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, March 18, 2019

When your teen tells you they're gay

Last week was a week I'll never forget, it was the week that Looby chose to tell me in her own special way that she is gay!

The event went like this...

A text message which said "Come to the shoe cupboard"

A coming out cake, what to do when your teen tells you they're gay, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

I went down to the shoe cupboard and there she was sitting in the cupboard holding out a cake which she'd just baked and decorated, on the top of the cake it said (in rainbow coloured icing of course) "I'm Gay".   Now for anyone who knows Looby, she's my quirky comedy child so when she followed that by asking "Can I come out of the cupboard now?"  I burst out laughing and replied "I think you mean the closet?"

After that I asked her if she was sure, if she might be bi-sexual or pan sexual but she said no, she's definitely gay and she's known for a year.  I cried, she cried and I told her "Looby, you can be anything you want to be, just don't be a moron" and gave her the biggest hug.

Abigail had known since just after Christmas and Iain simply said "oh, okay" followed by his two best friends asking if they could be Looby's gay Godparents.  We ate cake and inside me, I was just so full of pride (no pun intended) because it must be something quite difficult to come to terms with when you're a teenager, societal norms still mostly evolve around hormones meaning you'll be attracted to the opposite sex, in fact, thank goodness she's no longer at a Catholic school where gay relationships aren't talked about at all and in fact, they're still seen as wrong.

The thing is, I've brought my children up around the best of all people, I've never worried about anything other than not bringing them up around morons and they've seen straight people who are terrible at relationships and LGBTQi+ people who've had long lasting, beautiful relationships.  

I actually thought we were moving into a world where there is no prejudice but two of my children's friends lately have told me that their parents didn't support them coming out or that they can't tell their parents because they'll be angry or worse and to me, that's such a sad statement, in fact I've told them they can live in my cupboards if necessary.

I don't know why we live in a world that still judges people on their sexuality, surely the only thing that should define you are your actions and ergo, just don't be a dick!

I know now, as I've always known and told my kids, that I don't care what they do, who they are, as long as they're happy.

I did have a more serious chat with Looby just to make sure she's okay, she doesn't need, help or advice from friends or organisations but she's so zen with her own self that I can't fail to be proud of her.

I do have to admit something though and it's just between us, when she told me, somewhere in the back of my mind I could hear myself thinking "gay, but, but, you're little Looby, aren't you still 3 years old and only thinking about horses" . The realisation that even my baby is now a grown up makes me feel, very, very old!

Monday, March 11, 2019

7 Gifts for Mother's Day your mum really wants

It's Mother's Day on the 31st of March and I for one shall be taking the day off.  I'm not sure what ideas my girls have in mind but you can bet, their list is different to my list of things I'd really like if money were no object.  I've compiled a list of just a few things which might not be exactly what you would expect for Mother's Day gifts but they're definitely things for mums like me!

1. Personalised Pillows from Nanu - Now I'm not talking about monogrammed pillows I'm talking about a website that you go to, Nanu, you then put in details about how hard or soft you want your pillows to be, which position you sleep in and your height and weight and you get your own customised pillows sent.  I can honestly say since mine arrived I've not woken up with neck ache once!  They even have a buy one get one free offer at the moment.  Go on, treat mum to a great nights sleep!

2. A smart home security camera system from Blink.  Okay, so this isn't the most romantic gift ever but you know what, I've been trying to catch photos of a cheeky squirrel who comes into my garden and pinches the birds nuts and this is the answer, it's motion activate and either sends you video clips or high res photos and it's brilliant for watching the birds.  Still haven't seen that pesky squirrel though!!  On a serious note, we live in a 3 storey house and we've had a couple of incidents we needed to get the police for, if we'd just had this security footage it would be have totally changed what happened afterwards, you owe it to yourself to keep you and your family safe.

3.  This collagen duo pack from Higher Nature is a welcome addition to my beauty routine, containing not only a serum but also a collagen filled drink I'm hoping that by the end of the month I'll be looking more like 25 than 45.  Okay, so I know, miracles don't come in bottles but at my age, I'd like to at least give my skin every chance to age more slowly and gracefully.

4.  This Mandala Travel mug from Spark your Bloom is perfect for those early morning double Nespresso Lattes I like to make but that's not the best part, this one also comes with paints so you can design your own colourful mandala or maybe get the small ones in your life to come up with something extra special just for you.

