Wednesday, 28 February 2018

GEORGIA: THE BOOKS I LOVED - AND STILL DO!

Reader Georgia describes how curling up with a favourite book can wipe away your worries and troubles and let you escape into a magical, fictional world...


Georgia says:
I'm sixteen, and not so long ago I used to read CC books all the time. CHERRY CRUSH was the first one I read... it will always be my favourite, but I soon went on to read the rest of the series and some of the stand-alone books. Just lately, I haven't been having the easiest of times, and then by chance today I came across my old copy of MARSHMALLOW SKYE, which I read when I was about twelve. I picked it up and before I knew it, I had read the whole book. It was amazing - just like the first time I read it, I got sucked into that whole world of Tanglewood and forgot about everything else. Which was totally what I needed today.

When I first picked up the book, I worried that I might not be able to get back into the story - after all, when I first read them, I was the same age as Skye and Summer and now I'm older than most of the characters in the book, but it made no difference at all. I just fell into the story. I think out of all the sisters, I relate most to Skye as I too love everything vintage and have a strong bond with the past. I really just love the whole story with Clara and Finch, finding the old trunk with velvet dresses and forgotten love letters would just be my dream. Or maybe actually going back in time!

Anyway, because things have been tricky lately, it was just pure pleasure to be sucked into that CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS world and forget everything else that was going on. Perfect escapism! I remembered how much I loved my CC books and re-discovering them made me decide to check out the newer CC books as well as re-read some of my old favourites. Some things you never grow out of, right?

Cathy says:
Awww! What a fantastic post! I love the way so many of my older readers refuse to let go of the stories and find that they can grow up with them. Which CC book is YOUR fave? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 26 February 2018

CURL UP WITH A CLASSIC: LITTLE WOMEN

Reader Janelle shares her favourite children's classic book with us... could it be the perfect read for you too?

Janelle says:
I first read LITTLE WOMEN by Louisa May Alcott when I was twelve, which is four years ago now. I loved it because it was so different from my life, being set in 19th century America, and yet I could identify with so many of the situations and emotional dilemmas in the book. It also formed a great contrast to my favourite modern series of the time, which was of course the CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS by Cathy Cassidy! It was strange to read something so different to begin with, but after a while I was hooked and read through all of the books in the series... GOOD WIVES, LITTLE MEN and JO'S BOYS. The first book is definitely the best though!

My favourite character was Jo, but I also loved Beth, (even though her story is quite a tragic one). I love the part where Jo cuts off her hair and sells it - her father is ill and she knows the money will help him, and also I loved the character of Laurie who lives next door, even though things don't work out in the story they way I wanted them to!

I hadn't thought about the books for a while and then there was a TV series of LITTLE WOMEN on over Christmas, which sent me right back to the books to read them again. I loved the series, as it was quite close to the books in detail, even though the characters were not quite as I had imagined them. I loved seeing the world of 19th century America brought to life though! Reading a from so long ago (it was published in 1868) is like a window on a different time and place, and yet we still have so much in common. I love that, that books show you how alike we are and also how different. This will always be a special book to me, and I recommend it to anyone who has enjoyed the CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS series!

Cathy says:
I remember reading these books at the age of twelve or thirteen, too... and falling into the world of the March girls and their mother! Have YOU got a favourite children's classic book? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Sunday, 25 February 2018

DEAR FUTURE ME...

Last summer, we ran a 'LOVE FROM LEXIE' letter writing comp which asked you to write a letter to your future self... this one wasn't the winner, but it's so beautiful I just had to share!

Dear Future Me...
I hope you have found yourself by now and have accomplished all our dreams... and I hope you have learned to love and trust others again. Most of all, I hope some of the decisions I made have not affected you negatively. I hope you never go back to feeling depressed and worthless because you are neither of those things. There are many who love you and I hope you make the most of the time you have with them. After all, it could all be over in the blink of an eye.

I hope that you have never lost your own voice, your own self, while trying to live up to other people's expectations. Never give up on all those things that matter, that make all the pain you had to go through worth it. I hope you can cherish the friends and family who have always supported you. Don't ever let fame or money go to your head because I made an awful lot of sacrifices to focus on reaching for our dreams and on getting better. I hope you are still inspiring people just like us who are warriors fighting depression or any other illness or condition like epilepsy. I hope our future is bright.

PS: I hope that not giving up on life was worth it!

Lots of love, 
A Dreamer... xxx

Cathy says:
This entry gave me shivers... it's so honest and raw, yet so full of hope and promise. I hope things get better for the writer, but her determination shines through so I'm hopeful they will! What would YOU say to your future self? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

SAYING GOODBYE TO THE CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS...

Readers share their feelings on letting go of the CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS series... 

Samona says:
I have read all of the CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS series now and I am going to miss them so much. I remember when I first met Cathy, two years ago, at a book signing - if I hadn't gone along I wouldn't have read these amazing books and I'd have missed out on loads! I really enjoyed reading about each sister's point of view, learning their unique personalities. The books made me feel like I was actually at Tanglewood! I have absolutely loved the CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS and all the way through I've felt like I was there with the Tanberry/ Costello family, always waiting eagerly for the next instalment. I will miss this series so much!

