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, January 17, 2019

Air Fried Halloumi Fries Recipe

Air Fried Halloumi Fries recipe, Mandy Charlton, photographer, writer, blogger, food

If you're anything like me you'll know just how amazing Halloumi Fries are, they may not be so healthy you can eat them every day but it's January, it's dark and we need some home comforts whilst still trying to be a little bit healthier.  This Halloumi fries recipe is different because it's all done in an air fryer, it uses 1 cal oil and it's perfect for our vegetarian friends, in fact, I can confirm it because I tested the recipe just this week on 2 ladies who aren't veggie and one who most definitely is.  These air fried Halloumi fries may just change your life and they only take 15 minutes to cook plus a couple of minutes of preparation.

What you'll need

  • 2 tablespoons of the flour of your choice, I used plain flour but you could use spelt or even Polenta which would definitely give that crisp outside.
  • Large Pinch of Salt
  • Large Pinch of Paprika
  • Large Pinch of Black Pepper
  • 1 Cal cooking oil spray - (I used Frylight coconut but I use that for everything)
  • 1 block of Halloumi sliced into 8 chubby finger-sized portions
  • Dip of your choice to serve 


  • Combine the flour, paprika, salt and pepper on a plate with a fork
  • coat each of the Halloumi fingers in the dry mixture
  • Switch your air fryer to 200c
  • spray the basket with oil making sure it's coated all over so that the fries don't stick to the basket
  • put the coated Halloumi fingers into the air fryer and program it for 15 minutes
  • around halfway through turn the fries to make sure they're evenly browned on all sides
  • After 15 minutes your Halloumi Fries will be ready but they will also be hot so plate up with tongs
  • accompany with a handful of peppers, a green salad and add dips of your choice to the side, I love tomato and honey or sweet chilli
1 portion should quite easily feed 2 as a starter or 1 as a main course.

If you don't have an air fryer yet, they're so much cheaper than they used to be and they're incredibly versatile, especially if like me, you're often cooking in single portions, I've had a quick look on Amazon and this Tower air fryer is currently just over £30, it's not quite the same as mine but looks around the same size.

I've made a few different batches of these Halloumi fries and I definitely think that thicker works better than thinner when you're air frying and I also think you don't want to cram the basket too full of they're just going to stick, whatever you do though and however you cook them, I'd love to hear from them if you try the recipe.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Dog Friendly Hotel in Lanarkshire, The Elphinstone Hotel, Biggar

Holly Bobbins, reviewer of the Elphinstone Hotel, a dog friendly hotel in biggar, Lanarkshire, scotland
It took me approximately 5 days into January to get away on my first break of the year to a dog friendly hotel, The Elphinstone Hotel in Biggar, Lanarkshire.  We'd been invited with Holly Bobbins, chief "Pawsonality" and reviewer of all things dog friendly to come over for dinner, bed and breakfast so Harriet and I accompanied just to make sure she wasn't being a Mariah or Beyonce style diva, you know how she gets now that all of the fame has gone to her head!

The Elphinstone Hotel is situated on the high street of the small market town of Biggar in South Lanarkshire, a short 2 hour car journey from Newcastle and a very pleasant rural location in the midst of rolling hills and green countryside.

After a quick photo stop outside we checked in and asked where we could dine with Holly, the answer was she was welcome in the bar next door but nowhere else in the hotel or restaurant, a little disappointing as somewhere selling themselves as dog friendly and after many years of visiting a lot of dog friendly hotels, bars and restaurants I would say that this came over as more of a dog tolerant policy than dog friendly.  

No matter though for Holly, she was just delighted that the room had carpets (something I don't have at home) so she could roll around at will in her crazy beagle way.

After check-in Harriet and I went for a wander to the town park which is actually around a mile away from the town centre down a long country lane, not somewhere I would have liked to walk in the dark but on a summers afternoon I would think it's glorious.  We managed to catch the last light of the day whilst Holly Bobbins had a run around the lake and we found that there's a circular route from town to the park so this afforded us quite a nice Saturday afternoon walkies without it being overtiring for chief driver Harriet.

