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, November 30, 2016

I've got something I need to say

Sometimes in life, and more specifically in matters of the heart things become complicated, especially if you are me, as I commented to Harriet today, if there's an easy path and a tricky and almost death-defying path then you can guarantee I'll choose the way which is ultimately the most perilous.  I am at a stage in my life and my existence where my only great issue in the loneliness I feel deep inside me, I have brilliant children, I have amazing, wonderful friends, I have a business I adore and for the most part I get to create through words and images every single day, on paper though and in my heart and soul there's just that one piece of my jigsaw I can't seem to complete.
Mandy Charlton and Holly Bobbins at home, Mandy Charlton Photography Blog, on dating, relationships and matters of the heart.

Did you ever have a moment when you stumbled across someone on the internet and your heart just stopped? (I obviously don't mean literally, or I'd be dead, I'm just being dramatic) In all of the places that I've looked, the last place I thought I would find someone who made my heart skip a beat was right here on the internet on another person's blog. 

He first commented on my blog when I posted my dating profile and since then we've become friends, well I think it's the start of something special and I guess there lies the problem, you see, I haven't as yet made a move, I have hinted and I have posted little bits and pieces but I haven't actually said, "You know what? I'm a bit smitten, You rock my world" I don't want to freak him out or frighten him away but I feel our paths were meant to cross at the exact time they did.  I'd just made a public statement on my blog about being ready to date again and then recently I found that he'd made pretty much the exact same declaration on his blog at around the same time, not only did they share the exact same sentiments, both articles could have been written by the same person.

Now it could all be synchronicity, it could just be mere coincidence, I almost feel like this kind, intelligent, funny and erudite man could be someone really special but I'm British and we can't say that, plus if I did just say that after a few weeks of speaking to each other (and lets not forget that's all that's happened, he lives over 300 miles away and we've never so much spoken on the phone to this point, and oh, I hate the phone, I hate speaking on the phone, calling people, answering the phone...) I'm scared it would terrify him.

When I was married it was to a selfish manly buffoon who never so much as shed a tear at even the saddest of romantic movies so I made it my quest to find a soulmate that would be a new age man, one who was sensitive and gentle and one with whom I could sit and watch a sad movie and we could cry together. I don't care about money or material gain, I'm not worried about how far apart we live, age differences, social statuses and even being at different life stages really doesn't bother me because when you find a mind and soul you want to be with, nothing else matters, when those two hearts find each other the universe or God, whatever you want to believe, pulls their souls together with an unstoppable force, you can call it serendipity or synchronicity but I believe it's just about finding your destiny.

Edit, I wrote this post a few days ago and have since made a decision and was brave enough to tell the man in question and we are going on a date with cake and coffee although it is via Skype at this point, I'm aiming to make it to London soon.  I should have just published this when I wrote it but I guess I wanted to be able to tell him rather than have him read it, I know he always believes you should just write and then publish what you feel because it's your space but at the same time but it would have quite clearly ruined the declaration😉

I'll end with one of the most epic quotes in one of my favourite movies of all time because this to me is how it's meant to be in the end...

1. "I love that you get cold when it's 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you're looking at me like I'm nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it's not because I'm lonely, and it's not because it's New Year's Eve. I came here tonight because when you realise you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible." "When Harry Met Sally"


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Beauty For The Terrified With Benefit and Ellefluence

Photo taken by the amazing Katie Meehan

No sooner had I recovered from our night at The Rub then it was time to get ready again for an evening of beauty and hijinx at Debenhams with the Benefit girls, Laura from Ellefluence had yet again rocked another event by providing not only a free beauty wax for yours truly (more on that later) but also prosecco, pizza from Manny's and of course star photographer Laura Pearman was once again present to capture all the goings on, for the first time in ages I felt safe to leave my camera at home!!  Don't get me wrong, I love being a photographer but when you are the photographer you miss the immersive experience of events and as I'd volunteered to be one of the waxing models I figured I wouldn't have time to take too many photos anyway!

