I asked her what she was currently listening to. She told me about this band she liked called 'Tallest Man on Earth'. I've been listening lots this evening and I love it. The perfect soundtrack for a Sunday night chillout. This song is called 'The Dreamer' but they are all good tracks. Definitely one to watch out for...

E x

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Happy Birthday Mummy!

So sadly this is another family birthday that I have missed out on this year due to the ever increasing cost of travel (damn you taxes). Sadly the return trip was just too pricey so I am making up for it at Christmas and taking a big chunk of time off to spend some QT with my favourites and have a big old fam jam.

Anyway, back to the matter in hand - happiest birthday to my dearest mother. I hope you have a lovely day. Here is a cheesy snap from a sunny trip to France a few years back. Oh what I would give for that tan now... hey mumsie!

 Lots of love,

E x

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Weekend #12

In contrast to the last few weekends I have had, chilling out and seeing London, this one was manic! I nipped down to Southampton on Friday night to help J pack up the last of his things as he was moving house. This was accompanied by a fat takeaway and watching The Orphan as it was on telly and we both love a good horror flick.

Saturday it was all systems go. We got up nice and early to fit in a bacon sarnie and a cup of tea, before piling everything in to my trusty little Clio. This beast of a car has moved house with me about 5 times, J once already, and done all manner of trips up and down the country for long uni holidays. Squeaking at the suspension and two trips later, he was in. We were on a bit of a tight schedule as had to be back in London for early evening so everything was quickly unpacked. We took a trip to the cavern of delights that is The Range - an amazing destination for all things 'home' and super cheap. Some storage solutions and a whole load of coat hangers thrown in, we made our way back to make use of them.

After this was complete, we shut the door on his new little home and trekked our way back to London. J was off out with friends but I was in with my housemates as sadly one of them was leaving us to head back to Oz. Cue X factor, chilling, and lots of wine.

Sunday, again we were all up bright and early to wave off our little pal :( she will be missed! For the afternoon we had an indoors/outdoors BBQ. AKA Tescos had run out of disposables so we cooked the meat on the George Foreman and ate it outside in the sunshine. A lazy afternoon and a few films later, J made his way back to Southampton for another week. My housemates and I spent the evening opening gifts that our little traveller had left behind and watching more films (can't get enough!). Early nights all round after an exhausting few days. Mine couldn't have come any sooner as I am feeling very under the weather, looks like I am coming down with a nasty cold, fingers crossed a good nights sleep will do the trick.

With all this wooshing around, the soundtrack to the weekend had to be a chilled one. I absolutely love this song. I have heard rumours that because of its name, that it will be on the soundtrack of the 50 shades film, when it comes out. Although, this is rather early to be releasing a song for a film not even made yes? I could definitely see it being a good film soundtrack but who knows! Anyway, it is by the very hot right now artist, Delilah, from her album "From the Roots Up" and is a great tune for winding down and reflecting after being so busy - just what I needed. Enjoy!

E x

Friday, 7 September 2012

My Pick of the Best Winter Kicks

Like many girls, every winter, I like to find myself a good pair of winter boots. That one pair that will be your go to for everyday warmth (and grip!) when the weather takes its usual downturn. Last winter I picked up a pair from Topshop that were suede with little buckles up the side. They were only £40 and so unsurprisingly, after wearing them to death, they are now a little holey. I lived in these through the snow and rain as they had a great tread on them (I'm sounding a bit middle aged now). The time has come to replace these well loved loved little treasures.

I have been keeping my eyes peeled for my next purchase since September arrived and our hot spell ended. The shops seems to be waaayy ahead of me already and have had their winter woolies on sale since mi-august, I'm sure. Not really that helpful when it's 30 degrees outside now, is it. This didn't stop me having a browse though.

The above is a little pick of my favourites so far. As you can see, I can never decide whether I want to go for a brown pair, or a black pair. Historically, I usually go for brown but perhaps this year could see a change - how exciting.

From the top, left to right:

The 'Strappy Ankle Boot' by Zara - These first caught my eye as they are very reminiscent of the Vivienne Westwood boots that were EVERYWHERE a few years ago. Obviously the Zara pair are a severe cut in price compared to Vivienne's ones, retailing at £49.99. When on, these slouch up nicely and would go with most outfits.

The 'Action Buckle Side Ankle Boots' by Topshop, for £65.00. I love these, but not quite sure if they are bordering a bit more on the mumsy side of things. Hmm.

The 'Biker Ankle Boot' again by Zara. I think these are my fave of the bunch. I actually tried them on yesterday but managed to resist. They feel really quality and I love the look of them, they are the perfect height. At a mere £59.99 I think they are great value for money - I was expecting the price to be nearer £100. I promised myself that if they are still around by next pay day then I may take the plunge. Budgeting at its best ;) This kind of challenge is always a gamble as the product turnover in Zara is huge, stuff never sticks around for long!

The 'RIFF Gold Buckle Trim Leather Biker Boot' by Dune. These are my second favourite, I saw these in the window when I was walking past and just had to go in and admire. They cost £120 and sadly, I have to doubt whether they are worth quite that much. They have those weird fake buckles on them and the zip feels a bit cheap. There are lovely, and the leather is very soft but they don't feel anywhere near as quality as say the Zara boots above. The sole doesn't feel like it would last all that long either. I'm sorry Dune, but they just looked so good in the window, a bit too good to be true. Bring the price to a respectable £40/£50 and you would hear no complaints, but for £120, I would just expect a bit more.

