Saturday, 20 December 2014

LUCY: THINGS TO DO IN THE CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS!

Reader Lucy has some fab ideas on making the Christmas holidays extra special this year… read on and see!


Lucy says:
I am guilty of being a HUGE Christmas lover and also guilty of never getting anything useful done in the Christmas holidays - which isn't great, as I am supposed to be revising for my exams! This year, I have devised a list of fun things to do… some are quick activities and some might take a whole day. The list is keeping me on track, and I hope it'll help you to get some things done too. (And who knows, I might even have time left over for revision!)

1. Give someone a hug! This one is really easy - with all the festive cheer zooming around it's actually quite hard not to hug everyone in sight!

2. Go on a winter walk… believe it or not, winter is one of the most beautiful times of the year. The trees are coated in a fine layer of glittery frost… and everywhere seems more peaceful.

3. Decorate a branch. Sounds a bit strange but the result is stunning! While on your walk, look out for a suitable branch… and when you get home, prop it up somewhere and twine fairy lights all around it and decorate the branches with baubles.

4. Make hanging birds. This craft can turn your windows into beautiful works of art. Simply print out a template of a little bird and cut out bird shapes from card. Cut a little piece of wrapping paper to stick on the breast of the bird so that it looks like the red breast of a robin. Next, take a small rectangular piece of paper and fold/pleat it several times do that it looks like a little fan. Make a slit in the bird shape where the wings should be and slide the 'fan' through the gap. Make sure the paper is even on each side. Finally, thread some string through the bird's back and hang in the window!

5. Dance wildly to Christmas songs. They are possibly the best and happiest songs EVER! I cannot wait to start rocking out to those Christmassy tunes. Plug in the music and dance away - who cares if people think you are crazy? They're missing out on all the fun!

6. Bake Christmas cupcakes! To make these, you will need…
4oz self-raising flour
4oz caster sugar
4oz butter
2 eggs
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Fondant icing, writing icing, cupcake cases
* Preheat oven to 180 degrees and cream sugar and butter together.
* Sieve in flour, cocoa powder and baking powder.
* Beat the eggs and whisk into the mixture.
* Mix thoroughly and spoon into cupcake cases.
* Cook for 15-20 minutes (it depends on your oven). To tell if they're cooked, stick a skewer into one cupcake; if it comes out clean, the cakes are ready.
* Once cooled, use a cookie cutter to cut out fondant icing tops for each cake and decorate with writing icing!

There you go… a short, sweet list of things to keep you busy this Christmas! Why not take a picture of everything you try, or jot the ideas into a notebook? If you've been having a hard time lately, put your troubles to one side and feel the Christmas love. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Cathy says:
Brilliant stuff, Lucy… now back to that revision! Do YOU have any Christmas rituals and traditions to share? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Friday, 19 December 2014

MAKE A CUTE TREE ANGEL...

Christmas tree looking a little bare? A little soulless? You still have time to add some Christmas magic with this cute heirloom angel…


Cathy says:
Ten or fifteen years ago, before my books really took off, I loved Christmas because it meant craft fairs and making stuff. Every year, I'd think up new designs for cards and decorations, and one year I made lots of these little tree angels using old fashioned clothes pegs ('dolly' pegs) as a base. We're getting kind of close to Christmas now, so I thought I'd show you how…

You will need a 'dolly' peg to start with… the old fashioned wooden kind with a rounded top and two long 'legs'. Old fashioned hardware shops are a good hunting ground, but art and craft shops sell them too… and of course, they are very cheap online too. While you are ordering - or rooting around that craft shop - buy a hank of raffia, too. What else will you need? As well as your 'dolly' peg and raffia, you need a needle and thread; scissors; fine cotton/muslin fabric, cream or white; white PVA glue; star sprinkles/ sequins; Sharpie pen in black & red; scrap of netting; gold embroidery thread. Now you're ready to go!