I've always been a Benefit fan and I'll also be the first to admit that when it comes to beauty I know virtually nothing, I have gel nails refreshed once a month and I've been getting regularly waxed brows for about the last 10 years since I discovered the wonder of a good eyebrow wax.  Ladies if like me you are late to the beauty party and you are, also like me, on the wrong side of 40, go treat yourself for a wax at Benefit, you will feel and look 10 years younger, a good eyebrow wax is like a mini facelift, honest ladies, I'm not kidding about such a serious subject, do yourself a bigger favour though and go to Benefit because those ladies are waxing experts.

Now I must admit that when I volunteered for the evening I hadn't realised it was the full waxing treatment, that's brows, top lip and chin, ouch and baby cheesus, it hurt, I can't even pretend it didn't, what we ladies have to go through just to look halfway to decent, well lets just say I'll be getting it again but I might be ready for the pain of having above your lip waxed next time, there was a hilarious video but thankfully I think it's been deleted by time, oh and if it hasn't, well let's just say I won't be sharing it and I certainly won't be including that on my dating profile!!

Another thing I hadn't tried before was a brow tint and it makes such a difference, I can truly say that I love my eyebrows now, I may have even shouted afterwards "My eyebrows are on fleek" don't worry, I shan't be saying such things out loud too often and I did rush home to watch some superheroes on TV to deflect my girly outburst.

What I did do whilst there was some shopping for Christmas, obviously since certain teens are regular readers (I'm talking to you, Amazing Abigail) I can't tell you what I bought but let's just say certain teenagers in the Charlton family might be happy bunnies when Santa pays a visit.

The thing I love the most about any Ellefluence event is the chance to meet other bloggers and at beauty events you can always guarantee that I am the oldest blogger there, you know what, though, I don't mind a bit, I'm quite happy to be the blogger mamma because all the young glamorous beauty bloggers like Katie, Alice, and Chloe, well they're all fabulous and they don't ever look at me like "what in the heck is that old lady doing here?" haha!

I may be 42.10 but I'm really just at the very start of my foray into the world of beauty and with people like Laura in my life organising the most splendid events with companies like Benefit and Urban Decay, well this girl can't go wrong now, can she?  It's never too late to start making the best of what you have got so you might as well get out there and do it now lovely ladies.

Ellefluence Does Cocktails At The Rub Newcastle

The Rub, a fabulous BBQ smokehouse is quite a new addition to Newcastle but it's already becoming a firm favourite of mine thanks to being a passionate carnivore, what I didn't know was how amazing they are at making cocktails so when lovely Laura from Ellefluence put on a cocktails event I couldn't refuse the chance to try out the menu as well as spending some quality time with some of my most favourite bloggers.

I'm a big fan of cocktails even though I will confess, I am a lightweight and really don't drink a lot of alcohol, well apart from the 1 or 2 hangovers I have each year but one or two hangovers isn't bad when you're a grown up!!
Mandy Charlton, Melissa Marshall and Alice Fairweather, used with kind permission from Laura Pearman Photography

The Rub serves a mind-boggling selection of cocktails, the menu is huge and contains all of the favourites, however they may not taste quite the same as you remember them because these guys are doing it properly using only the best of ingredients and taking 110% care to get the tastes just right, one of our hosts for the evening Joe is a world champion cocktail maker, this makes me think he'd come in very handy at parties.

I've never been to a blogger event which was quite so much fun as this one, we were split into teams and then had to recreate some classic (and not so classic) cocktails after first being given a demonstration by Joe, I decided to put myself up for the Cosmopolitan round being that it's my favourite cocktail and clearly I know my favourite drink well because our team won that round, it's no surprise then that this week when I hold my very first Christmas cocktails and karaoke party at home its Cosmopolitans I'll be providing for my lovely guests.

I love the Ellefluence events because as well as gorgeous Laura there's also lovely Laura Pearman Photography, an awesome photographer who I happily recommend if I can't take my own photos, Laura is number 1 on my list in the photography world, she's quirky, fun and fabulous, she's also amazing at capturing events, something I definitely don't specialise in, it does also give me the option of leaving my camera at home and that isn't a bad thing at all, I did, however, bring my camera to The Rub because I love photographing cocktails, yes I know, I'm a weirdo!!