The 'H by Hudson Rosse Exclusive Ankle Boots' at ASOS, initially introduced to me by my good friend Kelly in her latest post, I absolutely adore these boots. If it weren't for the price tag (£150), I think I would have bought them right there and then. These might take a little more persuasion before leaping in! They do look like you would wear them forever though. They do have a black leather counterpart but they are a bit too 'cowboy' for me, I would love them even more if they were in black suede. 

And finally, the 'Mighty Black Leather Zip Boots', also by Topshop. There is not much to say about these boots, every year Topshop does the same sort of style, last year it was the Ambush boots, this year it is the Mighty boots. They are all a big take on the Acne Pistol boots, but lovely all the same. These are only £45 which I think is a bargain. The only downside is that when I had a look in store, the heel is a bit plastic-ey looking and reduces the look of the boot overall. For that price though, this can be overlooked, they could be a good winter staple for one season, at least.

I am pretty taken by the Zara Biker boots and think that I will probably head for these, as I said, if they are still around next month! I can see them going really nicely with either jeans tucked in, or with a skirt/dress and tights with a big wooly knit. If I could find the same style, but in black, it would be a definite! Perhaps I should extend my search to shops further afield from where I work! I'll keep a look out...

E x

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Christmas in A Cup

So there isn't too much to say about this one. It is a drink, that literally tastes like Christmas morning, in a cup. Okay, so it is a bit early, but I have always been a fan of Starbucks' Chai Tea Latte in all seasons. Now I can have it at home! Anything with cinnamon in makes its way straight to my heart, so my love for this drink goes without saying...

Just add three teaspoons and fill with hot water, et voila! You have yourself a hot cup of deliciousness. I have been feeling a little under the weather this week, another superbug picked up from the tube - lush! I have been a big fan of curling  up on the sofa in my pjs and making myself a cup of this just before bed.

The best thing about it is, it is only £1.99, I got mine from Sainsbury's but I have seen it elsewhere for about the same price. That is still less than the price of one Starbucks takeaway, bargain.

E x

Monday, 3 September 2012

The Many Faces of Tiger Balm

First things first, this is not a glamorous beauty related post as such, but more of a practical/useful one - I hope it will come in handy for you! So it is no secret that this turbulent weather has made a paradise for all thing insect-y. The warm, wet, then dry weather has meant that they have come out in full force. Now, usually when on holiday, I am not a target for them. I may get the odd one or two, but on the whole they just don't seem to really go for me (famous last words).

This all changed when a few weeks ago, my housemate and I gave our house a real top to bottom clean and threw open all of the windows. Later in the evening, we lit a scented candle and watched the telly, still with the windows open. I'm not sure whether it was the candle, or the light that did it, but the little buggers came in and nipped me all over the tops of my legs and ankles. I was doing well not to itch them during the day (this was SO hard) but at night, when asleep, it seems I couldn't help myself.

I thought after slathering on the Germolene for a few days, they would go down. Long story short - three weeks later, they were still itching like hell. I had tried all the usual tricks, making a cross with your fingernail etc., but to no avail. One night last week, I was chatting with a friend of mine. Now, she is a nurse, and also an Aussie (lots of mosquito experience!) and she told me that the best thing to use was Tiger Balm. I was a little dubious as I thought this was reserved for aches and pains in your muscles and joints. Nevertheless, I was keen to try anything that would stop the itching, and out I popped to Boots to pick myself some up.

I purchased the Red Ointment as it was all my local Boots had to offer. Although it does the job perfectly, I know there are other types on offer for more specific ailments. It contains: Natural Camphor, Menthol, Clove Oil, Cajuput Oil, Cinnamon Oil and finally Dementholised Mint Oil, all whipped up in to a balm formula.

I can thoroughly recommend that anyone should have this as a staple in their first aid kit, especially if you are travelling somewhere where mozzies are likely to be prevalent - it could be a lifesaver. It heats up the bite and then cools the skin, creating a tingling sensation that takes the itch right out of the bite - just what I needed!

E x

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Weekend #11

Well another whirlwind weekend has gone past in a flash! It all began on Friday night when J met me after work now he is back from his holiday work trip, and we went for some Thai food for dinner. We then whizzed home quickly as we were off out for a big night as too of my housemates are moving out over the next two weeks. We partied the night away in a bar called Wax Jambu near Angel and it was great, amazing drinks, even better music and the best company.

We were all feeling a little delicate the next morning but managed to hold some more housemate viewings and finally found 'the one', to our relief. After a quick nap and lots of food, J and I headed down to Southampton as he is also on the house hunt and I played chauffeur for the afternoon. We rewarded our hungover states with a mountain of fish and chips and got an early night - we were still exhausted from being out all night, reminding us that our student days are long since over!

Today, we popped in to Southampton for the morning, I dropped J off at HMV and took myself over to the beauty counters of John Lewis (more to come on that!). After poking around there, I went over to Boots. To my surprise (and delight) the Southampton Boots has had a massive overhaul and there were lots of new counters that I was shocked (and pleased) to see. There is now a Bare Minerals (also more on that) an Ojon, Smashbox, Philosophy and lots more. It is nice to be able to look around these brands without the usual shoving of Oxford Street/Westfield.

