Sunday, 17 December 2017


We asked if you still send Christmas cards to friends and family near and far - or if you prefer to send your greetings via the internet! This is what you said...

Violet says:
I don't send cards. If words are from the heart, they are meaningful no matter how they are transmitted - Christmas card, Facebook message, trained parrot, elaborate codes scribbled in the back of library books. It's the friendship that's important, not the mass-produced tree pulp. If my friends think I don't care about them because I don't send them the same glitter-coated, insipid, printed rhyme that I'd have to send to my other friends too, then they don't know me as well as they think they do. Some people give cards. Some don't. Everyone should do what they feel comfortable with, not what society tells us is the done thing.

Hollie says:
I do! I bought a pack of NSPCC charity Christmas cards this year. Technically I wrote them, but they're not from me... they're from my pup Boris, each containing a cheese pun Christmas message such as 'Eat, drink and Brie merry,' or 'You Cheddar watch out, you Cheddar not cry,' and complete with a Christmas photo of the beautiful puppy himself, with a Santa hat on and fairy lights draped over him. That, my friends, is what makes Christmas great!

Kym says:
If the person lives far away and I'm sending a gift, yes, otherwise no. If we do buy them, we buy boring ones that can be recycled, usually charity ones. We don't use proper wrapping paper either, just brown paper and twine - a ribbon or tissue paper if I'm feeling fancy!

Catherine says:
I love making Christmas cards and people love getting them - how can anything else replace a homemade card? Buying cards is a cop out if you can make them instead! I've kept old Christmas cards over the years and have a collection of nativity, robins and Santa cards. It's beautiful to know that each one was chosen for me!

Rowan says:
I bought charity cards from the hospital where my mum was treated for cancer last year. The right chemo and surgery has meant she has survived a rare type of cancer and the hospital were amazing. I think charity Christmas cards are wonderful!

Jade says:
I am old fashioned, not all of my friends bother, but I give out cards and they are home made ones too! I love Christmas and it makes me happy to make something a bit different for my friends. I think we live in a world of technology and it's rare to have something made by hand!

Lara says:
My family are not sending cards this year, we have made a donation to a local homeless charity instead. I think it has taken a lot of stress off my mum and saved a bit too, and we still feel like we have done something good that has the spirit of Christmas in it. But now my friends are starting to give me cards at school and I feel bad - dilemma!

Cathy says:
I love sending cards - I buy charity cards, this year from Survival International and Side by Side for Refugees. Do YOU still send cards - or do you think it's old fashioned? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Saturday, 16 December 2017


We asked you to share your stories of animal antics at Christmas... this is what you said!

Hollie says:
This is our dog Boris... he had to be bribed with significant portions of turkey and cranberry biscuits to sit for this photo! Boris is spoiled at Christmas, more than anyone in the family. Don't tell him, but this year he has already been bought a sock monkey, an activity mat and some treats to go in it. And he's already had an antler chew! They've all been wrapped as we've discovered wrapping paper is the one thing he'll put in his mouth but not swallow! He's already torn an angel off the tree and eaten a few pine needles but we wouldn't have him any other way! (Apart from possibly sitting on all my homemade prezzies and crushing them!)

Katy says:
Well, there was the year our dog Scooby ate two selection boxes from under the tree! He looked so guilty, but I knew he'd probably do it again given half a chance! Chocolate is supposed to be poisonous to dogs but Scooby was fine, thankfully. Needless to say, we always leave chocolate prezzies on a high shelf now!

Bev says:
Severus, or Sevvie for short, really loves the run up to Christmas - there's always lots to play with in the apartment, as you can see in the picture to the right! He's like a mischievous toddler really, always looking for trouble, and the tree gives him he perfect place to lie in wait for any unsuspecting human passing by, ready to pounce out and nip their toes. He has his own stocking on Christmas morning, full of new toys and treats, and is allowed two sachets of his favourite soupy cat food instead of the usual one. Sevvie is very much a pampered pet but so darn cute and easy to love!

Holly says:
We have a great pic of our cat Lister from about seven years ago, venturing out into the snow. Lister's black... he ended up looking like a reverse Dalmation, all speckled with snowflakes!

Michelle says:
The pic on the left shows my three year old lop rabbit Silver... I made him some white wings and a sparkly halo so he can be an angel for Christmas. The wings and halo are just made from pipe cleaners and paper, and rested gently on him... how adorable does he look?

Jan says:
I am SO not impressed with our cat Lucifer this year. THREE times he has knocked the Christmas tree down! We've had to start keeping him out of the room. He thinks it's one big adventure game specially for him, with every bauble a cat toy!

Saffy says:
On the right is a pic of my lovely old cat snuggled up under the Christmas tree... she's not with us any more, sadly, she passed away last year, but I love this pic. Christmas won't be the same without her!

Sonia says:
This is a bit gross, I warn you! We had a real Christmas tree for the first time last year. It looked really pretty but after a while the room started smelling a but funky - and not in a pine-needles kind of way. Then one day my dad caught our dog Pie actually using the tree as a toilet! Urghhh! We had to get rid of it. This year we have a fake tree placed on a high table, and Pie is not allowed to be alone in the room with it!

Cathy says:
Aww, great pictures and fab stories! Do YOU have any stories of animal antics this Christmas? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Friday, 15 December 2017


Reader Jodie-Mae shares her favourite classic read... and it just happens to have a Christmas flavour! Make yourself a hot chocolate and dive into A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens!

Jodie-Mae says:
If there is one story that sums up the festive season to me it has to be A CHRISTMAS CAROL by Charles Dickens. I admit I knew the story long before I ever read the book... the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge and his miserly ways has been popularised with several film versions! I first read the book this time two years ago, when I was off school after an illness My gran came to visit and she'd just borrowed a copy from the library. I could not resist having a look, and she decided to leave it with me! It seemed the perfect thing to read before Christmas, and I loved it so much my lovely gran actually bought me a copy of my own for Christmas!

So I am guessing we all know the story of how the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet To Come (as well as the ghost of his old friend Marley) visit Scrooge and show him the error of his ways... and what he's missing out on. It's an uplifting story of how kindness, love and generosity make the world a much better place... and how mean mindedness only turns a person sad, sour and lonely. I never tire of the message, but also love the way a Victorian Christmas is conjured up. The book does not shy away from describing how hard life was for those living in poverty, and that is a message I think we can still learn from.

