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 18, 2022

Penguin "Sip and Read" Collection Box #Ad Gifted

Penguin Sip and Read collection box with nio cocktails, a review by Mandy Charlton, Photographer, writer blogger

The cosy season is officially here and there's no better activity on the long autumnal evening than curling up with a book and a cocktail and that's where the Penguin Sip and Read collection box comes in.

The Penguin sip and read box is a collaboration between themselves and Nio Cocktails who make letterbox cocktails, they're premade and only need ice and you're good to go.  Personally, I think a book and cocktail set is the perfect night at any time of the year.  

So you have your perfect cocktail, say a Negroni, a Margharita or a Cosmopolitan and all you need is the perfect book accompaniment and that's provided in the form of " The Giver of Stars" by Jojo Moyes, a book about love, community and the power of reading.  I plan to read this on the Christmas break as it's the only time I ever get to really stop.

Life moves too fast, doesn't it? I know Ferris Bueller said that "life moves pretty fast, if you don't stop and look around once in a while you could miss it" and I feel that's one of the wisest statements an 80's movie could offer.  I am forever running around, trying to make a success of myself, juggling plates and smashing one or two of them along the way.  If anyone needs a brief pause from life it's me, unfortunately, that's just not possible.

We need more incentives to just stop for a while, I know we had enforced rest in 2020 but I also think that was one of the most stressful periods of enforced rest we have ever had and now because of everything that happened then, we can't afford to stop for a moment.

Maybe that's a sign we need these quiet moments more than ever, some time to stop, to read and to have our favourite cocktail, that definitely get's my vote!


Thursday, November 03, 2022

18 Gifts your friends will love this Christmas, the ultimate Christmas Gift Guide

18 Gifts your friends will love this Christmas is the ultimate gift guide to all of the best Christmas presents this festive season.  With the kind contributions of the companies involved, I have curated your ultimate guide to everything that's good for gifts for all of your friends and family.

Consider this your shopping guide, your inspiration hub, your definitive article to all that is good in the Christmas shopping world for Xmas 2022.

1. An experience voucher from Red Letter Days.

Always a firm favourite of this blog, Red Letter Days provide thousands of experience gifts, from Afternoon teas, to spa days to mini breaks in London, they have something for everyone.  It's mindful gifting at its best, experiential gifts mean you not only get a present but you get the gift of time spent with friends and family doing things which make memories and memories last forever.

2.  Coorie luxury candle from Arran, Sense of Scotland

Coorie is Scottish for Snuggle, it's the Scottish version of Hygge and just like our Swedish friends, if you live in Scotland during winter you'll know how important it is to snuggle, make cosy and bring in the twinkle, this 30cl candle will comfort you through the darkest season and make a wonderful gift for anyone Scottish or who loves Scotland.

3.  A Coconut Flower Beer gift set from Neitiv

Neitiv describes coconut flower beer as a "Coconut Flower Beer is fine-tasting premium lager that is light, easy and refreshing to drink. It takes around eight weeks to produce. Secondary fermentation sees the addition of the magical Coconut Flower Drops, with their beneficial live cultures which make the drink so fascinating! The exotic, bold and unique Coconut Flower Beer that is brewed and bottled in the UK, is in effect a work of art from the recipe, to brewing, to branding, all the way to customer experience - it is not just a drink, it is an experience! There are several varieties so the best way to experience them is in one of their giftsets which also contains gorgeous candles and coasters.

4. Christmas spirit vodka from Black Cow Spirits

Black Cow describe their festive vodka as "All the ingredients of a Christmas pudding, macerated in our velvety smooth Black Cow vodka. The recipe for Christmas Spirit was created at our kitchen table using an assortment of winter fruits and spices.

Ingredients: Black Cow Pure Milk Vodka, brown sugar, cloves, currants, figs , raisins, orange zest, lemon zest, cinnamon and vanilla".  Now that sounds to me like a drink I'm going to be savouring over the Christmas holidays and I'm sure it's also going to go down fabulously at my yearly Christmas party.

5. Warner's Rhubarb Gin - a personal favourite of mine as I love rhubarb flavoured anything but I especially love Rhubarb gin and one of the most delicious ones on the market is Warner's, it's perfect stocking filler for the gin drinker in your life this Christmas 

6.Amazing skincare from Amare Vita  - Now I don't usually feature skincare in my gift guides but I can personally vouch for this stuff as it's amazing!!  I tried The Afterglow and a miracle happened, it made my skin feel wonderful and not only that, it also decreased some of the redness I get from having rosacea.  It made my skin glowy and wonderful and that really is some kind of clever alchemy.

7. A mobile phone that won't break the bank and is amazing for grandparents and teens from TCL Mobile, finally a good quality mobile phone where you can buy the handset without breaking the bank, this phone is 5G and perfect for the resident phone breaker in my family.  Looby is always breaking her handsets whilst riding or generally being 19 and this handset means not having to shell out several hundreds to own one, it's android based, has an impressive operating system for the cost and it looks good.

8. A selection of fruits in alcohol gifts from Opies - Opies are a firm favourite on this blog with their amazing jars of drink accompaniments, garnishes and fruits in alcohol.  We all know that every year all of the shops try their hands at peaches in brandy or cherries in kirsch, well, I'd much rather hop over to amazon or visit the supermarket, pay a very reasonable £9.95 and get myself a jar of Opies because that's what they do, it's their speciality, it's not just for Christmas!!