After several rounds and a truth or dare style round which saw me doing an extra salty tequila shot (really, tequila is my favourite so it wasn't too hard although I also followed that by having lots of water, it was a Monday after all) we finally came to the last round where we had to create our own cocktail from a random selection of ingredients and so I did, I created a caramel choo choo, Joe even said it was good and he'd be happy to serve this on the menu, I'm currently adding cocktail making queen to my CV. 😉

As well as cocktail concocting fun the lovely people at The Rub, Newcastle also provided a tasty carnivorous cornucopia which helped to soak up the alcoholic we had imbibed during the evening, I'm growing incredibly fond of the meaty delights served by The Rub!

All in all, it was such a great evening, full of fun and I met some fabulous bloggers I hadn't encountered before, I love my blogger family so it was a delight to spend more time with favourites Pixie and Katie, Alice and Melissa even if Pixies team pipped our team to the post, remind me never to be on an opposing team to Pixie, that fabulous diva is not to be messed with in any kind of competition, I've never seen anyone suck on an Oxo cube (not a euphemism) for as long as that lady!

mandy charlton giggling at the rub, newcastle event, used with kind permission of Laura pearman photography

If you want to check out the delicious cocktail menu at The Rub which you'll find in The Gate, Newcastle you'll be super duper chuffed to know that they have 2 for 1 on classic cocktails every day from 11-7 and 10pm until close, now that's got to be a good excuse for another night out with my favourite girls!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

When You Wish Upon A Star

Today, I was delighted to receive confirmation that I'd been accepted as a writer by Huffington Post UK, if you don't know of Huff Post, well, you must have been living in a cave, in the mountains somewhere near the Himalayas, Huffington Post is massive and now I get to write for them, I might have jumped up and down, I may have even squealed a little! 😉  The main question on people's lips is what I'm going to write about, well, to be honest, I don't have a brief and I can write as often or as little as I'd like, I'm going to aim for once a month and will no doubt concentrate on my current speciality subjects, the parenting of teens and dating, I had wondered about writing anonymously so that I could say some things I can't say on here but I have no doubt that someone somewhere would find it and also what's the point of writing anonymously when the main point is to grow your readership and further your career.

wishing on stars makes dreams come true, mandy charlton photography

For some time now I've set my career goals on writing, it's not that I don't want to continue to be a professional photographer, I mean that's not exactly a title that can be withdrawn but with a houseful of teenagers and animals I need to work extra hard and there are only so many portrait sessions you can shoot every weekend without becoming physically and mentally exhausted and I know because this happened to me in the year when I was shooting 10 sessions on a Saturday, 10 on a Sunday and having all of the images edited and the galleries live by a Monday.  The joy of writing is that you can do it from anywhere and as I've said in the past, when the kids don't need me to be here any longer, my goal is to be a digital nomad, I'd love to have met someone by then that I can share that adventure with, maybe in a cute little VW campervan?

Anyway, I digress, my current situation is that winter is once again coming and this year my plan is to write, write with all of my heart, my passion and my life, I want to tell the world my story but as my story changes and evolves from week to week I find that I sometimes can't keep up!  I have several unfinished posts and just lately I've also started to write some posts I've written just for me so they're just going to lay in my drafts until such a day when I can share them, maybe I won't ever be able to but they're part of a journey I'm on and should everything work out in the long term it would be amazing to be able to publish them in retrospect.  Sorry if I'm being vague, bear with me as it's all I have right now.

You know, I have always loved social media because of its immediacy and I being an immediate sort of girl who lives in the moment and always wears her heart on her sleeve find it's such a brilliant way to get instant feedback, it's also easier to delete a post if I suddenly realise I've essentially just said something completely stupid or ridiculous, what, me, say something ridiculous? I hear you ask, why yes, I know it's hard to believe...

