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, May 31, 2016

Follow The Sunshine


ribblehead viaduct by mandy charlton
The Ribblehead Viaduct



Never in my imagination when I sat down to write about why I was leaving Slimming World did I think that nearly 10,000 people would read that post, it seems I've hit upon something, a raw nerve, a thought which is on a lot of peoples minds, one thing, a funny thing kept being mentioned wherever I happened to discuss the subject, "How on earth can avocados be worse for your health than air fried chips or low fat yoghurts (with masses of hidden sugars)?"

I'll leave that subject for now but I think it's something I'll keep coming back to, I want to keep up to date with my own progress post slimming world anyway.  I think I'm going to go and weigh myself (probably at Boots) once a month but as long as my clothes still fit and I feel healthy then I'm not going to worry about it too much.

Holly on the beach at Rockliffe


This weekend has been a combination of epic day trips in search of the sunshine and spending time with friends and family, obviously I was accompanied by a beagle at all times and as far and wide as we went she was greatly admired by all,  I can't believe she's going to be 2 years old on Thursday, it seems like yesterday when I adopted her but the reality is she's been living with me now for 18 months, I don't think I've regretted that decision even for 1 second, there really is nothing like the love of a dog, I just adore her!
Beautiful Rockliffe on the South West Coast of Scotland

Each day of this weekend we have been so lucky to actually find the sunshine, we knew all we had to do was go west and that we did, to Hawes, to Saltaire, to Rockliffe, Kippford and to Keswick yesterday, all fabulous days away that deserve posts of their own but as I am mid holiday week I don't quite have the time to sit down and edit the masses of images I've shot.  For these are the days for being in the moment, for creating memories, for standing beneath the boughs and staring as long as sheep and cows (bonus points for naming the poem).  These are the days for enjoying friendship and the companionship that brings, I truly believe that having good friends means you are never alone. Last nights dinner at Yo Sushi with lovely Li and Harriet was am amazing start to this week and tonight I'll be checking out the new summer menu at The Living Room with Harriet and Laura.  I think my life from this point on and to be honest for the many months that have gone before is testament to the friendships I keep, I may not have a lot of friends but I have the best girlfriends I could ask for, friends who not only I love but my children and my dog loves too, friends I can turn to when I am down or crazy as much as friends who can giggle till our tummies hurt, we laugh together, cry together and share every emotion and story in between and I'll never stop being grateful to have these wonderful ladies in my life.
Holly enjoying the muddy beach 

Tomorrow looks like being another road trip, probably to the west because that's where the sunshine is sitting this week, the North East is currently the exact opposite, it's windy, it's cold and every now and again there's a very wet gust of showery rain, more dull and autumnal than sunny and springlike!

coastal path, rockliffe, kippford, mandy charlton
The coastal path from Kippford To Rockliffe


Whatever you do this week just make sure you follow the sunshine too, whether that be physically or even just emotionally for when you smile in your heart the world takes notice of your inner glow.


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Friday, May 27, 2016

Love, Internet Dating and Tinder


couple in love in chopwell wood, wedding photographer newcastle


Sometimes over the last couple of years I've sailed through the weeks and months and everything has fallen into place, I've gone to bed, slept really well and I've genuinely felt like life was mine for the taking, other times though, I get a knot in my stomach, I have the overwhelming feeling that I might be alone for the rest of my life and my whole body feels anxious.

I'm 42 and a lot of my life was spent being married, being the other half, being a whole together and I'd like to hope that one day someone is going to come along who's going to love me, to embrace me, to actually appreciate me for all of my guts, determination, my courage, my strength, my slight eccentricity but the thought of actually having to be in that place where you start again, where you have to talk to the opposite sex and be mildly interesting and make small talk just absolutely terrifies my big girl pants off me!

I've mentioned this before, dating has changed from what it was when I was 24, it's app based, it's Tinder, it's Match, it's swiping, it's photos of men with their shirts off and sometimes with puppies, yes really, I've supported my girlfriends through their internet dating adventures and it's just plain scary, one of my friends was approached by a man who would have made a serial killer look like a catch.  I wonder, have people actually married people they've met on Tinder?

