Thursday, 28 May 2015


Another in our fab series on growing up in a different decade… we talk to Alison, who was a teen in the 1970s.

Alison says:
Lots of my teen memories focus on school. I was not particularly naughty at that time but I got into a fair few scrapes! Some of them were of my own creation; but not all, promise! One teacher was apparently about 100, so we called her DWU which stood for Death Warmed Up. She must have been a witch as she didn't seem to age a bit in the six years I knew her. The Spit, a fierce Latin teacher, used to stand outside the classroom until someone opened the door for her - there'd be fireworks if nobody did. One PE teacher was awful at discipline and sent us to the deputy for singing during netball; we thought that was a bit feeble - why let someone else have the fun? We'd been doing a great job' it seemed unfair for the others to be deprived of the joy of hearing us. Having been told off by the deputy, we returned to the netball courts and started singing: 'We are very sorry, We won't sing again…' Oddly, she found it less funny than we did. We were sent off again.

With no electronic games and limited TV, we spent lots of time outside playing games like hopscotch, tag or very bad cricket. We'd spend hours laughing, chatting or listening to records. My friend Viv went to see one James Hendrix in concert, passing him off as any old musician. Jimi Hendrix was not yet famous… the modern equivalent would be asking your parents if you could go to an evening you believe is all about cooking, because it featured 'red hot chilli peppers…'

I loved to write and kept my jottings in a denim covered folder which I still have. My work included stories, quotes and very bad poetry. Back then we forged friendships, covered each other's backs and held deep loyalties to each other; same as nowadays, really. I'm still in contact with many of my old schoolmates and a great bunch they are. Their lives are very varied; working in the theatre (Caro recently brought Shrek the Musical to London; yup, singing… luckily, not us!) banks, auction houses, or as household and youth management consultants (OK, housewives and mothers.) When we meet up, we fall straight back into school mode and have a brilliant time. By the end of a session with my mates, I'm crying, short of breath, with aching lungs; but that's from laughing. Friendship… it's just as good for my heart as jogging. Honest!

Cathy says:
Alison is now a writer - check out her fab book Eridor by Alison Gardiner! Would YOU have enjoyed growing up in the 1970s? Which bits sound good to you? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!


Reader Emily found a very unusual and fun way to raise money for her favourite charity… 

Emily says:
Earlier in May I took part in the Cumbria Colour Run which was held at Carlisle Racecourse. My sister and I signed up for it together to raise money for an amazing charity, the Eden valley Hospice. The hospice cares for many people who are terminally ill, from children through to the elderly, throughout Cumbria. The work they do definitely deserves recognition and support, so we decided they would be our chosen charity.

We arrived at the racecourse on the day and had to queue for about half an hour to register for the run. That queue was so long! We finally registered and were each given a white t-shirt (pristine, but not for long!), a pair of sunglasses and a race number. We headed outside, lost in a sea of white t-shirts and colourful sunglasses. We began with a Zumba style warm up… it was fun, but quite difficult with so many people! After the warm up, we were taken to the racecourse to start the Colour Run - and we were away! There was a huge difference between the runners… some were running, some walking, some had pushchairs… and we were all ages, shapes and sizes!

The run was five kilometres or three miles, which was two laps of the racecourse. I was pretty sure we could do that… but of course, this was no ordinary race! At various intervals, there were stations set up where volunteers had to throw bucketfuls of different coloured powder paint at us. The aim was to get as colourful as possible!

It was an amazing day, and I would really recommend taking part in a similar event if you ever get the opportunity. It was so much fun! All in all, a fantastic experience, and a great way to raise money for a very good cause.

Cathy says:
Wow… that's definitely a new twist on a 5k run! It sounds lots of fun… well done Emily! Have YOU ever done anything to raise money for a favourite charity? COMMENT BELOW to tell us what!

Wednesday, 27 May 2015


Readers share their favourite quotes from inspirational writers!

