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, March 15, 2018

What's the food like at Chaophraya?

soft shell crab and prawn tempura, Chaophraya, Newcastle upon Tyne, Review, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, writer, blogger

A couple of weeks ago when the Beast from the East hit the first time (yes, I know, it's heading for us again this weekend) I was going on a date to Chaophraya, at the last minute Abigail decided she wanted to come along instead and so we had a mama/daughter Sunday lunch date.  She's since declared that she's never coming with me again to review restaurants as she hates the fact that I photograph everything before she's allowed to eat it, Abigail, if you're reading this, that's kind of the point!

Chaophraya is the high end brand to Thaikhun's street food brand, it's Thai done well in luxurious surroundings, it's not opulent and it's not The Ivy, it is after all a chain restaurant but it's situated right at the top of Eldon Square and even has an outdoor terrace with views of Grey's Monument, it's also glass on both sides so you can sit and watch the world below you as you dine from above.

I should state now that Abigail is a vegetarian so she decided that she would try three courses from the lunch menu and I would go with the a la carte with some particularly meaty choices.

The menu is actually pretty big with so much choice but as soon as I spotted the prawn and soft shell crab tempura I knew that was the one for me, Abigail started with sweetcorn fritters knowing she'd had the same kind of thing when we'd visited Thaikhun and they really are the same, they're just a little bigger.

The Tempura however was huge, I could have shared it as a starter and when I next go I'll remember not to order it unless I'm sharing as by the time I got to the main I struggled to get even half way through the delicious lamb Massoman curry.  Abigail had no problem at all with all three courses choosing the Pad Thai for mains and then sticky toffee pudding for dessert, I enviously looked on but couldn't manage even one mouthful.  

I'll be honest, the food was absolutely delicious and we paired it with some non-alcoholic cocktails which were so tasty, the only thing that bothered me was the fact that the dessert bowl was chipped in a couple of places, I know it's a minor niggle but it's not what I would expect from a high end brand.

Now the food even on the a la carte menu isn't particularly expensive and if you had a 3 course meal for two with non-alcoholic cocktails you would easily come home with change from £100, adding in cocktails at just under £10 each though and you'd need to find slightly deeper pockets if you're particularly partial to several rounds of drinks.

The staff at Chaophraya are so attentive and each time they passed the table they asked if there was anything else they could get us or did we want more food, more drinks and that's lovely but maybe they were a little too attentive, sometimes you just want to be left to enjoy conversation although it could be that they weren't particularly busy due to the heavy snow that had fallen in Newcastle in the proceeding week.

I'd definitely go for another meal at Chaophraya but next time I'll make sure it's a real date because that's the kind of place it is, it's cosy and it's intimate and you could spend the whole night there, and I think it will be especially lovely on a light summer evening if you can get a table on the terrace.

Chaophraya does get extremely busy at weekends, I know because I've tried to book a table with no chance at the last minute to book ahead and prepare to be wowed by the authentic Thai cuisine.

Abigail and I were gifted the meal and drinks in exchange for an honest review!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Dear Anxiety....

Holly Bobbins and Petunia The Husky at Druridge Bay country park, dear anxiety, mandy charlton photography blog
It's Tuesday afternoon, I'm sitting at my desk and my anxiety levels are currently about 120%, I've spent the morning taking calls and one of my biggest anxieties is using the phone, when I get stressed Reynauds phenomenon kicks in so I've also had painfully cold hands, thankfully after some lunch and a good cup of tea I'm warming up again.

You know, last year I spent about 80% of my life working and the other 20% was spent in other countries because photography and travel are the only things which don't make me anxious.  Give me a camera and I can conquer the world, give me a camera in another country and I can probably rule the entire universe.

I politely declined an offer to be on the Sunday politics show speaking about home education because when I asked Looby she said "No Way" which is absolutely fair enough, I bet she wouldn't have refused an invitation to be on TV horse-riding though.

You may remember from past blogs about the crazy neighbour I used to have, the one who chased a man down the street with a knife and made me hide from my own life for a considerable period.  Well just as I was moving on, it's all come to a head, he's been on remand since August but it goes to court next week, now I was planning to be there but chronic anxiety and appearing as a witness for the prosecution threatened to make me severely ill again so with the help of the court and the doctors it's looking positive that I might not have to go and fingers crossed because my last session of CBT is on Monday, not that I'm entirely sure it's worked or even what I've got out of it, maybe lifelong anxiety is something I'm just never going to be able to get over.

