Newcastle Photographer and Content Creator, Mandy Charlton, Always on a quest for adventure, often seen on buses, trains and planes. On a quest to be happier and healthier. Lives in Newcastle with her 3 cats, Iris, Maggie and Arthur. Loves good vibes, musicals and cakes. Full time professional wedding photographer in the north east of england alongside content creator on Tiktok, Instagram and Facebook

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016, Final Thoughts and Looking Forward to 2017

So, we're here, the very last blog post of 2016 and as I've already mentioned in my 2016 reflective post, it really has been quite a year.

As I leave this year to enter the next one I am happier than I can ever remember, Looby said earlier today that I had become fun mum this year, you cannot understand just how much of a robot I was, I was honestly high functioning, lived what I thought was a happy life but laughter is such an important thing, it relaxes, it binds us all together, it brings about shared experiences as we as a family all laugh together and then the kids laugh at me and then I laugh at, well everything really.  I have become as Mr F says, a giggler in a box.

Around this time every year I come up with my focus word for the next year and whereas last years was adventure this coming year I have a big goal because my word for this year is Joy, on a selfish level I want to have joy in my own life but this is not so much about what I want to receive because in 2017 I want to bring joy to other people's lives, I am genuinely setting out my goal for next year to make other people feel happier, less lonely, more joyful, positive smilier and enriched.

Friends for dinner on Mondays was a rousing success in 2016 and I'm planning to keep this going but I also want to add a monthly Friday night dinner party as I loved our Christmas party so much, it's just great when all of your friends are in the same place and your kids and their friends and you are all getting along having a shared experience.

I know I'm going to continue to travel and have adventures, more than ever before I want to get myself out there, exploring new places, meeting new people and just bringing some sparkle into people's lives.

It's taken me so long to get to this happy state that I'm in now and I want to truly share that with the world.  I rarely make resolutions, I just promise myself that I will try to continue to be brilliant each and every day.  I hope for no tears of sorrow and only tears of absolute and utter joy.

I am sure that the year ahead will hold challenges but I am ready for each and every one, I have beaten many challenges in my life, my work, parenting and business thus far and I know what I am capable of, yes I'm sometimes a little absurd and ridiculous but I have guts, I am independent, stubborn and strong, I keep those in my heart protected at all times and if anyone should try to hurt them I'll fight for them with all of my will.

I am truly excited for 2017, I think it could be the most amazing year I have ever lived so lets come back and reassess this a year from now and see if it's exceeded even my wishes and hopes.

Strap yourselves in for the most exciting ride yet, 2017, I am coming to get you!

Friday, December 30, 2016

20 Fun Facts About Me!

Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger, 20 fun facts, things you don't know, Newcastle Upon Tyne

It's still Twixtmas and I have to say that I am loving the Christmas holidays, yes there's been the odd moment of bittersweet loneliness but it's passed much more quickly and that is because I am of course happy.

Since we're coming to the end of the year I thought I would divert a little and as I've gained lots of new readers of late (hello out there) I thought I would come up with a list of things, you might not know about me or maybe a list that tries to encapsulate who I am in a nutshell, I'm sure there are things I'm going to forget but lets see how far I get...

1. I love Philosophy, I mention bits and pieces in blog posts when I feel it's relevant and I'm a huge fan of Greek mythology, I think lots of the stories are relevant in our lives now, I'm not sure if I believe that the original stories actually happened or if they're just great analogies to help people live good lives and make wise choices, my favourite stories are that of Cassiopia, Sysiphus, and Orpheus and I'm always intrigued by the storiy of Oedipus although that's more to do with Psychology and having daughters I can completely relate to the story of Electra, I may have even been subjected to the Electra complex when Abigail went through her hating mum stage at around the age of 5 and suggested that she and her daddy make poisoned perfume for mammy!  I kid you not!

2. I love talking about time travel and the theories of multiverses, it's probably why my favourite TV show is The Flash.

3. See above point, I adore superheroes, my favourites being The Flash, and Supergirl, also a big fan of Superman.

4. I love shoes, I mean I really love them, the saddest day was when I had to sell all of my Irregular Choice shoes on Ebay, however I'm now pleased to report that I do have a couple of pairs which fit.

5. I sing often, actually I sing all of the time and my close friends know that if I stop singing it's probably a sign that there's something wrong.

6. When there is something wrong, for example if I'm cross or cranky or even a crabby old fish face, I can usually be made to smile and relax with the gentle introduction of cake and perhaps a hug.