* Draw dot eyes and nose onto your peg with Sharpie pen; add red lips and cheeks.
* Cut a rectangle of cotton/muslin fabric 12cm x 6cm. Fray about 1cm at either end of the rectangle.
* Stitch the rectangle neatly into a tube, turn inside out to hide seam.
* Cut 3 lengths of raffia, 16cm long. Tie a knot at each end, approx 2cm in from the ends.
* Poke the raffia through the tube of fabric with raffia peeping out at either end… this will be the arms.
* Cut another rectangle of fabric 16cm x 11cm. Turn a hem at the top and run thread through, gathering the fabric neatly.
* Glue the gathered fabric around the top of the 'dolly' peg's body to make a dress.
* Fray the bottom of the dress and glue on a few gold/silver stars.
* Glue or stitch arms onto the back of the angel.
* Cut a scrap of netting 12cm x 6cm and glue or stitch to back of arms/dress.
* Glue on some lengths of raffia for the hair…
* Then add a 'halo' or headband from gold embroidery thread… and sit her on a branch! Awww!

Do YOU have any Christmas craft makes? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Thursday, 18 December 2014

MY BEST CHRISTMAS EVER…

I wanted to hear about YOUR best ever Christmas... this is what you said!

Charlotte says:
Christmas 2004 was my best Christmas ever. I was four years old, and a month earlier, my new baby sister had been born. My Granny and I both really wanted her to be called Chloe, but my parents decided to name her Amelia. At first I was really upset that nobody had listened to me - I was only four, remember! People kept visiting in the evenings and at weekends to see the new baby but they didn't pay any attention to me; I felt so jealous of Amelia. Then, on Christmas morning, I got a baby doll with a card saying 'My name is Chloe'. I instantly fell in love with her and took her to church with me that day. Everybody made a fuss over me and MY baby, and suddenly I felt more included. I became my best Christmas ever, as I had TWO cute babies. One stayed cute and baby-like, but the other grew up into a stroppy little sister… ;o)

Rebecca says:
I love Christmas so much that I don't think I could choose a certain year I liked the most! There is a photo from when I was four and my sister Lauren was three, and Mum was at home back then and we did so many Christmas crafts and painted loads of cards. It was messy but so much fun! We made biscuits, paper chains, cakes, gingerbread houses… actually, we still make a gingerbread house every year! I am really looking forward to Christmas this year, probably because I am getting a bit older and I want to make the most of it while I still can!

Grace says: 
My best ever Christmas was years ago when me and my siblings were little. I don't really remember what we got or who got us what, but the floor was covered in wrapping paper and my dad filmed it all on the camcorder. I was more excited to be playing in the sea of wrapping paper and scrunching pieces of it up into little balls to throw at my brother! Watching that piece of film now is the most amazing thing ever; it captures the joy and innocence of it all. I have always loved Christmas and especially when I was little, way back when I still believed in Santa and his flying reindeer. It has always seemed like the most magical time of the year!

Kiera says:
The best Christmas ever was almost two years ago when I got my first ever concert tickets, to go and see One Direction in March (at Easter). I was ever so slightly over-excited! The actual concert was the best thing ever… I had an amazing time. Ever since, I have wanted to go back to that moment - the moment they came on stage - so I could re-live those few hours. My friends were all really happy for me, too! It's almost two years since that special Christmas, and I will never forget it!

Ellie says:
Well, I'm not sure it was my BEST exactly but the most memorable Christmas I can think of was the year we were all sitting around the table eating Christmas dinner and my dad - or possibly my brother - jumped up to get something and knocked over the Christmas tree. The whole thing came tumbling down… right in the middle of our dinner. Oops! I do love Christmas… it doesn't have to be like on the movies, but the little things like hot chocolate and sledging and getting sent home early from school because of the snow… they're what make it special. We don't have turkey, we have a chicken roast and a nut roast, which I am sure Coco would appreciate!

Cathy says:
Naaaw… so cute! Can you remember YOUR best Christmas ever? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

MY FAVOURITE CHRISTMAS SONG….

We asked what your favourite Christmas song was… here are your answers! Naaaw…

Gemma says:

My favourite Christmas song is… well, I've got two! Number one is Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer, because it never ceases to make me laugh. And number two is called Pohutukowa Christmas… it's a New Zealand song, and I like it because it's one of the few Christmas songs that talk about 'celebrating in the sun' instead of everything being all about snow and a white Christmas. Plus, it's a Kiwi song!


Robyn says:

My favourite Christmas song is Wonderful Christmas Time by Paul McCartney. It really reminds me of going to the pantomimes when I was little, as they always seemed to be playing it in the theatre whilst we waited for the show to begin. It always brings back happy memories!


Kaylee says:

I really like Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas Is You… and I can thank my class this year for that! Not only is it fun to sing but the words mean a lot to me. I also love Silent Night… it's a really beautiful song. Another favourite is a Japanese translated version of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer sung by Sailor Moon… it's Japanese, so why not?

