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

Monday, October 28, 2019

How to spend Christmas alone

How to spend christmas alone, mandy charlton photography, blogger, writer

This year for the first time I am spending Christmas alone, Looby wants to be with her sister, Iain wants to spend his first Christmas with his brother and sister and so I'll be alone for my very first Christmas.

When I was younger, in fact, my whole life, I dreamt about having big family Christmases with all of the family, extended family and the funny old drunk aunties falling asleep after a big Christmas lunch.  We'd play charades, we'd eat all of the Quality Street and then we'd settle down for the Gavin and Stacey Christmas special.

Life, of course, doesn't always go the way you'd expect and the price of freedom from being in controlling family relationships is that I've ended up with just Looby and Iain and it's only fair that they get to spend Christmas with whoever they want.  Harriet of course, lovely as she is, extended the yearly invitation to have lunch with her folks at the pub but last year I was depressed and I felt I ruined other people's happiness and that's a lot when it's £60 a head.

In truth, Christmas will be the very antithesis to what I've hoped and dreamed of but I have to start thinking about ways to make the best of it because people all around the world have to face Christmas alone, it's not just me and it's not about sympathy or pity.  It's just finding ways to cope.

I've researched, I've read articles and they all seem to say the same kinds of things - 
  • Go for a walk, and enjoy how quiet everywhere is.
  • Have a lie-in with no pressure to get out of bed.
  • Take yourself out for Chinese food.
  • Spoil yourself with presents to yourself.
  • Take naps whenever you want.
  • Catch up on TV, watch whatever you want
  • Eat whatever you want
  • Embrace your pets
This, of course, is all fine and well and there are some good suggestions in there but I already spend quite a lot of time alone, have sole possession of the remote control, cuddle my pet's daily and if I want something, I buy it.  I also rarely set an alarm and take naps more than you'd think, so it's not like embracing time off as a rare thing because I have a fairly flexible life with lots of free time.

I did think of going away but Looby will be home on Boxing Day and we'll have our celebrations then but whatever I do, I can't shake the fact that I will be on my own on Christmas Day.  Perhaps it wouldn't be so bad if I weren't the queen of Christmas having loved every single thing about the whole festive season for my whole life.

So, dear reader, maybe you are sitting there feeling the same way as me, maybe you too are a single parent who's children will be away, well, here's what I suggest, would you like to come for Christmas Day?  I really want to cook a big feast, I can't drink so I'm going to need some help with that and I can promise a cheeseboard to end all cheeseboards.  Yes, you'll have to share the sofa with Holly Bobbins and the cats but it's got to be a better solution than Christmas alone.  I love to entertain, nay, I live to entertain, I don't have the smartest house, I'm far from being financially happy but Christmas, Christmas is my thing and I embrace it with all of my heart and soul.

Alternatively, some kind of suggestions to add to my list of coping mechanisms would be greatly appreciated, last year was bad and I only got to spend a few hours with the kids, this year is ten times worse.


Monday, October 21, 2019

Best Places To Visit on a Weekend trip to Hull {press trip}

Best Places to visit in Hull, Hull Minster, Michaelangelo Exhibition, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, writer, blogger

Last weekend I went on a weekend press trip to Hull with some lovely bloggers/journalists from around the country, we visited some of the best places and attractions that Hull has to offer and it's taken me a week to recover because we packed so much in.

It's never the easiest for me to meet new people and it can take up to 6 months before I really relax but I had no such worries last weekend as everyone was so welcoming.

I last visited Hull in 2014 and I loved it then and I love it even more now, Hull is one of those cities which is completely underrated, I'm not sure why it isn't more loved or spoken about because it's a total gem, it's winding streets, it's independent shops, it really is a special little city.

I have lots of Hull facts like "It's the home to England's smallest window" or like the fact that it's Minster isn't actually any kind of cathedral, it's simply Englands biggest parish church.  It's also hosting an exhibition which has brought the Sistine Chapel to Humberside and it's a really impressive exhibition and as close as I've been to the work of Michaelangelo having not had the time to visit the real thing when I was last in Rome.

Hull also has a "Land of Green Ginger" just like Tynemouth, from speaking to Paul our tour guide it seems that the one in Tynemouth gets its name from the one in Hull but no one knows where the original one gets its name from.

Hull, at first sight, can look a lot like a post-war city which has recovered from the bombing it suffered by rebuilding with brutalist architecture and really, it was one of the most bombed cities outside of London but there are still pre-war buildings and lots of quirky architecture to boot.