Tessa says:

'If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.'
Roald Dahl

Michaela says:
'Sometimes you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book...'
John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

Stephanie says:
'And those that were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.'
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzshe

Abi says:
'Light can be found in the darkest of places, but only if one remembers to turn on the light.'
JK Rowling, Harry Potter

Louise says:
'If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.'
JRR Tolkien

Blue says:
'Let me live, love and say it well in good sentences…'
Sylvia Plath

Laura says:
'I write to find out what I didn't know I knew…'
Robert Frost

Charlotte says:
'Nothing is really work unless you'd rather be doing something else.'
JM Barrie

Emily says:
'Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.'
Neil Gaiman, Coraline

Aimee says:
'I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.'
Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre

Daisy says:
'I am not pretty, I am not beautiful, I am as radiant as the sun.'
Suzanne Collins

Cathy says:
Loving these… do YOU have a fave bookish quote that has really stuck in your mind? COMMENT BELOW to share it!

Tuesday, 26 May 2015


Want to know how to make yummy Queen of Hearts jam tarts from scratch? Easy… my trusty helpers will show you how!

You will need:
12 tsp jam (any flavour but red looks fab!)
28g caster sugar
255g plain flour
140g chilled unsalted butter
6 tbsp cold water

To make:
1. Preheat the oven to 190c or gas mark 5.

2. Sieve flour into mixing bowl, chop butter into small pieces and rub into flour until mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs.

3. Add water one tablespoon at a time, stirring mixture with a blunt knife blade until a firm dough forms.

4. Grease a cupcake tray and cut pastry into rounds using a large pastry/ cookie cutter. Press dough circles gently into cupcake tray.

5. Spoon a little jam (a bit less than you'd think) into the pastry circles. (Too much and it will bubble over!)

6. Use a small, heart shaped pastry/cookie cutter to cut pastry hearts… pop one onto the jam on each tart!

7. Bake at 190c/ gas mark 5 for 12-15 minutes. Yum!

Watch a video of the jam-tart making HERE!

Thanks to Poppy, Helena, Kresten, Emiko & Acer for being jam tart experts… and for helping me 'test' the jam tarts! Are YOU a baking whizz? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 25 May 2015


Reader Laura has a whole lot of wise words to share on the topic of self-esteem…

Laura says:
Broken. It could mean so many things: broken heart, broken friendship, broken family, broken treasures. Or broken self-esteem. We often see or hear people being 'body baggers' - criticising themselves or someone else's body. Whether it's something simple like, 'That colour totes washes her out…' or something bigger like, 'Ew, I'm so ugly! I hate my nose/ hair/ bum. I wish I looked like a supermodel…'

The thing about self-esteem is that it can be squashed so easily, and it is so hard to build it up again. I could say to all of you reading this, 'It doesn't matter what the people who put you down say, because you're better than them and they're just jealous.' That wouldn't be fair, though, because when you are going through this kind of thing it DOES matter to you what people say. Every circumstance is different. You are probably better than them because you're not the bully (yes, it is bullying) but why they are doing it is hard to know. I could say, 'Don't put yourself down, you're beautiful and you DO look exactly like a supermodel,' but would you believe me? You don't like your legs and you'd like her legs, but you're a horse rider and she's a dancer, so things are different. Instead of saying these negative and hurtful things, the things we read in magazines, let's put a fresh spin on things.

1. Don't put yourself down. It causes havoc with your emotional health, so instead, when you're hating (say) your legs, a/ be happy you have working legs and b/ go and exercise, not to be 'skinnier' but to build up strong, healthy legs. This tip works for most parts of your body - arms, hips, belly etc. But if it's your eye colour or something else that can't be changed, then I say suck it up. Learn to love, or at least accept, the things that can't be changed.

2. Don't use 'body bagging' words like fat, ugly, etc. They ruin your self-esteem (and that of others).

3. Never, ever bully someone about how they look. Don't like her clothes but would kill for her eyes? Make sure you tell her you love the colour. It will a/ boost her self-esteem and b/ karma, karma, karma to you!

4. If you see someone being a 'body bagger', step onto the victim's side. Say, 'Hey, come hang out with me, I wanted to ask you something about (whatever)…' This saves the victim from being bullied and it's not confrontational so it won't antagonise the bullies. Being more assertive would of course be the right thing but could get you into trouble… go gently, and instead tell a teacher about what's happening. Ask to stay anonymous if the bullies get pulled up.

5. Don't compare yourself to super-famous people - a/ they have personal trainers and money and all the time in the world, yadda, yadda, yadda which is a long way from the real world, and b/ they probably haven't eaten a French fry for 100 years because their trainer has them on an all-lettuce-leaf eating plan to be a size zero. Instead, find healthy and inspiring role models from your own community.

