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

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Caribbean Food Week 2017



Summer is for BBQ's, it's no secret that I cook outdoors as much as possible from spring through to late autumn or as long as the weather permits really!  Last week as has now become an annual occasion we threw our Caribbean street party BBQ for Looby and her friends and Abigail also came along so that she and her sister could do a Caribbean hot sauce challenge and if you want to see how that went, well why not have a watch?!


If you haven't heard of Caribbean food week, it's this week and there are events in London, the week is organised by Grace foods and it's designed to educate us all in the joys of home cooking.  This year I made my usual Rice and Peas and also some Jerk chicken which was scrumptious!  As is customary we had a tropical fruit salad and copious amounts of coconut water, pineapple juice and some mango and orange juice just for good measure!

For me, Caribbean food week is just a great excuse to have a themed BBQ and get dressed up for the occasion, this year I was so prepared that we even splashed out on Lei's, grass skirts and a 6 foot inflatable palm tree, yes, those of you who know me know that I don't do things by halves!





Pyracantha cat was delighted to also be involved and if you believe that, you'll believe anything!  The great thing I've found about having themed BBQ's and parties at my house is that everyone gets into the spirit, my daughters friends parents must dread the messages sent home as they have to come up with all manner of themed outfits but hey, it's about getting into the mood, having fun and celebrating tropical style!!

This summer in England, well it's not been the best but on Thursday the clouds stayed away and the weather matched our Caribbean theme, ooh and this year, I have Alexa who found me a Caribbean playlist, we truly did live a tropical life even if it was for just one day!







As Caribbean food week is running until the 28th of August you still have time to whip yourself up a Caribbean street party to delight your friends and family and for more information you can see - 

Hashtag #CFW2017


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Friday, August 18, 2017

Twitter made me famous!!!


Holly Bobbins gets in the mood for Caribbean food week, mandy charlton, photographer, blogger, writer

This week has been wonderful, it's a week in which I've taken things a little easier, Looby and I have had a bit of a staycation, we've been to the Baltic, we've been to the beach, to Northumberlandia for a simple picnic and yesterday we had a Caribbean BBQ complete with a giant inflatable palm tree, I have a whole post to write dedicated to our BBQ so look out for that coming soon.

Something else also happened this week, my children thought I was cool for about 30 seconds longer than usual, usually I'm cool for 0 seconds!!  So what brought about this epic event?  Well on Tuesday Twitter finally gave me it's seal of approval in the form of the blue verified tick!!  Yes, just me and approximately 290,000 of my closest friends have the verified by Twitter badge which means we are, in Twitters words, an authentic account of public interest!  Who knew, so many people were interested in my general ramblings about beagles, travel and cats?

If you're not following me on Twitter, why in the heck not?  I usually follow back unless you're completely spamalicious!

You know what's been lovely this week?  deliciously long lies in bed, a couple of mornings I was up and at my desk by half seven however, not because I had to be but just because the morning thought I should be up and awake, not a bad thing when you choose it but I suspect the squawking of my alarm will angrily awake me starting tomorrow, I have another one of those hugely busy periods coming up, full of weddings and portraits, it's the start of the long slide into September when things get stupid busy at weekends, dare I say it but autumn is coming.  I actually published my up to date availability yesterday though some of it has since been taken but if you want to book a mini photo shoot over the next few months, you can check out my weekend availability  and as you'll probably note, yep, I don't have any weekends off now until Christmas!

I am planning on travelling though so don't despair, most of our trips will probably be Tuesday to Friday or Monday to Thursday, we're planning on exploring European destinations we've never visited, all part of Looby's home education out in the big wide world!

I am waiting to get paid for some stuff and then booking my plane tickets to Warsaw, it's been a quiet business week and whilst that's been wonderful for energy and enjoying life, it's not been so healthy for my financial state, August tends to be nearly as bad as January financially as the whole world goes on holiday, including me of course and as everyone knows, when your children call you the "Bank of Mum" life can get pretty expensive!  In their defence they really don't ask for a lot, it's just that life in general is expensive isn't it?  Single parenting is not for the feint of heart as I have said many times before.