Back home we went to cook ourselves up a whopping Sunday roast, delicious. After lots more house hunting online we watched some of the Paralympics - inspirational stuff. I then winded my way back to London for a cuppa and a quick catch up with everyone before getting myself some well deserved rest!

This weekend, a song that popped up a lot and has been getting lots of Radio One exposure is 'Little Talks' by Of Monsters and Men. This is a tune that you can't help yourself bopping along too or tapping your foot. It's also mega catchy and you will catch yourself humming it for the rest of the day. I haven't checked out much more of their stuff but I know Fearne Cotton has been playing them loads and they were big at Reading/Leeds - a good sign of things to come! Most people have probably heard it by now, but if not - you're welcome ;) You should also watch the video, it has a great little animation. I keep hitting refresh!

I can hardly keep my eyes open any longer! Off to sleep for me :)

E x

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Cinnamon & Orange Tea Cake

In yesterday's post, I wrote about how to make the most tasty glazed ham. I also wrote about how this beast took nearly 4 hours to cook in total, with a long waiting period of 3 hours in the middle. Seeing as between us we had the ingredients for something cake like, we thought we would rustle one up. 

I always have a cupboard load of cinnamon, I put it on most things - cereal, porridge, hot chocolate, most hot drinks and I could go on. We also had some leftover oranges from the ham glaze. Voila - cinnamon and orange cake was born. 

This was the most perfect cake to compliment the sweet, juicy ham of dinner time. We all sat down with a big cup of tea, put our feet up and admired our efforts for the day, over a nice slab of cake :)

Unsure as to why there is a lack of marg in this photo (sorry).
For this delicious cake, you will need:
    • 6oz margarine or butter, whichever you prefer. We used marg.
    • 6oz Self Raising Flour 
    • 6oz caster sugar
    • 3 large eggs
    • 1 orange
    • 1tsp cinnamon
    • Extra sugar and cinnamon for the topping
    • Large mixing bowl
    • Cake tins or high sided baking tray if you want to make it into a tray bake
    • Cup of tea to enjoy it with once cooked :)
N.B. The ingredients for this cake can be substituted for their 'free from' cousins. I know for a fact that it works just as well with wheat/gluten free flour and dairy free margarine. Thought I would let you know so that most people can join in! I'm not sure of an egg substitute but will keep an eye out.

How to:

The beauty of this recipe is how easy it is to make. No more creaming butter and sugar etc. just all of the ingredients in one bowl. You don't even need a blender.

First things first, preheat your oven to 180C and recruit someone to grease your cake tins/baking tray.

Then, in your large mixing bowl, throw in the margarine/butter, flour, sugar, eggs, zest of the orange, juice of half of the orange and the cinnamon into a bowl and then beat well together until smooth and creamy. If, like us, you cannot find an orange zester, you can always use a potato peeler to take off the zest, and then chop this up finely.

Once all evenly blended, divide between baking tins as you wish. This amount of mixture nicely fills your normal sized cake tins.

Bake in the oven for around 20-30 minutes, checking at 20. The age old test is always a winner, pop a clean knife in to the centre, if it comes out clean, then the cake is done. If it does not, then pop in back in for another 5. Repeat until ready.

Once you have taken your tins out of the oven, pop them on a heatproof side, still in the tins. Pour the juice of the rest of the orange over the cake while it is still warm.

Leave in the tins until the cake is cool enough to handle, by which point you can turn them out on to a cooling rack.

Mix together even quantities of caster sugar and cinnamon, depending on how much cinnamon you like to have (I like a lot!). You will most likely need around 2tsps of each. Sprinkle this mixture over the top of the cake.

Sadly, seeing as this cake was something of an afterthought, we didn't have anything to hand to use as a filling. I would suggest perhaps a lovely orange buttercream filling or even some plain whipped cream. Instead, we ended up with two round, deliciously light tea cakes which was great. Both in taste terms, and also for our waistlines!

All that was left to do now, was put the kettle on, grab a still warm slice and enjoy.

E x

Monday, 27 August 2012

Bank Holiday Ham, with Marmalade & Honey Glaze

So in the spirit of a true bank holiday, my housemates and I took the opportunity to do a spot of cooking. We had a ham bone in the freezer for a while that was initially intended for a soup, but we decided it would be best put to use as a yummy bank holiday dinner. One of my favourite things about Christmas is actually the ham that we have, filling the house with delicious smells of honey and spices, so I was more than agreeable. 

First things first, the obligatory chef hats were made.

Now, on to the ham. We followed a recipe from the Hairy Bikers.

You will need:

For the gammon/ham -
    • 6kg/13lb 3½oz gammon joint
    • Fresh orange juice, to cover
    • Water, to cover
    • 8 cloves, plus extra for studding the gammon
    • 2 onions, peeled, halved
    • 4 large bay leaves
    • Chunky bread is optional, although it makes for a great sandwich
For the glaze -
    • 120g/4oz soft brown sugar
    • 3 oranges, zest of three, juice of two
    • 3 tbsp clear honey
    • 3 heaped tbsp orange marmalade
    • 3 tbsp wholegrain mustard

Preparation method:

For the gammon, place the gammon into a large, deep pan and cover with water. Bring to the boil, then remove from the heat and drain.

Return the gammon to the pan, then pour in enough orange juice to cover half of the gammon. Pour in enough cold water to cover the gammon completely. 