I wish I could train my brain to feel safe when I don't have my camera, clearly I see it as some kind of weapon against mental health and feel like a warrior when I hold it.  There are aspects of my business which do make me anxious and as I've said before, I think sometimes when you are a client or customer of a business you just don't see what's going on, on the other side, sometimes we sound off at people without thinking and that's me included, you know when you have a call at the wrong time or if something didn't go well and you need to speak about it and you find yourself getting frustrated.  Often we can only focus on the situation we're dealing with but I guess we need to focus on being as kind as we can to other people, even the ones we don't know as you never really can be sure what they're dealing with currently and I don't think any of us would wish to make someone poorly, either mentally or physically.

When I woke up this morning the sun was shining and upon making it into the outside world I've noted that it really does feel like spring is on the way, and so it is, it's only 7 days until the dawn of a brand new season and I for one could not be more excited about that, I love spring, I love working outdoors in spring, I love being able to leave my big coat at home and I love finally being able to go on adventures as my finances recover from the (ridiculously) long, cold, dark winter.

This year I'm looking forward to shooting more short coverage weddings, more mini photo shoots and I've just announced some special photography for life packages, I've come up with some really special packages which should sort out all of your family photography needs for the next 10 years, I don't see myself retiring any time soon and I'm not planning on leaving the country to be a digital nomad until I'm around the age of 55, Looby will be 25 by then so let's assume she'll be riding around the country on horseback whilst Abigail gives a hand to the Prime Minister to help him or her run the country and Iain, dear Iain, well let's hope he's actually figured out what he wants to do with his life by then as he'll be 32!

Friday, March 09, 2018

Welcome to my garden, a work in progress

My garden in spring 2017, Mandy Charlton, Gardening, Photographer, Writer, Blogger, Newcastle upon tyne
It's been another week and it looks like the weather is on it's way to transforming, I had my garden made over on Wednesday and it's really helped with my mood because now instead of it looking like it's overgrown and strewn with rubbish from winter storms it looks spacious and ready to fill with plants and flowers.
My urban back garden ready for planting, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger, Newcastle

I love my garden so much, I have high walls and fences so it's my little urban hideaway, I can't wait to get planting and I need some new seating, perhaps one of those sweetheart seats with the 2 chairs which face each other and the small table in between, I think one of those with pretty floral cushions would work so well and of course after those aforementioned storms, I also need some new garden lights, I just have to decide what kind!

As you can see from the last photo, there's much to do, to get it back into shape, tons of room for planting new thing s so whilst it's a little bare, there's so much promise of things to come and you know, I think it might even be time to pack away the sledge for another year!

So, my current table was lovely until Looby stood on a chair so she could sit on the wall (as you do) and so now I only have 1 chair which isn't exactly what you would call sociable!

As my garden takes shape again this year I'll be sharing lots of photos, we're actually hoping to grow some micro salad, Looby is going to be in charge of it and a large pot is on it's way, we love eating fresh veg from the garden but since we've had Holly it's potted veg only as she does like to nip onto the garden to "fertilise" it occasionally.

When you live as close to the city as we do, the one thing you forsake is a large garden but I do believe you can have a tiny urban garden that you love, it's just a shame that we also need to have so many bins in our garden, we have a recycling blue bin and our green bin which usually sits next to the gate and our compost bin, the compost bin was our choice though as I believe in giving back to the earth as much as possible and it makes for fabulous worm filled fertile soil, perfect for growing summer flowers in.


Sunday, March 04, 2018

I've had enough

snowdrops in Jesmond Dene, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, newcastle upon tyne

Usually when it's been a few days since I've posted it's because I've been busy, work has been hectic and I've not had time to sit down and write.  I'll be honest and say this time I've had nothing to say because nothing has happened, I've sat indoors and pretty much done nothing other than shake my fist at the sky lamenting "Snow, I hate you, Winter, I hate your face"

I really am quite primal and ruled by the sun, the seasons and the phases of the moon so right now after nearly a week of snow and yellow darkness I've transformed back into a bear-like state of hibernation and I was only just starting to emerge from my long winter nap!

I've been dying to get back out there photographing small people and their families in the near springlike sunshine and instead I've been "putting an extra 50p in the gas meter" (old term, if you're not familiar, you were born after the 70's) huddled by every radiator in my house.  When you have Reynauds Phenomena, winter isn't your friend and foot deep snow is the kind of thing that nightmares are made of.

I'm off to Chaophraya today to review their new menu with Abigail and I'm also going out for lunch tomorrow, the outdoors should do me some good as long as I'm not actually out for too long!  Even Holly Bobbins hates the snow and cold,  when she's been out with human sister Looby she's wanted to come home not long after she's gotten out there and I can't say I blame her, I can't imagine wandering around in the snow barefoot can be fun for very long.

