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I have not written too much about my visit to Scotland in late November because I've been too busy since then to get organised enough to go through my photographs and post about my experiences. However, I will tell you all a little gem of a place that I discovered when I visited Scotland: Bad Girl Bakery. Bad Girl Bakery sells baked goods (cupcakes, cookies, bread, cakes, and everything in between, hot drinks, lunch, and breakfast). The bakery is located in the village of Muir of Ord, a tiny village/settlement located near Inverness. According to the bakery's Facebook page, they specialise in cakes and cupcakes.


I actually made two stops here. On the first stop, I bought a cupcake and hot chocolate, and both were delicious. The cupcake was a vanilla one, and it was perfect.



On my second visit, I stopped for brunch. We were on our way back south to England, and I got French Toast to take away. This came with bacon, maple syrup, and banana slices. I love French Toast, and it's a treat that isn't common here in England.


Bad Girl Bakery is approximately a 25 minute drive from Inverness, so do visit if you plan to visit Inverness or Loch Ness (or passing through that part of the Highlands). Their address is: Forbes Buildings, Great North Road, IV6 7TP Muir Of Ord, Highlands, United Kingdom. Their hours are 8:00am to 5:00pm during the week, 9:00am to 5:00pm on Saturdays and 10:00am to 4:00pm on Sundays. However, check out their Facebook page for updates:

London Street Food 'Wheelcake Island'

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One of the best facts about London is that you can get almost anything from another part of the world. Wheelcakes are a Taiwanese street food. Essentially, they are pancakes sandwiched together with a creamy filling. Co-founders Felix Tse and Yi-Ting Lin set up the street food business "Wheelcake Island" at the beginning of last year, and they often set up in KERB Camden street food market and Brick Lane market. I got the chance to try a wheelcake recently when I visited Brick Lane. 


"Wheelcake Islands" have four flavours to choose from: a traditional red bean, classic vanilla custard, matcha custard, and chocolate with vanilla custard. I tried the chocolate with vanilla cream, and it was delicious, although it was a little messy ozzing with chocolate and vanilla custard. I can see why these are popular.


I arrived just as the last ones were sold with visitors purchasing a few each, so I had to wait about twenty minutes for a new batch to be made. First, two rows of the tins were filled with batter then pushed with a wooden spoon to remove any air. After a couple of minutes, the fillings were placed on the top.


While they baked, more batter was added to the other two sides of the tins to create the other half of the sandwich. Toppings were placed on the tops for the custard-chocolate blends, but the remaining ones were left to cook. Once they were ready, they were 'cut' and lifted out to be pressed on top of their matching half.


While they continued to bake the half that was added later, each flavour was pressed with a different design.


The wheelcake tasted delicious and oozed with flavour. I wished that I had bought two.

"Wheelcake Island" is located at Brick Lane during the week and (at least part of the time) on Saturdays. It is located at KERB Camden on Wednesdays.

I visited the Geffrye Museum before Christmas in order to see their special 'Christmas Past' display, and my visit today was to partake in the Twelfth Night fun and the farewell party. The museum is located in a former almeshouse and depicts how people lived in London in the past. It shows the most popular family room (known in the past as living room, lounge, great hall, reception room, or parlour) in the house and describes items of furniture and how people lived. At Christmas, visiting the museum is extra special because the rooms are decorated for Christmas as they would have been in the age of the room on display. Christmas is actually a fairly recent celebration. Although it was observed in the past and most-likely adopted by Christains from pre-Christain or pagan rituals, it was not on the scale that we celebrate it today. In fact, Twelfth Night and Ephiphany were the popular celebration days.


Twelfth Night is celebrated twelve days after Christmas. This would fall on the 5th of January with Epiphany taking place on the sixth of January. The word "epiphany" means "manifestation" in Greek; essentially, this is when the three wise men went to present gifts to baby Jesus. 

In the past and on the Twelfth Night in England, the wassail was sung to help the orchards and apple trees, and this would date back to pre-Christain times in the aid of the Holly Man or Green Man and the designated queen/king of the party. (I've covered a little bit about this topic in my Borough Market Apple Day post.) A yule log was also left burning until this day to protect the home.