Katie says:
As soon as I put SWEET HONEY down I begged and pleaded for Mum to order FORTUNE COOKIE online, and finally it came. What did I think of it? ADORABLE. I think it was good because the Tanberry's father doing the things he always did turned out to have a silver lining in the shape of Jake Cook, or Cookie. Expect Cathy's wonderful writing mixed with kooky secret letters and Chinese food. Spoilers, of course, because this is the end of the series (sob!) but it is just the ending the CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS needed. It is even delightfully gender neutral! I love the cameos of the other sisters and the way the family has progressed. A perfect book that means that any fanfics I may write don't have to end the series, because the resolution to the CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS is all right there in the book FORTUNE COOKIE! Thank you Cathy for writing the entire amazing series!

Keisha says:
OK, I was late to the party but I began reading the CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS books in June after Cathy came to my school on a book tour. I bought CHERRY CRUSH and that was that, I was hooked. I got three more books for my birthday, and then the last two with a book voucher I had been given. The books shaped my whole summer, and I don't think I will ever get over the fantasy of life at Tanglewood, or forget the characters because they seem more real than some of the people I know. I was a roller-coaster series and I will never forget it. I have read all six books cover to cover three times over now, and I am still not ready to leave the world of the stories. Then I discovered that a friend at school had read them all too was as mad about them as me, and that she had two extra books I didn't have, LIFE IS SWEET (short stories) and CHOCOLATE BOX SECRETS. So guess what is going onto my Christmas list? I didn't want this series to ever end, and my wish came true - it hasn't yet, for me!

Cathy says:
Awww, it's lovely to know how much you've loved the CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS. Although I'm now in the middle of writing my new series, LOST & FOUND (first book LOVE FROM LEXIE!) I too find that it's not easy to step away from the cool, magical world of Tanglewood! Have YOU read all of the CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS books? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Saturday, 24 February 2018

ISABELA: FIX THE FAIRYTALE!

Reader Isabela from Serbia loved my book MARSHMALLOW SKYE a lot - until the short story MOON & STARS was published! Read on to find out why!

Isabela says:
You've got me obsessed with MARSHMALLOW SKYE. At first, when I was reading this book I've taken from library about the Tanberry girls, CHERRY CRUSH, I wasn't so fascinated by Skye. But now, MARSHMALLOW SKYE is my favourite book (then SWEET HONEY and then CHERRY CRUSH). MARSHMALLOW SKYE is just like my world - a dreamy, fairytale, mystery, melted in the past. I really felt for Skye in every moment - and like Skye, I too had a serious crush on Finch. Skye and Finch are, or I better say were, a perfect couple. Meant to be. She dreamed about him before she even MET the boy - it was like... well, like a fairytale.

And then I found out about MOON & STARS, and their 'happy ever after' breakup. I wanted to cry. I'm really sensitive about book characters and it really made me sad - it killed the atmosphere that previous book made. Now that I'm over it enough to think about it clearly, I beg you, Cathy Cassidy, even if it sounds impossible, fix their fairytale. I mean it from my heart! I want to be a writer when I grow up (and so much more) and adore the style of CC books. Those books are my role models. Every couple from Tanglewood has a some kind of a happy ending so why not Skye and Finch? Maybe you'll say that that's just the way their story goes... but I won't give up. Please, make these broken hearts happy and (I hope you don't mind if I say this dumb thing) 'together as one' again!

I know that I'm a little late for writing this. Maybe they'll get a happy ending somewhere else with somebody else. And that would be... OK. But, then I don't see the point with all they had before, if they are just gonna let it go and forget it...

Cathy says:
I love it when a reader gets so involved with a story that it feels real - and I do know how Isabela feels. I loved Skye and Finch's romance, but sadly, not all love stories have a happy ending, and not all boys are as perfect as they first seem! How do YOU feel about Skye and Finch's split? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Friday, 23 February 2018

LIFESKILLS: FACE LIFE'S CHALLENGES WITHOUT FALLING APART!

New columnist Laura shares her tips on how to handle the tough times - and survive to tell the tale!

Laura says:
Life is full of change and challenge - a new school, a new job, an interview, a row, a family illness, sometimes even a death. How can you face up to the difficult stuff without losing the plot? Here are some tried and tested tips.

- It’s OK to feel sad. Sometimes, it’s natural to be upset, angry, anxious, hurt or grieving. Accept the feeling... it’s a part of coping.

- Look after yourself. When life gets scary, we often neglect ourselves - other things seem more important. But it’s important to eat, exercise and sleep well so that you’re strong enough to handle whatever is happening.

- Keep things in perspective. Yes, something difficult may be happening, but there are still lots of good things to be glad about. Keep the bigger picture in mind.

- Stay cool. Shock and stress can make us angry or prone to looking for someone to blame, but that won’t help matters. Bitterness can only pull you down.

- Take time out. When you’re stressed, look for ways to relax and escape for a while... whether it’s reading, sport, art, singing or something else completely, find your way to take time out.

- Talk to someone. It can help to talk to a trusted friend or a teacher at school, because they will know you’re not yourself and probably be worried. Having someone to unload your worries to can make a huge difference.

