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

Friday, November 30, 2018

How to throw the perfect Christmas Party

Christmas is nearly here and whilst it might be 25 sleeps until the big day, it's definitely the start of the Christmas Party season.  I throw one big party a year, it's always an annual Christmas party and it's talked about for the whole of the next year, well at least by my teenagers anyway, mostly recounting the ways in which I embarrassed them/myself/everyone.  Actually though, it's the best thing I do and I think I've got it figured out as a party host.

I think you see, there are some essentials that you need for a great Christmas party so let me share some with you now to aide and abet you in hosting the Christmas soiree of the year.

You've guessed it, no party is complete without my yearly signature cocktail and about 12 kilos of cheese.  Last year I made the perfect Cosmo as taught by the number 1 mixologist in the UK, this year I'll be making the most festive cocktail of all, I like to call it my Christmas Sparkle cocktail.

Christmas Sparkle Cocktail

1 Bottle of Prosecco
1 Bottle of sparkling red grape juice
Cranberries and halved red and white grapes

It's a really simple cocktail, it looks amazing having the halves  of grapes and the cranberries floating around and it tastes quite non-alcoholic so quaff not too much in one go and enjoy this sparkly festive delight.

Food is really important for parties and I like to cook for people, this year I'm turning my kitchen table into a giant grazing board but as it's quite a big table you'll have to come back after next weekend to see how that went, it's likely to be a smorgasbord of delights.

The Christmas Party Outfit

Essential to all good parties is what you're going to wear, this year I've chosen this beautiful burgundy jumpsuit by Coast from JD Williams, being regrettably larger than last year I'm delighted to have found something which is cut really well and doesn't make me look too rotund and it's got pockets which is an essential for me, I love outfits with pockets.  I actually love this outfit, if you see me over Christmas it's very likely that I'll be wearing it out to everything.

Looby also has her own sparkly party number, she saw this one on a recent trip to Saunsbury's and at just over £20 I think it's a bargain and she's also rocking the outfit, especially with her blue hair.

The Perfect Party Guests

So now we've figured out what we're eating, drinking and wearing, it's time to think about the guests, I guess I'm lucky that I don't have a great huge number of friends because by the time I invite my friends and the kids all invite theirs we still end up with between 20-30 people in my house but it's always pleasant, having a range of ages really keeps it light and lovely.  I have the best friends who all know how to party and none of them mind if I suddenly announce that I'm going to bed at 11pm, in fact last year when I did that, I heard a few of them were still there quite happily quaffing and chatting until 2am!  Just don't forget to source some emergency seats and you're sure to have the best time ever.


Thursday, November 29, 2018

Christmas at the Charltons 2018

After our festive day out in London, Looby and I decided we couldn't wait any longer to deck our halls and bring Christmas to the Charlton house.  And then Abigail said she had an inset day so the festooning began.

Now I have to admit that things in our house had already began to get a little jolly, I'd been preparing gift guides since September after all and then this little chap and his babies arrived!

If you're a fan of Fantastic Beasts you may remember that the Niffler is a cute mole like character with a penchant for all things Gold and shiny, much fun has ensued since his arrival courtesy of Kap Toys, he arrived in glorious form with his Niffler babies which are brand new and available from independent toy stores and I think these are going to make the most wonderful presents this Christmas, just make sure you don't sit them too near your sparkly things.

Being one of the hosts of the #Nifflers Twitter party I can say was the most fun I'd had in ages, Nifflers really are the cutest and even more so in real life, the big one is so squishy and soft and the little ones are just the right size to fit in this years Christmas stockings, I'm actually surprised Holly Bobbins hasn't helped herself to one yet!!

Anyway, I digress, back to decking the halls and merrily festooning.  In total it's taken nearly a week to get everything the way we want it and I still have nothing outdoors, my garden is a mess and the weather has been too evil to do anything about it.  Indoors though we are a sparkly haven of warmth and twinkle.

and so to me, everything is now at one with the world, I've started my Christmas shopping and actually I'm doing pretty well with it, my house is sparkly enough that I feel no need to venture into the outdoor world and thank goodness for that as I score at least a 7/10 for being a reclusive hermit currently.  Next week is my annual Christmas party and I'm attempting to turn my entire kitchen table into a giant grazing platter which will go with my Christmas punch which combines Red Shloer with Prosecco, grapes and cranberries guaranteed to make any party a festively fabulous one!

