Thursday, 5 May 2016

JO COTTERILL: A LIBRARY OF LEMONS...

My author pal Jo has a new book out today... read on to find out all about A LIBRARY OF LEMONS!


Jo says:
What I like about writing is that no two books are the same. Sometimes a character pops into my head and I just have to write a story to fit him or her - or sometimes I start with 'What if?' which is a brilliant way to come up with ideas. A LIBRARY OF LEMONS started with the title. I have no idea where it came from, but one day, there it was, in my head - and the title gave me the whole story! Well... not quite the whole story. It gave me the basic idea: that a girl lives in a house with her father, who is a recluse. They both love books and have a whole room each in the house just for their books. They can go hours without talking to each other or seeing anyone, just lost in their books. And the father is writing a huge non-fiction book called A History of the Lemon. But unknown to his daughter, he's not quite as sane as he appears... and before long she uncovers a shocking secret that's going to change both of their lives.

Once I had my idea, I started writing. I love that stage - not quite knowing who my characters are and allowing them to tell me along the way. My central character is Calypso. She has red hair and her heroine is Anne of Green Gables. She doesn't have friends, not in the usual sense. She has books instead - they're easier to get along with than people. At the beginning of the story, a new girl comes to school and is determined to make friends with Calypso. Mae comes from a 'normal' family (although at one point in the book, the girls try to make a list of what's 'normal' and have trouble with it!) and she loves books too. Before long, Calypso has been captivated by this funny, warm and welcoming family and begins to wonder if, perhaps, friendship is something she should have after all.

Some books can be easily summed up in one sentence. I can't do that with this one, because it's about so many things: grief, friendship, disasters, family, stories... However, there is something quite important that I want to say through this book. We all, at times, feel lost and lonely and weak. Calypso's father teachers her that we should find our inner strength, that we are the only ones who can get ourselves through the tough times. But Calypso discovers that's not true: other people can be your strength at times of sadness and fear. She realises that opening yourself up to other people and letting them into your heart doesn't make you weak... it makes you stronger. And that's what I hope people will find in this book: the importance of human connections and letting people in. Because no one should be alone in their heart.

A LIBRARY OF LEMONS is out now, published by Piccadilly Press. It's available from all good bookshops or online here.

Cathy says:
This sounds fab... it's on my to-read list now! Have YOU read an awesome new book lately? COMMENT BELOW to give it a shout out!

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

JESSICA: PARTY PLAN WORRIES!

Reader Jessica has a chocolate-themed problem for Skye Tanberry to solve... can you help by pitching in your ideas too?

Jessica says:
It's my birthday soon and my parents asked if I wanted a party this year. Of course, I said yes! I've been reading the CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS series and I like the idea of a chocolate festival themed party because the sisters seem to have so much fun with it! I have started to plan but I'm not sure how to get a chocolate fairy costume or what materials I could use to make one. Secondly, what kind of invites, games, party bags and music could I have? Do you have any suggestions?


Skye says:
Ooh, I wish I could help you plan and make things... it'd be so cool! You will find all the things you need to know in the books. CHERRY CRUSH explains how to make chocolate fairy costumes... you can make something very effective with a brown vest top and lots of brown netting gathered and stitched onto the hem of the vest top to form a skirt. You can even dye a pair of pink satin ballet shoes as we did, to match! FORTUNE COOKIE has lots of ideas for chocolate themed activities... and you can add more of your own! Why not make your own invites that look like a chocolate box and open up to reveal the details of the party? You can tie them up with a ribbon bow too! Games can include chocolate fortunes, blindfold chocolate tasting, a chocolate fondue or even a chocolate treasure hunt. Party bags could include truffles and a CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS book! For music, choose things you and your friends like... don't try to theme everything, just think about getting the party to go with a swing! Have fun!

Cathy says:
It sounds awesome already! Would YOU add any more cool and chocolatey suggestions? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 2 May 2016

GEORGINA: GROWING UP WITH DANCE!

Reader Georgina shares her love of dance and describes just what it means to her...


Georgina says:
I started dancing when I was two and a half. I fell in love with dance and ballet and wanted to do more dance and performance, so after a while I left my friends and my wonderful teacher Stephanie and moved schools to a place with its own performing arts school. I now do Ballet Grade Five and Intermediate Foundation, and also a free class which is where we make up dances in the lesson. I am very lucky as we have a pianist in the lesson too. Two years ago, I was finally able to dance en pointe. I really enjoy this but it can be quite painful too! As well as ballet, I also do Grade Three Jazz, Grade three Contemporary and Grade Three Tap. I also do Musical Theatre and Lamda. Out of all of these, ballet remains my favourite! I was awarded a dance scholarship at the start of Year Seven and was recently given a Musical theatre Exhibition.

