Thursday, 16 November 2017


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
Donate to CRIBS here:

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


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, 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


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


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


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


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!

Friday, 3 November 2017


Readers review Cathy's  book CHOCOLATE BOX SECRETS… and the verdict is looking GOOD!

Zoe says:
I've read CHOCOLATE BOX SECRETS and it was amazing! I have already tried some of the projects in the book, such as the hot hot chocolate and the friendship bracelets… they are just so inspiring. The beautifully designed cover really jumped out at me and it obviously appealed to my friend because she bought it too. We have been able to do some of the tasks together, which is cool! I love the way the sisters from the CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS series introduce a season each, and also tell you about the projects… and you find out more about them as they do! I would definitely recommend it for anyone who loves crafts, fun and sleepovers; there are just so many crafty things in there it's hard to choose which project to choose next. It's a really good book and I love it so much. It even inspired me to draw a picture of Honey, inspired by the gorgeous illustrations inside!

Mel says:
I love the whole CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS series, but this book is my absolute favourite. It has so much to do and make and it gets you into a very creative way of thinking! Whenever I make something from the book, I end up getting ideas for other projects as well, which is brilliant! The book is set out like a yearbook so it takes you through the year and some of the projects are themed - for example, I used the ideas in the book to do Halloween make up looks for me and my friends, and we got costume inspiration from the book as well! We even made Halloween recipes! Now I'm flicking ahead to the Christmas pages because there are some amazing ideas for cool home made presents, which should save me a fortune when Christmas shopping! What's the best thing I've made from this book? The customised shorts I made at the start of the summer... I've worn them loads, got tons of compliments and I'm still wearing them even now it's autumn, over wooly tights! If you are arty and creative and a fan of the CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS series, this is the book for you!

Tilda says:
My best friend got this book a few weeks ago and we have had so much fun with it already. In the half term holidays we made flower garland headbands - I've always wanted one! This book is going on my Christmas list, I love it!

Priya says:
I was given this book as a present last year and I love it. The fashion makes are my favourites but the recipes are great as well... I have even made the three tier birthday cake for my mum, and everyone was really impressed! I've done some of the other things too, such as book-gifting, which is such a simple idea but makes you feel great. I love that there is room for you to add your own designs and ideas... it's a book that anyone creative or fashion-conscious will love!

Cathy says:
This book was my favourite ever book to write... so much fun! It really is perfect for my arty, awesome extra-cool readers... and that's most of you, let's face it! Have YOU read CHOCOLATE BOX SECRETS yet? COMMENT BELOW and have your say!

Thursday, 2 November 2017


Readers review non CC books they've read and loved in the first of a new series especially for book lovers... take a peek and get inspired!

Katie says:
In RADIO SILENCE by Alice Oseman you meet a geeky fangirl called Frances Janvier, who does fan art for a science fiction podcast show in secret. On the outside, she's smart and studious, a 'study machine', Head Girl. But with the help of an intriguing boy called Aled Last, life becomes a lot more than school.

RADIO SILENCE gave me a whopping book hangover because for a thrilling 400 pages you are living someone else's life. Every day I wore patterned leggings and every night I went to bed under a cityscape blanket. The characters in RADIO SILENCE are so precious that the book is sometimes too hard to read, but that's a good thing... it shows how cleverly written this story is.

The characters are beautiful, simple yet complex and so very real. This is not a book that you just 'put down' when you're done... Frances Janvier will always be my BFFF (best fictional friend forever). RADIO SILENCE taught me that sometimes things in life are confusing and don't always go according to plan, but as long as you have special people in your life it will be a lot easier than it may seem!

Cathy says:
Love this review... I'm convinced, are YOU? Want to review a favourite book and bring it to a wider audience? Just email me via the 'EMAIL CATHY' link over on and share your recommendation, or COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Tuesday, 31 October 2017


I asked readers if they believe in ghosts... this is what they said. Spook-tastic!

Trish says:
I've seen several. The most vivid was actually in a public toilet... I was checking my hair in the mirror and there was a young girl behind me. She was holding her arms out and her wrists were cut. A local friend told me the girl had been out with friends, had a fight with one of them and cut her wrists with broken glass. Her friends didn't reach her in time and she died in the stall. They no longer put locks on them for that reason. For some reason I wasn't scared, just so very sad for her...