- It will pass. You may be feeling awful right now, but the situation won’t be this way forever... things can change and ease, and you can get through. Good luck!

Cathy says:
Couldn't have said it better myself! Keeping these things in mind really help calm me down when I face challenges! Do YOU have any more tips? COMMENT BELOW...

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

CATRIN: AM I JUST SHY OR IS THERE SOMETHING WRONG WITH ME?

Reader Catrin hates speaking out in class... HONEY TANBERRY has some words of wisdom to help her through!

Catrin says:
I’ve never been the most talkative person but recently I’ve been finding it really embarrassing to talk in front of everyone. When the teacher calls my name, my mind just goes blank and then other kids start to laugh. I know the answers and my grades are fine so why can’t I show it? The worst is when we're asked to do a slideshow in front of everyone or if we're at assembly. People must think I'm stupid. Am I just shy or is there something wrong with me?


Honey says:
You won't believe this, but I was shy once, back in Year Seven. I was still quite upset about Mum and Dad splitting up and the last thing I wanted was to attract attention at school - so I totally understand about not enjoying speaking up in class. What changed? I went off the rails a bit and stopped caring what people thought, and I DON'T recommend that to you... but you CAN step back a little and try to see the bigger picture. As a teen, your own feelings can seem so big and so important that it's hard to think of anything else - you're so concerned with not making a fool of yourself in front of others that it becomes a huge issue, and you get anxious, tongue-tied, hot and bothered. The truth is, everyone else is also wrapped up in themselves... they're not too worried about what you do or say, unless you draw attention to yourself by showing your fear and anxiety.

How do you get past the shyness? It can help to bluff your way through... act as though you're confident. Slowly, things will ease up, and each time you survive a potentially awkward moment you can congratulate yourself on not letting the shyness win. Most of us can manage this for a short time. Slideshows are a pain... not many people enjoy giving them, but pick a subject you love and focus on getting your message across. Alternatively, get sneaky and record a soundtrack of words and music to accompany your images... you might just get away with it! Being shy is natural for many of us, but it doesn't have to be a label for life, and it definitely doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you, I promise! You're just human... like us all!

Cathy says:
Good advice from Honey - what would YOU add to it? COMMENT BELOW to have YOUR say!

Monday, 19 February 2018

FIVE MINUTE FICTION: A WINTER'S TALE

Reader Blue shares a spine-chilling winter story with a twist... this one is NOT to be missed!

As snowflakes landed on her cheeks, Elspeth's eyelids fluttered open. What was she doing here, lying on her back in the snow? She'd catch her death of cold! Elspeth didn't know where she was but she spotted a road not too far in the distance, a dark grey ribbon that twisted and turned as it disappeared over the horizon, promising to show her the way home. She stumbled towards it. Although she wasn't sure how she'd ended up asleep in the snow and didn't remember leaving her home, she had some theories. She'd been so stressed lately, trying to juggle uni coursework with a retail job. She'd probably come out for a walk and fallen asleep from exhaustion. How embarrassing! She hoped her family wouldn't ask what she'd been up to because she didn't think 'Napping in the snow, y'know, the usual,' would go down very well.

As it turned, Elspeth's home wasn't too far and after twenty minutes of sticking to the side of the road, she'd reached her house on the outskirts of town. The back door was ajar, the smell of cinnamon and apple drifted out. Elspeth slipped in... and came face to face with her father.

'Oh! Hey Dad... I just went for a walk,' Elspeth explained.

He didn't react, he walked past her and slumped at the kitchen table with a grunt, staring listlessly at the newspaper he held in his hands before setting it on the table. He'd always been a man of few words but that seemed rude.

Perhaps he was tired, he looked like he hadn't slept in days and his crumpled clothes hung off him. Too many late nights at the office, probably. Her mother hadn't even glanced up from where she stood at the hob, stewing apple and cinnamon, probably for one of her delicious homemade apple pies. Elspeth hoped she could have an extra big portion, all that sleeping in the snow had left her feeling distinctly washed out. Being ignored by her parents wasn't helping. Perhaps they were mad at her for being out for so long - Elspeth wasn't sure how long she'd been asleep but it must have been a while to merit the silent treatment.

The door from the hall creaked open and five year old Joe stood in the doorway. His eyes met Elspeth's and she grinned at him. 'Hey Joey!' she said to her little brother.

'Elspeth?' he whispered. Then 'Elspeth!' as he scurried across the room, arms outstretched as their parents heads swivelled round at the sound of his voice. Elspeth held out her arms to catch him in a hug. The last thing she was expecting was for him to go THROUGH her. He fell to his hands and knees, tears dropping from his eyes onto the terracotta tiles.

She reached out to comfort Joe but her hand went through his shoulder. Their mum scooped Joe up and he sobbed into her shoulder. 'She was here! I saw her! I did!' he cried.

There was a lengthy silence. Their father spoke first. 'You're tired Joey. I think you'd better have a nap. Mummy will tuck you in and read you a nice story and when you wake up, we'll have some apple pie with ice cream, OK?'