I have always performed in annual shows and we have just finished our annual performance. I played a villager from the musical Wicked and a tea part guest at the Mad Hatter's tea party. I also performed a jazz dance and a part of the ballet La Bayadere. The highlight of my dance career so far was when I auditioned for the English Youth Ballet in 2014 - I got in and performed in The Nutcracker at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham. Later this month, I am auditioning again for a different performance - Giselle. I think that the audition will be even harder though, as I will be in the senior class this time.

Dance means the world to me and I don't know what I would do if I couldn't dance. Dance makes me feel happy and I enjoy doing it and I'm really proud of my achievements! Although dance is my passion, I am very involved with singing too... I cam second in a music festival last month singing a piece from the musical My Fair lady. I would love to do more work in the theatre, but it's difficult to get parts as we don't live in London. The advice I would give to somebody who would like to start dancing is... go for it! Find someone who already goes to a class and get a recommendation. Once you're starting to learn, be sure that you always warm up properly before dancing and do not try to do pointe work until you are absolutely ready!

Cathy says:
Georgina is an inspiring girl... I've followed her career in dance for a while and really admire her passion and determination. I think Summer Tanberry would approve! Do YOU love to dance? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 1 May 2016

HANNAH: I LIVE IN SINGAPORE!

Reader Hannah lives in beautiful Singapore... read on to find what it's like!

Hannah says:
I am seventeen and I live in a flat in Singapore with my parents and my thirteen year old brother. Singapore is very small - it's both a city and a country. It is very developed and you see a lot of high rise buildings and lots of greenery too, trees and flowers lining the roads... Singapore is known as the garden city. Our flat is small but very expensive because of the land restraints here, and we don't have any pets alas. It's always warm in Singapore - the temperature never falls below 25 degrees. It rains quite often too, and this adds to the humidity levels. When we get the chance, my family and I love to escape to countries with four seasons - cold weather is really refreshing to us! I have never experienced snow... Singapore is a tropical country and all we have is rain or sunshine!

I went to a girls school for ten years and now I'm in my first year of junior college. It's weird now, having to adjust to being in a mixed college and talking to boys! At school, we have to wear uniform. I used to wear a blouse or PE clothing beneath a pinafore, but now in junior college it's a blouse and skirt. I take biology, chemistry, maths and history and we have project work and a general paper too, which is basically English and my favourite subject. We speak English and Chinese in Singapore, but I'm actually fairly bad at Chinese. I can converse easily but I don't score well in the exams! Our schools are pretty strict. Girls have to tie up their hair if it is past the shoulders and often only transparent studs for earrings and black coloured hair accessories are allowed. School began at 7.30am and you couldn't be late or you'd be in trouble! College is more relaxed!

Singapore is a multi-racial society, with many different races and cultures living alongside each other. On special occasions such as Chinese New Year or perhaps Deepavali (festival of lights for the Indian people) each group will wear their traditional costumes. On Racial Harmony Day, we often wear different traditional costumes to school for fun and to show our acceptance of difference races and cultures. Food-wise, we are well known for our chicken-rice. It's really just steamed chicken on flavourful rice... the rice, to me, makes the dish taste good. I could eat it alone and still feel satisfied! We also have chilli crab, stay (barbecued meat on a stick) and ice kachang (shaved ice with syrup). Singapore is such a melting pot of cultures - we have so many different cuisines available, from Indian to western to Korean and much more.

For tourists, Universal Studios is a must-visit, along with the Gardens By The Bay, Singapore's famous man-made nature park. Visitors should also try some street food from the hawker centres and simple things like going to the movies or shopping! Singapore always has and always will be my home. I had a fun and memorable childhood here and everyone I love is by my side. It's the people who make this place so special - wherever in the world we may be, somehow we can always pick out fellow Singaporeans from a crowd of strangers. There's something uniquely different about the way we are, and I wouldn't want it any other way! One day, I'd love to be a marine biologist - or a writer - or both - and I am willing to work really hard to make that happen!

Cathy says:
I've been to Singapore myself and I totally agree with Hannah... it has a unique blend of east and west and is a lively, vibrant, friendly place quite unlike anywhere else I've ever been! Have YOU ever been to Singapore? Or would you like to write about YOUR country for DREAMCATCHER? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Friday, 29 April 2016

SWEETREATS: CRANBERRY MUFFINS!

Reader and blogger Sweetreats is sharing this extra-gorgeous recipe for cranberry muffins with us today ... what are you waiting for?