Leanne says:
When my grandfather passed away, all the clocks in the house stopped at the exact time he'd passed away. I also smell my nan's perfume sometimes, and the smell of cigarettes as she used to smoke. At work, I've had hassle with the alarms going on and off randomly when I'm the only person there, and I've seen figures there that couldn't possibly have been there.

Rowan says:
When my daughter was seven, she pointed to the staircase and said, 'Why is that man there?' There was nobody there at all, but my daughter went on to describe a man in a long grey coat...

Mary-Ellen says:
I haven't seen ghosts exactly, but I was staying in Canada and I went out for a walk in the woods. I was thinking about a problem that had been worrying me for a couple of years, and suddenly I came to a clearing in the woods and a very powerful calming feeling swept over me. I can't describe it - I've never felt anything like it, before or since. The next morning, the property owner told me the place I was walking had been an old native American burial ground. Soon after I got back from Canada, the problem I'd been worrying about was resolved - this was life-changing and I'll be forever grateful.

Sara says:
I grew up in a house full of witch-marks and mystery... of course I believe in ghosts!

Lucy says:
This is my cousin's story... when she was fourteen, she was trick or treating with friends and met a girl called Charlotte who had got separated from her friends and joined up with their group. They all thought her costume was a bit extreme, an old-fashioned white nightdress that was actually wet and a really convincing facepaint bruise on her temple. They kept trying to give her a jacket or a jumper because they thought she'd get pneumonia, but she wouldn't accept anything. They asked if she wanted to come back to my cousin's house where they were having a sleepover, but she said no and ran off. It was my auntie who told the girls that a teenager called Charlotte Browning had drowned in the river in the 1930s... and that sometimes, on Halloween, her ghost could be seen. I think I'd have been petrified if that had happened to me!

Cathy says:
Oooh... some seriously spooky stories here, especially the first one and the last one! Do YOU believe in ghosts? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 30 October 2017


Readers share their favourite things about autumn...

Katie says:
**Puts on Ravenclaw scarf** Well arutumn means my first day back at Hogwarts, of course! I ride the Hogwarts Express, ruck into a feast in the Great Hall. watch the Sorting Hat and listen to what Dumbledore has to say, all while catching up with friends at my table and from other Houses. Then I curl up in my tranquilly decorated room, ready for a whole new term of classes, Quidditch try-outs and Halloween, before December even arrives!

Michelle says:
Walking through crunchy leaves, warm coats... and Halloween!

Anna says:
Autumn means snuggling up by the fire with a mug of something warm and comforting. Waking up to see the grass sparkling with the first frost, carpets of auburn and golden leaves with conkers shining amongst them for delighted children to collect. Autumn means cosy scarves and woolly hats, big coats and new boots with fluffy socks. It means the smell of woodsmoke and toasted marshmallows with fireworks popping and fizzing all around. It means cosiness, and the anticipation of winter's Christmas magic!

Ali says:
To me, it means panicking slightly about getting through the winter... and lots of dark dog walks! It also means taking out a second mortgage on fairy lights, candles and snuggly clothes to restore my sense of calm!

Violet says:
Autumn means flannel shirts and boots... what else?

Anastazcia says:
Snuggling up on the sofa with my little boy, making the most of it before my new baby arrives - due December 24th! The next few weeks will be filled with candles, movies, hot chocolate, homemade soup and finishing off the baby's room!

Kellie says:
This year autumn means school, friends and happiness to me. I  had a difficult time in Year 5 and 6, trying to handle a bullying problem that just wouldn't go away no matter what I did. Now I'm at a new school and it really has been a fresh start. For the first time in ages I have friends I can trust and I can feel my confidence and personality coming back. All the usual autumn term things are brilliant to me this year, and I'll be trick-or-treating with friends on Halloween and going to a big bonfire party with them... this year, autumn means the start of being happy.

BeeBee says:
Autumn means the old melting away like falling leaves!

Gemma says:
Crunchy leaves, frost on the ground, the way your breath hangs in the air before you like smoke. Having to wear hats and gloves and scarves and boots. And the return of porridge and honey for breakfast and hot chocolate at night!

Cathy says:
Love these... what does autumn mean to YOU? Tell all in a COMMENT BELOW!

Saturday, 28 October 2017


Katie has a full-time job in hospitality - as well as a 'side hustle' part-time job she adores! Find out more - and watch Katie's fab facepaint demo video - just perfect for Halloween!

