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

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

I'm Cutting Out Sugar For Sugar Free February

Me in September 2015, after cutting out sugar from my diet and losing weight, i'm cutting out sugar for sugar free february

A few years ago around this time, I decided to go sugar-free to see if it would help with my health and weight loss, it was one of the best things I've ever done, I lost approximately 2lb a week, a ton of body fat (not literally but it felt like it) and my skin was amazing, I looked younger, healthier, and my hormones seemed to settle so I didn't have mood swings or 3pm tiredness, I had boundless amounts of energy and I walked the legs off Holly Bobbins.

Alas, that was 2015 and from late 2016 until late 2017 I had issues with my HRT and my Bipolar meds for various reasons and so I gained 2 stone from my thinner happiest weight and basically, I'm miserable with it all, I want to regain my health, my waistline and my good skin because with 44 just around the corner I have to stack the anti-aging odds in my favour and I'd quite like to live for another few years if I'm honest!!

I happened upon a post on Facebook announcing Cancer Research's Sugar-Free February and it piqued my interest.  Now I must state that I am not doing this for charity, I'm doing it for my own health, I've assembled a few friends and because a lot of other people are out there on the internet taking part in the initiative it seems like the best time to do it.

It's not even that hard, it's about swapping white rice, bread, potatoes and having brown rice, brown pasta, sweet potatoes, no crap (snacks, takeaways, ready-meals) and cooking as much as possible by scratch, perfect time to join a cooking box club if you're short on time and don't want to have to come up with the meals on your own.

I don't have sugar in drinks so that's not a problem and big bonus you can still have cheese and nuts something I feel particularly happy about.  All alcohol is off the table though as you have to give your body time to relearn the signals which help your brain know when you are hungry again, these signals can switch themselves off if you eat too much sugar and I want to give my body time to get to its optimum health again.  Once your body has readjusted, the odd glass of decent red wine with some dark chocolate is not going to hurt.

There are so many more resources out there on the internet now than the last time I did it but I love Davina's sugar free and you'll also find people like Joe Wicks eat in the same kind of way, oh and don't forget Doctor Michael Mosely and his blood sugar diet, they all follow similar kinds of rules.

I'm going to blog about this during February and I'll provide updates, I'd love you all to join me because there's definitely strength in numbers, let's all go into March being fit, fabulous and totally fantastic.

Who's with me?

Monday, January 29, 2018

Living My Best Life

Blowing out the candles on my birthday cake, living my best life, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

In all of the time I have been blogging, one thing has remained the same, I write best late at night or when fuelled by emotion.  So here I am, sitting at my desk, it's ten thirty and this weekend I have lived my very best life.

I think I might have enjoyed not working at weekends a little too much so my plan to keep blogging and to push to monetise it a lot more than ever before has to be a goal although I'll never sacrifice the quality of my writing so don't worry, you are safe on that count.  I just love weekends of freedom though and yes I know, I have to earn the money to have them and that's okay.  This year, my word is balance and I'd like to think that between April and December (statistically my busier period) I could plan to take more weekends off than I did last year when I only had 1 full weekend off and that was in August!

I went out for a birthday lunch today, and with friends all around me I looked at them and I was so happy in my heart that we, all from such diverse backgrounds could come together just for a couple of hours to have lunch, it made me crave to make a regular thing out of friends brunches or long lazy Sunday lunches, something I've been enjoying week upon week in January.

I'm really not sure if it's because of the fake sunshine or the Vitamin D3 but I am in love with January this year, I cannot remember a better start to the year and that's because it's been slow and glorious and I have at all times been surrounded by love and friendship.  Right here and right now, as I said to Harriet earlier, I don't need anything else in my life because I have all I've ever wanted and I hope I can carry on with this feeling because it's as close to perfection as anyone can ask for.

This weekend I've been made over courtesy of Dior, I've had dinner out at Piccolino, wonderful amazing food, slow service but it didn't matter too much. I've been surrounded by friends today at our local much beloved Northumberland Hussar and tomorrow Looby and I travel to Warkworth for a couple of days with Holly Bobbins at a lovely Northumbrian dog friendly apartment at Cross House Cottages. I can't wait to spend a few days in one of my most favourite Northumbrian villages.  I'm going to walk the legs off  Looby and Holly even if they protest!

Sometimes when you are travelling through life and the path is one of darkness, it's hard to see the light at the end of that proverbial tunnel but there's always sunshine waiting for you along the way, it's just sometimes a little obscured behind dark clouds.  I remember writing in the darkest days that all I wanted was to skip ahead, 6 months, a year because I knew that it would be better but you can't do that can you?  You have to go through every experience, bad and good, to become a better, stronger person.