We popped into the bar on our way back for a quick cuppa after the afternoon exertions and Holly was offered some water which was brought over in an old used Ice-cream container, a lovely thought which does show the hotel is trying but I think it would only cost pence to have proper dog bowls and maybe a jar of treats on the bar for their four pawed clients.  There's really only 1 big table in the bar which we had both dinner and breakfast at so I think if our hosts could work towards maybe making the downstairs of the hotel as well as the bar dog friendly (leaving the bigger upstairs restaurant for patrons who don't want to dine with dogs) then I would be very keen to return.

The standout for me at the Elphinstone Hotel has to be the food, although we were in the bar, no style or flavours were spared when we dined that evening.  Scallops, Venison and a Cheeseboard of local cheeses were deliciously savoured whilst Holly enjoyed small morsels of venison passed under the table.  Harriet said the chowder and the chicken with haggis were equally delicious and she too couldn't resist the temptation of the locally sourced cheeseboard.

We noticed that the hotel restaurant was also full, especially for early January and surely that has to be testament to the skills of the chef, I cannot fault a single thing about the food, it really was utterly scrumptious.

After a wonderful and comfortable nights sleep our breakfast was a more simple affair but a full Scottish breakfast was on offer, none the less and Holly was grateful for the sausage brought out by the morning chef and after a quick morning stroll it was soon time to depart.

Biggar lies around an hours drive from the border and outlet shopping at the Gretna Gateway village meaning it's the perfect mid-way shop and we noticed that quite a lot of the village seemed to be dog friendly which is such a positive sign, I think with more retailers and hoteliers honing in on the fact that the four pawed pound is so strong, it can't be too long before we see a paradigm shift with more places being dog friendly than those who remain firmly no dogs territory.

Holly Bobbins gives the Elphinstone Hotel 8 barks out of 10 and if the suggested improvements actually happen then we would definitely consider a return visit during the summer months to get the most out of the local area.

Friday, January 11, 2019

10 Things I've learnt after 45 years on the earth

In just a couple of weeks I'll reach the great age of 45 years old, I'm part grateful and part stunned that I've actually made it through life so far.  I actually attach some disbelief to the age tag because since I was around 16 I've always imagined myself as 35.  I'm not sure if anyone else does this but I feel like I've always been in my mid thirties and the thought of reaching the next age category on many surveys, well it's a little daunting.  I'll be officially slipping over the boundary and sliding into the great age of 50 and I'm not sure I'm ready to accept that.

The sun setting over the cote d'azur,, the sun setting over the last 45 years of my life, mandy charlton, photographer, blogger, writer

Over the years though you learn a thing or two and once you're over 40, people tend to actually listen to you because maybe you've picked up a gem or two.  Just lately though (and maybe this is the gift of 45) I feel like I've learned more about myself than ever before.  Rather than ramble too much though here's just 10 things I've learnt in my first 45 years on the earth.

1. To a narcissist you will never be good enough and it doesn't matter what ever you do to try and attain that persons love, even if at times they build you up so highly you think you can't be loved any more, in those times, the higher they build you, the farther you have to fall when you do something they disagree with.  Just know that you are truly good enough at all times and turn your attention to others who see and appreciate your true value.

2.  Learning to love yourself is the most important thing you'll ever do, it's also the hardest, especially if you have spent years being knocked down by others but as the great Ru Paul tells us "If you can't love yourself how in the hell are you going to love anyone else?"

3.  Even the most neglected things can be resurrected with just a little bit of love and nurture, we all have times when we're so busy we forget about the little important things, like watering the houseplants but worry not, they'll still be there and will thank you for the extra attention by blooming back into life.

4.  You should always be happy working in your own business, yes there will be troubling times and challenges to conquer but if you're not happy in your own business then something is seriously wrong, after all, many people are unhappy working for others so they start their own businesses, why would you ever do things in that, that you don't want to do.

5.  In life and work you cannot do everything, outsource, outsource, outsource!

6.  You cannot change anyone else but by changing yourself you can bring about changes in others as they bend and mould to your changes.