The short book was first published on 19th December 1843, and the first edition had sold out by Christmas. By the end of the following year, thirteen editions had been printed and the book was well on the way to becoming a classic. The book was written at time when Christmas trees were just becoming popular and carols were having a revival, and some feel the book's celebration of Christmas actually helped to shape and cement the way we celebrate. The book got me interested in reading Dickens and finding out more about his life, and I liked that he often wrote about injustice and inequality and tried to do something about it. I am in Sixth Form now and studying both English and History, with a special interest in Victorian novels and history. It's an area I would love to study at uni one day, and I have A CHRISTMAS CAROL to thank for that!

Cathy says:
Brilliant... like Jodie-Mae, I read this novella as a teen and loved it! Do YOU have a favourite classic read? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more, or email if you'd like your suggestion to feature on a future DREAMCATCHER post!

Thursday, 14 December 2017


What does Christmas mean to YOU? CC readers share their thoughts and beliefs about Christmas...

Deborah says:
Christmas for me is the day that Jesus was born - hence the name CHRIST-mas. I believe our gift to Jesus on his birthday is to give gifts and goodwill to the people around us. To do something loving and considerate to mark the birth of our Saviour.

Isabelle says:
To me, Christmas is about having fun with your family. On Christmas, the whole family comes to our house and so do friends as well. Then in the day we go to the beach! It's really windy and cold, but it's a Christmas tradition for us! Christmas is all about being with friends and family and being happy!

Melissa says:
Christmas is about hiding away from the world and its stress - locking the doors and playing games with the kids and making them feel special, showing them how important they are to us.

Cheryl says:
I use Christmas as a milestone to assess where my life is and what I want to achieve in the coming year. Just seems like a good time for gratitude and new wishes!

Harley says:
My family aren't religious, so for us it's about spending time together, eating good food and giving gifts. We still go to carol services, look at the lights and join the Christmas Eve street party for the local children's hospital, but that's part of the tradition of it all.

Bob says:
Peace on Earth. Can it be?

Jessica says:
Christmas is what it is... and different for everyone! For me it's a time to give and receive, to sing carols with your friends, to remember the nativity. It's about seeing family and friends, being thankful for what you have, reflecting on the year past and looking forward to the year ahead!

Kate says:
I love so much about Christmas. The smell of the pine Christmas tree, the twinkly lights, the presents - and you may not believe it, but I like giving much more than I like getting. It's a time to show people that you care. I like going to church, even though we don't go much the rest of the year, and I love that it brings families and friends together. It's special - it's Christmas!

Cathy says:
Awesome comments... but what does Christmas mean to YOU? Tell all - just COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Wednesday, 13 December 2017


Reader Kelly has a list of ten things to do this festive season to get the very best out of Christmas... how many can YOU manage?

1: Make a snowman! If it snows, you just have to do it... there is nothing like a bit of snow to bring out the kid in all of us! Don't forget to add a hat and scarf and a carrot for the nose!

2: Go to a carol service! This is a great way to get a taste of the real meaning of Christmas and remind yourself what we are actually celebrating. 

3. Eat too many mince pies, chocolate coins, tangerines and peppermint candy canes... and then on the day itself, pig out on Quality Street and roast dinner followed by turkey sandwiches and trifle for tea. It's Christmas, it's allowed!

4. Do some baking. Whether it's making a gingerbread house to ice and decorate or helping to stir the Christmas pud, it sets the scene perfectly. Who knows, you might decide to do some cooking on the day itself too!

5. Take a little brother or sister to see Santa in his grotto. Remember how magical that felt when you were little? Hanging out with the little kids will make sure you don't miss out on that Christmas magic!

6. Go to a Christmas market - buy a hot chocolate and browse the stalls with your friends! You'll find interesting and unusual things to buy and better still, soak up a real flavour of Christmas. The lights, the smells, the music... Christmas shopping has never been so much fun!

7. Go ice skating with your besties... the perfect winter day out, followed by hot chips and and a gingerbread latte...

8. Think about those less fortunate than yourself this festive season - and make a shoebox for charity, or donate toys, books or warm clothing for local homeless families or refugees. It's all part of the Christmas spirit!

9. Christmas Eve special by putting on new PJs and snuggling up with your family to watch a favourite Christmas movie. Make non-alcoholic mulled 'wine' by adding cinnamon sticks, orange slices and star anise to a carton of grape juice, and heat gently in a pan until warm... the house will smell super Christmassy!

10: Hang up a stocking and remember to leave a glass of whisky and a mince pie for Santa and a carrot for Rudolf! All that's left now is to enjoy the day itself!

Top photo by Jess Goode; bottom photo by Ellie Ogilvy. Thanks to our two fab photographers for their help!

Cathy says:
Love this... I try to do most of these (except for the turkey sandwiches, of course - I'm veggie!). What is YOUR must-do ritual or tradition at Christmas time? COMMENT BELOW to tell all!

Tuesday, 12 December 2017


It's problem page time again on DREAMCATCHER, and this week reader Tayla has a problem for COCO TANBERRY to solve...

Tayla says:
I am eleven years old and I want to be a vegetarian, but my mum says I am too young and can't make decisions like that until I'm at secondary school. I hate that she doesn't take me seriously. Most of the time we compromise, I eat Quorn stuff along with whatever everyone else is having, or sometimes fish. However, we will have twelve extra people over for Christmas Dinner and mum says there is no way she is doing a vegetarian option as she'll be run off her feet, and I have to eat turkey like everyone else. I think she is trying to force me to eat it because I know my uncle thinks being veggie is stupid and he'll make a fuss if he knows I am not eating meat. I care about animals and I do not want to eat turkey. What shall I do?

Coco says:
Hmmm... I think that eleven is old enough to know your own mind, but then I would say that! Well done for moving towards a veggie way of eating, though! Christmas can be stressful, especially with twelve extra guests for dinner and a relative who likes spouting off about vegetarians. Talk to your mum and plan and make your dinner in advance - there are lots of ready-made veggie options that work really well and won't put your mum to any trouble. Next, make sure you're seated at the opposite end of the table to your uncle... he might not notice you're not eating meat! If he does, just say you're veggie at the moment and refuse to be wound up if he tries to make a big deal of it. Let your mum know you'll help her any way you can, but that you just can't eat meat... hopefully she'll understand. If she insists on serving you turkey, just eat the rest, leave the turkey.. and fill up on Christmas pud!