Rachael says:
My favourite - well, favourites - is definitely the Band Aid songs, the different variations of Do They Know It's Christmas. I love the way they manage to gather everyone together in one big community to do something amazing for charity. It doesn't just raise money, it raises awareness and also makes us think just how lucky we are to have presents and a delicious warm dinner on Christmas Day.

Stephanie-Jade says:
The Fairytale of new York is my favourite - a classic, but a fabulous one! I'm really into Christmas music at all, but that song is an exception.

Jasmine says:
Yes, the Pogues' Fairytale of New York has always stuck out to me. It has great lyrics and the voices are great too! My favourite Christmas film is Christmas With The Kranks, and the song from that is my ringtone… I love it, it reminds me of my childhood!

Autumn says:
I don't mind Christmas Wrapping by the Waitresses. I usually detest soppy, sentimental Christmas songs but this is a bit more upbeat and catchy. It reminds me of Mum singing as she cooked Christmas dinner so it puts me in the Christmas mood. I did once sing Silent Night in French (Sante Nuit) at a Christmas concert with my classmates. I still remember the first two verses. Fair enough, right? Aside from 'Silent night, holy night; all is calm, all is bright,' I don't know any of the words in English!


Caoilinn says:

My favourite song is The Twelve Days of Christmas. When I was little we used to have this video with all the Christmas carols on it, with a Mickey Mouse cartoon, and that song was on it. I used to think that the bit about a partridge in a pear tree was 'par pear in a pear pee…' I know, I know, I was VERY little, OK?

Cathy says:
I think I'll opt for Fairytale of New York too… or maybe Stop the Cavalry… or I Believe in Father Christmas… or Christmas Wrapping… no, hang on… oh, I can't choose! What's YOUR favourite Christmas song? COMMENT BELOW to tell me!

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

GRACE: I FEEL LIKE I'M LOSING EVERYTHING...

Another in our regular problem page series… reader Grace asks Coco Tanberry for advice.

Grace says:
My horse riding stables is going to be closing down after Christmas and I don't know what to do. I am a mega horse fan and I practically live at the stables; in the holidays I'm there from morning until evening. I have my lesson and then hang around with my friends and help out with the horses. I have so many good friends there, and of course, I'll really miss the horses too. I love being there and I know I will be lost without it…

Coco says:
Oh no… I really feel for you, Grace. I don't know what I'd do if my local stables closed down. Try asking your friends at the stables where they will be going for riding lessons once this place closes… there may be other options that you can check out. What do your family think? They will be aware of how much your riding means to you; talk to them about how you feel. If joining another stables is not an option, make the best of the situation… make arrangements to stay in touch with your riding school friends and investigate other classes, hobbies and activities that will keep you busy out of school time. Is there an animal rescue or pony sanctuary you can volunteer at? Perhaps a summer pony trekking holiday or a week perfecting your show jumping skills could be fun things to look forward to? And if horses mean so much to you, check out college courses in equestrian studies for after school… things may not be working out for you right now, but in the long run they still can. Good luck, Grace.

Cathy says:
Good advice from Coco… would YOU add anything more to it? COMMENT BELOW to have your say...

Monday, 15 December 2014

SNOWFLAKES & WISHES… LAWRIE'S STORY

A brand new winter story just for you... Snowflakes & Wishes is perfect for any Chocolate Box Girls fan!

Cathy says:
The last of four e-book shorts this year, Snowflakes & Wishes is out NOW… it tells Lawrie Marshall's story, and it's the perfect read to set you up for Fortune Cookie in May. (Yes, May… the publication date has been brought forward!)

Lawrie and his sister Jas and their mum Sandy are heading back to Tanglewood for New Year… unaware of the dramas about to unfold. If you like adventure, join Coco and Lawrie for a story that will  have you dreaming of snowy Tanglewood nights and biting your nails as Lawrie and Coco find themselves in the middle of a very unexpected rescue. And if you're wondering if there'll be any romance between Lawrie and Coco, a year on from Coco Caramel… well, you might just find that out, too!