7. My love for musical theatre is true and undying, in another multiverse I am a leading lady on Broadway.

8. I once auditioned for Michael Barrymore's My Kind of People, I wasn't successful thank goodness

9. I always have access to emergency cake or chocolate, it's a basical fundamental skill, right now my handbag contains chocolate coins, and everyone knows that chocolate coins are the highest form or bribery and not just for children!

10. My achilles heel is loneliness but I'm working on that and mostly it's only passing moments now rather than days or weeks of feeling like I'm in a barren unloved wilderness.

11.  Every night I make a wish on the first star I see, you should try it too!

12. When I lie in bed every night I try to be thankful for the good things that have happened.

13.  I cry more now than I have done for 12 or so years but it's not a bad thing and it's mostly due to feeling so happy that I want to burst, I absolutely embrace each tear.

14.  I can go from intelligent and reasonably high functioning to completely absurd and ridiculous in 3 easy moves and certain people bring this out in me more than others, lets just say that people like Harriet and Mr France encourage my whimsical side.

15.  I am thankful for bipolar because it makes me the person that I am today and I doubt I would be so wildly creative without it, that doesn't mean it's not a challenge to live with but I guess it's about recognising your makeup, not letting it define you and embracing it.

16.  Since September I have truly embraced myself more than ever before, my children notice the laughter, the silliness and the general fun that has returned to my life and my home, they delight in giving me withering looks or just laughing with (or at) me.

17.  My favourite colour is Emerald Green, I suspect it's got something to do with the Wizard of Oz but I can always be guaranteed to cut a dash when I wear green.

18.  Music is one of the most important things in my life, I listen to it every day and sing along at the top of my voice, I often dance along the street with headphones in and if I think no one is around I'll sing out loud, this to me is how life should be.

19.  I'm very good at euphemisms but mostly they're completely accidental, when I try to think of them it doesn't work quite so well so please don't ask, just let it happen or you can of course follow me on Twitter where every day is a euphemism.

20.  My favourite time of day to write blog posts is late at night as I have just proved, I have written more blogposts at 11pm at night than at any other time of day in nearly 11 years.

I hope that you have enjoyed my 20 whimsical facts about me, sometimes it's good to do something just for fun and in this list I have definitely achieved that.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The continuing adventures of dating Mr France

Mandy Charlton, Holly Ball, As You Like It, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger
Me at the Holly Ball 2016

It's late and I'm over emotional, I'm writing this in the dark stillness of the night, the place I use to collect my thoughts when I need to get my head in gear.  I think I have a grumpy liver today and it's shaped most of my day.  Today we have lounged and chilled, I have eaten too much cheese, one too many florentines and I've drunk copious cups of Fortnum and Masons Royal Blend, my liver has been grumpy from too much Christmas excess, Cosmopolitans on Christmas Eve, a bottle of Champagne on Christmas Day and 3 glasses of Prosecco yesterday, maybe that's not a lot for some but it is for me, especially as I have a lack of the enzyme which breaks down the poison in alcohol, I've all but decided to give up alcohol entirely though my doctor tells me I should be ok once a month, so yay for my upcoming birthday! I'll be truthful, though, not drinking alcohol hasn't ever really bothered me, I'd rather give up Champagne than cake though I might miss it on an occasion, I'm just as fun without alcohol, especially when I'm on top form as I have been of late, I am most definitely at my best when I am happy in my heart.

Here's the thing, I am happy in my heart, I genuinely have joy back in my life, it's wonderful and scary and amazing and joyful and terrifying all in the same breath, just having someone say "you look lovely" when you go out for your once yearly ball, it may not be the biggest thing but it's enough.

There really is so much more than you the reader knows of Mr F, to know him thus far is really only half of the story, he is much more amazing than you can imagine, he's crazy bonkers and he's made me laugh so much my sides have hurt, I'm not actually sure why he's not considered a career in comedy but perhaps it was because he was just off being equally brilliant doing other things. I keep telling him that I adore his mind but I'd be lying if I didn't say that he's just my type physically too, I am a big fan of geeky types.  For our weekly date this week we Skyped for a couple of hours and then we watched Jonathan Creek together whilst messaging about who we thought was the perpetrator of the dastardly deed, Now I should point out that Mr F is rather good at solving crimes and would probably beat everyone at Cluedo, you should never watch Murder She Wrote with him for he will tell you who did it before Jessica even so much as gets a look in, I'm not suggesting you should call him in a time of crisis but he's just very good with patterns and general brilliance.