Cathy says:
I had several failed attempts at going veggie before I managed it properly, aged fourteen. My mum was convinced I'd fade away without it! I think Coco's advice is good, but do YOU agree with her suggestions? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 11 December 2017


We asked for your favourite Christmas song or carol... and your least favourite one, too! Here's what you said!

Carly says:
My favourite is Wham's Last Christmas... it has a special, bittersweet meaning for me. The song I hate is Slade's So Here It Is Merry Christmas, because you hear it EVERYWHERE in December and it's just so cheesy and lame! I don't know, I just don't like it... and the band seem a bit creepy and weird, even though I know that's just the style of things back then!

Rowan says:
My favourite song at Christmas is a carol, In The Bleak Midwinter. It was written by a Victorian woman poet called Christina Rossetti. It's very sad and moving and last year I was chosen to sing it at our school's Christmas carol service, which was a scary but unforgettable experience! I don't have a least favourite - well, maybe the Pogues' Fairytale of New York just because it is played so much at this time of year and you get a bit sick of it!

Marlyn says:
My favourite is Stop the Cavalry, an oldie by Jona Lewie. OK, it wasn't an oldie when I first liked it - which makes ME the oldie now I think, but I remember buying the single when I was thirteen and playing it to destruction. It's an anti-war song and I think it is more relevant today than ever!

Jennie says:
I am a Christmas song addict... I love everything about Christmas, the songs included. My favourites are Jingle Bells, White Christmas and Frosty The Snowman... I have loads of Christmas playlists with different versions of my favourites on. I don't have a least favourite... well, maybe some of the Cliff Richard Christmas songs, I suppose!

Tilda says:
It's a bit of a Marmite one because people either love it or hate it, but my favourite is Fairytale of New York by the Pogues. It's not Christmas without it! My least favourite is probably the carol Angels We Have Heard On High because I always hate singing the 'glo-oria' bits as they are way too high for me!

Molly says:
I have loads of favourites and they're mostly carols... everything from Little Donkey to See Amid The Winter's Snow to We Three Kings... and more! I know them all inside out because in our village a big group of us go carolling in the week before Christmas and it's magical. I've been going since I was about six or seven and I'm fourteen now. We collect money and send it to a chosen charity, and this year it's for UNICEF and the refugees which I think is a brilliant cause.

Cathy says:
Awww, love this! My favourite Christmas song is Greg Lake's 'I Believe In Father Christmas' - with 'Fairytale of New York' a close second! I don't have an unfavourite... they're all fab! What is YOUR fave carol or Christmas song? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 10 December 2017


Skye Tanberry consults the charts to see how the stars will work their magic for you this Christmas... read on and see if it strikes a chord!

SAGITTARIUS: Nov 22 - Dec 21
Impulsive, confident, friendly and generous, you love the festive season - it's just made for you! Giving prezzies and organising fun stuff with friends should keep you busy, and there could be a gift from an unexpected admirer, too!

CAPRICORN: Dec 22 - Jan 19
You're not usually a party person, but Christmas could be an exception - and once you take to the dance floor, you're a bit of a dancing queen! This could be the year you overcome your shy streak and learn to trust - whether it's in a new friend or a new partner, it's definitely a risk worth taking!

AQUARIUS: Jan 20 - Feb 18
Never one to follow the crowd, you like to celebrate Christmas in your own unique style, and this makes you a bit of a trendsetter amongst your friends. Your soft heart means you often put others before yourself, and this year is no exception... aww!

PISCES: Feb 19 - Mar 20
Your inner child loves every bit of Christmas... the tiniest details bring a smile to your face, and you don't miss the true meaning of it all, either. Getting your friends together to raise money for charity or entertain the old folks at the local retirement home are just a natural part of it all!

ARIES: Mar 21 - Apr 20
You like certain traditions at Christmas, but sometimes there's no choice but to go with the flow - and that could open up some new opportunities for you! You're definitely dreaming of a white Christmas, and if it happens you'll be out there with a sledge and a bunch of mates, making the most of it all!

TAURUS: Apr 21 - May 20
If money is tight, go for a home-made Christmas - from mince pies and truffles to hand-crafted gifts, you have the skills to do it, and your friends and family will love that personal touch. Don't let jealousy derail a friendship... step back and let things settle naturally.

GEMINI: May 21 - Jun 20
Nothing makes you happier than time spent with friends, so plan a movie night, a party night, a day at the ice rink... whatever it takes to get you into the festive spirit! Watch out for a kiss under the mistletoe from someone special... even if it's not who you expect!

CANCER: Jun 21 - Jul 21
You like to be organised, and your festive season is always properly planned with no last-minute rushing. Remember that you can't plan everything, though - and that's OK! A very special Christmas prezzie could open new doors for you in 2018...

LEO: Jul 22 - Aug 21
Dramatic, kind but sometimes hot tempered, you're in for a roller coaster few weeks - but there will be fun by the bucketload! Your warm heart and creative skills mean you love the build up to Christmas, and close friends and family may even be in line for a cool and quirky home made gift!

VIRGO: Aug 22 - Sept 21
Watch your health this December - you'll be rushing about as usual and may not notice that you've taken on a little too much. Show your friends you care by baking some Christmas cookies and sharing them out - small gestures mean a lot!

LIBRA: Sept 22 - Oct 22
Sociable, charming, arty and romantic, you love every bit of the festive season and you and your close friends are determined to make the most of every minute! A last-minute fashion find in pastel colours will bring you luck!

SCORPIO: Oct 23 - Nov 21
You feel things very strongly, but often keep those feelings hidden - a bit of a mystery girl! Attracting romance is rarely an issue, though, and this festive season will be no exception. Make sure you don't over-spend on Christmas treats, and wear deep red for extra luck!

Cathy says:
Oooh... I love a good festive horoscope! Do Skye's predictions ring true for YOU this month? COMMENT BELOW to let us know!