The next few weeks are sure to pass in a blur, this time of year is so busy after all, I've pretty much turned down all invitations apart from my own party because I feel it's safer to let people come to me.  I shall however be taking a couple of weeks off at Christmas, I didn't book myself any weekends off last year so I reckon I'm overdue a long break where I can catch up on some books I've stockpiled, there can be no going back now though, Christmas 2018, we are coming to get you!


Monday, November 26, 2018

Christmas in London with the iPhone Xs Max

I love London, when you don't live there it becomes a magical place, a romantic getaway or a family trip, a special thing you don't get to do very often.  The lovely people at Three invited Harriet, Looby and I on a photowalk around Shoreditch and I snatched their hand off before they could even say "Come to London."

After a seriously early train to the capital, we arrived in Shoreditch, now for all of my time I've spent in London I'd never been to Shoreditch but I'll definitely be going again, Shoreditch is simply amazing, it's full of street art everywhere and not just any old street art, you'll even find some Banksy.  it's literally a photographers playground and next time I'll be taking my camera.  On this occasion though, the photo walk was to show the amazing capabilities of the new phones, the iPhone Xs and the iPhone Xs Max, now I should say that I'd already upgraded to the Xs Max and I'm a bit of a geek at the best of times so I knew about the adjustable fstops in portrait mode which I have to say is an amazing feature, being able to adjust the aperture after you've taken the photo is an incredible feature, you can't even do that with a high end DSLR.

I was super lucky to have Looby with me because unlike at home where she spends her life with her head in her phone she was actually willing to pose, in fact, she was pretty much the ultimate model!!

We spent 3 hours meandering around the streets of Shoreditch and even went to the iconic Brick Lane which was super busy, we had a scrumptious lunch and we ended the walk part of the day at Spitalfields market.  Next was a trip around London to squeeze as much as we possibly could into just a few hours, Harriet had never experienced London before so we wanted to make it the best day ever for her.  In just a few hours we went to Harrods, we had dinner in Covent Garden, we went to Christmas in Leicester Square, we went to Trafalgar square walking through the west end, "where's the Palladium?" said Harriet, "You're standing under the entrance" said me.  We even went to see Buckingham palace at night before a mad dash back to Kings Cross in an Uber whereupon we made our train, the last train out of London with 5 minutes to spare, I blame The Queen for that one, I shan't mention the train journey home too much but it took 4 hours via Lincoln, was filled with drunk rugby fans and LNER had triple booked everyone's seats.  Let's just say we were exhausted when we made it back to Newcastle after midnight.  You know what though, it was totally worth it.  We get few chances to visit London so it's crucial to pack as much in as possible and it's not every day you have to walk more than 10 miles, it's no wonder my Fitbit actually checked that I hadn't suddenly put it on Mo Farrah whilst I sat by a pool somewhere.

Thanks to Three for hosting us, thanks to Rob the photographer who I loved chatting too as I don't really know all that many photographers so it's always great to geek out a little and thanks to Looby and Harriet for joining me on our epic day in London.


Wednesday, November 21, 2018

14 gifts your foodie friends will love for Christmas 2018

Christmas is a time for feasting, it's a time to stop worrying about the calories and for simply enjoying all that is tasty on the festive table, this is the time when our foodie friends (like me) come into our own, we prepare huge meals, we bake, we drag people off the street to try and test our latest culinary creations and so here without further ado is a whole gift guide dedicated to those foodies amongst us.

14 gifts your foodie friends will love for christmas 2018, mandy charlton photographer, writer, blogger, gift guides, christmas

The eagle eyed amongst you may have spotted only 13 gorgeous gifts your foodie friends will love in my festive montage but that's because my 1st item was a last minute arrival and also a bit of a surprise as a huge box arrived which took me quite a while to unpack and when it did it was filled with the most glorious items all of which are perfect for any foodie kitchen.
1. Kitchenware from Typhoon

From the amazing Acacia wood chopping boards which double as small platters, to the beautifully shiny golden storage jars, Typhoon have nailed it this Christmas, these accessories will adorn all of the foodie kitchens around the nation and beyond and believe me when I say, there's nothing better than using wooden cooking utensils so go banish the plastic ones and buy something truly beautiful this year.

