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

Monday, October 07, 2019

Easiest Green Tomato Chutney Recipe

This is the easiest green tomato chutney recipe you will find on the internet, it takes moments to prepare and makes perfect Christmas gifts filled with home-made love.  Just don't eat it all yourself!

Easiest green tomato chutney recipe on the internet, mandy charlton photography, photographer, writer, blogger

Green Tomato Chutney Ingredients

2.2kg tomatoes, it doesn't matter how green
1 litre of malt vinegar
500g soft brown sugar
500g red onions roughly sliced
250g of Sultanas
3 tsp sea salt
3 tsp ground black pepper


Pour the vinegar into a large pan and then empty in the sugar and heat until it dissolves, continue to heat until it reaches boiling.

Add the sultanas and bring back to the boil
Add everything else,

halfway through once the tomatoes start to split their skin, take a potato masher and gently mash the tomatoes, it's so much easier than chopping over 2k of small tomatoes, in essence, this is why it's the easiest green tomato chutney recipe on the internet

After around 90 mins of simmering, it will turn into gloopy thick chutney, take off the boil, wait until it cools and then decant into jars, I paid £5 for 6 380ml jars with lids at Wilko.

I got 5, 380ml jars out of this whole mix.  Label with pretty labels, not forgetting to add the date and then gift all of your friends.

You can either use the chutney straight away or you can leave to season for a few weeks, it's the perfect time of year if you wanted to store it for Christmas, I plan to open one of my jars at my yearly Christmas party and will be serving it with some of my favourite Blackstock Blue cheese.

It's quite a sweet chutney so should nicely sit amongst the Boxing Day buffet or on a cheeseboard to have with some good red wine when your friends and family come together.

I scoured the internet to find a good green tomato chutney recipe and then used this one as a base and altered it slightly for my own needs.

Sunday, October 06, 2019

The worst week...

Some weeks are the work of the devil, I mean they seriously suck!  Life has been pretty gentle in many ways for ages, I've photographed so many lovely weddings and had a spring in my step but this week just goes to prove we are all human and have weeks where it feels like everything happens at once.

Looby decided she wanted to return to full-time education and starts the Newcastle Futures business school tomorrow, 9 to 5 days and I can't even vocalise how much I dislike the principal but it's her choice and I'll always support her decisions 100%.

I got smug about getting a cold and not worrying because of taking Vitamin D3 and now it's turned into flu and Beecham's is my new friend, I feel absolutely shocking!

I also had to reschedule 11 sessions due to the abysmal weather and the peak of the week was Pyracantha going over the rainbow bridge, losing a pet just never get's easier. 

Now I'm not writing this for any kind of need for sympathy, just that it's been a shocking week and I truly hope I don't have one of these again for a while.  There are some good things, small things maybe but good things all the same -
  • I can make my own pumpkin spice lattes at home saving money and time thanks to a bottle of pumpkin spice syrup and my Nespresso Lattissima (which Harriet bought me last Christmas).  Let me tell you that pumpkin spice lattes are just the ticket on dark, dull, dismal days, they're almost a hug in a mug.
  • Christmas is coming, I have already read several Christmas magazines, put all of the M&S Christmas food into my online basket and have been thinking about different types of presents I can make for my wonderful friends.
  • This week I plan to make lots of green tomato chutney before I lose my crops to the weather, one thing I'm thankful for is the abundance of my tomato crop this year, it's been the biggest success of my gardening pursuits and I know it's top of my list of things to grow again next year.
  • It's the cosy season and I've fully embraced Hygge once again, I have all of the cosy blankets, cushions, twinkly lights and houseplants to help me maintain my sanity through the darkest half of the year.
  • I may have flu right before I'd even had the chance to think about getting this year's flu shot but at least I should make it through the rest of the year with my health intact.  I'm rarely ill, take around 1 sick day per year and I know it'll be at least another 2 or 3 years before another bout of cold/flu comes along.
So much to be thankful for, more than any bad week can throw at me but thank goodness for the mental health medications I do take which surely help me deal with all of this stuff so much better than I ever could on my own and I'm sure that right around the corner there's a much better week waiting for us all.

