Illustrated Teacup

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Thursday, 31 December 2015

LIFESTYLE: An ode to 2015

2015 bestnine

Wow can you believe we're at the end of 2015?! It's been an insane year, am I right?
So much has happened, both good and bad, but it's certainly made for a year I'll never forget. 

So in 2015 I:

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Tuesday, 22 December 2015

LIFESTYLE: A very special announcement



Today's post is a super special one. And one I've wanted and been so excited to post for a while.
WE'RE HAVING A BABY!!!

Or course that was blindly obvious from the photo but I love seeing the words, saying them out loud!
We've wanted this for such a long time. We started trying shortly after getting married, but lost the baby at 9 weeks. We then put off trying again for a while and then decided to let nature run it's course.

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Wednesday, 16 December 2015

LIFESTYLE: Why I love Christmas



So I guess it kind of goes without saying that this time of year is amongst most peoples favourites. I mean it's the festive season which means being festive right?

And there are so many reasons to love this time of year...

Food. Oh my gosh the food! I swear I eat more cheese at this time of year than should be humanly possible! Plus what is it with the sheer volume of food available at all times?! AND the desserts. For the sweet tooth in me, I go to heaven with all the puddings!!

There's also the family visits. As we live about an hour and a half from both sets of parents we tend to go home for a couple of days during Christmas to see as many people as possible!! In fact one of my favourite places is at Danns parents, in their living room in front of the fire. That log burner is just the best for keeping super toasty!!

Presents. And I don't just mean receiving them. Yes that is all good but I actually totally love giving presents. I love shopping for presents especially for ladies and there's just something so rewarding in giving a gift that you know is totally that person!

And what's not to love about the decorations EVERYWHERE!! The high street is covered in lights and reds and greens and gold. Southampton turns into a christmas market with wooden shacks and outside bars. It's such a jolly happy atmosphere. And all those twinkly lights, is there anything more lovely at Christmas time? I love them!
B
ur most of all I love Christmas because it's just so happy. You only have to look on twitter to see all the happy festive tweets and 100's of giveaways to spread joy.
I mean it really is just a wonderful time of the year!!

What do you love about Christmas?
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Monday, 14 December 2015

FASHION: blogger BFF with #Georgetaketen

I am in no way shape or form a fashion blogger but I do love my fashion. Admittedly my style over the years has changed, probably more times than the seasons, but over the last year or so I think I've settled into my personal style.

So what better way to celebrate than with a style challenge? 

I was tasked with the lovely Alice of Annie Writes Beauty to style up the same dress in our own unique ways by George by Asda for their #Georgetaketen campaign. I of course knew that the Queen of black herself would come up with something dark and sophisticated, so I've gone with a pop of colour!






We chose the Suedette Shift Dress*, an absolute bargain piece and perfect as an autumn and winter dress.
To jazz it up a little and because my love for collars is strong I added this embellished collar bib*. Great for taking this look from day to night. 

For that pop of colour this Colour Block Cardigan*. I'm a huge lover of the colour orange but there isn't much of it in my wardrobe. Plus the leather effect edging is too cool. 

To keep my curves showing I added this Skinny Belt* which could be worn over the dress or over the cardigan.

And last but by no means least, feet.
I went for these Wedge Boots* and Knee High Socks*. Great for winter and also a little fun!

I'm truly loving this little outfit and the whole lot came to £70 which is a total bargain.
And I actually really enjoyed shooting these photos with Dann. Maybe fashion blogging is in my future!

Don't forget to go check out Alice's look too!

Also check out this rather lovely photo Dann grabbed of me!! It's like super close up which usually turns out just awful, but I actually love this photo!



*samples provided by George by Asda
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FASHION: WIN a Bonprix woolly hat


It's starting to get ever so chilly as we steadily work our way through December, so it's just about the right time to invest in some winter wardrobe essentials.

I've always been a hat lover, despite the fact that actually many really don't suit me. But winter hats are always a staple within my winter outdoor clothing, and this season they are cuter than ever.

