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A recipe for sausage stuffed pumpkins...and a mid Autumn dinner party menu

I do not know how all the fancy bloggers and instagrammers manage to throw a pretty and delicious dinner party without all their guests getting hangry about posing for photos and not tucking in, but it was not on the cards for me on Friday night. Actually, I do know, 1) they can probably persuade their friends to pipe down one sec when it is their actual income (rather than this teeny tiny side hustle this blog is for me) and 2) they probably are less full of malbec at their dinner party photo taking time than I was, and therefore can feign greater commitment to the blogging cause.

Anyway, I am sorry but the only evidence you have of my (I think rather great) tea light, copper fairy light and jam jars of dahlias Autumn "tablescape",plus that I roasted some squash and pumpkins stuffed with sausagemeat , sage and cheese is the slightly dark photo above, which arguably is mainly of plates. So you will just have to take my word that these squash looked delicious and tasted delicious and therefore you should make them and serve them too. (Maybe for Thanksgiving if you are serving this stateside? Or just any day and every day if you are from this side of the pond cos Autumn so pumpkins so).

#QUEENSONTOUR in Cinque Terre - 7 dos and donts to make your trip boss

Can I pull off boss? Or indeed a hashtag in the non ironic sense? Never mind.

Recently, I uncharacteristically booked a holiday a whole year in advance. Normally I just go wherever the bargain Ryan Air flights take me, but I had some air miles and I fancied visiting the insta-porn which is Santorini so next September, off I go!

Talking of insta-porn, in case anyone wants to be equally organised and book a holiday for October next year, or even April/May I can recommend Cinque Terre, a collection of beautiful little coastal towns, about 45 minutes from Pisa.

Cinque Terre I like to think of as the poor man's Amalfi coast, and I mean that as a massive compliment as a poorer Amalfi coast is still a lot richer than me. And some restaurants in Cinque Terre sell prosecco for like 13 euros a bottle which I am pretty sure nowhere in Amalfi does...

Cinque Terre translated from Italian means "5 lands". "Lands" I think is a little bit of a stretch, more quaint colourful villages built up the coast side, which at night make the whole coast line looked like it is covered in lanterns and fairylights. It is uber romantic, but I really liked visiting with my gals, who I felt indulged my swoons at the views and relentless instagramming more than Will anyway. ;)

Pumpkin spiced waffles

Hi. I hope you are all feeling more sprightly today than I do. Apparently, now I am 29, drinking 3/4 of a bottle of wine and 1 cocktail when out for dinner is enough alcohol to make the next day feel like there is a goblin in my head scratching his nails on a blackboard before taking a break to bulldoze into my grey matter.

Yesterday morning, when I was living my best life hangover free making pumpkin pie waffles in my pjs whilst listening to my favourite spotify playlist (which is a wonderful mix of Frank Sinatra and Justin Bieber), feels like a far away dream. But it did happen. These waffles did happen, as these blog friendly photos of me pouring maple syrup over bacon and them prove. Hmm bacon. Do you know what goes well with bacon. Pumpkin. Whether that pumpkin is stuffed with bacon and cheese and roasted (YUM) or pureed and popped in waffles, pumpkin and bacon is a dream team, so you should make these waffles y'all.

Copper pipe leaning ladder DIY

It will never cease to amaze and excite me, and disappoint and concern Will, the homewares you can diy with simple plumbing copper pipes.

You feel all practical and fancy because you are working with metal and drop terms like "copper pipe cutter" but really working with copper pipes is probably most akin to working with lego, so it suits me fine, and I have been gradually filling mine and Will's home with little copper pipe accessories. But Will does actually like this one! Or so he says.

I've been hankering after a decorative leaning ladder for a little while ago, as that is the kind of relatively useless but pinterest friendly home pieces I am into, being the basic bitch I am. Every visit to one of the antiques and junk shops round the corner I've kept an eye out, I've looked on ebay a dozen times, but how do you post a leaning ladder? The alternative, driving home in our two seater car with a ladder sticking out the window seems a little risky. But then exactly like an apple falling on the head of Isaac Newton it hit me - copper freakin pipes. Rose gold coloured, easily cut-able, easy to stick together copper pipes. One of my proudest creations is copper pipe based (I made this table from the tutorial on A Beautiful Mess) and this project is easier still.