What is lovely is feeling like you are watching TV with someone even when they're not physically next to you, maybe the way in which we met and the way in which we are dating isn't traditional, maybe you're sitting there thinking "oh no, that's just a bit too weird" and yes it is weird, it's weird and wonderful and unexplainable and extraordinary but I get just as excited to see Mr F on Skype every week as I would if we were seeing each other in real life and if you're wondering if I feel frustrated that I can't hold his hand or give him a hug or dare I say, kiss him, well, yeah a bit but not as much as you would think because I know that'll happen, maybe though the way we've chosen is the best way, we get to know each other properly, all of our quirks and foibles are there without the added distraction of being attracted to each other, which of course we are,  I've never been one to take my time in matters of the heart, I'm over-excitable at the best of times and thus being hundreds of miles apart works for that very reason, it gives us both space and time to spend magical moments together whilst still getting on with our own lives, he did say that one day we'll be able to sit on the sofa together and then, just as you would expect, we'll be on our social media still talking to each other and that's something I just can't wait for...


Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas Day 2016, A Festively Fabulous Affair

Christmas came and Christmas went in just 24 hours, doesn't it seem weird that we prepare for months to celebrate just one special day.  It's funny though because for just that very short window, time stands almost still, normal life exits stage left and you find yourself playing board games with your teenage children thinking "Blimey, it must be Christmas".

My Christmas this year was a quiet affair, on Christmas Eve, Harriet and Kelly came for Christmas dinner after Harriet and I had been to church for the usual crib service we enjoy so much, it's just an hour of joy and celebration as you sing carols as loud as your lungs will permit, that's quite loud if you are me!  Our Christmas dinner was a loud and raucous affair as we all descended into the kind of laughter which actually hurts and then just as they left my lovely friend Steve arrived wearing a knitted Santa bobble hat, so lovely to spend time with friends on Christmas Eve.

Just as the Christmas bells chimed and I was watching Midnight mass, my yearly tradition, a message pinged, Mr France telling me that he'd stayed awake just for me so that he would be the first person to wish me Happy Christmas, I can honestly say that this small gesture made my Christmas Day and I went to bed happy and smiling that someone would do something so lovely just for me.

Christmas Day arrived with the declaration from Looby that it was indeed Christmas and I bribed her with making me a cup of coffee if she wanted me to get up, Christmas comes in useful for so many things! 

My darling children really spoilt me rotten this Christmas, I have the most splendid teenagers who I adore and they clearly have a much bigger disposable income than me as they gifted me with a dress, 2 pairs of shoes, 1 being my most favourite Irregular Choice, Iain played a blinder with an Amazon firestick so I can watch The Grand Tour and the whole of Arrow which is the only DC series I've yet to watch, I also got some lovely London themed things from Harriet who anticipates that I might head southward just a few times next year!  Even Holly Bobbins was spoilt with a new collar from Barneys collars and some fabulous gifts from Best In Show

I also must give special mention to Peter and Cynthia, Harriets gorgeous parents who I've adopted, they bought me the most fabulous mini beagle and thanks to a brilliant suggestion by Mrs A on Twitter, I've named her "Martine De Beagle" She's sitting just in the corner of my sitting room watching Holly Bobbins quite closely, I'm not sure if Holly knows quite what to make of her but she's definitely aware that Martine is a beagle.

Yesterday was the best day with just my teens, we laughed until I had to go and sit on the floor in the hall to try and comfortably laugh without dying, my children are comedians and even if they are usually laughing at me rather than with me, it's hilarious all the same.

When the girls departed leaving just me, Holly and KT (my friend Laura's Tibetan Terrier) I felt that bittersweet tinge that I'm sure most single parents feel on Christmas Day but I sang along to Frozen, got teary eyed at a wonderfully romantic superhero episode of Doctor Who and soon Harriet arrived back from Yorkshire for just 1 more glass of Champagne and a festive cheeseboard.

Today, I am still in bed, I'm going out for lunch and then I shall be mooching until such a time as I put on my ball gown for it's annual outing to The Holly Ball, this year, though, I shall not be drinking so much tequila that I laugh myself to sleep because, between you and me, I can laugh myself to sleep these days without even so much as a breath of alcohol.