I'm not especially sure what the rest of this year has in store for me, on Thursday I'll blow out some candles again I'm sure, you have to have cake on your actual birthday as well as at your birthday party.  Whatever this year has in store for me now though, I can say that I had times where my heart was full and I stood with warm sunshine on my face resting on one of the sunlit paths of life.  


Friday, January 26, 2018

Inspiring Looby

Looby with her Little Bits Droid courtesy of the EDF #prettycurious campaign, inspiring teen girls into STEM careers, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

Since Looby and I started our home education journey in September last year, I've tried to come up with as many different topics as I could to inspire her to break boundaries and explore areas other than horses (the girl is mad about horses)!  As we approach what is, effectively, half way through year nine, we're now beginning to think about what she's going to study at GCSE level from September and science is at the very forefront of our learning choices, Looby loves science, it's the only subject I employ a tutor for, and the reason for that has been watching her enthusiasm, she's also a natural with tech although I'm not sure she'd admit it.  She's a natural problem solver and knows more about coding at the age of 14 than I will ever do.

Over the last 10 or so years I've been lucky enough to be part of the Thinking Digital community in Newcastle, tech and digital matters are part of who I am, being a photographer after all, is one of the oldest jobs in tech and so I've joined the #prettycurious campaign which is run by EDF and aims to help to inspire more girls into STEM careers.

Did you know that just one in four people working in core STEM roles in the UK are women?  EDF Energy has set an ambition that 30% of its STEM graduate and apprenticeship intake will be women by 2018.  They are already ahead of their targets but they still have more work to do.  

Being part of the tech community in Newcastle has proven just how male dominated it still is, don't get me wrong, there are some amazing women in tech out there but when I attend the Thinking Digital Conference yearly, there's definitely a higher men to women ratio and I believe that our daughters are the ones who can change this.  Women as a whole are the most amazing problem solvers, we can multi-task successfully and we're great at reading instructions and building things.  Looby herself is my chief Ikea furniture builder, it's all the building blocks of a brain which is made for a STEM career.

I know many of you who read my blog have daughters around the same age as Looby (and Abigail who is just about to sit her triple science GCSE's) and I wonder as parents what we can do to inspire our daughters and our daughters daughters to take the world of STEM careers by storm.

Now there's a chance you are sitting there wondering what the heck STEM is so let me tell you -
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics and if you want to know more about that you can check out the following resources with your teens - 

Of course I do not know what the future truly holds for Looby, as parents we can advise and help but ultimately it's up to our teens to navigate their own path, I do know though that over the last couple of days since receiving a Little Bits droid kit she's been so enthusiastic about building her droid and making it do all kinds of things, including chasing Holly Bobbins around the lounge, much to Looby's amusement (not so much Holly Bobbins).  At one point her droid came up to me and shouted "Hello Mammy" I'm not even sure where I would begin to try and teach a robot to talk and carry messages.

Whatever path she takes though I can at least say I helped enrich her life with science and technology, our world isn't standing still and by 2023 it's expected that the job rate in STEM will double over other traditional careers.

I’m working with EDF Energy and BritMums to promote the #PrettyCurious programme. Visit Pretty Curious  for more information and advice.”

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

I started a Facebook group, Come Join us...

Looby on the beach at King Edwards Bay, I started a Facebook Group, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger

I'm sitting here, practically falling asleep at my desk and it's Wednesday afternoon, a spell of sunshine and fresh air down at the coast this afternoon has pretty much finished me off, Holly is currently at the bottom of my bed covered by a duvet snoring, completely unaware that the cat is sitting right next to her.

All is calm, all is quiet!

Every week lately I've thought to myself, this is the week I'm going to write a blogpost every day and I've still not managed it.  I am trying to write more often but I just don't think there's enough going on to write about currently, well that is until I write things down
A consultation with a specialist in Facial Aesthetics at Queensway Dental
A meeting with my accountant
Saturday night out for dinner at Piccolino
Birthday lunch with friends at The Northumberland Hussar
Press Launch for The Meat Stack
Review Stay at Cross House Cottages
Oh and it's my Birthday, my actual birthday on February the first, I'll be 8 in a roundabout kind of a way, you do the math on that one!!