9 - Enlightened as Hell, how to be spiritual without being a D*ck - "Geared towards people who want to be enlightened (or simply live a better life) yet feel they can't do so because of the past and/or current state of the spiritual world, Enlightened as Hell: How to Be Spiritual and Not Be a Dick is the third book by clinical psychologist Dr Tony Ortega.

Dr Ortega brings three decades of experience as an actual mental health professional and consumer of an array of spiritual studies, as well as his sassy humour, to distil mental health and spiritual philosophies down to a street level. This is a book for millennials as much as it is for people 40+. Most likely to appeal more to women than men due to the nature of self-help readerships, Dr Ortega is also a champion of LGBTQIA+ rights, so this is an inclusive, accessible book for anyone open to learning more about spirituality and potential answers to the question, "Is this it?"

"In Enlightened As Hell, you get ALL the building blocks to lead an enlightened life without spending any more money!"


10. Countdown to a Killing by Tom Vaughan Macaulay - Wen Li, an anxious young woman who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder, is tormented by an incessant fear that she might have homicidal impulses. Wen falls for her self-absorbed colleague, Lomax Clipper, who is writing a whodunnit in his spare time. Lomax is pining for Italy and a Sicilian woman he met while on secondment, despite his recurring nightmare about someone being killed on a picturesque street in Palermo. Wen and Lomax both loathe their boss, Julian Ponsonby, who, unbeknown to them, is struggling… as is Fifi de Angelis, a vulnerable man who has been ostracised by his family.Packed with humour, heartache and suspense, this contemporary take on the epistolary novel interweaves the different perspectives of characters whose lives become increasingly entangled.

Told through interwoven correspondence, emails and WhatsApp messages, with the suspense around an impending murder steadily building, 
Countdown to a Killing is a deep exploration of multiple perspectives and points of view of individuals who are inextricably bound. The key themes of love, sexuality, ethnicity, mental health and acceptance are sensitively explored in a unique linear yet multi-layered and metafictional narrative. Packed with humour, heartache and a cast of expertly-crafted characters, this contemporary take on the epistolary novel will have you laughing and crying in equal measure.

11. Up, Up and Away - The Flight of Butterflies and Other Insects - Through the use of novel photographic techniques John Brackenbury gives us an ‘insect-eye view’ of the world of flying insects. By presenting them in the wider landscape they inhabit, rather than at the end of a close-up lens, the author reinforces the view that even relatively ‘simple’ animals like insects share the same world as human beings. This theme chimes with current thinking about conservation and the importance of diversity in the natural environment.

Mastery of the air is the supreme achievement of the evolution of insects and the images bring the viewer closer than ever to an experience of the ‘action’. The visual framework forms a convenient basis for discussing some of the ecological, behavioural and physiological aspects of flight in accessible non-technical language.

12. A selection of handmade gifts from Philomena's Boutique - Everyone loves handmade hand-printed gifts and at Philomena's Boutique, they really know their stuff, they make the most beautiful gifts from their studio in Newcastle upon Tyne and accent it with gifts for you and your home from the most amazing UK companies. Supporting small this Christmas ensures the future of small British businesses and I think we can all agree that's something we should get behind.

13. A Scent Stone aroma diffuser from Made by Coopers - I have tried aroma diffusers before and really never been impressed, this amazing scent stone diffuser is slightly more expensive but it packs a punch and delivers a wonderful aroma for up to 5 hours along with colour changing light.  It immediately switches off when the tank is dry and I've been using mine since the day I got it, I absolutely love it.

14 - Stranger Things Calendar from Danilo - I don't really think I need say much about this, it's a phenomenon!  Any Stranger Things fans would love this as their 2023 wall calendar, I know my own daughter was very excited about it and yeah, you can guess who's bedroom wall this is going to end up on.

15 - Teapigs Limited Edition Winter Blends Teas - Tea fans are guaranteed to love this, for an easy gift idea you'll need a coaster and mug coupled with a box of any of these winter blends (try the gluhwein, it's been tested by myself and 2 friends and we all agreed it's super tasty and reminds us of Christmas markets) then pop them in some eco- friendly hamper wrap, tie them with a ribbon and voila, a stylish gift that doesn't cost the earth for your tea loving friend.

16 - Lindt Gold Teddy Sleigh Advent Calendar - This might be more of a pre-christmas gift but who doesn't love a Lindt Advent Calendar? I am a self confessed Lindor addict, I don't think there's any chocolate that beats a Lindt Lindor and luckily for me (what do you means it's just for kids?) there are quite a few of those gorgeous chocolatey balls behind the doors of this advent calendar.

17 - Have Yourself a Cosy Little Christmas Mug and Sock Giftset from Philomena's Boutique - Christmas is the most cosy and twinkliest season of them all and there's nothing better than wearing your favourite fluffy socks whilst sipping hot chocolate from a big festive hug mug.  They may be a classic gift but a mug/sock giftset will always go down well with the right person.

18. Sinita Cupro Soft Shirt - Cobalt from Kasbah Clothing, I don't usually feature clothing in my gift guides but this shirt is made from cupro also termed the vegan silk and it's so, so soft and comfortable to wear.  Kasbah Clothing specialise in plus size clothing from sizes 14 - 30 with a timeless feel, I received this shirt in a size 16-18 and it's the perfect roomy fit for me, it's also the perfect colour so I'm sure I will be wearing this a lot over winter.

A special mention to all of the companies who have gotten involved in this year's Christmas gift guide, I could not do it without them!  I hope that in this article you have been inspired and delighted and that I've given you more than a few ideas for your Christmas gift list this year.  Send it to friends, share it with your special people and maybe, you'll receive the gifts you really want this Christmas.


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