Mandy Charlton - Photographer,Writer,Blogger

Photographer of Families, Small People and Delightful Places, Travel and Lifestyle Writer and Blogger, Lives in Newcastle, Loves the North, Often Accompanied By A Beagle Named Holly Bobbins

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Sparkly Creative Lady Seeks Mr Absolutely Lovely

Mandy Charlton, writer, blogger, photographer is looking for love

In the midst of my chaotic crazy upside down life I've had some random thoughts about dating which, well you never know, they might just work.

So, what if, you, yes all of you, what if you knew someone who was looking to date someone like me?

Now I have just come back home from an event where I was talking to Chloe and Kate and I sounded this idea out with them just to make sure I wasn't being ludicrous and the way I see it, doing what I am about to do on my blog is no riskier than Plenty of Fish or, so here, live on my blog is what I have written on my current dating profile.

"I've had 2 years on my own, a great opportunity to think about what I actually want (and what I don't want).

Here's what I'd love to find in a man aged 36-44, preferably slim or athletic with hair (think David Tennant or Ewan Mcgregor for my perfect men types)  - 

A strong, hot, funny, smart man who loves animals, travel, cake, vodka, cuddles and spending time with my friends and me at what we like to call "youth club".  Must love Sci-Fi, Superheroes, and Christmas. 

Here's what I can offer in return - 

A smart, intelligent, funny, quirky lady with a lot of love for people and animals as well as cake, vodka, travel, cuddles, musicals, sci-fi, superheroes and Doctor Who, who'll chat quite happily until the wee small hours and who's pretty good at a pub quiz thanks to having a brain full of random facts.

Obviously, as a decent human being, I can compromise on most things, not sure about the cake or musicals, though, they're standard features of most days of my life.

I am mostly accompanied by a Beagle! 

I'm not very good at short answers and text speak is the ultimate turn off".

And this is where I hand things over to you, if you know of someone male who matches that description and they're single and looking,  tell them about me, the weird lady who just put her dating profile on her blog, they're going to have to learn to cherish the eccentric/crazy me anyway so it's best they know about it from the start  and they're going to have to be ok with me writing about them,  you can tell them though that I'll protect their identity like a superhero and I never intentionally say bad things about people, well unless they truly deserve it!

So that's me and that's what I'm looking for, It may be that no one ever gets in touch but like most things in life, it's better to put it out there rather than live a life of fear or one that you let pass by and slip through your fingers, I know my soulmate is out there and I don't want to madly search because sometimes if you look too hard you miss what's right in front of your face and so Mr. Absolutely Lovely, it's up to you now, you need to come and find me, get in touch and let's have coffee and a dog walk and if you're lucky I might just bake you a cake.

Hannah Spannah

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The end of an adorable chapter...

For every person who reads the articles I write, I am truly thankful, for everyone who messages me or comments or contacts me on social media, I am even more thankful, I was talking on a Facebook thread about Mr. Adorable the other day and  Amy said "I think there are 30,000 people who all want you guys to have a 3rd date" (sorry for paraphrasing lovely Amy, I would go and look for the original thread but I fear I'd get lost on the way).

So, it happened!! (OMG, OMG, OMG) Yes, he came for dinner and met my teenagers, this is no mean feat, I mean we're pretty proud to be not exactly what you would term as normal (although Abigail describes herself as the normal one) so I can't think how intimidating it must have been for him.  It's always tricky meeting the children of the person you are dating and I'd spoken to the girls to tell them that if they didn't like him I wouldn't see him again because my kids, my beautiful teenagers are the reason I live and I never want anyone to come between us.

And unfortunately, that is where our story ends, I believe that he will always be adorable but he won't be my adorable, he really truly pulled the wool over all our eyes, or I should say all except Looby who did say that she wasn't enamoured but dog, cats, teenagers, friends, well we just never saw it coming and in the end that "there's just no spark for me" was very much unexpected.  Another conversation ends and that is the sad part although I have no regrets and I wouldn't change the way I approach situations, in my whole life I've strived not to become someone who shut themselves away from potential relationships because if you do that, you may close yourself off to something potentially wonderful.