I started a Facebook Group

One thing I have done this week and I'm trying to put my all into it is I've started my own Facebook group, it's for friends, clients, people who read my blog, people who've supported me over the years in life, work, everything and the chances are that if you are sitting there reading this then you should probably come and join my Facebook group

As an introduction I'm doing regular giveaways of chocolates and all kinds of goodies, I figured I'm never going to win with Facebook constantly changing it's algorithm and you know, I have no problem at all with Facebook running as a business but the way they've made ads an even playing field whether your business is big or small, is essentially brilliant if you are a big assed company and bad if you are small one, I can't exactly compete with Coca-Colas advertising budget so after spending approximately £20k with them in ads since 2011 I'm using this year to build an engaged community of the loveliest people I know, it will help me to keep clients in the loop, it will help me to find an easy way to let my audience know about new projects, events and of course blog posts and I hope I can find a way to make it give back and help others who have businesses thrive.  Within 2 days we've grown to just over 200 people, my goal is that by the end of the year I can grow that to 10,000 people.  It's a big bodacious plan but having a positive mindset and a goal to fulfil is exactly the kind of thing I thrive on.

You can find my Facebook group easily here

Monday, January 22, 2018

Dog Friendly Hotel, Hadrians Wall - Twice Brewed Inn

Holly Bobbins the beagle at the dog friendly Twice Brewed Inn, near Hexham, Northumberland, Holly Bobbins Dog friendly guide to north east england, mandy charlton, Photographer writer, blogger

We are lucky I think in the north east of England to live so close to so much beautiful countryside like the Northumberland National Park and also to be so near to so much history in the shape of Hadrian's Wall, it doesn't matter if it's spring, summer or even the dark days of winter, there's so much you can do, especially if you have a dog or if you are a walker and places like the very dog friendly Twice Brewed Inn cater for just that kind of market.

I was invited to stay at the Twice Brewed Inn with Holly Bobbins, my four pawed accomplice and head ambassador of Holly Bobbins dog friendly guide to the Northeast of England, and my best friend and partner in crime Harriet, we were to have dinner and a cosy overnight stay in the beautiful Inn which looked like it had been recently refurbished.

The Twice Brewed Inn is situated right next door to The Sill, a brand new landscape discovery centre which crazily isn't dog friendly, a questionable decision for somewhere smack bang in the middle of walking country where a large proportion of visitors come with their dogs.  The Twice Brewed Inn however welcomes you with large dog bowls right outside of the entrance, a huge jar of dog treats inside the front door and a large beer garden to the rear where Holly embraced the snow and exercised her paws running around and around like the silly beast she can sometimes be.

The rooms are compact and bijoux, and most importantly cosy with beautiful views of the surrounding countryside. The Twice Brewed Inn caters mainly for walkers who are resting their weary heads overnight whilst walking the length of Hadrian's Wall and I'm not surprised, 84 miles is no mean feat and I was actually surprised by how many jolly walkers we encountered on a freezing January weekend.  I have to admit to not being even so much as tempted to get my walking boots on but Harriet, Holly and I did enjoy a little wander in nearby Hexham, enjoying the fresh air and lunch at Bea's Teas, a pretty little dog friendly tearoom situated in the Accumulator Rooms right in the heart of the marketplace.

After we'd arrived and unpacked at the Twice Brewed Inn we went down to the bar for a large glass of Sauvignon Blanc priced very reasonably at just over £7 whilst Harriet had the special offer wine, a large glass for just over a fiver is a bargain and we decided whilst taking a sneaky peek at the evening menu that we would have a bottle of Prosecco with dinner, at £21 we could have easily enjoyed two but we know from my previous adventures, I'm a lightweight and indulging in alcohol is most definitely a special occasion.

Our table for dinner was ready at 7.30pm, a time we'd selected when we'd checked in and I couldn't believe how busy the place was for a freezing cold night in January at a pub which is essentially in the middle of the countryside or at least it feels that way, in actuality it's just a few miles from Hexham and only a 30 minute drive from Newcastle so you can see why it's so easily accessible even in winter.

At the Twice Brewed Inn, the food is really the star of the show, I went for the most amazing cheese soufflé to start whilst Harriet enjoyed the fishcakes, we both opted for the steak for main course and for pudding I chose the cheeseboard whilst Harriet indulged in her favourite sticky toffee pudding, I've told her if she should ever start a blog it's got to be called "Harriet's Sticky Toffee Pudding Odyssey" . I can't remember having a better meal for ages, and most certainly I'll come back again on a Sunday to try a Sunday lunch, I was speaking to the friendly receptionist about it and advised that you really need to book a table if you want to come for Sunday lunch as only last week in mid January they'd served more than 200 Sunday lunches.

After a splendid nights sleep in the most comfy bed we started the day with a full Northumbrian breakfast, no photo though, we were so hungry I ate it before I even had so much as a chance to think about photos and all too soon it was time to depart back to the frozen wilderness.  