Katie says:
At school, I changed my mind a million times about what I wanted to be - the one thing I did figure out was that I didn't want a regular 'career'. When I left, I did office work for two and a half years and hated it; I travelled for two years and now I work in hospitality, which I enjoy it. However, I have a 'side hustle' job that I REALLY love!

A couple of years back I noticed a friend was selling make up products online for a company called Younique... at the start, I almost unfollowed her because of all the posts, but gradually I became interested and started to pay attention to what she was doing! A year later, I decided to jump in myself and began to sell Younique products in between my shifts. I really fell in love with the job because of the culture and community of the company - the manifesto is: uplift, empower, validate - and I have seen that in action since joining! Loving the actual products is a bonus - they are high quality products that actually do the job and their longevity, versatility and wearability are awesome! The products aren't tested on animals and some are vegan friendly. I would 100% recommend them as they are suited to people with a variety of allergies, beliefs and skin types.

I think the most important reason I love selling for Younique is that this job has given me the confidence to be myself... that has been life changing. It has given me a tribe of amazing and supportive men and women to be a part of too, as well as giving me the ability to come out of my comfort zone! Those are just a few reasons why I love what I do so much. This job gives me the opportunity of financial freedom and the chance to work from home, and I very much hope to do it full-time one day. Those plus points are great, but knowing I'm doing something I love for a company that has given me so much self-esteem and satisfaction is the best thing of all!

Katie loves making little Facebook videos of cool looks, and I thought I'd share a cute Halloween look she's done that you might like! Just click here...
or follow Katie on FB HERE... 

Cathy says:
I love Katie's enthusiasm... when you love your job, nothing feels like 'work'! Check out the link to her facepaint demo too, it's brilliant! Have YOU got the best job ever? Or do you know someone who has? Email me here or COMMENT BELOW and you could be featured on DREAMCATCHER! 

Friday, 27 October 2017


I asked readers to share their fave reads for autumn... some excellent recommendations here! 

Helen says:
I'm reading THE BOOK OF DUST: LA BELLE SAUVAGE by Philip Pullman now, and MOONRISE by Sarah Crossan is next on the list, but LOVE FROM LEXIE would be a great choice too...

BeeBee says:
YOU CAN'T MAKE ME GO TO WITCH SCHOOL by Em Lynas and THE CALL by Peadar O Gullin are great!

Soumia says:

Violet says:
I'm reading a YA book called MIRROR MIRROR by Cara Delevigne (yes, THAT Cara Delevigne). It reminds me of LOVE FROM LEXIE because it's about a group of misfits who form a band, but it's quit dark... I'm enjoying it!

Gergely says:
DIZZY by Cathy Cassidy or HOLES by Louis Sachar...

Jasmine says:
Anything by CC of course, but also GIRLS FC by Helena Pielichaty, ARE YOU THERE GOD IT'S ME, MARGARET by Judy Blume, and THE NORRIS GIRLS by Nigel Hinton...

Bob says:
I'm reading THE CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS series by Cathy Cassidy but also recommend anything by Tanya Landman, Alan Gibbons, Patrice Lawrence, Sue Wallman, Olivia Levez, Eugene Lambert and MORE OF ME by Kathryn Evans. Look out too for TALES OF NIBIRU by BB Taylor and MISFITS by Marie Cope, which will both be huge!

Hollie says:
Any CC books - or the RACHEL RILEY series by Joanna Nadin.

Bev says:
THERE MAY BE A CASTLE by Piers Torday or A STORM OF STRAWBERRIES by Jo Cotterill...

Karla says:
I read FISH BOY by Chloe Daykin a few months ago - every page is pure beauty. Soul-warmingly dream-like in style!

Rowan says:
Anything by CC of course, and also THE WOLF PRINCESS by Cathryn Constable!

Shirley says:
Two YA suggestions... LIKE OTHER GIRLS by Claire Hennessy and THE HATE U GIVE - so good!

Ali says:
THE OUTSIDERS by SE Hinton... I read it on an exchange trip to Germany aged 14 and still associate it with those good times!

Eva says:
THE WOLF WILDER by Katherine Rundell.

Cathy says:
Some great choices here... looks like I've got myself an autumn reading list! Is there anything YOU would like to add? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Wednesday, 25 October 2017


Reader Violet shares a cool short story with an unexpected autumnal twist...

The summer holidays were but a distant memory for Tallie as September drew to a close and the crisp autumn air rolled in; the emerald leaves on the trees turned to russet and gradually fell to the ground. Walking home from school, Tallie didn't join in with her classmates' chatter as they kicked through the crunchy leaves, their laughter already visible in the air.

