This year, Cannaught Hotel have called on artist and sculptor Antony Gormley to create their Christmas tree. Last year, their Christmas tree was designed by Damien Hirst and contained medical equipment as decorations. Antony Gormley is a well-known sculpture whose work has been displayed all over the world. I recently posted about his famous 'Angel of the North' sculpture, which I visited last month.

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The Christmas tree looks like a large pine tree with a white column of light shooting up through the trunk. Gormley says that the inspiration is from breaking from the norm of decorating the outside of the Christmas tree and (instead) illuminating it at its core (1). 

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To visit the Christmas tree, head over to the Cannaught Hotel in Mayfair.

1) http://www.standard.co.uk/goingout/arts/angel-of-the-north-sculptor-antony-gormley-turns-christmas-lights-on-their-head-a3403716.html

Bisser's Pig Mural on Bacon Street

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Belgian street artist Bisser left a mural in London over the summer while he was exhibiting some of his work in a gallery. Bisser studied animation at Ghent and got into the grafitti scene thanks to his brother, who was inspired by comic books. Bisser followed his brother's hobbies. Cartoons and a French grafitti magazine were additional inspirations, and Bisser started to work on 3-dimensional murals, especially letters, and abstract work. The artist became popular after being mentioned as one of the top street artists at Bloop Festival in Ibiza, Spain. His tag (Bisser) comes from the verb 'blissen', which means "to resist your year at school." The name was chosen during his year at animation school and dedicated his time to animation, 3D, and music.

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Bisser painted a mural of a pig on Bacon Street, near the pig by ROA. The pig has a cartoonish form and is 'broken' up by dotted lines as if it's a butcher's diagram. 

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This is a fun piece on the street, playing on the name of the street and next to the ROA pig and butcher girl by Saki and B.

Street artist Fanakapan has been busy painting in various locations in London recently. "Drunken Glass Elephants" was the name of one of his recent murals on Pedley Street (off Brick Lane). The artist was known for starting out painting colourful balloon animals and sweets before switching to foil silver balloons last year. This year, the artist has continued to experiment using a chrome and glass style of painting and continues to refine this technique. His latest piece is the large wall on the Village Underground. 

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The new mural features a glass gun, old-style telephone, glove and globe. According to the artist's Instagram page (1), the piece is about "power tools" and distraction/destruction. The gloved-hand appears to be tossing the glass globe in the air, and the glass gun points toward the hand. Does the hand drop the globe to answer the phone? Is the phone a distraction from the destruction taking place? And why did the artist use an old-style phone as opposed to a mobile phone or cordless handset without the dial?

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Fanakapan also reclaimed the wall off Brick Lane and painted a new piece of work in the shape of a star foil balloon. The star is probably a tribute to the fact that the location is known as "Star Yard".

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Earlier this year, the artist also painted a skull near Hoxton Square.

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I've enjoyed seeing these new pieces from Fanakapan, and I like the Village Underground piece. I'm also interested to see what is painted next and what Fanakapan paints next.

1) https://www.instagram.com/fanakapan/?hl=en

Advent Photographs in Numbers

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Today is the first of December. The countdown begins as the first day of advent. I've had a long and busy week, and I cannot wait to have a few days off later this month. I actually have had a migraine all day today. I am going to take a bath and go to bed early. (That's the plan, at least.) Over this year, I've been taking photographs of numbers from 1 to 25 to post a special "advent"-themed blog post with the photographs of different sets of numbers on signs, doors, shop windows, clocks, in street art, packaging, and anywhere else where I could find a number. My gallery of the advent is below.

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Which is your favourite? I can't believe that it will be December 25 in less than 25 days now. Enjoy the countdown.

Artista and Atomik Street Art

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Street artist Artista (previously covered in my post here) has spent a lot of time painting various murals across London this year. Most of her street art murals feature her toast character. She has also collaborated with street artist Atomik at the beginning of the year. Earlier this year, she had an on-going theme on Blackall Street where she kept replacing the wall with a new toast mural, photographed below. I did not get to see every example because some did not last long, but I did manage to capture quite a few. Sometimes, getting a photograph of these was hard or impossible. The scaffolding was moved right up to the wall, making it impossible to stand back far enough to get a photograph. Another time, people were using the mural on the wall for a photography shoot. I hung around for awhile, but there was no indication that they would be leaving at any time soon.