Overall, I would have no problem at all in recommending the Twice Brewed Inn and Holly Bobbins gave it 10 barks out of 10 for it's exceptional level of dog friendliness, she also enjoyed titbits of Northumbrian Sausage, steak and cheese whilst sitting patiently under our table and after all of the fun it's no wonder she's been exhausted and sleepy since our return home.

Prices for bed and breakfast at the Twice Brewed Inn start at just £85 for a double room with breakfast and whilst we were gifted dinner bed and breakfast I have no doubt that I'll be booking myself a table for Sunday lunch with Holly Bobbins sometime soon.


Friday, January 19, 2018

Professional Photography, The Insider Secrets No One Ever Tells You

Professional Newborn Lifestyle Photography by Mandy Charlton, Photography, the insider secrets no one ever tells you

Ah January, the month of hibernation, box sets and low income. It's crazy this month that I've earned around half a week's salary during the month so far. Anyone who thinks being a self employed single parent is easy, well send them my way and I'll have a word with them.

It's okay though, I have been beavering away, I have blog goals for this year, you see. I might be a good photographer but there are still skills I don't possess and blog photography isn't in the same kind of style as portrait photography so this year I'm working on making my blog photography more aesthetically beautiful, think flay lays and products in settings which really stand out and sparkle. 

Let me tell you a story. When I had a big studio, long, long ago, we would do product photography on huge light tables that cost hundreds of pounds and I hated it so much that I paid assistants to do it for me. It was the most boring, inane type of photography.  I'm happy to say though, that product photography now is so much more interesting. Great product photography is in it's essence lifestyle photography, if you want to sell a product, it's no good just presenting a cutout of the packaging, you have to sell the lifestyle. You have to make that person believe they need this product in their life. You are essentially selling the dream.  

The insider secrets no one tells you

When you get briefs as a photographer the companies I work with are often looking for aspirational photographs or hero moments, but what does that mean?

Well, quite simply, an aspirational image is one you see and you want it to be you and a hero image is where you have the epitome of life in one photo. It features maybe one or two central characters, a little like the main characters in a movie.  This above all else is why you can't just pick up a camera one day and shoot like Annie Leibovitz the next.

Great photography takes years to master and no one photographer excels at every single discipline. I specialise in children's portraiture photography because it speaks my language.  I love kids and I love having to work for the image, there's no way you can guarantee amazing images at every single photo shoot because sometimes they don't go to plan but in around 97% of cases I know what I turn over is going to capture the very essence of that child's personality. 

Sometimes in less than 30 minutes I have to go in, get to know that child and photograph them, the real them, exactly as they are and you know what, you can be the best technical photographer but if you lack the empathy and communicative skills required to get the most out of that 5 year old, you will fail. There are skills which can't be taught and it's not all down to the way that you use the camera!

As parents you will know that photographing your children can be a thankless task. Sometimes you'll get that shot straightaway and it'll be in a frame on your mantlepiece in no time whilst in other cases, well it's like some kind of warfare and you're on the losing side. Having teenagers, I know exactly how this can be, my children have been testing my skills in some kind of X Factor-style military bootcamp for years and, let me tell you, I didn't always make it through to judges' houses...

Things I've learnt as a professional children's photographer

  1. Chocolate is a good bribe but there's nothing more magical than a chocolate coin
  2. Being silly always works, I mean, wouldn't you laugh at someone with a dinosaur on their head?
  3. Children always respond to a group of adults singing nursery rhymes together
  4. Smaller toddlers will always respond if you cheer at them for doing something good
  5. Patience, you can't buy patience but it's a lot easier than getting a bit stroppy when your small person point blank refuses to play up to the camera for you, I always find positive reinforcement better than negative reinforcement
  6. If you know the Disney back catalogue and you don't mind singing it loudly in public, you will have a high chance of success
  7. Always get down to the level of the child, if you tower over them it can be intimidating
  8. Try to just capture them being kids in a documentary style, some of the loveliest photographs I've ever taken have been completely unposed ones
  9. Is something isn't working, stop and take a break, you can always try again later
  10. If all else fails, book a professional, we're experts in our field


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Quick and Easy Pressure King Pro Beef and Butternut Squash Casserole Recipe

Beef and Butternut Casserole, a quick and easy pressure king pro recipe from Mandy Charlton, a photographer and blogger based in the North East

A few months ago my life was revolutionised by the Pressure King Pro, a cooker which means you can cook a good beef casserole in 30-40 minutes and achieve the exact same effect as cooking one in the slow cooker for 6-8 hours.

Here's what you'll need to make an easy beef and butternut squash casserole in the Pressure King Pro in just 40 minutes.

