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4 great birthday cake recipes, to make for people who don't like birthday cakes

The Easiest Ever Ice Cream cake by A Beautiful Mess

Happy Sunday-but-really-like-a-Saturday-morning! I hope you are enjoying the long weekend. Mine is being a little laborious at present, as we are attempting to paint our white lounge white, but we're making it up to ourselves with plenty of homemade aperol spritzes in the sun, and takeaways in front of the telly once we've finished for the day.

So anyway, birthday cakes. Most of my friends birthdays seem to congregate around summer, don't ask me, must have been something in the water in the winter months of the late 1980s. Despite my humungous addiction to sugar, I am not the biggest fan of birthday cake. All the butter cream icing and the dense rich cake, it is just too much.

On red lipstick, and finally buying brown mascara

Good morning.

This is a short and sweet post today, as I need to leave bright and early to cheer on my uncle and cousins as they arrive for my uncle's 60th birthday at the pub on a bike. Well bikes. As you do.

Anyhoo, I've decided to make a weird foray into beauty blogging despite the fact that I only ever do my make up on public transport with my phone as a "mirror" (/mediocre reflective surface).

Be a calorie counter. Be a gym bunny.

The sort-of-but-not-really-a-diet diet diary, entry 1:

I have pondered a while over whether I should write a post like this. One about bodies and dress sizes and diets, as a) I don’t think I am really qualified to talk about any of that stuff (having no professional qualifications or experience, or indeed having never even dieted successfully), and also b) cos I don’t know if I want to write a blog about diets. This was meant to be a fun place for pictures of expensive candles, reviews of cool restaurants who specialised in mac and cheese, my life milestones reimagined in Beyonce GIFs. Nonetheless here I am and I have decided to write this post, and commit to a couple more in this series, for three reasons:

4 different and surprising nights out in London which aren't all about prosecco

Last week I went to 3 of my friends birthday parties. (I know! What happened 9 months before the beginning of May in the late 80s ey?) A bottomless prosecco brunch (of course), a night out drinking aperol spritzes and dancing in a bar before throwing up into my jacket as my boyfriend snoozed beside me in an uber (of course), and finally a Time Run (what's that you say, I'll get to it).

Now for an honest confession more shocking than me writing on the internet how I was sick in the back of a taxi: Out of all of them, for some reason I was possibly least excited about the Time Run. The tickets were £30, and that didn't include bottomless prosecco, it was on a Thursday night (though you can go any time) and basically it just wasn't what I was used to. It was out of my comfort zone.

I live in one of the most exciting and enthralling cities in the world (lucky so and so), a city whose name is printed on t-shirts alongside Tokyo, Paris, New York, a city I pay an arm and a leg to live in (less lucky) and yet so often I end up letting my hair down in the way everyone across the UK lets their hair down - going to a pub and drinking prosecco. Now going to a pub and drinking prosecco with friends is always going to be my staple, but I want to be better at branching out once in a while, and getting out of my London rut.

When I started Loner. Lover. Friend, I wrote a post where I compared London life to having a really expensive gym membership - one with all the add ons - free towels, a steam room, someone who irons your shirts (yes there are some city gyms that do that!) And like having one of those expensive gym memberships, there is no point having it if a) you don't use it at all or b) you do use it but you just go on the treadmill, you bring your own towel, you never get anyone to iron your shirts. My point is, why the flip do I pay so much to live in a city if all I am doing is going to the pub on a Friday night? (Which also is probably more crowded and less pretty than a lot of pubs all over the country. And it routinely costs £5-£6 for a pint.) I need to take my own medicine and start using London's steam rooms and getting it to iron my shirt.

