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Thanksgiving this year was a subdued affair for me. I started a new job this week in Chiswick, and I have been quite busy and have had a pretty nasty commute every day except for today and very early mornings every day except for Monday. To say the least, I am exhausted. I did want to do a little something to make it a little special, and I saw that retaurant Jackson + Rye had a special Thanksgiving Day menu for today. Jackson & Rye have other branches across London, and I visited their Chiswick branch.

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Jackson + Rye are described as a New York-style grill and restaurant serving American food with a French fusion.

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The Thanksgiving Day menu is 29.95 for three courses, including a glass of Prosecco. Unfortunately, this tasted a bit flat and like wine.

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The starter options were chicken wings with peri peri sauce and blue cheese, shrimp and bacon chowder, pork and apple terrine, or roasted beetroot, curd and candied pecans. I had the chicken wings, which were delicious.

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The mains were turkey, roasted squash risotto, cod, or some type of beef. The turkey came with a sweet potato slice. Unfortunately, there really wasn't enough vegetables or a selection of them as is standard for a roast or Thanksgiving meal, so I ordered a side of broccoli.

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To finish, I had the pumpkin pie. Lemon tart, chocolate fondant, and salted caramel and fudge pie were also on offer.

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So, overall, this was a very quiet Thanksgiving lunch that I took, so I had to be quick. I am hoping to make up for it next year for sure.

In my last job, I worked a couple of blocks from a wonderful little coffee shop called Cafe Frei, which I visited a few times with colleagues. Cafe Frei have a huge selection of coffees and other hot drinks, and they pride themselves in their knowledge of their products and where in the world the different products come from, and visitors can read about these in books provided in the cafe. Cafe Frei also have several cafes around the world (Hungary, Austria, Dubai, France, and Romania). Their hot chocolate is really delicious and amongst the best that I have had in London.

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I'm not a coffee-drinker, but I do drink hot chocolate, and over the past four months, I have tried most of the hot chocolates on offer except the white chocolate ones. Caramel hot chocolate, Belgian hot chocolate, Mexican spicy hot chocolate, and Coconut hot chocolate were some of the selections on offer. My favourite ended up being the Coconut hot chocolate.

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Cakes, pastries, and other sweet treats are also for sale, and they also come from different parts of the globe. I've tried the lemon tart, raspberry tart, poppyseed cake, and chocolate pot. 

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My favourite was the poppyseed cake, which is a traditional cake from Afghanistan, according to the cafe.

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If you are in the area, I thoroughly recommend a visit to Cafe Frei, which is located just off the beaten path near Aldgate East station. During the week, they are open from 8:00am and close between 5:30 and 7:00. At the weekends, they open from 9:30 and close at 6:00. The cafe is located at 61A Alie Street, E1 8EB.

Many years ago, I would walk to St. Katherine's Docks during my lunch break and have a wander around. That was before the world food market and the development of the old warehouses into restaurants and cafes. Now, St. Katherine's Docks is one of the places to be with a wide range of restaurants and cafes, and it's a wonderful place to visit on a sunny day.

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As I am currently working just up the road, I've been to St. Katherine's Docks World Food Market for lunch with colleagues and alone. There's quite a few great street food stands here selling everything from fine steak to pasta, South American fried-chicken to pastries, Indian/Pakistani street food to Greek, salad to macaroni and cheese, burgers to game, African street food to fish and chips, dumplings to Thai/Chinese stir fries, and everything in between.

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While having a wander around the marina looking at the yachts and the queen's golden barge, the world food market is the place to visit, and there are plenty of places to sit and eat the takeaway street food. (If visiting on another day, it's also worth a drink at one of the outside restaurant tables on the marina. )

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The World Food Market is open from 11:00 to 15:00 on Fridays and it is now open on Saturdays on the Riverside from 11:00 to 15:00.

The cold months are now upon us as the summer comes to an end and pumpkin-spiced everything and Halloween decorations are available in shops and cafes. A couple of my good friends got engaged a few weeks ago, so I hit the shops to pick up a card and a couple of gifts. While I was out, I visited The Body Shop to see the seasonal offerings, sale items, and ideas for a potential gift. I am a little bit of a hoarder with bath and body products, and I did find a few nice items for gifts and items for myself.

