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    Thanksgiving in London | Aqua Shard

    According to Wikipedia, Thanksgiving is a federal holiday in the United States, celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November.  This dry description leaves out that it’s the tradition of gathering with your family and friends – and Thanksgiving in London at Aqua Shard was something even more special again. Disclosure – this time we were guests of Aqua Shard but all thoughts are as ever my own.

    Thanksgiving-in-London-Aqua-Shard

    Many years ago when I was a university student in New Zealand, I was adopted by a crew of expat Americans. 

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    11 of my favourite Christmas Traditions [Travel Linkup]

    Every single year there are 11 of my favourite Christmas traditions that I insist we fulfil without fail. And if we can’t, I’ll find a workaround that somehow leverages them in, anyway – here’s looking at you 3-foot high neon green Christmas tree of ’15.

    Expat Christmas Tree Decorations Adventures of a London Kiwi

    London is one of my favourite cities to spend Christmas in. Whether it snows or dawns a clear blue sky there is something magical in cool December days spent under strings of fairy lights. 

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    7 Things I Adore About The Festive Season.

    For me, the festive season kicks off at the end of October. It’s when my birthday is, and signals the beginning of two months of celebrating life.

    There is Thanksgiving, Diwali, Guy Fawkes, Hanukkah, Christmas AND New Year. What can I say, I’m an equal opportunity celebration kinda gal (and are lucky enough to have a diverse range of friends to celebrate with!)

    Everyone is in good spirits, and often full of *hic* spirits, the mince pies are out, fairy lights twinkle from doorways and firework displays fill the night sky.

    1. Friends and Family.
    We all make more of an effort to catch up with one another, to shoot the breeze and celebrate our own cultural traditions.

    2. Mulling all of the things.
    ‘Tis the season to get spicy, fa lalalalala la la la la. I’m not a fan of red wine, so mulled wine isn’t my thing, but mull a cider or hot apple juice, and I am there. Even the smell of mulling drinks makes me smile as I walk past a drinking establishment.

    3. Tasty treats.
    Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, warm challah, clinking glasses of bubbles, sweet potato with marshmallow, roasted potatoes, aromatic mithai, slices of birthday cake, brussels sprouts, and the smoky flavour of fire roasted sausages onna stick.

    4. The music.
    From the haunting refrain of ancient choir sung Christmas carols to upbeat Hindi festival music I’m  there, humming and dancing along (where applicable.)

    5. Cozy clothing.
    Draping soft scarves, sliding into fluffy knitted jumpers and gliding my toes into slippers that will never be seen in public (though occasionally making an appearance on an instagram shoefie) is my kind of happy place.

    6. Bringing a forest item into our lounges & hanging purpose-made breakables from the branches.
    It defies logic, especially when you think about it, but having a Christmas tree is such a lovely thing to have in our homes, that every year we pop one up (fake or real) and relive the memories that we have made via the medium of souvenier decorations.

    7. Traditions.
    From having a cup of tea and opening Christmas presents over Skype with my New Zealand family, to eating Pumpkin Pie with amazing friends I love each and everyone of them.

    If you’re struggling to getting into the festive spirit, I’d highly recommend that you take on my
    English Christmas Scavenger Hunt (12 things of Christmas). That’ll do the trick, even for the most hardened of Scrooges.

    What is your favourite aspect of the festive holidays? 


    An InLinkz Link-up

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    When Friends Become Family: Expat Life

    It doesn’t matter how long I live in the UK, how often I automatically order mushy peas with fish and chips or how British my accent gets, I’ll always be an expat. It affects how I see the world, decisions I make, the way that my life is lived and the wanderlust that infects my soul.

    Deciding to leave behind years of memories, in-jokes and ties so deep that you know what your friends will do before they even do it – is a big decision to make – even if it’s slightly less hard to give up the embarrassing nicknames that you seem to pick up but never really shake off.

    And this can be even just as true when you move to a new city. You have to slowly work at setting up those connections, hoping that the friends you make at that time in your life need a kindred level of companionship and have a similar sense of humour.

    This time of year always gets me thinking about how intense and wonderful expat friendships can become. It makes sense to connect with people in your own tribe; I’d categorise them as slightly mad adventurers with big hearts and wicked senses of humour – it so just happens that like mine, their hearts are often embellished with a variety of flags.

    Also an unusually relevant side note: how on earth can it be my eleventh anniversary of coming to the UK?

    You find yourself starting new traditions. Taking on a love of Thanksgiving (though I’m lucky enough to have been inducted into the cult back in my university days), celebrating Diwali by lobbing paint at friends and inventing new holidays like Sinterthanksgiving (a combination of Thanksgiving for our American friends, Sinterklaus for our Dutch friend and a random bit of Kiwi).

    You find yourself going to Hen parties for people who make you smile on a daily basis over t’internet and you’ll plan holidays around the fact that you’ll manage to catch up with someone who has started a new expat chapter in a new land. And you’ll usually get a local’s tour of an amazing new city and stop for a beverage somewhere delectable.

    These friends make expat life amazing. And they have become my family. We have laughed, we have cried, we have attempted to solve cultural puzzles and we have established new lives in incredible, challenging new places.

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    My Ultimate List of Desserts in London

    We all joke about bloggers having separate dessert stomachs – it’s a necessary job prerequisite – but as I sat here thinking about my next blog post, I realised that a) we didn’t have any dessert in the cupboards without getting my baking tins out,  b) I had a space in the blog calendar and c) I’d never actually thought about which of the London puddings have been my favourite.

