Monday, 11 December 2017

SOUNDS LIKE CHRISTMAS!

We asked for your favourite Christmas song or carol... and your least favourite one, too! Here's what you said!

Carly says:
My favourite is Wham's Last Christmas... it has a special, bittersweet meaning for me. The song I hate is Slade's So Here It Is Merry Christmas, because you hear it EVERYWHERE in December and it's just so cheesy and lame! I don't know, I just don't like it... and the band seem a bit creepy and weird, even though I know that's just the style of things back then!

Rowan says:
My favourite song at Christmas is a carol, In The Bleak Midwinter. It was written by a Victorian woman poet called Christina Rossetti. It's very sad and moving and last year I was chosen to sing it at our school's Christmas carol service, which was a scary but unforgettable experience! I don't have a least favourite - well, maybe the Pogues' Fairytale of New York just because it is played so much at this time of year and you get a bit sick of it!

Marlyn says:
My favourite is Stop the Cavalry, an oldie by Jona Lewie. OK, it wasn't an oldie when I first liked it - which makes ME the oldie now I think, but I remember buying the single when I was thirteen and playing it to destruction. It's an anti-war song and I think it is more relevant today than ever!

Jennie says:
I am a Christmas song addict... I love everything about Christmas, the songs included. My favourites are Jingle Bells, White Christmas and Frosty The Snowman... I have loads of Christmas playlists with different versions of my favourites on. I don't have a least favourite... well, maybe some of the Cliff Richard Christmas songs, I suppose!

Tilda says:
It's a bit of a Marmite one because people either love it or hate it, but my favourite is Fairytale of New York by the Pogues. It's not Christmas without it! My least favourite is probably the carol Angels We Have Heard On High because I always hate singing the 'glo-oria' bits as they are way too high for me!

Molly says:
I have loads of favourites and they're mostly carols... everything from Little Donkey to See Amid The Winter's Snow to We Three Kings... and more! I know them all inside out because in our village a big group of us go carolling in the week before Christmas and it's magical. I've been going since I was about six or seven and I'm fourteen now. We collect money and send it to a chosen charity, and this year it's for UNICEF and the refugees which I think is a brilliant cause.

Cathy says:
Awww, love this! My favourite Christmas song is Greg Lake's 'I Believe In Father Christmas' - with 'Fairytale of New York' a close second! I don't have an unfavourite... they're all fab! What is YOUR fave carol or Christmas song? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 10 December 2017

YOUR STARS FOR CHRISTMAS!

Skye Tanberry consults the charts to see how the stars will work their magic for you this Christmas... read on and see if it strikes a chord!

SAGITTARIUS: Nov 22 - Dec 21
Impulsive, confident, friendly and generous, you love the festive season - it's just made for you! Giving prezzies and organising fun stuff with friends should keep you busy, and there could be a gift from an unexpected admirer, too!

CAPRICORN: Dec 22 - Jan 19
You're not usually a party person, but Christmas could be an exception - and once you take to the dance floor, you're a bit of a dancing queen! This could be the year you overcome your shy streak and learn to trust - whether it's in a new friend or a new partner, it's definitely a risk worth taking!

AQUARIUS: Jan 20 - Feb 18
Never one to follow the crowd, you like to celebrate Christmas in your own unique style, and this makes you a bit of a trendsetter amongst your friends. Your soft heart means you often put others before yourself, and this year is no exception... aww!

PISCES: Feb 19 - Mar 20
Your inner child loves every bit of Christmas... the tiniest details bring a smile to your face, and you don't miss the true meaning of it all, either. Getting your friends together to raise money for charity or entertain the old folks at the local retirement home are just a natural part of it all!

ARIES: Mar 21 - Apr 20
You like certain traditions at Christmas, but sometimes there's no choice but to go with the flow - and that could open up some new opportunities for you! You're definitely dreaming of a white Christmas, and if it happens you'll be out there with a sledge and a bunch of mates, making the most of it all!

