Tuesday, 9 February 2016


Today, Tuesday 9th February, I'm at a Speak Up For Libraries event in parliament trying to get MPs to help us stop the closure of local libraries. What better day for my fab pal Natalie to give you her view of why we need libraries?

Natalie says:
My job title is 'Service Lead for Young People, Libraries, Learning and Arts' - and it's my job to make sure young people feel welcome, valued and have lots to inspire them in Worcestershire libraries! I co-ordinate young volunteers, run the young poet laureate competition and experiment with ideas like open mic nights. I'm also a Green Party activist and have just gone vegan after 30 years as a veggie... I can bake scrumptious vegan cakes! We share our home with two cats and two rescue guinea pigs. I've been doing this job for eight years - I love working with young people and this was a chance to start from scratch and work on ways to get young people involved in libraries. This matters to me because I believe that libraries change lives. For many, libraries are the only places in a community which are free, warm, welcoming and free of judgement. I feel passionately that we should do everything in our power to preserve, protect and invest in them!

I think libraries do need to change and develop in order to survive and thrive, but not at the expense of the traditional library services. We can offer story time, local history resources and research facilities, but we must also evolve and embrace digital technology, run community and family learning sessions, have author events and open mic nights. This makes sure libraries are vibrant... the beating heart of a community.

We try to be brave about trying new things - we find out what people would like and experiment! Young people told us they had nowhere to go to sing, play music, tell stories... so we extended opening hours at one library and began an open mic slot. We now have three regular open mic nights at different libraries across the region! We have a great partnership with a National Trust property, Croome Court, and have a mini festival there in the summer. We run a Teen Book Award too, which Cathy has won - we take a whole load of books to schools, libraries and youth groups and run a 'speed-dating' session where teens choose their favourites and then vote for an overall winner! There is a big celebration event with a guest author - last year Juno Dawson came, which was cool as 'Say Her Name' won!

Young people are increasingly using our libraries to relax in, volunteer in, learn new skills, grow in confidence and escape into the exciting worlds brought to them by books. I'm angry that so many libraries have been closed and scared that many more may follow. A library makes a huge difference to a community - it is filled with opportunities, adventures and brilliant staff. It can inspire, innovate, educate, nurture and plant the seed that grows into love of books and learning. Please, let's not sit by and allow our libraries to be destroyed.

Cathy says:
Natalie is pretty awesome... and so are libraries! If you want to make sure your library stays open, use it - that little piece of plastic really is a 'golden ticket' that can change your life. Do YOU use your local library? COMMENT BELOW and tell us more!

Monday, 8 February 2016


It's Shrove Tuesday - Pancake Day - on Tues 9th February... Summer Tanberry is here to show you how to make the best pancakes ever!

You will need:
125g (4oz) plain flour
pinch of salt
2 large eggs
300ml (1/2 pint milk)
vegetable oil to fry

- Sift the flour into a bowl and add salt. Make a dip in centre of the sifted flour and break egg into this. Whisk into the flour and gradually add the milk, whisking all the time until you have a lump free batter.

- Place batter in the fridge for 30 mins to chill.

- Heat a frying pan over medium heat and add a little vegetable oil and ensure it thinly coats base of pan.
- Pour in a little batter and swirl so it fills the base of pan. Cook for one minute, then flip with a spatula or toss if you are brave. Cook other side until golden and turn onto a plate.

- Lightly oil pan before each new pancake until the batter is all used up.

To serve:

- Go traditional and serve your pancakes with a simple scatter of lemon juice and sugar!

-Try a savoury filling... grated cheese with red onion or mushroom is different and very cool!

- Fresh fruit, berries or chopped banana are perfect with homemade pancakes... sweet but healthy too!

- Get decadent and go for Nutella or melted chocolate with some squirty cream!

- Maple syrup drizzled over the pancakes is traditional across the Atlantic, and hard to beat!

Did you know that Pancake Day or Shrove Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins? It is the last day of feasting before the 'fasting' of Lent, when christians traditionally give up certain foods or eat frugally for forty days and forty nights. Traditionally, pancakes were eaten - sweet, rich or spicy - as a final feast before the Lenten fast began. 

Cathy says:
Do YOU make your own pancakes on Shrove Tuesday? Summer's recipe means you can certainly give it a go! COMMENT BELOW to tell us how you get on!

Sunday, 7 February 2016


On the Eve of the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Monkey, reader Suzanne looks at how Chinese New Year is celebrated and check out what the various Chinese zodiac signs might mean for you! 