Joe wiped his nose on his sleeve. 'OK' he mumbled. His mother carried him out of the room. As soon as the door closed behind them, Elspeth saw her father's face crumple and tears spilled from his eyes. His shoulders shook with sobs. Elspeth had never seen her father cry before, not even when he broke his toe playing football.

Instinctively, she reached out to him - and froze. Her hand was translucent, bordering on transparent. She was fading away before her eyes. This was not good! What was happening? How could she stop it? She could feel panic rising in her chest and she gripped the edge of the kitchen table to steady herself and tried to focus. Her eyes rested on the newspaper lying open where her dad had left it. She smoothed out the page and read it, not bothering to move her hand as it was now completely transparent. The paper was open on the obituaries page. That was when Elspeth saw it, crammed amongst the now-departed ninety year olds. Her name.

"WINTER, ELSPETH: 1998 - 2018. Dearly beloved daughter of Stuart and Margaret Winter, cherished big sister to Joseph Winter. Funeral is at 9:30am, Wednesday 30th January at St Peter's Crematorium. All welcome but family flowers only please."

How... how was this possible?! She tried to scream but no noise came out. She tried to cry but her tear ducts were out of use. All Elspeth could do was stand frozen, hunched over her own obituary as she vanished for the last time.

Cathy says:
WOW... eerie and beautifully written! Thanks for sharing, Blue! If YOU love to write, why not give a 'like' to the CC Facebook Fan Page and join in with the regular story challenges? And feel free to COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 18 February 2018

HANNAH: MAKING FRIENDS WITH ME

Reader Hannah shares how she summoned strength at a time when she was feeling lost, isolated and alone. Read on and be inspired!

Hannah says:
Just six years ago I was painfully shy and very unhappy at school. I had zero confidence and a group of girls picked on me on a daily basis, which made my self-esteem drop lower still. I got to the point where I didn’t want to go into school. I was miserable, and lost, and I had no clue what to do about it.

Fast forward to now. I am nineteen years old and in my first year of uni studying psychology, a subject I love. I have good friends, a lovely boyfriend and big hopes and dreams for the future. What changed? I did. I decided that I was sick of being everybody’s target, the one everyone picked on. I asked one of the bullies why she was doing it, and she told me I was ‘just too easy to pick on.’ I was a loser, she said. I looked in the mirror and I didn’t see a loser but I did see a very unhappy girl, with greasy hair and bad posture, unable to stand tall and look people in the eye because I was so sure they’d hate me. I wanted to disappear, and I hated myself, and it was obvious to everyone I knew.

I asked my older sister for help. She had always teased me too, but when she saw how unhappy I was she stopped being mean and became my biggest supporter. Her advice made me angry at first. She helped me to find a shampoo that was right for my hair, came with me to get a more flattering haircut, helped me choose cooler clothes. But the biggest difference was she helped me to see that I could be less hard on myself, and that actually I had to do that, because the self-hate was attracting all the nastiness that made school such a nightmare. It took a very long time to change this. Two years, maybe more. And I am still learning every day.

My sister told me she began every morning by looking in the mirror and telling herself the day ahead would be a good one. I realised I looked at myself and silently told myself how ugly I was, how scared I was of the day ahead. I tried to change it, because I thought it couldn’t do any harm, and very slowly I started to feel better. When my sister went back to college she started sending me uplifting cards and postcards which I put on my wall. I stopped comparing myself to others, stopped expecting the worst from every situation and started treating myself with less disgust. It became habit to eat well, exercise, take time to read and study, choose nice clothes and make sure I looked friendly.

I didn’t turn into one of the popular kids. I was still seen as geeky but I did begin to make friends, and the bullies stopped bugging me because I stopped reacting so much. I got really interested in the reasons why we treat others badly and how we can change things. It’s why I chose my uni course. I don’t think the thirteen year old me would recognise the person I am now, but that scared girl is a part of who I am... and always will be. I just learned that she was never my enemy, but someone I had to accept and make friends with. I still start the day with a positive message in the mirror, and I finish it by listing things I am grateful for in my diary. It has honestly changed my life.

Cathy says:
Wonderful words of wisdom, Hannah! Keep being strong! Do YOU have any tips on how to overcome bullying or low self-esteem? COMMENT BELOW to share with others.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

CHINESE NEW YEAR - YEAR OF THE DOG

Chinese New Year falls on the 18th of Feb, this year and we look at what 2018, the year of the Dog, might mean for you...

2018 is the Year of the Dog. In Chinese astrology, each year is related to an animal and an element, according to the 12-year lunar cycle. 2018 is an Earth Dog Year.

Legend has it that, back ancient China, the Jade Emperor declared that animals would become part of the new calendar - and that the 12 who arrived first would be selected. At the time, the cat and the rat were good friends. When they heard the news, the cat said to the rat, 'We should arrive early to sign up, but I usually get up late.' The rat then promised to wake his friend up so they could go together but, because he was so excited, he forgot and left on his own. He bumped into the dog, tiger, ox and other animals - who were all much faster than him - and he managed to convince the ox to carry him on his back. The ox arrived first, but the rat sneaked in front of him and became the first lucky animal. By the time the cat arrived, the selection was over - which is why the cat hates the rat and will always try to chase and kill him!