Thursday, 7 December 2017


My lovely writer-pal Shirley-Anne McMillan has a brand new book out... and it's amazing! Find out more...

Shirley says:
One of the things I love most about having grown up in Northern Ireland is that I have met some really brave people. From people who have stood up to terrorists in their community, to people who have decided to be themselves in places that they know might reject them for standing out or being different. As an author I always want to write books about those people, because I want to be someone like that myself (some day!). In my last book, A GOOD HIDING, I created three characters who all had secrets that they needed to keep to protect themselves and other people. It was a story about what happens when you need to let other people into your life in very difficult circumstances.

In THE UNKNOWNS I wanted to write about young people who have decided to deliberately stand up against racism and sectarianism in their communities. I wanted to write a story about how it is sometimes the most rejected people who lead the way because they understand what it's like to face bullies. I remember being a young person myself and going through difficult times. I felt like I had a deliberate choice to make: I could let the difficult thing crush me and make me angry and bitter forever, or I could use my feelings to empathise and stand with other people who were facing hard times.

I'm still trying to do that and I don't always get it right, but I think it's a good way to deal with life when things are hard. So I made up characters that would band together and be one another's chosen family, and together they face more difficulty than I have known - violence, and even death - as they try to help other people who struggle too. But they have one another as well. They have epic parties and they make brilliant art, and they care about one another. I know groups in Northern Ireland who live exactly like this, and it made me wonder... what if we all did?

THE UNKNOWNS by Shirley-Anne McMillan is out now.

Cathy says:
This book is top of my to-read list... I think you'll like it too! Have YOU read any cool books lately? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Tuesday, 5 December 2017


Blogger Trish tells us why baking is such an important part of Christmas for her - and shares a favourite recipe for you all!

Trish says:
I grew up in Canada and we did Christmas BIG! There was a tradition where the women and children would gather at my Aunty Wendy's house and bake for the holidays, and I took part in this from the age of six onwards. We'd do some baking ahead of the big day to swap around, and when Cookie Day came around we'd bake dozens and dozens of cookies together. Decorating was always the best part! All the kids would get an apron and a paint brush and set to work making the cookies sickly sweet and sticky with icing, food colouring and sprinkles. It was so much fun spending time with my cousins and aunties, with Christmas music blaring in the background.

My mum always loved baking and when we moved to England we carried on doing our own baking day, always trying to drag friends into the fun. After my mum passed away, I decided I would keep the tradition of baking for those I love, especially at Christmas. This year, my favourite recipe is for shortbread cookies... classic, and so delicious!

You will need:
225g unsalted butter
110g caster sugar
225g plain flour
110g cornflour
pinch of salt

To make:
- Line two baking trays with baking paper.

- Cream butter and sugar together and then stir in flour, cornflour and salt. Mix until smooth.

- Tip the mixture onto a lightly floured surface and knead into a soft dough.

- Roll out the dough between two sheets of baking paper to a thickness of 1cm... then cut into shapes and prick the biscuits with a fork.

- Place on baking trays and chill in the fridge for half an hour.

- Bake at 170 or Gas Mark 3 for 20 minutes until just golden at the edges. Dust with caster sugar and allow to cool. Makes about 20 biscuits!

Cathy says:
Wow... I love shortbread, and this recipe seems simple enough even for me to try! Do YOU have any special baking traditions at Christmas? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Monday, 4 December 2017


A fabulous, wintry Harry Potter fan-fic from talented reader Katie... grab yourself a hot chocolate and settle down for a cool short story!

'Still nothing?' Molly Weasley leaned over the table to whisper conspiratorially to her husband Arthur, who simply shook his head and nodded to their small daughter.

'Nothing yet.' Bill came running over to Ginny, the baby of the family, ad poked her with his wand. Looking expectantly at his parents, he received a stern look from his father and pursed lips from his mother. Ginny continued to play happily without a care in the world. Molly and Arthur were glad Ginny never looked up from her balls of string and rubber ducks, because concern was all Molly and Arthur could currently express. Fred and George came trooping through the door and whined, 'Mum, when's the snow coming?' Molly chuckled.

'I know it's late, dears, but you'll just have to be patient!' With a quick glance at Ginny, Molly moved to tend the fire. Surely they didn't have a squib? Molly swatted the thought away, as she always did.

Later that night, it grew dark very quickly. Molly and Arthur had the children dressed for bed quicker than ever, and were ready to put them to bed in case it was the Dementors and they had to go out and fight. Suddenly, snowflakes started falling, very softly, as if a light wind could carry the snowflakes away. Fred and George ran out in their pyjamas but came back moaning, 'It's stopped!'

Ginny was not pleased, and started crying. The snow started falling again, heavier this time. Bill gasped and held Ginny's nose. She stopped crying, the snow stopped. Bill let go, and Ginny's howls created a blizzard. Suddenly every Weasley, even little Ron who had just started inserting wands up his nose, emitted raucous laughter. Molly scooped Ginny up and flew out the door with her.

'She's magical, she's magical!' Molly and Arthur chanted. This would be a very special Christmas.

Ginny was to have an affinity for snow ever after, and during Ron's first year at Hogwarts it even made her forget that she was not allowed to go too!

Cathy says:
I love this brilliant fan-fic - thank you, Katie! Are YOU enjoying the new fiction slots on DREAMCATCHER? COMMENT BELOW to have your say, or tune in to the CC FB fanpage to join in with the fiction challenges!

Saturday, 2 December 2017


Do YOU have a special way of decorating your Christmas tree? Readers share their Christmas tree traditions!

Francesca says:
Our Christmas tree is overflowing with decorations and this is because of our big Christmas tradition! Every year we go to the Birmingham German Christmas market, and me, my brother and my sister choose a decoration each! This means that our Christmas tree gets pretty full... so soon we won't have any room for new decorations!

Sally says:
We always decorate our tree on the first Saturday of December, and we do it as a family, my brothers and me. My dad does a Christmas playlist and my mum usually bakes the first mince pies of the season while we are decorating, so the house smells amazing too. It's the real start of Christmas for me!