Friday, December 23, 2016

2016, A Reflective Post

Holly Bobbins wearing antlers, Beagle, dog, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, writer, blogger, 2016 a reflective post

So this is it, my last blog post before Christmas,  and I'm up to date with brand collaborations and outstanding articles, something I've learnt this year is how much pressure I feel to do the best job for the companies I collaborate with, another thing is that since I photographed cocktails at the Science Bar, I almost always get invited to cocktail based events, I for one shall not be complaining about that anytime soon!

Whilst this year has had it's trying times and many challenges all I can see now as I sit here reflecting are the good times, there have been so many highlights like going to Barcelona with Harriet, visiting Stratford and having many Shakespeare moments with Abigail, walking Alpacas, exploring Amsterdam and of course I couldn't complete my round up without mention of meeting Mr France, he really is the sweetest geek.

When I started this year, I wanted to have great adventures, that was the main focus of my resolve for 2016 and I have done that both offline and online.  I finally found the strength to move on earlier this year and on the day I did I felt a huge weight being lifted off my shoulders and now my life is filled with happiness and smiling every day, I feel again, in fact, I have all of the feels, I have enough feels for me, Mr F and the whole of the land and I quite often have tears of happiness when I realise just how far I've personally and emotionally grown this year.  

Don't get me wrong, I still have anxiety, I still have moments where I suffer from almost crippling low self-esteem but every neurosis is something that's been caused over a period of years so I have to allow for the years ahead to heal me.  I remember a conversation on Twitter a while ago about The Phantom and whether Christine should have chosen him or Raoul, the overwhelming response was the Christine should have chosen The Phantom because love was the only way to heal him, we're all like that a little bit I think, we need to find our people, our crew, our squads, whether that be friendships, relationships, whatever, it's only when we view the world with love and let love in that we can be healed and live to our full potential, I hope to do more of that in 2017 than I have done thus far.

I'm taking some time off over Christmas, I just have one planned photo shoot on the 28th, it's a bit of a weird situation because I'll almost certainly be more active on Twitter for the next couple of weeks than I am normally but that's because lots of friends are away over Christmas, my children will be social butterflies and so it's my online friends who will mostly keep me sane, well the ones who are around, if no one is around then I shall just resort to talking to myself or Holly Bobbins, I do that quite enough anyway!

I cannot really say what will happen in the future, I literally have no plans currently, my hopes are that I'll get to meet Mr F in 3D and that's almost certainly going to happen in January, much, much excitement at that prospect even though our Skype dates are almost like having him sitting next to me, no really it is, if you've never tried a Skype date I can't recommend it highly enough!  What I would say is what we have found almost certainly cannot be defined or labelled and nor would I want it to be that way, I hate labels and being pigeonholed, I've had that for my entire life.

So I wish to take this opportunity to say thank you for staying with me this year, through the tears, the laughter, the moments of complete ridiculousness and absurdity, next year will be my 12th year of blogging, I'm not sure there are many others out there with a blog as old as mine and yet I am still small fry in the blogging world, I'd love to be just a tad more well known and I'd love my story to lead somewhere further, I know I want to continue to do more writing, oh and on the business front, I bought a couple of new domains yesterday, I have this idea for a website which I'm going to work on over Christmas, can't say too much though because it's just an exciting quirky idea in the corner of my mind at the moment!

So here and now to each and every one of you, I want to wish you the best Christmas ever, may you be with the ones you love and hold dear to your hearts, may you kiss often, laugh lots and hug like bears, have yourself a merry little Christmas now...


Thursday, December 22, 2016

Oh You Pretty Things, Metrocentre, Christmas Cocktail Menu

Christmas Cocktails at Oh You Pretty Things, Metrocentre, Gateshead, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger

Christmas is here and with it nearly every bar and restaurant have some kind of festive menu edition and at Oh You Pretty Things in the Metrocentre, Gateshead, that's exactly what they're doing with their special menu of delicious and carefully crafted cocktails introduced just for this festive period.

I was invited down to sample the festive tipples with my best friend and female partner in crime Harriet, to be honest it was just a great excuse for a girly catch up, both of lives have been exceedingly busy of late so it was nice to have some time where it was just us, let me tell you, when Harriet and I get together it's always hilarious, she's another one who's as whimsical as I am and we two, we have the best adventures, our Barcelona trip is one of the highlights of my year!