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I also managed to see the famous toast on a bin.

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Also on Blackall Street, the artist painted her lightbulb character with the flowers. These are all common themes.

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I also managed to capture her work on Great Eastern Street and off Brick Lane.

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Off Brick Lane, Artista collaborated with street artist Atomik. Atomik is an artist from Florida who started in the 1980s and always paints her orange character, which is painted all over the world. The style is quite similar to Artista's own style.

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I also managed to capture one of Artista's work, with Anatomix in Nomad Community Gardens, off Brick Lane, which was a collaboration completed as part of a paint jam.

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The below one has been around awhile and is a collaboration with Saki & B_tches. I had never covered it, though.

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Dale Grimshaw's realistic murals of people can often be found in London. The newest addition to the street art scene are portraits on the Village Underground wall in Shoreditch. The portraits are set against a red background, and they appear to be keeping in with the same style of support for Papau New Guinea's citizens. Earlier in the year, Dale Grimshaw collaborated on a fantastic and eye-catching mural with Mark Hat on a high-profile wall off Brick Lane. The mural supported freedom of the citizens. Although he's not said it in any of his posts with the finished piece, Dale Grimshaw's newest mural does appear to be of the same style. Photographs of it can be seen below.

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Liberty Beauty Advent Calendar 2016

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The Liberty department store's beauty advent calendar is one of the best value-for-money beauty advent calendars available. I purchased one this year, and instead of waiting until December to open the windows, I decided to be a little unconventional and open them throughout the month of November. December is always a busy month, and this year has not been the kindest, so I needed a little pick-me-up! Also, Thanksgiving is on November 24 this year, so it can be a countdown to the holidays. So, if you don't want to spoil the surprise, do NOT read on.

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As in previous years, the advent calendar comes in a large box with small numbered drawers that can be opened to reveal the day's gift. Read below to see what I received on each day.

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Day 1: Aveda hand relief moisturiser: Peppermint and rosemary help to wake the senses and heal tired hands. Aveda's products use a blend of natural plant ingredients in their beauty products. The cold, dry weather at this time of the year dries out my skin, so moisturiser is always a bonus.

Day 2: Aurelia refine and polish miracle balm: This balm brings life back to dull skin and also helps to keep it looking fresh and moisturised. It is moisturised into the skin with a little bit of water and then left for a few minutes before cleaning off. The brand Aurelia use bio-organic ingredients to prevent anti-aging products.

Day 3: Bobbi Brown pot rouge in 'Powder Pink': This full-sized blusher is a dark pink-salmon colour that would work with most skin tones. It is an award-winning product that can be applied on the go and comes in a case with a mirror.

Day 4: Kiehl's Amino Acid Shampoo: New York brand Kiehl's is a popular skincare brand. Their shampoo has a light coconut smell and uses ingredients to protect hair while cleaning it. This product felt like it cleaned my hair without being too aggressive.

Day 5: JINsoon nail polish in 'Coquette': Jin Soon Choi has gained much popularity with nail products, and these polishes are free from harsh chemicals. The colour received is a safe bright red colour that has been named 'Coquette'. It dries quickly and wears well.

Day 6: Laura Mercier hydrating primer: This primer is used as a base before foundation is applied and helps to create an even foundation coverage. This product is a well-loved one, and Laura Mercier is a brand that focuses on skincare. 

Day 7: C.O. Bigelow Rose Salve balm: This rose-scented balm comes in a tube that is easy to apply to lips, elbows, hands, or anywhere else where skin is dry. The product has a rose fragrance. C.O. Bigelow is a New York-based company that use herbal healing products.

Day 8: Malin+Goetz Vitamin E face moisturiser: This facial moisturiser is a popular product in skincare, and it's one I've used before. It nourishes skin without leaving a residue.

Day 9: Davines Oi All in One Milk: This product is designed to be applied to hair after it has been towel-dried. It helps to moisturise and add shine. Davines is a cult New York brand that use natural ingredients.

Day 10: Marvis toothpaste (in mint and liquorish flavours): I received two small tubes of toothpaste in different flavours. The toothpaste has a refreshing smell and is not too hard on teeth.

Day 11: Byredo Bal d-Afrique hand cream: Byredo create fragrances and skincare products. This hand cream is lightly fragranced and moisturises skin. It's another hand cream product in time for the drier winter months.