Today I've partnered up with Bonprix to offer you the chance to win this hat* ready for Christmas and those chilly winter mornings and evenings.

All you need to do is follow me and Bonprix on Twitter, and RT the pinned post on my Twitter which includes #bonprixadvent.

This competition will run only today until 11:59pm (14th December GMT)... winner will be announced on Tuesday 15th December. Prize will be sent from Bonprix direct and the winner will be contacted via twitter for address details. UK entries only.

If you would like to see the rest of the bloggers involved in the Bonprix Advent see here for the prizes and blogs involved. Good luck!!
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Wednesday, 9 December 2015

TRAVEL: A day in Amsterdam

On our little winter cruise we stopped off for a day and a bit in Amsterdam.
It's a place I've heard so much about and have wanted to visit for a while so this mini trip was a great starting point.

The evening we arrived we took a wonder and took in all the pretty Christmas lights and worked our way around the city.

We took a much longer stroll and cruise around to see the beautiful sights. The canals give you the best view of the place and the tour takes you through the history of the canals and the river, as well as the buildings lining the way. And the whole place has an amazing history. 

Unfortunately as we weren't there for too long and we were on a fairly tight budget we didn't book any excursions, but we did hear good things about Anne Franks house/museum. 

However we did take a wander to the Flower Market which was so pretty and stopped off at many cheese shops along the way. Dann ate many many samples! Sheep cheese being his top choice! 

We definitely hope to visit again in the future, maybe in the summer time. 

Here's some photos...









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Tuesday, 8 December 2015

FOOD: Treats Galore with the November Christmas Degustabox

November Christmas Degustabox

Yes it's foodie heaven time again. And what is the best of time of year for food? Christmas of course. Honestly the best food is available in December and you all know it's basically a crime not to take full advantage of the festive season to veg out on the sofa and snack away!!

With Christmas quite literally waving at us, it was a welcome treat to receive the November Degustabox* in the post. And this is probably the best one I've had so far. Filled with lots of treats perfect for the Christmassy season.

Just to give you a taste....

Ryvita Black Pepper and Cheddar Flatbreads, and Ryvita Green and Black Olive Crackers are the perfect accompaniment with all those cheeses. The flatbreads are especially yummy with baked camembert (stick in the oven and bake for 15 minutes at 180C - you're welcome)

Pair the above with the Branston Orchard Fruit Chutney, and you are on to a snack winner!

Complete your cheese and snack platter with Bourne and Wallis - pickled beetroot for the win!

Teisseire Vanilla and Caramel Gourmet Drops are the perfect little extra to take your hot drinks to the next level, and in the privacy and comfort of your own home!!

Belvita Sort Bakes are great for early starts - especially if you're off to visit family this season.

Butterrkist Salted Caramel makes for a new treat in front of the tele, or stick with tradition and go Sweet and Salted.

Of course no Christmas is complete without jelly, so Hartleys Glitter Jelly and Black Cherry Jelly are a must. The Black Cherry is already gone in our house, but we're saving the Glitter Jelly for a special occasion. There was also a disturbing gorgeous trifle recipe for this, which I may just have to make!

For the drinkers, and a firm favourite in our household is Rekorderlig Dry Apple cider. We love Recorderlig as it is, and this flavour went down a treat with my husband. Plus a mini bottle of Baileys is a sure treat for Christmas Eve.

For the gluten-free friends JimJams Hazlenut Chocolate Spread - we're saving this for my best friend who is GF, plus it's healthy too!

Mini snacks came in the form of naughty Divine Chocolate and nice Nim's Fruit Crisps.

And last but by no means least is the Holy Lama. This is a concentrated Mulled Wine Spice Drop, perfect for Christmas Day. If you would like to try your own use code "Degustabox" on their website for 15% off.

November Christmas Degustabox

November Christmas Degustabox

November Christmas Degustabox

If you fancy yourself your very own Degustabox, use code BLDEG15 for £6 off your box!

And for cat owners - the packaging makes for some excellent cat toys!! Dante loves the Degustabox as much as we do!