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Best Ways to Embrace the Cosy Season

The cosy season is upon us, the nights are getting longer, the days are shorter and if you can't spend so much time outdoors, it's the best time to start declaring your love of houseplants.  Houseplants bring the outdoors indoors and earlier in the year while I was planning my urban haven I declared that by the time it got to this winter I would have a house full of plants to try and help me with seasonal affective disorder.
Houseplants, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger, best ways to embrace the cosy season

Every year in the last 5 years I've done small things to help with SAD, I've bought a lightbox, I've continually taken a high dose of vitamin D3, I've embraced all things hygge and now, I've got my own indoor garden for the days when I can't embrace the outdoors.  I don't particularly care about the varieties of houseplant, I just buy the ones I like and really, in a lot of ways, houseplants are a gentle way of gardening, you buy the plant, you buy the pot and then you take it home and put it where you want it.  

I do talk to my plants but you'd expect that wouldn't you, you might think I'm slightly eccentric but I'm also pretty sure that there's scientific evidence that if you're nice to your plants then they will grow for you.  I also know that they improve the air quality and they're so much prettier than buying an air purifier.

I've also, for the last few years, worked really hard at making my living room the cosiest place on earth, yes, the walls and the ceiling could do with a paint, it's definitely not Mrs Hinch's house and it's a little rough around the edges but to me it's the perfect nest to live in during the cosy season.  I love twinkly lights, cushions, throws, second-hand furniture, and of course, lots and lots of plants plus candles, wax melts and reed diffusers.  I genuinely love the space that I've curated and whilst I used to dread the knock of the door (I once went for 7 years without letting someone in my house) now I openly embrace friends coming over and once a year, when planning Christmas, I open my house to as many of my close friends as I can squeeze through the door at my annual Christmas party.

I love shopping at Homesense and Ikea as well as charity shops and garden centres, I think if you put all of those stores together and jumble them all up, you come out with my style somewhere in there.  I like colour and patterns and I'm not scared to mix them up, oh and of course, I love, love, love, photos on the wall.

I love dark nights and warm blankets even though I hate the cold dark days of winter which is why I curated my own adult-sized nest, now add in some good friends and a sparkly glass of Champagne and you will find me in Cosy Season heaven.

Monday, September 23, 2019

5 Ways to get ready for Christmas 2019

Christmas at Fenwick, 5 ways to get ready for christmas 2019, mandy charlton photography blog

This is a collaborative post

It's just 3 months until Christmas and before you run around screaming "I love Christmas" you can bet it will be here.  I am of course an enormous kid when it comes to Christmas and so I thought I would impart some wisdom with 5 ways to get ready for Christmas 2019.

  1. Start saving now, you can bet your bottom dollar that it's a lot easier to save a few pounds each week now than waiting until the last minute and then panicking. Setting up a savings plan with a service plan like Plum can really help, I have mine set up and it saves me around £200 per month currently.
  2. When you do your weekly Sainsbury's shop, try and buy something a little extra, a bottle of wine, a box of biscuits, if you start now your cupboards will be full and bursting by the start of the festive season.
  3. Start your Christmas shopping early, there are lots of bargains in the shops at the moment with the end of summer sales, it's a seriously great time to start stocking up rather than waiting until November when all products become premium prices.
  4. Set your dates on the calendar now, you'd be surprised just how quickly your friend's festive calendars fill up with events and parties, I try and set the date for my annual Christmas party at the beginning of October and then it means I know I can have all of my favourite people in one place at the same time.
  5. If you do end up in a panic at the last minute, days before Christmas, sometimes looking online for a loan is a good option, don't just sit worrying in a corner, you've got this!  

There's something about Christmas which fills my heart with joy and returns me to a state of childlike wonder even after all of these years, for a couple of months I get to have the twinkliest house, the best party and release my inner 3 year old.