'Hey!' A cheery voice broke her reverie. Startled, Tallie glanced up and met the eyes of one of her classmates. 'I love your hair, it's super cute. I've been wanting to dye my hair bright red too, but my mam won't let me, she says it's pushing the rules too much. It suits you, though!'

'Oh... uh... thanks!' Tallie replied.

'No probs,' the girl replied before squealing as one of her friends crept up behind her and shoved a handful of dead leaves down the back of her shirt. The girls ran off, laughing and throwing handfuls of leaves. Tallie reached down to pick up a leaf, running her fingers over its stark skeleton. With no connection to roots, the leaf would grow fragile and crumble. It would almost certainly be gone by tomorrow, not that anyone would notice as the trees shed more and more. Tallie clapped a hand over her mouth to stop the sobs threatening to rise up. As soon as she got home, Tallie slumped to the floor and buried her face in her hands as the sobs broke free at last. With a concerned expression, Tallie's mother stepped out of the kitchen, wiping her hands on her apron.

'Oh, sweetie,' she sighed, pushing the crimson fringe from Tallie's face and tucking a strand of her own red hair behind one ear. 'I know how you feel - I know you'd give anything to be like the others. Crying won't change it - believe me, I cried my fair share of tears over this when I was thirteen. It's not fair and it never will be - I know that as well as you do. It's no use wishing things were different. Might as well make the most of this until... well, until it happens.'

The 'it' in question happened every year. Tallie and her mother started out blonde and as spring turned to summer, their hair darkened. As autumn approached, their hair turned various shades or red and brown, from strawberry blonde to deep chocolate brunette, echoing the shades of the fallen leaves that lay strewn across the ground. Then came winter, and the hair that drawn compliments just months earlier would be gone, their heads as bare as tree branches. Tallie could wear hats, bandanas, anything to hide it, but it was obvious to everyone what she was hiding, and the cruel kids would pull her hat off and chuck it around the playground, smirking.

She heard the whispers. 'Sick,' they said. 'Cancer.' The teachers guessed at alopecia or trichotillomania and pulled her aside to ask if she was struggling with schoolwork, if everything was OK at home. Tallie knew she couldn't tell them that her hair changed with the seasons. Life had always been this way for Tallie but that didn't make it any easier - she wanted to blend in and be like the others, trying out new hairstyles, but her hair never got a chance to grow past her jaw before winter reclaimed it. That's how it had always been, and how it always would be... but Tallie was trying something different this year.

After a year of scrimping and saving, they had saved enough to buy a wig - a proper custom made wig, glossy and brunette and chin-length, It wasn't as long as she would have liked, but it was realistic and long enough for decorative braids or a ponytail. Both, maybe! Wiping her eyes, Tallie dredged up a smile. Every year brought the same loss - not just her hair, her identity too - but maybe this year would be different.

Cathy says:
I love this clever, twisty story... it's original and cool! Would YOU like to see more fiction on DREAMCATCHER? Just COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 23 October 2017


Skye Tanberry has been stargazing again... check out her fun predictions for the month ahead and see if they come true!

LIBRA: 23rd Sept - 23rd Oct
Don't make too many firm plans... life is going to take a few twists and turns in the weeks to come, so stay flexible and enjoy the ride! There may be surprises in store, but they'll be good ones, so let yourself go with the flow!

SCORPIO: 24th Oct - 22nd Nov
Changes are happening for Scorpio people, and not before time - it's hard for you to let go of the reins, but some things you cannot control. Interesting times lie ahead, so trust to fate and look out for unexpected opportunities along the way!

SAGITTARIUS: 23rd Nov - 21st Dec
You know what you need to do to move forward and build a better life, but knowing and doing are two different things! Even the best-laid plans don't always work out quite the way we imagine... but Sagittarians will enjoy the adventures ahead!

CAPRICORN: 22nd Dec - 19th Jan
New friends and possible romance are all on the cards in the months ahead, so enjoy this exciting time and try not to worry too much about the bigger picture. Sometimes, having fun is just as important as working hard... honest!

AQUARIUS: 20th Jan - 18th Feb
A project is starting now that may show real results in a few months time... have you got the patience and perseverance to keep working away at it? Whatever it is, it's something you care about with a passion, so don't give up... your reward will come!