    These are the ones that we’ve gone back time and time again for – occasionally popping in late in the evening just for a sweet bite or planning a whole evening around that crowning pastry.

    The best desserts in London Adventures of a London Kiwi

    The most unfortunate side effect of writing this post is the realisation that it doesn’t change the state of my cupboards….

    …and the realisation that I’ve definitely missed a few off this list.

    Chez Kiwi – Fruit Bread French Toast
    Ok, this is tooting my own chef’s horn just a little bit, but this plate of Fruit Bread French Toast was ridiculously delicious drizzled with a vanilla custard. And I’ve never yet been able to successfully reproduce it again. It’s the dessert version of a unicorn. WholeFoods also does a sinful croissant Bread and Butter pudding that verges on ridiculous.

    It is amazing how hypnotic French toast and a coffee whirlpool can be. This isn’t an elegant or subtle #cinemagraph, but I was hungry and getting very sleepy… . . . #brunch #Frenchtoast #coffee #cinemagraphSunday #food #foodie #foodporn #foodtravel #globaltravel #passport #wanderlust #travelinspired #beautifuldestinations #luxurylifestyle #dametraveller #darlingescapes #foodandtravel #lux #Frenchtoast #foodbeast #gastronogram #yesyumr #latte #mytinyatlas #home #delicious

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    The Ritz – Blackcurrent Souffle & Chocolate Mousse
    We adored our pre-Michelin star meal, but a special highlight was the piquant and feather-light blackcurrant souffle with oat crumble and perfectly matched yoghurt ice cream, alongside the most amazing chocolate (Amadei) mousse with cocoa nub and ice cream.

    The best desserts in London Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Hawksmoor – Sticky Toffee Pudding
    Served with clotted cream and a side of guilt. But then you slide the edge of your spoon in and all is forgotten.

    The best desserts in London Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Aqua Kyoto – Fuji Apple
    Heroically (you might want to read the post for context) we all gathered as Paul showed us his (off brunch menu) specially deconstructed a la carte dessert simply called Fuji Apple. An ‘apple’ shell is blown with Isomalt (instead of more usual sugar) and filled with a mixture of apple mousse and apple with nitrous oxide. Accompanying the plate are caramelised apples, meringue and a tart sorbet that I adored enough to swoop seconds.

    The best desserts in London Adventures of a London Kiwi

    The Big Easy – Dressed Up Scoops
    Worth hog-tying a low-down varmit, after brunch at the Big Easy, it was utterly impossible to resist one of the dressed up scoops – a hearty serving of rum and raisin ice cream with a pipette of El Dorado 12 year old Demerara Rum – crowned with a bow-tied gingerbread man that was almost too cute to bite. Almost.

    The best desserts in London Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Dinner by Heston Blumenthal – Tipsy Cake (c.1810)
    Agonizing over what to choose, when my date refused to even share a teeny tidbit of her dessert that takes 40-minutes to prepare, I couldn’t resist doubling her order of the Victorian favourite, Tipsy Cake. A soft, buttery, fluffy just-baked brioche doused in Brandy was the perfect end to our feast (and I’m glad we didn’t split one for the record.) From our table, we could watch the kitchen at work which includes a unique pulley system installed for more than good looks alone, modelled after a version used by the royal court. The pulleys rotate the spit on an open fire, and our Tipsy Cake is served with spit-roasted and sugar syrup basted pineapple that complements the comforting and delicate dessert delightfully. 

    Heston Blumenthal Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park Luxury Gastronomy Dinner Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Beany Green – Banana Bread
    Technically these towers are served as breakfast, but the Beany Green banana bread is rather infamous and needs a sonnet written to it. It. Is. Incredible. The tower of heaven is homemade, grilled, drizzled with honey, topped with fresh berries and sandwiched with pillows of Marscapone. Possibly the embodiment of all the reasons brunch is the best meal of the day – after all once you wander into that sunshine you have at least another 8 hours to walk it off (except when on a birthday meal marathon like this lady and I have been known to partake of on occasion).

    The best desserts in London Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Fischers – Topfenstrudel
    We took more than a little time pouring over the menu, do we go rich, chocolately and unctious or fruity and decadent? Choices, choices. Deferring to our waitress, she recommends the house speciality of Topfenstrudel; a cheese (as in cream, not cheddar) with raisins, lemon and rum between whisper-thin layers of pastry, all served with a light vanilla custard. YUM.

    The best desserts in London Adventures of a London Kiwi

    But my absolute favourites? You can’t buy for all of the tea in China.

    Yes I know the photo is crooked, but I love the perfect imperfection of good friends, special turkey evenings and vegetable-dessert-pie gatherings where Kiwis are adopted into a tribe of American beauties. Love you guys. . . . #LoveLondon #expat #Thanksgiving #Somanyreasonstogivethanks #pumpkinpie #turkey #holidays #festive #happy #love #home #moodofmytable #bestfoodworld #eeeeeats #lovefood #wine #eeeeeats #CheatMeal #onthetable #flatlay #delicious #foodgasm #eatmunchies #foodbeast #gastronogram #everydayluxury #simplethings #pursuepretty #tistheseason

    A post shared by Adventures of a London Kiwi (@londonkiwiemma) on

    What have your favourite London desserts been?


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