I don't bear any grudges but I do wonder why he went to the trouble of getting to know me over 6 weeks and then meeting my kids who I swore I wouldn't introduce to anyone until I knew in the way that you know and I really thought I knew, maybe it was wishful thinking?

Kelly rushed around with wine and hugs, Harriet called from New York to make sure I was ok, Laura counselled me over messenger, Darren was on hand with hilarious Snapchats,  I adore my friends, I would be lost without them, as I've said before, they are my "Framily" and I am so lucky to have them.

I've said this before, I am eccentric, I am not going to be for everyone, my body is wrecked from childbirth, c-sections, and a hysterectomy, my face is weird and growing lines and wrinkles, I also like cake too much which sticks to my hips and I'm the wrong side of 40!

But, I am successful, smart, erudite, funny,  I am quirky, I am the most loving humanitarian who embraces her friends, their kids and their animals and any other creatures with her whole heart, I am extraordinary and different and one day I'm going to meet someone who is going to be the Yin to my Yang, the Tom to my Miranda, the Benedick to my Beatrice...

For now, though I have many adventures to plan, I've just found out that I'm off to Singapore on a press trip at the beginning of December, a brave new world and the furthest I'll ever have travelled so far in my life, I cannot wait to share the millions of photos I'll no doubt take and I'll hopefully make you feel like you're on the journey with me, we can go embrace new cultures together.

If I thought I would spend the rest of my life alone I could probably deal with it as long as I knew I would always have friends, I do have to believe there's someone out there for me though, someone who won't mind the crazy and more than that, someone who will wholeheartedly embrace it.  I need to take some time now to figure out my head, maybe I just wasn't ready and that made me vulnerable so that I missed the signs and signals or maybe there are things you can't change in your heart and mind no matter how much you would like to.

We will remain friends, I have no doubt and for that I'm grateful, he was a gentle reintroduction to the menfolk of the new millenium and the truth is that human relationships are complicated and it's not easy to find your soul mate or your other half, truly Plato was right when he said we spend our whole lives just trying to find the other half of us but sometimes, just sometimes, I wish it was so much easier...

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Grind At No.28 - Best Burgers in Newcastle

The West Coast Classic Burger, The Grind at No.28, Newcastle upon Tyne

One of the best things about my job is getting to enjoy lovely evenings with great food and lots of Prosecco which is, of course, one of my favourite things.

When I received an invitation to go back to one of my favourite bars in Newcastle, No.28 for the official launch of The Grind at No.28 I didn't take too long to accept!

The Grind are a burger company born in Newcastle, they launched earlier in the year and now frequent the Quayside market every Sunday with their reasonably priced amazing burger selection. The Grind have been so successful that they're now residents at No.28 until January so you need to get down there to sample the offerings.

On Friday a packed house tucked into their hearty West Coast Classic whilst the veggies feasted on the Southern Fried Paneer, something I'm going to go back and try out and I'm definitely not a vegetarian.

To describe the West Coast Classic is to describe the best burger you've ever had, it's the equivalent of a sunny day in the park as a child, or the perfect night at home with the best people, it's an experience which ignites the taste buds and sets them on fire with the amazing steak patties, the oozing melted cheese, a secret sauce and some home made relish,  add to that,  fries cooked in beef dripping and you have yourself a taste sensation you will never forget.

To taste the burger is to feel the love that has gone into the creation of this burger company, it's faster than restaurant food, it's tastier than Five Guys et al and it's priced so reasonably you could even have 2, if you could manage it.

It's the perfect quick lunch or after work snack and should you want to add a cocktail or two, a glass of something sparkly of just a good beer and you've got yourself a huge hit on your hands.

If this residency goes well,  and it will go well, you never know what might happen in January.  To me No.28 is the perfect bar in Newcastle, it's a place you fit in no matter what age or social circles you move it, it's chilled out, whilst still being bustling and it's the kind of place you can pop in for a casual drink and lunch or the first, second or last stop of your awesome night out with the girls, it's totally appropriate for a date and I would be the last to complain about going for a date which featured burgers and alcoholic beverages.


Saturday, October 22, 2016

10 things I've learned about myself in the last 2 years

In the last couple of years the entire shape of my life has changed, personally and even professionally to a point, even though I'd been blogging for 8 years in the last 2 I've doubled my readership and now as long as I write every day I'm pretty happy that around 30,000 people every month pop back to read my daily updates.