One of it's finer places is Hepworth's Arcade which is not only home to the Hotham's Gin School but also the oldest joke shop in Hull and it's a very quirky owner who likes to wear his products on his face, just a word of warning!  It's the only L shaped arcade in the country and it's full of small independent shops, much like the rest of Hull really, it's been ages since I visited a place with so many independent shops.

The Hotham's Gin School was one highlight of an amazing weekend and I don't even drink.  We distilled our own gin in pairs so I spent the afternoon getting to know Natalie from Hello Cuppies and she took on the difficult task of not only helping to make the gin but also drinking all of my extra alcohol.

Our finished Gin, named "Ronnie Pickering's Cherry Pie" has flavourings of cherry, vanilla, marshmallow and some citrus undertones and it gets its name from the infamous viral sensation of 2015, Ronnie Pickering, I'm sure he'd be delighted with the finished Gin, I shall be unveiling it at my yearly Christmas party . Suffice to say I graduated from Gin School and have a 54%abv craft Gin to prove it!  A 4 hour experience costs £150 and you get to take away your own bottle of gin as well as sampling some gin drinks over the afternoon, it's well worth the money even if, like me, you don't drink alcohol.

Of course, no weekend away would be complete without lots and lots of food and Hull did not disappoint, from lunch at the Trinity Market to dinner at Ambient Tapas near the marina and then on Sunday a trip to the Lion and Key pub, full tummies are happy tummies after all.

Hull, of course, has been known as the home of The Deep since 2002 and no trip to Hull would be complete without a trip, it's a place I've been several times before and I love it, as you readers know I love aquariums, I find them the most calming places and I could sit and watch the fishes swimming in the tanks all day long.  I love the sharks, I love the beautiful sea turtles and I love the manta-ray.   My only tip with The Deep is to go when it first opens as it gets absolutely crammed with small people and the queues at peak times can be huge.

These are really just a few of the highlights of a wonderful weekend I'll remember for always and if you want to experience the trip as I did, I have an Instagram Highlight devoted to all of the wonders of Hull which contains everything you've seen here and more.  I had the best time in Hull and I already want to plan a trip with Looby because I think she'll love it too, I love that everything is within walking distance and now that the Hilton has their own Doubletree hotel there just next to the theatre, it's a destination you have to visit.

My train tickets cost just over £50 going on the Transpennine Express and I paid for them myself, all other aspects of the weekend were paid for by Visit Hull as part of the press trip.  All of the opinions are my own and what I honestly thought of lovely old Hull!


Monday, October 07, 2019

Easiest Green Tomato Chutney Recipe

This is the easiest green tomato chutney recipe you will find on the internet, it takes moments to prepare and makes perfect Christmas gifts filled with home-made love.  Just don't eat it all yourself!

Easiest green tomato chutney recipe on the internet, mandy charlton photography, photographer, writer, blogger

Green Tomato Chutney Ingredients

2.2kg tomatoes, it doesn't matter how green
1 litre of malt vinegar
500g soft brown sugar
500g red onions roughly sliced
250g of Sultanas
3 tsp sea salt
3 tsp ground black pepper


Pour the vinegar into a large pan and then empty in the sugar and heat until it dissolves, continue to heat until it reaches boiling.

Add the sultanas and bring back to the boil
Add everything else,

halfway through once the tomatoes start to split their skin, take a potato masher and gently mash the tomatoes, it's so much easier than chopping over 2k of small tomatoes, in essence, this is why it's the easiest green tomato chutney recipe on the internet

After around 90 mins of simmering, it will turn into gloopy thick chutney, take off the boil, wait until it cools and then decant into jars, I paid £5 for 6 380ml jars with lids at Wilko.

I got 5, 380ml jars out of this whole mix.  Label with pretty labels, not forgetting to add the date and then gift all of your friends.

You can either use the chutney straight away or you can leave to season for a few weeks, it's the perfect time of year if you wanted to store it for Christmas, I plan to open one of my jars at my yearly Christmas party and will be serving it with some of my favourite Blackstock Blue cheese.

It's quite a sweet chutney so should nicely sit amongst the Boxing Day buffet or on a cheeseboard to have with some good red wine when your friends and family come together.

I scoured the internet to find a good green tomato chutney recipe and then used this one as a base and altered it slightly for my own needs.

Sunday, October 06, 2019

The worst week...

Some weeks are the work of the devil, I mean they seriously suck!  Life has been pretty gentle in many ways for ages, I've photographed so many lovely weddings and had a spring in my step but this week just goes to prove we are all human and have weeks where it feels like everything happens at once.