I perhaps should see it as an exciting adventure, after all I'm someone who loves people, who loves spending time with friends, I love to do things and go places, I like exploration and adventure, I love holidays and day trips alike, I like being spontaneous and I am prone to impetuous travel, i'm not really one for home making, I'd prefer to be out there creating memories and having nourishing experiences, I don't want to read the book, I just want to do it!!

When I go out to dinner with couples who's weddings I'm shooting I usually ask them how they met, I like to find out their story, I like them to tell me about the engagement because I love that stuff, I am truly a die hard romantic who has read and watched too much Shakespeare, Austin and Bronte, it's the reason I fell in love with Moulin Rouge the first time I watched it, no matter how many times I watch that movie I cry, it's about infinite love, love that lives forever...

I have found through my chats that a lot of people meet at work, on work nights out etc and so obviously I'm at a bit of a disadvantage with that one, or they meet in the pub, yeah, another thing I don't really do and sometimes, just sometimes they've met online, that's the terrifying bit I've already mentioned and something which I'm not really sure I'm cut out for.  If online dating is anything like the telephone dating of the 90's it's all completely fake, mostly people have one thing on their mind and it's not a game of dominos in a snug somewhere on a Sunday afternoon.  I think some people are lucky, perhaps though they were predestined to meet.  I do believe in soulmates after all, what I consciously need to ask myself now is, do I believe there are multiple soulmates out there for us all?

I should say that at this point, where I am right now, I am not ready, I need time and more time and then probably a little more time after that but watching friends in similar situations has made me question about the way the world of dating has changed in the last 20 years, heck the whole world entire has changed in the last 20 years, can you imagine a world without reality television?  I came from that world, it was a simpler time I can tell you, of course I also came from a time where every children's TV heroes have now turned out to be somewhat more sinister!

One thing is for sure though, I hope if I am ever ready again it happens in a completely organic untinderless (yes I just made that word up) way, you know when your eyes meet across a crowded room...does that still happen?



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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

How I Live Now, Happy, Healthy, Healing





It's been the craziest day and a half, since I posted my article about Why I'm Leaving Slimming World my blog has had a months traffic in less than 36 hours, obviously I'm thrilled because I work so hard at this blogging malarkey but what's been fascinating is the sheer number of people who've chosen to comment on threads on Facebook, the most interesting thing is that out of hundreds of comments only 2 people seemed to have any kind of issue or have disagreed with me, one worked for Slimming World (no real surprise there) and another who seemed to do some crazy old style version of dieting where all calories are equal whether that's cake, avocado or meat, am I the only one who thinks that actually it's insanity to think you could eat 1500 calories of cake every day and still be thin as long as you didn't go over your calorific count?

I don't want to get involved in judging people who do diet clubs and eating plans, and I certainly don't claim to be any kind of scientific expert, I wrote the article as someone who went faithfully to Slimming World pretty much every week for 4 years, I said some good things, I had issues with other elements.  During the last 4 years I've also read many books, changed my outlook on life, love, food and everything else really.

How I live now is different to how I lived 4 years ago, 4 years ago I thought I was mostly happily married, I wasn't particularly social and without a doubt I used food an alcohol as an emotional crutch, if I'm honest I've only really discovered the joy of exercise in the last couple of years and even more so since the arrival of super dog Holly Bobbins in my life.

I'm a singleton of course and I'm still healing myself emotionally after such a turbulent time but I firmly believe that I won't be in this state of flux for the rest of my life, I have the most brilliant wonderful friends, Harriet, Laura and Li are the most amazing friends who just keep supporting me no matter how sad or anxious or over excitable I am and together we're a formidable bunch, hopefully they feel as supported during times of need too.

my life goal now is to keep being happy and healthy, I've thrown away my scales, I continue to march to a speed at which my Apple watch considers me to be doing exercise and I live by the recipes of Jamie Oliver, Nigella and of course Joe Wicks who's taught me that you can be lean in 15 (or something like that).