Back to those Christmas cocktails, so we willingly tried each one, just small sips but enough to confirm that yes, each one had the festive taste of Christmas, I'm not sure what many would make of a cocktail which uses blended bourbon biscuits as an ingredient and it does add an unusual texture to the Kentucky Kissmas but I personally welcome the chance to drink the odd biscuit at Christmas, who doesn't?

Our cocktail tasting was like a trip through Christmas Land and I even commented that the taste of the spiced apple was actually like licking the inside of the Witches house in Hansel and Gretel, what do you mean I can't know that?!  Trust me on this, I know what I'm talking about!

I'm stuck between choosing my favourite, I adored the Winter spice snow because I love creamy cocktails and the fact that the rim of the glass is covered in hundreds and thousands just continues to add to my Christmas pleasure, I may even have to go back and try me a whole one of these, I'd imagine if you are struggling with your last minute Christmas shopping then one of these is just going to change your mindset completely and you'll spend the rest of the trip skipping and hopping through the Metrocentre without a care in the world.

I also loved the Vanilla and Apple Martini, that's my kind of drink, not too many flavours and only the best type of ingredients, if I happen to be passing during Twixtmas you can be sure that's the one I'll be drinking whilst perched upon their pretty bar stools.

if you're not a cocktail fan don't worry, their normal menu is still available and they have one or two treats up their sleeves for the drivers and non-drinkers too!

Thanks to Oh You Pretty Things for inviting Harriet and I down for a festive afternoon tea, and some samples of delicious drinkies in exchange for writing an honest article.

Happy Christmas and Bottoms Up!

Zapatista's After Five PM Menu | Mexican Food in Newcastle Upon Tyne

The New After Five Menu, Zapatista Burrito Bar, Newcastle, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger

I love Mexican food, it's one of my favourite cuisines and after being introduced to the amazing Zapatista earlier in the year I couldn't really refuse the invitation to go along and try some of their new After Five menu which extends on the whole Mexican cuisine, no longer are they just serving burritos but a whole Mexican fiesta of a menu.

If you're a cocktail fan, Zapatista or Zaps as the locals tend to call it, have just the thing for you, an amazing assortment of alcoholic and lets just say tequila based wonders, sadly I'm currently completely intolerant to all alcohol (yes, sob, weep, it's bad) so I had to settle for one of their non-alcoholic Jarritos, delicious and totally Mexican, try the Guava flavour, it's very moreish! 

The new after 5 menu isn't just for evenings when you fancy doing something different after work, it's also available all day at weekends so perfect for brunch on a Saturday, early evening drinks with food or maybe even a pre-theatre burrito.

What I particularly loved about the menu were the tacos and the taquitos, I can't describe them as anything other than a Mexican taste sensation but add just a little tequila cocktail and you could quite easily believe you're in a cantina in Guadalajara rather than a Burrito Bar on Grainger Street in Newcastle 

My favourite of all of the Mexican morsels that were served were the best Jalapeno Poppers I've ever tasted, just the right strength of cheese combined with the perfect type of heat from the Jalapeno, I'd be quite happy to eat a portion of those every day of the week.

I think Zapatista's menu extension looks very promising, one thing we seem to lack in Newcastle is great Mexican food and I adore Mexican food, for the dessert lovers amongst us you needn't worry either, I tried both the grilled pineapple and the Key Lime pie and both were mouthwateringly delicious, so much so I could also see me going for an evening burrito, coffee and a slice of that delicious lime pie!

I'm going to make a suggestion, you know when it gets to the 27th of December and you need a break from Turkey and Christmas TV and you're kind of feeling like a hostage in your own home due to those charming family members slightly overstaying their welcome, well why not escape on a secret mission, tell them you're just popping out, go order yourself a Taquito and a Tequila and you'll soon get your Va Va Voom back and lets face it, we all need a little Mexican Va Va Voom at Christmas!

The Zapatisa After Five Menu is now available at the Grainger Street Branch, I was asked to go along and to write this article, these are my opinions, my photos and yes, I did feel quite full after the plethora of foodie treats!


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

I have a big dilemma Mr France

the start of our story, mandy charlton, photographer, blogger, writer, #whoismrfrance

Last night, Skype date number 3 and Mr France had put himself on a curfew because he was shattered and had to be up super early today for his children, it's quite endearing as I don't think I've ever put myself on a curfew before but perhaps I should start?