PISCES: 19th Feb - 20th Mar
You've been pushing yourself too hard lately, and although in some ways that's just the way you operate, take care you don't go too far and end up burning out. If you end up exhausted and ill, you'll be back to square one... not good!

ARIES: 21st mar - 19th Apr
Whoa... things are really happening for Aries people this month! Energy levels are high and plans are about to create some truly awesome results. Take care to stay kind and thoughtful when it comes to those around you... they matter too!

TAURUS: 20th Apr - 20th May
Big things are happening... but they're not the things you might expect! It may feel like life has thrown you a curve-ball or two, perhaps even a serious challenge, but have faith - the events of the next few months will change your life for the better.

GEMINI: 21st May - 21st June
Impatient Gemini people don't like to wait around, but plans and journeys, whether simple everyday ones or big, life changing ones, are likely to include delays, detours and challenges. Stick with it... you'll still get your happy ending!

CANCER: 2nd June - 22nd Jul
You're in a very creative phase right now... enjoy it and let your imagination soar. Life may be taking some unusual twists and turns around you, but chill and trust to destiny - everything is unfolding exactly as it should.

LEO: 23rd Jul - 23rd Aug
You're definitely moving forward again after a difficult time... now is the perfect moment to work on self-esteem and confidence issues so that you are ready to take exciting chances and opportunities when they come along. You can do this!

VIRGO: 24th Aug - 22nd Sept
The path ahead is clear, even though you may not be able to see yet just where it is leading. Don't argue - put a smile on your face and step out with confidence. Slowly, you'll begin to see where life is leading you, and all your questions will be answered.

Cathy says:
Ooh... my horoscope says I need to be patient... not a quality I'm very good at! Do YOUR stars ring true? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 22 October 2017


Reader Daisy shares her experience of a holiday romance that didn't end quite as she wished...

Daisy says:
It was right at the end of our holiday in Portugal when I got together with Mark. I'd spotted him right at the start, but both of us were shy and it was only on the last day that we got chatting and shared a quick kiss. It was very romantic but I didn't expect too much of it, so when he asked for my email, Facebook and WhatsApp details I was really happy.

Mark lives about two hundred miles away from me - I'm in Scotland, he's in England - but it felt like we were much closer because we spoke everyday and shared thoughts and feelings. Even though the actual romance had been so short and sweet, we were really getting to know each other now and able to tell each other anything and everything. When I fell out with a girl at school, Mark understood and encouraged me to put things right; when he had a massive row with his parents, I was the one he turned to. I felt closer to Mark than to anyone.

My friends were really impressed and knew he messaged me every day. And then, suddenly, he didn't. The messages faded away and my messages went unanswered. I had no idea what I'd done wrong. This was at the start of October, and I cried myself to sleep night after night because it was like losing a best friend. I couldn't let go, I kept messaging and asking what was wrong, and eventually Mark replied and told me he had a new girlfriend and I was getting a bit stalker-ish and I needed to get a life. This was the boy who'd poured out his heart to me about his parents just two weeks earlier. I haven't heard from him since, and I hope he feels a bit guilty for dropping me so abruptly and being so spiteful. It's not like I didn't understand that a long-distance relationship would be hard - he was the one who was determined to try. I saw him as more of friend than anything else, and I think I could have accepted that he was seeing someone, maybe, in time. I just feel sad that my first holiday romance had to end in such a harsh and bitter way... and I will think twice before trusting any boy again.

Beautiful photo by talented reader Hollie: many thanks Hollie!

Cathy says:
Daisy's had a bad experience - it sounds like Mark just didn't have the maturity to explain his feelings properly to her, then felt guilty and got nasty. I hope her next relationship runs a little more smoothly! Have YOU ever been badly hurt by a boy? COMMENT BELOW or email your story to me via the EMAIL CATHY link over on the CC website!

Saturday, 21 October 2017


Looking for some sweet treats to try out this half term? Head to the bookshelf and check out some CC inspired recipes to brighten up your autumn?

Scarlett's Yummy Fairy Cakes...

You'll need...
12 medium paper cupcake cases
Baking tray
125g softened butter
125g caster sugar
2 free range eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
125g self raising flour
2 tablespoons milk

To make...
Preheat oven to 190c/ 375f/ gas mark 5.
Arrange paper cases on baking tray.
Beat butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy.
Add beaten egg gradually, mixing as you go, and then add vanilla extract and mix in.
Sift in half the flour, folding gently.
Add the milk and rest of flour and fold in until well mixed.
Spoon into paper cases and bake for 12 minutes until golden and risen.... cool for 10 mins on a wire rack.