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First up is body lotion in "Vineyard Peach". (I would have expected this to say "Orchard Peach" because peach trees grow in orchards.) Having grown up on a farm with an orchard, I must say that there's almost nothing in life better than a fresh, juicy peach. This reminds me of fresh peaches and is divine.

Second up is "Vanilla Pumpkin" hand cream, a new autumn range. The product smells of vanilla but with a pumpkin-autumn twist to the scent. I think that those who love the vanilla scent will love this one.

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"Spiced Apple" was a range on offer last Christmas. It follows from the "Glazed Apple" range, which was popular a couple of years ago. This range is more of a grown-up Christmas scent when compared with the sickly-sweet "Glazed Apple" version, which I loved. I also love "Spiced Apple", which reminds me of Christmas.

Last month, I was invited to a friend's home in Reading. I've known her partner since 2004 through another mutual friend, and he and I have kept more in touch than the original friend who moved further away and started a family. My friend and his girlfriend have been meaning to catch up for awhile to have a Chinese meal and to see her place in Reading, but life (work) and other events (travel, home renovations) kept getting in the way. In fact, the last time that we met up, we met up with some of her mutual friends as well and ended up walking around the cold Chiswick House Gardens to see the Magic Lantern Festival.

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The meeting up was also a congratulations of sorts as my friends have announced their engagement earlier in October (or at the end of September). We used this an an excuse to pencil in a weekend to meet up in Reading to see her place and have a meal. We ended up at the Memory of Sichuan, which is an authentic Chinese restaurant with real Chinese dishes. Of course, for the squeamish western taste, they also do the standard dishes. We had discussed getting a hotpot to share ages ago, but we decided to get a mixture of dishes to share. In fact, the photograph below does not even show all of the dishes that we ordered.

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I ordered a stir fry with chicken, needle mushrooms, broccoli, and potato slices. And we ordered a sweet corn dish, green bean dish, noodles, fried rice, pork, beef stir fry, a duck stir fry, and a couple of additional dishes that I cannot remember. My favourites were the sweet corn followed by the bean and my stir fry, and I loved the sauce on the duck stir fry. The food was tasty.

Hopefully it will not be several months before I see my friends again as we've been discussing for the past year about visiting a nice restaurant in London and going out for a nice hot chocolate afterwards.

Memory of Sichuan is located at 109 Friar Street in Reading (RG1 1EP). It is open from 11:30 until 22:30 Sunday to Thursday and 11:30 to 23:00 on Friday and Saturday.

On Friday, I headed over to Hampstead after work so that I could take part in the Haunted Hampstead to Highgate Pub Crawl. Friday was the first day that the day properly felt like autumn with clear skies and crisp, cold temperatures. I've never been to Hampstead before either, so this was my first visit. The meeting point was on Hampstead High Street.

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We met outside the King William IV pub, which was decorated for Halloween inside. Some of the patrons were also dressed up in unique costumes. Cobwebs, pumpkins, candles, a fake severed hand inside a piano lid in the pub, and a poem on the outside pub sign made it feel like Halloween. "Ghosts and spooks galore, scary witches at your door, King William shining bright, wishing you a haunting night." That poem on the pub sign was just a small taste of what we were in for.

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The King William IV pub is just one of four haunted pubs in the area that we visited, and we were told of a couple of unfortunate stories and the hauntings of the pub. This happened with dramatic tones and actors/actresses available to enlighten us. 

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The idea was to grab a drink in each pub; we had half an hour at the next two pubs and finished at the fourth one. This was adequate time to get a much-needed drink to help aid us in keeping warm and jolly.

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After the first pub, we were led down a couple of alleyways and told a few more stories about hauntings or gruesome deaths that happened.

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We were also shown significant buildings in the area, such as the home of writer H.G. Wells (possibly my favourite writer), which I have posted below. 

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The next pub that we stopped at is The Holly Bush, which I know is a local favourite and a pub that I have heard of before. We had a thirty-minute wait here, which was enough time for a glass of wine.

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We were then led down a few more streets and told more stories about local history and characters before coming to the famous Hampstead well. I was not aware of the local history of this part of London, but it became popular for having a well with rumoured healing powers, similar to Bath, Cheltenham, Harrogate, and Tunbridge Wells. The well brought in tourists and pilgrims, and many of the streets around the well sold trinkets and flasks for the water. A monument to the well can be seen.

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We then trekked across the very dark Hampstead Heath, where we were told about the frightening history of this area and the heath's popularity with highwaymen who would rob caravans passing through. We also learned about some local characters and their stories. 