Of course, Skyping Mr France before bed always keeps me awake, I usually remember all of the things I was going to tell him but forgot whilst we were actually Skyping, sometimes our conversations are so whimsical and ludicrous that I can't even remember them, we do throw some serious stuff in there for good measure but I love that he's as whimsical as I am, in fact I would go so far as to say that he's sometimes more whimsical and that's what you have to love about him, there's literally no one else in the whole world like him, I could search the planet for the rest of my life and there's no way I would find someone even vaguely similar, he's just the right kind of crazy bonkers for me!

Something kept me awake last night though and yes, I realise I'm not exactly sleeper of the year at the moment but bear with me, you see we were talking and I think anyone who knows me probably knows who Mr France is but it's not the same for him, he said he can't blog about me because he's unable to be even slightly subtle and would end up just talking about me, Mandy!  This is all fine but it got me thinking, maybe I should just reveal who he is now because it's not just my story anymore, it's our story and by keeping his identity secret maybe I am inhibiting his story and he's someone who blogs with passion and has the same view as me, that his blog is his story, his log of who he was for his descendants (sorry for paraphrasing Mr France, if you're reading).

The reason I called Mr France by not his real name was that it was easier to write about him without calling him by his true identity and also there was always the chance that once we got to our Skype date that we wouldn't have got on etc but I really don't see anyone in my future now apart from him, it's almost certainly got to be long term and at a slow pace because of our lives and the distance we live apart but that's kind of the best bit, I said to him last night that I have no intention of ever getting in the way of how is life is, I just want to add to it, enhance it, I guess I want to be like the best kind of buttercream icing on the perfect cake or the glorious soft pink sponge in a Battenberg (that's the only part I like actually but Ssh).

There's not a day goes by where I don't speak to Mr France and in each day that I have known him he's brought me happiness and laughter, I said last night that if we went too long without Skyping that I would miss his face and it's true, this small, sensitive pocket-sized man has found the empty space in my heart and I think just nestled himself in there, there's no denying that if I was a kitten I would be smitten!

You know, we're grown-ups, we both have life and complications, neither of us is entirely perfect but as I've found in the past, perfection is unattainable and not what it's cracked up to be, being good enough, that's where it is and I am definitely good enough and Mr France, well he's way more than good enough for me because he might not be perfect but for me he's perfect.

So maybe now I will just tell you all, I'd love to be able to introduce you all, maybe you'll all start reading his blog too, it's different to mine and he's way more successful in the blogging world than I am but as these things go, I need to collect my own thoughts and I need to ask him what he thinks about that because whilst it's my story and our story, it's not my place to out him in any sense of the word so let's just say, watch this space...

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

5 Last Minute Christmas Gift ideas

last minute christmas gifts, christmas gift guide for him, her, your dog, or yourself, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

Ok, so it's now just a few days until Christmas and if you haven't got that all important gift for that difficult to buy for person then Mama Mandy aka the Fairy Squadmother is here to help, I'll have to tell you why I'm called the Fairy Squadmother another time though!

1. The Boots City Lights Beauty Collection is on sale for just £39 and it's worth over £140, perfect present for me actually but also good for best friends and don't forget your mama, she loves you too! Bookmark that link and you might just get some goodies in the Boxing Day sale when everything is reduced

2.  Fancy a little soothing in the New Year, I am the biggest fan of holistic therapies and I've got some top tips for some amazing ladies you need to visit if you want to transform into the beautiful inner goddess you have inside.

For Reiki, you need to purchase a session or buy some gift certificates from the wonderful ladies at Cloud Nine, they even have a special retreat running between Christmas and New Year at a very special price and this is a present the most spiritual of your family is going to love.

For Reflexology you need to go and see lovely Rachel at R&R Therapy in Gosforth, she's based inside the Northern Football ground and she's a genius, she could tell that I was anxious just by the skin on the side of my toes.

If Numerology is your thing then you must go and see Sonia, aka, The Fit Mumma, this amazing lady helped me change my life by showing me all of the amazing things which lay ahead, I was pretty much floundering around in the wilderness and an hour with Sonia really switched my thinking around, I can't recommend Sonia highly enough!

Finally, if you think Tarot might show you the way then you need to go and visit my wonderful friend Susan Smalley, she's possibly the most esoteric lady I know and she glows from the inside, just a walk with Susan makes me feel glad to be alive, imagine the possibilities of a tarot card reading to help guide you.

