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

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Summer holiday update, the one where the exhaustion set in...

I don't know how you're feeling at this point in the summer holidays but I am exhausted, it could be because I just shot my 2nd wedding in 3 days or it could be the fact that I planned a never ending summer of fun and excitement and let me tell you, that's quite a feat, for the last few weeks I have lived out of a suitcase, I think there's only been one week where there was no travel planned or actually there was I was just too tired to actually go so I took a loss on the cheap train tickets.  Today we're going to stay in a bunk barn at the Bells of Hemscott, a favourite place for us and this time I'm going with Harriet, Looby and Looby's best friend Elisha who will be playing the part of Abigail, Abigail didn't think she would be able to come as she's finally having braces fitted today, it's taken 2 long years to get to this point and some of the stages have not been without pain but at least the future holds for her straight teeth, no underbite and no overbite, to me, she's so beautiful that it doesn't matter but to her it's the world.

Looby continues to thrive and grow, grow being the important word, I stood next to her just the other day and noticed that she's only an inch or so shorter than me, I'm not even sure when that happened but she's certainly not little Looby any longer although she'll always be my baby, who can believe that she's going to be 13 in a month, certainly not me!  It's a stage in your life when your baby becomes a teenager and I'm still not sure I'm old enough to have grown up children.

Next week marks 2 years of being a single parent, a challenge I wasn't ready to face and something that still makes me feel sad that I just couldn't cling on and make things work, in saying that I am happier than I have ever been I think, I have freedom and laughter and adventures every week, I have no one to judge me and a whole lot of love in my life, one day I hope to find that special person who'll love me for just who I am but that's no mean feat and I'm still not ready, the thought of a new relationship terrifies the life out of me and I'm wondering if that will ever change,  it's different being single in your 40's, the world of the opposite sex does not seem to open anymore and my social anxiety doesn't really get me out enough in the right places for me to even have a chance of meeting someone.  I do have moments of loneliness but then i'm ever grateful for the friendships I have, friends are so important to me, they are my family, some of them I see almost every day or week and some I hardly see at all because our lives are so busy but they mean just as much to me and I love that when we do meet up or just speak via text or message that we can pick up where we left off and there's a comfort in that.

I wasn't really sure what I was going to write about when I sat down to write this post, I had no title, I'd just woken up as tired as I was when I went to sleep but I felt compelled to open up my macbook and write down the jumble of thoughts that had collected in my head.  Whilst I openly use my blog as part of my business, I never want it to become a place which isn't really me anymore, I never want it to just become about business or sponsored posts, infographics and giveaways because that's not just me and my business is me, the lines between my work and my personal life are so entwined that I cannot exist without either, I do not want to exist as any other person than the one who I am right now.

On Sunday I leave for Barcelona, I could pretend that I'll just lie around by a pool reading books for 5 days but I think we all know that would be a downright lie, you can't go to Barcelona and do nothing, theres too much to see and do, Gaudi, Picasso, Dali all left their mark on Barcelona and my list of things to do means an almost minute to minute schedule although I have promised Harriet we will have siesta time, an hour by the pool reading the aforementioned book!  Park Guell, Tibidabo, La Sagrada Familia, I could go on but I think there's not going to be a whole lot of standing still for very long, hopefully I'll come back lighter and brighter!

The kids go back to school 2 weeks today so if you are still enjoying the summer holidays, then you need to make sure that in the next 2 weeks you make each precious second count!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

A mini break to Stratford Upon Avon

When I asked the girls what they wanted to do this summer I was delighted when Abigail said she wanted to go in search of Shakespeare in Stratford Upon Avon, finally somewhere I'd not been before and somewhere I'd always wanted to visit.  We booked the Kings Head in Wellsbourne through Virgin Experience Days, not knowing it was 4 miles away, not that it would have been a problem but taxis charge £20 to go 4 miles in Stratford Upon Avon, in fact the first taxi we got in from the station I later found that he started the meter at the Christmas Day tariff, this is not the first time I've been conned by a taxi driver when visiting somewhere but it makes me so glad we have Uber in Newcastle, actually even the buses around Stratford Upon Avon were more than I usually pay in Uber fares!  Suffice to say that we arrived on Wednesday afternoon, left on Friday morning and spent over £100 in local taxis and buses, my top tip if you don't drive would be stay in central Stratford or even Tiddington which is just a mile and a half walk, Abigail and I walked there on Tuesday night as there were no bus stops between Stratford and Tiddington!!