Suzanne says:
Chinese New Year begins on 8th February, and is celebrated not just in China but in communities all around the world.
- On Sunday, New Year's Eve, clean the house to sweep away any bad luck remaining from the year gone by. It's fresh start time!
- Decorate the home with red paper lanterns!
- Have a family meal to see out the old year and welcome the new one, and to celebrate togetherness with family and friends.
- Eat fish for good luck, celery for wisdom, noodles for long life, plums for wisdom and sweets for a sweet year ahead!
- Wear new clothes!
- Give red envelopes containing money, for good luck!
- Set off fireworks or firecrackers to frighten away evil spirits!
- Go to see a dragon or a lion dance to welcome the new year!

What Chinese Zodiac sign are you? Check out your year of birth to see!

RAT: 2008, 1996, 1984, 1972, 1960
Intelligent, adaptable, fast-witted, artistic, outgoing and charming, you get on well with DRAGON and MONKEY people...

OX: 2009, 1997, 1985, 1973, 1961
SNAKE and ROOSTER signs make good friends or partners for you. You're strong, loyal, trustworthy, steady, determined and very thorough.

TIGER: 2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962
You get on well with HORSE and DOG people. You are brave, ambitious, confident, charismatic and enthusiastic, often with great leadership qualities.

RABBIT: 2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963
You get on well with GOAT and PIG types. You are reliable, diplomatic, truthful, caring, sociable and able to empathise with others.

DRAGON: 2012, 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964
RAT and MONKEY make good partners for you. You are imaginative, eccentric, artistic, adaptable, charming, spiritual and lucky!

SNAKE: 2013, 2001, 1989, 1977, 1965
You get on well with ROOSTER and OX! You are well organized. clever, elegant, decisive, thoughtful, philosophical and intuitive.

HORSE: 2014, 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966
You get on well with HORSE and TIGER! You are loyal, brave, ambitious, smart, strong, adaptable and adventure-loving.

GOAT: 2015, 2003, 1991, 1979, 1967
PIG and RABBIT are great friends and partners for you. You are warm, charming, elegant, calm, tasteful, sensitive and have great intuition!

MONKEY: 2016, 2004, 1992, 1980, 1968
DRAGON and RAT make good friends and partners. You are witty, charming, lucky, versatile, bright, lively, clever and fun-loving.

ROOSTER: 2005, 1993, 1981, 1969
SNAKE and OX make great friends for you. You are honest, clever, confident, flamboyant, filled with energy and diverse and adaptable.

DOG: 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970
TIGER and HORSE are your kindred spirits. You are brave, loyal, hard working, reliable, adaptable, intelligent and full of fun!

PIG: 2007, 1995, 1983, 1971
You partner well with GOAT and RABBIT. You are kind, thoughtful, honourable, determined, sincere, outgoing and always optimistic.

Kung Hei Fat Choy... Happy Chinese New Year!

Cathy says:
Oooh... fascinating stuff, Suzanne! I'm a TIGER... very exciting! Is YOUR Chinese zodiac sign accurate? COMMENT BELOW to tell us!

Saturday, 6 February 2016


Cathy says:
Today, Saturday 6th February, is National Libraries Day and I will be in Exeter talking to some fab readers! Then, on Tuesday 9th I will be at Westminster to join in with the Speak Up For Libraries lobby of parliament. Seems like the perfect chance to share some library love from my awesome readers...

Emily says:
Libraries mean that no matter what your background is, you can still be equal. Anyone can read great literature for free. I spent most of my primary years completing reading challenges and finding new books and authors... the staff are always so helpful and polite and have a real passion for books. The library is where I found my first CC book, Scarlett!

Beth says:
Libraries are my safe haven - you can let your imagination run wild and learn loads. You can take ages choosing your books and once you've read them you can't wait to return them and get some more! Libraries mean a lot to me as I love reading, and me and my best friend Katie go to the library a lot.

Harley says:
Libraries have been an escape for me... from bullies, from bad weather, the cold, the heat, a bad day. Now they are where I spend my spare time, checking out stacks of books. Both books and the internet are valuable resources and its great to have somewhere to use both at the same time!

Sophie says:
Libraries are amazing - you can get just about any book and borrow its story. I would definitely not have been able to read all the books I have without the library - I could afford it for a start. Libraries have introduced me to some of my favourite books and characters who are like friends to me when I've been feeling alone. Libraries are a safe place to go to, to get out, and that can be difficult for me sometimes but libraries have helped me to gain some confidence back. The librarian knows me now and knows the books I like - she orders new ones for me. I'd be lost without the library. Oh... and there's a hot chocolate machine!

Lynsey says:
Libraries mean everything. They're a refuge, an escape, a gateway to other worlds. Libraries are the heart of a community, the soul of a society. A library empowers the individual and opens minds...  knowledge is power, and a library is the seat of knowledge.