With skies full of snow it's understandable that the weather isn't inspiring anyone to book outdoor portraits, usually I would be resuming a full schedule of photography all day Saturday and Sunday's by now and instead I'm already looking at next weekends weather wondering if the planned Mother's Day sessions on Saturday will even go ahead. In the Northeast at least it looks like being a mix of snow, rain and very cloudy skies this week.  It's been the worst start to the year for outdoor bookings that I've ever known in over 11 years so forgive me if I sound a little low.

You know by now, I'm such a positive person and I continue to try and diversify my business so can do photography from home but that takes time, just getting the word out there and getting people to take a chance on you when your niche is completely different to the direction you want to go is a big ask but I have to say, I know photography inside and out, I've probably taken photos every single day in one form or another for at least the last 12 or 13 years, I have this crazy creative brain and I know that I can achieve anything if I put my mind to it.

One month from now we will be finally in spring, it will be Easter and the sun will shine and the glorious spring flowers will be in full bloom, I mean surely, spring cannot be as bad as winter.  I'm so excited for daffodils and tulips and ranunculus and cherry blossom.  I'm excited to do more travel, go on more adventures and yes, I'm glad Looby and I didn't go to Scotland last week, it was an option at one point but blimey, the universe stopped that idea.

The photos on my blog today were actually taken just over a week ago on my way home from work, the sun was shining, the crocuses were in bloom on the way into Heaton Park and I skipped home after a lovely photo shoot thinking, that's it, spring is nearly here, work is on the upturn, I'd seen the reports of incoming weather but I don't think anyone believed just how bad the weather was going to get.

I can say in all certainty though that spring will soon arrive and so book your mini photo shoots, prepare yourself to make some memories together or maybe your wedding is just around the corner, come speak to me about photographing it for you, especially if you just want a couple of hours, let's all look forward together to a year which promises sunshine, it's almost a given that after cold, cold winters, you get gloriously hot summers and I for one will be out in the sunshine enjoying every single minute.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Top 13 Gifts for Mother's Day and Easter - March Roundup

It's the first of March and that means it's time for my March roundup of the best products out there for Mother's Day and Easter, yes, although Easter is the first of April officially, my April roundup, well it'll be over by the time that goes out.

Now I know it might seem far fetched looking out of the window today but spring really is just around the corner.  Mother's Day is on the 10th of March and I think I have some pretty beautiful things, gifts for all budgets to make your mums day whether you're treating her on Mother's Day or perhaps you want to buy her a thoughtful gift for Easter, let's look now at my top thirteen list of Mother's Day and Easter gifts for the people you love.

1. Lumie Bodyclock, Active 250 - Lumie are the makers of the original wake up light and for anyone who doesn't know what one of those is, it's a clock which wakes you gradually mimicking the rays of the sun coming through the window, the Active 250 also features an FM Radio, some relaxing sounds and you can even drift off with the light gradually fading.  Me?  Well I wake up with the rays of the sun and some birdsong and it really does wake for a much lovelier morning.  It also helps with SAD and I can't wait to use it through the whole of next winter as I think it's really going to help.
2. Sol Republic Amps Air bluetooth wireless headphones with charging case.  I can honestly say that these are the best earbuds I have ever had, they've never once lost connectivity, the case charges them 15 times before it needs it's own charge and it'll even charge your phone if you are low on battery.  the sound is phenomenal and it's made my dog walks a happy bouncy occasion with music in my ears, now I can listen to musicals wherever I am, they come with three different sized adaptors for your ears and for me this was the most brilliant feature as since I've had a Daeth piercing some earbuds are too large.  If you have a mum who loves her tech like me, she's going to love these!

3. Demijohn Rhubarb and Ginger gift set - So, those classic combinations come together, a Rhubarb vodka liqueur made in East Linton and some Ginger wine made in Lyme Bay, it's a juxtaposition not unlike Yin and Yang and that's reflected in the Yin/Yang shaped bottles which fit perfectly together, you might just want to book a lie in the next day as this stuff is seriously moreish.

4. St Pancras Gothic Arches Mug in Black  - did you know that this year St Pancras is 150 years old?  To celebrate they have released a whole range of beautiful merchandise inspired by the station itself and with everything from mugs to beautiful classic prints of St Pancras rail station there really is something in the collection for everyone.

5. Ines De La Fressange Parsian Chic Journal This beautiful journal, perfect for travel comes from legendary french supermodel, artistic director and writer of Parisienne Chic, it's the most beautiful little journal and when I go on my next adventure you can be sure that I'll be packing this is my carry on luggage to record all of the special memories.