So, here's the current plan, I know what I want in my future and every night I stand outside and I wish on a star - 
Starlight, Star bright, 
I wish I may, I wish I might,
have this wish I wish tonight

yes, I, Mandy Charlton, aged 42 years really do that but you should never underestimate the power of a wish to the stars or the universe, they've been around for millions of years after all!  I do tend to wish for the same thing every night for a little consistency and no, I'm not going to tell you what it is because that would be a wish breaker.  What I will say is that I've been asking the stars for many years and always been terribly grateful to get the things I've asked for, I do of course always say thank you!

So what's around the corner I just can't say but I know the stars are listening and it's just a matter of time and patience, now out you go, if it's a clear and twinkly night tonight, just stand outside and make your wish and you just never know what might happen, you just have to promise though that if your wishes truly do come true you'll come right back here and tell me all about it.


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Always Remember Why You Blog

Mandy Charlton, Photographer, writer, Blogger and Holly Bobbins the Beagle

Ok, so I fell off my own daily blogging habit again, it happens sometimes, sometimes I just need to take a couple of days away to clear my head and sometimes I'll suddenly become aware that there are people out there in the real world reading my blog, so ok, I know this is going to sound crazy but I've only ever written for me, I write with passion and sometimes with anger, I write when I am deliriously happy or when I am overwhelmingly sad and I always write in the moment.

There's a pressure I think when you count the number of readers you have or the number of people following you on social media, I have those times when I don't blog and then I look at my stats and I feel sad because of the lack of readers but sometimes I genuinely can't write.  I wish, with all my heart that I was the kind of super power blogger who could put out three or four blog posts every day but sometimes I can barely manage one or two a week, it's not that I wouldn't like to blog every single day but I just physically can't.

I read more blogs than ever before, I feel like I'm actually becoming part of the blogging community, if you want to check out some great blogs your first stops should be Lisa, Natalie, Hannah, Martyn and Rachel, oh and Lucy, I adore Lucy's blog and I've actually met her in real life!  I've been pushing my blog out there into the blogosphere now since about September 2014 and I love being part of the North East Bloggers but it's also nice to become part of the wider UK blogging community, I find all of the peoples blogs I recommended to be thought provoking, amusing, engaging, well written and witty and they're my first stops on the internet in the mornings whilst I am nursing that first perfect mug of dark liquid energy.  Sometimes I comment on blogs, not always though for fear I'll come across like a mad stalker and really I'm way too independent and headstrong to have any stalking tendencies whatsoever so take heart internet friends!

I guess I wish that everyone came with a blog, it's so much easier to get to know people, there are bloggers who's blogs I may have only read for a short space of time but I feel like I've known them my whole life and of course just like Netflix you can binge read old posts, I tried to do that with mine yesterday in the hope of finding some inspiration and what I found was actually quite scary.  I actually found myself not knowing the girl who wrote so much 10 years ago, I have changed so very much, I'm way more confident and self-assured, I'm much better at embracing my unique eccentricity which makes me the woman I am right now, I also look better in photos!

I wonder to myself how my blog will look in another decade, I'll always blog now, I know that and anyone who I meet will have to be quite ok with that because it's part of me but I think the one thing they'll have to accept is that sometimes I'll blog what's going on in my head and they'll have to learn to not over analyse or question what I am writing because it kind of cramps my writing style.  I write about my teenagers and they know about it, they read my blog (well Abigail does at least) and they certainly never question it so it's not outside the realms of possibility that I'll meet a man with the ability to do the same.

So here's the message at the end (Jerry Springer style) if you blog, blog with all of your heart, blog what really goes on in your mind, don't gloss over it or pretend that things are all around awesome when they're not because you should only ever write what's in your heart and your readers will appreciate your honesty, you may also help someone out there who's reading but feels they don't have a voice of their own.  So write with passion, write with anger and always remember why on that very first day you sat down to write your very first blog post.

Monday, November 21, 2016

My Secret Confession

Cinema, love stories, romance, Mandy charlton photography

I'll let you into a secret, I have a bit of an obsession, I'd call it a love but really, it's slightly more questionable than that!   You see, not only is it bad enough that I'm prone to bouts of feelings of utter aloneness but I also seem to have an addiction to the kind of movies which end up making me seriously emotionally overwrought.