Jenna says:
We have a tradition that the tree doesn't go up until the last Saturday before Christmas. This is because we have a real tree, and if it went up too soon it wouldn't last and would start dropping needles everywhere. We do decorate the rest of the house a bit, with lights and fake snow on the windows, but when we go to pick out the tree, that's the start of Christmas - time to get really excited!

Natasha says:
Our tree goes up on the first Sunday of advent, and sometimes that is actually in November! We all join in with making it look good and every year we have a slightly different theme or colour guide, just to make it a bit different. We decorate the outside of the house too so you could say we go a bit Christmas mad! Because the tree is up all through December, we then clear it all away on New Year's Eve to start the new year with a 'clean slate'.

Mariella says:
Last year we were staying with relatives over the Christmas period as we had lost our home and it wasn't until March we got sorted and found our current flat. So there was no tree last year. This year, Mum has promised a real tree and I cannot wait. It's going to be a very special Christmas in our own home, and I can't wait.

Jodie says:
Our tree is old and a bit bent on one side, and the tinsel is wearing thin in places but when Dad suggested replacing it last year nobody would let him! We use all the old family decorations, odd things we've made at school over the years or been given. It doesn't look posh or cool, but it's our tree, and we love it!

Cathy says:
Love this! Our tree is also a mix-up of old decorations and things the kids and I have made over the years. What are YOUR Christmas tree traditions? COMMENT BELOW to tell all!

Friday, 1 December 2017


I asked you to share your favourite things about winter... and your least favourite! This is what you said...

Bev says:
I love Christmas, love snuggling up under a blanket with a good book, and love the snow - but I hate going to work in the dark, hate the icy rain and hate waiting around on cold railway station platforms!

Michelle says:
I love everything about Christmas time! All through December, I love the build up to it... putting up decorations, shopping and wrapping presents... and the warm happiness of being with family on Christmas Day! I love that the autumn leaves still crunch under your boots and that my rabbits can still play in them in the garden. I hate the cold and the frost, though it's bliss to snuggle up in warm covers at night and wear comfy, thick winter PJs and drink hot Vimto!

Helen says:
Love: wearing cosy thick jumpers, boots and socks. Hate: being dressed in said jumpers, boots and socks when the weather isn't as cold as it was forecast!

Katie says:
I'm among the very few people to strongly dislike winter - I hate the cold, I can never get warm. The only good thing is Christmas!

Toni says:
Love: warming up with cot chocolates with melting marshmallows. Hate: cold, dark mornings!

Violet says:
It's cold and icy and I'm never going to get over the time I slipped in S4 and dropped mince pies everywhere... *sobs*. It's dark most of the time and insipid Christmas music and ads and decorations are everywhere by the start of November which is too early! However, I like warm duvets and warmer cats, and staying in to read a book (or three)! I had a fudge hot chocolate from Starbucks earlier and honestly, just fill an Olympic sized swimming pool with that stuff and give me a spoon!

Caitlin says:
I love wrapping up warm in coats and scarves, feeling cosy - and hate the dark mornings! They just make me want to stay home!

Eileen says:
Fave things? Mulled wine, mince pies, a fleecy onesie and Strictly Come Dancing on TV... ticks all my boxes!

Hannah says:
Christmas with my family, snow, hot chocolate and Holiday on Ice shows on TV are my favourite bits of winter!

Clare says:
I love the snow... the deeper the better... as long as I'm not driving!

Jessica says:
Best bit of winter? My birthday in January - it always makes me grateful for another year of life!

Cathy says:
I love these! What are YOUR fave things about winter? And your least fave? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Thursday, 30 November 2017


It's problem page time again on DREAMCATCHER, and reader Helen has a problem for HONEY TANBERRY to sort out...

Hannah says:
I was upset a few weeks ago because my cousin Sara forgot my birthday. We're quite close and I felt very hurt, and I went on Facebook and posted about it. She was really upset and hurt and suddenly it was like I was the bad guy. I messaged my aunt and told her to tell Sara I forgave her and she did, so I think it will all blow over, but my mum told me I should be more careful in future. I don't think anyone is thinking about how I feel. What do you think?

Honey says:
First of all, I'll come clean. I forget birthdays. I've forgotten my friends' birthdays a few times, especially if they don't remind me ahead of time. I've forgotten my dad's birthday, and Paddy's, and even Coco's once, and she has never let me forget it. We live busy lives and we DO forget things sometimes, even things to do with people we care about. If your cousin is a great friend the rest of the year, what does it matter if she forgot one birthday? Second, and this is a life lesson - when you're angry, stay off Facebook. Posting things that will hurt or shame other people is NOT OK, and your cousin had every right to feel upset. I'm glad you've forgiven her, but I hope you also asked her to forgive you for the angry post! Lastly, and this is huge - the truth is, other people probably aren't thinking about how you feel, not all of the time, anyway. They all have so much going on that they can't put you first the whole time, and although as a teen it often feels that the world revolves around you, the truth is that it doesn't. Your pride took a dent and your lovely cousin made a mistake - it's time now to let go and move on. Nobody's perfect, after all!

Cathy says:
Good sense and some seriously straight talking from Honey on this. It can feel really hurtful and unfair when someone forgets your birthday, especially if you remembered theirs, but we do lead hectic lives and these things happen. Let your cousin know you don;t bear a grudge! Have YOU got a problem for one of the Tanberry/ Costello sisters to solve on DREAMCATCHER? Email your problem via the 'email Cathy' link on and your worry might be featured in a future post. And don't forget to COMMENT BELOW to add your own advice for Helen!

Saturday, 25 November 2017


My fab Irish author pal JUDI CURTIN has a new book out - a brilliant time-slip story that I think my readers will love! Take a sneaky peek...

Judi says:
STAND BY ME is the second book in the series about Molly and Beth, who have found a secret door to the past. This time, the girls are worried about their favourite uncle, Graham. He's still feeling sad and guilty about something that happened to his best friend in the 1960s, so the girls decide to head back in time to see if they can help him to fix what happened. They soon discover that life in the 1960s is VERY different... and that people could actually have a meaningful existence without mobile phones (!!!)

This series came about after a visit to my mum last year. She told me great stories about when she was young, and I found myself wishing I could go back to see what she was like when she was a little girl. That's an impossible dream for me, but with my characters, I can make anything happen!