To decorate...
Beat 115g icing sugar with 60g softened butter, adding a drop of vanilla extract to taste.
Add a drop of food colouring for extra cool cakes!
Spread buttercream over cooled cakes and top with a fresh strawberry and a mint leaf, Scarlett style... or sprinkle on hundreds and thousands!

Clare's Lemonade...
You'll need...
1 cup sugar
6 fresh lemons

To make...
Place sugar in a heatproof bowl and add a cup of boiling water, stirring until sugar dissolves.
Use a lemon squeezer to juice six lemons.
Mix sugar water and lemon juice together in a tall pitcher, adding 3-4 cups of cold water to taste.
Refrigerate for 30 mins and serve with ice cubes and lemon slices.
Or... slice up a bowlful of fresh strawberries and stir into the mixture to make pink lemonade!

Fab illustrations by talented reader Caoimhe - many thanks!

Cathy says:
Haven't read SCARLETT yet? It's the perfect book for half term week... check it out at your local bookstore or reserve a copy at your local library! If you HAVE read SCARLETT, share your reviews in a COMMENT BELOW to let other CC readers know what you think! And if YOU have some recipes to share, EMAIL CATHY via the link on the website and we'll use the best on here!

Monday, 2 October 2017


More readers share their reviews of LOVE FROM LEXIE... it's flying off the shelves... have you got YOUR copy yet?

Aaliyah says:
Yesterday I loaned LOVE FROM LEXIE from my local library and read it for two hours... then another three hours until, past midnight, I finished it. It made me cry it was SO good, and the storyline kept me gripped throughout. I loved how Lexie took all the lonely people and made them feel like they belonged - and I took a great liking to Marley too! Every time I read a CC book I think how awesome it would be to make it into a film, and I think LOVE FROM LEXIE would be the perfect place to start. When the Chocolate Box Girls series ended I was so upset but Lexie is my new favourite character - all I can say is that it was well worth the wait!

Angharad says
I LOVED this book. It was a sensational, heart-warming story that made me sit up in my seat and beg for more. LOVE FROM LEXIE is all about a girl called Lexie who accidentally finds herself forming a band called the LOST & FOUND with some of the kids from her school. Lexie is lost and lonely because her mother abandoned her, moreover, she never knew the reason. I really liked the book because it has a strong musical theme and that's fab for me as I play piano, clarinet and violin (like Happi in the story). It's also a cool, fun and frankly very good book. There is a clever twist in the tale and I am really looking forward to reading the next one in the series!

Cathy says:
Thanks girls for such fabulous reviews... I really appreciate it! Have YOU read LOVE FROM LEXIE yet? COMMENT BELOW to have your say or email me to have your own LOVE FROM LEXIE review on DREAMCATCHER!

Saturday, 30 September 2017


Reader Josie has dreamed of a career in dance ever since she can remember... but will her dreams come true?

Josie says:
When you're little, it all seems so easy. You have big dreams, of dancing in pointe shoes and a white tutu at Covent Garden, being handed a bouquet at the end as the audience goes crazy. I read too many ballet books, or maybe not enough. I lived and breathed ballet, and I never for one moment thought that my dreams would not come true.

As I grew older, I learned that dreams aren't quite as simple as the Disney cartoons make out. You don't just wish on a star and get your dream future handed to you on a plate. You have to work, and hard. My ballet lessons went up to twice a week, then three times, then four. There would be extra practices when we had a show, and extra pressure to be chosen as something other than the chorus line. Still, I loved it. The joy of dancing made all the hard work worthwhile. I progressed through my grades, began dancing en pointe, watched my ballet friends fall away as teenage life and its pressures and dramas took precedence over ballet. Only a handful of the girls I'd danced with since the age of four are still taking lessons now.