I'm not at all sure there's a cure and really, I have always been like this, I remember splitting up with one of my first boyfriends who I was with for four years and then torturing myself by going to the cinema alone to see movies like Strictly Ballroom ("A life lived in fear is a life half-lived" fans of the movie will know what I'm talking about with that quote!) whilst weeping softly into my popcorn for one.

So let's look at yesterday, a pretty good day on the whole until I got home from work and started to download classics from Sky Cinema on demand.  I decided the movies I needed to watch were, When Harry Met Sally, St Elmo's Fire and The Holiday, all in one night, back to back,  I should also state that I was saved from being a complete emotional wreck by Martyn who I chatted to on Twitter instead of just sitting in the middle of my rug, rocking back and forth weeping!

When Harry Met Sally is a movie I have loved ever since the first time I saw it, I must have seen it over a hundred times but there's no movie which sums up true love and friendship more eruditely than When Harry Met Sally and when Harry decides that he just has to spend the rest of his life with Sally and the rest of his life has to start right now, well that's me in tears lamenting that I once had that, I need to have it again and why don't I have it right now?  Honestly dear readers, I've had therapy, I am mostly not a tragic effigy of myself so please don't feel too sorry for me!

St Elmo's Fire, I don't even know why I cry in this movie, it's just from the eighties, it's the brat pack classic and I'm even sure the story is still relevant but then Andrew McCarthy has that crush on Ally Sheedy it just serves to remind me of how painful unrequited love can be, when I'm emotionally overwrought you can be sure I'll find a reason to cry!!  I will say though that if you are a child or teen of the eighties and you haven't seen this movie you really need to even if it's just to see a young Rob Lowe, how on earth is it that the man looks way better now than he did then?

And so we come onto The Holiday, and you only have to watch it once to know it's never a movie you should watch if you are feeling at all lonely or alone or you're just craving to be coupled or you like someone and can't find the words to tell them or you're in an unrequited love situation, this movie pretty much has it all and that's before you even add Christmas into the mix. You know the bit which got me last night?  When Jude Law is crying and tells Cameron Diaz that he's fallen in love with her, it's just the most beautiful moment and I crave with all of my heart for it to happen to me again one day, ok, there don't have to be tears but I wouldn't complain if someone wanted to show emotions other than me, I am definitely open to spending the rest of my life with someone more sensitive with an ability to show feelings rather than be a mannish buffoon who thinks it's weak to show any hint of them.

Emotions in their fullest extent are a pretty new thing for me, I spent way too long in the overmedicated wilderness and so I'm really embracing them but I do currently feel like I need to get over myself a little, true love is out there I'm sure of it and as a paragon of positivity is it really good to end up in situations where you constantly end up in tears?

Maybe, I'll just go and select a Christmas movie from my Christmas Movies shelf, not The Holiday though, definitely not that one just for now...


Thursday, November 17, 2016

Mod Pizza at the Gateshead Metrocentre is Open!

I love a restaurant opening, mostly because I love food and I love the North East so the arrival of Mod Pizza in the Metrocentre was a very exciting affair  and I always love being invited down to be one of the first to sample the tasty treats.  Now I wouldn't call myself a massive pizza fan in fact I rarely eat it but if I'm going to then it has to be the thinnest crust ever and that's what you get at Mod Pizza, crispy, tasty hand stretched Italian thin crust and you know the best bit?  You can have whatever toppings you want and I mean whatever toppings.  The only fixed thing you have is a base (obviously, or where would you put all of the fillings?) and then everything else is yours for the choosing.

11 inch pizza, mod pizza, metrocentre, gateshead, Mandy Charlton, photographer, blogger, writer

So, if you don't want a sauce on your base then don't have one, if you are a purist like me try something like feta, rocket, mushrooms and mozzarella, totally scrumptious and I managed an 11 inch pizza without any problem at all, they do a mini one which has a smaller base but hey, lets not talk tiny pizza, just get the 11 inch or if you are feeling particularly hungry they do a belly busting stacked pizza which has not one but two 11 inch bases on top of one another, can you imagine how many toppings you could get on there?