Looby decided she wanted to return to full-time education and starts the Newcastle Futures business school tomorrow, 9 to 5 days and I can't even vocalise how much I dislike the principal but it's her choice and I'll always support her decisions 100%.

I got smug about getting a cold and not worrying because of taking Vitamin D3 and now it's turned into flu and Beecham's is my new friend, I feel absolutely shocking!

I also had to reschedule 11 sessions due to the abysmal weather and the peak of the week was Pyracantha going over the rainbow bridge, losing a pet just never get's easier. 

Now I'm not writing this for any kind of need for sympathy, just that it's been a shocking week and I truly hope I don't have one of these again for a while.  There are some good things, small things maybe but good things all the same -
  • I can make my own pumpkin spice lattes at home saving money and time thanks to a bottle of pumpkin spice syrup and my Nespresso Lattissima (which Harriet bought me last Christmas).  Let me tell you that pumpkin spice lattes are just the ticket on dark, dull, dismal days, they're almost a hug in a mug.
  • Christmas is coming, I have already read several Christmas magazines, put all of the M&S Christmas food into my online basket and have been thinking about different types of presents I can make for my wonderful friends.
  • This week I plan to make lots of green tomato chutney before I lose my crops to the weather, one thing I'm thankful for is the abundance of my tomato crop this year, it's been the biggest success of my gardening pursuits and I know it's top of my list of things to grow again next year.
  • It's the cosy season and I've fully embraced Hygge once again, I have all of the cosy blankets, cushions, twinkly lights and houseplants to help me maintain my sanity through the darkest half of the year.
  • I may have flu right before I'd even had the chance to think about getting this year's flu shot but at least I should make it through the rest of the year with my health intact.  I'm rarely ill, take around 1 sick day per year and I know it'll be at least another 2 or 3 years before another bout of cold/flu comes along.
So much to be thankful for, more than any bad week can throw at me but thank goodness for the mental health medications I do take which surely help me deal with all of this stuff so much better than I ever could on my own and I'm sure that right around the corner there's a much better week waiting for us all.

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Best Ways to Embrace the Cosy Season

The cosy season is upon us, the nights are getting longer, the days are shorter and if you can't spend so much time outdoors, it's the best time to start declaring your love of houseplants.  Houseplants bring the outdoors indoors and earlier in the year while I was planning my urban haven I declared that by the time it got to this winter I would have a house full of plants to try and help me with seasonal affective disorder.
Houseplants, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger, best ways to embrace the cosy season

Every year in the last 5 years I've done small things to help with SAD, I've bought a lightbox, I've continually taken a high dose of vitamin D3, I've embraced all things hygge and now, I've got my own indoor garden for the days when I can't embrace the outdoors.  I don't particularly care about the varieties of houseplant, I just buy the ones I like and really, in a lot of ways, houseplants are a gentle way of gardening, you buy the plant, you buy the pot and then you take it home and put it where you want it.  

I do talk to my plants but you'd expect that wouldn't you, you might think I'm slightly eccentric but I'm also pretty sure that there's scientific evidence that if you're nice to your plants then they will grow for you.  I also know that they improve the air quality and they're so much prettier than buying an air purifier.

I've also, for the last few years, worked really hard at making my living room the cosiest place on earth, yes, the walls and the ceiling could do with a paint, it's definitely not Mrs Hinch's house and it's a little rough around the edges but to me it's the perfect nest to live in during the cosy season.  I love twinkly lights, cushions, throws, second-hand furniture, and of course, lots and lots of plants plus candles, wax melts and reed diffusers.  I genuinely love the space that I've curated and whilst I used to dread the knock of the door (I once went for 7 years without letting someone in my house) now I openly embrace friends coming over and once a year, when planning Christmas, I open my house to as many of my close friends as I can squeeze through the door at my annual Christmas party.

I love shopping at Homesense and Ikea as well as charity shops and garden centres, I think if you put all of those stores together and jumble them all up, you come out with my style somewhere in there.  I like colour and patterns and I'm not scared to mix them up, oh and of course, I love, love, love, photos on the wall.

I love dark nights and warm blankets even though I hate the cold dark days of winter which is why I curated my own adult-sized nest, now add in some good friends and a sparkly glass of Champagne and you will find me in Cosy Season heaven.
© Mandy Charlton - Photographer, Writer, Blogger | All rights reserved.
Blogger Template Designed by pipdig