Kym says:
I spent a lot of time in libraries when I was younger as we didn't have much money - my pocket money only allowed me to buy one book a month and I went through them like water. Libraries are brilliant!

Ella says:
Libraries are my happy place. I love the silence and calm... you can forget about real life and escape to a fictional place (I especially like escaping to Tanglewood!).

Ashlee says:
Libraries? A wealth of knowledge; an escape from a cruel world; a doorway to a thousand lands; a path to a million lives; a safe place where your mind can be free.

Samantha says:
Libraries are a magical and wondrous SAFE place filled with endless possibilities. A haven where social class and street cred don't matter at all, and the lonely can feel like they're surrounded by friends.

Lorna says:
Libraries are the doors to whole new worlds, an escape, the only place where you can stay in a comfy chair and still travel to a thousand different universes!

Deborah says:
I still love libraries, but a couple of years back I used to go to the library and borrow twelve books at a time, read them all in the space of two weeks and return to get twelve more. My local library built the foundations of my dream to be an author, and without them I wouldn't be close to the person I am today. Libraries are a world where anything is possible!

Stephanie-Jade says:
Libraries are my calm place. When I feel down at college, I go and sit in the library and read. I suffer with anxiety, and it always helps to calm my nerves.

Pam says:
They're a place where anyone can escape and treat themselves to an evening snuggled up with a good book... for free. You can read any genre, any amount... the only restriction is your imagination. I hate that councils are closing libraries as they're an essential part of a community.

Gemma says:
A library is a place of calm in a world of chaos. The books, the quiet, the cosy feel of it makes you feel at home. Libraries mean a lot to me... they are a place to go to read, discover new books, and just have some quiet time. I love libraries.

Cathy says:
Who says kids don't bother with books and libraries anymore? These quotes are just the tip of the iceberg... I have enough to fill another couple of features at least. Thank you for sharing the library love! Do YOU like libraries? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Thursday, 4 February 2016


Reader Aphrodite shares her recipe for yummy Greek Mosaiko... and it's super easy to make!

You will need:
2 packets plain tea biscuits, crushed (Petit Buerre are ideal)
Half cup of milk
2 tbsps orange juice
250g butter
250g icing sugar
50g caster sugar
4 tbsps cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch salt

To make:
1. In a large bowl, crush the biscuits with the end of a rolling in, leaving 1" chunks to add texture to the cake. Pieces must not be too big, nor must they be crumbs either.

2. Mix the milk with the orange juice, vanilla extract and salt and pour over the biscuits. Mix with your hands, making sure to crush any too-big pieces of biscuit you may find.

3. Add melted butter and mix again.

4. Add icing sugar, caster sugar and cocoa powder and mix one last time.

5. Stretch clingfilm or baking paper across your counter and pour the mixture onto this. Use your hands to press mixture down. Lift the long side of the clingfilm or baking paper and roll the mixture over into a chunky cylinder, so that it forms the shape of a rolling pin perhaps. Wrap and store the pudding in the freezer for two hours and then place in the fridge.

6. Now for the best part... lick the bowl!

TADAH! Time to slice a piece and indulge. If you are feeling super indulgent you can always serve it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, on the side, or warm chocolate sauce or (why not?) both! And don't forget - sharing makes everything taste better!

Alternatives: This is an easy, fun recipe. You can play around and add your own trademark - add chopped walnuts or other nuts for example; or chopped glace cherries; or shredded coconut. The options are endless really, just like life! Don't forget that you can loosen the mixture with extra melted butter if it seems too dry at the mixing stage. Instead of rolling the mixture into a cylinder, you can form it into balls the size of ping pong balls, dipping your hands into water between each one so that the mixture doesn't stick to your hands. Roll in chocolate strands or shredded coconut before freezing - or dip in melted chocolate after the freezing stage. They're a kind of Greek chocolate truffle!

Sprinkle on a little history!
'Mosaiko' sounds a bit like 'mosaic', doesn't it, and that exactly what it is. If you look closely enough you'll see the bits of biscuit looks like pieces of mosaic. The word mosaic in Greek derives from the word muses, the daughters of Zeus and goddesses of inspiration, worshipped throughout Greece. They were Clio, Melpomene, Thalia, Calliope, Urania, Euterpe, Polyhymnia, Erato and Terpsichore. Caves dedicated to the muses were decorated with mosaics. So much history in a bite!

Cathy says:
This looks and sounds SO gorgeous... and even a baking klutz like me can do it! Do YOU have a favourite recipe to share with DREAMCATCHER? Email me via the 'email Cathy' link on www.cathycassidy.com to share it and COMMENT BELOW to tell me more!

Wednesday, 3 February 2016


Reader Tania has made a mistake and doesn't know how to put it right - can CHERRY COSTELLO help with some good advice?