  • 400g of Braising Steak
  • 1 chopped small butternut squash
  • 400 ml of beef stock
  • 1 small swede
  • 1 small pack of turnips
  • salt, pepper and Worcester sauce, season to taste

Put all of the ingredients in the pot, switch on to the casserole setting for 40 mins and essentially that's it, this is the easiest recipe you'll ever cook. I love to serve mine with Yorkshire puddings but a good crusty granary bun or a chunk of bread and butter would also be the perfect addition to this delicious beef casserole.

You could also experiment with different veg, but if you want to include green veg then I would cook for 35 mins, then put the green veg in and do a final five minutes otherwise they will just collapse into goo! Sometimes I like to add potato as well but thought the casserole was hearty enough without it yesterday.

The Pressure King Pro (PKP) has been the biggest revelation in my life, I should say that this isn't an ad or a sponsored post, I just genuinely love it. I can cook an entire chicken in 25 minutes, you can cook a frozen chicken in an hour (I haven't tried that yet) and I cooked a gammon in 20 minutes at Christmas. We even did pasta in five minutes and although pressure cooking has been around for years, I'm pleased to say that this new way of doing it isn't as dangerous as your mum's old stove top pressure cooker which threatened to blow at any given minute. It doesn't even really make a sound other than when you open the steam valve at the end. You can even slow cook in it but I'm not sure why anyone would do that when you can have a whole hearty meal, like this amazing beef and butternut squash casserole, in around half an hour.

Obviously, if you don't have a Pressure King Pro you could use this recipe in your slow cooker but allow around 4-6 hours for the perfect beef casserole. 

Do you have a Pressure King Pro? I'd love to know if you do and if you have any recipes for it that you love do let me know about them in the comments.

While you're here, why not check out my quick and healthy lasagne recipes?

Monday, January 15, 2018

Surviving Blue Monday

Holly Bobbins wants you to smile on blue Monday, surviving blue Monday, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

Today is Blue Monday, traditionally the most depressing day of the year, the funny thing is that we've only been taking note of this day for the last four years, perhaps it's a shame that it brings to light just how crushed the population feels on the 3rd Monday of January, I should state now, if you are reading this feeling really depressed please, please talk to someone, either the doctor or the Samaritans, the worst thing about depression is that it's like an abusive relationship, depression isolates you and tells you lies that you are worthless, it gives you anxiety and makes you question everything, it makes you feel like you are wrong in every situation and that everyone else is having more fun than you.  I have been there and I know, the only thing you can do is go and get help.  You can get better, you can live an amazing and fulfilled life, you just might need a little help and guidance to get you back on track, whatever happens though, you need to know, you are worthy, people care and there is always help available.

The January blues however, well they're a little different and it's something that most of us will experience at some point during the darkest month of the winter, is it any surprise when it barely gets light all day?  I know myself from going back to work outdoors on Saturday, the light at 11am was akin to indoor light and when I had finished 4 hours outdoors I was so cold that I wondered if I should have even bothered working this month.  Financially of course we all have to work but some days are more of a slog than others.

January is, as we've already discussed, guilt based, whether you are cross with yourself for feasting over Christmas or the stories and images on TV are bombarding you, making you believe that you are not good enough, just remember, it was those same adverts telling you to feast as much as possible in November and December.

I'm not going to lie, when you are self employed in the jobs I do, January can be bleak financially, no one wants outdoor portraits apart from the 5% who are brave enough to endure the cold, and even then, it's the most rescheduled month due to weather, sickness, I can't ever remember a January where I've exceeded my monthly targets and I think it will always be this way, well unless I move to a tropical paradise filled with sunshine and greenery.

Let's also factor in that last point I just made, in December our houses are twinkly fairy light filled, every corner is light up like some kind of tiny carnival, we have a huge tree (or several) proudly displayed, our houses are never really dark because of those aforementioned twinkly lights so it's no wonder than January in our homes can feel a little bare and colourless. 

Now I may not be able to help with your income, I may not be able to officially shorten January but I'm here to help with cheering things up, you see, there's a way you can brighten things up, well two really, you see this year, I left a lot of my fairy lights up, I have them in my lounge, my kitchen, my bedroom and my hall, the Danish would approve as it's very definitely Hyggelig.  I have another tactic to help with that, house plants, this year instead of being blue, Dobbies, my most favourite garden centres, are encouraging us to go green for blue Monday and thanks to them I now have a lounge filled with the most gorgeous, low maintenance succulents, cacti and a beautiful ginseng.