Whilst I was there I noted that there were two types of pizza eater, ones who like me went for staple favourites, the purists as I like to call them and then the ones who decided to just have every topping known to man on one pizza and that's fine, if that's your thing, go ahead, Mod Pizza certainly won't mind!!

You know what I really love, though, you can take your pizza away or  you can sit in and it's good food, they do salads as sides not chips, yes I know, something of a culture shock for some Geordies but really, who needs chips with a huge pizza, not me certainly, I don't even think I could have eaten a salad on the side if I'd tried!

To sum up I would say that Mod Pizza's arrival in the North is not only welcome but something to be celebrated, my next challenge is to go again with fussy Looby who normally doesn't like Pizza and Veggie Abigail, I know they cater for both vegetarians and vegans and I would love to see them turn Looby's head towards good pizza just as they did mine.

One thing, though, when I next go, even though I could choose from the myriad of tasty toppings you can bet that I'll be having feta, rocket and mushrooms, I just don't do pizzas with meat on them!

I want to say thanks to Mod Pizza for inviting me down, stuffing me with Pizza and generally being lovely amidst the buzz and hullabaloo of a new restaurant opening in exchange for me writing this small article.

I will be back Mod Pizza and next time, I am bringing my teenagers, be scared, be very scared!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

I have a dilemma...

The only dilemma in life should really be, which cake should I have next?

So I have a dilemma, this is something I could just sit and muse on for days but it's probably better out than in so I'm just writing it down, putting it out there and then walking away with a clearer mind...hopefully!

Recently I've been talking to a man who seems to have at least some of the qualities I'm looking for, he's asked me to go for lunch with him and he's smart, speaks in fully formed sentences, can spell, likes to travel, seems to be doing really well in life but I'm not sure he'd embrace my star child bohemian spiritual goddess and he can also take cake or leave it, plus there's the fact that there's someone out there in internet land that I actually do like, who really seems to get me and someone I feel like I could probably sit down to have a conversation with on a Tuesday and still be talking by the Thursday.  Someone who already knows I'm not perfect and who could probably embrace the eccentricity and not mind the fact that I have bipolar, someone in fact that I probably wouldn't have to even have sit and have that conversation with, maybe I should just point all potential suitors in the direction of my blog and then they could run away early on once they'd read my story?

The physical things in life really don't matter to me, money, material possessions (yeah, I know I love tech but I'm not perfect) etc, I am my own person in that respect and I may not have all of the money or even half of it but I've always been able to create the things we needed and a little extra fun besides so when looking at a future relationship financial security is the least important thing on the list.

What does matter to me is a connection, souls find each other every day and not just in the relationship sense, I believe I'm just as connected to my best friends as I could ever be to a potential partner and no one gets me or embraces my inner unicorn more than my best friends, they certainly don't dismiss my opinions about Reiki in the way this guy did.  I mean, come on, even my dog likes yoga!

My pragmatic friend Kelly says I should always keep my options open and she's right, she's completely right but in my heart centred head I just don't know if it's worth the investment of my time to go to a lunch with someone my gut feeling doesn't tell me is right.  I could be completely wrong of course and not only that, I could be amazingly surprised, you can see why I have a dilemma!  Kelly also says that I always like unobtainable men because it means I don't actually have to date them, everyone needs a straight-talking friend like Kelly.  I, of course, don't agree, I think we're all quite foolish as humans to believe that our twin flames live just around the corner, it makes no sense at all that our souls were thrown to the ends of the earth only to be found living 5 or 6 miles away.

Everything tells me that I should just be patient and I should wait this thing out, look at the long game, that this next year is going to be amazing, my Reiki practitioner said it again yesterday and it's not like I'm overwhelmingly lonely on my own all the time, I have so many friends surrounding me in real life and online and I go out and have a life often, it's just those sudden waves I get when I'm on my own of crushingly lonely feelings, the ones that make me sad because I know I have the capacity of having so much love in my heart that I want to share with someone.