Even though Looby is 16 this year you can bet we'll be planning some kind of festive adventure, we always go and see Santa, we've seen him at  the Bluestone  resort in Wales and last year we went to Santa on the rooftop at Fenwick, it was the most joyous of events, it was funny and magical and no one batted an eyelid that we were probably the oldest attendees.

Truly Christmas is a time for magic and wonder, a time when people are just that little bit nicer to each other and where love becomes the strongest message around the world, Brexit is forgotten for a short while and that's why I love it and embrace it with my whole heart.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

I have something to say, after all of these years...

You know when you just get into your groove and then life throws something else up in your path and disturbs it?  Yeah, well, that happened.

It's okay though, as much as I loved my new off the cuff writing style, the numbers would suggest that not many other people did so I'm reverting to weekly updates and long rambling sentences (lucky you!).

It seems so long since the carefree days of my holidays, I currently feel like I've shot 100 weddings this year, I haven't but I have shot a lot and I've loved every moment. the editing pile though, uy!

You know I said that I'd stopped swearing and instead replaced it with the word "Uy" well, I now say that approximately 784 times a day and even more if I'm tuned into Sky News.  I'm grateful for my continued success in business.  Both companies are currently thriving, Inspire is only in its second year so it provides more challenges than photography which just continues to be a constant that I am supremely grateful for.

I decided that I didn't want to be alone for the rest of my life but at the same time I'm super picky, I installed dating apps and yet, I think I only did it to feel more normal, because window shopping is good in the quiet moments of the night.  I decided that I would truly be myself and so, choosing Pansexual from the list, I was emboldened, even though I've never declared myself to be anything really.

Oh and for those who wonder, what's Pansexual, the Wikipedia definition is - 

"Pansexuality, or omnisexuality, is the sexual, romantic or emotional attraction towards people regardless of their sex or gender identity. Pansexual people may refer to themselves as gender-blind, asserting that gender and sex are not determining factors in their romantic or sexual attraction to others"

The truth is though, just between us, if you ask my friends, I've always been someone who thinks that attraction is based on the person rather than the gender and I've always been someone who's refused to give myself a title, there's  a "love without labels" movement for instance and I've always been a bit of a wild bohemian, though, let's be honest, I'm 45, I'm still a bohemian but my wild days are over.

So there you go, I just sort of came out (in public, on my blog, at least) I guess but that's what you do in your forties isn't it, you figure out exactly who you are, you redefine yourself because after so many years of being defined as mum, your kids are independent and you have to rediscover the whole of you.

I should point out at this point that generally I'm hoping that one day I'll meet someone in real life because it's easier to meet someone on a pub than it is online, I mean, after all, I am a bloody good photographer, I actually look nothing like my dating profile in real life.  At least if you meet someone at the pub then visually at least, what you see is what you get!  Will I ever meet someone?  Who knows, I favour Scottish men and men who have beards and are thin, it's no wonder my top 3 list is Ewan Mcgregor, Richard Madden and David Tennant.  For sure I have a favourite type, I can compromise on the beard and on the Scottishness but hair is super important.  I'm, also not willing to compromise on one other fact...

If you've never seen Moulin Rouge or you hated it, we're never going to have anything in common because to me, Moulin Rouge is more than a movie, I have a clip of it saved on my phone to watch whenever I'm feeling sad or distressed or confused, it always makes me feel better and I guess it has something to do with it being about the bohemian ideals of beauty, truth, freedom and love.  As long as they can put up with the fact that I watch it at least twice a month and that "Come What May" is an anthem for life, well we'll be just fine.  I remember watching it for the first time with my then-husband in 2002 and falling in love with it because we had both found what we were, although I always say, if you think I was a bohemian, he was the real wild one, that's why we fell in love in 1999 because we were the same, at least for a while.

So there you go, my life as it is, it has so much more freedom, something I've fought so hard for and something which has cost me more than you can ever understand.  To have this freedom, I've had to lose things I've loved with all of my heart but I'm happy now, whether that's on my own and accompanied by a beagle or out, at the local with my best friends and friends I've yet to meet.