5.  Okay so no mum, and definitely not me, is ever going to refuse chocolates and these vegan chocolates from Yumbles also happen to be vegan and gluten free as well as a totally tasty treat to say thank you to a mum who's suitably amazing.  (Abigail, Looby, your mama is looking at you )

6.  Now you know, all mums love photos, well, not all mums but I love them, I'm going to be posting about my love for them in my next blogpost so this is really just a taster but if your mum loves photos I can't recommend highly enough for canvases, photos and all manner of gifts, I've even got a blanket with Holly Bobbins on, I'll leave that to show you in my next blog post though!  You can also get 15% off your next order with the code MANDYCHARLTONPHOTO and it's so worth having because this discount is valid on the already discounted prices.

7. Critically endangered socks actively save animals and the landscapes which they live in to protect them from things like palm oil plantations and loggers, it's such important work they're doing and you get soft beautiful socks made from sustainable bamboo, they're also just about to launch a kickstarter where buying socks will help save baby animals, it's probably my favourite gift and they've found a new customer in me because as i'm sure you all know, my family and I, we all adore animals and often adopt them through various schemes so this means we can buy socks and we know, we've saved animals in the process, it's a gift mum will adore.

I want to thank all of the companies who've helped with this gift guide, who've taken the time to get in touch and then send through the carefully selected products which I've received in exchange for writing the guide.


Thursday, February 28, 2019

I watched only the news channels for one month, here's what happened.

Mandy Charlton, I watched only the news channels for one month, here's what happened,photographer, writer, blogger

I've always loved watching the news, I get my updates from many channels to try and get an unbiased view but I'll be honest, mostly on TV I stick to Sky News and the BBC News Channel.  I was feeling a little overwhelmed and had a massive case of brain fog so I decided instead of just catching up on the news for an hour a day I would switch to only watching the news (there is a caveat, I do occasionally watch movies, documentaries and of course Crazy Ex Girlfriend on Netflix) and for the most part, I can tell you, it's been such a good experience.

It's not just that I am now hyper-aware of everything that's going on in the world but my brain fog has dissipated and I feel more intelligent.  I'm also an expert on Brexit and the goings on in Parliament and I've spoken about it on my own social media in an effort to pass on the news in an easy to digest way.

I've started having much better chats with my teenagers and I think even Looby is soaking it in by osmosis, she attests that she doesn't like the news but she knows what Brexit is and who leads which political parties,  a year ago and I don't think I could have said the same thing.

It's funny isn't it?  We spend so much time sitting at our desks, scrolling through social media and all that happens is that it essentially kills our brain.  We lose our awareness of what's actually going on in the world's current affairs and we start to obsess over what's going to happen to Julie's cat or what will Michael have for lunch today.

Now whilst I can't say that I hate social media, I'd be a fool to do so, after all, when it's the way I make some of my income.  I can say that being permanently attached to it, isn't a wholly good thing.  Nor is sitting at your desk working and not getting any information from external places.

I can honestly say I absolutely love the news channels, yes, they may repeat the headlines a billion times every day but if you look past that there are great shows about politics, about the arts, in depth travel shows, consumer affairs programmes, and yesterday watching the Michael Cohen testimony, it was better than the best drama, I literally could not stop watching, the scandal, the revelations, hard to believe he was actually talking about the leader of the free world!

I'm an all or nothing type of girl so I guess I do things to extremes but I would advise you to at least tune into the news channel just a couple of times a day and catch up with what's really going on in the world.  I did at points worry it would trigger my depressive thoughts but actually, being hyper aware just made me more determined and I feel more informed so that I'm not scared of everything that is going on on the world, I'm just prepared for whatever happens.  I mean, yeah, I could probably terrify people with some of the absolute hard facts of what could happen in a no-deal Brexit but I'm now as prepared as I can be and I put that down completely to having this new awareness of what's going on in politics.

I realise I've always been a newshound, after all I've even written for the Huff Post several times but even if you aren't, maybe just tune in for a while and listen to what's going on beyond those few headlines, you may just get a surprise and learn a few new things.

A short note about my absence from my blog -  I have now been missing in action for more than half a month though if you follow me on Instagram you'll also know that I haven't just been hiding under a blanket, I've genuinely been working on things and sometimes it seems like Instagram is the new blog so please do, come follow me on there!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

14 Days To a Tidier Home Challenge

Around Christmas when I'd reached the correct dosage of CBD Oil and I was experiencing what it used to be like to have proper amounts of energy I started to tackle the decluttering, reorganisation and general zhuzhing of our home.

2 months on and the place is being transformed daily and so when Vonhaus got in touch to see if I wanted to join in their 14 days to a tidier home challenge it seemed appropriate to join in.  The kindly sent me a steam cleaner and some wonderful storage boxes and it's helped me so much in my mission.