6. Personalised Peppa Pig and Me books from Penwizard.  You know, I get a lot of great products sent to me but to star in my own Peppa Pig book was something truly special and I'm not even joking, and yes, that is me on the cover with Abigail, Looby, Peppa and Mummy Pig.  To tempt you even further I have managed to bag you all a code for 20% off, just enter code "MANDY20" at the checkout, T&C's - *Not valid in conjunction with any other offers or discount codes. Discount valid on personalised books only. Offer valid until midnight Saturday 28th April 2018. Penwizard cannot provide refunds for unused discount codes

7.Wasgij Celebrity Chief Chef Jigsaw from Jumbo Games If mum, granny or uncle bob is a massive fan of Jigsaws then this could be the one to keep them entertained for many hours, the picture on the front of the box is only a suggestion and the real picture is what the health and safety manager sees, Start now and you might finish it by Christmas!!

8. Pet Portrait from Pawtrait If you are a mama, it's not necessarily to kids and so for those of us who are also pet mama's I have the perfect idea, this "Pawtrait" of Holly Bobbins was expertly created by Billy who runs the company, he captured her perfectly, it's just a shame when I asked her to pose with it, she had so many more "impawtent" things on her to-do list like sleeping, sleeping and ooh, a bit of a nap!

9. The Guylain Master's selection is perfect for Mother's Day or Easter, in fact these chocolates are so good, they're the perfect gift for any occasion and with 30 mini chocolates there's one for nearly every day of March should you be able to avoid eating them all in one go!
10. Guylain Easter Chocolate Egg with seashells gift box, whilst we're on the topic of beautiful things Guylain make, this Easter egg is waiting for me on April first, those classic seahorses filled with delicious praline and then packaged with a chocolate egg, no one tell the children I have this!

11. Booja Booja Hazlenut crunch Easter Egg, would you believe this has just been voted this years top egg out of 142 entrants by Good Housekeeping, it's beautifully painted wooden box contains the best Hazlenut crunch truffles you'll ever taste, except mine doesn't because just after I took this photo, Abigail arrived and ate it, Abigail and I are somewhat addicted to Booja Booja truffles.

12. Boy Rabbit Easter Treat Holder from Born Gifted This sneaky but gorgeous gift holder has a zip in the back to fill with delicious tasty easter treats and it's a surprisingly big pouch that Mr Rabbit has, I'll be carrying it with me to all my photo shoots to gift the small ones chocolate eggs over the Easter period, he also has a loop at the back so you can hang him up on your fireplace, your little ones will love it!

13. Botonique, The botanical drink for wine lovers When this arrived I quickly photographed it, took a sip and didn't quite know what to make of it, however a few hours later after a good chill in the fridge I have to say it's delicious, it feels grown up with a light bright taste and as someone who's mostly allergic to alcohol I don't mind drinking this as an alternative, great for dinner parties and garden parties or simply an evening in and there are only 14 calories per glass which is one of my favourite things about it.

I want to thank my generous contributors of my monthly round up post, this guide would not be possible without the generous contributions from Guylain, Sol Republic, Lumie and the others featured here.  I'm sent each product to test and review and if it passes muster it makes it into my monthly guide, all opinions are honest, mine and yes, I do get to eat all of the chocolate...


Monday, February 26, 2018

A worrying time for an outdoor business...

A worrying time for an outdoor business, my new face, mandy charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger
Spring, do you even remember what that was?  It's the start of Meteorological spring on Thursday and it's forecast to snow every single day this week, I mean, really?  What fresh level of Hell is this?  I thought I had prepared for winter, I had savings so that I could take most of January off and then I've worked on only a couple of occasions outdoors during February and now I can't even take on work for this weekend because I know that outdoor sunny photo shoots are more than unlikely.  I may yet offer snowy sessions but we'll see how it goes, I'm not sure prolonged exposure to temperatures which feel like -15c is a good idea

It's certainly a worrying time for business owners like me who need to be outdoors, I guess I'm lucky in that I can still do things from home and I have other areas of business I can work on, I can't imagine it's very much fun if your whole business eco system depends on decent weather though.

My life in general at the moment is pretty brilliant minus the irksome weather, my face is settling down after Friday's Facelift and I'm happier with no filters than I've been for a long time, it was even noticed on Saturday night , I guess it's easier for others to see it rather than me although I can definitely notice subtle differences, there are a couple of tiny areas I'm going to discuss with Dr Uzma and her team at my next appointment at the Queensway Skin Clinic but it was always the plan to be sensitive and then be topped up because it's much easier to have a little more than it is to start taking the fillers out again.  The swelling has completely gone now which is amazing and more than ever I'm trying to work on getting to the cause of Rosacea and although I know there's no cure I know there are products out there which can help massively.