The global celebrations for Chinese New Year last for around two weeks and are an explosion of light and sound - involving bell ringing, lighting firecrackers, and traditional lion dances. Families gather for a reunion dinners and to clean their houses, sweeping away bad fortune. Traditionally, kids are given red envelopes stuffed with 'lucky money' and positive wishes on New Year's Day.

The year of the Earth Dog is promised to be a good year but also be an exhausting one! It is a good year to get your health in check, eating, exercising and getting rid of bad habits! As well as this, it promises good fortune, financially... sounds good to us! Enjoy Chinese New Year, whether you are a Dog or not!

Cathy says:
Do YOU celebrate Chinese New Year? If not, you can still have fun finding YOUR Chinese zodiac sign! What are YOUR traditions? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

ZOE: I CAN'T OPEN UP...

Reader ZOE shares a problem for CHERRY COSTELLO to shed some light on... do YOU agree with her advice?

Zoe says:
I feel so alone. I have been feeling for a while that I can’t open up to people and that nobody will understand me. It’s not that I’m going through anything major, I just find it hard to see how my feelings would be of interest to people. I’ve always been like this but recently I’ve had people comment on how I should speak to people more, since I’m always there for my friends. The only person I trust enough to speak to is my sister but she’s leaving home soon and wont be there for me in the same way.

Cherry says:
I’ve been there - it’s not nice feeling that no one is there for you, but let me tell you, they are. You sound like a caring person if you’re there for everyone else, but don’t use this to mask your own problems. It’s fairly common for your personality type to try to take on the troubles of everyone else as a way of ignoring their own. You could start by keeping a feelings journal, writing things down no matter how seemingly insignificant is a great way of getting things out in the open. It trivialises situations that may seem major in your head. This may be a step towards being able to be more open in general. All the same, it's worth remembering that not everyone wears their heart on their sleeve... it's OK not to over-share, if that's what feels right to you. It could be your instincts flagging up who you should and shouldn't trust! Don't let anyone make you feel inadequate just for being a private person - a true friend will understand and respect that.

Cathy says:
I was just like Zoe in school! It takes time to trust people and it's scary but opening up it can be a great way to sort out your worries, no matter how trivial. Have YOU had similar issues with sharing your feelings? If so COMMENT BELOW with tips...

Monday, 12 February 2018

EASY-PEASY LEMON-SQUEEZY PANCAKE RECIPE!

Reader Mimi shares her tasty and incredibly easy recipe for pancake mix - no excuses now! 

Mimi says:
This recipe is super easy and super tasty!

TIME: 20 MINS
SERVES: 12

Ingredients:
100g plain flour
2 large eggs
300ml milk
1 tbsp sunflower/ vegetable oil
fresh lemon, to taste (optional)
caster sugar, to taste (optional)


Put the oil, flour, eggs, milk and a small pinch of salt into a large mixing bowl. Whisk gently with a fork until nice and smooth. If you can, leave the mixture to rest for half an hour if not… get cracking!

Grab a medium sized frying pan and set it over a medium heat. Oil generously. When it’s heated up enough, drizzle your pancake mix into small circles in the centre of your pan. Cook your pancakes for one minute on each side until golden... turn gently using a spatula, or flip them if you're brave!

To serve, try squeezing a slice of lemon and a sprinkling of sugar - or, come up with your own yummy fillings! Sliced Banana? Nutella? Maple syrup? You decide!

Cathy says:
Yummy! Thanks Mimi! My favourite filling is sliced banana and a drizzle of honey. Do YOU have a fave filling? Let us know in the COMMENTS SECTION below...

Sunday, 11 February 2018

IS THIS A CRUSH?

Ahead of Valentine's Day, reader Imogen talks about how to spot a crush... and why it's not the same as real-life love...

Imogen says:
We've all been there. Totally in the thrall of that cool boy (or girl) we're actually too shy to even speak to... and kidding ourselves there'll be a happy-ever after. It can feel so overwhelming it takes over everything - when I had a crush on a boy from the Sixth Form when I was thirteen, I was obsessed. I made my friends hang out opposite the sixth form building every lunchtime in the hopes of catching a glimpse of him. I drew his name and mine inside a heart at the back of all my exercise books. I cried about him at night, and when he started going out with a girl his own age I hated her with such venom it made me sick and shaky for weeks. And then the feeling faded, as fast as it had arrived, and I had a new crush - a less dramatic one. When I was fifteen I started seeing a boy a year older than me, and suddenly real life relationships seemed more appealing than imaginary ones. So how do you know it's a crush?

- You dream about him all the time... but you've never actually spoken to him.
- He's a lot older than you, or unreachable in some other way... a teacher, a pop star, an actor.
- You know that NOBODY else in the world could ever understand you the way he does...
- ... even though you don't actually know what his personality is like.
- You practice writing your name with his surname in the back of your books.
- You plan your day around catching a glimpse of him.
- If he ever spoke to you, you'd panic so much you'd probably be speechless.
- Your friend threatens to tell him how you feel and you are horrified at the very idea.
- If he's a public figure, you collect as much info on him as you can.
- You are devastated if he gets a girlfriend.
- You happily turn down dates with real life boys because they're not HIM.