The first book in the series, TIME AFTER TIME, was set in the 1980s which was a lot of fun to write, as most of the research consisted of trawling through my old photograph albums. I am tempted to set the third book in the 1970s, simply because I have a very cool dress to wear to the launch!

STAND BY ME is out now. 

Check out Judi's website at

Cathy says:
I love the sound of this time-slip series - so cool! Have YOU read any awesome books lately you think CC readers might like? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more and have your say!

Thursday, 23 November 2017


Reader Anna tells us why she loves Thanksgiving - and what the celebration actually involves!

Anna says:
Christmas is coming and I absolutely love Christmas... but first I want to tell you about the American celebration of Thanksgiving! The very first Thanksgiving was celebrated by the pilgrims - the first European settlers in America - after their first harvest in the 'New World' in October 1621. The feast lasted for three days, and as reported by one settler, Edward Winslow, it was attended by 90 Native Americans and 53 pilgrims. Thanksgiving is celebrated to this day in the USA, a unique and special way of showing thanks for the things we have and love.

These days,  there is always a huge Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, with giant character balloons and floats and celebrities and broadway shows. Macy's is a big department store in New York! My absolute favourite bit of it is the Sesame Street float, which has the cast of the Muppets and Sesame Street, and every year they sing a special song. Millions of people all over America watch the parade on NBC on TV and millions go to New York to see it for real, too! I watch the parade on YouTube, but I'd love to go along in person one day!

The actual Thanksgiving Dinner is pretty amazing. Millions and millions of families in America really love each other and care about each other, and Thanksgiving is a way to celebrate that. The centre of the celebration is a big dinner which usually includes roast turkey and stuffing and pumpkin pie, and people give thanks for everything they have and love. I'd like to wish my dearest friends - whether they are American or not - a very happy Thanksgiving!

Cathy says:
Thanksgiving seems quite alien and exotic to us Brits, but the idea of giving thanks for what we have is a brilliant one! What would YOU give thanks for in your life? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 20 November 2017


Readers share pics of their fave autumn hats... fabulous, every one of them!

Blue says:
I'm not usually much of a hat wearer - my hair is fabulous and demands to be free - but I got this hat a couple of years ago and it has kitty ears, so it's perfect for me. I certainly did not chase a cat yelling 'Why won't you let me pet you? Are you offended by my hat?' OK, I did do that. But only once. OK, twice. I like cats a lot and the hat serves three purposes: 1/ It keeps my head warm; 2/ It covers up bad hair days - shocking, I know, but even I get these! 3/ It makes it easier to blend in with my cat buddies. Y'know, when I'm not scurrying after them, begging them to let me pet their floofy heads!

Katie says:
Ra ra Ravenclaw! What better way to show your Hogwarts House pride than by brightening up your wardrobe with a cool cap like this one? It's just one of many souvenirs I brought home from Armageddon, the New Zealand geek convention. It came from a small indie stall but the hats were officially licensed, and this one was so shiny I couldn't resist it. You actually wouldn't guess from the front what the crest and the colour symbolised if you were a Muggle, but Ravenclaw is written on the back. Subtle but shiny! I'm going to swap my two or three Harry Potter beanies for this once the weather gets warmer, but for now I'm going to take it out on the town and give them the ol' Ravenclaw razzle-dazzle!

Louise says:
This is my favourite hat right now because it's so easy to wear and so perfect for when autumn starts sliding towards winter! It's also my favourite because the big flower always makes people look and smile - and that makes me happy!

Cathy says:
Love these... and what very cool hats, too! I think I need to up my hat game a little now that the weather's getting cooler! Do YOU have a fave hat? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Sunday, 19 November 2017


Reader Violet shares a very different kind of love story - with a twist in the tail!

I love her. I loved her the moment I saw her, and knew I had to make her mine. She doesn't know this, of course; I don't speak to her, but I love her, and I know she'll love me too if she gives me a chance. I've been watching her for weeks now, hanging around the places she frequents. I think she's come to recognise me because she nods at me sometimes and gives me that adorable grin that makes her nose scrunch up and melts my heart. She never approaches me though, and I can't work up the nerve to go to her... I just nod back briefly, then turn my head away and feign disinterest. Treat 'em mean, keep 'em keen, my mates say. I'm not sure about that, but they're far more street smart than I am so I guess they'd know.

Today, things are going to change. I've waited for my glacial coolness to reel her in, but it hasn't worked. Time to show her how I feel. She walks home from work through a small wooded area, so I head there and wait. She's approaching, humming a tune I can't quite place and kicking through the foliage.Taking a deep breath, I step out in front of her and she startles, lost in thought, but when she sees that it's me her face relaxes into that easy smile I love so much.

'Hey... Tom, is it?' she says, cocking her head to one side. She knows my name - she must have been asking about me around town. I take a step closer, my heart hammering in my chest. 'It's such a nice day, hey, Tom?' she goes on. 'Im going to stay here for a bit and read, but if you want to keep me company...'

Me! She's talking about me! She wants my company! I love how she talks to me, treating me normally. Most people talk to me slowly and simply, like you would to a very young child. They assume that I don't understand, but I know much more than I let on. I slink to her side; I can feel the heat from her body and the hair on the back of my neck rises because she's so close. She looks up from her book occasionally, smiling, and I chance my luck and edge closer. She glances at me again. I wonder if she can tell that I've been staring at her this whole time?

'Aww, Tom, you're so cute!' she exclaims, scratching under my chin. I weave through her legs. purring loudly to show my affection, and she strokes my head, oblivious to the fact I'm getting ginger fur on her dark tights. I love her. I loved her from the moment I saw her, and I had to make her mine. Every cat knows there's a perfect human out there for them, and I know I've found mine. It won't be long till she's putty in my paws...

Cathy says:
I love this story... clever and funny and very cute! Are YOU enjoying our weekly fiction slots? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Thursday, 16 November 2017


It's coming up to Christmas, the time of year when we celebrate the birth of a baby born in a stable, to parents who'd had to travel far from home. This year, there will be countless babies born to refugee mothers far from home and without even a stable to shelter in... could YOU help them?

