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, March 19, 2021

Garden makeover on a budget, how much did it cost?

On Friday night, I finally finished my garden, it was all done on a really small budget but I'm going to let you in on how much it cost and where everything came from.  The best thing about gardens of course is that they constantly evolve and there are still things I would like to add and ideas to make it even better, today, for example, I spotted an Easter Island side table which looks small enough to fit next to my grey moon chair and don't even get me started on the planting, every time I see plants I want to buy them!!

garden makeover on a budget, how much did it cost?  mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger, and thrifty gardener

Here's how much the main things cost -

Arbour - £250 from Amazon, paid with vouchers I'd saved up
Chiminea - £100 from Wyevale, they had 20% off and triple points when I bought it so I got it for £80 and will get back vouchers for around another £15.
Egg Chair - £24.99 from TJ Hughes, I hadn't seen these cheap anywhere, even on Amazon it was nearly £40 for one but then I spotted them in the garden department of my local store.
Water Feature - £29.99 from TJ Hughes, again, the water feature I would love costs around £150 but this one, made from solid plastic, does the trick but it's awful, I need to refill it all the time, sometimes it does a trickle, sometimes it flows really quickly, I don't recommend!
Slate - £2.75 per bag from Home Bargains, I used 13 bags
Paving Stones - £5.99 per paving stone from Home Bargains
New Plants - £100 from various places
Trellis - £15 from Wyevale using a voucher, it should have been £17
Bark - £1.99 per bag from Aldi, we used 6 bags but I would like some more
Bricks - Free from a kind person on Facebook
Cushions for the bench, the 3 green checked ones were £5.99 each from Home Bargains, the other 2 I previously owned and used in my garden last year.

So basically it was all done for just over £500 and when you think what it was before...

That's all the major bits, most of the lighting was already in the garden or in the house and a lot of the objects are repurposed like the butlers tray table and the fire bucket but what I have now is a space I can truly relax in, not just that though, it's a place I can record video's, take photographs, it's a restful environment an Instagram worthy space,  for years I've looked at gardening magazines and wanted a space like they have and yes, it's not the size of Monty Don's back garden or indeed his front one but I live 20 minutes walk from the city centre, when you are so urban space is a premium.  I've also realised I couldn't afford a bigger garden in terms of time, money or the energy because even a small space takes up so much of all of that.

This coming Sunday, May 12th is Garden day, a day to celebrate the spaces we live outdoors in and I shall be having my own little garden party in honour, not just of Garden Day but also Abigail's, Harriet and Ron's birthdays, all which truly are worth celebrating.

I've always loved gardening and so I hope this is just the start and I hope in 6 months or a year I'll add so many extra pieces to it, it becomes something more special than even I could have ever imagined when I first pictured the space in my mind and wondered what on earth I could do with it.


Why I'll never give up, no matter what life throws at me

This week has not been the best week with regards to my health, if ageing is the cause then I'd quite like a refund, please!  After several more conversations with doctors, my lovely longterm doctor thinks it's probably I have Fibromyalgia, basically, it's a pain syndrome, yes, I know, you're sitting there thinking, "oh that does not sound fun" and you would be right.  It's actually quite possible that I've had it for quite some time as I've had all of the symptoms but they've always been looked at in exclusion rather than as a whole and it's only now because of me going through agony with my neck, head and arms that we finally seem to be coming to the same agreement.  it's a genetic thing and my mother has it and I'll be honest, I think there's a good chance (or actually not good at all) that Iain and Abigail have it as they already have symptoms.

My next step is to see a specialist physiotherapist who'll test my pain points and then depending on the outcome they'll refer me to a rheumatologist and possibly the pain clinic because currently, the neck pain is off the scale and I can't currently find the £600 it would take to make it better with Chiropractic or massage which is what I've done in the past. I'm also thinking of visiting Auris Ear Care.

