Monday, 5 December 2016

MOVIE MONDAY: FANTASTIC BEASTS & WHERE TO FIND THEM

Reader Katie reviews FANTASTIC BEASTS & WHERE TO FIND THEM... perfect holiday viewing!


Katie says:
I sat with sticky ice cream fingers... and suddenly the Warner Brothers logo appeared on screen. Magical, with the same haunting music that we all know so well from HARRY POTTER. Did you know that the 'S' in FANTASTIC BEASTS & WHERE TO FIND THEM is a dragon? I didn't! It's pretty cool. It was all ghostly and eerie for a while, then Newt Scamander's face appeared on screen. With the same cheeky charm Eddie Redmayne used to bring Stephen Hawking to the silver screen, and that he is now known for, Newt coos to his suitcase. Yes, coos to his suitcase! It took me approximately six seconds to fall in love with Newt Scamander (Newt ScamAnder if you want to pronounce it the way they do in the movie!) and it will take you about the same time.

FANTASTIC BEASTS is full of action, wit and romance. It coems straight from JK Rowling and David Yates, the greats that have brought HARRY POTTER to us in multiple platforms. This movie -wait for it - is set in 1920s New York (swoon!) but you will be spooked as you come along for the ride in this spectacular visual treat. It's clever, it's what us Potterheads have been waiting for, it's in a league of its own. Meet the ultimate Magizoologist: Newt Scamander!

PS: If you've read the textbook for Comic Relief, you'll be able to pick a few things up.

PPS: Watch in 3D for an extra special treat!

Cathy says:
This is on my treat list for December... and Katie's review makes it seem more delectable than ever! Are YOU a movie buff? Want to share your views on a fab film or even review one for DREAMCATCHER? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 4 December 2016

YOUR STARS FOR DECEMBER!

It's horoscope time again on DREAMCATCHER, and Skye Tanberry has been consulting the stars... will her predictions ring true for YOU this Christmas?


SAGITTARIUS (22 Nov - 21 Dec)
A dramatic month... not everything will work out as you have hoped, but you'll handle the resulting dilemmas well because you are seeing things more clearly and calmly than you have for some time. In the midst of it all, things begin falling into place in a very powerful way... just in time for Christmas, in fact!

CAPRICORN (22 Dec - 19 Jan)
Life has a few curve-balls to throw at you this month, but even so it's a positive time with lots of laughs and support from friends and family. Make sure you show your appreciation, even if it's just in little ways... the more you put in to those relationships, the more they will give back to you. Christmas is the perfect time of year to show that you care!

AQUARIUS (20 Jan - 18 Feb)
A good close to the year for Aquarius... make the most of the good energy and positive atmosphere. A Christmas romance may be on the cards, but be wary of treating it as anything more than a little bit of festive fun... the magic of the season might just be making you see things through rose-tinted glasses.

PISCES (19 Feb - 20 March)
Life is opening up for you this month... opportunities to follow your heart and stand by the beliefs, values and dreams you hold true are right there for the taking. A word of warning... Christmas can be a stressful time and trouble may be brewing behind the scenes with friends, so hold steady and don't be dragged into petty disputes.

ARIES (21 Mar - 19 Apr)
Everyone around you is in full party mode, trying to fit all they can into the month... but you need to stay calm and get organised! Slow progress is better than running around in a panic, so plan things out and work steadily through your 'to do' list so you can kick back and really enjoy Christmas when it comes!

TAURUS (20 Apr - 20 May)
You're in your element this month... totally swayed by the magic of the season and falling for one festive crush after another. There's time enough in 2017 to let your head rule your heart - for now, just enjoy the fun and do all you can to spread the Christmas magic too!

GEMINI (21 May - 20 Jun)
You've had a fraught year and your usual love of the Christmas season has been late to kick in, but the stars are turning and you'll see far more progress this month than for some time, both work-wise and fun-wise. Ride the wave, but remember to relax a little too... you're moving forward after a long time of being stuck, and that's definitely something to celebrate.