Speaking of single parenting, I had a message off a man (whom I'm sure is lovely ordinarily) on Eharmony which rejustified the reason I'm never going to find a date on that website, his photos were highlights from the last 10 years and he asked if he could send me an up to date one giving me his phone number, I politely declined and told him I wasn't interested, I mean who gives out their number to a total stranger on a dating site?  I can only bet if I'd given him mine, the next photo I'd seen would be something naked and I'd be scarred for life!  Eharmony, you are the worst dating site I've ever tried, your days are numbered, well to be honest, all dating sites have been pretty bad so I'm removing myself from them all because quite frankly, I'd rather be single!
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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The day we paid 14 euros for a bottle of water, welcome to the South of France!



Nice at Sunset, south of France, the day we paid 14 euros for water, mandy charlton, photographer blogger, writer


Don't get me wrong, the Côte d'Azur is beautiful, it's almost like heaven with azure turquoise seas which you can't believe haven't just been painted into the scene before you but when it comes to paying around 14 euros for a litre of sparkling water I have to question how likely I am to  consider it as a regular holiday destination!!
Nice, south of France, expensive, French Riviera with a teen, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

Nice, south of France, expensive, French Riviera with a teen, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

When I asked Abigail earlier in the year where she wanted to go for her holiday this year she said "France" it then unfolded that specifically she'd like to go to the French Riviera, I've since come to think that if someone had told her that it was going to be over 25c every single day she may have rethought that idea and gone somewhere less hot being that she hates the heat, in hindsight she probably would have chosen somewhere less hilly being that she also hates walking long distances up steep hills, retrospect is such a wonderful thing isn't it?
Nice, south of France, expensive, French Riviera with a teen, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

On the Monday nearing the end of our first week we hung out at a beach club at Juan de Pins, after paying 40 euros just to lie on a lounger she removed her T-shirt for 10 minutes, let's just say that pale vampiric teens aren't meant for the sun and she still started to burn despite the factor 50, it's no wonder that next year we've booked to go to Norway where it perpetually rains and occasionally reaches 20c.
Nice, south of France, expensive, French Riviera with a teen, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

Nice, south of France, expensive, French Riviera with a teen, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

Apart from the hills which were too big, the sun which was too hot, the costs which were too expensive and the breakfasts which meant she had to grace the dining room by 10am in the morning the sunsets were also too late and this meant I was extra demanding wanting to try and catch the golden hour for photography purposes each day, I caught 3 of them during our weeklong stay and that was only after a considerable period of begging.  Parents of teens, if yours is anything like Abigail, don't go to the south of France for your holidays!
Nice, south of France, expensive, French Riviera with a teen, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

I must say though that despite the 3 hours of not speaking after we had a row and the disagreements which were often we did have times which were as close to wonderful as I've ever imagined, we had a meal down by the harbour in Villefranche sur Mer which was divine, the sun was shining, the food was amazing and for a short while we were best buddies, this was also the day which descended into the 3 hour period of stomping and silence (mostly mine) but hey, when the memories fade I'll always remember that day as the day I finally went to the place where An Affair To Remember was shot.

Abigail and I are vastly different people and because she lives with dad when we spend intense periods of time together we have to learn over and over about how to spend those times together, Abigail is actually one of my favourite people to travel with because she's just so very interested in absorbing all of the culture, she came back disappointed from not having enough French conversations whilst I watched in awe as she navigated her way through southern France whilst I sometimes had no clue what she was talking to the locals about and once or twice they shared jokes about just how bad her mothers French was!

I think it's wrong to expect that every holiday you ever have will be the best holiday ever, it's a lot to live up to and for me, if I'm completely honest, my favourite holiday this year was a bargain break to Mallorca, I'd go back there in an instant, actually I'd go back to Antibes tomorrow if it wasn't so expensive just to live every day, it's no wonder I've been furiously working each hour God sends since I've come back just to try and restore some order to my bank account.  All I brought back with me was a fridge magnet from Monaco because it was just so costly to live every day, almost certainly, it would have been cheaper if I'd favoured wine over water but as many of you know, if I have 1 glass of wine a month I'm somewhat living on the edge.

I've sworn off France for the near future, firstly because I prefer Spain and secondly because I've decided my next few trips will be to places like Poland and Estonia, oh and perhaps Croatia where you can live like a queen for a week on next to nothing!
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Sunday, August 13, 2017

When did I start looking like an old man?




Me, fugly, I'm turning into Ernie, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger, ageing, parenting
This image has had skin smoothing applied for your own protection, it was far too crinkly beforehand!