7.  It is better to be happy and single with a dog than sad in a relationship.

8.  It is not the number of friends you have but the quality of the friendships which counts.

9.  Never give up on your dreams because you may just find them in the most unexpected places.

10. Don't ever beat yourself up for past mistakes, to err is human but every new day is a gift where we can start again trying to always be the best version of ourselves.

I'm sure in the next 45 years (hopefully, the females in my family seem to live for a very long time) I'll discover much more wisdom and many more truths about myself and others, I'm certainly not as scared of becoming 45 on February the first as I was to become 40 and actually I know why that is now, my life fell apart with my marriage when I was 40, well going into 45, I'm happy, I'm single, I have Holly Bobbins, my awesome teenagers and my brilliant and wonderful friends surrounding me.  I mean, how bad can that be, eh? 

Monday, January 07, 2019

Planning the future, it all starts today.

If you've read my last post you'll know that Christmas wasn't everything I wanted it to be last year (feels so weird to be saying last year when it wasn't even 2 weeks ago), I found myself lonely and isolated, yearning for company and also for answers to fix myself and my life without actually leaving the house.  Yes, that's the conundrum, I'm not the biggest fan of leaving the house unless it's for work or with people which throws up all kinds of challenges.

I did however find some kind of weird solace in cleaning and organising my home and if you have been following me on Instagram you'll know exactly what I mean, if you don't, then suffice to say, my kitchen cupboards have never been more organised and my entire life seems to have gravitated towards living in baskets, not me, living in baskets, my general stuff, effluvia, my accoutrements!

Apparently as a nation we're currently all cleaning crazy thanks to Mrs Hinch and other such influencers, let me tell you though, I've never found watching cleaning quite so fascinating as I have since I started following Mrs Hinch on Instagram, the woman is a marvel and it's hardly surprising that she's accumulated over one and a half million followers in less than a year.  I don't know her complete history but I do know that like me, she has anxiety and she uses cleaning to alleviate it.  What's fascinating is I can see why she finds cleaning so effective, for years when I'm angry or upset is when I nest the most, there's something very soothing about organising when your life feels like it might be spiralling out of control.

I think for a long time there have been some things in my life which I need to address, in September this year I'll have been separated for 5 years which means I can finally go and get a no fuss divorce, I never wanted there to be acrimony or hatred and even though we don't speak to each other I still think of him highly and always will as he's the father of my daughters and they adore him.  I do though need to move on with my own life, not that I'm looking for anything or anyone in particular, in fact I think I've just settled on being happily single with Holly Bobbins at my side for the rest of my life, yes, I may well experience pangs of loneliness but all things considered, when I look at other people's relationships I think I'm definitely better off not in one!

I have some things I need to tackle, I've already made a huge decision to continue with my photography business but I think there need to be changes, the way we do business in general is changing, technology, the economy, Brexit (God help us all), social media. I think I need to re-examine how I do business and how I can adapt to what the market needs most right now.  I know photography makes me happy and I can't live without it, the gap in my life would be a huge chasm of emptiness and I really don't think that would be good for my future mental health.

I also of course have spent a long time examining myself as a person, I think I'm a good person and I want to try and do as much good as possible, but I also think I need to keep trying to be a better, more open, more loving and all around more giving person and if I can achieve that, I'll be happier and more fulfilled.

I also want to try and help other women win at business, I want to try and help as many as possible through my work with The Inspire Network, currently I'm struggling in knowing what the future holds there but I also think the way we do business and the way we network is so different to the way we used to when the network was set up.  We do need to make some kind of income from it, if only to pay for the monthly running costs so it's important to look at that and see what I can do.  There are ways to run businesses which make money but don't cost other people anything such as affiliate marketing and perhaps that's the future, I'm completely open to suggestions and feedback and will listen with an open mind and the utmost of respect to any and all ideas.  I just want to help the people who aren't succeeding and also push those who are even further because 1, you can do anything on your own terms and 2.  when women support women, magic happens.


Thursday, January 03, 2019

New Year, New Start, Old Me!