Day 12: NARS Mini Laguna Bronzer: The advent calendars came with this bronzer or a lip gloss. I don't often use bronzers, but this appears to be a standard one. NARS is a make-up company that pride themselves in using bright and wearable colours.

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Day 13: Blink Brow Night Balm: This product helps condition the brow and protect it during the day.

Day 14: Eve Lom Cleanser and Cloth: This cleanser for skin also acts like a make-up remover and leaves skin feeling soft. It comes with a cloth that can be rinsed with warm water and left on the face to open up pores. 

Day 15: ODeJo perfume: I received a generous bottle of this fragrance, which was inspired by stylist Jo Levin. The perfume is considered a cult classic and marketed as a summer scent. I actually dislike the scent as it reminds me of a certain summer insect that has a bad smell when I was growing up in the country. Every time I smell the perfume, it smells bad to me.

Day 16: Trish McEvoy Lip Colour in Pink Nude: This full-sized lip stick is a very wearable colour and has a nice consistency. I also found the colour to last.

Day 17: Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant: I've previously tried this product. It comes in a powder form, and mixed with a little bit of water, it becomes a nice paste that can be applied to the skin to take off the dirt and exfoliate the skin. My skin felt cleaner after use.

Day 18: Votary Facial Oil: This product is made from seed extract to help nourish skin, and it has anti-aging properties. It is fragrance-free and suits all skin types.

Day 19: Skin Laundry Gentle Foaming Face Wash: This facial wash is suitable for problem skin and is a gentle cleanser. The company are known for working with problem skin and creating products for it.

Day 20: Kai Body Lotion: I've previously used this body lotion. It is also lightly-fragranced and a cult favourite. I'm generally not too keen on body lotions, however.

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Day 21: Dr Sebegh Serum Repair: This is a product that I have used before, and it's an award-winning product that helps to minimise the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. 

Day 22: Surratt Blush: This is another cult beauty product in the form of a blusher. It is a wearable colour, and I can always do with more blusher. The brand pride themselves in creating bold but wearable colours.

Day 23: ESPA Overnight Hydration Therapy: This mask helps maintain a hydrated, youthful appearance and conditions the skin. This brand are known for skin-care and anti-aging products.

Day 24: Le Labo Santal 33 perfume: There were two choices of perfume, and I received the Santal 33, which reminds me of pine trees and is a scent for Christmas. The scent is also long-lasting, and I found wearing it enjoyable.

Day 25: Diptyque Mini Candle: I've previously received this brand's candles, which leave the room with a light fragrance. I also like the design of the branding and its simplicity. The scent is fig (figuier).

After work, I went to the Queen of Hoxton rooftop bar with ex-colleagues. The rooftop bar at Queen of Hoxton has now been transformed into Viking village Skye Halla, complete with a Viking tent with shields and furs. The drinks are also all Viking-themed with names like "Blood of Loki" and "Thor's Courage". Outside of the tent were two fires with seats to sit around, and marshmallows were on sale to roast in the fire.

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I ordered the "Blood of Loki" and "Freya's Nettle Love Exilir" cocktails. The first one is made of whiskey, port, and lemon. The second is made with elderflower liquer, lemon, stinging nettle gin and honey. Both were a bit too strong and not really fruity enough for my taste.

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Have you been to Skye Halla on the rooftop of Queen of Hoxton?

Thanksgiving at The Jones Family Project

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Thanksgiving was yesterday. The last few years, I've taken Thanksgiving Day off in order to have lunch at home or to go out to a restaurant. This year, I just started a new role and the bloke has also been busy at work, so we decided to work on Thanksgiving Day this year and have a meal at a restaurant in the evening. I was actually planning to go to another restaurant this year, but the one in mind never replied to my request for information on Twitter nor Facebook. Instead, I found myself at The Jones Family Project in Shoreditch to celebrate Thanksgiving.

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The Thanksgiving Day menu could be paired with drinks, but the wine to have with the main meal was a red, and I'm not a fan of red wine. Instead, we ordered the most expensive half-bottle of white wine, and I'm sorry to report that it was a disappointment as it tasted flat, and we didn't like the taste of it. I was expecting it to be really nice because it was so expensive.

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However, we did opt to go for the special pre-starter drink, a cocktail named 'Wild Turkey Gobbler'. It is a strong-tasting cocktail and a good one if you like the taste of whiskey. This cocktail is made with Wild Turkey 81 bourbon, lemon, pumpkin button, and bitters. It was served with a dried apple slice and fresh mint on top.