So you've probably ascertained from the lack of posts that I'm super busy at the moment, either that or I've fun away to sell cupcakes to koalas on a deserted island (I wish)...

No, for shame, between travelling, planning more travel and working 23.5 hours per day, I know, I'm a rebel, half an hour of sleep, I'm such a slacker! (those hours may be an exaggeration but still...)

I don't know what's going on with me exactly at the moment but I can tell you this, every time I look in the mirror (or run past quickly) I see my face and wonder how I became to look so much like a fugly old man, yeah, not even a woman, I'm clearly becoming Bert in my old age.  I'm also getting wider and don't even get me started on the ratio of grey to not grey hair.  I think it's probably best that I just cover up all of the mirrors and if anyone asks I'll just say it's because I'm a vampire.  I mused earlier that it doesn't matter because I'm going to be single until I die so what I look like is unimportant and yet I think to myself, how can I have gotten to this point where I hate my body/face/hair so much.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not looking for sympathy and mentally I'm actually in a really good place and love the person I am on the inside, it's just the outside I'm at war with.

So here's the thing, I noticed that on dating sites with most men the ageing process really kicked in once they were past the age of 42 and I think that's what happened to me, it was all going pretty well and then 43 hit and now I'm Bert, or Ernie, I haven't decided my old rotund man name yet.

I do feel like it's time to cut the carbs again, I just wish I didn't like food which tastes nice or cake, I mean, why even invent cake, it's just unfair.

In other matters I'm planning for Looby's great home ed adventure, so far I've worked out we're doing projects on Poland in September including a cultural trip, we're then going to do something around farming and agriculture and hopefully we'll go stay on a working farm and then in December we'll be doing Christmas around the world and visiting some Christmas markets.  I think this next year is just as exciting for me as it is for Looby, I mean, who gets the opportunity to spend a whole year with their teen daughter?  It's like the biggest adventure ever and I'm wholeheartedly embracing it, now don't get me wrong, I'm sure there are times when we'll argue and not speak, that's just par for the course when you have teenagers though.  Mostly I think what I'm trying to say is that it doesn't matter that I am turning into a rotund old man, I'm also getting the chance to live and breathe and travel and explore with my youngest daughter who I love dearly, things will most definitely never be the same again in that respect.

Work feels so good to me right now, I love what I do so much and yes, I see work as part of the journey because it's my life as a photographer and a writer which has lead me to the point of being able to facilitate this great adventure, I may work on average 16 hours a day at weekends but mostly I get the week to do whatever I want.  This week I have a couple of weddings to edit and then I'm caught right up to date, I have plans with Looby to go to Beamish, to decorate and hide pebbles around the North East as part of the Tyneside Rocks group on Facebook (it's seriously a cool treasure hunt and creative activity which costs practically nothing) we're also having a Caribbean street party for Looby and her friends and if there's any time left we are starting on turning her bedroom into the bedroom of her dreams, she's got some brilliant ideas and it's going to be a room she can sleep in, socialise with friends in and somewhere she can work and chill, I guess like a giant den and place where you can feel safe and as one, we all need a little zen space!

And so, back I go to working again, just a few more hours tonight and only 1 photo shoot tomorrow, oh and just in case you're wondering, I'll be taking time off in between to cover up all those mirrors...
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Friday, August 04, 2017

The Worst Thing You Can Do At A Photo Shoot


the worst thing you can do at a photo shoot, advice for parents, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger, photography Newcastle




Everyone knows that the worst thing about coming home after a holiday (apart from the washing) is the return to work and even for me, someone who loves what they do, the getting back into routine is always a little hard.

This morning after being back at work proper with 2 photo shoots which both contained lots of smiles and occasional melt-downs (pretty much the norm) I'm feeling absolutely exhausted and in need of a decent afternoon nap.

This weekend, I have 14 photo shoots spread over 2 days, it's probably my biggest portrait weekend of the year so far, let's just presume I'll be ordering takeaway and having the earliest nights possible and on Monday I fully expect to wake up exhausted.