The point of this blog post isn't to whine or complain though, I mean, I rock a disorder and I'm amazing at syndromes, yes it's another hurdle to get over but you know what?  No one has ever died from Fibromyalgia or Bi-polar or indeed Reynauds (that's all my disorders and syndromes right there, although I think Reynauds may well be a phenomenon).

Yesterday I went to my very first TEDX at Newcastle College, the theme was life finds a way and pretty much it was about health, life, death and mental health, it was one of the most inspiring events I have ever been to and it's only reinforced my ambition to one day give a TED talk.

Death, cancer, mental illness and suicidal ideations, all things which are the end of some and you know what, that is to be completely forgiven.  I have had times in my life where I could have crawled into a corner and never come out or where I thought those dark thoughts and nearly ended everything but in every case, just as in mine, the decision to fight onward, to choose life and to accept the things you can't change, it's those things which were paramount in all of the speakers lives just as in mine.

You see, if you fight against something you can't change, you are just using energy pointlessly, it's the fighting for the things you can change and moving onwards despite the situations, finding some kind of inner strength that you're not sure where it came from, those are the things which inspire other people.  Not only that, those are the things that define you as a person for the rest of your life.

So here I am, some days, the pain is so bad, even the good drugs won't take it away, the searing, burning pain at the base of my neck and feeling like my shoulders are like a giant breeze block because everything is in spasm.  the migraines I wake up with every day, the tingling and pins and needles in my hands, the pains in the centre of my hands which made me question if I was about to experience stigmata...  but am I about to give up?  Hell no, I've come too far for that.  I do have 2 companies to run and I've had to make a few adjustments to my work calendar just until it settles down again, the good thing about flare-ups is that they are exactly that and so I should be back to tip-top form soon enough.

Yes, it's tough that I can only work 1 day at weekends currently but if I look for the positive in that, it's actually pretty lush doing photography one day at weekends and then on a Wednesday because I am absolutely loving what I'm doing, I have the best work-life balance I've ever had and every week I can't wait to get out there again with my camera.

It's funny how things happen I think, I did not know that when I started my garden that I would end up with a haven where I might not be able to do lots of heavy stuff but I can enjoy it, it's reached that point where it's lovely just to sit in and listen to the trickling water fountain and watch the birds as they come and grab some food from our all you can eat bird buffet.

There are so many things to enjoy in life, so many things to be positive about that I refuse to let another disorder, a syndrome or pain destroy the happiness I've worked so hard to find within myself.

Thursday, March 04, 2021

11 gifts your mum will love this Mother's Day (AD, GIFTED PRODUCTS)

Mother's Day is just around the corner and this year, it's a lockdown edition. Lots of you may not have seen your mum for quite a long time or maybe you've been stuck at home with the tiny ones and are actually itching to get out for a spa day.  Whatever the situation I have tried to curate a Mother's day gift guide with something for everyone.  I quite luckily will be able to see both of my daughters for Mother's Day and that's all I need really, I mean, I won't complain if they buy me a new houseplant child or a gorgeous bottle of gin I'd love but having them here, by my side is everything to me.

So, without further ado, here are 11 gifts your mum will love this Mother's Day.

11 gifts that your mum will love this Mother's Day, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, writer, blogger, gift guide

A houseplant gang from The Little Botanical

If your mum is anything like me she will adore a brand new houseplant or two and The Little Botanical can send you one plant, two plants or a whole little pretty pink plant gang, from easy to look after succulents to people-pleasing cacti, I promise if mum loves plants you're destined to find her something to make her smile.

A tweed recycled blanket from Glencroft

Who doesn't love a good blanket or throw, I have so many of them, great for changing the mood in the living room or for taking on picnics, I have an entire collection of tartan blankets so it was time to grab something to co-ordinate and this wool weave up plain travel blanket coordinates perfectly in my living room, if you have a mum who loves the countryside or has a passion for interiors then this is the gift for her.