CANCER (21 jun - 22 Jul)
Testing times may lie ahead this December, but you've worked hard all year and that effort will be rewarded. Try not to party too hard - your energy levels are not 100% - but stay confident, because you have all you need to handle any bumps in the road that this month has in store. An unexpected challenge may have a truly awesome outcome!

LEO (23 Jul - 22 Aug)
You've had such a roller-coaster year you may be in too much of a hurry to leave it all behind, but even if you're not quite feeling the Christmas spirit yet hang on... the magic will find you. Christmas isn't always about parties and prezzies, it can be about snuggling up with a hot chocolate, a good book or a festive DVD and giving yourself some much needed down-time.

VIRGO (23 Aug - 22 Sept)
Ever feel like the universe keeps playing the same old tricks on you? That the same things keep going wrong, over and over? Could be that fate is trying to teach you a lesson! Look at what's happening and think about what you could do differently to avoid repeating the pattern. This lesson could end up being the best Christmas gift of the whole season!

LIBRA (23 Sept - 22 Oct)
It's going to be an emotional month! Christmas often brings family stress and friendship troubles fizzing to the surface, and you may find yourself acting as peacemaker to those you love. Make sure this doesn't drag you down or trigger YOUR stress levels! Building in fun time with friends or traditional festive activities with family can help you get everything back in perspective.

SCORPIO (23 Oct - 21 Nov)
2016 has been a challenge at times, but this month everything looks lined up for a pretty awesome December! Follow your instincts and listen to your heart and unexpected chances and events will unfold before you... add the magic of Christmas to all of this and you're looking at a genuinely wonderful few weeks. Enjoy!

Cathy says:
Did Skye's predictions strike a chord for YOU? Here's hoping you're all set for a Christmas to remember... for all the right reasons! COMMENT BELOW to let us know how December is shaping up so far!

Saturday, 3 December 2016

GOODBYE MY OLD FRIEND...

Have you ever lost a treasured animal friend? Cathy writes about the recent death of her beloved lurcher Kelpie...


Cathy says:
The first time I met Kelpie, she was twelve weeks old. She'd been born in rescue kennels, her mother found abandoned on the streets of Glasgow. Kelpie had already been rehomed twice and brought back to the kennels twice by the time I met her... she was an anxious, nervous dog and had a habit of shredding things when she was upset, but really? Brought back to the kennels TWICE before she was even twelve weeks old? She jumped up at me, scratched my lip and made it bleed, but I could see the hope and panic in her eyes. She came home with me that day.

Kelpie fitted into our family easily. Our elderly cat made it clear he was the boss, and she quickly sussed that the pet rabbits were family too. My kids, aged eight and nine, loved her on sight, and my son even managed to forgive her when she ate his entire copy of LORD OF THE RINGS. My daughter and I took her to dog training classes, where she was the worst in the class - but she was brilliant at recall, because she always wanted to be with me, and after ten weeks she was given a certificate to say she had passed. (I think they were just being kind!) My daughter did dance every weekend, and while she was at lessons Kelpie and I walked for hours on Ayr beach - Kelpie chased the seagulls and never quite worked out why she couldn't catch them. She still hated being left, and once when I had to rush a poorly daughter into the toilets at the supermarket after a dance class, we returned ten minutes later to find Kelpie had torn up the back seat of the car. Oops!

Kelpie was a loner dog by nature, but after my dad died in 2007 we adopted his rescue greyhound, Daisy. Later, we found ourselves fostering a rescue lurcher, Finn, who ended up staying too. By then, our old cat had died and Kelpie was also putting up with three tough cats and several more rabbits. As long as she had us, she didn't care. She came on holiday with us to Ireland and the Lakes, and we discovered that she hated camping, loved camper vans and adored the tepee we bought after my first book DIZZY was published. In fact, the character of Leggit in DIZZY and LUCKY STAR was based very firmly on her! Kelpie often appeared in Puffin publicity shots and photo shoots, though attempts to dress her up as a festival dog always failed - if I tried to put a bandana round her neck, she'd just eat it. (If you spotted the reindeer antlers in the pic above, know that they stayed on her head for roughly three seconds...)