Epiphany was also a day to play games, sing, and to prank people. It was a day of entertainment and parties. People drank spiced drinks with ginger or cinnamon and ate Twelfth Cake, which is similar to Christmas cake (a dried fruitcake and marzipan icing). Inside the cake would be a baked-in bean and a pea, and sometimes other items were included. The finder of the bean became king, and the finder of the pea became queen. This probably was a tribute to the wassail events. It was also customary that these parts were not gender-specific, so a female could be a king and a male a queen. A Twelfth Tart was also a dessert created to mimic stained-glass.


When I arrived, a band was playing Christmas songs, and a fire was lit in front of the museum. I also saw a large queue/line to purchase a slice of Twelfth Cake and mulled wine and for children to participate in a "lucky dip" to be queen or king for the night. I saw a smaller queue/line for the museum itself, but as I had just been three weeks ago, I did not need to return.


Upon having a quick browse, I went back to the band when it was eventually joined by a man in costume who told us about the Twelfth Night and historical information. He also explained that the Geffrye Museum would be closed for two years as they had received the funding of roughly 18 million pounds in order to renovate the displays, add more displays, add a new entrance from Hoxton station, and open up an almeshouse for tours. So, if you wish to visit before it closes for two years, today is the last day.


In between Christmas carols (such as "Good King Wenceslas", "The Twelve Days of Christmas", and "We Three Kings"), we were told more history of the songs and customs of the past. The king(s) and queen were also crowned and given a garland to wear.


After nearly the last carol, I escaped the crowd. By now, the fire was warm and surrounded by a small crowd.


For those who wish to join in the Farewell Party for the Geffrye Museum, the party goes on all day today until 5:00pm. Events will still take place on thr grounds throughout the year, and apparently, there may be a few tours of the almeshouses before the work is finished. Are any of my readers regular visitors to the museum, and will you miss visiting it when it's closed for two years?

Christmas Past at Geffrye Museum

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Geffrye Museum, located in Hoxton in east London, is a former almshouse for poor pensioners. The almshouse was saved from being demolished and transformed into a museum of the home. Inside the museum, several of the rooms have been transformed into different period rooms to show how the middle classes lived. Each Christmas, the museum decorates the rooms for the holidays and keeps each room's Christmas design true for each time. Information panels also describe how Christmas was celebrated at each time.


The former almshouse that is now the Geffrye Museum is built with an internal courtyard, and others followed the same pattern.



The first room is a replica of 1630, and the communal living area was called the "hall", and this is where people would speak, conduct business, and entertain themselves. The room was covered with oak panelling. Friends would have a Christmas meal.


Next was a "parlour" from 1695, and it was located on the first floor of a town house with the three windows overlooking the street. These types of homes were common after the Great Fire of London in 1666. The parlours were more private for families and guests to have meals. Christmas would have consisted of song and dance with snacks and a trip to the church in the evening. Christmas was low key and banned for a few years from 1644, although some did celebrate it privately.


In the below photograph, the "parlour" dates from 1745. It was a formal room for everyone to be polite to each other, and there were set standards of behaviour in this room. In these years, people had friends over in the Christmas season (between Christmas and New Year), and they often went to church and gave to charity.


In 1790, the "parlour" furnishment and decoration changed quite a lot. Rooms were brighter and used lighter colours with delicate decorative detail. Patterned wallpaper was used, and people enjoyed the classics. Christmas was not celebrated quite as much during this time when compared with 150 years previously when large meals would be enjoyed and the poorer would be treated to a meal by the landlords.


The "drawing room" in 1830 was the centre of the home for entertaining and also became a woman's area with matching decor and smaller pieces of furniture that could be moved around easily. The room was known as the "withdrawing room" as a place to go to after eating a meal. At Chrtistmas, games similar to charades would be played here on "Twelfth Night", and a special pudding like a Christmas cake would be enjoyed. The cake would contain an item that donated a special title for the night to the finder.


The 1870 "drawing room" was a large change, and more people would be commuting instead of living and working in the same building. The decor and furnishings looked more "busy", and gas lighting was introduced. At this time, Christmas came to be more similar to what we celebrate today. Previously, the decor was minimal. In this room, we see the introduction of the Christmas tree, a tradition that Prince Albert brought from Germany. Gifts were given to children, and families would attend the church services. On the piano, sheet Christmas music is displayed. The Christmas tree would have been lit with candles.



The "drawing room" from the 1890 time was a complete change brought about in the 1870s, adopted by people who wanted an artistic style. The rooms were very stylised and detailed.