Being free is future-facing, being free is me, now, and forever


Wednesday, September 04, 2019

The diary of a slightly demented middle aged woman - part 3

#stopthecoup protests, the diary of a slightly demented middle aged woman, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

August 28th 2019

Sighed approximately 432 at the day's news, watched the news channel, signed several petitions and got quite cross at several points, getting cross is such a British thing isn't it?

I do think that we British are fabulous at protesting in a peaceful way so congratulations to the person protesting outside of parliament with his glockenspiel, I only really recognised "Wombling Free" and I can't work out what that's got to do with Brexit but bravo, it can't be easy carrying a glockenspiel around London when it's crowded.

Weighed myself, I've lost 3.5lb, weighed Holly Bobbins, she's lost another 100g, we shall be slinky Mandy with the slinky beagle before the end of the year.

Questioned why ready to eat peaches cost £1.85 but ripen at home peaches cost £1, now I think this is a scandal we should be protesting (with glockenspiels if necessary) I don't want to buy fruit I can only eat in a week or fruit which you put in the fridge and it never ripens until they day you want it and then it's magically overripe!

Bought unripe fruit with a very British resolve that I will just eat it hard and like it, screw you, supermarkets!

August 29th 2019

have resolved to go and peacefully protest on Saturday after work, did think about making a "Beagles against Boris" placard but called our quiz team the same name last night instead as a mini protest.  I bet Boris didn't even care, I doubt he even likes a pub quiz.

Spotted a few nice bearded men in the local, this, however, means I cannot speak to them, I go mute if they're even near me and I have to ignore their entire presence which doesn't bode well for me ever finding my lobster, who cares though?!  I have years before I am shrivelled and dead (she said, hoping).

August 30th 2019

Stayed in bed for most of the day, awoke with "driller biller killer" migraine and feeling rougher than a 45-year-old woman with a hangover, I don't even drink!  I am assuming my new resolve to be a social butterfly didn't account for the fact that the general public en masse is full of germs.

Sent Looby to Morrison's to look for emergency avocado's, apparently, there were none, not a single one, there must be some kind of avocado crisis.  She also came back with cat food when I asked for cat soup (for our old and infirm cat, Pyracantha who hates us) so I'm not ringing Huw from the BBC just yet!

August 31st 2019

Went to work followed by a protest against Boris Johnson and his crazy cabinet of wannabe dictators, proud of being there with my son (his first protest, proud mother moment), it turns out that protesting makes you really hungry so we went for lunch straight after the end of the protest which really, well it seems a terribly British thing to do!  We sit in the middle of roads, we meet others doing the same and then we have a terribly nice time getting to know each other.  I think we're the best at peaceful protests.  I did see at least 4 vicars leading each other through the crowd towards the end of the protest, again if a crowd of vicars are protesting then it must be bad, did Jesus ever stage protest marches I wonder?

September 1st 2019

The realisation that I am now nearer to 50 than I am to 40 has just hit me, mostly because my son turns 23 on Friday, even on my rough days I'm pretty sure I don't look like I am approaching 50, maybe there's been some kind of mistake with the numbers, after all, I was never very good at maths.

Unceremoniously fell out of my gate on my way to work, I tried to cling on with my nails as I saw myself in slow motion falling into next doors wheelie bins before I finally landed on my bottom with a thwack, luckily it was early and no one saw, my bottom has been hurting ever since.

Got caught in a super scary storm on the beach which seemed to go from 0-150mph in the space of seconds, couldn't catch my breath, though I might die and then I remembered it was Tynemouth Lonsgsands and not the Sahara, even though I was on the secret beach, it's not the same as being trapped in the middle of a desert in a sand storm.

Went to the pub quiz and had 3 whole glasses of Viognier (first time since February), did not die or have horrid hot flush, skipped home at 10.30pm in a haze of slightly squiffy happy bounciness.

September 2nd 2019

Stayed in pyjamas, headache caused by happy wine drinking, note to self, alcohol consumption is not big, nor is it clever...