Anyway, I don't want you to think that it ruined our mini break because it didn't, we had the most brilliant 48 hours in Stratford Upon Avon, we visited 3 out of the 5 of the places owned by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, we visited Mary Ardens Farm, Anne Hathaways Cottage and Shakespeare's birthplace, a sightseeing bus (around £20 for 1 adult and a child for 24 hours) provided our travel solution to get to Mary Ardens Farm and Anne Hathaways cottage which are a few miles from the centre of Stratford.  Abigail's favourite place and mine too was his birthplace, I think because you just feel so near to Shakespeare, after all Mary Ardens Farm was the farm of his mother and he never lived at Anne Hathaways cottage, he merely visited there, and that's why it's called Anne Hathaways cottage and not Anne Shakespeares cottage.

When you go into Shakespeare's birthplace there's a presentation of various quotes and pieces of his plays, many of them from our popular culture like The Simpsons or some of the many TV and film adaptations I've watched over the years, I have a great love of Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing being my favourite play and a good oration of "Shall I compare thee to a summers day?" (Sonnet 18) will have me in tears, it's just the most beautiful soul wrenching sonnet about love and existence and everything else, if you want to win my heart just read that aloud to me or give me a present with it printed on something, not a penny though, I actually had the sonnet printed on a squashed penny so that I could carry it with me always, I am an old romantic without hope of a cure.

Everywhere you go in Stratford is like a postcard from the past, quaint buildings from the 15th and 16th centuries line the shopping streets and there's history at every corner, we visited the church Shakespeare is buried in, sadly I can confirm he is actually dead at present but at least his final resting place is next to his life, his love, his other half.

Whilst we were in Stratford we thought it only right that we should see a play, although the RSC had a play on offer which was just a little too serious for holidays so we skipped across to the attic fringe theatre to see a magical performance of the Wind in the Willows loved by children and adults everywhere.  A quirky, happy, bouncy performance by a young cast of no doubt future stars, Abigail said just for a while she was returned to a state of childlike wonder and even I who never stops thinking found myself transported to a magical world, the riverbank, the land of Ratty and Mole and Toad, just for a while.

These adventures I've had with my daughters this summer have been the most worthwhile, wonderful mini breaks, they've cemented the reasons I adore spending time with my daughters, their quick wit and often hilarious impressions of me have kept me rolling in the aisles, Abigail wants to start her own blog or vlog called "Things my mum says"  when Looby and Abigail are together, they are quite the double act, I've never laughed so much as I have this very special summer.


Friday, August 19, 2016

Quick and Simple Caribbean Street Party BBQ Menu to Wow Your Friends

You remember Tuesday, when it was hot and sunny all over the country, we only seem to get a couple of these days of Spanish plumes and short heatwaves so what else to do but embrace them with a Caribbean street party BBQ, Grace Foods sent a hamper full of goodies to help with the recipes and challenged me to come up with a menu fit for the best street party in honour of Caribbean food week which takes place this August 22-29th.

I love cooking, I love feeding my friends and I love a good summers BBQ so I invited some friends and the challenge was on.  I had one small problem, at the moment I am working an insane amount of hours and there's not been one week where I've had more than a couple of days at home so my menu and recipes had to be quick, simple and utterly tasty!

Here's my menu - 

Jamaican Jerk Chicken with Rice and Peas
Tropical Fruit Salad

3 simple courses fit for even Billy Ocean's Caribbean queen.

If you want to recreate my menu, you just need these 3 simple recipes.

Jamaican Jerk Chicken

pour half a jar of Jamaican Jerk marinade (I used Grace Foods, Jamaican Jerk Marinade) over a pack of boneless chicken thighs and pop in the fridge for several hours, then simply BBQ until chargrilled.

Rice and Peas

300g of brown rice
can of coconut milk (I used Grace foods coconut milk from the hamper)
450ml water
can of mixed beans (I used the Grace Food tin of mixed beans from the hamper)

mix everything together and simmer until cooked then squeeze in a whole lime and a large squeeze of honey, serve the chicken with the rice and peas.  