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After the long trek across the dark Hampstead Heath and a short stop at the pond for another story, we had to climb a hill in order to get to the next (third) pub, The Flask. This pub is opposite George Michael's home, and a tribute has been set up in the grass area in front of his home.

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We had time to get another drink, and after walking up the hill and feeling too warm, I soon felt really chilly as the evening was a crisp one.

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We were, of course, told the haunting stories of this pub, which is rumoured to be haunted by three different spirits. These included a camp Cavalier, who made an entertaining appearance.

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After we finished our drinks and meeting the 'ghost', we wandered across the road to St. Michael's Church where we were told the next story, involving vampires in Highgate Cemetery behind the church. This is one of the popular London cemeteries.

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We were then led via Pond Square to learn about the chicken haunting the square to the Gatehouse pub. This was our final haunted pub on the walk. 

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The Gatehouse was decorated for Halloween with cobwebs and pumpkins, and the staff were all in costume.

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We did not stay for a drink or food here. Those who booked the tour could get a discount on food and drink purchased at this final pub, which would have been great because I was famished as I didn't have any lunch and walked quite a lot; however, I did have to get back to Ruislip, which isn't the easiest from here. Instead, I walked down to Archway station (instead of Highgate, though the pub is in between both stations) and went to get fast food there.

Overall, it was a fun night although I was exhausted at the end of it as we trekked a long way and almost continously for four hours. 

Lunch @ The Corner House, Cardiff (Wales)

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While out in Cardiff locating the Snowdogs in Cardiff, I stopped off to get some lunch in the shopping area on Caroline Street, outside one of the large shopping malls in the city. Quite a few restaurants and pubs are around this area, but The Corner House restaurant called out to me as a modern-looking building on the corner of the busy streets with the buzz of shoppers and a group of people promoting a well-known brand of sweet through song, dance, and free samples. Visitors could sit inside or outside, but we opted to sit inside (mainly because the bloke wishes to avoid smokers, though it was a relatively lovely autumn day).

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The inside of the restaurant is modern, and due to its position on the corner, there is an abundance of natural light. The pub is inside, but there is also a different section for the restaurant, although we sat in the pub-cafe area.

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We decided to try the cocktails first, and I opted for a rhubarb fizz one while the bloke had a mocktail. The cocktail tasted a little too strong of carbonated water to me, so I ended up ordering another mocktail later. I cannot remember what flavour the mocktail was, but it had a nice sweet-sour taste.

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I was going to order the spit-roasted chicken, but I was tempted by the "specials" menu, which had a chicken dish with potatoes and pak choi. Meanwhile, the bloke had the selection of meats with chips, which was also on the "specials" menu. I must say that my meal was one of the best that I have eaten in a long time. Apparently the meats were nice as well.

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For dessert, the "melting golden chocolate bomb" caught my eye, and I guessed that it would have been similar to the one I had at Bob Bob Ricard a few years ago, so I decided to try it to see what it was. It was very similar to that, but it was filled with caramel ice cream, chocolate popping candy, and Devon cream toffee sauce (which was what was poured over the chocolate shell to melt it). It was delicious and just the right amount of ice cream/toffee/chocolate without being too rich.

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After we finished, we headed back onto the streets of Cardiff to look for more snowdog sculptures and look into a couple of shops.

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The Corner House is located at 25 Caroline Street in Cardiff, CG10 1FF. It is open from 10:00am - 11:00pm Monday to Thursday, 10am to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, and 10:00am to 10:30pm on Sundays. Note that the hours for food are at reduced hours as this venue is a pub and restaurant.

The last time I had a Sunday roast was awhile ago. The Sunday roast lunch is a British tradition and consists of a meal of meat with roast vegetables and gravy. I decided to try  a new local venue down the road in Eastcote, northwest London. Aren's Bar & Grill is the name of that venue, located at a pub with the name of "The Woodsman."

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The pub is next to a lot of green land and in the subburbs of London.

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The interior of the restaurant is more like a hotel or nice restaurant instead of the traditional pub decor. The seating and tables are black with silver walls, chandeliers, and an abundance of large mirrors.

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The meal started with a glass of Prosecco.

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Next up with the roasts. I had roast chicken, and the bloke had roast beef. This was accompanied with roast potatoes, carrots, broccoli, califlower cheese, and Yorkshire pudding. The chicken also came with sausage wrapped in bacon and onion and sage stuffing. The meal tasted very nice.