Push two cloves into each onion half and add to the pan along with the bay leaves. Cover with a lid and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook gently for three hours, adding more hot water to the pan as necessary.

When your time is nearly up, preheat the oven to 180C/360F/Gas 4.

Remove the gammon from the pan and place into a roasting tin. Be careful at this point because the meat will be a bit fragile and may fall away from the bone in transit from pan to pan. 

Remove the skin, leaving behind a thin layer of fat. Score the gammon in a diamond pattern with the tip of a sharp knife. Stud the centre of each diamond with a clove (if yours ends up a little mis-shapen, like ours, do not fear and poke the clove in as best you can. It all tastes the same in the end!).

For the glaze, mix together all of the glaze ingredients in a bowl until well combined. Spoon the glaze evenly over the gammon.

Roast the gammon in the oven for 45 minutes, basting frequently with the glaze and pan juices, until the gammon is cooked through and golden-brown all over.

Set aside to rest, then carve into thick slices to serve. Alternatively, the gammon can be eaten cold. The Hairy Bikers suggest that you should serve this with apple compote and pickled red cabbage, but I went for the more traditional roasted new potatoes and broccoli. For the potatoes, just pop them straight in the oven in a heatproof dish, with a splash of oil and a sprinkling of salt. They take about 30 minutes and come out lovely and fluffy, and just a little bit crispy around the edges - just how I like them. They are a great summerly alternative to a full on roast potato and compliment most meals.

This meal does take a bit of time but it is actually fairly little effort for something that tastes AMAZING - the oven does most of the work. I cannot describe how gorgeous the house smells the whole time this is cooking. All of the spices and then the honey and marmalade make for a mouthwatering scent. A perfect way to finish off what has been a most lovely bank holiday weekend :)

If you are lucky, you will have a bit left over - perfect for tomorrow's sandwiches.

E x

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Weekend #10

It feels rather strange to be doing a weekend round up, when it isn't actually over yet. Long live bank holidays! This one has been absolutely lush, I have fallen in love with London all over again!

After work drinks on Friday meant a nice long lie in on Saturday morning was needed. Following this, I tootled up to Chiswick High Road to meet a friend for lunch and a poke around the charity shops. You never know what you can pick up in an area like this, the throw-outs of all the wealthy Chiswick-ites! We were having a lovely time when the heavens well and truly opened so we sought refuge in Cafe Rouge and stayed for a glass of wine and their lunch menu - will do me! This was all fine and good until the water started pouring down the wall behind us, creating puddles on the floor all around. We promptly got the bill and headed to the shops, despite the thunderstorm going on! 

Saturday evening was incredibly glamorous. Housemate and I popped to Sainsbury's to pick up some treats. Once fully stocked on ice cream we devoured it on the sofa whilst watching good old Twilight - proper girls night in, we know how to live ;)

Today, after another lie in, a couple of housemates and I popped in to Central and winded our way up Regents and Carnaby street for a spot of shopping. Prices, a far cry away from the charity shops, meant I came home empty handed, but I still enjoyed a good browse. Lots of things on the mental wishlist for a payday treat (maybe)!

Lunch was spent in a brilliant little spot which happened to be having a beach party, complete with sand all over the floor, buckets and spades, and shells on the table! Felt very strange to have sand between your toes and still be in Central London. This weekend I have so much love for our capital city. It never fails to amaze me and I love taking the time to explore. We went all over, we even took ourselves for a poke around Sloane Square, somewhere I had not been before.

On the walk back we caught a glimpse of the filming for the new Diana film, potentially spotting Naomi Watts, but she was running so it could very well have been her stunt double. Will have to have a see when the film comes out!

This evening, back home to finish last nights ice cream with a marathon film sesh including Beethoven, Beauty and the Beast, and Atonement. That will do me. Tomorrow will be filled with more housemate fun, we are cooking a ham joint and baking some cakes. No doubt there will be more films in the evening and a glass of wine or three - perfect.

Whilst getting our bake on, I plan to listen to this song. A lot. I first heard this when played by Radio One's Dev and loved it. It is by Zedd, a German electronic dance producer and DJ. A bit different to my normal Sunday Sounds but is definitely one to get you up out of your seat and do something. Dancing around whilst getting ready is my number one choice ;)

I challenge you all not to get itchy feet when you listen to this.

E x

Friday, 24 August 2012

The Best Value Pizza In Covent Garden

So I just thought that I would share with everyone, what I think to be one of Covent Garden's most amazing treats! You can pick yourself up a 12", freshly prepared, stonebaked ready to order, real Italian pizza - for £4! You read right, only four squids. Just thought I would let you know in case you are ever in the area and stuck for an idea for lunch :)

This amazing treat, was discovered by a chap in our office and can be picked up from an quirky little place, called The Express Coffee Company (ECCo) at the Holborn end of Drury Lane. Ever since he had it for lunch one day, it seems to have become something of a Friday tradition in the office. 

This place doesn't look like much from the outside but inside holds what I think are some of the best value pizzas, baguettes and assorted sandwiches on the block. As I mentioned, the pizzas are £4 and the sandwiches range from about £1.50-£3 for a large sized carb and protein feast. You can also get yourself pizza of the day which is a bit more fancy, but still only a mere £5, or a plain margherita is only £3.50 - barg!