9 nice things and 3 slightly bad things | September and October

Happy Sunday gang! Hope you are having a lovely one. I've been to Birmingham this weekend, and now I am using Will being out of the house dropping his niece at uni as an excuse to buy things for my next homeware DIY attempt he would not approve of. Mwahaha. Enough of the cackling, 9 lovely and 3 mildly bad things from September:

Tuscan style bangers and mash

So a disclaimer: when I say "tuscan style" this isn't actually a recipe passed to me by a homely Italian woman, or something I enjoyed in a little trattoria in the countryside outside Pisa and have tried to replicate.

When I say Tuscan style what I mean is I cooked something I envisage a homely Italian woman might, if she too had left over sausages from her Sunday fry up, bags of tomatoes left over from her birthday pizza party, limited cooking skills and only enough energy after a Monday at work to do about 3 mins and 42 seconds worth of food prep.

Stop me buying all 25 of these excellent winter coats

But maybe allow me to buy one? Ok three. Everyone needs three good winter coats, we all know that.

In my defence too, I've been wearing an asos pale blue cocoon coat (shown in this November 2014 post) I bought from a market for £30 in 2013 as my main winter bae ever since, so it is not like I buy hundreds of pounds of coats every year. But daily journeys on the tube, too many times left crumpled in the corner of some booth in a bar, regular walks in the rain without an umbrella and countless burrito related accidents means no amount of dry cleaning or (discouraged on the label) time in the washing machine can get out the greyish tinge it has gathered over the years.

My original planned post for today was going to be something around ice lollies and alcohol, but Autumn feels really here this September no? Coat season is upon us, ice lolly season is mainly behind us, and I am looking for a coat like my pale blue one: something with a dash of stand out, something I can wear with jeans and a jumper, with work clothes (which tbh are often jeans and a jumper, but are sometimes smarter) and occasionally even a cocktail dress.

So which one? Aaah all the great choices (and I didn't even include all the bloomin great kimonos out there this season, because they don't really count right, so I won't be including them in my self imposed coat ration.) So kimonos and dressy jackets aside, I think one fur, one wool, and one parka/trench is probably fair...

Styling my unused fireplace

...And when I say unused fireplace, I really mean chimney breast.

When I smooshed up this joint (and when I say joint I mean blog) in January, I created a place to write about smooshing up my other joint (my flat) too, because tbh it is where a lot of my financial, emotional and mental resource goes. So here, 9 months and 9 days after the page was first created, welcome to my first "design" post.

Eventually I am hoping to fill this area full of Ikea hacks, DIYs and obviously tours of my cool friend's houses (cos interior decor meets nosiness are the best blog posts ever), but for now a wall of mirrors, sort of.

30 before 30

As I sit typing this Des'ree Life (oooh life) has just come on BBC radio 2 and I can feel in my shimmying shoulders that this post could get a little heavy. I mean heavy in a "what a time to be alive!" way - not heavy in a "I am so anxious I am gonna cry" way, but still, deeper than a post about how much I love pasta.

Shortly after I turned 21, just after I had graduated university in the midst of a recession and had no clue what to do with my life now I was off the education conveyor belt, I made a list of things I wanted to do before I reached the not so ripe or old age of 25. And not to boast gang, but I did loads of things. 

I ran a bloody marathon, literally. The London marathon (when I had never run anything ever before). I backpacked alone through Vietnam, Cambodia and India. I stayed at an Ashram and at least on the days when I was not held captive in my room by crazed monkeys on my balcony, I went to sunrise morning and meditation classes where an actual yogi with a long black beard and white harem pants attempted to push a tube in my nose and take it out my mouth. (That did not work, and was not per say on my list, but going all Eat Pray Love and staying in an Ashram in the Indian Himalayas was).

9 nice things, and 3 slightly bad things | July and August

So I have just got back from a chicken wing festival (!!!) and decided this was as good a time as any to boot up this little baby again.