Sally says:
We first started CRIBS International when it became clear that there was a real need for a house or flat for women at Ritsona Camp in Greece to go to after having their babies. It seemed obvious that for the few weeks after giving birth, a woman should not have the additional stress and physical effort of living in a tent, with the risk of flies, mosquitoes and snakes etc and poor hygiene facilities. Many women have had C-sections, which are commonplace in Greece but need proper rest and recovery time; another major risk is that of gastroenteritis for babies being bottle fed.

CRIBS first aimed to provide a safe house/flat where women with new babies could find some respite from the camps in order to heal, but we have now helped thirteen families to find long term housing. Who are we helping now?

Jumana, her husband and baby Riad, from Syria - now in a small apartment rather than the squatted room they previoulsy shared with three other families; Rwida and her family who came from a refugee camp next to a sewerage pit and now stay in a housing project with a school, clinic and community spirit; the family who escaped from the Taliban in Afghanistan and spent the winter in a tent in Serbia in temperatures of -20; a family escaping family problems after forced marriage in Pakistan, vulnerable, unwell and fragile; an artist and his wife expecting a child in Ritsona Camp; a couple expecting their first child and living in a container with no shower, toilet or  A/C.

We want to help more families... can YOU help? If you can help fundraise for CRIBS we can offer speakers and equipment/ ideas to help. Our team is based in the UK, Germany and Canada and we have donors from UK, Ireland, Germany, US and Canada. Could you make CRIBS your special charity this Christmas and help a mother and child in desperate need?

CRIBS International is a registered charity, no: 1173021
Donate to CRIBS here:

Cathy says:
Sally, one of the founders of CRIBS, is a new friend and a genuine hero of mine. I will be supporting CRIBS this Christmas and in the year ahead... can YOU? Can your class, year group, workplace or group of friends help with a small fundraiser or donation? Even the smallest contribution of money or goods can help. And to one refugee family, it could make all the difference in the world. #ChristmasSpirit #ShareTheLove #CRIBS

Tuesday, 14 November 2017


Skye Tanberry reveals her top horoscope predictions for November... how will YOUR month unfold?

SCORPIO: 24th Oct - 22nd Nov
Life seems to be going at a hundred miles an hour lately... and although you've been known to have control freak tendencies, right now you're revelling in it! Give in to the fun of the season... and throw the to-do lists away, for this year at least!

SAGITTARIUS: 23rd Nov - 21st Dec
You love this time of year... first a birthday, then Christmas... what's not to like? Life can be bittersweet at times, but you know how to live it to the full and grab the good times when you can. The stars show lots of positive stuff in the areas of love, friendship and fun, so enjoy every minute!

CAPRICORN: 22nd Dec - 19th Jan
It's time to put your worries on the shelf and enjoy the gifts life has given you... that might be a new friendship, a loving family, a loyal pet or even a hobby or skill. Enjoy the little things and you might just find that the big things take care of themselves!

AQUARIUS: 20th Jan - 18th Feb
Hard work is starting to pay off, whether that's in the area of work, friendship, family or future plans! You've come a long way, but allow yourself some down time to have fun. The next few weeks will be packed with opportunity and entertainment, and you'll kick yourself if you miss out!

PISCES: 19th Feb - 20th Mar
If anyone deserves some pamper time, it's you - OK, it may be small-scale stuff, but a new haircut, a cute Christmas jumper or a new book to snuggle up with can really help to re-set your mood. Balancing work with fun stuff is key to getting through the months ahead, so make it a priority!

ARIES: 21st Mar - 19th Apr
A friend has been quite distant and distracted lately, and this may have hurt your feelings - instead of challenging her, be supportive and quietly accepting, because she may be going through a difficult time. Plan some fun stuff to do with your friendship group and put a little spark into winter!

TAURUS: 20th Apr - 20th May
You're struggling with work/ school/ relationships just now - something, somewhere isn't going according to plan and that's spoiling things all round. You can't always fix things or get the result you want, but do your best to make things right and then step back and let fate take care of the rest.

GEMINI: 21st May - 21st June
Confidence has been at an all-time low, and for a Gemini, that's seriously bad news - it makes you question everything. You're usually kind to others yet hard on yourself - time to be gentle with yourself and take some of the pressure off. Just do your best... it really is enough.

CANCER: 22nd June - 22nd July
You've spent most of the year quietly trying to help a friend in need. It's time now to put yourself first and ask what you really want from life - and how you can get it. This may mean changing a few things or even backing down on an issue, but it will make you happier and allow you to be a better friend.

LEO: 23rd July - 23rd Aug
You've been impatient at the small steps forward life has offered lately, but small steps are better than no steps! Time now to get pro-active and take matters into your own hands - be brave, be confident, be hopeful, even if you have to act the part at times. A life-changing opportunity is heading your way.

VIRGO: 24th Aug - 22nd Sept
You've got the Christmas bug a little early this year - but so what? That just prolongs the fun! Plan some wintry outings with friends to spread the festive cheer... you'll find yourself the centre of things and your confidence will get a boost as a result! Santa's little helper? Bring it on!

LIBRA: 23rd Sept - 23rd Oct
Life has had a few surprises up its sleeve lately, and you're beginning to enjoy the thrill of the unexpected... perhaps a few festive surprises might be in order to create a little magic for those you love?

Cathy says:
Ooh... some very interesting predictions here! Does YOUR horoscope ring true this month? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 13 November 2017


LIFE IS SWEET, the collection of short stories linked to the CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS series, makes a perfect Xmas prezzie for CC fans! Readers share their reviews to whet your appetite!

Francesca says:
LIFE IS SWEET is a brilliant compilation of short stories that are all about the Chocolate Box Girls - and boys! My favourite is probably CHOCOLATES & FLOWERS (Alfie's story) because it is a perfect mix of surprise and sweetness. Romance is not a subject I usually read or look for in stories - I am more into action and mystery - but this book is different from any other in that genre. I would definitely recommend this book to my friends, because it is really interesting and has a few twists hidden away which you wouldn't expect. This keeps you entertained and alert for any more unexpected plot twists that could pop up at any moment!