3.  The lovely people at Best In Show sent Holly some Christmas gifts in the shape of a giant bone, a play toy that actually cleans teeth and another fabulous mug for me to add to my collection, they also do the most adorable hampers for your four-pawed best friends

4.  Totally digital and only £7.69 instead of over £20 it's the Windows 10 edition of Minecraft, guaranteed to keep the little people out of mischief over the Christmas holidays

5. I always get my kids something which helps others, this year we've adopted a donkey, Oxfam have the best range of gifts which help others, you can send a water, honey bees or even a pile of poo and you'll be safe in the knowledge that you've done something amazing.

This last minute gift guide contains affiliate links, people who I've worked with and people I would personally recommend, all of these ideas are my own and I am the fairy squadmother!

Have Yourself A Cosy Little Christmas

Eve Pillows sitting under the tree, Eve Mattress at Christmas, Holly Bobbins, Mandy Charlton Photography Blog, photographer, blogger, writer

It's 5 am in the morning, the tree lights are twinkling and I'm nursing a large steaming coffee in my favourite unicorn mug, it's way too early to be awake and yet my body has hated even the thought of sleep during December and I can only hope that once the equinox passes later this week that I will start sleeping properly again.

When I do sleep, I have the most comfortable bed in the world, so much so that you'll often find me sitting working on my bed or just lying on it because it's like sleeping in a giant bowl of marshmallows and having every limb cuddled, my neck, the dodgy prolapsed disk hasn't given me any pain since I started sleeping on my Eve mattress and since the Eve Pillows arrived in November I have been fighting with my teenagers as they try to pinch them off me, the fiends, what's weird is for the first time in my life I'm sleeping on one pillow instead of two and when I sit up to read I prop myself up with 2 and it's perfect!!  I really do love sleeping on Eve (not a euphemism)

This year give someone an Eve Pillow for Christmas, Eve Sleep, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

I would like to also state that up until December I slept like a virtual log every night, it's just December every year that likes to mess with me, it's almost certainly a combination of the approaching equinox, the bad light levels, the excitement that Christmas is coming and the usual, "what the heck am I going to do over winter" question that I pose myself each year!

For anyone tuning in to find out what's happening with Mr France, well we didn't Skype last night but we're Skyping tonight instead, I'm very happy and I'm going to take a presumptuous stab in the dark and suggest that the feeling is mutual, what's been really fun is seeing friends and other bloggers and them all asking me #whoismrfrance the hashtag has reached over 200,000 I think now, I never intended it to happen like that, it's almost the worst kept secret on the internet but I usually refuse to confirm or deny although my good friends, my best girlfriends, they all know and they already love him because they know how happy I am, I've definitely been in super sparkly, bouncy Mandy mode and nothing has made me grumpy for ages actually, not that I was the queen of grumpy before you'll understand but well, it's just nice to be liked by someone of the opposite sex again, especially someone as fabulous as Mr France

I've been feeling somewhat reflective over these last few days and wondering if I should come up with some kind of yearly round up post, it's been such an amazing year, don't get me wrong there have been tough times and challenges, I think when you put single parenting into the mix with self-employment that's always bound to happen but I've made it to the end of another year, we all have, my fabulous teenagers and I, I should say that Iain isn't, of course, a teenager any longer but it's just easier to call him one than say he's going to be 21 next year, I'm not even sure how that can be possible!! 

I still have much to do before Sunday, my quest to do the Peter Kaye style big shop yesterday rather ended up in much hilarity, oh I spent the budget but came home with a Jamón, a lovely Christmas dress and some new fabulous underwear, not entirely sure what we'll eat over the next couple of weeks but hey ho, a man is due today with a box of veg and another man is due with some Christmas meat, oh and another man is due with my iPhone7 plus, but shush, I know you can't eat that either!

I don't know what's going to happen with blogging over Christmas, writing is my therapy, something to do late at night or early in the morning when there's just me and the sound of my fingers tapping away speedily on the keyboard, whilst I'm sort of taking a break from the business of photography for a few days, I'm not sure how long I can go without writing something and as Mr France says, if I don't write about him people will start to wonder if he's disappeared, I think he just likes reading about himself superhero style and knowing exactly what's going on in my mind, but shush, don't tell him I said that!!

Whatever you do over the next few days, may it be smooth running, may you remember to smile lots and maybe take just a moment or two to reflect on what Christmas really means, I know I'll be doing exactly that.  Until next time dear friends...


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