Well a good time as:

1) I only have 1 more wedding and 1 more hen do this year, so I have time in my weekends to waffle on the internet again now they are not filled with pedal-bussing round London in 30 degree weather (my friend Alice's hen do, mid June), falling in a river (Katherine, last weekend) or being videoed violently pushing a stranger out of my dance space, as I, high on sangria and jaegerbombs leap onto a hay stack as part of my interpretative single ladies dance at Vida festival in Barcelona (Katy, beginning of July). And that is not even mentioning my wedding antics, which were not much more refined despite the evening wear.

2) It is also my birthday in 2 weeks on Wednesday, and this is my prime place to subliminally (or not so subliminally) convince Will to get me a cat. (Ahem). WILL GET ME A CAT. Thanks.

You'll see I am back with an old blogging favourite, a little gratitude list, because it is good for us to count our blessings, don't you know. I try to do these - when I am not taking accidental 3 month blogcations - every other month, looking back at lovely things, looking forward to lovely things etc etc etc. Despite the despondency of that last sentence that is what I will be doing here and I do actually like writing them; how.ev.er: in the interest of making this blog as authentic as possible I wanted to also list some slightly bad, or at least slightly annoying things, as a reminder to me and anyone who reads this, life isn't always instagrammable all the time and that is normal. Like, guys, tbh I'm not always falling in rivers or shoving strangers from my dance space. Sometimes my life is just not that glamorous.

9 nice things | March & April

It is tricky typing this post out today, a) because I massively over predicted how much of a spring day it is, and definitely should not be writing this from the garden armed with an iced (what was I thinking) tea and therefore my hands are going numb making it physically hard to type; and b) because I am not feeling so nice, so writing about nice stuff feels fake and silly and makes this emotionally hard to type. See what I did there.

My crazy irrational panic attacks have definitely made me say no to things and stopped me doing stuff. Sometimes, this can be the right thing to do. Sometimes if I say yes to too much, and rush around too much, all the attempts to be in 2 places at once and not enough time catching up on life admin/sleep/ just doing nothing can mean that too much cortisol (the stress hormone, not as I first thought, a mouthwash brand) pumping around me makes me more likely to feel jittery, and make me more likely to have a panic attack. One of the first things I was told to do when I first started getting help was to just do less. Learn to say no, and put less pressure on myself.

However, sometimes I say no to things because I am scared. Because they take me out of my comfort zone, and make me afraid of being afraid. I always like to tell myself when I say no to something, when I opt out of something that could be fun that it is the former reason and not this one. That I say no because I am looking after myself, I am making my anxiety better, not giving into it and making it worse. Well this weekend I struck out, and there is no way I could argue it was because of the former reason, it was hook line and sinker just me being scared of what might happen in my own head. And I missed out and I let people down and meeurgh.

TV-less Tuesdays

Guys, I have almost formed a new good habit, and so thought I would boast about it around the internet.

For the past 3 months, most weeks on one day (normally a Tuesday) I stay home in the evening but...don't watch TV!

Maybe for some people, this is not that impressive, as they don't love TV like I do. Note however, the reason TV-less days normally occurs on Tuesdays is I am choosing a day I would normally be in. The goal is not to avoid TV one night a week, I mean I know how to spend a weeknight drinking with friends; the goal is to head home from work on time, get home at 6:30 and be in my flat and avoid the TV until bedtime some 4 hours later. See trickier than you first figured. Also add to this that I really love TV, and just fyi not the cool kind. I have never even seen Narcos or the Wire or Entourage. I like shows like Gilmore Girls, Ally McBeal, Pretty Little Liars (guiltily) and when I am feeling really nostalgic, Charmed. I still have the TV taste of an adolscent teenage girl in my 28 year old body.

As much as I love TV however, I worry that it is my procastination monkey's best friend, and whole evenings go by when all I had to do was water the gosh damn plants and call the bank and now it is past my bedtime and I have done neither of those things but I have somehow rewatched for the 3rd time,  40% of season 2 of Parks and Recreation.

Padella inspired spicy sausage, mascarpone and parsley pasta

Lols that the week following my PS where I promised I was back on the "I'll start posting every Sunday again" wagon, I only went and didn't post on a Sunday. My excuse was going to be that I am horrifically jet lagged following my trip to New Orleans, Miami and central America and I am still on Eastern standard time, but if I am on Eastern standard time it would just mean I am posting this only 43 hours late, rather than 48 so, yeah...