Deborah says:
LIFE IS SWEET is one of those books that you adore. Not just because it has six different CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS series linked stories for you to choose from, but also because the stories come together to create a world that you live in when you read them. Reading LIFE IS SWEET truly made me me believe the message that the title spells out is true! The new story with Ash in it was an unexpected bonus and made it an even better book... I loved it! Ash's story is so heartfelt and touching and really helped to wrap up the story of Honey and Ash and give us a peep at life after FORTUNE COOKIE! This book is an extra piece of Tanglewood and makes the world bigger and better.

Lindsey says:
I have a lot of favourite CC books, but LIFE IS SWEET is one I keep going back to because I love the little slice-of-life stories and the insights into background characters from the CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS series. I gave copies of this book to my two best friends last Christmas and they both ended up getting hooked on CC books, so... this year I'll be giving it to my cousin, who is nine, and just ready to discover the magic of Tanglewood. My favourite story? It's the last one, where Ash and Honey meet up in Paris. Oops! Better not give any spoilers!

Cathy says:
Ooh... it's a bit early to be thinking of Xmas prezzies... or is it? I like the idea of giving books... which CC book would YOU recommend to a friend? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 12 November 2017


Readers talk about their newfound love for one of the coolest musical instruments ever... the ukulele!

Esme says:
My mum bought me a bright purple ukulele for the Christmas before last, which wasn't that odd as she is always getting me unique gifts. I had been pining to learn an instrument and the ukulele seemed perfect! I didn't quite know what to do with the uke at first, but I started lessons at MMT in August and I was doing really well. The uke is not too difficult to learn, although some chords I still can't do, such as B flat! In January this year, my teacher decided I was good enough to perform in public, and despite my nerves, I performed 'Can't Help Falling In Love With You' by Elvis Presley. It was the best feeling - the whole room was in silence while I played. I accompanied the uke by singing the song, and this has inspired me to start voice lessons too. I am doing well in both, and enjoying it so much! I don't know if many people my age learn the ukulele, but they should as it's great fun! The photo is from January, just after the performance!

Taylor says:
Music is really important to me - it helps me to escape from everything going on in my brain and in my life. I have PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) because of something that happened in my past, and due to this I get horrible flashbacks. It seems that grabbing my keyboard or ukulele helps by getting rid of the memories for a while, and it just relaxes me and the stress melts away. The post performance buzz is something I will never get tired of - that feeling that you've done it is like nothing else, and it seems to last for days!

Deborah says:
When I was in Year Nine, I was in a music form, and one of the compulsory parts of being in the form was learning the song 'Stand By Me' on the uke, so that we could play it in assemblies. It didn't take me too long to learn it and we performed it quite often. Even though I've had a four year break in playing uke, I still love the instrument inside and out!

Cathy says:
Aww... I love these posts! I just wish I had a few musical skills, but hey ho, you can't win 'em all! Do YOU play uke - or any other musical instrument? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Saturday, 11 November 2017


Reader Chloe writes about the CC books that shaped her teens and offered comfort when the going got tough...

Chloe says:
I started reading CC books at the age of nine when my cousin suggested I read her copy of LUCKY STAR. I read it, and I was hooked right away. I remember reading the books almost obsessively and running to the bookstore to get GINGERSNAPS when it was first released. When I was twelve, I wrote a letter to Cathy telling her she was my favourite author - well, I am nineteen now and very little has changed in how reading those books makes me feel.

If I feel trapped I read SCARLETT to ease my fear, and if I feel alone I know I can always turn to ANGEL CAKE. However, the book that I connect to most strongly is DRIFTWOOD. When I first read the book, I was too young to understand fully what Paul was going through, but by the age of sixteen my book was well worn as I turned again and again to those pages to find understanding and comfort. When I was at my lowest point, it was DRIFTWOOD that lifted me up again and reminded me that life gets better.

It's ten years on since I first picked up that copy of LUCKY STAR and fell into the world of CC books, and it seems like a good time to say thank you. I am grateful for everything that CC books have done for me, and because they do not completely sugar coat what it is like to grow up in less than ideal situations. I have learned a lot from these books over those ten years, and I hope to learn more as time goes on. Thank you!

Cathy says:
Oh... posts like this make all the hard work SO worthwhile! Thank YOU Chloe! Do YOU have a fave book that meant the world to you? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Sunday, 5 November 2017


Reader Violet shares a startling and unsettling story... make yourself a hot chocolate and get reading!

I awoke with a start. It was pitch black in my room, aside from my alarm clock, a neon 3.07 glowing next to me... yet I felt wide awake. Clearly, I wasn't going to get back to sleep so I flicked on my bedside lamp to read and I knew instantly that something was different. It may have been the trail of feathers that gave it away, or the motionless heap in the corner, just beyond the reach of the lamplight. Perhaps it was just a pile of clothes? Then it stirred, shifting slightly and groaning. OK, probably not a pile of clothes, then.

I wanted to run from the room, from the house, possibly from the country itself... but I knew I had to be an adult and check this out. This could be an injured person - what they were doing in my room was a mystery, but I couldn't just ignore them. What about the feathers, though? Perhaps it was an ostrich? I grabbed my phone from the bedside table, switched on the flashlight and tiptoed across the room, feeling for all the world like the first one to die in a horror movie. I swept the flashlight across the corner. Bare feet, the hem of a lace gown (unusual attire for an intruder, I thought), a woman's face resting on delicate hands, tousled sandy hair and - Jesus, were those WINGS? The phone slipped from my grasp and landed next to the sleeping woman, the flashlight on her face. She shielded her eyes and pushed herself up into a sitting position, unfolding her wings and releasing another shower of white feathers. The thought that I'd have to vacuum the carpet flitted through my dazed mind.

'Ugh,' the woman muttered to herself. 'Not another dimension shift...'

Clearly, this was a dream. I was dreaming, I had to be. It felt like moving through quick-set cement, I reached down to pinch myself, sure I wasn't going to feel anything. Wrong! 'Ouch,' I yelped. rubbing the spot I'd pinched. The woman quickly snapped her head up and her eyes met mine as she realised for the first time that she wasn't alone here.

'Is this your house?' she queried, getting to her feet. 'Look, I'm sorry about this. My name is Deifilia, and I really shouldn't be here. I have to get home... but I'm going to need your help...'

Cathy says:
Ooh, I love a cliffhanger! Where do YOU think Deifilia has come from? And why? If you could write an ending for the story, what would happen? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!