No matter how real the feelings may seem, they are a practice run for a real relationship and a part of growing up, so remember that and keep an eye on the bigger picture. In time, the fantasy love affair will fade, and you'll be ready for the real thing!

Illustration by Cathy Cassidy.

Cathy says:
Wise words from Imogen! Have YOU ever had a crush on someone who is way out of reach? COMMENT BELOW to share your story!

Saturday, 10 February 2018

VOTES FOR WOMEN!

Reader Callie shares her beautiful piece to mark 100 years of women first gaining the vote!

Callie says:
One hundred years ago, UK women couldn’t hold property the same as men. They couldn’t open a bank account. They couldn’t become an accountant or a lawyer or claim equal pay for doing the same work as men. They couldn’t sit in the House of Lords or obtain a fair court order against a violent husband, and had very few rights as we know them today. Most importantly, they couldn’t vote.

One hundred years ago, just after the end of WWI, change was ignited when an act was passed in parliament, allowing all married women over the age of thirty the right to vote. This monumental act was the start of basic change to social attitudes towards women. Although it was a milestone in women’s rights, it is important to realise that it was still another ten years before ALL women could vote and still today there is progress to be made, but it was a start!

History still largely views the suffrage movement  - those fighting to gain the right for women to vote - as radical. At the time, suffragettes were arrested and imprisoned, and when they went on hunger strike to draw attention to their cause, they were violently force-fed. I view their struggle as courageous and inspiring. Figures like Emily Davison, who gave up her life for the cause by throwing herself under the kings horse right up to today’s feminista heroes like Emma Watson and Malala Yousafzai; if we let these gals guide us, we will prevail. I also think it’s important not to exclude men in this fight. Even back during the suffrage movement of the early 19th century, there were male supporters.

There’s still a long way to go and we’re not there yet. Women are still not taken seriously in many lines of work, such as science and politics, but let’s keep pushing forwards. Spreading awareness, and being there for each other is key. Oh, and when the time comes, never forget to use your vote!

Cathy says:
Really important stuff, Callie, well said. We have to keep fighting, let's never let things slide. What are YOUR views? Leave a COMMENT BELOW and tell us how YOU feel!

Friday, 9 February 2018

CURL UP WITH A CLASSIC: ANNE OF GREEN GABLES

Reader Sophie reveals her thoughts on this timeless children's classic...take a peek!


Sophie says:
I love reading classic books but my absolute favourite has to be ANNE OF GREEN GABLES by Lucy Maud Montgomery (and all the others in the series). I have read it countless times and have collected a small selection of different editions with different covers of all the books in the series. I was most excited when I found an antique edition of Anne of the Island which I found in a charity shop and I am always looking out for more. I have also read a prequel to ANNE OF GREEN GABLES called 'BEFORE GREEN GABLES', written by Budge Wilson, which is her imagining of Anne's life before she got to Green Gables which was fascinating and just as good as the original books. I am now reading the journals of L.M. Montgomery which are just as heart-warming and relatable as her Anne books. I even dressed up as Anne on World Book Day one year! 

The lovely thing about Anne's books (and Montgomery's journals) is how similar life was for teenage girls back in the 19th Century than it is now! Usually, we think life must been very different and boring back then, but teenager issues seem to have always been the same, such as friendship troubles, boy worries, sleepovers still happened, which makes the book as accessible and relatable as ever. 

The first Anne book is about an elderly brother and sister who live at Green Gables, a small farm on Prince Edward Island in Canada. They want to adopt an orphan boy to help out on the farm as the man is getting older and not as strong. A terrible error occurs and they are sent a girl instead - Anne. Girls were generally not wanted for help 'in those days' and not thought of as being strong so they were dreadfully disappointed. Finally, they fall in love with Anne and decide to keep her anyway. Anne has a habit of falling into trouble when she doesn't intend to, which somehow makes us as readers love her even more and makes us giggle too. She has a wonderful outlook on life and makes us see the world through Anne's eyes too. I love her raw portrayal of friendship and happiness as well as pain and unhappiness. Whatever Anne feels, we feel it too.


When I first read the book, I found a friend in Anne. I related to her and felt like she said everything I think in my head but don't say! If I'm feeling sad, I know I can always open an Anne book and feel like I'm with a friend and have a chat with her and she will make me laugh and cheer me up.  I would recommend ANNE OF GREEN GABLES to anyone who has enjoyed current children's or YA books and I would recommend Montgomery's other books including the EMILY OF NEW MOON series which are beautiful books too.

Cathy says: 
What a lovely write-up from Sophie! I LOVED reading about Anne's adventures when I was growing up. Have you read and connected to ANNE OF GREEN GABLES? COMMENT BELOW and tell us what you think!

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

CARMEL: THESE BOOTS ARE MADE FOR WALKING!

Reader Carmel tells us why she'd rather put on her walking boots than hit the gym any day... get out there and find an adventure!