Things also happen super fast in here, if you are going for a pizza, you pick your topping off a basic list behind the till and order from one of the enthusiastic staff, barking "next please". You are issued your order number along with your change and bustled out of the way of the queue to wait for said number to be called. The whole thing happens in under 10 minutes, you are handed your delicious lunch in a traditional pizza box, and you are on your way. My personal fave is to head to one of the secluded 'parks' (5sq m bit of grass with some trees and flowers) hidden around Covent Garden and munch it down.

Not the best snap, taken on my iPhone, but you get the idea! Lots of yummy toppings - lovely :)

Just as a tip, I usually go for the ECCo Special - black olives, prosciutto, artichoke hearts and tomato and basil sauce, topped with cheese of course. Lots of my favourite foods, all in one place! 

E x

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Lusting after COS

So where I work has to be one of the most tempting places for shopping. Okay, so it's not like I am right by Westfield, or in the middle of Oxford Street but the temptingly small shops around Covent Garden seem to make you feel like it is all good to have a long browse and spend lots of pennies. Thankfully I am on a severe spending restriction to boost myself out of my student overdraft (could take a while!) and so I am showing remarkable self restraint. This does still of course mean that I can browse to my heart's delight. This is almost more rewarding (stay with me!) as you can look endlessly but without all of the guilt (see, always good).

On to the shops that take up a lot of my browsing time... Obviously, Zara is always a hit. Although you can tire of it after a trip every day (!) and so I took myself on down to COS as they always have so many nice pieces in the window. 

This is just a little collage of a few of the things I am lusting after at the moment :) (apologies that the prices are in euros, but the site doesn't convert them!).

I am imagining this with either skinny jeans or pulled down over thick tights, big bright scarf thrown on and some winter boots for trudging about in the bitter English winters.

As above really, a staple look for me in the winter is big jumpers over leggings or tights so I am dreaming of stocking up my wardrobe in such a way! This is also 100% Merino wool, very toasty, so perfect for those winter mornings waiting for the train to arrive.

I loved this little bracelet as an injection of colour to their winter season. It is so easy to cover yourself in greys and blacks for this time of year, but this little treat is the perfect arm candy to brighten any outfit. It is small enough to be subtle at the same time.

I know it may seem a little odd to be sharing underwear choices with the world, but I really fell in love with this pretty set. Every woman will know, that somedays, you just dont feel like wearing a bra, at all. Now, sadly, for some women (myself included) this just isn't possible. The closest you can get to that liberating feeling is going sans underwired. Sadly, most non-wired bras tend to either look like they belong to someone who is pregnant/breastfeeding or are made of a material that looks like your nan's old tights. I thought that this set was the perfect mix of comfort and prettiness in underwear form. Also, who can resist a matching set! One of life's simplest pleasures, hey. I thought that this bra would be great for one of those 'working from home' or 'duvet and a film' days where you need to have a slight modicum of living in the first world but you want to relax in comfort. Also, we all know how embarrassing it can be when the postman knocks and you are trying as hard as possible to not let him know you aren't wearing a bra and that you are not in fact, in your pyjamas.

I hate to be one who is wishing away the summer, especially considering the lush bit of weather we have recently had, but I can't say that I am not looking forward to getting out the scarves and wooly boots and getting all cosey. By the time I am a week in, I will be hating it again, don't worry!

E x

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Weekend #9

First things first, I cannot say a single thing about this weekend before mentioning how bloomin' lovely the weather was. Honestly, where did that come from?! I thought we had already had our allocated one hot day of the year, back in July. A big thank you to whoever doled that one out, it was much needed/appreciated.

Due to the absolutely beautiful weather, I spent most of it in the garden. We have the most perfect little decking area out the back with a big table and lots of chairs (great for doubling up as sunbeds - sit on one, feet up on the other!). Both days were pretty much spent out here in the sun, reading and chatting to housemates. Although, this afternoon was rudely interrupted by a bit of a thunderstorm and some rain drops - not happy. Thankfully the sun showed his face again a bit later on.

This was the perfect weekend to a very busy week. I have not had many evenings at home or free time, hence the 'no blog' period since last Sunday! I have been catching up with old friends from home, seeing good friends from university and generally running around like a crazy thing. It was perfect to just chill in the sunshine and think about nothing. I do feel slightly guilty that I haven't left the house since Friday evening, but hey, when the weather is as nice as it is, it would be a shame to do anything else other than sit in it!

I also took this sunny opportunity to crack open some of the lovely wine that I bought back from France, In July (with lots of ice cubes in mind, no one likes warm wine!). It was also a chance to catch up on the tan that J will come back with following his month in Bahrain (cheeky). No one likes being the less tanned one in the relationship and I usually win this battle!

We have mostly had the radio but right now I am listening to a little bit of Jessie Ware. I first heard her on I think it was Zane Lowe's Radio One show whilst driving back from Southampton on a Sunday evening (correct me if I'm wrong and this isn't Zane Lowe's slot). She played a couple of songs and I really enjoyed her voice, she was also really nice and down to Earth too. I couldn't remember for ages what her name was until it popped up again another time and I made a mental note to check her out. Her music is really great, I think, so definitely check her out. I know she is very out there at the moment and I bet she will be a big hit over the next few months. I LOVE this song, it is called Wildest Moments :)

I also really enjoy this song, it is perfect for a Sunday evening in the garden. This one is called 110%.