So, nearly 700 words later and after writing it down am I any clearer?  No, not even in the slightest, help me internet, help me dear readers, what in the heck should I do?

Answers in a comment/tweet/ please...


Monday, November 14, 2016

Why Christmas For Single Parents Might Not Be So Joyful

This year, it's increasingly looking like it's just going to be the kids and I for Christmas dinner and when I say the kids and I, let's look at the situation of why Christmas isn't quite so simple for me as a single parent with no family other than the kids - 

Messy dog with her toys in front a christmas tree, Mandy Charlton Photography, newcastle

Abigail is veggie, Iain has Aspergers and Looby has misophonia so Looby won't sit at the table with us, Iain will only eat Chicken, mashed potatoes and broccoli and Abigail will only eat vegetables, now my perfect Christmas is one where I serve up a turkey, a gammon, and a beef rib joint with every vegetable I can find, different variations of potatoes, 3 courses of wonderment and several bottles of something quite sparkly, Champagne for one might sound like a dream but it actually just makes me a little sad.

I've done everything I can, I've blogged offering an open house for Christmas for anyone who wants to come, my friends this year are all overseas or with their own families.  I'm not really sure how it ended up where I, the proclaimed Queen of Christmas who loves to feed everyone and entertain the masses ended up being quite so alone.  There's a media pressure there isn't there?  The glossy ads and big productions which all suggest we should be having a houseful at Christmas but for single parents it's hard, then add to that no family and it threatens to be the saddest and most pressured time of year. The only adverts which ask you to look at Christmas differently all tend to show the child in Africa or the frail old person but actually, loneliness at Christmas happens to younger people too and people from all walks of life, I personally think the media is way too focused on traditional families of 2.4 children when the reality is that we have societies with more single parent families than we've ever had and lets not even start on the how much are you spending on the kids this year debate...

Every year I take part in as many secret Santas as I can because I love having presents under the tree, I do usually end up with a weirdly random assortment of things but I guess if I had a big family it would be pretty much the same.

I am happy with my lot in life and have no regrets and one day I know I'm going to have a huge family, I'm working on it anyway!  When I was married I can remember some amazing Christmases we had together, not that I would go back and swap (heaven forbid) but I loved the cosy family time, I loved shutting out the world for 2 weeks and just being with each other playing board games, feasting too much and complaining about twinges in our livers from overindulgence.

What I want for Christmas can't be bought and you can't see it but you can feel it and when I get it again I am going to embrace it, cherish it and never let it go.  I also realise that some reading this may be single parents who don't even get to see their children on Christmas Day, I can't even imagine how empty my whole life would be if there was only me left here on Christmas but if you are reading this and nodding because it's you, well email me, you don't have to have that Christmas because you can come here, to our house!

I'm not really sure what my plan for the future is, I need to change Christmas so that it doesn't seem to be so much sadder than it was in the past, I need to think of ways to cope when the loneliness does hit, I'm strong, independent and determined in most areas of my life after all, I just wish I could figure out this one last part because believe me, I don't want sympathy, I just want to find out a way to embrace the things I do have rather than the things I don't, easier said than done though isn't it?



Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Greatest Thing You'll Ever Learn Is Just To Love and Be Loved In Return

The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return, musings on love by mandy charlton

This week I have done a lot of soul-searching, I've watched many TED talks, I've tried to inspire my mind as much as my heart.  I've always had a goal in my mind to one day be someone worthy of giving a TED talk although still as yet I am without the inspiration to come up with the subject that I would actually speak about, it's definitely on my list of life goals, though.

This week I have finally gotten closure, seeing someone you used to love and knowing that you are ok with everything, more than that really, that you have moved on and like the song now they're just somebody that you used to know, what's even funnier is how your brain plays tricks on you when you are in love, suddenly that person who seemed taller and athletic in your mind is revealed to you as actually being quite short, ageing fast and more rotund than you can ever remember, without the chemical effects of love in our hearts and in our brains the true identity is revealing, to say the least.