My job isn't really physically tiring but let me tell you, entertaining 14 sets of small people and trying to avoid the inevitable tantrums by singing 12 rounds of Let It Go accompanied by back to back repeat performances of "I've got this feeling" and you end up with a brain which is much like Swiss cheese at the end of the working day.  I love what I do of course and at least I can say my ability to sing has come in useful, some days I feel like a walking children's jukebox I know so many Disney songs, singing generally is how I make it through the day though and I love it, there's just a chance that if you asked me my secret to success I would tell you that it's knowing many variations of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat'. I actually learn new verses all the time to, go me!!

Another talent I possess is having an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of Paw Patrol without ever having watched a whole episode, you could say that everything I know comes from photographing 3 year olds and certainly if you ever want to learn about Dinosaurs, just speak to a 5 year old boy, it's their specialist subject you know!

My favourite part of working with children over the last 10 years is that I genuinely don't know what's going to happen next, I've long discarded the idea of going into a family session with a plan because, well you know, the best laid plans...

If there's 1 thing I could tell parents before I photograph them all, it's probably, please don't have expectations, the best results come from just having fun and relaxing, once you start expecting certain things from your kids, well it's a hiding to nothing, it's also true that whilst you can photograph some kids in 30 minutes, some take a little longer and if it doesn't work the first time, well that's okay too, you'll never get great results if small people feel pressured or indeed if you are tense and worrying about what you want to get out of the session.

I've made a 10 year career of photographing families and not ever having a plan, the times when I did set myself unrealistic expectations were the times I came away disappointed but as the years have moved on I've just learnt to go and enjoy myself and have fun knowing that each session is going to be just a little bit different and you might get completely different results from 2 sessions even if they're on the same day just an hour apart.

I think as a parent, particularly if you haven't met me before you have the same worries as your children, who am I?  What am I going to make you do?  Am I some kind of crazy woman?  (well yes but only in the best kind of way).

My best advice is just to come along, to relax and to have fun knowing that I don't have a plan but I can guide you along the way because I'm good at what I do, because I've shot thousands of sessions over the last 10 years and because I believe each family and the love and relationships they have is so precious and special, it's also unique and that's why your photos might not look anything like your friends families photos, try not to worry though, I won't let you down, I've got this!

You can currently book a better than half priced session for just £35 instead of £75, just follow my link!
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Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Why I don't mind a complaining teenager


Abigail, my complaining teenager, why I don't mind, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger, parenting, teens, life, travel



I'm sitting here in departures at Nice Côte d'Azur airport after spending a week enjoying all that the beautiful french riviera has to offer.  It's been a week of ups and downs, mainly it's been good, I think my teen enjoyed herself but it has to be said, there's been 1 or two complaints.  I've marched her up hills she didn't want to climb, I've made her walk one too many random walks, I guess you could say that every complaint has been completely legitimate if you're her and that's okay.  

I can't ever remember complaining about family holidays to Scotland or Wales, I think I was just happy to be there, maybe my travel bug came from those soggy days spent covered in that funny rain which sticks to your skin when you're wandering around the southwest coast of Scotland, actually it hadn't rained for 27 weeks until we set foot there and then it didn't stop for 2 whole weeks if I remember correctly, perhaps an early sign of my rainmaking!  I digress though, let's get back to the subject in hand!

You see, I've always encouraged my children to tell me how they're feeling and to express their emotions, I never want them to feel they can't tell me what's on their mind, especially during those tricky teenage years it's so difficult to navigate your way through.  Part of that is accepting that teenagers complain, they complain a lot, it's not that they're completely self obsessed, it's just that to them, everything in the world affects them, it takes many years to see the bigger picture and in fact some people, well they never really do.

I myself am grateful for every single experience I have, particularly when it comes to travel but then I  love walking up big hills, I love going on random walks never knowing if I might end up getting lost, to me it's a big adventure, never mind the fact that each time I do it, it's another kick in the face for agoraphobia, I can barely remember the days when I wouldn't go past my own back gate alone.  If you look at it from a teens perspective, it's probably me that's being selfish and self obsessed, always off on my own agenda making choices I think we'll all enjoy and going off on walks with no idea of where we'll end up, mostly on the promise that there'll be a good viewing platform along the way, give me a good viewing platform and some "yumptuous" lighting and I'm a happy bunny.  My daughters laugh at this and I can't say I blame them but the photographer in me is always looking for the best view I've ever seen in the best light I've ever experienced.  It could be worse I suppose, I could threaten them with getting up for sunrise as well as staying out until the sun has set, thing is though, I'm rubbish in the mornings!!
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Saturday, July 29, 2017

I'm a nightmare to travel with

I'm a nightmare to travel with, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger, travel, france, nice, travel photographer


It's Saturday morning, just after nine on the beautiful Côte d'Azur and I'm having breakfast on my own at our hotel, Abigail is still fast asleep after begging for a lie in because she's exhausted and I'm wondering just how long I'll actually have to stay still.   To me if you're not up and out pre 9am when you are travelling then you are wasting precious seconds, it's no wonder that I'm pretty much seen as a nightmare to travel with!