The "drawing room" of 1910 features a room in a suburb of London in a semi-detached home. At this time, electric was in use. The cottage-style homes had hallways, fireplaces, and lower ceilings. In this time, the rooms were used regularly by families and were less formal. The terms "living room" and "sitting room" started to take over. Christmas is a bigger deal at this time, and the Christmas stocking had been adopted as  a place to put gifts for children.


In 1935, the "living room" is a modernist design with horizontal lines and simple shapes, and the room here represents a flat. Entertaining for Christmas is important and design is with an artificial Christmas tree and paper lanterns and chains.  


In 1965, the "living room" is of a flat and has its own heating system and space for a television to be the focal point in the house instead of the fireplace. Walls were kept clean for the colour to be used in furnishings. Scandinavian design inspired the style, and the coffee table was used.


The last room is a 1998 loft-style apartment living room area. At this time, commercial buildings and warehouses were converted into flats and lofts. Furnishings and design is sparse, and the result of these style of homes is open plan.


That concludes the tour of the rooms in the Geffyre Museum, which I found interesting to see how people lived. There's a lot more in the museum that I did not cover or post photographs of.


Geffyre Museum will actually be shut for renovation work from January 7, 2018. It will be shut for two years, so do visit before then or go to their closing party, which will also be their "Twelfth Night" event.

Krispy Kreme Doughnut Range at Selfridges

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Selfridges now has a Krispy Kreme doughnut kiosk in their food hall. Heated glazed doughnuts can be purchased as well as the standard Krispy Kreme doughnut offerings that you can find in shops and their stores. In addition, the special Selfridges Krispy Kreme kiosk are selling limited edition doughnuts, including their Selfridges doughnut for chocolate lovers; it is filled with chocolate.



Another offering is the Magic Unicorn doughnut, which I did buy. It is topped and filled with vanilla cream and comes in pink or blue. It is delicous.


There is also a salted caramel one and a fruity one on offer in Selfridges. At the moment, their Christmas ones are also on offer. I'm not sure how long they will operate the Krispy Kreme from Selfridges.

Going to see a Christmas concert is one way to get into the Christmas spirit after a busy couple of weeks of traveling and a busy year. Last Thursday, I took my parents to the Royal Albert Hall to see the BT Christmas Concert and to have a pre-concert meal at Elgar Bar and Grill, which is located inside the Albert Hall. I had been looking forward to the Christmas concert for awhile. I absolutely love Christmas music. The classic Christmas music is my favourite, and I love the hits by greats like Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, Perry Como, Mel Torme, Ferrante & Teicher, and so many others.


Elgar Bar and Grill serves up a selection of grilled meats and vegetarian options. It is decorated with photographs of famous singers who performed at the Albert Hall and also contains a piano in the room, but this was not being played. There are a few restaurants in and around the Albert Hall, but I picked this one because it had a good menu and food that we could all agree on. I ordered the James Brown-inspired cocktail (Soul Power) from the menu. We had roast beef, sirloin steak, and chicken. Chips and mashed potato were ordered, and the chicken came with puree carrots and crispy kale. 


For dessert, we had banoffee ice cream, creme brulee, and sticky toffee pudding. The food was delicious. I would visit this restaurant again the next time I visit the Royal Albert Hall.


After the meal, we headed into the Royal Albert Hall, which was decorated for the festive season.


The concert had a good mixture of music performed by the Laura Tebbutt, London Community Gospel Choir, the Tiffin Boys' Choir, Nadim Naaman (currently performing in 'Phantom of the Opera'), Laura Wright, the London choir and orchestra, and the Royal Marines drummers. Many traditional Christmas songs were sung/played. Clare Balding and Chris Hollins hosted the evening with some really cheesey Christmas-themed jokes. I loved the Royal Marines coming in to drum their Christmas beat in complete synchornisation, and I loved the vocalists and orchestra. The night ended with a fantastic firework display with confetti falling to the floor. 


It was a great night, but I would have preferred less audience participation (carols and carol singing), although I believe that the choice of hosting and anticipation from previous years did make it a bit more of an informal event. I would have loved to have heard the orchestra play more songs on their own or be able to enjoy listening to the singing from my seat instead of being forced to sing and subjected to the noises made by the groups of women who had had a little too much. As this was a hosted event, I would have preferred a little more facts about the music being played or coming up instead of the cheesey Christmas jokes used as fillers. However, I think it was the type of event that best goes down with a few drinks before and during the show.