Last night I was talking to another lovely blogger, Laura from Elle Blonde, she very excitedly told me how she loves to read my daily updates, she's on the lookout for news of Mr Adorable, and in a story that's become better than Bridget Jones, she really wants us to get it together, well lovely Laura, me too although I don't think we're any closer  to achieving that now than we were about a month ago, I did say I would rather wait 6 months for another date with him than to go on lots of random dates with distinctly unadorable men so by my thinking, there are around 5 months before I just give up on the idea completely!  Seriously, though, how hard can it be to find an evening where we can both just sit on the sofa together and watch a movie and maybe have some dinner?  Well the answer to that is impossibly hard!

Anyway, i've digressed again, my point was that in the last 2 years I've learned more about myself than I had in the last 10 years, maybe I changed a little along the way but I'm fairly sure the person I am now is the person I will be for the rest of my life, so being much closer to my true personality than I have for around 10 years here are some facts I thought I would share about myself.

  1.  I am eccentric, I've always known this but I think as I've grown into myself I'm much happier to just accept it and go with it.
  2. The worst condition I ever suffer from is loneliness, I'm someone who thrives and flourishes when I am not on my own, I have learned to quite enjoy my own company from time to time but it's daily conversations and spending time with friends and my fabulous children which essentially keeps me sane.
  3. I'm pretty high functioning, inspiring and wildly creative on a good day.
  4. On a bad day, I just want to hide under a blanket and make the world go away, on a really bad day I can't even string a sentence together.
  5. I am happiest when I am in a relationship because I'm someone who loves to have a best friend or partner in crime to bounce off and share things with.
  6. I rarely get mad, cross or cranky, I'm actually much more likely to be sad and disappointed.
  7. I am messy, unorganized and scatterbrained.
  8.  I am emotionally connected and heart lead but still pretty good at business.
  9.  I love to sing, I always have but in the last couple of months I've found myself singing more than usual, probably because I've welcomed music back into my life, when I get stressed I stop singing!
  10.  I am still healing, every day it gets a little better and I feel I'm safe and ready to have a relationship but there are parts of me which were so damaged by the last few years that they're going to take a whole lot of time to be fully healed.

This is the most personal, emotional and honest article I've written for a while, it's really hard to open yourself up and say "hey, this is me, this is what I'm really like" but then I think if you are completely honest and open all of the time then technically it should make it easier for people to accept that you really have no hidden agenda, they can trust what you say is what you really mean.

To experience life and all it's complexities, you truly have to be able to feel and whatever happens now, I intend  to let myself feel ecstasy and pain, to be able to truly laugh and cry openly, the future is equally as exciting as it is terrifying and I just have to hope that I'm going to end up in a relationship with someone who can truly embrace that because when it comes down to it, I have the biggest heart filled with love and adventures just waiting to be captured, treasured, and cherished and I won't stop looking until I find it.

Friday, October 21, 2016

10 songs I'm listening to right now!

I touched on this when I wrote about when the possible is impossible the other day, about how music is so very important to me, it's presence is ubiquitous in my life from the moment I wake up in the morning, until the moment I switch off the noise to sleep at night.

I guess because I spend long periods of time on my own having music is like having a good friend keeping me company and though I essentially have enough music in my iTunes to last for at least a decade there are probably 25 tracks I listen to constantly.

I love piano based music so Ben Folds and Regina Spektor feature heavily alongside many musicals, a lot of Take That and a whole heap of music no one would probably admit to owning, hell I might be too embarrassed to admit to some of it!

So here without further ado are 10 tracks I adore and listen to almost every day. They're in no particular order as like my children I love them all equally!

1.  I Can Do Better Than That - Anna Kendrick, from The Last 5 Years, so this is a movie and musical about a 5 year relationship starring Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan, she tells the story in reverse order whilst he tells the story in the right order, they crossover in 1 song, "The Next 10 Minutes'.  I love this musical so much and this is probably my favourite song, if you want to know why you'll just have to go listen to it!