Now that might be going to an amazing restaurant, trotting down to a cat village or going to the theatre. Or it could be a weird combination of all 3 of those things, like in my little list below. (Without the cats actually, sorry for getting yours hopes up there). A lot of these nights out are pretty top secret, and don't let you take pictures, so I am afraid we'll just have to stick with Cate Blanchett's face summing up all my emotions about my time there:

1. Time run 

So worth every penny in that £30, even though they didn't include even a single glass of prosecco with the ticket price. Say whaaat. Without giving too much away, Time Run was this amazing experience where in our little group of 6 (it is for groups of 3-6) we went through different time portals, finding ourselves in rooms full of clues and things to do. Basically like Crystal Maze but maybe better, and less pressured without all the mula to win. I am now looking for my next Time Run-esq thing to do, and am tempted by this one - Clue Quest, which looks pretty similar. Maybe I will just become a clue fanatic and travel the world doing all the different quests, and be in the guinness book of records for my quick clue solving times. Maybe not, but definitely am planning on taking Will and my family to one soon.

2. The Gingerline

Gingerline is sort of the original "pop up restaurant in a secret location" which is now what approx. 47% of London restaurants now are. When I headed down there for their Chamber of Flavours, it was weird and wonderful on a whole new level. It is the sort of night that is so bizarre it is tricky to talk about without sounding like you are making it up. At work the next day, colleague: how are you today Vicky, did you get up to anything last night? me: I went to this place nearby with a couple of my friends, where after getting in a coffin and being pushed through a flap, we ate our starter in a treehouse and picked it from the trees, drank cocktails in an adult sized ball pit, had dessert on a flight simulator with a drag queen air hostess, before taking a huge slide back into the bar area for some drinks. What did you do?

3. The Lost Lectures

Enchanting talks in enchanting places. I've been to a couple of Lost Lecture talks now, which are all about taking learning out of musty old lecture theatres, putting them somewhere fun, and getting a few interesting people who are experts in everything from jelly to global inequality to take it in turn to talk for 20 mins. A ticket to them makes a great present for people who like to learn (like Dads) and you come away having laughed, got all emotional and having learnt some really cool stuff. One thing that really sticks with me is learning about a parasite which may affect what the infected are afraid of. For example when mice have it, it makes them weirdly attracted to cat urine, rather than afraid of it (cos cat pee = cat nearby, not so good for mice) and they end up getting eaten, and then passing that parasite on to the cat. Weirder still, 40-50% of humans in the world are infected.

4. Immersive theatre

The first time I went to an immersive theatre experience, it was at Battersea Arts Centre, and my friend Lucy and I went to support our friend Liz, who was volunteering for the event. I got in a wardrobe, knocked on the back as I had been instructed, and then crawled through an opening into a tunnel lined with clothes before coming out the other end where there was a woman in her underwear who insisted that I dress her, and then she accessorised me. Later I got kidnapped in the back of a van, and some youths rapped at me. It was nice. And again, great water cooler conversation. That was a few years ago, and ever since Liz, Lucy and I find ourselves keeping an eye out for theatre we get to play a part in, as it is just so weird and funny. We've been to a great one by the National Theatre, and I am keen to go Punch Drunk which I've heard really good things about, and are meant to be the bees knees of immersive theatre.

PS. A crazy cool thing to do in London that is partly about all the booze. 

Copyrights: Cate Blanchett via pinterest

9 nice things: April and May

So I've tweaked the format of 9 nice things slightly, as

a) doing it once a month when I am only publishing weekly meant this blog was sort of just becoming a list of nick nacks under £20 I bought at anthropologie and

b) I thought as the whole point of 9 nice things was to take a moment and appreciate the little things in life, it would be perhaps even more mentally healthy if I was get all excited about the lovely month to come, as well as reminiscing about the lovely month I just had. Feel like this will be especially important and necessary in say January. But May, May, beautiful May probably doesn't need me to sit down and put something on the internet for me to get all riled up about its arrival. It is the beginning of summer, and after such a not only rainy but hail-y April I am super ready to greet its lovely sunshine face. Please do have a sunshine face, yes May.

So basically, from now on 9 nice things will be happening every other month, and cover nice things coming up, as well as nice things that have happened.