Anyhoo here is a "recipe" (I use that word loosely, as this thing is so damn easy to make you can do it even when you have just basically stumbled off a plane and into your kitchen, and are mainly only looking for a vehicle to transport parmesan cheese into your mouth). It was inspired by a bangin' (yes I said that) meal I devoured in Padella in Borough. The queues are long, but the fettucine is all the a-ok hand emoticons. Top tip, go on a rainy Monday at 5 to get a table and it will be the only time you don't have to wait in line.

All alone in Sydney - 9 excellent things to do by yourself there

Gang, when you read this I WILL BE ON HOLIDAY.

Yessssssss, wooop, wahey. Will get me a cat. (Just trying to get some subliminal messaging in for my boyfriend in case he reads my blog. If you are not my boyfriend you can ignore the last 3 sentences).

Anyway, all this excitement for holidays has made me reminisce for some lovely holidays of the past, and I thought now might be a good time to post about my trip to Sydney as you know, it is hot in Australia right now and it is not hot here in England, so we should all go there.

Happy Galentine's day! A pink and red brunch menu

(Which is also pretty much dairy free if you are into it).

Reader, today I am sick. Yesterday in Leslie Knope style I threw a Galentine's brunch (although unfortunately lacking gifts of handmade mosaics of my friends faces a la Knope). Turns out, if you have what I would call a moderate cold, don't feed it all the pink alcoholic drinks and all the pink, red and beige food which whilst being delicious are not nutritious. But if you are not fighting a cold, and fancy a little Valentines - nay Galentines - themed get together with your pals, then take a peek at this little set up:

6 ways I found the time to meditate every day* in January

* Well almost every day... in the spirit of making this blog as honest a place as anywhere where I display highly edited pictures of my recently tidied living room can be - I did miss 1 day in the first week, before I'd really set myself this challenge. But reader, some days I actually meditated, wait for it... 2 times, one day 3 times! So I think that makes up for the one hiccup.

I can't even count the number of times I have attempted to meditate every day. Examples: When I first signed up for the headspace app. When I found out I could get a 30 session free trial for a friend if I just kept it up for 10 straight days. When my panic attacks took a turn for the extra crazy, and I did completely fruit loop things like come close to physically stalking my boyfriend to check he was alive (he was), diving behind a van to stop him seeing me, and declared to myself no more of these stupid thoughts ruining stuff. But yet, I've never kept it up, I've always felt that just like with my money, with my time I live a little outside my means. I want more of it than I have to spend, but probably because I flitter it away on things which aren't really that valuable to me. But despite these bad time (and money) habits, I managed to find a little head space every day in January. How?

9 nice things | January and February

Sort of weird to sit here writing about some nice things I bought in January, whilst some crazy bloke with a pretty small political mandate is doing some pretty crazy things. 27% of the eligible US voters chose President Trump (a little more than 27% chose Hillary Clinton) so why he thinks he can, by himself, without any approval from congress or the senate do something that so undermines the tolerance, freedom and immigration that the US was built on, blows my mind. Seems like a good way to get yourself impeached to me. I also think it is seems bizarre he chalks this up to being part of the war on terrorism - not just because the countries he's picked has nothing to do with the 9/11 hijackers - but mainly because this seems to be exactly what terrorists want. To divide us, to disrupt our lives and to make us believe they are what Islam is. But anyway, in this time when the stench of all this crazy crap is going on in some ways it can seem silly, but I think it is just as important as ever to stop and smell the roses. So without further adieu some little roses for a Sunday afternoon:

Introducing the Neighbourhood Supper Club

At my birthday barbecue in August, I was chatting to my old school friend Louise and her partner Tom about my new local Italian - Trattoria Raffaele. (New as in I am a relatively new local, Trattoria Raffaele has been around since 2008.)  It is just a teeny tiny 30-40 seater, mains £8-£15 Italian, but for a couple of weeks in 2016 it was Trip Advisor's number 1 restaurant out of all the 18,000 restaurants in London. (At the time of writing this, it is number 110, which still puts it in almost the top 0.5% of London restaurants).