Mandy Charlton, new year, new start, old me, taking cbd oil is changing my life.

The best thing about a brand new year is that you get another chance to start again, a new leaf in the calendar, a new chapter in the book, a whole new story to be written.  I was going to come and grumble about the fact that it wasn't the best Christmas but I'm starting as I mean to go on, and life after Christmas has been considerably better than it was before.  A few things have contributed to the change in my mood and so I'd rather write about that instead.

Firstly I've upped my dose of CDB Oil to 1500mg a day, a couple of weeks ago I switched to the oil, I'm currently taking Cannibigold   (I was kindly sent a small sample*) and taking 3 drops a day and it's quite miraculous.  2 drops a day alleviated some of the anxiety symptoms, 3 drops a day and it's night and day from where I was before I started experimenting with CDB products.  I really can't say enough good things about the changes to my mental health.  I think the only difference is that it has a taste to it, it's not the best-tasting thing ever but it's not horrid and the taste soon subsides.  

I've also had a lot of rest over the Christmas period, 2 pyjama days which I never have and I've been decluttering and cleaning my home like a demon, mostly I attribute it to Mrs Hinch on Instagram and a little to the fact that Lisa who helps around the house has had 3 weeks off but I've found myself really enjoying the process and my kitchen is cleaner than it ever was.  I took down the Christmas decorations in my lounge last week because they were making me unhappy but what I have done is left all my twinkly lights up all around the house because January, well it's dark enough and adding Hygge is always a good thing.

On New Year's Eve, I emptied, sorted and organised all of my kitchen cupboards with baskets, and I found joy, I guess somewhere between Marie Kondo and Mrs Hinch I've found inspiration.  I've also just had much more energy than I usually do at this time of year, today Holly and I did a 7.5k walk around the city and though I'm tired now, I feel more revitalised by January than ever before.

I haven't made any great plans to go on any drastic diets, if anything I'm just working on loving myself how I am a little more.  I get very cross with the fact that we're encouraged to feast for the whole of December and then come the first of January we're guilted into fad diets, now I'm not saying you shouldn't lose weight if you want to but if you don't love yourself now, 3 stone of weight loss is not going to help, believe me, I've tried it and found out the hard way.

So this year, I'm going to try and love me more, try and be happier to be on my own and fully embrace the single life and really, well and truly work towards being a good person and maybe finding a little success for me and my businesses.

So I hope you'll stay with me as you have in past years, I hope we'll have many adventures together, less anxiety and a whole lot more fun.

*I was sent a small sample of Cannibigold but these are my true thoughts and feelings, I've experienced better results with CBD oil for my chronic anxiety than I ever had with prescribed medication.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

I'm not sure I like Christmas anymore

That might be a weird and slightly shocking blog title but stay with me, I promise it's not just clickbait.

Here's the thing, I've always loved Christmas, I do love Christmas, I just don't think I like actual Christmas anymore.  You see, there's been a dawning realisation lately, Christmas day was magical when the small ones were small, we'd have Christmas Dinner on Christmas Eve and then we'd stay in pyjamas on Christmas Day and the kids would open presents until late on Christmas morning because we did Christmas big, I did Christmas big.  When Paul left 4 years ago, I sort of lost my enthusiasm, with grown up children, one of whom is autistic and doesn't do Christmas at all (he's had all of his presents already this year because he can't handle surprises).  And now, I go out on Christmas Day, a new tradition I'm thankful for, I've been adopted by Harriet's family and in writing this please don't think I appreciate it with every bone in my body but as a family we're never all together now, last year Abigail was with dad and this year, it's Looby's turn.  Both of them will be away doing things for the rest of the Christmas break and I'll spend a lot of it alone and lonely.

I suddenly got sad yesterday because I realised, the Christmas build up is nearly over and that's the thing I love most of all, once Looby's birthday is over on the 25th of September I know I have 3 months, they're the best months, business is busy and I don't have a lot of time to think and assess, I love the twinkling lights appearing in the shops and the traditions of the switch on, the putting together of our Christmas house, the trip to see Santa, the talking about how magical it's going to be but all of a sudden I can also see it ending and I've come to realise, it's not Christmas I love now, it's November and the preparation.  Christmas Day is the crescendo after all and then we just slide into a dark and deeply depressing January.