So this is me, still trying to carve out my career as a photographer, a writer, blogger and one day digital nomad who can work from anywhere in the world, seeing the world and experiencing all that is good about it.  For when my children leave home I won't have any existing ties or reasons to stay where I am, I hope to find a way to make it work, to have my student gap year in my 40's or 50's or 60's, one thing I do know is that my life has just begun, I have many years to live and several more chapters to write so if you're one of my new readers, one of the thousands who mightn't usually be readers, I do hope you'll stay around and enjoy some of the journey with me.
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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Why I'm leaving Slimming World


healthy sushi food, lady eating with chopsticks


Today is the first day of the rest of my life, I hear that so much, it's written all over the internet, probably in about 1 million memes and counting!  If you're a regular reader of my blog you'll notice that I have a completely new look (my blog, not me, I just had a haircut) and I think it's a conscious decision of the direction I'm going. Lots of things have happened recently to make me question who I am, where I'm going, what I'm doing, what I'm trying to achieve and whilst I don't have the answers to all of the questions I do at least know why I'm leaving Slimming World.

Slimming World has been a feature of my Tuesday, nearly every Tuesday for about 4 years, it's something I'll be forever grateful for, 3.5 stone of my life gone forever.  I loved my slimming world ladies, I still do but the time has come for me to move on, to stand on my own two feet and to trust myself not to suddenly become Fat Mandy again.  The truth is that to some people I am probably still fat, I wear a size 14 on the bottom and a14/16 on the top mostly due to my ample bosom, yes I did just say that!!

The thing about Slimming World, the bad thing, is that once you get to your target weight, you become a worrier about every single thing that you eat, especially the day before weigh in, and that's not good, I like to just trust my clothing, my new attitude to food and the fact that I walk 10-15k every day for the fun of it rather than because I feel like I need to.  When you reach your target you have a 3lb buffer zone each way, lose more than that or gain more than that and you have to start paying again, it put me in a constant state of panic and I don't think it helps with your attitude to food. I would quite often not eat on Tuesdays before weigh in, that's not a healthy mindset now is it?  I don't think it's going to teach my girls about the right way to live and eat and after you have lost so much weight and maintained that weight for over a year I believe that by going every week I'm actually doing myself too much damage to continue.

I hate scales, I hate getting weighed but I'll continue to weigh myself just once a week, I need to check that I am maintaining (there or thereabouts) but after a year I think I might have cracked it. I've definitely changed my attitude towards the stuff I put in my body although I'll freely admit I'll never be a size 10 because I just love cake too much but at my last health check (yes, I know, I'm ancient) I passed all of the tests with glowing colours and my doctor thinks I'm a great weight and body shape for my age (11st4 - 11st7, just in case you're nosy, ha).

Another reason for leaving is that I haven't actually been doing the Slimming World plan for a couple of years because I believe that low fat is actually mostly evil and loaded with sugar (yeah, I know, cake is also loaded with sugar but at least it doesn't pretend to be healthy) I mostly try to eat clean, to have animal fats like butter and whole milk and yoghurt and to eat lots of fresh veg and wholemeal bread whilst keeping refined sugars to a minimum, it's the junk food that is the problem, the hidden sugars and low fat is one of the biggest culprits of hidden sugar, I'd rather have natural yoghurt thanks very much!

So onwards I go, beginning a brand new journey of being responsible for my own body, when it comes down to it, it really is about eating the right things and doing a little exercise every day, and whilst Holly Bobbins is by my side it's unlikely I'll ever be able to sit still for too long.

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Monday, May 23, 2016

Why Stockton on Tees should be your next dog friendly day out



dog friendly stockton on tees

You know those days when you need to run away, you want to escape life, you want to stop the world just for a while and get off?  Those are the days when I grab Holly Bobbins, I jump on a bus or a train and we go on an adventure.  Now granted, Stockton on Tees might not be the obvious choice but I'd been speaking with my good friend and retail blogger Graham Soult about a new restaurant which was opening in Stockton, not just a restaurant but a canine cafe and as it was the opening day on Saturday Holly and I bought ourselves a £9.70 explorer ticket (valid on pretty much all public transport from as far north as Berwick to as far south as Scarborough) and got on the X10 to Stockton, a pleasant 65 minute journey on a comfortable bus which often has wifi and even plugs to recharge your mobile accoutrement.  Holly snuggled down for a nap (she adores the bus) and I watched the sunny views out of the windows.  You get plenty of thinking time when you take the bus, it's the ultimate in slow travel, I wondered to myself how much of an adventure it could be to go from Berwick upon Tweed all the way to Scarborough on the bus, something to maybe attempt in the summer holidays when the general time constraints of life don't matter so much.