This really was just a quick update, It's hard to write every day when life is going so well as it's not necessarily interesting for you to read articles which just say, life is good, life continues to be good, there's nothing groundbreaking and there are no huge plans, it's just nice though, steady and good and though there are some things I don't really talk about here, I will say that life is personally pretty perfect right now, I'm smiling a lot these days!


Saturday, February 24, 2018

What's it really like to have dermal fillers?

My face 24 hours after a non surgical facelift with juvederm dermal fillers at the queensway skin clinic, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

If you've been following me on Instagram you may have already seen my stories sharing my progress on my non-surgical facelift journey, yesterday was the day of my appointment, I had Juvederm dermal fillers injected into my face and also some botox injected in my forehead at the Queensway Skin Clinic in Jesmond  and though it's too early to really reveal the final results I thought it might be handy to discuss how it really was, what happens at the appointment and how you're going to feel afterwards.

I don't think anyone should go ahead with this procedure without serious thought, you are after all about to have needles and catheters inserted in your face and whilst Dr Uzma Olbrich and her team are amazing, you should know that there are risks, I read through the consent forms three or four times so that I knew exactly the treatments I was about to undertake, let's just say, the decision to  alter with your face should never be taken lightly.  Thankfully Dr Uzma and her team made sure I was so well informed both at the first consultation and then again before any needles were inserted in my face.

So, I arrived at the practice and the first thing they did was take some photos with a macro ring flash, this helps the practitioner really see where the issues are and also it's a good record of your face before the treatment.  After the photos comes 15- 20 mins of sitting with a good cup of coffee whilst waiting for the numbing cream to work on your face.  This makes treatment much more comfortable although you should note that they are sticking cannulas and needles in your face so it's not completely pain free, I actually found it to be uncomfortable more than painful if that makes sense.

So after drawing on your face to mark out the treatment areas the first needles are inserted, you'll find they use a mix of needles and cannulas so they can direct the Juvederm gel into the right areas, I had a mix of Juvederm Voluma which is a non surgical cheek filler and I also had some Juvederm Volift which is lifting like the name suggests, I also had botox in my forehead which was like a walk in the park and didn't hurt at all.

I would say the only really uncomfortable bit was on either side of my nose, V ouchie but it was the last bit and bearable, probably not quite as bad as an eyebrow wax really and I'm not hard as nails just in case you are wondering.  In fact I hate needles so I closed my eyes throughout.

The whole treatment probably lasted around 45 mins and the effects of dermal fillers can be immediate though I have to be honest, I couldn't tell any difference at all apart from the swelling and redness.

What Happens Next?

Afterwards you're advised to take it easy for the rest of the day and because there's local anaesthetic in the fillers you're face feels pretty weird, it feels tight and not quite your own and it's a challenge not to touch your skin for 6 hours.  You're also told to wear no makeup for the next 12 hours and it was a blessed relief to cover up my rosacea today.  You also can't lie down for 6 hours and I can't have a facial or massage for at least 2 weeks.  Today my face feels a little tender and a bit bumpy in places but that's just the swelling going down and the fillers settling.  The next 2-3 weeks is really going to be where the magic happens.  Firstly the fillers will settle and they'll also send signals to my own collagen to start producing again and my face should regain a fuller texture.  The Botox won't even start working until around day 4-5 and it will be 3 weeks before it completely relaxes my frown lines.

I have to admit that I can't really see a difference at all, it is sensitively done though and I'm going back in 3 weeks when we'll decide if I need a top up  but when the work is complete (I know, I sound like I'm having building work done) I'm promised I'll look rested, younger and like I've had a really good holiday.

I'm not sure what I really expected straight after, I have joked that I would wake up looking like Amanda Holden but sadly I'm still me.  If I can look in the mirror in 3 weeks though and see myself how my face looked in my late 30's when I didn't feel the need to use filters then they'll have done their job.

I think it's very hard when you are having stuff like this done, you check in the mirror every few hours to see if the magic has happened yet but really I think it's only going to be in a few weeks that I'll look at one of the photos I took just after and be able to see any big changes or big to me, not big, it's supposed to be subtle after all.

I am being given a non-surgical facelift in exchange for telling my story and I'm so grateful to Doctor Uzma and all of her team for helping me reach my true potential and helping me to look into the mirror and see the best version of myself which at 44 isn't a bad thing at all.
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