Where to See London's Christmas Lights 2017

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It's now the time of year that London is all dressed up and ready for Christmas and the holiday season, so I have written my annual post with photographs of London looking festive in Christmas lights. This is an annual tradition that I have been documenting for the past several years, and you can find previous lights from previous years at the end of this post.


Oxford Street: This year, Oxford Street has decorated with their round gold and silver bauble decorations along with panels of Christmas cards. The Christmas lights are sponsored by NSPCC children's charity, which was also the charity for Oxford Street's Christmas lights last year.



Regent Street: This year, Regent Street are displaying the beautiful angel Christmas lights that they released in 2015. These are beautiful to look at.


Covent Garden: This year, the giant chrome reindeer returned to the plaza after several months of renovation work at Covent Garden. The reindeer and Lego creation are missing this year; the Lego may be missing due to the first full year of the new Lego store around the corner in Leicester Square. The giant Christmas tree and mistletoe decorations returned again, and this year there were several flowers and carts and crates decorated around the plaza in a throwback to the fruit and vegetable market heritage. There are also large wreaths above some of the entrances.







Of course, looking at the Christmas lights is hard work, and I helped myself to a hot chocolate from Hotel Chocolat in Covent Garden. They had two different festive flavours to choose from, topped with a chocolate snowflake and cream.


Leicester Square: Leicester Square has its own Christmas Market and performance tent for the second year in a row. It has star lights hanging from the trees, and the walls on the outside display children's drawings. The design matches last year. The road from here to Piccadilly Circus features the large snowflake design, which they have used for the past few years.


Seven Dials: Seven Dials have changed their Christmas lights for the second year in a row. This year, their lights feature heart shapes with greenery and wrapped red and white gifts with 'Seven Dials' signage featuring a heart with a lamb inside.


Carnaby Street: Each year, Carnaby Street create a different theme. This year's theme was Christmas Carnival. I already covered these lights in my post here: Carnaby Christmas Carnival.


Mayfair: The blue arch lights and the diamonds and peacock feather lights are the same as they have been the past several years. The shops also decorate in this area (and around west London).



St. Christopher's Place: The little alleyway off Oxford Street not far from Selfridges often has unique Christmas lights. This year, they have changed and gone for white lights featuring a statue similar to the one on their entrance and giant white orbs.


The Strand: The Strand started to decorate a few years ago; I never noticed any particular decorations before. They use the same blue lights that they have done previously.


Winter Wonderland Hyde Park: Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland gets larger every year, and it has taken up far more space this year, and it looks as though they have attempted to make the rows larger for the crowds and to dot the food, drink, and Christmas market around the area instead of in one place only. This is welcome as the crowds there were too large previously. There are also more attractions inside the area to help disperse the crowds. I've posted it here because it's Christmasy, and they do have lights and other decorations. It's worth a stop for some mulled wine on a cold night or to meet with friends.





Previous London Christmas lights are below:

At the end of November, I took my parents to see the circus and acrobatics show 'La Soiree' during their visit to London. I had never been before, but I had heard raving reviews about the show when it was on South Bank a couple of years ago. It seems that the winter festivals at South Bank have disappeared and perhaps moved north of the river now. However, I wanted to visit it. Of course, it wasn't quite the same show. The acts were different, but because the show had done so well the past couple of years, they had the chance to return their acts to the theatre this time.


Now, this is the type of show you really need to drink alcohol during and make an evening out of it with pre-theatre (and ideally post-theatre drinks). We didn't. I didn't know exactly what the acts were, and it was a bit risque for not having had anything to drink. There are bars on site, but I don't drink too often anyway, plus I was with my parents who do not drink. Of course, we are still talking about the show about a week later. I did speak to the bloke who told me about the show, and the acts were vastly different and more risque than he'd experienced. They also have a version of the acts for children during the day. This play is on quite late, starting at 8:00 in the evening, which probably accounts for people getting out of work and getting at least three pints in before the show. Of course, you will want to have post-theatre drinks as well because you may wish to forget some of the shenannigans that went on in the theatre.