dog friendly bus travel in north east england

Stockton on Tees has not had the most glorious light cast upon it and apart from Graham singing it's praises I really hadn't heard good things so I was delighted to find that it's bad press is far from warranted.  Stockton contains an array of independent shops, something which I applaud being the director of an association of entrepreneurial women in the North East of England.

Stockton is a pretty little market town, a riverside town, a rural town, you can even see the hills from many spots down by the riverside walk, it's even home to the only full sized replica of the HM Bark Endeavour, now that's one completely different place you could plan a wedding!


Lets get back to the main reason for our visit though, the Wags and Whiskers Canine Cafe, nestled on Finkle Street and not too far a walk from the Wags and Whiskers Pet Boutique a welcoming, bright little coffee shop where you can sit in the window with your four pawed sidekick is just the ticket on dark rainy days or bright sunshiny mornings alike, astroturf carpets the floor of the windows and every table has next to it a water bowl plus a bowl for any doggy treats you may like to purchase for your pampered pooch, Holly Bobbins opted for a "Savoury Woofin" whilst I went for a baked sweet potato and a very large latte.



One thing I particularly liked was the fact that non doggy owners were coming in as often as those accompanied by their canine companions, the busy throng of constant custom struck me more as a business who had been well established for years not one which had just that day opened for the first time, a very good sign.

I think Newcastle upon Tyne may need to take some inspiration from Stockton, although we have many dog friendly businesses I would freely welcome this style of cafe to appear on our quayside, after all we have 2 cat cafes and not one canine cafe!

After lunch and making our way for our riverside off lead walkies I stumbled upon Who-Ray, now I don't think you can get much more niche than a dog friendly sci-fi and gift emporium, dog friendly and Doctor Who?  That's almost unbelievable and yet it probably made my day, whilst there are more dog friendly places to visit than far before, retail seems to be the area which still lags behind, this is something I don't really understand, as surely embracing those who want to be accompanied by their fluffy best friend would mean more money for those retailers. I for one am always so delighted that I try to especially spend my hard earned funds in dog friendly businesses and so it was no surprise that I came away from Who-Ray carrying a small bag of goodies for my sci-fi loving Whovian children.

After stocking up on Sci-Fi we walked over several bridges and found the most charming riverside paths, Holly had some off lead time and I wandered happily in the sunshine lost in my own thoughts just for a while.


I'm not entirely sure why this charming market town has had such bad press over the years but I know when it came to the time to climb back on board the X10 express to Newcastle I was already making visits to return, there are you see a great many more independent Stockton shops who freely welcome dogs and their owners and I can't wait for the summer when I plan to go back for a long summers day strolling the streets with Holly and discovering all that pretty Stockton has on offer and whilst I doubt that Holly is ever going to run through the dancing fountains on Stockton's high street I cannot say the same for Looby!








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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Yo Sushi are back in Newcastle!!





After far too long an absence (in my humble opinion) Yo Sushi are finally back where they belong, In the centre of Newcastle upon Tyne.

Best friend and partner in crime Harriet, also known as @chilliroadnews was on hand to accompany me

I lamented that last day of service in Fenwick food hall where Looby and I had sad faces as we said goodbye to our favourite staff members, I'm not just making this up, to give some context Looby and I ate at Yo Sushi on average at least once a week from the very first day it opened in Fenwick, we'd go there on Blue Mondays, we'd go there on birthdays, my children grew up to request Yo Sushi rather than McDonalds, towards the end I found I could only take Looby on Mondays as I couldn't afford for her to eat 10 plates on every visit, she's 12 with hollow legs and a love of sushi, sashimi and anything Japanese.