2. Rock City - Jeremy Jordan, ok so this is an extra track on an album of an off broadway musical called "See Rock City, and other destinations" this is an acapella version and I just love it, so much so that my children now also know it really well and we all have been known to sing along, it's just a happy, happy song and I love listening to as I walk to work in Jesmond Dene etc.

3. Broadway, Here I come - Jeremy Jordan, I loved Smash and was one of the few that was pretty gutted when it ended, it did introduce me to Jeremy Jordan though and I just love his voice and this song, well it describes jumping off a building as an allegory for making it onto Broadway, it was the headline song for Hitlist, one of the musicals within the musical tv show Smash!

4.  Come What May, Ewan Mcgregor and Nicole Kidman I fell in love with Ewan Mcgregor the first time I heard him sing in Moulin Rouge, I think a lot of ladies did, he does have the most amazing voice and Come What May, well it's the only original song in Moulin Rouge and it was originally written for Romeo and Juliet but never used, I didn't listen to this song for a long time after Paul left and sometimes it still catches me unawares and I have a tear or two but there's something special about music which is so emotive it can make you feel so completely overwhelmed.

5.  Zac and Sara - Ben Folds, this was one of the very first tracks I ever heard by Ben Folds and I was lucky to see him perform live a couple of years ago, the man is a genius, the voice, his piano skills, it's some kind of crazy magic when you can create music like him.

6. Us - Regina Spektor, I wasn't sure if I was going to include this because when Paul and I renewed our vows for our 10th wedding anniversary this was one of the songs but I loved this the first time I ever heard it at the start of 500 Days of Summer and I've managed to make it one of my songs rather than an "our song" and that's what you have to do, if a song reminds you of someone you have to be able to redefine it for yourself so that you can continue to listen to it without causing yourself undue pain.

7.  Defying Gravity - Idina Menzel, many years ago, I think it was around 2004 I first heard this song on Elaine Paige on Radio 2 and the moment I heard it I knew I was going to turn my life around, I was just starting to recover from postnatal depression and finally on a mission to sort my life out and this song lead me to where I am today, there's so much passion when Elphaba (and I, I sing this out loud a lot) sings "I'm through accepting limits, cause someone says they're so, some things I cannot change but till I try I'll never know..."  This song still has so much importance in my life, I'd hate to think how many times I've listened to it in the last 10 years.

8.  A Thousand Years, Christina Perri - I have heard this song at tons of weddings and it continues to get me in my heart every single time, I'm the biggest most hopeless romantic, I wear my heart on my sleeve and I guess on my face too, I'm not ashamed to admit that whilst I believe that love is a truly painful state it's also the most ecstasy you will ever feel, I'm going to have that again one day!

9.  Shut Up And Dance - Walk The Moon, I love this song for no other reason than it makes me dance along the street, it's the happiest, bounciest song and it always puts me in the best mood, we should all have songs in our music collection like this!

10. Happy Now - Take That, I had to include something by Take That and although this might not be the most obvious choice, I love the chorus, it's a bit a weird old song but that happy bouncy chorus in the middle always helps me achieve a smiley happy state and that's what life is about, don't you think?

So there you go, 10 tracks of my years, tracks I listen to every day and hopefully there's something in there that you've not heard of that I've helped you discover, something that might make you feel happy or whimsical or determined, I'd love to hear your suggestions for other songs I might add to my list of happy music.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Fro- Yeo Bars, a healthy tasty yoghurt bar recipe for little ones

When I have friends over for dinner at my open house Mondays I always invite people to bring their partners or their little ones but with diverse ages and dietary requirements when you have people from 10 months to 40+ years in attendance it can be a bit of a tricky proposition to keep them all happy.

Then there's the ongoing challenge of the fact that it's in the evening so the older kids who come have been at school all day and they want to eat the second they come through the door even though dinner isn't until seven because the big people who work in offices don't finish until later.

I think I might have a small solution to part of the problem, well at least for the kids.

Yeo Valley got in touch and asked if I could come up with a suitable healthy but tasty treat for the kids using some of their Yeo Valley Little Yeos, they come from a range of yoghurts made especially for children and so I used the slightly larger Little Yeo's limited edition Yoghurts as the recipe might have been slightly more of a challenge with the tiny pots.