I change the theming of my fireplace with the months although the candles are a permanent fixture because I am the biggest candle fan, again, those twinkly candlelit evenings really help. So this month, it's really been brightened up with the addition of those gorgeous houseplants, I actually have always wanted a cheery cactus family and they're so low maintenance even I can't kill them.

Cacti from Dobbies, #gogreenforbluemonday mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger, how to survive Blue Monday

succulents from Dobbies, #gogreenforbluemonday mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger, how to survive Blue Monday

Fichus ginseng from Dobbies, #gogreenforbluemonday mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger, how to survive Blue Monday

I think one of the best things about houseplants is they're much more portable than a Christmas tree and you can even pop them outdoors in the summer months to decorate a nice lunch table if you're having a party, they really won't mind, in fact if it's a hot dry day they'll think you've thrown a party for them!  They're my happy little plant collection and they're definitely going to ensure that my my Blue Monday is a much cheerier affair.

I would also say if you have any sunshine at all today, go stand in it, let it kiss your face for twenty minutes because you will feel so much better and if you can't do that, vitamin D3 can really help, try to get a high strength one though, I mentioned one in my sparkly January article.

Another thing that helps me when I am anxious is to lie down and meditate, if you can't or don't want to meditate just try lying flat for a while and focusing on your breathing, take deep breaths and feel the oxygen circulating your body, at the very worst, you'll fall asleep and naps, well I'm not one to ever discourage a good nap!

Whatever you do today, please, if you can, focus on good things, we may only be halfway through the month, but yay, we're halfway through, a little positivity does really go a long way, now maybe get yourself out from hiding under that blanket, play music loudly, sing along to musicals at the top of your voice and if all else fails, just remember, the nights are getting lighter and it's only 64 days until spring!


Thursday, January 11, 2018

So Proud of Them

My daughters on holiday, Abigail and Laura Charlton, mandy Charlton, photographer, writer, blogger, so proud of them

I should start this post by saying that if you don't like reading mums go on and on about how proud they are of their daughters then skip, skip away to the next one because I might just be about to get emotional in a "Proud Mama" way.

Yesterday was such a great day, Looby and I went to meet with Fiona who represents the LEA in all matters of home education, we've been waiting for the day when we got the LEA's seal of approval to continue Looby's home education and yesterday was that day.

Fiona was impressed with Looby and I was so proud to watch my daughter speaking so eruditely about her home education journey, sometimes as her mum all I see is the door slamming, the storming off and the comments like "You're always trying to educate me" (yep, Looby, that's kind of the point).  It's encouraging to see how well she's absorbing the things we talk about, how she's responding to her science tuition and now seeing just how well she's doing with her online English/Maths and Science courses, well it just makes me proud.  She's just written her first article on her own blog since the Christmas break, go read it and leave her an encouraging comment, blogging is the thing she enjoys least of all but it's so important for her to continue as that's her evidence of learning and it's also her life's progress, she's going to look back in 10 years and be so happy that she recorded her own history.

Getting the nod of approval means so much to both of us, it means we have a year now to focus on the learning, to not have to worry about if we're doing the right things and we know we have the support if we have any queries about anything.  I can't wait to start planning more adventures.

Meanwhile, I sat and watched on Twitter last night as Abigail's votes for 16 motion was passed by Newcastle City Council and they as a city council will now support votes for 16 in all referendums and elections, my girl, campaigned and fought for this motion, it was debated and it passed, I cried tonight when I watched it all unfold, to be tweeted by the Lord Mayor herself saying I should be proud of her, it's unbelievable really.  She's such a force for good fighting for the rights of young people when she herself is not even 16 until May, each day she's doing long days at school, then doing ridiculous amounts of homework and revision for her GCSE's on top of that, there are no actual words to say how proud I am to be her mum, she's one to watch for sure, if she's done all this before 16, imagine what she's going to achieve by the time she's 25!

Abigail and Looby, despite being only 16 months apart in age, they are polar opposites, yin and yang, Abigail's dad will tell you of his young daughter, a massive thirst for knowledge sitting requesting to be read to with a pile of books bigger than her from such an early age, she rarely sat still where as Looby was always a dreamer, definitely the easier of the two when small but Looby had a creative streak, she would dress herself from being tiny making each individual outfit work despite wearing things you would never imagine would go together.  In every way shape and form, my girls are different although I would say they both can be feisty and determined but that's not such a bad thing.

The amount I love them is immeasurable and to have two teens who are such wonderful examples of young women is something I am so grateful for, we have given our daughters the room to be the people they wanted to be, we have surrounded them with good people from all ages, genders and different backgrounds and it's because of that we have been able to have such open and honest discussions with them both, we have brought them up to believe as we do that people should only be defined by their actions towards you and nothing else, they are shining beacons of the future and examples of hope, both together and separately I believe they can change the world in their own unique ways.