Tropical Fruit Salad

1 Mango
1 Papaya
1 Charentais Melon
1 Pineapple
3 Passion Fruit

Serves 5 people, and very simply just chop everything and then pour over the passion fruit, this is the prettiest brightest dessert and so refreshing, not to mention healthy!

If you fancy celebrating Caribbean Food Week you can find them at 

hashtag #CFW2016

and if you are a lucky duck and live in London there's going to be a huge celebration in Windrush Square, Brixton on Friday 26th and Saturday 27th August from 11-7 with street food, live music, cooking demos and a market, yes it makes me wish I lived just a little nearer to London but if you go along I'd love to hear from you or if you fancy cooking up your own caribbean feast do let me know how you get on.

I want to thank Grace Foods for sending me a great hamper full of goodies which helped our party go with a swing! I also want to thank Looby who really got into the whole day and gave everyone Jamaican nails and she and her bff even dressed in a Caribbean party style, I love my daughter!  Oh and thanks to Abigail and my lovely friend Laura who came but only for the food, no photos of them although Harriet was just as keen as the kids for our little party popper fiesta!


Monday, August 15, 2016

Want to Win Tickets to See Disney On Ice?

Today I have the most special giveaway to tell you about, how would you like to win 2 tickets to see Disney On Ice presents Frozen at the Newcastle Metro Radio Arena on Wednesday October 19th thanks to the lovely people at Disney?

Well here's all you have to do, just go over to my twitter and RT this pinned tweet by noon on Saturday 27th August 2016, I will then choose a Retweet at random, think children picking something out of a magical hat and that's how you win!!

THE PRIZE   2 x tickets to the Disney On Ice performance at Newcastle Metroradio Arena on Wednesday 19th October 2016 (6:30pm)
TERMS AND CONDITIONS   One lucky person will be randomly selected as our winner from all valid entries. UK entries only. Travel/transport/extras are not included. Tickets are non-transferable to another date/show/location. There is no cash alternative or refund available.Giveaway closes: (noon 27th August 2016).

So what are you waiting for, go, go, go my pretties and enter the competition and you could be there, don't forget to wave at Looby and I doing our best Elsa impersonations!!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Summer In The North East of England, The Ordinary Moments and Extraordinary Memories

Sunday evening, somewhere in the middle of August, summer in the Northeast of England is always a special time for me, I love all of the challenges and joys of being self employed, my favourite part is that I get to spend lots of time with my children and friends during the long summer days, it might not have been the brightest, hottest summer we've ever seen but it's on the whole been pretty good so far I think, I haven't had to wear a coat and that's something.

Since I bought my every day in my handbag camera, my Fuji X70 I thought I'd just take more time to share the general stuff I've been up to, I'm literally never without a camera now, in fact I'm sitting on my super comfy bed with my camera right next to me!

Summer in the Northeast of England is fleeting and you have to remember to record each memory, even if it's only in your mind, the passing sunshine and scattered showers can be as momentary as each new and special memory.  On Friday I was walking along Alnmouth beach with Holly and KT, our friends dog and it was so breezy that the winds were whipping up the sand grains and scattering them in the air, almost sandblasting my calfs,  Holly's ears were stood up at 180 degrees blowing in the freak gusts of what felt like almost storm force winds, at least against my ankles anyway.

Saturday started bright and then became cloud covered only for the sunshine to recover later in the day leading to the most beautiful of evenings, an evening spent walking to the quayside with Iain and Looby, they were hot on the case of Dratini's, I just wanted to take photographs but I can't even begin to tell you of my joy that Pokemon Go has brought us all together for the first time in years, it's got Iain out of his bedroom and it's introduced the concept of evening family walks, a chance to take in our surroundings, enjoy the company of each other, some time to catch up and chat about our days, as I sat there on the Baltic Quays with my dog, my children and I enjoying a Starbucks hot chocolate each I felt  joyous contentment and was at one with my life just for a while.  In as much as I adore and love all of my friends I am at my happiest when I am simply with my children for I know that they will grow up and go their own ways, I embrace each moment of their young lives, a celebration of the now, of the ordinary because it is often the most ordinary of moments which is the loveliest and the most extraordinary.  These are the moments of my life, the moments I live for and the moments I will always remember and cherish for ever.

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