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For desserts, I had a sticky toffee pudding, which tasted delicious. The bloke had vanilla ice cream.

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Arens Bar & Grill are located on Joel Street, Eastcote, HA5 2PR. They also serve afternoon tea on Saturdays and are open for lunch and dinner as well as a special Sunday lunch.

At some point in the mid-1990s, I went to the annual Coshocton County Fair in Coshocton, Ohio, USA and I took my SLR camera. (I did often carry a camera around with me when I went places, and I was studing new settings with the camera and wanted to experiment with the long exposure settings.) The Coshocton County Fair is one of the last county fairs in the state of Ohio for the season, and it's always held around the beginning of October each year. I would visit the neighbouring Muskingum County Fair and the Coshocton County Fair every year. I would enjoy visiting the exhibition halls and the animal barns, riding on the different rides, and eating as much of my favourite fair food as I could.

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The fair is a place to see collections of items, artwork, photographs, and awards for best cakes/pies/jams/quilts and best fruit and vegetable. The neighbouring fair at Muskingum County is on earlier in the summer (normally in early August), and the end of the season brings about the more harvest-oriented awards that are in season at that time. Large pumpkins and squash are always on show at Coshocton's fair. However, the barns and halls with these items are often a bit dark inside and a bit less interesting (noting that the 1990s was before the ability to take unlimited photographs), so I don't have any photographs of those.

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I wish I could read the signs and prices a little clearer.

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Funnel cakes and elephant ears are amongst the highlights of fair food. Funnel cakes are a batter (similar to waffle batter), which is drizzled on top of a vat of grease that is deep frying. The drizzle is kept around a circular pattern to form a shape, which is then golden-brown and then removed and sprinkled with powdered sugar and served up on a paper plate. Elephant ears taste a bit like a doughnut; they are flat and large like an elephant ear shape (obviously, they also fit on a paper plate, so they are not too large). They are drenched in cinnamon-sugar. 

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Other favourite fair foods include onion rings (made with slices of onion) and shaken lemonade. I was never really fond of cotton candy (candy floss), and I find candy and toffee apples to be too messy and mushy inside.

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The food stands are located throughout the fair grounds, and other stands contain various fair games. I never played any of these as my parents always said they were rigged and are a waste of money.

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Hot dogs and corn dogs and roasted corn on the cob are also fair food items. Corn dogs are hot dogs covered with a shell made of batter and ground up corn. They are eaten on a stick. 

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Those are my memories of the fair, and I have not been to the Coshocton County Fair for over 15 years now. In fact, these photographs may have been my last visit. I would love to visit again, but when I do tend to visit, it has been for the holidays or in the late summer months. I would love to go back next autumn.

East London has been under development extensively for the past several years, but the past three have been especially significant. I have seen the changes coming more rapidly with recent visits to east London markets and areas becoming almost unrecognisable with the introduction of small cafes and specialist shops with trendy names and interiors. This leads me to a post on reflection of east London's street art scene (specifically around Shoreditch, Spitalfields, Hackney Road, Hoxton, and Bethnal Green).

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Hackney Road contained a few street art walls. Some of these disappeared with the introduction of a hotel and flats four years ago. Until sometime in the last three months, we still had a popular bit on the corner near Hoxton station where there was an empty space for cars to park, some older buildings and walls, and a garage. The whole block of this area of Hackney Road was covered with beautiful pieces of street art that (at one point) changed quite often. 

I also met the organisers of the street art on these walls here, a nice chap who was really into street art and friendly with some of the artists. A friend outside London who I was introducing London's street art to and I had a long chat with him.

Now, these walls are gone. The wonderful pieces by Stik, Dreph, Zabou and countless others that were gracing these walls three months ago are now gone. London has lost another street art area. Hackney Road street art scene is virtually no more, save for a tiny blip by Ion Square and Clare Street. 

In their place, a single piece of grafitti remains. It is a rough illustration of a yellow submarine with the words "We all live in a broken cash machine" underneath, a take on the Beatles' song and lyrics in "Yellow Submarine".

Many walls have disappeared to gentrification with the casulatities of some of my favourite street art haunts gone: Blackall Street, Great Eastern Street, parts of Brick Lane, Star Yard, Old Street, and many more.

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