Metal Artwork from Narla

If you have an outdoor mum who loves her garden then you cannot ignore this amazing steel artwork from Narla, I have to admit that if we were not in a lockdown this would be on my garden wall right now but I have to wait until a friend with a drill can come around to affix it for me as I am dreadful at drilling and suchlike, I do know this is going to look amazing hanging on my brick wall in my lovely tiny garden, these amazing works of art can be personalised and you can hang them indoors or outdoors.

Customisable Travel Bracelet from El Camino Bracelets

If your mum, like me, loves to travel, she will absolutely adore her very own customisable travel bracelet from El Camino, choose a country you love or an ocean that you've stood next to and create a bracelet which every time you look at it, brings back gorgeous memories of those travel tales. I chose the Atlantic Ocean along with my favourite countries Spain and France, Spain is my go-to with the canaries and of course Barcelona and France, well that will always hold a special place in my heart after spending time travelling around the Cote d'Azur with Abigail a couple of years ago.  Now that she's fluent and doing a degree, I expect many more trips to France where I breathe a sigh of relief that I don't have to try and communicate with my awful french language skills.  I would like to also say that I've already ordered another 2 steps to remind me of my beloved Scotland.

A Gift Certificate from Red Letter Days

I've always had a warm place in my heart for Red Letter Days, I have featured them quite often in gift guides and it's really because it's a gift that is a promise of something wonderful to come, Red Letter Days offer vouchers for exciting trips and special experiences all over the UK and beyond and yes, the first day I can book to go to Scotland you can guarantee that I will be, there's nowhere that I've missed quite so much during lockdown than beautiful Scotland.

A Mindful giftbox from Mindful Gifting

As many of you know, I struggle with anxiety, I read a quote a friend sent me which said that if you live in the past you'll have depression and if you worry about the future you'll have anxiety.  If you truly want to have better health you need to live in the present and we can achieve that through practising mindfulness.  I'm not sure if a gift box is a whole answer but it's a pretty good start, for a start, journaling can be hugely helpful and this box contains the perfect journal, I also love the pillow spray, anything that can help me get a good nights sleep is a good thing.

Friends Bath Salts Pizza from Mad Beauty

A fun and inexpensive gift but guaranteed to raise a chuckle, I was a huge fan of Friends the first time around because yes, I am that old and I love this little set from Mad Beauty, it's just fun and you know what, a fun gift is sometimes all that is needed.

Dior, Miss Dior from Perfume Direct

Perfume is never a bad gift, in my opinion, I have a large collection of scents which make me happy and I love that perfume can remind you of a time or a place, I love Chanel and Dior most of all and Perfume Direct have all of my favourite scents and often with discounts so it really is the perfect place to buy a gift for your gorgeous mum.

Cranes Cranberry Gin

Did someone say gin?  I love gin, it's been a constant in my life over the last year, I promise that's not a dodgy statement, please don't worry about me, I just love collecting beautiful bottles of gin, I like a glass or two a week, sometimes not even that much but I know it's there if I want it and I love exploring the many different types of wonderful craft gins on offer.  Cranes cranberry gin is my first and only cranberry gin and oh my, it's absolutely delicious, I love the taste of cranberry all year round, it's not just for Christmas you know!  This is going to be an easy drink with a Mediterranean tonic whilst sitting outdoors on a light spring evening.

Longtooth Gin

Whilst we're on the subject of gin, how would you like to buy your mum a gin which also saves the tigers, Longtooth Gin a London dry gin, perfect with a light tonic and a slice of your favourite citrus and 10% of their profits goes to the WWF to help protect our endangered species around the world, it's great gin and it's a fabulous cause, your mum will be delighted with this gift.

Candles, Wax Melts and Burners from Philomena's Boutique 

Finally, at Philomena's Boutique, I have spent the last year curating the perfect collection of gifts for every occasion and as a mum myself, I think I've curated the perfect "mum shop" for mums just like me, our wax melt, candles and burner collection is perfect for those with even the smallest budget and I can promise that the wax melts are so good and last for ages that your mum will be over the moon and you might still manage to keep some cash in the bank to spoil mum with on a day out when we finally leave lockdown forever.

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