Happy weekend, everyone,

E x

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Weekend #8

I mentioned yesterday that this was my first solo weekend in London so I have been making the most of it! It's been great to just chill and catch up on life for the weekend, getting all of those odd jobs or things you wanted to get done but never do. Not so sure I will be loving it so much by next weekend but we shall see! It has been so lovely to have both a Friday night and a Sunday evening again though. I am used to dedicating them to my love affair (not) with the M3/M4.

Yesterday I had a lovely breakfast out with a friend and then an afternoon in the garden, enjoying the sun. The evening was filled with a big yummy BBQ with some more friends. We were all marvelling at how nice it is to sit outside past 6pm and it still be warm - very pleasant.

Today was mostly spent relaxing, I actually had a very low key day - the highlight was a trip to Sainsbury's! I loved it all the same. I bought myself a yummy steak and my housemates and I watched the Olympic closing ceremony with a glass of wine in hand. These last two weeks have gone so fast, I can't believe it is drawing to a close already. What will we all watch on telly now?!

I can't pretend I have been listening to this all weekend, but here is a small tribute to everyone's (?!) favourite girl band from the 90's, the Spice Girls. Their show tonight may have been brief, and not everyone's cup of tea, but it sure was good/nostalgic to see them strutting their stuff again :) 

I hope everyone else has had as nice a relaxing/chilled weekend as me :)

E x

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Weekend TLC

This weekend is a different one for me, J is away for work for three weeks so I am in London, kicking it by myself :) It feels very strange as this is the first time this has happened since I move here in April. Usually I'm either in Southampton, he's here or I'm home/another location! I can't believe I have been here this long and still not stuck around for a whole weekend.

This morning was lovely as I met a friend for breakfast in a lovely French cafe, I had eggs Benedict of course, can't get enough of them! We then headed back here to sit in the garden and soak up some rays over a cup of tea. This was so nice as I don't usually get to just kick back and relax like this, we're usually cramming in some sight seeing or checking out places we haven't been before. 

Seeing as I have all of this 'me' time, I plan on doing some pampering. First in line, will be my unruly hair. I am still trying to bring it back to life after it was dried to within an inch of itself with certain shampoos, but that's a story for another day. 

The other weekend, I went out and bought myself a wide tooth detangling comb as I read that brushes can cause damage by breaking the ends off of dry hair. This was only a couple of pounds or so from Boots own range. There were more expensive ones on offer but I honestly couldn't see the difference so I went for this one.

 To put on my hair, I still have some samples of the Damage Remedy hair masks from Aveda. On Sunday evening I plan to slather on some of that, run in through my hair with this comb, whip my hair up in a topknot and run myself a hot bath, letting it soak in and do its wonders.

My favourite bath tonic is this Bath and Shower Concentrate with Essential Oils by Clarins. It creates a light foam and smells all delicious and herbal. It's perfect for a nice relaxing soak before bed. The oils linger on your skin and send you right off to sleep - perfect. I got this as a free gift when I bought my night cream and perfume a few months ago. It lasts for a while as I don't have baths all that often, I can never find the time :(

I can't wait!

E x

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Birthday Fun

So if you read this blog often, you will know that I usually write a little round up post on a Sunday evening, including a song or two that I have been listening to that weekend. This Sunday was different, it was something a bit special (my birthday!!) and if you read my previous post, you would know that I spent it in Bristol. 

I love to write these little weekend round ups, I always see lots of bloggers so them but in different ways - Instagram montages, pampering tips etc. I like to write mine more for my own interest than for anyone to read them (they are always a bit rambly anyway!). I like the idea of summarising all the fun (I think) things that we get up to and being able to look back on them later on. Consider it an online diary - which I guess is what a blog really is.

So, on to this weekend. I am a sucker for birthdays, not that I enjoy massive attention or awkward niceties but I like to use them as an excuse to do something you wouldn't otherwise. You know, go for that steak you keep saying you will, who cares how much it costs. Go to that theme park/stay in that hotel/eat your body weight in chocolate etc. etc. Well this weekend was one of those.

We took ourselves off to the Westcountry and in to Bristol for a city break, staying in a lovely room in a serviced penthouse apartment (with these lovely people). It was great, we had a huge bedroom with a large bathroom, big telly, complimentary wine and chocolates on arrival (winner) and even a mini fridge! It was great to have your own privacy to come and go as you like and just relax in comfort and style. It was right by the harbourside and walking distance to lots of bars and restaurants (but not on their stumble home so nice and quiet). 

We got there late on Friday so just nipped out for some food and then were both exhausted so watched some olympics and went to sleep.

On Saturday we walked along the riverside in to the city and wandered around, grabbing some coffee and pastries for breakfast, checking out all it had to offer. We also walked up to Clifton and took a look at the suspension bridge which is quite amazing. 

We stopped for a cheeky beverage in the sun in one of the pubs in Clifton too :)

After lots of exploring, we wound our way back to the room and washed up ready to go out for a drink. We headed to The Apple at J's request and tried some yummy ciders. We then got caught in a torrential downpour whilst looking for some fish and chips for tea so gave up and went to good old Pizza Express.

Sunday was my actual day of birth, so we had stocked up on some pastries and strawberries the night before, and then had ourselves a scrummy champagne breakfast and a very lazy morning, watching the olympics and getting up slowly. In the evening we booked ourselves in to The Cowshed for what the reviews say is "the best steak in Bristol" - right up my street. I have to say, it did not disappoint. We shared a seafood platter to start. 