TAURUS: Apr 21 - May 20
If money is tight, go for a home-made Christmas - from mince pies and truffles to hand-crafted gifts, you have the skills to do it, and your friends and family will love that personal touch. Don't let jealousy derail a friendship... step back and let things settle naturally.

GEMINI: May 21 - Jun 20
Nothing makes you happier than time spent with friends, so plan a movie night, a party night, a day at the ice rink... whatever it takes to get you into the festive spirit! Watch out for a kiss under the mistletoe from someone special... even if it's not who you expect!

CANCER: Jun 21 - Jul 21
You like to be organised, and your festive season is always properly planned with no last-minute rushing. Remember that you can't plan everything, though - and that's OK! A very special Christmas prezzie could open new doors for you in 2018...

LEO: Jul 22 - Aug 21
Dramatic, kind but sometimes hot tempered, you're in for a roller coaster few weeks - but there will be fun by the bucketload! Your warm heart and creative skills mean you love the build up to Christmas, and close friends and family may even be in line for a cool and quirky home made gift!

VIRGO: Aug 22 - Sept 21
Watch your health this December - you'll be rushing about as usual and may not notice that you've taken on a little too much. Show your friends you care by baking some Christmas cookies and sharing them out - small gestures mean a lot!

LIBRA: Sept 22 - Oct 22
Sociable, charming, arty and romantic, you love every bit of the festive season and you and your close friends are determined to make the most of every minute! A last-minute fashion find in pastel colours will bring you luck!

SCORPIO: Oct 23 - Nov 21
You feel things very strongly, but often keep those feelings hidden - a bit of a mystery girl! Attracting romance is rarely an issue, though, and this festive season will be no exception. Make sure you don't over-spend on Christmas treats, and wear deep red for extra luck!

Cathy says:
Oooh... I love a good festive horoscope! Do Skye's predictions ring true for YOU this month? COMMENT BELOW to let us know!

Thursday, 7 December 2017

BOOK PICKS: THE UNKNOWNS...

My lovely writer-pal Shirley-Anne McMillan has a brand new book out... and it's amazing! Find out more...


Shirley says:
One of the things I love most about having grown up in Northern Ireland is that I have met some really brave people. From people who have stood up to terrorists in their community, to people who have decided to be themselves in places that they know might reject them for standing out or being different. As an author I always want to write books about those people, because I want to be someone like that myself (some day!). In my last book, A GOOD HIDING, I created three characters who all had secrets that they needed to keep to protect themselves and other people. It was a story about what happens when you need to let other people into your life in very difficult circumstances.

In THE UNKNOWNS I wanted to write about young people who have decided to deliberately stand up against racism and sectarianism in their communities. I wanted to write a story about how it is sometimes the most rejected people who lead the way because they understand what it's like to face bullies. I remember being a young person myself and going through difficult times. I felt like I had a deliberate choice to make: I could let the difficult thing crush me and make me angry and bitter forever, or I could use my feelings to empathise and stand with other people who were facing hard times.

I'm still trying to do that and I don't always get it right, but I think it's a good way to deal with life when things are hard. So I made up characters that would band together and be one another's chosen family, and together they face more difficulty than I have known - violence, and even death - as they try to help other people who struggle too. But they have one another as well. They have epic parties and they make brilliant art, and they care about one another. I know groups in Northern Ireland who live exactly like this, and it made me wonder... what if we all did?

THE UNKNOWNS by Shirley-Anne McMillan is out now.

Cathy says:
This book is top of my to-read list... I think you'll like it too! Have YOU read any cool books lately? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

TRISH: CHRISTMAS BAKING!

Blogger Trish tells us why baking is such an important part of Christmas for her - and shares a favourite recipe for you all!

