Thursday, 16 November 2017

COULD YOU HELP A MOTHER AND CHILD IN NEED?

It's coming up to Christmas, the time of year when we celebrate the birth of a baby born in a stable, to parents who'd had to travel far from home. This year, there will be countless babies born to refugee mothers far from home and without even a stable to shelter in... could YOU help them?

Sally says:
We first started CRIBS International when it became clear that there was a real need for a house or flat for women at Ritsona Camp in Greece to go to after having their babies. It seemed obvious that for the few weeks after giving birth, a woman should not have the additional stress and physical effort of living in a tent, with the risk of flies, mosquitoes and snakes etc and poor hygiene facilities. Many women have had C-sections, which are commonplace in Greece but need proper rest and recovery time; another major risk is that of gastroenteritis for babies being bottle fed.

CRIBS first aimed to provide a safe house/flat where women with new babies could find some respite from the camps in order to heal, but we have now helped thirteen families to find long term housing. Who are we helping now?

Jumana, her husband and baby Riad, from Syria - now in a small apartment rather than the squatted room they previoulsy shared with three other families; Rwida and her family who came from a refugee camp next to a sewerage pit and now stay in a housing project with a school, clinic and community spirit; the family who escaped from the Taliban in Afghanistan and spent the winter in a tent in Serbia in temperatures of -20; a family escaping family problems after forced marriage in Pakistan, vulnerable, unwell and fragile; an artist and his wife expecting a child in Ritsona Camp; a couple expecting their first child and living in a container with no shower, toilet or  A/C.

We want to help more families... can YOU help? If you can help fundraise for CRIBS we can offer speakers and equipment/ ideas to help. Our team is based in the UK, Germany and Canada and we have donors from UK, Ireland, Germany, US and Canada. Could you make CRIBS your special charity this Christmas and help a mother and child in desperate need?

CRIBS International is a registered charity, no: 1173021
Website: https://cribsinternational.org/
Donate to CRIBS here: https://mydonate.bt.com/charities/cribsinternational

Cathy says:
Sally, one of the founders of CRIBS, is a new friend and a genuine hero of mine. I will be supporting CRIBS this Christmas and in the year ahead... can YOU? Can your class, year group, workplace or group of friends help with a small fundraiser or donation? Even the smallest contribution of money or goods can help. And to one refugee family, it could make all the difference in the world. #ChristmasSpirit #ShareTheLove #CRIBS

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

YOUR STARS FOR NOVEMBER!

Skye Tanberry reveals her top horoscope predictions for November... how will YOUR month unfold?

SCORPIO: 24th Oct - 22nd Nov
Life seems to be going at a hundred miles an hour lately... and although you've been known to have control freak tendencies, right now you're revelling in it! Give in to the fun of the season... and throw the to-do lists away, for this year at least!

SAGITTARIUS: 23rd Nov - 21st Dec
You love this time of year... first a birthday, then Christmas... what's not to like? Life can be bittersweet at times, but you know how to live it to the full and grab the good times when you can. The stars show lots of positive stuff in the areas of love, friendship and fun, so enjoy every minute!

CAPRICORN: 22nd Dec - 19th Jan
It's time to put your worries on the shelf and enjoy the gifts life has given you... that might be a new friendship, a loving family, a loyal pet or even a hobby or skill. Enjoy the little things and you might just find that the big things take care of themselves!

AQUARIUS: 20th Jan - 18th Feb
Hard work is starting to pay off, whether that's in the area of work, friendship, family or future plans! You've come a long way, but allow yourself some down time to have fun. The next few weeks will be packed with opportunity and entertainment, and you'll kick yourself if you miss out!

PISCES: 19th Feb - 20th Mar
If anyone deserves some pamper time, it's you - OK, it may be small-scale stuff, but a new haircut, a cute Christmas jumper or a new book to snuggle up with can really help to re-set your mood. Balancing work with fun stuff is key to getting through the months ahead, so make it a priority!