November Christmas Degustabox

November Christmas Degustabox

November Christmas Degustabox















See the previous boxes here and here.

*PR Sample
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Sunday, 6 December 2015

LIFESTYLE: LIfe Lately - November (and why I took a break from the internet)

Usually I try to keep my corner of the internet as positive as possible because lets be honest there is far too much on the net which just makes us sad or angry. So with some recent hard times I've been staying away from social media and the Internet, for my own sake.

I'm doing much better now and in a much better, happier place.

So for now I'm myself again.
And on to some happier things.

I celebrated my 26th birthday. Yep I feel truly old for my age now! Dann treated me to dinner and the cinema which was lovely, and a doughnut cake!! With a sparkler!



We've been away which you can read about here.

And I've been making the most of some free time with lots of home projects and working on our Christmas presents for friends and family.

But what about you guys? What made your November great? Share in the comments.
And here's to a cracking December!!
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Friday, 4 December 2015

FOOD: Homemade Honeycomb (aka Hockey Pockey)

Hockey Pockey Honeycomb Recipe

This year for our friends and family we are putting together little packages of homemade bits and bobs for Christmas. We're trying to save money and doing Christmas on a budget this year, but wanted to show we'd put lots of thought and effort in, and what better way than homemade yummy treats.

I thought I'd share one of my recipes for you, which I think you'll all love, and it's super simple to make, and kinda fun as it's a little bit like a science experiment.

This recipe is from Nigella Lawson, and can literally be made in 10 minutes.

What you need
100g castor sugar
4 tablespoons Golden Syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons Bicarbonate of Soda
Greaseproof paper for the tray

How to make
Mix the sugar and golden syrup together in a pan off the heat
Place pan on the heat and melt the mixture. It will then start to bubble (approx 3 minutes) - do not stir, swill the pan if you want to but no stirring
Remove from the heat and add the bicarb
Immediate whisk the mixture (this is the fun sciency bit) where it will foam and go a light gold colour
Pour onto a tray (use greaseproof paper to make it easier)
Let it set (put in the fridge to help
Once set smash, and put in a box/tin

Store in the fridge until gifting

We're also adding a tag to our boxes saying it is best served chilled.
It also goes well crumbled on top of ice cream or a fruit crumble!

Hockey Pockey Honeycomb Recipe

Hockey Pockey Honeycomb Recipe

Hockey Pockey Honeycomb Recipe

Hockey Pockey Honeycomb Recipe

Hockey Pockey Honeycomb Recipe

Hockey Pockey Honeycomb Recipe
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Thursday, 3 December 2015

BLOGGING: November and December Advertisers

Another month down, and a new month of lovely advertisers on Illustrated Teacup.
I'm not going to lie I kind of love seeing some really amazing blogs in my sidebar, and celebrating in blogger success and sharing the community.


So first up is Jasmin from Jasmin Charlotte. She's kind of a girl after my own heart to be honest. Just like me, she blogs about all sorts including science, tech and my favourite... food. You all know I love my food. Also she lived in New Zealand for most of her life, but now lives in London, although our lovely British weather is making her rather homesick righy about now.
You can find her on Twitter and Instagram, so go check her out.



My second advertiser is my competition winner in October, the ever so lovely and super sarcastic Alice of Annie Writes Beauty. As you can imagine Alice is predominantly a beauty blogger, but she also dabbles in a bit of lifestyle and is the queen of the black outfit.
Not content with a busy schedule running her own blog, she also co-runs the Soton Bloggers network with Amy. She's also the life and soul of all our events (hand that girl a prosecco) and she's most certainly one of my blogging best friends and a real true (IRL) friend as well. You want a friend who's not afraid to say what's on her mind, and fiercely loyal, then this is your girl.
You can find Alice on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and the Soton Bloggers on Twitter and Instagram too.


You should all remember my favourite mummy blogger Natasha from Bebebear cubs. You'll remember her from October, but she's staying in my sidebar becuase I love her dearly and she really inspires me. Plus how utterly adorable are her littles?
Catch up with Natasha on Twitter and Instagram.