2 and 3.  The Salter Cook Interactive Bluetooth Kitchen Set.

Let me explain this one fully by using the words of Salter themselves, "Using Bluetooth technology, Salter Cook lets you create your own personal cookbook directly from your smartphone or tablet. Download the Salter Cook app from the App store or Google play to start converting your favourite recipes straight from the web. Salter Cook offers a fun and fast way of capturing recipes and organising them in an easy-to-follow format with step-by-step instructions – all at your fingertips! Teamed with the Bluetooth scale and thermometer, this range updates the cooking process and transforms your culinary experience.   Connect the Salter Bluetooth Cook Scale & Thermometer to the Salter Cook app to set targets direct from the recipe and see measurements on your smartphone or tablet. Don’t let the stress of cooking ruin your Christmas and let Salter Cook do all the work for you"

4. Italian Cheesemaking Kit

Ever wanted to make your own Ricotta, Mozzarella or Mascarpone?  Well now you can without any cheese-making experience whatsoever, I literally can't wait to make my own cheese and then invite people around to sample it or even just to tweet the words "Busy in the kitchen making my own Mascarpone" yes, you will be applauded by all for being quite the gastronomer.

5. Quicke's Cheese Tasting Box

Recently awarded at the world cheese awards, Quicke's cheddar is one of the most delicious cheddars out there today and now you can enjoy all of it's various flavours with this suitably fabulous cheese hamper, just remember to not eat it before you go to bed as you'll be in for a night of very weird dreams.

6. Emily Crisps

I think we'd all agree that nothing goes better with cheese than crisps and if you are so inclined this Christmas you could even make up your own Emily Crisps hamper for that fabulous friend, big packs, fruit and vegetable flavours and all suitably tasty, I know, I've sampled them.

7. Vonshef 9 piece green and brushed gold cocktail set

Now this looks like a party!  Every year I create some signature cocktails for my yearly Christmas extravaganza, I only host one party a year so it's got to be a good one.  If you're going to have a party you need a cocktail set and if you need a cocktail set this one is perfect, I shall be whizzing up a mix of my very own cocktails and yes, I might have a bit of a headache the next day but it'll be totally worth it!

8. Vonshef round cheeseboard and knife set

This year I am planning a platter to completely fill my dining table and if you are going to have platters then you need a cheeseboard, actually multiple cheeseboards, this one is a steal, it's also big enough to hold several types of cheese and the accoutrement to go with them.  The Vonshef cheeseboard is perfect for entertaining at any time of year but at Christmas it will really come into it's own.

9. Godminster cheddar and port giftset

Whilst we are on the subject of cheese, you should really be including the Godminster cheddar on your festive cheeseboards this year, they've even brought out their own star shaped version and it's as delicious as it is visually pleasing, team it with a nice glass of port and you'll easily make it through the long dark winter nights.

10. The Duppy Share Caribbean Rum

This years ultimate cocktail accessory, The Duppy Share Caribbean Rum literally makes tons of perfect cocktails you'll enjoy drinking all year around, at Christmas though it comes into it's own, its versatile, it's golden, and it's perfect for mixing with, well whatever you fancy really but i'd suggest ginger or maybe something a little warming, perfect for any party goers during the most festive season of the year.

11. Sweet Dreams Hamper from Willies Cacao

If you have a foodie friend who's never tried any of the Willies Cacao range then this is the present for them, the whole hamper is jam packaged with the best chocolate, a chocolate spread and the most divine hot chocolate for all of those festive hot chocolate needs, you've never tasted chocolate until you've tasted Willies Cacao

12. Carluccio's Il Pentolone Pasta and Sauce gift set

One of the ultimate gifts for foodie friends is to send them home with a gift set containing everything they'll need for dinner and Carluccio's have got it just right with the Il Pentolone pasta and sauce gift set several evenings meals in one box and all presented in an pleasing package to delight both the eyes and the stomachs.

13.  G and Tea Cocktail gift set

Did someone say cocktails?  I'll be sure to be serving my festive cocktails from this delightful cocktail gift set, the teapot contains a glass diffuser for all of your extra ingredients which means you can make any kind of combination of cocktails, gin infused or otherwise and if it all gets too much, you could make a lovely cup of loose leaf tea!