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I will note that the bloke did not like the Thanksgiving Day menu option. There was not a selection of substitutions, so he ordered bread to start, and steak for his main. Sides of triple-cooked chips and roasted broccoli and sprouts with a sesame seed and soy dressing were also ordered, and he had a selection of sorbets for dessert. I forgot to photograph his meals.

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To start, I had the chestnut, crispy kale and cream soup. This was served with a slice of white and brown baguette. This wasn't my favourite as I found the soup too bland without much flavour, and I had expected it to taste more like chestnut. The kale was good, and it was tender and did go well with the soup, but the soup was not good on its own.

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The Thanksgiving main was turkey escalope. It was stuffed with walnuts, cranberries, apricots and cheddar and wrapped in bacon. The turkey and stuffing tasted delicious. I typically do not have cranberry or stuffing, but this was very tender/juicy and mashed finely to fit inside the turkey meat. The turkey was served with brown butter mash, sprouts, broccoli, and gravy. This was delicious and the best meal I've had in awhile.

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Finally, we come to desserts. It would not be Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie. The pie came in a small tart-shaped item with a dollop of vanilla ice cream on top.

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It was not the type of pumpkin pie that I am used to as it had pecans on top, contained a lot of crust, and the pumpkin was more of a puree instead of a mixture with cinnamon. Regardless, it tasted amazing. The crust was flaky and had a nice flavour that complemented the pumpkin and ice cream. The pecans were also slightly carmelised.

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Despite the wine, I will consider this Thanksgiving day meal a success. Since I enjoyed the food, I do want to return to try other items on the menu. I don't work too far from this restaurant, so it is possible to visit it one day for lunch.

The Jones Family Project is located at the northern end of Great Eastern Street in Shoreditch. It is located about a five-minute walk from Old Street station and a 15-minute walk from Liverpool Street station. It is located at 78 Great Eastern Street, EC2A 3JL. It is open daily for lunch and dinner. For more information, visit their website at https://jonesfamilyproject.co.uk

This year, I booked my Christmas party in for something a little different from the traditional afternoon tea that I have had the past couple of years. I had previously posted about having a meal at the Coy Carp in Harefield, near Uxbridge. (Uxbridge is outside central London on the Metropolitan line in Middlesex.) I'd been back a couple of times and picked up their Christmas season and festive menu during a previous visit and booked the festive meal for Sunday lunch time. I booked a taxi there (and back) so that we could drink. We were looked after well, and the staff gave us a Christmas card as we were the first festive meal booking that they had this year.

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I'd ordered the most expensive champagne on the festive menu, the Mercier Brut. It was a good champagne.

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Of course, the festive menu came with all the trimmings. This included a Christmas cracker each. We laughed at the bad jokes, and I received a bookmark, which will come in useful unlike most of what you get from crackers. The bloke received a card magic trick, which is something that I could care less about really.

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We had an option of four different starters, including mushrooms with chestnuts, pork and fig terrine and prawn and lobster cocktail. We both had the spiced roast carrot soup to start, and this came with two slices of bread and a generous helping of butter. It was very delicious. 

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After the soup, we had the roast. Slow-cooked beef rib, nut roast, or sirloin steak with a surcharge were the other three options that we could have. We both opted for the hard-carved turkey. It was served with roast potatoes, bacon-wrapped stuffing, sprouts, carrots, and parsnips. Gravy was served in a jug on the side. The meal was very good, and I managed to finish all of it.

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Next up - desserts! Christmas pudding, winter-spiced plum crumble, and a cheese board (with a surcharge) were three of the options that we could have. However, the bloke opted for the chocolate and orange torte. This was served with cream. I had a bit of this, and it was tasty. I'm just not a big fan of mixing chocolate with orange. The torte came on a crispy cookie base and the texture of the rest of it was very creamy but not too rich.

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I had the orange-scented crème brûlée, and this came with a mint and orange side and butter biscuits. This was delicious, and the butter biscuits tasted especially delicious.  

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The Christmas trees and other decorations were on display and made the pub feel very Christmassy, even though it is a bit early in the season. 

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The Coy Carp is part of the Vintage Inns group. The website is: http://www.vintageinn.co.uk/restaurants/london/thecoycarpharefielduxbridge

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