ARIES: 21st Mar - 19th Apr
A friend has been quite distant and distracted lately, and this may have hurt your feelings - instead of challenging her, be supportive and quietly accepting, because she may be going through a difficult time. Plan some fun stuff to do with your friendship group and put a little spark into winter!

TAURUS: 20th Apr - 20th May
You're struggling with work/ school/ relationships just now - something, somewhere isn't going according to plan and that's spoiling things all round. You can't always fix things or get the result you want, but do your best to make things right and then step back and let fate take care of the rest.

GEMINI: 21st May - 21st June
Confidence has been at an all-time low, and for a Gemini, that's seriously bad news - it makes you question everything. You're usually kind to others yet hard on yourself - time to be gentle with yourself and take some of the pressure off. Just do your best... it really is enough.

CANCER: 22nd June - 22nd July
You've spent most of the year quietly trying to help a friend in need. It's time now to put yourself first and ask what you really want from life - and how you can get it. This may mean changing a few things or even backing down on an issue, but it will make you happier and allow you to be a better friend.

LEO: 23rd July - 23rd Aug
You've been impatient at the small steps forward life has offered lately, but small steps are better than no steps! Time now to get pro-active and take matters into your own hands - be brave, be confident, be hopeful, even if you have to act the part at times. A life-changing opportunity is heading your way.

VIRGO: 24th Aug - 22nd Sept
You've got the Christmas bug a little early this year - but so what? That just prolongs the fun! Plan some wintry outings with friends to spread the festive cheer... you'll find yourself the centre of things and your confidence will get a boost as a result! Santa's little helper? Bring it on!

LIBRA: 23rd Sept - 23rd Oct
Life has had a few surprises up its sleeve lately, and you're beginning to enjoy the thrill of the unexpected... perhaps a few festive surprises might be in order to create a little magic for those you love?

Cathy says:
Ooh... some very interesting predictions here! Does YOUR horoscope ring true this month? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 13 November 2017

LIFE IS SWEET... AND SO IS THIS BOOK!

LIFE IS SWEET, the collection of short stories linked to the CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS series, makes a perfect Xmas prezzie for CC fans! Readers share their reviews to whet your appetite!

Francesca says:
LIFE IS SWEET is a brilliant compilation of short stories that are all about the Chocolate Box Girls - and boys! My favourite is probably CHOCOLATES & FLOWERS (Alfie's story) because it is a perfect mix of surprise and sweetness. Romance is not a subject I usually read or look for in stories - I am more into action and mystery - but this book is different from any other in that genre. I would definitely recommend this book to my friends, because it is really interesting and has a few twists hidden away which you wouldn't expect. This keeps you entertained and alert for any more unexpected plot twists that could pop up at any moment!

Deborah says:
LIFE IS SWEET is one of those books that you adore. Not just because it has six different CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS series linked stories for you to choose from, but also because the stories come together to create a world that you live in when you read them. Reading LIFE IS SWEET truly made me me believe the message that the title spells out is true! The new story with Ash in it was an unexpected bonus and made it an even better book... I loved it! Ash's story is so heartfelt and touching and really helped to wrap up the story of Honey and Ash and give us a peep at life after FORTUNE COOKIE! This book is an extra piece of Tanglewood and makes the world bigger and better.

Lindsey says:
I have a lot of favourite CC books, but LIFE IS SWEET is one I keep going back to because I love the little slice-of-life stories and the insights into background characters from the CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS series. I gave copies of this book to my two best friends last Christmas and they both ended up getting hooked on CC books, so... this year I'll be giving it to my cousin, who is nine, and just ready to discover the magic of Tanglewood. My favourite story? It's the last one, where Ash and Honey meet up in Paris. Oops! Better not give any spoilers!

Cathy says:
Ooh... it's a bit early to be thinking of Xmas prezzies... or is it? I like the idea of giving books... which CC book would YOU recommend to a friend? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 12 November 2017

UKE CAN'T BE SERIOUS!

Readers talk about their newfound love for one of the coolest musical instruments ever... the ukulele!