Sweetreats says:

These cranberry muffins are perfect for a lazy weekend breakfast or a sunny spring picnic... or almost any other occasion you can think of,  for that matter! They taste great, but are deceptively simple to bake! Scrumptious!

You will need:

100g self raising flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
55g caster sugar
100g dried cranberries
100ml natural yoghurt
1 egg
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
icing sugar to dust

Method:
- Pre heat the oven to 190c/ gas mark 5.

- Line two 12 section mini muffin tins with 18 3cm mini muffin paper cases.

- Sift the flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl. Stir in caster sugar and cranberries.

- In a separate mixing bowl, beat together the yoghurt, egg and vegetable oil with a fork, until all is evenly combined.

- Tip the yoghurt mixture into the flour. Use a dessert spoon to gently fold ingredients together until only just mixed. Do not over-blend, or the muffins will not be as light.

- Spoon mixture into the paper cases... it should be roughly level with the top of the tin, rather than the top of the paper case.

- Bake in pre heated oven for 12-15 minutes, or until risen and firm to the touch.

- Leave muffins in tin for a couple of minutes, and then transfer them, still in their cases, onto a wire rack to cool down.

- Serve warm or cold, dusted lightly with icing sugar!

Sweetreats has a fabulous baking blog which you may like to check out or follow... take a look! Lots of inspiration there!

www.bakingboutiquebirds.blogspot.co.uk

Cathy says:
Wow... these look so good, and Sweetreats' step by step instructions mean that even a kitchen klutz like me should be able to make them! Are YOU a whizz in the kitchen? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more, or share your favourite treat recipes with me via the 'email Cathy' link on www.cathycassidy.com for possible inclusion on DREAMCATCHER!

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

ALICIA: SATS TEST BLUES

It's problem page time again on DREAMCATCHER, and Skye Tanberry has some hard-hitting advice for reader Alicia...

Alicia says:
We have SATs tests coming up and I am so, so stressed out. I am trying to study and understand what we are doing but I just get flustered and confused. I get so anxious with tests and I know I am going to let everyone down - my parents, my school and most of all myself. Help!

Skye says:
I am not a fan of SATs tests. I don't mind studying but I don't like jumping though hoops just for the sake of it and that's what SATs feel like. Not everybody likes tests and exams, and some of us get so wound up we cannot remember what we've been revising at all. At my old school, the teacher told us that although it's important to do our best in tests like this, they do not measure the important things about us... our creativity, our kindness, our individuality, enthusiasm, effort. It helped me to hear that and I did manage to get through the tests OK in the end. Remember that SATs are just something we have to go through. Stay calm and study as hard as you can, but keep in mind that whether you do brilliantly or whether you do less well than hoped, it doesn't make you a better/worse person. Do your best - that's all you can do. Be proud of yourself for all your unique qualities. So what if sitting tests isn't one of them?

Cathy says:
Wow... strong words from Skye! I agree... but do YOU have any tips for handling that SATs stress? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

CAMERA COOL!

I met reader Meabh at a recent signing in Dublin... and asked her to write about her very cool polaroid-type camera!

Meabh says:
I was given a Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 camera as a Christmas present this year and I absolutely love it. It comes in a whole range of amazing colours... black, white, yellow, blue, pink, raspberry and grape. My camera is is a soft pink colour and I love it! The idea of the Instax camera is that it's like an old fashioned 'polaroid' type camera, which are very cool again now at a time when everyone has digital cameras or cameras on their phones. There's nothing old-fashioned about this though - it's very easy to use. You just turn it on, press the button and your photo pops out... a real photo, not just on-screen! There's a viewfinder you can look through to see what your picture is going to look like... this is very important, because once you press that button your photo will instantly print. There's no deleting like with digital!

The photos are printed as soon as you take them and take three to five minutes to develop fully. This is great - no more going to the print shop or making do with on-screen photos! At Christmas I was able to take photos of all my relatives, and when they were going home they could take the photos with them! They still have them, too! The photos have a cute little white border around them, very retro! There are lots of accessories you can get for this camera, such as a bag, stickers and special lenses that can make your photos different colours. You can hang the finished photos up on your wall with pretty ribbons and pegs, too!

Of course, it's not all perfect. If you are not happy with the way you look in a photo, there's no going back - it will be printed the moment you press  that button! As the film for the camera is quite expensive in some shops, you don't want to waste it! There's one other major  drawback, too... LOTS of people will be very jealous of your camera!

I am totally in love with my brilliant Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 camera - I absolutely love the fact that you can hold your memories in your hand just moments after they've happened!

Cathy says:
I think I fell in love with this camera too... how cool? Y'know me... it just has to be retro, right? Would YOU cope with a camera that isn't digital? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!