So, do you want to take the challenge too?

14 days to a tidier home challenge

Day 1: Bins and recycling: sort through all the bins in your house and get your recycling separated. 
Day 2: Wipe down your kitchen units and steam the cooker tops. 
Day 3: Empty and clean out the fridge freezer - don’t forget the kitchen cupboards! 
Day 4: Vacuum Day: Focus on the floors, give all the rooms in your house a good vacuum. 
Day 5: Vacuum Day: Move the furniture and hoover those hard to reach areas of your home. 
Day 6: Clean the windows - inside and out! 
Day 7: Wash the curtains and wipe down the blinds. 
Day 8: Take everything off the sideboards, shelves and get dusting! 
Day 9: Get your bedding, blankets and cushions washed – after all everyone loves fresh bedding! 
Day 10: Wardrobes: Clear out any old clothing, reorganise and wipe down your wardrobes. 
Day 11: Remove wrinkles from clothing, curtains and upholstery. 
Day 12: Wash out your shower, shower screen and/or bath. 
Day 13: Let’s mop: antibacterial your floors and wipe down the tiles. 
Day 14: Finally take a trip to the tip: Declutter your home from unwanted clothes, items or food and take it to the tip, food bank or local charity shop. 

So I didn't strictly stick to the plan myself as I was already midway through and I have a little help on Tuesdays from Lisa our lovely housekeeping diva but if you're not already on a house beautifying mission then it's a great place to start.

Over the last few weeks if you follow me on Instagram you may have seen some of my before videos of the general state of my cupboards, well now I can say that every single cupboard in my kitchen has been decluttered, cleaned and completely reorganised, we've even got a Brexit cupboard.

One of the reasons I chose to work with Vonhaus is because I actually love their products, I've worked with them in the past and I've shopped at their website so it felt like a natural partnership to me and I'd never promote a company I didn't identify with.

I'm in a place now where I have roomy storage, I have space to put things and I can actually see the wood for the trees, I've already done one tip run, I've laid floor in my downstairs loo, I've taken a whole trolly full of stuff to charity and I still have rubbish which needs to be cleared in bulk and another massive charity shop run to do.

The amazing thing is that when I feel anxiety creeping up, I take control and clear out another cupboard or reorganise or make a list and it gives you back just enough control to help with the anxiousness.

February is usually one of the worst months for my mental health but I'm kind of gliding through winter this year and even though life is far from perfect and there's a difficult financial climate out there in the real world I think I may make it to spring (my favourite season) reasonably unscathed.

The next step in my process is to attempt to decorate on my own, well I'm hoping I can grab some help from girlfriends and the kids.  I know I want to go with a dark decorating scheme and I've chosen a dark green for the lounge, I just need a little income to purchase all of the colour matched paint and then I am most definitely on it!

If you take the 14 days to a tidier home challenge I would love to see your before and after's, my before's were so grim that in most cases I did it on Instastories so they didn't last forever.  Please do share your photos and stories and I'd love to know if tidying and organising can bring about changes in your general mental health.

Friday, February 08, 2019

The Joy of Missing Out

mandy in a hat celebrating the northern soul movement from 45 revs, mandy charlton, photographer, blogger, the joy of missing out

A couple of years ago when my business was flying and I had the ability to make 5 figures a month I decided that I needed to do it all, I travelled, I bought new tech, I invested in my business and I was shooting 20 sessions every weekend and then having them edited by a Monday evening, in addition to the photography I was also earning a modest income from blogging and writing which lead to lots of extra trips.  The harder I worked, the more income I created but I also needed to challenge myself to earn more and more money, I thought that this was the thing that my children would be proud of.  Looby requested trips in this country but Abigail, the go-getter that she is requested 8 days on the Cote d'Azur.  I worked tirelessly that year and then I got to the end of November 2017 and I crashed, I crashed bad, I was worn out, burnt out and I lost my love of photography, so much so that I decided to give it all up.  I was a victim of the theory that more equals more, that you can have it all and if you just work harder and harder you will end up happy.

Wrong, if you work so hard that if affects your mental health, that if affects the ability to do the job that you adored, if you work so hard that all you can see is a target of more and more money and things and trips, let me tell you, you've got it all wrong!

This is the lesson I've learnt the hard way, I've regressed years into an agoraphobic state and to anxiety so chronic I just wanted to hide, I did hide for a long period, in the spring of 2018 I barely worked and I didn't regain my love of photography until late last year.  