The problem is, dogs don't live as long as we do. By the time we moved from Galloway to Merseyside, Kelpie was slowing down. I gave her supplements to help her joints and runs in the park with Finn kept her young, but by the summer of 2016 I knew she was struggling, getting forgetful, and needing painkillers for her achey hips. Her heart was weak too... my lovely dog friend was sixteen and getting old. When my mum died this October, the whole world seemed to slow. We carried on, but every day felt like an ordeal, and in the midst of all this I could see Kelpie starting to fade. Still, every day she liked to run in the park. One day, we commented on how well she was running. She circled the park, chasing Finn who was in turn chasing squirrels. She followed him up a little hill and vanished out of sight, and when Finn came back Kelpie didn't. I found her fallen at the foot of the hill, unable to stand and screaming when we tried to lift her. Liam ran home to fetch my son and I sat beside her in the morning mist, telling her she would soon be flying high, catching the seagulls and squirrels she'd never managed to catch in life. We lifted her onto my parka and into a wheelbarrow (she was a big dog, a deerhound cross) and we took her back to the house and on to the vet, who told us it was time to let her go. I held her, stroked her, cried into her fur as she slipped away.

Kelpie was a very special dog to me, a soul sister. Her nervy, enthusiastic, sometimes grumpy and dishevelled persona was the dog equivalent of me, and I miss her just as keenly as if she had been human. If there is an afterlife, I hope she'll be there, waiting for me, running faster than the wind through the clouds to catch imaginary seagulls. I will never forget her.

Have YOU ever lost a much-loved pet? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more, or write to Cathy via the EMAIL CATHY link on www.cathycassidy.com to tell us more.

Friday, 2 December 2016

MEGAN'S BLOG TIPS: BALANCING SCHOOL & BLOGGING!

Blogger Megan is back with more fab tips for those of you who like to blog... this time, on getting the school/ blogging balance right! Read on...

Megan says:
It can be tough to balance schoolwork and blogging, especially when you're starting out... here's my advice on balancing your education and your creative hobby!

Tip #1: Planning
A little bit of organisation goes a long way. If you find you're stressing over completing everything on time, take a few minutes out to plan your day, week or month ahead. I use calendars and to-do lists, but some prefer planners... basically, organise in whatever way suits you best, but organise! Planning out the next few weeks helps you to get everything into perspective. A task doesn't seem so big once you've written it down!

Tip #2: Make a blog schedule
I only started using a blog schedule recently and it has worked really well. I now aim to post once a week which helps me to organise when I will start writing. By making a schedule, I automatically organise the jobs I need to do throughout the week. I take photos on a Saturday, write on a Sunday, then try to post on a Monday! When you schedule a time to post, you know when there's time to do homework and you can plan when to do it!

Tip #3: Rules
Sometimes it's tempting to write your blog and neglect your homework, but the truth is, education is more important right now. You need a simple set of rules to keep you on track!
- If homework is due tomorrow and your blog post is due the same day, do the homework FIRST,
- Try to get all homework done before writing your blog post for the next week.
- School comes first for now, but don't miss out - make time for your hobby!
You can devise your own rules, but these ones work for me!

Tip #4: Set time limits
When I don't set time limits - for homework or for blogging - I end up spending way too long on just one task. Sometimes I think, 'You have one hour to get this blog post written or you won't post it today,' and this makes me work a bit harder as I want to upload it that day! Then I can move onto homework or whatever else is on my to-do list!

Tip #5: Take breaks
Sometimes you feel like you have to keep powering through a tough to-do list, but don't forget to take breaks! If you have lots to do you may already be feeling stressed, and not taking a break can make that worse. Blogging for a hobby is meant to be fun! Planning is one thing, but don't let it become a chore - you'll soon burn out if you don't stop to relax now and then. A break can be short - I like to do little things like colouring, doodling or watching a comedy show when I take time out!