So that's my November and December advertisers - as a Christmas present all my November advertisers are staying for December too! A true mix of amazing girls and some incredible talent!

If you would like a spot in my sidebar for January, please get in touch at illustratedteacup@gmail.com. To find out about my package, see my advertising page.

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Wednesday, 2 December 2015

TRAVEL: A mini cruise in November

If you've been keeping up with my social media you may have seen that I went away for a mini break at the end of November.

We try to go away/abroad at least once a year (I've been abroad twice now this year) so booked a mini cruise to Amsterdam and Brugges with P&O cruises. As they sail out of Southampton it only made sense to try out a cruise. We started out small as neither of us had been on one before, and opted for an adults-only break.

We set out on the Arcadia, a medium sized ship for four nights away. 

Unfortunately due to the terror alerts in Brussels we couldn't stop in Brugges which was understandable though a shame, and due to the weather and time frames couldn't stay in Amsterdam or stop at another port. I'll be doing another post on Amsterdam shortly but in the mean time here's what you need to know for a cruise.

Due to the weather our first night was rough and made for an interesting nights sleep. Our extra day at sea also wasn't the smoothest which wasn't ideal but manageable.

The evenings were so much fun, as there was a dress code each night. The best night had to be the Black Tie evening where everyone was beautifully dressed up and Dann busted out his James Bond Tux. The menus in the restaurants were amazing every night, but they went all out on black tie night with a special four course dinner. Even if I did miss dessert from feeling a little under the weather. We went to the theatre (actually we went to the Theatre three out of four nights) where they put on an amazing dance show themed on Queen. It was 100% my favourite night, even if a little poorly for some of it.

Here's some photos from our time on the ship!

Mini Cruise with P&O Cruises

Mini Cruise with P&O Cruises

Mini Cruise with P&O Cruises
 ^^don't we dress up smart. And of course it only made sense for Dann to order a martini (with olives) to match his tux!!^^

Mini Cruise with P&O Cruises

Mini Cruise with P&O Cruises
 ^^isn't this ceiling just spectacular!!^^

Mini Cruise with P&O Cruises
^^our fave piece of art on the ship... I could have happily taken this home! Creepy cool!^^

Mini Cruise with P&O Cruises


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Wednesday, 18 November 2015

GUIDE: Gift Ideas for a Teen Girl

Yesterday was my baby sister's birthday. Well I say baby, she's actually 19 years of age, but as I can remember her as a two year old I still see her as the baby. As she comes into her final year of being a teenager, I thought I'd share some inspiration with you for teenage girl gifts all from Primark, because to be completely honest I was slightly clueless to begin with.

I mean what do teenagers these days actually like? When I was a teen I was into glitter, blue mascara and crimping my hair. But kids are growing up so much faster now, and I've seen more 17 year olds than I would like to say who have a better make-up stash than I do, including MAC, which both bewilders and confuses in equal measure!

So on to my gift guide...

Teenage Girl Gift Guide from Primark

Teenage Girl Gift Guide from Primark




Everything is from Primark and seen on their website, so you'll need to have a scout around in your local store! Good luck!

1. Hogwarts Pyjamas
Perfect for the Harry Potter fan, and cosy for winter. This is a must for my sister.
2. Two pack of snood scarves
For the slightly warmer winter days, functional and pretty
3. "You look amazing" sign
Because every girl needs a reminder
4. Minnie Mouse mittens
All teen girls love Disney right?
5. Ariel t-shirt
And we all want mermaid hair!
6. Butterfly lights
Perfect for every girls bedroom, and won't break the bank
7. Cat and Donut socks
What's not to love, and girl needs socks right?
8. Bobble hat
This is mostly here because I really love this hat and really need it in my life, hint hint! 
9. Nail files
A girls best friend. And a staple for her beauty draw. Plus super cute!