September 3rd 2019

Finally caved into the young adults of the house and bought a microwave, thankfully technology has moved on since I had one 10 years ago and you can now cook things in dishes instead of having to cook everything in bowls, yes, a flatbed microwave, how very up to date!  I suspect all they'll use it for is the heating of beans and the reheating of Chinese food but I shall be stocking up on Jamie Oliver grains which never seem to cook as well in a wok!

Mostly felt dreadfully depressed at the political shenanigans going on currently, my son and I have decided that we need new swear words, ones you must never use, Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees Mogg were the most hideous ones we could come up with.


Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The diary of a slightly demented middle aged woman, part 2 #todayihave

Today I have...

21st August 2019

Sighed more times than humanly possible at finding the following problems upon my return home - 

1. hanging baskets wilted and droopy despite asking son to water them, emergency watered at 1.30am whilst loudly proclaiming "Uy"

2. 3 tiles from downstairs loo missing and large holes in the wall from the plumber reattaching the basin, little did I know that he would leave a path of destruction in his wake from fixing something.

3. Sunflowers in the community garden, not only dead but also pulled up by random morons.

Went out to lunch with daughter and best friend, Holly Bobbins is back, she is now a slinkier beagle after losing nearly a kilo in 19 days, happy skips and waggy tails all round.

Came back from lunch to discover random morons had emptied my pond, it was either in the process of being stolen or just vandalised.

Lament ever coming home from beautiful sunshiny Tenerife.

Had approximately 750 anxious thoughts about the return to work tomorrow.

Had a serious talk with myself reminding myself that I live the dream with jobs that I actually love.

Smothered myself in various restorative aloe vera products I brought home from the Canaries, expect to look like a 22-year-old by Sunday.

Given daughter slightly confused souvenir lizard, she loved it (hurrah), I can always depend on Looby to love cheap souvenir chat, you should see her on the 2p machines, the girl is a maverick at winning piles of cheap tat no one ever wanted.

Found the first Elmer Elephant, ironically called Holibobs, it was a meeting of two minds, not sure Holly Bobbins was as impressed as I was.

22nd August 2019

Lamented at the state of Italian peaches but it was all I could get from Amazon Prime Now.

Gave a heavy sigh at the weather which meant the postponement of today's photoshoot, as a portrait photographer who works mainly outdoors I'd like to kick this year's weather in the face, Mother Nature you are testing me...

Caught up on Sky+ recorded shows, it's not that I watch a lot of television but The Handmaids Tale and Gardeners World are essential viewing, although I'll admit that Gardeners World is a less traumatic watch mostly.

Put Frontline on cats and dog, we are not doing "flea explosion" in this household!

Been to a swish event organised by a gorgeous lady who has the energy of a litter of beagle puppies, she could sell it by the bottle and I'd definitely buy some.

Briefly looked at Airbnb for the bank holiday weekend as I'm off work on Sunday/Monday but had a word with myself and declared "I do not need a mini-break, I have just had a life-changing holiday, calm yourself and step away from booking button Mandy"

23rd August 2019

Did not have a good nights sleep due to beagle lying lengthways over my pillows and snoring loudly in my ears, apparently, Looby could hear it too as she came in and removed her from my bedroom and put her in her bed in the lounge declaring "No, you too loud, you are going in your bed".  Thank goodness if I snore I mustn't do it too loudly or I would end up waking up in the dog bed I suspect, the joys of living with a teen who has misophonia.

Had early (11am, not that early) photoshoot with a lovely lady who saved my morning by buying me a latte, my shock at finding out the card machines were all broken at the cafe momentarily traumatised my uncaffeinated self. I do not carry cash ever, well unless I am overseas and then I refuse to pay in anything other than cash.

Reminded myself that I am a weirdo.

Gently guided precious beagle back into the house ("Get in the house now") after she ran "arrooing" towards a large man on an even bigger ride-on mower, how can she be scared of everything and yet she things she's going to win in a standoff between herself and a mower which is so big it can go on roads?
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