Trish says:
I grew up in Canada and we did Christmas BIG! There was a tradition where the women and children would gather at my Aunty Wendy's house and bake for the holidays, and I took part in this from the age of six onwards. We'd do some baking ahead of the big day to swap around, and when Cookie Day came around we'd bake dozens and dozens of cookies together. Decorating was always the best part! All the kids would get an apron and a paint brush and set to work making the cookies sickly sweet and sticky with icing, food colouring and sprinkles. It was so much fun spending time with my cousins and aunties, with Christmas music blaring in the background.

My mum always loved baking and when we moved to England we carried on doing our own baking day, always trying to drag friends into the fun. After my mum passed away, I decided I would keep the tradition of baking for those I love, especially at Christmas. This year, my favourite recipe is for shortbread cookies... classic, and so delicious!

You will need:
225g unsalted butter
110g caster sugar
225g plain flour
110g cornflour
pinch of salt

To make:
- Line two baking trays with baking paper.

- Cream butter and sugar together and then stir in flour, cornflour and salt. Mix until smooth.

- Tip the mixture onto a lightly floured surface and knead into a soft dough.

- Roll out the dough between two sheets of baking paper to a thickness of 1cm... then cut into shapes and prick the biscuits with a fork.

- Place on baking trays and chill in the fridge for half an hour.

- Bake at 170 or Gas Mark 3 for 20 minutes until just golden at the edges. Dust with caster sugar and allow to cool. Makes about 20 biscuits!

Cathy says:
Wow... I love shortbread, and this recipe seems simple enough even for me to try! Do YOU have any special baking traditions at Christmas? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Monday, 4 December 2017

KATIE: AN AFFINITY FOR SNOW

A fabulous, wintry Harry Potter fan-fic from talented reader Katie... grab yourself a hot chocolate and settle down for a cool short story!

'Still nothing?' Molly Weasley leaned over the table to whisper conspiratorially to her husband Arthur, who simply shook his head and nodded to their small daughter.

'Nothing yet.' Bill came running over to Ginny, the baby of the family, ad poked her with his wand. Looking expectantly at his parents, he received a stern look from his father and pursed lips from his mother. Ginny continued to play happily without a care in the world. Molly and Arthur were glad Ginny never looked up from her balls of string and rubber ducks, because concern was all Molly and Arthur could currently express. Fred and George came trooping through the door and whined, 'Mum, when's the snow coming?' Molly chuckled.

'I know it's late, dears, but you'll just have to be patient!' With a quick glance at Ginny, Molly moved to tend the fire. Surely they didn't have a squib? Molly swatted the thought away, as she always did.

Later that night, it grew dark very quickly. Molly and Arthur had the children dressed for bed quicker than ever, and were ready to put them to bed in case it was the Dementors and they had to go out and fight. Suddenly, snowflakes started falling, very softly, as if a light wind could carry the snowflakes away. Fred and George ran out in their pyjamas but came back moaning, 'It's stopped!'

Ginny was not pleased, and started crying. The snow started falling again, heavier this time. Bill gasped and held Ginny's nose. She stopped crying, the snow stopped. Bill let go, and Ginny's howls created a blizzard. Suddenly every Weasley, even little Ron who had just started inserting wands up his nose, emitted raucous laughter. Molly scooped Ginny up and flew out the door with her.

'She's magical, she's magical!' Molly and Arthur chanted. This would be a very special Christmas.

Ginny was to have an affinity for snow ever after, and during Ron's first year at Hogwarts it even made her forget that she was not allowed to go too!

Cathy says:
I love this brilliant fan-fic - thank you, Katie! Are YOU enjoying the new fiction slots on DREAMCATCHER? COMMENT BELOW to have your say, or tune in to the CC FB fanpage to join in with the fiction challenges!

Saturday, 2 December 2017

OH CHRISTMAS TREE...

Do YOU have a special way of decorating your Christmas tree? Readers share their Christmas tree traditions!

Francesca says:
Our Christmas tree is overflowing with decorations and this is because of our big Christmas tradition! Every year we go to the Birmingham German Christmas market, and me, my brother and my sister choose a decoration each! This means that our Christmas tree gets pretty full... so soon we won't have any room for new decorations!