Followed by some delicious fillet steak with blue cheese sauce (it was my birthday after all!), dauphinoise potatoes, fat chips and some seasonal greens. Oh and a big slosh of Malbec - perfect. The food was faultless and the service was also really great. I would definitely recommend it and 100% return if I am in Bristol again anytime soon.

To top it all off, my lovely mummy posted me a homemade birthday cake, complete with a little gold candle to light. She is a massive cake making fan and is a bit good so it is so nice to feel like I have a little piece of home on my birthday :) The little tea party on top did get a bit squished in transit but considering how heavy handed the Royal Mail can be, I think it faired fairly well!

On Monday, the sad time came for us to leave and come home, but we did stop off in bath on the way. We had initially wanted to stay in Bath itself, but we couldn't find anything central and reasonably priced at short notice. In hindsight, this worked out quite well as although Bath is lovely, you can do it all in a day - which we did!

All in all, we had the best weekend. It was a lovely way to spend a birthday and in a lovely part of the world. I could definitely be very happy living there, once I have had my fun with London of course. It perfectly combines my two homes :)

I would thoroughly recommend a weekend break here and I hope to do it again soon.

E x

P.S. We spent a hilarious hour after breakfast playing face shock. You need to try this. This is where basically one person throws their face around pulling as many silly faces as possible, and the other takes a photo. The still you end up with is always so funny. If you ever have a bored 5 minutes - definitely kills some time! I would include the snaps...but I think anyone who reads this post would be put off coming back again!

Friday, 3 August 2012

Happy Birthday to Me :)

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I know this isn't anywhere near as exciting for anyone else as it is for me, but all will be a quiet on my little blog this weekend as I am being whisked away for MY BIRTHDAY! 

J and I have booked a luxury room in a serviced apartment block in Bristol and plan to spend lots of time exploring the city and pop in to nearby Bath for some more adventures. This is a nice alternative to a hotel as you get a bit more space and privacy, but not as expensive as renting a whole property. My birthday is on the Sunday so I have taken Monday off work to make sure we can make the most of the time we have there. We have been given lots of recommendations on where to go and what to see and I couldn't be more excited :)

Today's lunchtime will mostly be spent on the hunt for the perfect birthday dress. This hunt has been on for a fair few lunchtimes now but with little success. On my way to work this morning, I saw a whole load of cardboard boxes inside the entrance to Zara so I have clocked those for some lunchtime perusing!

I hope everyone has a lovely weekend,

E x

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Fit Yourself Properly...Part 2

So I just thought I would do a little follow up post from yesterday's advice

Now at lunchtime, I popped in to M & S to put my plan in to action. Unfortunately - the Covent Garden M & S does not keep its racks (har har) very well stocked, leaving only the obscure and very small sizes left behind. I did try a few on but they were no good for me and I left empty handed and bit mis. After posting yesterday, I had a comment from the very lovely Sarah who blogs over at Sugarpuffish, mentioning the great measuring service from Bravissimo.

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After thinking back to Sarah's comment about Bravissimo, I decided to look them up. I don't know why but I always thought they were like a cheap mail order type place for ugly bras for extremely large breasts. Well, I stand utterly corrected. They stock a really nice range of bras for all tastes and purposes. They also have some really nice swimwear and sports underwear, as well as supported nightwear - perfect for a pyjama day or when the postman knocks and you don't want him to notice you are not wearing a bra (it happens to the best of us)! Anyway, I found that they had a store in Covent Garden and took myself down there after work, to have a look around and also see if they had a free measuring slot.

Do bear in mind that their sizes start from a D cup upwards, but according to their research, most women who think they are a B or a C, are actually a D with a smaller back size anyway! It is always worth a check.

Upon arrival, the staff were very helpful and pointed me in the direction of where to go for fittings etc. They had a free slot so I snapped it up and off I went. My fitter was a very lovely and friendly lady called Bassey. She made me feel really at ease at really knew her stuff. Unlike other places you can go to be measured, at Bravissimo, they do it all by eye using a combination of sizes. She started out by pointing to all the areas where my current bra was letting me down and poorly fitting and then after asking me what styles I liked, whizzed out to get me some different ones in a range of sizes to try on. She then went through the same thing again until we found the perfect fit. 

The whole experience was really relaxed and informal, you didn't feel like you were being poked or prodded at all. My fitter was very good at her job and she really gave me a little bit of a confidence boost and I felt much better about myself. I picked my favourite out of all of the bras and left with just one (and the matching pants ;). I will definitely pick up more in time, but my budget does not quite stretch to re-stocking my whole supply, just yet!

So, a  big thank you to Sarah for suggesting this to me, and to Bassey and the team at the Covent Garden Bravissimo for their great service (and making me feel a bit special). Whilst measuring yourself in the conventional way is great for getting an idea for your size, it is merely a guide, as mentioned. It will suit most people but for those with difficult dimension - I couldn't recommend the service I had today, any more strongly. Who knew someone could be so far out on size on something they wear everyday!

E x

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Fit Yourself Properly

Now, this is a post for the ladies, or gentlemen, whichever way you look at it. Brace yourselves ladies, this is a long one (that's what he said).