6. Don't diet. There's a difference between a healthy lifestyle and a diet. Eat when you're hungry, eat 'treat' food sometimes and exercise. Exercise is best when it's a/ with your buds or b/ when you're doing something you L.O.V.E.

Don't be a 'body bagger' to yourself or anyone else - and help to set up a world free of broken self-esteem. Let's be part of the solution, not part of the problem!

Pic posed by model Caitlin.

Cathy says:
I LOVE Laura's feature… spot on. Are you ready to start being a little kinder - to yourself, and to others? COMMENT BELOW to share your views!

Sunday, 24 May 2015


Reader Rebecca tells the tragic story of Canadian teenager Amanda Todd, who was driven to suicide by relentless cyber-bullying…

Rebecca says:
The story of Amanda Todd made a big impression on me… it shows just how much damage bullying can do, and how dangerous the internet can be. Amanda was just eleven when she began to discover the world of the internet. Her parents had divorced and Amanda did not have many friends - she was shy, awkward and naive. The internet seemed like an easier way to make friends, and Amanda asked her mum if she could get a web cam, but was refused. Her dad, however, said yes, and so she began to upload videos of herself singing - she had an amazing voice. Her online friends gave her exactly what she wanted… attention.

After a while, one friend online asked Amanda to 'flash' and though she refused he spent a year trying to persuade her. Eventually, she did and the picture was spread around the internet and sent to her classmates, too. The police turned up at her door and Amanda's mum was very shocked. At school, she was teased and bullied because of the picture and she ended up moving house and moving school, but her mistake followed her when a fake Facebook account appeared with her topless picture as the profile image. She was afraid and reported this to the police many times, but they just told her to remove herself from all social media sites. The cyber-bully tried to blackmail her and again her image was sent around the internet.

Another move and another school promised a new start, but she could not escape the past. The bully continued to harass and blackmail her and her new classmates turned against her. She attempted suicide, but survived. Six months on Amanda made a really sad video of her story, asking viewers to stop the bullying… but a month after this, she sadly killed herself. After her death, the video went viral… and Amanda's message that cyber-bullying could do real harm was taken on. The police got involved again and eventually, a thirty-five year old man was arrested and charged.

Never do anything on the internet without your parents' permission, and if you have a new online friend make sure they are real, and who they say they are. It goes without saying, never send anyone pictures or do anything on web cam that you would not want others to see. ALWAYS be cautious on the internet; Amanda's story is sad proof that cyber-bullying can kill.

Cathy says:
Rebecca's hard-hitting report highlights a very tragic story. Cyber-bullying can kill, so be ultra-careful online and don't hesitate to report anyone who threatens, abuses or tries to blackmail you. Have YOU ever got into trouble online? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more...

Saturday, 23 May 2015


Reader Mary can't wait for the last book in the Chocolate Box Girls series…

Mary says:
I wish Cathy Cassidy would write a bit faster! I started secondary school last year and I was so excited to explore the library, which was supposed to have a massive fiction section. I was so disappointed to find they only had two CC books, Scarlett and Marshmallow Skye, both of which I had read many times before. To be fair, I have read almost every CC book already, including all of the Chocolate Box Girls series. I downloaded SWEET HONEY on my Kindle just hours after it came out, and I cannot wait for the last one in the series, FORTUNE COOKIE.  I'm sure it will be just as amazing as the other books… but could it be about a Chocolate Box BOY? ;o)

The plot twist at the end of SWEET HONEY was perfect - plus the identity of the cyber-bully kept me guessing right through the book. I read the whole thing in three hours straight - I'm a pretty fast reader - and when I finished, I started all over again! I had a sneaking feeling all along that Honey was a scared, anxious girl who had built a protective wall around herself… well, Cathy Cassidy knocked that wall down expertly in SWEET HONEY.

I have recommended Cathy's books to lots of people, including my brother, and he loves them too - it's not just girls! I have also read the 'other halves' to the CBG stories, the e-book shorts - Hopes & Dreams, Bittersweet, Moon & Stars, Chocolates & Flowers, Snowflakes & Wishes... they are just as well written as the main books. And now it's just a couple of months until FORTUNE COOKIE is released on June 4th… I CANNOT WAIT!

Cathy says:
I love Mary's enthusiasm - how cool? My readers are the BEST people in the world… they make all the hard work worthwhile. Are YOU looking forward to FORTUNE COOKIE? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!