Carmel says:
Our family are the outdoorsy type. This means my childhood was spent getting soaked to the skin in dinghies bobbing about on stormy lakes, or cycling up and down muddy hills, or screaming my head off as I zoomed down yet another zip-wire from the treetops above. This made me quite tough and practical and not scared of a/ camping b/ rain c/ fixing a flat tyre on a bike, all of which I am very happy about.

When I got older though, I realised that most of my friends had different ideas. They preferred the shopping mall to kayaking and abseiling. I tried to show some enthusiasm, but it wasn't really me, and camping and sailing was not for my friends either. Problem. What to do? I started with my two best friends, suggesting country walks with a picnic along the way. They weren't keen, but I chose easy routes and packed doughnuts, and after a couple of tries they were hooked. 'When are we going on our next adventure?' they ask now. I have a boyfriend now and he is just as keen on walking and outdoorsy stuff as I am. We really do have some cool adventures together.

So that's the thing - most of us live in cities, surrounded by buildings and factories and cars. The closest we get to nature is sometimes a picture of a sunrise over the water on Instagram. The closest we get to smelling a flower is when someone squirts air freshener around in the bathroom. That's a shame, because human beings are meant to live alongside nature. It makes us happy. The fresh air, the vitamin D, the exercise that gets our hearts pumping and keeps our muscles strong... all of those things make us healthy and happy. But most of all, it's seeing the wonders of nature, marvelling at a snowy hillside, crossing a stream on stepping stones, looking at lambs in the fields. It's about finding the next adventure, having fun without screens or shopping bags.  Those boots are made for walking - get out there and explore!

Photographs by Marti Stelling - thanks Marti, they're just perfect!

Cathy says:
Love this... one of my resolutions for 2018 is to do more walking and get back to the countryside! Do YOU have a passion or a hobby that means the world to you? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Monday, 5 February 2018

FIVE MINUTE FICTION: THE SNOW KITTENS

Reader Katie has a brilliant snowy story for you... make yourself a hot chocolate, curl up and read!

'Why is it that when I see snow I always think of Frozen?'

I wipe the snowflakes off my eyelashes. It is positively Frozen.

My younger sister laughs and says, 'Because we watch it every Friday afternoon!'

I nod. 'Right' I say. 'When can I show you Spiderman again?'

My sister responds by throwing a snowball at me. We laugh and walk further through the thickening snow.

'Wait, STOP!' I scream, throwing my hands up in shock. My sister was about to back into a soft pile of snow, stained with something bright red.

'It’s blood, isn’t it?' my sister looks round, suddenly concern is etched on her face. I nod, gesturing that she should move away. I kneel against the pile of snow, and lean over. Six kittens mew up at me. The trail of blood trickles off into the distance.

'Oh!' my younger sister cries. Hurriedly, we begin stuffing the bloodstained kittens into the pockets and hoods of our coats, nestling them in our beanies and scarves. We waddle as quickly as we can while trying not to disturb the kittens. Safely home, with no sign of their mother, we clean them gently and feed them milk. They are named for the location at which they were probably born, and where we found them. Flake, Blizzard, Crush, Icy and Snowball blink up at me. There is just one kitten left to name. I sit back on my heels and think.

'Ruby' I turn to my sister, knowing we will never forget the blood-stained snow.

Cathy says:
Oooh... I want to know more! How did they end up there? Why? Fab stuff, Katie! If YOU love to write, why not give a 'like' to the CC Facebook Fan Page and join in with the regular story challenges? And feel free to COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 4 February 2018

VICKY: THE SADDEST SUMMER

Reader Vicky describes a trust broken and a summer crush that ended on a sad, sour note... 

Vicky says:
I went to summer camp last August and met my senior mentor on the first day. I didn't think much of him at first, but after a few days of doing trust activities and talking, I realised I had feelings for him. It wasn't anything major - I knew that because I'd only just met him and there was so much I didn't know about him. All the same, I told my new friends how I felt. Maybe because we'd talked so much about trust on the programme, I thought I could trust them with the secret, but almost at once they began to tease me about it. By the second week they started acting funny whenever I mentioned him - they kept telling me to let it go or focus on someone closer to my own age, and not a nineteen year old guy. Being naive, I carried on spinning daydreams about him, knowing I was way too shy to make any moves.

On the last day I was at camp, he withdrew a promise he had made at the start of the programme. We all had him on Snapchat - he said he would give us his number so he could send us information if any of us wanted to try out for being a senior mentor in future. He suddenly changed his mind and when I asked about this he acted like there was a different reason that I wanted his number.

A few days after the programme finished, my friends were talking about his snaps but I couldn't see them. I checked his contact on my phone and saw that he had blocked me. When I told me friends they told me something they should have told me from the start - he knew all along that I had a crush on him and he'd been telling them the whole time that I was acting creepy and being clingy. Needless to say, I was horribly embarrassed about it all. For a long time I tuned out everything to do with that summer camp, because I didn't want to think about how silly I'd been, trusting people I'd barely met with such a big secret. Trusting people to be true to me. On graduation day, I refused to even look at him, and I think it was clear I wanted nothing to do with him ever again.