Reality seeps in, and it can sour a dream. I wasn't chosen to audition for the Royal Ballet School, nor the regional school, when I was younger. It's a bit like not getting that letter telling you you're going to Hogwarts... a huge reality check. My parents started telling me to think about careers, and they didn't mean careers in dance. They said that only a very few dancers can make it to the very top, and that I should start to see it as a hobby I loved rather than anything else. That broke my heart. I am in Year Eleven now, taking A levels, and my friends are starting to talk about sixth form and universities and whether to pick things like English or Business Studies. I couldn't picture myself in that kind of future. I spoke to my ballet teacher about this and she had a different story to tell. Not everybody takes the same route in ballet, and not everyone gets to be a prima ballerina, but they can still have a career in dance. She pointed out that I was also studying Tap, Modern and Musical Theatre, and suggested I apply for a place at Performing Arts College. It's like a foundation for a degree. Next week I am attending an open day at one of the big Performing Arts colleges in the city where I live, and if it goes well I will be applying. It will be two years of dancing and if I do well, I plan to apply for a Musical Theatre course at university. My dream is alive again, changing a little, but better than ever and even more exciting because this time they are genuinely possible. Never give up.

Photograph by reader Hollie; posed by model.

Cathy says:
This is such a powerful piece. Dreams do evolve as we get older, and there are always many routes to your end goal, or different versions of it which can make you happy. Determination and sheer hard work can take you a very long way! I wish Josie the very best of luck! Have YOU got a dream that sometimes seems impossible? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Saturday, 23 September 2017


A few weeks ago, we heard from a whole bunch of new Year Sevens to find out what they were looking forward to about their new schools... now we've caught up with them to see if secondary school is living up to their expectations!

Louise says:
Year 7 is going great so far - I've made lots of new friends! The school dinners are fantastic though the queues are quite big, but it's worth the wait! My favourite is the pizza! I've joined the drama, netball and language clubs so far and would say to anyone feeling anxious about joining a club to give it a try - a great way to meet people with similar interests! My CATS tests went well - they just took a morning (unlike SATS which seemed to last forever) and I'm very happy with the set I'm in. I think I'm settling in just fine - and I've only been lost once!

Esther says:
My first day of secondary school was fine, but I prefer primary. School is OK, but sometimes overwhelming, and I don't seem to be learning anything in Maths. Overall, I'd prefer not to go! It's weird, because we are in Year 7 and we have to show respect, yet we get no respect from the rest of the school.

Nell says:
The first week was fun - nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be. The students are all very kind and welcoming, especially the Year 8s who have just been through the experience! There are lots of clubs to choose from, and I've joined a drama group and one all about making food look good! I worried about homework to start with, but realised that if you tackle it in bite-size chunks it doesn't seem so daunting. The teachers are nice and I've enjoyed lessons a lot - my favourites are drama and science. In science we've been learning about forensics and contamination at a crime scene, which is really interesting! The food is really good - may fave is pitta with garlic mayo, tortilla chips and salsa! To anyone in Year 6 now, don't worry - I'm sure you'll enjoy Year 7 as much as I have so far!

Robin says:
I've just had my first few weeks of high school and I LOVE it! Here are five cool things about high school!
1: The FOOD! My school has brilliant food, plus a McDonald's style pre-order machine!
2: The TEACHERS! They aren't mean or strict, they are kind and caring - even when I was late to a class because I'd got lost!
3: The LESSONS! I have brilliant lessons - we used bunsen burners in science and designed an electronic pencil in Tech!
4: The AFTER-SCHOOL CLUBS! I love stuff like the Trading Card Club and the Lego Mindstorms Club!
5: The INSET DAYS! Actually, INSET means a day off school, but hey - it's great to get an extra day off after all that excitement, and it's only right to celebrate with ice-cream, isn't it?
High school is brilliant - all you new Year 6s out there, you'd better start looking forward to it!

Cathy says:
Mixed reactions, but overall a big thumbs up for Year Seven from our Roving Reporters! Good luck for the rest of the year to brilliant Louise, Esther, Nell and Robin! What are YOUR best bits of advice for new secondary school students? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Friday, 22 September 2017


If there's one CC book which has struck a chord with many readers and helped them to see there is light at the end of the tunnel, it's SUMMER'S DREAM. We talk to readers who have been through what Summer did...

Sophie says:
I am fourteen and I live in France, so sorry for my bad English... but I need to thank you for the book COEUR MANDARINE (SUMMER'S DREAM). I am probably not the first girl to say this, but I lost one year of my life because of anorexia. I find it hard to explain my illness, or to talk about it because it is not something people usually talk about. When I read Summer's story I was sad but also happy because finally there was a book about this horrible illness. The book is a very good way to warn young girls about the danger of anorexia. I hope that Cathy will go on writing about this kind of subject because we need books that are brave and real.