What do you recommend for a teen girls birthday? Or even dare I say it, Christmas?
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Sunday, 15 November 2015

ADVICE: Things you should know when buying a cat or kitten

A beginners guide to cats and kittens

I love cats.... If you didn't know! 
Ok that was a little bit of an understatement to be honest.
You've likely seen my little (giant) fur babies here many, many times, and you either love it, or you hate it - hopefully the former.
If you haven't met my fur babies before - here's a little introduction.

Archimedes - he's the jet black, Bengal-cross. He's nearly four and is a mummas-boy completely. He is faster than sound (mild exaggeration) and the dominant cat of the house. He can usually be found on our bed, in the conservatory or on my pillow.
Dante - he's the gigantic fluff ball who is two. He's a Persian-Bengal - Bengal face, Persian fur. He's is daddy's little menace. He can usually be found at the top of the stairs, on the bathroom matt or inside a draw, usually with Dann's socks.

I thought I'd share with you some of the things to keep in mind if you want your own kitten or cat, because they aren't always advertised, but kind of come in the feline bundle.

Claws
Those little needles are the absolute worst. And they need blunting, and your cat will know this. And the absolute best place to do that is on your sofa! It doesn’t really matter that you put the scratching post right next to the sofa, and it’s a really tall one with jingly mice, the sofa is WAY better. Accept it. That nice sofa is probably going to be shredded - thank you Archimedes. 

Fur, fur, fur
The hallmark of the cat owner. You can ID a cat owner, and the type of cat from the appearance of said owner and the level of fur coverage they have on their clothes. Invest in lint rollers if you wish to de-fur, but be warned this should only be done just before you leave as it has an innate ability to cling to you within 30 seconds.
This leads to HAIRBALLS… for those wishing to own a fluffy kitty, be warned, they DO NOT look like the balls of fluff vomited up in cartoons. And cat sick smells FYI, and stains! Invest in laminate flooring… better to clean and no fur can stick to it like it does to carpets. This is a particular problem for Dante who has long hair and barely chews his food. Malt extract really helps enable the hair to go through his system and not get stuck, but always seek advice from a vet about fur and long-haired cats.

Night time races and ninjas
Those eerie hours between 12am and 4am are the cat witching hour. You’ve seen your cat or kitten nap ALL day. Well that is all in preparation for the sprinting around your home, and leaping from high places at 2am. Double the destruction with two or more cats. Never leave anything up high that can fall. On a side note, black cats are particularly good at hide and seek, especially at night. You think you’re safe popping to the loo in the middle of the night…. You’re not. Take a torch, or you will be feeling the carpet quicker than you would like when you trip over the black ninja that hid in the corner awaiting his prey – you!

Cuddles.. at your peril
I know you want to smush you face in your kitties fur and squish him cos you love him so much.... well he will more than likely hate it. Unless you're really lucky (we have one of each) and he loves cuddles, most cats will squirm and claw their way out of your grasp (see point one). Our two agree to cuddles on their terms, and their terms only. Usually when you need to pee or grab the remote. Dante has also developed a new habit of curling up on our backs as both Dann and I sleep on our fronts fairly regularly. He's also heavy so it is virtually impossible to move.

Sleep
Cat's love to sleep. You'll find this out very quickly. In fact cats sleep for about 2/3 of their lives. And not always in the places you might expect. We usually find our two either asleep on our bed together, or inside drawers, specifically sock drawers. And we wonder why our clothes are covered in fur. 

Boxes vs. Toys
Over the years we've spent a fortune on toys for our cats, including climbing frames and various scratching posts (the sofa is better apparently). We've learnt the favourites for ours. Boxes are always, and I mean always a hit, no matter the size. Did you see Dante in my Degustabox? He is also a huge fan of hair ties, and more recently rubber charity wristbands. We now collect them and he plays fetch. Much safer than the hair ties he had a habit of eating.
Other favourites include anything with feathers, and of course the trusty laser pen!

A beginners guide to cats and kittens

A beginners guide to cats and kittens

A beginners guide to cats and kittens
But you've got to love them. For all their odd little quirks it makes them who they are. And I honestly wouldn't have them any other way.

You can read more about our cats here, here and here

What's your favourite thing about your cat?
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