Let's fast forward to where I am right now, January was probably my worst ever month, I earned just enough to cover our bills and ran out of money at the end of it, I've limped into the start of February and I'm just about supporting us all, this years tax return will probably show a difference of around £20k less income than the last year but...

I'm overall happier, I've organised my life, my home, I've rarely been out other than for dog walks or with Looby on our missions to the bargain shops of Newcastle.  I light candles, I snuggle in cosy blankets and I collaborate with select companies which I know I can identify with like 45 Revs, a clothing company which has it's roots in Northern Soul, something my friends know I adore, I mean who doesn't feel happy when listening to my ultimate summer song California Soul?

If you don't know what Northern Soul is Wikipedia is your friend and if you do, well you'll identify with the fact that it's the best music out there and there are lots of amazing Northern Soul DJ's up in Newcastle, something I'm thankful for, my best ever New Year's Eve was a mix of Northern Soul DJ's at Ernest a couple of years ago.

mandy in a hat and hoodie celebrating the northern soul movement from 45 revs, mandy charlton, photographer, blogger, the joy of missing out

Suffice to say I love the movement and without a doubt I always Keep the Faith so when they sent me a hat and hoodie I discovered the love of simple cosy clothing, it's actually the first hoodie I've ever owned and the reason I love it is because it's not gathered with a waist emphasising huge pocket on the front!

At the moment my days are filled with planning the future, clearly there needs to be a balance between doing less and not burning out, I made the decision to continue with photography for as long as I feel I can give it my all and really, it's my first love.  I've stopped eating take-aways and cook every day from our fully stocked cupboards I've been working towards having, I might have been slightly spurred on by Brexit prepping but it's made me a wholly better person to have organised spaces.

It's funny that you can make less and be happier but there truly is joy in missing out, a few weeks ago I found out that there's a book published this very day by Svend Brinkmann called "The Joy of Missing Out" (which I managed to grab an advance copy of) and yes, we share a love of philosophy but I absolutely identify with all of his points that this need to have everything, to have it all, is actually counter-intuitive and there's real joy in having less, doing less, nourishing ourselves a little more by living more simply.

Now at my very heart is a serial entrepreneur who comes up with new business ideas at least five times a day but I'm reining myself in and just concentrating on things like residual income which happens whether I work or not, it's not something easy to build up but it is something worth working towards if you're not already on that path, think of residual income as something that can be built by helping others reach their goals and finding out the things they need in their lives and helping them achieve that.  Affiliate marketing, workshops, coaching programmes, stock photography, they're all forms of residual income.

I'm still figuring out my exact path in life but whilst I'm not coming to events or parties or to the pub, I'm truly loving life at home, living simply, cooking, prepping for the future, for me at 45, there really is joy in missing out.

This article contains links to clothing from 45 Revs and Sven Brinkmann's book, both of which I was gifted but not paid to write about, and both of which I was happy to collaborate with because they're the simple pleasures I identify with.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

I'm one of the 48% preppers stockpiling for a no deal Brexit, here's why...

The desk of Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger, brexit stockpiling
In early December I lost my ability to watch most tv shows, now my days (much to the dismay of the teens) are spent with the BBC news channel and Sky News on in the background.  You see, I'd reached a point where I was so worried about the effects of a no deal Brexit and the consequences that are likely to happen if such a thing occurs.

Now you may laugh at me and I expected Iain to think I was over-reacting, as someone with ASD he's always very pragmatic and doesn't do drama, just the facts.  What I found though, is that he actually encouraged me to do it because he'd seen the news, he'd spoken to people and in the event of a no-deal Brexit it's quite possible that we'll end up with not only food shortages but also the possibility of rolling power-cuts and in extremes, issues with our water, given that the chemicals used to clean it all come from France.

The more you look into the facts, the scarier it gets and yes, I guess with my mental health it doesn't help as I'm anxious and paranoid about the health of my family but I also think I'd rather stock up now than have a situation where we have hyper-inflation and price rises beyond our control.

Let's think about this for a moment.  My main sources of income are photography and blogging, they're not what you would call essentials, no one is going to want their small people photographed if they can't even afford to feed their family.  I'm already seeing the effects of the continued lack of resolution in the withdrawal agreement within the businesses of The Inspire Network, naturally it's the smaller businesses which will suffer the most and currently families, like yours and mine, we don't want to make any big purchases because we still don't know what is going to happen despite knowing we're leaving on the 29th March, or are we?