Matt says:
I am so grateful for the book SUMMER'S DREAM. I read it because my sister had it (I am a fifteen year old boy and it's hard for boys to pick up books that look like this!). Anyway, I realised after reading this book that I had big issues with food and that I needed to get a grip. I had been bingeing and then purging and it had become a sort of addiction, and I thought it was under control but the book made me see that I was just kidding myself. I talked to my school counsellor and I am getting help now, and the binge/ purge thing is under control. I feel very strongly that boys need books that deal with real life issues too, not just girls - we are all under the same kinds of pressure. SUMMER'S DREAM was a bit of a lifesaver for me.

Jessie says:
SUMMER'S DREAM was the book that made me see that I was in trouble with the way I was with food. Like Summer, I was limiting food and eating only things I thought were low calorie and fat-free, and I thought that was OK. The book showed me that it actually isn't OK at all but very dangerous, but it did this in a very natural and realistic and un-preachy way. I suppose I saw what happened to Summer and how she lost everything because of her eating disorder, and I didn't want that to be me. I was able to pull back before it got too much, and although I still try to eat healthily I am very careful now to make sure I eat enough. I'm not scared of certain foods any more. I saw that Summer used food as a way to try to handle her stress and that was what I had been doing too, and it clearly wasn't a good way of coping. SUMMER'S DREAM taught me a lot and made me think a lot, and I am thankful for that.

Vee says:
I was in hospital being treated for anorexia when my mum gave me SUMMER'S DREAM. She later told me she was nervous about giving the book to me in case it triggered bad thoughts but it had the opposite effect. It made me feel like someone out there understood and that there was hope, because if Summer could put up with the treatment then so could I. I have read some other books about eating disorders but some make it seem like everything can be fixed quite quickly, and that's not true - sometimes they can't be fixed. I have lost friends to this illness. It's not something to mess about with. It's not a joke. SUMMER'S DREAM was one book that seemed to get this, and managed still to be hopeful. I have now read the other books in the series and followed Summer's progress to getting better, and I am making progress too. She is one fictional character I will always be hugely grateful to, because it feels like we have gone through this nightmare together.

Cathy says:
These posts are so moving. SUMMER'S DREAM was a tough book to write because I wanted it to be realistic and yet hopeful too, while dealing with a very difficult subject. Has a book ever helped YOU to cope with something in your life? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more...

Saturday, 16 September 2017


Reader Blue travelled up to the Glasgow Pride Festival this summer - here, she tells us what her day was like!

Blue says:
I'd travelled quite a way but didn't get to take part in the parade itself - all I can tell you is that there were lots of rainbow flags, a police car decorated with rainbow balloons and a Tesco float that somehow produced rainbow smoke! I did get to Glasgow Green where there were lots of stalls and fairground rides and a stall selling things like flags and badges and flower crowns. I managed to find some vegetable tempura and there was even a dog show - I saw a Staffie dressed as Sonic the Hedgehog and various small dogs dressed in rainbow tutus and bandanas.  My friend swears she saw a rainbow dyed Dalmation, too!

As for the people, so many were dressed up in various fantastical styles! Many of us were wearing our respective Pride flags as capes, and lots wore plastic rain ponchos because the weather was flipping between blue skies and sun one minute and downpour the next. That just gave the host a chance to make jokes about the sun 'coming out' though!
The main stage was where the magic really happened - I watched a group of drag queens dancing, and one of them, dressed as an alien and dancing to Katy perry's 'Extraterrestrial' joined the crowd to pose for photos with fans afterwards. A band called Collabro played a great set too, including 'The Circle of Life' from The Lion King! DJs played music in between the bands and the 'Macarena' got the whole crowd dancing in sync - I absolutely loved the carefree atmosphere.

Pride is just such an accepting place and a great celebration, not just for LGBT+ people but for everyone! People were dressed whatever way they wanted to, whether that was Lolita, punk, drag, their own eclectic style or just men putting glitter in their beards! Nobody laughed at anyone else because we were all comfortable being who we were, without judgement. In fact, total strangers were complimenting each other on their look, which was lovely! I'll definitely be going back next year, and I'll try not to miss the parade next time!

Cathy says:
I watched the Liverpool Pride Parade this year and loved it too... such a happy, positive and peaceful way of showing the world that love is what matters, no matter whether someone is straight, gay or otherwise. Would YOU take part in a local LGBT pride festival? Do you think we still have work to do before the LGBT community feel fully accepted? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!