Snowflakes & Wishes is available in e-book format only for now, but next autumn all four e-books will be collected into book-form for you to enjoy. Whoop! Right now, though, Snowflakes & Wishes is only 99p in the Amazon Kindle store… and if you don't have a Kindle or e-reader, it could be worth borrowing one so you don't miss out! Also, if you have a smartphone, tablet or computer, you can always download the Kindle app for free so you don't have to miss out!
Have you read this year's other three e-book shorts yet? Check out Chocolates & Flowers: Alfie's StoryHopes & Dreams: Jodie's StoryMoon & Stars: Finch's Story too! Chocolate Box Girls story. They are all available from amazon.co.uk and other e-book stores now… and they give you lots of extra insights into the world of the Tanberry-Costello sisters and the boys and friends in their lives!
They'd also make a perfect pocket-money prezzie for a friend!

You can buy SNOWFLAKES & WISHES here…
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Snowflakes-Wishes-Lawries-Cathy-Cassidy-ebook/dp/B00PTJ2SSE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1418684245&sr=8-1&keywords=snowflakes+%26+wishes

Cathy says:
Have you read SNOWFLAKES & WISHES yet? If so, COMMENT BELOW to tell me your verdict… and let me know what you're hoping for from FORTUNE COOKIE in May!

Sunday, 14 December 2014

YOUR BEST & WORST CHRISTMAS PREZZIES...

We asked you for your best and worst Christmas prezzies… and this is what you told us!

Hazel says:
Ooh, hard… well, my best present is probably the books I've gotten over the years, and the tablet I got last year. My worst Christmas present? Undoubtedly the 'Learn How To Ballroom Dance' CD we got a few years ago. No offence to any ballroom dancers, but my brother and I do not want todo that, even if we DO like watching Strictly Come Dancing!

Emma says:
My favourite presents… well, this year I'm getting a laptop and I am super excited! My parents finally decided I needed one for my upcoming GCSEs and are getting it for me for Christmas. Past great presents… well probably just the little things, toys when I was younger, books as I got older and now iTunes vouchers! My worst present? Well, one year my nan got me fudge, which was really sweet of her as I love it… but she got me peanut butter flavour, and I hate nuts. She also got me chocolate fudge and it was all spongy and strange. Not good!

Deborah says:
My best is actually a present I didn't think much of at first. It was a Playstation 3 game called Dance On Broadway and after a while I grew to really love it.  Now, dance games are top of my list of fave things to play. I think the only presents I can classify as the worst are the ones involving bath salts and creams, but that's not because I don't like them, it's because they're the products that tend to make my eczema flare up more.

Blue says:
Hmm, my sisters presents tend not to be good. She gets me moisturisers and bath stuff, forgetting I have tons already. I have had plenty of good gifts… phones… my MP3 (I still use it even though the screen is scratched and cracked). My Salvador Dali 'melting' clock. A little build your own motorcycle model kit. Piercings. A book on how to draw monsters. And it may seem small and insignificant but Toby
bought me a bottle of Hello Kitty perfume once and it smells just like cherries, which is awesome. My Pusheen hoodie arrived today - I was supposed to give it to mum to put away for Christmas but I made the mistake of opening it to admire it, and I'm too attached now…

Saffie says:
I think my best and worst thing are actually the same. My worst thing is not the average 'worst prezzie' - it's not a hand-knitted jumper two sizes too small that your gran knitted you five years ago and then forgot about; no, for me, it's my phone. Don't get me wrong, I love it more than anything and if I had to choose between a life and my phone, I'd pick the phone. But that's the problem! I am so, so anti-social! I am never off it. But I am also so grateful for this phone… and that makes it my best present ever, too!

Hannah says:
I once got an electric metronome from my nanna when I was eight. It started ticking before I opened it and I genuinely thought it was some kind of bomb!

Laura says:
My worst present was coat hangers. Nice coat hangers, but still… coat hangers. My best presents have always been books…

Grace says:
Best present I ever got was a new purple journal. Worst present? A Justin Bieber CD and calendar.

Martha says:
My worst present was socks… my best was a pony to loan.

Harley says:
When I was ten, I wanted to learn guitar. Santa left me an acoustic guitar… five years ago, when I was thirteen, I finally learned to play it!

Cathy says:
My best Christmas prezzie was a small toy pony, about the size of my hand, when I was eight or nine; that or the Jackie annuals I collected as a teenager. The worst? An orange padded nylon jacket my dad bought from a garage, convinced I'd love it, when I was fifteen. Er… no. COMMENT BELOW to tell us your best and worst Christmas prezzies...