When Yo Sushi had it's all too long absence Looby refused to ever eat at Fenwick and I had to settle with occasional visits to the Metrocentre even though I loathe the out of town shopping experience. So when an invite reached my inbox for a VIP launch party of the new Yo Sushi on Grainger Street I couldn't actually have been more excited!  Finally the day had come when I could consume everything on the menu without having to worry about taking out a second mortgage, whilst I believe that Yo Sushi is reasonably priced, it's not so much if you try one of each dish they offer!



The new branch of my favourite Tokyo themed restaurant is the next best thing to actually going to Tokyo, something I'd love to do but haven't quite saved up the pennies for, it's retained it's orange branding but it's what I like to call industrial chic, lots of exposed air vents and metal tubes and a huge conveyor belt which stretches around the new double fronted stylish unit.  Step in and you'll not for one moment think you are anywhere else but Yo Sushi and I was happy to find that although the menu has been tweaked going back to it's Tokyo roots it's also retained many of it's most popular menu items.




My favourites have all stayed along with a couple of new items which went straight in my tummy and onto my regulars list included the new Matcha Roll (a sort of super powered green tea Swiss roll with cream in) and the Japanese Souffle cheesecake, I do like savoury as well, promise!!



Last nights VIP launch was smooth, stylish, loud, noisy and vibrant, just like Tokyo and just like the brand Yo Sushi, I for one am counting down the days to next weeks Blue Monday so I can take a certain 12 year old daughter who will no doubt eat more plates in one go than I did last night (I had 7 by the way, a measly 7, not even 10 but I was probably too full up on the delicious Prosecco).  She's not had her Yo Sushi fill for several months so I'm going to let her go for it, just this once!









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For the love of Holly - In association with tails.com







Holly Bobbins, my beloved beagle will be 2 years old on the 2nd of June and it seems like only yesterday when 4 little paws pottered into my kitchen (after a long journey from Beagle Welfare in Staffordshire) and I fell completely and utterly head over heels in love at first sight.



We have the best times Holly and I, she loves to travel and so do I, she's happiest when she knows she's on the way to her next big adventure whether that be by car, train, metro or bus, she just loves being out, meeting people, having lots of sniffs and gambolling in the fields and parks like a spring lamb.  I used to call her Holly Potter because she loves to do exactly that but somewhere along the line she just became Holly Bobbins, a name which suits her personality so very much, she'll answer to Holly, she'll answer to Bobbins, heck, sometimes she'll answer to "come on stinky dog!"



Every night she sleeps on the other side of my bed, sometimes I'll wake up and she's snuck onto the pillow and I find myself wearing a beagle hat, often with a digestive scented paw on my cheek. Sometimes she keeps me awake because of her heavy loud snoring!  She makes strange noises when trying to communicate, something she's very good at though mostly it only takes a look, mostly though just like a human best friend I always know what's on her mind, when she looks sad it breaks my heart, even if it is just because I won't give her my lunch.  I find that when I am sad or hurt (something which happens often being that I'm a total klutz) she'll come to me, squeeze herself against me or she'll just nuzzle her wet nose in my lap as if to say "Don't worry mama, I love you, you will be ok."



I've always had cats and I thought I would die, a crazy cat lady with 72 furry felines running around me but you can never experience a love like no other until you have a dog, people laugh when I say she's my best friend, my soul mate in the form of a dog but she really is, we were meant to be together, we're actually a lot alike, characteristics like the love of cake, the just being a little under tall and slightly rounded around the edges to the being mostly happy and bouncy and loving adventures and holidays and the great outdoors.


Now I'm not going to tell you that being a beagle owner is straight forward because we did have a few issues with the fact that Holly quite liked to eat my floor tiles, my wooden furniture and my living room rug, in addition I'm not sure we've two matching socks left in our house and there's not a day goes by without me watching her pinching underwear from the clothes horse and taking it to her crate (she never uses the crate other than for Holly time and storing her treasures in, the door is always open).  On the whole though she's worth every lost sock, every nibbled knicker and every missing floor tile (I hated them anyway).