14. The Summerton Club subscription

Finally a subscription club we can all get on board with, searching the planet for the rare, the unusual, the finest blends of spirits from around the world that you cannot buy in this country like this whisky, divinely smooth and golden, and although it's Swedish I happen to think it could give any Scottish single malt a run for it's money.  You can sign up monthly,  bi-monthly or tri-monthly and if you sign up using the code Mandy5 you'll get £5 off your first months subscription, now that's got to be worth a go, sign up to the Summerton Club here.

I want to thank each and every company who's got involved with this years foodie gift guide, these guides literally take months to curate, the writing, the photography, this one was started in September and it's been no mean feat to find just the right products and also something for each and every budget out there so go on, go purchase your foodie friends the best of the best for gifts for this Christmas.


Thursday, November 15, 2018

My Daughters, The Superheroes

Abigail and Laura Charlton, daughters of Mandy Charlton, Photographer, writer, blogger, my daughters, the superheroes

Hello lovely world, I'm back and I hope I can start blogging more often again now that I've actually caught up to date with editing for the first time since summer.  It's been a mad old year, it was quiet for so long and then completely crazy and with autumn being the gorgeous season it has been, work has been off the hook crazy which is good for me!

Yesterday I breathed a huge sigh of relief, no weddings or photo shoots to edit and this weekend I'm only working on Sunday as I have a rare Saturday off to go to London to do a photo walk with Three with Looby and Harriet.  Harriet hasn't ever explored London before (she's in her mid 30's so I find this fact weird) but Looby and I have promised to take her to see some of the sights and more importantly to take her to the Christmas department in Harrods.

Things have been going amazingly lately with my own businesses and Inspire, since we became a social enterprise it's made people realise that we're not in this to buy big mansions whilst we watch others struggle, if anything, it's probably the other way around, we literally put everything in we can whilst taking very little, tomorrow we've got our first big video recording day and the Inspire gift guide full of locally sourced products produced by women from all over the north of England promises to be quite the event, looking at the box of currently wrapped gifts we've received makes me feel, festive, fuzzy and warm.

Something I've experienced this year which has stood out to me is that I've found people who have issues with me, this to me is so weird as I rarely have issues with anyone I literally live my life in a little bubble, I write about my life in the here and now keeping it as real as I can and giving a first person account of a single entrepreneurial parent who lives with bipolar and anxiety, I don't gloss over the bad parts but I feel pretty lucky that there are more good parts and yet this year I've found people who have judged me, people who have "beef" for no good reason and some that even wanted my actual downfall.  Well I'm still here, I have virtual ear muffs on to drown out any haters and I'm eternally thankful to have a small circle of the most incredible friends who support me and love me for who I am.

I'm also lucky enough to have daughters who are total superheroes, just to give a for instance, I went out on Monday to a blogger event, it didn't start well as I had a migraine but I don't think I'd ever been to an event where I felt so uncomfortable and out of place, I should say it was nothing to do with the event and everything to do with me, I just can't do people or social situations, I'm incredibly awkward, I can't make small talk and when I left, along with every muscle in my neck being in spasm, I was an anxious mess.  I got home, told Looby and she gave me a massive hug because she knows, she's just come to understand how it is, when I'm out with her or Abigail, I usually always feel safe and like I can conquer the world and if I do get anxious they hug me and tell me everything is going to be okay.  Abigail is by far the most amazing girl for advice and for telling me off when I hate myself.  Of course it's a two way thing and I provide them with everything I can give but isn't it a wonderful thing to have such an amazing relationship with your teenagers?

As we start our descent into the crazy season, Christmas is the closest thing to a bipolar manic state, anyone who has bipolar will understand what I mean, bipolar is like the over-excitement of Christmas combined with the sad regret of January all combined in one.  My manic states can be compared to those dancing Christmas lights which get faster and faster, they start so pretty and twinkly and end up an utter mess of overstimulation.  Be kind to your friends who have mental health issues at Christmas because without a doubt, it's the most challenging time of year from us, I make light of it, of course, because you have to laugh at yourself.

Well, I've rambled quite enough now, in truth I was going to write this at 1am when I couldn't sleep and a snoring beagle was so close to me she was almost lying on my cheek, I'll be back with another gift guide very soon and until then, enjoy that build up to the most wonderful time of the year.

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