Esme says:
My mum bought me a bright purple ukulele for the Christmas before last, which wasn't that odd as she is always getting me unique gifts. I had been pining to learn an instrument and the ukulele seemed perfect! I didn't quite know what to do with the uke at first, but I started lessons at MMT in August and I was doing really well. The uke is not too difficult to learn, although some chords I still can't do, such as B flat! In January this year, my teacher decided I was good enough to perform in public, and despite my nerves, I performed 'Can't Help Falling In Love With You' by Elvis Presley. It was the best feeling - the whole room was in silence while I played. I accompanied the uke by singing the song, and this has inspired me to start voice lessons too. I am doing well in both, and enjoying it so much! I don't know if many people my age learn the ukulele, but they should as it's great fun! The photo is from January, just after the performance!

Taylor says:
Music is really important to me - it helps me to escape from everything going on in my brain and in my life. I have PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) because of something that happened in my past, and due to this I get horrible flashbacks. It seems that grabbing my keyboard or ukulele helps by getting rid of the memories for a while, and it just relaxes me and the stress melts away. The post performance buzz is something I will never get tired of - that feeling that you've done it is like nothing else, and it seems to last for days!

Deborah says:
When I was in Year Nine, I was in a music form, and one of the compulsory parts of being in the form was learning the song 'Stand By Me' on the uke, so that we could play it in assemblies. It didn't take me too long to learn it and we performed it quite often. Even though I've had a four year break in playing uke, I still love the instrument inside and out!

Cathy says:
Aww... I love these posts! I just wish I had a few musical skills, but hey ho, you can't win 'em all! Do YOU play uke - or any other musical instrument? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Saturday, 11 November 2017

CHLOE: THE BOOK THAT REMINDED ME THAT LIFE GETS BETTER

Reader Chloe writes about the CC books that shaped her teens and offered comfort when the going got tough...

Chloe says:
I started reading CC books at the age of nine when my cousin suggested I read her copy of LUCKY STAR. I read it, and I was hooked right away. I remember reading the books almost obsessively and running to the bookstore to get GINGERSNAPS when it was first released. When I was twelve, I wrote a letter to Cathy telling her she was my favourite author - well, I am nineteen now and very little has changed in how reading those books makes me feel.

If I feel trapped I read SCARLETT to ease my fear, and if I feel alone I know I can always turn to ANGEL CAKE. However, the book that I connect to most strongly is DRIFTWOOD. When I first read the book, I was too young to understand fully what Paul was going through, but by the age of sixteen my book was well worn as I turned again and again to those pages to find understanding and comfort. When I was at my lowest point, it was DRIFTWOOD that lifted me up again and reminded me that life gets better.

It's ten years on since I first picked up that copy of LUCKY STAR and fell into the world of CC books, and it seems like a good time to say thank you. I am grateful for everything that CC books have done for me, and because they do not completely sugar coat what it is like to grow up in less than ideal situations. I have learned a lot from these books over those ten years, and I hope to learn more as time goes on. Thank you!

Cathy says:
Oh... posts like this make all the hard work SO worthwhile! Thank YOU Chloe! Do YOU have a fave book that meant the world to you? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Sunday, 5 November 2017

VIOLET: WHITE FEATHERS...

Reader Violet shares a startling and unsettling story... make yourself a hot chocolate and get reading!

I awoke with a start. It was pitch black in my room, aside from my alarm clock, a neon 3.07 glowing next to me... yet I felt wide awake. Clearly, I wasn't going to get back to sleep so I flicked on my bedside lamp to read and I knew instantly that something was different. It may have been the trail of feathers that gave it away, or the motionless heap in the corner, just beyond the reach of the lamplight. Perhaps it was just a pile of clothes? Then it stirred, shifting slightly and groaning. OK, probably not a pile of clothes, then.