There is one thing though, Beagles like to eat, Holly loves food, any type of food, especially since being spade and so nutrition is one thing I have had to take a serious look at, she's currently a couple of kilos above where she should be but thanks to the lovely people at tails.com we've been dieting, yes we both have, probably her more than me because after all there's no one to stop me eating cake! tailor made dog food which comes specifically for your dogs needs based on weight, breed, health is such a genius idea and also the very fact that it comes with it's own measuring cup set exactly to Holly's requirements is genius and then factor in that I never have to ever worry about lugging a 15k bag of dog food home from the supermarket and I think we've found our perfect food for my perfect pooch.

If you would like to try tails.com for your perfect puppy or delectable dog you can use this link and you'll get a 2 week free trial for a cost of only £1 delivery, now I think that's a pretty unbeatable offer and hopefully your best doggy friend will enjoy it just as much as Holly Bobbins.


This post was written in association with tails.com who provided a months free food for Holly Bobbins to her exact requirements, all opinions are honest and my own.




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Saturday, May 14, 2016

Visiting Edinburgh with a Dog



There are so many things you can do if you go to Edinburgh for the day and want to take your beloved four pawed friend.  It's fair to say that Holly Bobbins loves Edinburgh and Edinburgh loves her, she especially gets lots of love during the summer months when the population extends with lots of our american cousins, beagles are after all Americas fifth favourite breed.

On a recent day out with Holly and Abigail as well as lovely friend Harriet, I decided that I would take them to some places they'd never visited before.  I of course know Edinburgh like the back of my hand now, I've spent so much happy time there, it's my second city and Scottish home that I adore.

We set the Satnav to navigate to Dean Village, a world heritage site, former village and historical oasis through which the waters of Leith ebb and flow, this isn't the Edinburgh you know, this is calm, tranquil, verdant and beautiful, a feel of being deep with in the country hits as you navigate it's cobbled streets and winding paths, just a few moments standing on the bridge and you get the feeling that you are not only in a different place but also maybe a simpler time with the only thing giving it away being the occasional sound of cars passing through it's winding streets.













The lovely thing about the Dean Village is that it doesn't take too long to have a wander around and it's also quite near to Stockbridge, Edinburgh's most friendly village and the place we headed for lunch, we ended up in swish gastro pub Hectors which openly embraced Holly Bobbins and also didn't mind that people generally want to take their kids for lunch too.  One of my biggest issues in visiting Scotland with kids and a dog is that because of their weird licensing laws you often find that you can find child friendly places, you can find dog friendly places but getting the two together is a little bit of an effort so I'm delighted that we've discovered the tasty morsels of Hectors and will put it on our list of regular places to eat when Looby and I spend our summer week there.

After lunch and now having the need to walk off the foodie calories I decided to take everyone up to the top of Calton Hill, the only better views of Edinburgh are no doubt from the top of Arthurs Seat but I never feel like I've got the stamina to attempt it, one day, maybe in summer...





I love Calton Hill, the views are astonishing and even though you're right on the top of the hill you can still climb further if you feel you want to by ascending the Nelson Monument and that's what I sent Abigail and Harriet off to do whilst I stayed at ground level with Holly, it's not so long since I last climbed it on the same day as climbing the Scott Monument and that's something I'll do again in summer on a day when I don't have my four pawed furry sidekick.  This time Calton Hill was enough, the weather was mild and sunny and when you look down on Edinburgh from above you always feel like you're standing on the edge of an urban paradise.  There's also a small outdoor boho cafe at the top of Calton Hill and they serve the best clean flapjacks I've ever tasted, oh and brownies too, I had one of those because they'd sold out of the flapjacks by the time we got there, no surprise really as it was a bank holiday!!

I could have stayed in Edinburgh longer but being with a teenager means that she was ready for home but we did manage a quick skip up Princes street and a shimmy through Princes Street gardens before making our way back to our usual parking destination (the Omni Centre costs £10 for 5 hours or £13 for 7 hours) where we've never failed to find a parking space.

The next time you fancy a day out in Edinburgh's most vibrant historic city don't leave your dog at home, take them with you for they will love it too.



















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