Abigail and Looby, my loves, my life, my world,  if you've made it this far, you should know that your mama loves you more than the stars, the universe and all of the other undiscovered cosmos's, may you always have the space to be yourselves, may you always see the world as you do right now and whatever happens, never let anyone darken your hearts or dull your sparkle.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Achieving Balance In My Life

Holly Bobbins the beagle, achieving balance in my life, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

Dragging myself back to my desk this week has by no means been an easy task, I can't ever remember taking quite so long away from my business before and you know what?  It felt great, not even crickets communicated during the Christmas and New Year and whilst there were still enquiries and bookings for weddings and photo shoots, it all just felt like it was at a much easier pace, I replied at my leisure and no one questioned my approach.  Now I know that there are some emails which have to be answered within a few hours but it did make me wonder if I should be more mindful of just answering enquiries once a day instead of perpetually waiting with my inbox open waiting for emails to land, maybe it could be that I'm even sending emails way too keenly!

Life over the holidays was amazing, I must mention as well our new house sign for our gate which means that no one struggles with where to find us anymore, this is always an issue in our street but thanks to the House Nameplate Company the delivery drivers of the northeast thank you, I also think it looks smart upon my lovely blue gate, I love cost effective ways of smartening up my home.

During the break I also got to spend some time with my big girl (she'll hate me for calling her that), Abigail and I had a blissful couple of days in Lincoln which is the most gorgeous city, I loved the chance to spend time with her, we laughed a lot, we shopped and we ate, oh my God, we ate, my scales said scary things when I stepped on them this morning!  I don't care though, Christmas and New Year were lovely and I'll lose that weight and more now I'm back to my usual routine.

Abigail quite rightly says that she loves me but she could never live with me again as I would drive her insane and I know this about myself, I could never live with anyone again really, I know I'm difficult and a bit odd and once my children flee the nest I'm sure I'm one of those people who is destined to live alone in a tiny shoebox of a home, of course I'll surround myself with the most fabulous people and I'm not even ruling out a relationship but I think it's better in matters of friendship, family and dare I say, of the heart, that I, Mandy Charlton should always have my own house, my own space, my own hermit hole because I give better when I don't have to give 24 hours a day.  I know that sounds inherently selfish but I'm approaching my mid forties, surely it's better to cherish the time I spend with others rather than dreading that I have to spend the whole time with them, or them with me, like I said, I'm basically a weirdo extrovert introvert.

I don't want this to come across like I'm this unloveable person who only takes because that couldn't be further from the truth, it's actually more like, I love my friends and I want to give as much to my personal relationships as possible but full time I find it exhausting, some days I can barely deal with myself so I think it's more like self care.  You see, as I was saying to my therapist yesterday, I don't do anything by halves and love is a prime example of that, I always go too far and I'm mindful of the fact that the last year of my life has been the most well-balanced I've probably ever had and that's how I would like it to continue, I'm scared of becoming obsessive about anything at all although I'm a workaholic but that's fine because I'm at a stage in my career where I have to be obsessed with it, I have to have the strength to always carry on because I have children and a beagle to support.

More than anything this year, I just want balance and harmony, I want to build on the past, never look back and always be future forward.  The time has been and gone for looking backwards, it doesn't do any good and water under the bridge is exactly that, it makes no sense to sit and rehash it, you can't change the past after all, even if it was just 5 minutes ago (the unsend button in Gmail doesn't count).


Tuesday, January 09, 2018

7 Ways to Make January More Sparkly

My sparkle will not go unnoticed, a plaque from Melody Maison. 7 ways to make January more sparkly. Rekindle your sparkle with these tips from blogger, photographer and writer Mandy Charlton

In case you haven't noticed, it's January!

It's dark, I'm back at my desk and I'm guessing that you are too, it could even be the reason you are sitting at your screen reading this.  Let's face it, January is the darkest, bleakest month and most of us are in hibernation mode. I know amongst my own friends, very few of them are actually chipper and full of the joys of "Spring".

It's my first day back at my desk today and my overwhelming feeling is that I should have just taken off the whole of January. Photography outdoors on dull, grey days like today isn't fun, especially when you take the cold January temperatures into account. I'm sitting at my desk right now with my fake sunshine in the form of a SAD lamp trying to trick my body and brain into believing that it's actually much more summery than it actually is.  I am resolute though, yes it may be tumultuous weather, it may threaten to snow at any given minute, but this year I want to encourage everyone to make January more sparkly.