The thing is you see, I've always been someone who believes that you have to grab life by the neck, that you should go out there and not stop until you have extracted the very last drop of juice from that fresh orange that we call our existence.

I have a blister on the bottom of my foot, yesterday evening after climbing every possible hill for the best view in Villefranche-sur-Mer I decided that once we'd got back to Nice on the tourist bus that we should walk the length of the Promenade des Anglais back to our hotel, the promenade of course starts at number 1, we're around 450 (ish) or maybe 6 or 7k, I can't be sure but I know when we got back to our room yesterday we'd walked over 22k, not that much, you might think, well try it in 34c heat.

I'd say that it was the straw that had broken the camels back but we'd already argued before that point, Abigail likes to know what's going to happen and although I like to have a guiding schedule, it's not quite moment to moment and I do tend to wander and dander just a little too much.

This morning I promised that she could not only stay in bed but that the first half of the day would be a pool day, this is my actual idea of hell, I can manage a pool half hour but then I get a little stir crazy and want to be out exploring so that I feel I've gotten every last moment of the travel experience whilst we're here.  When you go to a destination you only have a few days, a week, if you're really lucky, a fortnight but what if you never go there again?  What if you miss the best thing you'll never see?  I don't want to be that person and yes, I can understand how this makes me the person you'd least like to travel with.  I'm sure if you asked Harriet, she'd tell you exactly how it is, that I have an inability to stay still in one place for more than 20 minutes, when we went to Barcelona I actually enjoyed our mid afternoon pool hours but that's all they were, I don't think I ever managed any longer before I wanted to be out there experiencing life and other cultures and capturing each experience so that I can not only hold it in my mind but so that I can share it with the people who read my blog or watch my vlog, oh and that's another thing, my usb and camera aren't speaking to each other which means my daily vlogs are pretty much trapped in my camera until we get home next week, it's a good thing I suppose as it forces me to not worry about working for several hours each night editing the masses of video I've captured.

Yesterday I didn't take my big camera, I thought I'd just take my small one, the pains in my back and neck had been bothering me and I thought I would get to see more if I just took along my vlogging camera and the result?  I'm disappointed with the images I did capture, to me they're not authentic or professional enough, I probably won't share them, or very few of them will make the cut and so part of my experience of Villefranche-sur-Mer will be lost forever.  You know, I waited my whole life to visit there, I'd fallen in love with the place after watching "An Affair To Remember" one too many times, when Nickie visits Grandmere Jalou at her little house at the top of the mountain of Villefranche-sur-Mer, even in the late 50's it looked like the most beautiful place in the whole of the world, and it was, it really was.  It's vast curving bay with an azure sea, we lunched on the edge of the harbour wall, our only views were the small yachts bobbing up and down with the gentle currents of the mediterranean sea, bougainvillea lined the walls of the old town, it's fragrant purple flowers smiling at us as we explored (although with me, it's more of a forthright march) and climbed to find the best vistas.  This pretty village will always remain in the corners of my mind, a place I dreamt of seeing and I finally got to fulfil my wish.

In all of the years that I have been a single parent, first with just me and Iain as we struggled together against the world and later with all 3 of my fabulous teens, through the dark and turbulent days, through the lean times, the mean times, the barely scraping enough money together to survive times, the one thing which pushed me onward is the thought that one day I would travel, I would travel as much as I possibly could and I would admire the jewels of the earth. For it's these very things that make me feel enriched and whole so I hope you'll excuse, now that I can, my inability to let each moment pass me by, I can't relax, I can't sit still, there's too much to see and next week I'll be back at my desk with only the memories of my time in the sun.  Of course I'll be planning my next chaotic full on trip to somewhere else I've never been, somewhere, no doubt I'll remain a nightmare to travel with!
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