That's it for my tips on balancing schoolwork and blogging - remember to have fun, and stay organised! If you want to see more of my blog posts, you can check them out here: http://megansmegablog.blogspot.co.uk/

Cathy says:
Love this... I learn something new every time Megan posts her tips on blogging! Would YOU ever write a blog? If so, what would your theme be? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 14 November 2016

YOUR STARS FOR NOVEMBER!

Skye Tanberry has been gazing consulting the stars again to see what predictions your zodiac sign has in store for the month ahead...

SCORPIO (24 Oct - 22 Nov)
This is a mixed up month for you... but though things seem confusing, things are actually changing in a positive way. Don't panic... trust to fate and allow yourself to go with the flow. New opportunities are opening up for you.

SAGITTARIUS (23 Nov - 21 Dec)
Before the year closes, it's time to step back from one particular relationship that has been pulling you down for a while. It's time to protect yourself - and you'll find that new friendships appear to fill the space, as if by magic.

CAPRICORN (22 Dec - 19 Jan)
Arghhh... this month it may feel as if you're rolling backwards instead of moving forwards, and everything you do seems to be misunderstood. This phase will pass, promise - focus on getting practical tasks done and the mood will soon shift.

AQUARIUS (20 Jan - 18 Feb)
Anxiety is stopping you from getting the most from life this month. Work out just what you're so scared of and why - and refuse to let irrational fears hold you back. Tackle this now and 2017 will be a time of real positivity and opportunity.

PISCES (19 Feb - 20 Mar)
Money may be tight right now, and with Christmas looming, that's not good news. Use your creativity to plan personal, individual presents for those you love - whether home made or shoestring cheap, they will mean way more than fancy shop bought gifts.

ARIES (21 Mar - 19 Apr)
This month is a turning point for you... you are at a crossroads, and if you choose wisely, 2017 may be your most exciting year yet. Travel, study and friendships are all looking a whole lot brighter than they have been, too!

TAURUS (20 Apr - 20 May)
The air is sizzling with positive energy for you right now... school work is going well and if you have a special hobby, that seems to be opening up new chances and challenges too. Don't lose sight of your gentle, giving side... a kindness given to others will have its own reward.

GEMINI (21 May - 21 June)
This has not been an easy year, but this spell of painful lessons is drawing to a close. Take some time to think about the future and focus your energy on what you want from the year ahead... what you focus on will come to you, in one form or another.

CANCER (22 June - 22 July)
Why wait until the New Year for a fresh start? Things are changing for you right now, and the stars are making the path forward clear. Whether it's a new friendship, a romance or a dream opportunity, grab it with both hands... things are looking good!

LEO (23 July - 23 Aug)
To change your life you need to change the way you are thinking... unless you do, you will remain stuck in the same stale situations that have been holding you back all year. One small shift in how you handle the stress life throws at you can make a huge difference... you hold the power to change things in your own hands.

VIRGO (24 Aug - 22 Sept)
You've had a tough few months, but your fortunes are changing - and just in time for the festive season, too! Stay strong and ride out the last few storms... a whole bunch of fun, success and prosperity are on their way to you!

LIBRA ( 23 Sept - 23 Oct)
Ooh... romance is on the cards! OK, it's too early to go hunting for the mistletoe, but you're attracting some very positive vibes right now. Start planning your December social life now, because trust me, it's going to be BUSY!

Cathy says:
Hmm, I can't decide if my horoscope prediction is good or bad this month - a bit of both, I think! Does YOUR star sign ring true this month? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Friday, 11 November 2016

HOLLIE: BEST BISCUITS EVER!

Reader Hollie has been baking again... and the results are stunning! Follow her instructions and make some cookie magic of your own!

Hollie says:
These biscuits are fun to make and so effective... and they taste just as good as they look!