Cathy says:
Trust is such an important thing for any friendship, and Vicky put her faith in new friends who quickly let her down - her mentor did not handle the situation well either, so no wonder she feels upset and hurt by what happened. Have YOU ever had your trust broken by those you thought were friends? Or found a teacher or mentor has let you down? COMMENT BELOW to have your say.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

YOUR STARS FOR FEBRUARY

Skye Tanberry reads your stars for the coming month... is love in the air, this Valentines? Read on to find out!

AQUARIUS: Jan 20 - Feb 18
It’s easy to take for granted the small things in life, but often it’s where true happiness lies; going for hot chocolate with a friend, singing in the shower, you name it! February holds new and exciting opportunities but make sure you leave time for the small pleasures!

PISCES: Feb 19 - Mar 20
The sun may be hiding away this month but there is plenty of shine in your smile to go around! You’re often used to being ‘The Shy One’ but why not reach out to someone unexpected? Make a new friend? Who knows what adventures are in store!

ARIES: Mar 21 - Apr 20
A new moon, a new project? Creative, inventive and expressive you are always on the lookout for something new to get your hands on. Take inspiration from the moon... and paint your feelings like stars in the sky!

TAURUS: Apr 21 - May 20
Run wild! Sing with the wind! Dance your way through those winter blues! Be at one with nature, notice sounds around you that you otherwise wouldn’t. It’s easy to be distracted with day-to-day life but there are so many little things that can give you a boost when you need it most.

GEMINI: May 21 - Jun 20
Looove is in the air, but not in the way you’d expect! Instead of romance this month, you may find you discover a hidden hobby. Explore your creative side! There’s something just waiting for you to fall in love with!

CANCER: Jun 21 - Jul 21
You are sensitive, thoughtful and romantic…well, it’s really your month, isn’t it? You care very deeply about things which often makes you very shy. Why not take a risk? Send that Valentines card you’re always too shy to send? If that’s not your style, there are no rules against treating yourself to a Valentine day out with friends!

LEO: Jul 22 - Aug 21
Oooh! An exciting month for you! Your energies are focussed on achievement and success, there is no stopping you! Just remember to think of others along the way... maybe you can help them to achieve their own dreams!

VIRGO: Aug 22 - Sept 21
It’s ok to fail. Even adults fail, and they’re supposed to know what they’re doing! The important thing is to learn from your mistakes, but most importantly of all, forgive yourself, and forgive others too. Things don't always run smoothly, but they'll work out in the end!

LIBRA: Sept 22 - Oct 22
An unexpected journey is in store for you this month. Not necessarily a physical one... maybe an emotional one? Watch out for those around you who incite adventure and spontaneity. You’re not usually one to accept change, but maybe this could be a lesson?

SCORPIO: Oct 23 - Nov 21
Love interests lie ahead! Welcome or unwelcome, there is a secret admirer heading your way this month. It may not be what you had planned - but even so, it may blossom into something you never expected! Keep an open mind and see what unfolds.

SAGITTARIUS: Nov 22 - Dec 21
The natural-born traveller in you is itching for adventure! You love to discover new things and new places, so why not plan a trip with your friends or family? Winter beaches are always magical… wrap up warm and let your love for life shine!

CAPRICORN: Dec 22 - Jan 19
Patient, practical and determined... you like to get things done. People can sometimes read you as stubborn but they don’t know your humble, caring heart. Try letting your soft side shine through, you may find you connect more with people. It's OK to show your true self!

Cathy says:
Very exciting things in store this month by the looks of it! Do Skye's predictions ring true for YOU? COMMENT BELOW to let us know!

Friday, 2 February 2018

HOLLIE: ROOM TO DREAM!

Reader Hollie tells us about her hideaway... a perfect place to chill and dream!

Hollie says:
I have the smallest room in the house (it’s even smaller than the bathroom!) Being the second child, my sister was automatically assigned the large room with three windows looking out onto the garden and I have the room that London buses go past at 11.34 at night. But my room is my heaven. It’s small, but perfectly formed!

Because it’s so small we could afford to have Laura Ashley wallpaper and wooden flooring put through it, but, to be fair, you can’t see a great deal of the wallpaper for all the pictures and paintings on the wall!

As you can see, I’m not a minimalist sort of person; I don’t do classy wallpaper on a feature wall and clean white furniture and a pot plant. I have Ikea furniture up to the ceiling on one wall (God bless Swedish Flatpacks) because of course you need somewhere to store the large amount of notebooks and socks I have acquired over the years. Any visible wall is full of photographs of the people I love, paintings my gorgeous friends have done for me, and a MASSIVE nail varnish station because I went through a phase when I was 14. It’s busy, and it’s quirky and it’s not for the claustrophobic. But it’s for me, and when I lie down with three sets of fairy lights a-glow at bedtime (I have to use a tower because I only have two plug sockets) then the world just seems warmer, and more Hollie-fied. And isn't that just what a bedroom should be?

Cathy says:
Lovely! Your room looks so cosy, Hollie! It's fab to have your own space, even if it's tiny... it gives you room to dream! Do YOU have a cool bedroom retreat? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

YOUR STARS FOR SEPTEMBER

With the shifting of seasons, we all need a little guidance from the stars. Skye predicts once more, your future!  LIBRA: Sept 22 - Oct 2...