"9/10 woman wear the wrong sized bra" - how many times do you hear that old chestnut (and promptly ignore it)? You don't have to be an expert to see when someone is simply wearing an ill fitting boulder holder, or to know that yours doesn't fit you properly either. We all have that certain bra that only makes them look good in a certain top and you can't wait that bra because you might get the dreaded 'quad-boob', but how many of us actually do something about it.

Most women are hurried in to a M & S cubicle at the age of about 12, bright red as a beetroot, are told to remove their training bra, are poked and prodded for a bit and then given a number and a letter. The next hour is spent wandering around the horrid 'first bra' section with too many flowers and stipes on everything, looking for something as quickly as possible so they can get out of there soon. This experience leaves us so scarred for life that we very often never venture back. We then coast through life, increasing our cup size as and when we see fit (often wrongly). This can often have terrible consequences for the breasts of many a woman. 

What we forget is that as we grow, we are changing size and shape the whole time. As our weight fluctuates, this is also true. We may buy bigger clothes (and pants) but rarely do we ever adjust the size of our bras. This can have devastating consequences in later life, with links to badly fitting bras and breast cancer, along with back problems and of course, may I draw your attention back to the 'quad boob' syndrome. For whatever reason, us ladies tend to ignore some of our best assets. I know bras can be expensive but we need to wake up to the fact that they are an important accessory! You wouldn't stick a foundation five shades too dark on your face, would you, so give your girls (cringe) the best chance possible!

Over the last couple of years, my body has changed shape a little. When I was at university, I was a keen rower, competing heavily in my second year. This obviously increases the muscles across your back, but at the same time, you lose fat off of your body - causing your boobs to shrink. Needless to say, I was a poor student, I couldn't afford to re-stock my drawers with the finest offerings of M & S, I just carried on using the same one as normal. In my final year, I moved on to coxing (I was never really as tall as the rest!) and this required getting down to weight, meaning that the muscles across my back reduced and my body size shrunk. THEN, after graduating and moving to London, life is full of commuting, working, lunches on the go and desk based snacks. So, I barely have any time for exercise - HELLO EXTRA lbs.  This fat has delightfully (not) planted itself, among other places, on my chest, meaning a whole new shape, again! Honestly, who could keep up.

The time has come to do something about this. I (shamefully) still own, and wear many bras that are over five years old, before all of the above occurred. I am certainly not the lean 18 year old I was once. I mean, my bras do the trick, but they are getting to the point of uncomfortable and basically, I should just sort this out. They are in need of a re-vamp anyway so I may as well make sure I am investing wisely.

This is where I will get to the point (finally). I am far too embarrassed busy to book myself in to be measured so I thought, hey, it can't be that hard. All I need is a tape measure (check) and an online guide (pending). I looked, and looked but I could not find anything as simple as "measure here, now here, now here is your size". Everything overcomplicated it by telling you to add four if an even number and five if it's odd and subtract this here there and everywhere. I even found one online calculator that told me I was a 36A. Anyone who has ever met me will know that this is so far from the truth it is hilarious. Without going in to personals, if my band measurement was 30", why on Earth would I be taking a 36 in a bra?! This doesn't make sense realistically, or according to their 'calculator'.

So, I thought I would put together a brief summary of what I have found to be an effective, and discreet way of measuring yourself at home. It's so simple, I'm not sure why anyone over complicates it, or makes you book an appointment for a week Thursday just to get your kit off in the middle of your chosen bra fitting establishment.

Firstly, grab yourself a tape measure that has inches on it - this shouldn't be hard, most do.

Wrap this around the 'band' area. This is directly underneath your breasts, just below where your bra sits. Make a note of this measurement. If your number is odd, then round it up to the nearest even number e.g. 31" should be 32". Many sites will tell you to add four here, don't. This is basically saying add four inches to your chest size, think about it, this doesn't make sense. I think it descends from a few years back when bras were not as well fitted as they are now and did not account for stretchiness. 

Next, you need to measure the cup size. You can do this with or without bra, aslong as the bra is not padded and your boobs aren't descending lower than your waist. If you are worried, measure both, and take an average. Measure around the fullest point of your breasts (about nippleage area) and make a note of this. Again, if your number is odd, then round it up to the nearest even number e.g. 35" should be 36".

Now, subtract the band size, from the cup size. Apply this number to the figures below:

0"=AA cup
1"=A cup
2"=B cup
3"=C cup
4"=D cup
5"= DD cup
6"= E cup
7"=F cup
8"=FF cup
9"= G cup

To finish up, bring back your band size, pair it with your cup size, and voila! e.g. if your band size is 32" and your cup size is 36", then your number is 4", making your chest size, a 32 D.

Finally, get yourself down to your favourite underwear stockist and purchase yourself a few new treats for your bussoms. If the thought of this still hurts your pockets, go for one black and one white bra - let's face it, these will be the most useful and think how much better you will feel and look! Oh, and chuck away that nasty beige thing with the underwire sticking out that you save for 'off days'. Boobs are boobs, they don't have 'off days'.

Here's a hand tip - when you first buy a bra, it should do up on the outer set of hooks, the extra hooks are for as the elastic stretches over time and you need to move up a hook.

Remember though, the above calculation is of course a generalisation and I would advise you to take the size you find above, as well as one either side if you are worried. Use some common sense, if the size you are given above clearly doesn't fit as well as the one a size up or down then adjust it accordingly. This is not an exact art and is not set in stone, it is simply a guide to help.