Tania says:
I've lost all my friends and the stupid thing is, it's all my fault. Last year a new girl, C, joined our friendship group. She seemed nice and I liked her, and she settled in well. After a while, I started to feel envious of how well she had settled, as if she had been there forever - she often came up with ideas of what to do and where to go, and sometimes she would see a couple of my friends without the rest of us, because they live near her. I can see now that I was jealous. At Christmas, her parents split up and my mum made a comment that C's mum was to blame as she was always flirting. A few weeks ago when C was getting lots of sympathy about the split, I repeated my mum's comment. I was quite nasty about it, to be honest. My friends just looked at me like they didn't know me. My friends have been very cold to me since then, as if they don't want me around. I don't blame them. I have been so stupid and so mean. Have I lost my friends forever?

Cherry says:
Ouch... jealousy is not called the green-eyed monster for nothing. You've clearly been feeling a little pushed out by C, but your catty comment was cruel and it's no surprise your friends have jumped to defend C. You know you're in the wrong here... time to come out and say so. Speak to C alone and make a full apology, explaining that you've felt a little insecure lately. Let her know you bitterly regret your comment. What she needed at that moment was friendship and understanding, not an attack on her mother. Will she forgive you? Perhaps, but I imagine she will find it hard to trust you in future... that's something you will have to live with. Next, talk to your other friends and let them know how sorry you are; they haven't expelled you from the friendship group, so the chances are that in time they will forgive and forget. Most of all, learn from your mistake... never say anything mean about anyone else and put yourself in their shoes to imagine how they might be feeling. Mistakes can feel like the end of the world, but if you're brave enough to say sorry and learn from them, they are not in vain.

Cathy says:
Wise words from Cherry... this is not a problem with a quick fix, alas, but it should certainly be a lesson for Tania. Would YOU add anything to Cherry's advice? COMMENT BELOW to add your thoughts!

Tuesday, 2 February 2016


Skye has been looking at her astrology charts again... will her predictions for February ring true with you?

AQUARIUS: February does not start on a high for you, but by mid month you will be back on track and raring to go! Don't be deceived by a friend trying to cover something up, and follow your heart when faced with a choice just before Valentine's Day!

PISCES: You're on great form this month - friendship, school and future dreams are all shaping up well! Romance is more elusive, but you do have a secret admirer. Watch out for a small blip with money this month... annoying, but nothing you can't handle!

ARIES: February is a month of change for you... make the most of it! Trust your intuition and you won't go far wrong; and excitingly, new projects should go very well. Don't neglect your friends... they don't always speak up, but they're always there for you... make sure it works both ways!

TAURUS: Time to snap out of your comfort zone and take a risk! It could be trying something new, following a dream, making new mates or putting yourself forward for something at school, but if you push past your fears you'll find a whole new world of fun and achievement may open up!

GEMINI: Travel is on the cards this month... it may not be far, but it will be significant! An adventure that could bring new ideas on life, love and friendship is just around the corner... it will help you to achieve your potential. Beware of gossip... don't listen to it and don't spread it!

CANCER: A great month for Cancerians... romance is on the cards, just in time for Valentine's Day, and school/ career looks promising too! This is a good month to try out for something new, audition for a play or start a band/ musical project. What are you waiting for?

LEO: Try not to get too wound up about Valentine's Day - it may not be what you have hoped for, but that doesn't mean romance isn't brewing. Friendship, love and connections are all looking positive, and not just this month but the whole year ahead is looking good!

VIRGO: A friendship has reached breaking point - it can be repaired, but the question is, do you want it to be? Step away from toxic friends but work hard to strengthen the friendships you value. Only you can tell which are which... be brave and trust your instincts.

LIBRA: Worries about what might-have-been, or perhaps a crush that has come to nothing, have been dragging you back. Let go of the negativity and you'll start finding the fun in life again. Adventure and creativity are starred for you this month... don't miss out!

SCORPIO: Sometimes, you come on too strong... with friends, with work, with life! Slow down a little and take a gentler approach... you'll find you reap more rewards that way. You can't force the world to dance to your tune, but you can gently encourage it!

SAGITTARIUS: The last few months have been difficult - in some ways, you've been feeling 'stuck'. That's over now - you're ready to move forward and ideas, projects and connections are all fizzing with potential this February. Nothing can stop you now!

CAPRICORN: Although February starts with some unexpected events, this is a great month for you - luck is on your side, and pretty much everything you're looking for should be possible to achieve... within reason! The icing on the cake is that money is looking good, too!

Cathy says:
Ooh... well, travel is on the cards for me, apparently, and that's spot on because I am on tour! Are Skye's predictions looking good for YOU? COMMENT BELOW and have your say!