Now I am not saying I would necessarily head there if I had the choice between dining in there and one of London's Michelin star, champagne soaked spots, but sometimes (especially if I just wanted to wear jeans and a jumper) I might, and it is certainly the perfect cosy Friday night dinner. If you're ever in South East London, it is definitely worth booking a table and heading down Sydenham Hill for. Order something from the specials, and smile at the waiters, who if you are lucky will feed you wine whilst you wait for your table to be set.

Tom and Louise were keen to check Trattoria Raffaele out, and spoke highly of a Turkish around the corner from them in Stoke Newington, and so, the Neighbourhood Supper Club was conceived! With all of us living across London, we thought it would be a sweet idea to visit each other's local favourites. There are 11 of us in my school friendship group still living in the London area, plus our partners, so we have plenty of locals to get through, before we are even on the second round. (I think I already have Joanna's in Crystal Palace eyed up for the next time everyone heads south of the river).

Peppermint and white hot chocolate

Taking some time to read and write blogs has made my life a little better in countless ways: it has given me the courage to make outlandish homeware decisions like buying a teal velvet upholstered bed. It has reintroduced me to the relaxing world of Lush bath bombs. It has given me a reflective, creative outlet, and introduced me to a community of thoughtful, intelligent and artistic people. And, possibly most importantly, it has led me to be the type of person who makes their own hot chocolate. Come this time of year, the supermarket aisle with the tea and coffee is stacked with all the brands and all the flavours of easy peasy just add boiling water or milk hot chocolate. So who (but maybe chefs, and chocolatiers) would forgo those aisles full of easy peasy hot chocolate to grate, and heat and simmer? Lifestyle bloggers that is who.

The best hot chocolate I've ever had was in Angelina's in Paris, where I think they just basically melt bars of chocolate and serve it in a tea cup. They give you a jug of double whipped cream to help you take away the richness. Now that is the type of hot chocolate I am talking about, one so sweet and rich that double cream waters it down. None of this add boiling water supermarket stuff.

Not being a Parisian patisserie chef I don't have the Angelina recipe (though I would suggest melting a bar of dairy milk would get you quite close) but I love this recipe from Smitten Kitchen which is still rich and intense and delicious, but is maybe a little more drinkable day to day. Every year I make Smitten Kitchen's mix to include (along side some of my own blood and sweat and tears) in Christmas hampers for my friends and family, but this year I am getting in early with a little bit of experimenting. Christmas 2017 will be a real hot chocolate treat. I've swapped a little bit of the dark rich chocolate with some sweet white chocolate, but counteracted that with some peppermint to freshen it up. The result is deliciousness, in my opinion.

7 free apps to help make 2017 your best year yet

If your New Year's Resolution was to spend less time as a screen zombie, gawping at your phone, this post is not for you. If you ideally would have liked to make a New Year's resolution to spend less time as a phone screen zombie, but decided that was all too much too soon, then this is the post for you, because this post will turn you from walking dead phone addict to a walking catwalker...(?) Ok, so I couldn't actually finish that with a nice punchline but you get the gist -

Imagine if your phone, rather than a place to lose hours scrolling through the instagram accounts of people who go on holiday more than you, actually made you happier, healthier, more productive? I don't know why I am saying this as if its a revelation, I mean we've all heard of my fitness pal. (If no, where have you been and scroll down to number fourth app mentioned below.)

But basically the premise of this post is, phones can be amazing little goal encouragers. They are with you and your eyes are clasped to them almost all the time, so they are the perfect thing to encourage you to meditate or read a poem or not eat a second slice of that red velvet cheesecake.

Happy New Year! Happy New Look!

Welcome to 2017! I hope whoever is reading this feels fresh and fabulous to face the new year and new start! But hey, if  no, everyone knows you get the 1st January off from your New Year resolutions.

My Grandpa boyfriend (not actually a Grandpa) got his turn to choose what we were doing for NYE, so instead of partying on a beach in the Philippines (my choice, last year) we stayed in just the 2 of us, ordered chinese, opened 2 bottles of champagne and played Monopoly. And actually, it was really nice and even nicer, I feel like a human being today! I have all this 1st January bounce, that has been sapped by alcohol ever since I had my first hangover. I might actually go for a run. Probably won't, but I may do.