During the Christmas break I've been thinking and collected at least seven ways to make your January sparkle with some fabulous products. Hopefully these will make the first month of the year way better, and before you know it, Spring will be here!

7 Ways To Make Your January More Sparkly 

Vitamin D3 can really help combat the winter blues. One of my top ways to make January more sparkly over on my blog, Mandy Charlton Photography.

1. Make sure you're getting enough vitamins

If you really are feeling the winter blues, Vitamin D3 is guaranteed to help. I'm living proof - for the first year ever I'm taking a high strength Vitamin D3 and it really has made a difference. I can get up in the morning, my brain is actually functioning better and overall when I've used it along with Magnesium (which helps the body absorb the vitamin D3) and my SAD lamp, I've seen my moods be much improved from previous years. You can buy high strength vitamin D from here. 

Angel Eyes by Angela Langford Skincare is wonderful for reducing dark circles under the eyes. One of my top ways to make January more sparkly over on my blog, Mandy Charlton Photography.

2. Say goodbye to dark circles

On the first of February I shall be 44 and I'm not one for ageing gracefully. I'd like to hold back the hands of time for as long as I possibly can and thanks to wonderful products like Angel Eyes from Angela Langford Skincare I can do just that. I've been using this over the Christmas period and it really does help with dark circles under the eyes, not only that, you can really smell the cucumber.

This Oparus candle from The Chapel smells heavenly and is the perfect companion to practising mindfulness and reflection at home. One of my top ways to make January more sparkly over on my blog, Mandy Charlton Photography.

3. Take time to pause and reflect

Amanda from The Chapel would like use to January to take more pauses, with her amazing candle collection which invoke the smells of different times of day. Isn't it nice to just to pause and reflect every once in a while? I've burnt the Oparus candle a couple of times now and it fills my home with heavenly scents. I've really tried to practice mindfulness whilst burning it, trying to focus on the scents of the morning and I think we all owe it to ourselves to pause during January, to help make plans for the year ahead because soon it will be time to go on new adventures.

These delicious chocolate spreads by Jim Jams are guilt-free. One of my top ways to make January more sparkly over on my blog, Mandy Charlton Photography.

4. Guilt-free chocolate treats 

This year I've been looking into the fact that January is so completely guilt based. It was brought to my attention by Naomi and all of a sudden my eyes are open to it all, the fact that we're encouraged to feast in December and then lose weight in January. Well Jim Jams spreads are totally not guilt based, they contain 83% less sugar than other branded chocolate spreads and they're even suitable for diabetics. I love that indulgence is still encouraged! They come in Hazelnut and plain chocolate flavours and January is the perfect time to try them.  I shall be swapping a certain other brand for these jars of tasty wonder.

This inspirational wall print from Melody Maison is a spark of inspiration every time I walk past. One of my top ways to make January more sparkly over on my blog, Mandy Charlton Photography.

5.  Add inspiration to your walls

I have walls full of funny or positive sayings around my house. I love the fact that wherever I'm sitting I can quickly glance at something which invokes a memory or encourages me even on the darkest day, so when I found a new plaque for my wall at Melody Maison I knew I had to have it on my wall - even reading it makes me feel better, stronger and more determined that this year I'm going to sparkle the heck out of 2018!

This iPhone case from Speck is not only beautiful and sparkly but it's protective too. One of my top ways to make January more sparkly over on my blog, Mandy Charlton Photography.

6.  Accessorise (and protect) your phone

Whilst we are on the subject of sparkling, I love my new iPhone case from Speck. Not only is it gold and sparkly it's also military grade and drop tested from 8 foot. Remember when protective cases used to be boring, black and reinforced? Well this gold sparkly one just proves that protective doesn't have to be boring and it also means I'm more likely to have a phone which survives my every day clumsiness.

Redecorating your home can bring a new energy, like using this Valspar paint from B&Q. One of my top ways to make January more sparkly over on my blog, Mandy Charlton Photography.

7.  Redecorate and refresh your home

Finally, and this one is an introduction to what's about to happen, Looby needs a new bedroom. She wants to float on a cloud and January is definitely the month to plan redecoration, in fact we're off to B&Q tomorrow to purchase some Valspar paint so we can start the transformation. If you want to see what we do with her bedroom (which is currently a pit of despair) well you'll just have to follow the progress and I promise I'll be sure to share it once it's done.

Will your January sparkle?

So there you have it, I challenge you to use any of these products and not feel a little more sparkly, I'm determined that when February arrives I'm going to burst into it having sparkled my way through the darkest month. Stay tuned to my blog to see how I progress - January, I am coming to get you.

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