I'm thankful for my small friendship group who I'll hopefully spend some of the days with and I've told the world that my house is open to whoever would like to join me, it's certainly no lie that I love entertaining and my fridge is bursting with enough food to feed the whole of Heaton, it's seems strange that I still stockpile enough to feed an army and I'm not even home for Christmas Dinner.

Next year I need to make some life changes, I need to fix the loneliness, I need to make plans for my business and the future, however scary that may be and most of all I need to work more at fixing myself, that cavernously empty feeling inside my stomach, my head and my heart, they tell me to be happy and positive to keep helping others as much as I can but they also tell me that something is wrong.

I guess it's true to say that I yearn for the past though I wouldn't go back, I would love a huge family and always thought I would have one by now, for now I guess I'll be happy to know that someone's family loves me and I love them, that I'm open to adopting even more family members and oh, if you're out there Mr six foot elf who loves Christmas more than me, go on, jump on that magical sleigh and find me.

Friday, December 14, 2018

How to be less anxious

In all of the years I've had anxiety, it's only the last few that it's become chronic anxiety, it swings between mild worry through to utterly disabling panic attacks  and some times it's the most ridiculous things which tip it off. Anxiety is the distorted reality that lives in side of you it's like it's real, it feels real but in the back of your mind you know it's not (hence the photograph above).

The only time I don't have anxiety is when I'm out working and have my camera, weirdly it's like some kind of super power, I'm literally super calm and relaxed, I just wish I could channel this feeling into all of the other parts of my life.

Take this week, I've been determined to get as up to date as possible so I've edited two weddings and 7 photo shoots, this makes me anxious because I always assume that no matter how hard I work everyone will hate everything that I produce, it's completely irrational, I use thousands of pounds worth of photographic and editing equipment, I've been in business for 12 years, shot hundreds of weddings, thousands of photo shoots and 99.9% come back time and time again, people send me kind words, thank you's, some I never hear from again but that's just business, people have busy lives but I think I give so much of myself in photography, maybe I care too much so I have that abject fear of rejection, fuelled by a past of being told I'm not good enough.  Yeah, realistically, psychologically and objectively I can explain everything rationally but that doesn't stop that fluttery anxious feeling which lives deep inside of me and knocks me so sick that I can't leave the house some days.

Just over 3 weeks I started on a supplement called Hempceutix which a company called Natures Plus asked if they could send to me.  I told them that I wouldn't write about it before I got a feel if it was going to work.  The ones I'm taking contain 5mg of phytocannaboids and I can report that it does seem to be having an effect on my anxiety levels, yes I'm still anxious but it's just the start of a long road finding the right type of hemp product that is going to work for me, I know I can increase the dose as these ones also come in a 15mg strength and I think that's my next step but overall I'm feeling much more relaxed in general and I'm getting out for wanders with Holly Bobbins, I even went to a dog friendly post office yesterday with her.  The truth is, I'll try anything at this point as all of the prescribed medications just haven't worked and the medication I've been on long term for bipolar has, I believe made the anxiety worse.

I had a course of CBT last year and I really didn't find it helpful with the exception of one thing the therapist said which was that in every situation we have to ask ourselves when we get anxious "can I do anything to change this situation and if not, is it worth worrying about?"  It's slightly more complex than that but she definitely had a point so now I try to take action where I can and not worry too much about the things I have no control over.

Last week I had 2 evenings of being social and not only survived but had a great time.  I truly hope that this is just the start and that I can just be a little better at accepting myself, at not worrying about money, life, Christmas, my worthiness as a business person and a mother.  I really do want to love myself and I guess I do, a lot more than I did, anyway.

I'm not about to make any miracle claims about the supplements and like most things, what works for me might not be the thing which works for you but I'm certainly willing to explore the world of CBD products until I find the best one for me, at their very worst they just might not work but if they make even a small difference then it's totally worth the trial.
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