You will need:
250g/ 9oz plain flour (extra if the dough is too wet... mine was to begin with!)
200g/ 7oz cold butter, cut into cubes
100g/ 3 ½ oz icing sugar, sifted
2 free range egg yolks, beaten
Raspberry jam
Lemon curd
Chocolate ganache (we made our own by melting milk chocolate with double cream, but you can also buy it ready made if you're not sure of how to make from scratch!)

Method:
- Put the flour, butter and icing sugar into a bowl and rub the butter into the flour  and sugar until it resembles breadcrumbs.
- Add the egg yolks and mix until a dough forms.
- Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out on a floured surface, and use cookie cutters to cut whatever shapes you fancy. We halved the dough and cut half with holes in the centre so we could make 'jammy dodger' style cookies! We used cookie cutters to make the holes various shapes... circles, stars, crescents and hearts!
- Place all of the dough shapes onto baking parchment on a baking sheet and bake at 170c for 14 minutes until cooked through.
- Place cookie shapes on a wire rack to cool.
- Assemble the biscuits. Spread jam, lemon curd or chocolate ganache in the middle of the 'whole' biscuit shapes, and sandwich by placing one with a hole on top.

Simple as that!

Cathy says:
I have never had much success with baking biscuits, but these look SO good I am going to have a go! Do YOU have a favourite sweet treat recipe or are you a kitchen disaster? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Friday, 4 November 2016

ABBIE: I TRAVELLED TO INDIA TO HELP STAMP OUT RABIES!

Newly qualified vet nurse Abbie has just returned from two weeks in India with the charity MISSION RABIES... she tells us why she went and what it was like!

Abbie says:
I was a third year vet student when I started looking into charity projects to volunteer for, and I cam across Mission Rabies, which is part of The World Vet Service group. I wanted to combine my vet nurse skills and love of animals with travel and learning about another culture. Mission Rabies works in places like India to help try to stamp out rabies... it's a disease which affects not just dogs but people, and 99% of cases in humans are passed on by dog bites. So working to eradicate rabies in dogs also hugely benefits the local people, and as well as vaccinating dogs we hand out information leaflets to raise awareness. I had to raise a donation fee and a participation fee in order to take part in the project - this covered the cost of the vaccines and materials, and of our accomodation and food while there. I ran a Just Giving page for three months to raise the funds, had all my innoculations and paid for my own flight out to India.

It was a bit of a culture shock - the climate was so humid and it was a big change in diet and energy levels. We were walking up to 40km every day, which was hard work! We got up at 5.30am every day and packed up boxes of needles, syringes, vaccines and paint - after vaccinating a dog, we would paint a red mark on their head to show they had been treated. I worked in a team with a Dog's Trust worker called Amy and a newly qualified vet from Nepal called Samir, and a group of local guys who acted as 'catchers' to catch the dogs in big nets. Working with scared or aggressive dogs was a challenge and dealing with people who had different cultural beliefs and a different language was also hard at times. For example, sometimes we'd be explaining that you don't need to hit a dog to get it to do something, and that skin conditions and injuries need to be treated.

There were many street dogs and strays, sometimes in a very poor condition, although some were living in a happy and sustainable way. Really sick dogs were always taken back to the centre to be helped. The World Vet Service also run schemes to neuter dogs, which is great as well. It's easy to fall in love with a street dog and want to rescue it, but as a vet nurse I know we have so many unwanted dogs here in the UK and importing more just adds to the problem. It's better to work with those animals in their own environment. The Mission rabies scheme aims to stamp out rabies in the next few years, and it was great to think that we were helping in that. We had fun too... we saw some amazing sights, ate great food in local cafes and learned so much about the Indian culture. The tea was really strange - strong, sweet and syrupy! It was an unforgettable experience... I will never regret it.

You can find out more about MISSION RABIES here.

To home an unwanted dog in the UK, check out DOG'S TRUST.

Cathy says:
This is a brilliant and inspiring story... well done Abbie! Have YOU ever thought of working with animals? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!