At the end of last month, my parents and I went to the American steak restaurant, Smith & Wollensky, in London. This restaurant is one of several across the United States of America, and the first one opened 40 years ago in New York City. Now, there are several located in the states, and their international branch is in London. Despite knowing of their branch in Easton (Columbus), Ohio, I had never eaten here before. I will just go ahead and say that I wish I knew about this place sooner as the food was delicious, and I could not fault any thing about it.


First of all, the restaurant is located just off the Strand and on John Adam Street, located on the fringe of the theatre district with several theatres a short walk away. They do have a pre-theatre menu for people who do wish to take advantage of this.


The interior is designed like an American restaurant with dark wood panel, glass, and mirrors.


I ordered a wine, and then we put our orders of mains and food in.


My father had the steak and peppercorn sauce, which he said was very nice. As this is known for being a steak restaurant, it would have failed if the signature dish was not good. 


We ordered sides of mash potato, truffled mac 'n' cheese, and vegetables (which included spinach/kale, peas, and green beans). 



My mother and I both ordered the chicken, which came with a gravy.


We somehow left room for dessert and decided to share the chocolate cake between us. We did not know exactly how large this dessert would be until the waiter brought the huge giant slab of chocolate cake over to us with a knife and a chocolate cow biscuit. This was served with delicious Irish Cream slightly-whipped cream with a little fruit on the side. We had a jug of this cream to eat with the cake. We actually ended up taking home a third of the cake as it was just too much to eat.



Overall, this was a great meal and one of the best that I have had this year. I am looking forward to my next visit.

Prosecco Advent Calendar 2017

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Good afternoon, readers! I cannot believe that this year has gone so quickly, and it is already the time for advent calendars to be opened. This year, I purchased a Prosecco Advent Calendar to help me celebrate the countdown to Christmas. For those who have bought or been given one of these and do not want the daily surprise to be spoiled, do not read further. Actually, I have opened these up but have put them in the fridge with the intention of having them after the day, though there are a few duplicates to save for another day too.


First of all, I loved the packaging of this box and the nice designs for each 'window'.


And now, on to what is behind each window:


Day One: Gancia Prosecco Dry (11.5%, Italy). This is described as being a fresh, dry, and aromatic drink.


Day Two: Bottega Rose Gold (11.5%, Italy). The design of the bottle in its metallic pink colour looks impressive. The prosecco is described as being aromatic with a berry scent. The grapes are hand-picked and squashed gently. which makes the prosecco have a light pink shade.


Day Three: Freixenet Cordon Rosado Seco Cava (12%, Spain). Another pink drink, this cava is fruity and described as being a perfect summer or picnic drink.


Day 4: Bolla Prosecco Extra Dry (11%, Italy). This prosecco is described as being refreshing and dry with hints of pear and apple and an acidity finish.


Day Five: Jacob's Creek Sparkling Chardonnay/Pinor Noir (11.5%, Australia). This is a sparkling wine with citrus notes.


Day Six: Da Luca Prosecco (11%, Italy). This prosecco is described as having a soft and sweet taste.


Day Seven: Gancia Pinot Pinot Rose (11.5%, Italy). Another pink prosecco, this is described as a sparkling wine and has a floral and fruity raspberry/cherry taste.


Day Eight: Anna Codorniu Blanc De Blancs Brut Cava (11.5%, Spain). This is a sparkling white wine made with Chardonnay grapes and is described as having a citrus flavour.


Day Nine: See Day Two.


Day Ten: Jacob's Creek Sparkling Rose (11.5%, Australia). This sparkling rose wine is described as having a hint of delicate berry flavours.


Day Eleven: Freixenet Cordon Negro Cava (11.5%, Spain). This cava is a crisp, light and dry drink with fruity flavours (melon and peach).


Day Twelve: Galanti Prosecco Extra Dry (10.5%, Italy). This sparkling white wine is described as having fruity notes with a soft fizz.


Day 13: See Day 4.


Day 14: See Day 7.


Day 15. See Day 1


Day 16: See Day Two.

Day 17: See Day Eight.


Day 18: See Day Five.

Day 19: See Day Three.


Day Twenty: See Day 6

Day Twenty-one: See Day 10.


Day 22: See Day 11.

Day 23: See Day 12.


Day Twenty-four: Laurent Perrier Champagne (12%, France). This is the only champagne in the calendar and is a citrus/honeysuckle flavour. It's a common champagne and an easy-going one.


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