Extra mysterious with the mug on my mug

Ok, first things first. I lied in my bio on the home page, the hip hop album thing is all a ruse to get you to this page. If you were thinking “Oh someone who not only puts thoroughly edited close ups they’ve taken of their coffees and candles on the internet but also raps. Now that is a new type of blogger” then you are wrong. I am afraid I am not, the album doesn’t exist, woopsy daisy and sorry. However, if you think Loner Lover Friend sounds like a hip hop album, that could be because it is only one word different from R. Kelly’s 1993 hit “Homie Lover Friend”.

And no, I am not some huge R. Kelly fan - though who doesn’t lose their **** a little bit when they hear “now, um, usually I don’t do this but uh, go head’ on and break em off with a little preview of the remix…” after a pina colada or two? This isn’t an R. Kelly fan site (though it is accidentally morphing into a Beyonce and/or scented candles one), and really Homie Lover Friend has nothing to do with me or this blog (though close friends and family may argue I sound like the girl described in the song, what with my “sexy gangsta way”). That is now my second lie, I absolutely have never been described like that.

I started Loner Lover Friend to try and get better at enjoying my own company, as it is not my strong suit being all by myself. In the interest of making this space as authentic as any heavily filtered corner of the internet can be, the main reason I don't like my own company is because when it is not distracted by other people (and to be honest sometimes even when it is) my brain turns against me, and fills itself with horrible thoughts, and I have a panic attack. Not surprisingly, brainstorming the 3462 different ways my loved ones might have been hurt or killed at that very moment can do that to a girl.

 But I know being happy in my own company is the root of being better company for everyone else. A better friend, daughter, sister, girlfriend, you name it. (Loner Lover Friend Daughter Sister Cousin Granddaughter Niece Colleague was already taken on blogspot sadly).

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said “we must be our own before we can be anothers”. (And yes, I have just quoted Emerson and R. Kelly pretty much back to back.)

Over 2 (on and off) years into reading and writing blogs, I am not sure whether I am that much better at spending a Saturday alone, but I definitely have my own thing, a hobby that is all mine - this little space.

I have a lot of love for the blogging world - yes there is a lot of standing on tables to take flat lays of your (now cold) food, you spend an unreasonable amount of your disposable income on flowers, Jo Malone everything and picturesque cups of tea, and yeah it is a curated life you are showing to everyone, snippets of reality rather than the whole messy thing.

But I think for me, it also makes me live more purposefully, and appreciate the smallest most beautiful things like a really good hot chocolate or a bright Autumn day. It helps me feel like I’m not just hurtling through life in neutral, barely aware of my choices from my career path to how I spend my Friday night. And I think it makes me more mindful, helps me take moments and appreciate the art of slow living, the every day, life’s little knick knacks. Blogging is about happy things - the big adventures and the small things that make life, well life, and I like that.

It hasn't made my panic attacks disappear, but I like to think it has loosened their clutch on me a little bit. It has given me determination that when I am not having one, I am going to try my darndest to be as content as I can be and experience as many wonderful things as possible (rather than spending my time panicking that I am going to have a panic attack, which is not the best).

On Loner Lover Friend, you’ll find everything from my suggestions for weird and wonderful nights out in my home town of London, to recipes for ice cream sandwiches. Travel guides for 24 hours in New York City, to my experience moving in with my boyfriend, set to GIFs from Beyonce’s visual album. A post goes up every other Sunday, you can follow me if you fancy it by clicking here.

Thank you so much for stopping by!

Some posts I quite like if you are too exhausted after that epic “about me” post to browse (understandable):

Out and about: A silent disco with a view and 43 thoughts you will have there (an oldie, but a goodie, in my opinion)
Miscellaneous thoughts: Going for a run
In and hosting and/or making: 3 ways to brunch with baked ricotta plus I've recently started a sort of  "real dinner parties" series where I break down all the cooking and prepping for feeding and entertaining a small gathering, as I should have done it. Because someone might as well learn from my dinner party mistakes (I certainly don't).

I also have a series, 9 nice things which posts every other month and looks back on the last month at 3 things you can buy, 3 things you can read or watch on the web, and 3 just lovely things to appreciate in the world. It then looks forward at 9 things to see, do, eat and celebrate in the month to come. A little gratitude list of past, present and future. The latest 9 nice things is here.

Plus, that link you have been waiting for from the moment I mentioned R. Kelly, now usually I don't do this but…