I joined a great Facebook group called 48% Preppers and it's full of the most valuable information about what you should stockpile and what's likely to run out first in the supermarkets.  If you've looked around over the last few months you'll already have seen how much prices are rising and so with my own family, at least one of whom has a restricted diet I cannot afford for the food to run out.

Just after Christmas I started to reorganise our house, our cupboards and my life (although that's another story completely) and over the last few weeks I've simply been purchasing just a little extra, pasta, rice, noodles, flour, tins of vegetables and fruits, all of the things which we could potentially survive on as well as some luxuries we'll really appreciate should the shit hit the fan.

It's scary how much we rely on electricity and yet in a power cut, I'll lose wifi, light, heat even as my heating may be gas but it needs electricity for the pump and to light the boiler.  Lose the gas and it's not much better although I do have an air fryer and an electric pressure cooker plus a fan heater and a small electric fire.

If you're a parent I would go and join the 48% preppers group, yes, most are preparing for the worst case scenario but if you read all of the advice and the reasonings behind it, none of it sounds like scaremongering, it's just the facts so this year I plan to grow more fruit and vegetables in my own garden, I plan to grow my own potatoes in pots and mushrooms, well they can be grown anywhere dark like the airing cupboard.

I plan to keep buying extra with my weekly shopping, it's surprising just how much stuff you can get at Aldi or Lidl in comparison to Sainsbury's.

If the worst doesn't happen and if we actually agree on a deal then you know what, I'll donate it all to a foodbank or I'll just have it there to reabsorb into my usual grocery supplies but for me as a mum and a cat and dog owner, no way am I risking not being able to feed any of them.  Holly Bobbins should be okay, her dogs dinners are made in Devon, doesn't mean I'm not making sure I don't have a couple of months supply though just in case.

Looby will be okay, she'd quite happily survive on pot noodles and vitamin tablets, Iain, will do the same but on beans and smash if he has to, and I could eat pasta every day if I had to.  I'm lucky really, I can cook pretty well, in fact I'm well known amongst my friends for inviting anyone who'll come to my house just so I can feed them too.  We'll be okay, we still have lots of room left that I can pack stuff in if I want to, thanks to Mrs Hinch, most of my food supplies are all in stackable baskets and the Brexit cupboard has lots of space to spare.

You might think I'm crazy or insane and yes, I do carry the cloak of madness with me at all times but honestly, as a parent, would I not be foolish to think this whole thing is going to be a party at the palace?  Even the Queen has a plan to escape London I hear...

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Holly Bobbins and The Pawfection Pack

Holly Bobbins the Beagle sits next to a pawfection pack for dogs, mandy charlton, photographer, writer blogger

Holly Bobbins loves surprises, in the world of being an influencer she's way more successful than I could ever be and when The Pawfection Pack got in touch to see if they could send her one of their monthly subscription boxes, well it didn't take us a lot of thought to accept.

The box arrived and she excitedly waited for Mama to rip open the packaging eagerly sniffing at every product in the package.

Now I can't say that she didn't love it all because she did but there were definite favourites in there such as a fabulous giraffe soft toy and biscuits for dogs in the shape of human biscuits, who doesn't love a good cup of tea and a chocolate bourbon?

Holly Bobbins the Beagle sits next to a pawfection pack for dogs, mandy charlton, photographer, writer blogger

The Pawfection pack is a monthly subscription box packed with goodies for your favourite four pawed friends, it's like a thank you for being the best pet ever and I shall definitely be ordering further boxes, I'm a subscription box fiend at the best of times and in the past Holly has tried others aimed at dogs but this is the most lovingly prepared and the owner also has 2 Beagle crossed pups who are adorable!

If you would like to sign up for The Pawfection Pack you can enter the code HOLLYBOB10 and get 10% off if you subscribe before March 22nd.

I should add that we haven't been paid to tell you this or recommend this and you should know as long time readers, Holly and I are very honest about the products and services we write about.

I think Holly's and mine favourite thing in the box was a neckerchief from Salt Dog Studios, she's been wearing it ever since and cutting a dash wherever she goes.
Holly Bobbins the Beagle sits next to a pawfection pack for dogs, mandy charlton, photographer, writer blogger

Holly Bobbins gives The Pawfection pack 9 barks out of 10 and that's only because I wouldn't let her eat the whole pack of biscuits from the Little Blue Pupcakery in one go.  She is after all on a new diet and looking to slim those hips of hers.

Thank you so much to the lovely people at The Pawfection pack for sending us this lovely box of goodies suitable for the best four pawed friends in the whole of the land.

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