9 nice things in April

3 materialistic but lovely things:

The red off the shoulder tassle dress pictured above (£14.99 H&M, only available in store now) which I cannot wait for it to be warm enough to wear, so I can float around South London carrying as many food babies as I like, still looking cute and classy thanks to its volumous floaty fabric.

You may have noticed me waffleing on about waffles multiple times in the last few posts, that is thanks to this waffle maker (£27.95 amazon) which means Sunday mornings no longer mean filling the house with smoke as I attempt to cook a pancake, but standing back and drinking jasmine tea, as the waffle maker does its work. Plus, you can make waffles relatively healthy - swap wholemeal flour, add seeds, add fruit, I am practically Deliciously Ella right?

Despite the fact that I spend approx. 25 minutes standing on the tube commuting, I am still feeling calm and getting through loads of big books thanks to a subscription to audible (£7.99 per month, audible). Has revolutionised my rush hour!

3 wonderful blog posts

I've recently discovered Hello I'm Flawed a hilarious anti yet pro blog, blog. Yep, I don't know what that sentence means either. Just read it, ok? Caroline hasn't been active on it since March 2015 but I am hoping now she's moved on from editor for Cup of Jo, she'll be back, as I am running out of reading all her old stuff.

Lemon curd and chia seed pudding. *insert drooling, whilst still feeling dignified and healthy emoticon here*

This DIY chevron bench looks impossibly professional and I am desperate to give it a go. One step up from my Beautiful Mess adapted copper pipe console table though no?

3 things money can't buy

Ok, so actually it takes quite a lot of money to buy an expensive gym membership but the point is exercise can be free, so I am not too much of a fraud harking on about gym memberships under the "money can't buy section". This month every working day bar 2, I've hit the new gym I joined, and I feel so good for it. I've done a couple of more challenging workouts, but really it has just been so nice to start my weeks with a Monday morning yoga class, and use my lunch hour going for a swim (and a 3 minute steam)! Has got me totally addicted to exercise again - I think you always think exercise will be horrible (and tbh I don't find it super easy at the time, my yoga teacher had to ask me to try to look serene last week) but you get such a good feeling afterwards. I reckon as long as I ride that good feeling all the way to my next workout, I'll never stop!

Getting up early - I am fully on a 6:15am - 10:15pm day in the week now, and even though I feel like a grandma when I slip out of drinks at 9:30, or make a bed time tea at 8 some days, it is making me feel like I have so much more time in the day!

So I looked all over the internet to try and find that bird, sounds almost like an owl but also like a pigeon who makes that sound on summer evenings? I have no idea who they are, but oh my they are out and about and chirping away and it is just making me so excited for long summer evenings lounging about in the garden. (Plus another excellent thing is in my search attempts I found this website. What a relaxing playlist for a party and/or doing some yoga no? Right now, I am typing this to the harmonious chirp of a "Rustic Bunting" )

And 9 great things to look forward to in May:

Bare legs - hello that entire section of my wardrobe

Not one but two long bank holiday weekends

Longer evenings, maybe even going to bed when it is still light!! (I know, I am so cool).

Al fresco eating and drinking - bbqs! Also, does anyone know where I can get a copy of Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal's bbq recipe book, Grillenhaal? Sure I didn't dream it, I am not that witty asleep or awake

The smell of cut grass (cutting the grass, less fun)

International museum day - museums across the UK are open late with lots of special events on to celebrate International Museum Day on 18th May. Last year, Will and I went to an excellent and creepy free talk at the Old Operating Theatre. Check out Culture24 for what is going on where.

I am saving up to buy this dream dress from & other stories as my May present to me

I'm also looking forward to a day trip to Manchester to visit my pal Sally, I plan to hit those Northern Quarter vintage shops hard.

It is my one of my uncle's 60th birthdays the end of May, and I am so looking forward to a massive family get together, and party-ing with some peeps who observe my 10pm bedtime...

I don't think you're ready for this waffle.

PS. Why 9?

Bottom left photo of Chia seed and lemon curd, from Port and Fin. Bottom right of chevron bench from the Jungalow.