Sally says:
We always decorate our tree on the first Saturday of December, and we do it as a family, my brothers and me. My dad does a Christmas playlist and my mum usually bakes the first mince pies of the season while we are decorating, so the house smells amazing too. It's the real start of Christmas for me!

Jenna says:
We have a tradition that the tree doesn't go up until the last Saturday before Christmas. This is because we have a real tree, and if it went up too soon it wouldn't last and would start dropping needles everywhere. We do decorate the rest of the house a bit, with lights and fake snow on the windows, but when we go to pick out the tree, that's the start of Christmas - time to get really excited!

Natasha says:
Our tree goes up on the first Sunday of advent, and sometimes that is actually in November! We all join in with making it look good and every year we have a slightly different theme or colour guide, just to make it a bit different. We decorate the outside of the house too so you could say we go a bit Christmas mad! Because the tree is up all through December, we then clear it all away on New Year's Eve to start the new year with a 'clean slate'.

Mariella says:
Last year we were staying with relatives over the Christmas period as we had lost our home and it wasn't until March we got sorted and found our current flat. So there was no tree last year. This year, Mum has promised a real tree and I cannot wait. It's going to be a very special Christmas in our own home, and I can't wait.

Jodie says:
Our tree is old and a bit bent on one side, and the tinsel is wearing thin in places but when Dad suggested replacing it last year nobody would let him! We use all the old family decorations, odd things we've made at school over the years or been given. It doesn't look posh or cool, but it's our tree, and we love it!

Cathy says:
Love this! Our tree is also a mix-up of old decorations and things the kids and I have made over the years. What are YOUR Christmas tree traditions? COMMENT BELOW to tell all!

Friday, 1 December 2017

WINTER WONDERLAND...

I asked you to share your favourite things about winter... and your least favourite! This is what you said...

Bev says:
I love Christmas, love snuggling up under a blanket with a good book, and love the snow - but I hate going to work in the dark, hate the icy rain and hate waiting around on cold railway station platforms!

Michelle says:
I love everything about Christmas time! All through December, I love the build up to it... putting up decorations, shopping and wrapping presents... and the warm happiness of being with family on Christmas Day! I love that the autumn leaves still crunch under your boots and that my rabbits can still play in them in the garden. I hate the cold and the frost, though it's bliss to snuggle up in warm covers at night and wear comfy, thick winter PJs and drink hot Vimto!

Helen says:
Love: wearing cosy thick jumpers, boots and socks. Hate: being dressed in said jumpers, boots and socks when the weather isn't as cold as it was forecast!

Katie says:
I'm among the very few people to strongly dislike winter - I hate the cold, I can never get warm. The only good thing is Christmas!

Toni says:
Love: warming up with cot chocolates with melting marshmallows. Hate: cold, dark mornings!

Violet says:
It's cold and icy and I'm never going to get over the time I slipped in S4 and dropped mince pies everywhere... *sobs*. It's dark most of the time and insipid Christmas music and ads and decorations are everywhere by the start of November which is too early! However, I like warm duvets and warmer cats, and staying in to read a book (or three)! I had a fudge hot chocolate from Starbucks earlier and honestly, just fill an Olympic sized swimming pool with that stuff and give me a spoon!

Caitlin says:
I love wrapping up warm in coats and scarves, feeling cosy - and hate the dark mornings! They just make me want to stay home!

Eileen says:
Fave things? Mulled wine, mince pies, a fleecy onesie and Strictly Come Dancing on TV... ticks all my boxes!

Hannah says:
Christmas with my family, snow, hot chocolate and Holiday on Ice shows on TV are my favourite bits of winter!

Clare says:
I love the snow... the deeper the better... as long as I'm not driving!

Jessica says:
Best bit of winter? My birthday in January - it always makes me grateful for another year of life!

Cathy says:
I love these! What are YOUR fave things about winter? And your least fave? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!