My favourite quote in the whole entire cosmos is "The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return"  It may just originate as a lyric in a song but it is the highest truth I've ever known.

Let's take that quote and let us look at it as part of our own fundamental philosophy, we must first love to be loved, we must love not only ourselves but we must love strong and hard and we must love not only our children, our families, our friends, we must love the world and try to do good every day, I cannot lie and say that I truly love everyone, I am working on it though, it's just harder with some people than it is with others.

Other than the one or two people I have to work on my feelings towards though I would say I'm closer to I have ever been to loving and being loved, maybe not on my own personal level and not in a relationship or dating way but just in a general love of humanity and of my children, my friends and the general population of the people I have around me both online and in my day to day life.

We are all on a journey, we're all trying to figure out life, it's meaning and we're all searching for our twin flame, our other half, our soulmate but I think we can open ourselves up to that if we try, love is one of the highest energies that exists, it has a power, it has it's own vibration so the more love we put out there into the world the more likely we are to attract it back, I want you to go and read Lisa's blog, she wrote a post about kindness and talking today, it had a profound effect because it's something I feel passionately about and this evening as I watched Moulin Rouge for approximately the 4000th time I felt compelled to open up the Macbook once again and write, 3 posts in 1 day is not bad at all!!

So here's what we need to do and it really isn't all that complicated, let's all get up each day and think about the people we love, let's think, "how can I make the world better today, how can I put out more love into the world?"  I think in no time at all what will happen is that we'll bring so much love back in that we'll be able to create a whole new world around us.

Have a great weekend everyone, go out there and be with the ones you love and love the ones you are with.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Festive Fridays at Vallum Farm

I love the opportunity to talk about food on my blog, I'm a massive fan of good food served in sumptuous locations and last week I was invited to experience a preview of Vallum Farm's Festive Friday menu in their very own Chef's room along with a handful of fabulous bloggers so this is one article I am absolutely delighted to bring you.

Vallum Farm is located near Matfen in Northumberland and it's worth the drive through the pretty Northumbrian countryside to get there and whilst you'll feel you are in the middle of a most beautiful, peaceful, isolated environment, you're actually only a stone's throw from Newcastle upon Tyne, allow 30 minutes for the relaxing journey.

The Chef's room is the perfect location for small wedding receptions, large family gatherings, and flamboyant parties for select friends, with the current decor I felt we could have been in a log cabin in the highlands of Scotland watching the snow fall on a perfect festive winters evening.

We started our gastronomic feast with a choice of cocktail, I plumped for one which tasted like apple crumble with honey whilst my fellow bloggers who are fans of gin dived into a sensational blackberry based aperitif.

After having no breakfast in preparation I got a little excited when the first platter of starters came out, amazing petite sausage and cranberry rolls, a morsel to delight even the fussiest of tastes, we were then treated to a selection of such delights as a rabbit rillettes with apple chutney, celeriac soup, salmon blinis, and the teeniest cutest scotch eggs I've ever seen.

We then sampled the main courses of braised beef with horseradish dumpling and the creamiest mash I've ever tasted and by that point my tummy was telling me I'd eaten well and wouldn't need to worry about having dinner that evening...and then they brought out the Christmas lunch, turkey, ham, all the trimmings, I felt compelled to try a little of everything just for the article, I know, it's a hard life as a writer but someone has to endure such hardships for the sake of one's readers!

As luck would have it I'm sure the rumour is true about having a separate tummy just for pudding as it would have been rude to refuse the tastiest Christmas pudding I've ever eaten or indeed the tiny Bakewell tarts or the chocolate delice, really we were so spoiled as writers last week, I often go to events where we get a bite of this or a taste of that but Vallum excelled themselves and fellow gorgeous bloggers in attendance Laura, Pixie, Sharon and I all agreed we were full to bursting and would not be eating again for the rest of the day!

Vallum Festive Fridays take place on the 2nd, 9th, 16th and 23rd December from 6-9pm and I want to say a personal thank you for inviting me to try all of the amazing festive foodie delights.

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