I wanted to run from the room, from the house, possibly from the country itself... but I knew I had to be an adult and check this out. This could be an injured person - what they were doing in my room was a mystery, but I couldn't just ignore them. What about the feathers, though? Perhaps it was an ostrich? I grabbed my phone from the bedside table, switched on the flashlight and tiptoed across the room, feeling for all the world like the first one to die in a horror movie. I swept the flashlight across the corner. Bare feet, the hem of a lace gown (unusual attire for an intruder, I thought), a woman's face resting on delicate hands, tousled sandy hair and - Jesus, were those WINGS? The phone slipped from my grasp and landed next to the sleeping woman, the flashlight on her face. She shielded her eyes and pushed herself up into a sitting position, unfolding her wings and releasing another shower of white feathers. The thought that I'd have to vacuum the carpet flitted through my dazed mind.

'Ugh,' the woman muttered to herself. 'Not another dimension shift...'

Clearly, this was a dream. I was dreaming, I had to be. It felt like moving through quick-set cement, I reached down to pinch myself, sure I wasn't going to feel anything. Wrong! 'Ouch,' I yelped. rubbing the spot I'd pinched. The woman quickly snapped her head up and her eyes met mine as she realised for the first time that she wasn't alone here.

'Is this your house?' she queried, getting to her feet. 'Look, I'm sorry about this. My name is Deifilia, and I really shouldn't be here. I have to get home... but I'm going to need your help...'

Cathy says:
Ooh, I love a cliffhanger! Where do YOU think Deifilia has come from? And why? If you could write an ending for the story, what would happen? COMMENT BELOW to have your say! 

Saturday, 4 November 2017

WORK IT OUT... JODIE, HOTEL RECEPTIONIST

Reader Jodie tells us about her job as a hotel receptionist... could it be the right career path for YOU? 

Jodie says:
I left school at sixteen and did A levels in English Lit, history and textiles at college, but I had no idea what I wanted to do. I passed my A levels and decided I'd had enough of education, so I got a job as a receptionist in a beauty salon. I liked it at first, but the atmosphere between the workers wasn't quite right. I moved to my first hotel and learnt the ropes - how to use the systems and answering the phones, getting to grips with it all. I then moved to my second hotel and began doing extra training in order to work my way up to management level.Working in a hotel is always rewarding - you get to meet all kinds of people and hear their stories, as well as making sure they have the best holiday or stay possible.

There are challenges, of course. Something could go wrong maintenance wise and you have to bear the brunt of any complaints; or perhaps people aren't happy with their rooms and want things sorted out. You have to make sure you're strong enough for this! The thing I struggled most with at first was having difficult days myself - I suffer with depression - and having to put on a brave face and not allow it to impact on your work. You have to leave your troubles at home, in a way. I did get used to this, and there is something about having to put the guests needs first that does make you forget your own worries until the day is over. There is a lot to learn, especially with the booking systems which can be complicated, but if you take it step by step it all falls into place.


I once thought I'd be totally wrong for this line of work, being in the public eye all day and having to look after others when sometimes I struggle to look after myself, but in fact the job has given me such a confidence boost and renewed faith in myself. If you want to be a receptionist, you must ensure you don't mind being the first port of call for customers and staff - I find that there's a buzz about being the first person people see when they walk into the hotel. The main qualities you need are a friendly and professional telephone manner, so that people feel inclined to stay with you and feel they are being respected. Most places ask for GCSEs in English and Maths and some reception experience, and although some places have a strict uniform, I just have to wear a smart blouse or shirt. You must be able to stay calm under pressure and look after several things at once - but this can be learned, and if you put yourself in the situation and think things through, it's often much easier than you'd think. You must be good at admin and IT, but being friendly, courteous, professional and willing to learn are vital too... the rest will come with time.

I absolutely love my job and love having the ability to make others feel happy and cared for. I still have bad days - everyone does - but overall I am much happier. This job can turn the shyest, saddest, most nervous person into someone with a whole new sense of purpose... and that's exactly what it has done for me!

Cathy says:
I LOVE this post - Jodie has made me see a side of the hospitality business that I had never thought of before, and I love how the job has transformed her confidence and self esteem! Have YOU ever thought of this kind of career? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!