Here without further ado is my easy recipe for Fro-Yeo Bars, a healthy tasty frozen yoghurt bar which can either be broken up and popped in a bowl or if you are little like baby Carter they're just as easy to hold in your hands, (maybe with a little help from mum)

Fro-Yeo Bars

8 pots of Little Yeo's Limited Edition Yoghurts
1 pack of assorted dried fruits (and nuts if the little ones are an appropriate age) I used cranberries and blueberries
1 sheet of non-stick baking paper
1 foil tray

Line the foil tray with baking paper and then decant all 8 pots into the tray and spread evenly before sprinkling on the fruits, place in the freezer overnight and voila, that's it, easy peasy!!

These are the perfect snack to keep in the freezer and now when friends call around with their little ones I've always got something I can offer them at short notice, Carter loved them and being 10 months old he definitely knows what he likes and what he doesn't, my lovely children who refused to be photographed also loved them and at 13 and 14 that's not a bad thing, they are a little messy when they start to defrost but hey, that's all part of the fun, when was the last time you had yourself a little messy eating fun!!  Oh and I also tried them and I'm 42, if you can please family and friends who range from 10 months to 42 then that's not a bad thing at all!

This is a sponsored campaign in association with Yeo Valley.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

When The Possible Is Impossible

2 penguins walking together through life at Edinburgh zoo, a post about the impossible

Sometimes, no matter how much you want something in your life there just seems to be no feasible way to make it actually happen and no matter how much you want that something or someone there are always going to be situations beyond your control.  You know in Love Actually, the relationship between Laura Linney and the hot office assistant, the one that is impossible?  It's kind of like that, sometimes the extraneous social circumstances get in the way.

Being 42 and mostly single sucks, I mean it really sucks, it kind of hurts in my heart every day and it's always there like a dull pain that never goes away.  When I was married, I gave out my whole heart, when Paul finally left he gave me my heart back, albeit slightly battered, bruised and a little incomplete.  One of the worst parts of separating in any kind of relationship is that you essentially also lose your best friend and companion, someone you've spoken with each and every single day for more than a quarter of your life is suddenly gone, the conversation is abruptly ended and only the noise of cold hard silence remains.

In the 2 years after he left there were many days of absolute silence in my life, there was a period I couldn't even listen to music because it felt too loud,  but slowly friendships replaced the void and the world became more gentle again, about 6 months ago I started to listen to music again, it doesn't matter whether I'm walking to a photo shoot, travelling on the bus or train or sitting working at my desk I am constantly accompanied by music, a little like a constant companion I guess, I adore music though others may judge me as having dreadful taste, my current theme tune (if I was to be accompanied by one) would be "I can do better than that" sung by Anna Kendrick in The Last 5 Years.

So recently as you all probably know, a little noise returned into my life with an ongoing conversation with a somewhat adorable man, I think we saw each other maybe twice in that first couple of weeks but we've had an ongoing conversation pretty much every single day since.  It's lovely and I feel like we're becoming great friends, I also feel like we could have rocked each other's world's as we're so completely opposite to each other, we do seem to agree on our love of Superheroes though but that is possibly the only thing.  

I've always been someone who made things happen, someone who would go out and get the things she wanted, it comes from being a strong independent forthright kind of woman, I know that life doesn't wait, you have to go out and grab the things you want by the neck (Mr Adorable, if you are reading this, don't worry sweetie, I'm not about to come and grab you by the neck) but in this situation it's just not a possibility and I'm left constantly thinking that there's something potentially fabulous which is perpetually just out of reach.

So what do I do?   The constant dilemma has been at the very forefront of my mind for the last week and the only solution is just to carry on with life, count myself lucky that I've found a new friend and if fate wants us to bump into each other or even go on another real life date then I'll have to trust that fate will indeed intervene.  If it doesn't, well then it wasn't meant to be in the first place and that's ok because Mr Adorable, you know what?  You will always be the first man in a very long time who I wasn't scared to talk to, someone I've become myself with, it's a shame that I didn't get to make you laugh more in real life and it's a shame there are so many obsticles but life is just like that sometimes, Now I should say that I'm not going anywhere but I can't guarantee I'll always be free or available, the ball is very much in the court of the Universe!!

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